Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Do You Really Love God? With God, It's All Or Nothing

"…I am with you to deliver you," says the Lord. —Jeremiah 1:8

{CHAMBERS} God promised Jeremiah that He would deliver him personally— “…your life shall be as a prize to you…” (Jeremiah 39:18). That is all God promises His children. Wherever God sends us, He will guard our lives. Our personal property and possessions are to be a matter of indifference to us, and our hold on these things should be very loose. If this is not the case, we will have panic, heartache, and distress. Having the proper outlook is evidence of the deeply rooted belief in the overshadowing of God’s personal deliverance. The Sermon on the Mount indicates that when we are on a mission for Jesus Christ, there is no time to stand up for ourselves. Jesus says, in effect, “Don’t worry about whether or not you are being treated justly.” Looking for justice is actually a sign that we have been diverted from our devotion to Him. Never look for justice in this world, but never cease to give it. If we look for justice, we will only begin to complain and to indulge ourselves in the discontent of self-pity, as if to say, “Why should I be treated like this?” If we are devoted to Jesus Christ, we have nothing to do with what we encounter, whether it is just or unjust. […] We put our common sense on the throne and then attach God’s name to it. We do lean to our own understanding, instead of trusting God with all our hearts (see Proverbs 3:5-6).

{ELGIN} (2 Timothy 3:2-5) “For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power.”  Are you thinking, “Whoa! That is not me!”?  Ask yourself “What do you love and what do you believe is essential for life?”  Living for Jesus demands that you surrender all devotion to the things of this world.  When we sold our home to go on the mission field, many people marveled at that, even admired us for it speaking of our great sacrifice.  In our minds it was no different than throwing a candy wrapper in the trash. (It was bigger).  We did not count it as loss, but as getting rid of an impediment.  Why .. because our love for God was greater than our love for the world.  So very often we can agree with Jesus in the Bible, but struggle with Jesus in our lives. 

In Luke 18, a young man who had great material wealth sought affirmation that he was good enough to have eternal life.  Jesus, who saw his heart, challenged him to abandon his greatest love, his love of wealth and the worldly security it afforded, and follow Jesus.  That was an act of faith .. total dependence on God and not on himself … he couldn’t or wouldn’t do it.  Not everyone is called to walk the same path that we have .. nor should they even try if God has not called them to it.  But woe to the person who is called but turns away.  They will have missed God’s best for their lives.  Even if it means personal hardship and financial loss … what are you willing to walk away from?  So many Christians say they love Jesus, but a cursory examination of their lives reveals that they love the world and the things of the world more. (1 John 2:15) What or who are you devoted to.  God may not ask you to sell your house, but He may ask you to do something else .. in fact He already has. (Matthew 22:37) “Love God with your heart, mind, soul and strength”  That doesn’t leave any room for the world.  With God it’s all or nothing.  If you want to know how He feels about it, read the first four commandments in Exodus 20.

Monday, June 26, 2017

The Danger Of Letting Your Want Be Greater Than Your Need

We…plead with you not to receive the grace of God in vain. —2 Corinthians 6:1

{CHAMBERS} “The grace you had yesterday will not be sufficient for today. Grace is the overflowing favor of God, and you can always count on it being available to draw upon as needed. “…in much patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses”— that is where our patience is tested (2 Corinthians 6:4). Are you failing to rely on the grace of God there? Are you saying to yourself, “Oh well, I won’t count this time”? It is not a question of praying and asking God to help you— it is taking the grace of God now. We tend to make prayer the preparation for our service, yet it is never that in the Bible. Prayer is the practice of drawing on the grace of God. Don’t say, “I will endure this until I can get away and pray.” Pray now — draw on the grace of God in your moment of need. Prayer is the most normal and useful thing; it is not simply a reflex action of your devotion to God.”

{ELGIN}  The idea is that God gives us what we need for the moment.  (Matthew 6:25-34) “For this reason I [Jesus] say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?  And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Jesus gave us the example of always looking to the Father.  Have you ever said “I don’t know how we are going to ………” you can fill in the blank.  When life seems impossible.  A friend of mine had a sticker that said “Life may seem impossible, but it is always Him-possible”  God is the source – that is what Father means.  I heard someone scoffing (a man) the other day about the thinking that a man must always  be the provider when women are perfectly capable of working and earning for the family.  It made me think of how we often have a better idea about how life should work.  That is not to say that women should not work.  But very often, women must go to work because the family is trying to maintain a lifestyle and not to nurture a family.  I am not speaking to situations where the woman must work because the husband can’t or won’t.  When our want is greater than God’s provision, we often put our own plan of provision into place to “make it happen”.  In the same way, we worry about tomorrow .. well, in this country, we worry about 40 years from now. Many people save so they will be “free” to serve God when they retire.  I wonder what they would do if god wanted to serve today.   How do we balance that thinking in light of Jesus words?  Our culture would call my thinking irresponsible.  (1 Corinthians 2:14) “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.”  Jesus was totally dependent upon the Father .. as we should be.  If you are sincerely depending upon God, you will be constantly looking up to the Father and not in to your own designs. 

Friday, June 23, 2017

Walking In The Dark With My Light Turned Off

He is…a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. —Isaiah 53:3

{CHAMBERS} “We are not “acquainted with grief” in the same way our Lord was acquainted with it. We endure it and live through it, but we do not become intimate with it. At the beginning of our lives we do not bring ourselves to the point of dealing with the reality of sin. We look at life through the eyes of reason and say that if a person will control his instincts, and educate himself, he can produce a life that will slowly evolve into the life of God. But as we continue on through life, we find the presence of something which we have not yet taken into account, namely, sin— and it upsets all of our thinking and our plans. Sin has made the foundation of our thinking unpredictable, uncontrollable, and irrational. We have to recognize that sin is a fact of life, not just a shortcoming. Sin is blatant mutiny against God, and either sin or God must die in my life. The New Testament brings us right down to this one issue— if sin rules in me, God’s life in me will be killed; if God rules in me, sin in me will be killed. There is nothing more fundamental than that. The culmination of sin was the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, and what was true in the history of God on earth will also be true in your history and in mine— that is, sin will kill the life of God in us. We must mentally bring ourselves to terms with this fact of sin. It is the only explanation why Jesus Christ came to earth, and it is the explanation of the grief and sorrow of life.”

{ELGIN}  Sometimes I will glean the essence of the point Oswald Chambers is making in his devotion, and other times, I must quote the whole.  That is the case today.  My life is one of constant struggle.  Much like Paul described in Romans chapter 7 .. “the good I want to do I don’t do”  Throughout the day I am faced with opportunities to yield to the Spirit or to yield to my flesh (which is a soft way of saying “sin”).  Our struggle with sin is something we will acknowledge but we really don’t like to think about it.  When you boil it down, the problem is a matter of our will.  Accepting personal sin is like walking with a light in the dark but not turning it on.  I am teaching on the subject of quenching the Spirit in Sunday School.  We have the Spirit of God in us, yet, we must decide to yield to the Spirit, every day, every moment really.  That requires a spiritual awareness and that will only result through spiritual devotion.  In other words, doing those things that draw us close to the Father and one-ness with Jesus and the Father.  What that requires is that we stop thinking of being a Christian as an attribute of our person – who we are … husband, father, brother, son, friend, co-worker, Christian – and see us in terms of “whose” we are.  If I have been born again, I am a son of God, who happens to be a husband, father, brother, son, friend, and co-worker.  Everything I am and everything I do must be on the context of whose I am.  If I lose sight of that and think of myself as being merely a “son of Adam” then I should not be surprised when sin prevails in my life.  (1 John 5:11-12) “And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.” Since we have “life” we should live like it, don’t you agree?

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Understanding Your Priestly Role In Your New Life In Christ

You are…a royal priesthood… —1 Peter 2:9

{CHAMBERS} “By what right have we become “a royal priesthood”? It is by the right of the atonement by the Cross of Christ that this has been accomplished. Are we prepared to purposely disregard ourselves and to launch out into the priestly work of prayer? The continual inner-searching we do in an effort to see if we are what we ought to be generates a self-centered, sickly type of Christianity, not the vigorous and simple life of a child of God. Until we get into this right and proper relationship with God, it is simply a case of our “hanging on by the skin of our teeth,” although we say, “What a wonderful victory I have!” Yet there is nothing at all in that which indicates the miracle of redemption. Launch out in reckless, unrestrained belief that the redemption is complete. Then don’t worry anymore about yourself, but begin to do as Jesus Christ has said, in essence, “Pray for the friend who comes to you at midnight, pray for the saints of God, and pray for all men.” Pray with the realization that you are perfect only in Christ Jesus, not on the basis of this argument: “Oh, Lord, I have done my best; please hear me now.” How long is it going to take God to free us from the unhealthy habit of thinking only about ourselves? We must get to the point of being sick to death of ourselves, until there is no longer any surprise at anything God might tell us about ourselves. We cannot reach and understand the depths of our own meagerness. There is only one place where we are right with God, and that is in Christ Jesus. Once we are there, we have to pour out our lives for all we are worth in this ministry of the inner life.”

{ELGIN}  Have you ever heard the term “personal relationship with Jesus Christ”?  Or “me and Jesus we got a good thing going”.  Much of our “personal relationship” in our Christian lives is wrapped up in sin management and looking for blessings from God.  (1 Peter 2:9)  “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”  God has saved you, not just for your own benefit but in order that you might declare the Good News to a lost world.  Priests make intercession for others.  Your life’s focus should not be on feathering your own spiritual nest, but ministering to the spiritually weak and the lost.  James 1:27 says this, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”  You want to practice your faith?  The first step, not the final one, is to have a clean heart.  The next is intercession .. both in prayer and in good works.  Jesus said if you want to follow Him you must offer yourself as a sacrifice (pick up your cross), deny yourself (in favor of others) and follow Him (being one with the Father).  Such is the life we are called to.  Your home should not be a fortified sanctuary from the world, but a lighthouse for those living around you.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

All My Unfulfilled Promises Were Made In A Foxhole

The Lord restored Job’s losses when he prayed for his friends. —Job 42:10

{CHAMBERS}  “A pitiful, sickly, and self-centered kind of prayer and a determined effort and selfish desire to be right with God are never found in the New Testament. The fact that I am trying to be right with God is actually a sign that I am rebelling against the atonement by the Cross of Christ. I pray, “Lord, I will purify my heart if You will answer my prayer— I will walk rightly before You if You will help me.” But I cannot make myself right with God; I cannot make my life perfect. I can only be right with God if I accept the atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ as an absolute gift. Am I humble enough to accept it? I have to surrender all my rights and demands, and cease from every self-effort. I must leave myself completely alone in His hands, and then I can begin to pour my life out in the priestly work of intercession. […] “The Lord restored Job’s losses when he prayed for his friends.” As a saved soul, the real business of your life is intercessory prayer. Whatever circumstances God may place you in, always pray immediately that His atonement may be recognized and as fully understood in the lives of others as it has been in yours. Pray for your friends now, and pray for those with whom you come in contact now.”

{ELGIN} There is a term “foxhole religion” that refers to promises made to God in the heat of battle.  Promises of what the person under stress will do if God will only act on their behalf.  Have you ever made a promise to God?  God doesn’t want your promises, He wants your heart.  A heart for God is less concerned with itself and more concerned with the Father and what the Father cares about.  Love God and love others.  The greatest commandments.  Resting in the hands of God.  I have the image of me, lying in a hammock under an enormous oak tree.  Completely relaxed.  (1 Peter 5:7) “Cast all of your cares on Him because He cares for you.” (Philippians 4:6-7)  “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, with prayer and supplication, let your requests be made known to God and the peace of God which surpasses all [human] understanding will keep your heart and mind in Christ Jesus.”  Promises made in the foxhole are not a sign of faith, but a sign of the lack of faith.  You cannot bargain with God.  You can’t make a deal with Him.  What you can do is trust Him, with all your heart.  Submit to the Spirit, obey the Lord and in doing so, bring glory to Him which is your eternal purpose.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Is Jesus Still Your First Love .. Or Has Something Else Taken His Place?

…do you love Me?…Tend My sheep. —John 21:16

{CHAMBERS} “Jesus did not say to make converts to your way of thinking, but He said to look after His sheep, to see that they get nourished in the knowledge of Him. We consider what we do in the way of Christian work as service, yet Jesus Christ calls service to be what we are to Him, not what we do for Him. Discipleship is based solely on devotion to Jesus Christ, not on following after a particular belief or doctrine. “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate…, he cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:26). In this verse, there is no argument and no pressure from Jesus to follow Him; He is simply saying, in effect, “If you want to be My disciple, you must be devoted solely to Me.” A person touched by the Spirit of God suddenly says, “Now I see who Jesus is!”— that is the source of devotion. Today we have substituted doctrinal belief for personal belief, and that is why so many people are devoted to causes and so few are devoted to Jesus Christ. […] If I am devoted solely to the cause of humanity, I will soon be exhausted and come to the point where my love will waver and stumble. But if I love Jesus Christ personally and passionately, I can serve humanity, even though people may treat me like a “doormat.” The secret of a disciple’s life is devotion to Jesus Christ, and the characteristic of that life is its seeming insignificance and its meekness. Yet it is like a grain of wheat that “falls into the ground and dies”— it will spring up and change the entire landscape (John 12:24).”

