Friday, March 31, 2017

How To Respond When Others Sin

If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death. —1 John 5:16

{CHAMBERS} “If we are not heedful and pay no attention to the way the Spirit of God works in us, we will become spiritual hypocrites. We see where other people are failing, and then we take our discernment and turn it into comments of ridicule and criticism, instead of turning it into intercession on their behalf. God reveals this truth about others to us not through the sharpness of our minds but through the direct penetration of His Spirit. […] One of the most subtle and illusive burdens God ever places on us as saints is this burden of discernment concerning others. […] Can Jesus Christ see the agony of His soul in us? He can’t unless we are so closely identified with Him that we have His view concerning the people for whom we pray. May we learn to intercede so wholeheartedly that Jesus Christ will be completely and overwhelmingly satisfied with us as intercessors.”

{ELGIN}  (1 John 3:15) “Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” When we judge sinners and thereby condemn them, it is if we hate them.  Hate means to have an intense or passionate dislike.  It is one thing to reject sin … God rejected our sin, but loved us, even in the light of the fact that without the blood of Jesus washing us, we were condemned to hell.  We should not embrace sin, but nor should we condemn the sinner.

God gives us spiritual discernment for spiritual purposes.  Ridicule and criticism come from the flesh, not the Spirit.  (Galatians 5:19–21) “… the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders ….” Rather than condemning we should be interceding.  What the people you see need is Jesus, not your contempt … just like you did before you received God’s grace and mercy. 

Jesus ate with sinners, that doesn’t mean that He embraced their sin, although He was accused of that.  And when confronted over it , He replied .. (Mark 2:17) “When Jesus heard it, He said to them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.’” Do you want to do what Jesus did?  Well, there you go.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

What Does It Take For God To Hear Me?

He…wondered that there was no intercessor… —Isaiah 59:16

{CHAMBERS}  “The reason many of us stop praying and become hard toward God is that we only have an emotional interest in prayer. It sounds good to say that we pray, and we read books on prayer which tell us that prayer is beneficial— that our minds are quieted and our souls are uplifted when we pray. […] Worship and intercession must go together; one is impossible without the other. Intercession means raising ourselves up to the point of getting the mind of Christ regarding the person for whom we are praying (see Philippians 2:5). Instead of worshiping God, we recite speeches to God about how prayer is supposed to work. […] We throw our petitions at His throne and dictate to Him what we want Him to do. We don’t worship God, nor do we seek to conform our minds to the mind of Christ. And if we are hard toward God, we will become hard toward other people.”

{ELGIN} The only reason that God hears us when we pray is because of Jesus.  When cannot stand before God on our own merit.  Jesus is our high priest, making intercession for us.  He has given us access to the Father through his sacrifice.  We should worry less about how we sound to other people when we pray and more about how we sound to God.  I don’t hear it so much anymore, but people used to pray using King James English.  Why? Because it sounds spiritual.  I can assure you, the saints in Haiti don’t pray that way.  Prayer is not a mantra that must be said in just the right way.  Prayer is part of worship that comes from the heart.  Do you have some sin tucked away for which you have not sought to be forgiven?  Unconfessed sin is a barrier between you and a holy God.  Don’t be so much concerned about your vocabulary, but more about the condition of your heart when you seek God in prayer.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

How to Know When To Serve Others

You also be ready… —Luke 12:40

{CHAMBERS}  “Jesus rarely comes where we expect Him; He appears where we least expect Him, and always in the most illogical situations. The only way a servant can remain true to God is to be ready for the Lord’s surprise visits. This readiness will not be brought about by service, but through intense spiritual reality, expecting Jesus Christ at every turn. This sense of expectation will give our life the attitude of childlike wonder He wants it to have. If we are going to be ready for Jesus Christ, we have to stop being religious. In other words, we must stop using religion as if it were some kind of a lofty lifestyle— we must be spiritually real.”

