Thursday, August 29, 2013

Standing in Battle




I haven’t seen it, but I’m pretty sure I have a bull’s-eye on my back lately. More than normal I’ve been feeling the slings and arrows of the enemy’s attack. There’s a spiritual battle waging all around me. Some days I’m victorious while other days I feel completely defeated. Have you ever felt that way?

Here’s the good news – if we are feeling the effects of spiritual warfare, we can be certain that God is in it. No matter how oppressed, tempted, or ill equipped we may be feeling, there is an angelic army fighting to protect us. 

The teacher in me would love to direct you to Ephesians 6 and remind you to put on the full armor of God to prepare for battle. While it’s essential, God’s leading me to share something He’s been requiring of me lately.

Call it out by name
In the midst of my struggles, God has been prompting me to pray out loud to Him. He urges me to call out the temptation or sin by name, to say it out loud. I believe this is a tangible act of bringing darkness into the light. God’s light will defeat ALL darkness ALL of the time, but only when we expose it.

Assemble the troops
On our own, we are completely incapable of defeating the enemy with any lasting effect. In addition to the power of the Holy Spirit within us, God has assembled an army of prayer warriors around us. Consider the people you spend time with and those who know you best. Do they pray? Are they in relationship with God? If the answer is no, then Believer you need to find some prayer warriors. If the answer is yes, then allow them to support you in battle. Share your heart with them and allow them to keep you accountable. We don’t have to do this alone. 

Give God the glory
At the end of the day as you stand battered and bruised from the constant barrage of attack, praise Him. Because of God, you’ve lived to fight another day. The enemy wouldn’t seek you out if God didn’t have great plans for you – so praise Him for it! I had the privilege of sharing God’s words the other day only to be spiritually blindsided by the enemy. But the victory of being used by God was so sweet that I would endure the attack over and over again. God is amazing and so worthy of our praise!

Are you feeling the sting of attack? Do you feel alone on an endless battlefield? Or do you play it safe and lay low hoping to avoid being noticed? When we step out in our faith, we show up on the enemy’s radar. But we’re not unprepared and we’re not alone. God is on the other side of the battle; He will lead us through to victory! 

Be blessed,
Jennifer

“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”2 Corinthians 4:8-9

Friday, August 23, 2013

Cherry picked





Ever been satisfied by the easiest option? Ever take the path of least resistance? Did it get you where you wanted to go? I’ve been giving this a great deal of thought over the last few weeks.

While enjoying a visit in Wisconsin a few weeks ago, my husband, sister in law, and I decided to go to a cherry orchard. I’ve never gone cherry picking so I was excited about the opportunity. All decked out in appropriate cherry picking clothes, we set out on a new adventure. 

“The cherries were picked last week.”  The orchard farmer informed us. “There are some nice ones left on the high branches but we use a big machine to get those. It’s not safe to try to get them on your own.”

Bummer. 

With my bottom lip a little pouty, we left the orchard with a few pints of pre-picked cherries.

I can’t stop thinking about the remaining cherries. They weren’t left behind because they were subpar or rotten. They were probably the best of the crop! But they were the ones that couldn’t be reached without help.

Isn’t that how our lives are? Our best dreams and opportunities are the ones we can’t reach on our own. We need divine intervention. God enables us to reach heights we can only dream about. He doesn’t withhold the best of the best – He takes us there! We just can’t do it without Him.

Have you been settling for the low-lying fruit? Pursuing the opportunities that are easiest but not necessarily the best? Maybe it’s time to allow God to take you higher.

Be blessed,
Jennifer

Jesus replied, “What is impossible with men is possible with God.” Luke 18:27

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Out of Shape




I spent months working out and making my body stronger before being temporarily sidelined by a foot injury. So when I went back to my workout routine the other day and could only do half of it, it took the rest of my strength to choke back my tears. How could I have come so far only to have to start over again?
Ironically, the same kind of situation was happening to me in another area of my life. I had worked so hard to free myself from a certain thought process.  By allowing the Holy Spirit to install “filters” in my mind, I diligently captured every unhealthy thought before I allowed it to become an action. But then, seemingly out of nowhere, I found myself making choices based on my old way of thinking.

So is all of this is a lost cause and we’ll never be capable of change? No! But this did remind me of a few things:

Muscles have memory
Muscles will remember how they are supposed to function if they are consistently trained. Sure, I wasn’t able to jump right back into my full workout but I know that my body will respond faster because my muscles are familiar with what they are supposed to do. As believers, when we spend time with God and align our lives to His word, we will instinctively know what we’re supposed to do even if we fall.

“Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” Proverbs 22:6

Change is good
When I started my workout routine; I stayed with the exercises I was comfortable with. It wasn’t until much later that I was encouraged to change things around. This allowed me to strengthen my body in different ways by using new muscle groups. Our quiet time is the same way. Do you meet with God at the same time, in the same place, saying the same things every day? It’s time to shake it up a bit! I’ll admit, I had fallen into a predictable routine with God so it’s no wonder I was hit out of the blue with old thinking – I wasn’t prepared for it. I wasn’t allowing God to show me what negative things were creeping back into my mind and, before I knew it, I was right back to an old way of thinking.

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.” Psalm 140:23

Knowledge is strength
I didn’t feel sorry for myself and quit because I know my body will regain its strength.  I’ve learned what it is capable of. Are we that confident in God? When we spend time in His word, we learn about an unfailing God who is merciful, loving, and just. But do we really know what He’s capable of? Believer, He longs for us to know Him intimately.  The truth we learn about God will strengthen our walk. 

“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:29

The old me would have been frustrated with these setbacks and given up by now. Praise God that He makes all things new, amen? Are you feeling defeated today? Come on believer, it’s time to get back up and try again. We’ll do it together…

Be blessed,
Jennifer

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” 2 Corinthians 5:17

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Grand Design


I saw the Mighty Orchestrator at work first-hand last night. I've seen Him in the details of things before, but this left me a gasp.

A group of very sweet ladies from a local congregation came out on a busy Wednesday night to fellowship and hear an encouraging word. The event was being hosted at a neighboring church in a bustling downtown area. Moments before we were scheduled to begin, a woman came in looking somewhat surprised.

"I'm here to drop off something to one of the men who work here." she explained. "What's going on?" I explained we were having a ladies fellowship night and invited her to stay.

None of this seemed unusual to me at the time. She accepted the offer, made a plate of snacks and within moments we began the program. Everything flowed smoothly. I said what I felt God led me to say, and before I knew it, our evening was drawing to a close.

I made a point to find the woman in the crowd to ask if she had enjoyed the event. She was beside herself. When I asked if she was okay, she began to share a bit of her story. Years prior, she had worked in that very building. It wasn't a church at the time, and the memories were painful and taunting. She pointed out areas of the building, explained what they used to be used for and how she had suffered great persecution there. Humiliation, mockery, judgement... all because she was a woman of faith.

"I didn't even want to have to come here." she explained, "The memory of this place is so painful. But God showed up and restored me through this event tonight."

I was speechless.

"He brought me to the place of a deep hurt and used your words to heal my wounds. I don't think I would have accepted the message if I hadn't been sitting right where it all happened."

Who does that but God?

We were all there for different reasons. A word of encouragement. A reminder to stay focused. A few hours just for us. But little did we know, God had orchestrated an event to minister to this sweet woman's heart. Being a God of the details, He knew exactly where and when she would allow Him to whisper into her heart. He healed her brokenness and encouraged her to pursue Him with abandon.

I don't know how this ministers to you today but I, for one, needed the fresh perspective. God is in the details of our lives. He has a grand design that stretches the globe yet determines how we spend a Wednesday night. How amazing is that?!

Are you allowing God to work out His grand design in your life? Do you recognize His craftsmanship? Or do you chalk things up to coincidence or even chance? Believer, He is busy in the details of your life! If He will gather a group of women and bring a speaker half way across the country just to draw an unexpecting daughter closer to Him, what will He do in your life? What is He doing that you may not see? Together, let's pray that God open our eyes to His grand design.

Be blessed,
Jennifer

"But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations." Psalm 33:11


Thursday, August 1, 2013

5 Dangerous Prayers





I had the pleasure of visiting a friend’s church last weekend. The message went right in line with what my own church home had been teaching – are we praying powerful prayers? They gave five examples of prayers that unleash the power of God in our lives. They are too good not to share…

“Search Me”
Psalm 139:23-24 “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
 
Vulnerability is the first thing we look for in others and the last thing we are willing to show. It’s also the one thing God requires to change our lives. He will not force His way into our hearts and minds, we have to let Him in. Are we allowing ourselves to be open and vulnerable to God? Do we really want to know our true motives?

“Break Me”
Hosea 10:12 “Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the Lord, until he comes and showers righteousness on you.”

This sounds so harsh! But God faithfully uses our brokenness to glorify Himself through our lives. New crops cannot grow in hard ground. We need to let God break up the hard places in our hearts so that new life and new fruit will be produced for His glory.

“Stretch Me”
Isaiah 54:2 “Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes.”

We know we need to stretch before we exercise for optimal performance. But how do we perform for the Kingdom of God? God wants to stretch us out of our comfort zone so we can be effective in ways we’ve not yet imagined. He longs to increase our faith, our passion, and our impact for Him.

“Lead Me”
Matthew 26:39 “Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed. “My father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.””

Do you allow God to lead you no matter what? Do you follow Him even through the dark, scary areas in life that seem overwhelming? I’ll admit, sometimes I don’t. Fear will stop me dead in my tracks. Asking God to lead us allows for HIS will in our lives, not OURS. We pray this prayer so we can honestly say “not mine, but thine…”

“Use Me”
Isaiah 6:8 “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!””

Do you ever put God in a box? Do you have preconceived notions about how and when He can use you for His kingdom? I certainly have. But God is bigger than anything we can imagine. He writes a story we can’t predict. Are we allowing Him to use us the way HE has planned?

I’ve been praying these five prayers in my quiet time this week. I challenge you to do the same. God wants to take us into a deeper relationship with Him. It begins with allowing Him to search us, break us, stretch us, lead us, and use us. The pastor teaching this message made a great statement – “There are things God CAN do that He WON’T do until the people of God pray.” Let that sink in for a minute. God is waiting for us to pray dangerously by giving Him full access to our hearts and minds. Isn’t it more dangerous not to?

Be blessed,
Jennifer

“if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” 2Chronicles 7:14