Friday, September 21, 2018

How To Survive When You Are Ambushed By Anger

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, September 20, 2018

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

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

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

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

Hmmm.  How are you going to squeeze anger into that verse? Here is another for icing on the cake. (James 1:2-3)  Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” Letting the emotion of anger have its way is a temptation -  a fierce temptation – that will spring on you without notice – like an ambush.  The only way you will “survive” an ambush is if you fight your way through it.  To do that you must have prepared yourself for such an occasion beforehand.  How you do that I will defer for another devotion. CHARLEY

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Offering God More Than A Second Hand Devotion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

What To Do When You Can’t Get Along With Someone

Is there someone who just does not like you? There can be a number of reasons for the conflict.  May be something you did or didn’t do. May be personality, or something more nefarious like race or geographic origin – are you’re a Yankee or not from Texas? So what are you supposed to do Christian?  (Romans 12:18) “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.  Have you ever said “that is their problem”?  Just distanced yourself from the issue.  Like an ostrich with its head in the sand.  The problem does not go away, you just don’t have to look at it.  (Hebrews 12:14) “Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” You must make the effort to be reconciled.  Seek to be at peace with them.  And if you are rebuffed in your attempt?  You move on with your life.  Broken relationships are not like broken bones. They may not mend, ever.  You might wish they would, but the fact is that a restored relationship is dependent upon both parties.  

Don’t allow bitterness to take root, but let forgiveness abound instead.  Peter asked Jesus (Matthew 18:21-22) “Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.” Jesus proceeded to tell the parable about the unforgiving servant.  He had been forgiven much but refused to forgive others in the same way.  This isn’t about a restored relationship but a right heart attitude.  Restoration may happen, but it is not a pre-requisite for forgiveness.  Repentance is a necessary for restoration.  Without repentance, the relationship will remain broken, but not on your account.  And be careful, receiving someone when they have not repented is a sure-fire recipe for more brokenness.  Like the Father of the prodigal son – you may be waiting – watching – hoping that the relationship will be restored on day.  Your heart may hurt – especially if it involves a family member.  Turn to the Father – the God of all comfort. And let the love of God, the fruit of the Spirit rule in your heart.

(1 Corinthians 13:4-8) “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” CHARLEY

Monday, September 17, 2018

The Only One, True Religion – Are You Part Of It?

Just Saturday night Martie and I were asked to attend a going away for a news reporter that has been partnering with us on a home rebuild.  We really weren’t part of the festivities except to be recognized for our work, or for the loss in the case of the home owners represented.  We were more like trophies on a shelf.  Not a criticism, it was understandable.  It was not about us but about the wonderful news reporter being honored by her co-workers. But that is not the point.

One of the home owners has advanced ALS.  He is bound to a wheel chair and cannot move his limbs – just his thumb to move the joystick on the arm of the wheel chair.  But he also has a very sharp mind.  We had a great conversation.  He must speak through a microphone attached to a small speaker.  He was obviously Catholic given the crucifix around his neck and the Catholic literature on the tray of his wheel chair.  I watch body language very closely when I talk to people.  When I told him that Martie was raised in the Catholic church and we were married in a Catholic church but we were not Catholic – his eyes widened.  In cards they call that a “tell”.  We talked more about spiritual matters as the evening progressed. But I could tell he was thinking we should be Catholic – not merely Christians.  

So to the point of today’s devotion.  How do you know which religion or which denomination is the right one?  There are denominations that believe unless you are baptized by immersion in water you are not a Christian.  Some believe that if you don’t’ speak in tongues – you are not a Christian.  Others have other specific rituals that you must follow or abide by in order to be confident that you are bound for heaven.  Some believe that the religion doesn’t matter, that there is more than one way to go to heaven.  It can be very confusing.

I think it is pretty simple, actually.  Uncomplicated.  Look to the Bible and you can find the answer.  Let’s begin with Jesus talking to a Pharisee named Nicodemus.  Of course Nicodemus was a Jew and believed in God the creator.  Many other religions and Protestant denominations do as well.  So, he came to see Jesus one night.  (John 3:2-7) “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.” Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.”

