Friday, January 19, 2018

Struggling With Trust In God - It's Part Of Our Supercilious Nature

When the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, horror and great darkness fell upon him. —Genesis 15:12

{CHAMBERS} “[A] saint’s duty is to be still and listen. […] The story of Abram and Hagar in Genesis 16 is an excellent example of listening to so-called good advice during a time of darkness, rather than waiting for God to send the light. […] Never try to help God fulfill His word. Abram went through thirteen years of silence, but in those years all of his self-sufficiency was destroyed. He grew past the point of relying on his own common sense. Those years of silence were a time of discipline, not a period of God’s displeasure. […] Do I trust at all in the flesh? […] Do I trust in books and prayers or other joys in my life? Or have I placed my confidence in God Himself, not in His blessings? […] As soon as God becomes real to us, people pale by comparison, becoming shadows of reality. Nothing that other saints do or say can ever upset the one who is built on God.”

{ELGIN} Trusting in the Lord and not your own wisdom or plans (Proverbs 3:5-6, Proverbs 16:9) is perhaps our biggest challenge.  We know what “the Lord saith”, but lack the faith to wait and trust.  We can’t see God’s hand moving so we worry and try to “help” God.  I can remember one of my granddaughters, when she was 3 or 4.  I would try to help her do something that was ay beyond her ability  and she would say “Let me – I can do it myself!”  Out of the mouths of babes.  That was Abraham and Sarah’s problem. Yes Sarah was complicit in Abraham’s sin.  Sarah laughed at the thought of her having a baby. (Genesis 18:12) They knew what the Lord had said but lacked faith.  Have you ever struggled with that problem?  When God says something .. you know that it is true .. but you have a hard time trusting in the truth.  It is endemic to your old nature.  (Mark 9:21-26) “ Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?” “From childhood,” he answered. “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.” Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the impure spirit. “You deaf and mute spirit,” he said, “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, “He’s dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up.”

Faith is the “substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not see”.  (Hebrews 11:1) It’s the “evidence of things not seen” part that that the father and all of us struggle with.  What is it in your life that you need faith for?  Faith is a result of nearness to God.  (Romans 1:17) “For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.” Strong faith is a result of exercising your faith, just like your muscles.  Faith requires trust.  Trust requires submission.  Submission requires humility.  You do not know better than God. (Proverbs 16:18) “Pride goes before destruction,  and a haughty spirit before a fall.” Haughty means – Proud and disdainful; having a high opinion of one's self, with some contempt for others; lofty and arrogant; supercilious. Supercilious means – behaving or looking as though one thinks one is superior to others.  If you think you know better than the Creator God the you have a haughty and supercilious attitude!  Just like the Pharisees. We all struggle with it.  It is the nature of our flesh .. in fact, it is at the root of Adam’s sin.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Singing Your Song In The Midst Of The Storm - Fulfilling God's Purpose

Thomas answered and said to Him, "My Lord and my God!" —John 20:28

{CHAMBERS} ““Jesus said to her, ‘Give Me a drink’ ” (John 4:7). How many of us are expecting Jesus Christ to quench our thirst when we should be satisfying Him! We should be pouring out our lives, investing our total beings, not drawing on Him to satisfy us. “You shall be witnesses to Me…” (Acts 1:8). That means lives of pure, uncompromising, and unrestrained devotion to the Lord Jesus, which will be satisfying to Him wherever He may send us. Beware of anything that competes with your loyalty to Jesus Christ. The greatest competitor of true devotion to Jesus is the service we do for Him. It is easier to serve than to pour out our lives completely for Him. The goal of the call of God is His satisfaction, not simply that we should do something for Him. We are not sent to do battle for God, but to be used by God in His battles. Are we more devoted to service than we are to Jesus Christ Himself?”

{ELGIN}  As I was walking down the hall after getting a cup of coffee – morning motivation – I had the image of a little bird sitting on a wire calling out in the midst of a hurricane.  To what avail does the bird sing?  How can it possible stand against the storm.  How can it possibly be heard above the wind and rain and thunder.  It can’t but God can through its obedience in fulfilling its purpose .. the purpose for which it was created.  It may seem to you that the “cultural” storm that rages about us is too much.  The light that shines from us .. the song we sing .. is drowned out by the force of the storm – will have not affect.  Not so.  When the nation of Israel finally reached the river Jordan the first time,  (Numbers 13-14) 10 of the 12 spies saw the “storm” – Giants in the land and a great fear came over the people.  They refused to continue to follow the spiritual leadership of Moses.  They would not cross the river. And so they missed a blessing – the very purpose for leaving Egypt.  They did not fulfill their purpose by trusting in God and not themselves.  So they died in the desert.  They missed God’s best.  True, they were no longer slaves, but  they missed God all the same.

