Asking, Seeking and Knocking

““Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” -Matthew‬ ‭7:7‬ ‭NIV‬‬

My son is a professional asker. He has no hesitation when asking to go somewhere, do something or buy something. And if the answer is no, he will wear you down slowly but sweetly! Eventually, he usually gets what he wants (within reason).

Many people think this scripture is about money and material things. We can ask God for ANYTHING! Need peace? Ask, seek and knock. What about joy? Ask, seek and knock. How about focus to get a few things finished? Ask, seek and knock.

God is concerned about we are concerned about. I bet he wished we would come to him with everything. Not just big, insurmountable problems but even things as small as a headache.

Find more inspiration and hopefully a few laughs on my podcast Seeking God, Loving Others.

Plan for God’s Purpose

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”
‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭19:21‬ ‭NIV‬‬

As a planner, I believe God looked through the channels of the future, saw people like me and made sure this verse was put in the Bible! But I’m learning that I’d rather have God’s purpose lead and guide me than my own plan.

We can’t see what’s down the road but God can. I truly believe there have been accidents I didn’t get into and encounters I didn’t have because God’s purpose prevailed. He is ALWAYS thinking about what’s in our best interest and sometimes that is not found on our to-do list.

Find more inspiration and hopefully a few laughs on my podcast Seeking God, Loving Others.

Note Taken!

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,”
‭‭James‬ ‭1:19‬ ‭NIV‬‬

It’s easy to believe some lies we tell ourselves. “I’ve always had a short fuse”; “I just tell it like it is, good or bad”; “I just run off at the mouth!”.

But James says that EVERYONE should shut their mouth, make listening a priority, and calm down. Well, he didn’t say it exactly like that.

How many times have your words put you in a situation you didn’t care to be in. Hurt feelings, unintended commitments, just being wrong! If we can pause and give our brains and hearts a minute to process, maybe we can respond more kindly and even more appropriately in different situations.

If I can quote another great thinker, “You can’t learn anything when you’re talking. That’s a fact of life. As long as you’re talking, you’re not listening.” Ok, it’s just Rocky Balboa from “Creed” but it’s still true! Faith in Films! Coming soon 😉

Thanks James (and Mr. Balboa). Note taken!

Find more inspiration and hopefully a few laughs on my podcast Seeking God, Loving Others.

God’s Goodness is Tailing You!

“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.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭23:6‬ ‭NIV‬‬

I love seeing the word “surely” in the Bible. It’s a guarantee! We are guaranteed that the goodness and love of God is following us.

Have you ever been driving and someone is all up on the back of your car? Next time that happens, remember, that’s how God’s goodness and love and mercy are following you. ALL UP ON YOU!!

Occupancy Limit Reached

Yesterday, my kids and I went to Bath and Body Works to buy a fall candle. Candle buying is a family affair for us. My kids spend way too much time, smelling Every… Single… Candle.

At the entrance of the store, there was a sign posted that stated the store had an occupancy limit of 31. Over the past year, I’ve seen these signs more visible than before. The occupancy limit usually depends on the size of the store.

I read a scripture this week that has been a real game changer for my week. Have you ever read a passage in the Bible that jumped off of the page and into your heart and mind? I know I’ve read it before but I’ve never noticed it.

“Moreover, when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil—this is a gift of God. They seldom reflect on the days of their life, because God keeps them occupied with gladness of heart.”
‭‭Ecclesiastes‬ ‭5:19-20‬ ‭NIV‬‬

The last line of this verse is what I noticed. “God keeps them occupied with gladness of heart.” I’ve been asking God all week to occupy my heart with gladness. To occupy means to keep busy or filled.

Too many people allow their hearts to be occupied with the wrong things: fear, doubt, news, social media, worry, and the list go on. And it becomes evident in their conversation. I have become very intentional about what I allow to reach my eyes and my heart.

Jesus said this: “For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” (Matthew‬ ‭12:34‬ ) So I’ve been asking God to occupy my heart with gladness this week. I’ve been focusing on his goodness. I’ve been focusing on the blessings he’s put in my life.

When a building reaches its occupancy limit, it means there is no room for anyone else to come inside. When we allow God to occupy our hearts with gladness, there is no room for fear or negativity to occupy it.

I encourage you to pray this prayer this week and ask God to fill your heart: “Lord, I ask that you would occupy my heart with gladness. I refuse to allow negativity, fear, doubt, worry, stress or anything that doesn’t come from you to take residency in my heart. My heart belongs to you and thank you for filling it.”

What You Thought Was Dead

Check out this week’s podcast @ https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/jasmine-lozano-seeking-god-loving-others/id1562418663

In 2016, we moved into our current Midwest mansion. It’s not really a mansion but was one of the few houses we looked at where our visitors didn’t have to use our bathroom so it was a mansion to me!

One of the major selling points of our house was the beautiful apple tree in the front yard that didn’t yield crab apples but actual, grocery storish looking and tasting apples. 

Fast forward two years, and my storybook apple tree stopped producing apples. It looked tired and dry and my husband thought we would have to cut it down. 

Before giving it the axe, he decided to try a few things first. He removed the old mulch and replaced it with new mulch. He cut off the parts of the tree that were clearly dead. And lastly, (and you better not laugh at my man!!) he spoke to the tree. He told it to come to life and produce apples. He told it to do what it was created to do. 

And by the next summer, we still didn’t have apples. I know I set you up. You were expecting a harvest of apples like we were. But it didn’t happen. But he continued to talk to the tree. 

This summer, guess what happened? WE GOT APPLES!!! And this fall, WE ARE EATING APPLES!!! 

Our tree didn’t start coming back to life immediately. It took time. It took patience. It took faith. 

I’m reminded of the story of Lazarus in John 11. You can check out my podcast for a more in-depth discussion on this (small plug!). But when Jesus got to Lazarus’ town of Bethany, he was beyond dead! The Bible says he had been in the tomb for 4 days. 

When Jesus saw Lazarus’ tomb, he spoke 3 simple words to his friend. “Lazarus, come forth.” And I love that the Bible tells us that the same power that raised Jesus from the dead is in us (Romans 8:11)! 

There are dreams in my life that sometimes seem like they’re dead. Or are at least on life support underneath all of my responsibilities. But I think about what Jesus told his disciples when he heard of Lazarus’ death. “He’s sleeping” (John 11:11)

Could it be that what you thought was dead is just sleeping? That business, that book, that blog, that podcast, that invention or service? They’re not dead; they’re sleeping, waiting on a word of life to breathe on it and wake it up!

I believe that our apple tree began producing apples again because my husband told it. Neither of us is particularly skilled at gardening but we do know that power of words. And you can speak to the things in your life that aren’t producing and I believe with you that they will come forth!!

Stop Pacifying the Pain; Fix the Problem

Check out this blog on my podcast: Seeking God, Loving Others https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/jasmine-lozano-seeking-god-loving-others/id1562418663?i=1000534243735

At about 9 weeks from my first marathon, I am knee deep in training. How appropriate that I’ve begun to have some discomfort in my right knee. I was having a great training cycle and even though the miles were increasing, I was looking forward to the challenge. Then after running about 20 miles in a 4 day period, my knee signaled to me that something was wrong. I put ice on, massaged it, elevated it, did all of the things I could think to do to treat an injury until after some research, I found that I wasn’t actually treating my injury. I was treating the symptoms.

I will spare you the scientific, medical terminology and explanations and give you a run down. There is a connective tissue in the leg that runs from the hip to the knee called the Iliotibial Band, or IT Band for us common folk. Basically, this tissue is what we use to make our leg do the motions for running or cycling. So it’s kind of important. 

I found that pain on the outside of the knee (exactly where I was having it) was a symptom of IT Band Syndrome, or ITBS for short. I know, it sounds super scary! ITBS happens when the muscles surrounding the IT Band are not strong enough to support the activity you are trying to do. Basically, it happens when you do too much too fast and your body isn’t prepared. 

The only way to truly recover from this injury is to strengthen the muscles that support the IT Band. You can ice, medicate, stretch, even rest, but you will only be treating the symptoms and never addressing the real issue.

This “healing” approach is not unique to just this running injury. Year after year, many people do everything they can to pacify pain, rather than fix the problem. 

  • We think we don’t make enough money (symptom) when really, we never learned how to manage money (problem).
  • We think losing weight is just too hard (symptom) when we haven’t addressed our unhealthy relationship with food (problem).
  • We think we’re too busy to put time into spiritual growth (symptom) when truthfully, God is not a priority for us (problem).

When we go through life just trying to stay on top of the symptoms, we never experience the true healing that God offers. In the 11th chapter of 2nd Samuel, King David encountered some major issues when he attempted to only treat the symptoms of the affair he had with Bathsheba.

This is an abridged summary (Please refer to an actual Bible with an officially recognized translation)

David was supposed to be at war with the troops but stayed home and saw a lady taking a bath on her roof. He asks who she is and is told she is the wife of one of his soldiers, Uriah. He has her come over and gets her pregnant. Then he starts freaking out (treating the symptoms). 

But he has a plan! He can ice it; he can find something to cover up what’s really going on. He has Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, brought home from battle so he will sleep with his wife and think the baby is his. 

But when Uriah comes home, he refuses to rest in comfort while his fellow countrymen are on the battlefield, and sleeps at the city gate. But David has more home remedies for this setback.

He gets Uriah drunk and tries again to have him go home to sleep with his wife, but when this fails, he moves to more extreme measures. He arranges to have Uriah put at the front of the battle so he is more likely to be killed.

Once his plan is “successful”, he thinks he’s remedied his problem. He thinks he’s taken care of the problem that is plaguing him. But he has only treated the symptoms. 

The prophet Nathan comes to David and pretty much checks him. He lets David know that God is not pleased and because of his sin, the sword will never leave his household (constant drama) and his unborn child will die. 

When David hears this, he finally takes the ice off, locks up the ibuprofen, and finds the root of his problems.

“Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.”” (2 Samuel 13:13) 

David’s problem wasn’t Bathsheba, the affair, the unplanned pregnancy or even the murder. David’s problem was that he sinned against God. He had drifted away from what he was known for his whole life: allowing God to be his strength. He spent so much time trying to treat the symptoms of his sin, rather than going to the only cure for it.

Like recovering from an injury, it’s important to assess what is really going on in our lives when we experience discomfort or pain. Have we strengthened our faith muscle to be able to rely on the power of God when things get tough? Have we paused to be sure we’re not overextending ourselves?

My husband taught a message this week and one of the points was to “Pay Attention to the Tension”. Tension or pain isn’t meant to take us out. They are signals that something is not right. They are an opportunity for us to course correct and get back on track. 

While I recover from this small injury, I’m being mindful to not just treat the symptoms but to strengthen the area that needs to be built up. Otherwise, this will be an unnecessary, ongoing problem. Decide today to stop treating your symptoms and fix the problem.

Training Tips

Check out my podcast, Seeking God, Loving Others! This weeks episode based on this blog: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/jasmine-lozano-seeking-god-loving-others/id1562418663?i=1000534243735

This week in my marathon training, I had a midweek 6 mile run and unintentionally chose a path that has a few hills. I’m a lazy runner if I’m being honest and typically, I try to find routes that stay pretty even or go down in elevation! But being that my November marathon does feature some intense hills, I know I have to get more effective at running them.

As I was running up a steep hill, I began to regret my decision. Hills are hard! Hills hurt. Hills take more effort. Hills slow you down. Why can’t all races be on a level course that requires little to no effort? You already know where I’m going with this, don’t you?!

Life does not progress on an even course. There are times when we are running well and times when all we can do is walk. There will be times when there is plenty and times when we get to practice contentment! We don’t always get to run downhill. Sometimes we will have to tackle hills.

Jesus told us this in John 16:33. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” 

Jesus wanted us to know that in this world, we will have trouble. Not we might have or could possibly have trouble. WILL. Look at his life! The Pharisees were constantly stalking his every move. The Sadduceus’ main mission in life was to try to trip him up. His own disciple turned him in to be arrested. The people laughed at and mocked him and don’t forget he was put on a cross by the same people who laid palm branches under him!

It’s easy to say we want to live like Jesus, but do we though!? Jesus was able to endure all of this and more because he had already put in the training. He had already practiced on the hills! 

Jesus spent time in prayer and fasting. He knew the Scriptures like no one else! He prioritized communion with his father. He surrounded himself with like minded people (although they sometimes got on his nerves!).

His life was neither smooth nor easy. And neither will ours be. I wish more than anything it could be, but instead of wishing for the impossible, I’d rather prepare for the inevitable. 

Just like I’m preparing my body to run 26.2 miles by eating properly, sleeping well, and training up for the distance, we can prepare our lives to weather the storms life will send. 

No matter what you are going through, know that God has given you everything you need to overcome. It won’t always be uphill.. But if you train for the difficult seasons by staying consistent in his word and staying connected to him, you will make it to the top. 

On the Path

On Saturday mornings I run with a running group. It’s one of the favorite parts of my week. We run in a different location each week, then have coffee afterwards. After taking a long break from running, it’s been really refreshing to be running with my group again. 

Every week, there is a Facebook post telling us where we’ll be running, where to park and the route we can take. Some of the routes we run, I’m familiar with and others, not so much. Sometimes I run with a partner that has a similar pace but when there’s no one who I can run with, I just settle in between the faster runners and the walkers. 

This Saturday, I tailed a guy who’s a bit faster than me but not too fast that he’s not usually within eyesight. It also helped that he was wearing a neon yellow shirt! About halfway through the run, I lost sight of him. And this was a route that I’d never run. There were some twists and turns on the path that caused me not to see him.

While I had never run this route, I knew that as long as I stayed on the path, I’d be ok. I knew that even though I couldn’t see my “guide”, I wouldn’t get lost as long as I stayed on the path. 

I’m in a season where I don’t always know what I should be doing or not doing. Sometimes I feel like I’m doing exactly what God wants me to be doing and other times I feel like I’m just coasting in complacency. But lately, he has been reminding me that as long as I stay on the path he laid out for me, I don’t have to stress.

Psalm 37:23 says, “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, And He delights in his way.” I know, with 100% confidence that God has ordered my steps, and knowing this helps me to stay encouraged even when I don’t see him moving. I know that the path he’s posted will get me to my destination.

Who’s In Your Boat? Part 2 of 2

LISTEN TO THIS PODCAST @ https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/jasmine-lozano-seeking-god-loving-others/id1562418663?i=1000528345473

Last week, I talked about what happens when the wrong people are in your boat or your life, using the story of Jonah. Jonah never belonged on the boat to Tarshish and his very presence put others’ lives in danger.

If you have a specific destination or goal for your life, it’s imperative that you only take along the right people. The wrong people will only cause you unnecessary problems, setbacks, and cause your route to be filled with disorder, devastation, and delays. 

“You are only going to be as good as the people you surround yourself with, so be brave enough to let go those who keep weighing you down.” -Ziad K. Abdelnour

This week, we’ll discuss what kind of people you should not allow in your boat and also, what kind of people make good sailing companions. If you know me, you know I love some good alliteration, so for your reading and podcast listening pleasure, they all start with “C” (You are welcome). And they’re Biblical, too! 

WHAT KIND OF PEOPLE SHOULD NOT BE ON YOUR BOAT:

COMPLAINING PEOPLE

Now the people complained about their hardships in the hearing of the Lord, and when he heard them his anger was aroused. Then fire from the Lord burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp. (Numbers 11:1)

It is easier to complain than to do something. It’s true. Complaining about something only takes your opinion. Changing something takes action. There is a time to speak up when something needs to be corrected, but I’m talking about complaining just for the sake of it. 

I live in Wisconsin where we really have just two seasons. We have about 3 months of people complaining how hot it is and 9 months of people complaining how cold it is. We have entire websites and apps dedicated as places to complain. Have you ever noticed how many 1 star reviews places get? People often spread bad news faster than good news. 

When the Israelites were in the desert after leaving Egypt, they were set to take over the promised land but the Bible tells us that a group of complainers spread a bad report through the camp that caused the people to become fearful. As a result, they wandered the desert for 40 years.

Complaining is contagious. Why? Because misery loves company. Instead of figuring out a solution to a problem, complainers only talk about why something is the way it is. These type of people will not add value to your goals, they will only place unnecessary obstacles in your path.

COMPLACENT PEOPLE

The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the LORD’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.” (Exodus 16:3)

Let me start by saying I am not talking about contentment. Contentment is defined as a state of happiness and satisfaction. It’s being grateful for what you have. I recently watched a documentary featuring a man living independently with Down Syndrome. When asked if he wished his life was different, he responded, “I’m happy with my life right now until something better happens.” That is my definition of contentment.

But complacency is something entirely different. “A complacent person is very pleased with themselves or feels that they do not need to do anything about a situation, even though the situation may be uncertain or dangerous” (collinsdictionary.com). 

The Israelites were reminiscing about the food they had in Egypt but they forgot one thing. THEY WERE SLAVES THERE!! They were longing for the complacency they had in Egypt. They were promised a land flowing with milk and honey, but they were longing for meat with a side of bondage. 

We’ve been promised an abundant life (John 10:10) but many believers have become complacent with a life far below the abundance we can receive. Complacent people often won’t challenge you to do and be better, just good enough.

CARELESS PEOPLE

“Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways.” (Proverbs 4:26)

I am a planner. I like to have an idea of what to expect for the day, week, month and year. As an aspiring writer, podcaster, ministry leader, business owner, and homeschooling parent, planning helps me to see my endeavors grow. 

One of my favorite quotes says that if you fail to plan, you are planning to fail. Careless people will definitely keep your boat from arriving at your destination. Careless people very rarely have a vision or plan for their life. 

I was talking to someone who has a dream that to some looks insurmountable. It is a big, bold, “only God can do it” dream, and they’ve encountered some push back from people they’d hoped would encourage them. I shared this with them: People who don’t have a goal or vision for their own life often won’t add much value to yours.

CONTROVERSIAL PEOPLE

“Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels.” (2 Timothy 2:23)

“What do you think about Christians drinking?” This is a trick question. When someone asks you this, they don’t really care what you think. They want to open the door to lay out their seven point presentation about the Troubles of Tonics. 

Some Christians love arguing about the Bible. Not defending it to unbelievers or debating it with an atheist; arguing with other Christians who despite their different beliefs on baptism will still be with them in heaven.

I steer clear of people who are intent on being argumentative because I know that it doesn’t get us anywhere. Controversial people often look for faults in others rather than seeing them through the loving eyes of God. They see the world as us and them. People who think like they do and everyone else is stupid or wrong.

WHAT KIND OF PEOPLE SHOULD BE ON YOUR BOAT:

CONSECRATED

“‘Consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am the Lord your God.” (Leviticus 20:7)

Holiness is not a bad word. I say this a lot because it is true. I am holy. And if you are saved, you are too. My kids don’t have to do anything to prove they are my kids. They are my kids because they lived in my womb for nine months and share my DNA. But because they are my kids, I do have expectations of them. 

And yes, God has expectations for his children. The Bible calls us a peculiar people. That doesn’t mean we are supposed to be weirdos who freak people out as we chase them down with a track entitled, “Be Right or GET LEFT!!!”. But there should be something distinguishable about our lives. 

I have friends from all walks of life, but have to be very mindful of who I trust with my vision and goals. Like-minded, consecrated people will give you the encouragement you need and you can trust it because you know they’ve been with God.

CONSISTENT

“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain”. (1 Corinthians 15:58)

Consistency is key to reaching your goals. You need faithful, hard working people around you that will help encourage you and keep you accountable. 

COMPETENT

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16,17)

God wants his people to be well equipped and prepared to serve. I think some people never reach their full potential not because they can’t but because they don’t prepare. 

My kids are still young but I’m teaching them how to prepare for a productive life. I want them to know how to organize their life and their thoughts. I want to show them how to build their relationship with God and the importance of serving him well. 

COMPASSIONATE

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32)

In my opinion, compassion is one of the characteristics of Christ I’d love to see implemented more in the church. Jesus was a compassionate leader. He looked at the people around him that were hurting and he didn’t blame them or shame them; he had compassion for them. 

I’ve been very fortunate to know many kind, compassionate followers of Christ that have given me grace when I needed it. You need people in your life that will pick you up when you fall. 

My pastor used to say, “We’re a fellowship. All fellows in the same ship.” When we take inventory of who is in our boat, we can see why we’re making headway towards our destination or experiencing delay.

Keep Going

Sometimes you can’t see changes as they’re happening. I started taking a picture of this tree after every run starting in March. Good runs, bad runs: Same picture. The first picture is from March; the second from today. I didn’t notice much change in this once barren tree from day to day, but 4 months later it is full and providing shade and comfort.

I don’t always feel like I’m moving forward with my goals but one thing I know is that consistency will get me closer to them. I’m learning that I don’t have to sprint to the finish line. I can continue to move towards it at a sustainable pace.

