Thursday, November 23, 2017

Seeking Vindication And Justification For Loving Things That Do Not Honor God

Have mercy on us, O Lord, have mercy on us! For we are exceedingly filled with contempt. —Psalm 123:3

{CHAMBERS} “What we must beware of is not damage to our belief in God but damage to our Christian disposition or state of mind. “Take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously” (Malachi 2:16). Our state of mind is powerful in its effects. It can be the enemy that penetrates right into our soul and distracts our mind from God. There are certain attitudes we should never dare to indulge. If we do, we will find they have distracted us from faith in God. Until we get back into a quiet mood before Him, our faith is of no value, and our confidence in the flesh and in human ingenuity is what rules our lives. Beware of “the cares of this world…” (Mark 4:19). They are the very things that produce the wrong attitudes in our soul. It is incredible what enormous power there is in simple things to distract our attention away from God. Refuse to be swamped by “the cares of this world.” Another thing that distracts us is our passion for vindication. St. Augustine prayed, “O Lord, deliver me from this lust of always vindicating myself.””

{ELGIN}  There are things in this world that are spiritually neutral.. In other words, they  don’t have a positive or negative effect on you. The problem is that our discernment can become dulled to those things that are acceptable in our culture but contrary to the Word.  (Proverbs 4:23) “Guard your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.”  There are certain things  in everyone’s life that we cling to, even though, in our heart, we know they are not right.  There are things that we teach our children are wrong, yet we will sit in our living rooms and watch those wrong things being played out on the television screen or in a movie theater.  What you allow in your home through music and visual media is a statement by you to your children that those things are acceptable.  Do this.  The next time you watch your favorite television show, count those things (words or relationships) that are contrary to the Word of God.  Each one is a lesson.  There is an old adage “Do as I say, not as I do.”  Well, I would suggest that that opposite of that is in effect in most homes .. “Don’t do as I say, do as I do.”  I can remember when I was a little boy, my dad told me not to smoke because it was bad for me.  All the while he was smoking a cigarette.  What is the “real” message there?  If you want to be like me, then you should smoke.

As we observe sin, vicariously, we convince ourselves that it is entertainment and not “really all that bad”.  What we don’t realize is that our flesh is at the root of it.  Sin is attractive to our flesh because our flesh is sinful.  Look, you can put lipstick on a pig, but it is still a pig!  Whether it is language, life style, or sinful behavior … it promotes those things that are supposed to have been crucified in your life. Bottom line, if you crave those things, you have a sin problem.  Hope you don’t stop reading my devotions because of that!  Our country has a problem with violence and the most popular television shows are about people killing people.  Parents fear their daughters getting pregnant before marriage, yet most movies and television dramas portray and promote extra-marital sex.  The same media that is slamming men for sexual aggression toward women is promoting Victoria Secret in China, the world’s sexiest man, and promoting women as sex objects at every turn.  Think about it Church!  It’s the frog in the pot.  Christians are being boiled alive … and they think the water is just right!  Don’t try to vindicate yourself .. justify you actions .. confess and repent .. honor God in all you do.

Pray about this … and listen for the Spirit to guide you. I’ll close with a couple of verses that you might consider. (Philippians 4:8) “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Joshua 1:8-9)  “This Book of the Law [the Word of God] shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”  Stop turning your spiritual nature off when you turn your TV on or sit down in a movie theater.  Ok last verse …

(Proverbs 3:5-6) “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and don’t trust in your own understanding.  In all your ways (including television and movies) acknowledge Him and He will direct your path”

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Living In Fear Of Others Finding Out You Are Not Perfect - Too Late For That!

Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. —1 Corinthians 10:31

{CHAMBERS} “Beware of allowing yourself to think that the shallow aspects of life are not ordained by God; they are ordained by Him equally as much as the profound. We sometimes refuse to be shallow, not out of our deep devotion to God but because we wish to impress other people with the fact that we are not shallow. This is a sure sign of spiritual pride. We must be careful, for this is how contempt for others is produced in our lives. And it causes us to be a walking rebuke to other people because they are more shallow than we are. Beware of posing as a profound person— God became a baby. To be shallow is not a sign of being sinful, nor is shallowness an indication that there is no depth to your life at all— the ocean has a shore. Even the shallow things of life, such as eating and drinking, walking and talking, are ordained by God. These are all things our Lord did. He did them as the Son of God, and He said, “A disciple is not above his teacher…” (Matthew 10:24).[…] Never show the depth of your life to anyone but God. We are so nauseatingly serious, so desperately interested in our own character and reputation […] You may find that the first person you must be the most critical with, as being the greatest fraud you have ever known, is yourself..”

{ELGIN} Henry David Thoreau said, “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”  In general, most people are very aware of what is wrong with them and don’t have any idea of what to do about it.  Moreover, they don’t want others to know that they are flawed. Too late! If you have spiritual understanding, you will know that “all have sinned” …. “There is none righteous” … “all we, like sheep, have gone astray” … “we are jars of clay” … we have no hope, but for Jesus! Our tendency is to try to hide our imperfections .. or at minimum make excuses for them … and condemn the imperfections in others.  Jesus spoke of the speck and the log.  (Matthew 7:3-5) “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.”  The Apostle John wrote (1 John 2:16-18) “For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” It’s your pride or the lack of it that drives you to judgement.

That is not to say that you ignore sin. Or that there should not be consequence for sins.  But be careful about judging others.  God does that.  You who have spiritual understanding should see the struggle of the soul for what it is .. the need for Jesus .. new life in Him.  You were once lost but now your found .. was blind but now you see.  How did Jesus respond to sinners?  He told them to repent .. to have faith in Him.  They did not all do that then … and they do not all do that now … Just be careful that you don’t sin in your eagerness to find fault in others.  In psychology the term is “projection”.  Where a person projects their shortcomings onto others.  It is easier .. less stressful if you can deal with your problem in someone else’s life. (Speck and Log)  In this case, the speck you see is merely a reflection of the log in your own eye.  The bottom line is that our focus is on ourselves and not on Jesus.  So stop looking at others, even stop looking at yourself, and look to Jesus. (Philippians 4:8) “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

What Is The Big Deal With Your Post-Salvation Sin? Plenty!

I have finished the work which You have given Me to do. —John 17:4

{CHAMBERS} “The death of Jesus Christ is the fulfillment in history of the very mind and intent of God. […] Never build your case for forgiveness on the idea that God is our Father and He will forgive us because He loves us. That contradicts the revealed truth of God in Jesus Christ. It makes the Cross unnecessary, and the redemption “much ado about nothing.” God forgives sin only because of the death of Christ. God could forgive people in no other way than by the death of His Son, and Jesus is exalted as Savior because of His death. “We see Jesus…for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor…” (Hebrews 2:9). The greatest note of triumph ever sounded in the ears of a startled universe was that sounded on the Cross of Christ— “It is finished!” (John 19:30). That is the final word in the redemption of humankind. […]  Never allow yourself to believe that Jesus Christ stands with us, and against God, out of pity and compassion, or that He became a curse for us out of sympathy for us. Jesus Christ became a curse for us by divine decree. Our part in realizing the tremendous meaning of His curse is the conviction of sin. Conviction is given to us as a gift of shame and repentance; it is the great mercy of God. Jesus Christ hates the sin in people, and Calvary is the measure of His hatred.”