The second time the nation approached the river … the same storm was raging .. and more .. the river was at flood stage … impossible for men .. but possible for God.  When they stepped into the water by faith … the river backed up and they occupied the land.  Fulfilling God’s plan.  I was sharing how Pathfinder became Pathfinder with some friends yesterday.  Before Martie and I submitted to God’s leading to start this ministry, we talked with my mom about it.  We told her about what God was leading us to do.  About the problems.  Our hesitation.  We had not gone to Mississippi with the intention of staying there and certainly not starting a ministry.  She said “Charley, the river Jordan did not back up until they stepped out into the water.”  My response was “Got it Mom!”  We had to step out in and by faith.  Put our trust in God.  She asked, “What are you going to call it?” We had not thought that far ahead .. we were still trying to get our socks and shoes off before we stepped in!  She said “What about Pathfinder?”  Pathfinder was the name of the youth ministry that my folks had started in Peoria, Illinois.  So we decided to go with it .. Pathfinder on Mission.  Pathfinder Mission.  A work of faith.

Each of us is called to step into the water.  These are dark times spiritually .. but I suspect they are not the darkest times that have ever been .. just the darkest that we have seen.  When I flew helicopters in the Army, I sometimes flew at night in the desert.  It was very, very dark.  No visible horizon, meaning you could not see where the sky and earth met.  Hard to keep oriented.  But then someone would light up a chem-stick.  In all the darkness, I could see it from far off.  One light in the midst of the darkness.  Pointing me to my destination.  My encouragement to you … Be the light!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Making A Sacrifice From The Heart ... Just Like Jesus

When it pleased God…to reveal His Son in me… —Galatians 1:15-16

{CHAMBERS} “The call of God is not a call to serve Him in any particular way. My contact with the nature of God will shape my understanding of His call and will help me realize what I truly desire to do for Him. […] Service is the overflow which pours from a life filled with love and devotion. But strictly speaking, there is no call to that. Service is what I bring to the relationship and is the reflection of my identification with the nature of God. Service becomes a natural part of my life. God brings me into the proper relationship with Himself so that I can understand His call, and then I serve Him on my own out of a motivation of absolute love. Service to God is the deliberate love-gift of a nature that has heard the call of God. Service is an expression of my nature, and God’s call is an expression of His nature. […] The Son of God reveals Himself in me, and out of devotion to Him service becomes my everyday way of life.”

{ELGIN} As I type this devotion this morning, it is 22 degrees in Pasadena, Texas, and pretty chilly in the room I am sitting in.  I am wearing a read hooded Carhartt work jacket.  Why am I telling you this?  Because it has to do with the point of this devotion. About 12 years ago, I was standing in a parking lot of a church in Bay Saint Louis, Mississippi, doing pretty much what I am doing now. Not typing a devotion, but serving the people affected by a disaster, however without this red coat. 

It was cold … colder than I thought it would be on the Gulf Coast.  I had not dressed for the weather … didn’t have a coat.  I wasn’t thinking about being cold, but about getting the volunteers to the work that they had come to do.  That’s when a young man walked up to me.  He asked me if I had a coat, I told him no.  Then he did something that has been with me since that day, he took his coat off, a red Carhartt work coat and gave it to me.  He said, “here you can have this one.”  Well, I am a great giver … but like most givers, struggle with receiving.  But ….. I did accept the coat.  I recognized the sacrifice he was making … I saw Jesus … I saw something holy that was taking place … an expression of sacrifice … (John 15:13) “No greater love has one man than this, then that he lay down his life for his friends.”  A sacrifice costs the one sacrificing something that is dear to them.  In a flash, I was reminded of Matthew 22 and the parable of the sheep and the goats … “Lord when did we see you …?” It is a coat … not a sacrifice on the cross … but that is not the point … it’s the heart that made the sacrifice that makes the coat significant.  This coat hung in a closet for the four years we served in Haiti.  But even then, each time I saw it there, my heart was rended (sp)  and I was taken back to that parking lot.  I was reminded of what is important in life.  I am sure that the young man had no idea what the gesture would mean to me years later.  And likewise my friend, you  have no idea what your kindness toward others, your sacrifice from the heart will mean to them.  That is not the motive for our doing and serving … our motive … our motivation … our reason … is the love of God that we bear in our hearts that has found a way to express itself and bring glory to the Father. 

