Saturday, December 30, 2017

I Can't Get No Satisfaction - There Is No Earthly Solution

…All my springs are in you. —Psalm 87:7

{CHAMBERS} “Our Lord never “patches up” our natural virtues, that is, our natural traits, qualities, or characteristics. He completely remakes a person on the inside— “…put on the new man…” (Ephesians 4:24). In other words, see that your natural human life is putting on all that is in keeping with the new life. The life God places within us develops its own new virtues, not the virtues of the seed of Adam, but of Jesus Christ. Once God has begun the process of sanctification in your life, watch and see how God causes your confidence in your own natural virtues and power to wither away. […] We want to cling to our natural virtues, while all the time God is trying to get us in contact with the life of Jesus Christ— a life that can never be described in terms of natural virtues. […]  …depending solely on what they have by virtue of heredity. God does not take our natural virtues and transform them[…] No natural love, no natural patience, no natural purity can ever come up to His demands. But as we bring every part of our natural bodily life into harmony with the new life God has placed within us, He will exhibit in us the virtues that were characteristic of the Lord Jesus.”

{ELGIN} I was watching a documentary of sorts on PBS the other evening.  It was about people going back to the country of their ancestors.  They wanted to recapture the culture and the religious practices of that country.  To restore what was lost.  To cling to the “seed of Adam” as if somehow that would make them right with the world and satisfy a void in their life. Blaise Pascal, the French mathematician and philosopher wrote “There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus”  Along the same vein, C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity: “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” To quote a famous "poet of our time" - Mick Jagger - "I can't get no satisfaction!" 

(2 Corinthians 5:17) says that if we are “in Christ” – redeemed – save – reborn by the Spirit – we are new, the old has passed away and all things are becoming new – living the sanctified life.  Sanctified – set apart – consecrated for a holy purpose.  In their struggle to satisfy the yearning that God has put in each of us, the natural man turns to natural things … possession .. heritage … but never finds it.  That is because only God can satisfy it through Jesus Christ.  The other solutions seem reasonable … but then God’s ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts … (1 Corinthians 1:18-25) “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.”

My encouragement to you is to keep this fresh in your mind.  To have a spiritual perspective on what is going on around you.  That your natural inclination is to try to satisfy through the things of this world … but your supernatural life only finds satisfaction in Jesus.  And if it doesn’t, well – Houston we have a problem!  We are beginning a new year, perhaps it is a good time to spiritually recalibrate your heart and mind.  To shake off the old and fully embrace the new.  It requires discipline and the pursuing the things of God through His Word, prayer and worship.  That is my hope for you in 2018.   But then again, that has always been my hope.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Are You Living With The Sin Of -- It's Not So Bad?

From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. —John 6:66

{CHAMBERS} “When God, by His Spirit through His Word, gives you a clear vision of His will, you must “walk in the light” of that vision (1 John 1:7). […] Don’t look at someone else and say, “Well, if he can have those views and prosper, why can’t I?” You have to “walk in the light” of the vision that has been given to you. Don’t compare yourself with others or judge them— that is between God and them. […] “for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses” (Luke 12:15). If we don’t see and understand this, it is because we are ignoring the underlying principles of our Lord’s teaching. […] But if a New Testament standard is revealed to us by the light of God, and we don’t try to measure up, or even feel inclined to do so, then we begin to backslide. It means your conscience does not respond to the truth. […] … the unveiling of a truth. That moment marks you as one who either continues on with even more devotion as a disciple of Jesus Christ, or as one who turns to go back as a deserter.” 

ELGIN} There spiritual danger with the sin of not so bad. (James 2:10) “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.”  Have you ever heard someone say .. well that is not “so” bad, it’s only ….. you can fill in the blank.  What came to my mind was movies .. there is only one time there is profanity … there is only brief nudity.  Why do we say that? Because we want to justify our actions.  When we do, we are actually debating with the Spirit.  Trying to convince Him that we are not engaging in sin.  Unfortunately, that practice and acceptance has become so common in the American Christian culture that accepting sinful acts in the television and movies we watch is common place.  Families struggle with the effects of premarital sex … drugs .. alcohol … yet they pay money to watch it played out on the screen or television and justify it by calling it entertainment.  They argue that it’s just a movie.  Think about this.  Companies spend billions of dollars on advertising every year.  The reason is that they want to influence your thinking.  Do you really believe that they would spend all that money if it didn’t work?  Our culture “advertises” its values in the same way.  Behavior that you personally detest, you submit to in your mind by being a willing voyer. And worse, you allow your children to do the same.

When you compare the natural life with the Word of God, the differences are glaring.  It’s just that we refuse to look.  And if we do, even though the Spirit in us says “No”, our flesh says “yes”, and our mind says “It’s not so bad!”  There are many other examples, other than the visual media.  All of it is temptation.  (1 John 2:15- 17) “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.”

