The “Why” Question

I guess my background and training as an engineer has always caused me to ask “why?”  Whether conducting an experiment in a college laboratory or wondering why a certain Christian seemed to be missing the blessings that God had planned for him, I have always wanted specific answers to the question “Why?”

I have often taken time to ponder the “why” question as it relates to the successes and disappointments that I have observed in my life and the lives of others over my 44 years as a believer.  Why do some Christians always seem to have the blessing of God on their lives while others seem to constantly struggle?  I believe there are three characteristics that yield success in the Christian life that I have seen emerge in my life and the lives of others.  These characteristics are consistency, availability, and spiritual passion.

Consistency simply means doing the same thing over and over again.  An athlete that trains and practices on a daily basis will normally be much more successful that an athlete that trains in a haphazard manner.  This principle works for students and business people alike.  This principle also works in the negative.  If a person consistently drinks alcohol or takes illegal drugs, they have a very high chance of becoming an addict.  For the Christian, consistent obedience in lifestyle, prayer, Bible study, and fellowship with other believers leads to the blessing of God according to His Word.

Availability is the second key.  God is much more interested in availability than ability.  Jesus didn’t target the super religious Jewish businessmen called Pharisees as His followers, but rather He called fishermen and other common people.  Jesus is looking for folks that don’t “have it all together” so that His amazing abilities can flow through available “earthen vessels”.  When Ann and I founded Victory Fellowship Church, we did whatever was necessary to meet the needs of the people.  I was the preacher, janitor, music leader, and general flunky.  She also preached, cleaned, took care of the children, and spent hours in counseling.  The church grew and thrived because we were willing to trust God rather than our own abilities.  Now, 18 years later, we are surrounded by a wonderful group of people that have given their hearts to Jesus and their time and energy to spreading the gospel.

Finally, spiritual passion is the glue that holds it all together.  Genuine love for Jesus keeps commitment from becoming obligation.  Only through an ongoing relationship with the Savior can we allow the love of the Father to flow through us on a daily basis.  When I miss my time in God’s presence and in His Word, I tend to become bitter, offended, self-centered and worldly.  Only by spending time with Him can my spiritual passion for Jesus become stirred up and active.  Only when I am full of His Spirit can I continue to reach out to the broken and hurting.

Whether believing for the blessing of God in our own lives or sharing the life of Jesus with another, without consistency, availability, and spiritual passion, our results will be mixed at best.  I encourage you to examine your life and see if these characteristics are working to bring about the good things that God intends for you and your family.

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Mother, Where’s My Teeth?

Do you have childhood events that are forever stuck in your memory?  One of the memories that always travels across my mind and brings a smile, happened just before our family was going out for the evening.  My brother and I had already gotten dressed and were waiting in the den for our parents.  Suddenly our dad came in excitedly looking for his partial dental plate.  He kept saying to our mom, “Mother, where’s my teeth?  We are late and I can’t find my teeth!”  He then enlisted my brother and me for the search.  All four of us spread out in search for the missing teeth.  We looked in all the bathrooms, bedrooms, and on the table next to dad’s recliner.  We looked under beds and the breakfast room table, but no teeth.  Dad continued running around excitedly asking, “Mother, where’s my teeth?!”  Suddenly I heard a hilarious laugh from my mom as she shouted with glee, “Silly, they’re in your mouth!”  We all had a big family laugh and went out for the evening.

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Sometimes Christians are just like my dad.  We scurry around excitedly asking God to give us something when we already have it.  Consider Romans 10:8-10 (GNT).

What it says is this: “God’s message is near you, on your lips and in your heart”—that is, the message of faith that we preach.  If you confess that Jesus is Lord and believe that God raised him from death, you will be saved.  For it is by our faith that we are put right with God; it is by our confession that we are saved.

 When we pray, we are not trying to get God to do something.  We are simply asking in agreement for what he has already done in the finished work of the cross.  It is by our belief in and confession of His promises that we receive salvation and wholeness in every area of our lives.

Remember that the Greek word for save is sozo which means to keep safe and sound, to rescue from danger or destruction, to make well, to heal and restore to health, to preserve and to deliver from divine judgment.  Wow!  All of that is in that little word and it was given to us when Jesus endured the cross and rose from the dead!

So, the next time you cry out to God for something you need, remember that He has already provided all of our needs through Jesus’ finished work on the cross.  Therefore, we can believe in our heart and declare with our mouth that the deliverance, protection, healing, restoration and wholeness that Jesus purchased for us are moving in us right now!

I sure don’t want to hear the Holy Spirit say, “Silly, what you need is in your heart and in your mouth.”  Rather, I want to believe it, confess it, and receive it!”

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The Passion of Jesus

God has really been stirring me up concerning my passion for Him.  I am beginning to sense a new fire in my spiritual life as I seek the Lord and His ways.  I have been studying various characters from the pages of scripture and see a real zeal for God in the lives of King David, the Apostle Paul and many others.  However, the most passionate person I find in all of the scriptures is the Lord Jesus Himself.  I see great passion in His cleansing of the temple and His ministry to the sick and demon possessed.  I see great passion in the fact that He came to save broken people like you and me.  Jesus is our model for a zealous, passionate Christian life.  As I have taken a fresh look at the life of Christ, I find His passion is centered in three areas:

Jesus was passionate about his relationship with God the Father.  Jesus said in John 5:19, “The son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do.”  Also, in John 5:30, Jesus said, “I can of myself do nothing.  As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent me.”

Jesus was passionate about His prayer life.  In Mark 1:32-35, we find an amazing story.  Jesus is healing the sick and casting out demons in Capernaum.  In the evening, the entire city comes to the house where He is ministering to the people.  He must have prayed for thousands of people far into the night, yet we find these words in verse 35: “Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place and there He prayed.”  It is hard for me to believe that Jesus didn’t at least get a good night’s sleep after all that ministry.  But Jesus found it necessary to connect with His heavenly Father in prayer in order to “recharge His spiritual battery.”  We find this same scenario throughout the New Testament as Jesus approaches His prayer life with great passion.

Jesus was passionate about people.  The whole idea of the incarnation is about Jesus’ willingness to clothe Himself in flesh and journey after His lost and dying people.  Jesus loved us so much that He poured out His very life-blood for a rebellious people that only deserved death and separation from a holy God.  Jesus’ passion for people manifested itself in two ways. Jesus spent years training men that would take His place in proclaiming the gospel after He went back to the Father.  Jesus ministered unceasingly to the masses of diseased and demonized people that the religious leaders of His day simply ignored. jesus passion

Jesus is still full of passion today.  He is in full fellowship with His father in heaven.  He tirelessly intercedes for you and me as we live our lives on this earth.  Jesus is also still issuing invitations to a lost and dying world to accept Him as Lord and King.  He is continuing to train His church to reach out to this current generation.

I encourage you, as we move into the Easter season – let the passions of Christ become your passions.  t your relationship with God be red hot.  Spend time in prayer cultivating that special relationship.  And finally, reach out to the lost and hurting around you that so desperately need the Savior.  May our lives be filled with the passion of Jesus!

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The Mercy and Grace Connection

I had mercy and grace mixed up for years. I used them interchangeably as if they were the same concept. But Mercy and grace are totally different from each other but work together to meet the needs of God’s people.

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Mercy is God’s not requiring payment for sin. Mercy sets us free when we should be held accountable. Mercy comes as a result of God’s amazing love and grace. In a personal example, I have received mercy several times from police officers that stopped me for a traffic violation but didn’t give me a ticket. I was guilty but I didn’t have to pay for my “crime”. Thank God for Mercy!!

In the basic form, grace simply means favor, but God’s grace is much more than that. Charles Capps says “grace is God’s willingness to use His ability and power on our behalf even though we don’t deserve it.” My own definition of grace is “Gods power, wrapped in God’s favor and energized by God’s love. “
In short: Grace is the power to change!

Without God’s mercy, we simply die in our sins and are heard from no more. But mercy keeps us alive and connected to God so that grace can do its job of changing us.

Hebrews 4:16 clearly shows the mercy and grace connection: “So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” When we have a problem or need in life, we are clearly instructed on what to do.

1. We boldly enter into God’s presence because of what Jesus has done on the cross. God’s favor toward us as His child enables us to walk right into His presence.

2. Once in God’s presence, we ask for His mercy in our situation. Maybe we have messed our life up big time or maybe we are under attack from the devil, but we need mercy in either case. We ask for mercy and we receive it. If we have sins to confess, we do so and receive mercy in the form of forgiveness.

3. Now we are ready to be empowered by grace to see our situation change by the power of God. Maybe we receive a scripture that builds our faith or God sends a person to minister to us. But grace provides answers and power to change our situation and grow our spiritual lives.

It is my prayer that we all realize that mercy and grace are just a prayer away. As we face life’s problems and seek do God’s will, the mercy and grace connection will empower us to experience victory in our everyday lives. Plus, we will be ready to meet the needs of those around us. Thank God for His wonderful gift of the Mercy and Grace Connection.

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The Only Thing That Works

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Some of the most miserable people I know are “burned out” Christians.  They begin their new lives in Christ as shooting stars, full of life and joy.  They share the gospel with great joy and brighten up every room they enter as the Holy Spirit empowers them.  However, as the weeks turn into month, some new Christians become bitter and discouraged.  Their cheerful commitment to the Lord turns into dry obligation.  Some become outwardly hostile towards other Christians and church activities, while others slowly drift away from Christian fellowship and their life in Jesus.  On the other hand, other new Christians enjoy steady growth and continued delight in serving the Lord.  I have watched these two types of Christians develop over the years and have tried (usually in vain) to help the struggling ones find peace and renewed commitment to Christ.  As I have prayed and studied regarding this problem, I have come to the conclusion that the answer is very simple:  the spiritual life of a Christian hangs on a single commandment.

 In I John 3: 22-23, we find these words, “And whatever we ask, we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.  And this is His commandment that we believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another just as He gave commandment.”   This simple two part commandment is the very essence of the Christian life – we trust Jesus with our lives and we love other Christians.  Obviously, the outworking of this commandment can take a lifetime to achieve, but with the Holy Spirit and the Word of God as our guides, we can live in trust and love. 

 Could you imagine a group of Christians, whether a church, a ministry group or even a family that did everything they could to live by this commandment?  There would be no church fights.  There would be no control issues because of manipulating or “guilting” of others.  There would be no posturing for position.  Backbiting and gossip would cease.  Every person involved would serve and love their brothers and sisters above their own interest.  The Word of God would take precedence over denominational or personal preferences.  People would serve the body of Christ and share their faith with others because they wanted to not out of obligation. Plus, we would receive what we asked from Him because we kept that commandment.

 If we consider the life of Jesus during His time on the earth, we can see that this is the way He lived.  He trusted God explicitly, even in the face of the cross.  He ministered in gentleness and love to people as they sought out His miracle working power.  He trained his disciples by actively engaging in ministry with them as their living example.  He issued specific but simple invitations to those in the crowds to follow Him in a deeper way.  Many men and women took up that challenge while others chose to hang on to their self-life.  He didn’t berate, patronize, manipulate, or try to convince those that rejected him of the error of their ways – He just loved them.

 In light of what I’ve written above, I am going to conduct a 30 day test in my own life.  I am going to do my best, in cooperation with the Holy Spirit, to operate my life and ministry on this commandment.  I am going to actively trust Jesus in all my affairs.  I am going to commit to a lifestyle of loving other Christians (particularly those that hurt or disappointed me), not just as an obligation due to my job as a pastor.  I will continue to speak the truth of God’s Word, but only in love, never in condemnation.  After 30 days, I figure things will be so good that I’ll just live this commandment from now on.  If it sounds good to you too, why not try it with me?  The results should be amazing!

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Brother Lawrence and the Moonshiners Part 2

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“So, how come you boys are losing sales around Cat Creek?” bellowed Big Ed.  Edward Benton or Big Ed as the locals called him was a master moonshiner.  He had stills all around the backwoods of Bessemer and had come to Cat Creek and taught the locals how to make the best moonshine whiskey in the state of Alabama. Of course Big Ed took a 20% cut for his instruction and oversight.  “So tell me. Why are you boys losing business?” Ed said quietly with a menacing stare.  “It’s the preacher,” offered Jimmy James.  “Yeah, Jimmy’s right said Betsy.  I met that preacher about a month ago when he and that boy preacher of his first showed up.  I even had my scatter gun pointed right at his nose.  I didn’t figure he’d hurt nothing but saved folks don’t buy moonshine and he’s got a bunch of ‘em saved.”  “Is that so?  Well, I got a little surprise for your preacher” snarled Big Ed.

 “I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost” said Brother Lawrence as he dipped Joe Favor in the cool waters of Cat Creek.  As Joe broke the surface grinning, the small crowd erupted with shouts and applause.  Another sinner had made Jesus Lord and joined the little congregation of 30 or so believers.  Joe dried off as the group walked the short distance up to the Old Bethlehem church building where a hot meal was waiting for them.  After the meal and a time of hymn singing, Brother Lawrence preached about the second coming of Jesus and two little boys gave their hearts to the Lord.  The people left that night with great joy.

 As Brother Lawrence gathered up his Bible and notes, he noticed a couple of the men waiting to speak to him.  Charlie Jones spoke up first, “Pastor, me and Slim have been talking and we believe we should have a Saturday night meeting in Town.  I lot of folks can’t come this far to hear you preach but if we took the meeting to them….”  “Yeah”, Slim said excitedly.  “I already asked Principal Henry if we could use the school and he was fine with the idea.”  Brother Lawrence smiled broadly as his blue eyes danced.  God was answering his prayers.

 The next Saturday the Old Bethlehem Church Congregation met at the 6th grade classroom at 6 pm sharp.  They arranged chairs and put Brother Lawrence’s little speaking stand in front of the long middle blackboard.  The school room was typical of that time – blackboards on one side and windows on the other.

 The meeting started in typical fashion as the boy preacher led the singing while old Ned played the guitar.  The new folks from town seemed to fit right in.  After the singing Brother Lawrence began preaching the good news of Jesus but nobody seemed to notice the silhouette of Big Ed holding a twelve gauge shotgun while peering in the open schoolhouse window.

 When the shot rang out the people screamed and began diving for the floor.  Chalk dust and gun smoke filled the classroom. Big Ed surveyed the situation fully expecting to see Brother Lawrence lying in a pool of blood.  To everyone’s amazement, Brother Lawrence still stood in front of the blackboard with shot gun pellet holes all around his head.  Not a single pellet had touched him.  Ed stared in total terror.  He then began crying out, “It’s real!  It’s real! God is real and my sins are before me!”  Ed threw the shotgun down and ran into the building where he fell on his knees before Brother Lawrence.  The tears flowed as Ed confessed his sins and cried out for God to save him.  Brother Lawrence knelt down with Ed and prayed him through to a miraculous conversion.  The people shouted, danced and hugged each other.  Jesus had protected Brother Lawrence and saved Big Ed!

 I heard this story as a twelve year old boy sitting at the feet of my grandfather Lawrence G. Nunnally Sr.  Eleven churches were established during his ministry.  Brother Lawrence was a man of faith that endured many hardships to preach the gospel.  He has alwaysbeen one of my heroes.  I share this story with you to strengthen your resolve to share the gospel even when circumstances are difficult.  God bless you!

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Brother Lawrence and the Moonshiners

“So just what do you think you are doing?!” said the large ugly woman holding the shotgun on Brother Lawrence.  “Me and the boy preacher are going down to open up the old Bethlehem Church so folks in these parts can worship the Lord”, stammered Brother Lawrence as he looked down the blue steel barrels.  “Well alright then.” snarled the large ugly woman.  She lowered the gun as she and her sons tromped back to their miserable looking little cabin next to the rain soaked dirt Road.  “Just preachers not revenuers…” She muttered.

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The year was 1928 and Brother Lawrence Nunnally felt like God had called him to this rural Central Alabama area called Cat Creek.  All the churches had closed due to moon-shining activity and multiple murders. It seems the Christian folk just packed up and left since there were few jobs in the depression stricken back woods anyway.  Brother Lawrence knew that God wanted him to plant a church in that area whether the moonshiners liked it or not.

The two travelers sloshed a couple more miles through the mud before coming to their destination.  The old Bethlehem Church building had been abandoned for several years but seemed to be in pretty good shape.  Even most of the rough wooden pews and a few workable kerosene lanterns were still in the little faded white building. The two men made a couple of straw brooms from the abundant underbrush and got right to work sweeping out the old church building.  After tidying the place up, they pitched the tent the boy preacher had been lugging along with him and made a meal of the corn bread Lawrence’s wife Lilly had sent along with them. It tasted pretty good along with the creek water behind the church building.  After the meal, Brother Lawrence and the boy preacher rested and prayed until service time.

That evening at 7 pm, Brother Lawrence started the service with a few old gospel hymns and then began to preach his heart out to the empty pews.  The boy preacher shouted “amen” and “hallelujah” as Brother Lawrence offered an altar call to the emptiness.  Brother Lawrence and the boy preacher retired to the tent, had a little cornbread snack and went to sleep after praying for the community.

The next night was a carbon copy of the first night except Brother Lawrence caught a glimpse of a few folks listening outside in the darkness.  A man, a woman and two small children actually wandered in and sat on the back pews about midway through the sermon on the third night. After the sermon was over, the man responded to the invitation and was gloriously saved.  Brother Lawrence baptized the whole family in a deep spot in the creek the next day.

Over the next few weeks, the little church building was packed with seekers and around 25 souls were saved.  Brother Lawrence discipled the little group for another couple of weeks until trouble broke out with the local moonshiners – but that’s another story for another time.

I heard this story as a twelve year old boy sitting at the feet of my grandfather Lawrence G. Nunnally Sr.  The boy preacher was his young assistant that traveled with him as he raised up churches in rural Alabama.  Brother Lawrence was a man of faith that endured many hardships to preach the gospel.  He has always been one of my heroes.  I share this story with you to strengthen your resolve to share the gospel even when circumstances are difficult.  God bless you!

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