There is Promise in Pain (Week Six)

Week Six Study Overview: Today we will study Job chapters 4-7 and meet Eliphaz.

Key Point of Struggle: How can we be set free from trying to understand the mind of God? How do we find peace when we don’t receive the support we need?

Key Proof of Comfort: Exodus 14:13-14, Galatians 1:10

  • If you haven’t read Job chapters 4-7, now would be a great time.

One of my favorite things about reading is visualizing the story. I make a movie in my mind and carefully watch every detail. Today, I want us to take a front row seat and watch the exchange between Job and Eliphaz.

Eliphaz was the first of Job’s three friends to speak. Some say he was probably the oldest of the bunch, which is why he was the first to throw his two cents around. Oh, Eliphaz, why didn’t you keep your big mouth shut?

Now, don’t get me wrong. There is a very big part of me that identifies with the way Eliphaz overthinks the situation. This can be a trap inside Christianity; we think we know the mind of God. Personally, every time I think I have a grasp on what God might be doing, He throws me a curve ball. He’s mysterious like that, and I’ve learned to love Him for it. If His logic lined up with man’s logic, chances are there wouldn’t be a whole lot of hope in our circumstances. God answers prayers and sees endings we cannot. He shines light in dark places. We are often so worried about trying to figure out why we’re stuck in darkness that we lose faith waiting to see His light.

Eliphaz couldn’t make sense of a righteous man being forced to endure such horrendous calamity, so he went to the only logical explanation he could think of: Job sinned. You see, we get the full story, so we know Job didn’t sin. We have a Bible to read; we’re a little spoiled that way. We know the end, but Eliphaz didn’t. Instead of seeking God himself on behalf of his friend Job, he jumped to judgment. He even claims to have had a vision. Again, I understand Eliphaz. It’s easy to think we hear from God when it’s not actually God at all. Discernment in this area takes time. It also takes lots and lots of prayer followed by confirmation. According to Job 42:7 I don’t believe Eliphaz actually saw a vision at all. I happen to think that’s why God called out his name specifically when reprimanding the three friends. That’s just my opinion. What I am saying, without a doubt, is that Eliphaz was quick to judge his friend thinking he knew the mind of God. In the process, he only added to Job’s suffering.

Eliphaz also showed some arrogance when he said the following:

“But as for me, I would seek God, and to God I would commit my cause.”

-Job 5:8

Why do we always think we know what we would do if faced with a certain situation? I realize it’s easy to sometimes put ourselves there, but I’ve really been working on praying for others rather than saying what I would do in the midst of circumstances I don’t understand. Friends, it is way easier to look at somebody’s shoes than it is to put them on and walk in them.

After listening to what Eliphaz has to say, Job goes on the defense.

To him who is afflicted, kindness should be shown by his friend.

-Job 6:14

And everyone who has ever felt let down by someone they love shout’s amen.

Job goes on to defend his ground and put Eliphaz in his place. However, this lack of support was only the beginning. We have two other so called “friends” to hear from.

In chapter 7, Job goes onto explain his physical condition, which is far worse than we can even imagine. This man was suffering deeply both physically and emotionally. The grief from loss was nightmarish, he was facing a breakdown of his marriage, and his friends had turned against him. But the worst thing had to have been feeling as if God also turned against him.

  • Have you ever felt like God was against you? What did you do to try to change your mindset and live by faith? If your mindset hasn’t changed, what can you do now to remind yourself that you serve a God who is for you?

There are so many life-giving nuggets that we could extract from these passages of scripture, but if we did, this would turn into a book rather than an online Bible study. Regardless, I cannot end without quickly recounting a story from Exodus 14.

When the Israelites, led by Moses, were fleeing Egypt, pharaoh’s army was in quick pursuit. The people were full of fear, but Moses held tightly to promise. The Red Sea would split and escape would indeed take place.

And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. 14 The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.”

-Exodus 14:13-14

The Lord will fight for you! Those words live strongly within me today. They shout louder than any evil from grief and hardship ever could. What God promises He makes good on. He will not ever leave His people, and He will never quit fighting for us! There is promise in pain!

When other’s think they understand and are quick to judge, bless their hearts, there is another word spoken from the apostle Paul’s pen to which we can cling.

For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.

Galatians 1:10

In that particular passage, Paul is speaking of not giving into sin just because it’s accepted by the world. The Galatians were quick to accept false teaching. However, I think we can also see those words from Paul as helpful in this circumstance.

It’s important to keep in mind that sometimes people are only trying to help with their words, and there is no malicious intent. When struggling something dark, it’s easy to become upset with those who have good hearts yet choose poor words. We need to keep an open mind and heart. However, regardless of our circumstances, pleasing God must be our goal.

Through the midnight hours, fight to please God. He is fighting for you. Jesus is there with you even when you feel alone. In all honesty, there are moments I feel alone through my grief. I wonder why God is allowing so much pain, but I also know He hasn’t left. Just because I don’t feel Him every moment does not mean He isn’t there. He understands our suffering and He is our Comforter.

  • In Job 6:11 Job asks a question that I want to examine: “What strength do I have that I should hope?” We have Christ who is our strength. In your journal, please answer this question with your own words using scripture to remind yourself of the strength you have in Christ. Whenever you feel discouraged, you can revisit it for encouragement.
  • For next week, consider reading chapters 8-10 as we prepare to meet the next “friend” to speak.

On Friday’s Word of Your Weekend subscriber only content, I’m going to speak about prayer and what I’ve learned to do that has strengthened me during this time of deep grief. It involves using the names of God, and I can’t wait to share it with you.

If you would like to subscribe and receive the video teaching, just add your email in the subscribe box at the top right of this page. You are just an email address away from deeper study.

Love,

Jennifer

 

 

There is Promise in Pain (Week Five)

Week Five Study Overview: Today, we will discuss chapter 3 focusing on what Job speaks after seven days of silence.

Key Point of Struggle:  Why does it seem we were born for nothing other than enduring trials?

Key Proof of Comfort: 2 Samuel 22:26-34

If we could time travel and watch Job during this period in his life, we would probably become miserable while waiting for him to speak. God knows our modern day addictions to status updates and Instagram stories would have us pacing in frustration. From what we know, he just stayed put for seven days without a word. Not. One. Word. Through the sound of silence we would witness him scrape boils, suffer fever, infection, and deep pain from head to toe. Could we even stomach it? Would we, like his friends, have thought: what did you do, Job? What curse have you put on yourself?

You see, it’s easy to condemn those three friends, but it frightens me to think it’s entirely possible I may have reacted the same way. We will deal with that subject matter in the coming weeks. For now, anticipation builds as we wait for this poor, suffering man’s words to formulate. As the overwhelming silence of seven days comes to a close we quickly learn that, unlike the end of chapter one, there was no falling in worship. In fact, Job seemed to put the focus more on himself than God. He cursed the day he was born.

  • If you’ve not read chapter three, now would be a good time.

As we read, we find that Job started questioning why in the world he was ever born. I’ve been through a lot in life; I’m suffering deep grief at this very moment. In all honesty, if I envision myself standing there with Job at this time, I’m in agreement shouting, “Yeah, God, why?” And Guess what else? My fists might even be raised.

When my son was a teenager he was going through a difficult circumstance. In the middle of it he lied to me about something. I was irate. I found myself so angry that I stood up and lunged at him. (This, by the way, is not my normal temperament. Frustration found me empty and needing control of something I had no control over whatsoever.) Anyway, I went to grab him, but he was quicker and grasped my hands first. He tried to apologize for lying, but I continued yelling. He remained even tempered while repeating “Mom, mom, mom” over and over again. He was standing calmly as I was flailing around fighting against his strength. In that moment, I realized something very quickly. My son was much taller and much, much stronger than I. He protected himself by gently grabbing my hands and holding them in place as I lost my ever-loving mind for about sixty seconds.

Though the situation is much different, when I dare to put my fists to the sky, I picture my Father in Heaven doing the same thing my son did. He gently grabs my fists and speaks, “Daughter, daughter, daughter” until my spiritual sanity returns. As a result, my fists-to-the-sky moments are becoming less and less. Why in the world does our humanity want to fight a God who is already on our side? We often think that just because God is on our side, we shouldn’t have to endure hard trial. The truth is that because God is on our side, He’s gifted us endurance. We, no doubt, will suffer trial. However, we will have the ability to endure that trial. Why?  Because He is who He says He is.

“With the merciful You will show Yourself merciful; with a blameless man You will show Yourself blameless; 27 with the pure You will show Yourself pure; and with the devious You will show Yourself shrewd. 28 You will save the humble people; but Your eyes are on the haughty, that You may bring them down. 29 “For You are my lamp, O Lord; the Lord shall enlighten my darkness.30 For by You I can run against a troop; by my God I can leap over a wall. 31 As for God, His way is perfect; the word of the Lord is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him. “For who is God, except the Lord?  And who is a rock, except our God? 33 God is my strength and power, and He makes my way perfect. 34 He makes my feet like the feet of deer, and sets me on my high places.

-2 Samuel 22:26-34

God is our strength and power. He’s everything we need to fight the battles we face. I’m learning, especially through this current round with grief, that my fists need to be open palms of surrender lifted humbly before my King. Friend, He’s everything He says He is and so much more. We don’t need to curse the day we were born. We are warriors meant to declare victory through each and every awful trial that comes our way. We are meant to find purpose and promise in every moment. As we continue to study, we will view Job as he comes into full recognition of his purpose. There is promise in pain. Really, there is.

  • Please look up Romans 8:31 and write it in your journal. What does it mean to you in your current circumstances? Write about it.
  • For next week, read Job 4.

For those of you who are following along with the subscriber only Word for Your Weekend content, this week’s video will be surrounding one statement that Job makes in chapter three. I can’t get it out of my head, and if you deal with fear, it might help you in your struggle.

If you aren’t a subscriber and would like to receive this content, just enter your email in the subscriber box on the top right of this page and journey deeper with us in the study of Job.

Love,

Jennifer

PS: I recently wrote an exclusive piece for iBelieve on 3 Tips to Help You Cope with Grief. You can read it here.

There is Promise in Pain (Week Four)

Week Four Study Overview: Whether we are the mourner or the comforter, we must ask for wisdom through grief.

Key Point of Struggle: How do we comfort others through deep grief? How do we accept comfort through deep grief?

Key Proof of Comfort: Genesis 37:36

When we last saw Job, he was having an incredibly difficult conversation with his wife who advised him to curse God and die. After that, the text invites us to meet his three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite.

Upon introduction, we learn these friends made an appointment to come together and comfort Job. When they caught sight of him, even from a distance, they began to cry out, tear their robes, and sprinkle ashes on their heads. This tells us two things: first, the sight of Job was frightful. Second, the friends followed strict tradition.

Do you remember when we talked about Job’s response after losing his children? We discussed the tradition of tearing the robe and shaving the head. In this scenario, Job’s friends were also following tradition. And then we learn something else…

When they approached Job, they sat next to him and said not one word for seven days. In my opinion, this is the best thing they did throughout their entire stay with Job. However, there was a reason why they had some wisdom in this area.

The Talmud is an important collection of rabbinic conversations discussing law. It is a book of study, and according to the writings within those pages, Job’s comforters would have been adhering to tradition. Comforters were not supposed to speak until they were addressed. This gives us some insight into Job’s disposition at the time. He didn’t communicate to these three men for seven days, which says a lot about the agony he was enduring.

I don’t know how you handle grief, but I like to be silent. I don’t mind texts or an occasional phone call or even a visit to check in, but for the most part, I want to process alone. I don’t want to congregate when feeling my lowest. Sometimes, it’s difficult for me to receive comfort because in all truth, I only want to receive from God. I know He’s the only One who can help me.

If you’ve followed my writing for any length of time, you know three years ago, July 16th, my stepfather died suddenly of a heart attack. For a long time, I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I hated accepting help, and in all honesty, I just wanted left alone. Two weeks ago, on July 19th, my brother died unexpectedly, and this time, unfortunately, I’m well trained in grief. To shut everyone out not only cuts myself off from support, but it also makes others feel as if they aren’t welcome in my healing process. When people make a contribution to aid in grief, they heal inside as well. Everyone needs to be part of something bigger, and grief caused by death creates opportunity for community to rise up.

I’m smack-dab in the middle of grief right now. The kind that keeps me awake at night unable to turn off my brain- The kind that makes me not eat, or eat too much –  The kind that makes me want to cut myself off from the whole world as if I can run, find my brother again, hold him tightly, and fix everything. And the worst part of this pain is the knowledge no one can help me.  I, most certainly, have no control to help myself. Only God.

In the story of Joseph, there’s a moment after his brothers sell him into slavery where his father refuses to be comforted. The brothers led him to believe Joseph was dead. And while his brother’s allowed their father to grieve heavily, we learn something else, somewhere else, was taking place.  In Genesis 37:36 it says, “Now the Midianites had sold him in Egypt to Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh and captain of the guard.”

I have the word now boldly italicized because it’s key in God’s plan.

You see, other translations use the word meanwhile, which holds the same connotation as the word now in this context.

  • In the meanwhile, God is working.
  • In the meanwhile, God is able.
  • In the meanwhile, God never leaves us.
  • Even NOW God is faithful!

God was working a greater plan for Joseph in the midst of sorrow. Friend, I have to believe the same is true for me right now. And, for you!

If you are the one grieving, allow your community to rise up. It provides opportunity for the Spirit of God to move in other lives through your tragedy. If you are the one comforting, be a gentle support, not offering too much or too little. Ask God to give you wisdom.

Job’s friends were at their best when they quietly offered support for seven straight days.

On Friday’s Word for Your Weekend subscriber only content, I’m going to talk about a recent encounter I had with a friend who offered quiet support. We will talk about prayer through grief, and what we can do both as comforters, and grievers, to truly allow peace to fill us. If you aren’t a subscriber and would like to receive this content, just type your email address in the subscriber box on the top right corner of this page.

  • As a faith building exercise, choose one person you know who is enduring grief. Write a prayer for them in your journal, and pray it over them each day. Consider sending a text or handwritten card in the mail to let them know you’re thinking of them and praying peace in their life.
  • To prepare for next week, read Job chapter 3.

Love,

Jennifer

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

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

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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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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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