Posted by: pmarkrobb | April 1, 2021

my eyes saw only

What am I that You are mindful of me?

This plain-as-the-nose-on-your-face plagiarism of the Psalmist (Psalm 8:4) is the brutally honest cry of my heart to my Lord and my Redeemer as I sit and write today. As I have walked the ancient roads in the story of redemption again this year, I have been overwhelmed by the kindness, generosity and mercy of Jesus in including me. I was one of the two sent ahead to borrow the burro. I saw the tree with no fruit the morning after. I was called near to watch the poor widow. It was my broken jar.

It was the plan in eternity past to create you and me, even with the foreknowledge of the mess we would make and what God would have to lose in order to win us back. It also remained the plan that He would choose you’s and me’s to be part of His work in the world … even, and especially, His redeeming work. We could never do the work in ourselves, but He would choose to do it in and through us. Yes, that’s the answer to that question/heart cry.

It offends my own nature to write so little about such a monumental day. In myself, I am aching to go on and on about the profound significance of the Seder Jesus shared with His disciples before sunset; the “full extent” of the love He showed to those gathered; and, oh, the richness in the Garden. But the eyes He’s given me today see only the ones Jesus sent ahead to meet the man carrying the jar of water, and the profound significance of His choosing them to be part of the greatest story ever told.

I’m certain I’m not the only one with that brutally honest heart cry. If you are me, please know the God of the Universe hears you, He sees you, He made you and He loves you. Then sings my soul.

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Posted by: pmarkrobb | March 31, 2021

oil and water

At times the tangible surface of scripture upon which I gaze becomes altogether different things. Its literal substance may be paper or glass, but as I look down, what I see is almost always a window, a mirror, or a magnifying glass. When I first sat down to read scripture’s account of today in preparation for writing, it was quite clearly a window. A Dickens-like priceless pane into Simon the Leper’s home at supper time. I believe that meals were magnificent things in the earthly life of Jesus. They certainly weren’t all feasts, but I can’t imagine a single one that wasn’t meaningful in some way … and this particular one would be the rule, not the exception.

I know it is not written, but can you see with me Jesus arriving at Simon’s front door. Can you hear the voice of the Creator of the Universe who once used His words to divide light and darkness, earth and water, and form man from the dust of the ground, thank His host for opening his home to Him? I see His arms and His smile compete for which could open more widely in greeting each guest. I hear His intimate way of welcome that favored none but made each feel as though He had only come to see them. I see the smiles and gestures that are common to any occasion where friends gather to break bread together. And then, all at once, I see the woman approach the table, while Jesus is eating. A bit shocking, yes, because someone in her service role would not approach the table while people were eating. Perhaps she is bringing something to serve? No, that definitively doesn’t resemble food or drink.

In an instant the whole evening seems shattered as shards of clay fall to the floor and the essence of pure nard drips from between the fingers of one who should have remained invisible in her service, but now commanded the attention of all. Amid what must have seemed like chaos, Jesus humbly bowed His head as the woman smashed her precious jar of oil and poured it over her Lord.

Did the room fall silent as the anointing oil flowed? I’d like to believe the lavish gift commanded the moment, but the story suggests otherwise. And here is where the surface of scripture became something altogether different for me. What had once been a window, became a mirror with the sound of the seething shouts.

I think it’s safe to say we don’t like being startled. As I “advance” to greater age, I have become more and more like my grandfather who would quite literally come up out of his chair when startled. And many times, in being startled I can react harshly. Do you suppose that’s what happened here? The guests in the room being startled by an unexpected smash and just lashing out, not really for purpose, but because they were taken off guard? Quite regrettably, no. That is not at all what this was. This was a very clear problem of perspective. A failure in having eyes to see. Just as Peter took His eyes off Jesus and saw only the water, the guests took their eyes off Jesus and saw only the oil. How many times do we do the same?

