Tuesday, April 24, 2018

It's Time To Leave The Christian Welfare Culture Behind And Get To Work

Do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you… —Luke 10:20

{CHAMBERS} “In Luke 10:20, Jesus told the disciples not to rejoice in successful service, and yet this seems to be the one thing in which most of us do rejoice. We have a commercialized view— we count how many souls have been saved and sanctified, we thank God, and then we think everything is all right. Yet our work only begins where God’s grace has laid the foundation. Our work is not to save souls, but to disciple them. Salvation and sanctification are the work of God’s sovereign grace, and our work as His disciples is to disciple others’ lives until they are totally yielded to God. […] As workers for God, we must reproduce our own kind spiritually, and those lives will be God’s testimony to us as His workers. God brings us up to a standard of life through His grace, and we are responsible for reproducing that same standard in others. […] Whenever our Lord talked about discipleship, He always prefaced His words with an “if,” never with the forceful or dogmatic statement— “You must.” Discipleship carries with it an option.”

{ELGIN}  Do you consider yourself a “Christian worker” or do you think that only people who are ministry in church or on mission are the workers.  I ask because if you read some of Chambers devotions you might think that they don’t apply to you.  We are all Christian workers with a common ministry.  We have all been given the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:17-20) “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors  That means that we are all workers.  Imagine if you went to a football game to watch and the coach came into the stands and said “Suit up, I am putting you in!” But you just came to watch the game .. to cheer when someone gets slammed to the ground … you had no intention of letting that happen to you!  Being a Christian is not a spectator sport.  It’s messy, demanding, grueling at times even.  But we are not asked to “play the game” on our own.  We have the power of God with us and in us.

I want you to see the bigger picture.  In Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren wrote “It’s not about me.” And it isn’t.  We are not saved to tell the world about ourselves … just to be blessed and happy .. content with our comfort …. we are Christ’s ambassadors .. we represent Him to the world .. but for some of us, we don’t do that so well.  We refuse to get out of our seat … we try to blend in with the crowd around us … we only want to enjoy the “upside” of being a Christian … the benefits and blessings without any responsibility toward God.  It’s like a Christian welfare culture.  Lord bless me but don’t ask me to do anything that would make me feel uncomfortable or endanger my lifestyle or relationships or require me to do something for You.  Think about it .. pray about it .. and repent if you need to … Then get you game face on (which is to say get right spiritually) .. the Coach is putting you in!

Monday, April 23, 2018

Faith Without Works Is Dead But ... Works Without Faith Are Also Dead

My Utmost For His Highest

We are God’s fellow workers… —1 Corinthians 3:9

{CHAMBERS} “Beware of any work for God that causes or allows you to avoid concentrating on Him. A great number of Christian workers worship their work. The only concern of Christian workers should be their concentration on God. This will mean that all the other boundaries of life, whether they are mental, moral, or spiritual limits, are completely free with the freedom God gives His child; that is, a worshiping child, not a wayward one. […] The only responsibility you have is to stay in living constant touch with God, and to see that you allow nothing to hinder your cooperation with Him. The freedom that comes after sanctification is the freedom of a child, and the things that used to hold your life down are gone. […] We have no right to decide where we should be placed, or to have preconceived ideas as to what God is preparing us to do. God engineers everything; and wherever He places us, our one supreme goal should be to pour out our lives in wholehearted devotion to Him in that particular work. “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might…” (Ecclesiastes 9:10).”

{ELGIN} (James 2:14-26)  “….. faith without works is dead.”  That is a pretty common Bible reference.  Good works are a natural product of our faith.  (Ephesians 2:10) “we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  For God’s glory not ours.  The problem so many of us have is that works can supplant our devotion to the One who called us to the work.  So faith has nothing to do with the work we do.  Two people can be passing water to thirsty people.  One is a Christian and one is not.  The thirsty person’s thirst is quenched by both.  You see you can do “good things” and not have the power of God behind what you do.  That is what makes it so easy to abandon God and make what you are doing all your own.  You might still wear a T-shirt or hat or bracelet that makes reference to your faith or to Jesus, but your heart is far from God.  There is no eternal power in what you do.  Like the Pharisees, you have become a “whitewashed tomb filled with dead men’s bones.” I must constantly remind myself that what I do, I do because I am a child of God and I am about my Father’s business.  If I don’t nurture my spiritual life, then my natural life will soon take over.

We are working on a home right now.  It’s really a cool house .. in a rustic sense … we had occasion to pour a cement landing outside the back door.  I was doing some shovel work preparing the area when I felt something solid under the point of my shovel.  I scraped the dirt away to find pavers – a brick path.  As I followed the bricks I uncovered a patio.  Time and neglect had taken over what was once a beautiful garden patio.  It took a great deal of effort, but eventually the patio was restored.  It’s the same with our spiritual lives.  If we neglect the disciplines of our faith, soon God’s handiwork will be covered over.  You might still “do” what you were doing before but you have become like those Paul wrote about in 2 Timothy 3:5, “having a form of godliness but denying its power”.  You see – work, no matter how well intentioned or how good or helpful - without faith is dead.  Each of us must examine what we do and why we do it.  Just as with our salvation – saved by grace through faith and not works – we bring glory to God by faith in our work.

Friday, April 20, 2018

God Is Good All The Time - Even When Things Are Going Badly

All the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen… —2 Corinthians 1:20

{CHAMBERS} “When it is a question of God’s Almighty Spirit, never say, “I can’t.” Never allow the limitation of your own natural ability to enter into the matter. If we have received the Holy Spirit, God expects the work of the Holy Spirit to be exhibited in us.  The servant justified himself, while condemning his lord on every point, as if to say, “Your demand on me is way out of proportion to what you gave to me.” Have we been falsely accusing God by daring to worry after He has said, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you”? (Matthew 6:33). Worrying means exactly what this servant implied— “I know your intent is to leave me unprotected and vulnerable.” A person who is lazy in the natural realm is always critical, saying, “I haven’t had a decent chance,” and someone who is lazy in the spiritual realm is critical of God. Lazy people always strike out at others in an independent way. Never forget that our capacity and capability in spiritual matters is measured by, and based on, the promises of God.”

{ELGIN} When something doesn’t go your way .. .something bad happens, some might say that it was because you don’t have enough faith or maybe some sin you committed.  Did you know that all of the disciples were martyred?  Do you suppose that happened because of their lack of faith or perhaps the consequence of some sin they failed to confess? I think not.  People have been trying to figure out the balance between our new life in Christ and the events that happen or fail to happen in our earthly life.  We tend to put good things on the “God’s Blessings” side and bad things on the “What have I done wrong side”. The fact of the matter is that bad things happen to good people. (That is part of  a book title, by the way)  Dr. James Dobson wrote a book “When God Doesn’t Make Sense”  Both address the whys and wherefores of unpleasant things in life happening to Christians.  I mean, after all, aren’t “All the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen”?  The Bible is like an apple tree … Christians tend to pick the apples that are attractive to them and leave the ones that are not.  The fact is that all of the “apples” are for our consumption.  Our challenge, frankly, is to trust God even when life goes south … someone gets sick or dies … you experience financial loss .. get fired or laid off from work … a relationship with someone you care about is broken, apparently beyond repair … the list is pretty long …

Let me share a challenge Martie and I faced recently.  Martie had what turned out to be a Gallstone in her urethra – Google it if you don’t know what a urethra is – I did.  We thought it was a heart attack.  Well, we had just left work with the Air Force and surrendered our health benefits.  We were in transition to Medicare.  We had part A – hospitalization – but were waiting on documentation from the Air Force so we could get Part B – Out Patient.  I rushed her to the emergency room.  The people were really professional and caring.  I asked if Part A would cover the visit and was told “Yes”.  I later found out that I asked the wrong person – that answer was actually “No”.  They treated her for a heart attack – which it wasn’t.  They did some imaging … thought it was a Gallstone, but saw a shadow on her kidney which they thought might be cancer .. they did some more testing .. finally the radiologist told them that it was a cyst which is not uncommon .. not cancer … can you say “emotional roller coaster”? We left relieved … after a few days, the pain stopped .. apparently the stone had passed into her intestine .. not like a kidney stone.  Then the other shoe dropped .. Medicare notified us that the claim for almost $35,000 was denied. 

What!!!  I mean, hey, we are missionaries Lord!  We have laid our lives down for others … come on!  Lord are You going to let them take our money?  (Just being honest)  Martie came to me crying .. she just had been praying that God would intervene and it looked like we would lose a big chunk of our life’s savings. But as Paul Harvey used to say “And now for the rest of the story”  I took all of the bill notices back to the emergency room to get some answers .. like “Why did you say Part A was OK”  I talked to the Director.  During the course of our conversation, she said that I was only the second Elgin she had ever met.  The other was her first boyfriend.  I thought "Uh-oh … this may not be good!"  Then she said that her maiden name was “Charles” and she was getting goose bumps.  (Elgin Charles - Charles Elgin - get it?) I told her it was the Spirit of God and then she told me she was a Christian.  When I shared about Haiti she told me that her grandfather was from Haiti and so I said something in Creole (Bondye Bon – God is Good) and we conversed briefly in Creole … the RN sitting at the desk was looking on in amazement.  The Director told me to go to the main hospital and speak with accounting … that we would not be charged the full amount … I did and they told me that the hospital portion had been reduced to  $3,000.  But we would have to pay the two Doctors separately – another $3500.  Turns out that the accounting representative was also a Christian and so we had church in the waiting room … got a lot of stares from the people sitting there.  My point … Martie and I had to be reminded that God is in control and even of we had to pay all of the money … God is faithful and would walk with us through it.  We are not on mission so we can derive some benefit from it … we are on mission because God has called us to it and we know that we are right where He wants us to be .. in spite of the storms that rage around us.  He might even ask you to give something us that you thought was "safe".  And if He does ... we will trust Him anyway.  I pray that the same is true for you.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

What To Do About Sin - Don't Hide It - Confide It And Be Restored

Joab had defected to Adonijah, though he had not defected to Absalom. —1 Kings 2:28

CHAMBERS} “Joab withstood the greatest test of his life, remaining absolutely loyal to David by not turning to follow after the fascinating and ambitious Absalom. Yet toward the end of his life he turned to follow after the weak and cowardly Adonijah. Always remain alert to the fact that where one person has turned back is exactly where anyone may be tempted to turn back (see 1 Corinthians 10:11-13). You may have just victoriously gone through a great crisis, but now be alert about the things that may appear to be the least likely to tempt you. Beware of thinking that the areas of your life where you have experienced victory in the past are now the least likely to cause you to stumble and fall. We are apt to say, “It is not at all likely that having been through the greatest crisis of my life I would now turn back to the things of the world.” Do not try to predict where the temptation will come; it is the least likely thing that is the real danger. It is in the aftermath of a great spiritual event that the least likely things begin to have an effect. They may not be forceful and dominant, but they are there. And if you are not careful to be forewarned, they will trip you. You have remained true to God under great and intense trials— now beware of the undercurrent. Do not be abnormally examining your inner self, looking forward with dread, but stay alert; keep your memory sharp before God. Unguarded strength is actually a double weakness, because that is where the least likely temptations will be effective in sapping strength. The Bible characters stumbled over their strong points, never their weak ones. “…kept by the power of God…”— that is the only safety. (1 Peter 1:5).”

{ELGIN}  What is it about temptation and sin … why is it that we continue to struggle with it?  Here is what I think.  The Bible speaks about the god of this age or this world (1 Corinthians 4:4)  His name is Satan.  He has dominion over this world which is why he could offer it to Jesus during Jesus’ temptation in the desert (Matthew 4:8-9) “Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. ‘All this I will give you,’ he said, ‘if you will bow down and worship me.’”  As Christians we are all tempted to sin – in other words to choose to revert to our old nature and yield to the god of this world, which means we abandon our devotion to the God of heaven.  Listen .. you only have two choices … yield to Satan or yield to God … it is impossible to not do one or the other .. no matter how much you want it to be possible.  If you think that you can reject God and reject Satan at the same time … to be your own person .. you are deceiving yourself.

So, as a Christian, when you yield yourself to sin you must be restored (1 John 1:8-10) “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.”  Don’t imagine that you can get a “pass” because you have only sinned in some small way or perhaps in a big way.  You might choose to ignore sin in your life and imagine that you can brush it off and you will be OK spiritually.  Not so.  In Psalm 51 David pleaded with God to not reject him but to forgive him.  God can have nothing to do with sin .. He is holy … and we are called to be holy like Him.  You can’t do live your new life without Him.  “Without Him I could do nothing.  Without Him I’d surely fail.  Without Him life would be hopeless.  Like a ship without a sail. … without Him (Jesus) how lost I would be”  Don’t hide it . .confide it and find restoration.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Are You Really Ready To Serve - No Matter What Or Where Or To Whom?

God called to him….And he said, "Here I am." —Exodus 3:4

{CHAMBERS} “When God speaks, many of us are like people in a fog, and we give no answer. Moses’ reply to God revealed that he knew where he was and that he was ready. Readiness means having a right relationship to God and having the knowledge of where we are. We are so busy telling God where we would like to go. Yet the man or woman who is ready for God and His work is the one who receives the prize when the summons comes. […] Readiness for God means that we are prepared to do the smallest thing or the largest thing— it makes no difference. It means we have no choice in what we want to do, but that whatever God’s plans may be, we are there and ready. […] Jesus Christ expects to do with us just as His Father did with Him. He can put us wherever He wants, in pleasant duties or in menial ones, because our union with Him is the same as His union with the Father. “…that they may be one just as We are one…” (John 17:22). […] A ready person never needs to get ready— he is ready. Think of the time we waste trying to get ready once God has called!”

{ELGIN}  Matthew 25:1-13 is the parable of the 10 virgins – 5 were ready and 5 were not. My focus here is on readiness and preparation.  Are you ready for the moment when Jesus shows up?  Are you ready to go with Him, wherever that might lead?  Is it OK if your plans are upset and what you hoped would happen doesn’t and what you hoped wouldn’t happen, does?  Is it OK if God has a purpose and mission for you that makes you uncomfortable and requires trust in Him requiring you to act on faith and not your own devices?  Is It? I hope so because that is the life that God has for you.  That is not to say that you cannot choose another way .. you can .. you have a free will .. even though your eternal security has been bought with the blood of the lamb … you can still say “no .. I won’t go!”  Proverbs 16:9 says that men make plans in their hearts, but God orders their steps.  Are you willing to submit to that order?  It will test whether you are truly submitted to the will of God or merely fascinated with the idea of being submitted to the will of God.  We can say “Wherever He leads I’ll go, I’ll follow my Christ who loves me so … “ Yet when the time comes we say “I shall not be moved!”  I’m not ready … I must take care of things that God apparently has forgotten about .. or perhaps … those people make me feel uncomfortable .. God knows I don’t want to be around them … I will wait for another opportunity … by the way .. most likely that opportunity will never come … but that may be OK with you … it is with many of us.

Look, here is the bottom line to our Christian life.  If we are to be conformed to the image of Jesus .. and we are … then we are going to experience unpleasant things and be around people who makes us uncomfortable … it’s the sick who need a physician … the lost who need the hear the Gospel.

Luke 18:9-14  “To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

There are none righteous, no not one. (Romans 3:10) If you think of yourself as righteous, please don’t confuse the righteousness of Jesus as being your own.  We all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)

Who do you Identify with in the parable … the tax collector may seem like the acceptable “Christian” answer … but what does your life reveal?  You may find that you need to repent.  Friend, get ready for God to come calling … no matter what He calls you to do … He is the potter and you are the clay …. You’re not certain you will it’s God?  That is another devotion for another time.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The Christian's Key To Success - Keeping Your Focus On Jesus

When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment…and plunged into the sea. —John 21:7

{CHAMBERS} “Have you ever had a crisis in your life in which you deliberately, earnestly, and recklessly abandoned everything? It is a crisis of the will. You may come to that point many times externally, but it will amount to nothing. The true deep crisis of abandonment, or total surrender, is reached internally, not externally. The giving up of only external things may actually be an indication of your being in total bondage.  Have you deliberately committed your will to Jesus Christ? It is a transaction of the will, not of emotion; any positive emotion that results is simply a superficial blessing arising out of the transaction. If you focus your attention on the emotion, you will never make the transaction.”

