The Archway of Trust

Now you are ready, my bride, to come with me as we climb the highest peaks together. Come with me through the archway of trust. -Song of Songs 4:8a Passion Translation

In Song of Songs chapter 4, verse 8, we are given an invitation by Jesus, our bridegroom. He invites us, his bride, to go away with him. He tells us that the way to go is through the archway of trust. 

Trust. The opposite of doubt and unbelief. You cannot trust someone if you hold any doubt or unbelief towards them. As we looked at yesterday, this is is exactly why the enemy continuously tries to cast doubt on the goodness of God. His endgame is to get us to stop trusting the Lord, and to become complacent, compromised, and disobedient to Gods Word.

Going through the archway of trust is not easy. It is also not a one time thing. Looking back on my life I have walked under this archway. I have also yielded to fear at times and ran back out from the archway back into the safety of the “known and controlled” way of life.

I am just one in a long line of people that have have started walking through the archway of trust and then allowed fear to come in. Peter stepped out of the boat in a grand moment of trust, and seconds later looked at the storm, realized what he was doing, freaked out, and started to sink.

The disciples spent three years with Jesus, not only watching, but also performing miracles. They had walked away from the lives they knew. Literally walked away mid shift dropping their nets, leaving their boats, walking away from the tax booth. They trusted Jesus with EVERYTHING, because he was literally all they had. Yes- they walked (more like ran) through the archway of trust.

They lived a life of faith and awe watching water turn into wine, bread and fish be multiplied, thousands being healed, and even people being raised from the dead. Yet on the day of Jesus crucifixion, where were they? They were hightailing it back out of the archway as fast as they could. Hiding and shaking in fear, certain they were next to die.

Trust is a big thing to God. After all, how can you truly love or be loved by someone you don’t trust. Even a small about of doubt and distrust will hinder a relationship. I believe that is why God allows us to walk through so many archways of trust. He is building us up to a place where we stop asking questions, stop listening to the enemy, and simply move at the sound of His voice, without any hesitation.

Let’s go back to where we left the Israelites a couple days ago. They were camped at the Red Sea. They were facing the mountain of the the false god of the sea and the Egyptians were approaching them to wipe them out. They were trapped. There were crying out to Moses, who was crying out to God.

God’s response “Quit your crying and move” (Jen Gilbert translation :). He told Moses to raise his rod and part the sea. Umm…ok…sure…

Raising his rod was a step towards the archway of trust. God responded by causing the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea into dry land, and the waters were divided -Exodus 14:21.

Moses moved. God moved.

That’s just the beginning. They still had to walk through it. Can you imagine what that was like? Can you imagine the fear, doubt and unbelief that would try to creep in? I love to imagine those moments. You are walking THROUGH the Red Sea. If you look to the left you may see a whale with his mouth open just waiting to have you and your family for lunch. On the right may be a bunch of jellyfish waiting to sting you. Or forget the sea creatures, “what if” the water suddenly comes crashing down on you? There are over 2 million of you and grandma is ahead of you walking slow as ever so this is literally going to take FOREVER!

Ok, so don’t look to the left or to the right, and don’t think about the waters crashing down, or how long this is going to take. Just look ahead. Wait. We are walking TOWARDS the mountain of the false god of the sea! What if he isn’t false? What if he really is the god of the sea? I bet he isn’t happy that Moses messed with his sea and divided it like this. Well isn’t this just super…

I set my face like a flint and I walk through the waters.

They moved. They were probably freaked out the entire time, but they moved.

They moved. God moved.

God moved by taking the wheels off the chariots of the Egyptians, so they drove them with difficulty (ok- how fantastic is that?!) At that point the Egyptians realized that they were no match for the God of Israel. They tried to turn tail and run, but it was too late. The waters closed in and drowned them all. It says in Exodus 14:28 that not one of them remained.

We move. God moves. We go first. Catch that? WE GO FIRST. It’s time to stop waiting for the waters to divide in our lives before we take a step. WE MOVE FIRST. We listen for what the Spirit of the Lord is saying to us through His written or spoke Word and then we move. And we TRUST that He will move. And His moves are AWESOME. But here’s the deal, He cannot move until we do. WE MOVE FIRST.

Is there something in your life God is telling you to do? Is there an archway of trust He is inviting you to come through with Him? Understand that He is building your relationship. It needs to be established on trust. Despite the whales, jellyfish, and mountains, you need to MOVE. The beautiful thing is God has ALREADY moved before us in ways we do not know. He is simply building up our faith so we stop running back to the false safety of a life lived in the boat, or on dry land, but never ON the water.

Dear Heavenly father, thank you for the Divine invitation to come away with you through the archway of trust. Thank you for making a way where there is no way. Thank you for your patience and mercy during all the times I have refused to move. I want to build my relationship with you Lord. I want to trust you with EVERYTHING Lord. Holy Spirit help me to know the move you want me to make right not in my life. I trust that as I move, you move. Lead me today through the archway of trust. In Jesus’ name, Amen!

Running through the archway,

Jen

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Face Like Flint

For the Lord God helps Me, Therefore, I have not been ashamed or humiliated. Therefore, I have made My face like flint, And I know that I shall not be put to shame. -Isaiah 50:7 Amplified 

If I were to describe in the simplest way what I believe this journey of faith is about it would be this: the enemy of our faith works tirelessly, trying to get us to doubt what God has promised us both in His written and spoken Word, and God responds by relentlessly pouring out His love, grace and mercy upon us in an effort to get us to believe His never-ending, unfailing, unconditional love.

The pattern started thousands of years ago in the garden and hasn’t changed much. The serpent came to Eve with questions about the validity of God’s word. First he questioned the word itself, and when that didn’t seem to move her, the serpent lied about what God’s motives were in giving them the rule regarding the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

God plainly told Adam and Eve that if they ate of the tree, they would die. He was upfront with them from the get-go. They had no reason to doubt his word. They were literally living in paradise without a problem or care in the world! Then along came the serpent and he lied to Eve, telling her that the real reason God didn’t want them to eat from the tree is because if they did, they would become like God, knowing good and evil.

Here’s the kicker, the enemy wasn’t completely lying. It was true- God really didn’t want them to know good and evil. He wanted to spare them from knowing evil. They were living a perfect life of good and that is what God wanted for his children from the start. So yes, the enemy was telling the truth, he just perverted the truth enough to cause them to doubt God’s goodness. He presented the truth in a way that made it seem as though God could not be completely trusted and they needed to take matters into their own hands.

There is nothing new under the sun. The enemy is still playing the same game, and we continue to fall for it. I can’t even count the number of apples I have taken a bite of over the years as I believed the distorted truth the enemy presented to me, causing me to doubt God’s promises.

If God really loved you would he have allowed that to happen?

Crunch…

Will God really forgive you this time? How long until he gets sick of you making the same mistake?

Crunch…

Do you really think God is going to redeem the years that you have wasted? Why would he even do that?

Crunch…

Bite by bite my doubts increased as my faith decreased. Until I finally wake up and get to a place where nothing- absolutely nothing- can convince me that God is not good and that He will make everything work out for my good if I simply trust him. As it says in today’s verse, I set my face like flint.

I found this description from an online article by Michael Gyarmathy regarding what it means to set your face like flint:

Flint is a very hard type of sedimentary rock. When struck against steel, a flint edge produces sparks to start a fire. Setting your face like flint implies that you’re expecting some opposition, to stand strong in the face of adversity. To set your face like flint means to regard these difficulties as worthwhile when you consider what they will lead you to.

How cool is that? When opposition comes my way- especially when it strikes- as long as I keep my face like flint the result is not me getting hurt and disappointed, but rather sparks are going to fly HA! That’s what I’m talking about!

That mountain of fear in front of me- it’s still there. It hasn’t moved yet, but I do see it shaking a bit. I set my face like flint as I take yet another step forward. The key is not to wait until the fear goes away, because I don’t know that it ever does 100%. The key is not to yield to it. It says in Isaiah 41:10 Do not yield to fear, for I am always near. Never turn your gaze from me, for I am your faithful God. I will infuse you with my strength and help you in every situation. I will hold you firmly with my victorious right hand.’

Have you ever thought someone was waving at you and you wave back to them only to realize they were actually waving to someone behind you? (please don’t tell me I am the only one that kind of stuff happens to…) That’s how I am moving forward. I set my face like flint. The mountain of fear may think I am staring it down, but I am not. I am actually looking beyond it. I am keeping my gaze on Jesus who leads me step by step. He is on the other side of the mountain because he has already conquered it for me. I just need to stand on that truth and not allow the enemy to twist and pervert it. No more apples.

How about you? Are you ready to stop eating apples as you set your face like flint? Are you ready to stop listening to the lies and stop yielding to the fear? Are you ready to stand on truth even when it doesn’t make sense? Even when everything around you screams DEFEATED? Are you ready to ignore every voice except the still small voice of the Lord that is good and true and right? If so, join me in today’s prayer:

Heavenly Father, I thank you for your promises. I thank you for the promises you have written in your word and I thank you for the promises you have whispered to my heart. Forgive me for entertaining the lies and perverted truths of the enemy. Holy Spirit help me to set my face like flint as I gaze upon Jesus and move forward in the plans and purposes you have for me. Help me to trust your Word that says I will not be humiliated or ashamed because you are with me always. Thank you for you mercy and grace. In Jesus’ name, Amen!

Love, grace and a face set like flint,

Jen

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MOVE!

He said to them, Because of the littleness of your faith [that is, your lack of firmly relying trust]. For truly I say to you, if you have faith [that is living] like a grain of mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, Move from here to yonder place, and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you. -Matthew 17:20 AMPC

Last time I wrote I said we would pick up where I left off. Little did I know it would take me over 5 weeks to “pick up” again.

I am sure you need a little refresher- after all it has been 5 weeks… We talked about dead-ends and how God deliberately allows our journey to include dead ends as part of His perfect plan. We were using the account in Exodus 14 as our study guide. If you would like to reread the post you can do so here.

When the Israelites got to the dead end, God told them to retrace their steps and then He gave very specific instructions. They were to “turn around and camp before Pi Hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, opposite Baal Zephon; you shall camp before it by the sea.”

Allow me to explain the significance of their location. God told them to camp facing Baal Zephon. Baal Zephon was a cult mountain of worship. Baal Zephon was the false god of the storm and sea. People gathered to worship and offer sacrifices to this false god, and many truly believed he was the god of the sea. Anytime you see Baal in the Bible it is referencing a false god. There are thousands of false gods that people had, and continue to worship in the world. This one just so happened to be the God of the storm and sea. So God has the Israelites camp facing the Red Sea as they stared at the mountain of the false god of the sea on the other side of the sea.

When the Egyptians come after the Israelites, they are cornered. They are backed against the Red Sea and the mountain of the false god of the sea is in front of them, staring them in the face. And here comes the entire Egyptian army, including hundreds of chariots. The Israelites go into panic mode. They are crying out to Moses saying “Why did you bring us out here to die? It would’ve been been better for us to serve the Egyptians than coming out here to die in the wilderness!”  Moses is trying to calm them down and then God speaks to Moses and says “Why do you cry to me? Tell the children of Israel to move forward towards the sea”.

Can I just stop here for a moment and say I am not sure why God tells Moses to stop crying out to him. I don’t read anywhere that Moses cried out to God. I have looked at over 15 translations and they all say the children of Israel were crying to Moses and Moses was calming them down when the Lord spoke to Moses. If any of you have any understanding or revelation on that please let me know as I am still puzzled by it. Perhaps the Lord was reading Moses’ heart at the time and even though Moses was trying to calm the others down, he himself was freaking out as well.

So God tells them to move towards the sea while staring at the mountain of the false god of the sea. They may even have been able to hear the worship and sacrifices occurring on the mountain. He then instructs Moses to lift up his rod and stretch it out over the sea to divide it. As Moses does that the Angel of God moves from the front of the camp to the back of the camp standing in between the Israelites and the Egyptians. The pillar of cloud also moved from the front of the camp to the back of the camp so the Egyptians could not see anything.

I know this is a lot of Bible talk, but we need to see the significance in the details because whether we believe and accept it or not, our faith journey closely models that of the the Israelites, including the things they did wrong.

You see, in the midst of the moment, the Israelites failed to remember that the Lord Himself was WITH THEM. He was with them in the pillar of fire. He was with them in the cloud. He had also assigned the Angel of God to lead and go before them. Despite this provision and protection, when trouble came they freaked out. They were more aware of the situation around them and what they could see, then they were of God’s presence.

I don’t know about you, but I often find myself acting like the Israelites. I see the situation. I see the problem. I see the mountain in front of me and the enemy behind me. I cry out to God, not with faith but with a “why did you bring me here to die in this place?” mentality.

That’s where I have been for the last 5 weeks in fact. I have been camped out in front of my false god mountain. I didn’t know what the mountain was at the time. All I knew is that I was stuck and staring at a mountain, unable to move forward.

Camped out. Staring at the mountain. Crying out to God to deliver me out of the hands of my enemies. Getting angry when nothing changes. Crying more. Crying louder. Getting angrier until finally I am out of tears and exhausted. I give up. I move to plan B which is trying to ignore God. After all, if He isn’t going to answer me, I am going to ignore Him. Hey- I am being transparent with you because it’s What Real Women Do

My Bible time is flat. My prayers are half-hearted. My frustration and my excuses increase. I am in pain. My heart is breaking. Why do I have to believe there is more for me? Why can’t I just be content with the fantastic life I have? Why am I compelled to share the love of God but have no idea where, when and how I am to do that? Why can’t I just be happy watching tv and living a life of distraction like many people?

God is good. His Word is true. He says he will never leave us or forsake us. He says he pursues us daily with his goodness. It’s true. In the midst of me running from him he pursued me. He woke me up two days ago at 4am with a vivid image of the mountain I was facing. The name of the mountain was FEAR and I had allowed it to become real in my life. Fear of failure. Fear of missing it. Fear of trying again. Fear of stepping out. Fear of not being able to survive one more disappointment. Fear of dying in the wilderness and never crossing over into my Promised Land. FEAR. FEAR. FEAR.

I would like to say I jumped out of bed ready to face my fear, but I didn’t. I stayed in bed drifting in and out of sleep still arguing with God that I was too tired to fight anymore. I didn’t care. I have a good life and I am going to learn to be content with it. I don’t have anything to prove to anyone…

I don’t know why I bother arguing with God. Never once have I won. The last two days have been horrible. I have tried so hard to ignore the mountain that was revealed to me. I have kept busy. I have distracted myself. But God is relentless. Everywhere I turn I see the mountain. I hear God whisper things like “Speak to it”.  Yesterday He brought me to Deuteronomy 2:2-3“You have skirted this mountain long enough; turn north”. I tell you, He is relentless in His pursuit! He will allow you to be miserable until you listen to Him!

We may not have the rod Moses had. The rod of Moses is the one thing Amazon doesn’t sell (I just checked :). We have something better. We have the Word of God. It is a living Word. When we believe that our words carry the same Authority that Jesus carried (He tells us that many times yet we don’t truly believe it), we can speak to the mountain and tell it to move.

So here I am. Staring at the mountain of fear in front of me. Fear that says I just wasted two hours of my day writing this. Fear of lost time. Fear of hope deferred. Fear of people thinking I am a weirdo. Fear of being misunderstood. Fear of another disappointment and dead end.

Despite that stupid mountain I choose to believe God’s Word that says all I need is a MUSTARD SEED of faith. I have that. I have a mustard seed’s worth of faith. Not in me, but in God’s Word. I speak to that mountain of fear and say “MOVE!” I am no longer staring at you. I am turning north. I am looking to Jesus, the Author (love it) and perfecter of my faith.

I share this Word with you in hopes that you too will face your mountain. We all have them. But we don’t need to be ruled by them any longer. It’s time to wake up to who we are. It’s time to speak to the mountains and may MOVE- FROM HERE TO YONDER- MOVE OUT OF MY WAY!

Heavenly Father, I thank you for your relentless love. Forgive me for my fear, doubt, and unbelief. Forgive me for running from you. Thank you for pursuing me daily with your love, mercy, goodness, and grace. Thank you for your Word. Thank you for your Promises. Holy Spirit I ask you to reveal any mountains in my life that have dominion over me. Teach me how to use my rod, your Word, to declare and decree that the mountains in my life MUST MOVE and yield to the plan and purposes you have for me. Thank you for never leaving me or forsaking me. In Jesus’ mighty name, Amen!

Moving mountains,

Jen

 

 

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From a Dead End to Deliverance

Then the Lord gave these instructions to Moses: “Order the Israelites to turn back and camp by Pi-hahiroth between Migdol and the sea. Camp there along the shore, across from Baal-zephon.- Exodus 14:1-2

Have you ever found yourself at a dead end in your life? Have you ever believed with all your heart that you have followed the direction of the Lord only to find yourself at a place where not only could you not go any further, but you actually had to turn around and retrace your steps? I know I have.

I also know I didn’t like it. I didn’t like it. I didn’t understand it. And I spent a lot of time crying and grumbling about it. I sure wish I would’ve read today’s account in Exodus with greater revelation and understanding instead of wasting time letting doubt, fear, disappointment, and discouragement settle in.

Praise God! It’s never too late. Though I may have extended my time in the wilderness with all my crying and complaining, the Lord is now revealing important truths to us so we can get on out of the wilderness and cross over into our Promised Land! Let’s take a close look at why God allows dead ends in our lives, by studying this account in Exodus.

The Lord had brought the Israelites out of Egypt. He brought them out with the money of Egypt. He brought them out in divine health. He brought them out the roundabout way so they would not be afraid of the giants in the land. He had been leading them as a pillar of fire by night and as a cloud by day. When the fire or cloud moved, they moved. When the fire or cloud stayed, they stayed.

It was a pretty sweet set up until they hit a dead end. They could go no further. We read in Exodus 14:1-2 that the Lord tells Moses to tell the people to turn back. He gives Moses very specific instructions. They are to retrace their steps and camp by Pi-hahiroth between Migdol, and the sea. They are to camp facing Baal-zephon. We learn in verse 21 that this is the place where the Lord parts the Red Sea.

Now we can skim over the hard to pronounce names and move right to the excitement of the parting of the sea, OR, we could stop and ask the Lord why He did what He did. Why did He first lead them to a dead end? Why did He tell them to turn around and retrace their steps? Why did He have them set up camp facing Baal-zephon, between the sea and Migdol, by Pi-hahiroth?

The first two questions are easily answered when you continue reading Exodus 14. It says in verses 3-4 Then Pharaoh will think, ‘The Israelites are confused. They are trapped in the wilderness!’ And once again I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will chase after you.[a] I have planned this in order to display my glory through Pharaoh and his whole army. After this the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord!” So the Israelites camped there as they were told.

That dead end you may find yourself in- it’s not about you. It’s not about you “missing it”. It’s not about you not being good enough. It’s not about your shortcomings or mistakes. Though it feels as though it is very much about you- it isn’t. It is about the glory of God being revealed.

I know that is easy for me to say in this moment. I also know that when I have hit a dead end my first response has never been “Sweet! I bet God is about to reveal His glory through me in this moment!” Ha. Far from it. My first response usually looks something like this “What did I do wrong? Where did I miss it? Why did I even try again? What is wrong with me?”

I. I. I. Me. Me. Me. Inward thinking. Talk about a dead end. Answers to those questions never come. The don’t come because it is not about us! It is about the glory of God!

Now I am not saying that there is not a place for self examination. We are to examine our hearts daily. The Word also says we are to go to God and ask Him to search our heart and reveal any offense within us. When we hit a wall- a dead end- it is good to go before God and ask Him about it.

However- that is not what we do. Usually we skip the “going to God” part and go straight to looking inward asking ourselves questions. As soon as we do that, the snake comes and adds fuel to the fire with his “Did God really say?” doubt-filled thoughts. We go from “God leading and loving us” to “God leaving and abandoning us”.

It was the same with the Israelites. It says in Exodus 14 11-12 Then they said to Moses, “Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What is this that you have done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? 12 Did we not say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians?’ For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians [as slaves] than to die in the wilderness.” This is even after the Lord made it clear in verse 3-4 that He was about to display his glory!

No one enjoys a dead end. No one enjoys retracing their steps. No one wants to take one step forward and two steps back. I have felt that way in regards to my writing for years. Dead ends. Steps retraced. Tormented by the enemy whispering lies and accusations. It hurts. It stinks. It has caused me many tears of doubt and frustration as I have responded like the Israelites, “Why don’t you just take this desire away? Why did you lead me to believe this time would be different? Why do I find myself in this same place over and over again?! I AM NOT GOING BACK! I AM NOT RETRACING THESE STEPS AGAIN. I HAVE BEEN THERE. DONE THAT. I AM DYING HERE…

Yet here I am. Taking another step. I would be lying if I said I have overcome all of the doubt, disappointment, and discouragement of past attempts at writing and ministry. I would be lying if I said I have it all figured out. Even now as I type the enemy whispers “Why are you wasting your time? How is this going to be any different than the other times? Who do you think you are and what do you hope to accomplish?”

I silence the enemy with every word typed. I silence the accuser every time I hit the publish button and post something new. I ignore the snake and I say “God- may your glory be revealed through me in every situation, even when I don’t understand”.

There is a reason why God had the Israelites camp at the mouth of water, facing the god of the storm and sea, by the watchtower. It is also important for us to camp in this place for awhile as well. We will dive into that next time. Until then, I encourage you to go to God with the dead ends in your life. Ask him to show you the dead ends from His perspective. I believe you will find peace and rest to your weary soul as you allow the King of glory to minister to you.

Heavenly Father, thank you for being a good, good Father. Forgive us for forgetting your goodness when things don’t go the way we expected them to. Forgive for thinking you have lead us into the wilderness to die, when you tell us time and time again that you have come to give us life in abundance. Holy Spirit I ask you to show me with kingdom eyes the dead ends in my life. Show me what you see. Show me the places I have allowed doubt, discouragement, and disappointment to creep in and leave me feeling abandoned and unloved. Thank you for breathing your breath of life into me and resurrecting the dead ends in my life. In Jesus’ name, Amen

Finding Grace in the Dead End,

Jen

 

 

 

 

 

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The Roundabout Way

When Pharaoh finally let the people go, God did not lead them along the main road that runs through Philistine territory, even though that was the shortest route to the Promised Land. God said, “If the people are faced with a battle, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” So God led them in a roundabout way through the wilderness toward the Red Sea. Thus the Israelites left Egypt like an army ready for battle. -Exodus 3:17-18.

I hope you had a fantastic ThanksOver celebration with your friends and families. I had one of the best ones ever. The food was over the top delicious and my home was filled with laughter and good conversations. The only thing that would’ve made it better would’ve been the presence of the three family (or close to being official family) members that couldn’t make it this year.

Wednesday and Thursday I was over the moon excited about just about everything in my life. I was singing the song Promised Land over and over so much that at times I woke up in the night singing it. I could see the Promised Land for me and my family. Friday I was happy about my Promised Land, but no longer excited. Saturday, I was blah. I didn’t really have the energy to think about my Promised Land. By this morning I was like “I don’t really want to hear or think about my Promised Land.”

Do you ever get like that? Do you ever find yourself all excited about God’s promises one day, and within 72 hours not only do you barely believe them, but you actually feel irritated by the thought of them?

There isn’t anything specific that took me from the place of claiming my land to running from it. It’s not like we had something bad occur in the last 72 hours. I simply had the perfect storm of subtle things that brought me from excited to irritated. My hubby has a horrible cold so I have been sleeping (barely) on the couch. The predicted blizzard ended up being more of a 72 hour prison hold where the snow didn’t amount to much, but you still shouldn’t be out driving, which kept me home and away from my prayer meeting and church service. No sleep. No jailbreak. No church. No good!

That bad trifecta left me open to the snake. This morning the Did God Really Say…thoughts began. This time they showed up in the form of When God When? and How Long? 

When God when will I ever write more than an introduction in a book?

When God when will Tom be free from all infirmities?

When God when will I stop going around some of these same mountains in my life?

How long will I be at this job that I am so bored, yet also overwhelmed by?

How long until the desires of my heart are fulfilled?

These thoughts should’ve had me running straight into the Presence of God. I should’ve sat down with my Bible, journal, and pen and let Abba Father’s love wash over me and bring me back to that place of faith, peace, and joy. That’s what I should’ve done…

Instead, I sat in my devotional chair with my Bible, journal, and pen next to me, half heartedly listening to an online church service while online shopping. Mostly for myself. Buying warm and cozy things to make me feel better. Things I don’t need but wanted. How’s that for transparency? How’s that for an example of What Real Women Do when they are tired, hormonal, and tired of the fight?

I ran from God until 3:33pm at which point I couldn’t take it any longer. I poured my heart out to Him. I told him how I was tired and sick of the fight. I told him I didn’t understand why it had to be so hard. I told him I was sick of hearing about the Promised Land and not living in it. I told him I was sick of taking one step forward and two steps back.  I let it all out and held nothing back.

I then opened my Bible and began reading where I left off the other day in Exodus. God answered the cries of my heart in Exodus 3:17-18. When Pharaoh finally let the people go, God did not lead them along the main road that runs through Philistine territory, even though that was the shortest route to the Promised Land. God said, “If the people are faced with a battle, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” So God led them in a roundabout way through the wilderness toward the Red Sea. Thus the Israelites left Egypt like an army ready for battle.

I have always looked at the wilderness as a place of preparation. A place where God prepared you by burning out all of the things that cannot come with you into the Promised Land. Things like unbelief, idolatry, fear, doubt, etc. I still see it as that, but I confess I also saw it as kind of a place of withholding.

Remember when your kids were little and they disobeyed you? When my kids were little the “naughty mat” was a common form of discipline. You placed your child on the “naughty mat” and had them think about what they had done. They were not allowed off the naughty mat for a certain amount of minutes (I think one minute per year of age) and they had to give a sincere apology after their time was up. Right or wrong, that was common a decade or so ago.

I didn’t realize until my meltdown today that I have viewed the wilderness as somewhat of God’s “naughty mat”.  Where God says, “You’re going to stay in this place until you no longer do X, Y, and Z. Then, and only then can you get off the wilderness naughty mat and go play in the Promised Land. And f course, you must offer a sincere apology for all the ways you missed it and disobeyed while you were here.”

Somehow I forgot to view the wilderness through the lens of Abba Fathers’ relentless love for us. Everything He does is out of love. When I read those verses today I see that the main reason He brings us the long way, through the wilderness, is to protect us. He doesn’t want us freaking out when we see what lies ahead. The vision and dreams He has for us are so much bigger than the dreams and visions we have for ourselves. If we truly saw where He is leading us we would probably run back to the comforts of Egypt. The place of bondage and pain, but familiar and comfortable nonetheless.

The primary reason for the wilderness route is to protect us from fear. The Israelites had spent the last 430 years in slavery and bondage. They had forgotten how powerful and mighty God was. They had also forgotten they were God’s chosen ones. If they had seen the Philistine giants they would ran right back to Egypt. They had been beaten and told they were worthless for years. It was going to take a while to undo some of the damage that had been done to them in Egypt.

The same is true for us. Until we fully understand who God is, and who we are in Christ, we will run in fear every time we are faced with a battle. However, once we realize who we are, well, there is not a giant in the land that can scare us into running back to Egypt, (or online shopping :).

The wilderness is real. We all go through it. We go through it because God loves us. It’s true that even though God took them the “longer way”, it was the Israelites that made it as long as it was. The longer way was only 12 days journey. As you know, it took them 40 years. That is why we are going to stay in the Old Testament for awhile. We are going to learn from those that have traveled the wilderness before so we can avoid some of the pitfalls that lead to delay in our Promises being fulfilled. We are going to study it remembering to look at the lessons through the lens of God’s love for us. Any other lens distorts the truth of the journey.

Heavenly Father, Thank you for your fierce and relentless love. Thank you for waiting for us with open arms at all times. Thank you for your patience as we run and wrestle and struggle with understanding and believing your Promises. Thank you that you love us so much that you lead us through the wilderness and away from any battles we are not ready for so that we do not run in fear back to the things we were once in bondage to. Thank you for not only hearing the cries of our hearts but answering them. Thank you for your Promises. I ask for the gift of faith to increase in each of us so we may understand and comprehend your Promises. In Jesus’ name, Amen!

 

Embracing the Roundabout Way,

Jen

 

 

 

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Pass the Faith Please!

And you shall tell your son in that day, saying, ‘This is done because of what the LORD did for me when I came up out of Egypt’.- Exodus 13:8

According to Wikipedia, approximately 276 million Americans will celebrate Thanksgiving today.  From sea to shining sea families will gather around the dinner table to enjoy a Thanksgiving meal. For those celebrating with the traditional feast there will be a lot of “Pass the turkey please! Pass the mashed potatoes please! Pass the gravy please!”

Even as I type this I see families gathered. I see them laughing and passing the turkey, mashed potatoes, and gravy. And I hear the Lord say “Pass the Faith please!”

Yesterday we took a quick look at the Passover meal. The Lord instructed the Israelites in Exodus 13:3 to observe the Passover meal each year in remembrance of the day He delivered them out of Egypt. In Exodus 13:8 the Lord goes on to say And you shall tell your son, that this is done because of what the Lord did for me! (paraphrased)

The most important thing we can pass on to our children is faith. It is good to share with our children what God has done in our lives. It is good to pass on the stories of God’s faithfulness. It is even good to pass on the stories of our trials and tribulations to show our children that God is with us and brings us through every fire we face.

I grew up Lutheran. I am thankful for my Reformation roots. I love the traditional hymns (even though I find them impossible to sing in tune to). The psalmists of the early Lutheran church truly understood the gospel and Lutheran hymns are some of the most God honoring worship songs to this day.

Another observation I have made about many Lutherans, is that even though they love Jesus, they are very polite and quiet about their faith. I believe that is largely in part to the Scandinavian and Norwegian roots of many Lutherans. Though my mom and dad rarely engaged in conversations of faith with me as a child, I still learned faith from them.

My dad passed on the importance of serving in your local church. He ushered most Sundays. Though we used to tease him saying his favorite part of ushering was the fact that the guys went downstairs and had coffee during the sermon, I knew better. My dad was a humble man. He was a farmers son. He knew the importance of serving and giving. He ushered with a smile on his face and loved to tease. He never once said “Jenny, now when you grow up it’s your duty to serve in church.” He didn’t have to. I simply observed him and loved him for it, even if it took me years to realize it.

My mom passed on the importance of time alone with God in Bible study, as well as time with others in study. She starts every day with her coffee and her Bible. Even when we go to the cabin as a family she sneaks away in the morning to have her alone time with God. She has also been part of a church Bible study and women’s Bible study for as long as I can remember.

I was blessed two years ago to “crash” her senior Bible study to do a 10 week study on Luther and the Reformation. There was many years of faith coming together on those evenings. I am grateful for that study. It was exciting as an adult to go back and learn the roots and foundation of the faith I grew up in. I am sure I learned about them during confirmation but lets be honest- I was most likely more interested in the cute boy across the table than I was about Luther nailing his 95 Theses to the door 🙂

My mom also passed on the gift of pure worship. When I was a teen attending church with my mom (while my dad was downstairs drinking coffee with the other ushers :), I remember her singing so loud. I am ashamed to say that there were times I was embarrassed by how loud she sang (Lets be honest as a teen you are embarrassed by just about everything your parents do in public. For example, things like breathing…)

Many years ago I was at church with my mom. It must have been a Mother’s Day or Christmas Eve service. She was still singing loud and proud. Instead of being embarrassed, I smiled. I now understood her. I understood her heart. She loves Jesus. She has a hard time expressing it to others, but she can express it in worship. She passed that on to me as well. When my family goes to church I am in the middle, hands raised and singing as loud as I can. My teens get embarrassed but they are also used to it. My hubby stands stiff and quiet and I just go ahead and worship loud enough for the four of us. I am passing on what was passed to me. Someday they will get it.

Today as you gather, I encourage you to pass the faith in whatever way you can. Some of you will share stories. Some of you will simply lead with love. Some of you may even be moved to seek or extend forgiveness to a family member, and in doing that you are passing on faith!

Enjoy your ThanksOver today. May you heart and bellies be filled with everything good! May you feel the love of Abba Father surround you as you go forth in your day. May you have the grace for all circumstances in your day. May you pass the faith in whatever way the Lord gives you to share. And please consider sharing in a comment below the ways you either pass on faith today, or have had faith passed on to you!

Today’s prayer is in honor of my Lutheran roots. It is a prayer I heard at the end of every service growing up and even today when I visit. It is a blessing from the Lord found in Numbers 6:24-26:

“The Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make His face to shine upon you, And be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace”

Passing the Faith,

Jen

 

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ThanksOver

And Moses said “Remember this day in which you went out of Egypt, out of the house of bondage; for by strength of hand the LORD brought you out of this place” -Exodus 13:3 NKJV

This morning I was reading about the first Passover meal. The Passover meal was the last meal the Israelites ate in Egypt. The Lord gave Moses very specific instructions regarding the Passover meal. He provided in great detail instructions on the selection, preparation, consumption, and disposal of the entire meal from start to finish.

This meal was unlike any other meal the Israelites had eaten. This meal was their freedom meal. It was the meal that would bring them out of slavery and bondage. It was a meal that showed their faith in God and His promise to bring them out of Egypt.

God is faithful! The morning after the Israelites ate their Passover meal Pharaoh and all the Egyptians went to the Israelites and pretty much begged them to leave. They even brought them silver, gold, and clothing so they would have all they needed on their journey. They brought so much provision that the Word says the Israelites plundered the Egyptians!

Later on the Lord reviewed with Moses all of the instructions for the Passover meal. This meal is to be made each year as remembrance of what the Lord had done for them. Every year, even now, the Jewish people celebrate the miracles God performed in order to free them from the slavery and bondage of Egypt.

I spent most of the day preparing my home for our Thanksgiving meal tomorrow. Normally things like washing dishes and silverware that only get used once a year, dusting, and cleaning would not be what I consider to be fun. Today, however it was. It was a day full of joy and thanksgiving for me.

Having read about the Passover meal and the way the Lord brought his people out of bondage, I couldn’t help but think of how God has brought me out of different forms of slavery and bondage over the years. I am no longer a slave to sin. I am not longer in the bondage of depression. I am no longer a slave to performance. I am no longer in bondage to body image issues. I am no longer a slave to past hurts, pains, and negative experiences. I am free!

I AM FREE!

I can honestly say I am free! Wow! There was once a time when I didn’t think it was possible to be free from those things. I thought I would carry some of those things with me forever. Over the years, the more I have learned to trust that God is good, I have been able to yield and surrender all of those things to Him, and He has been faithful to heal them.

Now I am by no means perfect, but I also no longer strive to be perfect! That alone is a freedom I never thought possible! That alone put a smile on my face and a song in my heart even as I looked down at my filthy, stained, never-gonna-get-its-true-color- back carpet and thought “oh well”…

I do love Thanksgiving. I think it may be my favorite holiday. Maybe because it was my dad’s favorite holiday. Maybe because it was the last holiday I had with him. Maybe it is simply because I realize just how much I have to be thankful for. As much as I hate to mess with a perfect thing, this year, instead of celebrating Thanksgiving, I am going to celebrate ThanksOver. It is my way of “remembering this day in which I went out of Egypt”.

As you busy yourself preparing for Thanksgiving, I encourage you to take a few moments to thank God for the many ways He has delivered you out of bondage and slavery. And go ahead and thank Him for the ones that you may not be totally free from yet, knowing that HE IS FAITHFUL to complete the work, and He will NOT leave any parts of your life in Egypt!

Heavenly Father, I thank you and praise you for all you have done for me and my family! Thank you for your goodness! Thank you for your grace! Thank you for your mercy! Thank you for delivering me out of Egypt in so many ways! Thank you for the deliverance that is yet to come! Thank you for Jesus, our Passover lamb! Thank you for your promises that are Yes! and Amen! Thank you for this day of remembrance! Thank you for our loved ones, both with us, and not. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! In Jesus most precious and holy name, Amen!

Happy ThanksOver,

Jen

 

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One In a Million

Now the Israelites journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides [the women and] the children. Exodus 12:37

We are told that when Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, there were six hundred thousand men along with women and children. Commentaries vary, but on average they determine between two to three million Israelites left Egypt following God’s mighty display of glory and power.

Do you know how many out of the two million made it to the Promised Land?

Two! Only two made it!

Joshua and Caleb were the only two who were found to be faithful. They were the only two that could be trusted with the Promised Land. The only two that passed every test and trial of the wilderness. I guess you could say that the odds of making it into the Promised Land were one in a million. A little better than winning the Powerball, but not much.

My question is, are our odds any better? How many of us will make it to our Promised Land?

I am not talking about salvation. The Word tells us in John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. I am talking about our Promised Land- our full inheritance as sons and daughters of the Most High God. There is a difference.

Our full inheritance includes the fulfillment of every Promise God gives us in His written and spoken word. It includes healing, provision, wisdom, revelation, blessing, peace, favor, hope, authority, and so much more.

Now you may be reading this thinking “I am sick, anxious, broke, and defeated. When does this ‘full inheritance’ happen?”

I’m glad you asked :). It happens when we, like the Israelites, come through our wilderness season victorious. It comes when we pass every test and trial with a grit and determination to believe God’s promises regardless of what our current situation may look like.

It’s not easy. After all- the odds for the Israelites were one in a million! I confess I am not living in the fullness yet, though I will tell you this- I am a whole lot closer than I was a year ago. I am a whole lot closer than I was a week ago. I am even closer than I was yesterday. Determined to pass the tests and trials, I am taking a step each and every day onto MY Promised Land, until I fully possess it!

So you may be thinking “If the odds were one in a million for the Israelites, how in the world do I stand a chance?”

That, my Beloveds, is the beauty of God’s Word. The account of the Israelite journey through the wilderness has been given to us so that we do not fall into the same traps and temptations that they fell into. We will study and see where they “missed it” so that we won’t make the same mistakes over and over again.

Oh we have ALL made many of the same mistakes the Israelites did. You will see that as we move forward in our study. However- we must read these things in light of the new covenant. The blood of Jesus covers our multitude of sin and mistakes and even though we have failed the tests time and time again, His grace is sufficient to carry us through. His mercies are new each day, ready to be poured out on those that will go to Him to receive it.

So rejoice daughters of the living God! There is still time to receive our full inheritance! There is still time to pass the tests and trials of this world! There is still time to possess your Promised Land! But we must study so we do not continue to stumble.

I encourage you to start thinking about your Promised Land. What do you need from Abba Father? What things in your life are not lining up with God’s Word? What are the things the Lord has spoken to your heart about the plans and purposes He has for your life? Take a few minutes today to write down the desires of your heart. Don’t judge them. Whatever comes to your heart- write it down, and keep it before you. Do not lose sight of YOUR land!

Heavenly Father, I thank you for your written Word that is a lamp unto my feet. I thank you that you have recorded your Promises for us to stand upon. I thank you for recording the journeys of those that have gone before us so that we can learn how to be victorious and how to possess our land. Holy Spirit, reveal to me the deep desires of my heart. The desires I once had. The desires I have given up on. The desires that YOU have for ME! I ask for the grace to believe your Promises as I stand in the midst of my wilderness. Help me to see every circumstance as You see them. Help me to keep my eyes on You as I take steps towards my full inheritance. In Jesus’ precious name, Amen!

Beating the One in a Million Odds,

Jen

 

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Leave It Behind!

Now [in Haran] the Lord said to Abram, Go for yourself [for your own advantage] away from your country, from your relatives and your father’s house, to the land that I will show you. -Genesis 12:1 AMPC

I don’t know about you, but these seem like some pretty clear directions. In verse one of chapter twelve, God spoke to Abram (later to be renamed Abraham) and gave him 4 directives:

  1. Go away from your country
  2. Go away from your relatives
  3. Go away from your father’s house
  4. Go to the land I will show you

We read three things Abram was to go away from, and one thing he was to go to. Not only was he given these clear directives but he was also told what would happen if he followed them. Verse 2-3 is filled with great promises of blessing, abundance, protection, and more.

Despite the clear directives (leave country, leave relatives, leave father’s house) we read in verse 4: So Abram departed, as the Lord had directed him; and Lot [his nephew] went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he left Haran.

Wait. What? And Lot his nephew went with him? Is it just me, or isn’t a nephew considered a relative?

This account has puzzled me for years. It puzzles me because verse 4 says that Abram departed as God had directed him, yet we also read that his nephew (relative) went with him. In my understanding those two statements contradict each other. God said no relatives. Yet Lot went with him…

I have always assumed the Abram told Lot to come with him. Lot’s father had died and perhaps Abram felt a certain responsibility towards him. Maybe he felt sorry for him leaving him behind, even though there were still many relatives remaining in Abram’s father’s house.

This morning I saw this account play out differently. I see it going down something like this:

Abram is packing up his wife, servants, and possessions to follow God’s directives. Lot comes up to him and says “Uncle Abram, I would like to come with you.” Abram says, “I am sorry Lot but God made it clear that I am to leave my country, my relatives, and my fathers house.”

Lot replied with “Did God really say you are to leave all your relatives?”

There entered the snake of doubt, compromise, and questioning of what Abram knew the Lord had spoken to him!

I don’t believe that Abram actually gave Lot permission to come along. I think Lot packed up his stuff and followed him, and Abram failed to stand his ground. I see Abram saying to himself “What can I do if Lot follows me? I am doing what God told me to do. I can’t help it if others follow. Besides, would God really have me leave my nephew behind? Surely I should watch over my brothers son…”

I am convinced it went down something like that because I see it going down like that in my life, and in the lives of others. We get clear directives from the Lord. We grab hold of it with excitement and “pack our things” in preparation to move forward, and then it comes. The snake. It comes through our thoughts. It comes through another person. It comes in the form of “Did God really say…”

It says in today’s verse that it was to Abram’s advantage that he leave his country, his relatives, and his fathers house. God was giving him the clearest, cleanest, fastest way to his promise. However, just like us, Abram responded in partial obedience by failing to hold his ground when the snake came. If you read the accounts of Lot you will see that he caused Abram much time and trouble and took him off course more than once.

BUT God is GOOD! All the time! In God’s goodness he continued to bless Abram and even though Abram lost some time in battles that were never intended for him to fight, the Lord fulfilled EVERY promise He made to Abram that day when he told him to leave his country.

I find comfort in that because like Abram, I have often answered God’s directives with partial obedience. I have listened to the snake of doubt, fear, unbelief, compromise, and more as I entertained the “Did God really say…” thoughts from myself and others. I have held on to stuff (feelings, people, hurts, actual things, and more) when God has clearly told me to let go of, and move away from them, so I could move forward into the place he has prepared for me. Thank you Jesus that you promise to bring us back to the proper path for our life when we go astray! (Psalm 25:8)

My question for you today is this: Are there any areas of your life that you are living in partial obedience to God’s written or spoken Word for your life?

If there is, simply ask the Lord for forgiveness and ask Him to place you back on the proper path for your life. He will answer the cry of a willing and surrendered heart. He will never ever leave us off course if we ask Him to bring us back! We simply need to admit we listened to the snake and we need help from our Father God, who is a good good Father!

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for being a good, good Father. Thank you for your mercy and grace that endure forever. WE come to you today Lord asking for your wisdom and direction. Holy Spirit reveal to us any areas of our lives that we are living in partial obedience to your written or spoken Word. Remove the blinders of doubt, fear, compromise, and every other thing that the snake has brought into our lives. Forgive our partial obedience and set us back on the proper path for our lives so we can do the good works you have created us to do. In Jesus’ name, Amen!

Moving forward in full obedience,

Jen

 

 

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Did God Really Say…

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” Genesis 3:1 NIV

I really want to dive into the book of Joshua. It’s the book that talks about all of the amazing battles the Lord led the Israelites in when they were finally allowed to cross over and take possession of the Promised Land. It is filled with miracles and “sun stand still” moments. If you don’t know what I am referring to regarding a “sun stand moment”,  you will have to keep reading in days ahead :).

As much as I want to move forward into the great stories of victory, the Lord keeps telling me I have to go back. Way back. All the way back to the beginning.

Most people, even those who do not believe in Jesus, know something about the account of Adam and Eve. They know they were naked (or wearing fig leaves), placed in a paradise garden, and somewhere along the lines Eve was tricked by a snake into eating the forbidden fruit and that was the end of paradise as we know it. The story is familiar to almost everyone. That familiarity is part of the church’s problem today.

We tend to view these epic stories as just that- great stories. We lose sight of the fact that these “stories” are factual accounts of the history of man, and his interactions with his Creator. They are accounts of God’s goodness, love, power, and wrath against injustice. They are recorded for us to know our history, our God, our world, and our place in it. They are written accounts of encouragement, promise, and warning.

Everyone likes a good word of encouragement. That’s my main purpose in writing- to encourage you in your faith. We also love to hear about God’s promises for us. What we don’t tend to spend a lot of time on are His warnings. The thing is, as the George Santayana quote goes, “Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.” He may not have believed in God, but he was speaking truth!

The more I read the Old Testament, the more I see that there truly is nothing new under the sun. The enemy of our faith uses the exact same tactic today as he did with Eve. He causes us to doubt what we know to be true with his “Did God really say….” questions.

Did God really say ALL of your sins are forgiven?

Did God really say He will provide all of your needs?

Did God really say He has good plans for you?

The answer is YES! When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh (worldliness, manner of life), God made you alive together with Christ, having [freely] forgiven us all our sins,- 2 Corinthians, 2:13

YESAnd this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:19

And YESFor I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. -Jeremiah 29:11

In fact, all of His promises are YES! and Amen!

The problem is, as soon as our circumstances don’t line up with God’s promises, we start to doubt what is truth and what is just an epic story. We start to listen to the snake as he asks “Did God really say…”. I am reading account after account in the Old Testament of great men and women that walked with God yet, time and time again fell into the same trap. They listened to the snake. They let the enemy fill them with doubt. This caused them to take matters into their own hands, which never ended well.

Looking back over the years I see the many times I have listened to the snake. I let him fill my head with lies about who I am and who God is. I listened to him when I should’ve just told him to “GET OUT OF MY GARDEN!”

Thank you Jesus that it is never too late! There is still time to go back and learn our history so we will no longer be doomed to repeat it. In God’s goodness He also promises He will restore all that has been lost over the years during our times of doubt and listening to the snake.

So before we move forward in possessing the land, we are going to go back to learn from those that have gone before us so we don’t have to repeat those same mistakes any longer. I encourage you to go back. Way back. All the way back to the beginning. This time as you read the epic stories, ask the Lord to show you how it relates to your life today. You will be shocked at the similarities!

Heavenly Father, I thank you for your goodness, kindness, and mercy. Thank you for your written Word that gives us account of who you are, and who we are in you. Increase our hunger for your Word. Increase our understanding of your Word. Holy Spirit help us to see you, to see truth, and to see ourselves in the written Word. Help us to see your Word through the lens of your fierce and relentless love for us. Show us the areas of our lives that we have been listening to the lies of the snake so we can move forward in the truth of your promises. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Silencing the snake,

Jen

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