Saturday, December 31, 2016

Letting Your Faith Not Your Past Define You

My Utmost For His Highest
You shall not go out with haste,…for the Lord will go before you, and the God of Israel will be your rear guard. —Isaiah 52:12
{CHAMBERS} “Security from Yesterday. […] Our present enjoyment of God’s grace tends to be lessened by the memory of yesterday’s sins and blunders. But God is the God of our yesterdays, and He allows the memory of them to turn the past into a ministry of spiritual growth for our future. God reminds us of the past to protect us from a very shallow security in the present. Security for Tomorrow. “…the Lord will go before you….” This is a gracious revelation— that God will send His forces out where we have failed to do so. He will keep watch so that we will not be tripped up again by the same failures, as would undoubtedly happen if He were not our “rear guard.” And God’s hand reaches back to the past, settling all the claims against our conscience. Security for Today. “You shall not go out with haste….” […] Our yesterdays hold broken and irreversible things for us. It is true that we have lost opportunities that will never return, but God can transform this destructive anxiety into a constructive thoughtfulness for the future. Let the past rest, but let it rest in the sweet embrace of Christ.”
{ELGIN} None of us are free from heartaches, disappointments, or regrets. Some of them are our doing, some not.  If you are born again, new in Christ, you do not have to let your past define you. (Philippians 3:13-14) “….. one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Oh that we could embrace that attitude.  Well, actually we can, but not by willing it.  It is a product of a deep and abiding relationship with Christ.  I was speaking with our daughter-in-law the other day about the nature of heartache.  If you were to break a bone, it would be painful of course, but the pain would eventually subside.  You can remember the event.  You can remember that you broke that particular bone.  It might even remind you when a storm is approaching.  But one thing you cannot do is feel the sharp, stabbing pain that you felt when the bone was broken.  You know it hurt, but you cannot conjure up the same feeling that you had in the past. 
Not so with a broken heart.  It only takes a word or a thought to bring back the pain of the moment when your heart was broken.  (Psalm 34:17-28) “The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted  and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” What a promise.  He delivers us out of all of our troubles.  He gives us strength.  He gives us comfort.  He gives us hope.  He gives us life.  You have so much to look forward to in the days ahead.  Don’t let the pain of the past define you.  Instead let the Lord renew you.  (Isaiah 40:31) “but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Your Culture And Jesus, You Can't Serve Them Both

My Utmost For His Highest
From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. —John 6:66
{CHAMBERS} “When God, by His Spirit through His Word, gives you a clear vision of His will, you must “walk in the light” of that vision (1 John 1:7). Even though your mind and soul may be thrilled by it, if you don’t “walk in the light” of it you will sink to a level of bondage never envisioned by our Lord. Mentally disobeying the “heavenly vision” (Acts 26:19) will make you a slave to ideas and views that are completely foreign to Jesus Christ. […] Don’t compare yourself with others or judge them— that is between God and them. When you find that one of your favorite and strongly held views clashes with the “heavenly vision,” do not begin to debate it. If you do, a sense of property and personal right will emerge in you— things on which Jesus placed no value.”
{ELGIN} I have become more and more aware of late at how insensitive Christians have become to those things that are obviously contrary to the Word and nature of God.  We seem to focus on the “good” and accept the “bad” as if it were a necessary evil. The alternative is to reject certain aspects of our culture and its habits and what it sees as valuable and entertaining.  And that is exactly the life we have been called to.  I recall a number of cautionary verses addressing the struggle …
(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 lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.  And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.”  I don’t think most Christians want to believe that what they have affection for, fits in that verse. They want to qualify their affections for things of this world.  But the Word is clear.  If they would take the time to lay their affection alongside the Word of God they would be faced with the Truth.  And the nature of their sin.
(Matthew 6:24) “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”  It’s deceptive thinking that it is “OK” to “belly up to the cultural bar” during the week and then saunter into the “Throne Room of Grace” on Sunday morning to glorify God.  I am concerned that people do not seem to get the point. Or perhaps they just don’t want to get the point.
I really don’t enjoy writing devotions like this, but I trust that the Lord guides me in all of them.  The reason I don’t enjoy them is that, at times, I feel like a voice crying in the wilderness.  But “cry” I must.  And don’t think that I am spared from the same temptations, I am.  Mine are mostly limited to what comes through the television and movie theaters.  You always have a choice of turning the television off or changing the channel, or not going to the movie. But I can tell you we don't always choose well.  Lord give us strength and bring conviction so we might show the world Jesus.  Jesus came to seek and save the lost.  (Luke 19:10) If we blend in with our culture, we cannot be true to our calling.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Make This Your New Year's Resolution

My Utmost For His Highest
….unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. —Matthew 18:3
{CHAMBERS} “The response of the natural to the spiritual should be continuous conversion, but this is where we so often refuse to be obedient. […] But we must “put on the new man…” (Ephesians 4:24). […] Our natural life must not rule— God must rule in us. To refuse to be continuously converted puts a stumbling block in the growth of our spiritual life. There are areas of self-will in our lives where our pride pours contempt on the throne of God and says, “I won’t submit.” We deify our independence and self-will and call them by the wrong name. What God sees as stubborn weakness, we call strength. There are whole areas of our lives that have not yet been brought into submission, and this can only be done by this continuous conversion. Slowly but surely we can claim the whole territory for the Spirit of God.”
{ELGIN} Do you struggle with your old nature? Or are you satisfied with  how far you have traveled on you spiritual journey and decided that the last stop over was good enough.  The things you do that don’t honor God are really not all that bad.  There are “tons” of other Christians who think so too.  The thing is, it really doesn’t matter what we think, does it? God has called us out to be like His Son.  All of us fall way short of that mark.  God would not have made it the goal if He had not made the goal possible to achieve.  Certainly we will not realize the goal until we are with Him, but in the meantime, we are to strive toward the goal (Philippians 3:14), live a life that glorifies God and not man (1 Corinthians 6:19-20), and let our light shine wherever we go. (Matthew 5:16)  Looking for a New Year’s resolution.  How is that for one?

