Sunday, May 25, 2014

The Reality of God's Kingdom

May 25, 2014

“Since you have been
raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of Heaven,
where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand.” Colossians 3:1

Occasionally I question my decision to leave behind my young
family for a three-week trek in Africa. Sometimes my choice feels irresponsible,
and even a tad-bit selfish. However, if I believe in the reality of God’s
Kingdom I would be foolish not to follow God wherever He leads.

Colossians 3:1-2 remind me to set my sights on the realities of Heaven, to think about the
things of Heaven, not the things of earth. When I consider the reality of God’s
Kingdom my priorities change.

Hebrews 9:27 explains that “each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment.”
God will judge my final resting place based on my faith in Christ’s provision
for my sin. Ephesians 2:8 tells me that God saves me by His grace when I
believe. The salvation of my soul depends on faith and faith alone.

However, as a believer God will also judge the value of my
“work” on earth. Did I spend time and energy loving God and loving others? Did
I spend my resources helping make known the great news about God’s Kingdom?

2 Corinthians 5:10 reads, “For we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive
whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in this earthly body.”

1 Corinthians 3:13-15 tells me that “on judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each ‘builder’ has
done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value. If the work
survives, that builder will receive a reward. But if the work is burned up, the
builder will . . . be saved, but like someone barely escaping through a wall of

At the end of time my work will be evaluated, not for dollar
value but for Kingdom value. At first
glance, returning to Africa seems crazy. But if I consider the reality of God's Kingdom, returning to Africa seems the
only responsible way to live.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Guilted Into Giving?

April 19, 2014

"You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don't give
reluctantly or in response to pressure. 'For God loves a person who
gives cheerfully.'" 2 Corinthians 9:7

Ever felt guilted into giving? I have.

As followers of Christ we know we should give to others. We read in Scripture that God loves a cheerful giver. We want to support those in need but honestly, we have our own desires for spending too. How do we learn to give from a heart of generosity rather than from a heart of guilt? I believe James 1:5 provides us with the answer. "If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and He will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking."

Some might respond, "But if I ask God about giving of course He'll tell me to give!"

God likely will lead us to share with others. But consider God's promises to those who respond to Him with generous hearts.

"If you help the poor, you are lending to the LORD--and He will repay you!" Proverbs 19:17

"'Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in My Temple. If you do,' says the Lord
of Heaven’s Armies, 'I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will
pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in!
Try it! Put Me to the test!'" Malachi 3:10

"And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones
who is My disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not
lose their reward."
Matthew 10:42

"Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously."
2 Corinthians 9:6

"And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have
everything you need and plenty left over to share with others." 2 Corinthians 9:8

"God is not unjust; He will not forget your work and the love you have
shown Him as you have helped His people and continue to help them." Hebrews 6:10

I listed too many promises to read in one blog, didn't I? And yet God's Word contains many more promises such as these!

If God owns the universe and everything in it (Psalm 24:1) then why would God ask us to lend to the poor? Maybe, just maybe God asks us to give as a test of our devotion to Him.

Giving proves easier when we first recognize that everything we have comes from God--our very faith, our family, our furnishings and our finances. God has entrusted us as stewards of His things. When we receive a request for support our only reasonable response is for us to inquire how the Owner would have us best utilize His possessions. Sometimes God asks us to give a little; sometimes God asks us to give until it hurts, trusting Him to meet our needs from His glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19).

Put it into Practice I have a request toward which you can consider giving (you saw this coming). I am not asking you to give . . . not immediately, anyway. I am asking you to pray. Ask God if and how He would have you respond to this opportunity. Do not give in order to receive. Do not give out of guilt. Give out of your trust in God and your love for people in need.

In less than two months I will travel to Africa to lead three different women's conferences. Though fundraising efforts continue for the first two conferences, the greatest need is for the group of women coming from remote parts of Congo. The women will travel 1-2 days each way for the conference. Our team will spend two days teaching the women and equipping them to begin Bible study groups in their villages. Two hundred dollars will cover the cost for one woman
(including her travel each way, hotel, food and border crossing requirements). An extra ten dollars will provide her with a Bible. Thirty-five women await funding.

