Gifts

Nailed It!

Nailed It BestJesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. -John 8:34-36

My pastor gave a sermon a couple of weeks ago in which he noted that the more convinced we are that we are wretched sinners in need of a Savior, the more we will serve Jesus with the passion of our lives. Luke 7:47 says “Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”

In our modern culture I wonder if we appreciate how serious sin truly is. Since the beginning of God’s law, mankind has been pushing back, re-interpreting and just plain fooling ourselves that we didn’t hear God quite right. Adam and Eve and that apple, Korah and his upstart followers, David and Bathsheba, Ananias and Sapphira and the lie about their gift. The world reads those stories and their take-away is that a ‘loving’ God would never be so harsh and full of wrath. God must be a narcissistic megalomaniac to demand such strict adherence to his Word, especially knowing full well that humans are natural sinners. Perhaps you’ve had that thought yourself? I know I’ve wrestled with it.

Here are a few points to ponder as you wrestle with the holiness of God and the seriousness of sin:

First of all, God is God and we are not.  in Isaiah 55:9 God says, “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Proverbs 30:3-4 reiterates this from the human perspective:

I have not learned wisdom,
    nor have I attained to the knowledge of the Holy One.
Who has gone up to heaven and come down?
    Whose hands have gathered up the wind?
Who has wrapped up the waters in a cloak?
    Who has established all the ends of the earth?
What is his name, and what is the name of his son?
    Surely you know!

It is unimaginably presumptuous for any human to think that we could even begin to understand God or His ways with the 3 pounds of gray matter in our skulls. God is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent and eternal. He somehow created everything out of nothing. He is waaaay too big and all-everything to even be conceptualized by us. In many ways it’s like trying to teach algebra to your dog. Algebra exists and its principles describe aspects of your dog’s life, but it will never be understood by your dog. However, out of His love for us and desire for relationship, He has revealed some things to us. He has placed eternity in our hearts. He has given us a conscience which understands the concept of right and wrong although we are free to override it. And He has spoken to some of us and in that way given us the Holy Scriptures containing everything we need to live our best lives. Who but the Inventor could really know that anyway? Yet from the beginning of time until now we have been trying to ‘backwards engineer’ humanity and work God right out of the equation. It’s as foolish as removing the batteries and expecting the gadget to operate properly.

Secondly, God is immutable - unchanging and unchangeable, and that quality is also true for His Holiness. Holiness is the perfection, or wholeness of God. It is a state of being. Instead of viewing holiness as God’s Law - as a set of arbitrary ‘rules’ which could be adjusted by the Author, I suggest that it is better to view holiness the way we view Scientific Law – a set of rules that describe reality in a true, universal and absolute way which are discovered rather than invented.  Isn’t it odd that we readily accept Scientific Law but so often challenge God’s Law? In Sunday School I use the analogy of space to demonstrate this concept. ‘No man may come to the Father except through Me’ has been scorned as highly intolerant for centuries. Yet, consider this statement, ‘No man may get to the moon except with a spacesuit.’ Who would challenge that? That is not an intolerant statement barring those without spacesuits from access to the moon. It is also not a statement that overlooks or rules out other valid ways of getting to the moon. Rather it is a mere statement of fact based on unchangeable Laws of Science that describe reality in a true, universal and absolute way. Heaven cannot contain even the tiniest amount of sin. The only method for sinners to enter Heaven, therefore, is to be covered by the sinless blood of Jesus. Why? I don’t know. It just is. Why is the universe expanding faster and faster rather than slowing or contracting? I don’t know. It just is.

Finally, sin is death. Sin isn’t ‘like’ death, sin IS death. It is the thing that ended immortality in the Garden and gave us a life-expectancy. As sin increased, so did disease, war, hatred and everything that is not Good. Sin is highly corrosive and highly contagious. The more it eats away at us and spreads amongst us all over our world, the more evil there is, because evil is the absence of Good. Sin opposes, corrupts, condemns and seeks to destroy Good. God is Good. And sin opposes and seeks to destroy God. It’s difficult to see how a lie here or there, a little bit of cheating or stealing, some pre-marital fun or exploring other religions could make us enemies of God. But those are evidence of our sin condition, a condition that eats away at our soul, turning us away from God and Good, making us slaves to our own pride and pleasure. The only way to regain ‘Goodness’ was to buy us back - redeem us from slavery to sin. And that is what Christ has done. Sin held us hostage, but He ransomed us with His sinless blood. He paid off our ransom and debt and nailed it to the cross, marked ‘paid in full’ for all in Heaven and earth to see. We’ve been bought at a price – a very high price. Why was that the only way? I don’t know. I don’t claim to understand it, but I believe it.

PRAYER:

Father, forgive us, for truly, we know not what we’ve done. Amen.

Stay Blessed,

Jen Jahromi


Teachable Heart

ScripturesAll Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. 2 Timothy 3:16

A teachable heart is essential for a Christian. It’s a big part of being humble. It’s vital for surrender and submission to God. And yet, so many of us stubbornly cling to our ideas, intentions and inclinations, refusing to let God’s Spirit and God’s Word do the necessary rehabilitation of our souls.

And let’s be clear: our souls do not need a little ‘sprucing up.’ It’s not a renovation or a remodel – we’re a total tear-down. All the worldly junk and decay must be cleared out, so we can be truly transformed.

Believe me, I know this is not easy. Just as it is nearly overwhelming to go through our accumulation of ‘stuff,’ which includes precious memories and sentimental trinkets, and make hard decisions to let it go, it is even more hard to let go of our ways of thinking and behaving and coping. We kept those behaviors out of habit or because they serve us. Yet we know that “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. Isaiah 55:8 The biggest theme of all four Gospels is that God, through Jesus, is turning our understanding of our world and the Kingdom of God completely upside-down.

And so, we need to be re-educated. There is a saying “The more you know, the more you know you don’t know.” It’s true. The older you get and the more you learn, you realize there is so much you didn’t understand when you were younger and more ignorant. Only the prideful say, ‘I know it all,” or “I know I’m right.” A teachable heart says, “Let me hear or learn more about this.” A teachable heart asks the Lord to point out areas where we are holding on to old patterns. A teachable heart asks to be softened and remain tender. A teachable heart appreciates loving correction by the Lord and by others because that’s the way we grow more Christlike.

There are many places in the Scriptures that are challenging to our thoughts or beliefs. When we meet with these, the important thing is to understand that it is we who need to explore more and change. When Nicodemus learned about being born again, he was challenged, but he accepted. When Mary heard the angel say she would give birth to God’s son, her understanding was challenged, but she accepted. If we lead with a teachable heart, fully surrendered to God, we can walk in His will and His ways even if we don’t completely understand. And complete understanding is impossible anyway. That’s what faith is for.

Tenderhearted Blessings,

Jen


Teachable Heart

ScripturesAll Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. 2 Timothy 3:16

A teachable heart is essential for a Christian. It’s a big part of being humble. It’s vital for surrender and submission to God. And yet, so many of us stubbornly cling to our ideas, intentions and inclinations, refusing to let God’s Spirit and God’s Word do the necessary rehabilitation of our souls.

And let’s be clear: our souls do not need a little ‘sprucing up.’ It’s not a renovation or a remodel – we’re a total tear-down. All the worldly junk and decay must be cleared out, so we can be truly transformed.

Believe me, I know this is not easy. Just as it is nearly overwhelming to go through our accumulation of ‘stuff,’ which includes precious memories and sentimental trinkets, and make hard decisions to let it go, it is even more hard to let go of our ways of thinking and behaving and coping. We kept those behaviors out of habit or because they serve us. Yet we know that “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. Isaiah 55:8 The biggest theme of all four Gospels is that God, through Jesus, is turning our understanding of our world and the Kingdom of God completely upside-down.

And so, we need to be re-educated. There is a saying “The more you know, the more you know you don’t know.” It’s true. The older you get and the more you learn, you realize there is so much you didn’t understand when you were younger and more ignorant. Only the prideful say, ‘I know it all,” or “I know I’m right.” A teachable heart says, “Let me hear or learn more about this.” A teachable heart asks the Lord to point out areas where we are holding on to old patterns. A teachable heart asks to be softened and remain tender. A teachable heart appreciates loving correction by the Lord and by others because that’s the way we grow more Christlike.

There are many places in the Scriptures that are challenging to our thoughts or beliefs. When we meet with these, the important thing is to understand that it is we who need to explore more and change. When Nicodemus learned about being born again, he was challenged, but he accepted. When Mary heard the angel say she would give birth to God’s son, her understanding was challenged, but she accepted. If we lead with a teachable heart, fully surrendered to God, we can walk in His will and His ways even if we don’t completely understand. And complete understanding is impossible anyway. That’s what faith is for.

Tenderhearted Blessings,

Jen


Love for Breakfast

Breakfast Special revised big bestNo one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us. 1 John 4:12

I recently went to breakfast with my Aunt. It has always been my favorite meal of the day, but I hadn’t been out for breakfast in a long time.  The crepes were delicious.

But what really made that meal special was sharing it with my Aunt. She is pretty much all that is left of my family now, and hearing her side of family events is precious. I helped her fill out her Health Care Directive and Living Will and filled out mine as well. Working on it together made the task much less difficult and it was nice to get clarity on situations that might not be all that far off for either of us.

Pancakes and bacon are a wonderful way to start a day, but fellowship and loving-kindness are much sweeter, and the joy lasts way longer. Besides, tenderness and patience won’t go straight to your hips!

When I drew the above illustration, I was still a relatively new Christian. I included those specific attributes because although I might have thought I exhibited those, the truth is, until I became a Christian, I really did not. I tried to be kind and devoted and patient when it suited me, but too many times, when it got hard, I gave up on people. I often tried to ‘look on the bright side’ of things, but in my heart, I always expected the worst. My positive outlook was generally me being a bit delusional about how bad some situations truly were, so that I wouldn’t have to deal with them – ‘spin’ you might say.

As a bit of a lonely loner, I thought I was humble. But in reality, I had a high opinion of myself and my talents, and I enjoyed accolades and compliments. My striving could be very competitive at times, as well. I had no faith, little hope and no clue what true love really was.

In any self-help program, the first step is admitting that you have a problem. Christianity is no different. To make the hard decision to follow the narrow path of The Way, we must first accept that we are sinners. Sinners are on a path that leads to sorrow and utter destruction. Luckily, we have a Savior who has cured this condition of our soul by ransoming us with his own life. He was sent by God, and if we follow Him, His Commands, His Holy Scripture and the Holy Spirit within us, we can be transformed from the inside out from sinners headed for destruction to saints headed for Heavenly eternity.

Nearly 30 years later, I can look back on my life and see the difference. My values, character and desires have been completely rearranged. And for those that weren’t, I learned the proper way to achieve them. I learned how to love, how to serve, how to be patient, and how to trust God in every circumstance. My life looks very different from how I imagined it at 22. I have made choices that baffled my family and friends, and even baffled me at the time. But I knew I was following God’s will with each of them. I haven’t been disappointed, and I have no regrets. This Christian life is not easy, and I spend a lot of time readjusting my natural, worldly tendencies to do what Jesus would do. I’m far from perfect (or even good) at it. But it has been a rewarding adventure that has transformed me into a person I’m mostly proud to be, and someone I never knew I COULD be.

I had few Christian role models in my life. Those I did have wooed me with their kindness, patience, tenderness, humility and love. “…If we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.” People will SEE and KNOW God through us, and our actions! What a wonderful honor it is to carry God to those longing for a better life – here and now, and eternally.

Blessings of fellowship,

Jen


Guiding and Satisfying

Good Things heart onlyIsaiah 57:15-19

New International Version

15 For this is what the high and exalted One says—

    he who lives forever, whose name is holy:

“I live in a high and holy place,

    but also with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit,

to revive the spirit of the lowly

    and to revive the heart of the contrite.

16 I will not accuse them forever,

    nor will I always be angry,

for then they would faint away because of me—

    the very people I have created.

17 I was enraged by their sinful greed;

    I punished them, and hid my face in anger,

    yet they kept on in their willful ways.

18 I have seen their ways, but I will heal them;

    I will guide them and restore comfort to Israel’s mourners,

19     creating praise on their lips.

Peace, peace, to those far and near,”

    says the Lord. “And I will heal them.”

If you have been blessed to have many friends and family to guide and counsel you, you should definitely count yourself blessed. For much of my life I was not so blessed. As an only child, I had to figure out things by myself. And I had a hard time developing friendships. My parents were sympathetic and helpful in some areas, but not in others. No cousins and no nearby aunts or uncles left me kinda adrift when it came to guidance.

Without much good guidance and wise counsel, I turned to television, books and movies for inspiration. Later I delved into self-help books of all genres. Eventually I gained friends and had the benefit of their advice. However, they all left something to be desired. I felt a nagging feeling that there was a better way out there somewhere, if only I could find it.

It wasn’t until I began following Jesus that I realized good and godly guidance was a big part of Christianity, and the part of ‘life’ that I had been missing. As I dug into God’s Word, I began a life-long process of UN-learning what the world, television, misguided gurus and well-meaning friends had taught me about the meaning of life, setting goals, how to treat people and my own personal behavior. When I look back, the pile of wrong assumptions, selfish behavior and misadventures was huge.

Slowly I replaced those thoughts and behaviors with those in God’s instructions for us. I clearly remember the first day I ever read 1 Corinthians 13, the love passage. I was so shocked I said aloud, ‘I’ve never seen anyone live this way!’ In fact, each of those character traits’ reverse flaw is the subject of numerous movies, shows and plays!

And so, little by little the sure and steady guidance of the Lord has satisfied me with good things – things like unconditional love, self-control, joy, self-respect, freedom from debilitating fear and anxiety, etc. And I have learned the joy of a Jesus-centered marriage partnership, the pleasures of a Church family, the happiness that serving others can bring, the satisfaction of using your God-given talents to serve God’s Kingdom.

And this guidance is available to all of us. Just type into Google, “what the Bible says about…” and fill in your current issue or interest. I had pages of those in the back of my first and best Bible. That section is worn out from use. I can tell you, in the beginning, every verse surprised me because it was so different from what I wanted to do. All these years later I’m much better at guessing ‘what would Jesus do?’ As you read and listen and learn more, the blessings will begin to fall down: positive resolutions to crises, healed relationships, personal growth, all kinds of overcoming and breakthroughs!

God so loved the world He gave us Jesus to teach us and guide us into the best possible life we could have – the life God designed us to have. Fulfillment begins in letting the Lord guide you and satisfy you with good things.

PRAYER: Lord, on this Valentine’s Day Ash Wednesday, remind us that true love is surrender and sacrifice. It’s not about me. It’s about You, Lord. Make me an instrument of Your love and peace and set me to Your purposes.

Blessings,

Jen


Write it on Your Heart

Letter from Christ4 Attention, Israel!

God, our God! God the one and only!

5 Love God, your God, with your whole heart: love him with all that’s in you, love him with all you’ve got!

6-9 Write these commandments that I’ve given you today on your hearts. Get them inside of you and then get them inside your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning to when you fall into bed at night. Tie them on your hands and foreheads as a reminder; inscribe them on the doorposts of your homes and on your city gates. Deuteronomy 6:4-9 The Message

The passage above from Deuteronomy is known as the Shema Yisrael (O, Hear Israel) or Shema for short. It was and still is the centerpiece of morning and evening Jewish prayers. Many Jews teach their children to say it at bedtime and many Jews say it as their last words. It is a statement of faith and a command to be faithful, and most of all to carry God with you throughout every part of your day.

The last part, “inscribe them on the doorposts of your homes” was taken literally and evolved into the mezuzah. A Mezuzah is a small piece of parchment on which the verses above are inscribed in indelible ink by a Jewish scholar. It is rolled up and placed in a small case and affixed on the doorposts of the home (and maybe every doorway in the home).

After watching a few recent episodes of The Chosen, I noticed all the characters kissing their fingers and touching their doorposts as they left their homes and I remembered the mezuzah. It seemed like a good practice to me to remember the Lord on our comings and goings and so we got one (from Amazon, of course) and installed it. It’s been a hard habit to establish, but I’m working on it.

When I was a parent of small children, I was more diligent about talking about the Lord, His Law and our faith when we were ‘walking along the road’ or more likely driving in the car. We had our best religious discussions there, figuring out what Jesus would do in situations at school, how we could be more self-controlled, or loving, or whatever. I also committed to listening primarily to Christian radio which helped focus my heart on God.

Of course, all the inspirational signs and verses, Christian songs, mezuzahs, cross necklaces, etc. won’t be worth anything at all if the Lord and His Commands are not written on your heart. God, Jesus and their Holy Scriptures need to become a part of our daily life and daily focus. We need to tuck those special verses down deep in our hearts and minds to be there for us in times of distress. When there’s no Bible handy, what is in your heart? Do verses come to mind? Perhaps some hymns? We need these as guardrails on the road of life to keep our eyes focused on Jesus as we endure the race to the finish.

If you “love God, your God, with your whole heart: love him with all that’s in you, love him with all you’ve got,” then there should be joy in hiding Him and His Word in your heart.  He loved us so much He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him will have eternal life. We have a debt of gratitude we never could repay. But we can put the Lord first in our heart, first in our minds and first in our lives.

Blessings,

Jen


Your Secret Heart

i Secret heart autocorn·teg·ri·ty

/inˈteɡrədē/

noun

1. the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness.

2. the state of being whole and undivided.

I had a full hysterectomy ten days ago. It got me to thinking: on the outside, except for 5 tiny incisions and a couple of bruises, I look exactly the same as I did; however, on the inside there has been a radical transformation that affects multiple bodily systems. I am not less than, or more than I was, but I am forever changed. In some ways you could say I am no longer ‘whole.’ And my current internal condition of healing from major surgery does not match my outside look of health.

And I pondered on that thought as well. Because, truly, none of us really knows what is going on inside another person, even a loved one, physically and emotionally. Even when we try to share, obstacles of language and perception and experience keep us from really knowing. Not to mention the societal pressure to put on masks of happiness, success, goodness, etc. And of course, there are a surprising number of people who lead ‘secret lives’ of addiction, infidelity, crime, etc.

This lack of “integrity” or wholeness, where your inner self does not match your outside persona can be very stressful. It can lead to depression, despair, troubled relationships, and all kinds of unhappiness. In many ways it is our “human condition,” but God never intended that for us, and it’s one of the things Jesus died to save us from. Jesus came to free us from the burden of unconfessed sin, and the shame and guilt of living lives of sin while pretending we have it all together.

To experience this freedom in Christ, we need to undergo a radical internal transformation. Not major surgery like me, but a heart transplant by Dr. Jesus. Allow Him to remove our heart of stone (the one that stubbornly wants to go its own way and solve its own problems) and allow Him to replace with a heart of flesh that responds tenderly to God and has compassion on our fellow humans. When we pray to receive Jesus as our Lord and Savior, the Holy Spirit comes and dwells within us, making us righteous before God, even as day to day we struggle with sin still.

For as high as the heavens are above the earth,

    so great is his love for those who fear him;

as far as the east is from the west,

    so far has he removed our transgressions from us. Psalm 103:11-13

Nevertheless, this is integrity: making our outside match our inside. Once we have the Righteousness of Christ within us, we need to become persons of integrity, making godly choices of honesty, goodness, faithfulness, etc. We need to do the right thing even when no one is watching. And although we will still struggle, there is freedom in knowing that there is no more shame or condemnation. We are free to confess our struggles to our Christian brothers and sisters knowing they will empathize and encourage us, telling us the truth in love.

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. Romans 8:1-2

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. James 5:16

In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us. Titus 2:7-8

Jesus brings wholeness and healing to a world full of people who are broken, ashamed, guilt-ridden and caught up in a worldly system that rewards secret sin, double-dealing, and wearing masks to keep others from seeing us as we truly are. Jesus personifies deep, intimate relationship – with Him and with others. That is so unfamiliar to many of us, it might seem scary. But being fully known and fully seen is the most wonderful freedom we can experience.

Blessings of Integrity in every sense,

Jen


The Shoes of Peace

Peace on Earth 001 col enh mid-20 cont 10Wear shoes on your feet which are the Good News of peace. Ephesians 6:15 NLV

Peace. It’s a wonderful word. It can be a greeting, a prayer, a wish, a sign ✌. Growing up, people used that word a lot, and no wonder, for we were at war at the time, although I didn’t know it. For most of my life peace was just the opposite of war. For many people today I think it still is. But biblical peace is so much more and so much better than a mere end to war.

For one thing, peace as an end to war and strife is not really achievable on this side of Heaven. I used to think it was, and I spent a lot of time working towards it. But as long as there are leaders who are willing to fight to take what is not theirs, there will be war. As long as there are tribes of people who believe that their tribe is the best and the others should be subjugated or eliminated, there will be war. War comes whether we want it or not because war is the embodiment of evil.

Of course, this is not news to Jesus! He knew from the beginning of time that it would be this way. And so, one of the best parting gifts He left us was His peace.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27 NIV

Jesus didn’t leave us ‘peace on earth,’ which is so dependent on the behavior of others. He left us ‘His peace.’ And His Good News of Peace are the shoes we should be walking in daily. In our walk with Christ, we need to walk in His peace – that inner peace, that sense of calm, that knowing that everything will work out just as it is supposed to, according to His plan. Walking in shoes of Peace is walking in full trust in the Lord. He is the One who will be doing the fighting – fighting for us. Therefore, our shoes are laced-up sandals, nimble and simple, not heavy jackboots. With our shoes of Peace, we can be ready for anything, and anxious about nothing. Knowing that God is totally in control frees our minds from dwelling on every negative possibility. It allows us to rest and dwell in calm.

The best thing about Jesus’ peace is that it is available to each and every one of us. In these modern times of overwhelming stress and anxiety, we can slip on the shoes of Peace and rest in the Lord. And even better, these shoes of Peace allow us to be ready – ready to face the day and whatever and whoever comes into it, and ready to share the Gospel of Peace with others who need it. Emptying ourselves of our worry and fretting and fear frees us to relax and trust God. And in that calm, relaxed state we will be ready to receive our Divine instructions: to go or say or write or do whatever the Lord asks of us.

I’m usually a barefoot girl, but I’m strapping on my shoes of Peace every morning, along with the full armor of God, so I can be ready for anything. After all, the impossible is possible with God.

Blessings,

Jen


The Boy Who Changed Time

Once upon a time, life was going along, as it does, one day, one year, one century at a time. Civilization marked time by kings’ and emperors’ rules or by major disasters. And then, 2,024 years ago something so amazing, noteworthy and important happened that much of the world decided to mark all of time by it.

Almighty God, the Maker of all of Creation, Master of the Universe, all knowing and all powerful – the God who knows the number of hairs on YOUR head, and tears that YOU’VE cried, decided to set aside His glory and power and come to earth as a human…Immanuel, God with us.

In Greek, Roman, Norse and other mythologies, gods came to earth, but they came as grown adults. And even if they disguised themselves as humans, they still retained their power. They were, after all, gods! But our God came as a helpless, totally dependent, tiny baby who could not even communicate His needs except by crying, just as every human has. He took on frail flesh that gets too hot and too cold, is easily torn by thorns and splinters, and suffers aches and pains. He took on a digestive system that had to eat un-refrigerated food of whatever quality was available and was subject to the indignity of urination and elimination. He got colds, bruises, and scrapes just like the rest of us.

He willingly took on the mind of a man, small and limited as it was. He had to endure the teasing and taunts of schoolmates, rivalry of siblings, rude comments of neighbors, irrational rulings of Roman leaders and bad religious teachings of Rabbis. He loved. He laughed. He suffered loss. He had days of joy and celebration. He had to work with His hands to earn a living for most of His life.

All of this was indignity enough for an omnipotent, omniscient God. At least He would be born to wealth and royalty and enjoy the best humanity had to offer with many to serve Him, right? No. The One who spun the planets into orbit chose parents who were remarkable only in their faith in Him. And He engineered circumstances that would have Him born in an animal stable with a feeding trough for a crib! His birth attendants were stinky, outcast shepherds. And soon He would become an immigrant in a country with a different language and culture. Nevertheless, numerous angelic visitations, the Heavenly Host’s singing, the appearance of a supernatural star and visitors from the east bearing unexpected, expensive gifts all confirmed that this, indeed, was no ordinary baby.

The Good News of the birth of the Messiah, the Deliverer, the Savior of the world, God made flesh, was SO good, that everyone who heard it, had to tell it. The shepherds woke up sleepy Bethlehem with their shouts of joy. The caravan parade of camels and donkeys loaded with a royal entourage and gold and incense no doubt stirred the whole region up. Simeon and Anna created a scene at the Temple, telling everyone that they had witnessed the Messiah.

7 During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. 8 Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered 9 and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him 10 and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek. (Hebrews 5:7-10)

14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16)

That news was, and IS, SO good, and SO important that two millennia later in a place far, far away we flip the calendar and begin to write 2024. Anno domini, Year of Our Lord, Two Thousand Twenty-Four.

Blessings,

Jen


Martin, Martin, Jesus and You

Kingml-pray-kneel-group“I cannot choose but adhere to the word of God, which has possession of my conscience; nor can I possibly, nor will I even make any recantation, since it is neither safe nor honest to act contrary to conscience! Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God! Amen.”
― Martin Luther

“But in the final analysis, racial discrimination must be uprooted from American society because it is morally wrong.  It must be uprooted from American society because it is sinful.  And somewhere we have seen in all of the major religious faiths something that tells us that there is something immoral and sinful about segregation and discrimination.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

I was speaking to the Sunday School kids asking them what the next holiday was on our calendar. They didn’t know or remember that it was MLK Day on Monday. Next, I asked if they knew who MLK was named after. Again crickets. (One did remember that 'he had a dream') I told them how both men were ministers of God who had the courage of their convictions. They endured hardship, rebuke, imprisonment and exile for their beliefs – beliefs that were straight from the pages of God’s Word, the Bible, which they both held so dear.

A few thousand years earlier, another upstart with a following dared to speak truth to power regardless of the consequences. He feared God much more than anything that man could do.

Psalm 56:11-13

11 in God I trust and am not afraid.
    What can man do to me?

12 I am under vows to you, my God;
    I will present my thank offerings to you.
13 For you have delivered me from death
    and my feet from stumbling,
that I may walk before God
    in the light of life.

And He did stir up the hornet’s nest with His teachings. The Roman authority was annoyed by the crowds He drew, the Jewish King had sought to have him killed just for being born, and the religious leaders were so threatened by Him they held an illegal trial at night with paid lying witnesses. In the end, He was martyred. Of course, His loss was all our gain. As Martin Luther’s amazing quote points out: "Lord Jesus, You are my righteousness; I am Your sin. You took on You what was mine, yet set on me what was Yours. You became what You were not, that I might become what I was not."

As the signs of the times make it clearer that upheaval and tribulation could be headed our way, with increased persecution for men and women of faith, we will need to become like those famous Martins and dare to stand firm on our convictions. In order to do that, we need to examine our faith and convictions. What does God ask of us? What would Jesus do? We must be sure of the Truth so that we can humbly assert our beliefs and give an answer for the reason for our joy in the face of trials when others ask. We must be ready to quiet ourselves and allow the Holy Spirit to give us the words when we are challenged. We will not be able to remain silent without compromising our faith. In fact, we are already at that point.

Psalm 118:6-9

The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid.
    What can mere mortals do to me?
The Lord is with me; he is my helper.
    I look in triumph on my enemies.

It is better to take refuge in the Lord
    than to trust in humans.
It is better to take refuge in the Lord
    than to trust in princes.

Rise up men and women of faith and dare to speak God’s Truth and God’s Love into a world which is sorely lacking both.

Blessings,

Jen


New Year, Less You

New Life BestTherefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 2 Corinthians 5:17

I have often heard it said that the scariest thing to a creative person is a blank page or canvas. While it is blank it holds endless possibilities, but as marks are made, opportunities for change diminish and the potential for imperfection increases. A new year can feel the same way. The reality is, though, that January is an arbitrary time for a New Year. The Chinese do New Year in February, the Persians in mid-March and the Jewish faith in September. So truly, any day is the perfect day to begin again.

Author James R. Sherman wrote, “You can’t go back and make a new start, but you can start right now and make a brand-new ending.” Only by initiating and maintaining new habits can you bring about a new result in your life. It really isn’t hard to accomplish a big achievement by breaking it down into small, manageable, easy to do steps. So, for all those ‘old dogs,’ ‘new tricks’ ARE possible.

God loves newness and new things. “Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. Romans 6:4” He’s completely in the Renovation business…New Covenant, new life, new heart, new mindset, New Heaven and New Earth.

New is exciting. New is fresh and different. New can fool us into thinking we can escape our past or ourselves. I believe that’s why some young people are always calling for Revolution. Revolution is easy – tear it all down and have a clean slate. But God knows that the transforming and rebuilding, the work and the struggle are the best teachers. We don’t need a Revolution, we need a Renovation – a Transformation, and that is just what God gives us.

2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2

29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. Romans 8:29

18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18

As we start the new year yearning to give up things: pounds, dessert, smoking, bad habits, etc., remember that the most important thing we can lose is ourselves: our will, our way, our control. The world begins January with “New Year – New You,” but God says, “New Year – Less You. And MORE Jesus.”

30 He must become greater; I must become less.” John 3:30

So, grab that ‘Read the Bible in a Year’ guide, or a prayer calendar, prayer journal, witnessing how-to, or spiritual exercise book, and commit to making Jesus a habit in your life this year. You won’t regret it. We all know this world needs more Jesus, and so do each of us. And here’s a wonderful promise:

“…being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6”

Happy Transforming,

Jen