Wednesday, February 21, 2018

How To Deal With Hard-To-Be-Around People

She has done a good work for Me. —Mark 14:6

{CHAMBERS}  “If what we call love doesn’t take us beyond ourselves, it is not really love. If we have the idea that love is characterized as cautious, wise, sensible, shrewd, and never taken to extremes, we have missed the true meaning. This may describe affection and it may bring us a warm feeling, but it is not a true and accurate description of love. Have you ever been driven to do something for God not because you felt that it was useful or your duty to do so, or that there was anything in it for you, but simply because you love Him? […] I’m not referring to works which could be regarded as divine and miraculous, but ordinary, simple human things— things which would be evidence to God that you are totally surrendered to Him. […] To be surrendered to God is of more value than our personal holiness. Concern over our personal holiness causes us to focus our eyes on ourselves, and we become overly concerned about the way we walk and talk and look, out of fear of offending God. […] Once we are totally surrendered to God, He will work through us all the time.”

{ELGIN} What does it mean to be taken beyond yourself?  It means that you will find yourself doing things that make you, personally, feel uncomfortable.  We typically shy away from people who make us uncomfortable.  Maybe because of what they look like, how they talk, that they “wear their problems on their sleeves” for everyone to see and know about.  Maybe because they are angry at God or the world or maybe even you.  Perhaps you will have to give up personal comfort or financial security to minister to those people.  So what to do?  Well ….. you should start by focusing on God … have a rock solid relationship with the Father.  If you are sent by the Father .. and you are … then He must be the source of your strength … your ability to do whatever it is that He puts in front of you has spiritual roots.  The problem is that most often we do not see the heart of the problem … we just see the symptoms … and we try to put a Band-Aid on them.  In Acts 3, when Peter and John met the lame man at the gate, he needed money .. but Peter said “I don’t have any money but what I do have I give to you .. in the name of Jesus Christ rise up and walk.” And he did.  (Have you ever encountered someone like that?  How does it make you feel?  Like you want to escape?)  That is not to say that we should not offer “natural help”, water, food, and other assistance … but we must remember that it is the “living water” that people need the most.  We should not use the natural help as a carat to get people to listen to the Gospel.  Both are an expression of love (see Matthew 22:37-39 and Matthew 25).  1 Corinthians 13 says “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”  When you encounter people that are difficult to be around .. that is what they should see in you … they should see Jesus …. 

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Your New Life In Christ Is Not A Spectator Sport

Arise, let us go from here. —John 14:31

{CHAMBERS} “When our purpose is to seek God and to discover His will for us, daydreaming is right and acceptable. But when our inclination is to spend time daydreaming over what we have already been told to do […] His instructions to us will be along the lines of this: “Don’t sit or stand there, just go!” If we are quietly waiting before God after He has said to us, “Come aside by yourselves…” then that is meditation before Him to seek His will (Mark 6:31). […] Daydreaming after God has spoken is an indication that we do not trust Him.”

{ELGIN} (James 4:17) “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.”  Think about that verse.  You agree that God’s Word is Truth, right?  Then that verse is truth, but probably a truth that we would prefer to not think about.  We have all kinds of reasons – good reasons – why we don’t do something.  Perhaps it’s just not the right time.  More than likely that means that it would not be convenient .. it would disrupt our plans or preferences.  (Romans 12:1-2) I often quote these verses .. “offer yourself as a sacrifice … don’t be conformed to this world [and its ways] but be transformed … thereby proving God’s good and perfect will”  It’s not enough to sit in the pew .. listen to Christian radio … watch preachers on TV … or even read the Bible … God expects you to bear fruit … Do you remember Jesus encountering the barren fig tree (Matthew 21:18-22)? That was not a good day for the fig tree.  Simply agreeing with the “rightness” of what you hear or read is not good enough .. not nearly good enough.  (James 1:22)  “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”  Being satisfied with being a spectator - sitting in the stands ... is a common problem among the Called .. that is why the Word admonishes us to take action.  So what has God been telling you?

