Tuesday, February 28, 2017

How To Live A Life Of Love

"By this we believe…." Jesus answered them, "Do you now believe?" —John 16:30-31

{CHAMBERS} “Now we believe….” But Jesus asks, “Do you…? Indeed the hour is coming…that you…will leave Me alone” (John 16:31-32). Many Christian workers have left Jesus Christ alone and yet tried to serve Him out of a sense of duty, or because they sense a need as a result of their own discernment. […] Our soul has gotten out of intimate contact with God by leaning on our own religious understanding (see Proverbs 3:5-6). […] But once a person realizes how he has hindered his understanding of Jesus Christ, and caused uncertainties, sorrows, and difficulties for himself, it is with shame and remorse that he has to return. […] We should get in the habit of continually seeking His counsel on everything, instead of making our own commonsense decisions and then asking Him to bless them. […] We become a prideful, arrogant person, thinking we know what to do in every situation. We have put our sense of duty on the throne of our life, instead of enthroning the resurrection life of Jesus. We are not told to “walk in the light” of our conscience or in the light of a sense of duty, but to “walk in the light as He is in the light…” (1 John 1:7).

{ELGIN}  Being born again means that we are born into a new, spiritual reality.  Our lives are not our own.  We belong to God.  (1 John 4:4) Yet, we often behave as though we are not God’s own possession but are gods ourselves.  Making decisions about how we will live, how we will treat others.  Some deserve our grace and mercy, others do not.  We reserve the right to treat people poorly, we are easily provoked or maybe we are just in a bad mood.  We say unkind things to people we say we love. We have been called to a life of love.  (1 Corinthians 13: 4-8) “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

The only way we will be consistent with the way we live and love is by having a deep and abiding relationship with the Lord.  That takes work.  Deliberate effort.  There is a person I know who has a spiritual interest. They love attending church for worship, fellowship, and discipleship.  They share the Word with their friends. Yet, at the same time, they see nothing wrong with getting angry with family members, saying unkind things, treating themselves as being first and others last.  It’s a strange paradox, but actually all too common.  We all have spiritual blinders.  We see nothing wrong with the exceptions that we exercise.  In fact we feel justified.  Why do you have this problem?  Because we are lacking in the way we have yielded our lives to the Lord.  We have held something back in our relationship with God and yet think ourselves as being right in our walk.  The thing is, the closer we get to Jesus, the clearer our sinful condition is contrasted to His holiness.  We should stop trying to be holy on our own and embrace Him.  (Galatians 2:20) “This life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”  It’s time to live the life.

Monday, February 27, 2017

The Power Of Jesus, Don't Just Believe It, Faith It

My Utmost For His Highest

Where then do You get that living water? —John 4:11

{CHAMBERS} “‘The well is deep’ — and even a great deal deeper than the Samaritan woman knew! (John 4:11). […] Have you been limiting, or impoverishing, the ministry of Jesus to the point that He is unable to work in your life? Suppose that you have a deep “well” of hurt and trouble inside your heart, and Jesus comes and says to you, “Let not your heart be troubled…” (John 14:1). Would your response be to shrug your shoulders and say, “But, Lord, the well is too deep, and even You can’t draw up quietness and comfort out of it.” […] We impoverish and weaken His ministry in us the moment we forget He is almighty. […] We will come to Jesus for Him to be our comforter or our sympathizer, but we refrain from approaching Him as our Almighty God.[…] When we get into difficult circumstances, we impoverish His ministry by saying, “Of course, He can’t do anything about this.” We struggle to reach the bottom of our own well, trying to get water for ourselves. Beware of sitting back, and saying, “It can’t be done.” You will know it can be done if you will look to Jesus.”

{ELGIN}  Denying the power of Jesus.  We do it all the time.  We try to do it ourselves.  We know the scripture … “Come to Me all you that are weary and heavy laden” (Matthew 11:28); “In my weakness, His strength is made perfect”(2 Corinthians 12:9); “Cast all your cares on Him, because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7);  “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13); “Trust in the Lord .. and don’t lean on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5,6) And yet, when faced with the difficulties that this life brings, our dependence upon our faith fails us. We look to Jesus for salvation easily enough, but when times get tough .. well maybe not so much.  What I am about to say is not be a popular Christian view.  To quote Pastor Rick Warren – “God is not interested so much in our comfort as He is in our character.”  There are essentially two types of maladies that we face in this life.  The first are those that are a consequence of our sin.  The second are those that are a consequence of living in a fallen world.  In both cases, we must look to God for strength to bear them.  God is more likely to walk with you through the trouble than He is to remove the trouble, but He may.  Can you accept the fact that you are living for the glory of God?

(2 Corinthians 4:8-12) “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. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.”  Does that sound like a life of ease?  God’s Word is Truth.  As true as 2 Corinthians 4:8-12 is about the difficulties we will face, so are the verses that tell us about the sufficiency of Jesus in the midst of those difficulties.  “The life that we now life we are to live by faith in the Son who loved us and gave Himself up for us” (Galatians 2:20)  You must do more than believe it .. you must “faith” it, which is applied belief.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Is Loving People Who Don't Love You Back Worth It? Ask Jesus

…though the more abundantly I love you, the less I am loved. —2 Corinthians 12:15

{CHAMBERS} “Natural human love expects something in return. But Paul is saying, “It doesn’t really matter to me whether you love me or not. I am willing to be completely destitute anyway; willing to be poverty-stricken, not just for your sakes, but also that I may be able to get you to God.” “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor…” (2 Corinthians 8:9). And Paul’s idea of service was the same as our Lord’s. He did not care how high the cost was to himself— he would gladly pay it. It was a joyful thing to Paul. […] His [Jesus’] idea is that we serve Him by being the servants of others. […] He said that in His kingdom the greatest one would be the servant of all (see Matthew 23:11). The real test of a saint is not one’s willingness to preach the gospel, but one’s willingness to do something like washing the disciples’ feet— that is, being willing to do those things that seem unimportant in human estimation but count as everything to God. It was Paul’s delight to spend his life for God’s interests in other people, and he did not care what it cost. [To become] broken bread and poured-out wine in the hands of Jesus Christ for the sake of others.”

{ELGIN} I wrote about how we should respond to ingratitude the other day.  The fact that we must deal with ingratitude in our service to others is an indication that the love of God we show to others is very often not reciprocated.  And reciprocity should not be a condition of our obedience to following the leading of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus is the essence of God the Father’s love for mankind, yet Jesus said (John 15:18-21)  “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me.” 

Don’t rely on how people respond to you to be the reason for obeying what God told you to do.  If Jesus had done that, He would not have gone to the Cross, He would have asked the Father to bring Him back to heaven.  Yet, that is not what happened.  I can tell you, responding like Jesus did requires spiritual strength and faith.  If the thought “This is not worth it” crosses your mind, it is the flesh talking.  Recognize it for what it is and rebuke it, in the name of Jesus.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Don't Let Your Flesh Corrupt Your Service To The Lord

I will very gladly spend and be spent for your souls… —2 Corinthians 12:15

{CHAMBERS}  “Once “the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit,” we deliberately begin to identify ourselves with Jesus Christ’s interests and purposes in others’ lives (Romans 5:5). […] We have no right in Christian service to be guided by our own interests and desires. In fact, this is one of the greatest tests of our relationship with Jesus Christ. The delight of sacrifice is that I lay down my life for my Friend, Jesus (see John 15:13). I don’t throw my life away, but I willingly and deliberately lay it down for Him and His interests in other people. And I do this for no cause or purpose of my own. Paul spent his life for only one purpose— that he might win people to Jesus Christ. Paul always attracted people to his Lord, but never to himself. He said, “I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22).”

{ELGIN}  Why do you do what you do?  Is it because of the unction of the Holy Spirit?  A result of a deep and intimate relationship with Jesus?  Or perhaps it is because of what you have reasoned out in your own mind as the reasonable thing to do.  Do you use what others do or don’t do as  the measure for what you will or won’t do in your service to them?  There is a fine line between being a good steward and usurping the Lord and taking His place as the provider and decider.  I am not talking about turning a blind eye toward thievery and corruption, but deciding someone is worthy or not, based solely upon our natural judgement and not the leading of the Holy Spirit.  The former requires natural reason, the latter, faith.  In the former, we think that we are pleasing God and in the latter, we are pleasing God.  In the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30) one servant hid the talent and did not use it for its intended purpose thinking the it we would the Lord that he had protected it.  Instead the Lord took it from him and gave it to the one who had out his talents to use (perhaps by faith and not by sight).  Again in Matthew 25, the sheep and the goats both asked “Lord, when did we see you?” and the Lord answered (Matthew 25:40,45) “When you did (sheep) or didn’t (goats) do for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did (or didn’t) do for Me.” Be careful that you don’t let your flesh and lack of faith corrupt your service.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

