Posted by: mikenicholsblog | November 23, 2017

any day can be thanks-giving

On this day of Thanksgiving, we stop the merry-go-round of fast-paced living to reflect on all our blessings. I’ll be honest and say it just seems wrong to me that we focus on blessings in one tiny window of time each year. Giving thanks is something that should be part of our daily routine. Our typical days of thanks-giving may not be surrounded by turkey, dressing, pies and family, but they are just as needed as the one-day celebration known as Thanksgiving Day.

Twice in the past week the same quote has appeared in different settings and circumstances. I find it striking and profound, all at the same time. You may have seen it, but the words are a good reminder to us all. “What if you woke up today with only the things you thanked God for yesterday? I don’t know the author of the timely words, but they resonate with my thoughts of re-framing every day as a thanks-giving day.

In my search for the quote, I noticed a meaningful way it was used by Misty Gatlin, who started a gratitude journal with her husband.

“We decided to start writing a gratitude journal.  In this journal we wrote 2 things we were thankful for in general and two things we were thankful for in the other person.  Then, every Sunday we would read it to each other. There was a “catch” though.  We could never say the same thing more than once, and it got difficult sometimes because we had to get creative.  I absolutely loved when Sunday rolled around, and we got to read the week’s gratitude to one another.”

With a little intentionality, we could all start a gratitude journal!

For me there is a deeper and more profound reason to live with constant thanks-giving. It is the Father’s model for all Christ-followers. In Ephesians 5:20, we find these words; “giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.Sometimes we find it hard to be thankful for the circumstances of life, but when we purposely recognize God’s control, care and love for us … any day can be thanks-giving. For all who know Christ personally, a thanks-giving life is an obedient life.

It is so easy to say, “Intentionally give thanks daily.” It is so much harder to accomplish it. It is far easier to wait for that one-day-a-year to catch up with blessings. But, oh, what we miss by not creating a thanks-giving habit during the year. It can be done, and it will change our lives from minds and hearts without gratitude, to hearts and minds that turn all things upward. Don’t accept another year of the way things has been. Thanks-giving is the way to live!

One more quote from my reading. A friend gave me an insightful book last week entitled, The Last Arrow by Erwin McManus. It is full of good material, but one thought struck me deeply. I would like to leave it with you in the context of this day of thanks-giving. “Your past will be your future until you have the courage to create a new future.”  Will the future that starts for you today be one of thanks-giving 365 days a year? Think about it! With His help, do it!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Posted by: pmarkrobb | November 19, 2017

faster than grace allows

The Wednesday morning men’s group I belong with (far more than just “to”) is currently reading a book titled, Practicing the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence.  It is a simple and practical call to be sold-out in relationship with God, an invitation to experience Him not solely in a worship service, but in the turning of your everyday service into worship.

All at once in reading yesterday morning, I found myself caught and then consumed by a single sentence fragment … “she wants to go faster than grace allows.”  The full context of the fragment speaks the truth of a sister in Christ whose life gives evidence of a fullness of good “will.”  The full sentence reads,

“She seems so full of good will, but she wants to go faster than grace allows.”

Without being able to ask Brother Lawrence, I will assume the “will” he referred to is full up of good intentions, energy, constitution, purpose, commitment, desire and character.  But, alas, this sister in Christ … wants to go faster than grace allows.

I am fascinated with this fragment.  What does it truly mean?  What did it mean in her life?  What could it say about ours?  I plan to sit with this fragment far past my occasion of reading and then writing about it.  But what strikes me immediately is a truth that I have most assuredly learned the “hard way” in the short number of steps I have walked in this life.  Namely, that God knows we will choose something other than Him (daily and multiple times in the gift of each new today), and He wants to use those choices in the work of us becoming more like Jesus.

My youngest son Connor is right in the thick of preparing for, and taking, his first ever round of high school finals.  He has a strong desire for high grades.  He has very high expectations of himself.  I genuinely believe a 100% is his expectation every time he takes a test or quiz.  That desire is generally good, but I saw an interesting (and expected) byproduct of it a few days ago and didn’t miss the opportunity for a quiet conversation and re-calibration.  All at once (it had, no doubt, been building in him for some time), his strong and good desire manifested itself as a potentially crippling fear that threatened to tear down all his good work in preparing.  “You’re going to get something wrong,” I assured him, “but perfection is not the goal.”

