I have a new website! You will be redirected to my brand new blog. Cory Nickols: December 2010

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Leaning Forward

I recently had the opportunity to go snowboarding with some friends a couple of weekends ago in Michigan.  I had been several times before, but never quite grasped how to go down the hill fast.  Every time I started to pick up speed, I would start to lean back on my back foot.  This would cause the edge of my board to catch the snow and I would take a nasty spill.  Eventually, one of my friends who went that day and who was quite good at snowboarding, gave me some advice that really changed my approach to carving down the slopes.  He told me the key for going fast down the hill and not allowing my snowboard edge to catch the snow was to lean forward onto my front foot.  This new advice was very intimidating to implement at first because of how much speed I generated in such a short amount of time.  To my amazement, leaning forward and trusting the board to guide me down the hill worked.  As I took pressure off my back foot and leaned forward, the back edges of my board were loose enough on top of the snow to keep the board from digging into the snow.  In turn, the board went straight down the hill.  The key was for me to trust the board to do its job as I leaned forward into an uncomfortable position. 

Our relationship with God is a lot like this snowboarding experience.  God so many times wants us to lean forward and trust Him and lean on Him for direction, guidance and council and when things don’t make sense to us, we need to trust that He sees the bigger picture.  Our carnal minds want answers and we want them “NOW”.  When we don’t get the answer we are looking for, we sometimes take things into our own hands.  

Romans 8:6 (Amplified Bible)
Now the mind of the flesh [which is sense and reason without the Holy Spirit] is death [death that comprises all the miseries arising from sin, both here and hereafter]. But the mind of the [Holy] Spirit is life and [soul] peace [both now and forever].

This verse is simply stating that without the illumination from the Holy Spirit we will miss what God is trying to teach us or where He wants to lead us.  We need to trust God and let His peace guard our hearts and minds.  Sometimes God leads us into very uncomfortable situations because He is trying to train us so that we can be fully mature believers.  

Take Job for example.  Behind the scenes, God had a conversation with Satan about Job and God allowed Satan to bring difficulty into his life.  Job lost everything he owned and all his sons and daughters were killed in one day!!!  Then, if that wasn’t enough, Job was stricken with sores from the top of his head to the soles of his feet for an extended amount of time.  Eventually some of Job’s friends heard about all the trials Job had faced and came to comfort him.  They told Job that he must be in sin, because a righteous person wouldn’t go through such trials. 

It’s amazing to me how many critics we have when we are down in the lowest points of our lives.  When we need someone to encourage us, we get blasted with judgmental stares and opinions.  Many of them even claim to be speaking on behalf of God.  I had such an experience.  At the start of the economic downturn a little over 2 years ago, I was working in Atlanta, GA for a very successful landscape architecture firm.  Everyone at the office was given a pay cut and eventually several people were laid off, one of which was me.  It was very difficult to find a job during this time and especially one in my field.  About 75% of the landscape architecture/ architecture industry was wiped out and was not returning any time soon.  Every job I took ended in me being laid off or forced to leave due to bad economic times and employers couldn’t afford to keep me on staff.  It was very confusing.  At the same time, I owned a house and rented rooms to some of my friends and they started struggling financially.  It was hard for them to pay me rent on time and some could only make partial payments.  For the first time ever, I started being late on bills and had to live off credit to survive.  None of it made sense to me.  I loved God and was trying to obey Him to the best of my ability and I tried to listen to financial experts about what to do.  Every good sound decision I made ended up spiraling me further into debt and despair.  Several of my friends began to question every aspect of my financial condition.  One of them even asked “Are you in sin?”  I was thinking in my head, “no, but I will be in five seconds if you don’t get away from me.”  I don’t think people have much compassion for others and where they have been, unless they have personally walked a mile in their shoes.  My own financial collapse has taught me to not be so quick to point the finger and judge anymore.  I am sad to admit that I used to be one of those critics!!  I can honestly say that God has completely changed my perspective and I am so grateful for the hard times.  They teach me to have God’s heart.  During this time, I was really discouraged about the whole ordeal and one night I cried out to God and asked Him, “Please show me if I am doing something wrong.  Help me trust you when I don’t see what you are doing.”  The next morning I was reading a book and it talked about how God had taken Job through a very difficult season that he didn’t understand why.  Then I read this verse in Job:

            Job 23:8-10 (Amplified Bible)
Behold, I go forward [and to the east], but He is not there; I go backward [and to the west], but I cannot perceive Him; on the left hand [and to the north] where He works [I seek Him], but I cannot behold Him; He turns Himself to the right hand [and to the south], but I cannot see Him.  But He knows the way that I take [He has concern for it, appreciates, and pays attention to it]. When He has tried me, I shall come forth as refined gold [pure and luminous].

Through this verse, God was asking me to trust Him when life didn’t make sense and to leave the critics in His hands.  I don’t have to try and convince people why I am going through these trials, but I need to lean forward on God and let Him teach me the lessons He wants me to learn, even when it is uncomfortable.  Then, I will come forth as pure gold with no defects. 

My financial condition worsened.  I ended up losing everything: my car, my house, all my household belongings and I eventually had to declare bankruptcy.  On top of that, I had to move back in with my parents and be dependent on them for the first time in almost 11 years…very humbling.  I made up my mind, I was not going to try and figure it out.   The bible says in Proverbs 3:5-6 (Amplified Bible) Lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all your heart and mind and do not rely on your own insight or understanding.  In all your ways know, recognize, and acknowledge Him, and He will direct and make straight and plain your paths. 

It’s interesting that in the depths of my financial despair, God placed on my heart to write about all the difficult experiences He allowed me to walk through over the last 11 years.  It had always been a dream of mine to help encourage others in the midst of life’s challenges and I saw myself one day communicating these truths through writing.  God used what seemed to be a tragic season in my life to steer me in a totally new direction…a God direction.  Just this past week, someone in South Florida read my blog and asked me to become a writer for a Christian newspaper.  Had I not gone through all these challenges, I would not have been in a place where I had the time or energy to write.  God’s ways are truly not our ways. 
God knows what He is doing in your life!  Will you lean forward and trust God in the midst of uncertain times?  He is the only one who can see beyond your troubles and guide you to a safe place.  Don’t be afraid to place your complete trust and confidence in God and allow Him to direct your steps.  

Lean Forward…Lean on God. 

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Let Go

Have you ever wanted something so bad that it consumed your every thought?  Sure, we all have.  Sometimes it might be a really good thing and other times it can actually be something that can bring real harm into our lives.  Let’s look at Abraham’s life as an example.  

Genesis 15:2-5 (Amplified Bible)  And Abram said, Lord God, what can You give me, since I am going on [from this world] childless and he who shall be the owner and heir of my house is this [steward] Eliezer of Damascus?  And Abram continued, Look, You have given me no child; and [a servant] born in my house is my heir. 
And behold, the word of the Lord came to him, saying, This man shall not be your heir, but he who shall come from your own body shall be your heir.  And He brought him outside [his tent into the starlight] and said, Look now toward the heavens and count the stars--if you are able to number them. Then He said to him, So shall your descendants be. 

Abraham waited years for the dream God promised him to come to pass and after much patience, Isaac was born.   It was a joyous celebration and a real step of faith and trust in God because Abraham learned to trust God to bring to pass the very desires in his heart.   Abraham grew fond of his son and cherished every moment with him.  Then one day God asked Abraham to sacrifice his only son, the one God promised to make into many descendants.  It’s amazing to see that Abraham responded in obedience to what God asked him to do. 

            Genesis 22:12, 15-18 (Amplified Bible)
And He said, “Do not lay your hand on the lad or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear and revere God, since you have not held back from Me or begrudged giving Me your son, your only son.”

The Angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time And said, I have sworn by Myself, says the Lord, that since you have done this and have not withheld [from Me] or begrudged [giving Me] your son, your only son, In blessing I will bless you and in multiplying I will multiply your descendants like the stars of the heavens and like the sand on the seashore. And your Seed (Heir) will possess the gate of His enemies, And in your Seed [Christ] shall all the nations of the earth be blessed and [by Him] bless themselves, because you have heard and obeyed My voice.
Abraham had to “Let Go” of the very thing that was so important to him and trust that God would bring it back into his life if it was good for him.  Abraham had no way of really knowing whether or not he would ever see his son again.  But He trusted in the One who could save his son and raise him back to life, if need be, and ultimately carry on his lineage.   

The bible says in Psalm 84:11 (NIV) For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.  This means that God has our best interest at heart and will bring into our lives the things that will be good for us and keep the things out of our lives that will ultimately harm us if we allow Him to lead us.  Sometimes, we think we need something so badly to be happy or satisfied that we override God’s leading and push forward to get our way.  The bible says in Proverbs 14:12, there is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.  How many people push forward with a relationship that ends up being very destructive because they overlook the Holy Spirits leading or godly council in their lives?  Or, they push and claw to be in relationship with their boss, not because they value him, but because they want something from him…promotion.  We seek so many things, but are our motives pure in God’s eyes?  There is nothing wrong with asking God for something, but we need to be okay with God saying “NO” or “Not Yet”.  His ways are higher than our ways and He can see into the future and knows what can eventually harm us if we get our way all the time.  So, what am I saying?  We, as children of God need to be confident in asking God for desires that are in our heart, but let Him dictate what is best for us.  Don’t hold so tightly to something that you can’t let go and trust God to bring it into our lives if it is something that will benefit us.  Are you struggling to “Let Go” of a situation and place it completely in the hands of God?  Maybe you are trying to get a job and you are being overly demanding of a business or a loved one who is trying to help you.  When in actuality, God is saying trust me that my timing is perfect.  Or maybe you have unhealthy friendships because they are influencing you in a negative way that will take you away from God instead of closer to Him.  And God is saying to you…let them go and trust Me.  Our job is to trust God that He knows best.  Just as Abraham had to give God the dreams in his heart, God requires that of you and me.  I have found that when I give God everything, I have peace knowing that the God of the universe has my best interest at heart and loves to give amazing gifts to me.  If He doesn’t want me to have something, then as an act of faith, I just trust Him, even if my flesh is screaming to have its way!  Will you trust God today?  Will you just let go?  If you find yourself struggling in this area, ask God to help you give Him all the desires and dreams of your heart.  He is full of mercy and wants to embrace you and forgive you of past mistakes.  You can let go with God’s help.  

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Where Are You Placing Your Trust?

In John 4 we find Jesus sitting at a well.  The passage says that it was necessary for Jesus to go through the region called Samaria to meet a Samaritan woman.  Jesus asked the woman for a drink of water because he had been on a journey and was passing through the town called Sychar.  In John 4:9  The Samaritan woman said to Him, How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan [and a] woman, for a drink?--For the Jews have nothing to do with the Samaritans--

It was obvious from this passage that Jewish society looked down upon Samaritans and considered them outcasts and to some extent devalued women.  It’s interesting that Jesus lead by the Holy Spirit began talking with this woman even though his ethnic back ground discouraged it!  God cares about the broken, the wounded, the outcasts and He doesn’t discriminate anyone based on the color of their skin, nationality, male or female, or whether a person is rich or poor.  He draws near to anyone who is searching for the Truth. 

John 4:10-14  Jesus answered her, If you had only known and had recognized God's gift and Who this is that is saying to you, Give Me a drink, you would have asked Him [instead] and He would have given you living water.  She said to Him, Sir, You have nothing to draw with [no drawing bucket] and the well is deep; how then can You provide living water? [Where do You get Your living water?  Are You greater than and superior to our ancestor Jacob, who gave us this well and who used to drink from it himself, and his sons and his cattle also?  Jesus answered her, All who drink of this water will be thirsty again. But whoever takes a drink of the water that I will give him shall never, no never, be thirsty any more. But the water that I will give him shall become a spring of water welling up (flowing, bubbling) [continually] within him unto (into, for) eternal life.

Jesus used this analogy of water to communicate a huge truth this woman was missing.  He was basically saying to her if you understood who was asking you for a drink of water, you would have ask Me instead for living water and I would give it to you because Jesus discerned this woman’s past and saw where she was trying to find happiness. 

The passage continues…

John 4:16-18  At this, Jesus said to her, Go, call your husband and come back here.  The woman answered, I have no husband. Jesus said to her, you have spoken truly in saying, I have no husband.  For you have had five husbands, and the man you are now living with is not your husband. In this you have spoken truly.

Jesus was helping her understand where she was placing her trust.  This woman had been in 5 marriages and she was living with another man trying to find fulfillment in all the wrong places.  She was looking to men to find acceptance, love, security, value and hope because of a deep void in her heart.  However, only God could fill this hole.  Jesus said that He was the Living Water and if she drank of Him she wouldn’t thirst anymore.  In other words, she wouldn’t have to keep looking for more men to make her happy or fulfilled.  Jesus was saying that only God can truly satisfy the human heart and fill it where it overflows with life and peace.  Notice that Jesus never condemned her for her mistakes or her current sinful condition.  He just said come and drink of Me and I will cause your life to be transformed and give you what you really are looking for.  

Just as this woman came to Jesus as she was, God wants us to come to Him just as we are.  He is the Great Physician and can make us well and whole! 

How many of us are trying to find acceptance or our identity in a relationship, a career, a title, or our looks.  We jump from one relationship to the next, one job after another, and when we get it, we realize it doesn’t fill the void in our hearts just the way we thought it would.    Just as the woman was trying to find her identity in men, are you trying to find yours in things or a relationship? 

Only God has the ability to fill the deepest parts of your heart and give you the love and acceptance you are looking for.  God doesn’t condemn you for your past mistakes, just as He didn’t the woman at the well.  But He is asking you to place your trust and confidence in Him.  As you begin to lean your complete trust on Him, He will forgive you of your past and bring healing to those areas of hurt and pain and will give you an amazing future filled with excitement.  The woman at the well discovered the Creator of all things and experienced His unconditional love and acceptance.  Just think of how she could have a healthy relationship because she was truly experiencing God’s love and forgiveness and now she would be able to extend it to someone else.  Instead of being a taker in the relationship, she actually could be a giver because she experienced love from God.  She was able to pour out and bless someone else!  

Are you a taker in life?  Are you looking for love in all the wrong places?  Are you struggling with your journey and getting frustrated with the results?  Lean into God and He will embrace you and shower you with His love!  He will teach you how to overcome the storms in your life and give you the strength to move forward each day.   As you take steps of trust in God, out of you will flow streams of living water.