Tuesday, April 24, 2018

It's Time To Leave The Christian Welfare Culture Behind And Get To Work

Do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you… —Luke 10:20

{CHAMBERS} “In Luke 10:20, Jesus told the disciples not to rejoice in successful service, and yet this seems to be the one thing in which most of us do rejoice. We have a commercialized view— we count how many souls have been saved and sanctified, we thank God, and then we think everything is all right. Yet our work only begins where God’s grace has laid the foundation. Our work is not to save souls, but to disciple them. Salvation and sanctification are the work of God’s sovereign grace, and our work as His disciples is to disciple others’ lives until they are totally yielded to God. […] As workers for God, we must reproduce our own kind spiritually, and those lives will be God’s testimony to us as His workers. God brings us up to a standard of life through His grace, and we are responsible for reproducing that same standard in others. […] Whenever our Lord talked about discipleship, He always prefaced His words with an “if,” never with the forceful or dogmatic statement— “You must.” Discipleship carries with it an option.”

{ELGIN}  Do you consider yourself a “Christian worker” or do you think that only people who are ministry in church or on mission are the workers.  I ask because if you read some of Chambers devotions you might think that they don’t apply to you.  We are all Christian workers with a common ministry.  We have all been given the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:17-20) “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors  That means that we are all workers.  Imagine if you went to a football game to watch and the coach came into the stands and said “Suit up, I am putting you in!” But you just came to watch the game .. to cheer when someone gets slammed to the ground … you had no intention of letting that happen to you!  Being a Christian is not a spectator sport.  It’s messy, demanding, grueling at times even.  But we are not asked to “play the game” on our own.  We have the power of God with us and in us.

I want you to see the bigger picture.  In Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren wrote “It’s not about me.” And it isn’t.  We are not saved to tell the world about ourselves … just to be blessed and happy .. content with our comfort …. we are Christ’s ambassadors .. we represent Him to the world .. but for some of us, we don’t do that so well.  We refuse to get out of our seat … we try to blend in with the crowd around us … we only want to enjoy the “upside” of being a Christian … the benefits and blessings without any responsibility toward God.  It’s like a Christian welfare culture.  Lord bless me but don’t ask me to do anything that would make me feel uncomfortable or endanger my lifestyle or relationships or require me to do something for You.  Think about it .. pray about it .. and repent if you need to … Then get you game face on (which is to say get right spiritually) .. the Coach is putting you in!

Monday, April 23, 2018

Faith Without Works Is Dead But ... Works Without Faith Are Also Dead

My Utmost For His Highest

We are God’s fellow workers… —1 Corinthians 3:9

{CHAMBERS} “Beware of any work for God that causes or allows you to avoid concentrating on Him. A great number of Christian workers worship their work. The only concern of Christian workers should be their concentration on God. This will mean that all the other boundaries of life, whether they are mental, moral, or spiritual limits, are completely free with the freedom God gives His child; that is, a worshiping child, not a wayward one. […] The only responsibility you have is to stay in living constant touch with God, and to see that you allow nothing to hinder your cooperation with Him. The freedom that comes after sanctification is the freedom of a child, and the things that used to hold your life down are gone. […] We have no right to decide where we should be placed, or to have preconceived ideas as to what God is preparing us to do. God engineers everything; and wherever He places us, our one supreme goal should be to pour out our lives in wholehearted devotion to Him in that particular work. “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might…” (Ecclesiastes 9:10).”

{ELGIN} (James 2:14-26)  “….. faith without works is dead.”  That is a pretty common Bible reference.  Good works are a natural product of our faith.  (Ephesians 2:10) “we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  For God’s glory not ours.  The problem so many of us have is that works can supplant our devotion to the One who called us to the work.  So faith has nothing to do with the work we do.  Two people can be passing water to thirsty people.  One is a Christian and one is not.  The thirsty person’s thirst is quenched by both.  You see you can do “good things” and not have the power of God behind what you do.  That is what makes it so easy to abandon God and make what you are doing all your own.  You might still wear a T-shirt or hat or bracelet that makes reference to your faith or to Jesus, but your heart is far from God.  There is no eternal power in what you do.  Like the Pharisees, you have become a “whitewashed tomb filled with dead men’s bones.” I must constantly remind myself that what I do, I do because I am a child of God and I am about my Father’s business.  If I don’t nurture my spiritual life, then my natural life will soon take over.

