Destined to be Holy

. . it is written, ’Be holy, for I am holy’ —1 Peter 1:16

Holiness is clearly out of style. Even at best we as Christian consider it something extra for “super” Christians who are, frankly, out of touch and with no real lives so they decide to be “holy.” Isn’t it enough to be “saved.” It would be nice to be holy, but is it really necessary? It is unpopular to preach about holiness. The preaching of the gospel awakens an intense resentment because it is designed to reveal my unholiness.
Here’s the awful truth: Holiness is the purpose of life. We are not destined to happiness, nor to health, but to holiness. 
Even if we can convince ourselves of the need to be holy, we can’t seem to believe that holiness is really possible. Certainly not in the world we live in. We don’t believe that God can come into me and make me holy? If we will surrender, we will see it can be.
Can we face the ultimate truth: God has only one intended destiny for mankind— holiness. His only goal is to produce saints. God is not some eternal blessing-machine for people to use, and He did not come to save us out of pity— He came to save us because He created us to be holy. Atonement through the Cross of Christ means that God can put me back into perfect oneness with Himself through the death of Jesus Christ, without a trace of anything coming between us any longer.
Can  we ever understand that holiness and joy come from the same fountain and bring the same blessing?
Father, bring us blessing by bringing us your joy by making us holy.
Nick

My Joy…Your Joy

These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full —John 15:11

There is a difference between joy and happiness and it’s important that we know the difference. Both are positive states but joy is direct and happiness is circumstantial. By circumstantial, I mean that it is the result of circumstances. Since happiness is the result of circumstances, it is dependent upon circumstances which, of course, can change and over which we have little control. But more than than that happiness is affected by our perception of circumstances. So there is a subjective element to happiness. Two people in the same circumstances may be experiencing different levels of happiness depending on their attitude and perception of those circumstances. 
Joy, on the other hand, is a direct state. It flows from the residence of Christ within us.  Because of that it is not dependent on anything but His presence. Since He promises His presence to be real and permanent so too is joy: real and permanent. That’s why it surpasses understanding. Not only because it can exist in the midst of trying circumstances, but because it doesn’t require our perfect perception. We don’t need to understand the nature of its source or its power for us to feel its wonder.
Yet joy can increase or decrease. We are created to be in relationship with God. That is our purpose. It becomes possible with our new birth, and it grows as we abandon all else and focus on Him. When we move from spectator at the game and step up to the plate our joy increases. When we swing at the ball, our joy increases. When we move from being an occasional pinch hitter, to a regular every day player, our joy increases.
Happiness is a good thing. But joy is spectacular. It is a deep sense that all things are right.  We have a right to pursue happiness; but finding the joy that is in Christ comes when we abandon our search for self pleasure and commit to Him and His goals. He came that joy may be possible, but more that it might remain and be full. We should settle for nothing less.
Be blessed.
Nick

Usefulness or Relationship

Do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven —Luke 10:20

It seems to me that men seem to judge relationship by action: what one does for another. Women judge relationship by some other, to me, less concrete, standard. I wish I understood it better because it seems to be closer to the standard that Jesus uses. In this verse, Jesus Christ is saying: “Don’t rejoice in your successful service for Me, but rejoice because of your right relationship with Me.” The trap you may fall into in Christian work is to rejoice in successful service— rejoicing in the fact that God has used you. 
It’s an understandable trap. Today in his sermon, our Pastor marveled that it was Thomas, the doubter, who traveled further than any other, to India,  to bring the good news. It’s so much easier to measure the service than the relationship expressed when Thomas addressed Christ, “My Lord and My God.”
The problem is actions or service are not always pure. We do things for a variety of reasons and we have varying success in our doing of them. But from a right relationship flow “rivers of living water”  that we neither control nor can we measure. 
The person who is in right relationship is always a greater blessing than the person of great talent and service. We should focus on relationship and not service. Don’t you hate it when the women get it right?
Be blessed.
Nick

Unsurpassed Intimacy of Tested Faith

Jesus said to her, ’Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?’ —John 11:40

Some who call themselves people of faith, attempt to conform that faith to common sense. They  process scripture and the promises of God through the filter of common sense. The fact that such a process screens the miraculous from a life of faith, seemingly does not disturb them.  But common sense is not faith, and faith is not common sense. In fact, they are as different as the natural life and the spiritual. When you are on the mountaintop, it’s easy to say, “Oh yes, I believe God can do it,” but you have to come down from the mountain to the demon-possessed valley and face the realities that scoff at your Mount-of-Transfiguration belief (see Luke 9:28-42 ).
Christ does not call us to a spiritual life that reduces the life of faith by a factor of reality. We are called to test the limits of what we believe to be reality and discover the wonder of the really miraculous world that the child of God inherits. If we will but test our faith and trust in Our Lord and His promises, we will discover the wonder of intimacy with Him and a world beyond our natural imaginings.
Step out and Be Blessed.
Nick 

Purpose of Prayer

. . . one of His disciples said to Him, ’Lord, teach us to pray . . .’ —Luke 11:1
 
Why would a disciple ask this question? Prayer was certainly known to these guys. Prayer was a part of the spiritual life in Israel before Jesus came. But not prayer like this. No one prayed like this Jesus prayed. For Him, prayer was more than just petitioning God, or even talking to God. For Jesus it was a life of communion between the Son and the Father. The disciples wanted what they saw in the life of their leader. “Lord, teach us to pray.”
Prayer is not a normal part of the life of the natural man.  Prayer like Jesus prayed is only possible for the renewed man, the born again child. Jesus could communicate with the Father because He was the Son. We can pray like Jesus, after we become children of the Father.

But relationship is more than an incidence of birth, or rebirth. It requires work. A couple has a relationship after their marriage, but can’t base it only on the piece of paper. It requires time, focus and attention. We must nourish the relationship with communication.

Communication isn’t really that complicated. Our great grand daughter is spending the night with us. She will be two next month. She can put together three word sentences. And CAN SHE COMMUNICATE. She has no problem letting us know what she wants and how she feels. “Ask, and you will receive . . .” ( John 16:24 ). We complain before God, and sometimes we are apologetic or indifferent to Him, but we actually ask Him for very few things. Yet a child exhibits a magnificent boldness to ask! Our Lord said, “. . . unless you . . . become as little children . . .” ( Matthew 18:3 ). Ask and God will do. Give Jesus Christ the opportunity and the room to work.

If we can but learn to ask before the situation is desperate. If asking becomes a natural part of our relationship. You might ask why ask? He knows what we need. The problem is we don’t always know what we need: HIM. We learn our need for Him by asking and watching Him work.

A child needs his/her parents. We need our Father, active, involved and working in our lives. Ask and be blessed.

Nick

Living Your Theology

Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you . . . —John 12:35

There is nothing quite like the emptiness of a missed opportunity. There is no future in living in a world of “what ifs” and God is a god of second changes, yet we should  beware of not acting upon the moments on the mountaintop with God. If you do not obey the light, it will turn into darkness. “If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” ( Matthew 6:23 ). It is tough to work out the wonder of salvation and sanctification in daily grinds of life.

 If you say you are sanctified, show it. The experience must be so genuine that it shows in your life.

With the help of the Holy Spirit, we can move from an intellectual Christianity to a Christian life and that’s where the blessings are.

Nick

I Have Called You Friends

I have called you friends . . . —John 15:15

This is one of the most amazing statements in scripture. He is God, Savior, and by His own words, friend. He proved His friendship by surrendering His life for us.

Our friendship with Him is confirmed the same way, by surrender of our lives to Him. For many reasons, we resist.. Control is a powerful feeling. In our world today, it seems we have lost control of much, our government, our day to day lives, our families. We are, therefore, reluctant to give up control of anything. We fail to see that surrender to Christ is joy, the greatest joy we can know. We will never know the joy of self-sacrifice until we surrender in every detail of our lives. Yet self-surrender is the most difficult thing for us to do.

Our surrender is aided by the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit comes into our lives, our greatest desire is to lay down our lives for Jesus. Yet the thought of self-sacrifice never even crosses our minds, because sacrifice is the Holy Spirit’s ultimate expression of love.

“I have called you friends. . . .” Our friendship with Jesus is based on the new life He created in us, which has no resemblance or attraction to our old life but only to the life of God. It is a life that is completely humble, pure, and devoted to God. It is a life of pure blessing.

Nick

Spiritual Search

What man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? —Matthew 7:9
 
Notice that the presumption of this verse is that the petitioner is a son. When we ask things of God, and He doesn’t seem to answer, we often dive into analyzing why He doesn’t. Doesn’t He care? Doesn’t He know what I need? We need to consider if we are, in fact, acting as His good child. 

Is our relationship right with spouse, children, and others? Are we a “good child” in those relationships?
Have I been asking God to give me money for something I want, while refusing to pay someone what I owe him? Have I been asking God for liberty while I am withholding it from someone who belongs to me? Have I refused to forgive someone, and have I been unkind to that person? Have I been living as God’s child among my relatives and friends?
I am a child of God only by being born again, and as His child I am good only as I “walk in the light” ( 1 John 1:7 ). For most of us, prayer simply becomes some trivial religious expression, a matter of mystical and emotional fellowship with God. We are all good at producing spiritual fog that blinds our sight. But if we will search out and examine the evidence, we will see very clearly what is wrong— a friendship, an unpaid debt, or an improper attitude. There is no use praying unless we are living as children of God. Then Jesus says, regarding His children, “Everyone who asks receives . . .” ( Matthew 7:8 ).
First be His child, then ask and be blessed.
Nick