Thursday, August 31, 2017

What or Who Does Your Joy Depend Upon?

These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. —John 15:11

{CHAMBERS} “What was the joy that Jesus had? […] The joy of Jesus was His absolute self-surrender and self-sacrifice to His Father— the joy of doing that which the Father sent Him to do— “…who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross…” (Hebrews 12:2). “I delight to do Your will, O my God…” (Psalm 40:8). Jesus prayed that our joy might continue fulfilling itself until it becomes the same joy as His. Have I allowed Jesus Christ to introduce His joy to me? Living a full and overflowing life does not rest in bodily health, in circumstances, nor even in seeing God’s work succeed, but in the perfect understanding of God, and in the same fellowship and oneness with Him that Jesus Himself enjoyed. But the first thing that will hinder this joy is the subtle irritability caused by giving too much thought to our circumstances. Jesus said, “…the cares of this world,…choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful” (Mark 4:19). And before we even realize what has happened, we are caught up in our cares. […] Stop being hypocritical and proud, aware only of yourself, and live “your life…hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3). […] The lives that have been the greatest blessing to you are the lives of those people who themselves were unaware of having been a blessing.”

{ELGIN} The mark of a spiritually mature Christian is not that they never smile, but wear a face of gloom.  There is nothing sinful about being happy.  But God is not primarily concerned with our being happy or having the cravings of our flesh satisfied.  Instead, He wants us to find our worth and joy in our relationship with Him.  The Shorter Catechism asks “What is the chief end of man?” , “To glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”  Our relationship with God through Jesus by His Spirit is supposed to be primary.  The motivation for every other aspect of our lives.  Unfortunately we often relegate God to second place and put ourselves in first place.  Our three great commandments.  Love ourselves, love God but not if it gets in the way of the first, and then love others so long as they don’t cause us problems. Does that sound cynical?  I am afraid it is reality for many.  You can read devotionals, like this, read the Bible every day, never miss a service at your local church, but if you don’t apply it to your life, you are merely embracing a philosophy that has not practical value in your life.  You must not only embrace the Truth but yield your life to the Truth. Do you find your fulfillment in this life in who you are in Christ or are you trusting on other, worldly things to bring fulfillment?  Look, all of us struggle with this.  We are but  jars of clay. (2 Corinthians 4:7-9) When we trust in ourselves and what the world has to offer, we settle for much less than what God has purposed for us.  This life is full of disappointments giving us plenty of opportunity to be discouraged. (Psalm 43:5) “Why are you in despair [why be downcast], O my soul? And why are you disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God.”  We live in a fallen, sin-sick world.  But as Christians, [our] hope is built on nothing less than Jesus and His righteousness.  On Christ the solid rock [we] stand, all other ground is sinking sand!

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Serving With Joy In A Place Of Sorrow

Do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven. —Luke 10:20

{CHAMBERS} “Jesus Christ is saying here, “Don’t rejoice in your successful service for Me, but rejoice because of your right relationship with Me.” The trap you may fall into in Christian work is to rejoice in successful service— rejoicing in the fact that God has used you. Yet you will never be able to measure fully what God will do through you if you do not have a right-standing relationship with Jesus Christ. If you keep your relationship right with Him, then regardless of your circumstances or whoever you encounter each day, He will continue to pour “rivers of living water” through you (John 7:38). […] Once you have the right relationship with God through salvation and sanctification, remember that whatever your circumstances may be, you have been placed in them by God. And God uses the reaction of your life to your circumstances to fulfill His purpose, as long as you continue to “walk in the light as He is in the light” (1 John 1:7). […] If you make usefulness the test, then Jesus Christ was the greatest failure who ever lived. For the saint, direction and guidance come from God Himself, not some measure of that saint’s usefulness. It is the work that God does through us that counts, not what we do for Him.”

{ELGIN}  (Psalm 37:24-25) “The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand. I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread.”  As I read the Chambers’ devotion this morning, I could not help but reflect upon my own walk with the Lord.  I have not been content, of late, with where the Lord has me serving.  I think pride has something to do with it.  God has used both me and my wife in some glorious ways over the years.  I have held positions of significant responsibility both in secular work and ministry.  So now I find myself in the “autumn” of life in a wholly different context, all the while my heart pounding to be back in those other places in those other times.  Chamber’s words remind me that I am the Lord’s to do with as He pleases.   My joy is in knowing that I am where He wants me to be, even though it might not be where my flesh would prefer to be.  The question is can I walk briskly in obedience with my eyes fixed on Jesus and an expectation that I am fulfilling God’s purpose in my generation? Or, will I dawdle, grumbling that I can be better used elsewhere, certainly doing the work but my attitude does not honor God and reveals that my heart is more devoted to what I want and less to what God has ordained?

I tell a story about serving in Waveland Mississippi after Katrina, that being in the center of God’s will is the best place to be, geography has nothing to do with it.  There are times when you lose focus on that truth.  You allow circumstances, and yes, pride of service to cloud your spiritual vision.  Where does God have you today?  Are you serving God with your whole heart even though your flesh would prefer that you be elsewhere doing something of your own design?  Do we know better than God? (rhetorical!) Jesus told the Church of Ephesus that they had “left their first love”.  Oh, they were still doing good things, but the reason why they were doing them had changed.  Be careful my friend, the slope is slippery, be careful lest you slip and fall.  Hold on to Jesus.

Jesus Hold My Hand.  “As I travel through this pilgrim land, There is a friend who walks with me. Leads me safely through the sinking sand, It is the Christ at Calvary. This would be my prayer, dear Lord, each day You help me do the best I can. For I need Thy light to guide me day and night, Blessed Jesus, hold my hand Jesus. Jesus hold my hand, For I need Thee every hour. Through this pilgrim land, Protect me by Thy power. Hear my feeble plea O Lord, look down on me. When I kneel in prayer I hope to meet You there.  Blessed Jesus, hold my hand.”

Thursday, August 24, 2017

What Does It Take For God To Answer My Prayers? Good Question!

