Silent Night? Not So Much…

Last night (Christmas Eve), before we all turned in, I shared with the family “the other side of the nativity.”

Award-winning author, Philip Yancey, in his book, “The Jesus I Never Knew” shares,

“Christmas cards of the religious genre typically depict a serene manger scene with Mary and Joseph surrounded by shepherds, animals, etc. All is calm.  But when I read the gospels i detect a much different tone.”

Yancey goes on to write, “Politically – and spiritually – Jesus was born into a scene more resembling the movie ‘Saving Private Ryan.”

In the first few verses of Revelation 12, via a series of vignettes of scenes past and future, we are given a peek behind the proverbial curtain as to what was going on that silent night.  

The dragon, Satan, has, for centuries, done all in his power to prevent the Messiah from coming by attempting to cut off the messianic bloodline.  

He fails every time. 

Then, on that silent night, John records in Revelation 12, the dragon eagerly awaited the moment of Jesus’s birth so he could immediately kill him, thus destroying the hope of mankind. 

Again, he failed.  

Some 30 years later, on the night before he would do the very thing for which he was born – die for us – he said, “The prince of this world is coming. He has no hold on me.”

The next day, the man who was once the tiny baby we see in pictures and paintings, beaten and bloody, from a Roman cross, said, “It is finished.”

No wonder the angel announced to the shepherds, “Behold! I bring you good news of great joy! For unto you this day is born a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

Happy Christmas, St. Nick ❤️

Joy vs. Happiness

Happiness is rooted in circumstances.  Joy, on the other hand, is rooted in biblical truth – regardless of our circumstances.

This is precisely why, incarcerated for his faith, Paul, while still languishing in prison, could write, Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!

Make no mistake: the type of joy Paul writes of here is not a paper-thin, over-the-top, emotional celebration.

Biblical joy runs deep.  Deeper than our most acute pain.

Germany.  Christmas, 1942…

During the Christmas season of 1942, the German theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, wrote the statement below while under severe persecution for his Christian faith. Two and a half years after this quote was penned, Bonhoeffer was executed by Hitler’s Secret Service.  He was 39:

“The joy of God goes through the poverty of the manger and the agony of the cross; that is why it is invincible, irrefutable. It does not deny the anguish, when it is there, but finds God in the midst of it, in fact precisely there; it does not deny grave sin but finds forgiveness precisely in this way; it looks death straight in the eye but finds life precisely within it.” Dietrich Bonheoffer (Christmas, 1942)

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick

 

I Got Married – Again

Here’s the context: I was raised in a home completely void of demonstrative love and romance. Even hugs were few and far between.

Hence, unlike all the elaborate, carefully & lovingly planned out marriage proposals we see on FB nowadays, I never really proposed to Michelle.

We were driving around in Lubbock, TX, in 1984 shopping for engagement rings and, while stopped at an intersection, Michelle said, “You know, you’ve never actually asked me to marry you.” In pure embarrassingly (now), ignorant, 19 year old, moronic fashion, I popped off, “You wanna get married?” She said yes.

She deserved better.

Well, 33 years of marriage, and three kids later, I decided it’s never too late to do the right thing.

I’ve been planning this “marriage proposal” since July.

The scene: 2pm; 11/20 (her birthday) at the “Poetry Garden” (a private section at the Dallas Arboretum & Botanical Gardens); i had the entire family in on it; I spun the outing as a “family photo.”

I had asked Joe Price, my best Man 33 years ago, to serve as my Best Man once again. His family drove all the way up from Houston to be a part of this moment.

We all arrived at 2pm. Joe and his family entered the private garden a few minutes later. Obviously, this shocked Michelle as she had no idea what they were doing there.

It was at that moment I turned to Michelle and said, “We are not here for a family photo…” (At that point my mouth went dry and I thought I was going to throw up )

As i conveyed my loved to her, my family began to take their places as Michelle’s dad (he performed our wedding 33 years ago) stood before us and prepared to “marry us” once again.

My best man, Joe, stood at my side, holding a picture of Jordan.  Our daughters, Kelsie and Macy,  stood at Michelle’s side.

Then I looked at Michelle and said, “Before we get married I need to ask you something.”

It was then that I got down on one knee and asked her to marry me. (I thought I was gonna have to get Joe to help me back up )

At the end of the ceremony, Jordan “sang” (via one of his albums) his song that begins “when I see your smile I see the sun.”  The pic below was taken during that song. We are both grieving, but rejoicing that our marriage has survived that loss.

Then, Harry (Michelle’s Dad) pronounced us husband and wife (again) and and I kissed my bride. Michelle thought it was over. But it wasn’t.

We had to have our “first dance.”

One of my youth asked me back in the late 90’s, “Hey Nick, what’s yours and Michelle’s song?” I said, “What are you talking about?” That teenage boy said, “Come on man – every couple has their special song.” His passion cut me to the heart. So Lionel Richie’s song, “Still in Love” quickly became “our song.”

Back to our “first dance”: Macy hit “play” on her Bluetooth and Michelle and I danced to our song. (Well, we mostly just swayed back and forth.)

After that, I told Macy to hit play again where I had included the 1976 classic, “Still the One” by Orleans. And we partied and – yes – took lots of family photos.

To all you husbands out there, I am a complete mess. I have blown it worse, and more often than you can imagine. There have been times when i genuinely believed our marriage was over. (Just ask our daughters.)

But, I’ve found it’s never too late to do the right thing.

Jordan, we’re making it. I proposed to your mom and she said yes. You were there. I learned how to become romantic and swallow enough of my insecurity to express my love, in large part, by watching you. One day, we will sit together again at the “marriage supper of the Lamb.” What a celebration that will be. ❤️

It was… the perfect day.

I love you all, Nick

The Self-Correcting Property of Being Thankful

Our human-race default is to focus on what we lack, or wish we had. For instance:

I wish I had more money and less bills.

I wish I had a better job.

I wish I had… (fill in the blank.)

Some things are trivial: We all know how repelling that perpetually negative person can be, seemingly always having something to complain about.

While others are far more acute: personally, I wish I had my son back.

When Satan has us in a death grip, tempting us relentlessly to focus on what’s missing from our lives, God provides a principle in scripture that comes with a corrective property.

It’s called “being thankful.”

God’s choice in how things are worded in the Bible are, as you will agree, intentional. So, when Psalm 100 includes “Enter his gates with thanksgiving,…” there is significance to that. As one author put it, “It appears thanksgiving is the gateway to [intimacy with God.]”

Paul warned the believers in Ephesus to abstain from “sexual immorality, covetousness,…” and then wrote, “but instead, let there be thanksgiving.” And only a few verses later, after admonishing his readers to “be filled and controlled with the Spirit,” he then adds, “giving thanks for everything.” (5:3-4, 18-20)

It’s hard being thankful. It’s not our default.

But it has a liberating effect. Our stress eases, our blood pressure begins to lower, and life becomes a little clearer as we begin to sense the presence and power of the Almighty Christ i.e. that in our trivial complaints, our inconveniences, our pain, our piled-up bills and broken relationships, it’s going to be ok.

Parenthetically, we are never instructed to be thankful for our pain, but rather in it.

I no longer have my son. But I can thank God for the Cross and the Empty Tomb, because of which my son is more alive than he’s ever been, and one day – a reunion is coming.

What/who are you thankful for today?

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick

 

 

 

 

Finding Our Way

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There are many biblical passages teaching us why we must “walk in the light.” (This would include avoiding friends who would influence us to “walk in the dark.”) Read on…

“God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while walking in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another…” (1 John 1:5-7)

And…

“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light… [that you me be able to] discern what is pleasing to the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:8, 10)

It’s clear why God chose to so often use the metaphor of light:  it’s hard to find our way in the dark physically.  It’s impossible to find our way in the dark spiritually.

Further, and significantly, there is added blessing to walking in the light of Christ: as believers walk in the light of the truth, the knowledge of the Lord’s will becomes clear.

We obey: God blesses.

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick

 

 

 

The Bible: Our True North

In this social media/personal opinion driven culture we are in desperate need of truth. (Especially during election years.)

“What is truth?”, Pilate asked Jesus.

The great theologian, Foghorn Leghorn, used to say, “It’s more confusing than a termite in a yo-yo – which way is up?”

Satan is a smooth operator. He usually includes a nugget of truth in his lies. But, a half truth is still a whole lie.

Falling for slick rhetoric is nothing new.

Paul warned the Ephesian believers to study the scriptures so they could safely discern what was true from what wasn’t. As a result, he said,…

“We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth.” (4:14)

Don’t be deceived or beguiled into believing what someone espouses just because it sounds convincing. Weigh everything against scripture.

What is truth? The Bible tells us…

“…the truth is in Jesus.” (Eph. 4:21)

“Your word is truth.” (John 17:17)

“The sum of your word is truth.” (Ps. 119:160)

“I am the…Truth.” (Jesus Christ: John 14:6)

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick

 

What Satan Doesn’t Want You to Know

Why is a daily devotion/quiet time so vitally important to our spiritual growth.

It’s inconceivable (credit “The Princess Bride”) that a musician or athlete would rehearse or practice once a month or worse, a few times a year. But, that’s exactly what Satan fools believers into doing all the time.

And for good reason.

Read Paul’s words to the Ephesians below to see what we miss out on when we forget to focus some daily attention on God…

“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being,” (Ephesians 3:16)

One author said this about the above passage:

“Spiritual power is a mark of every Christian who submits to God’s Word and Spirit. God’s magnificent power is readily available for all who discipline their minds to study his word, understand it, and live by it. As a result, the Holy Spirit will energize, revitalize and empower you. God’s power, working in and through believers, is unlimited and far beyond our comprehension.”

Becoming clearer why the enemy will do all possible to prevent us from daily intimacy with Christ?

Christ said in John 15, “Apart from me you can do nothing”, and compared those who ignore him – intentionally or unintentionally – to a branch that’s broken off from it’s trunk, eventually drying up and dying.

I heard a preacher a long time ago say something I’ve never forgotten. He said,

“If Satan can’t keep a person from becoming a Christian, he’ll simply keep that Christian busy.”

When I played baseball and football in high school, and took piano lessons – it didn’t matter what – we always began every practice and rehearsal with fundamentals.

Spiritual discipline is no different.

Even if it’s 5 minutes, set aside time daily to “tap into” his might and power.

Love you, Nick