Jesus

Houston

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As I watched the red and yellow spots on the weather radar rotate in a slow counterclockwise spiral of death over Houston, I thought about my father – 350 miles away on the second story of his house, watching the water ebb and flow on the floor below. As my concern grew, so too did my feelings of utter powerlessness to stop the incessant deluge of rain. This wasn’t my first time having to trust God through a situation of which I had no control. Standing in the hospital room for all three deliveries of my children incited similar feelings. Then there was the time that my youngest daughter was in the hospital with RSV at two weeks of age, after a coughing attack that momentarily stopped her breathing. This was, however, my first exercise in “surrendering out of futility” in connection to a natural disaster.

The process for me was similar in all cases. It began with increasingly maddening frustration until it reached a breaking point with an acknowledgement that I could not do anything in my own power – which finally allowed me to let go and offer it to God in prayer. But trusting the work of God’s hands means trusting Him with the result – and that is the part that is scary. Nevertheless, “Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You” (Psalm 56:3 NKJV).

Thankfully my dad was to emerge safely from the flood of Hurricane Harvey. Others were not as fortunate. The toll of those who tragically lost their life continues to rise as the waters clear. The number of those who lost almost everything in their house will be measured in the tens of thousands. Even the ones that made it out “dry” will be branded with emotional and mental imprints for a lifetime.

Yet, amidst it all, I am encouraged by the loving, resilient response of the body of Christ. Faithful followers saddled up with the "Cajun Navy," trailing their boats across Louisiana to assist in the rescue efforts. Volunteers are flooding in from all over the country to assist in gutting flooded houses. I can't even begin to count the number of schools and churches that are accepting donations. I heard of one group filling new purses with "woman stuff" to hand out as just another example of the countless, creative ways that believers have chosen to “…bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2 ESV). Their selfless actions help to strengthen my faith through the storm by reflecting the love of a perfect King.

My heart is heavy for those affected by the storm. I wish that I could personally restore each and every situation. I have to remind myself that there is only One with the power to do so – and He has done so on the Cross. From now until the day of His return, our Lord beckons us instead to “rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:15 NKJV) because although we may be powerless to stop a hurricane, there is no force that can stop the love of Christ.

 

- Nicolas C. Day

 

 

 

 

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The Fervent Dad Challenge

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The Fervent Dad Challenge

A daily workout for the body, mind, heart, and spirit for Christian fathers of toddlers.

Although I have never done CrossFit, sometimes I feel that just being a father to toddlers is close enough.

dadfit

As you naturally find yourself carrying them from place to place, it becomes quite evident that toddlers have the potential to be a fantastic workout tool. Plus, each day that you feed them, they grow a little bit bigger and weigh a little bit more.

In truth, however, parenting toddlers trains us in ways that supersede our physical bodies alone. This fact (and the helpful suggestions of a tremendous brother in Christ in bible study) became my inspiration behind the development of "The Fervent Dad Challenge".

As you go through the week, not only will you hit every major muscle group, but you will get a chance to connect with your kids and promote biblical growth towards other important components of your overall health.

Note that there are two main rules that require strict adherence:

  1. Don’t take this too seriously.
  2. Have fun!

Though I tailored this challenge towards my own experience as a dad, there is nothing stopping moms from participating. Should you choose to accept "The Fervent Dad Challenge", I’d love to hear about the results. Please share your stories!

Caution: Do not perform any exercise in a speed or manner that puts your child at risk of injury. If you are not comfortable, STOP. I'm contemplating releasing a more detailed guide with additional physical exercises in a future ebook (because why not?).

 

Monday

Body: Toddler Floor Press. Lay flat on your back on the floor with knees bent so that both feet are planted on the ground. Hold toddler at arm’s length with them facing you. Lower your toddler and kiss them on the head. Squeeze abs and push back up to starting position. Repeat for max reps and sets.

Primary Muscle: Chest

Secondary Muscle(s): Shoulders, Triceps

Mind: Geography. Show your kid(s) a new country on a map. Pull up an image on a tablet/smart phone that shows the landscape.

Heart: High fives. Give your kid(s) 10 high fives. Pretend each one is progressively making your hand hurt worse. Comment on how strong they are.

Spirit: Worship. Teach your toddler a line from your favorite worship song. Sing it together.

 

Tuesday

Body: Toddler Bent Over Row. With knees slightly bent, keep your back straight and bend over until it is almost parallel with the floor. Grab your toddler (perpendicular to you, facing the ground). Pull toddler to your stomach. Return the toddler towards the ground. When their feet and/or hands graze the ground loudly say “Boing!” and pull them back up again towards your stomach. Repeat for max reps and sets.