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

What To Do When You Wrestle With Sin

My Utmost For His Highest
"If you will return, O Israel," says the Lord… —Jeremiah 4:1
{CHAMBERS}  “Our battles are first won or lost in the secret places of our will in God’s presence, never in full view of the world. The Spirit of God seizes me and I am compelled to get alone with God and fight the battle before Him. Until I do this, I will lose every time. The battle may take one minute or one year, but that will depend on me, not God. However long it takes, I must wrestle with it alone before God, and I must resolve to go through the hell of renunciation or rejection before Him. Nothing has any power over someone who has fought the battle before God and won there. […] I must first get the issue settled between God and myself in the secret places of my soul, where no one else can interfere. Then I can go ahead, knowing with certainty that the battle is won. Lose it there, and calamity, disaster, and defeat before the world are as sure as the laws of God. The reason the battle is lost is that I fight it first in the external world. Get alone with God, do battle before Him, and settle the matter once and for all.”
{ELGIN} I recall Paul’s struggle with sin described in Romans chapter 7.  He was striving against the things he knew did that did not honor God – sin – and failed to do what he knew was right to do – obedient living.  Then Paul acknowledged that it is Jesus that saved him and Jesus that empowered him to be victorious over sin.  We struggle with sin before God, but actually we struggle with being holy before God.  The Spirit convicts of our sin (John 16:8) and the wrestling match begins.  There are sinful things in my life over which I have victory.  Some over which I continue to struggle.  And frankly some that I am comfortable with, I have given in to them. Which “things” those are vary from person to person.  I would address big over little sins, but, setting aside consequence of the sin (not ignoring it), sin is sin.  It is behavior contrary to the nature of God.  As born again believers, we have the very nature of God in us.  We should never be content with sin in us, but we are.  Only the Spirit can stir our hearts against it.  We can recognize it in others and speak to them about it, in love (Ephesians 4:15), but it is the Spirit that will call them into the spiritual ring to wrestle with it. What are you wrestling with?  Don’t lose hope. Don’t give up.  Stop trying to do it on your own.  Don’t forget.  God is on your side. (Philippians 4:13)

Monday, December 26, 2016

All My Behavior Is A Reflection Of My Faith

My Utmost For His Highest
If we walk in the light as He is in the light…the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. —1 John 1:7
[CHAMBERS] “To mistake freedom from sin only on the conscious level of our lives for complete deliverance from sin by the atonement through the Cross of Christ is a great error. No one fully knows what sin is until he is born again. Sin is what Jesus Christ faced at Calvary. The evidence that I have been delivered from sin is that I know the real nature of sin in me. For a person to really know what sin is requires the full work and deep touch of the atonement of Jesus Christ, that is, the imparting of His absolute perfection. […] it is not until we truly perceive the unrivaled power of the Spirit in us that we understand the meaning of 1 John 1:7 , which says, “…the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” […] I must “walk in the light as He is in the light…”— not in the light of my own conscience, but in God’s light. If I will walk there, with nothing held back or hidden, then this amazing truth is revealed to me: “…the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses [me] from all sin” so that God Almighty can see nothing to rebuke in me. On the conscious level it produces a keen, sorrowful knowledge of what sin really is.”
[ELGIN] Talking to my grandchildren about a problem they were having with each other, I realized that they believed that the problem was unavoidable, inevitable, a fact of life, the way it was going to be.  They had come to accept it as normal. I told them that it was not consistent with who they are in Christ.  Spiritual truth is something that you can’t convince people of, the Spirit does that, but you can share the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).  Feeling that something in our lives is inevitable, unavoidable, even acceptable is not uncommon.  We try to overcome it on our own, and can’t, so we decide we will just have to live with it.  Talking to my grandchildren, they seemed so matter of fact that what they were doing was really OK.  To make it worse, they were listening to conversations about how things were when people growing up fought and argued with their siblings and the parents decided to let them “work it out”. 
And so how do that help us be more like Jesus?  As the conversation continued I realized that they did not associate their behavior with being a Christian. (Matthew 15:8-9) “‘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.”  A part of spiritual maturity is letting spiritual truth find its way into our hearts in such a way that the natural is overcome by the supernatural.  The we instantly know that what we do or say or think is inconsistent with who we are in Christ.  That the struggle with our old nature will succeed only through the power of Christ in me.  (Romans 7:22-25) “For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!”  Jesus is the answer.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Do You Hear What I Hear? Jesus Saves

