Nudgings Feed

Nudgings #51 - Dec. 3 "I’m Thankful"

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I’m Thankful

Make thankfulness your sacrifice to God. (Psalm 50:14, NLT)

The other day at work, I passed a colleague in the hall who greeted me with, “How are you?” and I replied, “I’m thankful.” He paused and asked, “What are you thankful about?” and I answered, “Oh wow, lots of things …. I’m thankful for the gift of today, my health, this job, my family, my students, God’s love in my life, and … I’m thankful for you and the opportunity to work with you.” My coworker paused thoughtfully and said, “Hmmm … there is a lot to be thankful for,” and we went about our day.

When I responded to my colleague with, “I’m thankful,” I meant it. I wasn’t trying to be original or funny; I was being real. I know the customary response to the greeting, “How are you?” is “good,” but a while back, I came to the realization that I couldn't honestly respond with “good” every time to that question, because things aren’t always “good." We all have bad days (even bad years). At times, life brings moments and situations that stink. However, “good” isn’t the defining factor in my life—Jesus is—and because He is good, I can be thankful.

It’s been said that the Apostle Paul wrote about giving thanks and being thankful at least 46 times in his New Testament letters. It’s crazy, but the guy who tells us to “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thess. 5:18) and “give thanks always … and for everything” (Eph. 5:20) is the same guy whose story is filled with persecution, imprisonment, physical suffering, opposition, hostility, shipwrecks, peril, abandonment and betrayal. How can he be thankful, let alone implore us to be thankful?

It’s because thankfulness to God isn’t a feeling; it’s a choice. Asaph, the author of Psalm 50, equates thankfulness to the uncomfortable idea of sacrifice—giving up something valuable for something even more important or worthy. A life of gratitude doesn’t come naturally, or easily; it requires effort and practice. It’s a discipline. This is reflected in the tradition of praying before meals. We all need to eat, and when we do, mealtime can serve as a regular and tangible reminder to reflect upon God, showing appreciation and gratitude for His presence and care in our lives.

The thankfulness that Asaph refers to, that Paul calls us to, and that I mentioned to my colleague the other day, is based in and upon Jesus. Jesus is God. He is the author of life, the giver of hope and the source of every good thing. He is the Creator of the universe, the King of Kings, and the Lord of Lords. His very nature is one of compassion, mercy, love and grace.

Even while we were all dead in our ingratitude, rebellion and sin, Jesus took on flesh and blood and came to earth to save us. He died upon the cross, paid the price for the forgiveness of our sins, and rose from the grave. He is our help today and our hope for eternity. Jesus is “good,” and a friend who is always with us—even when life stinks. In Him is found joy, peace, hope and abundant life.

So, if you ask me, “How are you?” I am going to say, “thankful,” because of Jesus.

In Him, “… there is a lot to be thankful for.”

Nudgings #50 - Nov. 17 "Forget It"


Forget it

My grandparents had a small farm in Southern Idaho and it was my privilege to spend my summers working alongside my grandad on that farm. It was a great adventure that included tractors, milk cows, irrigation boots, barn cats, hay bales, hard work, and two dogs—Tara and Pug. Those two dogs knew every square inch of that 100-acre farm, and they spent their days exploring the fields, swimming in the pond, sleeping in the sun, and hunting the yellow-bellied marmot—commonly known as a rock chuck.

After lunch one day, my grandad and I walked out the back door of the house and were surprised to find a large, dead rock chuck lying on the back step. Tara and Pug stood nearby, panting, slobbering, and beaming with pride. We celebrated their triumph with pats on the head and lots of “good dogs” all around, and then my grandad told me to grab a shovel and go bury that thing in a nearby pasture.

I dragged that lifeless marmot out into the field, and the dogs followed me eagerly and attentively, brimming with joy. I dug what I thought was a deep hole and I buried the carcass. Two weeks later, the matted, stinking remains of that rock chuck appeared again on the back step of the house. Nearby, Tara and Pug lay innocently in the yard, but the traces of dirt on their front paws and noses told the story. Needless to say, I reburied the creature in a different spot, without Tara and Pug tagging along, and that was the end of that. They forgot about the rock chuck and resumed their life of fun and adventure on the farm.

Those crazy dogs had dug up that dead thing, and I understand why—they’re dogs. But why do you and I do the same thing? It’s been said that “memory is like a crazy woman that hoards colored rags and throws away food.” We remember the things we should forget, and forget the things we should remember.

We all have junk, mistakes, regrets and sin in our lives, but the Good News is that Jesus went to the cross and took all of that dead stuff and buried it. It is gone! All we have left to do is to forget it, and live a redeemed, victorious life of adventure and joy in Jesus.

In Isaiah 43, the prophet tells us to,

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!" (NIV)

In Philippians 3, the Apostle Paul tells us how he lived the victorious life,

“Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (NIV)

What are you keeping that you should throw away? What are you remembering that you should be forgetting? What are you digging up that Jesus has buried by His grace? “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound” (Romans 5:20, KJV). Don’t dwell on your past, your mistakes, your sin.

Forget it . . . and fix your eyes on Jesus.

Nudgings #49 - Oct. 27 "Not Alone"


Not Alone

Be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.

(Matthew 28:20, NLT)

Do you feel alone sometimes? Me too. Most major news outlets, many health care providers, the Surgeon General and (of course) Google, all say that the new epidemic in the U.S. is loneliness. But you and I know this is not a “new” problem; it’s an age-old problem that has resurfaced yet again.

Even in the best of circumstances, all of us experience the sense of being alone. It happens in my life when I encounter situations where I don’t know what to do. Whether I am facing the big challenges, stresses and struggles of life, or just dealing with the little hiccups, hurts and hurdles of the day, the common thread that I feel (but don’t dare give voice to) is ... “I am alone.”

Just the other day I was frustrated to find that my roof was leaking—again. I thought I had it fixed! Now what do I do? Who do I call? How much is this going to cost? And as the rain fell, I was drenched in loneliness.

A few years ago, I found myself in the throes of a critical illness that had all the doctors stumped. My body, mind and life were ebbing away, and I was desperate. The medical professionals were working hard for me, my family was loving me, my friends were supporting me, and countless people around the world were praying for me … and I felt alone.

There is no rhyme or reason to loneliness. It comes on us when we are by ourselves, and it ambushes in the midst of a crowd. We feel alone when we are faced with difficulties in life, work, relationships, family, finances, and health and sometimes ... when all is well.

The Enemy of our hearts wants us to believe the lie, “you are alone,” but thanks be to God, we are not alone. God is with us in our moments of confusion and suffering, and—more importantly—He is with us even before we enter into those challenging places!

Jesus' last words to you and me, and to every lonely person who has ever lived, are, "Be sure of this: I am with you always." Thankfully, in God's economy, "always" means... always.

In Joshua 5 we find the leader of God’s people facing an impossible situation—the towering walls of the city of Jericho. I am sure that Joshua felt alone at that moment, but he wasn’t. Joshua encountered the Lord in an angelic messenger who told him that where he was standing—on the cusp of the impossible—was holy ground because God was already there. Even before the battle begins, the Lord is with us.

In John 6 we find the disciples on a boat in the middle of a storm and in big trouble. As the storm raged and the waters of chaos threatened, the disciples felt scared, helpless, and alone. But they weren’t. Jesus was already therewalking upon the waters!

In his letter to the Philippians, the Apostle Paul speaks a powerful truth to all of us who feel alone. He says, “The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Phil. 4:5-6, NIV).

Did you catch that? In our moments of need and anxiety, we are not alone. The Lord is near! Even before the roof leaks, before that phone call comes, before the battle begins, before the healing happens, before help arrives, even before we call upon His Name (and even if we don't) … Jesus is with us.

Loneliness is real, and it is sinister, but it doesn’t have the last word in our lives. Look to Jesus with hope and take heart, for when we come before God with anything, we are standing on holy ground—because He is already there.

You and I are not alone.

Nudgings #48 - Aug. 30 "Who are you?"


Who are you?

The evil spirit replied, “I know Jesus, and I know Paul, but who are you?” (Acts 19:15, NLT)

I’ve taken my fair share of “selfies,” some with important and popular people, some in exotic places, and scores with friends and family. Honestly, I do it to make memories, but . . . at times, there is a little part of me that wants to be “known” as one who visits cool places and hangs out with the in-crowd. (Ouch! The blessing and bane of social media … and my pride.)

In Acts 19:13-16, there is a group of Jews called the Seven sons of Sceva who were trying to make a name for themselves (be “known”) by going around and casting out evil spirits. They were amassing huge crowds and getting lots of attention by name-dropping . . . "in the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches.”