{ELGIN} In the study, Experiencing God, Dr. Blackaby calls what Oswald Chambers is describing as a “crisis of belief”.  You “hear” God’s voice and you are faced with a decision of the will.  Obey or not obey.  As Dr. Blackaby said, it is not a question of knowing what God has said, it is a question of exercising your will to obey.  The key is your focus.  If you focus on Him and not the waves, like Peter failed to do, no matter what is going on around you, or even to you, you will have confidence and peace.  “It’s not by power nor by might but by My Spirit says the Lord God of Hosts.” (Zechariah 4:6)  But .. that power will only be realized in the midst of your acting by faith.  Notice that Peter began to sink in the presence of the Lord. (Matthew 14:22-33)  The reason .. Peter had lost his focus and his faith failed … he started trusting in himself and there was no way he could do what he was doing … walking on water … And so it is for us. 

God calls us to do what is not humanly possible …. Obeying the Word of God is not humanly possible .. and so God sent His Son, they called Him Jesus … Once saved man needed the ability to relate spiritually to God .. not humanly possible so God sent His Spirit to dwell in each Believer … and what is our part?  Trust and obedience … walking by faith … submitted to the Spirit of God’s leading.  Keeping our eyes on and faith in Jesus. That is the beginning and the ending of our new lives of faith. It’s just that simple … but so easy to look elsewhere … just ask Peter.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Finding The Strength To Persevere, Even After The Glory Fades

While you have the light, believe in the light… —John 12:36

{CHAMBERS} “We all have moments when we feel better than ever before, and we say, “I feel fit for anything; if only I could always be like this!” We are not meant to be. […] we must bring our everyday life up to the standard revealed to us on the mountaintop when we were there. […] If, during a prayer meeting, God shows you something to do, don’t say, “I’ll do it”— just do it! […] We must learn to live in the ordinary “gray” day according to what we saw on the mountain.[…] Burn your bridges behind you, and stand committed to God by an act of your own will.”

{ELGIN} A question is posed in the Focus On The Family seminar – The Truth Project.  “Do you believe that what you believe is really – real?”  A piercing question, no?  It gets to the core of the problem with most of us.  We like the idea of living a sanctified life .. one that endures no matter what storm we might find ourselves in, and yet, when we feel the boat rocking .. hear the wind howling .. and the salt spray in our faces … we shrink back … just like the disciples … (Matthew 8:23-27) “And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?””

That is what makes being on the mountain so great for so many … you sense the presence of God … that fear you felt in the storm is gone … it is a glorious time … but like Peter .. even though you want to stay on the mountain and worship, you were made for the valleys.  Your purpose is to walk in the valley … not to be a spark on the mountain top but to be a light in the dark valley … even in .. especially in … the storms of life.  God does not want to spare you from trouble .. He wants to use you in the midst of it.  It might mean that you will lose something … but even in that loss, God will not abandon you.  When Moses came off of the mountain, his face shone (Exodus 34:29-35) but eventually that glory faded.  The same for us.  You may experience times of great spiritual encouragement, but those times are like seasoning on food.  They enhance the flavor, but the seasoning is not what sustains and nourishes you.  As Christians we are sustained and nourished by faith through obedience, and all of that for and to the glory of God.

Friday, April 13, 2018

What To Do When You Are Faced With The Impossible

Cast your burden on the Lord… —Psalm 55:22

{CHAMBERS} “We must recognize the difference between burdens that are right for us to bear and burdens that are wrong. We should never bear the burdens of sin or doubt, but there are some burdens placed on us by God which He does not intend to lift off. […] Many servants set out to serve God with great courage and with the right motives. But with no intimate fellowship with Jesus Christ, they are soon defeated. They do not know what to do with their burden, and it produces weariness in their lives. Others will see this and say, “What a sad end to something that had such a great beginning!” […] Commit to God whatever burden He has placed on you. Don’t just cast it aside, but put it over onto Him and place yourself there with it. You will see that your burden is then lightened by the sense of companionship. But you should never try to separate yourself from your burden.”

{ELGIN}  (1 Peter 5:7) “Cast all your cares on Him because He cares for you.”  Soon after Martie and I accepted Christ, she bought a coffee cup for me with that scripture reference on it.  I don’t know what has become of the cup, but that scripture was planted in my heart.  When we face trouble in our lives, the trouble does not necessarily vanish, but its weight on our hearts is lightened, because God is faithful.  Whether it’s Daniel in the lion’s den (Daniel 6:1-28), the three men staring into a fiery furnace (Daniel 3:1-30), or learning that you have an unexpected bill with no way to pay it, or some illness befalls you or someone close to you or perhaps God gives you a mission that is beyond your ability.  The answer is the same .. trust God .. put your faith in Him .. like the three young men said .. “our God will save us, but even if He doesn’t, we will not put our trust in anyone else.” (paraphrased by me)  Fear will enter in … the weight of the problem will be too much for you to bear if you trust in yourself …

Jesus said (Matthew 11:28-30) “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” What is it that is weighing heavy on your heart today?  Do you feel the breath of the lion on your neck?  Do you feel the heat of the furnace on your face?  Whatever your burden, take it to the Lord by faith.  As a Christian .. it is all about faith … and where you put it.  Do it today! Do it now!