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Fulfilling The Call Of God In Your Life - Just Like Isaiah

I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: "Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?" —Isaiah 6:8

{CHAMBERS} “When we talk about the call of God, we often forget the most important thing, namely, the nature of Him who calls. There are many things calling each of us today. Some of these calls will be answered, and others will not even be heard. The call is the expression of the nature of the One who calls, and we can only recognize the call if that same nature is in us. The call of God is the expression of God’s nature, not ours. God providentially weaves the threads of His call through our lives, and only we can distinguish them. […] The call of God is not a reflection of my nature; my personal desires and temperament are of no consideration. […] Isaiah was so attuned to God, because of the great crisis he had just endured, that the call of God penetrated his soul. The majority of us cannot hear anything but ourselves. And we cannot hear anything God says. But to be brought to the place where we can hear the call of God is to be profoundly changed.”

{ELGIN} When you think of someone being called by God .. hearing God’s voice … do you think Isaiah, Moses, Abraham, Paul? Do you ever think of yourself as being among that group?  I would guess probably not.  It would be like a duffer in golf comparing themselves to Arnold Palmer.  Not even in the same class.  Perhaps, but in the case of God’s call, your thinking would be wrong.  Way wrong.  Don’t confuse your role in the mission with calling.  God gives us different things to do, some seem small compared to others, but God decides that, not us.  (Romans 8:30-31) “And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” What do you say in response?  “Oh, I could never be like _________”  We are all being conformed into the image of Jesus.  We are called into new life.  We have a common mission but diverse roles in that mission.

Our problem is making that Truth important in our every-day lives.  Do you live each moment with an awareness that you are called by God?  Not for the sake of pride but are you living in awe of what God has done in you by grace through faith. (Ephesians 2:8-9) God has given you a place of ministry in the place where you are right now.  The question is, will you be found faithful or will you focus on living life on this planet .. doing the best you can to get along with your new nature running in the background.  My point, as Christians, we have been called to so much more than that.  And you don’t have to travel to a foreign land to experience it.  (Ephesians 2:10) “For we [YOU] are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us [YOU] to do.”  We all must accept that truth and live in it by faith, just like Isaiah, Moses, Abraham, and Paul.

Monday, January 15, 2018

So You Are A Christian - Are You Living Like One?

We were buried with Him…that just as Christ was raised from the dead…even so we also should walk in newness of life. —Romans 6:4

{CHAMBERS} “No one experiences complete sanctification without going through […] the burial of the old life. If there has never been this crucial moment of change through death, sanctification will never be more than an elusive dream. […] Death means you stop being. You must agree with God and stop being the intensely striving kind of Christian you have been. […] Has there been a point in your life which you now mark as your last day? Is there a place in your life to which you go back in memory with humility and overwhelming gratitude […]Will you agree with Him that this is your last day on earth? The moment of agreement depends on you.”

{ELGIN} Can you say this about yourself without reservation? (Galatians 2:20)  “I …… I am crucified with Christ.” Your old nature and its desires are dead to you.  You no longer prefer what your culture or the lusts of your flesh say are right.  “Therefore it is no longer I who lives, but Christ in me.” When people see me, they see Jesus.  “And the life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loves me and gave Himself up for me.”  You live a life fully dependent upon God and according to His will, not your own.  You walk by faith and not by sight.  (2 Corinthians 5:17) “old things are passing away and all things are becoming new”  Is there a change in your life, more than the fact that you go to church on Sundays? 

I was talking to a Christian the other day,  During the course of our conversation, he began to say something in response to something I said.  But, he “caught the word” which was profane as it came out of his my and said that was not profane.  [I almost typed the second phrase but that would have caused you to think about the profane phrase]  (Ephesians 4:29) “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.”  Does your speech reflect that which is good and brings glory to God  and encouragement to others, or does it reflect your culture?  Do you tolerate language in the media, TV and movies that you would never say yourself? Do you allow your kids to be exposed to it.  Would you not watch a movie or television program because they used profanity, promoted extra-marital sex, or some other activity that is clearly contrary to the Word of God?  If so, read this devotion again. 

Is your faith really the most important aspect of your life from which everything else springs? You know, but let me watch you for a few days and I can answer that question for you.  So can your family and the world my friend. Listen. the difference between criticism and encouragement is motive.  I am not being critical ... as Paul said .. I am the chief of sinners ... I, too, struggle with my flesh.  My motive is to encourage you to grasp the new life that you have in Christ and live it to its fullest potential.  You can do it.  I know you can through Christ who gives you strength.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

God's Comfort Is Like A Bridge Over Troubled Water

When He was alone…the twelve asked Him about the parable. —Mark 4:10

{CHAMBERS} “When God gets us alone through suffering, heartbreak, temptation, disappointment, sickness, or by thwarted desires, a broken friendship, or a new friendship— when He gets us absolutely alone, and we are totally speechless, unable to ask even one question, then He begins to teach us. Notice Jesus Christ’s training of the Twelve. It was the disciples, not the crowd outside, who were confused. His disciples constantly asked Him questions, and He constantly explained things to them, but they didn’t understand until after they received the Holy Spirit (see John 14:26).[…] We think we understand another person’s struggle until God reveals the same shortcomings in our lives. There are vast areas of stubbornness and ignorance the Holy Spirit has to reveal in each of us, but it can only be done when Jesus gets us alone.”

{ELGIN} (James 1:2-4) “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” Pastor Rick Warren said it this way, “God never wastes a hurt”.  We are saved for eternity, but we continue to live out this life in a fallen – sin-sick world.  What we experience in this life, both good and bad, God uses to shape us into the image of His Son.  We gladly accept the fact that Jesus suffered and died for us, but we often have a problem with accepting pain and suffering in our own lives.  Like God is supposed to prevent that from happening.  Job said (Job 13:15) “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him;  I will surely defend my ways to his face.”  The first half of that verse is quoted often .. the second half … not so much.  There is nothing wrong with asking God for understanding … but don’t lose hope in the asking.  Don’t doubt God .. even though what you are experiencing is difficult to endure.  (2 Corinthians 1:3-5) “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.  For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.” Do you believe that? Well, you may doubt it in the midst of your trouble, but it is no less true.  If you seek God and put your hope in Him, you will find comfort.  If you blame God and turn away in your heart, you will not.

Jesus said (John 16:33) “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Paul wrote (Romans 8:38-39) “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  And that my friend is the Truth!

As I was thinking up a title for this post .. it's post number 1599, and that is a lot of titles!  A song by Simon and Garfunkel came to my mind.  Bridge Over Troubled Waters.  "When you're down and out. When you're on the street. When evening falls so hard I will comfort you. I'll take your part, oh, when darkness comes. And pain is all, is all around. Just like a bridge over troubled water, I will lay me down. Just like a bridge over troubled water I will lay me down"  That's what God is like!

Friday, January 12, 2018

Do You Really Want To Be Like Jesus?

When they were alone, He explained all things to His disciples. —Mark 4:34

{CHAMBERS}  “Jesus doesn’t take us aside and explain things to us all the time; He explains things to us as we are able to understand them. The lives of others are examples for us, but God requires us to examine our own souls. It is slow work— so slow that it takes God all of time and eternity to make a man or woman conform to His purpose. We can only be used by God after we allow Him to show us the deep, hidden areas of our own character. […] …. Jesus will reveal to us everything we have held within ourselves before His grace began to work. […] We have to get rid of the idea that we understand ourselves. That is always the last bit of pride to go. The only One who understands us is God. The greatest curse in our spiritual life is pride. […] He will allow us to experience heartbreak or the disappointment we feel when our intellectual pride is wounded. He will reveal numerous misplaced affections or desires— things over which we never thought He would have to get us alone. Many things are shown to us, often without effect. But when God gets us alone over them, they will be clear.”

{ELGIN} (Romans 8:29) “For those whom he [God the Father] foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”  Have you ever given any thought to what being conformed … molded .. changed … means?  Well, first you know it is a spiritual change, right?  Second … you know that the process is going to be contrary to your flesh.  God will show you things through the Spirit that you may not want to see or admit, even to yourself.  (One of the Spirit’s missions is to convict the world of sin.  The Spirit plus the Word of God are the “one-two” punch in the sanctification process.  The knock-out punch is my surrendering my will)

You know that there are certain aspects of your old nature that you want to hide or cling to.  Adam and Eve tried to hide themselves in the Garden… you know how that worked out for them.  The only ones you can hide your sin from, for a season, is man.  The Word says (Numbers 32:23) “Your sin will find you out.”  God knows everything .. that is why we confess our sins (1 John 1:9) .. confess means to “agree with” not to reveal.  The goal of this transformation – conforming process is not to make you miserable, but to bless you .. to make you better.  The pain or difficulty you experience is from the battle between the flesh and Spirit.  My encouragement to you is the same as Paul’s to the Romans.  (Romans 12:1-2) “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”  God won’t make you do that.  You must surrender your will.  Will you?

