Sittin’ In The Dark

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The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul. The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart. The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.
Psalm 19:7-8, NASB

 

These two verses are a couple of my favorite. They make my favorite list because wrapped up in them is this beautiful pathway to life. At first glance or just a regular read through we might miss it, but if we take the time to look a little deeper the pathway is right there and actually was always there all along. 

The first part of verse seven tells us that the law of the Lord is perfect. The Hebrew translation of “perfect” in this verse is tamim and it means complete. Then we see what the law does… it restores the soul. The Hebrew word for restoring is shub and it means to return, to turn back, convert, to refresh.  Here lies the first step on to the path; the recognition that our soul needs restored.

The Hebrew word for soul is nephesh and it means a soul, living being, life, self, person, desire, passion, appetite, emotion. The soul encompasses all that we are on the inside. The part of us that we might be able to decorate and disguise for others in intermediate intervals, but no matter how hard we try it’s brokenness reveals itself in our struggles to keep the thing under control.  May it be the kids that won’t stop fighting, the referee that can’t seem to make right the call, the traffic on the way to work, or the person that finally answers the phone at the help desk after you have pressed one at least six times and been on hold for thirty-eight minutes and forty-two seconds. The reality of our broken soul reveals itself time and time again. 

As the brokenness of our soul and our inability to control its appetite, desire, and emotions reveals itself to us we really only have three choices before us. So here lies our choices:

1) We blame others, our circumstances, and particular situations claiming that if they would change we would be fine.

2) We accept it as who we are, embrace it, feed it, and use it to get what we want regardless of who it hurts.

3) We acknowledge it, refuse to accept it, take responsibility for it and turn to the Lord, the One whose law is perfect and is able to restore our soul.

As I shared this particular verse with a group of young ladies yesterday I explained that usually when the Word of God uses “perfect” it means completes. It doesn’t mean perfect in the way that we use it as in a not-a-hair-out-of-place kind of way. I then used the illustration of a vase.

When God created us we were like a beautifully crafted vase, but then sin shattered us. Now we are fallen, broken, and scattered in pieces. However our God is able to take us and all our broken pieces and put them back together again. He is able to complete the vase. Now the once broken vase is complete, not perfect, but complete. The cracks and lines of the once broken vase remain, but it is once again complete.

We don’t yet stand before Him perfect as in not-a-hair-out-of-place as if we were never broken. One day we will, but not today beloved. Today others need to see that we once were broken but are now restored. We once were shattered and scattered but now we are complete. Others need to see this because the cracks allow the light to shine through.

When we skip ahead and we look at the last part of verse eight in Psalm 19 we see that the commandment of the Lord is pure and the result of it is that it enlightens the eyes. In Matthew 6:22-23 Jesus teaches us,

“The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!”

My husband just walked down the stairs and entered the room where one of our daughters is doing her school work. The first words out of his mouth was, “Do you like sittin’ in the dark?”  Then he switches on the light. She hadn’t realized she was sitting in the dark until the light entered the room.

I’m sure you have experienced this as well. Possibly it’s a day when you did not have an overhead light on because the light from the sun streaming through the windows was more than enough for the room you were in. However, as the day went on and the sun went down your eyes began to acclimate to the darkness. It never even occurs to you to get up and turn on the light because you have slowly adjusted for the darkness. However, once you get up and walk into a lit room or someone else walks into the room and turns on the light, all of a sudden your eyes are flooded with light and you realize that you were sitting in the dark.

For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves;  we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing;  persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;  always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.  For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.  So death works in us, but life in you.

2 Corinthians 4:6-12

Yes, Psalm 19:7-8 gives us a beautiful pathway to life. It introduces us to the law, testimony, precepts, and commandment of the Lord. Through them and in Him we both realize our brokenness and receive our restoration. We both discover we are sittin’ in the dark and have the light flipped on.

We also come to realize that if we didn’t know we were sitting in the dark until the light came through, then others do not either. Jesus tells us that if our eyes our clear then we will be filled with light, but if our eyes are bad we will be filled with darkness, and if the light that you do have is actually darkness then how great is that darkness.

If we are looking through darkness then what we see is distorted versions of reality, but it IS our reality and it will remain our reality until the light allows us to see clearly. Sometimes that light flips on and it blinds us and we close and cover our eyes and blink like crazy until we can see and quickly adjust, but sometimes it takes just as long for our eyes to adjust to the light as it did for them to adjust to the dark.

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus. It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all.  Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life.

1 Timothy 1:12-16

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To learn more about God’s Word and how it restores our soul, makes wise the simple, rejoices the heart, and enlightens our eyes, order your own copy of Finding True Joy Through a Study of Psalm 119…

You Don’t Know The Whole Story

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The last several years my family has learned some hard lessons. One is that before you express your opinion on a matter it is best to learn the whole story from the mouths of those actually involved. Before you accuse someone of doing wrong it is probably best to actually know what really happened. Simply accepting one persons perspective of the event is not wise. Even Jesus gave us His three years of ministry from four different perspectives. It takes gathering the information from all four to gain the best understanding  of His teachings while here in the flesh.