My Utmost For His Highest
No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him… —John 6:44
“When God begins to draw me to Himself, the problem of my will comes in immediately. Will I react positively to the truth that God has revealed? Will I come to Him? […]  will I commit, placing myself completely and absolutely on God, and be willing to act solely on what He says? If I will, I will find that I am grounded on reality as certain as God’s throne.[…] Trusting in my own mental understanding becomes a hindrance to complete trust in God. I must be willing to ignore and leave my feelings behind. I must will to believe. But this can never be accomplished without my forceful, determined effort to separate myself from my old ways of looking at things. I must surrender myself completely to God.[…] it is God who draws me, and my relationship to Him in the first place is an inner, personal one, not an intellectual one.”  CHAMBERS
The process of salvation is a mystery.  We know from the Bible that God draws, certainly Jesus provided the sacrifice, by God’s grace our faith saves, and the Spirit seals.  But how that all works is a mystery.  A lot of people have written a lot of words trying to explain it, but the details just are not there.  When you boil it all down, what you have left in the pot is “Jesus Saves”.  We are looking at Christmas square in the face.  A reminder that God sent his Son (John 3:16) and Jesus came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10).  In our culture it is hard to remember that.  We express our love by giving each more of this world.  God expressed His love by giving us Jesus and eternal life.  I want to encourage you to remember the focus of all of this celebration is not us, it’s Him.  I would say that come Sunday morning or Saturday night, the focus of most people’s attention will be the gifts under the tree.  Our focus should be on the Gift that was hung on a tree.  “We have heard the joyful sound .. Jesus saves .. Jesus saves .. Spread the tidings all around: Jesus saves! Jesus saves!  Bear the news to every land, climb the mountains, cross the waves; Onward! ’tis our Lord’s command; Jesus saves! Jesus saves!”  Merry Christmas  ELGIN

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Called To The Valleys Where The Lost Souls Live

My Utmost For His Highest
We have received…the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. —1 Corinthians 2:12
“My experience is not what makes redemption real— redemption is reality. Redemption has no real meaning for me until it is worked out through my conscious life. When I am born again, the Spirit of God takes me beyond myself and my experiences, and identifies me with Jesus Christ. […] My experiences are not worth anything unless they keep me at the Source of truth— Jesus Christ.[…] Be relentless and hard on yourself if you are in the habit of talking about the experiences you have had. Faith based on experience is not faith; faith based on God’s revealed truth is the only faith there is.”
Martie and I have served in some difficult places between 2005 and 2015.  During that time we have seen God do some amazing things through and around us.  It is easy to be drawn to the experiences and look for more experiences as if they were “fuel” our faith. But it is in the day to day simple experiences of life where your faith is wrought.  It is easy to trust God on the mountain top.  Not so much in the valley.  When we are in the valley we tend to focus on ourselves and our plight.  On the mountain, we focus on the God and His glory.  It’s natural to want to pick the latter over the former.  Who wouldn’t.  But our spiritual nature and our faith are tried, tested, and strengthened in the valley.  It is there that we learn about God’s sufficiency and His faithfulness.  We should appreciate those mountaintops but we should not desire to live there.  (Mark 9:2-9) We have been called to the valleys … where the lost souls live.  Your life is not your own. Your testimony is not about how you reveled on the mountain in the presence of God, but how you persevered in the valley by your faith in God.   ELGIN

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Planting Spiritual Seed - It's Your Job

My Utmost For His Highest
And I, if I am lifted up…will draw all peoples to Myself. —John 12:32
“When you find yourself face to face with a person who is spiritually lost, remind yourself of Jesus Christ on the cross. If that person can get to God in any other way, then the Cross of Christ is unnecessary. If you think you are helping lost people with your sympathy and understanding, you are a traitor to Jesus Christ. You must have a right-standing relationship with Him yourself, and pour your life out in helping others in His way— not in a human way that ignores God. The theme of the world’s religion today is to serve in a pleasant, non-confrontational manner.”  CHAMBERS
I was talking to two of our grandchildren about having a spiritual perspective on life.  To see the world the way Jesus saw the world.  Honestly, they didn’t quite get it.  They will, eventually.  The challenge is to “be transformed by the renewing of our minds” (Romans 12:2)  and when that happens you will see life differently.  (1 Corinthians 13:11) “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”  Paul was referring to maturity in His faith.  A big part of that maturity is understanding the world and the people around you from God’s perspective.  Understanding that many of the natural things, the things that you have been taught to be true that are, in fact, contrary to the Word of God.  Seeing the human race as desperately lost and in need of a Savior.  That people are seeking something bigger than themselves to believe in and refuse to believe that it is Jesus.
I was just thinking about 1 Corinthians 13:11.  The first time I heard that verse was at my high school graduation.  The valedictorian of our class used that verse in her speech.  I was not a Christian, not for another 8 years, but the verse stuck with me.  My point to you, we are seed planters.  When the Spirit prompts you to speak or to share, don’t be quick to make a judgement about what effect it might have in a person’s life.  That is not up to you.  Your obligation is to tell people about Jesus.  To share what God puts on your heart.  It is the Word that has supernatural power, not you. It’s the Gospel that is the power unto salvation. (Romans 1:16) “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes….”  ELGIN

Monday, December 19, 2016

It's Not Easy To Live The Separated Life - Not On Your Own

My Utmost For His Highest
I did not come to bring peace but a sword. —Matthew 10:34
“Never be sympathetic with a person whose situation causes you to conclude that God is dealing harshly with him. God can be more tender than we can conceive, and every once in a while He gives us the opportunity to deal firmly with someone so that He may be viewed as the tender One. If a person cannot go to God, it is because he has something secret which he does not intend to give up— he may admit his sin, but would no more give up that thing than he could fly under his own power. It is impossible to deal sympathetically with people like that. We must reach down deep in their lives to the root of the problem, which will cause hostility and resentment toward the message. People want the blessing of God, but they can’t stand something that pierces right through to the heart of the matter.” CHAMBERS
I was teaching on the church – the Body of Christ last Sunday.  I was showing the class that we were called out of the “natural” into the “spiritual”.  That process requires a severing of the old to allow for the new.  For most, if not all, of us that separation is not a clean one.  We spend our lives struggling with the draw of our old nature and our reluctance to abandon ourselves to our new nature.  Jesus said “For I have come to turn “‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law— a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’ “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:35-39)  That brings context to the time Jesus told the young man who wanted to bury his father before he followed Jesus, “Let the dead bury the dead.” (Luke 9:60)
The choice to follow Jesus requires us to separate ourselves from the natural life with its affections and immerse ourselves in the supernatural life.  To stop trusting in this world and trust completely in God.  That is a struggle. And if we choose to not pursue God but find satisfaction in accepting Jesus as Lord but then live our lives with little consideration given to Him, well, what would you expect, certainly not a vibrant spiritual life filled with joy and blessing.  So many are good at the point of salvation but stumble when we are challenged to leave the world and what you love and depend upon behind us.  The rich young ruler was certain that he had it all together, until Jesus said, give everything you have to the poor and follow me.  He couldn’t do it.  What is it that you have a death grip on from your natural life.  The world will tell you that it is not unreasonable and perhaps you are even entitled to hold on to it, but Jesus says, “let it go, it’s in the way, trust Me.” ELGIN
Knowing You Jesus
All I once held dear, built my life upon
All the world holds dear and wars to own.
All I once thought gain, I have counted loss
Broke and worthless now, compared to this
Knowing You, Jesus, knowing You
There is no better thing.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

How Much Do You Need To Know In Order To Go? Jesus Saves

My Utmost For His Highest
The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him… —1 Corinthians 2:14
“The gospel of God creates the sense of need for the gospel. Is the gospel hidden to those who are servants already? No, Paul said, “But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe…” (2 Corinthians 4:3-4). The majority of people think of themselves as being completely moral, and have no sense of need for the gospel. It is God who creates this sense of need in a human being, but that person remains totally unaware of his need until God makes Himself evident. Jesus said, “Ask, and it will be given to you…” (Matthew 7:7). But God cannot give until a man asks. It is not that He wants to withhold something from us, but that is the plan He has established for the way of redemption. Through our asking, God puts His process in motion, creating something in us that was nonexistent until we asked. […] The creative power of the redemption of God works in the souls of men only through the preaching of the gospel. It is never the sharing of personal experiences that saves people, but the truth of redemption. “The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63).” CHAMBERS
Have you ever considered the millions, billions of people that have lived and died without ever hearing the Gospel? Generation after generation.  Have you ever wondered why? I have.  I have heard explanations, but I must be honest, I don’t have an answer.  I am certain it has something to do with God’s knowing and our not knowing.   I know He sends people to preach the Gospel, I have been called and have gone to other people.  I know that Jesus is the only way to restoration to the Father.  It is not only the natural man that lacks understanding.  In a way, it is me saying “Lord, you made a mistake.  You should have made certain that those people would hear the Gospel like I did.”  As I write those words, I know how ridiculous they sound.  The problem really is my problem, not His.  I want God to be understandable to the natural mind.  And He is not.  The truth is that He did not have to send His Son to save anyone, but He did.  Through a chain of events over centuries, I heard the Gospel and yielded my life to Him in faith.  So, rather than focus on those who didn’t hear, I should focus on those who might hear if only I would speak to them.  I was not saved until the first quarter of my life had already past.  Now I am in the last quarter.  How will I live my days out?  I will live them out by telling who I can, when I can, where I can about Jesus.  And trusting God will do the rest.  God has the centuries and generations well in hand, I just need to be worried about today. ELGIN
When It’s All Been Said And Done – Don Moen
When it's all been said and done  There is just one thing that matters
Did I do my best to live for truth?  Did I live my life for you?
When it's all been said and done  All my treasures will mean nothing
Only what I've done  For love's reward  Will stand the test of time
Lord, your mercy is so great  That you look beyond our weakness
And find purest gold in miry clay  Turning sinners into saints
I will always sing your praise  Here on earth and ever after
For you've shown me heavens my true home  When it's all been said and done
You're my life when life is gone...

Friday, December 16, 2016

Knowing What To Do And Not Doing It - It's A Problem For All Of Us

My Utmost For His Highest
Take up the whole armor of God…praying always… —Ephesians 6:13,18
“You must learn to wrestle against the things that hinder your communication with God, and wrestle in prayer for other people; but to wrestle with God in prayer is unscriptural. If you ever do wrestle with God, you will be crippled for the rest of your life. If you grab hold of God and wrestle with Him, as Jacob did, simply because He is working in a way that doesn’t meet with your approval, you force Him to put you out of joint (see Genesis 32:24-25). Don’t become a cripple by wrestling with the ways of God, but be someone who wrestles before God with the things of this world, because “we are more than conquerors through Him…” (Romans 8:37). Wrestling before God makes an impact in His kingdom. If you ask me to pray for you, and I am not complete in Christ, my prayer accomplishes nothing. But if I am complete in Christ, my prayer brings victory all the time. Prayer is effective only when there is completeness— “take up the whole armor of God….”” CHAMBERS
As you read Chamber’s words are you thinking that he is encouraging you to try harder?  What he is encouraging you to do is to “faith” harder.  Our ability to do anything that the Lord has told us to do is grounded in faith not in works.  “You” are no more capable on your own after your new birth than you were before you put your faith in Jesus.  Why? (Ephesians 6:12) “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”  This new life is a spiritual one.  The weapons we use to fight the battles, to wrestle before God, are other worldly.  (2 Corinthians 10:3-4) “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses.”  Stop trying to be stronger than your temptation .. you are not.  Stop trying to change your nature, you cannot.  Your ability to do what God asks you to do .. what He commands in His Word … depends upon how much of Him we are one with and not on your sincere desire to do better next time.  I have quoted this before “The definition of insanity to do the same thing over, again and again, expecting a different outcome.”
So why do we do it anyway?  Because life is not that simple.  I see that in my children and grandchildren.  I talk to them about what to do to solve the problem they face, but there are other pressures on them that they fail to tell me about, for any number of reasons.  Pressures that, in their mind, make my advice unfollowable (is that a word?) So, they continue to fail at whatever it is and I can do nothing but stand by and watch them fail.  Perhaps you have experienced the same thing.  Well, that is something you can wrestle with before God.  We are not the Holy Spirit, and we certainly are not God.  Perhaps one of the hardest things for a parent/grandparent to do is to watch people they love choose poorly.  I once heard an analogy of the metamorphosis of a butterfly.  If you cut the cocoon open to help the butterfly with its struggle, you actually hurt it because it will not be able to fly.  Their struggle is part of their journey. An important part.  We see it in the natural, when it is, in fact, spiritual.  Can we trust God?  Watching of their struggle becomes our struggle. We can’t change hearts, only God can.  But you can live in a manner that shows others what trusting God in the midst of struggle looks like.  Are you?  ELGIN

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Are You Ready To Tell The World That Jesus Saves?

My Utmost For His Highest
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. —2 Timothy 2:15
“If you cannot express yourself well on each of your beliefs, work and study until you can. If you don’t, other people may miss out on the blessings that come from knowing the truth. Strive to re-express a truth of God to yourself clearly and understandably, and God will use that same explanation when you share it with someone else. But you must be willing to go through God’s winepress where the grapes are crushed. You must struggle, experiment, and rehearse your words to express God’s truth clearly. Then the time will come when that very expression will become God’s wine of strength to someone else.”  CHAMBERS
(2 Timothy 4:2) “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction  You can’t be ready if you don’t prepare yourself.  You train so that when the “game is on” you are able to do your part.  Spiritual preparation has two parts.  First you must be devoted to the Lord and submitted to the leading of the Spirit.  Second you must be knowledgeable  with respect to the Truth of God.  Paul describes our preparation in Ephesians 6 as putting on the full armor of God.  (1 Peter 3:15) “sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence”  You may have heard the quote “Preach the Gospel always and if necessary, use words.”  It has been attributed to Francis of Assisi, but there is no documented proof that he ever said it or wrote it.  More importantly,  it is the Gospel that brings salvation, not my godly behavior. (Romans 1:16) “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.”  My godly behavior is evidence of the transforming power of the gospel, but my behavior is not the gospel itself. Are you ready?  ELGIN

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

I’ve Got A Peaceful Easy Feeling. I Know That God Won’t Let Me Down.

My Utmost For His Highest
Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled… —John 14:27
“Whenever we experience something difficult in our personal life, we are tempted to blame God. But we are the ones in the wrong, not God. Blaming God is evidence that we are refusing to let go of some disobedience somewhere in our lives. But as soon as we let go, everything becomes as clear as daylight to us. As long as we try to serve two masters, ourselves and God, there will be difficulties combined with doubt and confusion. […] God’s mark of approval, whenever you obey Him, is peace. He sends an immeasurable, deep peace; not a natural peace, “as the world gives,” but the peace of Jesus. […] The spirit of simplicity, clarity, and unity is born through the Holy Spirit, not through your decisions.”  CHAMBERS
The Christmas season is a time when people think about peace.  The absence of conflict.  I am reminded of the story about the soldiers during World War 1 that came out of the trenches on Christmas to enjoy a moment of peace in the midst of the mayhem that was going on around them.  They had peace for a moment and then they went back to killing each other.  But the peace that God gives us is not a cease-fire.  It’s not a stroll through a field of flowers with blue sky, white puffy clouds, the sun shining and birds and butterflies flitting about. First. The peace God offers is peace with Himself.  (Romans 5:1) “… since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  When Jesus said that in He we can have peace, He said it would be in the midst of tribulation.  (John 16:33)  Peace with the Father.  Forgiveness, restoration, eternal life.  All of that in the midst of the turmoil of life on this planet.  And having found peace with God, we can enjoy peace within as fruit or the result from the Spirit that is in us.
I saw a bumper sticker years ago that said “No Jesus, No Peace, Know Jesus, Know Peace”  (Philippians 4:6,7) “do not be anxious about anything, 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 your minds in Christ Jesus.” I watch so many people struggling in life.  Making the wrong choices and suffering the consequences.  Facing hardships that were not of their own doing, not knowing which way to turn.  Oh for a moment of peace.  As I typed those words I remembered hearing those words from my mom when I was a child as she raised 7 children.  “I just want a moment of peace!” she would say.  But when she came back out of her room, the fray was still going on.  At that time, she was not a Christian so she had no alternative but escape.  You can have peace in the midst of whatever circumstance you find yourself in today.  It’s yours for the trusting.  ELGIN

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Do You Really Have To Pray For People You Don't Like?

