An Appeal for Separation-2

"Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?" (II Corinthians 6:14-15). Let's look first at this portion: "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers…." A key word here is "unequally." First, note that this is a command! Therefore, our first decision is whether to obey or disobey. If you were to yoke a donkey with an ox for the pulling of a wagon, you would have a problem. In the same way, there are consequences when a true believer enters into a binding partnership with an unsaved person or group. We can "build bridges" to people. Jesus prayed in John 17:15, "I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil."  We can converse, love, help, etc. but not enter into entangling relationships. There is much incompatibility with those who do not belong to Jesus. They march to the beat of a different drum. They have different values, motivation, lifestyles, beliefs and desires. Paul eloquently points out, under inspiration, that there is no basis for Christians to become entangled with those of the world system. He asks,  "for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness?" The word for fellowship carries the idea of partnership. He then asks, "what communion (a very close partnering) hath light with darkness?' These two cannot co-exist. Darkness is the absence of light. Unsaved people walk in spiritual darkness. Someone might suggest that we expose them to the light. We need to shed light but not by walking in their darkness. We need to shine light into their darkness. Paul asks another question: "And what concord hath Christ with Belial? The word "concord" derives from a word that we get our word "symphony" from and this reminds us that we are out of tune with "Belial" (i.e; the devil) and his children. Finally, Paul asks: "what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?" How dare we bind ourselves to anyone that denies our Lord and Savior? We are not going in the same direction as those that deny the Lord. Selah! It is our unique difference from the world, not any likeness to it that brings light to those in darkness. We are in the world but not of it.    Ron

An Appeal for Separation-1

"Separation" is a word that is rapidly disappearing from the Christian vocabulary. Even more regrettable is that it is vanishing from Christians' lives. Add to that the confusion that exists as to if or how it applies to believers today. Holiness of "position" is a given. This, however, does not excuse a child of God from holiness in "practice." The waters are muddied even more by (hopefully) well-meaning people who equate separation with what they call: "legalism." Much ungodly living has been justified by Christians who explain that they have liberty in Christ and are not going to be "legalistic." It is true that there is abuse of the great doctrine of separation. It has been used to produce lists of "do these things and don't do those things." New converts and immature believers are told by these "lists producers" to live the way they tell you to live or experience rejection. The problem is motivation. We are not to be motivated by someone's or some group's lists. We are to be motivated by love for Jesus and a determination to honor Him in our lives. We are to search the Scriptures to discover what is right or wrong for us. A careful and thorough study of God's Word will yield much agreement on what is, or is not, right. In fairness, churches and organizations do need to have standards. Our responsibility is to affiliate only with those whose standards closely line up with what our intensive study of the Bible has taught about Godly conduct. Even when we unite with a church or group, our motivation for behavior still must be a loving desire to please Him, Who bought us at infinite cost. Selah! Starting tomorrow, we want to study the passage that we are closing with today. How do we understand it and apply it? Do come by and look at it with us.   Ron
"Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?  And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?  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 and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.  Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God" (II Corinthians 6:14-7:1).

When Things Get Hot

All of us have times when life gets so bad that we feel like we are in a "furnace experience." The heat (the pressure) is intense! We may be enduring physical pain and suffering. It could be that the pressure is financial, emotional, mental or spiritual. Whatever type of pressure is found in your life, there is help. If you don't have a relationship with Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord, your suffering may be designed to lead you to Him and into that kind of a relationship with Him. It is imperative that you understand that you don't come to Him just to solve your problem(s). Once you yield to Him, without any pre-conditions, you will find that: "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble" (Psalm 46:1). God's care for those that are His doesn't necessarily exempt them from suffering. Sometimes, it does. Other times, He has a higher purpose for us in our suffering. If we must go through the "fire," just as the three Hebrew young men had to go through being thrown into an actual blazing furnace, we can experience His Presence and wait upon His purpose. He has a purpose and we will find out, sooner or later, that it was for our ultimate enrichment and blessing. Warren Wiersbe explains God's role in our trials, "When God permits His children to go through the furnace, He keeps His eye on the clock and His hand on the thermostat. His loving heart knows how much and how long." " ….now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ." (From I Peter 1:6-7). Selah! Strong faith in Him, trusting Him when there seems to be no reason to trust, is developed in the crucible of affliction.   Ron

Rewards for Teachers

Teaching has some interesting facets. Probably the first one thought about by a teacher is this one: "I have something that I want to teach to an individual or group." Another facet, perhaps not thought of as often, is that we learn much by preparing to teach. The motivation is that we want to master the material and be sure that we present it in an understandable way. Because of this, we concentrate more intensely on our preparatory study. Still another facet is that the actual "presenting" reinforces what we learned. One more facet for this article is group dynamics. Interaction: discussion, debate, questions and examples stimulate learning. This raises another issue. When we are teaching God's Truth, we have a responsibility and an accountability to get it right. False teaching brings great condemnation! Teaching Truth is very rewarding. One of the rewards for communicating Spiritual Truth is the results in the lives of the learners. Another is that we gain a greater appreciation of the importance of listening. This, hopefully, inspires us to listen much more carefully to the Great Teacher. Remember, too, that what you teach is often passed along to others, who in turn teach still others. Selah! Teaching is a gift, a blessing, a challenge, a tool, a serious assignment and a means of bringing the lost to Christ and motivating growth in the lives of true believers. Let's use teaching to the glory of God.    Ron
"Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.  And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also" (II Timothy 2:1-2).

Losing Control?

Am I supposed to lose control? Don't I have any "rights?" What if I actually got what I rightly deserve? I would be separated from God, forever! Consider again, this verse: "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service" (Romans 12:1). When an animal went on the altar in Old Testament times, any "rights" it might have been imagined to have had were gone. It lost everything, even life itself. We are taught to put everything on the altar as a "living sacrifice." In other words, we are to turn the control of our lives over to God. Isn't this the heart of the matter? I Corinthians 6:20 has this to say, "For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's." He bought us…we are His! He has the right to control everything in our lives. Nevertheless, we resist. We all do. You and I do. We fear losing control. What might that mean? What am I opening myself up for?  Why do we fear? God loves us; desires what is best for us. He gave His Son to die for us because He loves us. He knows what is best for us and often it is not what we think is best. Do we trust His love? We must learn to "let go." Relax, God knows also how many disciplinary actions (read: teaching us discipleship) must be taken to bring us to the place where we defer to His wisdom and love. Starting with our rebirth, it is a lifetime learning experience. However, if we can't see any evidence of our surrendering control of our lives to Him, we may never have experienced genuine conversion. The more we "let go," the more we discover that "Our Heavenly Father" knows best. Selah! Once we yield, and go on learning to yield more and more, we find comfort, confidence and inward satisfaction and joy. We need to just keep at it!   Ron 
"For the LORD God is a sun and shield: the LORD will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly" (Psalm 84:11). 

Dealing with the Inevitable

A great many times in life, we will come up against the inevitable. We cannot resist the inevitable. We can only resist something that seems inevitable. How do we handle or deal with something that is fixed? First, face the facts: We can't change these "fixed" events. We can be fatalistic and have the attitude of "whatever will be, will be." We can be upset with God. Why did He allow this? That would be foolish to look at our circumstances that way. A.W. Tozer suggests a wiser way. In a devotional article, he suggests that we co-operate with the inevitable. He does not mean for us to just "go with the flow." We begin by expecting these inevitable happenings. When they do take place, what can we learn from them? What purpose might God have had in allowing these things in our lives? Is our faith so stable that we trust God, His love and His wisdom, even when it doesn't seem to be a good thing or seem to be right? How can we respond in order to bring blessing out of hard things? Once we stop fighting these unpleasant things and put them under the sway of the Holy Spirit for God to use, trials can be turned to triumph. Selah! God sees the "big picture." We must not let seeing only one or two pieces of the puzzle cause us to give up, before we finally see that "big picture" that God has been working on for us.    Ron
"And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28).

Pessimism, Discouragement or Gratitude?

It is much easier and more natural to grumble and complain than it is to be grateful. This is because, before we are Holy Spirit enlightened, we take for granted that we have certain "rights." We shouldn't suffer, struggle, be denied what we really want or have to give up certain things that we enjoy. These and many other assumed "rights" should be our experience all the time. This is a recipe for pessimism, discouragement, anger and frustration. The antidote is the development of thankfulness for every blessing that God gives and, believe me, it's a long and marvelous list. If I were to mention all that I could bring to mind, the list would go on and on and on! Here are some samples ( we may not have all of these, but all of us will have many of them): the ability to breathe, food on the table, heat or air conditioning in our homes, indoor plumbing, a car and a home, friends, health, possessions, family, loved ones, eyesight, colorful beauty to enjoy, a good church, wonderful experiences, a good wife or husband, parents, children, etc. & etc. Above all of these, the provision of a personal relationship with God when we receive Jesus as Savior and Lord. You get the idea. Here's the point: if we focus on the negative, we will be sour, resentful and generally miserable but if we will take time to really count our blessings, we will have a grateful spirit and life will be abundant. The choice is ours. Selah! A friend recently included in his E-Mail this powerful thought; "What if God only gave us today that for which we thanked Him yesterday?"   Ron
 Psalm 68:19 reminds us, "Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation. Selah."

