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Longing for eternity

6 Jul

You know, I’ve grown up in a Christian home and served God as long as I can remember. I’ve always believed in heaven and heard it described as “streets of gold” and the whole shebang.

But not until this year, my 21st year on this planet, have I known what it means to long for eternity. To no longer care for the desires of this world and to only want to sit at the feet of Jesus.

It hit me earlier this week as I sat in my car listening to KLOVE Radio on my lunch break at work. I was having a super tough day and decided that instead of going shopping on my lunch hour, I was going to just rest and allow myself to be encouraged by KLOVE. Then, “I Can Only Imagine” by MercyMe came on the radio. I have to admit that I’ve heard this song literally hundreds of times since it first came out many moons ago. But this time it was different. I just sat there and listened closely. And I started to cry.

Truthfully, this feeling–this longing for eternity and desperation for Jesus–often results from going through difficult times on this earth. But I think we’re blessed when we learn that longing and when we learn that this world is not our home. Something greater is ahead. It puts everything into perspective. And it teaches us perseverance as we “count it all joy” when we face trials. (You know I’m gonna reference James 1 every chance I get!)

I pray someone finds hope and comfort in this today…

Jen

When you feel your weakest…

3 Jul

…put on the armor.

It’s not a cheesy children’s church song. It’s the Word of God.

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.” (Ephesians 6:10-18)

Jen

Trials: Mercy from God

12 Jun

What if your blessings come through raindrops?

What if your healing comes through tears?

What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know you’re near?

What if trials of this life are your mercies in disguise?

(Blessings – Laura Story)

Had a revelation about this song today and how it has applied to my own life and experiences.

Ask yourself: Where has God allowed trials in your life and how have they been a blessing to you? Have you thanked him for the hard times that have molded you into the image of who you were called to be as a follower of Christ?

Jen

Wisdom from C.S. Lewis

5 Jun

Today I had a thought.

Just a tiny, little, insignificant thought.

But it wasn’t insignificant. And it started to expand from its tininess. For just a split second, it was pain-inflicting.

But I stopped. And as I began to preach God’s faithfulness to myself, I was reminded of this quote:

“There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.” – C.S. Lewis

If you’re struggling with the past, do you really believe this?

When it’s hard for you to believe, simply remember that God loves you. Preach it to yourself. And no matter what it is you’re leaving behind–an addiction, a relationship, a difficult time, a poor decision, a rough past–as long as you are walking in obedience to God, there will be far, far better things in store for your future. No, I do not mean that your life will be perfect. I mean that your walk with God will become more beautiful than it ever has been before…full of peace, joy, strength and wisdom. There is nothing so valuable as a relationship with God that is full of surrender and trust.

And, looking back, you won’t wish that things had turned out different. You won’t wish you could change the past. Why? Because you will value your grown relationship with God so much that you wouldn’t trade it for a single thing on the planet.

Are you having a hard time believing this today?

Take this advice and remember the quote from Mr. Lewis. I certainly am. Oh, and remember: He is holding you together (Colossians 1:17).

And…you’re not alone!

Jen

Beautiful plan, beautiful place

18 May

As bad as it was, as bad as it hurt
I thank God I didn’t get what I thought that I deserved

Carrie Underwood, “Good in Goodbye”

I am in a beautiful place.

It’s not a place that I ever imagined myself in. Actually, it’s kind of the opposite of what I thought I wanted. What I thought I deserved. What I thought would make me happy.

Happiness of this world will fade away. Joy in Christ remains.

God has given me pure joy in a season of trial. He has brought me from a place of destruction to a place of utter beauty. Because I delight in him and trust in him, and I want nothing to do with self.

And to be honest, if never getting my way means I stay in this beautiful place, then I say, “Yes, please.”

He has a beautiful plan. He is so faithful.

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

A victor, not a victim

10 May

Today I was talking with a dear friend about how, no matter what we’re going through, we are not to view ourselves as victims. She said to me something along the lines of, “We are not victims. We are victors because of Christ. It is about him, not about our suffering.”

Yes!

And, after our conversation, I began to wonder and almost worry: Have I conveyed that completely in each blog I post about difficult times and the things I’m going through?

