I just finished reading through a new study by Gregory Brown and The Bible Teachers Guide on the book of Nehemiah. This particular book in the Bible is a great one to dig into concerning the topic of leadership.
Below is a couple of excerpts from the book. Brown writes,
“The words of Nehemiah son of Hacaliah: In the month of Kislev in the twentieth year, while I was in the citadel of Susa… In the month of Nisan in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was brought for him, I took the wine and gave it to the king. I had not been sad in his presence before. (Nehemiah 1:1; Nehemiah 2:1)
Interpretation Question: What can we learn about godly leadership from the fact that Nehemiah started praying in December (Kislev; 1:1) but approached the king about Israel in April (Nisan; 2:1)?
Godly leaders are patient in waiting on God. It is clear from the text that Nehemiah heard about the problem around November-December (Kislev) and nothing happened until March-April (Nisan). He waited and prayed for four months to be used before God provided an opportunity to talk to the king. It is very possible to get in front of God. I almost wonder if that is what happened with Joseph as he shared his dream to his dad and brothers about them bowing down before him (Gen 37). It was not his time, and it only made his jealous brothers even angrier with him. Consequently, though the vision was true, he suffered for his unwise sharing.
Interpretation Question: What other godly leaders in the Scripture had to wait on God to be used?
The following quote spoke volumes to me…
Many of us have to learn to wait on God. Some of us may be waiting for a vision for what is next, waiting for a godly spouse, waiting to be delivered from a difficult trial. Yes, there is a time to be active, but there is also a time to wait, and we must discern the times. A flower dies if it blooms in winter.
Certainly, we can see that though Nehemiah waited, he was not inactive. He spent day and night in prayer for those four months (Neh 1:6).
This is the normal process for somebody who God is preparing to lead. He sends them into a waiting season, and in this waiting season, he prepares them for greater leadership. Even Christ waited for some thirty years and then forty days in the wilderness before he began his ministry. We should be prepared for this as well. We must learn to wait on God.
Application Question: In what ways has God been teaching you to wait on him? What makes this a difficult lesson to learn?
This book, similar to others in The Bible Teachers Guide, is written in such a way to walk the reader through the text of the Scriptures using the fundamentals of observation, interpretation, and application. The book is a great tool to help the reader understand the context of the book of Nehemiah as well as to help them see how it still very much relates to us today.
We are in desperate need of godly leadership in our day. We need it in our country, in our communities, in our schools, and we need it in our churches. However, most importantly, we need it in our homes.
Brown shares that, “This book can be used as a manual to follow in teaching, a resource to use in preparation for teaching, or simply as an expositional devotional to enrich one’s own study.”
This book can be used to take you and others into a study that will be both convicting and encouraging. This would be a great study to be used to mentor young men. I could also see it being used with a father and sons. Of course we ladies are expected to be godly leaders as well! So I also would recommend this study for women and young ladies as well. I know this girl found it enlightening and inspiring!
To learn more about Gregory Brown and the resources available to you through his ministry please check out: his blog. At his blog you will also find a current giveaway available for Nehemiah: Becoming a Godly Leader through Goodreads!
This summer I will be teaching Jr High kids a lesson series on God’s precepts. I had not quite decided on how I would put these lessons together or what direction I would go in concerning the subject. I was not sure what Scriptures I would use to teach them. I pondered pulling from Deuteronomy or from John using Jesus teaching about loving Him equating with obeying His commands. I simply tucked the title of the lesson back in my thoughts and waited for the Lord to lead me.
Then about a week ago I was scrolling through my Timehop app and came across a little Facebook note that I had written many years ago before I ever began to officially blog. The note was just a personal lesson that the Lord revealed to me as I was reading through Psalm 119, specifically verse 104.
What the Holy Spirit had revealed to me that day was found by opening my eyes in a new way to the word false. In Psalm 119:104 the psalmist did not write that he hated every “wrong” way, but every false way. As I read that, the Holy Spirit prompted me to ask, maybe it’s not so much about what is right or wrong, but more so about what is true or false.
“For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator,”
Perhaps as we look at the things in this world and the choices we need to make we should spend a little less time trying to argue and decide who and what is right and who and what is wrong and focus more on who and what is true. Our enemy, Satan, the deceiver, attempts to hand us a false substitute. Think about it… He himself is who he is in his attempt to be someone he can never be… Creator God.
Satan wants us to settle for his cheap offer and how often we have and how often we do still. He offers cheap thrills and momentary pleasures that leave us empty and starving. He hands us McDonalds and convinces us that it’s fillet mignon. We settle for temporary surface circumstantial happiness, when we could be partaking of everlasting deep resounding joy.
“therefore I hate every false way”
Jesus clearly proclaimed, “I am the way and the truth and the life and no one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). Jesus also told those that followed Him that God had promised that He would send us the Spirit of Truth, and He, the Spirit of Truth, would guide us into all truth (John 16:13). Jesus tells us that God’s word is truth (John 17:17) and we know that God is true (John 3:33).
If God is truth and His Word is truth and the Holy Spirit is truth and Jesus is truth then anything or anyone that opposes that truth is false. In order for us to be able to determine and discern what is true and what is false, God has given us His precepts. By these and these alone can we gain understanding and insight so that we might not be deceived.
The word precepts in Psalm 119:104 in the Hebrew is piqqud and it comes from the Hebrew verb paqad which means, to attend to, visit, muster, appoint. It can mean, calls me to account, properly, appointed, i.e. a mandate (of God…).
We live in a fallen world. A fallen deceived world often led by a deceived people with a false and even warped sense of reality. All of us enter this world in darkness. We are blind. We are lost. We are deceived. We are held by chains of death that are fastened with bonds of sin that are yoked to an enemy named Satan that desires nothing more than to drag us all into an eternal hell with him.
Our only hope is truth.
Truth that has been visited to us through the Word of God. The Word of God, these precepts, do not change. They are the mandate of God and they hold true for both angel and demon and all of mankind. By them and them alone can we gain understanding.
We gain understanding because they bring to light what is hidden. They do not shift or fade. They are solid and because they are solid they call us to account. How often do we not realize that something is crooked until something straight is laid up against it? How often do we not realize that something is a going downhill until we step far enough back from it to see more of the picture?
God’s precepts are our straight edge. They are our level. They can and will reveal what is true so that we might discover what is false.
God has visited us with His mercy by gifting us with His Word. He even fleshed out His Word in the person of Jesus Christ so that we might gain even more understanding and be able to distinguish between what is true and what is false.
His precepts attend to the thoughts of our hearts and cause us to wrestle with the things of this world. His precepts break our hearts and sting our pride. His precepts call us to a higher ground that by traveling up sometimes feels like we are storming the beaches of Normandy… but turning away from them leads us in a false way… a false way that leads to certain eternal death.
God’s precepts get us to the point of the matter of all things. God’s precepts cut through all the verbal gymnastics, wordy innuendoes, and flowery grins. God’s precepts reveal the truth in such a way that we not only can see the false way, but we grow to hate it.
Before Jesus went to the cross He stood before Pilate and Pilate asked Him what is truth…
Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?”
And when he had said this, he went out again…
Pilate asked what is truth as He stood face to face with the testimony of truth and then he walked away. He didn’t wait for an answer. He didn’t wait for an answer because he didn’t really want to hear the answer. He wanted his truth to remain relative… and truth is not relative. Truth is absolute.
God’s Word is truth. Beloved of God, do not walk away from it. God’s precepts are for seeking. Opening up His Word is scheduling your appointment with Him. Digging into God’s precepts is opening up your heart and mind for a visiting from the Spirit of God Himself so that He might attend to the deepest regions of your soul.
This is why the psalmist continued to write…
Therefore I esteem right all Your precepts concerning everything, I hate every false way. Your testimonies are wonderful; Therefore my soul observes them. The unfolding of Your words gives light; It gives understanding to the simple. I opened my mouth wide and panted, For I longed for Your commandments. Turn to me and be gracious to me, After Your manner with those who love Your name. Establish my footsteps in Your word, And do not let any iniquity have dominion over me.
So after all this getting to the point, I believe I will be using Psalm 119 to put together a four lesson series on God’s precepts to teach a group of Jr High kids this summer 😉
But Israel reached out his right hand and put it on Ephraim’s head, though he was the younger, and crossing his arms, he put his left hand on Manasseh’s head, even though Manasseh was the firstborn.
I have often wondered why Jacob chose to do this act of blessing Ephraim before Manasseh. After pondering on this for many years I have, so far, come to rest on two things.
The first has to do with a blessing. In our day of western Christianity we seem to have convinced ourselves that we have some kind of magic power in our own words. We think we can speak things into being and speak things into not being. We think we can speak a foreshadowing over others through the words of our mouth and from our own thoughts… and well that simply is a lie. Your words have no authority over the sovereign will of God and I don’t care who said that they did.
I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.
So Jesus said, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me.
For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak.
The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works.
Jesus, the Son of God, God in the flesh, the King of kings, the Lord of lords, the fullness of Deity dwelling among us, spoke only what was given to Him to speak by the Father. He didn’t proclaim His will, but the Father’s.
Jacob blessed according to God’s purpose… not his own. Jacob’s blessings didn’t set up God’s will. God’s will is already done. Jacob simply stated truth that already was, yet was not because it was still to be.
We live in a day and in a place where a lot of people walk around saying, “The Lord has said…” when the Lord has said no such thing. It’s nothing knew. It’s been happening since the beginning…
Therefore behold, I am against the prophets,” declares the Lord, “who steal My words from each other. Behold, I am against the prophets,” declares the Lord, “who use their tongues and declare, ‘The Lord declares.’ Behold, I am against those who have prophesied false dreams,” declares the Lord, “and related them and led My people astray by their falsehoods and reckless boasting; yet I did not send them or command them, nor do they furnish this people the slightest benefit,” declares the Lord.
So be careful beloved. Be very careful what you declare and bless and speak over and to others. Make sure it is God’s will that you are declaring and not your own.
The next thing I see in the choosing of Ephraim over Manasseh is in their names,
Joseph named the firstborn Manasseh, “For,” he said, “God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.”He named the second Ephraim, “For,” he said, “God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.”
Ephraim comes from the Hebrew root word “apher” and it means bandage or covering. The interesting thing is that the female version of this name means fruitfulness and it is also another name for Bethlehem. Manasseh means to forget the trouble, but Ephraim means to be fruitful IN the trouble.
There are lots of things in this world that we use to try to make us forget our sufferings and afflictions. We don’t like to hurt. We don’t want to experience pain, whether it be mentally, physically, or emotionally. We have shelves and shelves of pain relieving medications. We have a plethora of choices of liquors and beers and wines that can be used to drown our thoughts. We have drive by pick up of homegrown and self developed “this could kill you in a second, but at least you won’t feel it” drugs not far from every street corner in America no matter what side of town you live on. We have clubs, bars, and churches full of people who are trying to numb their pain with deafening music and false affirming words from people who only know who they pretend to be.
But beloved, God has blessed Ephraim over Manasseh. God has chosen Ephraim over Manasseh. God did not make Joseph forget his father’s household. He would instead ask Joseph to forgive his father’s household.
You cannot forget the troubles in this life. There will always be another trouble to come. You can, however, forgive. You can be fruitful in the trouble, in the affliction.
…for I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me and I do not know which to choose.
We have one day every other week in our house that me and my girls call “the crazy day.” Every other Wednesday I work, come home to grab the girls and their music, and get one to violin and the other to piano in time to get the other from violin to get the other from piano in order to get us all to church before 5pm. In the last leg of our “crazy day” the subject of eternity came up in our car ride.
We laughed as we thought about eternity. My girls, 14 and 11 years old, both shared how the thought of forever made them dizzy. I laughed as I agreed. My 14 year old shared my exact same sentiment of how everything in this life eventually ends, but there is still the next thing. In eternity, there is no next thing. You are in the finality of forever.
However, there is a next thing before we enter what we consider eternity. I reminded my girls about the 1000 year reign.
Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years.
My 14 year old exclaimed, “I forgot about that! So we don’t just die and then enter into heaven and float around on the clouds all the time!” (The float around on the clouds was said with sarcasm, she knows the reality of the eternal worship of our Creator God and the Lamb that was slain)
There is a next thing when we take our last breathe on this earth. Those that have gone before us in the Lord are in His presence. They are waiting with anticipation for the next thing just as we are, but they are no longer suffering from the consequences of this fallen world. They are indeed with Jesus as He waits to hear the Father say, “It is time!” (Matthew 24:27, 1 Corinthians 15:52, 1 Thessalonians 4:16)
I shared with my girls, that this is why what we do here on this earth matters. This life is building our resume for the 1000 year reign. What you do with the life Christ has given you while on this earth is determining how you will serve Him when He comes in all His glory to set up His earthly kingdom. Satan will be defeated and bound for a 1000 years and the King of kings and the Lord of lords will rule the entire world in righteous, and we who love Him and serve Him today will rule with Him in that tomorrow.
This is why Jesus shared the parable of the good and faithful slave…
His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’
It’s not about being in charge of many things in this age… it’s about the age to come. Those that preach a gospel that declares that our best life is now is preaching a lie from the pits of hell, because that is NOT what our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ preached.
You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved.
Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name.
If you are not willing to obey Him, serve Him, and suffer with Him today, what makes you think He will choose to trust you to rule with Him when He takes His 1000 year world throne?
Think about it.
Now, after that 1000 years Satan will be released from His chains and true to our human nature, even after humanity has lived 1000 years under the rule of God Himself, Satan will STILL be able to mobilize an army to come against Christ and the people of God. However, he and all those who side with him will be defeated. It will be a short fight (Revelation 20:7-10). Satan will be cast into the lake of fire, along with all those who followed him. Then all those who died throughout the ages without repenting from their sin and trusting in the promises of God will be raised and cast in behind them.
Now is when the world as we know it, the entire earth passes away. God will create a new heaven and a new earth (Revelation 21:1) and now we have eternity.
So beloved, there still is a next thing. We don’t die in this age to become angels floating around on the clouds. We don’t enter the pearly gates. We enter the presence of the Lord and we wait with great anticipation for our loved ones in the Lord to join us as we return to rule and reign with the One who redeemed us. It will be our last mighty work with Him to declare His glory for a 1000 years.
So beloved, I ask… How’s your resume?
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.
I could easily right this post from a bashing attitude and perspective, but I am going to try to write this in a way of exhortation. The past couple of years have taught me a little bit about what I am calling convenient christianity and Facebook faith. I’ve learned and am still learning as I walk through this valley of the shadow of death and through this life’s sufferings and grief. My prayer in pain is that it will not be wasted.
We blame technology on the loss of real communication, but for me that’s no different than blaming guns for killing people. Technology is amoral. It is not good or bad. It is not right or wrong. It is what it is according to the one who uses it. Therefore, we can’t blame social media or cell phones for our lack of real communication. We have only ourselves to blame.
The problem is not technology, the problem is us.
At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another.Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.
Liking a post on Facebook (or any other social media venue) and even going so far as to type out “praying” as you scroll through does not make the hurting feel as if you really are praying or even actually care. Running into someone at church and then asking how they are doing is really meaningless to the one who sat there alone and ignored from Sunday at 11:45 am until the next Sunday at 9am… and that is only if they are well enough to make it that day.
In Matthew 24:10-13 Jesus is sitting on the Mount of Olives privately talking to His disciples. The message of Matthew 24 – 25 is given one on one, face to face, in a small group kind of way. This was not preached to the mixed masses of doubters, haters, and seekers. It was privately and powerfully delivered to His disciples just two days before He would face the cross. It was spoken to those who followed Him, but it included the Judas’s as well as the Peter’s, James’, and John’s. Therefore we who profess to believe must read it with the warning that Jesus intended it to be and ask ourselves, “Has my love grown cold?”
Many people have experienced the coldness of a doctor, nurse, or simply the emergency room admittance worker. After years of experiencing tragedy over and over, a wall of desesnsitivity is built up. I believe this same experience of desensitivity often happens to believers in the church…
I am about to begin leading a precept study on the book of Titus. This New Testament book is a letter from Paul to the young man Titus who has been left to head up the church in Crete. There is one main repeated word of instruction from Paul to Titus to give to those who profess to believe. At least five times Paul exhorts Titus to be careful to engage in good deeds. Paul’s last charge to Titus concerns this matter,
Our people must also learn to engage in good deeds to meet pressing needs, so that they will not be unfruitful.
I have lost count of how many people have told my family. I didn’t know your Dad was that sick. Why didn’t they know? It’s because they didn’t ask, because if they had, they would have known. It’s because they didn’t visit, because if they had, they would have known. Social media is a great tool to gather information and to reach out to those that are so far away in distance that you cannot be physically present, but it was never intended to replace actual presence when that presence is possible.
Attending church is meant to build a family that is there for you Sunday to Sunday. It was never meant to be a separate group of people that you just see on Sundays. I really don’t think most people join a church because they are looking to have something to do on Sundays. People join a church to have community. People join a church to have others to do life with… because dadgum-it life is hard. Real. Hard.
I reference my husband’s company often in my writing because, well the truth is they do a lot of things right. If more local churches followed the example of this company they would find themselves growing both deep and wide. What is it that my husband’s company does that is so special?
My husband’s company does not focus on just making him a better employee, but they want him to be a better man. They do this by holding company wide fellowships with guest speakers who come and encourage and exhort them concerning life at home. They expect him to choose a mentor within the company that he meets with and consults with on a regular basis. He is expected to sit down with a superior at least once a year and be evaluated on what he does well and could do better, not just at work but in life as a man, a husband, and a father. He in turn does this with all those on his crew. They call it “personal development.”
When a team member is sick he is contacted personally by his lead and if at all possible visited when and if hospitalized. If he is off work for a while, the employees at my husband’s work will take up money on there on initiative… and when it becomes long term, the company is set up to allow automatic drafts out of your paycheck straight into the struggling employees account, but the one who receives never knows who gave what. Does this sound familiar?
And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common;and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need.
In the book of Titus Paul exhorts Titus to not get caught up in foolish controversies and genealogies and strife and disputes about the Law (Titus 1:9) but to be careful to engage in good deeds (Titus 1:8). I believe it was Theodore Roosevelt who once said that people don’t care about what you know until they know how much you care. Bottom line is this was Paul’s charge to Titus. Let the haters hate, the liars lie, you love. Speak truth yes, but make sure those words are followed with actions.
Be. An. Example. Of. Good. Deeds.
WITH purity of doctrine.
Good Deeds and Sound Doctrine.
Grace and Truth.
And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.
We are still at the beginning of the new year. This is the time that many sit and evaluate themselves. It is also a time that a church should sit and evaluate itself.
Two questions to ask ourselves as individual believers and as a church:
Has our love grown cold?
Are we engaged in good deeds, meeting pressing needs?
Beloved if all you have is convenient church and Facebook faith with no Sunday to Sunday down and dirty real hard life interactions with other believers, especially those you GO TO church with… then I beg you to stop and head the warnings of our Lord in Matthew 25…
“Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in;naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You?When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’
“Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels;for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink;I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’Then they themselves also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’ Then He will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
Phil Waldrep has a great message for the church… I believe our modern American churches have as a whole forgotten our purpose. Not long ago I heard Ravi Zacharias share that sin is a violation of purpose. Think about that… what is sin? It is indeed a violation of purpose.
The ministry of the church was never meant to be about concerts, conferences, and coffee. Programs and prayer requests sheets are not worth the paper they are printed on if people are not priority. If as believers, we are too busy with events to actually minister to the members of our body… that is a violation of our purpose. If we no longer feel the desire to go and share the gospel and meet the pressing needs of others… then our love has grown cold.
Beloved of God, let us not default to convenient christianity and Facebook faith. If you need a reminder in your walk with God about what’s really important then dig into the book of Titus, it’s only three chapters. And may we all become zealous for good deeds and obedient to meet pressing needs.
Yesterday we buried my Daddy-in-Love and today is my Daddy’s birthday. How crazy is it that I would I meet this man and fall head over heels in love with him to find our families have been and would always be so deeply intertwined?
After we were married and I was in our first home combining the his and hers, my Grandmother came over to see our new home. As she walked down the hall and saw the pictures she looked up and said, “Is that Fred and Janie?” Some of you have already heard this story, but I still love to tell it.
Come to find out, my husband’s father’s family and my mother’s family grew up together. My great grandfather and my husband’s grandfather were best friends and fishing buddies. My grandmother knew them all and knew them well.
Then our first married Christmas I am putting ornaments on my tree and my mother walks over to see and notices these homemade angels hanging on my tree. She asks about them, because she has the same ornament hanging on her tree that was a gift from an elderly woman that was a resident of the nursing home she worked at. That woman ended up being my husband’s grandmother on his mother’s side.
In 2012 my husband’s sister was diagnosed with liver cancer that had metastasized from her colon… as she bravely and beautiful fought this ugly disease we learned in April 2014 that my husband’s stepdad had bladder cancer and then in May 2014 that my Daddy had lung cancer. You just had to laugh on the days that we all found ourselves in the oncologists office on the same day. My husband’s sister would laugh and ask the front desk if they had a family plan.
It was April 27th 2015 when we learned that their was nothing more the doctors could do for my husband’s sister and April 30th 2015 when we received the same news on my Daddy. My Daddy went home to be with the Lord on May 2nd and Phillis met him there on May 21st.
Then on December 26th my Daddy-in-Love joined them in heaven. I have no doubt, absolutely NO Doubt that my Daddy and Phillis were the first to greet him and take him to see Jesus face to face. I know the prayers these two offered up on his behalf that he would be ready when he drew his last breathe. I can’t imagine the joy of the moment and the joy on their faces when hearing the news from our Lord as He said, “Guess whose coming home!”
As I stated at the beginning of this post, yesterday December 29th we laid to rest my Daddy-in-Love and today I awake to my Daddy’s first birthday in eternity. He would have been 61 years old today.
I feared the coming of this day. I did not know how I would take it. The Lord has been faithful to meet me in my pits of hurt and doubt and as I have asked Him over and over again the why of all this… He spoke too me in His Word and He confirmed it through a song.
There is a song that our church has sang through this Christmas season that sings, “welcome to our world“. I think here in this modern day western churchianity we have somehow convinced ourselves that becoming a Christian means that Jesus is going to come down here and fix everything in our own little world with a simple “I declare it in the name of Jesus!” We might understand that the whole world is going to go through troubles, but we expect God to make our own little world perfect… that is, perfect in our eyes. That’s not why Jesus came.
He did not come to make our world problem free, He came to help us through this problem filled world until it was time to bring us into His eternally perfect world. As the song sang… welcome to our world. This fallen, broken, dying world that He could have turned His back, but He instead entered into it to save us and bring us to the safety of Himself.
I imagine it more like being trapped in a wooded forest filled with sinkholes, beast, flash floods, etc… kind of like the arena of the Hunger Games. Stuck in this arena of sin we can’t see our way out or through and there’s no hover craft able to drop a basket in and lift us out. The only hope would be for a guide to enter into the arena with us. A guide that knows all the traps and has the knowledge and ability to get us through and out. Jesus is that guide. He entered into the arena. He could have sat back and watched it all from the safety of His capital throne, but He didn’t. He entered in to see that we win the game.
In mine and my husband’s intertwined life, when we said “I do”, we thought the intertwining would begin there at the altar in the covenant of marriage… but the Grand Weaver had us in the works knitting our families together in Him, to Him, and for Him long before either one of us was even thought of in this world. He’s a good, good, God.
I don’t know where we go from here, everything in life has changed these past couple of years… but God has not. He is the same today, yesterday, and forever. He knows the beginning and the end. So we will just keep following Him. He is the only one who knows where we are going and how to get us there anyway.
This month I entered into my 39th year. I felt the Lord impress upon me to turn to Psalm 39 and so I did… and as I read He spoke the hard truth to my heart.
I said, “I will guard my ways That I may not sin with my tongue; I will guard my mouth as with a muzzle While the wicked are in my presence.” I was mute and silent, I refrained even from good, And my sorrow grew worse. My heart was hot within me, While I was musing the fire burned; Then I spoke with my tongue: “Lord, make me to know my end And what is the extent of my days; Let me know how transient I am. “Behold, You have made my days as handbreadths, And my lifetime as nothing in Your sight; Surely every man at his best is a mere breath. “Surely every man walks about as a phantom; Surely they make an uproar for nothing; He amasses riches and does not know who will gather them.
“And now, Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in You. “Deliver me from all my transgressions; Make me not the reproach of the foolish. “I have become mute, I do not open my mouth, Because it is You who have done it. “Remove Your plague from me; Because of the opposition of Your hand I am perishing. “With reproofs You chasten a man for iniquity; You consume as a moth what is precious to him; Surely every man is a mere breath.
“Hear my prayer, O Lord, and give ear to my cry; Do not be silent at my tears; For I am a stranger with You, A sojourner like all my fathers. “Turn Your gaze away from me, that I may smile again Before I depart and am no more.”
I have been walking faithfully with the Lord since Psalm 25. He used Psalm 25 to bring me back into fellowship with Him three days before my 25th birthday. Last year I survived Psalm 38. I didn’t think I would… but He is faithful. Now I step into Psalm 39.
The 39th Psalm begins with David sharing how he stayed silent. He stayed silent and guarded his mouth with a muzzle while the wicked were in his presence. Perhaps he stayed silent as to not say something cruel. Perhaps he stayed silent so as not to offend. Perhaps he stayed silent in order to protect himself. Perhaps he stayed silent in order to not reveal his position. It doesn’t really matter the why of the silence, because the result of the silence was felt regardless of the reason for it.
He shares that in his choice of silence while in the presence of the wicked, he EVEN refrained from good.
His sorrow grew worse.
His heart was hot.
His musing burned within him.
I have a tendency to be hurt and just tuck it in and walk away. Then the hurt just turns in me, over and over and over, as if on instant replay. I read Psalm 39:3 and I get the picture of someone using friction to start a fire. The musing is like rubbing the two sticks together and the more you rub them the breakdown of the wood creates the smolder and the smolder the fire.
When we try to suppress our hurt or when we wrestle with the realities of evil and pain in this life, regardless of their source, apart from God we create this friction, this burning, and if we refuse to bring it to the throne of God and wrestle it out WITH Him, it will indeed destroy us.
I understand where David was at… in his attempt to not screw up around the wicked, he stopped doing anything. He just quit. Have you been there beloved? Have you been trying to serve God with a full and obedient heart and have found yourself being attacked on every side from those you never expected it to come, in a way that you never expected to be? Blindsided by those you never before would have labeled “wicked”? Wounded, have you found that you now just refrain even from doing good?
Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.
But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary of doing good.
2 Thessalonians 3:13
And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.
In Psalm 39:4 I can see David in his hurt and in his inner churning and heart burning throwing his hands up to God and crying out… basically saying, “What is the point!?!?“
I know that cry… I have made it myself.
I have learned truly how short life is and how we are indeed a mere breath. We have a very short time on this earth. Even if we live to see a hundred plus… to those who are separated from us that time is simply not enough. We desire more. We desire eternity. Indeed, even a hundred years is as a mere breathe.
I watch our American world today and listen to the things that we are in such an uproar over and stressed out concerning and I agree with the words of David in Psalm 39:6…
Surely every man walks about as a phantom; Surely they make an uproar for nothing; He amasses riches and does not know who will gather them.
There is only one thing that matters… Is my heart in the hands of God? Is my soul alive with the Spirit of God? Do I possess Christ? Am I sojourner with the LORD? Really… does Christ possess me?
When I am at my wits end, when I have stepped into a pit of hurt and confusion and darkness and I no longer know up from down and have even found myself questioning the goodness of the God I cry out to and trust in… when I remember that my heart is His and that all souls that are in His Son are safe in His hands… I find myself on my knees remembering my hope alone is in Him.
I know He alone holds the answers. I know He alone is sovereign. I know that good or bad, joyful or painful, He for some reason has allowed it. I know that anything not in Him will be consumed as a moth. This includes this earthly body.
Which included my Daddy, and my Phillis, and now my Daddy-in Law who is preparing to enter into eternity. Which includes myself, my children, my friends, my co-workers, my schoolmates, strangers that I pass on the street… our bodies will perish, but there is one thing that is eternal in this life and that is our souls.
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18
Christ came to save souls. Christ saved my soul, in order to use my soul, my mind, my might, my strength, my body to serve Him to save other souls.
People are what matter.
God loves people.
God sent His Son to save people.
I have learned that when I find myself hurt and churning here in this life, it’s because I have made something consumable more precious than what is not consumable… which is an eternal soul.
Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inheritthe imperishable.Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed,in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality.But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 15:50-57
And then there is the grand conclusion…
Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.
1 Corinthians 15:58
Oh beloved of God… NEVER allow any hurt by what is perishable and consumable to keep you from doing good and investing in what is not perishable or consumable… which is the human soul.
Your toil is not in vain when it is in the LORD… for nothing IN HIM will be destroyed.
Tonight at my parents home my mother brought up the question… a question every one who professes to be a believer should ask, “when was the last time I shared the gospel to someone or led someone to Christ?”
Not invited to church… but shared the gospel and led to Christ. Is my life a pathway to the Lord for those watching it being lived out? Am I a light in the darkness?
(This post was updated on December 25th, 2015 at 11:30pm)
Gregory Brown has a new study releasing today. This book from The Bible Teacher’s Guide is another great tool in the hand of anyone seeking to grow in their personal walk with Christ.
If you are looking for a book to cause you to look deeply within yourself and to help examine your heart so that you can begin 2016 in a right relationship with the Creator of the Universe through Jesus Christ His Son, so that you might be able to better know Him and His will for your life, then I would recommend this study.
One can’t know what is best if he/she doesn’t know the Word of God. It is a necessary component of a mature Christian’s life. They are constantly abounding in the knowledge of the Word of God.
We never peak in understanding the Word of God. The Word of God is “simple enough that a child can understand it but deep enough that a scholar can drown in it.” A mature Christian is not stagnant in his knowledge of the Bible. He is always seeking to abound in it, seeking to understand it more, seeking to teach it more, and seeking to obey it more.
Just as we can never have enough love, we can never have enough knowledge of Scripture. This is a characteristic of mature Christians. As they know God’s Word better, they are better able to discern what is best in all areas of life (cf. 1 Cor 2:15).
This study guide is filled introspective questions. It is written like a commentary on the book of Philippians and it is filled with historical and biblical context. Brown takes you from Philippians 1:1 to Philippians 4:23 and helps you to truly soak in the heart of Paul and the heart of God and the charge that God was using Paul to deliver to those that belong to Him.
Another quote from Brown reads, “Charles Ellicott translated Paul words this way: “My body will be the theatre in which Christ’s glory is displayed.” 38 This is a challenge for us each day. The reality is that Christ’s worthiness and beauty is judged by our lives. We either demonstrate the glory and beauty of Christ or we demean him. The world judges Christ by his followers.
Paul said this about believers: “For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing” (2 Corinthians 2:15). We give off the smell of Christ. We magnify him by our lives. He also said to the Corinthians that they were a letter from Christ written for all to read (2 Corinthians 3:3).”
We live in a day here in America where the new mantra is “only God can judge me!” but the simple truth is that we are ALWAYS being judged by one another. Our children and our spouses and those we stand in front of in the grocery store line are watching us and experiencing us. Their experience with us will either cause them to glorify God or will cause them to doubt His very existence.
God created us to be open books for a world to read. Jesus saved us to be the light to the world. Whether we like it or not, we are the BIBLE that everyone that comes in contact with us will read. We are told to hide God’s Word in our heart because out of the heart the mouth speaks. Beloved, what does your everyday mouth testify about your heart?
If you are like me, and need to do some heart cleaning, then turn to the book of Philippians and download Gregory Brown’s study guide and let the water of the Word wash over you.
Here is a few of the chapter titles to give you an idea of how Brown will take you through the book of Philippians and help you ask yourself some pretty tough questions…
When you step into a journey of the unknown I have learned it is very easy to lose your way. As I pondered how to describe this step I thought of an experience I had back in October. Our girls are in theatre. I usually always help backstage in some way. In theatre the lights go out because the scenes must be changed in the dark.
On one particular show day I had to leave in between shows for a doctor’s appointment. I stepped back into the backstage area at the exact moment that the grand was being pulled open for the first scene. When I rushed on stage to do the scene change my eyes had not yet adjusted to my new environment. I was blind and useless. I had to stop where I was and not move and close my eyes and allow my self time to adjust in order to find my way again. It took until the next scene change before my eyes were ready because I had stepped backstage from a beautiful sun shining day.
Sometimes this journey of life is like my theatre experience above. Sometimes God throws us into a new environment within a familiar environment and we can find ourselves in a panic in our new unknown. Everything comes to a standstill in our spirit and we feel paralyzed and blind. In that moment it is easy for fear to grip our hearts.
I have also learned that the adjustment from seeing in the light to seeing in the darkness takes much longer the brighter the previous light, and it’s definitely much harder to go from light to darkness than it is from darkness to light.
I know that in this new environment of ours, an environment absent of those who have NEVER been absent from our life, has placed us on a journey we never thought we would be on. We have gone from being in their light to a darkness that we have never experienced before. The Spirit has reminded me of John 5:35-36 and how the disciples of John must have felt when he was taken away from them.
Everything we thought would be, no longer will be, and although we are walking in familiar territory, darkness has fallen on the land, because the familiar is now no longer familiar. It has changed. The future plans dreamed and prepared for are gone.
It is here where vision can be lost.
I know I lost sight of mine. I really just wanted to curl up in the fetal position and throw in the towel. In one moment everything that you thought was, now isn’t; and everything, every, thing, is now unfamiliar territory, even the mundane simple routine things of life.
In the book of Mark there is an interaction between Jesus and a blind beggar named Bartimaeus. In Mark 10:46-52this man heard the voice of Jesus and began crying out to Him. Jesus stopped and told His disciples to call him to come to Him. Bartimaeus threw aside his cloak and jumped up and came to Jesus. When Jesus asked him what he wanted from Him, Bartimaeus said, “Rabboni, I want to regain my sight!”
The fact that he said he wanted to regain his sight implies that at one time he could see. He too was in familiar territory that now was made unfamiliar by the presence of darkness that his eyes (physical and spiritual) just simply could not adjust to. As I read this, and listened to Phil Waldrep teach on this passage of Scripture last month, in the margin of my Bible I wrote, “I need to regain my sight”
I realized that not only was I grieving, but I had entered a journey into the unknown with my once known gone. I was in new territory. I had just had the lights turned out on me and I was on a familiar stage in the midst of a scene change but I was blind and useless. I was trying to go throw the routine motions because in my head I knew where everything was supposed to go and be, but really I was a mess, and was going to make a mess if I did not stop and stand still and give my eyes time to adjust.
I asked God to help me see. I have been asking God to help me see. However, just like that day in the theatre He has been slow in this eye adjustment, but He is indeed restoring my sight.
For one He has reminded me that people are always watching us even when we have no clue that they are. He has also reminded us that He is good, through simple laugh out loud ways, He has reminded us that He loves us and is on His throne.
In November, my husband and I snuck away to the beach alone. While there, in the stillness, separated from the regular routine of life we were able to reconnect with our God and with one another. I have been stuck on my Exodus Part Two book since my Daddy took a turn for the worse in January and while at the beach God gave me two devotions for this book. This renewed my spirit to finish it, not just Exodus, but the entire series.
Also one night while waiting to eat, my husband and I were sitting out on the deck of a restaurant holding hands just talking, and this group of older men turned the corner and one of them said, “Well aren’t you two just the cutest couple we have seen here all week.”
Then, while at the beach, my husband won tickets to our home state ultimate college football rivalry game, The Iron Bowl. We were home from the beach for a week, then we had Thanksgiving, which was so VERY HARD for us and then the next day we left for Auburn.
We parked and walked almost two miles to the stadium, While walking to the game we stopped at the infamous Tiger Walk to see the players and while standing there we had a couple come up and say, “We have been behind y’all watching y’all walk for a while and we just wanted you tell you that you two are the cutest things!”
Then a friend had gifted us with some Titan tickets several months ago, which just happened to be for the game following the Iron Bowl. It just happened to be pouring down rain for this game, and my body and cold and rain simply do not get alone. We also had another mile walk to the stadium. On the walk my shoe came untied and my husband bent over and tied it for me. We walked a little further and lo and behold the OTHER shoe came untied and once again he bent over to tie my shoe. While he was tying my shoe this lady comes up and pats us on the back and says, “Now that’s true love right there!”
Then we got to the stadium and as we were walking to our seats, which would have had us sitting in the rain, this man stopped us. He asked us where we were sitting and then asked if we wanted to stay dry? He had two extra club seating tickets that he wanted to give us as a gift. We were hesitate at first to accept them, thinking this had to be a racket, but it wasn’t. It was simply a kind gesture. We walked into a carpeted area with leather seats and big screen tv’s and indoor concessions. It was nice and it was dry.
What did all these comments and experiences mean and how did God use them to restore my vision?
One He reminded me that He was with us. He had not forgotten us. He had not forsaken me and the visions that I felt so certain that He had given me for my life in service to Him. He reminded me that me and my husband have always been a great team and somehow people see something in us that we don’t so easily see in ourselves.
Two He reminded me that people are watching us. He reminded me that sometimes our greatest ministry as Christians is to those that we don’t even know are paying any attention to us. It’s those that are watching us interact with our spouses and with our kids. It’s those that are seeing how we handle and walk through the every day things of life.
So as I step deeper still into this journey of the unknown I am thankful that I have a very Known God to lead me through it. I am thankful that darkness and light are the same to Him. I am thankful that He is the One that holds us together when we feel like falling apart.
It’s been a really long time since I wrote any poetry. This past month my husband and I had an opportunity to sneak away for a few days to the beach and as I sat on a quiet, uncrowded, chilly beach I, for the first time in a while, wrote out a poem to my God…
My God I come to Thee
To lift my hands and sing.
My voice I do raise
That my tongue might give Thee praise.
Wholly I surrender to Thy own will and way
Knowing Thou art good and holy is Thy name.
Thy justice I can trust
When I am hurt by deeds unrighteous.
Thy mercy I can find
When the world has crushed my mind.
When my heart and soul feels faint
I know that Thou art still my strength.
When the winds and waves crash round
I know that the Rock on which I stand shall never let me drown.
Thy unchanging love which never fails me not
Shall hold me steady still when I forget what Thou hath taught.
Thy own faithfulness carries me when I am found faithless.
Thy righteousness covers me when exposed by flesh’s weakness.
When tears fill my eyes and no words can I find
Thy Spirit gently comes and guards me like a lion.
He utters and He groans with the voice of my unknowns
For He knows how to pray when all my words are gone.
When sins effect has wounded in depths no man can reach
Thy hand my God is able to heal the hurts so deep.
Thy Son who came and lived on earth to sympathize
Understands the pain of here and does not condemn me in my cries.
I adore Thee. I adore Thee. My God Thee I adore.
I thank Thee and I praise Thee for all that Thou restore.
By Thy cross, not hell, not death, nor any scheme of man
Has power to ever stop Thy will or Thy plan.
Although I cannot always see
In this valley of the shadow so deep
I hear Thy word tell me that my sight I do not need.
By faith I take each step
Trusting in all Thy promises that Thou has already kept.
Knowing that Thou art good and this life is not the end.
For by the blood of Thy Son Thou has called me friend.
So into Thy loving hands my soul I do commit.
I am bought by Thee and at Thy feet I sit.
My ear is leaning in to hear what Thou wouldst speak.
My hands and feet are Thine to use as Thou see fit.
When you walk though a season like my family is currently traveling through you deal with every emotion known to the heart. I have never felt the depth of hurt that I have in the past couple of years. My faith was shattered and shook in and from all directions. I saw ugly things that have changed me forever. There are people that I will never see the same this side of eternity.
There are words in my heart that I so desire to speak, yet I stay silent as I wait upon the Lord. I have learned that I could and probably can forgive anything, but I cannot restore until someone sees the need to seek that forgiveness. It’s a whole new depth to the gospel that I have come to understand. There is a difference in knowing someone has the ability to forgive and actually coming to that someone and asking for that forgiveness. However, I have learned that in this it is okay to shake the dust off my feet and leave that to my God. I am not obligated to carry that burden.
You see THAT is what it means to forgive. In Matthew 6:15,
But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.
The word forgive is aphiémi and it means I send away, release, remit, forgive. It also means to lay aside, leave, let go, omit, to depart from one and leave him to himself, so that all mutual claims are abandoned, to leave, go away from one; to depart from anyone, to give up a thing to one.
Sometimes to forgive is to simply let go and walk away. To forgive is to simply give up the hurt to God and let Him deal with it. He alone knows what is going on in the heart. He alone knows the motive, so it’s safe to release our pain to Him and trust Him to make it right in His time.
Today is the first day of the last month of the year. This month we remember the day that God kept a promise that He made way back when sin made its first ugly stain.
And between your seed and her seed… Genesis 3:15
The need for forgiveness has its beginning way back there in the garden. Our God was the first to extend the forgiveness He asks us to extend. He never asks of us what He is not willing to do Himself.
The writing and teachings of Nicole Love Halbrooks Vaughn