Each year, numerous people endure an incredibly painful Thanksgiving. Some battle loneliness. Others anxiety related to severe financial challenges. Some of you may be grieving loved ones lost, relationships shattered, or trust broken. And deep in your soul, you might be crying out to God, asking, “Are You truly enough, even in this?”

If so, I hope this weeks Faith Over Fear podcast episode encourages you.

As you consider Thanksgiving, are you filled with joyful anticipation, anxiety, or a mixture of both? Are your thoughts of the special moments and memories you’ll share accompanied by reminders of past conflicts? We probably all have that one family member who seems adept at pricking at our insecurities, challenging our peace, and poking at our emotional bruises.

In response, it’s easy to self-protect, to pull away, or to fight back. And while some measure of self-protection may in fact be wise*, every tense encounter provides an opportunity and reminder to seek God’s heart and perspective, and then to “power up.”

Years ago, someone I interacted with seemed angered by me and everything for which I stood, only this individual never told me this directly. Instead, after each encounter, she’d flood social media with posts regarding the hypocrisy or “hatred” displayed by Christ-followers–whether or not we’d talked religion or discussed personal beliefs. Feeling as if this person was passive-aggressively attacking me, I shared my hurt with a mentor, who replied, “She’s not fighting with you. She’s wrestling with God.”

Her words reminded me of Ephesians 6:12-13, which states,

12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

Our struggle–every and any struggle–is not ultimately about us. Yes, our actions and reactions do affect others, but even those have a spiritual root. We, and everyone we encounter, is either living yielded to Christ or in opposition to Him. They’re (and we’re) either living in then living out His love and grace or we’re giving in to self-obsession.

As Scripture states in Galatians 5:19-26:

19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

This reminds me to always examine my heart first. Which portion of that passage do I most resemble–the person who is easily offended, who feeds my bitterness, and easily loses my temper, or the one who speaks with gentleness, kindness, grace, and self-control?

If the former, God doesn’t want me to live in condemnation. Instead, He calls me to lean deeper into His grace. To prayerfully invite Him to search my soul for places where His love and grace, the only gifts with the power to transforming me in the core of my being, haven’t reached so that He can heal every wound, expel every lie, and illuminate every lurking shadow with His glorious light.

A light that will push back the darkness, within me and also around me.

This is a glorious, beautiful truth. Every time a Christ-follower enters a room, she carries with her the light of Christ-simply through her presence. She changes the dynamics, on a supernaturally spiritual level, whether she speaks or remains silent.

She amplifies that light, however, and becomes a strategic weapon against the evil seeking to devour her, the person who seems so opposed to her, and the joy and peace God wants for us, when she remains in step with His Spirit.

That’s our only assignment. God doesn’t ask us to change people’s minds or to convert their thinking. That’s His job, one He’s quite capable of, by the way. Nor do we need to defend ourselves. That’s His role as well, and in Christ, we have nothing to prove.

What God does invite us to do, however, is to live so filled with Him, with His love and acceptance and grace, that every precious gift Christ pours into our souls gushes from us and onto others.

Which brings me back to Ephesians 6:12-13, remembering that the struggle within us stems from the same over-arching battle. Scripture makes it clear, you and I have an enemy to our souls, and his desire is to tarnish and destroy everything good God created and to thwart God’s very good plans. But Christ is calling us to life. To hope. To healing and to freedom.

This means, whenever we resist Him, whether that means speaking up when He tells us to remain silent or remaining silent when He tells us to speak up, or plunging ahead when He asks us to quietly sit with Him, we are slipping toward increased dysfunction. Whenever we follow His lead, however, pushing past surface-level reactions to prayerfully evaluate what lies beneath those displayed by us and others and to accept His grace in those areas, we actively progress toward increased health, freedom, and vibrant life.

Let’s talk about this! As you anticipate Thanksgiving, are you doing so with joy, angst, or a bit of both? How is God speaking to you in regard to this? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another!

*Please note: I am not encouraging people to engage with abusive people. There are times when God does indeed encourage us to distance ourselves from others. I don’t know your story, your heart, or your hurts, but God does. Seek His guidance, because He knows the perfect, healthiest action for every scenario.

As you prepare for the holidays, specifically if they stir anxiety within you, I encourage you to listen to the latest Faith Over Fear Podcast episode on fighting anxiety through praise.

