Taking Responsibility

“Now if the whole congregation of Israel commits error and the matter escapes the notice of the assembly, and they commit any of the things which the Lord has commanded not to be done, and they become guilty;” 

Leviticus 4:13

We usually want to point our fingers at others and disassociate ourselves from those we believe are committing acts of sin. In the United States we divide ourselves up in the us and them categories whether it be in politics or religion or lack thereof. We pick sides and we want only our perceived guilty side to take the blame and rarely does anyone in authority step up and choose to take responsibility for the choices of those living under their authority. 

In 2020, here in the US, we have the Baby Boomers versus the Millennials with the Generation Z coming up quickly behind them. We have the Baby Boomers being blamed for criticizing and demeaning the Millennials for all that is going wrong in the world while the Millennials point the fingers back to the Boomers. What we don’t often see is the Baby Boomers, who are now the “elders” of our families, churches, and even our nation taking responsibility for what is deemed wrong in our homes, in our churches, and in our nation.

In the days of the nation of Israel’s birth when the Lord was giving these instructions for the sin offerings for the people we see that the elders were to take responsibility and action for the sin of the congregation. When it was discovered that the assembly was not walking in accordance with the command of the Lord the elders were not to stand up and point fingers at the people. They were, instead, to take the sin of the congregation upon themselves and bring it before the Lord.

It was the responsibility of the elders to teach the congregation. It was the responsibility of the elders to be the guides and the coaches and the examples to the generations that followed them. If error was found in the congregation it was not automatically assumed that it was rebelliousness of the youth but it was deemed as something unknown now becoming known and it was dealt with according to the law of God. 

The sin offering for the unintentional sin of the congregation once again would be the largest and most costly offering, a bull. The blood of the bull would also be taken and placed on the horns of the altar before the Lord which was in the tent of meeting. The blood of this offering would also be sprinkled before the Lord in front of the veil. This offering was as serious as the offering of the priest for it was just as far reaching. The elders took responsibility for the entire congregation’s sin and therefore in their forgiveness the entire congregation was forgiven. This is the grace and mercy of our God at work.

It is possible for an entire nation to be led astray and into wrong thinking and wrong actions by having the wrong perspective due to the lack of instruction of a few. Elders assuming something should be known and therefore not purposely teaching it snowballs into a generation being completely ignorant of those particular things. This ignorance leads to error and sometimes it takes a while for that error to become known. 

It is also possible for us to be living and teaching error, but be unaware that we are doing so because we cannot see it within ourselves. However, when the fruit of our lives and teaching begins to be manifested through the lives of those who live around us and learn from us, then we can finally see through them that there is error coming from us. The mercy and grace of our God makes a way for us to address this error without it leading to blaming and choosing sides and wrongful prosecutions. The elders simply acknowledge it, own it, bring it before the Lord, and it is forgiven and we change and move on in our forgiveness and knowledge. 

When our children were young there were many times and many things that I would see them say and do that I would react to and wonder why in the world they were behaving that way or saying something that way. Then I would hear it or recognize it afterward coming from myself. I had never recognized it in myself before. I had never seen it as erroneous or unkind or even annoying when it came from myself, but when I watched it lived out in them it was different. In those moments I had a choice to make. I could continue to blame and discipline them or I could take personal responsibility. I have learned that taking personal responsibility as “the elder” has never failed to change them as well as me. 

In 1 Peter 5:1-5 we read, “Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” 

Could it be in the days of the giving of Leviticus that the younger could easily submit to the elder because they knew the elder was taking responsibility for them before God. The elder could in return be humble to the younger because they recognized that the younger simply lived out what they themselves had modeled before them. There was to be no finger pointing or blaming among the people. They were all to know and understand that we all are in need of the mercy and grace of the Lord our God. Here in Leviticus 4:13-21 all pride was laid aside and the elders humbled themselves before the Lord taking responsibility for the sin of the congregation and in this act of obedient faith the entire nation would find forgiveness. 

Oh Father,

Your grace and mercy is from everlasting to everlasting. As I study through the book of Leviticus I don’t see legalism, I see provision for forgiveness. I see a God who loved us in spite of ourselves and knew how we would fail Him again and again, but made a way for us to have a relationship with Him anyway. I see a Holy God who takes responsibility for His people. I see a Creator who does not point fingers or cast blame, but instead takes the sin of others upon Himself. Jesus, thank You for being the example that we can follow. You look past our ignorance and offer us forgiveness in our repentance. You do not hold our lack of knowledge against us, but meet us where we are and lead us to Yourself. May we in our forgiveness and knowledge of Your truth do likewise for others and lead them to You.

My Jesus, I love You and it is in Your name I pray,

Amen

Our big god

This is a video series of a message that the Lord put on my heart to share with the students, athletes, and coaches that the Lord allowed me to minister too at the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year. These videos cover just a little about God’s Big Love, Big Power, and Big Purpose.

A Little More From Devotions From Leviticus

“Every grain offering of yours, moreover, you shall season with salt, so that the salt of the covenant of your God shall not be lacking from your grain offering; with all your offerings you shall offer salt”

Leviticus 2:13

The fact that the Lord requires that every grain offering be seasoned with salt is such an interesting concept. It’s one of those verses in Scripture that makes you stop and wonder what in the world is the big deal about salt? The term “covenant of salt” is only used three times in Scripture. We see it here in Leviticus 2:13, then in Numbers 18:19, and finally in 2 Chronicles 13:5. As I pondered the importance of salt and it’s references in Scripture I opened my search to just the word “salt” instead of covenant of salt. I discovered the word “salt” is used forty-one times in the NASB translation of the Bible, and at least fourteen of those occurrences were in reference to a location, the Salt Sea. Therefore, I looked into the Salt Sea.

The Salt Sea is also known as the Dead Sea. This sea was given as a boundary to the land that the Lord promised to Abraham and his descendants and to this very day it remains a west border of the nation of Israel. What I found very interesting about the Salt Sea was that it is currently 430.5 meters (1,410 feet) below sea level. It is the lowest elevation of land on earth. It is actually not a sea at all, but is a lake with the Jordan River its only tributary. 

As I pondered these facts the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:13 came to my mind, “You are the salt of the earth.” We often take this verse and its use of salt to say that we, as believers, are to be the purifiers of the earth, but what if we were to take this verse and its use of salt and see it from another perspective. What if we considered the fact that the salt that Jesus most likely would have been referring to would have been coming from the Salt Sea, the lowest point on earth. What if instead of us seeing salt as its purifying agent we saw it for its lowliness? What if we connected this lowliness with humility?

What if the salt of the covenant was to remain humble before our God. To remember that we are low and all that we are and all that we have comes from one source, our Creator, our YHWH, our God. What if every time the Lord refers to salt in the Word we also choose to connect it as a reminder to be humble before Him. Every offering was to be seasoned with salt. Every offering was to be brought before the Lord with humility. “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8)

The physical properties of salt do act as a purifier and as a means to preserve from corruption. The Encyclopedia Britannica also states that “Covenants were ordinarily made over a sacrificial meal, in which salt was a necessary element. The preservative qualities of salt made it a peculiarly fitting symbol of an enduring compact, sealing it with an obligation to fidelity. The word salt thus acquired connotations of high esteem and honour in ancient and modern languages” (https://www.britannica.com/science/salt). Salt was used as a symbol and as a necessity. It is both spiritual and practical. Would not our willing habitual readiness to remain humble before our God keep us from corruption and lead us to maintain the integrity of our lives? Humility is both spiritual and practical. 

Let’s consider the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:13 again, “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.” We are the humble of the earth, but if the humble become full of pride, how can they be made humble again? They are no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. As believers, we are not to walk around all high and mighty, but we are to remain humble and low so that we can be used by God to lift others up, just as He lifted us up. 

Colossians 4:6 teaches us, “Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.” 1 Peter 5:4-7 teaches, “and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” Let every offering be seasoned with salt. Let every offering be seasoned with humility. 

We need not ever forget that we can bow low before our God and lay all things at His feet knowing that our supply for every need flows from Him. This was, after all, the whole point of the gift offerings. They were an opportunity to bring any and every need and all praise and thanks before the Lord. For these offerings to mean anything they have to come in humility. Humility is an attitude of our heart and the Lord sees our hearts. As the Salt Sea is the lowest elevation on earth, we who have been born again, redeemed by the precious blood of Christ, should be the most humbled people on earth, for we know what we have been forgiven and the holiness of the One who has forgiven us.

Oh Father,

It is so easy to find ourselves puffing up with pride, even as we appear to be bringing an offering to You. Our lips and actions can claim to honor You while our heart remains far from you. My Jesus, help me to never forget that You are my God. In Isaiah 66:2 You declare, “For My hand made all these things, thus all these things came into being, but to this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.” Lord, I know that Your hand has made all things and I do desire to be someone on which You can look. Lord, I so tremble at Your word. May the truth of Your word teach me to be humble and contrite of spirit so that I will not choose my own way, but will walk in Yours. 

My Jesus I love you and it is in Your name I pray,

Amen

These Are The Days of Corona

It’s April 2020. This past Saturday I normally would have been babysitting our granddaughter while our oldest worked. Our middle daughter would have been recovering from a late night after her MSU State Singers Spring Concert on Friday and our youngest would have taken the ACT after sleeping in the car on our way home from Starkville. Yet, here in these days of Corona we have now entered our Alabama order of “shelter-in-place.” I shake my head, literally, shake my head, as I consider the days we are in.

However these are not new or unheard of days. We can look through history and see that we have been here before. The difference today is that technology and travel have opened this up to where it is seen and experienced almost everywhere. We have opinions and social media “specialist” sharing their opinions and “expertise” constantly… and really we don’t know who to believe. We really don’t know how bad it is, if it is even really that bad at all. We do not know. I know at least that I do not know.

I just know that I am not afraid. I am not stressed. I am not panicked. I am not worried. The funny thing is that my husband and I have asked each other if it’s not normal that we are not freaking out, because apparently we are supposed to be stressed, depressed, and wringing our hands in mental anguish. Please know that I am not shaming anyone if this is where you are and these are the emotions you are facing. It’s not that I have not walked through them all… it’s that I have and I, we, know that God’s grace is sufficient.

We have experienced seasons of financial loss and strain… God’s grace was sufficient.

We have experienced seasons of sickness and death… God’s grace was sufficient.

We have experienced seasons of unknowns, doubts, and fear… God’s grace was sufficient.

It has been the lessons learned in our past that are granting us this peace in our present. We have come to fully grasp that this world is not our home. This world is a season full of seasons. This world is high school and the real world comes after graduation. This world is prep work, it’s practice for the big game. This world is the try-outs to see what position we earn on the field. This world is the warm-up before the big show. This world is the little we have been entrusted with to see if we will be faithful and can one day be entrusted with much.

Houses crumble. Cars break down. Stuff gets outdated. Jobs change and sometimes end. Bodies die. The soul, however, of a human being created in the image of God, is forever.

I am currently watching “Call the Midwife” on Netflix. It is my latest binge worthy series. In one of the episodes, one of the Nuns made the statement, “I have come to learn that there are only two reasons that anyone does anything, one is love the other is fear.

In these days of Corona, why will you do what you do? Why will you put on mask? Why will you go to the store? Why will you quarantine? Why will you pray? Why will you not? What will be the motivating factor behind the choices you make?

Will the driving force in your life be one of love?

Or will it be one of fear?

Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because He first loved us.(1 John 4:15-19)

A Prayer for the Church from Psalm 41

Yesterday I read an article in The Alabama Baptist (https://www.thealabamabaptist.org/ministry-to-fellow-church-members-community-does-not-have-to-stop-during-crisis/) discussing the possible ramifications that doors closing due to the COVID-19 could have on the church. This morning as I sat before the LORD and His Word and turned open my journal to clean page, the Lord led me to Psalm 41. As I read this Psalm, the Spirit led me to pray this as the church.

I am a woman who has been deeply wounded by the church. I am also a woman who still deeply loves the church. I am a woman who believes the Word of God, every single word of it. I know that the church, the true church is the body of Christ, and the gates of hell cannot prevail against the true church. The true church is not a building, it is a people from every nation, tribe, and tongue, united by faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ, called out to die in Him and rise again as a new creation. We are a new creation in the process of being conformed into the image of God that we were always intended to be. Sometimes this gets messy, and that’s okay, because our God has supplied us more than enough grace to be sufficient for the mess and His mercies are new every morning.

Therefore, though the church might look different, and I do pray that we will, I know that the church of the Living God will rise. My heart is that as buildings are closed, hearts will be opened. My hope is that while routines are halted, memorized rote and worship by man made tradition will be as well. I pray that as pews, and chair rails, and bathrooms are cleansed and purified that hands and hearts and minds and mouths will be too. When this season of quarantine passes might the true church be obedient to assemble together in holiness and godly love for one another.

Oh Father,

I lift up Your church, for it is YOUR church. It has never been my church. This I believe, we, as a whole, have forgotten. We have forgotten that we are Yours. We have forgotten that it was always supposed to be about Your will done on earth as it is in heaven, not our own. May we remember that we are Yours. Father I come now, and I pray Your Word back to You as I seek Your face.

How blessed is the church who considers the helpless; the Lord will deliver His church in a day of trouble. The Lord will protect His church and keep His church alive, and His church shall be called blessed upon the earth. Father, do not give Your church over to the desire of our enemies. O Lord do sustain us upon our sickbed; through this illness, You restore us to health.

As for me, I said, “O Lord, be gracious to us; heal our soul, for we have sinned against You.” Our enemies speak evil against us, “When will the church die, and the name of Jesus perish?” And there are even those that when they comes to see us, they speak falsehood; their heart gathers wickedness to itself; and when they go outside, they tell it. All who hate Your church whisper together against us; against us they devise our hurt, saying, “A wicked thing is poured out upon us, that when we lie down, we will not rise up again.” Even our close friends in whom we trusted, who ate our bread, have lifted up their heel against us.

