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Archive for the ‘Perseverance’ Category

Every day is a battle—for truth versus deception. For relational intimacy versus isolation. For growth and godliness versus sin and self-destruction. Ultimately, for agape love (toward God and others) versus self-love.

This—the battle against self—is by far my greatest battle. This is what threatens to derail me more than any outward casualty or setback I may experience. Self-love leads me toward self-elevation (which is idolatry). Agape love centers me in the will of Christ.

At their root, each of these is a battle between light and darkness.

Two extremes, continually pitted against one another. The only solution? Surrender to Jesus Christ.

It’s almost ironic, as I type this this morning, over a week before it will go “live,” I am and have been in the throws of this battle, one I thought I’d won but a week prior. And the week before that. And the week before that as I prayerfully “crucify my flesh” as Scripture puts it, asking the Holy Spirit to give me the strength to offer all of me to Him as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1).

And yet, here I am again, resisting the ugly within me so the pure, honorable, self-sacrificing love of Christ can shine forth.

My battle plan? Prayer and praise as I seek to be filled with more and more of Christ, knowing when that happens, all else will fade away. Because He is my treasure, and this present world is short but eternity is forever.

About five years ago, I spoke to women living in a women and children’s shelter in Kansas City, women who had lost nearly everything—their homes, their livelihoods, their self-respect. Some were experiencing the consequences of poor choices. Some were, but not all. Others were simply in a really rough place, likely crying out to God, asking Him why. Why had He allowed them to reach that place?

Did He not see them? Was He deaf to their cries? Had He forgotten them?

Did He not care?

But what if, in fact, His attentive eye was zeroed in on them, in the middle of their darkness, as He shined His love and light through them?

That night, I shared the story of Joseph, a man who, from the very beginning had been given an incredible promise from God—that God would raise him, second to the youngest of twelve sons, to a place of leadership, where the rest of his family would “bow down” to him.

photo by Viktoria Hall-Waldhauser from Unsplash

If you’re familiar with this account, you know God had much more planned for Joseph than simply familial leadership. But first, Joseph went through some incredibly hard years facing struggles and humiliation that would, quite frankly, send me hiding in by bedroom with the blankets pulled up to my chin and a big ol’ bag of tootsie rolls within reach.

You can read his story in its entirety in Genesis 37-51, but to paraphrase, God allowed Joseph to be sold into slavery, dragged to a foreign land where he was stripped of all rights and forced to spend his every waking moment in service to another, and then thrown into prison. And at each step, he was given a choice: focus on himself and all he’d lost or perhaps all he “deserved,” (after all, he’d been called, personally, by Creator God!), or surrender and live, 100% in obedience to and for the glory of His Creator.

Because he chose the latter, he shined the light of God in the middle of some incredibly dark places.

I believe this was the battle God had called him to, and make no mistake, it was an intense, moment-by-moment battle! This was also the battle God called Timothy to, as he pastored that church, filled with false teaching and division, in Ephesus. And it’s a battle God calls each one of us to, as we stand against discontentment, selfish ambition, and greed—the very attitudes that had caused the false teachers in Ephesus to wreak such destruction (1 Tim. 1:6-7, 6:4-5).

And so, this brings our study full-circle with the reminder that it’s all about love. God’s kind of love. A love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and genuine faith.

We can fight many battles in any given day, but the battle that wars within is the most vital, because everything else stems from that. We are most effective when we are most yielded to God’s Spirit at work within and through us. He has a plan, a good, victorious plan, for tackling whatever battle is warring around us, and He may (or may not) use us to fight it.

But make no mistake; He’s the One who will do the fighting. He’s the One who will win the victory. Our role is quite simple—to surrender and obey. If we do anything else, we’ll merely be getting in His way.

For those who’ve been following the 1 Timothy Bible study, this weekend, I encourage you to take time review what you’ve learned in the previous weeks. Journal what God has shown you, and simply take time to rest at His feet. Make Romans 12:1 your prayer:

Dear Lord, in view of Your mercy, in view of all You’ve done for me, help me to offer my body—my time, my thoughts, my will; my whole self—to You, as a living sacrifice because of all You have done for me. May that be how I, daily, worship You.”

Pray this prayer often, and then wait and see what God does. Wait and see how He uses you to bring healing to the hurting, life to the dead, and sight to the blind.

What resonated most with you in today’s post? What inner battle do you tend to fight the most, and what can you do today to strengthen your connection with Christ–the One who has equipped and empowered us for victory? What are some ways you fight the battle against self-love?

