What Now? – Devotional for Friday, April 15, 2011

We have been talking about God’s Plan for us. Once we grab on to the concept that He has a plan and acknowledge that His plan is superior to ours AND commit to being a follower of His Plan, then what? How do we convert those intentions into life. I believe we do that by asking “What Now?” We need to do that more than in just  an abstract way, but in a practical “What do I do next?” way.
We should begin every day, in those first few moment of wakefulness asking “What would you have me do today?” Some people find that difficult, claiming that they are not “morning people.” For them it may work better to end each day asking, “What would you have me do tomorrow?” That doesn’t work for me because I go to sleep too fast. Ask Rosemary.
Then at particular times of the day we need to ask, “How am I doing?” “What next?”  Then wrapping it up at the end of the day with “How did we do?”
If you are new to listening to God this may see very silly. But it really isn’t. It will take some time to “hear” Him. Don’t expect a clear audible voice, at least not a first. It will start with little more than a feeling, a nudge in a particular direction. He may answer with circumstances that we don’t expect, opportunities that come from nowhere. But he will honor our sincere desire to follow His lead. He wants to lead us, to spend time with us. 
Give Him a chance to lead and to bless.
Nick

God’s Plans – Devotional for Thursday, April 14, 2011

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV)

God is in control. We talked about that yesterday. I argued yesterday that one result of that truth is that we should probably spend less time planning and more time enjoying the ride. Instead of focusing on the futile project of wrestling control back from God, maybe we should consider the impact of His control. 

One reason we like to be in control is that we like to know what’s happening. That’s why I like to drive. While driving I focus on the road and each danger and opportunity as it approaches. Somehow I feel I’ll do a better job in handling those situations than anyone else in the car who might want to drive. In other words, I believe I’m the best driver in the car. (Not too humble am I?)

But with life, it’s completely different. It’s hard to argue with the truth that God is a better driver. He knows what will happen. He has a clear vision of the road ahead. He has complete power to control every bump in the road and to negotiate every turn. But it’s more than that, God loves me. He has plans to prosper  me and not to harm me, plans to give me hope and a future. Satan sometimes plants in our heads that if we let God be in control, He will drag us through a joyless empty life of misery. Nothing could be further from the truth. We were created to serve Him and we were designed to be perfectly happy only by being perfectly in His will.

It’s never to late to get back in His will, to start benefiting from His plan. The sooner we do that the more of the joy filled life we will enjoy. But don’t forget, sometimes what is best for us isn’t always fun at the time. We need to learn to appreciate the whole trip, and not focus on, what to us, appears to be bumps in the road.

There are great things ahead. Let God do the driving. He knows all the best spots.



Nick

When Things Don’t Turn Out – Devotional for Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Has your life turned out like you thought it would? Maybe you’re too young to know. But most of us don’t have to get too old before we realize that things don’t always turn out like we planned. In fact, it might be fair to say that things don’t  usually turn out like we plan. 

I think the big problem is we plan too much. I’m serious. There’s nothing wrong with planning  but there is so very much we have no control over. Holidays are a great example. We have all witnessed the Christmas that doesn’t live up to expectations or the birthday party that’s a bomb.

Maybe we need to live with our hands a little less firmly attached to the steering wheel of life. Face it we really don’t control very much and if we are real honest about it, that’s a very good thing. Just think how messed up things would be if we were in control.

But the fact is God is in control. One of my favorite songs of all time is Twila Paris’ God is in Control.

Consider the lyrics:

This is no time for fear
This is a time for faith and determination

Don’t lose the vision here

Carried away by emotion

Hold on to all that you hide in your heart

There is one thing that has always been true

It holds the world together

God is in control

We believe that His children will not be forsaken

God is in control

We will choose to remember and never be shaken

There is no power above or beside Him, we know

God is in control, oh God is in control

History marches on

There is a bottom line drawn across the ages

Culture can make its plan

Oh, but the line never changes

No matter how the deception may fly

There is one thing that has always been true

It will be true forever

He has never let you down

Why start to worry now?

He is still the Lord of all we see

And He is still the loving Father

Watching over you and me

watching over you…watching over me..

watching over every thing..

watching over you..watching over me..

every little sparrow..every little thing… 


We’re not in control…. and that’s a good thing.

Be blessed.

Nick

Blessed are they that mourn – Devotional for Tuesday, April 12, 2011

“Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.” Matthew 5:4
It’s not fashionable or cool to mourn. You would think with all the death on the news, on television and the movies, it would be quite real to us. The opposite seems to be true. All those “pictures” of death numb us to it’s reality. We hear about thousands dead in Japan and it’s really just numbers. And it isn’t just death. We numb ourselves to any kind of pain or worry. Depression is a disease; but sorrow is part of life. We live in a world where children go to bed hungry. Christians are tormented for their faith. And millions die without Jesus.
Jesus was a man of sorrows. He saw the sin around Him, and it broke His heart. In Matthew 23:34-39 we read how Jesus’ heart ached for Jerusalem and the destruction sin had wrought in the hearts of men. We live in an increasingly lost world; many are dying without Jesus. That should make us mourn. 
The truly sad thing about our reluctance to mourn is that it robs us of true comfort. We can’t really feel comforted, if we haven’t mourned. Joy is nothing; if we have never known sadness. 
It is a sorrowful world we live in; but Joy is coming. His name is Jesus. We will appreciate His return all the more; if we allow ourselves to feel what this world is like now, without His ruling presence.
Feel true sorrow and be blessed by the comfort of Joy.
Nick

Intentional Life – Devotional for Monday, April 11, 2011

Is your life on autopilot? You know how it is. We slip into patterns. We wake up at certain times. Go to work. Come home. Camp out in front of the TV. Bed. Then we do it all again. We miss much when we live on autopilot. We are so used to our routine that we can miss the unique things going on around us each day. We can miss the needs of those around us. We can miss the beauty of God’s world. We can miss His involvement in our lives. 
We also can stagnate. If we are in a routine we’re probably not growing. Each day we should know a little more about God. We should have a bit more trust in Him. We should be a bit less worldly and a bit more heavenly minded. Instead, if we are on autopilot, we probably have not experience real change in years.
Consider. Where is your spiritual life now, compared with a week, month or year ago?
Commit to some intentionality in your life starting tomorrow. Spend some time in scripture before you start your day, it that’s not part of your current routine. Listen to Christian music on your way to work if you normally have the news on.
You get the idea. Take your life off of autopilot and acknowledge the God Pilot of your life. Let Him change you and be blessed.
Nick

Our Methods and God’s Movement – Devotional for Sunday, April 10, 2011

I spent most of the day yesterday at a Kairos State Board meeting in Alexandria. The day was spent in discussions about the new manual we use, software programs that we use to keep up with donors and organizing the Kairos weekends, quality control measures… all our methods to do God’s work. Ministry is always a balance between doing the best job we can based on our shared experience and our willingness to be yielded to God’s Spirit. We clearly have an obligation to do the  best job we can at what God has called us to do; yet we also need constant reminders that no matter how great the method, it’s God who does the work.
When ministry becomes tiresome and tedious and doesn’t feel very fruitful, it’s usually time to step back and make sure we’re doing what God has told us to do, in the way He would have us do it. To make sure we are relying more on His spirit and wisdom than on our methods and experience.
The Good News is no matter how bad we blow it; he seems to always be there to take up the slack.
Praise Him for His movement and His grace.
Nick

Judging – Devotional for Saturday, April 9, 2011

I did some judging this morning. We judge all the time. We go to MacDonalds instead of Burger King, or the other way around, because we “judge” one to be better than the other, or cheaper or closer. We make judgments concern our television watching and with whom we choose to associate.
This morning was a little different. It was a little closer to the situation in which Jesus asked “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” I went into the Waffle House with my ear phones in my ears. So a bit oblivious to those around me. Somehow I noticed a woman at the counter. She just had a cup of water in front of her. I picked up pieces of the conversation and figured out she was asking for some food and explaining she had no money. The manager gave her some food. She said she need to get to the closest truck stop to get a ride. The manager told her he couldn’t take her but gave her some cash. She then asked for a phone book and the use of the phone and tried to call a cab. When she went to use the phone, I asked the waitress about the situation and she said she was a stranger and couldn’t add much to the information I already had.
On some level I felt like I should help; maybe offer to drive her to the truck stop. I said a little prayer about it and just felt I shouldn’t get involved. She was very nervous and seemed like she might be on drugs. I don’t know if I made the right decision; but that’s not the point of this devotional. I did make a judgment. I had some facts. I prayed for discernment and in deciding not to get involved, I made some judgment about the character of the woman in need.
Jesus said at one point not to judge. But in other places in scripture it’s clear that we are to “make judgments.” Is there a difference? Christians are already felt by many to be “judgmental.” This area raises a lot of questions and deserves some serious study, prayer and consideration. That’s what we will do in our Sunday night session on Being the Church at Amana. If you have some thoughts on the subject or some questions, please join us in our discussion. You may have the word that others need to hear.
Pray for the Waffle House Lady. No matter what her character, she clearly needs prayer.
Be blessed.
Nick

I hate it here – Devotional for Friday, April 8, 2011

By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. John 13:35

Do you have a loved one who is not only unsaved, but seems about as far from God as you could imagine? Someone who hates the idea of being in church. I hope this story from the last Kairos weekend told by the leader of that weekend will encourage you.

Saturday morning, a team member approached me with worry and concern about a resident at his table. The concern was a common one – the resident was not participating and seemed quite angry.


This particular team member was a first timer, and I gave him a rather typical answer, “stick with it, we are only half way through and today will be a good day. Keep the faith.”

I was curious and wanted to gauge the resident myself, so I approached him during a break and asked, “How are ya…having a good time?”

His response was quick and to the point, “I hate it here!”

His eyes could have cut through steel. “I don’t want to be here, and I just can’t stand it. This is not for me.”
Inside, I was crushed. I managed to smile and told him, “Please try to stick it out. I think you’ll enjoy it.”

Shaking his head as I spoke, he snapped back, “I’m just telling you now, I hate it.”

I casually replied, “Remember what I told all of you Thursday night, we are not here to change you. In fact, if you disagree with everything we say this weekend, that’s okay. And keep in mind, if you want to leave, that’s okay too. Just let me know.”


Soon after that, lunch arrived. My spiritual advisor guessed he would bolt after eating lunch. At the time, I couldn’t disagree with his bleak assessment. Funny how God had other plans.


Over lunch, the resident who “hated it” slowly began talking to the team member. What I saw next will stay with me forever. Over the noise of a community room busy breaking bread, the team member slowly slid his chair toward the resident, made direct eye contact with him and listened. He listened to every word, never looking away from him.


As I saw this, I stopped eating and immediately prayed to God, “Father, send your wonderful Holy Spirit…now…let it pierce the roof of this conference room and descend on this resident.”

Lunch continued. The talking continued. The listening continued.


I jumped up, insisting to myself that I should continue praying…grabbing another team member, and urging him to join me in prayer. At this point, our prayer focus was dual. While we were concerned about the resident, we were equally concerned that the first-time team member would get incredibly discouraged if the resident were to leave.

We prayed that the resident would not only stay but that his life would be altered forever. We also prayed for reassurance that God’s will would be done and not ours. This is always the toughest prayer.

Lunch ended. Guess what else ended? His desire to leave.


The resident did more than just stay, he started actively participating; even asking at one point for one-on-one clergy counseling, which lasted more than 20 minutes. I remained in prayer. He returned to the community room with a huge grin on his face. I will never know what happened during that counseling session, but I will forever remember the clergy member whispering in my right ear, “God is good.”


Later that night, at open mike, the resident jumped to his feet, the first to share. I turned to my spiritual advisor, both of us dumbfounded, as we watched a now eager soul approach the microphone.


“I have tried to find God before in my life. I really did. But what’s happening here? This is just amazing. The love in this place is changing me in ways I can’t describe. I am just so happy to be here.”

Six hours prior to that, the quote was “I hate it here.”


Patient attentive listening and prayer. Is that really so hard to do? Even the hardest heart needs to be listened to, prayed for and loved. 

Be encouraged and be blessed.

Nick