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.

Posted by: pmarkrobb | October 22, 2017

the whole truth, and nothing but

“The whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”

These words and their context are readily recognizable.  They are also words that name a battle I have fought for as long as I can remember.  How many times have I told “a” truth, but not the whole truth?  How many times have I told a perfectly believable and defensible story that simply was not “nothing but the truth.”

The Spirit prompted me in the direction of Psalm 32 this past week.  My heart and life have been increasingly heavy as of late.  I am finding this to be the direct result of my confessions being something less than the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.  The sins I’ve confessed have already been paid for, but the Spirit is revealing a fuller and deeper truth of the gap between my confessions and the whole truth.  There’s a “residue” that’s left when I stop short in confessing to Jesus.  That “residue” becomes weight in the form of persisting guilt.

I experience guilt when I sin, but the DNA of guilt is unique and wholly separate from the sin itself.  God’s forgiveness is meant to take both away forever.  His desire for me in confessing is that I experience that power.  Both the slate and my conscience are wiped clean.  But when I stop short (of telling Him what He already knows), a residue remains in the quiet center of who I am.  Think of it like windshield wiper blades that are in need of replacing.  They remove the principle part of the precipitation, but do not clear it completely.  The thinnest veneer of water remains and clouds or obscures your vision.

Psalm thirty-two begins…

How joyful is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered!  How joyful is the man the Lord does not charge with sin and in whose spirit is no deceit!
(verses one and two – HCSB)

This is the beauty of where fallen man meets God’s plan for his (or her) sin.  The whole truth and nothing but the truth is confessed.

Here is where my life has been…

When I kept silent, my bones became brittle from my groaning all day long.  For day and night Your hand was heavy on me; my strength was drained as in the summer’s heat.
(verses three and four – HCSB)

I believe the silence scripture mentions is both complete and partial (the stopping completely and the stopping short).

But here is the beauty of where God’s working within me is leading me…

Then I acknowledged my sin to You and did not conceal my iniquity.  I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and You took away the guilt of my sin.
(verse five – HCSB)

My sin (and yours) has been paid for.  Father, help me (and us) not to pay interest on a penalty that you’ve already paid.  When we confess our sin, God removes it as far as the east is from the west.  When we confess it wholly, the guilt goes too.  The weight of our sin and our guilt is not ours to bear.  Jesus took it to the cross and bore it in His own body.

Confess wholly — the whole truth, and nothing but — and experience the full power of God’s forgiveness.

Posted by: mikenicholsblog | October 18, 2017

thoughts and prayers

“Prayer” is a universal word!  In moments of difficulty, pain, and even national or international tragedy we will often hear public words like, “our thoughts and prayers are with you.” As an avid sports fan, I often get updates from Bleacher Report about what is happening with my favorite sports teams.  Last night was a reminder that the human element of pain causes people who are normally known for their skill to lift up words of prayer. A player from the Boston Celtics had a gruesome ankle injury, and other players around the NBA immediately started sending out notes using the word “prayer.” My point isn’t to draw attention to people, but rather to the universality of the word “prayer.”

Often the word “prayer” is used in difficult times to communicate care and concern for the troubles and trials of others, and not because there is a real depth of prayer as part of their normal routine. God allows and uses difficulty, pain and tragedy for His glory, and I am glad that people are urged to look heavenward in those times. God can speak and minister in ways that we can’t fathom, and my hope is that all people everywhere come to know the true God of their “thoughts and prayers.” In looking at prayer, move with me from the universality of it to the individuality of prayer for all who genuinely follow Christ.

Christ-followers are often overwhelmed with prayer issues. If you are like me, there is always more to pray over than we think we can handle. There are the family issues, work issues, personal issues, church issues, people who have health issues, financial issues … issues, issues, issues! For me, keeping a prayer list with different prayer issues for different days is a way to cover the various issues that need prayer in my life. Are you tired of the word issues yet?! The point is that we all have a lot to pray about. I am so glad God the Father wants His children to come freely and ask boldly about the issues that confront us. However….

There is far more to prayer that just the issues. Paul brought this front and center for me in our reading over the last several days. In his relationship with the church in Colosse, he gave all Christ-followers a model to use when praying for other believers. Note that he had never met the Colossians, but loved them and prayed for them. If you are a consistent “issue” (and issues are important to pray about) person in prayer please consider using Paul’s model for the Christ-followers closest to you … your family. Please read these verses carefully.

So we have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better. We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy,  always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to his people, who live in the light.
Colossians 1:9-12 (NLT)

Paul was writing these words to the Colossians. Why not take this passage and personalize it for those we love who are Christ-followers? After all, aren’t these words what we desire? And by the way, praying Scripture is a model that is surely pleasing to the Father.

You may be thinking, “But what about my issues?” Our God, who knows the issues, also wants His children to have spiritual wisdom and understanding. He wants them to produce every kind of good fruit (just to name a few of the points from the verses above). Wouldn’t it be wise to print Colossians 1:9-12, and at least once a week step away from the issues, and pray the will of God from these verses on the Christ-followers in your family? Consider it!

Posted by: mikenicholsblog | October 15, 2017

whether in need or plenty

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by: mikenicholsblog | October 12, 2017

plans and promises

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by: mikenicholsblog | October 8, 2017

model the pace of Christ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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