And it worked—up to a point.

The Sons of Sceva looked good doing and saying what the people wanted. They were casting out evil spirits and garnering lots of “likes” and “followers.” But in the end, they were humiliated when one evil spirit they encountered called them out as posers—attacked them, beat them up and exposed them as frauds saying, “I know Jesus, and I know Paul, but who are you?”

The evil spirit knew Jesus was the Son of God, the Creator of the universe, the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, and the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world . . . and he trembled (James 2:19). And surprisingly, the evil spirit knew Paul too. But why? It’s because Paul’s claim to fame was this: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20, NIV).

Paul took the words of Jesus seriously when He said, “If any of you wants to be “known” as my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)

Paul was doing the work of the ministry in Ephesus, but Paul was not the one doing the miracles. It was Jesus who was breaking the strongholds, healing the sick, casting out evil spirits and releasing the captives—and He was doing it through Paul.

Paul knew that all the power and glory belonged to God, and he knew that the only way to really be “known” was not to be seen in scores of “selfies” in this world, but rather be found in a “die-to-selfie” with Jesus.

May we all be "known" in this way.

Nudgings #47 - Aug. 5, "Engagement Ring"


Engagement Ring

When you believed in Christ, he identified you as his own by giving you the Holy Spirit, whom he promised long ago. The Spirit is God’s guarantee that he will give us the inheritance he promised and that he has purchased us to be his own people. He did this so we would praise and glorify him. (Ephesians 1:13-14, NLT)

Thirty-six years ago I asked Dina to marry me and when I did, I gave her an engagement ring. It was a token of my love that symbolized my commitment to her and ultimately—to us. The ring was a tangible sign of my future intentions.

At the time, the engagement ring came at a significant cost to me. I was still in college and literally counting my pennies to get by. I did some odd jobs, saved up some money and was finally able to buy the ring. It was expensive … it cost me $100, but it was worth it! The ring represented so much more than dollars and cents. It was an investment in my preferred future—Dina and me together!

Much to my delight, Dina wore the ring proudly as a declaration of her current and future identity—it was a statement to everyone around her that she was loved and cherished by someone (me). It represented a sincere promise, a future hope and a dream fulfilled. It spoke of my love for her, my intentions toward her, and my dreams that included her. The ring on her finger affected both of us, as individuals and as a couple. It changed the way we saw ourselves and the way that we interacted with the world around us.

In Ephesians 1 Paul tells us that the Holy Spirit is the promise of God to His people. It is God’s divine pledge to the bride of Christ—earnest money down on the guarantee of our eternal life with Him. Essentially, the Holy Spirit is our engagement ring from Jesus. It predicates a now and future reality—an already but not yet promise of God’s Kingdom, love and life in our midst. It clarifies our identity, sets our purpose, and represents an integral union as we live and move and have our being in Him. It sings aloud, “I am His and He is mine.” Commitment, self-sacrifice, faithfulness and love are inherent to its encircling presence in our lives. Jesus gives us the Holy Spirit and we wear it—encompassed in His essence and power—we walk, talk, work, play and live our lives.

The ring I bought for Dina cost me a $100. The engagement ring that God the Father bought for you and for me cost Him the life of His Son. Receive the gift, walk in the Spirit and wear it proudly, joyfully and hopefully. It is a sign to the world that you belong to Him.

Nudgings #46 - July 31, "Whatever Happens"


Whatever Happens

As I sat in church on Sunday and listened to the sermon, my heart and mind were going in another direction. I saw a guy in church that looked like Rex, the auto shop service advisor that I had interacted with two days earlier. My car had been in for repairs and when I went to pick it up my interaction with Rex was a bit tense. I disagreed with the bill. I had done my research and felt the charges were excessive.

I voiced my concern and made my case convincingly … and a bit curtly. In the end my bill was reduced by $150, but seeing this guy that looked like Rex in church made me think . . . What if it’s him? What will he think when he sees me playing bass in the worship band? What will he think of my testimony for the Lord?

As I reflected on my interaction with Rex I concluded that I said and did nothing that was wrong, inappropriate or that I regret, but I still didn’t feel right about it. I tried to allay my concern by recalling something I had recently read stating, “Too many of us confuse the words “nice” and “godly.” They are not the same thing.”

I agree with this. Sometimes hard things need to be said and done and they don’t feel and/or appear to be “nice” at the time. I mean c’mon, Jesus flipped tables in the temple didn’t he?

Yes, but He also died upon a cross . . . for me and Rex.

As you can see, as I sat there in church I wasn’t listening to the sermon, I was wrestling with things before God. Do I just let people run over me? Take advantage of me? Overcharge me? It’s not right!

Immediately my mind went to a quote from Wayne Dyer that I often repeat to my fifth grade students, “If you have the choice between being right and being kind, choose being kind.”

Then my mind went to Paul’s words in Romans 2:4, Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin? (NLT)

Nice? Right? Kind? Godly? I don’t necessarily want to be thought of as “nice” but I do want to be “godly”—more specifically—Christlike. What is $150 worth?

In Paul’s New Testament letters to the churches he says to make sure that everything you say and do is seasoned with salt so as to present Christ in a tasteful and honorific way in and through your life (Col. 4:6). Jesus is my hope, my help, my Lord and my life. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Galatians 2:20, NIV).

God is my provider (Matt. 6:11). He is my portion (Ps. 142:5). He can pay my bills. Do I really need to fight and fuss? Where is my trust? Tyler Staton says that, “Sin is meeting the deep needs of my life by my own resources.” When it comes to my needs and immediate concerns ... do I argue, assert myself and exhibit contempt so as to communicate my position, convince my contender and manipulate a situation for my benefit?

Is the $150 discount that transpired after I voiced my concern and complaint worth the uncomfortable conflict and likely diminishment of my testimony for Christ to Rex and the others in the room? Like I said, in my interaction with Rex I did and said nothing that was wrong, inappropriate or that I regret, but I still didn’t feel right about it. So, at the end of the church service I went up to the guy and asked him if his name was Rex, unfortunately, it wasn’t him.

I’m headed back to the auto shop.

Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. (Philippians 1:27, NIV)

Nudgings #45 - April 28, "Default or Design"

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Are you living by default or design?

I am a school teacher and the other day one of my fifth graders showed up in class with a set of three juggling balls. She said that she won them at a carnival and wanted to donate them to our classroom. I asked her why she didn’t want to keep them and she said, “Because I don’t know how to juggle.”

She handed me the balls and I began to juggle them. The whole class was in awe and asked, “How did you learn how to do that?” I told them that I learned how to juggle when I was their age. One Saturday morning I got three of my dad’s racquetballs, stepped away from the TV and the inner voice in my head that said, “you can’t,” and I spent the entire day learning how to juggle. I must have bent over a million times that day to pick up a dropped ball, but through failure, frustration, tears, anger and work, I ended the day knowing how to juggle.

I told the kids, you can either live by default or design. Default is the place of stay the way you are, let life happen and end up where you end up. Design is where you take action, make your life, choose your way and engage in becoming a person who can juggle, write, draw, play music, invent, create beauty, help others … whatever!

In Romans 12:1-2 the Apostle Paul exhorts us to engage with Jesus in designing our lives. He writes,

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. (MSG)

Default says, “it is what it is,” but design says, “make it, move it, change it, create it.” Paul says we design our lives by fixing our eyes on Jesus and offering our bodies, minds, hearts and souls to God—for His glory.

Jesus died for our sins and rose from the grave to give us abundant life—today and forevermore—and he says to each one of us, “come to me and truly live!” God’s mercies are new every morning and He graciously gives each one of us a set of three juggling balls and a Saturday and says, “start becoming.”

Are you living by default or by “His” design?

By the way, that little gal in my classroom decided to keep the three balls and is well on her way to learning how to juggle.

Nudgings #44 - March 17, Scars Tell a Story

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I went to the dermatologist the other day for a full-body check up and the doctor pointed at the five scars on my stomach and said, “I bet there’s a story there.” I could have shared with him a long, detailed account about sickness, struggle, fear, frustration, doubt, tears, disappointment, long nights, prayers, miracles and praise, but I didn’t. I just responded, “Yep, those scars are from the pancreatic surgery I had a couple of years ago at the Mayo Clinic. That surgery saved my life.”

Scars tell a story. Jesus had scars on his hands and feet from being hung on a cross for you and for me, and those scars speak volumes . . . and they are still speaking today. They tell a story of presence, peace, healing, power and love.

Three days after his crucifixion some of Jesus’ disciples were walking to the town of Emmaus when they encountered another traveler. They walked and talked with the stranger for hours, but they didn’t know who he was until they saw the nail prints on his hands and, “then their eyes were opened and they recognized him.” When they saw the scars, they knew it was Jesus. (see Luke 24:30-31)

Later that same day, in the city of Jerusalem, Jesus appeared to a gathering of disciples through barred gates and locked doors, but his presence and words of comfort had no calming effect upon them. The face they saw looked vaguely familiar, but not enough to distinguish him from the other men in that region. The disciples were tentative, frightened and doubting, but then Jesus showed them the marks on his hands and feet and then they knew it was him. He was known to them by his scars. (see Luke 24:36-39)

Decades later, long after the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, the Apostle John was given a glimpse into Heaven where he saw a prophetic and symbolic scene from the gathering of all gatherings. The one who is the King of Kings, Lord of Lords and Creator of the Universe was being called upon to victoriously open the scrolls of all time and eternity, and John, along with billions of others in the crowd, was scanning the stage, eagerly looking for the the Lion of the tribe of Judah—the only One worthy of opening the scrolls——but He was nowhere to be found. Instead, at the center of it all, stood a lamb that looked as if it had been slaughtered. The sacrificial lamb was Jesus, bearing the scars of His crucifixion. (see Revelation 5:6)

Scars tell a story, and the scars of Jesus are still speaking today. The story they tell is all about you and me. The Apostle Peter writes, “Jesus personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed.” (1 Peter 2:24, NLT)

If you ask me about the scars of Jesus, there’s definitely a story there . . . those scars saved my soul and my life.

Nudgings #43 - Jan. 1  Happy New Year

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A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. (Luke 19:2-4, NIV)

Tradition says that Zacchaeus used to regularly come to water the tree where he found Christ. That tree, where Zacchaeus first saw Jesus—and more importantly, where Jesus first saw Zacchaeus—was a place of precious remembrance and new life. It is where the ever-flowing river of time lost its hold on that traitor, turned tax-collector’s heart and mind. It is where the wood, hay and stubble of a dead-end life turned into something green, growing and truly alive. 

For me, New Year’s Day is a place of remembering—it’s a place where I water the place of my new creation with tears of joy. Otherwise, it’s just another twist and turn on the river of time. Sure, I can let go of the regrets of last year and resolve to do better in the year ahead, but in reality, it’s just another day. But then I remember when I met Jesus, and He met me, and the burden of my heart rolled away. There is no life, hope or help in the turning of a calendar page. Jesus is the Lord of this New Year and He loves you! Remember Him. Happy New Year.


Nudgings #42 - Why He Came as a Baby


The angel said to [the shepherds], “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you. (Luke 2:10-11, NIV)

The other night we took our daughter’s dog, Rio, on a walk and enjoyed seeing all of the Christmas decorations in the neighborhood. One house had a rather large Nativity Scene displayed in the front yard and it caught our attention. It was lit up, included all the characters in the story, and even had “Joy To the World” ringing out from a speaker hidden deep beneath the straw.

Rio was intrigued by the cow in the scene. It was funny to watch her stop and cautiously stretch out her neck to touch noses with the plastic beast. Once she realized it wasn’t real and all was safe, she lost interest and we kept walking.

My attention was on the child at the center of the display, and as we walked, I pondered the Creator of the Universe, stooping down, coming as a baby and living among us . . .

The scene of His birth wasn’t on the front lawn of a sleepy little sub-division, it was in the midst of poverty, struggle and danger. Jesus came in the flesh and lived with us in the humblest and most ordinary conditions. He lived quietly, faithfully, obediently and lovingly as He walked the rough and dusty roads of this life—through sorrow, suffering and ultimately to death on a cross “for all the people.”

Jesus was born to us—to save us. He didn’t come to us as a model, example, teacher, healer, or guide. His agenda wasn’t about Heaven or Hell or politics or popularity. It was all about you and me—living today in this very harsh and hard world.

He came to us as a flesh and blood baby, to live among us and save us from sin and all the hopelessness, sorrow, separation and loss that it entails. Jesus is the Almighty God, the Creator of the Universe and the baby in the manger. He is real and in Him we are safe.

As we wrapped up our walk, I found my pondering had turned to humming . . . “Joy to the World.”