Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Prayer, The Key To A Closer Walk With God

…I say to you, he who believes in Me,…greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. —John 14:12

{CHAMBERS} “Prayer does not equip us for greater works— prayer is the greater work. Yet we think of prayer as some commonsense exercise of our higher powers that simply prepares us for God’s work. In the teachings of Jesus Christ, prayer is the working of the miracle of redemption in me, which produces the miracle of redemption in others, through the power of God. […] Prayer is the battle, and it makes no difference where you are. However God may engineer your circumstances, your duty is to pray. Never allow yourself this thought, “I am of no use where I am,” because you certainly cannot be used where you have not yet been placed. Wherever God has placed you and whatever your circumstances, you should pray, continually offering up prayers to Him. […] We must learn to work according to God’s direction, and He says to pray. “Pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest” (Matthew 9:38).[…] When you labor at prayer, from God’s perspective there are always results.”

{ELGIN} As I read Chambers this morning, several verses came to mind.  “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) “In all things with prayer and supplication”(Philippians 4:6) “praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:18) We fight our spiritual battles on our knees not with our hands.  “It’s not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit says the Lord God of Hosts” (Zechariah 4:6)  Prayer is not an option it is essential.  But sadly many Christians treat prayer as if they were in the drive through at McDonalds.  “I would like 2 paid bills, 1 new car, and a 401K to assure a comfortable, worry-free future, oh, supersize that.”  Prayer is a spiritual act and is not intended to satisfy our lust for more of the world, but to seek more of the “other” world, God’s kingdom.  “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.” (Matthew 6:10)  James wrote “You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” (James 4:2-3)

Prayer is a critical component of your new life in Christ. But most of us don’t prayer regularly.  Only for emergencies.  Prayer helps to gird your mind.  To maintain spiritual perspective.  Prayer is the only way we can communicate with the Father.  But wait there’s more!  Prayer is so important that God has made a special provision for us “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.” (Romans 8:26-27)  You don’t need a seminary degree for God to hear your prayers.  What you do need is a clean heart and a humble spirit.  It is a mistake to think that you can approach God with unconfessed sin in your heart.  God is not waiting at the window to take your next order.  But He is waiting to talk with you.  That’s right … with YOU my friend!

Monday, October 16, 2017

Keeping Focus On Your Prime Directive - Love God - Love People - Spread The Good News

Pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. —Matthew 9:38

{CHAMBERS} “The key to the missionary’s difficult task is in the hand of God, and that key is prayer, not work— that is, not work as the word is commonly used today, which often results in the shifting of our focus away from God. The key to the missionary’s difficult task is also not the key of common sense, nor is it the key of medicine, civilization, education, or even evangelization. The key is in following the Master’s orders— the key is prayer. “Pray the Lord of the harvest….” In the natural realm, prayer is not practical but absurd. We have to realize that prayer is foolish from the commonsense point of view.[…] He [Jesus] owns the harvest that is produced through distress and through conviction of sin. […] A Christian is called to be Jesus Christ’s own, “a servant [who] is not greater than his master” (John 13:16), and someone who does not dictate to Jesus Christ what he intends to do. Our Lord calls us to no special work— He calls us to Himself. “Pray the Lord of the harvest,” and He will engineer your circumstances to send you out as His laborer.”

{ELGIN} Prayer is one our weapons in spiritual warfare.  In a battle, communication with the commander is important.  If you are not communicating with the Father, you are operating on your own .. and that is not a good place to be.  It is so easy to lose focus on your mission.  To get diverted.  If you are not in constant contact with your “commander”.  We are in Texas right now to help with the recovery from Hurricane Harvey.  But is that our mission?  No.  Our mission has never changed.  Our primary mission is to lift Jesus up.  To let people know that God has not forgotten them and there is a Savior whose name is Jesus.  The primary method we do that is by serving others who are in need with no hope of satisfying that need on their own.  It is all too easy to become so focused on the method that you lose sight of the mission.  There are many organizations, faith based and secular responding the needs created by natural disasters.  On the surface there is little difference.  But in the case of the former, there is opportunity for an eternal solution to the needs of the people, for the latter, the solution is only as good for a lifetime, maybe less.

