Friday, May 25, 2018

Living Your Life And Choosing Rightly - It's Up To You

If you take the left, then I will go to the right; or, if you go to the right, then I will go to the left. —Genesis 13:9

{CHAMBERS} “As soon as you begin to live the life of faith in God, fascinating and physically gratifying possibilities will open up before you. […] God sometimes allows you to get into a place of testing where your own welfare would be the appropriate thing to consider, if you were not living the life of faith. But if you are, you will joyfully waive your right and allow God to make your choice for you. This is the discipline God uses to transform the natural into the spiritual through obedience to His voice. Whenever our right becomes the guiding factor of our lives, it dulls our spiritual insight. The greatest enemy of the life of faith in God is not sin, but good choices which are not quite good enough. The good is always the enemy of the best. […] Many of us do not continue to grow spiritually because we prefer to choose on the basis of our rights, instead of relying on God to make the choice for us. We have to learn to walk according to the standard which has its eyes focused on God. And God says to us, as He did to Abram, “…walk before Me…” (Genesis 17:1).”

{ELGIN}  This life of faith that we live.  It is so contrary to the ways of this world.  It is so contrary to common sense or should I say “natural” sense. Psychologists of done a great work in mapping out how the natural man thinks and why he does .. all in the context of the natural world.  Apart from God.  When faith enters in – it often is in conflict with the natural.  You see the natural is about “you” – the spiritual is about “God”.  And so every day we are faced with choices .. do we look to ourselves or to God?  If you are a Christian – everything in your life has a spiritual context.  There is no part of your life that is spared.  Very often we live with various aspects of our lives compartmented, sectioned off, as if they were excluded from the sovereignty of God.  They are not.  We have been bought with a price.  We have been adopted into God’s family.  We are new in Christ.  But, at the same time, we have been given a free will.  Free to do as we please. Not without consequences, but free to choose, to compartmentalize.  That is not the Father’s desire.  No, His desire is that we be conformed into the image of Jesus. (Romans 8:29) “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” As you read this, if you are thinking, “But that is what I want my life to be like.” Then I would say – look to the Father – Hide His Word in your heart – Yield to the Spirit – Every day … now would be a good time to start. And if you are already there – encourage the Saints.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Keeping Your Focus On God In The Midst Of Trouble

When I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. —Revelation 1:17

{CHAMBERS} “[…] Whenever His hand is laid upon you, it gives inexpressible peace and comfort, and the sense that “underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deuteronomy 33:27), full of support, provision, comfort, and strength. And once His touch comes, nothing at all can throw you into fear again. In the midst of all His ascended glory, the Lord Jesus comes to speak to an insignificant disciple, saying, “Do not be afraid” (Revelation 1:17). His tenderness is inexpressibly sweet. Do I know Him like that? Take a look at some of the things that cause despair. There is despair which has no delight, no limits whatsoever, and no hope of anything brighter. But the delight of despair comes when “I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells…” (Romans 7:18). I delight in knowing that there is something in me which must fall prostrate before God when He reveals Himself to me, and also in knowing that if I am ever to be raised up it must be by the hand of God. God can do nothing for me until I recognize the limits of what is humanly possible, allowing Him to do the impossible.”

{ELGIN}  Often times, I think, that in times of trouble, we keep eyes on the trouble and not on God – our Deliverer.  Do you trust God enough to turn your back on the trouble and look fully in the face of God?  Do you believe that God will sustain you or do you merely hope that He will.  When the three young men were facing the fiery furnace because they refused to bend their knees to a statue of King Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 3) they had confidence in God … but even if the outcome was not to their favor, they would not lose confidence or give up their faith in God.  As you know, there was a fourth man in the furnace (like the Son of man) and the men were spared from death.  All of us face difficult trials in our lives … perhaps not a fiery furnace … but certainly we feel the “heat” of many difficulties.  We can become anxious, fearful.  We may feel panic or dread.  Our problem overwhelms us.  We see nothing else.  We are aware of nothing else.  (Philippians 4:5-7) “The Lord is at hand;  do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

If you trust in yourself more than God you will always look at what you can do in the midst of trouble.  Very often the problem is more that you can overcome.  Trust God.  My grandmother’s favorite psalm was Psalm 121 “I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all evil;  he will keep your life. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.”

What difficulties are you faced with today?  Look to the hills!

