Archive | March, 2012

Britt Nicole and David knew what they were talking about

31 Mar

Nearly a year ago, I found myself home alone and listening to some really fun Britt Nicole songs while I cleaned out the disaster that had been glaring at me from underneath my bed for years. After the high-energy songs had all played and I was almost done cleaning, a beautiful song of Britt’s called “Have Your Way” came on.

I wasn’t expecting it, and it would be an understatement to say that it caught me off guard. Here are some of the lyrics:

Feels like I’ve been here forever,
Why can’t you just intervene?
Do you see the tears keep falling?
And I’m falling apart at the seams.
But you never said the road would be easy,
But you said that you would never leave.
And you never promised that this life wasn’t hard,
But you promised you’d take care of me.

So I’ll stop searching for the answers,
I’ll stop praying for an escape,
And I’ll trust you, God, with where I am,
And believe that you will have your way.
Just have your way.
Just have your way.

You see, at that point in my life, I had been struggling. Struggling because things were, once again, not going the way I had planned. I envisioned myself taking a glorious road toward all my dreams and desires coming true, but instead I found myself fighting to stay happy with my less-than-desirable circumstances. I wanted to force my dreams into reality, and I wasn’t letting God be God. I was trying to be my own God.

So when I heard this song, it utterly broke me. I burst into tears because I was hurting and could related to David in Psalm 13:1-4 when he cries out to the Lord in his brokenness, just like Britt does at the beginning of her song:

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I take counsel in my soul
and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?

Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;
light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,”
lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.

But on that day it was like I was relating to only the part of the song that involved self-centered pity (“why can’t you just intervene?”). I was asking God, “WHY haven’t you made my dream come true? Where is my happily ever after? Why isn’t this working the way I want it to? How long will I continue to be this miserable?”

At that point in my life, I wasn’t ready to surrender the pen of my life’s story to God. I knew exactly what I wanted for my future, and I was going to do whatever it took to get there. Until then, my prayers would remain Jen-centered: “God, help this to work out. I need this.”

Needless to say, every time that song came on shuffle, I quickly skipped to next song. I couldn’t handle it.

What I’ve realized since then

At that time in my life, I didn’t know how to surrender my life to God, and it was purely out of fear. I was scared of losing the thing I held nearest to my heart–something so precious to me that I simply couldn’t give it up. It was an area of my life I knew I felt the Lord beckoning me to trust him with, but I refused.

Nine months later, I watched as that precious thing was taken from me. The thing I had been clinging to. And let me tell you with all of my heart, I have since learned so much, but mostly that HIS WAYS ARE BETTER THAN MY WAYS (Isaiah 55:8-9).

Words cannot even describe how it felt to have this happen to me. At first, I felt entirely hopeless and heartbroken. But, praise be to God, there is restoration in Jesus Christ and there is healing power in his Word. I have never felt so close to God in my entire life. I had to allow him to break me to get my attention, and the end result is a beautiful picture of complete joy in Christ. No more brokenness. No more fear.

It turns out that the thing I was most scared of happening is the very thing God is using to make me dependent on him and more like his Son. And I’ve never been more thankful for the fact that God is faithful, and he proved that to me by rescuing me from my brokenness.

And now for my favorite part, and the reason that I felt compelled to share this story with you…

It just so happens that a week ago I was driving home from church, once again rocking out to Britt when “Have Your Way” came on for the first time in awhile. At first I was tempted to skip to the next song, but then it hit me: I don’t need to. There’s nothing to avoid.

It’s safe to say that this song has become my anthem! Not one sorrowful tear fell for the entire duration of the song. It is now a song that brings me utter joy, and it reminds me that I can rest because I have trusted God with my whole life, and from every day forward I will continue to surrender and hand him the pen of my life’s story, in all seasons and circumstances and chapters.

Remember David’s Psalm? The one where he cries out and asks God why he has forsaken him? Do you remember how it ends? Check it out:

But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
because he has dealt bountifully with me.

Just like Britt’s song, it ends with believing in God, trusting him and letting him have his way! I want to leave you with my new favorite lyric from that song. It’s a line that used to hurt because I couldn’t let go of my own dreams:

Even if my dreams have died,
And even if I don’t survive,
I`ll still worship you with all my life.

Allow me to urge you to surrender control to God today. He loves you, and if you will let him, he will write a beautiful story called your life.

