Wearing Nothing But A Crown

 

The dangers of misinterpretation of the Word of God by mankind are real. In my sixteen years of studying the Scriptures I have learned to hold fast to the simplicity of the direct commands and precepts of God in His Word and take lightly any interpretations by man given on passages that are not directly, “Thus sayeth the LORD.” There are things in scripture that are quite clear and then there are things that anyone can twist and distort to make them say what they want them to say in order to prove their own point and grant themselves authority and power over the hearts and minds of others.

Some mis-interpretations may seem like a little thing, and I do believe that there are many times that they are, because they don’t change the big picture all that much. However, some can be life altering. Some can be chain breaking and freedom delivering, or they can be chain binding and freedom stealing.

I once sat before a young girl who was sitting in front of me in tears nursing a newborn. She had been abandoned by her husband because he had decided this marriage and baby thing really wasn’t for him. As I asked her about her relationship with the Lord, she shared with me that she believed in Jesus and wanted to be saved but her pastor said she wasn’t accepted by God until she had spoken in tongues… and so far she hadn’t and couldn’t. At that moment I wanted to throat punch a so called pastor. Instead, I took her to 1 Corinthians 12 – 13 and Ephesians 2:8-9 and prayed that God Himself would teach her truth as I prayed with her that day.

I was reminded of this as I watched a sermon from the book of Esther on my computer not long ago. Now I have studied the book of Esther and have taught from this book countless times. I learned this book from trusted teachers who also had learned it from trusted teachers. However, the other day as I went to JD Greer’s church website, pulled up a sermon to listen to, I chose the one from the book of Esther because this book has always been a place of strength and encouragement for me as it reminds me of God’s sovereignty. I listened to Greer share from this beautiful book of Scripture. I listened as he brought attention to Queen Vashti as he introduced the background of the story and I heard something I had never heard before.

I have always been taught to compare Vashti to Esther in this book in every study that I have seen on it. Vashti was always depicted as a rebellious, stubborn, and arrogant woman and Esther as an obedient, respectful, and humble woman. In these studies I was encouraged to be an Esther and not a Vashti. Yet, I had never been taught that King Ahasuerus was not simply asking Vashti to leave her own party and step in and wave at those in the king’s banquet, but according to JD Greer was ACTUALLY being asked to walk into a room filled with her drunken king and all his drunk buddies wearing nothing but her crown.  If this is the correct interpretation of this moment in history… then Vashti should be celebrated along with Esther in this story, not used as her antithesis in comparison.

If she is compared to Esther, then her comparison should be taught as the woman who said “I will NOT go to the king and if I perish, I perish.” This is how from this day forward that I will teach this book. No longer will Vashti be taught from me as a woman not to imitate, but she will indeed be heralded as the woman of courage that she proved herself to be. A woman who in her willingness to say, “NO, I will not go” made the way for Esther to be a woman who could say, “YES, I will go…” We need more Vashti’s in this day.

We need more Vashti’s to say NO and when they are removed, when they do suffer the consequences of that NO, then let their be Esther’s there ready to come in behind them and fill those royal shoes with as much backbone and dignity and power and strength in the Lord as she who made the way for her to be there. In this world our No’s can be just as powerful as our Yes’s. Our No I won’t can mean we perish just as much as our Yes I will. 

We need Vashti’s who are willing to say I don’t care if I lose my career. I don’t care if I get mocked. I don’t care if this means I become a one passage story that is buried. I don’t do this for my own well being, but for every woman, every girl, every single person that didn’t get the opportunity to say NO. If I perish, I perish, but I will not come at your bidding and be commanded to walk before you wearing nothing but a crown.

You see I know a Man who would never ask that of me or any other woman. I know a Man that instead said I, I will be lifted up in front of the entire world for you wearing nothing but a broken bloody crown of thorns so that you, YOU, can be FULLY clothed in robes of righteousness.

I will rejoice greatly in the Lord, My soul will exult in my God; For He has clothed me with garments of salvation, He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness, 

(Isaiah 61:10)

This is why we must never stop learning. This is why as people who profess to know God we must never take one man’s interpretation of the Scriptures as the only interpretation. I believe with all my heart that God’s Word is infallible. It is indeed absolute truth. However, when it begins to be filtered through the fingers of fallible mankind it can be misconstrued, misused, and even abused. This is why we must never turn our brains off when we listen to or read man’s opinions and interpretations of God’s Word. We must never stop learning the Word, never stop reasoning the Word, and never stop applying the Sword of the Spirit to the word of any person, especially any who proclaim the Word of God.

Yes, Esther was born for such a time as this… but so was Vashti, and beloved of God, so were you. 

and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation

Acts 17:26

 

 

 

 

 

My Savior Lives

I am reminded again…

I am not skilled to understand, what God has willed, what God has planned, I only know that at His right hand, stands One who is my Savior…

I am studying the Psalms during my mornings with God, and I am currently learning more about my Savior from Psalms 22, 23, and 24. These mornings have been so sweet as we draw near to Christmas, the day we have chosen to celebrate the birth of Christ, the Messiah. The Promised Seed, the Savior, the Only One who can say “Yet You are He who brought me forth from the womb; You made me trust when upon my mother’s breast. Upon You I was cast from birth; You have been my God from my mother’s womb.”(Psalm 22:9-10).

