Friday, January 27, 2017

God Is Sufficient No Matter What Your Trial Is - Do You Believe That?

My Utmost For His Highest

Do not worry about your life… —Matthew 6:25

{CHAMBERS} “A warning which needs to be repeated is that “the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches,” and the lust for other things, will choke out the life of God in us (Matthew 13:22). We are never free from the recurring waves of this invasion. If the frontline of attack is not about clothes and food, it may be about money or the lack of money; or friends or lack of friends; or the line may be drawn over difficult circumstances. It is one steady invasion, and these things will come in like a flood, unless we allow the Spirit of God to raise up the banner against it. […] Whenever there are competing concerns in your life, be sure you always put your relationship to God first.”

{ELGIN}  Consider this.  The measure of a successful Christian life on this world is not how much of it you have, but how much of you it has.  We walk the earth.  Breath the air.  Drink the water.  Take possession of what man has reshaped from the earthly elements.  But in the final analysis, when we are laid to rest, we are all the same.  All of what we have strived to possess will come to nothing.  It did not keep us from the grave. Morbid? No, it’s truth.  And it should be compelling.  I know it is difficult to have a sense of urgency about heaven when you feel you are drowning in the troubles on this earth.  But that is the point.  We must and we can.  It requires that we exercise faith.  That we focus on God and let His presence fill us.  You might say “I already do that.”, then I would say good, don’t stop and encourage other Christians do to the same.  We can’t avoid calamity, but we will shine in the midst of it as a testimony to our faith and the sufficiency of our God.

Turn Your Eyes upon Jesus | Helen H. Lemmel

O soul, are you weary and troubled? No light in the darkness you see?

There’s light for a look at the Savior, And life more abundant and free!

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.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Is Your Hope In The Here And Now Or The There and Then?

If God so clothes the grass of the field…, will He not much more clothe you…? —Matthew 6:30

{CHAMBERS} “A simple statement of Jesus is always a puzzle to us because we will not be simple. How can we maintain the simplicity of Jesus so that we may understand Him? By receiving His Spirit, recognizing and relying on Him, and obeying Him as He brings us the truth of His Word, life will become amazingly simple. […] Every time we lose ground in our fellowship with God, it is because we have disrespectfully thought that we knew better than Jesus Christ. We have allowed “the cares of this world” to enter in (Matthew 13:22), while forgetting the “much more” of our heavenly Father. “Look at the birds of the air…” (Matthew 6:26). Their function is to obey the instincts God placed within them, and God watches over them. Jesus said that if you have the right relationship with Him and will obey His Spirit within you, then God will care for your “feathers” too. “Consider the lilies of the field…” (Matthew 6:28). They grow where they are planted. Many of us refuse to grow where God plants us. […] Jesus said if we would obey the life of God within us, He would look after all other things. Did Jesus Christ lie to us?”

{ELGIN}  What is the “much more” Jesus was referring to exactly?  I guess the interpretation depends upon the culture that you live in.  In our culture, living lives of relative ease, "much more" can look like the angst you feel over buying a new house with four bedrooms and three bathrooms because each of your children needs a room of their own.  Or it could look like a family in a third world country wondering if they will have something to eat when a new day dawns.  Christians in the U.S. live in a world of HGTV and the Food Network, trying to figure out which phone plan is best and whether we need to buy a bigger TV with 4K resolution.  Somehow, I don’t think that is what Jesus was talking about.  I think, more than likely, Jesus was referring to our being confident that God is sovereign.  Having confidence that God loves us and that His expression of that love is Jesus Christ. 

When you strip away the trappings of this world that make us different from each other, we stand equal before the God of heaven.  When a mother and father have a child who has an illness that can take its life.  The size or resolution of their TV is not even on the radar of their lives.  We should be less concerned with feathering our nest and be more concerned with putting God first in our lives.  God will take care of us.  He has already proven that in Jesus.  We tend not to primarily think of our lives in terms of the “then and there” but more in the “here and now”.  But, if we can put the “here and now” in the context of the “there and then” how we respond to the circumstances of day to day living will change.  (Philippians 4:6-7) “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  What you ask God for is a reflection of where your devotions lie.  So put another way, what Jesus was saying in Matthew 6 was – “Trust God” see Proverbs 3:5-6.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Becoming Aware Of God's Presence In Your Life

When it pleased God… —Galatians 1:15

{CHAMBERS} “As servants of God, we must learn to make room for Him— to give God “elbow room.” We plan and figure and predict that this or that will happen, but we forget to make room for God to come in as He chooses. […] Do not look for God to come in a particular way, but do look for Him. The way to make room for Him is to expect Him to come, but not in a certain way. […] Suddenly—God meets our life “…when it pleased God….” Keep your life so constantly in touch with God that His surprising power can break through at any point. Live in a constant state of expectancy, and leave room for God to come in as He decides.”