We are becoming better each day. Each day is not perfect and it never will be. And that’s ok. But as long as we keep going, keep doing, keep loving, keep growing, we will see results!

Happy Monday!!

Who’s In Your Boat? Part 1 of 2

LISTEN TO THIS PODCAST @ https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/jasmine-lozano-seeking-god-loving-others/id1562418663?i=1000528345473

There’s a familiar story in the book of Mark where Jesus and his disciples are crossing the sea of Galilee and encounter a storm. I’ve heard amazing messages about how having Jesus in your boat will help you weather any storm. I’ve heard about how having Jesus in your boat will give you a peace that will surpass your understanding.

This story definitely shows us the benefits of having the right person in your boat. But what happens when you have the wrong person or people in your boat? This is what happens to a group of sailors in the Old Testament.

The story of Jonah is probably one of the more well known Bible stories even among non-Christians. You could go into Dollar Tree today and probably find a childrens copy of it. If you aren’t familiar with it, here’s a brief summary:

  • God tells the prophet Jonah to go to Nineveh and tell them to repent of their wickedness or be destroyed. (Jonah 1:1-2)
  • Jonah throws a fit (my words) and does the opposite by sailing to Tarshish (Jonah 1:3)
  • The Lord sends a storm strong enough that well trained sailors are terrified and Jonah is below deck, taking a nap. (Jonah 1:4-5)
  • The sailors start throwing cargo off the ship and wake Jonah up to tell him to pray but find out his disobedience is the reason for the storm.(Jonah 1:6-10)

And this is where we will pick up the story. When I read the Bible, I like to not only look at the narrative, but consider the point of view from other characters. As I began to read this story, I wondered what it was like for these sailors. They are just sailing to Tarshish with goods and cargo, just going about business as usual. But because of who they’ve allowed to sail with them, they encounter a major setback.

They weren’t the ones who disobeyed God (well, directly. We are told that they are pagans or people who do not follow God). They weren’t the ones who rebelled against God’s instructions. Jonah was. But because of their proximity to him, they get caught up in his consequences for his disobedience..

Have you seen this happen to anyone? Has it happened to you? Is it happening right now? Sometimes, we make choices that will cause a negative outcome in our lives. We spend more than we can afford. We waste time scrolling on social media for hours watching others live out their dreams. We overindulge in unhealthy food that causes our health to suffer. But what happens when we endanger others because of our decisions? 

At first, the sailors have no idea why this is happening to them. They try to lighten the load of the ship by throwing things off. They are praying to their gods to save them. But once they find out Jonah is the cause of their problems, they have to make a choice. Jonah tells them that the storm will stop if they throw him overboard. 

This is where I put myself in the story. 

Jonah: “I’m a Hebrew and I disobeyed the God who made the sea and the land and the entire universe.”

Me as a sailor: “That’s cool, I heard about you guys and Egypt and sticking it to the Pharaoh. But you did what!?”

Jonah: “Yeah, God told me to share his message of salvation with the people of Nineveh, but I don’t like them, so I’m doing my own thing. Sorry you got caught up in it, though. Just throw me overboard, and everything will calm down for you.”:

Me as a sailor: **Picks Jonah up, tosses him over the side of the ship and heads to Tarshish to sell my lavender bath bombs**

END SCENE 

But this is not what happened. At least not initially. The sailors do what so many people do when they’re given advice on how to turn a situation around. 

Instead, the men did their best to row back to land. But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before.” (Jonah 1:13 emphasis added)

They were told exactly what to do to cause their lives to be at ease, and they ignored it. I’ve seen people in bad relationships (both platonic and romantic) that are not benefiting them or leading to anything positive. When told it’s time to cut ties with that person, they INSTEAD try other things. They hope that bringing that person to church will help or planning a weekend getaway will help improve things when the only thing to do is politely remove them from their life.

As the sailors notice that their efforts are not improving their situation, they eventually do what they should have done in the beginning and finally get rid of the person in the boat causing the problem. Side benefit: The sailors begin to acknowledge God, offer a sacrifice to him and make vows to him, which is the Old Testament version of a “come to Jesus” moment.

Jonah never belonged on that boat and his very presence put others’ lives in danger. Next week, I’ll talk about the kind of people you should not allow in your boat and also, what kind of people make good sailing companions. 

If you have a specific destination or goal for your life, it’s imperative that you only take along the right people. The wrong people will only cause you unnecessary problems, setbacks, and cause your route to be filled with disorder, devastation, and delays.

“You are only going to be as good as the people you surround yourself with, so be brave enough to let go those who keep weighing you down.” -Ziad K. Abdelnour

Staying Consistent in Conflict

“Successful people do consistently what others do occasionally.” -Craig Groeschel

There are more quotes about consistency than I could throw a stick at but this is one of my favorites. Whether we want to write a book, lose a few pounds, or get our house in order, consistency is the key. We don’t have to overhaul everything about ourselves to become the person we want to be; we just need to consistently do the actions that will get us there.

The problem is many of us fall off the wagon the moment a wrench is thrown into our plans. Most of us would agree that the past year has definitely frustrated the plans for many of us. I found that some of my good habits suffered severely while others continued out of necessity. But once I set myself realistic goals and grew to be disciplined in accomplishing them, I began to see my life start coming back together.

King Hezekiah was one of the many kings chronicled in the book of Kings who had a major setback almost throw his life into chaos. He had served God faithfully by destroying articles of idol worship that led the Israelites astray and he faithfully kept the commands of the Lord. He sought the Lord when he was in trouble and did things by the book. The Bible even said there was no king like him in Judah, neither before or after. Talk about a great resume!

Everything looked to be going Hezekiah’s way until one day he got sick. Some people don’t miss a beat when they get sick. I am not one of those people. When I get sick, I can’t walk or talk and I milk every ounce of help I can get out of my family. 

Hezekiah must have been doing pretty badly because the prophet Isaiah shows up and tells him to get his life organized because he was going to die from his illness. I wonder if this news surprised Hezekiah. When we think of prophets, we often think they must be coming with a good word from God. I’m sure he expected to hear a “Get up and walk” or “You’ve been made whole.” But that was not the word God had for him.

After serving God faithfully and even helping the Israelites to return to serving God faithfully, you would think things would work out well for him. There’s a strange misunderstanding that as Christians, we will never go through a hardship or trial once we accept the Lord Jesus as our savior. That somehow, magically, all misfortune will avoid our lives to allow us to live blessed and highly favored. While I do believe we have a once unattainable favor and grace in our lives when we get saved, I don’t believe we are placed inside of a Christian bubble wrap that keeps all bad things away from us. That’s just life. People get sick. People get hurt. People die. Christians included. 

But the difference is, as children of God, we have access to someone who has the ability to change our situations. And Hezekiah knew this. Hezekiah went back to a habit that he practiced consistently his entire life. He prayed. The Bible says that when the prophet Isaiah left, Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and reminded God of all he had done to walk right before him. Look at his prayer:

“Remember, Lord, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.” (‭‭2 Kings‬ ‭20:2-3). For those who think that our tears don’t move God, I have to disagree. Who, as a parent, sees their child crying out in pain and turns a blind eye? God, as our heavenly Father and creator, cares about the things that concern us. That’s why we’re encouraged to cast our cares upon him, because he cares for us. (1 Peter 5:7). ‬ 

Hezekiah had always gone to the Lord in times of distress. In times of threats, he went to God. In times of battle, he went to God. So this conflict had no different strategy. He went to God. It seems so simple, right? I’m not trying to oversimplify anything you might be going through, but I want to encourage you to stay consistent in seeking God. 

If you haven’t been consistent in your time with God, today is a good day to start. Sometimes we treat our spiritual health like our physical health. “Wow! Is that scale accurate? Do I need my eyes checked or are those late night snacks catching up to me!? I’m going to start working out this Monday. I’m going to run 3 miles and drink a gallon of water and eat only salads for lunch! But Monday is the 17th so maybe I’ll wait until the 1st of next month so I can get everything together.” 

We put things off, waiting for an ideal time to start. We want to wait until everything is perfect, the weather is perfect, the budget is perfect before we start making changes. But we can begin to be consistent now. Right now! Take out your Bible and read one verse. I’ll wait!

Okay. Now do the same thing tomorrow. Take out your Bible and read one verse. Do the same thing until reading a verse everyday becomes consistent. Then add another verse and let it become consistent. Perfection and consistency are not roommates. In fact, perfectionism is the upstairs neighbor that plays his music too loud and walks too hard to be living on the 3rd floor! 

Discipline yourself to remain consistent even in conflict. When the storm has passed, you will be much further along than if you had waited for clear skies before even starting.

Go and Make, Not Come and Take

I talk to everyone about everything. If we are standing in line at Target next to each other, I will know your life story and we will connect on Facebook before you leave.

I’ve always enjoyed meeting new people, even if just for a few minutes before our lives separate for eternity. Or will they?

While I need to reinstate this practice more regularly, I often end my conversations with strangers by asking this question: IF THERE WAS ONE THING I COULD PRAY FOR YOU, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

I’m not embarrassed to ask this either. I’ve seen so many Christians break into a full sweat when they are asked to pray. We aren’t afraid to share shopping deals, political opinions or criticisms but sharing the good news?! We’d rather just secretly give them a glossy invitation to visit our church and run back into the black of night.

I’m not against inviting people to church. But what if they don’t come? I was invited to church for 8 months straight, every week. I always had excuse. Plans with friends. Plans with drinks. Plans with the cat. Anything to get out of going to church. That’s where the hypocrites are!!

People will turn down invitations but they will rarely turn down prayer. In fact, NO ONE has every said to me, “Actually everything in my life is working out perfectly. My kids, my money, my health, my job, my relatives are all exactly like I want it. Find someone else to pray for.”

In fact, I often end up praying for very dire situations and ending up hugging a crying stranger in aisle 9 of Walmart. We don’t know what people need at first glance, but God does.

This interaction allows me to ask them the most important question they will hear in their lives: Do you have a relationship with Jesus? Prayer is a wonderful gateway to show people you don’t just care about them visiting your church or coming to an event, but that you care about their life and eternity.

Jesus told the disciples in Matthew 28:18, a verse known as the Great Commission, to go and make disciples. A commission is an authority to act for, in behalf of, or in place of another. Jesus basically told us to keep doing what he was doing since he was leaving.

Cue the rant!! (Don’t act surprised; you know I like a good rant!) It’s time to leave the comforts of our cozy churches and events. It’s time to get serious about presenting the gospel to people. We can’t wait for the stray visitor we don’t recognize that probably came from another church to come through our doors.

There are people dying and they don’t know Jesus. They are going to hell. Yes, HELL! It’s a real place and if we aren’t vocal in inviting people to know Christ, they will end up there.

I had a dream this week that I was being raptured. Well, I think was being raptured. I began floating off of earth and proceeded to low earth orbit (LEO for my fellow space nerds) then on to deeper space. I started freaking out because I had no type of protective gear. How was I even alive! I figured I had to be on my way to heaven but when I looked around I was alone.

That’s all I remember of the dream. But it made me question: How many of us are going to heaven alone? Are our families coming? Coworkers? Friends? Neighbors? I have friends that aren’t coming and it makes me sad. I’ve cried many times at the thought of it, asking God to open their eyes to the free gift of salvation I’ve shared with them.

I think we (the church) have misrepresented the gospel. We encourage nonbelievers and believers alike to come and take. “Come to Jesus and you’ll get everything you ever wanted! New car, nice house, vacations! Just come to our church and we’ll show you how!”

I’m definitely a believer and supporter of the message of prosperity and abundance but that’s just half of it. 2 Corinthians 9:8 says “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.”

God isn’t opening the windows of heaven to shower us with blessings just for us. They are for every good work! And the best work we can do is the one he commissioned for us to do: Go and make.

Find your Faith

I live in a smaller city in Southeast Wisconsin and get on the freeway maybe once a month or so. It’s a far less busy pace than the larger Texan cities I was raised in! So when I started learning more about using my telescope, I learned very quickly that living in the city really added limitations to what I could see with my telescope. 

I thought I’d be better off because I didn’t live in a large city but discovered that even being located between the two big cities of Chicago and Milwaukee caused my experience with the night sky to be hindered. Light pollution is a term used in astronomy to describe the brightening of the night sky caused by street lights and other man-made sources, which has a disruptive effect on natural cycles and inhibits the observation of stars and planets.

In 2001, a scale was created by John Bortle to help amateur astronomers evaluate the darkness of an observation site that measured the night sky’s brightness in a particular location. The Bortle scale is a nine-level numeric scale that ranges from Class 1, the darkest skies available on Earth, through Class 9, inner-city skies. So the farther away you are from big cities and lights, the more you can observe the sky without interference.  

Just like in astronomy, location is everything when operating in faith! Our world is filled with all kinds of pollution that will hinder us from seeing the future God has for us. We’re bombarded with advertisements that tell us we can have the best car for 6 years of financing, causing financial freedom to be harder to see. We’re told our old phones need to be upgraded, creating further distance between us and contentment. We can scroll for hours, looking into the lives of others, liking the pictures of the vacation we wish we went on or the child’s birthday party we wish we’d thrown.

Sometimes, I miss the days when you only knew what was in your house and maybe a few friends. Now we have access to the homes and lives of people from a wide spectrum of income categories, varying degrees of debt and EVERYONE’s opinion! I promise, I’m not going on a rant about the downward spiral of humanity and our increasing dependence on technology that is creating a culture of discontent, overly informed individuals. I’m not! But I will say that where we position ourselves spiritually, mentally, physically, and financially, will have a major effect on what we can expect to see in our lives.

We have to be intentional about positioning ourselves in a place where we can find our faith and be able to live it out everyday. I’m not telling you to move to a ranch in Wyoming far from civilization and live a life of solitude so you can be closer to God. But I am saying that we must position ourselves in the optimal place to be able to use our faith most effectively. 

I’m reminded of a person in the Bible who made a decision to change her position and it resulted in her becoming the ancestor of one Israel’s most famous kings. In the book of Ruth, we meet a young Moabite woman who is faced with a tough decision of whether to return to her home and people after the death of her husband or relocate to an unknown land with her mother-in-law. 

Now here’s the part where you expect a mean mother in law joke, but I’m sorry to disappoint you! I actually love my mother in law and we have a great relationship! Ruth must have had a good relationship with her mother in law, Naomi, because she went on to Israel with her. 

We learn that upon arriving to Naomi‘s home in Israel, Ruth ends up working in the field of one of their close relatives to make ends meet. She is greeted with kindness and favor from Boaz, the owner of the field and close relative, who makes sure that she is taken care of as she worked in the fields. 

Over the course of time, Boaz and Ruth marry, and she becomes the mother of a son named Obed. Obed becomes the father of a son, Jesse and Jesse becomes the father of a young, shepherd boy who would grow to be Israel’s most famous king and the writer of much of the book of Psalms, King David. 

Because of her decision to change her location, Ruth became the great grandmother of a king. What impact could you have on the outcome of your legacy by positioning yourself today to operate in great faith? 

Are you believing by faith that you will enjoy financial freedom? Position yourself around individuals who have accomplished financial freedom and can help guide you along the way. Are you believing that you will be healed of an illness? Position yourself next to someone who God has healed so that you stay encouraged when it gets tough. 

When you find the right position, it’s amazing what you will see. Goals and dreams you thought were unreachable become clear. Unspoken aspirations find the freedom to breathe and grow, and you can trust God to fill the gap of the impossible as you position yourself in his presence and in His word.

BOOT CAMP: Wk 5 Worship

Check out this week’s podcast on Anchor!

In March 2006, I pulled up to a nice looking brick church. The parking lot was almost empty so I knew I was early. I just sat in the car for a while and watched people begin to arrive and go inside. They looked nice enough and some even smiled at me through the glass, as if they knew the hesitancy I felt about joining them. I finally went in but I sat in the last row so I could leave if I got uncomfortable. An older man came up and encouraged me to sit closer. After I ran out of excuses as to why I’d rather sit in the back, I gave in and moved to the 3rd or 4th row.

The lights went down and a young Hispanic guy with thick black hair came up and began to sing and play the keyboard. He could have been singing in another language as far as I was concerned. I hadn’t ever heard these songs and honestly, they didn’t make sense to me. “I am a friend of God?” But I thought God was mean! “I worship you because of who you are?” What does that even mean! Well, at least the keyboard player was hot! (It’s ok, he’s my husband now! I can say that!)

As I stood there, surrounded by people with their eyes closed and arms lifted up, my heart began to burn. Literally. It’s hard to put into words what I felt inside. When I think about it now, I’m reminded of the story in Luke when two men were walking on the road to Emmaus after Jesus had been crucified. Jesus appeared to them, but they didn’t know who he was. Jesus went on to walk with them, talk with them and even eat with them, but it wasn’t until he disappeared from their sight that they realized they had been with the Lord. One said, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32)

That’s what I felt. A burning, an urging. I was in the presence of God, and even though I didn’t understand what was happening, I knew enough to know that I needed him. I asked Jesus into my life, right during praise and worship. With tears flowing down my face, I sat down when the music ended, knowing something was different. I looked up to see the same older man who encouraged me to move closer begin to teach, realizing now that he was the pastor of the church! At the end of the service, he asked if anyone wanted a new life in Christ, and I basically ran to the front of the church!

This is why worship is so important to me personally. I met Jesus in worship. I hadn’t heard a sermon or powerful teaching. I met Jesus as my heart softened and worship filled the room. I’ve heard testimonies of people being healed during praise and worship. In the Old Testament, the army of Israel sent the worshippers out first before battle!

There are any ways to worship God, but I am talking specifically about praise and worship in regards to music. I sing on the praise team at my church and have been involved in leading worship for over 15 years. I would say I’m a bit more charismatic and demonstrative during worship, but when you come from where I came from, you’d understand.

Worship is an outward expression of an inward revelation. When we understand who God is and all that he has done and constantly does for us, our response would be nothing but gratitude. Setting the atmosphere is such a vital part of our weekly worship of God.

Worship cannot be something we do only on Sunday morning. I ran a half marathon in 2019 and am training for a marathon now. I remember during the half marathon seeing people limping and crying towards the end. You can tell they hadn’t trained and prepared properly. I can tell Sunday mornings who hasn’t trained as well!

I make it a point during the week to spend time worshipping God in my house. When I get to church Sunday morning, I’ve already meditated on how good he is. I’ve already thanked him for salvation and delivering me from my sin. I’ve already welcomed his presence into my day.

This week, focus on making praise and worship a part of your week. It’s better than focusing on problems and worrying! We can make the decision everyday to fill our mouths and homes with praise!

BOOT CAMP: Wk 4 Prayer

Check out this week’s podcast on https://anchor.fm/jasmine-lozano4/episodes/Boot-Camp-The-Importance-of-Prayer-e114hgr!

Have you ever gotten a friend request on social media from someone and you had no idea who they were? Maybe you share a few mutual friends or live in the same city, but you just have no idea how you know them? I have 787 friends on facebook to date. Of those 787 people who like my posts and pictures, I probably talk to less than 10 on a semi regular basis. Most of them don’t even have my phone number and if they called me, I wouldn’t answer because my phone has a spam setting for unknown numbers.

In the age we live in, the title of friend has definitely expanded to include people we would have called acquaintances in times past. The mom I talked to at the park for one hour 4 years ago is now my friend for life. The lady at the grocery store who gave me a coupon will see pictures of my kids when they graduate college in a decade. That’s actually kind of creepy; I’m going to go unfriend her now! The truth is, according to numerous polls and studies, most people have less than 5 close friends. 

It’s strange for many people to think of God as a friend, but He is the most trustworthy and faithful friend you will ever have. James 2:23 tells us that Abraham was called a friend of God. Could God say that about us? That our relationship is beyond that of an acquaintance but has depth and history. There is an amazing conversation between two friends, God and Abraham found in Genesis. 

In Genesis 18, Abraham and Sarah have just been visited by three visitors who shared the good news that she would be a mother in her old age. But God didn’t only have good news to share with them, but also a heads up. The visitors inform Abraham that God will soon destroy the towns of Sodom and Gomorrah because of their sin. Why wouldn’t this be great news, you ask? Punishing the wicked and making room for the righteous sounds like a win-win! But the problem is that Abraham’s nephew, Lot, who came with him from Haran was living in Sodom. Naturally, Abraham becomes worried for his family. But because he has developed a relationship with God, he does something that we have the ability to do anytime: He asked God a few questions. He asks God if he would spare the city if he found 50 righteous people. When God agrees, Abraham continues to lower the number until it’s down to ten people.

