Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Faith’ Category

What temporary filler has distracted you from the One who truly fulfills and, as a result, has deepened your ache and left you hollow?

If we were to unpack greed and selfish ambition, I believe we’d find a host of fear, sorrow, insecurities, and emotional wounds beneath them. I’ve noticed my contentment meter shifts dramatically depending on my situation and who I’m with.

Most often, when we’re clamoring after stuff, whether that’s shiny gadgets, fancy clothes, accolades, or fame, we’re not really after the stuff. We’re seeking to find fulfillment and value outside of Christ, and as result, we end up empty and grasping for more.

It’s a depressing cycle.

Greed, at its core, reveals our core beliefs about ourselves and God. Do we believe we have value, not because of what we’ve earned, achieved, or how many likes we’ve accumulated on Facebook? Do we believe God is good, loving, and faithful and true?

Or do we suspect that He’s holding out on us, that He longs to see us miserable, or that He’ll forget about us all together?

This is what happened with Eve back in the Garden of Eden. Perhaps you’re familiar with her story. God had placed her and her husband in a literal paradise, with lush vegetation, beautiful flowers, and absolutely everything they could need or want. Every tree, rose, and softly chirping bird revealed God’s heart, like a thousand love letters scripted just for them. No good thing had He withheld from them.

But one day, Eve entertained an insidious thought, planted during what may have appeared to be a casual, harmless conversation.

The Serpent, “the shrewdest of all the wild animals God had made,” approached Eve and asked, “Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?” (Genesis 3:2-3).

Nope. In fact, God had said the opposite. Eve and her husband could freely enjoy every nut, berry, and sweet mango. Surrounded by all this abundance, there was but one tree they were not to eat from. And this, rather than all the blessings she’d been freely given, is what Eve chose to focus on.

She took that initial seed of doubt, so carefully planted, and worked it, until she became convinced God was holding out on her.

“She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it too” (Gen. 3:6)

And suddenly, that which initially looked so good, so beautiful and alluring, destroyed them, filling them with shame and shattering the intimacy they’d previously felt with God. By chasing after what God hadn’t granted instead of enjoying what He had, they lost it all.

That’s what greed does. It deceives us into thinking we haven’t been given our due and that what we have isn’t enough. It destroys our ability to enjoy the abundant blessings God has provided. It hurts others, destroys relationships and our integrity, and leads to isolation and ever-increasing discontentment.

“Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth.”

Paul understood this. As a Pharisee, he’d probably seen countless men consumed with greed, who, like the elders in Ephesus, “showed” godliness merely as a way to become wealthy. The result—emotional and spiritual sickness, arguments, jealousy, division, slander, and evil suspicions. In other words, ugliness and a life of drama. These men acted godly but lacked the power to experience the abundant life Christ promised, and instead of turning to Him in order to receive it, they stuffed their hollow and decrepit heart with one empty filler after another.

But God had set Paul free from all that and had given him something deeper, more fulfilling to live for, making everything else appear as rubbish. “Yes, everything else is worthless,” Paul said, “when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8).

Can we say the same? If not, I suggest we ask God to help us love Him more. As we do, everything else will fade.

Let’s talk about this! How does our focus impact our contentment or lack of it? How does a right view of God—who He is, how He loves, and who we are in Him—enable us to feel content with what He’s provided?

Share your thoughts here, in the comments below or in our online Bible study group on Facebook. 

Local friends, join me next week at King of Kings Lutheran Church in Omaha as I share how we can find peace and refreshment in the middle of our crazy and replace anxiety and fear with a deep and abiding faith. You can register HERE.

You might also enjoy:

A Still and Quiet Soul: Embracing Contentment by Cathy Messecar

 

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

If you’ve seen me in my sweat pants and favorite tattered nightshirt, chances are we’re besties. You can tell how close we are by how I dress around you and how long it took me to doll myself up. Before Bible study or church or speaking engagements, I fix my hair, put on make-up, and sift through numerous outfits. But most days, I’m in my writing attire, also known as pajamas, with my hair frizzed and mascara smudged under my eyes.

I reserve my most frightening moments for my family. (You thought bedhead was bad; try bedhead with rebellious, curly hair.)

Ladies, when did our value get tied up in our looks? Men, has your value become entangled in your strength or achievements? Both scenarios have the same root—pride.

When many of us read 1 Timothy 2:9-10, our minds instantly jump to modesty and all the ways we’re rocking this outward expression of piety. So long as our shorts reach a certain length and our bellies and other body parts are covered, we’re good.

But that’s surface thinking, and I believe God’s much more concerned with the condition of our hearts than our fashion choice. That’s not to say we should run around like millennial pop stars. What I’m saying is, if we get our hearts right, everything else will follow.

This past summer, my family and I took a Hawaiian vacation. It was an amazing time to relax, enjoy the ocean, and connect with one another. We tried new foods, experienced the Polynesian culture, and battled with a wave or two.

We opted not to rent a car and chose instead to rely on the local taxi service. The man who drove us to our hotel thought that was an absurdly expensive idea. “Why pay $50 or more for a cab,” he said, “when you can catch the bus for a couple bucks a piece?”

That sounded fun and adventurous and like a great way to experience island culture up close. So, the next day, we climbed on a bus and headed toward the North Shore community of Haleiwa. The bus ride was a bit longer than we’d anticipated, but we didn’t mind. We enjoyed meeting the locals that merged on and off the bus—teenagers dressed in flip-flops and swimsuit cover-ups, backpacks in hand. Men and women going to work, others who had just gotten off and were heading home.

Not long into our ride, an older woman climbed on. Her hands were knotted, her face leathery and tired. Her shoulders hunched. I didn’t know her story, but as I watched her, a wave of compassion swept over me. I wanted to somehow brighten her day, so whenever I caught her eye, I offered a smile and engaged her in conversation.

I felt benevolence toward her and didn’t give a thought of what I wore or how I was perceived. At that moment, I was focused on her, not me.

But then … not long after, another woman got on, this one entirely different than the first. She had an air about her—nose raised, back straight. She was eyeing everyone else as if they were beneath them. She soon struck up a conversation with another woman on the bus, someone she appeared to know. I don’t remember what she said, but I remember the overall tone. It appeared the entire point of her conversation was to let everyone else know how great she was.

It was ugly and wreaked of superiority. Filled with attempts at self-elevation—the kind one might call bragging in disguise.

Her behavior probably should’ve disgusted me. Or at the least, irritated me. Instead, it sucked me in. I found myself sitting a little taller, thinking prideful thoughts, in essence, mentally comparing myself to her, making sure, in my estimation, I came out ahead, of course.

Isn’t it interesting how, in such a short time, pride entered my heart, and instead of focusing on loving others, I began to focus on myself?

There’s that ugly self-love again, and I believe that’s the root of pride. I’m beginning to think this constant obsession with self is one of our greatest faults and most destructive tendencies.

The next morning I opened my Bible to 1 Timothy chapter 2. When I got to verses 9 and 10, it was like God had shone a flashlight into my heart, and I saw that passage in a way I hadn’t before.

In this verse, Paul tells us not to “draw attention to [ourselves] by the way [we] fix our hair or by wearing gold or pearls or expensive clothes.” This reminds me of another verse found in Philippians 2:3, which says, “Don’t be selfish. Don’t try to impress others …”

“For women who claim to be devoted to God,” Paul goes on to say, “should make themselves attractive by the things they do” (1 Timothy 2:10, NLT).

I’m not saying we shouldn’t care about our appearance. I’m not telling everyone to toss out their nail polish and lip-gloss. Instead, what I’m saying is, as we’re dolling up, as we’re shopping and getting our nails done, and as we’re interacting with others, may we continually do a heart check. May we ask ourselves: where’s my focus? Am I seeking to elevate myself, to somehow make myself feel as if I’m better than everyone else (which is really a sign of insecurity), or am I finding ways to love others, to build them up, thinking of others as better than myself (Philippians 2:3b, NLT).

That’s hard, and unfortunately, not something I do consistently, But this is an area I want to grow in, because this is the type of behavior and attitude, the type of love, God calls me to.

Let’s talk about this! What about you? What were your initial thoughts when you read today’s passage? How easy is it for you to “consider others more important than yourselves?” What does that look like in the day to day, and how do you think that relates to Paul’s instructions in 1 Timothy 2:9-10?

Read Full Post »

I drop a lot of balls. I’m fairly certain I routinely disappoint a lot of people. I’m late responding to text messages, my house is rarely clean, and there are times when I go to cook dinner and find the fridge empty.

Each day, there are things I choose to ignore, and other things that get ignored by default. And yet, even with the latter, I make the choice. By choosing to do one thing, I am, in essence, choosing to let something else go. 

Time is our most precious–and most easily lost and wasted–resource.

I want to make sure I’m making the most of it. That I’m actively choosing which balls to drop. Because when something’s important to me, I make time for it. My priorities are revealed in my schedule.

Made beds and empty sinks are not top on my list.

So what is?

Jesus. My husband. My daughter. My church family and my friends.

At least, that’s what I say. But is this true? Does this claim reveal itself in my typical day?

God had given Him an incredible task, the most important responsibility known to man, and His time was incredibly short. In the span of maybe six years, Jesus was to reveal the heart of His Father to all mankind, pay for the sins of humanity, select and train a small group of motley men to birth His church, defeat death and sin, rise from the dead, and then return to the Father.

All while people were pressing in on Him, begging for His time, for His healing, His touch, wherever He went.

For me, that’s when things get exponentially difficult–when I’ve got something I know I need to do, but it feels like everyone else needs me. If I’m not careful, I can get swept into the chaos and confusion of other people’s expectations and lose sight of what Christ is calling me to do. 

In other words, there are many times when I put everyone and everything above my Savior. 

Is that idolatry? I’m not sure, but I know it’s contradictory to what I often claim–that Jesus is my Lord, my master, my God. Instead, in those moments, He becomes an addition. Almost an afterthought. One that leaves me exhausted, depleted, and hovering near but never quite grasping the abundant life Christ offers (John 10:10).

You may be familiar with this fact: As Jesus taught and healed in Galilee, His fame grew, and “vast crowds” followed Him (Luke 5:15), pressing in on Him, wherever He went. So, He dropped everything and immediately responded to their demands, right? Wouldn’t that be the loving, the “Christian” thing to do?

Not always. “But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer” (Luke 15:16, NLT). There were times He chose to ignore the constant pull of the crowd, the very ones He’d come to save, to remove Himself–in order to be filled. Refueled. Re-centered. 

This left the disciples baffled. “Everyone is looking for you,” they said. (Mark 1:35-37)

I can almost hear the exasperation in their voices: “Lord, where have You been???”

Where? With His Father.

Reading this, I’m tempted to think, “But that was Jesus. He was God, and I’m clearly not.”

And yet, Jesus came not only to give us life but to show us, in clear, tangible steps, how to live it. And, through His death and resurrection, He gave us the power to do just that. 

The question I must ask myself is: will I? Will I be intentional in how I spend my time, will I treat the most important things as the most important things? Will I trust that if I put Him first, He’ll take care of everything else

Let’s talk about this! Take a moment to prayerfully evaluate your schedule. What does it reveal about your priorities? What might you need to shift in order to place God more at the center?

Everything is easier when done in community, and for that reason, I invite you to join Maria Morgan and I this coming Tuesday to, daily, dig into God’s Word the Bible and dialogue together about how we can live it out. Find out more HERE. I hope you’ll join us!

Before you go, I have a fun announcement! You can now pre-order my next release, Healing Love! Grab your copy HERE!

And for those who enjoy following me online, here’s where I’ve been this week:

Monday I visited Kristen Terrette’s blog to talk about Preparing for Divine Appointments.

Yesterday I visited Sandra chatted with writers about a similar topic, Making Time to Write When it Feels You Have None to Give.

Today I’m on Julie Arduini’s blog talking about Saying Yes to God (even when that involves transparency and vulnerability).

And for the book lovers among us, I wanted to tell you about Wholly Loved’s Operational Manager Dawn Ford’s debut release, Knee High Lies–so good! Check it out HERE.

Read Full Post »

I sure spend a lot of time clinging to my safety nets, for one who talks so often about living God’s great adventure. Although, I do eventually drop them, and take that next step, and then the next, though my hands might be clammy and my legs may quiver every step of the way.

This was me, when our family joined our former church for a week-long mission trip to El Salvador back in 2011. My biggest angst? I hated flying. I’ve gotten much better, but back then, every trip felt like torture. While the other passengers slept or read books or chatted with one another, I’d obsess. On every plane crash I’d ever heard of, on every bump or dip as we soared through the sky, on how high our plane flew and how long it’d take us to spiral to our deaths.

Ah, the joys of the writer’s brain.

If only I’d been more diligent to “fix” my thoughts on truth, as Philippians 4:8-9 puts it. But I wasn’t. Instead, I fixed my thoughts on potential catastrophes and what-ifs, and instead of experiencing the peace that “surpasses understanding,” I worked myself into a near panic.

And let me tell you, fear is exhausting and self-defeating!

It didn’t help that our descent into the country was horrendous! Flying over the mountains and through a storm, it felt like someone had strapped us onto a roller coaster and were tossing and shaking us about.

That first night in the hotel, tired, and pushed out of my comfort zone in numerous ways, one thought dominated: “I want to go home.”

By the end of the week, with my heart full and broken simultaneously, another even stronger thought took hold: “I never want to leave.”

Saying goodbye and stepping back on that plane, with my pockets stuffed with letters from sweet orphan girls, was so incredibly hard. Our family returned to the states convinced God wanted us to go back, so we began making plans. My husband would take an early retirement, we’d sell our home, and we’d rent an apartment in El Salvador so we could help the orphan girls we’d fallen in love with learn English (a quick ticket out of poverty in that country).

But then I got sick. For a while, really sick. And suddenly, our plans were flipped upside down and inside out. Our hearts still ached for those precious girls. We still deeply loved El Salvador, its people, and their culture. I could’t believe God would stir then break our hearts for nothing, but I had no idea what He was up to.

He’s since shown us there’s a lot of ways one can become involved in His mission to heal, save, and restore. Some are called to go; others to support those who go. Some are called to adopt; others to support those who do. Some are called to raise awareness or work for life-transforming organizations behind the scenes.

The ways one can help, can be a part of life change, are as endless as God’s love for each and every orphan crying out to Him each day.

I write. That’s what I do. And so, that’s what I did–not about my adventure though an experience or two from our trip might have found its way into the story. But instead, I wrote about Brooke’s, a woman I can relate to in many ways. A painful event in her past has caused her to form a near-impenetrable safety net, one that has caused her to strive and grasp and fight for control.

But God has so much more planned for her.

Here’s the back cover text:

A news anchor intern has it all planned out, and love isn’t on the agenda.

Brooke Endress is on the cusp of her lifelong dream when her younger sister persuades her to chaperone a mission trip to El Salvador. Packing enough hand sanitizer and bug spray to single-handedly wipe out malaria, she embarks on what she hopes will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

But Brooke is blindsided by the desperation for hope and love she sees in the orphans’ eyes. And no less by the connection she feels with her handsome translator. As newfound passion blooms, Brooke wrestles with its implications for her career dreams.

Ubaldo Chavez, teacher and translator, knows the struggle that comes with generational poverty. But he found the way out – education – and is determined to help his students rise above.

When he agrees to translate for a mission team from the United States he expects to encounter a bunch of “missional tourists” full of empty promises. Yet an American news anchor defies his expectations, and he finds himself falling in love. But what does he have to offer someone with everything?

Can you relate to any of what I shared? When has God pushed you out of your comfort zone, and what was the result? When have you been convinced His plan was X, but He later showed you it was Y, and how’d you process that?

Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another!

Read Full Post »

Follow the fruit–I read that statement during a time when my life seemed to contradict it. Or at least, when my circumstances left me confused and uncertain. I knew God was up to something, I could sense it deep within, but I hadn’t a clue what that was.

Lots of opportunities seemed to come my way, and many of them quite good, if they were from God. But if they weren’t, I knew they’d merely be noisy, time-sapping distractions. My heart mirrored Moses’s words in Exodus 33:15: “Then he said to [God], ‘If Your presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here.'”

In other words, if God wasn’t in it, I wanted nothing to do with it. I refused to waste my time pushing against a wall that would never move or leave no lasting impact. The converse was also true–I wasn’t moving unless I sensed God’s nudge.

At first, I got nothing. No divine word. No clarity or confirmation. Zilch.

After a while, I figured He didn’t plan on speaking, which was His prerogative. He’s God, after all, and I’m not arrogant enough to think He owes me anything.

So, I went about my way, vacillating in indecision while fulfilling the responsibilities I’d already accepted, because I knew this much–God wants us to be a people who honor their commitments. One of these responsibilities included completing a class I was taking at Grace University, one that felt almost identical to classes–three, in fact–that I’d taken previously.

My attitude stunk. This again, Lord? But I already know all this!

If the fruit God was referring to was the fruit of the Spirit, mine had shriveled to raisons. And it turned out, I didn’t know as much as I thought I did, as is often the case.

But, regardless how I felt, regardless how vague the road ahead, I kept walking, and two weeks into this class, I became obsessed with 1 Timothy. Each morning, I’d camp out in the corner of my couch, Bible and journal opened, reference books within reach. This was a special, intimate time between me and my Savior.

So often, we discover the blessing through obedience.

So this is the fruit, Lord–spending time with You.

“This isn’t for you.”

I stopped and simply sat there. Glanced at my notebook full of notes, thought again of those Bible study classes I’d taken, and that simple statement encountered one day in the assigned reading:

“Follow the Fruit.”

That same day, I received numerous messages from Christians who’d read articles I wrote for Crosswalk–those with broken marriages desperate for a do-over, those wanting to know how they could grow in Christ, those who simply wrote to tell me how much a particular piece had meant to them. And suddenly, simultaneously, my blog seemed to be blowing up. As if, over night, God had sent people my way.

But what did all this mean?

I knew He was showing me something, but I still wasn’t certain what that was. So I prayed for guidance. I can’t say I’ve received it, as of yet, other than my next step, which is usually about as far as God allows me to see.

And this, my friends, is what this post is all about. That obsession for 1 Timothy–it wasn’t for me. Oh, it was, and it is. There’s so much God wants to do in my life through that book, so much growth He wants to bring about, so much truth He longs to implant within my heart, but I believe there’s also a lot He wants to do in yours.

Will you join me and a friend as we dig deep into this practical book written during a time of incredible opposition and persecution to a man known for being timid and insecure? Together, may we pursue lives of love that come from pure hearts and a good conscience and a sincere faith.

Those of you who’ve participated in my online Bible studies in the past know the format. This 10-week online discussion will be incredibly informal as Maria Morgan launches each week with some basic information on each lesson’s verse/passage. Then I’ll follow on Thursday with a testimonial devotion pointing toward real-life application.

We’ll also have weekly memory verses, because there’s power in Scripture, and I believe living empowered includes making the Bible part of us. You can join the discussion as your schedule allows here, on Maria’s blog, or on Facebook. (If you haven’t connected with Maria, I suggest you do. She’s a wonderful sister in Christ who loves Jesus with everything in her and loves to walk alongside other women as they grow in faith and love.)

We’re excited to travel on this journey with you!

Start date: July 11th.

Posting dates and topics:

On Tuesday July 11th, Maria will open the study with a look at 1 Timothy 1:5, which is our theme verse and the main point of our study, discussing this verse in detail. Then on Thursday July 13th, I’ll share a testimonial thought and life-application.

July 18th and 20th, we’ll focus on 1 Tim 1:12-17, discussing what it means to live as testimonies to God’s grace.

July 25th and 27th, we’ll discuss 1 Timothy 2:9-10, focusing on the dangers and destructive nature of pride.

August 1st and 3rd, we’ll focus on 1 Timothy 3:11 and the importance of guarding our tongue, taking an honest look at slander, venting, gossip, and why these types of conversations are so harmful.

August 8th and 10th, we’ll discuss one of my favorite verses in 1 Timothy–4:7-8, dialoguing on spiritual disciplines and our responsibility, as believers, to be intentional about our growth. (Spoiler alert: If we belong to Christ, growth isn’t an option; it’s an expectation.)

August 15th and 17th, we’ll discuss 1 Timothy 4:12, talking about what it means to live with integrity, love, and faith–showing others what it looks like and means to walk with Christ.

August 22nd and 24th, we’ll take a look at 1 Timothy 4:13, discussing ways (and the importance of) limiting our focus in order to maximize our effectiveness for Christ.

August 29th and 31st, we’ll discuss 1 Timothy 6:6-8, talking about the necessity and blessings of learning and practicing contentment–choosing contentment! 😉

Then we’ll close on September 5th and 7th with 1 Timothy 6:11-12 with a discussion on staying engaged in the battle.

Discussion days/times: Ongoing; participate when it’s convenient for you.

We’re really excited to get to know each of you better, grow closer to Christ, did deeper into His word, and to grow in love, faith, and purity. I hope you’ll join us!

Read Full Post »

It’s weighed heavy on my mind and heart for over fifteen years now–the day I said no. I was working out, minding my own business, in a crowded (and slightly smelly) Southern California gym. I went often, most every afternoon, as did a middle aged, disabled gentlemen. I don’t know his story, I didn’t even know his name, but I knew this–he was incredibly unhappy. He was always frowning, as if sending clear, “Do not approach,” signals. But one day, I felt a strong desire to pray for him. The more I thought about this, prayed for an out, the stronger the desire became.

I ignored God’s prompting that day, and I’ve regretted it ever since. I thought about that moment as I read Jana Kelley, author of Door to Freedom’s post below.

MISSING OUT

by Jana Kelley

Barbed-wire fences loomed on either side of me as I inched my car through the gates. I stopped at the guardhouse to show my volunteer badge and parked in the visitor section before making my way to one of several cottages. Nerves kept me alert as I crossed the lawn and entered the lobby. I was directed to a side room.

The juvenile detention center always made me nervous. My comfort zone waited for me somewhere far outside the confines

of this facility that housed troubled teens.

Every week, I joined two other ladies who also volunteered. One was the Bible study leader and the other lady, Kathy*, and I assisted her. Six to eight girls attended every week. We met as a group for the lesson and then divided for small group discussion and other planned activities.

As I waited for the girls to enter, I glanced at the white board on the wall. It hadn’t been erased from some previous group therapy session. Red and black marker spelled out the formative years of one of the participants: gender confusion, divorce, jail, victimization. All of this scrawled on the board for anyone’s perusal. I looked into the glazed eyes of the girls who entered the room. Medication kept most of them in a fog. I smiled at them, not expecting any smiles in return.

After the lesson, our leader called me and Kathy over.

“These two young women would like to pray to receive Jesus.” She gestured toward two of the girls then looked toward Kathy. “Can you help them do that?”

This made sense, of course, as the other volunteer had more experience than me. But she looked shocked.

“No,” she said. “I can’t do that.” She looked at me with frantic eyes. “Can you do it instead of me?”

I moved to where the two girls sat and, in simple words, explained how Jesus had taken the punishment we deserved and how He would forgive our sins if we believed in Him. That night those two girls prayed, asked Jesus to save them, and became my new sisters in Christ.

As I drove past the barbed fences and back to my comfort zone, I couldn’t help but wonder: “What happened back there?”

A Bible study volunteer was afraid to pray with others asking for salvation? Wasn’t that the “golden moment” for any believer? I felt blessed by the opportunity to guide two girls into the Kingdom. But I think that blessing was meant for the other lady. Her fear immobilized her at a most crucial time.

I learned a couple of things that night:

  • First, no amount of training enables us to do the Lord’s work if we don’t also obey the Spirit when it comes time to act.
  • Second, if I don’t step up when it’s my turn, the Lord may choose to give the blessing to someone else.

That night, I received the blessing of watching two girls receive salvation. But lest I become prideful, that night is also a reminder to me. I often give in to fear … that I’ll be laughed at, that I will be rejected, that I’m not good enough to do what the Lord asks. When I focus on fear and then refuse to listen and obey, I miss out on the blessing God has for me.

***

Jana Kelley is a Texan who hardly ever lives in Texas. Raised in Southeast Asia, Jana developed a love for cross-cultural living early in life. Her love for writing came soon after. Jana returned to Texas to attend East Texas Baptist University. She and her husband married a month after she graduated, and by their second anniversary, they were living in a remote African town. After 13 years living in Africa and the Middle East, Jana, her husband, and their three boys moved to Southeast Asia where they currently live. Jana is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, a blogger, a contributor to Voices of the Faithful by Beth Moore (Books 1 &2) and has written a trilogy set in Northern Sudan. The third book will release in September. Jana loves to connect with her readers. You can learn more about her at janakelley.com.

 

Door to Freedom:

“It’s rough and it’s smooth. It’s dark and it’s light. It’s a masterpiece. It’s us. Here in Sudan. We are scared of it and drawn to it. There is an open door, and there is much opposition.”

In the dusty, Islamic country of Sudan, Mia, who is raising her family in a Muslim country, has learned to boldly share her faith. Rania, the daughter of a wealthy Sudanese Arab, seeks to find the reason for her sister’s sudden disappearance. Mia holds some of the answers, but both women quickly discover they must each walk through their own doors to freedom—the freedom that only comes when you trust God’s sovereignty more than man-made security.

Part of New Hope® Publishers’ line of contemporary missional fiction, Door to Freedom, the sequel to Side by Side, opens the reader’s eyes to modern-day persecution and the life of Muslims in Sudan. Based on real-life events, Door to Freedom also reveals some of the struggles that Christians face when living under Islamic law. The reader will be inspired to pray for those who are persecuted for their faith as well as for the salvation of the persecutors.

***

Let’s talk about this! When have you allowed fears or insecurities to hinder your obedience and what did you learn from this experience. OR, when have you chosen, despite your fear, to do something you felt God calling you to, and what was the result? In the example I shared at the beginning of this post, numerous fears kept me from obeying. It seemed strange to walk up to a stranger in a crowded gym and offer to pray. I worried I’d look like an idiot or that I’d offend him. But I’ve often wondered, what if the man was going through a tough time right at that moment, asking God if He cared or if He was there, and God wanted to answer those questions through me, or love that man through me?

I failed to obey. Because of my pride. Man, pride is such an ugly thing, isn’t it?

Your turn! Share your stories, examples, or perhaps words of encouragement with us in the comments below.

*Name changed for privacy purposes.

You may also enjoy:

Are You Teaching Fear or Faith

What or Whom Do You Fear

Choosing to Stay

Grow Up

We were created to live victorious, abundant, impactful lives, but so often, we allow fear to hold us back and hinder us from creating the ambassadors God designed us to be. And yet, we can live bold and brave. We can leave an eternal, life-changing mark on our world, and Wholly Loved wants to help you learn to do just that.

That’s why we’re launching the Bold and Brave conference. Stay tuned for more info, and “like” and “follow” our Facebook Page to stay on top of all our events.

Read Full Post »

It’s a question that dominates the thoughts of believers worldwide: How can we know if this thing, this opportunity, this action or whatever, is God’s will? How can we discern His voice among all the other “voices” bombarding us each day? I believe learning to discern God’s voice is a process that comes from drawing close to Him, saturating our minds with Scripture, and following with surrendered obedience. I believe the more we respond obediently to God’s voice, the more we’ll be able to hear Him in the future, and the more we disobey or disregard His leading, the more dull our hearing becomes.

But He does speak to us and guide us, because as my guest, Mary Bowen reminds us, “God wants to lead us even more than we want to be led.”

A Door Wide Open

By Mary Bowen

“He calls His own sheep by name and leads them out. When He has brought out all his own, He goes on ahead of them, and His sheep follow him because they know His voice” (John 10:3-4 NIV).

Our Florida rental had been trashed! In shock I clutched the phone tighter as my stomach turned. The realtor’s words hit me hard; something precious had been desecrated. Our classy little ranch with the screen porch and landscaped yard. . . for eighteen months our cozy nest during my pregnancy, then home for our beloved baby daughter. After moving back to Atlanta, we had rented it out for two years.

Before I could fully process what all this meant, the realtor who told us this devastating news gave us hope. She said she was looking for a “fixer-upper.” I caught my breath. We had just finished praying together on the sofa for a buyer! After accepting her offer in a happy daze, my husband and little daughter joined me in another prayer. “Oh, God, thank you, thank You!” We were free now to consider a job opportunity in Virginia.

It was part of His go-ahead.

Soon after that, God floored us with another confirmation. A young man taking a course in Atlanta the next week “happened” to visit our Sunday school class. He’d come from Abingdon, the very location we were considering! Over lunch he told us all about this charming historic community and the church he loved so much. It was as if God had sent him to confirm again where He wanted us.

A third reassurance was our leading in house-hunting. Though we had several weeks in which to look, I felt an urgency to go one particular weekend. We found out why when the realtor told us that desirable rentals were disappearing fast. She showed us a house that fit us perfectly.

Our prayers for guidance were answered with multiple confirmations. There was no doubt where we should move. We fell in love with Abingdon’s friendly, relaxed culture, absence of traffic, and especially Abingdon Bible Church. Our four years in Abingdon, Virginia were among the happiest of our lives.

Looking back now, I can see why God worked so dramatically. I liked being back in Atlanta after all the challenges in Florida two years before. Another out-of-state move seemed as much fun as climbing a mountain barefoot. Because He is gracious and kind, God wanted to reassure me with all those signs pointing the way.

We may not always get so many clues about the next step. Nevertheless, God wants to lead us even more than we want to be led. (Prov. 3:5-6).

When facing a decision or attempting to discern God’s will, four indicators can help us discern what to do:

The Bible

Advice from other Christians

Circumstances

and the Holy Spirit.

The psalmist compared Scripture to a lamp that illumines our path (Ps. 119:105). He declared, “You guide me with Your counsel” (Ps. 73:24 NIV).

Other people’s godly counsel also guides us. “Wisdom is found in those who take advice” (Prov. 13:10 NIV). “Plans fail for lack of counsel” (Prov. 15:22 NIV).

God used providential circumstances to guide my family to move, along with promptings from the Holy Spirit. Called “the Counselor,” He guides us into all truth (Jn. 16:13).

We’re most receptive to God’s guidance when we’ve surrendered our will to His. We can trust God to lead us step by step.

***

Mary Bowen writes and edits for Grace Ministries International in Marietta, Georgia. For many years her articles and poetry have been published in newspapers, magazines and anthologies. She has worked as a reporter and freelancer, and served as an editor with the North American Mission Board.

Let’s talk about this! What steps do you take when trying to discern God’s will? First, can I ask–are you taking time to listen? For me, this is often the biggest issue. It’s hard to hear God’s voice when my mind is racing from one thing to the next, when I’m wrapped up in my to-do list. Intimacy with Christ takes time, time of listening, of quieting myself in His presence. This is one of my favorite verses, and may God help me to live it out:

“My heart has heard you say, ‘Come and talk with me.’ And my heart responds, ‘LORD, I am coming.’ (Psalm 27:8 NLT).

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »