Thursday, January 31, 2019

Having A Conversation With God

"Pray without ceasing…" — 1 Thessalonians 5:17

If prayer is conversing with God, then we are supposed to be in constant conversation with Him.  While we served in Anse du Clerc/Jeremie, Haiti there was a young Haitian woman, Silfice, (sill-feece) who helped us around the house.   I would often hear her saying “Jezu” – Jesus – as she worked.  I asked her if she was talking to the Lord, she said “Of course”.  Of course? As if to say to me, “You mean that you don’t?   Doesn’t every Christian talk to the Lord?”  Her point was that it should be as natural as speaking with your friends or your spouse or your Father.  

But we all know that is not the case.  In fact, if we hear someone talking to the Lord, we might think them a bit odd or eccentric, to say the least. For most Christians I would venture to say that their relationship with God is most often based upon their needs and not their love for Him.  I will talk to God when I need something.  Have you ever known someone and the only time they talked to you is when they needed something?  They don’t really need you. They just need or want what you have.  How do you feel when they call?  How do you feel when they get past the greeting and get to the point. They need something. And when you give it to them, they will get back to their life and forget about you until they think you can give them something else that they need.

Sadly, that is very often how we treat God.  We say we love God with our all, but treat Him as if we don’t.  Praying is a discipline that draws you close to the Father … and changes your heart’s desires … Psalm 37:4 … “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart  I think that means that He will exchange your desires with His.  “Not my will, but Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."  Not in heaven as it is on earth.  

I come to the garden alone While the dew is still on the roses And the voice I hear, falling on my ear The Son of God discloses And He walks with me And He talks with me And He tells me I am His own And the joy we share as we tarry there None other has ever known  In The Garden, C. Austin Miles – Public Domain

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

The Impossibility Of Living The Christian Life On Your Terms

"As they followed they were afraid." —Mark 10:32 

The disciples thought they could follow Jesus wherever He went.  They discovered that where He went was beyond them.  It was too hard for them.

On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you?  Then what if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life.  Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him.  He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.” From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.” -  John 6:60-66

Living our new life is impossible without the Spirit of God empowering us.  Living by faith in God.  The problem …. We settle into a pseudo-spiritual walk where we are more dependent upon ourselves and our flesh than submission to the Spirit and the Word.  If you start to think that the life situations that you face are too hard to resist or giving in is inevitable, you are there my friend.  You have lost your focus on Jesus and are sinking in the waves.  My guess is that you are immersing yourself in the world and paying lip service to your faith.  My encouragement to you.  Turn your eyes upon Jesus.  Look full in His wonderful face.  And the things of earth (those things that vex you) will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace. 

The difference is the same as washing your face in the sink and taking a shower or a bath in the tub.  If you want to experience the new life, you must reject the old one.  You can’t do both.  And if you are trying to do both, stop deceiving yourself thinking that what you are doing is OK with God. 

I [Jesus] know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked” — Revelation 3:15-17

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Who Decides What Is Acceptable Behavior

I met a Christian the other day at a local church.  Very nice guy. He invited us to go to lunch with the group that goes most days after the service. That was nice. The Bible says “A man who has friends must himself be friendly, But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” – Proverbs 18:24  I know a lot of people, introverted people mainly, struggle forming new relationships.  Mainly because they don’t show themselves friendly they are waiting for someone else to do it. So for those of you extraverts reading this, take note.  The introverts are counting on the extraverts, but the extraverts tend to hang with each other.  When you see someone who is not engaged, engage them. Ok, sorry – thought I saw a squirrel! 

But then he said something I thought odd.  He said “We tend to get a coarse in our conversation so you might not want to come.” I didn’t ask him what he meant by coarse, but we declined the invitation.  I did appreciate the warning.  It is not that I have led a protected life, I haven’t.  It is not that I cannot be coarse – just ask my old nature. On second thought – please don’t. It is that, as a Christian, when I associate with other Christians for fellowship, I don’t want to act like the world does.  

The Bible is pretty clear about what is acceptable and what is not.  Take time to read this – 

"Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.  Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.  Therefore do not be partakers with them. Walk in Light.  For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth),  finding out what is acceptable to the Lord.  And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.  For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret.  But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light.”  Ephesians 5:1-13

What is it that you have decided is “OK” behavior that you know is not consistent with your new life.  Do you do it because the people you are friends with do it? You value their relationship with them more than your relationship with the One who saved you from hell? If you have any uneasy feeling – that may well be the conviction of the Spirit that is in you. It is God who has decided what is acceptable behavior and He has already told us what that is. Last thought on this. “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” – James 4:17  That doesn’t leave much wiggle room. Walk as children of the light.