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Perhaps it’s because I’m a child of the seventies (or a product of the 21st century), but I can be incredibly stubborn. I tend to think I’ve got all the answers, and when I don’t, I’d much prefer to figure them out myself. Though I’ve gotten better with age, when my husband and I were first married—whew! I was a feisty, opinionated thing who believed I knew, well, everything.

My poor husband! Needless to say, I didn’t take instruction well.

To make matters worse, I was quite literally a mess with zero understanding of what it took to run a household. Back then, we lived in a two-bedroom apartment in a small, railroad/ranching town in Western Nebraska. My husband worked for Union Pacific, and though I waitressed some and sold makeup in the mall, I largely “played house.”

I have no clue what I did with my time, other than watch an obscene amount of “Gilligan’s Island” and “I Love Lucy.” I certainly didn’t clean!

One day, my husband returned from work and I met him at the door with a large bowl filled with black water. “Look!” I said. “I dusted!” I was so proud of that filthy water, as if I’d done such a great thing that day in dusting our tiny home, not realizing the reason the water was so black was because it was the first time I’d dusted in … ever. And we’d been living there for six months.

Needless to say, I wasn’t rocking my role as a wife. So what’d my husband do? Did he follow me around, nagging?

Nope. He simply started picking up. He vacuumed, did the dishes, whatever needed to be done, and all without griping or complaining.

As he did, I watched and learned, a lot.

‘So this is how one manages a home,’ I thought. It sounds pretty ignorant, but there were so many things I hadn’t even considered. I was learning a new role, and with it, I needed to develop a new skill set—a new way of living.

In some ways, this was true for the Ephesians, too. They lived in an incredibly sinful city and many had probably come straight out of paganism. Through Christ, God had given them a new heart and had changed their entire trajectory. Though some of them had probably been in the church for four or five years, they were still learning how to live for Christ.

Paul wanted Timothy to teach them, and in many ways to bring them back to the basics. And to show them with how he lived—in the words he spoke, in his faith, and in his purity—what it looked like to follow Christ. (1 Timothy 4:12-13).

 

Timothy was to be the Ephesians living example, just as Paul had been for Timothy and Jesus had been for the disciples. You may have heard the phrase: more is caught than taught. That’s not to say one shouldn’t actively teach, because Paul definitely wanted Timothy to do that, but if we want to have eternal impact, our actions must line up with our words. Otherwise I fear we’re simply making noise.

Let me close with this: Would you be able to say, with Paul, “Follow my example as I follow Christ”? If not, what needs to change so that you can more accurately represent Jesus? Share your thoughts here in the comments below or in our Facebook discussion page HERE.

If you’re following Maria and my online Bible study–for today’s Scripture reading, I’d like us to look at some of the ways Paul, Timothy’s mentor, set an example for other believers. Read 1 Corinthians 4 verses 1-5 and 14-21.

What stands out to you in these passages? In what ways is your life an example to others?

Before you go, I have fun news! My latest release is free (Kindle version) for a limited time! You can get it HERE!

You can read a short excerpt HERE!

If you missed Maria’s post on Tuesday, which introduced this week’s theme, you can read it HERE!

Speaking of Bible studies, for those who in the Omaha Metro, I wanted to invite you to King of Kings Bible study fall kick off on Sept. 12th. I’ll be speaking on finding rest and nourishment in Christ, no matter how busy and crazy our schedules are. You can find out more HERE.

 

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You know those people who absolutely love running? Who can’t wait to lace up their shoes, hit the pavement, and usher forth that endorphin-saturated runner’s high?

That’s not me. I’m more of the cringe inwardly and outwardly type of gals who fights an internal battle every time I go for a jog. In fact, there are many times, if left on my own, I’ll, quite logically, talk myself out of going and into remaining in my PJs on the couch.

Running hurts. It’s hard. It takes time. It makes me sweat and distracts me from the truly important things like scrubbing floors and toilets.

At least, that’s what my comfort zone tries to tell me. But I’ve found, if I put off the physical training for any length of time, it isn’t long before I grow weak and lethargic and my days become marked by fatigue.

Let me explain. In 2011-2012, I got sick, had extreme difficulty digesting, and dropped a ton of weight. Nerve pain soon followed along with a second diagnosis—fibromyalgia. This chronic pain condition is hard to explain to those who don’t have it, but it’s much like having a body-wide toothache accompanied by muscle cramps. Basically, the nerve signals go haywire, acting as if someone turned on an electrical switch then walked away.

Running can, and often does, trigger a pretty intense pain response. There are times, many, when I’m literally brought to tears. There are times when, as I’m lacing up my shoes and thinking of the pain I’ll likely experience, I grow anxious and sick to my stomach.

So why do I do it? Why do I continue to subject myself to such torture?

Because I know that hour of pain is temporary but the benefits of pushing through last a lifetime. It’s about quality of life for me.

The same is true in regard to spiritual training. We tend to balk at the word “discipline,” because let’s face it, practicing godliness is hard. It takes conscious thought, continual practice, and determination. It’s so much easier to give in to our emotions and desires. To get swept up in godless chatter and meaningless speculations (1 Tim. 4:7, 1 Tim. 1:4), in gossiping and venting (1 Tim. 3:11), in feeding my pride and self-love (1 Tim. 2:9-10) instead of living as God desires.

And yet, we know where those behaviors lead; they aren’t pretty or effective. Rather, they’re destructive. They cause disunity, distrust, quarrels and fights, scheming, jealousy, and places us in direct opposition to God. (James 4).

Learning and practicing obedience, on the other hand, brings unity, peace, increased love, and a deeper fellowship with Christ. (John 15:14) The more we respond obediently to Christ, the more sensitive we become to His leading, and our godliness grows. The more we ignore Him or rebel against Him, the more hardened our hearts and more dulled our consciences become.

Training isn’t easy. Many times, we’ll have to say no to something pleasant in the moment, perhaps sleeping in, to say yes to something we know will help us long term, like developing a morning quiet time. But training is good. Healthy. Important. It helps protect us from deception and strengthens us to live godly, Christ-centered lives—lives filled with love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and a genuine faith (1 Tim. 1:5).

Ultimately, this training is a process of learning to die to ourselves, moment by moment, so that God can live and love others through us. It’s a journey of moving past self-love in order to display agape love, because, as Jesus said in Matthew 22:37-40, this forms the foundation of the entire Old Testament (which, back then, made up the complete Bible).

Spiritual training involves practicing disciplines like reading our Bibles daily, praying, fasting, taking time for silence and meditating on Christ and His word, meeting with other believers, serving others, and worshiping God through words and song. Which of these can you practice this week in order to grow stronger spiritually and closer to Christ?

Share your thoughts in the comments below or join the discussion in our Bible study Facebook group. For those following along with the 1 Timothy study, today’s suggested Bible reading is Matthew 22:37-40, Romans 12.

You might also enjoy:

Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So often, we discover the blessing through obedience.

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

“This isn’t for you.”

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

“Follow the Fruit.”

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

But what did all this mean?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Start date: July 11th.

Posting dates and topics:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Some of my most precious moments have also been my hardest, because it was then that I felt God’s love and embrace most strongly. When, curled into the corner of the couch, Bible opened on my lap, and He spoke tenderly to me, words of encouragement, of strength, of blessing–of victory. In so many ways, on countless days, God has shown me what my sweet friend Shannon expresses through her inspiring post this morning.

But first, I wanted to share some things I’ve discovered about Shannon. First and foremost, she loves Jesus with every fiber of her being. She and I have been critique partners for a few years now, and I’ve learned so much, on a spiritual level, simply by interacting with her. I’ve been blessed by her continual encouragement and selflessness, by her frequent prayers, and her perseverance to do all she can to show the love, power, and truth of the gospel.

This sweet woman continually gives of herself. It’s not surprising to me, then, that there are times she feels depleted. In the following devotion, she shares how she replenishes. Or should I say, how God replenishes her.

Be blessed.

He is Enough

by Shannon Taylor Vannatter

So I was low in spirit. On the verge of getting our taxes done for the year, I was terrified of what we might owe. Add to that, a church issue everyone is ignoring. A deadline. A leaky roof. A dead air conditioner.

I’d taken the day off from a church yardsale–fundraiser for Samaritan’s purse–to attend a writers meeting. I was feeling guilty about it even though I’d helped organize the sale and worked it the day before.

Though I was interested in the topic being taught that day, I made a point to go because writer’s meetings always inspire me and lift my spirits. A room full of like-minded believers uplifting Jesus with their words. What could be better?

On the way to the meeting, I had my favorite Christian radio station turned on. Cue the music—the right song at the right time. From an old BarlowGirl favorite, “Never Alone”:

(Listen to it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x8QubLxJI54)

In it, they sing about crying out for God and not receiving a reply, of not being able to feel God by their side and choosing, in that moment, to hold on to what they know to be true–that God is always there.