To have eternal life you must be born again by the Spirit of God.  

Pretty simple, huh?  (Ephesians 2:8-9) “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.”  

You are saved by being born again by the Spirit through faith – not by trying to be good or doing something.

Faith in what or whom?  (Romans 10:8-10) “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim:  If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved”

 You are saved by being born again by the Spirit through faith that God raised Jesus from the dead and submitting to His Lordship – not by trying to be good or doing something.    It’s all about Jesus, His sacrifice, His resurrection, God the Father’s grace, mercy and faith.  Not works … those come afterwards.

(John 14:5-7) “Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” 

Jesus, the Son, is the only way to the Father and eternal life.  Pretty simple.  Only way means that there is no other way.  Seem harsh – actually harsh would be if there were no way.  But God, the Father, in His grace and mercy gave us a way.  Our response – “there must be another way.” Nope – you can want all day long – all life long and it is not going to change. Does that seem too simple?   

(1 Corinthians 1:27-31) “But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”

The Christian faith is pretty simple.  It’s all about Jesus and all about grace.  Listen whenever you consider a church to attend .. you need to start here.  What do they teach?  What do they preach? What do they say it takes to become a Christian?  There is so much more that I could write about – but that would be a book, not a daily devotion.  CHARLEY

Friday, September 14, 2018

We Are Not All God’s Children

Over the years, I have heard a number of people refer to humankind as being “all God’s children”.  It’s one of those sayings that sounds good, but is patently false. 

What is true is God is the Source of all creation.  And Jesus is at the center of it.  (John 1:1-4) “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.”  Jesus is the “living” Word.  [It was this truth that the Spirit used to open my mom’s eyes and salvation]  I am not going to address the Trinity this morning. Spiritual reality is so different from our human reality.  We try to cram spiritual understanding into the shoes of our natural understanding and those “feet” are just too big!  They don’t fit.  The temptation is to reject Spiritual truth because of the limitation of our natural understanding.  Common mistake.  (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.” 

So back to the main point – God’s children.  We are all God’s natural creation but we are not all His spiritual children.  We must be adopted into His family.  (Ephesians 1:5) “having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will  I cannot adopt my own children.  Without that adoption I am bound for hell.  Once adopted I have eternal life with God in heaven.  Pretty simple really.  Saying we are all God’s children may sound sweet but it is a bitter falsehood – a deception.  Only the Spirit of God can convince people of that truth.  We have an obligation to share the Gospel when given the opportunity.  And you will have the opportunity.  Don’t give people who are lost false hope.  Speak the truth in love.” (Ephesians 4:15) CHARLEY

Thursday, September 13, 2018

We Change From The Inside-Out Not The Outside-In

Have you ever noticed that some people change the way they talk or act when they are around you?  This has happened to me on a number of occasions. And if I am honest – I have done it myself on more than one occasion.  There is one person I know that struggles with profanity.  He is a Christian – but that is one of those things that has not been “sanctified” out of him yet.  When we talk, he will catch the word coming out of his mouth and quickly change it.  It is obvious what happened and since I was a very profane person at one time, it is not difficult for me to “fill in the blanks”. Many Christians seem to think that the use of profanity is not a big deal, but there are actually Biblical principles behind it.  

(Psalm 19:14) “May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.”  What we say should be consistent with who God is and not with who we were in our natural, sinful state.

(Ephesians 4:29) “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

So in his heart he knows it is wrong but it is out of his heart that the words come.  (Luke 6:45) “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”  

But words we use are only one thing that we prefer other Christians to not know about.  We may think we have people fooled, but it is God and not people that we should be concerned about. And guess what – He already knows – nothing is hidden from Him.  Confession means “to agree with” not to “reveal”.  When you confess your sins to God (1 John 1:9) it’s not like you are going to surprise Him.  Look – whether it is the words you use or the things you do toward others that is part of your old – sinful nature, rather than hide it, you need to surrender it.  One thing you must not do is accept it as an unchangeable part of your life.  Or do you suppose that God is not able? The truth is that very likely, you are not really willing to let go of it.  It’s time to get real my friend and choose God.

By the way – I don’t judge my friend. I encourage him in the faith.  I can’t change his heart – only God can do that – but what I can do is show him God’s grace and mercy and love.  CHARLEY

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

When A Husband Loves A Wife And When A Wife Loves A Husband

The other day, as I was leafing through the pages of my Bible, I notice a diagram I had made from either a sermon or a teaching some years back.  The diagram depicted a simple truth.  God loves us and because of that love we are to love others.  You can find that in Matthew 22:37-39 when Jesus condensed all of the Law into two commands – Love God and Love Others.  Also in 1 John 4:19 – We love because He loved us first.  Love is so important which is why Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13:1-3

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” 

That love is at the root of a marriage relationship or should be if that relationship is to glorify God and be what He intended it to be. If the relationship is based on something else, then it will fall short.  Well – there’s more – in Ephesians 5:25 – Paul wrote that husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the Church.  Meaning that the husband must be willing to lay his life down for his wife.  Give up his dreams even.  The husband has been given great responsibility as the head of the wife.  With responsibility comes authority.  The problem is that many men want to cling to the authority part and shirk their responsibility as the “spiritual” head of the family.  1 Peter 2 and 3, Peter wrote about submission. That wives should submit to their husbands.  Submit to what? His God-given authority. In today’s “progressive” culture, many woman struggle with this.  Why? Because they don’t trust their husbands to NOT abuse their authority and shirk their responsibility. But – Peter goes on to say “Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.” 

In Ephesians 5:22-24 talks about mutual submission out of reverence for Christ. “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.”

All of this love and submission is in the context of our faith and not our natural life.  The problem is that many see it as problematic because they are looking at it through the lens of their natural, sinful life.  

The bottom line is that success in marriage is dependent upon both partners mutually submitted to each other and both submitted to the Spirit of God– loving each other with the love of God. And if things don’t seem to be working – evaluate that.  When a marriage fails, most assuredly the culprit will be our sin nature.  And if you are unevenly yoked – one of you is not a Christian – that does not relieve the Christian of their responsibility to obey God.  There is so much more to be said – but so many have already said it.  Love each other just like Jesus and the Father loves you. It takes faith to do that. CHARLEY

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

The Reality Of Death – One Breath Away From Glory

Now this is a topic that people don’t really want to talk about or dwell on.  I noticed that as my wife and I move closer to that “day”. Talking even about life insurance is a bit unsettling to her.  It is sobering, really.  This mortal life that we live is all we know, isn’t it?  Life beyond the grave is something we know about by faith.  For ages, people have been seeking ways to promote longevity.  Some even have themselves “frozen in time”, literally, with the hope that some day someone will figure out a way to unfreeze them and give a healthy life back to them.  People are desperate.  Wealthy people are even more so. Guess what – everyone in your generation is going to die, one way or another.  (Hebrews 9: 27-28) “Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.”  It is inescapable.  Many people try and have tried to hold on to their youth … it is all in vain.  Aging is something that is going to happen – just like death.  (Psalm 119:14-16) “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful,    I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”  God does not reveal how we will die or even when we will die, He only tells us that we will die.

I am not trying to be morbid – or insensitive to those who have lost loved ones.  My objective is to get you to think about your life.  Jesus told a parable – recorded in Luke chapter 12 – about a man who had an abundance and wanted to keep it for himself for the future.  The thing was, he had a very short future – his days were up – he was going to die that night.  What are you putting your faith and hope in.  Most of us go to sleep expecting to awake in our bed the next morning – what if you open your eyes and you find yourself in heaven instead?  We should live our lives like today is the last day. If it was, then the earthly issues we worry about would fade into in-significance.  Each breath you take is a gift from God.  Each breath you take is one step closer to Glory.  