Some of the most popular television shows are about crime and crime fighters.  Good overcoming evil.  That is not so bad is it?  But with the good we must accommodate sex, violence, profanity, illicit relationships …. Many things that are contrary to who we are as Christians and we would, hopefully, not participate in…. Well .. I think I will let you debate whether that applies to you with the Holy Spirit.  The bottom line .. we need to apply the same rigor in what we do and watch  as we do in our judging what other people do and don’t do. (Matthew 7:3-5) “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”  It's a lot easier to see these issues in other peoples' lives.  But, are you guilty of compromise?  Have your taught your children to do the same? Those who have ears let them hear .. those who have eyes, let them see.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

It's OK To Be Childish When It Comes To Trusting God - In Fact It's Required

…unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. —Matthew 18:3

{CHAMBERS} “These words of our Lord refer to our initial conversion, but we should continue to turn to God as children, being continuously converted every day of our lives. […] When God through His sovereignty brings us into new situations, we should immediately make sure that our natural life submits to the spiritual, obeying the orders of the Spirit of God. […] The response of the natural to the spiritual should be continuous conversion, but this is where we so often refuse to be obedient. […]  we must “put on the new man…” (Ephesians 4:24). […] Our natural life must not rule— God must rule in us.  […] There are areas of self-will in our lives where our pride pours contempt on the throne of God and says, “I won’t submit.” […] What God sees as stubborn weakness, we call strength. There are whole areas of our lives that have not yet been brought into submission […] Slowly but surely we can [must] claim the whole territory for the Spirit of God.”

{ELGIN}  Something that I have noticed with children as they grow up.  When they are small … say less than 10 or 12 … they never question their parents, at least most don’t.  [Often because the parents have conceded their authority prematurely] Small children believe their parents know everything and can do anything.  The children depend upon their parents for everything.  The parents make the rules, provide food, shelter and clothing.  But then something begins to happen … as the children grow older, they begin to question their parents.  They become more demanding.  They want to make their own rules.  They want to decide what they will eat and when they will eat it.  They see their parents as fallible and not quite so all-knowing.  It’s unfair when a parent denies the child’s “right” to have their own way.  They begin to trust in themselves and resist their parents.  So … when Jesus said be like children … He might well have said .. don’t be like adults and teenagers.

As Christians, we are to have a faith in God like small children have in their parents.  I will use a well-worn verse, once again.  (Proverbs 3:5-6)  “Trust in the Lord and not yourself”  Why do you suppose that God thought it necessary to include that admonition in His revealed Word? Right – because He knows us and our inclinations.  He created us with a will.  Now think about this.  He gave us our own will, but then asks that we submit that will to His.  Free will says you don’t have to .. and very often we don’t!  We are to follow Jesus’ example.  And if you want to follow Jesus … if you really want to follow Jesus … then you will pick up your cross daily (Matthew 16:24) … which is to say … sacrifice your will in favor of the Father’s will …. Believing that our God is greater than any other.  That you can trust Him even when you don’t understand everything.  To decide that you are not going your own way or the way that everyone else is going.  Can you do that? Yes! Will you do that?  Time will tell.  Personally I hope so.  You will never experience the new life God intends for you until you do.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

It Is God And Not Our Culture Who Defines Sin - Who Are You Believing?

If we walk in the light as He is in the light…the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. —1 John 1:7

{CHAMBERS} “To mistake freedom from sin only on the conscious level of our lives for complete deliverance from sin by the atonement through the Cross of Christ is a great error. […] The evidence that I have been delivered from sin is that I know the real nature of sin in me. […] And it is not until we truly perceive the unrivaled power of the Spirit in us that we understand the meaning of 1 John 1:7 , which says, “…the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” This verse does not refer only to conscious sin, but also to the tremendously profound understanding of sin which only the Holy Spirit in me can accomplish. I must “walk in the light as He is in the light…”— not in the light of my own conscience, but in God’s light. […] On the conscious level it produces a keen, sorrowful knowledge of what sin really is. The love of God working in me causes me to hate, with the Holy Spirit’s hatred for sin, anything that is not in keeping with God’s holiness. To “walk in the light” means that everything that is of the darkness actually drives me closer to the center of the light.”

{ELGIN}  Does the fact that you continue to sin concern you?  Even a little bit?  Or are you content with being a marginal Christian. Are you accommodating sin in your life because, well frankly, you like it.  If you love your culture.  If you embrace what it offers or promotes as truth and right, even though the Word of God says it is a lie and wrong, then that is exactly where you are.  It is not a function of what you have but what has you.  Listen, freedom from sin is not freedom to sin.  It is really not OK.  The problem is, so many “Christians” are in love with the world and the things of the world, that if you look at other Christians and not Jesus, you can find justification for what you do and don’t do very easily.  We are not to love our neighbor and then love for God will result.  It is the other way around.  Love God and then you will love others because of our love for God and His love for us.  (1 John 4:19) The Christmas celebration is fresh on our minds.  Churches try to accommodate people by not have a service on Christmas morning.  Why? So people can be at home and focus on gift giving.  Don’t ask them to come to church instead … the preacher may be preaching to empty pews.  Even though we may say “Jesus is the reason for the season” we don’t want Him to get in the way of our revelry.