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Obeying God's Will - Will Cost You Something - Your Own

As they led Him away, they laid hold of a certain man, Simon…, and on him they laid the cross that he might bear it after Jesus. —Luke 23:26

{CHAMBERS} “If we obey God, it is going to cost other people more than it costs us, and that is where the pain begins. If we are in love with our Lord, obedience does not cost us anything— it is a delight. But to those who do not love Him, our obedience does cost a great deal. If we obey God, it will mean that other people’s plans are upset. They will ridicule us as if to say, “You call this Christianity?” We could prevent the suffering, but not if we are obedient to God. We must let the cost be paid.  […] Will we remain faithful in our obedience to God and be willing to suffer the humiliation of refusing to be independent? Or will we do just the opposite and say, “I will not cause other people to suffer”? We can disobey God if we choose, and it will bring immediate relief to the situation, but it will grieve our Lord. If, however, we obey God, He will care for those who have suffered the consequences of our obedience. We must simply obey and leave all the consequences with Him. Beware of the inclination to dictate to God what consequences you would allow as a condition of your obedience to Him.”

{ELGIN} As so often happens, I was just talking with a friend about this very issue.  Our life on mission has required that we leave our family behind in order to serve in the places, that God has sent us.  (Matthew 16:24) “If anyone comes after Me, he must deny himself, pick up his cross and follow Me.”  Have you ever thought about what that might be?  Di you associate it with and limit it to intra-personal things and not others?  The truth is that God wants your total devotion .. the Greek word for total means total!  Not just what you think is sufficient.  “All to Jesus I surrender, all to Him I freely give.” Really?  When God says, “Give it up” are you willing to do that?  Really?  Or are there certain things that you or those around you have decided are just too much.  My friend, in Texas, told me that when he first met me and I told him that we had left our twin grandchildren in the care of friends for two months and we came to Texas … well, he didn’t think nice thoughts.  Have you ever heard “Family is everything”?  Not in the Bible.  God is everything. That is in the Bible.  Our devotion must be to God first.  Loving others springs out of loving God (Matthew 22:37-39)

Before we came to Texas, another friend asked to meet with me over coffee.  I discovered that his agenda was to convince me that I should delay my departure until a better time for the twins.  Makes sense … except God had told us to go .. now.  So we were faced with a choice.  Yield to the reason of man and say no to God, not now.  Or yield to God and trust in His sovereignty.  The first friend in Texas said that after he got to know me, he realized why I had made the decision, and believed it was the right one.  So what is it in your life that God is asking you to leave behind?  To let go of?  God will not make you choose Him.  That is what free will is all about.  But if you don’t, you will miss out on His best.  So my advice .. lay it down and follow Jesus .. Jesus always sought to do the will of the Father, and so should we.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

How To Explain The Bible To The Lost

I now send you, to open their eyes…that they may receive forgiveness of sins… —Acts 26:17-18

{CHAMBERS} “This verse is the greatest example of the true essence of the message of a disciple of Jesus Christ in all of the New Testament. God’s first sovereign work of grace is summed up in the words, “…that they may receive forgiveness of sins….” When a person fails in his personal Christian life, it is usually because he has never received anything. […] When a person is born again, he knows that it is because he has received something as a gift from Almighty God and not because of his own decision. People may make vows and promises, and may be determined to follow through, but none of this is salvation. Salvation means that we are brought to the place where we are able to receive something from God on the authority of Jesus Christ, namely, forgiveness of sins.”

{ELGIN} I was once asked how to explain how another Christian could explain the Bible to a lost person.  My answer … “You can’t!” You can have them look the words up in a dictionary if the don’t understand their meaning.  After all, they are ‘just printed words”, right?  But there is more to it the word of God than stories and words in the English language.  Did you know that in Haitian Creole there is no word for “fox”?  (Luke 9:58) “Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.””  Instead, the word used is “shen” which is dog.  What! Then how can their Bible be accurate?  Listen. I probably have the minority view on what I am about to say.  The important thing is not if it’s fox or dog.  The important thing is that in order to follow Jesus, it means giving up your life. (Luke 9:57-60) “As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” He said to another man, “Follow me.” But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.””

(1 Corinthians 2:13-15) “This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments”  Jesus told Nicodemus that he had to be born again, spiritually, and Nicodemus, a teacher of the Law, did not understand what Jesus was saying (John 3)  The Bible is a spiritual book. 2 Timothy 3:16 says that it is God breathed meaning the inspiration is from the Spirit of God not men’s contemplation and wisdom.  Salvation is not a mortal decision – I have decided to follow Jesus – but it is a spiritual awakening and spiritual transaction that is initiated by God and is very personal. It is a mix of faith and grace (Ephesians 2:8-9) And unless the Spirit of God is involved, it is impossible for someone to understand the “true meaning” of the words in the Bible.  But .. that is not to say that God will not use those words as a catalyst, in concert, with the working of His Spirit.  So my answer to the original question should have been …. It is important to expose the Lost to the Word of God, but it is the Spirit and not you that will give understanding and only then.  Our part is to lift Jesus up in word and deed, and the Spirit convicts them of sin and draws them to the Father. 

