3 Truths Breathing Life into Weary Lungs

I rarely write on other topics throughout a Bible study series, but there’s something I need to share with you today. I hope you’ll find some hope through this post, because it comes from the deepest, most tender place inside my heart. I have a very strong feeling there are a lot of people who, like me, are struggling. Maybe you’re one of them. If you’re not, maybe you’ll choose to share this with someone who needs it.

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I have a lot to say and rarely know how to say any of it. Last week, two women showed up at my door to share their faith, and though my belief system is much different than theirs, I was confused as to how to communicate what I wanted to say. I shied away from a God-given directive to invite them to my table for coffee. As I closed the front door, choosing not to extend an invitation, the Holy Spirit conveyed this thought: “I don’t need you to defend me, Jennifer. I only need you to show I live inside you.” Though there is no condemnation in Christ, I still felt as if I’d failed.

These days, I often feel like a failure. My mind is overrun with thoughts of not writing well enough, speaking well enough, parenting well enough, and the list goes on. I’m living with anger, fear, and good-old-fashioned remorse. I’m not who I was and can’t seem to figure out who I am. I find myself looking at the sky asking, “What is it? What do I need to know, so I can feel like me again?”

I walk around angry inside and no one knows it. I attend functions, and smile for selfies, without allowing a hint of the crumbling happening way down deep to show. I laughingly play with my kids and make my family dinner all the while feeling lifeless inside. I’m not upset with anyone in particular, and I’m not at all faulting God for any of this. It just so happens, like many others, I’m on the battlefield of life. This particular battle might just be the toughest one I’ve ever fought. The struggle to choose joy is real.

However, when I find myself overthinking how I feel, the wind blows…

I’ve been fascinated with wind for several years now. We see the power of it inside storms and feel its gentle breeze when our skin needs cooled. The Hebrew word ruach literally means wind, spirit, or breath. Because of this, every time the trees move I picture the breath of God. All through the Bible we see the significance of the Almighty’s breath. In Him we live, move, and have our being and it’s all because our God breathes.

I’ve been in need of some spiritual resuscitation, and there are three pieces of truth continuing to breathe life inside these weary lungs.

  1. I don’t have to be enough, because He has always been enough for me.

This can be tough to comprehend, but it is what it is: We weren’t meant to be enough on our own. It’s the mighty power of God that equips, making us conquerors. It’s never about us and always about Him.

  1. I breathe only because He gave me breath.

We breathe because He allows it. It’s that simple. The most incredible part of this is He knows each one of us, and purposed before time that we would carry His breath in our lungs. Anyone who has ever walked this planet was chosen by the Almighty.

  1. The one who designed redemption is more than capable to redeem my pain.

In the midst of grief, the only reason my mind is sound is because He makes all things well. Believe me, I look at my situation and question the meaning of redemption. I don’t see it, but I know He redeems everything. I have to trust in His blueprint of restoration regardless of how much I wish I could have drawn the plans. My human condition cannot begin to engineer any worthwhile design at all. Christ alone.

I lost my brother this summer, and with him went part of me. I’m learning how to be an only child. I feel a little lost and a lot confused. I won’t ever be the same, but I must stand up and start shouting hallelujah!

You see, I’m not meant to stay the same on this earth. Comfort cages, cages confine, and as much as I loathe suffering, I don’t want the Spirit of God inside me to be soft, sweet, and content. I want the Spirit of God inside me to be a raging wind. His breath blustering through my lungs is all I want. It’s His life-giving power that transforms, heals, and overflows into other lives. I need to shut down all other feelings. What about you?

Dear friend, regardless of what you’re going through, do not allow horrific change to hinder your growth. Instead, let it propel you forward into the arms of the only One who can give you spiritual CPR and heal you from the inside out.

Do not be contained; be contagious.

  • Your hope is in Christ.
  • Your life is in Him.

And it all starts with the power of His breath.

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

-Philippians 4:7 (NIV)

In Greek, the word transcends means to throw over or beyond, to run beyond.

  • However you feel today, run beyond it.
  • Whatever your circumstances are, run beyond them.

Run into the wind… into the mighty breath of God.

Love,

Jennifer

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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The Kingdom Building Call (Part Five)

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

Week Five Study Overview: Today, we will discuss crisis and speak of how the fire in our bones can become a full-on blazing inferno.

Key Point of Struggle: Crisis! Why must we deal with it, and what do we do when it begins to shake our entire foundation, threatening to extinguish the fire in our bones?

Key Proof of Comfort: We are going to learn a powerful Holy Spirit declaration through John 16:13-15.

To recap, the last time we were with Jeremiah, he wanted to walk away from his calling but quickly recognized he couldn’t. He invited us into a small piece of his world when he revealed this:

Then I said, “I will not make mention of Him, nor speak anymore in His name.” But His word was in my heart like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I was weary of holding it back, and I could not.

-Jeremiah 20:9

Jeremiah dealt with crisis in the form of people beating him, chaining him, and making a mockery of his ministry. It was entirely possible that the crisis of dealing with flesh and blood, people who did not want to hear his words from the Lord, would also lead to a faith crisis. Jeremiah thought about walking away, but he couldn’t ignore the burning in his bones.

Have you ever felt like walking away?

I have.

I’ve been down roads paved thick with grief. I’ve stood all by myself with God and shaken my fists at an invisible figure. I’ve felt alone with a God who said He’s with me to deliver me but haven’t felt any deliverance whatsoever. And then after making peace with knowing that if I have no God then I have no life, I have once again felt the deep burning inside my bones. It’s how I know He’s there even when I can’t find resolve. I stand on promises and know that inside my bones there’s a kindling which cannot be contained. We live in a world full of sin. Crisis will come, but Jesus had a plan.

In John chapter 16, John shares with us the words our Savior spoke to His disciples. Jesus told them the Holy Spirit would come to be their Helper. I picture, in that moment, Jesus looking into the eyes of a bunch of wide-eyed men who grew more and more confused with every word He spoke. They hung onto each sentence for dear life but could not figure out what any of it meant.  And then crisis came. Their Beloved was captured and crucified. For three days the tomb was not empty, and the disciples were faced with a faith crisis. They had lived in a whirlwind of miracles and love so powerful it could restart hearts. It was a love that didn’t just feed mouths, but souls. They hadn’t known anything like it before and after experiencing it, knew they couldn’t live without it ever again. In my mind, I imagine John, who deemed himself the disciple Jesus loved, tearing through his memories working to solve an unsolvable mystery. I envision John remembering these particular words that Jesus spoke:

“However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you.”

-John 16:13-15

When it was all said and done and death hadn’t beaten them, after they saw with their own eyes an empty tomb and a resurrected Messiah caught up in the sky, they waited. They sat together in an upper room when the Helper showed up and filled up. The breath of God came in the form of wind that would fill every heart with His Holy Spirit Helper – the Helper of all who believes. And to this day, it’s that same Wind that keeps the fire in our bones burning bright.

“For He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you.” Those words from Jesus speak to me mightily.  I’ll tell you why:

Let’s talk for a brief moment about the word crisis. It comes from the Greek word Krisis, which means turning point from a disease. And that word Krisis comes from the word krinein which means to decide.

When we find ourselves in the middle of a diseased situation, it forces us to make some decisions. Crisis backs us into a corner and asks us what we’re going to do. And Jesus said, “He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you.”

Do you know what I need to hear in the midst of chaotic crisis? I need to hear the Holy Spirit’s declaration that I belong to Christ, that my identity is in Him and not in the situation that caused my crisis.

I am not grief!

I am not unforgiveness!

I am not a victim!

I am victorious in Christ, because I am the daughter of the living God!

Deep down in my heart of hearts, I know that when Jeremiah contemplated giving up his ministry, he heard the first words spoken to him by God. I believe they played on repeat and reignited the holy burn in his bones.

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations.”

-Jeremiah 1:5

Friend, if you’re in the middle of crisis, I want you to know that Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to live inside you and be your Helper. He wants to remind you that you were created intentionally for purpose, and that you’ve been set apart for a life only you can live. You are meant to bring Him glory. Your identity is found in Christ! You are His; the Holy Spirit wants to declare that to you. And you need to declare it out loud!

  • Who are you to God? Search scripture and write about it in your journal.
  • Psalm 143 is a beautiful psalm of David as he seeks wisdom and guidance in the middle of crisis. For deeper study, I encourage you to read the entire psalm, write 143:10 in your journal, and pray it over yourself every day this week.

 

Next week, we will be studying the widely known scripture in Jeremiah 29:11 as we close out our series on the faithful prophet Jeremiah.

When you learn to search the word, the word will come alive to you like never before. The fire in your bones will become an inferno. Don’t underestimate who God made you to become!

Love,

Jennifer

PS: I recently did an interview for Kimberly Taylor at Take Back Your Temple. If you’re interested, you can read it here.

Use the Hashtag #KingdomBuildingSisters on Instagram showing a photo of what daily kingdom building looks like to you, tag me, and your name will be entered in a fun surprise giveaway!

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The Kingdom Building Call (Part Three)

Kingdom Building Through the Life of Jeremiah

The Winner of the You Are Free book by Rebekah Lyons is Margie Mitcheltree! Congratulations, Margie!!! I will be contacting you via email for your address!

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

Week Three Study Overview: Today we will deal with Jeremiah’s response to God’s call, and talk about how we can claim the same promise God gave Jeremiah.

Key Point of Struggle: Oftentimes, we don’t feel confident responding to God’s call because we are insecure in our gifts.

Key Proof of Comfort: Even when we are afraid and everything seems to be falling apart, God says, “I am with you to deliver you.” Jeremiah 1:8

Some historians claim Jeremiah could have been as young as fourteen years of age when God called him to his purpose as a prophet. We can’t be certain of his age, but we do know he was young. He tells us so in his own words. Let’s step back in time and spy on the conversation that started it all.

God: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations.” Jeremiah 1:5

Jeremiah: “Ah, Lord God! “Behold, I cannot speak, for I am a youth.” Jeremiah 1:6

God: “Do not say, ‘I am a youth,’ for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of their faces, for I am with you to deliver you…” Jeremiah 1: 7-8

I realize this conversation is hard for us to grasp, because chances are we aren’t going to find ourselves in an audible conversation with God. It’s not that God doesn’t speak to us, or that we can’t hear what He says, but it takes a lot more faith when our ears are left out of the equation leaving our hearts responsible to pick up the sound.

God spoke out loud to Jeremiah. This means Jeremiah actually heard the voice of the living God. Wow! You would think a person who has this type of encounter would do exactly as they were told without question, but not our Jeremiah. He needed time to process. You see, he had a lack of confidence and he used this moment to make sure God understood his age and abilities, or lack thereof, before responding to the call.

I’ve never heard the audible voice of God, but I have discerned His whisper in my heart. I know how it feels to walk into a task I wasn’t sure I had the power to accomplish. But, that’s just it; it’s never about my power. Separate from Jesus, I have none.  It’s all in His power.

I want to look at the end of Jeremiah 1:8 for a moment. Notice these words voiced by God, “For I am with you to deliver you.”  There is an unbelievable amount of power in those words. God told Jeremiah specifically why He would stay with him: to deliver him. He assured Jeremiah that He would be there, and then explained the purpose of his staying: to deliver him.

We talked last week about God designing us with intention. We looked closely at the word before in Jeremiah 1:5, and pointed out that God knew each of us before He formed us in the womb. He set us apart for specific purpose. This week, we learn that when He assigns purpose He makes a commitment to stay with us so that leaning on our own abilities is never an option. And, not only does He commit to staying with us, He commits to delivering us. He won’t give us a task and then standby doing nothing. He is always active. I know that sometimes it doesn’t seem that way, but it’s true.  In the midst of what seems like our greatest fears, storms, and darkest moments He is there in all His glorious strength ready to deliver us.

Next in the chapter, Jeremiah is given his assignment as prophet; it’s anything but easy:

“… See, I have this day set you over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out and to pull down,
to destroy and to throw down, to build and to plant.”

– Jeremiah 1:10

Father God is explaining to Jeremiah the sinfulness of a nation and the calamity coming upon Judah. He makes it clear that it’s Jeremiah’s job to warn the people with commands God will speak through him. The Lord even gives Jeremiah a “heads up” as to what the people’s response will be:

“They will fight against you, but they shall not prevail against you. For I am with you,” says the Lord, “to deliver you.”

-Jeremiah 1:19

God speaks that phrase once again: “For I am with you to deliver you.”  I’m absolutely sure it was because Jeremiah needed to know with all certainty that he wasn’t alone. God wanted to make clear his promise to Jeremiah, so he said it twice.

Listen, in what I do as I writer, equipping women to activate purpose through the power of scripture, I often feel alone, like nobody understands what it is I’m doing. Many years ago, the Lord began giving me the ability to discern situations. I carry people’s stories with me like baggage. They weigh heavy on my heart.  Brokenness is on my mind as I write. I talk a lot about purpose because it took me forever to realize I had one that was worth something. Because of that, I feel a fire in my bones to help other women recognize they have worth, not because of anything they can accomplish on their own, but because of the power of Christ in their lives.

Friend, I know life isn’t easy and that Christianity, and the calling attached to it, probably hasn’t owned up to the definition of freedom you thought it might. We are free. Through the power of the Holy Spirit living in us we can unlock chains and live with brand new breath in our lungs, but the price is high. We will face suffering through a multitude of afflictions. We are not immune from the pain of this world. Why?  …Because sin runs rampant inside this place from the Garden of Eden until now. But take heart, Jesus has overcome; this place is not our home!

Hope lives inside the voice of God. It lived there when Jeremiah was breathing the breath of this earth, and it still lives there today. When we can take the words God spoke to Jeremiah and cling to them, accepting those principles for ourselves, freedom begins to settle in. Truth sets us free.

Hold fast! God is with you to deliver you!

  • Today in your journal, I want you to rewrite the same conversation we read above, between God and Jeremiah, inserting yourself inside it. Let’s break it down together and I’ll explain what I mean by showing you my examples.
  • First, I’m going to add my name to the beginning of Jeremiah 1:5. I often do this when I’m studying, because it helps me to remember that God speaks most powerfully to me through His word. I’ll include the verse as it looks in the Bible and then include my own:

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations.”

Here’s my example:

Jennifer, before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you…”

  • For the end of the same verse, I’ve decided to list two gifts He’s given me as tools to accomplish my purpose according to the Great Commission in Matthew 28. I’ve chosen to list these particular gifts, because I have the most insecurity in these areas. (In case you missed the explanation of redefining purpose according to the Great Commission, click here, back to week one, for a recap.) Remember, God told Jeremiah, “I ordained you a prophet to the nations.”

Here’s what I wrote:

“I ordained you a writer and speaker.”

  • For the second piece of the conversation, fill in whatever you fear, and your reason for that fear. Jeremiah told God he couldn’t speak because he was a youth: “Ah, Lord God! Behold, I cannot speak, for I am a youth. ” I’m going to fill in the blanks and give you my own examples.

“Ah, Lord God! Behold, I cannot write/speak, for I am unsure of my gift and don’t always feel adequate to do what you’ve called me to do.”

  • Lastly, let’s look at what the Lord responded to Jeremiah and then rewrite it filling in our own gifts one more time to hit the point home. Here’s a refresher on what God said, “Do not say, ‘I am a youth,’ for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of their faces, for I am with you to deliver you…”

Here’s my example:

“Do not say, I cannot write/speak, for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and whatever I command you, you shall write/speak. Do not be afraid of their faces, for I am with you to deliver you…”

  • When you’re finished, go back and read your conversation out loud. I believe when we can insert ourselves into the words, a new understanding will form. We will recognize He has given us each purpose as well as unique gifts we need to help us accomplish that purpose.

Next week, we will discuss how we can be sure it is God who has called us to a particular task.

  • If you would like to go deeper in study this week, I recommend reading and memorizing Philippians 1:6. It will help prepare you for next week’s study.

Love,

Jennifer

PS: Use the Hashtag #KingdomBuildingSisters on Instagram showing a photo of what daily kingdom building looks like to you, tag me, and your name will be entered in a fun surprise giveaway!

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The Kingdom Building Call (Part One)

Kingdom Building Through the Life of Jeremiah

(Week One)

Today’s blog post is longer than average. This is because I’m providing information on how to use the study, as well as adding an introduction. Please don’t be put off by this. Since you’ll only be receiving blog posts on Wednesdays, feel free to break the study into pieces and take it one small portion at a time throughout the week.

What you need to know before beginning this study:

  • Jeremiah is a very large book of the Bible, fifty-two chapters to be exact. It is also not written in chronological order. This means that for the sake of a six week study, we will be discussing highlights of Jeremiah’s life as it relates to kingdom building, his ministry, how he dealt with his calling, and his interactions with God. We will not be covering the entire fifty-two chapters.
  • 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.)
  • 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.

 

Introduction

We have each been created by the Maker of the universe – intricately woven with matchless pieces from Himself that gives us just a hint of who He is and the smallest clue as to who we are. Upon creation He fills us with longing that leaks from our souls. Little-by-little from the time we have intelligent thought we begin the lifelong search of figuring out what we were created to do and why.

Those of us who know with all certainty exactly who made us, know the foundation of truth in Psalm 139. We are ready for our assignments, and just like a bunch of small children who want to please their teacher with the correct answer, we raise our hands while jumping wildly from our seats begging, “Pick me, Lord, pick me!” We recognize our gifts have marked us with unique stamps of purpose, and we are ready to own our callings.

Women like us come wrapped in passion. We seek purpose and gain worth from figuring out what we were born to do and then pursue doing it well. Fueled by the desire to use our gifts we pray to thrive where He sends us. But sometimes He sends us to unexpected places and assigns tough tasks that require much more than our talents and abilities can offer. We quickly learn this “thing” He sent us to do is so much bigger than us. And then we realize something even more terrifying: this actually has nothing to do with us at all. We possess zero control and there’s more to this calling than we ever imagined.

No matter your mission, serving Christ is not platforms and accolades. Whether you stand on a stage, feed the homeless, volunteer in Sunday school, or spend each day praying over the feet of your very own children- pleading God‘s mercy as to where they might walk –  fierce callings are filled with weeping, humility, and lots of practice holding tightly to Jesus. It’s the most rewarding life possible, and it comes with a high, high price.

I recently read a book by Dennis Peacocke who said, “The greatest tragedy of our age is an unused life.” So, as we begin our study today, here’s to Jeremiah: a real person with a real calling who experienced a gamut of emotions, and wasn’t afraid to have honest dialogue with his Creator. And, here’s to you: a called woman of God who longs to live your ministry well while learning more and more each day that this mission you’re on has nothing to do with you. Yeah, you’re beginning to see the bigger picture, and you hold the thrill of hope down deep inside.

Key Point of Struggle:

Serving Christ doesn’t always look the way we thought it would.

Key Proof of Comfort:

When we learn to refocus and update our definitions of ministry as it relates to kingdom building, we will begin to open our hearts to the purpose of Christ. His purpose and calling for us often looks differently than we expected. To find comfort in this, we will study Matthew 28 and find out how the Great Commission relates to us.

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Kingdombuildingthroughthelifeofjeremiah

Out of every prophet, we can learn the most about the intricacies of ministry, and personal cries of the heart, from the life of Jeremiah. When we read his book, we read his heart. And, because of these Holy Spirit breathed words, we have access into the struggle of an average person called to an above average assignment, to say the least. But, before we can fully dig into the scope of this man’s life, we need to talk about what kingdom building and calling is as it relates to our purpose.

I’m guessing many of you are unsure of your purpose. You have no idea what you’re called to do. Most of us tend to look at purpose in the form of a dream longing to be fulfilled. Or, we don’t really have a dream beyond our day-to-day lives, and that makes us feel as if we are part of an unending search requiring us to look for something we are supposed to have, but don’t. It’s time to change our definitions. It’s time to reevaluate. Is that okay? Here’s why: It’s not about the big dreams. Sorry, it just isn’t. Listen, I’m a dreamer so this has been a hard truth for me to accept. Also, it’s not about seeking out a dream to fulfill. You might not realize this, but right now, at this very moment, you’re living with enormous opportunity to fulfill what you might not even recognize exists. Let me clarify:

According to Mathew 28, Jesus gives a charge called the Great Commission:

And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

-Matthew 28:18-20

What does the Great Commission mean to you? Consider answering this question in your journal.

The Great Commission is our common purpose. But many of us tend to read it and think that we are all to become missionaries in foreign lands, lead a women’s ministry at a mega church, or become Mother Teresa. We think that if we don’t do those things, then we aren’t fulfilling the call. Some of us might even think that whatever it is we are doing right now isn’t meaningful enough to be titled kingdom work. It is true that some of us are meant to go to other countries, or to minister to large numbers of people right here at home, but not all of us. How we go about fulfilling our common purpose is unique to each life. Some of us are called to show our neighbors love – in the literal sense – like walk next door with a batch of freshly baked cupcakes, or offer to babysit kids who will surely hang on our curtains and tear up our houses. And here’s something else we often forget: our own kids – the ones staring us in the face at 6am, startling us out of that rare thing we call sleep, well, they’re the definition of our Great Commission. And, that job, regardless of whatever else He chooses to give us in the future, will be the greatest assignment of our lives.

We cannot kingdom build correctly if we make up our own definitions of what kingdom building is supposed to be. We have to understand our worth in Christ doesn’t depend on the calling itself, or our definitions of how enormous we think it should be. Our worth comes from His willingness to use us and our obedience in saying yes.  

Jesus said, “Go therefore and make disciples.” So, who are the disciples we are supposed to make? I’m pretty sure you’ll be getting some of them off the bus after school today, feeding them dinner, and giving them baths. I’m guessing you’ll be speaking into the life of your spouse and encouraging him to be who Christ called him to become. I think you’ll say something to a friend over coffee that will change how she processes a difficult situation.

 There is a brilliant ministry inside what seems like a boring mess and we don’t often see it.

Jeremiah was called as a prophet for a huge task and the price was high. We are going to discover more about his initial calling next week. I don’t want to overwhelm you with too many words today. You see, before we could really dig into Jeremiah’s life, we needed to adjust our focus and redefine some important principles. That was the point of today.

In preparation for next week:

  1. In your journal, please write Matthew 28:18-20. When you’re done, list the people in your everyday life who you have the opportunity to love and make into disciples. This list can include your children, spouse, friends, neighbors, parents, siblings etc.… after your list is complete, commit to pray for each person on your list throughout the week. (I understand that some of the people on your list may already be serving Jesus, but they do need encouragement. How can you encourage them to keep on keeping on in their journey of purpose?)
  2. In your journal, write down what you think it means to kingdom build and what you think your calling is. Using the Great Commission as God’s definition of purpose, do you think your answers align with His? Why or why not? If they don’t, how can you adjust your focus to get in line with God’s will for your calling?
  3. Between now and next Wednesday, please read Jeremiah chapter one.

Don’t forget to comment under today’s post sharing your thoughts on kingdom building. In doing so, you’ll have a chance to win Never Unfriended by Lisa-Jo Baker! If you’re not on my email list, I would love for you to be part of this kingdom building community! (Subscribing makes you eligible for the giveaway. You can unsubscribe anytime.) For more details on how the giveaway works, click here. I’ll be announcing the winner next Wednesday, May 3rd!

Love,

Jennifer

PS: Share on Social Media what everyday kingdom building looks like to you! We can find each other by using the hashtag #KingdomBuildingSisters.

Who Kingdom Builders Really Are…

Who Kingdom Builders Really Are...

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to encourage a group of women on the topic of being kingdom builders and how it relates to purpose. God etched the word purpose on my heart two years ago. I’m thinking He did it because I often need reminded of mine. As I prepared for my talk, the Lord brought back to my memory a spring day in 1980-something. Like most days, after school, I boarded my big, yellow bus home. As it approached my stop, I stood up to make my exit. I remember wearing an acid washed Guess jean jacket. Yes, I said acid washed.  I loved that jacket – the way I used to wear it with the collar popped up. It made me feel good. As I walked off the bus, my foot somehow missed the bottom step causing me to land flat on my back in the middle of the road. It only took a fraction of a second for the eruption of laughter to pour out from inside the bus. I have to admit, It was funny.

As I stood up to begin my walk home, I noticed the pain in my elbow. I instantly worried that I ripped my expensive jean jacket. I checked immediately, breathing a sigh of relief that it was still in perfect condition. When I arrived home, I took off the jacket to inspect my aching elbow. As soon as I removed it, I noticed a huge rip in my blouse and a nasty brush burn on my skin. I remember being dumbfounded as to how my jacket stayed perfectly intact, yet I had rips and wounds underneath.

As I prepared to speak last weekend, the Lord brought back that moment to my mind showing me that as women we serve as wives, mothers, daughters, granddaughters, sisters, nieces, cousins, friends, coworkers, volunteers, and the list goes on… We find ourselves working to make every area of our lives appear as perfect as possible. We “wear our jackets” to look the part.  And then at the end of a long day, when no one is around, we “take our jackets off.” Underneath are rips and wounds that we haven’t shared with anyone. We are in desperate need of repair, but we won’t allow anyone but God to know. And, we often lament to Him that until the healing process is finished, we won’t be any good at kingdom building.

Thomas Aquinas, a Catholic priest and theologian wrote about primary and secondary causation. To break just a small section of this theology down into very simple terms, it means God is first.  He is uncreated and creates everyone.  Secondary causation says that He uses those whom He has created to accomplish his will and purpose on earth. We are His hands and feet.

While living through infertility, miscarriage, and stillbirth, I didn’t think I could be used. I was broken. And at the time I didn’t have a miracle ending. The last thing I wanted anyone to know was that I was struggling with an inner pain so deep it threatened to destroy the call of God on my life. After losing my daughter, I understood it was possible to die from a broken heart. It wasn’t until God showed me His power is made perfect in weakness, that I was able to “take off my jacket” and show people my wounds.  I found a promise of scripture in 2 Corinthians 12:9 that unleashed a powerful truth stating that my responsibility in kingdom building has nothing to do with my state of wholeness. It’s about His filling of my holes along the way, and how He works repairing the broken pieces as I do the work He’s called me to do.

I had to rise up in the middle of my wounds before the healing took place.

You need to rise up in the middle of your wounds before the healing takes place!

Nehemiah said, “The joy of the Lord is your strength.”  (See Nehemiah 8:10) It doesn’t matter the situation, or our interpretation of it. It doesn’t matter whether we are happy, sad, or somewhere in between. It isn’t about our joy. It’s about His joy, and we will draw our strength from Him.

I often lie awake thinking about the moment in the Garden of Eden when Eve took that first bite. (See Genesis 3) It was all about what she wanted, what she felt she needed. Selfishness always leads to sin. If we aren’t careful, we will cover up our wounds in an attempt to be what we want and rob ourselves from the blessing of being what someone else needs from us. Selfishness will impede our relationships and we will be manipulated, just like Eve, into thinking we are justified in our choices because we’re broken and broken people can’t be used. Lies, lies, all lies.

Though my trials and tribulations are far different now than they once were, I still have them. As long as we are walking this earth, we will deal with difficulty. There are days I need reminded to “take off my jacket.”  None of us are perfect; we all have wounds underneath and we must remember that God chooses to use us in the midst of them. It’s deep inside the core of what pains us most where He reaches in and draws us out – out to encourage a friend, out to visit a neighbor, out to be an example to our children, and out to be the partner our spouses need.

Kingdom builders are often broken people who make a choice each day to allow God to bind their wounds. Doesn’t that make you want to exhale? We don’t have to be perfect to accomplish our purpose. We just have to be willing.

If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the good things of the land.

-Isaiah 1:19 (NIV)

Love,

Jennifer

 

When You Can No Longer Envision the Promise

 

He is able

One night last week, as my husband and I were unloading our sleeping kids from the car, I looked up to see a completely clear sky. I’ve been studying the Old Testament for an upcoming speaking engagement, and so as soon as I saw those twinkling lights above me, I thought about a moment where God gives us a beautiful picture of promise.

Then He brought him outside and said, “Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.”

-Genesis 15:5

When I looked up at the sky on that clear night last week, I was in awe of what I saw. But, I was much more overwhelmed at what I couldn’t see. Do you know that as of April 1, 2014 Hubble revealed an estimation of 100 billion galaxies, and then predicted that number would increase as technology improves?  And guess what? According to the Atlantic Daily, as of October 2016, that number now stands at 2 trillion.  Look at the following quote from Atlantic Daily writer Marina Koren on October 14, 2016: “There’s only one way to count galaxies with existing technology: Point a telescope at a small chunk of sky, tally up the number you see, and then extrapolate that across the whole sky. But when the Nottingham researchers examined the masses of the galaxies in those patches of sky, they realized there must be missing galaxies that are ‘too faint and too far away’ to be imaged by modern technology, even the most powerful telescopes in the world.”

I can’t help but imagine myself being there on that very night God took Abram (Soon to be renamed Abraham) outside and showed him the stars. It appears to me that Abram probably gazed up at that sky and took it at face value. He was probably overcome by the great number of glowing stars above him mingled with the promise God made for his life. I’m not sure Abram ever thought about the stars he couldn’t see. How could he have known the great expanse of the universe? We look at stars in the year 2017 with all modern technology has to offer, and still, we cannot see everything there is in space.

I recently read there are 100 thousand million stars in the Milky Way galaxy alone. Let me repeat that: In the Milky Way galaxy, one galaxy out of what now appears to be 2 trillion, there are 100 thousand million stars. Honestly, I didn’t even know that was a real number! Friend, I can’t even begin to wrap my brain around that number, and yet we serve a God who made a numeric promise based on the number of stars He created. And our God knows exactly how many there are. In fact, He even named each one. (See Psalm 147:4) He told Abram, “Look toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.” He knew Abram couldn’t number them, and that is the whole point.

We serve a God who has spoken promises so great that it is beyond our human vision and comprehension to see the fullness of them. There is so much more for each life than we can begin to know. I need to say this to you today:

GOD IS ABLE!
GOD IS ABLE!
GOD IS ABLE!

The creator of the universe is God of the impossible, and there is more to His Word than we will ever grasp.

After Abram looked up at the sky on that clear night so long ago, he modeled something for each of us.

“And he believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.”

-Genesis 15:6

Up to this point, Abram didn’t have one child. Not one.  And, yet, he was promised descendants matching the number of stars. Abraham made a choice to believe the promise, and because he believed, God counted him righteous.

Today, I want you to believe in a God who sees everything, not just what is within the line of human vision. I want you to believe there is power in His promises, and that He has promises for you. No matter what you see or how you feel, it does not change the power of God’s promises or the depth to which they reach.  This weekend, if you’re have difficulty holding tightly to a promise He’s made, walk outside and look up. Even if the sky isn’t clear, just think about what you cannot see, and what God calls by name.

He is able.

Love,

Jennifer

 

You Are Not Missing

You Are Not Missing

(Hi, Friends! As part of today’s post, I’ve included an introductory video that gives some insight as to why I chose to write on this topic. It’s just over five minutes long. I hope it gives you some encouragement!)

As I’m journeying through the Lenten season, committing myself to certain disciplines, I’ve been spending some time in the book of John. In this particular gospel, chapter fourteen is one of my favorites because Jesus reveals the promise of the Holy Spirit. I want to share the verse I’ve been meditating on the last few days:

Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.”

-John 14:23

The disciples could not understand that Jesus was preparing them for His departure, while at the same time promising He wouldn’t leave. And, to this day, two thousand years later, we all seem to get hung up on those same words. The human mind understands tangibility and reason, while the spiritual expedition requires faith and supernatural acceptance without humanity’s logic. It’s enough to make the head spin, and the heart wander, in search for understanding that is not meant to be entirely understood. (I know that sounds confusing; stick with me for a minute.)

For me, I’m not sure there’s any greater comfort than knowing there’s been a home built inside me that is forever occupied by the living God – The One true God, who can hold the entire universe in His hand, yet chooses to dwell in my heart. Isn’t that mind boggling?

A great big God can make His home in you. And He will!

The Bible actually tells us that God has placed eternity in our hearts. (See Ecclesiastes 3:11)

There’s a longing inside causing every soul to search for Greater. It’s a yearning that cannot be satisfied by anything other than the One who we are meant to search for. The problem is that most of us get caught up in using our heads rather than our hearts, and so the search is, therefore, limited to everything in this world other than God.

I know it sounds crazy that searching for everything this world has to offer would be considered limited. But, friend, if a great big God can live in you, and satisfy your every need, then what do the tangible realities of this world have to offer you? Nothing that’s eternal, that’s for sure. And so you’ll keep searching, because eternity has been placed in your heart and the quest for it cannot be satisfied by any other than Jesus Christ.

Lent is a time to refocus and reposition ourselves at the throne of justice and mercy. We don’t have to look far for that throne. We don’t have to walk around hungry and thirsty for what can satisfy immediately. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have designed a home to occupy inside of you. He wants you to grab tightly to faith, forgoing earthly logic surrounded by limitations.

There is a limitless God wanting to do limitless workings throughout your life.

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Lift up your eyes on high, and see who has created these things, who brings out their host by number; He calls them all my name, by the greatness of His might and the strength of His power; NOT ONE IS MISSING.

-Isaiah 40:26

In all of this, it’s important I communicate that you are NOT MISSING! You are held in the hollow of His hand, known by God, loved by God, and meant for more than you can see with human eyes. There is an Almighty with the ability to dwell inside you, who created you for the purpose of making your heart His home. He knows you by name and you will NEVER go missing.

If today you are bogged down by the world, feeling overwhelmed and overlooked, let me tell you with all certainty the Bible says differently. Amen and Amen!

Love,

Jennifer

 

 

Why I Was Wrong about Lent

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Immediately the Spirit drove Him into the wilderness, and He was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan, and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered to Him.

-Mark 1:12-13

Today is the first day of Lent, which represents the forty days Jesus fasted, prayed, and was tempted before beginning His ministry. As a younger woman I didn’t observe lent. I’m not catholic, and so I lumped Catholicism and lent together as if it had nothing to do with me. I was wrong.

Over the years while studying the word, I learned that the season of Lent, in my life specifically, reflects a refocusing of what Jesus endured for me. Think about it like this: Everything Jesus did, He did for the salvation of mankind. That means the time He spent enduring temptation in the wilderness was for us. It was a stripping away of distractions before enduring a three year long ministry that would eventually lead Him to the cross, and those who chose to believe Him to repentance and salvation.

Throughout this season of Lent I’ve chosen to give some things up, and even add certain disciplines in to my day-to-day life. I want to be cognizant of what the cross means in a way I’ve never been before. I want these 40 days to draw me toward the Lord in newness.

I don’t know about you, but I often need refocusing. I have to purge distractions and force awareness of what is important. Life gets crazy. All of us have family responsibilities, work duties, and everyday life tasks that make the cross more distant than it should be. Putting the cross back into our line of vision grounds us in His love. It’s not that those of us who serve Christ allow a gap between us and the cross on purpose, but life and all its obligations sometimes adds a haze to what happened on Calvary.  We become so wrapped up in the right now, that we need reminded of what made us whole and able to breathe the air of freedom in the first place.

Maybe you do a better job than I do at staying focused on spiritual disciplines. Maybe you don’t allow the constant struggle of real life to get in your way. But, maybe you identify with me and need a time to reawaken your senses by placing the cross front and center in your line of vision. If so, my prayer is that you will take the Lenten season as a time of redirection, making a choice to spend more time remembering what He did, who He is, and what He means to your life.

For me, the point isn’t really about what exactly I give up or what I choose to do differently. It’s about forcing myself to make new habits that remind me of the true gospel story which brings forth the revelation of Christ in my life.

Throughout this season of Lent, may the revelation of who He is and what He’s done come alive to you all over again.

Love,

Jennifer

 

 

Why I Haven’t Been Writing, and some Encouragement for the New Year

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Hello, Friends! I hope you had a very Merry Christmas! I’ve been on a bit of a writing sabbatical the last couple months and will continue in this season until mid-February. Thank you so much for all who have reached out to me. Your words of encouragement and prayers mean so much!

I’m looking forward to picking my writing schedule back up in mid-February with posts at least once a week. We will be focusing on purpose in the life of women. I’m looking forward to sharing what God has been whispering to my heart.

Until then, I want to leave you with this:

I always find it astonishing that there is nothing new under the sun and yet God continues to do new things in our lives – things we could never imagine or even begin to dream without the revelation of the Holy Spirit. He is good and his mercy endures. Just this past week I was studying Joshua and read the following scripture:

Not a word failed of any good thing which the Lord had spoken to the house of Israel. All came to pass.

-Joshua 21:45

There’s enough hope in that verse to heal any gap of waiting you’ll ever face. There’s more than enough grace and mercy to cover anything you’ve ever done. The Lord has good things in store for your life and regardless of the flesh you fight and the skin you wear, His love will overcome. When we stay pressed into the One who loves us most – the One who speaks good things over us – no matter what happens in the interim, we can be secure in the fact there is a future and hope for those who call on His name.

May your New Year be full of overcoming and pressing into the God who speaks good things over you. May you experience every good thing come to pass and see life through spiritual spectacles allowing hope to win and grace to filter cloudy vision.

God bless you!

Talk to you in February, dear friends.

Love,

Jennifer