Nudgings #32 - Crystal Clear

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In these days of trouble is your faith fuzzy and your hope blurred?

Look to Love.

The Apostles Paul, Peter and John all make it crystal clear that love is the first and last word—it is to be the supreme attribute and value in our hearts and lives.

Paul said, “Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13, NLT)

Peter said, “For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.” (2 Peter 1:5-7, NIV)

John said, “God is love.” (1 John 4:8, NLT)

Jesus said, “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”(John 13:34-35, NLT)

Jesus, the One who is love, came and lived with us and died for us, and now He lives in us and shows us what love looks like:

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7, NLT)

So we pray:
Jesus, as we walk in darkness, wade through troubled waters and stumble forward on a path that is unclear, we look to Love. May it live in us and through us, for Your glory. Make us crystal clear for You.


Nudgings #31 - Show Up

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Jesus said, “No procrastination. No backward looks. You can’t put God’s kingdom off till tomorrow. Seize the day.” (Luke 9:62, MSG)

I have a standing meeting at 5:00 a.m. every day. It is with the Almighty God and sometimes a few other folks, and the agenda is always the same:

Jesus must become greater; Ryan must become less. (John 3:30)

The focus of the meeting is on my walk with Jesus—yes with my feet—but mostly with my heart, because the inner walk is what empowers and sustains the outer walk. God got me started on this journey with Jesus and He is the one that brings about growth in my heart and life.

Everything that happens in the meeting is grounded upon this one point: God loves me and saved me from my sins through the shed blood of his son, Jesus Christ. Jesus rose from the dead and He is my hope, my help and my life.

All I do is show up, lean in and make myself available to Him.

My morning meetings always include a time of prayer—calling out to the Lord for His help, strength, Spirit, protection, wisdom and love in my heart and life.

I read from the Bible. It is God’s voice to me. It washes my heart and mind, sheds light on my path and builds my faith. The Word of God is primary to the meeting agenda.

I often do some spiritual reading from various authors and teachers (they are the other folks at the meeting). This reading is usually from devotionals and commentaries and it is always based on the Bible.

And then, I write in my journal. This is the way that I reflect on what I have learned and heard from the Holy Spirit. Reflecting is key to growth in Jesus, for blessed is the man and woman who meditates on and delights in God’s Word.

I try not to miss a meeting because Jesus is always there, waiting for me to arrive, and every day that I show up, I walk away with strength, help and hope.

Do you have a standing meeting with Jesus? He wants to meet with you, and it doesn’t need to be at 5:00 a.m. He is ever available. You set a time and He will be there.

All you need to do is show up, lean in and make yourself available to Him.


Nudgings #30 - 40 years or 11 days—You Choose

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Normally it takes only eleven days to travel from Mount Sinai to Kadesh-barnea, going by way of Mount Seir. But forty years after the Israelites left Egypt, on the first day of the eleventh month, Moses addressed the people of Israel. (Deuteronomy 1:2-3, NLT)

Last summer I was on a freeway somewhere on the border of Idaho, Washington and nowhere . . . and I missed my exit. Frustrating!! I had to drive miles and miles before I could cross over to the other side of the freeway, retrace my steps, and get back on my desired path. It added 90 minutes to my trip!

But adding an extra hour and a half to a trip is nothing compared to what the children of Israel did. They spent 40 years on a journey that should have lasted 11 days!

On the day they followed Moses out of Egypt they were only 11 days away from the Promised Land, but it took them 40 years to get there, and the crazy thing is, that it wasn't the distance or difficulty of the journey that delayed their arrival—it was the path they chose to take.

My excuse for missing the freeway exit last summer was because I was listening to music and not paying attention to the signs. But what were the Israelites doing (or not doing) that delayed them by 40 years?

I found the answer in Psalm 78. It says that God rescued the Israelites from bondage and slavery in Egypt, saved them from Pharaoh’s army by parting the Red Sea, guided them by cloud and by fire, gave them water to drink and food to eat (which is essentially saying that God gave them life), and yet . . . they kept on sinning. They failed to trust God. They complained, they rebelled and they did not remember Him, His ways, nor His Presence in their lives.

They spent 40 years on a journey that should have lasted 11 days because of worry, grumbling, whining, a bad attitude, an ungrateful spirit and . . . sin. Now that’s an exit you don’t want to take. It will lead you down a road that will strip you of hope, leave you with regret and rob you of precious years—even entire seasons—of your life.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to lose 90 minutes of time, let alone 40 years, and I suspect that Moses and the Israelites didn't either. In fact, most of the folks that started out on that 11-day journey to the Promised Land were dead and gone 40 years later. They never made it.

But please note that not everyone missed the exit to the Promised Land. Joshua made it, and may we all pay attention to his words:

"Choose today whom you will serve, . . . as for me and my family we will serve the LORD." (Joshua 24:15, NLT)

40 years or 11 days . . . you choose.
I choose Jesus.


Nudgings #29 - We Have No Idea

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One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers—Simon, also called Peter, and Andrew—throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living. Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” And they left their nets at once and followed him. (Matthew 4:18-20, NLT)

Reading this passage about Peter and Andrew being called by Jesus my mind immediately goes to two places: the old Yiddish proverb that says, “Man plans, and God laughs, ” and the children’s Sunday School song, “I Will Make You Fishers of Men.” 

As a child, I would sing this song and cast my imaginary fishing line out into the world and at that time I had no idea what a crazy risk it was for Peter and Andrew to follow Jesus. I now realize that they probably had life all planned out—grow their business, raise a family, do their best, and enjoy life.

But then Jesus called and God laughed.

Peter and Andrew had no idea that following Jesus would mean having their lives sung about by children and displayed on flannel graphs throughout the world. They had no idea they would be public speakers, healers, gospel writers, and world-changers, and that they would walk, talk and partner with the Creator of the Universe—the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.

We have no idea . . .

Years ago, when my daughters were in elementary school, my wife and I bought a home and we chose the location carefully—the house was in a nice neighborhood and the nearby junior high and high school were excellent. It was perfect—a good place, good schools, and a good plan. But the year before our oldest child entered junior high we got an opportunity, took a risk, and moved to South Korea to teach for two years at an international school.

And God laughed.

Neither of my daughters ever went to the junior high and high school in our neighborhood. That two year stint overseas turned into eight years of new friends, meaningful work and life changing adventure. We all grew deeply in our faith and saw Jesus work in our midst and through our lives in unimaginable ways. We had no idea. And now, when I look back and think of my plans verses God’s hand of faithfulness in my life—I laugh.

You and I have no idea of all that God wants to do with our lives. We have no idea what He wants to accomplish in and through us today. We plan, Jesus calls and God laughs.

Follow Jesus.


Nudgings #28 - In His Hands

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Into your hands I commit my spirit; deliver me, Lord, my faithful God. (Psalm 31:5, NIV)

When I was a kid, silver dollars were a big deal. They were large, shiny coins that were cool to look at—and they were money! I always wanted one and my eighty-year-old great-granddad knew this, so at family gatherings he would teasingly play a game with me. He would show me a brand new silver dollar, then grip the coin in his fist and say, “You can have it if you can get it out of my hand.” Easy-peasy, all I had to do was open up his hand and the silver dollar was mine.

I would then spend the next ten minutes trying to tug, pull, pound, twist and pry my great-granddad’s fingers apart and hand open. But it was to no avail. I would sweat, strain and struggle, and all the while my great-granddad would watch with a delighted grin on his face. I could not get that coin out of his gnarled fist. It was like iron! His strength was amazing.

He would finally say, “Ya give?” and I would eventually relent and accept defeat. And then to my surprise and delight my great-granddad would open up his hand and give me the silver dollar. It was mine!

“Into your hands I commit my spirit.”

King David wrote those words when he was in a tight spot and needed God’s help, and a thousand years later Jesus quoted them on the cross just before leaving his earthly body and going to the Lord.

Jesus died upon the cross so that we might live. We are his treasure (his “silver dollar”) and when Jesus committed his life into the strong and mighty hands of God, He took us with Him—holding us tightly in His nail-pierced hands.

Nothing in all creation is greater than the loving hand of Jesus. He delights in you, holds you in His iron fist and says, “You are mine!”

Commit your life to Him. He will not let you go.


Nudgings #27 - No Words

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The Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. (Romans 8:26-27, NIV)

I know I must pray, but O God, how can I pray at a time like this?
I have no words.
My heart aches for the innocent, and the not so innocent, for without regard—war is hell. I grieve for others and for myself. The disruption, the pain, the fear, are real. My mind rages against the evil, the injustice and the enemy.
I have no words.
But Jesus you are the Word and my help, and when I look upon your cross I know that you know my struggle and You understand (Heb. 4:16). So I trust in You and call upon Your mercy and Your grace—available when I need it most.
I know I must pray.
I have no words, but one—Jesus.


Nudgings #26 - The Next Step

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What joy for those whose strength comes from the Lord, who have set their minds on a pilgrimage [to God]. (Psalm 84:5, NLT)

All of life for the Christian is a pilgrimage. It is a journey with Jesus whose destination is the Kingdom of God. Every journey is realized one step at a time, and although one step seems small and insignificant, it is all that matters as we live and move and have our being in Jesus.