And boom, God reminded me that I’m never alone.

I’ve always loved music and songs often touch my soul. For the rest of the drive, I played my favorite Todd Agnew CD I keep in the car. My favorite, Martyr’s Song:

You can listen to it here:

I don’t pretend to be a martyr, and none of my troubles measure up to a tiny iota martyrs have faced. But living in this world often makes me feel like one and I never listen to that song without getting teary-eyed.

By the time I got to the meeting, my spirit was soaring. And it only got better as the day progressed. My writer friends made me laugh, helped me remember why I write, and reminded me to count my blessings.

My much-needed private church service concluded on the drive home listening to Agnew’s, I Need No Other Argument:

You can listen to it here:

What do you do when your spirits need a boost? Do you have a favorite song that reminds you of what is important?

Shannon Taylor Vannatter is a stay-at-home mom/pastor’s wife/award winning author. She once climbed a mountain wearing gold wedge-heeled sandals which became known as her hiking boots. Shannon writes inspirational contemporary romance and it took her nine years to get published in the traditional market.

She hopes to entertain Christian women and plant seeds in the non-believer’s heart as her characters struggle with real-life issues. Their journeys, from ordinary lives to extraordinary romance through Christ-centered relationships, demonstrate that love doesn’t conquer all—Jesus does. In her spare time, she loves hanging out with her family, flea marketing, and doing craft projects.

Visit her online at her website, on her blog, connect with her on Facebook and Goodreads, and follow her on Pinterest and Twitter.

Winning Over the Cowboy:

The Rancher Stakes His Claim 

When she inherits half a dude ranch after losing her best friend, Landry Malone is determined to see Eden’s legacy flourish. That is if her friend’s broad-shouldered cowboy brother will give her the chance. Chase Donovan isn’t happy that his sister left their family business to an outsider—and he’s determined to test Landry’s mettle, hoping she’ll give up her claim. Soon Chase is impressed by Landry’s ability to rise to every challenge he puts in her way—and worried that his attraction to the perky spitfire seems to know no end. Finally working together to ensure the ranch’s future, will their business partnership be the foundation for something more?

Share your thoughts, examples, and experiences with us. Can you remember a time when you were feeling down about something and you sensed God speaking to you? When do you tend to feel closest to God? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, because we can all encourage one another!

 

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jrlkfafz-4e-elijah-hendersonWe all have struggles. Challenges we must face, uncertainties we must embrace. And sometimes, in the pressing forward and the waiting, it can feel as if God isn’t listening. And in the silence, we may be tempted to think He doesn’t care. But as my guest shares in the following post, He does, and He’s given us marching orders in the middle of the tough. Or should I say, resting orders … 

Waiting Well by Dr. Leslie Parker Umstattd

Over the past two years I have been sick. You wouldn’t know it to look at me on most days. Most days I’m up before my kids, getting lunches fixed, working, and going about my daily life. I may look a little tired but most people don’t notice. If you asked me, I’d say “I’m fine” because to tell you what has transpired over the last two years would be too much for a five-minute conversation.

There are days when I simply wanted to feel better, and in my mind I wasn’t asking for much. I’d cry out to God wondering why in the world this was happening but it felt like He was deaf to my tears, my suffering, and even my anger. I was frustrated at myself for getting sick and God for not taking it away. I read, I prayed, others prayed, and still nothing. Then finally, His answer–Wait!

I didn’t get there overnight and some days I don’t rest here but for today, I can rest well knowing that God is bigger than whatever is wrong with me and whatever my diagnosis turns out to be.

So waiting well sounds good, but how? How do I wait well when I feel lousy and I’m having a bad day? How do I wait well when I become frustrated at insurance and uncaring doctors? How do I wait well when it seems my cries to God for relief from the pain or just an answer seems to go unanswered? How do I wait well when I know that God could heal me if He wanted to but doesn’t?

I don’t claim to have all the answers but I can share five things God has taught me thus far. Waiting well isn’t easy but it is something that God calls us to do, just ask Abraham or Noah, maybe Esther or David, or even Jesus. All of these people had to wait on God’s plan to unfold.

lesliequoteone1) Realize it’s okay to question and get angry—just don’t stay there! Sometimes this is hard because there’s a very real struggle in keeping perspective when you are lonely, exhausted, in pain, or generally depressed. The emotions of the moment take over and judgement is clouded. Remembering the truth of what I know doesn’t negate my feelings but it tempers them long enough for me to gain perspective. The only real truth I know is God’s Word which leads me to number two.

