Posted by: mikenicholsblog | October 15, 2017

whether in need or plenty

For all of us, a quick review of last week would give a good indication of how we are doing on the contentment meter. Without a doubt, you had some surprises, some irritations, maybe even some delays and disruptions to your already pre-planned schedule. As I noted in my article last Wednesday, the planning for my week changed dramatically. There isn’t a question in my mind that the Father, in His guidance, re-directed my plans. From a great meeting Friday, to a very meaningful conversation while traveling home Saturday, I sensed the Father’s hand of blessing in my travels for the week. The problem for me, and probably you, is that we often look at interruptions negatively, all-the-while being able to articulate words like trust, sovereignty, and grace but not enjoying the contentment made available to Christ-followers.

Picture yourself living in a small apartment as a prisoner, chained to a Roman soldier and still having contentment. Those were the surroundings that Paul faced when he wrote the book of Philippians. Compared to many of the circumstances that pull at our joy, Paul had every reason to feel less than contented. However, he had learned the secret. His life was single-minded in devotion to His Lord and circumstances were not the determiner of Paul’s joy. Our American Christian culture does well in speaking about the contentment available through Christ, but I don’t see many who have learned the secret.

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.
Philippians 4:11-12 (NIV)

Set in the context of the church at Philippi showing concern for his needs, Paul makes it fundamentally clear that whether in need or plenty, he was content. He had discovered that His God was wholly adequate for any situation in his life. His joy was derived from the relationship that he had with Christ and the conviction that God’s sufficiency in every circumstance was his to enjoy. He had learned the secret. Intellectually you and I agree, but have we really learned the secret?

If you are in Christ, contentment is God’s provision for you. The difficulty is living in the reality that God is sufficient, sovereign and really concerned about your journey. Learning the secret of contentment will be life changing. Our issue isn’t whether we are struggling financially or living in luxury, but instead, whether we are resting in His sufficiency. Ray Stedman, one of my favorite pastors from days gone by, summed up contentment this way.

“I think what is meant here is that every circumstance the apostle faced, whether hardship or luxury, was not evaluated by his own personal reaction to it, but it was accepted as the Lord’s choice for him in order for the Lord to display his overwhelming ability, no matter the circumstance.”

All Christ-followers wish to have the same mindset as Paul in learning the secret of contentment in any and all circumstances. We, like Paul, also have the Holy Spirit guiding us and our all-sufficient and sovereign God caring for us. I can almost assure you (and myself) that the plans we have crafted for this week will collide with some surprises, irritations, delays and disruptions. In accepting each event in the light of God’s love and sovereignty over our journey, we can find our self in a place of contentment. Be a learner of the secret of contentment!

Posted by: thomasjrobb | October 14, 2017

Daily Reading Schedule – week of 10/15/2017

SPECIAL NOTE:  For those who recognized the error related to this week’s readings in the 4th Quarter Daily Reading Schedule, we are very sorry for any confusion.  The daily readings have been amended in the 4th Quarter Daily Reading Schedule PDF and updated on our website.  You are invited to click here for quick access to the full and updated 4th Quarter Daily Readings.  The readings below are also updated and correct.

To err is certainly a fundamental part of our human experience and we are grateful for your forgiveness.

Please note the following daily Bible readings for the week of 10/15/2017

Sun ​….​​ Colossians 1
​Mon …​. Colossians 2
​Tue ​.​.​.. Colossians 3-4
​Wed ..​. 1 Thessalonians 1-3
​Thu ….​ ​ 1 Thessalonians 4-5
​Fri ……. 2 Thessalonians 1-3
​Sat ..​… ​Reflection & Prayer


Join us @ journeyonWord.com

Posted by: mikenicholsblog | October 12, 2017

plans and promises

Do you ever find that new circumstances come fast and furious, and are often unexpected?  As I sat down to write this article, I received a call that would potentially throw my week out of kilter (not a bad circumstance) and created scenarios I had absolutely not planned for this week. Why doesn’t God just accept my plans and let me work through each week as I have determined (never)?   To top it off, just a few minutes before the phone call, I had picked up a page torn from Oswald Chamber’s great devotional, My Utmost for His Highest.  It said:

The circumstances of a saint’s life are ordained of God. In the life of a saint there is no such thing as chance. God by His providence brings you into circumstances that you can’t understand at all, but the Spirit of God understands.

