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The Battle for Control

Not trying to control what we don’t have control over.

We’ve been told that having the upper-hand in any situation proves to be beneficial. We see it a lot in battles. The troops that sit on the hill have the upper-hand. The army with the bigger weapons will have more influence. The same goes for fights in daily life–the person that has control has more power and influence on outcomes and emotions.

imgresWe have played both roles in life, having the upper-hand or feeling the weight of being the lesser-man. Today I want to focus on being the lesser-man, the one who is being influenced and pressured by another force. Because it’s in those moments we scramble to have the most control, and in doing so, actually lose hold of it all.

It’s like holding a handful of sand. An open palm holds a lot of sand, but the moment you start clenching, the sand rushes out and you lose more than you had.

There are moments where we want to have the control as the lesser-man. We want to maintain our image, hold our poise, grab on to what is being stripped from us–and although we may be a victim of a situation, we are there for a reason.

We lose perspective in critical situations where control is being challenged. We become selfish, wanting it all for ourselves. Sometimes this is a relationship that we try to hold on to for too long, sometimes it revolves around money, position, or selfish wants. 

The more we look at the small world picture, the more we lose sight of what is going on in the big picture, a.k.a. God’s plan.

Take the older brother in the story of the Prodigal Son for example (Luke 15). He was the victim of an unfair situation. His brother had left early with his portion of the inheritance, blown it all in foolish endeavors, and returned in a mournful state asking to be welcomed back. According to Jewish tradition, this should not have happened–and the older brother knew that.

But the father showed grace and took him back. Meanwhile, the older brother had become the “lesser-man” of the situation. He griped and  complained and tried to change the choice of his father. But the more he did that, the more he lost perspective of what was really going on.

His brother, who had walked away from the path of God and was lost to the ways of the world, was back and now ready to commit his life to the ways he raised in. It may not be fair, it could have been a bit vain on the younger brother’s part, but the older brother couldn’t see the goodness in what was actually going on.

The same happens to us when we are lowered into the lesser-man position and try to clench for control because we think we are in the right. There is a humbling view from the bottom, and there are things you can see there that you can’t see on top. More interesting though is our inability to be OK under pressure. God uses the down times, the crucible moments, to grow us and teach us lessons he doesn’t want us journeying without. 

Be sure, in moments where you are the lesser-man grasping for control, that you aren’t clenching because it’s what you want, but instead you are leaving an open hand for the Lord to do his work, that you are seeing the lessons he is teaching you.

Love Loud!
Cory Nikkel 

Men of Valor

Judges 6:12, “The angel of the Lord appeared to him and said, “Mighty, hero, the Lord is with you!” 

This month we are going to talk about “Valor.” To have valor means to take great courage in the face of danger, especially in battle. We are going to take a look into the life of Gideon. He was an untrained man, a farmer, in which God brings him to be a general of an army. A man who would learn what it takes to defeat his enemy the Midianites. He will learn to fight with less provisions than he could have ever expected.

Valor_Soldiers_WebIn the beginning of Judges 6 the angel of the Lord comes to Gideon. He is threshing wheat in the bottom of a winepress. No one threshes wheat in the bottom of a winepress unless he is hiding from something. Normally you thresh wheat in the open so that the air can blow away the chaff. Yet this man is working in fear. He wants no one to see him working.

Gideon was living a life of fear. Afraid that the enemy might come upon him. Remember, in his mind he’s thinking, “I’m just a farmer with no battle skills.” It says in scripture that the Midianites would come upon the Jewish people and take their wheat, sheep, goats, cattle, and donkeys. These Midianites would come and take whatever they wanted. 

Remember now, the Jewish people were living in the land promised them except for one thing, they allowed the gods of the Midianites to be worshiped in their land. God is a jealous God, and he will not tolerate any other gods before him. That was true then, and it is still true today. Yet God heard Israel’s cries and sent an angel to Gideon. He will later make Gideon a mighty warrior and a Judge over Israel. 

The angel of the Lord calls Gideon a mighty hero! The problem we find here is that Gideon doesn’t see himself that way. He sees himself as a mere farmer threshing wheat in the bottom of a winepress. I can’t change anything, and I’m even the weakest among men. 

The Lord sees great strength in Gideon. He even makes a promise to him in Judges 6:16, “I will be with you. And you will destroy the Midianites as if you were fighting on man.” In Gideon’s mind he was the least of men. He was a farmer, lived in a cave, and worked in the bottom of a winepress.

I find that as men we make many of the same excuses as Gideon. We look to our weaknesses before we can even begin to see our strengths. In my own life I’ve allowed my enemy to take ground from me in the calling Jesus has for me. I’ve heard the enemy say, “You were held back, you’re uneducated (high school only), you’re divorced, and most of all you can’t speak!” I began to believe these lies in my own heart. 

You see men, when God calls us to battle, he doesn’t call the qualified, he qualifies those he calls. When I allowed these thoughts to stop and asked God for help, he made things happen in my life. I eventually remarried a wonderful woman and find joy in my heart again. He allowed me to take classes in a church who said to me, “We raise our leaders,” and became a commissioned pastor. He soon opened the door to a radio station and I became a DJ, and allowed me to begin my teaching in front of men in prison. Only a loving God does that to a man.

Remember men, I’m just a carpenter who decided to sell his life out to the one who gave it all, Jesus. He still does that with men today. Calling us mighty heroes–Men of Valor who are ready to stand in the time of battle. 

Men, to be a man of Valor you have to know that God is with you. A man of Valor recognizes his dependence on God and his own limitations apart from God. John 15:5 says, “Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.” Being a man of Valor leads to living a Vital Life in our strengths and in our weaknesses. Stay the course men, and live a life of strength and courage in our day.

Strength and Courage,

Mike

New Life Birthday

A small elementary school girl came home from school to parents who wanted to discuss something with her. The serious looks on their faces stirred up anxiety within her as they told her that they needed to sit down to talk. For most of this young girl’s life, but specifically in the last couple years, she had been sick. Not just the runny nose, sore throat sick but the weak, exhausted sick. Her parents notified her that she had been diagnosed with cancer.

The little girl’s illness was more than just the leukemia that had been detected. The cancer had actually been traced to a rare blood disorder called fanconi anemia, a disease rare enough that only 1 in every 350,000 people ever contract it. The condition attacks the bone marrow in the body, and 90% of all patients experience marrow failure ultimately leading to an inability to reproduce red blood cells. Few with the disease live beyond the age of 30. The girl’s father did his very best to explain to his 7 year old what it all meant.

Doctors told the family that other than monitoring and hoping for early intervention, a bone marrow transplant might be the only way to save her.  The challenge would be finding a compatible donor. Scouring the countryside continually coming up empty handed the exhausted search through family, friends, and the entire United States had left the family without a donor. As a last resort, the little girl’s father volunteered to be tested. Sure enough, dad was a match.

Dr. David Loeb, the family’s Johns Hopkins oncologist put the magnitude of the situation into perspective, “…to think that the likelihood of finding a parent who is a perfect match…that’s pretty close to a miracle.” At the age of 9, Ticynn London underwent an operation to have her father Mike’s bone marrow transplanted underneath her collarbone. Doctors put the odds of her body accepting it at 1 in 10,000.When reflecting on how he would enter his daughter’s room and tell her everything was going to be okay, the reporter interviewing Ticynn’s father Mike asked, “did you believe it?” London responded, “every time I said it.”

Each day, it seemed as if the girl’s health improved. Her cells began to double then triple, indicating her body was accepting the transplant. Ticynn explains how her family has come to refer to that time period as her ‘New Life Birthday’ because “…it was like I was reborn. In a way it was like I was given another life, another chance at life.”

His daughter’s ‘New Life Birthday’ might be the only day that Mike London, head football coach at the University of Virginia, looks forward to more than game-day against rival North Carolina. The day is special because Ticynn, now a freshman in college, has been cancer free for 11 years. Mike says his coaching philosophy is summed up in three words: faith, family, football. Ticynn’s motto for her own life? She simply quotes her favorite piece of scripture.

 

Joshua 1:9 [NLT]

This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

 

Set a Fire Down in Your Soul,

 

Austen

 

Wojciechowski, G. (2014, September 20). Mike London’s Miracle. Retrieved September 26, 2014, from http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=11556154

http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=espn:11556154  

Call Waiting

Call Waiting

 

I can remember when as part of a telephone package you could have the option of “call waiting”.  This was the idea that while you were engaged in one call you could be notified of another call, then you had a choice of whether to accept that call or not. Or in some cases you had a choice to avoid the incoming call altogether or tell yourself, “I will let it go and call them back later”.  In a lot of ways we can look at our Christian faith in this way.  Jesus is calling each of us who claim him as our Lord and Savior.  He is calling us to answer His call in our lives and the direction and the path that we have set before us. Calling us to go deeper into a relationship with him.  Calling us to engage with others sharing the Gospel with them.  The question that we have before us then, are we going to choose to move from where we are at right now and choose to answer him?  Or are we going to choose to “call him back later” when it is more convenient?  Worse yet, are we going to choose the path of ignorance and totally forsake the call altogether?

I have been studying the call and commissioning of Isaiah in Isaiah chapter 6 and have found that some of the same principals can be applied to us today in our calling. During the period of the Old Testament or The Old Covenant God had what was called Prophets.  Someone who was inspired to carry out the will of God to the people.  Commandments from God or severe warnings of impending judgement if they did not repent, to even promises of judgement from God to people that never would repent. Not an easy job especially when it came to going before the people and leaders and challenging them with the error of their ways.

The main thing that I came away with in the account of Isaiah was this; that we have a Holy God that is desperately seeking a reconciliation with each of us that have been blocked by the black and dark veil of sin. He provides a cleansing of our sin through Jesus giving us the freedom in Christ and the boldness to declare his majesty.  Sadly no matter how clear the evidence, there will be those that choose to ignore this offering of Grace due to the hardening of their hearts.

1. Seeing and seeking God’s Glory 

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!” 

When it speaks of his Glory it speaks of his manifest presence.  Isaiah had the honor to see the vision of the Lord before him.  We should seek always that desire to be in his manifest presence. 

Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples! Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works!Glory in his holy name;let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice!
Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually! -Psalm 105:1-4

2. Seek Grace and Forgiveness. 

When Isaiah was standing before the throne he had a thought.  The thought of how Holy God was and how unholy we are as a people. That just the very presence is fatal. A realization of an unclean standard of living.

And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.

Two things I want to focus on, atonement, and the seraphim with the burning coal. First the word atonement. Praise God for the atonement that we have received as part of the great exchange of Jesus and our sin on the cross. 

the great exchange 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. – 2 Corinthians 5:21

The second is the meaning behind the act of the seraphim of touching Isaiah’s lips with the burning coal. It tells us in the passage that his guilt was taken away and his sin atoned for. The word seraphim literally means “the burning ones”, a representing of a purifying of Isaiah to accomplish the work of the Lord who had called him. The same experience that the Disciples discovered at the Pentecost in Acts chapter 2.  The same purifying that we can experience. 

Men, we need to come to an understanding that as we are engaged in our speech, our thoughts and our actions, Jesus is calling. Don’t keep him waiting, the time is now to act. Experience Jesus and receive the grace that tore the veil and allowed us to boldly say as Isaiah did: here I AM SEND ME!

Strength & Courage 

Jeremy 

Surprise!

Surprised latin child

Some surprises we like…A surprise birthday party, finding $20 you forgot in a pocket, you are 5th in line and a new checkout lane opens, you hear from an old friend that you haven’t seen in years, the meeting you didn’t want to attend is canceled and you have a little more time to get other things done. You name it, there are probably some little surprises happening each day that bring a brief moment of happiness to your life. If we depended only on these things to bring us lasting joy, we would be in trouble, because happiness if fleeting.

Some surprises we would rather do without…the OJ was spoiled, that meeting lasted twice as long as you planned, that little noise you had the mechanic check out is going to cost you, that ER visit was not on the agenda, rain, your friend just got some bad news from the doctor. When we look back over the past year and just dwell on these bad instances, we might think we are cursed. When we look at many around us, we might only see the good side of what they are dealing with and might become jealous, but then we realize both the good and bad are part of being human, and we all deal with it in our own way.

But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.   Matthew 5:44-45

When I read through scripture, I really can’t imagine how some people dealt with the things they did except for long lasting faith. Faith to see beyond the current and even long-standing circumstances…generations of slavery to the Egyptians, Wandering for 40 years in the wilderness, your city being destroyed, family members killed, it can be fairly daunting. But looking out of the steaming pile of rubble and misery is hope. Hope that transcends the current state. Hope in promises made by a faithful God.

Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.  Sarah said, “God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.” And she added, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.” Genesis 21:5-7

If we can laugh at ourselves and our circumstances, I think God smiles also. It keeps us humble. I think we often find what we are looking for as well. When we tend toward pessimism and expect something bad to happen, we will undoubtedly find it, or twist things to think that we are somehow being punished. When we are expecting an opportunity or something good or exciting from God, we will be watching for it and more than likely see it when it arrives. If we are just sulking about our situation and frustrated with things, we may miss what God sends our way because we are not even expecting it. If I actually pray and watch for an answer, He almost always sends a surprise my way, often much sooner than I expect.

So, whether you are having a good day, a bad day, or just an average day, don’t let it set the mood for how you interact with everyone. If you are a grouch, look beyond the troubles you are facing and encourage someone today. If you are an eternal optimist, share what you see with others. Let us all continue to encourage one another and speak the truth in love.  You might be surprised how this can change your attitude.

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful, and let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.   Hebrews 10:23-23

Surprised by God’s Grace,
Clark

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