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A grateful and appreciative heart

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Now that the traditional day of Thanksgiving is over, I thought I’d follow up on my last post with a bit more on what it means to me personally to be both grateful and thankful, particularly in regards to our relationship with our Heavenly Father.

I feel it is very important to maintain a grateful and appreciative heart for the things I have received in this life. Notice that I said the word maintain. That means we have to work at it, otherwise it’s not going to happen. Maintaining a grateful and appreciative heart is all on us, and it doesn’t happen automatically. If you’ve ever slipped into one of those moments when you just don’t feel very thankful, you know what I’m talking about.

By the same token, that I am able to say I am a child of God often leaves me nearly speechless. If you could have seen the person I used to be, you would have numbered me with those who were destined for the scrap heap of humanity.

How God can find something useful in any of us leaves me scratching my head. Have you ever felt this way?

Even today, over 40 years after accepting the Lord Jesus as my Savior, I marvel at God’s unique ability to see past what we were and slowly bring to fruition what we are destined to become. Seriously, who but God can do such things?

I made so many mistakes in my early Christian life that I sometimes wondered why I should even bother trying to live for Him. Comparing myself to other, more mature Christians left me shaking my head wondering how in the world they do it. How could these people never make mistakes? How could they always be so faithful?

Well, as all of us know by now, none of us are perfect are we? Neither do we always have it all together like we want others to believe we do. You see, it doesn’t matter if you’ve been a Christian for four days, forty days, or forty years, we still live in a fallen world that is wrought with one peril after another. Everywhere we turn there are challenges and obstacles in our path.

Some days remaining faithful to Him seems more like a dream than a reality. Can you relate? Can I get an “Amen”!

I will be forever thankful for what God has done in my life. After much work and countless hours spent upon the Potter’s wheel, he has slowly transformed me from a wild, bitter, and angry young man into someone who is now almost unrecognizable from the person I was. I say that knowing full well that He still has much to do to help me to reach my full potential.

No one needs to remind me that I am a man who has been blessed far beyond what I truly deserve. The Lord has taken me from being a blasphemous, proud, and unthankful heathen to a man after God’s own heart. [1]

How could I not praise him for what he has done?

For all that the Lord has done in my life, nothing compares with how that in an instant He changed the course of my eternal destination. I who was once on the fast track to Hell and eternal separation from all that is good, has had his soul re-routed to a destination where joy shall never end.

As my friend Bill Sweeney says, it may sound corny, but I actually believe that one day I’m going to a far better place because of Jesus. [2]

I would be remiss if I failed to mention how thankful and how grateful I am to have by my side the most wonderful wife anyone could ever hope to have. The mere fact that she’s still here is a testament to her abiding love for me. When I think of how much she has had to put up with through the years, I am presented with a clear picture of love, dedication, sacrifice, and commitment.

This may surprise many of you, but I lean towards being very strong-willed(insert smile here). I suppose that comes from being raised the way I was, that and being in positions of authority and responsibility for a large part of my life. My point being, sometimes it isn’t easy to live with someone like me, yet my sweet Princess somehow manages to keep me in check.

She is the calming voice of reason when I want to take a situation in my own hands to right a wrong that may have been done. She is the great communicator in our home when at times I want to clam up, satisfied within my own mind that I know all there is to know about the situation.

I am convinced that God brought us together in a Divine manner at just the right time. Two broken and shattered lives, neither looking for or ever expecting to love again. Yet God somehow orchestrated things so that we would meet one day in the foyer of a church, a church she was visiting only because of a friends invitation.

I could never have imagined that this shy young lady who wouldn’t even make eye contact with me when we were introduced, would one day complete me in a way I never thought possible and that together we would write our own Love Story.

These are just some of the reasons why I am a thankful and grateful man today. And yes, it is true, there are days when I need to be reminded of all of this. When I am, I’m humbled once again at the realization of where I’ve come from and where I’m destined to go.