{ELGIN}  (Matthew 25:34-40) “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,  I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”

Having spiritual sight is something that you cannot give yourself, but something that comes from your relationship with the Lord and submission to the Spirit.  With spiritual understanding, you can see the opportunity to serve and you step into it, knowing that it is the right thing to do.  The world may question you, but you know that what you do is right.  You may not be able to explain why you said ‘yes’ to one opportunity and ‘no’ to another. It was not carnal judgement that prompted you to action, but the love that is in you.  And then, in the midst of your obedient service, the world sees Jesus in you.  Many Christians spend a lot of time trying to manage our sins, trying to be good .. to be faithful.  Some never venture beyond that point.  Instead, they should stop focusing on being good and regretting that they are not.  We must confess our sins. Focus on Jesus, the source of our goodness.  Yield to the Spirit, the source of the power to live our new lives. It was not because the people Jesus spoke to in Matthew 25 were able to do the right thing on their own merit.  It because they were following Jesus and walking by the Spirit that they did the right thing.  Living your new life rightly, begins and ends with Jesus.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Understanding Is Not A Prerequisite For Obedience - Trust Is

My Utmost For His Highest 

"Let us go to Judea again." The disciples said to Him, "…are You going there again?" —John 11:7-8

{CHAMBERS}  “Just because I don’t understand what Jesus Christ says, I have no right to determine that He must be mistaken in what He says. That is a dangerous view, and it is never right to think that my obedience to God’s directive will bring dishonor to Jesus. The only thing that will bring dishonor is not obeying Him. […] I know when the instructions have come from God because of their quiet persistence. But when I begin to weigh the pros and cons, and doubt and debate enter into my mind, I am bringing in an element that is not of God. This will only result in my concluding that His instructions to me were not right. Many of us are faithful to our ideas about Jesus Christ, but how many of us are faithful to Jesus Himself? Faithfulness to Jesus means that I must step out even when and where I can’t see anything (see Matthew 14:29). But faithfulness to my own ideas means that I first clear the way mentally. Faith, however, is not intellectual understanding; faith is a deliberate commitment to the Person of Jesus Christ, even when I can’t see the way ahead.”

{ELGIN} Knowing the “why” is a big deal to many people.  For most, before they will do something they want to know the reason. Why? Because they want to know so they can decide if they agree with it. And so it is with receiving God’s direction often times.  What we are asked to do does not make sense …. Get out of the boat and walk on water … walk across a flooded river … march around a fortified city 7 times … wash yourself in the river 7 times … put your faith in Jesus and walk … draw from the well that never will run dry … trust in the Lord and do not lean on your own understanding … confess and believe and you will be saved.  (Isaiah 55:8) “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.” 

When my daughter was taking Algebra in school, she asked me how to solve a particular problem.  I showed her but then proceeded to explain to her “why” we solved the problem that way.  A page and a half later, her eyes were glazed over and like Charley Brown all she heard was “Wah Wa Wah Wah Wah”.  The only way we will understand the “why” is by the Spirit of God, and truth be told, we may still not “get it” fully.  Understanding is not the prerequisite for obedience, trust is.  Our mental capacity is not adequate for understanding God.  He is the potter and we are the clay. (Isaiah 64:8) “But now, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.”

Monday, March 27, 2017

Putting Your Faith In God Is Like Climbing A Mountain

My Utmost For His Highest 

Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place… —Revelation 4:1

{CHAMBERS}  “A higher state of mind and spiritual vision can only be achieved through the higher practice of personal character. If you live up to the highest and best that you know in the outer level of your life, God will continually say to you, “Friend, come up even higher.” […] Compare this week in your spiritual life with the same week last year to see how God has called you to a higher level. We have all been brought to see from a higher viewpoint. Never allow God to show you a truth which you do not instantly begin to live up to, applying it to your life. Always work through it, staying in its light.”

{ELGIN}  As you live this life of faith, you will discover that God wants to take you deeper. Learning math is a good analogy.  You must first learn to count, then add and subtract, divide and multiply.  Then you learn algebra, geometry, trigonometry, integral calculus, differential calculus … it goes deeper. When you are in first grade, you are not taught calculus.  Math builds on itself.  Some never go beyond the mechanics of calculation.  But there are many who learn to apply what they have learned.  Math is really only useful in its application in this world.  So it is with our faith.  I have found, in my life, that God takes me progressively deeper in my walk.  The path gets steeper, the air gets thinner, and my dependence upon God gets greater.  All the while, God is teaching me just how much I can trust Him. 

My faith is never deep enough to match the faithfulness of God.  And it seems just when you get the “times tables” down, the “teacher” puts an equation on the board.  Your choices are to open your heart and mind in obedience or to say “I can’t do it or I won’t do it”. As I have faced greater challenges in God’s leading over the years, I have also found greater joy and blessing in saying “yes” and trusting God. You have heard the saying “I don’t trust you any farther than I can throw you.”? Well, you can trust God knowing that His intent is to grow you.  (2 Corinthians 5:7) “For we walk by faith, not by sight.”  Some translations say “live by faith”.  I would suggest they both mean the same.  Christian “as you go about living your life” put your faith in God’s leading, follow Him in obedience.  You can’t go wrong if you do.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

When Taking Credit Robs God Of His Glory

…the friend of the bridegroom… —John 3:29

{CHAMBERS}  “Goodness and purity should never be traits that draw attention to themselves, but should simply be magnets that draw people to Jesus Christ. If my holiness is not drawing others to Him, it is not the right kind of holiness; it is only an influence which awakens undue emotions and evil desires in people and diverts them from heading in the right direction. A person who is a beautiful saint can be a hindrance in leading people to the Lord by presenting only what Christ has done for him, instead of presenting Jesus Christ Himself. Others will be left with this thought— “What a fine person that man is!” That is not being a true “friend of the bridegroom”— I am increasing all the time; He is not.”

{ELGIN}  Over the years I have had the opportunity to participate in some significant events, even lead some of them. But I have shunned the spotlight.  Not out of false humility but with an understanding that all of my abilities and worthwhile accomplishments are not of my own doing.  God formed me. He purposed me.  He called me. He gave me opportunity.  He saved me. He put His Spirit in me. The one thing that I can take credit for is my obedience.  I choose to listen and follow.  God can do and will do some amazing things.  D.L. Moody said “D.L. Moody said that the world has yet to see what God can do through one person who is totally yielded to Him.” So tell them to put the spotlight on the One who deserves the credit – Jesus. Resist the temptation to take credit for something that God has done in you and through you.  (1 Peter 3:15) “….. in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”

Friday, March 24, 2017

The Most Important Thing You Can Offer Someone In Need

He must increase, but I must decrease. —John 3:30

{CHAMBERS} “If you become a necessity to someone else’s life, you are out of God’s will. As a servant, your primary responsibility is to be a “friend of the bridegroom” (John 3:29). When you see a person who is close to grasping the claims of Jesus Christ, you know that your influence has been used in the right direction. And when you begin to see that person in the middle of a difficult and painful struggle, don’t try to prevent it, but pray that his difficulty will grow even ten times stronger, until no power on earth or in hell could hold him away from Jesus Christ. Over and over again, we try to be amateur providences in someone’s life. We are indeed amateurs, coming in and actually preventing God’s will and saying, “This person should not have to experience this difficulty.” Instead of being friends of the Bridegroom, our sympathy gets in the way. One day that person will say to us, “You are a thief; you stole my desire to follow Jesus, and because of you I lost sight of Him.””

{ELGIN} What is the most important thing, knowing Jesus and trusting Him or being free from worry and care? We know what the “spiritually correct” answer is, don’t we.  When we see someone in distress, what is our typical response?  We show compassion towards them, as we should.  But should we intervene?  Certainly we should pray, but what should we pray?  To what end? Our first priority should always be that they trust Jesus and seek God.  Their being healed from a disease may bring temporary relief in this life, but will matter little if they spend eternity in hell. But what if they are already a believer?  God could well be allowing this trial to draw them closer or to shape them for His purpose.  Too know that requires spiritual discernment.  Before you step in to “help”, look to the Lord for guidance.  In Acts 3 when Peter and John met the lame man, Peter said “silver and gold have I none, but what I do have I give you, rise up and walk in the name of Jesus Christ” The best thing we have to offer is Jesus.

You know you can’t save anyone, salvation is God initiated, Spirit powered and totally dependent upon the person being saved to put their faith in Jesus.  But, that is not to say that the Spirit does not use you in communicating the Message.  You are a messenger not the Savior, but don’t neglect the message.  How and when you do that is between you and the Spirit.  But deliver the message you must, then leave the rest to God.  (2 Timothy 4:2) “Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.”

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Don't Rational-Lies Sin To Get Your Way

Where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal…? —1 Corinthians 3:3

{CHAMBERS} “The natural man, or unbeliever, knows nothing about carnality. The desires of the flesh warring against the Spirit, and the Spirit warring against the flesh, which began at rebirth, are what produce carnality and the awareness of it. But Paul said, “Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16). In other words, carnality will disappear. Are you quarrelsome and easily upset over small things? Do you think that no one who is a Christian is ever like that? Paul said they are, and he connected these attitudes with carnality. […] If the Spirit of God detects anything in you that is wrong, He doesn’t ask you to make it right; He only asks you to accept the light of truth, and then He will make it right. A child of the light will confess sin instantly and stand completely open before God. But a child of the darkness will say, “Oh, I can explain that.” When the light shines and the Spirit brings conviction of sin, be a child of the light. Confess your wrongdoing, and God will deal with it. If, however, you try to vindicate yourself, you prove yourself to be a child of the darkness.”

