Saturday, November 19, 2011

Leave to Cleave

When Mother continued to counsel us against our plans, James faced the issue head-on. One night when he was over for super, he said to my mother, very politely and respectfully, "Ma'am, I cannot let you be in charge of this relationship. You will not be in charge of our wedding or our marriage. This is what we want to do, and if we have to do it totally on our own, we will. And if there's no ceremony, it doesn't matter.
~ Betty Robison from Living in Love

Oh I read this and I just wanted to cheer James and Betty on.
You go James! Thank you for being a man and stepping up and speaking for your family. And Betty way to stand by your man and let him lead.

I have seen almost marriages that should have been marriages crumble before they even had a chance to begin because Momma was not willing to let her baby be an adult... and now most of those are currently living in sexual sin and broken homes anyway... because the Momma used the excuse of fear of failure before the marriage even had a chance to begin and attempt success...

However, I suppose the real issue is the boy who was not willing to become a man and chose to let Momma be boss.

We are currently in a generation that simply blows my mind and makes me shake my head in complete disbelief and frustration. A generation full of parents who counsel their children against marriage...

I mean the last time I checked it was God who said

 Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm,
but how can one be warm alone? 
And if one can overpower him who is alone,
two can resist him.
A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.
Ecclesiastes 4:11-12

Why on earth would you not want your child in the power of a three-cord strand?
Most parents today have instilled in their children that they must do A, B, and C before they get married and if Mr or Mrs right comes along before they have gotten to C, well if they are "really the one" then they will wait until you finish your A, B, and C plan before you get married. 

Exactly where in God's Word do you read of us saying to God, "Okay God here is my A, B, C plan for my life and I am not detouring from it... so send my spouse according to my (and my parent's) plan okay, because if You send them before hand I am just so sorry but Your plan will have to wait on mine"  

Why on earth would parents rather have their child living in rebellion to God, in sin against their own bodies and sinning against the body of another, than enter into the God blessed and ordained covenant of marriage? It makes absolutely no sense to me. 

When young men and women have sinned against God and each other and God has chosen in this sin to create the blessing of life and these two have said that they have chosen to get married what I hear from so many these days is, "Well I am just not sure marriage is the answer..."

For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother,
and be joined to his wife;
and they shall become one flesh. 
And the man and his wife were both naked
and were not ashamed.
Genesis 2:24

Exactly when did we decide that marriage was not the answer when God said in marriage they were not ashamed... What exactly is wrong with allowing this young couple the opportunity to give this life they have created together a shot?
Yes it might end in divorce... but you know what, it might not.
Yes they might struggle in life. But who doesn't?
So what if they are "so young", our idea of "so young" today is anyone under thirty, it's quite ridiculous if I do say so myself.

My grandmother was married to my grandfather at 15 and they were happily married and obviously head over heals in love with each other until death did them part. My mother was married to my father at 16, she graduated high school as a married woman and yes, today my parents are still head over heals in love with each other.   

My sister and her husband were right out of high school and working at Dairy Queen when God chose to create life out of wedlock within their rebellion and they chose to get married. My brother-in law worked two and three jobs for the first few years of their marriage to support his family so my sister could stay at home with their children. They are still happily married and obviously head over heels in love with each other today. Did they struggle? My goodness yes they did, but they learned that God is faithful and He has always met their needs.

To me, this counsel against marriage, seems to be playing right along with the warning given to us in Scripture concerning the last days...

men who forbid marriage
and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created
to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth. 
For everything created by God is good,
and nothing is to be rejected
if it is received with gratitude;
1 Timothy 4:3-4

I do believe it was God who created marriage.
We tell our children don't get married until you've got your own life just right. 
Ever wondered if this idea might have lead into the false concept that you have to get your own life just right before you can enter into a covenant with Christ?
Just something to think about...

So moms and dads... offer wise counsel, but offer it according to the Word of God. Be willing to cut the apron strings. Be willing to let your children be adults.

I had a dear friend tell me a story about how her youngest child was very sick when he was baby and she was concerned that now he was not walking as she believed he should be by the age he was at this time. She expressed her concern to her child's pediatrician at the child's check-up and the doctor lovingly told her, "if you want your son to learn to walk you have to put him down."

For our children to learn to walk we have to put them down and be willing to let them fall...

And children, young men and women, be adults. Men be the head of your home and leader of your family and let your wife or future wife know that you are capable of standing strong. And woman, let your man be a man, and confidently stand by him and show him that you trust him to lead your family.

And in closing, a word from Betty...

While firm, he was gracious, and we certainly didn't want to sever our relationship with my parents, but the time had come to change the nature of that relationship. We wanted an open door to wise counsel, but we didn't want the open door to include intrusive control... Every couple should seek to maintain a good relationship with their parents but not at the expense of their own marriage. We had to leave in order to cleave.
~ Betty Robison

Friday, November 18, 2011

Can I Get An Amen!

One of the attendant aims of missional evangelicalism is to challenge the compartmentalizing of the Christian faith that we see within the Western church. We are fantastic at itemizing our schedules, and even if we don't assign God a very large bracket, we are constantly remorseful that we "haven't made much time for him." While such compartmentalizing — as if "time with God" can or should be hermetically sealed off from everything else — is a natural symptom of our culture and environment, it also reflects a bad theology.

The truth is, the day does not belong to us. It is not our day to do with as we please. We serve a sovereign God. He created the end from the beginning, knows our future exhaustively, and is firmly in control. He made our days and they belong to him. As such, isn't it a bit arrogant to begin with the idea that each day is ours and then worry about fitting God in? Instead, we should work at the humble awe of knowing all of our moments, every millisecond, waking or sleeping, are perfectly accounted for within the economy of heaven.

Let us stake the flag of Christ's kingdom into the soil of our first waking moment. Drink your coffee when you get up, of course, but drink it to the glory of God. Then carry on in this way all day, no matter the task, be it menial or notable, so that each day may be a living prayer that God's will will be done on earth as it is in heaven. This is what it means to live a gospel-saturated life: it means being so conscious of the greatness of the gospel that changing diapers or cutting the grass is as much an act of worship as singing a praise chorus in a church service….

Jesus Christ is Lord over my heart, and he is Lord over my hands, and he is Lord over what I do with these hands, and he is Lord over what I say in my heart while I'm doing it. In submitting to the lordship of Christ, then, I do not treat washing dishes as wasting time I could be spending doing something "meaningful," but rather as a service to those who eat in my home, as a service to those who would have to wash the dishes if I did not, and as an offering of thanksgiving to God that I have food to eat, dishes to eat it on, and running water inside my home to clean with.

To paraphrase C. S. Lewis, there is not a square inch of our lives that is not claimed by God and counterclaimed by ourselves. If we believe God is sovereign, however, we will see all of life as mission and be led to submit the square inches we otherwise hold so tightly to the Maker of inches and hands.

~ Jared Wilson from Gospel Wakefulness


Oh wow, I love this!
How releasing, how liberating is it to hear these words?
Are you like me?
Do you struggle with guilt on whether or not you are doing enough for the glory of God?

Have you ever said, if I had have known Christ before I would have been on that mission field?
I wish I could be on a plane right now to that orphanage...
What could I be doing for You God if I had not the "responsibilities" I have in this world?
Or simply, I didn't make enough time for You today God.
Oh my goodness to be reminded that God is not waiting to be "fit" into "our" schedule.
I never before thought about how arrogant that really sounded.

Just knowing that all that I do is for the glory of the gospel, or at least it should be, does two things:

1) Gives every area of life meaning and purpose for the glory of the gospel of God
2) Reminds us that every area of life should be lived in awareness that it has meaning and purpose for the glory of the gospel of God

God is in our everything... our every moment... our every day...
I know this, I really already do, but it is always wonderful and breathtaking to be reminded of this truth.

Hopefully one day I will fully "get it" :-)

Names of God - El Elyon

Before we learn about this next name of God we have to do a little context review to get the whole powerful punch of the moment.

