Friday, February 23, 2018

Stepping out in Faith

A few mornings ago I read Joshua 3 (which was pretty awesome timing, because that was also the passage at church last weekend!), and I was struck by two different, yet I think complementary, things.

To set the scene, Joshua has recently been placed in leadership by God (after the death of Moses). The Israelites are camped one on side of the Jordan River, which they need to cross to enter the Promised Land. It’s harvest season, which also means that the river is at flood stage (v. 15). 

“Joshua told the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.”

Joshua said to the priests, “Take up the ark of the covenant and pass on ahead of the people.” So they took it up and went ahead of them.

And the Lord said to Joshua, “Today I will begin to exalt you in the eyes of all Israel, so they may know that I am with you as I was with Moses.  Tell the priests who carry the ark of the covenant: ‘When you reach the edge of the Jordan’s waters, go and stand in the river.’”

Joshua said to the Israelites, “Come here and listen to the words of the Lord your God.  This is how you will know that the living God is among you and that he will certainly drive out before you the Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites and Jebusites.  See, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth will go into the Jordan ahead of you.  Now then, choose twelve men from the tribes of Israel, one from each tribe.  And as soon as the priests who carry the ark of the Lord—the Lord of all the earth—set foot in the Jordan, its waters flowing downstream will be cut off and stand up in a heap.”” (Joshua 3:5-13)

God told Joshua what to tell the priests, and Joshua obeyed and told them. And the priests obeyed the Word of the Lord.

“So when the people broke camp to cross the Jordan, the priests carrying the ark of the covenant went ahead of them.  Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge,  the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away, at a town called Adam in the vicinity of Zarethan, while the water flowing down to the Sea of the Arabah (that is, the Dead Sea) was completely cut off. So the people crossed over opposite Jericho.  The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord stopped in the middle of the Jordan and stood on dry ground, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground.” (Joshua 3:14-17) 

This is such an awesome reminder of God’s power! He controls the winds and the waves, and rivers! He provided for the Israelites’ immediate need—crossing the Jordan—in a miraculous way. He reminded them of His power, His control, and His provision. 

The other part that really jumped out to me, though, was the priests’ responsibility in this chapter. God told them to not just walk up to the edge of the Jordan, but to then GO STAND in the river. God hadn’t stopped the flowing water yet.

It was still a strong current.

The water was still rushing. 

Yet, the priests obeyed. They went to the river’s edge, and when their feet touched the water, that’s when God stopped the flowing water upstream!

God knew that exactly how He was going to provide for the Israelites, but He asked the priests to step out IN FAITH. Faith that He would do what He had said He'd do. 

And the priests obeyed. And God, like always, came through. 

The Israelite priest's obedience preceded God's miracle. They stepped out in faith, in obedience, and He showed them His power and might, just like He said He'd do. 

Reading this passage had made me think about how often I DON'T step out in faith, and has made me wonder what I've missed seeing because of that. 

God has commanded us to "love another," (John 13:34) and to "love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind." (Matthew 22:37). He also commanded us to "go and make disciples of all nations..." (Matthew 28:19). 

I know what I've been told to do. 

But how often do I NOT love the Lord with my whole heart? 

How often do I NOT show love to those around me? 

And how often do I NOT share the Good news of Christ? 

When I fail to obey what God has commanded, I miss out on the miracle. I don't know how God would use my obedience, it might be in big ways and it might be in small ways. And it might just be to change MY heart, to help me to grow in holiness. 

But I do know this, I don't want to miss it! I want to walk in obedience to what God has called me to do, and I want to see how He works, how He displays His power and might and love. 

I want to be like the Israelite priests, walking to the edge of the Jordan, getting their feet wet, and trusting that God would do what He said He'd do. 

I want to step out in faith, trusting that my God will come through, always. 

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Wielding the Sword

I've learned about the armor of God many times over the years, in Sunday school, AWANA, youth group, and through reading my Bible. I've been realizing more and more lately that sometimes there is a very real disconnect between learning something and actually APPLYING it to our lives. 


Ephesians 6:10-17 says this: "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." (NIV) 


If you read through that passage, you see many pieces of armor meant to protect you--to defend. There is only one piece that is different. The Sword of the Spirit. The part of the armor that is offensive, rather than defensive. 


I know this is true, but I honestly don't know if I've ever applied it practically. 

There has been a lot on my mind and heart recently, and I found myself anxious often. One morning during devotions last week, God brought to mind Philippians 4:4-8: 



"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." 
That passage was exactly the reminder I needed, and after reading it and praying through it I felt much calmer and at peace, but God pressed it on my heart that I needed to remember those verses. 
I went on with the day, but soon enough the anxieties came back. Before reading that passage that morning, I would've let the fears and thoughts start to consume me, but this time I remembered the verses in Philippians, I stopped and literally said them out loud. Over and over again. 
The anxieties calmed, and peace came. 
Then later in the day, the anxieties popped up again. So, again, I repeated those verses. Once again, I received peace. 
And it happened again and again. I would begin to feel anxious or fearful, so I would focus on the passage in Philippians, saying the verses both out loud and in my head depending where I was at and what I was doing. 
And suddenly it hit me... this is what wielding the Sword of the Spirit is supposed to be.
It's battling sins, fears, anxieties, worries, etc. with the Word of God, instead of trying to do it on our own. 
It's focusing on Scripture to get our minds fixed on God, not on the problem at hand. 
It's using Scripture to preach the truth to yourself, instead of listening to the lies of the evil one. 
It's using Scripture to take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5), instead of letting your thoughts run wild. (I know I'm guilty of that!) 
It's amazing that God not only redeemed us through Jesus's blood on the cross, but He gives us His very Word, a Sword by which to defend ourselves. 
One of my sweet friends so wisely shared with me once that God had been pressing on her heart the importance of memorizing and knowing Scripture, because it was her weapon, the weapon God had given her to fight the lies that Satan feeds us. 
If we don't know Scripture, how can we fight? Against lies, against sin, against anxieties? 
If we don't know Scripture, we are not using the weapon that God specifically gave us! 
I don't know about you, but I definitely don't want to waste the gift that God has given us in His Word. 
I want to know His Word, so that I might wield the Sword. 

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Obedience Brings Joy


“Obedience brings joy.”
I read that phrase in an interview with Lauren Chandler (https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/on-my-shelf-life-and-books-with-lauren-chandler), and it has stuck with me ever since. I’ve repeated it to myself, and reminded myself of the truth of that statement, but it wasn’t until recently that it played out in my life and I saw it firsthand.
Have you ever known that God wanted you to do something, but then dragged your feet to actually DO it? Yep, that has been me for the past month, I’m sad to say. I knew what God was telling me to do, I knew it was Biblical and the right thing, and yet I hemmed and hawed. I realized I was using the excuse of “I’m still praying for more direction...” when in reality, God had given me the direction I needed already. I don’t think there is anything wrong with praying for direction—in fact I believe that God loves it when we look to Him for wisdom and guidance! Proverbs 9:10 says that the “fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,” so there is no better place to start when asking for wisdom than by listening to the Lord, and by remembering His holiness, sovereignty, and sufficiency. However, I believe that there are times that we can pray too much asking for direction, when God’s Word clearly tells us what to do, and we already know what He wants us to do. I think of James 1:22-25, where James admonishes his reader to not only listen to the Word, but to DO what it says!
Last week I finally realized that by dragging my feet and saying that “I was still praying for more direction,” when I KNEW what God wanted me to do, I was acting in disobedience. Growing up I was taught that obedience had three parts. First was doing what I was told to do. Second was doing it WHEN I was told to do it. Third was doing it with a good attitude. By not acting and obeying God when He first told me, I was acting in disobedience.

So I prayed specifically that God would give me the opportunity I needed that day, and you know what, He did! He opened the door wide, and gave me an opportunity that was better than I had imagined!  I obeyed Him and finally took the next step that I needed to.

And the immediate result?

JOY.
I was filled with joy, joy that only comes from our Heavenly Father.

Joy because I had obeyed Him.
Joy because I knew I had acted in accordance with His will.

“Obedience brings joy.” It really does!

My prayer now is that I will take that lesson to heart, and obey immediately the next time God tells me to do something. I pray that I will remember that my obedience to Him and His word brings joy.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Nothing Can Separate

This morning I woke up fearful--things on my mind that made me nervous, things in the future, and things that are out of my control. As I had my morning coffee and prayer journaled, God kept directing me to different Scriptures on love. Fitting, since today is Valentine's Day, huh? 


I came to Romans 8:38-39, verses that I have read many times, memorized in Awana, and I'm sure I've quoted to others. Today, though, the verses jumped out to me in a new way. Paul is writing to the Roman church, and he says, "I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." 

That's a pretty exhaustive list. There is nothing that can separate us from the love of Jesus. The part that stuck out to me this morning was "neither the present nor the future." The things on my mind, causing anxiety and fear, are things in the future... but these verses reminded me that that there is NOTHING, in the present nor in the future, that can separate me from Jesus' love. 

So why am I fearful? Why am I anxious? Whatever tomorrow may bring, I can trust in God's unfailing love (Psalm 13:5), and I can know and rely on His love (1 John 4:16). 

Jesus Himself told us that in this world we will have trouble, but to take heart, because He has overcome the world, and in Him, we may have peace (John 16:33). 

I think of the song "Your Love Awakens Me" by Phil Wickham. The chorus says that God's love is greater, and His love is stronger. So again, why am I choosing to fear? God's love is greater and stronger than anything this world might throw my way. His love is constant, and unfailing. To quote another song, His love is "never gonna let me go!" (Kristin Stanfill, Never Gonna Let Me Go). 

Father, may I remember everyday the simple yet profound truth that You love me. Help me to rest in Your love, to trust in Your love, and to know that nothing can separate me from Your love. Then, I pray that because You love me, I will love others (1 John 4:19). I pray that I will live a life of love (Eph. 5:2). I pray that because Your love is better than life, my lips will glorify You (Psalm 63:3). Thank you for Your unfailing, amazing, powerful love. Amen. 

Monday, December 12, 2016

What We Love...

"What we love we shall grow to resemble," (Bernard of Clairvaux).  

I've seen this quote a few times on a flip-calendar that sits on my mom's kitchen window sill. Each time I've read it, it has resonated with me and made me think. I think that there is some truth to that statement. 

What we love, we DO grow to resemble. 

Think about who you spend the most time with, and then think about habits of theirs that you have inadvertently picked up. I've noticed that I tend to pick up phrases that friends say a lot, and start saying them myself! 

I think the same can be said for tv shows that we watch a lot of, or movies we see over and over again. We can sometimes pick up on the habits/phrases/etc. of characters. 

I think of other things I "love," and I have to ask myself this question: Do I want to grow to resemble the things I love, and the things I say I love? 

If I am loving things that are pure, holy, and right, then by all means, yes! I want to grow to resemble those things! But, if I am loving things that are not right, that are not pleasing to our Heavenly Father, then I definitely do NOT want to grow to resemble them. 

So the second question I have to ask myself is this: Am I guarding my heart against loving things that I shouldn't? Am I being careful to love things that are pleasing to God? 

Philippians 4:8 tells us to think on things that are "true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy.." Those are the things our thoughts should be focused on--and those are the things that honor Christ! If our thoughts are honoring to Christ, then I think that helps direct our "loves" to things that are honoring to Him as well. 

Romans 12:9 tells us that "love must be sincere. Hate what is evil. Cling to what is good," and Titus 1:5 tells us that elders must be men who "love what is good." While that verse is in the context of explaining the qualifications of an elder, I believe that any believer should be striving to "love what is good." 

If we are loving what is good, what is pleasing to God, then hopefully, with His help, we will be growing to resemble holiness. 

1 Peter 1:15 says "but just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do." 

If we are called to holiness, then I want to be choosing to love things that will help me grow in holiness.  

What we love, and what we say we love, says a lot about us. 

My prayer today is that I will love things that are pleasing to God, and that because of those loves, I will draw closer to Him and grow in holiness--all for HIS glory. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Raising the White Flag

Do you ever have those moments where all of sudden God convicts your heart, and then you're left wondering why it took you so long realize it? 

I had one of those moments this morning... 

I've been stressing and feeling overwhelmed by our calendar this fall, by my to-do list, and by the amount of unpacking still to be done in our home. I keep seeing the calendar get more and more full as the to-do list keeps growing, and I found myself getting more and more overwhelmed...which means a crabby Jenna. 

This morning I woke up feeling overwhelmed and stressed before I even got out of bed, but while I was getting ready for the day and was thinking through all the things that needed to get done, God gently reminded me that I don't have to do it in my own strength. In fact, the reason why I was feeling so stressed was because that was exactly what I had been doing. I had been looking at the calendar, the to-do list, and everything else through the lenses of what I could do..not through the lens of what I could do by leaning on God. 

Pride strikes again. 

Proverbs 16:18 says, "Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall." 


I realized this morning that it has been my pride that's been keeping me from surrendering it all to Christ. Pride that says "I can do it on my own," and "I've got this, thanks anyway, God." Pride in how busy I could be, how I could fill MY schedule and so on.  
Even though I hadn't been consciously thinking those things, looking at the past few days, even weeks, I can see how my attitude shifted from trusting and relying on God for my strength and peace each day to leaning on myself because I seemed to be doing fine. 


Picture from google images
This morning it hit me. Conviction isn't fun, but praise God for it! And praise Him for His grace!

So today I'm choosing to surrender. I'm raising the white flag, and I'm letting go. 

I'm choosing to surrender the to-do list. 

To surrender the calendar. 

I'm praying that I'll view both things in light of what truly matters, and in light of eternity. I'm praying that I'll keep my eyes on Christ, and that I'll remember that the time I have been given is a gift--that it should be used wisely. I'm praying that I'll be a good steward of it, and that I'll remember that the time is God's before it is mine. 

Looking at the calendar and to-do list with a God-focused perspective, remembering that I've surrendered it to Him first and foremost, changes things.

Looking at it remembering that I am going forward leaning on Him for strength and looking to Him for peace changes things. 

Isaiah 26:3-4 says that the "Lord will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in the Lord. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord Himself, is the Rock eternal." (emphasis mine)

I want that perfect peace, and I want my mind to be steadfast, not given to anxiety and worry and stress. That verse clearly tells me how to have that peace and steadfastness: Trust in the Lord. 

So as I, Lord willing, continue to surrender the calendar and to-do list each day, my prayer is that not only will I be a good steward of the time God has given me, but that I will choose to trust fully in Him each day. 

I want a life well lived, a life lived for Christ, and a life lived loving others. To accomplish that, I need to raise the white flag. 

Today, and every day. 

"We raise our white flag
We surrender All to You

We raise our white flag
The war is over
Love has come
Your love has won

Here on this Holy ground
You made a way for peace
Laying your body down
You took our rightful place
This freedom song is marching on." 
--Chris Tomlin, White Flag 

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Remember

Over and over again in the Old Testament (thinking especially of the first 5 books), God reminds the Israelites how He had provided for them, guided them, and rescued them. He tells them again and again to remember all that He had done, to remember His great faithfulness. (Deut. 5:15, Deut. 7:18, Deut. 8:2, Deut. 15:15, Deut. 24:18)

Honestly, I tend to get irritated with the Israelites when I read about their years in the desert... God had JUST delivered them out of Egypt, He provided them with manna and quail, and He guided them each day and night! Yet they still found things to complain about, and chose to not trust the Lord. Why did He keep reminding them? I mean, how could they so easily forget all that God had done?

Reading my paragraph above, I have to laugh at myself...because this past week, I've been like the Israelites. (And I'm quite sure I've been like them MANY times in my life!)

I get it. {and I have to be honest, my attitude towards the Israelites in the desert just became much more gracious! ;)}

My fiancé and I are in the planning stages of both our wedding and our life together. We're figuring out plans for our wedding ceremony, our reception, and all the details that go with that, but then at the same time we are working on the plans/details for our life together after the wedding, things like household essentials, finding a place to live, and budgeting. It's fun! But it is also stressful at times.

One of the things we had been praying about was a full time job for Aaron. We prayed very specifically. Not only did God provide a full time position for Aaron, but He also answered every single aspect of our prayer. We were (and still are) blown away by His grace and His goodness!

The next thing on our to do list was to start looking at housing, which if I'm being totally honest is really exciting, but also very stressful. There are just so many details, so many financial aspects, and so many things to be thinking about.

So what did I do? I forgot.

Now I understand why God kept telling the Israelites to "remember..." Having the right perspective (remembering) can change our attitudes, our thoughts, and our prayers so much!

The Israelites, after being rescued from Egypt, didn't remember all that God had done. They saw what seemed like an insurmountable feat in front of them (such as taking the Promised Land), and chose to focus on it, rather than looking behind them and remembering the Red Sea they had just walked through.

I see our need for housing looming in front of us, and at times it really does seem impossible, but I forget to look behind and remember: Remember all that God has already done, and has already provided!

He answered our prayers concerning a full time job, and He did it in ways in which He truly gets ALL the glory, because it was all Him

So why, I have to keep asking myself, am I afraid? Why am I doubting that He won't continue to provide? All I have to do is look behind me, and I see the countless ways He has provided already!! God has a perfect track record, and He isn't going to change now.

He might not provide how I want, or how I expect, but He will provide.
He'll always answer our prayers! Again, maybe not how I would like, or how I expect, but I can count on Him always answering.

I understand now why God kept telling the Israelites to remember, because let's just be honest, we tend to forget so easily... He reminded them again and again, because He knew their tendency to forget His faithfulness. It might seem redundant, but it was necessary.

Remembering God's faithfulness leads to gratitude, which leads to trust. If we remember where we've been and how God led and provided, then we can continue to trust Him as we walk into the unknown future. 

I want to learn from the Israelites, and choose to trust God. I want to choose to be thankful (instead of grumbling). I want to choose to remember.

I want to remember all that God has done, to be grateful for each answered prayer, and I want to trust that His faithfulness will continue!

Yes, there might be a mountain in front of me, but He just led me through the Red Sea. Why should I fear?

Great is His faithfulness! (Lamentations 3:23) 
picture from google images