Fighting Anxiety and Fear Through Praise (with Becky Harling) – Ep. 129 Faith Over Fear

When battling anxiety, fear, and depression, countless people have turned to the Psalms for comfort. In them, we read raw and honest emotion, soul-deep prayers, and about a God who sees, cares, and has the power to lead us to greater freedom. While fighting cancer, guest Becky Harling learned to use praise, often guided by what she read in the psalms, to fight her fear and increase her peace. In this episode, she shared her experiences and the Bible study God prompted her to write: The Extraordinary Power of Praise: A 6-Week Study of the Psalms for the Anxious Heart. (Scroll down to find the group discussion questions)Find Becky Harling at: https://beckyharling.com/https://www.instagram.com/beckyharling/https://www.facebook.com/beckyharlingministriesFind Jennifer Slattery at:http://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.comhttps://www.instagram.com/slatteryjennifer/https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100083247680572Find Wholly Loved, at:https://www.WhollyLoved.comFind Wholly Loved Ministries at:WhollyLoved.comJoin the private Faith Over Fear Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/442736966614671Join the Private Wholly Loved Community Group (also on Facebook):https://www.facebook.com/groups/443325386241769Group Discussion Questions:1.What resonated with you most in today’s episode?2.What Bible passages do you turn when you feel anxious or afraid?3.How does (or can) praising God in difficult seasons help to decrease our anxiety and increase our peace?4.What are some ways you remember God’s goodness and love in hard or frightening times?5.Why is important to understand God’s heart for us when we feel afraid—that He responds to us in love, not anger or frustration?6.How can prayer deepen your intimacy with Christ?7.How can memorizing Scripture help you fight anxiety and fear?8.What is one action step God might be asking you to take, having listened to this podcast episode?See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

Blog title graphic

I’ve landed where I am after a series I don’t want tos—circumstances that felt beyond my control and left me wrestling with God. That’s not to say my life has been filled with hardships. In fact, I’ve experienced numerous blessings and steps forward from opportunities seized.

But I’ve also found myself at the end of what I’d previously determined to be a pointless detour or painful dead end, thanking God for His faithful guidance to lead me, when I wasn’t even aware I was being led.

Through it all, one truth has become clear—my vision is faulty and short-sighted, but God knows all, sees all, and is working in and through all to bring about His very best. Whether I see or understand His plan.

Quite frankly, most times I don’t. In those moments, surrender doesn’t come easily. I may even resist God’s leading for a bit, until I remember:

He’s good, even when life’s hard.

He’s true and unchanging, even when everything else shifts beneath me.

WL Don't fear fb copy (2)

He’s loving and attentive, even when I feel alone.

But here’s the thing: Though Scripture reveals all of these divine characteristics and more, they felt most real when God displayed each of those traits to me personally.

This almost always followed a particular pattern. Something unpleasant would hit, such as an illness or financial difficulty. I’d initially get upset, complained to God and told Him all the ways He could and should fix the situation. But after my prayer rant, His gentle whisper broke through, reminding me of what I most needed to hear—that He loved me, heard me, and was sovereign.

That He was God and I wasn’t.

Usually, circumstances that followed proved this to be true. When our family went through a period of unemployment and I feared for our future, God sold our house and brought my husband temporary contract work–at just the right time. When that contract work ended, and we weren’t sure where we’d land next, another offer came through. When daughter faced challenges that kept me up late in prayer and tears, He held both of us through and used the event to strengthen and grow us both.

Again and again, God’s proven just how trustworthy He is. That He truly is working all things out for my family and my good. That His plans are so much better than mine.

My brilliant solutions, more often than not, land me and others in messes.

In fact, I’ve often wondered where I’d be now, if God hadn’t guided me to surrender. If I’d chosen to disobey and pull away.

The relationships I would’ve missed out on, the memories I would’ve forfeited, the personal growth I would’ve prevented. The ministries I never would’ve started or served in, the personal encounters never made, the truths never spoken, the prayers never offered …

In 1 John 2:3, the “disciple whom Jesus loved” wrote, “And by this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments” (ESV).

To know God is to love obey Him, and as we obey Him, we come to know Him more. It’s an ever-deepening cycle of increased intimacy and freedom.

Of increased trust, which results in increased obedience …

Let’s talk about this! When has obedience increased your trust for God? When has your trust led to obedience? Share your stories and examples with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another.

 