Monday, February 19, 2018

Serving When It's Not Convenient Is The Best Time To Serve

Arise, shine… —Isaiah 60:1

{CHAMBERS} “When it comes to taking the initiative against drudgery, we have to take the first step as though there were no God. There is no point in waiting for God to help us— He will not. But once we arise, immediately we find He is there. Whenever God gives us His inspiration, suddenly taking the initiative becomes a moral issue— a matter of obedience. Then we must act to be obedient and not continue to lie down doing nothing. […] Drudgery is one of the finest tests to determine the genuineness of our character. […] It is the utterly hard, menial, tiresome, and dirty work. And when we experience it, our spirituality is instantly tested and we will know whether or not we are spiritually genuine. Read John 13. In this chapter, we see the Incarnate God performing the greatest example of drudgery— washing fishermen’s feet. He then says to them, “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet” (John 13:14). […] When the Lord does something through us, He always transforms it. Our Lord takes our human flesh and transforms it, and now every believer’s body has become “the temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:19).”

{ELGIN} God will not make us obey and step out .. we must choose to obey Him .. What God asks you to do will be contrary to the desires of your flesh nature.  It may not be glorious … it most likely will be mundane … You may never stand before thousands like a Billy Graham … you more than likely be called to kneel before one, like Jesus.  I shared the other day that the Lord had given me Galatians 6:2 as a command to focus on for this year … more correctly, from this year on …. “Bear one another’s burdens and thus fulfill the law of Christ.”  Reference Matthew 22:37-39 to read the “law of Christ”.  Martie and I sat with a woman the other day and listened to her as she poured her heart out for over 3 hours.  The whole while, I was reminding myself of Galatians 6:2.  I mean most of us are willing to give someone a few minutes .. but three hours?  When I was talking with the same woman about repairs to her home a few days later she commented on her visit to our office.  She told me that she was talking to her friend about it.  She told her friend “These people listened to me talk about things I have not ever shared with anyone for over three hours!  Where did these people come from?  Why are they here?”  I told her that we are here because God sent us here.  I told her that we are here not to merely help the houses but primarily to help the people that live in the houses.  That help is more than sheetrock and paint … nails and lumber … it is meant to bring comfort from the God of all comfort … Laying our lives and livelihood down in Alabama and coming to Texas  does not mean we are heroes … it simply means we are obedient.  We have some dear friends who told us that they “live simply so others can simply live”.  A wonderful model for us.

God has a purpose for each of us .. has equipped us each for those purposes.  Our responsibility is to walk in obedience by faith.  Micah 6:8 “What does the Lord require of you, O’ man.  But to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.  God does not actually say “Go” by yourself .. He says “Come to where I am” So …. what are you waiting for? Arise and Shine!

Friday, February 16, 2018

God's Blessing and Healing Always And Only Follows Obedience

Arise from the dead… —Ephesians 5:14

{CHAMBERS} “[…] We all have many dreams and aspirations when we are young, but sooner or later we realize we have no power to accomplish them. We cannot do the things we long to do, so our tendency is to think of our dreams and aspirations as dead. But God comes and says to us, “Arise from the dead….” When God sends His inspiration, it comes to us with such miraculous power that we are able to “arise from the dead” and do the impossible. The remarkable thing about spiritual initiative is that the life and power comes after we “get up and get going.” God does not give us overcoming life— He gives us life as we overcome. When the inspiration of God comes, and He says, “Arise from the dead…,” we have to get ourselves up; God will not lift us up. Our Lord said to the man with the withered hand, “Stretch out your hand” (Matthew 12:13). As soon as the man did so, his hand was healed. But he had to take the initiative. If we will take the initiative to overcome, we will find that we have the inspiration of God, because He immediately gives us the power of life.

{ELGIN} Blessing always follows after obedience.  God never uses blessing as a carrot to get us to go where He wants us to go or to do what He wants us to do.  We cannot bargain with God … “God if you will do this then I will do that…”  That is not the way it works my friend.  When you are born again you begin to live the faith-life.  The rules about how things work have changed .. old things are passing .. all things are becoming new.  If you live I fear and always ask “But what if ….?”  Then you will surely miss God’s best for you.  Whether it is a withered hand, a lame leg, or blind eyes … or maybe a broken heart or some great financial or material or relational loss ….. faith, trust and obedience are always at the root of the blessing and healing.  Understanding is not.  If someone says that they will not trust in what they cannot see, then they are surely eternally lost.  They lack the faith and the presence of the Spirit for salvation to come.  What is it in your life that is overwhelming you today?  Take it to Jesus .. stretch out your withered hand … and be healed.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

