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Preparing for the Storm

By Nate LaClaire —  August 28, 2011 — Leave a comment

Here in Maine, many people spent yesterday preparing for Hurricane Irene, the storm that at one point last week meteorologists were saying could be the worst hurricane to hit Maine in 20 years. Last I heard, it was expected to hit Maine this afternoon as a tropical storm, a downgrade about which we are very happy. If you live in one of the East Coast states, you might have already experienced the worst of this storm and, in that case, you are in my prayers.

All of this storm preparation brought to my mind how ill-prepared so many of us are for the storms of life. I am sure that there are people throughout the region affected by Irene who were fully prepared before the storm appeared in the weather forecast. You might even know someone like that. People might think them weird, but they are ready for a natural disaster or nuclear war. As Dave Ramsey would say, sometimes weird is good. Then there are those other people—I guarantee that you know at least one of them—who don’t even bother to prepare when they hear a major storm forecast. “There’s a ‘largest storm in X years’ forecast every summer and nothing ever comes of it,” they say, “why waste the time, money, and energy preparing?” Nine times out of ten, at least in Maine, they are right, but when they are wrong, it can be fatal. Most of us fall into a third category, though. We might have a basic level of preparedness for major storms (maybe a can or two of something in the cupboard, flashlights with batteries that aren’t completely dead, blankets in the closet and a tray or two of ice in the freezer), but we wait until we hear about an oncoming storm to truly prepare. The day before the storm, supermarkets are swarming with these people who, like me, need drinking water, food, and other supplies. Passersby see them in their yards picking up and tying down things that are likely to fly away in the wind. Gas tanks must be filled, generators purchased and/or tested, and leaky windows plastic-wrapped.

Unfortunately, this is also how many of us prepare for the storms of life. We wait until the brink of disaster before we cry out to God. Overnight, we become model Christians, reading our Bibles, praying, and being “holy.” Maybe when the storm is over, we say that we’re going to “do better,” but it seldom lasts for long. Oh, sure, some of us have made basic preparations. We’ve asked Christ into our lives, read our Bibles at least once a week, and pray before every meal, but that’s pretty much as far as it goes. What we don’t realize (or maybe we do in some cases) is that if we truly invested in God, we would be better prepared for the storms and they would be much less painful. The storms would still come, but we would be ready and they wouldn’t be so frightening.

I need to spend more time with God. I need to spend more time reading and meditating on scripture and praying. I need to give myself more quiet time with the One who created me and gives me life, the only one who knows what tomorrow holds and can get me through it.

How about you? Are you prepared for the storms of life?

Lion of Babylon tells the story of Marc Royce, a former US intelligence operative who is called back into service to rescue a close friend who has been kidnapped in Iraq. In order to save his friend, Marc must make allies in Iraq while protecting himself from those within the US and Iraqi governments who aim to see him fail. In the process he…well, I’m not going to tell you what he does – you’re going to have to read it yourself to find out.

This fast-paced thriller kept me hooked from beginning to end. I became immersed in the story and looked for excuses to continue listening. The characters are well-developed and the narration exceptional. In addition to the thrilling action and mystery, the story also includes many touching elements, from sacrificial love to powerful people humbling themselves to families being restored and the faith of a child. Author Davis Bunn is careful to give God all the glory for the amazing things that happen in this story and we see characters who are transformed by the power of the Almighty.

If you’re looking for a positive story about the Middle East with a whole lot of excitement, then this is the book for you.

In Think: The Life of Mind and the Love of God, bestselling author and pastor John Piper aims to encourage and help Christians to think. He argues that “thinking is indispensable on the path to passion for God” and uses scripture to debunk and bring to light the dangers of the anti-intellectualism movement in the church. At the same time, he makes it clear that using human intellect alone is also not scriptural. He also addresses relativism, showing the dangers of this line of thinking and how to safeguard against it.

I found this book insightful. Like all of Piper’s works, it is incredibly deep and will, at least for me, require repeated listening before I will glean all of its insight. Piper’s approach is fresh and full of scriptural basis and he is careful to explain that either extreme in this debate is dangerous.

I listened to the audiobook edition from christianaudio and found the recording quality excellent. Wayne Shepherd read the book clearly and used proper inflection, keeping the reading interesting.

I urge you to read or listen to this book if you want to learn how to grow closer to God.

God detests the prayers of a person who ignores the law. — Proverbs 28:9 (NLT)

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Firestarter: Wonder

By Nate LaClaire —  November 11, 2010 — 2 Comments

I mentioned a few days ago that a friend has loaned me a couple of Don Miller’s books and that I have found them enlightening. Here’s a quote that caught my attention:

At the end of the day, when I am lying in bed and I know the chances of any of our theology being exactly right are a million to one, I need to know that God has things figured out, that if my math is wrong we are still going to be okay. And wonder is that feeling we get when we let go of our silly answers, our mapped out rules that we want God to follow. I don’t think there is any better worship than wonder.

– Donald Miller, in Blue Like Jazz (page 206)

I love that.

Do you take time to wonder?

Sabbatical

By Nate LaClaire —  May 15, 2010 — 5 Comments

I haven’t made a big deal about this, but I’m taking a seven-week sabbatical from playing the piano for worship services at PBC. The second week of my sabbatical begins tomorrow. Last weekend I took my annual trip to Belfast, Maine, and for the next six weeks I will be visiting other local churches. My sabbatical is for rest, renewal, refreshment, and restoration, as well as to experience other church services, worship formats, and teaching formats, and to, as one of PBC’s elders so aptly put it, spend time with other believers of like precious faith.

I grew up in PBC, yet while I have served in some capacity at PBC for many years, I have, at some level, been dating the church. I am not a church member and do not feel prepared to become one. I have not had the opportunity to visit many other churches because of my church responsibilities, but I have never fully committed to PBC. Therefore, I’m using this sabbatical to try out some other churches, see how other church families (co)operate, and experience other service styles. I expect that at the end of the seven weeks I will have a fresh perspective and new insight into why PBC is my church family and why I want to marry it. I also expect to return to PBC with new ideas. However, my prayer is nothing more than that God will guide me through this experience and use it to show me where I belong and why I belong there, as well as to refresh me. I would appreciate it if you would pray for me as well.

Tomorrow I visit a church in Lewiston. I am sure that my experience will in some positive way impact a future blog post. Until then, good night.

A nice week

By Nate LaClaire —  May 14, 2010 — 2 Comments

It’s been almost three weeks since the end of Digital Detox Week and I’ve yet to write about my experiences during my break from social media and TV. The week was incredibly refreshing and it gave me a glimpse of a life free from the distractions of my consumer habits. On the first day, I sat down and began a list of “best practices” that I would like to put into action in order to bring my life in line with what I believe God wants my life to look like. As the week proceeded, I revisited the list, making changes based on God’s leading. After a couple more weeks of changes, I’m ready to begin implementing the list this week. I’m really not sure if I will be able to implement everything, but I am determined to try (with Yoda’s voice in my head: “do or do not, there is no try”). Part of me is looking forward to the challenge, while part of me recognizes the foolishness of it. With much prayer, I venture forward.

I came across an interesting post on Internet Monk a few weeks ago and want to share it with you. It has led to interesting discussions among my family members and caused me to question my own reactions to certain behaviors. The post is entitled “Will We Have To Leave?” and relates to cohabitation and other sinful lifestyles and how the church responds to them. Here’s a snippet:

Nothing really works in this situation. People are broken and looking for something to glue themselves together. Religious people are accumulating morality points and abandoning the Gospel. The possibilities of a community of Christians to show what it means to love people as Jesus did and in their own weakness get lost in drawing lines and pretending there is such a [thing] as justification by having never [cohabited].

The possibility of seeing someone repent of sin, come to Christ and move toward true gifts of forgiveness and marriage is apparently less appealing than the Pharisaic joys of letting sinners know they aren’t welcome with us or the God we worship until they clean up their mess.

Read the entire post here.

It’s confession time. I actually have avoided inviting people to church because they were cohabiting and I wasn’t sure how this fact would impact the people’s experience at my church. You can probably imagine the thoughts that were going through my head: “What will people say if they find out? Will they still be welcoming and be a good testimony?” The good news is that when I’m being honest with myself I do think that those in my church would do the right thing. Most of them, at least, would join me in welcoming any guest, regardless of the areas of sin in his or her life. That doesn’t mean that my church would be accepting of the behavior, but sensitive to the fact that while the behavior shouldn’t be approved of, the person should feel welcome. The behavior should change if/when the person forms a relationship with Christ. If, at that point, the behavior continues, then we have a problem that needs to be dealt with.

Time for self-examination: how do I really feel about this? Would I participate in gossip about this individual? If it weren’t my friend, would I feel comfortable with the situation? Would I be a good testimony? I would like to think so. I pray that I wouldn’t gossip, that I would feel comfortable enough to make the visitor comfortable, and that I would be a good testimony. I also pray that I wouldn’t be so accepting that I inadvertently show acceptance for the behavior.

How about you?

Thanksgiving

By Nate LaClaire —  November 27, 2008 — Leave a comment

I was thinking last Sunday about how my life has changed over the past year and that has led me to several days of consideration about this topic. Some know that on my 26th birthday I was frustrated about where I was in life and set a list of goals to achieve before my next birthday. As August 2008 approached, I became more and more depressed and frustrated by the fact that I still hadn’t achieved most of my goals. Well, my 27th birthday has come and gone and I still haven’t achieved most of the goals on that list. Know what? I still care, because all of the goals will have a lasting and positive impact on my life, but I am no longer mad. I realized on Sunday that while I was focusing on certain areas of my life, something else was happening. My list of goals included reconnecting with one old friend. Aside from that, the goals had nothing to do with friendships, or relationships of any kind. What I realized on Sunday was that God had other plans: to give me the quality relationships that I so much needed. Over the past year, I have formed closer friendships with people that I have known for several years but hadn’t been close to, restored close friendships with people I had drifted away from, reconnected with people I had lost touch with, and formed new friendships. A few days after my birthday last year, someone commented to me about telling my friends something. Although I kept this to myself, I realized at that moment that although I had “friends,” I hadn’t been giving myself time for friendships. I knew people that I would consider friends, but I couldn’t be sure they felt the same way about me. Then there were the people that I knew I could count on as friends to help me out in a pinch, but could they say the same about me? 

No man is an island and I am living proof. Through Facebook and LinkedIn, I have reconnected with those I have missed communicating with. Through church and college, I have built new friendships and rekindled old ones. Meanwhile, I have learned who my real friends were that I was just too blind to recognize. I discovered the true meaning of friendship and learned what a real relationship looks like.

I thank God for what He has done in my life this past year. I pray that I will never again get so caught up in my own list of goals that I miss the work He is doing in my life.

Temptations

By Nate LaClaire —  August 13, 2008 — Leave a comment

O how the world to evil allures me!
O how my heart is tempted to sin!
I must tell Jesus, and He will help me
Over the world the vict’ry to win.
– Elisha A. Hoffman, “I Must Tell Jesus,” verse 3

A few months ago, during a worship service, I was playing “I Must Tell Jesus” and singing it with the congregation. Now, I have sung and played this song many, many times before – many tens if not hundreds of times – but this time, those words from the third verse stood out. Sometimes it seems to me, especially with hymns, that the words are wonderful and spiritual, but lack reality. Like when we sing hymns about raising hands in celebration in a very conservative church with no one raising any hands. Or when we sing about giving up everything for the cause of Christ, knowing full well that few if any of us will ever make such a sacrifice. Not this time… those words fit me exactly at that moment. My eyes actually teared up as I was playing, which seldom happens. It was a moment from God, a reminder that only through Him can I ever hope to find victory over my temptations. I praise God that He brought those words to me when I needed them most and, most of all, that He will give me the strength to stand up against my selfish addictions. Praise the Lord!