Jesus is the only man or woman to ever be born without the reproach of sin. Conceived by the Holy Spirit of God in the womb of a virgin. “Who although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”(Philippians 2:6-8). Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?”(Psalm 22:1) He cried out with such anguish that the rocks shook.

Jesus, the God-Man, always in perfect union and fellowship with the Father, cries out, because for the first and only time the Father had to forsake Him as the sins of the world were placed upon Him. As He, fully God and fully man, completely laid aside His divine in order to suffer in His body the due penalty of my sins, He cried out, forsaken. Christ on the cross, with no where to turn, and with no one to turn to…

Before the time of the cross, no matter what earthly family or friend turned His back on Him, Jesus always had the Father, but in this moment, Christ was alone. He made no sound and no cry for help as He was betrayed by His friends. No sound, no defense, no denial of who He was and is as He stood before the council. No fear, no cry for mercy as He stood before Pilate or before the crowd (Isaiah 53:7).

On the cross, lifted high as was the bronze serpent on the standard (Numbers 21), Christ finally began to speak. As the world below looked up at Him and mocked His naked, beaten person, on that cross; as the world below continues to this very day to look up and mock that beautiful God-Man on the cross, Christ cried out and continues to cry out, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”(Luke 23:34). As the weight of my sins and your sins were cast upon Him and as the holiness of God turned His face away from Him, Jesus, cried out, with a cry that the likeness of has never been heard before or since, and He was forsaken, alone.

He was alone, so that no other ever has to be. He was forsaken, so that we never have to be. We can be, if we refuse, but we never HAVE to be. No matter what happens on this earth, no matter what man may do to me, no matter what circumstances might come my way, I will never be alone. Even in death, I am not alone. I will not lie on my death bed in fear or concern of not knowing if I have been good enough to be allowed to enter into the realm of heaven’s eternity, because I have assurance in Him and in His word. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.”(John 3:16)

On that cross, Christ breathed His last and said “It is finished”, the debt was paid in full. “It will be told of the LORD to the coming generation. They will come and will declare His righteousness to a people who will be born, that He has performed it.” (Psalm 22:30-31). I declare His righteousness today and I declare that He has performed it. I will declare it until I breathe my last, because I believe it with all my heart, all my mind, and all my soul.

In no other place do I know of such a God, who would lay aside His divine, His deity, in order to save a wretch like me, but oh, my Elohim, He did. He did and so “Those who seek Him will praise the LORD. Let your heart live forever!”(Psalm 22:26). I don’t always understand why. I don’t always understand how. I don’t always get to know when and where and what for in the things of life. I do, however, always get to know WHO and that Who is my risen Savior who stands at my Father’s right hand.

Show Me Your Glory

And gave up His strength to captivity And His glory into the hand of the adversary (Psalm 78:61)

 

Sometimes the Lord will wake you up in the middle of the night with an insight and then the truth that He shows you just keeps circling around and around in your head. This happened to me last week. As I slept the Lord brought to my mind a word that Jesus shared with His disciples that we have recorded in the book of Luke…

28 For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and consider whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand? 32 Or else, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33 So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions. (Luke 14:28-33)

As the Spirit spoke this passage in my heart the Lord reminded me that the coming of Jesus was planned out before the foundation of the world.

“For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you…” (1 Peter 1:20)

“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.” (Matthew 25:34)

Jesus was the Builder and the King who counted the cost. Before He spoke the world into existence (Genesis 1:3, John 1:1-4, Hebrews 1:1-3) and created man in His own image, He had already calculated what creating this world and building this kingdom would cost Him. He already knew that it could cost Him His glory and cost Him His life. He already knew that it would require Him to leave the majesty and honor of heaven and be humbled on this earth. He knew that it would mean humbling Himself to the point of being born of a woman as a child in flesh and blood. A child that would be surrendered into the hands of His own creation who had been made corrupt and cruel by sin and the deceiver of old to be cared for until He grew to be a man who would be humbled to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:5-11)

Jesus in complete faith in the Father laid aside His glory and trusted that He would be restored to it in accordance with the plan that had been purposed before there was a world to save. As the Word of His power said, “Let there be light…” He had already taken into consideration the state of a could be sinful mankind and the wiles of the serpent of old that would do all he could to deceive and destroy so that he could stake his claim as ruler and prince of the world that God had spoken into existence. Yet, even so, Jesus still, “gave up His strength to captivity and His glory into the hand of the adversary” (Psalm 78:61).

He was able to surrender all because He knew that He was not alone and that the Father in Heaven and the Holy Spirit would indeed see His mission accomplished. He laid aside His glory with no fear of insurrection or concern of abandonment for He knew they were One in unity and purpose…

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness…” (Genesis 1:26)

Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” (Isaiah 6:8)

In the book of Exodus Moses is talking with God and crying out to Him to not leave the people of Israel though they were a stiff-necked and rebellious people. In His prayer to God he cries out, “I pray You, show me Your glory!” The Lord replies and lets Moses look upon His back as He passes by in front of him, but that is all that can be seen of God at this time without the glory of His holiness destroying Moses’ sinful self were he stood. For not even the angels around the throne of God crying “Holy, Holy, Holy,” could look upon His face… that is until one day a child was born and His name was Immanuel, God with us.

