Truths You Can Take to the Bank

My pastor was on vacation last Sunday. So he had two weeks to prepare for this Sunday’s sermon. It was so good that I have to steal from it. As the political season heats up it’s easy to conclude that no one is trustworthy. Don’t fall for that. Our God is trustworthy and we desperately need to be able to rely on His truths.

You are forgiven. We all  need to dump the baggage we carry around. You know what I mean. It’s the guilt for all that we have done wrong. God forgives as long as we are willing to forgive others. God places this condition on forgiveness because not only do we need to be relieved of guilt, we need release from the burden of unforgiveness. Unforgiveness fills us with bitterness and steals our focus from all the good we have been given and should be sharing with others. 

God will provide. Give us this day our daily bread. If we could really mean the prayer we all know, if we could limit our concerns and worries to 24 hour blocks, how joyful would our lives be. Just as His forgiveness lifts the burdens from our past; his promise of provision lifts our worry for the future. 

The season will pass. Seasons change. It seems God created four seasons as a reminder to us that no matter what storms we are living through, they will pass. Each season is a necessary preparation for the season that follows. Everything we go through is preparation for everything He would have us be and do. 

God is just.  It often seems there is no justice in the world. Usually because there isn’t. God however is just and we shouldn’t judge the fairness of things until eternity is played out. God’s justice is perfect even if it seems to use painfully slow and untimely.

Your labor is not in vain. We seldom see any harvest from our sowing. Labor performed in His will is always fruitful. We simply are not always there to pick that fruit. 

Every promised land is inhabited by giants. The big bad guys inhabit the best land. They do so by virtue of their strength. None however is stronger and more powerful than our God. Expect to see and encounter the giants when we go where God leads. Also expect Him to take care of them. 

Thanks Pastor Jason for these encouraging reminders of truths we can rely on in a world that seems sometimes to be packed with lies.

Yet Another Glorious Unfolding

My wife and I had a glorious evening on Thursday. We spent three hours on the couch with Logan our great-grandson. We had a couple of movies going that we had already seen but our focus was on Logan. It’s glorious to watch his personality unfold. He is already showing traits that will likely last his entire life. We look forward to many years of watching him develop.

The experience made me consider how wise our God is. In so much of life, he gently unfolds things, not hitting us with them all at once. It’s evidence that he is acutely aware of how slow we are to appreciate the beautiful, awesome and glorious things of life. He does this with children like Logan as they unfold like a beautiful flower over their years of growing up. It’s Kaydence’s birthday and looking back over her seven years I’m amazed at the process.

It’s not just kids. Fall, for example, is my favorite season. Even in the parts of the country where fall colors are glorious, God doesn’t unveil them all at once. There are, at first just hints of colors, other than shades of green, in foliage. Slowly the fall colors brighten and emerge until they peak. He usually introduces the other seasons in the same gradual way. The cold days of winter become less frequent before spring pokes out in blooms and blossoms.

He knows us and He knows how poorly we handle change. We cling to what we know, our relationships, jobs, habits, our lives. We can look back and see the changes over years, even decades, but the changes are usually gradual as new things unfold. Sometimes things happen a bit too fast for us, or we suddenly realize that a change is taking place. We notice the ground start to shift beneath our feet and an unexplainable fear, even dread, freezes us. The first thought is that our lives are falling apart. After spending some time with Jesus, we learn it’s just change. Things may actually be falling into place as He moves us into a new and always ultimately better situation, maybe a new era.

If we can just focus on the guaranteed end promised to followers, we can learn to relax and peacefully watch and enjoy yet another glorious unfolding.

 

Knowing – Not Just Knowing About

I have been studying what it meant to be a disciple in Jesus’ time. A disciple was essentially an apprentice. He “moved in” with the Rabbi or teacher. His goal was to, one day, be as nearly like the rabbi as possible. He would seek to imitate the rabbi, not just to learn all that his master knew, but to be all that his master was.

We talk about knowing Christ and making Him known. I think too often we mean knowing “about” Him and not knowing Him. We can gain knowledge “about” a person by reading what they have done and said, and what others have said about them. We can amass facts and opinions. Our knowledge can become encyclopedic. We might still not know Him.

To “know” a person is to know what they are thinking, how they are feeling, what they need, what they want. It means having a high degree of comfort in their presence when they are at peace and when they are not. It means feeling their absence acutely, their hurts personally, their desires passionately. It means having their heart and mind. It means doing what they need done without being told. There seems only one way I can think of to really “know” a person and that is to spend time with him, a lot of time. You can’t do that devoting an hour a week.

You won’t do it with a minimal motivation. You have to want their presence with an ever-present passion.

I’m not sure I know of anyone who knows Christ like that. Our talk of being and making disciples seems fanciful in the absence of the kind of passion such discipleship entails. The disciples spent three years with Him and yet seemed clueless about his reason for being with them, his mission and most significantly, the sacrificial nature of his life. How can we expect to approach discipleship without His constant physical presence and a spiritual awareness surpassing that of Peter or James or even John?

The answer must be in the Comforter He promised. He brings spiritual presence, passion and power to physically bound men. He is able to move and guide and empower those whose knowledge of the savior will always be dim, miniscule and incomplete in this life and but a glorious promise in the next.

The discipleship He calls us to is impossible without the Comforter He promised. That should keep us dependent, reliant, hopeful, and maybe just a bit useful.

Proactive Followers

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Let there be no mistake, Followers of Jesus, we are at war. There is an increasing number whose declared intent is to shut us up, marginalize us, de-franchise us, persecute us and, yes, kill us. Label me a nut if  you wish, but the evidence is overwhelming.  Sadly, so far our response has been ineffective. Some of us haven’t gotten the message. Some of  us are afraid. Some of us don’t understand this kind of war. I want to address only the last group today. If you haven’t gotten the message try watching the news. If you are still afraid, talk to Jesus.

This isn’t the kind of war we see on television. It’s not waged from behind computer terminals with deadly long distance weapons. This is hand-to-hand combat. Our fight is personal and face-to-face.

We don’t fight a traditional war. Our aim is not to occupy territory, cut off supply lines or kill our enemy. Those are the goals of the enemy. They are not ours. Confused?

We have to move from being reactive “Christians” to proactive followers. We can no longer just respond instinctively or emotionally. Here’s the deal:

We need to be guided by His plan. 16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28. The plan, my fellow followers, is make disciples, followers. We are to bring the enemy over to our side. Admittedly, it might be easier to kill them, but that’s not the plan. 

Driven by His Love. 34“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35“By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13.  In case you didn’t get that: …43″You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.’ 44“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.… Matthew 6. An enemy is “a person who is actively opposed or hostile to someone or something.” There are flesh and blood folks who meet this definition. In order to love them, we have to remember that they are deceived pawns of Satan, who are still loved by our Commander and thus, deserve to be loved by us. 

Empowered by His Spirit.  If  you have any idea that I’m talking about something you can do on your own, check yourself into a mental rehab facility. I’m talking about no longer relying on the hope that some politician is going to make it all better. That’s what the disciples thought too. You are in good company, but it didn’t happen for them and it’s not going to happen for us. If in doubt, study a bit of end times prophecy. If you are not empowered by the Holy Spirit, just get out of the way and leave this fight for those who are.

Comforted by His Embrace.  The battle is the Lord’s. The battle is already won. Nonetheless, there will be hurts, and wounds and exhaustion. War isn’t for sissies and loving the unlovable (and I’m just talking about our fellow followers) and those who hate us (now I get to the enemies) is dangerous work. If you aren’t at the place where you can retreat to your “war room” at the end of the day and just be held, leave this fight to somebody else until you can get there.

Just to be clear, I’m talking about getting out of our churches and “holy huddles” and getting into the face of the enemy. Give them what they least expect: compassion, understanding, love. This will cause confusion and uncertainty in their ranks and the Holy Spirit can move in and make the necessary changes.

Dining with Missionaries

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It’s been over a week since I posted anything. It’s amazing how time is flying. My excuse is that I have been busy. I have had real work to do and that’s a good thing. I wrote three articles for Covenant Spotlight. I have led a connect group on Sunday nights which involves preparing a teaching and a PowerPoint presentation. It’s been wonderful but time-consuming. I’m filling in for Pastor T, our Senior Pastor, next Sunday. Rose and I just finished doing two nursing home visits a week while Bill and Anne were out-of-town. We are planning a getaway to the beach. I just exhausted myself.

The truth is that I got out of the habit of posting every morning. It’s incredible how difficult it is to begin a new “good” habit and how easy it is to abandon it. I enjoy posting daily and would appreciate  your prayers so that I may get back into the habit.

Something I saw on Facebook this morning forced me out of my dry spell. I will steal what I read because it precisely expresses my feeling, “I’d like to introduce my dear friends the Reauxs (Jonathan, Megan, Lyla, Jed & Gabriel). They just returned home from a two-year stay in Africa where they did missionary work bringing the word of God through Media. They are home on a new missionary assignment from God to continue spreading His Word through Media here.

If you have ever wondered just what missionaries do please join us tomorrow evening. Bring a covered dish & the amount of money you would spend to eat out. Then sit back & enjoy a great meal as you hear from Jonathan and Megan and their new mission. The money will then be collected and given to them as a donation. Hope to see lots of y’all there!”

I just knew that was a word I needed to share and just hitting the “share” button didn’t seem good enough. Hope to see you tomorrow night at Amana, or maybe Sunday morning at 9, or maybe Sunday night at 6. It’s not like you don’t have lots of opportunity. 🙂

Glad to be back online.

Nick

War App

I really enjoyed War Room. Apparently I wasn’t the only one. According to USA Today, it topped the box office for the Labor Day Weekend.

“With War Room at No. 1, the summer box office is ending on a blessed note. The Christian drama topped the four-day Labor Day weekend with $12.6 million in just over 1,500 theaters, according to box-office tracking firmRentrak. Made on a budget of just $3.5 million, the PG-rated film has earned $27.9 million in just two weekends of release.”

Not only was it an entertaining movie but it has motivated me to animate my prayer life. I wonder how many closets are being cleaned out around America. I’m not cleaning out one. I don’t have room anywhere else for my stuff. I’m also not the kind of guy who sits in a closet with sticky notes on the walls.

I’m more of a “in the cloud” nerd type of prayer dude. My first thought was that there must be an “app” for this. It turns out there is. There is a War Room for Prayer app.  I checked it out, but wasn’t really impressed. Plus it costs $.99.

I did find an app for my iphone that I really like. It’s called PrayerMate. I have been using it for a few days and it’s great. I provides a Lord’s Prayer model to start and a Becoming More Like Jesus prayer model. You can add prayer reminders for family members, the unsaved you know and ministries you support. You can set reminders.

If you were motivated by War Room, but cleaning out a closet isn’t your thing, you might want to give Prayer Mate a try.

Why You Should Spend 2 Hours Seeing War Room

Last night I say War Room with my wife and a bunch of friends from my church. I highly recommend it.  Here’s why.

NO SPOILERS

  1. It’s a good movie. The story is engaging. The acting is great. The production is superb. The characters are interesting. The plot is relevant. It’s funny. It’s touching. It has an important message. That equals a good movie.
  2. It’s got a great message. Here are just some lessons about prayer I picked up while eating pop corn and snuggling with my sweetie.
    1. Prayer works.
    2. Prayer starts at home. There are lots of problems out there, but there are lots of problems with home and family.
    3. The enemy wants to steal your family, your life and your joy.
    4. It’s a war.
    5. It’s a spiritual war.
    6. Your friends and family are not the enemy.
    7. Writing down the promises of scripture helps make them real.
    8. Writing down the things we are praying about documents that God answers.
    9. It’s not that God doesn’t know our problems. It’s that we don’t.
    10. Problems are the doorway to time with God.
    11. Prayer is contagious. Your kids might even catch it.
    12. It’s okay to pray for your spouse.
  3. Your other movie choices are about Hollywood, electronic music, two guys walking in the woods, hitmen and escaping from countries you shouldn’t go to in the first place.
  4. LSU is playing McNeese and it’s not on TV and the Cajuns aren’t on TV. The Saints already loss.
  5. Weather calls for highs in the 90s and 50 percent chance of rain. Are you really going to do something outside?

Okay so if you miss War Room, that’s on you.

Habits

It’s the Labor Day weekend. Most of us are at least a bit excited. Why? Because this weekend we will do something at least a little different, even if it’s just not going to work on Monday. Different is good and exciting.

“We are what we repeatedly do.” Aristotle. We are creatures of habit. Consider how much of what we do each day is what we did yesterday and what we will do tomorrow. When we rise, when we go to bed, what we eat, what we wear, what we say… all habits.

It’s kind of discouraging to consider just how unoriginal we are. We consider it a good or even exciting day, when we just do something different.  Much of what we do, many of our habits, we aren’t really thrilled about. We have habits not always because we’ve discovered the best or most satisfying way to do something. It’s just what we do, because it’s what we always do. Frightening how little sense that makes.

Most us feel our lives could be better. We could be doing a better job of whatever we believe we should be doing. For example, as Christians we believe we should be growing in our knowledge of Christ and making Him better known, but we’re not.

That leaves us with an awful lot we would like to change. If we give it much thought we realize that if we could change our habits we could change our lives. We could be accomplishing what we know we should. Why don’t we?

Habits are powerful. They are as difficult to intentionally start as they are to stop. If we give our habits much thought, it’s often tough to recall how we got into them, and have no idea how to get out of them.

Habits are comfortable. They are easier to live with than to change. We are so used to them, that they seem part of us.  They identify us. Who would we be without them?

We are afraid to abandon habits. A change of habit takes us into the great unknown. The unknown is dark and different and scary. We aren’t in love with all our habits, but better the enemy we know, right?

Maybe our labor on Labor Day should be considering the habits that make up our lives and identifying those we really want to change. A habit inventory: It’s the just the first step in changing what we don’t love about our lives.