Why I Was Wrong about Lent

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Immediately the Spirit drove Him into the wilderness, and He was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan, and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered to Him.

-Mark 1:12-13

Today is the first day of Lent, which represents the forty days Jesus fasted, prayed, and was tempted before beginning His ministry. As a younger woman I didn’t observe lent. I’m not catholic, and so I lumped Catholicism and lent together as if it had nothing to do with me. I was wrong.

Over the years while studying the word, I learned that the season of Lent, in my life specifically, reflects a refocusing of what Jesus endured for me. Think about it like this: Everything Jesus did, He did for the salvation of mankind. That means the time He spent enduring temptation in the wilderness was for us. It was a stripping away of distractions before enduring a three year long ministry that would eventually lead Him to the cross, and those who chose to believe Him to repentance and salvation.

Throughout this season of Lent I’ve chosen to give some things up, and even add certain disciplines in to my day-to-day life. I want to be cognizant of what the cross means in a way I’ve never been before. I want these 40 days to draw me toward the Lord in newness.

I don’t know about you, but I often need refocusing. I have to purge distractions and force awareness of what is important. Life gets crazy. All of us have family responsibilities, work duties, and everyday life tasks that make the cross more distant than it should be. Putting the cross back into our line of vision grounds us in His love. It’s not that those of us who serve Christ allow a gap between us and the cross on purpose, but life and all its obligations sometimes adds a haze to what happened on Calvary.  We become so wrapped up in the right now, that we need reminded of what made us whole and able to breathe the air of freedom in the first place.

Maybe you do a better job than I do at staying focused on spiritual disciplines. Maybe you don’t allow the constant struggle of real life to get in your way. But, maybe you identify with me and need a time to reawaken your senses by placing the cross front and center in your line of vision. If so, my prayer is that you will take the Lenten season as a time of redirection, making a choice to spend more time remembering what He did, who He is, and what He means to your life.

For me, the point isn’t really about what exactly I give up or what I choose to do differently. It’s about forcing myself to make new habits that remind me of the true gospel story which brings forth the revelation of Christ in my life.

Throughout this season of Lent, may the revelation of who He is and what He’s done come alive to you all over again.

Love,

Jennifer

 

 

5 Questions to Ask Yourself About Your Calling…

Five Questions to Ask Yourself About Your Calling...

I had the opportunity to livestream some of the IF:Gathering conference last weekend. I enjoyed the speakers, and this week there are many quotes floating around social media. In case you missed it, here is a quote by Jill Briscoe I want to share with you:

“You go where you’re sent, and you stay where you’re put, and you give what you’ve got”

-Jill Briscoe

Friend, that preaches.

It’s not a finger pointing, fire and brimstone type of quote. It’s not meant to guilt you into volunteering at church, or change you into someone different than who you’ve been designed to become. It’s meant to make you think about your calling. It made me think. I began asking myself the following questions:

  • Where am I sent?
  • Am I willing to go to that place?
  • Am I willing to stay there once I arrive?
  • Am I willing to give so much of myself, that I become emptied of everything I have when I’m there?
  • Can I fully depend on who He is, and allow Him to work in my life, even when it doesn’t feel good?

Let’s take these questions and quickly break them down. We will begin with the first two:

  1. Where am I sent?
  2. Am I willing to go to that place?

If you are a church goer, this is usually the easy part, because we all have gifts leading to passions and desires placed by the living God. Most of us want to use them, and the local church usually provides a place, or platform, for that to happen. It’s when we become active in that space that the difficulty begins…

It’s all too easy to become distracted by our gifts rather than stay focused on the giver. People quickly praise what other people have to offer, instead of praising the One who freely gave the greatest offering on the cross. And, if we aren’t careful, finding ourselves swept up inside the calling rather than the One who called us in the first place, will happen before we know it.

Guilty or not of the above statements, we will all come to a place where ministry hurts. I know this is a real shocker, but people don’t always agree! I know, right?!? It’s in those times that scriptures warning us about powers and principalities seem to be erased from memory, even if the pastor just preached his best sermon on that topic only five minutes before. The defense of an eye for an eye is at the forefront of our brains, conveniently allowing us to forget what follows in the next passages. (You know what I’m talking about, that whole turning the other cheek thing…) Let me be very honest about something concerning the enemy: he’s the master manipulator of the Word of God. Manipulation of God’s Word is the only weapon the enemy of our souls has ever used; beginning way back in the Garden of Eden, and unfortunately, it’s still working to this day.

  1. Am I willing to stay there once I arrive?

Staying where we are called is tough, because when we are emptied of giving everything we have, we feel hungry and hunger pains hurt. The Bible instructs us to hunger and thirst for righteousness. Guess what? Hunger pains and dehydration can end life. Yes, when we seek God we will find Him and He will fill us. That’s not the issue. (See Matthew 5:6) The issue lies in the following questions: Are we willing to humble ourselves when others have wronged us, or when we feel wronged, so that we can be filled? Are we willing to fight for the place we’ve been called to occupy? And I’m not talking about fighting people, although it sometimes feels like that. Our callings often attach us to roles within the local church and we tend to grip those roles tightly. WAY TOO TIGHTLY.

From the perspective of attachment to our roles in the church and how unhealthy that can be, Lisa whittle in her book, (W)hole, said something that blew me away. she penned the following thought:

“Losing our dependence on a role is the birth of true identity.”

-Lisa Whittle

Now that’s some solid preaching! I don’t believe we can fully live our purpose when we depend on the design rather than the designer. Living out our calling doesn’t make us who we are. It’s the God we serve with our callings – He makes us who we are. When we grasp this concept, we begin a life-giving process of transformation. Lisa Whittle, through pain and family devastation that was no fault of her own, had to come to this conclusion early on in life. It wasn’t her role that fulfilled her; it was being God’s child that fulfilled her.  We ALL need to arrive at this same conclusion in order to grow.

  1. Am I willing to give so much of myself, that I become emptied of everything I have when I’m there?

My personality, when hurt, is to construct walls. I want to build them tall, all the way around my heart, and then take pride in my own personal fortress. And God, in the entire forty-four years since placing me on this earth, has had the audacity to keep making me tear those walls down. It hurts every single time. After all these years, you would think I would have learned my lesson and quit building them, but it took this quote from Rebekah Lyons, which practically punched me in the gut, to help me understand:

 

“You cannot self-preserve and give freely.”

-Rebekah Lyons

He uses others who have gone where they were sent, stayed there, and given everything they had until they were emptied, just to reach me and so many like me.

  1. Can I depend fully on who He is, and allow Him to work in my life, even when it doesn’t feel good?

Most of us are broken women with whole callings. That is not a bad thing. In fact, I think it’s part of the Designers design. It’s learning how to tap into that brokenness from a place of humility that honors God and allows wholeness to flow. Our pain causes us to connect with others and minister genuinely from one broken life to another. Through this, He makes a way for us to live wholly and freely, giving everything we’ve got for His glory. And, yes, sometimes it will hurt. My advice: Go anyway, stay anyway, and give anyway. I know I will.

My new prayer:

Father, God, because I’m being honest and know I have many years left to live, there will probably be another time in my life when I’ll forget all this and start construction on another wall around my heart. When I do, please knock it down swiftly in Jesus name.

And all the self-preserving women shout, “AMEN!”

Love,

Jennifer

 

 

 

 

A Life-Giving Perspective on Purpose

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This idea of purpose, and that we all need one, is something I’m constantly reminded of each and every day. In fact, I haven’t been able to shake this concept for at least two years. I know there’s mercy in our purpose, justice in our purpose, and spiritual wholeness in our purpose in a way I’ve never understood before. It’s changed my life, literally.

Jesus prayed these words:

And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

-John 17:3

As a mother, I want to give my children the best of me, modeling love and godliness. As a wife, I want to fill my husband’s heart with joy, be his supportive counterpart, and faithful intercessor. As a friend, I want to be filled with life, an encourager, someone my community wants to be with and knows they can count on. As a daughter of the Most High, I want to make my life count for more than I can see with these human eyes.

And right before our human eyes, in black in white, we have a prayer that Jesus spoke to His Father. We have a glimpse of a private moment between Himself and The Creator – an inside track on what our purpose is intended to become and the gift He gives us in return.

To live fully, and to reap eternal life, is choosing to know God.

Life is that we would find our purpose in serving a God who owns the definition, love.

Living life here and continuing life eternally would mean understanding His grace is sufficient and His truth endures. There’s mercy in his wanting us, and truth in His love for us – even when our lives seem mixed up and upside down, topsy-turvy in a world that’s anything but our home, we can find life and purpose in our heavenly Father.

When we know God, we find life.

“This is life, “Jesus said, “That they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”

This is life… that we find purpose.

This is life… that we pursue hope and holiness in a way that sets us apart in newness.

This is life… that we would be transformed by making the decision to know a God who already knows every detail about us.

We can all have life, and when we look at this perspective on purpose, hope happens and healing begins.

Love,

Jennifer

 

 

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

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Hello, Friends! I hope you had a very Merry Christmas! I’ve been on a bit of a writing sabbatical the last couple months and will continue in this season until mid-February. Thank you so much for all who have reached out to me. Your words of encouragement and prayers mean so much!

I’m looking forward to picking my writing schedule back up in mid-February with posts at least once a week. We will be focusing on purpose in the life of women. I’m looking forward to sharing what God has been whispering to my heart.

Until then, I want to leave you with this:

I always find it astonishing that there is nothing new under the sun and yet God continues to do new things in our lives – things we could never imagine or even begin to dream without the revelation of the Holy Spirit. He is good and his mercy endures. Just this past week I was studying Joshua and read the following scripture:

Not a word failed of any good thing which the Lord had spoken to the house of Israel. All came to pass.

-Joshua 21:45

There’s enough hope in that verse to heal any gap of waiting you’ll ever face. There’s more than enough grace and mercy to cover anything you’ve ever done. The Lord has good things in store for your life and regardless of the flesh you fight and the skin you wear, His love will overcome. When we stay pressed into the One who loves us most – the One who speaks good things over us – no matter what happens in the interim, we can be secure in the fact there is a future and hope for those who call on His name.

May your New Year be full of overcoming and pressing into the God who speaks good things over you. May you experience every good thing come to pass and see life through spiritual spectacles allowing hope to win and grace to filter cloudy vision.

God bless you!

Talk to you in February, dear friends.

Love,

Jennifer

You Can Do Hard Things – Activating Your Purpose Through the Power of Scripture (A 31 Day Series)

activating-your-purpose-pg-19Part of my purpose is writing books. It’s hard. I’m continually learning the same lesson repeatedly:  God calls us to do hard things – Tasks that seem overwhelming and meant for someone else.

And it’s not just using our gifts that can be hard. He calls us to forgive each other, start clean, and humble ourselves even when it hurts. God is in the business of stretching us and molding us to become more than we ever thought possible.

As I’ve been in the middle of writing this series, my life has become even busier than it was before, and friends, I didn’t think it was possible. You might have noticed that I’ve missed a couple days in this series, and that is SO not like me. If I say I’m going to do something, then I’m going to do it. I need grace as I tackle hard and wonderful things right now in my life. I’m in the final stages of book design and editing. (By the way, we finally have a title! I can’t wait to tell you all about it!) And, my son is getting MARRIED!!!! Yes, my baby has met the most wonderful girl in the whole world and this mama is helping with wedding planning. I’m busy and very blessed. So I ask for grace as I continue writing through this process. This series will be 31 days, but it might not be 31 days in a row…

As I was working on final edits for the book today, I started having a mini breakdown over last minute citations and all the information included in a book project. It’s a Bible study and it’s the most in depth I’ve ever written, so the Lord has stretched me beyond my limits. Although, I hate to say that because as soon as I feel like I’ve been stretched beyond measure, I’m sure He’ll decide to stretch me some more. Oh, Lord!

Anyway, I want to encourage you with this today: You can do more than you think and you were made to accomplish hard, hard, things. It’s because God knows your potential to succeed in being a kingdom builder. If you’re sitting there thinking this post is meant for you, then don’t think about what might seem too hard. Think about the God who has championed you before time even began to do great and wonderful things.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

-Philippians 4:13

For today’s homework, share this scripture on social media with the hashtag #ActivatingYourPurpose to encourage someone else.  They need to know they can do hard things, too.

Love,

Jennifer

 

A Purposeful Prayer – Activating Your Purpose Through the Power of Scripture (A 31 Day Series)

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The road to purpose is paved with a willingness to know and believe in a God who has everything held tightly in His hands. Through the first half of this series we talked a lot about understanding we have purpose in both good and bad times. We’ve also discussed how those bad times can shape our purpose. Today, I want to share a little piece of Psalm 17. It’s from the heart of David.

Hear a just cause, O Lord, Attend to my cry; Give ear to my prayer which is not from deceitful lips. Let my vindication come from Your presence;
Let Your eyes look on the things that are upright. You have tested my heart;
You have visited me in the night; You have tried me and have found nothing; I have purposed that my mouth shall not transgress.

Psalm 17:1-3

David says, “I have purposed that my mouth shall not transgress.”  Within living our purpose, we must choose to trust God in the midst of anything that might occur. A responsibility we have within our faith is to stand on His promises, even when it seems like those promises are for everyone but us.

Many people ask what their specific purpose is… I believe each life is meant to show the light of the Gospel, the love of Jesus, to others through our unique gifts. And, I believe we can do that even in the midst of difficulty. God wants to use each heart to accomplish mighty plans. We may never become fully aware of just how great our purpose is while living and breathing in this life, but we must trust the God who does. Nothing done for Jesus is small.

Today, I would like you to simply pray David’s words in Psalm 17:1-3 over your own life. You can share these verses on social media using the hashtag #ActivatingYourPurpose to encourage someone else.

Love,

Jennifer

 

Learning to Press in Rather than Give Up – Activating Your Purpose Through the Power of Scripture (A 31 Day Series)

But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible. But with God all things are possible.” -Matthew 19:26 Breakthroughs happen when persistent prayer warriors press into the only One who can intervene. There are many issues I’m asking God to intervene inside. I’ve spent time on my knees making my […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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