I continued on to reassure him with my observation that he had done a great job in preparation.  He had worked hard and studied well.  And now all that was left was to trust.  In the context of his test taking, it was to trust his preparation.  In our’s, it is to trust the Great Preparer.

We are going to get things wrong.  We are going to get a lot of things wrong.  Perfection is not the goal.  Stop for a minute and really hear that.  Perfection is not the goal.

I believe that on some level we know that.  We know we’re broken and fallen, and that living this life without sin or failure is not possible.  But do we live day-to-day, moment-by-each and every moment with that truth in the most forward part of our mind?  Don’t we expect ourselves to get it right?  Every time?  Maybe you need reminding (like I certainly do from time to time) that God doesn’t.  And maybe you and I need reminding that God delights in showing mercy.  Delights.

Mercy is His first inclination.  Showing grace and mercy is His first response to our sin and failing.  If I can be so bold, I would say that God isn’t most desirous of a sinless streak in our walk with Him.  He’ll take it as a byproduct of being continually in His presence and becoming more like Jesus … but finishing sinless isn’t His goal for us in this life.

As we confess each sin and genuinely repent, may we not resolve to start the next sinless streak.  Rather, may we praise and thank Him for His grace and mercy now … and in our next sin and failure, declaring our dependence on Him.

May we not live faster than grace allows.

Posted by: thomasjrobb | November 18, 2017

Daily Reading Schedule – week of 11/19/2017

Please note the following daily Bible readings for the week of 11/19/2017

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


Join us @ journeyonWord.com

Posted by: mikenicholsblog | November 15, 2017

a foundation for our confidence

Last Friday, our men’s group prayed for one of the guys who is going into a difficult surgery. Sunday, our class prayed for a great lady with a cancer that is progressing. Both of these individuals are confident in God, but their situations could be classified as TRIALS. It seems to me that in the course of every week I am confronted with trials of various kinds and degrees. My two friends listed above are facing major trials, but other friends and family (including me) move from one more minor trial to another frequently. In the book Divine Direction by Craig Groeschel, the author paints a true picture of how life seems to track for all of us. “My pastor used to always say, ‘you are either coming out of a difficult season in life, in the middle of a difficult season, or about to go into one’.” I certainly can’t fix our trials, but hopefully you will find hope for the next one in the words below.

A quick read through the book of James recently challenged my thinking. Over the years, I’ve memorized many of the words.  Yet, often I fall short of acting on their call and enjoying the fruits of their promise. Note just a few of the words to be treasured!

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials…..
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach….
But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield….
The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.
NKJV

As we venture into the unknowns of our next season, what great words to use as a foundation for our confidence. But there is a catch. You and I will only live these concepts through faith. Our emotions will do battle with each and every one of those great truths. The question then will be, will we live by faith and wisdom? In reading and re-reading some words from the The Prayer Experiment by Jay Dennis, I was presented with my struggle of venturing into the unknown.

Faith looks to God as the Source; sight trusts in possessions, power and people.
Faith focuses on “Who”; sight is limited to “how”.
Faith measures the size of God; sight is controlled by the size of problems.
Faith seeks God first; sight takes matters into its own hands.
Faith waits on God; sight rushes ahead with self-solutions.
Faith is based on what God said; sight is based on how we feel.
Faith’s seeing-eye-guide is the Bible; sight’s guide is only what is visible.
Faith looks beyond the circumstances to the possibilities; sight looks at how bad things are at the moment.
Faith believes God even when it seems nothing is happening; sight is controlled by the senses and feelings.
Faith doesn’t require that it works out on paper; sight demands facts and figures first.
Faith leaves it in God’s hands; sight picks it back up and worries and frets about it.

Counting it all joy and seeking Him for wisdom and effective praying are accomplished with the faith highlighted in bold. The words that are underlined present the things you and I battle each week. There will always be some conflict with faith and sight, but today you and I can choose to just apply the Word by faith. Be bold as you venture into the next season, and look for God to do what only He can do!

It may be helpful to print the faith statements above and us them when necessary!

Posted by: mikenicholsblog | November 12, 2017

our words

It has happened to all of us. An unfiltered statement rolls from our tongue and can never be retrieved. Just this morning, after my Bible reading in James chapter three, I remembered something that happened over twenty years ago. Someone had made statements that offended me and when I had the opportunity, they were given an ear full. To this day, I can’t believe the skewering I gave the person. How could I have said those words? All of us have those moments when our minds are overwhelmed as we think, “How could I have said that?” I am sure you can relate with me as you remember some of your hurtful or silly unguarded words of choice. Recently, I read some classic, “I wish I had never said that” statements quoted from Illustrations Unlimited, by James Hewett. Enjoy!

