Love, Dad

…as you learn to know God better and better. -Colossians 1:10

Last week marks eight years since my dad went home to be with the Lord. When he first passed, people would tell me that it gets easier, that the pain subsides. I don’t know that it really gets easier. I think it’s more that you just get used to the permanent void you feel in your heart and in your life. It becomes a new norm. A new sucky norm.

My dad was the best. My dad and mom took us on many family vacations. We went boating, skiing, and site seeing to places I said I didn’t want to go, but always ended up having fun going to.

My dad loved to tease. As a father of four girls I am sure his sense of humor is what kept him sane. He worked hard to provide for his family, even if it required him to be away for long periods of time. He had an entrepreneurial spirit, and after a couple not so successful business ideas, he found his business legacy.

I was blessed to spend a lot of time with my dad both growing up and as an adult. As a kid I knew him to be kind, generous and caring. As an adult I got to know his heart.

When my kids were little my dad and I spent many hours at the YMCA together. We would be side by side on treadmills. He would tell me what news stories had him upset, what his political thoughts were, what ailments his friends may be dealing with, and most of all, my mom.

He would go on and on about how busy and hard working she was around the house, how she only had a piece of toast for breakfast and still had all that energy, and most of all how attractive she was. He would talk about how some of there friends didn’t age so well but that mom just kept getting more and more beautiful. Sometimes I had to ask him to stop because I was afraid of where the conversation may be going ūüėČ

This morning as I was praying about what to write, I remembered the letters I stumbled upon this summer when I was cleaning out my closet. I had letters from friends, my oldest sister, my mom, and my dad. Though all of the letters are precious to me, the ones from my dad spoke to my heart the most. Not only because he is no longer with us, but also because he didn’t verbally express a lot of feelings and emotions. We knew he loved us, but he didn’t say it often. However, on paper he was very expressive and personal.

I dug those letters out and reread them this morning. I found one that I hadn’t read this summer. It revealed things to me that I had not retained the first time I read them years ago. Though I always knew my dad loved me, reading his words this morning completely unraveled me. To hear my dad’s heart towards me. To hear his concern. To hear his hopes for me and my future. It was an unexpected gift to me this morning.

I tell you all this because today’s verse talks about knowing God better and better. Some people argue that you cannot really “know God”, but I disagree.¬† I would say that the best way to know God is to follow the same pattern I did with my dad.

It’s really pretty simple; spend time talking to Him, listening to Him, and reading His letters. His Word is a love letter written to each of us. In it we find who we are, how He sees us, and what His plans and hopes for our future is. We see His love for us. We see His provision for us. We see that He is proud to call us daughter.

If we want to grow in our faith, bear good fruit, and live a life that brings honor and pleases the Lord, the best thing we can do is get to know our heavenly Father. He wants to share His heart with us. We need to slow our lives down enough to listen.

Now that my dad is gone, there is nothing I wouldn’t do to sit and speak with him again. If it weren’t for the blessed assurance that I will get to spend eternity with him in heaven, I don’t know if I would’ve recovered from his passing. I don’t want to get to heaven and wish I would’ve spent more time on earth communing with the Lord as well…

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for your fierce love for me. Thank you for your precious thoughts towards me. Thank you for allowing me to sit at your feet and commune with you. Thank you for your written Word that shares your heart, your hope, and your plans for me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Love, Grace, and A Letter of Love For Us All,

Jen

 

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Growth Spurt

All the while you will grow… -Colossians 1:10

Here we are, still on Colossians 1:10. At this rate we will be studying the book of Colossians until next Christmas. Oh who am I kidding- we all know my attention span wouldn’t last that long. Unless, of course, this is one way the Lord is instilling patience into me (insert heavy sigh…)

For those of you who can’t remember yesterday (Christmas), let alone what you read about three days ago, here is a quick re-cap:

We are looking at Paul’s prayer for the church of Colosse. The first thing he prayed in Colossians 1:9 is that the church would have spiritual wisdom and understanding. We read in Colossians 1:10 that there are four benefits to having spiritual wisdom and understanding. We have covered the first two so far. They are a life that honors and pleases the Lord, and a life that produces good fruit.

According to the next few words in Colossians 1:10, the third result of spiritual wisdom and understanding is growth. But what exactly are we to grow in?

It doesn’t tell us in that verse what we will grow in. In order to know what that growth looks like we need to dig a little deeper and let scripture interpret scripture. In doing so I found three areas of growth. I am sure there are more, but as far as I am concerned three are enough for me to work on :).

Here is what I found:

Your faith will grow -2 Corinthians 10:5

The joy of your faith will grow -Philippians 1:25

Your love for one another will grow -2 Thessalonians 1:3

I don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty good to me. I could use a little (or a lot) of growth in those areas. I could use a good growth spurt.

Last fall¬† I took my kids in for their annual physicals. My thirteen year old son had growth eight inches in less than a year! At five feet nine inches I now need to look up at him to give him instruction. Though the growth occurred over a period of time, I didn’t really notice it until the day I gave him a hug and my head landed in his armpit (not a pleasant place to land).

During his growth spurt, Thomas did not consciously do anything to promote the growth. He did not think tall thoughts, follow hopeful stretches like his sister did (she can’t stand that he passed her up in height), and he definitely did not eat a healthy, growth conscious diet. He just went about his business being himself, while his body did what it was designed to do.

We all know the definition of a growth spurt in terms of physical adolescence, but what if we broke down each word into their individual definitions?

Growth: completed development

Spurt: a sudden burst or outburst, as of activity, energy, or feeling

What if we put the definitions together to form a spiritual definition of growth spurt? It would read something like this:

Growth spurt: the sudden burst or outburst of activity, energy, or feeling resulting in completed development

In other words, over a short period of time our faith, joy in faith, and our love for others will grow and be fully developed. Wouldn’t that be awesome?

Have you ever experienced a growth spurt in your spiritual life? I am sure if we stop to think about it we can all identify times in our lives when we have experienced a spiritual growth spurt. Often times it comes in a period of trial, pain, and struggle. But what if there was a way to experience a growth spurt without first having to go through the trial? Is it even possible? If so how? We will answer that when we wrap up our verse tomorrow…

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for loving me. Thank you for giving me spiritual wisdom and understanding. Thank you for growing my faith, my joy, and my love for others. Thank you for the work you are doing in me and through me. Use me today to be a light and a blessing to those around me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Love, Grace, and a Growth Spurt of Faith,

Jen

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Fruit Producing Lives

Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit… -Colossians 1:10

Yesterday we identified four of the benefits of having spiritual wisdom and understanding. We then spent time taking a look at what a life that honor and pleases the Lord looks like.

Today we will look closely at the second benefit, which according to the verse above, is a life that produces every kind of good fruit. 

When I hear the words Spirit and fruit my mind immediately goes to Galatians 5:22-23: But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

It’s easy to read through the above list like you are listing off items on your grocery list; love, joy, bananas, milk, bread, and cheese. It is easy to read and think “that’s nice” and nod in agreement. It is easy to identify the one or two pieces of fruit that you think you are producing pretty good; joy- check! Kindness-check! As for the fruit that has yet to be see (gentleness, patience, self- control anyone?), we rush by without giving too much thought.

When you read these verses in other translations you see in more depth what the Spirit considers GOOD fruit. The Passion Translation reads:

But the fruit produced by the Holy Spirit within you is divine love in all its varied expressions: joy that overflows, peace that subdues, patience that endures, kindness in action, a life full of virtue, faith that prevails, gentleness of heart, and strength of spirit. Never set the law above these qualities, for they are meant to be limitless.

Then there is the Amplified Translation:

But the fruit of the Spirit [the result of His presence within us] is love [unselfish concern for others], joy, [inner] peace, patience [not the ability to wait, but how we act while waiting], kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law.

When you study in depths these verses you learn what spirit empowered fruit is. You learn what patience truly looks like. It’s not simply the skill of waiting for something to happen. It is the ability to wait without complaining, grumbling, and with a confident expectation. I clearly have some work in this area…

As Christians we are to grow continuously. When we commit our lives to the Lord we become a new creation. However, that new creation needs a little (or a lot) of time to mirror Christ and be, as Paul says in 2 Corinthians, transformed from glory to glory as we transform into the image of Christ.

The Good News is, though I may not be bearing a lot of patience fruit right now, the Lord has enduring patience and perfect love towards me. He does not withhold His goodness, kindness, and gentleness until we develop ours.

No! In fact, it is the revelation and understanding of his perfect love, joy, and peace towards us that gives us the desire and enables us to grow and bear fruit in these areas. This fruit does not come through striving and self-effort.

Going back to Colossians 1:9 it is the complete knowledge of his will and spiritual wisdom and understanding that produces this fruit. I hope you are starting to see, as I am, the importance of praying Pauls’ prayer for yourself as he did for the people of Colosse!

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for your long-suffering patience, overflowing joy, and perfect unselfish love towards me. Give me a greater revelation and understanding of your love towards me. Thank you for the gift of the Holy Spirit which brings me this revelation and empowers me to bear every kind of good fruit. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Love, Grace, and A Giant Fruit Basket Of Faith,

Jen

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A Life That Pleases

Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better. -Colossians 1:10

In the last post we started the first of many of Paul’s prayers for the church. We saw Paul praying that the the people of Colosse would know what God wanted them to do, and that they would be filled with the wisdom and understanding that the Holy Spirit brings. We also read a brief account of the story of Solomon, the wisest man that ever ruled. We saw that it pleases God when we ask for wisdom. Today’s verse reveals to us why.

According to Colossians 1:10, having spiritual wisdom and understanding does four things. It enables us to live a life that honors and pleases the Lord, it produces good fruit in our lives, it helps us grow, and it allows us to know God better and better.

What does a life that honors and pleases the Lord look like? In addition to asking God for wisdom and understanding, what pleases God? In Paul’s day they needed spiritual wisdom and understanding to even know what pleases God. Today, in addition to the Holy Spirit we have the benefit of being able to look to all of the scriptures to see what the Word says about living a life that pleases and honors God.

Here are a few things that I found that please the Lord:

1-Praise and thanksgiving Then I will praise God’s name with singing, and I will honor him with thanksgiving. For this will please the Lord more than sacrificing cattle, more than presenting a bull with its horns and hooves. -Psalm 69:30-31

2- Fear, awe, worship, and obedience He does not delight in the strength (military power) of the horse, Nor does He take pleasure in the legs (strength) of a man. The Lord favors those who fear and worship Him [with awe-inspired reverence and obedience], Those who wait for His mercy and lovingkindness. -Psalm 147:10-11

3- Godliness and justice It pleases God more when we demonstrate godliness and justice than when we merely offer him a sacrifice. -Proverbs 21:3

4- Us!¬†For it was always in his perfect plan to adopt us as his delightful children, through our union with Jesus, the Anointed One, so that his tremendous love that cascades over us would glorify his grace‚ÄĒfor the same love he has for his Beloved One, Jesus, he has for us. And this unfolding plan brings him great pleasure! -Ephesians 1:5

5- Faith And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. -Hebrews 11:6

Notice there are no verses that say “Thou must be perfect. Thou must maketh no mistakes. Thou must get it right at all times or thou wilst be abandoned.”

No! The list is pretty clear. We are to live godly lives as we praise and worship the Lord with thankful hearts. We are to live in obedience to His Word and to the things He places in our hearts. We are to understand how much it pleases Him that we are his daughters. Lastly, we are to have faith in Jesus, that when we fail to do the things that please God, the grace of our Lord, covers our shortcomings, mistakes, and failures. As if that is not enough, we also have the Holy Spirit living and dwelling within us to guide us in these things as well!

Girls, as you go about your day, remember that the fact that you belong to Him pleases Him! If you were to do nothing else than simply be His daughter, He would be pleased. Stop striving and straining to earn a love that has already been freely given to you!

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for loving me. Thank you for taking pleasure in me being your daughter. Thank you for guiding me in the details of my life. Help me to remember the simple things that bring you pleasure that I may live a life that honors you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Love, Grace, and a Life That Pleases The Lord,

Jen

 

 

 

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Wisdom Prayer

This is why I have never stopped praying for you since I heard about you. I ask God that you may know what He wants you to do. I ask God to fill you with the wisdom and understanding the Holy Spirit gives. -Colossians 1:9

Moving on in the book of Colossians (we will get back to the love theme later in the book), today we come to one of many Pauline prayers. The apostle Paul recorded approximately forty two different prayers in the thirteen books of the New Testament he is believed to have authored. Considering Paul was the one the Lord revealed the great mystery of the church to, as well as him being one of the most spiritually sound church leaders, I figure we can learn a thing or two from his prayer life.

In Colossians 1:9, in response to what Paul has heard regarding the church in Colosse, and their great love for one another,  Paul begins to tell the church in Colosse what he prays for them. He says I ask God that you may know what He wants you to do. I ask God to fill you with the wisdom and understanding the Holy Spirit gives.

I don’t know about you, but that prayer excites me for many reasons. First of all, Paul would not ask God to give the people direction, wisdom, and understanding, if God wasn’t willing to give it! If you spend any time reading Paul’s writings you will see he is not a time wasting kind of guy. He would not ask for something he did not believe one hundred percent would be answered, or would be in line with God’s will.

Second of all, I don’t know about you, but I need as much wisdom and understanding as I can get! I often find myself wondering if I am where I am “supposed to be”. How reassuring for me to read in this prayer that I can simply ask God for confirmation on what He wants me to do! For me no direct answer means stay put. I may not get a lot of “this is the way to go my child”, but I often receive the “NO!” when I try to go in my own direction. Though I would love a “go here my child”, I am grateful for the clear “NO!” intervention ūüôā

We know from the story of King Solomon that God not only answers prayers for wisdom, but it pleases Him when we ask. Let’s build up our faith and courage to ask for wisdom by reading the account in 1 Kings 3:5-13:

5¬†That night the¬†Lord¬†appeared to Solomon in a dream, and God said, ‚ÄúWhat do you want? Ask, and I will give it to you!‚ÄĚ

6 Solomon replied, “You showed great and faithful love to your servant my father, David, because he was honest and true and faithful to you. And you have continued to show this great and faithful love to him today by giving him a son to sit on his throne.

7¬†‚ÄúNow, O¬†Lord¬†my God, you have made me king instead of my father, David, but I am like a little child who doesn‚Äôt know his way around.¬†8¬†And here I am in the midst of your own chosen people, a nation so great and numerous they cannot be counted!¬†9¬†Give me an understanding heart so that I can govern your people well and know the difference between right and wrong. For who by himself is able to govern this great people of yours?‚ÄĚ

10¬†The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for wisdom.¬†11¬†So God replied, ‚ÄúBecause you have asked for wisdom in governing my people with justice and have not asked for a long life or wealth or the death of your enemies‚ÄĒ¬†12¬†I will give you what you asked for! I will give you a wise and understanding heart such as no one else has had or ever will have!¬†13¬†And I will also give you what you did not ask for‚ÄĒriches and fame! No other king in all the world will be compared to you for the rest of your life!

If you continue to read the account of King Solomon you will learn that He was in fact the wisest, and wealthiest king that ever ruled. He wrote a majority of the book of Proverbs, wish is known and the book of wisdom. He also authored Song of Solomon, which is one of the most intimate accounts of the relationship between a bride and groom. A more in depth study of Song of Solomon gives you an overwhelming revelation of the Lord’s fierce and jealous love for his Church.

To this day, King Solomon is still known to be the richest man that ever lived. His accumulated wealth rivals Bill Gates, Dale Carnegie, and the Rockefellers. His estimated worth in today’s economy is estimated to be over two trillion! I can’t even wrap my head around that!

So go ahead, pray for wisdom and understanding. It is in line with God’s Word. It is his will that you should have wisdom and understanding. Best of all, it please Him when you ask Him for it!

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for your fierce and faithful love for me. thank you for your Word that leads me in all truth. I come boldly to the throne of grace today and ask for wisdom and understanding in the plans for my life. thank you for the Holy Spirit that guides and directs me. Thank you for the gift of wisdom. In Jesus’ name. Amen!

Love, Grace, and Wisdom For Us All,

Jen

 

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Heavenly Perspectives

For we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and your love for all of God’s people,  which come from your confident hope of what God has reserved for you in heaven. You have had this expectation ever since you first heard the truth of the Good News. -Colossians 1:4-5

I thought I was going to finish out the year studying Colossians, but at the rate we are going we will be finishing out the year studying love instead. Not a bad idea as we could all use a little more, and give a little more, love these days don’t you think?

I want to go back to the verses that kicked off this love study. We saw a couple days ago that the people of Colosse were known for the their love for others. We spent our time that day focusing on that love and our need to follow in their example.

Verse five gives us another insight as to how they were able to love others so well. It says they had confident hope of what God had reserved for them in heaven.

Why would the confident hope of what God had reserved for them in heaven help them love others so well while on earth? I was thinking about some of the reasons we don’t love others well. When you look at the common obstacles to loving others, you see that all of them are overcome when you take on a heavenly perspective.

What if when someone hurts me on earth, I was able to meditate on the truth that there are no tears, no pain, in heaven? What if when I am on the receiving end of a huge injustice, I remember that God is a just God and in the end His justice will reign? What if every time that rude, obnoxious person in my life offends me, I focus on the grace and mercy I have received and I ask the Holy Spirit to help me extend the same to them?

I also think my understanding of God is still too small. If I really understood how awesome and magnificent God is I would not waste my time with feelings of jealousy, insecurity, and inferiority.

If I understood that God doesn’t bless one person at the expense of another I would not feel like someone else is “living the life I am supposed to be living!” every time I see a public speaker or writer. The hairs on the back of my neck would no longer raise when people say the name Jen Hatmaker. I would not fight the constant battle of comparing myself to others if I truly understood and believed that God has a special plan and purpose for ME and he also promises us that HE will see to it that we are on the proper path for our lives (read Psalm 25 if you need reassurance in this ūüôā

Yes, a greater revelation and understanding of who God is, and what He has planned for us, not only in heaven, but here on earth as well, will help us truly love others more. Looks like we have some more studying to do…

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for your passionate love for me! Increase my revelation and understanding of the reality of heaven. Increase my awareness of the plan you have for me here on earth. Guide my steps today. Show me the proper path. Give me the grace and courage to respond when I hear your still small voice. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Love, Grace, and Greater Revelation For Us All,

Jen

 

 

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Love For All

For we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and your love for all of God’s people, which come from your confident hope of what God has reserved for you in heaven. -Colossians 1:4-5

I have been reading the book of Colossians the last week or so and find myself jotting down a lot of comments, questions, and aha moments. I plan on hanging out in Colossians for the remainder of the year. I would love it if you would join me :).

A quick background on the book of Colossians. It was written by Paul, the apostle previously known as Saul- the infamous, Christian persecuting, Jewish rabbi in training, who was radically changed by an encounter with Jesus (life changer :).

The letter was written in AD 60 to a small home church in Colosse. Colosse is located about one hundred miles inland from Ephesus (think book of Ephesians). It was a small, second rate town, but it was also an important town as it fell along a trade route, making it a meeting point of the West and the East.

Why am I boring you with these details? As we move further into Colossians we will see that this small home church was facing many of the same problems our church is today. Their faith was tainted by things such as religion, tradition, and Eastern influences (sound familiar?) They had wandered from the pure truth of the gospel and adopted ideas and practices that are not part of the Good News.

Despite these troubles, they did a lot of things well. As we see in today’s verse, they were known for their love of Christ, and for each other. The scriptures tell us¬†¬†The whole law can be summed up as love your neighbor as yourself,¬†and,¬†only three things remain, faith, hope, and love, and the greatest of these is love.¬†With these scriptures in mind I believe that if the church is only going to get one thing right, it should be to get their love for Christ and for each other in order.

When I look at the church today, I do not think we have our love in order. I think we have great music. I think we are entertaining. I think we have great buildings, bumper stickers, t-shirts, and other “Jesus swag”.¬† I think we do good things and are generous with our money and resources. However, I am not sure we have love.

Though we may have love for Jesus (many lukewarm lovers out there), we definitely do not have on fire love for Jesus and devoted love for all of God’s people as the Colossians did.

Now please don’t go getting offended or defensive. I know none of you Girls are lukewarm for Jesus :). I am not really even talking about individuals, or individual churches. I am talking about the Church as a whole.

Growing up we used to sing a song that says “and they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love. And they’ll know we are Christians by our love.”

I wonder if today we are known by our love. Is the church, to “outsiders”, known for it’s love, goodness, kindness, and compassion? Or, are we known for our judgmental, harsh, self-righteousness? Are we known for our unity and love for one another? Or, are we known for our inter-denominational squabbles?

I may not be able to change the entire Church, but I can change myself. It’s not that I think I am unkind or judgmental (I sure hope I am not anyway), but I do know I am quick to get frustrated and even give up on people. I know I struggle with a “God helps those who help themselves” mentality (which is not scriptural by the way).

This year, instead of worrying about doing more, I want to purpose to love more. Just like the old song says, they will know I’m a Christian by my love…

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for your fierce love for us. Please help us, your Church, to truly love others. Let us be known for our love. Use us to show the lost and the hurting the love you have for them. Use us to be a light and a blessing in this world. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Love, Love, and More Love to Be Shown To All,

Jen

 

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Shirley

I will never forget the day I volunteered in my daughter’s kindergarten class. It was a Friday which was Bible verse recitation day. I sat out in the hallway and one by one the kids would come out and recite the verse of the week. That particular week it was Psalm 23:6.

The kids were so cute and sweet. Some of them recited the entire Psalm, while others could barely whisper a word. Most of the kids fell somewhere in between.

Then there was Christian. Christian was quite a character. I had previous experience with this young man while grading his spelling test. He told me if I didn’t change his grade his dad would not me happy with me (with me, not him) and his dad was a lawyer so I should not make him angry. He said it so convincingly I almost changed his grade. The kid was a stitch.

He sat down and rested is elbow on the table and started tapping his lip with his finger. He said “Mmmmm…..I know this one. It’s about that lady.” I just looked at him confused thinking “this is not about a lady”. He continued looking around trying to think, “It is like an older lady name- oh what is her name.”

I looked back down at the paper where the verse was written and then it dawned on me. I started to laugh as I said “You mean surely?” “YES!” He said all excited “That’s her name. Shirley”. He went on to recite the verse Shirley your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life”.

I didn’t have the heart to tell him that it was talking about the Lord and not an old lady by the name of Shirley. I didn’t want his dad to get mad at me again :).

Christian had a funny and harmless misinterpretation of his Bible verse. However, many adult Christians still misunderstand God’s Word. They have never been taught how to read something in context or how to rightly divide the Bible. The entire Bible is inspired by God and is important to us today as Christians. However, not every word in the Bible is spoken to us as Christians.

In it’s most simplistic explanation the Bible is speaking to three people groups. They are the Jews, the Gentiles (those that are not Jewish or Christian), and the Church. Though it is important for us to know what is said to all the groups, it is even more important that we do not take something that is spoken to one group and apply it to us. The Jews are God’s chosen people. They have a special covenant with God. The church has been adopted into God’s family but our path and future is still different from the Jews.

I do not consider myself qualified to go into much detail regarding this. I simply want you to be aware when you do read the Bible not every Word should be applied to you. The Word of God is meant to draw you closer to Him and develop a personal relationship with Him. If you walk away from your reading time feeling condemned, guilty, and unworthy, and afraid, chances are you have misinterpreted something along the way.

I encourage you to ask someone you trust, or look into a bible study to help you understand what you are reading. Once you understand the Bible you will see it as one long love letter from God to you. You will want to spend time in it as it will leave you feeling loved, forgiven, hopeful, and encouraged.

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for your written Word. I ask you to give me understanding and revelation when I read your Word. Help me to see your love in every story I read. Guide me to a new study or mentor that will help me grow in my understanding. Place a fresh desire and hunger for your Word in my heart. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

Love, Grace, and A Shirley Blessing To You All,

Jen

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How He Loves Us

I used to think the story of Adam and Eve was one of the saddest stores in the Bible. I felt so bad for them when they got kicked out of the garden. I couldn’t even imagine what it would be like to go from walking and talking with God to suddenly being escorted out of the most beautiful, perfect place created just for me.
The worst part was the thought of how mad God must have been at them. After telling them the list of horrible curses that were now attached to them, I always pictured him marching them to the edge of the garden, pushing them along on their way and then watching as they sulked off, crying with their heads down, occasionally looking back to see if he was watching them and possibly changing his mind. When they would look back on him I pictured him standing stone faced with a tear running down his cheek pointing straight ahead commanding them to continue wandering in the opposite direction. It was truly a heart breaking scene.
I see this story differently now. I see it as one of the many love stories in the Bible. Not between Adam and Eve, between God and us. It is a story of redemption, protection, and grace. Let me explain.
When God came looking for Adam and Eve after they had sinned, he found them hiding in the trees, covered with fig leaves. One of the first things they realized when their eyes were opened to sin was that they were naked and for whatever reason their now “knowledgable” mind told them this was wrong and they should cover themselves. God agreed, they should be covered. However he lovingly covered them with animal skins. It was the first of many sacrifices offered in the Bible. It was the first example of the blood of Jesus covering our sin.
As I was studying this I learned that fig leaves, when broken off their tree have a horrible pungent smell, and quickly shrivel up and die which would have left them exposed quickly. It is symbolic of the way man can only hide his sin for so long and then it will be exposed. The only way mans sin is completely covered is by a perfect sacrifice, by the blood of Jesus. i now picture God looking at them in their fig leaves and feeling pity for them. I now picture him sacrificing the animals, placing the skins on Adam and Eve, stepping back and saying “There. That’s better”, as he gives them a Fatherly smile.
If He forgave them and covered their sin, why did he still kick them out of the garden? That too was an act of love. Remember way back in Genesis 2 it tells us that God made all sorts of trees and in the middle of the garden he made two special trees- the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and the tree of life. If they would have eaten from the tree of life, they would have to live forever in this fallen state with no chance of redemption. They had already proven themselves untrustworthy by eating from the tree of knowledge, how much more desperate would they be to eat from the tree of life in hopes that they could somehow undo what they have done? The only reason God sent them out of the garden was to protect them from themselves.
I was also wrong about God no longer walking and talking with them. I know this because later in Genesis 4 when God confronts Cain after Cain kills Abel. Cain begs God not to banish him from God’s presence, which means they were all still in Gods presence. This shows us that though God could no longer walk and talk with them in the garden, he still chose to walk and talk with them where they were at.
Girls, I want you to see just how he loves us! Even in our worst moments, even when we are tangled up in sin and shame, God loves us. He lovingly reminds us that we are covered by the blood of Jesus. He never leaves us or forsakes. In the times when it feels like is has walked us to the edge of the garden and pointed for us to go in the opposite direction, is always an act of love. We may not see or feel it, and we may not understand it, but God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, and when you find yourself removed from what may have seemed “perfect”, you need to trust that God is protecting you.
Maybe you find yourself identifying with Eve today. Maybe you have been trying to fix and cover up your own feelings of guilt and shame. Maybe you are asking yourself if God has given up on you and set you outside of the garden. If that describes you, please take a moment to sit at the feet of Jesus. Wherever you are at, close your eyes, take a deep breath and simply pour out your heart to God. Tell him your fears, your sin, and your shame. Tell him you want to feel his presence and protection. Let him cover you in his love. He did it for Eve, he will do it for you. In fact, it is his very favorite thing to do!

And He said, “My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.” Exodus 33:14

Love, Grace, and a Day in His Presence For You All,

Jen

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Second Hand Words

Last week I left you with a question to meditate on. The question was, What made Eve more susceptible to being deceived than Adam? The question came out of something I noticed for the first time in the story of Adam and Eve, a story I have read and heard many, many, times. Somehow this detail, this very important detail, went unnoticed by me for years.
It says in Genesis 2:15-17 The LORD God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and watch over it. But the LORD God warned him, “You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden-except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die.” He is talking only to Adam at this point as he has not yet created Eve.
As you continue to read the story you do not see God speaking directly and giving the same warning to Eve. Yet somehow she has been given the news because when the serpent comes to her and asks her about not being allowed to eat the fruit from the trees in the garden she replies in Genesis 3:2-4 “Of course we may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,” the woman replied. It’s only the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden that we are not allowed to eat. God said ‘You must not eat it or even touch it; if you do, you will die.”
Did you catch that? The response Eve gave the serpent are not the words God told Adam. She added the words “or even touch it”. We don’t know if it was Adam that added to God’s original message or if Eve added it for dramatic effect but I believe it was Adam who added to the original instructions. Not only did Adam add to the original message God gave him, he also left some of the message out. We know this because judging by Eve’s response to the serpent she clearly had no idea what the significance of the tree was. She referred to it as “the tree in the middle of the garden”.
Why is it a big deal that she didn’t know what the tree was? First of all it gave the serpent the opportunity to sound as though he knew more than her and knew what he was talking about. He was the one that told her it was the tree of knowledge of good and evil. It says in Genesis 3:4-5 “You won’t die!” the serpent replied to the woman. “God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.”Once he was able to show that he knew more than her, he was able to pervert the truth and promise her she would be like God and would have knowledge she just couldn’t live without.
Eve received God’s Word second hand. And just like when you played telephone as a kid, the end message and the original message did not match. The Word Eve received had parts added (don’t even touch it) as well as parts left out (the kind of tree it was). Since she did not receive the full Truth it opened her up for deception. That deception took her away from Gods plan for her life.
The same goes for us. If we only live by what others tell us about God, we open ourselves up to deception. Of course it is good to go to church, listen to sermons online,and read devotionals- those things strengthen our understanding of God’s word. However, these things do not take the place of us spending our own time with God in his Word. God has specific instructions for each and every one of us. Those instructions cannot be given by another, they need to come from the Lord. The best place to hear from God is by spending time alone with him, one on one, in prayer and in his word.
If we do not know what God’s word says, we will never know when someone is adding to it, or taking away from it. Throughout the ages we have seen the church adding rules and traditions that are nowhere to be found in the Bible. Perhaps if people had access to and read for themselves what Gods word truly says, we would not have all of the man made rules and traditions we see today.
The most common lies we believe are the ones that are perverted scripture- there is just enough truth in it to make it believable. The serpent told Eve she would be like God and possess the knowledge of good and evil which is only partially true. Yes, she would now understand that their is good and evil, but unlike God she would be unable to consistently choose good. Had the serpent told her the whole story she would have told him to slither back under the rock he came from.
Girls, do not relay on others to hear Gods word. Take ownership of your faith by spending time alone with God in prayer and in His Word. Only then will you know how to test what you hear against the Truth. Only then will you be able to guard your heart from deception. Only then will you see the serpents of the world for what they are.

And I solemnly declare to everyone who hears the words of prophecy written in this book: If anyone adds anything to what is written here, God will add to that person the plagues described in this book. And if anyone removes any of the words from this book of prophecy, God will remove that person’s share in the tree of life, and in the holy city that are described in this book. Revelation 22:18-19

Love, Grace, and a First Hand Word Day to You All,

Jen

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