Posted by: pmarkrobb | December 13, 2020

emergency or Emmanuel?

The word “unprecedented” has been all but worn out in describing the nature of what we have walked through as people, families, and communities of faith and geography in 2020. I suppose that’s because it’s hard to find a truer word. Bodies are under attack by a terrible virus, yes, but I also believe other, equally destructive contagions have been loosed by the necessities of our response to the pandemic. Things like quarantine and personal protective equipment have isolated us in ways that are, well … unprecedented. And I could write for days in detailing the woes, worries, curses, and costs, but …

(Yes, the abrupt stop is purposeful and, oh, how it is needed.)

If we can (just for a few minutes here in this space) quiet all that noise, I would like to offer a clear and concise question. One I believe to be more fundamental than any of the thousand, million others that could be asked. That question is:

“Where do I go?”

Our lives and our world are a full orchard of low hanging fruit when it comes to what can trouble our hearts. But exactly in this moment, in the midst of the minutes that make up this day, our Lord clearly whispers to us, “Let not your heart be troubled.”  John 14:1 (KJV)

I can only imagine how some might respond to that suggestion or the astronomical odds some would give on the reality of living with a quieted, peaceful heart right now. I know. I promise I know. But can you give yourself just a sliver of time today to hear that whisper? To push back against the tide that continues to crest and break over the rocks or sand of your shoreline and just get quiet. Where have you been going for answers? Who has become your expert? Who is the person in whom you place the most trust?

I see a very clear challenge in our right now. A challenge to us in the singular sense, and to all of us as families and communities together. For you, and for us all together, will this be a season of emergency or Emmanuel? Sure, that’s catchy and certainly fits with the blessed event we are Adventing, but I am not trying to be catchy or Christmassy. There is a choice before us. A very real and fundamental challenge to our believing what we believe. A life-altering challenge to our trust. A fierce storm is upon us. Will we be battered about by the fierce winds, frantically filling and spilling buckets of water over the edge of our sinking ship or will others find us with the One who is sleeping below deck? I believe, in many ways, people of genuine faith have mistaken masks and other things like that as the battle before us. But I see us as disciples of Jesus standing in a boat in an unprecedented storm. And like them then, our test now is … emergency or Emmanuel?

These are not times when the light-hearted and more surface experiences of things like “happy” or “fun” seem near. But do not believe the lie the enemy of God is most certainly peddling right now — that deeper and truer things like goodness, joy and peace are not possible. Go to Him. Go below deck where He is sleeping. Don’t rouse. Gently lay the body blows and every bit of your very real burden at His feet. Give Him your worry, anger, fear, depression, indecision, heartache, mistrust or loneliness. Give Him all those things you’ve turned to that were other than Him. Fight the urge to take any or all of it back. Hear Him whisper these words into your heart.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
John 16:33 (NIV)

This is so very important for us, but there are also kingdom implications. If God wills and also waits in His coming again, there will be other times when being ready with an answer for the hope that is within you could be just what someone else notices or needs. But do you see that chance now? If there were ever a time when a kind word turning away wrath or standing tall and sure as the wind whips around you would cause someone to take notice, it is now. Father, help us be ready. Give us opportunities to share our answer for the Hope that is within me. There are still so many who need You.

When all else around us suggests or shouts otherwise, God is on His throne. Not a single second of our circumstances or sufferings escape His notice. Take heart my brother or sister, He is sovereign. He is near. Emmanuel, my brother and sister. God with us. He who spoke the world into existence and with His life and death and resurrection broke the power of evil and death is holding all of this … and He is holding you. Take heart. Go to Him.

Posted by: mikenicholsblog | November 22, 2020

and genuine thanksgiving to Him is in order

Later this week, we will all pause for our annual tradition of Thanksgiving. It feels different this year with all the rules and encouragements for smaller family gatherings, eating outside or six feet apart. But perhaps we can distinguish this as an “of the world” mindset and fix our minds, rather, on the freedoms of being “in the world.” The source of real Thanksgiving for all Christ-followers is our God, and He is still good. When it seems that all else has, His love has not changed. Please reflect on the following words, and lead your family and loved ones with this truth: He is good and His love endures forever.