H.M.Warner of Warner Bro. Pictures in 1927 said, “Who wants to hear actors talk?

Grover Cleveland in 1905 proclaimed, “Sensible and responsible women do not want to vote.”

A Michigan banker advised Henry Ford’s lawyer not to invest in a motorcar with this classic, “The horse is here to stay, but the automobile is only a novelty.”

For all of you “Gone with the Wind fans,” think about Gary Cooper’s words. “Gone with the Wind is going to be the biggest flop in Hollywood’s history. I’m just glad it’ll be Clark Gable who’s falling flat on his face and not me.”

Do any of those statements make you feel better about some of your own “I can’t believe I said that!” mis-steps? Periodically words exit our mouths unfiltered. My concern is not our silly or funny faux pas, but the selfish, hurtful and unloving comments that do harm to others. James, as he addressed believers in chapter three of his epistle, has a lot to say about the tongue. Note the two verses below in evaluating our struggle with the tongue.

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.
James 3:9-10 (NIV)

Even as Christ-followers, we are apt to use words that deny the very life of Christ within us. Why? From my perspective, two thoughts are paramount. First, I have concluded that most of the time when speaking, we value ourselves more than the person receiving our words. When you and I place high value on our listener, our words will reflect it. Secondly, I don’t believe we place enough emphasis on the source feeding our tongues. Reflect on Psalm 19:14: May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer. A heart yielded to His Word and focused on others will definitely affect our words.

I believe Christ’s focus was always on the person standing in front of Him. He placed high value on them with a perfect heart. Our hearts are not perfect, but our goal should be to value the hearer with a Christ-like heart of love. Make no mistake that what we say, and how we say it, affects everyone we come in contact with. Our words should always benefit those who listen to us. Sure, an unfiltered word will inevitably slip out, but placing the highest value on the person in front of us will have an undeniable effect.

Make an intentional decision today to place high value on each person we come into contact with. Your listening will be better, your speaking will be other-centered, and the results will be pleasing to the Father. And if it works today, repeat it tomorrow!

I am glad that women vote, actors speak, we have automobiles, and my wife gets to watch “Gone with the Wind”.  And we are so blessed to have a God who cared so deeply for us that He became fully one of us, and gave us such a clear picture of what it is to live a Christ-like life. His model of speaking should also be our model … other-centered!  So much of how we treat others is reflected by the tongue. I wish the words of twenty years ago wouldn’t have been said, but I (you) have a choice with our words today.

Posted by: mikenicholsblog | November 8, 2017

fixing our eyes

It took twenty hours … twenty.long.hours! My wife and I ventured out last Sunday afternoon on a marathon truck ride. A Penske truck! A truck bigger than we should have been driving, but we are always up for an adventure. Mile after mile, for over 1,000 miles, we kept our eyes on the road, focusing intensely with two hands on the wheel and not even a small measure of sleepiness. Driving an unfamiliar vehicle caused us to really concentrate on the travel map marked out for us.

Should there be any less focus for all Christ-followers on the spiritual race God has marked out for us? There are distractions at every turn that can derail our effectiveness on the race. Our twenty-hour journey went well because we were determined to stay focused. Sadly, my spiritual focus doesn’t always mirror the intensity of those two novice truck drivers.

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Hebrews 12:2 (NIV)

“Fix our eyes on Jesus!” Isn’t that what all Christians know to do? After all, it makes logical sense that if I just focus on Him, things will work out right. Many years ago bracelets were worn that said WWJD (What Would Jesus Do). There was also a book whose title bore that same acronym, teaching us to ask that question in any situation. But the easy answers for my (and your) noise-filled life never quite seem to work.  If you are old enough, you may even love the song, “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” as much as I do. But having a great feeling during worship as you sing that beloved hymn, doesn’t automatically translate to real focus. It takes more than feelings, bracelets and books (and I do think the bracelets, songs and books can help) to live a life focused on Jesus. Having said all that, I do firmly believe a Jesus-focused life exists and is available for you.

