All He wants is willingness…

You might say, “Yes, but Jesus’s willingness took Him to a cross.”

To that I would say, “Yes, but it also won Him the name above every name. It gave Him the nations as an inheritance. Such reward is in it for us too. Not to be Jesus, but to share in His glory. To be rewarded with His joy for being faithful here on earth.”

Humility comes before honor, so be willing for whatever comes from the hand of God in your life. Willingness to do God’s will-whatever that may be in your life- is always rewarded in the end.

 

Real life…

Let’s talk about real life. Not Facebook life, not Pinterest life, not Instagram. Just everyday, middle-class, Jesus loving, hard working, trying to be faithful to God and give our lives for His cause kind of life. Life where there is no time to think about how to get rid of the wrinkles that are there due to the long-term negligence of your face. Or when your vehicle is making a noise that there is neither time nor money to fix. How about when the Dave Ramsey plan says not to eat out and out of sheer exhaustion, you do anyway? Then an elderly parent gets put in the hospital for unexpected surgery. Or one of your animals dies in your arms. Yes, this kind of real life. Where your kitchen looks like this:

And your laundry is piled high because you have worked all week and your husband has done 40 hours at his day job and 20 more at night to help with the end of the month crunch. Oh, and don’t forget that thing you prayed for with all your heart but still hasn’t shown up…and it’s been 10 years. All of this stuff. Some days these are juggled with some form of confidence…some days they seem as though they will be the cause of our bitter end. A lot of how we perceive them comes with the measure of exhaustion we are experiencing. It seems to highlight the negative and dampen the joy, that ol’ tiredness. Driving home from work today, this verse came to mind:

“For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory…” 2 Corinthians 4:17 (emphasis mine)

The man who called his afflictions “light” was a man who had been beaten 5 times as close to death as the law allowed a man to be beaten. 39 lashes each time.

These “light” afflictions were only the fact that he was often running for his life, often in prison for preaching the Gospel of Life, often wrongly accused in front of large groups of people, stoned and left for dead, three times shipwrecked and on one of those occasions spent and night and day floating in the deep (probably wondering if he was going to be eaten by a shark). Yes, these kind of light afflictions.

Not all of us are called to the kind of suffering for Christ that the Apostle Paul went through. Our different lives afford different measures of stress and suffering that we are each allotted by the sovereign hand of God. You and I cannot fully know the extent of each other’s…but we can help. We can help bear the burden through prayer, through encouragement, through our gracious love towards one another. While my afflictions are not anything near the kind that Paul went through, they are not to be minimized. It is still affliction. That broken relationship which you so long to restore, still hurts. When you heard about the mean, untrue things they said behind your back at work when you have done nothing but try to show the love of Jesus to them, it is still suffering. The laundry is still stressful, even if it doesn’t mean someone’s life is in danger.

But the wisdom is to look at those things as “light affliction” compared to the eternal weight of glory that we will experience for being faithful until the end, ever looking for Jesus and His return.

The wisdom is to know that today may just be a tired day, and all those things will have fresh energy to tackle them tomorrow, because God gives His people strength.

Wisdom waits patiently, prays constantly, rests peacefully, and thinks heavenly.

Yes, real life is hard. There are a lot of responsibilities, especially if we are trying to do it right. But all these afflictions are momentary and minimal compared to the eternal joy. The eternal rest. The eternal bliss of God’s forever presence. Maybe these words won’t fold your towels for you. They won’t necessarily heal your loved one…but they can help your soul today. For now. Just until the next surge of encouragement, or the next wave of joy lands on you. Rest in Jesus. See all today’s problems, for just a moment, in light of eternity’s glory.

Lord, lift her burden. Put Your hands on her shoulders and draw her to Your chest. Cause her to release her anxiety, her fears, her exhaustion to You and pour into her fresh joy. We receive Your help with gladness. Thank You, Jesus, for loving us in all our afflictions. For knowing each one intimately and for caring about them specifically. We come to you with hearts that long for the wisdom to view them correctly and respond to them in a godly way. In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

 

 

No Fun Anymore

“When I was a child, I used to speak like a child,

think like a child, reason like a child;

when I became a man,

I did away with childish things.”

1 Corinthians 13:11

Abi and I made cinnamon rolls together today. The prospect brought excitement and fervor to our kitchen. Abi gathered all the measuring cups, spoons, and ingredients, laying them neatly on the counter in a row. We put all the ingredients (in our bread maker of course) and the dough was off being kneaded in a few short minutes! In between pushing the START button and the final rise, Walmart happened, dinner happened…Minecraft happened. All of which is fine and dandy, but when the bread maker made its final beep, I had to do some, let’s just say persuading, to remind Abi that this project was her idea. As soon as they were popped into the oven, she ran back to the couch to finish her castle for “screen time.” I went back to wipe up the counter and I believe the Lord spoke this to me,

“What just happened is a picture of the difference between immature excitement and mature faithfulness.”

Immaturity starts something and then drops out when “it’s not fun anymore.” Mature faithfulness sees it through to the end. The transition period, lets call it, between the initial excitement and the first feeling of “I’m done” may take a lot of time to get to. Most likely it will not. And that feeling will come. Faithfulness keeps going, pressing prayerfully through the sludgy messes, continuing determinedly over the mountains of weariness and just keeps being what it is ~ faithful. It is typical for a child to get distracted, take their ball and go home, and toss aside something that “isn’t fun anymore.” All the while faithfulness continues quietly doing the task that others are “too busy” for. Too “tired” for. Or just plain don’t want to do.

Maybe the vision was cast and you are just now excited about a prospect. Something or someone God has put in front of you. Be excited! Take today at full face value and live it! Just be aware that tomorrow may bring the exact opposite feeling towards the very same thing that you are thrilled over today. The work involved in being faithful is no JV sport. This is first-string Varsity and you are going to go up against things that are bigger and even better than you. Things that want to make you quit. Things that would like to take you out of the game. No need to fear. The only need is a dogged determination to not give up walking out this thing until God says we are done. Only He can give renewed hope, renewed joy, and the renewed energy to look at the vision and attack it with the same thrust we had at the beginning. Here is where it joins the category of commitment and the virtue of faithfulness becomes your reason for getting at it again today.

I wanted to write today to those that I see around me doing the thing…faithfully. It is for those who are sticking it out for God in some area that is not fun anymore.

Well done.

Whatever you may feel you are not getting a return on right this moment, be assured, for you have (as ol’ Ebeneezer Scrooge told the men collecting funds for the prison houses after his salvation) “many back payments” coming to you. There is not one act of faithfulness that we do here on earth, that is not being noted in heaven. Not one. Christian, you show great maturity to cast your feelings aside and continue to stay on faithful paths with Jesus…even when it hurts. Even when it takes you to your last ounce of strength. Even when you are not sure you are going to make it until tomorrow. You will.

“[For] Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
    his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint,
    and to him who has no might he increases strength.
Even youths shall faint and be weary,
    and young men shall fall exhausted;
but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
    they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
    they shall walk and not faint.”

Isaiah 40:28-31

Be strengthened, because your faithfulness is bringing great gains to your own spiritual growth. Your steadfastness in the gospel and its work are bringing great dividends to this generation that will ripple into the ones to come. Your steady plodding of obedience is pressing others deeper into obedience by the testimony of your life that they are watching.

Nope. There is nothing that has slipped through the cracks, or missed the careful eye of the Lord. Go at it again today with the same fervor as day 1. The joy will come back. The excitement will come again. Bless you for doing it…even when it’s no fun anymore!

Nothing Compares

There will always be a limit to what others can be and do for us. Our expectations of others constantly need to be in check. When we feel like we need to cling; we need to back off and go to Jesus. When we feel hurt that no one is listening, we need to take that hurt and make sure we have talked with God about it. Maybe that person wasn’t supposed to share in the joy or hurt of it at all. Maybe it was just meant for the Lord. Jesus will always want to be clung to; Jesus will always listen when our hearts truly need it.

I have a fabulous husband. He is truly an awesome man and I love him. He is my best friend. I do not say this to disrespect him, but to make my point by a real-life example. Ha! (Marriage gives us some of the best!)

I was really looking forward to sharing with John something that I felt like I got from the Lord before he got home. He was sitting at the table ~ right in front of me. I chose that time to speak because there were no distractions (imagine that!) and I know that men (especially my man) tend to take out one file at a time to focus on. Sooooo…I opened my mouth and began…Only to have John get up about one minute after I started, during the most important part of my story, and do something at the counter. I was a bit distracted because of the sudden interruption and when he sat back down, I decided just to be quiet and see what would happen. What happened?

Nothing.

Not one word. From him or I. It was as though the conversation had vanished into mid-air. Disappeared. Never having happened in the first place.

I finally broke the silence and said, “You have no idea what I was saying, nor do you have any idea that I stopped right in the middle of my most important point, do you?”

Do you know how he answered my question????

He LAUGHED.

He started LAUGHING about it. He realized he hadn’t listened to one word I had said up to that point. So let me stop there and ask you how you would have responded?

Great time for me to be really ticked off huh? Well, I have been married to him long enough to know that these kinds of “conversations” happen from time to time. I was a little irked. But as I walked down the hallway away from the table, the Holy Spirit ministered to me about it and gave me the realization that humans are so limited in what they can offer each other. Now, fellowship is a deep joy of mine. I have friends who rejoice with me when I rejoice and who pray for me when I am sad…and those are great blessings to me! But they will not be fully able to fill the deepest parts of me that can ONLY be filled with God.

The Scripture says, Each heart knows its own bitterness,
    and no one else can share its joy.” Proverbs 14:10

Only God loves me perfectly. Only God knows my deepest and most personal sorrows and joys.

“For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them?” I Corinthians 2:11a

Others can hold us through sorrow or be used of God mightily to help in some degree, but what they cannot offer us…we need look only to Jesus for.

On this holiday of Love, be reminded that all of us are reaching out to love and be loved by imperfect people on this side of heaven. If satan is tempting you to view someone else as more palatable to love, or if someone seems as though they will love you more perfectly than what you are experiencing right now ~ it is merely a grasping for straws. We all fail each other at times. None of us are able to be each other’s Savior or 24/7 lifeline. May we look to the One Who gave His life, with perfect unselfishness, for us…while we were yet sinners. Look to Him for all your needs and to others as icing on the cake. Let the disappointment (of not being loved as you feel you should be) just roll off of your back today and look again to Jesus. He will never fail to love you perfectly ~ although I, and those around you, might. (1 Corinthians 13:8a)

I do not speak today of relationships that are toxic. I am speaking of you and I making sure we are not putting on other people a burden of “loving us” a certain way that should only be filled with Jesus Himself. Can I talk to John about the fact that he hurt my feelings that night? Of course. Can I expect him, as my godly husband, to do better than that when I am trying to tell him something important? Sure. The Bible tells us to love each other like Christ loves us.

“A new command I give you: Love one another.
As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”
John 13:34

But I will not look to him for my ultimate fulfillment. There is forgiveness when he falls short (and when I do for that matter!) There is a fulfillment which I need to get from Jesus, in the morning, before anyone else even wakes up. Besides, the best part of that night was what happened between the Lord and I. Nothing compares to that intimacy or friendship. John’s sharing with me in that is only icing on the cake…and icing without a cake can’t stand. Yet, cake was meant to have some icing too. 🙂 Balanced in our “need for love” and sensitive to when we may be overstepping the bounds of trying to get it from where we shouldn’t be trying ~ that’s all. Have a Happy Valentine’s Day! Remember just how great the Father’s Love is for us all!

 

 

It’s been a while…

since I posted something and I am just checking in. I man my Twitter/Facebook/Instagram accounts fairly regularly, and I have really just been trying to press into Jesus (hence the writing has gone by the wayside for a bit.) How are you?! We have piles of snow here still and are looking forward to spring. God is doing many exciting things around here as always. I just met with a worship leader friend of mine who is on board to help with a ladies gathering/retreat that I have felt the Lord prompting me to do for the women in my immediate vicinity, and we are excited to pull together and write some original worship music for it!

The Bible says to, “Sing a new song to the Lord!” So don’t be surprised, if you were to stop and sit still for a few minutes, if the Holy Spirit begins to put a melody in your heart! It is Biblical! We are commanded in the New Testament to speak to one another with, “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.” Ask Him for a new song to worship Him with ~ and no, you do not have to be a worship leader/songwriter (I am most certainly not!) 🙂

I will post the awesome theme for the retreat soon, I am still waiting on a few key pieces to fall into place before I post it on the coming events page!

Recently I had the privilege of going into a friend’s home to help her organize. (I even volunteered another friend of mine into doing it with me…and no, she wasn’t present to speak for herself. That’s just the kind of relationship that we have. 😉 ) There is a video I hope to put on here soon which gives some fun insight on how to tackle a project like that and boy, does it make a huge difference in our souls when our surroundings are in order! All of that is the start of a much larger dream I have to put together a ministry for women that deals with all aspects of life: motherhood (if you are a mama), house managing, people loving, church/kingdom serving, self-maintenance, marriage (if you are)…all the stuff that can encompass a Jesus-loving woman’s life. I have a friend who told me once, “If you don’t have practical religion, you don’t have anything at all.” That is really the heart of what I desire for the women around me and for myself. If Jesus is not making a difference in the way we clean our homes, the way we interact with the people in our neighborhoods and towns, the way we view laundry for heaven’s sake! – then we have not tapped into the abundant life. That, I firmly believe, comes in the midst of community. Community with other believers who will come into your house and do your dishes for you while you visit. Believers who give you the keys to their car without a second thought because yours is stuck in your driveway…this “practical religion” is what the book of Acts was all about – and what I desire this future ministry to be all about. (It is in the works as we sit here together!)

Do you dream big? I believe God leads us to dream big. Big meaning bigger than us. Bigger than anything that we would be able to conjure up on our own. God-sized stuff. The Bible says that God causes His people to do “great exploits.” I just know that our blip on earth is so fleeting and I want to milk it for all it’s worth ~ to the praise of the One Who saved me.

Maybe you don’t have concrete “dreams” or plans from the Lord. Listen, the greatest work is done in your very own “Jerusalem.” The very people around you. How are their souls? Are their names and lives in your heart? Do they get the priority that they need before you feel like moving on to the “ends of the earth?” There is no magical formula for this kingdom life. It is a simple matter of Jesus being the LORD of us and walking by His Spirit each and every moment and day. The visions come when we just simply ask God for them. Those “visions” or “callings” may just be throwing ourselves into what is right in front of us. But whatever He reveals, it is for our joy to persevere in that calling.

I am in a season of persevering. Planting, sowing, waiting, sitting, planting, sowing, waiting…ready to reap, but that is God’s timing. 🙂

Where are you desiring to “reap” something in your life, but God still has you in a “persevering” stage?

Comment on my Facebook page or below…I would love to hear what God is doing with you! Hopefully I will get on here again sooner than later!

Blessings,

Jana

The Offense of the Cross

The cross of Jesus Christ is the ultimate humility of man. We cannot say, “Well, I’m a good enough person. I believe in a higher power.” Life-long church goers cannot say, “I have followed all the rules.” Certain religions that merge themselves with different aspects of the Christian faith cannot say, “We follow such and such parts of the law and have our peace with God.”

God, in His wisdom set up only one place where man can go to have his sin replaced with righteousness, and that is at the foot of the cross of One Man. Jesus Christ. Many were crucified in His day but to sit under the flowing blood of any other will not give us restitution for offending God. Yet, the blood of Jesus covers us from all our sin. The blood of Jesus does it once and forever.

It is not the religion of power that says the more we do, the higher we go which receives the most persecution around the world. It is not the religion that says the more you kill the “infidels,” the higher you will go which receives persecution…it is the one which claims only a single Man, Who died the death of a cross, as the only Way to the Father-God of the universe.

It offends every ounce of our ability. Every source of our prideful achievement. Every grudge we hold onto. Every person we are unwilling to forgive.

Yes, the cross. It is the offense of the cross that will remain as the only door, the only truth, the only way to eternal life until Jesus Himself comes back. Run into and bear its offense or run the eternal risk of being offended by it. Humility to this way set forth by God here and now evades the fires of hell then. Death is too late. Today is the day of salvation.

Maybe you have never surrendered your heart to Jesus and placed yourself under His blood shed on the cross for you. Pray to Him like you are talking to a friend right now and ask Him to come into your life and forgive you of your sins (those things that we do that offend Him.) “All who call upon the name of the Lord (Jesus) will be saved.” The Bible says.

Maybe you are like me and you have forgotten the simplicity of the cross alone as your means of favor with God. Your sin does not make Him love you less, nor does your striving make Him love you more. The offense of the cross is that it is for everyone and requires nothing but belief to enjoy all of its benefits. The cross and the blood are everything to us…even after we get all theological and complicated in the nuances of our individual beliefs about certain things. Take your mind back to the offense of the cross today. It is where we started with Jesus and it is where we need to stay.

Thank You, Jesus, for the offense of the cross. Thank You that You do not require anything of us but belief in order to be in right standing with You. Your blood cleansed us at our moment of surrender to You, and it cleanses us even today and tomorrow…the sins we have yet to commit. Once, for all, You placed Your blood on that altar in heaven made not by human hands and it was enough. It is enough for me today. Thank You Jesus, Amen.

“And I, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision,

why do I yet suffer persecution?

then is the offence of the cross ceased.”

Galatians 5:11

I am forever tripping on John’s size 12 shoes. They (yes, even after almost 13 years of training) still sometimes end up in the middle of the floor (usually right in a main pathway, but enough of that~I will not subject you any longer to our quirky irritants). But today I was grateful for those shoes. We have had almost a foot of snow and we went for a walk around the backyard (well, I followed). I followed because it was much easier for me to step in the boot-path that John had left and the Lord spoke this to me:

“Jana, that is a husband’s job. To make the way easier for his family. To take the brunt of the hard work by going first, by taking the obstacles of life head-on…and you are left an easier path to walk on.”

I am very grateful for a godly husband that does just that. I have watched him take on things that he would have rather not~just because it was his job to as a husband and leader of our home. I have heard him have conversations that he would have rather not~just because he was in a position of leadership in our church. Things and conversations that I did not have to bear the brunt of…all because of the “shoes” that God has ordained John to wear in our marriage and our lives.

So those size 12’s. They aren’t so much in the way anymore. They symbolize something refreshing…something peaceful for me as a wife. They are shoes that I don’t have to wear and am thankful for it. Not that my role as a wife is cheesecake easy. Hardly. But I am hard-wired to handle what my God-given role is to handle. And the same goes for John. When either of us try to walk in each other’s shoes, well, they just don’t fit quite right. I will leave his roles to him and happily do mine…stepping in the wake of a path made easier by a man willing to take the lead, today exemplified in a foot of snow.

“What did I do?”

I faced a situation today that required some God-wisdom (don’t they all?) and asked Him,

“Lord, what would You do?”

Immediately, in my heart I heard,

“What did I do?”

There is no part of Jesus’s human experience left undone. From the manger-bed of a poor family to allowing Himself to be murdered on a cross. If you want to know what God would do in your given situation, ask Him to show you in His Word where He has already been through it. Then let Him lead you to follow in His footsteps. He awaits to give you the power to walk as He walked. The wisdom to talk as He talked. The courage to face what He faced. All our roads have been paved before us by Jesus~that is why it is so glorious to be a Christian. We have a humble God Who has felt every human emotion there is to feel. Faced every temptation we will ever face…and fought through it all without sin.

Look for it. This situation that you are facing of which you are not sure that Jesus ever faced~He did. Ask Him to show you where He did and then believe that He is there to give you the power to be as Spirit-filled and victorious through it as He was.

“For those God foreknew he also predestined

to be conformed to the image of his Son,

that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.”

Romans 8:29

“Ask and I will give…”

Heaven moves things when we pray. There is no doubt about it. Prayerlessness is a very strategic tactic of satan to stifle our faith in Who God is and in what He can do. However it needs to happen, we need to press on in prayer. Pray with someone! Make that meeting the most important part of your week…and see what happens when you begin to sow faithfully in prayer!

“Ask of Me, and I’ll give the nations for your inheritance,

and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.”

Psalm 2:8 

This Psalm is a prophetic Psalm about Jesus. Jesus, by offering Himself on the cross for our sins, won Himself the nations as an inheritance. We are His inheritance and He is ours. What I feel like the Holy Spirit was speaking to me in this yesterday morning was, “Jesus had already been promised this, yet the Father was pleased for Him to ask for it too.”

What have you felt the Lord promise you? I mean, personally promise you? What are you waiting on Him for? Something that He may have put on your heart years ago? The nations, for Jesus’s inheritance, was already set in stone before the foundations of the world…yet it pleased God for Him to ask even still.

How long has it been since you brought that thing up to Jesus and asked for it again? I am not speaking of prayers that God did not answer when we prayed them. His “no” is for our best, I am convinced of that. I am speaking of the things that you have been promised. Things that you believe God has revealed to be His will for your life, that He has spoken to you, yet they have not come to pass yet. Maybe this is just for me, but the Lord spoke loud and clear to me in this verse yesterday that I am to begin “asking” Him to fulfill that which I believe He has willed for me. Yes, in this life. So that I may give Him the glory in and through it all.

Go again. Go again to the throne of grace and cry out for Him to fulfill His Word to you, His servant. David did. He prayed the exact same phrase. In the praying we become closer to the Lord and in the answer our joy is made full the Scripture says. May both be often true in the lives of God’s people! Join with Him in the desires He has for your life by asking Him to fulfill those things that you know He has spoken to you in your heart.

The Place Where Freedom Dwells

My friend came over the other day. She is at a crossroads that my cause her to have to leave a lot of her material possessions behind in order to move forward where God is leading her. In response to the emotional struggle that this can (justifiably) cause, she stood in my front yard and emphatically declared, “But He is worth running towards!”

Jesus is worth leaving behind anything you have to leave behind.

The gain of Him is worth losing every earthly thing.

He is worth leaving that relationship, that house, that city, even that family member’s approval. It is not just physical things He may call us to leave behind. He calls us to leave behind certain emotional things also. He is worth leaving behind unforgiveness, bitterness, and the grip of having to be right. Run towards freedom. The freedom where love flows instead of sharp words, where that person is an object of your pity rather than your hate. Freedom that leaves vindication in the Lord’s hands where it belongs.

Oh her faith so spoke to me! Run on sister! May I be willing to leave all behind to follow where Jesus leads. Physically and emotionally. So that I can find the place where freedom dwells…in His presence.