A Special Note from Lee Strobel (Author of “The Case for Christ”)

We are facing a crisis in America. Skepticism is rising. Too many young people are leaving the faith. Few Christians are able to effectively share Jesus with others. At many churches, reaching spiritually lost people falls to the bottom of their priorities.

This is a crisis we need to confront — urgently!

In my recent “Investigating Faith” newsletter, I said there was a big announcement coming. Well, here it is: we are forming the Center for American Evangelism at Houston Baptist University. Along with my long-time colleagues Mark Mittelberg and Garry Poole, and under the leadership of HBU President Dr. Robert B. Sloan, Jr., we’re launching an exciting new initiative to address these challenges.

Our mission is to bring leadership, vision, innovation, and training to students, pastors, church leaders, and congregations throughout our nation, to help us all regain our focus and passion for fulfilling the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20).

We will accomplish this through numerous strategic efforts: forums for pastors; classes for students; conferences and seminars for church leaders; simulcasts to churches; newsletters and social media; and new curricula that will bring fresh vision and training to Christians and churches all over America.

Said international evangelist Luis Palau:

“I am thrilled to hear about the Center for American Evangelism being launched at HBU, and I wholeheartedly support its leaders — Lee Strobel, Mark Mittelberg, and Garry Poole. They love the Lord, they’re passionate about reaching people for Him, and they are strategic in helping others do the same. I’m confident God will use this new venture in great ways!”

Thank you for your prayers. I’ll keep you posted as the Center develops!

Lee Strobel
Author of The Case for Christ and Professor of Christian Thought at HBU

P.S. Jesus said in Matthew 9, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” Thanks for your help in launching this ministry and equipping more workers to reach people for Chris

There’s a Reason the Bible tells us, “Do not fear.”

Philip Yancey is my favorite author, his books, “The Jesus I Never Knew”, and “What’s So Amazing About Grace”, being my favorites.

I subscribe to Yancey’s newsletter.  His global travels, speaking engagements, and prolific writing make his posts both engaging and inspiring.

The daily news can be fairly scary and depressing.  And, like a master defense attorney, Yancey makes his case that what’s going on in our world (even with ISIS in view) should not instill with Christians a “spirit of fear.” Instead, Yancey cites from his travels this past year example after example of Good News – the type of news we don’t get to see or hear about on the major networks or internet.  In short, what Yancey shares here is first-hand knowledge of seeing the hand of God at work throughout planet earth.  It. Is. Powerful.

Remember, it was Jesus who said, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” (John 5:17So, even though Satan may work his slight-of-hand, attempting to prevent us from seeing what God is doing in redeeming mankind – it’s happening.  Everywhere.  Not in the spot-light, but just like Jesus ministered in first-century Palestine: quietly, yet thoroughly.  Nothing can stay God’s hand or prevent his pursuit of mankind.  Not even the gates of hell.

As I read through Yancey’s article, I, once again, could “hear” Jesus whispering, “I’ve got this.”

Below is an excerpt from Yancey’s newsletter followed by the link to the newsletter in its entirety.  Read it and, you too, will be reminded why the Bible tells us, “Do not fear.”  Soli Deo Gloria, nw

“Each of these experiences [shared in this newsletter] gave a different glimpse of how God’s kingdom advances: slowly, steadily, and mostly out of the limelight.”

http://us5.campaign-archive1.com/?u=c643129286992014da73edc82&id=1a8d8f9328&e=fabafaaf49

“For Narnia….”

I wrote this the early morning of Jan. 21st….

For Narnia…

My friends, in a few hours I will begin the first of three speaking sessions on the topic of Depression.

Having been invited to speak at today’s Region 17 Summit Conference (for regional high school students), to be held at the Lubbock Civic Center. I am, quite frankly, nervous.

But,…early this morning I looked up into the cold, star-speckled sky and found myself whispering, “This is for you, Jordan.”

Now in Paradise, whole and depression-free, I know Jordan would never want any one – friend or foe – to be caught in the wake of that hideous “ship” called suicide.

So,.. today, please partner with me in praying that Christ will use me (a most fallible vessel) to get someone’s attention and, using the tragedy that visited the Watts home, perhaps prevent it from visiting someone else’s.

