The Danger Of Like Minded

From the best I can tell from a quick web search, the term “like-minded” originated in the 1500’s. The term is meant to describe a group of people that have similar opinions, ideas, or interests. The world has made a business out of helping us seek out like minded individuals. For many it is the determining factor in choosing our friendships, business partners, schools, churches, etc. A search of the term “like minded” pulls up 129,00,000 results in .5 seconds.

The desire for us to be surrounded with like minded people is so great that we are now able to build our own like minded mini worlds through the technology of social media. We do not even have to purposely intend to do so, those controlling our sites attach cookies to our searches and through them begin to build a profile on us and set us up to direct us to other articles and items that are like those we intentionally searched out. We are directed to other individuals and organizations that are like us so that we can grow our like minded world even larger. This of course sounds like perfectly good system… but is it really?

“Now the whole earth used the same language and the same words. It came about as they journeyed east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. They said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks and burn them thoroughly.” And they used brick for stone, and they used tar for mortar. They said, “Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.” The Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. The Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them. Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, so that they will not understand one another’s speech.” So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of the whole earth; and they stopped building the city.”

Genesis 11:1-8

There is a danger in building our like minded mini worlds. The danger is that in our like minded mini worlds we become close minded to those outside of it. The more crowded our like minded worlds become the more convinced we are that our opinions, our ideas, our dispositions are the only ones that are valid and of value and everyone else’s are flat out wrong. Then we begin to exalt ourselves and look down on others… and even begin to work to discredit and destroy them.

We see this over and over again through out history. We see this all over the world. We see this in nations with caste systems and tribal divisions. We see this in the church with denominations. We see this in our schools (and churches) with cliques. God commanded us to scatter and fill for a reason.

I am currently teaching through the book of 1 Kings and 2 Chronicles. In our study this past week we were in 1 Kings 5 and in this chapter we were able to see how David formed a friendship with Hiram King of Tyre. This friendship was one of mutual respect and because of it when Solomon became King, Hiram immediately sent word to him to acknowledge him as the new King of Israel. Solomon then extended a request of Hiram asking him to provide timber and skilled workman to help him build the house where the name of the Lord would dwell.

The nation of Tyre had been blessed with great skill and knowledge in cutting timber and engraving stone and because of the relationship that David had formed with this nation, with this King, despite their cultural differences, the nation of Israel would now be blessed to not only utilize these skills, but to learn them. Through this friendship David had the opportunity to teach Hiram about the God of Israel. David choosing to build a relationship with this King and this nation opened a door for this nation to be able to know the One True God and now to even become a part of the construction of the house where His name would dwell.

As I studied in these chapters this week I was also learning from a Pastor friend of mine, Daryl Little, as he spoke on the Black Christian and White Christian Dilemma in the  United States. As I listened to him share he spoke of how God has graced different people groups and different cultures with different gifts and talents and we lose when choose to discredit and disassociate with others simply because they are different from us. Too often we form our own like minded groups and our learning stops. We have decided this is the box we like and we refuse to step out of it… and even worse we refuse to allow our knowledge of God to grow outside of it.

The beauty and glory of the house of God would have suffered had Solomon been unwilling to reach out to the Sidonians. God had gifted these workers… for every good and perfect gift comes from above (James 1:17). In Genesis 1:27 the Word clearly tells us that, “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” Therefore every single individual that has ever lived and will ever live was and will be created in the image of God.

Let this sink in a bit…

Look at the people around you. Look at the people around the world. Look at their many gifts, their many talents, their many features, and realize that not one of them has ever had the same DNA yet each and every one of them is an image bearer of our Creator God. Try and wrap your mind around this concept and in doing so realize that from the beginning of creation until this day including every present child that is being and will be being formed in their mother’s womb, each and every one of them bears the image of God. This my friend is how vast the depth of the reality of the person of our God is…

In 2 Chronicles 2:5-6 Solomon writes, “The house which I am about to build will be great, for greater is our God than all the gods. But who is able to build a house for Him, for the heavens and the highest heavens cannot contain Him? So who am I, that I should build a house for Him, except to burn incense before Him?

Solomon wrote to the King of Tyre and said I’m building this house, but I cannot contain this God. All I can do is maybe use it as a place that we can come and sit before Him and offer up our prayers and praise. Is this not what God calls us to still do today?

Yet instead we form our groups based on our own opinions and ideas and traditions and we call ourselves inclusive because we invite others in, until that is they refuse to conform or they begin to disrupt with differing opinions and ideas and, well, then we force them out. We may do it in a discrete way by beginning to exclude them in small ways or we may do it in outright you can’t sit here ways… but make no bones about it, we find a way to remove them.

We want them out because they now challenge our mini world and make our box uncomfortable. In doing so we remove an image bearer of God. We lose an opportunity to grow in the grace and knowledge of God. We lose an invitation to see life through another set of eyes. We even lose an opportunity to shine the light of Christ into the depths of a heart that perhaps has believed a lie and we lose an opportunity to allow the Spirit of God to teach us how to fight and defeat that lie in their heart and the hearts of others. If we are so insecure in our own convictions that we can’t even listen to another’s then perhaps we need to question the foundation on which we are trying to stand.

God has called us to go into all the world and make disciples. This requires that we step outside of our own like minded worlds and willingly and purposely enter into other worlds that the Lord Himself will show us.

“Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you; and I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you,'”

Genesis 12:1-2

We are to step outside our own like minded worlds and step into Him. We are to be united in Him. We are to have the mind of Christ. We do not need to settle down in our like minded worlds, we need to first be noble minded.

Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.

Acts 17:11

There is so much to learn. Our God is so great and the expanse of His presence is beyond our comprehension. I love reading the experiences of other believers around the globe from other nations. I love reading and hearing all the mighty and amazing things that the Lord does in and through and for them so that He can use them for His glory to reach hearts for Christ.

I heard a Christian man in our area make a statement one time. He was at a location where someone had just died and their was a group of Christians that this now dead man knew who came and asked for just five minutes to pray over the man before they pronounced him dead and took him away. The Christian man then shared how had that man risen from the dead he would have fled from that place. I thought to myself, this is the box we live in. We have placed our God in a box that no longer believes He can raise the dead.

Our like minded worlds make our God so very small because they become more about us, our opinions, our ideas, our dispositions, our will, and our ways… and less and less about Him. They become less about Him, because to know Him is to grow in Him, and to grow means we have to get a bigger box because He just wont fit in the current one we have constructed for Him. The danger begins as we start to move Him out so we can make room for more like minded people who will fit in our box and we soon discover that in our like minded worlds we no longer talk about Him, but we talk about everyone who doesn’t fit in our box… and any praise we claim to give Him is actually not praise at all but is really just self-exaltation.

The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.

Luke 18:11

Is being with like minded individuals just wrong? Absolutely not! God commands us to be of the same mind. He commands us to come out from the world and to be separate and united in Him. He demands that we be made complete and of the same mind and the same judgment (1 Corinthians 1:10). However, He commands all of this with a purpose. When God calls us to be like minded it is so that with one accord and with one voice we might glorify God.

For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God. 

Romans 5:4-7

The purpose of becoming like minded God’s way is to destroy all other divisions so that we can see past our differing opinions, ideas, and dispositions. Becoming of the same mind with one another according to Christ is to teach and enable us to easily move past any cultural differences and be united in our praise to the One who so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son for every whosoever that will believe.

And He came and took the book out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne. When He had taken the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.”

Revelation 5:7-10

Precious one, let us step out of our own little worlds and break out of whatever box we have constructed for ourselves because our God is bigger. I don’t know about you, but I want to know Him. I want to grow in Him. I want to serve the God that can’t be put in a box and be a part of the church that the gates of Hell can’t stand against. I want to believe in the God that still raises the dead.

Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to him again? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.

Romans 11:33-36

The Powerful Witness of the Nation of Israel.

I am currently studying and teaching through the book of 1 Kings and 2 Chronicles. This past week my study was in 1 Kings 3-4 and 2 Chronicles 1. In this section of the Scriptures we have the recording of the establishment of David’s son Solomon’s Kingdom. In 1 Kings 4:20-21 we read, “Judah and Israel were as numerous as the sand that is on the seashore in abundance; they were eating and drinking and rejoicing. Now Solomon ruled over all the kingdoms from the River to the land of the Philistines and to the border of Egypt…” 

If we look back in history over 1000 years before we meet a man named Abram who God called out of the Ur of Chaldeans to follow Him. This God explained to this Abram that He was the Most High God, the Almighty God, the Everlasting God; and He made Abram a promise. He promised him that He would make him a great nation and through Him all the families of the world would be blessed (Genesis 12). He promised him that he would have a son from his own body and his own wife and that he would have descendants as the stars of the sky and the sand of the seashore. He also told him that He was going to give him the land from the river of Egypt to the great river Euphrates  (Genesis 15). This Abram was Solomon’s fourteen greats grandfather.

God keeps His promises.

Abram, who became Abraham, didn’t get to see it all come to fruition, but he believed it (Genesis 15:6). He knew that if God said it, He would indeed see that it all came to pass.

The Lord has done what He purposed; He has accomplished His word which He commanded from days of old. 

Lamentations 2:17

Whether it be judgment or blessing, if our God has promised it, He will see it accomplished. He keeps His word.

In 2 Chronicles 1:9 Solomon prayed, “Now, O LORD God, Your promise to my father David is fulfilled, for You have made me king over a people as numerous as the dust of the earth.” This was true, however, Solomon was a little short-sighted in his prayer of thanksgiving. This promise from God to David was not just for this time in the life of Solomon, but it is a promise that reaches much further (2 Samuel 7:8-17). It is a promise that pointed to a son to come; the son who would be the Son of Man and the Son of God, Jesus the Messiah. The fulfillment of this promise in the days of Solomon was yet to come, but we now see it.

We now stand on this side of the fulfillment of the promise of David and we see this eternal Kingdom coming, yet we also still wait for this promise to be complete. We wait for our God to bring ALL of this King of kings enemies under His feet. We serve Him as we are used by Him to build His kingdom. He has promised us that as we serve Him He is preparing our place in His kingdom (John 14).  How can we believe Him? How can we trust that He is doing exactly what He said He is doing? The nation of Israel stands as witness that we can.

This tiny nation, in the midst of an enormous planet, that through the ages has remained unable to be destroyed, no matter how great her enemy or how violent her attack, stands as a glorious witness to the validity of God’s Word. It stands as a testament that His promises will be kept. When the enemy of our souls tries to make us doubt our God, all we have to do is turn our eyes to the still existing and thriving nation of Israel.

Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’

Exodus 19:5-6

There is a reason that this nation has always been targeted. There is a reason that so many through the years have tried again and again to destroy this country. There is a reason that so many have tried to wipe it off the map. The reason is bigger than the fight over land. The reason is larger than the greed of man. The reason is rooted in the serpent of old, Satan, who stands against the Creator God and all that is His.

If Satan can destroy this nation and destroy those who call her home then he can wipe out her memory and he can wipe out all she represents… but the simple fact of the matter is that no matter how hard he tries he will never succeed.

Beloved, I do not know what you are struggling with today. I do not know what doubts and fears are threatening your hope and peace today, but I write this today to encourage you to look to the reality of a little nation in a big world. A nation that for all human reasoning should not even exist, but because she is protected by a Sovereign God who made a promise to one man over 4000 years ago, she still stands. We serve a God who has kept His Word to one man for all this time, regardless of the actions of those who came after him. This same God has made promises to us… and we can trust Him to keep every single one.

Jesus Asked Why

Not long ago during my morning time with the Lord I was sitting before Him and reading through Psalm 77. As I look back in my journal, it was actually my last quiet time with the Lord on December 31st, 2017. I can’t remember why I landed on Psalm 77 that morning, I just know that it is exactly where the Lord intended me to be… or He simply met me there and took what I had, and used it to tell me what He knew I needed to know personally and also that I would need it to share with others.

Psalm 77 is titled on Bible Gateway as “Comfort in Trouble from Recalling God’s Mighty Deeds.” The last few years grief has been a struggle in my heart. Grief at the loss of my Daddy, Daddy-in-love, and Sister-in-love. Grief at the loss of friendships and trust in others. Grief at the losses I have watched others face. Grief at seeing loved ones choose paths of destruction over and over again. Grief at seeing my children hurt by those that we allowed in their lives because we thought they would have been in their lives to build them up not tear them down.

I have lost count of the times I have asked, “Why?” I have lost count of the days that I have sat before the Lord and all I could do was just sit there, because I was too overwhelmed with grief to even remember how to pray or to even believe that prayer was anything but a pointless endeavor. I have lost count of the times that I picked up my phone to text someone to ask them to pray for me because I couldn’t, and then heard the whisper in my ear that their was no one in my life to text to ask. Grief has a way of pushing you in a dark corner and convincing you that the only safe place you have is somewhere where you can’t move and no one can ask why you are in that corner. It is in seasons like this when having verses memorized like 2 Corinthians 5:7, “for we walk by faith not by sight and Hebrews 13:5, I’ll never leave you or forsake you” are vital to our survival.

In Psalm 77:1-10 we read, “My voice rises to God, and I will cry aloud; my voice rises to God, and He will hear me. In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord; in the night my hand was stretched out without weariness; my soul refused to be comforted. When I remember God, then I am disturbed; when I sigh, then my spirit grows faint. You have held my eyelids open; I am so troubled that I cannot speak. I have considered the days of old, the years of long ago. I will remember my song in the night; I will meditate with my heart, and my spirit ponders: will the Lord reject forever? And will He never be favorable again? Has His lovingkindness ceased forever? Has His promise come to an end forever? Has God forgotten to be gracious, or has He in anger withdrawn His compassion? Then I said, “It is my grief, that the right hand of the Most High has changed.

As I read Psalm 77:10, It is my grief that the right hand of the Most High has changed, the Lord spoke to my heart and I realized He was about to teach me. He was about to show me how our grief could deceive us and how the enemy of our souls can take this legitimate pain and use it to cause us to turn away from Him instead of too Him. He was about to teach me that He was not ignorant of the devil’s schemes and that He saw me and knew right were I was in the midst of this grief and He did not hold these thoughts against me… I was forgiven and I was His and He had hold of me even when I screamed at Him to let me go.

 

As I continued reading in the Word and read through the rest of Psalm 77, the Lord spoke to my heart and He said this is how you get through. Psalm 77:11-14 says, “I shall remember the deeds of the Lord; surely I will remember Your wonders of old. I will meditate on all Your work and muse on Your deeds. Your way, O God, is holy; what god is great like our God? You are the God who works wonders; You have made known Your strength among the peoples.” 

In our grief we have to choose to remember WHO our God is and ALL that He has done. We have to choose to remember what He has done from the beginning through the lives of those recorded in Scripture and we have to choose to remember what we know that He has done through our own personal lives and the lives of those we know. We have to cling to Him through His Word even if we are struggling to believe one iota of it is true. Our grief deceives us. God’s Word is the only weapon that cuts through deception. 

Then I began this prayer in my journal…

Oh Father, In our grief it is easy to feel as though You have abandoned and forgotten us. It is tempting to feel as if You have rejected us and that Your Word cannot be trusted. Oh Father, let not our grief overtake us or destroy us. Though our hearts ache and our insides quake, though our eyes rain down tears and our cries thunder deep within our souls, do not leave us in our affliction or doubt. Bring to our remembrance the truth. Rise up Your Holy Spirit within us and be our Comforter and guide us out of this valley of the shadow. Help us to remember all Your mighty deeds and set us up on the Rock that is higher that we might get the right perspective and therefore have victory over these emotions that want to control us. Give us Your peace. My Jesus, Prince of Peace, capture and rule our hearts and take Lordship over our minds. We love You. We praise You. We lift up Your precious and most holy name and we look forward to the day that You come again. My Jesus, it is in Your name that I pray, AMEN. 

You know many times when we are in grief some well meaning people tell us to not ask why. The enemy of our souls can even heap guilt on our already overwhelmed hearts because we do ask why. Sometimes even when we know why… we STILL can’t help but ask why. If you are in a place right now where you are asking why, let me unburden your heart from any guilt or false condemnation and remind you that JESUS ASKED WHY.

About the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why haveYou forsaken Me?”

Matthew 27:46

Jesus knew this moment was coming. He came for this moment. He had worked out His questions with the Father in the Garden of Gethsemane as He asked, “My Father, if it is possible let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will (Matthew 26:39). Yet, when push came to shove and He was toe to toe with the greatest pain of His life in this flesh Jesus asked why.

However, He didn’t stay in His why… He asked why and then He chose to remember.

After this, Jesus, knowing that all things had already been accomplished, to fulfill the Scripture, said, “I am thirsty.” A jar full of sour wine was standing there; so they put a sponge full of the sour wine upon a branch of hyssop and brought it up to His mouth. Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.

John 19:28-30

The way out of our grief precious ones is to remember. Remember who Your God is. Remember all His promises. Now the question is have you spent enough time with Him in His Word to know Him? If we are to remember Him, His mighty deeds, and His promises, we have to first learn them. Oh beloved, learn them.

Wearing Nothing But A Crown

 

The dangers of misinterpretation of the Word of God by mankind are real. In my sixteen years of studying the Scriptures I have learned to hold fast to the simplicity of the direct commands and precepts of God in His Word and take lightly any interpretations by man given on passages that are not directly, “Thus sayeth the LORD.” There are things in scripture that are quite clear and then there are things that anyone can twist and distort to make them say what they want them to say in order to prove their own point and grant themselves authority and power over the hearts and minds of others.

Some mis-interpretations may seem like a little thing, and I do believe that there are many times that they are because they don’t change the big picture all that much. However, some can be life altering, chain breaking, and freedom delivering… or they can be chain binding and freedom stealing.

I once sat before a young girl who was sitting in front of me in tears nursing a newborn. She had been abandoned by her husband because he had decided this marriage and baby thing really wasn’t for him and as I asked her about her relationship with the Lord she shared with me that she believed in Jesus and wanted to be saved but her pastor said she wasn’t accepted by God until she had spoken in tongues… and so far she hadn’t and couldn’t. At that moment I wanted to gut punch a so called pastor. Instead I took her to 1 Corinthians 12 – 13 and Ephesians 2:8-9 and prayed that God Himself would teach her truth as I prayed with her that day.

I was reminded of this as I watched a sermon from the book of Esther on my computer not long ago. Now I have studied the book of Esther and have taught from this book countless times. I learned this book from trusted teachers who also had learned it from trusted teachers. However, the other day as I went to JD Greer’s church website, pulled up a sermon to listen to, and chose the one from the book of Esther because this book has always been a place of strength and encouragement for me as it reminds me of God’s sovereignty, I listened to Greer share from this book. I listened as he brought attention to Queen Vashti as he introduced the background of the story and I heard something I had never heard before.

I have always been taught to compare Vashti to Esther in this book in every study that I seen on it. Vashti was always depicted as a rebellious, stubborn, and arrogant woman and Esther as an obedient, respectful, and humble woman. In these studies I was encouraged to be an Esther and not a Vashti. Yet, I had never been taught that King Ahasuerus was not simply asking Vashti to leave her own party and step in and wave at those in the King’s banquet, but according to JD Greer was ACTUALLY being asked to walk into a room filled with the drunken King’s and all his drunk buddies wearing nothing but her crown.  If this is the correct interpretation of this moment in history… then Vashti should be celebrated along with Esther in this story, not used as her antithesis in comparison.

If she is compared to Esther, then her comparison should be taught as the woman who said “I will NOT go to the King and if I perish, I perish.” This is how from this day forward that I will teach this book. No longer will Vashti be taught from me as a woman not to imitate, but she will indeed be heralded as the woman of courage that she proved herself to be. A woman who in her willingness to say, “NO, I will not go” made the way for Esther to be a woman who could say, “YES, I will go…” We need more Vashti’s in this day.

We need more Vashti’s to say NO and when they are removed, when they do suffer the consequences of that NO, then let their be Esther’s there ready to come in behind them and fill those royal shoes with as much backbone and dignity and power and strength in the Lord as she who made the way for her to be there. In this world our No’s can be just as powerful as our Yes’s. Our No I won’t can mean we perish just as much as our Yes I will. 

We need Vashti’s who are willing to say I don’t care if I lose my career. I don’t care if I get mocked. I don’t care if this means I become a one passage story that is buried. I don’t do this for my own well being, but for every woman, every girl, every single person that didn’t get the opportunity to say NO. If I perish, I perish, but I will not come at your bidding and be commanded to walk before you wearing nothing but a crown.

You see I know a Man who would never ask that of me or any other woman. I know a Man that instead said I, I will be lifted up in front of the entire world for you wearing nothing but a crown so that you, YOU, can be FULLY clothed in robes of righteousness.

I will rejoice greatly in the Lord, My soul will exult in my God; For He has clothed me with garments of salvation, He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness, 

(Isaiah 61:10)

This is why we must never stop learning. This is why as people who profess to know God we must never take one man’s interpretation of the Scriptures as the only interpretation. I believe with all my heart that God’s Word is infallible. It is indeed absolute truth. However, when it begins to be filtered through the fingers of fallible mankind it can be misconstrued, misused, and even abused. This is why we must never turn our brains off when we listen to or read man’s opinions and interpretations of God’s Word. We must never stop learning the Word, never stop reasoning the Word, and never stop applying the Sword of the Spirit to the word of any person, especially any who proclaim the Word of God.

Yes, Esther was born for such a time as this… but so was Vashti, and beloved of God, so were you. 

and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation

Acts 17:26

 

 

 

 

 

My Savior Lives

I am reminded again…

I am not skilled to understand, what God has willed, what God has planned, I only know that at His right hand, stands One who is my Savior…

I am studying the Psalms during my mornings with God, and I am currently learning more about my Savior from Psalms 22, 23, and 24. These mornings have been so sweet as we draw near to Christmas, the day we have chosen to celebrate the birth of Christ, the Messiah. The Promised Seed, the Savior, the Only One who can say “Yet You are He who brought me forth from the womb; You made me trust when upon my mother’s breast. Upon You I was cast from birth; You have been my God from my mother’s womb.”(Psalm 22:9-10).

Jesus is the only man or woman to ever be born without the reproach of sin. Conceived by the Holy Spirit of God in the womb of a virgin. “Who although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”(Philippians 2:6-8). Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?”(Psalm 22:1) He cried out with such anguish that the rocks shook.

Jesus, the God-Man, always in perfect union and fellowship with the Father, cries out, because for the first and only time the Father had to forsake Him as the sins of the world were placed upon Him. As He, fully God and fully man, completely laid aside His divine in order to suffer in His body the due penalty of my sins, He cried out, forsaken. Christ on the cross, with no where to turn, and with no one to turn to…

Before the time of the cross, no matter what earthly family or friend turned His back on Him, Jesus always had the Father, but in this moment, Christ was alone. He made no sound and no cry for help as He was betrayed by His friends. No sound, no defense, no denial of who He was and is as He stood before the council. No fear, no cry for mercy as He stood before Pilate or before the crowd (Isaiah 53:7).

On the cross, lifted high as was the bronze serpent on the standard (Numbers 21), Christ finally began to speak. As the world below looked up at Him and mocked His naked, beaten person, on that cross; as the world below continues to this very day to look up and mock that beautiful God-Man on the cross, Christ cried out and continues to cry out, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”(Luke 23:34). As the weight of my sins and your sins were cast upon Him and as the holiness of God turned His face away from Him, Jesus, cried out, with a cry that the likeness of has never been heard before or since, and He was forsaken, alone.

He was alone, so that no other ever has to be. He was forsaken, so that we never have to be. We can be, if we refuse, but we never HAVE to be. No matter what happens on this earth, no matter what man may do to me, no matter what circumstances might come my way, I will never be alone. Even in death, I am not alone. I will not lie on my death bed in fear or concern of not knowing if I have been good enough to be allowed to enter into the realm of heaven’s eternity, because I have assurance in Him and in His word. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.”(John 3:16)

On that cross, Christ breathed His last and said “It is finished”, the debt was paid in full. “It will be told of the LORD to the coming generation. They will come and will declare His righteousness to a people who will be born, that He has performed it.” (Psalm 22:30-31). I declare His righteousness today and I declare that He has performed it. I will declare it until I breathe my last, because I believe it with all my heart, all my mind, and all my soul.

In no other place do I know of such a God, who would lay aside His divine, His deity, in order to save a wretch like me, but oh, my Elohim, He did. He did and so “Those who seek Him will praise the LORD. Let your heart live forever!”(Psalm 22:26). I don’t always understand why. I don’t always understand how. I don’t always get to know when and where and what for in the things of life. I do, however, always get to know WHO and that Who is my risen Savior who stands at my Father’s right hand.

Show Me Your Glory

And gave up His strength to captivity And His glory into the hand of the adversary (Psalm 78:61)

 

Sometimes the Lord will wake you up in the middle of the night with an insight and then the truth that He shows you just keeps circling around and around in your head. This happened to me last week. As I slept the Lord brought to my mind a word that Jesus shared with His disciples that we have recorded in the book of Luke…

28 For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and consider whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand? 32 Or else, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33 So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions. (Luke 14:28-33)

As the Spirit spoke this passage in my heart the Lord reminded me that the coming of Jesus was planned out before the foundation of the world.

“For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you…” (1 Peter 1:20)

“Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” (Matthew 25:34)

Jesus was the Builder and the King who counted the cost. Before He spoke the world into existence (Genesis 1:3, John 1:1-4, Hebrews 1:1-3) and created man in His own image, He had already calculated what creating this world and building this kingdom would cost Him. He already knew that it could cost Him His glory and cost Him His life. He already knew that it would require Him to leave the majesty and honor of heaven and be humbled on this earth. He knew that it would mean humbling Himself to the point of being born of a woman as a child in flesh and blood. A child that would be surrendered into the hands of His own creation who had been made corrupt and cruel by sin and the deceiver of old to be cared for until He grew to be a man who would be humbled to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:5-11)

Jesus in complete faith in the Father laid aside His glory and trusted that He would be restored to it in accordance with the plan that had been purposed before there was a world to save. As the Word of His power said, “Let there be light…” He had already taken into consideration the state of a could be sinful mankind and the wiles of the serpent of old that would do all he could to deceive and destroy so that he could stake his claim as ruler and prince of the world that God had spoken into existence. Yet, even so, Jesus still, “gave up His strength to captivity and His glory into the hand of the adversary” (Psalm 78:61).

He was able to surrender all because He knew that He was not alone and that the Father in Heaven and the Holy Spirit would indeed see His mission accomplished. He laid aside His glory with no fear of insurrection or concern of abandonment for He knew they were One in unity and purpose…

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness…” (Genesis 1:26)

Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” (Isaiah 6:8)

In the book of Exodus Moses is talking with God and crying out to Him to not leave the people of Israel though they were a stiff-necked and rebellious people. In His prayer to God he cries out, “I pray You, show me Your glory!” The Lord replies and lets Moses look upon His back as He passes by in front of him, but that is all that can be seen of God at this time without the glory of His holiness destroying Moses’ sinful self were he stood. For not even the angels around the throne of God crying “Holy, Holy, Holy,” could look upon His face… that is until one day a child was born and His name was Immanuel, God with us.

14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

Then the glory which was given to the Word made flesh, the Immanuel God with us, the Son of Man and Son of God, He gave to those who believed… that they, who believe, might also be one with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit perfected in unity and purpose.

The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; 23 I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.  (John 17:22-23)

In Exodus 33 Moses cried show me Your glory and could only see the back of God. Then in John 1 God’s glory comes down and we can now behold the glory of God in the face of Jesus. Then in John 17 Jesus prays for us that not only will we behold His glory, but He is giving that glory to us so that, as 2 Corinthians 3 declares, we can show His glory to the world as they see us being transformed by it and conformed to the image of the One who came and died and rose again to bestow it upon us.

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, (2 Corinthians 3:18)

Now when the Moses’ of the world cry out, “show me Your glory!” Our God looks at us and says, “now is your chance, show them My glory.”

25 Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, so that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God, 26 that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, 27 to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ.  (Colossians 1:25-28)

So beloved of God as you enter in to this Christmas season and as we remember the day that heaven came down and glory walked this earth and Jesus made the way for glory to fill our soul, how are you showing the world His glory? Are you willing to follow in the footsteps of the King of Glory and count the cost and willingly submit to the purpose of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit and humble yourselves to be obedient to whatever He has called you to even to the point of being obedient to the point of death, even death on your own cross?


 

Do I Really Trust God With My Kids

 We began homeschooling our middle daughter in the 4th grade. I had her tested to see what grade level material we would need to use with her. We ended up starting her on 6th grade material in the 4th grade. She was able to continue on that track through each following year and now she will be graduating high school at 16 years of age.

Now in my “momma-plan” I knew that she would be graduating early. However in MY “momma-plan” she would simply continue to attend one of our local community colleges and live at home while she completed her basic courses toward her degree. What was NOT in my “momma-plan” was for her to be courted by major colleges and universities with scholarship awards once her ACT scores came in. My plan had not considered this possibility. I suppose my Momma heart just would not let my Momma mind go there.

So now here I am taking Senior photos and designing Senior yearbook ads and looking through pictures of her from baby to preteen to young woman and there are times that I feel like I can’t breathe. The day she was born I remember the mini panic attack that would hit my heart every single time she was being held in someone else’s arm… Could I trust them with her? Would they drop her?

Of course those mini panic attacks didn’t last long. From her birth she screamed like a banshee with a cry that could literally be heard for miles and she never slept… and I do mean NEVER.  Two years into this bundle of blue-eyed joy’s life I still had not slept through the night and would be overjoyed if and when I ever got at least four hours of sleep at one time. Therefore, I was readily agreeable to share her with her grandparents and aunts for the night when she was only months old. However, like every other season in life, this season did pass and she did finally learn to sleep. Yet, I think God used this season to teach me from the beginning how to let my babies go and trust Him with them.

Now, sixteen years later I am having to learn this lesson all over again as we plan to not just send her to her grandparents, but hours away to live in a dorm on a college campus. For the past sixteen years we have known at all times where our daughter was,  who she was with, and what she was doing. To this very day she is expected to check in by text when she leaves one location and arrives at another, not because we don’t trust her to be where she said would be, but because we need to know she left, what direction she will be traveling, and that she arrived alive.

All her life we have been right behind her. Teaching, coaching, leading, challenging, and encouraging. We both believed in preparing our kids for life as soon as possible. We both looked at life through lenses that saw that we were not promised tomorrow, so we better do all we can to make sure they have the strength and ability to stand on their own two feet and know how to make decisions and take responsibility in life.  This parenting approach has caused our girls to actually have conflict and tensions with both adults and their peers for varying reasons, but that’s okay with us. What we as their parents know is that if we were to die in some unforeseen tragedy tomorrow, our girls are equipped with Jesus and life skills that will allow them to not just survive in this world, but to thrive.

There is no way that we as parents can prepare our children for everything they might face in life, but we can use everything that they do face along the way to teach them the foundational truths that they can apply toward those things. Their whole lives when a “new thing” presented itself, instead of us doing it for them, we helped them do it themselves. I honestly can’t think of anything that I do in my daily life that my girls do not have the knowledge or ability to do themselves. My husband and I look at our girls and we don’t worry what would happen to them if we were no longer here… we look at them knowing we have done and are doing our job to prepare them for life without us.

We are looking at the beginning of the transitioning from parent zone to best friend zone with our middle and its a beautiful thing. (Noted: we are “looking” we ain’t there, parent zone is still well in effect.) I got to experience this transition with my own parents. If my husband and I were looking for a couple to watch the football game with or to go on vacation with, we always asked one of our parents first because they were our best friends and we genuinely love spending time with them. I hope that all of our girls will feel that way about us as well.

Today my husband is taking our middle and her little sister to the campus that she very well might be calling home this time next year. She will have professors and friends that I might never meet teaching her things that I will not be there at the end of the day to know about. She will no longer be passing by me every day allowing me to see the look in her eyes, the expressions on her face, or the body language movements that her Daddy and I could always recognize as tell tales that she was inwardly struggling with something. We will now have to send her off and we will do so having to believe God.

We say we trust God with our kids. We say we believe His Word, but now is when we really have to put our faith where our trust is. Do I really trust the Lord with my kids? Do I really trust His Holy Spirit to guide her into all truth (John 16:13)? Do I really believe that His grace is sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9) and will give her the power that she needs to live a godly life (Titus 2:11-14) when we are not there with our parental fence? Will He really protect her from every evil deed and support her (2 Timothy 4:16-17) like He promised He would ?

I am currently preparing a message to share at a women’s event and I will be asking questions very similar to these of others. God has always been faithful to never allow me to teach or challenge others with something that I am not willing to or have not already walked through myself. He has a way of keeping me real and I’m grateful.  So as He presses these questions on my heart and uses life to demand an answer of me… the best answer that I can give is the same as another parent that stood before Jesus with their child and cried, “Yes Lord I believe, help my unbelief.” (Mark 9:24).

Those Who Hopefully Wait

“…those who hopefully wait for Me will not be put to shame.”
(Isaiah 49:23)

 

When the days seem long and hard.
When the nights appear ever more dark.
When the heart carries wounds that do not want to heal
When the mind is weary from fighting hard to overcome fear
When worries and cares try to tangle and bind the feet
Then lift up eyes and let the Word of God speak
Look to the skies and the heavens great display
Know that on the clouds the Lord will come in holy array
Recall His promises and remember His might
Let grace take over and faith’s power be greater than sight
Hope is the anchor that reaches deep within the veil
Love is the hook that snatches from every worldly hell
God is the victor His Spirit will prevail
The Son the redeemer will rule without fail
Justice and mercy and righteousness soon abound
Life and peace a gift for all who in Christ are found
Until that day when enemies fall under the Savior’s reign
Hopefully wait knowing that none in Him will be ashamed
Do not grow weary of doing good or let times make faint
Persevere, endure, patiently press on in the midst of wait
Greater is He who lives within than he who lives without
Stand firm in the Lord and in His truth never doubt
He is coming and will rescue and will make all wrongs right
Lean into Him and rest knowing His own He holds tight
~ NLHV

Submitted And Committed

This past week as I visited school campuses in Morgan county I stood and listened to a young man share with his classmates about what is required to be a true follower of Jesus Christ. He shared from a familiar passage in the gospels where our Lord is teaching that we must deny ourselves and take up our own cross and follow Him. The point that he made that stuck out to me and has continued to resonate was his statement to follow Jesus we must be submitted and committed.

Jesus allowed many to follow Him and listen to His teaching and to experience His signs and miracles. However, before He opened Himself to sharing the deep things of God He required a true commitment that could only come through submission to death. He would call His followers to a cross and He would show them what it looked like to carry it. Jesus never requires of others what He has not already carried out Himself.

True followers of Christ must be submitted to the will of God and committed to the Word of God. Jesus came to this world as the Word made flesh to show us what this really looked like and how it is lived out in actuality and not just theory. He carried out the will of God and stayed true to the Word of God every where He went, no matter who He was around. He could stand behind a pulpit that morning and dine with prostitutes that night and never deny the Father or grieve the Holy Spirit.

Jesus showed us what it means to be in the world, but not of it. Jesus showed us how to not be friends with the world, and yet still so love the people in it that we go into all the world and make disciples. Jesus taught us how to never speak harshly to a blind lost soul, and also how to never back down from a legalistic judgmental Bible distorter who does… no matter how many they gather to their side.

Jesus could do this and never be stained by it. He could do this because He had no sin within and no sin on Him. He could do this and remain unblemished because He was God in the flesh, full of grace and truth. The only time He carried sin, was when He took on ours to carry it to the grave. He buried it there and He rose from that grave because death could not hold Him because the wages of sin is death and He had no wage of His own to pay. He paid ours; and then He rose fully God, fully man, fully alive from all eternity.

Before His substitutionary death, after His bodily resurrection, and before His heavenly ascension to the Father He commissioned us to go and continue the work He started in the way He demonstrated. However, He knew that while we remained on this earth, we would remain in this flesh. The weight of sin would no longer be on us but the war with sin would continue to be a battle within us. He taught us how to deal with this as He knelt before a know it all Peter and explained to him that although he was clean because of the Word of God, his feet would still get dirty and he needed to know that Jesus would always be there to wash His feet.

When we choose to be brave enough to step out as followers of Christ and be His ambassador in this world, the real world, the one that is all nasty and perverse and crooked, and we choose to actually get close enough to be the Light in it, then it never fails that there will be times when some of it “gets on us”. Jesus knew that it would, that’s why He was willing to sit before us ready to wash it off so that we could get back out there and salt on. It’s easy to appear to stay all nice and clean when you place yourself inside your self-made kingdom and attempt to control everything and everyone inside of it. However, I believe Jesus had rather us be brave enough to take the chance on getting dirty because we have enough faith in Him to get us clean again without us ever destroying our witness for Him before those that it really matters.

Those that are truly suffering in this life and striving with sin can see through a condescending offering of the gospel. They can tell when the Bible verse is being shared with an air of arrogance and superiority. A high horse is always easily spotted from those who are walking on the ground.

Our family has learned that we had rather stay on the ground and do what we can to be the salt and light and have to return again and again and again to our Jesus to get our feet washed than to ride on that high horse keeping our feet all clean in the stirrups. This is what it is for us to die to ourselves and take up our cross and follow Him. This is what it is for us to be submitted and committed to Jesus. It means we will get rejected again and again by both those who don’t like our Light and by those who don’t like our sometimes dirty feet. It’s not easy. It’s humbling. It flat out gets our feelings hurt repeatedly… but it’s also rewarding. The Lord is always faithful to remind us why He has us where He does.

Our family is not perfect, but we are indeed perfectly loved and we need no one’s approval but God’s. We are submitted and committed to the will and Word of God and we are brave enough to trust Him to keep us from the evil one as we step into this world that is ruled by the prince of darkness in order to be a laborer in it sowing the seed of the gospel.

We choose to love God and love people, all people. We choose to risk wading through muck and mire in the hopes that we are able to grab a few by the collar and pull them out with us. We are thankful for those that choose to jump in that muck and mire with us. It can get awful messy at times, but it ain’t nothing that Jesus can’t wash off.

No Greater Joy

There is a verse in the Bible that becomes more and more real as I watch my children grow into adulthood. In 3 John 1:4, John writes that he has no greater joy than to see that his children are walking in the truth. As a parent the stages that life takes you through are like a rollercoaster ride with its tunnels, twists, and turns. There are times when you wonder what in the world you are doing and there are times when you feel like everything you did do was in vain. Then there are moments when God lets you see that what He promised remains steadfast and true.

Our sixteen year old is attending college as a dual-enrollment student. Yesterday she shared with us about how one of her class discussion times turned toward the subject of homosexuality and the LGBT movement. Here she is the youngest in the class and she willing stepped up and became the only voice that spoke from a Biblical worldview. However, what she shared that made this Momma’s heart so very full of joy is HOW she shared our worldview. She was shocked that the class was shocked that she could hold the view that she does and yet still be kind.

She had the opportunity to share that she could completely disagree with the choices that someone was making and the lifestyle they were living and yet still choose to love that person and treat them as the human being they indeed remained to be. There is never an excuse to not be kind. As long as there is breath there is hope that the Spirit of God will break through into someone’s heart. How sad it would be for us to be a reason that a wall is built instead of a reason that a wall was weakened.

Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?

Romans 2:4

Our youngest was sharing with me not long ago about how there was a young girl that was visiting church around her age. Several of the students shared with her that the girl was trouble and was involved with a rough crowd and advised her to stay away from her. Our youngest looked at them and said, “Well then she NEEDS to be here and she needs to make new friends and she won’t do that if she does not feel welcome here.” My daughter then proceeded to grab some more friends that felt the way she did and they went and joined the young girl and chose to sit with her. Our daughter continues to meet her with open arms every time she walks in the door.

This is the kind of children I prayed that I would be faithful to raise. Children that knew how to be IN the world, but NOT OF the world.

And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.

Mark 16:15

My husband and I chose to trust that our Father God would do exactly what His Son asked Him to do when He prayed for us in John 17 right before He was arrested and went to the cross for us.

“I have manifested Your name to the men whom You gave Me out of the world; they were Yours and You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. Now they have come to know that everything You have given Me is from You; for the words which You gave Me I have given to them; and they received them and truly understood that I came forth from You, and they believed that You sent Me. I ask on their behalf; I do not ask on behalf of the world, but of those whom You have given Me; for they are Yours; 10 and all things that are Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine; and I have been glorified in them. 11 I am no longer in the world; and yet they themselves are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me, that they may be one even as We are. 12 While I was with them, I was keeping them in Your name which You have given Me; and I guarded them and not one of them perished but the son of perdition, so that the Scripture would be fulfilled. 13 But now I come to You; and these things I speak in the world so that they may have My joy made full in themselves. 14 I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.17 Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. 18 As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. 19 For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth. 20 “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; 21 that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.

My husband and I attended a ministry celebration of some dear new friends, Pastor Daryl and Annette Little. As they shared at the end of the dinner Pastor Little made a very profound statement. I wish I had written it down or could recall it word for word, but he shared how this is the time that we have been given, this is the people that we share this time with, and we need to stop and realize that we are all spending this life together.

This is the time that the sovereign hand of God chose to appoint to us. He purposely and specifically chose for us to live in this day of technology, in this day of global marketing, in this day of climate change politics, in this day of division, in this day of sexual perversion, in this day of media manipulation, in this day of false gospel and self promotion. He chose us for today.

God isn’t shocked by the world. Nothing has happened or will happen that He is not fully aware of and has not fully equipped His people to thrive in, so let us thrive.

Let us choose to walk in the truth in love with bold authentic kindness. Let us make eye contact. Let us use our words and our deeds to proclaim the gospel of God (James 2:18). Let us choose to put on Jesus every single day (Colossians 3:1-17). Let us choose to say no to words and actions that do not portray the One who died to give us life.

This is our time. May we make the most of it.

The writing and teachings of Nicole Love Halbrooks Vaughn