Friday, September 22, 2017

Sin Is The Same In All Generations - And So Is The Solution To Sin - The Gospel - Jesus Saves!

You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am ….I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master… —John 13:13, 16

{CHAMBERS} “To have a master and teacher is not the same thing as being mastered and taught. […] Our Lord never takes measures to make me do what He wants. Sometimes I wish God would master and control me to make me do what He wants, but He will not. And at other times I wish He would leave me alone, and He does not. “You call Me Teacher and Lord…”— but is He? Teacher, Master, and Lord have little place in our vocabulary. We prefer the words Savior, Sanctifier, and Healer. The only word that truly describes the experience of being mastered is love, and we know little about love as God reveals it in His Word. […] Our Lord was not simply God’s servant— He was His Son. “…though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience…” (Hebrews 5:8). He [Jesus]wants us in a relationship where He is so easily our Master and Teacher that we have no conscious awareness of it— a relationship where all we know is that we are His to obey.”

{ELGIN} “When we walk with the Lord in the light of his word, what a glory he sheds on our way! While we do his good will, he abides with us still, and with all who will trust and obey. Trust and obey, for there's no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”  There are probably not too many Millennials who would know that hymn.  John Stammis, the author, wrote over 100 hymns. I often wonder what the song writer had experienced that was the inspiration for the words he penned.  But then, the nature of man does not change from generation to generation, even if we want to believe that it has.  If you consider people in the context of their flesh, the cultural and generational accoutrements may morph over the years .. I am typing this not writing with  a quill and ink.  As many as 100 people, virtually around the world,  will have read these words by the end of the day using computers, laptops, tablets, and even phones … incredible, No?  But the spiritual nature of man has not changed and won’t change.  In every generation, until Jesus returns, there will be sheep and goats.  Those who belong to the Creator god and those who belong to the god of this world.  And for us sheep, our challenge across the generations is to trust and obey.

(Luke 6:46- 49) [Jesus asked] ““Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.”  Our children would sing that song “Don’t build your house on the sandy land”  I used to think it had to do with salvation, but it actually has to do with obedience.  Think about it the goats do not call Him Lord.  I once heard someone say “If Jesus is not Lord OF all, then He is not Lord AT all.”  God demands everything if we want to follow Jesus.  No other gods, our whole heart, a living sacrifice, picking up our cross and going where He leads, living by faith , walking with the Spirit.  That has not changed since Jesus spoke the words during His ministry and will not change, ever.  We spend a lot of effort trying to figure out how to reach each generation .. how to attract them to the Light.  God has already implemented a “trans-generational” solution.  (John 12:32) “ when I [Jesus] am lifted up from the earth, [I] will draw all people to myself.” Having trouble with obedience?  We all do to some extent.  Walk with the Lord in the light of His word .. what a glory He sheds on our way!

Thursday, September 21, 2017

The Challenge Of Rejecting The Reasonable For The Impossible

 A.W. Tozer “I claim the holy right to disappoint men in order to not disappoint God.”

{ELGIN} A friend posted that quote from A.W. Tozer this morning on Facebook.  It pricked my heart and resonated with my spirit, so I thought I would share it with you.  Sorry Oswald!  Sometimes - perhaps often times - we are faced with a choice ... men or God - God's ways are not our ways - but we would like to change that. If what God asks you to do does not conform to conventional wisdom there are two possibilities - 1 - God is indeed at work or - 2 - It's not God at all. You need the wisdom of God to know the difference - But nonetheless - when it is God - the opinions of men should not matter. Men will ask, "But what about .... ". God says "Go". He will say .. "sell everything ... pick up your cross .... love me with everything ... your whole heart .... If you love Me, obey Me." It's your choice who you obey. We choose God. The going will always require faith and obedience.

It would be a wonderful thing if the world was in sync with God, but we know that is not the case.  Trying to balance the two is what most of us try to do.  And it seems so reasonable when we do.  The problem is, that one will go wanting because of the other.  “No one can serve two masters .. you will love one and hate the other”  (Matthew 6:24)  If you turn to the world for answers when God has spoken and made His will clear, you will most often be tempted to disobey God to choose something more reasonable in the eyes of man.  Well-meaning Christians will speak to you about making other choices or at least delaying your obedience.  It is like the serpent in the Garden asking “Did God really say?”  [I am not calling my Christian friends serpents!]  Their counsel is well intentioned but, on the whole, with selfish motive.  Their arguments are logical even reasonable, except for one thing.  God said “Go”.  Jesus asked his disciples “Where is your faith?” “Why did you doubt?”  Instead of looking to Him, they were looking at the natural laws .. the impossibility of the situation … fear and doubt set in.  In our life, personally, God gives and He takes away … It is not our lot to accumulate possessions, for long any way.  It is not a question of how much of the world and its relationships that you must lay down at Jesus feet.  The question is “Are you willing to lay down whatever is in the way of what God has called you to?”  Like Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love Me [Jesus] more than these?” (John 21:15)  Well …. Do You? Then Jesus said to Peter - "Show Me"

