Nick Poindexter

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Drop Your Blanket

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
-Luke 2:8-14 (KJV)

Over the past 45+ years, A Charlie Brown Christmas has been a television staple during the Christmas season. The story revolves around the title character’s frustration with the commercialization of Christmas. At his wit’s end, Charlie Brown finally exclaims, “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?!”

To our surprise, Linus, the timid friend known for sucking his thumb and carrying a security blanket, speaks up. In an odd climax to a network television special, the boy then proceeds to calmly and confidently recite the Gospel of Luke, chapter 2 verses 8-14. “That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown,” Linus concludes.

But something subtle yet very out-of-the-ordinary happens while he is speaking. Precisely at the moment when Linus quotes the angel saying, “Fear not,” he drops his blanket. If you’re familiar with the Peanuts comic at all, you know what a huge deal that is. Linus always has his blanket, despite the teasing he receives from others about it.

That’s the thing about our personal “security blankets” — we will clutch them and rationalize them no matter what.

Now, those shepherds that Linus tells us about in Luke had to have been pretty freaked out by the appearance of an angel. Who knows what was going through their heads, but I can imagine it wasn’t happy thoughts. At the very least, it’s safe to say this definitely qualifies as an unforeseen situation.

Like the shepherds, when something eventful happens in our lives (good or bad), it is almost instinctive to respond in fear. And what that fear does is tempt us to cling to what is cozy and comfortable; to trust in the things that we can control verses the things out of our control.

In other words, we put our faith in ourselves or others rather than in God.

But therein lies the problem. Your security is not found in your job… Your protection is not found in your spouse… Your freedom is not found in your friends… Your salvation is not found in your bank account.

The truth found in the cartoon is unmistakable: the hope found only in Jesus is better than anything a security blanket can offer. Better yet, his arrival makes those blankets completely useless.

That fact of the matter is you absolutely cannot rest in the peace of “Fear not” while grasping to makeshift security.

So drop your blanket. Wrap yourself in Jesus. He is your security.

And fear not.

Do You Understand What You Are Reading?

Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians. This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the book of Isaiah the prophet. The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.” Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked. “How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.
-Acts 8:26-31 (NIV)

One of the things I love about the story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch is its simplicity. It’s an account of a Christian witnessing. And since modern-day Christians often make evangelism more difficult than it should be, maybe we should take notice.

Philip did 3 straightforward things… He obeyed the Spirit (approached the chariot), found common ground (noticed he was reading Isaiah), and asked a fitting question (“Do you understand what you are reading?”).

You might be thinking, “That’s it?” Yeah, really. That’s it! Witnessing isn’t that complex. Follow me here…

First of all, Philip was obedient. God said, “Go.” Philip went. End of story. When obedience is commonplace in a Christian’s life, opportunities for evangelism are obvious. They’re all around. You can’t help but notice them. Everywhere you turn, there’s a chance to share staring you in the face.

Secondly, Philip was alert. Knowing he was on mission, Philip’s radar was up. And he wasn’t just looking for a convert either… He was looking for someone to invest in. So we too should be attentive for things we have in common with others. Search for unforced ways to connect to those God has placed in your path. Show a genuine interest in other people and you’ll be surprised how many similarities you’ll find.

And last, Philip was normal. He didn’t have to transform into “Evangelism Mode” and start talking and acting in ways that were out of character for him. His first words to the Ethiopian weren’t some unnatural, out-of-left-field “If you died today” spiel. Instead, he engaged the man in conversation by asking a sincere, relevant question: “Do you understand what you are reading?” And guess what? The Ethiopian was actually interested in what Philip had to say. Imagine that!

Let’s be honest… Philip was calm, cool and collected, the exact opposite of most Christians who are pressed into the same situation. Why? It’s simple… Evangelism wasn’t a part of Philip’s life. It was his life! As much as we try, Christians can’t separate the two. It’s not a switch we can flip on or off.

But that’s why it starts with obedience. The more experience you have, the more at ease you will be. And the more at ease you are, the more witnessing becomes an instinctual, effortless part of your life.

So let’s follow Philip’s example. Sharing the gospel is really not as complicated as we make it out to be.

Be obedient. Be alert. And please, be normal.

Whatever It Takes

A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
-Mark 2:1-5 (NIV)

Can you imagine the scene?

This guy named Jesus came through your town performing all kinds of miracles. He returns, and this time you have a front-row seat. You are actually in his presence as he teaches. Out of nowhere, you hear a rumble on the roof. Dust and plaster start to fall. Next thing you know a paralyzed man on a mat is being lowered by four other men through the roof directly in front of Jesus.

Bizarre story, isn’t it. Well, this is the beginning of Mark Chapter 2.

To be clear, this isn’t a case of an event that needs to be viewed through the lens of its time. Ripping a hole in a stranger’s roof wasn’t common in 1st-century Jewish culture; it was just plain weird.

And I can’t help but love the desperation and the sheer chutzpah of the paralytic’s friends. I mean, they believed in Jesus enough to destroy private property, interrupt his preaching, and probably cover him in dirt!

But did you notice Jesus’ reaction? We would think a correction, a gentle rebuke at minimum, would be in order. However, there is no condemnation from Jesus at all. Instead, he is marveled at their faith.

In the same way as the four friends, we too must be willing to do whatever it takes to get others to Jesus. Individually, we must be willing to cast our pride and fears to the side. Collectively, our churches must be creative and innovative enough to lay all the options out on the table… “Here are the ways we can reach people for Jesus.” If it’s sinful or unbiblical, throw it out. Everything else is fair game.

And it is imperative that we do not overlook the obvious point from this story — the paralytic had to be carried on a mat. Sometimes we have to do the carrying to get people to come to Jesus! We must make the sacrifice. We must make the initiation. Because they will not come on their own… They are paralyzed!

Do you find it odd that the first thing Jesus says to the man is, “Son, your sins are forgiven”? The guy is clearly paralyzed. Jesus knew that. I think it’s simply a reminder of his mission… Jesus came to forgive sin and offer salvation to the world, more important than any physical or temporal need we have on Earth.

So what are you waiting for? Someone is counting on you to get them to Jesus. Are you willing to do whatever it takes? Anything that is blocking us, hindering us, or slowing us down needs to be dug up and thrown out! And that includes our insecurities, reputations, comforts and personal preferences.

The risk is worth it. Why? Because Jesus knew that our reconciliation to the Father was of the utmost importance. His obedience even unto death proves that.

Jesus understood “Whatever it takes.”

Where Were You?

Then the Lord answered Job from the whirlwind. He said: Who is this who obscures My counsel with ignorant words? Get ready to answer Me like a man; when I question you, you will inform Me. Where were you when I established he earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding. Who fixed its dimensions? Certainly you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? What supports its foundations? Or who laid its cornerstone while the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?
-Job 38:1-7 (HCSB)

Have you ever been criticized by someone who had no authority whatsoever to challenge the work you’ve done? You know the drill… You’ve been intensely pouring your heart and soul into a job/event/project, and out of nowhere Mr. Know-It-All walks in… “Why’d you do it that way? You’re doing it wrong. Here, let me show you how it’s done!”

It’s really irritating, isn’t it?

That’s what has been going on leading up to Chapter 38 of Job. Job is calling God out on his performance and God turns the tables around on him. I think it’s appropriate that God says to “answer Me like a man,” because God proceeds to give Job a verbal smackdown of epic proportions, and it’s not pretty.

“So you think you’ve got this thing all figured out now, do ya? Well, then allow me to ask you a question then, Job. Where were you when I established the earth? Don’t you remember when I laid all of the plans out? When I put it all in perfect balance, down to the tiniest measurement? Hmm, let’s see. Oh, that’s right… You didn’t exist.”

God uses Job’s obvious lack of experience and knowledge about the formation of the universe to expose his shortcomings in other areas of understanding. In other words, if God’s creation is over your head, then the totality of his wisdom, character, and morality will never be fully explainable.

If you know the entire story of Job, you know that he went through some very difficult circumstances. Initially, the man was very wealthy, very popular, and, overall, very good. But then, like a rug pulled from beneath his feet, everything he had was taken away. So you might empathize with him and want to say, “C’mon… Give the guy a break!”

But Job wasn’t merely questioning God… Job was playing God. And that’s the heart of the issue. Job thought he could handle the task better than God himself.

One of the things I’ve always loved about the book of Job is that it’s assumed to be the oldest book of the Bible. That is, it was written at the earliest date. So I find it very intriguing that the same pride that infected Job’s thinking is still doing the same thing to us thousands of years later! It’s rather amusing that humans have progressed so much culturally, intellectually, and technologically, but yet we still get ourselves in trouble trying to tell God how he should operate.

It’s an age-old problem. At some point in time, we all think we can do God’s job better than himself. Job did. So do we. And when we get all high and mighty with ourselves, we tend to forget exactly who God is and exactly who we are not. And that simple mix-up can have a catastrophic impact on our perspectives.

God is supreme. God is the standard. God is God.

And as for us? May God’s rebuttal to Job be a humble reminder… “Where were you?”

Stop Speaking About Jesus

So they ordered Peter and John out of the council chamber and conferred among themselves. What should we do with these men?” they asked each other. “We can’t deny that they have performed a miraculous sign, and everybody in Jerusalem knows about it. But to keep them from spreading their propaganda any further, we must warn them not to speak to anyone in Jesus’ name again.” So they called the apostles back in and commanded them never again to speak or teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John replied, “Do you think God wants us to obey you rather than him? We cannot stop telling about everything we have seen and heard.”
-Acts 4:15-20 (NLT)

Stop speaking about Jesus. I’m serious. Stop it. Never again. No more talking to your next-door neighbor about your love for Christ. No more morning chat with your co-workers about what you learned about him while reading your Bible. No more dinner table discussion with your family about your thankfulness of Jesus’ grace. So that’s it. Got it? Please give the Jesus thing a rest.

Quick self-evaluation… If I were serious, would you have any trouble complying?

During the early church’s history in the book of Acts, we find people like Peter and John being told just that — to not to speak or teach in the name of Jesus ever again. And their response shows how absurd of a request it truly was… It was almost as if they were thinking, “Let me get this straight… You want Christians to not talk about Jesus? Ha! Good luck!” They viewed it as an impossibility! Testifying about what they had witnessed was simply something they had to do, no questions asked.

Did you catch that? Christians being told to shut up about Jesus, and Christians responding that they cannot shut up about Jesus. I hate to say it, I’m not sure many in the church today would have much difficultly acquiescing to that request. As silly as it sounds, Christians not speaking of Christ has pretty much become acceptable behavior. And even worse, many believers justify their quietness under the guise of meekness, humility or peacefulness. And while those are certainly good, virtuous qualities to have, they aren’t a license for disobedience!

Let’s just be honest… You can’t make the modern church speak about Jesus. And you couldn’t make the New Testament church stop speaking about Jesus.

Now, to be clear, I’m not suggesting Christians must stand on street corners and blast passersby with scripture and condemnation. That’s just annoying. There’s a big difference between obnoxiousness and obedience.

But what I am suggesting is that one would think the greatest event to ever occur in your life would at least pop up some of the time in normal, day-to-day conversation. That’s it. I don’t think that’s too much to expect. But unfortunately for many Christians, the topic of Jesus is more or less nonexistant.

If that’s the case, then honestly who are you trying to please? Clearly, not speaking about Christ is what the world wants. And it’s definitely what Satan, the ruler of the world, wants. But what about what God wants? In the words of Peter and John, do you think God wants us to obey people rather than him? Submission to God must always supersede all else.

Really, there’s no choice. So share boldly, courageously, and confidently about Jesus. Tell everyone that will listen about what you have seen and what you have heard.

And please, don’t fall for the lie that silence is okay. To Christians, the mere suggestion of that action should be ludicrous.

No matter what, we cannot stop.

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