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September 2007
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November 2007

Learning From Jesus

"Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." - Jesus, Mt 11:29-30 NKJV

If ever there was anyone on earth who had a lot of responsibilities, it was Jesus.  Think about it.  He performed miracles.  He trained up baby Christians.  He spoke to huge crowds while also providing them dinner.  Oh, and lest we forget, He was responsible for the salvation of the entire world.   Minor details.   Yet in spite of it all, Jesus says that his yoke is easy and his burden is light and that we can learn from him. 

Jesus' burden was light because he never did anything that was outside of God's will for his life.  Since he was God, God's will was a little easier to discern than it is for most of us, but that is beside the point.  :)  We should take note of how Jesus reacted in his life when faced with the responsibilities before him.   Think about the following:

1) Jesus never rushed. Jesus was so steadfast in fulfilling God's plan for His life that He would not be distracted by other things while taking care of the job at hand.  Think about the story of Lazarus.  Lazarus was dying - definitely a pressing & seemingly urgent problem - but Jesus did not rush to him.  Rather, He finished what he was doing at the time, and then went to him.  Because of the right timing, God's timing, more of God's glory was seen in Lazarus' case because Jesus was able to raise him from the dead, not just cure him of a disease.  God's timing is perfect.

2) Jesus never panicked.  I think of Jesus feeding the 5000 with a few loaves of bread in this case.  Planning meals for just my husband and dogs with my schedule and set of priorities is hard enough.  I can't imagine being cool-headed enough to take care of a mass of people while my assistants (the disciples) were in a panic.  Jesus never took on more than he could handle.  He never cracked under pressure.

3) Jesus never forsook time alone with God.  Jesus took care of himself by spending time alone in prayer and communion with his Father.  He managed his schedule so effectively that regardless of the miracles that needed performing, the people that needed healing and the parables that needed telling, he still had enough margin in his life to refuel to be the best he could be.  His schedule was managed because he was never outside of God's will for his life.

Jesus is definitely someone to learn from.  He is not asking us to do any more than he has equipped us to do or that we have time enough to do.  Plus, he is even willing to get in the "yoke" of responsibility with us.   He wants our burdens to be light.  Let's learn from him.

On your own:

1) What are you saying "yes" to that may be causing you to say "no" to the one thing God has for you to do?

2) Why is it so hard to let go of your "pet" projects?


The End of Faith

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, - 1 Peter 1:3-4 NKJV

When I used to read fiction - and I loved suspense novels - I was one of those people who would look to the back of the book to make sure my favorite character made it to the end when things got intense with him or her.  Sometimes I was pleasantly surprised & sometimes I had to dig to find out what happened to them only to find that they met an untimely demise somewhere on the pages in between where I was and the end of the book.

I don't have to wonder about the end of our "story".  God has it plainly laid out for us in the pages of His word.  As Christians we are told of a hope of certainty, an incorruptible inheritance in heaven, God's dwelling place, that has been reserved specifically for us for all of eternity future.  That is the end of our story and the end of our faith - the salvation of our souls.  (1 Pe 1:9).  When we finally arrive in heaven our faith will become sight.  We won't need to have faith any more because we will finally have everything our hearts truly desire.  In the meantime, though, let's hang on to our faith so that we can live our lives to the fullest until we finally reach our destination.   How can knowing what awaits you in heaven affect how you live your life today?


Still Following the Cloud

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance.  And he went out, not knowing where he was going.  (He 11:8 NKJV)

Last week before I left for the writers' conference I read the verse above (He 11:8) as a result of a my daily reading time.  Coinciding with my daily reading was another verse about Abraham from my CBS Bible Study on Romans that spoke of the his faith and trust in God to do what God had asked him to do.  I am amazed once again, although I shouldn't be, at how God times things so perfectly in order to speak to us.   The timing of my daily reading, the bible study and the writers' conference was no coincidence.   

It has been almost a year and a half since I went to CLASS to spy out the "land" of speaking and writing.  A lot of things have happened since that time.  I've tried to follow the cloud of God's direction even through times when it seemed that I was in the cloud - in the fog.  I keep a watchful eye and listening ear ready to hear the whisper of God to me through the my daily Bible reading, people, events and circumstances in my life.  I'm trying to walk and not run so that I do not get ahead of God.  After all, I want to follow the cloud, not get ahead of it. 

I'm not sure where the cloud is going, but I am following it nonetheless.   I'm still processing my thoughts from the writers' conference.  I'm doing the best I can to sort out all of the paths that lay before me and choose the path that God wants for me.  I've made a difficult decision to eliminate a good but not best choice from my schedule.  And I am making a concentrated effort to walk and not run.  That's probably the best choice since I'm still somewhat walking in the cloud.

Questions for your journey:

1) Where has God told you to go in this season of your life?  Are you "going"?

2) What is stopping you from going to the place of your inheritance?

3) What can you do today that will enable you to get started in your "journey"?


What God Requires

He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?  - Micah 6:8

Sigh.  How do I boil down a mountaintop experience of five days into a 300-400 word blog post?  If you read my last post, you would know that last week I was at the Glorieta Christian Writers' Conference in New Mexico. It was another step in this trek of my life the past couple of years that without a doubt will propel me further into God's plan for my life. 

There were over 300 people there including editors, publishers and writers (both published and aspiring).  We spent time together as a large group, together in smaller workshops and "together" as we networked during meal times trying to get "face time" with an editor or publish to pitch our ideas in the hopes of making a publishing dream come true.  Not to mention that we had opportunities to meet one on one with an editor/publisher of choice.   We even met with God as we sang praises to His name.   What an experience! 

Yes.  What an experience.  I think I've had several "out of the box" of my comfort zone experiences in the past couple of years as I seek to follow God's direction.  As I reflect on the past week, I can say I've learned (or re-learned in some cases) ...

  • how much I need to learn.
  • that I am a minnow in the ocean of Christian publishing.
  • that excitement, fear, joy, peace, overwhelm, faith & anticipation combined together make a pretty interesting cocktail of emotions.
  • that preserving daily quiet time with God no matter what else is going on in life (i.e. a writers' conference) really does give an extra measure of strength.
  • that one can survive for five days with 4-5 hours of sleep each day.
  • that I must re-evaluate my priorities so that they align with the direction I'm sensing God wants me to take.
  • that other Christians in the speaking/publishing industries really do want to help those of us trying to get started.
  • that all God really wants is for us to seek His face.  He will take care of navigating our ways.

There is obviously a lot more I could say here to give the play-by-play of the conference.   Nonetheless, I must wrap up this post or else I would be writing here forever.  Feel free to email me with specific questions about the conference and I'll be glad to answer.   In the meantime, rather than focus on my growing to-do list that was greatly subsidized from the conference, I'm going to try real hard to just walk humbly with my God.  Maybe I'll even take some time to just stand with Him.   


Glorieta Writers Conference

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.  - Romans 15:13 NKJV

This verse I pray for all of you, dear readers this week as I will be absent until Monday while I am at the Glorieta Christian Writers' Conference.   If you feel like browsing around, I'm sure you can find lots to read in the archives as they go back to June 2005.  (Note: To access some of these older posts, click on the word "archives" in the right sidebar to get you there.)

Have a good week and I will see you when I return.

For His glory,

Janna


I Know He Can ...

He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. - Ro 4:20-21 NKJV

When we wholeheartedly believe in all of God's promises, we will without a doubt declare the glory of God in our lives.  We will be more courageous.  We wil be more encouraging.  We will be more hopeful.  We will be more bold in sharing our faith with others because we will be filled up to overflowing with more joyful riches than we can contain no matter what circumstance befalls us.   We will just be more.

Have you ever really thought about the faith of the patriarch Abraham?  Yes, he doubted his faith at times.  Yes, he waited a long time for the promises of God to take effect.  But he still believed enough that his faith was known and praised for more than 2000 years up until the time of Paul's writing. It is still being touted today. 4000 years! That is some kind of faith!  Abraham is in fact the "father" - either physically or spiritually speaking - of us all.  Consider what Paul says in Romans 4:16-19

16 Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all ... 18 who, contrary to hope, in hope believed, so that he became the father of many nations, according to what was spoken, "So shall your descendants be." (NKJV)

In the most hopeless of physical circumstances, Abraham believed in his God - our God.  Although his faith wavered at times (see Ge 17:17) Abraham persevered.  God gave Abraham strength and reassurance when he needed it and as a result his faith grew.

What is in your life today that you are needing an extra dose of faith to overcome?  Are you having trouble believing that God can do what He says He will do?  Reread the story of Abraham and Sarah.   The God who granted an old man and woman a baby when they were "as good as dead" is the same God who is on the throne today.

For further thought...

1) How strong is your faith?  What can you do today to strengthen your faith?

2) What opportunity is in your life that has the potential to show God's  glory stamped all over it?

3) What has God promised you?


Dead or Alive?

For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?  - Heb 9:13-14 NKJV

I feel that I have to stop and catch my breath as the past couple of weeks have caught up with me in a big way.  Does anyone else wish that they had more hours in the day? more days in the week?  Last week I was out of town speaking in St. Louis, MO & Jefferson City, MO for several Stonecroft Ministries groups.  While the trip was fun and energizing in its own way, it was also exhausting.  The great part is that I was privileged enough to share the gospel message of salvation and powerful living to over 200 ladies.

I don't know what I would do if I didn't have a relationship with God through His son Jesus Christ.  I really don't.  I know that sometimes I neglect Him as I have this terrible tendency to buzz through life in my busyness, relying on my own strength rather than His.  But He does remain faithful in providing me strength regardless of my ways.  My constant prayer is that I would learn to rely on Him more each day, putting the "to do" list aside for some extra moments of quiet with Him.  Isn't it funny how when we need God's strength the most, we feel too busy to tap into to that Power Source?

In my reading through Hebrews 8-10 yesterday, I was reminded again of the futility of my ways.  As I read about the sacrifices made in biblical times by the Jews for the atonement of sins and how much they had to offer up their sacrifices, I thought of my "sacrifices" and the works of my hands as compared to what Jesus can do and has done.  Jesus sacrifice on the cross was a once and for all sacrifice, powerful enough to do the job so that it did not need to be repeated over and over as the former sacrifices needed to be.   How much more then, would God be able to accomplish through me if I lived a life in complete surrender, praying for His strength and guidance before I lifted a finger or attempted to use my meager brain power for anything?  Would my time spent in prayer and not "doing" something allow me to get my projects or duties done more efficiently?  I think so.  More prayer would definitely make my works more alive than dead.  But it is easier said than done for this poor type A personality.  Working less is definitely hard work.  :) 

Pulse Check:  Are your works "dead" or "alive"?

1) How much do you rely on yourself to get things done? 

2) How can you rely on God more and less of yourself?  What would that look like in your world?

3) What practical step can you take this week to have more of God and less of yourself in your life and your plans? 


Jesus Lives for Us

Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.  (He 7:25 NKJV)

Have you ever really thought about how much power Jesus has?  It is unfathomable to me really.  When I read this passage in Hebrews that compares the High Priest of Old Testament times to the High Priest we have in Jesus, it really comes to light.  Back then, the people of Israel had to make many a sacrifice on the altar to pay for their sins.  But now that is not necessary because Jesus' blood paid the price for all - once and for all.  Unlike regular men who were priests back in that day, Jesus' priesthood will never end because He will live and reign for all of eternity.  He has an unchangeable priesthood (He 7:24).

And I think the best thing of all is that not only did Jesus die for us but He lives for us as well.   He lives so that He can speak to God - make intercession - on our behalf for all of the things that we need.  We pray "in Jesus name" because He is the reason our prayers are even heard at all.  Jesus is the ultimate intercessor.

We can model Jesus in this way here on earth as well through intercessory prayer of our own.  Yes, we should pray for ourselves, but we also need to pray for others as well.  Do you have a prayer partner with whom you regularly share prayer requests?  Can you count on that person and can they count on you to pray when either of you cannot?  From my experience, it is a wonderful thing to have such a relationship. 

How can you make a difference in someone's life through prayer today by interceding for them as Jesus does for you?  Take some time today and pray for someone else.  Both of you will be blessed.


Declare His Praises

1 It is good to give thanks to the LORD, And to sing praises to Your name, O Most High; 2 To declare Your lovingkindness in the morning, And Your faithfulness every night, 3 On an instrument of ten strings, On the lute, and on the harp, with harmonious sound. 4 For You, LORD, have made me glad through Your work; I will triumph in the works of Your hands. (Ps 92:104 NKVJ)
What shall you give praises for today in addition to praising God for who He is?  What kind of instrument will you sound like as you declare His wonderful work?  God can make us glad through His work, not ours...the work of HIS hands.
I'm praying for the work of God's hands to be seen through me this week as I will be speaking in St. Louis & Jefferson City, MO, tomorrow through Thursday.  May I decrease so that He may increase!

The Great Invitation

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)

My pastor calls this passage the "Great Invitation". I had never heard of that concept before but find it very interesting and applicable. This passage has been described as the "how" to the Great Commandment (Mt 22:37-39) and the Great Commission (Mt 28:18-20). This makes total sense to me. The premise being that in order to be able to fulfill those other two "Great's" (loving others, God & making disciples) we need to first learn from the Master, Jesus, by walking alongside Him in His yoke. Great stuff.

Did you know that yokes were custom made to fit the specific two oxen who were going to plow together? From what I've heard, training a new ox to plow a field meant that it would be yoked with a more experienced one until it learned what to do. The experienced ox would be the leader, bearing the bulk of the "responsibility" (as much as an animal can be responsible) and gently correcting the "newbie" as it learned what to do. Can you imagine then what it would be liked to be "yoked" to Jesus as His apprentice, learning the "ropes" of a life lived as He would have lived it? What a powerful picture of discipleship.

Now consider the added benefits to walking close to Jesus in His will for our lives. If we have learned from Him how to walk this Christian walk, and are consistent in our dedication to doing so, what would the implications be in our lives? I doubt that an easy yoke means that we are going to have a life of leisure. However, if we are doing what God wants us to do - the BEST rather than the GOOD - we will have an easier time of things because we won't be distracted by all of things that are outside of His will for our lives. We won't waste effort striving to make things happen that are our plans and not God's. That's how we will get rest - by reducing the striving. Rest for our souls.  Do you need the rest?

For further thought:

1) How long have you walked in the "yoke" with Jesus?

2) What can you do today to start walking closer to Him?

3) Is there someone in your life who needs to be "yoked" to Jesus? How can you lead them to Him?

NOTE: This post is also over at Laced With Grace today.  However, because I thought its content deserved double exposure, I'm posting it here as well.  :)  Be sure though, to check out other devotions at LWG.