Holy Saturday – Devotional for Saturday, April 23, 2011

Holy Saturday. A day, in some ways that was likely harder for the disciplines than Good Friday. With the horror of His torturous death still a vivid memory, the disciplines began to consider “What now?” “How could I have been some blind?” “He wasn’t who He said He was?” “I had attached all my hopes and dreams on Him and now He’s dead. Will they come for me next?”
As His disciples, we have days, and sometimes weeks, months and years, like that. After the flash of salvation, the grind of daily life sets in and we begin to question. “Am I really a Christian?” “Can I believe what He said?” “Why is He so hard to follow?” “Why can’t I hear His voice?” And in response it seems heaven is silent and the world and our “friends” laugh and mock. It would be so easy to drop it all and believe only in what we see instead of what He promised.
As I have mentioned, I have been reading “Has Christianity Failed You?” by Ravi Zacharias. He addresses many of these doubts and questions. But the bottom line is Jesus is everything He said He was and His promises are true. If there is a problem, we have either misunderstood who He is or we have confused Him with His church. He is perfect; His church is not. 
We do well today, and any time when doubt assails us, to stop and reconsider Christ. Yesterday we looked up to see Jesus crucified and considered our part in His death. Today, perhaps we should consider Christ who seems silent and buried at times in our lives. I am reminded of the “Footprints in the Sand” story in which our lives are considered as footprints in the sand. Most of the time there are two sets of prints, ours and His but at other times there is but one set. In those times, it’s not that He’s left. The only footprints we see are His. He carried us through those tough times. 
If He seems silent and absent consider: “Has He abandoned me or have I not been listening?” If we are disappointed with our Christian walk, is it because it’s not what He promised or we just didn’t listen when He advised it would involve picking up a cross and following? Is it because we have believed  a “gospel” that teaches if we are Christians we should always be rich and healthy? Is it because we thought there would be no persecution, if we followed Him? 
He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. He doesn’t promise that we will always feel that or see that. He does promise that, by faith, we can always know that. If He seems quiet today, know that tomorrow He will burst forth in glory and power and the world will know. “He is risen.”
Nick

Good Friday – Devotional for April 22, 2011

I don’t handle Good Friday very well and, as I look around, I see I’m not the only one. I am conflicted on what I should do and how I should feel. I remember the Holy Weeks of my youth. I was always impressed with the solemn Good Friday ceremony with its long reading of the Passion, stripping of the altar and covering of the statutes in church. It was the strangest day of the church year, a ceremonial attempt to convey the import of a death 2000 years ago. 
The very name of the day, Good Friday, betrays an uncomfortable contrast. How can a day memorializing the torture death of the Savior be “Good.” I know all the theological explanations but the discomfort remains. 
In modern times, Good Friday is the actual holiday of the Easter weekend. It is the day off, the free day that makes up the three day weekend. In Acadiana, it’s the day of the year with the largest consumption of crawfish. There’s a fun fact for you. Is that consistent with the death we are memorializing?
We like to rush through Good Friday with our eyes half closed focused on the brightness and joy of Resurrection Sunday. But that’s the wrong thing to do. Without Good Friday there is no Easter Sunday. We need to spend some time at the foot of the cross. We need to try to understand the love that held Him there. We need to feel the weight of our sin that made it all necessary. We need to face our responsibility and weep for what we’ve done and, sadly, often continue to do.
Nick

Render to Caesar – Devotional for Thursday, April 21, 2011

15 Then the Pharisees went and plotted how they might entangle Him in His talk. 16 And they sent to Him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that You are true, and teach the way of God in truth; nor do You care about anyone, for You do not regard the person of men. 17 Tell us, therefore, what do You think? Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” 

18 But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, “Why do you test Me, you hypocrites? 19 Show Me the tax money.” 
So they brought Him a denarius. 

20 And He said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?” 

21 They said to Him, “Caesar’s.” 

And He said to them, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” 22 When they had heard these words, they marveled, and left Him and went their way.


Tax season has come to an end. It means different things to different folks. To many it means the government gives back some money which they have held and used all year, to others it means the government gives some folks’ money to other folks, and finally there is the increasingly small group that writes the checks and pays the bills. Those of us in the last category can certainly relate to the occupied Israelites who paid a high price in taxes to a foreign government. I have often marveled at Jesus’ clever response to this attempt to trap Him.

I am currently reading Has Christianity Failed You? by Ravi Zacharias. Like most of Zacharias’ writing it is rich in material that prompts deep thought. Regarding this matter of rendering to Caesar, Zacharias points out that there should have been a follow up question. “What is God’s?” The answer would be just as Caesar’s image was on the coin, God’s image is on us. We were created in His image. We are His therefore, we should render ourselves to God. 

We clearly worry too much about who owns what in our world. It is much more important to continually operate with an understanding that we are His, made in His image. If that dominates our thinking, our mind will be closer to His and  our actions will be more in tune with His will.

Render to God what is God’s and

 Be blessed.

Nick

Wherever you are, be all there – Devotional for Wednesday, April 20, 2011

This is the era of multitasking. I work on my computer while watching TV, text while driving, listen to my ipod while doing everything. In one of the many letters he wrote to his son in the 1740s, Lord Chesterfield offered the following advice: “There is time enough for everything in the course of the day, if you do but one thing at once, but there is not time enough in the year, if you will do two things at a time.” It has been proven that multitasking really isn’t more efficient than doing one thing at a time. I know I have to rewind the story on my ipod often just because I’m thinking of something else while listening to a book.  Here’s some great advice: Wherever you are, be all there.
Our minds are so cluttered that we overlook the joy just in being alive today.The Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus, “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity.” (Ephesians 5:15–16) Every moment of the day we should be fully engaged in the most important thing that needs to be done at that time. Notice I say “important” not “urgent.” Have you ever been involved in a conversation with someone who stops talking to you to pick up a ringing phone or to answer a text? We need to learn to “totally” devote our attention to what we are doing. 
So what’s important. In Colossians 3:17, Paul suggested, “whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus.” If we “seek first the Kingdom,” we will find that we have plenty of time for all that is really important. 
Just as important as your to-do list—and perhaps more important—what’s on your to-don’t list? One of the great benefits of focusing on the eternally important is that it leaves no time for things we should be involved in. 
Make the most of the moment, be all in it and be blessed.
Many of the thoughts for this meditation were borrowed from Craig Groeschel,  the founder and senior pastor of LifeChurch.tv. His latest new book is called WEIRD: Because Normal Isn’t Working

No More Fuzzy Lines – Devotional for Tuesday, April 19, 2011

We live in the era of the “fuzzy line.” It seems to most folks nothing is definite; all things are relative. One of the strangest verses that ever fell from the lips of Jesus, the Prince of Peace, is this: “Think not that I have come to send peace on the earth. I came not to send peace, but a sword.” A sword from the Prince of Peace?

A sword is a dividing tool. He is saying, “I came with a sword to put a line of demarcation between truth and error, between light and dark, between sin and righteousness.” When God’s standard of righteousness is set, there will always be division. Without righteousness there can be no peace. Peace can never come where sin remains. God will never make a peace treaty with sin, never. That kind of definite clear line drives some folks crazy. For those kind of people, “it all depends” is a proper answer to every question. Christ put an end to that. After Christ, things are good or bad, right or wrong. To those who believe there is much peace in having moral clarity. But it will make some unhappy. It will destroy the peace of the unbeliever as much as it ensures the peace of those who trust.

In God We Trust and from that we have peace… NO MORE FUZZY LINES.

Be blessed.

Nick


Thanks for the Prayers

Thanks to all who prayed for my court date today. I have been struggling with knee pain for a month and had a court day today which I was not looking forward to. I felt all your prayers. I thought I would be in court for a couple of hours,  but it turned out that I was there all day. I never felt pain in my knee (until now at home). God also granted favor with the court in several rulings. Although a decision was not rendered, I am confident that it will turn out fine.

Thanks again to all your prayers. It works.

Be blessed.

Nick

Suffering – It Ain’t All Bad – Devotional for Sunday, April 17, 2011

      “Why is there suffering in the world?” The question is asked by atheists, intent on using the existence of suffering as proof that there could be no God. The question also comes up among the faithful who are challenged by the very real suffering that exists and who feel overwhelmed by the enormity of it all. We know, but easily forget, that much suffering arises from the fallen nature of our world.

      However, part of our problem is that we see suffering as always a bad thing. This isn’t the case. Sometimes suffering is used by God to bring us to Himself.  When we are broken by the sufferings of life, we run into the arms of our Abba Father, Daddy God. Remember how the churches filled up on the days after 9/11 or after Hurricane Katrina? When there is suffering or danger, he gathers us to himself, calls us by name, and tells us we are his own. Our tender heart and aching soul listen and respond to his call. When we are still and rest in his arms, we begin to recognize the basic truth that God is God and we are not. It is at these times that Jesus truly becomes our all. We learn to have intimate fellowship with him, which carries us through our pain. He becomes the fortress that surrounds and protects us, the rock to which we cling, and our shelter from the storms of life. We recognize that we do not need to fear—no matter what the circumstances—for He protects our souls from whatever comes. Everything else in life fades into the background in the light of his presence. Time spent with him in worship, prayer, and the Word becomes precious. He becomes our great reward, and that is sufficient.

If we are honest we “suffer” more than we admit. There is power in the honesty for in our weakness, His power steps in. On Sunday night we will close out our series on “Being the Church” as we explore “Being Transparent about our Trials.” Come and join us… For some suffering, at least, we need to give thanks.

 Be blessed. 

Nick

Our Father – Devotional for Saturday, April 16, 2011

Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.’ ” —John 20:17


After the Resurrection, everything changed. Death was defeated. Satan’s ultimate defeat was assured. Our salvation became possible. And we were gifted with a new relationship with God. He became our Abba, our daddy. In the first words, Jesus spoke as risen Lord, He calls the Father, His Father and Our Father.
Fatherhood has never been less understood than it is today. Never before have some many grown up without a resident father. But even in households where there is a natural father, he often fails to fill the God assigned role as spiritual leader. We’ve never needed our heavenly Father more. Many of us have grown up without a human model of what fathership is. God our Father loves us enough to permit the death of his begotten Son. He wants us to live with Him forever. He is willing to see us suffer and struggle when He knows that’s what we need to be all we can be. He is patient when we don’t come to Him with our needs and ready to respond when we finally do. 
We need to grow in our relationship with Him as He becomes less a distant diety and more a loving Father, perfect and holy and worthy of praise.
Nick