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Living Every Day By The Spirit - The Key To The Successful Christian Life

Death no longer has dominion over Him.…the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God… —Romans 6:9-11

{CHAMBERS} “Eternal life is not a gift from God; eternal life is the gift of God. The energy and the power which was so very evident in Jesus will be exhibited in us by an act of the absolute sovereign grace of God, once we have made that complete and effective decision about sin. “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you…” (Acts 1:8)— not power as a gift from the Holy Spirit; the power is the Holy Spirit, not something that He gives us. The life that was in Jesus becomes ours because of His Cross, once we make the decision to be identified with Him. If it is difficult to get right with God, it is because we refuse to make this moral decision about sin. […] Even the weakest saint can experience the power of the deity of the Son of God, when he is willing to “let go.” […] Then Jesus will have complete and effective dominion in us, and people will take notice that we have been with Him.”

{ELGIN} (Acts 4:13) “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.”  The difference in Peter and John was that they had the Spirit of God in them.  Peter had just been with Jesus when Peter denied Jesus.  Peter was operating out of his flesh – his old nature when that happened.  But in Acts, they were speaking with power and wisdom that could not be explained except that these men had been with Jesus.  They reflected Jesus in their words and with the authority by which they spoke.  It is the same with us.  The power of our new life is totally, 100%, dependent upon the power of the Holy Spirit in us.  Imagine that you are driving down the road and someone reached over and turns the ignition key to the off position.  The engine stops .. the power steering is gone .. the car is unresponsive – dead if you will.  Well, that is how it is when we attempt to live the Christian life on our terms … without the Holy Spirit. 

(1 Thessalonians 5:19) “Do not quench the Spirit” Like turning the key to off, we can disregard the Holy Spirit … trust in ourselves … and fail.  Are you having trouble being the Christian you know you should be?  Most probably it is because you are not walking in the power of your new nature. (Galatians 5:16-18) “So I [Paul] say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” And that, my friend, is the truth!

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

The Problem With Straddling The Spiritual Fence - It Is Impossible

If we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection… —Romans 6:5

{CHAMBERS} “The proof that I have experienced crucifixion with Jesus is that I have a definite likeness to Him. The Spirit of Jesus entering me rearranges my personal life before God. The resurrection of Jesus has given Him the authority to give the life of God to me, and the experiences of my life must now be built on the foundation of His life. I can have the resurrection life of Jesus here and now, and it will exhibit itself through holiness.  The idea all through the apostle Paul’s writings is that after the decision to be identified with Jesus in His death has been made, the resurrection life of Jesus penetrates every bit of my human nature. It takes the omnipotence of God— His complete and effective divinity— to live the life of the Son of God in human flesh. […] My part is to walk in the light and to obey all that He [the Holy Spirit] reveals to me. Once I have made that important decision about sin, it is easy to “reckon” that I am actually “dead indeed to sin,” because I find the life of Jesus in me all the time (Romans 6:11). […]  God puts the holiness of His Son into me, and I belong to a new spiritual order.”

{ELGIN}  I think it’s odd that there is a movement, at least in the Church in the United States, to de-emphasize the reality of sin and focus on the earthly benefits of being a Christian … especially in the U.S.  But if you read the Bible carefully, with an open heart, you will be reminded that Jesus came to defeat Sin and death .. to restore mankind to a right relationship with the Father … to make it possible for sinners to become holy and live lives that bring glory to the Father.  Pastor Rick Warren said “God is more concerned with our character than our comfort”, yet most Christians that I know are more concerned with their comfort than their character.  So often, in order to enjoy the comforts of this world, we must compromise godly character. (1 John 2:15-17) “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” 

How do you know if you love the world?  Oh, you know because the Spirit of God convicts us of sin and sin is all about the world and our old nature, that craves the things of this world. (Matthew 6:24) “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”  Those are Jesus’ words.  You can’t straddle the fence.  You are either standing on one side or the other.  It’s self-deception to believe you can do both.  Jesus said you can’t I would believe Him if I were you.  How does He feel about Christians who live that life?  This is what He said to the Church of Laodicea  (Revelation 3:16) “So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.” You can’t have it both ways … Do you need to make some adjustments in your life?  All of us do, I think.  Perhaps you should talk to God about it and then repent.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

How To Live Your Life Free From Sin

…our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. —Romans 6:6

{CHAMBERS} “Have you made the following decision about sin—that it must be completely killed in you? It takes a long time to come to the point of making this complete and effective decision about sin. It is, however, the greatest moment in your life once you decide that sin must die in you– not simply be restrained, suppressed, or counteracted, but crucified— just as Jesus Christ died for the sin of the world. No one can bring anyone else to this decision. […] Pull yourself up, take some time alone with God, and make this important decision, saying, “Lord, identify me with Your death until I know that sin is dead in me.” Make the moral decision that sin in you must be put to death.[…] Are you prepared to let the Spirit of God search you until you know what the level and nature of sin is in your life— to see the very things that struggle against God’s Spirit in you? If so, will you then agree with God’s verdict on the nature of sin— that it should be identified with the death of Jesus? You cannot “reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin” (Romans 6:11) unless you have radically dealt with the issue of your will before God.[…] “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me…” (Galatians 2:20).

