Posted by: pmarkrobb | December 16, 2017

Coming…

What is the span of a single page turn in your beloved Bible? Is it measured in inches? What distance does your hand travel as it sweeps left or right? If these questions referred specifically to the one which turns from Malachi to Matthew, the answer would be 400 years.

A people in brutal exile had returned to their homeland. Another cycle of rebellion and rescue was ending. Their return was far from glorious. The soil was their own, but the sovereignty was not. They had returned to their land, but not necessarily to their God. Through the words of the final prophet, Israel is reminded of God’s love for them. They are reminded of God’s sparing. The rinse/repeat nature of their rejection of God was always answered with radical rescue. It was not always near, but it was always certain. The failure of God’s people could (and would) not cause God to fail in His promise.

As the final chapter of the final prophet’s book begins, God steps onto the stage to address His people.  His message … the day is coming.

For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the Lord of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall. And you shall tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet, on the day when I act, says the Lord of hosts.
Malachi 4:1-3 (ESV)

God steps off the stage and the house lights go dark.

Four hundred years of dark.

Four.

Hundred.

Years.

And then, all at once, the day comes.

Except, it was not the day God’s people were longing for. It was the day that would make that day possible, but it was not the day they hoped was coming.

On that day, God hung the most brilliant light in the sky. Its unparalleled brightness guided shepherds and magi. It pierced and punctuated four hundred years (and thousands more before them) of darkness. God, through the voice of His angel, shouted the good news of great joy.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
Luke 2:11 (ESV)  

On that day that no one saw coming, and only a precious few noticed, our Deliverer came.  Hope was born that day. Our Hope.  But God’s redemptive plan was not completed on that day.  That day was still coming. Thirty-three years later, before the sun would rise on the greatest Sunday in history, the sun (Son) of righteousness rose with healing in his wings.  But our final healing was not completed on that day.  That day is still coming.

Each Advent, I am reminded that Christmas is not the season of glad tidings of great joy for everyone.  Many are still lost.  Many hurt deeply.  Jesus was born. He lived, died and rose again.  In dying, He paid the penalty for every sin (mine, your’s, the sins of all for all time).  In rising, He broke the power of sin and death forever. And yet the groans of the curse still remain.  We still toil.  We still suffer.  Today may find you in one of those seasons.  Maybe you’re joining the chorus of the ancients in wondering, “Where is God?!” in a desert wandering of your own.  Maybe it seems like three hundred and ninety-nine years of silence in response to something you’ve been pleading for.  If that is you, may I please echo back the capital “T” truth that the day is coming.  This world is one giant waiting room.  Creation waits.  He asks us to wait (in things both great and small).  Please hear the truth that the day is coming.

God created this world.

He entered it once to redeem it.

And the day is coming where He will enter it again to make it new.

He will enter it again to complete the words He spoke through the final prophet.  He will enter it again to make things right, and to bring us home to be with Him for a number of days that will never end.

My dear friend in Jesus, and my dear friend who needs Him … the day is coming.

Posted by: mikenicholsblog | December 14, 2017

the Christmas problem

Last Monday was an interesting day of getting into the Christmas spirit. My wife and I traveled with friends to New York City. Our day began with BREAKING NEWS of a terrorist attack in the subway system of New York. Typically news like that would get my attention, but since we were nine blocks away on the same street, it really got my attention. Quickly enough things settled down and we were off to explore Christmas in New York. The crowds were enormous and fast paced, which didn’t help me reflect on what the Savior’s birth means to mankind. The highlight of our day was watching Radio City’s Christmas Spectacular. The portrayal of our Savior’s birth was pictured as well as I have seen in any church, and the Christmas hymns were majestic. But then it was back to the streets and crowds of people celebrating anything but our Savior’s birth. To me, our NYC day reflected a Christmas problem … the true meaning of Christmas surrounded by crowds and pace and anything but the love that caused God to send His Son to redeem mankind.

The Christmas Problem
(Anonymous)

Once upon a Christmas Eve, a man sat in reflective silence before the fireplace, pondering the meaning of Christmas. “There is no point to a God who becomes man,” he mused. “Why would an all-powerful God want to share even one of His precious moments with the likes of man? And even if He did, why would He choose to be born in an animal stall? No way! The whole thing is absurd! I’m sure that if God really wanted to come down to earth, He would have chosen some other way.” Suddenly, the man was roused from his reverie by a strange sound outside. He went to the window and saw a small gaggle of blue geese frantically honking and aimlessly flopping about in the snow. They seemed dazed and confused. Apparently they had dropped out in exhaustion from the flight formations of a larger flock on its way from the Arctic Islands to the warmer climes of the Gulf of Mexico. Moved to compassion, the man tried to “shoo” the poor geese into his warm garage, but the more he “shooed” the more they panicked. “If they only realized I’m only trying to do what’s best for them,” he thought to himself. “How can I make them understand my concern for their well-being?”

Then, this thought came to him: “If for just a minute, I could become one of them, an ordinary goose, and communicate with them in their own language, they would know what I am trying to do.” And suddenly … suddenly, he remembered Christmas and a smile came over his face. Suddenly, the Christmas story no longer seemed absurd. Suddenly, he pictured that ordinary-looking infant, lying in the manger, in that stable in Bethlehem, and he knew the answer to his Christmas problem: God had become one of us to tell us that He loves us.

Sometimes our hurried and stressful lives draw a comparison to those panicked geese.  The solution and the peace are right at our fingertips … and yet we keep running, struggling, striving for something we can in no way grasp without the realization that, “God had become one of us to tell us that He loves us.” This Christmas season, if you are a believer, take the opportunity to meditate or talk as a family about the real reason we are celebrating.  And if you have never given your heart to Christ, please reach out to us at journeyonword@gmail.com. We would count it a privilege to share God’s love for you.

Merry Christmas and remember, He is the Reason for this Season.

Posted by: pmarkrobb | December 9, 2017

come.

Is it at all surprising that the God of the Universe wants the very same thing as every child (from small to tall) for Christmas? He spells it a bit different, but they are altogether the very same thing.  He spells it … presence. It was the thing most on my heart and mind this week as I began to consider the “present” tense (of the translated word for Advent). The focus for this second Sunday of Advent is … Come.

My week began with a somewhat heavy heart. This season is certainly not immune from burden. In the quiet of my Monday morning with God, my soul began to sing a song. It was the kind of prompt I’ve come to expect from a lavishly gracious Father, unexpected and so beautifully needed.

“I need thee every hour, most gracious Lord.
No tender voice like thine, can peace afford.
I need thee, oh I need thee.  Every hour I need thee.
Oh, bless me now my Savior, I come to thee.”

I hummed the verses more than I sang them. The words were clear in my mind, and the penetrating vibration settled them into the very center of my soul. Their truth and comfort washed over me. I experienced His peace.

I live far too much of this life under the power of my own trying. I like to share with others that I give things over to God. I cast my cares. But I’m really not certain that would hold up under cross-examination (double meaning fully intended). I am praying for others more than I ever have. I am beginning to experience the truth that prayer is not “just” what we can do, but it is rather the very best that we can do. I feel privileged to pray for others, but somehow I can’t shake the more powerful urge to do something. I love (beyond love) to listen, but oh how much I can fail in talking too much in response. “I need thee every hour” feels like something I should sing … and live. It should be my posture and prayer.  But I am quite sure it is much more of a heart cry than an everyday pattern in my life.

I love how the verse ends. “Oh, bless me now my Savior.  I come to thee.”  I believe it’s because I’ve just recently had a meaningful experience of, “I come to thee.”  For too long my time with my God and Savior has been broken. I’ve allowed a myriad of things to crowd Him out or distract my attention when I am present with Him.  I’ve double-dipped in my time with Him; using the time to accomplish other good purposes – multi-tasking the sacred (man, is that convicting when I say it out loud).

