The Darkest Valley

The Darkest Valley

“Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” // Psalm 23:4

Hi Everyone!

I don’t think it goes without saying how we are truly in one of the most, if not the most, difficult season our country and our world has faced in a very, very long time. I’ve been just like the rest of you these past few weeks: Glued to the news and social media feeds, left shocked and heartbroken by the things going on around us. People have lost their jobs. Small business owners have lost their dreams. Many of lost access to health insurance, and many have lost access to their own health.

COVID-19 has gone through quite the transition, at least here in America. We all kind of went from joking about it with memes, to finding the toilet paper aisles empty, to now staying inside and hearing the death toll could reach up to 240 million people in America alone. As I’ve sat and thought the past few days, so many possibilities have crossed my mind. We truly don’t know what the next few days, weeks, or months bring. We are truly in uncharted territory. And as much as I’d love to comfort us all by saying God knew this was coming and that He is in control (because both of those things are true), I think God is giving us a little more substance to anchor our souls in today–because you know as much as I do, we need an anchor for our soul now more than ever.

Today is Palm Sunday and marks the start of Holy Week. Easter is my favorite holiday, even over Christmas. The emotions of Good Friday and the joy of Resurrection Sunday are days I look forward to all year. I can’t help but notice the timing of the Easter season this year, and how it collides directly with what could possibly be the worst week America has seen thus far in the amount of lives that will be lost, and the amount of cases that will be reported. It seems so interesting to me that one week in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago started off just like many of our weeks did before this whole thing happened: celebratory, joyous, excited for the future. But every day that Jerusalem moved closer to Passover, the more tense the air got, the more fuel that was added to the fire against Jesus, and finally it all accumulated in the darkest day of humankind: the day Jesus died.

The last month has felt somewhat like an elongated Holy Week. Most of us started off March pretty great. Then it got darker. And darker. And darker.

At the time I’m writing this, we have lost more than 8,000 lives in America due to the Coronavirus. And by the end of this week–by the time we are observing Good Friday–we could–and probably will–lose thousands more.

Isn’t it something that the week we will be observing the One death that paid our sins once and for all will be happening simultaneously along the world’s worst pandemic in nearly 100 years? Every day that we get closer to remembering Jesus’ death, we will be watching people die all around us. And how many people will we lose that very Friday as we reflect on Jesus’ death?

All this to say this: We are in the darkest valley right now. I’ve read Psalm 23 over and over and over again since this year started, and today I read verses 4-6 in a little bit of a different light, and I wanted to share that with you. The verses are as follows, bolded words are mine:

"Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely Your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."

We will walk through dark valleys–that’s guaranteed, and everyone in the Bible did. David did, and as he details this in the above verses, there are some things we can take away from it. As we walk through the darkest valley right now, here’s what God is doing, and here’s what we can hold on to:

  • I will fear no evil, for You are with me. Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me: In the darkest valley, God is with us. His Presence and His protection comfort us. In the darkest valley.
  • You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies: In the darkest valley, when we are surrounded by enemies, job loss, uncertainty, fear, and even death, God provides for us. He prepares a table right in the middle of the darkest valley. He gives us what we need, and He gives it to us abundantly. Right in the middle of the darkest valley.
  • Your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever: In the middle of the darkest valley, God’s goodness and love is right here with us. It’s following us. It’s comforting us. It is with us. Right here in the darkest valley. And right here in the darkest valley, we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Right here in the darkest valley, we need not fear. Lean into these verses. Lean into God’s promises. Dig into God’s word. There is hope available. There is peace available. There is life available.

What happened on the worst day in history didn’t stay that way. Jesus died, but He didn’t stay dead. Sunday did come. Resurrection did come. Eternal life did come. We may be in the darkest valley now, but this won’t last forever. Because bad days never have the final say. Death never has the final says. Valleys never have the final say.

Resurrection has the final say. God has the final say. So let’s hang on. Sunday is coming.

But for those who might not make it to Easter Sunday this year, can we pray for them? The reality is so many people are questioning their own mortality in these times, and there’s never been a more opportune time to tell others about the hope and the life that Jesus freely offers to anyone who calls on His name (Romans 10:9-10). Pray for your friends and family. For healthcare workers, and our nation’s most vulnerable citizens. For those who’s eternities are hanging in the balance as they await the next week. God is still doing miracles. And we need salvation to flood this country. That will be my prayer this week: That the blood poured out on Calvary’s tree 2,000 years ago would flood America anew this Holy Week and Easter season. It’s not too late for anyone. Let’s do all we can to bring this message to those who need it, before it does become too late.

Thank you for being here during these trying times. If you ever need someone to talk to or pray for you, please feel free to reach out. Comments below are always welcome, as are DM’s on my socials (@stephjayewriter). Remember, we are all in this together, and I’m loving and praying for you all. Please stay home, stay safe, and be wise.

Until Next Time,

Stephanie ❤

Real Hope for Real Hurt, pt. 2: Our Unchanging Hope

Real Hope for Real Hurt, pt. 2: Our Unchanging Hope

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” // Hebrews 13:8

Hi friends! Thanks for joining me for part two of the topic of REAL HOPE REAL HURT. Last week we talked about where most of us are at: in a boat, being swamped with water, and panicking just like Jesus’ disciples are in Luke 8. I left us with a thought to think about: Where is your faith?

Jesus asked His disciples this exact question, and I think it’s a really important one to honestly answer. Not where we think our faith is, but Who is it actually in?

Today I want to talk about the REAL HOPE we have when we’re going through the heartache, trails, and pain of life. Most of us know that our hope is found in Jesus. But what does that actually mean, and what kind of help does that give us when we’re barely hanging onto any hope in the midst of life’s storms?

  1. Having real hope in Jesus means having real hope in a God who does not, has not, and will not ever change. So here’s the thing. If we’re going to have real hope in the midst of life’s storms, we need to know Who we’re putting our hope in. If we don’t know who Jesus is and we’re being swept by the waves, it can be harder for us to find Him and cling to Him when we need Him most. When we recognize that Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever, as Hebrews 13:8 tells us, we know that the God who was present in the Old Testament–the One who split the Red Sea to make a way for the Israelites (Exodus 14), the One who was with David when he beat Goliath with a simple slingshot (1 Samuel 17), even the One who saved Daniel in the lions den (Daniel 6), is the same God who is with us now. We can continue that thinking into the New Testament, too. The same God that rose Jesus from the dead (Matthew 28), the same God who performed miracles, the same God who sent His Son so we could be saved and kept every promise He had made (John 3:16), is the same God who is with us now. We have a God who does not fail. We have a God who’s track record is 100/100. We have a God who’s love and power is so boundless that we can’t even phantom it when we get just a glimpse of it in something like the night sky (Psalm 19). Friends: this is the same God! Every promise He’s made in the Bible, He’s kept! And every promise that He’s given us, we can claim if we know Jesus as our Savior! THIS IS HOPE! Get in the Bible and find some promises and start to memorize them. Start to speak them over your life. Start living like you actually believe them. It might take a minute, but keep getting into Word and reminding yourself who God is and who He is in your life, and your hope will start to rejuvenate soon enough.
  2. Having real hope in Jesus means having a living hope. 1 Peter 1:3 gives us a great promise to hold onto. It says, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” For those of us in Jesus, we have a living hope. Not a dead hope, not a hopeless hope, not a hope that is here today and gone tomorrow. In the person and salvation of Jesus, we have a hope that can outlast the toughest of storms. A hope that has overcome even the worst storms that life can offer–including death itself (John 16:33, 1 Corinthians 15:55-57)!
  3. Having real hope in Jesus means having hope that isn’t going to give up on us. Jesus tells us in John 10:28 that those who are His children will never be snatched from His hand. Nothing can cause God to abandon us, forsake us, or give up on us (Luke 15, Hebrews 13:5). We have a God who loves us, pursues us, and treats us like His children (1 John 3:1). What an amazing hope to hold onto in the midst of lives storms.
  4. Having real hope in Jesus means having hope in Someone who sees beginning to end and has nothing but our best interest in mind. One of my favorite Scriptures comes from Psalm 139:16. “Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be.” One thing I love about Scripture is that it’s not all hype. This is real stuff! God has every day of our life written in His book. Nothing takes Him by surprise. He never does not have a solution lined up for us. His plans are so much greater than ours (1 Corinthians 2:9), and His timing and thoughts are different than ours (Isaiah 55:8-9). But in it all, He can be trusted, and He always has our best in mind (Psalm 23:6, Jeremiah 29:11). For more on this, check out this blog.

No matter what storm you are in the midst of today, Jesus is with you. Jesus is in your boat. He is offering you real, solid hope for today, no matter what you’re going through. He’s not hype. He’s not fluff. He’s real. And the hope He offers is just as real. Get into Scripture, spend time on your knees in prayer, and I promise you He’ll meet you there. You have nothing to lose, and everything to gain. He loves you. He’s for you. And so am I.

And if I can pray for you, will you let me know? Leave a comment below, or send me a message on social. I’d love to walk with you through life’s storms.

Until Next Time,

Stephanie ❤

@stephjayewriter

The Classroom of Pain

The Classroom of Pain

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” // James 1:2-4

Happy Sunday! (+ Thanksgiving Week!)

Last week we talked about seasons of hurt, and how God is not only present in our hurt, but can relate to our situation. This week, let’s talk about reasons God sometimes allows seasons of pain and hurt, and maybe we can get a good perspective change on how to handle and go through life’s trials.

  1. God uses trials to make us more like Him. This is by far the number one reason God often sends trials. We see from our opening verse that we should count it joy when we face trials. I don’t know about you, but when I encounter a trial, joy is not the first thing I think of. But let’s dig deeper. The reason why we should count it joy when we find ourselves in the midst of a trial is because we can recognize that God is doing something within the trial to make us more like Him. Trials often teach us and exposes a weakness that maybe we weren’t aware of before. Once we become children of God through accepting Jesus as our Lord and Savior, God doesn’t leave us where He found us. The end goal of this life is to become more like Him. More like Him in things like character, conduct, and speech (1 Corinthians 1:11, Philippians 1:6, 1 John 2:6). If you ask most Christians about a time in their life that God used to change them, more than not, they will tell you of a time when they endured a hardship, and not only saw God through it, but became more like Him because of it. Count it joy, friends. God is always up to something greater and of eternal value in trials. Our job is to allow Him to do that within us.
  2. God uses trials to change our course. Sometimes we get a little … what’s the word … self-dependent in this life. We starting thinking we’re capable enough to make our own decisions, choose our own path, walk our own way. Take this from me, friends, this is not a good path. We were designed to listen to God, to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit within us, and to obey God in this life. We know that obedience brings blessing, peace, and closeness with our Lord. It also produces maximum effectiveness in our life and our ministry. When we get too self-dependent or wander a tad too far, God will use trials to get our attention, to get our hearts and minds to turn back to Him. He doesn’t do this because He’s cruel or demanding, but because He knows your best life will always be one that is lead by Him and in His way (Psalm 18:30, Proverbs 3:5-6). Trials remind us that we are never in control to begin with. Count it joy, friends, because God’s way is best, and I’m so thankful He’s stops me from wandering too far. There’s no better place than to be than in His will.
  3. God uses trials to test us. Back to our opening verses. James also tells us that trials test our faith, and in turn give us perseverance, which then mature us so we don’t lack anything. It’s trials that are defining moments in our lives — they show us if what we believe about our God is real enough, deep enough, and pure enough. A lot of times people follow God to avoid hardship. Or they just want to follow Him for what He has to offer (see Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23). Hardship will expose these motivations. On the contrary, they will also expose if our hearts are genuine, and if we will choose to praise God even when trials come. Trials test what we know about God, but if we seek Him with our whole heart, they will strengthen what we know about Him, and in turn increase our faith and trust in Him even more. This is one of the most beautiful things about trials. Our intimacy with the Lord grows, and He teaches us new things about Himself that affirm our faith even more. This then produces in us a testimony we can use to tell others about our faith and what God has done for and in us. 1 Peter 1:6-7 tells us it like this, “In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” Count it all joy, friends. God is who He says He is, and He often shows that powerfully in the midst of trials.

Know this — if you’re going through a trial today, God is not mad at you. He has not forgotten you, He has not forsaken you. He knows the pain, He’s there to comfort you in it, but He’s also looking to accomplish something of eternal value in you through this season. And that is worth it.

Take a moment today to reflect on seasons of hardship and hurt in your life. How have you seen God work in those seasons? If you’re going through one right now, ask God to show you what He wants to, and ask Him to open your heart for all He wants to do in you through this season.

Until Next Time ❤

Stephanie Jaye

@stephjayewriter

Colton Jumped the Fence. Jesus took the Cross.

Colton Jumped the Fence. Jesus took the Cross.

“But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” // Romans 5:8

If you pay any attention to reality TV or any entertainment news, you’ve probably heard the now infamous phrase, “Colton jumped the fence.” All the hype surrounded the two-part finale of The Bachelor this past week. If for some reason you’re unfamiliar with the show, it’s where one person is cast as the lead and goes on a quest for love with about thirty potential mates, and as the show goes on, the lead eliminates their potential suitors until there are only two left. The lead then chooses one person to spend the rest of their life with. So this season its lead was 26 year old Colton Underwood, but it ended quite different than most seasons of The Bachelor. Two weeks before the show was set to end, the girl Colton wanted to be with, Cassie Randolph, broke up with him. And this left him upset – to up it mildly. After Cassie left the show, Colton was so upset by this that he ran away from the production set and jumped an eight foot high fence to do it.

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However, he didn’t do this because he was mad. He did this because his love for Cassie was so deep that he couldn’t imagine going on without her. After he jumped the fence and ran away, the production crew eventually found him and convinced him to come back to the show. At this time, Colton still had two potential girls he could choose to propose to. Two girls who were in love with him. But he wanted Cassie. And because he loved Cassie so much, he broke up with the two remaining girls, risking the loss of every relationship left, to try and pursue Cassie again, in hopes she’d reconsider.

