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

jenniferkostick-com

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.

 

Finding Purpose in Prayer: Activating Your Purpose Through the Power of Scripture (A 31 Days Series)

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“What wings are to a bird, and sails to a ship, so is prayer to the soul.”

-Corrie Ten Boom

We’ve been focusing on how finding purpose comes from finding God inside His Word. It’s our connection with Him. We are able to learn who He is, and what He promises for us when we seek Him deep within the pages of Scripture. However, there’s another vital element: prayer. It’s our communication with God that strengthens our bond with Him. When you recognize someone’s place in your life and want to form a relationship with them, you speak to them. You ask questions and pursue communication. The same is true with solidifying a relationship with our Father in heaven. We need to talk to Him openly and honestly. Throughout the next few days, we are going to study some prayers we find in the Bible and unearth some treasure regarding activating purpose in the process.

In 1 Chronicles 4:9-10 we learn of a man named Jabez. This is what Scripture tells us:

Now Jabez was more honorable than his brothers, and his mother called his name Jabez saying, “Because I bore him in pain.” Now Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, “Oh that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil that I may not cause pain!” So God granted him what he requested.

1 Chronicles 4:9-10


I’m going to be very honest and tell you that when I first read those verses, what stood out to me most was the last phrase: “So God granted him what he requested.” Oh, yeah! We all shout hallelujah when God answers exactly what we request. Can I get an amen? And, great hope is pumped directly into our souls when we see those words in the truth of the Bible. But there’s more to this…

First of all, the name Jabez is only mentioned in a total of three verses in the entire Bible. They are all encapsulated in 1 Chronicles. What we learn initially in 1 Chronicles 2:55 is there is a place named Jabez. After that, the second and third mentions are regarding the man named Jabez, which come from the verses I’ve listed above. Let’s meet him…

  1. He was honorable; more so than his brothers.

By definition, the word honor means one who deserves respect. An honorable person shows honesty and good moral character, and they are fair and proper…

Right away we are informed that Jabez was a stand-up guy! And, obviously, God noticed this.

  1. His mother named him Jabez because of the meaning of the Hebrew word for this names which translates to The Bible actually says, “Because I bore him in pain.”

Now, I don’t know if she experienced a traumatic birth, because the Bible doesn’t tell us that. I do know that she wasn’t checking into the hospital, choosing a meal plan, and contacting an anesthesiologist for an epidural… STAT. She suffered during his birth; so much so, she chose his name surrounding what she endured.

Back in Biblical times, names held significant meaning and could easily define a person. What I see automatically through this passage is that Jabez didn’t allow the definition of pain to continue throughout his life. His mother may have endured a torturous birth at the beginning, but her son’s life would turn out to be a testament to the living God.

  1. Jabez called on the living God.

That right there tells us more than we need to know. He was upright and honorable not necessarily held in high esteem from the people surrounding him. Now a days you can believe anything you want and if you do good works, you’re deemed honorable. But we know that Jabez was honorable because he practiced moral standing with God. You don’t call on someone you don’t know or believe in. Jabez obviously knew and believed, which led him to call on the only One who could help.

  1. The prayer: Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory. That Your hand would be with me and that You would keep me from evil that I may not cause pain! And God granted him what he requested.

He trusted in God and the Father met His needs. I also love the play on words: “…that I may not cause pain!” A man who was labeled pain asked that the story surrounding his life would not be one of pain, that he would never again cause another to hurt, and God obliged.

I haven’t read the best-selling book about this prayer. However, I have to admit I’m now curious to read it. But what I see when I look at this is mighty purpose. And the purpose of this man was to know and believe God, depend on Him for his needs, and then stand steadfast in the promises of a Faithful Father. And guess what, our God wanted us to know about this particular man and His dependence upon Him. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have been mentioned.

You see, our purpose is wrapped up first in knowing and believing who God is. After that, He will use us to live a beautiful story of hope and redemption. We don’t have to be defined by who anyone says we are or what we’ve done in the past. We can march on in knowing we serve a God who hears us.

Being honorable doesn’t mean we’re perfect. It means we are trying to do the right thing and depending on God in the process. Prayers are hardly ever answered overnight, but when we pray, we ask in faith that God will do the job in His way and His time. Notice that when Jabez prayed, he asked for God to bless, for God to increase his territory, that God’s hand would be on him and keep him from pain. Jabez was depending on God for everything and held no faith in his own ability.

Friend, your purpose means praying with a heart focused on God and His will for you. We must let go and rise above what we think we need, and ask God to do it all. And, we must maintain an honorable, humble heart in the process.

We can learn a lot from this inconspicuous man, Jabez.

For today’s homework, let’s look up the New King James version of 1 Chronicles 4:10, write it, and highlight all the references to God doing the work, after you’ve done that, pray to Him and release control of your own circumstances into His hands.

Example:

Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory. That Your hand would be with me and that You would keep me from evil that I may not cause pain!

It is God who does ALL the work!

Share your thoughts about Jabez on social media using the hashtag #ActivatingYourPurpose so that we can learn from one another’s insights.

Love,

Jennifer

To learn more about this series, click here to read the introduction and scroll down for previous posts.

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Anyway Obedience When it Seems to be Everybody but Me: Activating Your Purpose Through the Power of Scripture (A 31 Day Series)

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Last night I was part of a discussion including a very touchy topic: The fairness of God.

We aren’t ever sure what to make of life when catastrophic circumstances occur to good, godly people. Jazz legend Ella Fitzgerald produced truth in perfect pitch when she sang, “Into each and every life some rain has got to fall.” Jesus said something similar in a way only He could…

“ …that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”

-Matthew 5:45

No one can escape trouble. However, the human condition works in such a way that we tend to focus so much on the weight of our own afflictions, we cannot see the suffering of others. We look at the outside of people’s lives rather than pray for the opportunity to read the inside of their hearts. We become so wrapped up in our own needs that we stare at the gaping emotional wounds of everyone around us and somehow see pictures of perfection.

Everyone hurts. It comes in waves and seasons.

When we lost our baby girl over twenty years ago, someone told us they felt guilty because everything seemed to be going so well for us that they were jealous… until they weren’t. Because the rain which fell on July 2nd, 1996 changed our lives forever, and no one is jealous of pain.

There is an enemy who wants to manipulate our thoughts, an enemy who wants us to believe God is unfair. And, the truth is, when it comes to our own definition of fairness, we should be thankful He isn’t fair, because our sin nature deserves death and hell. Instead, He sent His Son Jesus, grace fell, and hope rose up declaring victory. For us.

Friend, I desperately want to tell you that life will get better and the fight you’re facing won’t last forever, but I don’t know for sure. I have no idea how long you’ll face your current condition or how long it will be until the next problem occurs. But, I can tell you this: God is for you, not against you. He is good and always does good. Hope lives where faith lives and when it seems as if the people who have cheated, lied, and stolen are dancing in victory… just focus on Him. When it seems as if other Christians are rising to the top and you’re slowly sinking to the bottom… just focus on Him.  Take your eyes off yourself and seek Him inside His word.

Live your purpose, anyway. In my upcoming book, I refer to it as anyway obedience.

In the midst of heartache, grief, depression, and confusion, hold fast to the One who holds it all.

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The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?

-Psalm 27:1

Will you open your Bible to Psalm 27:1 with me? Let’s look closely at this Psalm…

 

  • “The Lord is my light…” He is your light, which means He will lead you through the dark.
  • “…and my salvation…” He is your salvation, which means He will save you from the trap of thinking you were meant to live a life of despair and suffering. You were born for more! He alone will give you the hope of eternity.
  • “…whom shall I fear?” You have no reason to fear anything because the living God is on your side.
  • “The Lord is the strength of my life…” When you are weak He is your strength. Even when you feel strong He’s still holding you up!
  • “…of whom shall I be afraid?” You don’t have to be afraid. Do you know that the command “Do not fear” is listed more than 365 times in the Bible?

 

For today’s homework, please write down Psalm 27:1, and make a list of each part of the verse I outlined above. For each bullet point, name a time He has proved Himself to you. For example:

  • During what situation was He light to you?
  • How has He saved you?
  • Name a reason you don’t have to fear.
  • Name a time you were weak and He proved strong.
  • Declare that you will not be afraid!

 

It’s too easy to forget what He’s done for us in the past when our present is in utter chaos. I find that when I remember what He’s done, He reminds me that he will do it again.  He is a faithful God! And, His mercy tells me He will continue to save me again, and again, and again… forever.

When you’re done with your list, choose one of the bullet point topics and post about it on social media. Use the hashtag #ActivatingYourPurpose so that we can find each other.

Love,

Jennifer

For more information on this series, click here to read the introduction and scroll down to previous posts and learn what’s ahead.

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Discipline Activates Purpose: Activating Your Purpose Through the Power of Scripture (A 31 Day Series)

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Yesterday, we talked about an all too familiar question: why do we suffer? I gave you my thoughts and then shared that I was going to tell you what helped me to begin activating my purpose though pain.

Here it goes…

What helped to pull me out of the pit isn’t anything crazy elaborate. It’s plain, old fashioned discipline. Without it, activation is impossible.

Believe me; I’ve never considered myself to be overly disciplined about anything. I don’t like to exercise, I’m a huge fan of sleep, and I think it’s rotten that God has allowed carbohydrates to pack on pounds. (Sorry, Lord. I had to confess it.) I’m just not feeling it. Actually, I take that back. My jeans cause me immeasurable amounts of stress these days, so I guess I do feel it.

The point is in order to put any good thing into motion requires some type of discipline. And if you’re going to figure out how to activate purpose in your life, then you will need to discipline yourself to open up His Word. One verse at a time leads to whole chapters, and whole chapters lead to whole books until you’ve covered the ground you need to know in order to build a solid foundation.

In my early 20s while enduring a season of deep, dark grief, I was asked what scripture I was “standing on” to help me through that time. My answer was, “I don’t know. All of them?” The truth was I was praying, but mostly, I was looking for an audible voice to come from the sky to answer my questions. I was depending on the pastoral staff to sow into my life. I was not looking in the Scriptures to give me answers. Sure, every once in a while I would read a verse here or there to give me comfort, but I was making everything in life about me, and God was not the center. That’s a huge mistake. I need to hear what He wants me to hear, not what I want me to hear. Ouch.

It was actually a vacation Bible school jingle that taught me to memorize a scripture which fit perfectly into my life. Will you please turn to Joshua 1:9 with me?

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

-Joshua 1:9

The way my love for the word truly began was by memorizing this scripture and applying in every circumstance of my life. To this day, I still say it when fear hits, uncomfortable confrontation sneaks inside the ordinary, or when I just need the reminder that I’m not alone.

Something else about the Word is that it’s living and powerful. It is active. And, when you have an active force working inside you then that flint and steel we talked about in the beginning of this series will finally produce a small spark capable of changing everything in your entire life.

One small verse a day can begin a renewal in your life. It’s not an overnight process; it’s one that takes discipline. So, today, I want to give you eight tips to help you begin studying the Word in a way that can truly activate your purpose.

  1. Time blocking: figure out what time of day works for you and how much time is reasonable for you to spend. Don’t set lofty goals! Start out by doing what you can do and that’s all. Even if it’s only five minutes a day. Try to do it at the same time each day. Consider setting a timer. It’s so helpful!
  2. Choose a starting place: If you don’t know where to begin, consider starting with the book of John. Just wait until you see how many times the word believe is listed! There’s a lot of discourse in this book. It’s different from the other three gospels. It has its own feel and brings you inside the miracles of Jesus in a bit of a different way. I highly recommend it.
  3. Leave everything else behind: After deciding what you’re going to read. Choose to leave everything you think you know behind. Let the Word speak new and fresh to you.
  4. Remember that the people you are reading about were real: They were made up of flesh and blood just like you and me. If you relate them as fictional characters then the Word can’t speak. They were real and the events of that time were real. You need to let that speak loudly when doubt tries to steal your spark.
  5. Mark the spot: I’m a big believer in marking up my Bible. I know there are different schools of thought on this, but my Bible serves as a journal. I want my children and children’s children to know what the Lord was speaking to me through His word. Write notes in the margin, circle and highlight verses, and date everything so you can check your progress overtime for the things God has done in your life!
  6. Pray: Pray that the Holy Spirit will guide you each day as you grow in His word.
  7. Begin: Just Read! And if it helps, read out loud. It will enable you to better remember what you’re learning about.
  8. Memorize: When you get to a verse that really speaks to you. Memorize it and recite it in all your circumstances. Print it out and hang it where you can see it daily.

For today’s homework: figure out which one of these pointers might help you most and post it on social media to encourage someone. Maybe you have something that works for you that I haven’t mentioned. I would love to glean from your wisdom! Use the hashtag #ActivatingYourPurpose so that we can find each other.

