Friday, September 28, 2018

You Must Be Tight To Choose Right

Yesterday I wrote about the tension between responding correctly to what is important and what is urgent in life.  I thought I would give you some examples today.  Some Biblical and some straight out of everyday life. Not exhaustive by any means, but hopefully they will get you thinking. 

Let’s do the everyday life ones first.

Have you had this happen to you or perhaps you were the one who did it.  You are having a face-to-face conversation with someone.  Their cellphone rings (phone call) or dings (text alert – Text message – Messenger – Email - Facebook -Snapchat – Twitter) so they stop talking to you and turn their attention to their phone.  How many phone calls or texts that you receive everyday are emergencies that must be tended to immediately? Yeh, that’s what I thought – me too – nada – zip.  So why is what comes across your phone so important that you are willing to be disrespectful to the person you are talking to in order to check your phone?  As a culture we have decided that any time our phone signals us – it is important and urgent.  

When my phone goes off I ignore it.  If it persists, I check to see if it is an emergency.  And then, if not – I ignore it – it can wait. I have noticed that when I do not look – the people with me ask – “Are you going to get that?”  When I had an office, I had a rule.  Anyone I was talking to was THE most important person in my work world at that moment – except my boss.  If someone interrupted I would ask them to come back later and continue my conversation.  Just because you have something to say does not mean that the world needs to stop to hear it.  

Or.  You believe that the Lord is calling you to some service that will require you to leave your job, lower your income, put your retirement in jeopardy, maybe impact your children’s ability to fund college.  You are faced with a significant step of faith.  Others have confirmed that they believe it’s God – you are convinced – but what is most important?  How does that fit into you life’s priorities? Do you put those things at risk?  Is that irresponsible? Would God really ask you to do that?  Doesn’t He love you and your family?  Would He ask you to lay those things down for Him?  Your hopes and dreams?  How important is it to obey God’s leading?  How important is your children’s future? Is it possible that there is a greater good? Is it possible to do both? It is not always a question of choosing one over the other.  In fact most Christians are not asked to do those things.  But, we are all asked to not prefer them over obedience to God – whatever He might ask us to do.  

It is not as simple as putting one of them in the important or unimportant box.  They are both important – but which one is more important?  Everyday we are faced with choices – the good or the best.  God does not often ask us to abandon our job or surrender our income to serve Him.  But He might and has for some.  When Jesus asked Peter if Peter loved Jesus more than “these”  (John 21) What or who were the “these”?  It doesn’t matter. Or shouldn’t.  Jesus wanted to know where Peter’s heart’s devotion was.  Recall Peter had denied Jesus three times before men to protect himself.  Do you love God more “these”?  If you are a Christian, then the world and the things of the world are not urgent or important compared to the things of God.  

Ok now a Biblical example.  

(Luke 9:59-62) “To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”  Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” 

How important is it for you to attend your father’s funeral?  Pretty important.  So how important is it to obey God in relation to your father’s funeral?  There is an urgency about serving God and walking in obedience to His will.  Not to mention the vitality of its importance.  For these two men, they had divided hearts.  God’s expectation is the we love Him with our whole heart. So what would you do when your family doesn’t understand why you didn’t care enough to attend the funeral?  Would your family’s not understanding and perhaps rejection be reason enough to say “no” to God and “yes” to your family?  Maybe that guy was an only son or child.  We are not given the back-story.  The funeral is certainly not unimportant – but when compared to obeying the Creator God, perhaps the funeral is less important than he wanted to accept.  Tough! By the way, we do not know what either of the men chose to do.  Perhaps like the rich young ruler, they went away unable to re-prioritize their lives for God.  When you read the verse “Choose this day whom you will serve.”, what do you think the context of the choice is? We tend to trivialize the choices we face.  Good versus evil – relatively easy.  Good versus Better versus Best, not so easy.  But that is the way it is when faced with life and following Jesus.  

You can thank me later for stirring this up.  People talk to me often about their struggling with choices between the spiritual and natural.  When I say “Trust God” (Proverbs 3:5-6) I get the look like, “That was not much help!”  It is the best I can do.  Finding balance between important and not as important is a faith challenge.  Oh, and faith is an intangible … “the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1) Your ability to do what you should is dependent upon the quality of your relationship with the Lord. 

And …  If you’re not tight – you probably won’t choose right.  CHARLEY

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Balancing Priorities – Deciding What Is Most Important.

Charles Hummel wrote a book “Tyranny of the Urgent”  The idea behind the book is that we often let what seems urgent be the deciding factor with respect to what we do.  What is “important” is juxtaposed with what is “urgent”.  (OK hang with me here!) There are 4 possible combinations of life situations that we will encounter  – Urgent/Important – Urgent/Not Important – Not Urgent Important – Not Urgent/Not Important.  