My Utmost For His Highest
…men always ought to pray and not lose heart. —Luke 18:1
“You cannot truly intercede through prayer if you do not believe in the reality of redemption. Instead, you will simply be turning intercession into useless sympathy for others, which will serve only to increase the contentment they have for remaining out of touch with God. True intercession involves bringing the person, or the circumstance that seems to be crashing in on you, before God, until you are changed by His attitude toward that person or circumstance. Intercession means to “fill up…[with] what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ” (Colossians 1:24), and this is precisely why there are so few intercessors[…] Our work is to be in such close contact with God that we may have His mind about everything, but we shirk that responsibility by substituting doing for interceding. […] What we must avoid in intercession is praying for someone to be simply “patched up.” We must pray that person completely through into contact with the very life of God. Think of the number of people God has brought across our path, only to see us drop them!”  CHAMBERS
Praying for people.  Who are you willing to pray for?  Not just the people you care about.  Not just the people you feel sorry for or compassion towards, but those people who treat you poorly, those people you really don’t like.  Jesus said, (Matthew 5:44) “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”  Ok so let’s say you do pray for them because Jesus said to.  In a way it’s like your parents telling you to say you are sorry for hitting your brother or sister.  You say it, after some coaxing, but you don’t mean it. 
Have you ever prayed for someone but with no real expectation that God will do anything or perhaps a hope that He won’t?  You don’t have to answer that.  (Luke 6:32-36) “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.  Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” 
There is no way that you will fulfill the scripture on your own.  If Jesus says do something, his command is founded in faith not in works.  He is not saying “Do the very best you can to treat those people better.”  He is saying “In your weakness, my strength is made perfect..  You can do all things through Me.”  You cannot obey God apart from faith and the power of the Spirit.  (Zechariah 4:6) “‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ Says the Lord of hosts.” So are you supposed to pray for those people with the hope that God will answer? Yes, but your heart and Spirit must be right, first.  ELGIN

Monday, December 12, 2016

Which Father Does Your Personality Reflect?

My Utmost For His Highest
…that they may be one just as We are one… —John 17:22
“Personality is the unique, limitless part of our life that makes us distinct from everyone else. […] Personality is the characteristic mark of the inner, spiritual man, just as individuality is the characteristic of the outer, natural man. Our Lord can never be described in terms of individuality and independence, but only in terms of His total Person— “I and My Father are one” (John 10:30). Personality merges, and you only reach your true identity once you are merged with another person. When love or the Spirit of God come upon a person, he is transformed. He will then no longer insist on maintaining his individuality. Our Lord never referred to a person’s individuality or his isolated position, but spoke in terms of the total person— “…that they may be one just as We are one….” Once your rights to yourself are surrendered to God, your true personal nature begins responding to God immediately.”  CHAMBERS
(Romans 12:2) “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind..”  A person cannot change their personality by self-will.  I am sure you have heard the saying "The apple does not fall far from the tree" , "Like father like son"  My parents were divorced when I was 2 years old.  As a young boy I can remember my mom saying to me, "Stop doing that, you remind me of your father!" Don't misunderstand the illustration, my mom, in later years was a godly woman, but there was something, I never knew what it was, that reminded her of my biological father that reminded her of why she was divorced.  So it was up to me to figure it out and change that part of my personality.  Fortunately, my step-father's personality reflected Jesus.  Thankfully, people see much of him in me. But, like me, people can suppress the parts they don’t want others to see, for a while. But eventually, the heart from which their personality springs is revealed.  I have heard people say “I can’t help myself, that is the way my family is or that is the way I am.”  The statement is true, they can’t help themselves.  They have inherited personality traits the were derived in the natural, along with our sinful nature.  They don’t need a self-help book, they need a Savior, a change of heart.  If we are one with Jesus then our personalities will be transformed to be like His.  Jesus is loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and self-controlled. (Galatians 5:22-23) “… old things are passed away, all thing have become new..” (2 Corinthians 5:17)  That transformation happens by the power of the Spirit, not by our desire to be different. ELGIN

