What is being served? What are we demanding?

How is a restaurant and its customers like a local church and its congregation? They both serve and they both have people they depend on. Oddly enough, restaurant owners seem to be wiser in what they serve than some churches. Customers expect good food and generous amounts. What are churches serving? A moderate amount of churches are serving a feast of solid expository preaching seasoned with healthy application. Their people are well fed and Spiritually healthy. (Nevertheless, just like in restaurants there will be some who leave good food on the plate). Sadly, there are some churches (probably many) serving spiritual fast food. A brief message offering self help, success, prosperity, a great life, etc. There is comparatively little nourishment. It tastes good, one "feels" full but has little spiritual stamina. In restaurants, discerning customers demand good food for their money while others grow weak and sickly on "junk food." In our churches, too many stop by for a quick bite and leave without experiencing a Spiritual feast. Why do some expect more of a restaurant than they do of churches? Perhaps they have been taught to eat whatever is put on their plates. Wouldn't we have revival, if people insisted on high quality Spiritual food and the pastors realized that they must serve delicious, wholesome meals? All of this to say that any church that minors on the Bible and majors on human thoughts will produce Spiritual weaklings. (Some may not even know the Lord). Selah! It's time to offer a meal worthy of the King. Don't accept food that doesn't promote Spiritual wellness. Insist on a menu that you can grow on.    Ron
 
"Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof…. " (From I Peter 5:2).   "O taste and see that the LORD is good…." (From Psalm 34:8).

Separation and Attitudes

Sadly, there come times when we must separate from brothers and sisters who claim to be saved or who are saved. How do we handle that? If they deny any basic doctrine they either are not brethren or haven't seen the Truth yet. Those that are teachable, we should seek to win to the Truth. Others who are hardened, we will probably not reach. (God may have some other way to reach them). We must, regretfully, separate from them. However, we don't need to be disagreeable to disagree. We must be firm but not mean-spirited. Any possibility of their being salvaged from error can be lost if we fail to use wisdom in relating to them. Some who have defected from the faith have been "turned off" by the bad attitude of some who have been faithful. We need to attack "issues," not "character." We might be used to win some, if we graciously but firmly, demonstrate that the basic doctrines are true and defensible. Many won't turn to the Truth, no matter what. The problem is that we don't know who will listen and who won't. Let's not cut the lines of communication by an unchristlike attitude. We must identify those that are in error and teach people under our influence why these people are wrong. Nevertheless, we can expose error and heresy without smearing them. Another danger in knowing that we do hold to the truth is when we take pride in it. This can quickly turn into a Pharisaical spirit. Selah! Contend for the faith! Don't give an inch on the Truth! Teach why basic doctrines are true! Explain why something is error! All the time we do this, be courteous, patient, and firm.  Ron
 
"….ye should earnestly contend for the Faith which was once delivered unto the saints." (From Jude 4).

A Marked Person

A true disciple, one that really knows the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, is a "marked" person. First of all, marked as a target for ridicule, rejection, persecution, and sometimes death. "For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries; wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you." (I Peter  4:3-4). "For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness." (From I Corinthians 1:18). Many times our commitment to the Lord is a threat that must be stopped, discredited or destroyed. Secondly, marked as people that can be relied on. Paul alludes to faithful men, in II Timothy 2:2, as those that can be trusted with responsibility. Unsaved people seem to sense if someone is trustworthy and they often will go to a committed Christian when they are troubled and/or need counsel. The church notices (marks) these faithful ones and calls upon them to serve (sometimes asking them to do too much) because they are dependable and dependable ones are apt to be hard to find. Third, they may be marked for suffering. Just as fire refines gold, the hurt and pressure of suffering separates between those who may only be "playing church," from those that are going to trust God no matter how "hot" the trials of life may be. Paul testified, "From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus" (Galatians 6:17). Paul was branded with the marks of suffering, as was our Lord Himself. Last, but not least, we are marked as His own. "….The Lord knoweth them that are His…." (From II Timothy 2:19). Disciples (Read: genuine believers) lead Godly, committed lives, in His strength. They are not perfect but are steadily moving in that direction and trusting God. Through good times and bad, they just keep trusting. Selah! Being in the will of God may be costly but it will pay wonderful dividends forever.     Ron

The Pearl of Patience

I don't recall seeing much written about patience, except in the Bible. Could it be because we don't think that we can learn to be patient? Impatience causes irritation, annoyance, anger, and stress. It can even result in someone being injured or hurt in one way or another. The stress may contribute to some diseases. The only things that come to mind that Jesus was ever impatient with was sin. What provokes impatience with us? Things that we don't like, can't control, want to change, things that annoy, anger, or worry us. Justified or not, it takes a toll on us. Jesus models a wonderful alternative. I can't think of a time when He was rushed. Time was not a tyrant for Him. There is no example of His ever being early or late. He was always right on time. His Father was in control and Jesus was calmly guided by Him. He was at peace and patient in circumstances that would have severely taxed many of us. Can we learn from this?  The Psalmist admonishes us to "Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for Him." (From Psalm 37:7). We can only do this as we internalize in our hearts that He is in control, knows what He is doing, His timing (no matter how long) is perfect and we can trust Him and His wisdom! When we rebel against this reality, it is because we want to "call the shots." We want to decide. We want to carry out our plans. One serious consequence is that we fail to enjoy "….the peace of God, that passeth all understanding." (From Philippians 4:7). Another great loss is that when we don't trust His control, we lose a priceless experience of His utter and complete reliability. Romans 5:3b-4a provides the explanation: "….tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience….'  We will go through trials and tribulations. When we do and rely on Him, no matter what, we learn by experience that He is faithful and He is there for us. We will discover some of this early on and also find that we won't understand other things for a long time. In either circumstance, we can relax and rest patiently and peacefully in His loving care. Selah! This can be our song: "All the way my Savior leads me; what have I to ask beside? Can I doubt His tender mercy, Who through life has been my Guide? Heav'n-ly peace, divinest comfort, here by faith in Him to dwell! For I know, what-e'er befall me, Jesus doeth all things well. (Fanny J. Crosby).          Ron

Sorting It Out

Someone suggested that there is a fine line between grace and what many call today "legalism." I think that depends, in part, on how one defines grace. Too often in practical application, grace is treated as if it were license. The reasoning (or lack of it) goes like this: Grace saved me, I am secure so, even if I do sin, I'll be forgiven. The emotional conclusion is that while I should try not to sin, if I do it's no big deal. The fact is that a true Spirit-taught believer is so grateful for the grace of God that he or she longs to be rid of sin and they grieve when they fail. Remember too that the grace of God disciplines. "For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching (Lit. disciplining) us that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and Godly, in this present world" (Titus 2:11-12). God's grace is at work to motivate us to be holy and to correct and discipline us when we give in to that which is wrong. His grace is actively producing Christ-like character in His children. His grace has given us His Word to guide and support us. As to "legalism," any set of rules, any standards externally placed on us and which we try to measure up to, in order to "stay on the right side" of God is what is commonly defined today as "legalism." However, many of these rules and standards are proper for a believer to adhere to and the righteousness they bring about is good. The problem is the motive. If we are only trying to be acceptable and please those over us, we are wrongly motivated. If our heart is not in becoming holy, something is wrong. We should lead separated lives to honor the Lord and to reflect favorably on Him. When we do this because our new nature craves it and because we love Him and we can understand that He gives us these commandments for our own good, that is not "legalism!" It is voluntary separation because we are hungering and thirsting for righteousness and longing to be satisfied. Selah! "And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by Him" (Colossians 3:17). God's grace produces holiness, not bondage.    Ron

Have We Caught the Wonder?

In these articles I have expressed concern over many who give testimony that they are saved but whose lives show no significant change. Then there are those who hold to the facts of the Gospel, some of whom would die to defend these Truths, but whose practical experience seems limited to the intellectual. They have their facts straight but they exhibit few or none of the dynamics that should be characteristic of anyone who has been genuinely converted. If we are really born again, have we caught the wonder? God cared about us! No! More than that, He loved us! He loved us so much that He sacrificed His Son on a Roman cross so that we could be rescued from sin and Hell. We are forgiven all sin(s)! We have peace in our hearts! We have a song! We have joy, even joy unspeakable! We have a personal relationship with God! We have His guidance! We have His Presence! We have His enabling to serve Him! We have been given meaning and purpose for living! We have His comfort in trials! We have His strength for resisting Satan! We are guaranteed Heaven! And the list goes on…. Realizing these things, how can anyone who is truly saved possibly be Ho hum or matter of fact about the wonder of God and the matchless gift of His grace? If we are not thrilled and excited about our Lord and Savior, we must not be saved or we are spiritual "wimps," or we have severely neglected our Bibles. If we are real and if we are serious, we will catch the wonder! However, this requires a commitment on our part to first make sure that we are saved. Once we have done that, the next essential is to make it our number one determination in life to exercise whatever discipline is necessary to develop and deepen a close personal walk with Him. Selah! If He is our Supreme Preoccupation, we will catch the wonder!  Ron
 
" Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who hath blessed us with all Spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ" (Ephesians 1:3).
" O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!" (Romans 11:33).
" And ye shall seek me, and find Me, when ye shall search for Me with all your heart" (Jeremiah 29:13).

Words to Live by

Most people have little or no realization of the power of words. Oh, they may have a vague sense that words are important but little grasp just how important they can be. Words can cheer, motivate, discourage, scare, hurt, heal, comfort, etc. Words have won victories and lost wars. Words are essential to many, if not all, occupations. Words can inspire confidence or destroy someone's sense of worth. Little wonder then that God uses words to communicate with mankind. He goes even further. He identifies the Bible as the Word of God. He goes still further. He reveals His Son as the Living Word. In fact, The Bible is the written expression of the Living Word and the Living Word is the living expression of the written Word. Never have words had more power than when they come from God. Jesus said, "….The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life." (From John 6:63). After Jesus prayed at the grave of Lazarus, He cried with a loud voice "….Lazarus, come forth." (From John 11:43). It has been thought that if Jesus hadn't addressed Lazarus by name that the power of His words was so great that all of the dead would have come to life. Those same powerful words that raised Lazarus have offered eternal salvation to countless men and women. Multitudes down through the centuries, who have placed their faith in the Savior, have been raised from spiritual death and have entered into life eternal. Those words responded to positively have transformed sinners into saints. Constant application of those words have brought Christ-likeness into the lives of God's children. God's Word searches out that which is wrong, convicts and motivates change. (See Hebrews 4:12-13). This is the Word that sanctifies, cleanses, and blesses all who heed it. Selah! This Word endures forever!  This Word is a guide for living and, in the hands of the Holy Spirit, the means of preparing us, who are born again, for Heaven.     Ron 

Make Yourself at Home

I'm sure that there have been times when you have stayed with some folks and that you were told to make yourself at home. Depending on the sincerity of the host(s), you were able to relax, be comfortable and enjoy informality. You were probably as "laid back" as you often are in your own home. You had the freedom to be yourself. In discussion with your host (or hosts), if you were close enough with them that they could speak freely to you without fear of offending you, they might point out some things in your life that needed to be changed. You respect them and their thoughts and know that they have your best interests at heart and you trust their judgment. Therefore you follow their advice. It is a lot like that with Jesus, if He is our Lord and Savior. We are admonished in the Bible to "abide in Him," that is to be at home with Him.  When we enter into a saving relationship with Him, He wants us to be comfortable in His Presence. We learn that He knows what He is talking about and we value His great love and concern for us. We respect His perfect judgment and we have learned and are learning that He is right on all points. We love Him so much that we act on His wise principles. If sometimes we are headstrong and do our own thing and suffer the consequences, we acknowledge that He was right and ask Him to forgive us for not following His instructions. He is a wise counselor and guide. There are some essential differences with this friendship. He is God! He makes no mistakes. He has the right to correct and discipline us for our ultimate good. He is entitled to our obedience. He sacrificed everything to rescue us from eternal punishment. He paid the price, one we could not ever pay, to set us free and give us life abundant with Himself. Selah! Honor and revere Him, share everything with Him, express admiration, love, and gratitude to Him, listen to Him, follow His commands, be comfortable living with Him. Never forget, however, that He is God!           Ron
 
"Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil" (Proverbs 3:5-7).

Religion-No Substitute for Christianity

Perhaps religion has some value. It might motivate some folk to be more moral and/or more thoughtful. Nevertheless, It has detoured many from coming to understand and embrace true Christianity. Yes, I know that a lot of people speak of the Christian religion. Usually, the content of this Christian religion is that we should strive to be better people. If anyone experiences any success in this, they are likely to be proud of their accomplishments. They will feel good about being better than many other people. They feel that they are O.K. Consequently, they do not recognize their real need of salvation in and through Jesus Christ. Religion stops short of Biblical Christianity and is dangerous because it becomes a poor substitute for the real thing. Religion is a man made thing and is an attempt to please whatever one's particular concept of a God might be. Christianity originates with God and reveals man's utter spiritual deadness without the salvation only available to those who receive Jesus, as Savior and Lord. Religion tries to reach out to God. Christianity is God reaching down to man by giving His Son to die on a Roman cross to provide pardon and payment for our sin debt. Religion is a dead end, leaving those who depend on it separated from God and righteousness forever. Christianity is an outpouring of undeserved grace received by simple faith in the atoning work of Christ on that cross. Religion may give a limited self-satisfaction, Christianity brings peace, joy, assurance, fellowship with God and much, much more. Selah! Don't accept substitutes, especially when your eternal destiny is at stake. Those of you reading this who have entered into a saving relationship with God, through Jesus, know exactly what I am talking about.     Ron
 
"Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under Heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).

Meaningful Meditation

Today's title implies that there is a type of meditation that is meaningless. I suggest that any meditation that puts you into a trance-like condition and in any way disengages the mind or reduces it to a state of passivity is not only meaningless but also dangerous. Biblical meditation requires serious thinking. When a born again Christian meditates, he or she is concluding with their minds and enjoying with their emotions that God exists and that He is present when we shut ourselves up with Him. When a genuine believer gets alone with God, there is a conscious sense of His Presence. We are aware that we are engaged in two way conversation with Him. We speak and He actually listens to us, assuming that there is no undealt with sin in our lives. The best way to converse with God is sharing His Word back with Him. For example, Psalms are loaded with wonderful ways to praise and thank Him. When we ask something of Him, reflect on Scripture that we have internalized to ascertain that we are in harmony with His will. If so, then we can ask with confidence. Meditation is thinking strongly on Scripture, letting God impress our hearts, discovering and applying principles, enjoying assurance and purifying our lives. While we are doing this, we somehow know that He is present and listening. Scripture is God's usual way of conversing with us. When His Presence ignites the Truths of His Word, we have truly heard from Him. When we begin our time with Him, discipline is required to shut out distractions, quiet our hearts and minds and sharply focus on Him Whom we are addressing. "Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise…." (From Psalm 100:4). Selah! Never lose sight of the fact that you have been allowed into the "Holy of Holies!"  Ron   "Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in Thy sight, o LORD, my strength and my Redeemer" (Psalm 19:14).