But You, O Lord, be gracious to Your church and raise us up, that we may repay them with good. By this we know that You are pleased with us, because our enemy does not shout in triumph over us. Oh Father, as for Your true church, You uphold us in our integrity, and You set us in Your presence forever.

Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, the God of the Church, from everlasting to everlasting.
Amen and Amen.

The church here in the United States, even here in the “Bible belt” south has been sick way before COVID-19. There has been much cleansing that needed to be done. We will be looking at over forty days of quarantine. Right now we are looking at seven Sundays of no gathering in our buildings with Easter Sunday being right there in the midst of it. I don’t believe in coincidences. I believe the Sovereign God of all Creation has times in His hand and every moment matters. May we not miss what our Lord is teaching us in this moment in time.

The church will rise. The gates of hell cannot prevail against the church. Through this time of holy rest might we get our priorities in order. Might we seek Him and His kingdom and allow His discipline to have its way in us (Hebrews 12). May we allow the One who opens doors and shuts them to have His way (Revelation 3). May we become a church that the world once again might be able to recognize because of our love for Jesus (Revelation 2), our love for one another, and our love for the world (John 3:16, 1 John 4). May we be holy. May we be salt. May we be light. May we be one.

By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. ~ Jesus (John 13:35)

Devotions From Leviticus Preview

Read Leviticus Chapter One

“And the priest shall offer all of it, and offer it up in smoke on the altar; it is a burnt offering, an offering by fire of a soothing aroma to the LORD.”

Leviticus 1:13

The book of Leviticus picks up as a continuation of the book of Exodus. The beautiful hand of our God has delivered His truth to us in clear and distinct patterns. Our God is always a God of order. In Exodus 25-27 God gave Moses the pattern for the tabernacle. In Exodus 36-40 Israel, under Moses instruction, directs the people on the construction of the tabernacle. In Exodus 28-29 God gives Moses a pattern for the priest. Now as we begin the book of Leviticus we will see God give Moses a pattern for the sacrifices and as well as the ordination for the priests. We begin with the pattern for the sacrifices.

This book jumps right in with a word from the Lord as He begins explaining about offerings. The book of Leviticus begins with the gift offerings. These were offerings that an individual would bring to the tabernacle for a personal purpose at any time it pressed on them to bring it. These offerings could come as a result of praise they wanted to offer to the Lord in thanksgiving, or as a result of a promise they kept, or as a way of coming to God in a time of distress, and so on. The gift offering was a “just because” offering to the Lord. 

The first gift offering that we learn about is the burnt offering. The burnt offering was nothing new to the people. In Genesis 8:20 we read of Noah offering a burnt offering to the Lord after the flood waters receded and they were able to leave the ark. In Genesis 22 the Lord asks Abraham to offer Issac as a burnt offering. The importance behind a burnt offering is that it was all to be laid upon the altar. None of it was to be saved or eaten by anyone, not even the priest. 

We also see that this burnt offering was to be brought to the Lord alive. The burnt offering was to be slain on the side of the altar, washed with water, and arranged on the altar. It was the responsibility of the one bringing the offering to slay it and to wash it, but it would be the priest who would arrange it on the altar and prepare the fire for it. 

When we look in the book Romans we see how this burnt offering relates to us today in Christ. In Romans 12:1 we read, “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.” In Romans 8:13 we are taught, “for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” What we see clearly in the book of Romans is that it is our responsibility to present ourselves as an offering to God.

The book of Romans is not alone in this teaching. Jesus Himself taught us while He was here in the flesh before His death, burial, and resurrection that we have to take responsibility to bring our own self to the altar, “And He was saying to them all, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.’” (Luke 9:23). The burnt offering in Leviticus chapter one was not a one time offering. It was a continuous offering that was brought as many times as needed. In Ephesians 4:22-24 we read that, “in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.” Notice, once again, whose responsibility it is to lay aside our old self. It is ours. In Christ we have been given the right to be free and the power to choose to be free. Our freedom is found when we lay ourselves down, when we bring ourselves to the altar of our God and present our bodies as living sacrifices to Him. 

It was the responsibility of the one bringing the sacrifice to present it alive, to slay it, and it was also their responsibility to wash it. In John 13 Jesus is washing the disciples feet and Peter responds that he should be washing the feet of Jesus not the other way around and Jesus explains Peter’s need for Him to wash his feet Peter then asks for Jesus to wash him everywhere, but in verse ten, “Jesus said to him, ‘He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.’” Jesus has bathed us, we are bathed in His blood, yet we still need to keep our feet clean. We do this by staying washed in the Word (Ephesians 5:26). This once again, is our responsibility. We also see this in Romans 12:2, “be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” It is our responsibility to read the Word of God, to study the Word of God, to meditate on the Word of God, and to obey the Word of God. This is how we are washed.

Now do we remember whose responsibility it was to arrange the pieces and provide the fire? The responsibility to arrange the pieces and provide the fire belonged to the priest. Who is our priest? Yes, it is Jesus! In the New Covenant Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is our eternal High Priest. The book of Hebrews teaches us this truth over and over again. I will go ahead and give you a heads up and let you know that we will be spending a lot of time in Hebrews as we go through the book of Leviticus. Now, what does this mean to us?

Dear Friend, it is indeed our responsibility to present ourselves as the sacrifice. It is indeed our responsibility to continue to put our old selves to death. However it was Jesus who first came to prepare the way. It was Jesus who first set us free and gave us life that we might even be able to come to the altar. It will be Jesus standing right there to arrange and present our request to God when we come to the altar. He is there to do all the work. All we have to do is come. 

Oh Father,

Thank you for sending Jesus to serve as my High Priest. Thank you for coming and living and dying on my behalf and then rising in victory. Thank you for seeking me out. Thank you for loving me to Yourself. Thank you for setting me free from sin and fear of death. I am able to bring myself to the altar and present myself to you as a living sacrifice because I know that in You alone is life. I lay myself down. I choose to daily take up my cross, to put to death my flesh, to lay aside my old self and allow You alone to arrange my life and my days. My very breath is in Your hands and I give you praise with all that my lungs can contain. I choose to worship You with all that I am and desire for You alone to lead my way all my days. 

My Jesus, I love You and it is in Your name I pray,

Amen

*********************

It has begun! This is just the first devotional in Leviticus and the first attempt at this devotion. So apply grace when you read it please. Also know that I have chosen to write these as I would teach them to my children. In my first attempt in Genesis I felt I needed to prove myself as a writer and as one who had studied the Scriptures even though I had no seminary degree. I went back and did the second editions of Genesis and Exodus Part One when my original publisher went under as I had the opportunity and I had grown to realize I didn’t have to prove myself to anyone. I just needed to be obedient to Jesus. The second editions are hopefully easier to read and to get through and all the while still Biblically sound.

If you would like to begin the series with Devotions From Genesis: It’s Not Just Ancient History you can find the books on Amazon at: https://amzn.to/2xSH1lw 

If you would like to see reviews of the series you will need to go to the link provided below. My reviews are all under the first editions.

Reviews for Devotions From Genesis: https://www.amazon.com/product-reviews/1616631503/ref=acr_dpproductdetail_text?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=1

Reviews from Devotions From Exodus Part One: https://www.amazon.com/product-reviews/1625101082/ref=acr_dpproductdetail_text?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=1

Create In Me A Humble Heart

We are in the strangest days. Our world is currently experiencing a pandemic. This day in which we are living will be written down and recorded in our history books along with the dust bowl, great depression, black plague, and so on. It is a historic day. Today is not a day for arrogant foolishness, it is a day designed for great humility.

My prayer is that the people of God do not miss what the Lord is doing in our midst. Let us not forget that we serve a sovereign God. Let us not forget that the power and character of our God must come from His Word not the mouths of even well meaning men. We are in days, possibly weeks of quarantine. How will we use this time?

The first time the word plague is used in the Bible it was God who sent it. He sent it to Pharaoh in Genesis 12:17 because he took Abram’s wife Sarai as his own. God sent the plague to wake up the Pharaoh and lead him to ask questions as to why this might be happening now. The plague actually was hitting his nation because the man of God had lied to him about his bride. Abram had misrepresented who Sarai really was for his own self interest.

The next time the word plague is used is in Exodus. God purposely sent these plagues to Pharaoh, to the current world power, because this power refused to acknowledge Him as God and honor His commands. The plagues were not random, they were specific. Each plague targeted an idol, a false god, of the nation that held the people of God captive as slaves. The plagues had purpose. The plagues were used by God to accomplish His will.

The next time the word plague is used in the Scriptures is in the book of Leviticus. In Leviticus 26 the Lord is addressing His nation. He has delivered His people from Egypt and He has given them His laws, precepts, statutes, and commands. He has led them in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. He has fought for them. He has given them manna from heaven to eat. He has given them water from a rock. He has judged them faithfully. He has proven His name and power and might and love to them. Now here in Leviticus 26 He reminds this new nation that they are His and they will be living in His land and are to obey all that He has taught them. If they do not, He will purposely and strategically send plagues to remind them who they are and whose they are and how they are to live in accordance with that knowledge.

