Heedfulness or Hypocrisy in Ourselves?

What is visible is such a small part of what is real. I often forget that what people know of me is limited to what they observe: my physical appearance, my actions, what I say. But there is so much more of me: my inner life, my thoughts, concerns, spiritual stuff. Even more I forget that what I “know” of others, on my own, is similarly limited. I only know what I observe. There is so much more to others. Yet, I still find myself reaching conclusions, dare I say judging, others by what I see. 
For Christians, that’s not the way it should be. With our life in Christ should come spiritual discernment, in our time spent with Him we should be learning some small part of His knowledge, concern and love for others. That is, I think, what OC is talking about today. Sometimes we get knowledge, but leave the concern and love behind. “If we are not heedful and pay no attention to the way the Spirit of God works in us, we will become spiritual hypocrites. We see where other people are failing, and then we take our discernment and turn it into comments of ridicule and criticism, instead of turning it into intercession on their behalf. God reveals this truth about others to us not through the sharpness of our minds but through the direct penetration of His Spirit. If we are not attentive, we will be completely unaware of the source of the discernment God has given us, becoming critical of others . . . “
As God begins to work in our lives, there should be improvement. We should become more like Him. It is so human to take pride in these changes as if we had caused them ourselves. Then we move the absurd to a new level by thinking we can make those changes in others.
” Be careful that you don’t become a hypocrite by spending all your time trying to get others right with God before you worship Him yourself.”
When we see sin in our brothers, we should go to the same place we go when the Spirit shows us our sin, to Jesus. We should get His mind for others, just as we try to get His mind for us. Just as worship brings change in us; worship brings us to real intercession for change in others.
Want to be a blessing? Recognize we can no more change others than we can change ourselves. But don’t stop there, recognize Our Lord as the source for all change. Go to Him when change is needed whether in us or in others and
Be blessed.
Nick

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The Christian Church seems to have concluded that God wants us healthy, wealthy and wise. It’s easy to see how we got to this point. We have concluded that the point of life is happiness and we “know” that to be happy we must have our health, we need things and we need worldly wisdom. We then march to the conclusion that those who are not healthy or who do now own a lot or who act “foolishly” are out of touch with God. When we do that, it is we who are out of touch with God.

The God I know wants me and the worldly situations He puts me through have as their purpose getting me to Him. He may need me healthy to do something He wants me to do; but I may need to suffer illness to learn what He wants me to learn. He may give me the things of the world; because He has something He wants me to do with them. He may keep them from me, because He knows they distract me from Him. I may seem wise in the ways of the world, but I have no wisdom of my own. Every good thing I know He tells me. Every proper way to act he shows me.

What has this to do with today’s words from OC? He speaks of worship and intercession. If our understanding of the ways of God is worldly we intercede for others by telling God: Make them well; Give them this or that. Make them wiser. But if we really understand God when He puts someone on our hearts we go into His presence and there we seek His will for others. We don’t try to dictate to God. We commune with Him and with Him our concern for them moves to something closer to His love for them.

“Worship and intercession must go together; one is impossible without the other. Intercession means raising ourselves up to the point of getting the mind of Christ regarding the person for whom we are praying.”
When I hear it said, “God wants you healthy.” I wonder if the speaker has spent time with the Father and has gotten His mind for the sick one or if the words are simply a broad and not always correct conclusion about God’s desire for all. When I hear words of prosperity, I remember His words about treasures in heaven and lilies of the field and birds of the air and I wonder if the speaker of such words is  concerned about my prosperity or his. When I observe technology and “great” minds of business and industry, I remember we are to trust like children. Our greatest thoughts are silly to Him. I think I’ll stick to trying to learn His ways.
OC says something fascinating today: “Preaching the gospel has its share of pitfalls, but intercessory prayer has none whatsoever.” I am not completely sure what he means by that. But my thought is that in preaching we sometimes go further than just pointing to Jesus. We try to tell others His intentions for them. It’s a three party activity: God and me and others and I find myself interpreting for God. In intercession, it’s me and God. He and I have great concern for those others, but He has greater love, greater wisdom and greater power.  Why should I who doesn’t have all the answers for me, think I know the answers for others? My job is to say “I don’t know about happiness or health or prosperity or wisdom, but I found my joy in Him. Maybe you should check Him out.” I think I should let Him handle them and I’ll just rejoice in Him and

Be blessed.

Nick

Our Lord’s Surprise Visits

We certainly want to be ready when Jesus comes for us. It is very helpful to consider often during the day whether He would be pleased to find us doing what we are doing. 

But I think this verse means more than that. We need to be alert to surprise visits from Jesus. Sometimes He touches our lives and we only realize it was Him when the moment has passed. We can see Him in a beautiful scene. He can surprise us in the loving actions of one of His children; often one we didn’t recognize as a child of His. 

Sometimes He surprises us with encouragement; but He can also rebuke or warn. His visits are particularly surprising when they come from children or “ordinary” people. 

Not ever word from the Lord comes in church or from a Minister. He speaks to us and reaches to us always. It is our task to be alert and sensitive to Him.

One of the truly sad things is that we can be “so absorbed in our service to Jesus Christ that we are not ready to face Jesus Himself at every turn. The greatest need is not facing our beliefs or doctrines, or even facing the question of whether or not we are of any use to Him, but the need is to face Him.

Jesus rarely comes where we expect Him; He appears where we least expect Him, and always in the most illogical situations. The only way a servant can remain true to God is to be ready for the Lord’s surprise visits. This readiness will not be brought about by service, but through intense spiritual reality, expecting Jesus Christ at every turn. This sense of expectation will give our life the attitude of childlike wonder He wants it to have. If we are going to be ready for Jesus Christ, we have to stop being religious. In other words, we must stop using religion as if it were some kind of a lofty lifestyle-we must be spiritually real.
If you are avoiding the call of the religious thinking of today’s world, and instead are “looking unto Jesus” ( Hebrews 12:2  ), setting your heart on what He wants, and thinking His thoughts, you will be considered impractical and a daydreamer. But when He suddenly appears in the work of the heat of the day, you will be the only one who is ready.”

Be ready and be blessed.

Nick

Just Do What He Says

On the surface, OC is a bit obvious today. He tells us to just do what Jesus says. But for me it’s never that simple. If I know Jesus is telling me to do something, mostly I’ll do it.

There are some problems. First, I don’t always know what Jesus is telling me to do. This is another way of saying that I don’t always recognize His voice. This is, of course, my fault. I have not developed a keen enough ear to hear Him. I am not so in the habit of continuous obedience that I always recognize His voice. I know in most situations this is just an excuse. I have His written word. I know that every word in it comes from God; but I don’t follow every word of it. I do just what OC warns against. I sometimes conclude the Word is “mistaken” or “a bad translation” or “meant only for that time and place and not a universal truth.” 

I know if I will just obey His clear written Word, I will be living in His presence and become more sensitive to those special instructions He gives us in our special situations. 

“I know when the instructions have come from God because of their quiet persistence.” Christ is infinitely patient. He knows the next step we have to take. Although we may want to skip ahead, He won’t let us. He will repeated tell us in many ways wheat we need to do next and He’ll persist until we do it.

“But when I begin to weigh the pros and cons, and doubt and debate enter into my mind, I am bringing in an element that is not of God. This will only result in my concluding that His instructions to me were not right. Many of us are faithful to our ideas about Jesus Christ, but how many of us are faithful to Jesus Himself? Faithfulness to Jesus means that I must step out even when and where I can’t see anything”. 

As a lawyer, this is an area that gives me trouble. I love mental exercises. I like to plan and know what I’m doing and where I’m going “But faithfulness to my own ideas means that I first clear the way mentally. Faith, however, is not intellectual understanding; faith is a deliberate commitment to the Person of Jesus Christ, even when I can’t see the way ahead.”

“Are you faithful to Jesus, or faithful to your ideas about Him? Are you faithful to what He says, or are you trying to compromise His words with thoughts that never came from Him? “Whatever He says to you, do it ” and

Be blessed.

Nick

An Extraordinary Day

My posting is a bit late today – about 12 hours. Some days just don’t go as you plan. I normally write my posts between 3 and 5 in the morning. I didn’t wake up until 7:30 this morning and Samantha had spent the night. When she spends the night, we go to Mel’s for breakfast. She likes the smiley face pancakes. Then my brother, who I promised not to name today, and I had projects to do. Then Nicky came over for his overnight. They I took Nicky and Sam to see “How to Train a Dragon.” Great movie. By now, it’s 4 in the afternoon.

Today, OC is discussing a higher state of mind and spiritual vision that can only be achieved through the higher practice of personal character. I feel completely inadequate to discuss a “higher practice of personal character.” 

I think we sometimes over-spiritualize such things. Sometimes a higher practice of personal character is as simple as spending time with people you love and letting them do as they want rather than doing what you would otherwise do: whether it’s having pancakes, or going to a movie or playing with your iphone.

I am reminded of the lessons of Extraordinary which is our Sunday night program. I have been working my way through the book. It’s lesson is that we are intended to live extraordinary lives… perhaps a higher state of mind and spiritual vision. The key is that we are not capable of that life on our own, but rather it is an operation of grace. I have been trying to be faithful to a practice of starting each day asking God to do what he will in my life. I think today was such a day. Time spent with my grandkids is extraordinary. 

One of the reasons I slept late was I figured Samantha would be sleeping late. When my eyes opened at 7:30, the first words I heard were hers; “I’ve been awake for 79 minutes.” In the presence of someone that eager to start her day, how could my day not be extraordinary and higher and

Blessed.

Nick

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“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God —Matthew 5:8 Purity is not innocence— it is much more than that. Purity is the result of continued spiritual harmony with God.”
Some seem to see God in everything. Others seem to never see God at all. For most of us, God moves in and out of our vision. Does it seem to you that the God who is concerned with every aspect of your life, who loves you and who wants the best for you is more real on Sunday than on Monday? He is no less present on Monday. The problem is with us. Isn’t that a result of our state of spiritual harmony with  Him? 
After a Kairos weekend, after seeing God move with power, after being focused on Him for an entire weekend, it seems I can see Him in everything. But that vision soon begins to fade, as the dust and dirt of the world makes its way back into my life. We know that time spent with God is important and it’s not just because we have so much to learn; it’s because we need to be “in tune” with Him. We stay “in tune” with God the same way we stay “in tune” with any other being, by being in their presence. When we don’t spend time with someone, we lose touch with them. When that someone is God, a lack of contact means a lack of purity and spiritual harmony. 
We are meant to live with a constant sense of God’s presence, seeing Him in every aspect of our lives. He is with us always, we must focus to recognize that presence and absorb everything He has for us.

We are blessed when our hearts are pure. We are pure when we see God. We see Him if we’ll just look. He’s always there.

Look around with God in mind and

Be blessed.

Stop and Think

Today OC is way ahead of me: “Goodness and purity should never be traits that draw attention to themselves, but should simply be magnets that draw people to Jesus Christ. If my holiness is not drawing others to Him, it is not the right kind of holiness; it is only an influence which awakens undue emotions and evil desires in people and diverts them from heading in the right direction. A person who is a beautiful saint can be a hindrance in leading people to the Lord by presenting only what Christ has done for him, instead of presenting Jesus Christ Himself. Others will be left with this thought— “What a fine person that man is!” That is not being a true “friend of the bridegroom”— I am increasing all the time; He is not.”
I’m just not at the point of being concerned that my goodness and purity may be drawing attention to myself instead of to Christ. If any of you who know me personally have had that problem, PLEASE let me know. Instead I am feeling more like I need to go back to the beginning to ground myself in my relationship with Christ so that my life might in some way draw people to Him. 

The video up above is about 15 minutes. I know 15 minutes is a big part of your day. But please take 15 minutes to watch it. I am convinced it will help refocus you as it has me and that you will want to pass it along to someone else. If for some reason the video does not appear above in your email program. You should be able to watch it here.
For me I’m going to watch it again and pray that someday I have to consider OC’s message for today and have some concern that my goodness and purity is confusing someone. But for today, it’s not a problem.
Still, I am blessed.

Nick

He must Increase – We Must Decrease

LaDonna Taylor will be with us at Amana on Sunday at our 10 a.m. service. I look forward to her visit since last time she was with us Jesus healed my knee. My knee was as bad as Pastor T’s or Sally’s. I had a prognosis of continued pain and an eventual knee replacement. Since LaDonna’s visit, I have been pain-free. I have no explanation why Jesus would heal me instantaneously while others who love more and serve better need surgery for relief or continue to suffer. I do know that, should He choose to, Jesus heals, for His reasons, in His time.

I am learning that we can’t save, heal or fix ourselves. In my sinful arrogance, I am somewhat slower to learn that I can’t save, heal or fix anyone else. Dr. Taylor has apparently learned this lesson. Perhaps that’s why her ministry is so blessed. She just does what she does best, play her violin, and point to Jesus. 
When Jesus uses us in any small way to do the mighty things He does, we tend to think it’s all about us. Worse the person blessed may conclude that it was us and not Jesus. That’s why it’s so crucial that we just do what He calls us to do and constantly point to Him.
 “If you become a necessity to someone else’s life, you are out of God’s will.” I had to read that a couple of times and really pray on it before I could accept it. Face it, we love to be needed. It can define us as important. The truth is we are not needed. All anyone needs is Jesus. That’s an awful hard truth. Jesus uses us to bless others; at least we hope He does. But if we were not here, or if we refused to be used, He would use another.
There is a good reason for this. We’re not wise enough to do the fixing directly. We love imperfectly. We are not smart enough to know when pain and difficulty in someone’s life is necessary to what Jesus is doing. In our attempts to save and heal and fix, we can kill and hurt and break. As a servant, your primary responsibility is to be a “friend of the bridegroom” (John 3:29  ). When you see a person who is close to grasping the claims of Jesus Christ, you know that your influence has been used in the right direction. And when you begin to see that person in the middle of a difficult and painful struggle, don’t try to prevent it, but pray that his difficulty will grow even ten times stronger, until no power on earth or in hell could hold him away from Jesus Christ. Over and over again, we try to be amateur providences in someone’s life. We are indeed amateurs, coming in and actually preventing God’s will and saying, “This person should not have to experience this difficulty.” Instead of being friends of the Bridegroom, our sympathy gets in the way.”

 He must increase, but I must decrease” ( John 3:29-30  ).  Do what He tells you. Do it the best that you can. Then step aside. Play your violin and point to Jesus and

Be blessed.

Nick