For all of this, I am forever grateful and appreciative to my Savior.

Have a blessed day everyone!

Ron

[1] 2 Timothy 3:2 (KJV)

[2] For more of Bill Sweeney’s story of how the Lord has sustained him through a long battle with ALS, check out his website here: https://unshakablehope.com/about/

 

 

 

“My house shall be called a house of prayer”

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My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a ‘den of thieves.

Those were the words of Jesus, quoting Isaiah 56:7 after he had entered the temple and drove out all who were buying and selling, or profiting off of God’s house. The Jews had turned the house of God into something it was never intended to be, and Jesus had literally had enough and decided to do something about it.

Many of us have a problem envisioning the gentle Savior becoming angry, don’t we?Harder still is imagining the scene where Jesus overturns the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves. Images of tables overturned, coins tossed all about, and men scrambling to get out of his way are not the images we associate with Jesus. [1]

Yet this was Jesus in action, whip in hand, taking authority over what had become the desecration of the temple. The temple was the place where men assembled for one purpose: to worship God. This was a sacred and a holy place, for it was here that men went to call upon the Lord.

Because their hearts were so far from the one true God, the Jews had long ago stopped worshiping Him and instead had resorted to using the temple as a means of profiteering. They knew that since the people came from many different areas to worship, that they would need to purchase animals to sacrifice.

Money changers would be needed to exchange the various types of money for shekels so the people could purchase these animals, and these money changers were all too happy to tack on a little extra charge for the privilege. In other words, they found a way to profit off of God.

A religious racket if you will.

This is what had infuriated Jesus that day. Worship now came at a monetary cost. If you wanted to worship in the temple, you now had to pony up and pay the going rate, otherwise you were left on the outside looking in.

The Jews had distorted the true meaning of worship. They had prostituted the worship of God in exchange for money. The new order of the day was ‘you wanna play, you gotta pay’.

All of this in a place designed as a house of prayer. A place where devout worshipers went to meet with God had been turned into a cold, dead, lifeless building operating under the marketplace mentality of those who knew not God.

How sobering is that?

I submit to you that it is no more sobering than seeing what we Christians have done to God’s house in our day. In fact, I would even go so far as to say that the church has taken this to levels the temple Jews never dreamed of.

It didn’t start out this way, of this much we know for certain. The early New Testament church faced an unrelenting persecution levied against it by king Herod. It was this Herod who made James(the brother of John) the 1st of the Disciples to be martyred for Christ. [2]

Seeing that this pleased the Jews so much, Herod then took Peter and threw him in jail, intending to kill him as well. Knowing full well what had happened to James, the church then began an earnest prayer meeting on behalf of Peter. [3]

So intense was this prayer meeting that the Bible tells us that “prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him(Peter). No two minute prayer read from a prayer book meets the definition of ‘prayer without ceasing’. No, this was praying on a whole different level. [3]

These men and women were praying around the clock for Peter because they knew that his very life depended upon them interceding with God for him. I liken this type of prayer to a woman in labor. Intense prayer, prayer wrought with tears of desperation and anguish.

If you know this story at all, then you know that God did indeed intervene. He sent an angel to deliver Peter from the prison, a pattern of deliverance that was repeated time and again in the early church. Their formula was simple: whenever a great need arose, the church banded together in one mind and one accord and prayed until they saw the victory.

These early believers knew something we don’t know today. They understood that God intended for his church to come together in meaningful and enduring prayer, hence the prophet Isaiah’s words that “my house shall be called a house of prayer”.

Is that how we would best describe your church or mine today? Are we gathering together in seasons of meaningful, enduring prayer as the early church did?

Unlike so many of us, they understood that the connection between God’s power and presence was solidified through prayer. Not preaching or teaching, not singing or music, not programs or activities.

God showed up when people prayed.

None of those other things are capable of bringing the power and the presence of the Holy Spirit unless they are first bathed in meaningful and enduring prayer. There is an anointing, or spiritual power that exists in our efforts when those same efforts are saturated in prayer.

There is no anointing my friends on the flesh-centered mindset that permeates so many of our churches today. Services that have been carefully designed to make you feel as though you are the most important thing in the building are devoid of any Spirit that “breaks the yoke” of sin. [4]

Do you see the difference? I have commented on this before, this absurdity of believing that someone can “lead us into the presence of God” or somehow ‘bring a word’ when they themselves never approach Him in prayer. Yet for some odd reason, God’s people seem to be content to have it this way. [5]

Could it be we don’t even know what we’re missing?

Prayer is the key whether we are talking about an individual or an entire church. Without it we are left to stumble along, guided by our own ideas and methods that can never have the impact they could have were they birthed in prayer.

I think it’s time that Christians everywhere were reminded of the fact that the church was birthed in a prayer meeting. This thing we call ‘Church’ began in an upper room in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost, when the Disciples of Jesus along with several others were filled with the Holy Ghost. [6]

My hope is that all of us would stop to consider that if the Church was birthed in a prayer meeting, wouldn’t it make sense that the Church should continue in the same manner?

Be blessed everyone,

Ron

 

[1] John 2:15

[2] Acts 12:2

[3] Acts 12:5

[4] Zechariah 4:6

[5] Jeremiah 5:31

[6] Acts 2:4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s ok to love from a distance!

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Do you struggle with making steady progress in your walk with the Lord because of certain people in your life that keep pulling you away from Him?

Do you ever feel like ‘taking two steps forward and one step backward’ sums up your life?

Do the failures, hurts, and disappointments from your past continually haunt you to the point of nearly paralyzing you, thus rendering you unable to effectively live for Christ?

familyradio316.com

If any of this sounds like I’m reading your mind, it’s because almost all of us are in these same predicaments. Let’s face it, the struggle is real, and we are locked in a very real battle with a very real enemy.

I have lived long enough to understand that all of us struggle at times, but not all of us struggle for the same reasons. In addition, we may also find ourselves struggling with situations not of our own choosing, and therefore out of our control.

With that in mind, I want to focus on a particular area of struggle that we can control, which is who we allow into our lives.

This can be a difficult subject to deal with for a Christian, first of all because God is love, and as his children we are taught to love people. The idea of keeping anyone at arms length is not easy for some because they equate that with a lack of love.

It was Jesus after all who said that “no greater love has a man than this, that he would lay down his life for his friends”.  From this verse we find the heart of God, and it is only natural for us to desire to emulate that very same love.  [1]

So, again, we who are followers of Jesus Christ must love people because that is the commandment of our Savior.

No doubt you have heard it said that Christians are to “love the sinner but hate the sin”, or some variant of that. That means that we are to look past the sin in a person’s life and see their need for a Savior.

Personally, I believe this to be sound advice. We must be careful however to understand that while we should love without regard to lifestyle choices, habits, etc, we must be very careful as to how much influence we allow these same people to exert over us.

And yes, that includes those who profess Christ but live as though they know nothing about Him. This is made perfectly clear to us in Paul’s second letter to Timothy where he said we were to turn away from such people.   [2]

It is (hopefully) obvious to us as Christians that we cannot permit the enemy to gain a foothold in our homes and in the lives of our family members. We must remain vigilant against the methodology of the adversary, because he routinely transforms himself into something that we would be attracted to.   [3]

In other words, our enemy isn’t likely to appear on your doorstep wearing a red cape, horns, and carrying a pitchfork. He will however appear in such a manner as to put you at ease long enough to deceive you!

This is where loving from a distance comes into play. Instead of opening our hearts to things that might harm us, we should proceed with caution. And yes, it is perfectly alright to say NO to someone!

As a matter of fact, scripture teaches us to keep the world at an arms length from us. Paul actually used a stronger word when he said we should come out from among them and separate ourselves.

