Theology

Jesus Wants to Hang Out with You in Heaven - He Said So Himself

img_72401.jpg

One of the many passages of Scripture that floors me when I read it is John 17:20-24. The verses are chalked full of more theological principles then I could possibly hope to address with my limited knowledge, but I would love to share how and why it speaks to me – chiefly that I can point to it as a historical moment in time that Jesus prayed for me. I find that most places throughout the Gospels, we absorb the words of Jesus through a sort of transplantation, taking what Jesus is speaking to His disciples and supplanting its applicability to ourselves – and rightly so. What I find neat in John 17, however, is the specificity with which Jesus calls out his future believers (of which I am one):

 “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message." (John 17:20 NLT)

Alright, Jesus, you’ve got my attention.

So what is he praying for? That’s where it gets really interesting:

I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you…” (John 17:21 NLT)

He wants us all to be one. Sounds like a nice Hallmark card, but is it feasible? How, for instance, could LSU fans and Alabama fans possibly bridge the impassable ravine of football rivalry? This is accomplished not through our own power, but through the glory of Christ working within us:

“I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me." (John 17:22 NLT)

So, Jesus...what do you want this to look like?

"May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.” (John 17:23 NLT)

Wow. Let that sink in. Jesus is calling us to experience harmonious perfection to the point that God’s infinite love will be self-evident to those that see it. Talk about a gut check.

Why does Jesus want this? Why does Jesus want us to make known to the world that he was sent so "that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life?"[1]  That’s what even more amazing about his next declaration:

"Father, I want these whom you have given me to be with me where I am. Then they can see all the glory you gave me because you loved me even before the world began!” (John 17:24 NLT)

He wants this…because he wants to spend eternity sharing his glory with us in heaven.

Boom. Jesus wants to hang out with you in Heaven. It’s right there in writing. He said so himself!

 

- Nicolas C. Day

 

[1] John 3:16

 

 

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2007, 2013, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

Note: we are an affiliate of Christian Book Distributors and may earn a small commission for any purchases made through the above link

The Tone of a Shepherd's Voice

img_6026.jpg

Following the miracle feeding of the five thousand in Matthew 14, Jesus sends his disciples across the Sea of Galilee while he remains behind to pray. Along the way, a substantial storm develops, buffeting the boat with wind and waves. In the night, the terrified disciples spot a figure walking towards them. After Jesus announces himself, Peter challenges his Lord to confirm his identity by asking Peter to walk towards him. Jesus does so and Peter climbs out of the boat, miraculously walking on top of the waves – until he averts his gaze to the terrors of the storm and plunges into the sea. “Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. ‘You of little faith,’ he said, ‘why did you doubt?’” (Matthew 14:31).

Now stop and ask yourself – what did Jesus sound like in your head when you read that?

Did you hear, “How darest thou doubt my sovereign divinity as you traversed over the waves in a physically impossible feat that I mercifully orchestrated!”

Or do you hear something more along the lines of, “Bro… come on…you know that I got you. I’ve always got you.”

…What is the right way to read it?

You know what? I’m not sure if I can answer that question. As someone who has been diligently spending time attempting to enhance their theological knowledge, that it is a rather difficult thing for me to admit.

Think about it though. What was it like to have a conversation with God in His incarnate flesh?

After simply having Jesus over for dinner, Zacchaeus – the notorious tax collector in Jericho – vowed to sell off half his wealth to the poor and spend his life making restitutions for all his wrong doings.[1] I think that’s a pretty clear testimony for the radical power Jesus commanded as a conversationalist.

And why not? Every time a particle of speech leaves his lips, the intentional word of God is spoken. That fact makes it vitally important to hear the correct emotion in his written voice – the joy, the sadness, the seriousness, the humor[2]. Take, for instance, his employment of exaggerations and puns:

 “Blind guides, who strain out a gnat, and swallow a camel!” (Matthew 23:24).

Translating the phrase into Aramaic – the common language that Jesus spoke – reveals an apparent word play between gnat (qamla) and camel (gamla).[3] Taking this interpretation, one finds Jesus deliberately including a pun as he grills the Pharisees and scribes for being hypocrites.