What To Do When God Brings Difficult People Into Your Life

None of us lives to himself… —Romans 14:7

{CHAMBERS}  “Has it ever dawned on you that you are responsible spiritually to God for other people? […] “If one member suffers, all the members suffer with it…” (1 Corinthians 12:26). If you allow physical selfishness, mental carelessness, moral insensitivity, or spiritual weakness, everyone in contact with you will suffer. But you ask, “Who is sufficient to be able to live up to such a lofty standard?” “Our sufficiency is from God…” and God alone (2 Corinthians 3:5). “You shall be witnesses to Me…” (Acts 1:8). How many of us are willing to spend every bit of our nervous, mental, moral, and spiritual energy for Jesus Christ? […] Why has God left us on the earth? Is it simply to be saved and sanctified? No, it is to be at work in service to Him. Am I willing to be broken bread and poured-out wine for Him? Am I willing to be of no value to this age or this life except for one purpose and one alone— to be used to disciple men and women to the Lord Jesus Christ.”

{ELGIN}  In our work, we interact with people who are struggling with the aftermath of a natural disaster.  But, that is not the only thing that is going on with their lives.  Before the disaster, they had other life struggles which are only compounded in their intensity by the disaster.  That being said, sometimes the people we meet are difficult to be around. Ever met someone like that?  Sure you have.  As you are talking to them, you are thinking, “How can I distance myself from this person?” 

So let’s step out of the thought for a moment.  Why are we here?  God sent us.  Why did He send us? Because people who can’t help themselves need help and hope.  Can anything God sends us to do be accomplished on our own? No. Never. Would He bring us into contact with people who are difficult to be around? Of course.

So where did the “How can I distance myself from this person?” thought come from?  Answer .. my flesh.  I recently talked with a woman .. single mom .. whose life is a mess .. her son is autistic, suffers with Kleine-Levin Syndrome (KLS), and several other maladies.  Her life before the storm was very difficult. The local church rejected her because of her son.  And her personality is one that makes people uncomfortable, without her son factored in.  Her house is a mess.  So as I listen to her, I am thinking of the verse that the Lord gave us … well actually all of us … but Martie and me specifically for this work … (Galatians 6:2) “Bear one another’s burdens and thus fulfill the law of Christ.”  What is the law of Christ?  According to Dr. John McArthur, “When Paul suggests that burden-bearing “fulfill[s] the law of Christ,” he makes it clear that he has the whole moral law in view. Every act of compassion and self-sacrifice on behalf of our brethren is a practical means of displaying the love of Christ and thereby fulfilling the moral demands of His law. But the apostle clearly has in mind spiritual, emotional, and temperamental encumbrances — not physical freight only. The burdens we need to help carry for one another include guilt, worry, sorrow, anxiety, and all other similar loads. Do you want to fulfill the moral requirements of the Law? Love your neighbor. How do you love him? By bearing his burdens.”

Serving others is not easy .. it requires sacrifice .. not worrying about yourself and your comfort.  But, that is where we will go if we are not careful.  We will not want to feel uncomfortable.  We will want to experience happy times with others .. but it’s in the valleys that they need to see Jesus in us.  The question is .. are you ready to serve.  I hope the answer is yes.  Just don’t forget that it’s “'Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says the LORD Almighty.” (Zechariah 4:6) So the next time you find yourself in a similar situation, don’t ask “Lord, how do I get out of this.” But rather, “Lord what would You have me say or do? Lord be glorified.”

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

To Hear God, You Must Be Ready And Willing To Listen

Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops. —Matthew 10:27

{CHAMBERS}  “Sometimes God puts us through the experience and discipline of darkness to teach us to hear and obey Him. […] Are you in the dark right now in your circumstances, or in your life with God? If so, then remain quiet. If you open your mouth in the dark, you will speak while in the wrong mood— darkness is the time to listen. Don’t talk to other people about it; don’t read books to find out the reason for the darkness; just listen and obey. If you talk to other people, you cannot hear what God is saying. […] …. once you hear Him, He gives you the gift of humiliation, which brings a softness of heart— a gift that will always cause you to listen to God now.”

