Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Choosing The Best Over The Good Requires Faith And Devotion

(Luke 10:38-42) “As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”” 

I am certain you are familiar with this story. Both of these women loved Jesus.  The distinction was what they chose to do when faced with the good and the best.  Preparing the meal was a good thing – food has a practical importance.  Sitting at Jesus’ feet and listening to words of Life – that has an eternal importance.  I suspect that Martha was so consumed with the practical that she was prepared to forego the most important with good intention.  But she missed it.  She thought she was being responsible  - she was, but she was missing an eternal opportunity.  Like the time that the disciples wanted Jesus to eat.  (John 4:31-33) “Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.” But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.” Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?”” 

Concern about the natural often interferes with the super-natural.  It requires faith to see past the urgency of the things of this world and embrace things spiritual.  Someone called me a few weeks ago.  He told me that he had retired early, but could not access his retirement until he met a certain age.  He believed he was called to ministry. A mutual friend suggested that he call me about working with me for a few weeks.  He had construction skills so I told him that I would pay him instead of hiring someone locally to do the work I could not do myself.  He told me that he would let me know by the weekend.  He told me that he had been called to pastor a small church and would not be coming.  A few days ago, he asked me if the option was still open – all of his plans had fallen through.  He added that his wife told him that he should have some here.  I had already hired local people. The work was done – the funds were spent.  (I never hold up helping the home owner [the reason we are here] in favor of waiting on someone to decide if they might come.)  I was saddened because I felt that he had missed God in his indecisiveness.  Choosing the good over the best. 

Like Martha – this guy was trying to be practical.  God presented a spiritual opportunity – not to be with me – but to exercise faith and trust Him and not the things of this world.  When God calls you – it requires faith in Him – not money in the bank – not a more convenient time – not once the kids are out of college – although that may be God’s timing – but no matter – when He calls – a decision in the heart is required.  God does not need to hear empty promises – God knows the heart.  Those promises just make it easier to cook the food and not sit at Jesus feet. 

So – what has God been saying to you? And what have you been saying to God?  God’s call is not the same for everyone in terms of geography or activity.  But it is the same insomuch as (love that word!) it will require faith and devotion to respond to the call.  

When we were serving in Mississippi, someone asked me if I liked being in Mississippi.  It was a place of devastation and despair.  I told them “There is nothing better than being in the center of God’s will for your life – geography has nothing to do with it. So I lovd being in Mississippi because that is where God wants us to be.” How about you?   CHARLEY (Phil 4:13) 

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Do People Know You Are A Christian By Your Love?

There is a song that we used to sing – “We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord … and they will know we are Christians by our love ..” Jesus said (John 13:35) “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” Love is central to our new life in Christ.  Paul said (1 Corinthians 13:2) “And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.”

It does not matter what you accomplish on this earth if love is absent.  As a Christian, it begins with love for God.  (1 John 4:19) “We love because he (God the Father) first loved us.” How we communicate that love is first, by being grounded and devoted to loving God.  That means we seek His will and not our own.  We embrace Him and not our culture.  Many Christians have a problem with this.  You can love someone who sins without loving their sin.  Our culture says you cannot love someone is you don’t agree that their actions (sin according to the Bible) are acceptable and right.  God says you can.  You must decide who you are going to listen to and obey. Don’t underestimate the power of the culture you live in.  Wanting to be accepted by the culture is a strong motivation to compromise your faith. Many if not most would prefer to remain silent rather than suffer rejection and criticism.  

How will people know you are a Christian? By standing on the Truth and not participating in the Lie.  By loving God and not being ashamed – even when the culture will try to shame you into going along.  Jesus said (John 15:18-21)"If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. …. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me.” 

If we embrace God we will be light in a dark world.  Standing for “right” in the power of your flesh is impossible.  You are able to stand because you are a disciple and trust in the Lord and not yourself.  You have prepared yourself spiritually.  (Ephesians 6:14-18) “Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseveranceCHARLEY (Phil 4:13) 

Friday, October 12, 2018

How To Survive A Hurricane

So the third worst hurricane to make landfall, made landfall.  There was no diverting it to some other path.  All we could do was watch and wait.  Some people prepared – some did not.  Some people left – some people stayed.  It didn’t matter what anyone did, really – the storm was following its course and there was not stopping it.  Leaving destruction in its wake, the storm has moved on – like Katrina, Harvey and so many others – it is now a memory – fresh – painful for many – but still a memory.  And the thing is – there are more storms coming – maybe not this year, but they are coming – of that you can be certain. 

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.” Jesus is the source of peace in the midst of trouble.  Not FEMA. Not a Red Cross shelter. Not even a hotel far from the path of the storm.  Not alcohol. Not Denial. Not medication. Only Jesus.  That, my friend, is a spiritual truth.  The world will offer everything but Jesus.  We are rebuilding a home for someone whose home was damaged in Hurricane Harvey.  The house will be comfortable when we are done, but it’s just a house.  The main concern is the heart of the person who will live in the home.  When Peter and John were stopped by the lame man at the gate of the temple .. he was asking for money – a material solution to his plight – and certainly he needed food and money to buy it.  But Peter said (Acts 3:6) “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” The man had a physical problem – but underlying that was a spiritual problem that needed a spiritual solution. 

James wrote (James 1:2-4) “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” Your faith will be tested if you have a faith to be tested.  We may offer help with rebuilding to those who have no means to change their circumstance, but more importantly we offer Hope through faith in the One who is the source of all Hope.  

We are all going to face problems in this life.  The question is, “Where will we turn in times of need?”  

(Psalm 121)

“I will lift up my eyes to the hills— From whence comes my help?

2 My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth.

3 He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber.

4 Behold, He who keeps Israel; Shall neither slumber nor sleep.

5 The Lord is your keeper; The Lord is your shade at your right hand.

6 The sun shall not strike you by day, Nor the moon by night.

7 The Lord shall preserve you from all evil; He shall preserve your soul.

8 The Lord shall preserve your going out and your coming in; From this time forth, and even forevermore” 


Thursday, October 11, 2018

What To Do When The World Has Redefined Good

Living the Christian life in this culture is becoming increasingly difficult.  Let me say that not everything in this culture is evil, but there is evil in this country and in the world for that matter. It is becoming more and more important for Christians to understand and embrace what is “good” , as defined by the Creator and made clear in His Word.  Our culture, and the world, is offering an alternative truth – one that is contrary to God’s revealed truth.  The prophet Isaiah wrote (Isaiah 5:20) “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.” 

You see this is no a new problem.  The first stepping stone on the path that leads away from Truth is “People have the right to choose how they live.” God gave us a free will.  We were born with a sin nature.  That is our natural inclination.  The world’s alternative to the Holy Spirit are cultural norms, acceptance and laws.  Behavior of the people in a society is constrained by the pressures of those norms, what the culture says is acceptable and laws.  Man’s laws adapt to the moral course that a culture takes.  

The second stepping stone is “You do not have a right to say they are wrong.” Since the culture says the first stepping stone is on the right path, there is no “true north” anymore.  The ship can sail in any direction and it will be the right course.  No one has the right to say that a person’s choices are wrong.  If they do, they will be condemned as intolerant, wrong, and evil.  Even if that person is trying to rest the course of the ship to its God-intended course.

That is where we find ourselves today.  Our culture calls good (by God’s declaration) – evil and evil – good.  Speak out and you are accused of judging.  You suddenly are a “bad” person.  The temptation – say nothing – go along to get along.  Trade off acknowledgement that there is a Truth, that by definition of truth, does not change or waiver in the face of cultural changes.  

Listen – this world is no longer your home.  You feel like an alien in the very country you were born in because you are! (Philippians 3:20-21) “ .. our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the LORD Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.”  When you see something that is bad – according to the Truth – that is declared good – to speak out is not to judge but to give testimony to the truth.  Don’t expect the culture to embrace you – on the contrary you may very well face rejection.  

Be careful about wanting to be embraced and accepted by those who are lost.  (2 Corinthians 6:14) “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?”  

Let me leave you with this …..

(1 John 1:5-10) “This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. 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.”

Those who have (spiritual) ears, let them hear … those who have (spiritual) eyes, let them see

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

You Can’t Lead Where You Won’t Go

You can’t lead where you won’t go – You can’t teach what you don’t know – You can only re-create what you are.  You may have heard your pastor preach on the Great Commandment and the Great Commission.  The Great Commandment is from Matthew 22:37 – Love God with all of your heart. mind, soul and strength.  The Great Commission is from Matthew 28:18 “Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” 

For many Christians – faith in Jesus is about personal salvation – that’s it.  A one way ticket to Heaven.  But there is so much more to our new life.  In the Great Commission, Jesus said to make disciples which is much more than “merely” being witnesses and leading people to Jesus. Important as that is – more important is the changed life that should result from the rebirth and conformance to being like Jesus.  A disciple should be indistinguishable from the One the disciple is following.  Jesus said (Luke 9:23) “Then he [Jesus] said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”” Being a disciple of Jesus starts with the Great Commandment – Loving God and not yourself – being a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1) – “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.”  (Mark 8:35)

Here is the deal – you do what is important to you.  If pursuing God and the new life in Christ is not important to you, you won’t do it.  Talking about it and doing it are two different things.  The first is an expression of intent – the second is fulfillment of that expression. So – you can’t lead someone else to being a disciple if you are not willing to go there yourself.  You can’t teach someone about the precepts of God and His will if you don’t know and embrace them yourself. If you are not a disciple of Jesus – merely saved – then you cannot be an example of a disciple of Jesus to others – you can only show them what a marginal Christian looks like. 