Monday, January 8, 2018

The Secret To Living Right Is Not Trying Harder

Abraham built an altar…; and he bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar… —Genesis 22:9

{CHAMBERS} “This event is a picture of the mistake we make in thinking that the ultimate God wants of us is the sacrifice of death. What God wants is the sacrifice through death which enables us to do what Jesus did, that is, sacrifice our lives. Not— “Lord, I am ready to go with You…to death” (Luke 22:33). But— “I am willing to be identified with Your death so that I may sacrifice my life to God.” […] God never tells us to give up things just for the sake of giving them up, but He tells us to give them up for the sake of the only thing worth having, namely, life with Himself. […] It is of no value to God to give Him your life for death. He wants you to be a “living sacrifice”— to let Him have all your strengths that have been saved and sanctified through Jesus (Romans 12:1).”

{ELGIN}  So often, with good intent, we get the “flesh-cart” before the “spiritual-horse”.  Do you remember the Hertz Rent-A-Car slogan “We Try Harder?” Well, most of us Christians try really hard to do the right and not the wrong.  Paul described his struggle in Romans 7.  He wrote, “I don’t do the things I want to do but those things that I don’t want to do, that I do.”  He asks “who will save me from this body of death?”. Then he answers his own question– Jesus!  If we could live a holy life without help, then Jesus could have stayed in Heaven.  But we can’t and won’t and He didn’t.  The truth of the matter is that our doing right is a result of our being right … spiritually.  It is God-in-us that makes it possible to live our new life.  Let me quote an old friend Galatians 2:20.  “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless, I live.  Yet not I, but Christ lives in me.  And the life which I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God Who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”  The power to live my new life comes from Jesus and it is fueled or enabled by the Holy Spirit and the Word of God coupled with faith.  Not trying harder or meaning well.  Perhaps this will give you new insight in to the verse (Psalm 46:10) “Be still and know that I am God!”  It is time to stop trying and start being. You can’t live the Christian life successfully by trying harder … only by “faithing” harder.

Friday, January 5, 2018

The Problem With Having More Than One Bank Account

Jesus answered him, "Where I am going you cannot follow Me now, but you shall follow Me afterward." —John 13:36

{CHAMBERS} “And when He had spoken this, He said to him, ‘Follow Me’ ” (John 21:19). Three years earlier Jesus had said, “Follow Me” (Matthew 4:19), and Peter followed with no hesitation. The irresistible attraction of Jesus was upon him and he did not need the Holy Spirit to help him do it. Later he came to the place where he denied Jesus, and his heart broke. Then he received the Holy Spirit and Jesus said again, “Follow Me” (John 21:19). Now no one is in front of Peter except the Lord Jesus Christ. […] Jesus is now asking for an internal sacrifice and yielding (see John 21:18).[…] There was no part of himself he would ever rely on again. […] No matter what changes God has performed in you, never rely on them. Build only on a Person, the Lord Jesus Christ, and on the Spirit He gives. All our promises and resolutions end in denial because we have no power to accomplish them. […] There is now only One who directs the course of your life, the Lord Jesus Christ.”

{ELGIN} We have several bank accounts.  One is for our personal business, one is for the ministry, and another is a temporary account we set up in Texas while we are here serving on mission.  We use each account depending upon what the source of the money we receive is or what the expense is.  That is much the same that most Christians live their lives.  They have a spiritual account and a carnal account.  Oh “carnal” is such a harsh word isn’t it?  Maybe I should have used something softer.  Something that suggests that what’s been deposited in that account is not all bad.  That maybe true by the world’s definition of good and bad, but not God’s.  Sorry, had a squirrel moment!   Back on point …. Our new life in Christ is transformational, “the old is gone, the new has come” and demands that we always deposit to and draw from our spiritual bank account for everything.  But we don’t do that do we?  Instead we live the best we can and if we have to we get out our spiritual “checkbook’.  If this analogy or parable is too obtuse, let me be plain.

From observation and personal experience, I have come to inescapable conclusion that most of us trust in our flesh and our culture more than God.  We believe that we can live two lives.  Our natural one and our spiritual one.  Our natural one for most things and our spiritual one for special occasions.  In fact … that is heretical thinking.  In fact, we are supposed to crucify our natural one and live fully by our new, spiritual nature.  (Galatians 2:20) The reason, I believe, that we have this problem is that we are not disciplined in our pursuit of a deep relationship with the Father. We don’t spend much time each day focused on the spiritual.  One of my favorite verses is (Joshua 1:8-9) “Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

In computer programming we would call that an “if-then” statement.  If you do this .. then this will happen.  For most of us .. if … is a big word for only having two letters!  And that is where most of us fail.  If you don’t do the “if” then you won’t experience the “then”. It’s up to each one of us.  I can only encourage you … and you can only encourage others.  Actually “only” is a poor choice of words because we are admonished to encourage each other.  (Hebrews 3:12-13) “See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” Maybe it’s time to close one of your accounts for good … you only need one after all … your new one. 