Experiencing the Full Freedom of Grace (Psalm 32:6) Your Daily Bible Verse

Want to listen without the ads? Become a BibleStudyTools.com PLUS Member today: https://www.biblestudytools.com/subscribe/ Meet Our Hosts: JENNIFER SLATTERY is a writer and speaker who hosts the Faith Over Fear podcast. She’s addressed women’s groups, Bible studies, and writers across the nation. She’s the author of Building a Family and numerous other titles and maintains a devotional blog at https://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com Follow Jennifer:https://www.lifeaudio.com/faith-over-fear/https://www.facebook.com/JenSlattehttps://www.instagram.com/slatteryjennifer/ GRACE FOX has published hundreds of articles and authored 10 books including the award-winning devotional, Finding Hope in Crisis: Devotions for Calm in Chaos. She’s a member of the “First 5” writing team for Proverbs 31 Ministries and a regular contributor to Guideposts’ Mornings with Jesus. Grace lives aboard a sailboat in Vancouver, British Columbia. Married in 1982, she and her husband celebrate three grown kids and eleven grandchildren. Check out Grace’s newest book, Keeping Hope Alive: https://www.tyndale.com/p/keeping-hope-alive/9781649380517 Subscribe to her weekly devotional blog and monthly update on her website: http://www.gracefox.com Follow Grace:Facebook: http://www.fb.com/gracefox.authorInstagram: https://www.instagram.com/graceloewenfox/  Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/gracefoxauthor JOSHUA LILLIE is a passionate follower of Jesus, spreadsheet enthusiast, and lover of all kinds of art and music. Joshua has almost a decade of experience in music ministry, and has served both in house church and megachurch environments in pastoral and administrative roles, eager to see every man, woman, and child increasingly surrender their lives to King Jesus. He currently serves on staff with Christ Community Church in Omaha, NE, and as an ordained minister with the Christian & Missionary Alliance, a global denomination of Jesus-followers making Him known among the nations.See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
  1. Experiencing the Full Freedom of Grace (Psalm 32:6)
  2. How Do I Know if I’m Prideful? (Daniel 4:37)
  3. The Key to Lasting Inner Peace (Isaiah 26:3)
  4. When Our Words Carry Extra Weight (James 3:1)
  5. Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life (Romans 12:2)

 

 

(This post first published on January 31, 2019.)

 

Graphic with quote pulled from post

(This post first published on Jan. 31, 2019)

We can’t feed bitterness and simultaneously cultivate joy. We won’t experience the full to overflowing life Jesus promised if we cling to unforgiveness. And perhaps most importantly, we can’t display the beautiful, grace-giving love our world needs when pride, envy, or malice clog our hearts.

I wish I could say I routinely radiate Christ, but unless I guard against this, when difficulties hit, I’m often quick to complain and slow to pray. I’m easily distracted by the imperfect, unexpected, or undesired rather than the abundance of blessings God’s provided.

In fact, there was a time when that was my default demeanor, until God woke me up through a series of encounters.

Initially, when I met Tracy*, compassion drew me to her. She was new to the area, appeared to be hurting, and I thought perhaps she could use a friend. So, I issued an invitation, and we began meeting for coffee.

Soon, our conversations felt repetitive, filled with complaining and bitterness. At first, I wondered if she was depressed, and she may have been, and if so, in need of patience and grace.

She may have been depressed. But I wasn’t, and yet, I’d been acting just like her.

In other words, though I had much to be thankful for, including a daily connection with God Himself—the source of all joy—I chose bitterness and negativity. I chose to focus on momentary “offenses”, what I didn’t have that I wanted, on expectations gone awry, and robbed myself of the peace and full to overflowing life Jesus died to give me.

Through my interactions with this other woman, God helped me see how my attitude, which I’d displayed without thinking, was choking my spiritual vitality, hindering my relationships, and diluting my prayers.

Worst of all, it was squelching my love, the one thing those I care for most needed from me.

In a letter bearing his name, Peter, an early church father who spent time with Jesus before His death, wrote to Christians experiencing oppression and persecution. Living under the evil emperor Nero, they needed not only8-3 blog ins (2) encouragement but also incredible emotional support. So he urged them to “love one another earnestly from a pure heart.” (1 Peter 1:22, ESV).

We all know what casual love looks like—the type that offers kind words when it’s convenient but seems absent when needs arise. The kind that’s more self-protecting than sacrificing and prideful than initiating. The kind that might look good on the outside but lacks substance when it counts.

That’s not the kind of love Peter commanded. Instead, they were to demonstrate a sincere, unfeigned love free from hidden agendas and selfish motives.

Sadly, I can’t remember the last time I showed that type of love. Selfish motives often creep into my best, most altruistic intentions. This lessens, however, when I diligently practice Peter’s admonitions that follow in 2 Peter 2:1-3: “So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk”—Scripture— “that by it you may grow up into salvation—if indeed you have tasted the Lord is good” (ESV).

In other words, we can’t harbor bitterness or envy in one area or in relation to one particular person and expect our other relationships to remain pure and sincere. Malice, deceit, and slander, and all their equally destructive sisters, once entertained, invade our hearts until everything becomes tainted.

To display the love, joy, and peace God commands, we need to both purge and fill. We need to actively and continually throw out everything that hinders while soaking in everything that ignites.

That is the only way we will truly be able to love others well, as Christ loves us.

Let’s talk about this. What’s hindering you from fully expressing the love of Christ? Is there an old offense you’re rehashing? Unforgiveness you’re feeding? If so, hand that to God. Ask Him to remove it from you, to replace it with truth, and then intentionally remember all the ways God has shown you that He is indeed good.

It’s really hard to remain angry or bitter when focused on the love and grace of Christ.

It’s equally hard to experience the full to overflowing life Jesus promised when we’ve chosen bitterness instead.

What resonated or challenged you most in today’s post? Share your thoughts, stories, examples, and questions in the comments below.

***

Contact Jennifer HERE to book her for your next event, connect with her on Facebook and Instagram, and make sure to catch the latest Faith Over Fear podcast episode on Living in the Victory of Christ.

