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 wither 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.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Trusting God - Even When Things Don't Seem To Be Going Your Way

I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth. —Genesis 9:13

{CHAMBERS} “Waiting for God to act is fleshly unbelief. It means that I have no faith in Him. I wait for Him to do something in me so I may trust in that. But God won’t do it, because that is not the basis of the God-and-man relationship. Man must go beyond the physical body and feelings in his covenant with God, just as God goes beyond Himself in reaching out with His covenant to man. It is a question of faith in God— a very rare thing. We only have faith in our feelings. I don’t believe God until He puts something tangible in my hand, so that I know I have it. Then I say, “Now I believe.” There is no faith exhibited in that. God says, “Look to Me, and be saved…” (Isaiah 45:22). When I have really transacted business with God on the basis of His covenant, letting everything else go, there is no sense of personal achievement— no human ingredient in it at all. Instead, there is a complete overwhelming sense of being brought into union with God, and my life is transformed and radiates peace and joy.”

{ELGIN}  You may have heard the saying “Those who can’t do, teach.” Well, that may be true for some, but there are many teachers who are masters at their discipline and have chosen to teach others in that discipline, communicating their skills and knowledge they have gained  in “the real world” in the classroom.  In the same way, I could not write the words that I do, had I not experienced what I write about.  That is the nature of discipleship.  I can study books that tell me about flying, but unless I actually have flown, it’s all hypothetical.  So …. As I read Chambers this morning … I was reminded of our faith journey.  God has called Martie and me to a life that is unfettered from conventional wisdom.  In other words, we do things that don’t make sense to “reasonable-rational” men … that is if you want a secure retirement and to live the American dream.  Nothing wrong with those things .. that is unless they are the source of your saying “no” to God.  If that is the case, they are stumbling blocks and should be tossed aside.

The most important question for a Christian to answer is .. “Do I trust God?”  or “Do I trust something else .. like my 401K, more?”  Right now we are in Texas.  I left a good job … with no guarantee that I would have enough money to pay my bills in a month. We lost our health insurance … with no assurance that Medicare would be sufficient to meet our health needs.  We left our family .. again … with no assurance that we would ever enjoy the family dynamics that all families look forward to.  We are living in a travel trailer that rocks as the wind whistles around it.  But wait .. there is more!  We came to Texas because God said “Go”.  The people here are wondering where the volunteers are.  As if it’s the volunteers that will “save the day”.  They seem to be waiting for us to get started … and some days .. we are waiting for the same thing … It is in that context that I read Chambers this morning … and heard the Lord ask me, “Do you trust Me?  There is a song by Mercy Me, “Even If”.  “They say sometimes you win some Sometimes you lose some. And right now, right now I'm losing bad. I've stood on this stage night after night (written these BLOGS day after day) Reminding the broken it'll be alright. But right now, oh right now I just can't It's easy to sing (write) When there's nothing to bring me down But what will I say When I'm held to the flame Like I am right now. I know You're able and I know You can Save through the fire with Your mighty hand But even if You don't My hope is You alone.”

Abraham followed God and did not know where he was going.  He trusted God without seeing.  Life is like that.  We should not presume that we can get ahead of God. Martie and I are in the center of His will for us, of that we are confident.  We are doing what He called us to do.  Worldly consequences are not the measure of the “rightness” of the call.  If things don’t seem to be going the way you thought they would … will you still follow God and walk in obedience to what you “do” know? People asked Noah where the rain was.  God was holding it back. We don’t know what will happen tomorrow, but we must be obedient to what we know today.  And when we are asked … will volunteers come … our answer will be “Bondye Konnen” – God Knows.  Si Bondye vle – God willing, they will come – or God will provide in some other way.  But even if they don’t, right now, we must rest in our knowledge of God’s faithfulness.

I often use Proverbs 3:5-6 as an encouragement .. but wanted to share the wisdom that is wrapped around those verses … (Proverbs 3:1-8) “…. do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you peace and prosperity. Let love and faithfulness never leave you;  bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones." 

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Be The Light Even If It Hurts Someone's Eyes

…only in regard to the throne will I be greater than you. —Genesis 41:40

{CHAMBERS} “I am accountable to God for the way I control my body under His authority. Paul said he did not “set aside the grace of God”— make it ineffective (Galatians 2:21). The grace of God is absolute and limitless, and the work of salvation through Jesus is complete and finished forever. I am not being saved— I am saved. Salvation is as eternal as God’s throne, but I must put to work or use what God has placed within me. To “work out [my] own salvation” (Philippians 2:12) means that I am responsible for using what He has given me. It also means that I must exhibit in my own body the life of the Lord Jesus, not mysteriously or secretly, but openly and boldly. “I discipline my body and bring it into subjection . . .” (1 Corinthians 9:27). Every Christian can have his body under absolute control for God. God has given us the responsibility to rule over all “the temple of the Holy Spirit,” including our thoughts and desires (1 Corinthians 6:19). We are responsible for these, and we must never give way to improper ones. But most of us are much more severe in our judgment of others than we are in judging ourselves. We make excuses for things in ourselves, while we condemn things in the lives of others simply because we are not naturally inclined to do them.”

{ELGIN}   How do you filter life’s events? In other words .. what is the source from which you respond to what happens to you and around you?  Since this is a faith-based BLOG, the “right” answer is your faith.  But that may not be what actually happens.  If we fail to embrace the primacy of our new nature in our life then we will put the natural in the front of the line .. at the top of the stack of responses to life.  Galatians 2:20 says “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”  The life I now live in the body .. means the natural life has been usurped by Jesus and the Holy Spirit.  How I respond to life should always be based on who I am in Christ.  Romans 12:2 says don’t be conformed to the natural but be transformed by the supernatural.  Loving God with all of you does not leave any room for the flesh and the natural.  When Jesus said (Luke 14:26-27) “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”  That means that you must put the natural in its proper place and it cannot be ahead of Jesus and your new life.

Most people want to be in harmony with their family.  Sometimes our faith gets in the way of that natural harmony.  Many people want the acceptance of their family more than anything.  If you are a Christian, that may not be possible if you are unwilling to compromise your faith.  Have you ever “tucked your faith in your pocket” when you are around certain people so as not to offend them?  If you have, you put the natural ahead of the supernatural.  You chose to deny your faith in favor of  acceptance from the world .. and that may include your family and friends.  You don’t have to be offensive, but you should also not be apologetic.  We are called to be salt and light.  Salt that has lost its saltiness …its ability to do what it was created to do … flavor and heal … is good for nothing and should be cast out to be trampled under men’s feet. (Matthew 5:13) That doesn’t sound good does it.

So .. we are looking at another Christmas … another reminder that God sent His Son so we might be saved from our sin.  The world is trying hard to erase that truth from this celebration and make it about money.  But ... you need to be salt and light – what you were created to be (2 Corinthians 5:17).   Have you ever been in a dark room and someone opened the curtains or turned the lights on.  Did it hurt your eyes?  That is what you do spiritually when you are around other people who are living in darkness.  Be the light!   “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)  Oh, and Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 4, 2017

Who Decides What Is Good? - God Does Not You

To him who overcomes… —Revelation 2:7

{CHAMBERS} “Life without war is impossible in the natural or the supernatural realm. It is a fact that there is a continuing struggle in the physical, mental, moral, and spiritual areas of life.  Health is the balance between the physical parts of my body and all the things and forces surrounding me. […] Jesus said, “In the world you will have tribulation…” (John 16:33). This means that anything which is not spiritual leads to my downfall. Jesus went on to say, “…but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” I must learn to fight against and overcome the things that come against me, and in that way produce the balance of holiness. Then it becomes a delight to meet opposition. Holiness is the balance between my nature and the law of God as expressed in Jesus Christ.”

{ELGIN}  Most Christians don’t struggle with those things that are blatantly “evil”, but with those that seem, on the surface, to be “good”.  Good as defined by our culture and our traditions.  There is a movement in our culture, in particular, to redefine the definition of “good” or what is not sin. 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.”  There is a consequence for that which will be paid in full.

Centuries later men continued to strive to be like God and define what is good and acceptable.  Paul wrote in the beginning of his letter to the Romans .. (Romans 18,20-22,28-32)  “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. … they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools… And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God's righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.” 

And today .. the beat goes on!  Then the young man called Jesus “good teacher”, Jesus responded (Matthew 19:17)  “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.”  In other words,  “Only my Father in heaven is good”  God is the source of goodness.  However some cultures choose to define their own morality and their own definition of what is good.  Jesus accused the Church of Ephesus  of being lukewarm in Revelation 2.  They wanted to do both.  Embrace God and embrace the world.  When there is a clash of definitions, God is abandoned in favor of the culture.  God is rejected and the culture is embraced.  Those Christians who do it feel justified. It is the temptation of “Everyone is doing it”  Before Jesus, everyone was going to hell … today without Jesus .. they are still going to hell … that does not make it good.  God is the source of what is good .. His Word tells us what is sin and what is not.  His Spirit convicts us of sin unless we quench the Spirit.  (There is so much running through my head right now, but I will not share it … else this might be a book and not a devotion) Listen, if the consequence of standing on Truth and the Word, even though it is contrary to the culture and the threat of reject and criticism looms on the horizon .. why should you be any different than Jesus … don’t you want to be like Him?  Or only with respect to the “good” parts.

(John 15:18-27) “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father also.”

We are in a spiritual battle that manifests itself in the way people live and believe.  My encouragement to you .. (Joshua 24:15)  “Choose this day whom you will serve .. but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord”  Make it more than a catch phrase or a plaque on your living room wall.  Make it a commitment … everyday … and more than that … do it!

Saturday, December 2, 2017

How To Live A Perfect Life In An Imperfect Body

Not that I have already attained, or am already perfect… —Philippians 3:12

{CHAMBERS} “[…] God’s purpose is to make us one with Himself. The emphasis of holiness movements tends to be that God is producing specimens of holiness to put in His museum. If you accept this concept of personal holiness, your life’s determined purpose will not be for God, but for what you call the evidence of God in your life. How can we say, “It could never be God’s will for me to be sick”? If it was God’s will to bruise His own Son (Isaiah 53:10), why shouldn’t He bruise you? […] Christian perfection is not, and never can be, human perfection. Christian perfection is the perfection of a relationship with God that shows itself to be true even amid the seemingly unimportant aspects of human life. […] I am called to live in such a perfect relationship with God that my life produces a yearning for God in the lives of others, not admiration for myself. Thoughts about myself hinder my usefulness to God. God’s purpose is not to perfect me to make me a trophy in His showcase; He is getting me to the place where He can use me.”

{ELGIN} (2 Corinthians 4:8-11) “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. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body.”  Does that sound like living the Christian life is trouble free?  (James 1:2-4) “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”  Both of these verses address the issue of spiritual perspective.  Seeing life through the lenses of spiritual understanding.  Paul said that he prayed that the eyes of our heart would be opened. (Ephesians 1:18) The “natural” thing to do is to expect that our new life in Christ, which is supernatural, will result in a better natural life … maybe free of sickness, heartache and want.  If that is what you expected, how is that working for you?

When Jesus healed, there was a spiritual purpose … like the blind man … the disciples asked who sinned .. the answer was no one, but the man was blind so God might be glorified.  He was blind so that Jesus could make a spiritual point in his healing, fulfilling prophecy.  What!  You mean to tell me that the man had lived for, let’s say, 30 years blind and deprived of a “normal” life just for Jesus’ healing? He lived, day after day, wanting to see … would God do that to someone? He sent His Son to die on the cross.  There is a greater, eternal story going on here.  We look at everything from the “natural”, even God.  If you don’t gain spiritual understanding then you will live a conflicted life.  The chief end of man is to glorify God.  You do that by doing His will and offering yourself as a living sacrifice.  What do you think being a sacrifice means?  Having a new car and a 70” 4k TV on your wall? Probably not!  More likely it means trusting God in the midst of the storms of life.  Seeing life from God’s perspective and responding to life with that perspective.  Living a life of faith in Jesus, who has overcome the world. (John 16:33)

Friday, December 1, 2017

Repenting Of Your Sin. There Is More To It Than Being Sorry You Got Caught

Whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. —James 2:10

{CHAMBERS} “The moral law does not consider our weaknesses as human beings; in fact, it does not take into account our heredity or infirmities. It simply demands that we be absolutely moral. The moral law never changes, either for the highest of society or for the weakest in the world. It is enduring and eternally the same. The moral law, ordained by God, does not make itself weak to the weak by excusing our shortcomings. It remains absolute for all time and eternity. If we are not aware of this, it is because we are less than alive. Once we do realize it, our life immediately becomes a fatal tragedy. “I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died” (Romans 7:9). The moment we realize this, the Spirit of God convicts us of sin. Until a person gets there and sees that there is no hope, the Cross of Christ remains absurd to him. Conviction of sin always brings a fearful, confining sense of the law. It makes a person hopeless— “…sold under sin” (Romans 7:14). I, a guilty sinner, can never work to get right with God— it is impossible. There is only one way by which I can get right with God, and that is through the death of Jesus Christ. I must get rid of the underlying idea that I can ever be right with God because of my obedience. Who of us could ever obey God to absolute perfection!”

{ELGIN} Understanding sin in the context of a holy God.  Until a person comes to the point of conversion .. coming under conviction by the Holy Spirit and having a sudden awareness of who they are and who God is, they will never experience a sense of guilt before God and their need for salvation.  Many people are more sorry they got caught than the fact that they did something wrong.  They doing something wrong is an attempt to satisfy some need they have.  Physical or emotional. Sin is an act of desperation.  Man trying to be his own god.  It all started in the garden.  (Genesis 3:4-5)  “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”  The Law brings an awareness of what is necessary to “be like God”, and it is impossible for sinful man, by himself, to be like God.  Recall that Adam and Eve were already created in God’s image and likeness.  (Genesis 1:26)  But they wanted more than that.  They wanted to be equal to God. They wanted to decide what is right and what is wrong. (Sound a bit like our culture?)

So what about today .. for you and me. Does becoming a Christian make you sin-proof?  No.  It does make you Hell-proof.  Sins can be both internal and external.  Jesus taught that.  We tend to focus on the external and try to manage those sins .. to keep them under control.  Not good enough!  If you compare what you do plus what you think to the holiness of God, you will quickly realize that you are not so “holy” as you hoped.  If most of your sinning goes on – on the inside, you may fool people around you, but not God, who sees the heart.  The Law and our sin is a constant reminder that we need a Savior because we cannot be holy on our own.  We need a little – well more correctly – a lot of help.  God does not want you to live a life of guilt because you struggle with sin and the flesh .. He wants you to confess and repent.  But repentance is more than trying harder .. it is trusting more … it is submitting more … it is “faithing” more. I don’t expect to be perfect in the flesh … but I also know that I cannot ever be satisfied with my sinful nature.  Some people say “That is just the way that I am!” in response to some attitude or action that does not glorify God and is hurtful to other people.  As if they can blame their sin on heredity … well they can, but then again, they can’t.  Adam and Eve may have started it, but we are each responsible for our own sin. So we need to own it, confess it, and repent of it.  Today would be a good day to get started.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Reasons Why You May Not Be Content With Your Place In The Body Of Christ - None Are Good

By the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain… —1 Corinthians 15:10

{CHAMBERS} “The way we continually talk about our own inabilities is an insult to our Creator. To complain over our incompetence is to accuse God falsely of having overlooked us. Get into the habit of examining from God’s perspective those things that sound so humble to men. You will be amazed at how unbelievably inappropriate and disrespectful they are to Him. We say things such as, “Oh, I shouldn’t claim to be sanctified; I’m not a saint.” But to say that before God means, “No, Lord, it is impossible for You to save and sanctify me; there are opportunities I have not had and so many imperfections in my brain and body; no, Lord, it isn’t possible.” […] …. always be humble before God, and allow Him to be your all in all. There is only one relationship that really matters, and that is your personal relationship to your personal Redeemer and Lord.”

{ELGIN) You must be careful to not compare yourself to other Christians and imagine that you can never be like them.  It’s true, you may never do what they do, but if you are born again .. you are exactly like them.  You are exactly like Paul … exactly like Billy Graham … but you may be a different part of the body.  (1 Corinthians 12:14-25)  “… the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. […] The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it.”

God has purposed us (Ephesians 2:10).  You might decide to be a butcher, baker, or candlestick maker in the natural, but you do not decide what part of the Body you will be in the supernatural.  God does that.  Exactly like Paul and Billy Graham.  Now that is not to say that you might be envious of someone who is the mouth.  But that is your flesh at work.  Perhaps your insecurities at work or maybe your pride.  I have known men who demanded that they have a certain leadership position in a local church.  Not because they were called to it, but because they lusted after it.  They want to be significant in the eyes of men or perhaps to overcome some feeling of inferiority.  Or maybe you feel like God can’t use you because you have nothing to offer.  You do! You do!  You offer … you.  Then trust that God will use you as He sees fit. It may be to fulfill a place that people won’t see or ever know about.  Is that OK with you?  If not, examine your heart.  If your desire is to glorify God .. the first step is to submit your life to Him and to His will.  A song you may be familiar with … “Yes Lord yes to Your will and to Your way.  Yes Lord yes.  I will trust you and obey.  When the Spirit speaks to me, with my whole heart I’ll agree and I will answer .. YES Lord YES!”

God will provide the opportunity for you to fulfill your purpose. You don’t have to make those opportunities.  Just do what God puts in front of you.  If it seems bigger than you are .. for whatever reason .. it is most probably God.  There was a man, Brother Lawrence, who was known for his spirituality.  He was a monk.  One thing he did not want to do was work in the kitchen.  He decided that.  Any guesses where God put him?  For 15 years.  During that time, he made a huge impact in many people’s lives.  He served faithfully where God put him and glorified God and blessed others in the process.  Are you ready to work in the kitchen? To set side notoriety and the praise of men.  (Mark 9:35) [Jesus said] “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”  Hope that puts things in perspective for you.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Consequence Of Not Keeping My Flesh In Check - An Unfulfilled Life

He will glorify Me… —John 16:14

{CHAMBERS} “The holiness movements of today have none of the rugged reality of the New Testament about them. There is nothing about them that needs the death of Jesus Christ. All that is required is a pious atmosphere, prayer, and devotion. This type of experience is not supernatural nor miraculous. It did not cost the sufferings of God, nor is it stained with “the blood of the Lamb” (Revelation 12:11). It is not marked or sealed by the Holy Spirit as being genuine, and it has no visual sign that causes people to exclaim with awe and wonder, “That is the work of God Almighty!” […] The New Testament example of the Christian experience is that of a personal, passionate devotion to the Person of Jesus Christ. […] Today He [Jesus] is being portrayed as the figurehead of a religion— a mere example. He is that, but He is infinitely more. He is salvation itself; He is the gospel of God! Jesus said, “…when He, the Spirit of truth, has come,…He will glorify Me…” (John 16:13-14). […] The Spirit of God does in me internally all that Jesus Christ did for me externally.”

{ELGIN} A person that is born again and committed to following Jesus has a devotion to Jesus and therefore to the Father, that is evidenced in how they live and how they treat others.  But there is one aspect that is invisible to the people around them and only visible to God.  That is the condition of their heart.  A heart wholly devoted to the Father.  It is possible to attend church, put on your happy face, listen to sermons, and sing worship songs and not be devoted to following Jesus.  (Matthew 15:8-9) “‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.”  (2 Timothy 3:5-7) “having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.”

Many people are convinced that “doing” is the same as “being”.  They practice the Christian religion, embrace the teachings but lack the devotion to the Cornerstone of the Church.  They may go to the altar every Sunday morning and still be spiritually ignorant and far from God.  They lack understanding and they lack commitment to their faith … that is , if they have saving faith.  The demons know who Jesus is, but they don’t serve Him.  They have another master. For many Christians, their hearts that were once alive toward God have become hardened toward spiritual things in favor of those things that satisfy the flesh.  They go through the motions .. say the right things .. but serve themselves and not the risen Lord.  Sound harsh?  The truth often does because truth brings conviction and conviction brings discomfort and causes us to make a decision.  Will I respond to the Truth or will I ignore it and choose to continue on the vain journey I am pursuing.

