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Slow to Speak

Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?” 
But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer.  Mark 14:61

I sat in that meeting surrounded by men.  I was the only woman on the coaching staff and that alone put me at a disadvantage.  But I never have had an issue with being “the only one.”  I frequently have found myself in the position of being the youngest, the woman, the questioning, the sober, the only one to say “no.”  So that evening was no exception.  What was uncomfortable was the man in front of the room threatening me.  He also threatened to have the softball program thrown out of the community center if I remained a coach.  

Something inside my head told me to do something I rarely do – keep silent.  I typically will speak up and defend myself but it was almost as though tape were placed over my mouth.  Partially out of a sense of shock and fear that this man might physically attack me and partially because of that voice I remained quiet as he ranted and raved.

When the ranter was out of steam, the president of the league stood up and with his large physical presence made it clear the man was done and needed to leave.  A vote was taken and I stayed part of the coaching staff.  When the meeting came to an end I was shocked again when the other men, many who had rarely given me the time of day, approached me and congratulated me on standing strong and being so “tough.”  As I walked to my car that night my legs turned to jelly and I collapsed in my car in tears.  The ranter’s words were painful but the words of congratulations also overwhelmed me.  I had finally done something they could all respect.  And it was all because I listened to that small voice to keep quiet.

Even though I experienced success that evening with my silence it can drive me bonkers reading how Jesus took the abuse from the Pharisees.  Of course, unlike Him, I couldn’t rain hellfire down on my accuser and work a miracle.  But Jesus knew exactly when to speak and when to stay silent.

Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry... James 1:19

And that’s my topic this week on being resolute in Christ – when to act or speak and when to rest or be silent.  Because frequently doing the exact opposite of what the world expects is exactly what we need to do to serve God righteously.

But how do we know?  It can be difficult to discern between our wants, needs and fears and the Word of God. I have found over the last few years, however, that God does make things clear when it is important.  Plus, knowing the character of God and Jesus and what is expected of us is tantamount in making good decisions.  God never speaks to our fleshly desires, encouraging us to indulge.  He is prudent, loving, kind, careful with resources, seeks justice and forgiveness, and above all He is holy.

Study the three main traits of Christ (justice, goodness, holiness) for thirty days, begin to practice them in your daily life, and see what God does…you won’t be disappointed.

Joyce Meyer, God’s Character

I’ve found it fascinating that people who want clear answers from God aren’t willing to actually know the character of the “person” from whom they are seeking answers.  Yet, I won’t go to a friend who clearly has difficulty with their finances and ask them for financial advice!  And I won’t seek fashion advice from someone that looks like they’ve just rolled out of bed every day.  

So much of obeying God’s and His Holy Spirit nudgings must start with knowing the road signs to even look for.  And then when we have accomplished that we must start paying attention and actually acting on those directives.

I love reading Sparkling Gems from the Greek each morning.  It’s a yearly devotional that takes scripture and studies it in the original Greek meaning.  Recently, the author wrote of how he was to attend a gathering of fellow pastors whom he hadn’t seen in awhile. He and his wife travelled to the city where the event was to take place.  As they were about to the leave the hotel a clear word came to him to not attend.  He first told his wife he felt the need to stay in the hotel.  But he went anyways not wanting to miss out on the fun.  Each step along the way he was told over and over to not go.  While at the event the message became almost overwhelming.  He left his wife to keep visiting and he returned to his hotel.  Upon entering his room, he realized they had been burgled.  All their passports, computers, important papers, jewelry and more were gone.  And he realized his fleshly desires overtook that warning voice.

How often have we stood in the midst of a situation that calls us to be an outsider, a dissenter, the weird one, the one to step out of line and answer the call of His voice?   And how often have we brushed it aside thinking we know better?  When we don’t know the character of God that will happen frequently.  But when we do know the character of God there’s no excuse.  We repent and tell God to give us another chance to serve Him rightly.

God will frequently call us in our everyday lives to do something that may help us or help others.  That cashier you want to be rude to because she is talking to another co-worker about her personal life? Ya, God might be telling you to say something incredibly kind to her or just keep silent.  That neighbor who yells at you because he doesn’t like where you put your trashcan?  God might be telling you to keep your mouth shut.  That trip you are about to take? He may be saying, “cancel it.” You won’t know if it’s your own worries or desires unless you know Him and His ways.

“But they refused to pay attention; stubbornly they turned their backs and covered their ears.They made their hearts as hard as flint and would not listen to the law or to the words that the Lord Almighty had sent by his Spirit through the earlier prophets. So the Lord Almighty was very angry.
“‘When I called, they did not listen; so when they called, I would not listen,’ says the Lord Almighty.  Zachariah 7: 11-13

God calls us to action and He calls us to inaction.  He calls us to speak and calls us to stay silent.  But if we worry too much about the world and what they will think if we obey those words, then we are sure to be judged.  We must stand resolutely when we hear that voice and through knowing His mind we will be assured He has our backs.

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The Purposeful Path

Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good.  Anyone who does what is good is from God.  3 John 11

When I was first researching the word “resolute” I came across the tiny village of Resolute in the province of Nunavut, Canada. Back in 1999, Canada created a new province from the original Northern Territories specifically for its native citizens.  And Resolute was one of the northernmost inhabited spots in that province.  Its most famous resident, who put Resolute firmly on the map, was Joseph Idlout, the subject of two documentaries, Land of the Long Day in 1952 and Between Two Worlds in 1990. He was for a time one of the most well-known Inuit and was shown on the back of the Canadian two-dollar bill.

I decided to watch the Land of the Long Day and was treated to some childhood memories of old fashioned documentary film styles.  This little film about a tiny family eking out an existence in the Arctic held my fascination for over an hour.  You see, Mr. Idlout purposefully chose to keep his family close to the old ways of living.  They hunted and gathered what was available each season, storing up for long, dark winters.  They used every available resource to keep their family alive and thriving.   Everyone in the family had a job to do for their survival.  And to maintain this way of life he petitioned the Canadian government to move to a tiny weather station called Resolute and create a home for themselves.  Rather than uprooting their lives and becoming more “modern” they chose to remain true to their culture.  And they flourished. 

It’s perfect that this “most famous Inuit” moved to a tiny town called Resolute because that’s what it took to make his decision for his family.  And I wonder, how many decisions us modern parents make are based on what God really wants for our children? 

As a grandma and parent of two, now grown women, I can easily recall times when I had to make decisions that would set my children and family apart from others.  So many times, when I would go against the norm, others would say to me,  “I hadn’t even thought about that.”  In other words, they were just going along to get along without consulting any moral code whatsoever.

“When you are being taught how to use any machine, the instructor keeps on saying, “No, don’t do it like that,’ because, of course, there are all sorts of things that look all right and seem to you the natural way of treating the machine, but do not really work.”  

CS Lewis, Mere Christianity

It seems so natural to automatically sign a permission slip for your child to go on the 4th grade overnight trip that every single 4th grader in your school has gone on for the last 10 years.  There’ll be chaperones and it’s just down the street.  Everyone is going.  And then you find out boys and girls will be sleeping together in small rooms.  Chaperones include moms and dads – many whom you don’t know.  So your daughter will be spending the night with boys and a dad.   No problem, everyone is going.  Everyone has gone.  No one has ever brought up any issue.   So what’s your problem?  Are you going to set your child apart?  Will you be resolute in what you know is the God-directed answer?

In the verse today it says “imitate evil.”  And I think so often when we read things like that in the Bible we give ourselves little passes to make immoral decisions, especially when we feel it might harm our kids’ social lives.  I mean, it’s not “evil” to let our kids go on a boy/girl sleepover.  It’s not “evil” to allow our daughters to wear the latest fashions that might be a bit revealing.  It’s not  “evil” to let our sons play violent video games.  It’s also not “evil” for all the parents at the birthday party to get drunk. Right?