We can carry the title of Christian and attend church faithfully, but to progress on our pilgrimage we must walk the talk. When push comes to shove, we have to trust Jesus—and it all starts with one step—leave your nets (Mark 1), let the dead bury their dead (Matthew 8), burn the plow (1 Kings 19), call upon Me (Psalm 50:15), take up your cross (Luke 9), come follow Me (Matthew 4).

A life for Christ is realized one step at a time. Stepping out in faith is hard. We don’t see clearly and we don’t know the way. But that’s OK. We don’t need all the answers right now, we just need to take the next step, and with every step the view changes, new paths reveal themselves and we find that we are on the Way.

Jesus is the Way. Take the next step—trust Him.


Nudgings #25 - Cling to Jesus

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“Don’t cling to me,” Jesus said, “for I haven’t yet ascended to the Father. But go find my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” (John 20:17, NLT)

When I think of clinging, my mind goes to Bangalore, India. It was my privilege to work at an international school in South Korea for eight years, and a part of the school’s educational program included service to others. During Spring Break each year the school would send students out on service trips throughout Asia, and for four of those years it was my pleasure to lead a team of high school students to an orphanage in Bangalore.

What a joy it was for me and my family to spend time with the precious children there in that place. It was a week filled with talking, playing, teaching, singing, laughing, loving and making new friends. From those times and experiences I carry a myriad of rich memories, but the one that stands out the most is the way the little ones would cling to me when I was holding them. There were scores of little children in that place and they all wanted to be picked up, held and carried around—and they didn’t want to be put down. They held on tightly as I held them in my arms. They loved the time and attention—and I loved them.

When Mary saw Jesus alive near the empty tomb, she grabbed ahold of him and held on tightly. She was clinging to him and He said to her, “Don’t cling to me for I haven’t yet ascended to the Father.” But now, Jesus has ascended to heaven and He has sent His Spirit to live in and among us. Jesus is available to you, me and the entire world, and he wants us to cling to Him:

Cling tightly to the Lord your God. (Joshua 23:8, NLT)

Cling to your faith in Christ, and keep your conscience clear. (1 Timothy 1:19, NLT)

[O God] my soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me. (Psalm 63:8, ESV)

Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven.” (Matthew 18:3, NLT)

Jesus is alive and he is as close as the mention of his name. He has you in His arms and He won’t put you down. He loves you.

It’s OK—cling to Jesus.


Nudgings #24 - Don't

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Have you noticed all the “don’ts” in Ephesians 4?

Don't be rebellious,
don't lie,
don't pretend to be something you're not,
don't seek revenge,
don't stay angry,
don't drive angry,
(sorry, that's not from Eph. 4, it's from the movie, “Groundhog Day”)
don't steal,
don't use foul language,
don't talk bad about people,
and don't hold a grudge.

All of those "don'ts" are good advice, but they pale in comparison to the "don'ts" in Ephesians 4:30:

Don’t grieve God. Don’t break his heart. His Holy Spirit, moving and breathing in you, is the most intimate part of your life, making you fit for himself. Don’t take such a gift for granted. (MSG)

Wow, maybe you should read that again . . .

God is not a cosmic killjoy, He is joy. Jesus came to give us life—His life—moving, breathing and living in us. We were made to have the Spirit of God filling and empowering our lives, and anything less simply breaks the heart of God.

The “don’ts” of Ephesians 4 aren’t there to keep us in line, they are there to keep us in Him. His Holy Spirit is a precious gift.

So, as we walk into another day full of challenges, trials and temptations, and we are faced with the choice to dabble in or do something that will be detrimental to the most intimate part of our life, let’s all take Paul's advice—don’t.


Nudgings #23 - The Whole House

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Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. (Acts. 2:2, NIV)

𝑻𝒉𝒆 𝒘𝒉𝒐𝒍𝒆 𝒉𝒐𝒖𝒔𝒆 . . .

Jesus, give me your holiness.
I open up to You my eyes, my ears, my mind,
my soul.
Come in and have Your way.
Make my heart Your home.
Blow through my life and fill it completely.
Every room belongs to You.

Christ, as the Son, is in charge of God’s entire house. And we are God’s house, if we keep our courage and remain confident in our hope in Christ. (Hebrews 3:6, NLT)

𝑻𝒉𝒆 𝒘𝒉𝒐𝒍𝒆 𝒉𝒐𝒖𝒔𝒆 . . .