Monday, January 8, 2018

Are you AWOL?

I recently was listening to Dr. Charles Stanley on the radio in my truck. The topic of Dr. Stanley's message was on prayer. In the few brief minutes I had to listen to his message, I heard a perspective on prayer I had never considered before. In the message Dr. Stanley taught how we are to spend time in prayer every day. This is nothing new to most Christians, but the perspective Dr. Stanley gave was on what that time in prayer means to our spiritual life. He talked about how spending time in prayer with God each day was like a soldier reporting for duty. 

Soldiers go to their commanding officers for orders on what they are to accomplish that day. Guard a perimeter. Attack the enemy. Hold a position. If the soldier does not report for duty they cannot accomplish the task expected of them. The military term for a soldier who does not report to their post or for their duty is Absent Without Official Leave, or AWOL.

As I listened to Dr. Stanley continue to teach on prayer, I continued thinking on the idea of spending time in prayer being like a soldier reporting for duty. I could not shake the idea of all those days in my life where I did not take seriously the spiritual responsibility I had to spend time in prayer. It stuck with me that I was AWOL every day I did not take my cares and burdens to the Lord. When I did not take time to pray, I was not fulfilling what was expected of me by my God.

When a soldier goes AWOL, there are certain consequences. Soldiers may be forced to forfeit pay, be confined for up to a year, and possibly even be dishonorably discharged. These are serious consequences for a soldier going AWOL. When we go AWOL from our prayer life, we face certain circumstances as well. We miss out on what God wants to accomplish through us that day. We miss out on what God wants to do to prepare us for the good and the bad we may face that day. We can't share with Him the burdens in our hearts or seek comfort and peace for our problems. Being AWOL from our prayer life is much more serious than most of us believe it to be.

I'll leave you with this. Ask your self honestly if you have been AWOL from your prayer life. Have you been failing to report for duty? Consider the consequences you've paid because of your absentee prayer life. After honestly reflecting on these questions, realize that today is the day you can turn it all around. Today is the day you can start reporting for duty so you can get your assignments from God and share with Him those things that mean the most to you. Whether you spend time in prayer first thing in the morning, at lunch in your car, or last thing before you go to bed at night, be sure to find a time that you can consistently spend in prayer and then report for duty.


If you enjoyed today's post, be sure to Share it on Facebook and Twitter so others can be encouraged too!

Monday, December 11, 2017

I hate I'll never get to meet Muhammad Ali.

"I hate I'll never get to meet Muhammad Ali." These are the words my eleven year old son used to start off a conversation as we left my parent's house the other day. Now my son is not a boxing fan and other than knowing that Muhammad Ali is the greatest boxer of all time, I don't know that he really knows that much about him. I was impressed that he knew Ali's name was originally Cassius Clay before he converted to Islam. I say all that because it was really odd to hear him just randomly mention never getting to meet Muhammad Ali. Now I'll be honest with you. I was not expecting a spiritual lesson when my kid brought up Muhammad Ali, so to say I was shocked at what he said next is no understatement. Without missing a beat he said he'd never get to meet Ali because Ali was a Muslim before he died and Ali won't be in heaven. In that moment I was both stunned at the theological depth to which this eleven year old had gone, but also proud of the confidence he had in the teachings of the Bible. All I could do was agree with him and then look out the driver's side window mouthing "WOW!" to my self as we drove home.

There will be plenty of people who are not in heaven, not just Muhammad Ali. Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Atheists, Agnostics, and people who apply any number of labels to themselves. The only label that will be found in heaven is Christian. This is a person who has made peace with God through the shed blood of Jesus Christ, trusting in Christ for the forgiveness of their sins and received eternal life from God. Any other label means that a person does not have a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. What that means is that their eternity will not be in heaven, regardless of how famous, how rich, how generous, or how kind they were in this life. Revelation 20:11-15 is very clear that those who do not have a relationship with Jesus Christ before this life ends, they will spend eternity in the lake of fire, spiritually separated from God. Muhammad Ali, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and any other person not personally connected to God through the shed blood of Jesus Christ can expect to find themselves "thrown into the lake of fire" as it says in Revelation 20:15.

