Taking Evil Out of Circulation

I love this time of year when all of creation springs back to life. It is the season we celebrate the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of our Savior Jesus Christ. And, while the focal point of His story is that a holy God chose to leave heaven to take our place on the cross so that we could become the Sons and daughters of God, His sacrifice did so much more.

Too many people focus only on the gift of salvation but miss out on all the other gifts his death and resurrection provided for us. For instance, we know that Jesus was severely beaten across His back. This act of “suffering stripes” did not pay for our sins, so why did He endure it? To provide divine healing for us and to fulfill the following prophecy:

Isaiah 53: 4 – 5 Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. NKJV

He came to save us…AND to heal us. He also came to deal with poverty, abuse, neglect, and so many other twisted and perverted worldly things.

We live in a day and age where people have lost the art of civility. We answer violence with more violence. We justify our hate because of the greater hate we see in someone else. We blow up people on social media, in front of unbelievers, and justify it by our Christian belief system. So, in celebration of Christ’s sacrifice, I’d like to us to consider this powerful statement made by N.T. Wright;

“God’s plan to rescue the world from evil would be put into effect by evil doing its worse to the Servant – that is, to Jesus Himself – and thereby exhausting its power…Jesus exhausted the underlying power of evil when He died under its weight, refusing to pass it on or keep it in circulation.” N.T. Wright

Wow! Jesus absorbed all that evil could throw at Him and instead of retaliating; He grasped it and fell back into hell, removing all that evil from circulation! Can you imagine how different our world would look if we chose not to pass on hate, violence, anger or fear and instead removed the accumulative amount of all that toxic junk from circulation? Our world would be better; we would be better. Let’s prayerfully take some evil out of circulation this week. For more on this subject, please got to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J03xHlJrnbI&t=2058s

 

Life Overflowing

Are you living your dream? When I was a youth pastor, I asked my students how many of their parents were truly living their dream. Out of about 50 kids, 4 raised their hands. Those four students represented two families in our church. I tell you that story because it breaks my heart when I see people struggling to get through life, not even close to living the dream they were created for.

I believe it is possible to live in such a manner that our life ends up being so full it overflows. This passage from the gospel of John describes the life Jesus intended you to have:

John 10:10 The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to     destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. NKJV

Jesus came to earth so that we might experience LIFE on three different levels.

With Jesus, we should be able to do the basics of life well. He teaches us to be content in all things and how to love. Living at peace and having true relationships is a great level one kind of life.

But, Jesus also promises us abundant life. That word abundant means “to exceed or be more than expected”. Jesus wants you to outlive your own expectation! Can you imagine living a life that is better than you could dream of?

And, finally Jesus offers us eternal life. Eternal life is based on a relationship with Jesus. If you have a relationship with Jesus, your eternal experience has already begun.

This quote from Julia Cameron’s bestselling book, “The Artist’s Way” sums it up;

“We have all heard that the unexamined life is not worth living, but consider too that the unlived life is not worth examining”.

We each have one life to live. Let’s live an overflowing life. For more on this go to  https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=2058&v=J03xHlJrnbI 

I Have Been Smoking the Bible

The man sheepishly admitted to the jail minister that he had been doing it; He had been smoking the Bible. “You have been doing what?” the minister asked. “I’ve been tearing out pages of the Bible, rolling tobacco and other stuff in it, then smoking it,” the man confessed.

This infamous conversation took place 20 years ago.

Back in the early 1990s, the State of North Carolina went tobacco free. Cigarettes were banned in our local prison. The prisoners, always known for their inventiveness, started drying out grass, herbs, banana peels—literally anything they thought they could smoke. They would then take the pocket New Testaments that the Gideon’s brought them, tear out a page, and roll whatever they had to smoke in them. The jailers went so far as to ban Bibles from being brought in for a while because they were aiding the prisoners in breaking the smoke-free policy.

My friend, Jimmy Haynes, (the jail minister) recalled how this 20 year old conversation had fueled his passion to become a Gideon (Gideon’s place Bibles in hotels, hospitals, and jails).

The detained man went on to say, “Before I tear out the page, I read the front and the back real good. I don’t want to disrespect the “Good Book”; I just need the paper to be able to smoke. So, I read Matthew Chapter 1, two or three times, then I tore it out, rolled up some grass and smoked it. I ended up smoking all of Matthew. I then smoked all of Mark and all of Luke. But, when I got to John, John smoked me! I was reading those pages so I could roll me a cigarette and the words of the Gospel of John convicted me and I gave my life to Jesus!”

My friend Jimmy was overwhelmed with God’s goodness. This man might never have read the Bible if the State hadn’t went smoke-free. Because it did, this inmate discovered a profound truth. You can’t read His word very long until His Word starts reading you. Or, as our young inmate would say, “I smoked the Bible until it smoked me”. For more on this subject go to https://www.newcovenantchurch.com/sermons/2018/3/10/a-spiritual-awakening

 

 

SLOW Reps are Better Than NO Reps

She was screaming at me, barking out orders and calling me out by name, in front of everyone! This is not my normal and it messed with me.

Ok, it was at the gym and she was a trainer.

Though I have been going to this gym for a couple of years, I am not as consistent as I would like to be, but I am making progress. I’ve lost some weight, put on some muscle, and my cardio is better. On top of all of that, I enjoy going to the gym.

When working out, I generally choose a high impact interval training class by myself, or I work out on weights and the treadmill with my wife. I like doing both. It just depends on the circumstances. On this day, I decided to take the H.I.I.T class, which had 19 people in it. I was talking to a friend during warm ups and assumed we might end up as partners for the class. Just as it was time to grab a partner one of the trainers grabbed my friend. I was a free agent. Jess locked eyes with me, grinned wide, and pointed, “I want you, Nick”. Now you need to understand, Jess is a beast, one of the trainers at the gym that works out for hours at a time.

The workout that day went only two rounds. The only reason I’m still alive. Between each round there is a one-minute break. I have a difficult decision to make. Do I get a drink of water or do I breathe? You can’t do both. I choose to breathe. We start the second round and I am dying half way through—barely getting reps in while Jess is going strong, like the energizer bunny. She screams for me to give her more reps. By now everyone knows my name. Then she delivers the line I needed to hear. “Slow reps are better than no reps, Nick! Give me another rep.”

That’s one of the keys to life, right? We all know it. I don’t feel motivated today? So, give me one slow rep, no reps are not an option. Feeling depressed or discouraged? Call a friend or take a walk. You’re hurried and can’t get in a full day’s work or write a whole chapter? Read something inspiring.

Slow reps are better than no reps. Thanks, Jess. Words to live by.

For more on this subject, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nhQzmCjXA_s&t=1506s

 

The Paradox of Parenting

Paradox – A proposition that seems self-contradictory but in fact expresses a potential truth.

Yes, parents should know better. They have more life experience, maturity and resources than their children. They are the ones that must take everything they know and submit it to the greater cause of raising great young men and women so they can become productive citizens of society.

Recently, I spoke on three important parental focuses. The response to that message mandated I write this blog.

Here is my Big 3 when it comes to parenting:

  • Show your child unconditional love (which builds worth and value)
  • Help your child discover their unique difference (this develops identity).
  • Let them make low-level mistakes while still in your house (this molds maturity and confidence).

If every child experienced unconditional love, had someone reflect back to them their unique brilliance, and gave them a safe place to take risk and test their mettle, the world would be a wide and spacious place of creativity and productivity. Healthy people would be connecting with other healthy people in healthy relationships. Sounds like societal bliss, doesn’t it?

Yet, the greatest challenge to this type of success is the parent. The parent has to discipline himself/herself not to bulldoze forward, parenting in a style that maximizes their own strengths, willing to adjust their style of parenting to maximize the impact it will have on each individual child. If you have three children, you may have to offer correction, affirmation and instruction differently. If not, one child will thrive and another child will wither

The paradox of parenting is while the parent has all the experience, wisdom and maturity, they have to let the child take the lead in their own development and support them in a way that they feel it.

The Smudge of Shame

Have you ever spilled something on your shirt? Sure. We all have. It is frustrating when dressed for an important occasion; we spill something on our pants or shirt that ruins the look. If the spill is bad enough it can permanently destroy our clothes and ruin our day.

Now most of us, upon realizing we had just spilled something on ourselves, would immediately attempt to keep the spill from becoming a stain. I have never been successful at this, but my wife, Tina, is. She has a college degree in clothing, textiles and merchandising, and understands fabric at a level comparable to a nuclear physicist understanding atoms. She can get any stain out of any fabric. Whenever I try to keep a spill from becoming a stain, I accidently create a smudge. A smudge is when you smear the spill around and make it bigger, deeper ingrained in the fabric and harder to remove.

The problem with a smudge is people can see I am clumsy and spilled something on myself, but also that I can’t clean up my own mess. Now imagine having to walk around all day wearing the clothes with a visible smudge on them. You might feel a little embarrassed or feel shame.

Sin—our deliberate wrong choice—is an event that leaves a mark on our soul. Though guilt is the conviction we did something wrong, shame tells us there is something wrong with us. I have heard that sentiment rebutted by this powerful statement: “Failure is an event, not a person.”

When we feel like we are the mess, we try to clean up the mess. However, we only smear around our mistake and create the “smudge of shame” we can’t help but see and other people do as well.

The good news is; Jesus died on the cross to deal with our sin and the “smudge of shame”. He, and He alone, has the power to permanently remove the spill (sin) and the stain (shame) that comes with it. Look at this powerful truth found in Isaiah 1: 18:

“Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the Lord, “Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool. NKJV

God has already provided for any mess you will make. When we sin, the best thing we can do is run to the loving Father, who accepts us where we are, and for who we are, and quickly moves to remove the stain permanently so shame doesn’t set in. That is my Papa. I hope you know Him and of His great love for you.

Synergy – that extra something

A few weeks ago I wrote about personal energy and explained why I believe energy is more important than time or money. Then I asked if you were aware of the energy level you function at, and if you knew what energizes or drains you? Today, I want to talk about something closely related to personal energy, a phenomenon that is out of this world.

If you care about maximizing your energy, I’d like to challenge you to consciously consider synergy. What is synergy you ask? It is the interaction of two elements that results in a sum that is bigger than the parts. Imagine that! You add one element to a second element and you get MORE than the two elements alone. Now that gets my attention. If I care passionately about maximizing my personal energy levels, this amplification or multiplication takes my excitement to a whole new level.

The best example I have to explain synergy is water (H2O). You take two atoms of Hydrogen, share their outer electrons with one atom of Oxygen, and you get water. Water is essential for life. We need water. Nor, can I imagine our world without its beautiful streams, rivers, lakes and oceans. Water is amazing and yet is the simple synergy between Hydrogen and Oxygen. Water is the sum result or reward of Hydrogen and Oxygen working together. Notice that neither loses its own identity or autonomy. They just willingly partner together and a mysterious third element becomes a part of their relationship.

I have come to the conclusion, if I want to succeed in a new project or program; I need to find a partner that can join their unique abilities with mine. When we partner with someone for a common goal, the result of our time and activity is maximum production without losing anything of ourselves. Together we produce something that is bigger than just our two parts.

Synergy is a powerful reality that supersedes everyday excellence. For more on this subject visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fHk3sQ1Foew&t=15s

 

 

 

 

 

If only we knew the REST of the STORY

My favorite radio program of all time was Paul Harvey, and his ‘Rest of the Story’ segments. It started during WWII as a news broadcast that also told an interesting story. He would withhold a key piece of information, such as the person’s identity, until the end and then conclude the broadcast with the famous tagline, ”….and now you know the rest of the story.”

We deal with difficult people everyday. But, most of the time we are only dealing with the part of their story they let us see. Wouldn’t it be nice to know the rest of the story? Wouldn’t it be nice to know what made them mad earlier in the day, before they got to us?

There is a story in the Bible, found in Numbers 20: 2-12, when the people complained to Moses about not having any water. God tells Moses to speak to the rock and God would cause water to come out of the rock and thus He would take care of the people. Moses responds to their complaint with anger and strikes the rock, disobeying what God had told him to do. God was faithful to bring the water but He told Moses that He would not enter the promise land because of what he did.

Every time I have ever heard this passage preached, the speaker says that God punished Moses for his disobedience. But, recently I heard a minister by the name of Dwayne Weehunt, from Keller, Texas, approach this story a little differently.

He said that God and Moses were friends. God spoke to His friend face to face, unlike anyone God ever related to. God said Moses was the most humble man alive. Dwayne then went on to say, “Have you ever noticed that this story picks up in verse two of the chapter, not verse one?” Could verse one have any impact on this story? Well, let’s look at verse one:

Numbers 20: 1 Then the children of Israel, the whole congregation, came into the Wilderness of Zin in the first month, and the people stayed in Kadesh; and Miriam died there and was buried there.

Moses sister just died. He doesn’t have time to grieve her and the people are complaining about water. Is it possible that Moses was not disobedient out of anger but out of grief? And, isn’t it possible that God was not punishing Moses because of disobedience, but was pulling him out of leadership (ministry) because he didn’t like the toll it was taking on His friend Moses. Could it be that God hated what was happening to His friend and couldn’t stand the destruction of his heart? And, now you might know… the rest of the story.

You can’t help but look at the story differently after you’ve read verse one. Everybody has a verse one. If we kept that in mind, maybe we would all show a little more grace with people’s bad behavior and a lot more interest in knowing the rest of their story. For more on this subject go to  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yjpzQS7Y0i0

 

Gateway to God

Recently I was reading “The Nature of God” by Graham Cooke. He made a very interesting statement that I wish all believers were aware of. He said, “But there is one aspect of His character that He will want to be yours in particular. This is your doorway into His presence. I love the compassion, mercy, integrity and grace of God – but my access point to Him is always His kindness.”

When I read that I thought of several attributes of God that woo me or draw me into His presence. After much reflection, I have decided it is His mercy that is my gateway to God.

I have heard mercy and grace defined this way. Grace is getting what you did not deserve (undeserved favor) and mercy is NOT getting what you deserve. Mercy is when you are guilty but He chooses to throw your case out of court.

I have known Him to show unbelievable mercy to myself and others expecting to be crushed under the judgment of an angry God. So many people run away from God when they have sinned or done something wrong. They know and understand the high expectations of God’s holiness. When they fail to measure up to that, they tend to hide, flinch or run away.

The other day I was talking to an intercessor that spends hours a day alone with the Lord. I asked her, “Do you ever pray for God’s judgment upon your life”? She said, “Sure, there is nothing to fear in His judgment.” Spoken like someone who really knows God and His heart.

When a judge rules on a case, it can go one of four ways.

She or he may find someone innocent.
They may discover a technicality that allows them to dismiss the case.
They can also find you guilty but lessen the sentence.
Or, they can throw the book at you.

Three out of the four outcomes are good—if you’re the guilty party.

I have found God chooses to be merciful in almost all cases and loves to show His love off by surprising us with His mercy. Whenever I experience that or see it displayed in the life of others, it immediately draws me into the presence of God. For more on this subject visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mfkrRN07vHI&t=1897s

 

 

 

What Energizes You?

In my opinion, time is more valuable than money and energy is more valuable than time. You can have all the money in the world but when you run out of time, it is over. You can have all the time in the world but if you don’t have any energy, your time is meaningless.

Benjamin Franklin is quoted as saying, “Energy and persistence conquer all things”. According to the dictionary, energy is ‘power that when exerted creates activity’. Energy is a latent reservoir of power that when released allows for vigorous activity to take place. Energy funds activity. That is why I believe energy is more important than time, because you need it to make your time worthwhile.

I am fascinated by personal energy. I pay attention to the people that seem to have an unlimited supply and I also pay attention to those that seem to barely get by on the supply they have. Have you noticed some people can energize the whole place, while others seem to conserve what energy they have as if they might run out at anytime? Then there are those that through personal drama, need or awkward moments suck the energy right out of a room.

I ask myself questions about energy all the time and these are a few things I have learned:

Personal energy comes from internal and external sources.
We all have the same amount of energy available to us
It is possible to get more energy.

The classic definition of what makes a person an introvert or extrovert is how they recharge their battery. Introverts tend to want to be alone for extended periods of time to let their reservoir increase. Extroverts need interaction with people to recharge.

This definition is a little too cut and dry for me. As an extrovert, I do recharge by being with people. But, it has to be the right people. Some people drain me. I take quick note as to whether someone “lifes” me or “sucks the life” out of me.

I firmly believe we are responsible for maintaining our own energy levels. And, there are many factors to consider while doing that. Sleep, diet, exercise, stress, responsibilities and relationship all have an impact on our personal energy levels. I challenge you to raise your awareness of this area, increase your energy level and see if the quality of your life doesn’t increase as well. For more on this subject, please visit   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fHk3sQ1Foew