{ELGIN}  There is a distinction concerning sin which escapes many of us.  We can recognize that sin is bad.  We acknowledge that Jesus has saved us from the penalty of sin.  But where we fail is that we continue to accommodate our sin nature .. we make excuses for it .. make allowances for it .. even call what is sin .. not to be sin .. at least for us.  We think that we are the captains of our own ships .. masters of our bodies and minds … when, in fact, we are slaves on those ships … in bondage to the god of this world.  To continue the ship analogy  little further … You were once a slave on the “sin-ship” bound in chains … forced to man an oar.  But Jesus broke those chains through His sacrifice and by your faith, yet you continue to man the oars .. even though you are no longer bound .. you are free to leave the ship.  I read once about a farmer who put his pigs in a pen with an electric fence.  After a period of time, he took the fence down, but the pigs refused to cross where the fence had been.  Even though they were freed from their confinement … they remained.  That is how it is with us and the sin-life.

You are free.  (John 8:34-36)  “Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed”  To actually live in the truth requires spiritual discipline.  You cannot do it using your own will-power or should I say “won’t-power”.  Like Paul said in Romans 7, it takes Jesus to save you from “this body of death.”  Don’t be satisfied … don’t accommodate any sin in your life.  Stop making excuses for it .. your sin is your sin .. don’t blame other people .. Don’t pretend like you don’t because everyone knows you do.  Instead … take it to the Lord and yield to the leading of the Spirit … You are not God and you are not the Holy Spirit … you are a sinner saved by grace … Praise God for that … and live your life in such a way that it brings glory to God and points people to Jesus.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Seeing Jesus Is Much More Than Accepting Jesus

After that, He appeared in another form to two of them… —Mark 16:12

{CHAMBERS} “Being saved and seeing Jesus are not the same thing. Many people who have never seen Jesus have received and share in God’s grace. But once you have seen Him, you can never be the same. Other things will not have the appeal they did before. You should always recognize the difference between what you see Jesus to be and what He has done for you. If you see only what He has done for you, your God is not big enough. […] Have you seen Jesus? If so, you will want others to see Him too. “And they went and told it to the rest, but they did not believe them either” (Mark 16:13). When you see Him, you must tell, even if they don’t believe. O could I tell, you surely would believe it! O could I only say what I have seen! How should I tell or how can you receive it, How, till He bringeth you where I have been?”

{ELGIN} When I read this morning’s My Utmost devotion I was reminded of something my “dad” used to say.  “That we would see Jesus.”   (John 12:20-23) “Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the festival. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.” Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus. Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.”  That was his heart to know more about Jesus.  I used quotes around “dad” because the man I am referring to is, by law, my step father, Don Pierson.  But he was the most influential on my life – even though he asked that I not call him dad out of deference to my biological father. 

(Allow me to step out of this devotion for a moment.  I will be 68 this year and the impact of my parents divorce when I was but 2 years old, still rests on my heart.  Don’t believe for a minute that the “kids will be OK”  God hates divorce for a reason.  It is not merely a violation of trust between a man and woman before God, it has a ripple effect for generations through generations.  It is forgivable but there are consequences .. don’t deceive yourself so you can get what you want … (Malachi 2:16) “For the Lord God of Israel says That He hates divorce, For it covers one’s garment with violence,” Says the Lord of hosts. “Therefore take heed to your spirit, That you do not deal treacherously.”)

Back to the point … I thought it was interesting that John does not write that Jesus welcomed the Greek proselytes (gentiles who converted to Judaism) but instead said that it was time to be glorified .. to do what the Father had sent Him to do .. offer Himself as a sacrifice for Sin and defeat eternal death – separation from God and bring eternal life.  (1 John 5:10-12) “He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son. And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.” To see Jesus is to embrace Him and our life in Him.  That is so much more than salvation, baptism, and going to church.  It is loving God with your whole heart and being “unblemished” by  the world.  That is where so many of us struggle.  Letting go of our love for worldly things.  It’s OK to have them but it’s not OK to love them more than God. What are you clinging to? If you want to see Jesus, and you should, then you must leave your nets, pick up your cross and follow Him.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Who Do You Say ... Who Do You Believe .... That Jesus Is?

…who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree… —1 Peter 2:24

{CHAMBERS} “The Cross of Christ is the revealed truth of God’s judgment on sin. […] Jesus Christ … made it possible for the entire human race to be brought back into a right-standing relationship with God. […] Beware of separating “God was manifested in the flesh…” from “…He made Him…to be sin for us…” (1 Timothy 3:16 ; 2 Corinthians 5:21). […] The Cross is the central event in time and eternity, and the answer to all the problems of both[…] The heart of salvation is the Cross of Christ. The reason salvation is so easy to obtain is that it cost God so much.”

{ELGIN} (Matthew 16:13-17) “When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.”

