I am a woman who has been deeply wounded by the church. I am also a woman who still deeply loves the church. I am a woman who believes the Word of God, every single word of it. I know that the church, the true church is the body of Christ, and the gates of hell cannot prevail against the true church. The true church is not a building, it is a people from every nation, tribe, and tongue, united by faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ, called out to die in Him and rise again as a new creation. We are a new creation in the process of being conformed into the image of God that we were always intended to be. Sometimes this gets messy, and that’s okay, because our God has supplied us more than enough grace to be sufficient for the mess and His mercies are new every morning.
Therefore, though the church might look different, and I do pray that we will, I know that the church of the Living God will rise. My heart is that as buildings are closed, hearts will be opened. My hope is that while routines are halted, memorized rote and worship by man made tradition will be as well. I pray that as pews, and chair rails, and bathrooms are cleansed and purified that hands and hearts and minds and mouths will be too. When this season of quarantine passes might the true church be obedient to assemble together in holiness and godly love for one another.
I lift up Your church, for it is YOUR church. It has never been my church. This I believe, we, as a whole, have forgotten. We have forgotten that we are Yours. We have forgotten that it was always supposed to be about Your will done on earth as it is in heaven, not our own. May we remember that we are Yours. Father I come now, and I pray Your Word back to You as I seek Your face.
How blessed is the church who considers the helpless; the Lord will deliver His church in a day of trouble. The Lord will protect His church and keep His church alive, and His church shall be called blessed upon the earth. Father, do not give Your church over to the desire of our enemies. O Lord do sustain us upon our sickbed; through this illness, You restore us to health.
As for me, I said, “O Lord, be gracious to us; heal our soul, for we have sinned against You.” Our enemies speak evil against us, “When will the church die, and the name of Jesus perish?” And there are even those that when they comes to see us, they speak falsehood; their heart gathers wickedness to itself; and when they go outside, they tell it. All who hate Your church whisper together against us; against us they devise our hurt, saying, “A wicked thing is poured out upon us, that when we lie down, we will not rise up again.” Even our close friends in whom we trusted, who ate our bread, have lifted up their heel against us.
But You, O Lord, be gracious to Your church and raise us up, that we may repay them with good. By this we know that You are pleased with us, because our enemy does not shout in triumph over us. Oh Father, as for Your true church, You uphold us in our integrity, and You set us in Your presence forever.
Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, the God of the Church, from everlasting to everlasting. Amen and Amen.
The church here in the United States, even here in the “Bible belt” south has been sick way before COVID-19. There has been much cleansing that needed to be done. We will be looking at over forty days of quarantine. Right now we are looking at seven Sundays of no gathering in our buildings with Easter Sunday being right there in the midst of it. I don’t believe in coincidences. I believe the Sovereign God of all Creation has times in His hand and every moment matters. May we not miss what our Lord is teaching us in this moment in time.
The church will rise. The gates of hell cannot prevail against the church. Through this time of holy rest might we get our priorities in order. Might we seek Him and His kingdom and allow His discipline to have its way in us (Hebrews 12). May we allow the One who opens doors and shuts them to have His way (Revelation 3). May we become a church that the world once again might be able to recognize because of our love for Jesus (Revelation 2), our love for one another, and our love for the world (John 3:16, 1 John 4). May we be holy. May we be salt. May we be light. May we be one.
By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. ~ Jesus (John 13:35)
“And the priest shall offer all of it, and offer it up in smoke on the altar; it is a burnt offering, an offering by fire of a soothing aroma to the LORD.”
The book of Leviticus picks up as a continuation of the book of Exodus. The beautiful hand of our God has delivered His truth to us in clear and distinct patterns. Our God is always a God of order. In Exodus 25-27 God gave Moses the pattern for the tabernacle. In Exodus 36-40 Israel, under Moses instruction, directs the people on the construction of the tabernacle. In Exodus 28-29 God gives Moses a pattern for the priest. Now as we begin the book of Leviticus we will see God give Moses a pattern for the sacrifices and as well as the ordination for the priests. We begin with the pattern for the sacrifices.
This book jumps right in with a word from the Lord as He begins explaining about offerings. The book of Leviticus begins with the gift offerings. These were offerings that an individual would bring to the tabernacle for a personal purpose at any time it pressed on them to bring it. These offerings could come as a result of praise they wanted to offer to the Lord in thanksgiving, or as a result of a promise they kept, or as a way of coming to God in a time of distress, and so on. The gift offering was a “just because” offering to the Lord.
The first gift offering that we learn about is the burnt offering. The burnt offering was nothing new to the people. In Genesis 8:20 we read of Noah offering a burnt offering to the Lord after the flood waters receded and they were able to leave the ark. In Genesis 22 the Lord asks Abraham to offer Issac as a burnt offering. The importance behind a burnt offering is that it was all to be laid upon the altar. None of it was to be saved or eaten by anyone, not even the priest.
We also see that this burnt offering was to be brought to the Lord alive. The burnt offering was to be slain on the side of the altar, washed with water, and arranged on the altar. It was the responsibility of the one bringing the offering to slay it and to wash it, but it would be the priest who would arrange it on the altar and prepare the fire for it.
When we look in the book Romans we see how this burnt offering relates to us today in Christ. In Romans 12:1 we read, “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.” In Romans 8:13 we are taught, “for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” What we see clearly in the book of Romans is that it is our responsibility to present ourselves as an offering to God.
The book of Romans is not alone in this teaching. Jesus Himself taught us while He was here in the flesh before His death, burial, and resurrection that we have to take responsibility to bring our own self to the altar, “And He was saying to them all, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.’” (Luke 9:23). The burnt offering in Leviticus chapter one was not a one time offering. It was a continuous offering that was brought as many times as needed. In Ephesians 4:22-24 we read that, “in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.” Notice, once again, whose responsibility it is to lay aside our old self. It is ours. In Christ we have been given the right to be free and the power to choose to be free. Our freedom is found when we lay ourselves down, when we bring ourselves to the altar of our God and present our bodies as living sacrifices to Him.
