There is Promise in Pain (Week One)

Week one study overview: Today, we will discuss the uncertainty surrounding what we know about Job, and then jump into chapter 1.

Key Point of Struggle: How can a just God allow such unjust circumstances?

Key Proof of Comfort: Romans: 8:18

Have you ever felt like Job? After my stepfather died, suddenly at the age of fifty-eight, I remember having a day where the anxiety from grief was so tortuous I thought I might jump out of my skin. I laced up my tennis shoes, walked out my front door, and took off running. I’m not a runner, so you can only imagine the burn in my lungs mixed with persistent urges to vomit along the way. Grief attached to my soul like super glue and was relentless in the fight of letting go.  I felt a little like Job that day.

Believe it or not, there is a benefit to experiencing grief. It has potential to drive us straight into the arms of Jesus. Through my own experience with grief, I’ve learned that God is for me. As a result, nothing else has a chance against me. I make my residence on victorious ground. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a battle taking place, but it does mean the cross already declared victory. Nothing has the power to steal it from me. And nothing has the power to steal it from you, either.

Job’s struggles were very different from ours. As much as I’ve felt like him at times, and I’m sure you have, too, there is no comparison. Jesus has always existed, but in Job’s time period in history, our Savior hadn’t yet come wearing flesh into the world. The resurrection and ascension hadn’t happened yet. Our Father God is a good Father, a merciful and loving God, so I have no doubt Job knew what it was to be in relationship with his Father. We see that in the text. However, I also know hope doesn’t hold the same definition when the cross is absent. Because of this, Job had it much, much tougher than us.

From the get-go, there’s a whole lot of uncertainty swirling around this man named Job. There is no genealogy at the beginning of his book and the brief mentions found in Genesis, 1 Chronicles, and even James do not give us much insight as to the stock from which he came.  Scholars argue over the true meaning of his name, and there is no conclusive evidence as to where his homeland of Uz was located. In addition to all that, we have no real, sufficient answers as to who wrote the book bearing his name. Job is a bit of a mystery.

Spiritual knowledge tells us the Holy Spirit inspired someone, and that someone wrote a story full of lessons that would teach generation-after-generation to have mighty faith in a God who holds everything together. Job lived through trauma like none other only to come out whole on the other side.

It appears to me that the author, whoever he was, grappled with the idea of a just God allowing unjust circumstances. He couldn’t understand how a man, who was faithful to make atonement not only for his sin, but the sin of his ten children, would have to endure such hardship. And, friend, don’t we all wrestle through seasons with that very same question in mind? Sometimes it seems as if God just stands there and watches us suffer. We beg for intervention only to receive the loudest silence we’ve ever heard. In the weeks ahead we will learn all about suffering, silence, friendship, faith, trust, and hope. We will examine the words God spoke to Job, and hopefully, through His word, we will hear Him speak to us.

Let’s get started.

In the beginning of chapter one, we learn Job was an upright man. The text actually says he was blameless, feared God, and shunned evil. The writer goes on to tell us he had ten children and a very large household including much wealth. But then something peculiar happens in the story; it shifts to the throne of God and those who were present there.

The Bible says the “sons of God”, who were angelic beings, were gathered. The interesting part is that among those godly beings, evil lurked. Satan stood in the midst.

We are going to investigate this section of scripture and when we do you’ll see that God asks Satan a question. This is intriguing to me, because God knows all things, which means He already knows the answers before He asks the questions, but He still asks. And that particular characteristic of God doesn’t just show up in the book of Job, we see it all through the Bible. Let’s take a closer look at this conversation.

Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. And the Lord said to Satan, “From where do you come?”

So Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it.”

Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?”

So Satan answered the Lord and said, “Does Job fear God for nothing? 10 Have You not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11 But now, stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!”

12 And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on his person.”

So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.

-Job 1:6-12

It’s almost as if Satan is taunting God, and God responds with certainty knowing that above all else Job will be faithful. God was proud of the humble and upright man Job was.

This is very difficult to understand because if the Bible says God is for us, then why would He allow a righteous Job to endure such suffering? I don’t have all the answers, but I can tell you this: “My Servant” is a title of honor. I believe God wanted the opportunity to brag on Job’s character, letting the enemy know that not everyone falls for his schemes. James the half-brother of Jesus has this to say:

12 Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.

-James 1:12

The truth is we live in a sin-soaked world, and because of Adam and Eve’s first bites in the garden we will endure affliction. Not because we did anything wrong, but because evil lurks. Whether we realize it or not, we are at war with that same evil every day. The big difference between Job’s life and our lives is that our hope comes from a place of grace. The shed blood of our Savior flows down in the form of grace giving new life and hope to grief-filled places.

In all this, we must recognize that God is God. He gives and He takes, but it’s never for nothing. He doesn’t just stand by and watch us suffer. We will find proof of this as we deepen our study of Job.

I know this is a tough section of verse to comprehend. Because of that, we are going to stop here for today. If you are a subscriber, you know I’m taking what we are learning each week and expanding it in something we call “Word for Your Weekend.” If you want access to this, consider subscribing to the blog. This Friday, I’m going to tell a story about a time in my life where I had to tell myself day-after-day that God was bragging on me. If I didn’t, I don’t think I would have made it.

  • As a faith building exercise, please read Romans 8:18 and write it in your journal. Consider committing it to memory as a reminder that whatever it is you are enduring isn’t for nothing. it’s never for nothing, friend! Romans 8:28 tells us that God works all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:18 helps focus our eyes on the future He has for us.
  • Please finish reading Job chapter 1. Next time we will step into his world and watch what happens as his suffering begins to unfold.

 

Love,

Jennifer

There is Promise in Pain (A New Study Announcement)

Today, I’m thinking about all the things holding us back and hurting our hearts. As I study, I hear a whisper inside – a commencing of conversation. “There is promise in the pain.” “Oh, Lord, can You tell me who wants to sift through piles of ashes to find beauty?” “Oh, Jennifer, Can you tell me who else would have sent their only Son to die so you, and everyone else, have opportunity to find it?” Ouch. Checkmate. “Okay, I’ll get my shovel. I have promise to uncover.”

As I sit here writing and praying, you are on my mind. I picture you alongside me in your own pit of ashes desperately seeking to unearth your promise. And for every one of you who are working with shovels in hand, I see others helplessly sitting with no idea how to begin finding what lies underneath. I’ve been there, too.

For the months of July and August we are going to study Job. At one time or another we’ve probably all felt a little like him, so why not step into his world and learn? Are you with me? Do you need to find promise inside the pain? Do you often feel a lack of certainty in your circumstances?

All of my studies are usually published on Wednesdays, but for the rest of the summer, not only will we have our regular Wednesday study, but we will also have what I’m calling “A Word for Your Weekend.” This portion will be for email subscribers only. The content won’t be found anywhere else.  Friday’s entries will be a mix of short videos and blog posts, maybe even a printable, meant to encourage you in everything we’ve discussed the previous Wednesday. It’s meant for faith building, helping you dig deeper in study.

If you’re not a subscriber to my blog, let me encourage you to sign up. The Studies are sent directly to your email. We also have a lot of changes coming to the blog in the near future. Subscribers will be the first to learn about these changes and participate in what’s coming!

This coming Friday, July 7th, there will be a special introduction into the life of Job. Only subscribers will receive it.

There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil.

-Job 1:1

I’m looking forward to trekking through the life of Job with you!

Love,

Jennifer

 

What it Takes to Boldly Approach the Throne (Part Four)

If you are new to studying with me, welcome! For some tips to help you gain the most from what we are learning together, click here.

This month our study is focused on prayer and what it means to come boldly to the throne of God.

Week Four Study Overview:

Today, we are wrapping up our series on prayer by discussing what it means to pack up pieces of pain.

Key Point of Struggle:

Why am I always given a bunch of Christian cliché’s to deal with the hard things of life?

Key Proof of Comfort:

Psalm 23:6

I’m slowly working my way through Lysa TerKeurst’s book Uninvited. In it, she has a chapter titled When Our Normal Gets Snatched, where she tells the story of a friend who went through a divorce and was forced to move from her home. The last item to pack was a wedding portrait. Lysa’s dear friend called her and posed this question: “What do you do with the things that have no place anymore?”

I was struck by that question because in life we’re always packing for something. Maybe it’s for a vacation or an address change that requires suitcases and cardboard boxes. We clean out the closet or basement where there’s been an over-accumulation of stuff. Or, much worse, maybe we’re forced to pack away friendships, marriages, or the death of someone we love deeply. We hit the unfriend button, speak through legal representation, or pack the left behind contents of life belonging to one who moved to eternity. If there’s anything of which we can be certain, it’s that there will be seasons of packing, and it won’t always be for a tropical trip.

I’ve been spending time preparing for a teaching series, and I keep coming back to one solid point that won’t ever require packing away. God will never leave us. Go ahead; take a moment to allow those words to sink deeply inside. Let them settle in peace. God will never leave. Not ever.

Throughout the month of June we’ve been looking at some powerful prayers, and there’s one particular Psalm written from the hand of David that begins with declaration, turns to conversation, and ends with powerful affirmation.

Let’s look at Psalm 23 and then single out one verse in particular.

The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord
Forever.

-Psalm 23:1-6

 

Now let’s look at the last verse one more time:

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

-Psalm 23:6

I want to tell you this: whatever you find yourself packing away at this time in life, know that God is with you. His goodness and mercy will follow you every day of your journey on this side of heaven. Even when you cannot see or feel any indication of His presence, He is still there.

  • In your journal, write this familiar Psalm, highlight verse 6, and then list everything you’ve already done today or will do throughout the rest of the day. Look for purpose in every moment, every activity, and every breath. Write about it, and then choose to stand strong in truth knowing you have a God who will never leave.

Lysa’s friend asked what to do with things that no longer have a place. There are no easy answers for that. Let’s just be honest and say that when life is hard, the last words we want to hear are a bunch of Christian cliché’s strung together to make us feel something we don’t. But, do you want to know something else? It doesn’t change the fact that Jesus refuses to leave us, won’t forsake us, and wants us to pack all the things that no longer belong in our lives inside His life. When we do that, we will gain strength that has no other explanation except the supernatural. We will stand on truth that comes solely through faith alone.  A cliché is a bunch of overused words and expressions. The truth is if you want peace, then you need to overuse the Bible. Whether or not you find what’s in it to be nothing more than a plethora of platitudes or not, if you need to find life, you’ll find it in the pages of that ancient text.

Go boldly to the throne, hand over the packed up boxes of grief that no longer have a place and gain strength. It’s the hardest thing you’ll ever do, but you were made for hard things.

Love,

Jennifer

What It Takes to Boldly Approach the Throne (Part Three)

If you are new to studying with me, welcome! For some tips to help you gain the most from what we are learning together, click here.

This month our study is focused on prayer and what it means to come boldly to the throne of God. If you missed week one, or Week two, you can click on the links to take you there.

Week Three Study Overview:

Today, we will look at a powerful prayer from Paul to the Colossians.

Key Point of Struggle:

How can we ever fully please God?

Key Proof of Comfort:

Oh Lord, You have searched me and Known me. Psalm 139:1

“…To ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and long suffering with joy; giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light.”

– Colossians 1:9-12

Prayer has become a lifeline for me. Not just because I know that God is the only One who can do the impossible in my life, and the lives around me, but because it deeply connects me to Him. I need those conversations in my life. I’ve learned I don’t do well without them.

One of my favorite parts of reading anything from the apostle Paul is that we are essentially peeking into his mail when opening up the Bible to the books he authored. His letters were meant to encourage, instruct, and warn newly established churches. What is even more powerful to me is that in these letters he sometimes speaks of what he is praying over the people.

