Here are the daily devotionals from Jason Jennings, Men’s Ministry Leader, that were featured on KSUN 103.5:
Monday – Faith
My name is Jason Jennings, mens’ minstry leader from New Crossing Church, in Sun Prairie. I want to speak on one word today, and that word is faith. It’s the most powerful word I know.
Faith always precedes victory and it never travels alone. It is the only thing I know of that can walk into any hopeless situation, and still smile. Faith looks over its shoulder to its two, good friends, hope and love, and says “we’re home.” Everything that faith touches, becomes better. Faith is the greatest gift ever given to us.
I don’t know if you will be able to relate to my story, but I grew up in some pretty harsh circumstances. Dirt-poor poverty, alcoholic parents, I could smoke and drink in my home when I was in 3rd grade (no wonder why I became an alcoholic myself, years later), and I had the strangest furniture around, tables made from tombstones from a graveyard. Yep, it was slightly dysfunctional, to say the least. But, the biggest dysfunction was living day-to-day without faith. Never believing that my life could get better.
When I was 18 years old, I joined the United States Marine Corps and got my first real taste of the word faith. Now, I don’t want to sit here and rehash the glory days of my youth from over three decades ago, but I owe the Marines a lot.
You see, when I joined the Marine Corps, the Marines got the raw end of the deal. When I signed that contract and committed my life to the Marines, they got damaged goods from the get-go. They got a young man that was bruised and beaten by this thing called life. However, the Marines didn’t care about my past, they were only interested in my future. Their one purpose, their one focus, was to make me into something greater than myself.
The Marines, knowingly, or not, set the stage for my encounter with God, years later. Marine Drill Instructors know that in order for their recruits to grow beyond themselves and become Marines, they must teach them to confront their fears…head-on. This takes faith.
They know that a man, who never lets go of the safety rope will never become a Marine. The chances are just too great that he will never give his life for his country, or his brother because fear rules him. A Marine needs to know that he can count on his brothers in battle. After all, there is no greater love than someone, who will give his life for another.
From the moment I joined the Marines, I made the decision to not let my past, or my current fear, determine my future any longer. I made the decision to rely on this thing called faith, as I understood it back then. I just knew, that deep within me, I wanted more. I wanted to believe in something that was bigger than this relentless world that I was born into. There just had to be something more, and for me, it was the Marine Corps that showed me how faith is supposed to work.
I saw men that I wanted to emulate. Not because they were great speakers, but because they lived by truth and demonstrated faith. You see, a Marine doesn’t spend a lot of time talking, “telling” you why it is important to have faith in your brothers and sisters; rather, he just finds his place in the mud, next to you. The best way I can describe it is to say that Marines are only allowed to preach from the mud. I often think of Jesus’ dirty feet from being in the harvest fields.
I truly believe that if we had more Christians looking for their place in the mud, we’d have a lot less non-believers in this world, and a whole lot more Christians living an abundant life.
So, here is my challenge for you today. I challenge you to grab hold of the gift of faith and start a conversation with God tonight.
I challenge you to use the best part of your heart, and ask Him…”God, do You have more for me?” His answer will be wrapped in a ribbon of faith that you can hold onto.
Tuesday – Heart of a Believer
I want to start with a verse of Scripture today, from Proverbs 4:23…”Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”
I love Proverbs 4:23 because it speaks about life, and it’s directly related to my favorite verse, Luke 10:27… “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, love your neighbor as yourself.”
Just like in any relationship, the more we love someone, the more we want to spend time with them, understand them, and partner with them. I think this is why many Christians like to spend time in God’s Word every day. However, our mind is but one of five ways to love our Lord.
A number of years ago, I received a great awakening and a strong desire to be in God’s Word. I found myself waking up early just to meet with Him and to get to know Him better. After reading so much about His Righteousness, I think I fell into an enemy trap and became a bit self-righteous, as I put a premium of my time into loving Him with all my mind. I concentrated on only one of the five ways to love Him.
God had called me into deeper waters and I dove right into His Word, swam around in It, drank from It, and even wrote about my experiences with Him. Then, Jesus called me out to walk upon the water toward Him and I struggled to even stay afloat. My spirit was water-logged; heavy. My mind had dove into the righteousness of His Word without the buoyancy of peace and joy that is found in the heart of every believer.