In a world where parents are pressured into allowing their elementary and middle school children to start dangerous hormones and go under the knife in order to try and change their gender, letting your kids watch R rated movies and TV shows seems tame in comparison. And we let it slide.

“Perfect behavior may be as unattainable as perfect gear changing when we drive; but it is a necessary ideal. Prescribed for all men by the very nature of the human machine just as perfect gear changing is an ideal prescribed for all drivers by the very nature of cars…it would be idiotic not to try; for every mistake is going to cause you trouble later on.”  

CS Lewis, Mere Christianity

It’s interesting that this quote from Mere Christianity involves using a stick shift in a car.  For just about every one of us that process has changed to be an automatic.  But the question I ask is your automatic response to making decisions for yourself and your family set to the world of the flesh or the Word of God? 

For Joseph Idlout, he drew on his people’s hundreds if not thousands of years of history and made the conscious decision to not go the modern route of the world.  And I have to say they seemed to live a pretty content and peaceful life.  Not an easy one by any means.  The harsh Arctic conditions probably led many to scoff at their decision.  They might even have been called any manner of names from savages to crazy to ignorant.  But his children didn’t grow up with drug addictions, suicidal tendencies, endless debt, and more that our world offers.

We can’t all put our families on an island away from the world’s influences.  But we can stop pretending things aren’t “evil” when they go against what God wants of us.  We must be resolute and purposeful in following God’s will for our families.  To be His humble servants, to know His Word inside and out so that it becomes automatic, and to live like the chosen people we are.  Our children’s lives depend on it.

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The Midol Woman

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.  2 Corinthians 10:5

I love watching the British tv show Midsommer Murders.  I’m a detective fan since my young girl days of hiding my Nancy Drew books inside my school desk and sneaking it out when the teacher wasn’t looking.  I pay extra on my Amazon Prime account to get these shows.  Recently however, they’ve added commercials – dropped in at odd places in the show.  One such commercial keeps popping up, show after show, day after day.   It’s for Midol, the pain reducer typically suggested to relieve cramping and pains due to menstruation.  

The commercials themselves are a testament to where we are at in society.  You see, each of the women are portrayed as victims.  Not necessarily of having a period but of having to deal with the pain and therefore their related behavior.  I call them the Midol Women.   One actress states, “If I don’t stop apologizing for my period behavior (apparently she’s quite a bear during this time) then it’ll never stop for future generations.”  Another states, “I’m not going to keep apologizing for being a ‘mad black woman’ just because I’m on my period.”  Period.

The message conveyed is “whatever I’m feeling today the world had better watch out!” And, “don’t make me apologize for what I’m about to unleash!”

Isn’t that the loud and clear message we hear so much today?  I’m not required to keep my mouth in check because (fill in the blank – my truth, my pain, my socioeconomic status, my race, my sexuality, my whatever) but YOU had better keep your mouth in check.  It all creates a bit of a neck whiplash.  And the result? Pain, hurt feelings, swelling pridefulness, torn relationships, violence and more.

James 3:10-11 says, “Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing.  My brothers and sisters, this should not be.  Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 

When it’s a Christian acting in this way we get the giant stamp of “hypocrite” placed on, not only us as individuals, but the faith as a whole.  It’d be better to live by the wisdom of the Proverbs.

Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end.  Proverbs 29:11

This concept has really hit home for me these past few months as I’ve battled constant pain in my ears and head.   I want to lash out at my husband at the end of the day when he’s being, well, just a man.  Normally I could laugh and tease him.   But it takes all the strength and patience out of me each day to not give in to the pain.  So when someone close to me does something annoying, my strength needs to come from somewhere else.   Because my tank is empty.

I don’t want to ruin a beautiful weekend by constantly gripping about how I feel.  I may always feel this way if my doctors can’t figure out what’s wrong.  So I have to ask myself, do I want to be the Midol Woman and demand that everyone around me accept my emotional bombs?  Or do I draw on the strength of God which the apostle Paul wrote when he spoke of his constant thorn in his side (2 Cor 12:7-10)?

Believe me, I want to be cured.  And I don’t like that women must suffer during their periods.  I hate that people, like my mother in law, have to deal with the effects of chemotherapy. Migraines, back pain, knee pain, the list goes on and on.  When we lose sight of who we belong to and what is expected of us we fall prey to being the Midol Woman.  We lose control of our tongue and its ability to “set great forests on fire by a small spark.” (James 3:5)

Dear Christian, we are held to a higher standard than the Midol Women of this world.  And yes, it is okay to be weak and cry.  It’s okay to lose our cool once in a while and have a bad day.  But to say we shouldn’t apologize for lashing out in those weak times is of the flesh and we are called to be better.  God expects us to be better, and most of all to be humble.  The world says it’s ok to rant, rave, slam doors, curse others – as long as it doesn’t happen to you.  God says, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.” (Matt 11:28)

It’s at our weakest times that our decision to be resolute in our faith is tested.  Not on the good days, not on the days our pain is masked, not on the sun shining days.  No, throughout the Bible we see we are almost sure to be tested on the bad days, the days we want to stay in bed, the days it takes a full tank and we are living on just a quarter.  It’s those days that when people say to me, “God is just a crutch” that I say, “Great, give me two.”

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Resolute In Christ

As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. Luke 9:51

Hi Friends!  It’s been a while since my last post – which ended the 30 More Days of Praise series.  I’ve been praying for some time for direction about my next series.  And I finally received a push a few weeks ago to write about standing strong in our faith, in the face of adversity.  There’s a lot going on out in our world that pushes back against the message of Jesus.  From twisting God’s view of agape-type love to seeking comfort from our fears through worldly means, we Christians are in a tough battle.  Tough, but not a new one.

When we read the New Testament books, a common thread throughout is adversity.  The saints were constantly up against the threat of death, torture, and imprisonment.  Much of Jesus’ time here on earth was pushing up against, not the political world, but the religious one.  It was the supposed followers of God who called for Jesus’ crucifixion.  And it was his supposed loyal followers that abandoned Him at the time of His greatest need.

And once the twelve received the Holy Spirit and realized their holy callings it only got worse.  As word spread and followers grew so did false teachers and strife amongst congregations.  And each apostle either found themselves facing a murderous mob or a lonely prison.  Yet the Word endured. 

On the face of it all it seems improbable.  How could a tiny group of men (and a few women) from thousands of years ago be the ones who today help us to know and understand our glorious God, His son Jesus and the Holy Spirit?  How could the Word of God have been passed down through the ages with only slight changes in translations?  Because God is God.  And, because God is resolute in His love for us, He has made sure His message continued and will continue to educate, inspire, and comfort us for all time.

And that brings me to where I am today.  In a recent visit to my mother in law, I mentioned how I haven’t been writing lately.  And she said, “Oh how I miss my Emboldened each day.  I just am amazed at how much and what you write.”  It made me realize there are real people out there behind my computer screen reading my messages of God.  And I owe you an apology and explanation. 

You see, as always, God put on my heart just the right message at the right time.  To be Resolute in Christ.  To stand firm in His promises.  To be assured that He loves us.  To know without a doubt that He is with us, through thick and thin.  I need that message right now.  For the last two months I’ve been suffering through a medical condition that perplexes my doctors.  My ears are under extreme pressure and I’ve lost much of my hearing in my left ear.  I am in constant pain and so often can barely focus on the basic work I need to accomplish – much less sit and write.

I have pleaded with God to relieve me.  I have cried to God.  I have argued with God.  I have questioned God – even just today after yet another fruitless doctor appointment.  I’ve been so weak at times I’ve wanted to turn my back on Him.  But He pulls me back each day.  He is resolute and I need to be the same.

So, this is my first step to working through my pain, my brain fog and to be honest my self-pity.  I am a Jesus follower, just like the early disciples, who needs to trust God and obey His Word.  He has given me my marching orders and I choose to engage in the battle for the saints.  I am resolute.  

Join me September 20-October 22 as we explore the many passages in the Bible that show us how to be Resolute in Christ and to live an uncompromising Christian life.