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SMC Women's Ministry

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Posts in Jessica Russell
I've been doing some soul-searching...

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Welcome to this week’s SMC Women’s blog.

Right now on the SMC Women’s Facebook Bible Study page, we have been studying Thessalonians. So much wisdom in those two letters!

 

In Week 2 of our study, I had a moment. And it coincided with a book I’d been reading. Really, though, that was all God.

 

Have you ever read a book that just smacked you in the face?

Are you a single lady (or dude, if you’re here visiting)?

Are you a mom?

Grandma?

Mentor to the youth of today?

 

It hit me hard, for many reasons. Swipe Right, by Levi Lusko, deals directly and poignantly with “the life and death power of sex and romance.”  And it goes hand-in-hand with the Word we read from Paul in his first letter to the church at Thessalonica. I encourage you to pick up a copy of this book. I’ll lend you mine if you’d like.

 

I’m going to share with you the Wednesday post from Week 2 - minus the posted comments. I hope it speaks to you, too.

If you’d like to join the SMCW Online Study group, just send me your email and I’ll add you (ladies only, please). It’s closed to the public, so you have to be a member to read the posts, comment, or otherwise participate. This allows the group a safe place to be open and free to discuss, much like we would if we were gathered together in someone’s living room.

 

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READ 1 Thessalonians 4: 1-8; SOAP 1 Thessalonians 4: 3-5


“God’s will is that your lives are dedicated to him. This means that you stay away from sexual immorality and learn how to control your own body in a pure and respectable way. Don’t be controlled by your sexual urges like the Gentiles who don’t know God.” (CEB)

 

Ruh-roh. Time for the purity talk (again).

 

Whitney, with LGG, sums this up pretty efficiently (and as a single, and occasionally dating, mom of teenage and tween boys, I can totally identify, both from the single lady perspective, but also from the Mom perspective): “You see, in the flesh we want to have it all. We want the world, and Jesus too. And it just isn’t working for us. We can only squeeze so much into our deepest affections of our heart. Eventually it gets crowded in there. And while God patiently pursues, longing for an intimate relationship with us, we settle for Sunday mornings and half-hearted prayers and rely on people and passions around us to fill our deepest longings that only Jesus was meant to satisfy. We’re running to a world that’s highly accessible, but only temporarily fulfilling at best.”

 

Spot on. And I see my boys (and myself, who ought to know better) grabbing for things that will not bring soul-level fulfillment, and certainly will not bring me closer to Jesus. That video game will not love you back. Those shoes (how many can we possibly need?) will not bring you real contentment. That skin-deep infatuation will not fill the deepest space in your heart where only God meant the Holy Spirit to live. “And God wants more for me. For you. God wants our whole hearts so that we can be satisfied in Him,” Whitney writes. 

“Ever wonder why life feels so crowded, yet so empty? So tempting, yet so unfulfilling? So accessible, yet so shallow? Could it be that Jesus doesn’t really have the first place that He deserves in our lives after all? Paul had a message for the Thessalonians, and God has given the same Word to us. In short, since we know God we ought to live like it. Where the world indulges in sinful desires, we ought to live holy lives (4:7).”

 

*WHEW* I’ve got some soul-work to do. How about you? Feel free to share or comment as you feel led.

 

Let us pray.  Lord, Lord. I haven’t always been a diligent or pious follower. I have allowed my own selfish wants and the leanings of this world to overtake me and hijack my decision-making. Please forgive me. I know I need to be an example who leads as much in action as I do in word for those within my sphere of influence. Please help me to better discern when I need to refocus back to You. Please help me to live the holy life you have called me to. Thank you for your many blessings, patient grace, undeserved forgiveness of my sins. Amen.


Your Soul-Searching Sister,

Jessica

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*Photo credit to Levi Lusko and Life.Church open network

I've got that Joy, Joy, Joy, Joy down in my heart! (and thoughts on Lent in 2019)
Lent 2019 Mother Nature Network

Lent 2019 Mother Nature Network

I have learned a lot about Lent since I started attending SMC. I really didn’t have many Lent take-aways from my childhood and adolescence in my little church growing up – and probably because I just didn’t really understand the significance of it. Reflection was not a tool in my toolbox at that point in my life. And refocusing on Christ wasn’t a big thing, because I hadn’t any life experience at that point that would draw me away from Him or lead me to question Him. *Sigh* the good ole days.

But, oh boy, have I been in the wilderness in adulthood! I have been tempted and tested and tried. I’ve been worn down and exhausted beyond reason. I’ve been hurt, broken, defeated. And I did not handle it like Jesus a good bit of the time. I’m thankful to have re-established my relationship with Jesus, so that’s not a constant pattern any longer. Make no mistake, some days I still don’t handle things well, because of selfishness or impetuous reaction or just not being connected enough to God.

So, this year, coming out of a season of darkness (Praise God!), I decided to make a really concerted effort during Lent toward fasting from negativity. Trusting really, truly that He is good and finding reasons to rejoice, even if my moment or my day or my week are less than stellar. I could have given up sugar, or social media, or any number of things. I could have taken on a literal fast (hard pass – I’m just not there yet). But I have felt led to fixate during this time on being joyful, regardless of external circumstances or stressors in my life. After all, He calls us to joy.

