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Fishers of Men

Jen Jantzen

[18] While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. [19] And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” [20] Immediately they left their nets and followed him. [21] And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. [22] Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him. - Matthew 4:18-22


My dad has always loved to go fishing. I have vivid childhood memories of him in our yard readying a reel, testing out the cast and switching out lures. He would often explain his lure selection process, and why certain baits were better in certain conditions or for certain fish. It really always came down to the best bait for the best catch. Because really, is a fisherman even a fisherman without a good catch... or at least a really good story to tell? Ha!


I love the example Jesus used as He called His disciples. He called out to them as they worked, and recognized that fishing was a language they spoke and understood. I love that Jesus didn’t make growing His kingdom complicated. Just come with Me, and I’ll show you what to do.


Jesus didn’t make it complicated, but we often do. We convince ourselves we won’t get it right, or that we’re not good enough to be a witness. We shy away, uncertain that someone would even want to hear what we have to say. We undermine our value and who we are in Jesus. I don’t even think we do it consciously, it just happens.


Here’s some good truth ladies, God will use us anyway. Just like fisherman have known for years, the right bait works. God knew who would need us. He has made us into the witness someone needs. He has given us trials and victories that someone will relate to. Someone needs you to see Jesus for themselves.


Powerful truth.


When Jesus walked with His disciples, I know without doubt those men were chosen on purpose. Who they were, the skills they possessed, the way their lives would connect with others... Jesus knew who to take along on His ministry.


Right now, if you’re doubting your place tell Jesus. Pray for opportunities, for the right places to be to love someone to Jesus. Know you won’t be the right fit for everyone, but SOMEONE NEEDS YOU. Girls, that can really make a gal all sorts of motivated!


Lord, thank You for another day to serve. Thank You for another day to pray for each other and love each other. Today, give us the courage to see our own strengths in You. Let us be brave enough to let You use us and guide us in Your will. Give us people hungry for You, and let us know what they need to hear and see. Let us always be willing to answer Your call. Amen


(Photo cred: Fishmasters)


The Real Us

Jen Jantzen

Ephesians 6:10-13

[10] Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. [11] Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. [12] For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. [13] Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.


We’ve shared before that in my previous career, I worked weird hours and televisions were always on. That means I’ve watched a lot of television... and didn’t get to choose what I was watching. Ha! But as we’re studying on The Armor of God, one particular show keeps popping into my thoughts. The main character of the show was a single mom now living with her brother. She had just come home from a first date and raved about the night she’d had. As she regaled stories of finally meeting someone she could be her true self with, of meeting someone who seemed to like her for who she really was... her brother, along with the audience watched in humor. With each point she made of her date seeing her true self, she unclipped her hair extensions, pulled off her false lashes, stripped out of her spanx, and pulled extra padding from her bra.


Let me be clear up front, I love a good pair of spanx, so that’s not what this moment is about. In fact, can we all say hallelujah for our wonderful, supportive friend made of spandex?! Hallelujah!!


The point is, as Christian women especially, there’s a pressure from the world to look the part. There’s a need to look like life is perfect, and that our home, our family, and our routines are flawless. Anyone feeling this pressure right now?


The trouble with this is, we tend to skip right over belt of truth, and breastplate of righteousness, and instead wrap ourselves up in what we think the world wants to see. We protect ourselves from people getting too close, by hiding what’s real in us and about us. We find safety in the distance from connections and staying hidden away behind the masks we wear. We smile despite a desperate need for someone to hold us tightly and let us know they see us. We joke when we really need to cry. We buy things we can’t afford, we say things we don’t mean, and we shove it all into a box that we store, ready to grab what we need when we need it instead of tossing out.


Ladies, why do we do these things? Why do we choose to put on the armor of the world passing over the greatest protection any soldier could wear?


I don’t know why, but here’s what I do know. There is not one moment or day or hurt or battle or victory that surprises God. He knew that we would need protection from all this world brings our way, and He provided.


Ephesians 6:11-13

[11] Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. [12] For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. [13] Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.


This week we talked specifically about the belt of truth. In many cases, belts are worn today to hold things in place. Isn’t that the best description of who Jesus is?


Y’all! Jesus is truth. When we hold ourselves together in His truth, things stay in their place.


After the actor finished her date night recap, and had peeled off all the extras... she collapsed onto a comfy chair with a giant sigh of relief. You all know what kind of sigh I’m talking about!


My hope and prayer today is that we all find that same comfort in the One who loves us despite us.


Lord, we are so thankful for the way you’ve provided all we need to face the world, come what may. Today, give us the courage to choose the Armor of God instead of the the world. Give us the wisdom to see all You can do with a life wrapped up in You. Give us people who will see past the barriers we put up. Let us hold tightly to Your promise that You see us, the real, true, spanx off-extensions out us, and can use us just as we are. Thank You for being the Truth we so desperately need.

Amen

Encourage One Another

Jen Jantzen


We had a wonderful time together this past weekend, a time of laughter, yummy muffins and Jesus. Really the best kind of day! We missed those of you who weren’t with us too! The speakers were fantastic and the work God is doing through them is remarkable. The first speaker of the day, Chrystal, shared a story of packing for her son’s week at camp... only for him to return having only worn two days worth of clothes. I laughed, and immediately connected because the same thing had happened with my son when he went to Children’s Camp for his first time! Literally, he left our home with 8 outfits (2 a day if needed) and came home only having worn one days worth of clothes. Ha!


She used this funny, and a little bit stinky, story to show us how often we do the same type of things with the gifts God has given us. He has packed into us all we’ll need and we choose to use a few things here and there as it works for us. Or worse, we opt out because we don’t think we’re good enough or that our work has value.


Friends, let’s all take a minute and really think about the last time we chose NOT to do something our heart was nudging us to do.


It probably wasn’t hard to think of for you either.


When we study about Moses and the work he was called to do, I can always see his side of the story so clearly. He just couldn’t see his place in God’s big picture.


Exodus 3:10-11


[10] Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” [11] But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?”


Moses hears directly from God, and still doubts. He can still find reasons to not do what God is calling him to do. We continue to read in Exodus that multiple times, God assures Moses that He’s got his back, and even then Moses can keep coming up with all sorts of reasons it shouldn’t be him.


But here’s my favorite part of this story. God never one time says... just forget it, Moses. God never once huffs away disgusted yelling that he’ll just do it himself. Instead He continues the encouragement to Moses to go and to use all He has already provided.


The same goes for each of us. If you’re pushing something aside, or even avoiding it all together... stop it. If you’re dodging God’s calls, and working overtime to convince Him you’re not really who He needs for this job... stop it.


Let us encourage you to stop.


The older I get, the more I’m able to see the things God urges me to do. Truthfully, I’m probably just listening better these days. You’re likely feeling somewhat the same.


I wonder if God waited until he was older because he knew Moses was a lot like the rest of us too... more willing with age to listen and to recognize God’s words.


I want to be like God in this story. I want to encourage you, right where you are to do the thing you’re avoiding. I want to encourage you to recognize the strengths God has packed into you and to use them. I want to encourage you to ditch the doubts, and hold on to the confidence that you’re not on this trip without a fully packed up bag of tools you’re going to need to do the work of Jesus.


I have always served in some type of ministry, but for a few years I stepped back. No reason, no chaos, just thought I needed it. Maybe I was right for a bit, but the moment I accepted the chance to serve a hole in my heart filled back up. I didn’t even know the hole was even there!


It’s time to fill your holes, ladies. It. Is. Time.


Lord, give us hearts that hold on to Your promises. Give us women who will see the good in us, and say it. Let us not disregard our God given abilities because we think someone else might do it better. Let us seek You and Your will in all things. Amen


Buying the Lies and Shame

Jen Jantzen


Genesis 1:27  "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them."


“Moon face”, “buffalo hump”, “grows facial hair like a man”... I’m not trying to brag ladies, but those are just a few of the symptoms of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome... and very much a part of my life. It also brings along anxiety, sleeplessness and so much more. Sounds like a super fun party, right? Ha!


I’ve had PCOS since I was a teenager, but the more severe symptoms hit fast and furiously in my late 30’s. I was overwhelmed, scared, stressed and gaining weight as easily as I took a breath. Everything about me was changing quickly and nothing I did changed it.

I was ashamed of what was happening to me, how I looked, how I felt, all of it. I felt defeated. And, just to keep it real, I was so ashamed that people would see me and think I was doing this to myself. That I was failing.

Very quickly I bought into the lie that my value had lessoned.


Y’all. Even now, it stings.


Never once has God said we’re not enough. Never once has God said to be ashamed in our struggles. Never once has God said our weight, or our height defined us. Never even once. But what do we do anyway? We buy in to the lie that all of those things defines us. We believe our value comes in perfection.


When the woman at the well snuck out of her home in the middle of the day, her plan was to stay hidden away. She was so wrapped up in shame of her choices and the weight of how everyone saw her that she avoided being seen, believing the lies that she couldn’t be good enough.


But Jesus saw past all that. He saw her hurts, her shame and her future. He saw who she was created to be.


When God called Moses to speak and lead, Moses saw an inadequate man. Moses saw his deficiencies as a leader, and lack of confidence in his speech. But God saw past all that. He saw a bold leader that people would follow. He saw a man that would fight for his people. God saw a man that could believe in who He was and in His promises.


When Saul’s life was a whirlwind of violence and hatred, God saw the future of a man who would preach to the nations. God saw a man strong enough to keep his faith in the worst of times.


Friends, right now, no matter what, God sees you and sees your potential.


This world has created great value in the mirage of perfection, and we buy it. Photo shopped lives with picture perfect marriages and families. We see smiling faces on screen, but miss out on the tears when the camera is away. We’re convinced that bumps and struggles make us failures. We believe that tough seasons in our lives make us look weak.


Those are lies. There’s no other way around it.


All the way back to the beginning of earth, God’s word is clear... we are created in HIS image. God does not make mistakes, ladies. God created YOU in HIS image.


Let’s read this again... God created YOU in HIS image.


Even on the days it doesn’t seem like we’ve got anything together, God sees all He has called us to be.


My heart is in a great place in this season of my life. I know there’s a reason and a purpose for me, and God has given me people that love me despite me. Even so, I still have days that it’s hard to seek God’s promises. I can still struggle with “what I wish I looked like”.

Sometimes, I really wish I could tell you this was someone else’s battle. But I can’t. I have tough days, and likely will have more to come.


But here’s the good news friends, I also have days that I am so filled up with Jesus I can’t hold it in! I have peace and joy. I have people to pray for and with, to love on and to serve. I have so much good!!


Right now, today, what lie are you believing about yourself?


Hold tight to this, friends.


You are enough. Your family is worth fighting for. Your children are worth the tough days of discipline and exhaustion. Your marriage has value. The work you love can be used to grow God’s kingdom. The prayers you pray are heard. Your anxieties and fears will not win. Asking for help is okay. Your sin is not bigger than God’s forgiveness and grace. Your past doesn’t define you, Jesus does.


Genesis 1:27  "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them."


Lord, thank You for seeing the good in us. Thank You for choosing to give Your life for us, despite us. Give us confidence in YOU. Fill us up with purpose and drive to grow Your kingdom. Leave no room for doubts this world will throw our way. Let us see through the lies and focus on Your truth. You created us and You do not make mistakes.

Amen


That's too Heavy. Put it Down.

Jen Jantzen

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." - Matthew 11:28-30


Just before my first year of college, the university I attended offered a weekend camp for all incoming freshmen. It was called Rookie Bridge Camp, and was a fun way to meet other incoming freshmen. On the first morning of camp the counselors had each of us find a rock. That was all the instruction given, so in typical 18 year old style everyone set out in search of the rock they were certain was a winner. The catch came after our rocks were selected and we had written our names on them... those rocks stayed physically with us at all times of the camp. I had selected a rock that could easily be held in my hands, but some of my new classmates had chosen rocks that were nearly too large and heavy to carry. Over the next two days, at random, counselors would require us to show them our rocks. Those rocks took on a life of their own.


On our last night of camp, we were encouraged to take a long look at the rocks bearing our names. The counselor told us to let that rock represent our past, our fears, our unrealistic expectations and anything else standing in the way of a successful new beginning. After some time in thought, we each crossed a creek on a makeshift bridge, and tossed the rocks into the water below. Essentially tossing out anything standing in the way of our success.


So simple. So powerful.


I am loving our Advancing the Gospel sermon series. I am loving the biblical examples of service, and ministry. As I listened on Sunday, my heart caught at the mention of joy. Such a small word, but it can truly bring big things. The truth is, life doesn’t always make having joy easy. Hits come, they knock us back, and as we’re struggling to gain our ground it’s often replaced by the need to survive. Joy comes fairly naturally for me, and I’ve still had times where finding the joy inside me seemed nearly impossible.


Let’s just be real here, joy wasn’t the only thing I couldn’t find. Sanity, rest, peace, connection... my list could go on, but you get it. The things I love most were suddenly too heavy to enjoy. The people I love most were too much too. And Satan saw right through my struggle and made sure to remind me, every chance he could that I had all that weight on my shoulders and in my hands. That heaviness, that feeling of burden... girls, it’s rough. I know without doubt you’ve all had your own heavy burdens too.


God knew we’d face these struggles. He knew we would hold tight to our hurts and fights, so He gave us Jesus.


“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." - Matthew 11:28-30


Jesus said He is our rest.


Right now, we’re wrapping up a year that’s tried desperately to destroy the good. It hasn’t been easy, it’s brought on stresses we didn’t see coming, it’s created situations we weren’t certain how to navigate and has been nearly too heavy to carry.


What else are you holding onto right now? Anger? Resentment? Fear? Grief? Uncertainty? Loss of trust?


Our burdens may not be the same, but anything in the way of Jesus is too heavy for us to carry.


Friends, right now, together, let’s toss the burdens aside and make room for the JOY that is Jesus. Let’s give our struggles to Jesus and learn the peace that He brings. Let’s choose today to see the good in God’s work, even when it’s not the way we would choose. Today, together, let’s choose JESUS.



Lord, thank You for a joy that can only come from You. Right now, we need You. We need to feel the Joy, and see the good in the midst of our struggles. We need more Sunday’s full of laughter like this week, sharing the goodness of You. Give us wisdom to lay down the hurts, anger, fear, grief, pride... and anything else standing in the way of You. Take our burdens Lord, and give us peace in You. 
Amen

Just Do Our Job

Jen Jantzen


“While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen.  And he said to them, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." Immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them.  Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.” - Matthew 4:18-22


This past week I was visiting with one of my girlfriends who’s daughter recently signed to run track in college. Such an exciting time! The daughter was discussing her place on the team, and being vulnerable by admitting she wasn’t certain where she’d fit in comparison to the other runners. The coach stopped her and told her, without hesitation, I chose you to do your job and only your job. That job is to do your best right where you are. The rest of the team will do theirs, and that’s when we’re successful.


God bless this coach.


As we’ve been studying our work in advancing the gospel, I’ve had lots of thoughts about my place in all of this. Am I doing the right things? What should I be doing instead? Ohmygoodness, do you know how many people can do things better?? Friends, please tell me I’m not the only one that’s questioned my place? My role? My sanity?? (Okay... that last part is the momma in me breaking through! Ha)

The vulnerability that comes with putting ourselves out into the world is real and can be frightening. For some, that fear can be paralyzing. So much so, we stop. We change course, and choose an easier option. We opt out of what we know we’re called to do, and instead do what we know we can do without any mess.


I’ve considered the apostles often in my lifetime. These men, without hesitation, followed Jesus. I know their journey wasn’t without bumps, but in the moment they were called, they went. In my full and open vulnerability, let me tell you I don’t know that I would have done the same. In fact, I’ve stalled, deflected and tried to ignore calls before. It seemed easier to me at the time. But the truth is, God wins this. He will get us right where we need to be, no matter our efforts to run.


Why in the world do we do this, friends?


Right now, let’s all take a minute and consider our role in advancing the gospel. Just as Jesus sought out those men fishing, He sees you too. He chose them, and guided them in doing their job. He didn’t expect them to be anyone else than exactly who He created them to be. The same goes for us, my beautiful friends. We were created to do our job, and no one else’s.


We were created, in His image, for His purpose. We’re not meant to live in comparison and doubt of our place in this work. He’s called us to do our job, and only our job to the best of our ability. And we’re successful when we do this as a team.


What’s your calling? Feeding your people? Showing up for your people? Speaking life into those around you? Being a safe place for people to land? Right now, own that God created you with that in mind. No one else.


Sometimes we view vulnerability as a weakness. I believe that’s when our strength grows most. When we go, without hesitation, no matter our self doubts, in the full confidence of Jesus.


Lord, thank You for believing in us and choosing us for Your work. Thank You for the encouragement to follow where You lead, and go where needed. Today, give each of us power in our vulnerability to own the calls we’re ignoring, or convincing ourselves that we aren’t right for that work. Remind us that we are YOURS, created with purpose to carry Your legacy to those around us. In Your Holy name, Amen.


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Fizzled Out

Jen Jantzen

“And they went and woke him, saying, "Save us, Lord; we are perishing." And he said to them, "Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?" - Matthew 8:25-26


I had just returned home from my first week at Falls Creek. I was excited, motivated and couldn’t wait to talk about Jesus! A week with no distractions and scheduled time in the word does that to a gal. I was having a real “on fire for The Lord” moment. So cool! And then... after wrapping up our camp service at the church I had gone to camp with, a man commented that this excitement won’t last. I think the words he used was... “just wait until this camp high wears off.”


Just like that, my fire fizzled and my plans deflated.


I know that wasn’t his intention, and if the same was said to me today it wouldn’t have the same effect. But in that moment, the first time in my life I was feeling this connection, it wrecked me and filled my mind with doubts.


Isn’t that just the way life goes? We’re doing well, life is good our confidence in who we’re called to be is evident in the way we live... then BAM! Seemingly out of nowhere something knocks the wind right out of our sails and our fire fizzles.


Friends, if you’re fire is dimming or even fizzled completely out, you are not alone.


“And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him, saying, "Save us, Lord; we are perishing." And he said to them, "Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?" Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. And the men marveled, saying, "What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?" “ - Matt 8:23-27


These men had Jesus in their boat, He was literally underfoot and a storm fizzled their confidence in Him.


“But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, "It is a ghost!" and they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, "Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid." And Peter answered him, "Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water." He said, "Come." So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, "Lord, save me." Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?" And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, "Truly you are the Son of God." - Matt 14:26-33


Peter was looking into the eyes of Jesus, and water under his feet fizzled his confidence in Who he was trusting in.


How many other stories have we read about in God’s word of other’s doubts and uncertainties getting the best of them? These stories are there, because the human in us fights desperately to win... just like it did when Jesus walked this earth. God knew, when He ordained the writings in His word, that we would need to see and know others are just like us.


Man. Powerful truth.


We all know Jesus. We all know His promises. We all know His power. Still, we all have moments of unbelief.


In my life now, I have a different relationship with Christ than I did then. I’m more confident in my faith, and Who He is. But even today, things can come along that seemingly knock me off track.


This beginning of our new year, let us all take a minute to reset the fire for Jesus in us. Let us set aside the doubts and worries

of this world, and let us hold tightly to Him.


What’s fizzling your fire right now? What’s telling you lies and making you believe Jesus isn’t bigger? Struggles at home or in your marriage? Jesus is bigger. Job struggles, or lack there of? Jesus is bigger. A friendship you’re burdened with? Jesus is bigger. Illness? Anger? Fear? Jesus is bigger.


Friends, hear these words: Jesus IS bigger. He wants our fire blazing hot.


In our Sunday School class we studied Stephen this week. If there was ever an example we should model, it’s him. The elite leadership of his time are doing all they can to question Jesus, to cause doubts and sizzle his fire... but Stephen holds fast and in the midst of turmoil he boldly proclaims Jesus is the Messiah!


Lord, ignite a fire in us! Give us the courage to seek You above all. Let us see You in everything. When questions come, help us find answers in You. When burdens hit, help us seek power in You. When sickness comes, when the world seems to spin opposite of us, when people in our life dampen our spirits, give us eyes that still see You. Lord, let us feel You. We love You, even when we struggle Lord.

Amen

Love Story

 Jen Jantzen

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. - John 3:16


I am a sucker for a love story. Movies, books, real life... if it’s a love story I’m all in! I love watching the pursuit of the couple. I love seeing how they choose each other, and work to do things that they know matters to each other. They both actively work to win each other over, often giving the very best of themselves, and then, my very favorite part... the smooch!


They remind me of the beginning of my own love story... and the best smooch of all! (Seriously, I kinda like this man of mine... see, I told you... I’m a sucker for love!)


But what happens in all love stories? They end before real life kicks in. We get to see the infatuation stage, but conveniently are left out of the rest of the story. Ever wonder why? Probably not, because chances are we all already know why. Life gets messy. Love hits hard times. Choosing to pursue the good can become work, and sometimes lead to distance and discontent.


We all know what happens then... couples either fight through or give up.


Do you ever feel this way in your relationship with Christ? Looking back, you’ll likely remember the beginning being exciting. We feel a purpose, and actively work to grow and pursue all God has planned. Even if that beginning has happened many times, it’s the same feeling. We want Jesus and the world to see the best of us and the best of Jesus through us. But, despite it being the greatest love story of all time, life still happens, things get messy and hard times come. Anyone else feel this?


It becomes easy to be disillusioned and struggle with what to do next. Do we fight for the life Jesus has promised? Or do we give up?


The world will loudly tell you to give up.


Let me encourage you to fight.


Right now, today, the beginning of a brand new year, brings with it brand new chances to pursue a connection and to choose Jesus as your own. Decide today to commit to this relationship and to give the best of yourself to the work you are called to do.


"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. - John 3:16


When Jesus hung on that cross for you, for me, for all who believe, He was giving the best of Him to us.


Lord, how do we ever thank You for choosing us even in the middle of our messy lives. Thank You for never walking away when it comes to our hearts and relationships with You. Today, and in these days ahead, remind us what it felt like when we were brand new in You. Ignite in us a passion to ‘reset’ and grow in You this year. Give us hearts to see the other relationships in our lives that need to be ‘reset’ too. Give us the will to fight for the life You’ve promised.


Amen

2020

Raylee Butler

As this year comes to a close - I am a bit nervous that this year will not end. Like it will be the first year in all time that won’t close on December 31st. Wouldn’t that be just like 2020 - to simply not go away!


This year has been packed full of emotions. It has been hard, full of difficulty, and loaded with unmet expectations for many of us. There has also been growth and victory in many ways.


In my life there have been moments of peace and quality family time, which has filled me up, but there also has been a lot of hurt given and criticism by others. As I step into 2021, I want to be sure to step in with boldness. I want to be filled with expectations of God doing amazing things! Because looking back on 2020, He did do amazing things! I grew in my relationship with Him in spite of hard circumstances with others. He showed up and brought contentment and peace in the midst of criticism and hardship. He showed me a new path in education - one I would have been way to fearful to pursue without the the shutdown last spring. I see His hand at work all around me.


Inevitably when we get hurt, we tend to shy away from our relationship with God in the process. We may still attend church, read our Bible, and do all the “good things” ,but we hide our heart from Him. Maybe we hide it because we feel like He didn’t show up for us or maybe we simply lost trust that He has our best interest, but we shy away from a real relationship with Him and tend to depend on our “good works”. Paul says it perfectly in 1 Thessalonians 2:2 : “But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict.” So coming into 2021, let’s go with boldness - being honest about our fears and hurts. Not allowing suffering, shame, or conflict to dampen our boldness to declare what God continues to do in our lives. Trusting God boldly to not give us what we want but to provide all we need as we join Him in His work that is all around us.

Muscle Memory

Jen Jantzen

“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. “ - Proverbs 22:6


If you’re familiar with any athlete you’ve likely heard the term muscle memory. I’m married to a coach, and he uses this method often with his teams. It’s quite literally, doing the same movements until your muscles memorize them, and seemingly do them on their own. It’s important that the players run fundamental drills over and over, so in a game time situation they just react, instead of allowing the conditions to interfere. Dancers rely on this tactic too, their bodies moving naturally into the next move without having to overthink or worry about forgetting the steps. It’s remarkable to see!


“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”- Proverbs 22:6


I don’t know that muscle memory was even a thought in biblical days, but I do see the connection to this verse. When we teach our children, and ourselves to seek Jesus in all things, it truly does become second nature. I can’t tell you that I’ve always followed that direction, but I can tell you that even in my most sinful season of life, I knew Jesus and right from wrong. I knew Him, because I had been taught Him.


I consider Paul’s ministry here too. His life became so focused on God’s promises, that in all circumstances he shared them. I’m not certain that being chained in a dark, damp prison would have given me the beautiful words of Jesus, but in Paul’s life they did.


In Jesus’ life too. He lived with one focus, God, and everything He did pointed to God.


This practice in our lives can be detrimental too. If we’re in the practice of seeking the worst in people and situations, we’ll find them without effort. How about choosing sin? Negative thoughts? Lies and fears? See where I’m going? When they become a normal part of our everyday, they consume us without effort or thought. It’s heartbreaking really. We are what we practice being.


These next few weeks we’re at the start of a new year, and with that we often make plans to be better in some area of our life. We’re beginning a sermon series on this topic too, as we ‘Hit the Reset’ in our lives. I’m excited for these lessons to come and all God will do in the year ahead.


Today, let’s choose to practice daily who we really want to be. Let us seek out Jesus over and over until He’s our first thought in any circumstances that come our way. Let us lay aside the sin taking the lead in our lives.


Lord, thank You for never giving up on us, despite us. Give us the courage to set aside the weight of our circumstances and learn to seek You first. Let this new year bring in refreshed and renewed hearts for You. Let us choose You, over and over until You’re our first thought and line of defense. Let each of us hit the reset and clear out anything that’s in the way of Your plans in our lives. In Your name, Amen


(Photo Cred: Darebee)

A Place to Belong

Jen Jantzen

I am loving this sermon series on church membership. If you’ve grown up in or around church, you likely already understood the importance. But in today’s world with sermons quite literally a click away, 24 hours a day, for some the need to step into a church building also grows smaller. Full disclosure, I desperately missed seeing people during the quarantine, but the rest that came from staying home on Sundays was real, and could have easily become our norm. But, fortunately, our hearts for a place along side a body of believers wasn’t swayed. You, the folks we see each week, play a big part in our lives even if we don’t speak every Sunday.


As we’ve studied of late, the bible is clear about the importance and necessity of membership. But for some people, I think the body of believers they serve with play a major role in how they believe. My husband and I have served in some type of ministry together for twenty years. Each of those were predominately with youth, or children, but with them comes their families too. What we always found, and I can boldly say always, is that so many of the kiddos crossing our paths found us because they were desperately searching for a place, any place, that they could belong. A place to escape life, and the world they lived in.


They needed to matter. They needed to be seen. They needed to be fed, literally and spiritually.


The kiddos changed over the years, but those needs rarely did.


Really, they weren’t that different from the rest of us. We all need to matter in some way. We all need someone to see us. We all need to be fed. Right? People naturally gravitate to what’s comfortable. We seek out places where we fit. Good or bad, if we’re welcomed it’s easy to stay.


This is where I believe the body of believers matters greatly. I think we often underestimate the work God has created us to do. The power in just being ourselves, in just showing up. The role we can play in pointing people to Jesus, just by welcoming folks we don't know to sit with us. It's so simple really, but if you’ve ever stepped into a place you weren’t welcome, you understand fully the power that wields. People come into church buildings looking for something. A change? A connection to their past? Answers? Direction? Not unlike the kiddos we’ve met through the years, sometimes they just need a safe place to belong. 


That’s been me before too. I needed a place to fit. Anyone else?


For me, there’s great power in the accountability that comes from belonging. In my lifetime, that accountability, even if I just assumed people would know, helped me make the right decisions several times.


This past year has brought with it many changes, and weird circumstances that ‘s for sure. What it didn’t do, was take away the value of a place to belong. This church, this body of believers, you’re our people. We’re in this together, and together we’re being equipped to minister to the world around us, to stand boldly for Jesus, and to become a safe place for people to seek solace.


Lord, thank You for a place to belong. Thank You for FBC, and the people that fill up that building. Let our work never cease in loving people to You. Let these women reading today know they belong. Sometimes we can feel lost in this world, but You never leave us. You’ve given us each other, this ministry, this group, to share and encourage and to grow together in You. Let us hold on to each other, and give each other strength to find our place. Let us be the reason someone feels safe enough to seek You. Amen

Everything Seems Cancelled

Jen Jantzen

Hebrews 13:8 ESV

"8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever."


Two weeks ago, we got the call many parents have gotten this school year (some multiple times)… we had to pick up our youngest from school because her classroom was being quarantined for Covid-19 exposure. She’s in PreK and when I arrived, she was asleep. In her somewhat sleepwalking state, she asked, “Am I cancelled?”. Cancelled. That’s what she calls being quarantined. We don’t know where she came up with it, but we know she’s spot on with her description. Covid-19 = Cancelled.


Isn’t it what this year has felt like to you? At every turn, something is cancelled. For every tradition, something is cancelled. Travel plans, cancelled. Reunions, cancelled. Normal, every day lives, cancelled. In our house it doesn’t feel like there’s much left to what it was before Covid-19. I know so many of us feel this way right now, especially heading into a holiday week. The world around us isn’t helping matters either. At every turn we’re reminded of all we can not do, the people we can not see, and the lives we cannot live. It can suck the life right out of you.


In Sunday School the past couple of weeks we’ve studied the days following Jesus’ resurrection from the tomb. In many ways, I can only imagine that when Jesus died, some of His followers felt like their lives were cancelled too. So many of them had walked away from all they had known to minister along side Jesus. They turned their lives over to Him, and then seemingly the work was finished when they laid Him in that tomb.


I’m convinced that’s what the crowds of men wanted them to believe too. I have no doubt there was taunting, and roars of victory of Jesus’ death on that cross. The people, their doubts, and their hatred seeping into any cracks in the mind of His followers.


But we know the end of that story, don’t we? There was nothing cancelled about Jesus! He was alive! There was work yet to be done.

Right now, today, Jesus is alive and there is work yet to be done.


I don’t have any answers about tomorrow’s Covid-19 updates, or even the days after that. I don’t know that I’ll get to spend the holidays with my family. I don’t know what activity will be cancelled next, but I do know Who is with me.


As a body of believers, we have something the world will never have, His name is Jesus. We have hope that He is the same yesterday, today and forever. There’s nothing that can ever cancel that.


Lord, this season can be tough in any normal year, and this year it seems the hits just keep coming. This week, let our hope be bigger than our cancelled. Let Your plans in our lives be clearer than our cancelled. Give us purpose, Lord. Show us the work that is yet to be done. Guard the hearts of our friends who are struggling to keep it together, whatever their circumstance. Give them strength to stand against the world who desperately wants us to walk away from You. Amen

He Really is Real

Jen Jantzen

Romans 1:20, ESV: "For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse."


I was 10 years old, and in the 5th grade. My principal was visiting my church, to show of his travels in search for the Ark. As I sat and listened to the stories of his journey, my focus never left the pictures flashing on the projector screen in front of me. The rugged mountain tops, and the rocky terrain were real. The places my principal had walked in his search for answers were actual roads and now I had documented proof of their existence. A real man, that I knew, was standing in front of me sharing stories of his real adventure, in search of a very real Ark.


I can’t explain much more about that day, but I could literally feel Jesus knocking at the door to my heart. I could suddenly feel how real he really is. The door burst open, and that very night I truly believed and asked Jesus into my heart.


I was raised in church. If the doors were open, we were there. I had wonderful Sunday School teachers, and could probably have quoted 1,000 scriptures at that time in my life. (Don’t ask me to now… because goodness this brain doesn’t do that trick anymore! Ha!) Despite all that I had learned, it still took those moments, and seeing those pictures to open the door to my real belief.


Why? I don’t know. But I’m not the only one. In Romans we read the stories that Paul shared through his ministry. Paul is surprised at how these people can look around at the beautiful world we live in, and not see just how tangible and real the God who created it all is. I picture his reaction much like a parent who just doesn’t understand how a kid can get the dirty clothes next to the hamper… but not in it. How do they not see it?? It’s right there!! Mommas, can you relate?


I believe some of our unbelief comes from sin. The doubts we have in ourselves, and really often each other, convinces us that it just can’t be possible for a God of such great glory to not only be real, but to love us deeply.


Oh, but friends, the God who created this earth, who sent His Son for us, who divinely laid out every intricate moment of this world, is so very real and He loves us despite our moments of uncertainty.


He is real.


He loves us.


As we study with Pastor Michael on ‘Lessons Learned’, I’ve gotten glimpses of these very real people and their stories. Just this week as we studied Hosea, the human in me wanted to encourage him to run away from the chaos, and the certain heartbreak his new bride would bring. But God had bigger plans, and we know He was faithful in His promises to Hosea and his children.


That real man, his real struggle and the very real way God worked in his life hit me in almost the same way those real mountain tops did. 

Real people, living real lives, serving a very real God.

In every story we read in the Bible, God is real.

In any situation, God is real.


When I struggle to wrap my brain around His plans, God is real.

When troubles come, God is real.

When victories come, God is real.


Lord, thank You for being real even when our hearts can’t find belief. Thank You for staying true when we don’t. Give us eyes that can see how real You are in all that is around us. Let our hearts be open to Your works and the people around us. Let people see the real You in us. Let our lives be tangible evidence of Your promises. In Your name, Amen

(Photo: Mount Ararat, courtesy The Global Domain News)