Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Don't Ask For Help From A Drowning Man

If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. —2 Corinthians 5:17

In today’s culture when someone says “Prejudice”, the narrow definition is racial prejudice or bias.  Actually the root of the word has to do with having an opinion about something.  Dislike or even hatred, of people of other races is one type of prejudice.  That is one of the prejudices that is part of our old nature. Let’s use that as an example.  Men have argued for years that one race is superior to another.  Typically it is the race in power that holds that view.  It is part of the old nature.  So what does the Bible say? Well, man was created in God’s image. (Genesis 1:26) Genesis does not say only white or red or black or yellow or brown.  So God must not have been referring to skin color or national origin.  Paul wrote “there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female” (Galatians 3:8) in the Body of Christ.  Jesus prayed “That they may be as one, as we are one" (John 17:11).  John wrote “If you say you love God and hate your Brother, you are a liar and the Truth is not in you.” (1 John 4:20)

We try to justify our prejudices – the opinions born out of our old nature – by turning to those who think like us to seek affirmation … and we will always find approval from those who have the same prejudices we do or at least are tolerant of our prejudices lest we fail to accept theirs.  If you want someone to say your sin is OK ask another sinner.  When drowning, why would you seek help from someone who is drowning beside you?  The Word of God is the place you go to know what is Truth.  The Spirit is the One that affirms and confirms what is right and what is wrong … the Spirit convicts us of our sins. (John16:8)  I know a good number of Christians that hold on to opinions – prejudices that were born out of their old nature.  So what to do?  It’s actually a simple solution that is impossible to accomplish by wishing it so …. it requires faith not will power.  We must surrender our prejudices – our old nature – to God.  Offering ourselves, daily, as a sacrifice.  Confessing our sins, daily. (1 John 1:9) As you develop your spiritual acuity, (one day you will have 20-20 spiritual vision) you will see those opinions or prejudices for what they are and abandon them by faith and through the power of the blood of Jesus.  “What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.  What can make me whole again? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.”

I was in a meeting some years back where the topic was racial reconciliation in the Body of Christ. The question of asked of the men of color (other than white) “Has anyone every expressed bigotry or prejudice toward you?  Virtually every hand of every man of color was raised. Then the question was asked to the men of European origin, “Have you ever expressed prejudice toward a man of color?” Very few raised their hands. Those men were thanked for their honesty.  The to those who had not raised their hands, the speaker asked, ”Do you even care that it happened?”  Good question.  When God asked Cain where his brother, Able, was, he answered “Am I my brother’s keeper?” The same might be asked of us.  As Christians, our answer is “yes”. Read Matthew 25:31-46.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Who Decides What Is Good? – God Does Not Us

Most Christians don’t struggle with those things that are blatantly “evil”, but with those that seem, on the surface, to be “good”.  Good as defined by our culture and our traditions.  There is a movement in our culture, in particular, to redefine the definition of “good” or what is not sin. Isaiah wrote …  “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.”  - Isaiah 5:20 There is a consequence for that which will be paid in full.

Centuries later men continued to strive to be like God and define what is good and acceptable.  Paul wrote in the beginning of his letter to the Romans .. “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. … they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools… They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God's righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. – Romans 18,20-22,28-32  

Jesus accused the Church of Ephesus  of being lukewarm in Revelation 2.  They wanted to do both.  Embrace God and embrace the world.  When there is a clash of definitions of good, God is very often abandoned in favor of the culture.  God is rejected and the culture is embraced.  Those Christians who do it feel justified. It is the temptation of “Everyone is doing it”, so it must be OK. It is a great temptation.  I can remember moms used to respond to their teenagers. The teenager would say, “But, mom, everybody is doing it!” and the mom would say, “If everybody jumped off of a bridge would you do it?”  The temptation to be like everyone else is strong in our old nature.    Before Jesus, everyone was going to hell … today without Jesus .. they are still going to hell … that does not make it good.  God is the source of what is good .. His Word tells us what is sin and what is not.  The thing is, God is not going to change. His Spirit convicts us of sin unless we quench the Spirit.  

Listen, the consequence of standing on Truth and the Word, in the face of what our culture says is right, will likely be that you are castigated and rejected. You want to be like Jesus don’t you? You know how the world treated Him. Or are you only interested in the “good” parts. 

 If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father also. - John 15:18-27

We are in a spiritual battle that manifests itself in the way people live and believe.  My encouragement to you .. 
“Choose this day whom you will serve .. but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” - Joshua 24:15  

Make it more than a catch phrase or a plaque on your living room wall.  Make it a commitment … everyday … and more than that … do it!

