Endurance Training

[we pray that you may be] strengthened and invigorated with all power, according to His glorious might, to attain every kind of endurance – Colossians 1:11 Amplified Bible

Running a marathon by the age of forty used to be a goal of mine. Key words in that sentence being “used to”.  Now, at the age of forty five, my thoughts towards running a marathon are “a’int nobody got time for that”.

I admire endurance athletes. Their dedication to their sport fascinates me. Training for a marathon takes hours and hours of disciplined effort. I have friends that get up at 4am every morning to run. I have friends that run despite having plantar fasciitis. I have friends that run whether it is 10 below or 90 and humid. As for me, I am more of a jog/walk when the sun is out and its 68-72 without humidity, and with a friend, kind of Girl.

When it comes to setting and reaching goals I often hear the quote “it is a marathon, not a sprint”. Though I tend to roll my eyes at the cliche of it, it really is true. In order to accomplish anything worthwhile, it is going to require endurance training of some sort.

It is no different with our faith. Our faith journey will require ongoing endurance training. According to today’s verse, there is more than one kind of endurance we will need.

We will need emotional endurance to forgive, and to walk in love towards others. We will need physical endurance to accomplish the things God has planned for us. Most of all, we will need spiritual endurance when the enemy attacks our beliefs through sickness, lack, broken relationships, and the many, many, lies he speaks to us daily.

endurance:

1. the fact or power of enduring or bearing pain, hardships, etc.

2. the ability or strength to continue or last, especially despite fatigue, stress, or other adverse conditions; stamina

3. something enduredas a hardship; trial.
When I look at the above definitions for endurance, specific situations and events come to mind. I think of the financial hardships we have gone through. I think of the pain of lost loved ones. I think of the times I was so exhausted and stressed out over a situation in my life.
Yet, despite these things, I am still here. And so are you! We have come through and are on the other side of many trials, struggles, and pains. We still believe that God is good. We still believe His promises are true. We know with all our being that life with Him is far better than life without Him, no matter how big the trial may be.
It says in James 1:3-4 For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.
Clearly my endurance is not perfect and complete, as I am still in need of a few things :). However, the Good News is that we do not have to do this endurance training on our own. According to today’s verse we are strengthened by the glorious might and power of Christ.
This glorious power is nothing to scoff at. It is a power like no other as we will learn tomorrow. I will give you a little hint: It will blow your mind
Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for your unfailing love towards me. Thank you for blessing me with all of the strength and endurance I will need for each day. Thank you for the many times you have strengthened me in the midst of trial and hardship. Thank you for promising me that I will come out of the trial stronger than better than before. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Love, Grace, and Enduring Faith For Us All,
Jen
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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 😉

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—for 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 🙂

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:

That night the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream, and God said, “What do you want? Ask, and I will give it to you!”

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.

“Now, O Lord my God, you have made me king instead of my father, David, but I am like a little child who doesn’t know his way around. And here I am in the midst of your own chosen people, a nation so great and numerous they cannot be counted! 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?”

10 The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for wisdom. 11 So God replied, “Because 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— 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—riches 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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Love Thy Neighbor

“And there is something more important to God than all the sacrifices and burnt offerings: it’s the commandment to constantly love God with every passion of your heart, with your every thought, and with all your strength—and to love your neighbor in the same way as you love yourself.” -Mark 12:33

 

Last week we prayed that God would use us in big and small ways to truly love others, and to show them the love of God. Funny how God answers some prayers faster than others. Funny how those answers are often not at all what we expected…

Yesterday as I got home from running hours of errands, I pulled up to the mailbox to grab the Sunday paper. As I reached into the paper box I heard that still small voice of the Holy Spirit. It whispered “give your neighbor a Christmas card”.

Whaaaaat???

Seriously, you want me to give the man who shot and killed my dog last spring, and then lied about it, until he realized he was caught, and then confessed to the police? Surely you do not mean that neighbor.

I knew right away that He meant that neighbor.

I had a flood of thoughts rush into my head. “What if thy neighbor responds to me? I don’t want to talk to him!”, “What will Tom say?”, “Sure- I will send him a card. Can it have a picture of Nana (my dog) on it…”

I then tried to reason with God. “Isn’t it enough that I don’t hate him? Isn’t it enough that I pray every time I drive by and say “I forgive you.” Often I even say “Bless them Lord”. Okay, most the time I say that. Sometimes I say “feel free to move out of our neighborhood”, but for the most part I say “I forgive you” :).

I text my friend and said “I think the Lord just told me to give my neighbor a Christmas card. I am going to need serious confirmation on that one.” She said she would pray right away. She really didn’t need to…

Sometimes you just know as you know you heard the still small voice of the Lord. It usually happens when you do just as I did; you find your mind reeling and your flesh objecting.

You also have words of scripture and sermon snippets rush through your mind. Words like How many times must I forgive? Love covers a multitude of sin. Unforgiveness hurts you more than the offender.

This morning as I closed my eyes to pray and ask what I should write about I heard in my heart “Love thy neighbor”. Can I just mention one more time how “funny” it is that God answers clearly and directly on some prayers…

So, I am assuming the Lord wants me to share this with you for two reasons. The first is so I will actually follow through with it. Now that it is out there, I have to do it.

The second is there may be someone in your life you need to forgive. Perhaps you have been like me. You have done the “partial” forgiveness. You have felt as though the fact that you no longer hate the person is enough. You have felt as though not wishing them evil, harm, and payback is enough. You have washed your hands of them and are just fine with never seeing them again. You can forgive them…from a safe distance.

But God isn’t a God of partial forgiveness. He is a “no more record of guilt, as far as the east is from the west” kind of forgiver. And he has called us to be the same.

What better way to show the love and character of God than to start with the unlovable? We can do this. He promises that his grace is sufficient!

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for loving me. Thank you for being the God of forgiveness, grace, and mercy. Give me the strength to love others as you have loved me. Give me the grace to forgive as you have forgiven me. Give me the courage to do what is right. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Love, Grace, and Love For Thy Neighbor,

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 🙂

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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Gonna Need a Little Help Here!

He’s informed us of the many wonderful ways love is being demonstrated through your lives by the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.  -Colossians 1:8

Yesterday I said I was going to spend next year loving more, rather than doing more. It felt good to declare it. I meant every word of it. I, Jen Gilbert, am going to be known for my love. Yes- they will know I’m a Christian by my love, by my love. Then I left the house…

I don’t know about you, but I find it much easier to love others when I am all alone in the comforts of my home. It’s a totally different story once I actually come into contact with people. Sometimes I don’t even have to come into contact with them. They can irritate me by screwing up the parent drop off line, or with an annoying email, or heaven forbid my voicemail message light is on when I get to work.

Cleary, if I am going to truly love others more, I am going to need a little help!

Praise God for today’s verse that assures us that the ability to love others does not come from our own striving and self effort. The ability to love others comes from the Holy Spirit. We are told in John 14:17 that the Holy Spirit leads us in all truth, and that we know him because he lives and dwells within us.

It’s that still small voice that says “don’t say it” when you want to saw something snarky to your husband. It’s that still small voice that says “go tell that woman you love her sweater” even though you don’t even know her. It’s that still small voice that whispers “write her a note of encouragement” even though you haven’t spoken to that person in months.

We are guided daily by that still small voice. Unfortunately, we often ignore it. We just HAVE TO get that little jab into our hubby because really, he “deserves” it. We feel too silly to walk up to a stranger and give them a compliment. We don’t have time to write a note to someone who probably doesn’t want to hear from us anyway.

Sometimes we miss the guidance altogether because we are too lost in our own thoughts. There is no room for guidance when our mind is racing through our next errand, email, and carpool assignment. We are in mental overdrive and their is no space for a new thought.

The Holy Spirit is the least understood part of the Godhead. We understand God the Father because for the most part we have all had a father figure in our lives. We understand Jesus being His son because we are sons and daughters. But who is this Holy Spirit character? How are we supposed to understand and relate to Him?

I know I don’t fully understand Him. Even as I write this I am filled with questions and doubts as to if I am presenting the truth accurately. The internet is no help. I did a little research and there are clearly some that have been led far far astray in their understanding of the three persons of the Godhead!

I will leave it at this- I believe the Holy Spirit lives and dwells within us and guides us in all truth. As much as I believe that I know I don’t fully grasp it. I know this because if I truly understood that God himself, as the Holy Spirit, lives and dwells within me I wouldn’t dare ignore one word of his advice. Yet I do. All the time!

Though I don’t have all the answers, I do know that if I am going to truly love others more I am going to need a little (okay a LOT) of help. I also know that the Holy Spirit empowered the people in Colosse to love at a level that they were famous for. I believe what He did for them, He will do for any of us that truly desire His help.

As you go about your day, remember that it is the little acts of love that often matter the most. We all want to do big things for God. Sometimes those BIG THINGS come in a series of small seemingly insignificant events. They come in compliments, notecards, and tongue biting :).

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for your extravagant love for me. I want to show others the love that you have shown me. I thank you for the gift of the Holy Spirit. Empower me through your Spirit to love others in big and small ways each and every day. Give me ears to hear, eyes to see, and a heart to receive the guidance you give. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Love, Grace, and Holy Spirit Empowerment 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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