Wednesday, August 15, 2018

If You Are Born Again, Then Power To Not Sin Is In You

You must be born again. —John 3:7 

“This new life exhibits itself in our conscious repentance and through our unconscious holiness. “But as many as received Him…” (John 1:12). … My spiritual history must have as its underlying foundation a personal knowledge of Jesus Christ. To be born again means that I see Jesus…. Am I seeking only for the evidence of God’s kingdom, or am I actually recognizing His absolute sovereign control? … To be born of God means that I have His supernatural power to stop sinning. ….. 1 John 3:9 does not mean that we cannot sin— it simply means that if we will obey the life of God in us, that we do not have to sin.” OSWALD CHAMBERS

When Jesus spoke to Nicodemus, they were talking at cross-purposes. Cross-purposes means “people do not understand each other because they are working towards or talking about different things without realizing it.  Jesus was speaking spiritual truth.  Nicodemus was thinking in the natural.  Unless you are born again, it is impossible to understand the spiritual.  You need the Spirit of God in you.  But, even then, very often, after we are born again and we have been sealed by the Spirit of God, we continue to think in the natural.  Why is that? (rhetorical question)  Because we fail to practice the disciplines of the faith.  Our minds are not set on Christ.  

(Hebrews 3:1) “Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest.”  We had a pastor in Savannah, GA say “When you read “therefore” you need to see what is there – for.” (Hebrews 2:10-18) “In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered. Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters. He says, “I will declare your name to my brothers and sisters; in the assembly I will sing your praises.” And again, “I will put my trust in him.” And again he says, “Here am I, and the children God has given me.” Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. …. For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” 

You don’t have to face temptation on your own.  You don’t “have” to sin.  It’s a choice.  God has made a way to overcome the power of your old nature. (1 Corinthians 10:13)  What are you struggling with today?  Fear? Doubt? Some temptation that always leads you down the path to sin and shame?  Stop relying on yourself and instead look to Jesus.  Some may say, “I tried that and it didn’t work”, I would suggest that you were still relying on yourself and your own determination.  You can guess why I know that!  (Philippians 4:13) “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” Believe it. 

On second thought

When I read the verse reference John 1:12, I was reminded about seed planting.  When you share the Truth – the Gospel with people, you plant a seed.  You never know what will happen to that seed. (see the Parable of the seed in Matthew 13:1-24) In 1951 my step dad was in the Marine Corps in Korea.  A Navy Chaplain gave him a Bible and wrote the inscription you see in the picture.  It was not until 1969 did that seed sprout and bear fruit.  Don’t dispel the urge to speak into someone’s life.  Do that knowing that you can’t save anyone.  Your purpose is to point people to the One who can. That is not to say that you may not be given the privilege to see someone come to salvation, but that won’t happen most of the time. You should not let the fact that the seed must geminate before it bears fruit deter you from your purpose.  CHARLEY

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Conviction Of Sin And Why You Struggle With It

My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him. —Hebrews 12:5

“It is very easy to grieve the Spirit of God; we do it by despising the discipline of the Lord, or by becoming discouraged when He rebukes us. … “Do not quench the Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 5:19), and do not despise Him when He says to you, in effect, “Don’t be blind on this point anymore— you are not as far along spiritually as you thought you were. … We begin to pout, become irritated with God, and then say, “Oh well, I can’t help it. I prayed and things didn’t turn out right anyway. So I’m simply going to give up on everything.” … Sanctification is not my idea of what I want God to do for me— sanctification is God’s idea of what He wants to do for me. But He has to get me into the state of mind and spirit where I will allow Him to sanctify me completely, whatever the cost (see 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).” OSWALD CHAMBERS 

(Romans 8:29) “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”  So you want to be like Jesus.  You want to do what Jesus would do. Really?  For that to happen you must go through the “fire”.  What fire?  The fire of sanctification.  That is the process by which God, the Father, conforms you into the likeness of Jesus, the One who was obedient to the will of the Father, even to the Cross. 

Very often, we are like Adam and Eve when it comes to our sin.  We try to hide in the bushes. Hoping, that perhaps, God will not see us in our shame.  Too late!  And when that happens, sin I mean, the Holy Spirit will convict you of that sin.  (John 16:7-11)  “Unless I [Jesus] go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because people do not believe in me;  about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer;  and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.” Being convicted of your sin is not enjoyable, but it is good.  We are all in a constant battle with our old nature .. our sinful nature.  It rises up daily to dominate our thinking and our doing.  But we have an Advocate!  We are sealed with the Holy Spirit on the day of our rebirth. The Spirit not only established our new, spiritual nature in Christ, but helps us live our new life.  Look, you may be able to hide your sin from man, but you cannot, ever, hide your sin from God.  God knows the heart of man .. your heart.  

So what to do?  You are not going to lose your salvation over it, but as Paul said (Romans 6:1-4) “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”  Read 1 John 1:9 – yes, unless you have memorized it, you will have to look it up.  And then do what it says.   CHARLEY

Friday, August 10, 2018

Are You Living For Today Or Living For Eternity?

“Let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good… —1 Peter 4:19 

“Choosing to suffer means that there must be something wrong with you, but choosing God’s will— even if it means you will suffer— is something very different. No normal, healthy saint ever chooses suffering; he simply chooses God’s will, just as Jesus did, whether it means suffering or not. God places His saints where they will bring the most glory to Him, and we are totally incapable of judging where that may be.” OSWALD CHAMBERS 

When I was in the Army I used to say that we practiced to be miserable. In many respects that was true.  It is often necessary for the military to go places that are difficult, and ,yes, dangerous.  Would God send His children to difficult and dangerous places, absolutely.  For many Christians in the United States, their definition of a difficult place is when there is no air conditioning. The fact is, that in order to find yourself in a difficult or dangerous place, you must be willing to say “yes” to His calling. Jesus said (Matthew 16:24) “If anyone comes after me, he must pick up his cross, daily, and follow Me.”  Frankly speaking, most of us are not willing to walk that path of rejection and rebuke.  Living a life with nowhere to lay your head. (Luke 9:58

Years ago, a volunteer asked me, while in the midst of the devastation left by Hurricane Katrina, “Do you like being in Mississippi?”  I told them that no one had ever asked me that question before.  After thinking about it for a moment, I answered, “There is nothing better than being in the center of God’s will for your life. Geography has nothing to do with it. So, yes,  I love being in Mississippi.”  It really boils down to whether your focus is on you or God. Whether you go or not will tell the tale. God’s affirmation is not pouring out of material wealth and comfort.  It is certainly not sleeping in an airconditioned room when you volunteer in a third world country or in an area devastated by a natural disaster. Pastor Rick Warren said “God is more concerned with your character than your comfort.”  Are you OK with that? God does not change so if you are not ok with adversity, the “change” ball is in your court. CHARLEY

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Culture And Christianity, Do You Know The Difference And Which Do You Defer To?

“Supernatural sense is the gift of His Son, and we should never put our common sense on the throne. The Son always recognizes and identifies with the Father, but common sense has never yet done so and never will. Our ordinary abilities will never worship God unless they are transformed by the indwelling Son of God. We must make sure that our human flesh is kept in perfect submission to Him, allowing Him to work through it moment by moment.” OSWALD CHAMBERS

(1 Peter 1:17-19) “Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear. For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.”  The nature of man is to cling to his culture.  What he or she has been taught is right and wrong by man. 

When I was in grade school I can remember reading about the United States being a “melting pot”  where many nations came together to be one people.  Actually , it was man’s attempt to do what only God can do.  That attempt failed.  What I see today is one nation with many cultures trying to cling to what they were before they or their ancestors came to the United States.  People set up enclaves centered on their ethnicity or nationality.  European, African, Hispanic, the list goes on.  It is the nature of man to associate with people who look and act like themselves.  Among Christians, it is the same.  Someone said that 11:00am Sunday is the most segregated hour of the week in the United States. For most people when they read this, their minds will think I am referring to black and white, but it is more pervasive than that.

(Galatians 3:26-29) “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” 

2 Corinthians 5:17 says - old things – including your primary devotion to your race or ancestors nationality – are gone and all has become new.  That is a spiritual truth – a fact.  One which many Christians have a hard time living with and applying.  Why? Because devotion to the traditions of their natural fathers are very strong. I have said several times, if I was standing with a group of men and said something against their fathers or ancestors, they would become angry, but if I used God’s name in vain, few, if any, would care.  Why? Because they are more devoted to men than they are to God. When I would preach in a Haitian church for the first time, I would always begin with “Mwen pa blan, mwen fre nou” which is to say “I am not white, I am your Brother”  That was a hard truth to digest for a congregation of mountain people who rarely saw a white man.  My point was that I was not standing before them as a white American, but as an adopted son of God, saved by the blood of Jesus and His resurrection.

How do you want people to see you?  How do you see yourself? First as a Christian? If you believe Matthew 22:37, that you are to love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength. Where does that leave your natural heritage and the traditions of your father?  Listen, what I am telling you is truth, but it is a hard truth.  It is difficult to overcome.  We don’t all have to speak with the same accent or eat the same food or like the same clothing style, but we serve the same Lord and belong to the same family. What the founders of this country tried to set in place with written law, God has already put in place through His Son by His Spirit. So maybe we should act like it. CHARLEY

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Living By Faith And Not By Flesh

“If the Son of God has been born into my human flesh, then am I allowing His holy innocence, simplicity, and oneness with the Father the opportunity to exhibit itself in me?” OSWALD CHAMBERS 

(Galatians 2:20) “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”  One of the greatest challenges that Christians face is living by faith and not by flesh.  The reason, I think, is because, typically, we don’t respect God or acknowledge that our life is not our own.  We fail to fully yield our lives to God.  We talk a good game, but we decide, for ourselves, how much of our lives we will yield to God.  It might be possessions, relationships, attitudes, devotions, even past hurts that we choose cling to.  I sometimes wonder why God would tolerate it.  Have you ever had a defiant child who would not listen?  A child who defiantly chose that which was harmful or hurtful in place of what was right and good?  They were going to do things their way, no matter what.  Why would God permit us, those who claim Jesus as Lord, to act like defiant children in light of His Son’s great sacrifice for our salvation. God’s grace and mercy, the grace and mercy that covers our sin and opens the doors of eternity in heaven up to us, is beyond my comprehension. 

I have said this before, but everything in our lives has a spiritual context. (Ephesians 6:12) “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” We choose to parse life out in the natural and spiritual, but life is not really like that at all. The natural and spiritual are not equal.  As a Christian, it is important that you see everything in its spiritual context.  Before your new birth, it was impossible.  Jesus said “Father forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34) In other words, the people only had a natural understanding.  Spiritual insight must begin with your life and then it can expand to the lives of others and the world.  When it begins with you, there will be a change … transformation … old things passing away .. all things becoming new in the context of your new life in Christ. The light of Christ will begin to shine through you.  God will be glorified and the Gospel will be proclaimed to a world darkened by sin.  But you have to let that happen .. desire it .. embrace it even though your flesh will resist. CHARLEY

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Are You A Religious Fanatic? I Hope So.

…they found Him in the temple….And He said to them, "…Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?" —Luke 2:46, 49 

“Am I continually in touch with the reality of God, or do I pray only when things have gone wrong— when there is some disturbance in my life? … Are you so closely identified with the Lord’s life that you are simply a child of God, continually talking to Him and realizing that everything comes from His hands? … You must allow Him to have His way with you, staying in perfect oneness with Him.” OSWALD CHAMBERS

Do you know any religious fanatics?  You know who I mean.  The people that are always over the top with their expressions about their faith in Jesus.  Those emotional people that make you feel tired after being around them for only a few minutes.  In a large measure what you see is more a reflection of personality than of spirituality.  That is not to say they don’t love the Lord, rather it’s their expression of that love that makes you uncomfortable.  I don’t think Jesus wore a bracelet that had WWID on it. (What Would I Do) He didn’t hand out tracts.  But, He was nevertheless the greatest witness to the Love of God the Father that there ever will be.  By the way, just because a person seems over the top about their faith does not mean that they are that way in their heart.  That behavior can be a mask for someone who is struggling and trying to convince themselves, even more than they are trying to convince you, of their faithfulness to and love for God.