So what does that have to do with our faith?  Emotions are tied to urgency.  Something happens and our emotions – spidey senses – tell us that this must be acted upon immediately, it's urgent.  The key is knowing what is important and keeping life in perspective with respect to that knowing.  So, Christian, what is important to you?  The text-book (Bible) answer is God, others (world, culture, family), and lastly you. (Matthew 22: 37-39, Romans 12:1-2, Mark 9:35) There are many other references, but those are sufficient for my point.  So what is important is determined first by our relationship with God and our willingness to trust and obey – and not by our feelings/emotions.  

The difficulty starts with the tension between the old life and the new life – that we live in a physical world but have a new spiritual reality that is supposed to be our primary perspective – the filter by which we determine what is important and what is urgent.  In the context of Hummel’s book – Our relationship with God is the determinant with respect to deciding what is important and what is urgent.  For some Christians – it’s OK to agree that we should not love the world or the things of this world (1 John 2:15) but what about retirement – the children’s college – my new car – my job.  Where do they fall into the mix?  

What my point is, friend, is that all of that falls into its proper place when God is in His proper place.  A classic question is “Do you believe that what you believe is really real?”  If you do – God will always be first – and if you don’t – God will often be left in the dust in favor of what is urgent – what your flesh tells you is important.  We are faced with these decisions every day.  But – if we are not spiritually minded – we are bound to choose poorly.  If the Chief End Of Man is indeed to “Glorify God and Enjoy Him Forever” then God must be first and must be the One who determines what is important and what is urgent.  

Galatians 5:25 “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”

Galatians 5:16 “So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.”

You are going to be challenged today with this dilemma – what to respond to and how to respond.  If you are a Christian – the choice is clear but requires faith and obedience to respond correctly.  Keep the things of life in their proper place … don’t let your emotions rule .. that place belongs to God.  CHARLEY

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

What Will You Do When God Tells You To Leave Your Comfort Zone

Everyone likes to be comfortable.  I can remember an occasions when Martie and I got to sit on a soft sofa after months of sitting on hard chairs in Haiti.  Seems like a small thing, but the feeling was exquisite.  We like routine.  Mainly because we know what to expect.  There is no uncertainty in routine.  Each day is like every other day.  Each day, week, month and year like the other. Routine.  People find comfort in that.  Being around people who look like you, believe like you, talk like you, do what you do … it is a comfortable place to be.  Watching a news report about a war in a different land or the ravages of a natural disaster allows you to be comfortable in your routine.  You may not be able to empathize – because you have never left your comfort zone – but you can sympathize – at least until the commercial, supper  or the start of your favorite program.  We like to be comfortable and we don’t like giving that comfort up.  

If you are a Christian – born again by faith in Jesus – even then you are most likely looking for the comfort found in a routine existence.  Going to church – sitting in the same seat or pew – talking to the same people – listening to the same sermons – routine.  We love it – crave it even.  But, like Pastor Rick Warren said “God is more interested in your character, than in your comfort.”   And how does God develop godly character in you?  Not through routine.  God calls out of the routine for this world into the uncertain world of faith.  Not knowing what will happen tomorrow – next week, month or year.  But we live in confidence, by faith, knowing that God does.  

I have quoted this before but it bears repeating. It is from the C.S. Lewis book “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” Aslan is a type of Jesus. 

“Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion." "Ooh" said Susan. "I'd thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion"..."Safe?" said Mr. Beaver ..."Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you.” 

God is not “safe” but He is good.  He has our best in mind.  He will disrupt your routine, if you allow it. That is correct – He won’t make you abandon what is comfortable – but He will invite you to leave it behind for something much better.  What you see as “dangerous” depends upon the maturity of your walk of faith.  For a child, putting their toes in the water may seem like a great accomplishment.  For an adult, jumping off of the high-dive is a challenge.  Both require stepping into the unknown – the uncertain – the “anything but routine”  Jesus said “If anyone follows Me, he must deny himself, pick up his cross and follow Me.” (Matthew 16:24)  Are you a Jesus follower or Jesus watcher?  It is one thing to marvel at the person jump off of the high-dive and quite another to grip the end of the board with your toes right before you take that leap of faith. 

As a first step, the Bible tells us to abandon our affection for the things of this world and the comfort we find in them.  To turn to God, the God of all comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3-4) He may tell you to leave your “nets” and follow Him.  There is a song that comes to mind. Knowing You Jesus – Graham Kendrick 

“All I once held dear, Built my life upon.  All the world reveres and wars to own.  All I once thought gain, I have counted loss.  Spent and worthless now, compared to this.

Knowing You, Jesus, knowing You. There is no greater thing. You're my all, You're the best. You're my joy, my righteousness. And I love You, Lord

Now my heart's desire is to know You more. To be found in You and known as Yours. To possess by faith what I could not earn. All-surpassing gift of righteousness

Oh to know the power of Your risen life. And to know You in Your sufferings. To become like You in Your death, my Lord. So with You to live and never die”

As a Christian God calls you to leave what is comfortable – what is routine for something greater – something eternal.  So come on – go ahead and put your toes in the water.

Monday, September 24, 2018

How Do You Know When It Is Time To Go - And Will You?

If you have been reading these devotions for any time you know that our life is a nomadic one.  Gypsies for Jesus.  Our ministry is small and we are not fettered with debt and other financial obligations, well with the exception of a house in Alabama.  That means we can turn in any direction that God should point us in, quickly, and with little or no concern for earthly obligations.  When people talked to Jesus about following Him, He always said  - “Follow Me now and don’t concern yourself with the things of this world.”  In response to Pilate, Jesus said “My kingdom is not of this world…”  (John 18:36) When God calls us, it is not as if He does not know our circumstance.  But it is our circumstance that is our first consideration.  There are a number of stories about Jesus earthly ministry that recount that response from people who said they wanted to follow him – “Let me first ….”  (Luke 9:59)

One of the problems with the American Christian Culture is that worldly obligations are of primary concern, just like it was for those men.  I have been contacted within the past week by two families.  One from Alabama and the other from Mississippi.  In both cases, they have told me that they felt the call of God and were directed to contact us about helping for a short time with our work here.  I responded by saying “Come on, we need the help now.” In both cases, they said that they could not do it now, but there were other considerations that had to be taken into account.  

If you are seeking the will of God and direction, you must be willing to go.  The world may say you are irresponsible – other Christians may say that as well.  What I say is – if it is God telling you to go, then not going is irresponsible – on a significantly higher level.  So the question becomes “How do you know when it is time to go?”

Dr. Henry Blackaby, co-author of “Experiencing God”, said that people knowing it is God telling them is not the problem.  Obeying what God told them is the problem. I asked the man from Mississippi if he was familiar with Henry Blackaby and he said “We are doing the Experiencing God study at church right now.”  So I shared what that study teaches about hearing God’s voice.  All of us are not called to “Go” – but all of us are called to “Be” and “Do”.  Whatever the level of your calling – Being a “Stay at home Christian” or to “Go and labor in the fields” we must have a willing heart.  The proof of a willing heart is obedience to God’s revealed will. Following God can be attractive – exciting even – but it is also demanding.  It means laying your life down -  your nets if you will. Without reservation.  

I gave a devotion to a group of U.S. Americans in Haiti some time back about this very thing.  I had been listening, meeting after meeting about how difficult being in Haiti was.  By definition serving in a third world country is difficult – very. So I told them that if God had not called them to be there – all of them said they were Christians – then they should go home.  You could have heard a pin drop.  Needless to say, I was not asked to give a devotion at another meeting.  Well, the same is true for the two families that talked to me.  Serving in a disaster area is very difficult.  If God has not called you to it – don’t do it.  I am not talking about volunteering for a week – even them most want to know they will have hot water and air conditioning.  But serving – full time.  Willing to commit your life to serving God – even in the hard places.  

Well ….. are you? CHARLEY

Friday, September 21, 2018

How To Survive When You Are Ambushed By Anger

This is a continuation of yesterday’s devotion.  I realize that many books have been written on this subject.  Many people are in therapy for anger.  Christian people.  Anger is a secondary emotion, meaning why we get angry is because there is something at the root – working behind the scenes – and a life situation serves as a catalyst for our anger to rise up.  

I also realize that people can find verses in the Bible that would suggest that anger is “OK”, it is not sin. But anger is like a loaded pistol.  The gun can go off by accident or can be used for harm intentionally.  It can be indiscriminate, hurting the innocent as well as the guilty.  Anger can be so dominant that the easiest thing is to yield to it and not resist.  My point is that accepting anger – even rage, is not consistent with your new life in Christ.

Most people are not looking for opportunities to be angry … Those opportunites come suddenly upon us, like an ambush, with ferocity.  Then it is over – the smoke clears – the causalities lie wounded all around.  And we say to ourselves “It’s not a sin to be angry.” In an effort to justify the harm we have done.  So what to do.

First – understand, and accept, that Anger is not a fruit of the Spirit.  (Galatians 5: 19-21)  The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.”  (Galatians 5:22-23) “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”  These verses contrast the differences between your life in the flesh and your life submitted to the Spirit of God – the Spirit that is in you (1 Corinthians 6:19) “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” How can we reconcile anger and the damage it does with our new nature and the fruit that it bears? I’ll answer that.  We can’t!

Second – Have you ever heard or said “You make me so angry!”?  No one can “make” you angry.  But they can provide the opportunity for you to express anger.  Everything is going fine then the ambush is sprung and you find yourself in the “kill zone”.  In ambush-eze, the kill zone is the place where most all of the fire power is directed.  Anyone in that area when the ambush starts is a gonner.  The only way to not be a gonner is to do what makes no sense at the time, face the firing and charge it – fighting your way through it.  It is your only hope of survival. In this case, the best defense is a good offense! When you are getting angry, you need to recognize it immediately and deal with it spiritually.  Like salvation – you can’t succeed by trying harder.  You need to attack with the sword of the Lord.  The ambush is within – it’s not the circumstance that gave rise to the anger.

Third – The best thing to do is to avoid the ambush altogether.  To see the signs of danger and go another way.  That requires discernment which comes from the Spirit which requires the discipline of seeking God and hiding the Word in your heart (Psalm 119:11)  I recall an a time at ROTC advance camp at Fort Bragg, N.C.  It was my turn to lead the platoon during a training exercise in the woods.  I was leading the platoon on the most secure route and not necessarily on the fastest route to our objective.  That meant that we cut across difficult terrain.  I reached our objective without incident.  Afterwards, I was told that there had been an ambush set up at an intersection along the road that I had bypassed waiting for us.  Thing is we never showed up.

You must be sensitive to the signs of an anger ambush and avoid them.  We choose how we respond to life – in the power of our flesh or in the power of the Spirit of God.  Your success will depend upon your training and preparation.  Most Christians lack an enthusiasm for spiritual growth and maturity.  They are content with keeping a firm grasp on their ticket to heaven and talking about how much they love the Lord – around other Christians.  But when faced with the withering fire of a deadly ambush – they falter and fail.  

Perhaps you are thinking that avoiding anger is impossible.  It is not any more impossible that the Son of God dying for your sin and you receiving eternal life.  If God can do that, why would you think that your problem with anger is bigger than that? You need to deal with the root of the problem.  Paul talks about this in Romans 7:21-25 (read it) You don’t need to try harder – you need to Faith harder.  CHARLEY

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Making The Choice To Not Be Angry – You Will Need Spiritual Perspective

Anger – you know the feeling don’t you? That feeling in rises up inside of you? Like a jug quickly filling up with water until it overflows.  You face is flushed.  Your heart is racing. But is it anger or frustration or disappointment? Often times they are indistinguishable and their expression through you is likewise indistinguishable.  Many people try to explain how they respond or excuse how they respond to life and problems by pointing to their ancestors and their family’s dominant country of origin.  

Yesterday we ran into a plumbing snag at the house we are working on.  It’s fixable, but it may cost one or two thousand dollars.  The plumber was talking to me on the phone, almost apologetically because he knows we are a ministry and the home owner has no money to pay for something like this. I could sense that he was expecting me to be unhappy and perhaps even angry.  I told him – “Man, I have been in two wars.  If someone is not dying – I don’t get upset about anything” I went on to say I know two things – “God is good” and “Jesus Saves”.  That brought perspective into the issue.  I told him that I was happy that I was dealing with this and not the home owner.  (Galatians 6:2) “Bear one another’s burdens and thus fulfill the law of Christ.”  

If you can’t quell your anger – not let your emotions rule – that is a pretty good indication that you are not fully submitted to the Spirit of God.  That is not a judgment, just an observation from my own life.  People often point to Jesus being angry in the temple as an excuse for their own anger.  I would say that the next time you go to church and the money changers and vendors are set up in the foyer – go ahead and drive them out with a righteous anger.  But don’t use Jesus as a reason to make excuses for your flesh and sin.  Others looking for an excuse for themselves may buy it, but God doesn’t.  (Matthew 5:44) “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” 

Hmmm.  How are you going to squeeze anger into that verse? Here is another for icing on the cake. (James 1:2-3)  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.” Letting the emotion of anger have its way is a temptation -  a fierce temptation – that will spring on you without notice – like an ambush.  The only way you will “survive” an ambush is if you fight your way through it.  To do that you must have prepared yourself for such an occasion beforehand.  How you do that I will defer for another devotion. CHARLEY

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Offering God More Than A Second Hand Devotion

(Malachi 1:13-14 ) “You also say, 'My, how tiresome it is!' And you disdainfully sniff at it," says the LORD of hosts, "and you bring what was taken by robbery and what is lame or sick; so you bring the offering! Should I receive that from your hand?" says the LORD. "But cursed be the swindler who has a male in his flock and vows it, but sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord, for I am a great King," says the LORD of hosts, "and My name is feared among the nations." 