What man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? —Matthew 7:9

{CHAMBERS} “The illustration of prayer that our Lord used here is one of a good child who is asking for something good. We talk about prayer as if God hears us regardless of what our relationship is to Him (see Matthew 5:45). Never say that it is not God’s will to give you what you ask. Don’t faint and give up, but find out the reason you have not received; increase the intensity of your search and examine the evidence. Is your relationship right with your spouse, your children, and your fellow students? Are you a “good child” in those relationships? Do you have to say to the Lord, “I have been irritable and cross, but I still want spiritual blessings”? You cannot receive and will have to do without them until you have the attitude of a “good child.” We mistake defiance for devotion, arguing with God instead of surrendering. We refuse to look at the evidence that clearly indicates where we are wrong. Have I been asking God to give me money for something I want, while refusing to pay someone what I owe him? Have I been asking God for liberty while I am withholding it from someone who belongs to me? Have I refused to forgive someone, and have I been unkind to that person? Have I been living as God’s child among my relatives and friends? (see Matthew 7:12). I am a child of God only by being born again, and as His child I am good only as I “walk in the light” (1 John 1:7). For most of us, prayer simply becomes some trivial religious expression, a matter of mystical and emotional fellowship with God. We are all good at producing spiritual fog that blinds our sight. But if we will search out and examine the evidence, we will see very clearly what is wrong— a friendship, an unpaid debt, or an improper attitude. There is no use praying unless we are living as children of God. Then Jesus says, regarding His children, “Everyone who asks receives…” (Matthew 7:8).

{ELGIN}  Once again, I find that I must quote the entire devotion from Chambers.  For some reason we easily disconnect our heart from our mouth.  We feel free to approach God even when our heart is not right.  The Word says “out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. (I will let you look that up.)   The Word also says “we have not because we ask not and when we do ask we ask to satisfy ourselves and what we want.” (You can look that up too!)   So, if you couple those two thoughts together, you can easily see that if your heart is not right, what comes out of your mouth, in prayer, will most likely not be right or even heard by God for that matter.   I am certain you have figured out by now that spiritual maturity does not happen by itself.  It happens as we submit to the Spirit and pursue God by faith.  It is expressed in the way we treat others, the way we approach God, and how we pray.  How we pray and what we pray for is a reflection of that maturity.  Micah 6:8 poses this question and provides this answer, “He has shown you, oh man what is good. What does the Lord require of you? But to do justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”  The only way you can do that is by faith and obedience.  “When we walk with the Lord in the light of his Word. What a glory He sheds on our way! While we do His good will, He abides with us still, And with all who will trust and obey. Trust and obey, for there's no other way To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

You Must Be Born Again ..... But Wait There's More!

I indeed baptize you with water…but He…will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. —Matthew 3:11

{CHAMBERS} “Have I ever come to the point in my life where I can say, “I indeed…but He…”? Until that moment comes, I will never know what the baptism of the Holy Spirit means. I indeed am at the end, and I cannot do anything more— but He begins right there— He does the things that no one else can ever do. […] Repentance does not cause a sense of sin— it causes a sense of inexpressible unworthiness. When I repent, I realize that I am absolutely helpless, and I know that through and through I am not worthy even to carry His sandals. Have I repented like that, or do I have a lingering thought of possibly trying to defend my actions? […] “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” John is not speaking here of the baptism of the Holy Spirit as an experience, but as a work performed by Jesus Christ. “He will baptize you….””

{ELGIN} (John 3:3-7) “Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.” Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”  “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!” Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’”  I am amazed at the intensity of effort that people go through to know their genealogy. based in Utah, started by the Church of Latter Day Saints (Mormons) [1000 of the 1400 employees are in Utah], has promoted an interest worldwide, but particularly in the United States, in people knowing their genetic roots.  Nicodemus depended upon his roots, his natural birth, to somehow ensure his access to heaven.  Jesus told him, “you must be born again [spiritually]”  So must we all.  It is not very helpful to know that you are “genetic soup”.  We are all sons and daughters of Adam, genetically connected to Adam through Noah and his sons.  There I just saved you some time and money!  But we want to know more because our flesh has a passion to trust in itself.  But Jesus said …that is not good enough.  You must be born by the Spirit.  (2 Corinthians 5:17)  You have a new, spiritual DNA, and because of that, you have gained entrance to the throne room of grace and have a place in heaven.

I could expound on the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  Certainly there are denominations that have risen up because of what some believe that means.  But, unless you understand your new nature and are walking in submission to the leading of the Spirit, the more sensational beliefs, not embraced by me by the way, are nothing more than curiosities .. intellectual gymnastics.  Most of us have a hard enough time just grasping the necessity and the implications of our new birth.  It might be interesting to know who the father of my father of his father of his father ……. Go back to Adam if you like … was, but what is more important to realize who your Father in heaven is and what that means in terms of how you live this live forward. If you do anything do this one thing.  (Philippians 3:13-14) “Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But 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.”

Monday, August 21, 2017

Is Your Light Shining By The Power Of The Spirit Of God?

Blessed are the poor in spirit… —Matthew 5:3

{CHAMBERS} “The true character of the loveliness that speaks for God is always unnoticed by the one possessing that quality. Conscious influence is prideful and unchristian. If I wonder if I am being of any use to God, I instantly lose the beauty and the freshness of the touch of the Lord. “He who believes in Me…out of his heart will flow rivers of living water” (John 7:38). And if I examine the outflow, I lose the touch of the Lord. Who are the people who have influenced us most? Certainly not the ones who thought they did, but those who did not have even the slightest idea that they were influencing us. In the Christian life, godly influence is never conscious of itself. If we are conscious of our influence, it ceases to have the genuine loveliness which is characteristic of the touch of Jesus. We always know when Jesus is at work because He produces in the commonplace something that is inspiring.”

