Saturday, June 30, 2018

The Impossibility Of Being Perfect - On Your Own

“Wanting to make sure that my adversary gives me all my rights is a natural thing. But Jesus says that it is a matter of inescapable and eternal importance to me that I pay my adversary what I owe him. From our Lord’s standpoint it doesn’t matter whether I am cheated or not, but what does matter is that I don’t cheat someone else. Am I insisting on having my own rights, or am I paying what I owe from Jesus Christ’s standpoint?” OSWALD CHAMBERS

(1 Peter 4:12) “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.”

Why is this happening to me?  Why are they treating me this way?  Hidden behind those questions is the underlying assumption “I don’t deserve it!”  Here is the deal … bad things will happen to “good” people … even to someone as good as you are.  Did you deserve what happened to you? Perhaps or perhaps not.  Whichever the case the issue is how we respond the what happened.  For most of us our response is to hunker down in our foxhole and fire back with “righteous indignation” and perhaps sorrow if the offender holds a close place in our heart. 

(Matthew 5:38-48) “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?  And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.  Wow!  How hard is that?  It’s not humanly possible.  You will never respond the way Jesus told you to if you try to do it on your own.  The response to others in 1 Peter and Matthew 5 are not derived from the human will but by faith in Jesus and the power of the Spirit in you.  Stop trying to live the Christian life in obedience to the Word of God through human determination .. it just does not work.  Charley

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Don't Make The Mistake Of Choosing The Good And Not The Best

I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. —Philippians 3:12

{CHAMBERS} “Never choose to be a worker for God, but once God has placed His call on you, woe be to you if you “turn aside to the right hand or to the left” (Deuteronomy 5:32). We are not here to work for God because we have chosen to do so, but because God has “laid hold of” us. And once He has done so, we never have this thought, “Well, I’m really not suited for this.” What you are to preach is also determined by God, not by your own natural leanings or desires. Keep your soul steadfastly related to God, and remember that you are called not simply to convey your testimony but also to preach the gospel. Every Christian must testify to the truth of God […] There must be unflinching faithfulness to the Word of God, but when you come to personal dealings with others, remember who you are— you are not some special being created in heaven, but a sinner saved by grace. “Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do…I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).”

{ELGIN}  The Bible is pretty clear that God has not called all of us to do the same thing in the kingdom .. in the Body of Christ … some have been given specific responsibilities (Ephesians 4:7,11-13) “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. […] So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”

For all Christians we have been given spiritual gifts for the building up of the Body and the proclamation of the Gospel.  When I talk to Christians about what we do, I always hasten to add the God has not called everyone to lay down their nets (quit their job, sell their house, live in a camper or travel to a 3rd world country to live and minister) but He has called everyone to service.  To live their lives in such a manner as to bring Glory to God, to lift Jesus up, to be a light in a dark world.  Environmentalists are concerned about preserving the earth for future generations .. that is not a bad thing .. but it is not the best thing.  This world, like these jars of clay that we know as our earthly bodies, will pass away one day.  We need to be good stewards of God’s creation, certainly. But, the more important thing is that there is an eternity beyond this earthly life … the bigger question is where will the future generations spend eternity.  Not everyone will be saved .. but some will .. that is because we have been given a free will … free to reject God and His gift of grace through Jesus and His sacrifice. 

Our purpose is to live in obedience to the Word of God by the power of the Spirit and submission of our will to the Father through faith in Jesus. And – to share the Good News with those around us.  We do that through words and deeds.  Jesus said (Matthew 5:13) “Salt that has lost its savor is good for nothing…”  If you are a Christian but are living like the lost people around you … you, the salt and light, have lost your savor or ability to do what God purposed.  What is it in your life that you need to cast aside because it is hindering you from fulfilling your purpose?  A worldly habit, an earthly pleasure, a friend who encourages the carnal in you, an ungodly preference that your culture is convinced is good, perhaps not reading the Word, not praying, not associating with other Christians?  Listen – the list of obstacles is long.  Whatever it is .. today is the day you should repent of it and turn your face toward the Father who is eager to see you return.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

What To Do When A Friend Hurts Your Heart

My Utmost For His Highest 

"…I am with you to deliver you," says the Lord. —Jeremiah 1:8

{CHAMBERS} “God promised Jeremiah that He would deliver him personally— “…your life shall be as a prize to you…” (Jeremiah 39:18). That is all God promises His children. Wherever God sends us, He will guard our lives. Our personal property and possessions are to be a matter of indifference to us, and our hold on these things should be very loose. If this is not the case, we will have panic, heartache, and distress. Having the proper outlook is evidence of the deeply rooted belief in the overshadowing of God’s personal deliverance. The Sermon on the Mount indicates that when we are on a mission for Jesus Christ, there is no time to stand up for ourselves. Jesus says, in effect, “Don’t worry about whether or not you are being treated justly.” Looking for justice is actually a sign that we have been diverted from our devotion to Him. Never look for justice in this world, but never cease to give it. If we look for justice, we will only begin to complain and to indulge ourselves in the discontent of self-pity, as if to say, “Why should I be treated like this?” If we are devoted to Jesus Christ, we have nothing to do with what we encounter, whether it is just or unjust. In essence, Jesus says, “Continue steadily on with what I have told you to do, and I will guard your life. If you try to guard it yourself, you remove yourself from My deliverance.” […] We put our common sense on the throne and then attach God’s name to it. We do lean to our own understanding, instead of trusting God with all our hearts (see Proverbs 3:5-6).”

{ELGIN} I just had a long conversation with someone yesterday about this very thing.  Unjust treatment from someone very close to their heart.  There is nothing that hurts so deeply as betrayal by someone you love and trust.  So what do you do with that?  Certainly there is sorrow … but we should not be surprised.  Do not look to the world .. even to those closest to you for affirmation .. look to the hills (Psalm 121:1). When it happens to us, our first response is to try and think of a way to fix it .. to find restoration … the problem is that it is not your problem.  It is the one who betrayed your trust that must repent .. you can’t coax them into it . .talk them into it … pummel them with scriptural reasons why they should not be that way.  Only conviction by the Holy Spirit and their submission to that conviction will result in the restoration that you seek.  So what can you do?  Well …. It’s simple really … show them Jesus. 

(Romans 12:17-21) “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

This is not a natural response but a supernatural one.  The natural response is to return evil for evil.  People who care about you may give you a number of reasons why you should not return good for the evil they have done.  When anyone gives us advice in times like this, we must always look to the Word to see what God has to say about it.  And don’t expect your flesh – your old nature – to like it.  Times like this are a test .. that’s right – a test of your new nature.  Responding by faith with obedience to the Word of God requires that we see “the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1) And in doing so you bring glory to God and lift up Jesus to all those around you. Now what could be better than that? Nothing – that’s what!

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

How To Overcome The Daily Struggles In Life

My Utmost For His Highest 

We…plead with you not to receive the grace of God in vain. —2 Corinthians 6:1

{CHAMBERS} “The grace you had yesterday will not be sufficient for today. Grace is the overflowing favor of God, and you can always count on it being available to draw upon as needed. “…in much patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses”— that is where our patience is tested (2 Corinthians 6:4). Are you failing to rely on the grace of God there? […] We tend to make prayer the preparation for our service, yet it is never that in the Bible. Prayer is the practice of drawing on the grace of God. Don’t say, “I will endure this until I can get away and pray.” Pray now — draw on the grace of God in your moment of need. Prayer is the most normal and useful thing; it is not simply a reflex action of your devotion to God. We are very slow to learn to draw on God’s grace through prayer.”

{ELGIN} Living your new life in Christ requires constant focus on the One who has given you that new life.  (2 Corinthians 4:16-18) “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” The fact is that most of us spend very little time each day focused on our spiritual nature – the unseen – the eternal.  Instead we are consumed with the natural life and all of the challenges it brings.  Relying on and drawing on the grace of God to endure and prosper in a sin-sick world.  Listen – there are not “magic words” that you can keep in your pocket until the time of trouble comes.  Living a successful life – success from the Father’s perspective – meaning that you are living the natural life in the confidence that comes from making your spiritual life and relationship with the Father through the Son by faith in the power of the Spirit and His Word. 

(Joshua 1:8-9) “Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

These are the words spoken by God to Joshua when Joshua was established as the leader who would take the nation of Israel into the promised land.  Recall that Joshua and Caleb were the only men among the 12 spies who were sent into the land by Moses.  The only two who saw the natural from God’s perspective. Although they saw giants like the others had – they saw the power of God as greater.  Like David – when he confronted Goliath.  All three saw the world in the context of who God is.  And the same is true for us.  Is your heart totally devoted to God? Only you can answer that question.  It should be – it is what God desires – even commands.  And it is for your own good and for God’s glory.

Monday, June 25, 2018

What To Do When Sorrow Finds You And Then What To Do Afterward?

…what shall I say? "Father, save Me from this hour"? But for this purpose I came to this hour. "Father, glorify Your name." —John 12:27-28

{CHAMBERS} “As a saint of God, my attitude toward sorrow and difficulty should not be to ask that they be prevented, but to ask that God protect me so that I may remain what He created me to be, in spite of all my fires of sorrow. Our Lord received Himself, accepting His position and realizing His purpose, in the midst of the fire of sorrow. He was saved not from the hour, but out of the hour. We say that there ought to be no sorrow, but there is sorrow, and we have to accept and receive ourselves in its fires. […] Sorrow is one of the biggest facts in life, and there is no use in saying it should not be. Sin, sorrow, and suffering are, and it is not for us to say that God has made a mistake in allowing them.[…] You can always recognize who has been through the fires of sorrow and received himself, and you know that you can go to him in your moment of trouble and find that he has plenty of time for you. […] If you will receive yourself in the fires of sorrow, God will make you nourishment for other people.”

{ELGIN} I do not find it strange but marvelous that I can have a discussion or some event will occur in my life and the very next morning the devotion addresses what happened only yesterday. My wife and I had a lengthy discussion about sorrow, how people respond to it, and what, if any, good can come from it.  For the most part, people focus on the here and now – their mortal lives and put everything that happens in that context.  Their natural life had primacy over any and all other considerations.  What happens to them, or doesn’t, shapes their attitude toward others and their confidence in themselves.

The thing is … that is not the right view of life.  For those who are not “born again by the Spirit” they have no choice really.  There is nothing or no One that they can turn to for answers, for relief. They must trust in mere mortals for help.  But, for those who have been “born again” there is another road to be taken. 

So there are really two aspects to sorrow in this life.  First – what you should do when it happens to you.  Second – what you should do when it happens to others. When it happens to you - The Apostle Paul wrote -

(Philippians 4:4-7) “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Rejoicing always – not being anxious – experiencing a peace that transcends human understanding – peace in the midst of turmoil – that has a supernatural root – born out faith and experienced by the power of the Spirit that rest in the heart of every Christian.  It is God’s intent that we, as Christians, would have these abilities – that the fruit – the result of living a life submitted to the Spirit of God – would be evidenced in our lives no matter what happens in our lives.  What is out of the reach for the natural man is fully within the grasp of the “super-natural” man.  The man or woman who is saved by the sacrifice of Jesus through faith and trusts in the Lord as a way of life – their new life.

So what do you do with all of that pain – hurt that life brings your way? Pastor Rick Warren said “God never wastes a hurt”

Paul also wrote – (2 Corinthians 1:3-5) “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. For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.”

Just as God provided strength to endure and overcome, He expects us, and has equipped us, to embrace the comfort we found in Him and use it to encourage others.  Not to “fix” them, but to love them.  Experiencing hardship increases my compassion for others.  I don’t seek hardships and disappointments out .. they will surely find me.  But I don’t have to let them break me.  Not with God on my side. And neither do you my friend.

Friday, June 22, 2018

What Will You Have To Offer When You Finally Stand Before Jesus?

My Utmost For His Highest 

With what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. —Matthew 7:2

{CHAMBERS} “This statement is not some haphazard theory, but it is an eternal law of God. Whatever judgment you give will be the very way you are judged. […] Romans 2:1 applies it in even a more definite way by saying that the one who criticizes another is guilty of the very same thing. God looks not only at the act itself, but also at the possibility of committing it, which He sees by looking at our hearts. To begin with, we do not believe the statements of the Bible. For instance, do we really believe the statement that says we criticize in others the very things we are guilty of ourselves? The reason we see hypocrisy, deceit, and a lack of genuineness in others is that they are all in our own hearts. The greatest characteristic of a saint is humility, as evidenced by being able to say honestly and humbly, “Yes, all those, as well as other evils, would have been exhibited in me if it were not for the grace of God. Therefore, I have no right to judge.””

{ELGIN} Imagine, if you will, standing before Jesus.  Giving an account for your life as a Christian – and all Christians will.  That time will not be about forgiveness of sins .. Our salvation will not be at stake.  Would it make any sense to say that your sins are forgiven but for only as long as you are living this mortal life, but then – whoa baby (something my mom used to say) – wait until you stand before Jesus .. He is going to bring it all up and then you are going to get hammered for all of the sins you committed after you were born again?  Think about it.  That contradicts what the Bible says about salvation, forgiveness, redemption … It’s not about me … it’s about Jesus .. it’s about grace.

(Romans 8:1-4) “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”

But, like the man who hid his one talent … we will give an account for what we have done with what He has given ..  a glorious salvation – inhabited by His Spirit – imbued with specific spiritual gifts for the purpose of edifying the Body of Christ and lifting the name of Jesus up to the world.   When we stand before Jesus what will we have to offer - “silver, gold and precious stones” or “wood, hay and stubble”? I think that at that moment – when the world is not longer exerting its influence on us – the only thing we will want to hear is “Well done my good and faithful servant!”  But the truth is that many will be – no less saved – but much more aware that they squandered the opportunity and their God-given purpose.  Much of the reason why Christians are carnal is because they are ignorant of who they are in Christ and immersed in the pursuit of the pleasures of this world. But one day, there will be deep regret in the hearts of many saints. Please don’t let one of them be you!

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Your Life Will Shout Out How Much You Really Want To Be Like Jesus

You are…a royal priesthood… —1 Peter 2:9

{CHAMBERS} “By what right have we become “a royal priesthood”? It is by the right of the atonement by the Cross of Christ that this has been accomplished. Are we prepared to purposely disregard ourselves and to launch out into the priestly work of prayer? […] Until we get into this right and proper relationship with God, it is simply a case of our “hanging on by the skin of our teeth,” although we say, “What a wonderful victory I have!” Yet there is nothing at all in that which indicates the miracle of redemption. […] How long is it going to take God to free us from the unhealthy habit of thinking only about ourselves? We must get to the point of being sick to death of ourselves, until there is no longer any surprise at anything God might tell us about ourselves[…] There is only one place where we are right with God, and that is in Christ Jesus. Once we are there, we have to pour out our lives for all we are worth in this ministry of the inner life.”

{ELGIN} If the Father’s intent is that we be conformed to the image of His Son (Romans 8:29) – well what exactly is that.  Jesus was and the is the fulfillment of everything that the Temple represented – He is the sacrificial offering (John 1:29) – He is the Curtain (Matthew 27:50-51) – He is the High Priest (Hebrews 4:14) – and He is the obedient son doing the will of the Father (John 4:34). (Galatians 2:20) “I am crucified with Christ – nevertheless I live, yet not I but Christ lives in me.  And the life that I now live, I live by faith in the Son who loved me and gave himself up for me.” 

Being conformed does not mean that we look different on the outside – but that we are transformed on the inside – which – by the way – results in a transformation on the outside.  When the Bible says that we are a royal priesthood – it’s similar to the Tribe of Levi who were priests … Jesus is the firstborn among many brothers . (Romans 8:29-30)  “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. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.” 

Paul said that we are to offer ourselves as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1,2).  Jesus said “No greater love has one man than this, than to lay down his life for His friends. (John 15:13) He also said the second greatest commandment was to “love you neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39) That does not mean to merely get along – it means to Agape them – Like Jesus asked Peter – Do you love Me? (John 21:17)  Asking – “will you lay down your life for Me?”

Jesus told the parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30).  The first man was given one talent (a talent is a unit of measure – about 75lbs – for precious metals like gold and silver).  The man took it and buried it when he was given it with the intent that he would multiply it.  That is what so many do with their faith.  They hide it .. don’t let it follow its natural course which is to multiply itself. 

So – you knew this was coming! – how are you doing with your talent? Have you settled in to who you are in Christ and who are to be to the world you live in?  Or did you stick all that in the ground and press on with life the best you can. Are you being transformed on the inside and is it obvious on the outside?  I called a plumber the other day to ask him to do some work on a house we are restoring in Houston.  When he is with me – he talks about the Lord – being a Christian – well, he answered the phone and assumed I was someone else.  He started ranting with a heavy sprinkling of expletives.  I was finally able to interrupt his rant to tell him that I was Charley with Pathfinder. He realized I was not who he thought I was and his countenance changed immediately.  “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45) Is it evident to people you don’t know or who are not Christians that you are a Christian?    How would you answer the Jesus question “Do You Love Me?” Something to think about .. and perhaps talk about with the Lord.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Do You Practice Foxhole Religion - Don't Make Empty Promises To God

The Lord restored Job’s losses when he prayed for his friends. —Job 42:10

{CHAMBERS} “A pitiful, sickly, and self-centered kind of prayer and a determined effort and selfish desire to be right with God are never found in the New Testament. The fact that I am trying to be right with God is actually a sign that I am rebelling against the atonement by the Cross of Christ. I pray, “Lord, I will purify my heart if You will answer my prayer— I will walk rightly before You if You will help me.” But I cannot make myself right with God; I cannot make my life perfect. I can only be right with God if I accept the atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ as an absolute gift. […] I must leave myself completely alone in His hands, and then I can begin to pour my life out in the priestly work of intercession. […] “The Lord restored Job’s losses when he prayed for his friends.” As a saved soul, the real business of your life is intercessory prayer. Whatever circumstances God may place you in, always pray immediately that His atonement may be recognized and as fully understood in the lives of others as it has been in yours. Pray for your friends now, and pray for those with whom you come in contact now.”

{ELGIN} Foxhole religion. If you were ever in the military in a war you know what that is.  It’s when you are afraid .. in mortal danger ..  and you make a promise to God. “God if you will spare me I promise to be good.”  We find ourselves in a jam and we are looking for a way out.  A prayer of the flesh – devoid of any spiritual context – and what happens when you are spared?  The pray fades in your memory.  So often we treat prayer like a 911 call.  “I have an emergency and need to be rescued! Lord save me!” or perhaps “Lord restore what I have lost!”  Why? Because my trust and confidence was in that which was lost and not in the One to Whom I am praying.

(James 4:2-3) “You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.”

The New Testament is replete with admonitions to distance yourself from the world and the things of the world .. to trust God .. to not worry .. but we do anyway.  What the Bible says to do .. you cannot apart from Christ in you.  “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”  God is not our first thought – He is our afterthought?   Sound harsh?  Listen – it is a problem that every Christian must contend with.  Jesus said the greatest commandment was to love God – the Father – with all of your being.  That does not leave much room for anything else.  But – out of that love will flow everything else.  Jesus said His kingdom was not of this world. God is interested in our spiritual success and obedience not in our earthly affluence.  Too many have compromised their faith because of the things of this world.  Like the song of the sirens, you will be lured into the rocks resulting in spiritual impotence.  Be careful my friend.  Wanting to not be like that will not make it so … that will happen when you commit your heart to God and pursue Him.  Think about it.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

If You Really Love Jesus - You Need To Grow Up

…do you love Me?…Tend My sheep. —John 21:16

{CHAMBERS} “Jesus did not say to make converts to your way of thinking, but He said to look after His sheep, to see that they get nourished in the knowledge of Him. We consider what we do in the way of Christian work as service, yet Jesus Christ calls service to be what we are to Him, not what we do for Him. Discipleship is based solely on devotion to Jesus Christ, not on following after a particular belief or doctrine. “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate…, he cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:26). In this verse, there is no argument and no pressure from Jesus to follow Him; He is simply saying, in effect, “If you want to be My disciple, you must be devoted solely to Me.” […] People do not really want to be devoted to Jesus, but only to the cause He started. Jesus Christ is deeply offensive to the educated minds of today, to those who only want Him to be their Friend, and who are unwilling to accept Him in any other way. Our Lord’s primary obedience was to the will of His Father, not to the needs of people— the saving of people was the natural outcome of His obedience to the Father. […] if I love Jesus Christ personally and passionately, I can serve humanity, even though people may treat me like a “doormat.” The secret of a disciple’s life is devotion to Jesus Christ, and the characteristic of that life is its seeming insignificance and its meekness. Yet it is like a grain of wheat that “falls into the ground and dies”— it will spring up and change the entire landscape (John 12:24).

{ELGIN}  If you love God then you will love people. (Matthew 22:37-39)  If you are Jesus’ disciple you will do what He did. (John 14:15) He obeyed the will of the Father and the world was blessed. (John 6:38) If you live by faith and not just a religious philosophy then , good works will flow naturally from you. (James 2:18)

It’s not uncommon for people to praise me for what I do.  When I tell them “Give the credit to God.” They look at me like it is feigned humility.  I know that I can not take credit for anything.  God has given me everything .. every ability ..He formed me (Psalm 139:13)  If I can take credit for anything it is offering my life to Him .. that is an act of my will (Romans 12:1-2) You may be born again but the life that follows is one of willful obedience to the Father or willful obedience to the old nature, which is to say willful disobedience to the Father.  The real tragedy is convincing yourself that you are doing the former when you are really doing the latter. 

(2 Timothy 3:1-5) “But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.”  Does that sound like the culture in this country?  The American Christian culture?  You say “That is NOT me!” I say “Praise the Lord!” It is a description of the carnal Christian. 

(1 Corinthians 3:1-3) “And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?” Pastor Brian Lambert, in his sermon last Sunday, addressed three types of Christians – Infants who know they believe in Jesus and are saved but have trouble applying the Word to their lives; Adolescents who are focused on taking in the Word and applying it to their lives, and Mature Adults who know Jesus and are making Him known as they live lives obedient to the will of the Father.  I am not judging anyone, but am encouraging you … no matter at what stage of Christian development you are … to never be satisfied but pursue God to your last day on this Earth.  The fact is, many of us just need to Grow Up! That should be the desire of your heart. To be found faithful on the day you meet Jesus face to face … either in Heaven or when He returns.

Monday, June 18, 2018

When You Live By Faith - The World Will Think You Are Crazy

…Peter…walked on the water to go to Jesus. But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid… —Matthew 14:29-30

{CHAMBERS} “The wind really was boisterous and the waves really were high, but Peter didn’t see them at first. He didn’t consider them at all; he simply recognized his Lord, stepped out in recognition of Him, and “walked on the water.” Then he began to take those things around him into account, and instantly, down he went. […] We step right out with recognition of God in some things, then self-consideration enters our lives and down we go. If you are truly recognizing your Lord, you have no business being concerned about how and where He engineers your circumstances. The things surrounding you are real, but when you look at them you are immediately overwhelmed, and even unable to recognize Jesus. Then comes His rebuke, “…why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:31). […] If you debate for even one second when God has spoken, it is all over for you. Never start to say, “Well, I wonder if He really did speak to me?” Be reckless immediately— totally unrestrained and willing to risk everything— by casting your all upon Him. […] It is only through abandonment of yourself and your circumstances that you will recognize Him. You will only recognize His voice more clearly through recklessness— being willing to risk your all.”

{ELGIN}  Faith can cause you to do crazy things, at least as far as the world is concerned. (1 Corinthians 2:14) “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” God has challenged us to “walk on the water” on a number of occasions.

The first was when He told me to leave the Army with over 17 years of very successful service.  A good friend told me “the Army will not let you out” since I was a career officer with an obligation and a bright future.  I told him – “If God wants me out, I’ll be out” and 90 days later, I was on the street having exchanged my flight suit for a business suit. 

After God had called us to the mission field I happened to see an old boss – I told him what I was doing – he asked if I had retired from working as a civilian with the Air Force – I said no, I had left to serve God on the mission field – he looked at me in disbelief – I had abandoned everything that he held dear … money - security - possessions - comfort

When we were leaving disaster relief work in Mississippi to open another chapter in our missional journey, as friend asked me what we were going to do – I replied – “We are going to Haiti”  He drew up close to me, looked me square in the eyes and asked “Are you crazy?” to which I replied – “It’s not my idea, it’s God’s!” 

The most recent was when we realized that God was calling out of the boat once again to go on mission. I had been working with the Air Force once again as an IT Systems Engineer.  God called us to Texas.  A good friend of mine asked me to meet for coffee.  He told me that now was not the time to “get out of the boat”.  There were considerations that I was apparently ignoring.  Like the disciples could have told Peter … wait for the waves to calm if you are going to do it!  But when God says “GO!” you must go.  That is part of trusting God.  It’s as if people think – “If God called you – He must not have thought about all of the issues going on”  It is a telling of what they trust in.  Many Christians have a qualified trust in God.  If Peter had, he never would have climbed out of the boat.  If we had we never would have left worldly success to obey God’s call. 

Please .. do not think that I am boasting about our great faith .. I say our because Martie has been in agreement and has been willing on every turn in the course of our lives.  (1 Corinthians 1:30-31) “And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.””  Perhaps it’s time for you to get your feet wet.  If it is – look to Jesus for the strength to do what He asks you to do.

(Zechariah 4:6) “Then he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.”

Sunday, June 17, 2018

A Story About God Showing Up - He Is A Just In Time God

I wanted to share some insights that we have gained during the past 6 months.  And to encourage you to be more aware of the needs of the people around you.  (Matthew 25 helping the least of these)

There have been a couple of verses that the Lord has brought to our minds as we have walked the path of service that He has set our feet upon here in Texas. Specifically ….

Galatians 6:2 "Bear one another's burdens"

James 1:27 "Visit the widows in their affliction" (the major difference between a widow and a single mom is the way in which the husband left the home - one in death and the other disobedience to his vows to his wife and to God)

1 Timothy clarifies or expands on this verse.

1 Timothy 5:3-8 "Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need.  But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God. The widow who is really in need and left all alone puts her hope in God and continues night and day to pray and to ask God for help. But the widow who lives for pleasure is dead even while she lives.  Give the people these instructions, so that no one may be open to blame. Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever."

By God's design, most of the homes we have had the privilege to work on in Texas are owned by widows, one by a single mom, one by a single woman, and one by a couple.  Part of what we do is learn about the struggle both financial, emotional and relational that these women face. In every case, the immediate family has failed them.  They are "in need and left all alone".  

So where is the church in all of this?  When the family fails to help or is incapable of helping, according to the Word, that is when the local church should step in.  Frankly I don't see it happening.  I suppose that there are some churches that have intentional ministry to widows and single moms - but I don't see that happening here.

Pathfinder Mission is a "para-church" ministry which means that we "come along side" the local church .. stand in the gap, if you will.  Fill in where the church does not have the capacity to help.  We count it a privilege to be able to do that and believe that God has uniquely shaped us and strategically positioned us to o what we are doing.

Take a look at this link (KHOU Story).  It describes the situation the Mrs. Smith is facing.  She has lost hope, but not her faith. The takeaway from that video is that God provides.  I told Mrs. Smith that God had not forgotten her .. He had heard her cry for help.  (Note:  I actually didn't call people, I sent out an email and am still receiving responses.)  

The roof is only the tip of the iceberg.  After doing an assessment I found many problems that need to be corrected.  I intend to do just that with God's provision of finances and volunteer support.

As Paul Harvey would say "And now for the rest of the story … "  Helping Mrs. Smith has given me opportunity to share with the news reporter.  She has seen how God has provided … you see .. I think you heard the news casters talking about God on the television.  Amazing!

When KHOU asked me to help, I was first told that a corporation was going to provide the funds, she needed to find a reliable roofer - I contacted the roofer that I use. But, when the company found out what the roof would cost .. they backed out … So KHOU called me to say that they were cancelling their request for our help because there was no money … I told the reporter - "don't lose heart …. God will provide" and he did .. in one day …. through the Saints.  That gave me opportunity to talk about the Lord and His faithfulness and to encourage the reporter.  In addition, I have had opportunity to encourage the roofer ..  this is the third house he has helped me with  and he has been watching what is going on .. although he does not say much … he sees … I am confident that the Lord will give me opportunity to lift Jesus up.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Update on Smith House Restoration In Houston

Galatians 6:2 "Bear On Another's Burdens"

James 1:27 "Pure And Undefiled Religion - Helping Widows In Their Affliction"

This is an update on the Fund Raising effort for the Deborah Smith House

I conducted a detailed assessment two days ago. 

First, with respect to the funds needed .. we have met our financial goal for Phase 1 – get a dumpster in place, remove the trees from the yard and roof, replace the roof.

Phase 2 will be to ensure the house is safe – remove sheetrock – insulation – flooring - remove cabinets in Kitchen - treat for mold – fix sewer pipe in backyard

Phase 3 – plumbing – electrical repairs -  broken windows – exterior doors.

Phase 4 – put house back together

I won’t go into depth on this .. there is much to do … I will need volunteers when we start to put the house back together … and will put a call out well in advance …

I am also using some local volunteers – something that I didn’t have in Mississippi

Because of the codes in Texas, I can’t use electricians. Plumbers and HVAC from other states without having the permits pulled by local people .. down to being registered in the municipality.

You Are Born Again - Redeemed - Saved - Sealed - God's Own Possession - So What?

Also…add to your faith… —2 Peter 1:5 

{CHAMBERS} “In the matter of drudgery. Peter said in this passage that we have become “partakers of the divine nature” and that we should now be “giving all diligence,” concentrating on forming godly habits (2 Peter 1:4-5). We are to “add” to our lives all that character means. No one is born either naturally or supernaturally with character; it must be developed. Nor are we born with habits— we have to form godly habits on the basis of the new life God has placed within us. We are not meant to be seen as God’s perfect, bright-shining examples, but to be seen as the everyday essence of ordinary life exhibiting the miracle of His grace. […] It is difficult for us to do the “adding” that Peter mentioned here. We say we do not expect God to take us to heaven on flowery beds of ease, and yet we act as if we do! I must realize that my obedience even in the smallest detail of life has all of the omnipotent power of the grace of God behind it. If I will do my duty, not for duty’s sake but because I believe God is engineering my circumstances, then at the very point of my obedience all of the magnificent grace of God is mine through the glorious atonement by the Cross of Christ. 

{ELGIN}  Do you see yourself as a partaker of the “divine nature”.  That on the day .. the hour .. the minute .. the second … the moment in time when you were born again by the Spirit of God … that forever more you have a spark of the Divine Nature of God in you? Isn’t that remarkable?  And yet .. for something so supernatural .. so amazing … so incomprehensible … it is all too often disregarded … our salvation becomes something that happened to us not something that is happening even today and will continue into infinity.  Wow! Why do you think that so many treat that amazing truth like it is a dirty t-shirt lying on the floor in their closet?  (Ephesians 1:13-14) “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.” Do you see that?  We are God’s possession .. we must stop acting like the willful children that we are and submit to the will of the Father. We are sealed – marked – with the Spirit  as a deposit – a guarantee – like earnest money you pay when you commit to buying an house.  God has committed to us that our home is in heaven because of our faith in His Son.  I want to encourage you to think about that this morning.  Think about the “So What”.  So if all that is true – what does that mean for the way I am to live my life before I get to heaven?  You can’t do that on your own.  It takes the power of God and self-denial.  (Mark 8:34-35) “Then he [Jesus] called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.”

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Jesus Saves Us - The Spirit Empowers Us - Our Faith And Obedience Enables Us

Abide in Me… —John 15:4

{CHAMBERS} “In the matter of determination. The Spirit of Jesus is put into me by way of the atonement by the Cross of Christ. I then have to build my thinking patiently to bring it into perfect harmony with my Lord. God will not make me think like Jesus— I have to do it myself. I have to bring “every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). “Abide in Me”— in intellectual matters, in money matters, in every one of the matters that make human life what it is. […] Am I preventing God from doing things in my circumstances by saying that it will only serve to hinder my fellowship with Him? How irrelevant and disrespectful that is! It does not matter what my circumstances are. […] It is unnecessary to change and arrange my circumstances myself. Our Lord’s …. never chose His own circumstances, but was meek, submitting to His Father’s plans and directions for Him. Just think of how amazingly relaxed our Lord’s life was! [….] You say, “Yes, Lord, just a minute— I still have this to do. Yes, I will abide as soon as this is finished, or as soon as this week is over. It will be all right, Lord. I will abide then.” […] In the initial stages it will be a continual effort to abide, but as you continue, it will become so much a part of your life that you will abide in Him without any conscious effort.”

{ELGIN}  (Ephesians 1:13-14) “When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.”  The Holy Spirit enlivens your new self toward God.  You put your faith in Jesus and God puts His Spirit in you.  The very same Shekinah Glory that led the Children of Israel in the desert … the very same that resided in the Holy of Holies in the temple.  Now you are the temple … and that Spirit leads you, or will if you will follow. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.”

Think about how amazing that is.  Now think about the reverence that you show with respect to that amazing fact of your new life in Christ.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there was some physical – visible change when you accepted Jesus .. .when you were born again by the Spirit?  (John 3: 4-8) “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!” Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”” 

Nicodemus didn’t understand because even though he was a teacher of the precepts of God, he only had a natural understanding of the facts he was teaching.  Be careful that you don’t make the same mistake.  The Spirit of God will give you understanding but only if you seek it.  If you rely on yourself and your culture you will miss it and struggle in your Christian life.  Think about it.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Trusting Your Old Nature - Why It Seems Being A Christian Is Not Working For You

…come, follow Me. —Luke 18:22

{CHAMBERS} “Where our individual desire dies and sanctified surrender lives. One of the greatest hindrances in coming to Jesus is the excuse of our own individual temperament. We make our temperament and our natural desires barriers to coming to Jesus. Yet the first thing we realize when we do come to Jesus is that He pays no attention whatsoever to our natural desires. […] There is actually only one thing you can dedicate to God, and that is your right to yourself (see Romans 12:1). If you will give God your right to yourself, He will make a holy experiment out of you— and His experiments always succeed. The one true mark of a saint of God is the inner creativity that flows from being totally surrendered to Jesus Christ. […] A saint realizes that it is God who engineers his circumstances; consequently there are no complaints, only unrestrained surrender to Jesus. […] If you abandon everything to Jesus, and come when He says, “Come,” then He will continue to say, “Come,” through you. You will go out into the world reproducing the echo of Christ’s “Come.” That is the result in every soul who has abandoned all and come to Jesus.”

{ELGIN} Have you ever said or perhaps heard someone say “That is just the way I am” or “That is how our family is” Romans 12:1-2 says that we are to offer ourselves to God and be transformed and not be conformed to this world any more.  When we are satisfied with our lives when they are inconsistent with the expressed Word of God and life of Jesus it is because we are focused on flesh – our old nature.  We are content with it or perhaps think it inescapable.  If I asked you, “Do you believe the Word of God is truth?”  My guess is that you would say yes.  Then I would say to you … “If you are a Christian then the Word is true for you.  God has given you the supernatural capacity to be and do.”  So what is the problem?  Surrender.  We find comfort in the “old life”.  2 Corinthians 5:17 says “If anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation – like a butterfly – old things have passed away and all things are becoming new!” (my emphasis) Let me tell you that if you are not willing to seek after those things that will strengthen you in your new life then you will live your life with both feet firmly planted in your old nature, all the while wondering why being a Christian is not “working for you”.  There is a tension in all of us between fear and faith.  To let go and let God requires surrender.  There that word is again.  Matthew 16:24-26 “Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” 

You must say no to your old nature and the way you do that is by saying yes to God. Paul wrote in Romans 7 that he does the things he does not want to do and does not do the things he wants  and knows to do that are consistent with his Faith.  Then he says that answer is Jesus.  Nothing has changed … the answer for you and me is the same as it was for Paul.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Jesus Is The Answer For The World (And For You) Yesterday, Today, And Forever

Come to Me… —Matthew 11:28

{CHAMBERS} “Our Lord’s words are not, “Do this, or don’t do that,” but— “Come to me.” If I will simply come to Jesus, my real life will be brought into harmony with my real desires. […]  Have you ever come to Jesus? Look at the stubbornness of your heart. You would rather do anything than this one simple childlike thing— “Come to Me.” […]  Personal contact with Jesus changes everything. Be “foolish” enough to come and commit yourself to what He says. The attitude necessary for you to come to Him is one where your will has made the determination to let go of everything and deliberately commit it all to Him. “…and I will give you rest”— that is, “I will sustain you, causing you to stand firm.”” 

{ELGIN}  I appreciate most of the contemporary Christian music, but there is much to be said for the “old” hymns … like this one. Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus.  “O soul, are you weary and troubled? No light in the darkness you see? There’s light for a look at the Savior, And life more abundant and free! Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face, And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, In the light of His glory and grace.” The message is simple and clear.  I thought about this song as I read Chambers’ devotion this morning.  When we are going our own way the last thing we want to do is see Jesus.  It’s like being in a place where you should not be or doing something you should not do and your parents show up. We don’t want a reminder that where we are or what we are doing is not right.  Sin loves the darkness.  Or perhaps you are struggling with a life issue and you have retreated within yourself. Look to Jesus.  Jesus is the answer and He is the source.  In Jesus we have peace.  I saw a bumper sticker that said “No Jesus No Peace – Know Jesus Know Peace”  (I love the English language – No and Know are homonyms if anyone was wondering) 

So what does it mean to look to Jesus?  Glad you asked!  Step 1 is to stop looking at yourself and your ability to resist temptation or bear the weight of the problems you face.  Step 2 is to trust that the Word is true. Not merely acknowledge that it is true but to rest on that truth and not your or your culture’s wisdom and re-defined truth. Step 3 is to focus on Jesus in prayer … seek Him out in the Word … you have two natures .. the old and the new .. one is carnal the other is spiritual.  Jesus is offering a spiritual solution to carnal circumstances.  It doesn’t mean that the circumstance will go away .. it means that your perspective on the circumstance and how it affects you will change.  But what if you are like the man who asked Jesus to help him with his unbelief.  Believe it or not there are other Christians that the Lord has brought into your life that can come along side you.  (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12) “Two are better than one,  because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”

I am not suggesting that you turn to another person who is drowning along with you.  I can’t help but smile when I hear teenagers tell each other, “I am here for you!” It is well intentioned, but the truth is that most likely all they can do is encourage each other as they go down for the third time.  No – you need to seek out someone who a strong swimmer – like a life guard – someone who is spiritually mature – not necessarily the pastor or counsellor, but it may be them – but someone who has spiritual wisdom – who is unwavering in their faith.  God has brought those people are around but you have to look in the right places.  My opinion, but Facebook is not the best way to find them.  Pray about it and God will bring them to mind.