The Old Rugged Cross

NOTE: I wrote this four months after finding my 19 year old son after he’d taken his own life…


There have been moments these past months that I’ve wanted to give up on God.

I’m simply being honest.

As one who grew up in a violent, alcoholic home, I witnessed more violence as a child than I care to remember.

As a full-time pastor now for 30+ years, I’ve had, on occasion, the unfortunate opportunity to see the very ugly side of what some have otherwise called “Christianity.”

But those pale in comparison to the events of May 13th, 2013, when my world caved in around me.

In light of the pain we suffer on planet earth, what proof is there that there is a God? More than that, what proof is there that that God really loves me?

From their outstanding work, “Name Above All Names,” Alistair Begg & Sinclair Ferguson write,

It is the cross alone that ultimately proves the love of God to us – not the circumstances of our lives.

We must not allow ourselves to be tricked into thinking that if things are going well with us, Then we can be sure of God’s love. For life can often seem dark and painful. Things do not always go well for us.

Rather, we look to the sacrifice of the cross and the proof God gave there of His love. ‘God [demonstrated proof of] His love toward us, in that, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.’ (Romans 5:8)

This is the proof I need. This is the truth I need to hear. This dispels the lies of the enemy.”

This is the unstoppable, indefensible, indisputable love of God in Christ Jesus.

I love you, Nick

The Day I Forgave My Dad

Next to my profession of faith in Christ, no decision has so changed my life than when I forgave my dad.

My younger sisters and I grew up in an extremely violent alcoholic home. We saw and experienced things I’d prefer not to share here.

When sober, my dad was amazing. But, when he was drunk he became a monster. And he was drunk a lot.

Over time – especially into my adult years – i developed a seething hatred for my dad for what he had done to my mom, and to my sisters and myself. That part of my life – those memories – had drifted into the shadow.

But, in 1997 – after my youngest sister overdosed on heroin – I unraveled. I was 34 years old. Having been forced to get counseling (I thought counseling was for wimps), I quickly discovered what hate for my dad had done to my life. Eventually, in a moment I can remember as though it was yesterday,…. I forgave my dad. Completely.

I learned that forgiveness wasn’t about changing my dad – it was about changing me.

A little over a year later, on 11/22/98, I had the joy of sharing this with my dad. The photo here is significant not only because of the grace and forgiveness it represents – but for the fact that this was the first time my dad had ever seen my children.

It was an awesome day.

My dad died of alcoholism two years later, 11/10/2000. He was 57.

One day, because of the Cross and the Empty Tomb, I’ll see my dad and son again – completely whole. No more alcoholism. No more depression.

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick

forgiving dad

Homeless Demons

[Jesus said],“When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and finding none it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’  And when it comes, it finds the house swept and put in order.  Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there. And the last state of that person is worse than the first.”  Luke 11:24-26

There are dozens of sermons in this passage.  Allow me to briefly focus on just one: the security & authority one has in Christ.

First of all, this passage must not be taken out of the context of the canon of Scripture.  One who has professed their faith in the risen Christ cannot be demon-possessed (cf. 1 Cor. 6:19-20; Eph. 1:13-14)  A believer is already “possessed” – by the Holy Spirit.  John MacArthur rightly comments on this passage:  “When a demon is defeated by the power of Christ, the soul vacated by the power of darkness is taken over by Christ.”

It should be noted that the principles taught by Jesus in this passage apply without restriction to a non-believer.  This truth is sobering. The torment of evil spirits can be manifested in chronic anger, bitterness, a critical spirit, unforgiveness, pride, sexual addiction, lying, disrespect for authority, fear, etc.  For the non-believer, to try and “will” these self-destructive habits away can, indeed, lead to momentary improvement.  But, according to Jesus, the relief is merely temporalChrist, the Bible tells us, is the only “cure” for sin.  (cf. Romans 8:1)  A demon is not afraid of “a house swept and put in order.”  A demon, on the other hand, is terrified of a “house” possessed by the risen Christ.  (cf. James 2:19)

For the believer, as previously stated, the Bible is clear:  we cannot be demon-possessed.  However, the enemy is no fool.  As Billy Graham purports, satan is a strategic genius.  As such, demonic oppression is quite common and can be manifested in the very self-destructive habits mentioned above.  New Testament scholar, Dr. David Garland, comments, “Demons…do whatever they can to neutralize” and twist biblical truth in a believer’s life.  The difference between a believer and a non-believer, when in this state, is profound.  For the believer, all that is required is a conscious re-focusing on the truth: God’s Word.  Jesus said, the truth sets us free.  Paul wrote, “For we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.”  In sum, satan has no hold on believers.  He only wants to make us think he does.  The enemy’s best and most used weapon, after all, is deception.

If you’ve never placed your faith in the risen Christ, please consider His claims.  Honestly investigate the historicity of Jesus and the reliability of the Gospels. 1  Consider the evidence.  Make your own decisions based on the evidence.  Consider Him who loves you so much that He died a horrific death on a wooden cross, then, three days later, authenticated His claims about Himself by rising again.

“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.”  The Apostle Paul  (1 Cor. 15:3-4)

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick

1 Two very good, very readable books on the topic of evidence for the Christian faith were written by former atheists:  More Than a Carpenter, by Josh & Sean McDowell;  The Case for Christ, by Lee Strobel.   A third book, a little harder to read, but a classic, is Mere Christianity  by C.S. Lewis, also a former atheist.

The Pain of Healing

Satan is evil personified.

However, it wasn’t until after Jordan died that I understood this on a deeper level. Losing a child comprises, in my opinion, the single worst day of a parent’s life. After Jordan died I was in a state of relentless despair. To my surprise (and I shouldn’t have been surprised) satan didn’t stop there. He had more widespread damage in mind. He wanted to “finish the job.” He tormented me psychologically. He heaped shame upon me. He accused me of not trying harder to be a good dad to my son. He would constantly fill my mind with, “If only you had….” Sometimes these attacks left me in a fetal position on the floor crying out.

Then, one day, I learned another biblical truth on a deeper level….

Satan is a sociopathic liar (John 8:44), fighting for his life because “he knows his time is short.” (Rev. 12:12)

Jesus reminded me, “Nick, don’t listen to the devil. He has been devastatingly conquered – and humiliated – by my blood – which was given for you, my child.” (Eph. 2:13-19; Col. 2:13-15; Rom. 8:37) ‘I am…the Truth, Nick’. (John 14:6) I have set your soul free. Let me set your mind free, as well. Regardless of what cheap shots the devil takes, remember that he’s taking those shots en route to eternal torment.” (Rev. 20:10) Endure this pain, Nick – in My strength – not yours. You have complete access to all that I Am (Philippians 4:13). If you’ll let Me, I will take your present hurt and transform it into heavenly power. In your weakness I am strong.” (2 Cor. 12:10)

In his never-ending attempts to sustain our wounds, the devil, as clever & sly as he is, reveals a fatal flaw. His hubris leaves him exposed to TRUTH. When Paul wrote, “I am crucified with Christ, therefore it’s no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me…” (Gal. 2:20) he was telling us the entire life-changing, life-saving, painful, powerful process of the cross is now ours. Our wounds were imputed to Jesus Christ that day. His healing was imputed to us. My wound left from Jordan’s death is now Christ’s wound. And we know what God said through Isaiah: “By His wounds we are HEALED.” (Is. 53:5)

So, every time your wounds (emotional, psychological, or physical) are under attack, focus on the Truth, Jesus Christ. Because our wounds now belong to Him. And His wounds heal.

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick

S.O.S. – A Request for Prayer

Each year, our staff writes letters of congratulations to the year’s high school graduates. As I was searching for resources today, I came across the letter I wrote to my son, Jordan, when he graduated high school in 2011.

This week, as we approach May 13th, has been horrible. The emotional ambushes are crippling. I’ve lost my temper enough at one point to scare myself. But, there are two things that seem to help me:

(1) doing everything I can to focus on truth. In this case, the “greater reality” (heaven;….the fact that Jordan is alive – more alive than I am, and with Jesus)

(2) reaching out to my family and friends by being open & honest, admitting that i, at times, feel like i’m drowning. For some, social media can be a bottomless pit of wasted time. For me, the Lord has used it to remind me, as He reminded Paul in Corinth, “I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.” (Acts 18:10) Oh, the strength that comes from knowing you’re not alone.

Solomon wrote, “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. 10 For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10)

My family (Michelle, Kelsie, Macy & myself) needs you. Please pray for us.

I’m not sure why, but I felt the need to attach the short letter I wrote to Jordan 3 short years ago. Perhaps, it’s just to remember him.

I love you all, Nick

2011 – Letter to JORDAN

You’re a Star! The Movie is “Facebook”. Your role is the Loser.

EVERY PARENT should read this. And then have your teenaged child read it. Although, most teens will say, “It’s not that bad,” I side with the author. It is that bad, writes psychiatrist, Dr. Keith Ablow. (Just ask the teen to give up all social media for an extended period of time and watch their reaction.) Here’s an excerpt, followed by the link:

“A young woman saying “no” to the prom used to be a disappointment you shared with your best buddies. If you lacked self-control or decency, you might call her a name. A young woman saying “no” these days is a social media event that your whole school or several schools might know about. It is an injury not to your healthy ego, but to the thin-walled, explosive blimp of an ego you developed by posting hundreds of photos of yourself on Facebook and Tweeting out your whereabouts to “followers” and thinking you were an incredible combatant—a virtual knight with supernatural powers—on Wartune.”

“Being turned down doesn’t just mean seeing the girl you like at the dance with some other guy; it means getting her Tweets about how happy she supposedly is, seeing her posts about the big night she had and hearing how she Snapchatted all her friends a picture of her corsage. You aren’t just the boy who she turned down; you’re the actor she unwittingly cast in the feature film called Facebook—and you got the role of loser.”

“I have said it before and will say it, again, here: Cocaine is nothing as a toxic force, compared to Facebook and other techno-teen drugs. It isn’t even a contest.”