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Your New Life Is About BE-ing and Not Merely DO-ing - And That Starts With Your Heart

…be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect. —Matthew 5:48

{CHAMBERS}  “Our Lord’s exhortation to us in Matthew 5:38-48 is to be generous in our behavior toward everyone. Beware of living according to your natural affections in your spiritual life. Everyone has natural affections— some people we like and others we don’t like. […] God will give you plenty of real life opportunities to prove whether or not you are “perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” Being a disciple means deliberately identifying yourself with God’s interests in other people. […] The true expression of Christian character is not in good-doing, but in God-likeness. If the Spirit of God has transformed you within, you will exhibit divine characteristics in your life, not just good human characteristics. God’s life in us expresses itself as God’s life, not as human life trying to be godly. The secret of a Christian’s life is that the supernatural becomes natural in him as a result of the grace of God, and the experience of this becomes evident in the practical, everyday details of life, not in times of intimate fellowship with God.”

{ELGIN}  When the rich young man approached Jesus (Mark 10:17-22)  I think the man was certain that he had done everything right.  He had not murdered anyone, not committed adultery, not stolen, had not born false witness, not defrauded, and had honored his father and mother. But Jesus told him there was something that he lacked and then told him to sell everything and give it to the poor.  You see, God looks at the heart of man, man looks at the deeds of man.  God wants our total devotion (Matthew 22:37), man is satisfied with a form of godliness.  We think that the answer is in the “DO-ing”, when the answer is really in the “Be-ing”.  The young man went away sad because what he offered Jesus as proof that he should be given eternal life was a not good enough.  Jesus asked for the very thing that the man loved more than God – money and possession.  The man had it backwards. 

Doing good does not result in being good.  Being good results in doing good.  James wrote that faith without producing works is dead (James 2:17)  Because of our faith, the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) should be evident in us.  Good works are a natural result of true faith.  Not the other way around.  True faith is not a result of good works. (Ephesians 2:8) “We are saved by grace through faith, not of works.”  The young man was doing the right thing for the wrong reason.  King David said “Create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me. …. For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (Psalm 51)  Is there something in your heart that demands your devotion above God?  Something that you trust in more than the One who is trust worthy.  Our redeemer is faithful and true and is deserving of our total devotion.  Take some time to examine your heart … let the Holy Spirit search in those locked closets and clean them out.  Fulfill the purpose for which you were created and saved.  Bringing glory to God begins with a heart totally devoted to Him.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Are You A Jesus Follower And A God Truster? Or Merely A Wanna Be? Your Life Will Shout The Truth Out!

You are those who have continued with Me in My trials. —Luke 22:28

{CHAMBERS} “It is true that Jesus Christ is with us through our temptations, but are we going on with Him through His temptations? Many of us turn back from going on with Jesus from the very moment we have an experience of what He can do. Watch when God changes your circumstances to see whether you are going on with Jesus, or siding with the world, the flesh, and the devil. We wear His name, but are we going on with Him? “From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more” (John 6:66). […] Are you going on with Jesus? The way goes through Gethsemane, through the city gate, and on “outside the camp” (Hebrews 13:13). The way is lonely and goes on until there is no longer even a trace of a footprint to follow— but only the voice saying, “Follow Me” (Matthew 4:19).”

{ELGIN} Who do you identify with? I mean, when you describe yourself, how do you describe yourself?  By your occupation, what part of the country you live in, your family name, your ethnicity, culture, gender, religion, or some other earthly attribute?  “But if anyone is in Christ, old things have passed away, all things are becoming new.”  (2 Corinthians 5:17) Can you get your mind and life around that?  You are a Jesus follower and a God “truster”.  You are a child of the Creator God.  Your citizenship is in heaven.  “You have been crucified with Christ, nevertheless you live, but not you, Christ lives in you [in the form of the Holy Spirit], and the life you now live in the flesh, you live by faith in the Son of God who loved you and gave Himself up for you.” (Galatians 2:20) 

So I suppose the more appropriate question would be, “How should you describe yourself in light of whose you are?”  You see in the first case, all of those adjectives describe worldly attributes.  But that was the “old” you.  The you that went their own way.  Trusted in themselves.  Defined what to do and when and how to do it.  But not so for you, Christian.  Not so for you.  The disciples that stopped following Jesus had a problem with a divided heart.  They still trusted in the natural even though they were witnessing the supernatural. They had a divided heart and found it difficult to follow Jesus.  If you are not totally devoted to God you will have a problem identifying with God and following Him when the way proves difficult.  (Romans 12:1-2)  “I [Paul] appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.  Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”  And I appeal to you as well.  Follow Jesus and let your light shine.