“For Narnia!” is a phrase from the genius of C.S. Lewis. Jordan, a huge fan of Lewis and a lover of adventure, used this phrase often to represent, “For Jesus!…for heaven!….for adventure!….for battle!, etc.” So, with this in mind, I go over my notes one last time….for Narnia!

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick

What I Learned While Speaking to Students About Depression

Moments prior to my first speaking session on Wed. morning, Jan. 21st, I felt like I was going to be sick. Knowing my son died as a result of depression, the “weight” of the topic was beginning to crush me. I was having trouble breathing. But, as they say, a funny thing happened to me on my way to that first session….

(1) In my mind’s eye – as clear as could be – I could see Jesus Christ lifting the weight off of me and placing it upon Himself. He was looking right at me. It was an image I’ll never forget.

(2) For whatever reason, my son, Jordan, was always freaking out about the time “11:11”. He told us, “Almost every time i happen to look at a clock, it’s “11:11.” This actually happened numerous times when I was with him. It was pretty funny. When we bought him a MacBook Pro for Christmas I looked at the receipt. The price was $1,111.00. I gave him the receipt. :)) Well, since Jordan’s death, this “coincidence” happens a lot to me and Michelle. So, every time I happen to look at a clock and it says “11:11” I whisper, “Hi Jordan.” (I know it sounds nuts, but….it is what it is.) Anyway, during the second speaking session, wanting to make certain I would finish on time, I glanced at my phone. The time? You guessed it – “11:11”. I whispered, “Jordan, I’m here…for Narnia.”

(3) One last thing – as Michelle and i counsel so many hurting people we tell them a particular truth we’ve learned from our own grieving process: there is no way around the grief. You absolutely must go through it. (This is why Psalm 23:4 has become so dear to me: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me;…”) Going through the grief (and its related fears) is a necessary part of one’s healing process. So, after finishing the first session I sensed God telling me, “Another step taken, my child.” It caught me off guard. I thought, “God, you allowed this opportunity not only to help others – but to help me, didn’t you!” Remember the image I’d seen of Christ lifting the weight from my shoulders? He was now in the image of my Shepherd, carrying me.

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick

“…that man who lost his son…”

Unbelievable.

I spoke three separate times on Wed., Jan. 21st, to regional high school students on the topic of clinical/chronic depression.

In each session, I made the following comment: “Having a son of my own who died as a result of clinical depression…., I must tell you, honestly, I did not want to do this. However,….if I can reach just one student early enough to prevent them from doing something tragic to themselves, thereby preventing their family from enduring what we, ourselves, have faced, I will do this a million times.”

Before I even got back to my office after the final session I received an email from a student thanking me and asking for help.

But then….the following day (Thursday) I got the following message from an area high school counselor:

“Nick, a student here, who heard you speak yesterday, came by today to tell us the following: the student shared, ‘Last night I swallowed an entire bottle of pills (to end my life.) But then i made myself throw up because ‘I couldn’t stop thinking about that man who lost his son.’ This student is now receiving help for their depression!”

When I first saw the message I couldn’t stop weeping.

The last thing the high school counselor said in their message was this: “God continues to use Jordan Blake Watts to change lives.”

For Narnia, Nick

When Jesus Rang My Doorbell

Maybe it was because of the emotion associated with seeing the movie, American Sniper. Maybe it was that our daughter, Macy, was on a school related retreat (making our home feel awfully quiet.) Or, maybe it was as simple as just missing our son. All I know is that the past weekend was hard for me and my wife, Michelle, where the loss of our son, Jordan, is concerned.

I’ve always taught, “When we hurt, God hurts.” This past Saturday night, God showed up at my front door and reminded me of just how true that statement is.

A friend had texted me Saturday evening to simply tell me he loved me. I texted back: “Your timing is impeccable. I’m walking around my living room gripping my chest and trying to catch my breath. The grief is so heavy. It’s just one of those days. Thank you so much. I feel like I just got a text from Jesus.”

Less than 10 minutes later our doorbell rang. Michelle and I looked at each other with one of those, “Who could that be??” looks. I opened the door and there stood the man who sent me the text. He said, “I’m here to hurt with you.” I just lost it. We held one another tightly and wept.

Michelle and I will never – ever – forget it.

Below is a water-color painting Jordan painted for me when he was 9 years old.  He came up to me with big crocodile tears rolling down his cheeks and said, “Dad, God told me to paint this for you.”  That’s also something I’ll never forget.  The painting is now displayed in our home.  Jordan & I titled the painting, “When we hurt, God hurts.”