You, like me, probably (and often) have conversations with God about life and circumstances. I certainly accept God’s sovereignty and over-riding direction for my weeks, but I still tend to have in the moment type lapses. One of the struggles we all face is communicating with God and telling Him how we think things ought to be for us without spending much time listening for the Spirit’s prompting in those moments. We even bargain and try to make deals with the Almighty, even though we wouldn’t admit it.

Have you ever said words like, “God, if you will just get me through this, I will________________.” Or maybe, “God, if you will just work me through this financial situation, I will never be in this position again. Please God!” We could all think back on a litany of promises we have made to God that we didn’t keep. Part of our problem is placing too much of the weight of our spiritual journey on our plans, promises and ability rather than on God’s Sovereignty, Promises and Ability. Just this week, while reading the book Divine Direction by Craig Groeshel, I was confronted with the bargaining we do with God.

In looking at our circumstances (often chaotic) and how we communicate with the God who ordains the circumstances in a Christ-follower’s life, let’s juxtapose these words from Divine Direction. “I don’t know about you, but most of the promises I’ve made to God didn’t stick. That’s because we’re not changed by the promises we make to God; we’re changed by believing the promises God makes to us.”

Think how your life would change if you simply and humbly believed and applied what He has already promised. For example, look at just two of His many promises.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-7 (ESV)

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
James 4:7 (ESV)

Do you think for one moment any of us can overcome anxiety or resist Satan in our own strength or by making grand promises to our Lord?  Unequivocally, No! So, let’s stop living like we can. Let’s, together, begin laying down our plans and turn, instead, in the direction of His promises

Stop fighting the circumstances, yield to His providence, believe and apply His promises, and you will be changed!

Posted by: mikenicholsblog | October 8, 2017

model the pace of Christ

I believe it’s been at least fourteen years since I have spoken to Matt.  Over the years, our paths have crossed due to the efforts of a mutual friend.  Matt was one of those people you always looked up to; he was successful in business, and just seemed to have things together.  Actually, the last time I remember speaking to him, he was managing over one billion dollars (now over two billion) for his clients!  But the fact that he managed lots of money and was successful has nothing to do with my positive remembrances of him.  For a period of years, we would speak sporadically—most of the time with me just getting his insight on financial matters.  When we would speak (mostly on the telephone), there was something that always affected me.  He was absolutely never in a hurry, and you would have thought that Matt had all the time in the world just to chat back and forth with me.  His company manages billions of dollars, and he has all the time in the world to speak to someone for their benefit.  It’s easy to sense when someone is anxious to end a telephone conversation. Matt never seemed to be in a hurry.

You’re probably reading this article as you begin another week.  You may already be feeling the internal pressure to move quick or finish a specific task, and you may be wondering why your life never seems to slow down.  There are people who you’ll have to correspond with today, and you’ll feel as though you don’t really have the time to genuinely listen to.  Maybe you envy a person like Matt who is successful, caring and seemingly has all the time in the world when speaking with someone.  It may be that Matt concluded that living in a hurry never helped him get ahead, so he shaped his priorities well.  But a greater example than Matt lived the principles of an unhurried life to perfection. His name was Jesus! W.F. Adams, (a mentor for C.S. Lewis) stated that:  “to walk with Jesus is to walk with a slow, unhurried pace. Hurry is the death of prayer and only impedes and spoils our work. It never advances it.”  As you start a new week, are you feeling relaxed and focused on meeting the needs of others, or stressed and fighting internal and external hurry?

One of my driving principles is to reduce the hurry that I naturally feel.   Progress has been slower than I would like, but I am certain that God’s design for me is to model the pace of Christ.  In sharing my own challenges with hurry, and search for God’s design for a less hurried life, I challenge you also to examine if the pace of your life to see if it needs re-calibrating. Being busy is not an excuse to be hurried. My friend Matt taught me that. Jesus could certainly have claimed to be busy … yet He wasn’t hurried.

An Unhurried Life, by Alan Fadling is my source for the quote mentioned above and also the words that follow.  Consider his words in the context of today and this week.  Test your hurry!

“Anger is soul hurry. Patience is soul unhurry.  Fretting is soul hurry. Peace is a soul unhurried and at rest.  I hurry when I believe deep down that God is not watching over and caring for me.  I rush to do for myself what I somewhere, deep down, believe God is failing to do for me.” (emphasis personally added)

Could it be that the real reason we tend to be impatient, rushed and internally stressed is that we are unwilling to trust God to help us accomplish our goals? I would never say I feel that way, but my actions often speak that it’s all about me and my ability … therefore I’m hurried! What about you?

I am convinced that if I called my friend Matt today, he would take all the time I needed.  I know without a doubt that Jesus gave full focus to those that needed Him at any given moment.  If you and I have that rushed feeling today, those around will know it, and we may miss the opportunity to care for them as we should.  Determine that unhurried is the best way, and trust God for the results of your work and your life.

Posted by: mikenicholsblog | October 4, 2017

an ambassador

When the ambassador walked onto the plane last Tuesday, no one seemed to notice. People on the plane had no idea about the responsibility or position of the man sitting in row nine. But on this particular day, the ambassador was more concerned about his own comfort and peaceful ride than any of the people scattered throughout the airplane.  It just so happened that the group sitting in front of this representative were not the least bit respectful of him. And you can imagine how the ambassador could be frustrated by the five disrespectful passengers in row eight. Two looked to be teenagers, and three were small children … and they were out of control! How dare those people not have more respect for the ambassador and, instead, create chaos and noise on what was supposed to be a quiet ride.

Maybe you’ve already figured out that it was ambassador Nichols who was on the plane; a representative of Jesus Christ. But last Tuesday, that ambassador was focused too much on his life and too little on his mission. When we look at what an ambassador does, two Google definitions are helpful.

am·bas·sa·dor
noun

  • an accredited diplomat sent by a country as its official representative to a foreign country
  • a person who acts as a representative or promoter of a specified activity.

 Since reading about ambassadors in II Corinthians five last week, I have been challenged and convicted about the believer’s role as an ambassador.

All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
II Corinthians 5:18-20 (ESV)

Reading those verses should give every true Christ-follower a pause of thanksgiving. We have been reconciled to God through Christ. Our greatest relationship! As we continue through the verses, all believers should also be challenged about our mission. God has entrusted to us the ministry of reconciliation. We are ambassadors for Christ! He makes his appeal of reconciliation through us. What a responsibility!

It is easy for us to understand the definitions listed above. How would we respond to one of our representatives to a foreign country being more concerned about their own personal issues over his/her mission? Correspondingly, last week ambassador Nichols, a representative of Jesus Christ, lost a bit of focus on his role. I am not saying my specific mission was the row in front of me, but it certainly would have been better to show grace and not get so irritated.

Generally, I sense that many Christ-followers have lost sight of their mission. Are we taking our God-designed title too lightly?  It isn’t solely pastors, elders or those called by God to far away lands that carry the weight of ambassadorship. God wants all of His followers to carry the message of reconciliation to a lost world. People pass through our lives daily who need to be reconciled to God through Christ … at work, home, and in our social settings. I can’t re-do last Tuesday’s failure to look at my mission more seriously, but I’m still an ambassador … and my term is not finished. And neither is yours! Serve it well.