Looking into this mirror of the here-sighted harsh rebukes, I heard the echo of a seemingly innocent “proverb” from my adolescence that suggested someone could be so heavenly minded to be of no earthly use. I thank the Spirit for revealing the outright lie at the heart of that innocent sounding quip. It is the high purpose of the enemy of God to divert our eyes and desires from Him. We must put on the full armor of God to fight those sometimes frontal but most times subtle attacks, to keep our eyes fixed on Him. I love what C.S. Lewis has to say in Mere Christianity:

“… a continual looking forward to the eternal world is not (as some modern people think) a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do. It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is. If you read history, you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. The Apostles themselves, who set on foot the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English Evangelicals who abolished the Slave Trade, all left their mark on Earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with Heaven. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at Heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in’: aim at earth and you will get neither.”

“Leave her alone,” Jesus answers, before naming the invaluable thing the unnamed woman has done for Him. I guarantee that most gathered completely missed His full meaning, but He shut down their rebukes to call attention to the one who had “done what she could.” High praise from the High King of Heaven, but not meant to elevate anyone above His purpose. A window and a mirror have turned our eyes upon Jesus. May we continue to look past the oil and the water of our everyday and keep our eyes firmly fixed on Him.

For the second time in as many days, Jesus made a point to draw attention to one who gave all they had. Two days are all that’s left before He gives all He had for us. Although this is the time during this week when I most want to slow down to delay, or wish there could have been another way, we will continue walking at the Master’s pace to and through it all.

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Posted by: pmarkrobb | March 30, 2021

the Master’s class

As we walk deliberately through Jesus’ final days before dying and rising, we find ourselves, like the ancients, on this Tuesday in a MasterClass … or, more truly, in the Master’s class. Teaching is on tap for today. Teaching, teaching, and more teaching. There will be mountains moved by morning, mites magnified after midday and a meaningful mention of staying awake as no one knows whether the Master will return at midnight or morning. How does one tell of today when it would take all week to do it well?! My head is swimming a bit as I expect would have been true of an ancient who was with Jesus from waking to sleeping that Tuesday.

In passing by the wasted and withered fig tree the very next morning after it was cursed, Jesus chooses to teach. He answers Peter’s notice and amazement with a not-of-this-world truth for all that echoes to us today. Namely, how even the most trace amount of true faith in God can pick up a mountain and move it. And, oh, if there were time to unpack the deeply meaningful and yet seemingly unrelated lesson of the correlation between prayer and forgiveness in those same moments. But we need to keep moving. My own compel causes me to think of the Messiah’s that day. Wondering whether He felt the burden of being constrained by time in meeting and moving through all the purposed moments of today. My own sense of unease reminds me of a story my father has shared several times about a dear friend and a visit to Washington D.C. My father grew up just outside our nation’s capital and made several trips during my adolescence as a “tour guide” of sorts for friends who had never been. He had a deep knowledge of the city and keen sense for seeing its sites in a limited window of time. On their very first morning in the very first museum, my father’s friend walked up to the very first exhibit in the grand lobby and began reading the placard. Turning back to see his friend reading, my father casually returned to his friend’s side. Leaning in close to his friend’s ear, he encouraged his dear friend in this way. “If you only want to see this one museum during our time here, please continue reading. But if you would like to see anything else while we’re here, it is time to move on.” And so shall we.

The truth confounds and contorts those who set out to deceive. And so it was as Jesus and his disciples reached Jerusalem Tuesday morning. Jesus goes immediately to the temple and is met by a pack of elites who challenge the authority of His work and words. I’m not sure I noticed that first part before, or at least to the degree I did this year. Maybe a bit obscured by the crowd and the challenge of the religious elites was the setting where it happened. Perhaps this was another understated, intentional visit by the Son to have a look around at his Father’s house a day after making things new. Or, perhaps, He would answer me as He did his parents as a boy, “Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?” Luke 2:49b (NLT). Whatever the reason for the where, Jesus ties the “Have’s” in a knot by answering their question with one of His own. He then answered their non-answer with one of His own.

He went on to tell a story to all who were gathered but was aimed squarely at those who were even then plotting. It was the story of an owner of a vineyard and evil tenant farmers. The story found its mark and sent the evil ones scurrying in fear. Over and over again on this day the religious leaders grouped and regrouped. Jesus was teaching to all those gathered, but the most intense exchanges were with those who were not there to hear. They repeatedly tried to trick Jesus with their questions on authority and taxes and brides and brothers and the greatest commandment. They were so sure they’d catch Him in a trap. They tried to catch Him with clever, but who were they kidding?! The easy answer to that is … themselves.

After repeated exchanges with the various groups of elites, we find one of the most powerful and poignant moments of the day. Jesus deliberately sits down very near the collection box in the temple and waits. I wonder (because of the way the story is told in verses 41-44 of Mark 12) if He did so alone. I can see Him in my mind’s eye sitting and observing intently as people of all walks came to give out of what they had. Scripture specifically notes the large gifts from those who had much and then … “she” arrives. When He sees her, Jesus calls for His disciples to come. I wonder if His gestures were subtle or pronounced. This was something that could not be missed today. This deserved their full attention and intention in observation (as it does ours). Amid all the temple bustle, a poor widow approaches the collection box with every last bit of what she had to live on. Two tiny copper coins which she gave to her Lord with a heart I can only expect was full and glad. As the woman who will break open the bottle tomorrow, this one also gave all — every last bit of what she had. Is there any wonder Jesus would take time out of His beyond busy day to sit and watch this lavish gift? He knew she would be there. He also knew when. And He purposed to go, and to sit, and to wait, and to watch. Watch this woman give all to Him in the form of her two mites just days before He would give His all to her (and all) in stretching out His two arms.

Scripture’s account of the day concludes in some manner of how it began, with a single disciple making an observation and Jesus teaching something deeply meaningful to all of them in response. And later, as Jesus sat on the Mount of Olives and looked out over the valley to his Father’s house (Temple) on the other side, He articulated to Peter, James, John and Andrew who had come to Him privately, a picture of the birth pains that will precede His coming again. If their heads and hearts were not already full from the events and declarations of the day, I can only imagine what it was like for them to take that all in. Can you imagine what it was like to hear what following Him would personally cost them? Can you see their reactions on Friday and Saturday and early Sunday differently through this lens? The thought of paying that price with Him by their side would have been monumental enough. But imagine the weight of believing they were losing Him in seeing Him accused, condemned, brutally beaten, hanging on the Cross, breathing His last, and being taken down and away quickly to be buried before the new Shabbat “dawned.” Sometimes we can be quick to shake our heads at all the disciples missed and how they failed, but they were living the story that we already know. I, for one, cannot even imagine.

The sun would soon set on Tuesday and its teaching, and Jesus and his troop of Twelve would head back to their hospitality in Bethany. Today’s fervor will reignite tomorrow, but in a far more intimate setting and all because of the favor of one. What a treasure it is to be walking together at the Master’s pace.

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Posted by: pmarkrobb | March 29, 2021

tilled up and turned over

I wonder if Jesus politely refused breakfast this morning, already knowing about the barren fig tree and the deep truth God had purposed He share with His disciples today. God, who is outside of time, was now living within it. Did Jesus see His whole day at its beginning? Did He know the plan and purpose of daily things and conversations before He arrived at them? Or did He obey them in the moment, more as we do? I’m guessing, because He is God, the answer to all these questions is, somehow, yes.

Can we bring our hearts to the place of believing that Jesus might have already known every detail of His earthly life, and still experienced them and met moments of decision by obeying his Father’s leading in a way that is common to ours? Can you believe Jesus knew His Monday morning and about the tree, but then also that His hunger wasn’t His direct pre-purposing? And could you believe His gaze caught the tree in a way that yours might have, and in observing the tree He saw (in that specific moment) the deep truth his Father wanted Him to share? Does your understanding and experience of God fit into a box of someone’s making, or is He too big for a box?

Please forgive me and maybe … pray for me? <shrugged shoulders emoji> <smiley face emoji> I got all this from the quite pedestrian words of Mark 11:12. “The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry.”

I wonder how many Christians only learn the Bible. Learn, in the sense, that they are only ever taught it and do not truly experience it. They do not bring all their senses to it — seeing, smelling, tasting, touching and hearing the words, stories, characters, and truths about God. In my own experience, I believe there’s profound loss in only learning the Bible. It’s not that you can’t, but that you lose something profoundly precious in the choice. Maybe I can say it this way … it would be like having an intermediary or translator assigned to you on your wedding day or the first day you meet a lifelong friend and you never went or were anywhere without them and without them offering their own interpretation of the setting and circumstances and feelings and implications and decisions and … well, everything. Can you begin to imagine the profound loss of intimacy and knowing and relationship in that way of being and living?

In my own life, I have experienced deep truths about God and His presence and working through times spent in His word in a variety of settings. I remember a morning sitting at the back table with my head buried in the Bible and my notebook, and a moment of looking up at the sound of some flapping wings above me and catching a glorious glance of the sun reflecting off the bottoms of a sky full of seagulls. It was stunning! Like a thousand tiny flashbulbs. In that moment I saw this otherwise bothersome bird as the masterpiece God’s Word says I am (Ephesians 2:10, specifically in the words of the New Living Translation). I further remember stepping out my side door (after some sacred time with God moments before) to the most surreal experience of seeing and feeling Winter but hearing Spring in the song of nearby birds. In that moment, I saw the beauty and power of a soul that sings in a season of suffering. Vivid experiences of God and His truth. Experiences which will stay with me for the remainder of my days and speak and sing as I experience even more of Him through His Word and those He created and purposed for my path.

Jesus invited Thomas to touch His wounds. He concealed truths in stories for those who had ears to hear. He invited the disciples to eat and drink elements that He declared as His body and blood as the old covenant made new in Him. It is God’s desire for us to experience Him with all our senses. To “taste and see,” as the Psalmist said, that He is good (Psalm 34:8). A practical way we can do that is to bring our whole selves to the reading of His Word. To become a disciple waking on that Monday morning and later walking with Jesus and hearing Him curse the tree with no fruit and violently making a mess of the mess that had been made of His house.

Monday in the life of Jesus during this particularly sacred week before dying and rising was disruptive. A bold challenge in the form of a stern (and seemingly out of the blue) rebuke of a fig tree and a house cleaning of all house cleanings. The ground in many human hearts was tilled up and turned over on this day. Jesus was just steps into the full measure of the road that only He could travel. Tomorrow He will teach. Today He turned over. Oh, what great goodness awaits as we continue to walk together with Him.

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Posted by: pmarkrobb | March 28, 2021

deep purpose in His peruse

The time had come for redemption’s plan to be fulfilled. Every moment of Jesus’ coming and living and ministering was tilted in the direction of this watershed week. Every word and deed and detail in His life was purposed and it would be powerfully and exponentially so beginning today … parade day.

As Jesus and his disciples neared the very same place He would surrender to the Roman guards in the Garden, He paused to begin His surrender to the Father’s plan of redemption. At the Mount of Olives, Jesus gave explicit instructions to two of his disciples to go ahead and retrieve a young donkey. They found it exactly as He said and answered the questioning onlookers exactly as He had instructed. The Lord was borrowing the burro and would return it. I wonder whose job that was, to leave the city amid all the buzz and walk the donkey back from whence it came? There’s every reason to believe it was the two, and I can only imagine what they talked about along the way there and back. To some degree, they were used to things happening as the Master said and for reasons that didn’t resemble the earthly ones they were accustomed to. They had been learning to just do as the Master said and then watch.

The city of Jerusalem was bursting at the seams and bustling with the business of Passover. That “business” was in Jesus’ sights that day. He was riding into the city as its King, for sure, but not to be crowned (that would happen, but not today). There are 10x more verses written in Mark’s gospel account of about Jesus’ preparing and the parade on “Palm Sunday,” but there is one that speaks very subtly yet pointedly to a core purpose of today. Mark 11:11 (ESV) says, “And he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple. And when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.”

The word translated as “looked around” has a far more purposed connotation than the English translation may suggest. This was no browse through Housewares, this was an intentional and thorough observation of the current state of things in God’s house. For years I completely missed this verse — to the detriment of my understanding of the turning over the tables Jesus would do tomorrow. Absent this understanding, Jesus’ actions can be perceived to be the equivalent of a temple “tirade” or “tantrum.” With this understanding, one can see what it truly was – righteous anger and a rooting out of the cancer that was poisoning God’s house with the precision of a scalpel. Jesus’ problem was not with the pilgrims, it was with the profiteers. And He had a look around today to be certain his actions tomorrow were targeted and thorough.

The arc of my writing this week begins with an emphasis on “as it was already late,” and will land on the last day “while it was still dark.” Setting and rising sun bookends in the story of this sacred week in the life of the dying and rising Son. We should not miss the purpose in today’s parade. Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a humble beast to fulfill the Old Testament prophecy of the Messiah as a King. But let us also not miss the deep purpose in His peruse. He looked around in order to root out. His house cleaning would wait a day. What a pattern for our own lives in how we respond to the things which offend and anger us. What a week that’s just begun!

Posted by: pmarkrobb | March 26, 2021

it’s an empty Cross and crypt

The season of Lent is the second most important purposed practice of my life relative to my faith. By an exponential factor, my daily time with God is first. But after that, it is my very personal and practical observance of Lent. And the pinnacle of the Lent experience for me is Holy Week. How is that possible, when nothing should be able to hold a candle to Resurrection Day? Because you cannot get to Resurrection Day without first passing through the staggering silence of Saturday and the redemptive power of Friday. Then, there’s the making new of the central elements of the central observance of the central festival on Thursday, and so on, and so on all the way through the Messiah’s riding into the city of God on the back of a small donkey on Palm Sunday. Our faith and our salvation can be all about one day, while at the very same time being about every other day in the story of God.

And so, here at Journey OnWord, we renew a tradition (that began a good many years ago) by pausing before intentionally walking through each day of the week our Savior walked … into the city, the temple, the supper, the Cross and out of the empty tomb (He is Risen!). I invite you to shed the weight of all that burdens you and breath a deep and beautiful cleansing breath as we shine a light on the daily details of The Light of the World as He walked to and through the Cross and the grave to fulfill the Father’s plan of redemption.

For many years, my celebration of Easter was centered on things other than what should have been at the center. Repeated, intentional walks through the sacred week leading up to it has fixed my eyes rightly on the One who has rescued and redeemed me and who’s making all things new. Easter’s gift isn’t a full basket or bucket, it’s an empty Cross and crypt.

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Posted by: mikenicholsblog | March 21, 2021

a correction and our forward course

— DAILY BIBLE READING CORRECTION —

Please note the following correction to the Daily Bible Reading schedule:
Monday, March 22nd  –  I John 3:1-24
Tuesday, March 23rd  –  I John 4:1-21

We’re quickly moving toward Holy Week and wanted to give you an update on what will be happening that week, as well for the remainder of the year. We have nearly completed a 60-day journey through the Bible which we hope you have enjoyed. Beginning Palm Sunday, all journeyonword.com subscribers will receive daily articles moving us to the Cross and finishing on Resurrection Day. Holy Week articles have been a wonderful part of our ministry, and I am sure you will enjoy this year’s edition by our partner Mark Robb.

On April 5th, our Bible reading will transition its focus to the characters of Scripture. From Abraham to Jonah to Jesus and beyond, your heart will be refreshed by men and women whose lives teach us so much for our journey today. We are passionate about helping men and women encounter God through consistent study of His Word. Our plan is to introduce each character with an article to launch your study. If you need a copy of our reading plan, click here to access it.

Thank you for partnering with us in studying the Word.

Journey onWord Team

Posted by: mikenicholsblog | February 18, 2021

the rest of a story … for your story

What a season!  It has been weeks since the ground in Northeast Ohio wasn’t snow covered. Who can ever remember Texas being a frozen tundra and Nashville seemingly under siege for a year (a tornado, terrorist attack, and now a deep freeze)?!  Oh, and, by the way, it has been almost a year of wearing masks and watching nonstop political acrimony. What a season!  And then this week, I read about Job. He is certainly the poster child for ‘what a season!’

Paul Harvey brought smiles to millions with the rest of the story.  However, his humorous and profound stories are no match for the rest of the story found in Job chapter forty-two. What we see of Job’s life through the pages of Scripture causes us to “feel his pain” and genuinely hurt for him. Losing his family, being directly attacked by Satan, and the condescension of his friends all took their toll. We catch a glimpse of his pain through his emotional and passionate words. But then something happened: God spoke! And the rest of the story is a picture of grace, forgiveness, healing and restoration.

If you have read the book of Job, you know God speaks in chapters 38-41. The counsel of others brought hurt, not help, in the midst of Job’s plight. But when God spoke, Job was deeply moved. Principles from Job chapter forty-two provide a dramatic conclusion. Let the rest of his story give hope for your journey.

I know that you can do all
things; no plan of yours can be
thwarted.
You asked, ‘Who
is this that obscures my counsel
without knowledge?’ Surely I
spoke of things I did not
understand, things too wonderful
for me to know.

My ears had heard of you but
now my eyes have seen you.

Therefore I despise myself and
repent in dust and ashes.

Job 42:2-3, 5-6

For lack of a better way to say it, after God spoke Job got the message. He acknowledges God’s power and responds to God’s wisdom. And although I cannot know the depths of verse five, I believe Job was now seeing with eyes of faith and understanding that gave him the ability to accept God’s plan. Can you remember a time where your hearing became seeing, and your view of God’s plan became clear? And then when Job’s eyes were opened, repentance came. Whether at the moment of salvation, or along the spiritual journey, when our eyes are opened to our sin, repentance is needed.

As the rest of the story nears its conclusion, reconciliation between Job and his friends is in full view. God gave strong instructions to Job’s friends and Job prayed for them. It was after this prayer that God restored to Job prosperity and blessed him again with ten more children. I sensed a heart of forgiveness in Job as he prayed for those who abused him. I sensed a heart of grace from God to restore Job’s wealth and give him children. I am profoundly touched by the words of verse twelve. “The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the first.” (WOW!) When we face trials, do we really believe that what God has for us is better than anything we could imagine or wish for ourselves outside of that trial?

What a season! I can’t speak to global weather patterns, awful viruses and political acrimony, but I know God is in control. And God knew what He was doing with Job in his tough season. He also knows what He is doing with you and me. He knows the rest of our story.

So hold tight in your current season, and trust God with your story.

Posted by: mikenicholsblog | January 31, 2021

faith in the Faithful One

A month of reading through familiar portions of the Old Testament has taken us from a garden to a wilderness, from family struggles to a nation’s unbelief, all the while reminding us of the frailty and selfishness of mankind, the power of God, and His great patience.  We have seen faith exhibited and certainly significant examples of failure in trusting God. From Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sarah, Jacob and Esau to Joseph, Moses, Gideon, Samson, Samuel and Saul, the Old Testament has reminded us that God can be trusted. No matter how men and women of all ages have battled sin, selfishness, doubt, relational struggles and trust issues, God has always been trustworthy.

February’s journey through Scripture (from David’s battle with Goliath all the way to Jesus’ profound teaching in the Sermon on the Mount), will show again God’s profound grace and trustworthiness … and man’s struggle to trust Him.  In your continuing journey with us, know that there is nothing that can encourage, strengthen and prepare us for each day’s battle like the Word of God.  Nothing!  And if your life is anything like mine, there is a deep need to receive daily insight from His Word.

As you read and seek God through His Word, I am trusting and will pray for a year of defining moments in your life. Moments of growth and deeper faith for the journey ahead!  I would like to share such a moment from the life of Hudson Taylor that I have personally just revisited. I believe Taylor loved His Lord and wanted to fulfill God’s design for his life. After all, he landed in China in 1854 and started the China Inland Mission. But, for a season, he also struggled mightily in his faith. Then, as I recall, a letter from a friend birthed a defining moment. From that point forward, he stopped striving to be faithful and would instead trust the Faithful One. In essence, he shifted the weight of his faith journey from himself to the Faithful One!  Something all of us need to do.

Think of struggling with faith issues and doubt and then, as the result of the shift …

 “I am no longer anxious about anything … for He, I know, is able to carry out His will, and His will is mine.  It makes no matter where He places me, or how. That is rather for Him to consider than for me, for in the easiest position He must give me His grace, and in the difficult His grace is sufficient.  It little matters to my servant whether I send him to buy a few cash worth of things or the most expensive articles. In either case he looks to me for the money and brings me his purchases.  So, if God should place me in great perplexity, must He not give me much guidance; in positions of great difficulty, much grace; in circumstances of great pressure and trial, much strength? No fear that His resources will be unequal to the emergency!  And His resources are mine—for He is mine, and is with me and dwells in me.”
Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secrets, Dr. and Mrs. Howard Taylor
(emphasis is mine)

You and I may never claim to be a Hudson Taylor, but we have God’s love letter to us, and in Christ, His power within us.  Could it be that as we read through His Word in 2021, we sense the grace to stop striving and begin to daily lean on the Faithful One? That will be a defining moment.

Continue the Journey in Scripture with us this month!

Posted by: mikenicholsblog | January 13, 2021

nothing-new-under-the-sun families

“I want more” were the words which came to mind as I read Scripture yesterday morning. “More of what?” you might ask. In doing a survey of the Bible in 60 days, we are brushing broad strokes across stories that I hold dear. Don’t just give me pieces and parts of Joseph’s story, “I want more.” In this discontent I must remind myself (and you) not to worry. By the time we finish ’21, Joseph and other Bible characters will give you the “more” we’re looking for! And speaking of 21, I wonder in our overview of Genesis if you’ve noticed some patterns that bring to mind 21st century living?

Cain and Abel … family issues!
Noah … family issues!
Lot … family issues!
Jacob and Esau … family issues!
Joseph and his brothers … family issues!

Woven through the fabric of Genesis is a foreshadowing of family relationships in our own time (nothing new under the sun, indeed, Solomon).  Dysfunctional! Almost everyone has looked at their family (or extended family) and wondered what in the world is happening. In our minds, things should be better. And in our weakest moments, we even feel sorry for ourselves. Jacob’s words in Genesis 42:36 ring in my ears as I think about the family dynamics of today. He seemed at his wit’s end.

Their father Jacob said to them, “You have deprived me of my sons. Joseph is gone and Simeon is gone. Now you want to take Benjamin. Everything happens to me!” (HCSB)

Granted, he was at a hard place, but his words (Everything happens to me) remind me of how we all sometimes feel when our family dynamics are in upheaval.

Over the last two weeks in reading pieces and parts of Genesis, issues of selfishness, immorality, deceitfulness, bad decisions and even favoritism have been exposed. As your friend, I would venture to say that your family faces some of those very issues today. The sin and dysfunction in families centuries ago, along with the models of wrong thinking and selfish living are alive and well today. So, what should Christ-followers do amid circumstances we seemingly can’t control, fix, or avoid? Take a moment to look with me at the character from Genesis I mentioned in the opening paragraph … Joseph. In reading his story, I see a heart of unfailing forgiveness. After his brothers threw his life into a tailspin that God used for His glory, we find the words of Genesis 50:20 …

You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people. (NLT)

God’s grace had worked so deeply in this man that his perspective with his brothers was amazing.

The view of family life in Genesis with all its dysfunction but also pictures of faith, trust and forgiveness, is the nothing-new-under-the-sun one we have today. Two thoughts come to mind as to how we can navigate family life in 2021. First, decide to ask this question of every family situation: What is His perspective?” Consistently asking God for His perspective changes the way you look at others and how you respond to them. And believe me, God has a perspective on how to handle dysfunction. Ask the question daily! Second, frame all family relationships through the lens of Ephesians 4:29. Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. (NLT) If you and I consistently give words of encouragement, forgiveness and healing, our families will see a picture of what life can be. Try it!

There will always be dysfunction. But as Christ-followers, we have God’s perspective from His Word to navigate our family relationships. Your family dysfunction may not end in 2021, but your life of encouragement and forgiveness can make a difference.

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