14 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. (John 1:14)

Then the glory which was given to the Word made flesh, the Immanuel God with us, the Son of Man and Son of God, He gave to those who believed… that they, who believe, might also be one with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit perfected in unity and purpose.

The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; 23 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.  (John 17:22-23)

In Exodus 33 Moses cried show me Your glory and could only see the back of God. Then in John 1 God’s glory comes down and we can now behold the glory of God in the face of Jesus. Then in John 17 Jesus prays for us that not only will we behold His glory, but He is giving that glory to us so that, as 2 Corinthians 3 declares, we can show His glory to the world as they see us being transformed by it and conformed to the image of the One who came and died and rose again to bestow it upon us.

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, (2 Corinthians 3:18)

Now when the Moses’ of the world cry out, “show me Your glory!” Our God looks at us and says, “now is your chance, show them My glory.”

25 Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, so that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God, 26 that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, 27 to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ.  (Colossians 1:25-28)

So beloved of God as you enter in to this Christmas season and as we remember the day that heaven came down and glory walked this earth and Jesus made the way for glory to fill our soul, how are you showing the world His glory? Are you willing to follow in the footsteps of the King of Glory and count the cost and willingly submit to the purpose of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit and humble yourselves to be obedient to whatever He has called you to even to the point of being obedient to the point of death, even death on your own cross?


 

Do I Really Trust God With My Kids

 We began homeschooling our middle daughter in the 4th grade. I had her tested to see what grade level material we would need to use with her. We ended up starting her on 6th grade material in the 4th grade. She was able to continue on that track through each following year and now she will be graduating high school at 16 years of age.

Now in my “momma-plan” I knew that she would be graduating early. However in MY “momma-plan” she would simply continue to attend one of our local community colleges and live at home while she completed her basic courses toward her degree. What was NOT in my “momma-plan” was for her to be courted by major colleges and universities with scholarship awards once her ACT scores came in. My plan had not considered this possibility. I suppose my Momma heart just would not let my Momma mind go there.

So now here I am taking Senior photos and designing Senior yearbook ads and looking through pictures of her from baby to preteen to young woman and there are times that I feel like I can’t breathe. The day she was born I remember the mini panic attack that would hit my heart every single time she was being held in someone else’s arm… Could I trust them with her? Would they drop her?

Of course those mini panic attacks didn’t last long. From her birth she screamed like a banshee with a cry that could literally be heard for miles and she never slept… and I do mean NEVER.  Two years into this bundle of blue-eyed joy’s life I still had not slept through the night and would be overjoyed if and when I ever got at least four hours of sleep at one time. Therefore, I was readily agreeable to share her with her grandparents and aunts for the night when she was only months old. However, like every other season in life, this season did pass and she did finally learn to sleep. Yet, I think God used this season to teach me from the beginning how to let my babies go and trust Him with them.

Now, sixteen years later I am having to learn this lesson all over again as we plan to not just send her to her grandparents, but hours away to live in a dorm on a college campus. For the past sixteen years we have known at all times where our daughter was,  who she was with, and what she was doing. To this very day she is expected to check in by text when she leaves one location and arrives at another, not because we don’t trust her to be where she said would be, but because we need to know she left, what direction she will be traveling, and that she arrived alive.

All her life we have been right behind her. Teaching, coaching, leading, challenging, and encouraging. We both believed in preparing our kids for life as soon as possible. We both looked at life through lenses that saw that we were not promised tomorrow, so we better do all we can to make sure they have the strength and ability to stand on their own two feet and know how to make decisions and take responsibility in life.  This parenting approach has caused our girls to actually have conflict and tensions with both adults and their peers for varying reasons, but that’s okay with us. What we as their parents know is that if we were to die in some unforeseen tragedy tomorrow, our girls are equipped with Jesus and life skills that will allow them to not just survive in this world, but to thrive.

There is no way that we as parents can prepare our children for everything they might face in life, but we can use everything that they do face along the way to teach them the foundational truths that they can apply toward those things. Their whole lives when a “new thing” presented itself, instead of us doing it for them, we helped them do it themselves. I honestly can’t think of anything that I do in my daily life that my girls do not have the knowledge or ability to do themselves. My husband and I look at our girls and we don’t worry what would happen to them if we were no longer here… we look at them knowing we have done and are doing our job to prepare them for life without us.

We are looking at the beginning of the transitioning from parent zone to best friend zone with our middle and its a beautiful thing. (Noted: we are “looking” we ain’t there, parent zone is still well in effect.) I got to experience this transition with my own parents. If my husband and I were looking for a couple to watch the football game with or to go on vacation with, we always asked one of our parents first because they were our best friends and we genuinely love spending time with them. I hope that all of our girls will feel that way about us as well.

Today my husband is taking our middle and her little sister to the campus that she very well might be calling home this time next year. She will have professors and friends that I might never meet teaching her things that I will not be there at the end of the day to know about. She will no longer be passing by me every day allowing me to see the look in her eyes, the expressions on her face, or the body language movements that her Daddy and I could always recognize as tell tales that she was inwardly struggling with something. We will now have to send her off and we will do so having to believe God.