{ELGIN}  I once attended a denominational meeting, it was all pastors.  The guest speaker, in true form for someone who had been taught about public speaking, shared a “joke” as he began.  He said, “Someone once asked me what I would be if I were not a” (put the name of your denomination here) “and I told them – ashamed.”  There was a polite laugh from the pastors.  Personally, I found it very disturbing. The Bible says “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45)  I have always found it amazing, how “freely” we feel we can speak when we are amongst “our own kind”.  If you listen long enough, you will hear the heart of the person speaking.  I never sought to attend a meeting like that again, by the way.  I was not saved by a denomination or by a particular race, or nationality.  I was saved by the blood of Jesus Christ, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. (Galatians 2:20) You must be careful that the source of your trust and faith does not get supplanted by something that has the appearance of being good and right.

(Revelation 2:1a-5) “These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands (Jesus). ‘I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.’”  Strong words.  The men in that assembly had dedicated their lives to service, yet, there was some “leaven in the loaf”.  A devotion to a denomination had trumped their devotion to the Lord.  In fact, their devotion to their denomination, in their minds, was indistinguishable from devotion to following Jesus.  Telling the “joke” another way. “Someone asked me what I would be if I was not a  ‘denomination’, and I told them “lost”.  Being one with Jesus is to be our primary focus and not being part of a denomination.  Primary.  (So as not to be misunderstood, I am not saying that doctrines of the faith are not important. And I am not saying that it is ok if you are associated with a cult.) But, from my relationship with the Lord, everything else should spring.  Does it in your life? Does it really?  What exactly do you think being a living sacrifice means?  What do you think loving God with all of your heart, mind and strength means.  Be careful that other “noble” things don’t choke out what the Lord has planted.  Friend take time to examine your heart. It is not hard to grow weeds, but it requires diligence to grow flowers and a garden.  And having done that, make it your goal in life to bring glory to God and proclaim the name of Jesus, just as He intended.

Friday, June 16, 2017

What Must You Lay Down To Follow Jesus?

Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends….I have called you friends… —John 15:13, 15

{CHAMBERS} “Jesus does not ask me to die for Him, but to lay down my life for Him. Peter said to the Lord, “I will lay down my life for Your sake,” and he meant it (John 13:37). He had a magnificent sense of the heroic. For us to be incapable of making this same statement Peter made would be a bad thing— our sense of duty is only fully realized through our sense of heroism. Has the Lord ever asked you, “Will you lay down your life for My sake?” (John 13:38). It is much easier to die than to lay down your life day in and day out with the sense of the high calling of God. We are not made for the bright-shining moments of life, but we have to walk in the light of them in our everyday ways. […] “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16). Yet it is contrary to our human nature to do so.  If I am a friend of Jesus, I must deliberately and carefully lay down my life for Him. […] Salvation is easy for us, because it cost God so much. But the exhibiting of salvation in my life is difficult. God saves a person, fills him with the Holy Spirit, and then says, in effect, “Now you work it out in your life, and be faithful to Me, even though the nature of everything around you is to cause you to be unfaithful.””

{ELGIN} When Jesus spoke to the man who needed to bury his father before following.  When He talked with the rich young man who He challenged to give up all that he treasured to follow Jesus.  Jesus knew full well what He was asking them.  Choose Jesus over everything else.  One of my favorite songs is “Knowing You, Jesus” written by Graham Kendrick.  “All I once held dear, built my life upon. All this world reveres, and wars to own. All I once thought gain I have counted loss. Spent and worthless now, compared to this. Now my heart's desire is to know you more. To be found in you and known as yours. To possess by faith what I could not earn. All-surpassing gift of righteousness” 

We must choose to follow Jesus and we must choose to reject the things of this world when they get in the way of that following.  It is not a natural choice, it is a supernatural one.  It requires surrender … offering yourself as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1-2) not being conformed to this world – treasuring what it has to offer – but being transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Paul called it our “reasonable service of worship”.  Why is it reasonable? Because Jesus laid His life down for us.  You cannot serve God and the world.  You will hate one and love the other. (Matthew 6:24)  You have believed a lie from Satan if you think otherwise.  (Joshua 24:15) “But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. (or the god of this country – money and affluence) But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD."