Friday, March 23, 2018

All You Have To Do Is Act Naturally .. But By Which Nature Will That Be?

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

{CHAMBERS} “The natural man, or unbeliever, knows nothing about carnality. The desires of the flesh warring against the Spirit, and the Spirit warring against the flesh, which began at rebirth, are what produce carnality and the awareness of it. But Paul said, “Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16). In other words, carnality will disappear. Are you quarrelsome and easily upset over small things? […] Is there a truth in the Bible that instantly awakens a spirit of malice or resentment in you? If so, that is proof that you are still carnal. […] If the Spirit of God detects anything in you that is wrong, He doesn’t ask you to make it right; He only asks you to accept the light of truth, and then He will make it right. A child of the light will confess sin instantly and stand completely open before God. But a child of the darkness will say, “Oh, I can explain that.” When the light shines and the Spirit brings conviction of sin, be a child of the light. Confess your wrongdoing, and God will deal with it.”

{ELGIN}  I can’t think of anyone who wants to embrace their failings in their new life in Christ.  We all struggle with sin but don’t want to think about it much and certainly don’t want to talk about it.  Although some like to talk about the sins of others.  But I will leave that to another devotion.  Before I was born again, sin was not really a problem because it was part of my nature. Once my heart was changed .. once I was reborn by the Spirit of God, that is when the conflict began.  I can remember my dad telling me that once you become a Christian that is when the trouble begins.  He was referring to the fact of having two natures – that are opposed to each other – both vying for control over my heart and will.  Our failing is in believing that somehow we can fix it ourselves .. to not sin through shear will power --- or won’t power may be more correct. I, on my own, am no more capable of making myself acceptable to God and resist sin now than I was before I was born again.  It is the Spirit of God and the Word that helps me live rightly.  My part is to be willing to submit to both. 

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Are You Spending Alone Time With the One You Love The Most?

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

{CHAMBERS} “We need to learn this secret of the burning heart. Suddenly Jesus appears to us, fires are set ablaze, and we are given wonderful visions; but then we must learn to maintain the secret of the burning heart— a heart that can go through anything. It is the simple, dreary day, with its commonplace duties and people, that smothers the burning heart— unless we have learned the secret of abiding in Jesus. […] If the Spirit of God has stirred you, make as many of your decisions as possible irrevocable, and let the consequences be what they will. We cannot stay forever on the “mount of transfiguration,” basking in the light of our mountaintop experience (see Mark 9:1-9). But we must obey the light we received there; we must put it into action. When God gives us a vision, we must transact business with Him at that point, no matter what the cost.”

{ELGIN} Spending time with the one you are devoted to.  Is that a priority for you?  I was talking with my wife last night about the day.  This week we are working to rebuild two homes ravaged by Hurricane Harvey with a team of volunteers.  We are on a compressed schedule which means that my days are long. My wife was missing being with me and she told me so.  And I her.  The point is .. we love each other and have a strong desire to be with each other.  The spiritual point is .. if we truly love God and not just the idea of being saved and enjoying the benefits of His blessings… we will want to spend time with Him and will be painfully aware when we don’t.  Like time with your sweetheart … you will long for that companionship.  Do you have friends that you used to be close to, but time, distance and the priorities and circumstances of life have separated you .. and now, perhaps, you are not even certain where they live or how you might contact them?  Your heart has grown cold .. not in a mean-spirited way, but your heart no longer burns at the thought of spending time with them.  That is how it is with God often times.  I want to encourage you, and you to encourage others, to fully embrace life in Christ. And that means pursuing a relationship with the Father. Spending time – mano y mano – with Him.  And if that is not a passion, if there is no persistent desire to do that … well … “Houston we have a problem!” Listen – I am not trying to send anyone on a guilt-trip.  Instead, I want to encourage the Saints to examine their hearts and draw close to God.  And this is His promise … (James 4:8) “Draw close to God and He will draw close to you.”  And there is no better place to be.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

What To Do When You Come Face To Face With Sin

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

{CHAMBERS} “The inescapable spiritual need each of us has is the need to sign the death certificate of our sin nature. I must take my emotional opinions and intellectual beliefs and be willing to turn them into a moral verdict against the nature of sin; that is, against any claim I have to my right to myself. […] My individuality remains, but my primary motivation for living and the nature that rules me are radically changed. I have the same human body, but the old satanic right to myself has been destroyed.  “…and the life which I now live in the flesh,” not the life which I long to live or even pray that I live, but the life I now live in my mortal flesh— the life which others can see, “I live by faith in the Son of God….” […] It is no longer a faith in faith, but a faith that transcends all imaginable limits— a faith that comes only from the Son of God.

{ELGIN} It’s easy for Christians to accept that Jesus overcame sin and death through the cross and His resurrection.  We are about to celebrate that truth in a couple of weeks.  We know that in Christ we have overcome eternal death and have eternal life.  (1 John 5:12) “He that has the Son has [eternal] life, and he that does not have the Son does not have [eternal] life” But sin? Now that is another question altogether isn’t it?  While we have overcome the power, the dominion of sin in our lives .. and its ultimate consequence … we continue to struggle with sin.  On Sunday mornings we may pose for other Christians and give the appearance of having all together spiritually, but every one of us struggles with the flesh and our old nature.  The temptation to sin continues to rise up in our lives.  (1 Corinthians 10:13) “There has no temptation taken you but such as is common to everyone, but, God is faithful and will not allow you to be tempted beyond that which you are able to bear and will, with the temptation, make a way to escape.”  Wow!  No matter how I may be tempted there is always a way to escape … to resist.  The question is … “Will I take it or will I submit to the temptation?”  (Psalm 119:11) “Hide the word in my heart” so I won’t sin against God. (Joshua 1:8) “Meditate on the Word … and the you will be successful”  There is a spiritual dynamic that is available to every Christian .. the combination of the Spirit in us and the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God … If you neglect the Word of God it is like doing battle unarmed … guess who is going to lose?  Think about it!

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Find Joy In Knowing And Doing The Will Of The Father - Just Like Jesus

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

{CHAMBERS} “[…] friendship means being so intimately in touch with God that you never even need to ask Him to show you His will. It is evidence of a level of intimacy which confirms that you are nearing the final stage of your discipline in the life of faith. When you have a right-standing relationship with God, you have a life of freedom, liberty, and delight; you are God’s will. And all of your commonsense decisions are actually His will for you, unless you sense a feeling of restraint brought on by a check in your spirit. […]  Why did Abraham stop praying when he did? He stopped because he still was lacking the level of intimacy in his relationship with God, which would enable him boldly to continue on with the Lord in prayer until his desire was granted. Whenever we stop short of our true desire in prayer and say, “Well, I don’t know, maybe this is not God’s will,” then we still have another level to go. It shows that we are not as intimately acquainted with God as Jesus was, and as Jesus would have us to be— “…that they may be one just as We are one…” (John 17:22). […] “For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him” (Matthew 6:8). The reason for asking is so you may get to know God better. “Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4). We should keep praying to get a perfect understanding of God Himself.”

{ELGIN} (John 6:38) “For I [Jesus] have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him [the Father] who sent me.”  Can you say that about your life?  Is doing God’s will the thing that motivates you every day?  Or does life seem to always get in the way? Do you find it necessary to come to church on Sunday morning to sense the presence of God?  Is that the only time that you think about your Father who is in heaven?  I know that is not true because you are reading this.  But it is true for many Christians.  Friend, we must encourage one another in the faith.  Why? Because our tendency is to wander from it .. to allow the world and its concerns to creep in and dominate our thinking and doing.  Is there someone that you can encourage today?  I don’t mean by sharing something you read on Facebook without a word of explanation to all of your friends … like Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote “I shot an arrow into the air. It fell to earth I know not where…..”  That is a little like my devotion, I don’t know who is going to read this .. but I am referring to something that is more personal.  Targeted at someone specific . .someone that the Lord has laid on your heart.  You know who that is … why not text, call, write or visit them.  Not to thump them with the Bible, but to remind them of God’s great love for them.

Monday, March 19, 2018

How To Walk In Mud Puddles And Not Get Muddy

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

{CHAMBERS} “In the Old Testament, a person’s relationship with God was seen by the degree of separation in that person’s life. This separation is exhibited in the life of Abraham by his separation from his country and his family. When we think of separation today, we do not mean to be literally separated from those family members who do not have a personal relationship with God, but to be separated mentally and morally from their viewpoints. This is what Jesus Christ was referring to in Luke 14:26. Living a life of faith means never knowing where you are being led. But it does mean loving and knowing the One who is leading. It is literally a life of faith, not of understanding and reason— a life of knowing Him who calls us to go. Faith is rooted in the knowledge of a Person, and one of the biggest traps we fall into is the belief that if we have faith, God will surely lead us to success in the world. The final stage in the life of faith is the attainment of character, and we encounter many changes in the process. We feel the presence of God around us when we pray, yet we are only momentarily changed. We tend to keep going back to our everyday ways and the glory vanishes. A life of faith is […] a life of day-in and day-out consistency; a life of walking without fainting (see Isaiah 40:31). It is not even a question of the holiness of sanctification, but of something which comes much farther down the road. It is a faith that has been tried and proved and has withstood the test.

{ELGIN} (Luke 14:26) “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.”  We all have family who are not Christians .. well, ALL may be too strong a word … but I think that is true for most of us. If we carry that a little further, although some Christians are “isolated” in that they do not have any non-Christian friends, most of us do.  People we care deeply about. To stay mentally (natural versus spiritual perspective) and morally (the things we say, desire, and do) is a challenge.  Jesus was accused, in a round about way, of being a sinner because He associated with sinners.  (Luke 19:10) “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” So you are thinking – “But I am not Jesus!” Right! But you have the Spirit of God in you .. you have the Word of God … what you may lack is a deep devotion to the Father.  (Matthew 22:37) “Love God with all …..”  It does not leave any room for anything else.  Any love that you experience is .. should be … an outpouring from you love for God.  We are warned that “bad company corrupts good character” (1 Corinthians 15:33) How? It happens when Christians are not “mentally and morally separated from the viewpoints of the lost.”  So Jesus was, always, but we are not always.  In fact, since we struggle so with our old nature, we are often drawn like a moth to a flame.  We accommodate sin for fear of rejecting the sinner and even participate in the sin with the excuse that we are being a witness to the lost. In the end, we dilute our faith and compromise our testimony and devotion to God.  The point today … be careful my friend and if you have already given in to the temptation … repent and let your light shine to the glory of God.

Friday, March 16, 2018

What To Do When Another Christian Sins Against You!

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

{CHAMBERS} “[…] Tolerating a wrong attitude toward another person causes you to follow the spirit of the devil, no matter how saintly you are. One carnal judgment of another person only serves the purposes of hell in you. Bring it immediately into the light and confess, “Oh, Lord, I have been guilty there.” If you don’t, your heart will become hardened through and through. […] No struggling or praying will enable you to stop doing certain things, and the penalty of sin is that you gradually get used to it, until you finally come to the place where you no longer even realize that it is sin. […] The deadliest attitude of the Pharisees that we exhibit today is not hypocrisy but that which comes from unconsciously living a lie.”

{ELGIN} It is a common thing for many Christians, I think, to sit in judgement of others .. especially when their sinful ways are obvious to everyone.  When that sin is directed at us or someone we care about, it is doubly easy to judge them.  But what do you do especially when it is another Christian?  Jesus told a parable about a common man and a religious man who came to pray ….

(Luke 18:9-14) “And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt:  “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.””

The first trusted in his “good works” to make him righteous … the second had no confidence in himself at all, and knew that he was incapable of being righteous on his own.  So what does that have to do with judgement? When you see people around you are sinning, understand that they are merely revealing their nature. When we see others sin, our place is not to judge, which is to condemn, God is the judge.  That is especially hard when the sin is against us.  So what do we do then?  As Christians – we understand the world from a spiritual context.  And, we understand sinful acts from a spiritual perspective.  The government has courts and laws to deal with violators of the law.  (In fact the jails and prisons are overflowing.  The problem with jails and prisons is that they don’t address the heart of the problem which is the heart.) So how do you respond? This is what Jesus said to do if another Christian sins against you ….

(Matthew 18:15-20) “If your brother [a person is not your brother or sister if they are not in the same family - my words] sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

Many times though we never get even before the first step .. we stop at the sinful act and harbor a grudge against the offender.  Someone once said “the only part of the Bible that you believe is truth is the part you obey.”  You must address the sin, but if the person will not repent then have nothing to do with them.  But what if they are a blood relative?  That does not matter .. although it does make it more difficult .. but that does not change what the Word says, only possibly what we are willing to do.

What if they do it again? There are two possibilities.  First they may not have repented .. and two, their struggle with sin is overpowering their desire to not sin .. like Paul ... like all of us at times ... and they need to confess and repent again and perhaps again.

(Luke 17:3-4) “Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.””

The key to forgiveness is repentance.  Forgiving before repentance is enabling the sin.  Saying what they did is OK.  Repentance means they know that what they did is NOT OK and they are sincerely sorrowful because of it.

So how many times should you forgive someone that has a repentant heart?  (Matthew 18:21-22) “Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? seven times? Jesus said to him, I say not seven times: but, seventy times seven.” In other words, there is no limit.  And that is how it is with you and God.  Aren’t you thankful?  1 John 1:9 makes that promise .. but listen .. it is only because of the blood of Jesus … not because you deserve it … and the same goes for the one who sins against you!  Think about it!

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Is Jesus Your First Or Last Resort ... Really, Which One Is He?

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

{CHAMBERS} “At the beginning of our life with Jesus Christ, we were sure we knew all there was to know about following Him. It was a delight to forsake everything else and to throw ourselves before Him in a fearless statement of love. But now we are not quite so sure. Jesus is far ahead of us and is beginning to seem different and unfamiliar— “Jesus was going before them; and they were amazed” (Mark 10:32).[…] At first I was confident that I understood Him, but now I am not so sure. I begin to realize that there is a distance between Jesus and me and I can no longer be intimate with Him. I have no idea where He is going, and the goal has become strangely distant.[…] The discipline of dismay is an essential lesson which a disciple must learn. The danger is that we tend to look back on our times of obedience and on our past sacrifices to God in an effort to keep our enthusiasm for Him strong (see Isaiah 50:10-11). But when the darkness of dismay comes, endure until it is over, because out of it will come the ability to follow Jesus truly, which brings inexpressibly wonderful joy.”

{ELGIN} In our minds, it is easy to be a Christ follower.  In our lives … well, not so much.  Hebrews 11:1 says faith is an intangible substance – you can’t hold it in your hand …. You can’t see it in the sky …. You can’t put it in your pocket to save it for later … it’s spiritual … “the substance of things hoped for” – belief even though you don’t have any idea what is going to happen – “the evidence of things not seen”  Even the disciples who walked with Jesus for three years struggled while He was in their very presence.  Everything around – all of their years of being on the sea told them that they were doomed during a fierce storm .. they had done all they knew how to do … Well – I’ll let you read it ...

(Mark 4:35-41) “That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped.  Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!””

Ok, so the first clue should have been that while the disciples were sweating and fretting, Jesus was sleeping.  His sleeping in the midst of that storm was the picture of an absolute awareness of who He was and who His Father is.  That is a great picture of our lives. We sweat and fret over the issues of life .. the storms that come … and they will come.  (John 16:33) “These things I [Jesus] have spoken to you that you might have peace.  In the world you will have trouble, but be encouraged because I have overcome the world”  Jesus is the Master of the sea!  “If His eye is on the sparrow I know He watcheth me!” So Jesus is asking us the same question He asked the disciples .. multiple times .. “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”  or “Why did you doubt?’ or “Where is your faith?”  What is it that you are facing that defies your ability to resolve it .. to fix it .. to make it go away?  We look for peace and assurance on the outside but Jesus can give that to us on the inside.  Even if life does not go your way … even if the boat sinks … faith will see you through … Listen, your faith does not get stronger on its own .. faith is made stronger as it is tested.  Our challenge is to not be like the disciples … doing everything they could think of and then, as a last resort, turning to Jesus.  Jesus should be our first stop, not the last one.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Want To Get Control Of Your Life? You May Not Like The Solution.

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

{CHAMBERS} “The first thing I must be willing to admit when I begin to examine what controls and dominates me is that I am the one responsible for having yielded myself to whatever it may be. If I am a slave to myself, I am to blame because somewhere in the past I yielded to myself. Likewise, if I obey God I do so because at some point in my life I yielded myself to Him. […] There is no power within the human soul itself that is capable of breaking the bondage of the nature created by yielding. For example, yield for one second to anything in the nature of lust, and although you may hate yourself for having yielded, you become enslaved to that thing. (Remember what lust is— “I must have it now,” whether it is the lust of the flesh or the lust of the mind.) No release or escape from it will ever come from any human power, but only through the power of redemption. You must yield yourself in utter humiliation to the only One who can break the dominating power in your life, namely, the Lord Jesus Christ. “…He has anointed Me…to proclaim liberty to the captives…” (Luke 4:18 and Isaiah 61:1). When you yield to something, you will soon realize the tremendous control it has over you. Even though you say, “Oh, I can give up that habit whenever I like,” you will know you can’t. You will find that the habit absolutely dominates you because you willingly yielded to it. It is easy to sing, “He will break every fetter,” while at the same time living a life of obvious slavery to yourself. But yielding to Jesus will break every kind of slavery in any person’s life.”

{ELGIN}  Once again, I felt I needed to quote Oswald Chambers' devotion almost in its entirety. What is it that controls your life?  Being a Christian, in its simplicity means that your sins are forgiven through the blood of Jesus and you are a child of God.  But it its depth, it means that you are not your own, you were bought with a price, even Jesus on the Cross, and you now serve God primarily .. not yourself … not others. But the reality is that your sinful nature does not want to die.  It continues to rise up .. to edge God out .. to rule your life .. to influence what you think and do.  Paul wrote about it in Romans chapter 7:21-25  ..

“So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

We overcome our old nature by surrendering to our new nature … which is empowered by the Holy Spirit because of Jesus death and resurrection.  The problem is that we try to contend with a power that we cannot overcome on our own. (Matthew 16:25) “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” The problem is that we think we can and try, even though we continue to fail .. and so validate exactly what Paul was describing in his life as being true in our lives as well.  To live our new lives successfully, we must yield to the spirit and trust in Jesus.  Let me leave you with one of my favorite verses.

Joshua 1:7-9 “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

So - You Don't Believe We're On The Eve Of Destruction? - Maranatha!

(1 Thessalonians 4:11) "Make your ambition to a lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, so you will behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need" 

(Romans 12:18) "So far as it depends upon you, be at peace with all men."

Every day I see so much strife in people's lives - people living in the power of their flesh and in their struggle for self-preservation.  They live in constant fear, and rather than loving God and loving others, their love for themselves dominates them and everything they do or aspire to do.  If people don't meet their expectations or don't dance to their tune, they are considered to be the enemy.  They seek consolation and relief from their fears and insecurities by accommodating their flesh and what it desires.  Turning to things that promise peace and consolation, but, in the end, only bring pain and destruction.

Our culture seems to be imploding.  Consuming itself.  Looking for answers to the problems that dominate us, but unwilling to acknowledge the true source of those problems.  We criticize aberrant - wrong - hurtful behavior and encourage it at the same time.  We condemn men for making sexual advances to women and exploit women in the media and add sexual connotation even in television commercials about everyday products.  We wonder why there is a problem with violence in our country and the majority of the most popular television shows and movies are dominated with stark violence and death.  As I watch this going on I feel helpless to change it.  But that is because the source of the problem spiritual .. and most often misdiagnosed as a natural - relational problem. And being a spiritual problem, it can only be solved with a spiritual solution.  My wanting my children's behavior, for example,  to be different will not make it so!  Only God can do that - He is in the "business" of changing hearts.  And their hearts can be changed, but only if they will submit to His call and yield their lives in faith to the Lord.

(1 Corinthians 1:18) “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” 

The solution is so simple, but the truth is, the majority of the world will reject the Truth. (Romans 1:25) “They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator .. "  I am not making this up.  God has revealed the Truth to us through the Word of God, by His Spirit and through His Son and His sacrifice.  The world, our culture, rejects the idea that the problem has spiritual roots and a spiritual solution.  (1 Corinthians 2:14) “The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.”  What a dilemma.  What to do? The answer is simple.  Don’t expect the world to get better … it is running pell-mell into darkness … headed for destruction …

There was a song written in the mid-60’s, a protest song, but I think it was prophetic.  It was written by PF Sloan, during the Vietnam war, and sung by Barry McGuire who later became a Christian. It speaks to the calamity that rages in this world, but stops short of a solution.  Barry McGuire found the solution … you know the answer. My encouragement to you …. Be a light in this dark world … if people seem to be looking for answers .. point them to Jesus .. most will ignore you .. but that is between them and God.  Your obligation is to tell the world.  The Spirit will do the rest.

Eve of Destruction by PF Sloan. 

The eastern world, it is explodin', Violence flarin', bullets loadin', You're old enough to kill but not for votin',
You don't believe in war, but what's that gun you're totin', And even the Jordan river has bodies floatin',
But you tell me over and over and over again my friend, Ah, you don't believe we're on the eve of destruction.
Don't you understand, what I'm trying to say? And can't you feel the fears I'm feeling today?
If the button is pushed, there's no running away,

There'll be no one to save with the world in a grave, Take a look around you, boy, it's bound to scare you, boy,
And you tell me over and over and over again my friend, Ah, you don't believe we're on the eve of destruction.

Yeah, my blood's so mad, feels like coagulatin', I'm sittin' here, just contemplatin',
I can't twist the truth, it knows no regulation, Handful of Senators don't pass legislation,
And marches alone can't bring integration, When human respect is disintegratin',
This whole crazy world is just too frustratin', And you tell me over and over and over again my friend,
Ah, you don't believe we're on the eve of destruction.

Think of all the hate there is in Red China! Then take a look around to Selma, Alabama!
Ah, you may leave here, for four days in space, But when your return, it's the same old place,
The poundin' of the drums, the pride and disgrace, You can bury your dead, but don't leave a trace,
Hate your next door neighbor, but don't forget to say grace, And you tell me over and over and over and over again my friend,

You don't believe we're on the eve of destruction. No, no, you don't believe we're on the eve of destruction.....

Jesus is the answer ... always was and always will be!

Monday, March 12, 2018

Are You Trusting God For The Wrong Things?

Peter began to say to Him, "See, we have left all and followed You." —Mark 10:28

{CHAMBERS} “Our Lord replies to this statement of Peter by saying that this surrender is “for My sake and the gospel’s” (Mark 10:29). It was not for the purpose of what the disciples themselves would get out of it. Beware of surrender that is motivated by personal benefits that may result. […] Our motive for surrender should not be for any personal gain at all. We have become so self-centered that we go to God only for something from Him, and not for God Himself. It is like saying, “No, Lord, I don’t want you; I want myself.” […] Genuine total surrender is a personal sovereign preference for Jesus Christ Himself. Where does Jesus Christ figure in when we have a concern about our natural relationships? Most of us will desert Him with this excuse— “Yes, Lord, I heard you call me, but my family needs me and I have my own interests. I just can’t go any further” (see Luke 9:57-62). “Then,” Jesus says, “you ‘cannot be My disciple’ ” (see Luke 14:26-33). True surrender will always go beyond natural devotion. If we will only give up, God will surrender Himself to embrace all those around us and will meet their needs, which were created by our surrender. Beware of stopping anywhere short of total surrender to God. Most of us have only a vision of what this really means, but have never truly experienced it.”

{ELGIN}  Have you really considered what following Jesus means in terms of your natural life and affections?  I am certain you are familiar with the “Health and Wealth Gospel”  The idea that if you are spiritually right then God will give you worldly prosperity.  Friend, that is not Biblical.  Explain to the millions of poor Christians that their problem is that they are not spiritually right with God.  The prosperity gospel is a result of the culture we live in.  The Bible says (Matthew 6:24) “You cannot love God and money.  You will love one and hate the other.” The prosperity gospel says “That is not true”.  It says if you give God a dime, you will get a dollar. The danger is that we  interpret the scripture  in the context of the lust of our eyes, the lust of your flesh and the pride of life.  (1 John 2:16) “For everything in the world-the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life-comes not from the Father but from the world.”  Are you willing to let God decide the context of your living?  Big house, nice car, plenty of money, secure retirement.  Are you more concerned about protecting your standard of living or the standards by which you live?  The first has to do with faith in the things of the world and the second with faith in God.  (1 John 2:15) “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.” 

Reject the temptation to use God as a means to worldly comfort and peace.  Instead be filled with the Spirit so that you can experience “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” in spite of the turmoil of the world that swirls around you.  (Proverbs 3:5-6)  “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not in your own understanding.  In all your ways, acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths”  And that IS the Truth!

Friday, March 9, 2018

To Follow Jesus You Must Set Your Mind Right

Do you also want to go away? —John 6:67

{CHAMBERS} “What a penetrating question! Our Lord’s words often hit home for us when He speaks in the simplest way. In spite of the fact that we know who Jesus is, He asks, “Do you also want to go away?” […] “From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more” (John 6:66). They turned back from walking with Jesus; not into sin, but away from Him. Many people today are pouring their lives out and working for Jesus Christ, but are not really walking with Him. […] And His way means absolute devotion to Him. Showing no concern for the uncertainties that lie ahead is the secret of walking with Jesus. Peter saw in Jesus only someone who could minister salvation to him and to the world. But our Lord wants us to be fellow laborers with Him. In John 6:70 Jesus lovingly reminded Peter that he was chosen to go with Him. And each of us must answer this question for ourselves and no one else: “Do you also want to go away?””

{ELGIN} What does going away look like?  It means that we choose to be conformed to the word and not transformed (Romans 12:2) It means that we prefer our old life, its relationships, its habits, its desires over walking with Jesus and loving God more than even our own lives.  I don’t know if you have noticed, but it seems a lot easier to see the problem of leaving Jesus in other people’s lives than in our own.  If you recall, people started leaving when His teachings became harder.  There is nothing sacred in your natural life … We are to give it all up to Jesus.  When we sing “I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back .. the world behind me, the cross before me .. “ that decision is a daily .. even moment by moment decision.  Living in the constant awareness of the presence of God .. it’s not so easy .. it’s not natural.  It requires effort on our part … not trying to be good … but submitting to the Spirit of God.  Salvation makes it possible … your submission to the Spirit and pursuit of obedience to the Word makes is a daily reality.  I want to point you to Galatians chapter 5 again.  Verses 19-20 describe the old nature .. what I call the fruit of the flesh.  Verses 22-25 describe the fruit of the Spirit.  On the one hand .. behavior that indicates you are not following Jesus, but have chosen your old nature to live by.  On the other hand … behavior indicates that the Spirit of God is conforming you into the image of Jesus .. that you are walking after the Spirit and not the flesh.  This is what Paul had to say about it ….

(Romans 8:5-8) “Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.”

So, my friend, what is your mind set on .. not sure?  Take a look at the fruit you are bearing.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Don't Deceive Yourself - Your New Life In Christ Is Not Fire And Forget

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

{CHAMBERS} “To become one with Jesus Christ, a person must be willing not only to give up sin, but also to surrender his whole way of looking at things. Being born again by the Spirit of God means that we must first be willing to let go before we can grasp something else. The first thing we must surrender is all of our pretense or deceit. […] Along each step of this process, we will have to give up our claims to our rights to ourselves. Are we willing to surrender our grasp on all that we possess, our desires, and everything else in our lives? Are we ready to be identified with the death of Jesus Christ?[…] If you are faced with the question of whether or not to surrender, make a determination to go on through the crisis, surrendering all that you have and all that you are to Him. And God will then equip you to do all that He requires of you.”

{ELGIN}  After we are born again, as we live our new lives out, we are faced with the temptation to continue in some of our old ways. You know the ones .. the ones that the Spirit says to abandon, but our devotion to them keeps us from giving them up .. we cling to them … perhaps even try to hide them from God, like Adam and Eve thought they could hide behind the bushes when God came to see them.  The problem is, eventually, we see those things as acceptable Christian living .. but what we really done is compromised our faith and hindered our relationship with the One that made being Christian possible to begin with.  The thing that will help you examine your life .. if you are so inclined … is the Word of God and the conviction of the Spirit that results.  But even then, when you see the Truth and are convicted in your heart over your disobedience to that Truth, you are faced with a decision to yield to it, confess and repent, or to continue in it.  The story about the rich young ruler in Jesus is told in Matthew 19, Like 18, and Mark 10.  It must be significant, you think?  Anyway .. this guy had decided what it was that he needed to do to have eternal life, but Jesus said “Sell all you have and give it to the poor.”  In other words .. “you love the treasures of this world more than you love God, give them up.”  Maybe you are not rich … but what is it that you love more than God? Nothing you say? What is it that you are still hanging to that is contrary to the “right you know to do”.

Our faith requires constant care and attention.  There is song [Bless Thou Fount] that goes “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it.  Prone to leave the God I love.  Take my heart Lord, take and seal it.  Seal it for Thy courts above.” In the Army there was a missile that could be fired from a Cobra Helicopter called a TOW missile.  TOW stands for Tube-Launched, Optically Tracked, Wire Guided.  Once you fired the missile you had to track it – guide it – until it hit the target.  Failure to do so meant you would miss the target.  The next generation of missiles called Hellfire missiles were “fire and forget”.  Once you fired them, they followed a laser to the target, you didn’t have to sit and wait for the missile to hit the target. My point?  Our faith is more like the TOW than the Hellfire.  We can’t just launch our faith and then move on with life, our faith … your faith … requires constant attention, like the TOW missile, until we hit our target which is Heaven.  I am not suggesting that you are going to lose your salvation … but you will miss the life God intends … and that should matter to you.  I want to encourage you to think about it and then pray about it and then do something about it. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Finding Joy And Hope In The Midst Of Sorrowful Times

In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. —Romans 8:37 

{CHAMBERS} “Paul was speaking here of the things that might seem likely to separate a saint from the love of God. But the remarkable thing is that nothing can come between the love of God and a saint. The things Paul mentioned in this passage can and do disrupt the close fellowship of our soul with God and separate our natural life from Him. But none of them is able to come between the love of God and the soul of a saint on the spiritual level. […] We are super-victors with a joy that comes from experiencing the very things which look as if they are going to overwhelm us. […] The things we try to avoid and fight against— tribulation, suffering, and persecution— are the very things that produce abundant joy in us. “We are more than conquerors through Him” “in all these things”; not in spite of them, but in the midst of them. A saint doesn’t know the joy of the Lord in spite of tribulation, but because of it. Paul said, “I am exceedingly joyful in all our tribulation” (2 Corinthians 7:4).”

{ELGIN} I was just talking to someone about this very thing yesterday.  Doing what we do, there are opportunities, every day, to talk with people who are struggling under the weight of the misfortunes of life on this planet.  In this particular case, the woman was struggling with the betrayal by people she loves and trusted.  She has forgiven them, but she is heartbroken.  All of this in the midst of being driven from her home because of the hurricane.  ( a slight deviation from the thread of this devotion --- James 1:27 says we are to “visit the widows and orphans in their affliction”  What does that mean?  God’s order is that a man and woman are to become as one.  When the man is gone – through death, but I will extend that to abandonment and divorce – there is an imbalance.  As the Body, we are to come alongside them. Although we can’t replace the man, we can, in some respects,  offset the consequences. )  I could see the “light of Christ” shining from this woman.  So I reminded her of God’s faithfulness … of His provision … of the peace and joy that can be ours in the midst of any storm – natural or relational – if we only will look up and trust in God with all our heart.  There are so many people who share in this woman’s struggle – perhaps you are struggling with a heavy load. (Psalm 34:18) “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

I am reminded of these songs ….  [What A Friend We Have In Jesus] “What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear.  What a privilege to carry, everything to God in prayer.  Do your friends despise forsake you, take it to the Lord in prayer. In His arms He’ll take and shield you, You will find a solace there. Oh, what peace we often forfeit, Oh, what needless pain we bear, All because we do not carry Everything to God in prayer!” [He Will Come And Save You] “Say those who are broken hearted Do not lose your faith The Lord your God will come And with His loving hand When you call on His Name, He will come and save you. He will come and save you.  Lift up your eyes to Him. You will arise again. He will come and save you.”

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

The Danger Of Failing To Manage Your Mind

in much patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses. —2 Corinthians 6:4

{CHAMBERS} “When you have no vision from God, no enthusiasm left in your life, and no one watching and encouraging you, it requires the grace of Almighty God to take the next step in your devotion to Him, in the reading and studying of His Word, in your family life, or in your duty to Him. […] We lose interest and give up when we have no vision, no encouragement, and no improvement, but only experience our everyday life with its trivial tasks. The thing that really testifies for God and for the people of God in the long run is steady perseverance, even when the work cannot be seen by others. And the only way to live an undefeated life is to live looking to God. Ask God to keep the eyes of your spirit open to the risen Christ, and it will be impossible for drudgery to discourage you.”

{ELGIN} What dominates your thinking? If we are indeed born again … what does that mean in the context of how we live out our days on this earth?  I suppose I think about that more as I realize that the majority of my days are behind me.  How can I best bring glory to God and make the best of the days ahead?  A question for every Christian.  After all, we are not guaranteed a long life .. but we area assured that God wants us to have an abundant life.  Jesus said (John 10:10) “I have come that they [that would include us] may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” In other words a life that was consistent with God’s creative intent for us.  A life that is in harmony with Him.  That can only happen if we make our spiritual life a priority. (Philippians 4:8) “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.”

Think about what you think about during the day.  Think about what you read, what you listen to, what you watch on television and in the movies. How much of that matches Philippians 4:8?  What is more likely is that the majority of our day we fill our minds with worldly things.  Do you justify your indulgence of the sinful nature with the idea that if it’s in a movie, it’s OK to watch … if the use of profanity is in a movie that it is OK so long as you don’t use those words yourself?  If you were in a restaurant with your family and someone at the table next to you was spouting profanity .. would you be comfortable with that?  If you are sitting on your sofa watching a movie and the actors are spouting profanity … why are you comfortable with that?  There is no difference, well, maybe one … you really like the movie!  My point … we are immersed in a sinful world and yet we are not to be complicit with the sin that is all around us.  When you say nothing about sin when it happens, you indirectly tell those around you, your children .. other Christians ..  that you think it’s OK.  Whether you intend to or not.  In Revelation, Jesus spoke to the Church of Ephesus accusing her of having left her first Love .. The Church of Laodicea of being lukewarm …. wanting to straddle the spiritual fence.  On foot in heaven and the other in hell.  Be careful.  Examine your life .. your thinking .. what you tolerate .. what offends you.  Is what you know to be sin is not offensive to you … you need to refocus …

I’ll finish with a quick illustration … When our children were small, our daughter had a friend over to the house.  This friend’s family were devote Christians as we thought we were.  They were watching a video on the VCR (Google it if you don’t know what that is) and all of a sudden the friend jumped as if she had been startled.  I asked what the problem was?  I played the video back and a character used the Lord’s name as profanity. To my shame, I didn’t even hear it.  Being in the Army, I had dulled my ears to profanity, hearing it every day.  But I allowed it into my house and exposed my children to it under my care.  I apologized to the little girl and took the video.  We must be on our guard.  Be careful that you don’t justify a tolerance of sin and undermine your faith and the faith of your family and others.  My job is to encourage you to live rightly in the sight of God.  I’ll leave conviction to the Spirit of God. 

Monday, March 5, 2018

All Christians Have A Calling - Our Problem Is Being Faithful To It

…so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus… —Acts 20:24

{CHAMBERS} “Joy comes from seeing the complete fulfillment of the specific purpose for which I was created and born again, not from successfully doing something of my own choosing. The joy our Lord experienced came from doing what the Father sent Him to do. And He says to us, “As the Father has sent Me, I also send you” (John 20:21). […] We each have to find a niche in life  […] “Do you love Me?” Then, “Feed My sheep” (John 21:17). […] The call is to be faithful to the ministry you received when you were in true fellowship with Him. This does not imply that there is a whole series of differing ministries marked out for you. It does mean that you must be sensitive to what God has called you to do, and this may sometimes require ignoring demands for service in other areas.”

{ELGIN}  A lot has been written about the “Call”.  There are many aspects to it.  All Christians are referred to as “the called”. (Romans 1:5-7) “Through him [Jesus] we received grace and apostleship to call all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith for his name’s sake. And you also are among those Gentiles who are called to belong to Jesus Christ. To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be his holy people…” In that sense the calling set us apart from the world and we were “called”, as it were, to belong to God .. adopted .. joint heirs with Christ.  (Philippians 3:14) “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Our calling is something that must be pursued.  We are not supposed to live our lives passively … but are to draw close to God .. by faith .. rejecting the temptation to be conformed to this world (Romans 12:2), but instead being transformed into the image … the reflection of Jesus Christ. 

We are called to follow after Jesus.  (1 Peter 2:21) “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.”  (Romans 8:28-30) “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.”  The Greek term for "church","ekklesia" means "assembly". It's root words, "ek" ("out of") and "kalein" ("call") refer to a special group being called out from the broader community for a purpose, such as Christians being called from worldly life to "life in the Spirit".

If you don’t feel that you have a specific – unique calling to a specific ministry – I would argue that point – since we all have been gifted by the Spirit for the benefit of the body of Christ and testimony to the world – I want to encourage you to embrace that truth that you have been called out of your old life … the norms and values of the culture you live in, to a new life in Christ.  (Galatians 2:20) says that in the context of that calling … you should live in a manner that shows you are dead toward this world but alive toward God.  Living a life of faith.  That is the calling for all of the saints … no matter what role in the body you have been called to … all to the glory of God. So … is your life bringing glory to God? I hope so.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Oh .. How Do You Love Jesus? Is He Your Brother Or Is He Your Lord?

Do you love Me? —John 21:17

{CHAMBERS} “Peter’s response to this piercing question is considerably different from the bold defiance he exhibited only a few days before when he declared, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!” (Matthew 26:35; also see Matthew 26:33-34). Our natural individuality, or our natural self, boldly speaks out and declares its feelings. But the true love within our inner spiritual self can be discovered only by experiencing the hurt of this question of Jesus Christ. Peter loved Jesus in the way any natural man loves a good person. Yet that is nothing but emotional love. It may reach deeply into our natural self, but it never penetrates to the spirit of a person. True love never simply declares itself. Jesus said, “Whoever confesses Me before men [that is, confesses his love by everything he does, not merely by his words], him the Son of Man also will confess before the angels of God” (Luke 12:8). […] When the Lord asks us this question, it is impossible to think and respond properly, because when the Lord speaks directly to us, the pain is too intense. It causes such a tremendous hurt that any part of our life which may be out of line with His will can feel the pain.”

{ELGIN}  Peter was willing to “leave his nets” for Jesus.  That was one level of sacrifice.  But to be identified with Jesus when that identification meant that his life … his security … his acceptance by others would be in danger .. well that was quite another. Peter thought that his following was enough.  But, Jesus demands much more.  To that point everything Peter had done was with Jesus.  When Peter was on his own, he was in trouble.  It was not until Peter received the Spirit of God was he able to do what he thought he could do on his own, but could not .. he failed miserably.  Read Acts 4:8-13.

It is the same for each of us.  We love God, no question.  But, when we are faced with difficulty, and we very often choose to trust in ourselves … we fail miserably.  Just like Peter.  (Galatians 2:20) “I [you] have been crucified with Christ and I [you] no longer live, but Christ lives in me [you]. The life I [you] now live in the body, I [you] live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me [you] and gave himself for me [you].”  We are working with a woman whose life is filled with fear.  She struggles under the load of the adversity she has had and still has.  She tries to control what goes on around her … she really trusts no one … because she has not known anyone who is trust worthy … I point her to the Lord each day I see her.  I can’t change her mind or her heart .. she must decide to trust God, yield to His Spirit, and then, perhaps, she will have discernment so she will know who she can trust.  I would like to think that her struggle represents the exception, but I suspect her way of coping is much more common .. perhaps even prevalent, even among Christians.  What I can do is let her see Jesus in me … to show her the love of Jesus … (1 Corinthians 13:4-8) “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. Love never fails.”  Is there someone in your life that needs to see Jesus?