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

God Is The Master Chef - Follow His Recipe For Living

…do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. —Matthew 6:25

{CHAMBERS} “Jesus summed up commonsense carefulness in the life of a disciple as unbelief. If we have received the Spirit of God, He will squeeze right through our lives, as if to ask, “Now where do I come into this relationship, this vacation you have planned, or these new books you want to read?” And He always presses the point until we learn to make Him our first consideration. Whenever we put other things first, there is confusion.  “…do not worry about your life….” Don’t take the pressure of your provision upon yourself. It is not only wrong to worry, it is unbelief; worrying means we do not believe that God can look after the practical details of our lives, and it is never anything but those details that worry us. Have you ever noticed what Jesus said would choke the Word He puts in us? Is it the devil? No— “the cares of this world” (Matthew 13:22). It is always our little worries. We say, “I will not trust when I cannot see”— and that is where unbelief begins. The only cure for unbelief is obedience to the Spirit.  The greatest word of Jesus to His disciples is abandon.”

{ELGIN} What are you most worried about?  Money? Health? Relationships?  I find the greatest threat to my contentment is not problems with any of those things.  It’s letting the flame of faith dim in my life.  One way we fan the flame is through our relationships with other Christians.  We have gained some wonderful friends as we have sojourned for Jesus over the years.  One couple significantly impacted, in a positive way, how we respond to adversity.  Their motto for living is “We live simply so others can simply live”.  They have stood against the temptation to build bigger barns and, instead, show the world Jesus by the way they live and do.  I see so many Christians look to the world, their unsaved friends, for comfort and assurance.  Jesus walked among sinners, but He did not partake in their sin.  That always proves to be a little harder to do for most Christians I know.  We are not to live in isolation from the world, but are to live insulated from it.  A fish lives in the sea of salt water but is not salty.  In the same way we should not allow the world to “season” us with sin.  What appears to be reasonable can draw you away from the Lord and before you know it … you are indistinguishable from those who are lost.  Listen – sinners prefer that you participate in their sin.  It affirms in their minds that what they are doing is not so bad .. and you, as a Christian, are not so good – just like them.  This is a huge problem for teenagers … and those who find themselves alone facing life’s problems … trying to fix themselves rather than look to Jesus.

I have a recipe for scones that people really like.  If I decided to use other ingredients, the scones would not taste the same.  God has ordained how His creation best functions.  You can follow his plan or come up with your own recipe. Trust me, it won’t taste the same.  Wanting to go on our own way .. not trusting that God knows what is best … it all started in the Garden .. it’s part of our old nature.  And that old nature is always ready to rise up and dominate our thinking and our doing.  You are reading this so I sense you are looking to God on a consistent basis.  Encourage other Christians to do the same.  To follow God’s recipe then taste and see ….

(Psalm 34:7-9) “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them. Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him. Fear the Lord, you his holy people, for those who fear him lack nothing.”

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Weighing The Cost Of Being Jesus' Disciple

My Utmost For His Highest 

…that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us… —John 17:21

{CHAMBERS} “If you are going through a time of isolation, seemingly all alone, read John 17 . It will explain exactly why you are where you are— because Jesus has prayed that you “may be one” with the Father as He is. Are you helping God to answer that prayer, or do you have some other goal for your life? Since you became a disciple, you cannot be as independent as you used to be. God reveals in John 17 that His purpose is not just to answer our prayers, but that through prayer we might come to discern His mind. Yet there is one prayer which God must answer, and that is the prayer of Jesus— “…that they may be one just as We are one…” (John 17:22). Are we as close to Jesus Christ as that? God is not concerned about our plans; He doesn’t ask, “Do you want to go through this loss of a loved one, this difficulty, or this defeat?” No, He allows these things for His own purpose. The things we are going through are either making us sweeter, better, and nobler men and women, or they are making us more critical and fault-finding, and more insistent on our own way. The things that happen either make us evil, or they make us more saintly, depending entirely on our relationship with God and its level of intimacy. If we will pray, regarding our own lives, “Your will be done” (Matthew 26:42), then we will be encouraged and comforted by John 17, knowing that our Father is working according to His own wisdom, accomplishing what is best.”

{ELGIN} Do you think of yourself as a disciple or are you “merely” a Christian.  In my mind, there is a difference.  I will explain.  If you read the Gospels you see that there was a large crowd that follow Jesus, initially.  But, as He got nearer to the cross ..  fewer followed.  The life that Jesus represented was appealing to the crowds so long as there was something in it for them.  Food .. healing … being known as a Jesus follower.  But when the cross was on the horizon, even those closest to Jesus were tested in their commitment to following Him .. to being identified with Him.  I don’t presume to understand everything .. many things are a mystery to me.  For example … at what point did the disciples find salvation in Jesus?  Was it by faith before the cross?  Or, was it after the cross?  The Bible doesn’t tell us.  I am thinking the former … I do know that Jesus told them to wait for the Holy Spirit .. which means that with Jesus ascended, they needed supernatural power to live and do.  Before they had it in Jesus.  After the cross, they needed it from the Spirit.  And so, by the way, do we.  So back to the question.  Are you a disciple or “just” a Christian.  We must all answer it.  In fact we all have.  Our level of dedication to Jesus is displayed every day by the way we live and love.  Like the parable of the talents .. have you buried the reality of your faith in the ground intending to dig it up when Jesus returns or you join Him in heaven?  Or are you multiplying your faith by loving God more than you love the world … showing Jesus to the people you meet?  It is important that we reflect on our life in Christ.  The cares of this world are like barnacles on the hull of a ship.  If you don’t deal with them early and often, they will multiple and soon obscure who you are in Christ.  Your God-purposed life will be made impotent.  You will be lulled into a sense of satisfaction that you are living the Christian-life as it was intended.  That is until you come face to face with Jesus. 