{ELGIN}  It is a difficult thing at times .. hearing God speak.  As I get older, I have noticed that I don’t hear as well when there are competing noises around me.  I used to be able to single out a voice or sound amidst the din with no problem, not so much anymore.  That is the way it is with hearing God.  A lot of competing sounds and life events demanding our attention.  You can read about Jesus getting away to spend time, alone, with His Father.  I don’t know if I will ever appreciate that privilege to the depth it deserves while I walk this earth.  Just imagine being able to communicate with the creator of the universe.  Can you imagine having the private cell phone number of the president or some other significant world figure?  Why would they give you the time of day.  Why would they care to talk with you at all?  What could you have to say that would matter to them? And yet, Jesus has torn the veil and given us access to our Father in heaven.  God, the Father, loves us.  Loves us enough to send Jesus for us. And we can talk to Him anytime, anywhere.  (1 Peter 5:7) “Cast all your cares on Him, because He cares for us.”  The really cool thing is that God does not just want to listen, He wants to, and does, speak to us. The question is, are you ready and willing to hear Him?  Sometimes He whispers and sometimes He shouts. But on every occasion, He loves and wants the eternal best for your life.  As I type, a song came to mind … “In The Garden” “ I come to the garden alone, While the dew is still on the roses, And the voice I hear, falling on my ear, The Son of God discloses. … He speaks, and the sound of His voice, Is so sweet the birds hush their singing, And the melody that He gave to me, Within my heart is ringing. And He walks with me, and He talks with me, And He tells me I am His own, And the joy we share as we tarry there, None other has ever known.”  I wonder what was going on in Charles Miles’ life when he penned the words to this song. He said, "It is as a writer of gospel songs I am proud to be known, for in that way I may be of the most use to my Master, whom I serve willingly although not as efficiently as is my desire". He wrote at least 398 songs, and the music to at least 8 more.

Jesus asked the question (Luke 6:46) “Why do you call Me, Lord, Lord, but don’t do what I say?”  Take time to listen to God and then … obey what He tells you.  And in that way, you will discover the way you can be of the most use to the Master.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

What To Do When Your Fear Overcomes Your Faith

Samuel answered, "Speak, for Your servant hears." —1 Samuel 3:10

{CHAMBERS} “[…] I show God my lack of love and respect for Him by the insensitivity of my heart and mind toward what He says. […] Have I disobeyed some command of my Lord’s this week? If I had realized that it was a command of Jesus, I would not have deliberately disobeyed it. […] The goal of my spiritual life is such close identification with Jesus Christ that I will always hear God and know that God always hears me (see John 11:41). If I am united with Jesus Christ, I hear God all the time through the devotion of hearing. […] What hinders me from hearing is my attention to other things. It is not that I don’t want to hear God, but I am not devoted in the right areas of my life. […] The attitude of a child of God should always be, “Speak, for Your servant hears.” If I have not developed and nurtured this devotion of hearing, I can only hear God’s voice at certain times. At other times I become deaf to Him because my attention is to other things— things which I think I must do.”

{ELGIN} Have you noticed that Paul spent most of his time telling us about what we should be and not what we should not be?  The epistles in the New Testament are replete with admonitions about the problems with our old nature and encouragement to pursue our new nature.  It’s a daily struggle for us to keep our focus on God and not ourselves.  I received a call from a friend who told me that a loved one was about to pass and I could hear the great sorrow in his voice.  Like the disciples in the storm or Peter walking on the water … when trouble comes, our first response is often self-reliance … the reality of an impossible situation in the face of our inability to overcome it.  That is where my friend was … is … so what to do?  I pointed him to Jesus.  I reminded him of God’s love and power and sovereignty.  Of the peace that passes understanding when we find ourselves in impossible situations.  That peace is not found through denial, but by faith.  Listen, there have been, are and will be circumstances that will overwhelm us if we are depending only upon our wits to navigate through this life.  Speaking spiritual truth to a lost person is like speaking a foreign language to them. Hearing from God in times of trouble is impossible for them … but His voice will be drowned out for Christians if we are focused on finding a solution on our own.  Our fear will prevent us from exercising our faith.  What problems are you facing today that seem like giants that make you feel like a small insect or a stormy sea that is tossing you about? Trust God. (Ephesians 3:20-21) “Now to Him who is able [and ready and willing] to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”