When the World Looks Dark and Scary

It seems like every other day there is a new opportunity to be filled with fear. Natural disasters taking place all over… famines in third world countries… shootings… anger… chaos… mass chaos everywhere you turn…

With so many things going on in our world right now, there has been increased talk about it being the end times. I don’t know about you, but just the thought of the end times makes me feel anxious. Not because I’m not excited to see Jesus return, but because of the unknown. The Bible talks about the end days and how bad it will be.

In Luke 21 Jesus talks about the end times.

He replied, “Don’t let anyone mislead you, for many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’[b] and saying, ‘The time has come!’ But don’t believe them. And when you hear of wars and insurrections, don’t panic. Yes, these things must take place first, but the end won’t follow immediately.” 10 Then he added, “Nation will go to war against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.11 There will be great earthquakes, and there will be famines and plagues in many lands, and there will be terrifying things and great miraculous signs from heaven.12 “But before all this occurs, there will be a time of great persecution. You will be dragged into synagogues and prisons, and you will stand trial before kings and governors because you are my followers. 13 But this will be your opportunity to tell them about me.[c] ….

16 Even those closest to you—your parents, brothers, relatives, and friends—will betray you. They will even kill some of you. 17 And everyone will hate you because you are my followers.[d] 18 But not a hair of your head will perish! 19 By standing firm, you will win

25 “And there will be strange signs in the sun, moon, and stars. And here on earth the nations will be in turmoil, perplexed by the roaring seas and strange tides.26 People will be terrified at what they see coming upon the earth, for the powers in the heavens will be shaken. 27 Then everyone will see the Son of Man[e] coming on a cloud with power and great glory.28 So when all these things begin to happen, stand and look up, for your salvation is near!”

And it seems like we are in those times. And we get wrapped up in our heads wondering and talking and fearing the end times….

But the Bible also says in Matthew 24:36-44

“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left. “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”

And so today as I sit here and see all the news.. and hear all the fear… I’m asking God to speak.

IMG_2287.jpg

And He is reminding me…

He is reminding me that He is in control…

He is reminding me that we have an enemy of our soul who is desiring to steal our days with crippling fear…An enemy that knows that our human hearts are afraid of the unknown so he tries to steal our todays with fears about the “end times.”

He is reminding me that he has not given us a spirit of fear but of love.

He is reminding me that He is a good father.

He is reminding me that each day is drawing us closer to Him.

He is reminding me to pursue my purpose every day.

He is reminding me that history is filled with tragic events because we live in a fallen world.

He is also reminding me that Jesus is the hope of the world. We are the carriers of his light.

Tomorrow is never promised, but that doesn’t mean we must live in fear today.

Today is a gift. Today is our time. This is the day the Lord has made so let us rejoice and be glad in it.

So today, instead of being crippled by fear, let’s be encouraged in our faith. Let’s be reminded that in this world we will have troubles, but we can take heart because Jesus has overcome this world.

Advertisements

When God calls You to an Unfamiliar Place

Yesterday I went for a walk at the park… a park that I walk at frequently. I’m a creature of habit and I always walk the route that doesn’t go under the shade trees, because ticks and stuff.. gross! I NEVER go under the trees.

But on yesterday’s walk, when I got to the fork between the path into the trees and the normal path under the sun, God began to speak to my heart. He told me to take the path under the shade trees.

Immediately fear set in. “But God, that is different… that is uncomfortable.. I don’t want to go that way.”

Never the less, I embarked down the shade tree path. As I began walking under the trees on this unfamiliar path, there was the most refreshing breeze. The sun had been blazing and for a momma with a five week old baby in a stroller, it had been a struggle down my familiar path. The breeze felt so nice. Immediately God began to speak.

“Jordan, sometimes in life I call you to walk down unfamiliar paths. When I call you to walk down  bear paths remember that I know the whole story. The unfamiliar path I call you to walk down just may be the very path you must take to find the rest your soul needs.”

My heart immediately felt relief… replenished… and renewed..

I continued down the unfamiliar path taking in the views. I felt accomplished.. proud of myself for listening when God said “This is the way,  now walk in it.” But then something unexpected happened. I began to notice a short cut in the path. A nice little cutoff road that would take me back to my familiar trail. I immediately wanted to take it. I began to think “I already heard God speak.. that was so nice, now I can take the short cut back to what is familiar. I learned the lesson, now I can go back to my normal route.”

But the Holy Spirit began to urge me to go further. He said “Jordan, we’ve come this far down this path, don’t you want to see what more I have for you on this journey?”

And I did…. I so desperately wanted to see what else he had for me.

Isn’t that how we are in life? We avoid the unfamiliar. We shrink back in fear when God calls us to walk down the unfamiliar path. Then, if we do somehow find the Holy courage to take the unfamiliar road, you can be certain there will be shortcuts back to familiar at every turn.. opportunities to take the easy route…

Today I encourage you… go down the unfamiliar path… don’t take the shortcuts.. and maybe, just maybe, you will find the joy and rest you’ve been looking for all along.

Reconciled Week Six Day Five

I can’t believe our six week journey is coming to an end today! I have so enjoyed this six weeks together! As we bring our journey to an end I want to spend time today talking about our God dreams. We all have dreams for our lives… vision… a plan… The dreams you have for your life are on purpose. God created you distinctly you. He wired you with your own desires and gifts that make you beautiful in your own way! Part of the reconciled life is a life following the God dreams you have!

Proverbs 16:1-3 “We can make our own plans, but the Lord gives the right answer. People may be pure in their own eyes, but the Lord examines their motives. Commit your actions to the Lord, and your plans will succeed.”

Commit your God dreams to God and he will show you how to achieve them.

Reconciled Week Six Day Four

Our theme verses for this study are 2 Corinthians 5:18-20 NLT “And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!”

These verses have so many different levels and today let’s take time to talk about verse 18. In verse 18 it says God has given us the task of reconciling people to him. For us to be able to reconcile people to Christ, we have to be around people. We must take the time to connect with the people around us. As we go to our jobs, our schools, our grocery stores, our churches, we must go with eyes and hearts open to seeing the people around us. I think a lot of us have a tendency to become so focused on our problems that we don’t notice the people around us. If we take the time to see the people around us, our problems will start to seem smaller somehow. We might begin to realize that we aren’t the only ones going through something, and maybe, just maybe, we will begin to find courage for the battle because of the people around us.

1 Peter 5:9 says “Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.”

Let’s take time to see the people around us, knowing that others might be going through the same or similar sufferings than us, and let’s use our stories to connect with others through transparency and love.

Reconciled Week Two Day Three

In today’s society we are all about filters and marketing our best selves. We post our highlights on social media and authentic conversations are hard to find. We spend our days with hashtags and cutesy posts and less time in real life situations.

2 Corinthians 5:19-20 says “that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.”

Verse 19 says God has committed to us the message of reconciliation. The best way to relate to others is to be authentic and transparent. In a world of fake, it is refreshing when someone isn’t afraid to share their junk with you. Our greatest pains in life can often times become our greatest tools to reach others for Jesus. When we let people see the real us.. the us that God reconciled through Christ.. then it just might be what they need to take their own step towards reconciliation. All God really wants is for us to walk in relationship with him and with others. He uses he broken parts of us to connect us to others.

IMG-1847.PNG

If we never share our broken parts how will we relate to others?

Galatians 6:2 “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

In 2 Corinthians 8, Paul is urging the believers to give willingly. He is talking about giving of items but I think this concept of giving can be applied to all of our things: time, story, skill, money, etc.

2 Corinthians 8:14 “ Right now you have plenty and can help those who are in need. Later, they will have plenty and can share with you when you need it. In this way, things will be equal.”

In some seasons of life, you will be depleted. It will be hard to see the goodness of the Lord.. you will need someone in those times to be transparent with you. Someone who has gone through the same struggle and is willing to share the hope God gave them for that hard time.

In other seasons of life, you will be full.. overflowing even. In those seasons, look around. There is someone in this season that you can give the gift of transparency to.

Our lives are a series of chances. Chances to give hope and love to a dying world. Doesn’t it make you feel good to know that every part of your story has purpose? It makes me feel so thankful that God would give me a story that will help me reach others for him.

So share your story.. be transparent.. be authentic.. and then, maybe, just maybe, the world will be a little brighter because you did.

Reconciled Week Six Day Two

I need people in my life. I’m the poster child for extravert. I love people… young people, old people, all people. I’ve always been one to go out with friends as much as humanly possible. I love doing life with others. God creates us to love him first, and then to love our neighbor as ourself. I think it’s really easy to love the neighbors that are just like us.. It’s easy to love the neighbors that we see on a once a week, once a month, or once a year occasion. But it’s a lot harder to love the neighbors we see day in and day out. We want to make disciples of all nations and so we go and serve our little hearts out in the world. We sign up for every small group, every serve day, every community outreach, but we neglect the people in our home. We are so busy loving the outside world that we forget about the world inside our four walls. We forget about the husband, the kids, and ourselves. This hits me hard.. it hits me fast.. it hits me to my core. If we are going to live each day reconciled, we have to live each day on purpose.

The ministry of reconciliation is more about the people close to us, than the masses of people surrounding us. All throughout the New Testament you see instances where Jesus is surrounded by people but ministering directly to one. He’s personal and intimate.. and we can be too. In the middle of the crowd, Jesus took time to address the needs of the one. If we are going to truly walk out the ministry of reconciliation, we must take time to address the needs of those around us.

IMG-1811.PNG

 

Are you spending your time focusing on the masses or the one?

 

Why do you spend time focused more on the outside world than your inner people?

I think sometimes it is easier to focus on the outside world because we have time to prepare ourselves for the outside world. Our inner circle sees every part of us. They are around during our best and worst moments. If we are going to truly love our people like Christ loves us, we must surrender everyday to Christ. Because when we are in the thick of dirty diapers and dirty dishes, laundry and to-do lists, we must be surrendered to God so that we can walk with grace and humility. Loving our people is one of the most beautiful ways God can use us. He chose you to be the wife, the mom, the sister, the friend to your people. And if he chose you then He will use you to make his name famous among them.

Reconciled Week Six Day One

Welcome to the final week of our six week journey together! I can’t believe our study is coming to an end! This week is all about the ministry of reconciliation. If God gave us the ministry of reconciliation then what does that look like? This week we are going to uncover how to own our story, love our people, share our heart, build our relationships, and dream God dreams. Let’s dive right in. 

2 Corinthians 5:17-21 (NIV)

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made 

him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

God reconciled us to reconcile others and that is such a beautiful thing. The enemy knows that your story is powerful.. your freedom is life-changing… your mission unstoppable. And so, he hits us with all kinds of fear about our past. If he can keep us afraid to be transparent, he can keep others bound in their chains. Your story is the key to someone else’s freedom. God reconciled to reconcile. God chose not to count your sins against you and if he did that for you, he will do it for others. We reach people through transparency. Your story is uniquely yours. No one else has walked your road to reconciliation, and even though it was messy, in the mess you found Jesus and you will never be the same.

Hosea is such a beautiful story of how God constantly takes us back. He knew we would wander, but he came after us every single time. I love Hosea 2:14-16 because it’s a beautiful picture of the reconciliation of Israel. Israel had worshiped other gods and turned their back on Him, but he came for Israel and he came for you and me.

Hosea 2:14-16 NLT says “But then I will win her back once again. I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her there. I will return her vineyards to her and transform the Valley of Troublec into a gateway of hope. She will give herself to me there, as she did long ago when she was young, when I freed her from her captivity in Egypt. When that day comes,” says the LORD, “you will call me ‘my husband’ instead  of ‘my master.”

This is reconciliation. This is your story, this is my story, this is the story a hopeless world wants to see. God wanted to win us back even after all of our sin. He led us into the desert, not to dry up and die, but to give us tenderness and love. The messy part of our life, turned out to be the best part of our life because it’s where he restored our vineyards and transformed our trouble into a gateway of hope. We found him in the desert and we came back to our first love. He reminded us of his freedom and he gave us love. Now instead of saying he is a master, full of a list of regulations and commands, we get to say he is our husband full of love and devotion. It’s so beautiful.

The desert places in my life are the places that I see his hand at work the most. And if that is where I see him the most in my life, it just might be where others see him the most in my life as well.

IMG_1809

But for others to see the desert places I have to let them into the desert places.

What is the hardest thing about letting others into our desert places?

Why do we suppress our story?

Your story is less about you, and more about what Jesus did for you. I give you permission to own your story. Don’t hide from it… don’t run from it.. Embrace it. It’s where you found Jesus… It’s where you found hope.. and it’s where others will find hope too!

Make a timeline of your life. In each time period, write how you see the hand of God at work. Release your story to him and give him permission to use it when he wants, how he wants. Embrace it.. it’s beautiful…

Day 2- Love Your People

Reconciled Week Five Day Five

To live a life reconciled to God is such a beautiful promise. God created a way to reconcile us to himself, choosing not to count our sins against us and then gave us the ministry of reconciliation. Next week we will talk more about the ministry of reconciliation. Today let’s focus on our prayer life with God.

Growing up I always said my dinner prayers, morning prayers, and bedtime prayers. I had little chunks of time that I was “suppose” to pray. I would say basically the same thing at each prayer time, going through the script I had created for my daily prayers. When I got older I began to realize that prayer is not just a time to go through a script, it is really just taking time to talk to God. That’s it. About everything. The good.. the bad.. the ugly. It is such a beautiful time to lay our requests before his throne and to boldly ask for the things we need. It is a time to thank him, and a time to step in the gaps for those who aren’t strong enough to pray for themselves. It’s such a holy experience that can produce so much peace and fruit in our lives. No wonder the enemy tries so hard to trick us into just a daily to do list of prayer.

Prayer is our greatest tool for this battle. It is inviting God to do what only he can do and it takes the focus off of us and onto him.

Look at the following verses about prayer. Then take some time to ask God to strengthen your prayer life. To give you the courage to begin to ask him questions.. simple questions.. hard questions.. questions in between. As we begin to invite him into our hearts through prayer, we will begin to see his power explode in our lives.

1 John 5:14-15 ” 14 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.”

2 Chronicles 7:14 “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

Ephesians 6:18 “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”

James 5:13-16 “13 Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”

Reconciled Week Five Day Four

Do you ever wish your life tied up in a pretty little bow? Like the house was always spotless, with everything constantly in it’s place. Your children were always clean and proper and they always made good grades and looked like they walked out of a magazine instead of out of a candy factory.. Your husband came home at 5 every night with roses or chocolate and you had dinner on the table with a smile on your face… Your clothes were always ironed and your weight was always ideal. Your family would laugh around the dinner table and everyone would smile and it would be beautiful?

Me too. But it doesn’t. My life looks more like a circus than a movie scene out of the 50’s.

I think the chaos of life often times causes us to pray prayers like “God please help me be more productive.” “God please help me to not screw up my kids too badly.” “God please help my husband look past the mess tonight.” “God please help me lose the extra weight quickly.” “Please God fix it.”

Now, I am not saying we shouldn’t pray prayers like these sometimes, but what if there is a better way?

What if letting Jesus hold you in the middle of your chaos is more important than trying to get God to fix your chaos?IMG-1648.PNG 

The Israelites knew a thing or two about chaotic environments. They spent most of their time wandering around, fighting, and grumbling. In Deuteronomy Moses reminds them of their journey with God out of Egypt and into the promised land. Let’s look at Deuteronomy 1:27-31 NIV together.

“You grumbled in your tents and said, “The Lord hates us; so he brought us out of Egypt to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us. Where can we go? Our brothers have made our hearts melt in fear. They say, ‘The people are stronger and taller than we are; the cities are large, with walls up to the sky. We even saw the Anakites there.’” Then I said to you, “Do not be terrified; do not be afraid of them. The Lord your God, who is going before you, will fight for you, as he did for you in Egypt, before your very eyes, and in the wilderness. There you saw how the Lord your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place.”

The Israelites had been in slavery for years, but even in their freedom they found things chaotic and messy. Can you relate? In verse 27 they said, “The Lord hates us, so he brought us out of Egypt to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us.”

Do you ever feel like God delivered you from one place or situation just to let you fail and fall into the hands of another hopeless situation?

I have.. But Moses’ words in verses 30-31 encourage me: “The Lord your God, who is going before you, will fight for you, as he did for you in Egypt, before your very eyes, and in the wilderness. There you saw how the Lord your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place.”

What did God do in the wilderness?

After reconciliation, life will still be messy. There will still be seasons and things that we have to overcome, but during the hard times we can trust that God will carry us.

Prayer,

Thank you that my life doesn’t tie up in a pretty little bow. I pray that during the messy, chaotic parts of life that I will remember to let you hold me. God shift my view from one of seeing only the problem, to a view of your hand at work instead. Thank you for the chaotic parts of life, they bring opportunities for you to carry me to a new place. I love you.

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen.

Reconciled Week Five Day Three

Happy Wednesday! I hope you are enjoying week five of our study! I can’t believe we’ve made it this far! I’m praying that God has been drawing your heart near through this study! Growing up a child of divorce, I learned how to adapt to different surroundings really well. My parents divorced when I was two and so growing up I had two homes. I developed a strong ability to adapt to whatever environment I was in because I wanted to fit in everywhere. If I could master fitting into my surroundings, I could make everyone happy. I just needed to figure out the environment and adapt. If I could do that and do it well, everyone would be pleased with me and the world would be a beautiful place.

As I got older, this mindset moved into my secret life with Jesus. If I could figure out the “christian” environment, and adapt really well, he would be happy with me, other would be happy with me, and all would be right in the world.

Adapting to the “christian” environment doesn’t work as well as adapting to my physical environments as a child. As I walk this journey with him, I mess up daily. I like to think that I have my environment figured out. I like to think that because Jesus and I are close, I won’t mess up… but that proves time and time again to not be the case.

If I am truly going to live everyday reconciled by God, I’ve got to come to terms with my very real humanity. If God isn’t surprised by my humanity, I shouldn’t be either.

If I’m going to still fail and mess up after he reconciled my spirit, soul, and body, how am I going to make it?

How are you going to make it?

IMG_1646.jpg

I think the key is letting Jesus hold us in the middle of our humanity. When we fail, we must run towards him, not from him. We surrender our sin quickly, and then we let him teach us in the middle of it, we will find that failing is okay, because in the failures we see him and learn from him.

 

1 John 1:8-9 NIV says “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

Today complete this challenge:

Describe a time claimed to be without sin. A time when you ran from God, not towards him. What caused you to run? How did you feel? How did you get out of the deception?

Now describe a time when you failed and you confessed your sin quickly. What was it like? How did you learn from him in the middle of it?

Write a prayer thanking God for being your safe place. Ask him to constantly remind you to run to him, not from him when you fail.