Every year as Thanksgiving approaches, we can look back over the last year and say, as Charles Dickens did in A Tale of Two Cities, “It was the best of times and the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”  Each year, our past and future will be part joy and difficulty, smiles and tears, new energy and tired bodies. In 1621 when the pilgrims gave thanks, it was not without recognition of the heartbreak of the last year. When President Washington proclaimed Thanksgiving a nation-wide holiday in 1789, he knew the struggles which were behind and before the people of the fledgling republic. But with a grateful heart, he declared it to be a day of prayer and giving thanks to God. Over 200 years later, the day is still special.  Joys and difficulties persist, but God is still good … and genuine thanksgiving to Him is in order.

Truth be told, for many, Thanksgiving is their favorite holiday of the year. Families gather, the turkey and trimmings are great (and so are the leftovers).  Football comes in the afternoon, and for some it’s a four-day weekend. If you are like me, those items alone create thankfulness, but there has to be more.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts
with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.
Psalm 103:4-5

When life seems too difficult, He cares .. He is good and His love endures forever
When the sun is bright, and we can smile .. He is good and His love endures forever
When we pray, He has the answers .. He is good and His love endures forever
When we are fearful, grace is available .. He is good and His love endures forever
When hope fades, and no one understands .. He is good and His love endures forever

With all the joys and sorrows of this past year, one thing never changed. He is good and His love endures forever! It is easy to immerse ourselves in each new challenge, and forget that He is good and His love endures forever. In 1621, the pilgrims stopped in the midst of their struggle to give thanks. Should we be any different? He is good and His love endures forever.   As we celebrate Thanksgiving later this week, let those words ring clear. You may (like me) have a tendency to get caught up in all the earthly joy of the holiday, but God’s grace has been poured out on our country and our lives, and He deserves our deepest thanks and highest praise.

He is good and His love endures forever!

Posted by: mikenicholsblog | July 20, 2020

subtle selfishness

It’s happened to all of us. We’ve spoken (maybe even passionately) to someone who was absolutely not listening. We could see it in their eyes, that our words were falling on deaf ears. Conversely, we’ve also been on the receiving end of a conversation where we had absolutely no idea what the speaker was saying. We all make excuses for not listening. We were distracted, extremely tired, in a hurry, there were too many details — the list goes on and on. At the core of our poor listening is a subtle selfishness. It whispers, I am more important than you. Those words may sound overly blunt or harsh, but that doesn’t make them any less true.

The people in our lives deserve to be heard. I heard someone say once, “When I speak, all anyone hears is blah, blah, blah!” You, like me, have probably felt that way. Sadly, we’ve also listened that way. Listening can be boiled down to one word … focus!

Writing about this subject without admitting my failures would be inappropriate. I’m pretty driven and intentional as to what I want to accomplish. Without much effort, my agenda will dictate my thinking and I can easily lose focus on what others are saying to me.  I would never want to say it this way, but it is the subtle selfishness I mentioned above; I am more important than you, or my time is too important to stop what I am doing and listen to you. It’s easy to say “just listen.” It’s far more difficult to live deliberately present in each moment, and “really listen.” Do you struggle as a good listener?

In my personal growth journey, I ran across some pages that were ripped from an article. The words truly help me frame the way I should actively listen and be present with others in a profound way. If you will take the same words and internalize them, your listening skills will improve and others will sense that you are truly focusing on them and care about their needs.  The words were written in the Cedarville TORCH magazine in 2011. They can be attributed to a great author, Dr. Richard Swenson.

“The focus of Christ’s ministry was always the person standing in front of Him. The person standing in front of me is an obstacle I ‘m trying to get over, under, around, or through because I’m late for whatever is down the road.  Jesus did not cure every case of leprosy in Israel. If you could just look at it or touch it and heal it, wouldn’t you hold a clinic until 3a.m. every morning? Wouldn’t you give the disciples only an hour of sleep and keep running from village to village? Jesus didn’t do that; He knew there would be more leprosy tomorrow. How completely contrary that is to my whole mentality.”