We say we trust God with our kids. We say we believe His Word, but now is when we really have to put our faith where our trust is. Do I really trust the Lord with my kids? Do I really trust His Holy Spirit to guide her into all truth (John 16:13)? Do I really believe that His grace is sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9) and will give her the power that she needs to live a godly life (Titus 2:11-14) when we are not there with our parental fence? Will He really protect her from every evil deed and support her (2 Timothy 4:16-17) like He promised He would ?

I am currently preparing a message to share at a women’s event and I will be asking questions very similar to these of others. God has always been faithful to never allow me to teach or challenge others with something that I am not willing to or have not already walked through myself. He has a way of keeping me real and I’m grateful.  So as He presses these questions on my heart and uses life to demand an answer of me… the best answer that I can give is the same as another parent that stood before Jesus with their child and cried, “Yes Lord I believe, help my unbelief.” (Mark 9:24).

Those Who Hopefully Wait

“…those who hopefully wait for Me will not be put to shame.”
(Isaiah 49:23)

 

When the days seem long and hard.
When the nights appear ever more dark.
When the heart carries wounds that do not want to heal
When the mind is weary from fighting hard to overcome fear
When worries and cares try to tangle and bind the feet
Then lift up eyes and let the Word of God speak
Look to the skies and the heavens great display
Know that on the clouds the Lord will come in holy array
Recall His promises and remember His might
Let grace take over and faith’s power be greater than sight
Hope is the anchor that reaches deep within the veil
Love is the hook that snatches from every worldly hell
God is the victor His Spirit will prevail
The Son the redeemer will rule without fail
Justice and mercy and righteousness soon abound
Life and peace a gift for all who in Christ are found
Until that day when enemies fall under the Savior’s reign
Hopefully wait knowing that none in Him will be ashamed
Do not grow weary of doing good or let times make faint
Persevere, endure, patiently press on in the midst of wait
Greater is He who lives within than he who lives without
Stand firm in the Lord and in His truth never doubt
He is coming and will rescue and will make all wrongs right
Lean into Him and rest knowing His own He holds tight
~ NLHV

Submitted And Committed

This past week as I visited school campuses in Morgan county I stood and listened to a young man share with his classmates about what is required to be a true follower of Jesus Christ. He shared from a familiar passage in the gospels where our Lord is teaching that we must deny ourselves and take up our own cross and follow Him. The point that he made that stuck out to me and has continued to resonate was his statement to follow Jesus we must be submitted and committed.

Jesus allowed many to follow Him and listen to His teaching and to experience His signs and miracles. However, before He opened Himself to sharing the deep things of God He required a true commitment that could only come through submission to death. He would call His followers to a cross and He would show them what it looked like to carry it. Jesus never requires of others what He has not already carried out Himself.

True followers of Christ must be submitted to the will of God and committed to the Word of God. Jesus came to this world as the Word made flesh to show us what this really looked like and how it is lived out in actuality and not just theory. He carried out the will of God and stayed true to the Word of God every where He went, no matter who He was around. He could stand behind a pulpit that morning and dine with prostitutes that night and never deny the Father or grieve the Holy Spirit.

Jesus showed us what it means to be in the world, but not of it. Jesus showed us how to not be friends with the world, and yet still so love the people in it that we go into all the world and make disciples. Jesus taught us how to never speak harshly to a blind lost soul, and also how to never back down from a legalistic judgmental Bible distorter who does… no matter how many they gather to their side.

Jesus could do this and never be stained by it. He could do this because He had no sin within and no sin on Him. He could do this and remain unblemished because He was God in the flesh, full of grace and truth. The only time He carried sin, was when He took on ours to carry it to the grave. He buried it there and He rose from that grave because death could not hold Him because the wages of sin is death and He had no wage of His own to pay. He paid ours; and then He rose fully God, fully man, fully alive from all eternity.

Before His substitutionary death, after His bodily resurrection, and before His heavenly ascension to the Father He commissioned us to go and continue the work He started in the way He demonstrated. However, He knew that while we remained on this earth, we would remain in this flesh. The weight of sin would no longer be on us but the war with sin would continue to be a battle within us. He taught us how to deal with this as He knelt before a know it all Peter and explained to him that although he was clean because of the Word of God, his feet would still get dirty and he needed to know that Jesus would always be there to wash His feet.

When we choose to be brave enough to step out as followers of Christ and be His ambassador in this world, the real world, the one that is all nasty and perverse and crooked, and we choose to actually get close enough to be the Light in it, then it never fails that there will be times when some of it “gets on us”. Jesus knew that it would, that’s why He was willing to sit before us ready to wash it off so that we could get back out there and salt on. It’s easy to appear to stay all nice and clean when you place yourself inside your self-made kingdom and attempt to control everything and everyone inside of it. However, I believe Jesus had rather us be brave enough to take the chance on getting dirty because we have enough faith in Him to get us clean again without us ever destroying our witness for Him before those that it really matters.

Those that are truly suffering in this life and striving with sin can see through a condescending offering of the gospel. They can tell when the Bible verse is being shared with an air of arrogance and superiority. A high horse is always easily spotted from those who are walking on the ground.

Our family has learned that we had rather stay on the ground and do what we can to be the salt and light and have to return again and again and again to our Jesus to get our feet washed than to ride on that high horse keeping our feet all clean in the stirrups. This is what it is for us to die to ourselves and take up our cross and follow Him. This is what it is for us to be submitted and committed to Jesus. It means we will get rejected again and again by both those who don’t like our Light and by those who don’t like our sometimes dirty feet. It’s not easy. It’s humbling. It flat out gets our feelings hurt repeatedly… but it’s also rewarding. The Lord is always faithful to remind us why He has us where He does.

Our family is not perfect, but we are indeed perfectly loved and we need no one’s approval but God’s. We are submitted and committed to the will and Word of God and we are brave enough to trust Him to keep us from the evil one as we step into this world that is ruled by the prince of darkness in order to be a laborer in it sowing the seed of the gospel.

We choose to love God and love people, all people. We choose to risk wading through muck and mire in the hopes that we are able to grab a few by the collar and pull them out with us. We are thankful for those that choose to jump in that muck and mire with us. It can get awful messy at times, but it ain’t nothing that Jesus can’t wash off.

No Greater Joy

There is a verse in the Bible that becomes more and more real as I watch my children grow into adulthood. In 3 John 1:4, John writes that he has no greater joy than to see that his children are walking in the truth. As a parent the stages that life takes you through are like a rollercoaster ride with its tunnels, twists, and turns. There are times when you wonder what in the world you are doing and there are times when you feel like everything you did do was in vain. Then there are moments when God lets you see that what He promised remains steadfast and true.

Our sixteen year old is attending college as a dual-enrollment student. Yesterday she shared with us about how one of her class discussion times turned toward the subject of homosexuality and the LGBT movement. Here she is the youngest in the class and she willing stepped up and became the only voice that spoke from a Biblical worldview. However, what she shared that made this Momma’s heart so very full of joy is HOW she shared our worldview. She was shocked that the class was shocked that she could hold the view that she does and yet still be kind.

She had the opportunity to share that she could completely disagree with the choices that someone was making and the lifestyle they were living and yet still choose to love that person and treat them as the human being they indeed remained to be. There is never an excuse to not be kind. As long as there is breath there is hope that the Spirit of God will break through into someone’s heart. How sad it would be for us to be a reason that a wall is built instead of a reason that a wall was weakened.

Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?

Romans 2:4

Our youngest was sharing with me not long ago about how there was a young girl that was visiting church around her age. Several of the students shared with her that the girl was trouble and was involved with a rough crowd and advised her to stay away from her. Our youngest looked at them and said, “Well then she NEEDS to be here and she needs to make new friends and she won’t do that if she does not feel welcome here.” My daughter then proceeded to grab some more friends that felt the way she did and they went and joined the young girl and chose to sit with her. Our daughter continues to meet her with open arms every time she walks in the door.

This is the kind of children I prayed that I would be faithful to raise. Children that knew how to be IN the world, but NOT OF the world.

And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.

Mark 16:15

My husband and I chose to trust that our Father God would do exactly what His Son asked Him to do when He prayed for us in John 17 right before He was arrested and went to the cross for us.

“I have manifested Your name to the men whom You gave Me out of the world; they were Yours and You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. Now they have come to know that everything You have given Me is from You; for the words which You gave Me I have given to them; and they received them and truly understood that I came forth from You, and they believed that You sent Me. I ask on their behalf; I do not ask on behalf of the world, but of those whom You have given Me; for they are Yours; 10 and all things that are Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine; and I have been glorified in them. 11 I am no longer in the world; and yet they themselves are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me, that they may be one even as We are. 12 While I was with them, I was keeping them in Your name which You have given Me; and I guarded them and not one of them perished but the son of perdition, so that the Scripture would be fulfilled. 13 But now I come to You; and these things I speak in the world so that they may have My joy made full in themselves. 14 I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.17 Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. 18 As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. 19 For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth. 20 “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; 21 that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.

My husband and I attended a ministry celebration of some dear new friends, Pastor Daryl and Annette Little. As they shared at the end of the dinner Pastor Little made a very profound statement. I wish I had written it down or could recall it word for word, but he shared how this is the time that we have been given, this is the people that we share this time with, and we need to stop and realize that we are all spending this life together.

This is the time that the sovereign hand of God chose to appoint to us. He purposely and specifically chose for us to live in this day of technology, in this day of global marketing, in this day of climate change politics, in this day of division, in this day of sexual perversion, in this day of media manipulation, in this day of false gospel and self promotion. He chose us for today.

God isn’t shocked by the world. Nothing has happened or will happen that He is not fully aware of and has not fully equipped His people to thrive in, so let us thrive.

Let us choose to walk in the truth in love with bold authentic kindness. Let us make eye contact. Let us use our words and our deeds to proclaim the gospel of God (James 2:18). Let us choose to put on Jesus every single day (Colossians 3:1-17). Let us choose to say no to words and actions that do not portray the One who died to give us life.

This is our time. May we make the most of it.

When People Make You Doubt God

I am a forty-one year old woman who has been faithfully serving the Lord for over sixteen years. For over sixteen years I have spent at least five hours a day in the Word of God every day. That’s not counting praying and seeking Him through His Word for wisdom in specific situations throughout the day, and that’s not including church attendance a minimum of three times a week. This is at the very least twenty-nine thousand two hundred hours spent with the Lord one on one.

So here I am in this place of supposed stability in my relationship with the Lord and my surety of His faithfulness and His promises, and yet still people who profess to know Him and claim to love me can still throw me off guard.  In this stunned state,  I find that I will lower my shield of faith just enough to momentarily receive a hit from the serpent of old’s arrow of doubt and all these hours of investment in God and His Word seem in that moment to be in vain.

This is why the song “Come Thou Fount” is my very favorite hymn… that line, “prone to wander Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love” is my heart crying to God in utter thankfulness that He has indeed sealed my heart. He holds me tightly to His chest while my fist pummel against Him and I can hear His small, still, sweet voice whispering His “sssshhhhhh, it will be okay, just trust Me” through my cries of why. His love holds us to Him because He knows there will always be times this side of eternity that is just to painful for us to hold ourselves to Him.

I am one of those girls that doesn’t let people in easily. I don’t know why, I just know that I have never been someone who trusted the sincerity of others easily. I am usually looking for their angle. I am usually wondering if their words will match the actions… and sadly more often than not in my life the words have not matched the actions.

I suppose the thing that makes it so hard is that I am also a hopeless optimist. I usually give someone the benefit of the doubt in the beginning. I step in cautious but still always hope and expect them to be who they claim to be right at the first. I share little things, I open cracks in windows so I can fully control what goes in and out… then slowly I’ll test the thought of opening the front door. I’ll leave them on the porch, but the door is wide open.

Then if they show themselves to be otherwise, that door shuts, and well, it’s just hard to come back from that reality check.  So I step back inside, close the windows, prop my shield of faith up with a sling of skepticism, and begin to build a wall around the perimeter of the house. I think “building a wall” is the same as the term “Compartmentalize.” According to wikipedia compartmentalization is an unconscious psychological defense mechanism used to avoid cognitive dissonance, or the mental discomfort and anxiety caused by a person’s having conflicting values, cognitions, emotions, beliefs, etc. within themselves.

This conflict within ourselves as believers is often between the command of God to love unconditionally and the reality that it can hurt like hell when we do.

So we step back.

We make distance.

We build a firewall.

We’ve been burned and we have to heal. (Or perhaps, this is just me)

In this repetitive process, I’ve learned to take the time to examine myself. Our God wastes no hurt, no pain, so if I have experienced it I know He needs me to learn from it. My own hurt reminds me of how important it is for Christians to be true and trustworthy. Therefore, I try to get to the place where I can stop and say “God this hurt, please help me to not hurt others the way I have been hurt”, as quickly as I can.

Through my own hurt I am always reminded of how important it is for me to make sure that I am intentional to love others with sincerity (1 Peter 1:22).  It’s so easy to slip into a pattern of flippant answers, quick replies, and fake smiles… and our world needs the sincere. Our world needs the genuine. Our world needs the real.

I realize how important it is to love with sincerity because, whether we like it or not, God has chosen to use PEOPLE as His instruments of the message of His salvation through Christ. This is how He has chosen for His gospel to go forth. He didn’t choose blogs, podcasts, books, tweets, or even online sermons… He chose PEOPLE.  So how we treat people matters.

If how I am treated by others can cause me, sixteen years faithfully walking with God, to be hit by the arrows of doubt by the enemy of our souls, then how much greater is the wound of the heart that is hit by the attack of these arrows that has no shield of faith at all to protect or deflect?

We can choose to be used by the enemy of our souls to wound people over and over and over again or we can choose to take up our own cross and be wounded so that others might live (2 Corinthians 4:11-12). Which means that after you have had time to heal… you must put your heart back out there to be hurt again. One thing that I have learned is that your heart will be hurt again.

I wish that I could get through to all of us who profess to love the Lord and yet condemn their brothers and sisters for things that don’t make a hill of beans of difference in the light of eternity. We often seem to spend more time looking for reasons and ways to destroy each others ministry and witness than the devil does. We too often are concerned with the actions of others that are only wrong because we simply don’t agree with them. We pick our argument and we gather around us our group of opinion agreerers and then we begin to slowly erode, divide, and destroy unity.

This is nothing new in the life of the church. In 2 Corinthians 2, Paul is writing to the church in Corinth and he shares, This is the very thing I wrote you, so that when I came, I would not have sorrow from those who ought to make me rejoice; having confidence in you all that my joy would be the joy of you all. For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote to you with many tears; not so that you would be made sorrowful, but that you might know the love which I have especially for you.

When those we expect to make us rejoice cause us sorrow it can seem to wound with an incurable wound. These hits cause arms to go limp in stunned shock and many drop their cross at their feet and walk away dejected and defeated. They expected to take lashes from those who hated their Lord and His Word, but the blindsided wounds of those who were supposed to be their brethren… it’s often too much to take.

Then there usually comes the shallow offering of consolation with the excuse that the ones that hurt them are only human or just sinners too… can we just not. According to Ephesians 4, Colossians 3, 1 Peter 4, and more, in Christ we are not only human or just sinners. We are filled with the Spirit of Christ. We are holy priests and saints, and we are to be held to a much higher standard than that… so could we just own it.

Owning it, however, works both ways.

In 2 Corinthians 2 Paul went on to say, But if any has caused sorrow, he has caused sorrow not to me, but in some degree—in order not to say too much—to all of you. Sufficient for such a one is this punishment which was inflicted by the majority, so that on the contrary you should rather forgive and comfort him, otherwise such a one might be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. Wherefore I urge you to reaffirm your love for him. For to this end also I wrote, so that I might put you to the test, whether you are obedient in all things. 10 But one whom you forgive anything, I forgive also; for indeed what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, I did it for your sakes in the presence of Christ, 11 so that no advantage would be taken of us by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes.

Owning it means admitting that how you treat others as a professing believer matters and it also means that how you forgive others as a professing believer matters. Building walls does as much to destroy unity in the body as the ones we are building our walls to protect ourselves from. Jesus came to tear down dividing walls (Ephesians 2:14). When people make you doubt God and that serpent’s arrow hits it’s target, don’t doubt Him… run to Him. Bury your head in His chest and let His Word whisper to the depths of your hurt and heal it… and let us do our very best to not be guilty of trying to build back up what Jesus died to tear down.

The world is watching how believers treat each other. The world is watching how believers treat others period. They are looking to us to see if this Jesus we claim to love and that we claim loves them is real, genuine, sincere. We have to always be ready to ask ourselves, what will they see when they watch me?

Dear Public School Teacher…

Dear Public School Teacher,  I want to let you know that there was a time when I struggled with having respect for you. I struggled because I had chosen to allow a few to define the whole. I struggled because I felt I needed to stand against you in order to validate to the world my right and ability to teach my own children at home. I had a hard line drawn and wore glasses shaded in jade because I disliked school myself as a kid and had a few issues with the system with my own children the short time they were there.

Then the Lord placed some teachers in my life that allowed me to see that there were still LOTS of great teachers out there. There were still lots of teachers that loved teaching and loved their students and recognized the influence they had over the lives of those they taught. They also respected my choice and ability to school my own children at home.

The Lord was also doing a work in my heart in many other areas. Through the course of my own life’s circumstances He was teaching me to “relax” about some things that were really just nothing to get fired up about. He was teaching me how to extract and separate the precious out of things and situations that could be considered worthless. He was teaching me the difference between being right and actually being righteous. He was teaching me about mercy, love, and abundant grace.

Then the Lord called me to ministry through the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. In this ministry I was allowed to have conversations with many of you about your struggles and I had the opportunity to meet many more of you who truly love the kids you teach and just want to see them excel in life. The Lord also used my own struggles of frustration from feeling like I was “beating dead horses” to help me see that you were quite possibly in that similar place, experiencing that similar feeling, and simply needing to be encouraged.

So dear public school teacher, be encouraged! Please know that I am praying for you. I am praying that you will remember why you wanted to become a teacher. Yes, I know many think it might have been for the summer’s off and because you would have the same schedule as your kids… but I know that deep down you had a hope that you would be used to make a huge difference in someone’s life. Summers off and work schedules simply are not enough internal drive to get someone through college. The desire that your life could make a difference in someone’s world, however, is exactly enough.

You see I believe in you. I believe that you have the ability to look past a child’s behavior and see the heart and the hurt behind the actions. I believe that you are making impact in the hearts and minds of the kids you teach that far supersede their ability to conjugate and calculate. I believe that you have placed before you an opportunity to change a kid’s life and the life of their children and their children’s children. I believe in you and I am praying for you.

I am praying that you remember that you are the “grown up”.

In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” (Acts 20:34-36)

I am praying that you remember who you were when you were their age and how thankful you are for those who chose to teach you and lead you instead of condemn you and I pray you choose to be like them.

It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. 16 Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life. 17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. (1 Timothy 1:15-17)

so that we confidently say, The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraidWhat will man do to me?” Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. (Hebrews 13:6-8)

I pray that you remember that you are called to a higher purpose than leading kids to higher education. You are called to lead them to the Most High.

35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. (Luke 6:35-36)

I pray that you remember that today might be the last day in that child’s life. Today might be the only chance that you get to show them that there is a hope and a future in Christ.

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” 14 Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. (James 4:13-14)

While you have the Light, believe in the Light, so that you may become sons of Light.” These things Jesus spoke, and He went away and hid Himself from them. (John 12:36)

I pray that you remember the big picture. I am praying that you remember who you are because of Whose you are…

12 So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. 14 Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. 15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father… 23 Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.  (Colossians 3:12-17, 23-24)

I pray that you are not swayed from expecting excellence from your students. Raise the bar and demand they reach it. I pray that you won’t allow mediocrity in your class but will command they rise to their very best by showing them how through your own example.

I pray that you will surround yourself with teachers that have a vision for more and you will not be drug down by naysayers or doomsdayers. I pray that when others talk down students you will choose to talk them up. I pray that when labels are placed on kids you will tear them off.

I pray that you will choose to find a group of teachers in your school that are willing to see your school for what it really is… a battlefield and a mission field. You are a warrior for the Light in the midst of the kingdom of darkness and these kids eternity is at stake. You need to gather your army and you need to prepare for battle so that you may wield your sword with efficiency, accuracy, and purpose. I pray that you will not fight alone. Seek out your fellow soldiers and prepare your hearts together. There is power in your prayers and your study of His Word, use it.

I believe in you… and I am praying for you. This is a new day and new year with new students. Today is a new beginning… and I am praying that when “today” grows tired and the last days are in sight that you will still remember today.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)

 

Getting Over The Hump

Marriage is a journey. The logistics of this journey are different for every two people that join hearts and hands and choose to take this journey. The journey begins with each person packing their own bags and then they meet up and set out together. She has her baggage. He has his baggage. She has her GPS programmed her way and he has his programmed his way. She has her dreams and expectations of what the future should hold and he has his own dreams and expectations of that very same future. They have discussed these dreams and expectations as best as they can, but what they have not yet learned is that discussion is different from actually walking it out.

In this baggage we carry all the experiences of our lives that we are trying to pack away in order to step into this new future together as well as all the things we want to use to build this new future together. When we both show up to the wedding dragging a 26 foot U-haul behind us… the journey is going to be a lot tougher than if we both show up with a lightweight backpack. Sometimes one person shows up with the U-haul and the other has a backpack and this can make the journey just as hard and just as frustrating.

When we stand up there at the altar and say “I do” and “I will”, we are both so full of adrenaline and bliss that we don’t even care about the baggage, because we are young and strong and fresh on the journey. The baggage doesn’t seem heavy or burdensome. We both are convinced that we can handle it all just fine. However, we are not aware that there will be times when we will have to carry the others baggage nor do we realize that there will be baggage we will also pick up while we walk the journey.

Along the way there will be baggage that is handed to the both of us and in order to carry it we will most likely have to stop and choose to either leave behind the baggage we brought with us, or quite the journey because we refuse to drop the old baggage in order to be able to carry the new. This can be a hard decision, especially when some of the baggage we might have to discard has not been opened in years and most likely never was wanted to be opened again. Perhaps it was  brought on the journey for the simple fact that we wanted to make sure it remained safely tucked away, hidden, and forcedly forgotten. I understand, I really do… and so does God.

Therefore they inquired further of the Lord, “Has the man come here yet?” So the Lord said, “Behold, he is hiding himself by the baggage.”

(1 Samuel 10:22)

When God called Saul to be the first king of Israel he chose to hide by the baggage. He didn’t want to step out into the unknown and move forward on this journey that God had called him too. He wanted to stay hidden. Yet, in this life we don’t get to remain hidden or stagnant anywhere. We will move, it will either be forward or it will be backward.

Then David left his baggage in the care of the baggage keeper, and ran to the battle line and entered in order to greet his brothers.

(1 Samuel 17:22)

In marriage we will either leave our baggage in the care of the baggage keeper or we will hide by it and be drug backwards by the weight of trying to keep hold of it.

Cast your burden upon the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.

(Psalm 55:22)

David chose to leave his baggage and ran to the battle line. In doing so he was able to enter into the future that God had for him. David knew that he couldn’t carry all his baggage into this new journey. He couldn’t fight the battles he needed to fight and lend a hand to those who needed a hand if his were already both full, and neither can we.

We come to marriage with our bags packed. We come programmed with the way we think things will be. We come ready to take each other hand in hand and we don’t realize how many twists and turns and detours and hills and mountains will lay before us. Life brings us to the foot of a mountain time and time again and in order to get over the coming hump, you often have to leave baggage behind. If you choose not to, then this is when the hand in hand stops. You either leave the baggage and take old of the hand, or you grab tightly to the baggage and push the hand away.

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,

(Hebrews 12:1)

My husband and I entered our marriage both dragging 26 ft u-hauls behind us. We have both had a lot of unpacking and casting away in our nineteen years of this journey. Many times we have come to a mountain that seemed to high and too hard and we held in our hands baggage that we really didn’t want to get into and didn’t want left behind. The baggage of opinions, personality, and habits can be even heavier and harder to leave behind than the baggage of carefully packed away pre-journey sin, but if we want to get over the hump we have to deal with the baggage.

In the beginning we usually just start discarding our own baggage, because we realize it was like our favorite old t-shirt, comfortable but not really that important. We don’t even discuss what we are casting away with the other, we just do it and move on. Then we come to the foot of a mountain when the other looks at us and we literally have to choose the baggage or them. This is where it gets hard. However, if we will just trust the Baggage Keeper and leave our burden with Him… we will realize that what looked like an unclimbable impassable mountain, was really just another hump.

Once we get over this hump the decision of the baggage no longer is a choosing of his or hers. Once we get over this hump when the next mountain comes we have lightened our load and combined our bags. Now we are able to sit down and go through the baggage together and lighten the load by combining and dividing according to each other’s strength at the current moment. Now we do not look at the mountain with fear and anxiety, but with hope and determination.

Beloved, I don’t know where you are on your journey. Perhaps you have not even began the journey of marriage yet, or perhaps you are reading this and you are standing there staring at that mountain that is forcing you to choose your baggage or your partner in the journey. I know it’s scary… but precious one, once you lay that burden down at the foot of the cross and take their hand and turn to face that mountain… you will discover it was just a hump.

Once you get over that hump, yes, there will be more mountains to face, but you face them together… carrying only the baggage you both have decided is needed for the next leg of the journey.

The writing and teachings of Nicole Love Halbrooks Vaughn