Monday, July 31, 2017

The Danger Of Being Content With Your Level Of Goodness - It Is Not Good Enough

Let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. —James 1:4

{CHAMBERS} “Many of us appear to be all right in general, but there are still some areas in which we are careless and lazy; it is not a matter of sin, but the remnants of our carnal life that tend to make us careless. Carelessness is an insult to the Holy Spirit. We should have no carelessness about us either in the way we worship God, or even in the way we eat and drink. Not only must our relationship to God be right, but the outward expression of that relationship must also be right. Ultimately, God will allow nothing to escape; every detail of our lives is under His scrutiny. God will bring us back in countless ways to the same point over and over again. And He never tires of bringing us back to that one point until we learn the lesson, because His purpose is to produce the finished product. It may be a problem arising from our impulsive nature, but again and again, with the most persistent patience, God has brought us back to that one particular point. Or the problem may be our idle and wandering thinking, or our independent nature and self-interest. Through this process, God is trying to impress upon us the one thing that is not entirely right in our lives.”

{ELGIN}  You must never be satisfied with your present spiritual condition.  The danger is that we will accommodate something in our lives that we declare as “good enough” when God has, in fact called us to a life of holiness.  (1 Peter 1:16)  Paul spends most of his time encouraging saints to cast off the old life and its ways and embrace the new life.  Yet, each of us has something or perhaps more than one thing that we accommodate in our lives.  We either want to cling to it or can’t get rid of it, no matter how hard we try.  Our sanctification is based upon the strength of our faith and the level of our submission to the Spirit, not to our personal effort at being holy.  We are saved and sanctified by grace through faith and not works (Ephesians 2:8,9)  So long as we walk this Earth, we will struggle with our flesh.  Whether we have victory over our flesh is totally dependent upon our submission to the Spirit. (Galatians 5:16).  The test as to whether or not what you do or think is right is this … does it glorify God?  You know the truth .. the question is … are you willing to accept the truth or do you prefer to continue in your sin.  My encouragement you to is to continue to press on in your faith.  Never be satisfied.

Philippians 3:13-16 “Brothers [and Sisters], I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained."

Friday, July 28, 2017

What To Do When Bad Things Happen To Us - Even When It's Our Fault - Trust God

He made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side… —Mark 6:45

{CHAMBERS} “We tend to think that if Jesus Christ compels us to do something and we are obedient to Him, He will lead us to great success. We should never have the thought that our dreams of success are God’s purpose for us. In fact, His purpose may be exactly the opposite. We have the idea that God is leading us toward a particular end or a desired goal, but He is not. The question of whether or not we arrive at a particular goal is of little importance, and reaching it becomes merely an episode along the way. What we see as only the process of reaching a particular end, God sees as the goal itself. […] Whatever it may be, His purpose is for me to depend on Him and on His power now. If I can stay calm, faithful, and unconfused while in the middle of the turmoil of life, the goal of the purpose of God is being accomplished in me. God is not working toward a particular finish— His purpose is the process itself. What He desires for me is that I see “Him walking on the sea” with no shore, no success, nor goal in sight, but simply having the absolute certainty that everything is all right because I see “Him walking on the sea” (Mark 6:49). It is the process, not the outcome, that is glorifying to God.[…] God’s purpose is to enable me to see that He can walk on the storms of my life right now.”

{ELGIN} (Ephesians 2:10) “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  What are those good works?  Certainly it is to bless the lives of others … visiting the widows and orphans in their affliction (James 1:27).  Most definitely it is to meet the needs of the people around us. (Matthew 25: 37-40)  “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.’”  But more than that, our purpose is to bring glory to the Father.  It is known as the “chief end of man” – to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.  Our purpose is to let our light shine in the midst of personal hardship and distress.  The source of our light is our faith in Jesus and the power of the Spirit in us.  (2 Corinthians 4:8-10)  “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.” 

