Archive | April, 2012

The Word is good and perfect

30 Apr

Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures. James 1:16-18 (ESV)

Also, note how The Message words verse 18:

He brought us to life using the true Word, showing us off as the crown of all his creatures.

He brought you to life. He brought me to life…with the Word. It is a good and perfect gift. Are you receiving it with the same fervency you would receive a brand new car or iPad as gifts?

Jen

James 1:1-11 (from memory)

29 Apr

James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes in the dispersion: Greetings.

Count it all joy, my brothers, whenever you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. That person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; He is double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich boast in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass, he will pass away. For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.

I know 11 verses isn’t much, but I just had to share what I already have accomplished in hopes that it will encourage someone today. I just love this portion of James!

Jen

Sharing some Kari, day two…

28 Apr

When my hope is gone,

When the fear is strong,

When the pain is real,

When it’s hard to heal,

When my faith is shaken and my heart is broken and my joy is stolen,

God I know that you lift me up. You never leave me thirsty.

My only commentary…is “yes.”

{Find You On My Knees – Kari Jobe}

Jen

Sharing a little bit of Kari…

27 Apr

Jesus, in YOUR suffering, you are reaching,

You thought of me.

What love is this that you gave your life for me,

And made a way for me to know you?

I confess, you are always enough for me.

You’re all I need.

Do not worry about tomorrow. Don’t worry about your bills. Don’t worry about your future. Don’t worry about getting married someday. Don’t tell yourself, “If I only had ____, I would be happy.” Jesus is enough. He is all we need. If he takes care of the sparrows, he will take care of us…

{Lyrics: From Kari Jobe’s “What Love is This.”}

Jen

Rolling in the deep or lifting HIM on high?

26 Apr

Music (n): A mixture of voices and instruments that worships something and has the ability to make or break you.

Don’t be mistaken. That’s not Webster’s dictionary definition of the word “music.” It’s actually my own personal definition. It’s nothing fancy, but it summarizes the point I want to make today. It’s been a learning experience for me, actually.

Right vs. Wrong?

In my 21 years of life on this planet, I will be honest and tell you that I’ve met Christians who stand on complete opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to secular music. Some believe that all of it should be avoided, some say that secular music is okay as long as it’s clean, and some truly think any secular music is okay, regardless of content.

So, what is okay and what isn’t? Where can the line be drawn? Is it wrong for me to listen to Michael Buble? (If it IS wrong, I’m not so sure I want to be right…LOL.)

But seriously, these are questions I’ve often asked myself. It can be hard to determine where to draw the line in our present culture.

Truthfully, I’m not here to tell you what you should and shouldn’t listen to, but…

Here is what I’ve found, and it has helped me in my decision making: “Garbage in, garbage out” couldn’t be any truer. If music makes you angry or depressed, if it causes you to sin, if it encourages you to disrespect your family, if it pushes you to hang with the wrong crowd….well, I’d suggest you throw it out.

But what if the music you listen to isn’t actually “bad”? What if it’s just sad?

My Adele Experience

Let’s face it: We’ve all heard of Adele. Virtually all of us can recognize her songs by her incredible voice and the sad, bitter lyrics. I’ve never actually intentionally listened to Adele, but I can recognize her music because of its popularity and presence on American Idol. In fact, over the past six months, I have felt as though I hear her music everywhere. It pretty much follows me. And it really hadn’t bothered me too much, until I listened to it closely.

The other day I was washing dishes and listening to a station on Pandora Radio, and one of Adele’s songs came on. Although my natural inclination would have been to skip the song (sorry, Adele fans), my hands were all messy and soapy, so I had to let “Rolling in the Deep” play.

For the first time, I actually listened to every word of the song (I was kind of forced to). Can I be totally honest? This song tried to steal my joy.

I’ve found that whether we can relate to the lyrics of a sad song or not, I truly believe music can affect us. And even if we can relate to it–in this case, even if we’ve had our hearts broken–do we honestly think listening to Adele will help us? Sure, whoever broke Adele’s heart made her a millionaire, but listening to her music isn’t going to make you and me rich or famous, let alone happy.

Can I just say: No thank you!

As some of you know, 2012 has been a challenging year for me. But at the very same time, it has been an incredible season of growth and opportunities. I am thankful for it!

Why is that?

I’ve learned from the book of James (1:2-4, in particular) that trials are allowed in our lives by God so that he can perfect and strengthen our faith. He uses them to make us more like Christ, if we are willing to surrender. Without the struggles and suffering this winter/spring have brought me, I would be nowhere near where I am in my walk with Christ. My journey is just beginning, and God has already been faithful to me through it.

Truth be told, I don’t know where I would be without Jesus right now. If I had turned to Adele-esque music earlier this year, I could very well be caught up in self-pity and consumed with my less-than-desirable circumstances. I could have chosen to become unforgiving of my enemies and allowed them to become lord over me. Instead, I ran with all my might toward the Cross and the grace, forgiveness and peace that result from Christ’s crucifixion. I proactively chose to fill my heart and ears with the music of Kari Jobe and Britt Nicole–that is, positive and encouraging music that thanks God for trials and for his faithfulness and goodness through them.

If you’re struggling today (actually, even if you’re not!), I encourage you to take a close look at the music you are listening to. Honestly, all music worships something or someone. Ask yourself what your music is worshipping (drugs, sex, alcohol, materialism, money, relationships…or God?) and how it’s affecting you. Ask God to show you ways you can honor and glorify him, even with your iTunes Library.

Whether you realize it or not, the music you listen to will affect you. I disagree that you can just “enjoy the beat” and ignore the words. What are you feeding your heart, mind and spirit? Does it sincerely please God? And does it help you grow as a follower of Christ, or does it hold you back?

Just some things to think about…

Jen

Meet Bear

20 Apr

While skimming through my past blog posts, I realized that I don’t share too much about my personal life: my friends, my family, my job, etc. Perhaps that’s because I don’t want this blog to be about Jen. I want it to be about what GOD is doing in my life, and I want to encourage others along the way.

But what this post will accomplish is two-fold: you’ll get to know me a little better AND I hope you will be encouraged as a result.

So, without further ado…

Meet Bear

Image

If you noticed the masculine name AND the pink on the collar, do not be alarmed. This is indeed a female dog. With the wild personality of a Bear.

Bear is a 50 percent maltese and 50 percent pomeranian. She is loud. She is slightly undisciplined. She’s an ankle-biter. She’s spoiled. She has allergies. She’s slightly overweight. She loves to go for a walk, but if you tell her you’re taking her for one beforehand, she’ll run and hide. She hates her harness. She despises all of the cute, pink, adorable clothing and Halloween costumes I’ve purchased for her. Her least favorite clothing item is her red Christmas pajamas. She barks at the television whenever a dog or horse appears and makes noise. Sigh. She’s a rebel.

But do you want to know what else she is?

She’s a lover. If I’d let her, she’d lick all of my tears dry. She loves to cuddle. She constantly pants/smiles. She brings me her toys and bones to greet me. She “lets” me rub her tummy several times per day. She knows how to comfort me. She makes me LAUGH.

She is a blessing.

Yes, I know, she’s only a dog. She’s not eternal. She won’t live forever. But she came into my life at a perfect time. I’m so glad that we made her a part of our family in 2009. She has been around for three years of serious growth in my life and a time of being thrust into adulthood. A time when I would need my puppy.

She is a beautiful example of faithfulness that mirrors (even just a little) God’s faithfulness. No, I don’t mean to liken the Lord to a dog, but she never leaves my side. And she loves me, even when I mess up.

She is a gift from God that he brought into my life to bring me joy, however silly that may seem to any of you who aren’t pet owners.

She isn’t my only comfort, but she sure can turn a bad day into a good one. I thank God for her every day. I also thank God for HIS faithfulness every day.

Can anyone else relate?

Jen

The sun is rising: Inspiration from Britt

18 Apr

From time to time, if you read my blog, you’ll notice that I’ll occasionally share song lyrics or links to songs on YouTube. This is because music has been a major part of my journey these past few months, and God has used some incredible artists with inspiring stories to speak into my life, even though I don’t know these singers.

In a recent tweet, Britt Nicole (my current fave!) mentioned that her most recent album, Gold, was a project she just poured her heart into. And you can tell by every lyric.

Simply stated, I am just loving Gold. It’s fun, but it also has a great message. Today, I simply wanted to share some song lyrics from one of my favorite songs on the album. I hope this reaches somebody today. Remember, God might have a different plan for you than what you thought. You’re gonna make it.

When life has cut too deep and left you hurting
The future you had hoped for is now burning
And the dreams you held so tight lost their meaning
And you don’t if you’ll ever find the healing

You’re gonna make it
You’re gonna make it
And the night can only last for so long

Whatever you’re facing
If your heart is breaking
There’s a promise for the ones who just hold on
Lift up your eyes and see
The sun is rising

The sun is rising

Every high and every low you’re gonna go through
You don’t have to be afraid I am with you
In the moments you’re so weak you feel like stopping
Let the hope you have light the road you’re walking

You’re gonna make it
You’re gonna make it
The night can only last for so long

Whatever you’re facing
If your heart is breaking
There’s a promise for the ones who just hold on
Lift up your eyes and see
The sun is rising

Even when you can’t imagine how
How you’re ever gonna find your way out
Even when you’re drowning in your doubt
Just look beyond the clouds

Just look beyond the clouds

Whatever you’re facing
If your heart is breaking
There’s a promise for the ones who just hold on
Lift up your eyes and see
The sun is rising

The sun is rising

Even when you can’t imagine how
How you’re ever gonna find your way out
Even when you’re drowning in your doubt
Just look beyond the clouds

Jen

Aside

Purity: it also involves your heart

17 Apr

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me. Psalm 51:10

If you haven’t noticed, I’ve been blogging a lot about purity. You might be wondering why I’m focusing on this topic.

