Quote on faith by Watchman Nee

I’ve learned, in my ongoing fight against fear, I won’t experience the peace of Christ in my own strength.  I can’t take my anxious, and often snowballing, thoughts captive (2 Cor. 10:5) without supernatural help. But I’ve also learned, I can live in the victory of Christ, during my most hectic and uncertain moments included, if I’ll actively and consistently pursue Him. When my world feels chaotic and like I’m being whipped about in a never-ending cyclone, I prayed for reprieve, yes, but even more so, I prayed against the storm raging within me. That was when I began taking my greatest steps toward freedom. 

As some of you know, 2011 was an incredibly rough year for me, for so many reasons. We’d recently moved, which meant saying goodbye to some close friends, uprooting ourselves from faith communities, grieving the loss of both while battling loneliness. That was also the year I got sick with what was, initially, an unknown illness. This triggered my anxiety, my anxiety fed my desire for control, and that desire led to an obsession with myself, my illness, and germs. The worse I felt, the more I cleaned. 

Soon, one thought dominated my thinking: what was or wasn’t making me sick. Bit by bit, one handwashing at a time, germaphobia developed. Eventually, I became completely enslaved to my fear. But then one day, as I was walking to the laundry room, a realization silenced my normally loud brain: This is not how God wants me to live. He promised me freedom. 

And I knew, with the certainty that can only come from the Holy Spirit, that the same God who called me to live in freedom would give me the tools to do so. 

Quote pulled from post on decorative background.

That was my call to action moment, where I sensed God challenging me to make a choice. I could remain stuck in my gunk, slipping further and further into fear. Or I could follow His lead, however He led, in this battle for freedom. Praise God, and by His grace alone, I chose the latter and began actively, persistently, and consistently praying against my fear. Every time I felt that knot in my gut, I paused to seek God’s help and His strength. I asked Him to break the power my fear had over me, which at the time felt insurmountable, and in its place, to flood my soul with peace.  

I was following the biblical example of the father who began in fear and anguish, but received that which he desperately sought. We read his story in Mark chapter 9, which we discussed in relation to praying versus arguing, a couple months ago. To refresh your memory, Scripture tells us, one day Jesus took Peter, James, and John up onto a mountain where He revealed to them His glory in an unforgettable, awe-inspiring way. 

While they were gone, a deeply distressed father came searching for Jesus. Not finding Him, he sought help from His disciples, maybe because he’d heard about all the miracles they’d performed not long before (Matthew 10:1-20). His situation, it seemed, was simply too hard; the disciples failed. But then Jesus arrived, and, noticing a conflict between His followers and the teachers of the law, asked what they were arguing about. 

Scripture says, “A man in the crowd answered, ‘Teacher, I brought You my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked Your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not'” (V. 17-18).

Then Jesus summoned the child, and the demon “threw the boy into a convulsion.” The child “fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth” (v. 20). 

After a short explanation, the father said to Jesus, “If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us” (v. 21).

To which Jesus responded,  “‘If you can’? Everything is possible for one who believes” (v. 22).

Hearing this, the father let out a guttural, shriek-like cry, krazo in the original Greek, perhaps because he feared his son’s healing depended on his faith. He exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (v. 24).

Here’s what I find encouraging. Jesus didn’t get upset at the man. He didn’t rebuke him and send him away for his weak faith. Instead, He responded to the father and son in love and grace. He commanded the demon to leave the boy, never to return again.

This passage reminds me to bring my anxieties to Jesus, and to seek Him in the midst of my doubts, knowing He won’t chastise or reject me. Instead, He’ll give me precisely what I need–increased intimacy with the only One whose love has the power to cast out my fears. (1 John 4:18).

Friends, He’s been so faithful. That fall when I began actively and persistently praying against my fears? That was a life-changer for me. I didn’t notice much difference at first, and there were times I wondered if my constant requests were doing any good. But I kept praying, day after day, sometimes moment by moment, month after month. Then, one day some six months later, I realized a situation that had once triggered intense anxiety barely bothered me anymore, and other situations no longer bothered me at all. God indeed had been working. 

He was working on a spiritual level, using His supernatural power to break the chains that kept me bound. He was also teaching me how to grab hold of His freedom, step by step. To turn to Him in times of fear. Through this, I practiced stopping my anxious thoughts before they gained moment and rerouting them onto the good, in essence, onto God. 

Lessons I probably wouldn’t have learned, had God immediately eradicated my anxiety. 

Let’s talk about this! Do you suffer from anxiety? And if so, how often do you pray against your fear specifically? 

Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, and make sure to connect with me on Facebook and Instagram.

Ministry leaders, if you feel this message would resonate with your women, consider booking Jennifer for your next event. Find out more about her 3-part message on fighting fear to grab hold of God’s peace HERE.

Check out the Faith Over Fear Bible reading plan HERE.

I also encourage you to check out the latest Faith Over Fear episode. In it Philip Yancey shares his experience with religious abuse and his journey of untangling the false to find authentic faith.