If you recall in Genesis 12 God called out to a man named Abram from Ur of the Chaldean's. He didn't explain who He was. He didn't give any detailed message. He simply said something like, "you Abram, go now" and Abram said "okay". I often wonder exactly how God appeared to Abram. I mean Moses got a burning bush... I guess I'll have to ask for that first hand account when I see him in eternity :-)

Okay back to Abram, so the Lord calls him out and sends him to a place that He will show him when he gets there. Now that's our God for us, "here go and I am not going to tell you where, but if you will listen closely as you go, then you'll get there... and you will learn lessons all the way... because I already know that you are not a very good listener... but you will learn to be as you go."

Abram heads out, in slight obedience, which is full disobedience. God told him to leave his family, but he took them with him... yeh the not so good listening skills part. So there were things that needed to happen to help Abram get back on the right track and you can read all about it in Genesis 12 and Genesis 13.

Now by Genesis 14 God has Abram and Sarai separated from all the rest of their family. So now here is Abram following a God he does not know all that well and now all his family is gone, they might have thought he was crazy in following this God, but they at least loved him anyway, right. Now it's just him and Sarai.

Then the word comes that his nephew has been taken captive and so Abram and his men and his God go to battle against five kings, yes that's right five kings. Guess who wins? Yep, ding-ding-ding, Abram! The amazing thing in this chapter is who Abram gets the opportunity to meet after the battle is over.

Finally after all this time he get to meet a man who not only follows the same God he has been following, but this man knows Him and can teach him about this God.

Hmmmm what a coincidence... :-)

This man's name is Melchizedek and he is king and priest of Salem and he introduces Abram to God as God Most High or El Elyon

Abram learns this day that this God that has called him out and that he has been following is not just any god. He is not one of the many gods that Abram has heard about throughout his life and travels... this God is El Elyon, God Most High.

Remember the former things long past,
For I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is no one like Me,
Isaiah 46:9

He is the God of gods.

Blessed be Abram of God Most High,
Possessor of heaven and earth; 
 And blessed be God Most High,
Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.
Genesis 14:19-20 

From this encounter with Melchizedek we learn right along with Abram that our God is not only the Creator God who created the heavens and the earth, but He is the Possessor of heaven and earth. He owns it, it is in His hands and all that it is in it.  

 For the world is Mine, and all it contains.
Psalm 50:12

We also learn right along with Abram that his victory over the enemies was not his, he did not accomplish this in his own strength and strategic planning. God Most High delivered them into his hands... as He will our enemies if He will just trust Him.

To know that God will deliver us from our enemies we have to recognize that we will have enemies. We will face enemies in our life. Difficult days and people and trials will come, but we must remember who the Possessor of each day is and trust that He is with us. Our difficulties are for a purpose, our battles will teach us more of who our God is if we will just face them and let Him fight for us.

That men may know from the rising to the setting of the sun
That there is no one besides Me.
I am the LORD, and there is no other,
The One forming light and creating darkness,
Causing well-being and creating calamity;
I am the LORD who does all these.
Isaiah 45:6-7

Our El Elyon holds us in His hands and He holds our nation in His hands. No king rises or falls without the permission the God Most High. Nebuchadnezzar got to learn this lesson the hard way...

this is the interpretation, O king,
and this is the decree of the Most High,
which has come upon my lord the king: 
that you be driven away from mankind
and your dwelling place be with the beasts of the field,
and you be given grass to eat like cattle
and be drenched with the dew of heaven;
and seven periods of time will pass over you,
until you recognize that the Most High
is ruler over the realm of mankind
and bestows it on whomever He wishes. 
And in that it was commanded to leave the stump
with the roots of the tree,
your kingdom will be assured to you
after you recognize that it is Heaven that rules.
Daniel 4:24-26

I don't know about you but I had rather learn about my God through stumbling through obedience than leg striping disobedience. Crawling around on all fours and eating grass just doesn't sound like much fun to me...

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Lifting Grace

Now the young lady pleased him
and found favor with him.
Esther 2:9

Esther exhibited a grace-filled charm and elegance. In this verse, the literal translation of the original language says, "She lifted up grace before his face." Isn't that a beautiful expression? Though she was brought to the harem and participated in these things reluctantly, Esther did not display a sour attitude. I'm convinced she sensed God's hand in her situation. Why else would she have been there? ~ Swindoll

I would have to say that one of the most important lessons that God is teaching me in and through my marriage is how to give grace. Isn't it a funny thing how we seem to be able to easily offer grace to the stranger on the street, to the hurting on the mission field, to the friend that's lost as a goose, but we will find ourselves unwilling to give grace to our own spouse.

We place this expectation of perfection on them and this unspoken demand that they should be able to read our minds and know exactly what we need and want, when we need and want it, the way we need and want it. We expect them never to be angry or frustrated or make a mistake and they simply must just understand us perfectly.

My husband and I have finally learned in our 13 years of marriage that we filter things differently. We see things differently. We understand things differently. We interpret things differently. It took us a while to realize that we have a breakdown in communication between the female and male way of thinking and doing.

One of the most powerful illustrations of the realization I have for this breakdown happened not long ago.
You see I am not "Betty Crocker" at all. I can cook, but I do not love to cook. If I am given the slightest out on cooking I am taking it.

"Oh, your mother wants us to come out for dinner tonight, well great!" (I truly love my mother-in-laws cooking!)
"You're still full from a late lunch? Okay, the girls and I will have a bowl of cereal."
"You want to go eat where? That's sounds like a plan to me."

Like I said I can cook and usually my food is pretty tasty, but I am a klutz in the kitchen. I literally have kitchen wars battle scars all over my arms and hands from the past 13 years of cooking for my husband.
I always manage to make a mess.  I will spill something, boil something over, knock something over, freakish things will happen to me in the kitchen when I am just tying to do the simplest thing.

Once I was in the middle of making out of the box mac & cheese and I go to shake down the pack of powdered cheese and in mid shake the package opens itself and me and my kitchen are now covered in powdered cheese. I found scattered powdered cheese for weeks.

Now on the opposite end my husband loves to cook and he is a wonderful cook. I mean he is in the "he could do this for a living if he wanted to" category of good. And while I am here in my kitchen klutz mode with battle scars and powdered cheese I felt that I could never meet his standard of cooking and that he was comparing me to all those women on the Food Network who are talking about feeding their men, oh you know, the Barefoot Contessa and her Jeffrey and Paula Dean and her Michael.
I mean I could never be them.

So this is where my cooking frustration is rooted.

Now back to the realization illustration... On one particular day I am cooking dinner and the usual freakish things and injuries are taking place as I attempt to prepare this meal. My husband is in the kitchen and I mouth off my usual "This is why I hate cooking!"  

As I mouthed how I hated cooking, what my husband heard was "I hate taking care of you!"


Of course, me, knowing what I knew about myself, when he let me know this was what he heard, I grew indignant at his response. I thought how in the world can you even think such a thing! That's ridiculous!

Major miscommunication.

Because in truth what I wanted was my husband to see how much I sacrifice in order to take care of him by the fact that I am willing to suffer the battle scars and the messes made by my kitchen klutzdom. But the words coming out of my mouth counter-acted my actions.

I displayed a sour attitude and I did not lift up grace to my husband. I was playing the martyr. I think that possibly I was even trying to manipulate him through guilt into saying something encouraging to me as I struggled there before the stove. I was sending signals and expecting to hear words of his great appreciation as he acknowledged my willing sacrifice to do this cooking thing I hated so much just because I loved him.
I certainly was not expecting that he would interpret my words as hating to take care of him and our family.

Major backfire.

So here is where grace comes in. My husband knows me very well. Most likely better than any other mortal on the earth besides my parents, but he cannot read my mind. I know my husband very well. Most likely more than any other mortal on the earth besides his parents, but I cannot read his mind.

Neither of us are perfect.
Neither of us can assume everything about the other.
Both of us are growing and changing as we grow in the knowledge of the Lord and in His wisdom.
Both of us have flesh that grows weary and frustrated and sick.
Both of us have needs and wants and particular ways we prefer to have things done.
We understand each other perty well, but not yet perfectly, but we are pressing on for maturity.

As we press on we must lift up grace. If we are to receive grace we must first be willing to give grace. The only way we are able to receive the grace of God is because God was first willing to give it to us. Grace is a gift. Ladies, if we have received grace from God we can give it to our husbands. Let us lavish grace and mercy on them the way that God has lavished His on us.

In Him we have redemption through His blood,
the forgiveness of our trespasses,
according to the riches of His grace 
which He lavished on us.
In all wisdom and insight 
He made known to us the mystery of His will,
according to His kind intention
which He purposed in Him.
Ephesians 1:7-9

Notice that in the grace that was lavished on us God made known the mystery of His will. He does not expect us to read His mind or figure Him out by sending "signals". In His offered grace He flat out makes known what He wants from us, what He needs from us, and the way He prefers it to be done and also notice it was according to His kind intention, not finger-shaking, head-bobbing, foot-stomping, harsh demand.

So your challenges:

1) Lift up grace before his face. Think of at least one thing that you have been "giving signals" over and then have pouted over because he didn't get the signal. Offer him grace. Don't assume he is ignoring the "signal". Go to him and make known the mystery of your will and do it with kindness not in an accusatory or belittling tone.  

2) Look for God's hand in a situation that you are not particularly happy to be in. Think of at least one thing that you do for your husband with "a sour attitude" and turn that sour attitude into sweet submission trusting that God's hand is at work in him and in you and in your marriage.

Names of God - Elohim

When we open to the first verse of the first chapter of the Bible the first thing God does is introduce Himself to us with one of His names.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
Genesis 1:1

God in Genesis 1:1 in the Hebrew is "Elohim".
So what exactly does this name tell us about our God? 

To find out we must first look at the context. What is God doing when He uses this particular name for Himself? When we look we see that He is creating the heavens and the earth. This is God's name to show us that He is the Creator God. 

The name Elohim is a noun masculine and it is also plural.
In the very beginning God our Creator introduces Himself to us as the Trinity.
When we read further in this first chapter of the Word we read,

Let Us make man in Our image...
Genesis 1:26

Now when we look back at the first few verses of this chapter we notice that we see this truth even more clearly...

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 
The earth was formless and void,
and darkness was over the surface of the deep,
and the Spirit of God was moving
over the surface of the waters. 
Then God said...,
Genesis 1:1-3

Now compare with the revealed mystery in the New Testament

In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God
He was in the beginning with God. 
All things came into being through Him,
and apart from Him nothing came into being
that has come into being. ....
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us...
John 1:1-3, 14 

In the beginnings God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit... absolutely breathtakingly beautiful!

We also learn from the Hebrew definition of the word created that our Creator God creates out of nothing. We may say we create something but we in our creations we always start with something, but God creates out of nothing.

Our Creator God is so huge and powerful that He not only created this massive universe but He sustains it, orders it, controls it, and upholds it with only His word.

And He is the radiance of His glory
and the exact representation of His nature,
and upholds all things by the word of His power...
Hebrews 1:3

Not only this but our Creator God is so intimately involved with His creation that while He is upholding the entire universe by the word of His power He is also able to tenderly knit a life within the womb.

For You formed my inward parts;
You wove me in my mother’s womb.
Psalm 139:13

Oh precious one, how amazing is our Creator God! How can we ever doubt this God is so awesome that He can create and sustain galaxies and yet is so tender and able to draw so close to us that He knits life within our womb? He controls when and how and where the sun shines and a star falls and He also cares for the doe as she gives birth and makes sure a sparrow is fed and knows us so well that He has numbered every hair on our head. How easy it is to see why David cried out, wrote about, and sang about how he and we can find help in His name.

 Our help is in the name of the LORD,
Who made heaven and earth. 
Psalm 124:8

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Introduction To A Study of The Names of God

At our Homeschool Co-op we have a Chapel time during our snack time. We break bread (or popcorn) together while we study in the Word of God together. I have the privilege of leading this time.

As I considered this chapel time I had to recognize that we were a diverse group from different denominational backgrounds. I would also be teaching an age range from pre-school to adults. My dilemma was what did I need to focus on that would keep the attention span of a pre-schooler and yet also be edifying and encouraging for every age in the room including the adults, while not offending any one's denominational doctrine.

As I was seeking God's will for this chapel time and was asking Him what direction I needed to go in, He led me to Himself. He simply said... teach Me. So the chapel time is focused on learning the names of God.

We learn a new Hebrew name for God each week of co-op and we look at what that name means, where God teaches it to us, and how knowing it applies to our lives.

I introduced the study by sharing how I have had different names through out my life that have shared a part of who I am. My given name is Nicole Love Halbrooks. When I was growing up I got the name No-No from my cousin who is nine months younger than me because he could not say Nicole. My dad used to call me Sleufoot and my aunt called me Red.
When I got my drivers licence I got the nickname Crash and Brick because I had several wrecks in a row, in one I totaled my parents brand new car by crashing through two brick columns, thus Crash and Brick. When my oldest niece was born I got the name Nay-Nay, and I am still Nay-Nay to all my nieces and nephews.
Then I met my husband and I became Nicole Love Halbrooks Vaughn. I became Wife and Stepmother to his beautiful daughter. Then I had my Shelby and Bekah and I became Momma. When I became a teacher, I became Mrs Nicole. These are just a few of the names that I have been given that have revealed a part of who I am.

In the same way God has revealed Himself to us in the names He has given us in Scripture. Each name shares a part of who He is and teaches us a little bit more of His character.

Some boast in chariots and some in horses,
But we will boast in the name of the LORD, our God.
Psalm 20:7
The name of the LORD is a strong tower;
The righteous runs into it and is safe. 
Proverbs 18:10

Our help is in the name of the LORD,
Who made heaven and earth.
Psalm 124:8

Romans 10:13

These are just a small example of the plethora of Scripture that lets us know how important the name of our God is and should be too us.

So I invite you to join us in this study of the names of God...

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Begging You For Mercy

As you scrolled through these pictures as a professing Christian what was your first reaction?

Was it to snarl your nose?

Was it to raise an eyebrow and wonder why in the world I had searched and posted these pictures?

Was it fear?

Was it anger?

Was it disgust?

Was it to shake your head and say "oh well, there's a bunch of folks that are going to bust hell wide open..."?

I have spent the morning studying the gift of mercy.
To do this I had to begin with a word study of mercy.
Mercy in the Greek is Eleeo and it means to have mercy on, to help one afflicted or seeking aid, to help the afflicted, to bring help to the wretched, to experience mercy. The word mercy can also be translated as lovingkindness, kindness, love, and unchanging love...

After the word study I began looking at cross-references. What exactly is mercy according to Scripture and exactly how are we as Christians to live it out? One of the cross-references I looked at was concerning Jesus' reaction to the people...

Seeing the people,
He felt compassion for them,
because they were distressed and dispirited
like sheep without a shepherd. 
Matthew 9:36

Jesus felt compassion for them...
He did not snarl His nose at them. He did not mock or ridicule them. He was not disgusted by them. He was not angry at them nor did He fear them. He felt compassion for them.

So what is compassion?
In the Greek it is Splagchnizomai and it means to be moved as to one's bowels, hence to be moved with compassion, have compassion (for the bowels were thought to be the seat of love and pity)

This is what Jesus felt when He looked at the people and then He turned to His disciples...

Then He said to His disciples,
The harvest is plentiful,
but the workers are few. 
Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest
to send out workers into His harvest.”  
Matthew 9:37-38

When you go back and look at the pictures in the beginning of this post can you look at them with compassion? Can you look at them and say

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.
1 Timothy 1:16

My youngest child for some reason has a burden for the soul of Lady Gaga. I do not know why, but she does. Yesterday she asked if Lady Gaga loved Jesus. My almost initial response was to snarl my nose and laugh with a mocking laugh, but I stopped... no the Holy Spirit stopped me and quickened me.

I had to tell her that I did not think so... because Jesus said if we loved Him we would obey Him and keep His word and from all that we see and know of Lady Gaga she does not obey the Word of Jesus so by this action of disobedience she appears to not love Him. I then told her we needed to pray for her but we could not promote her.

That night before dinner Lady Gaga's soul was prayed for by my seven year old Bekah... she chose compassion instead of nose snarling.

Whew, had I not stopped and listened to the Spirit and chose to answer my child according to the Word of God and send her in the direction of grace and mercy... this would have been a moment that I would have and could have began to instill a self-righteous Pharisaical attitude in her.
How thankful I am for the Spirit of God that lives within us to give us the right words to say in those teachable moments. A pause and a deep breathe does wonders if we will just take them before we open our mouths and respond in our initial flesh.

I have received the mercy of God.
Therefore I give it to others.

Those pictures up there... I can think of several that fifteen years ago you could have possibly found me in. How thankful I am that there were those who chose mercy and felt compassion and were moved by the Spirit of God to pray for me, to share with me, to reach out to me... so that I too might experience the perfect patience of Christ and believe in Him for eternal life.

When I see theses pictures above and when I see the reality of these pictures in a personal encounter... I want my heart to feel compassion and to see that this is a person, who is without a shepherd and they are trying to meet a legitimate need in a very wrong way because maybe, just maybe, no one has shown them the right way.

Maybe, just maybe, they are begging me for mercy.

I will rejoice and be glad in Your lovingkindness,
Because You have seen my affliction;
You have known the troubles of my soul,
Psalm 31:7

Maybe no one has ever taken the time to see their affliction. Maybe no one has ever known the troubles of their soul. Maybe they have no clue about El Roi the God who sees. Maybe no one has never told them that vengence belongs to God and He will repay those who have hurt them and gotten away with it. Maybe, just maybe they too would rejoice in the lovingkindness of our God if someone would show it to them in a one on one personal kind of way...

Showing mercy doesn't mean you disregard or ignore sin or some one's fallenness. Showing mercy means you recognize that some one's sin is a result of their fallenness.

In the book that I am reading, Living in Love by James & Betty Robison, James points out that when Jesus confronted someone in their sin He did not condemn them or take them to task for their past. He offered forgiveness and a chance to start anew.

Jesus did not ignore their sin by any means, and He certainly did not condone it or encourage it, but He still showed them mercy.

Blessed are the merciful,
for they shall receive mercy.
Matthew 5:7

I know that there will be those who hate God and His Christ until the very end, until the very end of their individual lives and until the very end of this age, but I do not know who "those" are.
I am not God.
Therefore I show mercy to all. I show kindness to all. I give grace to all.
Yet I do it without hiding the truth or condoning the sin... just like Jesus did.

 He has told you, O man, what is good;
And what does the LORD require of you
But to do justice, to love kindness,
And to walk humbly with your God?
Micah 6:8

I cannot look at someone with my eyes of flesh and see their heart. I never know when my one act of kindness, my one show of mercy, my one offer of grace is what God will use to bring this soul into His eternal kingdom...

Monday, November 14, 2011

Thankful To Be Different

It's getting close to Thanksgiving... what are you thankful for?

I have grown up around dogs my whole life and my girls are following suit. I can remember that with every litter the first thing that I would begin to do is look for the differences in each little pup. I looked for the differences so that I could discover what made each puppy unique and special in its own right. Then I would seek to name that puppy according to its individuality.
Its difference was what made it special. I looked for the differences on purpose so that I could showcase it and know this individual puppy and appreciate this individual puppy for what made it different from all the rest.
Never one time did I try to force any of these puppies to look or act like all the rest of the litter. I did not discover the difference so I could hide it or change it. I was thankful for the uniqueness of each puppy.
Therefore, one thing that I greatly desire for my children to be thankful for is differences. I do not ever want them to fear their own uniqueness or fear another person because they are different.
We should be thankful for the differences among us. We should be thankful for the uniqueness of each of God's children. We should indeed celebrate it, especially in the body of Christ.
For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. And if the ear says, “Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. If they were all one member, where would the body be? But now there are many members, but one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.
(1 Corinthians 12:14-25)
There are only two divisions in the eyes of God; those who know Him and those who know Him not, those in the kingdom of light and those in the kingdom of darkness. This is the only divisions that should be in our eyes as well.
I want my children to be thankful for the sea of colors, and shapes, and sizes around them. I want them to embrace all the beauty of the uniqueness of God’s creation. I don’t want them to so fear someone that is different that they refuse to reach out and share the gospel of Christ and even fear loving them as they love themselves.
I also do not want my children to fear the things that make them unique and different. I want them to embrace the things that make them who they are and be thankful for them. I want to rejoice always in the truth of Psalm 139.
For You formed my inward parts;
You wove me in my mother’s womb.
I will give thanks to You,
for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;
(Psalm 139:13-15)

Thankful Challenge: Spend today helping your children discover the things that make them different from everyone else and show them that they can celebrate their uniqueness. It’s fall, so go to a pumpkin patch and let them pick out a pumpkin and ask them why they chose that particular pumpkin. What made it different from all the rest? 

For more thankful challenges check out Becoming A Strong Woman of God


Your baggage is the sum total of your life experiences, good and bad. It includes personality traits, ways of thinking, emotional states, habits, hang-ups, feelings about yourself, personal preferences, vices. You can dress up your baggage or disguise it, but somehow, someway, sometime it's going to be exposed. And if you are not prepared to deal with it- or if you don't deal with it- you're going to be in big trouble... Even if you try to keep it out of sight and out of mind, inevitably you or your spouse will trip over it, and someone may get hurt
~ Betty Robison

I am currently reading a book by James & Betty Robison, Living in Love so far it has been a great read and filled with wonderful and helpful information for those in marriage or those who plan one day to be married.

I read this quote yesterday and it made me wonder how many marriages have ended simply because someone did not want to deal with their own baggage?

I think we have misconstrued "baggage" as the things we can only see with our eyes.
You know out-of wedlock children, past failed marriages, rough family, prison records, drug alcohol abuse, past sexual abuse, and so on.
But we seem to want to deny the rest of the "baggage" and call it, "hey that's just me, get over it"
Or we want to convince our spouse that they really just did not trip over our "baggage" and get hurt because our "baggage" was not big enough to be that hurt by, so it must have been a result of tripping over their own "baggage"... not ours. 

James goes on in this chapter to say "If you want to live in love with your mate, you can't be held captive by past pain or present problems, and you can't live your life in denial."

Have you ever been in the airport and been the one who got chosen out of all those in line to have your baggage opened and rummaged through and dumped out for all to see?
It is not a pleasant experience. And this was baggage that you were not trying to hide...

Having our baggage exposed can feel humiliating and even more so when our hidden baggage peaks out and is tripped over by someone else... so we live trying to keep it hidden... And in the process of doing this we just keep adding to our baggage.

I truly believe that one of the reasons God ordained marriage was so that we would have another person in this life who loved us and truly knew us. That's one of the things that causes me to fall deeper and deeper in love with my Jesus... He knows all my baggage and yet He loves me anyway.

How awesome would it be in your marriage if you could say my spouse knows all my baggage... and they love me anyway.
How secure would that relationship be?  

I am still learning to get there with my spouse.

I am the person who says the sun never goes down on my anger, because I can go to bed on it and wake up and pretend it never happened... that's my coping mechanism... but the thing is it did happen and all the pretending and blocking in the world is not going to change that.

I am also the person who would rather run, or say, it's fine, than let someone know they hurt me. I had rather wipe the slate clean and "start over"... however, the slate is only wiped clean in Christ and Christ only cleanses what He first exposes...

So how about you...?

Have you ever considered that "baggage" is made up of "the sum total of your life experiences, good and bad. It includes personality traits, ways of thinking, emotional states, habits, hang-ups, feelings about yourself, personal preferences, vices."?

Think about it and see if maybe you have been tripping over more baggage than you even realized was there hidden...