God Within Us

In 1 Samuel 7 the Ark has been returned and the Israelites have returned to their God. Samuel tells them all together and he will pray for them. As they are gathered the Philistines see an opportunity to attack and the Israelites plead for Samuel to not stop praying for them. As a result, the LORD thundered a mighty sound that drove the Philistines into confusion and they left.

“What an amazing thing,” you might think, “to see God work in such an obvious way.” I would not disagree with you. There are many events in the Old Testament that would be a marvel to witness; Noah building the ark, the parting of the Red Sea,  Daniel coming out unscathed from the lions’ den, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego walking out of the fiery furnace without a burn and not smelling of smoke. You might also think that it may have been easier for them, being able to see such physical evidence of God’s existence. I may have thought the same at one time, but not anymore.

In reading this last chapter I was reminded of a book I read a year or so ago, Kyle Idleman’s Not a Fan. At one point in the book he sets up a scenario of what it might be like in heaven; us getting to talk with people we’ve read about in the Bible & getting to ask them what it was like to be in the midst of such things. With the same fervor, he thinks, they might be wanting to know from us just exactly what it is like to have God Himself living within us.

Do you typically think that way? That you have God living within you? If you are in Christ, you have exactly that, the Holy Spirit, living within you.

In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. ~Ephesians 13-14

And not only do we have Him, but we have direct access to God the Father, because of the once and for all sacrifice of God the Son, that is, Jesus. Because of this we need no human priest to intercede on our behalf. We are able to talk directly to God without fear that He will strike us down, as He did to the men who looked upon the Ark in the previous chapter (1 Samuel 6:19).

So, while miracles like those in the Bible may not be as prevalent today, we can find peace in knowing we can approach God, in any circumstance, and He will hear us.

do not be anxious about anything,but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. ~Philippians 4:6-7

We can draw upon the strength and power of the Holy Spirit, who resides within us, to get through this life, with hope, one day at a time.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. ~Romans 15:13

Those are great and amazing things. I strive to remember them, more often than not, and pray the same for you, dear friend.

Love & Blessings,

KJ

A Mighty God

In reading 1 Samuel 2 tonight (you can read it here) one thought rose above all the rest; our God is mighty. Hannah goes to the temple with Samuel to give him into the Lord’s service (he’s about 3 or so years old) and she prays a heartfelt prayer. Overarching the whole prayer is the fact that God is in control.

The LORD kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up. The LORD makes poor and makes rich; he brings low and he exalts. He raises up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor. For the pillars of the earth are the LORD’S, and on them he has set the world. ~1 Samuel 2:6-8

I don’t know about you, but I find much comfort in this fact and was glad to be reminded of it once again. I can never be reminded of this too much, as I am all too quick to forget this in times of stress, anxiety, worry, and fear. BUT, knowing God’s got this, as well as everything else on the earth, brings me peace. This bit just adds to the comfort that this knowledge brings:

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. ~Romans 8:28

Through the whole part of Eli’s sons being awful and not following the rules God set for them I wanted to have a “REALLY?” moment; like “God has instructed you as to how you are supposed to deal with the offerings from His people so that they also provide your food and you are so unsatisfied with that that you take what rightfully belongs to God? REALLY?” But then I realized that I do similar things each and every day. I take time that rightfully belongs to God and squander it on things that don’t matter. I take potential gifts and talents that God has given me to use for His kingdom, and I ignore them because I don’t want to put in the effort. How grateful I am that Jesus came to be my redeemer so that I will never come to the same end that Eli’s sons did.

It was not only the sons’ actions that were in the wrong though; there was also the fact that Eli heard about it, told them to stop, but did not seem to go any further when they did not listen. A man of God comes to him to tell him that he has put his sons above God and there will a drastic price to pay; the death of his sons. And again I’m reminded of how I easily put things in my life above God. Some of them are even good things, but as God is the best thing, nothing should come close to comparing to who He is and all He’s done for me.

There’s a lot for me to still think about here; reminders of God’s great promises and also conviction of things that need to change in my life. I am grateful to have God’s Word; that through it the Holy Spirit can open my eyes to these things, help me to change, and draw me closer to my God. I pray you’re aware of His work in your life, too.

Love & Blessings,

KJ

Not Relief, but Redemption

I’m starting my Bible reading in 1 Samuel. I have read through this book before, but it was brought up a couple of weeks ago and I thought I would like to read it again. Looking through it, I found it has 31 chapters – I think I’ve found what I’m going to be reading through for this month 🙂 If you don’t have a Bible on hand, go ahead and read 1 Samuel 1 here.

A couple of weeks ago I went with some friends to Spring Ladies Day at America’s Keswick. It was a lovely day that we got to spend in worship and fellowship, and teaching from God’s Word. Susie Larson was the speaker and she reminded me (and the other thousand or so women there) of some great truths about who we are in Christ and how disappointments can lead us to believe otherwise. In this, she brought up Hannah and how she looked for more than relief from her disappointment, she sought redemption.

Hannah was barren. Her husband’s other wife had many children and didn’t think twice about rubbing that fact in Hannah’s face. This more than saddened Hannah and every year when they went up to the temple she would find herself in sorrow for what she did not have. Her husband would ask her the reason for her sadness, for he loved her, and at one point, said to her, “Am I not more to you than 10 sons?”

It is here where I stopped to let this sink in. I am reminded that I, too, am blessed with a loving husband. Someone whose existence I doubted at one point (or rather many points) in my life. I am reminded of God’s great love and provision and perfect timing throughout our relationship. I am reminded that he and I are a family, with or without children. And I feel convicted by not being content with that, for now.

Perhaps Hannah was stuck in the trap of “if only.” I, for one, do not begrudge her for her deep desire to have a child. She went to the only One who could help her in this situation; she went in the temple and turned to her God. She could have just prayed for Peninnah (her husband’s other wife) to leave her alone. She could have just prayed for a child. But Hannah sought more than relief from her disappointment, she sought redemption. And so, Hannah prayed, not only for a son, but also that if her prayer was answered, she would give her son back to the Lord; she would entrust her son to the Lord’s service.

Hannah wasn’t just looking at how her disappointment in not having a child could be assuaged; she was looking to how her prayer could be answered to the benefit of God’s Kingdom. She was looking at a bigger picture than just herself and her desires and God, in His wisdom and compassion, fulfilled her prayer. She went home, no longer saddened by her circumstance, and soon she and her husband conceived a child.

We all can make grand plans and say that if God answers a prayer in our favor we will somehow use it for Him. I’m not saying that God will not honor that, but, truth be told, He doesn’t really need us for anything. And honestly, anything we have, be it material wealth, time, talents, etc., we should be using for His honor and glory anyway. Please don’t read this as if I always do…for that is nowhere near the truth.

But if there is a great desire you have; for a certain kind of job, for a child, for a spouse, what have you, take it to our Lord. Earnestly pray, asking Him to fulfill your desire, knowing first, that He is the only One who can truly fufill you. Look to Him for your redemption; knowing He is good, His timing is perfect, and His ways are not our ways. This is my focus in my prayer today as I work through disappointment to find not just relief for a day, but redemption for a lifetime. I pray, if there is something you’re struggling with, that you will look to the cross and find your way there, as well.

Love & Blessings,

KJ

The Danger of “If Only”s

“If only I could get that raise…”

“If only I could lose 10 pounds…”

“If only I could…” you fill in the blank.

Have you found yourself there lately? Thinking that if only this one thing would happen then all would be well in the world? It’s such an easy trap to fall into.

I found myself there one night as I tried to fall asleep. I went for a run after work before cleaning the house up a bit and making dinner, so I welcomed sleep, but my mind was still going full speed. Thinking about what the future holds I wrote a few notes in my phone before trying again. I turned to my Lord, where peace can always be found, and I prayed.

Thank You, Father, for this day. Thank You for the  great blessing of my husband and all he does for us. I’m so grateful for where You have us right now, if only…

I stopped in my tracks; knowing the words that were going to come next and realizing all I was insinuating about my precious Lord & Savior. How often have I been reminded …“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9a), and His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence (2 Peter 1:3)? And yet that is where I found myself; caught up in a lie thinking that I didn’t already have all I need, that Christ’s sacrifice for me was not enough, and that God may be holding out on me.

Without really thinking about it, I fell into the “if only” trap, and I was reminded how, on this side of heaven, I still have my flesh to contend with. I was thanking my God & then going on to say how what He has for me isn’t good enough. That, for whatever reason, there should be something more for me. And only a few months ago I was writing about how I knew I deserved none of this amazing life He’s blessed me with.

Being content with what God’s given us and where God has us, at any point in life, can be difficult; especially when the world around us is always shouting that we need more, we should be reaching for the highest rung on the success ladder, and the most important thing in life is our own happiness. That is why it’s so important to stay focused on what really matters; the amazing gift of grace, purchased at such a high price, by our Lord, Jesus Christ, and that because of His sacrifice, this grace reconciles us with God; so that we may glorify Him and enjoy Him forever.

I admit, I fall into this trap often. When you are waiting and hoping for something, it’s not a hard thing to do. I know the things that will help keep my focus (there’s a good chance you probably know them, too); prayer, reading the Word, seeking community & fellowship with other believers. But while I know these things, I’m not so good at actually doing them. I know of the great benefit they hold, and yet I find myself shying away from them. Do you find yourself there, too? If so, I have a proposal.

Of the above three things, I find it the most difficult to stop and get into the Bible every day. With a lot of craziness and changes going on in life in general right now, though, that is exactly what I need to be doing the most. For the next month, I am going to endeavor to read, every day, and share some of my thoughts and findings with you. I would be delighted if you joined along and posted comments about what the Lord has been showing & teaching you, day by day.

Love & Blessings,

KJ

 

 

Church as God Meant it to Be: One of His Provisions for Us

To start things off; if you think the church is the building you go into once, maybe twice a week to worship, take a closer look at 1 Corinthians 12: 12-27. In that passage Paul says we (Christians) are all part of one body, the body of Christ, His church. So being, we all have our purpose yet work together for His glory. In the early church believers pooled all of their resources, even if it meant selling all of their land, so that all were taken care of. It’s pretty amazing to think about; that people who are of no blood relation would be so willing to take care of each other with such a sacrificial love. But then, they were called to love one another as Christ loved them. And His love lead Him to give the ultimate sacrifice. This commandment of love was not just for the early church, but for all believers. We know about it, we read about it, but how often to we actually experience it?

There is no coincidence that my pastor preached out of Acts chapter 2 this morning for his sermon, “A Grace Built Church.” A lot of ideas about church today are so very different from when the church first began. We are meant to be doing so much more than just making an appearance every Sunday, saying polite hellos, singing, and listening to a sermon. Perhaps it will be helpful to take a look at how the church conducted business when it was new.

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. ~Acts 2:42-47

I, myself, have been blessed to be on the receiving end of this kind of love & fellowship this past week. On Friday I was in great need of prayer. I was able to contact some of my church family and within minutes I had replies of prayers, encouragements, and even a couple phone calls. This morning I spoke with a Brother about the decision I have to make about going to Michigan as my grandmother is not well. I would typically drive the 12+ hours over 2 days, or sometimes straight through. He offered to get me a plane ticket with miles he and his wife had saved. After a similar conversation a Sister offered to drive with me if I ended up driving. This same afternoon I was also simply handed some money to assist with a need I’ve had. I was struck by these great kindnesses and I felt so blessed to be a part of it all.

As I was driving home I really thought about it. I often feel left out, no, on the sidelines, no that’s not quite right either…perhaps more like I’m missing something, because I am single. But I will also be one of the first to say that that is not true. God has provided for me, in these instances and many, many more, through the amazing church family He led me to. I pray I’m able to pass the blessings along. There are always things we can do better, but I think we have a good part of Acts 2 working within our family, all for the glory of God.

So what is it you could be doing to help your family? Maybe it’s gathering together to help a Sister move. Perhaps God’s leading you to help support a member of your church to go on a mission trip. Spend some time with an elderly Sister or Brother who might be on their own. Invite a new couple to dinner. Be available to the mom who just might need some time on her own. Whatever it is, I encourage you to follow His lead. You probably do not have to go so far as to sell your possessions to help a Brother or Sister out, but would you be willing to? If we are to be known by our love, let’s put those words into action and make them evident. Can you imagine all of those who would be “filled with awe” (insiders and outsiders alike) by witnessing such acts of love?

If you do not know this kind of community I’m writing about because you do not have a church family of your own, I encourage you to start searching for one. It is so hard to be a part of all of this if we are by ourselves. It’s not easy and it’s not always a comfortable experience, but when you’ve found it, you will definitely know.

Love & Blessings,

KJ

Feet of a Deer

For who is God besides our Lord? And who is the Rock except our God? It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect. He make my feet like the feet of a deer; He enables me to stand on the heights. Psalm 18:31-33

A deer’s feet are such that they can bound quickly and steadily through uneven ground and not fall even when the terrain is most treacherous. God does the same for us – we might not get through the rough spots as quickly as a deer, but He helps us stay steady and not fall.

I “just happened” to come across these verses this morning and sent them along to a friend to encourage her. Little did I know that God would work these verses out in me this very day.

If you know me, you may, or may not, know how this crazy brain of mine latches on to thoughts sometimes and will not let go. It happened this morning on my way to work. I tried rationalizing and talking myself out of it; “You don’t need to be thinking about that; let it go and move on,” which never really works. I don’t know about you, but often this is my first reaction. Why, I ask you, do we look to ourselves to fix these problems when we have the God of the universe on our side? Eventually my thoughts will go to Him, but not too often first thing; I’m working on that.

After getting to work, the anxiety began to grow and I knew I couldn’t handle it on my own. I texted the same friend asking for prayer and I went to a quiet place where I could get some work done, alone and out of the public eye. After praying myself and just standing in one spot for 5 or so minutes, wondering where to start, I busied myself and got to work. After an hour, it had mostly subsided, and I returned to my desk for some more organizing and such. There was still a knot in my stomach though and after a few more hours I decided a change of scenery would be best. I left a few hours early and went to my friend’s house.

We went for a run and I got to talk it through with her. While we were no where near as quick as deer, I felt God doing just what the psalmist describes in the verses above. He was getting me through the rocky terrain and helping me stand on the heights, so that I might be able to look at it all from a different angle. To see it objectively from a distance, rather than getting trampled in the midst of it all.

How good He is to enable us to do that! I pray I’m able to keep that mindset as I don’t think this particular trial is yet at end. Not thinking about it as much is half the battle; handing it over to Him is the other. Though I have no doubt that when I let go (and not pick it back up) He will be faithful in taking the burden from me and helping me bound along the path He’s set before me to whatever lies ahead.

Praying He is making your feet like the feet of a deer; that you may not falter when the terrain is rocky.

Love & Blessings,

KJ

God Only Knows

How many times have you heard those words, “God only knows”? How many times, when you heard them, did you associate them with something positive? Until recently, I must admit, I always heard and said those words with a negative connotation. In my thinking, I heard them as sarcastic and maybe a little frustrated; similar to the response “Who the heck knows?”.

My thinking changed, though, in a late night conversation with a dear Sister of mine. We spent an evening together; preparing dinner & taking it to her hubby at work, playing with the munchkin, catching up on old episodes of “Once Upon a Time”. The last episode ended and we started chatting. At least a week prior I had felt the need to talk with her and explain some things that had happened in the past few months. I thought she might already have an idea, but needed to fully verbalize it all; not just for her, but also for myself.

And so the conversation started. It was about a lot of what I write about here – being single, thoughts on dating, the desire for a family. And then I asked the question that I can never find an answer to. The very same question many girls and women, alike, ask themselves when faced with heartache when a relationship has ended or there is a lack of one altogether. “Is there something wrong with me?”

“No,” she answered emphatically. “You are amazing. God only knows why you are not married yet. I have been praying for you because I know it is something you desire, and it’s something I want for you, too. You are my Sister and I love you. I know He has something awesome planned and I’m excited to see what it is.”

Praying for me, really? I was struck at God’s providence in this as one of the main reasons I had for this conversation was to ask her if she would be praying for me. To find out that she already was…well, I was more more encouraged and felt more love than I can express, even now. We continued our conversation with smatterings of tears and laughter, sometimes both at the same time. I left (much later) that night feeling as if a weight had been removed.

As I drove home, those 3 words were stuck in my head. God only knows. And it clicked.

“I am the Alpha and Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” -Revelation 1:8

If He is the first & the last, the beginning and the end of it all (which He is) then He is sovereign over all. If He is sovereign over all (which He is) then He knows all. If He knows all (which He most certainly does) He, well, knows all.

If He decides to reveal any of His knowledge to us, bonus. If He doesn’t (which seems more often than not when you’re in the middle of something), that is where faith comes in.

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. -Hebrews 11:1

If God, only, knows who He has waiting for me to marry (and again, yes, He knows), I should have no complaints. He, the Almighty, knows what He has in store for my future. Am I glad He’s the One running the show? The One Who has had it all in His sight before the foundation of the earth? Most definitely, yes, and indeed! I know if it was all up to me, it would be a waaay bigger mess than I could deal with.

I can take comfort in that which God only knows, because if only one could know what the future holds, wouldn’t you want it to be Him?

Love & Blessings,

KJ