These verses, and others, address the failure of the people who say they love God to give God His due and their best.  It was an acceptable level of devotion to God.  Even though they knew what God requires, they offered something much less and expected God to accept it.  It is easy for us to read verses like that and sit in righteous indignation.  So what does this have to do with us?  

(Romans 12:1-2) “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

God wants us to offer our best to Him.  He wants all of our heart’s devotion – not just part of it.  He wants our total devotion, not merely a nod on Sunday morning – so long as the sermon doesn’t go past noon or worse, infringes on football or deer hunting .. or …. You can fill it in.

Do you know why He asks us to tithe? It is not because He needs our money! (1 Timothy 6:10) “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” 

For many – money is their god and their source for comfort – security – hope for the future.  It is was they scheme to have more of – even compromise their ethics and character for.  He challenges us to let it go – God does not need your money – He wants your heart.

Imagine your boss comes to your home for dinner.  When he arrives you tell him how great it is to see him.  You have him sit down at the table.  The table is set with your best dishes.  You return from the kitchen with a couple of pizza boxes with some cold pizza slices left over from last night’s televised football game. Laying on the table you tell your boss – “Bon Appetit!” 

You would not offer your boss leftovers.  Well, most people wouldn’t.  In the same way, God does not want your left-overs. After you are done spending or doing, you look to see if you have a couple of bucks in your pocket otherwise don’t make eye-contact with the guy passing the plate – or if you have some time where you are not busy doing something else you might make it to church or some church function.   You really don’t have time in your life to read the Bible or pray. You give God what you have left, l if there is anything left.

You see we are not unlike the people in the Old Testament.  We struggle with a divided heart – with mixed devotion.  Hoping the God will understand that we are strapped or very busy.  He understands more than you might imagine. 

Something Jesus said (Matthew 15:7-9) “You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: “‘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.” God examines the heart - not your words - your words and actions come from your heart.

Complete trust in God and not ourselves and the world.  That is the goal we are to seek.  (Mark 12:41-44) “Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts.  But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.” 

Take a few minutes this morning to examine your priorities – the sincerity of your love for God.  We all can do better.  We all have a ways to go before we arrive where God wants us.  CHARLEY

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

What To Do When You Can’t Get Along With Someone

Is there someone who just does not like you? There can be a number of reasons for the conflict.  May be something you did or didn’t do. May be personality, or something more nefarious like race or geographic origin – are you’re a Yankee or not from Texas? So what are you supposed to do Christian?  (Romans 12:18) “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.  Have you ever said “that is their problem”?  Just distanced yourself from the issue.  Like an ostrich with its head in the sand.  The problem does not go away, you just don’t have to look at it.  (Hebrews 12:14) “Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” You must make the effort to be reconciled.  Seek to be at peace with them.  And if you are rebuffed in your attempt?  You move on with your life.  Broken relationships are not like broken bones. They may not mend, ever.  You might wish they would, but the fact is that a restored relationship is dependent upon both parties.  

Don’t allow bitterness to take root, but let forgiveness abound instead.  Peter asked Jesus (Matthew 18:21-22) “Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.” Jesus proceeded to tell the parable about the unforgiving servant.  He had been forgiven much but refused to forgive others in the same way.  This isn’t about a restored relationship but a right heart attitude.  Restoration may happen, but it is not a pre-requisite for forgiveness.  Repentance is a necessary for restoration.  Without repentance, the relationship will remain broken, but not on your account.  And be careful, receiving someone when they have not repented is a sure-fire recipe for more brokenness.  Like the Father of the prodigal son – you may be waiting – watching – hoping that the relationship will be restored on day.  Your heart may hurt – especially if it involves a family member.  Turn to the Father – the God of all comfort. And let the love of God, the fruit of the Spirit rule in your heart.

(1 Corinthians 13:4-8) “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” CHARLEY

Monday, September 17, 2018

The Only One, True Religion – Are You Part Of It?

Just Saturday night Martie and I were asked to attend a going away for a news reporter that has been partnering with us on a home rebuild.  We really weren’t part of the festivities except to be recognized for our work, or for the loss in the case of the home owners represented.  We were more like trophies on a shelf.  Not a criticism, it was understandable.  It was not about us but about the wonderful news reporter being honored by her co-workers. But that is not the point.

One of the home owners has advanced ALS.  He is bound to a wheel chair and cannot move his limbs – just his thumb to move the joystick on the arm of the wheel chair.  But he also has a very sharp mind.  We had a great conversation.  He must speak through a microphone attached to a small speaker.  He was obviously Catholic given the crucifix around his neck and the Catholic literature on the tray of his wheel chair.  I watch body language very closely when I talk to people.  When I told him that Martie was raised in the Catholic church and we were married in a Catholic church but we were not Catholic – his eyes widened.  In cards they call that a “tell”.  We talked more about spiritual matters as the evening progressed. But I could tell he was thinking we should be Catholic – not merely Christians.  

So to the point of today’s devotion.  How do you know which religion or which denomination is the right one?  There are denominations that believe unless you are baptized by immersion in water you are not a Christian.  Some believe that if you don’t’ speak in tongues – you are not a Christian.  Others have other specific rituals that you must follow or abide by in order to be confident that you are bound for heaven.  Some believe that the religion doesn’t matter, that there is more than one way to go to heaven.  It can be very confusing.

I think it is pretty simple, actually.  Uncomplicated.  Look to the Bible and you can find the answer.  Let’s begin with Jesus talking to a Pharisee named Nicodemus.  Of course Nicodemus was a Jew and believed in God the creator.  Many other religions and Protestant denominations do as well.  So, he came to see Jesus one night.  (John 3:2-7) “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.” Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.”

To have eternal life you must be born again by the Spirit of God.  

Pretty simple, huh?  (Ephesians 2:8-9) “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  

You are saved by being born again by the Spirit through faith – not by trying to be good or doing something.

Faith in what or whom?  (Romans 10:8-10) “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim:  If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved”

 You are saved by being born again by the Spirit through faith that God raised Jesus from the dead and submitting to His Lordship – not by trying to be good or doing something.    It’s all about Jesus, His sacrifice, His resurrection, God the Father’s grace, mercy and faith.  Not works … those come afterwards.

(John 14:5-7) “Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” 

Jesus, the Son, is the only way to the Father and eternal life.  Pretty simple.  Only way means that there is no other way.  Seem harsh – actually harsh would be if there were no way.  But God, the Father, in His grace and mercy gave us a way.  Our response – “there must be another way.” Nope – you can want all day long – all life long and it is not going to change. Does that seem too simple?   

(1 Corinthians 1:27-31) “But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”

The Christian faith is pretty simple.  It’s all about Jesus and all about grace.  Listen whenever you consider a church to attend .. you need to start here.  What do they teach?  What do they preach? What do they say it takes to become a Christian?  There is so much more that I could write about – but that would be a book, not a daily devotion.  CHARLEY

Friday, September 14, 2018

We Are Not All God’s Children

Over the years, I have heard a number of people refer to humankind as being “all God’s children”.  It’s one of those sayings that sounds good, but is patently false. 

What is true is God is the Source of all creation.  And Jesus is at the center of it.  (John 1:1-4) “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.”  Jesus is the “living” Word.  [It was this truth that the Spirit used to open my mom’s eyes and salvation]  I am not going to address the Trinity this morning. Spiritual reality is so different from our human reality.  We try to cram spiritual understanding into the shoes of our natural understanding and those “feet” are just too big!  They don’t fit.  The temptation is to reject Spiritual truth because of the limitation of our natural understanding.  Common mistake.  (1 Corinthians 2:14) “The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.” 

So back to the main point – God’s children.  We are all God’s natural creation but we are not all His spiritual children.  We must be adopted into His family.  (Ephesians 1:5) “having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will  I cannot adopt my own children.  Without that adoption I am bound for hell.  Once adopted I have eternal life with God in heaven.  Pretty simple really.  Saying we are all God’s children may sound sweet but it is a bitter falsehood – a deception.  Only the Spirit of God can convince people of that truth.  We have an obligation to share the Gospel when given the opportunity.  And you will have the opportunity.  Don’t give people who are lost false hope.  Speak the truth in love.” (Ephesians 4:15) CHARLEY

Thursday, September 13, 2018

We Change From The Inside-Out Not The Outside-In

Have you ever noticed that some people change the way they talk or act when they are around you?  This has happened to me on a number of occasions. And if I am honest – I have done it myself on more than one occasion.  There is one person I know that struggles with profanity.  He is a Christian – but that is one of those things that has not been “sanctified” out of him yet.  When we talk, he will catch the word coming out of his mouth and quickly change it.  It is obvious what happened and since I was a very profane person at one time, it is not difficult for me to “fill in the blanks”. Many Christians seem to think that the use of profanity is not a big deal, but there are actually Biblical principles behind it.  

(Psalm 19:14) “May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.”  What we say should be consistent with who God is and not with who we were in our natural, sinful state.

(Ephesians 4:29) “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

So in his heart he knows it is wrong but it is out of his heart that the words come.  (Luke 6:45) “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”  

But words we use are only one thing that we prefer other Christians to not know about.  We may think we have people fooled, but it is God and not people that we should be concerned about. And guess what – He already knows – nothing is hidden from Him.  Confession means “to agree with” not to “reveal”.  When you confess your sins to God (1 John 1:9) it’s not like you are going to surprise Him.  Look – whether it is the words you use or the things you do toward others that is part of your old – sinful nature, rather than hide it, you need to surrender it.  One thing you must not do is accept it as an unchangeable part of your life.  Or do you suppose that God is not able? The truth is that very likely, you are not really willing to let go of it.  It’s time to get real my friend and choose God.

By the way – I don’t judge my friend. I encourage him in the faith.  I can’t change his heart – only God can do that – but what I can do is show him God’s grace and mercy and love.  CHARLEY

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

When A Husband Loves A Wife And When A Wife Loves A Husband

The other day, as I was leafing through the pages of my Bible, I notice a diagram I had made from either a sermon or a teaching some years back.  The diagram depicted a simple truth.  God loves us and because of that love we are to love others.  You can find that in Matthew 22:37-39 when Jesus condensed all of the Law into two commands – Love God and Love Others.  Also in 1 John 4:19 – We love because He loved us first.  Love is so important which is why Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13:1-3

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” 

That love is at the root of a marriage relationship or should be if that relationship is to glorify God and be what He intended it to be. If the relationship is based on something else, then it will fall short.  Well – there’s more – in Ephesians 5:25 – Paul wrote that husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the Church.  Meaning that the husband must be willing to lay his life down for his wife.  Give up his dreams even.  The husband has been given great responsibility as the head of the wife.  With responsibility comes authority.  The problem is that many men want to cling to the authority part and shirk their responsibility as the “spiritual” head of the family.  1 Peter 2 and 3, Peter wrote about submission. That wives should submit to their husbands.  Submit to what? His God-given authority. In today’s “progressive” culture, many woman struggle with this.  Why? Because they don’t trust their husbands to NOT abuse their authority and shirk their responsibility. But – Peter goes on to say “Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.” 

In Ephesians 5:22-24 talks about mutual submission out of reverence for Christ. “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.”

All of this love and submission is in the context of our faith and not our natural life.  The problem is that many see it as problematic because they are looking at it through the lens of their natural, sinful life.  

The bottom line is that success in marriage is dependent upon both partners mutually submitted to each other and both submitted to the Spirit of God– loving each other with the love of God. And if things don’t seem to be working – evaluate that.  When a marriage fails, most assuredly the culprit will be our sin nature.  And if you are unevenly yoked – one of you is not a Christian – that does not relieve the Christian of their responsibility to obey God.  There is so much more to be said – but so many have already said it.  Love each other just like Jesus and the Father loves you. It takes faith to do that. CHARLEY

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

The Reality Of Death – One Breath Away From Glory

Now this is a topic that people don’t really want to talk about or dwell on.  I noticed that as my wife and I move closer to that “day”. Talking even about life insurance is a bit unsettling to her.  It is sobering, really.  This mortal life that we live is all we know, isn’t it?  Life beyond the grave is something we know about by faith.  For ages, people have been seeking ways to promote longevity.  Some even have themselves “frozen in time”, literally, with the hope that some day someone will figure out a way to unfreeze them and give a healthy life back to them.  People are desperate.  Wealthy people are even more so. Guess what – everyone in your generation is going to die, one way or another.  (Hebrews 9: 27-28) “Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.”  It is inescapable.  Many people try and have tried to hold on to their youth … it is all in vain.  Aging is something that is going to happen – just like death.  (Psalm 119:14-16) “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful,    I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”  God does not reveal how we will die or even when we will die, He only tells us that we will die.

I am not trying to be morbid – or insensitive to those who have lost loved ones.  My objective is to get you to think about your life.  Jesus told a parable – recorded in Luke chapter 12 – about a man who had an abundance and wanted to keep it for himself for the future.  The thing was, he had a very short future – his days were up – he was going to die that night.  What are you putting your faith and hope in.  Most of us go to sleep expecting to awake in our bed the next morning – what if you open your eyes and you find yourself in heaven instead?  We should live our lives like today is the last day. If it was, then the earthly issues we worry about would fade into in-significance.  Each breath you take is a gift from God.  Each breath you take is one step closer to Glory.  

I have sat through – listened to – many, many sermons over the years.  I hear the same things over and over – just like you do.  In light of our mortality – we should live for God like there is no tomorrow – there might not be.  Scare tactic? No.  Truth.  (James 1:22) “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”  It’s time to get busy and live like you really mean it.  CHARLEY

Sunday, September 9, 2018

If You Think You Can Stop Sinning Completely – Think Again

Has someone ever said something about something and a light comes on? A light of understanding of some spiritual truth that had refused to shine in the past no matter how many times you tried to flip the switch?  Well that happened to me today.  It was during the sermon this morning.  Some might even call what happened – an epiphany. (An epiphany is a moment of sudden revelation or insight.)   Let me explain….. 

The Pastor taught about the three aspects of the Christian life.  First is something called justification – that happens when the penalty for Sin has been paid for.  Sin is the “root” that must be cut in order to free us so we can be declared righteous before God the Father.  Sin is the cause of the separation of man and God.  Sin is what is passed from Adam through all generations.  Jesus defeated Sin so man might be made right through Him. But that is only the beginning of the story. 

Here is where the light came on for me.  

The second aspect our Christian “experience” is sanctification.  Every Christian is being conformed – shaped – into the image of Christ (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.”  Now, this is a process that involves obedient submission to the Spirit of God, allowing the Word of God to do its work in our hearts, and the manifestation of the fruit of the Spirit and sins becoming less and less a prominent part of our lives. Just as Sin is the cause - sins are the consequence.

Here is something to think about.  So long as you walk this earth, you will never be sinless.  Sanctification is a process that goes on until we see Jesus – either in death or on the air.  Did you think that you would ever reach a point in this life when you stopped sinning?  And, if you couldn’t stop sinning then there must be something wrong with you?  That maybe your salvation didn’t “take”?  Sins are a consequence of our fallen nature.  Just as Sin is the root – sins are the fruit.  God has given us the means to wage spiritual battle against temptation and when we yield to the temptation that results in – sin (small “s”).  We continue to sin because we struggle with a devotion to our old nature.  The more spiritually mature we become, the less we will sin – but – trust me – we will continue to bear remnants of the fruit of the our old nature so long as we have breath.  Read Galatians chapter 5 to refresh yourself on the fruit of the flesh and the Spirit. 

So – what is the third aspect?  Glorification.  That is when we join Jesus in heaven.  When all things will be new.  There will be no Sin or sins.  Why did God do it this way?  Good question.  Somehow, what we experience during our time of sanctification after we are born again has eternal value.  We will fully understand one day. 1 (Corinthians 13:9-12) “For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.”  But for now, we trust God and don’t lose hope. 

Do you struggle with sins in your life?  Of course you do.  You are not alone. Should you be content with the fact that you will sin? God forbid it – and He does. Your struggle – my struggle will not end until we are in heaven.  But God has made a way for us to fight the battle.  Most of the New Testament epistles address this very thing at length.  Think about it.  Why would God want the writers of the New Testament to address the issue of the continuation of sins as a "heads up" for the Church if it were not a significant part of our faith life?  Something to think about.  CHARLEY 

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Calling On God In Times Of Trouble

There is something that we called in the Army “foxhole religion”  That is when your life is in mortal danger and you suddenly “get religion”.  You make promises to God. “God if you get me out of this, I promise to be faithful.”  So you get out of it.  Although maybe not for the reason you think. 

You see, God sees the heart (1 Samuel 16:7) “But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.””  This is when Samuel had been sent to anoint the next king of Israel.  Since God looks at the heart, the words that come out of you mouth may or may not reflect true faith.  God knows your true intent when you call out to Him.  And if you are an unbeliever – not His child – then the only prayer He will respond to from you is the prayer for salvation.  

But, even at that, many times Christians pray to God making promises to Him that they have no intention of fulfilling.  And even if they do intend to fulfill them, they are willing to accept whatever may come their way – good or bad – in the light of God’s sovereignty.  Jesus prayed (Luke 22:41-43) “He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him.” 

There is nothing that you will face that compares to what Jesus was facing – incomprehensible for the human imagination. He needed spiritual strength to endure.  And so do we.  God does not need our promises – He wants our devotion and trust.  If you are not ready - spiritually ready - when you find yourself in a foxhole facing an impossible situation – You will be in trouble.  It will not be a time for empty promises.  So friend – get ready. CHARLEY