We are working on a home right now.  It’s really a cool house .. in a rustic sense … we had occasion to pour a cement landing outside the back door.  I was doing some shovel work preparing the area when I felt something solid under the point of my shovel.  I scraped the dirt away to find pavers – a brick path.  As I followed the bricks I uncovered a patio.  Time and neglect had taken over what was once a beautiful garden patio.  It took a great deal of effort, but eventually the patio was restored.  It’s the same with our spiritual lives.  If we neglect the disciplines of our faith, soon God’s handiwork will be covered over.  You might still “do” what you were doing before but you have become like those Paul wrote about in 2 Timothy 3:5, “having a form of godliness but denying its power”.  You see – work, no matter how well intentioned or how good or helpful - without faith is dead.  Each of us must examine what we do and why we do it.  Just as with our salvation – saved by grace through faith and not works – we bring glory to God by faith in our work.

Friday, April 20, 2018

God Is Good All The Time - Even When Things Are Going Badly

All the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen… —2 Corinthians 1:20

{CHAMBERS} “When it is a question of God’s Almighty Spirit, never say, “I can’t.” Never allow the limitation of your own natural ability to enter into the matter. If we have received the Holy Spirit, God expects the work of the Holy Spirit to be exhibited in us.  The servant justified himself, while condemning his lord on every point, as if to say, “Your demand on me is way out of proportion to what you gave to me.” Have we been falsely accusing God by daring to worry after He has said, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you”? (Matthew 6:33). Worrying means exactly what this servant implied— “I know your intent is to leave me unprotected and vulnerable.” A person who is lazy in the natural realm is always critical, saying, “I haven’t had a decent chance,” and someone who is lazy in the spiritual realm is critical of God. Lazy people always strike out at others in an independent way. Never forget that our capacity and capability in spiritual matters is measured by, and based on, the promises of God.”

{ELGIN} When something doesn’t go your way .. .something bad happens, some might say that it was because you don’t have enough faith or maybe some sin you committed.  Did you know that all of the disciples were martyred?  Do you suppose that happened because of their lack of faith or perhaps the consequence of some sin they failed to confess? I think not.  People have been trying to figure out the balance between our new life in Christ and the events that happen or fail to happen in our earthly life.  We tend to put good things on the “God’s Blessings” side and bad things on the “What have I done wrong side”. The fact of the matter is that bad things happen to good people. (That is part of  a book title, by the way)  Dr. James Dobson wrote a book “When God Doesn’t Make Sense”  Both address the whys and wherefores of unpleasant things in life happening to Christians.  I mean, after all, aren’t “All the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen”?  The Bible is like an apple tree … Christians tend to pick the apples that are attractive to them and leave the ones that are not.  The fact is that all of the “apples” are for our consumption.  Our challenge, frankly, is to trust God even when life goes south … someone gets sick or dies … you experience financial loss .. get fired or laid off from work … a relationship with someone you care about is broken, apparently beyond repair … the list is pretty long …

Let me share a challenge Martie and I faced recently.  Martie had what turned out to be a Gallstone in her urethra – Google it if you don’t know what a urethra is – I did.  We thought it was a heart attack.  Well, we had just left work with the Air Force and surrendered our health benefits.  We were in transition to Medicare.  We had part A – hospitalization – but were waiting on documentation from the Air Force so we could get Part B – Out Patient.  I rushed her to the emergency room.  The people were really professional and caring.  I asked if Part A would cover the visit and was told “Yes”.  I later found out that I asked the wrong person – that answer was actually “No”.  They treated her for a heart attack – which it wasn’t.  They did some imaging … thought it was a Gallstone, but saw a shadow on her kidney which they thought might be cancer .. they did some more testing .. finally the radiologist told them that it was a cyst which is not uncommon .. not cancer … can you say “emotional roller coaster”? We left relieved … after a few days, the pain stopped .. apparently the stone had passed into her intestine .. not like a kidney stone.  Then the other shoe dropped .. Medicare notified us that the claim for almost $35,000 was denied. 

What!!!  I mean, hey, we are missionaries Lord!  We have laid our lives down for others … come on!  Lord are You going to let them take our money?  (Just being honest)  Martie came to me crying .. she just had been praying that God would intervene and it looked like we would lose a big chunk of our life’s savings. But as Paul Harvey used to say “And now for the rest of the story”  I took all of the bill notices back to the emergency room to get some answers .. like “Why did you say Part A was OK”  I talked to the Director.  During the course of our conversation, she said that I was only the second Elgin she had ever met.  The other was her first boyfriend.  I thought "Uh-oh … this may not be good!"  Then she said that her maiden name was “Charles” and she was getting goose bumps.  (Elgin Charles - Charles Elgin - get it?) I told her it was the Spirit of God and then she told me she was a Christian.  When I shared about Haiti she told me that her grandfather was from Haiti and so I said something in Creole (Bondye Bon – God is Good) and we conversed briefly in Creole … the RN sitting at the desk was looking on in amazement.  The Director told me to go to the main hospital and speak with accounting … that we would not be charged the full amount … I did and they told me that the hospital portion had been reduced to  $3,000.  But we would have to pay the two Doctors separately – another $3500.  Turns out that the accounting representative was also a Christian and so we had church in the waiting room … got a lot of stares from the people sitting there.  My point … Martie and I had to be reminded that God is in control and even of we had to pay all of the money … God is faithful and would walk with us through it.  We are not on mission so we can derive some benefit from it … we are on mission because God has called us to it and we know that we are right where He wants us to be .. in spite of the storms that rage around us.  He might even ask you to give something us that you thought was "safe".  And if He does ... we will trust Him anyway.  I pray that the same is true for you.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

What To Do About Sin - Don't Hide It - Confide It And Be Restored

Joab had defected to Adonijah, though he had not defected to Absalom. —1 Kings 2:28

CHAMBERS} “Joab withstood the greatest test of his life, remaining absolutely loyal to David by not turning to follow after the fascinating and ambitious Absalom. Yet toward the end of his life he turned to follow after the weak and cowardly Adonijah. Always remain alert to the fact that where one person has turned back is exactly where anyone may be tempted to turn back (see 1 Corinthians 10:11-13). You may have just victoriously gone through a great crisis, but now be alert about the things that may appear to be the least likely to tempt you. Beware of thinking that the areas of your life where you have experienced victory in the past are now the least likely to cause you to stumble and fall. We are apt to say, “It is not at all likely that having been through the greatest crisis of my life I would now turn back to the things of the world.” Do not try to predict where the temptation will come; it is the least likely thing that is the real danger. It is in the aftermath of a great spiritual event that the least likely things begin to have an effect. They may not be forceful and dominant, but they are there. And if you are not careful to be forewarned, they will trip you. You have remained true to God under great and intense trials— now beware of the undercurrent. Do not be abnormally examining your inner self, looking forward with dread, but stay alert; keep your memory sharp before God. Unguarded strength is actually a double weakness, because that is where the least likely temptations will be effective in sapping strength. The Bible characters stumbled over their strong points, never their weak ones. “…kept by the power of God…”— that is the only safety. (1 Peter 1:5).”

{ELGIN}  What is it about temptation and sin … why is it that we continue to struggle with it?  Here is what I think.  The Bible speaks about the god of this age or this world (1 Corinthians 4:4)  His name is Satan.  He has dominion over this world which is why he could offer it to Jesus during Jesus’ temptation in the desert (Matthew 4:8-9) “Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. ‘All this I will give you,’ he said, ‘if you will bow down and worship me.’”  As Christians we are all tempted to sin – in other words to choose to revert to our old nature and yield to the god of this world, which means we abandon our devotion to the God of heaven.  Listen .. you only have two choices … yield to Satan or yield to God … it is impossible to not do one or the other .. no matter how much you want it to be possible.  If you think that you can reject God and reject Satan at the same time … to be your own person .. you are deceiving yourself.

So, as a Christian, when you yield yourself to sin you must be restored (1 John 1:8-10) “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.”  Don’t imagine that you can get a “pass” because you have only sinned in some small way or perhaps in a big way.  You might choose to ignore sin in your life and imagine that you can brush it off and you will be OK spiritually.  Not so.  In Psalm 51 David pleaded with God to not reject him but to forgive him.  God can have nothing to do with sin .. He is holy … and we are called to be holy like Him.  You can’t do live your new life without Him.  “Without Him I could do nothing.  Without Him I’d surely fail.  Without Him life would be hopeless.  Like a ship without a sail. … without Him (Jesus) how lost I would be”  Don’t hide it . .confide it and find restoration.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Are You Really Ready To Serve - No Matter What Or Where Or To Whom?

God called to him….And he said, "Here I am." —Exodus 3:4

{CHAMBERS} “When God speaks, many of us are like people in a fog, and we give no answer. Moses’ reply to God revealed that he knew where he was and that he was ready. Readiness means having a right relationship to God and having the knowledge of where we are. We are so busy telling God where we would like to go. Yet the man or woman who is ready for God and His work is the one who receives the prize when the summons comes. […] Readiness for God means that we are prepared to do the smallest thing or the largest thing— it makes no difference. It means we have no choice in what we want to do, but that whatever God’s plans may be, we are there and ready. […] Jesus Christ expects to do with us just as His Father did with Him. He can put us wherever He wants, in pleasant duties or in menial ones, because our union with Him is the same as His union with the Father. “…that they may be one just as We are one…” (John 17:22). […] A ready person never needs to get ready— he is ready. Think of the time we waste trying to get ready once God has called!”

{ELGIN}  Matthew 25:1-13 is the parable of the 10 virgins – 5 were ready and 5 were not. My focus here is on readiness and preparation.  Are you ready for the moment when Jesus shows up?  Are you ready to go with Him, wherever that might lead?  Is it OK if your plans are upset and what you hoped would happen doesn’t and what you hoped wouldn’t happen, does?  Is it OK if God has a purpose and mission for you that makes you uncomfortable and requires trust in Him requiring you to act on faith and not your own devices?  Is It? I hope so because that is the life that God has for you.  That is not to say that you cannot choose another way .. you can .. you have a free will .. even though your eternal security has been bought with the blood of the lamb … you can still say “no .. I won’t go!”  Proverbs 16:9 says that men make plans in their hearts, but God orders their steps.  Are you willing to submit to that order?  It will test whether you are truly submitted to the will of God or merely fascinated with the idea of being submitted to the will of God.  We can say “Wherever He leads I’ll go, I’ll follow my Christ who loves me so … “ Yet when the time comes we say “I shall not be moved!”  I’m not ready … I must take care of things that God apparently has forgotten about .. or perhaps … those people make me feel uncomfortable .. God knows I don’t want to be around them … I will wait for another opportunity … by the way .. most likely that opportunity will never come … but that may be OK with you … it is with many of us.

Look, here is the bottom line to our Christian life.  If we are to be conformed to the image of Jesus .. and we are … then we are going to experience unpleasant things and be around people who makes us uncomfortable … it’s the sick who need a physician … the lost who need the hear the Gospel.

Luke 18:9-14  “To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

There are none righteous, no not one. (Romans 3:10) If you think of yourself as righteous, please don’t confuse the righteousness of Jesus as being your own.  We all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)

Who do you Identify with in the parable … the tax collector may seem like the acceptable “Christian” answer … but what does your life reveal?  You may find that you need to repent.  Friend, get ready for God to come calling … no matter what He calls you to do … He is the potter and you are the clay …. You’re not certain you will it’s God?  That is another devotion for another time.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The Christian's Key To Success - Keeping Your Focus On Jesus

When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment…and plunged into the sea. —John 21:7

{CHAMBERS} “Have you ever had a crisis in your life in which you deliberately, earnestly, and recklessly abandoned everything? It is a crisis of the will. You may come to that point many times externally, but it will amount to nothing. The true deep crisis of abandonment, or total surrender, is reached internally, not externally. The giving up of only external things may actually be an indication of your being in total bondage.  Have you deliberately committed your will to Jesus Christ? It is a transaction of the will, not of emotion; any positive emotion that results is simply a superficial blessing arising out of the transaction. If you focus your attention on the emotion, you will never make the transaction.”

{ELGIN} In the study, Experiencing God, Dr. Blackaby calls what Oswald Chambers is describing as a “crisis of belief”.  You “hear” God’s voice and you are faced with a decision of the will.  Obey or not obey.  As Dr. Blackaby said, it is not a question of knowing what God has said, it is a question of exercising your will to obey.  The key is your focus.  If you focus on Him and not the waves, like Peter failed to do, no matter what is going on around you, or even to you, you will have confidence and peace.  “It’s not by power nor by might but by My Spirit says the Lord God of Hosts.” (Zechariah 4:6)  But .. that power will only be realized in the midst of your acting by faith.  Notice that Peter began to sink in the presence of the Lord. (Matthew 14:22-33)  The reason .. Peter had lost his focus and his faith failed … he started trusting in himself and there was no way he could do what he was doing … walking on water … And so it is for us. 

God calls us to do what is not humanly possible …. Obeying the Word of God is not humanly possible .. and so God sent His Son, they called Him Jesus … Once saved man needed the ability to relate spiritually to God .. not humanly possible so God sent His Spirit to dwell in each Believer … and what is our part?  Trust and obedience … walking by faith … submitted to the Spirit of God’s leading.  Keeping our eyes on and faith in Jesus. That is the beginning and the ending of our new lives of faith. It’s just that simple … but so easy to look elsewhere … just ask Peter.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Finding The Strength To Persevere, Even After The Glory Fades

While you have the light, believe in the light… —John 12:36

{CHAMBERS} “We all have moments when we feel better than ever before, and we say, “I feel fit for anything; if only I could always be like this!” We are not meant to be. […] we must bring our everyday life up to the standard revealed to us on the mountaintop when we were there. […] If, during a prayer meeting, God shows you something to do, don’t say, “I’ll do it”— just do it! […] We must learn to live in the ordinary “gray” day according to what we saw on the mountain.[…] Burn your bridges behind you, and stand committed to God by an act of your own will.”

{ELGIN} A question is posed in the Focus On The Family seminar – The Truth Project.  “Do you believe that what you believe is really – real?”  A piercing question, no?  It gets to the core of the problem with most of us.  We like the idea of living a sanctified life .. one that endures no matter what storm we might find ourselves in, and yet, when we feel the boat rocking .. hear the wind howling .. and the salt spray in our faces … we shrink back … just like the disciples … (Matthew 8:23-27) “And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?””

That is what makes being on the mountain so great for so many … you sense the presence of God … that fear you felt in the storm is gone … it is a glorious time … but like Peter .. even though you want to stay on the mountain and worship, you were made for the valleys.  Your purpose is to walk in the valley … not to be a spark on the mountain top but to be a light in the dark valley … even in .. especially in … the storms of life.  God does not want to spare you from trouble .. He wants to use you in the midst of it.  It might mean that you will lose something … but even in that loss, God will not abandon you.  When Moses came off of the mountain, his face shone (Exodus 34:29-35) but eventually that glory faded.  The same for us.  You may experience times of great spiritual encouragement, but those times are like seasoning on food.  They enhance the flavor, but the seasoning is not what sustains and nourishes you.  As Christians we are sustained and nourished by faith through obedience, and all of that for and to the glory of God.