I believe God gives us words to pray over specific people and situations. When I was praying to become pregnant and we were facing what seemed an impossible circumstance, God put on my heart to pray these words: “Lord, make a way where there is no way.” I faithfully prayed that each day until He made the crooked way straight and left doctors who told me it was practically impossible to conceive, slack jawed in disbelief. He recently gave me a new word over my writing and speaking ministry. I know the power of what He chooses to hide in my heart, and so I’m praying this new word each day. No one can tell me He didn’t do the same for Paul. With my whole heart, I subscribe to the idea that God put the words Paul prayed, over the churches he ministered to, deep inside his heart. It’s no surprise to me that the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write those prayers so that we can know the power they hold.

This morning when I awoke I began to pray the anointed, power-filled prayer from Paul to the Colossians over those I know and love.

This prayer speaks what seems impossible for the human condition, “…that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him.” I often struggle with the sin of my own heart and wonder if I will ever become who God intended me to be. However, I also know the power of our impossible God, the hope He gives, the mercy He pours, and the blood Jesus shed on the cross to gift me the opportunity of allowing my heart to be read through a filter of grace by the Almighty Himself. We have the power to escape the trap of sin because of forgiveness complimentary of agape love.

Today, I pray this prayer in Colossians over you. God looks at our hearts, searches, and knows us. He reads us through filters of grace and mercy through the Power of His Holy Spirit, which promises to break chains that nothing else has the power to break.

  • This week, I want to challenge you to write Paul’s prayer to the Colossians in your journal each day. Yes, that’s what I said. Write that prayer each and every day while committing to pray it over yourself and one other person throughout the week.

Love,

Jennifer

What it Takes to Boldly Approach the Throne (Part Two)

If you are new to studying with me, welcome! Here are some tips to help you gain the most from what we are learning together:

  • It will be helpful to have a journal alongside your Bible as you study. There will be questions to answer, key verses, and prayers along the way that will be worth writing down throughout the journey. (This isn’t required, only recommended in order to gain the most from the study.)
  • Each week I will give a study overview. This consists of one or two sentences designed to give you a “heads up” on what we will be learning.
  • Every week as we begin the study, you will see a Key Point of Struggle and a Key Proof of Comfort listed. The Key Point of Struggle is a piece of the study that could possibly stir the most angst inside you as you’re working to seek purpose and live it well. The Key Proof of Comfort is a piece of the study that will help calm your soul as we discover truth together.

Week Two Study Overview:

Today we will look at Hannah’s prayer to God in the midst of her distress.

Key Point of Struggle:

What if God doesn’t answer me the way He answered Hannah?

Key Proof of Comfort:

Because of Jesus we can boldly approach the throne, and that gives us hope for God to work the impossible in our lives.

This month our study is focused on prayer and what it means to come boldly to the throne of God. If you missed week one, you can read it here.

A healthy prayer life didn’t come overnight for me. As a child, I don’t think I ever moved mountains with mighty prayers of faith, but as an adult I pray about everything. It took me a long time to get where I am. Communicating with my Father in heaven has been a process that began in desperation, transitioned to discipline, and became a desire. I’m confident in telling you that at this point in my life I can’t live without prayer. I actually miss God when I don’t talk to Him.

When I think of bold prayers, I think about Hannah. If you know anything about my story then you know why I feel a connection to Hannah, but there’s more to why I love this particular prayer. Let’s take a look at it.

So Hannah arose after they had finished eating and drinking in Shiloh. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat by the doorpost of the tabernacle of the Lord. 10 And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed to the Lord and wept in anguish. 11 Then she made a vow and said, “O Lord of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a male child, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor shall come upon his head.”

12 And it happened, as she continued praying before the Lord, that Eli watched her mouth. 13 Now Hannah spoke in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard. Therefore Eli thought she was drunk. 14 So Eli said to her, “How long will you be drunk? Put your wine away from you!”

