The Focus of Anguish – Devotional for Monday, August 1, 2011

This week our Pastor presented the above video from David Wilkerson “A Call to Anguish.” If you don’t see a video above you can catch it here. It’s a great video with a great message. In fact, I believe it deserves some further comment. Pastor Wilkerson distinguishes “anguish” from mere “concern.” True anguish is a gift from the Holy Spirit. It call us to action. For the Christian, the first real anguish is self-centered. It is anguish over our spiritual state. It is that deep abiding concern about our own spiritual state. It’s purpose is to lead to true repentance and to Christ. Christ inside should quench that anguish. It is not spiritual to continue to wallow in anguish once we have truly turned our lives over to Him. Folks who live a life-time in such a condition have either never really committed to Christ or have fallen victim to Satanic lies. The focus of anguish after salvation turns outward. It focuses us on our God-called mission. 
Christians have much to be concerned about: the lost, the state of our country and world, the impoverished, widows, those in prison, the persecuted church throughout the world. Such concern should lead us to prayer. But Christ calls each of us to more… to action and that’s the purpose of anguish. Anguish over a particular concern of the Lord’s should lead us to ministry in that area. I’ll use my own experience as an example. As a young Christian I had no particular concern over prisoners. I resisted invitations to such ministry for years. But after I got my first taste I was overwhelmed with an anguish for the plight of prisoners particularly those at Angola. That anguish has lead to years of ministry and to joy. Once we act on our Holy Spirit inspired anguish; He replaces it with joy. The motivation continues; but it now powered more by the joy than the anguish. 
A couple of important points. My anguish may not be your anguish. That’s fine. In fact, it’s all part of the plan. I am concerned about pregnant teens, abortion, nursing home patients, and a lot more; but they are not the focus of my ministry. I don’t have anguish. You may.
Some folks seem to never get past a generalized “concern” maybe even “anguish.” But it never leads to action so it is never replaced by joy. That’s not God’s plans. We need a push into ministry where after the joy sustains us. Just sitting on the sidelines accomplishes nothing. God-given anguish will be specific enough that it calls us to specific action.
Some have no “anguish.” To those I suggest, re-examine your spiritual state. Have you come to the joy of salvation having passed through the anguish that leads to repentance or did you just “come forward” once upon a time at a serice.  God’s first concern is that you be His. He won’t move you on to ministry until you are. If you feel confident about your own spiritual state, ask yourself if you are resisting ministry anguish. If you find yourself with feelings of despair and saying “One person can’t do everything.” You are resisting. No one person is called to do it all. We are all called to do something.
Are you in anguish? Isn’t it time to move on to Joy? Follow the Spirit’s lead. He leads you through anguish to great joy. We are not called to a life of anguish; we are called to a life of joyful service.
Nick

Prayer and Share – Devotional for Saturday, July 30, 2011

This Saturday may be the most important part of the Kairos process. Last weekend at Camp D we shared with the residents the love of Jesus from Thursday through Sunday afternoon. The time is full of learning, sharing, food, and fun. We bond with the residents and help them to bond with each other. On the Saturday following the four day retreat, some of us go back in for an Instructional Reunion. We emphasize the importance of weekly prayer and share and give specific instruction as to how to participate in Prayer and Share. The residents, thereafter, meet weekly and once a month some of the outside team return to participate.
Prayer and Share is the heart of Kairos. A requirement for participation as a team member is weekly participation in a prayer and share group. At Amana, we have taken to calling these Friendship Groups. I participate in a men’s group on Wednesday mornings. I don’t like to miss. My week is not the same when I do. Our pastor is a strong believer in the power of the small group. He attends the Wednesday 6 a.m. meeting and from there travels to meet with a similar group consisting of Vermilion Parish pastors. 
Prayer, support, teaching can happen in a small group like it can’t happen in a worship service or watching a teaching on TV.
Are you involved in such a group? Do you have a testimony about how such a group has impacted you. Would love to hear about it. Pray for us on Saturday as we try to spread love and the importance of small groups to a group of residents while the excitement is high from the retreat weekend.

Thanks as always for your support.

Nick

Jesus or me? Devotional for Friday, July 29, 2011

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you..” Matthew 6:33

Is your faith the center of your life or tacked on to your life? “No man can serve two masters…” (Matthew 6:24).

Do you believe that? Compare Brother Lawrence’s life: “After having given myself wholly to God to make all the satisfaction I could for my sins, I renounced, for the love of Him, everything that was not God; and I began to live as if there was none but He and I in the world.”

Doesn’t “seek first the kingdom” mean we are to have but one goal, and that is to know Jesus Christ personally, powerfully, passionately, and preeminently?  Doesn’t it mean that everything else will flow out of that?

You say, “But wait a minute. Brother Lawrence was a monk in a much different time.  I’ve got other things to do! I’ve got a job. I’ve got to rest. I’ve got to have recreation. I’ve got to have friends. I can’t just narrow my interests to one.”

Doesn’t it come down to one question? Who is the center of your life: Jesus or You?

Disturbingly simple isn’t it?

Nick

Hell’s or Heaven’s Kitchen – Devotional for Thursday, July 28, 2011

Rose and I enjoy watching the cooking shows on television, like Master Chef and Hell’s Kitchen. From these we learn that things are typically hectic, if not pandemonium in an institutional kitchen. I was impressed, therefore, when I learned such was not the situation in Brother Lawrence’s Kitchen, where,  maintaining the presence of God allowed Lawrence tranquility.
Practicing the presence of God is its own benefit, but Brother Lawrence learned that it had additional, often unexpected benefits. He wanted others to know the benefits of this way of life and told others about it, but more importantly, his example was a stronger inducement than his arguments. His face expressed such a sweet and calm state that it alone affected others.

Moreover, his state affected his work. His co-workers noted, that even in the busiest times in the kitchen, Brother Lawrence still preserved his recollection and heavenly-mindedness. He was never hasty nor loitering, but did each thing in its turn with an even, uninterrupted composure and tranquility of spirit. “The time of work,” said he, “does not with me differ from the time of prayer. In the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great a tranquility as if I were upon my knees at the Blessed Supper.”

Is your life closer to Hell’s Kitchen than Heaven’s? Want His peace? Seek His presence and practice it daily.

Be blessed.

Nick

Are you in the 2 percent? – Devotional for Wednesday, July 27, 2011

But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? —Romans 10:14

15-25% of the population of the world is yet to hear a clear presentation of the gospel so that they can personally place saving faith in Christ for salvation. This is no mystery when you consider that most Christians are not sharing their faith, usually about 2% do on a regular basis.

You have a story. Have you ever told it? If not, why not? Maybe you think that God can never use you in this way, that you’re just not gifted in that regard, and it is only for a privileged few share how Jesus changed their lives. But if this were the case, why was the Great Commission given to every Christian? Every believer is called to “go and make disciples of all the nations . . . ” (Matthew 28:19). That means we are all called to evangelism. We all have a part to play.

I must admit that I often think this plan of God’s: to spread His gospel through ordinary men, doesn’t sound like a great idea. But if it isn’t it would be the first time an idea of our God’s was not a good one. There is a reason He chose to spread the word of His only Son’s great sacrifice this way. It doesn’t really matter what that is.

Oh, I too have heard folks say (and have said myself) “My life is my testimony.” It’s true that our lives need to be example of God’s grace, but that’s only our “qualification” for sharing. It’s not a substitute for it. 

Why not sit down and write out your testimony? Practice giving it to a fellow Christian, your spouse for example. Our story should be so much a part of us that it flows out at every opportunity. I know that we aren’t all great orators or even decent story tellers. Many of us tremble at the thought of speaking publicly or sharing deep personal matters privately. That’s all the work of the evil one. It’s his job to keep us quiet. Don’t let him get away with it.

Share and be blessed.

Nick

Focus on God – Devotional for Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Brother Lawrence is best know for his practice of the continual presence of God, praying at all times. How did he do this? It’s really just a matter of focus. When he was alone, in prayer, he filled his mind with God. When it was time for work,  having first considered the things his job required, and when and how each thing was to be done; he spent all the intervals of his time, both before and after his work, in prayer.

He knew he needed God’s help even to be in His presence so he would pray:  “O my God, since Thou art with me, and I must now, in obedience to Thy commands, apply my mind to these outward things, grant me the grace to continue in Thy Presence; and prosper me with Thy assistance. Receive all my works, and possess all my affections.” As he proceeded in his work, he continued his familiar conversation with his Maker, imploring His grace, and offering Him all his actions. In other words, he prayed he would be able to focus on his work and His God simultaneously.

When he was finished, he examined how he had performed his duty. If he found well, he returned thanks to God. If not, he asked pardon and, without being discouraged, he set his mind right again. He then continued his exercise of the presence of God as if he had never deviated from it. “Thus,” said he, “by rising after my falls, and by frequently renewed acts of faith and love, I have come to a state where it would be as difficult for me not to think of God as it was at first to accustom myself to the habit of thinking of Him.” 

I can barely imagine being so focused on God as to keep Him in mind even when working. Yet, while writing this I have the television on watching the USA softball team win the World Cup. So it is possible for me to work and concentrate on something else. Surely I can work, and keep my mind on God.
Like Brother Lawrence, I’m just going to have to pray for His help in doing that. So if you see me kind of staring off next time we meet. Don’t bother me. I hope I’ll be focusing on God and whatever else I’m doing.

Nick

Marriage Thoughts – Devotional for Monday, July 25, 2011

The “Wedding Weekend” turned out to be very enjoyable. It was great seeing family. Rose and I had a good time together. One very special part was the homily provided at the wedding. It was very instructive. The talk included some statistics that strongly support the old adage that the family that prays together, stays together. A few years ago these statistics were compiled:
Of all marriages, 50 percent ended in divorce.
Of those marriages performed in church, 35 percent ended in divorce.
Of those marriages in which both parties were still attending church, 2 percent ended in divorce.
Of those marriages in which the couple had regular family devotionals, only 1 in 1105 ended in divorce.
That’s an incredible difference between the general statistics and those of church going and particularly home praying families. Isn’t it time to put that into practice?
We were also provided with some excellent practical advice about what married folks can do, in addition to praying together, to keep their marriage a good one.
1. Pleasure – Making time for things which your partner enjoys. We all have things we enjoy doing. Often after marriage, one or both partners forsakes the things he or she really enjoys or worse the couple seems to forget what they formerly enjoyed doing together. The practice of Agape love, the self-sacrificing love of Jesus, will lead both parties to put the other first and set aside time for fun things together and allow the other for fun things apart.
2. Romance – Intentionally providing romantic times. Walks along the beach, quiet times together, together watching a mutually enjoyable movie. Romance, it isn’t just for the unmarried any more.
3. Saving time and energy for meaningful sexual relationship. On our way home today we had a late breakfast (early lunch) at a little roadside cafe. It was one of those places with fun things hanging from the walls (like wooden dutch shoes) and “cute” signs. One of the signs read: “How is marriage like bath water? It’s not so hot once you get into it.” Marriage, raising children, earning a living all are energy and time absorbers. We can preserve the heat only if we intentionally set aside time for the passion that brought us together.
4. Protecting your partner’s ego. We are told: the two shall become one. But humans have egos and the natural tendency is to put ourselves first and that often means putting our spouse down. We should protect our spouse’s ego as we protect our own
a. avoid sins of the tongue.
b. build up, don’t tear down
c. don’t publicly criticize
d. Complement each day, a new complement each week
Some say that nothing good last forever, but with a lot of prayer (together) and some intentionality we can prove that adage wrong when it comes to marriage.
Be blessed.
Nick

Wedding Thoughts – Devotional for Saturday, July 23, 2011

Rose and I will be in Texas on Saturday at “The Wedding.” Rose’s godchild, Paul Elliott, is marrying Katie Godfrey. The couple has shown much maturity in the process. They are both now college graduates. Paul has an advanced degree in Math and has a job teaching at LSU-E. It will be good seeing the family and getting to spend some time away over the weekend.
Just as funerals remind the family of our own mortality, weddings remind us of our own blessings. I was born as the oldest of nine children. Our parents didn’t have much. We didn’t have a car until I was in high school and we lived in housing project for years. But the children all did well. We lost one sister years ago, and we miss her. I enjoy being with all that remain and their beloveds, and offspring.

Of course, I will be with my bride of 42 years. Our own wedding seems like it was just yesterday… okay, maybe the day before.

Marriage is under fire these days with many not seeing the need for it. I can attest to its value in my life. The marriage of my parents, my siblings, and my own convince me that marriage is still God’s plan. If we are willing to put Him first, our spouse second, our kids next, it still works.
 
Paul and Katie. I pray a great life for you. That you will have the wisdom and faith to follow Him and His plan and enjoy His blessings through all the trials that every life has.

Be blessed.

Nick