We seem to have a tendency to receive information, process it through our own experiences, and come to a firm conclusion that we are willing to take to the mattresses with no other considerations as an option. In doing so we hurt friendships. We might even ruin them, simply because we accepted our first hearing of the matter as the truth instead of a reason to simply search for the truth. We come to the defense of the perceived victim before we take the time to discover that perhaps the perceived victim is actually the one who is causing the most pain. My husband has a saying, “There are always two sides to a story and the truth is usually somewhere in between the two.”

I have been burned because I was only listening to one side of a story and I have also been deeply wounded by others who chose to only listen to one side of a story. We live in a day where the availability and opportunity for communication is limitless yet our ability to actually communicate seems to be worse than it has ever been. I believe it is mainly because we have quit listening. We speak, but we refuse to hear. We throw our two cents in on the lives of people we have never even met, much less walked a day in their shoes.

I’ll be the first to admit that in the privacy of my own home my husband and I will try to hash out what we are hearing and seeing and what our initial responses are at the information we currently have, but we have learned that there is ALWAYS more to the story. We know this because we both are the type that are not afraid to send a private message, make a private phone call, or plan a private meeting to find out what is really going on. If we do not know them well enough to do this, then no matter what it is, it is NOT OUR BUSINESS to publicly share our two cents.

In 1 Samuel 1:1-18 we learn of a man named Elkanah who had two wives. One was named Peninnah and the other Hannah. Peninnah had given Elkanah children, but Hannah remained childless.

Hannah lived every day of her life being ridiculed and mocked by Peninnah along with the internal struggle of inadequacy and most likely fear that she was not loved by God, with her barrenness as her confirmation that her fear was true.  In 1 Samuel 1:10 she goes to the temple of the Lord and there she is weeping and pouring her heart out before HIm. There we meet Eli, the current priest and judge of Israel, who sees her and from his perspective she looks like a crazy drunk woman.

Eli sees her and approaches her accusing her of being that crazy drunk woman.  She quickly addresses him to let him know that she is not a crazy drunk woman. She is broken, and oppressed, and is pouring her heart out to the only One who can help her. When Eli recognizes his initial perspective was way off he blesses Hannah and sends her on her way. When she leaves the scripture reads…

“and her face was no longer sad.”

1 Samuel 1:18

What if Eli had accepted his initial perspective as fact and shunned Hannah? What if he would of had her thrown out without finding out her side of the story? Do you think she would have left with a face that was no longer sad? Or would she have received that as even more confirmation that God did not love her and did not even want her in His house?

To Eli’s credit, even with the wrong perspective, at least he approached HER, and he was willing to LISTEN to her. By doing so he gave her the opportunity to change his initial reaction. Then he chose to believe her. Thus she left that day, affirmed in God’s love instead of confirmed in her fear that He loved her not.

Oh church when the world chooses to jump on the first perspective and react as fact to the initial information, let us be willing to step back and pause before we respond. Let us instead choose to practice wisdom…

The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.

Proverbs 18:17

Writer’s Block

2017 has come with a big ole dose of writer’s block. I’ve started and deleted at least half a dozen blog post. I have struggled over what I wanted to write about and if I wanted to actually put into black and white the wrestlings of my heart… especially when the wrestling continues.

That is probably the root of the writer’s block.

I wrestle with hurtful words and accusations from those I called friend.

I wrestle with hopeful expectation that I could probably help a lot of other hurting hearts if I chose to share how mine has been wounded over and over again and yet I keep stepping back into the ring for more.

I wrestle with my God as to why He has allowed those hurts to pass through His sovereign hands and I wonder what in the world He is trying to toughen me up for in the future.

I wrestle with the fear that instead of becoming wise and strong I will instead become critical and hard.

I wrestle and the writer’s block is the result…

 

From Year to Year and Psalm to Psalm

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This time last year I wrote a post entitled “The 39th Year” where I shared how since I began walking with the Lord faithfully and purposely at His calling through Psalm 25 (just shy of the age of 25) the Lord has some how seemed to line my life up with the Psalm of my current age or at least it appears that way. However, the truth is the Lord is faithful to meet us where we are when we call to Him. I seek Him in the Psalms usually daily and He has never failed to meet me there.

I celebrated the beginning of my 40th year on the 12th of this month. Therefore, I turned to what I expected to be my new Psalm for the year, Psalm 40…

I waited patiently for the Lord;
And He inclined to me and heard my cry.
He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay,
And He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm.
He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God;
Many will see and fear
And will trust in the Lord.

Patience is something I struggle with in many ways. There are these meme’s

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Yeh, I’m probably the one getting looked at like that, but sorry, it’s not a race to the red light for me. It’s just this inward sense of urgency that when I have a destination I must get there… like yesterday.  I might procrastinate starting a thing, but once I start it I’m not stopping until it’s done. I don’t want any dilly dallying or poking around. This is not the time for window shopping or Sunday driving. It’s time to move!

I stepped out in obedience of faith last January and committed to the Lord that I would resign at my then position. I knew that God was moving me, although I did not know where, if any where. Then a new door appeared to open, but in May it was slammed shut. So in June my position ended and the journey of learning began.

I spent the month of June sending my husband a half a dozen different possibilities of future rolls for me in life. He finally told me, Nicole please just wait at least until August. So, I stopped, and I prayed, and I waited, and I wrestled with God. I wrestled and considered a thousand different possibilities it seemed, but my heart kept going back to that slammed door. I just couldn’t shake it.

How blessed is the man who has made the Lord his trust,
And has not turned to the proud, nor to those who lapse into falsehood.
Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders which You have done,
And Your thoughts toward us;
There is none to compare with You.
If I would declare and speak of them,
They would be too numerous to count.

Sacrifice and meal offering You have not desired;
My ears You have opened;
Burnt offering and sin offering You have not required.
Then I said, “Behold, I come;
In the scroll of the book it is written of me.
I delight to do Your will, O my God;
Your Law is within my heart.”

I just couldn’t not see how or why God would shut that door, so I just kept knocking on it. I kept sending messages asking if there had been any changes, yet every reply came back as no changes. From June until September I sought the Lord in my roller coaster emotional up and down what is going on and what do You want me to do kinda way and I just kept serving Him where ever and how ever He opened the door.

During this time I began to notice a consistent theme to the passages in Scripture that the Lord kept putting before me. Then when I made my regular door knocking call in September expecting another “no change” answer, I realized WHY the Lord had me in His Word in the places that He did when He did. This time the answer to my knocking was, “Yes. Are you available to meet next week? There has been some changes in the hiring process that we need to discuss.”

The Lord had spent the summer preparing my heart for these changes so that I would be able to receive them with excitement instead of discouragement or fear. Stepping into this new door under the terms required of me was a whole new ballgame for me. It was a complete leap of faith out of my comfort zone. It has taken me several deep breathes and Scripture recalls to make the phone calls and send the letters that I needed to send in order to walk through this door. Yet the Lord has been faithful!

I have proclaimed glad tidings of righteousness in the great congregation;
Behold, I will not restrain my lips,
O Lord, You know.
I have not hidden Your righteousness within my heart;
I have spoken of Your faithfulness and Your salvation;
I have not concealed Your lovingkindness and Your truth from the great congregation.

You, O Lord, will not withhold Your compassion from me;
Your lovingkindness and Your truth will continually preserve me.
For evils beyond number have surrounded me;
My iniquities have overtaken me, so that I am not able to see;
They are more numerous than the hairs of my head,
And my heart has failed me.

When ministry gets hard or scary, the Lord always takes me back to a day 15 years ago when I stood before a room full of hundreds of other women in Chattanooga, TN and declared to God that I would offer my body as a living sacrifice to Him. I wanted my life to tell His story and I would do that in any and every way that He allowed me. I would be faithful and obedient to Him and His Word no matter the cost.

Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me;
Make haste, O Lord, to help me.
Let those be ashamed and humiliated together
Who seek my life to destroy it;
Let those be turned back and dishonored
Who delight in my hurt.
Let those be appalled because of their shame
Who say to me, “Aha, aha!”
Let all who seek You rejoice and be glad in You;
Let those who love Your salvation say continually,
“The Lord be magnified!”
Since I am afflicted and needy,
Let the Lord be mindful of me.
You are my help and my deliverer;
Do not delay, O my God.

Yes, at the age of forty years old the Lord once again met me in the Psalms. Through Psalm 40 He showed me how it was indeed His plan for me to serve Him. He was and is with me. He has blessed me with an open door for His Word in forty-five middle school and high school campuses and one college within four counties. I serve the Lord in North Alabama through the ministry of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

Walking through this door required me to step out in faith and trust the Lord to help me raise my own support. This is one of the hardest things that I have EVER done. It is a humbling experience. How very thankful I am for what the Lord is teaching me through this process and how very grateful I am for all those who say, “Yes, we are with you.”

“You will do well to send them on their journey in a manner worthy of God. For they have gone out for the sake of the name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles. Therefore we ought to support people like these, that we may be fellow workers for the truth.”
(3 John 1:6-8)

My current home team is made up of nineteen individuals, businesses, and churches. As I was delivering Christmas gifts to my ministry partners I sat down to share with one of them. I was telling him how excited I was of the success of the partnership between a particular church and school that the Lord had allowed me to establish and how I wished I could have gotten more churches and coaches to do what they were doing… And he just looked at me and smiled and reminded me that I needed to just be patient because I had only been at this for a couple of months. I was just getting started.

And He is right. This is just the beginning of what the Lord has in store.

But there it still remains… that sense of urgency. That stirring in my gut that says today is the day of salvation — the day of the Lord is near — be ready — make the most of your time for the days are evil — be about your Father’s business — the fields are white for harvest but the laborers are few — it’s appointed a man once to die and then the judgment — man is but a mere breathe — do not delay to enter the rest — had the owner of the house known what hour the thief was coming — today if you hear His voice…

So if today He is calling you to partner with me in this ministry know that I need you! I can only reach as far as my support allows me to reach. Within the past two months the Lord has allowed me to share His Word with over 240 female athletes and coaches. Yet, there are so very many more.

I have been able to be a part of Campus Huddles where in just those I have been able to visit I have seen over 400 students be reached with the gospel and loved on. I was also able to participate in our Decatur area Prayer Breakfast where almost 400 more students and coaches once again heard the gospel and where 45 prayed to receive Christ. I have also been able to meet with two other schools about starting Huddles on their campuses…

All because of nineteen individuals, businesses, and churches that said Yes, we want to be a part of your team.

I rejoice over all that the Lord has allowed me to reach in such a short amount of time. Yet there are so many more. There is so much to be done and to do and the time is indeed now.

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Join Nicole’s team: Be A Ministry Partner

See what’s going on in all eight counties through all of our FCA staff here: December 2016 NWNAL FCA Newsletter

Are you looking for a church home? Check out one of my ministry partners!

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When Love Languages Collide

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In the early years of our marriage my husband and I went through Gary Chapman’s 5 Love Languages study. We watched the videos, read the book, and took the test. We discovered that his love languages were small gifts and quality time and mine were words of affirmation and physical touch. Then several years ago we took the online Myers-Briggs personality tests just for fun and we learned that I’m an introvert and he’s an extrovert. I’m also ADD and he’s more OCD. Our love languages and personalities are complete opposite. This makes for an interesting life together.

Over the last seventeen years we have learned a few things that were a cause of tension in our marriage and we have learned some simple solutions that have helped tremendously. My husbands extrovert self comes into a gathering immediately connecting. Then when his extrovert cup runneth over, he is ready to leave the gathering and go decompress from it all. My introvert self takes a while to get comfortable enough in a gathering to start connecting.

Before we realized this about ourselves we would end up in a “discussion” over the time to leave a gathering. The issue being that by the time I was actually comfortable enough to stay, he had done had all he could stand and was ready to leave.  After seventeen years we have discovered that the best way to handle this is to drive separately or if that is not possible we now better understand the “Are you ready to go?” question.

Marriage is such an unraveling of mystery… and not just of the person you are married to, but of yourself as well.

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

Ephesians 5:31-33

Sometimes in the unraveling of this mystery love languages and personalities collide. We have a joke between us on the hard days, my husband will look at me and say, “my OCD and your ADD are not playing well together today.” On those days we know we need to add a little personal space and grace and the day goes much better. Usually these days come as a result of added stresses and lack of sleep… they are not caused by a lack of love for one another.

When love languages collide it can FEEL worse. We are very involved in life. We actually had to get a family calendar app so that we all could keep up with what was going on where and when. When life gets busy the quality time and small gifts love tank starts to get empty. This can lead to a lack of affirming words that cause the words of affirmation love tank to get empty or even feel attacked which causes a withdrawal which leads to lack of physical touch which causes an even emptier tank. This collision can lead to a downward spiral of doubt and despair.

This spiral will continue until someone is willing to make a deposit in the others tank even though they do not FEEL like it.

My husband and I were in a funk a few weeks ago. Then out of the blue he sends me a text with words of affirmation. DEPOSIT! Then a few days later I brought home a few small gifts for him. DEPOSIT! Then I got the grand idea to skip Wednesday night church and have a date night. I took the kids to youth group and came home and we went out alone. Quality time (check).  Physical Touch (check). DOUBLE DEPOSIT!

Sometimes life’s circumstances makes these deposits hard. My words of affirmation and physical touch tank lost three depositors this past year and so did my husband’s quality time and small gifts. You see these tanks are not just filled by each other. Our parents, grandparents, siblings, and children also make deposits into our tanks. One of the things of marriage is that we are so close in proximity and bond we experience the most “reality” of the love tank emptiness. However, we are also the most easily available to refill the supply.

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”

Genesis 2:18

When our tanks start to get empty it’s like they become an empty well that echoes back to you. What happens so often is that the enemy of our souls recognizes when they are getting empty and he begins speaking his lies into that emptiness and his lies echo back to us and we think they are our own thoughts. He knows what lies to use to have the most effect in the shortest amount of time. He knows what your struggles and weaknesses are and he is just waiting for an opportunity to exploit them. This is why a relationship with Christ is vital.

Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

John 4:13-14

Apart from Christ people will never be able to keep our love tanks filled, no matter how hard they try. When our well begins to run dry, it is the Living Water that springs up. It is the Word of our Creator God and the presence of His Holy Spirit that will fill us so that the lies of the enemy can do no more than just echo for a brief moment. It His love being poured out on us and springing up within us that will fill us to the level that we can step out in obedience of faith and make a deposit in another’s tank even when and especially when we don’t feel like it.

So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.

1 John 4:16

The enemy of our souls wants our love tanks empty so that his lies will echo all the louder. He wants it so void that he echoes so loudly that he drowns out our own thoughts and replaces them with his own. He wants us completely dependent on people to keep our tank filled because he knows people will fail us. The love of God however will not… It is in fact the love of God that gives us the strength to love others.

God wants to use us to be His vessels to pour His love into others. I believe that He wants that pouring to start at home. It only takes one person who is willing to drop their bucket into the well of Living Water and allow the love of God within to stop the downward spiral.

Do you need to be that one today?

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Discover your love language: Love Language Test

Take the personality test: MBTI online

 

God’s Gentle Reminders Of His Presence

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And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisperAnd when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

1 Kings 19:11-13, ESV

I just published a Bible study on having unwavering faith. I wrote that study not because I have attained that unwavering faith, but because I desire to attain it. This week our church and community lost a beautiful seven year old soul. I have been in tears before my God a many nights praying that He would heal her. I knew that He could. His ability was never a doubt… however His will is not mine to control, command, break or bend.

With her passing the enemy began His attack on my faith. I recalled all the prayers that I have prayed and how so many seemed futile and pointless. I questioned why I even bothered. It appeared that I simply was to just live to obey His Word and let God do what God was going to do. By Friday morning I didn’t even bother to read the Word. The time that I usually chose to use for Bible study and prayer I instead stuck earphones in and watched Netflix on my phone. I felt myself purposely hardening my heart and rejecting joy.

Then my girls and I loaded up after school and went to attend our sweet girl’s funeral. I sat there wanting so badly to be indifferent to my God, really just wanting to be numb, but He is such a Good Good Father that His patience, long-suffering, everlasting love, and endless mercies just simply keep enduring the emotional rollercoaster of this flesh of mine.

I sat there in the midst of His presence, listening to the songs chosen by this precious family, and their words of faith reminded me that our God is good. As I sat their wanting to turn my back, my Jesus grabbed me by the heart and turned my face to His, and said, It’s okay. I understand. You asked for the mountain to be moved again, and I didn’t move the mountain the way you asked. You prayed for earthquakes and fire but you simply need to remember that I am in the gentle whisper.

One of the struggles of being a woman that believes every word of Scripture is that I know that my God can speak the world into existence, bring water from a rock, still the sun in the sky, turn water into wine, and bring the dead to life, and well when He doesn’t… that’s a high mountain to fall from. It can make you question your ability to even hear Him and the relationship you thought you had with Him. Of course, perhaps I am just speaking of myself.

My God holds me steady in His cords of kindness and bands of love (Hosea 11:4, ESV). He uses them to keep me close to Him much like a mother with a monkey backpack and leash attached to her prone to wander toddler. I’m glad He does. This world can be a hard place and this girl can be a hard headed fool with her own ideas of how life should go. I easily forget as Natalie Grant sings that He is indeed the King of the world and I want to take life back from Him and tell Him how things need to be done.

I want to see Him in the earthquake and fire, but He shows Himself to me in the gentle whisper. When I asked Him why do I pray He reminded me that prayer was not for me to tell Him what to do or even to offer up my lists of requests. Prayer, true prayer, is a conversation WITH Him, not to Him or at Him. Prayer is more for Him to tell us His will, than for us to tell Him ours. Prayer is more for the opportunity to be still before our God and let Him love us and speak to our hearts to prepare us for His will.

We may look for earthquakes and fire, but He is always found in the gentle whisper. We may ask for miracles of removed tumors and immediate deliverance, but our God is as much about the process as He is the result. We want removed pain, but He gives us long hair that can’t chemo can’t break loose. We want immediate healing, but He gives us one after another turning their hearts to Him. We want more time with our loved ones, but He uses their death to bring eternal life to others. We want deliverance from the disappointments and hurt, but He gives us the strength, patience, and ability to forgive in order to be able to endure just a little more so that His great mercy and grace might be seen by a deceived but still watching world.

I’m not going to pretend that I understand it all.  I’m simply in awe that my God is able to endure me and my ups and downs. I simply know that I am loved by a God that is willing to bend down to me when I need Him. I am loved by a God that when He sees my yoke is too much to bear He is able and willing to ease it. He is always faithful to send His gentle whisper to remind me that He is hearing me. He takes the time to prove to me that my prayers are not hitting the ceiling. He lets me know that when I come to Him in prayer I have indeed been in conversation with the King of the world… and in His whisper He speaks to me just as He did to Elijah and says, Nicole what are you doing here? You know that I am still on My throne. I know You are weary, hurt, and confused, but You have not, nor never will be, alone, forsaken, or forgotten. You know that I am God. You know that I am good. You know that I love you. 

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Partner with Nicole through the ministry of North Alabama Fellowship of Christian Athletes:

Giving Tuesday Is November 29th

 

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Giving Tuesday Is November 29th

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#GivingTuesday is a day set aside to inspire generosity. It occurs each year on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. This year it is November 29th.

• It is a movement that encourages people to look beyond themselves by donating their time, talent or treasure to help others.

• This day provides a wonderful opportunity for non-profit organizations to share their story, their needs, and their goals with their community.

The Lord has been faithful to lead individuals, churches, and businesses to partner with me in the ministry of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. I am currently over one third of my way to being at full monthly support. Your participation in Giving Tuesday could be the very tool that God uses to see that become 100%.

The current support level has allowed me to come on staff, however my reach is limited to my support. More support allows more reach. My area of influence is within Morgan, Lawrence, Limestone, and Winston Counties.

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There are over 40 campuses to reach within these four counties…

Will you help me reach them?

Would you consider investing the lives of our athletes, students, coaches, and teachers by partnering with me through the ministry of FCA?

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Clicking on the FCA logo above will take you to my personal FCA donation page. I would be honored to have you choose me and this ministry as your place of giving on #GivingTuesday.

To learn more about our area go to: North and Northwest Alabama FCA

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Make FCA your “write-in” choice!

If you make charitable contributions through United Way, you can designate all or a portion of your contribution to benefit North AL Area FCA or Northwest AL Area FCA.  No code number is needed; just obtain the special “Donor Designation Form” and write in North AL Fellowship of Christian Athletes or Northwest AL Fellowship of Christian Athletes as your designated charity.

If you choose to donate to me through the United Way method please let me know at nvaughn@fca.org so that I may notify my Area Director.  

Am I My Brother’s Keeper

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Woe to them! For they have gone the way of Cain, and for pay they have rushed headlong into the error of Balaam, and perished in the rebellion of Korah.

Jude 1:11

Jude writes a letter of warning and exhortation to the church. He was born a Jew and was specifically from the line of David. Mary the mother of Jesus was his mother and Joseph, the man who raised Jesus as his own, was his father by birth. Yet, in this letter, Jude does not boast in the fact that he grew up with Jesus. I believe because he was beyond humbled by the fact that he had been so deceived by the enemy of our souls. Jude lived in the same house with God in the flesh and STILL did not recognize Him.

Who better to write of the deceptive power of the devil in the house of God than one who had been blinded by it in his own house.  Jude was writing from personal experience. Thus the reason he could write with authority and strong language of warning. Yet, could also write with the same authority and instruction concerning the extension of mercy instead of judgment because he had received mercy as well.

The recipients of this letter are not named by their place of residence, but by the referrals used in this letter to illustrate his point, I would guess that this was written to Jewish believers, possibly even in Jerusalem. So for our purposes today we would say that he was writing to those who had been going to church nine months before they were even born.

Those of us who know the Old Testament understand the power of this letter. We know the background story of the ones Jude uses in this letter. If you are reading this and you don’t, I encourage you to take the time to cross-reference those Jude mentions in the context of Genesis through Malachi.  For the purpose of this post we will only do a small cross-reference on Cain, Korah, and Balaam. These three are who Jude uses to warn us concerning those who creep into our church, but are not children of God.

But these men revile the things which they do not understand; and the things which they know by instinct, like unreasoning animals, by these things they are destroyed. Woe to them! For they have gone the way of Cain, and for pay they have rushed headlong into the error of Balaam, and perished in the rebellion of Korah. These are the men who are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, caring for themselves…

Jude 1:10-12

Cain, Korah, and Balaam. These three are used to describe the different types of ungodly that we find in our church. All three of these men knew the Word of God. They were not ignorant of the Creator. They knew the right thing to do, yet chose not to do it.

Cain: Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” And he said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9)

Korah:Now Korah the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, with Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, and On the son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, took action, and they rose up before Moses, together with some of the sons of Israel, two hundred and fifty leaders of the congregation, chosen in the assembly, men of renown. They assembled together against Moses and Aaron, and said to them, “You have gone far enough, for all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is in their midst; so why do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the Lord?” (Numbers 16:1-3)

BalaamBalaam replied to the servants of Balak, “Though Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not do anything, either small or great, contrary to the command of the Lord my God. Now please, you also stay here tonight, and I will find out what else the Lord will speak to me.” (Numbers 22:18-19)

So what would these three look like in our church today? If I wanted to be specific I could google “christian” tv personalities and show you, but for the sake of showing mercy I’m going to refrain. Instead we shall generalize, for the only examples we need have already been given us in Scripture.

Cain: This is the “christian” person who sees no need to share the gospel or help anyone. They see no need to visit the sick, help the hungry, care for the orphan and widows, or minister to those in prison. They after all are NOT their brother’s keeper. If someone is in a situation- downcast and downtrodden in their eyes it was of their own making and God’s choosing and they are not obligated to help. The hurting person that walks in the door of their church wanting to come to God with their “first fruits” will be met with apathy, dismissal, and judgment. They refuse to put any concern or care into the nursery, children, or community of the church because it does not benefit them personally. They give of their tithes only if the money will be directed to meet their desired needs and purpose for it and will make sure everyone knows it… and the greatest and utmost illustration of the power of their deception is that the church, in order to not lose their wallet, will let them do it.

Korah: This is the “christian” person who rebels against all authority in the church. They do not care what the leadership team decides or the vision of the Pastor of the church. No, they will begin to whisper among those within the church that they can gather to their side, of course not giving all the information, just their side of it and their bent interpretation of it. Then with their small band of misinformed followers they will rebel against what ever leadership decisions they do not like and will claim that God is with them.  They will use what Scripture they can to prove their point and back their rebellion and make it appear as if it is this Joan of Arc moment when in fact it is not… and the greatest and utmost illustration of the power of their deception is that the church, in order to keep a false peace and not cause a church split, will cower to the manipulation and reverse or amend whatever leadership decision was made.

Balaam: This is the “christian” person that knows the Word of God and publicly proclaims it. They possibly thought they were sincere, but as their popularity grows and as their name becomes known, they begin to get attention as well as financial gain from the Word of God. They  crave the attention and financial gain more than godliness. They begin to twist the Word of God and use it to deepen their pockets and build their numbers. This the one who can draw a crowd and has a way with words and is very tricky in their unrighteousness. They focus on feelings and emotions and know how to make you love them by building you up and making you think they really care about you. Yet they are not building you up on your most holy faith, but they are building you up on shifting sand. They speak mostly truth, but it’s the thread of the lie that leads many to destruction… the greatest and utmost illustration of the power of their deception is that the church is so ignorant of the truth that they get caught in the web of lies. Then when this person is exposed for who they really are, a watching world is given a very real and public reason to doubt the validity of the Word of God.

These are just a small generalization of course, just a few things that I have gathered from being in the church, and studying the Word, and watching people these last few years. I’ve only been walking faithfully with the Lord for around fifteen years, so don’t take my descriptions to the bank. Get in the Word and look for truth yourself, and know that Jude writes us this word of warning not for us to judge and condemn those that have been deceived and gone the way of Cain, Korah, and Balaam, but so that we would recognize them and not be deceived ourselves and become like them. He knows how easily we can be sucked in to their ways. He knows how easily we can be deceived. This is why we must keep ourselves in the love of God so that we can snatch them from the fire… because here’s the thing beloved… we ARE our brother’s keeper. 

 

Once For All

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Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.

Jude 1:3

I am currently studying in the book of Jude with my friend Brenda. As I was reading through this small letter preserved in the Word of God, the Lord pulled out verse three for me. I missed it the first time I read through the letter. I missed it the second time I read through the letter. However, on my third read through, it was as if the Lord said, “Nicole, did you notice this?” At which point I stopped and double underlined the phrase, “once for all handed down to the saints.”

The phrase once for all speaks volumes. According to thefreedictionary.com it means: finally, permanently, completely and finally. Freedictionary goes on to describe the phrase to mean that if you do something once and for all, you finish doing it so that it does not have to be dealt with again. It is a settled matter, finally, permanently. In the original Greek the phrase is the word, hapax, and it means: what is so done as to be of perpetual validity and never need repetition.

The work of Christ is finished. Salvation in, by, and through Him alone is settled. The faith that saved the thief on the cross is the same once for all faith that saved me and will save my children’s children. It has not changed. It cannot change. To change it, to add to it or take away from it, makes it not the once for all faith that was handed down, but makes it a strange gospel; a gospel that we are repeatedly warned about throughout the Word of God. 

If we contend for anything outside or beyond this once for all handed down faith we become fools. When we use our once for all handed down faith to pronounce judgment instead of extend mercy then we look like the enemy of the cross, not the friend of God. In Jude 1:9 we read that,

But Michael the archangel, when he disputed with the devil and argued about the body of Moses, did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!”

The archangel Michael stood before Satan himself and did not dare pronounce a judgment against him. He did not dare prove himself to be so bold as to stand in the face of another and declare what only God Himself can declare for fear that he would blaspheme his God. If this was a faithful warrior angel’s response to the father of lies, the beginning murderer, the one who deceived and deceives the world then who are we to try and stand in the place of God and pronounce eternal condemnation on those who are held in his chains?

Yes, we are to contend for the once for all faith, but we are not to contend through railing judgments. We are to remember who we were when we too were blind and dead. We are to remember who we were before we received the sight and life of the gospel of Christ. We are to remember what Jude reminds us in verse ten,

But these men revile the things which they do not understand;

Jude 1:10

In verses ten through nineteen Jude goes on to describe all the actions of these he declares as the ungodly of the earth. I can just hear the questions of those he addresses. I imagine they are the same as we hear today; But do you know what they are saying? Do you know what they are doing? How can we not stand over them and pronounce their judgment?

Jude answers them (and us) by reminding them that this should not be a surprise to them (or us). God has been warning us from the beginning. Jesus warned us when He walked among us and He sent His apostles to warn us after His ascension. He has protected His words of warning and encouragement in the Scriptures for thousands of years. We should not be shocked, but prepared.

The Greek word used for “contend earnestly” is epagónizomai and it means, properly, to contend (literally, “struggle upon, appropriately“), i.e. with skill and commitment in opposing whatever is not of faith (God’s persuasion). There is a right way to contend for the faith and there is a VERY wrong way. Sadly, here lately, because the church is so very ignorant of the Word of God, our world sees a lot of the wrong way– and well, the wrong way gets a whole lot more attention because that is what the ruler of this world (1 John 5:19) chooses to promote.

So what are we to do?

Jude answers that question as well…

But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life.  And have mercy on some, who are doubting; save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.

Jude 1:20-23 (underline is mine)

What are we to do?

  1. Build yourself up on your most holy faith. (your responsibility)
  2. Pray in the Holy Spirit. (this means His will, not yours)
  3. Keep yourself in the love of God (if you love Me you will obey Me)
  4. Wait anxiously for Jesus (He’s coming again, be ready)
  5. Have mercy (you know how bad judgment will be)

Three times the word mercy is used in that one passage of Scripture. Jude begins his letter by saying, “May mercy and peace and love be multiplied to you.” He knew they were going to need multiplied mercies, peace, and love to appropriately deal with what they were facing from these ungodly ones. This is what we in the faith need multiplied to us today as well.

People revile what they do not understand. They do not understand that they are deceived, for that is the nature of deception.

Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we received mercy, we do not lose heart, but we have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death works in us, but life in you.

2 Corinthians 4:1-12

Always choose mercy. It is not for us to pronounce judgment… it is for us to proclaim the gospel of Christ. No, don’t be silent. Instead boldly declare the love of God with the kindness of God. Jesus showed us how to do it. So did Paul and Jude… and so did the one (or ones) who led you to Christ.

How Long Will The Lord Let It Go

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Though our iniquities testify against us, act, O Lord, for Your name’s sake; for our backslidings are many; we have sinned against You.
O You hope of Israel, its Savior in time of trouble, why should You be like a stranger in the land, like a traveler who turns aside to tarry for a night? Why should You be like a man confused, like a mighty warrior who cannot save?

Yet you, O Lord, are in the midst of us, and we are called by Your name; do not leave us.

Thus says the Lord concerning this people: “They have loved to wander thus; they have not restrained their feet; therefore the Lord does not accept them; now He will remember their iniquity and punish their sins.”

Jeremiah 14:7-10

I’m reading in the book of Jeremiah right now. I taught through this book a couple of years ago. The connection of the state of Israel and the current state of our nation is easily seen when you read the words of this prophet. The Lord is treated like a stranger in this land. Even those who sit in a church on a weekly basis do not know Him, because they choose to listen to the words of finite men and women instead of our Infinite God.

The distance of our wanderings is clearly seen when we examine our nation in the light of the Word of God. We are a people that loves to go our own way and play our own God, until disaster strikes and then we run to the God we turned our back to and beg Him to deliver. He does so, just to watch us prance off even further into the darkness the next time. “They have loved to wander thus; they have not restrained their feet…”

Look where our nation was as a whole when 9/11 happened and recall how we appeared to return and now look how far we are from that day… How long will the Lord let it go?

I think many of us who truly love the Lord and are seeking to serve Him and honor Him might arrogantly expect Him to protect our entire nation just to keep us safe. Perhaps that has been the false hope we have been clinging to just as Jeremiah clung to it. However, there will come a day when the Lord says enough is enough. He will only strive with us so long. His compassions do not fail and His love is never ending, but if we reject His compassion and His love we are left with the consequences of that rejection.

I am not going to pretend I have a clue what this election is going to do with the course of our nation. I am quite tired of reading blogs and posts about all the speculation and predictions surrounding the outcome. Each side predicts loom and gloom concerning the other. Each side is assured that we are going straight to hell if we vote for the other.

I am not going to claim which candidate has the most integrity and least amount of dispicability, because one thing I have learned in my short life here on this earth is that if I am not in the house and in the room and in the heart of someone I really cannot claim to have a clue. I am not close enough to any of our candidates to judge their fruit as to whether or not which one actually loves Jesus for real.

I know one’s life has been on public display forever and the others has been attempted to be carefully guarded forever. I know one has never cared what was exposed about them before and the other has been striving for this position for years and therefore would be trying to keep anything threatening of character hidden. I know that I only get to know what the media chooses to tell me and that being according to the perspective they most want me to see it.

Therefore, all I know for sure is that this election season has been very successful in creating an even greater division within the body of Christ.  One Christian attacking another because of which blog post they chose to believe and post. I just wish we fought this passionately hard for the lost and hurting and dying. I just wish we loved out as much as we lashed out. I wish we, as the body Christ, would remember that we are Christians before we are Americans. Our citizenship is in heaven not on this earth.

Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done…

 I just know that one day my Jesus will come again. I know that one day someone of integrity and righteousness will rule this nation and all nations… I’m going to stick with campaigning for Him.

The writing and teachings of Nicole Love Halbrooks Vaughn