Posted by: mikenicholsblog | September 13, 2017

Three w’s in haywire

We all try to make the right choices. We plan, pray and move forward. But then things seem to go haywire. All the work we did to obey God and to do the right things doesn’t produce the intended and desired result. Have you ever felt that way? I was struck by this reality after talking to a friend in South Florida the other day.

His family was making plans and seeking the right decision. Irma was heading toward the east coast of Florida, so they left Miami and went west to Tampa. His father-in-law had to have power for oxygen. Once in Tampa, they realized the storm was moving west. So my friend headed back home to South Florida, and left his wife and in-laws in Tampa to stay with relatives because they would probably be more apt to have power. The storm hit and my friend in South Florida never lost power … but his wife and in-laws in Tampa did. So they all were forced to head back home Monday in search of the power that was so desperately needed. How frustrating must this have been! Did God know it would happen? Certainly! Does He care about our well-being? Certainly! Is He sovereign? Certainly! So how do we respond, when life goes haywire?

Along with the hurricane, I have been praying about several issues important to our family. We are trying to live by biblical principles, but that doesn’t make us immune from things going haywire.  At the close of my prayer time Monday, I asked the Lord, “What is Your perspective?” on the issues of concern to me. Obviously, I don’t have all the answers. But immediately, three words came to mind. Did the Lord speak directly into my prayer time or did I emotionally think of the words? I would certainly like to think it was the Lord, because they are words of comfort in the haywire moments of life. The three key words tied to my prayer were wisdom, don’t worry and wait.

I can promise you the Father doesn’t always communicate with me in alliteration, but these “w” words are powerful ones, nonetheless. We are all subject to our best laid plans going haywire in the moment, but the Father is in control of those moments and we can rest in seeking Him, making plans and accepting His outcome. Proverbs 16:9 gives me peace when prayerful plans go haywire. God is always in control.

We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps. (NLT)

In the context of your best laid plans going awry, sit with these familiar verses as if you were looking at them for the first time with fresh eyes.  For believers in Christ, trusting God and His words can change your perspective when moments get out of control.

Wisdom ::  If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.  But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone.   James 1:5-8 (NLT)

Worry ::  Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.  Philippians 4:6 (NLT)

Wait ::  Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him.  Psalm 62:5 (NLT)

Over the last couple of weeks, millions have been confronted by life-threatening hurricanes. On varying scales, followers of Christ face haywire moments constantly and seek to make sound decisions. Although our decisions my not lead to our desired outcome, there is One who is behind the scenes with sovereign power and undeniable grace and love. Could it be that we all would be wiser to just accept the control of God and heed the counsel of seeking wisdom, refusing to worry and simply waiting before our loving Creator and guide? Think about it!

Posted by: mikenicholsblog | September 10, 2017

on God alone

Joy on the journey” are words that will resonate with anyone who is serious about their faith. The Father’s design is for those who have accepted His gift of salvation and eternal life in Christ to live with joy. But somehow our journey gets in the way. We all have unique stories about the struggles we face along our particular path. It may be our job, health issues, church problems, marital strife or rebellious children, just to name a few. During the expected twists and turns of our journey, joy is often squeezed out. Although we may not see many great examples of joy, it is absolutely available.  Why else would the Father say (through the Apostle Paul), “Be joyful always” (I Thessalonians 5:16)?

As I contemplate these words, it is easy for me to become discouraged because I certainly have not mastered the art of joy on the journey. The real issue before us, though, is not mastery or perfection, but the progress we are making. Too much of my journey has been about me trying to serve God with misplaced values. Noble as they were, praying to get things, studying the Word without getting to know God, and serving Him in my own strength haven’t always produced  what I believe is the depth of joy the Father has made available. Your journey may be similar, and the good news is that God is the designer of joy. So, let’s seek His blueprint.

My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him.
Psalm 62:1 (NIV)

Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
Psalm 73:25-26 (NIV)

Is it possible to find rest in God alone?
Yes!

Is it possible to live with a deep conviction of His strength even when my heart grows weak?
Yes!

