December, 2010

Redemption, Creating the Need It Satisfies – Devotional for Friday, December 17, 2010

The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him . . . —1 Corinthians 2:14

The majority of people think of themselves as being completely moral, and have no sense of need for the gospel. It is God who creates this sense of need in a human being, but that person remains totally unaware of his need until God makes Himself evident. But God cannot give until a man asks. That is the plan He has established for the way of redemption. Through our asking, God puts His process in motion, creating something in us that was nonexistent until we asked. This is the meaning of redemption— it creates and it satisfies.
Jesus said, “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself” (John 12:32). When we preach our own experiences, people may be interested, but it awakens no real sense of need. But once Jesus Christ is “lifted up,” the Spirit of God creates an awareness of the need for Him. The creative power of the redemption of God works in the souls of men only through the preaching of the gospel. It is never the sharing of personal experiences that saves people, but the truth of redemption. “The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63).
It is our task, always and everywhere, to preach Jesus. Whenever we speak, whether of ourselves or of others, Jesus should come through. Because it is only Him that gives our lives color and wonder and meaning.
Nick

Wrestling Before God – Devotional for Thursday, December 16, 2010

Take up the whole armor of God . . . praying always . . . —Ephesians 6:13,18

It doesn’t take much reading of scripture to know that we are in a battle. We are referred to as soldiers. We are told to take on the whole armor of God. As soldiers we must know for whom and against whom we fight. We fight AGAINST forces that would keep us from Our God and His perfect will not against other of His children. We fight FOR others in intercession and in action as the Lord directs. What we should never do is wrestle WITH God.  If you ever do wrestle with God, you will be crippled for the rest of your life. If you grab hold of God and wrestle with Him, as Jacob did, simply because He is working in a way that doesn’t meet with your approval, you force Him to put you out of joint (see Genesis 32:24-25). Don’t become a cripple by wrestling with the ways of God, but be someone who wrestles before God with the things of this world, because “we are more than conquerors through Him . . .” (Romans 8:37). Wrestling before God makes an impact in His kingdom. If you ask me to pray for you, and I am not complete in Christ, my prayer accomplishes nothing. But if I am complete in Christ, my prayer brings victory all the time. Prayer is effective only when there is completeness— “take up the whole armor of God . . . .”
We sometimes think that to intercede is to fight God to go against His will.  We must always make a distinction between God’s perfect will and His permissive will, which He uses to accomplish His divine purpose for our lives. God’s perfect will is unchangeable. It is with His permissive will, or the various things that He allows into our lives, that we must wrestle before Him. It is our reaction to these things allowed by His permissive will that enables us to come to the point of seeing His perfect will for us. “We know that all things work together for good to those who love God . . .” (Romans 8:28) We should not be spineless and automatically say, “Yes, it is the Lord’s will.” We don’t have to fight or wrestle with God, but we must wrestle before God with things. Beware of lazily giving up. Instead, put up a glorious fight and you will find yourself empowered with His strength.
Nick

Approved to God – Devotional for Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth —2 Timothy 2:15

You don’t really know something until you can teach it to someone else. Many of the truths we claim to live by remain cloudy and undefined in our minds. Try to express verbally what you believe about Salvation or Sanctification, Baptism or Communion. If you find yourself mumbling, then you have some work to do. If you cannot express yourself well on each of your beliefs, work and study until you can. If you don’t, other people may miss out on the blessings that come from knowing the truth. Strive to re-express a truth of God to yourself clearly and understandably, and God will use that same explanation when you share it with someone else. 
Much of what we believe is based on what we have been “taught” but have never really learned. You must struggle, experiment, and rehearse your words to express God’s truth clearly. Then the time will come when that very expression will become God’s wine of strength to someone else. 
Sometimes we will come across a great expression of the truth and be tempted to adopt it as ours. Again, unless we can put it into our words and convey it to someone else, it really isn’t ours.
May the great truths upon which you base your life,  your own and
Be bless and bless others.

The Great Life – Devotional for Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled . . . —John 14:27

The Great Life is a life of peace. It’s a gift of God to the disciples of His Son. God’s mark of approval, whenever you obey Him, is peace. He sends an immeasurable, deep peace; not a natural peace, “as the world gives,” but the peace of Jesus. 
A life of peace, does not mean a life without trial or difficulty. But when problems come and we are right in our relationship with God, we know that He is in control and the sense of peace remains. It is helpful when our sense of peace leaves to go through a checklist to discover where our peace has gone.
Check first the status of our relationship. Are we trusting God ? Are we following His latest direction for our lives. Or have we tried to wrestle the steering wheel from Him and move Him from pilot to co-pilot? Have our lives become complicated or chaotic? That’s always a sign orfour attempt to control or lives or the lives of others.
Our Savior left us Peace. We have a right to it and are foolish to let it slip away.
Peace.
Nick

Intercessory Prayer – Devotional for Monday, December 13, 2010

. . . men always ought to pray and not lose heart —Luke 18:1

People describe intercession by saying, “It is putting yourself in someone else’s place.” That is not true! Intercession is putting yourself in God’s place; it is having His mind and His perspective. You may ask why is there a need for intercession? God already knows the needs and can intervene or not has He will.
I believe it is for the intercessor. By having the mind and perspective of God, we become more of what we should be. It grows and matures it. By having His perspective we begin to develop just a piece of the love He has for His children. 
Our natural tendency as “good” men and women is to try to “do” rather than intercede. When we “do” we artificially inflate our pride, forget the need for God, and often do damage to the one in need. In essence, we interfere.
It is said that “Prayer changes Things.” And so it does, it changes us. Consider the privilege of getting just a piece of the mind of God and His perspective.  If we don’t intercede, we begin to be self-focused and circumstance focused. . . . men always ought to pray and not lose heart —Luke 18:1
Intercede at every opportunity, it is our right and privilege and for our benefit.

Personality – Devotional for Sunday, December 12, 2010

. . . that they may be one just as We are one . . . —John 17:22

It’s amazing how early personality emerges. My great granddaughter is two years old and has a very distinct personality. She is different from the grand kids I have been blessed with.  We all display personality; yet just some of our personality is known to others. Personality is the unique, limitless part of our life that makes us distinct from everyone else. It is too vast for us even to comprehend. An island in the sea may be just the top of a large mountain, and our personality is like that island. We don’t know the great depths of our being, therefore we cannot measure ourselves. Others have no chance of completely understanding us. There is really only one Being who fully understands us, and that is our Creator.
 
Personality is the characteristic mark of the inner, spiritual man, just as individuality is the characteristic of the outer, natural man. Unlike individuality, personality is impacted by our contact with others. I am a different, hopefully better, person because of my forty plus year relationship with my wife. Personality merges, and you only reach your true identity once you are merged with another person. When love or the Spirit of God come upon a person, he is transformed. He will then no longer insist on maintaining his individuality. Our Lord never referred to a person’s individuality or his isolated position, but spoke in terms of the total person— “. . . that they may be one just as We are one . . . .”
Jesus often compared our relationship with Him with marriage, a merging, a new oneness. Perhaps one reason for the deplorable divorce rate is our modern refusal to let go of our individuality to become one with another. It is surely a reason for our lack of true spirituality, our reluctance to be one with our God. Once your rights to yourself are surrendered to God, your true personal nature begins responding to God immediately. Jesus Christ brings freedom to your total person, and even your individuality is transformed. The transformation is brought about by love— personal devotion to Jesus. Love is the overflowing result of one person in true fellowship with another.
Hopefully I am more because of my relationship with my Lord. We are certainly not yet one. Perhaps we will not be until heaven. But every increase of Him in me, makes me better, more complete and more perfect.
Be blessed.
Nick

Individuality – Devotional for Saturday, December 11, 2010

Jesus said to His disciples, ’If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself . . .’ —Matthew 16:24

At some point in my military career, I found myself in Newport, Rhode Island. That winter was the first time I had seen snow flakes. I was amazed by their size and the fact that each one seemed different. I like the saying under this image, “Always remember that you are unique. Just like everyone else.” 
It is a credit to our creator God that his imagination is so great as to allow Him to create billions of individuals. We should marvel at that and wonder that He loves us each knowing our differences. However, we sometimes mistakenly worship our individuality. Individuality sometimes shoves others aside, separating and isolating people. Our individuality must be yielded to God so that our spiritual life may be brought forth into fellowship with Him. Individuality counterfeits spirituality, just as lust counterfeits love. God designed human nature for Himself, but individuality corrupts that human nature for its own purposes. We can be so caught up in doing our “own thing” that we never get around to learning and doing His thing.
The characteristics of individuality are independence and self-will. God wants to bring you into union with Himself, but unless you are willing to give up your right to yourself, He cannot. “. . . let him deny himself . . .”— deny his independent right to himself. Then the real life-the spiritual life-is allowed the opportunity to grow.
Nick

The Offering of the Natural – Devotional for Friday, December 10, 2010

I remember many years ago I had a close friend who was baptized in the spirit. It was an incredible experience for him. We were at a men’s retreat and he lay in his bed for hours praying in the spirit. I will never forget a comment of his, “Everything is spiritual.” I remember it because it could be expected of someone experiencing a spiritual life for the first time. But I also remember it because it was wrong. My friend tried for some time to live “just in the spirit.” It didn’t work. The natural still exists and must be dealt with. Some of us are trying to offer up spiritual sacrifices to God before we have sacrificed the natural. The only way we can offer a spiritual sacrifice to God is to “present [our] bodies a living sacrifice . . .” (Romans 12:1). Sanctification means more than being freed from sin. It means the deliberate commitment of myself, body, mind and spirit, to the God of my salvation, and being willing to pay whatever it may cost.

We are talking about that nasty word, discipline. We need to discipline our bodies and minds, controlling what they consume and what they do. Remember we are called to be “perfect” and “perfect” means complete, body, mind, and spirit. If any part of our three part being is not offered to Him, we will suffer continual turmoil. 
Most of us were not taught discipline as a child. I remember the life-changing experience of spending my freshman and half of my sophomore years of high school in seminary. It was a life of discipline I had never known before. Certain hours were devoted to the spiritual, others to the physical, still others to the mental. We watched no television and saw a movie once a month. Everyone played sports and had a physical job. I worked one semester maintaining the entrance visitor rooms to the seminary and the next two semesters working in a garden. (don’t tell my wife.) It was life-changing. I went from being a mediocre student to a straight A student and I developed a spiritual and physical life for the first time. What I learned in that short time got me through 11 years in the Navy, where I finished college and then law school. Regretfully, I have not continued to apply the disciplines I learned in those years.
God is not actively involved with our natural life as long as we continue to pamper and gratify it. But once we are willing to put it out in the desert and are determined to keep it under control, God will be with it. He will then provide wells and oases and fulfill all His promises for the natural (see Genesis 21:15-19).
Challenge yourself to be more than the world expects, accept mental challenges, be unafraid of hard physical labor and watch your spiritual life grow. 
Present yourself as a living sacrifice in every way, and be blessed, in every way.
Nick
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