 

Courageously Proclaiming Our Faith (Genesis 12:5-8) Faith Over Fear

It’s one thing to internalize a promise from God, it’s another to make that a public proclamation. When we’re open about our faith and the promises we’re holding onto – especially in a difficult or unknown season – we’re inviting others to experience the goodness and faithfulness of God, too. While it’s not always the easiest step to take, proclaiming our faith publicly has greater impact than we might imagine. Find Kimi at: https://kimimiller.com/ https://www.facebook.com/LivingReflectionsMinistry/ https://www.instagram.com/livingreflectionsministry/ Find Tami at: https://www.tamiwittrock.com/ Find Wholly Loved Ministries at: WhollyLoved.comJoin the private Faith Over Fear Facebook Support GroupJoin the Private Wholly Loved Community Group (also on Facebook): When in your life, have you made a public proclamation of faith? How did that impact you and/or those around you? Is there an area or season of your where God is asking you to make a public proclamation of faith? Is there someone in your life who might be encouraged by your proclamation to stand on God’s promise? How can you stay encouraged when all you have is God’s promise to hold onto? What have been some faith markers in your life? How did those reassure you to keep holding on?  What are some ways to express your gratitude for God’s faithfulness? How can praising God encourage you and others along the way?  See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
  1. Courageously Proclaiming Our Faith (Genesis 12:5-8)
  2. When We Fear We've Blown it (Genesis 13:1-4)
  3. Bravely Embracing the Unknown (Genesis 12:1-4)
  4. Breaking Free from Dysfunction
  5. 4 Powerful Actions to Fight Anxiety

Sun peeking through clouds

Beauty for Our Gloomiest Days

by Amy Anguish

Heading out into the rain to run errands is never my idea of a good time. But the weather doesn’t care when the milk and bread are gone. A few weeks ago, I loaded up my five-year-old and started out with a few stops planned. At the third store, though, my van wouldn’t start. Two hours and the cost of a new battery later, we finally finished our trip, soggy and tired and grumpy. It was difficult to see the good in the situation.

Do you find overcast skies to be downers? This time of year, at least in middle Tennessee, we experience plenty of gray days. And I will be honest. They make it hard to get motivated–whether for shopping or anything else.

Maybe it’s because I grew up listening to the Carpenters singing about “Rainy Days and Mondays,” but probably it’s just human nature. There’s something to be said for the Vitamin D sunshine brings to our lives.

And dreary conditions are just that–Dreary. So many of my Facebook memories say something like, “This weather has me wishing I could just stay in with a cup of tea and a good book.”

Are we completely depressed now? I hope not.

Have you ever gotten up at just the right moment to see the sunrise? Or sat still long enough to see it set? The artist in me loves to watch how God colors the horizon differently every night. 

Scripture states, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1, ESV).

Night sky with Psalm 19:1 in text.

God’s been painting for a long time. He’s good at it.

Have you noticed on partly cloudy mornings or evenings, the hues appear more intense? They’re reflected off more surfaces, literally streaking the sky with colors.

The clouds actually make the sunrise or sunset more beautiful.

See where I’m going?

We all have overcast seasons, physically and spiritually. My workload picked up quite a bit this last year, which is a good thing, because it means I’m getting more stories published. But, that also means my editing and marketing increased. And those tasks are … well, draining though necessary.

The extra stress has definitely clouded my attitude. However, after struggling through the rough times, the sun shone through the grays and lit the darkness, shooting colors every which way across my life. Through readers telling me how much they enjoyed a story, or seeing a nice review come through, or having someone ask if I have any other books coming out because they want to read more. It’s encouraging. 

In my earlier story, when my car broke down, a friend came to my rescue. We shared a ton of laughter trying to figure out where to attach the cables on these particular vehicles. Our interaction provided a silver-lining in a potentially rotten situation.

Just like a gorgeous sunset reminds us that clouds aren’t all bad.

Life is full of gloomy moments, but that doesn’t mean it’s only dreary. Even the grayest sky shows color somewhere—in a rainbow or sunrise. God never promised us only sunshine. But He did say He’d be there through everything, including the rain—and edits.

So, I find I can’t completely hate overcast days. Because with the clouds comes a beautiful reminder of His presence and promises. Just like He sent me those sweet comments from  readers. And my friend with jumper cables and laughter.

What ways has God reminded you of His love and faithfulness lately?

Get to Know Amy!

Author of An Unexpected Legacy, Faith and Hope, and Saving Grace

Amy R Anguish grew up a preacher’s kid, and in spite of having lived in seven different states that are all south of the Mason Dixon line, she is not a football fan. Currently, she resides in Tennessee with her husband, daughter, and son, and usually a bossy cat or two. Amy has an English degree from Freed-Hardeman University that she intends to use to glorify God, and she wants her stories to show that while Christians face real struggles, it can still work out for good.