{ELGIN} The danger for many Christians is the temptation to trivialize sin – after salvation.  There are two camps in the thinking about post-salvation sin.  One is “once saved always saved” (for which I am a proponent).  As a child of God, a new creation, I have been born again, saved once – for eternity.  What I am calling post-salvation sins have the affect of building a relational wall between me and the Father, but He is still my Father.  For Him to hear me to bless me, my heart must be clean – free of unconfessed sin (1 John 1:9) and I must be walking in obedience to His word.  The second camp is that you can lose your salvation if you sin.  Once saved, you might have to be saved again, and again.  The first camp engenders a sense of freedom .. the second a sense of fear.  The danger of the first camp can be that we no longer consider post-salvation sin as a big deal.  I mean, after all, “we are in!”  We made the cut.  No worries about our eternal future.  Well, Paul addressed this issue. (You can always count on Paul!)  Let me help you get your Bible reading in for the day.

(Romans 5:8-21, 6:1-14)  “Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous. The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.  Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.  For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him.  The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.”

We have a choice .. give in to sin or give in to God.  In either case you are offering yourself in submission to one or the other.  How can we think it is of no consequence when we sin in even what we might think is a trivial thing … knowing that Jesus went to the cross for even that trivial sin.  Don’t quench the Spirit when He brings conviction .. but yield, confess, and follow Jesus.  Don’t be satisfied with anything less in your new life.  Fulfill your purpose by being light and salt … bringing glory to God … just like Jesus.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Understanding The "Thanks" Part Of Thanksgiving - It's Not About Us

In Him we have…the forgiveness of sins… —Ephesians 1:7

{CHAMBERS} “Forgiveness is the divine miracle of grace. The cost to God was the Cross of Christ. To forgive sin, while remaining a holy God, this price had to be paid. Never accept a view of the fatherhood of God if it blots out the atonement. The revealed truth of God is that without the atonement He cannot forgive— He would contradict His nature if He did. The only way we can be forgiven is by being brought back to God through the atonement of the Cross. God’s forgiveness is possible only in the supernatural realm. Compared with the miracle of the forgiveness of sin, the experience of sanctification is small. Sanctification is simply the wonderful expression or evidence of the forgiveness of sins in a human life. But the thing that awakens the deepest fountain of gratitude in a human being is that God has forgiven his sin. Paul never got away from this. Once you realize all that it cost God to forgive you, you will be held as in a vise, constrained by the love of God.”

{ELGIN}  Have you ever heard or perhaps said these words? “The Man upstairs?”  When those words are said it reveals the absence of a relationship with the One being referred to – Jehovah God or Yahweh– or it reveals a lack of spiritual maturity or the presence of carnality in the one who is speaking.  It is important that we live in a constant awareness of who God is and who we are with respect to Him. (factoid) “The name Yahweh is best known from the famous “I AM” interaction with Moses. … The Jews became very concerned with not blaspheming the name of the Lord. So rather than saying the name Yahweh, they would say Elohim instead, which is the Hebrew word for god. However, this did not solve the problem of what to do when one came across the name Yahweh during the reading of the Scriptures. The Jews decided that when they came to the name “YHWH” they would say the Hebrew word adonay, which means “Lord.” To remind the reader to say “adonay,” and to maintain the presence of the word “YHWH,” they assigned the vowels of “adonay” into the consonants of “YHWH.” However, it was never intended that this form be read aloud. [Knowing The Bible]”

The point is that we must always be aware of who God is and the significance of who He is and what He has done for us.  (Deuteronomy 6:4-9)  “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”  Verse 4 is called “The Shema” … which has hyper significance in the faith life of the Jewish people.  As a Christian, you are not naturally a Jew.  Your DNA is set and that part of you will one day return to the dust from which it was formed.  But spiritually you have been grafted in … adopted into the family of God.  You have a new nature .. and should have a new devotion … wholly committed to God.  A living sacrifice … carrying your cross and following Jesus.  Jesus, who always does the will of the Father.  Consider your attitude toward the God who saved you through the sacrifice of His Son. Thanksgiving is upon us.  The point of Thanksgiving is not being thankful for the provision .. but being thankful for the Provider .. Jehovah Jireh .. and how do we show our gratitude?  Jesus said  “If you love Me, obey my commandments.”  (John 14:15)  And the greatest commandment is to love God – YHWH – with all of your heart, mind, soul, and strength. (Matthew 22:37)

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Christian Witness - The World Will Know By How You Live And How You Love

By Myself I have sworn, says the Lord, because you have done this thing…I will bless you… —Genesis 22:16-17

{CHAMBERS} “ Abraham, at this point, has reached where he is in touch with the very nature of God. He now understands the reality of God.  My goal is God Himself… At any cost, dear Lord, by any road. “At any cost…by any road” means submitting to God’s way of bringing us to the goal. There is no possibility of questioning God when He speaks, if He speaks to His own nature in me. Prompt obedience is the only result. When Jesus says, “Come,” I simply come; when He says, “Let go,” I let go; when He says, “Trust God in this matter,” I trust. This work of obedience is the evidence that the nature of God is in me. God’s revelation of Himself to me is influenced by my character, not by God’s character. […] It is through the discipline of obedience that I get to the place where Abraham was and I see who God is. God will never be real to me until I come face to face with Him in Jesus Christ. Then I will know and can boldly proclaim, “In all the world, my God, there is none but Thee, there is none but Thee.” The promises of God are of no value to us until, through obedience, we come to understand the nature of God. We may read some things in the Bible every day for a year and they may mean nothing to us. Then, because we have been obedient to God in some small detail, we suddenly see what God means and His nature is instantly opened up to us.”

{ELGIN}  What are you willing to concede to God that you hold dear .. of high value?  Your job, your retirement, your lifestyle, your friends, how about like Abraham, your family.  Are you ready to lay your family down on the altar .. sacrificing their prominence, maybe pre-eminence, in your life for God and His glory?  Or, now that you are saved, are you satisfied with that being good enough and you persist in clinging to those things for which you have a higher regard than you do for God?  Maybe you think you don’t, but God will test you .. and the truth, the devotion of your heart will be revealed. Listen. It’s not about having those things that is the problem.  The problem is when those things have you … they demand your total devotion .. to the exclusion of God.  That is not a spiritually healthy place to be, that is where many of us live.  God is not really interested in signs on your church’s wall about loving God, or the bumper stickers letting other drivers know that you are a Christian … He is interested in the devotion of your heart.  If you are devoted to God, the world will know by how you live and how you love.  God’s blessing always follows obedience .. not intentions or promises … obedience begins in the heart and is demonstrated by our actions.  Abraham had already sacrificed Isaac in his heart before they climbed that mountain.  His faith was in his God, even of he did not know how was going to keep His promise.  Abraham knew that God is faithful and will do what He has said He will do.  The same goes for you.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Understanding The Difference Between Being A Christian And A Christ Follower - It's Obedience

…whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. —1 Corinthians 10:31

{CHAMBERS} “We have a tendency to look for wonder in our experience, and we mistake heroic actions for real heroes. It’s one thing to go through a crisis grandly, yet quite another to go through every day glorifying God when there is no witness, no limelight, and no one paying even the remotest attention to us. If we are not looking for halos, we at least want something that will make people say, “What a wonderful man of prayer he is!” or, “What a great woman of devotion she is!” If you are properly devoted to the Lord Jesus, you have reached the lofty height where no one would ever notice you personally. All that is noticed is the power of God coming through you all the time. […] To be utterly unnoticeable requires God’s Spirit in us making us absolutely humanly His. The true test of a saint’s life is not successfulness but faithfulness on the human level of life. […] our purpose should be to display the glory of God in human life, to live a life “hidden with Christ in God” in our everyday human conditions (Colossians 3:3).”

