Posted by: mikenicholsblog | March 26, 2017

don’t miss the moments or miracles

Each day is filled with a myriad of people, activities, thoughts, expectations and a good dose of the unexpected. How often have you thought to yourself, “This day certainly didn’t turn out the way I had planned.”?  It’s interesting to me how, amid all the twists and turns of each day, I can easily miss lessons from God — moments with Him and miracles from His hand. It’s easy for me (and you) to want Him to part our Red Sea, write His will in the sky or dramatically heal someone whom we love. And in the process of wanting Him to fit into our plans, we miss moments and miracles from the Father’s hand. Often, we look for the BIG moments and miracles. Today, be reminded with me of the day-by-day moments and miracles.

It has been three years now since my wife Genel was called to her aunt and uncle’s home due to a serious illness. Her uncle was taking care of his wife, who was near the end of a nine-year battle with cancer. He couldn’t handle the physical part alone any longer and reached out to Genel. Her first visit to the home lasted about forty-five minutes and was very stressful. Later the same week, Genel spent another couple of hours in the house preparing to receive a hospital bed and organizing things for her aunt to come home. A few days later, her aunt fell and Genel spent the night on a sofa beside her. I am sure many of you reading this article have done the very same things, but helping a family member was not the miracle or moment of which I am speaking.

If you knew my wife well, you would know that she is highly allergic to cats. She can be in a room with a feline for as little as five minutes and be highly congested, sneezing with her eyes watering. Do you relate?  Genel’s aunt and uncle have always loved cats and two of them rule their house!  I had expressed concern to my wife about her severe allergy, but we both knew she was going to step in and help anyway.  The cats even seemed to take a liking to her.  On the evening mentioned above, as she spent the night sleeping on a sofa beside her aunt, Genel woke to find a cat lying beside her head and the other on a close-by chair! Amazingly, during that stressful time, when Genel had to be taking the lead on serious life issues, her allergies basically went away!  No sneezing!  No itching eyes! Nothing! But in the emotion-filled days before her aunt’s passing, we missed seeing God’s miraculous protection and provision.

After the passing of her aunt, Genel visited her uncle in his home … with the cats. Within five minutes of her arrival, Genel’s allergies flared severely. She had to get out quick! It was then when Genel realized what God had done during that critical time when He needed her to provide grace and help to her aunt and uncle. After living her entire life with cat allergies, Genel knew God had gifted a miracle.  And we almost missed it!

You may call it a coincidence or no big deal, but for my wife it was nothing short of miraculous.  And in God’s timing, the allergy returned. Never forget that He is in control! No detail is beyond His notice or ability to provide.  He wants us to see Him in the myriad of activities, stresses, and unexpected twists of life. Nothing is too small for us to sense His presence and see His miracles. Note the words of encouragement written by Frederick Buechner in his book, The Alphabet of Grace:

“Morning, afternoon, evening—the hours of the day, of any day, of your day and my day. The alphabet of grace. If there is a God who speaks anywhere, surely he speaks here: through waking up and working, through going away and coming back again, through people you meet and books you read, through falling asleep in the dark.”

Today, don’t miss the special moments, and even miracles, God may give you!

Posted by: mikenicholsblog | March 23, 2017

fondness or passion?

Another spring has officially “sprung” and I am ready to start golfing. I have always had great fondness for trying to master the sport. There are friends in my life who are not just fond, but passionate about golf (and that’s why they always beat me). My wife and I are fond of walking on long trails, but not passionate enough to do it regularly. You are probably no different. There are things you are fond of, which never reach the level of a passion. It seems fair to say that today’s Christian America has a fondness for God, but not the passion to sacrifice comfort for His cause. A logical question for all of us is, “Would a greater passion for God bring a greater sense of purpose and fulfillment in my life?” If not, why would He desire it of us?

In my meditation on the subject, I remembered a relevant quote from a great Christian of days gone by… “Each of us is as close to God as we choose to be.” ~ Dr. Oswald Sanders. Combined with an honest evaluation of our spiritual passion, I believe this quote gives clarity to where many of us are on the journey. If you are a Christ-follower, there is no doubt you love God and can absolutely be used greatly for His cause. Since yesterday ended at midnight, don’t be concerned about yesterday’s lack of passion. What is His purpose for you today? Looking for spiritual purpose without seeking to know God will only lead to frustration. To know God and His purpose, the Word has to play a vital role in your life.

