Shaking Things Up

A few years ago I left a law firm and went into solo practice. It was a huge move for me. I had worked for someone else and had a regular paycheck since I had been in high school. I learned many lessons from that experience. Pastor T told us last week that we are all like pieces in a bucket, all useful. I have found that God likes to give the bucket a good shake every once in a while. 
1. You can be replaced. I was handling the biggest cases and the toughest files at the firm. But it didn’t take them long to reassign them. I like to think the clients did not get the same high quality legal representation that I was providing, but who knows. We can get so comfortable in our lives that we think those around us can’t get along without us. Not so. We worry about what will happen to our family if we die. They will miss us, but they will be fine. We are not the only person who can fill our roles. God has us in important roles, but He is the ultimate source. We get so used to relying on certain parts, we often forget what’s in the bucket.
2. Your security is in the Lord. An ancillary to lesson number one is that your security is in the Lord. I had been drawing a paycheck for so many years that I looked to my employer for security. The Lord quickly stepped up in my new solo practice and has provided for all my needs ever since. I much prefer this situation, working for Jesus, than I did working for “the man.” God has the bucket in His hands. Shaking or rattling or rolling, He is still in control.
3. You will be surprised who your friends are. When I left the firm I was “certain” as to which clients would come with me and who would support me. I turned out to be wrong in many instances. The main business person who stood with me was a surprise and became a life long friend.  A friend stands with you when there is nothing to be gained and the possibility of loss is real. When the bucket gets shaken, real friends are identified.
4. New assets are revealed. When I left the firm, assets that I didn’t realize I had became clear. When the bucket is shaken up, some valuable pieces, hidden under others perhaps, are noticed and have a chance to shine.  The bucket hold hidden treasures that can replace parts that you didn’t even realize were worn and in need of replacement.
5. Your path becomes clearer. It became clear when I left the firm what kind of clients I should focus on and what kind of practice I should have. When God shakes up your bucket, he can jolt you into new dreams, new visions, new possibilites and new blessings. A shaken bucket shows its contents in new and unexpected ways. 
If you feel your bucket shaking, be blessed, God is doing something good. What else would He be doing?
Nick

Passion

We have the balm to soothe the hurting hearts we come in contact with every day. But if excuses crowd our minds before passion fills our hearts, people will never hear. Thankfully, we can rediscover the passion of our early Christian days. Take time today to praise God for His salvation, which delivered you from a path toward disaster. Then commit to carrying out your part in the Great Commission by talking about Jesus with someone in your life. Charles Stanley.

I saw a lot of passion at my church on Sunday.  It’s great to be passionate about something. It’s why we love sports. It’s why it’s more fun to watch a game when “our team” is playing. It’s why elections and honeymoons are exciting. 

Satan fears our passion. Passion dictates action. We are passionate because we care. He seems to have two strategies when it comes to passion: 1: Cool it if he can. 2: Misdirect it if he must.

Jesus wasn’t fond of the lukewarm. If Satan can get us to believe, that what we believe is not that important. He has won the battle. Don’t let that happen. Be passionate.

Don’t have misdirected passion. Make sure what you are passionate about is important.  Charles Stanley’s words which I came upon this morning encouraged me. The most important day in the life of a Christian is the day his path was changed. We should be passionate about salvation, about seeing paths changed, about being part of the change. 

Having passion isn’t easy. It’s no accident that the last hours of Christ’s life are called his “passion.” He cared so much that He bled and died. If you don’t care, you can’t get hurt. To be passionless is to be safe. It’s also to be dead. Care enough to be passionate and to endure the pain along with the bliss.

I was lost but now I’m found. I was blind but now I see. Now that’s something worth being passionate about.

Be passionate and be blessed.

Nick

Mother’s Day – Not a Fan

It’s Mother’s Day. The supermarket will be swamped with children, old and young, picking up last minute cards and flowers. Facebook is full of sappy Mother’s Day sentiments. Preachers will feel obliged to preach “Mother’s Day” sermons. Restaurants will be packed so moms won’t have to cook one day.

Sorry but I’m not a big fan of all this. My mom has passed but don’t get me wrong there are lots of women in my life who are mothers and who I greatly appreciated: my wife, my daughter, my grand daughter, my daughter in law. My problem with Mother’s Day and similar days for other special people is that the persons honored expect to be honored on these days. That’s fine but it just points out how bad we are at making these people feel special year round.

