Learning About His Ways

When Jesus finished commanding His twelve disciples . . . He departed from there to teach and to preach in their cities —Matthew 11:1

He comes where He commands us to leave. The Holy Spirit is the teacher whether by shining light on the Word or by leading us through actions and experience. Our duty to to obey. We are not responsible for others; but only for obeying Our Lord whether it relates to our spiritual life or the life of others. If we can accept this truth then a great weight can be lifted from us. It is ours to obey and His to be responsible for the results. 
He teaches where He instructs us not to teach. “Master . . . let us make three tabernacles . . .” ( Luke 9:33  ).
This truth is especially applicable to our family, our children and their children. After we have lived a few years and made our share of mistakes and possibly learned a bit about our God, we want to pass this on to others. We want to convey information and spare our loved ones the pain that can come with experienced learning.
It’s not the way of God. Are we playing the part of an amateur providence, trying to play God’s role in the lives of others? Are we so noisy in our instruction of other people that God cannot get near them? We must learn to keep our mouths shut and our spirits alert. The Spirit is the teaching and learning is sometimes a painful experience. To try to short cut the pain, is often to miss the lesson. Shut up and obey.
He works where He sends us to wait. “. . . tarry . . . until . . .” (Luke 24:49 ). “Wait on the Lord” and He will work (Psalm 37:34 ). But don’t wait sulking spiritually and feeling sorry for yourself, just because you can’t see one inch in front of you! Generally we are terrible waiters. We have no patience. If we can’t see movement, we don’t believe anything is happening. We are like children crying out, “Are we there yet?”
To wait on the Lord may be our most difficult orders. But there is so much to be gained from the waiting. We learn patience. We learn God is the doer of every God thing. We can learn the wonder of simply spending time with Him. 
It is simple to say it: “Simply obey.” Oh, if was as simple to do.
But do it and we will be blessed.
Nick

Becoming Entirely His

Let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing —James 1:4

God is timeless. We will live eternally too; but for now we see only a life of a few decades. Maybe that’s why patience is so hard for us.
We know that repeatedly doing the same things and expecting different results is the very definition of insanity; yet God patiently waits for us to learn this lesson.  Ultimately, God will allow nothing to escape; every detail of our lives is under His scrutiny. God will bring us back in countless ways to the same point over and over again. And He never tires of bringing us back to that one point until we learn the lesson, because His purpose is to produce the finished product. It may be a problem arising from our impulsive nature, but again and again, with the most persistent patience, God has brought us back to that one particular point. Or the problem may be our idle and wandering thinking, or our independent nature and self-interest. Through this process, God is trying to impress upon us the one thing that is not entirely right in our lives.

And His wonderful work in us makes us know that overall we are right with Him. “Let patience have its perfect work . . . .” The Holy Spirit speaking through James said, “Now let your patience become a finished product.” Beware of becoming careless over the small details of life and saying, “Oh, that will have to do for now.” Whatever it may be, God will point it out with persistence until we become entirely His.

We just as soon get things right. For God is patient, and He has forever for us to get it right.

Be blessed.

Nick

The Teaching of Disillusionment

Jesus did not commit Himself to them . . . , for He knew what was in man —John 2:24-25

There is a truth we must come to if we are to truly live the Christian life: that we can only completely trust and rely on Jesus Christ. No other will live up to our expectations or completely deserve our complete trust. To expect such from anyone but Christ is unfair to that person. No one can live up to his complete faithfulness. 

Many of the things in life that inflict the greatest injury, grief, or pain, stem from the fact that we suffer from illusions. We are not true to one another as facts, seeing each other as we really are; we are only true to our misconceived ideas of one another. According to our thinking, everything is either delightful and good, or it is evil, malicious, and cowardly. Things are simply not that black and white.

Much of the relationship pain is based on this misunderstanding. Young lovers place each other on pedestals which neither can stand up to forever.  Disappointment is assured. When the love one doesn’t measure up to this impossible standard, relationships are broken.

There is only one Being who can completely satisfy to the absolute depth of the hurting human heart, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ. Our Lord is so obviously uncompromising with regard to every human relationship because He knows that every relationship that is not based on faithfulness to Himself will end in disaster. Our Lord trusted no one, and never placed His faith in people, yet He was never suspicious or bitter. Our Lord’s confidence in God, and in what God’s grace could do for anyone, was so perfect that He never despaired, never giving up hope for any person. If our trust is placed in human beings, we will end up despairing of everyone.

I hate to be the one to convey disillusionment, but no matter what you’ve been told: I’m not perfect and vampires aren’t real.

Love everyone for who they really are: Jesus for his perfection and everyone else because the perfect one loves them.

Be blessed.

Nick

Do you See Jesus in Your Clouds

Behold, He is coming with clouds . . . —Revelation 1:7

Tuesday was Rosemary’s birthday and it rained. The rain was only really a problem at the time of her birthday celebration dinner when it was coming down pretty good and I had to run through the rain to get to the restaurant. Rosemary says it didn’t bother her; in fact, she said, she loves the rain. Of course, I had dropped her off under the covered walkway and I was the one getting wet. No mind, it was, after all, her birthday.

I guess generally I like all the seasons and all forms of weather, in moderation. I love the first cool snap of fall, gumbo weather, but in February I am ready for spring’s warmth. I like a surprising spring shower but a week of rain and hurricanes I can probably do without. We are told that every cloud has a silver lining and I suppose that means that there is some good in even bad situations. For us Christians there is even better news, in every cloud, and, in fact, in every season and weather of our lives, there is Jesus. 

He is there when times are great and when there are clouds and even storms. We see Him best, I suppose in the clouds, because we don’t feel we need Him on the sunny days. 

In the Bible clouds are always associated with God. Clouds are the sorrows, sufferings, or providential circumstances, within or without our personal lives, which actually seem to contradict the sovereignty of God. Yet it is through these very clouds that the Spirit of God is teaching us how to walk by faith. If there were never any clouds in our lives, we would have no faith. His purpose in using the cloud is to simplify our beliefs until our relationship with Him is exactly like that of a child— a relationship simply between God and our own souls, and where other people are but shadows. Until other people become shadows to us, clouds and darkness will be ours every once in a while.

“. . . they were fearful as they entered the cloud” (Luke 9:34). Is there anyone except Jesus in your cloud? If so, it will only get darker until you get to the place where there is “no one anymore, but only Jesus . . .” (Mark 9:8 ; also see Mark 2-7  ).

Enjoy today’s weather: Hot with a chance of rain and enjoy Jesus.

Be blessed.

Nick

God’s Purpose or Mine

He made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side . . . —Mark 6:45

This verse begins the segment of scripture in which Jesus came walking on the water to the disciples who were straining at rowing the boat to the place He had directed them. Notice that He didn’t tell them: “Go out on the water and I’ll walk out to meet you.” Without a reason or a stated purpose, the disciples simply did what they were told.
That’s how we need to respond to God. We must do what we are told. We don’t ask “why” or question the destination. We just walk on. Otherwise, we develop “dreams” or “visions” of where we should be. That’s God’s role. Ours is to be obedient. To put one foot in front of the other. We may never see the completed work or arrive at a clear destination, other than our heavenly home.
In fact, as in this story, the destination wasn’t the point; the journey was. On our walk we encounter the Risen Christ, miraculous, walking on water and He calls us to deeper faith as He did Peter.
What is my vision of God’s purpose for me? Whatever it may be, His purpose is for me to depend on Him and on His power now. If I can stay calm, faithful, and unconfused while in the middle of the turmoil of life, the goal of the purpose of God is being accomplished in me. God is not working toward a particular finish— His purpose is the process itself. What He desires for me is that I see “Him walking on the sea” with no shore, no success, nor goal in sight, but simply having the absolute certainty that everything is all right because I see “Him walking on the sea” ( Mark 6:49  ). It is the process, not the outcome, that is glorifying to God.
God’s training is for now, not later. His purpose is for this very minute, not for sometime in the future. We have nothing to do with what will follow our obedience, and we are wrong to concern ourselves with it. What people call preparation, God sees as the goal itself.
God’s purpose is to enable me to see that He can walk on the storms of my life right now. If we have a further goal in mind, we are not paying enough attention to the present time. However, if we realize that moment-by-moment obedience is the goal, then each moment as it comes is precious.
Be blessed.
Nick

Way to Knowledge

If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine . . . —John 7:17

To really understand something, one has to do it. One trip to the Christian Book Store should convince anyone that there is plenty of “study” out there. One look at our world advises there isn’t much “learning.”

The golden rule to follow to obtain spiritual understanding is not one of intellectual pursuit, but one of obedience. And our orders, the “rules” we are to obey are pretty simple: “Go and make disciplines.” Yet most of us, if we spend any time on our “walk” spend it reading or studying and very little doing.

I learn more about my God in one week of VBS (not really doing that much) or one Kairos weekend than I do in months of study or reading and I do plenty of that.

Although we deny it, we act as if Christianity is a theology rather than a walk. A walk requires steps but first it requires a destination. Christ gives us the destination and points our way. Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. Psalm 119:105. For too many of us the Word is true, comforting and surprising; but it’s not life changing. That requires direction and movement, not just enlightenment and motivation.

The way to knowledge requires movement. Get moving and be blessed.

Nick

The Way to Purity

Those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart . . . . For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man . . . —Matthew 15:18-20

I love a good murder mystery or thriller. The bad guy has to be really bad. My wife prefers her bad guys more real. She follows politics and watches Fox News.

Even as kids we love the Big Bad Wolf. I suspect that one of  the reason for our love of bad guys is our belief that God grades on the curve. It is comforting to know that there are men more evil than us out there.

Of course we know that God doesn’t grade on the curve.  Maybe not all that comes from our mouths are “evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies” but there is plenty enough bad stuff in us to make us unacceptable to a Holy God.

His Word penetrates and shows us for what we are: sinners in need of a Savior. f I will take an honest look at myself, becoming fully aware of my so-called innocence and putting it to the test, I am very likely to have a rude awakening that what Jesus Christ said is true, and I will be appalled at the possibilities of the evil and the wrong within me.

The only thing that truly provides protection is the redemption of Jesus Christ. If I will simply hand myself over to Him, I will never have to experience the terrible possibilities that lie within my heart. Purity is something far too deep for me to arrive at naturally. But when the Holy Spirit comes into me, He brings into the center of my personal life the very Spirit that was exhibited in the life of Jesus Christ, namely, the Holy Spirit, which is absolute unblemished purity.

Only the Holy Spirit can “Shut my mouth” and extinquish the evil within.

Be blessed.

Nick

Am I Blessed Like This

Blessed are . . . —Matthew 5:3-11

We wish to “be blessed.” We wish blessings on others.  But what does it really mean to “be blessed.” In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus describes many who are blessed; but the pronouncements  seems simplistic yet contradictory. The poor will have kingdoms; the mourning will be comforted, meek obtain power, etc.

Many have tried to create a world where the Beatitudes are tghe norm. Others look at them as describing what heaven will be like. I believe Jesus is describing the incredible work of the Holy Spirit in the life of he believer.

The teachings of Jesus are all out of proportion when compared to our natural way of looking at things, and they come to us initially with astonishing discomfort. We gradually have to conform our walk and conversation to the precepts of Jesus Christ as the Holy Spirit applies them to our circumstances. The Sermon on the Mount is not a set of rules and regulations— it is a picture of the life we will live when the Holy Spirit is having His unhindered way with us.

To  be  blessed is to live the Spirit controlled life and nothing less.

Nick