Amy Anguish's headshot

Follow her at aBitofAnguish or on Facebook and Twitter. Learn more about her books on Pinterest and check out the YouTube channel she does with two other authors, Once Upon a Page.

Check Out Her Latest story, Mistletoe Make-believe, found in Candy Cane Wishes and Saltwater Dreams:

Charlie Hill’s family thinks his daughter Hailey needs a mom—to the point they won’t get off his back until he finds her one. Desperate to be free from their nagging, he asks a stranger to pretend she’s his girlfriend during the holidays.

Cover image for Candy Cane Wishes & Saltwater Dreams.

When romance author Samantha Arwine takes a working vacation to St. Simons Island over Christmas, she never dreamed she’d be involved in a real-life romance. Are the sparks between her and Charlie real? Or is it just her imagination?

Find it HERE.

Before you go, make sure to check out the latest Your Daily Bible Verse podcast episodes, hosted by Grace Fox and I.

Experiencing the Full Freedom of Grace (Psalm 32:6) Your Daily Bible Verse

Want to listen without the ads? Become a BibleStudyTools.com PLUS Member today: https://www.biblestudytools.com/subscribe/ Meet Our Hosts: JENNIFER SLATTERY is a writer and speaker who hosts the Faith Over Fear podcast. She’s addressed women’s groups, Bible studies, and writers across the nation. She’s the author of Building a Family and numerous other titles and maintains a devotional blog at https://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com Follow Jennifer:https://www.lifeaudio.com/faith-over-fear/https://www.facebook.com/JenSlattehttps://www.instagram.com/slatteryjennifer/ GRACE FOX has published hundreds of articles and authored 10 books including the award-winning devotional, Finding Hope in Crisis: Devotions for Calm in Chaos. She’s a member of the “First 5” writing team for Proverbs 31 Ministries and a regular contributor to Guideposts’ Mornings with Jesus. Grace lives aboard a sailboat in Vancouver, British Columbia. Married in 1982, she and her husband celebrate three grown kids and eleven grandchildren. Check out Grace’s newest book, Keeping Hope Alive: https://www.tyndale.com/p/keeping-hope-alive/9781649380517 Subscribe to her weekly devotional blog and monthly update on her website: http://www.gracefox.com Follow Grace:Facebook: http://www.fb.com/gracefox.authorInstagram: https://www.instagram.com/graceloewenfox/  Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/gracefoxauthor JOSHUA LILLIE is a passionate follower of Jesus, spreadsheet enthusiast, and lover of all kinds of art and music. Joshua has almost a decade of experience in music ministry, and has served both in house church and megachurch environments in pastoral and administrative roles, eager to see every man, woman, and child increasingly surrender their lives to King Jesus. He currently serves on staff with Christ Community Church in Omaha, NE, and as an ordained minister with the Christian & Missionary Alliance, a global denomination of Jesus-followers making Him known among the nations.See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
  1. Experiencing the Full Freedom of Grace (Psalm 32:6)
  2. How Do I Know if I’m Prideful? (Daniel 4:37)
  3. The Key to Lasting Inner Peace (Isaiah 26:3)
  4. When Our Words Carry Extra Weight (James 3:1)
  5. Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life (Romans 12:2)

And the latest episode of the Faith Over Fear podcast:

Courageously Proclaiming Our Faith (Genesis 12:5-8) Faith Over Fear

It’s one thing to internalize a promise from God, it’s another to make that a public proclamation. When we’re open about our faith and the promises we’re holding onto – especially in a difficult or unknown season – we’re inviting others to experience the goodness and faithfulness of God, too. While it’s not always the easiest step to take, proclaiming our faith publicly has greater impact than we might imagine. Find Kimi at: https://kimimiller.com/ https://www.facebook.com/LivingReflectionsMinistry/ https://www.instagram.com/livingreflectionsministry/ Find Tami at: https://www.tamiwittrock.com/ Find Wholly Loved Ministries at: WhollyLoved.comJoin the private Faith Over Fear Facebook Support GroupJoin the Private Wholly Loved Community Group (also on Facebook): When in your life, have you made a public proclamation of faith? How did that impact you and/or those around you? Is there an area or season of your where God is asking you to make a public proclamation of faith? Is there someone in your life who might be encouraged by your proclamation to stand on God’s promise? How can you stay encouraged when all you have is God’s promise to hold onto? What have been some faith markers in your life? How did those reassure you to keep holding on?  What are some ways to express your gratitude for God’s faithfulness? How can praising God encourage you and others along the way?  See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
  1. Courageously Proclaiming Our Faith (Genesis 12:5-8)
  2. When We Fear We've Blown it (Genesis 13:1-4)
  3. Bravely Embracing the Unknown (Genesis 12:1-4)
  4. Breaking Free from Dysfunction
  5. 4 Powerful Actions to Fight Anxiety

question mark

Before I launch into today’s post, question: How many of you are enjoying my following chronologically through the New Testament? Were you aware that’s what I’ve been doing? (For example, today’s post covers the reading passage for day one of week 31.) I ask because this has been super challenging, y’all! If you’re enjoying this journey and find it helpful, then I’ll keep pushing on. But if you’re not … I might reconsider my content plans. 🙂 Let me know in the comments.

And now back to your regularly schedule post …

When my actions and reactions don’t resemble the love and grace of Christ, I know I’ve left my Savior behind. This happens every time I allow my fear and pride, rather than Christ, take the lead. Soon, I develop an us-vs-them mentality. As people become issues, love, that which Christ told us to radiate most clearly, begins to grow cold. 

Praying through Luke 9 this past week, I sensed God calling me to evaluate my pride-filled Pharisitical tendencies within me. Those times when I serve from a place of superiority, and reveal this in the ugliness that follows. When that sense of superiority entices me to fight for a mound of dirt that isn’t worth my, or your, or anyone else’s time, ignoring the hill–Calvary–our Savior fixed His gaze upon.

Luke 9:51 records some of the most beautiful words in Scripture: “​​As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem” (NIV). 

Knowing all He’d face there, maybe even feeling some of the anguish that would later consume His soul “to the point of death” in the Garden, He set walked with determined steps. 

And once again, He and His disciples stopped through Samaria along the way. Only this time, they didn’t receive the same welcome. In fact, they were rejected, as they had numerous times before. 

Only this time, James and John didn’t become grieved, as one might expect, considering all the Samaritans were forfeiting. They weren’t even annoyed, as can occur with road weary travelers. 

No. They became enraged. Murderously, so. “Lord,” they said, upon seeing how the Samaritans rejected Christ, “do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?”

Am I the only one struck by the sad contrast? The One with every right to obliterate not just the people in that village, but all of mankind as well, was determined to reach Jerusalem, no matter how difficult each step must’ve been. 

The hill upon which His love would be vividly displayed–for those who received and rejected Him. The disciples didn’t understand that. I suspect they were blinded by pride, thinking they, the chosen ones, had lowered themselves simply to enter that village. Their sense of superiority tainted any love they might otherwise have displayed.

Sadly, pride likely lay at the root of the Samaritan’s actions as well. Scholars remind us they welcomed Christ readily enough when He came “from some unknown region of Judæa where He had been baptising (John 3:22; John 4:3).” Knowing He was heading toward Jerusalem, the place the Jews had long contended as the only proper place to worship, however? And not to the temple they’d built on Mount Gerizzim? Implying that, perhaps, they were wrong?

Unthinkable! 

How sad to think their indignation blinded them to the truth Christ had so beautifully proclaimed to the Samaritan woman He’d met at Jacob’s well, early in His ministry. He didn’t come to tell us where to worship but rather Who to worship. 

How grieved Jesus must’ve been that day, to see putrid reservoirs of pride well up within hearts on both sides, where streams of living water should’ve begun to flow.

While I’ve never asked God to obliterate an entire town, I’ve seen my pride repel the very people God died to save. 

Lord, remind us, daily, of our need for You, precisely why we need You so desperately, so that our hearts won’t decay from the sin of superiority. Fill us so fully with Your love, only what is good and lovely and pure can remain. 

For those following the chronological New Testament reading plan …

Week 31 Bible reading plan image

Picture of a Bible with quote from Oswald Chambers

The hungry and neglected heart will always find a way to justify sin. To deceive itself into believing that forbidden act is life-giving and that the ways of God lead to death. Death of joy, of freedom, of peace. Every compromising step gains strength, feeding the lies slowly strangling our souls, convincing us that God isn’t truly loving, faithful, and good. Until, years later, we look back at the rubble of our lives and wonder how we reached such devastation.

Relationships destroyed.

People hurt.

Hope dashed.

Jobs lost.

Personal integrity and our self-respect, shattered.

Our sense of purpose crushed between an overwhelming sense of futility.

Obedience is hard. Sometimes painful. But always life giving. And yet, this truth is hard to understand, to truly believe, if we don’t truly know God. Perhaps this is why A. W. Tozer wrote, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”

The spouse who flirts with their coworker rather than investing in their marriage demonstrates they don’t believe God has their best in mind. That He’s either incapable of fulfilling Christ’s promises to bring us peace and joy, or that He simply doesn’t care enough to do so.

The friend who gives in to gossip believes the gratification and shallow connection she receives in the moment will fulfill her more than a life that honors Christ. That those immature friends, not God, will give her what her soul craves most.

We can often recognize, perhaps even predict, the destruction that comes from “big” and scandalous sins like adultery or theft, while excusing, even justifying the pride that slowly but steadily silences God’s voice and pull us further and further from Him.

Honestly, that’s the most destructive force within me, the virus that all too easily multiplies and evolves. It almost destroyed my marriage. It’s caused pain to my child. Because of it, I’ve had times when I’ve remained tethered to an “offense” that seeped toxins into my soul.