But the fruit produced by the Holy Spirit within you is divine love in all its varied expressions: joy that overflows, peace that subdues, patience that endures, kindness in action, a life full of virtue, faith that prevails, gentleness of heart, and strength of spirit. Never set the law above these qualities, for they are meant to be limitless. (Galatians 5:22 TPT)

(Read this next line in your best Southern voice) Can I just tell you something? I have felt joy bubble up and emanate forth from the top of my noggin down to the tips of my toes. I haven’t felt that way in a long, long time. And some of my external circumstances have been a cause for joy as well (even though some things have changed; really most things have stayed the same). I could sit and argue the finer points of which came first – chicken or egg style – but I won’t, because it doesn’t matter. What matters is that I am choosing to remain obedient in honoring how He wants me to live. I can feel it in my bones, and I feel like I’m wearing somebody’s crown jewels around my neck like a badge of honor. IT’S AMAZING!

My purpose for telling you these things is so that the joy that I experience will fill your hearts with overflowing gladness! (John 15:11 TPT)

You love him passionately although you did not see him, but through believing in him you are saturated with an ecstatic joy, indescribably sublime and immersed in glory. (1 Peter 1:8 TPT)

Yes! Yes to all of that!!!!

Look, I know it won’t always be like this. There will be seasons that rock my little boat again. But I’m working in these 40 days to make it more of a lifestyle than it has ever been for me, in the hopes that it will carry through after Easter Sunday. I have felt this joy before on Easter Sundays past (it’s my favorite holiday because it is remembrance of the BEST GIFT we’ve ever been given – the joy often leaks out of my eyes those days). I’m just so thankful I’m living in that same joy now leading up to the day.

To know that I am loved and chosen and needed by our Creator God, and that He has a plan for me (whether I have it figured out or not), has finally resonated so deeply in this season that  I can’t not be joyful. My prayer for you, Friend, is that you know this very same thing – and that you feel it (in His time) as strongly as I do right now.

We look away from the natural realm and we fasten our gaze onto Jesus who birthed faith within us and who leads us forward into faith’s perfection. His example is this: Because his heart was focused on the joy of knowing that you would be his, he endured the agony of the cross and conquered its humiliation, and now sits exalted at the right hand of the throne of God! (Hebrews 12:2 TPT)

May the Creator of the Universe, God Almighty in Heaven, Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ fill you with more joy than you will ever be able to contain.

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Love, Jess

*featured photo credit goes to the Mother Nature Network

Here we are again...I blinked and 2018 is almost gone!

AdventWreath-184927200-596509225f9b583f18154ca1 ThoughtCo Cstar55 Getty Images Here we are again, y’all. That most wonderful time of the year. But I’m feeling a little bah-humbug myself. The thought of Black Friday shopping makes me break out in hives. Crowds and spending money like it’s going out of style stress me out. Plus, I see all the “stuff” around my house and can’t imagine why we need to add more to it (I stayed home in my pj’s and watched old movies all day). *Sigh* So, I have to do my annual refresh on my thought process (and my heart process).

 

First up, it’s remembering that we are in the season of Advent. So what does that mean exactly? Well, good ole Wikipedia is here to tell us (do you sometimes miss those Encyclopedia Britannicas as much as I do? Yes, they were older than me, but they smelled heavenly and the heft of picking one up left me feeling like I’d certainly accomplished something):

 

Advent is a season observed in many Christian churches as a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas as well as the return of Jesus at the second coming. The term is a version of the Latin word meaning "coming". (Wikipedia)

 

Look! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. Luke 1:31 (CEB)

 

Expectant waiting…preparation…return of Jesus…second coming…It *does* sound exactly like how I used to feel as a kid just waiting (usually not so patiently) for Christmas to get here. That was rough! But the hope of what was to come kept me hanging on, feverishly anticipating what Santa might leave for me and for whatever was underneath all of that red and green wrapping paper. And that’s exactly how God wants us to feel about Him…living in abundant hope and longing for Jesus’s return with baited breath and a fervored excitement.

 

For me, 2018 has provided plenty of obstacles to living in that excitement and anticipation. And my horizon line still looks a little dark. So I long for the Advent feeling. Here’s the thing, though. That feeling came along with the Gift given to us all two thousand and some years ago. Our job here is to claim it. It slept softly under a blanket of stars, surrounded by the sounds of sheep and cattle, all while poor dirty shepherds and wealthy educated men bowed down side-by-side in reverence. When I finally get around to decorating the house, the moment I pull out my Maw Maw’s nativity scene, I will be overcome with the Advent feeling. It will breathe new life into me. I will feel the Hope envelope me and I will cling to it.

 

The truth is, I can live in fear/worry/fret ‘til the cows come home. Or, I can accept the Gift of Hope that this time of year signifies. I can hold on tightly to it (sometimes like a life raft). I can know that He is good, and I can believe beyond all measure that He is God.

 

God said that light should shine out of the darkness. He is the same one who shone in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory in the face of Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:6 (CEB)

 

I encourage you, Friend, to join me in remembering what Advent is, and embracing it this season. I am going to choose Hope. I am going to claim Hope, and proclaim it. May the God who loves us, each and every one, be with you this season and always. May the Hope of Jesus live in your heart, and radiate outward into the world.

 

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in faith so that you overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13 (CEB)

 

Merry Christmas!

♥ Jessica

(photo credit to Getty Images for the featured image above)