And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you. 2nd Corinthians 6:16,17

If we are to live victoriously in Christ, it will be because through Christ we have conquered our past failures and disappointments. Through Him we will have buried the demons that used to haunt us.

“You can’t defeat the demons you keep playing with” is a popular internet meme quoted frequently all over the web today by many preachers and Christian entertainers.

It is a very powerful truth as well.

To continue “playing with” them is to invite certain destruction into our lives because having fellowship with darkness is diametrically opposite of what scripture teaches us in Ephesians 5:11.  [4]

As children of the King, we are to love all people simply because everyone, saint and sinner alike, has been created in the image of God. Never forget that while we were yet sinners ,Christ died for us.

Wisdom, however, dictates that loving from a distance until you really get to know a person is not only prudent, it may just save you much heartache.

Have a blessed day everyone,

Ron

[1] John 15:13

[2] 2nd Timothy 3:5

[3] 2nd Corinthians 11:14

[4] Ephesians 5:11

 

 

The very same Jesus

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For all of the talk about the demise of Christianity, it is interesting to note that Christianity remains the largest religious group in the world among people who lay claim to some form of religion.

Of course, we know that within Christianity there are dozens of different denominations, as well as hundreds of offshoots of these mainline denominations.

Additionally, there is no way to measure the sincerity of one’s relationship with Jesus. Is every person attending church really a Christian? Who but God can say?

As confusing as all of this sounds, it is important to point out that there is one central truth that binds all Christians, churches, and denominations together.

Jesus Christ is the head of the church.

Denominational and personal beliefs aside, this is an immutable, non-negotiable fact.

To the unsaved world, however, Jesus is typically viewed as just another historical figure, or at best some type of prophet, or religious wise man, one who long ago died and faded into obscurity.

It is this mindset that I want to delve into with this post. This worldly perception of Jesus, that he existed from an historical perspective only, is unfortunately alive and well in the church today.

It’s true, we Christians sometimes have a tendency to think of Jesus as was instead of is. Perhaps this is because we are constantly being inundated with worldly viewpoints on the person of Jesus. TV shows for example, are notorious for portraying Jesus in the past tense.

In the rare instance when they might mention the resurrection of Jesus, it almost always comes with the obligatory wink wink. Their thoughts of course are that no intelligent person really believes in that resurrection stuff.

So, it isn’t too difficult to understand why Christians can sometimes lean towards the world’s viewpoint, especially if we focus more on the world’s opinions than the truth of God’s word.

This is why we might hear someone say something to the effect of “if only Jesus were here today” when reflecting upon the current conditions of our world. They are thinking of Jesus as was instead of is!

So many times I hear believers talk as though Jesus is a million miles away, abiding comfortably in some far off galaxy called Heaven, oblivious to all that is happening in our lives.

To be sure, scripture does teach that Jesus is now sitting at the right hand of the Father(Acts 2:33). But scripture also teaches that though he departed from this earth, he did not leave us alone.

Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.   John 16:7

His Spirit abides within each of us who have accepted Him as Lord and Savior. That means that the very same Jesus that walked the shores of Galilee also now abides within you.  He is NOT a million miles away from you!

I hope you caught that. The very same Jesus….

Why should any of this matter to you, and why is it something to think about?

Look at it this way: the next time you call upon the Lord, would it make a difference in how you approach Him if you understood that he was in fact already abiding within your heart?

What if the next time you think to yourself “if only Jesus were actually present here with me”, you approached the situation from the position of “Jesus, I know you are with me. You said that you would never leave me or forsake me, and that you were a very present help in the time of trouble”? (Hebrews 13:5, Psalm 46:1)

Would that not change your perspective? Of course it would! Instead of wringing our hands in desperation, wishing and hoping, we acknowledge his presence by affirming our faith and trust in him!

The Christian church today must have a fresh revelation of who Jesus is, not who he was. We must recapture the truth of the ages that Jesus Christ is alive forevermore, and he resides in our hearts!