If the eternal destiny of the people you help is not important. If that has somehow become secondary to the material help you are providing, then you have lost focus on your mission.  In Star Trek - speak, you would call it your Prime Directive.  In God-speak, you would call it the Great Commission and Great Commandment.  In order to accomplish your mission you must be willing to lay your life down (John 15:13, Romans 12:1-2, Matthew 6:24) and walk in obedience to the Father’s will.  Micah 6:8 is perhaps the best synopsis of what that is … “What does the Lord require of you, oh man?  But to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”  That means to not go your own way, not do what you think is best or reasonable, but to obey the Father.  Just like Jesus! Go figure!  So what does this mean for you?  Chambers was addressing young men and women who were pursuing a life of full-time vocational ministry.  I am addressing Christians who are pursuing their new life in Christ.  Not necessarily one that means leaving their home behind to fulfill their God-given purpose.  But it could!  The bottom line … every day you live should be encompassed by who you are in Christ and the fact that the world needs to hear the Gospel and to see Jesus through the lives of the Saints.  To see Jesus in you. A transformed life does not happen because you do good things.  It happens because Christ in you. Think about it.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Every Christian Must Respond To The Call Of God - What Is He Calling You To Do?

…when Moses was grown…he went out to his brethren and looked at their burdens. —Exodus 2:11

{CHAMBERS} “Moses saw the oppression of his people and felt certain that he was the one to deliver them, and in the righteous indignation of his own spirit he started to right their wrongs. […] God allowed Moses to be driven into empty discouragement, sending him into the desert to feed sheep for forty years. At the end of that time, God appeared to Moses and said to him, “ ‘…bring My people…out of Egypt.’ But Moses said to God, ‘Who am I that I should go…?’ ” (Exodus 3:10-11). In the beginning Moses had realized that he was the one to deliver the people, but he had to be trained and disciplined by God first. He was right in his individual perspective, but he was not the person for the work until he had learned true fellowship and oneness with God. We may have the vision of God and a very clear understanding of what God wants, and yet when we start to do it, there comes to us something equivalent to Moses’ forty years in the wilderness. […] We are focused on the right individual perspective of things; we have the vision and can say, “I know this is what God wants me to do.” But we have not yet learned to get into God’s stride. If you are going through a time of discouragement, there is a time of great personal growth ahead.”

{ELGIN}  God calls, prepares and then sends.  That pattern is clear in both the old and new testaments.  A.W. Tozier wrote, “God does not use a man (or woman) greatly until they have been hurt deeply.”  That happens in the season of preparation.  After my new birth in 1976, I was certain that I had been called to the ministry.  I thought I should become a Chaplain in the Army.  Change the tank on my collar (the insignia for the Armor branch in the Army) for a cross.  Looking back now, I can see that becoming a Chaplain would have been a huge mistake. It was a good thing, but something, like Moses, that I chose to do in response to the call of God.  Fortunately there were some very wise men that gave me council.  One a chaplain, another a mature Christian officer.  So, here I sit today, in someone else’s home, in a state that is not my own, entering into a work that God has shaped me for.  Sometimes I wonder why I can’t be most other people.  But then I consider that “ (I am) God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for (me) to do.” (Ephesians 2:10)  It is easy to accept what the preceding 2 verses tell us … “we are saved by grace through faith”, not so easy to accept that we belong to God.  He is the potter and we are the clay.  There is a bigger story than my comfort or occupation … God’s eternal plan.

I sometimes tell Martie, my wife, that I wish I could only do one thing, like work on a garbage truck.  Those guys really have to know two things.  Don’t get off the truck until it stops and get back on before it starts.  (Actually there is more to it than that and they provide a great service to the community)  But my life is not my own.  When God calls us to lay our lives down, that means we must loosen our grip.  To let go and let God.  All of you reading this know that “letting go” can be a challenge.  It was for Moses … it was for Peter .. it is for us.  Maybe your calling is not like mine.  Perhaps you are supposed to be a butcher, a baker or a candlestick maker, or a stay at home mom, whatever.  It does not mean that your life does not belong to God.  You may not be called to lead a nation across a desert, but you have been called to live a life that brings glory and honor to God and lifts Jesus up as the resurrected King.  To walk in obedience to the will of God and not follow your own way.  Listen, it’s a struggle … you never arrive … the temptation to “look back to Sodom” (Genesis 19:26) is always there.  The question “Did God really say?” (Genesis 3:1) will ring in your ears.  But there will be a voice that whispers in your ear .. “This is the way, walk in it.”  (Isaiah 30:21) In spite of the distractions, that is what the redeemed must do.  That would be you my friend!

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Staying In Stride With Jesus - It's A Supernatural Ability

Enoch walked with God… —Genesis 5:24

{CHAMBERS} “The true test of a person’s spiritual life and character is not what he does in the extraordinary moments of life, but what he does during the ordinary times when there is nothing tremendous or exciting happening. A person’s worth is revealed in his attitude toward the ordinary things of life when he is not under the spotlight (see John 1:35-37 and John 3:30). It is painful work to get in step with God and to keep pace with Him […] In learning to walk with God, there is always the difficulty of getting into His stride, but once we have done so, the only characteristic that exhibits itself is the very life of God Himself. […] It is difficult to get into stride with God, because as soon as we start walking with Him we find that His pace has surpassed us before we have even taken three steps. He has different ways of doing things, and we have to be trained and disciplined in His ways. […] Getting into God’s stride means nothing less than oneness with Him. It takes a long time to get there, but keep at it. Don’t give up because the pain is intense right now— get on with it, and before long you will find that you have a new vision and a new purpose.”

{ELGIN}  I was walking down the hall with a friend yesterday, but his pace was much faster than mine.  I soon found myself a few yards behind him.  I thought, “I guess my age is catching up with me.”  Then it dawned on me that I might be out of shape!  We can get out of shape spiritually too.  (1 Corinthians 9:24-27) “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.  Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.  So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”  This new life we live requires the discipline of an athlete.  Without proper spiritual conditioning, we will find ourselves falling behind, getting spiritually winded – another way of saying that we will struggle with sin and obedience. 

There are two qualities that are important both in manufacturing and in the Christian life.  Validity and Reliability.  Validity means that whatever it is, is made and functions according to the designer’s plan.  Reliability means that it continues to function in the same valid way every time.  Have you ever said of someone that they are unreliable?  That they can’t be counted on? Well, perhaps that could be said of us as well with respect to our walk with the Lord.  We all have feet of clay, but we also all have the Spirit of God and the capacity to live a super-natural life.  A life dependent upon the One who saved us and not ourselves. And so my friend, I think we need to look to Jesus and pick up the pace!

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Letting God Use Your Life For His Glory Requires Faith - Are You Willing To Do It?

When He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was. —John 11:6

{CHAMBERS} “Has God trusted you with His silence— a silence that has great meaning? God’s silences are actually His answers. Just think of those days of absolute silence in the home at Bethany! Is there anything comparable to those days in your life? Can God trust you like that, or are you still asking Him for a visible answer? […] Are you mourning before God because you have not had an audible response? […] If God has given you a silence, then praise Him— He is bringing you into the mainstream of His purposes. […] For a while you may have said, “I asked God to give me bread, but He gave me a stone instead” (see Matthew 7:9). He did not give you a stone, and today you find that He gave you the “bread of life” (John 6:35). If Jesus Christ is bringing you into the understanding that prayer is for the glorifying of His Father, then He will give you the first sign of His intimacy— silence.”

{ELGIN} Certainly Mary and Martha expected Jesus to react immediately to their message to Him.  Why wouldn’t Jesus stop what He was doing and run to the aid of His friend?  Wouldn’t you do that?  I mean, a friend in need is a friend in deed, right?  What they asked was certainly well within Jesus ability, healing the sick.  The thing is, God’s ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts.(Isaiah 55:8) Jesus knew that even though there would be great sorrow and worry over this illness, that what Mary and Martha thought was the end of things, Jesus knew that it was not the end.  We look at life’s circumstances and consider them as hopeless, inevitable.  But God is not limited by our lack of faith in Him, our lack of spiritual perspective.  “Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory” (John 11:4)  The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.  Are you willing to allow God to be glorified through you?  No matter how that happens?  I can tell you from personal experience, it will stretch your faith and will demand a sacrifice in some measure.  “Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”” (John 11:40)  So Jesus did the humanly impossible, the unimaginable – He called Lazarus out of the tomb.  What is it that is happening in your life for which you see no hope?  Trust God and not yourself (Proverbs 3:5-8) Our God – “is the God of all comfort who comforts us in our affliction.”  (2 Corinthians 1:3-4) What circumstance is your Lazarus, that you have accounted as dead, lacking any possibility of hope that it can live again, that God will use as an opportunity to be glorified?  Are you willing to allow God to use your life for His glory?  Are your sure?

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Are You Living With A Half-Baked Heart?

