That temporary thing you’re desperately trying to hold onto? Jesus is better…

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I just met her last Sunday and I’m not sure I’ll see her again this side of heaven, but she’s changed my life forever.

Ever meet anyone like that?

Someone brave. Someone extremely humble, but confident in God’s plan for her life. Someone who’s on a mission and wants to make the most of her days. I’m not even sure she set out to inspire everyone around her. She just does.

Even while she’s dying.

She held a garage sale recently and affectionately named it her “Going-to-Heaven Garage Sale.”  As quiet tears rolled down the faces surrounding me, she smiled and continued on to explain the real purpose behind her visit to our Sunday school class that morning.

{Wait… Heaven. Oh, can you even begin to imagine it?}

A new ministry would get off the ground – one that she helped to inspire through her own suffering. A ministry that will provide knowledge, encouragement, practical support, and relationship for those on their own cancer journeys – from those who have already been there. Love will reign over all, and Jesus will be the foundation for their hope. And while there’s still time she’s making her rounds… because she doesn’t want to miss a single opportunity to speak life - both in her living, and in her dying.

She doesn’t want to leave a legacy that bears her name. She wants to leave behind more of Jesus while she can.

Hearing her talk took my breath away. I’ve spent seasons of my life trying to avoid suffering at all cost, yet I hung onto her carefully constructed sentences that told me that Jesus is more beautiful to her in this very place.

LoveGodGreatlyI couldn’t stand it, so I tracked down her number and called her this week. I just wanted to hear more of her voice. To soak in her wisdom. To stop wasting my days desperately holding onto the temporary when I could know more of the beauty of Christ in the hard here and now. To ask her how she got to this place of sweet surrender.

Run to God’s Word. Look for opportunities to see God at work. Pray, expecting to hear from heaven. Tell about God’s faithfulness. Commit to the process, knowing that He who started a good work in you will be faithful to complete it…

We crave happy. He craves holy.

We run after stuff. He wants us to run after Him.

Jesus, draw me close
Closer, Lord, to You.
Let the world around me fade away.

Jesus, draw me close;
Closer, Lord, to You.
For I desire to worship and obey.

Time is not on her side, but God is. And He is better. He just is, and she’s walking so closely with him that she can already taste it.

When did we start expecting so much from this world?

Rejoice!

Because Jesus is better. Now, and for all of eternity.

And while there’s still time she’s making her rounds, because she doesn’t want to miss a single opportunity to speak life…

“So then, those who suffer according to God’s will

should commit themselves to their faithful Creator

and continue to do good.” ~ 1 Peter 4:19

Suffering is real. But child of God, it’s not the end.

Jesus, help me to leave behind more of You…

At His feet,

 

*LET’S TALK: What are you holding onto? 

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You Have A Gift

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Growing up I never felt like I had any special talents. There was nothing that I excelled at. I wasn’t into sports, academically I was average, at home I was a bit messy. I’m not crafty or super outgoing.  For years I had no idea what “spiritual gift” God had given me.

But each of us is born with a special gift, something that we are passionate about, something we like doing and are good at. These talents or gifts don’t just happen by accident; they are given to us by God. Matthew Henry explains that some of us will receive “ordinary” gifts, while others of us will be given “extraordinary” gifts.

Now God doesn’t do things without a purpose. He doesn’t give us these gifts just for fun, though they do bring joy and fun into our lives. These gifts are to be used to help and bless those around us. In this way we bring glory to God.

The rule is that whatever gift, ordinary or extraordinary, whatever power, ability, or capacity of doing good is given to us, we should minister, or do service, with the same one to another, accounting ourselves not masters, but only stewards of the manifold grace, or the various gifts, of God.

Matthew Henry

The difficulty we have is figuring out what gift or gifts God has given us.  Spiritual gift tests have been invented to help Christians figure this out. I took one years ago, and according to the results my spiritual gifts were discernment and pastoring. Ha!  While these tests can be helpful, they are not always accurate or necessary.
LoveGodGreatly

Here are a few ways to help you figure out what gifts God has blessed you with.

1. What are you passionate about?

What are those things that you really love doing? What gets you excited? What brings you joy when you are doing it? What comes natural to you?

2. What are you good at?

While figuring out what you are passionate about is a good start, it is not always accurate. You can be passionate about singing but not be able to carry a tune. So the next question to ask yourself is, “what am I good at?”

EVERYONE is good at something because God has given everyone a gift. This doesn’t mean that you are an expert. It  simply means that you do it well and that you see fruit.

3. Ask someone

Sometimes it is hard for us to see what we are good at. This is when we need to ask someone. Ask your spouse, your friends, or family member. What talents or gifts do they see in your life?

4. Let your church help you by plugging in

One of the best ways to find your gift is by practicing. If you like cooking, baking and caring for people, then plug into a hospitality ministry. If you like babies and children, then plug into the children’s ministry. If you like to teach, then maybe you can work with older kids, youth, or even lead a women’s Bible study. Are you musical? Then join the worship team. If you like to organize and lead, then find out where in your church you could put those gifts to use.

If you are still not sure then see where your church needs help and just plug in. You may be surprised at how much you like serving in an area that you never really thought much about before.

Remember that the gifts we have been given were not given so that we would keep them to ourselves or only use them within the confines of our own four walls. God gave us gifts, talents, and interests to use to help and love others and bring glory to His name.

Looking To Jesus,
jen-sig

 

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Arming ourselves for godly living {out with the old, in with the new}…

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Some of the most defining “growing up” years of my life came in those early days of motherhood.

All of a sudden there was this dramatic shift in focus.

Before kids I worked, played, ate, and slept according to my own schedule. After kids, I quickly learned that much of parenting – especially in those early years – is about dying to self. Schedules and everyday conveniences would now take on a new look. This beautiful, noble calling would not be without its sacrifices; but oh the deep joy of pursuing something other than my personal gain.

It wasn’t about me. It was hard, and it was freeing.

There was a better me developing, but I would definitely have to fight hard against the selfish ways of my former life.

In many ways the Christian life is much like this. When Jesus transforms us, there is this dramatic shift:

Priorities and every day life take on a whole new look.

Surrender becomes a calling instead of a dreaded sentence.

The old must die to make room for the new…

LoveGodGreatly

Okay, so practically, how do we do it? How do we get good at dying to ourselves so that God is consistently glorified in our lives?

Peter says that we arm ourselves. 

Think of it as preparation for battle. Just as soldiers enter the battlefield with strategic training and discipline, we too must ready ourselves in the fight against sin and our former way of thinking so that we’ll be prepared for suffering as Christ’s return draws near.

Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.” ~ 1 Peter 4:1-2


{If you’re unable to see this video, you can view it here.}

1 Peter 4 says that we arm ourselves…

1. By right thinking. Time in God’s Word reminds us of our human frailty and points us to our Savior, who willingly suffered in our place. When we’re consistently spending time in our Bibles, our minds are transformed by this amazing truth, resulting in an attitude that’s ready for battle (1 Peter 1:13).

2. By fleeing from sin. When we arm ourselves with the attitude of Christ, we are done with sin. For the believer, fleeing the daily temptation of sin doesn’t just stop with recognition and repentance – it’s actively fought by turning the opposite direction and running hard after righteousness (2 Tim. 2:22).

3. By living for God. And now it’s time to grow up in Christ by surrendering our lives to him. Paul Tripp encourages us with this: Your life doesn’t belong to you anymore, but you need to know that the One who now owns it is a willing giver of faithful, patient grace.” The great news is that with Jesus residing in us, God’s power can equip us with everything good to do his will (Hebrews 13:21).

Here’s the thing: we can’t hold onto our old selves while trying to live in the new.

In our flesh we’ll fight it. Ooooh, how we fight it. But because we were made to bring glory to the One who made us, discipline in godly living yields a joy and peace that can never be found while we’re stubbornly still on the throne.

Living for God…

It’s hard. It’s freeing. And it’s far better than anything this world has to offer.

Go ahead and step down, once and for all.

Let’s arm ourselves for godly living this week… because He’s worthy.

At His feet,

*Let’s talk: Do you struggle most with right thinking, sin-fleeing, or life-surrendering? Our team would be honored to pray for you this week…

{Week 4} Challenge: Read Colossians 3:1-17. On one side of a notecard, list all of the things this passage says to “put to death.” On the other side of your notecard, list all of the things this passage says to “clothe yourselves” with. When you are confronted with temptation this week, use your notecard to remind you of ways that you can live for God by replacing sin with righteousness.

Weekly-Challenge-4

{Week 4} Reading Plan:

Week4

{Week 4} Memory Verse:

Peter MVWK4

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Swimming In The Baptismal

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“and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.”
1 Peter 3:21-22

Christians have, throughout the history of the church, disagreed on certain aspects of baptism. Much of what I write here is agreeable to all, but I am writing this from a theologically baptist perspective. This means there are points where my Presbyterian, Lutheran, and Anglican sisters will disagree with me. I love my sisters from other denominations (and non-denominational churches), and simply want to encourage everyone to take baptism seriously.

During my junior high years my dad was a pastor at a church downtown Frankfurt, Germany. The building we lived in had 5 floors. The church was located on the first 2 floors and we lived on the 5th floor. Every now and then my sisters and I would put on our bathing suits and take a swim in the baptismal. It was like our own little swimming pool.

It wasn’t until I was 16 that I entered that same baptismal for a completely different reason. I was finally ready to take that step of obedience and make my love for Christ and my faith in him public.

Baptism is often a misunderstood ordinance; a command that is easily pushed to the side and ignored. Since Peter brings up the topic of baptism in our text I thought it would be good for us to take some time to discuss and think a little more about it.

What Is Baptism?

Post Tenebras Lux – “After darkness, light” is engraved on the Reformation Memorial in Geneva, Switzerland. This is the beautiful truth of the gospel. The shadow of sin has been overcome by the light of the Gospel, the darkness of death has been beaten by the Son of God. By the glorious life, death, and resurrection of Jesus the old has been made new. All of this is what we celebrate in baptism.

The word baptism comes from the Greek word baptizo meaning “ to dip repeatedly,  to immerse or submerge; to overwhelm.”  Charles Spurgeon, a Baptist himself, said that in baptism, “the element must encompass its object.” So, as Christ was immersed in the wrath of God, encompassed by death, and buried in the tomb; so we, as a sign that we have been united with Christ (Rom 6:3), are encompassed, overwhelmed, and buried in water. And as Christ was raised from the grave so we are raised out of the water as a sign of us being raised with Christ into a new life. (Rom. 6:4). When Peter says, “this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God” he is not saying the rite of baptism (removal of dirt from the flesh) saves, but that what it represents (union with Jesus leading to a “clear conscience toward God”) saves us.

Why get baptized?

Baptism typically marks the public aspect of a Christian’s faith. Many view their Christian life as a private affair. While your conversion was a very private experience, it was not meant to remain private.  We are called into the body of Christ, the church, which becomes to us a new family. Baptism is a public acknowledgement that you belong body and soul to Jesus and to this family of believers.

We also get baptized out of obedience (Matt. 28:18-20; Matt. 10:32-33). In the mind of a Christian baptism should not be optional. It is a way in which we follow Christ’s example and command.

What amazing grace that Jesus took on our sin so we could stand pure and without shame before God. Who would not want to proclaim this from the mountain top! Baptism is a way for us to proclaim our unbreakable alliance with God. His death has sealed our life, and we are now his.

Who should be baptized?

Baptism is for all who believe. It is for everyone who understands the depth and ugliness of their sin and can say, “By faith I believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died for my sins.”  (Acts 8:26-38).

What keeps some from getting baptized?

In the Bible we see, over and over again, stories of people believing in Jesus and immediately being baptized. But today many are lackadaisical about baptism. Why are so many indifferent about this sacred ordinance?

For some it is a false understanding of baptism. There are many who think it is just a nice suggestion instead of an important ordinance to participate in.

For some it is the fear of man. This is what kept me from getting baptized. I felt awkward standing in front of people. What were they thinking of me? Did I look silly? I was overly concerned about the opinion of others instead of the pleasure of God. I was too focused on myself instead of focusing on what Jesus did for me.

But here is the thing: it is never too late!

If you have not yet been baptized as a follower of Jesus, you can and should follow the Lord through the baptismal waters. No, baptism does not save. Jesus Christ alone saves. But baptism is a picture that we have been buried with Christ and have been raised up into a new life; a life of forgiveness and peace, a life of righteousness and joy, a life of love to God and neighbor. The old has gone, the new has come ( 2 Cor. 2:17). All praise be to Jesus Christ, our redeemer and our God.


Looking To Jesus,
jen-sig

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Jesus, let it begin with me…

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Here was my experience while perusing through social media last week:

Negative post.

Complaining post.

Dividing post.

 Argumentative post.

I am not even kidding… one right after the other – from basic stuff like the weather, to edgy political rants that went on and on for days. It’s enough to suck the life right out of a girl (or at least drive her offline for a few days). But then something amazing happened.

Easter came. 

And then what flooded my newsfeed?

Life.

Victory.

Celebration.

Hope.

Jesus.

Sweet relief.

Attitudes catch on – in online conversations and across our dinner tables – and it got me thinking about the powerful impact our individual “voices” have on those around us.

Peter was noticing it – this wave of dissension among believers in the midst of suffering – so much so that it was time to put a stop to it…

Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. ~ 1 Peter 3:8-9

LoveGodGreatly

They must have been suffering for a while. Evil was sucking the life right out of them. I’m sure they were weary from the fight. It had even gotten to the point where it was affecting their most intimate relationships. After all, we can only take so much of the pressure cooker before we explode, right?

You’ve tried to remain positive, but everyone around you is constantly bringing you down.

You’ve prayed for your unbelieving husband for years, and still nothing.

You’ve fought your way out of the vicious downward spiral, only to slip up again.

Your prodigal child has broken your heart once more.

You submit to God, only to be ridiculed for your beliefs.

You give and give and give some more, and you wonder when it’s going to be your turn. “When will anyone ever see me? Love me?”

I get it. I’ve been there.

One person complains, and it’s contagious. Misery really does love company. The truth is the solidarity may even make us feel better momentarily – to know that we aren’t the only ones out there suffering in the wilderness. But like I tell my kids when I break up a quarrel among them…

There’s already enough negativity in the world.

You were made for more than this.

Since Jesus has changed you, live like Jesus has changed you. 

Let blessing begin with you.

It’s never easy to break the cycle, but someone has to if this world is ever going to be different.

 Jesus broke the cycle.

The world was in a downward spiral of negativity and sin. Evil abounded. Quarrels divided. Nations disagreed on power, politics and on the validity of a man. Could he be the Messiah, or was he nothing more than a series of parables and empty promises?

And then the empty tomb.

Life. Victory. Celebration. Hope. Truth. JESUS. 

Sweet relief.

Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it. ~ 1 Peter 3:10-11

Has the resurrection changed you? I mean really changed you?

Then the law of kindness will be on your tongue (Prov. 31:26).

Your words will build up instead of tear down (Eph. 4:29).

You’ll speak true words saturated in love (Eph. 4:15).

You’ll serve an abundance of blessing instead of revenge (1 Pet. 3:9).

As much as it depends on you, you’ll live in peace with all men (Rom. 12:18).

Because there’s already enough pollution in the air around us. Because Jesus died for that. Because God gets glory when I live in a way that is countercultural to every last bandwagon that secular culture elevates above the name of my Savior.

We were made for more than this.

Since Jesus has changed us, let’s live like Jesus has really changed us.

Father, let the blessing begin with me…

At His feet,

*LET’S TALK: Where do you need to begin this week?

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Week 3 – Help For The Hurting Wife

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Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word,
they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, 2 when they see your respectful and pure conduct.
1 Peter 3:1-2

Welcome to week 3 of our study! We have come to a very fun passage of scripture today, one that excites much debate in various Christian circles. “Wives, be subject (or submit) to your own husbands.” Peter mentions this twice our passage so we need to pay attention.

Before we dig into these verses we have to remember the context of this book. Peter wrote this to fellow believers who are suffering, who are feeling alienated, and are being persecuted because of their faith.

In this passage Peter is addressing wives who are married to unbelieving and ungodly men. Though, what he says here applies to all marriages.

So what words of wisdom does Peter have for these these women and for us?

Before we get to that, let’s remember what the goal of marriage is. We read marriage books and attend seminars in order to figure out what marriage is supposed to be all about and how to be successful in it. But what is the point of it all?

It’s actually Paul who gives us the answer to this in Col 1:28:

Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.

Our goal in marriage is to see our spouse become mature in Christ. We should want to see the image of Jesus shine more and more brightly in their lives and for them to bear fruit in faith.

And Peter gives us some practical tips on how to do this.

1. Submit To Your Husbands

Submission means to willingly follow the lead of another person or to willingly deny ourselves for the good of another.

Now this is not a command only for wives. The whole of the Christian life is about submission.  We are to submit first to God, and then we are told in Eph. 5:21 that we are to submit to one another, and in Phil 2:3 we are told to consider others as more important  than ourselves. So this concept of submission is not something that God only intended for wives to do. It is for all Christian to follow.

Now this does not mean that we follow our husbands into sin or foolishness. Submission does not equal being silent or inferior. Remember: in Christ we are equals. We are of equal value and worth.

Peter knows that marriage is not easy. He was himself a married man. And now he  is seeing these women who are married to non believers, and some of these marriages are very difficult. Peter is saying to these ladies, “What I want you to do right now is to submit to your husband’s leadership wherever you can, to respect him, and to live in such a way that the beauty of Christ shines through your life. Maybe they will find faith in Jesus through your witness.”

While everyone needs to have the gospel preached to them, these husbands also need to see  the gospel at work in you. They needs to see what a changed heart looks like. This goes for those who have believing husbands as well. We encourage our husbands by living a godly life.

2. Pursue Spiritual Beauty

What makes a person beautiful? Is it the external? Sure, but this kind of beauty is subjective. What I find beautiful, you may not.  Outward beauty really should be of small concern to us, and yet we spend a lot of time worrying about our hair, nails, eyebrows, weight, and diet. Often times it is not because we want to be healthy, but because we want to look a certain way.

But as my husband so eloquently once said, the older we get things “fade, wrinkle, and drop”. Lovely! :)

Peter says, pursue spiritual beauty! This has the ability to make you beautiful even when you are 90 years old. And this is also a way for your husband to see Christ’s work in you. The fruit of your faith can be used by God to draw your husband to himself. Things like a gentle and quiet spirit.

Some of you may think well I have a loud personality. That is fine. A gentle and quiet spirit is not silence. It is avoiding needless arguments. It is a humble heart that does not complain but complements the circumstance.

So Peter’s advice to those who are struggling in their marriages, especially those who are married to a non-believer, is to follow their husbands leadership wherever they can and to pursue spiritual beauty.

This is not a guarantee for a perfect marriage. But it is what God may use to change your husband’s heart; and most importantly, it is honoring to God.

Our challenge for this week is to:
1. Pray for humility as you seek to willingly submit to your husband.
2. Look for an opportunity to share what God is teaching you with your spouse.
3. Commit to regularly praying for your husband. Either for his salvation or for his continued growth in holiness.

Alternative Challenge:
Look up passages that show Jesus acting with a gentle and quiet spirit. Ask yourself these questions, “What keeps me from having a gentle and quiet spirit?” and “What can I do to grow in this beautiful character trait (i.e. in the workplace, among friends, with family, and in difficult circumstances)?”

Looking to Jesus,

jen-sig

 

 

 

WEEK 3 READING PLAN

W3 Reading Guide

 

WEEK 3 MEMORY VERSE:
LIHz4XqLmCDVmJagvvURhPueMK6LsaljZTyEHjkuyVU

 

WEEK 3 CHALLENGE:
Weekly-Challenge-3a

 

ALTERNATIVE CHALLENGE:
Weekly-Challenge-3b

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Feeling misunderstood? Look to the cross…

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I felt so misunderstood.

I had retraced my words. Evaluated my intentions and searched my heart. I had begged Jesus that if there was any wicked way in me, he would bring it to light and lead me to repentance.

Now even with the best of intentions, plenty of times I have been wrong to the core. But this one particular instance – even though it didn’t earn me a seat at the popular “lunch table” – I felt like I had rightly stood up for truth.

And I had paid the price.

I remember telling my husband that I wanted to stand up on a podium and validate my case to the world. I would make them understand that they had it all wrong, and my reputation would quickly be restored to its rightful place.

And he sweetly told me to close my mouth and to suffer well.

LoveGodGreatly

Look, I want to be bold for God. I really do. And there will be times when he calls me to stand on that “podium” and shout his name from the rooftops without holding back.

Oh God, help me not to miss it.

But sometimes being bold means not retaliating, even when we’re in the right. Sometimes it means submitting, even when life doesn’t seem all that fair. And as much as you and I don’t want to hear thissome days we’ll suffer unjustly, and the right thing to do will be to close our mouths and to humbly take it.

_______________________

I had fallen asleep with my Bible on my lap more nights in a row than I could count. Suffering has a funny way of making me run harder – cling more desperately – to such rich, live-giving Truth.

When I woke – my heart still heavily burdened – I looked down on the wrinkled pages and poured over those beautiful, humbling words again…

When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.

And hard tears fell onto the pages.

He could have fought back, proving his innocence.

He could have claimed all authority by making his power and presence known.

He could have called for twelve legions of angels to come to his rescue at any moment.

But instead he remained misunderstood, even to death, because he trusted that his Father would make things right in the end.

“The sufferings of Christ should quiet us under the most unjust and cruel sufferings we meet with in the world. He suffered voluntarily, not for himself, but for us, with the utmost readiness, with perfect patience, from all quarters, and all this though he was God-man. Shall not we sinners, who deserve the worst, submit to the light afflictions of this life, which work for us unspeakable advantages afterwards?” ~ Matthew Henry

Feeling misunderstood? Look to the cross, and represent well the One who died in your place. 

And if you must speak, boldly claim your victory…

Hallelujah, all I have is Christ.

Hallelujah, Jesus is my life.

And let that be enough.

At His feet,

*LET’S TALK: Where do you need to suffer well today by not fighting back? 

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When We Are Called to Suffer and Submit

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Suffering and submitting.

Two words many Christians don’t like to talk about… including me.

Yet here in verses 11-12, Peter encourages us – like a good friend – to keep our focus in the midst of the suffering. To live lives that glorify God.

Sometimes God allows the suffering because of what it produces in our lives. Ironically, many times it’s the suffering that matures our faith and makes us stronger rather than the days of blessing. As I read over these verses, I’m reminded that as Christians, we are told in this world we will have trouble (John 16:33). So it’s not really a matter of “IF,” but rather “WHEN” trouble and suffering will arise.

When people accuse you of doing wrong… how will you respond?

“Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” (1 Peter 2:12)

When an injustice is committed against you…will you retaliate? 

“When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate, when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.”- 1 Peter 2: 23

Dear friend, if this is where you find yourself today, let me encourage you…

God has not abandoned you in this pain. (Deuteronomy 31:8)

The hurt and rejection you are feeling? Jesus has experienced that same heartache.

Remember Whose you are. YOU, my dear, are a child of the King….you bear his name! (Galatians 3:26)

Trust God in this moment. He is working! Growth always occurs first underneath the soil.

Even though you don’t understand it now, God does have a plan. Walk by faith, not by sight. (2 Corinthians 5:7)

In verses 13-17, Peter goes on to talk about the importance of submitting to those instituted in authority in our lives. I know this can be a hot topic, especially with the character and integrity of some of our leaders. But nonetheless we are called to submit to them for the Lord’s sake (vs. 13). Because this life? It really isn’t about us. It’s about Him and our obedience to Him.

Does this mean that as Christians we can’t stand up for ourselves and voice our opinions? Absolutely not, but we need to remember to do so in a respectable manner.

“It is possible to submit to the institutions and still disobey the laws.”- Warren W. Wiersbe

The story of Daniel and his friends choosing not to eat the food of the king is a great example:

“…they disobeyed the law, but the way that they did is proved that they honored the king and respected the authorities (Dan. 1). They were not rebels; they were careful not to embarrass the official in charge or get him in trouble; and yet they stood their ground. They gloried God and, at the same time, honored the authority of the king.”- Warren W. Wiersbe

We know we are not saved by our good works, but God calls us to do good with the lives He has blessed us with and in doing so, we silence the critics by the evidence of him working through us. We don’t accomplish this by opposing their authority. 

“A true Christian submits himself to authority because he is first of all submitted to Christ. He uses his freedom as a tool to build with and not as a weapon to fight with.”- Warren W. Wiersbe

Yet in Acts 5:29 Peter says,  “We must obey God rather than men.” …

So the issue comes down to discernment. We respect the office and submit to the authority in our lives unless we have to choose between obeying God or obeying men….

This is why we must be in God’s Word. We have to study it and pray for discernment to know when it’s right to submit to authority that has been placed over us and when to take a stand in obedience to God.

Dear friends, there will be days when following Jesus will take everything we have. Days when we will have to lean hard into Him and His love for us, remembering that we are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation…a people belonging to God (1 Peter 2:9). May it be said of us when outsiders look at our lives that we loved each other well, that we lived upright, obedient lives in love for our Lord and that we honored those in positions over us.

LoveGodGreatly

Looking to Jesus as our example…may we live lives in service to one another, willing to suffer and submit for the greater good…the glory of God!

There is no greater time than now…the world is watching!

Love God Greatly!

Angela- Love God Greatly

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On a personal note…

It has always been a dream of mine to one day travel to Italy…God in his amazing ways has recently blessed be with an opportunity, through our new partnership with Global Advance, to travel there this week and speak to hundreds of women about Love God Greatly and the amazing work he is doing through our ministry! (My husband and I are also extending the trip and celebrating our 15th year anniversary, too….why not?!!!) I would SO appreciate your prayers as I travel to Italy! Please pray for God to speak through me to these precious women’s hearts! Ohh how I want to serve him well! Thank YOU for joining me on this amazing journey! To God be all glory!

I will be sharing pictures of my trip along the way on our Instagram feed and Facebook page! I would LOVE for you to follow along!

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{Becoming living stones in a dying world} ~ Are you living buried, or ALIVE?

people in bokeh, street of London

My first three children are boys. Listen.

I’m no stranger to dirt. Or sticks arranged in a heap on my kitchen table. Or rocks mysteriously tucked away until they experience the freedom victory lap in my dryer. Heh. I even made the mistake once of throwing away a leaf that was on a boy’s dresser, unaware that it was that day’s precious find. Glory.

boys

In the early days, I saw this endless collection of nature as irrelevant, misplaced, and disposable. But not my boys. They could see what I couldn’t…

A beautiful masterpiece in spite of imperfection.

A creation worthy of being reclaimed instead of flippantly discarded.

A treasure kept, protected, and designed for great purpose.

My favorite was when they would dig holes for me to plant flowers in Springtime. Without fail, they’d come across a rock that had been buried down deep. But because they chose to see beyond the filthy mess? Instead of tossing the rock off to the side, they’d run to the nearest water spigot and wash it clean, exposing a beauty previously unknown.

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Becoming living stones in a dying world…

As you come to him, the living Stone – rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him…

Christians in the Roman empire were being persecuted beyond belief, living in a society that was ignorant about the one true God.

But say-it-like-it-is Peter has a message for God’s people:

The world is dying. You were once scarred by sin, and even now rejected by men. But because of Jesus, you’re alive. Oh Christian, rise up and live like you’re ALIVE.

Were they tempted to wonder if all of the suffering was really worth it? Had they forgotten the curse of death from which they had already been rescued? Were they distracted just long enough to take their eyes off of their capable Rescuer? Or maybe they were so afraid that they buried their faith down deep in an act of self preservation…

Sometimes it’s really hard to live ALIVE.

I don’t know… maybe you can identify?

You’ve suffered for so long that you wonder if God is really there.

You’ve given into apathy, you’ve disregarded grace, and you’ve grown cold to your own sin.

You’ve pursued the things of this world instead of running hard after your Savior.

You’ve buried your faith down deep because you feel afraid, broken, unworthy, ashamed, forgotten, or  __________.

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness and into his wonderful light…

Fiery Peter speaks Truth as the war rages on around them:

Remember the cross. Your foundation is secure. The world may be dying, but Jesus has made you alive. Become like living stones – no longer dead and buried – but alive and built up…

Do you feel buried by the weight of the world? Then let today be the day that you find yourself at the foot of the cross, looking up, washed clean, remembering Whose you are:

 A beautiful masterpiece in spite of imperfection.

A creation worthy of being reclaimed instead of flippantly discarded.

A treasure kept, protected, and designed for great purpose.

You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ…

Father, take us back to our firm Cornerstone and help us to live…

Alive.

At His feet,

*LET’S TALK: Are you living buried, or alive? What do you need to bring to the surface and surrender to Jesus today to let him wash clean so that you can live fully ALIVE? If you feel brave, comment and share that thing as a statement of surrender. If you feel brave but are unable to be specific, simply type, “I surrender, Jesus. Help me to live ALIVE.” so that our team can pray for you too. How I love the encouragement and acceptance that goes on in this place…

{Week 2} Video:

 {If you’re unable to see this video, you can view it here.}

{Week 2} Challenge: Find a small rock in nature, clean it, and carry it in your pocket every day this week. Let the presence of the rock be a reminder for you to embrace your role as a living stone in a dying world. Then go and live ALIVE.

Weekly-Challenge-2

{Week 2} Reading Plan:

Week2

{Week 2} Memory Verse:

Peter MVWK2

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The Mark Of A True Believer

people in bokeh, street of London

I was super excited when I found out that we were going to be studying 1 & 2 Peter together because my hubby just finished preaching through 1 Peter. Since I have a poor memory I am hopeful that this  study will cement into my brain the things I have learned. So let’s dig in, shall we?

What is the the outward sign of a changed heart? What is the true mark of a Christian? Is it passion? A wealth of knowledge? Social action or political involvement? Is it generosity?  While all of these things are good things, they are not the defining marks of a true believer.

Peter teaches us what this mark really is.

Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God;
1 Peter 1:22-23

Love! This is the mark of a true believer.

Love - Augustine

Peter knows this is the proof of a changed heart because he heard Jesus say this very thing.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35 (emphasis added)

So what does it mean to love someone? I think to best understand this we need to first look at the opposite of love which is hate.

Now most of us would say that we are not hateful people. Hate is such a strong word I don’t even like my children using it.  On the surface hate is not something that I feel that I struggle with.  But the painful truth is, I am wrong – and you may be too.

Here are a few characteristics of hate:

  • speaking ill of someone (slander and gossip)
  • not seeking their good
  • wishing harm or misfortune on someone
  • finding secret pleasure when things don’t go well for another
  • unjust anger
  • refusing to forgive
  • ignoring someone
  • indifference toward another’s circumstance

Are any of these found in your life? Ugh, some of these are alive and well in my own heart. And these are not just the rumblings of frustration in a fallen world. They are manifestations of hatred.

“Hate is often more subtle than wrath, and quieter than rage.” – Joe Thorn

Love

Love should be what governs everything we do and say. It is what pushes us to know and obey God’s word and it is the driving force behind us doing good to the people around us. I could give you a succinct definition of love, but that is too easy. I find it even more helpful to answer the question, “What is love?” by looking at 1Cor. 13.

Love is:

  • Patient with others
  • Kind to all
  • It does not want what it doesn’t have
  • It doesn’t brag or think itself superior to others
  • It is not rude
  • It is not irritable
  • It isn’t resentful
  • It does not rejoice at other’s misfortunes or wrongs done to them

Love:

  • Rejoices and pursues truth
  • Bears all things (or puts up with anything)
  • Always believes the best
  • Endures all things
  • Believes God

Peter tells us that these are the virtues that ooze out of loving hearts and into the lives of others. But I get overwhelmed looking at those lists. I am overwhelmed, and sometimes discouraged, because of the hateful ways I see in myself. I don’t love the way I should. I want to, but I fail.

Don’t be discouraged, because this is where the good news of the Gospel speaks words of encouragement and hope to us. Christ not only loves us, but he loved perfectly for us and died for our selfishness and less than perfect love towards others. And through his love we have been gifted with power to change, to love more deeply and to put ourselves last.

We must continue to work at loving others and killing selfishness, not to gain favor with God, but to work out our salvation and to show others that we are new creatures in Christ. But such work is the work of faith, and is ever-dependent on Jesus.

What are some things that we can actually do to practice love?

Here are a few thoughts.

  • Become a good listener; otherwise you won’t know what someone needs, how to pray for, or care for them.
  • Ask forgiveness without explanation or excuses
  • Be generous
  • Include others into your circle of friends, small groups, and Bible studies
  • Put people before your own interests
  • Be willing to sacrifice for others
  • Tell the truth with kindness and wisdom
  • Encourage with the gospel
  • Pray for them

Loving others is not easy. As a matter a fact it is one of the hardest things to do. Sure, loving our friends doesn’t seem to be too hard, but what about the person who is always annoying? The one who knows how to push our buttons? The one who doesn’t care? The one who is malicious? The one who takes us for granted? The family members who are difficult? The strangers who inconvenience us? Or even our fellow Christians who believe differently?

In order to love well we need to keep our eyes on Jesus, the perfector of our love and the example of how to love well.

Looking to Jesus,
jen-sig

 

 

Chime in:

What is the hardest part about loving others? And who in your life has shown you the greatest example of love?

 

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