The result:  JOY.

Over the past several days, Psalm 62:1 has appeared repeatedly. The words, My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him, are mine for the taking … but will I (and will you)?

On my journey, I want to seek Him before I seek what He can provide.  It is so easy for worship and growth to become just a religious duty, but knowing our Father deeply and resting in Him comes from a passion of the heart. When our emphasis is religious duty, we waste so much energy and miss so much of His power.  Could it be that your spiritual journey is missing reliance on our God alone? God’s design for you and me is to live with joy on the journey. It is not about circumstances, people, or any other excuse, but about a real passion to seek and know Him.

“You have made us for yourself, Oh Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”
Augustine

As you start this new week, ask yourself a simple question. Is having His joyful rest worth the effort?

Seek Him! Rely on Him alone.

Posted by: mikenicholsblog | September 7, 2017

live with the mind of Christ

Events in our country and around the world seem to be spinning out of control. For all believers in Christ, it is good to trust in our Sovereign Lord in the midst of hurricanes, political skirmishes and North Korea. My original article for tonight didn’t seem to fit for all those impacted by recent and future hurricanes, so I switched gears. I trust you will be encouraged.

All that surrounds us affects us. None of us would like to admit the extent to which external circumstances dominate our internal thought patterns. Whether people or events, something on the outside is always clamoring for your attention. Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius gave us a humorous, yet at the same time, resonant insight centuries ago:

I am going to be meeting people today who talk too much—people who are selfish, egotistical, ungrateful. But I won’t be surprised or disturbed for I can’t imagine a world without such people.

Nor should we! Frustrating people and emotional circumstances will always surround us, but they should never dominate us. Under our own power, those words are easier said than done.  But in Christ, we can live inside out.

In my personal reading, I have been reminded of a devotional book written early in the last century. The book was written by James Allen and is entitled, As a Man Thinketh.  The inspiration for the title and the text was taken directly from Proverbs 23:7(a): For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he. The truth of that verse resonates deeply.  So much of how we view life is driven by the controlling influences of our mind. We will always be confronted with positive and negative forces, but they should never control us. However, since we all have daily battles within, it is important to be clear that God understands our struggle and gives guidance. We have His Spirit to direct us, His Word to teach us, and we have been given freedom to communicate with Him in Christ. Availing ourselves of what God has provided can change our view of life from the inside out by the transforming of our minds.

So where are your thoughts, and how are they controlling your days and weeks? James Allen said: “You are today where your thoughts have brought you; you will be tomorrow where your thoughts will take you“. Frankly speaking, most of us have ingrained habits of the mind that cloud our perspective. With the renewing power of the Holy Spirit, change can come. It is imperative that our lives go from being dominated by all that surrounds us to being directed by His Spirit. Any Christ-follower can live with the mind of Christ. Whether our weeks (and people) are great or incredibly draining should never be the issue. The real issue should be is my mind renewed, and are my thoughts in line with God’s perspective.

If you know Christ and are struggling from the outside in, determine to reverse that order today and begin living inside out. You may have found that it is easier to be more frustrated than patient, and more overwhelmed than at peace. Having the mind of Christ takes discipline, but the results are worth it. Let this principle guide you … When I allow my mind and life to be controlled by His Spirit, I can handle all that surrounds me in a much better way. For an on-looking world to ever see our faith working, we must think right, because how we think determines how we live.

As you close this article, use it in two ways. First, commit to begin thinking and looking at everything from God’s perspective. Then, take a moment to seriously pray for those in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Harvey and in the path of Irma. Prayer Matters!

Posted by: pmarkrobb | September 4, 2017

today, and every day

Psalm 46:10 has been a sacred echo in my life for the past several months.  Late last night, as i sat in the stillness after everyone else in my house had gone off to bed, it came to mind again.  i was considering today’s occasion (the Labor Day holiday) and what i might write.  My sacred echo seemed to be the perfect and most powerful truth i could share on a day such as this.

Cease striving, the verse begins (in the words of the NASB translation).  How desperately and deeply do we need to hear these words as we swim against the tide of the culture and times in which we live?

“Yes.  Let’s write about that,” I thought.

But i know i’ve written about that verse several times over the years.  Maybe i should look back and make sure it wasn’t last week or last month.  i smiled as one of the results from my search was dated 9/5/2016.  i relished the opportunity to revisit that post and hear where my heart was exactly one year ago.

It is not far off where my heart is tonight as I begin to write.

One paragraph in the middle of last year’s post seemed to speak the words of my heart so truly and completely.  Listen, as a voice echoes from the past, salted with a little bit of where my heart is tonight…

As we walk daily with Him and do the kingdom work He authored for us long before we were born (Ephesians 2:10), we would do well to live out the first two words of Psalm 46:10.  We would be wise to stop trying to meet each day, and its troubles, in our own strength.  Hear clearly the permission God speaks through the words of the Psalmist.  This is what i hear Him saying … “Cease striving, my son (or daughter).  My strength is made perfect in your choice to stop trying to make it through today with your own blood, sweat and tears.  Let’s, instead, walk together.  I’ll pull the plow and you can know Me more through the direct experience and observation of it.  I don’t want you walking a step behind.  No, take the other side of this very real yoke and walk with me.  See, hear, smell, taste and touch how it is all Me as you and I Am appear to be sharing the load.  Experience the true joy of receiving praise from others for ‘accomplishing’ something in My power.  Observe the oneness that is possible, especially in the experience of deep pain and loss.”

Make no mistake, there is one whose blood, sweat and tears saved us, freed us and gives us great power in this life.  Also know, that one … is not us.  “Take the day off,” our rulers and employers say.  “Walk with me, let me,” our Savior beckons.

Allow me to close as I did last year.

On this day which brings an unofficial end to the season of summer, may you also be encouraged to end a season of trying (in your own strength).  And in doing so, may you know Him more.  May you know His grace, mercy, forgiveness, patience, steadfastness, power and love more completely.

Work hard in the fields of the kingdom.  But today, and every day, cease striving and know that He is God.

Posted by: pmarkrobb | August 31, 2017

fix our eyes on Jesus

Am I the only one who feels like somewhere along the way driving on the open road turned into Sunday afternoon at Talladega or Charlotte Motor Speedway?  Does anyone know where those people are going in such a hurry?  I don’t drive the speed limit nearly as much as I should (I’ll just be honest), but even on and errand to get some milk or my ten stop light commute to and from work, I feel as though I’m holding someone up or they’re ready to drive up and over my car to get by me.

My Wednesday morning group just finished a really good book on anger.  I found very quickly that my opening question was a rhetorical one, and was a universally shared experience.  I also found that much of my personal battle with anger was sourced in the expansive list of expectations I didn’t realize I had for how other people would act.  Seeing someone in my driver’s side mirror racing up the left-hand lane intended for turning, so they could cut into the lane I was in two or three cars ahead of me (or right in front of me); Slowing down to allow someone to merge and them not lifting a hand to acknowledge the grace; Someone lifting “a hand” when some near miss was clearly their fault … These had become daily pinpricks that would so often cause anger to well up inside of me (and sometimes burst out).

I had fallen into a pattern of allowing even the most minor of outside influences to severely disrupt or destroy my peace.  I didn’t see or hear the chains, but I was unquestionably shackled.  I wonder if any of this is even vaguely resonant in your own life.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,
Hebrews 12:1 (NIV)

I had become locked up by, and chained to, the things of this life; not in the sense of possession, but of obsession.  My attention and energy was consumed by the things that all burn up in the end.  I was weighed down, hindered and elaborately entangled in the mess of not a single thing that ultimately matters.  My sight line had dropped just a few degrees, but that is how our great enemy works.  He does not attack or tempt us with untruth.  He comes alongside with truth that has been twisted in single digit degrees, just a little bit, just enough to make it look and sound true, but be absolutely untrue.  So what did I do?  What is one to do when they’ve fallen for quite literally the oldest trick in the book?

fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Hebrews 12:2 (NIV)

I corrected my sight line.

