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A godly father is…

5 Jul

One who is loving.

One who is kind.

One who is wise.

One who is selfless.

One who is faithful.

One who is patient.

One who never stops working.

One who is Christlike.

One who is teachable.

One who teaches.

One who serves as a future-husband model.

One who, “[Does] not provoke [his] children to anger, but bring[s] them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4)

And, if you’re me….he’s one who is awfully funny.

That’s a godly father. That’s my father.

Dad (looking at my new wedge sandals): “Do you know why nude shoes are so popular? Kate Middleton. Just read it in a Comcast headline.”

Uh-huh.

Jen

“I hate being single” = “I don’t trust God”

4 Jul

It’s honesty hour.

Sometimes our culture just grieves me.

It’s relationship-focused and sex-driven. It’s disgusting. (I obviously don’t feel like sugarcoating today.)

What really bothers me is that I have seen and heard about so many people in my generation who absolutely abhor singleness (and even abstinence), as if it’s some sort of disease, disorder or curse.

But let’s just stop for a moment. Have you ever realized that singleness can be a blessing from God? If you’re single and reading this right now, are you willing to let God work in you, refine you and make you into the person you’re called to be (which, ya know, could be someone’s future spouse)? ‘Cause singleness is a great time for letting God move in your life and grow you spiritually. But you have to stop holding onto the mindset that our world thrusts upon us, which sounds a little bit like this: “I only have value if I am loved by someone else.” It’s a lie. The truth is, you are loved by God. That alone gives you value.

So honestly? I think singleness can be a gift. An absolute blessing, if we can simply trust God enough to let go. Long story short, to me, “I hate being single” is equal to the statement, “I don’t trust that God has very personally written my love story before I was ever born.” After all, God wrote each one of our days before one of them ever came to be (Psalm 139), so if your story includes marriage…well, God’s gonna handle that. Stop worrying.

And truthfully, if you’re running after every attractive person that crosses your path in an effort to cure yourself of loneliness, it may be true that you’re only looking to satisfy your own desires, which isn’t a great recipe for success when it comes to relationships. Nope. The Word tells us that love is selfless:

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

So I encourage you to start learning selfless love now. Start with loving your neighbor as yourself.

And one more thing.

Single does not equal unhappy. In fact, there can be a whole lot of joy in it when our focus is on Christ. And hey, it’s okay to get on your knees and pray for a future spouse. And wait patiently for them, if indeed that’s what the Lord has in store for you. In fact, I encourage it!

Be blessed today, especially all you single ladies (and gents).

Jen

Ladies, hold out for a man who makes this his prayer

9 Jun

I look around and see my wonderful life
Almost perfect from the outside
In picture frames, I see my beautiful wife
Always smiling, but on the inside

Oh, I can hear her saying

Lead me with strong hands
Stand up when I can’t
Don’t leave me hungry for love
Chasing dreams, but what about us?

Show me you’re willing to fight
That I’m still the love of your life
I know we call this our home
But I still feel alone

I see their faces, look in their innocent eyes
They’re just children from the outside
I’m working hard, I tell myself they’ll be fine
They’re independent, but on the inside

Oh, I can hear them saying

Lead me with strong hands
Stand up when I can’t
Don’t leave me hungry for love
Chasing dreams, what about us?

Show me you’re willing to fight
That I’m still the love of your life
I know we call this our home
But I still feel alone

So Father, give me the strength
To be everything I’m called to be

Oh Father, show me the way
To lead them

Won’t You lead me?

To lead them with strong hands
To stand up when they can’t
Don’t want to leave them hungry for love
Chasing things that I could give up

I’ll show them I’m willing to fight
And give them the best of my life
So we can call this our home
Lead me ’cause I can’t do this alone

Father, lead me ’cause I can’t do this alone

(Lead Me – Sanctus Real)

Faith that saves embraces and acts

29 May

But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works. James 2:18-22

—–

In Sunday school growing up, I heard many conversations between student and teacher that went a little bit like this:

T: “Who can tell me what it means to be saved?”
S: “Believing in God.”
T: “Yes, but believing in God is not enough. Even the devil believes there is a God. We have to repent of our sins, accept Jesus into our hearts and strive to become more like him. That’s what separates us.”

In other words, we can’t just believe IN God to be saved….we have to actually believe him. That means we take him at his word. We believe that what Christ did on the Cross is real and true. And we repent of our sins and work hard to be doers of the word (James 1:22) and become more Christlike, which is our calling (Romans 8:28-29a).

This is confirmed in the commentary on James 2:19 provided by Crossway’s ESV Study Bible:

The affirmation of monotheism stems from the core Jewish creed called Shema. But James stresses its inadequacy, since even the demons believe this, and they shudder. Mere mental assent to the Christian faith does not save anyone. The faith that saves, as both Paul and James affirm, embraces the truth of the gospel and acts accordingly.

So, what is the result of faith that actually believes God? Faithful obedience. But it requires action. How do I know that? Well, let me make a list from Hebrews 11…

  • By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain…
  • By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark…
  • By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age…
  • By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac…
  • By faith Isaac invoked future blessings on Jacob and Esau…

By faith, they all obeyed. They acted. They trusted. Their faith was ever-so-clearly completed by their works (James 1:22).

Is that not inspiring? I’m feeling challenged to evaluate areas of my life where I’m simply believing in God and not truly believing him. I hope you are, too! Let me leave you with one of my favorite parts of James that helps us remember to do more than just believe IN:

But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. James 1:22-25

Jen


Whatever is TRUE

12 May

Have you ever had a bad dream? One that wakes you up in the middle of the night and disrupts your peace? Maybe it was a nightmare, or maybe it was something from your past that creeped into your dream world and awoke you abruptly after it finished.

When I have dreams such as these, I find it difficult to start the day off on the right foot. Often I find myself trying to figure out why I had the dream. Did it result from a thought or worry I had the previous day? Was it because of something I overheard that my subconscious picked up? Long story short, I begin to evaluate the dream and my mind can wander off into a somewhat depressing place.

And I can’t stand it. Thankfully, I have learned that when a bad dream leaves me feeling down, I must remember that it shouldn’t control or direct my thought life for the rest of the day. It should have no power over me.

Why is that?

It’s because Philippians 4:8 tells us to think about things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent and worthy of praise. A bad dream does not fall under any of those categories. In fact, it’s the opposite of “true.” Dreams are not real. I encourage you not to spend your entire day dwelling on something that is not a part of reality. Instead, remember what is real: God is good, Jesus died for my sins, He rescued me, He is with me and He loves me. Those are all things that are true. And honorable, pure, lovely, commendable, etc…

I just have to leave you with a cool little story. Last week, I woke up in the morning from a rough dream. Shortly after I awoke, I read the following tweet by Christian recording artist Dara MacLean:

“Had a dream about the past & realized its because the enemy is scared of my future. Today u have everything u need through him 2 succeed.”

Girl knows what she is talkin’ about. And God knew I needed that! I instantly began to see my dream as an opportunity to trust God instead of a reason to doubt myself and my situation in life. I’m not going to let the enemy become a stumbling block to my growth and maturity in Christ. Are you?

Jen

I hope you’re not tired of James yet, friends…

9 May

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. James 1:22-25

____

A few months ago, I remember Beth Moore making a comment in one of the video sessions for James: Mercy Triumphs that really stuck with me. I’m not quoting her word-for-word (I should have written it down!), but she said something along the lines of, “Some women have told me they have taken several of my studies more than once, and are still encountering the same issues in their lives. I think many times this is because we have to not just hear the word. We have to act on it.”

I don’t think Beth could be any more accurate about that! As you read at the beginning of this blog, we can’t just hear the word and then walk away, forgetting it. As Romans 15:4 says, “Whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the scriptures, we might have hope.”

Did you catch that first part? It was written for our instruction. Notice how it doesn’t say that it was written for our entertainment. To instruct implies that we are being directed, taught, trained and ordered to act. When we’re told to love our neighbor, to honor our mother and father, to forgive our brother seven times 70 times…those aren’t little suggestions or neat ideas. Those, in fact, are instructions.

But, of course, I think we can easily forget that. (I’m guilty!) There have been innumerable times in my life where I’ve read a portion of scripture and said, “WOW, that’s good! I needed that!” But then, as James says, I walk away and so easily forget it, as though I were looking into a mirror one moment and forgetting what I looked like as soon as I walked away.

If you’re struggling to do the word and not just hear it, I’d encourage you to pray about it. Then, get out some notecards and write down scriptures that apply to whatever you are facing in life. If you’re dealing with unforgiveness, write Matthew 18:21-22 down and preach it to yourself until you start living it! I have found that this, along with memorizing the scriptures I write out, is the best way to force myself to live the word. If something is imprinted on my brain via memorization, I think it’s much easier to remind myself in the moment what I’m supposed to do.

Give it a try today. It could be life-changing!

Jen

Concerning bitterness

1 May

Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled. Hebrews 12:14-15

When we’ve been wronged, when we’re the innocent ones, when life all around us seems to be attacking us, it’s easy to feel like a victim. And, it’s really easy to become bitter and unforgiving toward those who have hurt us.

Truth be told, it’s hard to forgive sometimes. It’s especially hard to forgive someone who hasn’t even apologized to us. Even more so, it’s hard to not speak of them in bitterness and anger.

But we MUST fight.

Matthew 18:21-22 tells us that we must forgive others over and over and over again. And, it doesn’t just mean we have to forgive them each time they wrong us, although that is important. But sometimes it means we have to forgive them over and over and over for one sin against us that keeps surfacing in our minds, causing us pain each time we recall it because, well, maybe they didn’t say sorry. Or maybe they did, but we’re still hurting.

I truly believe that if we stay in a bitter and unforgiving place, God can’t work in our lives. He may not change our hearts if we become consumed with self-pity and don’t ask him for help. I have found, in these times, that when we feel bitter, we should ask God for compassion and then pray for the ones who hurt us. Through this, we will learn that compassion! After all, we are all sinners. Not one of us is perfect. And the Word says we have to forgive. So forgive, and love, and pray. It’s hard. But it’s freeing.

In the Hebrews verse I shared at the start of this post, we’re told to “strive for peace with everyone.” If you’ve ever been wronged by someone, you might be thinking something like, “Well, I tried. But they wronged me. It’s not MY fault.”

But it is still our place to “strive for peace”! The bible wasn’t written so that we could point the finger and say, “YOU shouldn’t have done THAT.” Nope, it’s for all of us to learn from. So, to strive for peace when we’ve been wronged might look like this: Not speaking in bitterness. Not only because bitterness drives us to that awful place of self-pity, but also because it may cause others around us to “become defiled” when we speak it.

The ESV Study Bible provides a great commentary on these verses in Hebrews. Check it out:

As they pursue peace and holiness, Christians should watch out for each other in order that no one falls short of the gift of eternal salvation. The author warns against “bitterness” by alluding to Deuteronomy 29:18, which describes one who turns away from God and pursues other gods. A bitter and resentful person is like a contagious poison, spreading his resentment to others.

That last sentence is my favorite. Man, I never want to become a bitter and “contagious poison,” do YOU?! This reminds me of James 3:8, where we are told the tongue is a “restless evil, full of deadly poison.” Um, yikes… This is even more of a reason to stay away from speaking bitterness!

If you can relate to this post today, remember these nine words: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, Self-Control (Galatians 5:22-23). Bitterness is a complete antonym to any of the fruits of the spirit, don’t you think? In such a time when we’re tempted to speak bitterly (or sing bitterly, if you remember my post about Adele’s music), we must exercise that last one (self-control) in order to not cause others around us to fall.

If you’re facing difficulty in your life right now because of the way that someone hurt you, I pray that you would find healing in Jesus, and that you would learn to forgive your brother–seven times 70 times–and that you would not become bitter or spread bitterness.

Instead, choose to live in love, joy, peace, patience, etc. Sounds a lot less miserable too, doesn’t it?

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

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