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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Ipod Insights

When you see someone running past with little white headphones jammed in their ears, you probably assume they're listening to some type of rock and roll to keep them motivated. When you see me running past, in all likelihood I'm listening to a sermon. When you preach on a regular basis, you have no idea how enjoyable it is to listen to someone else speak!

The other day, I was reminded of a powerful principle from a message by Rob Bell. Bell pastors a large church in Grand Rapids, MI. And while I may not completely agree with some of his theology, I find his heart, his passion, and his insight very refreshing. He said something that reinforced an idea which God has been planting in my own heart during our summer "Miracles" series.

He points out that in the John chapter 2 miracle of water being turned into wine, Jesus never turns the water into wine. I know, this sounds redundant, but go look it up. At no point does Jesus command the water to turn, say a prayer and ask it to turn, or perform any physical act that might induce such a transformation. Instead, we see Jesus' mother instructing the servants to do whatever Jesus tells them to do. Jesus tells them to fill jars to the brim with water, and when they follow his instructions, the jars overflow with wine. Make no doubt- Jesus is the source and the power of the miracle- but who does the miracle? When the servants do what Jesus asks them to do, they are the ones who literally do the miracle. And at the end of the miracle, we see that the master is pleased.

Is this perhaps a Biblical picture of what miracles look like? When servants of Jesus obey His commands, miraculous things happen. And the Master is pleaed. For me, this is motivating because I frequently find myself sitting around waiting for God to do something amazing. I'm waiting for Jesus to get up and go pour water into jars so it can become wine, when He has asked me to do the job. Throughout Scripture, God invites people to become part of the miracle- to act in obedience to Him and then watch while amazing things occur.

As you journey in simple obedience, may His power flow through you and lead you into miracles.

Nick

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Storytelling

"That's why I tell stories: to create readiness."

In The Message paraphrase of the Bible, Jesus tells his disciples that this is the reason why he speaks in parables so often. According to Jesus, the crowd that comes to hear him preach can not yet discern the message he is preaching because their spirits and hearts are not yet ready. By speaking to them in stories, Jesus is hoping to create a new openness and awareness to spiritual things. What Jesus is saying is that people can't hear the true message because they aren't searching for it. By telling stories that connect everyday experiences with spiritual things, Jesus knows that he can help foster a desire for understanding. When the desire to understand is in place, then the message will be heard.

I find this thought helpful today as I consider how I can tell the world around me about Jesus. So often, I think I need to have some well-thought out apologetic in place in order to convince my friends and neighbors of the truth-claims about Christ. In reality, the Bible would suggest that most people aren't interested in all that because they just aren't ready for it.

What are people ready for? Stories. Stories that connect to the kind of life they live and the experiences they are having. I find this encouraging because I love to tell stories and I find that most people love to listen to them. (Not just to mine- stories have some kind of hidden power! Just try saying, "once upon a time" in a crowd and see how many people turn to listen.) As I tell stories of the simple realities of knowing God in my own life, I too can take part in helping people get ready to hear the message of Jesus.

So, be a story-teller today! And if you are one who is seeking after truth and curious about Jesus, listen to the stories he told.

May Jesus journey with you today in the story of your life.

Nick

Friday, July 06, 2007

And We Wait...

When your wife is 8 months pregnant and expecting any day, you begin to end all of your sentences with the phrase, "unless the baby comes." Any plans we make, any ideas we have for how to spend a day, any attempts at putting something on the calendar all go through the grid of "baby or no baby" scenarios. Our first daughter came a month early and caught us by surprise, so this time we're ready. Almost too ready. We wake up everyday and think, "maybe this is the day!" And we go to bed each night talking about what we'll do the next day, "unless the baby comes."

I can't help but think that waiting for the physical birth of a child is a bit like waiting for spiritual birth or renewal to take place in our life, or in the life of a church. New birth, whether physcial or spiritual, is truly miraculous because it's not something you can force or make happen. (Ok, I know that medically speaking, there are things they can do to make a baby come out, but just go with me on this, ok? Besides, everyone agrees that the best possible scenario is always when the baby comes on its own time.) We can't make our baby come. We can't do anything to cause labor to happen. And believe me, we've tried! We would pay a lot of money for an "Easy" button we could push and have the baby come on our schedule.

But instead, all we can do is provide the right environment in which the birth can take place. My wife eats well, stays active, and gets plenty of rest. We've prepared a nursery, bought baby clothes, and pre-registered at the hospital.

We've been talking as a staff at our church about how we feel like we're on the verge of really great things happening. We feel a bit like we're awaiting a miraculous birth of spiritual awakening and renewal. And yet, we also recognize that we can't make this happen! New birth is always the miraculous working of our heavenly Father, as He opens eyes and softens hearts to respond to Him. For us, we are focused on providing the right environment for spiritual birth to take place. We stay focused in our work. We pray and ask God to have His way. We love people and point them to the Savior. And we wait for spiritual breakthrough, which just like human birth, WILL happen!

Have you hit a point in your life where something new needs to happen? Are you in a sense waiting for God to bring you new life? Know this- you can't force it, or make it happen. But you can provide the right envirnoment in which God can and will work. Stay focused. Keep praying. Keep dreaming big, impossible, God-sized dreams. And wait on Him. He will bring new life, and it will be at just the right time.

Enjoying the journey of waiting on God (and babies),

Nick