How To Deal With An Attitude Of Ingratitude

My Utmost For His Highest

The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve… —Matthew 20:28

{CHAMBERS}  “Paul’s idea of service was the same as our Lord’s— “…ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake” (2 Corinthians 4:5). […] Paul’s idea of service was to pour his life out to the last drop for others. And whether he received praise or blame made no difference. […] the chief motivation behind Paul’s service was not love for others but love for his Lord. If our devotion is to the cause of humanity, we will be quickly defeated and broken-hearted, since we will often be confronted with a great deal of ingratitude from other people. But if we are motivated by our love for God, no amount of ingratitude will be able to hinder us from serving one another. Paul’s understanding of how Christ had dealt with him is the secret behind his determination to serve others. “I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man…” (1 Timothy 1:13). […] Once we realize that Jesus has served us even to the depths of our meagerness, our selfishness, and our sin, nothing we encounter from others will be able to exhaust our determination to serve others for His sake.”

{ELGIN}  Ingratitude.  When I am serving the Lord and I encounter ungrateful people, the first temptation is to revile them.  How dare they?  Don’t they know what I am sacrificing so I can help them.  Do you see the problem with that line of thinking?  Somehow, I have become the source of their help, not the Lord, and it is me they are rejecting, not the Lord, and I don’t like it.  Why should I help ungrateful people?  What a test of my heart and motivation.  Suddenly the situation changes from me helping others to God showing me that my motive for helping has been subverted by my flesh.  When we serve out of obedience, the important thing to do is to serve where the Lord sends us and whoever the Lord brings to us.  (Luke 17:11-19) “Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance  and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed. One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.””

In this story, not only was there only one out of ten that was grateful, but he was someone the Jews hated.  Jesus focused on the one and not the nine.  That is our challenge the next time we meet ingratitude, face to face.  Focus your mind on your mission and the One who sent you, not on those you are serving.  Serving ungrateful people is inevitable. Show them Jesus by the way you serve and you will bring glory to God.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Persevering In Difficult Times

Be still, and know that I am God… —Psalm 46:10

{CHAMBERS} “Perseverance is more than endurance. It is endurance combined with absolute assurance and certainty that what we are looking for is going to happen. Perseverance means more than just hanging on, which may be only exposing our fear of letting go and falling. Perseverance is our supreme effort of refusing to believe that our hero is going to be conquered. Our greatest fear is not that we will be damned, but that somehow Jesus Christ will be defeated. Also, our fear is that the very things our Lord stood for— love, justice, forgiveness, and kindness among men— will not win out in the end and will represent an unattainable goal for us. Then there is the call to spiritual perseverance. A call not to hang on and do nothing, but to work deliberately, knowing with certainty that God will never be defeated.”

{ELGIN} If you look around at the chaos and depravity in this country and in this world, you might be tempted to doubt that God will ever intervene.  But He has already.  The name of that intervention is Jesus.  Were you hopeful that we would have a Christian president who would save us and turn this country around?  If Billy Graham were elected president, even he could not change the hearts of the lost through the presidency.  It is man’s tendency to want a “king” to make things right.  (1 Samuel 8) When I would drive around in Haiti, I was always amazed at the names of the stores and shops.  One auto parts store is named “Mesi Jezi”, thank you Jesus auto parts.  Another “Bondye Fidel”, God is faithful.  The building supply store I frequented in Jacmel was “Perseverance”, which need no translation.  They all served as a reminder that God is present and sovereign.

The situation in the world may seem dark, but it is not the first time, nor, until Jesus returns, will it be the last.   (Romans 1:24,26,28)  God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, God gave them over to degrading passions, and God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper.  But, at no point did God budge from His sovereignty.  As for the Christian in these troubled times, God wants us to persevere in our faith in spite of the turmoil around us.    (2 Corinthians 4:7-10) “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed— always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.” To quote someone I know very well, me, “The darker the night, the brighter the light.”  So let your light shine.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

It's All About Jesus And All About Grace

My Utmost For His Highest

She has done a good work for Me. —Mark 14:6

{CHAMBERS} “If what we call love doesn’t take us beyond ourselves, it is not really love. If we have the idea that love is characterized as cautious, wise, sensible, shrewd, and never taken to extremes, we have missed the true meaning. This may describe affection and it may bring us a warm feeling, but it is not a true and accurate description of love. Have you ever been driven to do something for God not because you felt that it was useful or your duty to do so, or that there was anything in it for you, but simply because you love Him? […] We should quit asking ourselves, “Am I of any use?” and accept the truth that we really are not of much use to Him. The issue is never of being of use, but of being of value to God Himself. Once we are totally surrendered to God, He will work through us all the time."

{ELGIN}  Most acts of love are based upon a feeling that the person showing the love has.  An expectation that there will be some value to the one giving the love. The love that God expects us to show is really independent of “feelings”.  There is no expectation of reciprocity on the part of the one being loved.  When God prompts you to action, the thought should not by “What is this going to cost me?  Can I afford it?” or “What am I going to get out of this, if I do it?”  Talking to someone about serving in Haiti, the person said, “I want my son to go so he will appreciate what he has here.”  The motivation was not about the people being served or sharing the Gospel at all. It was not God honoring, but, still, seemed entirely reasonable to the man.  When volunteers would come to Mississippi or Haiti, often times, at the end of the visit, the team leader would ask the team members “What did you get out of this week?”  The focus was on them.  Perhaps a more better question might have been “What did God show you this week?” That is not to say that serving God will not change you, because it will, but change in you is not the primary purpose of service … of showing the love of God toward others … showing the world Jesus, is.  Many times, God will use one act of service as a foundation stone on which He builds a life of service.  But here is the thing … “It’s not about me and it’s not about you!”  It’s all about Jesus and all about grace.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Following Jesus - When Being Mostly Devoted Is Not Good Enough

My Utmost For His Highest

Arise, let us go from here. —John 14:31

{CHAMBERS} “If we are quietly waiting before God after He has said to us, “Come aside by yourselves…” then that is meditation before Him to seek His will (Mark 6:31). Beware, however, of giving in to mere daydreaming once God has spoken. Allow Him to be the source of all your dreams, joys, and delights, and be careful to go and obey what He has said. If you are in love with someone, you don’t sit and daydream about that person all the time— you go and do something for him. That is what Jesus Christ expects us to do. Daydreaming after God has spoken is an indication that we do not trust Him.”

{ELGIN} (James 4:17) “Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.” We would prefer to think of sin in terms of doing “bad” things. You probably know that the word “sin” means to miss the mark.  So we must ask, what is the “mark”.  For a Christian, it is to do the will of God.  I say for a Christian, because for the lost, it is impossible to “hit the mark”.  The rich young ruler thought that being “good” was enough to please God.  He found out that God requires complete devotion … (Mark 10:21-22) [Jesus said] “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But at these words he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property.” Doing the will of the Father is not just going to distant lands or being in full-time vocational ministry, it is walking with the Lord every day in every way. When a commander in the Army tells you to do something, it is not a suggestion, it is a command. Sometimes he must be explicit and say “I am ordering you to …. “ but most often that phrase is implied by virtue of his position and authority.  This is what Jesus said about it.  (John 14:21,23-24) “He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.” […] If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent Me.”

Friday, February 17, 2017

A Sure Fire Way To Overcome Depression - How Do I Know, The Bible Tells Me So

My Utmost For His Highest

Arise and eat. —1 Kings 19:5

{CHAMBERS} “The angel in this passage did not give Elijah a vision, or explain the Scriptures to him, or do anything remarkable. He simply told Elijah to do a very ordinary thing, that is, to get up and eat. If we were never depressed, we would not be alive— only material things don’t suffer depression. If human beings were not capable of depression, we would have no capacity for happiness and exaltation. There are things in life that are designed to depress us; for example, things that are associated with death. Whenever you examine yourself, always take into account your capacity for depression.”

{ELGIN} It seems that after a mountain top experience comes the valley.  For Elijah, that was the case.  He had just experienced the mighty hand of God.  Done things that were not humanly possible and was running for his life.  It can happen that quickly, the onset of depression.  Elijah lost perspective.  In one moment he is telling others about the God he serves and the next it is as if he had forgotten the God he serves.  Funny how that works.  But it happens to you and me as well. It’s like Pater walking on the water.  (John 21)  For whatever reason, we lose our focus, see the frailty of our flesh, and the depression and doubt sets in.  Not until we get our focus right again, can we overcome those overwhelming feelings of hopelessness.  So it was for Elijah.  God was and is the Provider.  The pressures of this life may seem overwhelming to us, but we serve a mighty God.  We are His children.  The world and its worries are nothing compared to Him.  His love is like an ocean.  Deeper and wider than any problem that we may face.  But, we will only embrace that and live in its truth, when we stop looking at our circumstances and look up, to the hills from whence our help cometh. (Psalm 121)

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Be Careful That What You Do Is Based On Faith And Not Flesh

Arise from the dead… —Ephesians 5:14

{CHAMBERS} “Not all initiative, the willingness to take the first step, is inspired by God. Someone may say to you, “Get up and get going! Take your reluctance by the throat and throw it overboard— just do what needs to be done!” That is what we mean by ordinary human initiative. But when the Spirit of God comes to us and says, in effect, “Get up and get going,” suddenly we find that the initiative is inspired. […] When God sends His inspiration, it comes to us with such miraculous power that we are able to “arise from the dead” and do the impossible. The remarkable thing about spiritual initiative is that the life and power comes after we “get up and get going.” […] Our Lord said to the man with the withered hand, “Stretch out your hand” (Matthew 12:13). As soon as the man did so, his hand was healed. But he had to take the initiative. If we will take the initiative to overcome, we will find that we have the inspiration of God, because He immediately gives us the power of life.”

{ELGIN} Dr. Henry Blackaby  said “You have heard people say don’t just stand there, do something.  But God says, don’t just do something, stand there.”  It is important that you hear God before you act on His behalf. If your actions are to have the eternal consequence that God intends, then your actions must be based upon faith and not flesh.  There are people who do good things who are not motivated by God to do them.  The consequence may be good, but it is not eternal.  In Matthew 25, the question is asked “Lord when did we see you?”  God will present you with many opportunities to act on His behalf.  You must be watching and listening and then, when the opportunity comes, you must step into it.  The problem is that sometimes, often times, we have already decided how God will use us and when He speaks, we say “That can’t be it because it doesn’t fit with what I have decided God wants me to do.”  (Prov 16:9) “Man makes plans in his heart but God orders his steps.”  Are you seeking God?  Listening for Him to speak?  Are you willing to go when you hear Him even if you don’t understand the what or why or where?  You gotta have faith my friend.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

I Don't Want You To Be Like Me, I want You To Be Like Jesus

My Utmost For His Highest

None of us lives to himself… —Romans 14:7

{CHAMBERS} ““You shall be witnesses to Me…” (Acts 1:8). How many of us are willing to spend every bit of our nervous, mental, moral, and spiritual energy for Jesus Christ? That is what God means when He uses the word witness. But it takes time, so be patient with yourself. Why has God left us on the earth? Is it simply to be saved and sanctified? No, it is to be at work in service to Him. Am I willing to be broken bread and poured-out wine for Him? Am I willing to be of no value to this age or this life except for one purpose and one alone— to be used to disciple men and women to the Lord Jesus Christ. My life of service to God is the way I say “thank you” to Him for His inexpressibly wonderful salvation. Remember, it is quite possible for God to set any of us aside if we refuse to be of service to Him— “…lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:27).”

{ELGIN} It is incorrect thinking to believe that my sin .. particularly my internal sin .. those sins that are part of my thought life .. are of no consequence to others.  Your spiritual condition influences how you live and love and do.  Your spiritual condition influences you and so, influences others.  Even though we want to believe otherwise.  The Word says that even those things that are not sin should be avoided if they cause our brother to stumble in their faith walk. (Romans 14:13-23)  If you are prone to think that you should be able to do what you want then you have a problem.  That is contrary to the Word.  Our flesh rises up against the Spirit. It is not unreasonable from the world’s perspective, but it is unacceptable from the Lord’s.  You are the best Christian somebody knows.  Knowing what only you know about yourself, can you honestly say that you want someone to be like you? I don’t want people to aspire to be like me.  They have set their goal too low.  I want them to aspire to be like Jesus. Do our lives reflect Him, inside and out?  Only each of us can answer that.  It’s not my reputation that pleases God, it’s my character.

(2 Peter 1:3-9) “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.  For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness,  and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins."

Monday, February 13, 2017

Focusing On God's Voice - Hearing Him Above The Crowd

My Utmost For His Highest

Samuel answered, "Speak, for Your servant hears." —1 Samuel 3:10

{CHAMBERS} “What hinders me from hearing is my attention to other things. It is not that I don’t want to hear God, but I am not devoted in the right areas of my life. I am devoted to things and even to service and my own convictions. God may say whatever He wants, but I just don’t hear Him. The attitude of a child of God should always be, “Speak, for Your servant hears.” If I have not developed and nurtured this devotion of hearing, I can only hear God’s voice at certain times. At other times I become deaf to Him because my attention is to other things— things which I think I must do. This is not living the life of a child of God. Have you heard God’s voice today?”

{ELGIN}  One thing I have noticed as I age is that my hearing is not what it used to be.  I find it especially hard to hear when there are other noises around me, particularly other people talking.  I remember that I could once focus my hearing on one conversation and the others were barely noticeable.  Not so much today.  My filter does not work as well as it used to.  In much the same way, life can drown out the voice of the Lord.  Where we once heard clearly, we now find it difficult to hear at all.  It takes significant effort to hear the Lord often times.  It is a spiritual problem.  I can’t blame it on my hearing mechanisms in my ears, because it is a problem of the heart.  In Matthew 22:37 Jesus says “Love God with all your heart mind soul and strength.  Total devotion.  That doesn’t just happen.  It’s not like breathing where we don’t have to think about it.  It’s a discipline like exercise which requires be intentional.  In Luke 9:23, Jesus said if you want to follow Him, you must pick up your cross daily.  Listen, the things of this world will drown out the voice of the Lord if you are not diligent in your faith walk.  (Proverbs 8:17) “I [the Lord] love those who love Me, and those who seek Me diligently find Me.”

Saturday, February 11, 2017

You Don't Have To Be Satisfied With Almost

You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You. —Isaiah 26:3

{CHAMBERS} “Is your mind stayed on God or is it starved? Starvation of the mind, caused by neglect, is one of the chief sources of exhaustion and weakness in a servant’s life. If you have never used your mind to place yourself before God, begin to do it now. There is no reason to wait for God to come to you. You must turn your thoughts and your eyes away from the face of idols and look to Him and be saved (see Isaiah 45:22). Your mind is the greatest gift God has given you and it ought to be devoted entirely to Him. You should seek to be “bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ…” (2 Corinthians 10:5). This will be one of the greatest assets of your faith when a time of trial comes, because then your faith and the Spirit of God will work together."

{ELGIN} Imagine that God wanted us to understand how it is that we should live and what we should be careful about lest we are drawn away from our faith walk with Him.  Our minds are bombarded with things that are contrary to our new life in Christ.  Without having the Word of God as our source for Truth and the Spirit of God as our guide, we will most certainly find ourselves up to our necks in our old nature, living like those who are lost and bound for hell.  Living the Christian life requires discipline – focus. It doesn’t “just” happen.  You would not be satisfied with being “mostly saved” (which is the same as being lost) any more than you should be satisfied with living your life “mostly sanctified” (which is the same as being carnal).  The New Testament is replete with admonitions to “keep the course” and not walk in the manner of our former lives. We should be careful about making excuses for carnal thoughts and behavior.  (Philippians 4:8-9)  “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

Friday, February 10, 2017

Is God Your Primary Focus Or In Your Peripheral Vision

My Utmost For His Highest

Lift up your eyes on high, and see who has created these things… —Isaiah 40:26

{CHAMBERS} “The people of God in Isaiah’s time had blinded their minds’ ability to see God by looking on the face of idols. But Isaiah made them look up at the heavens; that is, he made them begin to use their power to think and to visualize correctly. […] The real test of spiritual focus is being able to bring your mind and thoughts under control. Is your mind focused on the face of an idol? Is the idol yourself? Is it your work? […] If so, then your ability to see God is blinded. You will be powerless when faced with difficulties and will be forced to endure in darkness.”

{ELGIN}  As I am sitting in front of my computer this morning.  I can see the words appearing as I think them and type them.  But there other things that I see.  Things on the periphery of my vision, not sharply in focus but still I am aware of their presence.  It is not until I turn my eyes and probably my head to focus on them do they become clear to me, but then, my computer moves to my periphery.  That is the way it is with our spiritual life, our focus on God.  Some believe that we can focus on two things at once.  The world and God.  But the Word says otherwise.  The God that created us, and knows our inner being, says “"No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (Matthew 6:24)  One of them will be the center of your focus and the other will not.  The problem is that if we are focused on something other than God, then we will try to convince ourselves that God is still in focus.  Having God in our peripheral vision is not good enough.  We are deceiving ourselves.  Loving God with our heart, mind, should, and strength means that He is to be our primary focus … all of the time.  And when He is, everything will become clear.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Physically Exhausted - You Need Rest - Spiritually Exhausted - You Need God

The everlasting God…neither faints nor is weary. —Isaiah 40:28

{CHAMBERS} “Exhaustion means that our vital energies are completely worn out and spent. Spiritual exhaustion is never the result of sin, but of service. Whether or not you experience exhaustion will depend on where you get your supplies. […] The process of being made broken bread and poured-out wine means that you have to be the nourishment for other people’s souls until they learn to feed on God. […] Continually look back to the foundation of your love and affection and remember where your Source of power lies. You have no right to complain, “O Lord, I am so exhausted.” He saved and sanctified you to exhaust you. Be exhausted for God, but remember that He is your supply. “All my springs are in you” (Psalm 87:7).”