{ELGIN} Now and again I will meet someone who tells me that I was a significant influence in their spiritual life.  Something of which I was totally unaware.  Our goal is not to impress others with our spirituality or to rack up spiritual credits for heaven.  Our goal is to let our light shine before all men (Matthew 5:16).  Light does not discern or prescribe how it helps the one it gives aid to.  It only shines by the source of the power behind it.  I often ask Martie after I have spoken, preached or taught a Sunday school class,  “How did I do?”  I am not looking for a grade, what I am interested in is whether she sensed the Spirit at work through what I had just done.  The light is unaware of its influence.  One of the men in my class told me the other Sunday that he noticed that the preacher in the service very often emphasized some of the same things that I had taught that morning.  Sometimes even using some of the same verses.  I told him there had been no collaboration between us, but the same Spirit (Ephesians 4:4) is at work in each of us. That is not the first time I had been told about that happening.  It has happened in other churches at other times.  My point to you is that what we do is spiritual.  If you are born again, then everything in your life has a spiritual context. (2 Corinthians 5:17) When I am told something like that I am encouraged because I know that the Spirit is at work through me and that is my purpose in life.  What we do for God…. we must do by the power of God…. for the glory of God.  Anything else is wasted effort and will bear no spiritual fruit. I am reminded of King David when he ordered that the people be counted. (1 Chronicles 21) That angered God.  Why?  Because David was taking credit for something God had done .. he was robbing God of His Glory.  Be careful that you don’t follow David’s example.

Friday, August 18, 2017

The Problem With Trusting In Yourself More Than You Trust In God

When he heard this, he became very sorrowful, for he was very rich. —Luke 18:23

{CHAMBERS} “The rich young ruler went away from Jesus speechless with sorrow, having nothing to say in response to Jesus’ words. He had no doubt about what Jesus had said or what it meant, and it produced in him a sorrow with no words with which to respond. Have you ever been there? Has God’s Word ever come to you, pointing out an area of your life, requiring you to yield it to Him? Maybe He has pointed out certain personal qualities, desires, and interests, or possibly relationships of your heart and mind. […] every time He meets you at the place where He has pointed, He will simply repeat His words, saying, “If you really mean what you say, these are the conditions.” “Sell all that you have…” (Luke 18:22). In other words, rid yourself before God of everything that might be considered a possession until you are a mere conscious human being standing before Him, and then give God that. That is where the battle is truly fought— in the realm of your will before God. […] Discouragement is disillusioned self-love, and self-love may be love for my devotion to Jesus— not love for Jesus Himself.”

{ELGIN} All of us have remnants of our old nature that we can seems to shake .. or worse .. that we don’t want to shake or give up.  Why? Because in those things, we find comfort and assurance.  In our minds, they meet a great need in our lives.  A need that we fear the Lord cannot or will not meet.  It might be a relationship or perhaps a habit or perhaps something about our personality.  In their desperation, people very often do things that bring physical or emotional harm to themselves, convinced that the harm is worth the benefit they derive.  Why don’t they let whatever it is go, convinced that the loss will be worth the benefit they will derive by laying it down at the Lord’s feet and trusting in Him and not themselves. There are so many verses in the Bible that assure us of God’s love and provision.  The problem is, we don’t believe it. 

Someone once said the only part of the Bible that you believe is the part that you obey.  Think about that.  If the Bible says – Cast all your cares on Him – Be anxious for nothing – Trust in the Lord with your all – Come to Me all you that are weary and heavy laden – God is the God of all comfort – Offer yourself as a living sacrifice.  Oh the list goes on, and while we admit that the Word is Truth and trustworthy, we refuse to walk in that truth but cling to that which will not give us the life that we so desperately seek.  This new life we live is a life of faith. And if we are not walking in it, it is because we lack faith. The point of this devotion is not to condemn or judge but to encourage.  We all struggle with  our flesh and the conflict between our flesh and our new spiritual nature.  But thank God, we have victory over death and sin through Jesus Christ.  We must embrace that victory in every aspect of our lives.  We can only do that with God’s help. “Turn your eyes upon Jesus.  Look full in His wonderful face.  And the things of earth will go strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.”

Thursday, August 17, 2017

What To Do When You Hear God Speak

{CHAMBERS} “Have you ever heard the Master say something very difficult to you? If you haven’t, I question whether you have ever heard Him say anything at all. Jesus says a tremendous amount to us that we listen to, but do not actually hear. And once we do hear Him, His words are harsh and unyielding. Jesus did not show the least concern that this rich young ruler should do what He told him, nor did Jesus make any attempt to keep this man with Him. He simply said to him, “Sell all that you have…and come, follow Me.” Our Lord never pleaded with him; He never tried to lure him— He simply spoke the strictest words that human ears have ever heard, and then left him alone. Have I ever heard Jesus say something difficult and unyielding to me? Has He said something personally to me to which I have deliberately listened— not something I can explain for the sake of others, but something I have heard Him say directly to me? This man understood what Jesus said. He heard it clearly, realizing the full impact of its meaning, and it broke his heart. He did not go away as a defiant person, but as one who was sorrowful and discouraged. He had come to Jesus on fire with zeal and determination, but the words of Jesus simply froze him. Instead of producing enthusiastic devotion to Jesus, they produced heartbreaking discouragement. And Jesus did not go after him, but let him go.”

{ELGIN}  There are a couple of points in Chambers’ devotion that bear elaboration.  First, the manner in which Jesus interacts with us.  Chambers suggests that Jesus, Himself, speaks to us.  Except for Paul’s experience on the road to Damascus, I am not aware of another time that Jesus has interacted with someone directly.  We often say “Jesus told me or God told me”, but what that really means is that the Father or the Son spoke through the Spirit.  I have mentioned this on a number of occasions, but it bears repeating.  We hear God’s or Jesus’ voice by the Spirit through the Word, prayer, circumstances and other Believers.  That is one reason why we are encouraged to walk by the Spirit (Galatians 5:16) and to live by the Spirit (Galatians 5:25).  In order to communicate with the Father or the Son we must be submitted to the Spirit.  In order to be submitted to the Spirit, who is holy, our hearts must be free from sin. And we find that freedom through confession (1 John 1:9) How do you know if it is really God?  In my experience His direction will be confirmed in more than one of those 4 ways.  Let me add that often other Believers are reluctant to tell you what God has told them about you.  I think because they lack confidence that they heard God, but in my experience, God uses others for that very purpose.

The second point has to do with why we struggle with obeying what we are told.  Our flesh, our natural desires, are in direct competition with God for our devotion.  We may agree with God that what He says is right, but when it comes to doing it, laying our natural desires down and following Jesus, well….. that is something else again.  Jesus does not negotiate with us. Jesus does not compromise.  “I am the way and the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except by Me.” (John 14:6)  There is no other way, as much as you might want there to be one.  “You cannot love God and money” (Matthew 6:24)  The Bible does not say you cannot love God and “have” money.  But the money cannot “have” you.  If God says give it away, you give it away.  Just make sure it is God talking and not your emotion.  We don’t sing the old hymns much anymore, but the one that comes to mind as I type these words is “All to Jesus I surrender, all to Him I freely give.  I will ever love and trust Him, in His presence daily live.  I surrender all.  I surrender all.  All to Thee my blessed Savior, I surrender all.”  Great hymn but the only way we can do that is by faith and laying ourselves down as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1).  So how about it?

