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

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Identity

I’m newly engaged. J This means that I still get a thrill every time I look at my left hand and see my engagement ring. I realized that I love looking down and seeing my ring for several reasons. I love it because it means that I’m marrying my best friend. I love it because it is beautiful and sparkles in the light. Even more than that, I love it because it is from Aaron. It is a constant reminder that he loves me, that he isn’t going to stop loving me, and that one day (soon!) I am going to be his wife.

It’s a (small) reminder that a part of my identity is in Aaron—I’m his fiancée, and one day I’ll be his wife.
AH! That thrills me.
Here’s the thing though. I’ve been thinking, and my question is this: Do I get a thrill out of being identified with Christ? Do I remember daily that my identity is in Christ? Am I excited about the fact that I am the daughter of my Heavenly Father, that I am a child of God?
I’m realizing how important these questions are, because while I love identifying myself with my future husband, ultimately my identity is not in Aaron.
My identity is (and should always be) found in Christ alone.
When I committed my life to Christ, my old life was washed away—I am a new creation! The old has gone, the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17). I am also a child of God—1 John 3:1 says “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!”
I am a child of God.
Therefore, my identity should be found in Him.
This world changes constantly—anchoring my identity in something or someone in this world would be a bad idea. Like C.S. Lewis puts it, “Don’t let your happiness depend on something you may lose.”
I believe the same could be said about what we place our identity in.
God does not change. He is not like the shifting shadows (Hebrews 1:17). Hebrews 13:8 says that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”
My identity can and should be rooted in Christ—because He is my Creator, He is my Savior, He is my Redeemer, and He is the One who never changes. My identity is the fact that I belong to Christ. I am not my own; I was bought at a price—that price being Jesus’ precious blood. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
The good thing about finding your identity in Christ is that Jesus is greater than any circumstance, any situation, any darkness, any happiness, etc.
He is greater.
Mark Driscoll says this, “Our identity is not in our joy, and our identity is not in our suffering. Our identity is in Christ, whether we have joy or are suffering.”
Mmm. I think I need that reminder, daily.
My identity is not in my circumstances, not in my joy or my suffering, not in my job, not in my family, and even though I love to look at my engagement ring, my identity is not in my fiancé.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Resting in Him

As I sit here on the couch, under a warm, fuzzy blanket, glass of orange juice to my right and a box of Kleenex handy, I realized how impatient I am. 

And even more than that, I realized how much I struggle with being still. How much I struggle with resting.

This week I've been under the weather and I've had to lay low and rest. 

Rest. 

I love that word. Until I have to put it into practice. 

I know that rest is important; I know that being still is important. But for some reason I'm realizing (this week more than ever!) how much I struggle to actually rest, to actually be still. 

It's been incredibly hard for me to rest this week. My mind keeps reminding me of all the things I need to do, I feel bad for resting and then I feel guilty, my to-do list keeps getting longer, and as I do rest, I get restless and just want to stop resting.  (I'm such a great patient... HA. Bless my family and boyfriend who have put up with my impatience this week and have gently reminded me--again and again-- that it's okay to rest, and to take care of myself)

This week my body has demanded rest, and I know that if I want to be a good steward of the body God has given me, then rest is what I need to do right now. So why do I struggle with it so much? 

Today I've been thinking and praying about it, and it hit me this afternoon as God brought a verse to mind, only the first two words of the verse, but it was enough to make me start thinking.  "Be still..." I think this whole issue comes back to my heart. My heart hasn't been in the right place this week. 

How, you might ask? 

My heart has been in the wrong place in two ways, I think, leading to the difficulty I've had being able to rest: 1) I am not trusting in the Lord, and 2) I am not relying on God to be my strength. 

Let me explain my reasoning. I think that my inability to rest is in part an indicator that I am not trusting God with that area of my life. I have difficulty resting because I think of all the things that need to be done---that I need to get done. I have difficulty resting because I can't let go. My gaze is fixed on ME. What I need to do, MY to-do list, etc. Instead of placing those things in God's capable hands, I just hold on to them tighter. Along with that, when my gaze is fixed on ME, I am looking to myself for strength...I am trying to do everything on my own, in my own strength, in my own timing. Never a good plan. 

I can't rest unless my gaze is on God--I need to rest in HIM. 

I can't rest unless I place my worries, my to-do list, etc. into His hands--I need to trust that He has it under control (which He always does). 

I can't rest unless I choose to trust--I need to trust God and and trust that His plans are bigger and better than my own, and that He knows best, even in the little things.  

I can't rest unless I recognize that God is sufficient and sovereign--I need to trust in that, and trust in His goodness. 

This week my inability to rest well has shown me a lack of trust in the God who has everything under control. 

Yes, I am sick and not feeling well. 
Yes, it's no fun. 
Yes, it has messed up my plans. (Emphasis being on the word MY)

But has it messed up God's plans? No. 
Has it taken God by surprise? No. 
Is God still sovereign, still sufficient, still good? YES. 

I can choose to rest today, because I can trust our God--always. 

And maybe, just maybe, getting sick this week was God's way of reminding me of the importance of resting in HIM, and His way of telling me to slow down and be still before Him. 


Psalm 46:10 says 
   "Be still, and know that I am God;
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth." 

BE STILL. 
And do what? Know that HE is God. 
I can rest today, because I know that He is God. 

And the best way to rest? By resting in Him

Psalm 62:5-6 says, 
"Yes, my soul, find rest in God;
my hope comes from him. 
Truly he is my rock and my salvation; 
he is my fortress, I will not be shaken." 

My soul finds rest in God alone. 

So today as I continue to rest, my perspective has changed. 

I can rest in God, rest in His sufficiency, rest in His sovereignty, rest in His grace, rest in His goodness, and trust that He has everything under control. 

I can be still, and give my body the rest it needs, because I know that He is God. 

I can rest in Him today, and every day, and He will never let me down. Praise God for His grace, His sovereignty, His sufficiency, and His desire for us to rest in Him, trust in Him, and be still before Him. 

"I am restless, I'm restless
'Til I rest in You, 'til I rest in You" ~Audrey Assad, "Restless"