At the end of it all, Colton did convince Cassie to give it another shot, and the two are now together and in love (yay for happy endings!). Now, why bring all this up and how does it relate to anything in our own life?

There’s something in all of us that love love. We all love it when someone goes after the person they love with all their heart. We all want someone to “jump a fence” for us. We all want to be pursued without reservation.

There’s something in all of us that love love. We all love it when someone goes after the person they love with all their heart. We all want someone to “jump a fence” for us. We all want to be pursued without reservation. That’s why we love the movie scenes when the guy chases down a plane leaving with the girl he loves on it. The romance novel that detail the boy who does anything to get the girl. And while most see these circumstances as unrealistic for our every day life, I don’t believe so. In fact, I think God wired us this way.

I think God wired us this way because God knew He would send Jesus to woo us, to pursue us in this exact same way.

I think God wired us this way because God knew He would send Jesus to woo us, to pursue us in this exact same way. Jesus left everything to pursue our hearts (Luke 15:1-7). He left the comforts of heaven, He came to this dirty and dusty earth, He became a servant and ultimately endured the most grueling death known to mankind (Philippians 2:5-8, John 3:16). Why?

Because He loves you.

Because He wants you.

Ladies! You have a man who has left it all to pursue your heart. There is a man who jumped every fence in His way to get to you. To woo you. To have you. This is the greatest romance of all time! And yet it’s so often that we settle for thinking we’re not deserving of that kind of love in this life because we don’t get it from some guy who doesn’t pursue us like that. But no matter what a guy has or has not done for you – Jesus has done this for you! And nothing can change that (Romans 8:39, John 10:28-30).

So today, remember that you have a God who loves you more than you can imagine. He’s waiting for you every second of every day. Even if you’ve walked away like Cassie did to Colton, even if you’ve wanted nothing to do with Him, even if you’ve messed up. We’ve all done this stuff. But Jesus died for us anyways. And He’d do it all over again for you right now if He had to.

So, look up and see that you have been pursued with God’s whole heart, without abandon. And don’t settle for anyone in life that treats you less than this. Wait for the person pursues you like Jesus would. Who fights for you like Jesus does. Who loves you like Jesus.

When we wait for His best and bask in His love right now, some day we might just change the world. ❤

Oh! And guys … “jumping a fence” is now the new standard. So get practicing 😛

(Just kidding. Maybe.)

Until Next Time,

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@stephanie_jacqu

God’s Love Helps Us Finish Well

God’s Love Helps Us Finish Well

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” // 2 Timothy 4:7

It seems as of late, more and more people are failing to finish well. Paul, imprisoned and close to death, wrote the words above to Timothy, his young prodigy, with full confidence. He, in essence, was saying, “I’ve done all I’ve been called to do, I’ve reached the finish line, and I’ve kept my faith.” And I think at the end of the day, when we’re close to death, we’re going to want to echo these words in regards to our own life.

So many people start out strong in their faith, but how come so many people fail to finish well? God has given us everything we need in order to do just that. 1 Corinthians 1:8 tells us, “He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

I think the disconnect comes in when we fail to remember God’s love for us, His promise to strengthen us, and our selfish desires overtake our vision and desire to finish strong.

I think the disconnect comes in when we fail to remember God’s love for us, His promise to strengthen us, and our selfish desires overtake our vision and desire to finish strong. There are many reasons we as Christians get sidetracked as we travel through life, but the one I want to talk about today is how God’s love can keep us on the path of righteousness and cheer us on to finish life strong when it’s all said and done.

Sometimes, we fail to actually remember God loves us. I mean, we all know He loves us. We all recognize that Jesus died for us, that the Holy Spirit is within us, and we hear that God loves us. But I think we sometimes forget that God actually, for real loves us. He sings over us (Zech. 3:17). He provides for us (Matt. 6:25-34, Phil. 4:19). He considers us His child (1 John 3:1). When we start living every day like we actually believe God loves us, that love is going to capture our hearts and set our souls on fire. We’re going to want to stay close to Jesus, be obedient to what He says, and finish strong where He’s called us to.

Our relationship with God isn’t about doing more. Our relationship with God is a love-relationship. Love is always the motivating factor, in both God and ourselves.

Our relationship with God isn’t about doing more. Our relationship with God is a love-relationship. Love is always the motivating factor, in both God and ourselves. It was in love that God created you. It was in love that He sent Jesus to die for your redemption (John 3:16). It was in love that He called you and set you apart for Himself (Eph. 1:4-6, Ps. 4:3). And it’s in love that He calls you to whatever His purpose is in life (Eph. 2:10). It’s also in love that we read God’s Word, because we want to know Him better (Ps. 119:17). It’s in love that we do what He says, because we want to honor Him (John 14:15). It’s in love that tells others about the good news we have in Jesus (Matt. 28:19-20, 2 Peter 3:9). Everything we do or don’t do in our relationship with God should be because He loves us and we love Him.

If you’re feeling tempted to give up today, maybe you need a moment to remember and reflect on God’s great love for you. When worldly desires start encroaching on the corners of your heart, run back to your Savior. Remember the cross. And remember His love. Remembering His love will always get you back on the right track.

Because with a world that’s watching so close, it’s not enough to run your race now and flunk out later.

Because with a world that’s watching so close, it’s not enough to run your race now and flunk out later. We have to live intentionally now – loving others, serving God, and sharing the good news. But we also have to finish intentionally, knowing we’ve done everything God has called us to do and bring as many people with us into His Kingdom as we can.

So today, let’s remember our relationship with God is all ran off of love, and let’s run – and finish – this race well. And if we do, someday we might just change the world ❤

Until Next Time,

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@stephanie_jacqu

God’s Love Casts Out Fear

God’s Love Casts Out Fear

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” // 1 John 4:18

Happy Sunday! This week we’re continuing our series on God’s love in celebration of February, Valentine’s Day, love. You know, all that good stuff.

Something that is crippling in our day and age is fear. Fear, anxiety, depression … all the things. I’ve struggled with this myself, but I’ve learned a lot through it. And one of the things I’ve learned is that if we truly believe God, if we truly take Him at His word, there is nothing to fear.

Now, before I continue, I understand that there are serious conditions that make this subject rather complicated. Please know that this post is not insensitive to that, and this is certainly not medical advice. However, I believe (as an anxiety sufferer myself) that there is nothing more powerful, more healing, and more freeing than believing and standing in the power of God’s promises.

We’re told in 1 John 4:18 that “perfect love drives out fear”. When I read this, I wondered why, if this were true, fear was still penetrating my heart. But when I read on, the verse tells us why. “Fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”

When we fear, it’s usually because we aren’t trusting God for who He says He is in some aspect. Here’s a list of reasons, based in who God is, we have no reason to fear:

  1. God is who He says He is. God has given us promise after promise that He is with us, He is for us, and that if we’ve accepted Jesus as our Savior, we are sealed for eternity. We are no longer under wrath but under grace (Heb. 13:5, Rom. 8:31, 6:14).
  2. There’s nothing we can do to make God stop loving us. God doesn’t love us based on what we do, He loves us based on who He is. Because of this, there’s nowhere we can go, and nothing we can do that will make Him stop loving us (Jer. 31:3, Matt. 28:20).
  3. He’s promised to be with us. Because God is over all, through all, and in all, there’s nowhere we can be that He is not (Ps. 139:7-10). Plus, if we know Jesus as our Savior, He’s given us His Holy Spirit that lives in us, and we can never be separated from Him (John 10:28, Rom. 8:38-39).
  4. He already knows every day of our life before we do. Psalm 139:16 tells us, “Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be”. Nothing is a surprise to Him. Nothing takes Him off guard. We can run to Him, secure in His love, because He is unshaken by our storms.
  5. The Bible tells us we haven’t been given a spirit of fear, but of love, power and self-discipline. Literally, as new creations in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17), fear isn’t apart of our DNA. It’s not who we are, and we don’t have to bow to it anymore (2 Tim. 1:7).
  6. There’s resurrection power in us. Romans 8:11 tells us that the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead lives in us. Think about that. That same Spirit that raised the King of Kings from the grave is in us. Think about how powerful that Spirit is. If that Spirit can–and did–raise Jesus from the dead, He is certainly powerful enough to break the spirit of fear in us and set our feet on the path of trusting in God, His love, and lead us in the path of freedom and peace (John 8:36, Luke 1:37, Isa. 26:3).
  7. Because He loves us. This is what 1 John 4:18 talks about. We don’t have to fear God … we don’t have to fear anything! God loves you. You are His child. He sees you as you are and wants you anyways. He knows that you’ve messed up. He knows you’ll mess up before you even do. But that doesn’t change the fact that He loves you. That He sent His Son for you. He is your father, and you are His child. Where there used to be fear, God now offers mercy, grace, and His unending love for you, His child. There is no place for fear in that.

Love is the opposite of fear. And because of Jesus, there is never a reason to fear. Fear is everything opposite of what the Scriptures tell us, everything opposite of who God is, the way He loves. This week, mediate on some of these promises. What is causing you fear in your own life? Is it because you’re not trusting God in some area? What promise of Scripture can you apply to that. Even when you don’t think you can go another moment under the weight of fear, remember His promises and proclaim them. This is where your freedom … and His love … is found.

Because of God’s love, we don’t have to fear. And if we believe that and live like it’s true, someday we might just change the world ❤

Until Next Time,

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@stephanie_jacqu

P.S.! The topic of fear is HUGE, and so I’ve decided to dedicate the whole month of March to this topic. Stay tune for that series in just a couple weeks and let’s experience freedom together!

God’s Love Pursues Us

God’s Love Pursues Us

“But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” // Ephesians 2:4-5

Happy Sunday everyone! And Happy SUPERBOWL Sunday! Honestly, Superbowl Sunday is one of my favorites days of the year. I’m a huge NFL fan, and no matter who is playing in the Superbowl, it’s always so fun to pick a team, root for them, and experience the excitement all day long.

But before the Big game tonight, we’re going to be starting a new series on God’s love for the month of February. Obviously, Valentine’s Day is coming up in a couple weeks, and most people associate this holiday that celebrates love with the second month of the year. So, for that, we’re going to be diving into four aspects of how God’s love affects our life.

Have you ever thought about this: When we were lost in sin, in the darkest of places, when we ran so far we thought we could never be rescued … it was then that Jesus stepped into our lives to save us. God pursued us in the moment of our greatest need, our most vulnerable weakness. When we couldn’t do anything for ourselves. When we were embarrassed to even show our face. That’s when we were pursued by God. Ephesians 2:5 tells us that it was when we were dead in our transgressions (our sins) that Jesus died for us.

Not only did Jesus die for us in our most helpless and ugly state, but that’s when God pursued our hearts. Most of us think that God wants the cleaned up church version of ourselves. That in order to be pursued, we need to look our best, act our best, and put our best foot forward. But this isn’t how God pursues us. In His love, He pursues us gently by calling our name. He pursues us recklessly by giving up His own Son to have us (John 3:16). In fact, God pursued us before we were even born (Eph. 1:4-5, Jer. 1:5). He made a way for us to know Him and receive His love before we even knew we needed such an amazing thing.

This week, take a couple moments to let this idea wash over you. You are loved unconditionally by the God who made the stars and the mountains. By the One who made the oceans and the galaxies. You are handcrafted by the King of Kings, loved more than you could ever fathom. And pursued with a love so pure that humanity will never truly know the height and depth of God’s love for us (Eph. 3:17-19). But know this week, that this God loves you. He is for you. And He’s pursuing you, even right now in this moment.

When we let His love penetrate our hearts and His pursuit grab a hold of our lives, someday we might just change the world ❤

Until Next Time,

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@stephanie_jacqu

Set Apart to Stand Out

Set Apart to Stand Out

“Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, ‘children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.’ Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life.” // Philippians 2:14-16

I was reading a devotional book the other day when I came across a quote that really struck me. This is what it said:

“There is no point to a life in Christ if we lose the one thing that makes us different from the world. God wants you to display a life that shows how wonderful salvation is.”

Janelle Anthony Breckell

This made me stop and think for a moment. In today’s culture, it’s so easy to blend in. We think by “blending in” that we’ll somehow win others to Christ. They’ll think Christianity is “cool” because we do what they do. But if we think about it, what message is that portraying to the outside world? It sounds to me like that’s saying, “If you decided to follow Jesus, that’s cool. You can even keep doing what you’re doing right now.”

Now, don’t get me wrong. I think it’s fine that Christians laugh, have fun, and do cool things. There’s nothing wrong with that. The problem comes when we as Christians try to blend in instead of being set apart.

Can we meet the world where they are by having fun, doing “cool” things, without actually being apart of them? I think the answer is yes.

The thing of it is, that’s a hard yes. It’s hard to get close to culture without getting sucked into it. It’s hard to stand our ground against temptation and the lure of the world, especially when we’re trying to engage it. But as Christians, it’s imperative that we go and meet the culture where they’re at without getting sucked into exactly what they’re doing.

The Bible talks about us walking a different path in life. Ephesians 4:1 tells us, “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” This is a strong exhortation from the Apostle Paul. He’s pleading with the church at Ephesus to live a life worthy of the calling they’ve received. When we came to know Jesus as our Savior, our old self was done away with. We were given a new name. A new identity. We were brought into a new family (2 Cor 5:17, Galatians 4:3-7).

You probably have some resemblance to your family, your loves ones. Maybe you have your mom’s hair, or your dad’s eyes. But what about to your Heavenly Father? Is your heart reflecting His? When people see you, are they seeing your resemblance to Him? Are you standing out, shining bright in this dark generation? Are others questioning why your life is soaked with joy and your peace unshakable?

This is the kind of life we are called to as followers of Jesus. If we look like everyone else, talk like everyone else, and live like everyone else, how is anyone supposed to see Jesus in us? How are people supposed to experience the life changing power of Jesus if they’re not seeing it in us?

In short, what is the purpose of following Jesus if we’re doing life the same way as the person who’s not?

In short, what is the purpose of following Jesus if we’re doing life the same way as the person who’s not?

I’m convicted to hide God’s word in my heart, to invite Him in every day, and by the power of His Holy Spirit to live a life that’s different, one that’s shining on the brightest and darkest of days. It’s not an easy life by any means. But Jesus didn’t call us to an easy life … He Himself didn’t live an easy life. He served when He could’ve been served. He gave when He could’ve received. He sacrificed His life when He could’ve just stayed in heaven, seated on His throne, and worshiped day and night for all eternity. But instead, He came to rescue us. To rescue us out of our life of sin and darkness, that we may have an eternity filled with Him. That’s why our life should look different. That’s why we want people to know Jesus. Because He’s not only changed our life, but the course of human history!

As you wade into this week, pray about where God might want your light to shine a little brighter this week. Maybe at school? Maybe at work? Maybe to your unsaved family members? How can you be salt and light and bring the hope and power of Jesus to other’s this week?

When we recognize we’re set apart by God to stand out for Him, someday we might just change the world. ❤

Until Next Time,

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@stephanie_jacqu

P.S.!! This week’s blog was inspired by the devotional Whatever Is Lovely by BroadStreet Publishing Group LLC & 100 Things God Loves About You: Simple Reminders For When You Need Them Most by Zondervan. Please check these wonderful books out!

A Reflection of 2018, and a peek at 2019: A New Year’s Blog

A Reflection of 2018, and a peek at 2019: A New Year’s Blog

“The works of His hands are faithful and just; all His precepts are trustworthy. They are established for ever and ever, enacted in faithfulness and uprightness.” // Psalm 111:7-8

Happy New Year 2019 everyone!

I feel like I say this at the beginning of every blog post, but I literally can’t believe it’s New Years. 2018 went by so, so fast! I mean, I literally remember last year at this time, thinking about 2018 and all I hoped and believed it would hold.

What’s funny about looking back at the hopes and expectations you had for something is seeing how much of it actually came to be, and what actually happened that was completely unexpected, things you could’ve never saw coming.

This year was a pretty good one for me, and I’m thankful for that. I’ve had a few rough years in the recent past, so the fact that 2018 was a good year is something I’m very grateful for.

But what’s funny about 2018 is it wasn’t anything I expected to be.

But what’s funny about 2018 is it wasn’t anything I expected to be. What I thought would happen in 2018, didn’t. What I didn’t think would happen in 2018, did. And I think that leads up to a big lesson I learned just recently (stay tuned for that blog in the next couple weeks). But, the reality is none of us really knows what’s up ahead, and none of us are really that in control of what the future holds.

But, the reality is none of us really knows what’s up ahead, and none of us are really that in control of what the future holds.

Sure, we can set goals and work hard to accomplish what we desire, but overall, things happen. Life happens. God moves in ways we could never even think of. And while 2018 wasn’t anything I expected, it was literally one of the best I’ve had in a while.

For example, I didn’t [ever] think I would actually rewrite a manuscript I’ve been wanting to get published for years in 2018. I couldn’t ever imagine the hope and the joy I experienced in 2018. And never did I think I’d be at the end of 2018 so full of hope and excitement for the future as I am.

If you know Jesus as your Savior, He will use every moment of hurt, pain, and disappointment to work out the most beautiful picture you could ever imagine. That’s not just hype, either.

But, if 2018 wasn’t everything you hoped for, or maybe it even left you more disappointed and discouraged than you thought you would be, know that every moment God is in control. And if you know Jesus as your Savior, He will use every moment of hurt, pain, and disappointment to work out the most beautiful picture you could ever imagine. That’s not just hype, either. God is that kind. God is that faithful. If we just choose to trust Him and follow Him, He’ll bring us into the best plan He has for our life.

So, here we are. 2019. Every year I pray and pick a word for the upcoming year. For 2019, my word is faithful. The Lord gave me this word while I was reading Psalm 111. Verses 7-8 read, “The works of His hands are faithful and just; all His precepts are trustworthy. They are established for ever and ever, enacted in faithfulness and uprightness.”

My idea of this word for the upcoming year is this:

My idea of this word for the upcoming year is this:

1. That God is faithful

2. That because of God’s faithfulness, I will choose to be faithful to God

Late this year, God showed me a picture of what it looks like to believe and live as though I believe God is faithful. Faithful to provide all my needs — material, spiritual, and emotional. That He is faithful. Constant. Unchanging. And while these are all things I “know”, this year, I want to live like I believe those things. And that leads into the second part of my word. That I will choose to be faithful to God.

I think a lot of us get carried away in the things we “should be” “doing” as Christians, but that’s different than being faithful to Him. Being faithful to Him is more like a relationship. Like a husband is faithful to his wife, or a wife faithful to her husband. In whatever they do, they want to honor each other, respect each other, and do things that the other would support and approve of. That’s the picture of being faithful to God.

Being faithful to Him is more like a relationship. Like a husband is faithful to his wife, or a wife faithful to her husband. In whatever they do, they want to honor each other, respect each other, and do things that the other would support and approve of. That’s the picture of being faithful to God.

When I speak, whatever I do, wherever I am, I want to be faithful to Him. When others see my life, I want them to see a King who is still alive and active, a King who sets the captive free, a King who erases anxiety and fear. A King who brings peace, hope, and joy. A King who is peace, hope, and joy.

Do I have hopes and dreams for 2019? Sure. But more than that, I have hope in my God. My faithful King. That whatever He desires would happen in 2019. That He would lead, open doors, shut doors, and redirect as necessary. That I would be able to look back in one year and be just as hopeful, just as excited, just as joyful heading into 2020, no matter what happens over the next 365 days. That my hope in Him would be stronger than the fear that tries to reign. Because I have hope in the God who is reigning. And is doing it mightily faithfully.

Because I have hope in the God who is reigning. And is doing it mightily faithfully.

I came across this Scripture that I love in Psalm 119:35-37 that I thought would be a great prayer to start off 2019 with:

Direct me in the path of Your commands, for there I find delight. Turn my heart toward Your statutes and not toward selfish gain. Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to Your word.

I hope you all have an awesome 2019! I can’t wait to take the journey with you. May the Lord bless you and keep you, make His face shine on you and be gracious to you, and may He turn His face toward you and give you peace.

May we ever seek His face in 2019, and by doing so, someday we might just change the world ❤

Until Next Time,

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@stephanie_jacqu

P.S.! Here are some other Scriptures I found relating to the theme of my word faithful for the year:

Psalm 112:6-8:

“Surely the righteous will never be shaken;
    they will be remembered forever.
They will have no fear of bad news;
    their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord.
Their hearts are secure, they will have no fear;
    in the end they will look in triumph on their foes.”

Psalm 116:12:

“What shall I return to the Lord for all His goodness to me?”

Psalm 119:30:

“I have chosen the way of faithfulness; I have set my heart on Your laws.”

Isaiah 25:1:

“Lord, You are my God; I will exalt You and praise Your name,
for in perfect faithfulness You have done wonderful things, things planned long ago.”

The Worship of Christmas

The Worship of Christmas

“Where is the one who has been born King of the Jews? We saw His star when it rose and have come to worship Him.” // Matthew 2:2

Christmas Day. It’s almost here. All the decorations, parties, and gift-wrapping leads up to this one day. December 25th. But 2,000 years ago, this holy day was something so much more. The day when the long-awaited promise of a Savior of God’s people came. The day the baby was born in a lowly manger. The day that would begin the most beautiful, radiacal, redemption plan known to mankind.

This baby in a manger was born for you and me. He was born in a world full of darkness, choas, and sin. This baby was born so that we may have peace and life for all eternity.

This baby was born so He could one day die for all of humanity. To take our sin, take our pain, take our wrath so we could have forgiveness and be set free. This is no ordinary baby. This is no ordinary day. This is Jesus. Born as a child. The One who always was, always is, and always will be. The day our redemption … our hope … came to life.

This Jesus is worthy of every single ounce of our worship. He left His throne, the comforts of heaven that surrounded Him from eternity past to eternity present. He chose to be born to redeem His people, to provide a way for life. This Jesus was born to die for us. This Jesus was born to be raised from the dead. This Jesus was born so that we may have everlasting life.

This Christmas, let the holiness of His birth wash over you. That majesety would become a baby and turn a manger into holy ground. That the King of Kings would humble Himself into the verunablity of a baby. To be raised by human parents, to go to the cross to pay a pentaly no one else in human history could have. A penalty He willing paid.

On this holy night of Jesus’ birth, peace had dawned. Grace became a reality. Hope became a promise fulfilled. A baby was born to die. A baby worthy of all our worship.

This Christmas, let’s worship Jesus. The baby in the manger, the Savior on the cross, the King seated on His throne, the One who is coming back for His church. This Christmas, and always, He is worthy. ❤

I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas with your loved ones. May the peace, joy, and hope of the season fill you all week long.

Until Next Time,

Stephanie Jacqueline 💜

@stephanie_jacqu

P.S.! Check out these Christmas songs that’ll stir your heart in worship this Christmas.