In this season of Advent I have come. And it has been good. If your experience recently (or maybe for longer than you’d care to admit) has been at all like mine, I would encourage you – I would invite you – to come to Jesus.  In this season of Advent, come.  Far more than the presents you give, make this season about the presence you give.

I have deliberately not defined this invitation to come. My own experience of it has been so rich, mainly because I’ve not tried to define it. I’ve not scheduled or announced it. I’ve not tried in my own power. In your choosing to come, insist on it being as He chooses.

In this season of Advent, come.

Posted by: mikenicholsblog | December 6, 2017

indescribable love

Currently, most of us are thinking about the gifts we will present to others for Christmas. Personally, I struggle to find gifts that are meaningful, surprising and timely. Maybe others do too. But in an effort to help all our readers reflect well during this season, we present Advent articles and, this year, stories that remind us of the Ultimate gift.

What’s the most memorable gift you have ever received? You may remember a childhood gift that was just the one you wanted. Your favorite gift may have special meaning because of the thoughtfulness or sacrifice of the person who gave it. And then, we could all list a gift that was, shall I say, “a dud.” For the next eighteen day, gifts will be sought, purchased, given and received as an expression of the deep love felt in our families and friendships. As we prepare for Christmas, I wanted to share a story that reflects family love, but can also help us all get a glimpse of true Christmas love.

The year was 1952, and it was a cold Christmas Eve. In a land far away, Korea was in the midst of a civil war. On this Christmas Eve, a young woman was about to give birth … alone. Follow the story and reflect on a mother’s love, and the love of God, as written by Bill Bright.

Help me! Please. My baby.” No one paid any attention to her. A middle-aged couple walked by. The wife pushed away the young mother and sneered,Where’s the father? Where’s your American man now?The couple laughed and went on. The young woman almost doubled up from a contraction as she watched them go. Please . . .” she begged. 

She had heard of a missionary living nearby who might help her. Hurriedly, she began walking to that village. If only he would help her baby. Shivering and in pain, she struggled over the frozen countryside. But the night was so cold. Snow began to fall. Realizing that the time was near to deliver her baby, she took shelter under a bridge. There, alone, her baby was born on Christmas Eve.

Worried about her newborn son, she took off her own clothes, wrapped them around the baby and held him close in the warm circle of her arms.

The next day, the missionary braved the new snow to deliver Christmas packages. As he walked along, he heard the cry of a baby. He followed the sound to a bridge. Under it, he found a young mother frozen to death, still clutching her crying newborn son. The missionary tenderly lifted the baby out of her arms.

When the baby was 10 years old, his now adoptive father told him the story of his mother’s death on Christmas Eve. The young boy cried, realizing the sacrifice his mother had made for him.

The next morning the missionary rose early to find the boy’s bed empty. Seeing a fresh set of small footprints in the snow outside, he bundled up warmly in a winter coat and followed the trail. It led back to the bridge where the young mother had died.

As the missionary approached the bridge, he stopped, stunned. Kneeling in the snow was his son, naked and shivering uncontrollably. His clothes lay beside him in a small pile. Moving closer, he heard the boy say through chattering teeth:

Mother, were you this cold for me?”  

What an indescribable love! But far greater is the indescribable love that caused Jesus to leave heaven and be born in a stable for a desperately sinful world. His mother had her own issues finding a place for His birth. As you know, there was no room in the Inn. She gave birth to the Son of God in a stable! He came so that you and I could receive the gift of all gifts: eternal life in heaven. That’s what Christmas is all about! And I trust that a young Korean mother’s love will help you reflect on the Savior’s eternal love! Indescribable!

Posted by: pmarkrobb | December 3, 2017

Came

We have entered another season of Advent.  Is it just me, or does the last one seem like it happened just a month or so ago?  Oh how I love this season, and the one that prepares us to remember and celebrate the death, burial and resurrection of our precious Savior.  “It is Finished!” could not be shouted absent the story’s humble beginning.  The Cross is incomplete without the cradle.

Today, we begin walking intentionally toward the celebration of Jesus’ first coming.  Coming … this is the literal translation of the word “Advent.”  This year, as we journey through the season of Advent, I would like to consider the three tenses of that translated word.

Came.  Come.  Coming.

I believe there is great significance in these three words that represent the past, present and future tense of the same word.  Let’s begin this week with the word “Came.”

It’s been quite a week.  Right smack in the middle of it we heard of two high-profile firings of notable public figures, both on the very same day.  Men accused of the same sort of indecency and unwelcome behavior as so many others before them.  One of those men has had a unique intersection with my own story.  My uncle and I had, for five consecutive years, made a seventeen hour driving trip to St. Paul, MN once a year to attend the season-opening performance of a Prairie Home Companion.  PHC is a weekly Saturday evening radio show that airs on National Public Radio.  It was a treasured and highly anticipated trip, and the show and its leading man were about as Americana as you could get.

When I heard the news Wednesday, I would characterize my reaction as saddened, heading in the direction of shocked.  But as I took the first few steps on that journey, I had the great fortune of a prompting from the Spirit.  I began to see my own face as I stared into the face of Mr. Keillor.  His forlorn expression carried the weight of my own sin.  While I may not be guilty of the same offense (if it is proven as it has been accused), I am equally guilty.

It is understandable to be outraged and offended with each new breaking story of this terrible, systemic evil.  Yet I believe there is something far more truthful and powerful that should challenge every Christ-follower’s sense of outrage and offense and turn their focus inward.

“This is me, and this is why He came.”

Why should we think that the sin of any of these men is “more sinful” than any of our own in the eyes of God?  Does the Bible say that one sin is worse than any other?  Scripture is clear that there is only one which is unforgivable (Mark 3:28-30), and that some have greater consequence in this life, but it does not tell of a sliding scale of sin.  Scripture is also very clear in saying, “for ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23 with my own emphasis added).

I will certainly not speak for you, or the Church at large, but for me, this is my response to Garrison, Matt and all the others before them …

“Me too.”

I am not being clever or cute … please hear that.  I know the hashtag.  I have deep respect for those showing genuine and profound courage in declaring #MeToo in response to the great injury and injustice they suffered.  I say “Me too.” with great gravity in joining ALL who have sinned at the base of the Cross — the only place where the cure for evil and everyone’s sin is found.  Only the blood of Jesus covers.  Only the blood of Jesus cures.  Only the blood of Jesus heals.  My brothers and sisters, “Me too. This is why He came.”

It is expected that people will step to the bully pulpit and pound out their outrage.  May I be found on my knees saying, “Yes, Lord. Me too. I cannot thank You loud enough or long enough for the grace and mercy You lavishly pour out as Your first and only response to my confession of sin.  This is why You came, Jesus.  You are the Great Healer for the one who is sick and the Great Shepherd for the one who is lost.”

How powerful would our witness be if you and I chose that posture and prayer?  How much more powerful in doing it together as His hands and feet.

ALL have sinned and fall short.  This is why He came.

Posted by: mikenicholsblog | November 30, 2017

starfish and dust-collecting books

How many books are collecting dust in various places of your home?  Five, ten, twenty or even one hundred volumes of wonderful works, written by skilled authors, are scattered throughout most of our homes. Many of those same books have great spiritual insight that is too important to be shelved away, only to be opened one day as our children or grandchildren dispose of our belongings.  I have collected so many volumes over time that my wife once ventured to make a deal that for every new book purchased, one book had to exit our home. Our deal hasn’t worked!

You may be thinking, “Where in the world is this article leading?” A few weeks ago at church a man in our Sunday School Class made an appeal. This particular man gives a lot of his time to a prison ministry and helping men who have fallen on hard times. He loves to pass out books that men could read during the week. So much so that he was running short of books. Since I had a FEW extra, I decided it was time to give them to a good cause. My wife was pleased!

Since some of my dust-collecting books were from sports heroes, I thought they would fit well. We took them to church and then, frankly, forgot about it. Until last night! The man from our class had left a book from Tim Tebow at the local jail.  When he visited the jail yesterday, an inmate shared that he had read it and was so impressed that he gave his life to Christ. So was it better to just hoard another book or give it away and see eternal work done? (The dictionary definition of a rhetorical question!)