I am not descended from Scrooge!  I want you to think about where your heart is and where your priorities are.  Loving God and not loving the world is not an option, it’s a command.  Your devotion to your family is a good thing but not when it trumps your devotion to God.  Would you consider going into debt to give to God?  Would you think about how your tax return will pay for the tithe you put on your credit card? No? Yet you will do that for your family.  Often buying them gifts they don’t need … why?  God sent His Son as a gift to save us from the world and our sin.  Think about it. We over indulge ourselves in the things of the world and then give God an hour to sing Christmas carols.

I type what the Lord puts on my heart at the moment. You might be thinking “he is not talking about me!”  If not .. praise the Lord, but be watchful … the temptation is all around you.  The bottom line …… Each of us should examine our hearts.  Especially at this time of year.  Child of God …. I am encouraging you to let the light of Christ shine  (Matthew 5:16) .. first in your home and then the world.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas - And What Exactly Does That Look Like?

God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ… —Galatians 6:14

{CHAMBERS} “The gospel of Jesus Christ always forces a decision of our will. Have I accepted God’s verdict on sin as judged on the Cross of Christ? Do I have even the slightest interest in the death of Jesus? Do I want to be identified with His death— to be completely dead to all interest in sin, worldliness, and self? Do I long to be so closely identified with Jesus that I am of no value for anything except Him and His purposes? The great privilege of discipleship is that I can commit myself under the banner of His Cross, and that means death to sin. You must get alone with Jesus and either decide to tell Him that you do not want sin to die out in you, or that at any cost you want to be identified with His death. […] The proof that your old life is dead, having been “crucified with Christ” (Galatians 2:20), is the amazing ease with which the life of God in you now enables you to obey the voice of Jesus Christ.”

{ELGIN} How much do you want to be identified with Jesus?  I mean, what are you willing to give up?  Material things are not what I am talking about.  Your attachment to them is a reflection of something deeper.  They reflect your attachment … dependence upon … something other than God for your hope, peace and joy.  If your whole heart belongs to God (Matthew 22:37-39), then giving up any possession becomes trivial.  Christmas is upon us.  The celebration of the advent of the Messiah.  At least that is what it started out to be.  But the world has taken possession of it.  Now it is a season to satisfy the lust of our eyes, our flesh and to fill the coffers of the businesses.  Now it’s “joy to the world, the sales have come, let’s charge our credit to the max!”  We cannot serve two masters,  God and the world (Matthew 6:24).  God says you cannot .. the world says “Oh yes you can!”  Which one do you believe?  My purpose is not to send you on a guilt trip two days before Christmas. But I do want you to think about where your heart is?  What is your biggest concern today?  That you have not bought enough presents?  That someone will be unhappy?  Or that Jesus will not be forgotten in your home.  In the following verses notice that both groups asked Jesus the same question.  “When did we see you?”  If you are dead to sin and the flesh and alive toward Christ then your life will reflect that devotion.  The same is true if you are alive toward sin and the flesh and dead toward Christ.  Be careful my friend … it is so easy, especially in this culture, to choose poorly.  You won’t lose your salvation .. but you will miss God’s purpose.  That may not mean much to you now, but it will mean everything to you in eternity.

(Matthew 25:31- 46)  “When the Son of Man [Jesus] comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

“Then the King will say to those on his right [the sheep], ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

“Then he will say to those on his left [the goats], ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

Friday, December 22, 2017

Let's Get Real ... Whose Will Really Rules Your Life ... What You Think And Do?

No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him… —John 6:44

{CHAMBERS} “When God begins to draw me to Himself, the problem of my will comes in immediately. […] Belief is not the result of an intellectual act, but the result of an act of my will whereby I deliberately commit myself. But will I commit, placing myself completely and absolutely on God, and be willing to act solely on what He says? If I will, I will find that I am grounded on reality as certain as God’s throne. […] Belief must come from the will to believe. There must be a surrender of the will, not a surrender to a persuasive or powerful argument. I must deliberately step out, placing my faith in God and in His truth. And I must place no confidence in my own works, but only in God. […] I must be willing to ignore and leave my feelings behind. I must will to believe. But this can never be accomplished without my forceful, determined effort to separate myself from my old ways of looking at things. I must surrender myself completely to God.”

{ELGIN}  If a person is not a Christian, they are handicapped.  Meaning, they do not have the ability to hear God, much less obey God.  Their faith is in themselves.  They trust only themselves to know what is right for them to do.  Or others just like them.  I find it remarkable how people, this really becomes obvious with teenagers, look to people in their same plight for help in knowing what is right.  Let’s say four people are drowning.  There is someone in a boat offering a life preserver, but instead, they look to each other .. all drowning .. for advice and help.  That does not make any sense does it.  Well, it happens all of the time.  And to the person who is willful … full of their own will … it makes perfect sense.  The surrender of your will to God is not a one-time event.  Salvation is .. but daily surrender is not.  (Mark 8:34) “Then Jesus called the crowd to Him along with His disciples, and He told them, If anyone wants to come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross (daily) and follow Me.”