But all is not lost...yet. If you are reading this blog post, then there is still hope to avoid the same fate as Muhammad Ali and all those that will join him in the lake of fire. To avoid the torturous eternity designed for those who reject Jesus' sacrificial death, all you have to do is put your faith in Christ. It doesn't require adherence to five pillars, making pilgrimages, or any other number of deeds that will make you right with God. All it requires is for you to believe that Jesus is who the Bible says He is and that He did what the Bible says He did. It means believing He is the perfect and sinless Son of God who died on a cross for the sins of mankind and was raised from the dead by the power of God three days later. It means because of your belief in Him that you ask Him to forgive you of your sins (become your Savior) and ask Him to be in charge of your life (become your Lord). When you do, you'll receive the Holy Spirit of God inside of you as a guarantee of the eternal life that will be yours once this life is over. (If you want to read some more about this before making a decision, then check out https://peacewithgod.net/ or http://www.northcatawbabaptist.com/salvation for more information.

I'll close with this. My son had every bit of confidence he would not see Muhammad Ali in heaven for two reasons. First, as stated above, Muhammad Ali was not a Christian and therefore will not be in heaven. Secondly, and more importantly, my son knew he would be in heaven because he is a Christian. There was an unshakable confidence in his voice as he spoke. The question is, do you have that same unshakable confidence in your eternal destination? Are you confident you'll be in heaven when this life is over because you've trusted in Christ and received His forgiveness? Or will you be with Muhammad Ali and all the others who have rejected Christ? My encouragement to you today is that if you've not put your faith in Christ, then do so today. If you do, you can be confident about where you're going after this life is over. Plus, you can be like my eleven year old son and be bummed that you'll never get to meet Muhammad Ali.

If you have questions about salvation, Christ, or any other aspect of the Christian faith,t hen feel free to email at pastornick@northcatawbabaptist.com. I'll be glad to help you get answers to your questions.


If you enjoyed today's post, be sure to Share it on Facebook and Twitter so others can be encouraged too!

Monday, December 4, 2017

Marriage: An Archaic Tradition

Recently I was watching a show with one of my boys and the topic of marriage came up. One of the characters nonchalantly made a comment that would probably go unnoticed by most people watching the show. I happened to hear the comment and thought about how his comment is reflective of the attitude many in our society now take towards marriage. The comment made was "Marriage. An archaic tradition." Unfortunately, the words uttered by a television actor are words that resonate with the culture we now find ourselves living in.

Many people in our culture and society view marriage as nothing more than an ancient tradition that no longer holds the prominence it once did. One goal that many people, if not most people, in society used to reach for was to marry, have children, and build a life together. Today you find that less people seek this goal and many view marriage as simply a "piece of paper." We see this in the fact that more people today live together outside of marriage than they have in the past. We also see it in the fact that people try to rewrite the very definition of marriage to reflect their beliefs. Since marriage is as old as creation itself, one would think that we would not try to rewrite the definition of it to suit our own views. Regardless if people are cohabiting or entering into same-sex marriages, it does not change the fact that God's original design for human relationships was marriage between a man and a woman.

In Genesis 2:24 (NIV) we are told of God's plan for marriage and it is when "a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh." God's original and best design for mankind's most intimate relationship did not involve shallow physical relationships, cohabiting, or same-sex unions. God's design (which is always the best design) was for humans to enjoy relationships inside the confines of a marriage union between a man and a woman. All the physical, emotional, and relational aspects of marriage relationships were designed to be enjoyed within a God-designed marriage. Any perversion of God's design only leads to heartbreak, disappointment, and of course, sin. When we try to replace God's design for anything in life, marriage included, what we find ourselves doing is being disobedient to His command and He calls this sin. When we try to put our design in the place of His, we basically set ourselves in the place of God and fall victim to the same sins that caused Satan to try and overthrow God (check out the Bible to see how that worked out for him). The only solution for our sin is repentance, either for the first time or the hundredth, and allowing God to forgive us.

Consider this. One day we will all stand before God and be judged. Christians will be judged by Christ for what they have done in this life with the things He has given them (2 Corinthians 5:10). Non-Christians will be judged by God and find their name not written in the Book of Life only to be thrown into hell (Revelation 20:11-15). When we stand before Christ or God, not a single excuse we give will hold water. We can give any and every reason for why we perverted God's design for marriage and it won't matter one bit. For the Christian, unless repentance occurs, there will be spiritual blessings in heaven that will be withheld. For the non-Christian, unless repentance occurs, there is nothing to look forward to but an eternity of torture and separation from God.

I'll close with this. If you're a Christian currently living in a situation contrary to God's design for marriage, then you need to consider which relationship is more important to you. Your relationship with God should take top priority over any other relationship. Seek His forgiveness, repent, and do what is necessary to correct your romantic relationship. If your not a Christian check out this link to learn more about how to repent and start a relationship with God. Then you'll be able to put your relationship with your significant other in the proper context and make sure it is a relationship that honors God.


If you enjoyed today's post, be sure to Share it on Facebook and Twitter so others can be encouraged too!

Monday, November 27, 2017

Tom Petty's standing ovation at the Pearly Gates

A few weeks ago I was listening to a local classic rock station and there was a song playing by the late Tom Petty. When the song ended the DJ, like they normally do before a commercial break, transitioned with a few comments about the artist and the song. The first comment is what really caught my attention. The DJ started off by saying "Can you imagine the standing ovation Tom Petty received at the Pearly Gates?" I simply shook my head at the comment and changed the station not wanting to hear the upcoming commercials. 

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers were an awesome musical group. With albums that went Gold, Platinum, Double and Triple Platinum, receiving the Billboard Century Award, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and many other honors, Tom Petty was more than deserving of a standing ovation in any room he walked in. His contributions to music are evidenced by the fact he sold over 80 million albums worldwide making him one of the top 100 best-selling artists of all-time. His greatness in the area of music cannot be disputed.

The real question that should jump out at us after hearing (or in your case reading) the remarks of a DJ on the radio is "Was Tom Petty deserving of a standing ovation at the Pearly Gates?" I don't pretend to know the spiritual relationship between Tom Petty and God, but if mentions of his belief in the benefits of transcendental meditation are true, then I doubt that Tom Petty was a believer in Christ. That being said, Tom Petty, and everyone else for that matter, can expect an ovation at the gates of heaven based on one thing and one thing only. This ovation is not based on record sales, awards, honors, how good a person you were, how much you gave to charity or the church. This ovation is not based on what you thought about God, how you treated your family or if you provided for your family. This ovation is not based in anything you can do on this earth as a result of your own power, intellect, or musical ability.

The only thing that needs to be done so you can receive a standing ovation at the gates of Heaven has already been done for you, but the ovation itself is based in what you do with what has already been done. The only way for you to be received into heaven, which will excite God, the angels, and every person there, is to trust in Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior. Then and only then will there be a great ovation as you enter into heaven when this life is over. Jesus dying on the cross 2,000 years ago secured for you a spot in heaven. He's already done everything needed for you to get into heaven. The only way to claim that spot with your name on it is to believe that Jesus Christ is the perfect Son of God, who died on the cross for the forgiveness of your sins and was raised from the dead by the power of God three days later. If you believe this in your heart, and confess your sin, confess your need for forgiveness, and confess your desire for Jesus to be your Lord and Savior, then you will receive eternal life and a right relationship with God. When this life is over, you'll find yourself in heaven with a God and people who are excited to see you.

If for some reason you decide not to pursue a relationship with God and not receive the forgiveness Christ offers, then you'll find yourself on the outside looking in. To borrow from another classic rock artist, you'll find yourself "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" and you won't be getting in. The sad reality is that you'll be eternally separated from God. This means you'll spend eternity in the tortures of hell. There'll be no standing ovation at the gates of hell only "wailing and gnashing of teeth" (Matthew 8:12, 13:42). My suggestion to you today is to put your faith in Christ and avoid this awful existence after this life is over. By doing so you'll enter into a place God has prepared for you, specifically for you, and enjoy fellowship with Him and other believers for all of eternity. 

You can find more information on starting a relationship with God through Jesus Christ here or here.


If you enjoyed today's post, be sure to Share it on Facebook and Twitter so others can be encouraged too!

Monday, November 20, 2017

A Few Reasons for Giving Thanks

With Thanksgiving on Thursday, the thoughts of most people have turned to those things for which they are thankful. I want to share some reasons for giving thanks in hopes of encouraging you to, as the Psalmist puts it, "give thanks to him and praise his name." 

Psalm 100:4-5 says “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. 5 For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations” (NIV).

In verse 4 the Psalmist tells us we should give thanks to God and praise His name. In verse 5 the Psalmist goes on to give us 3 reasons why we should give thanks. So here are those reasons to give thanks and praise to God.