{ELGIN}  I was chatting with friends the other day and they mentioned how frustrated they were with the conduct of a business meeting at church.  I shared Galatians 5:18-26 with them as a guide to determine if what people were saying and the way people were acting was rooted in the flesh or the Spirit.  If a Christian is motivated by their flesh, you can confront them over it, but they need to confess it.  They have a spiritual problem.  The people can explain why what they are doing is “OK”, but it is not.  The Spirit brings unity and peace .. the flesh brings disunity and conflict.  Pretty simple really.  Some have resolved in themselves that their behavior is inherited, that is part of their personality and justifiable.  They are attempting to “rational – lies” their sin.  Tell themselves rational – lies to convince themselves that what they are doing is not sin, that their behavior really does glorify God.  But wait, before you condemn them, we all struggle with this problem, the thing is, not to yield to it. 

So what to do when you encounter it? Maybe in a church business meeting?  Point the people to Jesus.  Turn your light on.  Not your holier than thou light.  But the gentle reminder of who we are in Christ and the need to walk and meet in the unity of the Spirit.  You can certainly disagree, but you don’t have to sin to do it. To bring some context to it .. This is what Jesus said about the importance of getting your own way …. (Matthew 5:38-40) “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.”

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Your Light Won't Shine If Your Wick Is Wet

Did not our heart burn within us…? —Luke 24:32

{CHAMBERS} “Much of the distress we experience as Christians comes not as the result of sin, but because we are ignorant of the laws of our own nature. For instance, the only test we should use to determine whether or not to allow a particular emotion to run its course in our lives is to examine what the final outcome of that emotion will be. Think it through to its logical conclusion, and if the outcome is something that God would condemn, put a stop to it immediately. […] And the higher the emotion, the deeper the level of corruption, if it is not exercised on its intended level. If the Spirit of God has stirred you, make as many of your decisions as possible irrevocable, and let the consequences be what they will. […] we must obey the light we received […] we must put it into action. When God gives us a vision, we must transact business with Him at that point, no matter what the cost.”

{ELGIN} After Jesus’ resurrection, two men were walking on the road to Emmaus when they encountered Him.  At first they did not recognize Him as Jesus, but they were drawn to Him nonetheless.  It was not until later that day did they understood they were in His presence.  That is how it is for us many times.  We find ourselves in some situation and don’t realize that it is God ordained.  The situation or circumstance may even be unpleasant, but our flesh will not allow us to see the true spiritual aspect of it.  There is a light within us that will shine its brightest when it is darkest. 

Be careful that you don’t use the measure of “how good you feel” as a determination as to whether God is in that particular circumstance.  You may be the only source of light.  If you use your feelings as a measure of what is right, spiritually, you may incorrectly choose to keep that light hidden, missing God’s intent for you being there.  Instead listen for the Spirit, watch for the spiritual opportunities that will certainly come your way. In the Army there was, maybe still is, an adage “You fight the way you train”.  Typically you won’t receive a Divine anointing for the day ahead of you. Instead, you must prepare yourself spiritually, every day.  Ephesians 6:10-18 describes the “Whole armor of God”.  God has made the way for you, but you must make yourself ready.  Not being ready is like having a wet wick.  When you need the light, you can't get your lamp lit. 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Living As A Victim Or A Victor - It's Your Choice

My Utmost For His Highest 

I have been crucified with Christ… —Galatians 2:20

{CHAMBERS} “The inescapable spiritual need each of us has is the need to sign the death certificate of our sin nature. I must take my emotional opinions and intellectual beliefs and be willing to turn them into a moral verdict against the nature of sin; that is, against any claim I have to my right to myself. Paul said, “I have been crucified with Christ….” He did not say, “I have made a determination to imitate Jesus Christ,” or, “I will really make an effort to follow Him” —but— “I have been identified with Him in His death.” […] “…it is no longer I who live….” My individuality remains, but my primary motivation for living and the nature that rules me are radically changed. I have the same human body, but the old satanic right to myself has been destroyed.”

{ELGIN} Are you a survivor or a victor?  Are you struggling to make it through the day, spiritually, or are you marching with confidence as walk follow the king of kings, tearing down every stronghold. (2 Corinthians 10:3-5) “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh.  For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds,  casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ”  Are you thinking that those verses are for someone else?  That you are more of a victim than a victor?  That others may be strong like that, have a faith like that, but not you. If people only knew what your spiritual life was really like!  In 1977 Jay Kessler published a book entitles “The Strong Weak People”.  It was about people just like us, and the spiritual law that can bring us strength in spite of our weakness.  There is an old hymn, “Learning to Lean”. One verse says “Learning to lean, Learning to lean, finding more power than I ever dreamed, I’m learning to lean on Jesus.”

The spiritual struggle we face is not new to our generation.  It has been a struggle from the beginning.  And difficulty trusting in Jesus, that His strength can be made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9) is not new either.  Relationship does not just happen. It requires us to be intentional in the pursuit of our faith.  We should not ignore sin, it’s a barrier to relationship, but we should also not ignore what God has done and is doing in and through us. 

John Newton, the author of the song Amazing Grace, is quoted as saying,  “I am not what I ought to be — ah, how imperfect and deficient! I am not what I wish to be — I abhor what is evil, and I would cleave to what is good! I am not what I hope to be — soon, soon shall I put off mortality, and with mortality all sin and imperfection. Yet, though I am not what I ought to be, nor what I wish to be, nor what I hope to be, I can truly say, I am not what I once was; a slave to sin and Satan; and I can heartily join with the apostle, and acknowledge, "By the grace of God I am what I am."”  To that I say “Thank you Jesus!”  Saint, do not lose heart.  Fix your eyes on Jesus.  The victory is yours in Him.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Losing Your Spiritual Edge - When The Lord Is A Faded Memory

Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing…? —Genesis 18:17

{CHAMBERS} “Genesis 18 brings out the delight of true friendship with God, as compared with simply feeling His presence occasionally in prayer. This friendship means being so intimately in touch with God that you never even need to ask Him to show you His will. It is evidence of a level of intimacy which confirms that you are nearing the final stage of your discipline in the life of faith. When you have a right-standing relationship with God, you have a life of freedom, liberty, and delight; you are God’s will. And all of your commonsense decisions are actually His will for you, unless you sense a feeling of restraint brought on by a check in your spirit. You are free to make decisions in the light of a perfect and delightful friendship with God, knowing that if your decisions are wrong He will lovingly produce that sense of restraint. Once he does, you must stop immediately.”

{ELGIN} When you see the picture of a friend on Facebook or receive a phone call or have a chance meeting with them, do you feel joy in your heart?  Or perhaps something happens that reminds you of some pleasant experience. Do you feel the same joy at the thought of the Lord? There is a song by Hillsong, “When I Think About The Lord”

“When I Think about the Lord, How He saved me, how He raised me, How He filled me, with the Holy Ghost. How He healed me, to the uttermost.

When I Think about the Lord, How He picked me up and turned me around, How He placed my feet on solid ground.

It makes me wanna shout, Hallelujah, Thank you JESUS, LORD, your worthy, of all the glory, and all the honor, And all the praise...”

Does thinking about the Lord make you want to shout?  Or do you really not think about the Lord, perhaps only when someone else brings Him up?  Maybe on Sunday.   I have had a good number of friends over the years who have fallen by the wayside in my mind and heart.  They were good friends, but I neglected to stay connected with them and our lives took different paths, to the point that they are only an occasional memory, if I think of them at all.  Sad, but true.  Oh Christian, don’t lose your spiritual edge.  Don’t let who you are in Christ and whose you are with the Father and how you are because of the Spirit become some unemotional facts in your life.  It should and must be what motivates you, what gets you up in the morning. It should make you want to shout, Hallelujah.  If it doesn’t, as a preacher friend used to say, “Friend, your wick is wet!” Can I get a “Hallelujah, thank you Jesus” from somebody?

Friday, March 17, 2017

The Problem With Telling Others All Is Well When It Isn't

We make it our aim…to be well pleasing to Him. —2 Corinthians 5:9

{CHAMBERS} ““We make it our aim….” It requires a conscious decision and effort to keep our primary goal constantly in front of us. It means holding ourselves to the highest priority year in and year out; not making our first priority to win souls, or to establish churches, or to have revivals, but seeking only “to be well pleasing to Him.” It is not a lack of spiritual experience that leads to failure, but a lack of working to keep our eyes focused and on the right goal. At least once a week examine yourself before God to see if your life is measuring up to the standard He has for you. […] Paul spoke of the importance of controlling his own body so that it would not take him in the wrong direction. […] My worth to God publicly is measured by what I really am in my private life. Is my primary goal in life to please Him and to be acceptable to Him, or is it something less, no matter how lofty it may sound?”

{ELGIN}  Living by faith and walking in the light does not just happen.  It requires commitment and discipline.  (Philippians 2:12-15) “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.  Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.””  This new life requires effort of the heart… to submit to the Lord requires us to lay down on the altar.  Working out our salvation is not self-effort .. trying harder to be “good” …. it’s submission. 

So many people are satisfied with working on having a good-Christian appearance and miss the joy and peace that comes from living in obedience to the will of God.  I know too many people that are struggling with life and refuse to trust God.  (perhaps you do too) If you ask them, they will tell you that “all is well”, but all is not well, they just want it to be in spite of their living in disobedience.  Desperation of circumstances can subvert your faith and divert your walk.  Unless you are willing to trust and obey.  I wish I could do that for others, but I can’t, I can only watch their struggle and hope they look to God for answers instead of trust in their own designs that have consistently failed them in the past.  And perhaps be an encouragement to them.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Applying The Grace That Is Greater Than All Our Sin

My Utmost For His Highest 

We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ… —2 Corinthians 5:10

{CHAMBERS}  “Tolerating a wrong attitude toward another person causes you to follow the spirit of the devil, no matter how saintly you are. One carnal judgment of another person only serves the purposes of hell in you. Bring it immediately into the light and confess, “Oh, Lord, I have been guilty there.” If you don’t, your heart will become hardened through and through. One of the penalties of sin is our acceptance of it. It is not only God who punishes for sin, but sin establishes itself in the sinner and takes its toll. No struggling or praying will enable you to stop doing certain things, and the penalty of sin is that you gradually get used to it, until you finally come to the place where you no longer even realize that it is sin. No power, except the power that comes from being filled with the Holy Spirit, can change or prevent the inherent consequences of sin. “If we walk in the light as He is in the light…” (1 John 1:7)."

{ELGIN}  Does it seem strange to you that there are so many devotions about avoiding sin?  I was thinking about that as I read My Utmost For His Highest this morning. But then I was reminded of my own life and my struggle.  Like the caterpillar morphing into the butterfly, there must be a struggle to produce the beauty that God has intended for us. I would like to think that someday,  I won’t struggle with sin and temptation any more.  But that won’t happen this side of Glory.  So in the meantime, I need to continue to “learn to lean on Jesus.  Finding more power than I ever dreamed.” 

This chain of sinning and confessing will likely continue for the rest of this life.  That does not make the sin “OK”.  My submission to temptation is not inevitable. But with each occurrence, I learn about God’s grace and the power of the Spirit in me.  My hope is strengthened and my trust in Him is fortified.  Jesus has saved me from the penalty of sin.  My home is in heaven and my future secured.  My purpose is to let a lost and dying world see Jesus in me.  What an incredible responsibility. As Paul wrote, (1 Corinthians 2:12-13) “Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.”

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

What To Do When Following Jesus Is Too Difficult

My Utmost For His Highest

As they followed they were afraid. —Mark 10:32

{CHAMBERS} “At the beginning of our life with Jesus Christ, we were sure we knew all there was to know about following Him. It was a delight to forsake everything else and to throw ourselves before Him in a fearless statement of love. But now we are not quite so sure. Jesus is far ahead of us and is beginning to seem different and unfamiliar— “Jesus was going before them; and they were amazed” (Mark 10:32). […] At first I was confident that I understood Him, but now I am not so sure. I begin to realize that there is a distance between Jesus and me and I can no longer be intimate with Him. I have no idea where He is going, and the goal has become strangely distant.”

{ELGIN}  The disciples thought they could follow Jesus wherever He went.  They discovered that where He went was beyond them.  It was too hard for them. (John 6:60-66) “On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you?  Then what if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life.  Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him.  He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.” From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.”

Our new life is impossible without the Spirit of God empowering us and our faith in God allowing us to live it.  The problem …. We settle into a quasi-spiritual walk where we are more dependent upon ourselves and our flesh to be faithful than submission to the Spirit and the Word.  If you start to think that what you face is too hard to resist or is inevitable, you are there my friend.  You have lost your focus on Jesus and are sinking in the waves.  My encouragement to you.  Turn your eyes upon Jesus.  Look full in His wonderful face.  And the things of earth (those things that vex you) will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

What Is More Important - Serving God Or Serving Yourself

…you are that one’s slaves whom you obey… —Romans 6:16

{CHAMBERS} “The first thing I must be willing to admit when I begin to examine what controls and dominates me is that I am the one responsible for having yielded myself to whatever it may be. […] There is no power within the human soul itself that is capable of breaking the bondage of the nature created by yielding. […] (Remember what lust is— “I must have it now,” whether it is the lust of the flesh or the lust of the mind.) No release or escape from it will ever come from any human power, but only through the power of redemption. You must yield yourself in utter humiliation to the only One who can break the dominating power in your life, namely, the Lord Jesus Christ. […] Even though you say, “Oh, I can give up that habit whenever I like,” you will know you can’t. You will find that the habit absolutely dominates you because you willingly yielded to it. It is easy to sing, “He will break every fetter,” while at the same time living a life of obvious slavery to yourself. But yielding to Jesus will break every kind of slavery in any person’s life.”

{ELGIN}  There is a commercial that offers people to get money today that they will be receiving monthly or yearly until some time in the future.  The people in the commercial say “It’s my money and I want it now!”  Sounds reasonable.  But what you are not told is that you are not going to get all of your money.  There is a heavy price to be paid for immediate gratification.  There are income tax preparers that offer an immediate refund.  What they really mean is that if the tax payer will give them a portion of the return, they will give the tax payer the balance that day.  They can have it now, but there is a cost.  Both examples are an indication of desperation.  Of something inside the people that says “ignore the consequences, and seize the moment”.  That is the way it is when we yield to sin.  We ignore the cost and seize the moment.  To resist sin is not something you can do just because you are a Christian.  I am certain you already know that, from experience. But because you are a Christian, you can resist sin with the help the Lord provides.

(James 4:7) “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”  Because you are submitted to God you can resist the devil … temptation, escape the bondage of sin.  When Jesus faced temptation He responded with the Word of God.  His focus was not on Himself but on His Father.  When Satan said “turn those stones into bread”, he was talking to the one who would turn water into wine.  It was not out of the realm of possibility.  Certainly there was  physical need.  But Jesus, instead, chose to focus on the Father, not himself.  (Matthew 4:4) “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” The point was made again after Jesus met the woman at the well.   (John 4:31-34)  “Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.” But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.” Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?” “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.””  The source of our spiritual strength is not our determination, but our submission.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Pressing On To The Higher Calling Of Our Lord

For God so loved the world that He gave… —John 3:16

{CHAMBERS} “Salvation does not mean merely deliverance from sin or the experience of personal holiness. The salvation which comes from God means being completely delivered from myself, and being placed into perfect union with Him. […]  If we are truly surrendered, we will never be aware of our own efforts to remain surrendered. Our entire life will be consumed with the One to whom we surrender. […] In our surrender, we must give ourselves to God in the same way He gave Himself for us— totally, unconditionally, and without reservation. The consequences and circumstances resulting from our surrender will never even enter our mind, because our life will be totally consumed with Him.”

{ELGIN} (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.”  It is difficult to understand the true significance of Jesus, the Son, offering Himself as a sacrifice for us, but He did.  And the consequences are eternal. He was and is the example to us for what it means to live in obedience to the will of the Father.  In the desert and in the garden He showed us how we must face the issues of this life … with the Word and by submission to the will of the Father.  If you ever wondered how you are supposed to be a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1), look to Jesus.  Are you thinking, I am no Jesus, I would agree, but God is conforming you into His image.  Don’t look at your life in terms of what you personally can do to be like Jesus.  Consider what God has done, is doing, and will do to make you like Him.

And then, (Philippians 3:13-15) “Brothers and sisters, … do not consider [yourselves] yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing … do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, … press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called [you] heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.”

Saturday, March 11, 2017

What To Do When Your Faith Is Strong But Your Walk Is Weak

I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision. —Acts 26:19

{CHAMBERS} “If we lose “the heavenly vision” God has given us, we alone are responsible— not God. We lose the vision because of our own lack of spiritual growth. If we do not apply our beliefs about God to the issues of everyday life, the vision God has given us will never be fulfilled. The only way to be obedient to “the heavenly vision” is to give our utmost for His highest— our best for His glory. This can be accomplished only when we make a determination to continually remember God’s vision. But the acid test is obedience to the vision in the details of our everyday life— sixty seconds out of every minute, and sixty minutes out of every hour, not just during times of personal prayer or public meetings. […] It is essential that we live and “walk in the light” of God’s vision for us (1 John 1:7).”

{ELGIN}  The other day at work I met a Christian friend in the hallway whom I had not seen for over 10 years.  We both had changed, one of us looked a bit older.  Since we were both on the way to somewhere else, we could only chat for a few minutes. So we kept the conversation light.  When I asked about his family, looking down, he told me that he and his wife had divorced.  I told him I was sorry to hear that.  We chatted for a few more minutes and then went our separate ways.  Since we both work for the same organization, I looked his name up on the email address list and followed up our conversation with an email.  I told him that I was really happy that I got to see him again and that we should have coffee sometime.  Then I wrote “I wanted to ask you,  how is it with you and the Lord?”  When he replied he wrote that “my faith is strong, but my walk is weak.”  Can you identify with that?   He was telling me that he knows he is a Christian but he is not walking  in the light.  God will bring people along your path, like my friend, for the expressed purpose of your being an encouragement to them.  Think about the opportunities God has given you, and maybe you missed, and be ready for the opportunities that are to come.

Perhaps you are the one with a strong faith and a weak walk.  Don’t accept the lies that getting back to where you once were in your walk is hopeless and you are helpless.  God has not forgotten you.  Be on the lookout for chance meetings with other believers.  Don’t isolate yourself out of shame or fear, that is merely discouragement from the Devil.  You are a child of the King.  (Joshua 1:9) “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Friday, March 10, 2017

You Can't Do Until You Are And You Can't Be Except By Faith

Preach the word! —2 Timothy 4:2

{CHAMBERS} “We are not saved only to be instruments for God, but to be His sons and daughters. He does not turn us into spiritual agents but into spiritual messengers, and the message must be a part of us. The Son of God was His own message— “The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63). As His disciples, our lives must be a holy example of the reality of our message. Even the natural heart of the unsaved will serve if called upon to do so, but it takes a heart broken by conviction of sin, baptized by the Holy Spirit, and crushed into submission to God’s purpose to make a person’s life a holy example of God’s message.[…] The purpose of Pentecost was not to teach the disciples something, but to make them the incarnation of what they preached so that they would literally become God’s message in the flesh. “…you shall be witnesses to Me…” (Acts 1:8).”

{ELGIN} Our duty is to be a message of hope to the world.  That means that our lives must be remarkably different from that of those who are bound for hell.  Unfortunately for many Christians, that is not the case. For many who call Jesus, Lord, watching them and listening to them you can hardly distinguish them from the rest of the world. Would someone be surprised to know you are a Christian?  What does a Christian look like?  They look like Jesus.  Why do they look like Jesus?  Because they are yielded to the Spirit, their joy is walking by the Spirit, not because they are trying hard to manage their sin, and put on good appearances.  Being a message to the world is a result of a relationship not of personal effort.  What is it that you still cling to from your old nature that hides the light of Christ in you?  Can people tell you are different by the way you talk or do profane words roll off of your tongue easily.  Can people tell you are different by the way you treat others? Are you “patient, kind? Don’t envy, don’t boast, are not proud? You don’t dishonor others, you are not self-seeking, you are not easily angered, do you not keep a record of wrongs? Do you not delight in evil but rejoice with the truth. Do you  always protect, always trust, always hope, always persevere? (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

In other words do you live and love like Jesus?  Are you one with the Father?  Have you tried to be right, to live right, but found it too difficult? Your trying was actually your problem.  You can’t do until you are and then it’s not you it’s the Spirit of God in you.  Ephesians 2:8,9 says that we are saved by grace through faith and not of works.  (Galatians 3:11) “Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because “the righteous will live by faith.””  Galatians 2:20 says that the live we now live we live by faith in the Son of God.  And as you do, your light begins to shine before men.  The way your life lifts Jesus up. (John 12:32) “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” Jesus was referring to the cross and salvation through His sacrifice and so should we.