All spiritual truth is a revelation from heaven through God’s Word and by the Holy Spirit.  When Peter declared that Jesus was the Christ – the Messiah – the anointed One, Jesus said that man cannot know that unless the Father reveals it to him.  When you first believed … it was a spiritual event … a kingdom revelation … a gift of God.  (Ephesians 2:8-10) “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—  not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” It is an amazing thing … and we have to work very hard to not trivialize it after it happens.  What I mean by that is this.  Your salvation has eternal significance and the fact that you are a child of God should dominate every aspect of the earthly life you have remaining.  The chief end of man is to “glorify God and enjoy Him forever”  You are living in forever … it is not some time in the future .. after you die.  I want to encourage you to embrace that truth and to understand the significance of who you are in Christ.  And that knowledge should impact how you live your earthly life ... what you do and what you don't do. .. what you say and don't say .. what you love and don't love ... what you want and don't want.  The importance of this will not be revealed to you by flesh and blood but by our Father in heaven.  But only if you are seeking Him out … living for Him and not yourself.  Think about it … and listen for God to speak.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Embracing The Reality Of Your Salvation - It Starts And Ends With Jesus

Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to the disciples…."Stay here and watch with Me." —Matthew 26:36, 38

{CHAMBERS} “We can never fully comprehend Christ’s agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, but at least we don’t have to misunderstand it. It is the agony of God and man in one Person, coming face to face with sin. We cannot learn about Gethsemane through personal experience. Gethsemane and Calvary represent something totally unique— they are the gateway into life for us. It was not death on the cross that Jesus agonized over in Gethsemane. In fact, He stated very emphatically that He came with the purpose of dying. His concern here was that He might not get through this struggle as the Son of Man. […] Read the record of His agony in Gethsemane in light of His earlier wilderness temptation— “…the devil…departed from Him until an opportune time” (Luke 4:13). In Gethsemane, Satan came back and was overthrown again. Satan’s final assault against our Lord as the Son of Man was in Gethsemane. The agony in Gethsemane was the agony of the Son of God in fulfilling His destiny as the Savior of the world. […] Because of what the Son of Man went through, every human being has been provided with a way of access into the very presence of God.”

{ELGIN} (Hebrews 9:11-15)  “But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.”

There is a lot of focus on the physical pain the Lord endured when He was crucified, sometimes I think perhaps too much.  John 15:13 says that there is no greater love than to lay your life down for others.  Jesus “stepped out of heaven” as the Son of God to offer himself as the “Lamb without spot or blemish”, an eternal sacrifice, for mankind.  Certainly the crucifixion was physical, but it was so much more than that.  Salvation is much more than getting a ticket to heaven.  From the time you say “yes Lord”, you are adopted into the family of God.  If you are a Christian, you are a child of God, today and forever.  Why would you not be encouraged to be separate from the world .. to not love the things it offers … to abandon your life of sin and self-gratification .. to not worry about what you will wear or eat? In Romans 12 Paul encourages us to offer ourselves as living sacrifices .. not conformed to this world but transformed.  For many Christians, that seems impossible and perhaps not even preferable. Watch the news tonight to get a glimpse of how well the world is doing without God.

(Luke 12:22-31)  “Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? “Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.”

Embrace the reality of your salvation – both the spiritual and the physical.  “Turn your eyes upon Jesus.  Look full in His wonderful face.  And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.”

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

What To Do When Your Spiritual Life Is Disordered And Unfocused

Indeed the hour is coming…that you will be scattered… —John 16:32

{CHAMBERS} “Jesus was not rebuking the disciples in this passage. Their faith was real, but it was disordered and unfocused, and was not at work in the important realities of life. The disciples were scattered to their own concerns and they had interests apart from Jesus Christ. After we have the perfect relationship with God, through the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, our faith must be exercised in the realities of everyday life. […] … our faith is sustained only by feelings and by blessings. But once we get there, no matter where God may place us or what inner emptiness we experience, we can praise God that all is well. That is what is meant by faith being exercised in the realities of life. […]  Are we prepared to let God do what He wants with us? […] Until Jesus Christ is truly our Lord, we each have goals of our own which we serve.”

{ELGIN} A disordered and unfocused spiritual life.  That is more normal than we would like to think.  One of the things I see missing in the Church today is discipleship. People hungry to know more about God .. more interested in fellowship .. hanging out and having a good time … feeling good .. than drawing close to Jesus.  This is not a new problem.  Going back a few years, about 1980, Martie and I had just arrived in Savannah, GA – Hunter Army Airfield.  Our first assignment out of flight school.  We got connected to a local church right away.  Well, I was invited to a men’s gathering .. a super bowl party. I confess that I have never been passionate about football, but saw it as an opportunity to get to know the men.  As the evening wore on, I started talking about faith and Jesus, to which one of the men replied “Hey we came to watch football, not talk about Jesus!”  “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45)  I had misunderstood the purpose of the gathering.  It was not because of our love for Jesus, but our love for football.  Obviously I have not forgotten that lesson.  (I found another group of men, BTW.) 

(Proverbs 27:17) “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”  You cannot sharpen a steel blade using clay.  That is what I was trying to do at that gathering.  If you don’t seek out like-hearted people … people who have put Jesus first … people who have made growing in their faith  a priority, you should not expect to grow in your faith.  A couple more verses to cement the point.  “Bad company corrupts good character.” (1 Corinthians 15:33) People often compromise their faith to gain acceptance from friends, family, and co-workers.  “A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:12) You cannot grow on your own .. you need the influence of other Christians in your life.  Dr. Howard Hendricks spoke at a Promise Keepers conference in 1993.  He said we all need a Timothy, someone into whose life we can build, a Barnabas – someone who will keep us spiritually accountable, and a Paul – someone who is building into our life.  Do you have those people in your life?  You need to more than you might think.  Pray about it ands then step into it when God brings those people into your life. If you really care about your faith .. you won't regret it.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Understanding What Motivates You To Do Or Not Do What You Do Or Don't Do - When It Comes To Your Faith

{CHAMBERS} 503 Service Unavailable - No server is available to handle this request

{ELGIN} Normally I would have an excerpt from Oswald Chambers' My Utmost For His Highest as a lead-in to my daily devotional thoughts.  Well - today I got a "503 Service Unavailable - No server is available to handle this request" when I tried to connect to that website.  What to do!  There are three, no four, sources of inspiration for this BLOG, the Word of God, Oswald Chambers, my interchange with other people, and the prompting of the Holy Spirit. The only two of the four that are indispensable are the Word of God and the Holy Spirit. The only one that is dependent upon technology is the My Utmost Website.