I fixed my eyes back on Jesus.

I began daily picking up my cross.

That’s it.

That may sound quaint and really “devotional,” and yeah, but you weren’t wading through 54 inches of real suffering.  Oh, my brothers and sisters who are.  Oh how my heart is broken and prayerful for you.  But I can assure you from the experiences in my own life that have risen to that high water mark, the truth is unwavering and unconditional.  In any test and trial, in any failure of faith, fix your eyes on Jesus.

Oh how beautiful are the words and truth of the old hymn…

Turn your  eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of earth
Will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace

We’re not living for here.  We have things to do that He planned for us before time even began.  But may we fix our eyes on Jesus and be given the sight that distinguishes one from the other.

O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s a light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free!

Posted by: mikenicholsblog | August 27, 2017

quiet down

Quiet down before God, be prayerful before him.

Those words taken from Psalms 37:7 in The Message sum up the journey, and struggle, that I have faced the last few months. David’s words were written in dramatically different circumstances than mine (yours), but the principles still apply. What I thought would be a new season, with less pace and a quieter prayerful journey has been anything but that. I have been keenly aware of my desire vs. my struggle (partially external and partially internal). It only makes sense to me that every Christ-follower would want to live with a quiet center and prayerful heart. Why is it then that so few live with ears in tune to what the Lord is trying to convey? My personal conviction is that the quiet center available to us is filled with noise (I battle the noise, do you?). We can all find excuses for the noisy and distracted lives we lead. But when the noise and distractions cause us to miss what God is saying, no excuse is good enough. Will your heart be quiet and prayerful this week?

My personal reading has taken me to a book called Thirsting for God by Gary Thomas. Really thirsting after God will cause redirection in anyone’s life. I find that seeking the Father slows me down internally, and fuels the desire for that quiet center. See if the following quote from Thomas’ book resonates with where your journey is currently.

“Living a busy life is like running a marathon—we tax our ability to care, our ability to focus, our strength to manage disappointment, our sense of peace and rest. Consequently, we live on the edge of exhaustion, irritation and anger. We have to re-gather ourselves, guard our peace, and focus so we will be free to care about the things that really matter and fully give ourselves to the tasks God calls us to address.”

Could those words be spoken of you? If so, you have felt that guilty tug when someone needs your assistance but there is little energy or emotional reserves to help. We are all human and subject to seasons which are extremely busy and taxing. But to live with noise, distractions and chaotic schedules that limit our listening to God and hinder our walk with Him is unacceptable. You and I can quiet down and be prayerful before Him.

In the book, Thirsting for God, there is another penetrating and very convicting statement that we all need to hear. “The spiritual life is impossible in a heart full of noise and occupation”. Our lives become about fitting God in, and less about living life from that quiet center. The noise around us does not have to invade us.

Countless times, I have read of Jesus stealing away and praying. I can imagine that those were special moments and times of refreshment. I need exactly that in my life. But, oh how the distractions and noise become addictive. For me, it’s a choice: will I or won’t I live with a quiet heart, and seek to embrace God in each moment? How about you? There can be no greater indication of our need to fight the noise and distractions than looking at Christ’s pattern. He needed to get away from the crowds, and He needed to pray. None of us can claim lives with more noise and chaos than the Son of God faced. But listening to the Father was obviously important to Him. Could it be any less important for us?  I believe a quiet center is available to me; Do you believe it is for you?

My goal in this post is not to instruct, but to relate. My selfishness often drowns out the voice I most want to hear. Recently I have been challenged to grow quieter and live in the reality of his presence. Progress is slow, but I’m determined to have what is available to me. For me it starts in my time with the Father. But then there also needs to be a conscious choice all day long to slow down, relax and listen. I want to hear what He has to say. Your noise and distractions are probably different from mine, but you have them. Are you working from a quiet center, or just fitting God into your schedule (easy to do)?  My thoughts in writing this were skeptical – that no one would really take the challenge. But if there is one person reading this that is ready for a quiet center (and I hope it’s you), I am praying for you!

God still speaks … slow down with me and listen.

Posted by: mikenicholsblog | August 24, 2017

not sunshine all the time

Monday was one of those priceless days. The moon moved in front of the sun and caused a visual display that was beyond words … especially for those who were in the direct path of the eclipse, like our daughter in Nashville. For a short time the sun was covered and the day darkened. There are, quite literally, days for all of us where it seems like our day is dark and we wonder if the sun will ever shine again.

When I relate my spiritual journey to sunshine and clouds, my emotions prefer sunshine all the time. And if you are honest, you probably feel the same way. Although we know better, it seems that subconsciously we tend to say, “If I am serving and obeying Christ,” life will be sunshine all the time. When the difficulties of life give us a pattern of rain and stormy weather, our expectations can turn quickly to questioning and disillusionment about our journey. A strong believer once said to me during a stormy period, “faith is great … after the fact.”

Figuratively, I was drawn to this thought while reading about Peter and some disciples going fishing after Christ was resurrected. Things were different now, their lives had forever changed. I don’t know, but I wonder if life seemed a bit cloudy to them at that point? You have heard the story of the men fishing and catching nothing. From the shore Jesus spoke to them and told them to cast their net on the right side of the boat. They caught 153 fish and met Jesus on shore for breakfast. Then there is the great encounter where Christ restores Peter. You have heard the words from this scene often, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love me?” At the end of this exchange, Peter is given an indication of how he would die, and then Jesus tells him, “Follow me.” The whole series of events just described look like anything but sunshine all the time, nor should they.

There are various opinions on why Peter and the disciples went fishing and what Jesus meant by questioning Peter’s love. But the fact is, Christ showed up at a critical point for Peter and the others. And although He will never choose to let us live with endless spiritual sunshine, He will show up for us whatever the weather, just as He did for Peter and the disciples. If you and I are serious about faith and serving Him, we will relish clouds and rain knowing that a Perfect Hand is directing our journey. And we never have to worry about Him showing up at just the right time (His right time, not ours).

As I was thinking on this passage and Christ showing up, I was reminded of a song that my wife has fallen in love with. It expresses the realistic view that our spiritual journey is not sunshine all the time. It carries more weight with me because of the life struggle that songwriter Laura Story and her husband experienced with his illness. Look at the depth and honest view that Laura gives us with a few words from her song, Blessings.

Chorus…

Cause what if your blessings come through raindrops?
What if Your healing comes through tears?
What if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near?
What if trials of this life
Are Your mercies in disguise?

The song’s ending…

And what if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are Your mercies in disguise?

Peter, Laura, you, and I will never live under an endless sun-lit sky. God chooses and allows the rain and the storms. And although our emotions cry for sunshine, we know that rain and storms are a necessary part of our journey. Christ showed up for Peter, and He knows when to show up for you. Determine to rest in His mercy whether the sun shines bright, or storms threaten. The Son knows when to shine His mercy into your life!

Posted by: mikenicholsblog | August 20, 2017

Be at rest

Have you ever been simply baffled by how life’s twists and turns seem to spiral out of your control? Whether we would admit it or not, we have opinions about the circumstances we are confronted with and how they should be resolved. My wife and I had a case in point just recently.

We were approached about selling our property in Florida. It’s a small home that God so graciously blessed us with several years ago. Due to circumstances, we were wondering if it was time to move on from the home. And seemingly out of the blue, someone approached us about a possible buyer. “Is this the Lord’s will?” we wondered. Whenever unusual circumstances like this happen, we get excited about how God must be working.

Eventually, the prospective buyers called and offered to buy the home for cash. “Wow, isn’t God working?!” We had just contemplated selling the property and now there are cash buyers with no real estate costs. Too good to be true! We got the contract together and then seemingly out of the blue, the buyers backed out. “Lord, what is going on?” We accepted the situation and began thinking of other avenues to move the property. After all, we tell everyone God is in control.