Monday, September 18, 2017

WDJD - What DID Jesus Do - He Obeyed The Will Of The Father

We do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. —Hebrews 4:15

{CHAMBERS} “Until we are born again, the only kind of temptation we understand is the kind mentioned in James 1:14, “Each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.” […] Satan does not tempt us just to make us do wrong things— he tempts us to make us lose what God has put into us through regeneration, namely, the possibility of being of value to God. […] After Jesus’ baptism, having accepted His mission of being the One “who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29) He “was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness” (Matthew 4:1) and into the testing devices of the devil. Yet He did not become weary or exhausted. He went through the temptation “without sin,” and He retained all the possessions of His spiritual nature completely intact.”

{ELGIN} (1 John 2:15-17) “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.”  Jesus was tempted as we are tempted.  Temptation has the same root source … the old nature.  Temptation is the considering of an opportunity to do your own thing and disregard God.  For you to decide what is best for you, what is right.  When Jesus was tempted in the desert (Matthew 4:1-14) the first temptation (lust of the flesh) was to satisfy His flesh, “turn stones into bread”.  He had not eaten for 40 days!  Seems reasonable, but then most sin seems reasonable.  It was well with his power to do it.  He had turned water into wine. But that was really not the point of the temptation.  It was to choose something other than God.  “Man does not live by bread alone but by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”  Often what seems innocent can be deadly to our spiritual relationship with the Father.  The second temptation was to throw himself off of a pinnacle and the angels would catch him. (Pride of life) “You shall not put the Lord, your God to the test”.  You want God to prove you have value to Him.  He already has. The third temptation, (lust of the eyes), “[Satan] showed Him [Jesus] all the kingdoms of the world and their glory;  and he said to Him, “All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me.” Jesus replied “You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.” 

The things of this world are merely enticements for you to place your trust elsewhere.  For many, many people, they don’t own possessions, the possessions own them.  I know many Christians who say no to God because they are shackled by the things of this world.  Satan is called the god of this world.  (2 Corinthians 4:4)  He could offer everything Jesus saw to Jesus because it was his dominion.  We say God owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10) as if to justify our lust for possessing “the cattle”.  We, in fact, are God’s possession.  Bought with a price.  We belong to God and should face temptation to act otherwise with the power of the Word of God, just like Jesus did.

(1 Peter 2:9) “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.”

Friday, September 15, 2017

When You Think You Can't Go Any Further, God will Be Your Second Wind

We have renounced the hidden things of shame…  —2 Corinthians 4:2

{CHAMBERS} “Have you “renounced the hidden things of shame” in your life— the things that your sense of honor or pride will not allow to come into the light? You can easily hide them. Is there a thought in your heart about anyone that you would not like to be brought into the light? Then renounce it as soon as it comes to mind— renounce everything in its entirety until there is no hidden dishonesty or craftiness about you at all. Envy, jealousy, and strife don’t necessarily arise from your old nature of sin, but from the flesh which was used for these kinds of things in the past (see Romans 6:19 and 1 Peter 4:1-3). You must maintain continual watchfulness so that nothing arises in your life that would cause you shame.[…] Never dull your sense of being your utmost for His highest […] Many people have turned back because they are afraid to look at things from God’s perspective. The greatest spiritual crisis comes when a person has to move a little farther on in his faith than the beliefs he has already accepted.”

{ELGIN}  When I was in the Army, we would do a lot of physical exercise as a unit.  I can remember with one particular unit in the Aviation Squadron of 3rd Armored Cavalry in El Paso, Texas,  I had a squadron commander that trained us for war.  Not just physically, but mentally.  We had a saying “you fight the way you train”.  Well, in one case he used our physical training to help us with mental toughness.  We were used to running a particular route.  Early in the morning – 5:30 early – we call it O-dark thirty. We knew the land marks for our 3 to 4 mile run.  We knew when we were half way and we knew when we were at the finish.  By then, we were ready to hear “Quick time – march”, which means – stop running and walk in civilian vernacular.  Well, one day we got to the “finish line”, but we kept running.  We were always exhausted by the time we got to that point, but he kept running.  You are already thinking I can’t go on, and I am thrilled we are at the finish line – but the squadron commander kept us running right past the point where we could not go on!  We ran for another half mile or so.  What was the lesson?  We can do more than we think we can.  War is very demanding on the body and the mind.  You must be able to go beyond yourself. God will call you to go beyond yourself ... how ... He will be your second wind.

