All posts by Nicole Vaughn

Prayer Works: Prayer Training and Strategy for Kids

PPM-3.jpgI am in the process of reviewing several books that are inspired from the new movie War Room. One of the books I am reviewing is a book that is focused on helping a parent teach their child how to pray with power and purpose. One of the greatest tragedies that our culture has committed is the lack of expectation that we have placed on the ability of our children in spiritual matters.

We have raised this ridiculous and almost imaginary bar on what we expect our children to be able to do by the time they enter our states mandatory age for public education, yet we convince ourselves that there is no way they could grasp the gospel and its power of salvation. We push them to recite their ABC’s and count to 100 and be able to distinguish shapes and colors and seasons and to master the writing of their name and the reciting of their telephone number and address and their ability to utilize glue sticks and scissors. We expect them to have mastered the art of t-ball or soccer and to remember and perfectly execute every single play we have ever taught them in the midst of the stress of playing a fast paced game against friends while parents scream at them and each other from the stands by the time they are six year olds, because after all they have been playing this game since they were four…

Yet, they will be ten years old and still only able to say “God is great. God is good. Let us thank Him for our food. By His hands we are fed. Thank you God for daily bread.” or the newest musical version of “God our Father…”

These are great introductions to meal time prayers when our children are just beginning to learn to speak, but it is not sufficient to help them stand up against the tools of Satan that will begin attacking them the moment they step into the doors of kindergarten or perhaps even the tools of Satan that have been, are, or will be coming against them in their own homes. This is not the world that I grew up in. The heat has been turned up and if our children are to be able to stand in this day, they must learn how to pray.

The book Prayer Works does not just tell your children what praying is, but it goes over the who, what, when, where, why, and how’s of prayer.  Think about it, what greater gift could you give your child than to teach them how to stay in constant communication with their Heavenly Father. Praying is something that we need to be taught concerning. Our God has shown us that in His Word.

It happened that while Jesus was praying in a certain place, after He had finished, one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray…”

Luke 11:1

And parents, if praying is something that you need to be taught as well, then get this book. Sit down with your children at bedtime (or anytime) with this book and learn together. Each section is only a few paragraphs long. Then the section closes with some application questions that will open up discussion and an opportunity to pray. In the back of the book you will find a prayer journal. You could write in these pages. You could tear them out of the back of the book. You could use them as an example to start your own prayer journal book. Mine is a simple spiral bound notebook that I can pick up at the Dollar Tree.

Below are links to the book at CBD and Amazon. I hope you will pick it up and use it to help teach your children how to pray and to build a lifelong practice of praying with power and purpose.

 

688690: PrayerWorks: A Prayer Strategy for Kids PrayerWorks: A Prayer Strategy for Kids
By Stephen Kendrick & Alex Kendrick with Amy Parker

 

But God, You Gave A Snake

PPM-3.jpg

The definition of righteousness in the book of Matthew within the context of the Sermon on the Mount is the Greek word dikaiosuné and it means to have the approval of God, deemed right after being examined, it is demanded by God, it is correctness in thinking, feeling, and acting. That my friends is a pretty tall order. As I read this definition of righteousness I was hit with the correctness in thinking and feeling…

I am leading a Precept Upon Precept study on the Sermon on the Mount so I have been reading through Matthew 5 – 7 over and over the past several weeks. I am coming at the study seeking the kingdom of my God and His righteousness and I am coming as one who is mourning and needed to be comforted. My thinking and feeling is not all that correct right now and the enemy of my soul knows very well that I am vulnerable. That slimy serpent is even using the Word of my God as weapon against me.

As I read though the Words of my Savior in Matthew 7, I found myself questioning my God.

Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he?

Matthew 7:9-10

I read these words and my heart said, But God You gave me a snake. Then His Spirit said to me, That’s not true to My Word.

You see my struggle is not so much that my Daddy went home to be with his Lord. My struggle is how he went home. He went home in what feels like chaos or in a whirlwind. With Phillis we had time to prepare. We had time to tell her things. It doesn’t make missing her easier or less, but I don’t have the nightmares with her that I do with my Daddy. I don’t wake up crying in the middle of the night because we didn’t get to tell my Daddy what the doctor said and I didn’t get my last Monday. With daddy we had JUST been given permission to let go and stop fighting and prepare to say good-bye. We had JUST been given the peace to talk about the step into eternity instead of the next step in the battle for life.

Monday was my day with my Daddy. I was supposed to have Monday. Just me and him. The Lord took him home on Saturday. So it feels like I asked for a fish and my God gave me a snake.

I don’t think I have ever felt the fangs of the serpent digging into my heart and my mind as painfully as I have these past several months. I have lost count of the Scriptures that he has spit at me and said, See I told you He was the liar. You have believed in vain and you cannot trust Him. There is nothing and you are nothing. 

Then I hear him mock me, What? This has shook you? There are people being sawed in half and watching their children being raped and beaten just because they follow Jesus and you are questioning Him over this? Really? You are quite pathetic aren’t you. You know you are going to stand before Him ashamed don’t you?

His hissing is like a fly that keeps buzzing around my head and trying to land on my food. The kind that is so persistent that you cannot even eat the food because you can’t stop shooing the fly away long enough to get a bite. Of course, that’s his goal. He wants to exhaust me with his hissing and buzzing so that I never actually get a taste of the Bread of Life that I have sat down to partake of so that I might find nourishment in my time of need.