Thursday, January 4, 2018

How Do You Respond To Life With Emotion Or Devotion

Peter said to Him, "Lord, why can I not follow You now?" —John 13:37

{CHAMBERS} “[…] When God brings a time of waiting, and appears to be unresponsive, don’t fill it with busyness, just wait. The time of waiting may come to teach you the meaning of sanctification— to be set apart from sin and made holy— or it may come after the process of sanctification has begun to teach you what service means. Never run before God gives you His direction. If you have the slightest doubt, then He is not guiding. Whenever there is doubt— wait. […] …never act on the impulse of […] feeling. Peter did not wait for God. He predicted in his own mind where the test would come, and it came where he did not expect it. “I will lay down my life for Your sake.” Peter’s statement was honest but ignorant. “Jesus answered him, ‘…the rooster shall not crow till you have denied Me three times’ ” (John 13:38). […] Natural devotion may be enough to attract us to Jesus[…] but it will never make us disciples. Natural devotion will deny Jesus, always falling short of what it means to truly follow Him.”

{ELGIN}  (Zechariah 4:6) “‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of hosts.”  Peter thought that he could do a spiritual thing through the strength of his own will.  You know how that worked for him.  It’s easy to sit in judgement over Peter.  Shaking our knowing heads.  No way Peter! Who do you think you are?  And yet, we are guilty of the same thing.  Trying to be Christians … do the right thing … in the power of our flesh.  Letting our emotions be a poor substitute for the Spirit of God.  Thinking that our own plans are equal with the plans and will of God.  Essentially denying the sovereignty of God .. trying to be our own god.  What! No way you say.  Yes way!  Everything we do .. everything we say .. what we think .. what we want .. should be .. must be … in the context of whose we are and who God is.  Look … our life after our rebirth is a struggle.  Our old nature wants to rule and guide, but our new nature has another ruler and another guide.  In all fairness to Peter, he had not received the Holy Spirit so he lacked the power to be and do in a way that would overcome.  Read this account of Peter being confronted after he received the Spirit of God.

(Acts 4:5-11) “The next day the rulers, the elders and the teachers of the law met in Jerusalem. Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas, John, Alexander and others of the high priest’s family. They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: “By what power or what name did you do this?” Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed.  Jesus is “‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’”

Is that the same guy that denied Jesus before people around a fire?  Yes and no.  It was Peter, but the new Peter not the old one.  Now Peter could have stood before those religious leaders, even with the Spirit in him and responded with his flesh.  If he had, he would have failed just like before.  The first time, Peter did not glorify God, he protected himself.  The second time, he did glorify God at the peril of prison or worse.  The difference was who he was trusting in.  (Psalm 20:6-8) “Now this I know: The Lord gives victory to his anointed. He answers him from his heavenly sanctuary with the victorious power of his right hand. Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm.”

That can be you as you face life each day.  You will always be tested to trust in yourself and not God.  To respond to a situation with emotion and not devotion.  If you are wondering where the victory in Jesus is in daily living .. that may be the root of your problem.  You are trying to do what only God can do through you.  Examine your heart.  Draw close to God through the Word and prayer.  Pick up your cross daily and follow Jesus.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

When You Approach God Is Your Hat In Your Hand?

Clouds and darkness surround Him… —Psalm 97:2

{CHAMBERS} “A person who has not been born again by the Spirit of God will tell you that the teachings of Jesus are simple. But when he is baptized by the Holy Spirit, he finds that “clouds and darkness surround Him….” When we come into close contact with the teachings of Jesus Christ we have our first realization of this. The only possible way to have full understanding of the teachings of Jesus is through the light of the Spirit of God shining inside us. If we have never had the experience of taking our casual, religious shoes off our casual, religious feet— getting rid of all the excessive informality with which we approach God— it is questionable whether we have ever stood in His presence. The people who are flippant and disrespectful in their approach to God are those who have never been introduced to Jesus Christ. […] Jesus said, “The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63). […] …. the way God speaks to us; not by visions and dreams, but by words. When a man gets to God, it is by the most simple way— words.”

