Nudgings Feed

Nudgings #55 - May 19 "Old Wet Tennis Shoes"

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Old Wet Tennis Shoes

All of you, dress yourselves in humility as you relate to one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor. (1 Peter 5:5-6, NLT)

According to the Apostle Peter, what we wear matters. And he isn’t talking about power suits and skinny jeans; he’s talking about pride and humility. The manner in which we conduct ourselves affects our relationships and interactions, both with God and with others. Pride is a non-conductor, an insulator that inhibits our connection with God and those around us; whereas humility, as exemplified by Jesus, serves as the conduit in our lives through which God powerfully impacts the world with His love.

As a kid growing up on my Grandad’s farm, I learned a valuable lesson about electricity and conductivity that I believe applies to Peter’s admonition to “dress yourselves in humility.”

At the time, I was wearing a pair of old wet tennis shoes.

In the midst of a busy day of feeding and milking cows, irrigating fields, and maintaining farm equipment, my grandad and I spent some time after lunch mending fence. The tools and materials we needed for the job were in the back of the old farm truck. My grandad asked me to back the rig up to an area of fence that needed some work. Eagerly I complied, but ended up getting the truck a bit too close to the fence—and it was an electric fence.

When my grandad let down the pickup's tailgate it was lying on top of the electric fence wire. My grandad, clad in rubber irrigation boots was unperturbed. He placed one hand on the bed of the pickup and, with a mischievous grin, beckoned me over, extending his weathered hand.

"Grab hold," he said, his eyes twinkling. Obliging and clueless, I squished over to him in my old wet tennis shoes. I reached out, took his hand, and completed the circuit. A jolt of electricity shocked us both!

Grandad's laughter filled the air. Despite the tingling sensation coursing through my veins, I couldn't help but join in. It was a moment of delightful levity, a lesson learned about conductivity, and a metaphor for life.

Pride is a non-conductor. Just as the rubber tires and boots shielded the pickup and my grandad from the electric charge, so too does pride insulate us from the flow of empathy, compassion, and connection with others. Pride stems from thinking too highly of ourselves, and our achievements and circumstances. Pride quenches the Spirit—extinguishing the spark, power, and life of God in our lives. It creates a barrier between us and God and the world around us.

Humility, on the other hand, connects us to God and others, and it is the pathway through which God’s power, grace, goodness, and blessing are realized in our lives. Jesus is our model—the Son of God, the King of Kings, and the Lord of Lords, “… made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!" (Phil. 2:7-8, NIV)

God extends His hand to us—and to the world around us—through humility. So, as you go about your day, remember Peter’s words and “dress yourselves in humility.” Put on your old wet tennis shoes and step into the world. You might find the outcome to be delightfully shocking.


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

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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.”


Nudgings #41 - A Free Life Jacket Kiosk

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Listen as Wisdom calls out
Hear as understanding raises her voice!
On the hilltop along the road,
she takes her stand at the crossroads.
By the gates at the entrance to the town,
on the road leading in, she cries aloud,
I call to you, to all of you!
I raise my voice to all people. …
But those who miss me injure themselves.
All who hate me love death. (Proverbs 8:1-4, 36 NLT)

You choose.

The Wisdom of God is like a free life jacket kiosk at a lake. It’s always there and available, offering help, support, peace of mind, safety, good sense, protection and . . . life.

But most of us don’t give that kiosk a second look.

C’mon, life jackets are bulky, uncomfortable, too hot, they get in the way, and they just aren’t cool. The water’s calling and we jump right in!  We say, “I’m a strong swimmer, nothing’s going to happen to me,” . . . until it does, and then it’s too late.

The waters of life these days are rough, churning and dangerous, and every morning, as we enter the maelstrom, there stands the Wisdom of God kiosk—calling out, ready and available to help and to save.

Those who miss it, risk injury. Those who reject it, incur death.

Jesus Christ is the Wisdom of God kiosk and the life jacket. “[He] is the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor. 1:24, NLT). He knows your heart, and all about your wants, needs, hopes, disappointments, challenges, losses, victories and failures, and he sees you struggling to stay afloat amidst the troubled waters.