I have wondered, often, about why I write the things I do in this BLOG.  I sense that I am like a lighthouse warning the sailors that there are dangers to avoid.  I certainly am not judging anyone … but I am, instead, encouraging you to be on your guard .. to consider who you are in Christ and where you are in your faith walk.  To be alert to the dangers of embracing this world and your culture.  (Proverbs 14:12) “There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.” My role is to raise an awareness, frankly, what you do about it is between you and the Holy Spirit.  God Bless You!

Monday, May 21, 2018

The Challenge Of Putting God In His Proper Place

Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. —Matthew 6:33

{CHAMBERS} “When we look at these words of Jesus, we immediately find them to be the most revolutionary that human ears have ever heard. “…seek first the kingdom of God….” Even the most spiritually-minded of us argue the exact opposite, saying, “But I must live; I must make a certain amount of money; I must be clothed; I must be fed.” The great concern of our lives is not the kingdom of God but how we are going to take care of ourselves to live. Jesus reversed the order by telling us to get the right relationship with God first, maintaining it as the primary concern of our lives, and never to place our concern on taking care of the other things of life.“…do not worry about your life…” (Matthew 6:25). Our Lord pointed out that from His standpoint it is absolutely unreasonable for us to be anxious, worrying about how we will live. Jesus did not say that the person who takes no thought for anything in his life is blessed— no, that person is a fool. But Jesus did teach that His disciple must make his relationship with God the dominating focus of his life […] It is one of the most difficult, yet critical, disciplines of the Christian life to allow the Holy Spirit to bring us into absolute harmony with the teaching of Jesus in these verses.

{ELGIN}  A young man said to Jesus “Let me first go bury my father.”  Jesus replied “Let the dead bury the dead” (Luke 9:60)  Jesus said “Unless you hate your father and mother … you cannot be My disciple.”  (Luke 14:26)  Jesus said to the rich young man “Sell all you have and give it to the poor” (Mark 10:21) The men had a natural view of things … They were not evil .. they had good intensions, but .. Jesus point was to them and to us … there is something greater required of you … put God first in everything.  We don’t have a problem with the idea of putting God first, but struggle with doing that when it conflicts with our natural affections.  There are a number of commands that we can quote much more easily than we can put into practice.  Jesus could see the devotion of the heart in each of these men.  Obedience begins in the heart.  Are you willing to lay your life down .. all of your life … for God?  If not then what is it that demands your affection that sets itself up as the true god in your life?  Money.  Family. Occupation.  Lifestyle.  Traditions of your fathers or your culture?  (Mark 7:7-9) “‘These people honor me with their lips,  but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain;  their teachings are merely human rules.’ You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.” And he continued, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions.”

The path that we follow as Christians has a slippery slope.  It is easy to deceive ourselves and think that we are fulfilling God’s purpose when, in fact, we are following our own – watered-down religion.  One that puts our well being and what we consider to be right … ahead of God and what He has made clear in His word and through His Son.  So when God says “Love me first with your all”, that is exactly what He means.  When He says “Pick up your cross”, “Offer yourself as a living sacrifice”, that is exactly what He means.  But to live like that requires faith.  If you are not nurturing that faith then you will not be able to live the life that He has called you to.  Instead it will be a life that is a mere shadow of a new life in Christ.  It will have a good appearance but will lack the spiritual power that God has intended.  So to take you back to an old friend (Proverbs 3:5-8) “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes;  fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.”  Pray on that …

Friday, May 18, 2018

The Lemon Tree Is Pretty But The Fruit Is Impossible To Eat - And So Is Not Choosing God

Look at the birds of the air….Consider the lilies of the field… —Matthew 6:26, 28