That leads me to the point for this morning.  What is it that determines how committed you are to doing what you know you should do, spiritually?  How easily are you deterred or, put another way, how easily do you give up when you meet resistance?  The answer is that it depends upon how passionate you are about your faith.  Not how passionate you think you are or your say you are, but what evidence is there in your life that demonstrates that passion?  I had to face that question this morning.  I thought – “Hmm – no internet – guess I can’t do a devotion this morning.” But then the other three motivations came to my mind.  Then I thought “hmmm- guess I can do a devotion – OK Lord, What do you want me to say?

Not reading the Bible, not going gathering together with other Believers, not doing what God as clearly directed you to do … it’s really easy to not do.  You can find all kinds of reasons … good reasons … for not-doing.  You don’t have time to read the Bible … but you do have time to watch your favorite TV program.  Maybe you don’t like the worship music or the pastor preached past the time your had allotted for God on Sunday morning and you were late getting to your favorite restaurant and had to wait for a table.  You really don’t want to spend the money to do what God prompted you to do .. God will understand .. you are trying to be a good steward.  It’s so easy to say no, not now, can’t do it, can’t afford it.  OK – here it comes – (James 4:17) “If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.

That verse takes what seems to be a trivial, optional decision to sin.  You know that the word “sin” originates from the idea of missing the mark.  The bottom line is that our flesh – our old nature – has convinced us that we don’t need to do whatever for whatever reason – and we yield to it.  And we sin.  That was the choice I faced this morning.  That is the choice we all face every day.  Choose God or choose me.  It started in the Garden and persists today and will persist until Jesus returns – Lord come quickly! So what to do.  Well – to quote a song – “Turn your eyes upon Jesus.  Look full in His wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.”  (I guess I did have something to say after all.)

Monday, April 2, 2018

Finding A Cure For NotReadingTheBibleitis? But Why Is The Pill So Hard To Swallow?

…the Lord Jesus…has sent me that you may receive your sight… —Acts 9:17

{CHAMBERS} “When Paul received his sight, he also received spiritual insight into the Person of Jesus Christ. His entire life and preaching from that point on were totally consumed with nothing but Jesus Christ— “For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). Paul never again allowed anything to attract and hold the attention of his mind and soul except the face of Jesus Christ. We must learn to maintain a strong degree of character in our lives, even to the level that has been revealed in our vision of Jesus Christ. The lasting characteristic of a spiritual man is the ability to understand correctly the meaning of the Lord Jesus Christ in his life, and the ability to explain the purposes of God to others. The overruling passion of his life is Jesus Christ. Whenever you see this quality in a person, you get the feeling that he is truly a man after God’s own heart (see Acts 13:22). Never allow anything to divert you from your insight into Jesus Christ. It is the true test of whether you are spiritual or not. To be unspiritual means that other things have a growing fascination for you. Since mine eyes have looked on Jesus, I’ve lost sight of all beside, So enchained my spirit’s vision, Gazing on the Crucified.”

{ELGIN} I was talking to a friend of ours just yesterday about a related topic.  She told me how she longed to be in a Bible study.  I resisted the urge to say “Ok I will start one!”.  Just because you can does not mean you should.  (A bible study should spring from the prompting of the Spirit and not simply your desire to help people.  The challenge is to know the difference .. but that will have to wait for another time.)  She also wanted to understand what the Nicene council did and why certain writings were excluded from the Bible as we know it.  After I thought about our conversation, and read Chamber’s devotion this morning, I concluded that although those things are nice to know, it is more important to know more about Jesus.  Our friend is not questioning His deity .. something the Nicene council addressed by the way … but she is concerned about things that really have no bearing on her spiritual growth.  Her questions are not unreasonable … but, in my opinion, are not practical.  Our spiritual understanding is rooted in the presence of the unquenched – Spirit in our lives.  Most Christians, my opinion again, are Biblically illiterate.  They are not students of the scriptures .. but hearers mostly .. from the radio, TV  and Sunday morning on the big screens.  I am referring primarily to Christians in the U.S. of A.  Listen, “To whom much is given, much is required.” (Luke 12:48)  In other countries, many Christians will never hold a Bible in their hands.  But for us … we are Bible-poor … having more than one in our homes.  The problem is a Bible sitting on a shelf is of little value except to impress our friends. It must be read to have its intended affect.  My friend does not need to read about the Bible, she needs to read the Bible.  It is a common malady that plagues many if not most Christians in the US.  NotReadingTheBibleitis.  If you want to know more about Jesus, study your Bible.  If you want to grow in your faith, study your Bible.  If you want to know how to live, study your Bible. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man [or woman] of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”  (2 Timothy 3:16-17)