Saturday, December 10, 2016

If We Obey Then We Will Be Spiritually Blessed - It's Only Logical

My Utmost For His Highest
It is written that Abraham had two sons: the one by a bondwoman, the other by a freewoman. —Galatians 4:22
“Paul was not dealing with sin in this chapter of Galatians, but with the relation of the natural to the spiritual. The natural can be turned into the spiritual only through sacrifice. Without this a person will lead a divided life. Why did God demand that the natural must be sacrificed? God did not demand it. It is not God’s perfect will, but His permissive will. God’s perfect will was for the natural to be changed into the spiritual through obedience. Sin is what made it necessary for the natural to be sacrificed. Abraham had to offer up Ishmael before he offered up Isaac (see Genesis 21:8-14). Some of us are trying to offer up spiritual sacrifices to God before we have sacrificed the natural. The only way we can offer a spiritual sacrifice to God is to “present [our] bodies a living sacrifice…” (Romans 12:1). Sanctification means more than being freed from sin. It means the deliberate commitment of myself to the God of my salvation, and being willing to pay whatever it may cost. If we do not sacrifice the natural to the spiritual, the natural life will resist and defy the life of the Son of God in us and will produce continual turmoil.”  CHAMBERS
The Bible is a lesson book.  It teaches us about God’s nature and about our nature.  It teaches us about the natural life and the spiritual life.  It’s filled with logical “if-then” statements.  If you do this then this will happen.  If you don’t do this, then that will happen. If you offer yourself to God as a living sacrifice, don't conform to this world, but transform you mind, then you will show the world the good and perfect will of God. (Romans 12:1,2)  If Jesus is lifted up, then He will draw all men to himself. (John 12:32) If you wait on the Lord then He will renew you strength. (Isaiah 4:31) If God is for us, then who can be against us? (Romans 8:31) If we confess our sins then He is faithful to forgive us. (1 John 1:9) If you meditate on the Word, and obey what is says, then you will be prosperous and successful. (Joshua 1:8) If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, then you will be saved. (Romans 10:9) If you want to have eternal life, then you must be born again by the Spirit.(John 3:3-8) If my people who are called by My name will pray and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sins, and heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14) If Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. (Romans 8:10)
Those are called conditional statements.  They all require obedience on our part to realize the spiritual truth and blessing behind them.  It requires surrendering the natural to enjoy the supernatural.  So, if you agree, then I hope you will obey His voice and enjoy the blessing.  ELGIN

Friday, December 9, 2016

You Have Got To Release Your Grip On Your Old Nature

My Utmost For His Highest
Those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. —Galatians 5:24
“Very few of us would debate over what is filthy, evil, and wrong, but we do debate over what is good. […] The cost to your natural life is not just one or two things, but everything. Jesus said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself…” (Matthew 16:24). That is, he must deny his right to himself, and he must realize who Jesus Christ is before he will bring himself to do it. […] The natural life is not spiritual, and it can be made spiritual only through sacrifice. If we do not purposely sacrifice the natural, the supernatural can never become natural to us. There is no high or easy road. Each of us has the means to accomplish it entirely in his own hands. It is not a question of praying, but of sacrificing, and thereby performing His will.” CHAMBERS
We are born into a spiritual state of being.  The old things are passed away (2 Corinthians 5:17).  I had a conversation with a co-worker that other day.  When I quoted that verse, he chimed in to finish it.  He was well aware of what the Bible said, but as was evidenced by the conversation that followed, he saw life in two equal dimensions – the flesh and the Spirit.  Both coexisting. The idea of being dead to the old life was not in the equation.  I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live. (Galatians 2:20).  Although the natural life is obviously present in the life of a Christian, the rules have changed. 
God’s Word establishes the new normal.  But the pressure to live by the natural is so great.  The Bible says there is no difference between ethnic groups, male or female, we are all the same in Christ.  But the natural cries out “Yes there is! Don’t abandon you culture, your ethnic history, your distinctives that make you, you.  The things that make you naturally right!”  The spiritual says “You are not your own, you are bought with a price.  You have been born again into a new life.”  Can you embrace that?  Are you willing to abandon everything you hold sacred in the natural life and instead rest in the spiritual life that is now yours?  Do you love God with all of your heart or some of your heart?  If you are struggling with sin, it may very well be that your flesh, the natural, has a grip on you or more correctly, you have a grip on it.  Let it go!  ELGIN

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Salvation In Jesus Means You Will Never Get A Sin-Bill In The Mail

My Utmost For His Highest
By one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified. —Hebrews 10:14
“We trample the blood of the Son of God underfoot if we think we are forgiven because we are sorry for our sins. The only reason for the forgiveness of our sins by God, and the infinite depth of His promise to forget them, is the death of Jesus Christ. Our repentance is merely the result of our personal realization of the atonement by the Cross of Christ, which He has provided for us. […] No matter who or what we are, God restores us to right standing with Himself only by means of the death of Jesus Christ. God does this, not because Jesus pleads with Him to do so but because He died. It cannot be earned, just accepted. […] “In Him we have redemption through His blood…” (Ephesians 1:7). To identify with the death of Jesus Christ means that we must die to everything that was never a part of Him. God is just in saving bad people only as He makes them good. Our Lord does not pretend we are all right when we are all wrong. The atonement by the Cross of Christ is the propitiation God uses to make unholy people holy.” CHAMBERS
We are saved by grace through faith and not works (Ephesians 2:8,9) So what does that have to do with forgiveness?  We find forgiveness through Jesus.  There is no other to find forgiveness.  After we are born again, forgiveness of our sins when we confess our sins to God (1 John 1:9) is found in Jesus, not in our being sorry for sinning. It is always Jesus, it will never be you.  When the Bible says (Hebrews 7: 24-25) “because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.”  Jesus payment for our sins was forever.  We will never get a bill in the mail.  Our debt has been paid in full.  Jesus is at the right hand of God making intercession for us. (Hebrews 10:11-13) “Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest [Jesus] had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.”  Our forgiveness is in Jesus and only in Jesus. (John 14:6) “[He] is the Way and the Truth and the Life, no one comes to the father except by [Jesus]”
A dog does not wonder about life after death.  A dog was not created in the image of God.  A dog was not ever purposed to be one with the Father and Jesus, but man was.  You were.  I don’t pretend to understand what existence will be like in the presence of God, but I know it will be good.  I don’t pretend to understand what existence barred from the presence of God will be like, but I know it will not be good. Both will be forever.  Eternally in God’s presence and eternally banned from His presence.  I do think that being in God’s presence will be the thing that both groups of people will want the most.  One group’s desire will be granted and the other will be denied.  (1 John 5:10-12) “Whoever believes in the Son of God accepts this testimony. Whoever does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because they have not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.”  Thank You Jesus! Thank You Father! ELGIN

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Being Sorry Is The First Step Of Repentance, Not The Last

My Utmost For His Highest
Godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation… —2 Corinthians 7:10
“Conviction of sin is best described in the words: My sins, my sins, my Savior, How sad on Thee they fall. Conviction of sin is one of the most uncommon things that ever happens to a person. It is the beginning of an understanding of God. Jesus Christ said that when the Holy Spirit came He would convict people of sin (see John 16:8). And when the Holy Spirit stirs a person’s conscience and brings him into the presence of God, it is not that person’s relationship with others that bothers him but his relationship with God— “Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in your sight…” (Psalm 51:4). The wonders of conviction of sin, forgiveness, and holiness are so interwoven that it is only the forgiven person who is truly holy. He proves he is forgiven by being the opposite of what he was previously, by the grace of God. Repentance always brings a person to the point of saying, “I have sinned.” The surest sign that God is at work in his life is when he says that and means it. Anything less is simply sorrow for having made foolish mistakes”  CHAMBERS
Being sorry is not enough.  Repentance means turning away from your sin, not merely being frustrated and sorry that you continue to sin.  Conviction of sin is a supernatural act of the Spirit of God that brings an awareness of the truth of our sin … all sin separates us from God.  But sin is to the sinner like drugs are to the drug addict.  The Christian who sins knows it’s not good, it’s contrary to his new nature, but something drives him to want to cling to that sin. He may even ask God to forgive him, but really all he wants is relief from the conviction.  He has not abandoned what it is that draws him to that sin.  This is a spiritual struggle. (Ephesians 6:12)  That struggle manifests itself in our flesh – through physical actions and our thought life.  So it leads us to the question that Paul wrote in Romans 7:21-25 “I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.”
The danger for us is that we can become complacent about the sins we struggle with.  Even accepting.  But that is not the life we have been called to.  (Hebrews 12:1-2) “ So ….. let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Jesus is the Way, the truth, and the Life (John 14:6).  Repent.  ELGIN
Oh soul are you weary and troubled? No light in the darkness to see
There's a light for a look at the Savior. And life more abundant and free
His words shall not fail you, He promised. Believe Him and all will be well
Then go to a world that is dying, His perfect salvation to tell
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

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Be Careful Not To Leave Your Footprints

My Utmost For His Highest
I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth. —Genesis 9:13
“It is the will of God that human beings should get into a right-standing relationship with Him, and His covenants are designed for this purpose. Why doesn’t God save me? He has accomplished and provided for my salvation, but I have not yet entered into a relationship with Him. Why doesn’t God do everything we ask? He has done it. The point is— will I step into that covenant relationship? All the great blessings of God are finished and complete, but they are not mine until I enter into a relationship with Him on the basis of His covenant. […] When I have really transacted business with God on the basis of His covenant, letting everything else go, there is no sense of personal achievement— no human ingredient in it at all. Instead, there is a complete overwhelming sense of being brought into union with God, and my life is transformed and radiates peace and joy.”  CHAMBERS
A few years back, I was standing on a tract of land that would become an orphanage in Jacmel, Haiti.  I was given the responsibility of finding the land and then building the orphanage.  I brought several men with me for the search.  Men that I knew had a heart for God, possessed spiritual discernment, and knew how to take undeveloped land and transform it into something wonderful.  We visited several sites.  When we came to the place where we eventually built, they said, “this is right, this is the land”.  It wasn’t just the lay of the land, but it was their sensing God’s presence there.  I negotiated the price, consummated the purchase and began the transformation.  Part of the purchase process was to survey the land and mark the boundaries.  That required men to hack their way through head-high overgrowth to clear a path the surveyor could use to set the boundaries.  During that process a rainstorm let loose.  We took shelter under a sprawling breadfruit tree.  As we stood there, a rainbow formed.  Not in the sky but on the property.  It stretched from the ground on one side of the property to the other side.  I had never seen anything like it.  The Haitian workers were fearful.  They believed that  if you approached a rainbow, you would die. I told them about God’s promise.  That it did not represent death, but life.  I told them the presence of the rainbow represented God’s blessing on the land.  And since then the land has been a source of blessing for literally thousands of people. The people who are at the orphanage today don’t know my name.  And that is as it should be.  But, they do know that God is present and that is as it should be as well.
As you walk this earth, as you go from place to place, the evidence you leave behind should be God’s footprints not yours.  God has made a covenant with us .. It required a sacrifice to consummate it.  His name is Jesus.  The chief end of man is “to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” Make that your life’s purpose and let your light shine. And be careful that you don’t leave your footprints as you go.   ELGIN