You see, I’ve had this book sitting on my shelf for quite a few years. It’s called When God Writes Your Love Story by Eric & Leslie Ludy. When I was a young girl, probably about 13 years old, I read Leslie’s book Authentic Beauty. It was a gift from my mom, and I loved it. But she also gave me When God Writes Your Love Story, and for some reason, I never got around to reading it. So instead of continuing to let it collect dust, I picked it up about two weeks ago and have been absolutely loving it ever since.

If you’re over 18, I know what you’re thinking. “I’m too old for this stuff. I already know about purity. Why would I read some childish book about it?”

Well….you’re wrong! If anything, this book is having more of an impact on me at 21 than it ever would have at 13! It’s never too late to learn what scriptures say on the topic. It’s never too late to let God have the pen of your love story.

So anyway, while reading, I pretty much just gave up trying to highlight and sticky-note the book because every inch of all the pages would be covered. (What’s the point of bookmarking or highlighting a whole book? In the end, if everything is neon colors and covered in sticky notes, nothing will stand out anymore. Lol.)

I’ll probably end up blogging about this topic, including the book, many many times. So don’t be surprised. And today I want to write to encourage you, even if you think you know everything there is to know  about purity, to bear with me and learn with me. Here’s today’s topic…

It’s not just about the physical

Often times, I think we place an invisible “physical” before the word “purity” when we’re talking about this stuff. But it’s so much more than that. (Although I am NOT downplaying the seriousness of physical impurity. Check out 1 Corinthians 6:18 if you don’t know what I’m talking about.)

In fact, another form of purity we should strive for is purity of the heart. Check out this quote from Eric & Leslie’s book. This is from a chapter written by Leslie:

In my dating relationships, I damaged my precious pearl of purity. I felt dirty and used because of it. But the damage didn’t just happen when I “went a little too far” physically. Giving away this treasure started the moment I gave away my heart and emotions to men who were never meant to receive that gift. I had been careless with my treasure. I had allowed my heart to become battered and broken.

I used to think that the unbearable devastation of “breaking up” with a boyfriend was just a natural part of the dating process. But there was nothing natural about it! It was a pain God never meant for me to experience. The valuable and delicate pearl of my purity had been ripped too soon from its protective shell, then tossed back, damaged and bruised.

What a way to look at purity! Maybe you’re reading this today and yes, you are physically pure, but you’ve been emotionally damaged in past relationships. Long story short, your heart has been ripped out of your chest. Maybe even multiple times.

Or maybe you’ve lost your purity both physically and emotionally. Or maybe you’re a guy, and you’re thinking, “this blog is for girls only.” Well, no, it’s not. It’s for you too, gentlemen, even though you’re not as emotional as we girls are. Think about it this way: do you think your future wife would want to know how many times you’ve given a girl your heart, aka, told her that you loved her? (The correct answer here is “no.” :))

No matter who you are, how old you are, what gender you are or how much of your “precious pearl” you have left, there is still hope for you. In Jesus. By the grace of God and through repentance, you can restore your pearl back to its original, natural beauty. Then I’d encourage you, if you desire to be married one day, to start praying for your future spouse and asking God to show you ways that you can honor that person (i.e. not prematurely giving yourself away, physically or emotionally) right here, right now, even if you haven’t met them yet. (Who else just starting singing Michael Buble in their head? Okay, nevermind…)

The story doesn’t end here. I want to share with you much more about what I’m learning concerning purity. But this entry is getting long, so I guess we’ll have to just wait…

Thanks for reading.

Jen

Don’t conform, and don’t be conformed

11 Apr

The seriousness of the topic of purity makes my heart ache for people out there who don’t know any better. Who haven’t been taught any better. Or, who have conformed to the world and told themselves, “it’s okay.”

A few weeks ago I posted about purity and about how it is possible. I wanted to share my view about how we shouldn’t use the word “unrealistic” in place of “difficult.” They have two completely different meanings. The way I see it, if the Word calls us to it, we can do it.

Last Thursday during the women’s bible study at my church, we watched session six of Beth Moore’s study on James. I forget what scripture verse we were on, or what fill-in-the-blank we were on, but  I remember her asking us something a little like this: “Do you not take scripture seriously?” It was a reality check for sure.

This makes me think of my generation and the culture around me. I do not claim to be perfect and am no judge of others. No Christian is perfect, myself included. But I’ve watched culture collide with Christianity and the solution to the equation is often a mixture of twisted-up, distorted views on things that are not a matter of opinion. 

You see, I try my best to understand the Word, and I don’t know everything about it. Every day is a journey and a hunger for more. If I’m unsure of something’s meaning, I do my research or ask an older, wiser believer for help.

And then there are times when I read verses like Romans 12:1-2, and I can’t help but think to myself, “This is so clear. This is not up for debate. This is what I’m called to do. I should take this seriously.”

Here’s that portion of scripture I mentioned, in ESV:

 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:1-2

I truly believe this scripture is our weapon against the battle of a transforming, ever-changing culture. Although the moral standards of the world continue to decay with each passing day, Romans 12 tells me that I must not be conformed to this world. That means not yesterday, not today, not tomorrow, and not when I’m 54 years old. Not ever.

Crossway’s ESV Study Bible’s commentary on Romans 12:1-2 includes the following:

The present evil age still threatens those who belong to Christ, so they must resist its pressure. Their lives are changed as their minds are made new, so that they are able to “discern” God’s will. “By testing you may discern” translates to Greek “dokimazo,” which often has the sense of finding out the worth of something by putting it to use or testing it in actual practice.

Let me encourage you today: don’t conform to the world (the NIV translation phrases it as an offensive, don’t-conform-on-purpose action) and do not be conformed (the ESV, NASB and KJV translations phrase it as a defensive, don’t-let-anyone-conform-you action).

It will be hard and we will be tested, but that’s how we’ll find the worth of leaving everything behind that is worldly and following Christ. Whether you’re struggling today with staying pure, fighting an addiction, or loving your neighbor, may you not be conformed to the pattern of our world. May you put off your old self and put on righteousness (Ephesians 4:21-24). It is worth it!

Jen

God knows better than I do

10 Apr

Do you ever feel like your prayers go unanswered? Have you ever thought that maybe God has something else for you other than what you’ve been asking for? Something that will answer your prayers, but not the way you want him to? Perhaps that’s because he’s got even better plans for your life than what you could imagine.

I’ve experienced this multiple times within the last few years, and even within the last few weeks. In one instance, I’d prayed for so long that God would make something happen in my life that I thought would be simply perfect.

Turns out, it wouldn’t have been so perfect. He answered my prayer loud and clear, saying, “No.” But then I continued to listen. And he began to reveal to me that he had something else…something better, and something that would bring him glory. But it requires trust. Why? Because I have no idea what his plans are for my future, yet I must know that they will be for my good because that’s what his Word says (how many times can a girl reference Romans 8:28-29a before it becomes redundant? I’m thinking about three billion sounds good).

So anyway, here’s another example of how this has happened very recently: I’ve been out of full-time work since November 2011. For the first month, I was perfectly okay with that because I needed to focus on finishing up my last semester of college. But then I graduated, and four more months passed. Still no job. I was applying, I was praying, I was asking around…and yet, nothing. I wanted to be the girl who graduated and starting working full time right away. I wanted things to go smoothly and perfect.

But God knew what he was doing. He knew I was going to be facing a trial after the new year, and that I would need the first three months of this year to focus on my spiritual life and my relationship with him…without any distractions.

But my favorite part was this: he didn’t leave me penniless in the meantime. In fact, he provided all kinds of side work, freelance jobs and babysitting that has carried me through, paid my bills and even allowed me to set aside $800 so far for a new laptop (since I murdered my old MacBook with a glass of water. Dino, may you rest in peace). This time of working from home, babysitting a little and being frugal with spending has taught me complete dependence on God–a dependence I had not yet known.

It’s been beautiful. Even though I could look at this situation and say, “I’ve been praying for a job for almost six months, why is this happening, God?!” I know that he knew better!

So…in sharing all of this, I must also share that yesterday I got a phone call. I got a job. It’s only part time, but it’s my first step toward working full time again and it’s in my field! And I’ve got another interview on Thursday for a potential second job for the summer. He knows what he’s doing! He knows I’m ready and he will equip me as I dive back into “the real world.”

So let me ask you, are you struggling with trusting God today? Are you experiencing a time of unanswered prayers? Let me encourage you to continue to present your need to God, but then do your best to listen. Ask him to give you strength to follow his will and trust him no matter what the answer is to your prayers!

Jen