The Courage to Speak Truth – Ep. 76 Faith Over Fear

Our world has become increasingly angry, argumentative, and hostile to the gospel and biblical truth. Unfortunately, the church is, in part, to blame; we’ve become more known for what we’re against than for what we are for. But we mustn’t let the hateful misrepresentation of Christ silence our voice. People need the hope and power of Christ now more than ever. In this episode Jennifer Slattery and Ava Pennington discuss ways to increase our courage while simultaneously upping our truth and grace. Find Ava Pennington at: https://www.AvaPennington.com https://www.facebook.com/AvaPennington.AuthorPage https://www.instagram.com/avapennington3/ Find Jennifer: https://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com https://www.facebook.com/JenSlatte https://www.instagram.com/slatteryjennifer/ Find Wholly Loved, at: https://www.WhollyLoved.com Join the private Faith Over Fear Group Here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/442736966614671 Group Discussion Questions: 1. What encouraged you most during today’s episode? 2. What are some emotions you would have struggled with, had you been in Timothy’s position? 3. What emotions arise when you consider initiating spiritual conversations with others? 4. When do you find it most challenging to share your faith? 5. Why is it important to remind ourselves of our calling (whether that’s in a particular role or the general call to share Christ with others) during times of opposition? 6. What are some ways you can “fan” your gift “into flame”? 7. How can asking questions help reduce our listener’s defenses? 8. Why is it important to balance truth with clearly revealed grace? 9. Consider a time when someone came at you with grace-less truth. How did you respond and why? 10. Consider a time when someone spoke truth to you in a gentle and grace-filled way. How did you respond and why? 11. Why is it important to establish a relationship with someone before attempting to speak truth into their life? 12. What is one action step God might be wanting you to take this week? Episode Image Credit: Getty/Ponomariova Maria
  1. The Courage to Speak Truth – Ep. 76
  2. The Courage to Heal from Church Hurt – Ep. 75
  3. Introducing: Reframed The Power of Perspective
  4. Healing from Religious Abuse (with Philip Yancey) – Ep. 74
  5. The Courage to Seek Counseling – Ep. 73

Quote from J. Oswald with an image of a woman sitting on a tractor bar.

The person who lives completely yielded to Christ will often find themselves taking on tasks that feel utterly beyond them. Or perhaps to put it another way, we can’t live Spirit-empowered in our comfort zones. God continually calls us to step outside of those nice, safe walls we’ve positioned around ourselves, and into the area of insufficiency and need. Where we know, without a miracle, we’ll fail. Lives will go untouched, hearts unhealed, tummies unfed. 

As a high school dropout, former homeless girl, turned ministry leader, I often find myself in that place. Holding conversations with those much more experienced and spiritually mature than I am. Accepting eternally important assignments that I know I’m ill-equipped for. When those opportunities come, while I do take time to evaluate my skills and schedules, I never want my calendar to drive my yeses and nos. 

That might sound counter-intuitive, even irresponsible. But it comes down to this: I want to be Spirit, not logic, led. I long to imitate the apostle Paul, who, during his missionary journeys, listened for God’s guidance and responded immediately, even if that meant abruptly changing directions. 

I’m not there yet. I have moments of complete, faith-filled surrender and others where I remain stuck, in fear-based indecision for far too long. Where I’m focused more on details, on all I don’t have, rather than my abundant, limitless God. As if the results of my obedience were up to me. 

They’re not, nor does God want me to live this Christian life according to my capabilities and strength. That won’t bring Him glory, nor will it strengthen my faith. But when I respond to His promptings with faith, despite my inner wrestling and doubts, lives are changed, mine included. That’s when I encounter the God of impossible, and having experienced His miracle-working power first hand, my faith will never be the same. I will never un-see or un-hear, and no twist of logic could ever negate, all my God has done. 

Perhaps that’s the biggest miracle of all—the work He does in us as He uses seemingly impossible situations to illuminate then annihilate our doubt within. Those situations that simply seem far too difficult for even God to address.

Like feeding 5,000 hungry men from five barley loaves and two fish. Scripture tells us Jesus, noticing His disciples themselves had empty bellies (Mark 6:31), led them to a deserted place on the far side of the Sea of Galilee (John6:1). Soon, a huge crowd followed, and He began healing their sick and teaching them about the kingdom of God. By late afternoon, the disciples encouraged Jesus to send the people away so that they could find food and lodging in the nearby villages (Luke 9:12).   

“Turning to Philip, [Jesus] asked, ‘Where can we buy bread to feel all these people?’” 

Philip’s jaw must’ve gone slack. Buy food for 5,000 men and all their women and children? Impossible! He replied, “Even if we worked for months, we wouldn’t have enough money to feed them!” (John 6:7, NLT). 

But notice what Scripture says in the verse prior. “[Jesus] was testing Philip, for He already knew what He was going to do” (John 6:6, NLT). He didn’t ask because He was baffled or concerned. He knew the solution, and the outcome, before He made the disciples aware of the problem. He was simply using the situation to “test” Philip—to reveal areas of doubt so that Jesus could move him to deeper faith. 

And so, after organizing everyone into groups of 50-100, Jesus thanked God for their meager supplies and distributed the food to the people, until everyone had eaten their fill. In discussing this passage, David Guzik from the Enduring Word reminds us that this included the little boy who forfeited his lunch as well. “The boy himself ended up with more than he started with,” Guzik wrote. “It certainly was an adequate lunch for himself; but he gave it to Jesus and He turned it into an all-you-can-eat buffet for the boy as well.”

I’m certain the child’s faith grew exponentially that day also, as he watched the disciples continue to person after person in group after group, passing out the bread. As he ate all his young belly could hold. And especially as he watched, probably wide-eyed, while the disciples gathered the leftovers—12 baskets full! And based on the original Greek, these were far from small containers. 

In this, God left no room for doubt. He was the God of abundance who can, and often does, multiply our meager offerings into supernatural displays of His power and love. But as encouraging as that might be, I’d like to end with this:

While I don’t envision the disciples telling Jesus no—even if they’d wanted to, the young child certainly could have. Consider, what if he hadn’t offered up his meal? What if, staring about at all these grown men, insecurity and shyness had held him back. Wouldn’t they think him a fanciful child? He only had five loaves and two fish, after all. What if he spoke up and the people mocked or chastised him? Or, what if they ate his food and he ended up hungry?

He could’ve kept his lunch to himself.

Then, I’m certain God would have provided for the crowd some other way, but the kid would’ve missed out. 

I’d much rather risk looking like a fanciful fool than to miss out on the amazing things of God. Hopefully I’ll remember this the next time I sense God nudging me into an unknown, uncomfortable, and seemingly impossible situation. 

Let’s talk about this! In what area of your life is God calling you to respond with big faith, even in the midst of your discomfort? What truths from today’s passage can help you find the courage to do so? And perhaps the most important question: Will you?  

