Category: <span>thoughts by M. Jantzen</span>


Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: ‘This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.’ … “Coming up to them at that very moment, she [the prophet Anna] gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.Luke 2:34-35, 38

One of my favorite things about the Christmas narrative is how God uses unlikely folks — an unwed virgin, a carpenter, foreign wise men, sheepherders, and senior citizens — to unfold His plan of salvation.

I’ve always loved the story of Simeon (Luke 2:22-36)  in the Bible. Perhaps it’s because, growing up, I was surrounded by loving and godly seniors who took an interest in my life. But I think it’s also because this story highlights the fact that it’s never too late for anyone to be used by God in incredible ways.

Simeon and the prophet Anna had faithfully served God and prayed for decades, but when Joseph and Mary brought Jesus to the temple, it was their greatest ministry opportunity so far. Their acts of faith that day proved to be their most enduring legacy. They testified about the Messiah Israel had longed for since the time of the exile. They actually held the Promised One in their arms!

God is no respecter of age. He doesn’t retire people from His service when their bodies start to wear out. If the heart is willing, God is willing! If a person is available, he or she will soon find an opportunity for significant kingdom impact presented to them by God’s design. And it may be the greatest influence they’ve ever had!

You’re never too old to bear witness to the Prince of Peace.

Thank You God that even today, no matter my weaknesses, You delight in using me for Your glory. I’m available. Use me. Amen.

By M Jantzen
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Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.Romans 5:1-2

This past March I stood on the top of a mountain, snowboard strapped to my feet. Not a cloud in the sky, clusters of snow-capped peaks as far as the eye could see. But was I taking it all in with joy?

Nope. I was miserable. My wife and I were halfway through our longest fight ever. Full-on trench warfare: unspoken words, silent treatments, sighs that salted open wounds. It was a grueling three weeks! Marriage is truly wonderful. Until it’s not. Then, it’s one of the most miserable places on earth, even if you’re on top of a mountain.

The book of Romans speaks of a different kind of alienation that brings unhappiness — separation from a holy and just God who cannot be in relationship with sinners until sin is paid for and forgiven. Alienation from God robs us of the joy He wants to give.

But Christ has made a way for permanent peace with God. Through faith in Him, we have been justified, given a right and secure standing with the Father. God is not trying to keep His distance from us. We have unlimited access to ask Him anything. The conflict is over!

So why avoid God for even one minute? Why give Him the silent treatment or approach Him timidly? When we sin, it may create a sense of alienation from God (and understandably so), but the days of actual separation are over. God is always ready to listen to our repentive prayers and to help us get back on track to where we’ll be full of joy again, even if we find ourselves standing at the bottom of a dark valley.

Dear God, thank you for the gift of forgiveness and right standing with you through the perfect righteousness of your Son. I ask you to cleanse and strengthen me today so I may love you better and walk in the joy you provide. Amen.

Read:  Romans Chapter 8

By M Jantzen
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Thoughts by All thoughts by M. Jantzen Thoughts by Men

Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.” Proverbs 16:3

God does not exist to rubber stamp our plans. Notice how the proverb starts: “Commit your work to the Lord.” When we choose to put God at the center of our day and all that we hope to accomplish, we are recognizing that He is the most important, and that if anything we do is to matter eternally, it is because of His involvement.

But we have a part to play too. A large part! Notice the emphasis on our responsibility: “your work to the Lord, … your plans….”

Our success is not all up to God. Those who center their lives on Him must use their God-given intellect, physical strength, and resources well, working hard toward the achievement of thought-out, wise plans.

The result is that God will establish our plans. Not necessarily according to how we think things should turn out: success often looks different to God than it does to us. But God loves to honor daily, intentional work when it’s being done, above all else, for His glory.

Have you hit dead ends in life lately?

If the answer is yes, you may want to ask whether you’ve been committing your plans to God and using all of the resources at your disposal. If you’ve been doing all of that, then the road ahead is to trust that God will establish His good purposes for you in His perfect timing.

God, I don’t want to run ahead of You and end up planning my own life without Your involvement. I choose to put You at the center again today. Give me the wisdom to plan effectively and the strength to work hard for Your glory, amen.

By M Jantzen

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So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:33

What do we owe Jesus? “Everything,you might say. But does that cover the cost of salvation? Absolutely not! Then how can we ever have it?

Moved by grace, God doesn’t require us to come up with the full payment. Not even close. The price of salvation – Jesus’ righteous life lived on our behalf and His dying in our place – is of infinite value. One we can never pay on our own.

Compared to what Jesus paid, we’ve all been offered salvation at an astronomical discount. The discount, however, consist of everything we have, all that we are, and everything we hope to be!

Still, that is but a penny against our mountain of debt. But as with the destitute widow in the temple, when we give all that we have with humility and sincerity, it becomes a sufficient token of faith that moves God to grant us all the riches of salvation in Christ.

Does Jesus expect repayment, as if each week we manage not to mess up royally is an installment against what we owe Him? No! Christianity is not a debt collection program. In fact, we will never stop being indebted to Jesus.

As John Piper puts it, “You shouldn’t think of obedience as a mortgage payment, trying to pay God back month by month until you get the debt paid off. Rather, we should think that obedience is going deeper in debt to God every moment, because it takes more grace to be obedient this afternoon than I had yesterday.”

The redeemed serve and obey Jesus out of thankfulness for all that He has done for us. We follow Jesus today out of anticipation for all the good gifts He plans to work in and through us the rest of our lives.

Jesus, thank you for accepting the small token of my whole life as an act of faith in you. Thank you for living the perfect life I could never live and for dying the death I deserve. I trust and obey you today, confident in the beautiful and good things you have in store for me. Amen.

By M Jantzen

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What comes to mind when you think of King David’s bravery? A picture of guerrilla warfare in the mountains of Judea or of the time he killed Goliath with a sling and a stone? He was brave then, certainly. But these amazing feats cannot compare to the audacity of his prayers.

David was bravest when he was praying:

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:23-24

David wanted nothing to do with sin. He viewed sin like Goliath— an enemy to be knocked down and beheaded without mercy. He pleaded with God to search out even a hint of malignancy in his heart and to ruthlessly cut it out so he could remain fully abandoned to his God.

Wow! How often do we pray like that? I know I don’t usually go out of my way to discover sins in my own life. That’s uncomfortable! I’m usually content to sit back and wait for God to show me something, and when He does, sometimes it takes me a while to respond. Compared to David, I’m a coward.

Is it possible that we lack David’s bravery because we don’t fully trust God? We may ask: What will He ask me to change? What will it cost me? But there’s nothing to fear. There is no person more tender, more compassionate, more forgiving, and more deserving of our hearts.

Sure, He wants all of us. In fact, He has a right to our entire being. But we’re in good hands. He’s a patient counselor who turns one page of our hearts at a time and says, “Will you give me this today? Will you trust me to gently cut this out of your life?”

We have a heavenly Father who has our best interest at heart. We can trust Him enough to pray courageously, just like David.

By M. Jantzen

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You were not to know any god except Me, for there is no savior besides Me. I cared for you in the wilderness, in the land of drought. As they had their pasture, they became satisfied, and being satisfied, their heart became proud; therefore they forgot Me.” Hosea 13:4a-6 (NASB)

God, please bring suffering into my life.” Why would someone ever pray that? Seems foolish! Back in 1997 I had the audacity to pray this while attending a discipleship training school abroad. Was I just an enthusiastic, but rather naïve 19-year old, or was I on to something?

We need to be careful what we pray for. God I need a better job. Lord, please help us get a house with more room. Please help me find the right person to marry! God, can you heal my back pain? There’s nothing wrong with these prayers. God wants to hear our concerns and desires, but we so often pray for what we think will make our lives better. Gaining comfort is often our primary motivation.

Greener grass is not what we really need. When Israel got what they wished for, they forgot all about God in their prosperity. When life gets easier, we tend to take His kindness for granted and fail to live with an attitude of thanksgiving. God’s generous gifts then become idols that stifle our spiritual growth.

I’m not suggesting that we pray to have suffering, but we do need to think through our priorities. Our greatest need as followers of Jesus is to become more like Him. In God’s plan that often means allowing seasons of trials to drive us to greater dependence in Him. If God’s bottom line is to make us more like Jesus, then we should start praying like it’s ours too.

Dear God, make me more like Jesus no matter what it takes. Amen.

By M Jantzen

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You have given me the shield of your salvation, and your gentleness made me great.” 2 Samuel 22:36

I just asked my wife what she thought was the scarcest spiritual fruit in my life.

Gentleness,” she responded graciously. And she’s right. As a father of four boys ranging in age from 2 to 13, I find my patience worn thin repeatedly. I too often respond in anger, foolishly trying to whip them into shape with a verbal lashing. It has yet to bring about any lasting change!

And when I think about it, harsh words have never worked on me, either. Growing up, disconcerting consequences and my parents’ gentle reminders were the only things that helped to change me bit by bit. Similarly, any spiritual fruit I’ve born has been due to God gently teaching me the same lessons again and again until I’ve finally learned, well, some of them. If the gentleness of God makes us great, then one of the best ways to invest in those we love is through gentleness: being patient, kind, and affirming in our words and actions.

Like God has related to us, we must start where people are at and gently encourage them to take the next step. If we rush the process, wanting them to “arrive” now, we may cause them to feel exasperated and defeated. As we come alongside — walking with people, rather than barreling ahead — we will bear much fruit in the good work of discipleship.

Dear Jesus, I need Your patience. Teach me how to lead and instruct with gentleness and kindness. I invite You to deal with my impatience and anger. Please create in me Your heart for the people in my life. Amen.

By M Jantzen

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Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him!Matthew 7:9-11

My fears about God can be very illogical. I know that He is a good Father — that He has my very best interests at heart. But still, in the moment of conviction, when I’m wrestling with whether to give something up to Him, I have these lingering doubts at the back of my mind: will He take away something I love? Will He ask me to do something difficult? Will things unravel?

