99cents PepperJax Church

It’s Wednesday! To most people it’s just another day, but our kids have come to know Wednesday as PepperJax night.

You know. The night when kids eat almost free and can run around crazy in a restaurant because there are a billion other kids there making just as much noise as your own??

It’s amazing. Seriously. I love PepperJax night–partially because I don’t have to cook, partially because it gets us out of the house when we are about to go nuts with cabin fever, and partially because we try to meet a fellow Christian family there to have some adult conversations.

One Wednesday after the meal we were joking and said, “Let’s do this a couple times a month! It’s like PepperJax Church!”

There was some truth in that statement. These are people who I can be me with. I can talk freely about struggles or victories, about parenting wins and fails, about death and life, and about Jesus. Nothing forced. Nothing fake. Just a steak rice bowl with all the veggies and some good encouragement and love from faithful friends.

I love the picture Acts 2:42-47 paints of how the the early church thrived.

“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” (v. 42)

It sounds so simple and ordinary to sit together as families, eat, talk, and pray…why would that be so important to the church? But as soon as we put God in that place he can do lots of things with our time around a table– whether at our house or at a PepperJax.

For me, time with my faithful friends and their families has resulted in conversations that strengthen my faith as I hear what God is doing in their lives, allows for growth as we learn from each other and encourage each other, and just plain makes us feel stronger as God’s workers knowing that we are not in the struggle of life alone.

My PepperJax Church people inspire me to keep running closer to God and after His will. So although normal Sunday church is such an awesome time of worship and time to learn about God through our pastors…our weekly mini times of faith with our closest people are where I find God, too.

I think the people of the early church had that same feeling.

Everyday they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:46-47)

They were people who loved God, were passionate about living relationally daily with God’s people, and just plain enjoyed their time together. It was just a good thing.

That last line is so awesome to me. The idea that God can use us just by getting our families together to enjoy each other’s company, inviting others to do the same, and sprinkling Jesus in the middle of our meal through love and encouragement.

Ladies, our tables are powerful places. Do you feel that??

Let me just say that in a lot of ways I feel very humbled by being a part-time stay-at-home-mom. There have been a lot of times I have felt resentment towards my kitchen because I have felt chained to it in the past making, serving, and cleaning up food messes ALL DAY LONG.

But when I look at my table as God’s instrument for making disciples?? I see it a little differently. The people in those chairs, whether my children or guests, start looking a little more important as does the time and effort I put into serving and being with them.

So who is your PepperJax church?? Who are your weekly make-me-feel-better-about-life people? If you don’t have any, maybe it’s time to open up your table…or let your crazy kids run around PepperJax.

 

The Invitation is Still Good

Jesus forgives. Isn’t that what we are taught all our lives? If you have ever taught Sunday school you know when kids shoot their hands up to answer a question, they usually shout one of three things: Jesus!! The cross!! Forgiveness!!

So why is it so hard to believe in our adult hearts that Jesus actually does forgive us? We think there’s no way God could use someone like us now with all we’ve done. So, we give our past sin more life than God’s mercy. We hold on to it. We are ashamed of it. We hide it or pull away from God.

I wonder if that’s how Peter felt after he denied Jesus three times. (see John 18) He knew he had messed up. As much as he loved Jesus, he had let his fear take over and had denied even knowing his Lord multiple times. In his mind it was all over. How could God want to use someone like Peter now? So he backed off of the discipleship course, went back to the family business as a fisherman, and was most likely feeling the same things we feel when we think we have let God down– ashamed, defeated, and broken hearted.

Open those bibles and turn to John 18. Read how Jesus kept his cool when he was arrested. He knew the arrest and crucifixion were coming because it was the whole reason He came. He was ready to do His Father’s will no matter the cost. Jesus was able to be perfectly faithful in every word and every action because He is one with the Father. Peter, on the other hand, was scared out of his little human mind. He cut off someone’s ear. He denied Jesus. Then he gave up and headed home in defeat. Sound familiar?

I have felt that defeat in so many ways. So many times I have felt like I let God down and have chosen to believe the lie that I am not worthy of serving the Lord anymore. I still wrestle with sin everyday, I hate my sin, but I’m not willing to be stuck in it anymore. I want out and I want Jesus– Peter did too.

Last time we heard Jesus’ original words to Peter when Jesus called him, “Come, follow me” (see Mark 1:16-20). Perhaps even more beautiful, is that those words were still true, the invitation was still good, even after Peter messed up.

Take a few minutes and read John chapter 21.

Peter did what he knew how to do. He went fishing. Of course he didn’t catch a thing on his own. But when Jesus shows up, he instructs the disciples to put the net on the right side of the boat. And “when they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.” (John 21:6)

It is then that the disciples realize the man standing on the shore is Jesus. Can you imagine Peter’s joy seeing the face of his Lord once again? What happens next is just so beautiful.

“Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as SimonPeter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. The other disciples followed in the boat…” John 21:7-8

Don’t you want to jump out of the boat and swim to Jesus?? I do. So very much. I want to jump out of all the boats of doubt and fear and sin and guilt and swim to Jesus just like Peter. I want to leave them all behind and see what Jesus has to say about it all. See how He can piece me back together again and use me even though I am flawed like He does Peter.

They eat breakfast with Jesus, we can only imagine their joy as they sit with their Savior, and then….

“When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?”

“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “feed my lambs.” (John 21:15)

Jesus asks Peter this question three times canceling out the three times Peter denied Christ. Isn’t that amazing? Christ does forgive even what we think is unforgivable, if we love Jesus and desire him to forgive it. And in that forgiveness we find some of the most simple but beautiful words our Savior has spoken.

“…Then he said to him, “Follow me!” (vs 19)

Jump out of the boat today. Trust in the forgiveness and renewal found in Christ. And know He still wants to use you for His glory. Sometimes this seems like a daily routine–asking God to forgive and trusting He can work something good out of our messes. But He can and He will if we desire it and follow Him again through the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

The invitation is still there. Time to RSVP.

 

Reflection:

  1. How do you see yourself in Peter’s story? What boats do you want to jump out of? In what areas of your life do you need God’s restorative forgiveness?
  2. Write a prayer to God asking for forgiveness in those hard spaces and asking Him to use you again for His glory and good today.
  3. Pray in the Holy Spirit this week when you wake up each day, asking Him to show you how to follow Him this week, to give you opportunities to do His work, and give you the strength to obey and do it well.

Gone Fishin’

I never get tired of reading the account of when Jesus called his first disciples to follow him. I love the disciples’ response, how they drop everything and go with their teacher.  But sometimes I wonder what reaction their families and friends had as they just up and left without looking back.

Did the disciples’ parents wish them well? Did they give them a look of disbelief and confusion? Did they try to talk them out of it and tell them they were crazy to follow Jesus? And then there’s you and me. What will our people say when we choose to follow Jesus? Will we let their words affect us? Will we follow anyway??

Open your bibles to the book of Mark chapter 1:14-19. After being baptized and tempted in the desert, Jesus was ready to start his ministry. He was ready to tell people about his Father and ready to train up a few people who could carry the torch when he would have to go.

“As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him.” Mark 1:16-18

If you were raised in the church you have heard this passage a million times and maybe even had to put Jesus and some fish on a felt board in your early years. But as I read this intentionally as an adult, a few things jump out to me.

First, that Jesus is the one doing the inviting telling Simon and Andrew to come follow. Our whole believer lives are the result merely of the grace of God and his invitation for us to come and follow. It’s not out of our own will power, it is an invitation from the king. Thank you God for inviting us into your kingdom!

The second thing I stop and reflect on is that it is clear Jesus is offering the men something better than what they are currently doing. And lastly, that the men must’ve believed that was true because they dropped everything they were doing and went with Jesus.

What if the very best thing we do on our own in this life to make a great name for ourselves is really absolutely NOTHING compared to what we could be doing by following Jesus? How would our lives change if we dropped everything we want for our lives, all our plans for education, for jobs, for family, for our house, our retirement, and asked Jesus to tell us what HE wants for in those spaces?

Maybe some of you have already dropped some stuff and replaced it with a passion for the Lord. Or maybe you’re not sure even how to do that. Maybe you are worried your whole family would think you are weird if you start spouting off about how much you love Jesus and just want to follow him. Let’s read on…

When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him. Mark 1:19-20

If I were James and John, would I have had the courage to leave my family and my family business in the pursuit of some unknown future with Jesus just because Jesus told me to come?? I hope that answer would be yes.

Now I’m not saying everyone needs to pick up and move or quit their jobs. What I am saying is that there are some things we are going to have to DROP if we want to follow Jesus– could be a toxic relationship, a sin pattern, an addiction, an idol that is battling for 1st place over God, money, status, wealth, our plans….it’s different for each of us. But these guys wouldn’t have dropped everything to follow Jesus if they didn’t think it was worth it. And I have faith that it will be.

It will be worth it for us as we start to live in the Spirit and see his fruit pouring out of our lives, it will be worth it in our families as we lead them into faith, and it will be worth it as we bear fruit for God bringing his name glory through our testimonies.

The Holy Spirit has been nagging at my heart in a couple places lately. 1) To drop my control in my parenting life and let Him lead on hard days. 2) To drop some bad habits and take better care of my body so it is truly His temple. 3) To drop negativity and unforgiveness and let God restore peace in  my heart through forgiveness and mercy.

I mean the list could go on and on because we are all such hot messes in need of great help from a great God. Right??

So let’s allow God do His work in us through the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  Let’s turn our ear and listen and obey when He says “Come, follow me” knowing that His plans are better. And let’s get used to dropping things we want and picking up the work God has planned for us for His glory.

Let’s go fishin’ with the King!