Monday, January 28, 2019

The Difference Between Spiritual and Physical Exhaustion

Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. ‘I have had enough, Lord,’ he said. ‘Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.’ Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep. All at once an angel touched him and said, ‘Get up and eat.’ He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.” – 1 Kings 19:3-6 

Elijah had just experienced a significant spiritual event.  God had sent fire down from heaven.  Elijah had killed the priests of Baal.  During that time, he was focused on what God could do. But then, He ran for his life.  His focus shifted to what he could do and fear overcame him.  Taking your eyes off of God and onto your own ability will always have the same effect. Recall Peter walking on the water.  He took his eyes off of Jesus and focused on his own ability and began to sink.   

Elijah may have been physically tired from his run, but I believe that he experienced what I would call spiritual exhaustion.  It is the feeling you get when God has been working through you to do something that you could not do on your own, by your own strength.  When Paul said “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” – Philippians 4:13, he was not referring to his ability to do natural things. Elijah was spiritually exhausted which manifested itself in the physical.  When God uses mere mortals to act on His behalf, there is a physical after effect.  And when it happens you are vulnerable to spiritual attack.  Satan will be quick to remind you that you have feet of clay.  He will tempt you to focus on yourself. 

Do not confuse weariness that comes from busyness with spiritual exhaustion.  I know many people who just won’t say “no”.  ( I used to be one.) They are so busy.  They have no time for physical rest.  Being that busy is not good, but that does not result in spiritual exhaustion.  James wrote, “Faith without works is dead” – James 2:17 But I would say that “works without faith is also dead.” Just because someone are super busy does not mean that someone is super spiritual.  

Many Christians do good things with the good motive. I do not want to minimize what they do.  But some wear their busyness in the workings of the local church as a badge of honor.  And they confuse natural exhaustion with spiritual exhaustion.  They become “Serv-a-holics”. We used to joke about a friend of ours by saying “God loves you and our friend has a wonderful plan for your life!”  Listen, just because you can does not mean you should.  To know when to say “no”, requires spiritual discernment. 

And if you should experience spiritual exhaustion – rejoice! It is not a bad thing. Praise God that He has chosen to use you for His purpose.  Someone asked me how we do it.  How do we serve for so long in such difficult places?  That moment is a perfect opportunity to “rob God of His glory” and take personal credit for something that was Spirit-enabled. What I told him was, “It was not us who did it.”  Our bodies are just too frail to do what God asks. We need the strength that comes from the Spirit of God. “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ Says the Lord of hosts.” – Zechariah 4:6

Something to think about.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Why Is It When God Says Go - Your Emotions Say No!

A little over a year ago, I had a conversation with our granddaughter about our leaving Alabama to go to Texas to serve God and others. She had asked why we decided to go to Texas.  It made me realize that for people looking in from the outside, the appearance is that we have decided to do something different with our lives.   Actually, it was not our decision.  I explained to her about how God speaks to His children and the responsibility we have to obey His voice.
 “If you love me [Jesus], you will obey my commandments.” – John 14:15

Seems simple doesn’t it?   But when faced with the resistance of the flesh, with the emotions of the moment, what may seem simple is not necessarily easy.  The natural battling against the supernatural. That is why there is such an emphasis in the Bible to crucify the flesh and submit to the Spirit .  The life Jesus showed us is polar opposite to the world’s convention.  The first will be last.  If you want to be great, be a servant.  Love yourself last. There is no greater demonstration of love than to lay your own life down.  I recall a friend talking to me about what Martie and I would do have leaving Mississippi following 5 years of disaster relief work.  I told him that we were going to Haiti.  He got close to me, looked in my eyes and asked, “Are you crazy?!?”  To which I replied, “It is not my idea, it is God’s calling.” It is not that we love our family less, it is that we love God more.  To go, to leave your family and friends is a spiritual choice not a natural one. Not being with friends and family is a sacrifice we must make to follow the call of God.  

Following the leading of God very often makes no sense to the natural man.  Even to many Christians.  And with respect to Christians, reading about faith and exercising faith are two, totally different things.  Many are content to leave faith in the theoretical.  Sure we can pray when we or someone else is sick or has a great need.  But c’mon! God would not ask us to do something contrary to what we know is wise in the eyes of the world, would He?  I mean that can’t be God can it? What about retirement?  What about a place to live when you are old?  What about …. What about ????  

 “And he [Jesus] said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. – Luke 9:23

 “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  – 1 John 2:15
What do you trust in?  You will love –be devoted to – allow to control your choices – the things you trust in.   

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” – Romans 12:1,2

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Why You Have A Problem With Consistency As A Christian

Sin entered in through the first Adam.  Redemption entered in through the second Adam, Jesus Christ. 

 “… sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned—if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! …The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ! Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.” — Romans 5:12,15-19

Seems pretty simple.  But if it is simple, then so why is it so hard to live in that redemption? The truth is that it is not hard, so long as you are willing to lay your life down and live by the faith and the power of the Spirit.  You cannot live your new life through determination and effort.  You can only live your new life through submission and sacrifice.  

We must stop trying to “be good” and allow Him who IS good to live through us.  The word Father means Source.  God is the source of all that is good.  It is by His grace that we are saved through our faith. (Ephesians 2:8-9) Do not be content with a mediocre Christian existence.  It’s not merely attending church on Sunday that makes you a better Christian.  You can sit in a pew with a hard heart just as easily as you can sit on your sofa at home.  Another conference is not the answer.  
Yielding your heart to God is the answer.  

Picking up your cross daily and following Jesus is the answer.  Offering yourself as a living sacrifice is the answer.  Living by faith.  Walking by the power of the Spirit.  Not leaning on your own understanding but trusting God is the answer.  Do you need other Christians to help, most probably.  A cord of three strands is not quickly broken!  But you can hang out with someone like Billy Graham with your hard heart and it will be to no avail.  And this culture, this fallen world, will certainly harden your heart toward the things of God.  Don’t kid yourself.  Don’t pretend.  We all struggle with this malady.  Friend we all need more Jesus.  He is the way, truth, and life.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Are You Fearful Of Others Finding Out You Are Not Perfect? - Too Late!

Henry David Thoreau said, “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”  In general, most people are very aware of what is wrong with them. Most would like to fix what is wrong, but don’t have any idea of what to do to fix it.  Moreover, they don’t want others to know that they are flawed. Well, it’s too late, Baby!

Since you have spiritual understanding as a Christian, you know that what is wrong with you is that “all have sinned” …. “There is none righteous” … “all we, like sheep, have gone astray” … “we are jars of clay” … we have no hope. But for Jesus! So what do we do?  We try to hide our imperfections .. or at minimum make excuses for them.  We may even condemn those imperfections in others, as a way to keep the focus off of ours. 

Jesus spoke of the speck and the log.  (Matthew 7:3-5) “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye. 

The Apostle John wrote (1 John 2:16-18) “For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”

That is not to say that you should ignore sin. Or that there should not be consequence for sins.  But be careful about judging others.  God does that.  You, who have spiritual understanding, should see the struggle of the soul for what it is .. the need for Jesus .. new life in Him.  You were once lost but now your found .. was blind but now you see. 

How did Jesus respond to sinners?  He told them to repent .. to have faith in Him.  They did not all do that then … and they do not all do that now … Just be careful that you don’t sin in your eagerness to find fault in others.  In psychology the term is “projection”.  Where a person projects their shortcomings onto others.  It is easier .. less stressful if you can deal with your problem in someone else’s life. (Speck and Log)  In this case, the speck you see is merely a reflection of the log in your own eye.  The bottom line is that our focus is on ourselves and not on Jesus.  So stop looking at others, even stop looking at yourself, and look to Jesus.

 (Philippians 4:8) “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

It is an impossible task trying to be God.  So just be you, a sinner saved by grace. Don’t make excuses for your sin.  Don’t try to pretend that you don’t sin. Turn to God, confess and repent. Instead of showing the world what the judgement of God looks like, show them what Jesus looks like.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

It Is Easier To Lose Your Witness Than You Think

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?.” – Oswald Chambers

When you read those words, does it seem right to you?  I mean shouldn’t you be shown kindness, especially if you have done nothing wrong?  Shouldn’t people who treat you poorly be dealt with – divinely?  Wouldn’t that make you feel better?  Let’s look at what Jesus had to say about it.

"But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,  (28)  bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you.  (29)  To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either.  (30)  Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back.  (31)  And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise.” – Luke 6:27-31  

"If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would have no sin; but now they have seen and also hated both Me and My Father.  (25)  But this happened that the word might be fulfilled which is written in their law, 'THEY HATED ME WITHOUT A CAUSE.'” – John 15:24-25  

Most of us will agree that concept is good .. but when you are being treated poorly how do you feel .. what is it that you must control?  I sometimes say, tongue in cheek, ‘I don’t want to lose my witness’. What I am really saying is I don’t want to express what I am feeling and act on wanting to do.  That act would be contrary to my spiritual nature (Galatians 5:22-23) and totally consistent with my old nature (Galatians 5:19-21).  But, you know what?  It’s too late at that point.  You have already missed it (the mark of God’s will that is). You have already sinned. 

“Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” – 1 John 3:15  

“We love Him because He first loved us.  (20)  If someone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?  (21)  And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.” – 1 John 4:19-21  

You see it is the attitude of your heart .. it’s the thoughts and attitudes of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).  You don’t have to act on your sin to sin.  Thinking that so long as you didn’t do what you were thinking has stopped short of sin is not right thinking. 

"You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY.'  (28)  But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”  – Matthew 5:27-28  

Remember David on the roof?  He had already sinned before Bathsheba ever entered his house.  Pretty high standard isn’t it.  It cannot be achieved through determination .. will power .. or won’t power … but only by the power of God in us.  Are there things in your life that you have been accommodating?  

Are you pretending that they didn’t matter .. Get your heart right … do not sin … James says that sin begins in our heart when we are tempted (James 1:12-15).. that is where it must end … It is only when we are spending time in the Word and with the Lord will we be able to stand against the temptation, but … that is another devotion for another day …

Shine bright today

Monday, January 21, 2019

Have You Ever Told The Lord "Now Is Not A Good Time"?

Most Christians have a notion of what they would do “if” they heard the call of God to do something beyond themselves. But, when they do, they respond in a different way than they imagined.  

“Then a scribe came and said to Him, “Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.” Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” Another of the disciples said to Him, “Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.” But Jesus said to him, “Follow Me, and allow the dead to bury their own dead.”   - Matthew 8:19-22 

When Jesus called them, the affairs of the world rushed in presenting reasons why “now” is not a good time.  Can you imagine?  Telling God that now is not a good time … questioning God’s wisdom.  Oh, wait, that is not something new is it?  Remember the question in the Garden, “Did God really say?”  - Genesis 3:1  When the Spirit speaks, you must expect Satan to make a counter offer.  The next best thing to not being a Christian, from Satan’s perspective, is a Christian who is disobedient to the voice of God.

A friend had been called to serve in a very difficult place, in the U.S.  He had been serving there for a number of years with little fruit.  But, spiritual fruit was just beginning to emerge.  He has asked several organizations and individuals to join him.  Initially they were interested, but, I have surmised, after they counted the “natural” cost, they said “now is not a good time.”  Although the Spirit may not have spoken to  everyone my friend had talked to, but I am certain He had to some.  

Most of us struggle with our desire to choose the “normal-natural-comfortable” life in the context of our faith.  When God wants to stretch us, we are not prepared or even willing.  And so we resist the call.  Have you said “no” to God because it was not convenient.  Because it would disrupt your financial plans? That if you said “yes”, your idea of what living the “blessed” life is would be turned on its head?  What you had been planning and working for and “sacrificing” for was now at risk because God was speaking.  And so, to the one you thank for salvation, for your life in Christ, you say “now is not a good time, check with me later.”

 And He [Jesus] was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.”  - Luke 9:23 

 Are you ready to say “yes”? Really?   Charley

Friday, January 18, 2019

Loving God More Than The World Is More Than A "Want To" ... It's A Command

 The other day someone was asking about my writing in this BLOG.  I read a devotion and the Word and then ask the Lord, what am I supposed to say today.  And “out it comes”.  Very often, there will be some event – interaction from the previous day that the Lord uses as a launching point from what I have read.  So in that regard what I write is not premeditated as such, but more spontaneous … although that is not to say that there are not years of life that undergird what I write.  I’ve done this 1838 times so far, plus this one …. Frankly I am amazed by the process and perhaps more amazed that God is using me in this way. 

So to the point. As Christians, we live our lives on this earth with a tension between the spiritual and the natural.  The preaching of the earthly health and wealth gospel … God wants you to be rich and healthy … is the carnal Christian's attempt to resolve that tension.  The idea is that God will give you money .. which He tells you not to love … and health .. which He tells you that you will face affliction and hardship of many kinds … with the unstated objective of being independent of God .. all of your earthly needs will be met. Do you see that this is a deviant version of the Gospel? That this is heresy?  

God wants us to give up our dependence upon earthly comforts and assurances and trust Him, alone.  When Job lost everything, the assumption was that he had done something wrong .. why?  Because he lost his earthly possessions. That is the thinking of the natural mind.  The Truth was there was something spiritual at work that superseded the natural.  The same is true in our lives.  The thing is, you must be willing to not submit to natural thinking, yielding your devotion and dependence upon the natural but, instead, trust God's provision. 

What do you hunger for?  I see people struggling after disasters and war and poverty, while Americans are trying to figure out if they should go ahead and buy that $1000 iPhone and get rid of their $700 iPhone.  The Church in the United States is the “frog in the pot” with respect to materialism.  We don’t know that we are being cooked … instead, we think the water temperature is just right.

I was watching the holiday spending phenomenon  .. which starts at Thanksgiving and is still going on long after Christmas has passed.  I am trying to find money to help people recover from Hurricane Harvey and those that have money are spending it – hand over fist – to satisfy their lust for more.  I think it is safe to say that much of what we buy is to satisfy our wants.  Our needs were met a long time ago.  And if you don’t have the cash right now, put it on credit so you can satisfy that want.  

(James 4:2-4) “You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”

Ugh! That does not leave a lot of wiggle room for buying the next thing on Amazon does it. I guess I should quote Jesus to bring this to a close.  (Matthew 13:14-16) “And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says: ‘Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, And seeing you will see and not perceive; For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, And their eyes they have closed, Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them.’ But blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear" 

How do we overcome this struggle that we face every day? It is a spiritual problem that needs a spiritual solution. Let God change your heart’s desires.

(Psalm 37:4) "Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart"  

Pray about it!

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Letting Your Faith Not Your Past Define You

None of us are free from heartaches, disappointments, or regrets. Some of them are our doing, some not.  But, if you are born again, new in Christ, you do not have to let your past define you.

“….. one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. - Philippians 3:13-14

Oh that we could embrace that attitude.  Well, actually we can, but not by willing it.  It is a product of a deep and abiding relationship with Christ.  I was speaking with our daughter-in-law the other day about the nature of heartache.  If you were to break a bone, it would be painful of course, but the pain would eventually subside.  You can remember the event.  You can remember that you broke that particular bone.  It might even remind you when a storm is approaching.  But one thing you cannot do is feel the sharp, stabbing pain that you felt when the bone was broken.  You know it hurt, but you cannot conjure up the same feeling that you had in the past. 

Not so with a broken heart.  It only takes a word or a thought to bring back the pain of the moment when your heart was broken.  It feels like a great weight had been placed upon you.  You feel like you are being crushed under its weight.

The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted  and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” - Psalm 34:17-28

What a promise.  He delivers us out of all of our troubles.  He gives us strength.  He gives us comfort.  He gives us hope.  He gives us life.  You have so much to look forward to in the days ahead.  Don’t let the pain of the past define you.  Instead let the Lord renew you.  You may never forget, you may still regret,  but you can take confidence in this, you are forgiven. 

but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” - Isaiah 40:31

Embrace who you are in Christ. 

“I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I want to be, I am not what I hope to be in another world; but still I am not what I once used to be, and by the grace of God I am what I am.”  - John Newton

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Don't Ask For Help From A Drowning Man

If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. —2 Corinthians 5:17

In today’s culture when someone says “Prejudice”, the narrow definition is racial prejudice or bias.  Actually the root of the word has to do with having an opinion about something.  Dislike or even hatred, of people of other races is one type of prejudice.  That is one of the prejudices that is part of our old nature. Let’s use that as an example.  Men have argued for years that one race is superior to another.  Typically it is the race in power that holds that view.  It is part of the old nature.  So what does the Bible say? Well, man was created in God’s image. (Genesis 1:26) Genesis does not say only white or red or black or yellow or brown.  So God must not have been referring to skin color or national origin.  Paul wrote “there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female” (Galatians 3:8) in the Body of Christ.  Jesus prayed “That they may be as one, as we are one" (John 17:11).  John wrote “If you say you love God and hate your Brother, you are a liar and the Truth is not in you.” (1 John 4:20)

We try to justify our prejudices – the opinions born out of our old nature – by turning to those who think like us to seek affirmation … and we will always find approval from those who have the same prejudices we do or at least are tolerant of our prejudices lest we fail to accept theirs.  If you want someone to say your sin is OK ask another sinner.  When drowning, why would you seek help from someone who is drowning beside you?  The Word of God is the place you go to know what is Truth.  The Spirit is the One that affirms and confirms what is right and what is wrong … the Spirit convicts us of our sins. (John16:8)  I know a good number of Christians that hold on to opinions – prejudices that were born out of their old nature.  So what to do?  It’s actually a simple solution that is impossible to accomplish by wishing it so …. it requires faith not will power.  We must surrender our prejudices – our old nature – to God.  Offering ourselves, daily, as a sacrifice.  Confessing our sins, daily. (1 John 1:9) As you develop your spiritual acuity, (one day you will have 20-20 spiritual vision) you will see those opinions or prejudices for what they are and abandon them by faith and through the power of the blood of Jesus.  “What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.  What can make me whole again? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.”

I was in a meeting some years back where the topic was racial reconciliation in the Body of Christ. The question of asked of the men of color (other than white) “Has anyone every expressed bigotry or prejudice toward you?  Virtually every hand of every man of color was raised. Then the question was asked to the men of European origin, “Have you ever expressed prejudice toward a man of color?” Very few raised their hands. Those men were thanked for their honesty.  The to those who had not raised their hands, the speaker asked, ”Do you even care that it happened?”  Good question.  When God asked Cain where his brother, Able, was, he answered “Am I my brother’s keeper?” The same might be asked of us.  As Christians, our answer is “yes”. Read Matthew 25:31-46.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Who Decides What Is Good? – God Does Not Us

Most Christians don’t struggle with those things that are blatantly “evil”, but with those that seem, on the surface, to be “good”.  Good as defined by our culture and our traditions.  There is a movement in our culture, in particular, to redefine the definition of “good” or what is not sin. Isaiah wrote …  “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.”  - Isaiah 5:20 There is a consequence for that which will be paid in full.

Centuries later men continued to strive to be like God and define what is good and acceptable.  Paul wrote in the beginning of his letter to the Romans .. “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. … they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools… They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God's righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. – Romans 18,20-22,28-32  

Jesus accused the Church of Ephesus  of being lukewarm in Revelation 2.  They wanted to do both.  Embrace God and embrace the world.  When there is a clash of definitions of good, God is very often abandoned in favor of the culture.  God is rejected and the culture is embraced.  Those Christians who do it feel justified. It is the temptation of “Everyone is doing it”, so it must be OK. It is a great temptation.  I can remember moms used to respond to their teenagers. The teenager would say, “But, mom, everybody is doing it!” and the mom would say, “If everybody jumped off of a bridge would you do it?”  The temptation to be like everyone else is strong in our old nature.    Before Jesus, everyone was going to hell … today without Jesus .. they are still going to hell … that does not make it good.  God is the source of what is good .. His Word tells us what is sin and what is not.  The thing is, God is not going to change. His Spirit convicts us of sin unless we quench the Spirit.  

Listen, the consequence of standing on Truth and the Word, in the face of what our culture says is right, will likely be that you are castigated and rejected. You want to be like Jesus don’t you? You know how the world treated Him. Or are you only interested in the “good” parts. 

 If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father also. - John 15:18-27

We are in a spiritual battle that manifests itself in the way people live and believe.  My encouragement to you .. 
“Choose this day whom you will serve .. but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” - Joshua 24:15  

Make it more than a catch phrase or a plaque on your living room wall.  Make it a commitment … everyday … and more than that … do it!

Monday, January 14, 2019

How Do You Respond To Life With Emotion Or Devotion?

“But Peter declared, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the other disciples said the same.’ –  Matthew 26:35

The Apostle Peter thought that he could do a spiritual thing through the strength of his own will.  If you notice, so did the other disciples. When I re-read the passage I realized that most preachers focus on Peter and ignore that eleven others felt the same way. You know how that worked for him.  It’s easy to sit in judgement over Peter.  Shaking our knowing heads.  No way Peter! Who do you think you are?  And yet, we are guilty of the same thing.  Trying to be Christians … do the right thing … in the power of our flesh.  Letting our emotions be a poor substitute for the Spirit of God.  Thinking that our own plans are equal with the plans and will of God.  Essentially denying the sovereignty of God .. trying to be our own god.  What! No way you say.  Yes way!  Everything we do .. everything we say .. what we think .. what we want .. should be .. must be … in the context of whose we are and who God is.  Look … our life after our rebirth is a struggle.  Our old nature wants to rule and guide, but our new nature has another ruler and another guide.  In all fairness to Peter, he had not received the Holy Spirit so he lacked the power to be and do in a way that would overcome.  

 “‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of hosts.” – Zechariah 4:6

Read this account in Acts of Peter being confronted after he received the Spirit of God.

“The next day the rulers, the elders and the teachers of the law met in Jerusalem. Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas, John, Alexander and others of the high priest’s family. They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: “By what power or what name did you do this?” Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed.  Jesus is “‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’” – Acts 4:5-11

Is that the same guy that denied Jesus before people around a fire?  Yes and no.  It was Peter, but the new Peter not the old one.  Now Peter could have stood before those religious leaders, even with the Spirit in him and responded with his flesh.  If he had, he would have failed just like before.  The first time, Peter did not glorify God, he protected himself.  The second time, he did glorify God at the peril of prison or worse.  The difference was who he was trusting in.  It was not his emotion, it was his devotion.

 “Now this I know: The Lord gives victory to his anointed. He answers him from his heavenly sanctuary with the victorious power of his right hand. Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm.” – Psalm 20:6-8

That can be you as you face life each day.  You will always be tested to trust in yourself and not God.  To respond to a situation with emotion and not devotion.  If you are wondering where the victory in Jesus is, in daily living. That may be the root of your problem.  You are trying to do what only God can do through you.  Examine your heart.  Draw close to God through the Word and prayer.  Pick up your cross daily and follow Jesus.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Not Trusting God Comes Naturally

In my experience the greatest enemy facing me and my desire to follow God and yield to His leading and ways is, well…. It’s me.  Not trusting God is part of my old nature, trusting God is part of the new. I find it so easy to agree with God and acknowledge His precepts as right, and yet, when faced with life I turn to me and not Him.  The phrase Living by Faith is not meant to be a plaque on the living room wall … or merely a pleasantry that we acknowledge as being right.  To live by faith – in God – means to trust Him first. 

Living by faith is not like one of the bodily functions controlled by the autonomic nervous system .. like breathing and heart beats … something that you don’t have to think about … Living by faith is intentional … an act of the will.  If you are struggling in your faith, it is most likely that the source of the struggle is you .. not your circumstances.  Like the man who said to Jesus “Help me with my unbelief”  (Mark 9:21-24)  “Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?” “From childhood,” he answered. “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.” Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!””

In this life on Earth, we are not spared form hardship or heartache, but … we can endure whatever life brings our way if we will only have faith in the One who sent His Son … The One who created us from dust and breathed life into us.  Once in our natural birth and then again in our rebirth when He sealed us with His Spirit – the Breath of God.  I know that trusting God in the midst of the turmoil of life can be difficult .. maybe you think impossible … 

If Christians neglect the disciplines of the faith … if Sunday is the sum total of the time they spend with the Father, and maybe not even then  … then when the test comes . .and it will come, they will likely get a failing grade.  Not because God was not able to sustain them, but because they chose to ignore Him and trust themselves.  Why is something that seems so simple, so hard to do? Because it’s in the DNA of our old nature to trust ourselves even if it always leads to failure.  Remember that is the definition of insanity

Thursday, January 10, 2019

A Prayer Of Repentance – Take Me Back Lord Where I First Believed

OSWALD CHAMBERS – “God is saying to His people, “You are not in love with Me now, but I remember a time when you were.” He says, “I remember . . . the love of your betrothal . . .” (Jeremiah 2:2). Am I as filled to overflowing with love for Jesus Christ as I was in the beginning, when I went out of my way to prove my devotion to Him? Is that where I am now, or have I chosen man’s wisdom over true love for Him?” 

Andrae Crouch wrote the song “Take Me Back”  It is about someone who has let the fire go out in their relationship with Jesus.

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

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

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

Is your love for God still fresh, like the day you prayed to receive Christ as your Lord? Or, have you become casual in your relationship with Him. Do you still acknowledge His divine nature and His sacrifice and the unbelievable grace and mercy that God poured out on your life with unbridled devotion to Him? Or do you treat your relationship as “no big deal”, you are a Christian .. you love Jesus .. but you are no fanatic.

Maybe it is time to rekindle the fire that once burned so brightly in your life.  To remember just how magnificent your salvation is .. and how great our God is.

Will you make this your prayer of repentance today? Like the prodigal son to his father. It’s time to come home.

"Take me back, take me back dear Lord -- To the place where I first received you. Take me back, take me back dear Lord where I first believed.”

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

You Need Help To Live Your New Life

When John the Baptist was baptizing people in the Jordan River, it was a baptism of repentance.  The people had a desire to turn from their sins and draw close to God.  But that baptism did not bring salvation. It was not permanent. Baptize means to be identified with.  When we are baptized by the Holy Spirit we are identified, eternally, with Jesus.   (John 14:16-17) “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever;  that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.”  The Spirit was part of God’s plan.  

Something happened in the Garden, the spiritual nature in man, died.  To be properly restored to God, there needed to be a sacrifice and there needed to be a Spiritual rebirth, a restoration if you will.  While we walk this earth, we need the Spirit in us to maintain spiritual life which enables us to connect spiritually with God the Father.  By the Spirit, through the Son.  On the day of salvation, we are sealed by the Spirit.  (Ephesians 1:13-14) “In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.” 

 When Nicodemus came to Jesus seeking answers about eternal life, what did Jesus say to him?   (John 3:5-6) “Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”   Christian, do you understand what an amazing thing happened to you when you were born again?  What was broken in the Garden by Adam, was restored through the cross by Jesus, established by faith and sealed with the Spirit. Oh that we would live each day with an awareness of our new life.  Don’t be content with living the way you formerly did before Jesus. You have been saved to a much greater life.  But you can only live it successfully by the power of the Spirit in you.  He is our Helper.  

Why would God give us a Helper?  Because we need one.  Stop trying to live your new life on your own.  You were never intended to.  It’s an impossibility.  CHARLEY

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Abandoning The Things Of This World Starts In The Heart

OSWALD CHAMBERS “Our Lord’s teaching can be summed up in this: the relationship that He demands for us is an impossible one unless He has done a supernatural work in us. No amount of enthusiasm will ever stand up to the strain that Jesus Christ will put upon His servant. Only one thing will bear the strain, and that is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ Himself— a relationship that has been examined, purified, and tested until only one purpose remains and I can truly say, “I am here for God to send me where He will.”  

Many of Oswald Chamber’s devotions were derived by his wife from his lectures at a Bible College.  He was speaking to men and women who had been called by God to service beyond what most of us are called to after our conversion.  But, no matter the what or where of your calling, the principles are the same.  Even the person with only one spiritual gift and that gift they may consider to be almost non-essential (God does not agree with them by the way) faces the same challenges that every other saint faces in living their new life.  We are all called to abandon the same things, even though for most it will be an abandonment in the heart, but with a few, it will require physical abandonment.  It is one thing to say that you love God more than your family, it is quite another to leave your family and go on Mission for God.  It is one thing to say that you do not love the things of this world, it is quite another to sell your house and put your retirement at risk in order to go where God has said “Go!”.

I would find it very difficult to write these things to you if I had no intention of doing them myself.  When I was on staff with Promise Keepers in the ‘90s, there was a saying that was popular among us.  “You can’t teach what you don’t know, you can’t lead where you won’t go, and you can only recreate what you are.”  The secret to going is obedience and faith.  Faith comes from God and obedience comes from a “broken and contrite heart”, wholly submitted to the will of God.  Every step you take for God requires the power of God.  It is a glorious life .. living by faith and not by sight.  

The person whose abandonment is only in the heart is no less faithful than the one who must abandon physically as well in response to the call of God.  The point is being obedient to God no matter what He calls you to do. So when the Spirit whispers in your ear, “This is the way walk in it.”  (Isaiah 30:21) Walk on! … to the glory of God and in testimony to a world that needs to see Jesus. CHARLEY