It’s Not our Calling to Do Everything That Needs Doing

On the Saturday following a Kairos weekend a group of the volunteers returns to Angola for a one day training session. During the session we teach the men the details of holding a prayer and share meeting. Since the establishment and success of the weekly prayer and share meetings is the purpose of Kairos, these Saturday meetings are important. Not all 40 plus members of the team go back for these Saturday sessions. Yesterday about 12 went. I normally try to go but did not this Saturday. My decision to return is usually based on a combination of sense of duty and emotion. A bond  is established with the men on the weekend and you know they look forward to seeing team members again; on the other hand the preceding week you have been away from family and there is an emotional tug to stay home. Similarly, a sense of duty tells you to go to the training; but an equally strong sense tells you to stay and take care of responsibilities at home. If we are operating “In Christ” we avoid these dilemmas. With confidence we hear Him tell us the path to take.
“Now we believe. Jesus says – Do you? The time is coming when you will leave Me alone. Many a Christian worker has left Jesus Christ alone and gone into work from a sense of duty, or from a sense of need arising out of his own particular discernment. The reason for this is the absence of the resurrection life of Jesus. The soul has got out of intimate contact with God by leaning to its own religious understanding.”
Let me give another example. I feel a sense of duty to attend every event sponsored by the church. To do so would make me a great church member but would not necessarily mean I am always doing what Christ would have me to do. Often our sense of being “conflicted” arises from us trying to operate from emotion and sense of duty. We should be “steadily referring everything back to Him; instead of this we make our common – sense decisions and ask God to bless them.”
“We are not told to walk in the light of conscience or of a sense of duty, but to walk in the light as God is in the light.” Conscience and emotion are only rough guides. They can be terribly unreliable. We can dull them both by our past responses to situations. For example, if we watch enough television our standard for what is acceptable soon slips. If we respond emotionally to every plea for our attention, we become exhausted workers and too tired to do what God truly wants us to do.
Learning to operate “In Christ” isn’t easy. It’s a minute by minute struggle. But it is the only path that leads to complete fulfillment of our purpose and a life pleasing to Our Lord. 
Place aside emotion and duty and listen for His voice and
Be completely blessed.
Nick

Impoverished Ministry of Jesus

“The well is deep” – and a great deal deeper than the Samaritan woman knew!
During the recent Kairos retreat weekend, I had a man sitting next to me who was suffering terribly. He had been in an accident which injured his leg. The principal artery was damaged and blood flow to the toes of his feet was limited. He was in constant pain, waking up at night in tears according to another resident of his dorm. Yet he was determined to make it through the weekend. I suggested he simply sit there and not try to stand when we did or move to chapel when we did, but he insisted that he wanted everything the weekend had to offer. 
I prayed that he would have the strength to make it through. During the singing of Jesus on the Mainline, one of the verses tells us :”If you need a healing, tell Him what you want.” The man raised his hands straight up to heaven and by the look on his face it was obvious first that he was telling Him what he wanted and then that he received it. His pain vanished. He came in the following morning dancing. He was pain free the rest of the weekend. 
“We impoverish His ministry the moment we forget He is Almighty; the impoverishment is in us, not in Him. We will come to Jesus as Comforter or as Sympathizer, but we will not come to Him as Almighty. ” I wanted Jesus to comfort, sympathize and love the man. There wasn’t enough in me to call for his healing. I don’t know why. I have seen Jesus heal before. I guess this man’s injury was too great. There was talk of amputating part of his limb. For me God could handle headaches, but not this? 
“The reason some of us are such poor specimens of Christianity is because we have no Almighty Christ. We have Christian attributes and experiences, but there is no abandonment to Jesus Christ. When we get into difficult circumstances, we impoverish His ministry by saying – “Of course He cannot do any thing,” and we struggle down to the deeps and try to get the water for ourselves. Beware of the satisfaction of sinking back and saying – “It can’t be done”; you know it can be done if you look to Jesus. The well of your incompleteness is deep, but make the effort and look away to Him.”
He is deeper and mightier than our need. Trust Him. He is almighty  and you will
Be blessed.

Nick

In God We Don’t Always Trust

I don’t trust God in all things. For me it’s mostly money things where I have problems trusting God. I don’t know why He has always been faithful. However, when money problems come up my response always is: “What am I going to do?” I assume that it is my burden to fix it.
OC says: “I am impressed with the wonder of what God says, but He cannot expect me really to live it out in the details of my life!” When it comes to facing Jesus Christ on His own merits, our attitude is one of pious superiority – Your ideals are high and they impress us, but in touch with actual things, it cannot be done. It is all very well to say “Trust in the Lord,” but a man must live. 
OC has an interesting theory about this phenomena. “None of us ever had misgivings about ourselves; we know exactly what we cannot do, but we do have misgivings about Jesus. We are rather hurt at the idea that He can do what we cannot.
That’s why He has us face problems. A real crisis occurs only when we get to the point where we recognize we can do nothing. It is true that we can never do anything on our own, without Him. But for the apparently simple things we  believe that we can. It’s not really that we are trusting God for the little things; we actually are trusting ourselves saying, “Don’t worry about this Jesus. I got it.”  It is only when we are faced with what we recognize as insurmountable problems that we consider we need help from above. It is all part of the process of placing us in a position of complete trust. Trust in the little things and the big ones.

At some point we may finally realize that our trust in Him needs to  be complete, every problem every day. Then we will be

Completely blessed.

Nick

Untitled

To be called a martyr these days is generally not a good thing. It usually means that someone thinks you complain too much;  that you are a great or constant sufferer (complainer). But to be a martyr is a great thing: 1 : a person who voluntarily suffers death as the penalty of witnessing to and refusing to renounce a religion, or 2 : a person who sacrifices something of great value and especially life itself for the sake of principle.
 

That seems to be what OC is talking about when he refers to being “broken bread and pour out wine.” As he says today “I don’t care whether you love me or not, I am willing to destitute myself completely, not merely for your sakes, but that I may get you God.” 

Ideally, we pour out our lives loving folks not because they love us but because God has loved us. We call that kind of love “Agape.” But the truth is we want to and need to feel we are loved and if we say we don’t care whether we are loved, we lie. 

  

One of the sad truths of life is that often we are loved, we just don’t know it; and we love others but they don’t know it. The problem is that we have different ways of expressing our love and we are so constructed that different things make us feel loved.

 

 

Speaking of “love”, this week on K-Love (the Christian radio, locally 90.9 FM) during the morning show, there has been a focus on The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts by Gary Chapman.. 

The premise of the book is that there are essentially five different ways that we love and receive love. Chapman calls them “love languages.” If you know your own love language, you can better understand yourself. If you know another’s language you can better express love to them. There is a quiz you can take to help you identify your language. In simplified form, by selecting which of the following is true for you, you can identify your love language. It turns out most of us have a primary and secondary love language. Taking the quiz was enlightening and helpful for me.  Take the quiz here.

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  • I feel especially loved when people express how grateful they are for me, and for the simple, everyday things I do.
  • I feel especially loved when a person gives me undivided attention and spends time alone with me.
  • I feel especially loved by someone who brings me gifts and other tangible expressions of love.
  • I feel especially loved when someone pitches in to help me, perhaps by running errands or taking on my household chores.
  • I feel especially loved when a person expresses feelings for me through physical contact.

While it is true, that we should be willing to be “broken bread and pour out wine” for our Savior. And that in doing so we should not expect anything back from those for whom we sacrifice. It is also true that it is a sad tragedy when we miss conveying and receiving love not because there is no love but because of a language barrier.



Take the quiz. Discover how you love and how you are built to be loved and feel love when it’s there and be broken bread and poured out wine the rest of the time and in all times,
Be blessed.
Nick

We need to get off our High Horse

Yesterday we had some much needed yard work done. I contracted with someone a friend recommended. He showed up with two “mexicans” who began to tear through our messed up flower beds like Sherman took Atlanta. I brought the guys coffee a couple of times and fixed a big pot of gumbo. They wouldn’t come inside to eat so Rosemary and I and Tim our painter sat outside with them and had lunch. Their English wasn’t great but we learned they were a father and son from Vera Cruz. We had a great lunch time learning about their families and wondering how it would be to move away from home for years, just to be able to send money back to support our family. The dad hasn’t been home in three years. 
OC reminds us today: “When a man says he must develop a holy life alone with God, he is of no more use to his fellow men; he puts himself on a pedestal, away from the common run of men.” This morning I got an email with tons of pictures from the Kairos weekend. Of course, none of the inmates are shown only team members. As I looked through the pictures and remembered the stories of these men and women, it occurred to me maybe our horse isn’t so high. We really are all “common men.”
If our devotion to Jesus is real, we will be compelled to go to those whom He loves. And He loves many outside our usual circle. He bled for men and women who we need to know and whose lives we need to be a part of. We can share our Lord with them and maybe they have things to share with us, down there under the shadow of our High Horses.
Climb down and Be blessed.
Nick

The Determination to Serve

“The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve.” Matthew 20:28.  
In some ways, serving in prison ministry is the easiest kind of service. Much of the work takes place on the mountain tops. We’re not always present in the valleys where the real work is. Further, those served in prison ministry are so accustomed to mistreatment that they are extremely grateful when served. Regretfully, such is not the case in day-to-day church ministry.  Because of the structure of most of our churches our pastors and church staff are “employees” of those they serve. The served come to expect not only the service of the servants but the right to direct how that service is performed. Bad for the servant and the served.

This situation can cause the servant to forget that it is the Lord who is boss. To further complicate things, many of the served tend to put the servants on pedestals making the servant at times tend to forget he is a servant at all.
The Lord made it clear that He came to serve. “We have the idea that a man called to the ministry is called to be a different kind of being from other men. According to Jesus Christ, he is called to be the “door-mat” of other men; their spiritual leader, but never their superior.” 
Further complicating church life is the multiple focus of church staff. Having a perceived obligation to the already saved members of the church who pay their salaries, they also feeling the strong tug of the great commission. They know  that it is those outside the church who need their service most. OC says it well: “So long as there is a human being who does not know Jesus Christ, I am his debtor to serve him until he does. 
The mainspring of Paul’s service is not love for men, but love for Jesus Christ. If we are devoted to the cause of humanity, we shall soon be crushed and broken-hearted, for we shall often meet with more ingratitude from men than we would from a dog; but if our motive is love to God, no ingratitude can hinder us from serving our fellow men.” 
Those who serve daily in the church have my admiration. The pulls on their time and service are great and often seem conflicting. My prayer for them is that they are able to focus on the fact that it is Jesus who is the customer. We all answer to Him. When we further consider what He has done for us; then no service is too great. Our direction comes from the Boss and His satisfaction with our service is all that matters. Servants, listen to your Boss, follow His voice and conflicts  and the clamor of the served will fade.
Church life will improve and the voice of the Boss will be easier to hear and follow when those in the pews clamor less and serve more.
Shut up, Stand up and Serve.
Oh and Be blessed.
Nick

The Discipline of Spiritual Tenacity

I was given the privilege of leading the closing prayer last night after Kairos #48 at Angola. I “earned” this privilege by my reputation for brevity in such matters. However, as is often the case when presented with golden opportunities, I blew it. My prayer was too long. I prayed “For forty-two changed lives, thank you Jesus.” “Forty-two” is one word, or is that considered two words? In any case it was 8 letters and a hyphen, too many. There were forty-two inmate participants and clearly those lives were all changed. But also changed were the lives of the team members, the correctional officers who observed and, in some cases participated at least in the singing. All of Camp C who because of a multitude of cookie bakers, were blessed with cookies and who had to be wondering what all the  noise in the visitor shed was about.
At the closing I was distracted by the faces of the very large crowd of guests, many of whom had never been to a closing and many of whom could not stop weeping. More changed lives. 
Much effort is expended in preparing the participants for what we refer to as the Fourth Day. By that we mean the rest of the lives which are touched by a Kairos retreat weekend. We warned them that they will be coming down from the mountain. We proclaim that the retreat is the beginning and not the totality of Kairos. We urge them to attend the weekly prayer and share meetings.
Perhaps we could do a better job of preparing the rest of the affected for post retreat life. For all of us it is a question of tenacity. It is a job of carrying on when the excitement and energy of a retreat weekend begins to fade. “Tenacity is more than endurance, it is endurance combined with the absolute certainty that what we are looking for is going to transpire. Tenacity is more than hanging on, which may be but the weakness of being too afraid to fall off. Tenacity is the supreme effort of a man refusing to believe that his hero is going to be conquered. The greatest fear a man has is not that he will be damned, but that Jesus Christ will be worsted, that the things He stood for – love and justice and forgiveness and kindness among men – will not win out in the end; the things He stands for look like will-o’-the-wisps. Then comes the call to spiritual tenacity, not to hang on and do nothing, but to work deliberately on the certainty that God is not going to be worsted.”

To the affected I say, coming down from a mountain, the trick is not to look down. Keep looking up. Keep your eyes on Him and His love, His power to change lives and to bring light into even the darkest of places never changes. The things we hope for during a retreat weekend: that love will prevail and that change will last are possible. Jesus Christ will not be worsted. I read the book: in the end, we win.
Hold on and
Be blessed.
Nick

Have You Ever Been Carried Away For Him?

I see God move during a Kairos weekend in ways I don’t see any other place in my life. But I also get carried away for Him on such weekends unlike any other time in my life. I sing (loud). I become vulnerable. I dance (okay sort of). I continuously raise my hands. I hug criminals I just met.  I get carried away for Jesus at Angola in a way I don’t at other times and places,  even in my own church at home. I greatly suspect that I am not the only one. What if I got carried away more often? What if I acted very Sunday morning like I do on Kairos weekends? Would I see God move on those occasions as I have this weekend.?
OC reminds us: “If human love does not carry a man beyond himself, it is not love. If love is always discreet, always wise, always sensible and calculating, never carried beyond itself, it is not love at all. It may be affection, it may be warmth of feeling, but it has not the true nature of love in it.”

We love having “new people” in church or in ministry, because they exhibit that abandon, that being carried away, that we wish we still displayed. “There are times when it seems as if God watches to see if we will
give Him the abandoned tokens of how genuinely we do love Him. Abandon to God is of more value than personal holiness. Personal holiness focuses the eye on our own whiteness; we are greatly concerned about the way we walk and talk and look, fearful lest we offend Him. Perfect love casts out all that when once we are abandoned to God. We have to get rid of this notion – “Am I of any use?” and make up our minds that we are not, and we may be near the truth. It is never a question of being of use, but of being of value to God Himself. When we are abandoned to God, He works through us all the time.”

Not seeing God move? Maybe He’s waiting for a move from you: a belted out tune, a waved hand, a skip in your step… something to show you’re alive. I can tell you He is alive. Saw Him move this weekend. Right after I did.
Get Crazy and Be blessed.
Nick