Rather than having childlike trust in Daddy to take me wherever He wants, I have childish insecurities. If I hand Him the toy in my grasp, I fear He’ll go put it on the shelf. But when I consider my heart as a father, I know that I love to give gifts that put a smile on my kids’ faces. I know I’d rather say “yes” than “no.” And I know that I take no pleasure in handing out consequences.

How much more loving, tender, patient, and well-intentioned is the Heavenly Father?

We sometimes treat God like a strict teacher who hands out grades, awards, and detentions. We make our good behavior the determining factor for receiving good things from Him. But there’s a problem: He doesn’t get the glory and gratitude. If it’s about our behavior, blessings become entitlement, gifts become wages, and going without becomes punishment.

But if it’s about Who He is, then “every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:7). And as we respond with thanksgiving, the Giver gets the glory.

Dear Father, thank You that You are good, and that You are loving and tender and patient. Help us to trust in You and Your character, and to give glory to You in all things. In Jesus’ name, amen.

By M Jantzen

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There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.Galatians 3:28

This list was not meant to be exhaustive. Here’s how it could look today:

There is neither rich nor poor, white nor black, construction worker nor stock trader, republican nor democrat, Syrian nor American… for you are all one in Christ.

Our world typically responds to fear by putting up walls to ensure self — or national — preservation. We are inclined to keep away whomever or whatever scares us.

Of course we need common sense and shouldn’t foolishly put ourselves in harm’s way. But here’s the irony: you would likely not be a follower of Jesus today if the Apostle Paul had not shattered walls of fear by sharing the gospel with the Gentile world. The gospel calls us to move toward those who are different, not away from them.

Politicians have tried, mostly in vain, to bring unity to our world. Sin is what turns cultural, religious, or political differences into hate and violence. Jesus’ gospel unites despite differences and brings lasting peace.

When I was in a ghetto in South Africa, I remember the joy and sense of family I felt. It didn’t matter that my home was on the other side of the planet or that my skin was white and theirs was black. We were all united as followers of Jesus, worshiping together. Whether across the globe or in our own neighborhood, the gospel has the power to destroy fear and to unite through love.

Is fear of others stunting your witness for Christ? Do you keep your distance from those different from you when it comes to politics, ethnicity, or sexual orientation? The gospel calls us to move toward others — to intentionally cross the tracks and share His love.

Dear God, thank You that Your perfect love shatters our walls of fear. Help us to move toward those who are different, to see them with Your eyes. May Your love and compassion flow through us as we share the hope that’s in You. Amen.

By M Jantzen


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And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6

“… continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.”
Philippians 2:12a-13

We become more like Jesus in partnership with God. He ignites passion for Jesus, but we must also fan the flame. He initiates the next good work He wants to accomplish in us for our benefit and His glorification, but we must “work it out … with fear and trembling.”

If God is watching and waiting to take advantage of every time our heart opens honestly before Him — longing for every chance to release good gifts to us — then it’s not all up to Him. We must “continue” to come before Him, seek Him, and then follow through on what He instructs.

The next thing God wants you to do is always the best thing for you.

If you don’t follow through on the last thing God asked you to do, you miss out on an incredible opportunity for spiritual growth. If He has presented a lesson to be learned and an action to be taken, and you have not yet stepped out in faith, you will remain at your present state of spiritual growth or even regress.

Feeling guilty? Throw that thought away! Your sins are already covered and paid for. But know that today is your chance to experience the next best thing God has for you. He loves us dearly and He’s used to dealing with slow learners (which is every one of us), so it is not too late.

The Apostle Paul reminded the Philippian Christians what their reward would be:

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.Philippians 1:9-11

This will be our reward too as we continue to listen, trust, and obey.

Dear Jesus, please help me understand the next thing You want me to do to become more like You, and please give me the courage to respond obediently. Amen.

By M Jantzen

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The friendship of the LORD is for those who fear him ...” Psalm 25:14a (ESV)

David asked the men standing near him, ‘What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and removes this disgrace from Israel? Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?’” 1 Samuel 17:26

I’m sure you know how the story ends, but how did it begin? David’s legendary faith originated in the foothills of Bethlehem: tending sheep, talking to God, singing songs of worship, and trusting God enough to face wild beasts. For David, God was not just an acquaintance or a temple-bound deity. The Lord was his strength and ever-present friend.

Contrary to public opinion, David was really the one with the upper hand that day in battle:

1.    He knew the living God personally, so he didn’t trust human strength or idols with “no breath in them” (Jeremiah 10:14b).

2.    He had experienced God’s faithfulness; he’d relied on God in other battles and seen Him come through.

3.    He was secure in how God had created him; he took off Saul’s armor and put his shepherd’s robe back on.

4.    He had a passion for God’s honor; he was enraged that the enemy would “defy the armies of the living God.”

Christians should do battle the same way: walking intimately with God, recalling His faithfulness, thanking Him for how He’s created us, and above all, making it our passion to glorify His name. How much do you trust God in your battles?

God, You are the living God and I want to keep on walking closely with You. When I face challenges, help me to trust in You fully. I believe You will help me stand strong and fight in a way that honors You. Thank You for Your faithfulness. Amen.

By M. Jantzen

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