Friday, January 19, 2018

Struggling With Trust In God - It's Part Of Our Supercilious Nature

When the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, horror and great darkness fell upon him. —Genesis 15:12

{CHAMBERS} “[A] saint’s duty is to be still and listen. […] The story of Abram and Hagar in Genesis 16 is an excellent example of listening to so-called good advice during a time of darkness, rather than waiting for God to send the light. […] Never try to help God fulfill His word. Abram went through thirteen years of silence, but in those years all of his self-sufficiency was destroyed. He grew past the point of relying on his own common sense. Those years of silence were a time of discipline, not a period of God’s displeasure. […] Do I trust at all in the flesh? […] Do I trust in books and prayers or other joys in my life? Or have I placed my confidence in God Himself, not in His blessings? […] As soon as God becomes real to us, people pale by comparison, becoming shadows of reality. Nothing that other saints do or say can ever upset the one who is built on God.”

{ELGIN} Trusting in the Lord and not your own wisdom or plans (Proverbs 3:5-6, Proverbs 16:9) is perhaps our biggest challenge.  We know what “the Lord saith”, but lack the faith to wait and trust.  We can’t see God’s hand moving so we worry and try to “help” God.  I can remember one of my granddaughters, when she was 3 or 4.  I would try to help her do something that was ay beyond her ability  and she would say “Let me – I can do it myself!”  Out of the mouths of babes.  That was Abraham and Sarah’s problem. Yes Sarah was complicit in Abraham’s sin.  Sarah laughed at the thought of her having a baby. (Genesis 18:12) They knew what the Lord had said but lacked faith.  Have you ever struggled with that problem?  When God says something .. you know that it is true .. but you have a hard time trusting in the truth.  It is endemic to your old nature.  (Mark 9:21-26) “ 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!” When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the impure spirit. “You deaf and mute spirit,” he said, “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, “He’s dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up.”

Faith is the “substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not see”.  (Hebrews 11:1) It’s the “evidence of things not seen” part that that the father and all of us struggle with.  What is it in your life that you need faith for?  Faith is a result of nearness to God.  (Romans 1:17) “For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.” Strong faith is a result of exercising your faith, just like your muscles.  Faith requires trust.  Trust requires submission.  Submission requires humility.  You do not know better than God. (Proverbs 16:18) “Pride goes before destruction,  and a haughty spirit before a fall.” Haughty means – Proud and disdainful; having a high opinion of one's self, with some contempt for others; lofty and arrogant; supercilious. Supercilious means – behaving or looking as though one thinks one is superior to others.  If you think you know better than the Creator God the you have a haughty and supercilious attitude!  Just like the Pharisees. We all struggle with it.  It is the nature of our flesh .. in fact, it is at the root of Adam’s sin.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Singing Your Song In The Midst Of The Storm - Fulfilling God's Purpose

Thomas answered and said to Him, "My Lord and my God!" —John 20:28

{CHAMBERS} ““Jesus said to her, ‘Give Me a drink’ ” (John 4:7). How many of us are expecting Jesus Christ to quench our thirst when we should be satisfying Him! We should be pouring out our lives, investing our total beings, not drawing on Him to satisfy us. “You shall be witnesses to Me…” (Acts 1:8). That means lives of pure, uncompromising, and unrestrained devotion to the Lord Jesus, which will be satisfying to Him wherever He may send us. Beware of anything that competes with your loyalty to Jesus Christ. The greatest competitor of true devotion to Jesus is the service we do for Him. It is easier to serve than to pour out our lives completely for Him. The goal of the call of God is His satisfaction, not simply that we should do something for Him. We are not sent to do battle for God, but to be used by God in His battles. Are we more devoted to service than we are to Jesus Christ Himself?”

{ELGIN}  As I was walking down the hall after getting a cup of coffee – morning motivation – I had the image of a little bird sitting on a wire calling out in the midst of a hurricane.  To what avail does the bird sing?  How can it possible stand against the storm.  How can it possibly be heard above the wind and rain and thunder.  It can’t but God can through its obedience in fulfilling its purpose .. the purpose for which it was created.  It may seem to you that the “cultural” storm that rages about us is too much.  The light that shines from us .. the song we sing .. is drowned out by the force of the storm – will have not affect.  Not so.  When the nation of Israel finally reached the river Jordan the first time,  (Numbers 13-14) 10 of the 12 spies saw the “storm” – Giants in the land and a great fear came over the people.  They refused to continue to follow the spiritual leadership of Moses.  They would not cross the river. And so they missed a blessing – the very purpose for leaving Egypt.  They did not fulfill their purpose by trusting in God and not themselves.  So they died in the desert.  They missed God’s best.  True, they were no longer slaves, but  they missed God all the same.

The second time the nation approached the river … the same storm was raging .. and more .. the river was at flood stage … impossible for men .. but possible for God.  When they stepped into the water by faith … the river backed up and they occupied the land.  Fulfilling God’s plan.  I was sharing how Pathfinder became Pathfinder with some friends yesterday.  Before Martie and I submitted to God’s leading to start this ministry, we talked with my mom about it.  We told her about what God was leading us to do.  About the problems.  Our hesitation.  We had not gone to Mississippi with the intention of staying there and certainly not starting a ministry.  She said “Charley, the river Jordan did not back up until they stepped out into the water.”  My response was “Got it Mom!”  We had to step out in and by faith.  Put our trust in God.  She asked, “What are you going to call it?” We had not thought that far ahead .. we were still trying to get our socks and shoes off before we stepped in!  She said “What about Pathfinder?”  Pathfinder was the name of the youth ministry that my folks had started in Peoria, Illinois.  So we decided to go with it .. Pathfinder on Mission.  Pathfinder Mission.  A work of faith.

Each of us is called to step into the water.  These are dark times spiritually .. but I suspect they are not the darkest times that have ever been .. just the darkest that we have seen.  When I flew helicopters in the Army, I sometimes flew at night in the desert.  It was very, very dark.  No visible horizon, meaning you could not see where the sky and earth met.  Hard to keep oriented.  But then someone would light up a chem-stick.  In all the darkness, I could see it from far off.  One light in the midst of the darkness.  Pointing me to my destination.  My encouragement to you … Be the light!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Making A Sacrifice From The Heart ... Just Like Jesus

When it pleased God…to reveal His Son in me… —Galatians 1:15-16

{CHAMBERS} “The call of God is not a call to serve Him in any particular way. My contact with the nature of God will shape my understanding of His call and will help me realize what I truly desire to do for Him. […] Service is the overflow which pours from a life filled with love and devotion. But strictly speaking, there is no call to that. Service is what I bring to the relationship and is the reflection of my identification with the nature of God. Service becomes a natural part of my life. God brings me into the proper relationship with Himself so that I can understand His call, and then I serve Him on my own out of a motivation of absolute love. Service to God is the deliberate love-gift of a nature that has heard the call of God. Service is an expression of my nature, and God’s call is an expression of His nature. […] The Son of God reveals Himself in me, and out of devotion to Him service becomes my everyday way of life.”

{ELGIN} As I type this devotion this morning, it is 22 degrees in Pasadena, Texas, and pretty chilly in the room I am sitting in.  I am wearing a read hooded Carhartt work jacket.  Why am I telling you this?  Because it has to do with the point of this devotion. About 12 years ago, I was standing in a parking lot of a church in Bay Saint Louis, Mississippi, doing pretty much what I am doing now. Not typing a devotion, but serving the people affected by a disaster, however without this red coat. 

It was cold … colder than I thought it would be on the Gulf Coast.  I had not dressed for the weather … didn’t have a coat.  I wasn’t thinking about being cold, but about getting the volunteers to the work that they had come to do.  That’s when a young man walked up to me.  He asked me if I had a coat, I told him no.  Then he did something that has been with me since that day, he took his coat off, a red Carhartt work coat and gave it to me.  He said, “here you can have this one.”  Well, I am a great giver … but like most givers, struggle with receiving.  But ….. I did accept the coat.  I recognized the sacrifice he was making … I saw Jesus … I saw something holy that was taking place … an expression of sacrifice … (John 15:13) “No greater love has one man than this, then that he lay down his life for his friends.”  A sacrifice costs the one sacrificing something that is dear to them.  In a flash, I was reminded of Matthew 22 and the parable of the sheep and the goats … “Lord when did we see you …?” It is a coat … not a sacrifice on the cross … but that is not the point … it’s the heart that made the sacrifice that makes the coat significant.  This coat hung in a closet for the four years we served in Haiti.  But even then, each time I saw it there, my heart was rended (sp)  and I was taken back to that parking lot.  I was reminded of what is important in life.  I am sure that the young man had no idea what the gesture would mean to me years later.  And likewise my friend, you  have no idea what your kindness toward others, your sacrifice from the heart will mean to them.  That is not the motive for our doing and serving … our motive … our motivation … our reason … is the love of God that we bear in our hearts that has found a way to express itself and bring glory to the Father. 

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Fulfilling The Call Of God In Your Life - Just Like Isaiah

I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: "Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?" —Isaiah 6:8

{CHAMBERS} “When we talk about the call of God, we often forget the most important thing, namely, the nature of Him who calls. There are many things calling each of us today. Some of these calls will be answered, and others will not even be heard. The call is the expression of the nature of the One who calls, and we can only recognize the call if that same nature is in us. The call of God is the expression of God’s nature, not ours. God providentially weaves the threads of His call through our lives, and only we can distinguish them. […] The call of God is not a reflection of my nature; my personal desires and temperament are of no consideration. […] Isaiah was so attuned to God, because of the great crisis he had just endured, that the call of God penetrated his soul. The majority of us cannot hear anything but ourselves. And we cannot hear anything God says. But to be brought to the place where we can hear the call of God is to be profoundly changed.”

{ELGIN} When you think of someone being called by God .. hearing God’s voice … do you think Isaiah, Moses, Abraham, Paul? Do you ever think of yourself as being among that group?  I would guess probably not.  It would be like a duffer in golf comparing themselves to Arnold Palmer.  Not even in the same class.  Perhaps, but in the case of God’s call, your thinking would be wrong.  Way wrong.  Don’t confuse your role in the mission with calling.  God gives us different things to do, some seem small compared to others, but God decides that, not us.  (Romans 8:30-31) “And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” What do you say in response?  “Oh, I could never be like _________”  We are all being conformed into the image of Jesus.  We are called into new life.  We have a common mission but diverse roles in that mission.

Our problem is making that Truth important in our every-day lives.  Do you live each moment with an awareness that you are called by God?  Not for the sake of pride but are you living in awe of what God has done in you by grace through faith. (Ephesians 2:8-9) God has given you a place of ministry in the place where you are right now.  The question is, will you be found faithful or will you focus on living life on this planet .. doing the best you can to get along with your new nature running in the background.  My point, as Christians, we have been called to so much more than that.  And you don’t have to travel to a foreign land to experience it.  (Ephesians 2:10) “For we [YOU] are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us [YOU] to do.”  We all must accept that truth and live in it by faith, just like Isaiah, Moses, Abraham, and Paul.

Monday, January 15, 2018

So You Are A Christian - Are You Living Like One?

We were buried with Him…that just as Christ was raised from the dead…even so we also should walk in newness of life. —Romans 6:4

{CHAMBERS} “No one experiences complete sanctification without going through […] the burial of the old life. If there has never been this crucial moment of change through death, sanctification will never be more than an elusive dream. […] Death means you stop being. You must agree with God and stop being the intensely striving kind of Christian you have been. […] Has there been a point in your life which you now mark as your last day? Is there a place in your life to which you go back in memory with humility and overwhelming gratitude […]Will you agree with Him that this is your last day on earth? The moment of agreement depends on you.”

{ELGIN} Can you say this about yourself without reservation? (Galatians 2:20)  “I …… I am crucified with Christ.” Your old nature and its desires are dead to you.  You no longer prefer what your culture or the lusts of your flesh say are right.  “Therefore it is no longer I who lives, but Christ in me.” When people see me, they see Jesus.  “And the life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loves me and gave Himself up for me.”  You live a life fully dependent upon God and according to His will, not your own.  You walk by faith and not by sight.  (2 Corinthians 5:17) “old things are passing away and all things are becoming new”  Is there a change in your life, more than the fact that you go to church on Sundays? 

I was talking to a Christian the other day,  During the course of our conversation, he began to say something in response to something I said.  But, he “caught the word” which was profane as it came out of his my and said that was not profane.  [I almost typed the second phrase but that would have caused you to think about the profane phrase]  (Ephesians 4:29) “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.”  Does your speech reflect that which is good and brings glory to God  and encouragement to others, or does it reflect your culture?  Do you tolerate language in the media, TV and movies that you would never say yourself? Do you allow your kids to be exposed to it.  Would you not watch a movie or television program because they used profanity, promoted extra-marital sex, or some other activity that is clearly contrary to the Word of God?  If so, read this devotion again. 

Is your faith really the most important aspect of your life from which everything else springs? You know, but let me watch you for a few days and I can answer that question for you.  So can your family and the world my friend. Listen. the difference between criticism and encouragement is motive.  I am not being critical ... as Paul said .. I am the chief of sinners ... I, too, struggle with my flesh.  My motive is to encourage you to grasp the new life that you have in Christ and live it to its fullest potential.  You can do it.  I know you can through Christ who gives you strength.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

God's Comfort Is Like A Bridge Over Troubled Water

When He was alone…the twelve asked Him about the parable. —Mark 4:10

{CHAMBERS} “When God gets us alone through suffering, heartbreak, temptation, disappointment, sickness, or by thwarted desires, a broken friendship, or a new friendship— when He gets us absolutely alone, and we are totally speechless, unable to ask even one question, then He begins to teach us. Notice Jesus Christ’s training of the Twelve. It was the disciples, not the crowd outside, who were confused. His disciples constantly asked Him questions, and He constantly explained things to them, but they didn’t understand until after they received the Holy Spirit (see John 14:26).[…] We think we understand another person’s struggle until God reveals the same shortcomings in our lives. There are vast areas of stubbornness and ignorance the Holy Spirit has to reveal in each of us, but it can only be done when Jesus gets us alone.”

{ELGIN} (James 1:2-4) “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” Pastor Rick Warren said it this way, “God never wastes a hurt”.  We are saved for eternity, but we continue to live out this life in a fallen – sin-sick world.  What we experience in this life, both good and bad, God uses to shape us into the image of His Son.  We gladly accept the fact that Jesus suffered and died for us, but we often have a problem with accepting pain and suffering in our own lives.  Like God is supposed to prevent that from happening.  Job said (Job 13:15) “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him;  I will surely defend my ways to his face.”  The first half of that verse is quoted often .. the second half … not so much.  There is nothing wrong with asking God for understanding … but don’t lose hope in the asking.  Don’t doubt God .. even though what you are experiencing is difficult to endure.  (2 Corinthians 1:3-5) “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.  For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.” Do you believe that? Well, you may doubt it in the midst of your trouble, but it is no less true.  If you seek God and put your hope in Him, you will find comfort.  If you blame God and turn away in your heart, you will not.

Jesus said (John 16:33) “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Paul wrote (Romans 8:38-39) “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  And that my friend is the Truth!

As I was thinking up a title for this post .. it's post number 1599, and that is a lot of titles!  A song by Simon and Garfunkel came to my mind.  Bridge Over Troubled Waters.  "When you're down and out. When you're on the street. When evening falls so hard I will comfort you. I'll take your part, oh, when darkness comes. And pain is all, is all around. Just like a bridge over troubled water, I will lay me down. Just like a bridge over troubled water I will lay me down"  That's what God is like!

Friday, January 12, 2018

Do You Really Want To Be Like Jesus?

When they were alone, He explained all things to His disciples. —Mark 4:34

{CHAMBERS}  “Jesus doesn’t take us aside and explain things to us all the time; He explains things to us as we are able to understand them. The lives of others are examples for us, but God requires us to examine our own souls. It is slow work— so slow that it takes God all of time and eternity to make a man or woman conform to His purpose. We can only be used by God after we allow Him to show us the deep, hidden areas of our own character. […] …. Jesus will reveal to us everything we have held within ourselves before His grace began to work. […] We have to get rid of the idea that we understand ourselves. That is always the last bit of pride to go. The only One who understands us is God. The greatest curse in our spiritual life is pride. […] He will allow us to experience heartbreak or the disappointment we feel when our intellectual pride is wounded. He will reveal numerous misplaced affections or desires— things over which we never thought He would have to get us alone. Many things are shown to us, often without effect. But when God gets us alone over them, they will be clear.”

{ELGIN} (Romans 8:29) “For those whom he [God the Father] foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”  Have you ever given any thought to what being conformed … molded .. changed … means?  Well, first you know it is a spiritual change, right?  Second … you know that the process is going to be contrary to your flesh.  God will show you things through the Spirit that you may not want to see or admit, even to yourself.  (One of the Spirit’s missions is to convict the world of sin.  The Spirit plus the Word of God are the “one-two” punch in the sanctification process.  The knock-out punch is my surrendering my will)

You know that there are certain aspects of your old nature that you want to hide or cling to.  Adam and Eve tried to hide themselves in the Garden… you know how that worked out for them.  The only ones you can hide your sin from, for a season, is man.  The Word says (Numbers 32:23) “Your sin will find you out.”  God knows everything .. that is why we confess our sins (1 John 1:9) .. confess means to “agree with” not to reveal.  The goal of this transformation – conforming process is not to make you miserable, but to bless you .. to make you better.  The pain or difficulty you experience is from the battle between the flesh and Spirit.  My encouragement to you is the same as Paul’s to the Romans.  (Romans 12:1-2) “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”  God won’t make you do that.  You must surrender your will.  Will you?