Thursday, May 31, 2018

What Does It Mean To Be Like Jesus ?

Jesus did not commit Himself to them…for He knew what was in man. —John 2:24-25

{CHAMBERS} “Put Trust in God First. Our Lord never put His trust in any person. Yet He was never suspicious, never bitter, and never lost hope for anyone, because He put His trust in God first. He trusted absolutely in what God’s grace could do for others. If I put my trust in human beings first, the end result will be my despair and hopelessness toward everyone. I will become bitter because I have insisted that people be what no person can ever be— absolutely perfect and right. Never trust anything in yourself or in anyone else, except the grace of God. Put God’s Will First. […] The purpose of our Christian training is to get us into the right relationship to the “needs” of God and His will. […] Am I allowing my natural life to be slowly transformed by the indwelling life of the Son of God? God’s ultimate purpose is that His Son might be exhibited in me.”

{ELGIN}  Is it the desire of your heart that your life would be a perfect reflection of Jesus?  It’s a question I had to ask myself.  Oh I want to be a Christian.  I love God.  I follow Jesus.  I serve others. But .. do I really want to be like Jesus?  Think about this.  Most every Christian I know would say “yes” if I asked “Do you want to love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength?” (Matthew 22:37) Jesus asked (Luke 6:46) "Why do you call me, 'LORD, LORD,' and do not do what I say?”  God’s intent is that we all become conformed to the image of Jesus.  That means being absolutely like Jesus in our obedience to the Father and His will.  I have a long way to go.  We all do, but the question is are you moving toward that goal .. each day … or are you content with being where you are?  To be like Jesus means to be willing to lay your life down .. to crucify your old nature … nail it to the cross and no longer be subject to it .. attracted by it .. content with it still having its way in your life.  Treating others the way Jesus did and not the way your ego, insecurities, and emotions cause you to treat them.  Showing the world what grace and mercy look like without compromising your faith in or obedience to the Father.  That requires spiritual wisdom which can only come from God and devotion to God.  Devoting yourself to seeking out the Father’s will – every day.  That is the life that I want but it is also the life that I am prone to neglect if I am not careful.  Take some time to examine yourself this morning and then spend some time with the Lord.  Then let the world see what Jesus looks like in the life of a Believer.  Fulfill your purpose.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Understanding Why You Are Doing What You Don't Want To Do

Lord, I will follow You, but... —Luke 9:61

{CHAMBERS} “Suppose God tells you to do something that is an enormous test of your common sense, totally going against it. What will you do? Will you hold back? If you get into the habit of doing something physically, you will do it every time you are tested until you break the habit through sheer determination. And the same is true spiritually. Again and again you will come right up to what Jesus wants, but every time you will turn back at the true point of testing, until you are determined to abandon yourself to God in total surrender. Yet we tend to say, “Yes, but— suppose I do obey God in this matter, what about…?” Or we say, “Yes, I will obey God if what He asks of me doesn’t go against my common sense, but don’t ask me to take a step in the dark.”[…] In the spiritual realm, Jesus Christ demands that you risk everything you hold on to or believe through common sense, and leap by faith into what He says. […] By the test of common sense, Jesus Christ’s statements may seem mad, but when you test them by the trial of faith, your findings will fill your spirit with the awesome fact that they are the very words of God. […] We act like pagans in a crisis— only one out of an entire crowd is daring enough to invest his faith in the character of God.”

{ELGIN} In Romans 7, Paul describes a conflict of the flesh and spirit. (Romans 7:15-23) “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me.” 

As we live our new life in Christ – we struggle.  Most of us have hurts, habits, and hang-ups that are rooted in our old nature and the fact that we live in a fallen world. We do the very things we know we should not and often feel helpless to stop doing those things.  Even though we know that what we do is contrary to our new nature and the will of God we feel compelled to not let them go.  I think fear, in large part, is the motivation. We want so badly to have things set aright, but can’t let go of our old habits and thinking to grab hold of God.  That is where faith comes in.  I may want someone to make the right choices – to change the direction of their life, but I can’t make them do it.  They must decide that they will – take the leap – and go in a new direction – trust in God and not themselves.  Maybe you know someone like that.  If you know someone – pray for them – encourage them – don’t preach to them.  More than likely they already know what to do – they just don’t have enough trust to make the leap of faith.  Or maybe you are someone like that.  I don’t know who you are but God does.  I pray that you will find comfort and strength and peace and confidence in Him.  

(GIVE ME JESUS) Jeremy Camp

In the morning, when I rise, In the morning, when I rise

In the morning, when I rise, give me Jesus

Give me Jesus, Give me Jesus

You can have all this world, But give me Jesus

And when I am alone, Oh, and when I am alone

And when I am alone, give me Jesus

Give me Jesus, Give me Jesus

You can have all this world, But give me Jesus

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Why Must I Say The Magic Words When I Pray?

In that day you will ask in My name…for the Father Himself loves you… —John 16:26-27

{CHAMBERS} ““In that day you will ask in My name…,” that is, in My nature. Not “You will use My name as some magic word,” but— “You will be so intimate with Me that you will be one with Me.” “That day” is not a day in the next life, but a day meant for here and now. “…for the Father Himself loves you…”— the Father’s love is evidence that our union with Jesus is complete and absolute. Our Lord does not mean that our lives will be free from external difficulties and uncertainties, but that just as He knew the Father’s heart and mind, we too can be lifted by Him into heavenly places through the baptism of the Holy Spirit, so that He can reveal the teachings of God to us. “…whatever you ask the Father in My name…” (John 16:23). “That day” is a day of peace and an untroubled relationship between God and His saint. Just as Jesus stood unblemished and pure in the presence of His Father, we too by the mighty power and effectiveness of the baptism of the Holy Spirit can be lifted into that relationship— “…that they may be one just as We are one…” (John 17:22).”

{ELGIN} “What is the magic word?” Have you ever said that to your children expecting them to respond with “please”?  That is how we very often treat the phrase “in Jesus name.”  Our attitude is not that we ask consistent with the Father’s will, but that if we ask for things and “tack” – in Jesus name – on the end it somehow makes our request irresistible to the Father.  I’m concerned that we don’t give enough consideration to even our personal, spiritual condition when we ask.  As if it does not matter – hey! I said PLEASE!  When we say “in Jesus name” it should be a reminder to us that the only reason the Father hears us is because of Jesus.  So it more of an acknowledgement then a guarantee of a positive answer to our prayer.  James wrote (James 4:3) that “we have not because we ask not and that for which we do ask, we ask amiss.”  Much of our time in prayer has to do with physical and relational issues, not spiritual.  What do you imagine that Jesus prayed about?  I think it was about His relationship with His Father.  Intimate conversations. In Philippians 4, Paul makes it clear that we are to “be anxious for nothing but in everything let our requests be made known to God”. Peter wrote that we are to “cast all our cares on Him” (1 Peter 5:7).  But the assumption is that the context is our desire to be one with Jesus even as He is one with the Father.  How about it?

Friday, May 25, 2018

Living Your Life And Choosing Rightly - It's Up To You

If you take the left, then I will go to the right; or, if you go to the right, then I will go to the left. —Genesis 13:9

{CHAMBERS} “As soon as you begin to live the life of faith in God, fascinating and physically gratifying possibilities will open up before you. […] God sometimes allows you to get into a place of testing where your own welfare would be the appropriate thing to consider, if you were not living the life of faith. But if you are, you will joyfully waive your right and allow God to make your choice for you. This is the discipline God uses to transform the natural into the spiritual through obedience to His voice. Whenever our right becomes the guiding factor of our lives, it dulls our spiritual insight. The greatest enemy of the life of faith in God is not sin, but good choices which are not quite good enough. The good is always the enemy of the best. […] Many of us do not continue to grow spiritually because we prefer to choose on the basis of our rights, instead of relying on God to make the choice for us. We have to learn to walk according to the standard which has its eyes focused on God. And God says to us, as He did to Abram, “…walk before Me…” (Genesis 17:1).”

{ELGIN}  This life of faith that we live.  It is so contrary to the ways of this world.  It is so contrary to common sense or should I say “natural” sense. Psychologists of done a great work in mapping out how the natural man thinks and why he does .. all in the context of the natural world.  Apart from God.  When faith enters in – it often is in conflict with the natural.  You see the natural is about “you” – the spiritual is about “God”.  And so every day we are faced with choices .. do we look to ourselves or to God?  If you are a Christian – everything in your life has a spiritual context.  There is no part of your life that is spared.  Very often we live with various aspects of our lives compartmented, sectioned off, as if they were excluded from the sovereignty of God.  They are not.  We have been bought with a price.  We have been adopted into God’s family.  We are new in Christ.  But, at the same time, we have been given a free will.  Free to do as we please. Not without consequences, but free to choose, to compartmentalize.  That is not the Father’s desire.  No, His desire is that we be conformed into the image of Jesus. (Romans 8:29) “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” As you read this, if you are thinking, “But that is what I want my life to be like.” Then I would say – look to the Father – Hide His Word in your heart – Yield to the Spirit – Every day … now would be a good time to start. And if you are already there – encourage the Saints.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Keeping Your Focus On God In The Midst Of Trouble

When I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. —Revelation 1:17

{CHAMBERS} “[…] Whenever His hand is laid upon you, it gives inexpressible peace and comfort, and the sense that “underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deuteronomy 33:27), full of support, provision, comfort, and strength. And once His touch comes, nothing at all can throw you into fear again. In the midst of all His ascended glory, the Lord Jesus comes to speak to an insignificant disciple, saying, “Do not be afraid” (Revelation 1:17). His tenderness is inexpressibly sweet. Do I know Him like that? Take a look at some of the things that cause despair. There is despair which has no delight, no limits whatsoever, and no hope of anything brighter. But the delight of despair comes when “I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells…” (Romans 7:18). I delight in knowing that there is something in me which must fall prostrate before God when He reveals Himself to me, and also in knowing that if I am ever to be raised up it must be by the hand of God. God can do nothing for me until I recognize the limits of what is humanly possible, allowing Him to do the impossible.”

{ELGIN}  Often times, I think, that in times of trouble, we keep eyes on the trouble and not on God – our Deliverer.  Do you trust God enough to turn your back on the trouble and look fully in the face of God?  Do you believe that God will sustain you or do you merely hope that He will.  When the three young men were facing the fiery furnace because they refused to bend their knees to a statue of King Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 3) they had confidence in God … but even if the outcome was not to their favor, they would not lose confidence or give up their faith in God.  As you know, there was a fourth man in the furnace (like the Son of man) and the men were spared from death.  All of us face difficult trials in our lives … perhaps not a fiery furnace … but certainly we feel the “heat” of many difficulties.  We can become anxious, fearful.  We may feel panic or dread.  Our problem overwhelms us.  We see nothing else.  We are aware of nothing else.  (Philippians 4:5-7) “The Lord is at hand;  do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

If you trust in yourself more than God you will always look at what you can do in the midst of trouble.  Very often the problem is more that you can overcome.  Trust God.  My grandmother’s favorite psalm was Psalm 121 “I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all evil;  he will keep your life. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.”

What difficulties are you faced with today?  Look to the hills!

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

God Is The Master Chef - Follow His Recipe For Living

…do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. —Matthew 6:25

{CHAMBERS} “Jesus summed up commonsense carefulness in the life of a disciple as unbelief. If we have received the Spirit of God, He will squeeze right through our lives, as if to ask, “Now where do I come into this relationship, this vacation you have planned, or these new books you want to read?” And He always presses the point until we learn to make Him our first consideration. Whenever we put other things first, there is confusion.  “…do not worry about your life….” Don’t take the pressure of your provision upon yourself. It is not only wrong to worry, it is unbelief; worrying means we do not believe that God can look after the practical details of our lives, and it is never anything but those details that worry us. Have you ever noticed what Jesus said would choke the Word He puts in us? Is it the devil? No— “the cares of this world” (Matthew 13:22). It is always our little worries. We say, “I will not trust when I cannot see”— and that is where unbelief begins. The only cure for unbelief is obedience to the Spirit.  The greatest word of Jesus to His disciples is abandon.”

{ELGIN} What are you most worried about?  Money? Health? Relationships?  I find the greatest threat to my contentment is not problems with any of those things.  It’s letting the flame of faith dim in my life.  One way we fan the flame is through our relationships with other Christians.  We have gained some wonderful friends as we have sojourned for Jesus over the years.  One couple significantly impacted, in a positive way, how we respond to adversity.  Their motto for living is “We live simply so others can simply live”.  They have stood against the temptation to build bigger barns and, instead, show the world Jesus by the way they live and do.  I see so many Christians look to the world, their unsaved friends, for comfort and assurance.  Jesus walked among sinners, but He did not partake in their sin.  That always proves to be a little harder to do for most Christians I know.  We are not to live in isolation from the world, but are to live insulated from it.  A fish lives in the sea of salt water but is not salty.  In the same way we should not allow the world to “season” us with sin.  What appears to be reasonable can draw you away from the Lord and before you know it … you are indistinguishable from those who are lost.  Listen – sinners prefer that you participate in their sin.  It affirms in their minds that what they are doing is not so bad .. and you, as a Christian, are not so good – just like them.  This is a huge problem for teenagers … and those who find themselves alone facing life’s problems … trying to fix themselves rather than look to Jesus.

I have a recipe for scones that people really like.  If I decided to use other ingredients, the scones would not taste the same.  God has ordained how His creation best functions.  You can follow his plan or come up with your own recipe. Trust me, it won’t taste the same.  Wanting to go on our own way .. not trusting that God knows what is best … it all started in the Garden .. it’s part of our old nature.  And that old nature is always ready to rise up and dominate our thinking and our doing.  You are reading this so I sense you are looking to God on a consistent basis.  Encourage other Christians to do the same.  To follow God’s recipe then taste and see ….

(Psalm 34:7-9) “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them. Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him. Fear the Lord, you his holy people, for those who fear him lack nothing.”

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Weighing The Cost Of Being Jesus' Disciple

My Utmost For His Highest 

…that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us… —John 17:21

{CHAMBERS} “If you are going through a time of isolation, seemingly all alone, read John 17 . It will explain exactly why you are where you are— because Jesus has prayed that you “may be one” with the Father as He is. Are you helping God to answer that prayer, or do you have some other goal for your life? Since you became a disciple, you cannot be as independent as you used to be. God reveals in John 17 that His purpose is not just to answer our prayers, but that through prayer we might come to discern His mind. Yet there is one prayer which God must answer, and that is the prayer of Jesus— “…that they may be one just as We are one…” (John 17:22). Are we as close to Jesus Christ as that? God is not concerned about our plans; He doesn’t ask, “Do you want to go through this loss of a loved one, this difficulty, or this defeat?” No, He allows these things for His own purpose. The things we are going through are either making us sweeter, better, and nobler men and women, or they are making us more critical and fault-finding, and more insistent on our own way. The things that happen either make us evil, or they make us more saintly, depending entirely on our relationship with God and its level of intimacy. If we will pray, regarding our own lives, “Your will be done” (Matthew 26:42), then we will be encouraged and comforted by John 17, knowing that our Father is working according to His own wisdom, accomplishing what is best.”

{ELGIN} Do you think of yourself as a disciple or are you “merely” a Christian.  In my mind, there is a difference.  I will explain.  If you read the Gospels you see that there was a large crowd that follow Jesus, initially.  But, as He got nearer to the cross ..  fewer followed.  The life that Jesus represented was appealing to the crowds so long as there was something in it for them.  Food .. healing … being known as a Jesus follower.  But when the cross was on the horizon, even those closest to Jesus were tested in their commitment to following Him .. to being identified with Him.  I don’t presume to understand everything .. many things are a mystery to me.  For example … at what point did the disciples find salvation in Jesus?  Was it by faith before the cross?  Or, was it after the cross?  The Bible doesn’t tell us.  I am thinking the former … I do know that Jesus told them to wait for the Holy Spirit .. which means that with Jesus ascended, they needed supernatural power to live and do.  Before they had it in Jesus.  After the cross, they needed it from the Spirit.  And so, by the way, do we.  So back to the question.  Are you a disciple or “just” a Christian.  We must all answer it.  In fact we all have.  Our level of dedication to Jesus is displayed every day by the way we live and love.  Like the parable of the talents .. have you buried the reality of your faith in the ground intending to dig it up when Jesus returns or you join Him in heaven?  Or are you multiplying your faith by loving God more than you love the world … showing Jesus to the people you meet?  It is important that we reflect on our life in Christ.  The cares of this world are like barnacles on the hull of a ship.  If you don’t deal with them early and often, they will multiple and soon obscure who you are in Christ.  Your God-purposed life will be made impotent.  You will be lulled into a sense of satisfaction that you are living the Christian-life as it was intended.  That is until you come face to face with Jesus. 

I have wondered, often, about why I write the things I do in this BLOG.  I sense that I am like a lighthouse warning the sailors that there are dangers to avoid.  I certainly am not judging anyone … but I am, instead, encouraging you to be on your guard .. to consider who you are in Christ and where you are in your faith walk.  To be alert to the dangers of embracing this world and your culture.  (Proverbs 14:12) “There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.” My role is to raise an awareness, frankly, what you do about it is between you and the Holy Spirit.  God Bless You!

Monday, May 21, 2018

The Challenge Of Putting God In His Proper Place

Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. —Matthew 6:33

{CHAMBERS} “When we look at these words of Jesus, we immediately find them to be the most revolutionary that human ears have ever heard. “…seek first the kingdom of God….” Even the most spiritually-minded of us argue the exact opposite, saying, “But I must live; I must make a certain amount of money; I must be clothed; I must be fed.” The great concern of our lives is not the kingdom of God but how we are going to take care of ourselves to live. Jesus reversed the order by telling us to get the right relationship with God first, maintaining it as the primary concern of our lives, and never to place our concern on taking care of the other things of life.“…do not worry about your life…” (Matthew 6:25). Our Lord pointed out that from His standpoint it is absolutely unreasonable for us to be anxious, worrying about how we will live. Jesus did not say that the person who takes no thought for anything in his life is blessed— no, that person is a fool. But Jesus did teach that His disciple must make his relationship with God the dominating focus of his life […] It is one of the most difficult, yet critical, disciplines of the Christian life to allow the Holy Spirit to bring us into absolute harmony with the teaching of Jesus in these verses.

{ELGIN}  A young man said to Jesus “Let me first go bury my father.”  Jesus replied “Let the dead bury the dead” (Luke 9:60)  Jesus said “Unless you hate your father and mother … you cannot be My disciple.”  (Luke 14:26)  Jesus said to the rich young man “Sell all you have and give it to the poor” (Mark 10:21) The men had a natural view of things … They were not evil .. they had good intensions, but .. Jesus point was to them and to us … there is something greater required of you … put God first in everything.  We don’t have a problem with the idea of putting God first, but struggle with doing that when it conflicts with our natural affections.  There are a number of commands that we can quote much more easily than we can put into practice.  Jesus could see the devotion of the heart in each of these men.  Obedience begins in the heart.  Are you willing to lay your life down .. all of your life … for God?  If not then what is it that demands your affection that sets itself up as the true god in your life?  Money.  Family. Occupation.  Lifestyle.  Traditions of your fathers or your culture?  (Mark 7:7-9) “‘These people honor me with their lips,  but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain;  their teachings are merely human rules.’ You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.” And he continued, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions.”

The path that we follow as Christians has a slippery slope.  It is easy to deceive ourselves and think that we are fulfilling God’s purpose when, in fact, we are following our own – watered-down religion.  One that puts our well being and what we consider to be right … ahead of God and what He has made clear in His word and through His Son.  So when God says “Love me first with your all”, that is exactly what He means.  When He says “Pick up your cross”, “Offer yourself as a living sacrifice”, that is exactly what He means.  But to live like that requires faith.  If you are not nurturing that faith then you will not be able to live the life that He has called you to.  Instead it will be a life that is a mere shadow of a new life in Christ.  It will have a good appearance but will lack the spiritual power that God has intended.  So to take you back to an old friend (Proverbs 3:5-8) “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes;  fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.”  Pray on that …

Friday, May 18, 2018

The Lemon Tree Is Pretty But The Fruit Is Impossible To Eat - And So Is Not Choosing God

Look at the birds of the air….Consider the lilies of the field… —Matthew 6:26, 28

{CHAMBERS} “So often we impair God’s designed influence, which He desires to exhibit through us, because of our own conscious efforts to be consistent and useful. Jesus said there is only one way to develop and grow spiritually, and that is through focusing and concentrating on God. In essence, Jesus was saying, “Do not worry about being of use to others; simply believe on Me.” […] Jesus is teaching here that growth in our spiritual life comes not from focusing directly on it, but from concentrating on our Father in heaven. Our heavenly Father knows our circumstances, and if we will stay focused on Him, instead of our circumstances, we will grow spiritually— just as “the lilies of the field.” The people who influence us the most are not those who detain us with their continual talk, but those who live their lives like the stars in the sky and “the lilies of the field”— simply and unaffectedly. Those are the lives that mold and shape us. If you want to be of use to God, maintain the proper relationship with Jesus Christ by staying focused on Him, and He will make use of you every minute you live— yet you will be unaware, on the conscious level of your life, that you are being used of Him.”

{ELGIN} (1 Corinthians 1:27) “But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong”  What does that have to do with my spiritual life?  The key to being successful in my Christian life is not trying harder.  It’s by “faithing” harder.  If someone wants to be successful in life .. let’s say as a pianist .. they must study and practice for hours on end.  Hard work will yield its reward.  But no so with our new life in Christ.  We have been saved by “grace through faith and not of works” (Ephesians 2:8-9)  Dr. Henry Blackaby, the author of Experiencing God, said “You have heard people say ‘Don’t just stand there, do something’.  But God is saying, ‘Don’t just do something, stand there.’”  Think about that.  Are you doing your best to not sin .. to be a better person .. mother .. father .. husband .. wife … son .. daughter .. friend … Christian?  God chose the simple things … the natural man .. you  old nature reasons that acting like a Christian will make you a Christian .. but what to do with all of the sin that accompanies that effort.  God says … love Me … grow you relationship with Me .. through prayer, the Word, fellowship with other Christians – I really should say “like-minded Christians.  My point is that you need to seek out Christians in whom the light of Christ is shining bright.  Christians who will encourage you in the faith and not just commiserate with you.

Listen, I know that it is very difficult to not seek out those that will sympathize with you, even empathize with you.  You are seeking comfort and assurance. But you need to go to the source of true comfort.  (2 Corinthians 1:3-4) “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” What we need are people who will walk with us as we move closer to God.  That is a decision that we must all make … but that many Christians, to their detriment, choose not to make.  Instead they prefer to do things the way they think best  … and yield the fruit of that choice .. and the fruit is bitter.  Friend isn’t it time you looked to another tree? Think about it.

I was just reminded of a song from years back ... it's about a lemon tree ... a refrain goes "Lemon tree very pretty, and the lemon flower is sweet, but the fruit of the poor lemon is impossible to eat."  A great analogy for our choosing any way to success in our new life other than the way that God has ordained.  Blessings ...

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Going Back To The Last Known Point In Your Spiritual Journey

It came to pass, while He blessed them, that He was parted from them and carried up into heaven. —Luke 24:51

{CHAMBERS} “[…] His [Jesus’] Cross is the door by which every member of the human race can enter into the life of God; by His resurrection He has the right to give eternal life to anyone, and by His ascension our Lord entered heaven, keeping the door open for humanity.[…] Our Lord returned to His original glory, but not simply as the Son of God— He returned to His father as the Son of Man as well. There is now freedom of access for anyone straight to the very throne of God because of the ascension of the Son of Man.”

{ELGIN}  There are times when we, as Christians, need to take pause and consider the magnificence … the incredible truth about Jesus … His sacrifice … His place in the heavenlies … and our new life in Him.  Who He is .. who we are in Him .. are more than mere factoids … trite phrases … they are eternal truths .. supernatural realities … why would we not embrace them and immerse ourselves in them?  You know don’t you.  This morning is an encouragement to reflect on who you are …

When I was learning land navigation in the Army, using a map and compass, the first rule for when you are not sure where you are is to go back to the last "known" point, get your bearings and strike out on your journey again.  As Christians, we need to do the same in our faith journey as we navigate this life over often steep terrain and thick underbrush.

I want to share a song which is sung by Andrae Crouch but one of the song writers was Elton John … that’s right not making that up … direct paste … “Songwriters: ELTON JOHN, GARY ANTHONY OSBORNE - Universal Music Publishing Group

Take Me Back

“Take me back, take me back dear Lord To the place where I first received you.
Take me back, take me back dear Lord where I First believed.

I feel that I'm so far from you Lord But still I hear you calling me
Those simple things that I once knew, Their memories keep drawing me.

I must confess, Lord I've been blessed But yet my soul's not satisfied.
Renew my faith, restore my joy And dry my weeping eyes.

I tried so hard To make it all alone
I need your help Just to make it home.”

Why don’t you make that your prayer this morning … 

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Being Thankful For What You Have And Not Resentful For Over What You Don't Have

…you may be partakers of the divine nature… —2 Peter 1:4

{CHAMBERS} “We are made “partakers of the divine nature,” receiving and sharing God’s own nature through His promises. Then we have to work that divine nature into our human nature by developing godly habits. The first habit to develop is the habit of recognizing God’s provision for us. We say, however, “Oh, I can’t afford it.” One of the worst lies is wrapped up in that statement. We talk as if our heavenly Father has cut us off without a penny! We think it is a sign of true humility to say at the end of the day, “Well, I just barely got by today, but it was a severe struggle.” And yet all of Almighty God is ours in the Lord Jesus! […] Does it really matter that our circumstances are difficult? Why shouldn’t they be! If we give way to self-pity and indulge in the luxury of misery, we remove God’s riches from our lives and hinder others from entering into His provision. No sin is worse than the sin of self-pity, because it removes God from the throne of our lives, replacing Him with our own self-interests. It causes us to open our mouths only to complain, and we simply become spiritual sponges— always absorbing, never giving, and never being satisfied. And there is nothing lovely or generous about our lives.”

{ELGIN} We decide on the sufficiency of God’s provision based upon our measure of what it takes for put our mind at ease and to maintain a level of comfort that we desire.  It really has nothing to do with dependence upon God and His sufficiency.  (James 4:2-3) “You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” Jesus said to pray like this “give us this day our daily bread”.  In other words .. Father give me enough and I will be thankful for what I have and not resentful or anxious because of what I don’t have.  Right now I pay more for monthly cell phone service than most people in Haiti make in several months.  There is a tendency for people to look at what is wrong and not what is right .. they are never content or happy.  There is a tendency for people, those whose old nature rules in their lives, to never be satisfied with what they have but are always seeking more – better – bigger – newer.  The flesh is never content or satisfied.  Friend keep your eyes on Jesus.  Turn your heart toward God.  Strip away everything that hinders you from following Jesus and living for the Father’s glory. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Does Your Life Smell Like Jesus Or The World?

…that you may know what is the hope of His calling… —Ephesians 1:18

{CHAMBERS} “Remember that you have been saved so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in your body (see 2 Corinthians 4:10). […] You did not do anything to achieve your salvation, but you must do something to exhibit it. You must “work out your own salvation” which God has worked in you already (Philippians 2:12). Are your speech, your thinking, and your emotions evidence that you are working it “out”? If you are still the same miserable, grouchy person, set on having your own way, then it is a lie to say that God has saved and sanctified you. God is the Master Designer, and He allows adversities into your life to see if you can jump over them properly— “By my God I can leap over a wall” (Psalm 18:29). […] First Peter 4:12  says, “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you….” Rise to the occasion— do what the trial demands of you. It does not matter how much it hurts as long as it gives God the opportunity to manifest the life of Jesus in your body. May God not find complaints in us anymore, but spiritual vitality— a readiness to face anything He brings our way. […] We are here to submit to His will so that He may work through us what He wants. Once we realize this, He will make us broken bread and poured-out wine with which to feed and nourish others.”

{CHARLEY}  Do you decide what your Christian life should look like or do you allow God to do it?  I know so many Christians who say the latter and practice the former.  Their lives have the fragrance of the world and not Jesus. (2 Corinthians 2:15) “For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing”  When people are around you do they see the evidence of Jesus in your life.  No one knows you like your family … it is with the family that your true nature shines through.  If you were to ask them what would they say? I am, well … amused but saddened at the same time when someone I am with will catch their words.  Mainly men.  They will start to use a profane word, but catch it right before it comes out of their mouth and use another word instead.  I assume that it is not in deference to me, but in deference to the One whom I serve. The thing is .. those words came from their heart .. and were “spoken” before the sound was stifled.  I don’t condemn them for it, but I do have insight into where they are in their faith walk.  That their hearts are not fully given to God.

Fulfilling our God-given purpose should be what drives us .. motivates us .. Showing Jesus to the world through a transformed life should be our goal and practice. Living by faith and not by sight should be our way of life.  Salvation through faith in Jesus is not just a life event, like graduating from high school.  It should be the essence of our life.  And when you pass through the lives of others, you should leave the fragrance of Christ.  Like Peter and John … (Acts 4:13) “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.”  I pray that it could be said of you as well.

Monday, May 14, 2018

All Tests In This Life Are Open Book

…that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. —2 Corinthians 4:10

{CHAMBERS} “We have to develop godly habits to express what God’s grace has done in us. It is not just a question of being saved from hell, but of being saved so that “the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.” And it is adversity that makes us exhibit His life in our mortal flesh. […] No matter how difficult something may be, I must say, “Lord, I am delighted to obey You in this.” Instantly, the Son of God will move to the forefront of my life, and will manifest in my body that which glorifies Him. […] You must keep yourself in the proper condition to allow the life of the Son of God to be manifested in you, and you cannot keep yourself fit if you give way to self-pity. […] It is one thing to choose adversity, and quite another to enter into adversity through the orchestrating of our circumstances by God’s sovereignty. And if God puts you into adversity, He is adequately sufficient to “supply all your need” (Philippians 4:19). Keep your soul properly conditioned to manifest the life of the Son of God. Never live on your memories of past experiences, but let the Word of God always be living and active in you.”

{ELGIN}  All of us face adversity in life .. it is part of the life we live in a world that has forsaken its Creator.  There is this notion that somewhere there is an idyllic life that someone or some family is living, free from trouble and strife. That does not exist this side of heaven.  I have experienced heartache, disappointments, pain, all of those things that are contrary to a life of peace and joy and contentment.  The circumstances in this life will never give that to us. We would like to imagine that someone has “broken the code” … figured it out … well actually someone has … Our Father in heaven.  Jesus said (John 16:33) “These thing I have spoken to you that you might have peace.  In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world.”  The answer is always the same – faith in Jesus – trust in God.  James wrote (James 1:2-4) “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

I suppose it would be prudent to remind you that both Jesus and James were speaking to Jesus followers.  People who look to Jesus for answers.  Listen, I know how heavy a heart can be in times of trouble.  But God has provided a way to relieve you of the heaviness of the load even when the load is still on your shoulders.  The problem is that very often we choose to deal with it on our own … but as sons and daughters of God, we don’t have to.  Jesus said (Matthew 11:28-30) “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Perhaps you are like the man that Jesus was talking to. (Mark9:21-24) “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!” … You do believe in Jesus but you struggle with not believing enough for yourself .. not with respect with the trouble your are facing today … Trouble will test your faith and your heart.  How you respond to the “pop-quizzes” in this life depends upon your spiritual health and your willingness to look to God for strength.  You see all of the tests in this life are “open book”  you just have to be willing to use what God has given and not try to do it on your own. 

Friday, May 11, 2018

The Two Most Important Things You Can Do - Love God - Love Others

…add to your…brotherly kindness love. —2 Peter 1:5, 7

{CHAMBERS} “Love is an indefinite thing to most of us; we don’t know what we mean when we talk about love. Love is the loftiest preference of one person for another, and spiritually Jesus demands that this sovereign preference be for Himself (see Luke 14:26). Initially, when “the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit” (Romans 5:5), it is easy to put Jesus first. […] The first thing God does is forcibly remove any insincerity, pride, and vanity from my life. And the Holy Spirit reveals to me that God loved me not because I was lovable, but because it was His nature to do so. Now He commands me to show the same love to others by saying, “…love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12). He is saying, “I will bring a number of people around you whom you cannot respect, but you must exhibit My love to them, just as I have exhibited it to you.” This kind of love is not a patronizing love for the unlovable— it is His love, and it will not be evidenced in us overnight. Some of us may have tried to force it, but we were soon tired and frustrated.[…] Love is spontaneous, but it has to be maintained through discipline.”

{ELGIN}  Matthew 22:37-39 says love God – first – and then love others.  It all starts with our devotion to God.  Loving others is more than an emotion – it’s an action.  It’s independent of the ones we are loving and totally dependent upon the One who loves us.  (1 John 4:19) “We love because He first loved us.”  That love is declarative about the nature of God. (John 13:34-35) “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Why would the world know that?  Because of the nature of the love that we show to each other and the world.  (1 Corinthians 13:4-8) “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

Loving like that is not something that you can conjure up by your own will power.  It is contrary to your old nature.  Instead you would like to be selective about who you love and how you show that love.  Only giving it out to those you deem as deserving.  Lucky you are not God because we would all be going to hell if you were – since none of us deserve salvation.  You loving others is motivated by your love for God and your submission to the Spirit of God.  Don’t try to justify why you withhold it.  There is only one reason … you are not loving God the way you should … so how can you possible love others the way you should … you can’t. And you won’t.  So be careful.  Be watchful. And be ready to proclaim the glory of God by how you love others.  God loves you!

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Having The Right Spiritual Focus Requires You To Be Determined, Deliberate And Disciplined

Where there is no revelation [or prophetic vision], the people cast off restraint… —Proverbs 29:18

{CHAMBERS} “A person’s own idea of God and His attributes may actually be used to justify and rationalize his deliberate neglect of his duty. […] Once we lose sight of God, we begin to be reckless. We cast off certain restraints from activities we know are wrong. We set prayer aside as well and cease having God’s vision in the little things of life. We simply begin to act on our own initiative. If we are eating only out of our own hand, and doing things solely on our own initiative without expecting God to come in, we are on a downward path. We have lost the vision. Is our attitude today an attitude that flows from our vision of God? Are we expecting God to do greater things than He has ever done before? Is there a freshness and a vitality in our spiritual outlook?”

{ELGIN} The King James Version wording for Proverbs 29:18 is “Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.”  There are actually two parts to the verse … two “if-thens” if you will.  First – if you lose sight of God – if your relationship with Him diminishes, then you will struggle as you face life.  Second – if you stay in relationship with Him – if you walk by the Spirit and not the flesh – if you are obedient to the Word – then you will experience joy – a fruit of the Spirit.  Pretty simple idea … but like most “simple” Spiritual ideas … our flesh wants to go its own way making keeping the vision a challenge.  You must be determined – deliberate – disciplined in your new life in Christ.  It doesn’t just happen.  Exercising your will in favor of your relationship with God the Father through the Son by the Spirit and faith will be a challenge for us until we are with Jesus.  We will always need more of God than we have today or tomorrow.  Don’t be content with where you are spiritually.  God intends you to be like His Son. (Romans 8:29) “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” I, for one, have a long way to go.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Loving God And Trusting God - a Christian's Successful Living Depends Upon Both

Because you have kept My command to persevere… —Revelation 3:10

{CHAMBERS} “Perseverance means more than endurance— more than simply holding on until the end. A saint’s life is in the hands of God like a bow and arrow in the hands of an archer. God is aiming at something the saint cannot see, but our Lord continues to stretch and strain, and every once in a while the saint says, “I can’t take any more.” […] Entrust yourself to God’s hands. Is there something in your life for which you need perseverance right now? Maintain your intimate relationship with Jesus Christ through the perseverance of faith. Proclaim as Job did, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15). Faith is not some weak and pitiful emotion, but is strong and vigorous confidence built on the fact that God is holy love[…] Disaster occurs in your life when you lack the mental composure that comes from establishing yourself on the eternal truth that God is holy love. Faith is the supreme effort of your life— throwing yourself with abandon and total confidence upon God.”

{ELGIN} There is a building supply store in Jacmel, Haiti on the road to Cayes Jacmel named Perseverance. Seems like an odd name for a store, but there are many stores with Biblical references … Mesi Jezi (Thankyou Jesus) Autoparts to name another.  Each time I drove past that store, which was at least twice a day, I would be reminded to persevere in my faith.  We need to be reminded because our propensity – our tendency – is to wander and turn back to depend upon what we can feel, see, smell, and well, do ourselves.  Proverbs 16:9 says “Men make plans in their hearts, but God orders their steps.” Most of the things that we worry about do not lead to death .. although some do.  But no matter – we must put our faith in God – not our circumstances or our own abilities.  Life’s challenges are very often bigger than we are.  Living a life of faith requires that we keep our focus – our confidence – our hope in God.  I have posted 1680 devotions since I started this … and a good number of them included the scripture Proverbs 3:5-6. “Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. I all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.”  That about says it all … that coupled with Matthew 22:37-38 “Love God with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength.”  Love God more than your own life.  Trust God’s wisdom more than your own wisdom.  Seek God’s plan and follow it.  Be willing to abandon your own. Pretty simple but pretty hard – impossible without total surrender.

“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.”

Monday, May 7, 2018

We Are Called To Do The Impossible - But Not On Our Own

Which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it… —Luke 14:28

{CHAMBERS} “….. The conditions of discipleship given to us by our Lord in verses 26, 27, and 33 mean that the men and women He is going to use in His mighty building enterprises are those in whom He has done everything. “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple ” (Luke 14:26). This verse teaches us that the only men and women our Lord will use in His building enterprises are those who love Him personally, passionately, and with great devotion— those who have a love for Him that goes far beyond any of the closest relationships on earth."

{ELGIN} Jesus’ words sound harsh at the face of it.  He is speaking to the attitude of the heart.  We all nod our head in agreement that we are to love God with all of our hearts, minds, souls and strength (Matthew 22:37-39) That is until that devotion and call comes in conflict with earthly affections.  What or whom do you love more than God?  When you know it’s God but it requires you to subordinate your affection for your family to fulfill the call … then that can’t be God … right?  Wrong.  Does that mean you are irresponsible? No.  That means that you will trust God even though you don’t know how what He calls you to do will be possible.  But that also mean that you must know it is God who is speaking and not your wild ambition or love of adventure.  If you venture out on your own in the name of God, without God, you are going to battle with no bullets for your gun.  God never calls you to do what is possible for men … but to what is entirely possible for Him through you. Responding in obedience to His call will most likely require that you let go of something that you hold in high regard, perhaps not forever but maybe if even for a time.  That is where many Christians falter.  Doing what God calls you to do requires faith and often is contrary to conventional wisdom. 

Friday, May 4, 2018

Why You Should Take Off Your Sandals In God's Presence

…having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus… —Hebrews 10:19

{CHAMBERS} “Our ability to approach God is due entirely to the vicarious, or substitutionary, identification of our Lord with sin. We have “boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus.”  […] We have the idea that there are certain good and virtuous things in each of us that do not need to be based on the atonement by the Cross of Christ. Just the sluggishness and lack of interest produced by this kind of thinking makes us unable to intercede. We do not identify ourselves with God’s interests and concerns for others, and we get irritated with Him. Yet we are always ready with our own ideas, and our intercession becomes only the glorification of our own natural sympathies. We have to realize that the identification of Jesus with sin means a radical change of all of our sympathies and interests. Vicarious intercession means that we deliberately substitute God’s interests in others for our natural sympathy with them.”

{ELGIN} We must never lose sight of who God is.  You think, “Oh I know who He is.  He is the  ……. “ Yet we can become irreverent in our attitude and even references to God.  Have you ever heard someone call God “the man upstairs”?  Normally when I hear that I assume that the person is not born again, but that is not necessarily so.  When God spoke to Moses on the mountain,  (Exodus 3:4-6)  “When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!” And Moses said, “Here I am.” “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.”  Why take off his sandals?  When you are in the presence of the Creator God, you must stand clean before Him.  Taking off his sandals represented all of the things that Moses had picked up from a sinful the world.  We have access to the Holy of Holies – God’s presence through the blood of Jesus – the veil was torn.  But that does not mean that we can approach God with sin in our heart .. any way we want to .. like the relationship is up to us and not God.

Years ago it was customary for people to dress up in the “Sunday-go-to-meetin’ clothes” when they went to church.  It was akin to taking off their shoes in the presence of God.  Today – there is a casualness on church attire.  Shorts and flipflops are considered acceptable.  It’s not really about the clothes you wear on the outside but your heart on the inside.  Jesus said (Matthew 23:25-26) “ “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.”  (Proverbs 21:2) “A person may think their own ways are right, but the Lord weighs the heart.”  I want to encourage you to consider how you approach God.  If you are going to talk with Him – your heart must be clean.  You should have a reverence toward Him.  Moses had to look away because of God’s glory.  I have a friend who stand in bare feet when he preaches.  When I first saw that, I thought it was a little quirky.  But on reflection, it is actually out of great reverence toward God.  A reminder to himself that what he is doing has eternal consequences as he is fulfilling his God-given purpose. That he has a great responsibility to a holy God and must stand clean before Him.  Something to think about.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

How To Avoid Spiritual Apathy, Atrophy, and Impotence - Pray

…praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit… —Ephesians 6:18

{CHAMBERS} “As we continue on in our intercession for others, we may find that our obedience to God in interceding is going to cost those for whom we intercede more than we ever thought. […] It is impossible for us to have living and vital intercession unless we are perfectly and completely sure of God. […] Identification with God is the key to intercession… [ …] God gives us discernment in the lives of others to call us to intercession for them, never so that we may find fault with them.”

{ELGIN} Do you see someone who has faults? I am not referring to the one you see when you look in a mirror. Sure you do. It is inescapable.  (Romans 3:23) “All have sinned” (Romans 3:10) “There are none righteous” That pretty much covers everyone.  So you are going to see the works of the flesh every day .. (Galatians 5:19-21) “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these.”  That list just about covers it. Those things you see in others that upset you, make you to not want to be around them, to be angry about what they have done or are doing.  Perhaps what you should do is pray for them.  Most of us don’t for a three reasons, I can think of.  One, we think they should be punished for their behavior and should not be allowed to get away with it, and maybe they should be. Two, we don’t think they are deserving of God’s grace, mercy and forgiveness (ours too), and they are not but then again neither are we.  Three,  we have a pretty much non-existent prayer life and don’t pray for ourselves, unless we are in trouble, let alone people who are doing things we don’t like.

But God did not say pray if you feel like. No, we are to pray because it is our responsibility and critical to the health and growth of our personal spiritual life.  For most of us we treat prayer as an option.  Sunday morning and perhaps at dinner time.  That’s it.  Prayer is not a spiritual gift for some.  It is a responsibility for all Christians.  If becoming a Christian is the most significant thing that has happened in your life, and it should be, then communicating with the Father should be important to you as a child of God.  If it’s not, well “Houston we have a problem!”  Prayerlessness is a symptom of spiritual apathy and spiritual apathy always lead to spiritual atrophy which always leads to spiritual impotence.  You need to pray .. you can’t afford not to!

Here is a simple way … a friend shared this with me years ago.  First make certain that your heart is clean - clear up any unconfessed sons with God. (1 John 1:9) Use your fingers and thumb as a guide.  Start with your thumb, it represents your family, index finger those who point you to Jesus  - Spiritual leaders. Middle finger, those in authority over you – government, work, etc. Ring finger, others – those you care about and maybe don’t care about.  Pinky finger – yourself – last and least.  Try it.  Why not make it a habit?