My Utmost For His Highest

Jesus answered and said, "I thank You, Father…that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes." —Matthew 11:25

{CHAMBERS} We do not grow into a spiritual relationship step by step— we either have a relationship or we do not. God does not continue to cleanse us more and more from sin— “But if we walk in the light,” we are cleansed “from all sin” (1 John 1:7). It is a matter of obedience, and once we obey, the relationship is instantly perfected. But if we turn away from obedience for even one second, darkness and death are immediately at work again.  All of God’s revealed truths are sealed until they are opened to us through obedience. […] Let God’s truth work into you by immersing yourself in it, not by worrying into it. […] If you obey God in the first thing He shows you, then He instantly opens up the next truth to you. […] And it is not study that brings understanding to you, but obedience. […] God will never reveal more truth about Himself to you, until you have obeyed what you know already.

{ELGIN} “Trust and obey for there is not other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to Trust and Obey”  When James wrote “Faith  by itself, without works, is dead” (James 2:17)  the implication is that we are to do something.  Something good.  That something good is doing the will of the Father.  Obeying God.  We tend to think of us doing something by ourselves.  Not so.  If you have faith you will show it by being obedient to the Father, that may mean but does not necessarily mean giving  a cup of cold water to a thirsty man.  Even the unsaved can do that … and they do.  There are many who are lost that do “good” things for others.  Think about the story of the rich young ruler.  Faith, the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1), is all about trust in the Father and in the work of Jesus on the cross and His resurrection.  Listen, God never blesses us before obedience, it is always after.  If you are living your life with a half-baked heart – one foot in heaven and the other planted firmly in the world – you ask God for blessings and then call your new car a blessing which you bought on credit and are indebted to the world?  John wrote, “love not the world or the things of this world” (1 John 2:15)  Mark my words, when you are laying on your death bed, it will not be the car that is on your mind and heart.  You know what God wants you to do … so do it. You will be blessed beyond measure .. but it won’t be a new car .. and that, frankly, won’t matter to you because your heart will be fixed on the Father.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Don't Be A Christian Could-A Had-A

…present…your members as instruments of righteousness to God. —Romans 6:13

{CHAMBERS} “I cannot save and sanctify myself; I cannot make atonement for sin; I cannot redeem the world; I cannot right what is wrong, purify what is impure, or make holy what is unholy. That is all the sovereign work of God. Do I have faith in what Jesus Christ has done? He has made the perfect atonement for sin. Am I in the habit of constantly realizing it? The greatest need we have is not to do things, but to believe things. […] We cannot do anything pleasing to God unless we deliberately build on the foundation of the atonement by the Cross of Christ. […] Obedience means that I have completely placed my trust in the atonement, and my obedience is immediately met by the delight of the supernatural grace of God.”

{ELGIN} There was nothing we could do to save ourselves except place our faith in Jesus Christ and there is nothing we can do to be successful in this new life except to submit to the will of God – to say “yes Lord, I will trust you and obey.  Yes Lord, yes to your will and to your way. When your Spirit speaks to me, with my whole heart I’ll agree and I will answer yes Lord, yes.”  The is a phrase from a great song, but it is much more than that.  It describes the attitude of the heart of a Christian walking by faith in obedience to the voice and direction of God.  While driving around Pasadena Texas, I saw a pizza restaurant – Peter Piper Pizza.  That brought back memories to Martie and me from our time at Fort Bliss in El Paso Texas in the early ‘80s.  We loved the jalapeno pizza!  Their advertising slogan was “Don’t be a could-a had-a! Don’t say I could-a had-a Peter Piper pizza!”  Well, I would say the same to you about your life in Christ.  We choose our level of spirituality.  Once you are born again, you can choose to grow in your faith or you can vegetate.  Never grow up.  Never experience the fullness of your faith and blessing found in trust and obedience.  Do you trust God enough to leave your old nature behind.  Or are you  like Lot’s wife, looking back longingly to what you are leaving behind, even though God has said that is what you must do.

Listen, we all struggle with laying the natural down and picking up our cross of submission and faith and following Jesus.  This new life of our requires determination and deliberate action.  There is a tension between the natural and the supernatural.  If you don’t grow your faith through the Word, prayer, worship and fellowship with other   believers you will always find it hard to walk in obedience to God and easy to slip back into your old, natural ways.  The ways that God has called you to leave.  The ways that do not honor God.  Friend don’t be a “Could-a Had-a” I could have had a more fulfilling life in Christ, if only I had trusted Him and not myself to decide what is good and what the Lord required of me. (Micah 6:8) “But to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God”.