Just incase…let me be clear:

I am not a victim. I am a VICTOR. And only through Christ and what he did for me on the Cross.

Life’s gonna knock me down.
It’s not gonna keep me down.
I’m gonna trust You now, in every season.
I know You’re here.
I know You’re for me.
I know that joy comes in the morning.
God, I believe it now.
God, I believe You now.

{Britt Nicole – Who You Say You Are}

Jen

It’s ALL a PURE joy

8 May

Have I ever mentioned that I love the book of James? Well, I do.

In fact, a few of my favorite verses, which I’ve mentioned in several previous posts, are ones that are quoted often:

Count it all joy, my brothers, when 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. James 1:2-4 (ESV)

Even though I typically read and study from the ESV, I LOVE the way NIV tells us in verse 2 to “consider it PURE joy.”

Wait. Trials are “pure joys”? Really? You’re probably thinking, “Isn’t that a bit extreme?”

To me, “count it ALL joy,” means counting every single one of your trials–ALL of them–as joys. And “considering it pure joy” means your trials are totally, completely, unequivocally a JOY to face. Each trial is a joy, and each joy isn’t just some silly little sprinkling of joy…it’s an unmistakable heaping of PURE joy.

Do I sound crazy yet? I’m not, I swear…

Sometimes when we face hardships, we fail to understand why. We think we don’t deserve it. We think we’re pretty good people and that we should have an easy life because we’re Christians and we love God. So why do trials come?

James makes it clear. God allows our faith to be tested so that it may become stronger. And, after we’ve remained steadfast under our trials (aka: when we never lose faith in God despite the hard stuff), we’ll receive the “crown of life.” We’ll make it to heaven, where there will be no more trials. (See my previous post for more on that.) Don’t you think that reward is worth the pain?!

Try considering it it ALL a PURE joy today, no matter what you’re facing. Mandisa does a great job of putting tough times into perspective in her song “Stronger”:

When the waves are taking you under, hold on just a little bit longer, He knows that this is gonna make you stronger.

Jen

Your love makes it worth it

5 May

Earlier this week, I found myself just having a really bad day.

You know, one of those days that starts off really great and good things happen, but then all of a sudden something happens that knocks the wind right out of you. One minute you feel strong and tall, and the next minute you’re on the floor, feeling hopeless.

I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced a tough day of the magnitude I just described, but I do want to share with you how I got through it. It made a world of difference to my perspective and my pain, and I hope it encourages someone out there.

Since I began memorizing the book of James a couple of weeks ago, I have begun to use it to fight negative thoughts. If you’re anything like me (LOL, actually, if you’re human), you’ve experienced some difficult things in your lifetime. Your life hasn’t been perfect. You’ve been hurt and you’ve even felt heartache. In times when I feel down because of things that have happened to me, I force myself to start quoting James, even if all I’ve got memorized is a few verses. And let me tell you, it has begun to transform me and bring me through some super tough days. It’s sort of like having encouraging scripture verses on index cards, but much more effective because you are literally preaching to yourself. And, in addition, you can encourage yourself anywhere, anytime (even while driving), without needing to locate your 3×5 cards!

So, on this “bad day,” I had already memorized exactly 12 verses of Chapter 1. I began to quote them aloud, and when I got to the very last verse, verse 12, my tears began to fall even more quickly. But they had gone from being bad tears to being good ones. You’ll see why.

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. James 1:12

Here’s how I see it: No matter what I face in this lifetime, I must remember that my earthly life is temporary. While it is sometimes filled with pain and heartache, I must remember that if I keep my faith in God and believe that he died to save me from eternal damnation, I’ll get to heaven one day. And when I’m there, as Revelation 21:4 says, there will be no more tears. No more pain.

That’s a future worth dealing with the temporary pain, don’t you think? There’s a worship song by Kim Walker (“I Surrender”) that says, “Your love makes it worth it, your love makes it worth it all.”

Amen to that.

On days when you feel that you can’t go on anymore, remember that HIS love and the “crown of life” make all of our earthly pains worth pressing through. He’ll give you the strength to do it if you ask him and if you surrender. I promise.

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