Every day you will be tempted to go your own way.  To trust in yourself.  To listen to other people who are drowning rather than look to God. Every day you must deliberately surrender to God … pick up your cross.  Jesus looked to the Father and no one else for direction.  His purpose was to do His Father’s will.  A very lofty thing to say .. even want to do .. but it very often does not play out well in Christians’ lives.  Instead their flesh rules the day.  There is no practical connection between how they live and what they say they believe and who they are in Christ.  They are indistinguishable from the rest of those drowning with the exception that they may go to church or youth group once a week.  Listen, I am not perfect .. but you probably already knew that!  But I can see that the issue of the will dominates most Christians.  I see it in  my children and their children .. in my friends … in people I go to church with … in myself.  Paul wrote (Romans 12:1,2)  “Offer yourself as a living sacrifice” … it is reasonable given what Jesus has done for us … “don’t be conformed to this world” …. Its dependence upon its own wisdom and will … “but be transformed” …. With a change of heart and your way of thinking and doing.  The only way that can happen is a surrender of your will by faith.  That is the life you have been called to … that is the life you said you wanted … that is the life that will bring fulfillment … and peace.  Who could possible prevent you from experiencing that new life …. You.  That’s who.  (Galatians 2:20)  You have been crucified with Christ, nevertheless you live, but not you, Christ lives in you.  And the life you now live you live by faith in the Son who loves you and gave Himself up for you.  Keep that in the front of your mind .. every day .. every second of every day.  Else you stumble and trust someone or something other than our Father in heaven.  His will be done!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Are You Dissatisfied With Your Church? Be Careful, Your Feelings Will Fool You.

We have received…the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. —1 Corinthians 2:12

{CHAMBERS} “My experience is not what makes redemption real— redemption is reality. […] When I am born again, the Spirit of God takes me beyond myself and my experiences, and identifies me with Jesus Christ. […] My experiences are not worth anything unless they keep me at the Source of truth— Jesus Christ.[…] Never support an experience which does not have God as its Source and faith in God as its result. If you do, your experience is anti-Christian, no matter what visions or insights you may have had. Is Jesus Christ Lord of your experiences, or do you place your experiences above Him? […] Faith based on experience is not faith; faith based on God’s revealed truth is the only faith there is.”

{ELGIN} What is it that draws you to attend a certain church?  How much does the style of worship music affect your attitude when you are there? What is your expectation when you are there?  I have known many people who stopped attending a particular church because they did not get along with someone or they were not getting anything out of it.  We become part of a congregation for any number of reasons. The only right one is that the Lord has led you there. And if He is the One who said “come” then He is the only One who can authoritatively say “go”.  So often it is our feeling – emotions – that drive our decision to leave.  The point of assembling together on Sunday is to corporately draw closer to God.  To offer up our devotion to Him.  To hear a word from Him through the preacher.  To learn from the Word of God.  In other words to draw closer to God and be refreshed spiritually.  But so very often … we go to feel good … We focus more on other people than on the God we have come to worship.  Don’t let your feelings fool you.  The source of our emotions is very often from our flesh not our Spirit.  A good test is to think about why you feel the way you do .. is it because of what someone – a human – said or did or looked?  That is not from the Spirit.  Going to church should not be a chore.  At the same time its primary purpose is not to make you feel good but to draw close to God.  Don’t spend so much time examining other church members, the pastor, or the worship leader … but examine your own heart.  To quote Rick Warren, “It’s not about you!”  Think about it.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Living Like Your Lost - It's Easier Than You Think

And I, if I am lifted up…will draw all peoples to Myself. —John 12:32

{CHAMBERS} “Very few of us have any understanding of the reason why Jesus Christ died. If sympathy is all that human beings need, then the Cross of Christ is an absurdity and there is absolutely no need for it. What the world needs is not “a little bit of love,” but major surgery. When you find yourself face to face with a person who is spiritually lost, remind yourself of Jesus Christ on the cross. If that person can get to God in any other way, then the Cross of Christ is unnecessary. If you think you are helping lost people with your sympathy and understanding, you are a traitor to Jesus Christ. You must have a right-standing relationship with Him yourself, and pour your life out in helping others in His way— not in a human way that ignores God. […] The calling of a New Testament worker is to expose sin and to reveal Jesus Christ as Savior. Consequently, he cannot always be charming and friendly, but must be willing to be stern to accomplish major surgery. We are sent by God to lift up Jesus Christ, not to give wonderfully beautiful speeches. We must be willing to examine others as deeply as God has examined us. We must also be sharply intent on sensing those Scripture passages that will drive the truth home, and then not be afraid to apply them.”