Now and again, we all need to consider our new life and our purpose on this earth.  And if we find that we are lacking – we need to repent and get back in step with Jesus – loving God and loving others.

“O to grace how great a debtor daily I'm constrained to be! Let thy goodness like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to thee. Prone to wander Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love. Here's my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above”  CHARLEY

Monday, October 8, 2018

Prayer Changes Me

Henry and Richard Blackaby’s devotional guide, Experiencing God Day by Day:  “Prayer is not designed to change God, it is designed to change us.  Prayer is not calling God in to bless our activities.  Rather, prayer takes us into God’s presence, shows us His will, and prepares us to obey Him.”  (p. 280). 

A friend included that quote in an email recently.  He was asking for prayer as he prepared to go back to Haiti to teach pastors from rural mountain churches in Western Haiti for 2 days.  That is the same area where Martie and I served for the last year we were in Haiti.  I met Eric several years ago and encouraged him to go there.  But I was not the real reason he went – he went because God sent him there.  God uses the saints to encourage each other through His Spirit.  But it is God who makes eternal differences in the lives of people.  I planted, Eric is watering, but God will bring the increase. (1 Corinthians 3:6

Prayer helps us to focus on the eternal and on God’s will. Unfortunately many Christians don’t see prayer as vital to their spiritual health.  Prayer is about alignment – aligning our will with God’s will. When our children were small I can remember holding their face in my hands and looking into their eyes to make certain I had their attention.  Our heavenly Father does something similar .. but just because we are looking does not mean we are listening. Dr. Henry Blackaby also said “Some people say ‘Don’t just stand there – do something’.  But God is saying ‘Don’t just do something – stand there’” 

Spend time with your Father today.  Listen to Him – wait for Him – trust Him and then obey Him.  The prophet Samuel said “Obedience is better than sacrifice.” (1 Samuel 15:22-24)  “Has the Lord as great a delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices. As in obedience to the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice.” 

Please pray for Eric Searcy and his trip this week for physical endurance, spiritual strength and wisdom.  CHARLEY

Thursday, October 4, 2018

What You Should Do When Someone Needs To See Jesus

I met a man the other day, I may have mentioned him in previous devotion.  He is bound to a wheelchair.  Unable to walk or use his arms, he can move his head and his thumb.  He uses his thumb to control the wheelchair.  He has a portable speaker that he uses to amplify his voice so he can be heard when he talks.  He is the kind of guy that you might see and then try to avoid because being around him makes you feel a bit awkward.  In Matthew 25, Jesus told the parable of the Sheep and the Goats in which both asked the same question of the Lord – “When did we see you?”  I had to step into his “space” to talk with him.  After talking with, let’s call him Bob, I discovered that inside that crippled body was a very intelligent – caring person.  We happened to be at a gathering of a noisy group of people.  You know how it is.  So many people having separate conversations – the “din” intensifies until you can hardly hear anything distinctly.  In order to talk to Bob, I had to move further inside of his space. 

Now the others in the group were cordial enough, but no one was attempting to talk to Bob any longer than to say a polite “hello”.  I wondered how often this happens to Bob. My guess – this was a typical experience for him.  After a while, Bob told me he was hungry.  Bob was there on his own. He asked if I could get him something to eat.  There were snack foods on a table.  I told him that I would point at the food and he could nod his head if he wanted some of it.  Bob proved to be hungry!  The next thing I was asked to do was to feed him.  “Lord when did we see you?”  “When you gave me something to eat, to drink, when you talked to me – when you did it to the least of these, you did it to Me.”  

I am sharing this with you, not because I want to impress you with my spirituality, but to encourage you to be ready.  The point is that you never know when the Lord is going to show up.  When you will be given the opportunity to show the love of God through an act of kindness and compassion.  Listen. It would have been easy to ignore Bob.  All I had to do was turn my back after I said “Hello – nice to meet you.”  To find someone less “needy” to talk to.  I knew that I was supposed to talk with him and to help him.  Even to feed him.  And so do all of us who are sealed by the Spirit on God.  

The person that God puts in front of you may not be physically handicapped like Bob.  Most people are not.  But many people you meet are struggling in life – crippled by sin – by life’s circumstances – poor decisions – consequences of living under the influence of their old nature.  Not able to walk in the Spirit – emotionally – spiritually crippled. You need spiritual discernment to see them, an obedient heart to minister to them and they need faith to be healed.  Ministry to others is often in the form of a very simple thing – but at the same time, can be a very powerful thing.  We all have spiritual opportunities – every day. As Jesus said “Those who have eyes (spiritual eyes) let them see.” Jesus didn’t heal everyone, He did minister to many.  So be ready my friend – your opportunity to show someone Jesus is just around the corner. Your heart will tell you it is right when the time comes – so don’t look around to see if anyone is watching, don’t look at your watch to see if you have the time, look up and give thanks to the Lord for the opportunity to be Jesus to someone. CHARLEY