God is good.
“For the Lord is good…”

What the psalmist is pointing out here is part of the character of God, part of what makes God…God. The goodness of God is part of His very essence. It is part of His very DNA. When it comes to goodness or something being good, we understand it to mean something is favorable and right, rather than bad, wrong or possibly even evil. With our understanding that God is good and what goodness entails, then we understand that in God there is nothing bad or evil. He is a holy God who loves us and shares His goodness with us. 

Many times in life we look at the difficult events in our life and we call into question where is the goodness of God in my situation. The loss of a loved one, a relationship that ends badly, a job that is downsized, and the list goes on. But just because we face a difficult circumstance here on earth or even live a life constantly filled with adversities and difficulties doesn't change the goodness of God. Ultimately it shouldn't give us a negative view of God or His goodness. What we ought to experience in those difficult times in life is a greater appreciation for God’s goodness to us. We ought to have an attitude of thankfulness to God for His goodness during those difficulties. If we see God for who He is, a loving, benevolent, good and holy God then we will be thankful for all that God does for us. Especially seeing us through those difficult times in life. Ultimately the goodness of God is a reason we should give thanks to God and praise His name. 

Another reason to give thanks and praise to God is because...

God loves you.
“His love endures forever…”

For us, one of the greatest things we receive from God and can be thankful for is His love. Like the psalmist says here in verse 5, “His love endures forever…”This is a reason to be thankful on so many levels. Think first about God’s love. God’s love for us is shown in many different ways. Through His provision, His care, His grace, His mercy and many other ways. The greatest way we've been shown God’s love was through Christ dying on the cross for all of us. Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (NIV). God showed His love to you by allowing Jesus to die on the cross while you were dead in your sins, so you could have your sins forgiven, a perfect relationship with God, and eternal life. 

But verse 5 tells us that not only does God love us, but his love endures. This shows us the staying power of God’s love. It means God doesn't love us for a short time and then discard us or give up on us. His love endures all of the mess we put ourselves through by sinning and disobeying God. His love stands the test of time and we ought to be thankful for that. 

Finally we see that this love of God that endures all of our failures, it will endure forever. There is no end to the love of God. God has loved us since before time existed and He will love us into eternity, millions and billions of years from now. It is like God says in Jeremiah 31:3 “I have loved you with an everlasting love” (NIV). The everlasting and enduring nature of that love is all the more reason to praise Him and give thanks to Him. 

Another reason to give thanks and praise to God is because...

God is faithful.
“His faithfulness continues through all generations.”

God has proven Himself faithful for thousands of years through the pages of Scripture, through the pages of church history, and ultimately in your life. His faithfulness to you is found in verses like Deuteronomy 31:8 “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged." His faithfulness to His children is as enduring as His love we mentioned previously.

Notice what the psalmist says there in verse 5. He says “His faithfulness continues through all generations.” Basically the psalmist is telling us that from Adam & Eve until the final generation of people on earth God will be faithful to His people. There will never be a time when God is not faithful to you or to anyone else who’s ever lived. God’s enduring faithfulness to you is deserving of praise and thanks. 

God’s faithfulness to you in every aspect of your life deserves your thanks and praise. Consider His faithfulness to provide for you, love you, guide you, mold you, care for you, and protect you. His faithfulness through all of that and much more deserves at the least your thanks and at the most your praise.


If you enjoyed today's post, be sure to Share it on Facebook and Twitter so others can be encouraged too!

Monday, November 13, 2017

Diffusing a volatile situation

Friday evening my wife and I found ourselves right in the middle of a volatile and potentially violent domestic dispute. This dispute was between two people we'd  never met before but somehow while minding our own business we were pulled into the middle of this dispute. I can't go into the details of the situation but while the two were separated, my wife was talking to the woman involved and I went to give something back to the man that the woman had with her. From his demeanor and language I could tell he was more than upset before I ever got close to him. As I approached him I could tell he was not going to calm down anytime soon. I tried my best to talk to him and get him to calm down. After a few tense minutes of not knowing how things would go, he decided to leave. As he started to leave I told him I was a pastor and that I would be praying for him. I was surprised at how the simple words that I would be praying for him tossed a tremendous amount of water on a volatile fire. Although he did not leave before doing some more yelling and cursing at the lady, when he finally left I hoped I was done with the situation short of praying for him and the lady. 