I have sat through – listened to – many, many sermons over the years.  I hear the same things over and over – just like you do.  In light of our mortality – we should live for God like there is no tomorrow – there might not be.  Scare tactic? No.  Truth.  (James 1:22) “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”  It’s time to get busy and live like you really mean it.  CHARLEY

Sunday, September 9, 2018

If You Think You Can Stop Sinning Completely – Think Again

Has someone ever said something about something and a light comes on? A light of understanding of some spiritual truth that had refused to shine in the past no matter how many times you tried to flip the switch?  Well that happened to me today.  It was during the sermon this morning.  Some might even call what happened – an epiphany. (An epiphany is a moment of sudden revelation or insight.)   Let me explain….. 

The Pastor taught about the three aspects of the Christian life.  First is something called justification – that happens when the penalty for Sin has been paid for.  Sin is the “root” that must be cut in order to free us so we can be declared righteous before God the Father.  Sin is the cause of the separation of man and God.  Sin is what is passed from Adam through all generations.  Jesus defeated Sin so man might be made right through Him. But that is only the beginning of the story. 

Here is where the light came on for me.  

The second aspect our Christian “experience” is sanctification.  Every Christian is being conformed – shaped – into the image of Christ (Romans 8:29) “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.”  Now, this is a process that involves obedient submission to the Spirit of God, allowing the Word of God to do its work in our hearts, and the manifestation of the fruit of the Spirit and sins becoming less and less a prominent part of our lives. Just as Sin is the cause - sins are the consequence.

Here is something to think about.  So long as you walk this earth, you will never be sinless.  Sanctification is a process that goes on until we see Jesus – either in death or on the air.  Did you think that you would ever reach a point in this life when you stopped sinning?  And, if you couldn’t stop sinning then there must be something wrong with you?  That maybe your salvation didn’t “take”?  Sins are a consequence of our fallen nature.  Just as Sin is the root – sins are the fruit.  God has given us the means to wage spiritual battle against temptation and when we yield to the temptation that results in – sin (small “s”).  We continue to sin because we struggle with a devotion to our old nature.  The more spiritually mature we become, the less we will sin – but – trust me – we will continue to bear remnants of the fruit of the our old nature so long as we have breath.  Read Galatians chapter 5 to refresh yourself on the fruit of the flesh and the Spirit. 

So – what is the third aspect?  Glorification.  That is when we join Jesus in heaven.  When all things will be new.  There will be no Sin or sins.  Why did God do it this way?  Good question.  Somehow, what we experience during our time of sanctification after we are born again has eternal value.  We will fully understand one day. 1 (Corinthians 13:9-12) “For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.”  But for now, we trust God and don’t lose hope. 

Do you struggle with sins in your life?  Of course you do.  You are not alone. Should you be content with the fact that you will sin? God forbid it – and He does. Your struggle – my struggle will not end until we are in heaven.  But God has made a way for us to fight the battle.  Most of the New Testament epistles address this very thing at length.  Think about it.  Why would God want the writers of the New Testament to address the issue of the continuation of sins as a "heads up" for the Church if it were not a significant part of our faith life?  Something to think about.  CHARLEY 

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Calling On God In Times Of Trouble

There is something that we called in the Army “foxhole religion”  That is when your life is in mortal danger and you suddenly “get religion”.  You make promises to God. “God if you get me out of this, I promise to be faithful.”  So you get out of it.  Although maybe not for the reason you think. 

You see, God sees the heart (1 Samuel 16:7) “But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.””  This is when Samuel had been sent to anoint the next king of Israel.  Since God looks at the heart, the words that come out of you mouth may or may not reflect true faith.  God knows your true intent when you call out to Him.  And if you are an unbeliever – not His child – then the only prayer He will respond to from you is the prayer for salvation.  

But, even at that, many times Christians pray to God making promises to Him that they have no intention of fulfilling.  And even if they do intend to fulfill them, they are willing to accept whatever may come their way – good or bad – in the light of God’s sovereignty.  Jesus prayed (Luke 22:41-43) “He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him.” 