It was the responsibility of the one bringing the sacrifice to present it alive, to slay it, and it was also their responsibility to wash it. In John 13 Jesus is washing the disciples feet and Peter responds that he should be washing the feet of Jesus not the other way around and Jesus explains Peter’s need for Him to wash his feet Peter then asks for Jesus to wash him everywhere, but in verse ten, “Jesus said to him, ‘He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.’” Jesus has bathed us, we are bathed in His blood, yet we still need to keep our feet clean. We do this by staying washed in the Word (Ephesians 5:26). This once again, is our responsibility. We also see this in Romans 12:2, “be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” It is our responsibility to read the Word of God, to study the Word of God, to meditate on the Word of God, and to obey the Word of God. This is how we are washed.
Now do we remember whose responsibility it was to arrange the pieces and provide the fire? The responsibility to arrange the pieces and provide the fire belonged to the priest. Who is our priest? Yes, it is Jesus! In the New Covenant Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is our eternal High Priest. The book of Hebrews teaches us this truth over and over again. I will go ahead and give you a heads up and let you know that we will be spending a lot of time in Hebrews as we go through the book of Leviticus. Now, what does this mean to us?
Dear Friend, it is indeed our responsibility to present ourselves as the sacrifice. It is indeed our responsibility to continue to put our old selves to death. However it was Jesus who first came to prepare the way. It was Jesus who first set us free and gave us life that we might even be able to come to the altar. It will be Jesus standing right there to arrange and present our request to God when we come to the altar. He is there to do all the work. All we have to do is come.
Thank you for sending Jesus to serve as my High Priest. Thank you for coming and living and dying on my behalf and then rising in victory. Thank you for seeking me out. Thank you for loving me to Yourself. Thank you for setting me free from sin and fear of death. I am able to bring myself to the altar and present myself to you as a living sacrifice because I know that in You alone is life. I lay myself down. I choose to daily take up my cross, to put to death my flesh, to lay aside my old self and allow You alone to arrange my life and my days. My very breath is in Your hands and I give you praise with all that my lungs can contain. I choose to worship You with all that I am and desire for You alone to lead my way all my days.
My Jesus, I love You and it is in Your name I pray,
It has begun! This is just the first devotional in Leviticus and the first attempt at this devotion. So apply grace when you read it please. Also know that I have chosen to write these as I would teach them to my children. In my first attempt in Genesis I felt I needed to prove myself as a writer and as one who had studied the Scriptures even though I had no seminary degree. I went back and did the second editions of Genesis and Exodus Part One when my original publisher went under as I had the opportunity and I had grown to realize I didn’t have to prove myself to anyone. I just needed to be obedient to Jesus. The second editions are hopefully easier to read and to get through and all the while still Biblically sound.
If you would like to begin the series with Devotions From Genesis: It’s Not Just Ancient History you can find the books on Amazon at: https://amzn.to/2xSH1lw
If you would like to see reviews of the series you will need to go to the link provided below. My reviews are all under the first editions.
We are in the strangest days. Our world is currently experiencing a pandemic. This day in which we are living will be written down and recorded in our history books along with the dust bowl, great depression, black plague, and so on. It is a historic day. Today is not a day for arrogant foolishness, it is a day designed for great humility.
My prayer is that the people of God do not miss what the Lord is doing in our midst. Let us not forget that we serve a sovereign God. Let us not forget that the power and character of our God must come from His Word not the mouths of even well meaning men. We are in days, possibly weeks of quarantine. How will we use this time?
The first time the word plague is used in the Bible it was God who sent it. He sent it to Pharaoh in Genesis 12:17 because he took Abram’s wife Sarai as his own. God sent the plague to wake up the Pharaoh and lead him to ask questions as to why this might be happening now. The plague actually was hitting his nation because the man of God had lied to him about his bride. Abram had misrepresented who Sarai really was for his own self interest.
The next time the word plague is used is in Exodus. God purposely sent these plagues to Pharaoh, to the current world power, because this power refused to acknowledge Him as God and honor His commands. The plagues were not random, they were specific. Each plague targeted an idol, a false god, of the nation that held the people of God captive as slaves. The plagues had purpose. The plagues were used by God to accomplish His will.
The next time the word plague is used in the Scriptures is in the book of Leviticus. In Leviticus 26 the Lord is addressing His nation. He has delivered His people from Egypt and He has given them His laws, precepts, statutes, and commands. He has led them in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. He has fought for them. He has given them manna from heaven to eat. He has given them water from a rock. He has judged them faithfully. He has proven His name and power and might and love to them. Now here in Leviticus 26 He reminds this new nation that they are His and they will be living in His land and are to obey all that He has taught them. If they do not, He will purposely and strategically send plagues to remind them who they are and whose they are and how they are to live in accordance with that knowledge.
In the book of Job in the first two chapters we are given privy to an interaction between Satan and God. We see Satan attempt to bait God using the motive of the hearts of the people who worship Him. Satan accuses God of buying worship through His blessings. God points out one of the most blessed men in the world at that time and says, “Have you considered my servant Job?” We then read of Satan’s power and his attack on this man and his family, but take note that his power only came by permission. Satan could only do what the Lord allowed him to do and the Lord only allowed him to do what He needed him to do in order to accomplish an even greater purpose that would open the door for the Lord to bless Job even more.
We see this same truth played out with God’s own Only Begotten Son, Jesus. Satan thought he had the upper hand as the crowd cried crucify and a Roman spear pierced the side of the Son of David, the Son of God, but he was no where near the winner’s circle. The God of all Creation was simply working the clay in His Master Potter’s hands. The glorious Grand Weaver was guiding the needle skillfully and purposely as He has since before the foundation of the world.
Plagues, disasters, and death are all the result of the sin of man from the very beginning in the Garden that came from the deception of the Serpent of Old who had rebelled against his Creator and sought to destroy all that He loved. Our Good God however knows how to take these and use them for His good. He is sovereign even over sin. He is sovereign even over evil. He is sovereign even over Satan.
Therefore, in the face of a pandemic how should we respond? When I look to the Word of my God, the response to any and ever plague should always be humility. The response should always be seeking the face of God. The response should always be repentance.
Let us be still and know that He is God (Psalm 46).
Let us examine ourselves (2 Corinthians 13:5, Galatians 6:4).
“If there is famine in the land, if there is pestilence, if there is blight or mildew, if there is locust or grasshopper, if their enemies besiege them in the land of their cities, whatever plague or whatever sickness there is, whatever prayer or supplication is made by any man or by all Your people Israel, each knowing his own affliction and his own pain, and spreading his hands toward this house, then hear from heaven Your dwelling place, and forgive, and render to each according to all his ways, whose heart You know for You alone know the hearts of the sons of men, that they may fear You, to walk in Your ways as long as they live in the land which You have given to our fathers. (2 Chronicles 6:28-31)
The last time the word plague is used in the Scriptures is in the book of Revelation. The last time the word is used is in the last book and in the last chapter of the Word of God. So from Genesis 12 to Revelation 22 we see over and over again how the Lord has used plagues to wake people up. In the Word of God there was never a purposeless plague.
In the the book of Revelation in chapter nine verse twenty we read, “The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, so as not to worship demons, and the idols of gold and of silver and of brass and of stone and of wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk; and they did not repent of their murders nor of their sorceries nor of their immorality nor of their thefts.” In the chapters preceding we read of many different plagues once again specifically and purposely designed and timed for the hope of waking people up and turning their eyes and hearts to the Lord.
In each and every one of these plagues, from Genesis to Revelation, the plagues are accompanied with a preacher, with a prophet, with a proclamation of hope in God. The Gospel, the Good News, the testimony of Truth is always right there running loudly beside the plague begging us to take refuge and find safety in the One who created heaven and earth. This heaven and earth is and will pass away and only those that are in Him will live. Our God jealously and fervently calls out to us to get in Him, to find shelter in Him, to hope in Him, to trust in Him, to obey Him, to love Him for it is for our good.
“I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.” 1The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost. I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book. He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming quickly.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen. (Revelation 22:16-21)
In the Word of God there was never a plague caused and sent by Satan in Satan’s own power according to Satan’s devise. Therefore, I personally refuse to give that deceiving slippery snake more credit than is his due. I instead choose to trust my God. I choose to look to my own heart first and to my own priorities and see where I need work done in being conformed into the image of Christ. I choose to stop and spread open my heart and submit to the Potter’s hand for I know I am unfinished. I know there is much to do in me. I will not see this as a time to be arrogant, no instead I choose to see it as a time to be bowed down.
My prayer is that the church, the bride of Christ, would do the same. Let us use this time of quarantine to seek the face of our God. Let us be willing to lay open our churches and let Him reveal our hearts to us, because let me tell you… we, His bride, here in America, we are a hot mess. We are arrogant. We are boastful. We are prideful. We are selfish. We are self-seeking. We are rude. We, as a whole, do not love. We fight amongst ourselves. We belittle one another. We put burdens on others that we ourselves refuse to carry. We are greedy. We do not give. We do not have a heart for the lost. We like the stage. We like the applause. We seek to use God not be used by God. We do not despise the shame, but instead allow it to keep us silent. May this pandemic wake us up.
Perhaps instead of us declaring that this virus has to bow down in Jesus name, we should instead declare that we bow down our own hearts in Jesus name and trust Jesus’ sovereign authority and power over not just this pandemic, but this age. Let us be willing to say, not my will but Yours be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Let us be willing to cry out and ask that the Lord create in us a humble heart. My cry is that the Lord would create in me a humble heart. A heart that is willing to bow down and submit to Him and His way. A heart that knows that His thoughts are not my thoughts and His ways not my ways. A heart that is willing to admit that I don’t have all the answers and that is okay because I know He does. A heart that is willing to trust in Him and in His Word, no matter how it might look to my eyes.
For My hand made all these things, thus all these things came into being,” declares the Lord. “But to this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word. (Isaiah 66:2)
Around sixteen years ago I would meet faithfully every Friday morning with a group of five other women. Each week we would speak freely and learn and love and laugh together. This group began because two women chose to take Titus 2 to heart and took four other married women with children from teens to in the womb under their wings to teach. One of the lessons that we learned was how to love others through heavy grief. One of these two had buried her only son when he was thirteen years old to a devastating bicycle accident when he was hit by a car. At that time, I thought she was teaching me how to minister to others in their grief, I had no idea that she was also teaching me how to walk through my own.
Sixteen years ago I learned from her grief that the stages of grief were a real thing, and they don’t follow a text book. I learned that there are no words that can fix it. I also learned that pain and anger and hurt, even towards God, doesn’t mean that my faith has failed. It is just another pathway to experience the sufficiency of His grace and the reality of His peace that truly does surpass all human understanding.
Sixteen years ago I learned through her that there is no time limit on grief. I learned that every one grieves differently. I learned that sometimes it just jumps out of no where and grabs you and takes you to your knees all over again. I also learned that the shoulders of Jesus are great for leaning on and His hands are always faithful to catch us and stand us to our feet no matter how many times grief takes us to our knees.
Sixteen years ago I heard about the fog of grief and the assurance that faith in God would somehow see me through it and around six years ago I stepped into this fog of grief and leaned heavy and deep into my faith in God to see me through it. I find it interesting that when Paul taught us in his letter to the Corinthians, that we walk by faith, not by sight, it was slap dab in the middle of him teaching us about the tearing down of this earthly tent and being absent from the body and present with the Lord (https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2%20Corinthians+5&version=NASB), and I have learned from experience that it takes walking by faith and not by sight to navigate the fog of grief that comes with watching our loved ones earthy tent being torn down before our eyes.
It takes walking by faith and not by sight to navigate the fog of grief that we sometimes don’t even realize we are in because we are trying so hard to be okay because life doesn’t stop and we just keep going even though we feel numb and undone. Faith takes hold of us and the God of the impossible carries us each step of the way. The fog of grief that causes us to forget to put the check in the bill we just sealed, stamped, and mailed. The fog of grief that causes us to sleep through our alarm and find ourselves in our car on the way to work fully showered and dressed yet we don’t remember how we got there. The fog of grief that finds us saying, I’m sorry what were you saying, over and over again because we are there, but not there. The fog of grief that reaches out and begs us to succumb to the numbness and be undone, but that fog of grief is no match for the faith in God that grabs our face by it’s grace filled hands and looks us in the eyes and pours the peace of Christ in our soul and says be of good courage for death has not won.
The fog of grief is dissipated by our faith in God. The Light of Life shines and the fog lifts. Grief rolls in, but grace rolls it right out again. Grace and peace to all who trust in Him. No matter how many times the fog of grief shows up, faith in God will be there to navigate us through it. No matter how many times the fog of grief overshadows us, a voice rings clear and loud through the cloud reminding us of the Beloved Son who came to turn grief into great joy. This Christmas, if you are in the midst of the fog of grief, trust in your faith in God, for He is right there with you, in the fog and in the faith.
I often write Bible studies as I prepare to teach. I add PDF’s of these studies to my website for anyone who would like to have them for personal study or small groups. The latest PDF study is a study that I wrote to use as I served a local college women’s athletic team.
The Story of Redemption is a short three week Bible study that will take someone through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation by way of the covenants that the Lord made with people in order to restore us to Himself. This is a tool for a believer to get an overview of the Bible and to be introduced to the basics of Scripture that will deepen the assurance of their salvation in Christ.
Click the link below to download your own copy of The Story of Redemption
This is the first book review I have done in a while. The LORD moved me into the ministry of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes in 2016 and the ministry has required a lot of travel time, so the opportunity to review books and write about them has not been readily available. However, when the email came in about the opportunity to review the Overcomer movie related resource materials I knew I had to make time. I was already using Priscilla Shirer’s Bible study Defined with my female coaches, coaches wives, and female college athletes so I couldn’t resist the chance to check out the other books.
My heart was led to choose this study because we currently live in a day where the issue of identity is of great importance. How we identify is something that is being intentionally addressed today in every arena of life. There are even policies and procedures being put in place in the workplace and on school campuses across our nation telling us how we can and cannot identify ourselves and others.
Identity is under attack.
How have we come to a day and time that have so many confused and struggling with the core of who they are? I believe the Kendrick brothers and Priscilla Shirer address this very well in these Overcomer resource materials. In the book DEFINED the Kendrick brothers begin with teaching us how before Jesus ever began His three year ministry the Father made sure that He knew who He was. It was in knowing who He was at His very core that would allow Him to withstand the fickleness of humanity. Knowing that He was the Son of God, knowing that He was loved by the Father, knowing that He had a purpose specifically intended for Him would keep Him from being frustrated by the derisions or elevated by the applauses of man.
The Kendrick brothers point out to us that the very first attack Jesus would face after His baptism would be on His identity. In the wilderness Satan attacked with, “If you are the Son of God…” (Luke 4:1-13). If this is how Satan first came after Jesus wouldn’t it be because it was his strongest weapon of destruction? Wouldn’t Satan pull out the big guns for the One who saw him fall like lightening from heaven? It is no coincidence that God the Father reaffirmed the identity of Jesus before He sent Him out to fulfill His purpose. This affirmation would hold Him all the way to the cross and raise Him up from the grave. He would not be swayed by the words of man or the lies of hell because He knew who He was and He knew His Heavenly Father.
What about you? Do you know who your Heavenly Father says you are? Do you know your Heavenly Father? What about your kids? Do they know who they are? Do they know their Heavenly Father? I implore you to find the answers to these questions. Don’t wait. Start now. Order these books.
Wonderful would be great for an elementary age child even into middle school. I promise you could even take it and begin teaching the truths in it to your preschoolers as well. This would be a great book to pile up on the bed with your children and read as a bedtime devotional. Revealed and Radiant would be great for middle school and high school age children. Revealed for your young men and Radiant for your young women. I also recommend piling up on the bed with your teens and going through these books together. Our kids never get too old to have their identity affirmed by us. Let us remember that Jesus was thirty years old when His Father said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased.” (Matthew 3:17). At thirty years old, the Heavenly Father reminded His Son that He was His, that He was His beloved, and that He was well pleased with Him.
In this day of social media and identity attack we need to know who we are. We need to know who our Creator says we are. We need to know we are loved. We need to know that we have purpose. These materials will help us know this, and will help us make sure our kids know it as well. I highly recommend all of the Overcomer movie related resource materials for you and your family.
Wonderful It’s almost field day, and Webster is worried. He can’t run fast, he trips on the jump rope, and his Frisbee always lands in a tree. How will he help his class get the medal? Webster is sure that God forgot to make anything special about him. Join Webster and his class as the whistle blows and he discovers a few God-given skills that just might save field day. This whimsical, illustrated picture book reminds young readers that they were each wonderfully made by God!
Revealed Who am I? It’s a question you might ask yourself a lot, and this book for teen guys and young men will lead you through an investigation to find the answers. You’ll learn that your identity is much more than your grades, your looks, or your athletic skills. The only One who truly knows you and defines you is the One who created you. Revealed will give you answers about who you are and where you’re going, leading you to uncover your true Christ- shaped identity.
Radiant Did you know that God’s light can shine through every facet of your identity? Radiant is an invitation for teen girls and young women to enjoy a candid conversation on identity with bestselling author Priscilla Shirer. You’ll hear reflections on life lessons she’s gathered from her teen years until now. She’ll show you how the light of God’s Word shaped her identity, and she’ll teach you how it can change and shape your life as well. The culture will try to define you, but this world is starving for something different that comes only from the creative genius of your God. You were created to reflect His light. . . . You were created to be radiant.
Defined At this very moment, what you believe about your own purpose and value affects almost every area of your life—including how you think and feel, the way you react to circumstances, and how you approach God and your relationships. But what is guiding your core beliefs? Are they healthy and founded upon solid truth? Or are they constantly shifting with the opinions of others or your own emotions? Based upon powerful insights from the scriptural book of Ephesians, and seasoned with personal stories and practical wisdom, Defined challenges readers to let the One who knows you best be the One who guides your heart the most.
As I studied in Hosea 7 – 10 this week the Lord reminded me of how easily we set up idols in our lives. Sometimes we do not recognize these as idols or even make them idols until they are removed and we have to choose what will we mourn? Will we mourn what we have lost to the point that we turn our back on God and forsake Him or will we accept the loss realizing we have all we need in Christ and turn our heart to the Lord and allow Him to turn our mourning into gladness?
As our family has faced the loss of loved ones and as we have battled cancer up close and personal again and again we have learned that there are so many things in life that we focus on, that we strive for, that we get upset about, that simply flat out don’t matter. This American Dream culture, in addition to this immediate satisfaction and you deserve it mentality, including this day of suffer-not teaching in the church offers us a plethora of idols to worship and we are so easily led astray. We have to be willing to allow the LORD to sift us and sift us often.
In the days of Hosea, Israel had grown in prosperity and military might. They had a booming economy and were reclaiming territory, but they refused to see that these were all the gifts of their merciful God. They took the credit for themselves and even ignorantly and arrogantly contributed their gain to their enlightened acceptance and worship of the false gods of the nations around them. They thought they were living their best lives, but in actuality they were deceived by their idolatry and were walking on the easy path to destruction. They forgot their God and rejected His Word.
Every good and perfect gift comes from God. Let us always be careful to not make the gift our god. I have learned in the past years that we can even be faced with the temptation of turning the loss of a loved one and death itself into an idol. When my Daddy passed I was hit with the reality that the man who had named me, defined me, provided for me, and loved me my entire life was gone. I now had a choice to make. Would I set him, his death, and my grief up as an idol in my heart or would I trust that the LORD my God was enough? Would I believe that He was still with me and that in truth He was the One who named me, defined me, provided for me, and loved me my entire life, He just chose to do so through my Daddy.
When we lose something or someone and we work through the emotions of that loss let us run to the LORD not away from Him. Let us trust always that He is enough. Let us not mourn and cry over the things of this world. Let us not allow our pursuit of “good things” to turn us away from pursuing the One and Only Good God. Let us not forget even in death and the loss of a loved one that this world is not our home. Let us focus on more on making sure our loved ones today have heard the gospel and have had an opportunity to know the LORD so that they may have victory and life even in death.
I have learned that there is no need to cry over that which moth and rust can destroy. I have learned that even though I might weep over the death of my loved ones that weeping shall only last for the night if they knew Jesus for death is merely a door into eternity. How can I forever mourn someone who is eternally perfectly alive? Let my mourning always be turned to dancing for I will see them again!
If I mourn, let me mourn those that refuse to hear and refuse to believe in the only name given to us by which we may be saved, the name of Jesus. If I mourn, let me mourn when I catch myself clinging to the things of this world and building treasures on earth instead of in heaven. If I mourn, let me mourn when I forget that but by the grace of God there go I. If I mourn, let me mourn when I allow the pride of life and the lust of the flesh, to tempt me to be unfaithful to my LORD. If I mourn, let me mourn when I fall short to be obedient to the command of Christ to go and make disciples. If I mourn, let me mourn my faithless heart. Yet even in this mourning let it bring me to my LORD because He is able to redeem and restore that which I mourn. He causes all things to work together for good for those who love Him.
“But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:4-7)
Can we take a moment today to just read that passage of Scripture over and over again. Notice how the passage begins. Slow it down and read each word. Take it in. Let it resonate. Allow the truth of it to sink deep.
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:4-7)
Again notice how this passage begins, “But God…” What is God rich in? What is He great with? When did He greatly love us? How did He save us? Why did He save us? Notice the “so that…” Read the passage again. Slow it down. Take it in. Let it settle down in the depths of your soul.
When we were dead in our transgressions. When we were rebellious and ignorant of the One who Created us. When we were wrapped in the chains of the desires of our flesh and bound by the control of our ever changing emotions and circumstances. When we were only out for our own selfish gain and guarded our pride with the devil’s own watchdog… God was still kind. God was still rich in mercy. God still richly loved us. God still sent His Spirit to call us and draw us out to Himself.
He draws. He calls. He saves. Then the Spirit that draws, calls, and saves comes to live with in us. He resides. He regenerates. He renews. He moves us to now be His servant to be used by Him to draw and call others to the Father through faith in Jesus Christ.
The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” (Revelation 22:17)
If the Spirit of the Lord is not just upon us, but is in us, and it is the very same Spirit who was upon Jesus then by the mercy and grace of God through faith in His Son we should be drawing and calling just as Jesus did. We should draw with kindness. We should love with greatness. We should be rich in mercy.
“The Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him, The spirit of wisdom and understanding, The spirit of counsel and strength, The spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. And He will delight in the fear of the Lord, And He will not judge by what His eyes see, Nor make a decision by what His ears hear;” (Isaiah 11:2-3)
We should not make decisions by what our ears hear or by what our eyes see. We should delight in the fear of the Lord. Our delight in the fear of the Lord should cause us to want to grow in the knowledge of the Lord so that we might be able to most honor Him. We should have the strength to seek the counsel of the Lord and to desire understanding and wisdom as we draw and call others to Jesus so that they too might be saved by grace through faith not as a result of their deeds. We must not assume anyone’s good deeds have them saved or anyone’s evil deeds have them too lost to be saved. Our eyes and ears can deceive us, but the Spirit of God within us sees the heart of all.
The Spirit of God is upon us and within us when we confess Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. He is there to be our Helper, our Comforter, our Teacher, our Reminder for all that Jesus taught and for all that the Word of God has revealed to us. We need Him because without Him we could not do what we have been saved to do. The Spirit of the Lord is upon us for more than our own security. The Spirit of the Lord is upon us to enable and equip us to pick up the baton of the apostles that was handed off to them by Jesus Christ Himself.
“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, Because the Lord has anointed me To bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to captives And freedom to prisoners; To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn, To grant those who mourn in Zion, Giving them a garland instead of ashes, The oil of gladness instead of mourning, The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” (Isaiah 61:1-3)
The Spirit of the Lord is upon us because in Him we are now the anointed ones who are supposed to be bringing good news to the afflicted. We are now the ones who are being sent to bind up the brokenhearted. We are now the ones who are to be proclaiming liberty to the captives and freedom to the prisoners. We are now in this moment living in the favorable year of the Lord.
If the Spirit of God is indeed within us, we are heirs to the hope of eternal life, and from within us the Spirit calls others to come to Jesus that they too might have life. If the Spirit of God is upon us and now within us, then we should look like and sound like Him when we speak His words. If the Spirit of God is within us we should WANT to look and sound like Jesus, for the Spirit is there to transform and conform us into the image of Christ, into the image of God that we were always intended to be.
Oh Spirit of God be upon me… be within me… glorify the name of Jesus through me. I am not my own. I am Yours.
I have been spending the week in the book of Amos as I tag along on a work trip with my husband in New Orleans. This is our fourth visit to New Orleans. I love this city. I also grieve over this city. It’s a city full of depravity and deception on the most evident level, but it is also a city of beautiful architecture and personality. I use the reality of this city to keep me awake in my own because what you see lived out loud and in public display in this city is the same sin and brokenness that hearts in every home town are struggling with in their own private corners of darkness. There is nothing new under the sun. What you see in one place is happening in another. Whatever it is we are struggling with, we are never the only ones.
Amos chapter six begins with, “Woe to those who are at ease in Zion and to those who feel secure in the mountain of Samaria.” The book of Amos is a book of God’s pronounced judgment on His people. His people who had forgotten that their blessings were not of their own hands, but of the Lord. His people who had taken His blessings and used them to build their own names, their own houses, their own comforts, and to praise their own selves. They wrote songs to glorify themselves and anointed themselves with the finest of oils while they refused to care for others. They went through the motions of the Sabbath, but grumbled about it as they were anxious to get back to their businesses where they were able to cheat people to fatten their own pockets.
For three transgressions and for four is a repeated phrase in the first two chapter of the book of Amos as the Lord sends him out to prophecy against the nations. When we read these chapters we see that the transgressions are concerning how these nations have treated people. The Lord is judging these nations because they took advantage of hurting people. They took advantage of others struggles in order to profit from them for themselves. They even went so far as to break covenants of brotherhood in order to gain power. Eight nations are spoken against in the first two chapters of Amos and two of those eight were the Southern Kingdom of Israel (Judah) and the Northern Kingdom of Israel (Israel).
Through Amos we see that the people of Judah and the house of Israel were included in the nations facing the judgment of God. Amos 2:6 through Amos 9:10 is dedicated to the Northern Kingdom of Israel. The LORD, through Amos, shares with us how they did not care for the poor, but robbed them instead. They did not speak up for the afflicted. They sold the righteous for money. They trampled on the helpless. They rejected the law of the Lord and commanded His prophets to stay silent. They hated those who reproved in the gates and abhorred anyone who spoke with integrity. They turned justice and righteousness into wormwood as they ruled according to bribes. They didn’t just ignore the needs of others, but they saw them and used them against them in order to gain wealth and possessions. They not only forgot that they were blessed by God to be a blessing, but they became a curse to others and a source of evil instead of good.
In the days of Amos there were few who grieved over the ruin of the nation. The people had become apathetic. As long as they were secure in their own home and had what they needed they had no concern for the suffering of others. They had no concern for the lack of integrity and righteousness in the courts. They had no concern for the idolatry that was rampant in the nation even in the so called priests of God. They were not grieved that the name of the LORD was being blasphemed and that the people of God who were supposed to be a holy nation set apart to display HIs glory were far from holiness and sought only their own glory not the glory of the LORD their God.
We read of the warnings that the Lord sent the nation in Amos 4, but no matter the warning, the nation refused to return to Him. In Amos 5 we see the heart of God as He continues to call out to His children to seek Him that they might live. Through Amos, a simple herdsmen and grower of sycamore figs, the Lord cries out to a nation that has turned their back on Him in the hope that individuals in that nation will return to Him and be saved from the judgment that is to come. Will anyone hear? Will anyone be prepared to meet their God (Amos 4:12)?
As I read through this book I ask myself am I prepared? I mean I know Jesus. I am a believer. I am His child. I know all this, but am I prepared to have His holiness pass over me?
Am I grieved by the apathy and arrogance I see in the church among those who profess to be children of God?
AM I APATHETIC?
AM I ARROGANT?
Will I be brave enough to ask the Lord to open the eyes of my understanding that I might see my heart as He does?
Is my heart broken for what breaks the heart of the LORD God and if it is, what am I doing about it?
“Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord God, “When I will send a famine on the land, Not a famine for bread or a thirst for water, But rather for hearing the words of the Lord. “People will stagger from sea to sea And from the north even to the east; They will go to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, But they will not find it. (Amos 8:11-12)
In the days of Amos the nation of Israel had forgotten that their might was in their righteousness and their righteousness was in their obedience to the word of the LORD God of hosts. They bought the lies of their flesh that convinced them that they were mighty in themselves. They looked around them and convinced themselves they were better than others and looked down their noses on the humble as they lifted their hearts even higher in their pride. They had no consideration for their Creator and turned to worship false gods that were fashioned by their own hands. They trusted in gods that were not living, but dead, and the simple reality is that we always become what we worship.
Do we take inventory of our church, of our home, of our own lives in such a way that we step back and say if I was lost and broken would I know how to find hope and healing here? Is my life, my family, my church focused on meeting the pressing needs of others (Titus 3:14)? Do we defend the helpless and the weak or do we stay silent for fear of drama and losing deep pocket members (Isaiah 1:17, Jeremiah 5:28)? Are we more concerned with ministries than actual ministry (Matthew 7:21-23)? Do we dismiss the Word of God in order to maintain our own power and control over others and our own self-made kingdoms (James 4:17-5:6)? Do we claim we exist to share the gospel and fulfill the great commission, but does that translate to us simply puffing one another up Sunday after Sunday (1 Timothy 6:17-21)? Do I hunger and thirst for the Word of the Lord or am I really only after the words of popular voices in our current culture?
There are so many questions to ask ourselves as we read through the book of Amos and really any of the prophets. As I stated in the first paragraph, there is nothing new under the sun. The same traps, the same sin, the same transgressions that captured the hearts of the children of Israel and led to their deception and destruction are the same ones that threaten to deceive and destroy us today. Let us be strong and courageous enough to allow the Spirit of God to have His way in us. Let us be broken enough that we are willing to allow the Light of Life to penetrate the darkest areas of our soul that we might be made whole and holy and fit for every good work. Our great and glorious Creator and Savior has given us everything we need to live godly and sensibly in this present age, in our generation, that we might be zealous for good deeds. (Titus 2:11-14). He has made us partakers of the Divine Nature through Jesus Christ His Son and His divine power has granted us everything we need to walk in obedience to His word and will (2 Peter 1:2-4).
We are without excuse.
Therefore, let us at the very least, begin with grieving over the ruin that we see before us. Let us grieve and let us seek our God and offer ourselves up as the Amoses of our day. Let us offer our bodies as living sacrifices holy and pleasing to the Lord that we might demonstrate the love of God to a skeptical yet still watching world while they are still willing to watch. As far as it be with me Lord let my life prove You as the True and Faithful One that I know You are.
I looked up and saw her running. Her denim skirt was clear to the floor and her face was lifted up as she smiled brightly. She wasn’t even school age yet, perhaps on the brink of it, but not quite there. I saw her and couldn’t help but smile. She was full of life and future and her shirt declared it as the monogrammed long-sleeved tee read, “this girl can do anything.” I looked again at the floor length skirt and caught a glimpse of the rest of the women around her all in floor length skirts and before I finished reading the words of her shirt for a second time, out of my mouth came drips of sarcasm, “yeh, anything but wear pants.”
I had just finished reading the background of Joan of Arc. Did you know that the conviction that sent Joan of Arc to the stake to be burned alive was that she wore what the church deemed as masculine clothing? Joan wore pants. She wore pants on the battlefield for obvious reasons and she wore pants when imprisoned because it better protected her from being raped by the guards. Joan wore pants and this was the conviction that was upheld by the church to see that she was burned at the stake. The church basically gave her the choice to be raped or be burned at the stake. She chose the stake.
This year has been filled with social media posts about the rights of women. We are facing another election year which always brings high focus to women’s rights because of abortion, health care, and equal pay issues. This year also came with women being highlighted in the social media world due to the uncovering of abuse in the Southern Baptist Church as well as whether or not a woman has the authority to teach in the church, especially behind a pulpit on a Sunday.
The passage most used by the men (and women) of christendom to keep women out from behind the pulpit or podium is from 1 Timothy 2:9-15, “Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments, but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness. A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. But women will be preserved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint.”
When we look at this passage of Scripture we have to remember that it’s important to know the original language that it was written as well as the context of the time and place it was written to. The Greek words used for man and woman in this passage denotes a husband and wife, not men and women in general. The Greek word used for woman is guné and means, a woman, wife, my lady, probably from the base of ginomai; a woman; specially, a wife. The Greek word used for man in this passage is anér and means, a male human being; a man, husband, as a husband.
We also must notice that the example that Paul uses here to enforce his stance is that of Adam and Eve, two that had become one flesh, a husband and a wife. This point is backed up in other places of Scripture as the order of a family is put in place with the husband being the head of the family as Christ is the head of the church. However, the interpretation that this passage is to force all women to be in submission and silence before all men is NOT supported anywhere else in Scripture. Paul never makes a statement like this in any other letter, but actually commends the women in the church who are speaking, teaching, and leading. Therefore the most plausible interpretation of the passage in 1 Timothy 2 would be that man and woman should be interpreted as husband and wife. This interpretation also fits into the context of the time and place that this particular letter was written.
Now as a Southern Baptist raised female I do recognize that all passages discussing overseers and elders point to that position being held by a man. However, there is a big difference in preaching the Word and pastoring a church. We (every born again believer) are ALL called to preach the Word. To tell a woman she cannot teach or speak simply because she is a woman is to try and force her to disobey the very clear commands of Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit within her. We are all salt of the earth and lights to the world. We are all called to be a holy priesthood. We are all living stones. We are all ambassadors of Christ. We have all been given the ministry of reconciliation. We are all the church that is to say “Come!” There is not a list of spiritual gifts for men and then another list for women. The list is given to us ALL. We are ALL commanded to carry out our own individual gifts for the edification and equipping of the church.
I simply don’t understand how learned men of God can take a single passage and interpret it in a way that would negate, annul, and contradict the clear interpretation of a plethora of other Scriptures in every book of the Bible and hold that interpretation to the point that they are willing to destroy fruitful ministries over their interpretation of that single passage? Now, in this same letter from Paul to Timothy I did also read 1 Timothy 5:23, “No longer drink water exclusively, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.” Whatever shall we do with this one? Will we choose to interpret this one in light of other Scriptures and in the context of the time and place or shall we as Southern Baptist start offering wine to our pastors at meal time?
I truly don’t understand how people can’t see that the Word of God is eternally recorded from the mouths of women in the Scriptures and men (and women) study the Word of God from the mouths of these women everyday to get their theology degrees as well as to preach to their congregations. The teachings of Hannah, of Miriam, of Mary, the words of Elizabeth, Anna, Ruth, Esther, Deborah and on and on. All of these women are clearly used by God to speak and teach the eternally recorded inerrant Word of God from their own mouths with His authority. Yet, we have many today who have the audacity to tell other women they have no right to teach because the Word of God is supposed to come from a male voice?
Men also sit under the proclaiming of the Word of God most every Sunday from the mouths of women as they proclaim the Word, teaching and preaching through song, but these women are then told they do not have the right to pray or read, “Thus says the LORD” standing in that very same place. They can sing it, but they can’t simply say it. How easily we forget that it was Elizabeth who spoke the command of God while God shut Zacharias’ mouth (Luke 1:18-79) and it was not until the moment that he publicly supported the word of God coming from the mouth of Elizabeth that his mouth was opened and he was once again able to speak.
I often wonder what would happen to the churches that believe a woman should sit in the back, be quiet, and teach her own children at home if she really did choose to do just that. How long would our churches last without their women? I am thankful beyond measure that I am blessed with a husband that encourages and supports me. I am thankful beyond measure that I was blessed with a Daddy that encouraged and supported me. I am blessed beyond measure that I was able to sit under Pastors who were not threatened by me, but encouraged me to preach and teach. They even allowed me to do so on a Sunday from the pulpit, because they knew I did so under their authority and in complete respect for their authority, but more so in complete respect for the Word of God.
In my years as a female in ministry I have experienced the ugly of many who believed differently and it’s a sad, sad, sad thing to see. I have stood in a middle school library as a young girl proclaimed before her peers in a public school that she knew the Lord had called her to preach and I pray so hard for her. I pray that the Lord will protect her heart from the many men and women who will pat her on the head and say “that’s really sweet dear, now go sit down and be quiet, you are to be seen but not heard” It baffles me really the chains that we purposefully put on people to stifle the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ and are actually able to convince ourselves that we are holy in our doing so. How arrogant is it really to look at someone, anyone, and tell them that they have no right to proclaim the name of Jesus and preach the gospel, Jesus specifically taught against this (Mark 9:38-41) and even the Pharisees knew better than this (Acts 5:33-39).
Galatians 3:27-29 says, “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.” As the angel Gabriel talked with Mary about Jesus and about Elizabeth with John he stated in Luke 1:37, “For nothing will be impossible with God.” In Philippians 4:13 Paul writes, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Therefore to the little girls everywhere wearing the t-shirt “This Girl Can Do Anything” let me shout loud and clear, “YES, You Can!”. In pants or a skirt, with long hair or short, wearing earrings and make-up or not, if God Almighty calls you to it you can indeed do it. May the love of Christ compel you to it and your faith in Christ empower you in it and the Spirit of God carry you through it.
Dear daughters of God and women of the church, this female believes that in the congregation, as a woman, I sit under the authority and protection of Jesus, the Good Shepherd alone, then under the authority and protection of Christ and with respect for my husband, I choose to submit to him out of his love for me and our family and the honor due him as he serves as the head of our home, and then in the church body I willingly submit to the authority and hopefully protection of the hired shepherd of my congregation out of respect for the position they have been called to serve. I do not ever sit under the authority of every ram in the fold. Let’s remember men of the church that in the body of Christ, you are my brother not my husband. In the body of Christ He alone is the bridegroom and we are all equally the bride. In the body there is one head and that head is Christ,
“but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.”
Dear church, let us never forget that we are supposed to be one. We are in this together as brothers and sisters fighting for the souls of the sons and daughters of God. We have the entire kingdom of darkness to face, all the spiritual forces of wickedness to deal with, and the gates of hell to prevail against. We don’t have time to fight about who gets to sit at the big boy table.
“The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.”
Dear church, let us be very careful that we not be guilty of picking up where the Pharisees and scribes left off. It was, after all, Jesus Himself who said, “They love the place of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogues, and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called Rabbi by men. But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ. But the greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.” (Matthew 23:6-12).
Finally, with all due respect, dear men and women of the church that are making such a fuss about that Sunday pulpit, the bottom line simply is, if you want your pulpit that bad, if you want your seat of honor that bad, please have it. My calling has never needed a pulpit or a podium to carry it out. Trust me, I’ve never wanted or needed your seat of honor. My Jesus has given me open access to His (Ephesians 2:6). I’m seated with HIM in heavenly places, I’m seeking the things above, my mind is set on Him (Colossians 3:1). He’s the One I serve. It’s His church and His kingdom I’m seeking to grow, not yours.
The writing and teachings of Nicole Love Halbrooks Vaughn