Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Getting To The Root Of The Problem With Living A Half-hearted Christian Life

…separated to the gospel of God… —Romans 1:1

{CHAMBERS} “Our calling is not primarily to be holy men and women, but to be proclaimers of the gospel of God. The one all-important thing is that the gospel of God should be recognized as the abiding reality. Reality is not human goodness, or holiness, or heaven, or hell— it is redemption. The need to perceive this is the most vital need of the Christian worker today. […]  Personal holiness is an effect of redemption, not the cause of it. If we place our faith in human goodness we will go under when testing comes. Paul did not say that he separated himself, but “when it pleased God, who separated me…” (Galatians 1:15). […] And as long as our eyes are focused on our own personal holiness, we will never even get close to the full reality of redemption. Christian workers fail because they place their desire for their own holiness above their desire to know God. […] God cannot deliver me while my interest is merely in my own character. Paul was not conscious of himself. He was recklessly abandoned, totally surrendered, and separated by God for one purpose— to proclaim the gospel of God (see Romans 9:3).”

{ELGIN}  The pastor of Clearpoint spoke some weeks ago about – the root – and the fruit in our lives.  At the root of our lives we found the basis for our existence.  It’s the foundation from which we exist … Before Christ, living in our old nature – the source of our being was Sin.  The root had to be dealt with before the fruit in our lives would ever change.  When I spoke in Haitian churches I would use the example of a Mango tree.  Mango trees are as common in Haiti as oak trees are in the U.S.  If the tree is a Mango tree then the fruit it bears will be Mangos.  But, if a tree says “I am a Mango tree”, but when I go to pick a Mango I find Oranges, then I know that the root of the tree is that of an Orange tree .. an inescapable conclusion.  (Matthew 7:16-20) “You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them.” Now it is possible for people to appear to be one thing but really be another.  When our mom first became a Christian, she behaved differently.  We knew what she was like before salvation and, not being Christians ourselves therefore having no spiritual understanding, we, the older children, thought she was “faking it” and would eventually go back to the way she was .. the mom that we knew.  That did not happen.  Certainly she had feet of clay, meaning she was not perfect, but she was not the same person we had grown up with .. she had been born again.  The old root had been replaced with a new one.

I see Christians, more often than I would like, who are trying to live like a Christian .. talk like a Christian when they are around other Christians .. but are embracing their old life .. not their new one.  I have to smile, probably should not, when I am speaking to someone .. a guy typically .. and they almost let a swear word slip out in the conversation, but they catch it before they do .. just saying the first letter or so.  Do they not know the God sees the heart? They know it, but they don’t believe it, and they certainly don’t live like it.  So what is the problem?  The problem is that they are living in carnality.  They don’t want to believe that.  They have a simple understanding of their new life.  They mistake “church behavior” as the Christian life.  It’s a “face” they put on  when they are in church or around other Christians.  They are living a “half-hearted” Christian life.  Instead of bearing the fruit from the root of Jesse; (Isaiah 11:10) “In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious.” (Romans 15:12-13) “Isaiah says, “The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations;  in him the Gentiles will hope.” May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”  They are bearing the fruit of their old nature most of the time.  That is a hypocritical way to live and they miss the blessing that is theirs in Christ.  Listen – that is an easy thing to let happen in your new life.  Be very careful.  And if you are there already .. repent and be restored and refreshed … bear the fruit that God intended in your new life. (Galatians 5:22-25) “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Living Your New Life In Christ Must Be Based On Faith Not Feelings

Samuel was afraid to tell Eli the vision. —1 Samuel 3:15

{CHAMBERS} “God never speaks to us in dramatic ways, but in ways that are easy to misunderstand. Then we say, “I wonder if that is God’s voice?” Isaiah said that the Lord spoke to him “with a strong hand,” that is, by the pressure of his circumstances (Isaiah 8:11). Without the sovereign hand of God Himself, nothing touches our lives. Do we discern His hand at work, or do we see things as mere occurrences? Get into the habit of saying, “Speak, Lord,” and life will become a romance (1 Samuel 3:9). Every time circumstances press in on you, say, “Speak, Lord,” and make time to listen. Chastening is more than a means of discipline— it is meant to bring me to the point of saying, “Speak, Lord.” […]  As we listen, our ears become more sensitive, and like Jesus, we will hear God all the time.  Should I tell my “Eli” what God has shown to me? This is where the dilemma of obedience hits us. […] Never ask another person’s advice about anything God makes you decide before Him. If you ask advice, you will almost always side with Satan. “…I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood…” (Galatians 1:16).”

{ELGIN} Do you think that the idea of hearing God speak is a little too mystical for you?  Hearing God speak is not hearing an audible voice .. something that can be recorded.  God speaks to the heart which is realized in the mind and always challenges the will.  It may be an impression … it may be  a crisis in your life … it will always be consistent with the nature and character and purposes of God.  Don’t ever become content with where you are in your spiritual growth.  Don’t ever say to God, I have come this far but I will go no farther.  I don’t want to change any more than I have.  I don’t want to give up any more of the world than I have.  I am fine right where I am.  I was talking with a young man the other day who told me that he just didn’t feel like praying.  We don’t do the right thing because we feel like it .. we do the right thing because it is the right thing to do.  If your faith and practice is based on feelings, you are in trouble form the start.  Listen. If  I did  or did not do things because of how I felt at the time, my life would very likely be very different.  If you say, I don’t feel like going to work .. and then don’t … well, it’s a free country.  You can make that choice.  And your employer can make the choice of firing you.  My point … there are consequences to not doing what you should.  If and when God speaks to you .. you have a choice … but think about this.  The God of the universe has spoken … why on earth or in heaven would you ignore Him? That was a rhetorical question, actually.  You ignore Him because your flesh .. your old nature .. your carnal mind is ruling the day.  You are living in submission to the flesh and not by the Spirit. 

Here are a few verses to consider this morning

Ephesians 5:8 “for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light”

Galatians 5:25 “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.”

Colossians 1:10-11 “so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience;”

1 John 2:6 “the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.”

Romans 8:5-14   “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.  For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.  For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.  But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.  If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

Heirs with Christ So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.”

Monday, January 29, 2018

Things That Hinder Our Hearing God And The Thing That Keep Us From Obeying

Who are You, Lord? —Acts 26:15

{CHAMBERS} ““The Lord spoke thus to me with a strong hand…” (Isaiah 8:11). There is no escape when our Lord speaks. He always comes using His authority and taking hold of our understanding. Has the voice of God come to you directly? If it has, you cannot mistake the intimate insistence with which it has spoken to you. God speaks in the language you know best— not through your ears, but through your circumstances. God has to destroy our determined confidence in our own convictions. We say, “I know that this is what I should do” — and suddenly the voice of God speaks in a way that overwhelms us by revealing the depths of our ignorance. […] My way will not be to foster a meek and quiet spirit, only the spirit of self-satisfaction. We presume that whatever is unpleasant is our duty! Is that anything like the spirit of our Lord— “I delight to do Your will, O my God…” (Psalm 40:8).”

{ELGIN}  Knowing what the right thing … the God-thing … to do is and doing it are two entirely different things.  Knowing you should not cross the tracks when a train is coming and deciding to wait for the train to pass are two different things.  When you approach the tracks a thought comes to mind … “I think I can beat the train to the crossing.”  Sometimes you are right and other times .. you are dead-wrong.  That is the way it is with believing and obeying God.  God offers His best, and even if you beat the train to the crossing, you have settled for less than God’s best for you.  It may bring satisfaction for a moment, but God deals in the eternal .. not the temporal.  The heavenly not the earthly.  I have shared this before, Dr. Henry Blackaby, in Experiencing God, said that God speaks to us in four ways – by His Spirit (the still small voice saying “This is  the way”) – through prayer – by His Word (the sword of Truth, a light and lamp for us to see the way) – through other Believers – and, as Chambers suggest – through circumstances.  Dr. Blackaby went on to say that our problem is not in knowing what God said to us – the problem is obeying what God said.  The Scripture is replete with examples of disobedience.  Hearing God and doing something else because they thought they knew better.

Hearing God requires two things to be true.  First, our heart must be right … unconfessed sin will hinder your hearing.  Second is the practice of spiritual discipline in our lives .. if you don’t pray .. if you don’t read the Word … if you don’t associate with other Christians who are doing those things … if your focus is on yourself and not God as you live life, then don’t expect anything more than the conviction of the Spirit.  All too often we want to be our own god and decide what is best for us.  We won’t accept any advice that is not consistent with what we have decided is the best for us.  “I am going to beat that train and you are bad if you don’t agree with me!” We ignore our sins .. having decided they are really not that bad, they are acceptable as far as we are concerned.  We pray asking only for things that support our plan for peace and fulfillment.  We avoid other Christians who will not agree with us.  The fact is that we are practicing vain religion.  We have a form of godliness but deny the power of God in favor of our own devices.  In short we are carnal but are convinced we are spiritual.  My best and only advice to a Christian who is living like this is repent – you need more Jesus and less you.  You have accepted a life that falls short of God’s plan for you  .. and one day … you won’t beat the train.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Living Under The Illusion That Your Being In Control Is The Best Way To Live

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. Jesus asks us to consider that “if God so clothes the grass of the field…” how “much more” will He clothe you, if you keep your relationship right with Him? 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.[…] Many of us refuse to grow where God plants us. Therefore, we don’t take root anywhere. Jesus said if we would obey the life of God within us, He would look after all other things. […] Consecration is the act of continually separating myself from everything except that which God has appointed me to do. It is not a one-time experience but an ongoing process. Am I continually separating myself and looking to God every day of my life?”

{ELGIN}  Are you willing to acknowledge the authority of God over you life?  Or do you buck up against anything that means you are not in control of your life and the events that surround you?  How you respond to earthly authority .. your boss at work .. the government … your parents …. Ah – oh … your husband if you are married … is an indication of how you respond to the authority of Jesus over your life. (Ephesians 5:23) “For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body.”   (1 Corinthians 11:3) “But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ.”  (Colossians 2:10) “and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority;” I don’t mean for this to sound harsh, but if you don’t like that … then I suggest you go ahead, get some scissors, and cut them our of your Bible.  That way you won’t have to read them.  Problem is – they will be no less true.

Do you want to go your own way and don’t want anyone telling you what to do, even if your way has created significant problems in your life .. maybe repeatedly.  Some people want control so badly that they prefer the relational messes they live in over peace and order if it means they can feel like they are in control, even a little bit.  “My life is a mess – but it is MY mess”  Sound crazy? Unfortunately it’s more common than you might want to believe.  Look – We are created by God … He is the supreme authority in the cosmos … didn’t say universe because that is too small.  As His children, we are to submit to His authority and not continue to trust in ourselves.  Why is something so simple, so hard to do?  Well, it all started in the Garden.  Adam and even wanted to be in control.  They wanted to decide what was right and what was wrong.  To ignore God and do what they thought was best.  You know how that worked out for them.  Why do you think it will work for you????

Thursday, January 25, 2018

How Will You Know It When God Shows Up?

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. Would we be surprised if God came into our meeting or into our preaching in a way we had never expected Him to come? Do not look for God to come in a particular way, but do look for Him. […] 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}  Do you expect for God to show up, personally, for you?  What does that look like in your mind?   A burning bush?  The Shekinah glory as a cloud or pillar of fire?  Or a still small voice? (1 Kings 19:11-13) “And he [the Lord] said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?””  If you are looking for God to show up .. He is already here.  When we gather to worship, we don’t have to ask the Lord to show up.  His Spirit is in each believer.  People may not be willing to admit it, but they would really prefer that God show up in the wind or earthquake or fire. 

I was on staff with Promise Keepers for a time.  I attended the PK Pastor’s conference in 1995 in Atlanta.  There were about 40,000 ministers in the Georgia Dome.  As we all prayed in silence, I peeked.  I confess it!  I was wondering how God would show himself in this glorious event. Perhaps the roof would open and God’s Shekinah Glory would once again appear.  As I looked up, I saw a single dove flying in circles above the crowd.  I closed my eyes, opened them again and the dove was gone.  So I thought – get a grip Charley, you were seeing things.  After the Amen … a man standing next to me said “Hey did you see that Dove flying over the crowd?”  Is it OK if God doesn’t answer your prayer in the was you would like but He assures you that He is still sovereign?  By the way, ever since, Doves have been following me around.  I won’t go into details … but it is not my imagination.  And I thank God for the reminder.  (Jeremiah 29:13) “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

Have you ever known someone who was not really interested in you, but in what you could give them?  Why are you interested in God?  Is He merely a fireman or is He the source of life?  He has already given you the greatest gift that can be given – eternal life in His Son.  He has sealed you with His Spirit.  He has blessed you with every spiritual blessing.  (Read Ephesians 1 and 2) That, my friend, is a reason to rejoice no matter what comes your way in this life.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

If You Are Going To Follow Jesus - You Must Lay Your Nets Down

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). When we are born again, if we are spiritual at all, we have visions of what Jesus wants us to be. […] Paul was not given a message or a doctrine to proclaim. He was brought into a vivid, personal, overpowering relationship with Jesus Christ. Acts 26:16 is tremendously compelling “…to make you a minister and a witness….” […] 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 compelling is your faith?  Is it compelling enough to change the way you live, to abandon what you love, to yield your life fully to following Jesus?  People who met Jesus along the way were intrigued by Him, but felt an obligation to their natural life.  They did understand the significance of who Jesus is.  I almost type “was” but was quickly reminded that Jesus is.  (John 4:10) “Jesus answered her [ the woman at the well] , “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” Jesus is – was – and always will be.  (John 1:1-5) “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” Some people wanted to follow Jesus but felt an obligation to the natural .. Jesus told them to leave it behind.  Think about it.  The disciples abandoned their families and livelihood.  (Mark 1:16-18) “As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.”  At once they left their nets and followed him.”

Think about it.  They were raised to be fishermen.  It was their father’s business .. and would be theirs.  But they left it behind.  Do you remember the story about Jesus, when Mary and Joseph could not find him?  (Luke 2:49) “I must be about my Father’s business” Doing the will of His Father in heaven was his priority .. his purpose.   Jesus says the same thing to us.  Perhaps you don’t need to physically abandon your nets, but you are called to surrender your heart to Him.  Matthew 22:37-39 are popular verses in local churches. Loving God and loving people.  I don’t think that most Christians who read those words on the walls of their churches, give much thought to what that means to them personally.  How about you?  Our life in Christ is supposed to be more than mental agreement with the rightness of the Word of God.  (James 1:22) Be doers and not hearers only.  Think about it!

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Making Time For God - There Is Nothing To It, But To Do It!

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} “The greatest characteristic a Christian can exhibit is this completely unveiled openness before God, which allows that person’s life to become a mirror for others. When the Spirit fills us, we are transformed, and by beholding God we become mirrors. 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. […] Let other things come and go as they will; let other people criticize us as they will; but never allow anything to obscure the life that “is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3). Never let a hurried lifestyle disturb the relationship of abiding in Him.”

{ELGIN}  When you run short on time .. and we all do on occasion .. what are some of the first things that you give up?  I typically get up between 4:00 and 4:30 am.  Why? Because if I don’t then I don’t get this BLOG written. I don’t spend time totally focused on the spiritual … establishing my day with a spiritual foundation.   I have to be deliberate about it. I hear people say, I got up late so I didn’t do  … whatever … maybe read the Bible … pray … or something simple like eat breakfast.  Our spiritual life is the most important aspect of our lives, at least that is what we tell people and ourselves, yet it is one of the first things that gets set aside when we are short on time.  If you get up late, the focus is on getting to work on time .. getting the kids up so they don’t miss the bus … the spiritual, at that point, is probably not even at issue because the natural so dominates our living and the urgency of the moment.

Look, with God there is not a “yes but …. “ there is only yes and no … I did or I didn’t … no excuses …. Jesus asked Peter ... “Do you love Me, Peter?”  … Three times….  (John 21:15-18) First, love like you love people in general, then love like you love family, and last love like God loves you  .. sacrificially.  Most Christians would answer like Peter … “You know I do Lord!”  That is the way we are to love God … then Jesus said to Peter .. “If you do, show me.”  (my paraphrase) The bottom line .. the cold hard facts …. The reason we don’t have time for God is that we don’t make time.  I know that is true for me and I suspect it is true for you too … and other Christians that you know.  So what to do … “straighten up and fly right” … love that saying!  Encourage the saints.  (1 Thessalonians 5:11)  “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”  Encouragement is not judgement and it’s not criticism.  We all need to be encouraged in the Faith from time to time .. that is why the Bible says it!  That’s why I get up at 4:00 in the morning.  So there is nothing to it, but to do it. 

Monday, January 22, 2018

Don't Let The World Distract You - Keep Your Eye On The Ball

My Utmost For His Highest

Look to Me, and be saved… —Isaiah 45:22

{CHAMBERS} “Do we expect God to come to us with His blessings and save us? He says, “Look to Me, and be saved….” The greatest difficulty spiritually is to concentrate on God, and His blessings are what make it so difficult. Troubles almost always make us look to God, but His blessings tend to divert our attention elsewhere. The basic lesson of the Sermon on the Mount is to narrow all your interests until your mind, heart, and body are focused on Jesus Christ. “Look to Me….”  […] We will find what we are looking for if we will concentrate on Him. […]  Build your hope on Him. No matter how many things seem to be pressing in on you, be determined to push them aside and look to Him. “Look to Me….””

{ELGIN}  There are many things – distractions in this life that would draw our attention, trust and devotion away from God.  It requires a deliberate effort on our part to keep our focus.  I was thinking about a batter in a baseball game.  People are yelling at the batter .. opponents and fans trying to distract him so he will miss the ball and be called out.  They want to keep him from accomplishing his purpose which is – of course – to hit the ball and score a run.  Life is like that for a Christian.  The world is constantly vying for our attention.  Stop looking to God and trust yourself .. make your own way .. achieve righteousness through your own effort and not by faith and devotion to God.  It’s natural for us to be distracted by the things of this world.  To trust ourselves.  To make our own way.  But …. If any man is in Christ, he is a new creation .. old things are passed away .. all things are becoming new … (2 Corinthians 5:17) We are being shaped into the image of Christ.  (Romans 8:29) Just like the baseball player, we must fix our eyes on the “ball” – our faith in Jesus.  “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off every encumbrance and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with endurance the race set out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)

Friday, January 19, 2018

Struggling With Trust In God - It's Part Of Our Supercilious Nature

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} “[A] saint’s duty is to be still and listen. […] The story of Abram and Hagar in Genesis 16 is an excellent example of listening to so-called good advice during a time of darkness, rather than waiting for God to send the light. […] 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. He grew past the point of relying on his own common sense. Those years of silence were a time of discipline, not a period of God’s displeasure. […] Do I trust at all in the flesh? […] 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? […] 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} Trusting in the Lord and not your own wisdom or plans (Proverbs 3:5-6, Proverbs 16:9) is perhaps our biggest challenge.  We know what “the Lord saith”, but lack the faith to wait and trust.  We can’t see God’s hand moving so we worry and try to “help” God.  I can remember one of my granddaughters, when she was 3 or 4.  I would try to help her do something that was ay beyond her ability  and she would say “Let me – I can do it myself!”  Out of the mouths of babes.  That was Abraham and Sarah’s problem. Yes Sarah was complicit in Abraham’s sin.  Sarah laughed at the thought of her having a baby. (Genesis 18:12) They knew what the Lord had said but lacked faith.  Have you ever struggled with that problem?  When God says something .. you know that it is true .. but you have a hard time trusting in the truth.  It is endemic to your old nature.  (Mark 9:21-26) “ Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?” “From childhood,” he answered. “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.” Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the impure spirit. “You deaf and mute spirit,” he said, “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, “He’s dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up.”

Faith is the “substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not see”.  (Hebrews 11:1) It’s the “evidence of things not seen” part that that the father and all of us struggle with.  What is it in your life that you need faith for?  Faith is a result of nearness to God.  (Romans 1:17) “For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.” Strong faith is a result of exercising your faith, just like your muscles.  Faith requires trust.  Trust requires submission.  Submission requires humility.  You do not know better than God. (Proverbs 16:18) “Pride goes before destruction,  and a haughty spirit before a fall.” Haughty means – Proud and disdainful; having a high opinion of one's self, with some contempt for others; lofty and arrogant; supercilious. Supercilious means – behaving or looking as though one thinks one is superior to others.  If you think you know better than the Creator God the you have a haughty and supercilious attitude!  Just like the Pharisees. We all struggle with it.  It is the nature of our flesh .. in fact, it is at the root of Adam’s sin.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Singing Your Song In The Midst Of The Storm - Fulfilling God's Purpose

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

{CHAMBERS} ““Jesus said to her, ‘Give Me a drink’ ” (John 4:7). How many of us are expecting Jesus Christ to quench our thirst when we should be satisfying Him! We should be pouring out our lives, investing our total beings, not drawing on Him to satisfy us. “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. Beware of anything that competes with your loyalty to Jesus Christ. The greatest competitor of true devotion to Jesus is the service we do for Him. It is easier to serve than to pour out our lives completely for Him. 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. Are we more devoted to service than we are to Jesus Christ Himself?”

{ELGIN}  As I was walking down the hall after getting a cup of coffee – morning motivation – I had the image of a little bird sitting on a wire calling out in the midst of a hurricane.  To what avail does the bird sing?  How can it possible stand against the storm.  How can it possibly be heard above the wind and rain and thunder.  It can’t but God can through its obedience in fulfilling its purpose .. the purpose for which it was created.  It may seem to you that the “cultural” storm that rages about us is too much.  The light that shines from us .. the song we sing .. is drowned out by the force of the storm – will have not affect.  Not so.  When the nation of Israel finally reached the river Jordan the first time,  (Numbers 13-14) 10 of the 12 spies saw the “storm” – Giants in the land and a great fear came over the people.  They refused to continue to follow the spiritual leadership of Moses.  They would not cross the river. And so they missed a blessing – the very purpose for leaving Egypt.  They did not fulfill their purpose by trusting in God and not themselves.  So they died in the desert.  They missed God’s best.  True, they were no longer slaves, but  they missed God all the same.

The second time the nation approached the river … the same storm was raging .. and more .. the river was at flood stage … impossible for men .. but possible for God.  When they stepped into the water by faith … the river backed up and they occupied the land.  Fulfilling God’s plan.  I was sharing how Pathfinder became Pathfinder with some friends yesterday.  Before Martie and I submitted to God’s leading to start this ministry, we talked with my mom about it.  We told her about what God was leading us to do.  About the problems.  Our hesitation.  We had not gone to Mississippi with the intention of staying there and certainly not starting a ministry.  She said “Charley, the river Jordan did not back up until they stepped out into the water.”  My response was “Got it Mom!”  We had to step out in and by faith.  Put our trust in God.  She asked, “What are you going to call it?” We had not thought that far ahead .. we were still trying to get our socks and shoes off before we stepped in!  She said “What about Pathfinder?”  Pathfinder was the name of the youth ministry that my folks had started in Peoria, Illinois.  So we decided to go with it .. Pathfinder on Mission.  Pathfinder Mission.  A work of faith.

Each of us is called to step into the water.  These are dark times spiritually .. but I suspect they are not the darkest times that have ever been .. just the darkest that we have seen.  When I flew helicopters in the Army, I sometimes flew at night in the desert.  It was very, very dark.  No visible horizon, meaning you could not see where the sky and earth met.  Hard to keep oriented.  But then someone would light up a chem-stick.  In all the darkness, I could see it from far off.  One light in the midst of the darkness.  Pointing me to my destination.  My encouragement to you … Be the light!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Making A Sacrifice From The Heart ... Just Like Jesus

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. […] 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. God brings me into the proper relationship with Himself so that I can understand His call, and then I serve Him on my own out of a motivation of absolute love. Service to God is the deliberate love-gift of a nature that has heard the call of God. Service is an expression of my nature, and God’s call is an expression of His nature. […] The Son of God reveals Himself in me, and out of devotion to Him service becomes my everyday way of life.”

{ELGIN} As I type this devotion this morning, it is 22 degrees in Pasadena, Texas, and pretty chilly in the room I am sitting in.  I am wearing a read hooded Carhartt work jacket.  Why am I telling you this?  Because it has to do with the point of this devotion. About 12 years ago, I was standing in a parking lot of a church in Bay Saint Louis, Mississippi, doing pretty much what I am doing now. Not typing a devotion, but serving the people affected by a disaster, however without this red coat. 

It was cold … colder than I thought it would be on the Gulf Coast.  I had not dressed for the weather … didn’t have a coat.  I wasn’t thinking about being cold, but about getting the volunteers to the work that they had come to do.  That’s when a young man walked up to me.  He asked me if I had a coat, I told him no.  Then he did something that has been with me since that day, he took his coat off, a red Carhartt work coat and gave it to me.  He said, “here you can have this one.”  Well, I am a great giver … but like most givers, struggle with receiving.  But ….. I did accept the coat.  I recognized the sacrifice he was making … I saw Jesus … I saw something holy that was taking place … an expression of sacrifice … (John 15:13) “No greater love has one man than this, then that he lay down his life for his friends.”  A sacrifice costs the one sacrificing something that is dear to them.  In a flash, I was reminded of Matthew 22 and the parable of the sheep and the goats … “Lord when did we see you …?” It is a coat … not a sacrifice on the cross … but that is not the point … it’s the heart that made the sacrifice that makes the coat significant.  This coat hung in a closet for the four years we served in Haiti.  But even then, each time I saw it there, my heart was rended (sp)  and I was taken back to that parking lot.  I was reminded of what is important in life.  I am sure that the young man had no idea what the gesture would mean to me years later.  And likewise my friend, you  have no idea what your kindness toward others, your sacrifice from the heart will mean to them.  That is not the motive for our doing and serving … our motive … our motivation … our reason … is the love of God that we bear in our hearts that has found a way to express itself and bring glory to the Father. 

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Fulfilling The Call Of God In Your Life - Just Like Isaiah

I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: "Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?" —Isaiah 6:8

{CHAMBERS} “When we talk about the call of God, we often forget the most important thing, namely, the nature of Him who calls. There are many things calling each of us today. Some of these calls will be answered, and others will not even be heard. The call is the expression of the nature of the One who calls, and we can only recognize the call if that same nature is in us. The call of God is the expression of God’s nature, not ours. God providentially weaves the threads of His call through our lives, and only we can distinguish them. […] The call of God is not a reflection of my nature; my personal desires and temperament are of no consideration. […] Isaiah was so attuned to God, because of the great crisis he had just endured, that the call of God penetrated his soul. The majority of us cannot hear anything but ourselves. And we cannot hear anything God says. But to be brought to the place where we can hear the call of God is to be profoundly changed.”

{ELGIN} When you think of someone being called by God .. hearing God’s voice … do you think Isaiah, Moses, Abraham, Paul? Do you ever think of yourself as being among that group?  I would guess probably not.  It would be like a duffer in golf comparing themselves to Arnold Palmer.  Not even in the same class.  Perhaps, but in the case of God’s call, your thinking would be wrong.  Way wrong.  Don’t confuse your role in the mission with calling.  God gives us different things to do, some seem small compared to others, but God decides that, not us.  (Romans 8:30-31) “And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” What do you say in response?  “Oh, I could never be like _________”  We are all being conformed into the image of Jesus.  We are called into new life.  We have a common mission but diverse roles in that mission.

Our problem is making that Truth important in our every-day lives.  Do you live each moment with an awareness that you are called by God?  Not for the sake of pride but are you living in awe of what God has done in you by grace through faith. (Ephesians 2:8-9) God has given you a place of ministry in the place where you are right now.  The question is, will you be found faithful or will you focus on living life on this planet .. doing the best you can to get along with your new nature running in the background.  My point, as Christians, we have been called to so much more than that.  And you don’t have to travel to a foreign land to experience it.  (Ephesians 2:10) “For we [YOU] are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us [YOU] to do.”  We all must accept that truth and live in it by faith, just like Isaiah, Moses, Abraham, and Paul.

Monday, January 15, 2018

So You Are A Christian - Are You Living Like One?

We were buried with Him…that just as Christ was raised from the dead…even so we also should walk in newness of life. —Romans 6:4

{CHAMBERS} “No one experiences complete sanctification without going through […] the burial of the old life. If there has never been this crucial moment of change through death, sanctification will never be more than an elusive dream. […] Death means you stop being. You must agree with God and stop being the intensely striving kind of Christian you have been. […] Has there been a point in your life which you now mark as your last day? Is there a place in your life to which you go back in memory with humility and overwhelming gratitude […]Will you agree with Him that this is your last day on earth? The moment of agreement depends on you.”

{ELGIN} Can you say this about yourself without reservation? (Galatians 2:20)  “I …… I am crucified with Christ.” Your old nature and its desires are dead to you.  You no longer prefer what your culture or the lusts of your flesh say are right.  “Therefore it is no longer I who lives, but Christ in me.” When people see me, they see Jesus.  “And the life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loves me and gave Himself up for me.”  You live a life fully dependent upon God and according to His will, not your own.  You walk by faith and not by sight.  (2 Corinthians 5:17) “old things are passing away and all things are becoming new”  Is there a change in your life, more than the fact that you go to church on Sundays? 

I was talking to a Christian the other day,  During the course of our conversation, he began to say something in response to something I said.  But, he “caught the word” which was profane as it came out of his my and said that was not profane.  [I almost typed the second phrase but that would have caused you to think about the profane phrase]  (Ephesians 4:29) “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.”  Does your speech reflect that which is good and brings glory to God  and encouragement to others, or does it reflect your culture?  Do you tolerate language in the media, TV and movies that you would never say yourself? Do you allow your kids to be exposed to it.  Would you not watch a movie or television program because they used profanity, promoted extra-marital sex, or some other activity that is clearly contrary to the Word of God?  If so, read this devotion again. 

Is your faith really the most important aspect of your life from which everything else springs? You know, but let me watch you for a few days and I can answer that question for you.  So can your family and the world my friend. Listen. the difference between criticism and encouragement is motive.  I am not being critical ... as Paul said .. I am the chief of sinners ... I, too, struggle with my flesh.  My motive is to encourage you to grasp the new life that you have in Christ and live it to its fullest potential.  You can do it.  I know you can through Christ who gives you strength.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

God's Comfort Is Like A Bridge Over Troubled Water

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).[…] We think we understand another person’s struggle until God reveals the same shortcomings in our lives. There are vast areas of stubbornness and ignorance the Holy Spirit has to reveal in each of us, but it can only be done when Jesus gets us alone.”

{ELGIN} (James 1:2-4) “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.” Pastor Rick Warren said it this way, “God never wastes a hurt”.  We are saved for eternity, but we continue to live out this life in a fallen – sin-sick world.  What we experience in this life, both good and bad, God uses to shape us into the image of His Son.  We gladly accept the fact that Jesus suffered and died for us, but we often have a problem with accepting pain and suffering in our own lives.  Like God is supposed to prevent that from happening.  Job said (Job 13:15) “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him;  I will surely defend my ways to his face.”  The first half of that verse is quoted often .. the second half … not so much.  There is nothing wrong with asking God for understanding … but don’t lose hope in the asking.  Don’t doubt God .. even though what you are experiencing is difficult to endure.  (2 Corinthians 1:3-5) “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.  For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.” Do you believe that? Well, you may doubt it in the midst of your trouble, but it is no less true.  If you seek God and put your hope in Him, you will find comfort.  If you blame God and turn away in your heart, you will not.

Jesus said (John 16:33) “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Paul wrote (Romans 8:38-39) “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  And that my friend is the Truth!

As I was thinking up a title for this post .. it's post number 1599, and that is a lot of titles!  A song by Simon and Garfunkel came to my mind.  Bridge Over Troubled Waters.  "When you're down and out. When you're on the street. When evening falls so hard I will comfort you. I'll take your part, oh, when darkness comes. And pain is all, is all around. Just like a bridge over troubled water, I will lay me down. Just like a bridge over troubled water I will lay me down"  That's what God is like!

Friday, January 12, 2018

Do You Really Want To Be Like Jesus?

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. It is slow work— so slow that it takes God all of time and eternity to make a man or woman conform to His purpose. We can only be used by God after we allow Him to show us the deep, hidden areas of our own character. […] …. Jesus will reveal to us everything we have held within ourselves before His grace began to work. […] We have to get rid of the idea that we understand ourselves. That is always the last bit of pride to go. The only One who understands us is God. The greatest curse in our spiritual life is pride. […] He will allow us to experience heartbreak or the disappointment we feel when our intellectual pride is wounded. He will reveal numerous misplaced affections or desires— things over which we never thought He would have to get us alone. Many things are shown to us, often without effect. But when God gets us alone over them, they will be clear.”

{ELGIN} (Romans 8:29) “For those whom he [God the Father] foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”  Have you ever given any thought to what being conformed … molded .. changed … means?  Well, first you know it is a spiritual change, right?  Second … you know that the process is going to be contrary to your flesh.  God will show you things through the Spirit that you may not want to see or admit, even to yourself.  (One of the Spirit’s missions is to convict the world of sin.  The Spirit plus the Word of God are the “one-two” punch in the sanctification process.  The knock-out punch is my surrendering my will)

You know that there are certain aspects of your old nature that you want to hide or cling to.  Adam and Eve tried to hide themselves in the Garden… you know how that worked out for them.  The only ones you can hide your sin from, for a season, is man.  The Word says (Numbers 32:23) “Your sin will find you out.”  God knows everything .. that is why we confess our sins (1 John 1:9) .. confess means to “agree with” not to reveal.  The goal of this transformation – conforming process is not to make you miserable, but to bless you .. to make you better.  The pain or difficulty you experience is from the battle between the flesh and Spirit.  My encouragement to you is the same as Paul’s to the Romans.  (Romans 12:1-2) “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”  God won’t make you do that.  You must surrender your will.  Will you?

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Obeying God's Will - Will Cost You Something - Your Own

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. They will ridicule us as if to say, “You call this Christianity?” We could prevent the suffering, but not if we are obedient to God. We must let the cost be paid.  […] Will we remain faithful in our obedience to God and be willing to suffer the humiliation of refusing to be independent? Or will we do just the opposite and say, “I will not cause other people to suffer”? We can disobey God if we choose, and it will bring immediate relief to the situation, but it will grieve our Lord. If, however, we obey God, He will care for those who have suffered the consequences of our obedience. We must simply obey and leave all the consequences with Him. Beware of the inclination to dictate to God what consequences you would allow as a condition of your obedience to Him.”

{ELGIN} As so often happens, I was just talking with a friend about this very issue.  Our life on mission has required that we leave our family behind in order to serve in the places, that God has sent us.  (Matthew 16:24) “If anyone comes after Me, he must deny himself, pick up his cross and follow Me.”  Have you ever thought about what that might be?  Di you associate it with and limit it to intra-personal things and not others?  The truth is that God wants your total devotion .. the Greek word for total means total!  Not just what you think is sufficient.  “All to Jesus I surrender, all to Him I freely give.” Really?  When God says, “Give it up” are you willing to do that?  Really?  Or are there certain things that you or those around you have decided are just too much.  My friend, in Texas, told me that when he first met me and I told him that we had left our twin grandchildren in the care of friends for two months and we came to Texas … well, he didn’t think nice thoughts.  Have you ever heard “Family is everything”?  Not in the Bible.  God is everything. That is in the Bible.  Our devotion must be to God first.  Loving others springs out of loving God (Matthew 22:37-39)

Before we came to Texas, another friend asked to meet with me over coffee.  I discovered that his agenda was to convince me that I should delay my departure until a better time for the twins.  Makes sense … except God had told us to go .. now.  So we were faced with a choice.  Yield to the reason of man and say no to God, not now.  Or yield to God and trust in His sovereignty.  The first friend in Texas said that after he got to know me, he realized why I had made the decision, and believed it was the right one.  So what is it in your life that God is asking you to leave behind?  To let go of?  God will not make you choose Him.  That is what free will is all about.  But if you don’t, you will miss out on His best.  So my advice .. lay it down and follow Jesus .. Jesus always sought to do the will of the Father, and so should we.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

How To Explain The Bible To The Lost

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 fails in his personal Christian life, it is usually because he has never received anything. […] 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. People may make vows and promises, and may be determined to follow through, but none of this is salvation. 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.”

{ELGIN} I was once asked how to explain how another Christian could explain the Bible to a lost person.  My answer … “You can’t!” You can have them look the words up in a dictionary if the don’t understand their meaning.  After all, they are ‘just printed words”, right?  But there is more to it the word of God than stories and words in the English language.  Did you know that in Haitian Creole there is no word for “fox”?  (Luke 9:58) “Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.””  Instead, the word used is “shen” which is dog.  What! Then how can their Bible be accurate?  Listen. I probably have the minority view on what I am about to say.  The important thing is not if it’s fox or dog.  The important thing is that in order to follow Jesus, it means giving up your life. (Luke 9:57-60) “As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” He said to another man, “Follow me.” But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.””

(1 Corinthians 2:13-15) “This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments”  Jesus told Nicodemus that he had to be born again, spiritually, and Nicodemus, a teacher of the Law, did not understand what Jesus was saying (John 3)  The Bible is a spiritual book. 2 Timothy 3:16 says that it is God breathed meaning the inspiration is from the Spirit of God not men’s contemplation and wisdom.  Salvation is not a mortal decision – I have decided to follow Jesus – but it is a spiritual awakening and spiritual transaction that is initiated by God and is very personal. It is a mix of faith and grace (Ephesians 2:8-9) And unless the Spirit of God is involved, it is impossible for someone to understand the “true meaning” of the words in the Bible.  But .. that is not to say that God will not use those words as a catalyst, in concert, with the working of His Spirit.  So my answer to the original question should have been …. It is important to expose the Lost to the Word of God, but it is the Spirit and not you that will give understanding and only then.  Our part is to lift Jesus up in word and deed, and the Spirit convicts them of sin and draws them to the Father.