Lately my life has been very full, so whoever said that things slow down after the holidays – well they we wrong, at least in my case. In the last few weeks life has been very busy. Busy with greats things and busy with hard things as well. It has been filled with joy and excitement. It has also been filled with heartache and pain. And that my friends is what we call life, right? 

So how does one who claims to be on mission with God, stay focused on pursuing the holiness of God when their life is always full and busy? With all that this world demands of us – from being a parent & raising a family, to running a business or managing a team – with all that is coming our way and with all that we must do each day, how do we avoid living a life that is absent of a daily pursuit of the holiness of God? 

Brennan Manning writes: 

“Since the day that Jesus first appeared on the scene, we have developed vast theological systems, organized worldwide churches, filled libraries with brilliant christological scholarship, engaged in earthshaking controversies, and embarked on crusades, reforms and renewals. Yet there are still precious few of us with sufficient folly to make the mad exchange of everything for Christ; only a remnant with the confidence to risk everything for the gospel of grace; only a minority who stagger about with the delirious joy of a man who found buried treasure.”

Is my life – is your life, the right response to a daily pursuit of the holiness of God? Are we apart of a remnant that has the confidence to risk everything in this busy life, for more intimacy with God? The simply answer might be: pray more! Or another one might be: read your Bible more! And although those are good things to do, do they really make us more holy? Do they really give us the confidence we need to “risk everything for the gospel of grace”? Doing more, probably won’t make us any more confident. And doing more, won’t really bring us more and lasting freedom either. 

Between our hearts and God, there is a huge disconnect. I see it all the time. In college students trying to work and go to school. In single parents, trying to work and raise their family. In the business owner and this guy – right here! We think that since we are busy being parents, or being leaders at our job or in our community, and that if just stay busy enough that then we will accomplish great things in our lives – and perhaps even for God. Now don’t get me wrong, God wants us to be faithful to our spouse and love them relentless. God wants us to humbly serve Him in whatever capacity He has called us to. But we cannot neglect the former – a daily pursuit of the holiness of God – we cannot neglect the former and hope to achieve the greater – risking it all for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

This is a holiness issue. We have lost what it means to pursue the very holiness of God for our lives. 

I follow a group called Renovaré USA on a social media site. Today they posted a prayer of St. Augustine that helped me gain some much needed perspective. In the midst of trying to manage my stuff, in the midst of trying to do all that is before me – there came this simple reminder through a prayer of St. Augustine: 

“Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit, that my thoughts may all be holy. Act in me, O Holy Spirit, that my work, too, may be holy. Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit, that I love but what is holy. Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit, to defend all that is holy. Guard me, then, O Holy Spirit, that I always may be holy. Amen.”

Being busy, will always be there. There will always be an e-mail to write, a phone call to make, a card to send, a person to help, a need to meet. There will always be something that will demand our attention. If I get caught up in meeting that need, then we will always feel consumed with being busy. We will also then be more concerned about doing things, then being truly connected to God in vibrant and intimate ways. When we pursue the holiness of God, it transforms our prayer life. It brings wisdom and power to what we encounter in the Word of God and it gives us the right perspective to handle the things we face throughout each day.

How is that possible? It is possibly through God’s grace for us as our focus is on Him, first.  

When I do pray, I want that time with the Lord to be real and sincere. When I do spend time in His Word, I want the truth of God to explode within me. So excuse if I say no to you – to the demands of this world – to spend more focused time on the feeding of my soul. Excuse me if I don’t sign-up for everything or help with every project that comes before me. I don’t do it to be mean. I don’t do it to be selfish. I do it with a purpose – so that God may truly impact my life in every way possible first, so that I may be able to truly represent, with all the courage I can gather the power and holiness of the gospel of God’s grace – first in my home and then throughout the rest of my life.

May we purpose with great passion and strong conviction to seek out true intimacy with God each day Blocking out, or putting away the negative and false things from others that we face while remembering that it has always been and always will be about Jesus and our focused pursuit of intimacy with Him. May you find the freedom to say no to things of this world that are robbing you, so that you can you truly and fully say yes to a genuine pursuit of the holiness of God in your life that will have radical and profound implications on all that you do and say. 

the things kids teach us

Recently I experienced something really great with my two girls. There was this moment, with each one of them, that God spoke to me powerfully through them…

A few nights prior to this, my wife and I gathered up our two girls for prayer before bed. We asked the girls what we could pray for them about. Our oldest shared this: I really want to see my friend. Pray that I see my friend soon. I really want to give her a hug. Now this particular friend of hers that she wanted us to pray for, well she doesn’t see very often. This friend that our daughter wanted to see is the grand-daughter of a friend of our girls grandma – so they only see their friend when their grandma does things with their friend’s grandma. But our oldest daughter wanted to see her and wanted us to pray that she sees her soon, because she missed her and wanted to give her a hug. So we prayed with her about this, and honestly, I didn’t think much more of her request…

Fast forward now a few days – we went to hear Francis Chan speak at another church. My anxiety level was pretty high as we drove there. We were late. I never took any opportunity to pause and gather myself that day. Just went from one thing, to the next. I was busy. Arriving late, waiting in a big line, trying to check our kids into the kid’s program. It was all too much for me to handle and I had a horrible attitude. I was a mean old grump for a few moments – to my wife, and to my kids. Not a moment I am proud of – as I hurt the feelings of the three most important people in my life. But rather than stopping, to say sorry, to share how I was feeling – I pressed on. Busy. Gotta go. Gotta get into church…(and oh the irony of that…)

Once into the church, we couldn’t find a seat, so we were sent to the overflow area, which was full. Then, we were sent to the video cafe. After the service we went to pick-up our girls and they had a great time. I had our younger daughter and Melanie had our older daughter. Getting through the crowds in the kid’s center was a bit hectic. I got outside and realized that Melanie and our older daughter were no longer behind us. So we waited. Finally they came out – and guess why they got delayed? Because God answered our oldest daughters prayer: she saw the friend she prayed for and was able to give her a hug.

The look on her face was amazing. She knew she prayed for something special. And God answered her prayers. Neither of our families goes to this church often, yet it was at this place that God answered her little prayer. Just because we get busy, and are surrounded by crowds, doesn’t mean that the Lord can’t still do amazing things. Through her, I saw God answer a prayer – one prayed in simple faith – but one that got my attention and said: stop, and trust in Lord – rest in Him – God is faithful.

As we drove to dinner, I prayed quietly to myself: Lord I’m sorry for my attitude today. I’m sorry for not spending time with you. I’m sorry God for speaking to my family in a harsh way tonight. I then looked at my wife and apologized to her and the girls. I was wrong. I made a choice earlier and it hurt her and it affected my kids. I was wrong and I was sorry.

We drove for a few more minutes, and here was a chance at redemption: my wife expressed now how she was feeling anxious about something. And how did I respond? Not like the forgiven Nick I should have. I responded, again – in such a negative way, and again, I spoke towards her in way that wasn’t loving or supportive. And again, after dinner, I was feeling pretty negative about my actions. I began to share, again, with my wife how I was sorry for how I had spoken to her. And again, I asked for her forgiveness.

Admitting you are wrong is tough – doing it twice in a row, is pretty hard. Learning from a mistake is so important. In that moment, I felt so crummy. I had such an “off” day. I had responded so poorly to so many things. It was embarrassing. I lacked so much joy and excitement. I was ashamed.

The car was pretty silent at that point. I was deep in thought, reflecting on everything. And from the back seat of the car, our youngest daughter told me she loved me. Sweet, right? It put a little smile on my face. But then something amazing happened. She started to sing. The words out of her mouth melted my heart and broke down my shame and embarrassment. She sang: God’s still working on me, to make me who He wants me to be…

God reminded me through the continued forgiveness of my wife what grace does to shame – it destroys it. God reminded me through the prayers of my daughter, a simple prayer of asking to see and hug her friend – that He is faithful and that I can truly trust in Him with every need and desire I have. And, the Lord spoke to me in this breakthrough moment of repentance through a little kids song, sung by my youngest daughter. It was as if the Lord Himself was right there, saying: Nick I love you and I am still at work in your life to make you who I want you to be.

I desire above else to be a great husband and great father. I want to encourage and lift-up my wife in all that we do together. And I want to be a loving and faithful example to my daughters. And seeing God at work through the prayer of one daughter and the song of another, it gives me tremendous joy – God’s desire to work in my life!

And, I hope what I learned about the Lord through my daughters encourages your heart and points you to the truth that God loves you too, and that He is at work in your life to make you who He longs for you to be. This is, what Brennan Manning says, is the furious longing of God that “the God I’ve come to know by sheer grace, the Jesus I met in the grounds of my own self, has furiously loved me regardless of my state – grace or disgrace. And why? For His love is never, never, never based on our performance, never conditioned by our moods – of elation or depression. The furious love of God knows no shadow or alteration or change. It is reliable. And always tender.” (The Furious Longing of God, Brennan Manning)

Through the tenderness of my children, God reminded me of the amazingness of His love. May you experience this life-changing, furious love of the Lord today…!