Jen

Find comfort, give comfort, repeat

30 Mar

I’ve been a believer my entire life, but I won’t lie to you: I’ve never read the bible cover to cover.

But I’m on my way, and I’m currently moving my way through the New Testament, just drinking it in as I discover how little I’ve known about scriptures and how much there is still to learn. And I am SO excited about it!

Today I started the book of 2 Corinthians, and I came across a few verses that were an encouragement to me. It reminded me of how we are to be selfless, even when we are tempted to be consumed with our own problems.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

This is incredible.

If you’re struggling today–if you have an ill family member, if you’re stressed about your job, if you and your friend are having a dispute, if someone you love has wronged you, etc–remember that you’re not the only one. Remember that God is the one who can bring you comfort, and as you learn that, remember to share it with others!

That’s the primary reason I blog. I don’t spend my time writing because I want compliments and I want to be recognized in the blogging community.

Actually, I just want to share my journey with other believers who fight the same battles I do. Because I’m not alone. I face affliction. I have found comfort in God because of the love of other believers around me who have encouraged me to seek the Lord during any trial. And now it’s my job to comfort others. It’s a chain reaction that I want to be a part of!

Thank you so much for reading, whoever you are out there. I consider it a blessing that God has chosen to use me through my writing. It’s all because of him that I’m able to do this.

Jen

Someone’s gotta say it: purity is hard work

29 Mar

Image

Ever since last night I have felt a tug on my heart to talk about purity and walking with Christ in every aspect of our lives, including dating relationships.

I didn’t get a whole lot of sleep last night because of it. I went to bed later than usual and woke up way earlier than I needed to. I ended up praying about ways to pen the words I want to scream on the rooftops to all young people and all unmarried people. I want to do it with wisdom. And I don’t claim to know everything.

I also don’t claim to be perfect or sinless, but I do know that the bible calls us to purity in the scriptures, and that it is absolutely what we should strive for. I recognize that it is SO hard in our culture to stand firm when it comes to this topic. Movies, music, magazines, peer pressure and the Internet make it almost impossible to walk on a straight path when it comes to keeping ourselves and honoring our bodies as the scriptures beckon us to (1 Corinthians 6:18-20 is a good reference if you don’t know what I’m talking about).

I’ve talked with other Christians about this topic, and I’ve also done some observation. It is not my place to judge, so please don’t think that I am.

I just want to make clear something I truly believe in: although every Christian (and unbelievers as well) has their own boundaries and their own concept of what is “too far,” that doesn’t change what the scriptures say. The bible should be our primary source for knowledge and wisdom when it comes to this topic. Otherwise, we’ll find our selves excusing away our human desires, thinking that it’s okay to follow our inclinations because it’s “normal” or “natural.” And we’ll make mistakes. We’ll end up with regrets and scars. Paul didn’t write about sexual immorality, marriage and honoring God with our bodies just for the early church. He wrote it for us, too.

I’ve also recognized something HUGE when it comes to teaching young people about purity: we can’t just tell them they have to abstain and think it’s enough. We also have to make it clear that IT WILL BE HARD. But it is NOT “unrealistic.” Don’t mistake the word “difficult” for “unrealistic.” I don’t think anyone ever told me how hard it would be. Or if they did, I was too naive to accept it.

Young and/or unmarried people, I want you to know that it will be hard. I don’t just want to give you a sugar-coated speech about purity and stop there. I want you to know that it’s a battle and a fight. If you want to be like Christ, that includes every area of your life. It will be tough. But you CAN do it. Don’t just give up because you think it’s impossible or because the “Christians” around you are doing things that aren’t okay. It’s not impossible, I promise.

There is so much more I want to say about this topic, but I want to pray about it and seek the Lord before going any further. I hope that this is an encouragement to someone struggling today. Allow the Holy Spirit to convict you and don’t make excuses for yourself; you are feeling conviction for a reason. He loves you and wants the best for you. And there is always, always forgiveness because of the Cross. You are not alone and you don’t need to live in shame and darkness. There is hope and strength in Jesus…

Jen

I’ve got my eye on the goal

24 Mar

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2

—–

If you’ve been reading my blog for the past two months, you may have noticed that I’ve blogged about some pretty tough times. Without giving details, I’ve shared what I call “Lessons From My Journey.” These posts are the longest ones I write, and they are filled with lessons through scripture that I’m learning as I navigate my way through what most would define as a “trial.” (Although to me, it is more and more a blessing and an opportunity.)

I’m going to continue to use vague terms when referring to this season in my life simply because that’s what I am most comfortable doing. Someday I believe I’ll get to share my story in more detail, but that day is certainly not today. Or next week. Or even next year.

But today I want to talk about how–two months after this so-called storm began–I am given a choice: to sabotage everything I’ve learned thus far OR to continue to press on and let God have total control.

When something difficult comes our way, it’s easy to feel defeated. It’s hard not to pity ourselves. It’s difficult to keep going strong when things don’t go our way. But I’m so blessed to have met Jesus long before this time in my life arrived. Without him, I cannot even begin to imagine the dark place I’d be in right now.

During this time in my life, I’ve sought the counsel of beautiful, strong, mature and wise Christians. They have helped me stay on the path to restoration and, thanks to the Holy Spirit alive in me, I have not strayed. God has used some incredible individuals to speak into my life, to pray for me and to encourage me. Most of all, he has used them to direct me to the Word. Now I hunger for it like my life depends on it. Sure, there are some great books and brochures about getting through trials, but more than anything, the Word of GOD is what we need (I love Romans 15:4).

So what exactly am I wanting to share today? Well, like I said, this week I was given the opportunity to give it all up. To walk away from my beautiful journey toward wholeness in Christ and to enter into a dark place. To put it more bluntly, I could have wrecked everything I’ve learned and started walking on my own. Without Jesus. Doing my own thing.

But he kept me.

And I love that Philippians 3 provides a great insight about perseverance toward Christ and not looking back. It’s helped me so much! The author talks about not letting others bring us down on our journey as Christians. Normally, I would use the ESV to quote scripture. But The Message makes it so abundantly clear and I want to share this version with you. I know it’s long, but please read the whole thing:

Focused on the Goal

12 I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me.13 Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward-to Jesus.14 I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.

So let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision-you’ll see it yet!16 Now that we’re on the right track, let’s stay on it.

17 Stick with me, friends. Keep track of those you see running this same course, headed for this same goal.18 There are many out there taking other paths, choosing other goals, and trying to get you to go along with them. I’ve warned you of them many times; sadly, I’m having to do it again. All they want is easy street. They hate Christ’s Cross.19 But easy street is a dead-end street. Those who live there make their bellies their gods; belches are their praise; all they can think of is their appetites.

20 But there’s far more to life for us. We’re citizens of high heaven! We’re waiting the arrival of the Savior, the Master, Jesus Christ,21 who will transform our earthy bodies into glorious bodies like his own. He’ll make us beautiful and whole with the same powerful skill by which he is putting everything as it should be, under and around him.

Isn’t that just beautiful? I have always thought The Message was…ahem…”watered down,” but I compared this with both the NIV and ESV, and while those two versions are also incredible, The Message seems so much bolder to me. It’s almost like Paul is in your face, telling you to not be foolish and run toward Christ!

If there’s one reason for pressing on, it’s because I want to run after God and continue to be more like Christ (v 13).

The way I see it, while we walk with Christ, things will happen to us that are out of our control. People will fail us. We’ll experience heartache, pain, loss and more. But we’re called to press on. I truly believe that everything God allows in our lives is an opportunity to allow ourselves to be molded into Christ’s image. And the bad stuff is a huge part of that. Don’t let temptation get in the way of your walk with God. Keep going…keep pressing on…keep persevering…keep your eye on the goal!

If you’re struggling to press on, I encourage you to meditate on Philippians 3 (and Hebrews 12, which I started this blog out by quoting) today. You CAN do this. You don’t need to give up. God’s doing something in your life. He’s making you more like his Son. It’s going to be beautiful…

In Christ,

Jen

Colton Dixon, American Idol & Jesus

23 Mar

Did anyone else get giddy when American Idol Contestant Colton Dixon talked about God on Live TV a couple days ago?

I sure did. Check out this article about it if you missed it!

http://www.christianpost.com/news/top-9-american-idol-colton-dixon-keeps-god-talk-alive-says-god-use-me-on-live-tv-71947/

I’m so excited about Christians being on Idol and sharing their faith. Anyone remember Kris Allen a few years ago? Another Christian! I hope these people continue to walk with Christ and not stray because of fame. They could reach SO many lost and hurting people! If Colton doesn’t win Idol, I want to see him get signed to a Christian label…it’d be awesome.

Jen

In my weakness, HE is strong

22 Mar

Today I stumbled upon a tweet by John Piper that really got my attention. He wrote:

“I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

I’ve really been dwelling on this today. Sometimes life just hurts and things happen to us that we don’t understand. We think we would have been better off if those things had never happened, right?

I beg to differ.

In our weakness, HIS power is made perfect.

My grace is made sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. 2 Corinthians 12:9

AND, we get to learn total dependence on the one who will never leave us nor forsake us. It is a sweet thing to think on. A trial can do so so so much good for your relationship with Jesus. He’s making you more like him, I promise…

Jen

Whatever is lovely…

18 Mar

It’s spring again!

Let me ask you this: when you think of spring, what comes to mind? New life? Growth? New opportunities? A bright future? Good change?

These are all things that are so often metaphorically attached to spring, according to most people. But what happens when spring brings pain for you instead? I want to talk a little bit about this today.

A few springs ago was what I used to consider one of the best times of my life. It was so full of what I thought was new, good change. It was exciting and just lovely! But now, because of a recent turn of events, those memories aren’t so sweet. In fact, when I think of them, they don’t bring back the joy they once did. They actually cut very deep if I allow them to. And I don’t want to allow them to!

You see, I’ve been fighting a battle in my thought life this week and one verse keeps coming to mind as I do. Perhaps you’ve heard it, but will you dwell on it with me right now?

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8

To help myself focus on these things we’re called to think about, I made a note card that simply lists each of these things. Then I ask myself this whenever a painful memory or thought enters my mind: is what I’m thinking about true? Is it honorable? Just? Pure? Lovely? Commendable? Excellent? Worthy of praise? If the answer is no, I have to mentally force myself to STOP. And that’s not enough. I have to think about something else.

So what are some pure and lovely and just things I can go to mentally during these times? One word: Christ. I simply stop thinking about whatever is on my mind and focus on the fact that God sent his one and only son (John 3:16) to die for my sins. Then, when Jesus died and rose again, he left us here on the earth with a beautiful and wonderful gift: his Holy Spirit. And we are so blessed by that. And by the fact that we are given the Word of God to help us and instruct us (Romans 15:4).

The ESV Study Bible by Crossway provides a beautiful commentary on this verse in Philippians. Short and sweet, it says:

The Philippians are to fill their minds with things that will inspire worship of God and service to others.

I truly believe that we as believers, like the Philippians, are to do this very same thing.

Don’t get me wrong. I absolutely love spring! And here in Michigan, we have had an early spring and are enjoying long days with beautiful 75 degree weather. I already have freckles on my face and shoulders, which normally doesn’t happen until May! But this past week in particular has caught me off guard as challenging for my thought life. If you’re experiencing a battle in your own thought life, I pray you’ll use this technique. It’s transforming and it works! And when your brain is tired of thinking at all, just put on the song “Rise” by Kari Jobe. It will lift your spirits, I promise!

We will cry out Your renown
You are the God who has saved us
We will rise to praise You
We lift a glorious sound
You are the one who redeemed us
We will rise to praise You

Now, I’m ready to get back outside and enjoy my spring!

Jen

Whatever is lovely

18 Mar

It’s spring again!

Let me ask you this: when you think of spring, what comes to mind? New life? Growth? New opportunities? A bright future? Good change?

These are all things that are so often metaphorically attached to spring, according to most people. But what happens when spring brings pain for you instead? I want to talk a little bit about this today.

A few springs ago was what I used to consider one of the best times of my life. It was so full of what I thought was new, good change. It was exciting and just lovely! But now, because of a recent turn of events, those memories aren’t so sweet. In fact, when I think of them, they don’t bring back the joy they once did. They actually cut very deep if I allow them to. And I don’t want to allow them to!

You see, I’ve been fighting a battle in my thought life this week and one verse keeps coming to mind as I do. Perhaps you’ve heard it, but will you dwell on it with me right now?

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8

To help myself focus on these things we’re called to think about, I made a note card that simply lists each of these things. Then I ask myself this whenever a painful memory or thought enters my mind: is what I’m thinking about true? Is it honorable? Just? Pure? Lovely? Commendable? Excellent? Worthy of praise? If the answer is no, I have to mentally force myself to STOP. And that’s not enough. I have to think about something else.