Often times we tell people we will be praying for them and that is the extent of it. We say the words and never go through the process of actually interceding for the person. We talk a good game. We sound real religious but our actions don't line up. Only when we see the person again do we whisper a silent prayer for them as we're reaching out our hand so we can say we've been praying for them. It is like an old comic strip that showed a pastor thinking "Here comes Bob. Oh I forgot to pray for him. Lord bless Bob." Then the next strip shows the pastor shaking Bob's hand while letting Bob know he'd been praying for him. We see on social media, like Facebook, where someone shares a concern or problem, while requesting prayer. People "Like" or use an emoji in response or even comment "Praying." But how often do we click the buttons and continue scrolling without pausing to pray. Many times we have good intentions of praying for a person but it just doesn't get done. We're busy with our own lives and things slip through the cracks, including praying for others. The best advice I can give you on this topic is some advice an old, wise pastor once shared with me. Simply put, he said if you tell someone you will pray for them, then do it right then and there. Don't put it off because you could forget. As long as the situation lends itself to you praying for that person in the moment then do so. Not only will you keep your word but you will touch the heart of the person you are praying over.

On Saturday, as I went through my day, I regularly prayed for different aspects of the situation we were pulled into on Friday evening. I prayed for the couple and have prayed for them from time to time since then. On Saturday afternoon the man caught up with me and apologized for the way he had acted and the things he'd said in front of me and my wife. He said the situation had caused him to act in a way that was out of character for him. Then he said something several times that got my attention. He told me he appreciated the fact that I was praying for him. I thought my comment the night before had landed on deaf ears, especially after the way the night ended. We never know how our prayers or our offer to pray for someone will impact a situation or impact a person's life. So if you say you will pray for someone, be sure to do it. You never know how it may impact their life.


If you enjoyed today's post, be sure to Share it on Facebook and Twitter so others can be encouraged too!

Monday, October 30, 2017

Who Are You Thanking?

During the upcoming month of November people traditionally focus more on giving thanks than they do at any other time during the year. We generally attribute this to our celebration of Thanksgiving at the end of each November. As one of only 3 countries in the world that celebrate a specific day to give thanks (the others being Canada and Liberia), we usually pause on the fourth Thursday in November to give thanks in some form or fashion. Often times people will take a few moments, before digging into the turkey and dressing, to give people an opportunity to share those things for which they are thankful. I think this is a good and noble practice. It gives people an opportunity to verbalize their gratitude for the things they enjoy and those things that mean a great deal to them. It may be things like family, good health, love between family members, or any other number of items for which they are thankful. Voicing one's gratitude is important because it shows what is important to that person. But the thing that is more important is who are you thankful to?

If I walk into a store and someone holds a door for me, I will tell them "Thank You." If my waitress fills my drink up, I will tell her "Thank You." If someone gives me a gift, you guessed it, I will tell them "Thank You." The concept of giving thanks is to express gratitude for something. This gratitude must be directed somewhere, or more importantly to Someone. We often see the Thanksgiving Parade hosts or folks gathered around our tables at Thanksgiving sharing what they are thankful for but rarely sharing to whom they are thankful. Some will say the universe, fate, providence, good luck, or any other hosts of man-made ideals (or maybe I should say idols). We often hear an obligatory shout out of thanks to no one in particular, rather than thanking the God of the Universe.

The entire reason the pilgrim's celebrated Thanksgiving in the first place was to give thanks to God for the support they received from the local Native Americans and for His provision in their lives. Our thanks today are still to be directed at the God who holds everything together and provides us with everything we have. Psalm 107 (NIV), among other places in the Bible, reminds us to "Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; his love endures forever." The Bible is clear that all of our thanks, gratitude, and appreciation for things in this life, should be directed to God because of His goodness and His love. He is the embodiment of goodness and love. Because these traits are part of His DNA, He gives us good gifts from the depths of His love (James 1:17). Because He gives us more blessings from His hands than we could ever count, we need to give thanks to Him. Not some arbitrary, lip service to the universe but to the God who created the universe and holds it all together. If you can thank a person for holding a door, pouring a drink, or giving you a gift, then why not give God the credit and the thanks for what He has done for you?

I'll close with this. I encourage you to work to adjust your thankfulness this November. Not only during the days surrounding the Thanksgiving holiday, but the entire month of November. When asked what you're thankful for, start off with the phrase "I'm thankful to God for..." As the month of November comes to an end, don't let your gratitude toward God end there. Work to make this a habit every time you give thanks going forward. It will help point others to Him and it will bring glory to Him as you tell others to Whom you are thankful.


If you enjoyed today's post, be sure to Share it on Facebook and Twitter so others can be encouraged too!