{ELGIN}  I am an observer of people.  I watch how they interact with each other.  How they respond to life.  How they communicate with each other.  What they say and what they don’t say.  One thing I noticed recently is how we compartmentalize our lives.  There are aspects that are strictly spiritual and others that are natural … old nature things.  How people respond to the natural often times is with the natural in them.  If you are a Christian .. everything has a spiritual context.  Most contention between people has do to with the clashing of the natural – sin – with the spiritual.  But we don’t see it that way.  Chambers addressed how we should respond to the lost … but I am addressing to how we should respond to the saved.  The saved don’t need Jesus, they have Jesus.  Their problem is that they are living like they are lost.  They don’t love God with their all or they would do what His Word says to do, by the power of His Spirit and faith.  We typically don’t address wrong choices from a spiritual point of view.  We want to correct and redirect using all of our natural methods.  Rather, we should start by reminding others of who they are in Christ and what they are doing or saying does not honor God or bring Him glory .. which should be our and their primary objective in life.  But we slice out pieces of our lives and leave God out of them.  We just don’t see what that has to do with God.

OK … I will tell you … we have been bought with a price – the Cross.  We have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus.  We are newly created spiritually and the old things .. the natural … is behind us .. that is unless you stuck some in your pocket in case you needed it some day!  Everything has spiritual context.  And we need to be reminded .. because we forget in the heat of the moment or at the point of temptation.  We don’t see sin as sin, but simple choices that I have a right to make.  Uh ….. no you don’t.  You gave up your rights as a sinner when you were born again by faith in Jesus.  If you have a problem with seeing sin as sin .. and preferring to live in the natural it is because you have distanced yourself from the fundamentals of the faith.  Your heart has grown cold toward God .. no matter how often you go to church or what you tell other people.  Now if what I have described is not you, but you know someone that the “shoe” fits, then point them, lovingly, back to God. That is your responsibility as their Brother or Sister … as a disciple of Jesus … as a child of God. 

Monday, December 18, 2017

No Matter What Happens To Us .. God's Glory Can Shine Through Us

We know that all things work together for good to those who love God… —Romans 8:28

{CHAMBERS} “It is only a faithful person who truly believes that God sovereignly controls his circumstances. […] To be faithful in every circumstance means that we have only one loyalty, or object of our faith— the Lord Jesus Christ. […] Being faithful to Jesus Christ is the most difficult thing we try to do today. We will be faithful to our work, to serving others, or to anything else; just don’t ask us to be faithful to Jesus Christ. Many Christians become very impatient when we talk about faithfulness to Jesus. […] We treat God as if He were a machine designed only to bless us, and we think of Jesus as just another one of the workers. The goal of faithfulness is not that we will do work for God, but that He will be free to do His work through us. […] God wants to use us as He used His own Son.”

{ELGIN} When most Christians hear or read Romans 8:28, I think that they think it is about their personal good.  If I do this, then God will do that.  God wants me to be happy.  He wants me to be comfortable.  He wants me to be blessed!  We are already blessed (Ephesians 1:3) “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.”  We have the fruit of the Spirit – (Galatians 5: 22-23) “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” All blessings that are ours in spite of what is going on around us in that natural.  So … what good is it that God brings about … I think it is His glory.  The chief end of man is to glorify God.  We do that with our lives.  (2 Corinthians 4:7-10) “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.”  No matter what we may experience in this life of ours .. God can and will use it for His glory.  So often we translate God’s blessing us into some earthly benefit … health .. wealth … relationships … what if God’s blessing is the supernatural ability to persevere through faith so … no matter what happens to us …. God’s glory will shine through us. But your confidence in God must be based upon faith and not your circumstances. Is it?

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Living Our New Life In Christ Is A Struggle - It Takes Effort - Don't Quit!

Take up the whole armor of God…praying always… —Ephesians 6:13,18

{CHAMBERS} “You must learn to wrestle against the things that hinder your communication with God, and wrestle in prayer for other people; but to wrestle with God in prayer is unscriptural. If you ever do wrestle with God, you will be crippled for the rest of your life. If you grab hold of God and wrestle with Him, as Jacob did, simply because He is working in a way that doesn’t meet with your approval, you force Him to put you out of joint (see Genesis 32:24-25). Don’t become a cripple by wrestling with the ways of God, but be someone who wrestles before God with the things of this world, because “we are more than conquerors through Him…” (Romans 8:37). Wrestling before God makes an impact in His kingdom. If you ask me to pray for you, and I am not complete in Christ, my prayer accomplishes nothing. But if I am complete in Christ, my prayer brings victory all the time. Prayer is effective only when there is completeness— “take up the whole armor of God….””

{ELGIN}  Do you brush your teeth in the morning?  Seem like an odd way to start a devotion?  Brushing your teeth is a discipline.  So is getting up to go to work.  If you don’t do either one, there are negative consequences.  You value your teeth … and you value your source of income .. so you make yourself do those things.  After a while, they become more routine, but still …. You must choose to do them.  That is the same with prayer and obedience.  We must discipline ourselves to do them.  Our natural selves push back – or wrestle with our spiritual selves.  The message is – you are too busy to brush (pray) this morning … you can do that later … or I will just call in sick today … I don’t feel like going to work (doing the will of God) today.  Something I have noticed as I grow older … the speed at which my body atrophies …. Loses strength .. stamina … tone … is accelerating.  And the difficulty I have getting back to where I was.  If I slack off in any way, BOOM!  I am sliding down the steep slope of atrophy.  It’s the same with our spiritual life.  A life without spiritual discipline is a life of spiritual weakness.  The danger is .. you can become used to that condition and start to think that it is normal.  Well, it may be common, but it is far from “normal” if you are a Christian. I want to encourage you to get serious about your spiritual condition … God has called you to so much more than mediocrity in your faith walk.  I can encourage but the Spirit must convict your heart, if you need it.  This is a good time of the year to think about our new life in Christ.  Like Jesus, you have two natures.  You spiritual nature should be dominant.  Like Jesus, seek to do the Father’s will.  Like Jesus, stand against temptation with the Word of God.  Like Jesus, be disciplined to talk to the Father and look to Him.  Like Jesus bring Glory to God , the Father, through obedience and devotion.  Like Jesus …. Fulfill the purpose the Father has given you.  Let you light shine before all men. 

Thursday, December 14, 2017

God's Peace What It Is And What It Is Not

Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled… —John 14:27

{CHAMBERS} “Whenever we experience something difficult in our personal life, we are tempted to blame God. But we are the ones in the wrong, not God. Blaming God is evidence that we are refusing to let go of some disobedience somewhere in our lives. But as soon as we let go, everything becomes as clear as daylight to us. As long as we try to serve two masters, ourselves and God, there will be difficulties combined with doubt and confusion. Our attitude must be one of complete reliance on God. […] God’s mark of approval, whenever you obey Him, is peace. He sends an immeasurable, deep peace; not a natural peace, “as the world gives,” but the peace of Jesus. […] If you are acting on your own impulse, or out of a sense of the heroic, to be seen by others, the peace of Jesus will not exhibit itself. […] Any problem that comes while I obey God (and there will be many), increases my overjoyed delight, because I know that my Father knows and cares, and I can watch and anticipate how He will unravel my problems.”

{ELGIN}  What is your expectation of God with respect to your faith and everyday living?  Do you think that God is obligated to make certain that you do not have to endure hardship?  That nothing “bad” will happen to you or the ones you love?  No injury, no heartbreak, no death, no failure, no loss?  That is a problem.  The Bible does not promise that … God’s theme song might be “I beg your pardon, I never promised you a rose garden!” In fact Jesus said (John 16:33) “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” Our peace is in Jesus – supernatural peace … peace in spite of the circumstances you find your self in this world you live in .. a world full of sinners.  Peace is a fruit of the Spirit .. in spite of your circumstances … Because of your spiritual perspective you see life, as it happens, differently. Oh, you wanted to avoid experiencing anything unpleasant and was hoping that your rebirth would provide that for you.  Sorry!  But that does not mean that you can’t experience joy while your feet are still on terra firma.  Joy, another fruit of the Spirit.  Are you hoping the world will somehow get better over time?  Not going to happen.  Sin begets sin.  Hurt people hurt people.  The answer is Jesus.  He is the Hope of Heaven.  James said (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.”

Look!  All of us have experienced and are experiencing difficulties in this life.  Christmas is a reminder that God showed His grace and mercy by sending a Redeemer – Jesus. And then He sent a Spiritual Helper – the Holy Spirit. And through Jesus, He established the Church.  Let your light shine in the midst of this unreasonable facsimile of the celebration of the incarnation of the Savior of the world.  The world wants to snuff out your candle.  To replace Jesus with its god – money. Let your light burn brightly.  Let people know that our Redeemer lives! He is Jesus the King.  He is the Christ.  The Son of God.  Who takes away the sins of the world.  Shout hallelujah! And thank God for His wonderful gift … (Ephesians 2:8-9) “…saved by faith … it is a gift from God”

God Bless You

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Our Responsibility to Pray For People Even If They Don't Seem To Care

…men always ought to pray and not lose heart. —Luke 18:1

{CHAMBERS} “You cannot truly intercede through prayer if you do not believe in the reality of redemption. Instead, you will simply be turning intercession into useless sympathy for others, which will serve only to increase the contentment they have for remaining out of touch with God. True intercession involves bringing the person, or the circumstance that seems to be crashing in on you, before God, until you are changed by His attitude toward that person or circumstance. Intercession means to “fill up…[with] what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ” (Colossians 1:24), and this is precisely why there are so few intercessors. People describe intercession by saying, “It is putting yourself in someone else’s place.” That is not true! Intercession is putting yourself in God’s place; it is having His mind and His perspective.[…] What we must avoid in intercession is praying for someone to be simply “patched up.” We must pray that person completely through into contact with the very life of God. Think of the number of people God has brought across our path, only to see us drop them! When we pray on the basis of redemption, God creates something He can create in no other way than through intercessory prayer.”

{ELGIN}  Are there people in your life that you care deeply about.  You watch them as they struggle in life.  Making poor choices, suffering the consequences and then making more poor choices.  Do you believe that God can make a difference in their lives?  Has He made a difference in yours?  We tend to look at what people might “do” differently rather than how they might trust differently.  People who choose poorly do so because they have full confidence in their ability to accomplish whatever it is that they must accomplish.  They just have to try harder.  Watching them floundering in life, we want them … try to wish them into … choosing better … to not give in to whatever is disrupting any possibility of them experiencing joy.  Often, with great sorrow, we have little confidence that they will be successful. The problem is that we too, have lost focus on the solution to their dilemma.  It is not doing more … but doing less and trusting on God.  That is a faith transaction.  No amount of wishing or wanting is going to make that happen.  So what to do.  We must intercede for them with the One who is able to do more than we can ask or think (Ephesians 3:20).  The prayers of a righteous man (person) are powerful and effective. (James 15:16) Do you believe that?  Someone once said that the only part of the Bible that you believe is the part that you obey.  If I could make someone want to do right and act on it, I would, but I can’t.  I cannot change a heart .. only God can do that.  So if I want a heart changed for the good, I must turn to the One who can do that.  BUT … He will not force His will on anyone .. that person must yield their heart … and what of they don’t or more correctly won’t?  Then you will be heart broken … just like the Father is as He watches millions reject His great Gift and Hope, Jesus.  Don’t lose hope .. don’t stop praying .. don’t stop trusting .. don’t stop caring … Keep looking to the hills from which our help commeth! (Psalm 121)

Monday, December 11, 2017

You Are A Reflection Of Your Father. Your Life Will Shout Out Which One.

Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself…" —Matthew 16:24

{CHAMBERS} “Individuality is the hard outer layer surrounding the inner spiritual life. Individuality shoves others aside, separating and isolating people. We see it as the primary characteristic of a child, and rightly so. When we confuse individuality with the spiritual life, we remain isolated. This shell of individuality is God’s created natural covering designed to protect the spiritual life. But our individuality must be yielded to God so that our spiritual life may be brought forth into fellowship with Him. […] The characteristics of individuality are independence and self-will. We hinder our spiritual growth more than any other way by continually asserting our individuality. […] Watch yourself closely when the Spirit of God is at work in you. He pushes you to the limits of your individuality where a choice must be made. The choice is either to say, “I will not surrender,” or to surrender, breaking the hard shell of individuality, which allows the spiritual life to emerge. […] God wants to bring you into union with Himself, but unless you are willing to give up your right to yourself, He cannot. “…let him deny himself…”— deny his independent right to himself. Then the real life-the spiritual life-is allowed the opportunity to grow.”

{ELGIN} There are two sides to this coin.  The natural and the supernatural.  I am sure you have heard the saying “The apple does not fall too far from the tree.”  Or how about “He is just like his dad.” I remember that one. Before I type what I am going to type, let me preface it by saying my mom was a godly woman who led many to Jesus.  Before her rebirth .. well she was just like every other person who needs Jesus.  My parents were divorced when I was 2 years old.  I was one of four, the youngest, from my parents marriage.  We lived with my mom.  Years later, my mom admitted she got married for the wrong reason .. one of 15 children she wanted out of the house.  Many people make choices like that.  The consequences of those “flesh” choices  reverberate through their lives and the lives of their children and maybe even their children.  OK, so one day I did something she didn’t like and she said to me “Stop doing that you remind me of your father!” I can remember thinking, “Don’t be like your father or you will lose the love of your mother.”  It proved to be a deterrent from my wanting to be like him in any way.  Well that is the natural.  By the way, I shared Christ with my dad while he lay dying in the hospital.  He told me that he accepted Jesus as his savior.  It’s not an issue of who you are reflecting but “what” you are reflecting in who you are reflecting.  There is a significant interest in finding your genetic roots. is advertised a lot on television.  People want to know. is connected to – sponsored by the Mormons.  Know where they came from is an important part of their belief system.  Well, on the natural side the Bible tells us  .. we came from Adam.  We are a reflection of Adam.  (Romans 3:23) “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”  In other words .. we are not like our heavenly father.  People think they can find meaning and perhaps comfort in knowing their ancestry.  What they need to know is Jesus. Jesus told Nicodemus … (John 3:3-8)  “You must be born again … by the Spirit”

So on to the supernatural. Being a reflection of our Father in heaven is always a good thing. But to do that you must be born again and walking after the Spirit and not the flesh. Jesus said (John 14:9) “If you have seen Me you have seen the Father.” Jesus was and is a reflection of the Father.  They are indistinguishable.  Jesus prayed (John 17:21) “that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me” Paul wrote (Romans 8:29-30) “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.”  Jesus said (John 5:30) “ because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me.”  When we reflect Jesus, we reflect the Father. There is no room for our old nature or its individuality.  Our identity is in Christ.  (2 Corinthians 5:17) “..old things are passed away .. everything is becoming new”  But be on your guard because your flesh will surely rise up and demand its place in your life.  All I can say is you must take it to the altar (Romans 12:1-2)

Final note:  I won’t know for sure if my dad was being honest or just trying to appease me with his death bed profession of faith until I get to heaven, but I pray that we both are reflecting our heavenly Father.  Me here on earth and him in glory.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Simplifying Forgiveness - Who, What, When, Why?