His focus was always the person standing in front of Him … Hmmm! Although I don’t have an exact example to give you, I believe with all my heart that Christ dealt with people that way. It’s my opinion that His attention and care was directed toward the needs of those (individually or as a group) who were in front of Him at any given moment. Living with this kind of focus is a rarity in our fast-paced, check-my-cell-phone, read-my-texts, get-to-the-next-meeting world. As a result, we hear half statements, draw wrong conclusions, offend those we love, and selfishly infer I am more important than you. I’ll say it again, listening can be boiled down to one word … focus!

A popular mantra in the 1990’s was WWJD (What Would Jesus Do).  I can tell you one thing He would do, because I believe He did it. He would focus on the person right in front of Him. So should I, and so should you! Today, you will stand in front of someone who is speaking to you. Will your eyes drift, will your hand reach for a phone, or will your mind wander to another place? You know what Jesus did … and what He wants you to do. Listen with laser focus and show others the care that Christ would have definitely shown them (and you). I haven’t mastered it yet, but I’m growing. Grow with me!

Posted by: mikenicholsblog | June 22, 2020

He knows

Sunday was Father’s Day, and I was reminded that, while I always wanted to be the best dad, there were times I fell short of my expectations. I remember one less than stellar dad day ten years ago when I had a cell phone conversation with my daughter that, shall I say, wasn’t fair to her. Good news is she’s a great forgiver, so my follow-up call and apology were accepted.

Upon returning to my office that particular day, I had an issue to handle and started a phone call with an attitude. The call ended fine, but I was convinced that my responses needed to be more in line with what I believe. Maybe you can relate! Often, I am drawn back to reality while spending time with friends and witnessing real pain, not just the petty irritations of a grumpy old man. God understands when we are grumpy … and when our pain is real and deep. We can all be thankful for His forgiveness, patience and grace.

David, in one of his beautiful psalms, provides us with a clear understanding of God’s knowledge concerning our pain, our grumpiness, our thoughts … our everything!

God, investigate my life; get all the facts firsthand. I’m an open book to you; even from a distance, you know what I’m thinking. You know when I leave and when I get back; I’m never out of your sight. You know everything I am going to say before I start the first sentence. I look behind me and you’re there, then up ahead and you’re there, too—your reassuring presence, coming and going. This is too much, too wonderful—I can’t take it all in!
Psalm 139:1-6 (MSG)

Can you accept the fact that He knows what you are thinking before you think it and are going to say before you say it? Without a doubt, God is all-knowing and omnipresent. Our struggle is that we give assent to these great truths, yet too often live on a path which is only parallel to them. If the Creator of the Universe who gave His Son for our salvation already knows everything, doesn’t it make sense we would want to continually intersect our lives with His design?

It’s easy to agree with that rhetorical sentence, but when we struggle with thoughts, attacks by Satan, real pain and various other stresses, we often move away from or stop short of God’s plan. Quickly, we can find ourselves speaking with harshness, thinking negative, angry thoughts, asking why or simply running our lives on a parallel track from His purpose. But He knows everything!

My Father knows before I go grumpy, and when you and I have deep hurts. He knows our thoughts and what we are going to say even before we speak it. Despite how we drift and often blow it, He cares (beyond our comprehension), He understands (even when we don’t understand ourselves), and He is willing (with His gentle hand of grace) to meet us at our point of need. No matter what is happening in your life right now, give it all to the Father. He already knows all about it anyway.

Posted by: tjrobb | May 26, 2020

sins and shadows

“Old sins cast long shadows.“

Have you ever heard that saying before? There are probably as many interpretations for it as the number of years it’s been around (quite possibly since the 1600’s).

Peter Adam, a vicar emeritus at St. Jude’s Carlton in Melbourne, speaking of how the aborigines were treated long ago by the country of Australia uses the ancient words in that context when he says: “Ancient wrongs have consequences which last for generations. Innocent people suffer because of the sins of people they do not even know, who lived in the past. ‘Old sins cast long shadows.’”

All sin has consequence. At times, those consequences are immediate and finite. But there are also times when the consequences linger, and their effects are felt for generations. As Christ-followers and students of scripture, we see this principle pictured over and over in God’s Word. Genesis chapter three records the very first disobedience that opened the door to sin (separation from God), that mankind has been dealing with ever since.

Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.
Romans 5:18-19 (ESV)

The words of Paul centuries later, referring to Adam’s first sin.

But hear these as well …

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
1 Peter 1:3 (ESV)

Did you catch that? God in His great mercy sent the second Adam (His precious Son) to right the wrong caused by Adam and Eve’s disobedience.

Perhaps you’re struggling today with the results of sin in your life. Perhaps, unbeknownst to you, it is a pattern of sin which began generations before. As a Christ-follower, first ask your Heavenly Father for forgiveness.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1 John 1:9 (ESV)

Then, heed the words of James in stopping your own pattern of sin, and possibly one that began generations before you …

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

Hear clearly today that Jesus’ death on the cross broke the power of sin over our lives, and generational sins can stop with you. You can begin today (right now) to create a new story for you and for those to come. You may struggle but the struggle matters, especially when it is lovingly and prayerfully exposed as an example for those who follow.

And then, as fitting punctuation to all of it, Hebrews 10:17 calls back through the ages to the words of the prophet Jeremiah:

I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.

All of this to say … there is forgiveness from sin and in Christ a hope for today and the future.

Begin today …… Old Sins Need Not Cast Long Shadows

Posted by: mikenicholsblog | May 24, 2020

the only way to “drive” …

Do you have days that seem to linger in your memory? It has been nine years since I got to drive at the BMW testing center. It was great fun — except for my massive control issues. A very close friend invited me to participate with him in a high-performance driving school. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to drive high performance cars at fast speeds through sharp turns. With better planning, I would have been the first driver in each session, but my friend always took the driver’s seat first. You must understand, he likes fast speeds and sharp turns (with burning rubber). There were several white-knuckle moments and my theme song for the day was “Nearer My God to Thee.” In all honesty, it was a great experience and I had a wonderful time. But my friend’s comfort with the power of the cars and his fearless driving gave him the ability to challenge the course in ways I couldn’t.  He relished the power and I sought control.

Even today, I regret not enjoying and relishing the power in those cars. Being so consumed with controlling the car derailed the power. In a similar way, Christ-followers often limit God’s power available to us. The apostle Paul was obviously concerned that the believers at Ephesus didn’t have a full understanding of the power of God in their lives. In a marvelous prayer for them, he mentions the greatness of the power available to us:

I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms.
Ephesians 1:19-20 (NLT)

Understanding the power available to us in Christ helps dispel the fear and doubt that clamor to control us. It’s my opinion that believers in Christ live with a small view of God’s power on a personal level. Sure, it’s easy to marvel at His creation power and the power to make us a new creation in Him, but do we live expecting His power to work in and through us? Think about the fact that you never need to ask Christ for more power. You and I already possess every bit of God’s power we could ever need or want. Our problem is applying that marvelous power to our daily walk. It’s no secret that those who live trusting His power seem to regularly see answers to prayer and live with far greater confidence and joy.

At this very moment, are you enjoying the great power available to you, or are you just struggling through the Christian life in your own strength? You may feel you’re battling between trusting His power and seeking to control your own journey. We all experience that battle. But I would like to believe that in my journey and yours, we are growing in understanding and applying the power that is ours more and more. Why would we want to live any differently?

Now, back to my high-performance driving experience … My friend and I drove the same cars. He went faster and made sharper turns. What caused me to fear, he experienced as great exhilaration. We both had a great time, but on different levels.  I struggled with controlling the car, and he enjoyed all its power. Because I had to be in control, I never really released the car to discover the limits of its power. My friend got closer to truly experiencing the fullness of each car’s power.  I pray you see my point clearly: understanding and applying His power is the only way to “drive.”

Drive well for Christ!

Posted by: mikenicholsblog | May 19, 2020

keep praying and believing, knowing …

Who is that one person you have prayed and prayed over? You want them to know Christ as Savior so badly, but your fear says they will never take the step of faith and may have even stunted your prayers for them. Would you allow me to offer this very personal story as an encouragement to you to keep praying? …

It’s been almost twenty years now since he first walked into my office. My new acquaintance shared that he wanted to do business with me because I helped with the funerals of both his mother and father. The strange-but-honest truth was, I had no recollection of his parents. But he wanted my help, and I was all in!

Over time, Jerry and I became good friends in business, sports, and everyday life. In all of it, however, there was a wall I could approach but never get quite close enough to scale and cross over. It was made of spiritual matter that mattered a great deal to me! Have you ever tried to strike up a conversation about faith, Christ, and eternity, only to strike out? And in a way, that although polite, quite clearly said, “We aren’t going there.” Well, I have … and I did, repeatedly.

Somewhere in our first decade of friendship, Jerry got throat cancer and my desire to be a witness for Christ deepened. He had one set back after another, and it was hard for him to even have lunch with me because of his reduced throat capacity. Our friendship grew during that time, but so did my urgency and concern over my perceived lack of effectiveness for Christ. I tried different angles, even once giving him the book The Purpose Driven Life. But I continued to strike out in my trying to strike up discussions about faith. We were fast friends as it related to all our local sports teams (which included the awesome Ohio State Buckeyes – sorry, not sorry, for the shameless bias) and we shared a lot about our kids, but I couldn’t ever quite get close enough to conversations about the thing that mattered most to me.

Reaching the later stages of our second decade of friendship, it became obvious that Jerry was getting weaker. My guilt grew as my perception grew of not being the best witness I could possibly be. I was great at putting Jerry on my prayer list, but then I would fail to speak up. I would eventually try to strike up, but then always struck out. Do you ever have similar feelings or failings?

Jerry and I never faltered in talking sports, life, and business, but always failed to get to what I really wanted to talk about. I questioned if he would ever come to Christ. Then, on November 27th, 2017, Jerry spoke words that were all-at-once shock and thrilling to me:

“I need to make my peace with God.”

That was how our conversation began.

Jerry made it clear that day that he would not just make a decision. He had questions, but no intention of making a decision. But God was working, and I was intent on seeing this through.

Time passed, and Jerry became desperately weak. I will never forget the day I went to see him in the hospital determined not to leave until he made a decision. As I walked into his room, he said, “Before you say anything, I accepted Christ.” He had made a decision of faith in Jesus after watching a couple of church services on TV. And he wanted me to know! I left the room for a few minutes and upon returning found another friend speaking with Jerry. And what were Jerry’s first words to me?

“Tell him what I did!”

… and I shared with the man about my dear friend’s conversion.

To this day, there is no doubt in my mind that Jerry is with Jesus. I felt prompted to write this story because you may have a Jerry in your life. His or her name may be different, but you’ve prayed and prayed over ___________. You’ve questioned if they will ever accept Christ. You may even be frustrated that you haven’t done enough. But your journey with ___________ isn’t over, and God’s power to work is far beyond your capacity to understand … or try. So, keep praying and believing, knowing that God will do His part. Remember, He gave His only Son for ____________.

Posted by: mikenicholsblog | May 11, 2020

if that includes stopping traffic, so be it!

Recently, you may have been one of the millions who heard Andrea Bocelli sing “Amazing Grace” in front of a beautiful cathedral in Italy.  As a Christ-follower, I have experienced His real Amazing Grace. Sadly, however, there are times when I view others with a bit of judgment that falls short of showing the grace He’s shown me. You may have caught yourself doing the same. My hope is that the next few paragraphs will serve as a reminder of God’s perspective … and His Amazing Grace!

Years ago, I spent several days traveling with a friend and business associate. Our commonality in business, and especially faith, made the week more enjoyable for me. During one of the rare times that we weren’t together that week, I passed through an intersection that had people of need wanting help. One of those requesting help with her sign was a young pregnant woman. To my shame, I characterized her life with less than loving judgement and kept going. I guess I had forgotten I was raised in a home ravaged with alcohol and saw my father (though very loving) have his career and life cut very short. Having experienced Amazing Grace, how could I so quickly disregard her value?  My quick judgment was callous to her pain, and blind to her spiritual potential. When you look at those on the curb, or even those in your life, do you look with eyes of judgment or spiritual potential?