What am I saying?  Friends, we need to be on our guard or before we know it .. those people .. will become “we the people”.  I must examine myself and my devotion every day.  I have to keep my flesh in check.  The only way that we can glorify the Father is by being spiritually “right” and devoted to His will in every aspect of our lives.  You must be careful that you do not relegate your spirituality to Sunday morning.  We are Christians 24x7 into eternity.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Loving God More Must Be More Than A "Want" ... It's A Command

…being justified freely by His grace… —Romans 3:24

{CHAMBERS} “We have to realize that we cannot earn or win anything from God through our own efforts. We must either receive it as a gift or do without it. The greatest spiritual blessing we receive is when we come to the knowledge that we are destitute. Until we get there, our Lord is powerless. He can do nothing for us as long as we think we are sufficient in and of ourselves. We must enter into His kingdom through the door of destitution. As long as we are “rich,” particularly in the area of pride or independence, God can do nothing for us. It is only when we get hungry spiritually that we receive the Holy Spirit. The gift of the essential nature of God is placed and made effective in us by the Holy Spirit. He imparts to us the quickening life of Jesus, making us truly alive. He takes that which was “beyond” us and places it “within” us. And immediately, once “the beyond” has come “within,” it rises up to “the above,” and we are lifted into the kingdom where Jesus lives and reigns (see John 3:5).”

{ELGIN}  This morning Martie, my wife, asked me what I was thinking about that I would write in this BLOG.  I told her that I really didn’t do it that way.  I read Chamber’s devotion and then ask the Lord, what am I supposed to say today.  And “out it comes”.  Very often, there will be some event – interaction from the previous day that the Lord uses as a launching point from Chambers.  So in that regard what I write is not premeditated as such, but more spontaneous … although that is not to say that there are not years of life that undergird what I write.  I’ve done this 1567 times so far, plus this one …. Frankly I am amazed by the process and perhaps more amazed that God is using me in this way.

So to the point. As Christians we live our lives on this earth with a tension between the spiritual and the natural.  The preaching of the earthly health and wealth gospel … God wants you to be rich and healthy … is the carnal Christian's attempt to resolve that tension.  The idea is that God will give you money .. which He tells you not to love … and health .. which He tells you that you will face affliction and hardship of many kinds … and so … you can really be independent of God .. all of your earthly needs will be met … do you see the heresy in this?  God wants us to give up our dependence upon earthly comforts and assurances and trust Him, alone.  When Job lost everything, the assumption was that he had done something wrong .. why?  Because he lost his earthly possessions. What was the truth .. there was something spiritual at work that superseded the natural.  The same is true in our lives.  The thing is, you must be willing to submit to that … to yield your devotion and dependence upon the natural and trust God's provision.  What do you hunger for?  I see people struggling after disasters and war and poverty, while Americans are trying to figure out if they should go ahead and buy that $1000 iPhone and get rid of their $700 iPhone.  The Church in the United States is the “frog in the pot” with respect to materialism.  We don’t know that we are being cooked … instead, we think the water temperature is just right.

I have been watching the Black Friday phenomenon  .. which it seems has crept into Thursday.  I am trying to find money to help people recover from Hurricane Harvey and people are spending money – hand over fist – to satisfy their lust for more – because they certainly don’t need it – not really.  Pastor Brian, pastor of the church we are connected to in Texas, preached on needs and wants last Sunday.  With respect to the rest of the world, I think it is safe to say that 99% of what we buy is to satisfy our wants.  Our needs were met a long time ago.   (Psalm 37:4) "Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart"  The emphasis here is on our focus on God and His changing what we desire to conform to what He desires.

(James 4:2-4) “You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”

Ugh! That does not leave a lot of wiggle room does it. I guess I should quote Jesus to bring this to a close.  (Matthew 13:14-16) “And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says: ‘Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, And seeing you will see and not perceive; For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, And their eyes they have closed, Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them.’ But blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear" .....  And I would add .. He who is convicted – let him repent.”  Pray about it!