Do you know what I mean?

Is this flying serpent buzzing around your head?

The lie is that He gave a snake. The truth is that He gave a fish. Walking by faith and not by sight is not always easy. It’s actually quite impossible apart from God. I am looking forward to the day that I see…

Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.

1 John 3:2

Walking by faith is trusting that God gave you a fish especially when it feels like He gave you a snake. Remembering that He loves His own with an everlasting love. Remembering that His character is one of compassion and lovingkindness. Remembering that He is just in all His ways. Remembering that His purpose is the glory of Christ and His Kingdom.

I can do this because I know that even Jesus felt forsaken. The Only Begotten of the Father experienced doubt in His hurt and groanings in this world. Even He cried out to God in prayer and felt as though His prayers hit the ceiling.

My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?
Far from my deliverance are the words of my groaning.
O my God, I cry by day, but You do not answer;
And by night, but I have no rest.
Yet You are holy,
O You who are enthroned upon the praises of Israel.
In You our fathers trusted;
They trusted and You delivered them.
To You they cried out and were delivered;
In You they trusted and were not disappointed.

Psalm 22:1-5

I often read this Psalm and find myself unworthy to apply any of it to my suffering. Jesus quoted these words when on the cross dying for me. I almost feel ashamed to claim them as my own… yet I suppose in claiming them I am lifting up my cross as His.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.”

Matthew 16:24

So as I dig into this Sermon on the Mount I am seeking my Lord and asking Him to work on my heart. I am hungry and thirsty for His righteousness and I am weary from shooing this flying serpent away from my face and plate. I need the wind of His Spirit to blow him away so that I can rest and eat. Remembering that He is holy.

I might feel He is silent. I might be weary. Yet He is holy. And those who trust in Him are never disappointed.

So here is my heart Lord. Speak what is true.

Getting Real With Yourself

PPM-3.jpg

This coming Wednesday is the introductory lesson to a new Bible study that I will be leading on the Sermon on the Mount.  As I turned to look at lesson one which will be discussed on the 26th of this month I read these words by A.W. Tozer:

Sound Bible exposition is an imperative must in the church of the Living God. Without it no church can be a New Testament church in any strict meaning of that term. But exposition may be carried on in such way as to leave the hearers devoid of any true spiritual nourishment whatsoever. For it is not mere words that nourish the soul, but God Himself, and unless and until the hearers find God in personal experience they are not the better for having heard the truth. The Bible is not an end in itself, but a means to bring men to an intimate and satisfying knowledge of God, that they may enter into Him, that they may delight in His Presence, may taste and know the inner sweetness of the very God Himself in the core and center of their hearts. 

I am hungry for this study of the Sermon on the Mount. My soul needs to be nourished. I need to be reminded of who my Jesus is and who He has called me to be. The great challenge of this in-depth study of the words of Christ that were delivered on that mountain is allowing them to penetrate to the very core of your being.

We can sit in a Bible study and choose to remain on the outside of it in a hypothetical discussion and we can choose to use other people in our lives to be the examples for our interpretation and application of what we study, but this only keeps us from experiencing the reality of the Word of God and thus His very presence in our life. The Word was made flesh to come and dwell among us, not for us to continue to hear it in hypotheticals, but to experience Him wholly. As I personally dig into these truths I will be rending the garment of my heart and crying out for my God to come down and enter within in all His fullness that I might delight in Him.

I felt led to offer this study back at the first of 2015 as I was completing a study through the book of Jeremiah. I thought the Lord was leading me to it in order to hopefully open the door to those who would be new to inductive study, as studying the Old Testament and prophesy seems to intimidate so many believers today. I had no clue that He was leading me to it because He knew I myself would need it so very much. He already knew that I would have this wall laid up in my heart that He would need to tear down.

So for those of you reading this that will be entering into this study along side me, know that this study will not be lead by someone who is simply going to instruct and facilitate facts and exposition of truth, but by someone who is coming to this study to experience her God. The rains have came and the flood waters have risen and the winds have crashed up against the walls of this heart of mine until I have found myself clinging to the solid Rock with my fingernails dug in deep and I wish to find my footing so that I might once again stand firm.

In a casual reading of the Sermon on the Mount it would appear that Jesus is standing up on the mountain preaching to the multitude, but that is not the case. Jesus saw the crowds that had followed Him because of all the hoopla that was buzzing about Him. He saw those that followed in hopes of being fed, in hopes of being physically healed, or simply just to see a show. He saw them and He left them and went up the mountain and sat down. After He had sat down, His disciples came up to Him.

The Sermon on the Mount was not delivered to the multitude. The Sermon on the Mount was delivered to His disciples. In Matthew 5: 1 we read,

When Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him

That last “Him” in Matthew 5:1 is in the dative case. The use of the dative case is the case of personal interest, pointing out the person to or for whom something is done. If my understanding of this Greek word is correct then those who came to Jesus came not to gain something for themselves but because they were interested in Him and they came to the mountain to Him and for Him, not to ask anything from Him, but just to learn how to follow Him.

Then that word “His” before disciples, it is in the Genitive case. The genitive case may be defined as the case of qualification (or limitation as to kind) and ( occasionally) separation. So once again if my understand of this Greek word is correct, then the Sermon on the Mount is Jesus telling those that would be His disciples what their qualifications must be. This is what will separate those who are His from those who are not.