Four days later on a Sunday evening, the phone rings and it’s the same buyers. “If your house is still for sale, we would like to buy it.” We reluctantly said okay and started making preparations to go to Florida and close on the deal. “Thanks, Lord.” The next day the potential buyers signed the contract, gave a deposit, and changed the cable bill. This is really coming together. “What a blessing!”

Wednesday morning, my wife received a call from the title company saying the people backed out. Then we received a short note about them not being able to get the financing together. But it was a cash deal! “Lord, what is going on?” We didn’t even initiate the sale, and then it was done.  Cancelled, back on again, contract signed and then cancelled again. “Father, we trust you, but why did we have to go through all of this for nothing?” Now, if this had been you, would you have been irritated or maybe even ticked off? WE WERE! But wait a minute, whose house were we trying to sell?  And does He have to give us pre-approval for the twists and turns that He chooses to allow for the Nichols Family?

This morning, I was reminded again of the way I should view life events. A Proverb, that has become one of my favorite, confronted me. After looking at and reading about the Apostle John in the last week and knowing that his life had major twists and turns, I almost feel ashamed at getting frustrated about a house deal. But in God’s timing, I reviewed my special Proverb this morning and it certainly gives me perspective.

The Lord directs our steps, so why try to understand everything along the way?
Proverbs 20:24 (NLT)

My house story may pale in comparison to your journey at the moment, but the principle that believers can trust is the same no matter the situation. God directs our steps, and we don’t need to try to figure everything out along the way. HE KNOWS WHAT HE IS DOING WITH OUR FAMILY (AND YOURS). It seems as if there is always a new circumstance, illogical event, or mountain to climb. The Father is in total control and we don’t need to understand it all or try to control each step.

I purposely used a lot of questions in this article because I believe they are easily understood by all. There is no need to try to figure out why God chose for His house (He owns it) not to be sold when I thought it would. And even though sometimes I struggle with wanting to understand, there is no doubt that the Lord directs our steps. And with that, I can be at rest.

What circumstance has you down right now? Accept Proverbs 20:24 by faith and be at rest!

Posted by: mikenicholsblog | August 16, 2017

loved with a perfect love

Have you ever experienced personally, or viewed from a distance, parents who played favorites? I don’t think my parents ever outwardly had a favorite….either my brother or myself, but it would not have been surprising. My brother was quiet, obedient and just a nice kid. I, on the other hand, was a terror. By first grade, I had burned a field down by playing with matches. In the first grade, I wasn’t the easiest child to deal with because of my talkative, aggressive nature. I’ll stop at that point, but you could certainly see why my parents would have breathed the faithful words, “Whose child is this?” Life is filled with relationships that tend to show favoritism, and whether it is in the home, in our children’s activities (sports, music etc…) or at work, we don’t like it.

We all want fairness, equality and a level playing field. So our antennas are always up to detect when the slightest bit of bias is shown … especially if it is not in our favor!  With that in mind, have you ever considered the words found in Scripture, “the disciple whom Jesus loved” to be a bit unusual? After all, He loved all His disciples. John 13:23 says, One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him. I find the same love language conveyed in John 19 and 21. Our first logical question of this kind of attention is, “Who is this person?” For most reading this article, you know that the wording refers to the Apostle John. The second question would be, “Why use this kind of language when John certainly wasn’t the only disciple loved by Jesus?”

One of our weaknesses with Scripture is reading without considering the full context or timing of the events. We see the book of John as giving us a window into the life of Jesus and His disciples while not thinking much about the actual time frame when it was written, or the age of its author. I am convinced the Apostle John wrote Gospel of John, although he never mentions himself by name. There is much conservative scholarship that would date John’s gospel as being written between 85A.D. and 95 A.D. By this time, John is later in his life, and decades removed from walking with Jesus. As I think of this older man writing about events that happened decades earlier (under the inspiration of God), I am intrigued.

By the time of its writing, John had lived long and grown from a brash, impetuous young follower to a mature, humble man of deep love. Can you imagine what it was like for him to look back and think of his time spent with Jesus? Were there questions he wished he would have asked, or statements and actions he would like to be able to do over? I am sure there were. But in this masterpiece of Scripture, John referred to himself as the “disciple whom Jesus loved.” Was he writing about being a favorite, or being special or more spiritual than the other disciples? Of course not! His words don’t relate to how we view favoritism of special treatment.

Picture an older, wise man writing God-breathed words of awe at the marvel of how Jesus loved him. Dr. Constable’s Notes of John say it this way. “John was not claiming that Jesus loved him more than the other disciples by describing himself this way. Rather, the description reveals his appreciation for God’s grace in loving him as He did. He focused the reader’s attention on Jesus more forcefully by omitting his own name.” In my mind’s eye, I can picture his awe in being loved by Jesus.

My brother may have been the favorite at home … rightfully so. But in respect to our Savior’s opinion on each of us, He loves us all deeply, uniquely and fully!  We should all reflect with awe at being loved with a perfect love. From the words (noted in Scripture) of an older man who I believe was in awe of God’s love for him, I am personally challenged to say thanks. I’m sure you are too!

Posted by: mikenicholsblog | August 13, 2017

the age-old question of love

My hair was once black.  Now it is gray. There was a time when I slept all night and had joints that didn’t constantly talk back at the slightest wrong movement. When I was younger, the aches and pains that come with age were only something I wasn’t looking forward to … certainly not the reality they have become today! Just last night, I was confronted with the reality of advancing age (and stiff joints) while simply standing up from my recliner.  As I age (and I am not that old), it’s becoming apparent that growing older is not for the weak. And another thing I’ve noticed is I don’t seem to have all the answers anymore. In my younger years, I always seemed to have an answer … even when no one was asking a question. Anyone blessed to live a long life experiences the trade-off between the exuberance of youth and the wisdom of aging.

Over the last couple of days, I have studied the life of the Apostle John. The more I study, the more ashamed I am of not knowing him better sooner. When John was young, he was known as one of the Sons of Thunder. His actions as a young man did not mirror the “apostle of love” he would eventually become. Words like aggressive, impetuous, intolerant and harsh would better describe the attributes John displayed during his days with the Savior. But he changed along the journey, and at an older age wrote the Gospel of John, 1st, 2nd and 3rd John, and Revelation. From what I can determine, all were written many decades after the death, burial and resurrection of the Son of God. I firmly believe the lessons learned while walking with Jesus had a dramatic impact on John as he aged.

So, what am I getting at? This man, who was once young, grew older … just like me! The stallion of youth was transformed into the humble servant of love.  In my studies, I have discovered the word “love” is mentioned more than eighty times in the Bible books which specifically bear his namesake. The power of God absolutely shaped this man, and he grew old profoundly proclaiming the unmatched value of love.  Decades after Jesus’ resurrection, God breathed the words of those five books of the New Testament into (and through) the Apostle John.  We should read them in the context of his older and wiser self, full of love as he wrote. What a way to grow old!

How many people (even Christ-followers) grow older and develop a measure of impatience and cynicism, salted with a healthy dose of selfishness? I can see how those characteristics could easily seep into my life. What about you?

A defining by-product of John’s aging was love. In fact, there is a story I have read in two sources about the end of John’s journey. Let me quote the story from Twelve Ordinary Men, by John MacArthur.

“Jerome says in his commentary on Galatians that the aged apostle John was so frail in his final days at Ephesus that he had to be carried into the church. One phrase was constantly on his lips: ‘My little children love one another.’ Asked why he always said this, he replied, ‘It is the Lord’s command, and if this alone be done, it is enough.’”

John’s story was long and it didn’t end easy … but it did end well. We are the recipients of God using him to pen the words which most Christ-followers have read and re-read. The fact that he wrote them in the latter portion of his earthly journey should challenge all of us.  As we too grow older, will we be defined by or maturing in impatience, selfishness and cynicism, or will it be love?!  What will be the legacy of your story and mine?

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