Two-hundred and ten US dollars. Its a lot to ask, but would you? Would you simply ask God what He would have you to do?

Tax-deductible donations can be mailed to the ministry with whom I will travel, Equip Disciples, at 2126 Belmont Park Drive, Arlington, TX 76017. Donations can also be made on-line at Equip Disciples (please note, however, 3% of your on-line donation will go to Paypal). Designate "Equip Women Conferences" on your donation.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Joy of the Lord is Our Strength

April 10, 2014

"Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!" Nehemiah 8:10

I'm going.

After two years, the praying, waiting, hoping, longing will cease as I return to Africa this summer. (Okay, so the praying will continue but the focus of my prayers will change.)

The decision to return to Africa proved difficult. Over and over I questioned, How can I willingly leave my young family behind for an extended period of time?

Telling the kiddos nearly broke my heart . . . and theirs. One of our daughters ran out of the room crying. Seriously. I thought, How can I do this to them? The answer?

The joy of the Lord gives us strength.

In Nehemiah's day, hope had just begun to emerge for God's people. After seventy years of exile the remnant of Israel could finally return home. Under Nehemiah's leadership dedicated workers rebuilt the wall around Jerusalem. People once again filled the land. To commemorate their new beginning the Israelites gathered in the town square while Ezra the priest read aloud the Book of the Law of Moses (what you and I know as the first five books of the Bible).

As they listened to God's Word, sadness and despair overcame God's people. The revealing of how God wanted them to live ignited godly sorrow as all Israel considered how they had lived. Nehemiah encouraged the people, “Go and celebrate with a
feast of rich foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts of food with
people who have nothing prepared. This is a sacred day before our Lord.
Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!”
(Nehemiah 8:10)

Part of me felt dejected and sad when God made clear His desire for my life. I knew it would prove hard to obey all God had asked my family to do. But I need not despair. God takes great pleasure in our obedience (1 Samuel 15:22). Though the task which lies before me seems hard, I find strength knowing my obedience will bring the Lord great joy.

In his devotional, My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers writes, "If, however, we obey God, He will care for those who have suffered the consequences of our obedience. We must simply obey and leave all the consequences with Him." (see January 11)

As I return to Africa I need not feel dejected and sad over the thought of leaving my family behind. The same God who takes
care of me will supply all my family's needs from His glorious riches, which
have been given to us in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19).
I can respond like the people in Nehemiah's day who, "went away to eat and drink
at a festive meal, to share gifts of food, and to celebrate with great
joy because they had heard God’s words and understood them."
(Nehemiah 8:12)

What has God asked you to do? Do not despair. Simply obey. Let the joy of the Lord be your strength.

If you would like to make an impact on the life of a woman half-way around the world, consider making a donation toward the cost of our work in Africa.
  • $26 will purchase a study Bible in the local dialect
  • $50 will help cover the cost for one woman to attend a two-week Bible training conference
  • a donation of any amount will help cover the cost of translators, printed materials, food distribution for the women (rice, eggs, beans and potatoes), as well as facility expenses

To make a tax-deductible donation visit For more information click on the Africa tab or e-mail me at jennyhander[at_sign]

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Transcending the Wuld

March 29, 2014

"See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God;" 1 John 3:1

"For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus.
" Galatians 3:26

As my husband and I prayed with the kids last night our five year old began to cry. Our prayers were for friends of ours who are in the process of bringing home their daughter from another country. Once we said amen I asked our daughter, "Why the tears?" In her five year old voice she replied, "I think it is nice that [our friends] love [their daughter] so much they traveled half way around the wuld (world) to get hur (her)."

Did anyone else hear the door of opportunity fling open?

I took a step back and addressed all three of our children (the fourth had already fallen asleep) . . .

Yes! Our friends love their daughter so much they traveled half way around the wuld to bring her home. Home to a place where she will experience unconditional love from parents who desire the absolute best for her.

God loves US so much that Jesus left Heaven--a completely different wuld--to bring US home. Jesus didn't even pack a bag for His trip. He simply came to our wuld as a baby; a baby who grew into a Man; a Man who gave His sinless life as a sacrifice for our sin-full lives. Jesus loves us SO much He transcended the wuld to bring us--God's beloved sons and daughters--home. Home to a place where one day He will wipe every tear
from [our] eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or
pain. All these things [will be] gone forever.
Revelation 21:4

Thursday, March 27, 2014

On the Mountain with God

March 27, 2014

"Then the LORD said to Moses, 'Come up to Me on the mountain. Stay there,
and I will give you the tablets of stone on which I have inscribed the
instructions and commands so you can teach the people.'"
Exodus 24:12

I have a friend who is on the mountain with God. Actually, she's still cruising at 36,000 feet (or at whatever altitude planes fly) on her way to another country in effort to bring home her precious daughter. I imagine her heart feels full of anxious anticipation and joy beyond expression--feelings that come from following God into the unknown.

Journeying with God up the mountain proves anything but easy. The trek requires faith; a certainty that the One who called you up the mountain will neither fail you nor abandon you . . . nor the family and friends you leave behind (Deuteronomy 31:6). The course demands determination, endurance and sacrifice. But meeting God on the mountaintop produces in us an experience far greater than anything this world can offer.

Moses met with God on a mountaintop. The climb surely proved challenging for Moses. Twice, Moses had to scale the mountain carrying two stone tablets--gear that I assume most mountain-climbers would rather leave behind. But Moses did the work. And once Moses reached the mountaintop he experienced God like few people ever would. While on the mountain God equipped Moses with what he needed to teach and share with God's people. Moses' time with God proved so great that when he returned to the bottom of the mountain, his face shone brightly for all to see.

What mountain has God asked you to climb? I can affirm that the journey will prove well worth the effort, hours of training and sacrifice required. Your time on the mountain with God will equip you with an experience which you can use to teach and share with God's people. You will return home shining brightly for all to see (Matthew 5:16).

Friend . . . you know who you are. We are here at the bottom of the mountain waiting to welcome you home!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Identify - The Words of Our Testimony

March 22, 2014

"How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of the messenger who brings
good news, the good news of peace and salvation, the news that the God
of Israel reigns!" Isaiah 52:7

Our church begins a 5 week evangelism study this coming Sunday. I always considered evangelism a gift--one which I failed to receive thereby excusing me from the practice of evangelism. While Ephesians 4:11 describes evangelism as a spiritual gift given to some (but not necessarily all) believers, Christ did exhort every one of His followers to discipleship. Jesus' parting words were, "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you" (Matthew 28:19-20).

John 4 tells the story of an unlikely woman who Jesus intentionally reached with the message of His saving love. I enjoy reading the story of the woman at the well because of how this woman responds following her encounter with Jesus. After the Son of God reveals Himself as the Messiah to this woman she runs with unrestrained passion to tell others about her experience with the Living God. The woman's story sparks interest throughout the town of Samaria. The people of Samaria come to listen to Jesus and many place their faith in Him. People came to listen because of her words but they believed because of His word (John 4:1-42).

Romans 3:11-12 tells us that, "No one seeks God, all have turned away." In his book, Follow Me (Tyndale, 2012), author David Platt emphatically reminds us that we do not invite Jesus into our hearts. The word invite implies that we initiated the relationship. Ephesians 1:4 tells me that, "Even before He made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in His eyes."

Long before I ever took my first breath, before my great-great-great-great-grandmother ever took her first breath, God loved me and chose to make a way for me--and for you--to enter into fellowship with Him. Sin keeps us from God (Isaiah 29:2). But through His death Jesus invites us into fellowship with God. We simply accept the invitation. Our purpose is not to invite others into fellowship with God. God sent His invitation to all people through the cross. We can, however--like the woman at the well--invite others to come to know more about God's invitation. We can vouch that God's invitation is worthy of an R.S.V.P.