Jesus ran the race that the Father marked out for Him to the fullest. His earthly race was marked with difficultly and hardship, but was lived with purpose and discipline. If we succeed in living out our God designed purpose, it will only be accomplished by fixing our eyes on Jesus. Fleshing this out takes a willingness to surrender our wills to His. And that’s a day-by-day, minute-by-minute, thought-by-thought surrender! May I gently prod you to end this week with a laser-like focus on the Son of God? We all have stories from our busy, stress-filled lives. Just today in a commentary on Hebrews, I read a good model that helped me think more thoroughly on fixing my eyes on Jesus. The words come from the book entitled, Life Application Commentary-Hebrews.

“How does ‘focusing on Christ’ relieve stress from constant work responsibility and fatigue?

  • Jesus did not try to do it all. His ministry was less than three years long. He left a lot of work for disciples to do. Ask for help, and don’t be afraid to depend on others.
  • Jesus took breaks. Often he went alone to pray, sometimes during the busiest weeks. In your life, schedule breaks for prayer, reading, and learning.
  • Jesus remained faithful. He trusted God through all his ordeals; He did not abandon His mission or those who believed in Him. He stands beside us in our troubles. Trust Him.”

Sometimes my image of fixing my eyes on Jesus creates more stress, but the words above frame the balance we all need. By simply modeling His life through the power of the Spirit, the Father is honored, and we will run our God-ordained race well!

There was a reason we drove twenty hours with laser-like focus. We were intentional (not to mention a bit fearful of the truck!). All Christ-followers should be just as intentional in fixing our eyes on Jesus … but with no fear.

Posted by: pmarkrobb | November 5, 2017

the same in April, November, and forever

In writing tonight, I am both stealing and skipping ahead.  Skipping to the chapter we will end this week reading, and borrowing (a more accurate accusation) from words I wrote more than four years ago.   Thank you, Spirit, for the prompting that led me to them.  They have spoken a peace into my right now, and I am trusting it is intended for more than just me.

On an April morning in 2013, I opened my iPad, launched the Bible app and was met by the following verse of the day.  How beautiful to find it again today.

Hebrews 13:8 (ESV, NLT, HCSB, NIV, CEB, NASB)
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

When I read those words again, it prompted another cleansing exhale.  They were once again the words of a needed “casting” of my cares on Him (1 Peter 5:7).  They are the very real experience of biblical truth, that in the midst of a crowded and tumultuous life, Jesus, and all that He is, remains the singular constant.

constant-graph

The bright, shiny, blinking lights of our circumstances so often cause us to take our eyes off Him and focus on them.  We see Jesus as a flat line above our circumstances.  We perceive closeness or distance as our life spikes and falls moment-by-moment in the direction of joy or pain.

However, having sat a fair spell with verse 8, I now see the chart quite differently.  The flat line representing Jesus is increasingly thicker, to the point where it spans or covers the spikes.  I believe the truth of verse eight declares that even in our most intense moments of pain or joy, we never leave that line.  There is no varying closeness or distance as our circumstances rise or fall.  Jesus is ever-present and unchanging, and our circumstances never dip or extend beyond Him.  He is unchanging.  He is ever-present and sufficient.

You may have taken notice of the multiple translations listed after the chapter and verse reference above.  In consuming or studying Scripture, I often seek multiple translations.  As I did on that April morning years ago, with the exception of commas and an “and” here or there, translation after translation all spoke the same words.  The same verse.  The same words.  The same Jesus … yesterday, today, and forever.

There is one other significant truth I feel is worthy of note in this context.  I found it in the closing sentence of chapter thirteen verse seven.  In the words of The Message, it reads as a powerful preface to verse 8…

There should be a consistency that runs through us all. For Jesus doesn’t change — yesterday, today, tomorrow, he’s always totally himself.

Whether soaring or in the swale, There should be a consistency that runs through us all in the midst of our circumstances.  Holding onto our unfailing and unchanging Ever-present Constant, we can remain faithful and true.  You and I have the opportunity to show Jesus by the way we navigate our everyday.  We cannot do it without Him, but we can do all things in the power of the One who loved us first.  He went to cross and conquered the grave to redeem us.  He is the Ever-present Constant in the peaks and troughs of eternity present.

Jesus was the same on that April morning in 2013 as He is as I write tonight.  My to-do’s and trials have changed, but He has not.  He was my Ever-present Constant then.  He is my Ever-present Constant now.  And He will be for each and every today God numbers for you and for me.  He is the same in April, November, and forever.

Posted by: mikenicholsblog | November 2, 2017

your clearest mirror and strongest counsel

Convincing another person of anything can be an effort in futility. Issues of incredible importance to me often barely hit the radar screen of others in my world. How could that be when my positions are so valid (at least in my mind)?! In reality, I am comfortable with diversity of thought and appreciate that many come from different life perspectives. But one area of life where I do struggle is in convincing others on issues of faith (which is the life that really matters). I struggle because I know God’s Word changes lives and applying His truth is the key to a joyful journey. I get discouraged when I see so little passion for a fully devoted life. But I won’t seek to convince you that God can change you dramatically.

In examining a statement by Benjamin Franklin, I began to see more clearly the weakness in my thinking on convincing. “People are best convinced by reasons they themselves discover.” I cannot transfer my relationship with Christ to another, nor can you. It is possible for others to see a brand of Christianity in my life that works, and God can certainly use me to influence them on their journey. But to think that others will be convinced just because they hear me say words like “prayer works,” or “you can tithe and trust God with your money,” or “give thanks in everything” is pretty fruitless.  Those words of wisdom may be sound (and sound spiritual), but most Christ-followers struggle with living them. I know they are true, but I won’t try to convince you.

Benjamin Franklin suggests that individuals are convinced by reasons they personally discover, and life has taught me that I am not the great convincer. So how do I (we) deal with this when in the most critical of issues — issues like life, death and eternity — it is imperative for everyone to be convinced of the truth?  I believe the answer is to acknowledge we have not been created, or called, to be the great convincer.  A true believer’s purpose is to reflect our Creator and live a life that points others to Him. I am comfortable that God can use any Christ-follower as an ambassador in representing Him. However, it is the Spirit who will draw those who don’t know Him to salvation. I am also certain that any Christ-follower who has ears to hear and eyes that are open to His Word will be convinced of God’s will and design … and be radically changed. The Great Convincer uses His Great Word in the process!

For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. 13 And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.
Hebrews 4:12-13 (NKJV)

Just this morning in my quiet time, I was profoundly struck by the passage above. I have read it countless times, but today it was fresh. God’s Word is living and powerful. If anyone wants to be convinced about God’s design and direction for them, there is no better place to visit. In studying the verses, a simple but profound logic challenged me. In the Life Application Commentary on Hebrews, we find these words:

“The Bible, opened to you through the work of the Holy Spirit, is your clearest mirror and strongest counsel. Read the Bible and see for yourself. Study the Bible and learn about yourself and God. Apply the Bible and change your life.”

Our hope for eternity is found only in Christ. Joyful living is possible for Christ-followers. Will you open your heart to the reality that God has a design for your life? He has provided us with His Word and through it we can discover all that is needed for life and Godliness. My role is to simply point everyone to the place where they can discover what the One and only True Convincer has for us.

Give time to the Word and be Convinced and changed!

Posted by: mikenicholsblog | October 29, 2017

“… the kiss of Jesus.”

Tomorrow, we will finish the tenth month of another year. So much has happened in those ten months. There have been some good experiences and some “not so good” moments. We would all like to bask in the good and forget the “not so good” … i.e. our failures. But life doesn’t work that way, and our failures are great opportunities to acknowledge our weaknesses and rest in the forgiving grace of God. Are any failures from this year still haunting you?

I’ll rewind to the fall season almost 30 years ago on a Saturday evening. We had been out with another family for the day, and I was just relaxing after returning home, sitting on the floor in our family room. Our daughter Lindsay was still very young and chose to write something on the side of my face. What should have been fun for dad was getting annoying … and it hurt. So with great spiritual insight (yeah, right!), I asked her what she was doing. She was writing, “I love you” on my face. Can you imagine how dumb I felt?  Far too often in life we find ourselves making quick decisions, snap judgments and, in a word, failing others and ourselves.

Because of selfishness for my time, I almost missed a scene that I remember vividly to this day and that I will never forget. Can you remember moments with your family, friends or colleagues where you sensed failure? It could have been in what you said, didn’t say, or just a selfish reaction. If you are anything like me, it is easy to see where you have failed yourself, others and especially our Father. God has chosen to let us view the failures of some of His most choice servants as we journey through Scripture. Abraham likely never forgot how he failed Sarah by lying. Moses went to the grave never entering the Promised Land because of failure. David failed morally, and Peter denied Christ. I think it is fair to say that failure will always be a part of our lives. How then should we view our failures without excusing them?

In thinking on this question, two statements come to mind that help me with perspective. I trust they will encourage you as well. In his book, Failing Forward, John Maxwell used words from Mother Theresa that I have never forgotten. She said that “failure is the kiss of Jesus.” Her words remind us that we are weak and need grace from our Lord.  With all the demands of our families, jobs and sometimes even churches, it is easy to become self-consumed and eventually wound those we love. But when the inevitable failure occurs, we are reminded of our weakness and long for His kiss.

Another quote that has remained with me for many years comes from the song, “We Fall Down” sung by Mark Lowry. In the song, these words are stated over and over: “saints are just sinners who fall down and get up.” They may sound funny to you, but those words are comforting to me. Christ-followers are going to fail. After all, we are sinners. But when we fall down, we get up and keep going. Again, if we look at Scripture, some of God’s great servants failed but moved forward in His grace. “Saints are just sinners, who fall down and get up.” Don’t let any failure keep you from getting up and living with joy.

Through the first ten months of 2017, I am sure we’ve all had some failures. Those failures certainly cause regret. We have failed and will fail again. However, if we let yesterday hinder us or tomorrow causes fear, we lose today. Look at your failures as “the kiss of Jesus.” Always let falling down be an opportunity to get up. And remember that our God is full of grace and mercy.

So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.
Hebrews 4:14-16 (NLT)

Posted by: pmarkrobb | October 26, 2017

open hands

So, I guess there is a theme to my writing this week.  I assure you the “theme” was not my idea.  I didn’t set out with intentionality in mind, but as I sat down to write today it was as clear as the nose on my face.  This is how God works sometimes, and it is such a gift when it happens.

In reading Paul’s words early this week, one particular phrase stuck out.  It’s one that I’ve heard a thousand times in almost as many contexts (many of them not “spiritual”).  It’s found in the seventh verse of the sixth chapter of first Timothy.

for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.

Yes, words I’ve heard a thousand times in almost as many contexts.  This is the “theme” that is entirely not my own.

These godly words of wisdom are a concrete footing upon which you could build a holy life.  There are other truths more worthy of the position of cornerstone, but this is foundational wisdom for living in this present world.  I hope one day to write a book titled, Possession is Nine-Tenths of the Problem.  I have had a fuse lit deep within me about the problem of possession for some time now.  We hold so tightly to the people, places and things of this world, while at the very same time professing to be followers of the One who didn’t even have a place to lay His head (Matt. 8:20, Luke 9:58) when He lived among us.  Our holding tightly so often creates an anchor or a tether that keeps us from “going” in His name and doing the things He planned for us long ago (Eph. 2:10).

Years ago, I heard a story of a man and his family who were walking along the beach.  The kids running ahead excitedly collecting seashells.  The story soon shifted focus to the youngest son, hands full of shells … well, really just fragments of shells.  The father called them “shell shrapnel.”  At some point during their walk, the father stopped cold as he caught a glimpse of his youngest son’s most favorite thing in all the world.  A starfish was floating on the surface of the water, not more than 15 or 20 feet out into the surf.  He called to his son, “Look!  A starfish!  Go get it!”  His son froze, looked out at the starfish and then back at his dad.  He made an initial move toward the surf but stopped.  The father called out again, “Go get it!”  Again, his son started then stopped, looking repeatedly out at the starfish, then back to where his father and mother were standing.  The father called out again, “Son!  It’s a starfish!  What are you waiting for?!  Go get it!”  All at once, the son turned to his father and cried back, “But dad, I can’t!” The father answered, “Yes, you can!  It’s your favorite!  Go get the starfish!”  Exasperated and defeated, the boy gave his final reply of “I can’t!” and raised his hands filled with shell shrapnel.  In that moment of equal promise and pain, the son simply couldn’t let go of the handfuls of shards to go out after the one thing he loved more than anything else.

What a vivid illustration of the lives some of us live in this present world.  We may pledge our allegiance easily and often, but does our possessing paralyze our following?  The closing words of Ephesians 2:10 are not just inspiring rhetoric.  There are specific things God planned for us to do in His name long before He created us.  I see them as the starfish floating along in the surf.  May we choose to live with open hands, not possessing the people, places and things of this world.  Ready and actively watching for the things He planned for us long ago.  And if you find your hands full right now, may you ask for the strength to release the shards.

“You can’t take it with you” is far more than an urging not to be “house poor” in this present world.  It is a godly call on our lives to care for the poor, and not our house.  It is a call to use every bit of what He has blessed us with to love the broken and the lost.  It is the posture and practice of yet not my will, but yours be done. (Luke 22:42)

Father, in Your strength, may we live with open hands, ready to receive from You and give a good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over to others.

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