My prayer is that we would have ears to hear what the Spirit is saying to the church today. God’s word is alive, it is anointed, and it is inspired.

It is speaking to us today, revealing the risen Savior to the lost and hopeless. May we open our hearts to know that the very same Jesus that walked the shores of Galilee some two thousand years ago is alive and abiding in our hearts this very day!

Be blessed,

Ron

 

 

Being separate from the world does not mean ignoring the world

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In such a time as this, when the lines of distinction between the church and the world are growing ever more indiscernible, we must exercise caution in order not to fall prey to deception and false teaching.

While there are a great many beliefs today that are outright heresies, there are also beliefs that contain a modicum of truth yet miss the mark entirely when applied incorrectly.

Such is the case with the teaching that Christians are to separate themselves from the world. Certainly, no true follower of Christ should argue that we are not to emulate the world and its behavior. Nor are we to align ourselves with its un-Christ-like ideologies. Scripture makes this very clear; I believe.

We must be careful however in our application of this teaching because God has called us to be salt and light to this world. Or to put it another way, if we are to be effective witnesses for Christ we must interact with this world. We cannot hide our light under a bushel. [1]

To sequester ourselves apart from the world is to destroy both our witness and our credibility. The world today is in desperate need of a Savior, and you and I have been assigned the awesome responsibility of taking the Savior to the world, not hiding Him from the world.

It’s true that God has called us to be a people set apart unto himself. Sadly, due to a misapplication of this concept, many people use this as justification in setting themselves up as morally superior to everyone that doesn’t subscribe to their erroneous doctrine.

We see this attitude on display among pseudo Christian cults, such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses, as well as certain “fringe” Christian groups like Oneness Pentecostals. Both groups consider themselves to be the “elect of God” and anyone not in agreement with their doctrines as apostates, thus condemning any “outsiders” to be lost. [2]

Obviously, we need to examine the scriptures in order to determine the truth about the whole notion of separation from the world. Here is what Paul said about this in his teaching to the church at Corinth.

And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will dwell in them And walk among them. I will be their God, And they shall be My people.”

 Therefore “Come out from among them And be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, And I will receive you.”

“I will be a Father to you,
And you shall be My sons and daughters,
Says the Lord Almighty.”
   2nd Corinthians 6:16-18

So, is Paul teaching that Christians are to have nothing to do with those outside the church of God? Of course not! That is the hallmark of a Pharisee, to see oneself as superior to others because of religious position or tradition. [3]

Paul is saying here that once we have been born again, God’s Spirit takes up residence within us and we then become His dwelling place, or temple. As such, God both lives in us and walks with us, all of which means we are on intimate terms with the Creator.

This special, intimate relationship requires that we abstain from those things, or idols, that defile our hearts and corrupt our intimacy with the Father. We may be in the world, but not of the world.  [4]

What are these idols Paul speaks of, the ones we are to come out from and separate ourselves from? Some are obvious, such as having no other gods in our lives, but some are not so obvious. And dare I say they can be different for all of us?

An idol is essentially anything that comes between you and your Creator. Whatever consumes the bulk of your time, or so much of it that you have little time left to worship God, is an idol.

For some of us it is sports. Maybe TV takes all your time. Or a job that demands most of your waking hours. It could even be your boat, golf clubs, or fishing rods. For some of us it’s our electronic devices, such as cell phones and iPads.

What Paul is NOT saying in these verses is that we are to cut off all contact with anyone who isn’t part of our tribe (church). True enough, we should not hang around with people who are obviously negative influences. None of us should desire to become best friends with the neighborhood drug pusher, for example.

The fact remains however that even the worst among us needs a Savior, just as you and I did at one time. We may not have been the neighborhood drug pusher, but we were just as lost as they now are before coming to Christ. Our hearts were just as sin-laden as any other lost person. [5]

After all, sin is sin, and lost is lost. Race, ethnicity, income, ancestry, or any other factors notwithstanding, everyone needs the Savior. That’s why Jesus came: to seek and save that which was lost. [6]

Paul tells us that because God now dwells within us, we are the sons and daughters of God. As such, our light should shine before all men that they might come to know Jesus Christ as Lord. [7]

Come out from among idols? Absolutely! Separate ourselves from those things which turn our hearts away from the Lord? Without question!

Please don’t however, turn away from anyone in need of a Savior just because they aren’t like you. Don’t distance yourself so far from them that you can no longer have compassion on their plight.

Remember: that was you and I at one time.

Be blessed, in Jesus name.

Ron

 

[1] Matt. 5:14,15…You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.

[2] Jehovah’s Witnesses are a cult because they deny the deity of Christ, which makes them anti-Christ even though they claim to be ‘Christian’. John 1:1 states “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”. In their New World Translation, Jehovah’s Witnesses translate John 1:1 as “the Word was a god”, thus denying Christ His divinity.   Emphasis mine

[3] Matt. 23:1-7…Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do. For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments. They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, ‘Rabbi, Rabbi.

[4] John 17:14…I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.

[5] Colossians 1:21,22…And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight

[6] Luke 19:10…for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.

[7] Matt. 5:16…Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

 

 

Playing With Fire

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It seems that everywhere you turn today people are mocking God with a greater intensity and frequency. Surely the fear of God has disappeared from the hearts and minds of untold millions of people who curse His name as easily as they curse at a dog.

This is not surprising however. After all, the Apostle Peter clearly warns us that in the last days will come “scoffers, walking after their own lusts”.  [1]

The Apostle Paul also goes to great lengths to warn the church of impending disaster, when in the last days the world would fall headlong into apostasy. In his 2nd Epistle to Timothy, he lists a multitude of dangerous and ungodly character traits that would be manifested in the hearts of unbelievers at that time.

When you see people described as “lovers of their own selves, blasphemers, fierce, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God, having a form of godliness” etc…, you can be assured that these people are playing with fire.   [2]

As we see these days closing in on us, I am so very thankful that in His mercy God saw me in my wretched condition and pulled me out of the miry clay. How many of us can identify with this beloved Psalm?

He also brought me up out of a horrible pit,
Out of the miry clay,
And set my feet upon a rock,
And established my steps.   Psalm 40:2

Contrast these words of hope and restoration with the solemn warning from Hebrews about those who live their lives in outright rejection of God.

It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.  [3]

To fall into the hands of the living God speaks to another part of God’s nature that unregenerate men choose to ignore. They would rather live their lives in any manner they wish, believing that in the end everyone gets in to heaven.

But that is not what is going to happen when we come to the end of our days. If we have not received Christ as our Lord and Savior, it will be a fearful thing because once we take our final breath, we are immediately confronted with this living God.

And that, dear readers, is playing with fire.

Ron

[1] 2nd Peter 3:3

[2] 2nd Timothy 3:1-5

[3] Hebrews 10:31

When Religion Takes Priority Over Ministry

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Unless you live in a bubble, a cave, or in a penthouse surrounded by opulence, you cannot help but see the misery of suffering humanity all around.  On the TV, on the sidewalks of your city, standing in line at a food bank, dialing the crisis hotline, misery and suffering are things this world has an abundance of.

But what if you don’t live in a bubble, a cave, or a penthouse and yet see nothing of the sufferings of humanity that are all around you? What then?

There is an old saying that goes something like this: “there is none so blind, as he who will not see”. The meaning of this is that there are people who willingly choose not to see by closing their minds and their hearts to their surroundings. [1]

Such are those in our day who are ‘religious’ in name only. They have the title but not the heart. They want the appearance of godliness but not the costs associated with it. To maintain appearances within the community they open their checkbooks, but never their hearts.

Jesus had a name for religious people like this. He called them hypocrites. Not a very flattering term, is it? And while it is easy to look at them with disdain, in all honesty, most of us would have to plead “guilty” to some degree of hypocrisy as well. Pretending to be something we’re not comes rather easily for us, does it not?

Jesus had an encounter one day with just such a person while teaching in the synagogue. Follow along with me as we find Him confronting the high priest on a certain Sabbath day.

Now He was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath.
And behold, there was a woman who had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bent over and could in no way raise herself up.
But when Jesus saw her, He called her to Him and said to her, “Woman, you are loosed from your infirmity.”
And He laid His hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God.
But the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath; and he said to the crowd, “There are six days on which men ought to work; therefore come and be healed on them, and not on the Sabbath day.”
The Lord then answered him and said, “Hypocrite! Does not each one of you on the Sabbath loose his ox or donkey from the stall, and lead it away to water it?
“So ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath?”
And when He said these things, all His adversaries were put to shame; and all the multitude rejoiced for all the glorious things that were done by Him.   Luke 13:10-17

This story perfectly illustrates how religion separated from a relationship with Christ can become more important than ministry. The religious leader was concerned only with the letter of the Law, rather than the spirit of the Law. His strict interpretation was that no one should lift a finger to perform any type of work on the Sabbath Day, and in his view what Jesus did in healing the woman was work. Thus he was condemning Jesus for healing on the Sabbath.

Isn’t it amazing how ‘hard’ and uncaring religion can be? When it’s more important to follow your creed than it is to follow your heart, something is terribly wrong. When rigidly enforcing “the rules” takes precedence over serving others, we are out of step with our Savior.

For eighteen long years this woman had not been able to stand upright. Have you seen someone like this? I have seen several people in this condition, where their body was permanently affixed in a jackknife position. Some are so bad that their life has been condemned to staring at the floor because they can no longer look up. It is truly a horrible affliction. [2]

This is the situation that Jesus was confronted with that day in the synagogue, and I doubt He hesitated even for a moment to reach out to this woman. While everyone else came that day to hear the Law taught, Jesus had a divine appointment with someone in need of much more than words!

Did you notice how the high priest told Jesus that there were six other days in which to work? I guess he would have preferred that Jesus tell the woman to “come back tomorrow’ than for Him to heal her right then.

That’s another difference between religion and ministry. Religion doesn’t feel the pain of its adherents, rather it is more concerned that everyone fall in line and follow the established protocol. Real ministry feels the infirmities and sufferings of people, and does not wait around for prior approval to meet the need.

I love how Jesus turned the tables on the religious ruler by telling him if he had an animal that was thirsty, he would untie it and lead it to water on the Sabbath Day. By all accounts that too was ‘work’, so we see that the real issue here was not that Jesus was breaking the Law, but that this man’s religion was more important to him than ministering to the needy. In other words, this man had a ‘heart condition’ that would not permit him to offer comfort to the needy at the expense of his doctrine.

As Christians, this is not what we are to be. Knowing that Jesus came not for those who were whole, but for those that needed a physician, it stands to reason that such a mindset should be ours as well. [3]

As we gaze upon humanity with open hearts and minds, it is plain for all to see that people are imprisoned by sin, sickness, addictions of every sort, and are in distress and great need.

Our world is quickly losing its capacity to exhibit mercy and compassion, and is becoming insensitive to the plight of others. Additionally, we seem to have an insatiable appetite for gore, violence, and immorality. Such is the cost of a society that has rejected God.

May it not be said of us that we looked, but did not see. Rather, may it be said of us that we looked upon suffering humanity with the same eyes and heart that Jesus did.

After all, that is why we are here. Isn’t it?

Be blessed,

Ron

[1] This saying has been traced back to 1546, and has its origins in Jeremiah 5:21

[2] The affliction this woman had is known medically as Camptocormia, and is typically associated with another disease

[3] Scripture reference Mark 2:17

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