{ELGIN}  What does God showing up look like?  When Elijah was in the cave (1 Kings 19:11-13) there was a great wind, but the Lord was not there.  There was a great earthquake and fire, but the Lord was not there.  “And after the fire came a gentle whisper. [a still small voice] When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.”  God can but probably won’t show up in a dramatic, sea parting, way.  You have to be paying attention.  You have to be spiritually sensitive.  You have to be looking for Him to show up.  In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus tells the parable of the Sheep and the Goats.  Normally we think of these verses in the context of serving others.  Both groups asked the question “Lord, when did we see you?”  The point was, in both cases, the Lord had showed up, but the goats missed him and the sheep did not, although they did not understand that God was involved.  He presented the opportunity and one group ignored it while the other seized it.  The fact of the matter is that He is everywhere, it is our spiritual insensitivity that prevents us from being aware of that.  In Psalm 139:7, David asks “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?”  The answer is, there is no place I can go, the problem is in my lack of awareness not in opportunity.

Open My Eyes

Open my eyes, that I may see Glimpses of truth Thou hast for me;

Place in my hands the wonderful key That shall unclasp and set me free.

Open my ears, that I may hear Voices of truth Thou sendest clear;

And while the wave notes fall on my ear, Everything false will disappear.

Open my mouth, and let me bear, Gladly the warm truth everywhere;

Open my heart and let me prepare Love with Thy children thus to share.

Silently now I wait for Thee, Ready my God, Thy will to see,

Open my eyes, illumine me, Spirit divine!

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The Word Of God, The Undeniable, Inescapable, In Your Face Truth

My Utmost For His Highest

I have appeared to you for this purpose… —Acts 26:16

{CHAMBERS} The vision Paul had on the road to Damascus was not a passing emotional experience, but a vision that had very clear and emphatic directions for him. And Paul stated, “I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision” (Acts 26:19). Our Lord said to Paul, in effect, “Your whole life is to be overpowered or subdued by Me; you are to have no end, no aim, and no purpose but Mine.” And the Lord also says to us, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go…” (John 15:16). […] It is not enough to give mental assent to the fact that God has redeemed the world, nor even to know that the Holy Spirit can make all that Jesus did a reality in my life. I must have the foundation of a personal relationship with Him. […] Paul was devoted to a Person, not to a cause. He was absolutely Jesus Christ’s. He saw nothing else and he lived for nothing else. “For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2).

{ELGIN} How do you understand your new life in Christ? Do you see it as your ticket to heaven or a transformed life with new priorities and devotions?  If you fail to draw close to Jesus, you will draw close to the world.  If you fail to forsake the world, then you will forsake your faith.  Sounds harsh perhaps, but it is no less true. (1 John 2:15-17) “Do not love the world nor 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 and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.”  We cannot do both, yet we try to convince ourselves that we can.  The Word is Truth, undeniable, inescapable, in your face, Truth.  It is God's intent that we receive it and then obey it.  (James 1:22) “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.”

Monday, January 23, 2017

Letting Our Light Shine In The Darkness

My Utmost For His Highest

We all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image… —2 Corinthians 3:18

{CHAMBERS} “You can always tell when someone has been beholding the glory of the Lord, because your inner spirit senses that he mirrors the Lord’s own character. […] The most important rule for us is to concentrate on keeping our lives open to God. Let everything else including work, clothes, and food be set aside. The busyness of things obscures our concentration on God. We must maintain a position of beholding Him, keeping our lives completely spiritual through and through. […] Never let a hurried lifestyle disturb the relationship of abiding in Him. This is an easy thing to allow, but we must guard against it."

{ELGIN} (Exodus 34:29,33-35) “When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord. […] When Moses finished speaking to them, he put a veil over his face. But whenever he entered the Lord’s presence to speak with him, he removed the veil until he came out. And when he came out and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, they saw that his face was radiant. Then Moses would put the veil back over his face until he went in to speak with the Lord.” 

