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.

He Never Forgets Us

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“Can a woman forget her nursing child
And have no compassion on the son of her womb?
Even these may forget, but I will not forget you.
“Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands;
Your walls are continually before Me.
Isaiah 49:15-16

I attempted to nurse both of my biological children. With my first, my milk just never seemed to come in enough to keep my child satisfied. I ended up giving up when she was close to three months old and feeding her cereal and formula to keep her full. With my youngest, I had plenty of milk. I was abundantly blessed with it. I can remember waking up in the middle of the night in pain because I NEEDED my daughter to nurse. Even if she was sleeping  peacefully through the night, I simply could not stay lost in my own dreamworld because my body remembered my nursing child even as I tried to sleep.

When I read this verse in Isaiah, “Can a woman forget her nursing child…” I remember these nights and this feeling and the impact of this verse and the point the Lord is trying to make resonates within my soul and then I read the second part of that verse and it hits like a brick across my heart… “even these may forget, but I will not forget you.”

According to noheatstroke.org six hundred and ninety-three children have died in the past eighteen years from being left behind in a vehicle. Four hundred and eighty five of those were two years old and younger. These would have all been considered nursing age children in the days that Isaiah spoke these words. We live in a day where we are so distracted that we are forgetting our nursing children. We are living in the “even these” of Isaiah 49:15.

We can be so rushed, so scheduled, so routined, so focused on the next thing and scattered about everything that we forget the most important things, but our God calls out to us and says, even these… even a mother her nursing child… even these may forget but I will not forget you.

Has life ever made you feel like you have been forgotten? Have you ever just sat and felt like the world was going on without you as if you were not even there? Have you ever been abandoned in a time of need when those you expected to come to you did not… when those that said they would be there were not? No doubt we all have at some point and time in our life.

But God never forgets us. Never. He says that we are inscribed in the palm of His hands…

Then He *said to Thomas, “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.”

John 20:27

No matter how forgotten we may feel… our feelings lie. If we belong to God in and through Christ then He is in us and we are in Him and we are His. Though He has the entire world to rule sovereignly over. Though He commands the sun to rise and set and the waves to go so far. Though He is there to care for the sparrow and guard the ostriches eggs. Though He watches over the walls of nations and the makeshift tent of the refugee. He is never too distracted, rushed, or scattered to leave any of His children behind. We will never be forgotten by our Savior because He is never separated from us. He never leaves us and He never forsakes us… and He never ever forgets us.

A Bulldog Can Whip A Skunk But It Isn’t Worth The Fight

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I was listening to an episode of Real Life this morning and in his message Phil Waldrep shared a quote of advice concerning dealing with issues. He shared how a someone told him once that a bulldog can whip a skunk but it isn’t worth the fight. This is one of the hard lessons that the Lord has taught me in my walk with Him.

When we hear wrong thinking and wrong speaking especially when it concerns us we often are ready to come in like a bulldog and chase that skunk down and tear them to bits. However, in doing so we are the ones who walk away stinking to high heaven and the stench runs deep and doesn’t easily wash off. As a matter of fact it sticks to anyone in our vicinity. It is a smell that will linger in our own nostrils for days to come.

In 1 Corinthians Paul is writing the church in Corinth because they are dealing with a lot of issues. They seem to be stirred up over things that need not be and ignoring things that should be stirred up about and addressing immediately. It’s really not unlike many of our present churches and actually even our nation today.

I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not among you one wise man who will be able to decide between his brethren, but brother goes to law with brother, and that before unbelievers? Actually, then, it is already a defeat for you, that you have lawsuits with one another. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded? On the contrary, you yourselves wrong and defraud. You do this even to your brethren

1 Corinthians 6:5-8

When I was children’s minister I taught a VBS that discussed what the curriculum called the D-darts of the devil. I have never forgotten this lesson. It was meant to teach kids, but it taught me as well. The D-darts of the devil–doubt, depression, deception, distraction, disappointment, discouragement–are all tools that he uses to detour us off God’s path and purpose for our lives. He wants to destroy us and our witness for Christ and His gospel and he will use all his means to do so.

His method of distraction is best seen in his ability to get us all riled up over something that in the light of eternity does not amount to a hill of beans. I have learned that I simply am not going to argue with someone concerning opinions. I’m not going to debate on social media where someone cannot see the countenance of my face or hear the tone of my voice. I also am not going to give a watching world a reason to hate the church of my Jesus simply because some of her brothers and sisters are illegitimate or immature.

There are things worth fighting for and defending, but if the only reason you are opening your mouth is because you see yourself as the bulldog and you know that you can use your teeth to whip what you deem to be a skunk… you, my friend, are the one that will walk away in a great stench and the watching world will run to the rescue of the wounded skunk.

Rather be the skunk.

Rather be defrauded.

Rather be wronged.

 

 

 

 

 

Join Me On The Journey

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I have exciting news! I have just been invited to come on staff with FCA of North Alabama! I will be the first female staff member ever in this area. My ministry focus will be to the female athletes and coaches in the school campuses in four counties – Morgan, Limestone, Lawrence, and Winston.

My family and I have been praying about this opportunity for almost nine months and we are so excited that the Lord has chosen to open this door. Every time I would share with someone what this position with FCA would look like my heart would stir within me with anticipation and I would find myself getting more and more excited about the possibility.

I know what a difference it would have made in my life as an athlete and as a teenage girl to have had someone speaking truth and love into my life during this time. It wasn’t that my parents were not, it just simply is that sometimes it needs to be coming from others as well, especially at this age in life.

I am also looking forward to the opportunity to be able to love on our female coaches! I want to be able to be there to encourage them and help them stay focused on why they chose to be a teacher to begin with and why they chose to coach. Coaches have a wide open door of influence in students lives. They have the opportunity to impact the heart and mind of a student that will stay with them long after their playing days are over. Coaching is something that a teacher does on top of their regular teaching obligations and family responsibilities so they, no doubt, need this time of encouragement. 

I am beyond excited about this new adventure! However, I need your help. I will not be able to reach into the lives of these ladies without you. Will you partner with me to make this happen?

As you read this, will you just stop right here and ask the Lord if He is leading you to join my team. I need you on my team. I need you to join me on this journey. If you are reading this, it is not by accident.

I need those who are willing to commit to monthly support. I need those who are willing to give yearly or bi-yearly support. I need those who can give $500 a month and those who can give $10 a month. I need those who can give anywhere in between. I need businesses and churches and individuals that are called and willing to partner with me.

Are you already giving to FCA? Will you consider donating those funds in my name and supporting me?

I have less than a month to get this ball going so that I can get on the field by October 1st! Will you get me on that field? The fields are white for harvest and this laborer is ready to work.

If you can’t give right now will you commit to pray for me and this new ministry within FCA?

If you need more information I would love to meet with you and share my heart and vision for this ministry.

If you are led to donate and you do so, please let me know so that I can let you know my gratitude for your giving.

If you commit to pray, please let me know so that I can thank the Lord for you and pray for you in return.

Simply send me an email to nicolelhvaughn@provenpathministries.com

If you are ready to donate simply click “Partner With Nicole” and write “For Nicole Vaughn” in the Notes box.  

Partner With Nicole

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I am looking forward to hearing from you…

 

Labor To Complete Not Compete

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According to the United States Department of Labor, “Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.

It was in 1884 that the first Monday in September was selected as the holiday, as originally proposed, and the Central Labor Union urged similar organizations in other cities to follow the example of New York and celebrate a “workingmen’s holiday” on that date. The idea spread with the growth of labor organizations, and in 1885 Labor Day was celebrated in many industrial centers of the country.

Today Labor Day in America is celebrated with food and fun with family and friends and shopping sales. Labor Day was put in to effect by our country to celebrate and honor the American worker. This day was set aside for the nation to be able to affirm and acknowledge that they knew that America had become the great nation that it was because of the work ethic and integrity of the American who worked in the fields, in industries, in education, in medicine, and so on.

The ability to labor and the willingness to accept the responsibility to do so is a gift of our Creator God.

 

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him;male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
Genesis 1:26-28

Of course after the fall that gift of work and responsibility became a little more laborious…

Then to Adam He said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat from it’;

Cursed is the ground because of you;
In toil you will eat of it
All the days of your life.
 “Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you;
And you will eat the plants of the field;
By the sweat of your face
You will eat bread,
Till you return to the ground,
Because from it you were taken;
For you are dust,
And to dust you shall return.”
Genesis 3:17-19

 

Because Adam chose to listen to the words of his wife who had been deceived by Satan instead of obeying the words that he himself had heard straight from God, sin entered the world. Sin brings death and that death also included the death of the earth and things of the earth. Everything that we can see with our physical eyes or touch with our physical hands is dying or already dead.
Before sin there was only enjoyment in caring for the earth that God created because there was never a fear of death creeping in and destroying the work of your hands. After the fall it was no longer just cultivating the growth but fighting to keep it alive. After the fall came the times when you worked for months and even years to get something exactly right and you could actually enjoy the fruit of your labors to have a locust attack, a drought, a fire, a thief, a murderer come in and destroy it or you right before your eyes. Then all that you worked for was gone.

 

This is why King Solomon wrote:

 

I enlarged my works: I built houses for myself, I planted vineyards for myself; I made gardens and parks for myself and I planted in them all kinds of fruit trees; I made ponds of water for myself from which to irrigate a forest of growing trees. I bought male and female slaves and I had home born slaves. Also I possessed flocks and herds larger than all who preceded me in Jerusalem. Also, I collected for myself silver and gold and the treasure of kings and provinces. I provided for myself male and female singers and the pleasures of men—many concubines.
Then I became great and increased more than all who preceded me in Jerusalem. My wisdom also stood by me. All that my eyes desired I did not refuse them. I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure, for my heart was pleased because of all my labor and this was my reward for all my labor. Thus I considered all my activities which my hands had done and the labor which I had exerted, and behold all was vanity and striving after wind and there was no profit under the sun.
Ecclesiastes 2:1-11

Thus I hated all the fruit of my labor for which I had labored under the sun, for I must leave it to the man who will come after me. And who knows whether he will be a wise man or a fool? Yet he will have control over all the fruit of my labor for which I have labored by acting wisely under the sun. This too is vanity. Therefore I completely despaired of all the fruit of my labor for which I had labored under the sun. When there is a man who has labored with wisdom, knowledge and skill, then he gives his legacy to one who has not labored with them. This too is vanity and a great evil. For what does a man get in all his labor and in his striving with which he labors under the sun? Because all his days his task is painful and grievous; even at night his mind does not rest. This too is vanity.
Ecclesiastes 2:18-23

What King Solomon realized is that if we labor for the things of this world and for our own pleasures and glory we will spend our lives being miserable and unsatisfied. Yet, labor in itself is good.

Here is what I have seen to be good and fitting: to eat, to drink and enjoy oneself in all one’s labor in which he toils under the sun during the few years of his life which God has given him; for this is his reward.
Ecclesiastes 5:18

It’s not the labor that is in vain it is rather the what we are laboring for and the why of our labor. Work is a gift from God. The ability to know that we are gifted with minds and bodies that are all uniquely qualified for certain tasks and when we put them at work together we can see amazing and satisfying results is indeed a gift of God. It is a beautiful expression of His image that we are created in.

God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. Thus the heavens and the earth were completed, and all their hosts. By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done.
Genesis 1:31 – 2:2

There is something about completion that gives us rest that satisfies. Having a thought or vision of something and starting it and seeing it completed brings a sense of well being in our souls that causes us to step back and take a deep breathe and simply, at least for the moment, be still. Just like our Creator God, our Heavenly Father did in the beginning and just as our Lord Jesus did on the cross when He said it is finished.

So if we labor after things and for the admiration of man we will never be satisfied with our labor and we will never rest. There are always more things and man is fickle. This world is like a bottomless pit and it doesn’t matter how much effort you dump into it, it is never full. Just think of the simplest thing like our current technology. Before you even know how to utilize all the amenities of your new smart phone, an announcement comes out that the one in your hand is outdated and there is bigger and better available.

If we labor for things we labor in vain. If we labor for ourselves we labor in vain. However, if we labor for the honor and glory of God we labor with purpose.

In Luke 10:2 we read of Jesus speaking to His disciples,
And He was saying to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.

Then in the book of Colossians Paul writes,

We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.

Colossians 1:28-29

In the beginning God began His work and on the sixth day He completed all His work and then He rested. Our Creator God worked to complete not compete.  He has called us to do the very same thing.

This labor day I challenge you to stop and evaluate your heart and your labors. Why do you do what you do?
  • Do you see a point of completion in your endeavors or is it a never ending striving after something that can never be finished?
  • At the end of your days will you be able to say that you have not labored in vain?
  • Is the goal of your labors to compete with those you see to have more of and in this world than you or is it to complete the present task that has been set before you?
  • Do you labor for the glory and honor of God or for yourself?
  • Are you laboring in the fields of God to see others complete in Christ?
  • What would change in your life and in your home if you worked to complete with God instead of compete with man?

 

It’s Ready In Workbook Form!

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Have you ever wondered if your kids could grasp the doctrine of salvation? Have you been taught that they are just too young to understand the depth of the Scriptures? Or perhaps you know that they can understand and learn the beautiful truths of their Creator God in meat form and are simply frustrated with the current milk market for children’s Bible study curriculum.

I have spent the summer getting a study that I wrote through the book of Romans in workbook form. It has been available on Kindle for over a year, but now this series can be ordered in a ready to use workbook. This study will take your child through the entire book of Romans verse by verse. Yes! In this study I have tackled all the hard questions and prayerfully have done so in a way that will help your child understand them.

Here is what some are saying about this study:

“Nicole did a great job getting to the “meat” of the text. I would recommend this study to parents who would like to take their children to a deeper understanding of the biblical truths taught in Romans.”

 Dr. Rob Jackson
Senior Pastor
Central Baptist Church
Decatur, AL
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“This study not only pulls out riches from the Word but also teaches people how to. Nicole models proper Scripture interpretation (hermeneutics) through the use of who, what, when, where, why and how questions. She also leads the reader to compare Scripture with Scripture in order to properly interpret. After each section of study she adds a “Think About It” section to lead the reader into application. In addition, she adds occasional word studies and Greek words to help a children’s ministry leader, Sunday school teacher, or small group leader better teach and facilitate discussion of the text.

If you’re looking for an inductive study of Romans, this is a great one to pick up! It is the first of five. I look forward to checking out the others!”

Greg Brown
Chaplain and visiting professor at Handong Global University
Pastor at Handong International Congregation
Pohang, South Korea
*******
“Excellent study – I’ve used it for a teen study but have learned a lot myself as an adult going through the material.”
Kaitlin Klinkebiel

 

Below are the direct links to purchase this series for yourself!





I am also attaching a free PDF download of the first book so that you can see how the workbook is written and how you can use it at home or with a class.

Romans_Study_For_Kid_Part_One_PDF

I am also available to come and share this material with your church and to come and work with any of your children’s leaders or parents in helping them learn how to take their children deeper into the Scriptures. I love teaching! I have worked with preschoolers through adults and I can stand before you in full assurance and say that your kids are hungry for the same truth that you as an adult are hungry for.

If you are looking for a speaker for a children’s event or conference that will take your kids deeper and grow them in the grace and knowledge of God then please email me at nicolelhvaughn@provenpathministries.com and let’s get something scheduled!

 

The writing and teachings of Nicole Love Halbrooks Vaughn