A Nudge

April 5, 2019

I recently visited the congregation where I attended from infancy through college. It’s nostalgic going back. Of course, I hoped that maybe I would recognize or know someone from the past. I’ll confess that I don’t look like what I did in college, so recognition on their part was going to have to come my name not necessarily my face. And yes, there were people I remembered, and who remembered me.

After the service, the song leader came up and greeted me. I didn’t recognize his face, but once he said his name, I exclaimed, “You’re an important person in my life.” He smiled. He knew what I was talking about, so let me tell you the story.

I was fourteen years old, a church attender, a participant in the youth group activities, but not a baptized believer. I’ve mentioned in lessons that there were times I gripped hard the pew in front of me during the invitation. I was struggling. What was my problem? I was shy and nervous about getting in front of the group. When closing in on 39 years of preaching that may sound odd, but this was my 14-year-old self.

My important Sunday was the beginning of a gospel meeting. I went home for lunch with a friend. We went back to the church building and joined a group doing a nursing home sing. After the singing, the youth who had gone were sitting around hanging out. While I was sitting there in the auditorium with my friend talking, my “important person” came up and sat beside me. He was several years older. I don’t know exactly what he said, but the gist was, “Do you want to be baptized?” I said yes and confessed my fears.

My “important person” stayed with us. When worship started, he seated my friend and I on the second pew and sat with us. It’s not a long walk from the second pew. I now had this support that helped me go forward. And of course, once I was there none of my fears were real.

After I was baptized, I was warmly greeted. But I remember one voice saying, ÒI thought he already was a Christian.Ó My “important person” knew my true spiritual condition, and he was willing to address it.

Would I have become a Christian without this incident? I don’t know. Fortunately, I was wise enough not to turn down help the first time it came my way. Putting off responding has risks. Hearts can cool, and sin can deceive.

In writing about this “important person” who gave me a nudge, I want to encourage you to look around for people in your own life who need a nudge. Many spiritual encounters are not about a long, prepared lesson. It is about saying something meaningful that helps to move someone a step closer to God. It was life changing for me, so I’m thankful for my “important person” who gave me a nudge.


A Second Wind

March 20, 2015

When I was in college, I ran for exercise. I was not fast, and I was no competitive runner, but I ran. Anyone who has run for any distance has probably experienced this sensation. You start to hurt, you feel like you can’t go on, and you want to quit. But as you press on, you catch a second wind, and you finish the course that you set out to cover.

The definition of second wind is “a person’s ability to breathe freely during exercise, after having been out of breath.” We then use it metaphorically as “a new strength or energy to continue something that is an effort.”1

Christian living is compared to a race, and for most of us that race is a marathon (1 Corinthians 9:24-27, Philippians 2:16, Hebrews 12:1-2). We must go the distance and not give up. This athletic imagery is also found in the use of victor’s crown or victor’s wreath. The Greek word is stephanos (from which we get the name Stephen). It is distinguished from the diadem, which is the royal crown. This is the imagery when Paul says:

Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. (2 Timothy 4:8, ESV — See also 1 Cor. 9:25, Jam. 1:12, 1 Pet. 5:4, Rev. 2:10, 3:11.)

Just like my night runs in college, running the Christian race gets difficult. We may feel the need for a second wind as we face difficulties, sorrows, and temptations. Here’s a couple of my favorite “second wind” passages.

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13, ESV)

Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:30–31, ESV)

Are you struggling? I believe God is faithful to those who love him — just hold out for a second wind.

1New Oxford American Dictionary


Climbing Mount Maunganui

December 20, 2013

TheMount

I climbed Mount Maunganui last Saturday. It is on a peninsula north of Tauranga, New Zealand. It has an elevation of 761 feet. My Fitbit One gave me credit for 63 flights of stairs climbed going around and up the Mount. The summit of the Mount is reached by walking trails and stairs.

I’ve climbed the Mount several times, but it had been at least 6 to 8 years since my last climb. I had a pacemaker procedure last June, so I feel so much better now, that I thought I could climb the Mount again. Now, I still have asthma, so it wasn’t easy. Physically fit young men and women in their twenties running the Mount two or three times for exercise is a common sight. My pace was very slow and steady in comparison to theirs, but I made the climb.

Many of the challenging things we do in life are not done in one fell swoop like Superman’s ability “to leap tall buildings in a single bound.” We mentally break down the larger task into smaller ones that seem doable. I was doing that in this climb. I would look at a set of stairs and say, “I know that I can make it to the top of these stairs.” Or, I would see a trail that went up and around a curve. I would promise myself that I would walk that much of the trail, and then set another goal. I made it up the Mount setting smaller goals until I had reached the bigger goal. That strategy works on many things in life.

You may be wanting to become more regular in prayer and Bible reading. You may have physical fitness goals or educational goals. You may have areas to work on in a relationship. The reality is that big projects are accomplished as we are able to see the various smaller steps that make up the big project. As the old time management adage goes, “How do you eat an elephant?” The answer is “one bite at a time.”

One of the problems climbing the Mount is that there is so much vegetation that you cannot see the top until you are very close. I had a runner who was descending the mount say to me, “Almost to the top, mate.” It was encouraging, and at that moment, I needed some encouragement. (I probably looked like I needed some encouragement too.) By the way, I wasn’t nearly as close to the top as I had hoped. Shortly after I heard those words, I came to a zig-zag staircase that discouraged me, but the words of encouragement kept me going.

Remember to give some encouragement along the way. We all need it in Christian living. We may need it in other areas of our life as well.

Here’s to the big, important things in our lives. Here’s to encouragement along the way. May you find new mountains to climb.