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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Grumbling Causes Blindness

One of the simple truths in this life is that when we're busy looking at ourselves, we become blind to everyone else, including God. How unfortunate, because usually we are very boring while God is doing great things.

In Mark 6, Jesus does an amazing thing. He walks on water. He defies the laws of nature, which He created, and finds stability where everyone else sinks. As He is cruising past His friends in a boat, they see him and shriek in terror, believing it is a ghost. Jesus calms them with His voice and He climbs into the boat with them. As He does, a ferocious storm that had been raging around them suddenly calms to nothing.

Now here's the real kicker- this is what it says about the disciples reaction, "They were totally amazed for they still didn't understand the significance of the miracle of the loaves. Their hearts were too hard to take it in." So, Jesus was bringing down the power of heaven all around, and the disciples reaction was basically, "Huh?"

Which got me thinking- remember last week how I said the disciples were tired and worn out when Jesus performed the miraculous feeding of the 5,000? He took a few fish and a few rolls and fed everyone with 12 baskets of leftover food on the ground. If you put the disciples tired condition together with their hard hearts, it leads me to believe that when they were picking up the left-over bread, they were grumbling. They were complaining about the extra work they had to do. Jesus had just done something absolutely amazing, and it is entirely possible that all the disciples could see was the inconvenience it caused them.

So, grumbling can cause blindness. We can get so focused on our needs and what we don't have on a personal level that we miss incredible displays of God's power all around us.

I don't want that. My guess is, neither do you. So pray for a soft heart. And open eyes. Pray hard that when heaven opens and God's power falls, you won't miss it because you're focused only on yourself. Ah, a hard prayer, but a good one.

May you have eyes to see, ears to hear, and hearts that understand what God is doing around you!

Peace-
Nick

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

But I'm Tired, Lord...

Do you ever feel like God might be far less concerned with our comfort than we are?

In chapter 6 of Mark, Jesus' followers have been out on a serious butt-whooping tour; casting out demons and healing the sick. They come back to Jesus and tell them about everything they've done. And ministry goes on. They are so busy healing and helping that same day, they don't have time to even stop and eat. I'll bet a McD's would have come in handy.

Anyway, Jesus recognizes this and says, "Hey, let's get out of here and rest." The disciples must have thought, "Finally- he's thinking about our needs!" So they take off in a boat. Only there's a problem- someone sees them going and spreads the word. By the time Jesus and his weary helpers reach the shore, a whole crowd of people are waiting. If I'm one of the guys who just came back from a long foot-journey of ministry, I'm thinking, "Jesus, send them home!" But instead, Jesus has compassion on them. He starts teaching. And he teaches for a LONG time. Surely, the disciples had to have slipped in a nap here. But the teaching goes on so long that it's well past dinner time; and remember, they have already been too busy to eat.

Understandably, the disciples come to Jesus and complain, "It's late, there's no food here, send the people home." The words of Jesus must have sent their jaws to the ground, "YOU feed them." Us? HA! Jesus, we're tired. There's way too many people (over 5,000), and in case you didn't hear us, there's no food! You feed them. Honestly, I would have been ticked. I might have thrown in the towel right then. I do NOT do well when I am hungry! Or tired. Especially not both.

But Jesus is about to make magic. He sits the people down, takes one small sack lunch (a few fish and loaves) and simply looks up to heaven for blessing. Soon all 5,000+ people are chowing down with plenty to spare. While the disciples wanted Jesus to care about them and their personal well-being, Jesus seems more interested in growing their faith and showing them the power of God.

You know what? I'm not sure I like that. I think most of us would like a God that took care of us first and then did more ministry. But God continually calls us to something more, something higher. When this happens in my own life, I hope I'm not too tired or hungry to see it!

On your journey, may you know the kind of God who is MOST interested in growing your faith and showing you the power of heaven.

Peace-
Nick

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Looking in the Right Direction


I've been thinking this week about how important it is that we focus on the right things. We've been going through the book of Revelation at church, and one of the major themes of this book is that God wants to teach us how to see the world. We learn to see the world accurately by looking at him.

But getting people to look in the right direction can be challenging. Just look at this picture...In case you can't tell, I'm trying desperately to get Carter, my son, to look at the camera. I hope I will also be as desperate to encourage him to look at Jesus.

Peace on your journey-
Nick

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Who's to Blame?

Pain is one event in life that makes many of us question God. As the Author, Creator, Provider of life, we believe that God could, and at times should, keep us from pain. I can think of one instance at least where this is entirely unfair.

On my way through the book of Mark, I have been pondering a story concerning John the Baptist and Herod Antipas, King over Galilee at the time. In this very short story, we see that Herod struggles with some pretty significant life issues- he is a control freak, a sex addict, and very power hungry. I could go into more details, but that's not really the point here. Anyway, Herod often spends time "listening" to John the Baptist talk about God and his plan. But because of Herod's own issues, he is unable, or unwilling to respond to God. In the end, Herod's personal struggles put him in a position where he is forced to have John the Baptist beheaded to satisfy some of his friends.

Now, this event certainly left John's followers and friends wondering "Where is God? How could this happen?" But God is not to blame. Herod is. Clearly, Herod's unwillingness to deal with his own stuff caused incredible pain to others. Where was God? I think he was with John, giving him courage and strength. And I also think he was with Herod, trying to woo him to a new way of life. But God was not the one causing pain.

Here's my point: sometimes we face excruciating pain because of someone's sin. (Although this word may seem archaic to some, it is still an accurate way to describe any action, thought, or motive that is contrary to the heart of God). God does not cause it. God does not want it. God is dying to stop it. (And He did, literally) But in a world where we are free, and I mean really free, others are also free to hurt us.

What does this mean? Well, we might be tempted to think, "Yeah, I sure hope so-and-so reads this and deals with their sin!" But the best thing we can do, the best way we can help our loved ones and friends is to choose to deal with our own stuff. Simply put, if we love others, we will address sin in our lives so that we won't hurt others. Rather than pointing fingers and telling others to stop hurting us, our best move is to look within and say, "God, help me to deal with me."

So, who's to blame? In a word, ME.

Peace on your journey-
Nick

Monday, November 01, 2010

Living in the NOW

I ran across a quote yesterday that really struck me. It goes like this, “Our culture diverts our attention from the present…its over-extension and compulsive busyness sends us searching for quick ways for life to be better.” How true! We certainly live at a time, perhaps more than any other, when we are led to believe that we can have bigger and better. We can have a better TV or car. A better job. A better spouse. In general, a better life. And, we are told, it is simply up to us to pursue this better life.

The net effect of this kind of thinking, however, is that we can become entirely unsatisfied with today. If something better lies before us, how can we be content with what we have right now? The irony here is that the only day we get to live is today. As promising as tomorrow might sound, our only reality is this day. And yet, because of culture’s promise of the future, many of us are left without any real joy or peace in our current reality.

So what are we to do? Psalm 90:12 says, “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Do you know who penned these words? Not King David or any of his skilled musicians, who spent much of their lives enjoying the fulfillment of God’s promises. No, this Psalm was written by MOSES, a man who spent 40 years in the hot, dry desert while looking forward to the Promised Land. Rather than being overcome by his longing for “what might be”, Moses wanted to see God in his current situation. So what did he do? He PRAISED. He wrote, “Satisfy us each morning with your unfailing love, so we may sing for joy to the end of our lives.” (Ps. 90:14) Moses realized that the key to joy was the daily reality of God and his unfailing love towards him.

The single greatest antidote I know to discontentment with today is choosing to praise God for His goodness and His gifts. Praise causes us to stop and look around at what we do have- both in the physical realm and the spiritual one as well. When we recognize all of God’s tremendous blessings, we can recapture joy for today!

Psalm 103:2-8 Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits-- who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's. The LORD works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed. He made known his ways to Moses, his deeds to the people of Israel: The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.

May you find JOY in the Lord TODAY!

Nick