Share your thoughts with us in the comments below and make sure to connect with Jennifer on Facebook and Instagram.

For those following our Chronological Bible reading plan through the New Testament, today’s post kicked us off with the first day’s reading.

Make sure to check out the latest Faith Over Fear Podcast episode on living courageously as expressions of our Creator:

The Courage to Speak Truth – Ep. 76 Faith Over Fear

Our world has become increasingly angry, argumentative, and hostile to the gospel and biblical truth. Unfortunately, the church is, in part, to blame; we’ve become more known for what we’re against than for what we are for. But we mustn’t let the hateful misrepresentation of Christ silence our voice. People need the hope and power of Christ now more than ever. In this episode Jennifer Slattery and Ava Pennington discuss ways to increase our courage while simultaneously upping our truth and grace. Find Ava Pennington at: https://www.AvaPennington.com https://www.facebook.com/AvaPennington.AuthorPage https://www.instagram.com/avapennington3/ Find Jennifer: https://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com https://www.facebook.com/JenSlatte https://www.instagram.com/slatteryjennifer/ Find Wholly Loved, at: https://www.WhollyLoved.com Join the private Faith Over Fear Group Here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/442736966614671 Group Discussion Questions: 1. What encouraged you most during today’s episode? 2. What are some emotions you would have struggled with, had you been in Timothy’s position? 3. What emotions arise when you consider initiating spiritual conversations with others? 4. When do you find it most challenging to share your faith? 5. Why is it important to remind ourselves of our calling (whether that’s in a particular role or the general call to share Christ with others) during times of opposition? 6. What are some ways you can “fan” your gift “into flame”? 7. How can asking questions help reduce our listener’s defenses? 8. Why is it important to balance truth with clearly revealed grace? 9. Consider a time when someone came at you with grace-less truth. How did you respond and why? 10. Consider a time when someone spoke truth to you in a gentle and grace-filled way. How did you respond and why? 11. Why is it important to establish a relationship with someone before attempting to speak truth into their life? 12. What is one action step God might be wanting you to take this week? Episode Image Credit: Getty/Ponomariova Maria
  1. The Courage to Speak Truth – Ep. 76
  2. The Courage to Heal from Church Hurt – Ep. 75
  3. Introducing: Reframed The Power of Perspective
  4. Healing from Religious Abuse (with Philip Yancey) – Ep. 74
  5. The Courage to Seek Counseling – Ep. 73

Quote from poast on gradiant blue background

Nothing—not foreign invasions, persecutions, not the challenges of today or the uncertainties of tomorrow can thwart God’s plans. Our life-giving, faithful Father is always at work, consistently and persistently guiding and protecting the lives of those He loves and all that concerns us.

Sometimes I lose sight of just how awe-inspiring the gospel truly is and how many pieces fell into place, from the moment mankind first sinned, in order for God’s redemptive plan to unfold. But then He allows something to occur, a life-parable if you will, that reminds me afresh of just how brilliant, how loving and strategic, my Father truly is.

Have you ever paused to consider where you are now and all the steps involved to get you there? All the seemingly random turns or delays that, evaluated later, proved hugely consequential? Of a particular God-moment only He could orchestrate that you come to realize, upon reflection, He’d set into motion years, maybe even decades prior? Remembering these situations helps us rest knowing our world and our lives, as chaotic as they might sometimes appear, are held secure in our loving, faithful and attentive Father’s hands.

Ten years ago, my husband initiated a conversation that broke my heart and triggered fear, for many reasons. His company had offered a job in Omaha, Nebraska, a position he wanted to take.

This meant we would have to move, which meant uprooting my daughter during a really challenging period socially. She was a Freshman in high school at the time and had developed strong community ties and deep friendships with those types of teens you pray your children will connect with. Relationships cultivated and deepened for years, once in a lifetime friendships, in fact.

“Please don’t make me move,” she begged, with tears coursing down her cheeks. My mama’s heart so wanted to concede. In fact, I tried to change my husband’s mind, again and again.

When that didn’t work, I contemplated numerous solutions, and none of them good. Maybe he could get an apartment and visit us on weekends. Or maybe we could move in with friends and visit him? I’m certain, had my husband agreed to either option, our marriage, our family, would’ve slowly eroded. And in choosing what was easiest in the moment, we would’ve forfeited the beauty that lay ahead.

God saw what we couldn’t—a teenager whose kidney was failing, a desperate mother praying for help, and how God was guiding my husband step by step, conversation by conversation, to fill that need. In June of 2015, almost exactly four years later, my husband donated a kidney to a stranger—a kid he didn’t meet until a week before surgery.

As I reflect on all God did to bring that young man and my husband together, ultimately, all God did to save that young man’s life, I’m reminded afresh of the glorious, unconquerable plans of God. His love truly does know no bounds, and His arm always has the power to save.

I was struck afresh by this truth when I read about the night Joseph, Jesus’ earthly father, fled with his family into Egypt. Scripture recounts this terrifying moment in Matthew 2:13-18, but to put it simply, when Herod the king of Judah, learned of Christ’s birth, he became “deeply disturbed” (Matthew 2:3, NLT). Verse 4 tells us he asked the religious leaders where the Messiah was supposed to be born, determined to kill the child. But God intervened.

Verse 13 tells us “an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. ‘Get up and flee to Egypt with the child and his mother,’ the angel said. ‘Stay there until I tell you to return, because Herod is going to search for the child and kill him’” (V. 13, NLT). Joseph obeyed, escaping with his young and likely terrified wife and newborn child.*

But I wonder, did he and Mary wrestle with the same emotions my husband and I did, when we moved to Omaha? Had they become settled in Bethlehem or thought about all they might do, all the people they might see, once they returned with Jesus to their home in Galilee? In a moment, their plans were changed, but for such a good, hope-filled reason. Through their rescue, God was orchestrating His rescue plan for you and I as well.