A few weeks ago the book was five feet from my desk and accomplishing nothing. Now, the book has been used for more good that I could have ever imagined. I wonder about some of my other books … and what about some of yours?

So what is my point? What is the value in dust-collecting books compared to the value of life changing tools (books) used strategically? Now, I know there are some books that have special value, so don’t worry about those. But could there be some dust-collecting volumes in your own library that could be used for good? If you think this would never happen with one of your books, remember the Starfish.

My friend and Journey OnWord writer Mark Robb mentioned a Starfish recently. Now listen to another starfish (dusty old book) tale.  It’s called The Starfish Story.

“A wise man was walking along the beach and saw  a young man who was reaching down and picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean. He called out; ‘May I ask what it is that you are doing?’ The young man replied, ‘Throwing starfish into the ocean.’ ‘Why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?’ asked the somewhat startled wise man. The young man replied, ‘The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them in, they will die.’

The wise man commented, ‘But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish along every mile?  You can’t possibly make a difference.’

At this, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, he said, ‘It made a difference to that one.’

One old dust-collecting book can make a difference to someone. Consider taking the time to give away what you aren’t using to help someone who could be changed … even for eternity!

Posted by: mikenicholsblog | November 26, 2017

a continual, habitual practice

Christmas Day is four weeks from today. Thanksgiving is over. Black Friday has passed and today is Cyber Monday …and that’s just the beginning of the race to Christmas. In church yesterday, I had the opportunity to talk about moving towards Christmas with a sense of gratitude for the everyday blessings from the Father. I would like to believe this will be a happy season for all who are reading this article, but without a doubt we will all be confronted with stresses of various kinds. It has become that kind of season! Happiness really isn’t the issue anyway, but walking through this season with a joyful heart is more than just a possibility.

Happiness is such a fleeting emotion. It is not unusual to be on top of the world one day, and a valley dweller the next. Circumstances can, in a moment’s time, give us a jolt of emotional bliss or bring sadness to our spirit. We all know life is not about happiness, but it’s a normal response to crave it. There is something in all of us that desires to have a good day, to hear good news, or just to feel good about life. Even the Declaration of Independence declares that the “pursuit of happiness” is a right. Although we will never live a perpetually happy life, we can live a perpetually joyful journey. Happiness always is not realistic, but rejoicing always is!

Our counsel to rejoice comes from a man who was a prisoner in Rome. Paul was under house arrest when he wrote the book of Philippians. He wasn’t a man just writing “happy talk,” but a man controlled by a true sense of joy that rose above any circumstance. It is one thing for someone in a good place to instruct others to rejoice, but it is far more meaningful to speak of rejoicing from prison. Under the inspiration of God, Paul gave the Philippian Christians words that still ring true today.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!
Philippians 4:4 (NIV)

All Christ-followers have the same opportunity for joy that Paul spoke of in challenging the Philippians. He made his point with obvious impact by repeating the word “rejoice” twice. If joy were an emotion like happiness, then we could assume that the feelings of joy would come and go, just like happiness.

“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.”
The John MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Philippians

It’s sad but true, many believers don’t live with a deep-down confidence that God is in control. I would be less than genuine to proclaim that I have mastered the choice to live with perpetual joy. Studying this passage of Scripture shows that rejoicing is to be a continual, habitual practice. We can rightly assume that God, through Paul, told the Philippians to live with a heart of rejoicing. Is our challenge and opportunity today any different? I don’t think so!

Living with a deep-down confidence that God is in control leads to a life of rejoicing. Circumstances will not always be good, but God always is. Our problem is, we believe intellectually that God is in control but refuse to personally experience what He has made available. Accept today by faith that God’s design for you is a perpetually rejoicing heart. It will take choosing His truth over your emotions, but the results are worth it.  We may crave happiness, but what we really want (and need) is joy!

The race to Christmas is upon us, and this year don’t let the pace dampen your joy!

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: 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!

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