So, setting personality differences aside, what would God have us do.  Micah 6:8 is a good start. “Do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with your God” John 15:13 “Lay down your life for others” Matthew 16:24 “Pick up you cross and follow Jesus”  Romans 12:1-2 “Offer yourself as a living sacrifice … don’t not be conformed to this world, but be transformed”  Galatians 6:2 “Bear one another’s burdens … fulfill the law of Christ” Matthew 22:37-39 “Love God and love people” 

Now that is what I would call being a religious fan-atic.  Being a fan of God and not the world. And if you feel like shouting now and again, go ahead on.  Like the song says “I’ll shout it from the mountain tops.  I want the world to know.  The Lord of love has come to me.  I want to pass it on.” And remember, your new life in Christ is fully dependent upon faith and the presence and power of the Spirit of God in your life.  You can’t do any of those things on your own, by yourself.  Someone can certainly put a smile on their face, tell everyone about the love of Jesus, and their heart is cold as ice toward God. CHARLEY

Monday, August 6, 2018

Does God Hear Me When I Pray? It Depends On Who My Father Is

This is a bit long today .. no apologies .. just a heads up

"In that day you will ask in My name…" —John 16:26

““Your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him” (Matthew 6:8). Then why should we ask? The point of prayer is not to get answers from God, but to have perfect and complete oneness with Him. If we pray only because we want answers, we will become irritated and angry with God. We receive an answer every time we pray, but it does not always come in the way we expect, and our spiritual irritation shows our refusal to identify ourselves truly with our Lord in prayer. We are not here to prove that God answers prayer, but to be living trophies of God’s grace.” OSWALD CHAMBERS

There is a very subtle implication in what Chambers said.  If my grandson was to go to someone who lives on our block and ask for $20 so he can take his girlfriend to the movies, he would most likely be turned away.  The reason? That person has no connection with my grandson and no obligation to give him anything. He might even be told, “Go ask someone in your own family.”  Jesus said “your Father”.  Jesus was saying for those whose Father is the Creator God, He knows what His children need, before they ask. Well, what about those who are not His children? I refer you back to my grandson. 

We don’t like to think about God turning people away.  Especially when people are in trouble. Martie and I were called to Illinois recently.  My oldest sister was in the hospital.  She was in trouble, medically speaking.  Things did not look good.  The doctors did not have much hope.  The family was frantic.  Her husband was desperate for answers.  They were reluctantly coming to grips with the fact that end of my sister’s life here on earth was coming to an end.  My sister is a Believer and she has hope beyond this life. She couldn’t talk because of the tube in her lungs, so she wrote a note on her tablet to me, “I may be going to heaven today.”  Her husband and daughter asked me to pray for her … every day I was there, several times a day.  I rallied the Saints that we know across the U.S. to pray for her. My two brothers headed to Peoria to be with the family in anticipation of her passing.  There was a lot of weeping.

And then something happened.  God showed up!  The nurse put a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) wristband on her.  When the doctor removed the tube, to their surprise, Sherry started breathing on her own.  She needed supplemental oxygen, but she needed that before this hospital visit.  The first time they tried to remove the tube she had a minor heart attack and could not breath so they had put the tube back in.  God heard the prayers of the Saints.  I believe that He restored my sister, not only for her good, but for His glory.  

Paul said “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8)  During the course of this time with my sister, someone said, half joking, “I hope my faith is real.” Dr. Del Tackett, from Focus on the Family, asked the question “Do you believe that what you believe is really real” Do you? 

Paul wrote (1 Corinthians 15:17-19) “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.” I cannot convince anyone that my faith is real.  They can see my life and those things that happen, but they can attribute those things to something else, not God.  It is the Spirit of God that will confirm and affirm the reality of your faith. 

So back to the room in the CICU (Cardiac Intensive Care Unit).  Jesus said "If your Father is not the God of heaven then he is the god of this world." (John 8:42-47)  Telling people that there father is the devil will not endear them to you.  They prefer to think that they are independent.  On their own. The captain of their own ship.  Nope .. not true.  So when times get tough and they have no alternative but to seek the Creator God, well it is like knocking on the door if a neighbor’s house.  I believe that the only prayer that God will hear from the lost is the prayer for salvation. It does not matter how desperate you are.  How much you plead to or promise God to make a bad situation go away.  If you are not His child He has no obligation to respond to you.  I believe my sister was healed by the prayers of the Saints not the lost huddled up, wringing their hands in the waiting room.  

It has been 5 days since Sherrie had the tube removed.  Today she is at home.  (Liking posts on Facebook) And now that the crisis is over, people are going back to their routines.  I don't think most are not thinking about God but all are thankful that Sherrie is better. But, I am trusting that a few, maybe even only one, will turn their hearts toward God because of what they witnessed -  a miracle. My desire is that they will pray the one prayer that God will hear and that they will find eternal life in His Son. Because He is risen, indeed! CHARLEY