A Literal Picture of Amazing Grace: How I Forgave My Dad

The date was November 22, 1998, just south of Stamford, TX.

After going for 10 years without having heard from my dad or knowing where he was, the Lord brought us together at my granddad’s (his dad’s) funeral where I had the opportunity to tell him something very important: I’d forgiven him.

Next only to my profession of faith in Christ, this was the most important decision I’d made in my entire life. My story of “how I forgave my dad” is linked at the bottom of this blog. It’s my story of how, after having grown up in a severely violent, alcoholic home, Christ can take what the enemy intended for evil, and redeem it for His glory.

In the photo below is Jordan (5), Kelsie (7), me, and my dad holding Macy (2).

NOTE: This was the first time my dad had ever met my children.

Two short years after Michelle snapped this photo, alcoholism finally killed my father. My dad, a Christian tormented by this life-long addiction, is free today in Paradise.  I thank & praise Christ for making our coming reunion possible

Read my story of How I Forgave My Dad here.

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick

Forgave Dad

Separated No More: The Utmost “D-Day”

As I contemplate the heroic courage of the men who gave their lives 70 years ago today (June 6, 1944) on the beaches of Normandy, France – and where our world might be had it not been for their sacrifice (consider a Europe ruled by Hitler’s monstrous Third Reich into the late 40’s, 50’s & beyond) – my mind is drawn to a “greater D-Day.”

As God gave detailed instructions to Moses regarding the construction of the very first “temple” (The Tent of Meeting) while Moses met with God on Mt. Sinai to receive the Law, God said, “Hang the curtain (that will SEPARATE sinful man from God’s holiness) from the clasps and place the ark of the covenant law behind the curtain. The curtain will SEPARATE the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place…” (Exodus 36:33-34)

Fast forward some 14 centuries…..

Matthew, a disciple of Jesus, wrote, “And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice [while dying on the cross], he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple [the one described to Moses that day] was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split…” (27:50-51)

“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” (Ephesians 2:13)

Hallelujah, nw

The Hardest Prayers to Pray

“But I say to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,…If you love those who love you what reward will you get?” (Matthew 5:44-47)
 
“I couldn’t do it.”  That’s what one person told me after I’d asked the folks at church that night to pray for their enemies.  Thank God for that person’s honesty.  Frankly, the first time I tried to pray for people who’ve hurt me the worst…..well, I couldn’t do it either.

This brief blog is not intended to be about the topic of forgiveness as much as it about praying for our enemies. But it’s difficult to separate the two topics. John Bevere (Buh-VEER) explains why. In his book, “The Bait of Satan,” Bevere, using the story of Joseph, highlights a biblical truth so arresting that, when I first read it, it stopped me in my tracks. But, before we get to what he wrote, we need a little background.

In Genesis 37, Joseph, the second youngest of twelve brothers (and still a teenager), was sold to Midianite gypsys by his own brothers. Why? Because they hated him. They originally wanted to kill Joseph, but the oldest brother, Reuben, talked them out of it. Joseph’s nightmare took him to Egypt where he would spend the next 13 years in slavery & prison. But, as the Scriptures repeatedly state, “The Lord was with Joseph.” By God’s orchestration, following those 13 years, Joseph was released from prison and elevated to 2nd in command over all Egypt, subordinate only to Pharaoh. As a famine ravaged the land, outlying tribes of people came to Egypt to seek grain for food. Every person wanting food had to go through Joseph. And guess who showed up?

Twenty years had passed since Joseph had seen his brothers that horrible day when they sold him. No doubt, he remembers his cries for help as his brothers stood there with hate in their heart. But today, his brothers bow before him pleading for mercy. They don’t recognize Joseph. But he immediately recognizes them. This was the moment he’d been waiting for. He had all authority to, once and for all, have them painfully executed for the twenty years they had stolen from him. This would be the sweetest of revenge. Right? Back to the lesson I learned from Bevere.

Bevere wrote, “Had Joseph had in mind not to forgive his brothers for selling him into slavery as an adolescent boy, and decided to execute them, God would have let Joseph rot in prison.” Why?  Because one of Joseph’s brothers was a man named Judah.  Why is that important?  John, a disciple and eye-witness of Jesus, answers that question:  “Then one of the elders said to me, ‘Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed.” (Rev. 5:5)  See where this is headed?  Jesus Christ would be a descendent of Judah.  And there was no way God was allowing the blood-line of the Messiah to be severed.  So, clearly, making the choice to love and forgive his enemies saved Joseph’s life.

Spent and exhausted from being up all night, suffering from extreme blood loss & shock, the crucified Jesus was able to make only short utterances from the cross.  Matthew, Mark, Luke & John, together, record seven of those brief, labored statements.  The first is found in Luke’s account, 23:33-34:  “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”  Here we find Jesus praying for His enemies – while they were crucifying Him.  Think about it – when you pray for your enemies you experience the power of perfectly identifying with Christ while He was on the cross.  And we all know what followed the crucifixion – the resurrection.  I believe that “resurrection power” follows this kind of praying.

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick

As I Sat on that Jury, This is What God Was Telling Me….

“My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.” (1 John 2:1, NIV)

“We, the jury, find the defendant guilty.”

Those are the words our foreman read representing all 12 of us who had served those two days on a criminal-case jury panel at the Lubbock County Courthouse. We then sentenced the defendant to just under 50 years in the state penitentiary. It was his 3rd felony conviction.

Afterward, I couldn’t help but ponder the parallels – and contrasts – between our human courts of law and how the Bible describes a believer’s position in Christ.

There was no question with any us on the jury – the defendant was guilty. Likewise, in terms of eternal life and our relationship with a holy God, you and I are guilty, as well. There is no question. “If we claim to be without sin,” John wrote, “we deceive ourselves,” because “all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory.” (1 John 1:8; Romans 3:23)

I can assure you the Defense Attorney assigned to defend the defendant had no interest in saying, “Hey Judge, clearly this man is guilty and deserves his punishment. But I love him and want to take his punishment, thereby, allowing him to walk out of this courtroom a free man.”

But once upon a time – in a higher court – that is exactly what Jesus Christ did for us – except the stakes were much higher. The Judge was God the Father and the punishment was the death penalty. The defendant was mankind. The crime was rebellion against the Judge Himself, God. As mind-boggling as this may sound, this is where the story confounds most. God, Himself, would “put on skin”, and not only defend us in court, but offer to take the full penalty for our crime. Jesus’ death had to prove to be the one perfect atoning sacrifice to fully satisfy God’s penalty for sin. Personifying a love beyond our ability to understand, our advocate – our defense attorney, if you will – pleaded our hopeless case. The Father then looked upon us, already declared guilty beyond all possible doubt and, by placing our guilt – and death sentence – on Jesus, declared us innocent of all charges. Jesus died our death. And, three days later, conquered it by rising from the dead – making it possible for our crime to be eradicated, nullified,….forgiven, once for all.

This is the Gospel.

“But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath…..He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (Romans 5:8-9; 2 Corinthians 5:21)

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick

Whiskey Lullaby

DISCLAIMER: This is not a blog about drinking. You will not find anything in Scripture restricting the consumption of alcohol. This is a blog about the ever-present danger of addiction & drunkenness (you will find plenty in Scripture forbidding that) and the inevitable devastation that follows. nw

“Who are the people who are always crying the blues? Who do you know who reeks of self-pity?….Whose eyes are bleary and bloodshot? It’s those who spend the night with a bottle, for whom drinking is serious business. Don’t judge wine by its label,…or its full-bodied flavor. Judge it rather by the hangover it leaves you with – the splitting headache, the queasy stomach… When I’m sober enough to manage it, bring me another drink!” (Proverbs 23:29-35, The Message)

I’m looking at a picture. My dad is holding my daughter, Macy. I’m standing next to him, and Jordan & Kelsie are in front of me. Michelle’s taking the picture. We were attending my granddad’s funeral (my dad’s dad.) But so much more was going on that November, 1998, day than a funeral service. That was the day my dad met my children for the very first time. Macy was 2, Jordan was 5, and Kelsie was 7. Alcohol addiction had cost my dad his marriage, a relationship with his children, a relationship with his grandchildren, and his career. Homeless and nomadic, I had not seen dad in 10 years.

Now, I’m looking at another picture. It sits next to the one described above. This one, two years later, is of me and my two sisters. We’re, again, attending a funeral. This time it’s my dad’s. The alcoholism that controlled him finally killed him. He was 57.

My dad was an amazing man – when he was sober. When he drank he became something else. Something terrifying. In a healthy state of mind, we have God-given “filters” in our brains that prevent us from doing horrible things we would not normally do. Alcohol, however, is a drug. It’s the drug of choice in North America. And, being a drug, it alters our our mind removes those “filters.”

Years ago, I was interviewed on NewsTalk 790 here in Lubbock regarding a vote to allow packaged alcohol sales in nearby Wolfforth. (I was the Youth Pastor at FBC, Wolfforth, at the time.) I told my story. Then the gentlemen giving the interview stated a sound observation. He respectfully said, “Nick, people in favor of this law will say that just because your dad succumbed to alcoholism it doesn’t mean everyone else will.” I replied, “I couldn’t agree more – but some will. And all we’ll be doing is making that possibility easier.”

No one plans on developing an addiction. It happens – without our permission.

When I lived in Dallas, one of my favorite columnists to read in the Dallas Morning News was Steve Blow. I’ll never forget one of his editorials about being contacted “out-of-the-blue” by an old friend of his. Blow wrote: “Mike called and said, ‘I don’t know if you knew this, but I’m an alcoholic.’ He had my attention. Mike’s story is a common one: Started drinking in high school because it was cool. Kept drinking in college. Faced real life and found he couldn’t stop drinking.”

I had not even begun 1st grade when my dad began giving me an occasional sip of his beer. By the time I was in 7th grade I was allowed to drink all I wanted. (I guess no one thought about that being against the law.)

When I heard Brad Paisley’s & Alison Krauss’ 2003 “Whiskey Lullaby” for the very first time I became so overcome with emotion I had to pull my car over. I have no doubt that almost everyone reading this knows someone whose life has been altered by the affects of alcoholism – quite possibly someone related to you.

In 1997, my youngest sister almost died due to a heroin overdose. After over forty days of not knowing whether she was going to live or die, she finally improved. Before she left the hospital I asked her if I could interview her and use her experience to warn teenagers about the lure of alcohol and drugs. She gladly gave me permission. The last question I asked her was, “Did you ever in a million years think this would happen to you?” Without hesitation she said, “No.”

No one ever does.

NOTE: Only moments prior to the first picture being taken, God ordained a divine appointment allowing me to explain to my dad that I’d forgiven him for the years of physical, verbal & emotional abuse my mom, my sisters and I were forced to endure for so many years. Dementia had since stolen away his mind – this former City Councilman and news anchor for KRBC TV in Abilene, TX. But, that November day in 1998, God had graced me with the ability to speak clearly and compassionately, and my dad with the ability to understand. It was an unbelievable display of the supernatural power and grace of Jesus. Next to my profession of faith in Jesus Christ, no single decision has so liberated my life than forgiving my dad. My story of how I made that decision is included for you below.

nick

How I Forgave my Dad

When God Looks At Me What Does He See?

***Forgive me for the length of this post. I went back to trim & edit. But, I felt i needed to include every word.

This past year i attended a wedding. Expecting to simply enjoy seeing two friends united in matrimony, I sat there as the preacher officiating the wedding proceeded to call everyone in the audience (as well as the bride & groom) “sinners”, reminding us repeatedly how “unworthy” we were of God’s grace. Intent on making his point, this guy reminded us “sinners” of how “unworthy” we were over and over and over again. When the service was mercifully over, all I could think about was a famous quote by Mike Yaconelli: “We’ve all been to those churches that, when you leave, you feel worse about yourself than when you arrived.”

I’m not altogether clear as to this man’s purpose for repeatedly calling everyone sinners. If it’s for the purpose of conviction, only the Holy Spirit can bring that – so he would do well to leave that to the Holy Spirit. (John 16:8) I’ve found some very well-meaning pastors either forgetting, or altogether not knowing, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)

You may be thinking, “Nick, I’m a believer. But I still sin.” I know that. I’m fairly certain I’m worse than you are in the ‘sin’ category.” But my point is this: in Christ, our identity is no longer defined by what “we do,” but by what HE DID.

After that wedding, I came home and re-read through the four gospels (stories of Jesus’ life, death, & resurrection) just to make sure I hadn’t missed something. But what I found was this: not once did Yaconelli’s statement (cited above) apply to those He encountered. Not once. (This would include the religious leaders who hated Jesus. Because, even in their hatred for Jesus, they continued to feel “better” about themselves, being blindly self-righteous.)

However, in regard to the lost, the hurting, the hopeless, the searching – without compromising the slightest degree of His holiness & righteousness, Jesus helped everyone see themselves as God intended for them to be: His.

Let me ask you a question. If you’ve professed your faith in Jesus Christ, how righteous do you think you appear in God’s sight right this minute? The Bible says 100% (because of Him, and in spite of us). Paul wrote, “For our sake [God] made Christ, who knew no sin, to be sin, so that in and through Him we might become [endued with, viewed as being in, and examples of] the righteousness of God [what we ought to be, approved and acceptable and in right relationship with Him, by His goodness]. (2 Corinthians 5:17, Amplified)

NOTE: For those already angry with this post, reading furiously so they can get to the bottom of this “waste of digital ink” and correct me, reminding me that we are all “SINNERS saved by grace,” save your energy. I completely agree that the Bible’s clear: we were born a depraved, hopeless, degenerate, rebellious, selfish mess, possessing hearts that are “deceptively wicked.” (Jeremiah 17:9) No one had to teach us how to lie, hate, cheat, or be selfish – it all came naturally. C.S. Lewis called this “natural desire to sin” our “bent” as a human race. The Bible calls it “the flesh.” And we’re ALL born with it. Paul, the guy who wrote most of the New Testament, wrote, “All of us have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) In other words, due to our sin, before we put our faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 10:9), we were hopelessly separated from God.

However, a “sinner” is who I WAS. Not who I AM.

Do I still sin? Sadly, often. I’m a pathetic mess. But, in Christ, I’m a PERFECT MESS.

Like believers throughout the New Testament, for the remainder our lives on this fallen planet, we will continue to struggle with the “flesh” (our natural desire to sin with which we were born) until the moment we shed these “fallen bodies & minds”, and enter heaven. Romans 6:6 is clear: in Christ, we’re “no longer slaves to sin” (sin no longer masters us). But, until we enter paradise, we will inevitably battle with our flesh, the world’s sin-driven system, and satan as they, individually & collectively, attempt to lure us away from our commitment to following Jesus, our Savior. However, along with Paul, we’re able to shout, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24-25)

Writing of our new-found identity in Christ, Paul opened his letter to the Ephesians this way: “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints [believers] who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus,…”) This means I stood up in that wedding that afternoon and hollered, “Yo! Call me by biblical name: Saint Nick!” 🙂

So…. “When God looks at us, what does He see?” (Here’s a partial list…)

1. A saint [holy in His sight] (Ephesians 1:1)
2. His child (John 1:12)
3. His friend (John 15:15)
4. Justified [100% righteous] through Christ’s life, cross & resurrection (Romans 5:1)
5. His own possession, bought & paid for (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
6. A member of His own Body (1 Corinthians 12:27)
7. One COMPLETELY forgiven (Colossians 1:13-14)
8. A citizen of heaven (Philippians 3:20)

Final Note (to those who’ve never professed faith in Jesus Christ): When Paul wrote, “There is there now condemnation…” (Romans 8:1), he was describing those who’ve professed their faith in Jesus Christ. The other side of this truth is clear in these words spoken by Jesus: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” Bottom line: “When God looks at a person who’s never professed their faith in Christ, what does He see?” He sees someone for whom He sent His one and only Son, Jesus Christ – but who has never trusted Christ and therefore, remains condemned. Trust Christ today. He loves you. So much.

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick

“Hallelujah”

Another gorgeous rendition of Cohen’s classic…..

A friend sent this video to me. I made the mistake of viewing it while in my “local saloon” (Starbucks). By the final verse I was weeping heavily – in large part, because, due to my son’s death last May, my appreciation for Christ’s cross & resurrection has gone deeper still.

NOTE: The soloist is Catholic (made evident in her introduction) so her doctrine differs from evangelical Christianity in regard to who “mediates between God and men.” Catholicism still holds to the Old Testament office of the priest, while New Testament Christianity holds to Paul’s instruction to Timothy that there is “one mediator between God and men, the Man Jesus Christ.” (1 Timothy 2:5)

That said, this precious woman re-wrote Cohen’s hauntingly beautiful “Hallelujah” for Easter. This youtube clip now has over a million hits. The lyrics are biblically sound, her voice is absolutely beautiful, and the Children’s Choir that backs her up is the “icing the on cake.”

Enjoy, my friends! He is risen! And that changes everything. Hallelujah!