Wednesday, February 21, 2018

How To Deal With Hard-To-Be-Around People

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

{CHAMBERS}  “If what we call love doesn’t take us beyond ourselves, it is not really love. If we have the idea that love is characterized as cautious, wise, sensible, shrewd, and never taken to extremes, we have missed the true meaning. This may describe affection and it may bring us a warm feeling, but it is not a true and accurate description of love. Have you ever been driven to do something for God not because you felt that it was useful or your duty to do so, or that there was anything in it for you, but simply because you love Him? […] I’m not referring to works which could be regarded as divine and miraculous, but ordinary, simple human things— things which would be evidence to God that you are totally surrendered to Him. […] To be surrendered to God is of more value than our personal holiness. Concern over our personal holiness causes us to focus our eyes on ourselves, and we become overly concerned about the way we walk and talk and look, out of fear of offending God. […] Once we are totally surrendered to God, He will work through us all the time.”

{ELGIN} What does it mean to be taken beyond yourself?  It means that you will find yourself doing things that make you, personally, feel uncomfortable.  We typically shy away from people who make us uncomfortable.  Maybe because of what they look like, how they talk, that they “wear their problems on their sleeves” for everyone to see and know about.  Maybe because they are angry at God or the world or maybe even you.  Perhaps you will have to give up personal comfort or financial security to minister to those people.  So what to do?  Well ….. you should start by focusing on God … have a rock solid relationship with the Father.  If you are sent by the Father .. and you are … then He must be the source of your strength … your ability to do whatever it is that He puts in front of you has spiritual roots.  The problem is that most often we do not see the heart of the problem … we just see the symptoms … and we try to put a Band-Aid on them.  In Acts 3, when Peter and John met the lame man at the gate, he needed money .. but Peter said “I don’t have any money but what I do have I give to you .. in the name of Jesus Christ rise up and walk.” And he did.  (Have you ever encountered someone like that?  How does it make you feel?  Like you want to escape?)  That is not to say that we should not offer “natural help”, water, food, and other assistance … but we must remember that it is the “living water” that people need the most.  We should not use the natural help as a carat to get people to listen to the Gospel.  Both are an expression of love (see Matthew 22:37-39 and Matthew 25).  1 Corinthians 13 says “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”  When you encounter people that are difficult to be around .. that is what they should see in you … they should see Jesus …. 

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Your New Life In Christ Is Not A Spectator Sport

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

{CHAMBERS} “When our purpose is to seek God and to discover His will for us, daydreaming is right and acceptable. But when our inclination is to spend time daydreaming over what we have already been told to do […] His instructions to us will be along the lines of this: “Don’t sit or stand there, just go!” If we are quietly waiting before God after He has said to us, “Come aside by yourselves…” then that is meditation before Him to seek His will (Mark 6:31). […] Daydreaming after God has spoken is an indication that we do not trust Him.”

{ELGIN} (James 4:17) “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.”  Think about that verse.  You agree that God’s Word is Truth, right?  Then that verse is truth, but probably a truth that we would prefer to not think about.  We have all kinds of reasons – good reasons – why we don’t do something.  Perhaps it’s just not the right time.  More than likely that means that it would not be convenient .. it would disrupt our plans or preferences.  (Romans 12:1-2) I often quote these verses .. “offer yourself as a sacrifice … don’t be conformed to this world [and its ways] but be transformed … thereby proving God’s good and perfect will”  It’s not enough to sit in the pew .. listen to Christian radio … watch preachers on TV … or even read the Bible … God expects you to bear fruit … Do you remember Jesus encountering the barren fig tree (Matthew 21:18-22)? That was not a good day for the fig tree.  Simply agreeing with the “rightness” of what you hear or read is not good enough .. not nearly good enough.  (James 1:22)  “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”  Being satisfied with being a spectator - sitting in the stands ... is a common problem among the Called .. that is why the Word admonishes us to take action.  So what has God been telling you?

Monday, February 19, 2018

Serving When It's Not Convenient Is The Best Time To Serve

Arise, shine… —Isaiah 60:1

{CHAMBERS} “When it comes to taking the initiative against drudgery, we have to take the first step as though there were no God. There is no point in waiting for God to help us— He will not. But once we arise, immediately we find He is there. Whenever God gives us His inspiration, suddenly taking the initiative becomes a moral issue— a matter of obedience. Then we must act to be obedient and not continue to lie down doing nothing. […] Drudgery is one of the finest tests to determine the genuineness of our character. […] It is the utterly hard, menial, tiresome, and dirty work. And when we experience it, our spirituality is instantly tested and we will know whether or not we are spiritually genuine. Read John 13. In this chapter, we see the Incarnate God performing the greatest example of drudgery— washing fishermen’s feet. He then says to them, “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet” (John 13:14). […] When the Lord does something through us, He always transforms it. Our Lord takes our human flesh and transforms it, and now every believer’s body has become “the temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:19).”

{ELGIN} God will not make us obey and step out .. we must choose to obey Him .. What God asks you to do will be contrary to the desires of your flesh nature.  It may not be glorious … it most likely will be mundane … You may never stand before thousands like a Billy Graham … you more than likely be called to kneel before one, like Jesus.  I shared the other day that the Lord had given me Galatians 6:2 as a command to focus on for this year … more correctly, from this year on …. “Bear one another’s burdens and thus fulfill the law of Christ.”  Reference Matthew 22:37-39 to read the “law of Christ”.  Martie and I sat with a woman the other day and listened to her as she poured her heart out for over 3 hours.  The whole while, I was reminding myself of Galatians 6:2.  I mean most of us are willing to give someone a few minutes .. but three hours?  When I was talking with the same woman about repairs to her home a few days later she commented on her visit to our office.  She told me that she was talking to her friend about it.  She told her friend “These people listened to me talk about things I have not ever shared with anyone for over three hours!  Where did these people come from?  Why are they here?”  I told her that we are here because God sent us here.  I told her that we are here not to merely help the houses but primarily to help the people that live in the houses.  That help is more than sheetrock and paint … nails and lumber … it is meant to bring comfort from the God of all comfort … Laying our lives and livelihood down in Alabama and coming to Texas  does not mean we are heroes … it simply means we are obedient.  We have some dear friends who told us that they “live simply so others can simply live”.  A wonderful model for us.

God has a purpose for each of us .. has equipped us each for those purposes.  Our responsibility is to walk in obedience by faith.  Micah 6:8 “What does the Lord require of you, O’ man.  But to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.  God does not actually say “Go” by yourself .. He says “Come to where I am” So …. what are you waiting for? Arise and Shine!

Friday, February 16, 2018

God's Blessing and Healing Always And Only Follows Obedience

Arise from the dead… —Ephesians 5:14

{CHAMBERS} “[…] We all have many dreams and aspirations when we are young, but sooner or later we realize we have no power to accomplish them. We cannot do the things we long to do, so our tendency is to think of our dreams and aspirations as dead. But God comes and says to us, “Arise from the dead….” When God sends His inspiration, it comes to us with such miraculous power that we are able to “arise from the dead” and do the impossible. The remarkable thing about spiritual initiative is that the life and power comes after we “get up and get going.” God does not give us overcoming life— He gives us life as we overcome. When the inspiration of God comes, and He says, “Arise from the dead…,” we have to get ourselves up; God will not lift us up. Our Lord said to the man with the withered hand, “Stretch out your hand” (Matthew 12:13). As soon as the man did so, his hand was healed. But he had to take the initiative. If we will take the initiative to overcome, we will find that we have the inspiration of God, because He immediately gives us the power of life.

{ELGIN} Blessing always follows after obedience.  God never uses blessing as a carrot to get us to go where He wants us to go or to do what He wants us to do.  We cannot bargain with God … “God if you will do this then I will do that…”  That is not the way it works my friend.  When you are born again you begin to live the faith-life.  The rules about how things work have changed .. old things are passing .. all things are becoming new.  If you live I fear and always ask “But what if ….?”  Then you will surely miss God’s best for you.  Whether it is a withered hand, a lame leg, or blind eyes … or maybe a broken heart or some great financial or material or relational loss ….. faith, trust and obedience are always at the root of the blessing and healing.  Understanding is not.  If someone says that they will not trust in what they cannot see, then they are surely eternally lost.  They lack the faith and the presence of the Spirit for salvation to come.  What is it in your life that is overwhelming you today?  Take it to Jesus .. stretch out your withered hand … and be healed.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

What To Do When God Brings Difficult People Into Your Life

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

{CHAMBERS}  “Has it ever dawned on you that you are responsible spiritually to God for other people? […] “If one member suffers, all the members suffer with it…” (1 Corinthians 12:26). If you allow physical selfishness, mental carelessness, moral insensitivity, or spiritual weakness, everyone in contact with you will suffer. But you ask, “Who is sufficient to be able to live up to such a lofty standard?” “Our sufficiency is from God…” and God alone (2 Corinthians 3:5). “You shall be witnesses to Me…” (Acts 1:8). How many of us are willing to spend every bit of our nervous, mental, moral, and spiritual energy for Jesus Christ? […] Why has God left us on the earth? Is it simply to be saved and sanctified? No, it is to be at work in service to Him. Am I willing to be broken bread and poured-out wine for Him? Am I willing to be of no value to this age or this life except for one purpose and one alone— to be used to disciple men and women to the Lord Jesus Christ.”

{ELGIN}  In our work, we interact with people who are struggling with the aftermath of a natural disaster.  But, that is not the only thing that is going on with their lives.  Before the disaster, they had other life struggles which are only compounded in their intensity by the disaster.  That being said, sometimes the people we meet are difficult to be around. Ever met someone like that?  Sure you have.  As you are talking to them, you are thinking, “How can I distance myself from this person?” 

So let’s step out of the thought for a moment.  Why are we here?  God sent us.  Why did He send us? Because people who can’t help themselves need help and hope.  Can anything God sends us to do be accomplished on our own? No. Never. Would He bring us into contact with people who are difficult to be around? Of course.

So where did the “How can I distance myself from this person?” thought come from?  Answer .. my flesh.  I recently talked with a woman .. single mom .. whose life is a mess .. her son is autistic, suffers with Kleine-Levin Syndrome (KLS), and several other maladies.  Her life before the storm was very difficult. The local church rejected her because of her son.  And her personality is one that makes people uncomfortable, without her son factored in.  Her house is a mess.  So as I listen to her, I am thinking of the verse that the Lord gave us … well actually all of us … but Martie and me specifically for this work … (Galatians 6:2) “Bear one another’s burdens and thus fulfill the law of Christ.”  What is the law of Christ?  According to Dr. John McArthur, “When Paul suggests that burden-bearing “fulfill[s] the law of Christ,” he makes it clear that he has the whole moral law in view. Every act of compassion and self-sacrifice on behalf of our brethren is a practical means of displaying the love of Christ and thereby fulfilling the moral demands of His law. But the apostle clearly has in mind spiritual, emotional, and temperamental encumbrances — not physical freight only. The burdens we need to help carry for one another include guilt, worry, sorrow, anxiety, and all other similar loads. Do you want to fulfill the moral requirements of the Law? Love your neighbor. How do you love him? By bearing his burdens.”

Serving others is not easy .. it requires sacrifice .. not worrying about yourself and your comfort.  But, that is where we will go if we are not careful.  We will not want to feel uncomfortable.  We will want to experience happy times with others .. but it’s in the valleys that they need to see Jesus in us.  The question is .. are you ready to serve.  I hope the answer is yes.  Just don’t forget that it’s “'Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says the LORD Almighty.” (Zechariah 4:6) So the next time you find yourself in a similar situation, don’t ask “Lord, how do I get out of this.” But rather, “Lord what would You have me say or do? Lord be glorified.”

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

To Hear God, You Must Be Ready And Willing To Listen

Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops. —Matthew 10:27

{CHAMBERS}  “Sometimes God puts us through the experience and discipline of darkness to teach us to hear and obey Him. […] Are you in the dark right now in your circumstances, or in your life with God? If so, then remain quiet. If you open your mouth in the dark, you will speak while in the wrong mood— darkness is the time to listen. Don’t talk to other people about it; don’t read books to find out the reason for the darkness; just listen and obey. If you talk to other people, you cannot hear what God is saying. […] …. once you hear Him, He gives you the gift of humiliation, which brings a softness of heart— a gift that will always cause you to listen to God now.”

{ELGIN}  It is a difficult thing at times .. hearing God speak.  As I get older, I have noticed that I don’t hear as well when there are competing noises around me.  I used to be able to single out a voice or sound amidst the din with no problem, not so much anymore.  That is the way it is with hearing God.  A lot of competing sounds and life events demanding our attention.  You can read about Jesus getting away to spend time, alone, with His Father.  I don’t know if I will ever appreciate that privilege to the depth it deserves while I walk this earth.  Just imagine being able to communicate with the creator of the universe.  Can you imagine having the private cell phone number of the president or some other significant world figure?  Why would they give you the time of day.  Why would they care to talk with you at all?  What could you have to say that would matter to them? And yet, Jesus has torn the veil and given us access to our Father in heaven.  God, the Father, loves us.  Loves us enough to send Jesus for us. And we can talk to Him anytime, anywhere.  (1 Peter 5:7) “Cast all your cares on Him, because He cares for us.”  The really cool thing is that God does not just want to listen, He wants to, and does, speak to us. The question is, are you ready and willing to hear Him?  Sometimes He whispers and sometimes He shouts. But on every occasion, He loves and wants the eternal best for your life.  As I type, a song came to mind … “In The Garden” “ I come to the garden alone, While the dew is still on the roses, And the voice I hear, falling on my ear, The Son of God discloses. … He speaks, and the sound of His voice, Is so sweet the birds hush their singing, And the melody that He gave to me, Within my heart is ringing. And He walks with me, and He talks with me, And He tells me I am His own, And the joy we share as we tarry there, None other has ever known.”  I wonder what was going on in Charles Miles’ life when he penned the words to this song. He said, "It is as a writer of gospel songs I am proud to be known, for in that way I may be of the most use to my Master, whom I serve willingly although not as efficiently as is my desire". He wrote at least 398 songs, and the music to at least 8 more.

Jesus asked the question (Luke 6:46) “Why do you call Me, Lord, Lord, but don’t do what I say?”  Take time to listen to God and then … obey what He tells you.  And in that way, you will discover the way you can be of the most use to the Master.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

What To Do When Your Fear Overcomes Your Faith

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

{CHAMBERS} “[…] I show God my lack of love and respect for Him by the insensitivity of my heart and mind toward what He says. […] Have I disobeyed some command of my Lord’s this week? If I had realized that it was a command of Jesus, I would not have deliberately disobeyed it. […] The goal of my spiritual life is such close identification with Jesus Christ that I will always hear God and know that God always hears me (see John 11:41). If I am united with Jesus Christ, I hear God all the time through the devotion of hearing. […] What hinders me from hearing is my attention to other things. It is not that I don’t want to hear God, but I am not devoted in the right areas of my life. […] The attitude of a child of God should always be, “Speak, for Your servant hears.” If I have not developed and nurtured this devotion of hearing, I can only hear God’s voice at certain times. At other times I become deaf to Him because my attention is to other things— things which I think I must do.”

{ELGIN} Have you noticed that Paul spent most of his time telling us about what we should be and not what we should not be?  The epistles in the New Testament are replete with admonitions about the problems with our old nature and encouragement to pursue our new nature.  It’s a daily struggle for us to keep our focus on God and not ourselves.  I received a call from a friend who told me that a loved one was about to pass and I could hear the great sorrow in his voice.  Like the disciples in the storm or Peter walking on the water … when trouble comes, our first response is often self-reliance … the reality of an impossible situation in the face of our inability to overcome it.  That is where my friend was … is … so what to do?  I pointed him to Jesus.  I reminded him of God’s love and power and sovereignty.  Of the peace that passes understanding when we find ourselves in impossible situations.  That peace is not found through denial, but by faith.  Listen, there have been, are and will be circumstances that will overwhelm us if we are depending only upon our wits to navigate through this life.  Speaking spiritual truth to a lost person is like speaking a foreign language to them. Hearing from God in times of trouble is impossible for them … but His voice will be drowned out for Christians if we are focused on finding a solution on our own.  Our fear will prevent us from exercising our faith.  What problems are you facing today that seem like giants that make you feel like a small insect or a stormy sea that is tossing you about? Trust God. (Ephesians 3:20-21) “Now to Him who is able [and ready and willing] to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

Monday, February 12, 2018

Staying In Tune So The World Can Hear Your Song

My Utmost For His Highest

They said to Moses, "You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die." —Exodus 20:19

{CHAMBERS} “We don’t consciously and deliberately disobey God— we simply don’t listen to Him. God has given His commands to us, but we pay no attention to them— not because of willful disobedience, but because we do not truly love and respect Him. “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15). […] We show how little love we have for God by preferring to listen to His servants rather than to Him. We like to listen to personal testimonies, but we don’t want God Himself to speak to us. Why are we so terrified for God to speak to us? It is because we know that when God speaks we must either do what He asks or tell Him we will not obey. But if it is simply one of God’s servants speaking to us, we feel obedience is optional, not imperative. We respond by saying, “Well, that’s only your own idea, even though I don’t deny that what you said is probably God’s truth.””

{ELGIN} I am certain that you know already how it is that God speaks to us.  By His Spirit, through prayer, the Word, circumstances, and other believers (the Church).  Of the four ways, the common point is the Spirit.  Our relationship with the Father is a spiritual one not a physical one.  I know, I know, tell you something that you don’t already know.  The problem is not in the knowing .. it’s in the remembering and after the remembering in the obeying.  To receive what the Spirit says to you, you must be in tune with the Spirit.  In other words, your heart must be right.  You must be ready and willing to hear.  Some years ago, a friend of mine and I were preaching at a revival at a small church in Mississippi. He was also responsible for leading the singing.  He had brought his guitar and his two sons with him.  Unbeknownst to him, while he was speaking, his sons detuned his guitar .. not maliciously, but out of curiosity and innocence.  All was well until he played the first chord.  A strange noise came from the guitar that did not sound at all like a “C” chord. There were 6 strings on the guitar.  His fingers were in the right place on the fret board.  But the guitar was mis-tuned.  Being fast on his feet, he announced that we would sing acapella that night.

In the same way, you can be on the right place … in church, Bible study, quiet time, prayer closet .. where ever, but if your heart is not tuned … unconfessed sin … self-focused, when the Spirit speaks … you won’t hear a “C” chord.  Your heart will resonate something else.  (Galatians 5:24-25) “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”  Before a performance musicians check the tuning of their instruments.  It sounds like a jumble of sounds if there is more than one instrument.  But then, the leader gets there attention and everyone plays together in harmony.  What was noise becomes a thing of beauty.  When we obey the Spirit .. when we are in tune with God, our lives become a thing a beauty and shine like the morning sun in a dark and desperate world.  So tune up my friend … this world needs to hear your song.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Your Salvation Is Not Just For Your Benefit - But For God's Glory And Purpose

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

{CHAMBERS} “Exhaustion means that our vital energies are completely worn out and spent. Spiritual exhaustion is never the result of sin, but of service. Whether or not you experience exhaustion will depend on where you get your supplies. Jesus said to Peter, “Feed My sheep,” but He gave him nothing with which to feed them (John 21:17). The process of being made broken bread and poured-out wine means that you have to be the nourishment for other people’s souls until they learn to feed on God. They must drain you completely— to the very last drop. But be careful to replenish your supply, or you will quickly be utterly exhausted. Until others learn to draw on the life of the Lord Jesus directly, they will have to draw on His life through you. You must literally be their source of supply, until they learn to take their nourishment from God. […] Continually look back to the foundation of your love and affection and remember where your Source of power lies.”

{ELGIN}  Some of Chamber’s devotions in My Utmost are directed at those Christians who are in “full-time” service in vocational-ministry.  You may have read the excerpt above and thought “This does not apply to me.” But, actually, it does.  For most Christians they “exhaust” themselves just trying to live the life they have in Jesus.  Managing their sin mostly.  Let alone feeding other sheep (Christians).  2 Corinthians 5 says we have been given a ministry of reconciliation … reconciling people to God.  Jesus said “Go and make disciples” in Matthew 28.  Both are charges to every Christian.  If you have not been involved in either .. then it’s not because of lack of opportunity.  It is because of lack of obedience and faith.  Both are fully dependent upon the Spirit of God in you and less on your personal ability to teach or persuade.  We talk much about our personal relationship with Christ, but our personal salvation is not an end to itself.  If I buy a car and park it in the garage .. shine it every week.  Start the engine. But never apply it to its purpose for being then it is really a waste of money and my time. With the exception that I have personal satisfaction in owning it and caring for it.  The same for our faith and its purpose.  James said faith without works is dead (James 2).  Like the car in the garage.  Like the Christian who keeps their faith to themselves. So, my point.  Be alert for the opportunity to spiritually engage in the lives of other people.  Don’t trust in yourself, but submit to the Spirit and let God reveal Himself through you.  Fulfill your purpose … and the feeling of exhaustion that is sure to come … will be accompanied with a peace that is found only in service and obedience.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Sanctification - When Is Enough - Enough - Not Until You Are The Spitting Image Of Jesus

May the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely… —1 Thessalonians 5:23

{CHAMBERS} “When we pray, asking God to sanctify us, are we prepared to measure up to what that really means? We take the word sanctification much too lightly. Are we prepared to pay the cost of sanctification? The cost will be a deep restriction of all our earthly concerns, and an extensive cultivation of all our godly concerns. Sanctification means to be intensely focused on God’s point of view. It means to secure and to keep all the strength of our body, soul, and spirit for God’s purpose alone. […] And after He has done His work, are we then prepared to separate ourselves to God just as Jesus did? “For their sakes I sanctify Myself…” (John 17:19). […] Sanctification means being made one with Jesus so that the nature that controlled Him will control us. Are we really prepared for what that will cost? It will cost absolutely everything in us which is not of God. […] Jesus prayed that we might be one with Him, just as He is one with the Father (see John 17:21-23). The resounding evidence of the Holy Spirit in a person’s life is the unmistakable family likeness to Jesus Christ, and the freedom from everything which is not like Him. Are we prepared to set ourselves apart for the Holy Spirit’s work in us?

{ELGIN}  Do you ever pray asking God to sanctify you? In other words, do you want to be separated from the things of the world in your mortal, natural life or are you satisfied with “merely” being saved for heaven?  That is the failing of oh so many of us.  We don’t mind being cleaned up a little bit, but we stop short of total surrender to God. When Jesus talked with the rich young ruler, Jesus spoke to his heart … his devotion – the assurance and comfort he had in money – possessions … Jesus said, “sell everything that you have and give it to the poor”.  The young man could not do it … what he wanted from Jesus required complete surrender.  So this begs an interesting question .. “Can you be saved and then continue living the natural life with its passions and conventions?”  Theologians have been arguing over that question for years – centuries - millennia.  My view, for what it is worth, is that there are two parts to sanctification – or being set apart.  The first part is at the point of salvation.  The second part is a process of your life, what you say, do and cherish reflecting who you are in your heart.  As you already know, there are some aspects of your old nature that are gone immediately or very soon after salvation, and yet we still struggle with others.  Not to make an excuse for sins, but it is because of our infancy or little faith that we struggle.  I, personally, don’t think that struggle ends until we are with Jesus, but that does not mean that we should be content with our imperfection.

Paul addressed the question of continued sin (Romans 5:18-6:4, 15-18) “Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous. Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. […] What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.”

Notice Paul did not say if you sin you are not saved.  But, we should never be satisfied with our level of spiritual maturity. If you don’t think about it .. that’s a problem.  The Spirit convicts us of sin .. we must be careful that we don’t seek to make excuses for it and then accommodate it. We have been bought with a price .. the blood of Jesus.  Don’t lose sight of that.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

The Purpose Of Prayer May Not Be What You Think It Is - Or Want It To Be!

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

{CHAMBERS}  “[…]  Lust means “I must have it at once.” Spiritual lust causes me to demand an answer from God, instead of seeking God Himself who gives the answer. What have I been hoping or trusting God would do? Is today “the third day” and He has still not done what I expected? Am I therefore justified in being dejected and in blaming God? Whenever we insist that God should give us an answer to prayer we are off track. The purpose of prayer is that we get ahold of God, not of the answer. […] We look for visions from heaven and for earth-shaking events to see God’s power. Even the fact that we are dejected is proof that we do this. Yet we never realize that all the time God is at work in our everyday events and in the people around us. If we will only obey, and do the task that He has placed closest to us, we will see Him. One of the most amazing revelations of God comes to us when we learn that it is in the everyday things of life that we realize the magnificent deity of Jesus Christ.”

{ELGIN} I know that I can be a bit wordy sometimes in these devotions.  But what I hope is that you will find a nugget of encouragement or revelation that helps you in your spiritual walk and understanding.  It’s like Chamber’s statement on the purpose of prayer … “that we get ahold of God, not the answer.”  When I read that I thought of Jesus commitment to praying to the Father.  I thought about James 4:2-3 “You do not have because you do not ask God.  When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”  Chambers brings James’ words into proper context.  If we are praying for relief from whatever the pressing problem might be … it can be like placing an order at a drive through restaurant.  And we want it “super-sized”.  Instead, our focus should be on God who is our source, our confidence, our peace and not simply relief from our trouble.  We should draw close to Him through prayer and trust that He loves us.  We sing about His love, but when it comes down to it … we often doubt that He is listening or worse that He will do what is best … translated that means we doubt that He will do what we want Him to do.

There is a worship song by Mercy Me “Even If” that addresses this.  “It only takes a little faith to move a mountain.  Good thing, a little faith is all I have right now.”   “It's easy to sing When there's nothing to bring me down. But what will I say When I'm held to the flame Like I am right now. But God, when You choose To leave mountains unmovable Oh give me the strength to be able to sing It is well with my soul”  Have you ever been there?  Are you there right now?  Let me encourage you to draw close to God.  Life can be, and often is, overwhelming … trust God and seek Him out.  Listen, this is supernatural stuff.  Beyond our earthly logic and doing .. but true nonetheless.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Are You Struggling With The Temptation To Jump Off A Bridge?

I am already being poured out as a drink offering… —2 Timothy 4:6

{CHAMBERS} “Are you ready to be poured out as an offering? It is an act of your will, not your emotions. Tell God you are ready to be offered as a sacrifice for Him. Then accept the consequences as they come, without any complaints, in spite of what God may send your way. God sends you through a crisis in private, where no other person can help you. From the outside your life may appear to be the same, but the difference is taking place in your will. Once you have experienced the crisis in your will, you will take no thought of the cost when it begins to affect you externally. If you don’t deal with God on the level of your will first, the result will be only to arouse sympathy for yourself. […] You must be willing to be placed on the altar and go through the fire; willing to experience what the altar represents— burning, purification, and separation for only one purpose— the elimination of every desire and affection not grounded in or directed toward God. But you don’t eliminate it, God does. […]  After you have gone through the fire, there will be nothing that will be able to trouble or depress you. When another crisis arises, you will realize that things cannot touch you as they used to do. What fire lies ahead in your life?”

{ELGIN}  Has your new life in Christ made a difference in the way you live .. in what you value .. in what you do?   Making the transition from the old nature to the new nature (2 Corinthians 5:17)  is troublesome for most Christians.  Embracing the idea of being forgiven and going to heaven is easy compared to submitting your will everyday .. every moment.  It is easy compared to turning away from your culture, your natural preferences.  The thing is .. many Christians don’t even realize they are doing that.  The reason is that so many “are” doing that.  Did your mom ever ask you in response to your saying “all my friends are doing it”, “If your friends jumped off of a bridge would you too?” We have been called to follow after God, but we most often choose to follow the majority instead.  The Bible says “Don’t give Satan a foothold” (Ephesian 4: 27-32)  do not give the devil a foothold. Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need. Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Crisis of Belief … believe God or trust in yourself  Having an eternal perspective on this life on earth.”

But what if the other Christians you hang out with are doing some of those things?  Are they really that bad?  Watching the wrong things, saying the wrong things … doing the wrong things … Good question.  In fact that question has been asked many times over the centuries.  The first time was in the Garden.  “Did God really say you will surely die?”  When you ask the question you are suggesting that God is wrong in telling you no.  Listen .. It is easier to give in to sin than it is to the Holy Spirit.  You don’t have to fight your natural will when you do.  I am not trying to send you on a guilt-trip, but want to challenge you to consider where you are in your spiritual walk.  What needs to change?  You don’t know?  Read the word and pray about it.  The Spirit of God will reveal it to you.  Will you lay your life down on the altar. (Matthew 16:25)  “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

Monday, February 5, 2018

Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due

If I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. —Philippians 2:17

{CHAMBERS}  “Are you willing to sacrifice yourself for the work of another believer—to pour out your life sacrificially for the ministry and faith of others? Or do you say, “I am not willing to be poured out right now, and I don’t want God to tell me how to serve Him. I want to choose the place of my own sacrifice. And I want to have certain people watching me and saying, ‘Well done.’ ” It is one thing to follow God’s way of service if you are regarded as a hero, but quite another thing if the road marked out for you by God requires becoming a “doormat” under other people’s feet. God’s purpose may be to teach you to say, “I know how to be abased…” (Philippians 4:12). Are you ready to be sacrificed like that? Are you ready to be less than a mere drop in the bucket— to be so totally insignificant that no one remembers you even if they think of those you served? Are you willing to give and be poured out until you are used up and exhausted— not seeking to be ministered to, but to minister? Some saints cannot do menial work while maintaining a saintly attitude, because they feel such service is beneath their dignity.”

{ELGIN} Strange as this may sound, but I feel that I am being most effective in serving God and others when I am not recognized for the work I do.  If I need to be recognized then I am having a pride problem.  I often say “If you want to give me credit for anything ..then give me credit for saying yes to God.”  When Paul was responding about the people who were saying “I am of Paul or I am of Apollos” (or it might be I am a Baptist or I am a Methodist or I am a “fill in the blank”)  Paul said (1 Corinthians 3:5-9)  What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.” If we are serving God then how can we take credit for what is accomplished.  God is the Source … it’s God who calls .. it’s God who equips … it’s God who sends …. it’s God who brings the eternal benefit.  We are merely the messengers …. Field hands.

On the other hand, don’t let that truth become a reason for you to NOT serve.  Looking at your life in comparison to others, you may ask, “What can I bring to the table? What can I do?” The answer is, trust God, submit to His Spirit, go where He says go and do what He says do, knowing that God brings the increase not you.  It’s obedience that God prefers over sacrifice. (1 Samuel 15:22) “But Samuel replied: "Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.” (Hosea 6:6) “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.” As I am typing this, Martie, my wife, read a quote from the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles after winning the Super Bowl, “I give all the glory to Jesus Christ.”  It does not matter if you are a missionary or a football coach or ride on the back of a garbage truck.  As Christians we know that it is God who deserves the credit for any good that comes from our lives. Don't let your ego tell you otherwise.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Want A Blessing From God - You Must Stop, Look, Listen, And Then Obey

Woe is me if I do not preach the gospel! —1 Corinthians 9:16

{CHAMBERS} “Beware of refusing to hear the call of God. Everyone who is saved is called to testify to the fact of his salvation. That, however, is not the same as the call to preach, but is merely an illustration which can be used in preaching. […] Paul’s words have to do with our being made servants of Jesus Christ, and our permission is never asked as to what we will do or where we will go. God makes us as broken bread and poured-out wine to please Himself. To be “separated to the gospel” means being able to hear the call of God (Romans 1:1). Once someone begins to hear that call, a suffering worthy of the name of Christ is produced. Suddenly, every ambition, every desire of life, and every outlook is completely blotted out and extinguished. Only one thing remains— “…separated to the gospel…”"

{ELGIN}  Yesterday, a partner in the Gospel, John, and I were at a Home Depot getting some parts we needed to finish work on a family’s house that had been damaged during Hurricane Harvey.  As we checked out, there was a young woman checking out ahead of us.  I noticed she had building materials but was not wearing clothing that suggested that she was about to put them to use.  We paid for our supplies and walked out to leave.  I noticed that the woman was trying to put the materials in her small SUV – 10 pounds in a 5 pound can. I asked her if we could help her load her vehicle.  She looked relieved and said “yes”.  Well … the 5 pound can had not gotten any bigger.  I asked her if she lived far from the store and she told us about 5 miles.  So I offered to put her materials in my truck and we would follow here back to the house.  (thinking about that later, I would have been upset if my wife said yes to two strange men following her home! And I told the woman so.) But let’s just say the Spirit of God was at work.  When we arrived, we set the materials in her garage.  She said they had just moved there – the garage was a mess – and she and her husband were fixing their daughters room up. OK – this is where it gets interesting.  She told us that they have son who has special needs.  He was in Infant ICU for 6 months.  Their son has several significant physical problems. They have a full time nurse helping them.  John shared with her about one of his grandchildren.  Then the conversation got even more personal .. John asked her if she believed in God … to which she replied … “you may not believe it, but I was studying to be a youth pastor and married a pastor.  She went on to say that her husband was unfaithful and she divorced him.  She was rejected by the local church instead of being comforted.  Since then she has not had much to do with church or God.

I asked her if I could pray with her, and she agreed.  I told her that God had us at Home Depot at that time because He wanted her to know that He had not forgotten her and she should not give up on God.  She said that she cried all the time she was driving back home because we were being so kind.  I told her that we are obliged to do it. I shared Galatians 6:2 “Bear one another’s burdens and fulfill the law of Christ.”  I shared 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 that “God is the God of all comfort who comforts us in our afflictions so we might comfort others with the same comfort we, ourselves, have received.”  She started crying again and I could see that God was speaking to her broken heart.  Then I prayed with her that God would bring healing to her son and to her.  She asked if she could take a picture of the three of us.  For her privacy I will not post it.  Then we left.

So to the point.  You never know when God will put you in a place of fulfilling your calling to lift Jesus up and point people to the Father.  Be ready.  There is really nothing sweeter than fulfilling God’s purpose for you.  But you have to be listing, watching, ready and willing.  We could have walked by her in the parking lot because we had things to do … but we didn’t and were blessed in our obedience to the call of God.  And you can be as well.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Ministry May Not Be What You Think It Is. Are You Fulfilling Your Ministry?

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

{CHAMBERS} “Paul states here that the call of God is to preach the gospel. But remember what Paul means by “the gospel,” namely, the reality of redemption in our Lord Jesus Christ. We are inclined to make sanctification the goal of our preaching. Paul refers to personal experiences only by way of illustration, never as the end of the matter. We are not commissioned to preach salvation or sanctification— we are commissioned to lift up Jesus Christ (see John 12:32). […] Jesus Christ labored in redemption to redeem the whole world and to place it perfectly whole and restored before the throne of God. […] The one passion of Paul’s life was to proclaim the gospel of God. He welcomed heartbreak, disillusionment, and tribulation for only one reason— these things kept him unmovable in his devotion to the gospel of God.”

{ELGIN}  Have you ever thought of yourself as a preacher?  Probably not.  In our present day economy, preacher has a connotation of someone devoted to ministry, standing behind a pulpit on Sunday morning.  While I was in Haiti … my moniker was “Pastor Charley”.  I did not pastor a church but the Haitians associated me with those who did.  Although I am ordained as a minister of the Gospel in Baptist circles, I never pastored a church and never will, most probably.  My point, I am called to ministry and so are you, each in our own way according to God’s shaping.  We are all called to “preach the Gospel”.  (1 Peter 3:15) “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear” You don’t have to stand behind a pulpit to lift Jesus up.  To tell people what happened in your life.  Telling people about your life before Jesus, how you met Jesus, and your life now that you follow Jesus.  I think we make it difficult with “methods” when it should be as natural as talking about your family or why you do what you do for a living.  (2 Timothy 4:1-5) “I [Paul] charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom:  preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.  For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” I am certain there are some people that you have known that you wanted to avoid when you saw them coming.  They “attacked” you with the Gospel.  Dr. John Maxwell said “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”  It’s true.  Another thing that is true is that you cannot save anyone.  Our part is to tell about what happened to us.  His part is to send His Spirit to do a work in the person’s heart.  Their part is to believe the truth and by faith in Jesus be saved … or not.  You are to “fulfill your ministry”.  Pretty simple, huh?