The 9 Square Puzzle

This week we spent a full day rearranging our band’s music room (my living room). I had thrown the room together in an afternoon awhile back, but the way instruments and amps were placed didn’t make the room ideal for practicing. I’d been sitting on fixing it for awhile so this week I took a crack at it. I probably tried at least 3 different room arrangements – spanning the course of a few hours – and still wasn’t too fond of either the look, or the sound. So, I consulted with a close friend; telling them that “setting up this room was as difficult as one of those nine square slider puzzles we solved, growing up.” Going off of the same analogy, my friend shared with me a simple word if insight: “Ya know, those 9 square puzzles can only be solved because a piece is removed.”

Astounding.

So I moved one of the couches from the room, over to another and lo and behold – the puzzle was solved.

The acoustics are great. The room has a nice aesthetic feel. And it’s just plain cozy.

I know there’s a life application for someone in there somewhere, but I’ll let you figure this one out on your own 🙂 Take a look at your own personal 9 Square puzzles, if they seem insolvable – just find out which piece you need to take away that’s preventing you from moving forward.

(I wish I was good at taking panoramas)

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Pistus

This week has been awful.
Absolutely nothing has gone right – and that’s a lot of nothing, my friends.

Every plan I’ve made – foiled.

Every task I’ve set out to do – failed.

Every task I had counted on some others to do – fooled.

3 F’s make for an awful report card – but an even more awful week.
Ranting (Whining) aside, it’s been rough, I’ve been stressed and today was almost the straw that broke the camel’s back – if camels still carry straw anyway. But I had a choice moment tonight that turned an entire week around in one hearty laugh.

My mother and I are on track to becoming credentialed ministers, so we’ve actually been classmates for almost a year – weird right? So this evening she’s studying our book for this month and she asks me a question:

“Nikk, do you know what the definition of pistus is?”

I misheard the word as ‘pistoff’ or some variation of ‘pissed off’ and so I replied:

“This week.”

We both burst into laughter.

She knew the rough week I had been going through and understood the joke I was making. However, we were laughing for different reasons. I peered around the cover of her book and found the vocabulary word she asked me about. It turns out the word pistus means faith.

I was laughing because I made a corny pun but she explained to me that she was laughing because she knew I needed faith to get through this week.

I then realized that my joke accidentally made perfect sense in the context of pistus’ true definition. I needed faith to get through this week.

Without belief in my God, my dreams, and His callings I would’ve been a complete wreck. I might’ve given up or lashed out at someone, but I kept calm and carried on because of pistus.
It brings a smile to my face that one little word could change my outlook on an entire week’s miscomings – and move from the spectrum of pissed off to pistus.

Hijacked!

Imagine yourself on a road trip; journeying to somewhere far off with hopes of rest or recreation. The journey is long, but it’s nothing you can’t handle. The skies are clear, you’ve got you’re route planned out and Siri in the passenger’s seat giving you the turn by turn. When you reach about halfway to your destination, you decide to hit a rest stop. You know you could keep driving, but that Quarter Pounder with cheese is just calling your name. You exit your car and head inside. The burger was delicious, you enjoy yourself for a bit and head outside to pick up the journey where you left off – only –

Where’s your car?

You’ve been hijacked.

Left stranded with no easy fix for your situation, only to call the authorities – and wait.

Although this is just a scenario, I feel like we’ve all been through this before – hijacked in some way or another. On our journey to our own personal dreams and goals, hitting a rest stop can be risky business. How many New Years resolutions have died within the last two months just because someone took a break from discipline? What are the things that hijack our lives and steer us away from the destination?

For me it was once pleasing other people, negative thoughts and pouring hours over my game consoles. For some it could be addictions, food or even just bogging themselves down with unnecessary work.

Hebrews 12:11-13 says: “No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way. So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees. Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong.”

Find the things that have steered you off course. But choose how you treat your “hijacker”. If it be food make it ride shotgun. If it be addiction kick it to the curb. Take the driver’s seat once again and make your journey – your reality.

I Go To Church

I had an interesting exchange with a young boy today. A few volunteers from church and I were helping a new church plant reach out to its community. The church plant rented out a large parking lot and invited the surrounding community to a day of family fun, free food – and of course – check out the new church. Working at the outreach was a blast! I was stationed at the balloon table – lo and behold – I made balloon animals for every child that came to my table. However, there was one child in particular that troubled me. I gave him more than a balloon, but also a bit of a reprimand. He was, I’d say about, 14 and he was wearing a bracelet with expletives on it. I wanted to say something outright, but the better half of me decided to ease into the topic. I began asking the boy questions about his background. He was from the area, and was Christian; he and his family attend a Korean/American church in Chicago. I asked the boy if the service, at his church, was delivered in english or Korean.

“The service is in English” he replied.

“So they can understand what your bracelet says, right?” I answered.

Dead silence.

“That’s not a bracelet you should be wearing.”

He hung his head for a second and then responded,
“Well – I go to church.”

He ashamedly covered the bracelet with his hoodie and left the table after receiving a balloon. I was upset yet saddened by his response. Too often, this ideology isn’t to uncommon for the modern Christian.

Watch obscene TV Tuesday; Bible Study Wednesday. Drink up and party on Saturday; Church on Sunday. Or if you’re more of a Friday partier; Saturday night service.

Did Jesus die for only half of your week? Did God give us His whole heart so that we could give Him half of ours?

Saying your sin is okay because you’re a Christian and you attend church

is like…

Saying you can drive under the influence because you have a license and a great insurance package.
It makes no logical sense.

“Go and sin no more” Jesus said to the woman caught in adultery (John 8:11). He didn’t say “Go and sin a little less.”

Work harder. Pray harder. Strive farther.
Let us not put to waste the grace we have been given.

Grace is the driving force that turns slump into victory. Press into Grace and press on in life.

Time Management

Of all the interesting jobs out there ranging from dog food tester to bottle cap fastener, I learned of a job that takes the cake in pointlessness:

Professional Time Management Specialist.

I can’t think of any children I know off hand that wanted to be that when they grew up. Nor can I honestly imagine the childhood of someone that did
Forgive me, all those who work this field, but this shouldn’t be a job that exists! Are we really that bad at managing our time that we’d need to hire someone to manage it for us?

The truth is — yes. Yes we are.
No matter where you are on Earth, you’ve got the same amount of time in a day as everyone else. 24hours, 1,440 minutes, or 86,400 seconds, no matter how you look at it, time is ticking away even as you read this. Is this post worth your time? Or am I going to need to ask the professional?

The word says in Matthew 6:33 “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” When you seek God first above all things, everything falls into place. Some might say that there’s no time in their busy schedule sometimes to fit God in (I know I’ve said it before). But God is faithful to His promises and when you put Him first in your day He will extend your time. It makes no sense to the human mind; “set aside time and receive more time?”; a scientific impossibility. And no God won’t freeze time or slow every clock around you, but He does somehow extend it, just try it for yourself.

Putting God first in your day allows you to accomplish much more. You reap what you sew. When you sow time into God, He gives you time in return.

Don’t consult a specialist. Seek first the kingdom of God and He will show you just how much more you can accomplish in a day.

Up and Down

We look up when the sun is shining. We look down when the rain pours. In other words, when things are looking good, we’re looking up! And when things are looking not-so-good we hang our heads and sulk. Why is it that we lay our heads low only in the bad or lift our heads only in the good? Are we afraid a bit of raining get in our we? Or that we might miss the beautiful sunshine?

God calls us to worship Him regardless of the situation. Whether we’re looking up or down, we should be praising Him. We thank Him when the sun is shining in our lives but look away when the storms of life come. Yet on the contrary, we can also become so focused on the good that we forget to bow our heads. What am I saying? We should really be looking up when the rain pours and looking down when the sun’s out.

When storms hit, according to Matthew 8:24 “…Jesus rebuked the wind and the raging waves. Suddenly the storm stopped and all was calm.” There’s only one solution and God can wether any storm. Looking up instead of down allows us to continue praising Him and thanking Him. It allows our focus to be on the future rather than the present. I don’t know how many physical thunderstorms you’ve experienced in everyday life, but have any of them lasted more than a day long? Storms pass. Rain stops. Clouds clear and God reveals the sun. When the sun comes out, when the storms and hardships pass it is then time to face down and bow down. Think upon and appreciate what The Lord has delivered you from. It’s when we humble ourselves that we truly experience His ray of hope in a much deeper way.

No matter the weather outside or in your spiritual life, never stop praising Him.

King of Kings

“But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11)

In this verse Moses actually asks two questions: Who am I that I should go to pharaoh? and Who am I that I should bring the children out of Israel out of Egypt? Let’s focus on the first question.

“Who am I that I should go before pharaoh?”

Moses. An exile, a shepherd, an alien in a foreign country with no great reputation. He was a common man. He got married and had a son but didn’t have much else to his name.

Now Pharaoh. King of Egypt, self proclaimed demi god a man of great riches and power, renowned throughout all the land and feared by many. His lifestyle was extravagant. He demanded worship and he got it.

Moses had nothing in common with this man. Moses, meeting with Pharaoh is the equivalent of a homeless man trying to go out to dinner with the president – not gonna happen. The root word of the word “am” used in the verse is the word “be” and, according to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, the word “be” means “to have identity with”. Moses didn’t have an identity that was worth the presence of a king – and yet – Moses spoke face to face with God.

It’s almost humorous. While speaking to God – c’mon King of kings, Lord of lords, Creator of the universe, Alpha and Omega, Lord over all – Moses didn’t feel worthy enough to speak with Pharaoh… I mean HELLO! You’re talking with God here. There is no one greater, none more magnificent, none comparable! Moses may have been a God fearing Jew, but his priorities of authority were out of whack. He may have even done it unintentionally, but by what was spoken, it’s as if He feared pharaoh more than God. Of course Moses went and did as he was commanded, but fear of man – even if only for a second – overstepped his fear of God.

Who ranks first in your life? Your significant other? The leader of your country? Your parents? Your boss? Your friends? Nothing any of these groups can say or do can effect your eternal future. When God calls you to something, whether it be salvation or service, remember the priority of His authority.

For any part of your life to be a success, God has to be #1.