Isn’t time for the sun to come up?

This picture has nothing to do with the blog topic. It just seemed kind of cool.

I really struggled getting my shoes on this morning. I was doing it in the dark at 2 a.m. I did’t want to wake up my wife. Some people think you should be asleep at 2 a.m. They have a very narrow sense of propriety. The struggle with my shoes taught me a valuable lesson: You should always put your shoes on the right feet. Once I got the right shoe on the right foot, things went much better. 

I sang all the songs pretty loud at church Sunday. I am disappointed to report that I still am tone deaf. My apologies to those who sat near me. The bad thing is I know I can’t sing and seem to get perverse pleasure in making other people around me miserable. Perhaps I should confess that.

 

I also apologize for thinking that when the Pastor said I deserved a standing ovation that he meant I should stand up. I felt kind of foolish so I gave the queenly wave around the room to my subjects, who seemed to get a big kick out of it. We really need to do a better job of providing entertainment at Sunday Service. By the way, you would think a Pastor would recognize that Jesus deserves the standing ovation. I thought they taught them that at seminary. I know Jesus was in the room, but He showed no interest in taking a bow. My Pastor needs some work as an Emcee.

 

I am also disappointed to report that I still can’t dance. We did some kind of jewish folk dance at church (Gary and Sally are out of town so I have no explanation of what the dance was.) I didn’t get a single step right. It was embarrassing because people kept pointing at me. Perhaps I should consider dance classes. I will be kind and not point out that most of them weren’t doing the dance right either.

 

You would think that the first week a guy with a cane comes back to Church the pastor would have the good sense to schedule a service that didn’t require you to pass a physical before participating. But my Pastor has never had a good sense of timing. Good thing He’s about to retire. Maybe the new Pastor will recognize that it’s all about me. But I’m not hopeful.

 

I still can’t play tennis, mountain climb, lead a palates class, win American Idol or be elected President. No hold up on that I really haven’t tried these things yet so maybe I could do some of them. Surely the President thing can’t be too hard. Look who we have and who we might have.

 

It’s now three a.m. and still no one is up. I think I will go in the kitchen and rattle some pots and pans. I think I can claim I was fixing everyone breakfast. Tomorrow I’ll let you know how it goes. By the way when you explain to your friends that I was on pain medication when writing this, I have to admit that isn’t true. I haven’t taken pain medication for a while. It was making me too smart. I am considering using it to euthanize my daughter’s dog. Is that a crime?

 

Nick

 

 

 

 

Fun Day

Sometimes things don’t turn out as predicted. Yesterday was my first full day home after knee replacement surgery. My understanding has been that I am supposed to be in horrible pain, packed in ice, sipping soup carefully prepared by tearful family members. Something went wrong and yesterday I made my own breakfast, supper and midnight snack. Lunch was a whole different delightful surprise. I am not sure my family was aware I was home. I have been calling my different experience a miracle, others seem to insist it’s just a somewhat unusual variation to what normally happens. They keep promising me that tomorrow it will be horrible as advertised. Not surprisingly, I have chosen to hope they are wrong.

Sometimes when things don’t turn out as expected, it’s not so great. Sometimes someone expects a simple outpatient procedure to be a bump in the road and it turns out to be a painful nightmare not unlike what I should be having. That’s not called a miracle.

Many years ago my Saturdays were spent in a dream world. I drove a little red car to parks with a special girl. We played and had fun like there was no one else in the world. We called it fun day. I have never forgotten fun days. Sometimes I miss them terribly.

Tomorrow, my miracle might end on the first day of at home physical therapy. I am told my therapist trained in the Third Reich. He seemed nice enough to me. If my miracle ends, that will be fine. God didn’t just give me a miracle. He gave me a heroine.

If this doesn’t make sense to you, too bad. It wasn’t written for you anyway.

Sleep tight little girl and be blessed. Damn I miss Fun Day.

Nick

 

Guilt of Blessing

 

Yesterday I discussed the difficulty of distinguishing between accusation and conviction. Both begin with a feeling of “guilt.” Yesterday I experienced another “guilt” experience that’s very strange. I had an episode in which my blood pressure fell low…very low. I have to admit that after years of saying I’m ready to be with Jesus whenever He’s ready, the reality of what I perceived as a life threatening situation, gave me a huge dose of reality. I’m not ready to go. I still have things to do, lots of things to do.

Even in the midst of that situation I never lost the sense of the blessing of God’s presence. While in the hospital I have witnessed many other patients suffering much greater pain with their recovery than I have experienced. Why have I been so blessed to survive? Why have I been so blessed to suffer less than others?