-1 Samuel 1:10-14

Before we can fairly view this account of Hannah’s life, we have to put it in cultural context. There’s a bit of a backstory to circumstances surrounding Hannah and there are a few things you’ll need to know to properly understand her. In the Old Testament it was commonplace for a man to have more than one wife. It was also a great honor to have a male child first. This is why Hannah specifically asked for a son. When studying the Bible, we have to look at the way society functioned, historically, to give us insight as to why certain circumstances happened the way they did.

Hannah was barren and to make matters worse she was one of two wives. The other wife had an open womb and an unkind demeanor, to say the least. Her name was Peninnah. She was jealous because their husband, Elkanah, had a love for Hannah that he didn’t share for her. We all know jealousy tends to lead to cruelty, in one way or the other, and this is exactly what happened where these two women were concerned. Elkanah, with all his heart, wanted Hannah to be free of hurt, but pain ran deep and her desire for a baby of her own, deeper still.

One evening, after refusing food and weeping throughout dinner, a broken heart and bitter soul led Hannah to confess everything she felt to God. She begged, pleaded, and pledged a child that didn’t yet exist to a life of service for the Living God, if only He would grant her request.

I would like to highlight one specific point about Hannah’s prayer:

  1. At that moment, Hannah was a hot mess before God.

Desperation often leads to overwhelming transparency. I often wonder why we wait until we feel completely forsaken before arriving in a place of pure honesty. We serve a God who created us. This means He knows everything about us, and yet we often try to hide. Hannah was burdened with misery so profound it uncovered every ounce of pride she may have had. It drove her to a dependence on God she might have otherwise never experienced.

It’s okay to be a hot mess before God. It’s okay to be authentically you before the Almighty. He already knows who you are and expects you to come boldly to His throne.

For any of us who struggle with wondering if God will answer us in desperate moments the way He answered Hannah, I want to say this: All we know about Hannah is a few isolated events recorded in the Bible. We have no idea how many times Hannah had moments just like this one where she pleaded to God for a child with every stitch of her soul. We have no idea how long Hannah waited before this particular prayer changed everything.

Listen, no one wants to be told to wait for God’s plan. We need things from God. Whether it is physical healing, inner healing from brokenness, financial miracles, a baby, or wisdom in a particular decision or relationship, we often feel we don’t have time to wait because the clock is ticking.  Comfort doesn’t usually come in the form of counsel telling us to trust God and wait. Yet, when we choose to listen to that advice we don’t want to hear, hope is produced. In fact, hope actually becomes plentiful.

In WW2 a Jewish person sat in a German concentration camp and scratched three lines on a wall. This is what was written:

I believe in the sun even when it’s not shining.
I believe in love even when I don’t feel it.
I believe in God even when He is silent”

When we cry out God will meet us. It might not always be the way we expect, but God will give us hope and our faith will rise up. Whoever wrote those three lines had deep faith. I believe they boldly approached the throne and received a hope more powerful than anyone can begin to understand. I see peace woven throughout those words that cannot be explained by anything else except an encounter with the Almighty God.

Friend, you need to know that having an open heart before God and bringing your needs to Him every day will not cause Him to become bored of you. You also need to understand that if your answer doesn’t come the way you expect it that you are not loved any less. Regardless of the outcome, you need to make the decision to approach the throne with boldness. I believe approaching the throne looking like a hot mess counts in the bold before God department!

It is true that we have no choice but to wait and trust, but that doesn’t mean we remain stagnant in the meantime. We need to live our lives communicating with our God. It brings us into deeper relationship and brings hope and peace that we will not tap into any other way.

  • Romans 12:12 says, “Be Joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. In your journal, please write this scripture and then list one way having hope brings you joy. After that,  list something you need to be more patient about, and then write a prayer to God thanking Him for His hope while asking for His help during affliction.

