God-breathed

2 Timothy 3:16-17 New International Version (NIV)

16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 

Just as God breathed life into man’s body in the garden, God breathed life into the men that wrote each verse, chapter and book recorded in the canon of Scripture. Ordinary men were equipped by the power of the Holy Spirit to write an extraordinary love letter to the world.

Woven through the life stories of men, women and children throughout Scripture we learn who God is and who mankind is in relationship to Him. We discover love, grace, mercy and forgiveness. We realize the ramifications of sin. We are introduced to the Savior. We are warned about an enemy.

IMG_2961Each day as we study, the Holy Spirit breathes life and the words on the page become the Word written on our heart. Miraculously, we begin to receive instruction, rebuke, and correction. Through this supernatural training in humility and submission, our lives are transformed by the renewing of our mind. We are made righteous. We are equipped as a servant of God. We are able to do every good work.

If we don’t know the Word (Jesus) by studying the word (Scripture), we are not equipped to do any work. A student who is fully trained will become like their teacher (Luke 6:40). But a student who refuses to be trained, rejects the Teacher and becomes like the one they follow; Satan (John 8:44).

Reading a verse fragment a few times a week on a Bible app or Facebook post with a pretty background picture won’t thoroughly equip you. Would you give your child a handful of goldfish for the week and expect him to be sustained physically? NO! The child would be hungry and eventually, he’d starve to death because of the lack of nourishment. A child cannot live on goldfish alone. He needs the Word of God.

IMG_4461Dear child, if you’ve become malnourished, you cannot serve God. Sure, you may be able to sustain yourself and work for a little while, but the signs of starvation will eventually emerge. You may not notice it – but the people around you will. Your wife may say she feels unloved because you’re too tired to lay your life down for her. Your husband may say that he feels disrespected because you’re too busy to spend time serving him. Your kids may repeatedly disobey you because you’re too preoccupied to deal with their foolishness. The people you lead in the church may keep falling back into the same cycle of sin because you’re unequipped to shepherd their broken soul.

But don’t give up! There is still HOPE. The Good News is still the Good News. You can have abundant life. You can love your wife. You can submit to your husband. You can train your kids. You can lead others in the church. You can do every good work.

All you have to do is choose whom you will serve. God’s mercy is new every morning. Set that alarm on your smart phone to wake up 5, 15, 30 minutes earlier tomorrow. Grab your bible, pen, journal and a cup of strong coffee. Saturate your mind in Scripture. Then…do what it says.

You may feel ordinary, but Scripture will train you to be an extraordinary man or woman of God. God breathed life into your body when He saved you. God will breathe life into your soul when you study His love letter to the world.

 

Advertisements

The Way

Proverbs 22:6 New Life Version (NLV)

Bring up a child by teaching him the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn away from it.

fullsizeoutput_4d9fRecently, a child of ours (who shall remain nameless in order to protect his/her identity!) was dutifully completing their morning chores and independent homeschool work for the day. Halfway through our lesson together however, I heard the Holy Spirit whisper that all the required subjects had not been completed. I stopped what we were doing and instructed the child to retrieve their school schedule. I asked about the first assignment,

“What did you read about in the Bible today?”

“Bible?”

“Yes, Bible. What did you read about?”

“Um….I forgot about the Bible, but I’m gonna do it!”

Lie.

Cover up.

I continued down the list, asking specific questions regarding the subjects and activities that were supposedly completed. Tears began to emerge from the child’s eyes but the lips continued to mutter dishonest responses in an attempt to avoid the inevitable.

“Child,” I said “you didn’t forget. You deliberately chose NOT to do your schoolwork, because you wanted to hurry up and go play with your friends.”

Tears and sobs.

“Why are you crying, child?”

“Because, I’m ….in….TROUBLE!!!!”

“Why are you in trouble?”

“Because, you….are…..mad….at ME!”

“Why would I be mad at you?”

“Because, I…didn’t….do….my schoolwork!”

“No. I’m mad because you disobeyed. I’m mad because you lied. I’m mad because you tried to cover it up.”

More tears. Louder sobbing.

“Why are you so upset?

“Because, I’m… in…. TROUBLE!!!”

“Child, you’re not in trouble, you’re guilty.”

Truth.

“You’re upset because you got caught – not because you were convicted of sin. So, in order to train you in the way you should go (obedient & truthful), I’m going to discipline you. I discipline you because I love you.”

Hebrews 12:6 New Living Translation (NLT)

For the Lord disciplines those he loves,
    and he punishes each one he accepts as his child.

“You are confined to your bedroom and our yard. You may not play with your friends today. And, you will go back and complete ALL your subjects.”

Then the principal (aka, my husband!) re-enforced the training. He read Ephesians 6:1, prayed over and exhorted our child to confess and repent. An hour or so later, that young student humbly came to the teacher (me) and whispered “mommy, I’m sorry I disobeyed…would you please forgive me?”

“Yes, child, I forgive you.”

Big hug.

Like the child I am now training, I have disobeyed, lied and tried to cover up my sin. But I’ve learned to put away childlike things (1 Corinthians 13:11) and humble myself before the Father.

Over and over again, He’s forgiven me.

Over and over again He’s hugged me.

Over and over again He’s shown mercy.

Over and over again He’s disciplined me – because He loves me.

Over and over again He’s delivered me from evil.

Over and over again He’s restored my soul.

As a parent, I’ve discovered that I can only train our children in the way that they should go if I know the way.  Jesus is the waythe truth and the life.

Do you know the way?

Are you going the wrong way?

Are you upset because you keep getting caught?

Dear child, allow the Holy Spirit to convict you of sin. Humble yourself before the Father. Confess. Repent. Be forgiven. Be delivered from evil. Then discipline your flesh, obey the way, and train your children.

Slave AND Apostle

2 Peter 1

This letter is from Simon Peter, a slave and apostle of Jesus Christ.

I am writing to you who share the same precious faith we have. This faith was given to you because of the justice and fairness of Jesus Christ, our God and Savior.

IMG_5056Simon’s life was radically changed when he responded to Jesus’ command to follow Him. On that day, by the Sea of Galilee, Simon Peter obeyed the Lord immediately. Along with his brother, Andrew, he left his net and went with Jesus to become fishers of men (Mark 1:16-17).

Peter, like every disciple of Jesus was not without sin. In fact, scripture details many of his failures. (Poor guy!)

  • He sank when walking on the water.
  • He refused to believe, when Jesus said He would be crucified and resurrected on the third day.
  • Jesus rebuked Satan in him.
  • He told Jesus he couldn’t wash his feet (then he begged him to clean his hands and head too!)
  • He cut a man’s ear off.
  • He denied knowing Jesus. Three times.

But, Jesus.

Jesus.

When Jesus appeared to the disciples after His resurrection, He redeemed Peter’s denials by asking if he loved Him. Three times. And He gave Peter- the apostle- his assignment:

Feed My lambs.

Take care of My sheep.

Feed My sheep.

Then the Savior of the world once again commanded Peter to follow Him (John 2:19). After waiting for the gift Jesus promised, Peter was baptized with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and received power to fulfill his mission. Peter obeyed immediately.

Peter was a follower who became a disciple of Jesus. He ate, drank, walked, talked, and asked questions of the Lord. He received instruction, correction, rebuke, & training. Yes. Peter screwed up. Yes. Peter sinned. Yes. Peter returned to Jesus. And, yes. Peter was forgiven.

During his discipleship journey with the Savior, Peter learned to be a slave. Not a slave who is abused, but one who knows and submits to their Master, regardless of the cost. Peter remained a slave as he began his ministry as an apostle.

Follower.

Disciple.

Slave.

Apostle.

Follower? Today’s church gets excited about following Jesus to find out what He can do for us. Who wouldn’t want to be healed, raised from the dead, or free from demons? As a follower, we may see the miracles that glorify the Father in heaven, but what we really want is for them to benefit us here on earth.

Follower?

Sure.

Disciple? Well…that’s gonna require more than just a Sunday morning experience. Do we really want the Holy Spirit to fill us with His power? Sounds a bit scary. We couldn’t be in control. I mean, common’ – we may look like drunk idiots to people around us if we start speaking in unknown tongues or prophesying! Being a disciple means we’d have to drop our nets that may be full of all kinds of “fish” that we worship (spouse, kids, hobbies, that brand new car, social media, our intellect, our beauty). Disciples eat, drink, walk, talk and ask questions of the Lord. Disciples receive instruction, correction, rebuke, & training.

Disciple?

Too hard.

Slave? Um…..seriously? A slave gives up all their rights to the Master. Their flesh is crucified. They choose to obey- regardless of the cost. They submit willingly to the One who bought them at a high price. A slave serves their Master, until death.

Slave?

Impossible.

Apostle? Well…the bible tells us to “go, make disciples.” We’re supposed to DO the work of the ministry, right? God has given us gifts to accomplish it. Jesus said we’d cast out demons and heal the sick – these things and more! The truth is, many may be called to ministry, but few choose to follow Peter’s example of being a slave and apostle. The many will be dumbfounded when they stand before the Judge and hear “depart from me….I never knew you,” instead of hearing “well done, good and faithful servant.”

Follower.

Disciple.

Slave.

and Apostle.

(in that order)

My friend,

Come, follow me, as I follow Jesus. I will show you how to eat, drink, walk, talk and ask questions of the Lord. I will show you how to receive instruction, correction, rebuke, & training. I will pray with you to be filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. I will walk beside you as a fellow disciple and slave. And we will become fishers of men, together. Ready to drop your net …and go?!

Prepare the Way

Matthew 3:1-3 (NLT)
In those days John the Baptist came to the Judean wilderness and began preaching. His message was, “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.[a]” The prophet Isaiah was speaking about John when he said,
“He is a voice shouting in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord’s coming!
Clear the road for him!’”[b]
 
11 “I baptize with[a] water those who repent of their sins and turn to God. But someone is coming soon who is greater than I am—so much greater that I’m not worthy even to be his slave and carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.[b]

John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus’ ministry. His message was simple: repent. John’s preaching cut through religion and pierced the heart: sin has destroyed your relationship with God. Repent! Be restored to God. John’s ministry tilled the hard soil for the One who would come to sew the seed of salvation.

I am John the Baptist. The ministry God has appointed and anointed me for is to prepare the way for Jesus.

You are John the Baptist. The ministry God has appointed and anointed you for is to prepare the way for Jesus.

The church is John the Baptist. The ministry God has appointed and anointed us for is to prepare the way for Jesus.

John 3:26-30 (NLT)
26 So John’s disciples came to him and said, “Rabbi, the man you met on the other side of the Jordan River, the one you identified as the Messiah, is also baptizing people. And everybody is going to him instead of coming to us.”
27 John replied, “No one can receive anything unless God gives it from heaven.28 You yourselves know how plainly I told you, ‘I am not the Messiah. I am only here to prepare the way for him.’ 29 It is the bridegroom who marries the bride, and the bridegroom’s friend is simply glad to stand with him and hear his vows. Therefore, I am filled with joy at his success. 30 He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.

But sometimes sin blocks the way…

In my pride, I can believe that MY ministry is who I am. In a struggle for significance on this earth or a desire to be esteemed by others I can hold on close fisted to the ministry God has appointed and anointed me for. Over a decade ago, I was preparing the way for MY ministry. I had served faithfully in children’s ministry organizing resources, soothing crying toddlers, changing stinky diapers on infants, singing and dancing to kids worship with 6-12 year olds – I did it all. Focusing solely on MY ministry, I neglected my relationship with God, my spouse and our children. My fist was so tightly closed around my role in the church that no one, NO ONE was gonna take it away from me.

But God.

God.

The associate pastor hired a new children’s director who instantly became my superior. She was also one of my best friends. As I struggled to submit to her authority, I simultaneously struggled to hold on closed fisted to MY ministry. Rebellion, chaos and disunity ensued. Eventually I was fired- from my volunteer position.

Angry? Absolutely! And I made sure God and everyone else knew it. I vomited insult after insult about my rights being violated and the evil actions of my fellow ministers in the body of Christ.

But God.

God.

As a loving Father does, when a child finally returns He welcomed me into His everlasting arms and the tension of my closed fists released. He was becoming greater and greater and I was becoming less and less.

DSC_0419During my discipleship journey the Holy Spirit has continually helped me to humbly turn back to God. I’ve learned to be still. I’ve come to know Him. I’ve started obeying His commands. I’ve been washed in His magnificent love for me. I’ve repented. I’ve been forgiven. I’ve forgiven others. I’ve been delivered from evil. I’ve been redeemed from my rebellion. I’ve been restored in my soul. And as I’ve opened my hands to the ministry He’s appointed & anointed me for I have had the privilege of preparing the way for others to meet and know Jesus. He has become greater and greater and I have become less and less!

Dear child of God,

Release the death grip you have on YOUR ministry. Willingly open your closed fists to the Lord. Otherwise, He may need to fire you from your role to save your soul. He loves you. He wants you to know Him. He wants you to worship Him, not your ministry. He wants you to obey His commands so that you may have everlasting and abundant life!

Let go.

Trust God.

He will work all things for your good if you love Him.

Love, Me (& John the Baptist)

Give Up Your Life

Ephesians 5:25 New Living Translation (NLT)

25 For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her…

Last week, as we were cruising down the road through our little southern town, our ten year old son randomly asked “daddy, what would you give up in the whole wide world to be with mommy?” My groom looked over at me in the passenger seat. Our eyes widened, as if to say, “where did THAT thought come from?” The little man in the backseat repeated himself “what would you give up, dad?” Glancing back in the rearview mirror my groom confessed, “buddy….…I don’t know!”

IMG_6600My heart has silently been asking that same question since the moment I said, “I do” on May 18, 1996. For more than 21 years, I’ve longed for my husband to give up his life. Not to physically die, but to emotionally die to the things that steal his time and attention away from loving me. Fortunately, I have the privilege of saying that I’ve been the beneficiary of a man who has crucified selfish ambition, hobbies and bad habits in years past. Whether He was motivated by the Holy Spirit, or by my persistent “encouragement” the result was the same: He obeyed God and I reaped the overflowing reward: Love.

Listen up fellas! I’m gonna let you in on a secret:

If you lay down your life, your wife will feel loved.

When your wife feels loved, she will submit to you.

If both of you submit to the Lord and one another you will become one.

You may be thinking: “Dag gone it. I work my tail off every day, providing for my family…and she doesn’t even appreciate it!!!” I’m sorry about that. It’s incredibly ungrateful of her. It would be nice if she praised you for your work, but regardless, it’s your role. Read Genesis 2-3. Adam worked hard. It’s your “job” to provide food, clothing and shelter for your family. But just in case you think I’m being unfair, re-read Genesis 2-3. Do you have children? Eve had pain and so did your wife. Now read Proverbs 31. Does your wife manage the home? Does she have a “job” too? Does she train your children? Does she help others in the community and in the church?

Love her.

Give up your life for her.

It’s no more than what Jesus did for you. It’s no more than what He did for His bride, the church. He submitted His will to the Father every moment of every day. He worked. He served (and He wasn’t praised). He suffered. He was betrayed. He was mocked. He was beaten. He was falsely accused. He was crucified. He willingly gave up His life.

Give up your life.

You may be thinking: “how do I do that- practically?”

What are some things the Holy Spirit has been whispering for you to give up?

What are some things your wife has been persistently “encouraging” you to give up?

  • TV
  • Social Media
  • Video games
  • Hobbies
  • Sports
  • Alcohol
  • Drugs
  • Pornography
  • Prized possessions
  • Serving the community or church (but not your family)
  • An unhealthy relationship with a friend, family member, or co-worker

Here’s the challenge: Give it up for 40 days. See what God does in your life- and your marriage.

Love, Your Wife.

God Tested

Genesis 22:1-2, 9-12

Some time later, God tested Abraham’s faith. “Abraham!” God called.

“Yes,” he replied. “Here I am.”

“Take your son, your only son—yes, Isaac, whom you love so much—and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you.”

When they arrived at the place where God had told him to go, Abraham built an altar and arranged the wood on it. Then he tied his son, Isaac, and laid him on the altar on top of the wood. 10 And Abraham picked up the knife to kill his son as a sacrifice. 11 At that moment the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”

“Yes,” Abraham replied. “Here I am!”

12 “Don’t lay a hand on the boy!” the angel said. “Do not hurt him in any way, for now I know that you truly fear God. You have not withheld from me even your son, your only son.”

On the night of our wedding rehearsal, my father-in-law proposed a toast. It was a heartfelt speech, welcoming me into the Bullard tribe. Yes, tribe. A full-blooded Native American of the Lumbee Tribe, my father-in-law came from a very large close-knit family. Growing up in extreme poverty and feeling the sting of prejudice from southern white and black men alike, he left the tribal area to pursue a better life for himself.

But he never forgot his family.

Family was everything.

With raised glasses and our entire wedding party giving close attention, my fiancés father spoke assertively, “Jodie, you are now a part of our family…and we take care of our own.”

(kindof sounded like I was marrying into the mafia!!!)

Doug Sr. and I had a rocky beginning. I was a strong willed young woman. Barely 18 when I met his son, Doug Jr. (who was almost 6 years my senior), I was a rebellious, directionless sinner. He was a strong, disciplined, God fearing man. Needless to say, we didn’t get along very well- especially when I sat in HIS lazy boy recliner one Sunday afternoon to watch HIS naptime entertainment; golf!

Six months later, after Doug and I were engaged, he disapproved of the impending nuptials. IMG_1830Yet over the course of the next year and a half, we began to know- and love one another. And by the time my wedding day dawned, he had accepted me as a daughter, adopting me into his family on a warm spring day in 1996. Fifteen months later he had a massive heart attack. The family patriarch was gone.

After God adopted me into His family, I had a hard time trying to love Him with all my heart, mind, soul and strength. I was disciplined: I read the bible. I prayed. I served at church. Yet, I was completely unaware that in a dark corner of my soul, I had built an idol. It was named “family.”

Then God tested me.

He asked if I was willing to take each family member, whom I loved so much, and lay them on the altar.

Would I justify my relationships? (“God- you designed family. I’m supposed to love my husband, children, parents….)

Or would I repent?

I confessed the lie: family is everything.

I received His truth: God is everything.

I choose to obey the commandments, in order.

There’s a reason Jesus said we are to love God, then love others. Others may take care of us, train us, love us and welcome us into their family, but others will fail us. Idols will fall.

Yes, we must love our spouse, children, parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents. But we must not love them more than Jesus.

Matthew 10:37

“If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine.

Has God tested you?

Have you confessed the lie: family is everything?

Have you received His truth: God is everything?

Have you chosen to love God, then love others?

I’m sorry to disappoint you, my friend: all of your family has sinned.

They’ve all fallen short of the glory of God.

They will never give you eternal or abundant life.

They will forsake you.

They will leave you.

But, Jesus.

Jesus was the perfect sacrifice.

Jesus laid down His life on the altar for your sin.

Jesus will never leave you.

Jesus will never forsake you.

(and like the mafia, Jesus always takes care of His own!!!)