There is a feeling of guilt which comes with that experience. I know that like the guilt that comes with Satan’s accusations, the guilt of blessing is not healthy. Blessing should inspire us to recognize we have responsibility and purpose. To whom much is given much is expected.

It’s not enough to say “Thank you Jesus.” I need to act thankfully. There is much that needs to be done. Let’s get going and do it.

Thanks for all the encouraging emails and prayers. I am headed home from the hospital today and your prayers played a huge part.

Be blessed.

Nick

 

Accusation or Conviction?

As an attorney, when I am hit with a question my first reaction is to fall back on my legal background. I was considering how often we have a conscience pang. We feel bad about something we’ve done. Sometimes that can be a conviction. A conviction is from God, a move of His Holy Spirit. On other occasions, it’s an accusation. Satan is the great accuser. We obviously need to respond very differently in these situations. How can we tell, then, the difference?

Starting, as I like to do, with a legal distinction, there is a huge difference between an accusation and a conviction. Anyone can accuse anyone else at any time. Often I am asked “Can I sue them?” The answer is always, “Yes.” But there is a big difference between suing someone and winning your case. In the criminal law, there are many steps between accusation and conviction. A conviction results only after proof has been produced. A conviction is an accusation that has been proven.

That’s a good place to start in differentiating the two in the spiritual realm as well. If the Holy Spirit is convicting, it’s because we have sinned and have not addressed that sin, confessed it, turned from it and been forgiven. Satan, being a liar may create feelings of guilt over something we haven’t even done. Maybe we did something, but it really wasn’t sin. Maybe it was sin but we’ve dealt with it, been forgiven and Satan is beating a dead horse.

A conviction tends to be specific. Satan’s accusations are usually broad a vague. Often just a sense of worthlessness or unspecified guilt.

A conviction points us to Jesus, always. An accusation points us to ourselves.

The next time those feelings of guilt arise, ask yourself these questions.

Have Jesus and I already dealt with this? If so, tell Satan to get behind you and move on.

Am I feeling bad, because I’ve done something that resulted in pain for someone, but it was something that just had to be done?

Did I prayerfully point out sin in someone’s life?

Is what I am feeling bad about a sin or a social miscue?

The bottom line: Is this something I need to take to Jesus?

Follow every conviction to the cross. Bury every accusation deep.

And be blessed.

Nick

 

The Good Part of the Good News

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, (Romans 3:23, 24 ESV)

After spending considerable time in explaining the Bad News which prefaces the Good News, Paul gets to the good part, and is it good. In What is the Gospel, the authors summarize beautifully:

We are accountable to the God who created us. We have sinned against that God and will be judged. But God has acted in Jesus Christ to save us, and we take hold of that salvation by repentance from sin and faith in Jesus. God. Man. Christ. Response. What Is the Gospel? Gilbert, Greg; D. A. Carson page 31-32 Kindle version.

It’s important to remember that there are two parts to the Good News part of the Good News. Jesus is God’s answer to the problem, but the solution is not applied universally (as so many now seem to believe). There is something we must do. We appropriate that salvation by repentance from sin and faith in Jesus. It is popular today to focus on the faith portion and to skip over the repentance part. If the “bad news” part hasn’t been presented, it’s understable that it might appear that repentance can also be eliminated.

Having been presented the face of sin with which all struggle and understanding the consequences of that sin, the Holy Spirit draws us to the conclusion that we must turn away from it and put our faith in the only hope we have. What a hope Jesus is. He offers much more than a key to heaven, but a relationship with the One who made us and who loved us enough to die for us. That’s the kind of Good News everyone should be overjoyed to receive and respond to.

Be Blessed

Nick

 

Good News Bad News

What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” (Romans 3:9-12 ESV)

If Paul were writing the Book of Romans today, he might begin with “I have Good News and Bad News.” Since he wrote it centuries before that phrase became popular, he just dives in with the bad news.

The bad news is this: We are accountable to God and none of us measures up. He isn’t satisfied with that simple statement. He goes into details over multiple chapters. He starts with the gentiles and when the jews start to feel pretty good about themselves, he turns on them.

It’s obviously important to Paul, that we get this point. Nonetheless, it’s a point we often miss. We really want to jump to the good news. Or we feel better pointing out how others fall short. For example, it’s in this section of Romans that Paul points out those who have abandoned natural things for sex between those of the same sex. But that’s just part of his entire message that ALL have sinned. Folks are real sensitive about this. Just this week the President of a fast food chicken business made the “mistake” of saying his company was pro-family. He didn’t even mention homosexuality, but he and his business are being targeted as discriminatory and hateful. We don’t like to think of ourselves as sinners, but we are. If we don’t accept that fact, then the good news isn’t even news at all. Further, without this bad news, the method of appropriating the good news, which Paul covers later, makes no sense.

Just consider how far we have gone to separate ourselves from the truth of our sinful nature. Haven’t we all said we believe people are basically good? Truth is they are not. That’s the point. We are basically sinful and that’s not good. When someone murders young women, or mows down dozens of folks who were just out to see a movie, many will still look for some excuse for this behavior. They will desperately try to point to something like mental disease or poor upbringing, anything but sin. A liberal commentator jumped to blame the Tea Party. I even heard yesterday a “christian” group claiming the Colorado tragedy was God’s punishment for churches’ support of gays. It might have been His punishment for the churches’ failure to reach out to all sinners, including gays.

When we fail to accept completely the truth of Paul’s Bad News, we distort and undermine the beauty of the Good News. Let’s resolve not to do that any more. The Good News is too Good for us to mess with.

Nick

 

What is the Gospel?

 

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. Romans 1:16

As Christians we know that we have an obligation to share the gospel, the good news. What is it? Try right now to articulate what the good news is.

Most of us will have to think about it for a couple of minutes and eventually will spit out a rambling statement which will probably mention Jesus, love, and wonderful plans. Some might throw in something about sin, repentance, and conversion. “Born again” will probably be mentioned in most answers.

But shouldn’t we be able to clearly and precisely articulate what’s so good about the Good News? I understand that a huge part of sharing the gospel is telling someone what Jesus did for me. It’s the sharing of a personal story. But shouldn’t we also be able to explain the “theology” behind it? Can our only response be “Come to church with me and you’ll find out.”

Think about this: If we can’t clearly articulate the good news, do we really understand it? Can we enjoy all the Christian life should be if we don’t clearly understand what the gospel is? If the basics of the good news doesn’t just flow from our lips, we have to be missing out on much that Jesus has to offer. We are probably also failing to participate in His plan as we should. So what is the Gospel?

You would think that we could all agree that the details of the good news are contained in scripture. However, Christians don’t always even completely agree on that. Some say the scriptures are fine, but you have to consider “tradition” or “human reason” when explaining the “good news.” Others will point out that the good news is “personal.” That it is different for different people. What about all that?

The term “gospel” is mentioned in various places in scripture. The clearest presentation of the good news is contained in Paul’s letter to the Romans. Pick up your bible and dive into Romans. Read it with the goal of being able to come away from your reading able to articulate exactly what the good news is. As you read, consider whether the words of Paul are sufficient or do we have to factor in tradition, reason or personal experience.

In the next few days I’ll share my thoughts on what Paul is saying. I hope they will be helpful.

Happy reading.

Nick

 

All of Jesus

 

A recent bestseller asserted that the original manuscripts which form the basis for our bible were destroyed and rewritten to include new verses which support doctrines like the divinity of Christ. Real bible scholars have little problem refuting these arguments. The willingness of the public to accept unsupported claims that reduce the claims of Christianity is fascinating.

Most folks just can’t handle the complete truth of Jesus. They might concede He was a prophet; but can’t accept that He died and rose again. They might be able to live with His wisdom; but not his miraculous powers. They can live with the thought that He was a great man, but reject that He was God. These same folks want to believe that there are multiple paths to God and that one “faith” is as good as another. They like to think the original manuscripts had Jesus proclaiming He was “A way, A truth and A life.” That’s not what He said and it’s not what He is.

Before we are too quick to condemn a world that won’t accept Jesus for all that He is, we need to make sure that we, who claim to follow Him, are willing to accept all that He is.

Do we claim Him as Savior, but don’t follow Him as Lord?

Do we trust Him for Heaven, but not for what we need next week?

Do we accept that He taught that one must be born again, but like to forget that He taught that what we do to the least, we do to Him?

I want all that Jesus is. I want all that He has for me. I don’t want to just wait around for Heaven. I want to make a difference now. I don’t want to look at all He’s given me and put those things on a shelf like trophies. I want to use up every talent and exploit every opportunity. I want to spend every possible moment with Him and to learn directly from Him everything He wants to teach me.

But what I want I don’t have. He won’t force Himself upon me. I have to reach out and grab it all. I have to forget my failure to do that in the past. I need to stop thinking about what I will do in the future. I need to grab all of Jesus today. Anything else is a waste.

Be blessed.

Nick