Our purpose is to know Jesus and make Him known.  (Romans 8:27-29) “ And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.  And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 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 sister.  God uses life – the good and bad parts – to conform us into the image of His Son.  So the world may know Him through our testimony.  That is why James wrote (James 1:2-3)  “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” It is your perseverance that is remarkable to a lost and dying world.  A world that faces the same things you do, but without the Hope that is in you.  And finally (1 Peter 3:14-15) “But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” But 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."

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Spiritual Understanding Depends Upon Obedience Which Depends Upon Faith Which Depends Upon You

If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine… —John 7:17

{CHAMBERS}  “The golden rule to follow to obtain spiritual understanding is not one of intellectual pursuit, but one of obedience. If a person wants scientific knowledge, then intellectual curiosity must be his guide. But if he desires knowledge and insight into the teachings of Jesus Christ, he can only obtain it through obedience. If spiritual things seem dark and hidden to me, then I can be sure that there is a point of disobedience somewhere in my life. […] The Spirit of God uncovers our spirit of self-vindication and makes us sensitive to things that we have never even thought of before.  When Jesus drives something home to you through His Word, don’t try to evade it. If you do, you will become a religious impostor. Examine the things you tend simply to shrug your shoulders about, and where you have refused to be obedient, and you will know why you are not growing spiritually.”

{ELGIN}  I was on a mission yesterday morning.  I had to get tags for my wife’s car.  We decided that we would get a Desert Storm veteran’s tag, her idea actually.  I had a Vietnam tag on my vehicle already.  A reminder of other chapters in my life, days gone by.  When I walked into the Veteran’s office to get the affidavit to verify to the tag clerk that I was indeed in the Gulf War, I saw a friend, Bob, whom I had not seen for over 10 years.  We chatted for a few minutes and then he was called to get his paperwork.  As he was leaving, I told him, “Bob, there are no coincidences, God had us meet for a reason.”  Time will tell what exactly that reason was.  So I was called to the office director’s office.  I noticed a plaque on his wall that spoke of prayer.  He asked me “So you know Bob?”  That was the opening to a 40 minute conversation about God’s calling, our obedience to the call, spiritual problems in our country, and the commonality of how God was working in each of our lives and the message He had given each of us, the director and me, that is.  Now, this entire episode occurred, on the surface, because I needed to get a Gulf War license plate.  But that was not really the purpose.  I could sense the prompting of the Spirit as I talked with my new found friend and co-laborer.

So what does this have to do with obtaining spiritual understanding.  If your heart is not right before God.  If you are not willing to obey when God prompts you to act, you will miss what God has for you.  Don’t live your life in spiritual isolation.  Living in a way where you are totally obsessed with you and what pleases you, letting fear and not faith control you as you live out your new life in Christ.  Your life is not your own.  God has so much more for you than living  life of sin management.  Don’t be like the one who buried his talent in the ground which yielded nothing, but be like the one who lived by faith and saw a “spiritual” increase as a result of his faithfulness and obedience. (Matthew 25:14-30) Life is full of wonderful, spiritual opportunities … but you will miss them if you choose not to look for them

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Only God Sees Your Heart, But Your Mouth Reveals Your Heart To Man

Those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart….For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man… —Matthew 15:18-20

{CHAMBERS} “Initially we trust in our ignorance, calling it innocence, and next we trust our innocence, calling it purity. Then when we hear these strong statements from our Lord, we shrink back, saying, “But I never felt any of those awful things in my heart.” We resent what He reveals. Either Jesus Christ is the supreme authority on the human heart, or He is not worth paying any attention to. Am I prepared to trust the penetration of His Word into my heart, or would I prefer to trust my own “innocent ignorance”? If I will take an honest look at myself, becoming fully aware of my so-called innocence and putting it to the test, I am very likely to have a rude awakening that what Jesus Christ said is true, and I will be appalled at the possibilities of the evil and the wrong within me. But as long as I remain under the false security of my own “innocence,” I am living in a fool’s paradise. If I have never been an openly rude and abusive person, the only reason is my own cowardice coupled with the sense of protection I receive from living a civilized life. But when I am open and completely exposed before God, I find that Jesus Christ is right in His diagnosis of me.  The only thing that truly provides protection is the redemption of Jesus Christ. If I will simply hand myself over to Him, I will never have to experience the terrible possibilities that lie within my heart. Purity is something far too deep for me to arrive at naturally. But when the Holy Spirit comes into me, He brings into the center of my personal life the very Spirit that was exhibited in the life of Jesus Christ, namely, the Holy Spirit, which is absolute unblemished purity.”

