Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Keeping Your Eyes on Jesus




“But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, ‘Lord, save me!’”  Matthew 14:30

Peter, having overcome his fear of Jesus, decided to walk on the water, too!  He was wise enough to wait until Jesus told him it was all right to try.  Then he clambered over the side of his boat to go to Him.

As soon as you get over your fear of the supernatural by recognizing and acknowledging God’s lordship over everything in heaven and on earth, you will want to experience that power for yourself.  I believe, for example, that Jesus could do extraordinary things.  Not only could He heal sick people, He could keep His temper, be unselfish, and always say the right thing.

Can I do what Jesus did?  Can I stride over the circumstances of my life in triumph?  Can I walk over the waters of worries and fears?  Yes, if I keep my eye on Him.

Peter unfortunately forgot who was keeping him afloat, and started to look at the reasons he should be sinking.  As soon as you do that, you are sunk!  “… Beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord save me!’” (v. 30).  Peter had been afraid to face the supernatural.  Having overcome that fear, he then became afraid he couldn’t depend on God to see him through.

It’s a matter of keeping your eye on Jesus, not on the storm.  And remember, if you begin to sink, cry out to Him.  He will put out His hand and save you.  It’s important to Him that you succeed!


Blessings,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Director

Monday, August 29, 2011

Discontent

God is what our souls are made for. Everything else keeps us restless.
By Jennie Allen

The first time I taught Stuck I asked a roomful of women a simple question.

“When was the last time you felt jealous?”

These were women with children and jobs, not junior high girls, and yet there was not one woman who had not felt jealous in the past week. Most had felt it creep in within the past few hours.

Our eyes seem to always be searching for what we want or do not have – both on the surface, such as pretty things in catalogues, and the deeper hidden things, like better marriages or even just to be married.

When we were knit together, God spent some time knitting parts of us to need Him. We were created to matter – to be known and seen – and once seen, to be loved no matter what.

These desires are innate – God knit these spaces into us.

He wanted us to need Him. Funny thought really, God of the universe creating spaces in little people so we would need Him, possibly want Him, and be incomplete without Him. But we don’t want Him. We never have.

We hunger to the point of starving for Him and yet we still don’t turn to Him; instead we chase wind.

I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and indeed, all is vanity and grasping for the wind. Ecclesiastes 1:14 (NKJV)

Here is the problem with us. We don’t go to war against invisible soul-sickening sin. We deal with the big, showy, impressive sin that everyone sees. But the invisible stuff is trickier, sneakier and deadlier. Discontentment in the forms of jealousy, comparison and greed is making us sick, washing over our minds constantly. And yet we are so accustomed to it, we have become numb.

Stuck. The more this word is tossed about in my head the more I become angry. I am angry at the devil, at myself, at this world. I am angry that such small and insignificant dreams would bind us so tightly that we live disappointed and paralyzed.

While we compare and long and wait and ask and save and spend and flaunt and pretend and cry and whine and tear down and puff up and stare and wish and ignore and complain and demand and search and find... we are missing something. I think we might be so distracted we are missing everything that lasts.

“My soul is restless until it finds its rest in thee.” – St. Augustine

God is what our souls are made for. Everything else keeps us restless.

What makes you restless?


Jennie Allen is a Bible teacher who is passionate about inspiring a new generation of women to encounter the invisible God. Raised in a Christian home, Jennie heard about God her entire life but not until high school did she see her need for Him. Since that time she has been teaching groups of girls and young women about her God. Her first Bible study, Stuck: The Places We Get Stuck and the God Who Sets Us Free, will release in September 2011. To sample Stuck, visit www.StuckDVDStudy.com. For more on Jennie, visit www.jennieallen.com.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Nothing's Changed but Me




What happens when you walk out of the door and into your day?  Will you walk in His way?  Do you make sure you’re ready for whatever happens?  Will you handle yourself well, as becomes a child of the King?  Will you bless the people God brings your way in the marketplace, home, or church?  Will they wonder why they felt the breath of God as you silently prayed for them in passing?  Will you encourage a friend, give a book, make a phone call, or pray with someone today?  Will you weep with those who weep?  Or will you be carrying your personal “heart concerns” with you, becoming so absorbed that you see no one, speak to no one, touch no one, bless no one?

Do you sleep restlessly, subconsciously convinced that the big bad wolf is crouching outside “day’s door,” waiting for you?  Do you have a devotional time before you venture forth?  If you do, do you ever wonder to yourself, “Why did I bother to do that?  That was a waste of time. What good did it do?  Nothing’s changed!”

One night, before a busy and what promised to be a difficult day, I determined to get up early in the morning and pray for these pressing personal needs.  At the end of my time on the Steps of my Soul, I put all my heart concerns at the foot of the cross, opened the door of my day and walked out.  The proverbial wolf growled.  I knew it!

At that moment I heard a voice behind me saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”  Then, “So, Jill, while I’m working with the things you left in my hands, what are the things that you will be working with that I have left in your hands?”

I stopped dead in my tracks for as soon as the door of my day had closed behind me, I was already worrying about the very things I had risen early to talk to Him about!  How silly.  And how could I tell Him I would need all my energy to worry about my things that day and didn’t think I’d have much time left over to think about anyone else’s problems?  Of course, I didn’t have to tell Him anything!

“What would it feel like,” I thought, “if I walked free, leaving Him to look after the things that were important to me, while I looked after the things that were important to Him?  What would my day look like if I really believed He was putting His eternal mind to the problems that had been weighing me down and that I had, supposedly, left at His feet?”

That day I decided to find out ─ and believe.  (Did I hear an angel say, “About time.”?)  Jesus was, I reasoned, quite capable of sorting the problems out!  Now I could focus on my “day off” from running the universe!  Whew ─ that felt so good!

That night (nothing had changed but me); I was ready to sleep soundly.  I couldn’t wait to get up early, however late I got to sleep, and begin all over again!

With Love,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor


From Faith Dancing
   

Nothing’s changed but me,
Well, not immediately!
He promised He would put His mind
To all the things I’ve left behind.
So why should I spend time in town
To tend to things that take me down?
Trust is the key.
While nothing’s changed but me!

Nothing’s changed but me,
Useless, I used to be.
I’d worry on and fuss and fret
And now, though nothing’s changing yet:
The situation looks as bad ─
The lost are lost, the found are sad,
And yet, I’m free!
Yes! Nothing’s changed but me.

I lay my deep dark fearfulness
Down at the cross, and here profess
I’ll pray, and rest, and trust my way
To Him through many a worrying day.
What liberty!
Yet nothing’s changed but me!  

Monday, August 15, 2011

Mad

by Jennie Allen



A few weeks ago I sat down across from a good friend. We’ve done life and ministry together for years. She came over to share some things she recently heard someone else say about me, fearing they might be true. They were selfish, ugly things, and upon hearing them the room started spinning and my stomach turned over. It was one of those moments when you want to fight someone, or retreat and cry all night in a pillow.


Nothing she said was close to true. I felt misrepresented, misunderstood and judged. I was as mad as I was hurt.

Anger is my reaction when my rights are being taken from me. We get angry about what we think we deserve. I think most of my life I have held on to a right to be understood. These are often the times I get most mad at my husband or those around me. I think I deserve to be understood and represented fairly.

As followers of Christ, what are our rights?

I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20 (NKJV)


God is calling us to a surrender that is so resolute, so final that to lift our head in defense or anger would seem insane – ridiculous even. I am a bond servant of God Almighty. He is my defender. I answer to Him. Whatever wave of attack or injustice – from long grocery lines to slander – God’s call is to let it wash over me without a fight.

To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also. Luke 6:29 (NKJV)


Why would anyone live this way?


There is this mercy that runs out of God, and with it an expectation that mercy births more mercy… love births more love.

When I read the Scriptures I hear God saying to me, “You that know Me, you give up your lives as I did. I’ll help you and fill you. I will show you when and where to lay down your rights. But let’s start with your life, your expectations, your money, your family’s approval, your right to a family, your right to move quickly, your right to be successful, your right, Jennie, to be understood. Let’s start with these. Die to them.”

Turn the other cheek and die to your rights. What if God says these powerful words because He knows that turning cheeks could transform this planet? He knows that this selfish race of people would watch a ridiculous and radical abandonment of rights and insane love, and perhaps they would see God?


What if I am missing the mission of my life because I want to hold on to a few selfish rights and visions for my life? What if freedom is letting go of the very things I think I must have to be free?

What rights are you fighting for?


Jennie Allen is a Bible teacher who is passionate about inspiring a new generation of women to encounter the invisible God. Raised in a Christian home, Jennie heard about God her entire life but not until high school did she see her need for Him. Since that time she has been teaching groups of girls and young women about her God. Her first Bible study, Stuck: The Places We Get Stuck and the God Who Sets Us Free, will release in October 2011. To sample Stuck, visit www.StuckDVDStudy.com.



For more info on Jennie, visit www.jennieallen.com.


Thursday, August 11, 2011

Living Radically

“Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”  Matthew 4:19

Jesus always managed to communicate to people where they were.  He did not come to Peter and Andrew and say, “Follow Me, and I will make you astronauts, or computer experts, or preachers!”  He used terms which would be most familiar to them.  He wanted them to know there was a cost involved.  Commitment meant a radical change.  “If you follow Me, you will catch men instead of fish,” He said.  Now that was a change!

Peter and Andrew were casting their nets into the sea at the time Jesus called them.  The Bible says that “they immediately left their nets and followed Him” (Matt. 4:20).  It must have been difficult for them to drop their heavy involvement with their daily tasks and leave just at that moment.  But catching men, in all probability, always will be very inconvenient.  Jesus did not tell them to finish the job at hand and come along when they felt more inclined.  He called them, and they left their nets and came.

James and John were also busy when Jesus came by.  They were not actually casting their nets into the sea, but were mending them (see v. 21).  They “immediately” left their aging father, their nets and boats – all that they loved – and followed Him.

What are your “nets”?  Jesus is asking you to catch men and women for His kingdom.  This will involve commitment and a radical change in your lives.  Will you obey – immediately – like the early disciples?


Monday, August 8, 2011

When the Needy One is You



I buried my head into my father’s shoulder, sobbing out my fears and exhaustion after finding out my husband had collapsed and was unresponsive.  He has Type 1 Diabetes and had already been hospitalized a week.  The days seemed like years and so little progress was made towards getting better.  Each day ran into the next as once again I made my way down the long lonely hospital corridor feeling like my legs would collapse beneath me.  Never had I felt so needy, so helpless.

As a ministry leader, I was always the one helping the needy one.  Now the needy one was me!  Over the past three months as our family has faced three hospitalizations, I have had to come to grips with my neediness.  It’s an uncomfortable place, an unfamiliar place.  It’s so much easier to help others.  The Lord has been teaching me that He doesn’t want me to hide my pain.

I will never forget the end of John Paul II’s life several years ago.  Struggling with Parkinson’s, I  remember seeing images of him on TV, coming out to greet the crowds with an uncontrollable shaking hand – his body frail and feeble, his speech slurred.  Wouldn’t it have been easier to just stay inside and have someone else read a greeting?  I was greatly impacted that he didn’t hide his suffering from the world.  And by not doing so, he was teaching those of us watching how to suffer gracefully and with dignity, empowered by Christ.  Jesus Himself did not hide His suffering from the world, but hung on a cross with a crown of thorns.  Perhaps we don’t want others to see our suffering because we’re afraid they might judge it or judge us for the way we are or aren’t handling it.  At the time my life was turned upside down, I was coordinating a conference and had an impending speaking engagement.  I wrestled with what to do.  I was completely depleted.  How could I not follow through with my commitments?  Surely, if all things are possible with God I could do it.  But God gave me permission:  “Your ministry is to your husband and girls, and to take care of yourself.”  It was hard.  But, when we are traumatized by life, it takes time to heal and recover.  I needed to replenish the deepest places in my spirit so I could better serve the people of God again later.

By not being honest with others about our suffering, we also deny them the opportunity to minister to us.  Our family was literally held up by the body of Christ.  People brought meals, prayer warriors prayed, coworkers filled in the gaps, family sat with me, friends wept with me, and pastors visited us in the hospital.  Even though I was needy and weak, I know those collective gestures of support gave me the supernatural strength to make it through another long day.  It’s often when we are at our neediest that God’s greatest power is unleashed to work in our circumstances.  We all have a cross to pick up.  The weight often feels like it’s too much to bear.  Then someone grabs on and helps us.  That can’t happen if we hide our pain.

Sometimes in our desire to be an inspiration to those around us we hide what is true because what is true isn’t always inspirational.  Being in the trenches of suffering isn’t pretty.  But by not being real, we encourage each other to lead inauthentic lives.

In Sheila Walsh’s book, Honestly, she shares this story:  “My mother told me they visited a church that emphasized praising God in trials.  A woman who had just lost a baby gave thanks for the trials of her life, giving glory to the Lord, that in Him there is no need to grieve; we can continue to march on victoriously.  My mother was horrified by the woman’s apparent indifference to the loss of her child, but the congregation clapped in approval.  After the service, my mom heard someone in the bathroom weeping bitterly in one of the cubicles.  It was the mother who, having done the right thing, was now expressing her genuine emotions all alone in a dark place.”  It’s so tragic that someone in such terrible pain had to weep alone.

God much prefers us to be open about our suffering.  He allows us to feel our pain and to feel it deeply.  He sees our stress, He hears our cries, His arms carry us in our brokenness, His hands lead us through the darkness.  And He wants us to share our sufferings with the body of Christ (Gal. 6:2).  Sooner or later we are all on the stretcher.  As we let others share in our sufferings, we all come to understand a little bit more about what it means to share in the fellowship of His sufferings (Phil. 3:10).  God doesn’t want us crying alone in the dark - it’s okay when the needy one is you!
  

In His service,

Shelly Esser
Editor

Monday, August 1, 2011

Broken


By Jennie Allen



Six weeks ago our newly adopted son, Cooper, entered an entirely new universe: America. After four years of life in a Rwandan orphanage he went from porridge, cement and being invisible to endless attention, ice cream and toothpaste; to swimming, Queso and a day at the lake; to sleeping with a pillow, hugs and kisses, and three meals instead of one. And today he had his first Dr. Pepper.

Maybe it was the Dr. Pepper, but it was a hard day for him, a lot of time-outs and testing his limits. Even wild on Dr. Pepper, he breaks easily. Something in him knew and freely admitted he messed up. In limited, broken English, he whispered to me from timeout, “I sorry.”

I too break easily. And I’m really good at sin. My sin is quiet and not obvious, but very destructive. I pull off acting good pretty well, even if inside I wrestle with worry and pride and anger.

There are a lot of things about God that are a worthwhile debate. But typically the fact that we sin is not one of them. I’ve never met anyone who says they are perfect. I have, however, met a lot of people who think they are good people.
What do they mean by that? Do they mean they have good motives and do good things, or that they are just good – like warm chocolate cookies are just always good? I get the impression that when they say it, they are saying, “God thinks I am OK.”

Forgive my bluntness, but God does not think we are OK. Because we aren’t OK. Even the shiniest, best-behaved of us live at war in our souls with sin.

“He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy. -- Proverbs 28:13 (NKJV)

What if the thing we are trying to impress God with is the very thing keeping us from Him?

Often I impress the world around me with passionate, visible morality while avoiding God altogether. There is something about humility that is costly; something resembling humiliation. Humility is an outright declaration of the mess we are without God, rather than composing a beautiful existence that barely needs a savior.

I was designed to come to the end of myself again and again, until maybe after years of reaching the end of me I would consider that I had a problem.

That I might need something.
That I might be stuck.
That I might need help.
That I might need God.


We were designed to need God -- but to experience Him we need to admit that we break easily.

I have sinned. I am broken. I need God. It’s so simple… and with that, God rushes in.

When was the last time you were broken? How did God help? 


Jennie Allen is a Bible teacher who is passionate about inspiring a new generation of women to encounter the invisible God. Raised in a Christian home, Jennie heard about God her entire life but not until high school did she see her need for Him. Since that time she has been teaching groups of girls and young women about her God. Her first Bible study, Stuck: The Places We Get Stuck and the God Who Sets Us Free, will release in October 2011. To sample Stuck, visit www.StuckDVDStudy.com.

For more info on Jennie, visit www.jennieallen.com.