There is nothing that you will face that compares to what Jesus was facing – incomprehensible for the human imagination. He needed spiritual strength to endure.  And so do we.  God does not need our promises – He wants our devotion and trust.  If you are not ready - spiritually ready - when you find yourself in a foxhole facing an impossible situation – You will be in trouble.  It will not be a time for empty promises.  So friend – get ready. CHARLEY

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

The Temptation To Lose Hope When Things Don’t Go Your Way

Have you ever been discouraged?  Of course you have.  Have you ever lost hope because life made a left turn when your thought you were going to the right?  It is the reality of living in a world that has rejected the One who created it.  A world that suffers under the burden of sin and the brokenness that sin brings.

I was talking with someone the other day.  They were sharing their concern for their child.  The child, who once had been “sold out” to Jesus, was now struggling with their faith.  Questioning their faith and God.  I would hazard a guess that most Christian parents know that concern. But it is not like pulling your child out of the street by the arm so they don’t get hit by a car.  When it comes to facing life and the struggle it brings, they must choose to get out of the street on their own.  You can certainly pray for them and should.  But no amount of talking (or nagging) will  coax them out of the street.  You must love them through their struggle of faith.

I told my friend that what we see is like looking at a picture.  A moment in time.  We should be careful that we don’t draw the wrong conclusions about their life.  I asked if they could remember a point in time when the child professed their faith in Jesus. “Yes” was the answer.  

I am an eternal security guy.  I believe that once your are adopted by faith into the family of God, nothing can change that.  I believe that being sealed by the Spirit (Ephesians 1:13-14) is a forever thing.  I believe that when Jesus said (John 10:28) “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.”) That “no one” means no one, including the person who has been given eternal life. The person who was born again.

I told my friend that they needed to trust God and believe His Word is truth.  (Oh, did that sound like Proverbs 3:5-6?) That the certainty of salvation applies to their child even when they see the child wandering into the street – not embracing their faith.  Struggling to understand why what happened to them, happened to them.  Is God really there? Does their faith really matter?  Don’t draw the wrong conclusion from the photo.  God sees from beginning to end.  We only see what is now and what we can see in the photo album representing their life in the past. God is sovereign.  He’s got this.  (Hebrews 11:1) “Faith is the substance of things hoped for.  The evidence of things not seen.”  So I encouraged my friend and I encourage you, friends with this.  (Philippians 4:6-7) “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” CHARLEY

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

What Is Your Disaster Preparedness Plan For The Coming Storm?

There is a storm in the Gulf of Mexico.  It is that time of year.  Tropical Storm Gordon is strengthening into a hurricane and is headed for land and the people living in the communities on the coast.  It is an all too familiar story.  The people can’t change the storms intensity or direction, all they can do is get ready to deal with the aftermath of the storm.  Here in Houston, many people are “storm-shocked” from the last hurricane.  Any storm at all brings on fear and anxiety.  

That is the way it is with the storms of life.  They are sure to come.  They will often have destructive power – relationships – health – wealth.  We need to be prepared for them.  We can certainly pray that the storm will be averted, that the problem will go away, but it doesn’t always happen. So what to do. Well, you need a plan.  Jesus said (John 16:33) “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” Did you catch that? Our plan is faith in Jesus and peace through Jesus.  So long as you are walking on this planet and have breath, you will be faced with storms, with tribulation.  Remember the story about Jesus and the disciples in a boat.....

(Matthew 8:23-27) “Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, "LORD, save us! We're going to drown!" He replied, "You of little faith, why are you so afraid?" Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.” 

Did you catch that? The storm was raging and Jesus was sleeping.  He was at peace.  How is it that the disciples didn’t pick up on that?  Because they were focused on the storm and their fear.  Their lack of ability to do anything about it.  They wanted Jesus to fix it.  Had they truly understood His sovereignty, perhaps they would have taken a nap as well.  

Your ability to face the storms that will come your way is a function of the strength of you faith.  Jesus said they lacked faith and asked them why they were so afraid.  That was a rhetorical question because He knew their hearts and their faith.  And He knows ours and asks us the same question.  My old friend Proverbs 3:5-6 comes to mind.  Trust God and not yourself.  In the Army we said “You fight the way you train.”  In other words, you need to prepare for the battle.  Many of us put that off – that is until the storm comes.  Then we want to know where God is – Oh, he is sleeping.  It’s not a matter of God not caring, it is the point that He is sovereign – the master of the seas.  This is what King David wrote.