The prophet Isaiah proclaimed, "How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of the messenger who brings
good news, the good news of peace and salvation, the news that the God
of Israel reigns!"
(Isaiah 52:7) But Romans 10:14 asks, "How can they call on Him to save them unless they believe in Him? And how
can they believe in Him if they have never heard about Him? And how can
they hear about Him unless someone tells them?"
We must tell others, those who God brings across our path, the news that our God saves!

Revelation 12:11 says, "They [those accused by the enemy] overcame him [the enemy] because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony." Testimony simply means giving your account of an event. As we share with others our personal experience with God many will want to know more about God.

Remember what happened with woman at the well. As she shared her testimony with the people in her town those people wanted to hear more about God from God. People came to listen to the very Word of God and many believed. Romans 10:17 tells us that faith comes by hearing the word of Christ.
God draws people nearer to Himself through our story, and then saves them through His story.

Consider where or with whom God wants you to take your feet--beautiful or not--to share your experience of Him.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

What to Wear?

March 11, 2014

"And I want women to be modest in their appearance. They should wear decent and appropriate clothing and not draw attention
to themselves by the way they fix their hair or by wearing gold or
pearls or expensive clothes.
" 1 Timothy 2:9

I need a good pair of jeans. Wait--correct that--I want a good pair of jeans. Not an expensive pair of jeans. Just a pair of good ol' denim comfort. My nearly-one-year-post-baby body has yet to return to its previous size but my postpartum wardrobe fails to fit either. What's a mama to wear?

A fashionista I am not (as many of you nod your head in agreement). I want to look nice but I find it hard to loosen my purse strings enough to shell out money for anything other than basic wardrobe components. Two weeks ago I ventured into a popular store for the first time only to find myself blinded by the display lights and sparkleliness of the store's offerings. I believe makeup and jewelry and accessories and dressing nicely are fine things to do; American culture somewhat commands it. But Scripture tells me of another fashion trend to which I can chose to adhere.

Paul's instruction to Timothy in 1 Timothy 2:9 is not an exclusive command toward extreme propriety. Nor is Paul's instruction to the Corinthian church in 1 Corinthians 11:5-6 an exclusive command with regards to the length of women's hair. Paul's main concern in both instances in Scripture is the heart of God's people, specifically the women of God.

"The Lord doesn’t see things the way [we] see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart" (1 Samuel 16:7). Paul encouraged the women to refrain from rebelling against cultural norms, to resist the desire to draw attention to themselves but to instead focus on drawing attention to God.

One commentary notes, "It would be well if the professors of serious godliness were wholly free
from vanity in dress. They should spend more time and money in
relieving the sick and distressed, than in decorating themselves and
their children" (Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on 1 Timothy 2:9).

That stung a bit.

Please understand, I am not suggesting a return to long sleeves, floor length dresses, hair buns, bobby pins and make-up-free faces. However, reading the words of the elderly commentator caused me to reflect on the desires of my heart. Do I desire to maintain the latest fashion trends for myself and for my children more than I desire to help the needy and the poor?

Paul proceeds to explain to Timothy that godly women have another option when it comes to making themselves attractive. 1 Timothy 2:10 reads, "For women who claim to be devoted to God should make themselves attractive by the good things they do." Proverbs 31:25 says that the noble woman clothes herself with strength and dignity and can laugh at the days to come.

What a relief! Its okay that the latest fashion trends escape my closet. I desire to present my best self before the Lord, yes. But God cares more for how I serve others than He cares about what I wear.

As John describes the great marriage feast which awaits believers in Heaven he says of the bride (which is you and me), "it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints" (Revelation 19:8).

Good deeds do not grant us passage into Heaven. Only faith in the provisions of Christ Jesus guarantee us an invitation to the great wedding banquet. However, if we spend our time serving orphans and widows in their distress (James 1:27) and alleviating the needs of the poor and the afflicted (Isaiah 58:10), God will clothe us with the finest fashions for all of eternity.