Category: Teaching

Freedom in Vulnerability

 

Some Vulnerable Moments

  • IMG_4198When I cross the threshold of an airplane and see the five-inch-wide tube I’m climbing in, there is a moment of “heck no!” and I wonder if anyone else thinks about the fact that we are getting in a can to fly 35,000 feet up in the sky.
  • I used to live on a two lane highway in Missouri. Sometimes I would briefly close my eyes when the car coming toward me would pass. Not the smartest, I know, but the vision of a head on collision was just too much for me. I slipped into a short season of fear every time JT left for work. Two lane highway. People driving 65 miles an hour at each other.
  • I went into check on by baby because he was too fussy when I laid him down for his nap. I had stepped outside just to get a breather and let him cry it out. My momma heart was too heavy and I peeked in on him one more time. Oh my gosh! His eyes were swelling up! We called 911 and headed to the hospital. He had an allergic reaction to eggs.
  • 1985. My sister was sitting on my bed using the phone. I sat at her feet studying her face. She cried, “Okay, thank you.” She sat the phone down and ran down the hall. I followed right behind as she threw herself on the steps. “It was them, mom! It was them!” My grandparents had just been killed in an airplane crash.
  • 1984 6th grdHe called me a beaver.  I had bucked teeth in the 5th grade. He even made a beaver face at me, putting his front teeth over his bottom lip and making a sort of “phht” sound over and over.
  • When I was in Jr. High, I walked in the college music hall hugging my piano books against my chest. The competition was there. My nerves were in my throat and I watched the as the clock told me it was my turn. I sat down at the piano in the music room and played my memorized piece. My shoes clicked back down the hall and out into the Oklahoma heat. My stomach had settled back down.
  • My brother and I were driving slower than the actual speed limit looking for a place to turn around when some guy pulled out in front of us from the other side of the street. We hit him. Air bags and smoke. Amazing how powerful a hit is at 35 miles an hour. He was drunk and took off. The police found him down a dead end street.
  • I sat in a room full of people I loved and knew he didn’t love me anymore. He was over me. My heart was broken.
  • I leaned back and let my own body weight sit down in the strap. I looked up at the person above me telling me it was okay and to just start walking backward. Gravity pulled at me, trying to pull me down the 70 ft. drop. Straps held me in, and my own hand held a fall at bay. One foot after the other, down the rock face to the bottom. Two feet on the ground.
  • photo 1I panicked. I couldn’t go through with it and had to get out. My husband sat on the side of the hospital bed and told me we couldn’t make it stop and the baby was going to come. The panic subsided and a baby was born.
  • My girls were about the ages of four and five. My mom came over and wanted to take them home for the day. They drove off and then mom called me and said, “Oh, we’re going to run down to Carrie’s.” Carrie’s was 45 min away. Panic. What if they crash? What if I lose my babies? All bets are off if You take my babies.

            Vulnerable: susceptible to physical or emotional attack or harm.

Welcome to the human experience. There is no human on the planet that at one time or another (or all the time) hasn’t felt vulnerable. The human experience is wrought with susceptibility. From health, to accidents; rejection to abandonment. We are vulnerable to loss, pain, terror, surprise, sickness and death. No human can escape. No human doesn’t experience the weight of this truth.

Vulnerability was exposed the moment Adam and Eve sinned and ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. There it was, the exposure of the chasm between man and God; good and evil; safety and vulnerability. Their instinct was to hide. They were scared. They had now and forever been exposed to two things: 1. Their own sin and 2. his great glory. Not the glory where we lift our hands and “give glory,” no, this is the weight of who God is. Their eyes were opened and the distinction between who they were and who God was was so stark, so terrifying, so drastic, so real, they ran and hid. His light had exposed the reality of what was between the Creator and the Created. The wonder had been blown out like a candle’s flame. Death was ushered in like an unwanted guest. They were no longer safe in the garden or safe in His presence. They had become vulnerable, susceptible, exposed.

Any encounter from then on with the Almighty was met first with “Do not be afraid!” Fear was the new instinct when humanity met its Maker. When the fullness of the glory of God was made known when the first couple ate, with it came the rebellion against that glory. Since his own Glory is God’s primary passion, he dealt with humanity as Great and Glorious first, and they then understood his love and compassion later. The weight of his Glory is his first and foremost expression of Who he is. Even when Jesus came, John says that after Jesus did his first miracle of turning water to wine that this was the first time “he revealed his glory.” It doesn’t say “he revealed his love.” Glory, the weight of Who God is, meets the human before anything characteristic or other expression.

It is this glory that makes us vulnerable. Scott Saul’s taught that when the angels appeared to the shepherds and declared, “Do not be afraid!” is because the Light of God exposes in us the darkness of what is expressed in humanity. His light exposes our frailty, our nothingness, our weakness, our insignificance, our dust, our fleeting nature. This great Light of God shines in our hearts and we are undone at the magnitude of the chasm between who God is and who we are. We know we are creatures, doomed to die and we feel it all the time. The gasp at a near miss. The relief when we get a good report. The sense that time goes too fast. We see it in the wrinkles in our faces and the pain in our joints. We smile and sigh at the clothes our kids outgrow in a few months. We shake our heads that is was twenty-five, fifty-five years ago we got married. We just can’t believe it when we bury our loved ones.

Death never feels right. Our vulnerable state comes to fruition when we breathe our last. Most of us have a sense that we will never really meet that time. I think we pass our days without giving breath a second thought. It goes in and out. Our chests heave up and down and we don’t even think about it. Then one day, it stops. And we are always surprised. Even if someone has been sick, when they stop breathing we just stare in disbelief. We instinctively know that death is not supposed to creep into the land of the living. It’s not supposed to show up and steal what we love. It’s not supposed to sweep through countries and come at the hands of one man to another. We know it. We know it.

So, we call it something else, “God’s will,” or “The circle of life.” Others might say that they will find life in the next life. Maybe they will come back as someone or something else. But, to think that we die and that’s it, is almost something the human mind cannot, or will not, accept.

Why? Why does the human in all its brilliance and intelligence suffer in the knowledge that death comes to us all? It is because it is not in the original design. We were never created to feel the susceptibility and vulnerability we now feel. Even now, thousands of years and sins removed from Adam and Eve, we cannot help but hate death. It’s been part of the human experience since the beginning, surely we would have reconciled with it by now! But, we haven’t. We still weep and wail. We still sit stunned and stare off. We still scream and cry and shake our fists at the heavens. We are not used to it. Even in our attempts to honor our loved ones and create dignified ways of saying good-bye, the ache in the human heart swells and we just know that it isn’t right.

And we are right.

Before the choice of sinning against God, there was no death, and it is still within the DNA of the human to know that we aren’t meant for it. In fact, the Word of God says, “He has also set eternity in their heart.” (Ecc. 3:11) It’s just as much truth in us as our DNA for our gender, eye color, hair color, race, and fingerprints. Their choice left all of us vulnerable and scared. It left us feeling like at any minute the worst could happen.

 

But…

In the same story of the angels before the shepherds after they declare, “Do not be afraid!” they go on to say, “We bring you good news that will cause great joy!” The same light of God that exposed mankind to the chasm between Creator and Created offers that which will redeem sin and death. The same Light that brought forth the Glory of God, the weight of who he was before that which he had created, now brought forth the Glory, the weight of redemption. The Light exposes us; the Light envelopes us.

Why is this freedom?

Because now we are left with something we don’t have to beat ourselves up over anymore. At the age of 42 I have now realized, with relief, that my instinct to panic, to suck in air of fear and flinch at bad news, and cry at death, and have a moment of anxiety when I need to do a breast exam, is nothing more that my fallen human experience that was brought forth when the Light of God’s holiness and glory was shown to Adam and Eve.

It is not a lack of faith when I feel vulnerable.

It is the very expression of knowing Who God is and who I am; knowing what will be and what is right now; knowing my life is dying, but there is life to come. I am not not trusting God because I feel vulnerable and exposed to what could happen in life. I am not someone who doesn’t believe God for his word when I feel the weight of death and fear of illness, or debt, or suffering, or abandonment.

What is faith is feeling that vulnerability, that exposure, that insecurity and believing that the same Light of Glory, weight of God, love and compassion of God is greater than those things. His glory over me in blessing and life is greater than what is revealed in the natural human experience.

I think too often it has been taught that a life with fear is a life without faith.

While I believe we cannot live in fear, I do not believe we can live without feeling vulnerable. When vulnerability gives way to fear, we must remind ourselves that God’s glory over us is greater. God’s promise to us is greater. God’s love in us through Jesus is greater. God’s Holy Spirit who brings us life and light and knowledge is greater.

God’s glory is greater. The angels in Luke 2 continue with the joy that God’s glory is the highest and there will be peace for those on whom his favor (blessing) rests! This Glory rests upon us.

This GLORY rests on us. Think on this.

We should be relieved to know that the vulnerable ways we feel are because God has shown himself to us and we have seen the scales of balance between us. A greater knowledge of God should create in us a greater sense of vulnerability. From this, we rest in the greater greatness of God’s glory in and over us that comes in blessing and honor, strength and power, stability and peace, security and being known.

This is peace that passes understanding. In our vulnerable, chaotic state, we have a peace from God that passes it up. This tells us that our understanding is, yes, we are vulnerable and exposed and dying, and yet his peace is greater than that. We don’t have to stop feeling one to have the other. The Glory of God gives us this supernatural peace in the midst of our natural vulnerable reality. That is faith.

That is the freedom found in vulnerability.

 

I Wanted Us to Suffer a Little, Then I Saw a Tree and Changed My Mind.

IMG_7399Just above me is a giant tree in our backyard. Growing up in Oklahoma the giant trees were few and far between, and were put on display at Christmas and people drove from miles around to take a look. Here, in Tennessee the trees are quite different. The rise so tall that you hurt your neck looking up for too long. They cover the landscape like a blanket and provide shelter and shade for everything below them.

Trunks so large it takes arms and arms to reach around.

treehugThey sway in the breeze and climb the hills together to display their gold and orange change every fall.

tree4fall

They are wonderous.

There is a verse in Revelation that has been tucked in my heart for over a decade

On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.

trees in sun

I sit under that tree in my backyard many times a week. I look up at it and that verse runs through my mind as I stare at the thousands of leaves whispering over my head. “How are the leaves the healing of the nations?” I don’t know, but I do know scripture says it. I also know that is Psalm 1 a righteous man is compared to a tree by living water. And although Jesus said he is the root of the vine, why not be the root of the trees? Would that not be a stretch to think that the leaves are….us? 

Are we the leaves that are to be the healing of the nations?

He is healer, no doubt, but we are the messengers, the ambassadors, the one reliant on the root of the vine, where we are admonished to be “root and established in love.” Rooted. Roots that go down into someone who provides all we need for life. Roots so deep that when they are threatened, they cannot be uprooted, even when storms shake and whip the tops.

tree in storm

What if when we are rooted and established in love, even though he slay us, we never stop trusting him? What if our roots were the only thing that kept us from dying in the worst of times? What if our roots in Christ, though we are pruned and changed, we grew stronger and more powerful as a whole collective?

natchez

treepath2

 

I wanted, for awhile, to be really upset with the Church, not a particular church (notice the capital “C”) but at the church of America. I was even thinking “Bring on persecution! It will only cause us to grow! We deserve a little tough times. We don’t know what persecution is! Let the storms come and cut us down a bit. Let the lightning strike and strip us of our pride!”

Angry

Bitter

Arrogant

Then I realized that the church of Acts, when persecuted was scattered. Scattered like ants when their little ant piles are messed with. Scattered like roaches when the lights come on. They, our first brothers and sisters, were forced out of homes and displaced by persecution. Much like what is happening even now to our brothers and sisters.

Then I looked at the tree and wondered, “So, what happened between the times of persecution?” What happened as they rebuilt their lives and started again? What did they do?”

 

They grew.

treepathShe discipled. She spread the gospel. She took care of her own. She fed the poor and took care of the sick. She supplied food and money to missionaries and housed them when they returned. She prayed for each other and encouraged them in Christ. She met for communion and eating, and I’m sure, laughter and tears.

She healed nations.

Now, we sit in a nation, one that is sick and dying, and I’ve wanted the Church of America to feel the pain our brothers and sisters around the world are experiencing, but have realized what an awful thing that is. I only meant it like how we talk to our kids “When I was your age!” as though our experiences might make them different. I wanted the experiences of others who were persecuted to guilt the American church into feeling bad about herself, and maybe even wanted us to “suffer” a little more and grow up.

There might be some truth in that. We have a tendency to be spoiled. Our freedom has made us comfortable and we can easily miss the suffering around the world, but that’s not true for all of us.

Obviously

tree5

We have more than a great opportunity here. We have a great gift, obligation, responsibilty as the Church to be the turning tide of our Nation, and to be the ones who fund other other nations to take care of the displaced, the refugee, the poor, the homeless, the persecuted. We, as millions of believers in Jesus, have the time, resources, technology, and freedom to be those healing leaves, not only to the world, but to ourselves, to our neighbors, to our politicians, to our enemies.

No more do I say, “Bring on the persecution and watch us scatter!” No, I say,

Bring on the Holy Spirit and watch us explode!

I pray the prayer of the founding Church,

“Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant, Jesus.”

And I pray, that through our unity, the same thing will happen among us:

“After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.”

We still live in a free country. We still have the freedom to pray and gather and stand up in boldness. Not in anger, not out of guilt, but in a great unity of believers, full of love and hope and faith, so that we will be filled with the Spirit to expand the kingdom. While we are in this freedom, let us not squander it. I pray we take advantage of it.

IMG_2995

And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. Rev. 22

 

Wanting a Pacifier God

paci“She’s lost her paci again.”

These words have been uttered who knows how many times in all the years we’ve been raising kids. The never-ending hunt for a paci plagues most parents with babies who love those darling, wonderful peace-saving pieces of rubber!

Whoever invented the paci should get a Nobel Peace Prize, or at least a firm slap on the back. We salute you, pacifier inventor.

A Paci is just that, a pacifier. These man-made wonders (probably mommy-made wonders) were designed to bring both comfort to the baby, and peace to the mommy, because mommy cannot be the pacifier, wee one. Momma need a shower! However, when time to say goodbye, these wonderful things become the most troublesome, we-are-the-worst-parents-ever, “yes, you can have it one more night”, complicated seasons of your young child’s three year old life!

What? What happened to easy bedtime filled with joy and singing and ease!? (None of that is true, but it felt true when we starting taking away said paci) The tears! The sadness! It was like the paci had a soul! It’s like we took away her best friend! What parent does that?

We did.

Twice.

No “paci fairy”. No sending it to other kids who needed it. No lying. (Parents, stop doing that.) We just told her, “It’s time to stop using the paci now, baby.” And slowly, we worked it out of her little life.

Paci’s are good for a season. When that season is over, paci’s are from the devil.

A pacifier and comfort are two different things. A paci fixes a moment. Comfort goes with you through the moment. The difference is stark, especially when it comes to faith. 

Let’s focus on us grown-ups for a minute. Anyone here ever get angry at God? What about wish you knew the details to the future plan of His universe and was slightly irritated that He wasn’t telling you? What about when you demanded a sign from Him so that you would believe? Ever hold hate or anger in your heart toward someone and wish He would just change them? Ever want to throw yourself of the floor and kick and scream like a toddler because you weren’t getting your way? (Maybe, you’ve actually done that! Shhhh, I won’t tell, but seriously, get up. You look like a fool!)

I remember one afternoon I was in the car and took the opportunity to talk to God about some stuff. I was struggling with an issue in my life and I just needed Him to take it away and make me different. I was irritated and crying that He wasn’t fixing my problem. Then, I heard in a very clear voice in my heart:

“Natalie, I will not pacify your sin.”

I was stopped in my spiritual tracks. I knew exactly what He meant. God was telling me that He would not make me feel okay about what I was doing and that He would not just make me feel better and take away something that I needed to stop doing. It was a clear teaching that He would not pacify my sin, but would be more than willing to comfort me in my repentance.

  • You see, God will not pacify your sin, but He will comfort you through your repentance.
  • He will not pacify your rebellion, but will comfort you through your return.
  • He will not pacify your stubbornness, but will comfort you through your humility.
  • He will not pacify your unbelief with signs and wonders to prove Himself to you, but will comfort you through your faith with signs and wonders of His goodness and faithfulness to you.
  • He will not pacify your anger and tantrums, but will comfort you through your calming down, listening, and remembering He is good and He is God.
  • He will not pacify your blame game, but will comfort you through your ownership or your forgiveness of others.
  • He will not pacify your hate, but will comfort you through loving your enemies.
  • He will not pacify your judgmental nature, but will comfort you through your grace.
  • He will not pacify your “rights” and living for yourself, but will comfort you through your “cross” and dying to yourself.

Our God is not a giant paci to our me-centered faith. Instead, He is a God of grace, mercy, forgiveness, intimacy, fire, strength and comfort when we are humbled to Him and His Spirit. We have to be a humble people to a mighty and awesome God. I’m not saying we can’t be honest with God. I am saying we can’t be like tiny kids, angry that we aren’t getting our way, and expect God to fix it, pacify it. We don’t do it to our kids, He won’t do it to us. He wants a humble heart, a contrite heart, one yielded to Him.

There you will find all you need for all you need.

 

In what ways do you expect God to be a paci? 
In what areas do you need to humble yourself and let Him be the Prince of Peace in your life, the God of all Comfort?

So, You Don’t Have a Tragic Story. Me Either.

1984 6th grdI’ve heard it preached like a million times and it goes something like this:

“Jesus uses the talentless, the forgotten, the screwups, the marginalized, the poor, the least likely to make his kingdom grow and expand and to take his gospel around the world. He will use your weakness and the little you have to offer for himself.”

Something like that.

 

And I always cringe. I want to adjust myself in my chair and I try not to look around because I know people are looking at me because they know.  I kinda scrunch up my face and begin to feel a sense of “Well, looks like I’m out of the game.”

 

Now, before you think I think too highly of myself, I don’t. What I mean when I feel like “I’m out of the game” is that I grew up in a upper-middle-class home on the north side of the city. I went to the “rich” schools and got poked at by my friends on the south side because I was “rich.” My parents are Christ followers who love each other and are approaching 50 years of marriage. Being raised by them was both fun and easy. I have two siblings whom I love and have more good memories with them than bad. I wasn’t bullied. I never had want for money. I had plenty of food and clothes. I had more friends than I could shake a stick at. I cut my baby teeth on the leather Bible cover and the back of the wooden pew. I was never abused or hurt. I was never lonely. I didn’t go without normal pains like friends hurting my feelings, or loss, but I don’t have a tragic story that has left me feeling like I’m a nobody with nothing to offer.

Quite the opposite. I was always told I was a somebody, dearly loved and valuable, full of talent and could be or do whatever I wanted. I was set.

 

 

While I heard that preached many times, I also heard this:

“You’ve been given gifts and talents by God. Some are in your nature and some are spiritual gifts to you by the Holy Spirit. Now, we need to discover those and God will show you how he can use you to advance his kingdom! Go and make his name famous. Do something! Do something great in those talents God has given you. Be strong! Don’t let your weaknesses stop you!”

Got it.

So, God uses the ugly and untalented and least likely, but then he wants to infuse us with talents and make us awesome warriors for the kingdom so that we are strong for him, but be sure to keep your weaknesses close so that you stay humble, but be strong in your talents and gifting and make sure you are taking time to hone those in so you can do a great work.

I’m getting mixed messages here.

Out of one side of our Church’s face we preach that you don’t have to be somebody to do something. In fact, the worse off you are, the better it will be for you in what you will do for the the kingdom. Out of the other side, we couple that with the elevation of the most talented and the most dynamic and and then they, in turn, tell us we don’t have to be somebody to make a difference.

What is going on?

Which is it?

A nobody or a somebody?

 

I know, I know, I get it. But there is still the feeling in me that I’m at risk at being the least compassionate, the most Pharisaical, and the least like Christ because I’m not the broken, abused and marginalized person.

Preachers do not mean to do this. I know. But, it’s very much a thing. And those of us who have been raised the way we have with little tragic tales to tell, begin to feel like we won’t be as effective or as used as others. We get the sense that we won’t understand or won’t connect. And, you’re right. I can’t really connect with a woman who has come out of prostitution or has had an abortion or has been raped. I can’t relate to parents who abandon me or a husband that has walked out. I don’t have the tragic story marked by a redemptive meeting with God. I have some tragedies, but my life isn’t marked by a life of trouble and heartache.

 

I got saved at nine years old at church camp. We all did.

 

But, here’s what I do have.

I have a story of a woman who has testimony to what a family looks like who has been devoted to Christ for generations. I have testimony that when the “perfect” family, or life, has a tragic moment, we cling to Jesus, and to each other. I have testimony that when I chose a life of sin, and I had known the Truth my whole life, God is still in the business of forgiveness and redemption. I have testimony that generations can love and serve a great God for the advancement of His kingdom. I am living proof that the generational blessing is a real thing and I can point to a family tree, though not perfect, that has deep roots, firmly founded in Christ. I can tell you it works.

Stay true.
Stay steadfast.

I can tell you the Word of God is true, and even though I might not be able to sympathize with you, I know a God who can, and does. Even though I don’t share the exact same story, I understand grace, and love and forgiveness. I am a living testimony to the great Word of God being taught from one father to the next and then to his children and that the years in church and Bible college have armed me with the Word of God, rich and deep, for my life and those lives around me. It has saved me from more sin than I care to remember that I even thought about committing.

I am proof that though I don’t fit the bill of the “least of these” and the marginalized, I am still someone in desperate need of a Savior, who saves me from my pride, and a million other things. I am willing to give my all to God, and use both the talents and gifts he has given me, and the failing of my human weaknesses so that he may be glorified.

 

We are all in this together. We have all fallen short.

You, with the shattered life story, you are desperately loved and Christ wants you to be filled with him so that his name is made famous in your life.

 

You, with the pretty story, you are desperately loved and Christ wants you to be filled with him so that his name is made famous in your life.

 

Jesus hung out with a blue-collar hot head, a dirty government tax man, a greasy betrayer, prostitutes, and status seeking brothers. But, he also hung out with a Pharisee, a good man who loved God, but had some questions. He had a doctor write two of the books of the New Testament. He saved a well-to-do, dyed-in-the-wool Law abiding man (though a murderer thinking he was doing the right thing), and made him one of the most famous ministers of the gospel the world has ever known. Rich and powerful women advanced the gospel with their generous giving. Prominent men and women, those we don’t know their stories, made it possible for the gospel to march it’s way through the world.

The rich, the poor, the lonely, the one with the awful story, and the one with the pain free story, we all need him. We are all loved and used by him if we are filled and desperate for him.

Your story is yours.
Mine is mine.

But, both of ours plays a vital role in his

 

To God be the glory.

You Do Not Believe God

photo 1-4Pick a table, any table. Or a couple of chairs. Or a couch. Maybe a restaurant. Just pick someplace where you have sat with or sat across from someone and you’re talking about God, His Word, what He has done, who Jesus is, prayer, etc. I’ve been here many times and heard something like this:

I just don’t know if God loves me.
I’m not sure God hears me when I pray.
I don’t know if God has a plan for me.
I still feel so guilty.
Why would God want to save me.
I don’t think God really cares about what is happening to me.
I’m not sure I can change.
I’ll never understand the Bible.
I’m just not gifted.

Ever heard or said any of these? Raise your hand.

To the person who has not followed Jesus ever, or the one that maybe has just become a believer, you can just go back to browsing or Instagram. This isn’t for you.

For you, the one who has been in church a thousand times, who has been a professed follower of Jesus for more than 5 years, who has sat in Bible study, gone to the conferences, read the books, watched the videos, listened to your pastor, had lunch with your Godly friends, I need you to keep reading. If you still say those things up there, or something similar and are still living in those kinds of thought processes, I have one thing to say to you.

You do not believe God.

I can only say that to you from experience, from facing what ever string of sentences I would say over and over to Him and to others, and then realizing that, according to the Word of God, I did not actually believe Him nor take Him at His word.

When I would say, “God doesn’t see me. I’m overlooked” I was actually professing that I didn’t believe what Scripture is crystal clear on. I was actually allowing what I felt to determine what I believed and how I then behaved. I was saying to God, “I know what your Word says, but because I have baggage, brought on by humans, I will go ahead with my tender broken feelings and believe that You act the same way, instead of taking You at Your Word and allowing Your Holy Spirit to transform me according to it.”

And you are doing the same thing.

Whatever line you say to yourself, or others, that is in direct opposition to the Truth of God’s Word is unbelief. It’s not that God has a problem, or that you need to work through something…again. It is that you need a face to face with God on your unbelief.

There is no pastor, no conference, no book, no self-help article that will convince you of what you’re dealing with. You’ve heard it a thousand times and then still…you wonder. It’s time for you to stop that. Get on your knees and confess your unbelief. Tell Jesus of how you have chosen to follow Him, but then have also chosen what to believe and not to believe. When you do this, when you say to Him, “Your Word says _____________, but I believe _______________, and I now chose to believe Your Word, regardless of how I feel, and let your Holy Spirit transform me” you will begin to see yourself become unattached to that unbelief. It will be replaced with a Truth fashioned by the Holy Spirit in you, for the Word of God teaches the Jesus is the Author and Perfector of our faith.

Believer, follow of Christ, rise up in faith! Look to the Word of God and believe it! If you say you have been found by God and have chosen to believe and follow Him, then take the whole package of faith! Let Him be all your fulfillment in faith! Believe Him and move on from your hang-ups and tragic lines of false belief. Our God has made plain in His Word an answer for every need you have. His name is Jesus and He has a plan in you to make His name famous in all nations.

Our enemy would like us to be so self-engrossed, so introspective, so ready for the next “fix” that we fail to see our true purpose here on earth: to know God and to go and make disciples. 

To know God is to be known by Him and there we find complete and joyful satisfaction. In that, we are compelled to go, go to our neighbors, help send others to the ends of the earth, or go ourselves.

We are not saved to sit and wonder if God’s Word is true. We are saved because a great and awesome God made a way for us to be delivered from death in Jesus Christ. This is the God you have said yes to and He is faithful to His Word.

Will you believe?
What lines do you repeat that mark your unbelief?

The Snake Guy was Murdered

Baughmans

Don and Marianne Baughman

The Snake Guy drove me to my junior high on a very stormy day. I can remember being in car and watching the torrential rain slam into the windshield. My seventh grade memory fails me as to why, exactly, he would have taken me that morning. I try and reconstruct what must have happened. I assume he had come over for breakfast, realized that mom was going to have to get out in that weather, and offered to take me since it was on the way to our church. That had to be it. The Snake Guy was back in town visiting our church, telling us stories of what happened on the other side of the world (Africa) and brought with him a slide show and, yes, snakes. He was captivating. And he stayed with my grandparents when he came.

 A few years later I was back a church, this time in high school. I was there making copies for some up and coming very important youth group shindig when my pastor came in to tell me that the Snake Guy had been murdered on his front lawn. Bandits. No reason. Shot dead. He was in that country for Jesus.

Martyred. Don, the Snake Guy. 

I walked down the hall to the sanctuary. The stain glass window faced the West and the sun was just low enough to pierce the colors. The whole room was warm and thick with silence. It was just me, the green carpet and pews, and a glow in the room from the sun. It’s like the light was hugging me. I didn’t ever really know how to comprehend all of it, but I sat on the front pew and cried. Wept. Stunned.

Murdered? Unbelievable.

But, his story is one of thousands. Millions. Those over the years who have died for the name of Jesus. Those who have given their lives so that the name of Jesus would be made famous around the world are by no means a small amount of humanity.

It happens everyday. All the time. When I am shopping for shoes on Amazon or am weeping over the nations, they are dying. Who will go in their place? Maybe some will. Many will rise from the places they fell and take up the cause right there. Over and over the name of Jesus is taken round the world, fulfilling God’s desire that all men would know his name and the redemption he offers.

So, what does the Church do?

What about those of us who live in the States?

What do we do?

We pray. We pray for the power of the Spirit to consume us and show us how to pray and what to pray for. We pray that our strength and vitality to complete the task is armed and made steady. We pray.

We pray…and we pray again.

We study. Most of the Church doesn’t know exactly what God’s desire is for the nations. Start reading. Find out. Take a Perspectives course. Go through “Xplore” with Center for Missions Mobilization. Study the Bible. Read Andrew Murray and John Piper. Learn. Don’t just say, “I don’t know.”! Find out! What IS God’s plan and heart for the nations? If you can’t answer that…find out the answer. (or ask me)

We join. Find out what your local church does to send missionaries around the world. Find out what trips you can go on and do it.

We give. Global impact can only be successful (outside of prayer and commitment) if the Church is not only sharing her time, and prayer, but her money as well. Send. Give money to those who are going into the nations who have yet to hear Christ! Get them there and then support them ferociously.

We go. If you have a burning to see the name of Jesus go into all nations, then by all means, GO! Find a team and join them. Talk to your pastor. Get trained, get support and get out of here!

We wake up. Our society feeds us with the mantra that more is better and your dream is exactly what God wants to do in your life. Man, that sounds amazing. I want him to make me happy and give me a dream to fulfill, but, oh (and I know I am swimming upstream) I struggle with our constant state of “Make my dreams come true, God!” when how many of us are asking, “God, will you make your dreams and passions come to pass and use me to do it?” Church. Wake up. It is HIS dream and HIS passion we should be studying, searching, praying for and living for. Not ours.

Will your 2015 be more about you and your dreams and plans, or will you take the time to find our exactly what God wants from his Church, from you? Will you pray, study, join, give, go and wake up? I pray you do. I pray I do.

Psalm 46:10 I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted in the earth.

D6 Main Speaker Tidbits…. Come on, read them.

Conferences. You love them or hate them. But regardless, there is always something you can walk away with. A nugget. A gem. An “oh” that makes you sit for a minute and think about it. That happened at the D6 Family Conference in Louisville, KY… a few times (which, buy the way, is a beautiful drive up from Nashville at the first of fall.)

This conference was so Christ focused and so encouraging, without teaching all about gimmicks and ways to improve whatever might need improving, that I would HIGHLY encourage you to go next year.

 

From some of the main speakers at D6, here are a few things you can put in your pocket, log away, and store up for both working in the Church and raising a family.

Emerson Eggerichs: known author and speaker on the topics of male/female relationships and family dynamics. He developed the Love and Respect Conference. Here’s his little gold nugget from his talk.

  • Talking of raising small children and our capacity to “lose it” with them, he told us to remember that we are keepers of little people with little spirits. It’s our responsibility to keep them well and safe. Little people. Little spirits. That is a precious thought.

Lysa TerKeurst from Proverbs 31 Ministries talked about finding “us” in the rush of life.

  • Maintaining who we are in the midst of it all in Christ is of vital importance. When your children fail, a good bit of advice is to hold them close before you hold them accountable. The danger is to snap (which we do) and to bite them with the obvious issue. Her encouragement is for us to be close to them before we have to hold them accountable.
  • Something else she said that was beautiful in regard to letting God be God to our kids is to also “be brave enough to let God write the testimony of your children.” Such an amazing thought.

Check out Larry Fowler from Awana and Kidzmatter for remarkable stats on Children’s ministry and the actual numbers of regular attenders. You’ll be surprised.

  • According to Fowler, “the average church child will spend as much time in media consumption in two days, as he or she will get in church in an entire year.” Find out how he knows at this informative download at Awana.

d6-larrys-powerpoint

Tony Evans joined us Thursday night with some plenty of wonderful things to take to heart. He is a best-selling author and frequent speaker at Bible conferences. He is the senior pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship, and the president of The Urban Alternative. Here are a few of his words.

  • Raise your children in such a way that they adopt a divine standard of righteousness.
  • God created family to replicate the image of God.
  • Family is the advancement of His Kingdom for the replication of His Kingdom and Image.
  • The next generation can plug into us in such a way that the Master is duplicated in them.
  • Raising your children around the dinner table is of utmost importance.
  • And finally, he asks us, “What kind of stamp will you put on your kids and the nation?”

Kyle Idleman of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, KY came Friday morning. Not only did he impress us with his ability to say all the books of the BIble in one breath, but also gave us some breakdown insight to Luke 9:23 about denying ourselves to follow Jesus and not to ever forget our primary message is the Gospel of Jesus.

  • That Gospel is ultimately an invitation that needs to be accepted.
  • The idea of passionate pursuit of Jesus in the words “come after” in Luke 9, were more often used in talking about a young man coming after a woman. Those of us who want to follow Jesus can think of it in these terms. To passionately pursue Him.
  • When a father came to talk to Kyle about a wayward daughter, the father said something that stuck with Kyle, and with us. He said, “We raised her in church, but we didn’t raise her in Christ.” The church is no replacement for the relationship with Jesus that we can lead our kids in.
  • When talking about the phrase “deny yourself” Kyle said, “You can’t say yes to Jesus without saying no to yourself.” Ouch. Toes.
  • And finally the word “follow”. He boiled it down to it being all or nothing. We sometimes like to balance this life, family and spiritual lives, but Jesus calls us to abandon everything. It IS all or nothing.

Sissy Goff and David Thomas, with Daystar in Nashville, gave us amazing parenting tips.

Sissy started with these:

  • Discipline is an extended and carefully managed event, not a sudden, spontaneous personal reaction to the behavior.
  • Moms tend to be too emotional and use too many words. (what? us?…no.)
  • Help your kids self-regulate. Meaning, give them a choice and then accelerate consequences. Like, “You can get your homework done before bed, or you give me your phone.” If homework isn’t done, you get the phone. Which means…
  • Follow through.
  • Let the consequences and one liners (“Try that again.” “I love you to much to argue.” “When we both take a few minutes, then we talk.”) do the teaching.
  • Move on from the crisis and help them move on as well.

David followed up with Being a Balanced Parent:

  • Balance support: too much support limits growth.
  • Balance emotions: emotionally charged moments = mistakes.
  • Time outs aren’t just for toddlers. Many times parents need to be okay with just taking 10-15 minutes to calm down. Go walk outside. Sit in your room and take a breather. Both parties should do this.

And finally, Brian Housman, author and speaker, gave us a lot to think about as leaders and our own desires for those “15 minutes of fame.”

  • This generation has core values of Image, Achievement, Fame and Popularity. The whole nation was changed with the coming of “American Idol”. Each kid was then told they could be famous. With the pop culture that has YouTube and Vine, kids search for those “followers” to make them feel seen, noticed, and accepted.
  • We adults have also fed that need with our own pushes of our Facebook pages, Instagram, and things like Linked In. We too want to be seen and noticed. He is saying that we can buy into it too. Yes. Yes we can.

He talked about the Fame Tipping Point and how to know when you have tipped over from a truly humble approach to the world and the name of Jesus, to our own need for fame. He said “There should be a tension there.” Here’s a few ways to know if you have tipped the wrong way.

  • When your public image has outgrown your private character.
  • When you expect people who know you in private to treat you like those who only know you in public.
  • When self-promotion has passed gospel promotion. If it can’t be about Jesus then it’s not about anything.

 

With these powerful reminders and teachings we were left feeling charged, empowered, loved, and encouraged to keep doing what we are doing, and work to do things for God’s Kingdom as we lead our churches and our families.

Check out D6Family and register for next year’s event!

Hello! Back from Crazy Town!

A new post. Three months have passed. Eight before the last one. Why?

I was crazy.

Well, maybe not crazy, but I was a far cry from myself. The move to Nashville in October of 2011 was not at all what I expected. It took about two years of unfolding of my plan to realize that God is actually in control. der

Over the course of these two years, I dealt with depression, anxiety, panic attacks, hypochondria, anger, sadness, and quite frankly, I hated the trees and mountains. (Yes, mountains. When you’re from Oklahoma…they are mountains.)

It hasn’t been easy. And that surprised me. But, what surprised me more wasn’t that I missed my family and friends or that I missed thunderstorms and straight streets. It wasn’t that I missed the wind and tornado warnings, or hot summer nights with my parents.

The hardest part wasn’t letting go of my past, it was letting go of my future. I was going to live in die in that flat, spacious land. I was going to raise my kids there and they would be the fourth generation to grow up in the state I loved. I was going to stay twelve minutes from my parents and never, ever move.

Ever.

I had (unknowingly) planned out my entire life. I had unknowingly forgotten that I have no control over the future.

Letting go of my future was so hard. I cried like a baby, but realized that my future is His. I realized a great freedom in letting go of my universe. A freedom from planning and manipulating and dreaming so far in advance that I would panic.  The reality of the moment began to come alive, and right now, right here, it’s Nashville, TN. Full of joy, friends, hope, work, children, mountains, trees, and…….. humidity.

I’ll take it. And I’ll give Him the glory for it.

Are you somewhere you never dreamed you would be? See, that can be the problem with dreams, they can become a reality even when we never dreamed them. Weird. If our sights are set on seeing dreams come to pass more than they are set on seeing God glorified, then we will be derailed every time. We will be surprised at the turn of events we didn’t plan. We will panic and wonder and doubt. We will get angry and depressed.

Isn’t He the dream giver?

Indeed. But our eyes should be fixed on The Giver and not the Dream. He is where we find satisfaction, not in the dream. He is where we find joy, not in the dream. He is where we find hope and purpose and grace and love….not in the dream.

When life changes and the dream shifts or dies, remember, your life is not to fulfill a dream, it is to glorify God. And in that, my friend, you will find all you ever dreamed.

 

 

 

 

Oh, and I’m blogging again……. if anyone is reading this………….hello?

The Answer to How To Hear God

If you didn’t read yesterday’s post of 4 Simple Steps to Know the Will of God, please slide down and do that real quick.

Knowing God’s will has been difficult for me at times, and at other times, something I just “knew.” There is the big teaching on God’s permissive will, His will for the Church as a whole, His will for the lost, His will for the saved, but most of the time I hear that people want to know God’s specific will for their lives. Ephesians fuels this desire with this verse: “For you are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works which He prepared in advance for you to do.”

I like that. I like that a lot. Knowing God has specific purposes for me is fabulous. However, I can jack that up a bit with a little thing called My Agenda for the Universe. I wrote over here how my expectaions and entitlement issues can mess up my persepctive. This is the point we all must address: Are we asking God to reveal His will for us for Him… or for us?

No doubt they go together and no doubt His greatest will for us will bring us amazing pleasure and fulfillment. But our question is how do I find that out?

This is at the end of the post yesterday:

In order to know the will of God (regardless if it has ANYTHING to do with you, which, in mercy, it does), we must first be humbled and abandoned to the work of the Spirit in us. There is too much flesh noise to discern His voice from ours if we are not daily humbled to the voice and word of His Spirit.

“How do I do that?” you ask.

Here’s how:

God’s will for your life will be most readily and perfectly exposed the more humbly and reverently you yield to the Spirit of God.

Yes, you can do Chazown, yes you can take spiritual gift assessments, but your first priority is to hear from the Spirit. 

Hearing from the Spirit takes an elevated sense of Him living inside of you. It takes your effort of abandoning your self, your flesh, your dreams, your whatever and inwardly turning to HIs control and presence. No assumptions. No planning the future for Him. It is an active advance on a passive state before God. This state remains tense, ready to hear His voice at any given moment. It’s an inward, private place of worship and humility.

Abandon.
Know the Word.
Learn to quiet your heart to Him.

In this, you will no doubt know the will of God…and you will be completely satisfied.

No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him, but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. 1 Corinthians 2: 9 and 10

4 “Simple” Steps to Know the Will of God

I tweeted

Knowing the will of God is in direct correlation to knowing and living by the Spirit of God. Cannot have one without the other.

I personally have whined over and over about wanting to know the will of God. There are a couple of places in Scripture where it out-right says what His will is. Wanna see? M’kay…

It is God’s will that you should be sanctified… 1 Thessalonians 4:3

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16

Pretty straight forward.

“Yeah but,” you say, “what is God’s will for MY life?” Ah, now were are getting down to the nitty-gritty. Let’s see, um…ok, here’s how you know.

There are a couple of things you have to do (taken from Paul in Romans 12:2):

1. Offer your body as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God.
2. Don’t comform to this world
3. Instead, be transformed by the renewing of your mind, THEN
4. You will be able to know HIs good and perfect will.

Simple

You see, we like to do that in reverse order.

1. Know God’s will for my life, THEN
2. I’ll stop doing all the crap I’m not supposed to be doing, THEN
3. I’ll let the Spirit do His job of changing me, THEN
4. I’ll live a very sacrificial life to God doing that which He showed me to do.

Yeah, ouch for me too.

In order to know the will of God (regardless if it has ANYTHING to do with you, which, in mercy, it does), we must first be humbled and abandoned to the work of the Spirit in us. There is too much flesh noise to discern His voice from ours if we are not humbled to the voice and word of His Spirit daily.

“How do I do that?” you ask.

Come back tomorrow. 🙂