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Knowing More About Jesus Is Not Good Enough - You Must Know Jesus

He calls his own…by name… —John 10:3

{CHAMBERS} “It is possible to know all about doctrine and still not know Jesus. A person’s soul is in grave danger when the knowledge of doctrine surpasses Jesus, avoiding intimate touch with Him. Why was Mary weeping? Doctrine meant no more to her than the grass under her feet. In fact, any Pharisee could have made a fool of Mary doctrinally, but one thing they could never ridicule was the fact that Jesus had cast seven demons out of her (see Luke 8:2); yet His blessings were nothing to her in comparison with knowing Jesus Himself. “…she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus….Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ ” (John 20:14, 16). Once He called Mary by her name, she immediately knew that she had a personal history with the One who spoke. “She turned and said to Him, ‘Rabboni!’ ” (John 20:16). When I have stubbornly doubted? (see John 20:24-29). Have I been doubting something about Jesus— maybe an experience to which others testify, but which I have not yet experienced? […] When I have selfishly denied Him? (see John 21:15-17). Peter denied Jesus Christ with oaths and curses (see Matthew 26:69-75), and yet after His resurrection Jesus appeared to Peter alone. […] Do I have a personal history with Jesus Christ? The one true sign of discipleship is intimate oneness with Him— a knowledge of Jesus that nothing can shake.”

{ELGIN}  Since you are reading this, you have some spiritual interest.  One thing about the Church in the U.S., we don’t lack for teaching, for the availability of “spiritual tools”.  There is little information about virtually anything spiritual that is not at your fingertips on the internet.  (1 Corinthians 8:1) “We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies.”  Knowing a lot about something can puff you up, but love – Agape – the act of doing what we are knowing, builds up and fulfills our God-ordained purpose.  Jesus prayed that we would be “one” with Him even as He is one with the Father.  (John 17:20-23)  Think about that Christian!  Do you have that level of intimacy with Jesus?  With other Christians, even?  You don’t achieve it merely by reading devotional books or by listening to sermons, but by spending time with Jesus. Don’t minimize the importance of personal devotion time and depend on other people to speak to your heart when it should be the Spirit that is doing the speaking. Through reading the Word, meditating on it and prayer work on your relationship with your Lord.  That is the only way that you can become spiritually one with other Christians.  You are no part of a club merely sharing like interests.  You are part of the Body of Christ sharing the same Spirit and serving the same Lord.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Why You Should Embrace The Conviction Of The Holy Spirit

My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him. —Hebrews 12:5

{CHAMBERS}  “It is very easy to grieve the Spirit of God; we do it by despising the discipline of the Lord, or by becoming discouraged when He rebukes us. If our experience of being set apart from sin and being made holy through the process of sanctification is still very shallow, we tend to mistake the reality of God for something else. […]  and do not despise Him [the Spirit] when He says to you, in effect, “Don’t be blind on this point anymore— you are not as far along spiritually as you thought you were. Until now I have not been able to reveal this to you, but I’m revealing it to you right now.” When the Lord disciplines you like that, let Him have His way with you. Allow Him to put you into a right-standing relationship before God. “…nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him.” We begin to pout, become irritated with God, and then say, “Oh well, I can’t help it. I prayed and things didn’t turn out right anyway. So I’m simply going to give up on everything.” […] Am I fully prepared to allow God to grip me by His power and do a work in me that is truly worthy of Himself? Sanctification is not my idea of what I want God to do for me— sanctification is God’s idea of what He wants to do for me. But He has to get me into the state of mind and spirit where I will allow Him to sanctify me completely, whatever the cost (see 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).”

{ELGIN}  (John 16:8) “And He [the Holy Spirit], when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment;”  The Holy Spirit, the Helper, is God’s presence in us.  There is something “holy” in every Believer.  God can have no part of sin and so, the Spirit will make sin evident in us.  Often times, rather than see that as a good thing, we want to hide like Adam and Eve in the Garden.  You cannot hide from God … and you cannot hide anything from God.  “Confession” means to agree with God not reveal something to God that He does not already know.  The struggle we have with conviction is with our flesh.  It is because of our old nature that we sin.  It is because of our sinful nature that we want to hide our sin.  Darkness wants nothing to do with the Light.  We should embrace the feelings of conviction and run, not walk, to the feet of Jesus.  The danger we face is that there are some things in our lives that we want to hang on to.  Things that we should and must cast off, that cling to us or that we cling to.  It would be great if we woke up the day after our conversion and we were no longer tempted to sin.  But that is not going to happen.  For His reasons, God has chosen to refine us and our will little bit by little bit. 

I have quoted this before, but it bears repeating.  [John Newton] “I am not what I ought to be — ah, how imperfect and deficient! I am not what I wish to be — I abhor what is evil, and I would cleave to what is good! I am not what I hope to be — soon, soon shall I put off mortality, and with mortality all sin and imperfection. Yet, though I am not what I ought to be, nor what I wish to be, nor what I hope to be, I can truly say, I am not what I once was; a slave to sin and Satan; and I can heartily join with the apostle, and acknowledge, "By the grace of God I am what I am."”  A nearly perfect description of the Christian life.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Fear and Worry Are The Same Thing - Both The Enemy Of Faith

Why are you fearful, O you of little faith? —Matthew 8:26

{CHAMBERS} “When we are afraid, the least we can do is pray to God. But our Lord has a right to expect that those who name His name have an underlying confidence in Him. God expects His children to be so confident in Him that in any crisis they are the ones who are reliable. Yet our trust is only in God up to a certain point, then we turn back to the elementary panic-stricken prayers of those people who do not even know God. […] “…O you of little faith!” What a stinging pain must have shot through the disciples as they surely thought to themselves […] There are times when there is no storm or crisis in our lives, and we do all that is humanly possible. But it is when a crisis arises that we instantly reveal upon whom we rely. If we have been learning to worship God and to place our trust in Him, the crisis will reveal that we can go to the point of breaking, yet without breaking our confidence in Him. [Sanctification] will be expressed in our lives as a peaceful resting in God, which means a total oneness with Him.”

{ELGIN} There is really no difference between worry and fear.  They both are a reaction to an uncertain future.  So many times God said do not be afraid, and so many times Jesus said “fear not” and do not worry.  Why? Because God is sovereign and He is our defender and help in times of trouble. You may be able to do a great many things, but you cannot conquer death and disease.  You cannot control events around you, as least as much as you think you can.  You are a leaf in the eternal wind.  Job said “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21)  Paul said “I have learned to be content in all circumstances.” (Philippians 4:11-13) The lack of fear and worry has to do with where you have placed your trust. (Psalm 20:7) “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.”  That level of trust begins with your conversion … when you are born again.  You were saved by grace through faith – or trust, if you will (Ephesians 2:8-9)  For many it stops there, but that is not God’s intent and that is not sufficient to face the storms of life.  With a weak faith, you will surely turn to your own devices when trouble comes.  The Psalmist asks this question understanding that he is in the palm of the Creator God’s hand. (Psalm 42:5) “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” Don’t set certain things aside that you have decided only you can deal with.  (Proverbs 3:6) “In all your ways acknowledge Him”.  Trust God.

Friday, August 11, 2017

How You Can Be Like Paul, Elijah, And Elisha

Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. And Elisha…saw him no more. —2 Kings 2:11-12

{CHAMBERS} “It is not wrong for you to depend on your “Elijah” for as long as God gives him to you. But remember that the time will come when he must leave and will no longer be your guide and your leader, because God does not intend for him to stay. […] You have been to the Jordan over and over again with Elijah, but now you are facing it alone. There is no use in saying that you cannot go— the experience is here, and you must go. If you truly want to know whether or not God is the God your faith believes Him to be, then go through your “Jordan” alone. […] Jericho represents the place where you have seen your “Elijah” do great things. Yet when you come alone to your “Jericho,” you have a strong reluctance to take the initiative and trust in God, wanting, instead, for someone else to take it for you. […] When you come to your wits’ end and feel inclined to panic— don’t! Stand true to God and He will bring out His truth in a way that will make your life an expression of worship. Put into practice what you learned while with your “Elijah”— use his mantle and pray.”

{ELGIN}  As I was reading Chambers this morning, I could not help to think about a message I heard Dr. Howard Hendricks give in a football stadium in Colorado in 1993.  He was speaking from Ecclesiastes 4:12. “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”  He said that every Christian needs a Paul to build into their lives, a Barnabus to keep them accountable, and a Timothy into whose life they can build (as their Paul).  I wonder how many Christians have those three people in their lives?  Paul is like Elijah with the respect that they are someone who mentors by showing and teaching and coaching.  Martie and I have had many people like that over the years.  But the point of discipling is not to have the disciple stay by your side forever.  The point is that they would mature and then go and make disciples themselves. (Find a Timothy)  Unfortunately there is a trend in the American Christian culture to keep Christians “on the bottle” and not encourage them to strike out on their own.  Rather than come together to be recharged to continue in the battle, they come together to commiserate with each other and dream of what it might be like if they really did strike out.  Maybe they will hear someone speak about how they are striking out for God and thinking that they could never be like that.

When I speak to people about where God has taken us and how He has used us for His purpose, they marvel – well that may be a strong word.  At minimum they want to praise us for the work we have done.  I am quick to tell them that the only credit we can take is that we said “Yes” to God when He called.  We stepped out in faith.  He did the rest.  He gets the glory.  And that was the case with Paul, Elijah, and Elisha.  You can be like them … you are like them … in that you are called by God for His purpose … All you have to do is say “Yes”

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Where Guide God Guides, God Provides- Believe It Or Not

Let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good… —1 Peter 4:19

{CHAMBERS}  “Choosing to suffer means that there must be something wrong with you, but choosing God’s will— even if it means you will suffer— is something very different. No normal, healthy saint ever chooses suffering; he simply chooses God’s will, just as Jesus did, whether it means suffering or not. And no saint should ever dare to interfere with the lesson of suffering being taught in another saint’s life. The saint who satisfies the heart of Jesus will make other saints strong and mature for God. But the people used to strengthen us are never those who sympathize with us; in fact, we are hindered by those who give us their sympathy, because sympathy only serves to weaken us. No one better understands a saint than the saint who is as close and as intimate with Jesus as possible. […] God places His saints where they will bring the most glory to Him, and we are totally incapable of judging where that may be.”

{ELGIN}  When I was in the Army I used to say that “In the Army we practice to be miserable.”  Actually that was not too far from wrong.  We had to train in harsh conditions so when it was time to go to war, we would be ready to face harsh conditions wherever we went.  I met a young Army officer in a restaurant the other day.  I noticed he had a 4th Infantry Division patch on his shirt and I was assigned to an armor battalion in the 4th Division as a young lieutenant. He said that he was going to his next assignment, but when he arrived his unit was deploying to southwest Asia.  I told him that at least he would be warm.  He said oh no, he was going to be in the mountains.  To him, not a big deal, that what he was trained to do.  Well, in much the same way, God will allow difficulties in our lives. James said to “count it all joy”.  (James 1:2-3)  Remember that joy is a fruit of the Spirit, not a happy time, and so is patience.  We endure because we are empowered by faith and the presence of the Holy Spirit in each of us.  I remember when we were in Mississippi after Katrina, in the midst of the devastation, a volunteer asked me if I liked being in Mississippi.  My response to him was this, “Geography or circumstance has nothing to do with it.  There is nothing better than being in the center of God’s will for my life. And so, “yes” I like being in Mississippi because this is where God wants me to be.”  My wife and I lived in a pop-up camper for 6 months.  A 28 foot travel trailer for 2 years. And a 500 square foot house for the rest of the time we were in Mississippi.  Was it hard? Yes, it was a very difficult place to be, just like Haiti.  Was it right?  It could not have been more right.  Did it require personal sacrifice, of course it did, but we have been called to follow Jesus, wherever that leads.

A song just popped into my mind, “Wherever He leads I’ll go.”  “Wherever He leads I’ll go. I’ll follow my Christ, who loves me so.  Wherever He leads I’ll go.”  Is that true for you?  It should be.  You may not be called to do what we did, but maybe you will be.  The thing is, will you follow Jesus or will you walk away?  Will you endure the hardship, or will you look back at Sodom and long to be where you were before God said go?  Only you know the answer.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Praying - What Is The Big Deal?

Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, "Father, I thank You that You have heard Me." —John 11:41

{CHAMBERS} “When the Son of God prays, He is mindful and consciously aware of only His Father. God always hears the prayers of His Son, and if the Son of God has been formed in me (see Galatians 4:19) the Father will always hear my prayers. But I must see to it that the Son of God is exhibited in my human flesh. “…your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit…” (1 Corinthians 6:19) […] Jesus says, “In that day you will ask in My name…” (John 16:26). What day does He mean? He is referring to the day when the Holy Spirit has come to me and made me one with my Lord. […] Never let your common sense become so prominent and forceful that it pushes the Son of God to one side. Common sense is a gift that God gave to our human nature— but common sense is not the gift of His Son. Supernatural sense is the gift of His Son, and we should never put our common sense on the throne. The Son always recognizes and identifies with the Father, but common sense has never yet done so and never will. Our ordinary abilities will never worship God unless they are transformed by the indwelling Son of God. We must make sure that our human flesh is kept in perfect submission to Him, allowing Him to work through it moment by moment.”

{ELGIN}  When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, (Luke 11:1) “It happened that while Jesus was praying in a certain place, after He had finished, one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray just as John also taught his disciples.””  Jesus prayed what we know as the Lord’s prayer.  The essence of that prayer was first – focused primarily on God and second – focused on helping us walk in a manner that brings Him glory. Give me what I need to live on this planet and help me to fulfill the great commandments (Matthew 22:37-39).  The really great thing is that the same Spirit that is in us, also prays for us.  (Romans 8:26-27) “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.”

Did you catch that?  The Spirit prays in accordance with the will of God.  And so should we, not in accordance to our will … or … wants.  (James 4:2-3) “You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.”  We really need to think about why we pray and what we pray for.  But most importantly, we need to pray.  There is a spiritual dynamic in prayer that every Christian should embrace as a critical part of their day to day living. Praying before you eat.  Praying with your children.  Praying in church.  All good.  But not enough. Paul wrote, (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  Why?  Because it is the will of God.  And that is why it is such a big deal!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Don't Be Content With Mere Salvation - You Were Called To Be Like Jesus

…that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. —Luke 1:35

{CHAMBERS}  “If the Son of God has been born into my human flesh, then am I allowing His holy innocence, simplicity, and oneness with the Father the opportunity to exhibit itself in me? […] Do I find myself continually saying in amazement to the commonsense part of my life, “Why did you want me to turn here or to go over there? ‘Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?’ ” (Luke 2:49). Whatever our circumstances may be, that holy, innocent, and eternal Child must be in contact with His Father. […] Is God’s will being fulfilled in that His Son has been formed in me (see Galatians 4:19), or have I carefully pushed Him to one side? […] The more a person knows of the inner life of God’s most mature saints, the more he sees what God’s purpose really is: to “…fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ…” (Colossians 1:24). And when we think of what it takes to “fill up,” there is always something yet to be done.”

{ELGIN}  This new life we live, it is a journey, we did not arrive at our destination on the day of our salvation.  You will find that you grow in your faith more through your struggles than through your victories.  That, as you mature, you will become more dependent upon on God and not less.  Unlike your physical birth where you grew to be independent of your parents, with your spiritual birth, as you grow, the oneness with the Father, Son and Spirit becomes more evident.  When I was a young boy, I can remember my mother, who divorced my father when I was 2 years old, said to me, “Stop doing that you are just like your father.”  I felt ashamed as if I had done some terrible thing.  Today, I would like nothing more than to hear someone say, “You are just like your Father – in heaven”.  How about you?  By the way, years later my mom was born again and lived out her life being a light to everyone around her.  Leading many to the Lord. God is Good, all the time!  So how about you my friend?  Are you content with your faith and walk?  Don’t be.  Do you want to be accused of being like Jesus?  You should!  After we are born again, we begin a journey that does not end until  we arrive at the feet of Jesus.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Are You A Flickering Flame Or A Raging Fire

My Utmost For His Highest

…they found Him in the temple….And He said to them, "…Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?" —Luke 2:46, 49

{Chambers} “[…] The only abiding reality is God Himself, and His order comes to me moment by moment. Am I continually in touch with the reality of God, or do I pray only when things have gone wrong— when there is some disturbance in my life? I must learn to identify myself closely with my Lord in ways of holy fellowship and oneness that some of us have not yet even begun to learn. “…I must be about My Father’s business”— and I must learn to live every moment of my life in my Father’s house. Think about your own circumstances. Are you so closely identified with the Lord’s life that you are simply a child of God, continually talking to Him and realizing that everything comes from His hands? […] Is the grace of His ministering life being worked out through you in your home, your business, and in your circle of friends? Have you been wondering why you are going through certain circumstances? In fact, it is not that you have to go through them. It is because of your relationship with the Son of God who comes, through the providential will of His Father, into your life. You must allow Him to have His way with you, staying in perfect oneness with Him.”

{ELGIN}  Is the pursuit of God a priority in your life?  Do you think about the Father at all during your day?  OK, how about Jesus then?  OK … how about …. The Word?  Do you think about the Word, even?  Does your faith dominate your thinking and doing?  It should, but often it is nothing more than an afterthought for many Christians.  This is not me being high minded or holier than thou!  It is me challenging you to focus on the Father.  To make Him your priority in deed and not just in words.  Do you appreciate the fact that you have an eternal nature and that nature is a result of God’s love and Jesus sacrifice?  Is that significant to you or merely a memory of the day you were saved?  Look .. my role is to challenge you in your faith walk.  To encourage you to reach higher.  To focus your life on what should be most important.  Let the rest of your existence flow from that.  Don’t be satisfied with being a flickering flame.  Instead, desire to be an all-consuming fire.  So bright that you light up the horizon with the brilliance of your faith in action.  You can do it.  With God’s help, you can do anything.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Will You Answer When God Calls Or Will You Block His Number

"…and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man will be accomplished."…But they understood none of these things… —Luke 18:31, 34

{CHAMBERS} “God called Jesus Christ to what seemed absolute disaster. […] But what seemed to be failure from man’s standpoint was a triumph from God’s standpoint, because God’s purpose is never the same as man’s purpose. […] The call of God can never be understood absolutely or explained externally; it is a call that can only be perceived and understood internally by our true inner-nature. The call of God is like the call of the sea— no one hears it except the person who has the nature of the sea in him. What God calls us to cannot be definitely stated, because His call is simply to be His friend to accomplish His own purposes. Our real test is in truly believing that God knows what He desires. The things that happen do not happen by chance— they happen entirely by the decree of God. God is sovereignly working out His own purposes.  If we are in fellowship and oneness with God and recognize that He is taking us into His purposes, then we will no longer strive to find out what His purposes are. […] And we begin to see that the compelling purpose of God lies behind everything in life, and that God is divinely shaping us into oneness with that purpose.”

{ELGIN} (Isaiah 55:8-9) “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.”  One day, long ago, when I had some time on my hands, I tried to imagine infinity.  I didn’t get there .. to infinity that is.  My puny brain could not take me there.  But God is there.  Always has been.  We get into trouble when we try to figure spiritual things out in our carnal minds.  We think about what is logical, what is reasonable, what is common sense.  All of that in the context of our humanity.  Our relationship with God is based upon faith … not our imagination.  And faith, as you know, is based on what is hoped for and what is not seen. (Hebrews 11:1)  I still recall when we were just understanding that God was calling us to serve in Haiti, a friend in Waveland looked me squarely in the face and asked “Are you crazy?!”  I replied, “It’s not my idea, it’s God’s calling.”  And so it is with our new life, not just mine, but ours. 

God has called us according to His purpose, not our pleasure.  I don’t think our earthly comfort is of much concern to Him.  Jesus said we have to be prepared to make our affection for earthly things, even our own families, subordinate to our love for God.  Many, many people stumble when their greatest love is revealed through His call … I can’t quit my job … I can’t take my wife to a place like that,  leave my parents … I can’t sell my house or change my standard of living … not even for God.  (Psalm 51:16-17)  “For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart— These, O God, You will not despise.”  Listen, it is not the surrendering of things that God is interested in.  It is the surrendering of your heart and its passion for those things above God that He desires.  What is it that you have placed on the altar of your heart that you love more than God?  That is the real reason you say no to God when He calls you.  Confess it and repent.  You won’t regret it.

Friday, August 4, 2017

When Being Good Is Not Good Enough

He took the twelve aside… —Luke 18:31

{CHAMBERS} “Do you say, “But He has been unwise to choose me, because there is nothing good in me and I have no value”? That is exactly why He chose you. As long as you think that you are of value to Him He cannot choose you, because you have purposes of your own to serve. […] We tend to say that because a person has natural ability, he will make a good Christian. It is not a matter of our equipment, but a matter of our poverty; not of what we bring with us, but of what God puts into us; not a matter of natural virtues, of strength of character, of knowledge, or of experience— all of that is of no avail in this concern. The only thing of value is being taken into the compelling purpose of God and being made His friends (see 1 Corinthians 1:26-31). God’s friendship is with people who know their poverty. He can accomplish nothing with the person who thinks that he is of use to God. As Christians we are not here for our own purpose at all— we are here for the purpose of God, and the two are not the same. […] The most important aspect of Christianity is not the work we do, but the relationship we maintain and the surrounding influence and qualities produced by that relationship. That is all God asks us to give our attention to, and it is the one thing that is continually under attack.”

{ELGIN} (Zechariah 4:6) “Then he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel saying, ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of hosts.”  What we do for God, we do by the power of God.  It is spiritual not natural.  Someone can be a wonderful teacher in the classroom, but may not be able to convey spiritual truth.  The point of teaching spiritual things is not to make it interesting for the class.  It is to convey truth to God’s people.  Filling Christians’ heads with knowledge has no value if they are not taught to apply that knowledge to how they walk out this life as God’s children.  (1 Corinthians 8:1) “Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies (builds up).” Knowing what is right and doing what is right are two wholly different things. In Romans 7, Paul talked about not doing the things he knew were right, but doing the very things he knew were wrong.  Can you identify with Paul? 

Listen, this life we live, we live by faith (Galatians 2:20).  It is spiritual.  We must stop trying to live as Christians in the power of our flesh.  We will never bring glory to God through that kind of living.  We may be nice people, but there are a lot of lost people who are nice people.  Our purpose is not to merely be nice people.  Our purpose is to live by the Spirit and be salt and light in a dark, sin-filled world.  Don’t be satisfied with a comfortable life.  Comfort is addictive and will draw you away from the Savior.  Don’t rest on the financial nest egg that you have built up for yourself.  Your dependence should be on Jehovah God, not on your 401K.  It’s not a sin to have money or a nice house or possessions, but it is a sin to make them your god and your source of hope and security.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Doing The Father's Will - Does It Still Matter To You

He…said to them, "Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem…" —Luke 18:31

{CHAMBERS} “Jerusalem, in the life of our Lord, represents the place where He reached the culmination of His Father’s will. Jesus said, “I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me” (John 5:30). Seeking to do “the will of the Father” was the one dominating concern throughout our Lord’s life. And whatever He encountered along the way, whether joy or sorrow, success or failure, He was never deterred from that purpose. “…He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem…” (Luke 9:51).  The greatest thing for us to remember is that we go up to Jerusalem to fulfill God’s purpose, not our own. In the natural life our ambitions are our own, but in the Christian life we have no goals of our own. We talk so much today about our decisions for Christ, our determination to be Christians, and our decisions for this and that, but in the New Testament the only aspect that is brought out is the compelling purpose of God. “You did not choose Me, but I chose you…” (John 15:16).”

{ELGIN}  Jesus is called the “first born among many” (Romans 8:29).  He is called the “second Adam”. (1 Corinthians 15:45-47) He was the first of a spiritual nation – the head of the Body of Christ, the Church.  He set the example for us with respect to how we are to live in this fallen world.  His focus was on the Father and doing the Father’s will.  It was Jesus’ preoccupation .. priority .. precondition for doing anything in His ministry … bringing glory to God the Father.  Many times we compartmentalize our lives .. that which is ours, the natural, and that which is His, the supernatural.  Our relationship with the Father is largely about getting Him to use that which is His, to expand and protect that which is ours.  Somehow, that view of how we are to live our new life does not quite sync with the life example Jesus gave us to follow.

Jesus began His day with time with the Father.  He lived His day focused on doing the Father’s will. (If you are not sure what that is, read the New Testament .. pick any book .. any chapter).  I am looking at a picture of the new believer’s class we taught in Bossier Haiti a few weeks ago.  We had some paperback Creole New Testaments that we gave the students to use during the class and let them keep at the end of the class.  When I told them I would let them keep them, there was a buzz of excitement.  They were very happy.  Do you treasure the Word that way.  I believe that the Lord will hold the Church in America accountable for its worldly excesses and spiritual complacency.  Like the Church of Ephesus in Revelation chapter 2.  They had a great appearance, but they had left their first love, Jesus, and their desire to do the Father’s will.  It is an easy thing to let happen when you live in abundance.  There was a woman in the class who was deeply involved in Voodoo.  She was one of the leaders and evangelists in the community.  But she laid it all aside when she met Jesus.  I told her that God could use that season in her life to minister to others who were still involved in Voodoo worship.  I pointed her to 2 Corinthians 1:3-4.  Like the woman at the well, she, too, could go back and tell others about Jesus.  She has such a passion for the Lord.  How about you?  Is the fire of faith still burning brightly in you, or has it dimmed with time and the things of this world?  Something for you to pray about.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

How To Be Successful When Facing Problems In Life

In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. —John 16:33

{CHAMBERS} “The typical view of the Christian life is that it means being delivered from all adversity. But it actually means being delivered in adversity, which is something very different. “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. No evil shall befall you, nor shall any plague come near your dwelling…” (Psalm 91:1,10)— the place where you are at one with God. If you are a child of God, you will certainly encounter adversities, but Jesus says you should not be surprised when they come. “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” He is saying, “There is nothing for you to fear.” […] God does not give us overcoming life— He gives us life as we overcome. The strain of life is what builds our strength. If there is no strain, there will be no strength. Are you asking God to give you life, liberty, and joy? He cannot, unless you are willing to accept the strain. And once you face the strain, you will immediately get the strength. […] God never gives us strength for tomorrow, or for the next hour, but only for the strain of the moment. Our temptation is to face adversities from the standpoint of our own common sense.”

{ELGIN} James wrote (James 1:2-7) “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”  Your ability to stand in the face of adversity is a function of your faith.  Like Peter walking on the sea with Jesus, or the disciples in the boat with Jesus, you are living out this new life with Jesus.  Take your eyes off of Him, or forget Who He is in the midst of some calamity and you are done!  You are going to face problems in this life .. but God has made a way for you to endure them, no matter how difficult they might be.  But, it requires faith to do that.  So many Christians try to deal with the impossible on their own.

There are basically two ways that trials can come upon us.  The first is the fact that we live in a fallen world and are subject to the same ills that befall all people.  I know that many Christians pray, “Lord, please don’t let a bad thing happen to me or my family.”  I am not saying you should not pray for that, however, more likely your prayer will one day become, “Lord, please help us endure this bad thing that has happened to us.” The second way is a result of our own sin.  We must deal with the consequence of our sin.  God forgives us and saves us from hell, but that does not mean that He will protect us from the consequences of what we have done.  So what must we do?  We must confess our sin to God.  To confess means to take responsibility for our actions and not blame them on someone else.  Then we must repent.  We can only be successful in repentance if we look to Jesus. And finally, we must ask God to help us endure the difficulties that come with the consequences.  In both ways, our success depends upon our faith.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Do You Love God More Than Anything Else? God Will Ask You To Prove It!

When Jesus finished commanding His twelve disciples…He departed from there to teach and to preach in their cities. —Matthew 11:1

{CHAMBERS} “If you stayed home when God told you to go because you were so concerned about your own people there, then you actually robbed them of the teaching of Jesus Christ Himself. […] Watch where you begin to debate with Him and put what you call your duty into competition with His commands. If you say, “I know that He told me to go, but my duty is here,” it simply means that you do not believe that Jesus means what He says. […] Are we playing the part of an amateur providence, trying to play God’s role in the lives of others? […] He works where He sends us to wait. “…tarry…until…” (Luke 24:49). “Wait on the Lord” and He will work (Psalm 37:34). But don’t wait sulking spiritually and feeling sorry for yourself, just because you can’t see one inch in front of you! […] Waiting is not sitting with folded hands doing nothing, but it is learning to do what we are told.”

{ELGIN}  Sometimes the commands of the Lord may seem inconsistent, even contradictory.  On the one hand we are to be responsible parents and children yet on the other Jesus said “Let the dead bury the dead” when the young man asked to first bury his father before following Jesus.  (Luke 9:60)  He said “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters-yes, even their own life-such a person cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26 26)  All of this has to do with what He said in Matthew 22:37,  “You must love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength”, the greatest commandment.  Everything we do must spring out of that love, our primary focus in this life.  That is Jesus’ point.  There is no other “first”, or at least there should not be.  I have met so many people who heard the call of God, but hesitated because they must “first”.  The call of God is a test of faith.  There are so many things that compete with God for first place in our lives.  Jesus did not say you can’t love your family, He was saying you can’t love them more than God and be obedient to the greatest commandment.  (Matthew 6:24) “No one can serve two masters … you will love one and hate the other”   

Do you trust God enough to obey Him even if it means upending you plans for the future? I am grappling with that right now.  I know God moved us back from Haiti to minister to our family.  He has me, what I call, “chasing zeros and ones” meaning I work as a systems engineer with computers.  That is not how He has shaped me, at least in my mind, but that is how He is using me.  In my case, my struggle is with my love for full-time ministry and His call for us to raise two teenaged grandchildren.  It seems strange.  On the one hand, the Lord said “Leave your family and you and your wife serve others.”  Now He is saying, "Leave serving others and serve your family.”  The question is, “Am I willing to be used by God in any way that He chooses?”  My challenge, to trust God and rest in His sovereignty.  But, then again, that is every Christian’s challenge.  So what is God telling you to do that you are resisting?