And in this, I’m reminded once again, His plans will never fail and my salvation is sure.

When difficulties come, may we remember those truths, knowing God's greater quote with blue backgroundno matter what we face, God is greater still, and His arm is never too short to save nor His ears too dull to hear. He is with us and for us, always, and as Scripture proclaims, in Christ every promise is yes and amen.

Let’s talk about this! Are you or a loved one facing what feels like an insurmountable problem? Do you feel vulnerable and unprotected? How does remembering God’s sovereign love, revealed throughout Scripture, help grow your faith and starve your fears?

*We don’t know how old Jesus was at this time. Based on the fact that Herod ordered soldiers to kill all the males aged two and under, scholars state Jesus was likely in that same age range.

For those following the chronological Bible reading plan:

Bible reading plan week 4 image

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Listen to the latest Faith Over Fear podcast episode here:

Some battles are far too important, far too consequential, for us to ever attempt to fight them alone.

This has become clearer to me now more than ever. God recently called me to engage in a battle so far beyond me, where the opposition felt so fierce and unconquerable, I knew Christ was my only hope. Therefore, I’m seeking Him and His will like I never have before, and I’m refusing to fight alone. I’ve gathered a group of women, nearly 30 in fact, to engage in the most powerful way possible—on our knees. And we’re experiencing Christ in a way, frankly, I never have before.

woman praying

Something miraculous, completely mind-blowing, occurs when we come together, seek God’s heart, and diligently pray as He leads. He moves in powerful ways. In ways that remind us that He truly is our all-powerful, loving, sovereign faithful God.

And I’m wondering why I don’t pray more. The only conclusion I’ve come up with is that I tend to make far too much of myself—my wisdom and efforts—and far too little of God. Because if I truly believed everything I claimed, that He indeed is the God over all of history, who knows the best course of action for every situation and has the power to bring His hope-filled, life-giving will to pass, then prayer would be my first response. Always.

Prayer isn’t about us convincing God to act in a particular way. Effective prayer is about us surrendering our hearts to Christ and inviting Him to mold us so that like our Savior we’re able to say, “God, not my will but Yours be done.” When we do that, our prayers become strategic, and you and I become empowered warriors in the battle against darkness.

Consider this quote, from the anonymous author of the Kneeling Christian: “When Christ is all in all—when He is Savior and Lord and King of our whole being, then it is really He who prays our prayers.”

Lord, guide us. Move us. Empower us. Use us. We know this battle before us ultimately belongs to You, and we know You have already won. Help us to always walk as victors, with the confidence and assurance of knowing that we belong to the Lord of lords and King of kings. And help us to trust, to hold tight to faith, even if that means disregarding “sight” while we wait for Your victory to unfold. (Hebrews 11:1)

For those following my Thriving With Chronic Illness podcast, make sure to check out my latest episode with Wholly Loved team member Victoria Mejias on knowing when to rest and when to push through. You can listen here:

Episode 13: Knowing When to Push and When to Rest Thriving with Chronic Illness

Balancing our time and energy with chronic illness can feel challenging and confusing. If we never push through when feeling unwell, we’ll likely never accomplish anything. However, we can easily overdo things, stealing our “jelly beans” as Jennifer terms it, and thus leaving us too fatigued for our highest priority tasks or activities. In this episode, Jennifer Slattery speaks with her Wholly Loved Ministry partner Victoria Mejias on how Victoria manages her time, energy, and symptoms as a single mom with progressive multiple sclerosis. Find Victoria online at: https://www.VictoriaElizabeth.com Find Jennifer Slattery at: http://jenniferSlatteryLivesoutLoud https://www.facebook.com/JenSlatte Find her and Victoria’s ministry at: http://whollyloved.com Additional Resources: Faith Over Fear: Living with a Limp: https://www.lifeaudio.com/faith-over-fear/episode-4-the-courage-to-live-with-a-limp-embracing-our-weakness Faith Over Fear: The Courage to Have Hard Conversations: https://www.lifeaudio.com/faith-over-fear/the-courage-to-have-hard-conversations-ep-18 Group Discussion Questions: 1. How unpredictable are your symptoms? 2. What are some ways you can leave margin for unexpected difficult days? 3. How accurately does your schedule mirror your priorities? 4. What most challenges your ability to “push through” difficult days when necessary? 5. What most challenges your ability to rest when necessary? 6. In what ways do you struggle with guilt related to your limitations or necessary boundaries? 7. What lies are tied to your guilt? 8. What truths regarding Christ, His plans and power, and who you are in Him, can speak to your guilt? 9. What other fears are tied to your limitations or necessary boundaries? 10. What truths regarding Christ, His power and plans, and your identity in Him, can speak to those fears? 11. Is there anything God might be asking you to do in relation to what you take on and what you release? Episode Image Credit: Getty/Biscotto87
  1. Episode 13: Knowing When to Push and When to Rest
  2. Episode 12: How Chronic Illness Can Deepen Our Intimacy with Christ
  3. Episode 11: Thriving with Chronic Illness in Marriage
  4. Episode 10: Growing Intentionally Instead of Giving Up
  5. Episode 9: Pursuing Health in Our Relationships

You can check out my latest Faith Over Fear podcast episode on Finding the Courage to Obey here:

The Courage to Speak Truth – Ep. 76 Faith Over Fear

Our world has become increasingly angry, argumentative, and hostile to the gospel and biblical truth. Unfortunately, the church is, in part, to blame; we’ve become more known for what we’re against than for what we are for. But we mustn’t let the hateful misrepresentation of Christ silence our voice. People need the hope and power of Christ now more than ever. In this episode Jennifer Slattery and Ava Pennington discuss ways to increase our courage while simultaneously upping our truth and grace. Find Ava Pennington at: https://www.AvaPennington.com https://www.facebook.com/AvaPennington.AuthorPage https://www.instagram.com/avapennington3/ Find Jennifer: https://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com https://www.facebook.com/JenSlatte https://www.instagram.com/slatteryjennifer/ Find Wholly Loved, at: https://www.WhollyLoved.com Join the private Faith Over Fear Group Here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/442736966614671 Group Discussion Questions: 1. What encouraged you most during today’s episode? 2. What are some emotions you would have struggled with, had you been in Timothy’s position? 3. What emotions arise when you consider initiating spiritual conversations with others? 4. When do you find it most challenging to share your faith? 5. Why is it important to remind ourselves of our calling (whether that’s in a particular role or the general call to share Christ with others) during times of opposition? 6. What are some ways you can “fan” your gift “into flame”? 7. How can asking questions help reduce our listener’s defenses? 8. Why is it important to balance truth with clearly revealed grace? 9. Consider a time when someone came at you with grace-less truth. How did you respond and why? 10. Consider a time when someone spoke truth to you in a gentle and grace-filled way. How did you respond and why? 11. Why is it important to establish a relationship with someone before attempting to speak truth into their life? 12. What is one action step God might be wanting you to take this week? Episode Image Credit: Getty/Ponomariova Maria
  1. The Courage to Speak Truth – Ep. 76
  2. The Courage to Heal from Church Hurt – Ep. 75
  3. Introducing: Reframed The Power of Perspective
  4. Healing from Religious Abuse (with Philip Yancey) – Ep. 74
  5. The Courage to Seek Counseling – Ep. 73

And make sure to connect with me on Facebook and Instagram! Find Wholly Loved Ministries HERE.

bridge picture with Proverbs 2:7-8

Imagine having deep, soul-quieting peace, regardless of the circumstance. Imagine being so rooted in Christ and His will, every step on a foggy and unclear path felt certain. Imagine experiencing deep peace even in the middle of great uncertainty. I’m convinced this is where God wants to take us, and He does so, primarily, by drawing us closer to Him.

Proverbs 2:6-11 puts it this way:

For the Lord gives wisdom;
from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.
He holds success in store for the upright,
He is a shield to those whose walk is blameless,
for He guards the course of the just
and protects the way of His faithful ones.

Then you will understand what is right and just
and fair—every good path.
10 For wisdom will enter your heart,
and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.
11 Discretion will protect you,
and understanding will guard you.

This passage assures us of a few things. First, while we can gain insight from a myriad of places—books, teachers, friends—all wisdom comes from one place: God. Most of us recognize this intellectually, but do we live this practically? When uncertainty arises, where do we go first? Our friend, spouse, or trusted spiritual leader, or to Christ? And what voice do we give most weight to? What’s more, what voice do we most have the courage to wait on?

That’s what I find most challenging. I’m quick to seek God’s guidance, but can lose footing in the waiting. Life can feel so urgent. I fear, if I don’t act now, I’ll miss an opportunity or the situation will implode beyond repair. But this type of thinking demonstrates I’ve lost sight of a few things, such as the fact that God is so much bigger than me, that His love is greater than my mistakes and ability to understand Him, and that He will, always, guide me toward His very best.

That’s the second assurance this passage in Proverbs provides. The Lord truly does give us wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. He’s not stingy. If His desire is that you and I remain in step with Him, will He not give us whatever we need in order to do so? But this wisdom doesn’t come from periodic and impersonal downloads as we’re frantically running about. It comes as we live in relationship with Christ. Day by day, as we read Scripture and closer to Him, He begins to transform our thinking and desires, pouring His wisdom into our hearts.

Finally, this Proverbs passage reminds us of God’s grace as He lovingly leads us toward His very best. As we wait for this transformation to occur, for truth to replace our areas of deception and wisdom our folly, we can trust this: Our God is a good, good Father who doesn’t treat us as our sins and stupid errors deserve. Instead, He gently, persistently nudges us along the way. Scripture makes two truths clear: God has a plan for us and has taken full responsibility of that plan.

Oh, we can rebel against it. We can seek out our plans over God’s, and rob ourselves of the peace, fulfillment, and joy our souls were created for.

But if we’re honestly trying to honor Christ, we can trust Him to direct our steps and protect our way. In the meantime, we keep woman on beach with text from poststepping, with our eyes on Him, maintaining a heart of surrender, prioritizing our relationship with Him above all. Knowing He’s with us, going before us, standing beside us and behind us. He encompasses us in His love, and His love, when received to the depths of our soul, truly does have the power to cast out all fear, fear of the unknown included.

Let’s talk about this! Pause to consider your journey thus far. Review where you’ve been and all the steps, some that perhaps, in hindsight proved vital, though you were unaware of their impact at the time? If you’re in a period of uncertainty now, what truths regarding who God is and what He’s promised can help you find peace? And perhaps most importantly, what is one thing you can do this week to grow closer to the God who knows you, loves you, and has an amazing, hope-filled plan for you?

Share your thoughts in the comments below.

If today’s post resonated with you, I encourage you to listen to my Faith Over Fear podcast episode titled the Courage to Face Uncertainty. You can find it HERE.

If you’re in a place of waiting, I encourage you to listen to my Faith Over Fear episode titled: The courage to Wait. You can find it HERE.

Before you go, and especially for those currently navigating challenging relationships, I encourage you to watch my latest iBelieve video devotion. You can find it HERE.

For those struggling with the pain and fatigue of chronic illness, I encourage you to read my latest Crosswalk on finding joy amid chronic illness HERE.

Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

If God told us ahead of time, where our steps of obedience would lead, I’m certain we’d surrender to His leading. Well, assuming everything turned out as we hoped. But then, therein lies the problem, right? We know God is good, loving, faithful, and true, and we know He will ultimately work all things out for our good, if not today, then in heaven. But what if the journey He calls us to between now and then is hard quote on obedience pulled from post with a sunset backgroundand painful? Does that question ever hinder your response? It has mine. But perhaps there’s a more important question we need to ask: what if, in our disobedience, we miss something amazing and life-changing? What if we miss the very thing God created us for?

