Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Choosing The Best Over The Good Requires Faith And Devotion

(Luke 10:38-42) “As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”” 

I am certain you are familiar with this story. Both of these women loved Jesus.  The distinction was what they chose to do when faced with the good and the best.  Preparing the meal was a good thing – food has a practical importance.  Sitting at Jesus’ feet and listening to words of Life – that has an eternal importance.  I suspect that Martha was so consumed with the practical that she was prepared to forego the most important with good intention.  But she missed it.  She thought she was being responsible  - she was, but she was missing an eternal opportunity.  Like the time that the disciples wanted Jesus to eat.  (John 4:31-33) “Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.” But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.” Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?”” 

Concern about the natural often interferes with the super-natural.  It requires faith to see past the urgency of the things of this world and embrace things spiritual.  Someone called me a few weeks ago.  He told me that he had retired early, but could not access his retirement until he met a certain age.  He believed he was called to ministry. A mutual friend suggested that he call me about working with me for a few weeks.  He had construction skills so I told him that I would pay him instead of hiring someone locally to do the work I could not do myself.  He told me that he would let me know by the weekend.  He told me that he had been called to pastor a small church and would not be coming.  A few days ago, he asked me if the option was still open – all of his plans had fallen through.  He added that his wife told him that he should have some here.  I had already hired local people. The work was done – the funds were spent.  (I never hold up helping the home owner [the reason we are here] in favor of waiting on someone to decide if they might come.)  I was saddened because I felt that he had missed God in his indecisiveness.  Choosing the good over the best. 

Like Martha – this guy was trying to be practical.  God presented a spiritual opportunity – not to be with me – but to exercise faith and trust Him and not the things of this world.  When God calls you – it requires faith in Him – not money in the bank – not a more convenient time – not once the kids are out of college – although that may be God’s timing – but no matter – when He calls – a decision in the heart is required.  God does not need to hear empty promises – God knows the heart.  Those promises just make it easier to cook the food and not sit at Jesus feet. 

So – what has God been saying to you? And what have you been saying to God?  God’s call is not the same for everyone in terms of geography or activity.  But it is the same insomuch as (love that word!) it will require faith and devotion to respond to the call.  

When we were serving in Mississippi, someone asked me if I liked being in Mississippi.  It was a place of devastation and despair.  I told them “There is nothing better than being in the center of God’s will for your life – geography has nothing to do with it. So I lovd being in Mississippi because that is where God wants us to be.” How about you?   CHARLEY (Phil 4:13) 

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Do People Know You Are A Christian By Your Love?

There is a song that we used to sing – “We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord … and they will know we are Christians by our love ..” Jesus said (John 13:35) “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” Love is central to our new life in Christ.  Paul said (1 Corinthians 13:2) “And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.”

It does not matter what you accomplish on this earth if love is absent.  As a Christian, it begins with love for God.  (1 John 4:19) “We love because he (God the Father) first loved us.” How we communicate that love is first, by being grounded and devoted to loving God.  That means we seek His will and not our own.  We embrace Him and not our culture.  Many Christians have a problem with this.  You can love someone who sins without loving their sin.  Our culture says you cannot love someone is you don’t agree that their actions (sin according to the Bible) are acceptable and right.  God says you can.  You must decide who you are going to listen to and obey. Don’t underestimate the power of the culture you live in.  Wanting to be accepted by the culture is a strong motivation to compromise your faith. Many if not most would prefer to remain silent rather than suffer rejection and criticism.  

How will people know you are a Christian? By standing on the Truth and not participating in the Lie.  By loving God and not being ashamed – even when the culture will try to shame you into going along.  Jesus said (John 15:18-21)"If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. …. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me.” 

If we embrace God we will be light in a dark world.  Standing for “right” in the power of your flesh is impossible.  You are able to stand because you are a disciple and trust in the Lord and not yourself.  You have prepared yourself spiritually.  (Ephesians 6:14-18) “Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseveranceCHARLEY (Phil 4:13) 

Friday, October 12, 2018

How To Survive A Hurricane

So the third worst hurricane to make landfall, made landfall.  There was no diverting it to some other path.  All we could do was watch and wait.  Some people prepared – some did not.  Some people left – some people stayed.  It didn’t matter what anyone did, really – the storm was following its course and there was not stopping it.  Leaving destruction in its wake, the storm has moved on – like Katrina, Harvey and so many others – it is now a memory – fresh – painful for many – but still a memory.  And the thing is – there are more storms coming – maybe not this year, but they are coming – of that you can be certain. 

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.” Jesus is the source of peace in the midst of trouble.  Not FEMA. Not a Red Cross shelter. Not even a hotel far from the path of the storm.  Not alcohol. Not Denial. Not medication. Only Jesus.  That, my friend, is a spiritual truth.  The world will offer everything but Jesus.  We are rebuilding a home for someone whose home was damaged in Hurricane Harvey.  The house will be comfortable when we are done, but it’s just a house.  The main concern is the heart of the person who will live in the home.  When Peter and John were stopped by the lame man at the gate of the temple .. he was asking for money – a material solution to his plight – and certainly he needed food and money to buy it.  But Peter said (Acts 3:6) “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” The man had a physical problem – but underlying that was a spiritual problem that needed a spiritual solution. 