{ELGIN} Are you familiar with the idiom “Coming with your hat in your hand”?  It means to approach someone “In a meek or submissive manner. (The removal of one's hat is typically a gesture of respect.)”  Men used to tip their hat  or grab the brim and move it downward as a show of respect.  Standing before God with our hats in in our hands is comparable to Moses removing his sandals because He was standing on holy ground. When we come to worship, we may come just as we are, but we must be careful that we are not prideful in our attitude toward God thinking He can “take it or leave it”.  You are thinking, “I would never do that?”  Well, my fear is that many of us refuse to remove our hats when we stand before God.

Over the past 30 years, there has been a shift in how people dress on Sunday morning.  We no longer wear our “Sunday go to meetin’ clothes”, but whatever we pull out o the closet.  If a man wears a suit and tie to church people think he is going to preach.  You know that God judges the heart of man, not his outward appearance.  But very often the outward appearance is a reflection of the heart.  Don’t misunderstand me.  I don’t think Moses had a suit and tie on when God interrupted his life … he had on work clothes.  This is not about clothing.  It’s about reverence.  In times past, I am certain that many people came to church “all dolled up”, “dressed to the nines” (I love those old sayings) with sin in their heart, looking for recognition by men and not God.  What I am concerned about is that we may have lost our awareness that we have come to worship a Holy God.  When we approach Him, on any day, it must be with an awareness that the only reason we have access to God is because of Jesus and His sacrifice. (Hebrews 4:13-16) “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

The next time you pray .. read the Word of God .. attend a worship service … maybe even take your next breath … keep this in mind.  He is the potter, we are the clay.  We are saved by grace through faith and not works .. there is nothing we can take credit for.  So take off your hat!

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Obeying God's Voice - Knowing Is Not A Requirement For Going

He went out, not knowing where he was going. —Hebrews 11:8

{CHAMBERS} “Have you ever “gone out” in this way? If so, there is no logical answer possible when anyone asks you what you are doing. One of the most difficult questions to answer in Christian work is, “What do you expect to do?” You don’t know what you are going to do. The only thing you know is that God knows what He is doing. Continually examine your attitude toward God to see if you are willing to “go out” in every area of your life, trusting in God entirely. […] Each morning as you wake, there is a new opportunity to “go out,” building your confidence in God. “…do not worry about your life…nor about the body…” (Luke 12:22). In other words, don’t worry about the things that concerned you before you did “go out.”[…] He will never tell you. God does not tell you what He is going to do— He reveals to you who He is. […] Believe God is always the God you know Him to be when you are nearest to Him. Then think how unnecessary and disrespectful worry is! […] You must learn to “go out” through your convictions, creeds, or experiences until you come to the point in your faith where there is nothing between yourself and God.”

{ELGIN}  Before I start .. heads up …. this is a long devotion today.  There are a couple of essentials in “going”.  The first is “knowing”.  Knowing that it is God and not your own idea of what you should do or want to do.  When God sends you, He goes with you.  It’s not like leaving your parents’ home.  You leave and they stay. But … if you go off on your own to do something that requires the power of God, but you are doing it on your own … you are in trouble from the start.  You can do nothing in the flesh that will please God. To know it is God, your heart must be right with Him … your relationship must be solid … your devotion to Him consistent.  God examines the heart.  Why do you think He chose Abraham?  The second is “leaving”.  Paul wrote …. (Philippians 3:-13-14) “Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”  If you are going to follow God then you must be prepared to abandon your earthly affections and trust God. 

(Hebrews 11:8-10, 13, 17-19) “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. 9 By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. … 13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. …. 17 By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, 18 even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.”19 Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.”

Both of these men were willing to put their lives, their affections, their cultural preferences behind them in favor of following God.  Jesus said if you are going to follow Him … be His disciple … your love for even your own family must be subordinate to obedience to God’s voice and His will.  I have heard many men say that their priorities are God, family, then ministry.  If I understand the Bible correctly .. ministry is doing God’s will .. it’s not a vocation … God may ask you to do something that requires not only your sacrifice, but your family’s as well.  That is a true test of higher devotion.  I do know people who think that doing comes before being.  If I immerse myself in the work of the ministry then I will be in the will of God.  That is a “works” mentality. Doing the will of God starts in the heart not in the hands.  Following God for us has meant that we have not been with our family for years at a time.  Do we trust God enough to believe that He is in control?  Even in the lives of those on this earth that we love the most?  If not, when He says go – you will say no … maybe later.

So what is it that God has been saying to you?  Nothing?  Maybe you have not been listening .. or maybe you put your fingers in your ears because you don’t want to hear.  This is my prayer for you in 2018 .. well .. the year matters not ….

(Ephesians 3:14-21)  “For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. 20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen."