Whose Words Do You Believe? by Aimee Nelson

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Part of our ongoing contribution series:  Leading Ladies: Devotions for Leaders

Sitting at my kitchen table a few days ago, I hear my five year-old yell from the patio, “I am strong, I am big”. Hearing those words I stopped what I was doing and decided to listen in on the conversation he was having with his friend. I hear him say again “I am strong”, “I am big”, “I can do it”, “I can do anything”! This time I hear his voice quiver. As I continue to listen I no longer hear their voices but the stomping of little feet. Suddenly this five-year old ball of anger comes running in and stands in front of me. Arms folded, lips pursed and his eyes filling with tears. He says to me “mommy I’m not strong”.

I kneel down, scoop him up in my arms and give him a huge hug. He then proceeds to tell me how his little playmate was telling him he wasn’t strong, he wasn’t big and that he couldn’t do what they were doing. I immediately sense a teaching moment and it’s one that I don’t want to let slip by. I pull him closer and begin to tell him that he is big, he is strong and there is nothing that he can’t do. I tell him that he’s all of these things because God says he is. I let him know that he can accomplish anything because God’s word says that he can (Philip 4:13). He looks at me and smiles, sticks his chest out and walks away with a swagger that would make you think he just conquered the world.

As I was thanking the Lord for the opportunity to impart truth into my son, it was then that I felt the Lord ask me “what about you Aimee, who’s words are you believing”? I took a moment to reflect on the question. And in the honesty of the moment, I had to admit I too have not always believed God’s word. You see I have often fallen victim to the same words that tormented my five-year old. Many times I have stepped out to do something for the Lord but back tracked or failed to launch out because I believed the words of others.

Whether those words came from a well-meaning friend or have spewed from a heart of hurt I listened to them, I believed them. I believed their words over the words of my heavenly Father who commanded me to be bold, strong and courageous (Joshua 1:6). His word also says that “I am more than a conqueror” (Rom. 8:28). I have made a choice to start believing what He says about me.

Are there some negative words you have believed? Will you believe what God’s word says about you? Join me today as I choose to believe His word.

~Aimee

A Treatise on Discipleship By Trish Jones

“Vestiges of Vestal” (Do I have to have big hair?)”

This comment is going to date me, big-time – to the point where some of you might not even know to whom I am referring. But – I always wanted to look like Vestal Goodman.

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Internationally known as the Queen of Gospel Music, Vestal was a bigger-than-life, this-is-who-I-am-take-me-or-leave-me Southern belle. At Southern Gospel concerts, she easily commanded center stage with her gravelly voice, her ever-present hanky, and her flamboyant and flowing pant suits.

I loved those pant suits. I loved her style. I wasn’t a huge fan of her music, but I used to wish I could be more like her, or at least who she appeared to be. Unashamed of her size or her larger-than-life personality, Vestal Goodman was a “presence.”

So, for awhile, I tried to be a Vestal mini-me; right down to the Texas-sized big hair, five inches high and lacquered stiff enough to hold its shape in a downpour. I searched high and low for big-legged, flowered pants suits with long tunics in vivid colors. Found a few, too. I didn’t go quite so far as the hanky, but I did start quite a collection of chunky costume jewelry – something I’m known for to this day.

I watched what she did, what she wore, and how she acted, and did my level best to copy her mannerisms and her style. I was naturally a shy, lonely, and fearful introvert – but if I could convince myself to take on the public persona of Vestal Goodman, I could pretend to be someone I wasn’t. I learned to act like her, at least some of the time.

What I couldn’t have told you then – and still couldn’t until I Googled the singer’s biography – were the details of her life. Where she was born (Alabama) – how many children she had (two) – when she died (2003) – and that she battled an addiction (to prescription pain-killers after a fight with cancer). In other words, I didn’t know many real facts about, or was a true student of Vestal Goodman – I just tried to copy what I saw.

I was an admirer; a copycat; and a hypocrite. What I wasn’t – was a disciple.

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Discipleship. That’s a buzz word in today’s church, and in our women’s ministries – but what does it really mean? Perhaps more importantly, what does the process of discipleship look like? How do we do it? Do we just find someone in our circle of friends and church family who looks like they may “have it all together” and try to mimic what they do?