If the only day you kiss or do something special for your mom is Mother’s Day, bad on you. Our lives are special because of all the special people in them. I just spent a few days with my wife celebrating our anniversary. I try real hard to make sure she knows how I feel as often as possible. It’s just wrong that special people only hear they are special on certain days. The only mothers who will feel really bad today are those whose kids forget or whose expressed sentiments are not sincere.  

Pastors are some of the folks who are never properly appreciated. They often just hear from the complainers who are loud. For every person with a beef there are at least 10 who think things are going great.

Hug and thank your mom today if you are so blessed to still have her around, but promise yourself that next year you will make her feel special all year so that Mother’s Day won’t be such a big deal. While you are at it, make some other folks feel special: like your Dad or your kids or your spouse or your best friend or, if you are a real radical: your Pastor.

Love you all the mothers in my life. Love you too Pastor.

Be blessed.

Nick

A Wrong Turn?

Rose and I decided to go out of town for a few days to “get away” and celebrate our anniversary. We chose to stay at a hotel in the French Quarter in New Orleans. What were we thinking? At 4:30 this morning the noise was still incredible coming from Bourbon Street. We are not French Quarter people. We are certainly not Bourbon Street people. We would have been better off in a nice small hotel in the Garden District. We like to have a balcony and this hotel has one, but with that comes much we didn’t want and didn’t need.

It’s amazing how quickly made and ill conceived some of our choices are. I like the fact that we made a last minute decision. I like to think we are not too old to have a sense of adventure when includes some quick decisions. I just wish we had made a better one. We still had a good time and it only affected three days of our lives. Some of our decisions have so much more impact and for such a long time.

We sometimes have such a stake in our decisions that, even after we recognize we made a mistake, we insist on pushing forward on a path that is completely wrong for us. One bad decision can lead us to another and then another. Soon we are far away from where we know we should be. It’s like these GPS programs on our smart phones. When we first wander from the route we are advised to “make a u turn” but soon the program recalculates and draws up a new route to our destination. In life we are not always, that wise. Sometimes when far from our original path, we abandon our original destination and head some place else, or, no place at all.

If you find yourself at a place with no idea how you got there, isn’t it time to pray? It’s more important to consider where you need to be and how to get there, than to stubbornly attempt to press on a road that leads to no where or to no where good.

It may be too late to completely benefit from the trip God had originally planned for you, but it’s not to late to recalculate and get to where He wants you to be now. God is a God of multiple Plan Bs.

Look around, consider, and put yourself back on the right path and

Be blessed.

Nick

Refreshing Relationships

My daughter broke her ankle a few weeks ago and can’t put any weight on it for a while. She can’t stay alone so she has been alternating weeks with Rose and I and with a friend. It’s been a bit of a hassle for everyone because she is used to living alone and we are not use to having a week long guest.

But it’s also been a blessing. She and I both work from the house so we spend hours together in the same room doing our work. We have both picked up interest in each other’s TV viewing habits. I have learned more about her life and work and loves. Our relationship has been great (at least since the teenage hormones wore off); but in the last few weeks it has been “refreshed.” We are both probably pretty relieved when our week is over and a break is coming. But I also know when this period of alternating weeks is over I will miss her greatly.

I have “refreshed” my memory at how cool, funny and lovely she is and how much she relies on Jesus.

She is leaving for a week today and my wife and I are going to “refresh” our relationship with a three night visit to New Orleans to celebrate our anniversary. This refreshing thing is pretty cool.

When stressful situations come into our lives we have a variety of reactions. Many of them negative. Perhaps we should learn in such situations to identify our key positive relationships and “refresh” them. When troubled waters come, and they will, we tend to focus on the trouble and forget the great things and the great people we have in our lives.

I know that some tough times are ahead and I am already focusing on some relationships that need some “refreshing.” I start with the Lord and consider some of his people who have been encouragers and positive influences in my life. A warning. In trouble times, we may learn that some relationships don’t need to be “refreshed.” They need to be terminated. We all hate the idea of losing people in our lives or  “failing” at relationships. But not all relationships are positive, not all draw us to Jesus, not all lift us up, and bless our hearts. Some do the opposite and life is too short to waste time on those and to not really enjoy the ones that bless.

Focus on and Refresh the good ones and be blessed.

Nick

Control

Choose to place yourself and your circumstances in God’s hands today. Joyce Meyer

I think that Joyce is a pretty smart lady; but today I’m not sure about her quote. I would reword it “Choose to recognize that you and your circumstances are in God’s hands today.” I think we are always in God’s hands. We can try to take control. We can say we will let Him be our co-pilot, but the truth of the matter is that God is in control. Somehow He does it without denying our free will and in spite of the efforts of others to control us and everything in their worlds.