{ELGIN}  Most days I will “mine” nuggets from My Utmost for His Highest to share and serve as a springboard for my devotional thoughts.  But some days, like today, there is nothing that I can take away, I must quote the whole.  I quote this verse so often.  I have made it a practice to listen more than I speak. And, if you listen long enough, you will hear the heart of the person speaking.  It usually takes more than one conversation, but eventually you will hear the heart.  Only God can see the heart of man.  We cannot.  The Word says (Jeremiah 17:9)  “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?”  Indeed!  Isn’t that what most of us fear?  That someone people will find out who we “really” are!  Well …. Bondye knonnen … God knows … shouldn’t that cause us to tremble?  Yet somehow, we have taken that knowing and relegated to something small in the face of “man” discovering that we are fallible and are not quite so virtuous in our own right. But as the info-mercials say “Oh but wait there is more!”  Praise God, your righteousness is not based upon your works or personal effort to be holy.  It is found in Jesus Christ and Him alone. We live a charade hoping to deceive those around us, and sometimes we do, but for what end?  As born again children of God we are to live for His glory and not for the praise and acceptance of men (John 12:43).  We must lay our hearts on the altar.  And pray as David did …

(Psalm 51:1-12)  Have mercy upon me, O God, According to Your lovingkindness, According to the multitude of Your tender mercies, Blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, And cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions, And my sin is always before me. Against You, You only, have I sinned, And done this evil in Your sight— That You may be found just when You speak, And blameless when You judge. Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me. Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts, And in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me hear joy and gladness, That the bones You have broken may rejoice. Hide Your face from my sins, And blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, And uphold me by Your generous Spirit.”

Do it today. Amen?

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Blessing Of Be-ing - Having The Right Attitude

Blessed are… —Matthew 5:3-11

{CHAMBERS} “When we first read the statements of Jesus, they seem wonderfully simple and unstartling, and they sink unnoticed into our subconscious minds. […] The literal interpretation of the Sermon on the Mount is as easy as child’s play. But the interpretation by the Spirit of God as He applies our Lord’s statements to our circumstances is the strict and difficult work of a saint. The teachings of Jesus are all out of proportion when compared to our natural way of looking at things, and they come to us initially with astonishing discomfort. We gradually have to conform our walk and conversation to the precepts of Jesus Christ as the Holy Spirit applies them to our circumstances. The Sermon on the Mount is not a set of rules and regulations— it is a picture of the life we will live when the Holy Spirit is having His unhindered way with us.”

{ELGIN}  Dr. Warren W. Wiersbe was a pastor and prolific writer.  He wrote 50 books using the idea of what a Christian should “Be”.  Be Confident, Be Holy, Be Alert, Be Ready and so on.  The idea was that as  born again believers, the Bible charges us to let our light shine and how we walk out this life are the rays of that light.  There are 8 Beatitudes, Blessed are ….. the poor in spirit, they who mourn, the meek, they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure of heart, the peacemakers, they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness. Jesus was describing the Body of Christ living in a fallen world as He spoke, your life and the perspective that we should have as we live day to day.  A life that is submitted to the Spirit of God.  Consider the Beatitudes in the context of the fruit of the Spirit.  (Galatians 5:22-25) “… the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”  Jesus brought a new covenant .. a new life filled with grace and mercy. But it can only be lived by the power of the Spirit and the submission of our will to the Spirit.  We cannot and will not be successful in our new life by trying to live by our terms.  Jesus told Nicodemus .. “You must be born again by the Spirit.”  Don’t try to live the “right” life through self-effort … it is a failing proposition.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Our New Life -- Not A Philosophy To Be Imagined, It Is A Reality To Be Lived.

…. your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. —Matthew 5:20

{CHAMBERS} “The characteristic of a disciple is not that he does good things, but that he is good in his motives, having been made good by the supernatural grace of God. The only thing that exceeds right-doing is right-being […] Jesus is saying, “If you are My disciple, you must be right not only in your actions, but also in your motives, your aspirations, and in the deep recesses of the thoughts of your mind.” Your motives must be so pure that God Almighty can see nothing to rebuke. Who can stand in the eternal light of God and have nothing for Him to rebuke? Only the Son of God, and Jesus Christ claims that through His redemption He can place within anyone His own nature and make that person as pure and as simple as a child. The purity that God demands is impossible unless I can be remade within, and that is exactly what Jesus has undertaken to do through His redemption.  No one can make himself pure by obeying laws. Jesus Christ does not give us rules and regulations— He gives us His teachings which are truths that can only be interpreted by His nature which He places within us. The great wonder of Jesus Christ’s salvation is that He changes our heredity. He does not change human nature— He changes its source, and thereby its motives as well.”

{ELGIN}  (2 Corinthians 5:17) “Old things have passed away .. all things have become new”  (John 3) We are born again by the Spirit.  This new life is not a philosophy to be imagined, it is a reality to be lived.  Jesus changes us from the inside out.  Some things are oh-so-hard to give up.  We have become dependent upon them.  They define us.  They may even bring some sort of perverted sense of comfort and security.  Even though they are harmful and they bring pain, we fear that letting go of them will be even worse.  But Jesus bids us “Come”.  (Matthew 11:28) “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”  There is a song – “All to Jesus I surrender, All to Him I freely give.  I will ever love and trust Him, in His presence daily live.  I Surrender all.  All to Jesus, precious Savior, I surrender all.”  Are you willing to let Jesus change you?  It requires faith and an attitude of total, not partial, abandonment.  Paul wrote about the struggle in Romans chapter 7.  “I do the things I don’t want to do and the things I want to do, I don’t do.  Wretched man that I am who will save me from this body of death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!”  We find deliverance through Jesus.  He is the only way we can find deliverance.  You may think there is another way, but there is not.  You might try partial surrender, but it is not enough.  You must lay your life down.  It is an act of obedience and an act of faith, all wrapped up into one.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Taking A Break - Off To Haiti

I leave for Jacmel Haiti tonight, 13 July,  and will not be writing and posting daily devotions while I am gone.  I will try to post brief updates as I can.  Returning on the 21st.  Will resume the devotions on the 24th of July.

In the meantime, please be in prayer for the people going on this trip ... ministry to village children, training new Believers, and preaching at a church and during a crusade.  Charley

How Is Your Vision - Can You Still See the Father For Who He Is?

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord… —Isaiah 6:1

{CHAMBERS}  “My vision of God is dependent upon the condition of my character. My character determines whether or not truth can even be revealed to me. Before I can say, “I saw the Lord,” there must be something in my character that conforms to the likeness of God. Until I am born again and really begin to see the kingdom of God, I only see from the perspective of my own biases. What I need is God’s surgical procedure— His use of external circumstances to bring about internal purification. Your priorities must be God first, God second, and God third, until your life is continually face to face with God and no one else is taken into account whatsoever. Your prayer will then be, “In all the world there is no one but You, dear God; there is no one but You.” Keep paying the price. Let God see that you are willing to live up to the vision.”

{ELGIN} (Isaiah 6:1-3) “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.””  What is your view of Jehovah God?  Is He waiting for your beckoning call to do something for you? Or is He the Creator of the Universe, all powerful and all knowing.  We can enter before His throne of Grace boldly (Hebrews 4:16) because we are His children, but He, nevertheless, is still God almighty.  The reason that we can enter into His presence is because of Jesus Christ, not by our own merit.  Do you live your life in awe of the Father of lights (James 1:17) or have you lost your respect for who He is.  Your view of God is the foundation for your view of your life in Christ.  Maybe you need to do a “system reset” and reconsider the One who loved us enough to send His Son to die for us (John 3:16). 

I was thinking the other day about times past when I had considerable authority of other people.  When I walked into their presence they would stand up.  Not because of Charley, but because of the authority that I had.  There is a song that says “come just as you are”.  It does not mean that it doesn’t matter how you approach God, it means that you can’t ever be good enough to enter into His presence on your own, so don’t try to be good enough. Instead, embrace the One who can stand in His presence, Jesus Christ.  Jesus has made it possible for us to enter boldly – meaning that we do not need to fear that we will be turned away or struck down.  God will receive us because of His Son and only because of His Son.  Don’t let that understanding fade and make your relationship less than what it should be.  Something to think and pray about.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

When You Read The Word Therefore - Look To See What It Is There For! It Is There For You

…till we all come…to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ… —Ephesians 4:13

{CHAMBERS}  “Reconciliation means the restoring of the relationship between the entire human race and God, putting it back to what God designed it to be. This is what Jesus Christ did in redemption. The church ceases to be spiritual when it becomes self-seeking, only interested in the development of its own organization. The reconciliation of the human race according to His plan means realizing Him not only in our lives individually, but also in our lives collectively. Jesus Christ sent apostles and teachers for this very purpose— that the corporate Person of Christ and His church, made up of many members, might be brought into being and made known. […] We are not here to develop a spiritual life of our own, or to enjoy a quiet spiritual retreat. We are here to have the full realization of Jesus Christ, for the purpose of building His body. Am I building up the body of Christ, or am I only concerned about my own personal development? The essential thing is my personal relationship with Jesus Christ— “…that I may know Him…” (Philippians 3:10). To fulfill God’s perfect design for me requires my total surrender— complete abandonment of myself to Him. Whenever I only want things for myself, the relationship is distorted.”

{ELGIN} (2 Corinthians 5:17-20) “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.” We all have been given the ministry of reconciliation.  Our faith is not just to keep us, alone, out of hell and give us the assurance of heaven.  We are not to just hide our light under a bushel basket.  Our light shine on our family, our neighbors, our community, our country and the world.  We had a pastor in Savannah, Georgia who would say “Now, if you see the word “therefore” you  have to look to see what it is there – for. (2 Corinthians 5:14-16) “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.” 

Having died and being raised again, in Christ (Galatians 2:20),  and not relating to people from a worldly point of view … how is that working for you by the way … And so .. or therefore … we are new creatures … the flesh crucified .. the Spirit reigns in our life … and we have been given charge to share the Gospel … to encourage others to be reconciled with God through Jesus just as we have been.  Would you say that what I just described typifies your life?  Or would you say that you spend most of your energy on self-maintenance .. trying to be more holy … focused on yourself … managing your sin … God has purposed so much more for you.  Paul’s words are not just for the pastors and missionaries … they are for the Church .. the body of Christ.  And if you are born again, you are a member of that Body.  Therefore you need to understand and embrace what you are here-for.  And then walk in it.

Monday, July 10, 2017

When Someone Offends You Are You Stirred Up To Show Them Jesus . .Or Just Stirred Up?

Let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together… —Hebrews 10:24-25

{CHAMBERS} “We are all capable of being spiritually lazy saints. We want to stay off the rough roads of life, and our primary objective is to secure a peaceful retreat from the world. The ideas put forth in these verses from Hebrews 10 are those of stirring up one another and of keeping ourselves together. Both of these require initiative— our willingness to take the first step toward Christ-realization, not the initiative toward self-realization. To live a distant, withdrawn, and secluded life is diametrically opposed to spirituality as Jesus Christ taught it. The true test of our spirituality occurs when we come up against injustice, degradation, ingratitude, and turmoil, all of which have the tendency to make us spiritually lazy. […] The real danger in spiritual laziness is that we do not want to be stirred up— all we want to hear about is a spiritual retirement from the world. Yet Jesus Christ never encourages the idea of retirement— He says, “Go and tell My brethren…” (Matthew 28:10).”

{ELGIN}  I find it amazing how we can live two distinctly different realities.  The one reality is that I am a Christian and I love the Lord.  All is well with me and the world.  That is until someone offends us.  Then we walk in the “other” reality.  That is the reality of indignation, vindictiveness and resentment.  The thing is we can switch between these two realities like we were using a light switch.  The fact is, that God sees our hearts and He knows our hearts are divided. (James 1:5-8) “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.  But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind.  For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”  We think we have it together spiritually, but our faith is weak .. in our heart we doubt.  We still rely on our old nature .. and we know that there is nothing good in it .. but it drives us all the same. 

Switch on .. switch off.  It seems crazy.  For many if you tell them they are doing it they don’t believe you.  They are not strong enough spiritually speaking to see the difference.  And lest you think that older saints are free from that craziness .. think again.  You are only one unguarded thought away.  Love must prevail and that love comes by faith and submission to the Spirit. ( 1 Corinthians 13:4-7) “Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered,  does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”  Which reality do you spend most of your time in?

Friday, July 7, 2017

The Key To Building A Strong Faith

Enter by the narrow gate….Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life…. —Matthew 7:13-14

{CHAMBERS} “If we are going to live as disciples of Jesus, we have to remember that all efforts of worth and excellence are difficult.  The Christian life is gloriously difficult, but its difficulty does not make us faint and cave in— it stirs us up to overcome.  Do we appreciate the miraculous salvation of Jesus Christ enough to be our utmost for His highest— our best for His glory? […] If we will only start on the basis of His redemption to do what He commands, then we will find that we can do it. If we fail, it is because we have not yet put into practice what God has placed within us. But a crisis will reveal whether or not we have been putting it into practice. If we will obey the Spirit of God and practice in our physical life what God has placed within us by His Spirit, then when a crisis does come we will find that our own nature, as well as the grace of God, will stand by us. […] God’s grace produces men and women with a strong family likeness to Jesus Christ, not pampered, spoiled weaklings. It takes a tremendous amount of discipline to live the worthy and excellent life of a disciple of Jesus in the realities of life.”

{ELGIN} As I was reading Chamber’s words I was thinking about the parallel between the health journey that my wife an I have embarked on and the spiritual journey that we have been traveling for, now, 41 years.  We are on a fairly Spartan regimen with respect to our eating habits.  Very often we are asked the question “Do you ever cheat?”  The thought behind  that question is “ I could not live like that, I love food too much.”  The key to success with the program we are on is structure and discipline.  The same for the Christian life.  Let me say that we are tempted from time to time.  Like the day that we bought a pizza for the twins and it sat between Martie and me in the car while we drove back to the house.  That pizza smelled wonderful.  We knew how good it tastes.  But that was no longer part of our life.  I must say this analogy breaks down at this point because one day, after we reach our goal weight, we may have a slice of pizza .. but I will not eat the whole thing by myself!

Our new life in Christ requires that we put God first and that we pursue the disciplines of the faith to mature in our faith.  It doesn’t just happen.  It requires work .. determination … consistency … accountability.  You will not be successful on your own.  Dr. Howard Hendricks, a professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, said every Christian needs a Paul, a Barnabus, and a Timothy in their lives.  A Paul to teach us, to building to our lives, a Barnabus to encourage us and hold us accountable, and a Timothy into whose life we can build.  You don’t need a seminary degree to do those things … but you do need to be spiritually disciplined.  You will face difficult times … but you can endure them … you will face temptations to yield to your flesh … but you can resist them … God has given you everything you need.  You only have to put it into practice.  (2 Corinthians 4:8-10) “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.”  The apostle Paul put it this way (Philippians 4:8-10) “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.” That doesn’t happen without determined effort, but when it does your light will shine before all men.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Hey Christian - Got A Light?