{ELGIN} Let’s say you have two bolts. With one bolt you fix a high performance car that wins a race.  With the other bolt you fix your lawn mower.  Which bolt has more significance and has best fulfilled its purpose?  Neither.  Neither is better.  Both fulfilled their purpose as you decided.  In the same way, God has a purpose for every Christian – every Christ follower.  (Don’t you love that expression?  Being a Christian might be viewed as “merely” getting saved. As if that were not enough!  But being a “Christ follower” suggests that you are more than saved, you are a true disciple , you have laid down your worldly nets and are following Jesus, wherever He leads.)  Your fulfilling your purpose is not meant to bring glory to you but to God. It doesn’t matter if God uses you on a sports car or a lawn mower.  What matters is that you are obedient to His call and direction.  People talk to me about what Martie and I do and have done for the Kingdom and other people.  We do it for the glory of God.  Billy Graham did what he did for the same reason.  The faithful widow who is never seen by anyone, she does what she does for the same reason.  I often tell people that the only credit I can take is for saying “yes” to God.  Everything else is from God.  He formed me, He purposed me, He gifted me and He called me.  The same goes for you too.

(Psalm 51: 16-17) “You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;  you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.”  Which is to say that it is not what you do for God, but what you allow God to do in you.  (Micah 6:8) “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what the Lord requires of you but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?”  There is only one way you can do that and it’s by the power of God, not self-effort. (1 Samuel 15:22) “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.” To be obedient to your purpose means that you must sacrifice your will for God’s will.  You must overcome your fear and doubt with faith.  You must love God more than you love yourself. It doesn’t matter where you are sent or what you are sent to do … being in the center of God’s will and walking obediently in it is the absolute best place you can be.

Monday, November 13, 2017

We Don't Go To Church - We Are The Church

…the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. —Galatians 2:20

{CHAMBERS} “…. Think what faith in Jesus Christ claims and provides— He can present us faultless before the throne of God, inexpressibly pure, absolutely righteous, and profoundly justified. Stand in absolute adoring faith “in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God— and righteousness and sanctification and redemption…” (1 Corinthians 1:30). How dare we talk of making a sacrifice for the Son of God! We are saved from hell and total destruction, and then we talk about making sacrifices! We must continually focus and firmly place our faith in Jesus Christ— not a “prayer meeting” Jesus Christ, or a “book” Jesus Christ, but the New Testament Jesus Christ, who is God Incarnate, and who ought to strike us dead at His feet. Our faith must be in the One from whom our salvation springs. Jesus Christ wants our absolute, unrestrained devotion to Himself. We can never experience Jesus Christ, or selfishly bind Him in the confines of our own hearts. Our faith must be built on strong determined confidence in Him.”

{ELGIN}  Martie and I heard a great sermon this past Sunday.  The preacher was from Indonesia.  Christians from other countries, particularly Third World countries and a different perspective on the brand of Christianity that is prevalent in the United States.  He said that we define Church in one of three ways.  1. As a Gas station.  That is where we go each Sunday to “fill up” spiritually so we can get through another week. 2. As a Cinema.  We go each Sunday to watch a show, maybe have an emotional response to what we see or hear, but take away nothing that might influence how we live. And 3. As a super-market.  A one stop shop.  We have a need that must be met … we go have that need met. The bottom line in all three, it is all about us and what we get out of it .. for us. And we are never satisfied. Attending the church service is a celebration, not the be all end all.  A gathering of His Church.

Why? Because we don’t understand what the Church, that has Christ as the cornerstone, is all about.  The main purpose of the Church is to expand the Kingdom and to bring glory to God.  Not make me comfortable and feel good. The reason Jesus wants you to be a disciple is so you can be a fisher of men (people) like Jesus, not merely to make you a better person, better than your neighbor.  Jesus said “Go!”  Jesus said “Pick up your cross and follow Me.”  Do what Jesus did.  Jesus said “Lay down your life for others.”  Jesus said “Love God with everything you have.”  Jesus said “If you love Me, then do what I say.”  When God Joshua, to obey His Word, and then Joshua would be prosperous and successful, does your mind go to material wealth? That is your flesh speaking.  The word says do not love the world or the things of this world.  Love God.  So how does that fit your idea of Christianity and the Church?  The proof of your belief is not in what you say you believe, but in how you live that belief out day by day.  Something to think about ..