Primary Muscle: Back

Secondary Muscle(s): Biceps

Mind: Math. Layout toys in the room and count them together.

Heart: Tickles. Give your kid(s) 10 tickles. Allow them to tickle you back. Laugh hysterically.

Spirit: Prayer for the hurting. Pray with your kid(s) for someone specific that is sick or has a need.

 

Wednesday

Body: Toddler Squat. Either hug toddler or hold at arm’s length (more difficult – simultaneously works arms). Squat down as low as possible. Return to starting position. Keep a deadpan face and say “ribbit”. Repeat for max reps and sets.

Primary Muscle: Quadriceps

Secondary Muscle(s): Calves

Mind: Science. Show them a picture of a weird animal or an image from space (galaxies, stars, planet, etc.). Go for something interesting and tell them that God made it.

Heart: Funny faces. At the count of 3, everyone is to make the funniest face they can muster.

Spirit: Old Testament. Share an old testament story with your children.

 

Thursday

Body: Toddler Shoulder Press. Grip toddler under arms. Squeezing abs and keeping back straight, push toddler straight up over your head. Lower toddler and blow a raspberry on their belly. Push back up again. Repeat for max reps and sets.

Primary Muscle: Shoulders

Secondary Muscle(s): Triceps

Mind: English. Pick a word and spell it out loud together.

Heart: Funny faces. At the count of 3, everyone is to make the funniest face they can muster. Do this at least three times.

Spirit: New Testament. Share a new testament story with your children.

 

Friday

Body: Toddler Swing. Get into squat position with feet shoulder width apart. Grab toddler under arms. Squat up and swing toddler forwards, exploding the hips and making a sound like a rocket blast. (Optional: toss the toddler a short distance in the air and catch). Swing toddler back down to starting position.

Primary Muscle: Hamstrings

Secondary Muscle(s): Low Back, Deltoids

Mind: Art. Draw a picture together. Hang it up on the fridge for a week.

Heart: Animal Impersonations. Pick an animal and have everyone pretend to be one. Do this with at least five different animals.

Spirit: Thanking God. Let everyone pick out three things that they are thankful for. Pray and thank God together.

 

Saturday

Body: Toddler Wagon Pull (or Car Push). Load your toddler(s) and any additional weight desired into a wagon. With one arm, pull the wagon for a sizeable distance. Make race car noises as you do this. Switch arms and repeat. To increase difficulty, perform on grass or sand (hardest). Alternatively, if you do not have a wagon, buy one immediately – they are one of the most useful tools in the world for parents of toddlers. In the meantime, load your kid(s) into any toy vehicles they have and push them at a sprint instead.

 

 

Mind: History. Lookup a historical fact to share with your kids. Loads of options here. Do a web search for “on this day in history” if you have no ideas.

Heart: Hugs. Hug kid(s) for at least ten seconds and tell them how great they are.

Spirit: Love of Jesus. Tell your kids five things that Jesus love them more than (i.e. ice cream, toys, etc.).

 

Sunday

Rest and reflect on the amazing week you had with your kids! Ask them which activity was their favorite. Repeat challenge as desired!

"Children born to a young man are like arrows in a warrior’s hands. How joyful is the man whose quiver is full of them!..." Psalm 127:4-5 NLT

 

- Nicolas C. Day

 

 

 

 

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Outnumbered and Under-equipped

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Can you think of a time where you have ever felt completely and utterly inept? When I stop to think about the responsibilities of my commitments, I begin to crater under the weight: husband, father, work, writing, bible studies, nonprofits… though I am incredibly thankful for each of these opportunities and the deep satisfaction buried within their tasks, each single one has the capacity to be overwhelming in isolation, let alone combined (i.e. parenting three toddlers simultaneously).  As I let these thoughts simmer, four words quickly come to mind: I can’t do this. Recognition of our own incapability is a good place to start – it helps us identify our need for God. This is the reason why Crawford Loritts characterizes “brokenness” as a fundamental trait for biblical leadership in his phenomenal book Leadership as an Identity.

The trick after we recognize our own shortcomings is to not sell God short on His ability to carry us above the waves.

So how do we simultaneously grasp the knowledge that though I am incapable in my power, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”?[1]

No seriously, I’m asking. Any practical tips would be great.

In 1 Samuel 13-14, Saul and his son Jonathan face insurmountable opposition. Both recognize their own inadequacy, yet the two have wildly different responses.

After setting out on a campaign with a select contingent of Israelite troops, King Saul splits his forces and sends his son Jonathan to destroy a Philistine garrison in Geba. The furious Philistines accumulate a massive force to respond:

“The Philistines mustered a mighty army of 3,000 chariots, 6,000 charioteers, and as many warriors as the grains of sand on the seashore! They camped at Micmash east of Beth-aven.” (1 Samuel 13:5 NLT)

As the Israelites set out to reunite their own forces, news of the sheer size of this Philistine army spread, rousing fear in the Israelite ranks and inciting deserters.

Panicking, Saul displayed a prime example of what NOT to do when facing adversity – disobeying God’s word (in this case, spoken through the prophet Samuel). Determined to keep anyone else from scattering, Saul offers up a burnt sacrifice instead of waiting for Samuel to arrive as he was told. Samuel shows up, displays his disgust, and leaves – after he informs Saul that God will rip away the kingdom from his lineage.

On the surface, Saul’s fear wasn’t unfounded. A quick headcount revealed he had only 600 men remaining with him…with no swords.

“There were no blacksmiths in the land of Israel in those days. The Philistines wouldn’t allow them for fear they would make swords and spears…whenever the Israelites needed to sharpen their plowshares, picks, axes, or sickles, they had to take them to a Philistine blacksmith… so on the day of the battle none of the people of Israel had a sword or spear, except for Saul and Jonathan” (1 Samuel 13:19-22 NLT)

Several hundred Israelites armed with pitchforks and shovels facing a massive Philistine force, armed to the teeth with the latest and greatest instruments of warfare. Wonder what was running through their heads? Not surprising that many of them jetted out of there.

I certainly wouldn’t have been thinking what Saul’s son Jonathan was thinking. Looking at the overwhelming odds, Jonathan turned to his armor bearer with the bright idea that they should attack an outpost that the Philistine army had just established. And when I say “they” I mean Jonathan and the armor bearer – just the two of them.

“‘Let’s go across to the outpost of those pagans,” Jonathan said to his armor bearer. “Perhaps the Lord will help us, for nothing can hinder the Lord. He can win a battle whether he has many warriors or only a few!’” (1 Samuel 14:6 NLT)

Amazing. Jonathan reckoned that perhaps God might help them – and that was enough for him. So the two of them climbed across a pass and begin attacking the outpost alone – until God stepped in.

“Suddenly, panic broke out in the Philistine army, both in the camp and in the field, including even the outposts and raiding parties. And just then an earthquake struck, and everyone was terrified” (1 Samuel 14:15 NLT)

Spotting this strange occurrence, Saul’s lookouts alerted the king. Taking roll call, Saul realized Jonathan and his armor bearer were missing. He quickly joins in on the fight:

“Then Saul and all his men rushed out to the battle and found the Philistines killing each other. There was terrible confusion everywhere. Even the Hebrews who had previously gone over to the Philistine army revolted and joined in with Saul, Jonathan, and the rest of the Israelites. Likewise, the men of Israel who were hiding in the hill country of Ephraim joined the chase when they saw the Philistines running away. So the Lord saved Israel that day, and the battle continued to rage even beyond Beth-aven.” (1 Samuel 14:20-23 NLT)

I sometimes hear people say that “God won’t allow you to go through more than you can bear.” This is a misquote of 1 Corinthians 10:13 – “…He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear...”[2] The truth is God’s glory thrives when we are faced with the impossible. He’s more than happy to carry you through a situation that you couldn’t bear alone in order to accomplish way more than you ever dreamed possible.

“The fact is that leaders are always in over their heads.  That’s because God assignments are supernatural in nature and He gives those assignments to vessels of clay.” (Loritts, Leadership as an Identity)

After all, as T. S. Eliot once said: “If you aren’t in over your head, how do you know how tall you are?”[3]

 

- Nicolas. C. Day

 

[1] Philippians 4:13 NKJV

[2] Added italics for emphasis

[3] https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/32085-if-you-aren-t-in-over-your-head-how-do-you

 

 

 

 

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Science & the Age of the Earth

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I had a reservoir engineering professor in college who used to say that “the only thing we know for certain about a model is that it is wrong.”  His point being: when we attempt to develop a model for natural phenomena, the best we can hope for is to be “as least wrong as possible” – we simply just don’t know all the variables. Let’s visualize this at an extremely high level. Say I see a napkin with “2…2 = 4” scribbled on it. I could fill in the gap with a “+” sign and reach a perfectly viable solution: 2+2=4. But I could have just as easily plugged in a multiplication sign, declaring 2 x 2 = 4 or even 2^2 = 4 and still hold a defensible position. Obviously, the natural world is infinitely more complex than this, but the idea here is that there are many ways to connect dots of evidence to reach a desired outcome.

Anyway, I say all that to set up the following question: how old is the earth?

Tracing the chronologies back to Adam and Eve and taking the biblical account of creation as a literal week, the calculated age of the earth is approximately 6,000 years. I think that makes some Christians uneasy because it doesn’t fit the predominantly championed view of the universe. Hey, I get it – I was uncomfortable too.

What really opened my eyes, however, were the issues within many of the contemporary scientific points of view – such as the presence of Carbon 14 isotopes in organic matter that is supposedly “millions of years old” (despite the fact that its 5,730 year half-life decay rate should render it completely undetectable).[1]

Well…what about the stars and stuff? Aren’t those like…billions of years old? How the heck would we see them if the earth was only 6,000 years old?

Let me point you back towards another model – Einstein’s theory of relativity. A fundamental component of the theory is time dilation as matter of various masses and velocities causes curvature in a space-time continuum. To make 6,000 years on Earth correspond to millions of years elsewhere in the universe, it becomes a matter of tweaking the equation.[2]

spacetime

Of course, there are many apologists on the other side of the fence that take an old earth stance in compliance with traditional science and there is a whole lot of arguing back and forth wading around in the minutia of incredibly complex details. But back to the point at the beginning – all models are wrong because we are limited to our own understanding. If you pick deep enough, you’re going to find an issue – until our understanding is increased and it can be explained.

The biblical account of creation does not go to a subatomic particle level of detail. I suspect it would be very hard and pointless to cram that sort of information into a text which is already perfectly sufficient to make us aware of our sinful nature and need of Jesus’s redeeming sacrifice on the cross to bring us back into a personal relationship with God.

Ultimately, my greatest evidence of God is the transformational work of the Holy Spirit in my life - not the scribbling on a napkin to satisfy a theoretical mathematical model. That being said, I am forever grateful for the relentless work of apologists, tireless defending the truth to illustrate that you CAN draw a reasonable, rational model that fits the biblical account of creation – and that is enough for me.

 

- Nicolas C. Day

 

Note: Whatever stance you take on the age of the earth, I see no reason to argue – as long as it doesn’t compromise your faith in Christ. If you are struggling with God from a scientific point of view (as I once was), I encourage you to check out the apologetic resources I have listed in the recommendations page.

 

[1] https://answersingenesis.org/age-of-the-earth/how-old-is-the-earth/

[2] https://answersingenesis.org/astronomy/starlight/

 

 

 

 

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Who Are Your Mighty Warriors?

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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

 

 

 

 

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Relentless Pursuit: God and Moana 

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Okay. So the polytheistic-riddled Moana isn’t exactly the film I’d pick to model the Christian faith. For that very reason, my wife was asked her thoughts on it by several mothers in her bible study that were wrestling over whether or not to show it to their kids. She was able to share with them the Christian movie reviewing resource that we consult from Focus on the Family whenever perusing new movies for the kiddos: www.pluggedin.com (letting my Dad flag fly a little here). Maoana gets the thumbs up from pluggedin for a couple of reasons. Firstly, since it is loosely based on Polynesian mythology, the historical element can spark a terrific conversation with your children about the importance of spreading the truth of the gospel to the unreached. Secondly, it does a good job of broadcasting the positive message that “striving to do what's good and right will result in a better world,”[1] And for a third (selfish) reason, it's action packed with adventure that makes it way more enjoyable for Dad than all the girly singing in Frozen. For those reasons, Moana can make for a fantastic, family-friendly, popcorn-filled movie night.

Now that I’ve watched it about fifty times with my toddlers, I can’t help but reflect on a song that resonates with my faith. Without giving too much away, this occurs towards the end of the movie where Moana is singing a song to Te Ka (fiery, volcanic monster thing) as it scrambles screaming towards her. Lyrics as follows:

I have crossed the horizon to find you

I know your name

They have stolen the heart from inside you

But this does not define you

This is not who you are

You know who you are

 

Let’s break this down with biblical references.

I have crossed the horizon to find you

Immediately this brings to mind the fact that God will go anywhere and everywhere to relentlessly pursue and rescue His lost sheep.

“For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him...” II Chronicles 16:9 NKJV

 

I know your name

Did you know that God has a unique name for each of his children? It blows my mind that the creator of the universe cares for us on such a deep, personal level.

“...To everyone who is victorious...I will give to each one a white stone, and on the stone will be engraved a new name that no one understands except the one who receives it.” Revelation 2:17 NLT

 

They have stolen the heart from inside you

Having sinned and fallen from the glory of God, love for the things of the world has stolen our heart away from our Creator.

“because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” Romans 1:21 NKJV

 

But this does not define you. This is not who you are. You know who you are.

In Christ, we are made new. No longer are we defined by our old, sinful past. Instead, we live each day covered by God’s grace. The Word and the Holy Spirit grant us this recognition in our lives.

“…anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” 2 Corinthians 5:17 NLT

 

Again, though the movie is grossly inaccurate theologically, it is a family friendly hit with a moment that served as an encouraging reminder that God loves me and that He would pursue me across the whole earth. Hope you enjoyed the read. Now excuse me as I go “Away, away!”*

 

- Nicolas C. Day

 

*This is a Moana joke. If you didn’t get this, then it’s time for you to watch the movie already.

[1] http://www.pluggedin.com/movie-reviews/moana-2016/

 

 

 

 

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Playing the Waiting Game

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I’m struggling with impatience. Thunderous impatience so big, fat, and obvious that I did not even notice it throwing a screaming tantrum right in front of my face. See, I usually think of patience in terms of waiting to find out what’s behind the wrapping paper of a Christmas present. I pride myself on how long I can patiently wait for a new toy. I could go weeks – months even! Thus, I know I am completely justified when I quickly mark the box for “patience” on my fruits of the Spirit checklist. “Yup, no problem here!” I think with a smug smile.

Yet, it is this very area where I have been failing massively for the past couple of years. What I have been failing to notice, is my insatiable demand for major life progress to occur now.

A few years ago, God entrusted to me a seed. Not a vision. A seed. I wouldn’t even say a seed of a vision. More like, a seed of a seed of a seed of a vision. As time rolls by, I find myself frustrated for not seeing the tree yet. It is not long before my pride overtakes me and I try to grow the plant myself, steamrolling ahead in fifty different directions with the assumption that at least one of those paths has got to be right.

Of course, like every “good Christian,” I make sure to bring my life decisions before the Lord (sometimes first, mostly as an afterthought). After all, I have memorized Proverbs 3:5-6:

“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

Ok great, got it! But what if He is silent? What if – no matter the number of prayers – there is no answer on the way forward? I certainly can’t speak for everybody and every situation (and I am not implying that this is always the case) – but I have slowly begun to acknowledge that perhaps He hasn’t shed a light on my next footstep yet because maybe, just maybe, it’s not time for me to march ahead yet. Maybe He wants me to do that dreaded four letter word…wait.

The request wouldn’t be out of His character. Elijah waited for God for years while he lived in the wilderness, eating food brought to him by ravens.[1]   Abraham waited 25 years for his promised heir to be born.[2]

Though disheartening to think of living in frustration for that long, waiting patiently for God can encourage other people in their faith. Psalm 40 attests to this:

“I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the Lord.” Psalms 40:1-3 NLT

Of course, knowing and embracing are two different beasts. If you’re like me, you’re probably sick of hearing “wait on the Lord, wait on the Lord.” Yeah, ok I get it, fine (cue eyeroll now). I must constantly remind myself that He is a King and I am a subject. If He tells me to wait, so I shall do because He is a good king, a just king, and He is always right.  The alternative could be disastrous – I may not fail in my plans immediately but as a flawed human being I am destined for it. There is only one that can grant guaranteed victory.

“I wait quietly before God, for my victory comes from him.” Psalms 62:1

Funnily enough, since acknowledging my impatience, the Holy Spirit broke its silence to remind me that I never actually finished my last task of writing the book I felt called to write. I finished a rough draft, dusted off my hands, and asked “Ok, what’s next?” No wonder I heard crickets.

So, I will continue doing what I am doing, waiting patiently for God to direct my next steps. Whether the “victory” matches my expectations or not, if the outcome is that “many will see what he has done” and “put their trust in the Lord” that seems like a darn good enough reason to me.

 

- Nicolas C. Day

 

[1] 1 Kings 17

[2] http://www.christianshepherd.org/bible_study_guides/abram_to_the_exodus/abram_to_the_exodus.pdf

 

 

 

 

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A Sip of Water in a Cloud of Dust

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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.

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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).

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

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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).

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

 

 

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

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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

 

 

 

 

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Parental Quiz: Would Jesus Say That?

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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

 

 

 

 

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