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Posts Tagged ‘Living by Grace’

Independence and perseverance is a great thing … except when it’s not. ;) So when does an admirable quality lead to a weakness? Read Elizabeth Maddrey’s devotion to find out.

ElizabethMaddreyAuthorI was born into a strong-willed family. Both of my parents are smart, independent, stubborn, and strong-willed. My grandparents were, too. And my sister and I followed suit. Most of the time, I don’t consider it a bad thing. Being this way helped me get through those awkward junior and senior high years as the nerdy, chunky girl who was the brunt of too many jokes. Those same traits helped me get through college and graduate school – you don’t finish a PhD without a larger-than-average helping of stubbornness.

 

But it’s not always smooth sailing. When my boyfriend (now my husband) told his parents he was going to propose, my father-in-law-to-be said, “Are you sure? She’s awfully independent.” Thankfully, that independence is something my husband admires in me.

I’ll admit I have a tendency to think I can fix just about anything by myself.

 

Leaky toilet? Not calling a plumber (or my husband.) I can fix it myself. Button fell off and I’m running late? Find a safety pin. I can fix it myself. Tire goes flat? I can fix it myself. And sure, some of those are good survival skills for any woman to have. If it stops there. I’m not so good at stopping there. That’s where I start to get in trouble.

 

When my heart hurts because of a broken friendship, my first thought isn’t to pray. I think I can fix it myself. When I’m feeling stuck in a spiritual desert, I don’t immediately turn to the Scriptures. I try to fix it myself. When temptation is knocking at my door, I try to fix it myself.

 

It’s probably not a surprise that the heroines in my novels share these traits with me. And they too reap the consequences of their own stubbornness.  In “Wisdom to Know,” Lydia doesn’t wait for God to bring her His choice of a mate; she pursues her own agenda.  When that falls apart, she tries to “fix” the mess by covering it up.  The cover-up nearly destroys her.  In “Courage to Change,” Allison stubbornly refuses to ask her family for help until a stalker turns truly dangerous.

 

Like my heroines, my first inclination to “fix it myself” inevitably makes the problem worse. Then, when I’ve turned the divot into a six foot trench, I remember that it’s not always good to be so self-reliant. We were created for relationship with God – and part of that relationship is leaning on Him and asking Him to fix our broken pieces because we’re simply not able. Now that I have small children, I’ve begun to understand a tiny bit of what God must feel when He sees me struggling to fix what’s beyond my ability, knowing that He’d be happy to do it, if I’d just let go and ask for help.

 

I’m starting to get better about putting the words of Proverbs 3:5-6 into action.

 

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.”

 

For me, the most convicting words in there are “lean not on your own understanding.” I want to say, “But God gave me a brain!” And He did. But His is so much better. “But He made me smart.” But He’s so much smarter. My understanding is based on a few short years here on this earth. His understanding is based on eternal perspective and the entirety of His plan.

 

Lean not on my own understanding. Because compared to Him, I understand very little.

 ***

Elizabeth Maddrey began writing stories as soon as she could form the letters properly and has never looked back. Though her practical nature and love of math and organization steered her into computer science for college and graduate school, she has always had one or more stories in progress to occupy her free time. When she isn’t writing, Elizabeth is a voracious consumer of books and has mastered the art of reading while undertaking just about any other activity.

Her debut novel, Wisdom to Know, Book One of the ‘Grant Us Grace’ Series, was released in January, 2013. Courage to Change is the second in that series and continues to the story of characters from the first book. She is also the co-author of A is for Airstrip: A Missionary’s Jungle Adventure, a children’s book based on the work of a Wycliffe missionary.

Elizabeth lives in the suburbs of Washington D.C. with her husband and their two incredibly active little boys. She invites you to interact with her at her website www.ElizabethMaddrey.com or on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ElizabethMaddrey

9781938708138Courage to Change by Elizabeth Maddrey (Book Two of the ‘Grant Us Grace’ Series):

 

Should you be willing to change for love?

When Phil Reid became a Christian and stopped drinking, his hard-partying wife, Brandi, divorced him. Reeling and betrayed, he becomes convinced Christians should never remarry, and resolves to guard his heart.

Allison Vasak has everything in her life under control, except for one thing. Her heart is irresistibly drawn to fellow attorney and coworker, Phil. Though she knows his history and believes that women should not initiate relationships, she longs to make her feelings known.

As Phil and Allison work closely together to help a pregnant teen, both must re-evaluate their convictions. But when Brandi discovers Phil’s new relationship, she decides that though she doesn’t want him, no one else can have him either. Can Phil and Allison’s love weather the chaos Brandi brings into their lives?

Buy it here!

 

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this! Is prayer normally your first choice or must you slam into a few brick walls before you slide to your knees? What’s the difference between independence and God-dependence? And how might the latter look lived out?

Share your thoughts here in the comments or on Facebook at Living by   Grace.

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Maria Looking UpChange is inevitable. Sometimes it’s exciting, like when one embarks on a new career or welcomes home an infant. Other times, well … Today my dear friend and fellow Living by Grace Hostess, Maria Morgan, encourages us to grab hold of God as we follow Him toward where ever He leads, change and all.

3 Steps to Overcoming the Fear of Change

The days are getting longer. The breeze has lost its chill. Change is in the air. I love the transition from winter to spring. The promise of new growth and warmer temperatures encourages me to embrace a new season.

But all change isn’t as easy to welcome. Some changes bring pain, while others create fear. So how can I prepare myself for the change that is sure to come? God’s Word gives me real insight.Bible

I’m challenged by the Israelites. As they stood poised on the banks of the Jordan River, ready to enter the Promised Land, they had to make some decisions. No doubt they were ready to leave the wilderness far behind – but there was work to be done in this new land if they were to possess it. Hard work and plenty of unknowns.

How did they respond? What did they do to overcome their uneasiness about the new land they were about to enter?

1 – They trusted God.

Joshua encouraged the people with a promise from God. As soon as the priests stepped into the Jordan River, the waters would part and the people would be able to cross the river on dry ground. Instead of questioning God, the people chose to take Him at His word. (Joshua 3:13)

2 – They moved forward one step at a time.

Because the people chose faith over fear, they were able to concentrate on the task that lay ahead of them that day: “And the priests that bare the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firm on dry ground in the midst of Jordan, and all the Israelites passed over on dry ground, until all the people were passed clean over Jordan.” (Joshua 3:17; KJV)

They didn’t have to worry about what they would face the next day. They chose to do what God expected them to do that day.

3 – They chose to remember God’s goodness.

God instructed the people to set up a memorial of 12 stones taken from the middle of the Jordan River, as a reminder of how He had provided a miraculous path for them to cross into the Promised Land. The people obeyed. The memorial served as a reminder to future generations of God’s strength and goodness. (Joshua 4:20-24)

The next time you’re faced with change, you have the opportunity to respond like the Israelites did: trust God, move forward one step at a time, and remember God’s goodness.

What step will you take today to address your uneasiness with change?

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for the clear direction You give in Your Word. Help me to trust You in the face of change, and to be willing to move forward step by step. Give me the grace to remember Your goodness. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

*Maria I. Morgan is an inspirational writer and speaker. She’s passionate about sharing the truths of God’s Word with today’s generation. She lives in Georgia with her husband and daughter. Visit her on the web and download a free copy of her eBook God Speaking @ www.mariaimorgan.com.

I love grace–God’s continual, unmerited favor. I love the truth of 2 Corinthian 12:9 “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” We all face fears, weaknesses–emotions, events, and encounters that threaten to hold us back. But God is bigger than all of these. He is victorious, and through Him, we can be victorious as well. Victorious over fear, discouragement, stagnation, whatever.

Let’s talk about this. Are you facing a time of change? If so, what are some tangible things you can do *today* to draw near to God?

Share your thoughts and stories in the comments before or on Facebook at Living by Grace.

 

 

 

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Today’s reading: Proverbs 2

Today’s focus: Seeking Wisdom From God’s Word

Wisdom is more than accumulating a headful of knowledge. Wisdom is living wisely, or, in essence, living out God’s Word–reading it, praying on how God wants us to apply it, then living it out.

This week’s memory verse: (I must apologize. Yesterday, early in the post, I called the day’s focal passage the memory verse, and, later in the post, mentioned the below was the memory verse. I apologize for any confusion this may have caused.)Proverbs2memoryverse

 

meToday’s devotional comes from writer, musician, and photographer, Emilie Anne Hendryx. Emilie is an author, photographer, and musician living in sunny Northern Los Angeles.  She is a member of ACWF and loves to read and write Christian Inspirational fiction while also blogging several times a week.  She has always been fascinated with the idea of story – whether it’s photographing a love story or writing one – and this passion fuels everything she does.  In her free time you’ll find her with a book and a cup of coffee wishing it was raining outside. Connect with Emilie online at her blog:

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Proverbs 2:1-8

My son, if you receive my words
and treasure up my commandments with you,
making your ear attentive to wisdom
and inclining your heart to understanding;
yes, if you call out for insight
and raise your voice for understanding,
if you seek it like silver
and search for it as for hidden treasures,
then you will understand the fear of the Lord
and find the knowledge of God.
For the Lord gives wisdom;
from his mouth come knowledge and understanding;
he stores up sound wisdom for the upright;
he is a shield to those who walk in integrity,
guarding the paths of justice
and watching over the way of his saints.

Wisdom.

It’s something we all could use more of and yet, when we search for it, we tend to turn everywhere but in the right direction. I don’t know how many times I’ve felt cornered in a situation and turned to my friends or to my own understanding for guidance but, as Proverbs 2:6 says, “For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding” (emphasis mine).

When I first read this section of scripture with the intent to study it (over this last summer), it impacted me so much that I ended up writing it on a notecard and pinning it to the bulletin board by my desk at work. The first thing I did was go through and highlight the action words of the first part (v 1-4) of this section:

Receive my words (v1a)

Treasure my commandments (v1b)

Making your ear attentive to wisdom (v2a)

Inclining your heart to understanding (v2b)

Call out for insight (v3a)

Raise your voice for understanding (v3b)

Seek (v4a)

Search (v4b)

After I did that, I wanted to match up these action words and phrases with their adjacent promises in verses 5-8. One of the beautiful things in scripture is that the Lord tends to accompany commands with promises (Exodus 20:1-17 is a good example) and, though these promises are always dependent on His will, they are stated for a reason and represent hope from a loving and caring God.

Here, I’ve reformatted some of those phrases to reflect their intended promise. Remember, they are dependent on the actions of verses 1-4.

Understand the fear of the Lord (v5a)

Find the knowledge of God (v5b)

You will gain wisdom from the Lord (v6a)

If you are upright, He has stored up wisdom for you (v7a)

If you walk in integrity, He will be a shield for you (v7b)

He will guard and watch over the way of His saints (v8)

Aren’t these promises amazing? God doesn’t just promise knowledge and wisdom from Him, but His own protection over us! It is such a comfort to realize the all-knowing God, who created the universe, has our protection in mind.

As we come into a new year I pray that this passage of scripture would become our guide – that we would receive His words, treasure His commandments, and make it a priority to become attentive to His wisdom rather than turn to our own understanding. While we make our New Year’s resolutions, may we seek His understanding knowing that He will most surely guide us and direct our steps (Proverbs 16:9).

***

Emilee’s devo reminds me of this week’s memory verse. I love God’s promise to guide, protect, and teach us. I pray today you would really grasp this and the treasure that comes with it. God, the all-knowing, all-powerful Creator of the universe, wants to walk with us, in intimate fellowship, leading us toward His very best.

Here are some questions to ponder and/or discuss:

1. There is a difference between accumulating knowledge and even memorizing verses and living with wisdom. What are some ways we can apply what we read in Scripture? I’m thinking back to yesterday’s post on discipline and wondering if there might be a time commitment involved here. It’s fairly easy and quick to read through a passage and walk away, but I suspect God longs for more.

Question one begs a second question–when you read Scripture, do you allow yourself enough time to really digest and pray about what is read? If not, how might you change this?

2. Emilee mentioned how, often, when facing a tough decision, we go everywhere else but to God. Why do you think this is? Is this true in your life? Do you think patience or lack of might be involved? (Oy, we’re going back to the question of time again, aren’t we? ;) )

3. Pause and consider–do you treasure God’s commands? What are some ways to do this? Do you treasure reading God’s Word? If not, think back to the post yesterday and how we discussed our ways of viewing things as hindering or helping our progress. If we think of our Bible reading time as a “have-to”, I suspect it will be much more difficult to make this time consistent. But, if we think of it as a joy and treasure, I wonder if we’ll look forward to that time. One of our Yahoo Group members shared an insightful comment regarding how she viewed discipline. She said when she thought of the word discipline, she associated it with self-deprivation. But upon thinking about her mindset and goals, she determined to change her thinking to what she would gain from the discipline–increased intimacy with God.

4. I found the wording in verse 7a intriguing:  “If you are upright, He has stored up wisdom for you.”

Many thoughts come to mind when I read this verse, one being Proverbs 25:2 “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings.”

I’d love to discuss this further, but I’m at 1089 words, well over the legal blogging limit. :) So, I’ll leave you with one last question: What do you think this means, that God has wisdom “stored” up for us? Do anything thoughts come to mind when you pair this with Proverbs 25:2? Or when you think of the parables. ;)

We can continue this discussion in the comments below or at our Yahoo Bible study/verse memorization group:
Click to join ProverbsStudy

Click to join ProverbsStudy

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When my daughter was young, she loved to play in the rain. She loved splashing in muddle puddles and catching raindrops on her tongue. Together, we’d don our rain gear–bright yellow from head to toe–and our umbrella for an afternoon of puddle-jumping. The umbrella, however, did either of us little good because no matter how hard I tried to cover the both of us, her bouncing, lunging, lurching always left one of us exposed. To receive my full protection, she needed to remain at my side, matching my step.

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust” (Psalm 91:1-2 NIV).

These verses provide us a beautiful promise … if we’d but remain in the shelter, the shadow, of the Most High. When we’re caught in a storm, our first tendency is to sprint ahead in search of the exit. Or perhaps we’ll lunge right, hoping for a detour. Maybe we’ll lag behind, digging in our heels as we bemoan how unfair this storm we’re in is. But this verse appears to indicate to receive God’s rest, we must remain in his shadow. This means surrendering to whatever comes our way, trusting God to keep His umbrella raised over us until the storm passes.

Remain. Abide. Trust.

Join me at Living by Grace today as we talk about finding shelter during the storm.

Join us at Living by Grace as we take about grabbing hold of and living in the peace Christ has already provided.

And make sure to come back to Living By Grace Friday and Saturday for our in-depth look at the book of James.

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When Living by Grace launched, our goals were two-fold: 1) To create a safe community where brothers and sisters could come together to build relationships centered in Christ 2) To encourage one another to draw closer to Christ.  We like to think of our corner of cyber-space as a modern-day-meet-at-the-well experience. For those of you unfamiliar with that term, back in biblical times, the local well was a place of community where women gathered to connect and share their lives with one another.

Today, we are so busy and spread out, it can be hard to connect on a deeper level. For many, Facebook has provided a safe and convenient way to develop, foster, and maintain relationships.

For some time now, Patty Wysong, one of our hostesses, has felt the nudge to go deeper than a short devotional or testimonial. She’s passionate about God’s Word and seeing others grow, but even more importantly, she has the grace to create a safe and encouraging environment where others feel comfortable expressing themselves.

I’m excited to announce the launching of Living by Grace’s first ever Bible study! Patty’s kicking us off with the book of James.

Join us at Living by Grace as we take our faith a little bit deeper.

Start at Patty’s blog to read her great intro, Faith in Action, then join the conversation at Living by Grace. And if you’re around, come back to Living by Grace Saturday from 11-12 to chat more about the passage.  (If you’re not on Facebook but want to be part of the discussion, shoot me an email and I’ll make sure to find a way to make that happen.)

 

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Today’s post comes from an author who has quickly become one of my favorite–Nikki Arana. Her recent novel, the Next Target, kept me up many nights. Not just because I wanted to keep reading, but also because once I set the book down, my heart continued to race. But more than that, her novel stirred my heart and challenged me to take my faith–my call–seriously.

If you haven’t read the Next Target, I strongly suggest you do. (Read my review here. Scroll down. There are two reviews posted and mine is the second one.) It’s a novel about determined, love-driven missions; about overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds; and surrendering fully to the call of Christ.

Nikki’s giving away a free copy of The Next Target to one lucky reader. To be entered in the drawing, leave a comment or tweet or FB share the link to this post then shoot me an email to let me know you did. And after you read it, let me know what you thought! I’d love to chat with you about this fabulous novel!

Today Nikki Arana, a woman passionate about Christ and reaching out to the Muslim community, shares some of her own struggles and what she’s learned through them as she seeks to follow God’s calling with all that is in her.

Count it Joy

I’m an author and sometimes I need words.

And Wednesday morning I needed encouraging words. You see I have been under constant attack for months. And I know why. It’s because God is prospering my ministry, A Voice for the Persecuted. I help Muslims who have converted to Christianity and are under the threat of death. Because of that Satan wages war against me, my family, my finances, and on and on. This morning was really no different than a hundred other mornings. But this morning I was tired. A lot is going on in my life, my mother just suffered a massive stroke, my father is in heart failure, we’ve had no income since last November. A glitch on Amazon that stopped my book promotion from beginning today sent me in a downward spiral. And for just a moment I forgot something . . .

I’ll start with when I learned of the problem. It was 4am. I got up to see if my novel The Winds of Sonoma was free on Kindle for the book giveaway promotion I have worked on for weeks. Blogs were set up, articles written, over 40 people involved in different aspects of the promotion. But the book wasn’t showing free! For whatever reason the promotion program had not initiated. After working with Amazon it was fixed, but to start tomorrow. I had to contact everyone involved with the change and they had to change all their pieces of the promotion. When I finally had all that done I took my hands off the key board, closed my eyes and asked God why. Why do You allow me to be attacked? Always in areas I have no control over. (As if we have control over anything!) Then, literally, as I opened my eyes, He answered.

Because I was in front of the computer screen, I saw the Oswald Chambers widget right on my own website. I’d been on the site trying to solve the problem. The title for Oswald’s devotion today was: The Habit of Rising to the Occasion. I clicked on it. And read:

God is the Master Designer, and He allows adversities into your life to see if you can jump over them properly—”By my God I can leap over a wall” (Psalm 18:29). God will never shield you from the requirements of being His son or daughter. First Peter 4:12  says, “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you . . . .” Rise to the occasion—do what the trial demands of you. It does not matter how much it hurts as long as it gives God the opportunity to manifest the life of Jesus in your body.

You can imagine how my eyes widened as I read. How is it that when the topics for My Utmost for His Highest were chosen that that is the one for this day in my life? Look at that first sentence. It doesn’t just kind of fit the question I asked of God just moments before. It is a direct, specific answer that couldn’t have been better worded if God and I were having a conversation in my office . . .

That brings me back to what I mentioned in that first paragraph. Reading that Oswald Chamber post made me realize that for a moment I had forgotten something. God is in control of my life. I gave it to Him. We were having a conversation in my office. And as I reread those words of wisdom, I couldn’t help but think of how God knew about that Wednesday morning before the foundations of the earth were laid. He is in control of everything and everything from God is good. I didn’t say everything that’s good comes from God. That is a very different statement. EVERYTHING from God is good. Even glitches and delays in book promotions. They are good because of all the things the verses noted above say. God is the master designer. With Him I can leap over every wall. I can rise to the occasion. And I can praise Him for the trials because they give Him opportunity to manifest the life of Jesus in my body. The words of James come to now. “Count it all joy when you fall into various trials.” Yes, I can do that today. Today I have the joy of the Lord.

Oh, and that promotion that didn’t start until a day late . . . it went to #1 in  its category!

The Next Target:

Would You Share Your Faith If It Would Cost You Your Life?  

It only took one bullet. Austia’s friend and student fell dead. And with a glimpse of a newspaper headline, the young and recently widowed Austia knows more about what happened than the police. From that fatal night, Austia’s secret outreach to the U.S. Muslim community—in the guise of English language classes—becomes a target. Local Muslim extremists set their sights on ending her ministry and even her life. And the women she ministers to will be next.

A thick web of deceit closes in around Austia, and her circle of friends becomes smaller by the day, even as she finally opens herself to the idea of falling in love again. But who can she trust? Facing a spiritual battle that proves more treacherous than it at first seemed, Austia’s convictions are tested to their limits and her heart becomes primed for breaking. She must ask herself: how much she will risk to stay true to her herself, her faith, and to the lives of the women she serves?

***

Nikki Arana is an award-winning author of suspense, women’s fiction, essays, poetry, and magazine articles whose work has been published in the United States and Canada. She has won several national awards, including The Carol Award – twice, and the Beacon Award. Her book, The Winds of Sonoma was named One of the Top 20 Books of the Year by Christianbook.com.Nikki is also the recipient of the Excellence in Media Silver Angel Award. All of her books deal with social, political, and spiritual issues that confront society today. She is an experienced speaker and has presented numerous, highly successful workshops on the craft of writing. Nikki also serves persecuted Christians who are under the threat of death through her ministry, A Voice for the Persecuted. Her newest release, The Next Target, was inspired by her ministry. You can visit her website here: www.nikkiarana.com/blog  or as Nikki Arana, Author on Facebook.

***

And here’s my question to you — Would you share your faith if it cost you your job, your friends … your life? Today at Living by Grace, we’re talking about that very thing.
Let’s talk about this! Join us at Living by Grace as we talk about counting the costs.

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As many of you now, we are in the process of moving which means we’ve spent a great deal of time looking at houses. As our moving date approaches, my anxiety rises. What if we don’t find a place in time? Will we have to stay in a hotel, spending $100-$150 a night? When deadlines loom, it’s easy to focus on the problem instead of on God, but when we do, we risk tuning out the protective still small voice of our Heavenly Father.

Two weeks ago, we found a lovely house in a great neighborhood. It was large, backed up to trees, and was walking distance from the local high school. It was at the top of our budget but after some number crunching, appeared manageable. We made an offer, they accepted, and we scheduled a home inspection.

The inspection didn’t go well, and as we negotiated back and forth with the sellers, my husband and I became increasingly uncomfortable. But our logical, number crunching, analytical minds viewed things differently. Yes, there were a few issues–like some wood rot and a faulty roof–but if they repaired the roof, we had the money to fix the rest. And we really didn’t have time to start over.

God knew differently and saw what we couldn’t—the future.

After more prayer, we rescinded our offer and called our realtor to schedule more house hunting.

I was pretty discouraged. My schedule’s crazy on a good day. Add weekend house hunting trips and all that comes with it (like not sleeping due to a noisy hotel air conditioning unit) and perhaps you could understand my sense of urgency. (Not to mention the money spent on hotel and restaurant fees each time we look for homes.) I wondered if we’d ever find a home!

We did! Last weekend, we found another house,  made an offer, and it was accepted.

Two days later, we received a few emails necessitating expensive trips this summer. Trips that will eat into our savings–that savings we’d planned to use to repair house number one.

God knew.

Imagine the bind we could have been in if we’d muscled our way forward.

At the time, it was tempting to ignore that still, small voice redirecting us. How easy it would have been to justify buying that house! We were on a time crunch, we had money in savings for repairs, it was a great neighborhood full of kids and close to school. ALL of us liked the house, and we’d already looked at so many! Surely we were being too picky.

And yet, instead of forcing our way and justifying our actions, we chose to obey. We chose to trust that God knew best, and that He only acted in love.

When we hit a closed door, we can either push our way in, closing our ears to God’s warnings, or we can surrender to the loving, faithful, protective will of our Heavenly Father.

Really, it comes down to trust, in believing God is truly for us, not against us. In believing He truly does know what’s best.

Jeremiah 29:11-13 says 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 

Maybe there’s something you’re holding on to–a new job, a new home, a ministry or opportunity. Have you paused to seek God’s will? And are you ready to obey, no matter what He tells you? How might knowing He’ll only do what’s in your best interest help?

Stop and think of your own children. How many times have you had to tell them no to something–something they assumed to be a blessing but that you knew could lead to danger?

Let’s talk about this!

Join us at Living by Grace as we talk about full surrender  and trusting in God’s unchanging nature when the road ahead gets blurred or blocked.

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Last Saturday we talked about spiritual vision. (You can read the post here.) Today, I’m talking about our hearing. Last Sunday, after talking about listening to and obeying God, one of my third graders scrunched her face and raised her hand. “Besides reading the Bible, how do we hear God?”

That’s a tough question, isn’t it, with a rather vague answer. And yet, in many ways, the answer is easy.

We learn to discern God’s voice. We learn to differentiate His voice–His will–from ours. The more we draw closer to Him through Bible study, prayer, and worship, the more attune we become to His voice. But I believe the converse is also true. The more we pull away, the harder it becomes to hear Him. Because our voice begins to scream louder, until it drowns out all else.

Have you ever had a conversation with someone who’s easily distracted? Who pretends to listen while obviously thinking about everything OTHER than your conversation? What do you do?

You quit talking.

Why?

Because it serves no point.

Often, when praying, I act as if I’ve got a stop-watch in my hand. “Lord, please show me what to do about X. Please give me wisdom in how to handle Y. Please … please … please … Okay, go!”

If I’m not careful, I’ll transfer my impatience to others.

A while back, I had to make some tough decisions. Numerous opportunities came way, and I wanted to move forward with God’s wisdom. After a period of prayer and getting divine silence, I sought counsel. I was told to “make a decision and stick with it,” because, as this person put it, God wasn’t concerned with all these minor details as long as I sought to honor Him.

I disagreed, largely based on Isaiah 35:21 which says, “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.'”

So, I thanked the individual for his time and decided to let the decision go–until God showed me what to do. And He did, a week later. You see, my answer came not when I asked the question, but instead, later, when I drew near and spent time in God’s presence.

In other words, in His timing and in His way, with clarity and peace.

You see, God doesn’t work according to our schedule, and sometimes He remains silent–for a time. But that doesn’t mean He won’t answer. These moments of delay can be hard, frightening, frustrating.

But God says, “Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10

It takes trust and faith to practice the patience we need to hear–a trust that says “God won’t let me down. Won’t be too late.”

And yet, I suspect most of us hear God more than we’d care to admit.  Often, we know what God wants us to do, but we make excuses for our disobedience. The problem is, the more we ignore God’s voice, the more we disobey, the harder it is to hear Him.

Notice what Jesus said about the masses in Matthew 13:15-16 “For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, so that I should heal them.”

This verse appears to imply that dull hearts lead to spiritual deafness. And notice, it says they closed their eyes, which appears to speak of a deliberate choice.

We can’t have His guidance without surrendering to His authority. It doesn’t work that way. Obedience equals intimacy which equals better hearing which gives rise to obedience which leads to deeper intimacy which …. :)

Are you waiting for God’s guidance today?

Or maybe He’s telling you something you’re rather not hear. It can be so tempting to make excuses for our disobedience, thinking it’s really not a big deal if we serve in that ministry or spend time with that friend, or say that kind word to our spouse, but I believe much more is at stake–our very hearing!

Lord, help us drawn near to You, stay near to You, listening attentively to Your voice. And when You guide, Lord, as You will, may we obey with unwavering, instant obedience.

I’d love to hear from you! How do you hear God? Has this been a learning experience for you? How might disobedience hinder our spiritual hearing? When our ears have become dull, what can we do to tune them back to Christ?

Let’s talk about this!

Join us at Living by Grace as we talk about ways to enhance our spiritual vision. :) Then come back Monday as I launch my “Reach Out to Live Out” campaign. Each Monday, I’ll share stories, photos, or videos of people, just like you, heeding God’s voice as they reach out to others. My goal is to make acts of love contagious and to spur our imagination, showing us varied ways we can demonstrate Christ’s love to others. On the last Monday of each month, I’ll provide a brief recap, inviting you to vote for your favorite “Reach Out” story. The winning contributor will receive a gift basket with goodies donated by my writer friends. One lucky reader, chosen from blog subscribers and comments, will receive a free book. (Click here and scroll down to find out more about the campaign and how you can get involved.)

Want to learn more about how to recognize God’s voice? Here are some additional resources:

How Can We Recognize the Voice of God found on one of my favorite sites, Got Questions.

Hearing God’s Voice by Henry Blackaby and Richard Black

I’d love to dive into Henry Blackaby’s book with you. Let me know if you’d like to join me and I’ll set aside a day on my blog along with a FB page where we can chat.

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Today’s post comes from a fellow Living by Grace gal, Patty Wysong. I have to admit, patience isn’t my strong point. I like things quick and easy. When my husband and I were first married, I did the whole gourmet meal deal, but then the honeymoon phase wore off and life caught up, sending me searching for the “quick-and-easy” versions. I think I’d have a tendency to do the same in my Spiritual life, but thankfully, God is bigger than my wants and His love pushes past what’s comfortable to those things that are profitable. I imagine you could say the same. In fact, you might be marinating right now, feeling pickled and boxed in. Maybe you long for release and can’t image why God is taking so long or allowing that trial. But He sees you. He hears you, and He’s lovingly, carefully, attentively crafting you into the man or woman He created you to be, not the stale, mushy, microwaved version, but the five-star gourmet.

Gourmet People by Patty Wysong

In today’s instant society there are mixes and powders for everything, but the one that makes me snicker most is baby powder.  I can just see a little girl stirring water into baby powder and expecting a baby.

Life isn’t always instant though.  In fact, none of the great men of God were instant men—they were gourmet.  It was years after being anointed king that David finally took the position God told him he would have.  During those years he was basically made an outlaw by his father-in-law, yet he never became angry nor bitter about the amount of time that passed.  He did what God put before him, and he sought God’s leading constantly.  God used those years to better prepare David for the purpose He called him to.

There have been many times in my life that I felt I was going nowhere—simply treading water, and killing time.  But that’s not how it was.  God was using those times to prepare me, and He’s still preparing me.  Am I following David’s example of not becoming impatient or angry?  Am I seeking God’s next step for me and making myself available for His use?

Gourmet cooking is not a ‘just add water’ affair.  It takes time and energy and even special ingredients…I’d rather be God’s gourmet dish than my own instant generic-box-blahness.

 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD.  “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.”  Isaiah 55:8-9 (NAS)

Bio: Patty Wysong, a home executive with over 20 years of experience, homeschools three of her five children, but don’t let that fool you. She spends much of her time working on what God has placed in her hand: her keyboard. From the corner of her living room she writes inspirational fiction, devotionals, blog posts, and teaches online blogging workshops. You’ll also find her drinking kool aid from her china cup, preparing for the ladies Bible study she leads, and helping at their church.

Patty learned about blogs and blogging the hard way and now delights in teaching and helping others, sparing them that frustration so they can focus on what God has called them to do. Through her writing, Patty has found the extraordinary God in her ordinary life. You can find her at her blog: www.pattywysong.com/

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I’ve  always wanted to play an instrument, but have never made it past a casual attempt. Oh, how I’d love to learn to draw and paint and crochet. In fact, there are so many things I’d love to learn to do, and I might even follow through if only they came easily. If I could snap my fingers and suddenly play like Mozart, or paint like Thomas Kinkade, or sew like those ladies I see at craft shows. But I’m not willing to do what it takes to succeed, and so, ten years from now I’ll likely still be sitting behind my computer listening to other musicians on Pandora saying, “Wow, I wish I could play.”

But do I really? (To my writer friends, I touched on this subject on Thursday at Words That Keep. Thinking this nugget of truth quite likely applies to all areas of life. Pop on by and let me know what you think…and…what you’re going to do about it.)

Today’s post comes from a fellow Living by Grace hostess, Maria I. Morgan. (In fact, today’s her day to host, so stop on by!)

A Lifetime of Practice

The music is beautiful. Her fingers move effortlessly over the black and white keys. She’s practiced for years and it shows. There were times over the years that she wanted to quit. But we encouraged her to persevere. Piano lessons and countless hours of practice have made the difference.

Tackling an instrument is challenging. It takes a willingness to learn from the teacher. It takes discipline. It takes practice. And more practice. Hours of practice. Years of practice. Our daughter, Riley, has been able to use her talent to accompany school and church choirs, in addition to playing for our families’ personal enjoyment.

There’s an unmistakable similarity between the musician and the child of God. I have to be willing to learn from the Master. He bids me to humble myself before Him, “Submit yourselves therefore to God” (James 4:7a; KJV). An attitude of humility is pleasing to Him. “…God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble” (James 4:6b). It is when I’m aware that I don’t know it all that I’m in the perfect position to learn.

Discipline is required. Oh, the lessons He desires to teach me, if I stay pliable in His hands. “But now, O Lord, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand” (Isaiah 64:8). Discipline to stay in the Potter’s hand rather than jumping down. Discipline to stay in His hand with my eyes focused on His, refusing to look at all the other lovely vessels He’s crafted. Discipline to allow Him to lovingly mold me into the shape of His choosing, rather than suggest to Him the type of vessel I should be.

Christ speaks to the level of discipline required of the child of God. “And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23). For the serious musician, other pursuits have to take a back seat. The same is true of Christians. Am I denying myself? Am I daily taking up the cross He has for me? Am I following Him closely? What is my top priority? My agenda or His? All questions that help to determine how disciplined I am.

Practice, practice, practice. I’m thankful that our Heavenly Father graciously gives us a lifetime of practice. He knows our “frame; he remembereth that we are dust” (Psalm 103:14). He is the ultimate encourager. “Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee withersoever thou goest” (Joshua 1:9). He forgives us when we fail. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). He graciously allows us to start over. “And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more” (John 8:11)

Ultimately, our lifetime of practice will end in perfect ‘music’ in heaven. Until then, stay humbly submitted to the Master and continue to practice. Your ‘music’ will be ‘heard’ by others. May the sweet sounds of a life lived for Christ, lead others to Him!

Maria I. Morgan is an inspirational/devotional writer, whose passion is to share the truths of God’s Word with today’s generation. She is a regular contributor to Around About Cumming, Cumming Patch, and Living by Grace. You can visit her on the web Tuesdays and Thursdays for a life lesson you can relate to. Maria lives in Georgia with her husband, Steve, daughter, Riley, their two dogs and cat. You can find Maria on her blog Life Lessons.

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