Happy Kids – Devotional for Thursday, April 7, 2011

“Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.” Matthew 5:6

Have you ever said, regarding your children, grands and great grands, I just want them to be happy? I have. But when I think about it I really want more than that. I guess I don’t want  just “happiness” for them, but Joy.  People can be happy as a result of lots of things: great marriage, good kids, even money or friends. But happiness has a temporary quality to it. 
Joy, for me, is deeper and longer lasting. It doesn’t depend on circumstances. It is rooted in relationship, specifically relationship with Jesus. Joy of the Lord is our strength. 
But joy doesn’t foreclose happiness. Adrian Rogers once said, “Happiness is something you stumble over on your way to serving Jesus. When you are serving the Lord Jesus Christ, happiness is the by-product of righteousness. People who are trying to be happy are focusing their energy at the wrong target. If you will seek after righteousness, then you will be happy.”
I guess we could say that happiness is a diet thing: drinking of the Spirit and feeding on the Word. I heard something recently that sounds right. God is not so much a stern judge laying down arbitrary rules. But He is the great physician, who knows and wants what’s best for us. And we find His best is in righteousness.
That’s what I want for not just my kids, but for everyone I love.
Know Jesus, Know Joy, Know Happiness.
Nick

You’re a Christian? Why are you stressed? Devotional for Wednesday, April 6, 2012

“Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall He not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?” Matthew 6:30
As Christians, we should never be stressed. But we are.
Consider that  the basis of stress is a concern that we will be lacking something we think we need. As Christians, Jesus is all we need. Our problem is that we upgrade our wants to the level of needs. But for us only one thing is important – Jesus and His righteousness. 
When you feel the stress moving in, stop and consider. What is it that you think you need that you fear you won’t have? Identifying the cause of your stress allows you to realize that you’re stressing over something that doesn’t deserve it. For in Him, we have all we need. 
He has alway been faithful. He will always be faithful. 
Stress? What stress?
Don’t stress. Be blessed.
Nick

Basketballing for Jesus – Devotional for Tuesday, April 5, 2011

I write this as the finals of the NCAA Basketball tournament is on television. The tournament has become so popular we now know it as “March Madness.” Did you know that basketball began as a Christian outreach?  The inventor of basketball,  James Naismith wanted a more effective way to win men for Christ. In 1891, there weren’t a lot of good indoor games. Naismith set out to invent a new indoor game that students could play during winter. He came up with basketball.
Basketball served as an important evangelical tool during the next 50 years.  In 1941, Naismith wrote that “whenever I witness games in a church league, I feel that my vision, almost half a century ago, of the time when the Christian people would recognize the true value of athletics, has become a reality.”
The next time you’re watching a basketball game with friends, particularly young ones, why not use the history of the game as an opportunity to turn the conversation to spiritual matters. 
We could be doing a lot better with our young who are leaving the church and rejecting the faith of their fathers in alarming numbers. We need to be more creative and energetic in sharing our faith.
Half time is over. 22 to 19???: Sounds more like a football game.
Back to the game.
Be blessed.
Nick

Grace – The Real Story – Devotional for Monday April 4, 2011

Titus 2:11-14 (New King James Version)11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, 12 teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, 13 looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.

I took on the subject of abuses of Grace at our Sunday night session tonight and did a really poor job of it. To those who were there, I apologize and ask you to consider what I say here. To those who were not there, and, thankfully,  many more of you missed the session than attended, please consider this.

God’s grace is unmerited favor. It’s something we don’t deserve. It comes in two potent forms: Forgiveness of sin and the power to live without sin. We need to proclaim  that in Jesus there is forgiveness of sin and the ability to live as His disciples.  

We owe a lost world the truth: that they are living in sin which condemns them, that in faith in Jesus there is forgiveness of sin and the power to live free of sin. We have the obligation of loving like Jesus loved, fearlessly and unconditionally. We love enough to forgive others as He forgave us and to give them an example of holiness possible only through the power of His grace. Such grace-filled living will bring persecution and peace. Jesus promises both.

That’s what I should have said tonight and proclaim now.

Be blessed with His grace.

Nick

Separating God from the Church – Devotional for Sunday, April 3, 2011

There is a tendency to confuse God and the church. For the non-believer, this provides an opportunity to reject God based on the imperfections in His church.  A believer may turn away from God having been hurt by His human church. 
God is good. All the time. The church is not always good. The church, albeit the body of Christ, is still made up of human beings – redeemed to be sure, but still sinners. As a preacher from New Orleans puts it, “Sinners gonna sin; you gotta expect that.”
How does this play out in our lives? We must put our faith in God. We should testify how God has saved us and is sanctifying us. We often err in putting faith in man or it believing that our goal as Christians is to get the unbeliever into church. Our goal is to lift up Christ and have Him draw men unto Him.
This does not diminish the importance of the church and our need, as Christians, to be a part of it. It is in and through the Church that we live out our call to “make disciples.” It is where we love so that all may know we are His disciples.
As Christians our relationship with Him comes first. Our church life is a blessed outpouring of that relationship.
On Sunday night at Amana we will be discussing this issue of separation of God and Church. Come and contribute. We will all be blessed.
Nick
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—The church is not always good.
—The church, albeit the body of Christ, is still made up of human beings—redeemed to be sure, but still sinners. This, perhaps, is where Yancey’s distinction between the church and the God of the church comes in.
—As a preacher from New Orleans puts it, “Sinners gonna sin; you gotta expect th

Forgiveness – Devotional for Saturday, April 2, 2011

Acts 10:43—”Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins.”

Forgiveness, we all need to receive it and to extend it. Guilt is the cause of sleepless nights and filled psycho wards. Our recent tendency to deny the concept of sin confuses the guilt issue. For modern man guilt is often generalized and vague. There is a “feeling” of guilt but nothing to specifically pin it on, having denied the existence of sin.
But relating to another the recognition of sin is tough. To say “all have sinned” is biblical truth but not specific enough to explain individual guilt. To say “you are a sinner” means little to a world who doesn’t understand the word.
I believe the answer lies in our personal testimony. Anyone can relate to a story which says, “I was eaten up with guilt until I realized it was based on my having offended God. And the good news that there was forgiveness for that offense in faith in Jesus released me from that guilt.”
We also need to be honest and confess that our failure to forgive others has produced pain, maybe in them, but surely in us. “Joe had offended me. I’m not sure he even realized it, but it was eating me up. It was keeping me up at night and making me an ineffective person. When I forgave him and released my unforgiveness, a burden was removed.”
 Every one we know needs forgiveness and to forgive.  They need an explanation for the feeling of guilt or the burden of unforgiveness. Such an explanation comes best for a real example from a loving friend rather than from a scowling finger pointed in blame.
Be forgiven, forgive and share the experience, then be blessed.
Nick.

April Fool’s Day – Devotional for April 1, 2011

Today is April Fool’s Day. It is said this day dates back to 1392 in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.  There is a web site which lists the top 100 April Fool’s Day hoaxes. 
The photo comes from the number 1 hoax: 1957: The respected BBC news show Panorama announced that thanks to a very mild winter and the virtual elimination of the dreaded spaghetti weevil, Swiss farmers were enjoying a bumper spaghetti crop. It accompanied this announcement with footage of Swiss peasants pulling strands of spaghetti down from trees. Huge numbers of viewers were taken in. Many called the BBC wanting to know how they could grow their own spaghetti tree. To this the BBC diplomatically replied, “place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best.”
It’s amazing what folks will fall for. It’s even more amazing the truth that they won’t believe: That God loved them so much that He sent his only son to die for them so that whosoever believes in Him might be saved. Try that one on some folks and they will look at your like it’s an April Fool story. But do it anyway; it’s what we are called to do.
Don’t be a fool. Be blessed.
Nick