We’ve all probably witnessed this progression in others. We might even have felt repulsion rise up , but do we feel the same gut-level disgust to the sin lurking within us? Ready to devour us?

Darkness doesn’t play around, y’all. This is why Jesus used such strong, vivid analogies in Mark 9 when He said, “If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell” Mark 9:42-47, NIV).

Strong words. While not meant to be taken literally, they do accurately convey this truth: sin is much too enticing, deceptive, and destructive for us to tiptoe around it.

Woman walking in sand and quote on not tiptoeing around sin.

We were meant for more. For life. Vibrant, beyond-our-expectations, life. One so rich and full, Jesus was willing to give His all that we might receive it. May we honor that precious gift in how we live each day and with every thought and burgeoning desire we feed or starve.

Let’s talk about this! What are some ways you protect your heart before ugly seeds take root? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage each other. And make sure to connect with me on Facebook and Instagram.

Chronological Reading Plan Graphic Week 30

Catch the latest podcast episode, with guest Ava Pennington here:

Courageously Proclaiming Our Faith (Genesis 12:5-8) Faith Over Fear

It’s one thing to internalize a promise from God, it’s another to make that a public proclamation. When we’re open about our faith and the promises we’re holding onto – especially in a difficult or unknown season – we’re inviting others to experience the goodness and faithfulness of God, too. While it’s not always the easiest step to take, proclaiming our faith publicly has greater impact than we might imagine. Find Kimi at: https://kimimiller.com/ https://www.facebook.com/LivingReflectionsMinistry/ https://www.instagram.com/livingreflectionsministry/ Find Tami at: https://www.tamiwittrock.com/ Find Wholly Loved Ministries at: WhollyLoved.comJoin the private Faith Over Fear Facebook Support GroupJoin the Private Wholly Loved Community Group (also on Facebook): When in your life, have you made a public proclamation of faith? How did that impact you and/or those around you? Is there an area or season of your where God is asking you to make a public proclamation of faith? Is there someone in your life who might be encouraged by your proclamation to stand on God’s promise? How can you stay encouraged when all you have is God’s promise to hold onto? What have been some faith markers in your life? How did those reassure you to keep holding on?  What are some ways to express your gratitude for God’s faithfulness? How can praising God encourage you and others along the way?  See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
  1. Courageously Proclaiming Our Faith (Genesis 12:5-8)
  2. When We Fear We've Blown it (Genesis 13:1-4)
  3. Bravely Embracing the Unknown (Genesis 12:1-4)
  4. Breaking Free from Dysfunction
  5. 4 Powerful Actions to Fight Anxiety

If we ignore God’s voice, we might lose our ability to hear Him. That’s a dark, frightening, and dangerous place to be, which is why Jesus said, in essence, “Be careful how you hear.”

Quote from post with image of a woman on a dusty road.

And while, in context, He was speaking of those who would ultimately accept or reject His truth, this principle applies to all of us: We can’t selectively listen and expect a close relationship with Christ.

I’ve experienced the soul-reaching ache, almost numbness, that comes from consistently telling God no. From downplaying, discounting, and outright ignoring His nudges. He was persistent for about a year, speaking to me in numerous ways—through Scripture, statements made by others, a prick in my heart when certain song lyrics played. But my fears and insecurities screamed louder. I was so focused on all I thought I might lose, I couldn’t fathom all, through obedience, I might gain.

And so, for a time, I robbed myself of the greatest gift Christ died to give me—intimacy with Him. During that time, I continued to carry out all the appropriate religious acts. I read my Bible each morning. Went to church every Sunday. Prayed before meals and taught our daughter the truths of Scripture.

Externally, I presented like a woman of strong faith, but internally, my soul withered.

With longing, I reflected on moments when God had felt specifically close and His voice had resonated particularly clearly, and I became alarmed. But I never made the connection between the emptiness I felt and my disobedience nearly a year prior.

Soon, this spiritual starvation filled me with desperation. I needed to feel God’s presence. I began crying out for His nearness, for the soul-deep connection we’d once shared.

But God remained silent. Prayer after prayer, Bible passage after Bible passage, I heard nothing.

Until one afternoon, in the middle of a run, I mentally yelled, “God, what do You want me to do? Whatever it is, just tell me, and I’ll do it.”

His swift yet clear whisper in the depths of my soul arrested my thoughts: “I already told you.” He didn’t need to say more, for I knew. With the clarity that can only come from the Holy Spirit, I knew. In my disobedience—that I had convinced myself wasn’t truly disobedience—I’d driven God away. While I’d remained His child, firmly in His eternal grip, in steadily ignoring my Savior’s promptings, my ears had nearly become too dull to hear.

In that moment, I had a choice to make, one I could no longer put off or justify away. Would I “pay attention to what [I heard]” (Mark 4:24, NLT)?

Mark 4:24 with image of a woman near the ocean.

That was a defining, line-in-the-sand moment for me, one that dramatically changed my life.