Blessed Obedience
By Martha Rogers

“You need a change!” I slammed my notebook on my desk and plopped into my chair. One more confrontation with a principal about something over which I had no control led me to this angry comment. I didn’t realize the impact those words would have on life or where they would eventually lead me.

I taught at a public high school and loved teaching, but the principal’s temperament and his behavior with another teacher troubled me. In addition, my responsibilities with school and family gave me no time to pursue my ultimate dream of being a published writer. As I prayed about the situation, God confirmed my thoughts. “Yes, you need a change.” The words were as clear as if He sat next to me.

Our church had opened a private school for students from preschool to high school, and I thought about teaching there, but it would mean a cut in pay whereas transferring to another school in the district or going to another district wouldn’t.

With more prayer for guidance, the Lord tugged on my heart and pulled me toward the private school. I still held doubts, but after more prayer, I could no longer deny the call God laid on my heart. In 1981, I obeyed, applied at the private school, was accepted, and resigned my position in the public school.

At the time, I didn’t think of it as obedience. Instead, I saw the opportunity to get out of an unpleasant non-Christian environment. I loved the new school and the people there. The teachers became good friends who were willing to help each other and pray for each other. The teenage students I taught were typical teens with all different behaviors and attitudes, but for the most part easy to teach. I even had time to begin work on a novel I had in my head and wanted to write.

A few months ago, our First Place 4 Health group began a study called, Seek God First. One of the lessons was on obedience. On one day, the writer discussed the blessings and the rewards of obedience. She asked the question, “Has there been a time in your life when you were obedient to something God spoke to about?” That question took me back to God’s direction to change schools. As I looked at my life since that spring of 1981, I began to see that if I had not followed His direction in obedience, I would have missed so much He had planned for my life.

I had the opportunity to go back to college and earn my MEd in Curriculum with an emphasis on Creative Writing. I thought seventh and ninth grade English and loved it. However, after ten years, a new headmaster came in and told me, along with a number of other teachers, that our contracts would not be renewed.

Although I was able to procure a college teaching position because of my graduate degree, I held disappointment and resentment against God in my heart for a year. During that year God brought circumstances into my life I couldn’t have handled if I’d still been teaching full time. Once again God spoke to my heart and I realized I’d been grieving the Holy Spirit while being in the exact place God needed me to be at that time.

I released my resentment and prayed for the Lord to show me what He wanted me to do and where He wanted me to go. He started me on the next part of the journey which would take me through major ups and downs until I finally reached where God wanted me to be.

While teaching at the college level, I worked on my novel, joined writing groups and attended writing woman writingconferences. I also battled breast cancer, but continued to write and teach as I went into remission. When the cancer returned, I sensed God wanted me to retire. I did and went through more treatment, and the cancer was healed.

Now I had the time to work on the novel, attend more writing conferences, and become more active in a local and national writing group. I met other wonderful authors and the woman who became my literary agent. I also had several magazine articles published, and stories selected for various compilations.

In 2009, another ten years after retirement, I received my first contract for a historical novel that led to six books in that series and two more four book series. In the next ten years I went on to publish over fifty novels and novellas.

If I hadn’t obeyed, I wouldn’t have had the time to return to school and earn my master’s degree. Without that degree, I wouldn’t have been able to teach at the college level when God took me from the private school. Then God gave me the time to work on my writing and attend conferences and to move forward.

Now, almost forty years later, I sit at my computer pounding out words in fulfillment of a dream I had as a child. God fulfilled my dream because I chose obedience to His call no matter where it led.

Let’s talk about this! Has there been a time when you went ahead with plans of your own without truly asking God what He wanted you to do? What was the result?

Why is it sometimes so hard for us to listen to what we know is right, but our hearts rebel against doing it?

Get to know Martha!

Martha Rogers is a free-lance writer and multi-published author from Realms Fiction of Charisma Media Martha Roger's Headshotand Winged Publications. She was named Writer of the Year at the Texas Christian Writers Conference in 2009. She is a member of ACFW and writes the weekly Verse of the Week for the ACFW Loop. ACFW awarded her the Volunteer of the Year in 2014. Her first electronic series from Winged Publications, Love in the Bayou City of Texas, debuted in the spring of 2015.  Martha is a frequent speaker for writing workshops and the Texas Christian Writers Conference. She is a retired teacher and lives in Houston with her husband, Rex. Their favorite pastime is spending time with their twelve grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. Visit her online HERE.

Check out her latest release, Legacy of Deception:

Cover image for Legacy of DeceptionA case of mistaken identity, a long hidden family secret, a plan to take away a woman’s wealth, and a determined young woman’s plan to stop it, all lead to a family showdown when evil is uncovered and deceptions are.exposed that will change lives forever.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Listening to God on image of a flower

God is always speaking to His children, always guiding us toward His very best, but sometimes His voice grows faint amid the noise and confusion all around us.

Early in my parenting days, I was probably the most insecure, and often confused, mother around. I felt bombarded by advice, warnings, and contradicting tips from so-called experts. As a result, I routinely felt overwhelmed. Initially, I tried to raise our daughter in my wisdom and strength, largely because I hadn’t learned to discern God’s voice. Therefore, I gave too much weight to the faulty and often shifting “insight” of others and falsely believed I could make sense of it all.

This characterized every area of my life, actually, and in fact, had for some time. But my so-called intellect rarely brought the results I wanted, nor did I experience the peace and confidence I craved.

Granted, I did pray. Oh, how I prayed. Only I wasn’t always alert to God’s answers—in part because I rarely sat still long enough to hear Him. And when I did, though my heart initially pricked with the confidence and assurance that can only come from God, shortly after “common sense” or popular opinion overshadowed His perfect wisdom.

I often resembled a woman caught on an inflatable in the middle of the tumultuous ocean. James, Jesus’s brother, describes this scenario in James 1:5-8, and while he was speaking specifically on how we as believers ought to handle life’s difficulties, the principles he reveals apply to all of life.

James begins by encouraging us to seek God’s guidance, saying, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you” (NIV)

This brings me such comfort because it tells me, in effect, that God doesn’t expect me to know it all. He doesn’t expect me to have life all figured out, or even to know His will perfectly. Rather, He expects me to seek Him, and when I do, no matter the question, no matter the struggle, He responds with grace.

And yet, responsibility comes with this access and invitation, for he goes on to say in verse 6, “But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt,” hold tight to what God tells you, “because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.  Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.”

When we doubt the very truths God Himself deposits into our souls, our thoughts become divided and disordered and we become unstable, pushed and pulled in whatever direction feels strongest or screams loudest. What an unsettling, if not terrifying, place to be!

Have you ever tried to swim or paddle in choppy water? I have, and it’s exhausting and defeating. For every stroke forward, the waves pull you two strokes back, then shove you to the right, then the left. Without a bright buoy to mark one’s course, it’s easy to get turned around completely and find yourself, hours of intense physical labor later, a long way from where you need to be.

A few years ago, our family vacationed to Hawaii. One afternoon, my daughter and I went paddle boarding in the ocean—over jagged Prayer for a listening ear on pink backgroundbalsamic rock and in waters where sharks truly do lurk. Close to the shore, I felt no danger, and so I relaxed and allowed the current to gently carry me farther out to sea. At some point, I became more alert to my surroundings and realized how far I’d drifted. The people on the beach looked so small and the water surrounding me so vast and deep!

I felt vulnerable, to say the least, and so I began hurriedly paddling back, but no matter how fast and hard I paddled against the waves, I didn’t seem to get anywhere. I only grew more tired, and certainly more frightened.

Praise God, I did indeed make it back, but that experience painted a vivid reminder of what life feels like when we’re not anchored to Christ and His truth. We’re unstable and unsettled, pinged from one philosophy or decision to the next.

Praise God there’s always grace, but life’s hard enough, y’all, without wasting time and energy heading away from our finish line and all the great things God has in store for us. We can trust Him to lead us toward His very best at every moment. But we must trust—trust that He will indeed guide us in His way and His perfect timing. And trust that His ways truly all best.

That’s not to say we’ll never experience doubt, but when we do, may we bring our questions and uncertainties to the One with all the answers. And when He speaks, we must choose to believe what He says, or soon we’ll discover we’re on treading aimlessly against life’s tumultuous waves.

What is God saying to you lately? How can you hold tight to the truths He’s already given you? How can you move forward in faith?

Share your thoughts in the comments below, and connect with me on Facebook and Instagram.

Catch my Faith Over Fear podcast HERE.

Snatch my next release, Building a Family, HERE.

And find inspirational messages from my ministry team members HERE.

Additional resources:

The Divine Dance by Jennifer Slattery

Discerning the Voice of God by Priscilla Shirer

Discerning the Voice of God Bible reading plan by Priscilla Shirer

Also, don’t forget about our online book discussion this evening at 7pm CDT! We’re working through Breaking Free from Fear by MariaBook discussion invite Furlough. Contact me HERE for more information on how you can join us.

I also invite you to join Wholly Loved‘s private online Facebook community, a safe and encouraging place to share your struggles, fears, celebrations, and prayer requests. Find us HERE. And make sure to participate in our #freedomchallenge! All participants are automatically entered into a drawing to win all THIS.

 

Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™

quote from Keller with woman gazing toward sunset

Our trust in God is often most clearly seen in our checkbook. Our finances are also often the hardest areas to surrender, because we’re apt tie our sense of security to our paycheck more than we do to our Lord. At least, that’s my tendency. Unless I regularly guard against this, I can easily make our savings account my god, but like so many other idols I’ve clung to at various periods in my life, those crisp little green bills make lofty but empty promises.

As I read my guest’s post last night, I thought back twenty-some years ago to all the financial struggles my husband and I used to have, all the tension and stress and conflict that seemed to plague our home, back when we bowed to the almighty dollar.

No more leftovers: A gift for my God

By Jessica Brodie

I used to be that girl who’d slip a dollar, maybe a five if I were feeling flush, into the collection plate at church and feel just fine.

“God doesn’t need my money. He’s God. He’s ‘above’ such things,” I’d tell myself. Besides, I was a broke college student, or later, just scraping by in the workforce. Tithing was an Old Testament concept, or something only wealthy people did… or so I thought.

Much later, I came to understand tithing was for me—a way to honor God, to acknowledge Him tangibly as Lord over my life, to know that everything in my life (including my bank balance!) belongs to Him and I am merely His manager, His overseer. Twice a month, I forced myself to allocate ten percent of my paycheck to God’s tithe. Soon it became a habit, and eventually a joy. Some months, when finances were tight, I’d hold off on my tithe until I’d paid all my other bills, or I’d double up and pay it all the next pay period. But it always got paid.

I was feeling proud of myself… until this morning, when I was reading the Bible.

In the Book of Nehemiah, the Israelites had recently returned from exile to Jerusalem and had just learned through the Instruction Scrolls all the ways they’d disobeyed God’s Laws. Feeling horribly guilty about their behavior, they made a covenant with God to follow His commands, include pledging not to let their children intermarry with other faiths and to keep the “sabbath year,” which meant forgiving all debts and letting the land rest from crops every seventh year.

They also pledged to give toward the upkeep of God’s house—not just with what was left over, but with their “firstfruits,” the best and initial results of whatever it was they could offer:

  • “…the firstfruits of our crops and of every fruit tree…” (Nehemiah 10:35 NIV);
  • “… the firstborn of our sons and of our cattle, of our herds and of our flocks…” (36); and
  • “… the first of our ground meal, of our grain offerings, of the fruit of all our trees and of our new wine and olive oil…” (37a).

The point hit hard within me: These Israelites pledged to bring the first, the best—not the leftover.

And that was what I needed to do, too.

Ouch.

See, the Israelites had gotten off track in obedience. Some of this wasn’t necessarily their “fault,” for their parents hadn’t taught them these things, and no one in their life remembered God’s rules because His commandments were all hidden away.

They’d forgotten or never understood what God had commanded His people way back in the wilderness: “Bring the best of the firstfruits of your soil to the house of the Lord your God” (Exodus 23:19a NIV) and “When you enter the land I am going to give you and you reap its harvest, bring to the priest a sheaf of the first grain you harvest” (Leviticus 23:10 NIV).

But when they learned all those years later what God had asked of them, they wanted to do right. They wanted to honor God with their very best.

What I was doing—making sure God “got paid” His tithe—was behaving as though my tithe was a bill and not a sacrificial offering. And that was not the point. My tithe is not a bill. It’s a gift and an honor.

Just like the Israelites, I was off-track in my own obedience. And now that I understood this, I needed to make things right.

This morning, as I write this, happens to be payday. Yesterday, I’d planned to postpone my tithe until Sunday, after my fridge was restocked and my other bills paid. But now I know what I need to do.

Before anything else, I need to give over my firstfruits to God. And for me, that means heading to my church’s website and paying my tithe online, so it can go right away to all the ministries and mission work God is doing through His people and His church.

It’s a simple distinction in my life, but it’s important. It says “God comes first,” both literally and figuratively.

After that, I can hit the grocery store. For I know He will provide. He always does.

It’s an honor to kneel before my Lord, whether at His altar or online, and offer Him what I can.

Get to Know Jessica!

Jessica Brodie's headshotJessica Brodie is an award-winning Christian novelist, journalist, editor, blogger, and writing coach and the recipient of the 2018 American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis Award for her novel, The Memory Garden. She is also the editor of the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate, the oldest newspaper in Methodism, and a member of the Wholly Loved Ministries team. Learn more about her fiction and read her faith blog at http://jessicabrodie.com. Connect with her on Facebook and follow her on Instagram.

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If this  post hit your insecurities, now with everything related to the C!9 virus especially, you might find my latest article on Crosswalk discussing wise financial choices we can make today to help us weather whatever comes well. Read it HERE.

And make sure to listen to my latest Faith Over Fear podcast episode on living deeper anchored in grace––especially when we feel we’ve messed up. Find it HERE.

Plus, I’d love to connect with you tonight on Zoom or Facebook for a Book discussion invitegreat discussion on Maria Furlough’s Breaking the Fear Cycle. As an added bonus, she’ll be join us via Zoom for our last week’s discussion! Find the zoom meeting join link HERE.

 

 

hiding in God

What happens when life pummels us from every side, relentlessly? When the dangers seem much larger than we can bear? We hide ourselves deep within Our Father’s embrace. We hide ourselves in the shelter of His wings.

A couple Sundays ago, my daughter was in a car wreck. She called us in tears, and the minutes seemed to tick by so slowly as my husband, her fiancé, and I drove to the crash site. Though my head told me she was fine—she’d been able to call us, after all—my heart worried. I needed to see her for myself; I needed to hold her close, if only to comfort her.

When we got there, our fear immediately turned to praise. Though she’d totaled her car, she was fine. Shaken, but fine. God had sheltered her in His wings—as she had done for her dog, who was riding with her.

Apparently, her reaction was instinctual and instant. Her brain hadn’t even fully registered what was going on, but as another car smashed into her front driver’s side, she folded her body over her dog to ensure its safety. She covered sweet Misha with herself, cushioning her in the most protective position possible.

Honestly, when I first learned this, I became frustrated. I adore her little dog, but my daughter had placed herself in danger by bending forward. But then God reminded me that she wasn’t completely exposed nor was she helpless. She also had been tucked within the protective embrace of the One bigger and stronger than her and the force of metal against metal.

That same morning, this is what I’d read, written by Israel’s second king, a man named David:

“Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy! I will look to You for protection. I will hide beneath the shadow of your wings until the danger passes” (Psalm 57:1, NLT).

Pause and consider the imagery presented by this verse. Picture the wingspan of an adult eagle, stretching the length of a man. Perched high in a tree and hid deep within its mother’s wings, that eaglet can rest in peace, knowing it is safe and well cared for.

Scripture demonstrates this is how God cares for us.

Perhaps you’re praying as David did so long ago, “Hide me in Your wings, Lord. Keep me safe until the danger passes.”

To which He responds, “I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, ‘Do not fear; I will help you” (Isaiah 41:13, Verse imageNIV).

So what does that look like, hiding ourselves in our Savior?

First, we trust. We recognize that this is indeed our current position. We are held by God. He is our Protector and strong tower.

Second, we come away whenever we need and as often as we need to connect with Him. When we spend time with Him, He expels all that threatens to defeat us, to make us cower, with His love and truth.

Let’s talk about this! In what ways do you intentionally hide yourself in Christ when you’re anxious or afraid?

You might also enjoy:

Five Ways Fear Lies to Us

And check out Jennifer’s latest podcast episode, Overcoming Fear of Failure, HERE.

Connect with Jennifer on Facebook and Instagram and find her ministry, Wholly Loved, HERE.

Book discussion inviteMake sure to join her on Thursday evenings, starting April 23rd, for a faith-building book discussion aimed at helping us conquer our anxieties. Contact her HERE for more info! And as an added bonus, you’ll get to “meet” the author! Maria Furlough, author of Breaking the Fear Cycle, will be joining Jennifer via Zoom, which she’ll live stream to Wholly Loved Ministries private Facebook group (which you’re invited to join) on May 14th for the last week of the book discussion. How fun is that?!

AND … indie singer/songwriter will be live streaming to Wholly Loved’s private group as well, this Friday! Find out more HERE.

Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™