Well, let’s see. They seem to be fairly regular in church attendance and they’re part of a Life Group. My life gets a little crazy at times, but I can probably do better at being more faithful in my church attendance. Check that box.

I know they study the Bible, I’ve heard them talk about their quiet time. I’ve not been very successful at that, but I’ll try harder. Go find a good devotional book for women, get up 15 minutes earlier, and spend time with God. Check that box.

They seem to be always smiling and know so many people! I don’t really know anyone here, and I’m too nervous to try and reach out to strangers. Well, some of us are just introverts and that’s okay. I’ll pass on that one.

I know she does some volunteer work with some ministry to the homeless, and I’ve heard her share the Gospel with a waitress when we were at the same restaurant. I’m not comfortable doing any of that, but maybe I can give a little more money to missions. Check.

Of course, I’m still struggling with my unsaved husband, and I’m terrified that my teen-aged daughter is having sex with her boyfriend, and I’m tired and depressed and frightened most of the time, but I don’t dare share that with anyone, they all seem like they can handle anything. I’ll just do what she does and try harder and maybe then God will give me what I need to get through this life.

Check. Out.

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So. “Discipleship.” What is it? Is it just observing someone and trying to copy what you see? That, by itself, would be a daunting task. Is that enough?

Go deeper. In Christianity, who is a disciple? Are there two (or more) levels in Christianity; the first being a simple convert who stops there, and the second being a stage two Christian who learns more; and perhaps the third being a disciple-maker? (By the way, the Biblical answer is “no!”)

In passages like Acts 11:26 and Acts 14:21, the Bible is clear: disciples are Christians. No stages, no levels. Anyone who is a Christian, who embraces Jesus as Lord and Savior, is a disciple.

In what is known as the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19,20 Jesus gave his followers clear commands: “Go therefore and make disciples.” How? “Baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”

John Piper comments: That is a very long process. That is like a lifetime of process. So get them converted. Baptize them. And then spend a lifetime teaching them to obey all that Jesus said. That is what the verb “disciple” in the New Testament would include. People need to become Christians and people need to be taught how to think and feel and act as a Christian.”

So the question rises again: “how?”

The Apostle Paul had a visitor while he was under house arrest in Rome. Epaphras, the teaching elder of the church at Colossae, was seeking Paul’s advice on how to steer his church clear of false teachings that were threatening to undermine their faith in the sufficiency of Jesus. Paul answered the pastor’s questions by writing a letter to the general body of believers and leaders of this church the apostle had neither founded nor visited.

He wanted to make it abundantly clear that Jesus was enough – in all circumstances, for all seasons of life, and in the face of all assaults, questions, and ridicule.

This is part of Paul’s answer – to them and to us:

To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.  For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me. For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ,  in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (Colossians 1:27-2:3 ESV)

There’s so much in this passage, but the complete exegesis isn’t what I’m after right now. Paul has given us an outline of discipleship – what it is and how to do it – whether on a one-to-one mentoring basis, or in a group setting. The apostle concisely lays out the who, what, when, where, why and how of discipleship.

Who (are we disciples of): Jesus Christ. In us. The hope (certainty) of glory. The Treasure of all wisdom and knowledge.

What (are we to do):

1. We proclaim Jesus; we declare, announce, preach him publicly – who he is, why he has come.

2. As we preach Jesus, we also warn; we admonish, we caution everyone – he is the only Truth. Don’t be led astray by other teachings, false Messiahs, or difficult circumstances.

3. As we proclaim Jesus, we teach him; we impart instruction, instill doctrine, with all wisdom – in other words, how to apply what we teach about Jesus. What difference does knowing him make in our lives?

When (do we disciple): The verb tenses in the Greek in this passage make it abundantly clear; the process of proclaiming, warning and teaching is an ongoing, ever-present action. When do we disciple? All the time, at every opportunity.

Where (do we disciple): Everywhere we may be (for example, in a Roman prison) and to everyone we can reach by any means – even those who have not seen us face-to-face. Wherever God has given us a sphere of influence; there we make disciples.

