January, 2015

Avoiding Multiple Choice

When things are tough and we finally decide it might be time to turn to God, we usually prefer to present Him with a multiple choice question. We have considered our options and can’t decide between a couple. The problem with this approach is that we probably haven’t considered all the possible options. We may have eliminated options as being too difficult or too risky. We may not be creative enough to think of the best option available. We are left with relatively safe imperfect alternatives.

The God of the universe is infinitely creative with the power to make seemingly impossible alternatives work. When we are not hearing whether we should turn left or right, it might be because the best alternative is to go straight, to back up or to wait. We can’t limit God, but we can sure limit His ability to guide and lead us.

At the beginning of this football season, Cardale Jones was the third string quarterback at Ohio State. The two guys ahead of him were potential player of the year candidates. I don’t know if he consulted with God, but Cardale decided to do the tough thing, keep working and stay at Ohio State. He got to play the last three post season games there, the conference championship, the Sugar Bowl and the National Championship. He won all three and his team is the national champion.

God may have something tremendous and unbelievable for you. Give Him the chance to lead you to it. Don’t limit Him with short sightedness. Don’t be intimidated by circumstances or limited by the opinion of others. Shut up. Shut out. Steady your heart and stay open to all the possibilities. Avoid the multiple choice questions. God can handle a tough open-ended essay question. What should I do now?

 

Steady My Heart

“Steady My Heart”
Kari Jobe

Listen to the song
Wish it could be easy
Why is life so messy?
Why is pain a part of us?
There are days I feel like
Nothing ever goes right
Sometimes it just hurts so much

But You’re here
You’re real
I know I can trust You

Even when it hurts
Even when it’s hard
Even when it all just falls apart
I will run to You
‘Cause I know that You are
Lover of my soul
Healer of my scars
You steady my heart

I’m not gonna worry
I know that You’ve got me
Right inside the palm of your hand
Each and every moment
What’s good and what gets broken
Happens just the way You plan

You are here
You’re real
I know I can trust You

Even when it hurts
Even when it’s hard
Even when it all just falls apart
I will run to You
‘Cause I know that You are
Lover of my soul
Healer of my scars
You steady my heart

When we have shut up and shut out distractions, don’t expect God to start dictating instructions. Certain things have to be established. When we come to God, all is not well. Things are “unsteady.” We need him to steady our hearts.
He does this by reminding us who He is and who we are. He is Savior and Lord. It doesn’t matter what the world thinks He is. It matters what we think. As Jesus said to Peter, “Who do you say I am?”
No matter what label the world has put on us, we are beloved. (Listen to another song.) We are His. We matter. We were worth dying for. Once the facts are established in the silent, shut out world of our meditation. He can begin the process of guiding.

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Nick's been an attorney for 34 years, served as a pastor and blogs almost daily.

Nick’s been an attorney for 34 years, served as a pastor and blogs almost daily. nicksigur.com

Just Shut Out

If we are trying to hear from God, it’s imperative that we shut up just to start. That’s pretty tough for most of us. The second step may be even tougher. We must shut out distractions.

God has blessed us with the ability to filter out sights and sounds. We would all be insane if we recognized and had to process every sight and sound in our environment. We have natural filters which prevent that. It’s all about focus.

Our environments are richer than ever with distractions. Further, many of us believe that we can “multi-task” that is doing more than one thing at a time. Right now I’m watching the national championship football game and writing the blog. Actually, there is a lot of dead time during a football game and I’m writing in those blanks.

Focusing on God in our distraction rich environment isn’t easy. God is gracious to His creatures respecting their free will. He doesn’t display His power or glory. Though both shine through in the wonders of His creation.

We need to know ourselves. If we are honest we know what operates as a weapon of mass distraction in our lives. It could be television, or books or Facebook. It could be work or friends or foes. It’s a matter of priority. If we will make God and what He’s trying to tell us a priority. We will control those things that distract us from hearing Him.

For the love of a relationship, we will shut out that which distracts.

 

 

Please Just Shut Up

If you are doing a prayer and fast or just, like me, trying to listen for direction from God. Step one is still the same. Please.  Just shut up.

I know that sounds a bit rude, but you know you’ve been told nicely that you need to be quiet to hear from God and you just haven’t listened. It’s incredibly important, so, I believe, a little rudeness is completely justified. Don’t judge me. Please. Just shut up.

You can’t hear from God with  your mouth open. Whatever you are saying isn’t as important as what God is trying to tell  you. It’s the problem I have with fasting. Fasting becomes the topic of conversation.  Folks talk about how hard it is, or how easy it is or how much they are getting out of it or how they have manipulated the “rules” to make it not really fasting at all. Please. Just shut up.

Think about it this way. By your constant mouth movement, you are not just making too much noise for you to hear from God. You are causing the same problem for those around you. We feel obliged to at least pretend to be listening so it stops us from hearing from God as well. Please. Just shut up.

I include this advice for times of prayer. Why do we equate, “Let’s Pray” with “Let’s start talking”? Prayer requires very little if any talking. He already knows everything. Do you think you are providing God with inside info when you start prayer by talking? A circle of people just listening to God is a lot more impressive than a circle of people trying to impress each other with how well they talk to God. Please. Just shut up.

There is an exception to not talking while praying. Sometimes we just need to articulate what the problem is. This is not so God can understand what the problem is, but so we can. The thing is that kind of talking we can do in our heads. It doesn’t have to be out loud. Please. So just shut up.

I have gotten in trouble in the past by telling folks to just shut up. http://www.nicksigur.com/just-shut-up/ You see. I have learned something. I learned to say “Please shut up.”

I think I’ve said way too much so I’ll just shut up.

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NIck's been an attorney for 34 years, served as a pastor and blogs almost daily.

Nick’s been an attorney for 34 years, served as a pastor and blogs almost daily. nicksigur.com

Prayer and fasting – I don’t think so.

Prayer and fasting – I don’t think so.

Today our church begins 21 days of prayer and fasting. I’m not excited. Prayer and fasting doesn’t sound like a lot of fun. There must be some better way to start the year.

I guess the question is why do this. Don’t get me wrong I could sure stand to lose a few or a bunch of pounds. I suppose that should be reason enough.

Participating in a group activity with my brothers and sisters at church seems like a good idea. That’s a pretty good reason.

Everyone else seems to be doing it. Lots of churches are starting the year with prayer and fasting. It’s very in. For me that’s a reason not to do it.

I could pretend to participate, look hungry and holy then do whatever I want at home. That doesn’t seem very spiritual.

I’ll tell you what I need. I need to know what God is up to. I know he’s up to something. 2015 is going to be very different. I’m just not sure how. I need 21 days of listening very carefully to God. That will involve more focus on him and less on other things. You might call it prayer and fasting. I’m just going to call it focused listening. Your way may sound holier. Mine sounds more practical.

I don’t need a fancy spiritual exercise. I don’t need a fast with complicated rules. I need some real practical direction. Enjoy your prayer and fasting and I’ll let you know if I hear anything.

Model Resolutions

a resolve

We are now a week into the New Year and it might be a good time to take a step back and refocus on resolutions.  The above was a post card prepared by Bishop John H. Vincent, during World War I, a tough time for most. It is a wonderful combination resolution. It is intimidating, unless we remember the last words. It’s all done by God, through our child like trust in Him and not by our own efforts.

Let’s look at it:

A Resolve for Every Morning of the New Year

 I will this day try to live a simple, sincere and serene life. Repelling promptly every thought of discontent, anxiety, discouragement, impurity and self seeking. Cultivating cheerfulness, magnanimity, charity and the habit of holy silence. Experiencing economy in expenditure, carefulness in conversation, diligence in appointed service, fidelity to every trust and a child-like trust in God.

Wow if we could meet a bit of that. What a great picture of Christ-likeness. That won’t be achieved by annual resolution. We can’t just look at ourselves once a year and resolve to make changes. We are 24 hour cycle people. We need to renew our resolve daily. Just like we have a 24 hour work and rest cycle. We are require refocus on a daily basis. There was nothing wrong with the old discipline of daily examination of conscience. We need to daily take part in the two-step process.

That process is to look at Jesus and then look in the mirror. Bishop Vincent’s resolution is just a helpful summary of what we see when we look at Jesus.  We long for the simple, sincere and serene life the Savior calls us to. We want the strength to repeal the negatives and cultivate the positives. It’s why He sent the Holy Spirit.

Let’s resolve to look to Him daily and rejoice in the tiny increments of change that the Spirit works in us and that will only be perfected when we are with Him forever.

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Resolution

It’s the fourth day of the New Year. Have you made any resolutions? Have you broken any yet?

Will  is Powerless.  New Year’s Resolutions are generally an exercise in futility. Eighty-eight percent of resolutions aren’t kept. Most believe this is because will power is weak and that our best chance is to keep it simple. They teach that we should pick one thing that needs improvement and not push our will power to the breaking point by resolving to lose weight, become wealthy, marry a movie star, and quit smoking.

Resolution is complex. It’s more than a firm decision to do something. It is the act of solving or explaining a problem or puzzle. Remember being asked to give a resolution to an algebra problem. The teacher didn’t just want an answer. She wanted to see your work, how you got to the answer. Resolution also means: the degree of sharpness of an image or the number of pixels across and down on a display screen. It implies both close examination, down to the tiniest pixel, but also grasping the whole picture.

Resolution is a process. A resolution is not simply a decision to do something. It is process of deep thought and meditation. It means a mental exercise in breaking down something into its essential parts and then coming to a solution. It is an exercise in improvement.

Resolution requires daily examination of conscience. The typical Christian life used to include daily,  quiet self-reflection to examine one’s sins and resolve to live a more Godly life. It’s a discipline we could all benefit from today.

Before plotting a solution, we need to know the problem. Rather than just jumping on the “obvious” things we should improve, shouldn’t we look closely and ask questions? What kind of person am I? What kind of person do I want to be?

Most resolutions arise from guilt that we don’t fit society’s model of what we should be. It’s hard to argue that we should be healthier, wealthier or nicer. As Christians, shouldn’t the questions be more spiritual and more focused?

Look at Jesus. Look in the mirror. For the Christian, resolution should be more than an annual evaluation of who we can improve.  It should be a measurement of where we are in the Sanctification process. We can determine that only be looking at Jesus and then ourselves.

That is the true joy of Resolution, for New Years Day or any day: Becoming more like Christ.

Tomorrow: Getting Specific.

 

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NIck's been an attorney for 34 years, served as a pastor and blogs almost daily.

Nick’s been an attorney for 34 years, served as a pastor and blogs almost daily. nicksigur.com

This Day

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:34.

The wisdom of God is amazing. He knows us so well. He has designed His creation for our benefit. He has broken unlimited time into twenty-four hours block. Segments with clear beginnings and clear endings. This is not arbitrary or unplanned. It seems we are capable of living well only in 24 hour tidbits.

In each twenty-four hour block we need time to carry out the work of the day, so He provides us light and a warmer period for that. Each day we need rest, so He turns out the lights, cools things down to give us an environment for rest. The light slowly fades and slowly returns to allow us to acclimate to the new environment.

Spiritually, we are designed in cycles as well. We should awaken with new hope and enthusiasm, but it’s time is limited. The worries and cares of the world wear on us and by nightfall, we are tired and discouraged and need a time of refreshment and rest.

We are foolish creatures, however. We insist in trying to live in bigger chunks of time. Our minds are on yesterday or tomorrow, last year or next year. Some of us live long lives never really learning the lesson of daily living. When Jesus taught us to pray it for “this day.” He warned us that each day had enough troubles for itself. Don’t pile on the problems of  yesterday or the challenges of tomorrow.

What about today? Are you focused on today? Have you determined whom you shall serve today? Will you love like Jesus loved, today? Will you allow Him to advance His kingdom through you, today? Will you use every resource of today for good? Each day is a challenge, and opportunity and a blessing. It’s all about this day. Forget yesterday. Leave tomorrow for tomorrow.

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NIck's been an attorney for 34 years, served as a pastor and blogs almost daily.

Nick’s been an attorney for 34 years, served as a pastor and blogs almost daily. nicksigur.com

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