{CHAMBERS} “So often we impair God’s designed influence, which He desires to exhibit through us, because of our own conscious efforts to be consistent and useful. Jesus said there is only one way to develop and grow spiritually, and that is through focusing and concentrating on God. In essence, Jesus was saying, “Do not worry about being of use to others; simply believe on Me.” […] Jesus is teaching here that growth in our spiritual life comes not from focusing directly on it, but from concentrating on our Father in heaven. Our heavenly Father knows our circumstances, and if we will stay focused on Him, instead of our circumstances, we will grow spiritually— just as “the lilies of the field.” The people who influence us the most are not those who detain us with their continual talk, but those who live their lives like the stars in the sky and “the lilies of the field”— simply and unaffectedly. Those are the lives that mold and shape us. If you want to be of use to God, maintain the proper relationship with Jesus Christ by staying focused on Him, and He will make use of you every minute you live— yet you will be unaware, on the conscious level of your life, that you are being used of Him.”

{ELGIN} (1 Corinthians 1:27) “But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong”  What does that have to do with my spiritual life?  The key to being successful in my Christian life is not trying harder.  It’s by “faithing” harder.  If someone wants to be successful in life .. let’s say as a pianist .. they must study and practice for hours on end.  Hard work will yield its reward.  But no so with our new life in Christ.  We have been saved by “grace through faith and not of works” (Ephesians 2:8-9)  Dr. Henry Blackaby, the author of Experiencing God, said “You have heard people say ‘Don’t just stand there, do something’.  But God is saying, ‘Don’t just do something, stand there.’”  Think about that.  Are you doing your best to not sin .. to be a better person .. mother .. father .. husband .. wife … son .. daughter .. friend … Christian?  God chose the simple things … the natural man .. you  old nature reasons that acting like a Christian will make you a Christian .. but what to do with all of the sin that accompanies that effort.  God says … love Me … grow you relationship with Me .. through prayer, the Word, fellowship with other Christians – I really should say “like-minded Christians.  My point is that you need to seek out Christians in whom the light of Christ is shining bright.  Christians who will encourage you in the faith and not just commiserate with you.

Listen, I know that it is very difficult to not seek out those that will sympathize with you, even empathize with you.  You are seeking comfort and assurance. But you need to go to the source of true comfort.  (2 Corinthians 1:3-4) “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” What we need are people who will walk with us as we move closer to God.  That is a decision that we must all make … but that many Christians, to their detriment, choose not to make.  Instead they prefer to do things the way they think best  … and yield the fruit of that choice .. and the fruit is bitter.  Friend isn’t it time you looked to another tree? Think about it.

I was just reminded of a song from years back ... it's about a lemon tree ... a refrain goes "Lemon tree very pretty, and the lemon flower is sweet, but the fruit of the poor lemon is impossible to eat."  A great analogy for our choosing any way to success in our new life other than the way that God has ordained.  Blessings ...

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Going Back To The Last Known Point In Your Spiritual Journey

It came to pass, while He blessed them, that He was parted from them and carried up into heaven. —Luke 24:51

{CHAMBERS} “[…] His [Jesus’] Cross is the door by which every member of the human race can enter into the life of God; by His resurrection He has the right to give eternal life to anyone, and by His ascension our Lord entered heaven, keeping the door open for humanity.[…] Our Lord returned to His original glory, but not simply as the Son of God— He returned to His father as the Son of Man as well. There is now freedom of access for anyone straight to the very throne of God because of the ascension of the Son of Man.”

{ELGIN}  There are times when we, as Christians, need to take pause and consider the magnificence … the incredible truth about Jesus … His sacrifice … His place in the heavenlies … and our new life in Him.  Who He is .. who we are in Him .. are more than mere factoids … trite phrases … they are eternal truths .. supernatural realities … why would we not embrace them and immerse ourselves in them?  You know don’t you.  This morning is an encouragement to reflect on who you are …

When I was learning land navigation in the Army, using a map and compass, the first rule for when you are not sure where you are is to go back to the last "known" point, get your bearings and strike out on your journey again.  As Christians, we need to do the same in our faith journey as we navigate this life over often steep terrain and thick underbrush.

I want to share a song which is sung by Andrae Crouch but one of the song writers was Elton John … that’s right not making that up … direct paste … “Songwriters: ELTON JOHN, GARY ANTHONY OSBORNE - Universal Music Publishing Group

Take Me Back

“Take me back, take me back dear Lord To the place where I first received you.
Take me back, take me back dear Lord where I First believed.

I feel that I'm so far from you Lord But still I hear you calling me
Those simple things that I once knew, Their memories keep drawing me.

I must confess, Lord I've been blessed But yet my soul's not satisfied.
Renew my faith, restore my joy And dry my weeping eyes.

I tried so hard To make it all alone
I need your help Just to make it home.”

Why don’t you make that your prayer this morning …