Monday, January 14, 2019

How Do You Respond To Life With Emotion Or Devotion?

“But Peter declared, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the other disciples said the same.’ –  Matthew 26:35

The Apostle Peter thought that he could do a spiritual thing through the strength of his own will.  If you notice, so did the other disciples. When I re-read the passage I realized that most preachers focus on Peter and ignore that eleven others felt the same way. You know how that worked for him.  It’s easy to sit in judgement over Peter.  Shaking our knowing heads.  No way Peter! Who do you think you are?  And yet, we are guilty of the same thing.  Trying to be Christians … do the right thing … in the power of our flesh.  Letting our emotions be a poor substitute for the Spirit of God.  Thinking that our own plans are equal with the plans and will of God.  Essentially denying the sovereignty of God .. trying to be our own god.  What! No way you say.  Yes way!  Everything we do .. everything we say .. what we think .. what we want .. should be .. must be … in the context of whose we are and who God is.  Look … our life after our rebirth is a struggle.  Our old nature wants to rule and guide, but our new nature has another ruler and another guide.  In all fairness to Peter, he had not received the Holy Spirit so he lacked the power to be and do in a way that would overcome.  

 “‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of hosts.” – Zechariah 4:6

Read this account in Acts of Peter being confronted after he received the Spirit of God.

“The next day the rulers, the elders and the teachers of the law met in Jerusalem. Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas, John, Alexander and others of the high priest’s family. They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: “By what power or what name did you do this?” Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed.  Jesus is “‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’” – Acts 4:5-11

Is that the same guy that denied Jesus before people around a fire?  Yes and no.  It was Peter, but the new Peter not the old one.  Now Peter could have stood before those religious leaders, even with the Spirit in him and responded with his flesh.  If he had, he would have failed just like before.  The first time, Peter did not glorify God, he protected himself.  The second time, he did glorify God at the peril of prison or worse.  The difference was who he was trusting in.  It was not his emotion, it was his devotion.

 “Now this I know: The Lord gives victory to his anointed. He answers him from his heavenly sanctuary with the victorious power of his right hand. Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm.” – Psalm 20:6-8

That can be you as you face life each day.  You will always be tested to trust in yourself and not God.  To respond to a situation with emotion and not devotion.  If you are wondering where the victory in Jesus is, in daily living. That may be the root of your problem.  You are trying to do what only God can do through you.  Examine your heart.  Draw close to God through the Word and prayer.  Pick up your cross daily and follow Jesus.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Not Trusting God Comes Naturally

In my experience the greatest enemy facing me and my desire to follow God and yield to His leading and ways is, well…. It’s me.  Not trusting God is part of my old nature, trusting God is part of the new. I find it so easy to agree with God and acknowledge His precepts as right, and yet, when faced with life I turn to me and not Him.  The phrase Living by Faith is not meant to be a plaque on the living room wall … or merely a pleasantry that we acknowledge as being right.  To live by faith – in God – means to trust Him first. 

Living by faith is not like one of the bodily functions controlled by the autonomic nervous system .. like breathing and heart beats … something that you don’t have to think about … Living by faith is intentional … an act of the will.  If you are struggling in your faith, it is most likely that the source of the struggle is you .. not your circumstances.  Like the man who said to Jesus “Help me with my unbelief”  (Mark 9:21-24)  “Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?” “From childhood,” he answered. “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.” Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!””

In this life on Earth, we are not spared form hardship or heartache, but … we can endure whatever life brings our way if we will only have faith in the One who sent His Son … The One who created us from dust and breathed life into us.  Once in our natural birth and then again in our rebirth when He sealed us with His Spirit – the Breath of God.  I know that trusting God in the midst of the turmoil of life can be difficult .. maybe you think impossible … 

If Christians neglect the disciplines of the faith … if Sunday is the sum total of the time they spend with the Father, and maybe not even then  … then when the test comes . .and it will come, they will likely get a failing grade.  Not because God was not able to sustain them, but because they chose to ignore Him and trust themselves.  Why is something that seems so simple, so hard to do? Because it’s in the DNA of our old nature to trust ourselves even if it always leads to failure.  Remember that is the definition of insanity

Thursday, January 10, 2019

A Prayer Of Repentance – Take Me Back Lord Where I First Believed

OSWALD CHAMBERS – “God is saying to His people, “You are not in love with Me now, but I remember a time when you were.” He says, “I remember . . . the love of your betrothal . . .” (Jeremiah 2:2). Am I as filled to overflowing with love for Jesus Christ as I was in the beginning, when I went out of my way to prove my devotion to Him? Is that where I am now, or have I chosen man’s wisdom over true love for Him?” 

Andrae Crouch wrote the song “Take Me Back”  It is about someone who has let the fire go out in their relationship with Jesus.

 “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.” 

Is your love for God still fresh, like the day you prayed to receive Christ as your Lord? Or, have you become casual in your relationship with Him. Do you still acknowledge His divine nature and His sacrifice and the unbelievable grace and mercy that God poured out on your life with unbridled devotion to Him? Or do you treat your relationship as “no big deal”, you are a Christian .. you love Jesus .. but you are no fanatic.

Maybe it is time to rekindle the fire that once burned so brightly in your life.  To remember just how magnificent your salvation is .. and how great our God is.

Will you make this your prayer of repentance today? Like the prodigal son to his father. It’s time to come home.

"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.”

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

You Need Help To Live Your New Life

When John the Baptist was baptizing people in the Jordan River, it was a baptism of repentance.  The people had a desire to turn from their sins and draw close to God.  But that baptism did not bring salvation. It was not permanent. Baptize means to be identified with.  When we are baptized by the Holy Spirit we are identified, eternally, with Jesus.   (John 14:16-17) “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever;  that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.”  The Spirit was part of God’s plan.  

Something happened in the Garden, the spiritual nature in man, died.  To be properly restored to God, there needed to be a sacrifice and there needed to be a Spiritual rebirth, a restoration if you will.  While we walk this earth, we need the Spirit in us to maintain spiritual life which enables us to connect spiritually with God the Father.  By the Spirit, through the Son.  On the day of salvation, we are sealed by the Spirit.  (Ephesians 1:13-14) “In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.” 

 When Nicodemus came to Jesus seeking answers about eternal life, what did Jesus say to him?   (John 3:5-6) “Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”   Christian, do you understand what an amazing thing happened to you when you were born again?  What was broken in the Garden by Adam, was restored through the cross by Jesus, established by faith and sealed with the Spirit. Oh that we would live each day with an awareness of our new life.  Don’t be content with living the way you formerly did before Jesus. You have been saved to a much greater life.  But you can only live it successfully by the power of the Spirit in you.  He is our Helper.  

Why would God give us a Helper?  Because we need one.  Stop trying to live your new life on your own.  You were never intended to.  It’s an impossibility.  CHARLEY

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Abandoning The Things Of This World Starts In The Heart

OSWALD CHAMBERS “Our Lord’s teaching can be summed up in this: the relationship that He demands for us is an impossible one unless He has done a supernatural work in us. No amount of enthusiasm will ever stand up to the strain that Jesus Christ will put upon His servant. Only one thing will bear the strain, and that is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ Himself— a relationship that has been examined, purified, and tested until only one purpose remains and I can truly say, “I am here for God to send me where He will.”  

Many of Oswald Chamber’s devotions were derived by his wife from his lectures at a Bible College.  He was speaking to men and women who had been called by God to service beyond what most of us are called to after our conversion.  But, no matter the what or where of your calling, the principles are the same.  Even the person with only one spiritual gift and that gift they may consider to be almost non-essential (God does not agree with them by the way) faces the same challenges that every other saint faces in living their new life.  We are all called to abandon the same things, even though for most it will be an abandonment in the heart, but with a few, it will require physical abandonment.  It is one thing to say that you love God more than your family, it is quite another to leave your family and go on Mission for God.  It is one thing to say that you do not love the things of this world, it is quite another to sell your house and put your retirement at risk in order to go where God has said “Go!”.

I would find it very difficult to write these things to you if I had no intention of doing them myself.  When I was on staff with Promise Keepers in the ‘90s, there was a saying that was popular among us.  “You can’t teach what you don’t know, you can’t lead where you won’t go, and you can only recreate what you are.”  The secret to going is obedience and faith.  Faith comes from God and obedience comes from a “broken and contrite heart”, wholly submitted to the will of God.  Every step you take for God requires the power of God.  It is a glorious life .. living by faith and not by sight.  

The person whose abandonment is only in the heart is no less faithful than the one who must abandon physically as well in response to the call of God.  The point is being obedient to God no matter what He calls you to do. So when the Spirit whispers in your ear, “This is the way walk in it.”  (Isaiah 30:21) Walk on! … to the glory of God and in testimony to a world that needs to see Jesus. CHARLEY