{ELGIN} While we were in Haiti, I had the occasion to speak to some folks from the U.S. who were living and serving in Haiti.  From their conversations I could see that they were not happy, discouraged, complaining about their circumstances and the people. Sensing that some of them had an immature faith and others might not have faith at all, I told them that if they had come to Haiti and God had not called them there, they should go home.  Serving in Haiti was too difficult to be doing it on your own.  There is nothing that God you do in the name of the Lord that you can do on your own.  Romans 12:1 describes our serving as a “spiritual act of worship”.  Doing something because of compassion is not wrong, but doing something spiritual in the strength of your flesh is impossible.  When you are ministering to someone, it is easy to begin to resent them because of the very reason you were sent to them.  That is a clear indication that you have shifted from relying on God to relying on yourself.  (Philippians 4:13) “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” and I can do nothing, on my own that pleases God, aside from obeying Him by faith. (Isaiah 64:6, Psalm 51:17)  We have nothing to offer but a broken and contrite heart.  And that is exactly what God wants.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

What To Do When God Doesn't Do What You Thought He Would Do

We were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, today is the third day since these things happened. —Luke 24:21

{CHAMBERS} “Every fact that the disciples stated was right, but the conclusions they drew from those facts were wrong. Anything that has even a hint of dejection spiritually is always wrong. If I am depressed or burdened, I am to blame, not God or anyone else. Dejection stems from one of two sources— I have either satisfied a lust or I have not had it satisfied. In either case, dejection is the result. Lust means “I must have it at once.” Spiritual lust causes me to demand an answer from God, instead of seeking God Himself who gives the answer. What have I been hoping or trusting God would do? Is today “the third day” and He has still not done what I expected? […] Yet we never realize that all the time God is at work in our everyday events and in the people around us. If we will only obey, and do the task that He has placed closest to us, we will see Him.”

{ELGIN} We had lunch the other day with the daughter of a friend, let’s call her Kathy.  She wanted to talk to us about Haiti and her desire to spend a month or so in Haiti serving where she could.  She was certain that the Lord was prompting her to go.  As it happened, she and I parked our cars close to each other and were walking back to the restaurant where Martie was waiting.  As we passed another restaurant a friend and his wife walked out of the door.  Our friend had been to Haiti several times.  I introduced them to each other and explained to my friend that the woman was wanting to go to Haiti in June.  He responded by saying “I am taking a team to Anse du Clerc, Haiti in June and we need one more woman to complete the team.”  Kathy looked at me in amazement.  How could this happen?  I told her that this happens all the time. It is the Spirit of God.  The thing is that the team would only be in Haiti for one week.  That didn’t exactly fit with her plans.  My counsel to her was that she should respond to God’s agenda and not her own.

When we say “yes” to God, we must put our trust in Him. (Proverbs 16:9) “Men make plans in their hearts but God orders their steps.  I told Kathy that when you say “yes” to God, then He will show you things that are beyond probability. That God may and most probably does have other plans for you.  Like the disciples, you may be expecting one thing and God does something else.  I have known many people who were determined that they knew exactly what God wanted them to do, before they stepped out in faith.  God reveals His will for us progressively often times.  At least that is our experience.  But it all starts with a “yes” and then stepping out in faith.

Monday, February 6, 2017

30 Jan 2017 - Are You Willing To Listen To God?

Samuel was afraid to tell Eli the vision. —1 Samuel 3:15

{CHAMBERS} “God never speaks to us in dramatic ways, but in ways that are easy to misunderstand. Then we say, “I wonder if that is God’s voice?” Isaiah said that the Lord spoke to him “with a strong hand,” that is, by the pressure of his circumstances (Isaiah 8:11). Without the sovereign hand of God Himself, nothing touches our lives. Do we discern His hand at work, or do we see things as mere occurrences?  Get into the habit of saying, […] Never ask another person’s advice about anything God makes you decide before Him. If you ask advice, you will almost always side with Satan. “…I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood…” (Galatians 1:16).”