Love,

Jennifer

To learn more about this series, click here to read the introduction and scroll down to find previous posts and learn what’s ahead.

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Why Do We Suffer? Activating Your Purpose Through the Power of Scripture (A 31 Day Series)

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Finding purpose in pain, both physical and emotional, is probably the largest stumbling block we all face. However, even though every person on the planet inevitably deals with some type of brokenness, we are also called to overcome it.

In John 16:33 Jesus says, “In this world you will have trouble.” Of all the promises He gives, this is not one many of us want to accept. And, I’m sure most of us wouldn’t even consider this specific remark as a promise from Him. Yet, I’ve learned that when it comes to the Bible we must take the good with the bad, and if Jesus faced the bad, and we all know He did suffer while on this earth, then we cannot be immune from suffering either. It’s a fact: we will have trouble here. But don’t worry, there’s good news. Jesus goes onto say, “But be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” He speaks of finding peace in Him because He’s overcome the world through the cross.

If you’ve been serving Christ for any length of time then you know what Jesus did and you understand there are mountains to be moved and Goliath’s to be conquered. You also believe Jesus can and will bring victory. The problem usually isn’t what we know and believe God can do, the problem lies in wondering if He’ll ever do it for us.

I’m going to repeat that because I believe that statement will strike a chord with some. To be honest, I just typed those words unexpectedly and it stirred something in me…

The problem usually isn’t what we know and believe God can do, the problem lies in wondering if He’ll ever do it for us.

(Tweet that to encourage someone!)

In my past I’ve wondered that same thought, and I almost allowed it to hinder my purpose altogether. In my book, Nothing to Hold but Hope, I have this to say regarding living through the death of my stillborn daughter.

“I wanted my baby, and I would think about holding her. Sometimes I would think that I heard her crying, and then I would start to have visions of myself going to the cemetery in the middle of the night, and digging up her grave. I would see myself on my hands and knees with mud-covered fingernails and a tear-stained face as I desperately tried to claw my way to her lifeless body.”

-Jennifer Kostick

Nothing to Hold but Hope

I understand pain from many different sources. None are troubles I ever wanted to face, or expected to face, but I do know Jesus said suffering is inevitable on earth. I also know He came so that I could find peace in Him and that when it’s all said and done, He took care of everything in advance for me. But let’s just be honest here: it’s not easy to think that way in the middle of enduring tragedy or any difficult circumstance. Typically, no one wants to focus on what Jesus did for our futures, which seem light years away, we want to know what He’s going to do right now… as in this very second!

“Why does God allow suffering?” That’s a question I’m frequently asked. My answer might seem juvenile and cliché, but I believe it’s because we live in a world full of sin. The ugliness of what began in the Garden of Eden falls on the innocent as well as the guilty and not a living soul is exempt. And, finding the good in all of it and learning to focus on the victory… well, it’s a process.

When it comes to enduring great pain, physical or emotional, we are all looking for miracles. Mark Batterson writes in his book, The Grave Robber, some incredibly thought provoking words: “Everyone wants a miracle, but here’s the catch: no one wants to be in a situation that necessitates one.”

Friend, I don’t have all the answers, only God does. And that doesn’t mean He’s going to reveal them all to us, which makes our situations that much more complex. But if there’s anything I do know, it’s that when we work through the process of pain, learning to hold fast to who Jesus is and what He came to do, then we can have the ability to walk the land of purpose with our heads held high and shoulders back, knowing that no matter how hard or long the struggle, the victory is ultimately His. And He’s our defender, which means we own that victory, too! When we cling tight to His promises, we start seeing hope like we’ve never seen before. There’s a revelation of His goodness that occurs even while in the midst of facing trouble.

Tomorrow, I’m going to talk about the process that began activating my purpose, but for today’s homework, will you please write down one trouble you’re facing and then underneath it write down one evidence of grace you’ve seen from God in the midst of it?

When I was fighting a tough battle of grief over losing my baby daughter, an unexpected battle with secondary infertility came next. During that time, my doctor told me she loved to encourage others with my testimony. I thought she was crazy, because I felt as if I had nothing good to report. Why would others what to hear such a sad story? I saw pain; she saw bravery. Her eyes saw God moving in ways mine couldn’t!

I know this assignment can be difficult. Remember the term “spiritual spectacles” I used the other day? You may need to “put yours on” in order to see the good. No matter how small you consider the act of grace, share something about it with us on social media using the hashtag #ActivatingYourPurpose. And if you can’t see the grace, ask someone else to help you! Post what they have to say. Believe it or not, someone somewhere is watching you live through difficulty, and you are helping them. Yes, YOU! Let’s encourage each other and help activate purpose in the lives of other women!

Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.
9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
2 Corinthians 12:8-9 (NIV)

Love,

Jennifer

For more information on this series, click here to read the introduction or scroll down to find links to previous posts and see what’s ahead.

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Do Not Despise Small Beginnings: Activating Your Purpose Through the Power of Scripture (A 31 Day Series)

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Many of us confuse purpose with platform. We think if we aren’t doing something that the rest of the world, or at least our immediate circle, considers crazy amazing, we aren’t living with specific purpose.

Women are unique in the respect that an overwhelming amount of us are designed as nurturers. We are compassion giving, reach out a hand and pull up a sister, type of community driven people. It’s part of our birthright to rock the position of multitaskers while possessing the superpower of being able to give hope in a single word or deed. The problem is that most of us feel we’ve lost purpose in the midst of changing diapers and going to a job where we are forced to choose between furthering a career while pulling off Pinterest perfection at home. In our society, balance is a lost art and the need for platform is secretly choking the life out of the term sisterhood.

Friend, purpose is intentional and it’s lived in small, silent, moments when no one is watching but God Himself. It’s not about how “big” we do something and who sees it; it’s what we do that goes unnoticed that becomes the anthem of our lives. The smallest and sometimes most insignificant seconds become sacred.

The ability to truly grasp purpose means learning not to despise what seems small.

(Tweet that to encourage someone!)

In the Old Testament we learn of a minor prophet by the name of Zechariah. It’s important to know the Minor Prophets are not considered minor because of their messages, but because of the brevity of their books. Anyway, Zechariah was called to minister the word of the Lord as a source of comfort and encouragement after the Jerusalem residents returned from Babylonian exile. He delivered a message regarding the importance of faithfulness in times of difficulty, while encouraging rebuilding the temple.

Throughout the process, though the temple was incomplete, there were many who felt disappointed. It by no means met the grandness of Solomon’s temple.  In fact, it paled in comparison. Little did they know, the holy place which seemed lacking in exquisite beauty would be the cause of great rejoicing.  The Messiah Himself would enter inside that place.

Would you please turn with me to Zechariah 4:10?  In this passage, the word of the Lord is speaking:

“…For who has despised the day of small things? For these seven rejoice to see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel. They are the eyes of the Lord, which scan to and fro throughout the whole earth.”

-Zechariah 4:10

If we were focusing on the book of Zechariah alone, we would be digging deep in this verse. But, for today, I want to focus on the question, “For who has despised the day of small things?”

If you are anything like me, you can easily confuse daily, casual encounters with others, making dinner for the family, or reading your kids a story as part of monotony. But, when we put on spiritual spectacles, we can see purpose inhaling and exhaling in every moment. We can demonstrate the love of God to others in every seemingly insignificant circumstance. The daily map of land we follow leads us through “small moments” which eventually draws us to encounter larger moments. Our day-in-day-out routines push us to experience purpose.

Purpose is found in tucking our kids into bed at night, and being kind to the person who seems least deserving. It’s no less significant than those who preach to thousands in a stadium, win an award for best worship song of the year, or holds a six-plus figure salary position.

What you do in every moment matters, and don’t ever believe the familiar voice in your head telling you it doesn’t.

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Today’s homework: Make a list of three “small” things you did today and write down the purpose accomplished in each task. Did it make someone smile, did it contribute to their health and welfare. (Meaning: did you feed them or give them a bath?) Maybe you had a conversation with a friend on the phone making them laugh so hard it served as medication for a weary soul. After you’ve thought it through, share something about your list on social media. Maybe take a picture of it or write about the task. Encourage someone else in their purpose and use the hashtag #ActivatingYourPurpose so that we can find each other! And just so you know, I’m participating in all of these homework assignments as well!

Do not despise small things, they mean more than you know!

Love,

Jennifer

To learn more about this series, click here to read the introduction or scroll down to see previous posts and what’s ahead!

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