Why (do we disciple): To present (bring near into fellowship) every believer mature and fully complete in Christ; so that their hearts may be encouraged (in the midst of a dark and confusing world), bound together in love; richly assured in understanding and knowing Jesus Christ – in whom are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

How (do we disciple): We labor to the point of weariness; we work hard; we struggle; in fact, we agonize in the entire process of discipleship – but – with his dynamic energy which so powerfully works within us!

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Let’s go back to the Vestal mini-me. Or to those women you catch sight of at church every so often, who smile nervously at you as they hurry past after service, or stand against a wall in the crowded lobby before church service, looking vaguely uncomfortable. Take it from one who has been there, done that: they are longing for, looking for, connection and community. While they may not use the word or even know what it means – they are searching for a disciple-maker. A friend, a sister, to come alongside them and teach them about Jesus; teach them (in Piper’s words) “how to think and feel and act as a Christian.”

And that difficult, challenging, sometimes agonizing process is God’s calling on every believer’s life – no exceptions. That’s discipleship. And that’s our purpose as women of God and daughters of the King.

“For this (we) toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within (us).” (Colossians 1:29).

As in everything else in our walk with our Lord, he supplies all things needed to fulfill his plans and purposes in and through our lives – for the glory of his Name and the expansion of His Kingdom.

Let’s get to it.

Stand Up For Others – Isaiah 1:17

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As we reflect back on Charlottesville, and events like it, we are often lost in a sea of wondering “what can we do?” and “how should we respond?”.

Lord, give us the hearts to do good and a stirring to seek justice.  Let us not just speak against oppression but actively correct it, being the change we want to see in this world.  Let us stand for justice, stand for others, use whatever we have to raise up and protect others.  In Jesus Name, Amen.

Some practical things you can do:

  • Donate to victim funds to cover medical and other expenses.  Donate to counter-protestor legal funds to cover legal expenses incurred.  Please use wisdom and discernment here.
  • Support anti-racism organizations through financial support or volunteer/activism.
  • Be willing to put your name to petitions and letter writing campaigns to local politicians that fight racism or call for policy change.
  • Coordinate, participate, or volunteer at local community forums to address racism in your community.
  • Use your voice to stand in the gap, advocating for those who are oppressed.  Not just with letter writing campaigns but in the grocery stores and doctors offices.  Places where we encounter every day racism, bigotry, and discrimination.
  • Hold people from political offices to your immediate family accountable for the words and behaviors they exhibit, including yourself.
  • Set a better example for the next generation by intentionally expanding your group of friends to include people from other countries and cultures.  Take time to learn about other cultures, attend festivals in your area, etc.
  • Read, read, and read.  Have a willingness to read and gain perspective from those on the other side of oppression.  Take what you read and ask your friends to share their take and experiences.

 

In the Beginning

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Mankind, made in the image of God.  Not some, but the first man… and all that have come after him.  Image bearers.  

Not made in image of one another.  Not made in lesser quality duplicates down the line.  Each precious to the potter who formed us in the womb, knitting us together, numbering our hairs, calling us by name before we were even a thought.

These image bearers made to rule over creation, not each other.  Oh sin, how you slithered your way into garden… setting up a wave of destruction that would fall upon generations to come.  

Woman made in His image, she the helpmeet and partner… not less than.

Blessed, commissioned to multiply.  Not some, but all.  There was no limit set on who could multiply, it was a blessing to His image bearers.  Oh sin, how you tainted that union and how to try to diminish His children.

Great Protector,

There has been a war on your creation since the beginning.  The moment the apple was bitten, there was enmity in the world.  Lord, we ask for your protection from all the forces that divide.  The lies that tell us that our worth, value, identity is found in anything other than you.  The lies that try and convince us that some have greater value, worth, or purpose than others.  For Your word assures us that in Christ there is neither Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female… but all are one.  Each given gifts, callings, and blessings appointed to them by the Holy Spirit to use in your service.  None greater, all yours.  Protect us, Lord.  From those who seek to harm us.  Protect us, from the schemes of the Devil.  Surround us on all sides, going before us and coming behind us; as we walk in your justice, grace, and righteousness.

We stand in victory, and pray these things in Your precious name.

Amen.

Has Much Really Changed?

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Ecclesiastes tells us that there is nothing new under the sun.  So true.  Hate, prejudice, bigotry, racism… it is not new.  Sin is not new.  Ecclesiastes also tells us that was has been done, will be done again.  We should bear not surprise that these sins still run rampant.

This picture, was taken in 1992.  Twenty five years ago.  I look at it and I see Charlottesville 2017.  Things really haven’t changed that much, not in the heart.  But the boldness, perhaps has displayed itself in unprecedented ways.  The hoods, cloaks, and shadows are withdrawn, sin is exposed.

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For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open. ~Luke 8:17 

Sin is out in the open, and with it has come a reckoning.   Parents and friends are seeing faces splashed across the news, their children and loved ones displaying their hate for the world to see.  Those secret things hidden in hearts are being confirmed as sin stares us in the face, desiring to make us meek and hide in response.  But let us not be meek, but BOLD as we stand up for what it good, honorable, holy, and righteous.

Creator God,

We pray that these wearisome things, that weigh us down… that seem too big or frightening to tackle down, let us see them diminished in to the shadow of your greatness.  Your word is true, that which has will be again.  We cling to that as a promise that Jesus will come again and overcome sin and death, destruction and division; standing victorious over his foe.  Lord, we ask for you to protect the eyes, ears, and hearts of the little children so that they may not be turned by the words of hate that others teach them.  Let them find joy, peace, love, and goodness in You.  May they have eyes to see, the way you see.  May they look upon all of your people, regardless of the color of their skin as sister and brother, created in the imagine of our Precious Father.  Bind the serpent that hisses in their ears, for he will be crushed once again.  Sin was here before my time, our time… but our future remains.  For you know the plans you have made for us, that is the future we await… waiting and yet praying LORD JESUS COME!

In this darkness, let us be light.  In a sea of hate, let us be love.  In a crowd of fists, let us be an embrace.  Let our churches and homes become a city on a hill, refuge for those who need safety, a fortress against oppressors, and a battle ground of prayer.

In Christ’s holy name we pray,

Amen.

 

Perfectly United

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Heavenly Father, 

In light of this weekend, where division cast brother versus sister, neighbor versus neighbor… we pray for unity among the family of believers.  As brothers and sisters, adopted into your family, we are called to bear witness to the love of our Father.  We are called to walk in your statutes, we are called to love as you have loved.  Every word in the scriptures falls under your heart to reconcile your people to you, united as one body, serving as one body.  Let us not fall into the temptations and schemes of the Devil, who seeks to divide and destroy.  Instead let us link arms, draw close to one another, bear each other’s burdens, and carry one another forward as we press on.  Send your angel armies to surround us on all sides, for what God has brought together let no man separate.  Let peace be on our hearts, let kindness be on our tongues.  Help us to not repay evil for evil.  Help us to love and forgive, even when it feels impossible.  As we put on the armor of God, we shall not be weary but find our strength in you, to stand up to the darkness and shed light.  Let our light shine brighter, let the lost find their way to you for comfort and healing in your embrace.  Give courage to those who will stand up and call out the sin that is racism, protect them and their families from farm, and build up the courage for others to stand with them on the front lines.  Let there be no division among us, but perfectly united under your authority… of one mind, thought, and purpose.

In His name we pray,

Amen.

Pause to Pray

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As a ministry, our core mission is rooted in unity among leaders… churches… community.  We take unity, a value, incredibly seriously.  It is threaded into every decision we make, direction we step.

As a ministry, we stand against any form of racism and hatred.  As one can not be united when racism divides, when hatred divides.

As a ministry, we do not support any movement or organization that would cause division among people or results in a threat to life, welfare, or wellbeing of those whom God loves.  His Word tells us, in John 3:16 that God so loved the WORLD.  Not part of the world.  Not some people in the world.  But the world, in its entirety.  All nations, tribes, and tongues.

As a ministry, we are on bended knee praying for the Lord’s protection and provision over those who find themselves in the wake of hatred, bigotry, and racism.  For our women who are affected by these images, know that we are praying for you and your family as you come to terms with the events of this weekend.

We will not stand for this.  We will use our voice in any way we can to help you, defend you, love on you.  Tell us how we can be FOR you and stand AGAINST this atrocious sin.