A favorite author of mine, Beth Moore, writes in Believing God, An ongoing relationship with God through His Word is essential to the Christian’s consistent victory!” I don’t know that I have ever met a person whose faith I would want to emulate who was not also a student of the Word. Make no mistake; consistent intake of the heart of God will change you. You will learn His perspective on life, and that insight will guide and reshape you. There is a burden in my spirit that modern American Christianity treats our relationship with God’s Word as I treat my golf game: Fondness, but no passion! Far too many errors are made because we just don’t want to invest the time in reading and practicing. But in matters eternal, the stakes are much higher than in a game.  Every relationship that you and I have is affected by our relationship with God through His Word.

So if you have chosen today to be close to God, choose to be close to His Word. We all have a decision before us – fondness or passion. If you desire to consistently have His perspective, start today with a fresh view of the Word and its power in your life. Yesterday really did end at midnight, and the Creator of each new day wants you to know Him more.  When you do, there will be no doubt about purpose and fulfillment.

Posted by: pmarkrobb | March 19, 2017

the answer can always be found…

It never ceases to amaze me how reminders in Scripture, which were given to the ancient’s, speak so specifically and rightfully to us today.  It is undeniable proof that “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9)

I’m wondering if you felt that way last Friday in reading the words of 1 Corinthians chapter ten, where Paul was charging the believers in Corinth to not forget their ancestors in the wilderness long ago (verse 1).  The same cloud led them all.  They all ate the same manna.  Yet God was not pleased with most of them (verse 5).

Paul characterized the experience of their ancestors as a warning to the believers in his time. We should equally hear them as a warning to us in ours — Craving evil things and worshipping idols, feasting and drinking, pagan revelry, sexual immorality, testing God, grumbling … nothing new under the sun.

I am negotiating a season of my life where nearly all my correspondences begin with, “I’m sorry for the delay in responding.”  This comes right on the heels of a brief period where there was a place for everything and everything was in its place.  The obedience that resulted in order and peace snuck away at some point, absent my notice.  Paul’s reminder to the believers in Corinth seemed particularly timely for this believer, and I’m guessing the Spirit’s prompting to pen this confession means there’s value in it for one or more of you.

Idols rarely present themselves in the wolves clothing of something like sexual sin (and even that can appear soft and white and wooly sometimes).  And how long does it take the essentials of our relationship with God (reading the Bible, talking to Him in prayer, serving and loving others) to get crowded out of our busy lives?

In response to the crowding, it’s common to hear the suggestion of things like “balance” and “margin.”  While those things sound good (and might, on some level, be good), I would confidently suggest that the answer can be found in becoming more like Jesus.  And the last time I read the stories of His life here walking among us, I wouldn’t have used either “balance” or “margin” to describe it.  I do remember reading that He stole away to pray (repeatedly).  I do remember reading that His food was doing the will of his Father (John 4:34).  And I do remember reading that Mary chose better (Luke 10:42).

My experience with the “truths” of balance and margin are that they are most typically rooted in self — the thing we are supposed to be dying to.   They’re a product of human wisdom and I can find no clear evidence of them in Scripture or Jesus’ earthly life.  The definition and pursuit of “balance” is very much, I think, like that of being “good.”  They are both things which God does not define.  So then, who defines them, and by what basis of truth do they define them?  And what is “margin’s” purpose?  Is it for things like stealing away to pray and Sabbath rest, or is it, for us, more like a comfortable spot on the couch for March Madness?

My purpose is not to single out “balance” and “margin” and attack them as evil.  It is simply to suggest that when we find ourselves convicted about having put the things of this world ahead of God, or discovering the essentials of our relationship with Him have been crowded out by the busyness of life, the answer can always be found in becoming more like Jesus.  The God-breathed books, chapters and verses of the Word are useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right (2 Timothy 3:16).

I pray there has been value for you in the mention of Paul’s reminder about our ancestors in the wilderness.  I pray for God’s will to be done in and through your life and mine.  I pray we will be busy … busy doing our Father’s will.  I pray we will choose like Mary.  I pray that God opens our eyes to the idols which have already taken residence in our hearts and lives, and the wolves (who don’t look like wolves) who’ll forever (in this life) be knocking on our door.

Posted by: mikenicholsblog | March 16, 2017

a needed reminder to always

It’s Thursday morning.  Has it been a stressful week? If so, words that were meaningful to me years ago may help to re-calibrate your thinking as they did mine. Accept them from a fellow struggler that needed what Philippians 4:4 has to say.

Have you ever used the old adage, never say never? We have all used those words because circumstances that we think may never happen, often do! Another phrase that has been running through my mind this week is never say always. There are many things in life that I would like to always do; such as always eating enough of my daily fruits and vegetables, always working out consistently every week, always being sensitive to my wife and daughter and always living without worry or anxiety. You can probably relate to my never say always agenda of living. But words mean something, and my mind and heart were drawn this week to a place of always.

Before I state the passage that relates to always, it must be said that Scripture is not a hope-so book that is full of good motivation, but lacking in reality. Is it God’s Word, true for every situation and can be applied with success. The reason for my short diatribe is my belief that most Christ-followers struggle to believe that certain principles can work for them. It is not that we deny the principle, but somehow we just don’t think certain mandates will really work for us. However, when God gives us a Biblical mandate to follow, never doubt His ability to make it work in your life. He knows we aren’t perfect, but His Word is perfecting.  It’s absolutely and always true, and we can live it. But what if Scripture declares that we should do something always?

In my reading this week, I came upon a verse from Philippians chapter four. Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Wait a minute! I want to be an obedient Christian, but rejoicing always is a little over the top for someone who never says always. However, I also know that Scripture is true, so I can live with a rejoicing heart. It’s also a difficult principle to wrap my arms around over the last few days; I have seen lots of pain in the lives of others. To just give them the platitude to rejoice always can come across as insensitive and even uncaring. But Scripture is true, and we can live rejoicing … always.

If you study Philippians, you will concur that life wasn’t perfect for the people of Philippi. And the writer of the book, Paul, was in prison. So these words were not delivered in a perfect setting. And God still said through Paul; Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Trials and difficultly are no less stressful today than they were centuries ago in Philippi, and Paul’s words still ring true. We can live rejoicing in the Lord always. Note the following words from John MacArthur’s commentary on Philippians to help gain perspective on rejoicing always.

Some, wrongly identifying joy as a purely human emotion, find Paul’s twice –repeated command to rejoice puzzling. How, they ask, can people be commanded to produce an emotion? But joy is not a feeling; it is the deep-down confidence that God is in control of everything for the believer’s good and His own glory, and thus all is well no matter what the circumstances.

Life will always confront you and me with challenges. But when we choose to live each day (start today) with a deep-down confidence that God is in control, we can rejoice. And we can rejoice always when every day is filtered through that confidence. Sure, we will have some slip-ups, but rejoicing always can become our new pattern. Joy doesn’t deny our pain, but rather yields control of pain and circumstances to the One who is in control.

Remember, Scripture is true, and we can rejoice always, and again I say rejoice. And I promise you that this is one area in which I will never use the words: never say always.  How about you?

Posted by: mikenicholsblog | March 13, 2017

who are you praying for?

Reading about Paul last week in Acts and now in Romans has caused me to reflect on his passion for the Gospel. He was remarkable in his desire for people to know the Savior. Earlier in his life, however, he could have been on someone’s “least likely to accept Christ” list. Over the past week, I have written articles about Paul and the power of the gospel. At the same time, I was not living that power in my own prayer time. I was praying for a man, while doubting that he would ever come to Christ. Shame on me! So I want to give one more illustration of the power of the gospel that I wrote several years ago.

We all walk through life with strong viewpoints. One of the areas where this is especially true is in observing others. Think about it, you have opinions on everybody in your world. And one of our struggles is once we settle on an impression of an individual it usually sticks. How we view someone determines how we relate to them, how much we trust them, and whether we really enjoy being around them. And once the view of a person is cemented in our mind, it usually doesn’t change. Can a leopard change its spots? In our humanity, we’ve learned this “truth” from experience.  But is that truth absolute? Is it God’s truth?  As these questions play themselves out in your life of faith, are there people who you have mentally determined will never have a life-changing encounter with Christ?