When Moses came of off the mountain, having been in the presence of the Lord, he veiled his face because of the glory that was reflected in His face.  In the same way, the glory of the Lord should be reflected in our lives. Reflected because we have been in His presence.  Because we have the Spirit in us and Jesus interceding for us, we have unlimited access to the Father.  But it must be more than that.  Our relationship and his revelation must be communicated to the world.  We should not veil our faces … hide the glory of the Lord … but, instead, we should let our light shine in this dark culture.  Don’t expect the world to praise you because those who live in darkness do not like the light. (John 3:19-20) “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.”

Saturday, January 21, 2017

The Secret To A Long Relationship

My Utmost For His Highest

Thus says the Lord: "I remember…the kindness of your youth…" —Jeremiah 2:2

{CHAMBERS}  “God is saying to His people, “You are not in love with Me now, but I remember a time when you were.” He says, “I remember…the love of your betrothal…” (Jeremiah 2:2). Am I as filled to overflowing with love for Jesus Christ as I was in the beginning, when I went out of my way to prove my devotion to Him? Does He ever find me pondering the time when I cared only for Him? Is that where I am now, or have I chosen man’s wisdom over true love for Him? Am I so in love with Him that I take no thought for where He might lead me? Or am I watching to see how much respect I get as I measure how much service I should give Him? As I recall what God remembers about me, I may also begin to realize that He is not what He used to be to me. When this happens, I should allow the shame and humiliation it creates in my life, because it will bring godly sorrow, and “godly sorrow produces repentance…” (2 Corinthians 7:10).”

{ELGIN}  Tomorrow Martie and I celebrate 45 years of marriage.  41 of those years we have been Christians.  I love my wife more deeply today than I did on our wedding day.  On that day I knew I loved her, but only after I shared life with her did I know the depth and breadth of that love.  I believe that God intended the union of a man and a women to reflect the union between man and God. On the day of our salvation we are so emotionally committed to the Lord.  Over time, as we experienced life, our understanding grew.  Where we once were willing to go anywhere and do anything to please Him, we may find that there are certain things that we don’t want to give up.  Or perhaps can’t seem to give up.  Or perhaps we find ourselves in a place where we are living in the same house but leading different lives.  Still married, but not.  The flame that once burned brightly is a mere flicker, or worse, has gone out. The love that once motivated us has lost its shine. Being married for as long as we have is an anomaly in our culture.  God intended it to be the standard not the exception.  But our relationship is so much more than occupying the same space, whether it’s a home or a church.  Our marriage should be a beacon of light not a flickering flame.  A testimony to the glory of God. And so should our love for Him.  Rick Warren wrote in his book, Purpose Driven Life, “It’s not about me.” My wife (Ephesians 5:25) or my God (Romans 12:1-2), it applies to both and is the secret to the longevity and richness our relationship.

Friday, January 20, 2017

How To Keep Your Faith Fresh

My Utmost For His Highest

Jesus answered and said to him, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." —John 3:3

{CHAMBERS}  “Being born again by the Spirit is an unmistakable work of God, as mysterious as the wind, and as surprising as God Himself. We don’t know where it begins— it is hidden away in the depths of our soul. Being born again from above is an enduring, perpetual, and eternal beginning. It provides a freshness all the time in thinking, talking, and living— a continual surprise of the life of God. Staleness is an indication that something in our lives is out of step with God. […] Freshness is not the result of obedience; it comes from the Holy Spirit. Obedience keeps us “in the light as He is in the light…” (1 John 1:7). Jealously guard your relationship with God. Jesus prayed “that they may be one just as We are one” — with nothing in between (John 17:22). […] If you are depending on something else as your source of freshness and strength, you will not realize when His power is gone.”

{ELGIN} Do you remember the feeling when you purchased something that you really wanted?  A car maybe.  There was excitement, joy perhaps.  You were protective of it.  Wanting no harm to come to it. But, as time passed, the newness wore off, you grew accustomed to it.  When you saw it or used it, it no longer had the same effect on you.  And over time, perhaps you became complacent about it.  This could describe a relationship with a person as well as the possession of some “thing”.  It is our nature, our old nature anyway, that is at work.  And we must be on our guard.  To have a successful marriage requires that you make and keep it a priority.  Marriage requires sacrifice on your part.  (Ephesians 5:25) Intentionality.  To live out your life of faith successfully requires the same. (Matthew 16:24)  It’s a daily effort.  But if you are reading this, I guess you know that already.  Press on my friend.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

When God Speaks - What Matters Most

When the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, horror and great darkness fell upon him. —Genesis 15:12

{CHAMBERS} “Whenever God gives a vision to a Christian, it is as if He puts him in “the shadow of His hand” (Isaiah 49:2). The saint’s duty is to be still and listen. […] Never try to help God fulfill His word. Abram went through thirteen years of silence, but in those years all of his self-sufficiency was destroyed. […] Those years of silence were a time of discipline, not a period of God’s displeasure. […] Do I trust at all in the flesh? Or have I learned to go beyond all confidence in myself and other people of God? Do I trust in books and prayers or other joys in my life? Or have I placed my confidence in God Himself, not in His blessings? “I am Almighty God…”— El-Shaddai, the All-Powerful God (Genesis 17:1). The reason we are all being disciplined is that we will know God is real. As soon as God becomes real to us, people pale by comparison, becoming shadows of reality. Nothing that other saints do or say can ever upset the one who is built on God.”

{ELGIN}  Has God ever spoken to you? Most probably not a burning bush experience, but a still, small voice conversation?  A realization that came upon you.  Something that you were not looking for, but happened all the same.  Something that was entirely out of context of what you thought you should be doing or where you thought you should be going.  Totally inexplicable except that it was God. You know it in your heart.  Perhaps, like Abraham, God spoke and then you waited.  Or perhaps, God spoke and that was not what you wanted.  To follow God.  To be in step with God, you must keep your focus on and trust in God. As soon as you start to question God, you are out of step with Him.

It’s not that you created a problem for God. The point is that you miss the purpose God has planned for you. Can you fathom that the Creator of the universe would choose to use you for His purposes on earth?  And what is our response?  I can’t afford it. I don’t have the time right now. I don’t want to give something up that is in the way of serving God.  You don’t always have to leave your home, or quit your job, or sell all you have to fulfill God’s purpose, but you may.  But if your heart is right, it won’t matter.  What matters most is that you are following God.  (Matthew 16:24) “If anyone comes after Me, he must deny himself, pick up his cross and follow Me”

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Choosing Your Battles, Is The Choice Really Yours?

My Utmost For His Highest

Thomas answered and said to Him, "My Lord and my God!" —John 20:28

{CHAMBERS} “You shall be witnesses to Me…” (Acts 1:8). “That means lives of pure, uncompromising, and unrestrained devotion to the Lord Jesus, which will be satisfying to Him wherever He may send us. […] The goal of the call of God is His satisfaction, not simply that we should do something for Him. We are not sent to do battle for God, but to be used by God in His battles.”

{ELGIN}  Self-absorbed, we limit our service to the Lord.  We pick our battles rather than fight where the Lord sends us. I recall a quote from General George Patton, “I am a soldier, I fight where I am told, and I win where I fight.” (2 Timothy 2:4) “No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer.” Whether in the military or as a Christian, we have sworn our allegiance to a higher authority.  That should mean that we serve in obedience to the commands we receive.

It has been almost a year and a half since we returned from Haiti. For 10 years we lived a different life.  Forsaking a comfortable lifestyle and serving others being our primary purpose. It is amazing how easy it is to slip back into a comfortable lifestyle. Letting the demands of living in abundance take on a prominence in our lives that has been absent for so many years.  We still serve the Lord, but the intensity of that service has changed. The things of this world can be intoxicating.  They can cause well-intentioned Christians to abandon their devotion to the Lord and, instead, give their devotion to financial security, a lack of physical want, a life of relative ease. Are there battles that you have said you would not fight?  In the Army if you intentionally miss a deployment there are severe consequences.  Be careful you don’t let “civilian affairs” entangle you and cause you to miss the Lord’s call. To wherever that may be.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Surprised By Faith - When God Shows Up

When it pleased God…to reveal His Son in me… —Galatians 1:15-16

{CHAMBERS} “The call of God is not a call to serve Him in any particular way. My contact with the nature of God will shape my understanding of His call and will help me realize what I truly desire to do for Him. The call of God is an expression of His nature; the service which results in my life is suited to me and is an expression of my nature. […] Service is the overflow which pours from a life filled with love and devotion. But strictly speaking, there is no call to that. Service is what I bring to the relationship and is the reflection of my identification with the nature of God. Service becomes a natural part of my life. […] The Son of God reveals Himself in me, and out of devotion to Him service becomes my everyday way of life.”

{ELGIN} Martie and I recently had lunch with a young woman who wanted to know about ministry in Haiti.  She is a teacher and has summers free.  There are any number of things that a teacher can do to fill up their summers, but serving in a third world country is probably not very high on the list for most of them.  We had planned to go to a particular restaurant, but when we arrived, after church, we found it packed and very noisy, so we went to another restaurant.  I dropped Martie and the twins off at the door and parked the car.  As I walked back, she caught up with me.  Approaching the sidewalk I met a pastor friend and his wife who goes to Haiti frequently.  The young woman had asked if there were any opportunities in June.  My friend told us that he was taking a team to Ans du Clerc in June.  His wife added that they needed another woman on the team.  The woman we were meeting with looked at me in amazement.  I told her, “This sort of thing happens to us all the time.”

As Martie and I talked to her during lunch, I could see the “fire” in her eyes.  The fire that is kindled by the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer who says “yes” to God.  I connected her with my pastor friend and encouraged her to let God lead her. (Proverbs 16:9) “Men make plans in their hearts, but God orders their steps.”  I told her this is about faith and trust, not about knowing where the next step will lead.  Having confidence that God has us in His grip and wherever He leads her it will be for His glory and her good.  And so it is for you too.  He is the Potter and we are the clay.  Let God mold you into the vessel of service that He planned from the foundation of creation.  Hard to imagine?  You know it’s true! (Ephesians 2:10)

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Walking In Our Calling - Not An Easy Road

My Utmost For His Highest
I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: "Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?" Then I said, "Here am I! Send me." —Isaiah 6:8
{CHAMBERS}  “God did not direct His call to Isaiah— Isaiah overheard God saying, “…who will go for Us?” The call of God is not just for a select few but for everyone. Whether I hear God’s call or not depends on the condition of my ears, and exactly what I hear depends upon my spiritual attitude. […] Remove the thought from your mind of expecting God to come to force you or to plead with you. When our Lord called His disciples, He did it without irresistible pressure from the outside. The quiet, yet passionate, insistence of His “Follow Me” was spoken to men whose every sense was receptive (Matthew 4:19). If we will allow the Holy Spirit to bring us face to face with God, we too will hear what Isaiah heard— “the voice of the Lord.” In perfect freedom we too will say, “Here am I! Send me.””
{ELGIN}  Jesus said (Mark 4:9) “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”  Whoever has the desire to seek God will hear.  Then the next step is to “do”.  We have all been called.  In Romans chapter 1, Paul referred to the Roman (Gentile) church as “the Called of Jesus Christ”.  Our challenge is to live in obedience to that calling.  It is not an easy road that we walk. But we don’t walk it on our own, thank the Lord.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Why Victory Seems To Be Out Of Reach

My Utmost For His Highest
When He was alone…the twelve asked Him about the parable. —Mark 4:10
{CHAMBERS} “When God gets us alone through suffering, heartbreak, temptation, disappointment, sickness, or by thwarted desires, a broken friendship, or a new friendship— when He gets us absolutely alone, and we are totally speechless, unable to ask even one question, then He begins to teach us. Notice Jesus Christ’s training of the Twelve. It was the disciples, not the crowd outside, who were confused. His disciples constantly asked Him questions, and He constantly explained things to them, but they didn’t understand until after they received the Holy Spirit (see John 14:26).”
{ELGIN} We are absolutely dependent upon the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  The disciples walked, talked, and ate with Jesus, but they did not understand until they had the spiritual capacity to understand.  Our new life is spiritual.  You might be thinking, “so tell me something I don’t know.”  Of course we all know it, but the problem is that that we don’t all live like we know it.  On the one hand, we acknowledge the Spirit, but on the other, we ignore the Spirit and try to live our new lives in our own strength and wisdom. Our spiritual nature is empowered by the Spirit of God.  If we do not live in submission to the Spirit, we will fail spiritually.  What God calls us to will be out of reach because it requires the power of the Spirit to live our new life.  It’s a life of faith not of determined effort.  (Zechariah 4:6) “It’s not by strength and not by power, but by my Spirit says the Lord..”  Simple words, but difficult to live by.  (Galatians 2:20) “…the life that I now live, I live by faith..”  Our trials and troubles are not necessarily caused by our lack of faith and ignoring the Spirit, but we cannot hope to experience victory in those trials and troubles on our own. (Galatians 5:25) “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.”

Thursday, January 12, 2017

To Flounder Or Flourish In Your New Life - It's Your Choice

My Utmost For His Highest
When they were alone, He explained all things to His disciples. —Mark 4:34
{CHAMBERS}  “Jesus doesn’t take us aside and explain things to us all the time; He explains things to us as we are able to understand them. The lives of others are examples for us, but God requires us to examine our own souls. […] We can only be used by God after we allow Him to show us the deep, hidden areas of our own character."
{ELGIN} Wouldn’t it be great if on the day of our conversion that we were perfected and made just like Jesus.  We never sinned again.  We focused our devotion entirely on the Father and doing His will, just like Jesus.  But that is not what happened is it.  Instead we struggle with our old nature.  We continue to sin and often pretend that we don’t.  At least we would like others to think that we don’t.  But we do, and so do they.  My grandson has many questions about our faith.  The latest one was, “Why did God do things the way He did?”  God could have done and still can do anything He wants to do.  Why is this the solution?  How is it that this is the best solution.  Well, I suppose it depends upon what God’s intent was and is.  What did He intend to accomplish.  But before I give you my answer, let me say that man has grappled with this question for millennia.  Anything I say will be inadequate.  OK.  By creating man, the ultimate in all His creation, He was glorified in the best possible way.  All creation, except man, must obey God and the order He has set in place, no choice.  Man, on the other hand, chooses whether or not he will obey.  But even then, man cannot obey apart from God’s help.  Man must choose God and not himself, although man can choose himself.  Our inability to do the right thing is proof that we are not as good as we would like to think we are.  But we have a choice to flounder our flourish.
You may not like my answer, but apart from God revealing anything else to me, that’s the best I could give my grandson.  My answer is based more on observation than revelation.  Personal experience in the context of God’s revelation in His word and creation.  Life is a struggle.  Perfection is just out of reach this side of heaven.  But there is joy in the journey.  Our chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.  That begins on the day of our salvation and will continue, well, forever.  Perhaps you are struggling with your faith and maybe secret sins right now.  Forgiveness is only a prayer away.  Restoration is certain. The choice is yours.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Following Jesus Doesn't Leave Any Wiggle Room

My Utmost For His Highest
As they led Him away, they laid hold of a certain man, Simon…, and on him they laid the cross that he might bear it after Jesus. —Luke 23:26
{CHAMBERS} “If we obey God, it is going to cost other people more than it costs us, and that is where the pain begins. If we are in love with our Lord, obedience does not cost us anything— it is a delight. But to those who do not love Him, our obedience does cost a great deal. If we obey God, it will mean that other people’s plans are upset. […] We have no right to think that the type of relationships we have with others should be any different from those the Lord Himself had (see Luke 8:1-3).[…] Beware of the inclination to dictate to God what consequences you would allow as a condition of your obedience to Him.”
{ELGIN} There are relational consequences when we choose to follow Jesus by faith.  Our lives are no longer conformed to what the world says is “right”.  Our affections are upended.  Our love for God and desire to walk in His ways becomes primary and our love for others and the things of this world, secondary.  The result can often be that we find ourselves distanced from our family and friends.  Not because we are obnoxious with our new found faith or because we don’t care about them, but rather because there is a spiritual barrier between us.  We are aliens in our own families.  For some that means rejection – censure, for others it may be patronizing – having become the “odd” family member.  Or perhaps that is not what happens at all because we choose to go along to get along. 
Acceptance by our family or friends is more important to us than obedience to the God that we have put our faith in.  (Luke 14:26) ““If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.”  The Lord does not leave any wiggle room.  To be rejected by people you care about because of your faith is hurtful.  You must decide if you are willing to carry the same burden that Jesus did. (John 15:18-19) “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own.”  For Jesus, it meant that He had to go to the cross.  (Matthew 16:24) “Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Living Right By Walking In The Light

My Utmost For His Highest
I now send you, to open their eyes…that they may receive forgiveness of sins… —Acts 26:17-18
{CHAMBERS} “This verse is the greatest example of the true essence of the message of a disciple of Jesus Christ in all of the New Testament. God’s first sovereign work of grace is summed up in the words, “…that they may receive forgiveness of sins….” […] When a person is born again, he knows that it is because he has received something as a gift from Almighty God and not because of his own decision. […] Salvation means that we are brought to the place where we are able to receive something from God on the authority of Jesus Christ, namely, forgiveness of sins. This is followed by God’s second mighty work of grace: “…an inheritance among those who are sanctified….” In sanctification, the one who has been born again deliberately gives up his right to himself to Jesus Christ, and identifies himself entirely with God’s ministry to others.”
{ELGIN} Giving up my right to myself.  My right to decide what is right and wrong.  To live according to the Truth ordained by God and enlivened in me by the power of the Gospel.  The is the “new” that is referred to in 2 Corinthians 5:17.  That is the “new” that is referred to in Romans 6:4.  That is the “way” that the Spirit referred to in Isaiah 30:21.  The Christian life is more than acknowledging  that “Jesus loves me this I know”.  It is walking in Light. (1 John 1:5-7) “This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” What a promise .. What a Savior … What a life is ours Christians!

Monday, January 9, 2017

Playing Peek-A-Boo With God

My Utmost For His Highest
May your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless… —1 Thessalonians 5:23
{CHAMBERS}  “The great, mysterious work of the Holy Spirit is in the deep recesses of our being which we cannot reach. Read Psalm 139. The psalmist implies— “O Lord, You are the God of the early mornings, the God of the late nights, the God of the mountain peaks, and the God of the sea. […] My God, search me.” Do we believe that God can fortify and protect our thought processes far beyond where we can go? “…the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). If this verse means cleansing only on our conscious level, may God have mercy on us. The man who has been dulled by sin will say that he is not even conscious of it. But the cleansing from sin we experience will reach to the heights and depths of our spirit if we will “walk in the light as He is in the light” (1 John 1:7). The same Spirit that fed the life of Jesus Christ will feed the life of our spirit.”
{ELGIN}  There are times when I really don’t want God to search my heart.  Times I don’t want to acknowledge the sin that has taken root in me.  Like Adam and Eve hiding in the Garden.  (Genesis 3:8-10) God is looking for me, but I am avoiding Him because I am ashamed of my sin. Sounds crazy doesn’t it.  Why would we do that. Because it is in our old nature and the call of our old nature is always there.  The sound of it can only be dimmed through the strength of our relationship with our Lord. 
If you are hiding behind a bush instead of standing up and saying “Here I am Lord.”, then there is something spiritually amiss.  The thing is, there is no hiding.  Like playing peak-a-boo with your baby.  You don’t disappear, it’s just that your baby doesn’t see you.  In the same way, God is always present.  His Spirit is in every Christian, all the time.  God will not cast you out, Jesus has reconciled you for eternity, there is no reason to hide.  You have nothing to fear … forgiveness is certain.  Pride and guilt prevent you from living in victory.  There is victory in Jesus. (Hebrews 12:1) “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, 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. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Living The "Good Enough" Life Is Not Good Enough

My Utmost For His Highest
Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip?" —John 14:9
{CHAMBERS} “These words were not spoken as a rebuke, nor even with surprise; Jesus was encouraging Philip to draw closer. Yet the last person we get intimate with is Jesus. Before Pentecost the disciples knew Jesus as the One who gave them power to conquer demons and to bring about a revival (see Luke 10:18-20). It was a wonderful intimacy, but there was a much closer intimacy to come: “…I have called you friends…” (John 15:15). True friendship is rare on earth. It means identifying with someone in thought, heart, and spirit. The whole experience of life is designed to enable us to enter into this closest relationship with Jesus Christ. We receive His blessings and know His Word, but do we really know Him? […] The Christian who is truly intimate with Jesus will never draw attention to himself but will only show the evidence of a life where Jesus is completely in control.”
{ELGIN}  It is possible that we are born again and many years afterward, we remain spiritual infants.  Our relationship with Jesus, our spiritual understanding, and the application of spiritual truth in the way we live remains essentially unchanged from the day of our salvation. For many Christians, they believe that what they are experiencing is what the Christian life is supposed to be.  One hand in heaven and both feet planted firmly in the world.  When they meet someone that knows more about the Word and lives in a manner that sets them apart from the culture, they view them as the exception, super spiritual, or maybe a little fanatical, and not what they are … sanctified and walking in obedience to the Word and the Lord. 
Some years ago, I had the occasion to speak to a number of congregations about men’s ministry.  I would talk to them about “spiritual glasses”.  I said “If I could give you spiritual glasses that allowed you to see a person’s spiritual maturity, and you looked out over this congregation, you would see older people who are infants and younger people who are adults.”  My words were never received well because immature Christians, people like Philip, really don’t want to think of themselves as immature.  Instead they want to think that what they have surrendered to God is “good enough”.  They are lukewarm … This is what Jesus said to the Church of Ephesus about being lukewarm.  (Revelation 3:15-17) “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.”  Christian, do not be deceived.  You are called to love God with your entire being. (Matthew 22:37)  Embrace who you are in Christ.  Draw close to God and He will draw close to you.  (James 4:8) You won’t regret it.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Living The New Life Only By The Power Of The Spirit

My Utmost For His Highest
Jesus answered him, "Where I am going you cannot follow Me now, but you shall follow Me afterward." —John 13:36
{CHAMBERS}  “And when He had spoken this, He said to him, ‘Follow Me’ ” (John 21:19). Three years earlier Jesus had said, “Follow Me” (Matthew 4:19), and Peter followed with no hesitation. The irresistible attraction of Jesus was upon him and he did not need the Holy Spirit to help him do it. Later he came to the place where he denied Jesus, and his heart broke. Then he received the Holy Spirit and Jesus said again, “Follow Me” (John 21:19). Now no one is in front of Peter except the Lord Jesus Christ. The first “Follow Me” was nothing mysterious; it was an external following. Jesus is now asking for an internal sacrifice and yielding (see John 21:18).  […] No matter what changes God has performed in you, never rely on them. Build only on a Person, the Lord Jesus Christ, and on the Spirit He gives. […] All our promises and resolutions end in denial because we have no power to accomplish them. […] There is now only One who directs the course of your life, the Lord Jesus Christ.
{ELGIN} Think about the Garden for a moment.  Satan convinced Adam that Adam could do what Adam thought was best only to discover that he thought wrong.  Whenever we think that our way is the better way, we are thinking wrongly.  When we think that we can live the Christian life without Jesus, we are in trouble.  (Galatians 2:20) “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless, not I but Christ lives in me.  And the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself up for me.”  Do you see any part of your old nature having an active part in your new life?  The only reference to it is that your old nature has been crucified. Not part of your new life. That is, unless you allow it to be.

Monday, January 2, 2017

You May See Giants, But God Is Always Bigger

My Utmost For His Highest
He went out, not knowing where he was going. —Hebrews 11:8
{CHAMBERS} “Have you ever “gone out” in this way? If so, there is no logical answer possible when anyone asks you what you are doing. One of the most difficult questions to answer in Christian work is, “What do you expect to do?” You don’t know what you are going to do. The only thing you know is that God knows what He is doing. Continually examine your attitude toward God to see if you are willing to “go out” in every area of your life, trusting in God entirely. It is this attitude that keeps you in constant wonder, because you don’t know what God is going to do next. Each morning as you wake, there is a new opportunity to “go out,” building your confidence in God. “…do not worry about your life…nor about the body…” (Luke 12:22). In other words, don’t worry about the things that concerned you before you did “go out.”[…] Let the attitude of your life be a continual willingness to “go out” in dependence upon God, and your life will have a sacred and inexpressible charm about it that is very satisfying to Jesus. You must learn to “go out” through your convictions, creeds, or experiences until you come to the point in your faith where there is nothing between yourself and God.”
{ELGIN} When God speaks to you, your biggest challenge is obedience and that obedience is exercised in faith.  God’s direction can be big – go to a foreign land – or it may be small – obey My Word in your current situation.  But it will always require a denial of self and a dependence upon God.  (Hebrews 11:1) “Faith … what’s hoped for … what’s not seen” Most people I have met who have been faced with a faith decision have looked at their circumstances, considered them hopeless, and chose to not obey God but rather follow their own way.  A way that depends on others and not God.  That is very frustrating to watch, particularly when it involves people you care about.  But the truth of the matter is that all you can do is  encourage them to follow God and then leave it to God.  I can remember when Martie and I first realized that the Lord was sending us from a disaster area in Mississippi to Haiti.  A friend of ours, not a believer, looked me square in the face and said “Are you crazy?!”  My response, “Rich, it was not my idea.”  I then explained how the Lord has spoken to us.  Rich had no capacity to grasp the truth of what I had told him, but the point is that you cannot expect the world to encourage you to obey God.  Many times we choose another way other than faith because we are weak in our faith and fearful that following God is result in a worse condition then following worldly advice, like decision Israel made to not obey God and not cross the river, and instead wandered for 40 years (Numbers 13-14).