Twenty years ago, another great friend and former work associate was anything but a Christian.  It would have been easy to doubt that he would ever see the Light. But in a great way, God changed his life. I often tell him, “One thing you can’t deny is ‘the testimony of a changed life.’” He has been transformed from a worldly self-centered man to one who possesses a passionate faith and is a selfless giver. Was he ever too far gone?! Not for God! I knew him as a casual friend at that point but had no thoughts that one day his joyful faith would consistently challenge mine.

I would guess that every person reading this post has sung the beloved hymn “Amazing Grace” countless times. But if we had known its author early in his life, there is no doubt we would have doubted he would become a man of faith. We would have definitely passed judgement on rebel!  John Newton was a ruthless slave trader who captained his own ship. It was during a violent storm at sea that he had “a great deliverance.” His life was remarkably changed, and generations have benefited from that change. Note the first verse of Amazing Grace.

Amazing Grace! (how sweet the sound)
That sav’d a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now I am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

John Newton knew that amazing grace well, and quite literally was the “wretch like me” that God saved. Even though we don’t doubt God’s ability, would we have been calloused to Newton’s pain and blind to his spiritual potential? With judgmental eyes it would have been easy to look at a vile, ruthless slave trader and never envision what God could do. For me (and maybe you), it is too easy to pass by the hurting and forget that except for the grace of God, that could be us.  I am thankful that God stretched out His arms of grace and changed that wretch called Newton into a redeemed servant of God. God has used him to touch the world through his great hymn, and just think, you and I may have just passed him by!

Now, my purpose is not to challenge you to stop traffic when you see a pregnant woman holding a sign looking for help. But I would challenge you (and me) to be less callous to the hurting and blind to their spiritual potential. If that includes stopping traffic, so be it! Also, think about those in your life who need the Lord that you may have doubted could ever trust the Savior. The personal story of my friend and the historical tale of John Newton are evidence of God’s incredible life-changing love. He gave His best and Only as a sacrifice for all of us, and all our sins. The truth is, we are all wretches saved only by faith in Christ.

So today, if you know Him, give thanks that “you were blind, but now you see.” And don’t doubt that those that we devalue, and those you love (who don’t yet know the Savior) can have their eyes opened and lives changed too. Pray with faith for them, and never doubt. I trust and pray that one day you’ll smile when that person that once was lost, is now found.

PS: If you are wondering about your eternal destiny, and have questions, please contact us. We would love to help you!

Posted by: tjrobb | May 6, 2020

a goose and a swan pointing the way to The Lamb

“Dnes pečete hus, ale přijde labuť, kterou nebudete moci upéci.” (original Czech language)

“Today you burn a goose, but in one hundred years a swan will arise which you will prove unable to boil or roast.”

These words are believed to have been said by Jan Hus, a Bohemian reformer on the occasion of his martyr on July 6, 1415. He was burned at the stake, being judged guilty of the charge of heresy against the doctrine of the Catholic Church. The reference he made to himself seems odd, but was, in fact, a literal translation of his surname that was based on the town of his birth (Husinec, meaning “Goosetown”). It would take a century to understand the latter reference.

Martin Luther (and many others) would eventually come to see himself as the swan Hus spoke of. If one looks closely at the pulpits of many Lutheran churches, they would see a swan carved prominently. Martin Luther, a seminal figure in the Protestant Reformation, had followed Jan Hus in his quest to reform the Roman Catholic Church.

It’s important to remember the sacrifices of those who came before us, but infinitely more so to remember the One for whom their sacrifices were made. How should the lives and sacrifices of the early church reformers effect our lives today? How should we choose to live in light their sacrifices, and for the One who sacrificed His life for them and us first? With our whole self and an unwavering commitment to be in God’s word daily, trusting our Heavenly Father for whatever today or tomorrow will bring. All while living the greatest commandment to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, then love our neighbor as He loved us first.

Geese and swans pointing the way to The Lamb. This is what they were … and we can be.

Perhaps today, as a part of being in God’s word, you can mediate on these things HE is:

  • Almighty One – Rev. 1:8
  • Alpha and Omega – Rev.22:13
  • Advocate – Hebrews 12:2
  • Authority – Matthew 28:18
  • Bread of Life – John 6:35
  • Beloved Son of God – Matthew 3:17
  • Bridegroom – Matthew 9:15
  • Chief Cornerstone – Psalms 118:22
  • Deliverer – 1 Thessalonians 1:10
  • Faithful and True – Revelation 19:11
  • Good Shepherd – John 10:11
  • Great High Priest – Hebrews 4:14
  • Head of the church – Ephesians 1:22
  • Holy Servant – Acts 4:29,30
  • I Am – John 8:58
  • Immanuel – Isaiah 7:14
  • Indescribable Gift – 2 Corinthians 9:15
  • Judge – Acts 10:42
  • Kings of Kings – Revelation 17:14
Posted by: mikenicholsblog | April 30, 2020

strawberry moments

How often in your old normal did you say, “If I just had more time?”  You know, the time not that long ago when every day was full, and every evening was spoken for.   Those times made us feel like a hamster on a spinning wheel!  Now, with a healthy dose of pause in our lives, how often do you find yourself saying, “Every day seems like ground hog day?”  Whether days are frantically busy or emotionally distracting, life tends to provide plenty of stressors.

In the book The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning, there is a humorous, yet thought-provoking story, about a monk who was chased by a tiger.

The monk raced to the edge of a cliff, glanced back, and saw the growling tiger about to spring. The monk spotted a rope dangling over the edge of the cliff. He grabbed it and began shimmying down the side of the cliff out of the clutches of the tiger. Whew!  Narrow escape. The monk then looked down and saw a quarry of jagged rocks five hundred feet below. He looked up and saw the tiger poised atop the cliff with bared claws. Just then, two mice began to nibble at the rope. What to do?

The monk saw a strawberry within arm’s reach, growing out of the face of the cliff. He plucked it, ate it, and exclaimed, “Yum! That’s the best strawberry I’ve ever tasted in my entire life.” If he had been preoccupied with the rock below (the future) or the tiger above (the past), he would have missed the strawberry God was giving him in the present moment.

In this very moment, you may have regrets or fears from the past week and anxiety about the next.  I wonder if it all feels like a spirited run on the hamster wheel. After reflecting on the tiger and the monk, I am reminded that we only are guaranteed this moment … and to give it away is foolish. Stop with me in this very moment and consider a verse in the book of Psalms which has been especially meaningful to me personally and speaks directly into this very real battle:

Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom.
Psalm 90:12 (NLT)

What you and I miss in the moment, in our preoccupation with yesterday and tomorrow, can never be retrieved. Wisdom available from God can help us live moment by moment and see clearly how brief our lives truly are. Correspondingly, I quote a verse often in articles and conversation that puts my thoughts of yesterday and tomorrow into a more appropriate framework.

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

Those of us who get lost in the business of life or the distractions of a season need to look away for a moment from their tiger and jagged rocks. Can you relate? Moments matter! This particular season has gifted a big old strawberry moment for my wife and me. We have spent more time with our daughter than at any one time in the past ten years.  And, in so many ways, her presence causes us to relax with the strawberry and forget the tigers and jagged rocks. Strawberries may not quite yet be in season, but what is stopping us from having some strawberry moments? I have no idea what you are facing, but I’m sure if you slow down and start looking for God’s strawberries, you can begin to enjoy each moment. You can’t re-live yesterday or control tomorrow but finding the strawberry in this moment can turn this season of pause into reasons to smile.

An important bit of pause and final punctuation…
I am writing today with a very real sense there may be readers who are in a deep, dark season of suffering who very clearly see themselves as the monk in Brennan’s story (absent the strawberry part). While I believe very strongly in the darkness not having the power to obscure God’s goodness, I know how susceptible the mind and heart are to those suggestions of our great enemy. We at Journey are committed to coming alongside in seasons where prayer is so very needed. We stand ready to pray, and you need only click here to reach out and let us know how we can. Please hear our words but, even more, hear the words of our Savior from the gospel of John chapter sixteen verse thirty-three (NLT):

I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.

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