Prayer – Battle in the Secret Place

When you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly —Matthew 6:6
 
Battles are generally open and public affairs. At the beginning of the civil war, the upper crust of Washington went out in buggies as on a picnic to observe the federal army thrash the upstart rebels outside of town. Things didn’t turn out that way and the day ended in disaster for the union with army and observers alike scrambling for the safety of the city.
Our biggest spiritual battles take place in secret. Jesus tells us to go into a quiet secret place to commune with the Father. He tells us thus because the greatest battle of prayer, as it is with any communication, is focus. One of the things we try to teach volunteers for the Kairos ministry is how to listen. Listening isn’t easy. It requires focus. Most of us, engaged  in conversation, are not really listening when others are speaking. We are, rather, plotting what we will say when the other persons finally shuts up and  we get the chance to talk.
That’s why listening is so difficult. We are not used to really listening to what the other person is saying. And to so listen is the greatest honor we can pay to another. When we listen, we acknowledge that we attach importance to what the speaker is saying and, thus, to the speaker himself. Try giving someone the honor of listening to them and be amazed at how much you are appreciated and what a great “conversationalist” you are proclaimed to be.
Even more so this is true with our prayer communication. We trend to dive in, doing all the talking, telling God what we need and what He needs to do to fix whatever problems we are facing. God already knows our circumstances and what we need. We need to spend some time, focusing and listening if we are to gain anything. And thus the battle as Satan tries to keep us from focusing, from listening, from winning the battle and being blessed.
Nick

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I indeed baptize you with water . . . but He . . . will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire —Matthew 3:11

The beginning of Jesus is at the end of us.  I will never know what the baptism of the Holy Spirit means until  I indeed am at the end, and I cannot do anything more— but He begins right there— He does the things that no one else can ever do. 
Repentance doesn’t start at the point when I recognize myself as a sinner; for all have sinned and fallen short. It begins when  I realize that I am absolutely unworthy and helpless, and I know that through and through I am not worthy even to carry His sandals. Have I repented like that, or do I have a lingering thought of possibly trying to defend my actions? The reason God cannot come into my life is that I am not at the point of complete repentance that is, a recognition of my complete unworthiness.

 Get to the end of yourself where you can do nothing, but where He does everything. The His baptism will sweep over us, in spirit and in truth and with fire.

 
Nick

Ministry of the Unnoticed

Blessed are the poor in spirit . . . —Matthew 5:3

In the year after Law School I clerked for a Federal Judge in Atlanta. I would arrive in downtown Atlanta early in the morning. I would have to literally step over folks who had slept in the streets in front of the courthouse the night before. It was very disturbing at first, but like most things in life, after a while I didn’t even notice them. It was like they weren’t there.
The New Testament notices things that do not seem worthy of notice by our standards. “Blessed are the poor in spirit . . . .” This literally means, “Blessed are the paupers.” Paupers are remarkably commonplace! The preaching of today tends to point out a person’s strength of will or the beauty of his character— things that are easily noticed. The statement we so often hear, “Make a decision for Jesus Christ,” places the emphasis on something our Lord never trusted. He never asks us to decide for Him, but to yield to Him— something very different. At the foundation of Jesus Christ’s kingdom is the genuine loveliness of those who are commonplace. I am truly blessed in my poverty. If I have no strength of will and a nature without worth or excellence, then Jesus says to me, “Blessed are you, because it is through your poverty that you can enter My kingdom.” I cannot enter His kingdom by virtue of my goodness— I can only enter it as an absolute pauper.
If we are so poor that we have nothing to bring notice to ourselves, nothing that makes us worthy, then we are qualified for the Kingdom.
Be poor and be blessed.
Nick

Christ-Awareness

. . . and I will give you rest —Matthew 11:28

We are in constant struggle between self-awareness and Christ-Awareness. When we move too far in the self awareness direction, we begin to “Me. Me. Me. It’s all about Me.” We need to more than intellectualize that it’s all about Jesus. Whenever anything begins to disintegrate your life with Jesus Christ, acknowledge Him, turn to Him at once, asking Him to re-establish your rest. 
If we look around and analyze our lives we will note certain things that push us to self and away from Christ. Never allow anything to remain in your life that is causing the unrest. 
If we try to overcome our self-awareness through any of our own commonsense methods, we will only serve to strengthen our self-awareness tremendously. Jesus says, “Come to Me . . . and I will give you rest,” that is, Christ-awareness will take the place of self-awareness. Wherever Jesus comes He establishes rest.

Self-Awareness

Come to Me . . . —Matthew 11:28
 
We are often counselled that we need to get in touch with ourselves, self-awareness. As a movement, self-awareness is a bunch of bunk. See if you can decipher this: Self-awareness is the awareness of the self as separate from the thoughts that are occurring at any point in time. Without self-awareness the self perceives and believes the thoughts that are occurring to be who the self is. Self-awareness gives one the option or choice to choose thoughts being thought rather than simply thinking the thoughts that are stimulated from the accumulative events leading up to the circumstances of the moment.
 
In fact, a lack of self awareness is not our problem. Once we become children of God our problem is a lack of Christ awareness.  

It is never God’s will that we should be anything less than absolutely complete in Him. Anything that disturbs our rest in Him must be rectified at once, and it is not rectified by being ignored but only by coming to Jesus Christ. If we will come to Him, asking Him to produce Christ-awareness in us, He will always do it, until we fully learn to abide in Him.

When thins seem arise, if we turn to Our Lord and ask Him to increase our awareness of His presence and power in our lives, from that blessing flows.
Nick

Speechless with Sorrow

When he heard this, he became very sorrowful, for he was very rich —Luke 18:23

We should not leave the rich young ruler  and his decision to move away from Jesus without comprehending that he did so   speechless with sorrow, having nothing to say in response to Jesus’ words. He had no doubt about what Jesus had said or what it meant, and it produced in him a sorrow with no words with which to respond. Have you ever been there? Has God’s Word ever come to you, pointing out an area of your life, requiring you to yield it to Him? Maybe He has pointed out certain personal qualities, desires, and interests, or possibly relationships of your heart and mind. If so, then you have often been speechless with sorrow. 
“For of all sad words of tongue or pen, / The saddest are these: ‘It might have been!’”
These words express the essence of the reason for such profound sadness. It is the recognition of great opportunity missed. It is not enough to make it into the kingdom by the “skin of our teeth.” We were created for a life designed by Jesus. We were meant to live for Him; anything less is loss. If we have missed some of the life we should have had, it does no good to look back with our head in our hands, we must move forward.  Today we must turn from the lure of the world and it’s false promises and move to what we were intended for: a life surrendered completely to Him.
Nothing less will do. Do it now and…
Be blessed.
Nick

Discouraged or Devoted

. . . Jesus . . . said to him, ’You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have . . . and come, follow Me.’ But when he heard this, he became very sorrowful, for he was very rich —Luke 18:22-23
Every real relationship has a “fish or cut bait” moment” a time for making a commitment. For the rich young ruler, this was the time. Jesus knew he wasn’t ready, but the rich man pressed and when Jesus asked for his riches, the young man wasn’t ready. He wasn’t ready to be devoted; he was discouraged.
Marriage used to be a an example of this for us. It had a point where the parties faced the commitment decision: do I go all the way with this person? Is this for real? Is this forever? Do I forsake all others and go with this one for better or for worse? Am I ready to give all I have to get all they have? In exchange for that commitment we got real love, security, and life long faithfulness. Not so much any more. The generation that gave us one night stands, hooking up and living together has also brought us mile high divorce rates, lack of commitment and rampant insecurity. Relationship is more than a Facebook status. I should not really blame this generation. It started with mine. We thought we invented “free love.” That’s an oxymoron. There is no such thing. Love isn’t free; it requires commitment. The more the commitment; the more the love. Without commitment, there is no love.
So when we tell this generation about Christianity and tell them it’s about relationship. They don’t know what we are talking about. They think that’s a temporary, feel good thing. When we say God is “love” they don’t understand. They think we’re talking feelings and pleasures. Relationship is about giving it all to get all. It’s about giving up on me and focusing on us. It’s about forever. It’s about he’s not leaving and neither am I. Love is not about physical pleasure. It’s about carrying about another above all else. It’s about knowing you are loved no matter what. It’s not about this is okay for now. It’s not about this is good until something better comes along. It’s also not about “will he still love me if?” or “will I still love him when…?”
No marriage is perfect. It wasn’t in my time. But with our Lord, we have a perfect partner. His love is perfect. His sacrifice is complete. If we are to have all He has to offer; He asks for our everything. For those of us who no longer understand “love” and “relationship” that’s hard to grasp. But for those of us who do, there is a chance we will appreciate all Christ offers and a chance we will understand what He asks from us to get it.
Devotion not discouragement is the lot of the Christian as it is with the couple who understands love and relationship and blessing.
You want it all; give it all and be blessed.
Nick.

Does He Know Me

He calls his own . . . by name . . . —John 10:3
 
We had a great Sunday at Amana today, a day filled with hope as Dr. Dave Regan discussed, “What happens when you die.” But that great hope is based on our relationship with Jesus. Do we know Him? Does He know me? There are occasions which challenge a relationship: Disinformation, Doubt and Denial. Any of these will cause us to question our relationship with Him.

When I have sadly misunderstood Him? (see John 20:11-18 ). There are times when the Jesus of scripture just doesn’t seem to be the Jesus we believe that we know.  When Mary  went to the tomb on Easter morning it was empty. When Jesus appeared to her, she didn’t recognize Him. A Risen Lord is not what she expected. There are times when the Jesus we experience is not the Jesus we expect. We misunderstand who He is. Mary’s doctrine was challenged. She had to trust in her experience.  Doctrine meant no more to her than the grass under her feet. In fact, any Pharisee could have made a fool of Mary doctrinally, but one thing they could never ridicule was the fact that Jesus had cast seven demons out of her (see Luke 8:2 ); yet His blessings were nothing to her in comparison with knowing Jesus Himself. “. . . she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. . . . Jesus said to her, ’Mary!’ ” ( John 20:14, 16 ). Once He called Mary by her name, she immediately knew that she had a personal history with the One who spoke. “She turned and said to Him, ’Rabboni!’ ” ( John 20:16  ).
When we are challenged by the Jesus that is presented to us, we are wise to rely on our experience with the Jesus we know, the Jesus who save us, who healed us, who set us on solid ground. To that Jesus, we say, “Master.” 
When I have stubbornly doubted? Sometimes, the Jesus of others’ experience is more than the Jesus we know. Thomas was not going to believe until His experience is personal. (see John 20:24-29 ). Have I been doubting something about Jesus— maybe an experience to which others testify, but which I have not yet experienced? The other disciples said to Thomas, “We have seen the Lord” ( John 20:25 ). But Thomas doubted, saying, “Unless I see . . . I will not believe” ( John 20:25 ). Thomas needed the personal touch of Jesus. When His touches will come we never know, but when they do come they are indescribably precious. “Thomas . . . said to Him, ’My Lord and my God!’ ” ( John 20:28 ). It is our role to believe not just the Jesus we have experienced, but the Jesus whose possibilities for us abound. We won’t know the reality of life everlasting with Jesus until it happens to us, but our hope depends on our not doubting it now, before it is real in our lives.
When I have selfishly denied Him? The greatest challenge to our relationship is when we deny Him. we have probably all experienced circumstances in which we are embarrassed by a relationship or, far worse, others are embarrassed by their relationship with us. What incredible damage to the relationship follows. Particularly when the denial is of the One who gave all. Frankly, we have all denied Him at some time.  We have sat silently in conversations where He is named and doubted. We have not stepped forward when His reality is questioned by others. (see John 21:15-17 ). Peter denied Jesus Christ with oaths and curses (see Matthew 26:69-75 ), and yet after His resurrection Jesus appeared to Peter alone. Jesus restored Peter in private, and then He restored him publicly before the others. And Peter said to Him, “Lord . . . You know that I love You” ( John 21:17 ). Our only hope after denial is confession and a plea for mercy, which He promises to honor. We can have restoration, just as Peter did.
Disinformation, doubt and denial, none can destroy our relationship if  we have a personal history with Jesus Christ? The one true sign of discipleship is intimate oneness with Him— a knowledge of Jesus that nothing can shake.
The reality of our relationship is the basis of our blessings.
Nick