James wrote (James 1:2-4) “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” Your faith will be tested if you have a faith to be tested.  We may offer help with rebuilding to those who have no means to change their circumstance, but more importantly we offer Hope through faith in the One who is the source of all Hope.  

We are all going to face problems in this life.  The question is, “Where will we turn in times of need?”  

(Psalm 121)

“I will lift up my eyes to the hills— From whence comes my help?

2 My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth.

3 He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber.

4 Behold, He who keeps Israel; Shall neither slumber nor sleep.

5 The Lord is your keeper; The Lord is your shade at your right hand.

6 The sun shall not strike you by day, Nor the moon by night.

7 The Lord shall preserve you from all evil; He shall preserve your soul.

8 The Lord shall preserve your going out and your coming in; From this time forth, and even forevermore” 


Thursday, October 11, 2018

What To Do When The World Has Redefined Good

Living the Christian life in this culture is becoming increasingly difficult.  Let me say that not everything in this culture is evil, but there is evil in this country and in the world for that matter. It is becoming more and more important for Christians to understand and embrace what is “good” , as defined by the Creator and made clear in His Word.  Our culture, and the world, is offering an alternative truth – one that is contrary to God’s revealed truth.  The prophet Isaiah wrote (Isaiah 5:20) “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.” 

You see this is no a new problem.  The first stepping stone on the path that leads away from Truth is “People have the right to choose how they live.” God gave us a free will.  We were born with a sin nature.  That is our natural inclination.  The world’s alternative to the Holy Spirit are cultural norms, acceptance and laws.  Behavior of the people in a society is constrained by the pressures of those norms, what the culture says is acceptable and laws.  Man’s laws adapt to the moral course that a culture takes.  

The second stepping stone is “You do not have a right to say they are wrong.” Since the culture says the first stepping stone is on the right path, there is no “true north” anymore.  The ship can sail in any direction and it will be the right course.  No one has the right to say that a person’s choices are wrong.  If they do, they will be condemned as intolerant, wrong, and evil.  Even if that person is trying to rest the course of the ship to its God-intended course.

That is where we find ourselves today.  Our culture calls good (by God’s declaration) – evil and evil – good.  Speak out and you are accused of judging.  You suddenly are a “bad” person.  The temptation – say nothing – go along to get along.  Trade off acknowledgement that there is a Truth, that by definition of truth, does not change or waiver in the face of cultural changes.  

Listen – this world is no longer your home.  You feel like an alien in the very country you were born in because you are! (Philippians 3:20-21) “ .. our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the LORD Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.”  When you see something that is bad – according to the Truth – that is declared good – to speak out is not to judge but to give testimony to the truth.  Don’t expect the culture to embrace you – on the contrary you may very well face rejection.  

Be careful about wanting to be embraced and accepted by those who are lost.  (2 Corinthians 6:14) “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?”  

Let me leave you with this …..

(1 John 1:5-10) “This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.”

Those who have (spiritual) ears, let them hear … those who have (spiritual) eyes, let them see

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

You Can’t Lead Where You Won’t Go

You can’t lead where you won’t go – You can’t teach what you don’t know – You can only re-create what you are.  You may have heard your pastor preach on the Great Commandment and the Great Commission.  The Great Commandment is from Matthew 22:37 – Love God with all of your heart. mind, soul and strength.  The Great Commission is from Matthew 28:18 “Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” 

For many Christians – faith in Jesus is about personal salvation – that’s it.  A one way ticket to Heaven.  But there is so much more to our new life.  In the Great Commission, Jesus said to make disciples which is much more than “merely” being witnesses and leading people to Jesus. Important as that is – more important is the changed life that should result from the rebirth and conformance to being like Jesus.  A disciple should be indistinguishable from the One the disciple is following.  Jesus said (Luke 9:23) “Then he [Jesus] said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”” Being a disciple of Jesus starts with the Great Commandment – Loving God and not yourself – being a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1) – “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.”  (Mark 8:35)

Here is the deal – you do what is important to you.  If pursuing God and the new life in Christ is not important to you, you won’t do it.  Talking about it and doing it are two different things.  The first is an expression of intent – the second is fulfillment of that expression. So – you can’t lead someone else to being a disciple if you are not willing to go there yourself.  You can’t teach someone about the precepts of God and His will if you don’t know and embrace them yourself. If you are not a disciple of Jesus – merely saved – then you cannot be an example of a disciple of Jesus to others – you can only show them what a marginal Christian looks like. 

Now and again, we all need to consider our new life and our purpose on this earth.  And if we find that we are lacking – we need to repent and get back in step with Jesus – loving God and loving others.

“O to grace how great a debtor daily I'm constrained to be! Let thy goodness like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to thee. Prone to wander Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love. Here's my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above”  CHARLEY

Monday, October 8, 2018

Prayer Changes Me

Henry and Richard Blackaby’s devotional guide, Experiencing God Day by Day:  “Prayer is not designed to change God, it is designed to change us.  Prayer is not calling God in to bless our activities.  Rather, prayer takes us into God’s presence, shows us His will, and prepares us to obey Him.”  (p. 280). 

A friend included that quote in an email recently.  He was asking for prayer as he prepared to go back to Haiti to teach pastors from rural mountain churches in Western Haiti for 2 days.  That is the same area where Martie and I served for the last year we were in Haiti.  I met Eric several years ago and encouraged him to go there.  But I was not the real reason he went – he went because God sent him there.  God uses the saints to encourage each other through His Spirit.  But it is God who makes eternal differences in the lives of people.  I planted, Eric is watering, but God will bring the increase. (1 Corinthians 3:6

Prayer helps us to focus on the eternal and on God’s will. Unfortunately many Christians don’t see prayer as vital to their spiritual health.  Prayer is about alignment – aligning our will with God’s will. When our children were small I can remember holding their face in my hands and looking into their eyes to make certain I had their attention.  Our heavenly Father does something similar .. but just because we are looking does not mean we are listening. Dr. Henry Blackaby also said “Some people say ‘Don’t just stand there – do something’.  But God is saying ‘Don’t just do something – stand there’” 

Spend time with your Father today.  Listen to Him – wait for Him – trust Him and then obey Him.  The prophet Samuel said “Obedience is better than sacrifice.” (1 Samuel 15:22-24)  “Has the Lord as great a delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices. As in obedience to the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice.” 

Please pray for Eric Searcy and his trip this week for physical endurance, spiritual strength and wisdom.  CHARLEY

Thursday, October 4, 2018

What You Should Do When Someone Needs To See Jesus

I met a man the other day, I may have mentioned him in previous devotion.  He is bound to a wheelchair.  Unable to walk or use his arms, he can move his head and his thumb.  He uses his thumb to control the wheelchair.  He has a portable speaker that he uses to amplify his voice so he can be heard when he talks.  He is the kind of guy that you might see and then try to avoid because being around him makes you feel a bit awkward.  In Matthew 25, Jesus told the parable of the Sheep and the Goats in which both asked the same question of the Lord – “When did we see you?”  I had to step into his “space” to talk with him.  After talking with, let’s call him Bob, I discovered that inside that crippled body was a very intelligent – caring person.  We happened to be at a gathering of a noisy group of people.  You know how it is.  So many people having separate conversations – the “din” intensifies until you can hardly hear anything distinctly.  In order to talk to Bob, I had to move further inside of his space. 

Now the others in the group were cordial enough, but no one was attempting to talk to Bob any longer than to say a polite “hello”.  I wondered how often this happens to Bob. My guess – this was a typical experience for him.  After a while, Bob told me he was hungry.  Bob was there on his own. He asked if I could get him something to eat.  There were snack foods on a table.  I told him that I would point at the food and he could nod his head if he wanted some of it.  Bob proved to be hungry!  The next thing I was asked to do was to feed him.  “Lord when did we see you?”  “When you gave me something to eat, to drink, when you talked to me – when you did it to the least of these, you did it to Me.”  

I am sharing this with you, not because I want to impress you with my spirituality, but to encourage you to be ready.  The point is that you never know when the Lord is going to show up.  When you will be given the opportunity to show the love of God through an act of kindness and compassion.  Listen. It would have been easy to ignore Bob.  All I had to do was turn my back after I said “Hello – nice to meet you.”  To find someone less “needy” to talk to.  I knew that I was supposed to talk with him and to help him.  Even to feed him.  And so do all of us who are sealed by the Spirit on God.  

The person that God puts in front of you may not be physically handicapped like Bob.  Most people are not.  But many people you meet are struggling in life – crippled by sin – by life’s circumstances – poor decisions – consequences of living under the influence of their old nature.  Not able to walk in the Spirit – emotionally – spiritually crippled. You need spiritual discernment to see them, an obedient heart to minister to them and they need faith to be healed.  Ministry to others is often in the form of a very simple thing – but at the same time, can be a very powerful thing.  We all have spiritual opportunities – every day. As Jesus said “Those who have eyes (spiritual eyes) let them see.” Jesus didn’t heal everyone, He did minister to many.  So be ready my friend – your opportunity to show someone Jesus is just around the corner. Your heart will tell you it is right when the time comes – so don’t look around to see if anyone is watching, don’t look at your watch to see if you have the time, look up and give thanks to the Lord for the opportunity to be Jesus to someone. CHARLEY

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Let Your Light Shine – Is There Enough Light To Convict You Of Being A Christian?

(Matthew 5:13-16) ““You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.””

As a born again Believers, we have the “light of God” – the Holy Spirit in us. That light and His transforming power should be evident to everyone we meet.  Not only by what we say or don’t say, but by what we do and don’t do.  Jesus charged the disciples – which includes us – to let our light shine in the world.  We are to be witnesses so that God will be glorified.  Jesus said (John 13:35) “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”  Years ago we sang a song at fellowships – “They Will Know We Are Christians By Our Love”.  I think there are two main reasons why there is a lack of light in a Christian’s life. 

First. The Christian is not pursuing their faith and they are still spiritual infants and are indistinguishable from those who are still lost in the world. (1 Corinthians 3:1-3) “Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly.” 2 Corinthians 5:17 says “old things are passing away and all things are becoming new”  That is true for the heart that is devoted to God.  But Spiritual transformation does not happen when your heart remains devoted to the things of this world.  You growth is stunted – your light is hidden – your witness non-existent.  

Second.  The Christian is afraid of being rejected by the culture they live in – afraid of the social and/or financial loss they might incur if they let their light shine and make what they believe to be Truth – Biblical Truth – known.  Jesus told the disciples, (Matthew 10:34-39) “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn “‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’ “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.”  Most of us have a herd instinct.  We want to be around other people.  We want to be accepted by those people.  For a Christian – that can mean that they must not make their beliefs evident – they must be silent – even when what is acceptable to the “herd” is clearly contrary to the declaration of God.  They only way to overcome that is by having a strong faith – a heart for God. (see #1) 

I am not sharing these things try to “guilt” you into something.  I want you to understand your new nature and life – how we are to live.  Dr. Francis Schaeffer wrote a book some years back “How Should We Then Live” which addresses this very thing.  How should Christians live in the context of the world around them.  I don’t want you think, after reading this, that you will just have to try harder.  On the contrary. What I hope for is that you will decide to “faith” harder.  Read Proverbs 3:5-6 and Joshua 1:8-10.  CHARLEY

Monday, October 1, 2018

Rightly Understanding The Times – The Darker The Night, The Brighter The Light

(1 Chronicles 12:32) “And of the sons of Issachar, men who understood the times, with knowledge of what Israel should do, their chiefs were two hundred; and all their kinsmen were at their command.”  These were some of the mighty men of David – warriors – men with hearts for God.  Men who understood the times. As Christians- we too, must understand the times that we live in.  It is important to have a clear understanding of the difference between the natural and the spiritual – your new life in Christ and the way that the world is going.  An example would be the misconception that the United States is a Christian nation.  It is not.  Founded on Biblical values – absolutely!  But the majority of the people in this country are not Christians.  As such, you should not be surprised when people do things that are clearly contrary to God’s revealed will.  People who are lost may do good things, but that does not mean they are acceptable to God because of their good acts. Read Ephesians 2:8-9

As you read the following verses, think about the country you live in.  These verses describe the depravity of people and their propensity to go their own way – denying God and embracing the idea that they, themselves, are at the center of all things.  That they can decide what is right and what is wrong.

(Romans 1:21-32) “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles. Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error. Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.” 

My goal here is to get you thinking and seeing the events and the world from your new nature.  To understand the times.  The mess you see today, all around you , has a spiritual root.  Paul wrote about it for our benefit – so we might understand the times with discernment.  The problems don’t get better by themselves – in fact, they get worse.  The only thing that will change the course our culture is on is to change the root – a new root - that would be Jesus.  I coined a phrase some years back.  “The darker the night – the brighter the light”  The darker the days get around us, the brighter the light of Christ will should shine through us.  Now is not the time to hide your faith under a bushel – Let it shine – Let it shine – Let it shine.  How do you do that?  Next time.   CHARLEY

Friday, September 28, 2018

You Must Be Tight To Choose Right

Yesterday I wrote about the tension between responding correctly to what is important and what is urgent in life.  I thought I would give you some examples today.  Some Biblical and some straight out of everyday life. Not exhaustive by any means, but hopefully they will get you thinking. 

Let’s do the everyday life ones first.

Have you had this happen to you or perhaps you were the one who did it.  You are having a face-to-face conversation with someone.  Their cellphone rings (phone call) or dings (text alert – Text message – Messenger – Email - Facebook -Snapchat – Twitter) so they stop talking to you and turn their attention to their phone.  How many phone calls or texts that you receive everyday are emergencies that must be tended to immediately? Yeh, that’s what I thought – me too – nada – zip.  So why is what comes across your phone so important that you are willing to be disrespectful to the person you are talking to in order to check your phone?  As a culture we have decided that any time our phone signals us – it is important and urgent.  

When my phone goes off I ignore it.  If it persists, I check to see if it is an emergency.  And then, if not – I ignore it – it can wait. I have noticed that when I do not look – the people with me ask – “Are you going to get that?”  When I had an office, I had a rule.  Anyone I was talking to was THE most important person in my work world at that moment – except my boss.  If someone interrupted I would ask them to come back later and continue my conversation.  Just because you have something to say does not mean that the world needs to stop to hear it.  

Or.  You believe that the Lord is calling you to some service that will require you to leave your job, lower your income, put your retirement in jeopardy, maybe impact your children’s ability to fund college.  You are faced with a significant step of faith.  Others have confirmed that they believe it’s God – you are convinced – but what is most important?  How does that fit into you life’s priorities? Do you put those things at risk?  Is that irresponsible? Would God really ask you to do that?  Doesn’t He love you and your family?  Would He ask you to lay those things down for Him?  Your hopes and dreams?  How important is it to obey God’s leading?  How important is your children’s future? Is it possible that there is a greater good? Is it possible to do both? It is not always a question of choosing one over the other.  In fact most Christians are not asked to do those things.  But, we are all asked to not prefer them over obedience to God – whatever He might ask us to do.  

It is not as simple as putting one of them in the important or unimportant box.  They are both important – but which one is more important?  Everyday we are faced with choices – the good or the best.  God does not often ask us to abandon our job or surrender our income to serve Him.  But He might and has for some.  When Jesus asked Peter if Peter loved Jesus more than “these”  (John 21) What or who were the “these”?  It doesn’t matter. Or shouldn’t.  Jesus wanted to know where Peter’s heart’s devotion was.  Recall Peter had denied Jesus three times before men to protect himself.  Do you love God more “these”?  If you are a Christian, then the world and the things of the world are not urgent or important compared to the things of God.  

Ok now a Biblical example.  

(Luke 9:59-62) “To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”  Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” 

How important is it for you to attend your father’s funeral?  Pretty important.  So how important is it to obey God in relation to your father’s funeral?  There is an urgency about serving God and walking in obedience to His will.  Not to mention the vitality of its importance.  For these two men, they had divided hearts.  God’s expectation is the we love Him with our whole heart. So what would you do when your family doesn’t understand why you didn’t care enough to attend the funeral?  Would your family’s not understanding and perhaps rejection be reason enough to say “no” to God and “yes” to your family?  Maybe that guy was an only son or child.  We are not given the back-story.  The funeral is certainly not unimportant – but when compared to obeying the Creator God, perhaps the funeral is less important than he wanted to accept.  Tough! By the way, we do not know what either of the men chose to do.  Perhaps like the rich young ruler, they went away unable to re-prioritize their lives for God.  When you read the verse “Choose this day whom you will serve.”, what do you think the context of the choice is? We tend to trivialize the choices we face.  Good versus evil – relatively easy.  Good versus Better versus Best, not so easy.  But that is the way it is when faced with life and following Jesus.  

You can thank me later for stirring this up.  People talk to me often about their struggling with choices between the spiritual and natural.  When I say “Trust God” (Proverbs 3:5-6) I get the look like, “That was not much help!”  It is the best I can do.  Finding balance between important and not as important is a faith challenge.  Oh, and faith is an intangible … “the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1) Your ability to do what you should is dependent upon the quality of your relationship with the Lord. 

And …  If you’re not tight – you probably won’t choose right.  CHARLEY

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Balancing Priorities – Deciding What Is Most Important.

Charles Hummel wrote a book “Tyranny of the Urgent”  The idea behind the book is that we often let what seems urgent be the deciding factor with respect to what we do.  What is “important” is juxtaposed with what is “urgent”.  (OK hang with me here!) There are 4 possible combinations of life situations that we will encounter  – Urgent/Important – Urgent/Not Important – Not Urgent Important – Not Urgent/Not Important.  

So what does that have to do with our faith?  Emotions are tied to urgency.  Something happens and our emotions – spidey senses – tell us that this must be acted upon immediately, it's urgent.  The key is knowing what is important and keeping life in perspective with respect to that knowing.  So, Christian, what is important to you?  The text-book (Bible) answer is God, others (world, culture, family), and lastly you. (Matthew 22: 37-39, Romans 12:1-2, Mark 9:35) There are many other references, but those are sufficient for my point.  So what is important is determined first by our relationship with God and our willingness to trust and obey – and not by our feelings/emotions.  

The difficulty starts with the tension between the old life and the new life – that we live in a physical world but have a new spiritual reality that is supposed to be our primary perspective – the filter by which we determine what is important and what is urgent.  In the context of Hummel’s book – Our relationship with God is the determinant with respect to deciding what is important and what is urgent.  For some Christians – it’s OK to agree that we should not love the world or the things of this world (1 John 2:15) but what about retirement – the children’s college – my new car – my job.  Where do they fall into the mix?  

What my point is, friend, is that all of that falls into its proper place when God is in His proper place.  A classic question is “Do you believe that what you believe is really real?”  If you do – God will always be first – and if you don’t – God will often be left in the dust in favor of what is urgent – what your flesh tells you is important.  We are faced with these decisions every day.  But – if we are not spiritually minded – we are bound to choose poorly.  If the Chief End Of Man is indeed to “Glorify God and Enjoy Him Forever” then God must be first and must be the One who determines what is important and what is urgent.  

Galatians 5:25 “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”

Galatians 5:16 “So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.”

You are going to be challenged today with this dilemma – what to respond to and how to respond.  If you are a Christian – the choice is clear but requires faith and obedience to respond correctly.  Keep the things of life in their proper place … don’t let your emotions rule .. that place belongs to God.  CHARLEY

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

What Will You Do When God Tells You To Leave Your Comfort Zone

Everyone likes to be comfortable.  I can remember an occasions when Martie and I got to sit on a soft sofa after months of sitting on hard chairs in Haiti.  Seems like a small thing, but the feeling was exquisite.  We like routine.  Mainly because we know what to expect.  There is no uncertainty in routine.  Each day is like every other day.  Each day, week, month and year like the other. Routine.  People find comfort in that.  Being around people who look like you, believe like you, talk like you, do what you do … it is a comfortable place to be.  Watching a news report about a war in a different land or the ravages of a natural disaster allows you to be comfortable in your routine.  You may not be able to empathize – because you have never left your comfort zone – but you can sympathize – at least until the commercial, supper  or the start of your favorite program.  We like to be comfortable and we don’t like giving that comfort up.  

If you are a Christian – born again by faith in Jesus – even then you are most likely looking for the comfort found in a routine existence.  Going to church – sitting in the same seat or pew – talking to the same people – listening to the same sermons – routine.  We love it – crave it even.  But, like Pastor Rick Warren said “God is more interested in your character, than in your comfort.”   And how does God develop godly character in you?  Not through routine.  God calls out of the routine for this world into the uncertain world of faith.  Not knowing what will happen tomorrow – next week, month or year.  But we live in confidence, by faith, knowing that God does.  

I have quoted this before but it bears repeating. It is from the C.S. Lewis book “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” Aslan is a type of Jesus. 

“Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion." "Ooh" said Susan. "I'd thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion"..."Safe?" said Mr. Beaver ..."Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you.” 

God is not “safe” but He is good.  He has our best in mind.  He will disrupt your routine, if you allow it. That is correct – He won’t make you abandon what is comfortable – but He will invite you to leave it behind for something much better.  What you see as “dangerous” depends upon the maturity of your walk of faith.  For a child, putting their toes in the water may seem like a great accomplishment.  For an adult, jumping off of the high-dive is a challenge.  Both require stepping into the unknown – the uncertain – the “anything but routine”  Jesus said “If anyone follows Me, he must deny himself, pick up his cross and follow Me.” (Matthew 16:24)  Are you a Jesus follower or Jesus watcher?  It is one thing to marvel at the person jump off of the high-dive and quite another to grip the end of the board with your toes right before you take that leap of faith. 

As a first step, the Bible tells us to abandon our affection for the things of this world and the comfort we find in them.  To turn to God, the God of all comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3-4) He may tell you to leave your “nets” and follow Him.  There is a song that comes to mind. Knowing You Jesus – Graham Kendrick 

“All I once held dear, Built my life upon.  All the world reveres and wars to own.  All I once thought gain, I have counted loss.  Spent and worthless now, compared to this.

Knowing You, Jesus, knowing You. There is no greater thing. You're my all, You're the best. You're my joy, my righteousness. And I love You, Lord

Now my heart's desire is to know You more. To be found in You and known as Yours. To possess by faith what I could not earn. All-surpassing gift of righteousness

Oh to know the power of Your risen life. And to know You in Your sufferings. To become like You in Your death, my Lord. So with You to live and never die”

As a Christian God calls you to leave what is comfortable – what is routine for something greater – something eternal.  So come on – go ahead and put your toes in the water.

Monday, September 24, 2018

How Do You Know When It Is Time To Go - And Will You?

If you have been reading these devotions for any time you know that our life is a nomadic one.  Gypsies for Jesus.  Our ministry is small and we are not fettered with debt and other financial obligations, well with the exception of a house in Alabama.  That means we can turn in any direction that God should point us in, quickly, and with little or no concern for earthly obligations.  When people talked to Jesus about following Him, He always said  - “Follow Me now and don’t concern yourself with the things of this world.”  In response to Pilate, Jesus said “My kingdom is not of this world…”  (John 18:36) When God calls us, it is not as if He does not know our circumstance.  But it is our circumstance that is our first consideration.  There are a number of stories about Jesus earthly ministry that recount that response from people who said they wanted to follow him – “Let me first ….”  (Luke 9:59)

One of the problems with the American Christian Culture is that worldly obligations are of primary concern, just like it was for those men.  I have been contacted within the past week by two families.  One from Alabama and the other from Mississippi.  In both cases, they have told me that they felt the call of God and were directed to contact us about helping for a short time with our work here.  I responded by saying “Come on, we need the help now.” In both cases, they said that they could not do it now, but there were other considerations that had to be taken into account.  

If you are seeking the will of God and direction, you must be willing to go.  The world may say you are irresponsible – other Christians may say that as well.  What I say is – if it is God telling you to go, then not going is irresponsible – on a significantly higher level.  So the question becomes “How do you know when it is time to go?”

Dr. Henry Blackaby, co-author of “Experiencing God”, said that people knowing it is God telling them is not the problem.  Obeying what God told them is the problem. I asked the man from Mississippi if he was familiar with Henry Blackaby and he said “We are doing the Experiencing God study at church right now.”  So I shared what that study teaches about hearing God’s voice.  All of us are not called to “Go” – but all of us are called to “Be” and “Do”.  Whatever the level of your calling – Being a “Stay at home Christian” or to “Go and labor in the fields” we must have a willing heart.  The proof of a willing heart is obedience to God’s revealed will. Following God can be attractive – exciting even – but it is also demanding.  It means laying your life down -  your nets if you will. Without reservation.  

I gave a devotion to a group of U.S. Americans in Haiti some time back about this very thing.  I had been listening, meeting after meeting about how difficult being in Haiti was.  By definition serving in a third world country is difficult – very. So I told them that if God had not called them to be there – all of them said they were Christians – then they should go home.  You could have heard a pin drop.  Needless to say, I was not asked to give a devotion at another meeting.  Well, the same is true for the two families that talked to me.  Serving in a disaster area is very difficult.  If God has not called you to it – don’t do it.  I am not talking about volunteering for a week – even them most want to know they will have hot water and air conditioning.  But serving – full time.  Willing to commit your life to serving God – even in the hard places.  

Well ….. are you? CHARLEY

Friday, September 21, 2018

How To Survive When You Are Ambushed By Anger

This is a continuation of yesterday’s devotion.  I realize that many books have been written on this subject.  Many people are in therapy for anger.  Christian people.  Anger is a secondary emotion, meaning why we get angry is because there is something at the root – working behind the scenes – and a life situation serves as a catalyst for our anger to rise up.  

I also realize that people can find verses in the Bible that would suggest that anger is “OK”, it is not sin. But anger is like a loaded pistol.  The gun can go off by accident or can be used for harm intentionally.  It can be indiscriminate, hurting the innocent as well as the guilty.  Anger can be so dominant that the easiest thing is to yield to it and not resist.  My point is that accepting anger – even rage, is not consistent with your new life in Christ.

Most people are not looking for opportunities to be angry … Those opportunites come suddenly upon us, like an ambush, with ferocity.  Then it is over – the smoke clears – the causalities lie wounded all around.  And we say to ourselves “It’s not a sin to be angry.” In an effort to justify the harm we have done.  So what to do.

First – understand, and accept, that Anger is not a fruit of the Spirit.  (Galatians 5: 19-21)  The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.”  (Galatians 5:22-23) “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”  These verses contrast the differences between your life in the flesh and your life submitted to the Spirit of God – the Spirit that is in you (1 Corinthians 6:19) “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own” How can we reconcile anger and the damage it does with our new nature and the fruit that it bears? I’ll answer that.  We can’t!

Second – Have you ever heard or said “You make me so angry!”?  No one can “make” you angry.  But they can provide the opportunity for you to express anger.  Everything is going fine then the ambush is sprung and you find yourself in the “kill zone”.  In ambush-eze, the kill zone is the place where most all of the fire power is directed.  Anyone in that area when the ambush starts is a gonner.  The only way to not be a gonner is to do what makes no sense at the time, face the firing and charge it – fighting your way through it.  It is your only hope of survival. In this case, the best defense is a good offense! When you are getting angry, you need to recognize it immediately and deal with it spiritually.  Like salvation – you can’t succeed by trying harder.  You need to attack with the sword of the Lord.  The ambush is within – it’s not the circumstance that gave rise to the anger.

Third – The best thing to do is to avoid the ambush altogether.  To see the signs of danger and go another way.  That requires discernment which comes from the Spirit which requires the discipline of seeking God and hiding the Word in your heart (Psalm 119:11)  I recall an a time at ROTC advance camp at Fort Bragg, N.C.  It was my turn to lead the platoon during a training exercise in the woods.  I was leading the platoon on the most secure route and not necessarily on the fastest route to our objective.  That meant that we cut across difficult terrain.  I reached our objective without incident.  Afterwards, I was told that there had been an ambush set up at an intersection along the road that I had bypassed waiting for us.  Thing is we never showed up.

You must be sensitive to the signs of an anger ambush and avoid them.  We choose how we respond to life – in the power of our flesh or in the power of the Spirit of God.  Your success will depend upon your training and preparation.  Most Christians lack an enthusiasm for spiritual growth and maturity.  They are content with keeping a firm grasp on their ticket to heaven and talking about how much they love the Lord – around other Christians.  But when faced with the withering fire of a deadly ambush – they falter and fail.  

Perhaps you are thinking that avoiding anger is impossible.  It is not any more impossible that the Son of God dying for your sin and you receiving eternal life.  If God can do that, why would you think that your problem with anger is bigger than that? You need to deal with the root of the problem.  Paul talks about this in Romans 7:21-25 (read it) You don’t need to try harder – you need to Faith harder.  CHARLEY

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Making The Choice To Not Be Angry – You Will Need Spiritual Perspective

Anger – you know the feeling don’t you? That feeling in rises up inside of you? Like a jug quickly filling up with water until it overflows.  You face is flushed.  Your heart is racing. But is it anger or frustration or disappointment? Often times they are indistinguishable and their expression through you is likewise indistinguishable.  Many people try to explain how they respond or excuse how they respond to life and problems by pointing to their ancestors and their family’s dominant country of origin.  

Yesterday we ran into a plumbing snag at the house we are working on.  It’s fixable, but it may cost one or two thousand dollars.  The plumber was talking to me on the phone, almost apologetically because he knows we are a ministry and the home owner has no money to pay for something like this. I could sense that he was expecting me to be unhappy and perhaps even angry.  I told him – “Man, I have been in two wars.  If someone is not dying – I don’t get upset about anything” I went on to say I know two things – “God is good” and “Jesus Saves”.  That brought perspective into the issue.  I told him that I was happy that I was dealing with this and not the home owner.  (Galatians 6:2) “Bear one another’s burdens and thus fulfill the law of Christ.”  

If you can’t quell your anger – not let your emotions rule – that is a pretty good indication that you are not fully submitted to the Spirit of God.  That is not a judgment, just an observation from my own life.  People often point to Jesus being angry in the temple as an excuse for their own anger.  I would say that the next time you go to church and the money changers and vendors are set up in the foyer – go ahead and drive them out with a righteous anger.  But don’t use Jesus as a reason to make excuses for your flesh and sin.  Others looking for an excuse for themselves may buy it, but God doesn’t.  (Matthew 5:44) “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” 

Hmmm.  How are you going to squeeze anger into that verse? Here is another for icing on the cake. (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.” Letting the emotion of anger have its way is a temptation -  a fierce temptation – that will spring on you without notice – like an ambush.  The only way you will “survive” an ambush is if you fight your way through it.  To do that you must have prepared yourself for such an occasion beforehand.  How you do that I will defer for another devotion. CHARLEY

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Offering God More Than A Second Hand Devotion

(Malachi 1:13-14 ) “You also say, 'My, how tiresome it is!' And you disdainfully sniff at it," says the LORD of hosts, "and you bring what was taken by robbery and what is lame or sick; so you bring the offering! Should I receive that from your hand?" says the LORD. "But cursed be the swindler who has a male in his flock and vows it, but sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord, for I am a great King," says the LORD of hosts, "and My name is feared among the nations." 

These verses, and others, address the failure of the people who say they love God to give God His due and their best.  It was an acceptable level of devotion to God.  Even though they knew what God requires, they offered something much less and expected God to accept it.  It is easy for us to read verses like that and sit in righteous indignation.  So what does this have to do with us?  

(Romans 12:1-2) “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

God wants us to offer our best to Him.  He wants all of our heart’s devotion – not just part of it.  He wants our total devotion, not merely a nod on Sunday morning – so long as the sermon doesn’t go past noon or worse, infringes on football or deer hunting .. or …. You can fill it in.

Do you know why He asks us to tithe? It is not because He needs our money! (1 Timothy 6:10) “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” 

For many – money is their god and their source for comfort – security – hope for the future.  It is was they scheme to have more of – even compromise their ethics and character for.  He challenges us to let it go – God does not need your money – He wants your heart.

Imagine your boss comes to your home for dinner.  When he arrives you tell him how great it is to see him.  You have him sit down at the table.  The table is set with your best dishes.  You return from the kitchen with a couple of pizza boxes with some cold pizza slices left over from last night’s televised football game. Laying on the table you tell your boss – “Bon Appetit!” 

You would not offer your boss leftovers.  Well, most people wouldn’t.  In the same way, God does not want your left-overs. After you are done spending or doing, you look to see if you have a couple of bucks in your pocket otherwise don’t make eye-contact with the guy passing the plate – or if you have some time where you are not busy doing something else you might make it to church or some church function.   You really don’t have time in your life to read the Bible or pray. You give God what you have left, l if there is anything left.

You see we are not unlike the people in the Old Testament.  We struggle with a divided heart – with mixed devotion.  Hoping the God will understand that we are strapped or very busy.  He understands more than you might imagine. 

Something Jesus said (Matthew 15:7-9) “You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: “‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.” God examines the heart - not your words - your words and actions come from your heart.

Complete trust in God and not ourselves and the world.  That is the goal we are to seek.  (Mark 12:41-44) “Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts.  But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.” 

Take a few minutes this morning to examine your priorities – the sincerity of your love for God.  We all can do better.  We all have a ways to go before we arrive where God wants us.  CHARLEY