Sadly, I’ve seen others turn the other way. One person in particular comes to mind. I’ve personally witnessed numerous miraculous ways God has spoken to her, drawn her, and invited her to experience His abundant life. I’ve even seen her take tentative steps in that direction, until her land-in-the-sand moment came, that instance where she had to decide whose will she would follow, hers or God’s. Unfortunately, she chose her dreams over those God had hand-crafted for her, with heartbreaking results: isolation. Numerous relationships lost. Increased emotional and spiritual darkness.

The inability to hear God.

I pray one morning God will awaken her soul, as He did with mine, so that she will begin to take heed of what she hears so that she can experience the filled-to-overflowing life Christ promised.

That’s His invitation to us all. Where are you in your listening journey? Are you tempted to silence God’s voice in a particular area? And most importantly, is whatever is hindering your obedience worth forfeiting intimacy with Christ?  

For those following the chronological reading plan through the New Testament …

Week 19 of the Bible reading plan.

picture of a bearMy family calls me Mama Bear for a reason. I love deeply and fiercely, especially when someone hurts those I love. I can also struggle with the ability to let go, long after the incident has passed. Something deep within me cries out for justice—for the offender to acknowledge and take responsibility for the damage they’ve caused. When that doesn’t occur, I take comfort in knowing God sees and knows all, my and my loved one’s hurts included, and will one day make all things right.

When my daughter was young, a teacher spoke ugly things into her heart and hurt her deeply. She had entered the school with a love for learning and a hunger to explore. By the end of her fifth grade year, she became paralyzed by a growing fear of failure. She grew so afraid she’d get answers wrong, she got to where she couldn’t write anything.

In a year’s span, I watched the spark within her grow dimmer and dimmer. It took some time for this hurt to heal. Years of loving and kind educators speaking life into those wounded areas. Witnessing the long-lasting effects of my daughter’s pain triggered protective anger within me. I wanted the harsh teacher to know precisely what she’d done.

I imagine there have been times when you’ve felt the same.

When we’re in that place, it helps to remember our God sees. He quote from post on a teal backgroundsees every hurt, every callous word, every unloving act. He sees, He cares, and promises to, one day, make all things right. While this truth doesn’t negative the pain we all experience in this broken and often unjust world, it does help cushion the blow knowing we and our loved ones aren’t alone. God sprinkles reminders of this throughout Scripture, of times when He demonstrated His love for justice and those who likely felt discarded, betrayed, and abandoned.

I wonder if that’s how Bathsheba, the woman from 2 Samuel 11, felt when she first learned of her husband’s death. Some of you may be familiar with the story. Scripture tells us one day, King David was walking about on his palace roof, likely gazing across his land. From this elevated position on top of Mount Zion, upon which his castle stood, he could easily see the open courts of all the houses below. And then, mid-stroll, a beautiful woman captured his attention. She was bathing in her garden, completing ceremonial purification rights, likely in honor of God. Completely unaware of the lust-filled eyes locked upon her. Shortly after, the king’s messengers came knocking at her door to take her back to the palace. Soon after, King David, the man with supreme authority in the land, slept with her then sent her home.

How might you have felt in this situation? Living during a time when women were often treated as property, to be summoned, used, then discarded? And then, before those wounds have had time to heal, she learned she’s pregnant. Likely terrified, she told the king. Soon after, he had her husband killed.

After all this, did her soul cry out for justice? Did she long to know that someone saw her pain, that someone cared? We know from Scripture God indeed saw it all and held David accountable for his sin. (2 Samuel 12). But He did more than that.

Notice how she’s mentioned in Matthew’s genealogy in Matthew 1:

Verse six states, “David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife” (NIV).

First, why mention her at all? Obviously, each of the men listed had mothers, but we only read of five: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, and Mary. With each, we learn of the sons they bore, but notice, with Bathsheba, we’re told something more. We learn not that she was married to David, the Goliath slayer and “man after God’s own heart.” No, Scripture says she was Uriah’s wife, the valiant, honorable man David, the king, had, in essence, murdered.

Granted, that’s not the purpose of Matthew’s list, and my perspective is merely conjecture at best. Still, I can’t help but find significance and comfort in knowing that God preserved this truth, that Bathsheba belonged to Uriah first. That they had belonged to one another. David stole her from her husband then later stole her husband from her.

In this small section of Scripture, I’m reminded that God cares for our big hurts and our small and has promised, one day, justice will prevail. Until then, we hold tight to the comfort of His love and the knowledge that He sees every injustice we suffer.

Let’s talk about this. Is there a situation, maybe a past hurt or a hurt someone you love has suffered, that you need to surrender to God? What words of comfort and truth is He speaking into your heart today? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below. And speaking of hurts, make sure to check out the latest Faith Over Fear Podcast episode on finding the courage to break free from fear of rejection. You can listen HERE.

And make sure to connect with me on Facebook and Instagram! For those following the chronological reading plan: