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

 

 

 

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

Turning the Tables on the Devil

We all have awful days i.e. our car breaks down, the hot water heater goes out, something frustrating happens at work or school, someone hurts us, the list seems endless.

Pastor/author, Charles Stanley, writing about Joseph (the one with “the coat of many colors” in the book of Genesis), pointed out,

“we are all dealt, in essence, a hand of cards. Some hands are awful. The key is not focusing on the cards, but rather on our response to them.”

In Acts 16, Paul was thrown into the “inner prison and shackled” for simply sharing his faith in Christ.

He was dealt an awful hand. And, like Joseph, had every earthly reason to curse God, remain bitter, and even throw in the towel – which is what Satan was desperately hoping for.

But, Paul turned the tables on the devil in a surprising plot twist.

Verse 25 records, “About midnight Paul and (his friend) Silas were praying and singing hymns (while shackled in prison.)”

The next phrase grips me as much as the one we just read: “and the (other) prisoners were listening to them.”

A friend told me once, “It’s completely ok – and normal – to have a pity party. But make sure and put a time limit on it.”

Translation: when we are dealt an awful hand, pain and anger and frustration will naturally follow. And that’s where Satan wants us to remain – but don’t.

Jesus is whispering to us, “I’ve got this. Trust me.”

And, who knows, just like the other prisoners in the story, it could be that others who’ve been dealt an awful hand are looking for someone – anyone – to remind them that there his hope in the Cross and the Empty Tomb.

Love to you all, Nick

 

The Supernatural World

On the book of Job, chapters 1-2…

From award-winning author, Philip Yancey’s, book, The Bible Jesus Read:

“Nowhere else in the Bible are we more clearly informed of a realm beyond our own – one we cannot see but, nonetheless, exists.

“Like Job, we live in ignorance of what is going on ‘behind the curtains.’ Job reminds us that the small history of mankind on this earth takes place within the large drama of the history of the universe. We are foot-soldiers in a spiritual battle with cosmic significance.

“In the words of C.S. Lewis, ‘There is no neutral ground in the universe – every square inch, every split second, is claimed by God and counter-claimed by Satan.” (Philip Yancey)

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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

Bewitched

“O foolish Galatians,” Paul lamented. “Who has bewitched you?”

Through Christ, all 613 Levitcal laws given to Israel were fulfilled. Yet Satan – and our human nature – still tell us, “The only way to please God is through human effort.” i.e. living a “good” life, making sure that – at the end of the day – my “good” deeds outweigh my “bad” deeds so that the proverbial scale tips in my favor.

There’s only one problem with this school of thought: it’s completely unbiblical and diametrically opposite of the gospel.

The whole reason Paul wrote his letter to the Galatians was to counter the lies of the false teachers who had slithered into the Galatians’ midst and began filling their heads with works-based righteousness. In other words, the false teachers were preaching, “To be loved and accepted by God, you must keep a list of good deeds and check it off as you go. If you finish the list, you’re good to go – until tomorrow; and then you get to start over. If you fail, just keep on trying. For all your life.” (By the way, righteousness = right standing before a holy God).

Paul’s frustration was that the Galatian believers so quickly bought into the lies of the false teachers. But modern culture isn’t any different. Our default is to swallow the same lies the Galatians entertained 20 centuries ago. (Satan is consistent in his strategies – if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.)

As usual, Paul pulls no punches. He writes, “If righteousness could be obtained by the law (human effort), Christ died for no purpose.” (cf. Galatians 2:21; Ephesians 2:8-9; John 3:16; Romans 10:9-10)

Wow. Put it in park and think about that for a minute.

“Wait,” you counter. “You’re telling me that Jesus loves me regardless of how much I fail and mess up? I don’t have to keep score of my good vs. bad actions or thoughts??”

If you’ve placed your faith in what Christ has done for you on the cross, the Bible’s answer to that question is an emphatic: “yes.”

From his throne, Christ proclaims,

“I have purchased you with an everlasting love, with my very own blood. I have washed you clean! You are 100% holy and righteous! When you stand before God for judgment, you will receive the verdict: Not guilty! This has absolutely nothing to do with your good deeds and human effort. You have zero capacity to be good enough to stand innocent of sin in my Father’s presence.  I was good enough on your behalf. I absorbed God’s wrath – the wrath you deserved – when I was brutally and publicly executed outside of Jerusalem. Your salvation has nothing to do with your feeble attempts to earn salvation. Rather, it has everything to do with my accomplishing that for you, culminating with the Cross and the Empty Tomb, my resurrection.”

“If this is true, Jesus, why would you do such a thing?”

And the King tenderly replies, “Because I love you.”

Are you, as Paul describes, “held captive” and “imprisoned” by the lie that you must somehow be “good enough” for God to love and accept you?

Lay down your burden. Put your faith in Christ today. And come home. Peace awaits.

In the Roman Catholic medieval church, Satan had spread this same lie (if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.) People we’re spending their whole lives trying to be good enough for God to love and accept them, all the while never knowing if what they had done was good enough. This is an exhausting and frightening existence i.e. “What if I die and I haven’t finished checking off the list??”

In response, the Reformers (Martin Luther, John Knox, etc.), on a mission (a “mission from God” – Blues Brothers 🙂) to counter this false teaching, began proclaiming and circulating phrases that summed up the true and eternal gospel. Among those phrases (the Five Solas) were:

Sola Gratia; Sola Fide, Solus Christus.

“By grace alone; through faith alone; in Christ alone.”

As my friend, Micah Wilder, says, “Jesus is enough.”

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick

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