Did you know it was okay to ask God questions? People have told me my entire life not to question God, but the most successful people in the Bible, asked God questions. Moses asked God how to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. David asked God if he should attack the army that plundered and carried away his family and the families of his soldiers. Gideon asked why had all of the bad things happened to Israel if God was with them. James 1:5 says “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”

I’ve always found it interesting that it was God’s decision to let Abraham in on his plans to destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Could you imagine having that close of a relationship with God that He wants to let you know what he has in mind to do? God doesn’t have to consult with us before making any decision, but because of his relationship and covenant with Abraham, he didn’t want him left in the dark.

Faith is not a huge mystery that we have to stumble through, hoping to bump into God’s will and plan for our lives. God doesn’t want his children left in the dark. The Bible says that we have been taken out of the kingdom of darkness and placed into his marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9). Our position in faith gives us access to come to him wherever we are and whenever we need answers. Hebrews 4:16 encourages us to “come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Our faith is strengthened and we develop our relationship with him by prioritizing our time spent talking with him.

BOOT CAMP: Wk 3 Finances

Check out this week’s podcast @ https://anchor.fm/jasmine-lozano4/episodes/Boot-Camp-The-Importance-of-Giving-and-Money-Management-evms05

I know, I know! No one wants to hear or talk about money. And I think that speaks volumes as to why so many people struggle with it. Money, giving, tithing, saving, investing, and debt has become an off limit subject for many people, both in and outside the four walls of the church.

For years, money issues have been listed as one of the top reasons married couples divorced for both Christians and non-Christians. The majority of Americans live paycheck to paycheck and wouldn’t be able to handle a $500 emergency without using credit. In the last 5 years, over 2.5 million people have filed bankruptcy.

But it’s not just individuals and families who are struggling financially. According to ChristianityToday.com, more churches close their doors every year because they are unable to pay their bills than for any other reason. 

I find it surprising that even though about 40% of Jesus’ parables dealt with money, the people of God struggle with finances in the same manner as the people of the world. I’m not pointing the finger. I only recently have been able to become debt free through God’s provision and grace.

When I became a Christian in 2006, my church offered both a new members class and a class for new Christians that introduced me to the principle of tithing. I’ll be honest; it sounded crazy at first. Giving 10% of “my” hard earned money to a church that seemed to be doing okay seemed counterintuitive. 

But something happened when I gave my life to Jesus. I decided I would believe what he said. If he said it was more blessed to give than receive, I believed it. If he said I should give and it would be given to me, I believed it. I was taught in these classes that tithing was more about a person’s heart than a person’s money. 

Jesus said that our heart was where our treasure was. In plain English, how and where you spend your money shows what matters to you most. For some people, recreation, vacation or entertainment is their priority. For some, it may be their children’s activities or personal hobbies. I spend money on all of these things, but not before I return to God what belongs to him already.

The Bible tells us in Deuteronomy 8:18 that it is God who gives us the ability to get wealth. It’s because of him we can wake up, physically move our limbs, and even have the particular set of skills we need to allow us to provide for our families. And yes, I’m aware I quoted Liam Neeson.

Once we understand that everything belongs to him, it becomes less difficult to actually trust him with all we have. Tithing is simply a measure to show God not only are we thankful for what he’s blessed us with, but that we trust him in handling it as well. 

When my family was getting out of debt, I was amazed at the supernatural increase we experienced and remembered something God promised in the book of Malachi. 

“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe,” (Malachi 3:10-11 emphasis added)

I shouldn’t have been as surprised because God did exactly what he said he would do in His word. Because we had been faithful for years in tithing and giving, God was true to his word and poured out a blessing we couldn’t keep to ourselves. I’ll go into more detail in this week’s podcast with my special guest!

I encourage you to listen to my podcast this week as I dig deeper on the issue of finances. My guest and I will talk more about giving, saving, debt and other areas that God wants us to be successful in.

BOOT CAMP: Wk 2 Bible Study

Check out this week’s podcast @ https://anchor.fm/jasmine-lozano4/episodes/Boot-Camp-The-Importance-of-Bible-Study-evkn6i

“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”Hebrews‬ ‭4:12‬ ‭NIV‬‬

In November 2019, my family visited Newport State Park in Ellison Bay, Wisconsin. It was one of the most magnificent experiences I have ever had. The park is located on the very tip of the Wisconsin Peninsula.

Because this park is designated as a dark sky location, artificial light is heavily discouraged. They ask that if you must use a flashlight, be sure it’s pointed to the ground. There aren’t even any lights on the bathrooms or in the bathrooms, which made it pretty difficult taking my 6 year old to use the unlit bathroom in 28° weather!

Because the weather was so cold at night, we would go back to the car for a few minutes to warm up, but encountered a major problem. Every time we’d turn on the car, my dim lights would still remain on. We knew there had to be a way to turn these off, but we just didn’t know how.

I’ve always been paranoid about keeping the owner’s manual in the car and with the help of it (and google) we found the way to keep the lights off when we started the car.

The owner’s manual for your car helps you to figure out the details of your car that you don’t know. Most of us know how to put the car in drive and we can figure out how to turn the windshield wipers, but there are some areas of our car that we have no knowledge of.

The same is true in life. For many people, there are areas where they are simply not knowledgeable. Maybe you grew up in a home where finances were never discussed so as an adult you struggled trying to make ends meet, get out of debt, or save money. 

Maybe you grew up eating fast food every meal, and now that you’re in your 30s or 40s, you’re finding out that type of diet is not sustainable. Whatever the case may be, we are privy to a wealth of information. Looking up how to solve almost any problem it’s just a few fingertips away. But there are some problems that go deeper than just a Google search. 

For me, there is no other book that can help me understand my money, help me to flourish in my relationships, help me to raise my kids, help me to change my diet, and a host of other problems that plague many of us. That book is the Bible; the word of God. 

2 Timothy 3:16 says “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 

That means every word of the Bible was inspired by God. There is a point to every book, chapter and verse, even the long, boring ones that seem to go on forever! (I’m sorry if you’re offended I called some of the Bible boring, but if you disagree, you’re lying. Come on, Leviticus!?) But they are there for a reason. 

We’ve been given the word of God as a tool to hear the voice of God and familiarize ourselves with his promises and yes, even his consequences. While we have been redeemed from the curse of the law (Galatians 3), there are still consequences to disobeying the word of God, just as there are benefits to obeying it.  

Isaiah 40:8 says “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.” 

We see nature changing all of the time in front of our eyes. We also see culture, trends and opinions change just as frequently. While everything around us is unstable and subject to change, the Bible is the one constant we can rest our faith on.

I challenge you to make reading your Bible everyday a priority this week. Decide beforehand how long you will read, where you will do your reading and what book you will read. Don’t leave your spiritual development up to chance. Be intentional about pursuing God’s word and see the difference it will make in your day.

Let’s chat: What are some obstacles you face when trying to be consistent in your Bible reading?

BOOT CAMP: Week 1 Fellowship

Check out this week’s podcast on Fellowship! https://anchor.fm/jasmine-lozano4/episodes/Boot-Camp-The-Importance-of-Fellowship-eujl2r

You need to go to church. Period. No nice introduction or anecdote, no statistics or kind encouragement. If you are physically able, you need to take your body to church.

As I’m writing this post, I am aware that many churches have been closed for a period of time due to the coronavirus pandemic. During this time, many believers have had to worship around their TVs, computers and phones.

Technology really came through! Many churches were forced to rethink their approach to reaching the masses and as a result, many were able to reach more people than ever before.

My husband and I love watching other services online. We like to see what other churches are doing, what their stages look like, what they’re teaching, the songs they’re singing. 

But as much as I enjoy watching different services online, there is nothing like being in the physical house of the Lord. While I’m grateful that we were still able to worship virtually during the time it was necessary, we were never meant to walk this Christian journey alone. 

Paul had Silas. Mary had Martha. Peter had James and John. And we need connection. It is so important to be surrounded by people who can help encourage you and strengthen you when you need it. 

Jackie Hill-Perry said it best. “God himself has never been alone. He has Jesus and the Holy Spirit. We are never less like God than when we isolate ourselves.”

The Bible is full of examples of believers gathering for worship and encourages us to stay connected. Hebrews 10:25 ESV says, “Not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

When I first became a believer, I lived at the church! Youth chaperon needed? Sign me up! Sunday night classes? I was there. I wanted to learn everything I could about faith and how to live this new life. I needed to find people who had experience. I needed to find people to grow with who were new to faith like I was. The bottom line, I needed to find connection.

I also needed accountability and encouragement. I was amazed that after a bad day, I could turn to a sister in Christ rather than a substance. I learned very quickly why the believers in the New Testament were always together and breaking bread.

“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” Acts 2:42 ESV

When the Holy Spirit first came to the new Christians, the Bible says they were together and on one accord. While they were not necessarily meeting in what we would define as a church building, they were together; they were the church. 

My faith was strengthened every time I heard an encouraging message Sunday morning; it was strengthened everytime I went to a Sunday night Bible study; it was strengthened every Wednesday night when I heard testimonies of God’s provision and protection. 

Physically going to church and developing relationships with people in all levels of faith helped me to continue to grow and develop my own.

I often hear people give countless excuses as to why they couldn’t make it to church. My volleyball coach used to say, “Excuses are like belly buttons. Everyone has them and they’re all full of lint.” I’ve been told there is a harsher analogy for this, but this blog is rated PG! But he was right. 

We can tell ourselves and others countless reasons as to why it is so difficult to get to the church, but most times the hard truth is this: If you didn’t make it to church, it’s because you didn’t want to go.

I know. It sounds tough. Where is the grace? I’ll lighten up a bit.Thankfully, we are not made righteous by what we do or by what we don’t do, otherwise, we’d be saved by works and not faith. Our righteousness (right standing) is received by the simple act of salvation, our relationship as children of God.

I think about my own children. Neither are old enough for a cell phone so I’ll ask my son if he will text me when he gets one. He said, “Oh, you know it! I’ll blow you up!” He recently got his own ipad and has proven he was not lying. I wake up to about 10 texts on average every morning!

My daughter, on the other hand, is not much of a chatter. When I ask her the same question, my heart sinks a bit. “Maybe,” she’ll say casually without even a smirk to let me know she’s joking. I really hope she is!

But this is how many Christians approach corporate fellowship with God. Maybe they will go to church this week. Maybe they will give. Maybe they will join the Bible study. Despite the relationship with him as his children, many people have put off making a commitment to church attendance and involvement, leaving it up to how they feel when they wake up Sunday morning. Read this passage from Psalm 92:

The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree, he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Those who are planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bear fruit in old age; They shall be fresh and flourishing. -Psalm 92:12-15

So what is the opposite of being fresh and flourishing? Spoiled and withering. What a contrast. Am I saying your life is going to completely crumble and fall apart if you don’t go to church? No. I know non-Christians and Christians alike who don’t regularly attend church and they seem to be doing okay.

But as a believer, God did not call us to just do okay. He called us to a better life. John 10:10 tells us he came to give us a life that is more and better than we ever dreamed of. 

While personal discipleship is important for growth in faith, corporate discipleship helps to expound on that growth. When I became a believer, I made a decision that I would be at church every Sunday. Period. My Sunday morning attendance was not based on what external factors may have happened the night before or morning of. I was going to be at church. I was going to meet with my father.

Just as we commit to our jobs, appointments and even sports teams, God’s children must commit and prioritize their decision to follow him. Not out of obligation or requirement, but out of love and honor. 

Do you face challenges when it comes to prioritizing weekly church attendance? Let’s chat in the comments!

BASIC TRAINING

Listen to the podcast episode for this blog post: Welcome to my Podcast! https://anchor.fm/jasmine-lozano4/episodes/Welcome-to-my-Podcast-euiitg

Christians are often called the army of God. We sing songs as kids about being in the Lord’s army; we are told in scripture to fight spiritual battles with spiritual weapons (Ephesians 6:10); we read about God strengthening his followers’ hands for battle (Psalm 144:1).

The Bible is filled with language and imagery about battle and war. There are few groups that form the bond and unity like the military. While one of my least favorite genres of movies is war movies, I have seen my fair share of them (often not of my own volition). 

Consider the United States military. There are different branches and ranks. Soldiers are equipped to perform different tasks based on their abilities. There are snipers and skilled weapons specialists, but there are also clerical and medical experts. There are soldiers who disarm bombs and soldiers who prepare meals that are the bomb (I’m from the 90’s, sorry!).

But there is one thing every member of the military has in common; THEY ALL COMPLETE BASIC TRAINING.

Basic Training or boot camp is designed to prepare military recruits for service.  Depending on the branch of the military, recruits are put through months of training tailored to that branch to give them the basic skills they will need to be able to perform effectively.

The different branches vary in what is required physically to complete Basic Training. The Navy has a requirement that recruits must be able to tread water for 5 minutes. But all branches require a timed run ranging from 1.5 to 3 miles. 

Whether a soldier is swabbing the deck (I got that from a movie, though it may have been a pirate movie) or filing a report, they all need to be able to run. They all need to be able to endure long distances.

As the church, it seems we have discounted the importance of Basic Training for the believer. Once someone finds their faith and is planted in church, it is crucial to train new recruits in what’s required and expected in the army of the Lord.

Could you imagine joining the Army and immediately being put on a plane to a combat zone, given a gun and dropped off? You would be totally unprepared. 

But unfortunately, the church does this to many new believers as they sign up to join the Army of God. They come to church and are bombarded with cliches and theologies when they can’t even find the book of Matthew yet.

If we want to be effective in sharing the gospel with hurting people, we have to be trained in the basics of our faith.

When I was saved 15 years ago, I was very privileged to be at a church that invested in Chrstian education. I was able to take classes about prayer, serving, and evangelism that helped build the foundation I needed to be able to serve the Lord and run well.

This is an area of faith I am so passionate about. Teaching believers the basics of faith. How to pray; how to study the Bible; why we give and serve. For many people, the benefits of the Christian life stop at the point of salvation. They can trust Jesus to save them from hell, but are not taught how he can sustain them on earth.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing a Boot Camp series on basic training for Christian living. God has such a great life planned for his children and we learn about it through his Word, fellowship and prayer. 

My prayer is that you will not jog casually through your faith journey, but run well with endurance. I hope you can join me in the comments for some good discussion!

Fitting In When You’re Feeling Out

In 2016, my family and I moved to my husband’s hometown in the Midwest. While I already had friends and family in my new home, many times I felt, and honestly still feel, out of place.

In 24 hours, I was living in a new place, driving on different streets, and worshipping at a new church. I knew that God wanted us to make this move. I felt like Abraham when God called him to move from Ur to Canaan, but at least I knew exactly where I was going.

What I didn’t know were the emotions that would show up when I got there. Homesickness wasn’t on my moving checklist. I hadn’t packed for feeling out of place. We were moving by faith, knowing that wherever we were planted, we would be available for God to use us.

But change and growth isn’t easy. Otherwise, everyone would do it. Everyone would have finished their book, completed their marathon or opened their restaurant. Not only is change not easy, but not everyone will want to join you for the ride. 

We often think going from glory to glory is linear. But the truth is, sometimes we will take two steps forward and one step back. 

I heard a message a few weeks ago from Steven Furtick, the pastor of Elevation Church, teaching the story of Joseph from the book of Genesis. I have heard this story too many times to count, but never heard this observation.

In the first chapter of Genesis, God created everything and it was good. In the last chapter of Genesis, after all Joseph had gone through in his life, Genesis 50 says God used it for good. Joseph was envied by his brothers, sold into slavery, and wrongfully put in prison. 

From Genesis 1 to Genesis 50, we read about the fall of man, the first murder, the flood, the tower of Babel, and Sodom and Gomorrah. Yet despite all of the disaster and tragedy:

God never stopped being good

He is faithful and will finish the work he begins in us (Phil 1:6). Just because he doesn’t finish it on our time schedule, doesn’t mean it’s not happening. When we are feeling out of place, we have to remember where we fit in God’s story. 

If you don’t know your place in his story, let me give you an abbreviated preview. 

You are an heir of Jesus (Galatians 3:26)

You are free in Jesus (Galatians 4:7)

You are precious in God’s eyes (Isaiah 43:4)

You are God’s special possession (1 Peter 2:9)

You are a friend of God (John 15:13)

You are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Run Your Race

I recently began running again after almost a year off due to the pandemic. I am a new runner. I started in 2018 and have run a few races, including a half marathon. When I started I could barely run a quarter of mile without feeling like a lung was going to fall out of my body, so when I ran 13.1 miles (well, 13.84 miles, the course was off #humblebrag), I couldn’t believe I had come so far.

Fast forward to 2021, and I feel like I’ve never run. EVER. In my life. I’m slower, I’m tired, and it is hard. I just want to wave a magic wand and go back to where I was this time last year. 

But I can’t. And sometimes, that’s discouraging. I looked at the numbers from my half-marathon and saw that my slowest mile of the 13+ plus miles was still faster than my current mile! I had to make a decision: Give up and just live in the past or keep moving and get better everyday.

I chose the latter. 

I was reminded of a verse in Philippians about what I was experiencing. The people who know me well know that I have a verse for everything! There’s no situation I’ve come across where I was unable to find comfort and guidance in the Bible.

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,  I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (PHIL 3:13-14)

While it can be helpful to look back from time to time to remember and reflect, it is not always beneficial. It’s easy to get trapped in the mistakes or failures from years ago or envy a better time of your life. But the apostle Paul would tell us not to waste time on things that don’t propel us to our destination.

When I looked at my racing numbers through a different lens, I was encouraged to know that since I trained and got better before, I could do it again. And I could do it better. What’s in front of you is going to be better than what’s behind you.

We all go through ups and down but what matters is whether or not we move forward through them. Don’t allow yourself to get trapped in the closet of the past. Put one foot in front of the other and run your race.

What Are You Wearing?

I recently went to a Milwaukee Bucks game. I’m a Dallas Mavericks fan so I personally don’t own any Bucks gear, and out of principle, never will. But one thing that stood out to me was that to the onlooker, there was no room to doubt who the Bucks fans were. It was easy to identify them as fans by what they were wearing. 

In the Old Testament, we meet a king who was identified by what he was wearing, but unfortunately, it almost cost him his life.

“So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat king of Judah went ahead and attacked Ramoth Gilead. The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “Wear my kingly robe; I’m going into battle disguised.” So the king of Israel entered the battle in disguise.

Meanwhile, the king of Aram had ordered his chariot commanders (there were thirty-two of them), “Don’t bother with anyone whether small or great; go after the king of Israel and him only.””

When the chariot commanders saw Jehoshaphat, they said, “There he is! The king of Israel!” and took after him. Jehoshaphat yelled out, and the chariot commanders realized they had the wrong man—it wasn’t the king of Israel after all. God intervened and they let him go. (2 Chronicles‬ ‭18:28-32‬ MSG)

You can tell alot about a person by what they wear. Their interests and hobbies can often be assumed based solely on their attire. Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah, was a victim of mistaken identity because of what he was wearing. 

This led me to wonder what are we spiritually wearing as Christians? Are people able to identify us as followers of Jesus Christ? Do the people on our jobs or at our schools know that we have a relationship with Him? Is it radically obvious that we’ve had an encounter with Jesus?

Because Jehoshaphat has agreed to go into battle dressed as the king of Israel, he now has a target on his back. He is being mistaken as someone he is not, simply because of what he is wearing. 

Many Christians have failed to intentionally distinguish themselves from the world, despite their relationship with Christ.

Many believers still dress like the world, listen to the same music as the world, watch the same shows as the world and wonder why they still have the same problems of the world. We have done very little to set ourselves apart as we’ve been instructed.

Therefore, come out from among unbelievers, and separate yourselves from them, says the Lord. Don’t touch their filthy things, and I will welcome you (2 Corinthians 6:17)

Jehoshaphat is dressed just like Ahab so that’s who the enemy thinks he is!!!! For many of us, the struggles we go through year after year are because we haven’t taken the time to make a clear distinction between us and the world.

AND THE ENEMY CAN’T TELL US APART!!!

It saddens me to look out at God’s people and not see God’s abundance. It hurts my heart to see the people of God struggling in their finances and their marriages and their faith, to see people attend church week after week and not be transformed and renewed. 

We’re supposed to live such abundant lives that we draw unbelievers to Jesus because they want what we have. But many unbelievers don’t want what we have because many Christians don’t have anything different from them. 

We have the same bad attitude, the same gossip, the same speech, the same worries, the same credit card debt, the same bad marriage.

We have not heeded to Romans 12:2 and allowed our minds to be renewed by the word of God. We have equated the word of God to a book of suggestions. For many of us, the word of God is nothing more than a self help book. “A verse a day keeps the devil away!” 

But the Bible is not a book of suggestions or advice. It is the living, breathing word from God on how we need to function and live as his children. But unfortunately, we have aligned ourselves with culture and customs and practices and people that are opposite of what we say we believe. 

And like Jehoshaphat, when the enemy comes, when trials come, when the battles come, we handle them like the world because we’re dressed like them. 

How do we get the right clothes to be prepared to live this life of faith?

We get them by reading our Bible, by praying in the Holy Spirit, by tithing, and serving. We clothe ourselves by fully following God with unwavering devotion and aligning ourselves with his word, regardless of what the culture is doing. 

But when we clothe ourselves in the wrong things, we will not be prepared for the attack of the enemy.

Many believers have failed to progress from the point of their salvation into sanctification (the act of being set apart). They’ve accepted him as savior but haven’t submitted to him as Lord. 

When we surrender our lives fully to Christ, we can’t help but to take off the things that cause us to look less like him. We start taking off the malice, envy, bitterness, wrath, anger, lying, and the old self.

We take off those old garments and we trade them in for a robe of righteousness, a garment of praise, and a crown of life. We make the decision that we are not going to misrepresent our father God, but will leave no room for doubt to the onlooker as to who we represent. 

May your priest be clothed with your righteousness; may your faithful people sing for joy. (Psalm 132:9)

Teach Them the Language

“In those days also I saw the Jews who had married women of Ashdod, Ammon, and Moab. And half of their children spoke the language of Ashdod, and they could not speak the language of Judah, but only the language of each people.”

‭‭Nehemiah‬ ‭13:23-24‬ ‭ESV‬‬

I read this verse last week in my studying. I was reading about how Nehemiah helped orchestrate the rebuilding of Jerusalem and its walls after the Israelites were taken into captivity by the Babylonians. The people of Israel had been separated from their homes. They had married foreign people, which God had instructed them not to do so they wouldn’t be drawn away from him. 

As a result, their children were unable to speak the native language of the Israelites. As believers, we have a native language: Faith. I wonder if we are teaching our children that language.

My mother in law once said, “The kingdom of God has a language: Faith. If you can’t speak it, it’s going to be very hard to operate in God’s kingdom.”

When I went to Mexico a few years ago, I mostly stayed at a resort where English was spoken. But when I did go into the city, I needed to know the language. Luckily, I grew up in Texas, so I knew enough to get by. 

Unfortunately, this is the situation for many believers. They grew up in a home where they caught pieces of the language of faith, but because it wasn’t intentionally taught to them, they only know enough to get by. 

Jesus didn’t call us to just get by. He came so that we might have life and have it more abundantly! (John 10:10). We have to be intentional about instructing our children about the things of God. We have to teach them not just how to pray, but why we pray. Children will do what they see. 

Every morning, my son is up before most of us in the house. I wish I had his energy! He usually goes downstairs with my husband who also wakes up early to read and study the Bible. He had the habit of grabbing his tablet and headphones and just watching something until it was time to get moving for the day.

While we are not opposed to him being on his tablet in the morning, my husband and I decided it wasn’t the best way to start his day. Recently, he’s started beginning his day by reading his Bible before getting on his tablet. 

It’s not a punishment or a requirement we’re forcing him to do. We want him to see it as encouragement to start the day with time with God. That before anything else happens in the day, it’s important to see what God may want to speak to you.

Let your children see you worship, pray, and read your Bible. Teach them the importance of giving, serving and fasting. It is our responsibility to teach them the language of faith before they enter the world so that they can operate abundantly in God’s kingdom.

Don’t Forget the Main Ingredient

Last night, my husband and I were sitting on the couch, finishing our evening coffee we have every night together when he gets home from work.

It wasn’t a busy day, but the kids and I had run some errands in the afternoon, so I didn’t really make plans for dinner. I figured I’d make tacos because we all love them and they’re fairly easy, but I didn’t have any ground beef.

As I neared the end of my coffee, I told him I didn’t have a plan for dinner so we were going to pick up food. I told him that I was going to make tacos, but didn’t have any meat.

“Isn’t that the main ingredient you need to make tacos!” he laughed, almost spitting out his coffee. WE both laughed and then ordered a pizza.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been preparing a message for my women’s event at church. Today as I gathered what I needed for my message, I sat back to make sure I had everything. Notes, check. Bible, check. Clothes ready, check.

I felt ready to go. Then I remembered I was forgetting the main ingredient. I paused and dropped down to my knees.

Lord, will you be with me tonight? Will you fill my mouth with your words? Will you meet us as we gather and meet the needs of your women?”

What started as a quick, almost forgotten prayer, turned into hours of prayer and praise and worship. I almost forgot the main ingredient that would ensure that no matter who did or didn’t show up for the service, God would be there.

Have you ever made something and forgot an ingredient or used the wrong ingredient? Missing an ingredient can ruin an entire meal. Leaving out prayer and worship can ruin even weeks worth of preparation and planning.

No amount of preparation or planning can replace the presence of God. Make room for him and invite him into everything you do.

Spring Cleaning

I am not a naturally tidy person. My husband and I joke that my tolerance for filth is higher than his. Considering I had a housekeeper at age 21 when we met, I’d say he had plenty of notice!

Most messes don’t bother me much. I have no problem overlooking the pile of dishes in the sink, the multi room fort the kids like to create, or every pillow from the entire house stacked into a mountain. 

But the one mess I cannot tolerate is an unswept floor. There is nothing worse than a wet sock from stepping in spilled water or brushing crushed pretzels off of your bare feet. Ok, maybe childbirth is a little worse. 

If I do no other housekeeping task in a day, I will sweep the floor. I usually use my hard floor vacuum but every so often I’ll use the broom. My kids always ask, “Why are you sweeping the old fashioned way?!” 

It always amazes me the amount of mess I sweep up from just one day. The piles look like something from an episode of Hoarders! But despite how disgusted this makes me feel, it reminds me of how quickly our lives can become cluttered when we aren’t careful to maintain them. And like my floor, clearing the clutter of our lives is an everyday job.

Romans 12:2 tells us to “be transformed by the renewing of your minds” but many people think this is a one time thing. Imagine how much trash I would sweep up if I only swept once a month!

Many believers expect the trash of their lives to be handled with a one hour service on Sunday. We come to church and sing and clap and pray (maybe), then head back into the week and allow the dust of life to gather.

We have to be intentional about daily removing the things that clutter our minds and spirits. Do you have a daily practice of reading the Bible? Do you make time each day to talk to God? Do you feed your spirit with faith-filled words? 

If you aren’t careful to daily sweep out the junk of everyday living, it will begin to pile up and before you know it, what could have been a 5 minute chore could end up taking much longer.

If you haven’t already, make time to spend with God today. Ask him what areas of your life have hidden clutter you may not even see. Ask him to guide you in your day. Welcome him to be a part of it. It’s a practice that seems so small but if it’s skipped, you will notice!

Coffee and Cat Food

My total was $78.13. We had run out of two things we can’t live without. Coffee and cat food. If my cat doesn’t have food, I won’t have a good day. If I don’t have coffee, no one will have a good day. I’m a person who plans. I make grocery lists, meal planning lists, cleaning lists. If it can be made into a list, I make it!

I love checking off boxes and slashing through tasks. It gives me such a rush! What I don’t like is the unplanned. I bet you’re wondering if I spent $78.13 on just coffee and cat food. It wasn’t organic cat food or artisan coffee that ballooned my total to almost $80. It was the oreos, the fruit, the juice boxes, the bobby pins, the cereal, and the press on nails I found in the clearance section.

A trip that should have cost no more than about $15 ended up costing closer to $100. In addition to list making, I’m also a professional exaggerator! 

As I lugged in the multiple bags from the garage, I had a quick moment of buyer’s remorse. While I needed the extra items I had purchased, well mostly needed, I didn’t need them immediately. 

I don’t just do this in the grocery store. There are so many times when I add things to my day or week that in the grand scheme of life, are not really things I need to prioritize immediately. 

I’m in the process of writing a book, but for some reason, I feel like organizing the dining room buffet is a task I have to do, RIGHT NOW! I need to do my workout, but how long has it been since I dusted the baseboards? It’s amazing how we can add on extraneous activities that keep us from doing what is truly important. 

I’m trying to stop adding unnecessary items to my list, both in the grocery store and at home and beginning to prioritize the things that matter most. A movie night with family, a long writing session, a much needed nap. Those are the things I’m putting towards the top of my list and thankfully, they don’t cost a penny!

LEGO and Let God

My son and I often build LEGO projects together and honestly, I think I enjoy it more than he does. It never fails that once we approach around the 75% completed mark, he ditches me to start playing with some of the completed characters and weapons. I really don’t mind since he builds much slower than me and now I can have the rest all to my self!

But during the time that we ARE working as a team, I have the task of finding the pieces for the page we’re on. While he is putting together one section, I’m able to look further along the page and collect all of the pieces he needs for the section coming up. While putting together an intricate Ironman Hulkbuster build, he noticed that as soon as he was done with one section, I already had his next pieces waiting. “Wow! You always have everything ready so fast!”, he told me.

What he doesn’t realize is that while he’s focusing on his job (building the current section), I am already planning for what’s coming next. He just has to trust that I’ll have his pieces ready when he needs them.

This is exactly what faith allows us to do. All we have to do is work on our current assignment while we trust that God is preparing what we need next, for exactly when we need it. It’s easy to get stressed out about the future and wonder if what you’re hoping for will pan out. But faith helps us to remember that even if we don’t see it, God has a plan already figured out!

Do you find it difficult to trust God for your future? Honestly, at times I do. I have to remind myself frequently not to worry and trust God in every detail of my life. One passage of scripture in Matthew always helps to strengthen my faith and remind me of God’s faithfulness when I begin to feel overwhelmed and anxious about the future.

In Matthew 6:25-34, Jesus tells us not to worry about our lives. Let me be clear: he never says not to plan for life. In fact, the book of Proverbs encourages us to be prepared for life. But worry and preparation are two different things.

Worry and anxiety will cause you to stress about things outside of your control. Preparation is careful planning for circumstances we know will happen eventually so by making a plan, we can eliminate unnecessary stress when they do happen.

So often we worry about things that God has already pulled the pieces out for. We just don’t see Him do it! Our future spouse, our children’s college, our retirement plans, we can trust God to meet these needs. Jesus tells us to “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?”(Matthew 6:26 ESV).

God provides for the birds every day and I’m more important to him than a sparrow! A sparrow can’t share the gospel or encourage a grieving family or give to a ministry. God needs his people to be healthy, prosperous and spiritually fit so we can do his work here on earth.

The next time you feel stressed about your life or future, remember that God has already gathered all of the pieces for your life and all you need to do is stay busy on the instructions you are currently on.

Do you currently have young children at home? Focus on training them in the ways of God. Are you working at a less than ideal job? Continue to work hard as if unto the Lord (Colossians 3:17). Don’t get so bogged down in the details of the day that you feel like your assignment is a distraction. It’s all a part of God’s overall plan for you life.

If my son and I missed just one step in our LEGO build, our design would not have come together how we hoped. Psalm 37:23 says “The steps of a man are established by the Lord, when he delights in his way;”. How comforting is this? When we delight in the Lord, obey his instructions and follow his plans for us, we have a guarantee that he will guide our steps so our lives will reflect not just what we hope for, but what he’s planned for them.

An Open Book Test

Every year, my husband and I begin the year with 21 days of fasting and prayer. During these times, I’ve seen God answer prayers, give vision and direction, and speak to my heart about a specific promise or assignment. I often come off of the fast with wide eyes and high expectations for the blessings of God to flow through my life in an unprecedented way! But then I’m reminded of Jesus’ experience when he ended his fast and trust me, it’s much different than what I expect at the end of mine!

“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.” (Matthew‬ ‭4:1-2‬ ‭ESV)‬‬

In fasting and prayer, where was he taken? He wasn’t led into the city to start “Son of God Christian Church”. He wasn’t led to write a book “How to Save Sinners and Stay Fit”. He was led into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan (I won’t even get started on how it was the Spirit that led him there!).

While I truly believe that God has great and precious promises in store for those who call him Lord (2 Peter 1:4), we will all experience times of trials and testing. And guess what? They aren’t all from the devil!

The times when we feel tested are times when God is able to root out things in us that don’t need to be there. I homeschool my kids right now and every so often, they have tests. The tests aren’t to beat them down or make them upset. They are to show me the areas that they’ve mastered and the areas where more work is needed.

When we are tested, God can use this time to help us see the areas we have grown in or need maturity. These times cause us to rely on what we know to be true about our position in Christ, which we discover through the Word of God. And the Word of God was exactly what Jesus used during his time of testing.

Satan tried three times to tempt Jesus into worshipping him, but each time, Jesus declared what was already written in God’s Word. We cannot combat the attacks of the enemy without the Word of God. This is why he fights us so hard when we try to read the Bible! Have you ever noticed the amount of interruptions you experience when you’re trying to read the Bible (better yet, how sleepy you get?!)

It’s because our enemy knows the power that the Word of God carries. Don’t forget he lived in heaven! He’s seen the strength and power of God’s word first hand, and if he can’t have it, he will do all he can to stop you from having it! He wants to separate you from God’s word. That’s what he did to Eve in the garden.

“Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”” (Genesis‬ ‭3:1‬ ‭ESV‬‬)

Satan successfully employed two tricks he likes to often use to distract us: He wants us alone and he wants us to doubt God’s word. He waited until Eve was alone to attack. During times when you feel alone, that’s when Satan makes his move. He’s after the one sheep that got separated from the other 99. He’s after the young woman who has stopped coming to church regularly and has distanced herself from her friends.

Did you know that God has never been alone? I heard this from an amazing teacher, Jackie-Hill Perry. That our God is a triune God: God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit. She said we are never more unlike God than when we isolate ourselves. Wow! Let that sink in.

Satan waited for Eve to be alone and then tried to cause her to doubt God’s instruction. And most of us know what happened next: the rest of humanity has been plagued with sin, sickness, shame, lust, lying, deceit, death and a whole slew of other problems (including pain during childbirth!) that can only be overcome by the blood of Jesus Christ. Thanks a lot, Eve!

Thankfully, like Jesus, we are never truly alone. Like our Savior, we have the Word of God and the Spirit of God to strengthen us during times of testing. Not to mention a cloud of witnesses who have gone before us and Jesus Christ himself, at the right hand of God, making intercession for us! That sounds like victory to me.

Unlike many tests in school, we can take our tests with an open book! There are no sweeter words to a student than “This will be an open book test”. A wave of relief and confidence would fill the classroom instantly! Like Jesus, during times of testing, I encourage you to bury yourself in God’s Word. Memorize scriptures, familiarize yourself with stories from the Bible, listen to faith filled messages by Spirit-led teachers. Use the Word of God to sustain you and I promise, you will pass with flying colors.

Having a Full Tank

When I was younger, my mom would frequently take me and my sister on a casual ride around town. We always looked forward to these rides because it meant we were ordering lunch! I now realize they were just a tool to get us out of the house she’d just cleaned.

We would drive around for what felt like hours, and we’d ask my mom, “Are we lost?”. See, I grew up in the days before GPS. We didn’t have Siri telling us to make a left in half a mile or to continue straight (one of the most pointless directions!). We were on our own! My mom would always tell us, “As long as we have a full tank of gas, we’re never lost!”

As an adult, there have been times when I’ve felt lost. Am I going in the right direction for my children? Am I making progress towards my dreams? How do I balance life, work, and family? It’s during those times, I’m reminded of those long drives with my mom: “As long as I have a full tank of gas, I’m never lost.”

It’s when our tank begins to run low that we begin to feel anxious about the journey. When the bank account balance isn’t enough for an unplanned bill; when we suffer an unexpected loss that depletes our joy; when we can’t seem to rebuild a broken relationship. What do we do?

The same thing we do when our cars run low on gas: refuel. I’m horrible about letting my car get to “E”. The gas light pops on, but instead of filling up at the first warning, I wait until the last possible moment (my gas light goes off again after a few miles, then comes back on to give me one last chance to fill up before I’m stranded!).

Honestly, I have the same bad habit when it comes to life. I go and go and go and despite the warnings, red flags, and sputtering, I wait until the last minute to refuel. I wait until I’m snapping at my kids or I give a snarky response to someone at church.

Jesus tells us in John 3:23 that his words are spirit and they are life. Simply put, they are the fuel we need to continue day after day. I’m reminded of the children of Israel in the desert when God provided manna every morning for them. The Israelites asked, “What is it?” which is what manna means. They weren’t sure what it was but they knew it would sustain them. They knew it would give them strength for the tasks of the day.

I’m not sure why we, as believers, allow ourselves to run down when His word has never been more available to us. Sometimes I feel like this unlimited access to every version of the Bible ever written, hundreds of reading plans to choose from, and thousands upon thousands of sermons online can be overwhelming. Don’t get me wrong: I’m thankful for the accessibility that technology has provided when it comes to studying God’s word. But sometimes I end up spending more time searching for content than just sitting in communion (#thatsaword).

I’m striving to live out the words from the prayer Jesus taught his disciples: “give us today our daily bread”. I need fresh fuel every day. I need direction for what I might encounter in the day that I am in and how to handle it. I don’t want to wait until I’m running on fumes and barely make it to my destination.

I don’t want to look up and see that I’ve been driving in the wrong direction for the last 5 miles. I want to be on the path that God has set out for me and enjoy the ride, knowing, that being full of the Spirit of God, I am never lost.

Shhh.. It’s a Secret!!

My kids are 6 and 9 so they are getting to that age where they have their own sibling secrets. Nothing big, things like grabbing an extra popsicle or hiding all of their stuffed animals in my closet! I’ll hear them giggling a little too much and ask what’s going on and they say in harmony: “It’s a secret!”

I was reading in the book of 1 Samuel this morning where Saul was anointed king over Israel by the prophet Samuel. In 1 Samuel 9:27, Samuel says to Saul to have the, “servants to go on ahead of us”— and the servant did so— “but you stay here a while, so that I may give you a message from God.”

Once the servant left, Saul is doused with a flask of oil and anointed by Samuel to be the first king of Israel. This happened between just two people. Saul and Samuel. No one else knew what was happening, there was no huge presentation or stage. Just the prophet of God and a man.

We live in a culture where many people feel the need to share every detail of their life… everyday… on every platform. Don’t get me wrong: I like updates of kids growing up, anniversaries and vacations, but there is a current trend of over sharing! I can be guilty of this too. I love to talk so sometimes my mouth runs faster than my brain!

What I love about this story is the privacy between Saul and Samuel. Somethings are just for you and God. There are certain promises I’ve received from God that only he and I share. Why? Because some things need time to cultivate. Some dreams need the protection of secrecy so they aren’t killed before they are born. How many times have you shared a good idea only to be shot down? “That won’t work!” Or “Who would by that?” can deter you from what God’s given you.

There was no one present to disagree with God’s choice for king, no one to place doubts in Saul’s mind of his ability to lead the Israelites. Just him and the word from God. I’m reminded of a time when some life changing changing news was shared with a large group. Remember the children of Israel when they sent spies to check out the land of Canaan? Two men were confident of Israel’s ability to overtake the inhabitants of the land. But they other ten spies caused fear and distress to spread through the camp, causing Israel to remain wanderers for 40 years in the desert.

This year, I’m sure you have all kinds of goals and plans and promises from God. I know I do! May I kindly recommend that you be very careful with whom you allow access to your dreams. They are precious and worth protecting!

Choosing Peace

As I write this blog, I have a busy few days coming. Well, really a busy few weeks. I promise this is not a humble brag or me trying to flex a busy schedule on you, but in the next 3 weeks, I have my son’s 10th birthday, my mom flying into town, homeschool, gymnastics, blogging, podcasting, extracurriculars, my last weeks of marathon training and then running that marathon.

I don’t like busy. I don’t like a full calendar. I like lighting candles and sipping coffee. I like adult coloring and crossword puzzles. I like sitting in a blanket on my couch watching Bluey with my kids or without them. Bluey is a really great show!

I don’t like being busy because I feel like I have to choose between what I have to do and what I want to do. I have to choose what gets done and what doesn’t.

One thing that I am choosing every day is peace. I used to get really worked up when I had a busy season. I’d make lists of lists to make lists and cross out things on lists and tear up lists to make newer prettier ones. Don’t get me wrong, I do have a list! But it no longer stresses me out.

Isaiah 26:3 says “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.”
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Every morning, I focus my mind on Christ and receive the peace of God. What does this look like for me? It’s pretty basic. Instead of worrying about the laundry that I have done, I played restaurant with my kids. Instead of trying to run a billion errands for my son’s sleepover, I asked my husband to help out. Instead of rushing through my kid’s school lesson, we went to the library and got done what we could.

I know some situations in life are thrown at us without us asking for them, but even in those instances, we can choose peace. We can make the decision before hand that we will not be overwhelmed by stress or anxiety, but be overwhelmed by the peace of God.

“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
‭‭Philippians‬ ‭4:7‬ ‭NIV‬‬

You can find more inspiration and hopefully a few laughs on my podcast Seeking God, Loving Others.

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