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Is your focus inward or outward?

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Me!  Me!  Me!

Does that sound like someone you know?

I!     I!     I! All about me

Does this sound like someone you know?

Is it all about them?

Does the world revolve around them?

Do they have no time for anyone but themselves?

Of course, most of us know people like this. The world is a very selfish place, after all.

But what if we substituted them, they, and themselves for me, us, and ourselves?

That changes things a bit, doesn’t it? It sort of places us in the uncomfortable position of determining whether our focus is inward or outward.

As Christians we know that we cannot live our lives only for ourselves because the Bible is very clear that this life is not all about us, our wishes, our desires, or our needs.

It’s actually ALL about Him.

Because it’s ALL about Him, our focus then must be outward and not inward. As difficult and as challenging as that might be at times, we have no other choice. The fact is, we have been commanded to love others just as Christ loves us.

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”   John 13: 34-35

Loving one another is one of the foundational truths of the Church. Our love and concern for one another tells the world that we have Christ abiding within us.

The world in which we live however, says that YOU are number one, that YOU are the most important person in the world. This concept is both unbiblical and self-defeating because it attempts to lift us up while denigrating God.

In Paul’s letter to the church at Galatia, he reminded them that through love they were to serve one another. To emphasize this, he also gave them a warning that if they did not do this, but rather turned on one another, they would eventually destroy each other.

For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another! Gal. 5:13-15

Helping handsOurs is a call to serve, to prefer others, to put another’s needs before our own. This is the litmus test of whether we are who we say we are, or if we are yet another in a long line of imposters.

But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.   1 John 3: 17-18

Do you and I care about others?

If so, do they know it because we tell them, or because we show them by our actions?

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.   Gal. 6:9-10

By focusing outward instead of inward, we are presented with innumerable opportunities to minister to others.

From where I set, I think the world could use a whole lot more of that.

Be blessed!

Ron

 

 

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If this world is not our home…

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Then why on earth are we Christians so consumed with creating our own version of heaven on earth?

I mean where do we draw the line between being salt and light to this world, and wanting to supposedly claim dominion over the earth in Jesus name?

I don’t want to take control of this earth, neither is it a mandate from Jesus that we do so. There are many false teachings floating about today, particularly those coming from the NAR (New Apostolic Reformation) camp that say Christians are to rule the earth NOW.

I won’t bore you with the gory details, but a quick search over at 828 ministries will provide ample evidence of their four primary mandates,with Dominionism being the primary one. This false belief states that Christians must conquer the world in order to facilitate the second coming of Jesus Christ.

Nothing could be further from the truth! Time after time the scripture makes it crystal clear that we just passing through here. This world is not our home. Even the great patriarch Abraham was told by God to look for a city whose builder and maker was God. In addition, Jesus tells us we are not to lay up treasures on this earth.

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.   Matt.6:19-21

Scripture is clear, John the Revelator saw a new heaven and a new earth coming down from God out of heaven, for the former earth was passed away. Does that sound like we should be wasting our time trying to gain control of an earth that is one day going to be destroyed?

I believe in living life to the fullest. Enjoy all that God has given us while we are here. Live the abundant life Jesus talked about in John chapter 10. Go for it in Jesus name! Yet never forget that we are but strangers and Pilgrims here on this earth.

These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.   Hebrews 11:13

One day, one glorious day, we will inherit a new earth. One that will never be corrupted by sin. A place where we will live without sickness, without ever experiencing lack or want of any thing. Jesus is even now preparing such a place for you and I!

In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.   John 14:2

Rest in the promise that God has a better place for us, a place where we will live with Christ for all eternity. No matter your plight here on earth, when we step into that new home that has been prepared for us all will be forgotten here below.

Thank God, this world is not my home. This is but a place of preparation, a dress rehearsal for that which is to come!

Be blessed, in Jesus name

Ron

 

 

 

 

When “works” replace Jesus…

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Recently I came across an article that talked about pastors filling in their church calendars for the new year. The gist of this article dealt with whether or not the items that made their calendars was real ministry or simply “busy work”.

It made for interesting reading, especially when one of the pastors posted a link to his calendar for everyone to see. Imagine my surprise when lo and behold nearly every day of the week was filled from early morning till late in the evening.

Everything from early morning Bible studies and Zumba classes, afternoon staff and business meetings, to evening choir practice and healthy cooking classes filled this church’s calendar.

Frankly, it was the busiest church calendar I have ever seen, and I’ve seen a lot of them. At first glance one would be inclined to say that this church was very busy, and they certainly were. I couldn’t imagine them squeezing anything else into an already stuffed daily agenda.

There was something odd however about this church calendar. I couldn’t figure it out at first, but I couldn’t shake the notion that in spite of so many agenda items something was missing.

Then it hit me. There was something missing! In fact, I noticed two missing items. The first was that there was no time built into the calendar for corporate prayer. The second thing that I noticed missing was there was not one single event or activity geared toward anyone outside the four walls of the church!

As I studied this I was reminded of something that Jesus said to the church at Ephesus, one of the seven churches mentioned in the book of Revelation.

2 “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; 3 “and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. 4 “Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.    Revelation 2:2-4(NKJV).    Emphasis mine

Lets look at these verses in detail because I think we might see ourselves in them.

Jesus recognized the works that the church had been doing. He called attention to their labor and patience, and how many of us can relate when it comes to having patience when doing the Lords work?

Jesus also mentioned the church’s disdain for those who practiced evil. All of us understand this don’t we? We are trying to live a Godly life in the midst of a perverse and increasingly evil society, and it’s only going to become more challenging.

He goes on to list several more very positive attributes of the church at Ephesus, leaving no doubt that He knew this church intimately. Hmmm…do you suppose Jesus knows the church you attend in such intimate detail?

At first glance this church could be the model for all other churches in the area. Things were going good, and I imagine there was quite a buzz about all the wonderful things the church at Ephesus was doing.

But, and there’s always a but, right? There was a problem in the church, a problem so important that Jesus couldn’t let it slide without calling their attention to it.

It all began with the word “nevertheless”. Just hearing the word sends thoughts of “uh oh, here it comes” to our minds. Even after all of the praise Jesus gave the church, there was a “nevertheless” that cast a dark shadow on what was an otherwise glowing report.

Nevertheless, he said, this church had lost their first love.

Ouch!

What does this mean, to have lost your first love? It means that the church at Ephesus no longer loved the Lord with the same level of intensity they once had. Their passionate love for Jesus had been replaced by something else.

They had lost their zeal for Christ. Typically when this happens, we just go through the motions of serving God. Our heart is no longer motivated by the love of Jesus, we become content to do as many good works as we can, placing our trust in the deeds themselves rather than Jesus.

Ask me how I know this!

Do you know what this is called? It’s called RELIGION, and it ceases to be about a relationship with Christ. The church at Ephesus abandoned their first love in exchange for cold, formal, impersonal RELIGION.

This is the same poison that has infected the Church today. The poison of RELIGION has suffocated the once fervent relationship she had with Christ. This is why there is such apathy in the pew today. We have supplanted relationship with form, with rules, with do’s and dont’s.

But it doesn’t have to be like this! There’s more to the story! In the next verse, Jesus gave the church at Ephesus an “out”. He told them to REPENT. That’s right, simply REPENT.

Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.”   Rev. 2:5   KJV

I believe that this is the message for the Church today. Remember where we came from, acknowledge we have strayed, repent and get going again.

Return to the love of Jesus, then watch how much impact our works will have on the world around us!

Maybe we should put THAT in our church calendars!

Be blessed,

Ron

 

 

Why are we here?

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Christians, a.k.a. the Church. Why are we here? What is our purpose?

One would think the answer would be obvious, but is it? In Acts 2 we read “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”

According to this verse, the purposes of the church are 1) doctrinal,biblical teaching, 2) creating an opportunity for the fellowship of believers, 3) observing the Lord’s supper, and 4) praying.

While all of this is true, it barely scratches the surface because the Church is so much more than that!

Paul gave an excellent illustration of this to the believers at Corinth. He taught them that the Church is to be the visible, living, hands, mouth, and feet of God in this world. In other words…the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-27). We are to be doing the very things that Jesus Christ would do if He were here physically on the earth.

We are to be replicating the work He already did. This is one of the greatest travesties of our day, that the Church is constantly trying to reinvent itself in order to become more relevant. The die has already been cast friends, we simply need to do what Jesus did.

The Church consists of ordinary people held together by an extraordinary God for the extraordinary purpose of revealing His heart to a lost world. Why is the church here? The answer is so that we can be Jesus to the world!

As individual members of the Church, we are tasked with asking ourselves “does this world know by our actions that we are the hands,mouth, and feet of God”?

Something to ponder on this warm, sunny December day!

Ron

“What will you do in the end”? Part 2

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My last post in this series ended by asking “what nation would ever turn its back God”?

Today’s post will focus on both the identity of the nation, as well as the “blame game” being played regarding responsibility for what is taking place in America today.

Before I delve into this, I want to state up front that in no way am I trying to convince anyone that the problems that have befallen us are either simplistic or easy to fix. My goal with this series is simple: identify the root of the problem, and then point out the obvious (to me) solution.

As to the question “what nation would turn its back on God”, the answer is painfully obvious: that nation is America. Just as Nathan the prophet said to David “you are the man” when exposing his great sin, so it is that America is being systematically exposed as the nation that has forsaken its God.

The parallel between America and ancient Israel is unmistakable. The simple table below highlights just as few examples:

comparison

Though America’s approach is a subtle one, there can be no doubt that we are following in the footsteps of ancient Israel, allowing ourselves to become ensnared in a noose from which there is no escape. Just as Israel could not escape their coming judgement, neither shall we.

From a Christian point of view, I am dumbfounded that we are seemingly blind to this. Oh, for sure there are voices out there that say they know that things are not right, that they believe we are going the wrong direction as a nation. But they are painfully few and far between.

What I cannot fathom, in light of what should be so obvious, is the relative silence from God’s people! Where is the moral outrage? Instead of righteous indignation and contempt, instead of a cry from our denominational leaders for a day of fasting and repentance, what usually comes from the Christian camp is silence.

Or even worse, blame.

The Church has fallen headlong into the same mindset as the world, which is it’s easier to affix blame than it is to acknowledge the truth. And the truth, I’m afraid, is very, very ugly! Acknowledgment of the truth, you see, negates our pleas of ignorance.

There is a fundamental problem with the Church looking to assign blame for the despair that prevails in America today. That is not the responsibility of the Church, yet we have permitted ourselves to jump on the blame bandwagon so that we can attempt to defend our positions!

The Left blames the Right. The Right blames the Left. And so it goes. As long as we can assign blame to one group or another we feel content in our smug self-righteousness that THEY are the problem!

Let’s throw away our cloaks of pretense and disguise, shall we? I’ve been saying for a long time on this blog that we in America have a “God problem”. Yes indeed, our problem has become what to do about God, for we certainly don’t want Him any longer!

In part 3 of this series I will show you how that America’s “God problem” is so firmly entrenched as to be all but impossible to reverse. You will see that God is no longer part of the solution in the minds of America’s leaders. He has actually become part of their problem!

Be blessed,

Ron

The Invisible Line

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The Church.

For over two thousand years “The Church”has existed in this present world.What is commonly referred to as the “Body of Christ”has been a key part of society in nearly every country,on nearly every continent,and has impacted billions of people in some way or another.

The Church was born out of the heart of Jesus Christ who came to deliver a message of hope and redemption to an otherwise lost and depraved world.After Jesus was crucified and ascended to heaven,this Churchchurch one man began to replicate itself.Beginning with the twelve Disciples and the converts that they made and continuing through centuries past, this replication has been a continuous process.Whether one man or a thousand,the church has maintained it’s presence among the peoples of the world.

The World.

People of every nation and every conceivable culture make up the world that we live in.There are slightly over 7 billion people in the world today who speak approximately 6500 different languages.No matter what context you use to look at those numbers,they are staggering to comprehend!

crowd

There are a great many voices clamoring to be heard today that declare that we are,or should be, one.You’ve heard them I’m sure.They say that with every technological advancement the world is getting smaller all the time,and no doubt it is.Technology has erased the barrier of distance that has long hindered the world from becoming one people.Technology,for all of it’s greatness,has become the modern day equivalent of the Tower of Babel .One family.One people.One race.One planet.One species.One religion.One Church.

One.

There are  many in the world today who have embraced the concept that we people of the world are all one.World leaders,economists,environmentalists,special interest groups of every type all believe that the time has come to join together for the sake of us all.

Church leaders have adopted this worldly mentality as well.We are being told to lay aside our differences,our denominational doctrines,our various creeds of the faith,for the good of all.The outcome of this “oneness”is the deliberate blurring of the line between the Church and the World.In fact I will go so far as to say that the line is no longer blurred:it has become invisible!

In following this vision of “oneness”we have opened Pandora’s box to the unthinkable:the church has become indistinguishable from the world.Is this what Christ meant for the church to become?Is this what Paul meant when he said this:

14 Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?

15 And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever?

16 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.”

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

18 “I will be a Father to you, And you shall be My sons and daughters, Says the LORD Almighty.”                     2Co 6:14-18 NKJV

When Paul wrote these words under the unction of the Holy Spirit,the church was in it’s infancy and as with any new work there were things taking place that needed to be addressed.The Holy Spirit spoke through Paul in an attempt to correct the misconception that is was OK for Christians to be joined together with unbelievers,or with those who lived a lifestyle that was in conflict with what Christ intended for His church

Where is this teaching today? I’m afraid to say that it is nearly nonexistent. I must report that such teaching is not at all well received today because the church has adopted the mindset of the world.The church wants to do everything the world does and still be called the church.We want to be included in activities that we know we should avoid.We want to partake of everything the world does and still be called the church.And we will not stand to have it any other way! We want to be one with the world!

The scriptures are clear however that God has called us to a life of separation from the world.In spite of that,the church of today chooses to inch ever closer to living a life of inclusiveness of all the world has to offer.This in spite of the Bible’s clear teaching that we cannot maintain fellowship with the world,participate in it’s sinful pleasures,adopt it’s practices as our own,and still be identified as a child of God.

It is painfully obvious to anyone that what passes for Christianity today would be completely foreign to the Apostle Paul.For all of our lofty,grandiose churches and programs I dare say that Paul would not be welcomed to preach in any of them!He was a man led by the Spirit,and any attempt to “modernize”him to go along with the program would be met with fierce refusal.WomanPileOfMoneyAlter

I chuckle sometimes when I see the WWJD bracelets being worn by people.I don’t chuckle because it’s funny,but because the answer to the question would likely not be what the masses think it should, or would be.Considering that Jesus took a whip and drove the money changers out of the temple because they had made His house a house of merchandise when it was meant to be a house of prayer,what approach would He take today in dealing with a largely backslidden church?

His way is the narrow way.

13 “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.

14 “Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.      Mat 7:13-14 NKJV

There must be a difference between the church and the world.

There must be a line drawn that the church cannot cross over.

It’s there.It exists. It’s not invisible.It’s plain for all to see.

If you’ve crossed that line I pray that you will come back.Come back to the straight and narrow way that leads to life.A way of personal holiness,a way of living that is separate from the world.

15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.     1Jo 2:15-16 KJV

Be blessed,

Ron