I can remember it like it was yesterday. A young associate of mine shared that his dad was having heart issues. I responded with the obligatory, “I will pray for him” and received stunning words in return. He answered, “I’m an agnostic.”  So began our discussions about faith and salvation. Eventually, my friend came to a place of decision and was changed – eternally. On a long distance call just the other day, he relayed to me that he was being considered for a deacon position at his church. It has been almost nine years since he gave that initial answer, and his life, family, church and business have all been affected by his turn to Christ. God is in the life changing business, and He is not limited by our opinion that someone will never come to Christ. Don’t kid yourself; you and I struggle with doubts and observations of certain non-believers. I did not put my agnostic friend high on the ready to accept Christ list … but he did!

Saul (Paul) would have been viewed as anything but a candidate to be a follower of Jesus. He was ruthless with his opposition to the church, and had no qualms about persecuting Christians. That was, until the Road to Damascus. His life was forever changed when he was confronted and converted by Jesus. What Paul accomplished for Christ is well chronicled in Scripture. The way God used him literally expanded the gospel message throughout the world. But I doubt that many Christians of his generation would have put him high on the candidate for salvation list. God was not limited then, nor is He now, to our narrow views about a person’s redemptive readiness.

My thoughts are that you may have someone in your life who has yet to receive Christ as Savior. You may have already developed the viewpoint that they are not interested and probably will never accept His life-changing message. I struggle with the same misplaced notions about people in my life. But then I am reminded of my friend and the Apostle Paul. God loves all of us, and is not willing that any should perish. So why should we have such limited views about what He can do? Imagine what it would be like if that someone(s) in your life came to Christ? Are you willing to change your view and pray daily for their salvation?

Now back to my friend the agnostic. After he came to Christ, his wife (who I had never met) told me that she had been praying for nine years that her husband would accept Christ. I am sure glad she didn’t give up. I don’t know if Stephen or other believers were praying for Paul before his conversion, but in my heart I believe somebody was. I don’t know who you care about, but I know they deserve your prayers. And remember, God loves them, you can pray for them, and they just might be used of God in a mighty way.

Who are you praying for?

Posted by: mikenicholsblog | March 9, 2017

never too far gone

Sometimes when we read passages of Scripture there is a fresh emphasis on principles we had already known, but in that moment strike a nerve. Paul’s radical conversion to Christ and his outstanding witness for Christ have been re-emphasized to me this week in the latter chapters of the book of Acts. Today, Christ-followers need to be intentional about our witness. The world needs a Savior.

Without a doubt, there is someone in your life who needs to make a commitment to Jesus Christ as his or her personal Savior. There is also no doubt that Jesus is the only Way to the Father, and an eternity in heaven. But we all struggle with doubt, wondering if that particular person in need of Christ will ever take the ultimate step of faith. We don’t doubt God’s love, or His ability to change a life, we just wonder about that special and specific person…

Seventeen years ago, one of my work associates was anything but a Christian. It would have been easy to doubt even the hope of that future reality. But in an amazing way, God changed his life.  And I often tell him, one thing you can’t deny is “the testimony of a changed life.” He has been transformed from a worldly and self-centered man, to one who possesses a passionate faith and who is a selfless giver. Was he ever too far gone?! … Not for God!!

On an ugly day of persecution, a great follower of Christ was martyred. His name was Stephen. But there was also a man directly involved in his persecution that we all have come to admire and acknowledge as a hero of the faith. Acts 8:1 says, “And Saul was there giving approval to his death.”  This is the same Saul who was converted on the Damascus road and became known as the Apostle Paul. Wait a minute! But he was a persecutor of the church of God! Knowing me (and you), if I had lived then and known Saul, I would have doubted that this man would ever be converted, much less become a voice for Christ … the voice that God specifically chose to carry the gospel beyond the borders of His chosen people.  Most would have thought Saul was too far gone … but not God!

I would guess that every person reading this post has sung the beloved hymn “Amazing Grace” countless times. But if we had known the author of its words early in his life, there is no doubt we would have doubted he would become a man of faith. John Newton was a ruthless slave trader and captained his own ship. During a violent storm at sea, he had “a great deliverance.” His life was remarkably changed and generations have benefited from that change. Note the first verse of Amazing Grace.

Amazing Grace! (How sweet the sound)
That sav’d a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

John Newton knew grace and knew that God had “sav’d a wretch like me.” Even though we don’t doubt God’s ability, would we have wondered about this man Newton? I am thankful that God stretched out His arms of grace, and inspired this man to forever touch the world.

So … who do you love that needs the Lord? Have you ever doubted if they would trust the Savior? The personal story of my friend, the biblical account of Paul, and the historical tale of John Newton are evidence of God’s radical and incredible life-changing love. He gave His best, Jesus Christ, as a sacrifice for all of us, and all our sins. The truth is, we are all sinners — wretches if you would — and are only changed by faith in Christ.

So today, if you know Him, give thanks that “you were blind, but now you see.” And don’t doubt that those you love can have their eyes opened too. Pray with faith for that special person, and don’t doubt. I trust and pray that one day, you will smile when that person who was “once lost, is now found.

Posted by: mikenicholsblog | March 5, 2017

a bad news/Good News story

Two weeks ago, at this very moment, I was anticipating an assignment that was to be mine over the next week and a half.  In looking back at that adventuresome journey, I can honestly say my best laid plans were completely interrupted and changed. Life can be that way.

It started with a simple cold that landed in my throat. Having no voice is aggravation enough, but having to give a speech to over one hundred people on an important topic was worse. After having travelled to give the speech, and using every over the counter remedy available (plus apple cider vinegar), I made it through the lecture and was off to rest, then to another work location. Monday and Tuesday of last week were also important (as I needed to see several people), but by then the cold had travelled to my EYE. As I spoke to people, they would have been wise to close their eyes. My eye was ugly!  By Tuesday, I gave up and visited a minute clinic and was treated for bacterial pink eye. It was all in a week’s work, and then I came home … and everything cleared up. What an assignment!

My illustration is trivial compared to the real purpose and life assignments that we are given. My reading in Acts this morning brought that home in a powerful way. The Apostle Paul knew his life assignment and lived up to it, even with difficulties that make me feel ashamed for pouting about mine. Notice the words of Acts 20:22-24.

And now I am bound by the Spirit to go to Jerusalem. I don’t know what awaits me, except that the Holy Spirit tells me in city after city that jail and suffering (lay) ahead. But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.

Paul wanted to finish the work assigned to him by the Lord Jesus. What was that work? As noted above, it was—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God. There was no question in his mind about what God had called him to do, and Paul wanted to complete his assignment. His journey would lead to great difficulty; jail and suffering would be his lot, as the Holy Spirit had informed him. I wonder what most of us would do if the thought of jail and suffering were part of the equation for following Christ.

Most of us work hard, serve Christ and, in some way, look for recognition and success from our efforts. For Paul, what he put into life (finishing his assignment) far overshadowed the personal recognition and benefits. Most of us (if any) will ever suffer in serving our Lord as Paul did, but isn’t it also the assignment for all Christ-followers to be witnesses to the grace of God and the life changing power of His Gospel?

I am concerned for you and for me that in the course of daily living we lose the intentionality of telling others the Good news about the wonderful grace of God.  In the early years of my faith journey, I was taught well to share my faith, but it seems that the emphasis of living well in front of others has caused the Christian world to be less forthright about our faith and what Christ has done in our lives. If you haven’t shared your faith with someone in a while, I think you know what I mean. We don’t have to stand on street corners or go door to door, but there is ample opportunity before us each week to share the Good News.

My interrupted assignment was minor. Paul’s assignment was a mission, and I believe every Christ-follower has a part to play in that mission by sharing the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.

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Posted by: pmarkrobb | March 1, 2017

a man after His own heart

He was arguably the greatest earthly king in Israel’s history, into whose bloodline the King of Kings was born.  He was a shepherd boy, a literal giant-killer, a poet and a songwriter.  This was David.  On the surface, it would appear there is no more unlikely Bible character with whom I can identify.  My life looks nothing like his (well, hold on now, maybe not so fast).  For as much as God accomplished in and through his life, David was also a thief, adulterer and murderer.  How could this be so?!  This is a question I so often ask of myself.

There can be little argument about the best compliment ever paid to David.  It came directly from the mouth of God and was recorded in Acts 13:22…

After removing Saul, he made David their king. God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’

Could there be any higher honor than to have God himself call you a man or woman after His own heart?  The context for this statement is David being installed by God as the king who would succeed Israel’s first king, Saul.  David had been on the run from Saul and repeatedly rejected opportunities to take his rightful place on the throne by the force of his own hands.  He could have insisted on his own timing and taken Saul’s life on several occasions, but David insisted on this being in God’s time and by God’s hand.  This was resolve worth emulating.  This was unparalleled submission and strength of character.

And then David went and messed it all up…

In a series of events, which represent one of the most epic train wrecks of all time, David lusted after and then took for his own, another man’s wife.  He then called that man home from battle and set in motion a diabolical plan to cover up his own sin.  David writes a letter to the forward commander and says, “Set Uriah in the forefront of the hardest fighting, and then draw back from him, that he may be struck down, and die.” 2 Samuel 11:15 (ESV)  As David wished, Uriah would soon die, and his wife would eventually bare King David a son.

Seems perfectly clear now, how i could suggest that David’s life looked nothing like my own.  How in the world could i ever suggest that his story sounds even remotely like my own?!  The answer is quite simple.  A mess is a mess is a mess.  David is no more or less a child of God than i am (or you are), and he is no more or less a sinner.  God chose him for a unique purpose, and He has chosen us as well.  David made disastrous decisions; decisions which he, no doubt, thought would define the remainder of his life.  I have also locked myself in prisons of my own making for sins which I was convinced could never be fully forgiven, only to experience God’s scandalous and limitless grace and forgiveness.  David’s story is also mine.

I wonder if you feel the same.  I wonder if those “prisons” I just mentioned sound awfully familiar to you.  Who, or what, is your Bathsheba?

There is consequence for sin, but God is also merciful and gracious.  Our lives in Him are not defined by what we do (whether for His glory or our own).  But, rather, by what He does in and though us.  Cease striving to be who you think you should be and choose, instead, to be who God created you to be.  Genuinely repent, and then accept God’s full and unconditional forgiveness.

i do not desire to be David, but i do desire for God to say of me, that i am a man after His own heart.

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Posted by: genelnicholsblog | February 26, 2017

even this very day

I think it’s a safe assumption that everyone reading this article is facing some faith adventures today. It could be a health journey, a job scenario, maybe a financial mountain or just an everyday “Will I trust Him?” moment.  God in His wisdom uses these “refiners” to help us learn (and re-learn) dependence. As you read the next few paragraphs, let your mind travel back to a stormy day in the life of Christ and His disciples. Faith will rise to the forefront, and we can certainly relate to the dilemma.

Our context is found in Mark 4:35-41. After a day of teaching, Christ gives His disciples an adventure in trusting Him. He informs the group they’ll be heading across the Sea of Galilee. He is leading them INTO the storm! Sometimes storms result from our disobedience. But at other times, the Father’s design is to send us headlong into troubled waters … yet, never without an anchor.

Scripture tells us it was a furious squall — so intense that the waves broke over the boat. The disciples were seriously concerned about drowning. Can you believe that Jesus was sleeping while all that was going on?! You may not mouth words like those of the disciples — “Teacher, don’t you care that we drown?” — but you (and I) have had similar thoughts. They had waves, and we have our “storms.” As you view today’s faith adventure, are you looking with eyes of faith or do you have that drowning feeling? Christ’s rebuke of the storm and His disciples is instructive, even today.

With the commands, “Quiet! Be still!” Christ calmed the wind. The Creator of the Universe was in control of nature. It is amazing to me that Christ-followers accept His control over our eternal destiny, yet we struggle with the daily storms. If you are anything like me, you have met some stormy days with strong faith, but in many others, sinking seemed inevitable. We should never doubt that He is in control. Preparation for the rough waters will determine how we respond when the storms come. Are you letting Him prepare you?

Christ also had strong words for his disciples after calming the storm. “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” Jesus asks.  His rebuke gives us a strong indication that they were not responding with faith to His teaching and miracles.

You may not be facing a storm today, but are there squalls?  We all have an opportunity — even this very day — to respond with faith in the midst of our storms. I am often rebuked that even after so many wonderful faith builders, I still get that drowning feeling. But today is new, God is still in control, and you and I can choose to view our personal storms with eyes of faith. It’s your choice!

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Posted by: pmarkrobb | February 23, 2017

cloudy with a chance of Sight

Although the temperatures in my neck of the woods would suggest Spring, the calendar says we are still weeks removed from the season when we will celebrate Resurrection … He is Risen!  i wonder if reading of it earlier this week made your heart swell with expectancy like it did mine.

Jesus stands before Pilate and declares His kingdom is not of this world.  He shows Himself to the disciples after Resurrection and responds with deep humility and grace to Thomas’ “Unless I see…”  As day breaks, an unidentified voice calls out from the shore and suggests to His fishermen disciples they cast their nets on the other side of the boat.  In the moment after He promises the Spirit and gives His inner circle the great call to go, Jesus literally vanishes into thin air.

Sight is such a central theme to the breath of time Jesus walked among us.  Whether He was restoring it, challenging it, defying it, questioning it, or disappearing from it, the issue of sight was a principal part of the story of Jesus.  He is never recorded as saying it, but Jesus’ entire life shouts “open your eyes!”  Open them to truly see who He was and is.  Open them to truly see the deep Truth in His simple stories.  Open them to truly see the need right in front of you and in the farther off fields of harvest.  Open them to truly see each step of your unique path, which is lit for you by the Word literally breathed from the mouth of the great I Am.

i’ve had two distinct experiences recently, which spoke profoundly to the truths of Sight.  The first was a meaningful drive through a lofty sliver of southeastern West Virginia, while returning my firstborn to college.  As we turned eastward south of Beckley and began the measured descent in the direction of Lewisburg, we were plunged into a dense, all-consuming fog.  My instinct (and my wife’s countenance) shouted “slow down!”  i could not see an inch past where my headlights met the wall of low cloud, and yet i pressed on without hesitation.  With each increment of forward movement, i felt compelled to make a decision.  Each time my foot answered with stillness or throttle.  How could i possibly keep my thumb from cancelling cruise?  How could i possibly choose gas over break?  What kept my pace steady when a wall of white obscured everything from my view?

In the minutes and miles of blindness, i wrestled with the truths of sight.  i considered how the fog illustrated times of uncertainty, aimlessness, or suffering in my life – – those times when the way forward was varying degrees of cloudy to completely obscured.  i challenged myself to trust God — to go full speed forward until He prompted me concerning the dangers or obstructions i could not see.  i “saw” in the “darkness.”  i celebrated each time we broke into a clear patch and returned to prayer when we drove into the settled clouds once again.

Last week, i was walking the return leg of my weekly trip to the mailbox to mail a letter to my son at college.  As I turned the familiar corner and began walking the longest uninterrupted stretch of sidewalk of my trek, i wondered internally how well i knew it.  Did i remember where the uneven transitions were between sidewalk sections, the specific tree or two whose branches must be weaker by age or by species, the less manicured lawns that encroach on the full walking width?  i wondered how long i could walk, if i closed my eyes to test the remembrance, without either tripping up or wandering off onto the grass.  i took one last long look, closed my eyes, and began to stride forward.  That was, until after ten or so steps, i realized the potentially fatal consequences of my little test in my observation that people backing out of driveways in our general neighborhood were less careful than they really should be.

As i opened my eyes and continued on, i thought longer and deeper about the truth of sight.  And how silly it seemed to choose to close my eyes.  Was this the best test of knowing?  God has blessed me with sight.  How foolish is it to not engage that sense fully?  There are some who are not able, and who possess heightened acuity of their other senses because of it.  They can “see” things that i may not or cannot.

As i walked on, i did so with a renewed sense of gratitude and resolve.  God’s design for this world did not include blindness … in our humanity or in our walking and talking with Him.  How precious it is to have been given sight … twice.  The first time, as He formed me in my mother’s womb.  The second, when, as a child, my heart believed in what Jesus did for me in dying and rising – He is Risen!   Open my eyes, Lord, i want to see Jesus.  Open my eyes, Lord, i want to see real need.  Open my eyes, Lord, i want to see the tricks and “treats” my enemy hopes to keep hidden from my notice.  May i never choose to blind myself to any of those things.

Clear sight is a gift from God, and trusting him in the fog is a choice i make with each step and each mile of the journey He has chosen for me.  Open my eyes, Lord.  And in the times where the road ahead is obscured with uncertainty or suffering, lead me and go with me.  I trust in You.

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