Devotions

Author Archives: Chuck Lindsey

The Final Four

Ten Commandments | Devotion 6 : The Final Four
Pastor Chuck Lindsey

“You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.” Exodus 20:14-17 (NKJV)

Commands are everywhere: “Hardhat required past this point,” “Seatbelt required,” “No texting and driving,” “Do not operate a motor vehicle while taking this medication,” and “Do not touch this or it will kill you and hurt the whole time it’s doing so.” These kinds of rules are in place for obvious reasons. If you go against them, it might not go well for you.

The Law of God was put in place in the same way. They are not just what God wants us to do; they are what is best for us to do. The person who has false gods in their lives violates the first and second commands and will find themselves owned by those “gods.” The person who ignores the command against murder will obviously bring great consequences upon their lives. The person who dishonors their father and mother will bring great brokenness into their families. Ignoring any of the “10” is not only sinful but will also have natural ramifications in a person’s life.

The last four commands are perhaps most obvious in their consequences.

The command to not commit adultery is protection against great harm. It is a command that, if followed, will keep a mountain of pain and trouble from crashing down on us. When followed, it allows a marriage to thrive and become the blessing to both the husband and wife that it is intended to be.

The command not to steal not only keeps a person from prison, but also protects us from the sneakiness, lying, manipulation, and continual discontentment that accompany those caught up in this sin.

The ninth command protects us from becoming liars. To ignore it is to become a person who cannot be trusted.

The command to not covet is a protective command to be content and happy with what we have. What a protection this is to the person who is careful to obey it in a world that knows nothing of the simple joy of not needing anything. Following this often results in thankfulness in our lives. Ignoring it causes a person to chase and spend their lives on all the wrong things.

Following the commands of God is not only right, in terms of right and wrong, but it is also the “right” way to live life. To ignore any command of God is to bring great pain and trouble into our lives. So, God set out rules for our protection and blessing. Our inability to keep these commands perfectly (as God requires) shows us that we are lawbreakers and reveals our need to be saved. Therefore, like everything in Scripture, the Law of God ultimately points us to our Lord Jesus Christ to find all that we need.

The Gospel

Sequel | Devotion #2: The Gospel
Pastor Chuck Lindsey

“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.”  Genesis 3:15 (NKJV)

Though it was 20 years ago, I remember the day like it was yesterday. That day I purchased my wife’s engagement ring. It was the largest sum of money, until that point, that I had ever spent on anything in my life. As I type this, I can see it. I was up early that morning with excitement. Six months work was coming to its culmination with this purchase. I could not wait! I was at the bank when it opened that morning withdrawing the cash needed for my purchase. I carefully chose the jewelry store where I was certain I would find “the one.” As I walked into the store, I was met by a salesperson who directed me to the engagement rings. I scanned the rows and surveyed the options, scrutinized each piece until I found what I knew was the right one for my bride-to-be. Then the salesperson did something that I will never forget. He did not just pull that ring out and set it on the glass for me to see. He did not just pull it out and hand it to me. No, he first reached into the drawer below him and took out a deep black suede pad that he set in front of me. He carefully took the ring from the case, turned to a machine that quickly cleaned the ring, dried it, polished it, and turned back to me. He did all of this until, at last, he set that sparkling ring onto that dark black suede pad. He knew what he was doing. Here was this beautiful, shining, sparkling heirloom set against the deepest black, void of the suede pad in front of me. The contrast was stark. It was as though I was looking at a star in the night sky.

This has always been a picture, for me, of the Gospel.

The word Gospel in the Greek language means “good news.” In Jewish culture, if you had good news to share with someone you would say, “I have ‘Gospel’ to share with you, we have become engaged!” Or someone might say, “Gospel! You do not owe any taxes this year!” But for good news to appear to be as good of news as it is, it must be accompanied by the bad news. So, for instance, if someone just comes up to you and says, “I am not sick!” you might think, “Well, ok, thank you for that information (I did not ask for it!).” But then you learn that they had gone to the doctor a year prior, and a blood test determined that there was cancer. Now, when they say, “I am not sick!” it means something does it not?

The same is true with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is truly Good News. It is the best news. But it is only good news for a person who understands the bad news. It is not enough to say, “God loves you” if the person does not know why God should not love them. It is not enough to tell a person that they should “trust Jesus, follow Him, and give their lives to Him” if they do not know what will happen if they do not. If they do not know the bad news, the good news does not seem like good news. It just seems like one option among many.

So the Gospel is what that salesperson did that day. It is a presentation of the good against the bad. It is the dark black backdrop of our sinful condition before a Holy God. The bad news is that we are all sinners. The bad news is that God demands us to be sinless to enter Heaven (yes, you read that correctly), the bad news is that there is not one person who can make themselves sinless and not a sinner. The bad news gets even worse when you consider that this sin has separated us from God and it will continue to separate us from Him forever unless somehow it is removed. However, since man cannot remove his sins or to make himself sinless and not a sinner, we are stuck. We will be judged as sinners, condemned to eternity in Hell apart from God because of the wrong we have done. That is the bad news. That is the deep black cloth that shadows our lives.

But here comes “the ring” if you will. Though man could not do anything, God did. Man could do nothing to pay for sin. Man could do nothing to make himself sinless. Though man could do nothing at all, God did by coming and dying in our place. He took our sin upon Himself, as though He was the sinner. Then He was judged as a sinner in our place. Then He was condemned. He was separated from God the Father, and then He died. It was all for us. He served my sentence so that I do not have to. He paid my debt so that I now owe nothing. He was separated so that I never have to be. That is good news!

See today the black cloth of sin that shadowed our lives, and that would have separated us from Him forever in Hell. Now see the jewel of God’s amazing grace. It is the sparkling ring that is His Gospel, given to us. This is the Good News of what God has done.

The Forging Process

Grow | Devotion #1: The Forging Process
Chuck Lindsey | Reach Pastor

“Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:11 (NKJV)

A few years ago, on Christmas morning, my wife accomplished something pretty amazing. She finally, for the first time in our nearly 20 years of married life, gave me a gift I never expected to get. She was so excited that morning to set in front of me a heavy and oddly shaped package to open. Each tear of the brightly colored paper revealed more and more of a small anvil and a blacksmith’s hammer. She knew that, for many years, I had a desire to learn the lost craft of blacksmithing and so she apparently filed that away in her mind and waited for her moment to surprise me.

It may sound strange to hear it, but I have learned many spiritual lessons from the art of blacksmithing. Most principles are specifically related to the biblical concepts of growth, correction, and discipleship. Each piece in the blacksmith’s shop paints a significant spiritual picture. Consider the mighty anvil; for instance, it is a great picture of God’s Word, the Bible. The bedrock promises and the instruction of the Word of God cannot change or be moved. The same is true of an anvil; it does not move. It is so strong, so stable, so sure, that it forces all other metal to conform to it. The Bible is like this. It does not change; it cannot be broken or moved. It is sure, stable, and strong. As our lives come into contact with it, we are changed more and more into the image of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Of course, the blacksmith’s hammer is the primary tool a smith will use to shape any metal. Each blow of the hammer changes that steel into what the artist sees. He has a goal in mind, and he knows how to get it there. He sees in that raw metal what no one else sees. He sees what that steel can be, and it is something that steel will never become on its own. It will never get there apart from his hand. So, he uses his hammer to get it there. The blacksmith’s hammer is a beautiful picture of the Holy Spirit. Our Lord uses His Spirit as the hammer in our lives, against the anvil of His Word to lead, teach, correct, guide, encourage, and comfort. In short, the Holy Spirit shapes us into what He sees and wants us to be.

The next spiritual picture is that of the furnace. When I want to change that metal, I must heat it up. This is where the furnace is essential. It is an intense process! The furnace often exceeds temperatures of 3,000 degrees! However, without the heat of the furnace, the metal simply does not move. It dents and dings and if I continue to hit it with the hammer, it actually begins to develop microscopic cracks in its structure until it finally breaks. But, when I use the furnace to heat the steel, every hammer blow moves the steel like soft clay. It is truly amazing to watch something so hard be softened by the heat of the furnace and move into the shape you desire. The furnace is essential to the shaping process of the steel. The same is true of God’s discipline. It is essential in our lives. The furnace of God’s correction, teaching, and discipline is used in our lives to shape us. Through the furnace of His discipline, He softens the hardest of hearts and makes them moldable in His hands, and we need it to move, grow, and become what our Lord wants us to be. We need the furnace of God’s discipline.

There are many other tools a blacksmith employs to accomplish his task. We could talk about each one, but at the end of the day, the goal is always simply to shape that metal into what he sees. That is our Lord’s purpose, too. He is the Master Blacksmith. He already sees what He wants to do in you and He knows how to do that in your life. His goal will always be to shape us into the image of our Lord Jesus and so He uses the furnace of discipline to soften us, the hammer of His Spirit to shape us, and the anvil of His Word to make us.

Reach

Reach | Devotion #6: Reach
Chuck Lindsey | Reach Pastor

We say the word “reach,” but what does that actually mean? For me, a picture is helpful. When I hear the word “reach” my mind immediately sees the Olympic runner stretching forward with everything he has as he crosses the finish line. On the heels of that, I see the picture of someone who has dropped something just out of reach, who leans and stretches to try to get that item. This is Reach. It means that we use whatever methods we can, to go beyond the walls of our churches, to share the Gospel with lost people. We want to reach them. Reach is “leaning forward” (if you will); it is a collective “stretching out” to do what Jesus told us to do, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15 NKJV).

If I were to try to condense a “how to” on reaching lost people, it would come down to two main things: Knowing the Gospel and loving people. 

Know the Gospel – Do you know the Gospel? In short, the Gospel is the message of what God has done to save lost people. Do you know it? Can you explain it? Can you walk through it from memory? If not, I would encourage you to practice this! It might be an obvious statement, but how can we expect God to use us to share a message we do not know and cannot explain? 

A good place to start is by memorizing what is perhaps the best-known verse in the Bible, John 3:16. The whole of the Gospel is encapsulated in this single verse. There we see the love of God for sinful humanity, a love that caused Him to send His Son to a cross for our sins so that we could be with Him forever. The best part, it is simply by belief (not by works!). Do this, grab a sheet of paper (or your phone notes app) and write the verse down at the top of a piece of paper, read it, read it out loud, and then read it phrase by phrase. Next, write down each phrase in the verse (“For God,” “so loved,” “the world”) and what it means (Who loved? God did. Who did He love? The world/people. What did He do? “He sent His Son”). Next, ask a friend or loved one to let you talk through it a few times with them. This will really help to cement it in your mind. Have your friend “quiz” you, ask them to throw one of the phrases at you (i.e. “that whosoever”) and explain it. Peter said it this way, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15 NKJV). Once you are able to walk through it confidently, you are equipped. 

The next step is to love people – I am not talking about a “yeah, I love people” kind of thing. I am talking about a deep, broken-hearted, cry from your heart to reach the lost. This is an absolute game changer. John Hyde demonstrated what I am talking about when he famously prayed, “Give me souls God or I die!” The person that genuinely prays this is going to find God using them to do what they are asking Him to do. How do we come to love people more than we love ourselves, our comfort, or our priorities? It happens, first and foremost, by a humble, repentant confession to God that we do not do these things. It is an admission to our Lord that I do not love people the way I should and asking for His forgiveness for this. That is step one. Nothing happens until that does. Next, we must ask Him to fill us with His Spirit, for the Scriptures tell us that the “fruit of the Holy Spirit is love.” Ask Him to fill you with a supernatural love for those who are lost in your life. Next, very practically (do not tune out here) begin praying for the people He brings to mind. Pray that their eyes will be opened, their heart will be softened, and that they will turn to Jesus. Pray daily, specifically, and faithfully. As you do this, you will see “the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:5 NKJV).

Lastly, we must actually take a step! I have heard a saying for many years now, and it goes like this: “Share the Gospel, and if necessary use words.” I hate that saying! It is annoying because it is used as an excuse to only “live out the Gospel” rather than actually sharing the Gospel. How about both? There comes a moment when we must open our mouths, trust God for the words, and walk someone through what Jesus Christ has done for them. The person who has taken the time to equip themselves with the Gospel and is passionately praying that God will use them, will find that He still uses people to rescue people. Just consider for a moment what it will mean to you to be in Heaven and have our Lord Jesus point to one person, two people, a family member, or a crowd, and say, “They are here because you asked Me to use you. They are here because you prayed. They are here because you shared My message with them.” It will be joy eternal! 

Christopher

The Gift of Grace | Devotion #3: Christopher
Chuck Lindsey | Reach Pastor

He was 26 years old, tall, thin, had sandy blonde hair, blue eyes, and was wearing standard issue prison “blues.” His name was Christopher. He looked more “normal” (whatever that means) than the inmates I had spoken to already that day. When I shook his hand, he smiled warmly and said, “Thank you for coming today.”

We were there to share the love of Jesus through the message of the Gospel, and I had no idea how long I had before the prison yard would be closed. I got straight to the point and said, “Christopher, do you know about the forgiveness that Jesus offers?” The next five minutes changed my life. That is how long it took him to tell me his story. He began, “Yes sir, I do know about forgiveness.” I simply asked, “How?” He answered, “Six years ago, I went to a party, drank too much, and got in my car to go home. On the way, I hit and killed two young kids. I got fifteen years.” He continued, “I served four years at Ross Correctional, and while I was there I got a letter from the 16-year-old sister of one of the kids that I killed. In that letter, she told me that she forgives me for what I did and that her family forgives me. Then she asked if she could come and visit me.” I was stunned and said nothing. He went on, “It took me a while to write back to her, but I finally did knowing that I deserved whatever she needed to say to me. A few days later I got a note from her telling me when she would be visiting.” 

“Wow” is all I could say. Then he said, “I was really nervous that day, did not sleep, and could not eat. When I walked in and saw her, we both began to cry, and she hugged me. She told me again that they forgive me. She told me that her parents want to come to visit, but could not do it yet. Then she told me about what Jesus had done for me.” I could not speak. He went on, “I accepted Jesus with her that day in the visiting room.” Then he looked me in the eyes and said, “So, yes sir, I do know what forgiveness is.” I quietly said, “That is amazing.” He said, “I know. For a 16-year-old girl to come to a place like that, to visit someone like me, I could not believe it.” He then told me how the sister and father had visited him every other week for the last two years and that just a few days ago the mother came for the first time.

I was stunned when he told me what this dear mother said. He said, “She hugged me. She told me she forgave me. Then she held my hand and said, ‘When this first happened, we wanted you to pay. We never wanted you to get out. But now, we have been praying for you, and we do not want you to serve your whole sentence. So we are trying to talk to anyone we can to ask for an early release for you. When you get out, we want you to know that we will be your family.’” At this point, I must have been visibly overwhelmed because he looked at me, gave me a moment to digest, and then continued by saying, “It is not fair! But I know the Lord loves me like that. So, because of this, I will spend whatever years I have left in here trying to tell all these other guys about His forgiveness.” 

At that, the whistles blew, and the yard was closed. We hugged, and I walked away rejoicing in the amazing grace and love of our God. To this day, I am still in awe at the love of God that compelled a 16-year-old girl to not only forgive but to go into a level three prison visiting room to share the Gospel with the young man who took her brother’s life. I am amazed at the power of the Gospel to reach and to rescue the lost. I am so thankful for that family and for what they have allowed Jesus to do in and through them. Though I have never seen him since (trust me I have looked), I am thankful he, I, and his “new” family will rejoice together in Heaven one day. What a gift we have in the Gospel!

“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.” Ephesians 1:7 (NKJV)

“And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32 (NKJV)



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