And such is our life of faith.  (2 Timothy 4:7) “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”  Paul said that in the face of great personal trials.  He had gone beyond himself many times, running on faith – Spirit power, and not his own determination and wisdom. (1 Corinthians 9:24-25) “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training.”  Not falling out of the run requires discipline and faith.  In our runs in the Army, there were always people who would fall out, who could not go on, who lost heart and confidence.  They fell by the wayside.  The same way with our faith.  I am not talking about loss of salvation.  The people I mentioned were still in the Army, they needed more physical training so they could serve in the manner that was expected of them.  And so it is with us as Christians.  There are many who don’t have the faith to keep up with where God wants to take them.  They need more training .. more confidence .. more encouragement.

I remember taking a PT test in the Armor Officer Basic Course.  That test is something you must pass.  Well, a friend of mine stopped running during the two mile run.  He had a look of pain and exhaustion on his face.  I stopped too so I could encourage him to finish.  The evaluators called out to me and told me to keep going and leave him behind.  I could not and would not.  He finished .. passed, barely.  But he passed.  So did I, but helping him cost me something. (John 15:13) “No greater love has one man than this, to lay down his life for his friends”  I am not bragging, I am making a point.  We are supposed to encourage one another to love and good works. (Hebrews 10:24-25) “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”  Some need more encouragement than others . .who do you know that needs to be encouraged in their faith .. to continue to run and not fall out .. even when they think they can’t go on?  But know this .... helping them will cost you something.  Be willing to pay the price and bring glory to God.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

What To Say When God Changes Course In Your Life - "Aye, Aye Sir!"

…the simplicity that is in Christ.  —2 Corinthians 11:3

{CHAMBERS} “Simplicity is the secret to seeing things clearly. A saint does not think clearly until a long time passes, but a saint ought to see clearly without any difficulty. You cannot think through spiritual confusion to make things clear; to make things clear, you must obey. In intellectual matters you can think things out, but in spiritual matters you will only think yourself into further wandering thoughts and more confusion. If there is something in your life upon which God has put His pressure, then obey Him in that matter. Bring all your “arguments and…every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” regarding the matter, and everything will become as clear as daylight to you (2 Corinthians 10:5). Your reasoning capacity will come later, but reasoning is not how we see. We see like children, and when we try to be wise we see nothing (see Matthew 11:25). Even the very smallest thing that we allow in our lives that is not under the control of the Holy Spirit is completely sufficient to account for spiritual confusion, and spending all of our time thinking about it will still never make it clear. Spiritual confusion can only be conquered through obedience. As soon as we obey, we have discernment. […] when our natural power of sight is devoted and submitted in obedience to the Holy Spirit, it becomes the very power by which we perceive God’s will, and our entire life is kept in simplicity.”

{ELGIN}  (2 Corinthians 5:7) “We walk by faith and not by sight.”  What does that mean? I guess we should look at the substance of faith to understand … a supernatural trust in things hoped for … and confidence in things not seen (Hebrews 11:1)  You think you are on one course, you commit to it and then, the Captain of the ship says “full steam ahead,  heading to 270 degrees!”  What!  That is not in “my” plan.  Everyone is expecting me to travel on a 090 degree course .. or maybe sit at anchor for a while.  Perhaps confusion or doubt will overcome you at that point, because we don’t understand or don’t want to understand is … maybe I misunderstood the order .. or maybe the Captain wants me to go in that direction next week .. you know, later, when it is more convenient for everyone.  When I can afford it financially or when it won’t inconvenience anyone.  It’s the common temptation to choose what is humanly reasonable over what is spiritually responsible. (1 Corinthians 10:13)

I am writing about a radical faith … not a misdirected one.  The world will tell you that you are misdirected if what you do does not make any sense to them.  If they can think of another way to do something that is less intrusive on others.  When God speaks, you must obey . .even in the face of the opposition of human convention. You might be thinking .. what does this have to do with me?  God has not asked me to go to Africa, or even Florida to help the people there.  Maybe not.  But He has asked you to change the course of your life.  To go in a new direction.  To obey His commands.  And what might those be?  To love Him above all, to love others, to abandon your devotion to the things of this world. (Matthew 22:37-39) To lay your life down. (Romans 12:1-2)  Pick up your cross daily and follow Jesus.  (Luke 9:23) So how is that going for you?  My wife and I are living what I call the “extreme” Christian life.  In the past 15 years we have done things in response to God’s redirection that frankly make people thankful they are not us.  Few are called to follow the course that He has set for us.  I do not say that pridefully.  We have said “Aye, aye Sir” and moved out smartly.  He has been the source of our strength ..the provider of what we needed it when we needed it.  He is the Captain and we are part of the crew.  He will do the same in your life but perhaps in a different context.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with your being right where you are so long as God has put you  there and your are faithful to obeying His orders.  Are you?  Then rejoice and praise the Lord! And if not .. repent!