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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

 

 

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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

When a baby enters the room

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You’ve seen this a thousand times. A beaming couple can’t wait to show off their newborn. Plans are made, family and friends are invited, and the long awaited day finally arrives.

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Photo by Carlo Navarro on Unsplash

As the guests arrive, the beaming parents can hardly contain their excitement as they eagerly walk around the room, proudly showing their guests how perfect their little cherub is.

The point out it’s weight, any special features, how the baby is already showing signs of having his mother’s nose or her fathers eyes. And then you notice it…

For some odd reason, the entire room has taken on a different atmosphere. Grown adults, parents, grandparents, great grandparents, even children all are swept up in the moment.

The moment a newborn enters the room time stands still. Nothing else matters as all eyes are diverted towards the baby. A hush settles over the once noisy room, replaced by the wonder of this new creation.

I have to believe that this was the scene when the wise men, or Magi, who had been following the heavenly star first laid eyes upon the Christ child.

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Photo by Batang Latagaw on Unsplash

When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh.    Matt. 2:10-11

During this Christmas season, may each of us reflect once more upon the birth of Jesus Christ. May we be in awe, just as the Magi and the shepherds in the fields were. May the wonder of it all astound us as we ponder the magnitude of God’s love for man.

And most of all, may we worship Him who was born in the most meager of circumstances, this son of a carpenter, the Gift that was given to all mankind, destined to become the payment for our sins, who is now seated at the right hand of God.

Merry Christmas,

Ron

There’s got to be more…

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How many of you ever feel like “is this it, is this all there is”?

I feel this way almost every single day. Not because I want more stuff. I don’t need another car. I have no desire to get a boat. My house is plenty large enough, and my wife has decorated it to rival anything a professional interior decorator could do.

stuff-need-more

Doublingdollars.com

In truth, I have more than enough of everything.

Yet still I feel wholly unsatisfied, as though something is calling me to seek for that which is not from here. To commune with One far greater than I. To launch out and into the deep and discover who knows what.

Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of thy waterspouts: all thy waves and thy billows are gone over me.  Psalm 42:7

You have no idea how many times I’ve wished I could be like most people I meet up with, who seemingly just go through life without much care for things that are beyond the necessities of life.

For reasons that I’ve yet to completely uncover, God did not wire me this way. For some reason I care deeply about what matters most to God. Some say far too deeply, but I say how do you turn it off?

I care deeply about the Church, for example. I care that the church of Acts has all but disappeared from this planet. I care that expressing the love of Christ to those who are undone without him is now considered to be the job of the paid clergy.

I grieve that our pulpits are filled with people looking for a paycheck instead of a city whose builder and maker is God (Heb. 11:10). My heart breaks to see people who’ve been broken by sin come into God’s house and leave the same way they came.

I care deeply about the plight of children who are abused, exploited, and violated, oftentimes by adults who are charged with loving them and nurturing them into adulthood. Jesus said in Luke 18:16…

But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.”

My heart breaks upon hearing or reading of what our children are enduring at the hands of drug crazed parents. Just yesterday, I read where a mother was charged with selling her young daughter for $6,000 because they had no other way to get money to survive on.

“Suffer the little children” indeed.

I care deeply that millions will lose sleep and stand in line to buy a new TV,  yet will not give a dollar to support a food bank or local missions outreach. Watching people trample one another to be among the first customers in the store is heartbreaking because I know there is a Savior wondering why they don’t run to Him with the same zeal.

black_friday 3

PCWorld.com

The Apostle Paul said that he had learned to be content in whatever state, or condition he happened to be in at the time (Philippians 4:11). I suppose some would say that I should apply this to my own life. To be sure, so far as the things of this world go, I am very content.

It’s the things that are not of this world however that I long for more of.

Because there just has to be more.

Be blessed, in Jesus name

Ron

Do you believe, I mean REALLY believe?

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“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers;”  and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.”             2nd Timothy 4:3-4

The misguided congregation of Elevation church has done exactly that. They have placed in the position of pastor a young man that is openly sowing unbelief in the midst of his own congregation, and none dares to call him out on it.

This ‘pastor’ recently preached a message to his congregation, stating that he had doubts in the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. Furthermore, he claimed that no one in the congregation fully believed these things.” [1]

Wow! The ‘pastor’ of the church openly declared that none of his congregation was without doubt regarding the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. There is not one single person attending that church that is convinced by scripture of the truth surrounding the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ? What kind of a place is this?

This my friends, is an abomination. It is a slap in the face of Jesus Christ that an unbeliever such as this man would be placed in the position of shepherd over God’s people.

Yes, I’m sure many of you didn’t like that. It’s awful harsh and judgmental, isn’t it?

It’s also the truth.

At the end of this debacle the ‘pastor’ stated “I have my doubts. Is that alright? Do you need to find another church now that you know the man with the mic has doubts? I have my doubts.”

The answer the congregation should have given was a resounding YES!, followed by an immediate mass exodus to the nearest exit doors, never to return.

I may have doubts about my own capabilities, motives, and yes I even have doubts about my personal value to God’s kingdom. It’s a very normal and human thing to doubt such things about ourselves. If you’re reading this, I dare say you feel the same way at times.

That being said, I can however testify with 100% certainty that I have no doubts as to the truth of the death, burial, and resurrection of my Savior. None. Zero. Nada. Zilch.

Everything I believe about Him, indeed my very salvation is secured by the truth of His death, burial, and resurrection.

To doubt this is to acknowledge that I have yet to pass from death to life. [2]

If He did not die, I am still lost. If He did not raise from the dead, I am still lost. There is NO MIDDLE GROUND!

How can I be so certain about this? It’s because I have a relationship with Him! I know exactly who He is! Every page of scripture has His DNA embedded in it! He is the Word that was made flesh and dwelt among us!

What about you? Do you REALLY believe in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ? Or are you seeking for a ‘teacher’ who will lead you down the path of fables?

My sincere prayer is that you can answer YES to the former while rejecting the latter.

Be blessed and secure in His Truth!

Ron

 

[1] For the record, I do not endorse or agree with every article or post from the Pulpit and Pen.

[2] John 5:24

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