My Utmost For His Highest                                                                                                   

The parched ground shall become a pool… —Isaiah 35:7

{CHAMBERS}  “We always have a vision of something before it actually becomes real to us. When we realize that the vision is real, but is not yet real in us, Satan comes to us with his temptations, and we are inclined to say that there is no point in even trying to continue. Instead of the vision becoming real to us, we have entered into a valley of humiliation. God gives us a vision, and then He takes us down to the valley to batter us into the shape of that vision. It is in the valley that so many of us give up and faint. Every God-given vision will become real if we will only have patience. […] While still in the light of the glory of the vision, we go right out to do things, but the vision is not yet real in us. God has to take us into the valley and put us through fires and floods to batter us into shape, until we get to the point where He can trust us with the reality of the vision. Ever since God gave us the vision, He has been at work. He is getting us into the shape of the goal He has for us, and yet over and over again we try to escape from the Sculptor’s hand in an effort to batter ourselves into the shape of our own goal.”

{ELGIN}  God calls, God prepares and God sends.  That pattern is clear in the Bible.  But it is not something just for the famous Bible characters. God has called us all to some purpose in the kingdom.  (Ephesians 2:10) “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  We all have a place and purpose.  He calls us to it, He prepares us for it, and then He sends us to fulfill it.  It may not be leading thousands of people from bondage, but perhaps one or two by sharing the Gospel with a friend.  It may not be traveling a great distance to preach to those who have never heard about Jesus, but it perhaps preaching to your children through the Christ-like example that you are living each day.  Dr. James Dobson said “Values are caught they are not taught.”  It is not the Bible story that you read at night as much as it is how you conduct yourself during the day.  When I was with Promise Keepers we had a saying .. “you can’t lead where you won’t go.  You can’t teach what you don’t know. And you can only recreate what you are.” God must prepare you for His purpose.  The starting point of preparation, of course, is salvation.  But the journey is sanctification and walking by faith.  He may very well take you through the fiery furnace … or through a raging storm at sea … but it will always be for a spiritual purpose.  A.W. Tozer said “God does not use a man (person) greatly, until they have been hurt deeply.”  Part of our preparation will undoubtedly be personal trials.

(James 1:2-8)  “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.”

Often times we think of calling only in terms of missionaries – pastors – teachers – evangelists.  And some are called to fulfill those roles in the Church – the Body of Christ.  But we all have purpose in the Body.  An Elgin axiom – “The darker the night – the brighter the light.” A little light can be seen from a long distance.  I can remember flying in the desert on a moonless night.  You could barely tell the difference from the sky and the ground.  Then someone on the ground would break a “chem-stick” and I could see that tiny light from a great distance.  Your light may only be bright enough to fill a room, while others can illuminate a stadium … it doesn’t matter … the source of the light is all the same .. and God will give you sufficient light to accomplish the purpose He has for you.  Your job – let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Who Holds Your Future? Your 401K Or Jehovah God - You Heart Reveals The Truth

My Utmost For His Highest               

Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass. —Psalm 37:5

CHAMBERS}  “Don’t plan without God. God seems to have a delightful way of upsetting the plans we have made, when we have not taken Him into account. We get ourselves into circumstances that were not chosen by God, and suddenly we realize that we have been making our plans without Him— that we have not even considered Him to be a vital, living factor in the planning of our lives. And yet the only thing that will keep us from even the possibility of worrying is to bring God in as the greatest factor in all of our planning.  In spiritual issues it is customary for us to put God first, but we tend to think that it is inappropriate and unnecessary to put Him first in the practical, everyday issues of our lives. […] Don’t plan with a rainy day in mind. You cannot hoard things for a rainy day if you are truly trusting Christ. Jesus said, “Let not your heart be troubled…” (John 14:1). God will not keep your heart from being troubled. It is a command— “Let not….” To do it, continually pick yourself up, even if you fall a hundred and one times a day, until you get into the habit of putting God first and planning with Him in mind.”

{ELGIN}  As I read the Chambers devotions in preparation for comments in this BLOG I often have thoughts arise that are so contrary to the ways of our culture. Ways or practices or attitudes about certain things we would call common sense and being practical or responsible in the “cradle of material affluence”. Often, my first response is often to dispel them or at least water them down.  But, then, I am reminded of the nature of God.  (Isaiah 55:8) “"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD.”  It is curious that we can take the practical things of the natural and kludge them on to the supernatural, in the name of common sense.  The necessity of maintaining our lifestyle is an example.   The whole idea of retirement, for the affluent, has become maintaining what we have into perpetuity (love that word!) When it is time to retire, we want enough money coming in every month to maintain the life we have grown accustomed to. (I mean what is wrong with that?)  We have an entire industry built on that desire.  That thinking is not a problem for the poor. 

After Hurricane Matthew, I made the comment about the devastation in Anse du Clerc saying.  “The people of Haiti lost everything, much like the people on the Gulf Coast after Katrina, but they did not have as far to fall from something to nothing.”  Having money and possessions is not a sin.  Loving them and trusting in them for security more than we trust God is.  It is hard to know when we have crossed that line.  Like the parable of the man who wanted to build bigger barns (Luke 12:13-21).  It seemed the reasonable thing to do, at least from the natural perspective.  Now if what I am saying is disagreeable to you, I would caution you to examine your heart.  (Luke 16:12-14) ““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.” The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus.”  So is it wrong to save for the future, I don’t think so.  Just don’t let it become your god and cause you to say “no” when Jehovah God comes calling.  Something to think about – and perhaps pray about

Monday, July 3, 2017

So You Want To Change - You Must Embrace The Conviction Of The Holy Spirit

Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips… —Isaiah 6:5

{CHAMBERS} “When I come into the very presence of God, I do not realize that I am a sinner in an indefinite sense, but I suddenly realize and the focus of my attention is directed toward the concentration of sin in a particular area of my life. A person will easily say, “Oh yes, I know I am a sinner,” but when he comes into the presence of God he cannot get away with such a broad and indefinite statement. Our conviction is focused on our specific sin, and we realize, as Isaiah did, what we really are. This is always the sign that a person is in the presence of God. […] God begins by convicting us of the very thing to which His Spirit has directed our mind’s attention. If we will surrender, submitting to His conviction of that particular sin, He will lead us down to where He can reveal the vast underlying nature of sin. That is the way God always deals with us when we are consciously aware of His presence. This experience of our attention being directed to our concentration of personal sin is true in everyone’s life, from the greatest of saints to the worst of sinners. […] the Spirit of God will point out some definite and specific thing to him. The effect of Isaiah’s vision of the holiness of the Lord was the directing of his attention to the fact that he was “a man of unclean lips.””

{ELGIN}  A couple in our Sunday school class shared during our prayer time that they were struggling with an addiction to nicotine – aka smoking cigarettes.  Both wanted to quit.  I thanked them for their willingness to share their struggle with us so we knew how to pray for them.  It was not a question of judging them.  I told them that they were not going to hell because they smoked .. although some misinformed but well-intentioned Christians might argue that point … The conviction that the couple felt about cigarettes came from the Spirit of God.  (John 16:8-10) “And when He [the Spirit] has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me”  The Spirit will convict us of the things in our hearts that do not bring honor to God.  I would argue that nicotine is a poor substitute for the comfort that we can find in God.  Nicotine is a cruel master that very often leads us to a painful physical death.  (John 14:26) “the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things”  The Spirit will teach us the way to go and show us right from wrong living. 

What is happening in the lives of the couple in our class is spiritual.  Part of the sanctification process. True, sometimes people try to clean themselves up on their own .. and fail.  You may have found yourself on that treadmill a time or two.  It is not until we yield to the Spirit and accept that our metamorphosis from the old nature to the new is a “God-thing” will that change take root in our lives.  I love to watch God at work, don’t you?  When I speak to anyone about what I was like before Jesus, they do not believe me.  Why?  Because God has changed me so that who I was is no longer recognizable.  But it is not me, it’s Jesus in me. (Galatians 2:20) That is not to say that I have arrived .. we all struggle with the flesh and will so long as our feet are walking this earth.  To quote John Newton (he wrote Amazing Grace) “I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I want to be, I am not what I hope to be in another world; but still I am not what I once used to be, and by the grace of God I am what I am” Can I get an Amen?