(Psalm 27: 1-3) “The Lord is my light and my salvation— so why should I be afraid? The Lord is my fortress, protecting me from danger, so why should I tremble? When evil people come to devour me, when my enemies and foes attack me, they will stumble and fall. Though a mighty army surrounds me, my heart will not be afraid. Even if I am attacked, I will remain confident

Will there be consequences from the storm?  Most likely.  Can you survive it? Most certainly! That is if the Lord is your light and salvation you will.


Monday, September 3, 2018

Why Did My Church Treat Me That Way?

Every day, it seems, I have an encounter with someone that serves as a spark for these devotions.  Yesterday, I was talking to someone about how a particular local church (not the one we are attending) had treated a relative of theirs.  I have add similar conversations in the past with other people.  The local church is supposed to be a haven.  A place where Christians gather together. A place where you can be vulnerable and find compassion and encouragement. That is certainly the Lord’s intent.  It is, in fact, that very place, but there is a glitch – it’s called people. 

The local church can only function as it was intended when the people in the local church are saved by faith and are being led by the Spirit.  But there are a number of variables in this equation. 

First.  Not all the people who attend a local church are Christians.  You can’t know them by looking at them.  Or perhaps even talking with them.  They may be faithful attenders.  Even tithers.  They may be involved on Sunday school or small groups.  Keith Green, a Christian singer, said being in a church building  doesn’t make you a Christian any more than being in McDonalds makes you a hamburger.  The church building is not what makes the Church the Church. Faith in Jesus and obedience to the will of God does that. 

So, if you approach someone at church and expect them to be or do as a Christian when they are not, you will be disappointed .. and most likely disillusioned.  It is like when I go to Home Depot and ask someone with an orange Home Depot vest on a question about a tool or product in the store.  They don’t have a clue, but they do have a vest!  And yes, I am disillusioned with Home Depot.  And I have adjusted my expectation accordingly.  

Second.  Not every Christian attending the church is walking in obedience by faith.  There are many Christians, always have been, that are not growing in their faith.  They are so immersed in the world and the things of the world, they are indistinguishable from the those that are lost and headed for hell.  Expecting spiritual help from them is like one teenager telling another teenager “I will be there for you.”  What does that mean? One drowning person telling another drowning person, “I will be there for you.” If a Christian is living a carnal life, they have nothing Spiritual to offer you.  Don’t be surprised when you ask for a fish and they give you a stone.  It is the best they have to offer.

Years ago, during a men’s prayer meeting I was leading, I encouraged them men to be open about their lives and pray for one another – a Biblical mandate. (James 5:16) “Admit your faults to one another and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous man has great power and wonderful results.” One of the men said “No way! If I do that I will hear what I said from somebody that is not in this room!” And sadly, that may not be too far from the truth.  Not everyone in the room was a Christian walking in obedience to the Spirit.

Third.  There is always the possibility that you are the problem.  I know that is a stretch.  But if you are dealing with the consequence of your sin and you have not repented, then you are part of the problem.  Jesus said (Matthew 7:3-5) "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.”  Often times we are not looking for spiritual solutions but merely relief. When we don’t get it, we blame others – even the local church.

The bottom line.  Very often we look to the church for solutions when we should be looking to the Church.  Do you see the distinction?  In the case of the conversation I had, the person affected was questioning their faith and God because of how the church had responded to them.  I quote this verse often – (2 Corinthians 1:3-4) “God is the God of all comfort who comforts us in our afflictions so we might comfort others with the same comfort we, ourselves, have received.”  That is the Church in action. Use discernment when you seek help from the Christian community. Don’t misjudge or condemn the local Church by seeking comfort from those who are incapable if giving it.  And make certain your heart is right before God when you do.  CHARLEY