By one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified. —Hebrews 10:14

{CHAMBERS} “We trample the blood of the Son of God underfoot if we think we are forgiven because we are sorry for our sins. The only reason for the forgiveness of our sins by God, and the infinite depth of His promise to forget them, is the death of Jesus Christ. Our repentance is merely the result of our personal realization of the atonement by the Cross of Christ, which He has provided for us. “…Christ Jesus…became for us wisdom from God— and righteousness and sanctification and redemption…” (1 Corinthians 1:30). […] No matter who or what we are, God restores us to right standing with Himself only by means of the death of Jesus Christ. […] God is just in saving bad people only as He makes them good. Our Lord does not pretend we are all right when we are all wrong. The atonement by the Cross of Christ is the propitiation God uses to make unholy people holy.

{ELGIN}  (Note: Propitiation is a big word that refers to the Mercy Seat on the Ark of the Covenant and to Jesus. Jesus was our propitiation [1 John 4:10] – in that His death on the Cross satisfied God’s wrath.) 

Why do we forgive?  Because we are forgiven.  How can we forgive? It’s a supernatural act, not an act of our natural will to be benevolent.  It is by the power that is within us.  When do we forgive?  … as often as the repentant soul seeks forgiveness.  Peter asked Jesus about “repeat offenders” … (Matthew 18:21-22) “Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”   Jesus followed that with the parable of the unmerciful or unforgiving servant.  A man who had been forgiven but was unwilling to forgive others in the same way … even in the smallest matter.  Jesus has paid the price for sin.  Once for all. Think about it.  Why would we think that the offense against us is somehow more significant that our offense against God?  How can your reject one who has been forgiven by God .. who do you think you are?  I’ll tell you.  It goes back to the Garden.  We want to be like God.  How dare someone sin against me.  In our humanness, we think that we have power in withholding forgiveness.  Actually … in not forgiving, we are sinning.  (James 4:17) “If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.”  Then you must repent of your unforgiveness and repent yourself!

There is a process that a sinner follows to find forgiveness … he sins .. he is convicted by the spirit … he repents  …. he confesses … he finds forgiveness from the one who has been offended.  All sin is against God.  So you must first go to God and then to the one you have offended.  Confession means … to agree with.  God knows all things, so it is not like the sinner is going to surprise Him. 

Thursday, December 7, 2017

The Danger Of Getting The Cart Of Forgiveness Before The Horse Named Repentance

Godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation… —2 Corinthians 7:10

{CHAMBERS} “ …  Conviction of sin is one of the most uncommon things that ever happens to a person. It is the beginning of an understanding of God. Jesus Christ said that when the Holy Spirit came He would convict people of sin (see John 16:8). And when the Holy Spirit stirs a person’s conscience and brings him into the presence of God, it is not that person’s relationship with others that bothers him but his relationship with God— “Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in your sight…” (Psalm 51:4). The wonders of conviction of sin, forgiveness, and holiness are so interwoven that it is only the forgiven person who is truly holy. He proves he is forgiven by being the opposite of what he was previously, by the grace of God. Repentance always brings a person to the point of saying, “I have sinned.” The surest sign that God is at work in his life is when he says that and means it. Anything less is simply sorrow for having made foolish mistakes— a reflex action caused by self-disgust.[…] The foundation of Christianity is repentance. […] If you ever cease to understand the value of repentance, you allow yourself to remain in sin. Examine yourself to see if you have forgotten how to be truly repentant.”

{ELGIN}  I am in the process of writing a treatise on forgiveness. (I had to look the definition of treatise up) The supernatural act of forgiving.  There is a progression that leads to forgiveness.  As Christians we sin.  We come under conviction. That conviction produces godly sorrow which leads to repentance. Repentance leads to forgiveness and restoration.  Think about that.  Granting forgiveness without repentance is called enabling.  Even though you will be tempted, don't give someone a "pass" because you feel sorry for them.  That means you don’t love them enough to get to the point of repentance which brings healing and restoration.  Think about the parable of the prodigal son. (Luke 15:11-32)  What is the remarkable point of that story?  God is the “father” and we are the “wayward son”.  The father loved the son, but did not go after the son to convince him to come home. The father waited for the son to be convicted, to repent of his sin and return to the father seeking forgiveness.  The son did not even imagine that he would be restored as a son.  The best he hoped for was to be treated like a hired hand.  An evidence of a broken and humble heart.  Every day, the father looked to the hills in the hope that his son would repent one day and return.  He loved his son.  He loved him enough to let the process take its course … even though the father hated what his son was going through.  The father knew that until his son’s heart was changed, there could be no restoration.

That is true for us as well.  We are commanded to forgive, but we must be careful that the forgiveness is not misapplied … and abused.  That means we must exercise spiritual discernment and emotional restraint.  We must be ready to forgive, as we have been forgiven. (Ephesians 4:32) But remember, forgiveness comes after repentance and not before.