A heart that knows Christ will walk on water. A buoyant heart is approved by men and pleasing to God. And the truth is…neighbors don’t want to hang out with a smug, self-righteousness know-it-all.
I want to finish with a short story today.
As I told you yesterday, I was in the Marines and one of my jobs was to guard the field, command post. The command post was a tent where all the officers met to discuss strategy and make their battle plans. It was the one area most vulnerable to enemy attack, because that was where all the thinking was done. A meeting of the minds, one might say. One effective, enemy attack could take out the entire battalion leadership structure. It needed to be protected with all diligence.
This is like your heart. Your heart is the command post of your mind. Don’t let the enemy into your heart and he can’t access your thinking. Your heart is the wellspring of life.
Take care of your heart by confessing your sin and receiving His forgiveness. There is no sin too big for Jesus to forgive. Jesus purposely sought out a murderer of Christians (later to be known as the Apostle Paul), so we could see how much He loves sinners. Don’t leave the door cracked open. Find brothers and sisters that can help you push the door closed on satan. After all, even the Marines know better than only putting one sentry on duty at a time.
I encourage you to nurture a radical sense of honesty that will protect your heart, so you may fully love God with all your mind, all your strength, all your soul, and your neighbor as yourself.
May your day be blessed and your heart full of peace and joy.
Wednesday – Unstuck
Jason Jennings here, mens’ ministry leader from New Crossing Church in Sun Prairie. Today’s message is about getting unstuck.
I don’t know if you can relate to this, but I’ve noticed that when the people we love, hurt us, it hurts something awful. It’s the kind of hurt that when it hits us, it just knocks us off-our-feet.
Awhile back, I was stuck in some serious hurt. It was a hurt that I was familiar with in intimate ways. It was a hurt that I could not let go and a hurt that I could not fix; an unsolvable puzzle that would call out my name again, and again. It was just a matter of time.
Isn’t that the way it is with hurt? The more we love and trust someone, the deeper the hurt when that love or trust is broken. I think this is why so many people are afraid to love and trust.
This is where I was awhile back. Desperately stuck and resentful for the hurt that someone inflicted upon me. I once heard someone say that resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping the other person dies.
If you ever find yourself trapped in the life-sucking sands of resentment and can’t seem to get unstuck by yourself, I highly recommend you seek the counsel of a pastor, priest, or elder, in any of the fine churches of the Sun Prairie area.
For me, I finally came to the conclusion that if I could not take this problem to an elder of my church (who is a trusted man and a good friend), then there is no safe place for me in this world. Before I spoke one single word to him, I prepared my heart. My heart posture said, “I would submit to this man and do whatever he suggested to get me unstuck.” And, I meant it; I was sick of feeling like this…it was just sucking the life out of me and it was getting worse by the day. Then, we met and I spilled my guts to him; I held nothing back, and the words from my mouth weren’t very pretty.
Here is what I learned…
This man could see, what I could not see because of my resentment and my hurt. This man immediately pointed my feet to safety…step here…not there. I didn’t argue; I didn’t say, “hey, you don’t understand…” or “I’ve done that before…” I went to him for counsel and I wasn’t going to let my ego get in the way.
But I want you to understand, an elder, pastor, or priest does not have a physician’s heart; he has a shepherd’s heart. He didn’t fix my problem; instead, he helped me to get unstuck, so I could be led to safe pastures. A wide-open place where I could catch my breath; a secure place where I could sit with my Lord in peace; a spiritual place where my eyes could be lifted from my earthly problem to His heavenly solution. This was a pasture designed for feeding.
The day after I met with my elder, he came to me and said, “I was in prayer for you Jason and I heard the word, meekness.” He didn’t lecture me on that word. He didn’t try to teach me anything about that word. He just said I heard the word meekness. What he gave to me was a word that I could chew on while feeding in the safety of the pasture.
Meekness is such a strange word. At first glance, meekness seemed like weakness, but as I chewed on that word, I learned a lot. Did you know that only two people in the Bible are described as being meek? Moses and Jesus. One, a man, the other a Savior, both willing to lay down their lives, their problems, their hurts, and their frustrations before their Father. Both called to lead people to freedom. Both with an undeniable heart posture that says, “yes, Father.”
Just like you, I too am a powerful person. I have the power to hold onto my hurt or the power to let it go and be healed by the only one strongest enough to carry it for me. Jesus.