So what are some pure and lovely and just things I can go to mentally during these times? One word: Christ. I simply stop thinking about whatever is on my mind and focus on the fact that God sent his one and only son (John 3:16) to die for my sins. Then, when Jesus died and rose again, he left us here on the earth with a beautiful and wonderful gift: his Holy Spirit. And we are so blessed by that. And by the fact that we are given the Word of God to help us and instruct us (Romans 15:4).

The ESV Study Bible by Crossway provides a beautiful commentary on this verse in Philippians. Short and sweet, it says:

The Philippians are to fill their minds with things that will inspire worship of God and service to others.

I truly believe that we as believers, like the Philippians, are to do this very same thing.

Don’t get me wrong. I absolutely love spring! And here in Michigan, we have had an early spring and are enjoying long days with beautiful 75 degree weather. I already have freckles on my face and shoulders, which normally doesn’t happen until May! But this past week in particular has caught me off guard as challenging for my thought life. If you’re experiencing a battle in your own thought life, I pray you’ll use this technique. It’s transforming and it works! And when your brain is tired of thinking at all, just put on the song “Rise” by Kari Jobe. It will lift your spirits, I promise!

We will cry out Your renown
You are the God who has saved us
We will rise to praise You
We lift a glorious sound
You are the one who redeemed us
We will rise to praise You

Now, I’m ready to get back outside and enjoy my spring!

Jen

Thoughts on humility in blogging

17 Mar

Well…I’m back!

After telling myself I wanted to start blogging daily and successfully posting four days in a row, I realized maybe God had different plans for me.

This past week has been a little off, to say the least. I got really sick with a nasty throat infection and I spilled water all over my precious MacBook. It won’t turn on (I’m currently using my mother’s PC). How am I supposed to blog if my computer is broken!?

I originally started this blog for writing about topics that I felt God lay on my heart. Only, my love for writing got in the way and I started to feel like I was writing just for the sake of writing. And for the sake of being heard. But I don’t think that’s pleasing to God. In fact, it sounds kind of empty and purposeless!

You know, it’s so easy to get excited when your daily views multiply by 10 and your average amount of comments triples. But it’s not about numbers and it’s not about me at all. What I desire to do is to further God’s purposes and reach people who need to hear the lessons I’m learning and the things God lays on my heart to share with them. If I stop hearing from God and starting writing for my own self, it’s like a preacher who preaches just because he wants to be famous and not because he wants to see kingdom growth. It’s like a pastor who is only concerned with numbers and not with individals or with what God wants for his ministry. And I don’t want to be a numbers person!

Anyway, I just wanted to share these things with my readers. I appreciate all of you and your encouragement as you walk with me and become better followers of Christ with me! I hope you will all continue to be a part of this blog. And some of you are even good at keeping me in check! I appreciate that.

So long story short, if you don’t see me posting daily, don’t think I’ve disappeared. I’m just waiting to hear from God and praying he lays something on my heart to share with my readers. After all, I do love writing oh so very much!

Have a great Saturday everyone!

Jen

Fruitless?

9 Mar

I’m sitting here drinking my morning protein shake and one word comes to my mind: fruitless.

Yep, we’re all out of fruit in the house. No strawberries or bananas for my smoothie. It still tastes okay–a decent mix of peanut butter and chocolate protein powder–but it lacks the nutrients I need that I normally get  from the fruit I put in it.

This makes me think about my life.

Am I bearing fruit in my life or have I been fruitless? Am I adding to the kingdom? Am I using the gifts God has given me to do his work and bring him glory? Have I been more like Christ with each day?

Or am I sitting here, selfishly trying to be a perfectionist so that others look at me and think highly of me? Am I reading my bible every day just so that I can tell my youth group students that they need to read their bibles every day without being convicted myself?

On the outside, I think a person can very well look like they are doing great works for the kingdom. But it’s all about what’s in our hearts. It’s about a desire to have a biblical heart. To be humble, to surrender, to allow the Word of God to speak to our hearts so that we change, we grow and we become more like Christ.

More on fruit

The Word tells us very clearly what the fruits of the Holy Spirit are in Galations 5:22-23.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

When we allow the Holy Spirit to enter in, we are wholly surrendering ourselves to becoming more like Christ and bearing these qualities. But it takes work. Hard work. A lot of effort. It’s hard to have self-control, patience and kindness. But this is our calling.

Will you be challenged with me today to bear more fruit?

Jen

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