Gifts

Love Stands When All Else Has Fallen

Love Stands brite

Love knows no limit to its endurance, no end to its trust, no fading of its hope; it can outlast anything. It is, in fact, the one thing that still stands when all else has fallen.

1 Corinthians 13: 7-8a (J.B. Phillips New Testament)

I had the absolute joy of watching my Godson get married this weekend. Seated with my best friends and their grown children, I could not help but think back to the time when we were in their shoes. It turned out that KJ and I had been married the longest of all the couples there. It’s hard to grasp how much time has gone by and all the ways we’ve grown and changed. Through all the vicissitudes of life, our commitment to each other remains.

Marriage is a good archetype of the kind of relationship that Jesus wants to have with us. In several places in the Bible we, the Church, are referred to as the Bride of Christ. And in Revelations, we see that we will be invited to the Wedding Supper of the Lamb. Like an earthly Bride and Groom, we will be dressed in special clothing, and bound together before God with great celebration. 🎊

As in marriage, when we accept Jesus, we make a life-long (and really, eternity-long) commitment to love, honor and obey Him. We promise to be faithful to Him only. We promise to put Him first in our lives and to consider Him before all else. We accept with joy that our former way of living as an individual, caring only for our self-interest has ended, and that a new way of life has begun. We are no longer our own. We live for someone else. We are a new creation with a new name.

And like earthly marriage, our relationship deepens with time. Challenges come, mistakes are made, and we learn how to grow and become better people. As we ‘do life together’ we learn to develop joy, patience, kindness, humility and many other of the fruits of the spirit. We come to understand that true love is sacrifice and as time passes, we get better at making sacrifices: our time, our money, our desire to have our own way, to have control over where life takes us and much, much more.

At Saturday’s wedding, as the longest married couple, they stuck a microphone in our faces and asked our advice on a happy marriage. “The wife is always right,” “be each other’s best friend,” “don’t go to bed angry,” were some of our responses. But I supposed we missed the chance to mention the most important ingredient of all: Jesus. KJ was recently talking about the Trinity, saying how just as there is the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, each person also is a trinity of body, mind and spirit. A marriage should also be a trinity – the couple and Jesus. We did the first few years of our marriage without Jesus in it, and it very nearly ended. There was little fruit of the spirit, little compromise, too much self-interest, and too many hurt feelings. Once we were born again through faith, we both realized that we actually did not know what real love was. I did a deep dive into 1 Corinthians 13 and was shocked to discover that I would have to give up my pride and vanity and throw away my list of wrongs and hurts! I was called to forgive even when I didn’t want to. Suddenly our marriage was going to look much different from those we grew up around and those that surrounded us then. I am now persuaded that it is impossible to truly, selflessly love another person without Jesus in your heart.

Married or not, the Holy Spirit can do amazing, profound, transformative work in you to sanctify you and make you the perfect Bride for Jesus. And this is who we were designed to be: people fully committed to Him, people fully dependent on Him, people sacrificing their will to His and receiving in return the unimaginable love, protection and care of One who can make all things possible and invites us into His eternal home to be part of the family forever!

PRAYER: Lord of New Beginnings, bless all the couples joining their lives together this wedding season, as well as all of those who are continuing in their commitment to one another. Send healing and comfort to those who wish to be married and are not. Stir the embers of love in hearts that have grown cold. Continue to transform us as we present our lives to You as an offering. Make us holy and worthy to be Your Bride.

Blissful Blessings,

Jen


New Chapter

New ChapterWhy, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. ~James 4:14

Perspective is everything. The same situation with the same facts can be perceived completely differently by different people. Even a sentence like “Let’s eat Grandma!” can be an invitation TO dinner, or an invitation to BE dinner.

The above verse in James can be read in two different ways as well. Read with a pessimistic or fatalistic spirit, the verse could seem depressing. It expresses that we have no knowledge or control over what the future holds, and furthermore that our life is pitifully short in the grand scheme of things. Those statements are all true, although many do not care to admit it, or grasp the ultimate importance of this truth. However, read with a more optimistic, adventurous spirit, that same verse is a challenge. Life is short, so make the most of the time you have, use it wisely and step out in faith knowing that God holds it all in His hands!

Jesus told us “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32).  I really believe this. And some of the truth Jesus wants us to understand is ‘hard truth.’ You know, the kind of stuff that unsaved people don’t want to think about. Often, we, ourselves, don’t want to think about it.

Like: Life is unpredictable. There is no way to be sure what tomorrow will bring, let alone next week, or next year. Life is also unfair. Some people are born rich, beautiful or athletic while others are born poor, with lower IQs, or with disabilities. Some have loving homes, some not so much. We don’t get to choose for ourselves. Life is short. Even the longest human lifespan is a mere scratch on timeline of eternity. And death is inevitable. It comes for us all. Finally, any sense of control over these things we may feel is only an illusion.

When I reached adolescence and figured out these truths, I had that existential crisis many of us experience. What’s the point of living? Why bother going on at all? Am I just a pawn in the universe’s chess match? If you have teens and twenty-somethings in your life, I guarantee you these thoughts are in their heads. Perhaps you’ve thought them. Perhaps you still do.

That is why it is CRITICAL to understand how these truths can set you free! Life is unpredictable, that is true, so really, ALL things are possible. Amazing, wonderful, profoundly good things can be in our future! We do not know what tomorrow holds, but we can know that God holds our tomorrows. We can have a relationship with a loving God, who like the best parent ever, wants to teach us and guide us to our most fulfilling future. Sometimes the growth He wants for us is a little painful, but it is always for our best interests.

Life is sadly unfair. We do not all start at Go with $1,500 and the same number of rolls of the dice. Lucky for us, the point of life is not to own all the property and make all the money! God created us all differently with different strengths and weakness, different talents and challenges. Our goal is not to be the ‘best’ as our time and culture defines it, but to be the best version of ourselves as God defines that. And God defines that in Galatians 5:22-23 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. “

Life is short and death is inevitable. If you need deadlines to get you going the way I do, then this is a motivator! No time to put off good works, dream trips, hugs, difficult discussions, or sharing the Good News. No time to delay in attending church, raising the kids to know Jesus, reading the Bible.

But also, although death in this world is inevitable, life in the next realm is ETERNAL! One thing we have complete control over is whether we choose to have a relationship with God by accepting Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior whose perfect sacrifice cleanses our sin and enables us to spend eternity in Heaven!

This is where the adventure is begun! Accepting Jesus as the Lord of your life is a daring adventure where your needs are provided by Almighty God, an amazing journey where miracles happen every day, a wonderful new chapter of answered prayer and movements of the Holy Spirit. Start that new chapter today! You don’t know what tomorrow will bring…isn’t that exciting?

Wishing you Blessings in the New Year,

Jen

**if you didn't get my new 2022 calendar and you want one, you can purchase one at Illustrated Christian Scripture Calendar

 


Let Us Be Thankful

Let Us Be ThankfullDon’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it! ~Hebrews 13:2

As Thanksgiving approaches, I think it's appropriate to consider our many blessings. We truly live in one of the richest countries in the world, and although we still have many who are food insecure and living paycheck to paycheck or are dependent on social services, even our poorest are better off and more cared for than most people in the world today.

Most Americans are in the top 10% of worldwide wealth.  According to CNBC, “To be among the top 10 percent worldwide, you don’t even need six figures: A net worth of $93,170 will do it.

And even if you have just $4,210 to your name, you’re still richer than half of the world’s residents.” (https://www.cnbc.com/2018/11/01/how-much-money-you-need-to-be-part-of-the-1-percent-worldwide.html)

Here is what world poverty looks like, in numbers:

  • Over 1 billion people live on $2.50 per day or less, including 280 million people in extreme poverty who live on less than $1.25 per day.
  • More than 75 percent of the world’s poor populations live in rural areas and depend on agriculture for their livelihood.
  • In developing countries, the poor spend 60-80 percent of their income on food. Americans spend less than 10 percent.
  • Over 800 million people worldwide do not have enough food to eat and more than 3 million children die from malnutrition each year.
  • Nearly 1 billion people live without electricity.
  • 40 million children worldwide live without adequate shelter.
  • More than 750 million people lack adequate access to clean water.
  • 270 million children have no access to health services.
  • Nearly a billion people entered the 21st century unable to read or write.
  • 1.7 billion people do not have a bank account or access to basic financial services.

(https://finca.org/campaign/world-poverty/)

The most basic needs that we take for granted: security, literacy, electricity, clean water, availability of medicine and health services, access to banking, and adequate food, are major issues for most of the world’s people.  While we argue over how to pay for and adequately deliver these necessities to our population, many countries simply don’t provide them.

And yet, as essential as these basic physical needs are, their need for Jesus is even greater. Food and water will save their body, but only Jesus can save their soul. And we are abundantly blessed to be able to address all their needs. Missionaries, aid organizations like UMCOR, Samaritan’s Purse, Compassion International, World Vision, Bread for the World and many others take Jesus’ hands and feet and saving message of Grace all over the world to every tribe and every nation. The needs are great, and the cost is greater still.

Even in our great country, so abundantly blessed with wealth and ‘stuff,’ we face a spiritual desert. For many Americans, especially young adults, faith is not a concern.

Americans' membership in houses of worship continued to decline last year, dropping below 50% for the first time in Gallup's eight-decade trend. In 2020, 47% of Americans said they belonged to a church, synagogue or mosque, down from 50% in 2018 and 70% in 1999.

U.S. church membership was 73% when Gallup first measured it in 1937 and remained near 70% for the next six decades, before beginning a steady decline around the turn of the 21st century.

The decline in church membership is primarily a function of the increasing number of Americans who express no religious preference. Over the past two decades, the percentage of Americans who do not identify with any religion has grown from 8% in 1998-2000 to 13% in 2008-2010 and 21% over the past three years.

Church membership is strongly correlated with age, as 66% of traditionalists -- U.S. adults born before 1946 -- belong to a church, compared with 58% of baby boomers, 50% of those in Generation X and 36% of millennials. The limited data Gallup has on church membership among the portion of Generation Z that has reached adulthood are so far showing church membership rates similar to those for millennials.

(https://news.gallup.com/poll/341963/church-membership-falls-below-majority-first-time.aspx)

So, as we give grateful, unending thanks to our Creator and Almighty Father for the many blessings in our lives, let us also consider how to share those blessings with those who have such great needs. How can we serve God by serving others? How can we bring life-saving food, medicine and infrastructure to poverty-stricken areas? How can we bring the soul-saving message of Jesus’ work on the cross to generations without faith? We have what they need, let us open our hands and hearts to share generously.

She extends a helping hand to the poor and opens her arms to the needy.

~Proverbs 31:20

Blessings,

Jen


Freedom in Surrender

America autocor colenhLive as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves.

1 Peter 2:16

We Christians can talk a good game. We are so good that we can not only convince those around us, but even convince ourselves of our piety or our sold-out commitment to God. I’m speaking from personal experience here, but I suspect I’m not alone.

Of course, we can’t fool God. But He has given us a few ‘quizzes’ for us to take to gauge our true commitment. He is acutely aware of what we love in this world and what is most likely to usurp His place in our hearts. He asks us to give up the world’s security and put our trust in Him alone.

First is money and possessions. Remember that rich young ruler in Matthew 19:20-22?

The young man said to Him, “All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?”

Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”

But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

First off, it’s pretty obvious this young ruler had convinced himself of his piety! But Jesus knew exactly where his heart and thus his treasure truly lay. Money itself is not evil, just the love of it that keeps us from sharing our blessings with others and with God. Generosity is a little quiz for us.

Second is family. This one is more difficult. In Luke 14:26 Jesus says, If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.” Jewish superlatives were different than ours, but the meaning is still pretty clear: nothing and no one can retain first place in your heart. It has to be Jesus first. 

Many of us have family members who are not Christians or who do not put Christ first in their lives, and it causes friction. It is challenging to surrender our children to the Lord and allow Him to work their lives apart from our advice and desires. But as the saying goes, God has no grandchildren. No one gets to Heaven because of the faith of a family member. We all have to make our own choice and will be held accountable for our own actions and thoughts and choices. Putting God before family is another ‘quiz’.

Last is our life. This one might be the most challenging of all. The verse above touched on it, but as Christians we should be thoroughly convinced that death is not the worst thing that could happen to us. As humans, our core motivator is to stay alive for as long as possible. But as Christians, our core motivator is to do God’s will. Our hope and our trust is that Heaven and Jesus are waiting for us when our earthly mission is complete whether that is at age 1 or 100.

As he was about to be stoned to death for his unwavering belief, Acts 7:55-56 says, But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed steadily into heaven and saw the glory of God, and he saw Jesus standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand.  And he told them, “Look, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand!” “

Surrendering our life to the Lord is the key to eternal life: If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it -Luke 9:24. And 1 John 3:16 says, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.” Jesus urged us to love one another as He loved us, and He was willing to die for us, so we should accept that as a possibility. Romans 12:1 urges us to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God as true and proper worship. We must be willing to love God so much that we entrust Him with our ALL of our life to use in whatever way He chooses. Complete surrender as slaves to Christ is the hardest test.

Thank you to all the martyrs, missionaries, first responders, soldiers and sailors who have given their lives for their brothers and sisters. We honor their courage and sacrifice!

PRAYER:

Lord, we surrender our finances, our families and our whole lives to you. Help us recommit to you daily as we forgo the security of this life to place our trust fully in you. We know that true freedom is only found in following you.

Blessings,

Jen


Christmas in July Sale

60% OFF There's a sale going on at Zazzle right now that is just too good not to tell you about! It's their Christmas in July Sale and many of my most popular products are 60% Off, including cards, postcards and invitations. That's ALL cards, postcards and invitations, not just Christmas themes. So if you have a Shower, Birthday, Baptism, Anniversary or any other big occasion coming up, now is the time to order those invitations, rsvps, thank you notes and more! Here's a glimpse of some of my collections, with links for you to check out. Or peruse my store here!

AND this sale is pretty massive, so if you're in the market for any of these items, the deals are fantastic. To buy from MY store, click the link above, but Zazzle has products designed by many designers for all styles and themes! And if you have an idea for something and don't see it, just contact me and I can custom design it for you!!
 
60% Off

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