This past Saturday evening, I learned this truth all over again.

Soli Deo Gloria, nw

image

An Unstoppable Force (An Update)

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”  (Proverbs 19:21)

“It may be hard to believe, but you will find that God will be more glorified in Jordan’s death than when he was alive.”

When our counselor (a godly man and dear friend) first said this to me & my wife, Michelle, we could not receive it.  Only a few months removed from our son’s death, we could barely speak of the event, much less receive a statement like that.  Certainly, somewhere, in the far reaches of my mind, I knew the truth that God is faithful.  But, this was truth to be digested far too soon, making it almost impossible for us to believe something good could ever be associated with the death of our son.

Some 500 mornings have since passed since that day Michelle and I sat on that sofa in the counselor’s office.  This coming May 13th will mark two years since our son stepped into Paradise, whole and depression-free.  And, now – 20 months removed from that darkest of days – the words of our dear counselor friend are coming to pass!

For example:

1.  After Jordan’s death, I began writing (blogging) for one reason: therapy.  Writing seemed to help me process the suffocating grief.  Then, as time passed, I noticed something serendipitous.  God was using my family’s hurt, and subsequent healing, to connect with others who were hurting so very deeply.  This caught me off guard.  “God, could you actually be using the darkness of Jordan’s death to bring light to the pain of others?”, I thought.  I was speechless when, after receiving an “End of Year Summary” from WordPress, I read that, during 2014, this blog had been accessed over 18,000 times.  Quite frankly, I’m still speechless.

2.  Next month, another article of mine will appear in Lubbock’s Metro-Leader Newspaper.  The first one appeared last summer titled,How I Survived the Worst Day of My Life.  Next month’s article is based on a blog I wrote this past December titled, “Atheism Failed Me.”  It is no coincidence that both of these articles contain biblical truths describing how Christ has, in the midst of unspeakable pain, given us hope, and is continuing to restore to us real joy.  The number one argument against the existence of God is “the problem of pain in the world” i.e. “How could a good God allow evil?”  I must confess I was forced to face, head-on, that question after finding my son dead from suicide that day.  And what I discovered was – well,….you’ll need to read the article. 🙂

3.  The resurrection of Jesus Christ is, as one author describes, “the epicenter of Christianity.”  Paul wrote emphatically, “And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.”  (1 Corinthians 15:14)  This semester, pursuant of a Masters Degree in Apologetics from HBU, I have the privilege to study under Dr. Mike Licona, one of the foremost authorities and apologists where the resurrection is concerned.  One particular text for this class is actually written by Dr. Licona.  Entitled, “The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach“, it’s 700 pages.  I can’t wait to consume it.  Why?  Because the resurrection of Christ is the single reason my son is alive today!  And being better equipped to discuss the resurrection of Jesus, I will be better equipped to minister to the hurting, the searching, and the curious, passing along to them the very hope that has saved the Watts family.

4.  This week, I will speak to High School Student Councils from all over our region on the topic of depression i.e. what it is, how to identify it, how getting help is critical, where to find that help, etc.  (My son’s suicide was prompted by his suffering from clinical depression.)   Perhaps, by addressing these students this week, God is allowing me to prevent some families from going through what we went through.  And, on the topic of speaking, the Lord continues to present opportunities to speak and/or preach.  In two months I have the joy of returning to First Baptist Church, Canton, TX, to preach the gospel and, more specifically, how, in the midst of our worst pain, God is still good, and He is still trustworthy.

5.  Lastly, I have finally begun writing a book. I am praying that when it’s finished it will bring comfort and hope to many.  It’s entitled simply, “I’ve Got This.”

As I write this blog, I cannot help but think back to my counselor/friend’s statement:  “It may be hard to believe, but you will find that God will be more glorified in Jordan’s death than when he was alive.”  And I think to myself, “God, You’re doing it!”

There’s so much more I could share.  But, let me simply say this:  regardless of what we may encounter in this life, our God is an Unstoppable Force As Solomon wrote in the scripture cited at the beginning of this blog, “it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”  And Satan, hell, pain, sorrow, evil, and even death can’t do a single thing to stop Him.  To God, alone, be glory, power, honor, and praise!

Soli Deo Gloria!  Nick