{ELGIN}  Knowing when it is God who is speaking to you. It can be a very difficult thing and a great test of faith.  First, your heart must be right – no unconfessed sin.  Second, your heart must be willing. Be willing to say “yes” to God no matter how impossible what He tells you might seem. And third, you must act on what He tells you to do, immediately.  When you actually go or do may not be the same day, week month or year, but your step of faith begins in the heart.  I have referred to Henry Blackaby’s Experiencing God in the past.  Dr. Blackaby wrote that there are four ways that God will speak to you by the Holy Spirit, 1) His Word, 2) prayer, 3) circumstances, 4) other believers – the Church.  In my experience it has been a combination of the four.  One confirming the other. 

For Samuel, he mistook God’s voice for Eli.  It was Eli that told Samuel it was God speaking to him and he should listen. Has God spoken to you?  What did you do?  Obeying God will always cost you something.  Are you willing to pay any price?  Are you willing to go anywhere or do anything? Really?  I remember sitting in a rather conservative congregation … no hand clapping, no arm raising, no shouting Amen!  There was a visitor in our midst.  During the sermon, that is that part where you sit still, read the scripture form the screen and take copious notes.  The visitor starts saying, in a loud voice, “Speak, Speak So.”  He wanted the Lord to speak in the midst of the sermon which was Truth.  Are you willing to say the same thing.  Maybe not in Church, although that might not be such a bad things, but because you want the Lord to speak to you.  Speak Lord!

31 Jan 2017 - You've Got To Tell Somebody

…separated to the gospel of God… —Romans 1:1

{CHAMBERS}  “Our calling is not primarily to be holy men and women, but to be proclaimers of the gospel of God. The one all-important thing is that the gospel of God should be recognized as the abiding reality. Reality is not human goodness, or holiness, or heaven, or hell— it is redemption. The need to perceive this is the most vital need of the Christian worker today. […] we have to get used to the revelation that redemption is the only reality. Personal holiness is an effect of redemption, not the cause of it. If we place our faith in human goodness we will go under when testing comes.”

{ELGIN}  I think most Christians are focused on themselves and their immediate family when it comes to salvation.  Striving for personal holiness through self-effort and sin avoidance.  Certainly salvation for our children and family is important to us, but frankly it’s not more important than the salvation of your neighbor to God.  We may spend every night reading stories to our children and never say a word to the couple next door.  It is not about knocking on the door and giving them a tract, but speaking to them when the Lord gives you opportunity.  Proclaiming the Gospel in word and deed. 

When Jesus said it is not the outside of the cup that makes it unclean (Matthew 23:25-26).  He was speaking about redemption and the holiness that is birthed from it. The Pharisees thought that appearing to be righteous was the way to being righteousness.  That only comes through faith in Jesus.  You want the world to change?  It won’t until Jesus returns.  You want to change lives?  Tell people about the One who can and will.  You might even tell your neighbor.

Feb 01 2017 - Helping Others See The Truth

Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel… —1 Corinthians 1:17

{CHAMBERS} “Paul states here that the call of God is to preach the gospel. But remember what Paul means by “the gospel,” namely, the reality of redemption in our Lord Jesus Christ. We are inclined to make sanctification the goal of our preaching. Paul refers to personal experiences only by way of illustration, never as the end of the matter. We are not commissioned to preach salvation or sanctification— we are commissioned to lift up Jesus Christ (see John 12:32). [….] The fact that we can experience redemption illustrates the power of its reality, but that experience is a byproduct and not the goal of redemption. […] The one passion of Paul’s life was to proclaim the gospel of God.”

{ELGIN}  We have been redeemed by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  Someone once wrote “He paid a debt He did not owe, I owed a debt I could not pay.” Can you grasp that? I mean, does it sink in to your heart? Does that truth serve as a filter for the way you live your life, moment by moment.  Or is it something that when you hear it from time to time you think, “Oh, yeah, that’s right. Now what was I doing?” 

This morning I went on a search for some coffee for Martie and me.  I found it by walking past people with coffee cups in their hands.  Smart, huh?  Well, I found the coffee pots, huge things.  I was looking for the decaf.  A green lid or a sign on a chain telling me which was which.  Finally I asked the guy next to me, “How do you know which is which?”  He pointed to the words printed in black on each pot and said with a smile, “Decaffeinated and caffeinated, that’s why we need coffee in the morning!” Sometimes we can’t see what is right in front of us.  And so it is with the truth of redemption.  It is right in front of us, all the time, but we can’t see it, until someone comes along and helps us see.