And He offers help.

He says, “I love you and I want to save you. Come unto Me, put me on, and I will give you life.”

You choose.


Nudgings #40 - Psalm 131 Prayer Response

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My heart is not proud, Lord,
my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters
or things too wonderful for me.
But I have calmed and quieted myself,
I am like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child I am content.
Israel, put your hope in the Lord
both now and forevermore. (Psalm 131:1-3, NLT)

My prayer:
Pride is a part of me. Guard my heart Lord and keep me close, for I know you “oppose the proud but give grace to the humble.” I want and need you in my life—more than anything.


Haughty eyes . . . I have them. Forgive me God. Help me to not look down on anyone with criticism, judgment, or disdain. Give me eyes of love. Help me to remember how you see me . . . and may your kindness, mercy and grace be the lens through which I view the world around me.


Keep my eyes fixed on you Jesus. Steady me as the world of science, media, culture, entertainment, economics and politics swirls. Keep me from being caught up in it all. I am not my infantile urges. My peace is found in Jesus. He is my life, my growth, my maturity, my identity and my help.


I am wholly devoted to the Father who loves me, provides for me, guides me and cares for me—completely.


In You alone I put my hope and trust.
Amen.


Nudgings #39 - Cling to Jesus

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I cling to you; your strong right hand holds me securely. (Psalm 63:8, NLT)

The other day I spent over two hours watching a power company worker climb and trim a huge tree. Wow. I can’t speak for the climber, but for me, just watching it all was an amazing, interesting, challenging, adventurous, nerve-racking and scary experience.

The climber used a harness, carabiners, ropes, two flip lines and a set of spikes on his feet to hold himself and his heavy chainsaw to that tree. At one point I saw the climber’s spikes slip, but the worker didn’t fall because his flip line and harness held him fast. The tree stood tall and strong, and as long as the climber clung to it . . . he was safe.

In Psalm 63 we find King David (a person just like you and me) in the midst of an amazing, interesting, challenging, adventurous, nerve-racking and scary experience––life.

And what did he do? He held on to the One holding him.

“I cling to you; your strong right hand holds me securely.” (vs. 8)

So, that’s what I will do. I will cling to the mighty Tree of Life who is holding me––Jesus, the one who died upon a tree.


Nudgings #38 - Eternity

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God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. (Ecclesiastes 3:11, NLT)

For now we see through a glass, darkly … (1 Corinthians 13:12, KJV)

I don’t understand all this “eternity” talk . . . but then again maybe I do, sort of. Eternity means forever, and forever includes tomorrow, and I spend a lot of time thinking about, wondering about and unfortunately, worrying about tomorrow. And I know you do too.

All humans have “eternity” in their hearts and minds. Just look at the way we all check the weather. The news stories and interest articles that catch and keep our attention are all about what is coming—what might be. And for all of us, at one time or another, things don’t look too good—in fact, they look dark. So what are we to do with this “eternity” in our hearts?

The wisdom literature of the Old Testament tell us to:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6, ESV)

And Jesus, as he speaks to Jairus, a desperate father in the New Testament, says to us:

Don’t listen to them; just trust me. (Mark 5:36, MSG)

This “eternity” thing is in us, and way beyond us. We get it, but we don’t, and this place of tension and unease leaves us in a difficult place. What are we to do? Like the Apostle Paul, “we see through a glass, darkly.” He had eternity in his heart too, so I’m going to follow his lead. He says:

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: 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. (Philippians 3:13-14, NIV)


Nudgings #37 - Holy Saturday

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There isn’t much written in the Bible or in the history books about Holy Saturday—the day between Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. It is a backwards day, a hopeless day—an evil day. Its silence screams things like: hate, loss, war crimes, hyperinflation, malignant, shame, “there’s nothing more we can do,” good-bye and Jesus is dead.

And then the angel says to the women at the tomb and to you and me . . . 

“Why are you looking among the dead for someone who is alive? He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead!” (Luke 24:5-6, NLT)

Let us be reminded that the suffering only lasts for the night. The darkness of Holy Saturday will end—evil spelled backwards is live—and joy comes in the morning. 

“Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:54-55, NLT)

Let the backwards silence of Holy Saturday be drowned out by the One who said,

“Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33, NLT)

Jesus is Risen!


Nudgings #36 - But Now . . . Follow Me (Easter Poem)

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Go, tell his disciples and Peter, . . . (Mark 16:7, NIV)

But Now . . . Follow Me
by Ryan M. Roberts

Where Jesus walked, the disciples followed;
But not all the way.
“Where I go now, you can’t. But later, ...”
Was all that He would say.

After midday prayers, Peter’s words rang out,
“No matter what or where or who;
You are mine, and I am yours.”
He said, “I will die with you!”

Amid friends huddled ‘round the fire that night;
“Hosannas!” gleamed in memory.
With hopes high, but resolve low,
The glow faded into Gethsemane.

They watched with the Christ in darkness,
But their prayers turned quickly to sleep.
And Peter’s vow, though earnest,
Was more than he could keep.

He drew his sword at the gleam of the torch,
But the Lord said, “No more of this!”
Jesus touched and healed His enemy;
And was led away, betrayed by a kiss.

Peter followed Him from a distance;
Keeping warm by the fire of his foe.
When asked, “You’re with Jesus, yes?”
Three times his response was, “No.”

With the lies came a rooster’s crow.
The look, a whip, the crown, a hill,
A cross, the cry, a spear thrust forth;
The King of Kings to kill.

Three days passed, Peter sat alone;
The guilt and regret—his choice.
Now what? Now where? Now who?
“He’s gone!” Peter leapt at Mary’s voice.

He ran to the tomb, bent low and went in,
Echoes, predictions, rags filled the space.
“Tear down this temple and in three days it will rise.”
Peter left, wonder full on his face.

There were sightings and sayings that, “He is alive!”
Stories no book could contain.
Yet ashamed, Peter watched the Christ from afar;
He should laud, but his failures remained.

Peter said to his friends, “Let’s fish,” and they went,
To row and to cast was no chore.
The fish, they were few, but the company good;
Then they heard a voice from the shore.

Jesus was there, by the fire, cooking food.
He said, “Come my friends, let’s eat.”
Peter pledged all his love—heart, mind and soul,
Jesus smiled and said, “Feed my sheep.”

“Your own efforts and failures, left you lost and in chains,
Through my wounds and my death you are free.
Where I went, you could not go on your own,
But now . . . in my power, follow Me.”


Nudgings #35 - Call Out to Jesus

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The LORD is righteous in all his ways, and loving toward all he has made. The LORD is near to all who call on him. (Psalm 145:17-18, NIV)

I will never forget the day that Becca broke her arm. We were having fun together at the elementary school playground near our house and Becca was showing me her first-grade “skills” on all the different play equipment. She was climbing and hanging and swinging and saying, “Watch this Daddy,” and “Look at me, Daddy,” and I was close by watching and “oohing” and “aahing.”

And then it happened. 

Becca slipped off the bars and fell to the ground. She put her hand out to break her fall and landed on her arm. As I ran toward her she looked up at me and cried, “Daddy!” and I can still hear her voice—it sounded so shaky and fragile and fearful—it pierced my heart.

I helped her immediately. I gently cradled her hurt arm in my hands and calmly told her that everything was going to be OK. I held her close as we walked back to the house and I assured her that her Mom and I were going to take her to the doctor. Two hours later Becca’s tears and pain were replaced with a good story and a fancy blue cast—and I was the first person to sign it. 

“Daddy!” . . . I will never forget the sound of Becca’s cry. Even before she called out to me, I was running to help her, because I love her.

How much more does God the Father love you and me? He so wants us to call out to Him—and a cry is all it takes. When it comes to prayer, God isn’t picky. He wants to hear from us and He wants to help us because He loves and delights in us just like parents delight in their children. 

The LORD doesn’t require perfect words or polished language. Your voice gets his attention. Your cry pierces his heart. God is a good Father to his children. He hears us, helps us, saves us, “oohs” and “aahs” over us . . . and loves us.

Call out to Jesus.