When I read the rest of his speech, it is easy for me to visualize passionate condemnation as Jesus spits out labels such as “snakes” and “brood of vipers”. The scene takes on quite a different appearance, however, if I picture the crowd doubling over in laughter when Jesus delivers his one liners with a drum beat and cymbal crash. So… which is it? Perhaps it’s some of both.

Have you ever misread the intention behind a text or an email? That door swings wide open when the subtleties of conversation via tone of voice and facial expressions are removed from the picture. I have found, however, the better that I know a person, the easier it is for me to read a message as they intended it to be read. Otherwise, I am simply reading into it what it would mean if I had written it – and that is a byproduct of my own unique personality and life experiences.

In the same way, I feel it important to analyze what I am using as the basis while constructing the tone of Jesus’s voice in my head. Is it based off actual knowledge of him, or is it a reflection of myself and past authority figures in my life?

The question beckons me to shift my focus from the knowledge of God’s works towards an understanding of His character. This does not necessitate an abandonment of the analytical mind that God gave me. It means to apply it appropriately – never letting thirst for knowledge supersede my pursuit of a more intimate relationship with God.

My prayer is for the guidance of the Holy Spirit to reveal the ring of His divine attributes - love, mercy, grace, patience, holiness, justice, righteousness, jealousy, wrath - in all of the appropriate places in the written words of His voice. The same voice that declared blessings over children, taught his disciples day in and day out, declared prophecy, and spoke miracles into existence.  The voice that spoke at parties, delved out forgiveness, scolded hypocritical religious thinking, and cried out from the cross. The voice of the “Good Shepherd” that calls his sheep by name - for whom he laid down his life.

 

- Nicolas C. Day

 

[1] Luke 19

[2] http://www.biblestudy.org/basicart/does-god-have-sense-of-humor.html

[3] Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Matthew 23:24". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/matthew-23.html. 2013.

 

An excellent book for further elaboration around the character of Jesus is "Beautiful Outlaw: Experiencing the Playful, Disruptive, Extravagant Personality of Jesus " by John Eldredge. You can buy it from The Christian Book Distributors through the following affiliate link:

525706: Beautiful Outlaw: Experiencing the Playful, Disruptive, Extravagant Personality of Jesus

Note that we will make a small commission that goes towards the efforts of maintaining the blog. There will be no additional charge to you. There are several other products and resources that I have found helpful in navigating the waters as a Christian and a parent on the Fervent Recommendations page.  

 

Who Are Your Mighty Warriors?

img_4878.jpg

I can have a tenacious tendency to brush help aside and attempt to do things alone. Not sure why I do this, though I'd venture to guess that it's probably a product of pride. I'll struggle along, praying in solidarity, waiting for God to step in and help. The irony of my approach is that as I stand staring upwards with arms open wide, I sometimes miss His help standing right next to me – the people which He strategically placed in my life. The whole thing reminds me of the joke where a man is stuck on his rooftop during a flood, praying for God's help. Rescuers show up in a rowboat, a motorboat, and a helicopter - but the man turns them all away saying that God will save him. Eventually, he drowns and goes to Heaven where he asks God, "Why didn't you save me?" To this God replied, "I sent you a rowboat and a motorboat and a helicopter, what more did you expect?"

The truth is, very seldom are the giants of the bible walking alone. A quick scan through Scripture demonstrates pretty clearly how God puts people together to accomplish His purpose. Moses with Aaron. Daniel with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Paul with Barnabas and Timothy. David with…many!

When David succeeded the throne of Saul, (who had all but gone insane by the time of his death, thrusting himself upon his own sword as his army was overrun by the Philistines)[1] – the burden must have felt crushingly enormous. The Philistines had just decimated the Israelite army, the king was dead, and the nation was in utter disarray. God didn’t just throw him in the deep end and say “go for it” though. He surrounded David with a core of fervent warriors.

1 Chronicles and 2 Samuel tell us of David’s thirty mighty warriors – three of them standing out above the rest: Jashobeam[2], Eleazar, and Shammah.

“Here is the record of David’s mightiest warriors: The first was Jashobeam the Hacmonite, who was leader of the Three—the mightiest warriors among David’s men. He once used his spear to kill 300 [3]enemy warriors in a single battle.” (1 Chronicles 11:11 NLT)

“Next in rank among the Three was Eleazar son of Dodai, a descendant of Ahoah. He was with David when the Philistines gathered for battle at Pas-dammim and attacked the Israelites in a field full of barley. The Israelite army fled, but Eleazar and David held their ground in the middle of the field and beat back the Philistines...” (1 Chronicles 11:12-14 NLT)

“Next in rank was Shammah son of Agee from Harar. One time the Philistines gathered at Lehi and attacked the Israelites in a field full of lentils. The Israelite army fled, but Shammah held his ground in the middle of the field and beat back the Philistines...” (2 Samuel 23:11-12 NLT)

Sounds like these guys would go pretty early when picking kickball teams.

Together these three fiercely loyal companions would stop at nothing to help David accomplish the Lord’s task – even breaking into an enemy camp to draw water from a well when their commander mentioned that he was thirsty!

David – unable to accept a drink which risked the lives of his men – instead poured it on the ground before God. [4] I don’t know how Jashobeam, Eleazar, and Shammah felt about that, but it seems to me that David was well aware that his men were a provision from God – and thus deemed it appropriate to give Him the glory in that moment.

David realized that the key here isn’t people – it’s God. One God-centered, trustworthy relationship is worth infinitely more than a thousand surface level acquaintances. Where I have been slacking lately, is taking the time to pursue and invest in such biblical friendships on a deeper level. Not only does that mean that I am missing out on warrior firepower – it means that I am not lending full warrior support for someone else.

A mentor recently suggested to me an effective model of discipleship that I am determined to maintain:

  1. Someone who has walked a lot longer than you pouring into your life.
  2. Someone beside you to walk and grow together.
  3. Someone early in their journey that you are pouring into.

Look around you. Who are your mighty warriors? Has God placed people in your life to help you accomplish your mission? Do you overlook their help? What about your spouse? Would love to hear a story or two!

 “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 NLT

 

- Nicolas C. Day

 

[1] 1 Samuel 31:4

[2] Josheb-basshebeth in 2 Samuel.  Also note that some Septuagint manuscripts have the name “Ishbaal.” For further reading, consult the ISBE at: http://biblehub.com/topical/j/jashobeam.htm

[3] 800 in 2 Samuel 23:8. This could either be a copyist error as the number 3 (שְׁלֹשׁ־) and 8 (שְׁמֹנֶ֥ה) look similar in Hebrew, or this could in fact, be referring to two separate instances. For further reading check out: http://apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=6&article=749

[4] 1 Chronicles 11:17-19

 

 

 

 

Note: we are an affiliate of Christian Book Distributors and may earn a small commission for any purchases made through the above link

A Sip of Water in a Cloud of Dust

img_4365.jpg

I went on my first international mission trip this past March to Nicaragua with Living Water International to drill a water well for a community without reliable access to clean drinking water. I had absolutely no clue what I was stepping into. Getting there in the first place was a challenge in and of itself. In the weeks leading up to the trip, the spiritual attacks began. From my previous experience as a camp counselor with Royal Family Kids, this didn't surprise me. When you’ve got your mind set on doing something big for God’s kingdom, the enemy will pull out all stops to prevent you.

However, while the last minute dropouts and funds were resolved, the attacks on my family (including a devastating tragedy) had me seriously questioning whether I should leave for a week. I don’t mind so much when I’m the target – but when it’s my family, that is a whole different circumstance. I don’t consider it a coincidence that even after I left for Nicaragua, they all came down with a horrific stomach virus – an attempt to cast doubt into the wisdom of our decision. Nevertheless, by God’s sustaining grace and the support from the terrific team at home, we were able to persevere and on I went to Nicaragua.

I have to say, The Living Water team was fantastic – waiting to pick up the mission team at the airport to drive us across the country-side to our location (stopping to grab some delicious fried chicken to eat along the way).

Though I have been to many different countries, the wonder never seems to fade when stepping onto a foreign soil for the first time. I was immediately struck by the beauty of Nicaragua with its smoky volcanic skyline. At the same time, I was shocked by how incredibly dry it was there – a fact acknowledged by our driver who told us that the country had been in a drought for about five years.

Beyond the landscape, there is plenty else to absorb and process as you let your surroundings soak in. The culture is different. The buildings are different. Certainly, the garbage trucks are different.

3

Although I did manage to spot a Pizza Hut on the drive from the airport.

4

After dozing off in the warm, mildly-air conditioned van, we at last arrived at the compound. The accommodations were fantastic - far more than I humbly anticipated.

5

After a night of pizza in the town, we set out early in the morning towards a community outside of Leon that consisted of about twenty-five families. They called themselves “La Sagrada Familia” (the sacred family). As we came to find out from talking to the villagers, the only clean water source they had access to was a water well at a school over a mile away. They had 1 hour a day (at best) to fill up as much as they could. Since someone had broken into the school lately to steal the computers, even that was at risk.

61-e1499864002927.jpg

After opening in prayer with the community, we got to work. We split into two teams – one started drilling operations.

7.jpg

The second group gathered the women and children to hygiene classes and share bible stories through various fun-filled activities.

8-e1499864146275.jpg

It was work. Dirty, physical work. As a petroleum engineer, I’ve been to plenty of well sites. However, I normally don’t put my hands on anything. It was awesome.

9

We did, however, manage to squeeze in some play time too. It’s amazing how much fun you can have with a soccer ball and little bit of space.

10 Each day the incredible generosity of the community escalated. By the time we would arrive on location, they would already be out waiting for us. They shared their gratitude with sacks of fresh coconuts and the most amazing mangos I have ever tasted (as well as some other fruit I had never heard of that they called Nispero and Jocote).

11

Thursday, they cooked us a full blown meal (which resulted in one less chicken walking around the yards).

12.jpg

But though our relationships were prospering, we were having difficulty at the drill site. We encountered a hard rock layer, stalling 70’ short of our intended drilling depth. No problem. We thought. We will bring the bigger rig in. And that we did.

13.jpg We abandoned the original hole and started drilling a new one beside it, repeating the activity of the day before. But even with the added horsepower, we still couldn’t get through persistent rock layer. We decided that we would attempt to complete the well in the thin aquifer layer above it. We prayed, signed our “casing” pipe, ran it into our well, and threw our gravel around the outside of it (the gravel acts as filtration).

14.jpg

We stuck down an air hose and attempted to “kick off” the well to test its productivity. You could sense the anticipation, clinging to the air like static electricity as we all waited with anticipation for a sign of water. When the first slug erupted out of the pipe, the crowd exploded into clapping and cheers. Victory!

15.jpg

And then…a trickle. The well paused, coughing up small, sporadic, intermittent slugs of water here and there. Concerned faces besieged the crowd. You could feel the entire community deflate. Not done yet, we ordered out an electric submersible pump that we could lower down into the water level. This would be a better representation of what the well could deliver compared to the air hose.

16.jpg

But even with our downhole pump, the well barely delivered above the minimum criteria. It was clear. We had to get through the rock.

We sent for “an air hammer” – designed to penetrate tough rocks like this – located several hours away. When the truck that was to deliver the equipment got in a wreck, it was readily apparent that there were forces working against us. Thankfully (and miraculously), the driver was not injured.

17 The accident sealed it. The well would not be finished that week. Committed to their cause, however, Living Water International made the promise that they would return the next week. That they did, successfully drilling through the rock and completing a prolific water well in the aquifer below – albeit without us.

It was easy to wonder, what was the point of us coming there? We certainly worked hard, established impactful weeklong relationships, and had a good time doing so. A deeper purpose materialized, however, on the final day, during our dedication of the (incomplete) well.

We sang a song of worship, shared some scripture, thanked the community for their generosity, and handed out a couple boxes of Spanish bibles. One of men – “Pecho” – who had been working effortlessly beside us the whole week came up to me afterwards, eyes watery with the bible clung close his chest. With emotion, he proceeded to tell me in Spanish that it was the first bible he had ever owned in his thirty plus years of life. With tears dotting my dust caked face, the reason for our trip became crystal clear: we were there to share the gospel and the love of Christ. We were there to lay down our lives in service, as a living testament to our Lord and savior. We were there because there were thirsty people in need and we cared.

18.jpg

As I explore my own personal calling towards ministry and missions, I cannot express enough gratitude to be able to participate in God’s mission in Nicaragua through Living Water International. Thank you, Bill, Sharon, Brandon, Cory, Yuan, Cynthia, Hagnier, “Jay”, Kenny, Douglas, and Jordan, for an incredible trip and life changing experience.

“Declare His glory among the nations, His wonders among all peoples.” Psalms 96:3 NKJV

 

- Nicolas C. Day

 

Note: to join me in making a tax deductible donation towards the funding of this water well project, you can do so here.

 

 

 

 

Note: we are an affiliate of Christian Book Distributors and may earn a small commission for any purchases made through the above link

3 Extreme Encounters with the Angel of the Lord in the Old Testament

img_3698.jpg

The references to the “Angel of the LORD” in the Old Testament (mal-‘ak Yahweh מַלְאַךְ־ יְהוָ֖ה) are variously interpreted as consisting of several different angels, the same single angel (perhaps Michael the archangel), or even the pre-incarnate Jesus. Given that the answer still isn’t 100% crystal clear after 2,000 years of the Christian church I don’t anticipate to be able to crack that nut here – I’ll ask when I get to heaven. I will say a strong argument could be made for the latter case in Genesis 31:13 where the Angel of the Lord tells Jacob “I am the God of Bethel.” Being that there is only one God consisting of three distinct persons (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) one could logically conclude that this is Jesus (for more information on this, check out https://www.gotquestions.org/angel-of-the-Lord.html). On the other hand, perhaps it is an angel simply speaking word for word the direct message of God – again, don’t know, not going to try. What I do want to share, however, is three awe inspiring examples in the bible where the “Angel of the Lord” appeared.  

1. The Angel of the Lord Says His Name is Incomprehensible and Ascends to Heaven in Flames (Judges 13)

In Judges 13, the Angel of the Lord appears to Manoah’s wife and tells her that though she is barren, she “shall conceive and bear a son” (Samson) and that “no razor shall come upon his head, for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb; and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines.”[1]  Manoah prays to God for the angel to come back and he does so – appearing to his wife in the field. She runs and retrieves Manoah and dialogue is struck between them. Towards the end of the conversation, Manoah asks for his name. The Angel of the Lord responds thusly:

18 And the Angel of the Lord said to him, “Why do you ask My name, seeing it is wonderful?”[2] Judges 13:18 NKJV

The Hebrew word translated in the NKJV as “wonderful” is p̄e·li (פֶֽלִאי), which according to Strong’s concordance means: wonderful, incomprehensible.[3]

The NLT thus translates the phrase like this: “It is too wonderful for you to understand.”

Now that’s a concept – the Angel of the Lord can’t even share his name because it would blow Manoah’s mind. It blows my mind just trying to imagine what kind of name would have that impact.

The Angel of the Lord declines Manoah’s offer for food, suggesting he offer the goat as a burnt offering instead. Manoah does so, then watches in awe as the “Angel of the Lord ascended in the flame of the altar”. Quite understandably so, “When Manoah and his wife saw this, they fell on their faces to the ground.”[4]

 

2. The Angel of the Lord Makes a Donkey Speak (Numbers 22)

As the horde of Israelite slaves navigated the desert after their God-arranged escape from Egypt, their sheer size invoked fear in the surrounding nations. Balak – the Moabite King – was no exception. After seeing the Israelites crush the Amorites[5], Moab sends for Balaam to speak curses over the Israelites. As Balaam sets out with the Moabites, the Angel of the Lord appears three times along the trail – spooking Balaam’s donkey. The first time, the donkey turns away and runs into a field. Balaam beats the donkey and sets in back on the path. The second time, the donkey attempts to get to the side of the path, crushing Balaam’s foot against the wall. Again, Balaam beats the donkey. The third time – with nowhere to go on the narrow trail – the donkey simply lays down. Furious, Balaam beats the donkey with his staff. The donkey reacts accordingly:

 "Then the Lord opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, 'What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?'” Numbers 22:28 NKJV

Woah. Balaam responds:

29 "And Balaam said to the donkey, 'Because you have abused me. I wish there were a sword in my hand, for now I would kill you!'” Numbers 22:29 NKJV

Interesting. I would have responded – Oh snap! A talking donkey!

The donkey replies back:

30 "So the donkey said to Balaam, 'Am I not your donkey on which you have ridden, ever since I became yours, to this day? Was I ever disposed to do this to you?'” Numbers 22:29 NKJV

Now that’s a polite donkey.

At this point in time God opens Balaam’s eyes to see the Angel of the Lord standing in his way with a drawn sword in his hand. Balaam bows his head and fell flat on his face (see a pattern here?). He admonishes Balaam for beating his donkey, saying that he would have killed Balaam were it not for the donkey turning aside. Balaam confesses his sin and listens to the instructions to speak only what he is directed concerning the Israelites. Thus, when he arrives to speak curses over the Israelites, he instead declares nothing but blessings – much to the fury of King Balak.

It’s wild to think that the donkey could see the Angel of the Lord when nobody else could. Makes you wonder what’s going on when your dog is apparently barking at nothing…or when birds and animals “sense” upcoming volcanic eruptions… random speculations here. Zero theological basis.

Note: if you are confused by the apparent contradiction between God “permitting Balaam to go” in verse 20 and HIs anger being aroused in verse 22 – so was I. There’s a good article that explains it here: http://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=6&article=4829.

 

3. The Angel of the Lord Grills Up Some Goat Steaks for Gideon (Judges 6)

Though Joshua did well to keep the Israelites within the protection of God’s covenant – the subsequent generations deteriorated into sin and wickedness. As the Israelites continued to depart from God’s command, God allowed the Midianites to overwhelm and oppress them for seven years – destroying their crops and livestock. It was under these conditions that the Angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon:

11 Now the Angel of the Lord came and sat under the terebinth tree which was in Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, while his son Gideon threshed wheat in the winepress, in order to hide it from the Midianites. 12 And the Angel of the Lord appeared to him, and said to him, “The Lord is with you, you mighty man of valor!” Judges 6:11-12 NKJV

Note to self…encourage my wife to address me at all times as “mighty man of valor”.

The Angel of the Lord proceeds to explain that he will use Gideon to deliver Israel from the hand of the midianites. Ever the one to double check, Gideon asks:

17 Then he said to Him, “If now I have found favor in Your sight, then show me a sign that it is You who talk with me. 18 Do not depart from here, I pray, until I come to You and bring out my offering and set it before You.” Judges 6:17-18 NKJV

The Angel of the Lord obliges, and Gideon prepares a young goat and unleavened bread, laying them out on a rock.

21 Then the Angel of the Lord put out the end of the staff that was in His hand, and touched the meat and the unleavened bread; and fire rose out of the rock and consumed the meat and the unleavened bread. And the Angel of the Lord departed out of his sight. Judges 6:21 NKJV

Now that’s how you could make some heavenly fire baked pizza.

Terrible pun aside, the act galvanized Gideon to tear down his father’s Baal worshipping alter and erect one instead for Yahweh – the first act of his assigned duty to deliver Israel from Midianite oppression.

 

So there you go! Three encounters with the Angel of the Lord. Hope you enjoyed. Certainly helps me to remember I serve a God that is so unbelievably powerful that I cannot hope to fathom all His glorious ways.

 

-Nicolas C. Day

 

[1] Judges 13:5

[2] In the KJV: “Why askest thou thus after my name, seeing it [is] secret?

[3] http://biblehub.com/hebrew/6383.htm

[4] Judges 13:20

[5] Numbers 21

 

 

 

 

Note: we are an affiliate of Christian Book Distributors and may earn a small commission for any purchases made through the above link

Parental Quiz: Would Jesus Say That?

img_3381.jpg

My wife and I recently conducted a rather convicting parenting exercise. We collected a list of some of the phrases we say to our children and attempted to picture Jesus speaking those same words to us. We quickly realized that some of the words spewing out of our mouths would never be found on the lips of our Lord and Savior. Here's some of our highlights/lowlights (let me know if you can relate to any of these):“I don’t respond to whining.” (Often accompanied by “ask like a man” when talking to my son).

I can just see Him now, throwing His hand up in my face as I cry out in desperate need, “Stop whining, and speak like a man, Nick.” Yikes. While we are to “do everything without grumbling or arguing” (Philippians 2:14 NIV), God does invite us to lay our worries before Him. In fact, He wants you to bring your concerns to Him. “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” – 1 Peter 5:7 NIV.

Note the distinction here between grumbling and anxiety. In 1 Corinthians 10:10, Paul refers to the grumbling of the Israelites in the desert using the Greek word “gogguzó” – meaning “murmur, grumble (generally of smoldering discontent).”[1] Contrast this with the Greek word “merimna” in 1 Peter 5:7 – meaning “care, worry, anxiety.”[2] Consider also the many lamenting Psalms that beseech God with their complaints in an appropriate manner of prayer.[3] For further reading on “complaining to God” check out this article: http://matthewsleonard.com/is-it-okay-to-complain-to-god/.

 

“You’re a big boy/girl, do it yourself.”

Imagine God saying, “Why do you need My help? You’re a big Christian now, do it yourself.” I think some people may have the false perception that God does take that stance due to the often misquoted “God helps those who help themselves.” Not only is that not in the bible, but also it is contradictory to what Scripture teaches. Jesus wants us to depend on Him – not do things by ourselves. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” – John 15:5 NIV.

Just as my toddlers are in a constant state of need, so am I utterly dependent on my Father’s help. Whereas I consider my necessities more complex then needing a diaper change and/or finding a lost toy/sippy cup/pacifier in the middle of the night, my children probably share a similar sensation of being completely overwhelmed and helpless to address their problems. Thankfully, God promises to be there to help us through the hard times – even if it doesn’t look quite like what we expected. “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” - Isaiah 41:10 NIV.

 

Daddy needs some space.”

This is a polite way of telling my kids to leave me the heck alone. This statement typically emerges when my three year old asks “why” for the millionth time that day – or when I am lying down on the ground in exhaustion with my three kids literally jumping up and down on my head. God, however, doesn’t need “space”. He doesn’t ask for a “Daddy break”. Instead, Jesus is constantly beckoning us towards a closer relationship with him. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” – Matthew 11:28 NIV.

 

Pretty sure if Jesus said some of the things I say to my children to me it would crush me into a tiny little heap on the ground. But that’s not usually the first thing that runs through your mind when you’re a sleep deprived parent with a three year old, a two year old, and a one year old clinging to your legs while screaming/whining/persistently asking random questions/all the above.

The fact is, parenting is hard. Really, really hard. Or as my wife would say, “parenting is the perfect opportunity to practice grace.” As hard as we try, we will certainly fail at times – and that’s where it is helpful to remember the following:

1. “Jesus paid the penalty for every moment when you fail as a parent.” (Parenting, Paul David Tripp)

2. “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8 NIV)

Clearly I have some spiritual maturing to do in the realm of parenting. It gently convicts and humbles me to admit this – evidence of God nudging me with His (far better) act of parenting.

Ultimately, I know that no matter how many parenting books I read, I cannot be the father I am called to be without the purifying work of the Holy Spirit. That is just one of the countless reasons that I am thankful for being adopted by the perfect Father in heaven.

“But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.” - John 1:12 NLT

Pray for me.

 

-Nicolas C. Day

 

[1] http://biblehub.com/greek/1111.htm

[2] http://biblehub.com/greek/3308.htm

[3] http://www.crivoice.org/psalmtypes.html

 

 

 

 

Note: we are an affiliate of Christian Book Distributors and may earn a small commission for any purchases made through the above link

Scriptural Wisdom Reaffirmed by Neuroscience

img_2783.jpg

I love how science and scripture intertwine so beautifully. Unfortunately, not everyone perceives this to be the case. Typical objections revolve around claims that “real science” does not harmonize with the creation story in Genesis. There is a wealth of books and resources out there to address that –and I may write a post about it in the future myself. For now, you may want to take a quick glimpse here to address any questions along those lines: www.answersingenesis.org. Anyway – all that aside, I want to shift my focus to the following verse, which popped up on my YouVersion app the other day:

“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” Philippians 4:8 (NKJV)

After letting the verse sink in, I wanted to find out if anything in the “secular world of science” reflected this sound piece of biblical wisdom. In my search, I stumbled across an interesting statement from an article published in the Journal of Neuroscience:

“…even if two individuals experience similar initial joy from an event, some will savor it while others will not (Wood et al., 2003). The ability to experience and sustain positive emotion is critical to daily function, well being (World Health Organization, 2013), and health (Pressman and Cohen, 2005). Positive emotion is a precursor in the recovery from psychiatric illnesses (Zimmerman, 2012). Experiencing sustained positive emotion has several other salubrious effects including lowering levels of inflammation (Steptoe et al., 2005) and may extend life expectancy (Steptoe and Wardle, 2011).”[1]

So you’re telling me…that by meditating on “…whatever things are lovely…” one may actually extend their life expectancy? Sounds perfectly applicable to me! (Note the word translated “lovely” here stems from the Greek word prosphilés, an adjective meaning “worthy of personal affection; hence, dearly prized, i.e. worth the effort to have and embrace”[2] – clearly something that would elicit sustained positive emotion while meditating over).

Another interesting note from the study is that they could actually observe the response of elongated positive thoughts in the brain as visible “sustained ventral striatum engagement.”[3] I have no idea what a ventral striatum is. Apparently it’s in your brain. Wikipedia says it’s somewhere around here:

img_2774

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Striatum

According to the Medical Dictionary, the ventral striatum is “associated with decision, risk and reward”[4] – hence the activation in the study. Now the next time someone asks you how your ventral striatum is doing, you will know what they are talking about.

However, one thing I noticed that the study didn’t answer – was how to focus on positive thoughts (or maybe it did… there was a lot of medical jargon that I didn’t understand). That’s where I’m going to refer back to the bible again:

 “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2 ESV

With God’s word as a roadmap and the conviction of the Holy Spirit as a moral compass, we are well equipped to discern what things are true, noble, just, and pure to focus on.  With prayerful surrender, God grants the ability to resist temptation and focus our eyes instead on the things that help us to better reflect Christ in this world – with an actual, measurable benefit towards our own physical wellbeing as well.

 

- Nicolas C. Day

 

[1] http://www.jneurosci.org/content/35/29/10503

[2] http://biblehub.com/greek/4375.htm

[3] http://www.jneurosci.org/content/35/29/10503

[4] http://medicaldictionary.net/ventral-striatum.html

 

 

 

 

Note: we are an affiliate of Christian Book Distributors and may earn a small commission for any purchases made through the above link

 

3 Ways Dogs Remind Me of Jesus (Thanks to Marley and Me)

img_2516.jpg

Please don’t misconstrue the title of this post for a lack of reverence for our Lord Jesus Christ. Obviously any comparisons stated here are limited in nature. The fact of the matter is, whenever I watched the movie Marley & Me, I was struck by at least three quotes that immediately brought to mind an image of Jesus. I mean to a tee. If taken out of context, I would have sworn they were from a pastor’s sermon.  

1. “A dog doesn't care if you're rich or poor, educated or illiterate, clever or dull. Give him your heart and he will give you his.”*     

Your background is not Jesus’s priority – he made that abundantly clear when he sought to save the criminals, prostitutes, and tax collectors. Neither is God concerned with the things by which the world measures success. Simply put, He wants your heart.

 

2. “Marley taught me about living each day with unbridled exuberance and joy, about seizing the moment and following your heart. He taught me to appreciate the simple things-a walk in the woods, a fresh snowfall, a nap in a shaft of winter sunlight. And as he grew old and achy, he taught me about optimism in the face of adversity.”*

There is a plethora of powerful verses on joy and giving thanks in all circumstances. Jesus epitomized this quality, wishing the same for us. Paul, perhaps, conveys this most succinctly:

 

3. “He taught us the art of unqualified love. How to give it, how to accept it.”*

The act of God descending from Heaven, humbly donning the flesh of man, and shedding His blood as a redeeming sacrifice for the creation that turned its back on Him is the definition of unqualified love. Jesus also stressed during his earthly ministry this importance of loving others unconditionally.

So there you have it – three ways dogs remind me of Jesus. Now next time you walk through that front door and your pup’s face lights up and that tail starts wagging, just remember – Jesus loves you infinitely more.

 

- Nicolas C. Day

 

*https://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/14961-marley-me-life-and-love-with-the-world-s-worst-dog

 

 

 

 

Note: we are an affiliate of Christian Book Distributors and may earn a small commission for any purchases made through the above link