Love,

Jennifer

 

 

 

What it Takes to BOLDLY Approach the Throne (Part One)

Hello Friend! I don’t know about you, but I miss Jeremiah already! I loved digging into the weeping prophet’s life and learning from him. I couldn’t believe the number of emails I received last week from people who either gave suggestions for our next topic of study, or asked that we continue in a Bible study format on the blog long-term. I’m super excited about that! The Word will not change, but it has the power to change us! We can depend on it because it endures the test of time. The ESV says it like this:

The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.

-Isaiah 40:8

The Word of our God stands tall in strength with authority, and I count it a privilege to study it with you. For the month of June, I would like to take some time to study prayer. Here’s why: We often depend on the prayers of others to carry us through, but what about our prayers? Are we praying for others? Are we praying for ourselves? Do we understand what it means to approach the throne of grace boldly? Our communication with the living God has the power to change everything. If we aren’t communicating with Him, how can we expect to maintain a healthy relationship with Him? Over the next few weeks, we are going to look at some people from the Bible and examine some of the powerful prayers they prayed. We will apply those prayers to us and begin to unpack power through the Word. Are you with me?

We will continue in the same study format. This means that each week you will once again see a key point of struggle and a key proof of comfort. Let’s begin!

Key Point of Struggle:

Many of us aren’t sure how to talk to God. We’re afraid He won’t answer, or that our prayers might seem selfish.

Key Proof of Comfort:

We will take an in-depth look at Hebrews 4:16 to sort out those fears.

As we prepare our hearts for a series on prayer, let’s take a closer look at Hebrews 4:16

Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

-Hebrews 4:16 (NKJV)

The word boldly inside the text makes me nervous. Do you know why? Because, friend, I’m a lot of things, but bold isn’t one of them. It seems to take me forever to say what I need to say. I tend to filter everything. I recognize what trickles from my heart, ends up on my tongue, multiplies, and overflows through my lips. I want those words to be genuine, consistent, and kind. I understand how easy it is to be misinterpreted, and to have my heart unfairly judged by others just like me. It’s scary. And to be honest, I even tend to filter what I speak to my Father in heaven.

I worry my prayers are selfish and aren’t as faith-filled as they should be. I’m also petrified that if I become bold, then I’ll somehow lose humility. And James, the half-brother of Jesus says, “But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (See James 4:6) I can’t imagine a worse circumstance than to be resisted by my God. But there’s good news: this word bold isn’t to be confused with prideful confidence. It’s to be aligned with confidence in the power of God! Let me show you…

The Greek word for bold in Hebrews 4:16 is the word parresia. It means freedom, openness, especially in speech, boldness, confidence. The short definition is freedom of speech, confidence.

This means we have freedom of speech with our God. We can communicate to Him openly, unafraid to ask Him for the desires He’s placed within our hearts. We can obtain mercy at His throne and receive grace in our time of need. Now, of course, our requests must match up to His Word. We must make sure they are God-honoring.

Let’s try something new and take the short definition of parresia and insert it into scripture replacing the word boldly.

Let us therefore come with freedom of speech and confidence to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Friend, it’s time to get honest with God. He already knows everything about us, but He’s waiting for us to confide in Him. It’s in our most authentic moments that we begin to truly accept freedom.

If you look at the word bold in the Meriam Webster dictionary, you’ll see it has three definitions. I love the second. It says this… Bold: Showing or needing confidence or lack of fear.

Let’s take that definition and insert it into scripture replacing the word bold:

Let us therefore come showing or needing confidence or lack of fear to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Isn’t that great?!?! It’s important that we have confidence in Christ when approaching the throne. It’s time to rid ourselves of fear speaking our words won’t be good enough or faith-filled enough. We need to shut down the voice that says we are shallow and shouldn’t be bringing such silliness to God. Listen, God wants to hear it all!  He loves every part of us and desires open hearts. When we pray with an honest and upright heart, God sees that and honors it.

The International Standard Bible quotes Hebrews 4:16 like this:

So let us keep on coming boldly to the throne of grace, so that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

“Let us keep on coming boldly…” I LOVE that! Conversing with our Father isn’t just a onetime deal. It shouldn’t be about frustration over what seems to be unanswered prayers. We have to learn to keep coming back to Him, to keep asking with humility and gratitude, and believe in faith that His will, will be done in our lives.