I encourage you today, to bring your hurt before the Lord by meeting with the shepherds He selected for your care. Submit to their wisdom and counsel, and feel the freedom and strength of meekness.
Thursday – Overcoming Death & Living Abundantly
Jason Jennings here, mens’ ministry leader from New Crossing Church. What I would like to share with you today, is overcoming death and living life abundantly.
Fourteen years ago, I knew death well. He tortured my mind with an unquenchable desire that I couldn’t control. I looked normal on the outside, but I was dying on the inside.
I was married, with two, young children, and worked during the day. Then, I would come home from work, and sit in my garage until about midnight, drinking straight gin. Toward the end, I was putting back a ½ liter of gin a night, and then waking up the next day to start this cycle of hell all over again.
I don’t have time to tell you my whole story, but I do have time to tell you how much God loves me, personally. I feel like His favorite son today.
When I went to Alcoholics Anonymous, I brought all my baggage with me, including my terribly defiant attitude. Only God would know the type of man I would listen to. Turns out, his name was Norman, or more commonly known as, “Hi, my name is Norm and I’m an alcoholic.”
I’ve told you before that I was in the Marines, and guess what? Norm was in the Marines too. I was an infantryman in the weapons platoon, trained as a mortarman. Norm was too. However, I had only served in peacetime, but Norm had received a Bronze Star in the Korean War. This was a man, who just might get through my stubborn head.
By the time I first met Norm, he already had 25+ years of sobriety and a heart full of abundant life. That man took me under his wing and taught me how to defeat death and reclaim the life that God had given me.
Norm was a blessing in my life, but he didn’t look the part for many people’s eyes. Sometimes, he could have outbursts of unsavory language that could make a drunken sailor blush. He was not an eloquent speaker, but in my 51 years of living, I’ve never met one person, who has come close to the number of people that he led to freedom in Jesus Christ.
The reason was simple. Norm went out into the harvest fields every night and hung out with the soon-to-be-dead. I’m not exaggerating here, he lived in a tar-paper shack of a house, but he opened his home up to anyone, who was wanting. There was always a car parked at his house. You would walk into his cramped living room and not be able to find an open seat.
Norm was a deeply spiritual man that believed in God and knew His Son. Norm once told me that he used to be a heavy smoker, and about five years before I met him, he was diagnosed with cancer in both his lungs.
He came home from the doctor and prayed, “Lord, I’m ready now, but if You’re not done with me yet, then You’re gonna have to do something.” That night, Norm spent the whole night coughing and puking up black, nasty stuff. He thought he was dying.
The next day, he went back to the doctor’s office, told them what happened, and had more x-rays taken. Norm’s lungs were 100% cancer free. The doctor thought Norm had a twin brother and that he was playing games with him…said he never saw anything like it before.
Norm once said to me, “Jason, maybe you’re the reason God kept me around a little longer.” I think there is truth in that. I think anyone who has stared death in the face and then found the abundant life in Christ, has purpose beyond themselves.
Friday – Prayer
This is Jason Jennings from New Crossing Church, giving the last devotional of the week. I thank you for listening to me this past week, and I encourage you to dig a little deeper, taking time to rest frequently in God’s great love for you.
I will end this week with a prayer that has been building up within my heart for many years.
Father, you know the desires of my heart. Strengthen the Body of Christ by equipping and affirming each of your children, so we may complete your will. Fully enable us, so we may choose to dive deeply into the calm waters of obedience and resurface as new creations with renewed purpose.
Have us rise up out of these Living Waters and stand strong. Help us to stand for your people and to stand against the forces of darkness. Instill within our hearts…confidence. Confident men and women, who lead with intent, love with a brand of hope that perplexes this world, and defends the weak with a tenacity that frightens the enemy.
Where we need breakthrough, give us breakthrough. Where we need grace, saturate us in your mercy and forgiveness. Put within each of our hearts a relentless drive to save the lost, gifted hands that can heal the wounded, and vision to see the people you put in our paths.
I pray for a fear of the Lord that is so great, there’s no room left to fear man. In Matthew 5:11, Jesus said, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.” Father, let us wear these insults as badges of honor and obedience.
Give us hearts that choose obedience over rebellion; creating over destroying, hope over despair, and faith over fear. Thank you for counting us among your children and for stamping us with Your seal that declares our certain future with Christ, and let us become the builders of Your kingdom, on earth, as it is in Heaven.