In the book of Job in the first two chapters we are given privy to an interaction between Satan and God. We see Satan attempt to bait God using the motive of the hearts of the people who worship Him. Satan accuses God of buying worship through His blessings. God points out one of the most blessed men in the world at that time and says, “Have you considered my servant Job?” We then read of Satan’s power and his attack on this man and his family, but take note that his power only came by permission. Satan could only do what the Lord allowed him to do and the Lord only allowed him to do what He needed him to do in order to accomplish an even greater purpose that would open the door for the Lord to bless Job even more.

We see this same truth played out with God’s own Only Begotten Son, Jesus. Satan thought he had the upper hand as the crowd cried crucify and a Roman spear pierced the side of the Son of David, the Son of God, but he was no where near the winner’s circle. The God of all Creation was simply working the clay in His Master Potter’s hands. The glorious Grand Weaver was guiding the needle skillfully and purposely as He has since before the foundation of the world.

Plagues, disasters, and death are all the result of the sin of man from the very beginning in the Garden that came from the deception of the Serpent of Old who had rebelled against his Creator and sought to destroy all that He loved. Our Good God however knows how to take these and use them for His good. He is sovereign even over sin. He is sovereign even over evil. He is sovereign even over Satan.

Therefore, in the face of a pandemic how should we respond? When I look to the Word of my God, the response to any and ever plague should always be humility. The response should always be seeking the face of God. The response should always be repentance.

Let us be still and know that He is God (Psalm 46).

Let us examine ourselves (2 Corinthians 13:5, Galatians 6:4).

“If there is famine in the land, if there is pestilence, if there is blight or mildew, if there is locust or grasshopper, if their enemies besiege them in the land of their cities, whatever plague or whatever sickness there is, whatever prayer or supplication is made by any man or by all Your people Israel, each knowing his own affliction and his own pain, and spreading his hands toward this house, then hear from heaven Your dwelling place, and forgive, and render to each according to all his ways, whose heart You know for You alone know the hearts of the sons of men, that they may fear You, to walk in Your ways as long as they live in the land which You have given to our fathers. (2 Chronicles 6:28-31)

The last time the word plague is used in the Scriptures is in the book of Revelation. The last time the word is used is in the last book and in the last chapter of the Word of God. So from Genesis 12 to Revelation 22 we see over and over again how the Lord has used plagues to wake people up. In the Word of God there was never a purposeless plague.

In the the book of Revelation in chapter nine verse twenty we read, “The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, so as not to worship demons, and the idols of gold and of silver and of brass and of stone and of wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk; and they did not repent of their murders nor of their sorceries nor of their immorality nor of their thefts.” In the chapters preceding we read of many different plagues once again specifically and purposely designed and timed for the hope of waking people up and turning their eyes and hearts to the Lord.

In each and every one of these plagues, from Genesis to Revelation, the plagues are accompanied with a preacher, with a prophet, with a proclamation of hope in God. The Gospel, the Good News, the testimony of Truth is always right there running loudly beside the plague begging us to take refuge and find safety in the One who created heaven and earth. This heaven and earth is and will pass away and only those that are in Him will live. Our God jealously and fervently calls out to us to get in Him, to find shelter in Him, to hope in Him, to trust in Him, to obey Him, to love Him for it is for our good.

“I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.” 1The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost. I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book. He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming quickly.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen. (Revelation 22:16-21)

In the Word of God there was never a plague caused and sent by Satan in Satan’s own power according to Satan’s devise. Therefore, I personally refuse to give that deceiving slippery snake more credit than is his due. I instead choose to trust my God. I choose to look to my own heart first and to my own priorities and see where I need work done in being conformed into the image of Christ. I choose to stop and spread open my heart and submit to the Potter’s hand for I know I am unfinished. I know there is much to do in me. I will not see this as a time to be arrogant, no instead I choose to see it as a time to be bowed down.

My prayer is that the church, the bride of Christ, would do the same. Let us use this time of quarantine to seek the face of our God. Let us be willing to lay open our churches and let Him reveal our hearts to us, because let me tell you… we, His bride, here in America, we are a hot mess. We are arrogant. We are boastful. We are prideful. We are selfish. We are self-seeking. We are rude. We, as a whole, do not love. We fight amongst ourselves. We belittle one another. We put burdens on others that we ourselves refuse to carry. We are greedy. We do not give. We do not have a heart for the lost. We like the stage. We like the applause. We seek to use God not be used by God. We do not despise the shame, but instead allow it to keep us silent. May this pandemic wake us up.

Perhaps instead of us declaring that this virus has to bow down in Jesus name, we should instead declare that we bow down our own hearts in Jesus name and trust Jesus’ sovereign authority and power over not just this pandemic, but this age. Let us be willing to say, not my will but Yours be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Let us be willing to cry out and ask that the Lord create in us a humble heart. My cry is that the Lord would create in me a humble heart. A heart that is willing to bow down and submit to Him and His way. A heart that knows that His thoughts are not my thoughts and His ways not my ways. A heart that is willing to admit that I don’t have all the answers and that is okay because I know He does. A heart that is willing to trust in Him and in His Word, no matter how it might look to my eyes.

For My hand made all these things, thus all these things came into being,” declares the Lord. “But to this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word. (Isaiah 66:2)

The Fog of Grief and Faith in God

Around sixteen years ago I would meet faithfully every Friday morning with a group of five other women. Each week we would speak freely and learn and love and laugh together. This group began because two women chose to take Titus 2 to heart and took four other married women with children from teens to in the womb under their wings to teach. One of the lessons that we learned was how to love others through heavy grief. One of these two had buried her only son when he was thirteen years old to a devastating bicycle accident when he was hit by a car. At that time, I thought she was teaching me how to minister to others in their grief, I had no idea that she was also teaching me how to walk through my own.

Sixteen years ago I learned from her grief that the stages of grief were a real thing, and they don’t follow a text book. I learned that there are no words that can fix it. I also learned that pain and anger and hurt, even towards God, doesn’t mean that my faith has failed. It is just another pathway to experience the sufficiency of His grace and the reality of His peace that truly does surpass all human understanding.

Sixteen years ago I learned through her that there is no time limit on grief. I learned that every one grieves differently. I learned that sometimes it just jumps out of no where and grabs you and takes you to your knees all over again. I also learned that the shoulders of Jesus are great for leaning on and His hands are always faithful to catch us and stand us to our feet no matter how many times grief takes us to our knees.

Sixteen years ago I heard about the fog of grief and the assurance that faith in God would somehow see me through it and around six years ago I stepped into this fog of grief and leaned heavy and deep into my faith in God to see me through it. I find it interesting that when Paul taught us in his letter to the Corinthians, that we walk by faith, not by sight, it was slap dab in the middle of him teaching us about the tearing down of this earthly tent and being absent from the body and present with the Lord (https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2%20Corinthians+5&version=NASB), and I have learned from experience that it takes walking by faith and not by sight to navigate the fog of grief that comes with watching our loved ones earthy tent being torn down before our eyes.

It takes walking by faith and not by sight to navigate the fog of grief that we sometimes don’t even realize we are in because we are trying so hard to be okay because life doesn’t stop and we just keep going even though we feel numb and undone. Faith takes hold of us and the God of the impossible carries us each step of the way. The fog of grief that causes us to forget to put the check in the bill we just sealed, stamped, and mailed. The fog of grief that causes us to sleep through our alarm and find ourselves in our car on the way to work fully showered and dressed yet we don’t remember how we got there. The fog of grief that finds us saying, I’m sorry what were you saying, over and over again because we are there, but not there. The fog of grief that reaches out and begs us to succumb to the numbness and be undone, but that fog of grief is no match for the faith in God that grabs our face by it’s grace filled hands and looks us in the eyes and pours the peace of Christ in our soul and says be of good courage for death has not won.

The fog of grief is dissipated by our faith in God. The Light of Life shines and the fog lifts. Grief rolls in, but grace rolls it right out again. Grace and peace to all who trust in Him. No matter how many times the fog of grief shows up, faith in God will be there to navigate us through it. No matter how many times the fog of grief overshadows us, a voice rings clear and loud through the cloud reminding us of the Beloved Son who came to turn grief into great joy. This Christmas, if you are in the midst of the fog of grief, trust in your faith in God, for He is right there with you, in the fog and in the faith.

Free Downloadable Study

I often write Bible studies as I prepare to teach. I add PDF’s of these studies to my website for anyone who would like to have them for personal study or small groups. The latest PDF study is a study that I wrote to use as I served a local college women’s athletic team.

The Story of Redemption is a short three week Bible study that will take someone through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation by way of the covenants that the Lord made with people in order to restore us to Himself. This is a tool for a believer to get an overview of the Bible and to be introduced to the basics of Scripture that will deepen the assurance of their salvation in Christ.

Click the link below to download your own copy of The Story of Redemption

https://www.nicolelhvaughn.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/The-Story-of-Redemption-1-1.pdf

Overcomer Movie Books Review

This is the first book review I have done in a while. The LORD moved me into the ministry of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes in 2016 and the ministry has required a lot of travel time, so the opportunity to review books and write about them has not been readily available. However, when the email came in about the opportunity to review the Overcomer movie related resource materials I knew I had to make time. I was already using Priscilla Shirer’s Bible study Defined with my female coaches, coaches wives, and female college athletes so I couldn’t resist the chance to check out the other books.

My heart was led to choose this study because we currently live in a day where the issue of identity is of great importance. How we identify is something that is being intentionally addressed today in every arena of life. There are even policies and procedures being put in place in the workplace and on school campuses across our nation telling us how we can and cannot identify ourselves and others.

Identity is under attack.

How have we come to a day and time that have so many confused and struggling with the core of who they are? I believe the Kendrick brothers and Priscilla Shirer address this very well in these Overcomer resource materials. In the book DEFINED the Kendrick brothers begin with teaching us how before Jesus ever began His three year ministry the Father made sure that He knew who He was. It was in knowing who He was at His very core that would allow Him to withstand the fickleness of humanity. Knowing that He was the Son of God, knowing that He was loved by the Father, knowing that He had a purpose specifically intended for Him would keep Him from being frustrated by the derisions or elevated by the applauses of man.

The Kendrick brothers point out to us that the very first attack Jesus would face after His baptism would be on His identity. In the wilderness Satan attacked with, “If you are the Son of God…” (Luke 4:1-13). If this is how Satan first came after Jesus wouldn’t it be because it was his strongest weapon of destruction? Wouldn’t Satan pull out the big guns for the One who saw him fall like lightening from heaven? It is no coincidence that God the Father reaffirmed the identity of Jesus before He sent Him out to fulfill His purpose. This affirmation would hold Him all the way to the cross and raise Him up from the grave. He would not be swayed by the words of man or the lies of hell because He knew who He was and He knew His Heavenly Father.

What about you? Do you know who your Heavenly Father says you are? Do you know your Heavenly Father? What about your kids? Do they know who they are? Do they know their Heavenly Father? I implore you to find the answers to these questions. Don’t wait. Start now. Order these books.

Wonderful would be great for an elementary age child even into middle school. I promise you could even take it and begin teaching the truths in it to your preschoolers as well. This would be a great book to pile up on the bed with your children and read as a bedtime devotional. Revealed and Radiant would be great for middle school and high school age children. Revealed for your young men and Radiant for your young women. I also recommend piling up on the bed with your teens and going through these books together. Our kids never get too old to have their identity affirmed by us. Let us remember that Jesus was thirty years old when His Father said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased.” (Matthew 3:17). At thirty years old, the Heavenly Father reminded His Son that He was His, that He was His beloved, and that He was well pleased with Him.

In this day of social media and identity attack we need to know who we are. We need to know who our Creator says we are. We need to know we are loved. We need to know that we have purpose. These materials will help us know this, and will help us make sure our kids know it as well. I highly recommend all of the Overcomer movie related resource materials for you and your family.

Wonderful
It’s almost field day, and Webster is worried. He can’t run fast, he trips on the jump rope, and his Frisbee always lands in a tree. How will he help his class get the medal? Webster is sure that God forgot to make anything special about him. 
Join Webster and his class as the whistle blows and he discovers a few God-given skills that just might save field day. This whimsical, illustrated picture book reminds young readers that they were each wonderfully made by God! 

Revealed
Who am I? It’s a question you might ask yourself a lot, and this book for teen guys and young men will lead you through an investigation to find the answers. You’ll learn that your identity is much more than your grades, your looks, or your athletic skills. The only One who truly knows you and defines you is the One who created you. Revealed will give you answers about who you are and where you’re going, leading you to uncover your true Christ- shaped identity.

Radiant
Did you know that God’s light can shine through every facet of your identity? Radiant is an invitation for teen girls and young women to enjoy a candid conversation on identity with bestselling author Priscilla Shirer. You’ll hear reflections on life lessons she’s gathered from her teen years until now. She’ll show you how the light of God’s Word shaped her identity, and she’ll teach you how it can change and shape your life as well. 
The culture will try to define you, but this world is starving for something different that comes only from the creative genius of your God. You were created to reflect His light. . . . You were created to be radiant. 

Defined
At this very moment, what you believe about your own purpose and value affects almost every area of your life—including how you think and feel, the way you react to circumstances, and how you approach God and your relationships. But what is guiding your core beliefs? Are they healthy and founded upon solid truth? Or are they constantly shifting with the opinions of others or your own emotions? Based upon powerful insights from the scriptural book of Ephesians, and seasoned with personal stories and practical wisdom, Defined challenges readers to let the One who knows you best be the One who guides your heart the most.

The Overcomer Movie Resources can be purchased here: https://www.lifeway.com/en/product-family/overcomer

The writing and teachings of Nicole Love Halbrooks Vaughn