Tuesday, April 28, 2009

My Trip to Houston

Howdy Y'all!

I just got back to the ATL yesterday from a fun trip to Houston, Texas to visit my sister, Jane (hence the southern accent). I had not seen her since Christmastime, so this visit was long overdue. We did all sorts of fun stuff together...we rode bikes, had a picnic lunch in the park, went out to eat a lot, went shopping at The Galleria where I got an adorable dress from my favorite store - The Limited (on sale of course :) ) and went to the Studio Movie Grill where we ate ice cream and watched the Hannah Montana movie (I know we're not 12 year old girls, but we still thought it was a cute movie and we didn't have to worry about any bad language or inappropriate scenes :) ).

On Friday night, we drove out in the country in the middle of nowhere to a farm that is owned by a man at her church. He had invited a bunch of people over to go camping on his farm for star gazing, roasting marshmallows, campfire, etc. For those of you who know me well, you're probably thinking..."Jenifer? camping? really?". I know, I know - My idea of roughing it is a hotel without room service - HA HA! We opted to sleep indoors, and everyone else ended up doing the same because it was supposed to rain. We didn't get to have our campfire and star gazing, but we saw a copperhead!

...And some chickens

On Sunday night, we threw Jane a party for her birthday.

We danced and sang karaoke...

...And we had a yummy ice cream cake from Carvel

It was a great week, but we missed our sister, Joy who is in Florida. We are all going to be together in Florida soon though, where we'll be taking our nephew to Disney!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Raising the Flag of Surrender

Surrendering everything to God is a lot easier said than done many times, especially for this "control freak". I am sure there have been many times I have sung that old hymn, "I Surrender All" and didn't even truly mean the words I was singing. I often think that if I surrender everything to God that He will ask me to do something I don't want to do or He will take something from me that I don't want to give up.

However, looking back on those times in my life that I have COMPLETELY surrendered everything to God, He blessed me in ways that I never would have imagined. He did not TAKE FROM me, but He GAVE BACK to me so much more. I found that when I laid everything in His hands and released my fingers from their tight grip, things turned out so much better than when I had tried to handle things on my own.

Surrendering is a daily process. I have found that I can be totally surrendered to God one day, and then the next I find myself trying to grab hold of the reins again. I think the reason for this is a trust issue with God. I think sometimes we have a hard time really trusting that He knows what is best and so we try to take control based on our own knowledge. Anytime I try to take matters into my own hands however, life ends up getting very messy. The results have never been good when I have not trusted God enough to be in complete control over my life.

What is it in your life that you are clinging to and not surrendering to God? Give Him your life, your hopes, your dreams, your relationships, your desires, your will, your plans, your future. All of these things are in much better care in His hands than your own, and He can and will do some amazing things with them if you will trust Him.

There is a song called, "Absolute Surrender" that some long-time sweet friends of mine, Tom & Karen Hudgins, used to sing all the time when they would lead worship with the youth group at church. (I believe Tom wrote the song). I wish I had a recording of it to post, but I don't, so I've just put the words here for you...

"Absolute Surrender"

Is my life absolute surrendered? Do I know the price that I must pay?
Is my life a reflection of the Savior? Am I always heading in His way?

Always surrender to my Father's will
Always surrender to His plan
Always surrender to the Son of God

Oh absolute surrender
Absolute surrender
Absolute surrender to Jesus.

Quit playing games with the Devil
He wants to destroy your precious life
Raise your flag of surrender and kneel at the cross
And receive your victory in Jesus Christ

Always surrender to my Father's will
Always surrender to His plan
Always surrender to the Son of God

Oh absolute surrender
Absolute surrender
Absolute surrender to Jesus

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Facing Your Enemy

Our enemy, Satan is real. The Bible says in I Peter 5:8, "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour."

I like how The Message states this verse - "Keep a cool head. Stay alert. The Devil is poised to pounce, and would like nothing better than to catch you napping. Keep your guard up."

That's right - Satan's goal is to destroy and will wait for an opportune time when you least expect it. He waits until our guards are down and then moves in for the kill sometimes in such a suttle way that we don't even realize it until he has us ensnared. He begins by taking small things from us sometimes going unnoticed, until finally we realize he has taken the bigger more precious things from us.

Satan will destroy anyone who allows him to, but I believe that He especially has it in for those who pose the biggest threat. Those who are surrendered to God. Those with vision. Those whom God plans to use to impact the lives of others. The more people who will experience freedom if you are set free, the more of a threat you are to Satan. He knows that if he can destroy you, then he can destroy the impact that your freedom in Christ will have on others being set free.

So - what happens if you do get caught off guard, you mess up and fall flat on your face? Has Satan won the victory? Have his plans to destroy you worked? ABSOLUTELY NOT!!! God can pick you up, redeem your life and restore you once again. Satan will only have victory if you let him. The fact is that Satan can only get away with what God allows him to. Nothing happens that God does not have ultimate control over. Sometimes God allows our enemy to reak havoc in our lives to get our attention and to draw us to Himself. Could it be that the very plan that God has for you involves allowing you to suffer and mess up for awhile? Think of some of the most effective people in ministry today. Most are people who have been through some serious trials in their lives. Most have experienced ruthless attacks from the enemy and have fallen at some point only to be picked back up by our Savior and their feet placed upon the SOLID rock, Jesus.

So - how do we prepare ourselves in being ready for Satan's attacks? Ephesians 6:13 says to "Put on the full armor of God so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand."

I remember the first time I was taught about the armor of God from Ephesians 6. I was a small child at the time and was attending a summer Bible School. I remember the teacher passing out pieces of armor for us to color and place on our paper dolls. I did not realize at that young age just how valuable that lesson was and how important that knowledge would become to me at a later age.

Belt of Truth - This is the foundation on which the sword is attached. Jesus is truth. In order to stand up to Satan's lies and deception, we must be attached to the truth that is found in Jesus alone.

Breastplate of Righteousness - The purpose of this piece of armor in battle is to protect the soldiers vital organs. They would not dare to enter into battle without it. If we rely on our own good works or efforts, they will do us no good in battle with the enemy. However, with the righteousness given to us through Christ, we know that on our good or bad days we stand before God the same - righteous and forgiven in His sight. There is no need for shame. Shame is a tactic the enemy will use to keep us stuck and keep us from experiencing the freedom that comes through Jesus Christ.

Shoes of the Gospel of Peace - Without proper protection for their feet, a soldier in battle would not be able to stand long. The Gospel of Jesus' life, death and resurrection was to bring us peace with God. We are able to stand boldly and confidently in the peace that comes from knowing Jesus Christ.

Shield of Faith - When an enemy would attack a soldier with flaming arrows, the shield would be the piece of armor that would protect him from being hit. Jesus is our only shield. We cannot rely on our own strength to protect us. We must allow Christ to shield us from Satan's attacks.

Helmet of Salvation - This piece of armor protects our minds. God provided salvation to us through sending His son to die on a cross so that our sins could be forgiven. Anyone who accepts this free gift that God offers will be saved. There is nothing you can do to lose your salvation. Nothing you can do to separate yourself from God's love. When Satan speaks his lies into your mind and tells you that you have messed up way too much for God to possibly love you, remember that there is nothing you can do to lose God's love. There is no mess you can get yourself into that is beyond His grace.

The Sword of the Spirit - The most powerful weapon of all, the Word of God. All the other pieces of armor are for defense, but this deadly weapon is meant to use as an offense. God's Word is POWERFUL! Satan can't handle it. Not only does it give us the power to defeat Satan and send him running, but it has the power to absolutely change your life!

The first Psalm I ever memorized as a child was Psalm 23. Verse 5 says that God will "prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemy." I am looking forward to that time. I believe that God is not only going to sit me down at a feast of blessings that He has been preparing me for, but He will surround me at that table with all of the things and all of the people that Satan stole from me. God will do this all while forcing my enemy to sit and watch as he shudders at his embarrassment that he ever messed with me!

John 10:10
"The thief comes only to steal, to kill and destroy. I (Jesus) have come so that you may have life, and have it more ABUNDANTLY!!!"

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Waiting on God for Deliverance

Here are some excerpts from Beth Moore's book, "Get out of that Pit" - from chapter seven, entitled, "Waiting on God for Deliverance." It has been amazing to me recently how God has spoken so clearly and directly to me through His Word and through some of the books I have been reading. This was one of those times, and I'm sharing this in case there's anyone else out there who needs to hear it...

"God can deliver the most hardened criminal or the most hopeless addict in one second flat. With His eyes closed and His hands tied behind His back if He has a mind to. I know people who made themselves at home in a pit a hundred feet deep and a thousand days long and, seemingly without warning, experienced the instantaneous deliverance of God. One moment they were in the throes of habitual sin, and the next moment they were free as birds...

But I have not one time experienced it. Let me say that again. Not one time. Not even an instantaneous deliverance from something comparatively shallow like a mini-pit of some kind I dug with a soupspoon instead of a shovel. I won't even be heel deep, and still, I'll rarely walk away without a fight.

For example, a sudden season of fear may overtake me. Out of thin air, all at once I'll get a notion that something is up with one of my loved ones or that a close relationship is threatened in some way. Sometimes I'm right. Other times I made it up. I just don't know it yet. Depending on what kind of vain imaginations are circling like vultures in my brain, I'll begin to feel anxious, insecure, or intimidated. In my rational mind I may know the fear is unfounded. Even ridiculous. Still, at times I'll let it get to me until it has a grip on me.

I'm not a glutton for punishment. Goodness knows I volunteer for instant deliverance the second I realize I'm wigging. I try to pray and say all the right things, like, "Lord, starting today I never want to think that way about that situation (or person) again. Forgive me and free me of this in Jesus' name. I know You can deliver me. Please do. And, if I may humbly ask, right this second." And next thing you know, all those vain imaginations invade in my mind again. They're all I can think about. So God and I have to get back to work.

The process may last a few days, a few weeks, or I may hop from dot to dot in what feels like an eternal etcetera. But I can think of virtually nothing God has delivered me from overnight. When it comes to high maintenance, I put the "I" in high and the ten in maintenance. I've joked with my coworkers that when my life is over, the most fitting epitaph etched into my gravestone would probably be, "God got tired....

I'm telling you, God and I work hard together. Maybe you consume a fair amount of divine energy yourself and , if so, perhaps we could sift some mutual encouragement out of the aggravation of never doing anything easily. I've come to the elementary conclusion that, to God, together is the whole point of any process. Before man was created, God just said something and it happened. "Let there be light" and all. He could still do that. Sometimes still does. But you might notice that a lot of that instantaneous action ceased after man came along, and obviously on God-purpose. Suddenly God wasn't so sudden. Time become the vehicle for this wonderful thing called history. You could neither rush it nor slow it. All you could do was ride it. And, what a ride it was for all those who preceded us.

What a ride it is for us now. God etched history not on lands and nations but on human lives. Not on superhumans. Not even on particularly impressive humans. God seems to summon the most faithless of all to faith. He's a magnet to weakness, perhaps the ultimate proof that opposites really do attract. History is told through the encounters and experiences of men and women God would call to know Him. To trust Him, often under nearly impossible circumstances. People prone to wander, prone to bruising, prone to doubting, prone to losing...

I think God often ordains a wait because He purely enjoys the togetherness of it....

Smooth living invariably, eventually, makes for sloppy spirituality. I want consuming fire to rage in my soul, and if it's got to come through fiery trial, so be it...

The good news is we may have to wait for deliverance while the vehicle of time jolts and lurches, but we never have to wait on God Himself. Never have to wait to enjoy His Presence or be reassured of His love...

Despite appearances, huge things happen as you wait upon the Lord to deliver you from that pit. They begin the moment you cry out.

(Jenifer interludes to say this next part is what really was huge to me...)

If your eyes could only see how God is moving all those chess pieces around the board for maximum impact, it would blow your mind. He's up to something big that affects not only you, but those around you. He's also after those around you...

God's agenda is not just to deliver you from the pit. His preeminent aim is to bring Himself fame, and you are one way He has chosen to do it. Anticipate it!..."