Posted by: mikenicholsblog | October 1, 2017

imitate me

“Oh, If I could just_______________?”  What skill do you see in others that you would love to possess? It may be to sing with perfect pitch, speak with great eloquence, hit a golf ball perfectly straight, fly an airplane, or play the piano. The list is endless! It is human nature to want to imitate someone who has a skill or attribute you desire.

To be honest, from our earliest memories, thoughts flow of how we would imitate our parents. Can you remember following dad around the garage, or making cookies with mom in the kitchen? We all started young with a desire to imitate others. In all areas of life, whether it is talents, skills, or even character qualities, others have attributes we want to possess.

What about you? What are the special qualities in your life which are worthy of imitation? You may feel there is nothing special about yourself and reject the notion that anyone would care to mimic you, but without question, the quality of your life can be worthy of imitation … especially the spiritual attributes. When you are growing in your faith and consistently loving others, the distinctiveness of your life is worthy of imitation. You may tend to look solely at your weaknesses, but others also see your patience, care, humility and steadfastness.

But who in the world would ever willingly volunteer the words, “imitate my life”? We are all too afraid of failing or hindering someone, and doesn’t that thinking seem profoundly arrogant?! But there was a prominent man in ancient times that made a couple of “imitate me” type statements. Were the words spoken in arrogance (I think not), or did they source from a strong confidence in his relationship with Christ? Listen to the words of the apostle Paul:

Even though you have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. Therefore I urge you to imitate me.
I Corinthians 4:15-16 (NIV)

Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God–even as I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved. Follow my example, as I have followed the example of Christ.
I Corinthians 10:32-11:1 (NIV)

What courage! What confidence! But let’s also be quick to clarify. What I believe Paul wanted was for others to imitate him as he followed the example of Christ, and in his role as a spiritual mentor. We may never say those words, but our hearts should beat so strong for Christ that our lives are worthy of imitation. Could others say that your love for Christ inspires them to mimic that love? I may be preaching now, but our kids (even adult children), friends, and work associates need to see a life worthy of imitation. Paul may have had the courage to speak strong words, but let us join him in the courage to live strong lives … that reflect the love and life of Jesus. How we live before others matters for eternity.

When all is said and done, could it be said of you and me, “That was a life worth imitating”?

Posted by: mikenicholsblog | September 28, 2017

in the form of your prayers

Every week tends to have a series of ebbs and flows. We can all look back and clearly see the blessings and trials that made up each day. If we’re not careful, however, the trials that seem to linger will weigh us down. Sure, we are thankful for the blessings, but they seem to fade into the distance while our trials grow clearer by the moment. Just this week, I have seen or heard of trials I know are exceedingly hard for friends to endure. Some of these same friends could speak well of enduring trials, but they are painful nonetheless.  All of it has helped me to focus on the truth that trials come to all, we all need perspective, and we all need each other.

The phrase, “so that we despaired even of life” (1 Cor: 1:8) would get anyone’s attention. Obviously, a situation so dire that it would cause a person to mouth such words is worth examining. Paul, in describing the hardships he endured in the province of Asia, wrote these words to the church at Corinth. He also used the words, “…under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure” in the very same verse to describe this bleak situation. Most of us haven’t experienced the depth of Paul’s difficulties, but we all have had our own “under great pressure” moments. And quite frankly, there have been times where we’ve all wondered, “Can I get through this?”

Paul’s perspective on his own hardships has great meaning and is wrought with wisdom. “Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead” (2 Cor. 1:9). Isn’t relying on God what we should be doing all the time? You, the friends mentioned above, and I will live from one trial to another.  Truly relying on our Lord will give us sufficient energy to endure well. And don’t forget, He raised the dead! A full reading of the first chapter of II Corinthians relays a confidence that can be ours. Paul had no doubt that God who had delivered them from deadly peril would continue to do so. How is your confidence about your trials and your tomorrows?

There is more to our trial story. Namely, that we need each other. I doubt anyone would debate that point, but how do we need each other? Look at what Paul told the Corinthians. “…On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers” (2 Cor. 1:10b, 11a). Paul wanted them to know that their prayers would play a part in deliverance. I don’t know about you, but the words “as you help us by your prayers” have escaped my attention when reading this passage … maybe a hundred times. Paul made it crystal clear that he needed their help, in the form of their prayers. As you see others walking through trials, they need your help … your prayer help. Paul looked for the supernatural provision of God to come through prayer. So should we!

We may not feel like our prayer time will have much effect on someone else’s situation, but we need to leave the results to God and simply pray. Others need us…in prayer. Just as my friends need me to pray for them, someone needs your prayer. We all need to learn the lesson Paul shares.  We all need to rely on God. Will you take a moment right now and lift up someone in need to the Father?

Trials will beset all of us; God can be trusted, and prayer really does work!

Posted by: pmarkrobb | September 25, 2017

there is no small print

I feel as though the last several days have been the dictionary definition of noisy gongs and clanging cymbals.  Not all the rhetoric should be judged as such but, for me, the noise has been deafening on all “sides.”  What better time to be reminded of the greatest commandment to love God and love others, and to hear how God defines love.

If you are following our daily Bible reading plan, read intentionally today.  If you are not, consider joining us in reading 1 Corinthians 13.  Read slow.  Listen as you read.  In loving God and loving others, here is what that love should look like:

  • patient
  • kind
  • not jealous
  • not proud
  • not arrogant
  • not selfish
  • not irritable
  • not resentful
  • not rejoicing in any wrong word or action (even when they’re aimed at other wrongs)
  • rejoicing when it sees or hears truth
  • does not keep score or hold on to injury
  • remains standing and steady under the weight of all things
  • it’s belief is unshakable
  • it never loses hope
  • faithfully perseveres
  • trusts always
  • endures, no matter the force that comes against it

We are commanded to love our neighbor … and to love them that way.

We are not commanded to just love the neighbor who smiles at us, agrees with us or believes like us. God’s definition of love has no conditions.  There is no small print.  There are no disclaimers.

How easy it can be to chime in, whether on the opposite side of an argument or in preaching to the choir.  Always be careful to hear yourself as you’re speaking and to judge your words and heart against God’s definition of love.

Never fail in speaking truth, but be careful and mindful of whose truth it is.  Never fail in speaking truth, but never, ever fail to say so in love.

Posted by: pmarkrobb | September 20, 2017

your value

This past weekend we drove to visit my oldest son at college in Virginia.  It was so good to be with him again.  i miss him so deeply.  It is absolutely the best experience in the world to see him finding himself and setting his feet firmly where he is and walking with God as he walks in the direction of his own life.  And it is absolutely the hardest thing in the world, all at the same time.  Did i mention that i miss him?

As we began making our way back home Sunday morning, winding our way through the hills and back roads of central Virginia, we passed what appeared to be an amazing antique store.  i happen to be a statistical anomaly — a guy who likes to shop – and antique shops are among my favorite kind of places to peruse (and purchase).  i smiled and stared as we passed the store, longing for it to be open and for the time to stop and wander through its wares.  As i continued down the road, with the image of the shop’s front porch still fresh, an odd prompt entered my mind.  What could an amazing antique shop reveal about the nature of God?  i know what you’re thinking, but i promise you that’s what i was thinking.

It didn’t take long to hear the whisper of an answer, and oh what fun it was to sit with it for a while.  i began to think of “value.”  The “value” of things some would see as trash in the eyes of the one who considers it to be treasure.  i began to think about what kind of things affected an item’s “value.”  The very first answer that popped into my head … who it belonged to.  You’ve no doubt heard story after story of the most random and ordinary things fetching astronomical amounts of money at auction because of who touched, used or owned them.  An inkwell or cast iron match holder might figure to cost you far south of a single Benjamin in an antique store.  But that very same item, if proven to be used by or come from the home of Mr. Franklin, would likely command multiple to multitudinous Benjamin’s.

There are many things that factor into an item’s value, but it could not be argued that chief among them is who that item belonged to.  Likewise, this is true of our own value.  Although, with ours, i would confidently say that it has EVERYTHING to do with Who we belong to.  We were created in the very image of the One who created everything (Gen. 1:27).  We are His child (Gal. 3:26).  He calls us friend (John 15:15).  Jesus left the Father to rescue and redeem us (John 6:38-39).  Read those truths again.  Sit with them.  Let them settle into the seat of your soul.

If you are locked in, or losing, a battle with voices that are screaming, “Not worthy!” hear His still, small voice today.

“You belong to me.  You are my beloved.”

Posted by: mikenicholsblog | September 17, 2017

it’s not God plus

Once, in talking to a friend who climbs mountains (can you imagine?!), I asked him the ultimate question.

“Are you going to climb Mt. Everest?”

He climbs mountains to raise money for disadvantaged children, and Everest had no special allure. I understood why when he told me that it costs $150,000 to make the climb, and 25% of the climbers die. Now, I have no idea how accurate those statistics are, but those numbers were staggering to me. Why would anyone risk death and spending a fortune to climb a mountain? There are just a select few with the courage and means to test the mountain.

Correspondingly, I have repeatedly ended up at the same passage of Scripture in different scenarios over the last several weeks.  The passage is one that I might also characterize as a place rarely visited/tested. It is not a land with grass or snow and mountain peaks. It does not cost real money, nor does it present the risk of physical death. I believe it to be a place available to all who know God, through Christ as their Savior, and all who venture there find it to be filled with comfort and security … even in the most trying of times.  Where/what is this place, and why would it be so rarely visited?

When you hear these verses quoted or mentioned, I would venture you find it easy to say, “Yes, I believe them.” However, is it a place that you visit often? Look at the passage in two of my favorite Bible versions.

Psalm 62:1-2
My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken. (NIV)

For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation.  He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken. (ESV)

David was battling through a rough patch in his life. Some even feel it could have been after his son Absalom tried to take his throne from him (imagine that pain).  Humanly speaking, he was in a desperate place. However, when you read the verses above, there is a sense of safety, a voice of confidence and firm resolve. He had no doubt that God was the solid rock under his feet and a fortress to protect him. He found his rest in God alone.  It was not God plus his own strength, or God plus his army … it was God alone. David certainly had his failures, but at this specific moment he realized something that every Christ-follower should internalize; peace (true peace, God’s peace) comes when we learn to stop depending on ourselves and trusting Him for every (and I mean, every) area of our lives. Now you see why I view these verses as a place rarely visited. I believe we all want more of God plus <fill in the blank>, rather than God alone.

David’s words ring true. In meditating on these verses, I find they slow me down, cause me to release issues to Him and generally gain a sense of spiritual balance. Charles Swindoll, in his book entitled Jesus: The Greatest Life of All, caught the essence of what I am trying to convey. “To enter our Sabbath rest, we must put an end to self-reliance-trusting our own abilities to overcome difficulties, rise above challenges, escape tragedies, or achieve personal greatness. We must cease striving and trust God to provide what He thinks is best and in whatever time He chooses to make it available.”  Well said!

My soul finds rest in God alone.  It is a place of safety, comfort and protection. Would you consider visiting that place for even just a day? It takes incredible courage to climb Everest to gain what is essentially a temporal thrill. Finding rest in God alone is more than a momentary thrill; it’s a place of lasting peace.  Like David, you and I will fail at finding our rest (in God alone) often, but we can visit and re-visit this place of God’s design.

Since God keeps bringing this passage to my attention, I keep writing about it. It is a place I need to continually re-visit and maybe, just maybe, you do too. Find your rest in God alone this week.

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