Seize the Moment

As we've mentioned in previous articles, the devil is very adept in the art of distraction. How often do we fall into this trap in relation to time? We think back to what we wished we had said or done or not said and done and lament that we can't change any of it. We also look ahead with a great deal of "what if?" There is nothing wrong with precious memories. It is also right for us to learn from past mistakes and sins and avoid them in the future. It is right to plan and prepare for the future, within Biblical guidelines. However, most of us, most of the time, alternate between reflecting on the past or trying to cover every possible base for the future. While all of this is going on, we seldom notice the opportunities and obligations of right now. This very brief portion of time is lost with little, if any, notice. However, it is only in "the here and now" that we can seize the moment. We can only read and apply the Word of God now. We can only pray now. We can only witness now. We can only worship, praise, honor and express gratitude to God now. We can only be the husband, wife, parent, child that we should be right now. There is another danger we need to escape. We can so major on minors that we are not sensitive to people and to opportunities to redeem the time. (Think of Mary and Martha). Our behavior, speech, and attitudes must be appropriate now. Words of appreciation and encouragement can only be shared now. God can only be revealed in us and through us now. If we fluctuate between the past and future, without regard for the present, the now is wasted. Don't let Satan distract you from seizing the moment! Selah! God is waiting to use us and work in and through us this very moment. Don't keep Him waiting while we linger in the past or become preoccupied with the future.  Ron
"So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom" (Psalm 90:12).

Tears in the Eyes; Tears in the Heart?

As Leonard Ravenhill reminded us many years ago, dry eyes may be the product of a cold heart. Not necessarily, however, because there is such a thing as "crocodile tears." We might also add that some folk are incapable of shedding physical tears. Nevertheless, there is a crying of the heart. This type may be so personal that no one knows it is happening, except the one in whose heart it is taking place. If there are no tears of the heart, then that heart may be very cold indeed. Have we ceased to be moved by the plight of those headed for a Christless eternity in the flames of Hell? Have we become so familiar with this horrifying reality that we have developed an immunity to being much troubled over such a terrible destiny? In short, have we grown cold in heart? Perhaps it's time to have a fresh baptism of tears, at least in the heart. It may be time to go to the Scriptures on Hell and do a lot of meditating on what they reveal about this gruesome place. If we have been rescued from this tragic punishment by being born again, is it not criminal to fail to long for others to be saved as we have been? They say that familiarity breeds contempt. If that has happened to us, let's ask God to set our hearts on fire with love for the lost and then see what we can do to encourage them to flee from the wrath to come. Selah! Not a few times, that kind of love and concern, expressed in graciousness and with wisdom, has been instrumental in turning hearts to the Savior Who waits to give them salvation and a glorious future.  Ron
"They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him" (Psalm 126:5-6).

Whining or Shining?

14Do all things without murmurings and disputings: 15that ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world;  16Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain" (Philippians 2:14-16).
The first thing that I would call your attention to is Verse 14. "Do all things without murmurings and disputings." This is an order, an obligation. Why? To begin with, we are to obey simply because our wonderful Lord is giving the order. He knows why it is important to obey. Also, a real key to having joy in our lives is the eviction of complaining from our daily experiences. Additionally, complaining and thankfulness cannot co-exist for long. If we are truly thankful, we have no room for complaining. Now consider Verse 15 "That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world." This is the outcome of a life free of griping, murmuring and complaining. People can find little to criticize in a life filled with joy. It is so unusual that it floods the darkness of depression, discouragement and dissatisfaction with an illumination of how life is meant to be. People want to know why you are so different from "run of the mill'" unsaved individuals. Finally, look at Verse 16. "Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain." This kind of life generally affords an opportunity to share the Word of Life. When you are asked how you can be thankful and full of joy and never complain or grumble, no matter what difficulties life brings, you have a golden opportunity to plant the Scriptures in their minds. Then it is there for the Holy Spirit to use. On that coming day, there will be rejoicing in the hearts of all involved in this living witness of the grace of God. Selah! Lives lived in the fulness of the Holy Spirit offer an alternative to the average drab, discouraged, and meaningless life of the unsaved.    Ron