The secure Christian lives in peaceful excitement. He knows He is in God’s hands and enjoys every moment of the ride.

The insecure Christian keeps trying to grab the steering wheel and drive things himself. If the road starts to get bumping He thinks God has forgotten him or is taking him on an unnecessary detour. To be at peace, there must be trust.

The truly insecure Christian tries to drive the bus for everybody else. Not satisfied to be “in control” of his own life, he tries to control everyone else. He is so not enjoying the ride that God planned for him that he doesn’t want anyone else to be at peace either.

If your joy has left town, if you see a conspiracy in everything, if you feel you’re the only one that “gets it,” if you can’t shake the feeling that everything would be fine if you could just be the boss, then maybe it’s time to take a chill pill. You are not God and you just look foolish acting like you are.

Be blessed.

Nick

Eager for Heaven?

Our concern is more about going to heaven than loving the King. Francis Chan

Francis Chan is one of several young pastors who are setting fire to the church with similar messages. They are saying that the gospel, as originally preached by Jesus, carries a radical message. We don’t need a new gospel, we need to return to the original gospel in all its radical life-changing aspects.

That’s a great message. His quote above struck me hard. I think most of us, if we are truthful to ourselves, will admit that we want to go to heaven, because the alternative is too horrible to conceive. We sometimes even think that heaven isn’t going to be that great, it’s just going to be a lot better than hell. We just don’t have that longing in our hearts to be with the God we love. We haven’t come to know our God enough to really love Him.

We may know in our hearts that we should so love God that we can’t wait to be with Him and those who have loved Him through the centuries. However, we recognize that perhaps our love for Him is considerably less than it should be. We have the usual excuses: We can’t see God so how can we expect to love Him like some of the things we can see and feel? God provided an answer to that excuse. He sent His son as a human we could see and touch. He fills those who follow Him with His spirit so that through their lives and their loving, we can see Jesus even now.

We don’t need to make the gospel more sophisticated or modern. We don’t need a new approach or a 2013 spin. We need to go back to the original message. We need to absorb the gospel as Jesus preached it and now how we have adapted it. We need to remember the greatest commandment: to love our God and our brothers as ourselves.

Sadly that’s a pretty radical message in 2013.

Love the King and His subjects and be blessed.

Nick

The Depth of Our Depravity and The Power of His Grace

Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. Hebrews 5:13

One of the great things about doing prison ministry is that your audience knows they are sinners. The state has formally proclaimed it. It makes presenting the real gospel so much easier. That’s one of the great problems of witnessing to free people. They don’t think they are sinners. Most people think they are basically “good.” It’s easy to look around and find someone “badder” than ourselves. They don’t see any real need for Jesus.

Because of this challenge, sometimes we short circuit the true salvation message problem by presenting Jesus, not as an answer to the problem of our sin, but as a kind of self-improvement guru. By doing this we eliminate the “problem” of talking about “sin” and repentance. We tell folks Jesus can make our lives better and we can be happier. That’s very true, but it tries to present the solution without addressing the problem. It also leaves the “believer” confused about the process of sanctification.

The truth is we are sinners. In fact, we are much worse than we are willing to admit. It’s kind of like an onion. We can’t handle the depth of our depravity all at once. When we come to Christ, He shows us our sinfulness by layers. As each layer is revealed and dealt with through his grace, another layer is revealed. 

Because we don’t confront the issues of sinfulness with the new believer, he becomes confused about the Christian Walk, the difference between milk and meat. If we view Christianity as a self-improvement program, we begin to think that the meat consists of more sophisticated methods, more complicated teachings, more biblical detail. In fact, the meat is confronting the deeper issues of righteousness. The Christian Walk is a process of becoming more like Christ, more righteous. That process consists of recognizing sin, confessing it, and turning from it – that’s our part. Cleansing us and strengthening us – that’s what He does.

To the new Christian, not stealing is pretty good. To the more mature, giving away what we have becomes the standard. To the new guy, not committing adultery is the standard, to the mature, not looking upon a woman with adulterous thoughts becomes the standard. To the new guy, going to services once a week is plenty, as we mature we can’t get enough of being with our Lord and His people.  To the new guy, the Christian life is giving up something, to the mature, it’s gaining the whole world.

It’s interesting that the bible uses the examples of milk and meat. To the Jew, milk and meat could not be had together. It we want to be all that we ar called to be, we need the full adult food.  Maybe it’s time to set aside the milk, and grab hold of the meat.

Be blessed.

Nick