There is Promise in Pain (Week Two)

Week Two Study Overview: Today, we will step into Job’s world and watch him lose everything he loves.

Key Point of Struggle: How is it possible to worship through such tragedy?

Key Proof of Comfort: John 16:33

I’m actually at the point where I feel like I know Job personally. When I read the text, it’s as if I’m watching his story unfold right before my eyes. It’s almost like I’m right there with him when his world flips upside down. As we study, it’s important to find a way to connect with who we’re learning about. With all my heart I believe this man, Job, lived and breathed, and when we can attach ourselves to his life, we open up our hearts to deeper study.

My youngest children are eight year old twins, and when we talk about life and purpose, I always tell them the most important thing they can ever do is to make Jesus famous through their lives. Any gift they have is from Him and they must return it in praise. To me, nothing else matters. And I want nothing else to matter more to my children than their God. Job made God famous through his life, and it’s an honor to dig into his story so we can learn about our famous One.

As I step inside Job’s space in time, I see him sitting down. I don’t know exactly where he’s sitting, or what the background looks like surrounding him, those details are sketchy for me, but I do know he was seated. I know this because later in the story the Bible says, “Job arose.”  As he’s seated he receives four visitors, all there to share devastating news. Before one messenger can finish, another barges inside interrupting him with more tormenting information.

I imagine Job’s eyes looking upward from one person to the next in complete dismay. He’s confused as his brain works quickly to process his present situation. Throughout the first three encounters, he remains exactly where he was seated, but then the fourth person enters and things take an intense turn. When the news of his children’s death, all ten of them, is delivered, the Bible says that he arose, tore his robe and shaved his head. I imagine him bolting out of his seat, frantically looking for tools to help him in those acts. It’s terrifying to watch his immediate suffering, but there was a reason why he did this.

In Job’s day, shaving the head was a customary sign signifying destruction and disgrace. Job communicated deep grief by this action, but to me that wasn’t even the intense part. It’s what came after the robe tearing and hair cutting that blows my mind. The word tells us he fell to the ground in worship. What? I know, right?!?! I don’t see him neatly on his knees. I picture his body thrown to the ground in a face-to-floor position wailing the following words…

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb. And naked shall I return there, the Lord gave. And the Lord has taken away ; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

-Job 1:21

I’m pretty sure this is the part in the story when we all tilt our heads in a gesture of confusion. Other than his wife, Job lost everything in the blink of an eye. In a situation where I think most of us would be overtaken by the shock of it all, Job had the presence of mind to remember God. He was able to recognize His mighty hand in the most terrifying scene of his entire life. And then what comes next is almost inconceivable.

In all this job did not sin nor charge God with wrong.

-Job 1:22

I think tragedy brings out truth. It definitely births character. In my most devastating circumstances I asked God to help me, but I also asked the question why a lot. I certainly know what I didn’t do. I didn’t immediately fall to my knees in worship. I wish I could say I did, but sadly, I never even thought of it.

When calamity walks through the door, it’s very important to have a firm foundation. Otherwise, the earthquake it brings with it will tear everything down. What we know about Job’s life is that his relationship with the living God was built on a solid base of truth. That truth was so thick that it arose in strength when he fell to his knees. That’s not to say the emotion and trial of what would come next wouldn’t cause Job to feel the quaking, but we will see it won’t be enough to break the firm foundation.

Over the years, I’ve often thought about the day I learned my daughter was stillborn. I wonder what it would have been like if my first thought had sent me to the ground in worship…

33 These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

-John 16:33

I’m still at a loss as to how Job reacted the way he did all those years before the cross. For me, it proves the disposition of our Father in heaven to forge relationship with His beloved. Even before the cross Job had a love for the Almighty. The cross clears my blurry vision in the midst of horrific situations. Job didn’t have that luxury. Jesus came so that in Him we could find peace. He told us there would be trouble, but He died so that we could stand firm in the midst of suffering.

Trial will come; tribulation will come, but it’s okay. Why? Because Jesus already came.

 Jesus came to give hope to the hopeless and life to the dead. May we all look at Job’s reaction and learn something mighty. Let us strive to worship in the desert the same as we would in land flowing with milk and honey. Let us learn to exalt God for who He is rather than what He can do. And let us trust in the only real hope we will ever know: Jesus.

  • Please read Job 2:1-10 in preparation for next week. Think about Job’s wife and give some thought as to how you feel about her reaction to Job’s circumstances. Journal about it. She will be a focus of next week’s study.
  • For a faith building exercise, write John 16:33 in your journal and consider memorizing it. I believe hope and peace is more easily activated when we remember what Jesus did and why he did it.

Every Friday, I provide extra content for my subscribers in something we call “Word for Your Weekend.” This coming Friday, we will expand this lesson with another scripture and discuss how God helped to change me from the inside out when my reaction to tragedy wasn’t nearly the same as Job’s. If you aren’t a subscriber and would like to receive this extra content, please enter your email in the subscribe box on the top right of this page. You are welcome here!

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 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

 

 

 

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 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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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.

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

What to Think About Before You Lift Your Sword: Activating Your Purpose Through the Power of Scripture (A 31 Day Series)

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Hebrews 4:16 talks about coming boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy in our time of need. If there’s anyone who fits the description of going boldly, it would be David.

King David knew how pray. Sure, he was a mighty man of valor, known for slaying enemies throughout the battle zones. But even more than that, he prayed. Even when he wasn’t living with clean hands before the living God, he knew who his strength came from, and he often dropped to his knees before lifting his sword.

I wish I would be more mindful of dropping to my knees before lifting my sword. Obviously, I’m not speaking literally. However, the tongue proves to be even sharper than a sword. James, the half-brother of Jesus, says the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity and has the power to defile the whole body. He goes onto say it’s full of poison. I have to say that makes me feel like gargling some mouthwash, ASAP.

As we pursue the activation of purpose through the power of Scripture, our hearts become in tune with the calling of God on our lives. And sometimes that means speaking kindly, forgiving boldly, and humbling ourselves even when we feel we’ve been wronged on all sides. You see, the tongue doesn’t just spew hatred, it knows when to hold kindness as well. Sometimes we don’t want to speak to those who have hurt us.

One of my go-to scriptures is Psalm 51:8. Let’s turn there.

Make me hear joy and gladness, that the bones you have broken may rejoice.

-Psalm 51:8

David prayed those words after getting himself tied up in a web of sin concerning Bathsheba. In context, this is a prayer from the mouth of a man who lost a son based on his own sin. When I look at this verse, it speaks volumes because though bad things happen, sometimes because of our doing, sometimes not, sometimes a little of both, we have a God we can approach boldly. With all honesty and shame we can say, “Make me, Lord because my humanity is causing poison to spew from my tongue. Make me hear joy and gladness, and may I rejoice in the hard things you’ve called me to do regardless of my pride.”

It might be easier to swallow that mouthwash I mentioned earlier than pray those words, but when we are digging deep inside the heart of God, which is what we are doing when working to pursue His Word to further our relationship with Him, then we cry out in faith using our swords to glorify the living God.

I’ve come to a place where I know that activating purpose doesn’t mean it’s going to feel good. Often, it will be harder than we ever imagined. God calls us to do big things, which mean lots of difficult and uncomfortable moments. But we can be sure that our Living Hope will come through for us just like He did for King David.

Today, may you wake up to understanding that serving God doesn’t mean easy living, but it does mean intentional, purposeful, active love through obedience to the One who is love and gave His Son in an act of love and salvation for you.

For today’s homework, please post Psalm 51:8 on social media using the hashtag #ActivatingYourPurpose. Encourage someone who needs to hear they can have joy and gladness again.

Make this your prayer!

Love,

Jennifer

To find out more about this series, click here for the introduction and scroll down for a list of previous posts.

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The Burning in Your Bones: Activating Your Purpose Through the Power of Scripture (A 31 Day Series)

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Over the next couple days, as we continue to study the significance of prayer as it relates to purpose, I want to tell you how thankful I am we are taking this journey together. Searching for purpose is something we all seem to do, even when we don’t realize we are. It’s so easy for us to stop believing that God wants to work through us. When life gets hard the human condition screams, “stop!” Our flesh not only works to keeps us from moving forward on the path of purpose, but also tries to hinder us from believing we have any purpose in the first place.

Today, we are going to study one small section of a prayer from the prophet Jeremiah. This segment of prayer spoke to my heart when I was grappling with a difficult transition. I’ve found that God often calls me to do hard things. Really, really hard things. Can you relate? I bet you can.

I don’t know if you’ve handled the calling of God on your life the way I sometimes have, but just so you know, I’ve often been caught trying to ignore His map for my life and take my own way. I’ve even tried to convince Him that there must be some type of misunderstanding, because certainly He was calling the girl next door, the lady down the street, or the sweet and kind person who has it all together for this task. He had to have accidently shouted my name instead, right? Wrong. The God of the universe doesn’t make mistakes. He puts a burning deep inside our bones even when life is hard. He tells us to move forward anyway.

Long before any of us living today inhaled the oxygen of this world, there lived a man named Jeremiah who dealt with hard things… really, really hard things! And, thankfully, we can learn from Him. Let’s take a look. Will you please turn to Jeremiah 20? We will be reading verses 7-9 today.

Before we dig into this particular passage of scripture, I’ll give you just a tiny bit of background:

Jeremiah was an Old Testament prophet who was devoted to God. He is the author of this Biblical book and his story is told in depth on many levels from personal conflict over the hard tasks assigned to him by the living God, all the way to his experience with opposition, resistance, and persecution regarding the ministry he was called to live.

Throughout his time he witnessed a downward spiral of Jerusalem and the temple. Though Jeremiah lived his calling, he experienced a wide range of emotions through it, which is why I relate so well to the piece of prayer we will study today.

Biblical scholars refer to a certain section of the book of Jeremiah as “Jeremiah’s confessions.” This section of scripture is one of those. He isn’t exactly happy about his calling or how his circumstances are turning out, but there is no denying his wanting to serve God regardless. He clearly holds recognition that there is no other way…

 

O Lord, You induced me, and I was persuaded; You are stronger than I, and have prevailed.
I am in derision daily; everyone mocks me. For when I spoke, I cried out; I shouted, “Violence and plunder!” Because the word of the Lord was made to me a reproach and a derision daily.
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 20:1-7

Jeremiah was obviously in a great deal of personal pain emotionally about what was happening to him as a result of doing the will of the Lord. What I love about this prayer is that, firstly, he opens up to God about exactly how he is feeling, and, secondly, he confesses that even though he tried to deny the purpose of his life, he couldn’t. God placed a fire inside his bones and there was no way he could hold it back.

Don’t hold back the fire in your bones! It was placed there by the Creator for a reason!

(Tweet that to encourage someone!)

First of all, I encourage you to read the above section of scripture out loud and think about how it might relate to you. I’ve been in situations where I knew God was calling me to do or say something, but it wasn’t well received. What I’ve learned is that what God is working in the heart of another has nothing to do with me. I’m only called to be obedient at all times, even when it hurts. Remember that phrase anyway obedience we talked about the other day?

I want to be clear on this point, because I’m not talking about hurting another person with my words or interjecting an opinion when it has nothing to do with me. I’m speaking about times when God has called me to ministry and I’ve experienced opposition with others, or a slow growth that I just couldn’t understand. I’m discussing feeling discouraged from those who it seems have loved me less than they should have. But here’s the thing: From experience, I’ve also learned that if it’s truly the call of God on my life and if He is truly speaking to me, He will continue that ministry to which He’s called me in another way, another place, or another time. He won’t ever stop the work He’s started. And do you know what? I won’t ever quit the work He’s started deep inside me, because I literally feel the fire in my bones. It’s been placed there by the Living God, to keep me moving forward in my purpose.

Maybe you’ve been hurt in ministry. Talk to God about it! Maybe you feel like quitting, maybe you’ve already quit, but you still aren’t content.

I have news: if you stop pursuing the calling God has placed on your life, you won’t ever be content.

(Tweet that to encourage someone!)

You might try to lie to yourself because quitting might be easiest, but overtime you will feel an uncomfortable burn leading you to follow the purpose of your life. And you will! When you do, just remember the words of Jeremiah.

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”

For today’s homework, write this verse on paper, and then underneath it write about the one thing you feel deep inside that God has called you to do. Write about how you might take steps to go about living that calling over your life. If you’ve been hurt in ministry, seek God about where to start again and how. He came to bind our wounds and He wants you to be whole in your purpose. Maybe you have some forgiving to do. Maybe you need to learn how to function fully in your purpose without receiving an, “I’m sorry.” We all have to walk that road and it’s never easy, but it is necessary. You cannot depend on others; you have to depend solely on God. Worry about His work in your life alone.

Pray for the heart of the offender, don’t depend on it. God will give you everything you need even if that person never will!

(Tweet that to encourage someone!)

Please share on social media today about the burning in your bones. What’s your dream? What do you feel God might be calling you to do? Use the hashtag #ActivatingYourPurpose. After you post, follow the hashtag to encourage someone else who has taken a leap of faith and posted about the burning fire they can’t hold back!

Love,

Jennifer

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To find more information about this series, including a landing page of past posts and what’s ahead, click here.