  • In your journal, write a prayer asking God to help you to keep coming back to the throne with confidence and freedom of speech.

 

Next week, we will begin studying lives from those who went before us in confidence to the throne of grace.

Love,

Jennifer

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The Kingdom Building Call (Part Six)

If you’re joining us today for the first time, welcome! For some tips on how to study with us, click here.

Week Six Study Overview: Today, we will discuss the widely known scripture, Jeremiah 29:11, and the context it comes from. In the process, we will discover what it means for YOU!

Key Point of Struggle: It’s easy to fall in the trap of feeling there is no future and no hope.

Key Proof of Comfort: The Word of God is solid truth refusing to collapse. We will find comfort in exploring what we can do to stand on the promise of a secure, peaceful future and hope.

Today is our last day with Jeremiah.  Over our weeks of study, we saw the unashamed prophet weep throughout his calling. Through the Word, we’ve watched him be abused and locked up. We saw him through prison bars and witnessed the internal struggle of wanting to give up on his calling. And then we learned of the fire deep within his bones that could not be extinguished.

Though our callings and struggles are much different from those of Jeremiah’s, we can feel a kindred spirit with this man and his ministry. Like Jeremiah, we’ve been afraid, contemplated running, and cried out to God with questions. And, through it all, we’ve allowed the burn in our bones to propel us onward.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not evil, to give you a future and hope.

-Jeremiah 29:11

Over the years, I’ve seen Jeremiah 29:11 plastered on social media statuses, posters in churches, t-shirts, and even bumper stickers. I love that we can read a scripture and claim it as our own, but at the same time my heart weeps a little at the lack of knowledge where context is concerned. As Christians, I believe we take the verse of the day, and apply it to our struggle of the day. We don’t read what comes before or after it, and usually have very little knowledge of who wrote it and why.

Listen, I know not everyone likes to sit down and search out the history and author of every book in the Bible. I get it. But friend, a little context goes a long way. It gives us insight and opens up the lines of communication allowing the Holy Spirit to speak to us on a deeper level. We often long for God to speak, but we don’t invest time in the relationship and then wonder why we aren’t hearing His voice. And by the way, I’m preaching to myself. I’ll be honest with you: I’m in the word a lot, but I still lack in many, many areas.

Let’s take a few moments to look at the context of this widely known scripture.

As we know from everything we’ve learned in Jeremiah, the kingdom of Judah refused to repent. As a result, there were captives taken. We learn in 2 Kings 24 that Nebuchadnezzar II, the King of Babylon, took the Jews captive. Nebuchadnezzar led his armies for over a year and laid siege against Jerusalem killing many, destroying the temple, and leaving Jerusalem in ruins.

God knew, in light of the people’s rebellion, that this calamity would take place. Jeremiah actually prophesies about it in Jeremiah 29 through a letter to the captives. In verse 10, he predicts seventy years of captivity in Babylon, followed by exile.  This is the backstory of Jeremiah 29:11.

Let’s begin by taking a look at verse 10:

For thus says the Lord: after seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place.

-Jeremiah 29:10

In context:

By way of royal messengers, Jeremiah sent a letter with this information to the captives. Regardless of the people’s sin, after consequence, there would be great mercy given by God. God promised to visit His people again.

Now, let’s apply Jeremiah 29:10 to us:

I believe God pursues each life. There are times we don’t want to listen, or want to go the way He’s directing us. The skin we wear and the flesh we fight have the ability to rise up powerfully without us even recognizing we’re in a mess. When we finally see our spiritual shortcoming, we call out to Jesus. Other times, we are heeding each and every word. We’ve done nothing to deserve the difficulty we’re facing. In those moments, we question God and ask for answers. Regardless of the circumstances, there is a promise: “I will visit you and perform my good word toward you.”

We can take that promise and apply it to our lives. We don’t always feel like He’s with us, but He is. Because of Jesus, we can go a step further from the word visit. He sent His Holy Spirit to dwell with us. As believers, we have the Holy Spirit living inside us. When we are reading Jeremiah, we are reading history before the cross. Since then, Jesus died for every sin, and because of His work on the cross we have the indwelling gift of the Holy Spirit.  God is performing His good word in us every day because of His Holy Spirit living in us. We have more power to overcome than we will ever begin to comprehend.

Next we have Jeremiah 29:11:

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not evil, to give you a future and hope.

-Jeremiah 29:11

In context:

Jeremiah was writing the words of the Almighty to the captives, letting them know that the Living God had not forgotten about them. He wasn’t finished with them.

Now let’s apply Jeremiah 29:11 to us:

Remember when we started studying Jeremiah 1:5, and talked about God being intentional in His design of us? Well, this proves that God doesn’t forget about anything He creates. We are always on His mind. It doesn’t matter what we’ve done, where we’ve been, or how deep our trouble may be, we are on the mind of God. Always.

Now that we’ve unearthed the context of this verse, it should speak to us more deeply than ever before. Judah had worshipped other Gods, refused to listen to God’s chosen prophet, and forgotten all the works He had done and still…. And still…. Let me say that again, and still God never stopped thinking about them. And friend, He has never stopped thinking of you. This proves it!

Now let’s take a look at Jeremiah 29:12-14 before we wrap our study.

Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back from your captivity; I will gather you from all nations and from all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you to the place from which I caused you to be carried away captive.

-Jeremiah 29:12-14

In context:

God is letting the people know that even after all their sin, the captives will once again have a home. However, He tells them they will look for Him, and when they do, they will find Him.

Now let’s apply Jeremiah 29:12-14 to us:

Regardless of our situations, whether it is self-inflicted sin, or a horrendous circumstance it seems we don’t deserve, God is faithful to deliver us. Way back in chapter one, we studied that God told Jeremiah, “I am with you to deliver you.” We can take those words and connect them to Jeremiah 29:12-14!

  • When we sin, we can repent. He is always with us to deliver us!
  • When we call on Him and pray to Him, He will listen. He is with us to deliver us!
  • When we seek Him, we will find Him. He is with us to deliver us!
  • When we search for Him, He will be found. He is with us to deliver us!
  • From every situation we’ve been held captive, He will provide rescue. He is with us to deliver us.

Friend, what He’s done for generations past, He will do for you.

 However, we must all learn to call upon Him, pray to Him, seek Him, and Search for Him with our whole hearts. The text actually says, “… with all your heart.” Not a little or even most, but ALL.

If there is anything we’ve learned from Jeremiah, it was that he gave his whole heart to the Almighty. He submitted everything, even his right to a family. He gave his entire life up for his Father. When I think about that, I feel a little overwhelmed with conviction. God hasn’t asked nearly as much from me, and yet I often struggle with giving Him all my heart. My flesh tells me it’s much easier to hand it over one piece at a time. But that’s a lie. I’m required with determination to die to myself every day of my life for the cause of Christ. It’s no longer about me and ALL about Him.

Our friend, Jeremiah, gave his life to answer His call and in the process built the kingdom.

  • Today, in your journal, write Jeremiah 29:10-14. Underneath it, please answer the following questions.
  1. What do the words, “I will visit you and perform My good word toward you,” mean specifically in your life right now?
  2. How does understanding that God is intentional and never stops thinking about you, change how you feel about your future and hope?
  3. We learned that God listens to us when we call on Him. Does knowing that change how you communicate with Him and how frequently you pray to Him?
  4. God tells us He will be found by us when we seek Him with ALL our hearts. Have you given God your whole heart?
  • I recognize that giving God our entire heart is a daily struggle for each of us. In your journal, consider writing a prayer asking God to help break down the barriers preventing you from giving Him everything.

It’s been a pleasure studying kingdom building through the life of Jeremiah with you! If we were to study more often together, who would you want to learn about next? I would love suggestions.

Love,

Jennifer

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