For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven

Matthew 5:20

The Sermon on the Mount is imperative. It is not a hypothetical idea and it was not a nice way of living that Jesus proclaimed to a faceless crowd.

No.

It was Him, face to face and heart to heart, with His disciples saying these are your qualifications to be Mine.  So beloved, I don’t know about you, but I want to be separated unto Jesus. I want to be His. I want to qualify to be His disciple and when I step down off that mountain I want the crowd to be able to know that I have been with Jesus and I belong to Him.

Jesus closes this one on one face to face teaching with those who came up the mountain to sit at His feet with a word of warning…

Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.

Matthew 7:21-23

Jesus already saw what we see so much of today in TV evangelism and traveling road shows that make a spectacle of the gospel in order to draw crowds not to make disciples.

I want to be a disciple that makes disciples and I want to honor my Lord from the inside out. The Sermon on the Mount requires us to go past the outside religious activities that anyone can walk though without heart. Anyone can attend church. Anyone can debate Scripture interpretation. Anyone can help others for the pat on the backs and the self gratification it brings. Jesus calls those who are to be truly His to go even deeper still.

The Sermon on the Mount calls us to get real with ourselves. We have heard it said… but He says to us, you are salt and light.

Just Repeat After Me

PPM-3.jpg

This summer our family traveled with several other families from our church to Boston to help put on a VBS for a Baptist church in the area. When we arrived after a two day drive we were sat down by the Pastor and informed of some do’s and do not’s that were required of us while we were there.

One of the do not’s was that we were not allowed to pray with any child to “receive Christ” and send them home to tell Mom and Dad that they “got saved today. ” The Pastor explained to us that in that area, with all the different religious backgrounds, that many times what a parent heard was not, “I got saved today” but “I was brainwashed today“.

I nodded my head in agreement with the Pastor. His request was not something that bothered me for many reasons. For one, I no longer do the repeat after me prayer with adults or children. I did at first, because that is how I was taught to lead someone to Christ so that they could be saved. However, after my own experience with this repeat after me method and now that I have longer studied the Word for myself and have sat at the feet of Jesus and shared His Word with many, both young and old, I have seen the danger of this teaching. The danger I see in this method is that I believe it simply has us repeating memorized rote instead of being lead by the Holy Spirit to speak to the heart of a particular individual.

I cannot find anywhere in the Scripture where Jesus commanded us to say, just repeat after me, nor can I find Him commanding us to say, now by the authority of the prayer you just prayed I declare you saved. 

Jesus said Follow Me, Come to Me, Believe Me, Love MeObey Me… and teach others to do the same. Whether or not they do, is between them and Him.

I simply cannot find Him teaching His disciples to get together a method and go out and tell people to follow that method and then you can tell them they are saved. As a matter of fact I lean more to finding the exact opposite of that,

And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition…

Matthew 6:7

I have no doubt that this method probably didn’t begin as a “method” but from a sincere heart of servant of Christ who simply was sharing how the Lord led Him to lead an individual or individuals to Himself and then we do as we do. We discover it’s easier to follow steps that we can see than to walk by faith. It’s easier and less personal to repeat a rote method than to be still and possibly led into the unknown depths of a hurting soul. It’s less messy to just say repeat after me and move on. Check the box. My job is done. Next.

When the Lord opens the door of opportunity with me to sit down with a heart that has heard the gospel and professed to believe I always put the ball in that individuals court. I let them know that this is between their heart and Jesus. They need to talk to Him themselves. I will sit with them. I will hold their hand, but they will do the talking. He is their High Priest, their Mediator, I am just the messenger.

I am simply there to say, Individual this is my friend Jesus, Jesus this is my friend Individual. I’ll leave the two of you alone to talk. Because frankly if they are not close enough to Him to talk to Him at that moment then they have not yet encountered Him.

In our Sunday School class we are going through the MasterWork series and as I read over the lesson Saturday morning I loved what Ed Stetzer and Philip Nation wrote in their book Compelled: Living the Mission of God

Jesus did not say “make converts” or “teach them to pray a particular prayer.” Rather, you and I are to participate in the work of multiplying the number of surrendered learners and followers of Christ. We are to lead people into the kingdom by way of the cross. Again, this is not about enrolling people into a Bible study group or making them an adherent to our particular denomination. Rather, they are to intimately follow Christ.

The use of the word make (“Go therefore and make disciples…” Matthew 28:19) signals us to be involved in the process. Scripture describes believers in this way: “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves” (2 Corinthians 4:7). Today, clay jars are decorative items placed about the home to add color or panache. However, in the time of the early church, a clay pot was just a storage container. They were as common as the plastic tubs one buys at the dollar store. And yet diamonds can be stored in a cheap container. As the church, we are collection of these plain vessels that carry the gospel. We bring the light of Christ to those in the dark, but we are just the instrument, not the light. We pour out the water of life to those who exist in a spiritual drought, but we are only the jar, not the water. We serve the bread of life to a famished soul, but we are only the plate, not the bread. We make disciples by intentionally carrying this message to the lost.

Then Sunday night as I sat and listened to a guest pastor share a message from Luke 15 that focused on the fact that Jesus received sinners and therefore so should we as the church, His body, he used an illustration from the parable of the lost sheep. He shared that today in many of our churches when we see or hear of a lost sheep, instead of leaving the 99 and going to seek that 1, we will instead say: Well, let’s fill out a prospect card. Once again a man made method…

Jesus also never commanded us to build a big beautiful building and make what is going on inside fun and interesting so that the lost will come. Yet another man made method.

No, He said, Go and make disciples. That building is nice, but it is not necessary. He shared how often many in the church will declare that their church is right slap out in the open on a well traveled route and if people want to come they know where it is and they will come if they want to… but that is not how Jesus taught His church to think.

What do you think? If any man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go and search for the one that is straying?

Matthew 18:12

I know how easily it is to allow this mentality to pollute an entire church. Just yesterday as I was driving I was listening to one of the Christian radio stations in our area and the radio host made the comment about how we pick up the accents of those we live around. This is so very true. If I, as a southern girl, moved up to Boston eventually my accent would begin to pick up on the flavor of the area. If I stayed there and had children in that area, my children would most likely not have my southern accent, but a full blown Boston accent. The influence of one generation becomes the reality of the next. 

Oh beloved of God, let us examine our hearts. Leading someone to Jesus is not simply taking someone by the hand and saying, repeat after me, Dear Jesus, I know that I am a sinner. I believe that You died on the cross for my sin. I ask You to come into my heart and save me. It’s that simple yes, but the power is not in the prayer. It’s in the gospel. We must be born again.

Testimony after testimony shows us that this method has left many coming to the altar, after years and years of stale church attendance and wrecked lives, realizing that all this time they thought they were saved because they prayed this prayer and the person they repeated after said they were saved, but they, in fact were not. I suggest we get back to the basics. I suggest we get back to the Book.

When the jailer awoke and saw the prison doors opened, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here!” And he called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas, and after he brought them out, he said, “Sirs,what must I do to be saved?” They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” And they spoke the word of the Lord to him together with all who were in his house.  And he took them that very hour of the night and washed their wounds, and immediately he was baptized, he and all his household. And he brought them into his house and set food before them, and rejoiced greatly, having believed in God with his whole household.

Acts 16:27-34 (underlining for emphasis) 

What do I see here in this passage?

First I see two men who were free yet chose to stay in the cell in their freedom so that they could bring others into freedom.

I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.  Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth. I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word…

John 17:15-20

Then when the one who is overwhelmed that even though these men were free and could have left, they forsook their own freedom in order to save the life of the one who had put them in chains, cries out to be saved… they speak the word of the Lord to him. They did not say, well repeat after me and you will be saved.

We also see immediate response with action to what the jailor had heard and professed to believe. The jailor washed their wounds. The one who was served immediately served the server. The heart change had taken place. The humility of salvation was made evident.

When we stop and think about it, the way to salvation, the mandate of God to those who are His, has never changed… it simply has gained even more power:

Assemble the people, the men and the women and children and the alien who is in your town, so that they may hear and learn and fear the Lord your God, and be careful to observe all the words of this law.

Deuteronomy 31:12

Is God’s call to the children of Israel when He was about to have them step into the Promised Land after delivering them from the slavery of Egypt any different from the commission of Christ to the church?

Let’s break it down.

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.

Matthew 28:19-20

In order to assemble people, we have to go and get them, and not just any them’s but all them’s, the male, the female, the adult, the child, even the alien… all the nations. In order to make disciples we have to teach them to hear and to learn and to fear the Lord… to observe all that He has commanded.

Salvation does not come from praying a repeated prayer. It comes from hearing the word of the Lord. It comes through the Holy Spirit opening hearts and minds to understand what they have heard. Salvation is proved by our obedience to what we have heard.

We preach the Word both by living the Word and speaking the Word. The jailor had heard the reason why Paul and Silas were in prison. He had heard for himself the sounds of their praise being lifted up even in their persecution. He then saw them live out their willingness to die for the life of others. It was all this beautiful testimony wrapped in one that caused the jailor to cry out to be saved. Then when he cried out Paul and Silas simply spoke the Word of the Lord some more. This is our example. When someone says what must I do to be saved, we too need to speak the Word some more.

Salvation is simple. Believe Jesus, confess Him as Lord, and obey His commands. If we have truly believed we will love Him and love others and if we love Him we will obey Him and so prove to be His disciple which means we will too now go and make disciples. We will be compelled to do so… we will not be content with our own salvation but will earnestly desire to see the salvation of all nations and every people.

For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf. 

2 Corinthians 5:14-15

693517: Compelled: Living the Mission of God Compelled: Living the Mission of GodBy Ed Stetzer & Philip Nation / New Hope PublishersThink the “mission field” means traveling to foreign lands or unfamiliar neighborhoods? Stetzer and Nation show you how to make a difference right where you are! Providing ample illustrations, they explore the basic theology and principles of missiology, as well as personal applications in this revised edition of Compelled by Love. Includes thought-provoking discussion questions. 192 pages, softcover from New Hope.

Loss, Life, and Love

PPM-3.jpg

Some of you may be getting tired of my Daddy and Phillis posts… but we are still trying to muddle through this hurt. Who would have ever thought that seventeen years ago me and this guy would meet and fall in love and get married and then in one month we would both lose two people that helped define who we knew ourselves to be.

There is a hole in our lives that no one else on earth can fill… and I am still waiting for God to step in and fill it with Himself… or perhaps more so God is waiting on me to let Him.

My husband hit it on the head yesterday… I don’t want to NOT HURT. For me, right now, to not hurt is equal to saying they really were not that big of a deal in my life.

I am still working through anger, disappointments, and not saying things I want to say to people who have added insult to this injury. I am still battling it out with my Jehovah-rapha the Lord my Healer. Praising Him and resting in Him in one moment and then pounding my fist into His chest and telling Him to let me go in the next.

It’s hard to mourn for two when the two who are mourning do it so differently. Different moments cause different memories to surface and what I am terming “phantom memories”, the memories that now never will be but you know beyond a shadow of a doubt would have been.

I wish the promise of eternal life was enough of the balm of Gilead to ease the gap of the distance between here and there, but it’s not. Knowing where someone is simply does not make the separation any less painful.

I can’t imagine how someone without the hope of the promise made from the lips that would rise from the dead as the Firstborn of many (Colossians 1:18) could ever survive this hurt and remain mentally and emotionally stable.

The problem with love is that when it is lived the loss of it is ever so much greater. At least that is how it appears from my end at this moment.

Last week was the hardest. Last week was three months to the week that we were given the death sentences. Phillis received her news on April 27th and my Daddy on April 30th. I was sitting with my Daddy as I was texting Phillis while she was at the doctor. I was sitting with my Daddy when my husband called and said Phillis has called a family meeting. I was sitting there trying to encourage my Daddy that he would feel better when they got that tube out of his side…

I keep repeating in my head, the joy of the Lord is my strength…

Then he said to them, “Go, eat of the fat, drink of the sweet, and send portions to him who has nothing prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

Nehemiah 8:10

The day that my Daddy and Phillis were set free was holy to the Lord.

Precious in the sight of the Lord Is the death of His godly ones.

Psalm 116:15

It was the day that He got to bring His adopted children home.

We have friends in our church who are anxiously waiting on the home coming of their adopted children. In great anticipation they are looking to the day that those rooms they have prepared for them are filled with their presence.

Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.

John 14:1-2

I imagine that in even greater and deeper anticipation our Father in heaven awaits us. He sent His Son to pay the price and make sure all the legal stuff was covered and the passports sealed, signed, and verified. He fully supports us by His riches (Ephesians 3:15-19) from His home country by which we are now legal citizens and are in the process of being made ready to cross the border (Philippians 3:20-21).

It’s amazing how God turns sorrow into gladness and mourning into dancing. I really do not know how He does it, because I want to be angry with Him. I want to grieve. I want to mourn. I want to shout why at the top of my lungs and fall in a heap on the floor and kick and scream until He brings them back to me… but He simply won’t let me.

He allows me to hurt, but then He reaches into the depths of my soul and that fountain of living water releases and wells up in me as a spring of life… just as He said it would.

 

Apologia and Saxon On Sale

PPM-3.jpg

It’s that time again… summer is drawing to a close and as a homeschool parent it is time to start thinking curriculum. One of my favorite curriculums is Apologia.

My girls have worked through Astronomy, Zoology, Oceanography, Anatomy, General Science, Physical Science, and Biology and they loved it. I highly recommend this Apologia for any homeschool family.

This year we will be doing Advanced Biology and Chemistry and Physics. So you better believe I will be taking advantage of the CBD sale that is going on right now through August 4th!

I’ve personally never used Saxon Math, but I have heard a lot of great things about it. Saxon will be on sale as well. Just click the picture below and shop away!

***affiliate links included

In The Rearview

PPM-3.jpg

Life is interesting in the rearview. It’s painful. It’s prideful. It’s critical. It’s confusing. It’s clear. It’s comforting. It’s humbling. It’s healing.

The rearview allows you to look back while still moving forward. It’s not the same as taking a standstill and completely facing backwards and becoming immobilized. The rearview allows us to learn from what is behind us while we press on to what lies ahead. However, we must be careful not to linger too long in our glances or we will end up in a collision with the future and will find ourselves blaming the past instead of our own lack to pay attention to the path that the Lord has presently placed us on.

I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained.

Philippians 3:10-16

Paul kept a glance on the cross and the resurrection of Christ and because of this it kept him moving forward in order to honor and obey the leading of the One who had sealed him with the Holy Spirit with the promise of his own resurrection. He knew the One in whom He believed and He knew that He held the past, present, and future in His hands.

This past week my family served as missionaries in Boston as we helped put on a VBS week for a small church in the area. I had the privilege of teaching the Kindergarten through 3rd graders… and I poured as much into them as my time could allow. The morning we left a wave of heaviness washed over me. This wave lands on me after every lesson I teach. It’s the wave of doubt. I will begin to examine everything I said, or didn’t say, and fear will hit that I taught too much, not enough, or that taught wrong. Was I really being led by the Spirit? The what if’s come crashing down as I recall James 3:1,

Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.

Trust me, every post I write, every book I publish, every lesson I teach is with fear and trembling with this verse on the forefront of my mind.

As I was glancing back in that rearview, the criticism and confusion hit me and then I remembered the resurrection and I remembered that my Jesus is more than able to take the seed I sowed in imperfection and make it perfect. I think to highly of myself if I think my delivery or my lack there of determines the eternity of anyone. Jesus is fully capable of cultivating the seed of His own Word and seeing it to completion. In the humbling we find healing and the voices of condemnation are cast out and this human heart is comforted.

Of course this rearview looking is not just contained to the teaching and preaching of the Word of God, but also to life in general. When cancer struck my Daddy he looked back in the rearview and wondered if this was God punishing him for not following a call into full time ministry when he and my mother were newly married. When he told me this I reminded him of the impact that he had made for the Lord as he loved us and my mother and his sons-in-law. He might not have ever pastored a formal congregation, but he pastored his family well.

I missed him so much on our trip. I missed my sister in law. Our day at the Old North Church and the Old North Bridge were the hardest.

Here at our day at the Old North Bridge where the “shot heard around the world” took place I was overwhelmed as was my husband… but I was able to hold it together until our next stop where I took the picture of the sign of the first settlement.

IMG_4860 IMG_4884

The rearview got me as I snapped this picture. My Daddy would have loved this experience. As I looked back in my rearview I saw all the trips he and my mother took us on growing up. Our vacations always centered around a history lesson. I wanted him to be there beside me so bad on this trip that he had talked about he and my mother going on with us when the new chemo treatments helped him feel better again.

Then here at the Old North Church was a memorial with dog tags representing every soldier that had lost their life in Iraq and Afghanistan. One of these soldiers just might have been one that our Phillis touched in her life. How we would have loved to have her standing there as we took this picture.

IMG_4817

As I glanced back in the rearview and the pain hit me I also saw in that rearview the resurrection of our Lord, and I was reminded that my Daddy and Phillis didn’t need to be in the picture because quite possibility they might be having a first hand conversation with those who were there as they wait for us to join them in their resurrection.

Yes, life is definitely interesting in the rearview. It is indeed painful, prideful, critical, and confusing. Yet it is also clear, comforting, humbling, and healing when we keep it at a glance as we continue to press forward.

The rearview can teach us how to better pay attention in our present as we continue moving into our future. One of the most important lessons my Daddy taught me and my husband also teaches our girls about driving in a vehicle is to constantly glance to see what’s going on in your mirrors but keep your eyes on the road in front of you.

Our life in Christ is similar. Yes, we need to keep a glance in our rearview (the word “remember” is used at least 227 times in Scripture according to the NASB), but we have to keep our eyes fixed on the resurrected Jesus and moving forward so that we might press on to maturity.

It can become overwhelming if we look too long in that rearview. It is only meant for momentary glances. Whether we be looking at our past ministry efforts or our past in general. The rearview can be filled with regrets and if only’s that paralyze us and Jesus came to tell the paralyzed to pick up their pallet and walk.

We Don’t Outrage When It Helps Us Hide Our Sin

PPM-3.jpg

I began this post back in the end of June/first of July. I have a draft folder fuller of titles or of titleless starter posts. Some I hang on to, some I end up deleting, because the reason for beginning the post has calmed or changed or the Lord has simply said, “Nicole, let it go.”

Our nation is in turmoil as are many around the world. The turmoil all boils down to one word, sin. However, much of our modern day has thrown that word out of their vocabulary and replaced it with words and phrases like karma, love wins, whatever, and if it’s what makes them happy.

I always find it interesting what stirs up a “christian”.

The confederate flag and gay marriage has really stirred up the world of social media here in my southern newsfeed. I haven’t jumped on this train of indignation because personally I find them both  almost silly to debate. It’s not that I do not have strong opinions on the matter. It’s not that I have not discussed my strong opinions with my husband and family. I am not the least bit concerned that anyone who really knows me is at all confused over where I would stand on these issues. I find the social media indignant train silly because many will rant and rave and argue behind a computer screen, but few actually will make the sacrifice it takes to act on what they claim to believe. Few will really do something… and that makes me sad.

For example, many are upset that Bruce (Caitlyn) Jenner won the ESPN Espy award for “courage” but how many of those ranting will refuse to support ESPN even if that means forsaking the viewing of their favorite college football team?

Many times these issues are simply smoke screens and opportunities designed by Satan to expose the immaturity, carnality, and pride of many who profess the name of Jesus. If Satan and the powers of darkness can make those who claim to be christians look like a bunch of idiots, hypocrites, or ranting jackasses he most certainly will jump on the opportunity. Sadly, in our abundantly supplied day of christian resources the fact that so many who claim Christ are still Biblically illiterate makes his job at doing so quite easy. To have this much supply and yet still be ignorant simply makes the church appear ever so much more backwards and backwoods.

I have also come to notice that many will not get so upset at a movement or a ruling that helps them hide their sin. Why all the outrage on gay marriage? Is it really because of the redefinition and destruction of the family? No, I don’t think so…

If that was the case we would not be so quick to divorce. We would not be so quick to have that affair. We would not be so quick to be promiscuous. We would not be so quick to work twelve hours a day and leave our child in day care all day and just pick them up in enough time to run them through a drive thru on our way to drop them off with the ball coach. Gay marriage has not redefined marriage and family. We did that a long time ago when we, who claim the name of Christ, began to ignore Deuteronomy 6:4-9. If you are a professing Christian parent and you don’t know this passage by heart, then you have just proved my point.

Ravi Zacharias writes, “I think we as Christians need to awaken to the unpleasant reality that we have not taught and proclaimed God’s Word faithfully and demonstrated true holiness.

Where is the outrage over abortion? Why are we so upset over a gay marriage ruling and a confederate flag removal, yet we said nothing when our President stood before Planned Parenthood and praised them? Why have we decided to just accept that and move on? Today in the news there is a news story about a video of Planned Parenthood selling body parts… and we act as though we are shocked… for now anyway.

By the way that’s how the Supreme Court was able to boldly make that ruling. They know that the majority of us will rant and rave for a month or two, but then there will be a new story and we will all just accept it and move on. In other words the sky is not going to fall and people will still vote democrat in 2016 even though they rage against the machine.

What’s the difference between abortion and gay marriage and the outrage or the lack there of… one helps you hide your sin and the sin of loved ones and the other exposes it.

It appears to me that it comes down to that age old belief, just do whatever you want as long as you don’t tell me about it. Let me play the I-didn’t-know card, that way I don’t actually have to DO anything. However, if you do push me into the light of revelation I plan to loudly (from afar) proclaim my outrage so that hopefully you will never notice that I really don’t care enough to actually put deeds behind my mouth, or in this day, my fingers.

Ravi Zacharias reminds us that, “As Christians, we often look outside of ourselves and wonder why the world is so different from us. We seldom pause and ask how the Church of today has become so different from what it was and so indifferent to the world around us. Liberalism is not just a political term. What has happened in our world was foreseen a few decades ago. Changes were underway then and we were taken by a storm from within. Culture at large moved unabashedly towards the mockery of the Christian worldview; Eastern religions were spared that, either because of the cowardice of the Western critic or simply to not be seen as attacking another ethnic group. But the Church is really where the titanic shifts in the culture started. As the liberal church swung to the extreme of religion without absolutes, the evangelical church flirted with emotionalism without intellect, while some of the mass distributors of spirituality peddled a cosmetic version of truth that was hollow and hairstyles became more important than what was going on in the head itself.

It’s a whole lot harder to love in grace and truth than it is to tell others what is right and wrong. The Pharisees had that down pat. They could drag the woman out and point their fingers and loudly proclaim their outrage (John 8:1-11), but when it came to bending down and picking a man up who was beaten down, robbed, and left for dead they just walked on by on the other side (Luke 10:30-37).

One would bring them praise and respect from those they surrounded themselves with and cost them nothing. The other would cause those they surrounded themselves with to snarl their nose and would cost them abundantly.

When the choices of those who refuse truth cause their world to come crashing down around them, I want to be the one who is there to offer them a drink of the Living Water. I want to be the one to pick them up and offer them a bite of the Bread of Life. I want to be the one to tell them that their Redeemer lives. I want to be a branch connected to the Vine that is able to provide them a place of shade and protection from that one who comes to kill, steal, and destroy. I want my actions and my words to prove that I am His because in my words and in my actions people see Him… the One who has come not to judge the world, but to save it… Jesus Christ the Son of the Living God.

Ravi Zacharias also writes, “The third and final bridge of the gospel is that of community: the love of God working through us as a Church where worship brings together all our inclinations, surrendered to God’s sacred call for all of us. That is worked out in love and grace. Our worship will have to have theological integrity, not just in form but in substance; worship that is not just moments of exhilaration but is co-extensive with life itself and sermons that are not merely heard but are also seen. The outreach of love will then be embodied and not be mere talk. The Church must not be a fortress guarded by a constabulary but a home where the Father ever awaits the return of each of us who is in the far country.

for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.

1 Thessalonians 1:5

 

Don’t Tell Me It Doesn’t Matter

PPM-3.jpg

Oh, when we are standing with Jesus you won’t even care why.

After the judgment He’ll wipe all our tears aways and what happened here on earth will all be forgotten.

Oh, when we get to glory that won’t even matter.

Don’t tell me it doesn’t matter. If what happens here on this earth doesn’t matter then what are we doing? I don’t buy it.

I don’t know what we will do for all eternity, but there is more to what we do here on this earth with the life that we have been given than just what we will leave behind us when we are gone.

It matters.

When my sister-in-law was in her last days, I was sitting with her and we were talking and she was telling me about all the people who were coming to see her, and how far they were driving to do it… and she looked at me and smiled and said, “It matters. It matters.”

It matters when we make excuses instead of making moments.

It matters.

The  choices we make matter. The people we choose to invest in matter. The Lord knows when we are loving people and when we are using people to love ourselves. He can tell the difference.

He knows when you do what you do because You love Him and love others and when it’s because it benefits you. He knows.

He knows what is a real sacrifice and what we have made to look like a sacrifice or worse have convinced ourselves is a sacrifice so that we can pat our self-declared selfless selves on the back.

He knows when what we promote is His will or our own idea with a generic Jesus sticker on it.

I don’t want to be fake. I don’t want to DO church. I don’t want to do my vision and call it evangelism. I want to be real. I want to BE church. I want to be the body of my Jesus and continue His mission. I do not want to be guilty of USING His mission to be the provision and promotion of my own.

One thing I do not want to hear from my Lord on that day that I stand before Him, is I hope you enjoyed your earthly applause because you have received your reward in full (Matthew 6).

I’m not yet sure how God wants me to BE church. I’m not sure how He wants me to continue His mission. I just grab every opportunity that He gives me to teach and proclaim His truth. He said follow Me (John 21:22) and I am trying to do just that.

In the everyday and the mundane. In the work of the church and the heart of the home. In the joys and in the sorrows. In social media and in silent meditation.

I just don’t buy that it doesn’t matter. It matters. It ALL matters. What we do here on this earth matters… and I think it matters for more than just that crown we will lay at Jesus’ feet. There is more. I just don’t know what that more will be.

I just know that it matters when we stay silent and it matters when we speak.

It matters when we forgive and it matters when we think we have no reason to need to ask for forgiveness.

It matters when people are second and agendas are first.

It matters when we manipulate instead of communicate.

It matters that there are those I will never see the same again because of what I know.

God has gifted us with the command and ability to forgive by and through His grace not because we need nor have to forget, but because He knows that we never will.

I wish I could forget.

I was reminded Sunday through our Pastor’s message that God has the end. As much as my flesh would like to stand in what I would determine as righteous indignation I can’t trust myself. I can however trust Him. I either believe that He is indeed working all things together for good for those who love Him and are the called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28) or I don’t… and I choose to believe.

The enemy has stolen much from my family… but our Redeemer lives.

As I told a dear friend, I just pray that it isn’t wasted. I’ll keep breathing in His grace and breathing out His praise knowing that He was present for it all. His eyes saw what mine saw and what mine did not. I’ll leave it to Him to figure out all the rights and the wrongs and I’ll trust Him to do the healing in my heart and my memories. I’ll trust Him to take me deeper into Him as I walk through this place of hurt and unrest, this fissures of dissonance.

In the mean time I will follow Him.

Even if ,and especially when, I find myself in the valley of the gap…

Yet, what was expected was not experienced. John experienced the terrifying and abysmal emptiness that came in a Jesus who was free from his expectations and of his own assumptions.

Jesus acknowledged that his ministry would be disruptive, and even be misunderstood. In responding to John’s doubts, Jesus said, “Blessed is the one who keeps from stumbling over me” (Matthew 11:6). Like John before us, those who seek to follow Jesus often stumble over him. The gaps between what we believe and what we experience create fissures in faith into which many fall. Yet, as Cairns suggests, might mining those gaps uncover the treasure of encountering Jesus in new ways? Might mining the gaps we experience hold the treasure of new insight and the beauty of a more faithful devotion if we are willing to let go of “comfortable assumptions” and cherished expectations? If so, then might all the faithful dig deep and find that what is precious and most valuable is often found in the fissures of dissonance.

Margaret Manning Shull

Lord Let Me Fall

PPM-3.jpg

Everything sets the stage for the next stage. The work of the Lord is in motion. The process began in Genesis 1:1 and the end result has been in place since before the conception of creation.

Throughout history the Creator has been speaking His truth to the world. He is the One that predetermined that history would repeat itself over and over again because He designed us to learn through repetition. He designed us to learn because He does not want us to be uninformed. He has never been one to sneak around and be crafty. He has always openly displayed who He claimed to be.

Unlike others God has never had to use “smooth words”, He just speaks and we can take it or leave it. He remains who He is regardless of what we choose to believe. He speaks so that we can know Him. He has recorded His words in a book and the truth of them are validated by heaven and earth itself and even printed in secular books of history’s account and told through mouths in mythological stories and folklore all around the world in every nation and in every tongue… even in those nations who have never had His book of His-story to read when they were recording their own.

What’s coming is clear. What’s coming has been told before. What’s coming on a global scale has been seen over and over and over again in individual nations and tribes and peoples… we either see it or we buy it.

By smooth words he will turn to godlessness those who act wickedly toward the covenant, but the people who know their God will display strength and take action. Those who have insight among the people will give understanding to the many; yet they will fall by sword and by flame, by captivity and by plunder for many days. Now when they fall they will be granted a little help, and many will join with them in hypocrisy. Some of those who have insight will fall, in order to refine, purge and make them pure until the end time; because it is still to come at the appointed time.

“Then the king will do as he pleases, and he will exalt and magnify himself above every god and will speak monstrous things against the God of gods; and he will prosper until the indignation is finished, for that which is decreed will be done. He will show no regard for the gods of his fathers or for the desire of women, nor will he show regard for any other god; for he will magnify himself above them all. But instead he will honor a god of fortresses, a god whom his fathers did not know; he will honor him with gold, silver, costly stones and treasures. He will take action against the strongest of fortresses with the help of a foreign god; he will give great honor to those who acknowledge him and will cause them to rule over the many, and will parcel out land for a price.

Daniel 11:32-39

God is not surprised or shocked by anything that takes place in this world. He also does not expect those who love Him to be surprised or shocked because He has told us what is going to take place. It’s all there, written down, for anyone who wishes to know.

Genesis through Revelation… we either receive the truth or we reject it… but God will only allow us to flirt with it for so long.

Flirting With Truth Part 1

Flirting With Truth Part 2

I just know that as I stand in my day, I pray that I would be one who falls. I pray that I will display strength and take action. That I would reason as Paul and not bow like Daniel and that my integrity would be undeniable as Nehemiah’s even if I stand before pagan kings.

I pray my attitude would be one of trust in the convicting power of the Holy Spirit and that in my words and actions my value of life and the intrinsic worth of every single human soul would be clearly seen. I pray that as my flesh desires to grow frustrated over lack of faith and unbelief and even outright rejection that I would never forget that my enemy is that murderer, that deceiver, that serpent of old who is able to blind and that my battle would take place on my knees instead of through my gritted teeth.

For I too once was blind and deaf and dead. I too once was lost, confused, and floundering in the dark… it’s good to be found. Even if in being found I fall. If that be it, then Lord let me fall.