 

Reflection questions: Spend some time in prayer this week asking the Holy Spirit to teach you, convict you and guide you in His wisdom so you can follow God more completely. (I will be praying for all my fellow fruitful women out there this week too! I know He will be good to lead us!)

  1. What is God putting on your heart that you need to DROP in order to follow Jesus fully?
  2. How are you going to make that happen?
  3. Where is God leading you to be a fisher of men? In what relationships is God asking you to reach out and be love in hard places?
  4. Get out there and do whatever He is asking of you even if it’s hard. Come and follow.

 

A Fruitful Woman

As a gardener I wait for spring. I long for warm dirt that is ready for planting. I leaf through seed catalogs, circling everything like a child with a toy magazine at Christmas time. I go outside every day to breathe fresh air even if the temperature is too frigid for the thermometer.

I can get through Nebraska winters because I know the hope of spring is true.

I think that faith in God is a lot like that hope of spring. During seasons of trial we are able to persevere because we know our hope in the Lord is true. We can feel it in our inner being as we live relationally with God through the Holy Spirit, and we feel it externally as we witness God working in the lives of people around us.

1 Corinthians 3:16 says, “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s spirit lives in you?”

Well, for a long time, that was really easy to believe as a truth for others but so hard to believe true for myself. I didn’t know why or how or what it looked like to live daily with the Holy Spirit, and I felt like I was alone and missing something big.

So I decided to go on a journey with God.

The past few months, I’ve been seeking a relationship with the Holy Spirit — reading as much scripture as I can daily, asking our God tough questions, praying God would lead me closer to His will and use me for His good, and help me to be fearless and obedient.

And I can say without hesitation that God shows up for His people when they come close and desire Him in their lives. It is definitely a journey worth embarking on. However, accessing the Holy Spirit in our daily life and seeing God work in the world around us takes both practice and intentional focus.

My biggest question to God lately has been about the fruit of the Spirit.

In Galatians 5:22-23 Paul writes that “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

So I had to ask myself….Am I a fruitful woman of God?

The hard answer was … not really. I was loving, joyful and peaceful when I wanted to be, when it was easy and convenient. But in the stress of the day, in the moments of frustration, or in times of deep struggle, there was little evidence that I was living life tapping into the power of the Holy Spirit.

I was living life alone, trying to lead myself. And I was exhausted. But as children of God, that is not what we are called to be.

Colossians 1:9-10 says “For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God…”

Fruitful living comes as a result of seeking God and asking Him to fill us with the “knowledge of his will” for all that we face. As we rely less on our wisdom and more on the Holy Spirit’s wisdom and guidance; as we tap into, pray, and obey the Spirit of God, we live out His fruit in our lives. Not fruit of our effort, but fruit of the Spirit of God working in us!

I don’t know about you, but I am tired of trying to live life on my own. I’m tired of trying to be a better person, a better mother, a better anything on my own. I’m done with that. That just leaves me feeling never good enough.

But God is good enough. He is perfect. And He can refine us and change us from the inside out as we give up our daily everything to Him and seek His ways.

And that is a life I want to live. I want to live fully in His love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. I want to give God more glory and to love my people more deeply.

And I want this to be a space where we can talk about how God has shown up for us and how He is working through us to spread love and light to our people, our community, and the world. I want to hear stories about people who are living for God, living in faith and trust and bearing fruit in others’ lives. I want to be encouraged that we are still the collective body of Christ, not just individual pieces of the church. I want to be inspired by you and your stories and I want us to testify to the God who has done so much for us.

Who knows, maybe only one person will read this and be encouraged that she is not alone in the ups and downs of faith. Or maybe God will move through this forum and we will come together as believers in Christ and lift each other up with grace and love, sharing and responding to our stories of God’s big love and living more fully as fruitful women of God.

Andrea Chatelain

I’m Andrea Chatelain– a seeker of God, an encourager to his people, a mother to three little crazies, a wife to a sports writer even though I am NOT sporty, and lover of books and gardens. I have taught English to immigrants and refugees for almost a decade in Omaha, Nebraska and have such a heart for all of God’s people– especially hard-working mothers and their children.

After writing about good food at midwestmealmama.com and life stories at  edenisenough.wordpress.com, I am so excited walk with and build up my fellow sisters in Christ through stories and testimonies on this new blog A FRUITFUL WOMAN!

I’ve been on a journey with God, asking Him to come build up the Spirit in every aspect of my life so that I can live out the fruit of the Spirit more passionately to my people. I wanted my life to pour out divine love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. God has been so good as I seek His wisdom and I hope to share what He is teaching me through this blog and my new book, A Fruitful Woman. (Coming soon!)

In the meantime, let’s learn more about the fruit of the Spirit together, let’s look for God’s love and joy and peace and kindness in the world around us. Let’s hear stories of God’s goodness and faithfulness in the lives of his people. Let’s become ever more fruitful women of God!

%d bloggers like this: