Wait for a minute, an hour, maybe a day.

Do you sometimes think God is yelling at you? I do. I’m not sure that He’s necessarily angry. I think I’m just not listening. It usually comes up with a convergence of coincidences. Take yesterday for example.

I am sitting in line at Comeaux High waiting to pick up my grandson. I am also talking to a client on the phone. Suddenly there is a tap on my window and an irate woman angrily questions my ability to read and advises me I am blocking traffic. Knowing I can read, she advises me that the sign I am parked under advises no parking before 2:30. Of course, it’s after 2:30, but when you’re angry facts are irrelevant.

I didn’t respond. I would like to say it’s because I am a cool guy who thinks before he responds. Sadly, not always so. The truth is my client heard it all. I didn’t want to embarrass him further. I was caught by surprise and all my smart ass responses didn’t come to mind until later in the day. Don’t you hate it when that happens?

Now for the coincidences: Since then I have seen an article that suggests waiting a day before responding to things like Facebook posts. Then I was hit by an article that postured that we are creating Pharisees in our children when we communicate with them in anger instead of love.    At a men’s bible study on Tuesday, my brothers were sharing about how they had “short fuses” before they came to Jesus. I guess they are now all patient responding thinkers. 

I kept my mouth shut because I still have a short fuse.  See what I mean? God must have a message for me. Maybe it’s in the THINK advice shown above.

THINK is a set of filters we should apply to our talk before it comes out. 

True. Obviously we shouldn’t be speaking things that are not true. Perhaps less obviously we should NOT say things JUST BECAUSE they are true. Oh, admit it. We have all said, “But it’s true” usually after devastating someone with a hurtful blast. Just because it must be true before we say, it doesn’t mean we have to say it because it’s true. We need to apply other filters.

Helpful. Before saying things shouldn’t we be sure it will help. It’s one of the reasons we need to delay before speaking. Determining whether something will be helpful to a friend or in a situation requires some analysis. 

Inspiring. Another way of putting this one, but it doesn’t start with “I” is to make sure what we say lifts up and doesn’t tear down. Scripture commands us to encourage one another. If what we want to say isn’t encouraging, why are we feeling the compulsion to say it?

Necessary. If we just applied this one filter we would speak a lot less. We would then become known as great listeners and even eloquent speakers. Most of what we say isn’t necessary. We love to hear ourselves talk, but that doesn’t mean every word out of our mouth is a gem. Folks aren’t writing down everything we utter. Want to be a blessing. Most of the time, just shut up. It’s better to say one true helpful, inspiring and necessary things than a thousand babbles. 

Kind.  This filter doesn’t affect so much whether we should speak, but how. Some of us can speak necessary truth in a helpful and inspiring way and still devastate folks because our words are like bulls in china shops. Think about someone you love to talk to. Chances are they really don’t say much and what they do say is delivered with love and gentleness. Fury, anger and meanness doesn’t positively change lives, only love does that. 

Okay, God I hear you. I going to try to wait long enough to THINK before I respond. I’ve already tried to convince others to do the same.  That was easy. Now the hard part: doing it myself.

 

Close Encounters of the Divine Kind

One of my favorite movies is Close Encounters of the Third Kind.  The title of this 1977 classic comes from a classification of close encounters with aliens. The third kind denotes human observations of aliens. Actually observing an alien would be a really big deal. As far as I know, it’s only happened in movies, yet millions believe in creatures from “somewhere else.” 

I don’t know anyone who has seen God, yet I completely believe in Him. I know that many saw Jesus, the God-man, but I haven’t gotten a chance to chat with any of them and I haven’t seen Jesus myself, yet.

My belief in God is certainly largely faith-based, but not entirely. Although I haven’t seen Him, I have had many close encounters. I didn’t always realize I was having an meet with the divine while it was happening. My encounter perception seems to work better through the rear view mirror. Looking back I can see many divine interventions in my life. I have had conditions cured. Only God could have rescued me from certain bad decisions. I have had moments of joy so intense that they were unearthly, or more precisely divine. 

I have also had moments so dark and low that my passage through them is evidence of an encounter with God. God has been there, most intensely on the mountain tops and in the deepest darkest valleys.

There are many more, much less dramatic, encounters with Him. They can happen in flashes through the smile of a loved one or a glimpse of His creation that screams, “Enjoy me. I’m proof of the creator.” Sometimes it’s just the warmth of invisible loving arms surrounding and eliminating the chill of a bad day or a tough moment. It can happen when a pain suddenly stops or frightening loneliness unexpectedly vanishes. 

Our God is so great and glorious that a Divine Encounter of the Third Kind, an actual sighting, is more than we can handle. It will not always be so. One day we will see Him face to face. Can we even imagine what that will be like, the first personal and permanently transforming Divine Encounter of the Third Kind?

K-Love

I love all kinds of music. I credit my god mother. When I was a kid I would spend nights at her house. She had a phonograph and  records of all kinds of music. I would listen to all of them and grew to love them all. For me, music is powerful. I listen to it day and night. It makes my exercise tolerable. It helps put me to sleep and deals with my stress. It helps me keep focused. I still listen to all kinds but mostly “Christian” music, new and old. That keeps me focused on Jesus. I think such music and radio like K-Love is the best hope for “Christianity.” Consider this from an article I recently read:

1. Church Attendance Is Now a Fringe Activity

Except for a few U.S. communities (deep in the Bible Belt), nobody asks which church you attend anymore, because the assumption is you don’t go to church.

Increasingly, church attendance is a fringe activity.

2. “All Welcome” Means Nothing

Almost every dying church has an “All Welcome” sign nobody takes seriously. About the only way non-Christians will show up at Christian churches is via personal invitation. Regardless of what any sign might say, the real welcome comes from you.

3. Regular Church Attendance Is Irregular

Culture has changed so radically in the last decade or two that even committed Christians aren’t in church as regularly as they used to be. (Here are 10 reasons why.)

 

4. A Band, Lights and Haze Are Traditional

Many ‘contemporary’ churches sound like they’re programmed for 50-year-olds. (Since I’m nearly 68 that’s not bad for me :)) 

The way we do worship music in the ‘contemporary’ church is not that contemporary. In fact, the band, guitar, keyboard and lights is the new traditional ‘rock’ worship.

The culture has moved on to other music; hip hop, R&B, DJ, pop and so much more.

 

5. The Show No Longer Captivates

Bad preaching and bad music can kill a church, but great preaching and great music don’t automatically generate church growth.

6. Church Members Follow a Dozen Ministry Leaders

Today many Christians actively listen to, read and follow more than a few ministry leaders, other than the pastor of a church they attend, subscribing to their podcast, reading their blogs and otherwise tracking with their church.

7. God Has Become Generic

As the Barna Group’s research has shown, even though most Americans self-identify as Christian, almost 50 percent function as post-Christian in their practices and beliefs. In a post-Christian culture, God is generic. Jesus is specific, and personal.

8. People Don’t Know What They’re Converting To

Most people don’t know what it means to be a Christian?

It’s very difficult to become a Christian if you don’t even understand what that means.

9. Background Understanding Is Often Zero

Post-Christian people have very little Christian background from which to draw.
 

10. No Church Can Be Better Than Some Church

Our culture has gone through a few decades of people leaving the church. But we’re moving in away from a generation who are done with church to a generation that doesn’t know church at all. Maybe that’s a good thing. They have no bad experiences to overcome. They just have no church experience at all.

Things are changing. There are some common things which seem to be working, that seem to be drawing people to Jesus. Music is one of those and the simple message of K-Love that is to be positive and encouraging seems to work. They don’t do sermons or teachings. They do meet people where they hurt. They share short testimonies of folks whose lives were changed by meeting Jesus. The music they play seems to be non-offensive to non-believers yet draws people to Jesus.

Maybe that’s more like we should be. Meeting people where they are. They clearly aren’t interested or feel welcome in our churches. They may eventually, but first they have to be comfortable with us and curious about changed lives. Maybe we need to be more positive and encouraging and less preachy and judgmental. Maybe powerful music can be part of that. Isn’t it worth a try? Most of what we are doing now isn’t working.

 

African Chicken Farm

 

Jonathan and Megan Reaux are members of my church. They have served as missionaries in Africa. I would like to recommend a ministry that needs help. I have borrowed extensively from one of their recent news letters. We have arranged for online donations to this ministry if you are interested. Follow this link and select “Africa Chicken Ranch.” Okay so it’s not a ranch, but read what follows and you will get the idea. What follows is from the Reaux’s newsletter.

Pastor Petro is a good friend we’ve come to know during our time in Africa. We spent a lot of time with him and his ministry in Olkolili, Tanzania, and have come to respect his dedication to God and the souls that God has placed around him. 

 
He has such a tender heart and a passion to improve lives. Not only is he a pastor of a great church, but he has a school which has over a hundred children, who are either orphans or children of very poor families. Before we returned to America, we helped as much as we could by donating books and our car. They were incredibly grateful, but their expenses go beyond what 1 family can do. They have government fees, teacher salaries, student meals, and more to pay for every month. 

I’ve been in contact with Pastor Petro and others in the states, and we’ve come up with a plan to build a poultry farm near the school property, that will bring in supplemental income as well as provide meals for the school children. The income from this poultry farm will help to fund the operation of the school long into the future. Pastor Petro has met with successful poultry farmers around Tengeru, where we lived while in Tanzania, and they have agreed to help him with advice in starting this new venture. NOTE: With initial donations, the construction has already begun. 

To get this new operation will cost him around $6,000 U.S.D. This will pay for the first 1,000 chickens, their immunizations, and building materials for housing. However, this is money that they do not have. So we want to bless them. It is a gift that will continue to give for years to come, and will enable Pastor Petro’s ministry to be self-sufficient.

You can visit Pastor Petro’s personal facebook page here, and even send him a message. However, his english is not the best. Send him this message, and you’ll make his day; “Mungu akubariki sana!”
Translation: God bless you very much! Here’s the link to give again. You can pay by credit card or echeck. Thanks so much. 

Six months post flood. 

It’s been six months since the great flood of 2016. I’m still struggling to restore my property but am so blessed compared to many who are still not in their homes and may be victims of scam artists. If you need prayer, a shoulder to cry on or legal help. Please let me know. You aren’t alone or forgotten. Even if you feel like it. 
Nick. 

Tired of all the Fighting

I saw a video recently in which college students, some of them political science majors, could not correctly identify photographs of Joe Biden or Ronald Reagan. I was initially amazed at such ignorance. After further thought I believe the ignorance was blissful.

Are we really surprised that this generation has no interest in politics and are blissful in their ignorance? Political science education in high school and college is incredibly weak. Perhaps more importantly, statesmanship seems dead. Partisanship is everywhere with no one seemingly able to agree on anything.  The U. S. Senate is no longer a congenial club. Truth is rare and relative. News has to be filtered to separate the real from the “fake.”

I have taken to unfollowing Facebook “friends” who insist on posting principally politically related “news” and opinions. The posts are often so slanted that they bear little resemblance to what really happened or to what is actually going on.  I recognize I have been guilty of the same in the past. I repent and watching others who haven’t just is not worth the aggravation. I am trying to wean myself from television news. I thought things would calm down after the election but it’s only gotten worse. 

It’s not much better when trying to follow developments in the church. Christianity seems to have become so personality and big program based with no unity and, in fact, no restraint in criticising Followers who don’t follow precisely in our steps.

Are we called to be fighters? Aren’t we supposed to be engaged in the “good” fight? I think the answer is “no.’ I will be filling in for Pastor Terrell Reed on Sunday at 9 a.m. at Amana Christian Fellowship in Maurice. I will be discussing why I am so fed up and what I intend to do about it. If you can’t make it, maybe I’ll blog about it next week, but don’t take a chance; by then I could be banned from the internet. 

Be blessed. 

Bible Reading Challenge

I don’t read the Bible every day. I haven’t been following a plan for regular Bible reading. That changes as of February 1. February isn’t too late for a resolution, is it? I have started a plan to read through the New Testament in a year.

If you are interested in doing the same let me recommend YouVersion. It’s the best bible app and is available for most computers and smart phones for free. It offers many different plans and the ability to share with other users of the app. They are offering a 21 day challenge now to get folks, like you and me, started on regular bible reading. 

 My first two days of reading have been great. I’m in Matthew watching Jesus spar with the Pharasees. Yesterday he asked them if they had read the scriptures. What a burn for a group who prided themselves on their bible knowledge. Not a bad place to start for someone who needs to spend more time in scripture.

Today I encountered the famous “Give unto Caesar” quote. I got a fresh perspective today. The quote has been used to encourage folks to pay their taxes, which, of course we should. But think about it. Jesus said to give Caesar what is his and give God what is His. Isn’t everything God’s? Rich folks and government think they “own” but they really don’t. Everything belongs to our God.

Isn’t it time to start your Bible reading plan? Who wants to be like the Pharasees? 

Love That Lasts

In May, Rosemary and I will have been married for forty-seven years. I love her as much as ever. I guess you can safely say that it’s a “Love That Lasts.” It hasn’t always been easy. We can relate to others who have lost a child, been falsely accused, had financial problems and have had a hand in raising grandchildren. I’m not sure I’ve learned any secrets in the process.

The most recent issue of Covenant Spotlight is “Love That Lasts” and would help anyone struggling to achieve long-lasting love. 

The greatest love of all is God’s love for you. Page 4. Most of us dream of “finding love.” It’s really right in front of us. “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” Jesus did that for us. You have  got to love that.

Include Christ. Page 6. Marriage is a covenant between imperfects. Our spouse was never meant to fulfill all our needs. Don’t put that burden on anybody, except Jesus. A successful marriage is a three cord affair, with Jesus as the third and binding cord.

The “D” word is not an option. Page 8. I know someone who on their wedding day had doubts. She was told, “Don’t worry. If it doesn’t work out, you can always divorce.” Wow. What a way to start. Times will get tough and thoughts of giving up will arise. At the core, there’s got to be a commitment that divorce is not an option.

Check with experts. Page 10. There are marriage “experts” who have been divorced multiple times. Seems to me those are divorce experts. Why not spend some time listening to the long time marrieds? “Seek wisdom by spending time with the elderly and ASKING them questions.” If you will settle for the almost elderly and almost wise, contact me. 

Experience His Love First. Page 11. Experience the love of Jesus first. Loved people, love people. We first need to know the love of Christ and His pure love for us to love others.

Having sex with someone you aren’t married to is not okay. Page 12. My wife was my first and only and I was hers. Just saying. 

Marriage is designed to make us holy…not necessarily happy. Page 14. I’ll let you contemplate that one on your own.

It’s not about you. page 15. Life’s most important and most difficult lesson.

Five Keys that Unlock Your Marriage Potential. Pages 16 and 17. Why wouldn’t you read this? 

“There are no shades of grey in marriage. That’s why the groom wears black and the bride wears white.” Page 19. Maybe my best article opening ever. 

Sharing God’s love in tangible ways is how we love God’s way.  Page 21. Love – the only thing that grows by giving it away. 

Love originates with God and without Him, we are incapable of loving others. Page 23. ‘Nuff said.

Never underestimate the everyday kiss goodbye and grueling day-to-day grind as the most romantic romance. Page 24. I can say “Amen” to that.

If I haven’t convinced you that you need to pick up the latest Covenant Spotlight, I give up. Here’s where to get one. You will love, “Love That Lasts.” I did and I’m almost a wise expert.