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In This For Good

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They agreed they were in this for good, completely together in prayer, the women included. Also Jesus’ mother, Mary, and his brothers. (‭Acts‬ ‭1‬:‭14‬ MSG)

Commitment is crazy scarce in our culture these days. When things get rocky people run for the hills. If that sounds like you then you’re in good company.

When Jesus was arrested (Matthew 26) his disciples scattered. They just flat split. Even Peter, his best friend, sold him out, denying him when the going got tough.

If you have ever split, quit, or cut your losses—which narrows it down to just about everyone that breathes oxygen and falls under the description “human being”—then you and the disciples have a lot in common. They were quitters. But they didn’t stay quitters.

In the Book of Acts the early church historian Luke paints a vivid picture of a dedicated body of brothers whose undying devotion to the Gospel flipped the world upside down. But it’s the same guys that left Jesus high and dry in the Garden. What changed?!

They experienced the resurrected Jesus. They had quit on Jesus, but Jesus wouldn’t quit on them. He walked right into the room, declared his identity, deity, and design for their lives, and charged them all with a Holy Mandate, a Great Commission.

Each of them made an about face. They went 180. They flipped the script, settled their heart’s compass on true north, and went ALL IN.

They agreed. They were in it for good. Hell or high water. Pain, persecution, and martyrdom would follow all of them. Every last one. But they agreed. They were in it for good. Because Jesus makes quitters into world changers.

If you struggle with commitment, you don’t need more guilt. You don’t need better reasons to stay in the mix. You need an encounter with the risen Jesus. Ask. He’ll help. He hasn’t quit. He’s in this for good.

I Love My Bible: Blueprints & Buzzer Beaters

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The Bible is full of a lot of cool stuff. A LOT of it can be pretty tough to wrap your mind and heart around sometimes. But it’s worth the effort to try. Why? Because the Bible is our single greatest source of information about God, and it’s His single greatest method for speaking to us.

When you need to know tax code, you get a book on tax law; when you need to learn how to potty train a puppy, you read up on dog training tips; and, when you need (which is always) to both know more about and more of God you read the Bible. But it is way more than just a book. It’s a bullseye from Heaven’s throne. It’s a guaranteed three point basket. It’s an instruction manual.

Like all instruction manuals it was written in a variety of languages. So you will have to discover the one that you best understand if you hope to put its instruction to a good use. However, if you are willing to put in the effort to figure it out you will live a life full of the timely instruction of God.

God speaks to us through His Word. The words on the pages paint a picture of an eternal drama that is forever unfolding around us. It is remarkable. And like all good instruction manuals it unfolds a blue print for the way to make things work. And the biggest truth it has to deliver is that the only way things ever truly work is when they work through God.

The Word of God, full of timeless truth, is also full of truth that sometimes arrives just on time. Sometimes we forget what the blueprints say and we, or someone else, messes up the plans for our lives. Well, God’s Word generally has something to say about that too. I often find that when I’m at my wits end is when his Word is the most personal. His Word is a blueprint for me to live and love by, but sometimes it’s also a buzzer beater that comes just when I need it most.

I Love My Bible: Why I Don’t App

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The Bible is awesome. It is insightful, inspired, and many other things—including sometimes confusing, scary, and sad. However, above all it is a collection of stories, poetry, prophecy, and correspondence that paints a picture of a singular narrative…

God’s redemptive love.

I love it. And can’t stop diving into it on a regular basis. But lately my bible reading has taken a new turn. I don’t read on any of my bible Apps anymore.

It’s not that I don’t like them. They are absolutely amazing tools. In fact, we live in an age when access to the Word of God is more abundant than ever before. Digital resources are off the charts amazing. These days I have access to more information on my iPhone than my pastor had in his entire library when I was growing up in the 90s.

But that was not always the case. There was a time when the bible didn’t exist in English. There was a time when incredibly courageous men of faith gave their very lives to ensure the bible was translated, copied, printed, and distributed. They were martyred for the Word of God.

It is an entirely personal choice that is in no way whatsoever theologically driven. I have no compulsion to push my preferences on anyone else. But I have stopped doing my daily reading through an app. I’m not knocking them. I still suggest my favorites to people. I still even use them at church or on the go.

But for my personal time with God I have elected to hold the actual book in my hands. To feel it’s leather covering and crisp pages. To write in the margins. To make notes. Outline sermons. And appreciate the effort it took a great many people, inventors, and heroes to make it available to me.

Apps are awesome, and INSANELY useful, but for me there is just something almost degrading and impersonal about reading God’s Word on the same device I use to make my grocery list or read last night’s boxing highlights.

You see, I really Love My Bible. And that’s why I don’t app anymore.

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Attitude Matters

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I Love My Bible: Attitude Matters

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I am 34. I have been reading the Bible pretty much every day for over 22 years. But I didn’t always read it the way that I read it now.

My dad is a high school art teacher—so growing up he, myself, and my kid brother all rode to and from school together every day. It was a cherished routine chocked full of memories. One of the constants from that season of life was a nearly daily stop at an automotive parts store managed by my uncle.

My brother and I would grab a stool and settle in for what was sure to be a long stop, my dad loves to talk. And my wonderful aunt who often helped around the store would inevitably strike up conversation with my brother and I. The talk almost always turned quickly to the Word of God.

“Nathan, you been reading your bible?” She would ask in her dearest friendly voice.

“Yes ma’am!” I would fire right back. But I hadn’t been. At least not like she meant. She wanted to know if I had actually been trying to read and understand it on a regular basis.

True enough I had a bible. It was an old school style King James Bible complete with all of the thee’s, thou’s, shouldests, and such. It also had a handy zipper and nifty little portrait of some Caucasian guy (presumably Christ) holding a sheep on the cover.

I would unzip it and thumb through its pages on occasion, but not with any real desire or intentionality. But my aunt kept asking, and I kept pretty much lying about it.

…until…

I started feeling bad about it. I mean even an 11 year old knows you shouldn’t lie about reading the Bible. So I stopped lying about it. My answer didn’t change. I still told my aunt that I had been reading, but from that point on it was the truth.

What began as an attempt to assuage my guilt and dodge a difficult question transformed into a daily habit which has since directed the course of my entire adult life.

The Bible is more than book (actually it’s a library.) It is bigger than the sum of our collective moral posturing. It is more powerful than the poets, prophets, statesmen, and martyrs who penned its many truths. It is not to be worshipped, though it is meant to be a spotlight that shines on the recipient of all our adoration.

And you will get out of it in direct proportion to the attitude accompanying your heart when at last you arrive at the border of its pages and paragraphs.

Because it is full of information but it also full of so much more.


More in I Love My Bible.
Why I Don’t App

Peace Out 2014

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2014 Is Over. The last year of our lives has been a roller coaster of awesome. As we get ready to ring in the New Year with family and friends I thought I’d jump on the ol’ blog to share a brief summary of some of what stuck out for the Kings over the last 12 months.

1. Life will always be crazy. Just when you think you have a handle on the wild ride and adjust to the new normal, it all changes again.

2. Enjoy the crazy life. If you don’t enjoy your crazy life, we’ll be honest with yourself, it’s the only one you have, and are ever going to have. Make the most of it. Cherish the awesome. Learn from the not-so-awesome.

3. Money is just money. Make it. Spend it. Save it. Give it. But certainly try not to love it, or even like it.

4. We are just one breath away from heaven’s gate. It’s been a long time since I was reminded of this truth in such a personal way. Make all of your breaths between this one and that one mean something special to those around you.

5. Nothing worth doing comes without work. That doesn’t mean it always has to be hard work, but chances are, if something is actually worth the attempt it will require effort, time, and maybe even a little personal sacrifice.

6. Better not bigger. You don’t necessarily need to make something bigger to feel fulfilled. Start by making it better.

7. Hard things are better with friends. Whether you’re camping out on a sidewalk at midnight outside of a Guatemalan hospital or talking the loss of a loved one through with your mentor, hard things are softened by the company of people who love you.

So long 2014. You were pretty good to us, but we are really excited about 2015.

Where Your Heart Is: A Christmas Blog

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Where is your heart? No, I don’t mean nestled beneath your sternum somewhere between your lungs and whatever is over on the other side. Not that heart. You know! Your heart. The metaphysical linchpin of your soul that drives your desires, captains your cares, and pushes your passions.

Where is it? Where does it lay? Where does it stop? Where does it rest? Where does it ache for, hurt for, beat for?

Stop and think about the answer for just a moment. Now check out what Jesus had to say in Matthew chapter six.

It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being. (‭Matthew‬ ‭6‬:‭21‬ MSG)

So, does where you initially thought that your heart was actually line up with where you are—with where you spend your time. If not then maybe it’s time to give that discrepancy some careful examination. Perhaps there is an absolutely legitimate reason (you know, like a time consuming career) why the two would be different. Or, it could be that where you think your heart is, and where it actually is, is not quite in line. But that’s an easy fix. Knowing really is half the battle. And if there is a difference there that you’re not crazy about ask God to help.

Jesus was the answer to where God’s heart is. He treasures us—and so he came to be with us.

Merry Christmas.

To Claus?

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I was one of those guys that swore off Santa Claus before I was a dad. Wasn’t gonna happen. My kids won’t believe in that stuff. Now I’m a dad. Our first son is nearly 3 and the second one will be here in April. Where do we stand? How do we handle it?

We tell the truth.

Santa Claus is like Batman, Captain America, or Buzz Lightyear . He has a lot of movies. Everyone knows who he is. But he isn’t real. He is pretend.

But what about when he isn’t pretend? What about when you can see him or talk to him? What about when he’s at the mall? That is a fat guy with a beard. Kids sit in his lap and talk to him, kind of like grandpa. He is pretending. Like when my son says he wants to fly like Buzz Lightyear and I pick him up and run across the house while he extends his arms and shouts “To Infinity and Beyond!” We are pretending.

Where do presents come from? People who love you, work hard for the money they use to buy them, and don’t cheat with pretend magic powers. You don’t have to earn your presents. It has nothing to do with being bad or good. It has everything to do with being cherished and probably a little spoiled. There’s nothing pretend about overtime, deadlines, and income taxes.

We pretend a lot in our house. We have bear hunts, and super hero adventures. We build snake guns out of Legos and block towers for the Ethan monster to destroy. And we have a blast.

Why?

I made a pledge never to lie to my kids. Not even “white lies.” I don’t tell him the super heroes we love are real. I don’t tell him Santa Claus is real. I don’t tell him eating his vegetables will make him big and strong like Hulk.

I never want to limit my ability to speak truth into his young and sponge-like mind and heart in a way that could undermine the BIG truths we already discuss on a regular basis. Things like love, generosity, kindness, (we recently had to tackle the notion of death and afterlife) and truth.

What about Jesus? We tell the truth. Christmas is all about celebrating the birth of Jesus. We have nativity scenes (at least 6 because my wife is Christmas-crazy). It’s important, we talk about it. But we don’t have to overcompensate. We don’t have to cram it down his throat in a half-guilty bid to outshine Santa Claus because Santa is never really part of the equation.

We might do it different than you. If you want to do the Santa thing go for it. Your house. Your rules. But we won’t. We don’t. And if I judge you a little bit for it, well—I’m only telling the truth.

Hate the Sinner – Love the Sin

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If you are a professing Christian chances are pretty high that you have uttered the phrase “hate the sin, love the sinner” at one point or another. At the least you have probably heard it tossed around here and there.

The sentiment is fairly straightforward. It conveys the idea that you can entirely disagree with, and be at odds with someone’s behavior, while still caring deeply about them. The idea itself is fine. We really are at odds with a lot of dangerous behavioral stuff in this life. Hopefully we’re more at odds with the junk in our own closet rather than someone else’s. The problem with this idea isn’t that it’s untrue. It’s that we don’t actually mean it.

Generally whatever particular sin issue is driving the conversation usually dominates said conversation. This leaves little room for lovingly engaging people who might be neck deep in the issue at hand. God is amazingly loving, and forgiving, but how can you demonstrate that to someone if you are too busy telling them how much God hates what they’re doing. It’s like trying to give someone a brand new car by running them over with it. Or giving someone dying of thirst a drink by tossing them in a lake.

Christian, you are the face of God to this world. You are Jesus with skin on. Often people will respond to God in accordance to how you respond to them. Not always, but many times.

Also, you need God too. We all do. “Hate the sin, love the sinner” is a fine description of how God feels about the situation, but it’s a pretty crappy summation of Christian human reaction to sin.

God does hate sin. He hates all sin. He is completely good like that. God does love sinners. He loves all sinners. ALL OF US. He is completely good like that. But I have yet to meet the Christian who hates all sin equally and loves all sinners equally, and that certainly includes myself.

No, we pick sins that are obvious and we hammer them, leaving those trapped in that sin beaten and broken like some old rusty nail. Never mind that Jesus allowed himself to be beaten, battered, and nailed for them. All the while we ignore our pet sins and keep them in our most secret places. Even the villainous religious leaders from John chapter 8 had the good sense not to throw stones because of their failures. Would we? I have met a lot of people who went looking for God at some point in their life and wound up battered and bruised by the stones thrown their way.

I’ve spent over a decade reaching out to college students. I’ve had hundreds of conversations with non Christians. It is amazing how many people are turned away from Christianity, not by Jesus, but by the people who represent him. In their eyes we hate the sinner, but we love to talk about their sin.

Zacapa 2014: THANKFULNESS

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I have had the outstanding privilege of serving young adults for the last eleven years. For the last four of those God has graciously granted me the opportunity to travel to Latin America in service to Jesus and His Church abroad. This week has been far and away the most intense experience of my life. So intense I am finding it difficult to collect the appropriate words.

I feel I have seen and experienced more of the powerful presence of God over the last ten days than I would have dared to imagine. So much has transpired that I’m not sure I will ever be able to absorb, record, or articulate all of it.

However, one resounding feeling rises above the chaotic din of stress, joy, and relief for this experience….

THANKFULNESS.

God is faithful. When you pursue Him. When you put your trust in His hands. When you decrease so that He gets the glory, honor, and credit—He always comes through.

Every. Single. Time.

Zacapa 2014: WHAT A JOY

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For ten days now Jamie and I have had the distinct pleasure of traveling with a group of the most selfless, courageous, and loving people I have ever known. They have endured physical discomfort, an endlessly rearranging schedule, and intense spiritual warfare—the likes of which we rarely ever recognize in the states.

I have watched them daily push through fatigue, sickness, and injury to proclaim the love and joy of Christ. I have cheered them on as they left personal fears behind—being God-prompted into never before contemplated situations. The shy have became powerful proclaimers of truth; the insecure, bold beacons of grace.

Through sweat and dust and heat the life-giving Spirit of Christ has remained at the centre. The presence of God the all-encompassing Source. The Gospel the Great Calling; and the lost the Chief Mission.

This week eighteen students from small town America (Russellville, AR) along with Jamie, myself, and our accompanying locals had the chance to serve alongside Greg Miller Ministries. Doing so we shared the Gospel will 2,780 people, prayed individually with 495 of them—and lead 207 to Christ. As well as helping to facilitate a worship experience where 250 more people were saved!

Rebekah, Dakota, Dimas, Brian, Ashely, Stacey, Morgan, Cara, Jeff, John, Jacob, Aaron, Katelyn, Ian, Tosha, Emily, Madisun, & Lizette….WHAT A JOY it has been to serve alongside you on this trip!

More to come soon….

Thanks for reading,
Nate

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