2) Your lifeline as a believer is the Word of God. It is the only true and righteous place to find comfort and peace in times of wondering, wandering, and waiting. Scripture doesn’t always have specifics for every situation but it does have guiding principles for all situations. I know what God’s word says about waiting on Him. This is nourishment for an emaciated soul that doesn’t understand or needs to be quiet in times of chaos or simply needs direction in times of waiting.

3) Don’t be afraid to ask for help. As believers we are a community and there are brothers and sisters in Christ who desire to minister to you. Don’t steal that blessing. (P.S. I fail at this often!) There are others who are walking in this life with you and desire to be a part of what is going on in your life. Pick and choose wisely who these people are going to be for you. Believers whom you trust can serve you well in your wait. Whatever we are waiting on, someone has walked this road before and it is easy to forget that in the moment.

4) Keep doing! -don’t allow whatever you’re waiting for to stagnant your ministry or your life. God has created you for lesliesquote2something, allow Him to keep working in your waiting. Whether you are waiting on a diagnosis, a spouse, or a different pay check God is fully aware. Situations don’t determine your usefulness to God. He can use you, just the way you are-just where you are. With that said, a new season or situation brings about opportunity and sometimes in ways you never expected.

The last thing for me is sometimes the hardest, next to asking for help.

5) Keep an eternal perspective. Romans 8:28. “All things work together for the good of those who love the Lord.” This is our hope that there is more than just the waiting. God is ALWAYS doing something. Keep in mind it may not be what you expected or even what you wanted but He is doing something in your or in someone else that is watching you.

Be reminded and encouraged He is faithful even in the waiting, allow Him to work and move, and don’t allow what you are waiting on to steal your first love. In your moments of waiting, take heart that God has never left you there.

***

16523735_10154246558168093_1704661183_oDr. Leslie Umstattd was born and raised in Alabama with her high school years being spent in Fairfax, VA. She graduated from the University of Alabama with a business degree. While there, God called her into full time ministry so she moved to Texas to go to seminary after graduation. She graduated from Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth with my Masters in Religious Education and Marriage and Family Counseling and also met her husband there. They’ve been married for fifteen years and have two beautiful daughters, Ashtin is 13 and Jordan is 10.

After graduation from seminary, she worked in the public and private school sector as an elementary teacher until she moved to Kansas City. After moving to Kansas City, she completed my DEdMin at Midwestern Seminary. She’s been teaching and doing online development work for Midwestern for several years and serves at her local church on staff as the Children’s Ministry Director and heading up their women’s ministry. A couple of times a month she guest writes for a women’s devotional blog, Gracefully Truthful.

Let’s talk about this! Are you in a time of waiting? If so, which of Leslie’s suggestions resonated with you most? If you’ve livingbygracepic-jpcome through a time of waiting, do you have any advice to share with others who might be in a tough and uncertain season? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook, because we can all encourage and learn from each other.

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johnstudy1

Do you ever feel like God is calling you to do things that guarantee you to a life of obscurity? Financial struggle? Does it feel like His call–to die to yourself, to do what’s right whenever everyone else is conniving to get ahead–places you at a disadvantage?

Many of us know intellectually that God’s way is best and that serving Him in whatever capacity truly will be the most fulfilling thing we could ever do, so what keeps us from resting in that?

profileTempted: When the World Fights Against Your Purpose

Julie Arduini

I’m so thankful to be part of Jennifer Slattery’s study on John the Baptist. He’s an inspiring person to me because he had a pioneer spirit, something I can relate to. When I’ve been mentored, the Biblical example given to me was John the Baptist. The hard part? He was beheaded.

His death wasn’t fair. Not the manner in which it was executed, not the frivolous way it was ordered. But his life exemplified what the royal court couldn’t comprehend—he stood strong against temptation and stayed obedient to the call on his life.

That encourages me. As an author and speaker passionate about encouraging others to find freedom through surrender in Christ, the world’s chaos sometimes overwhelms me . Most of my work is through writing, and I create contemporary romances so readers can find hope and encouragement in their reading. I enjoy putting flawed characters together and, through surrender and faith in Christ, transform them.

This year I took an even bigger step of faith and created my own imprint. I re-published my first contemporary romance, ENTRUSTED, and published the sequel, ENTANGLED. I poured 16 hour days into formatting, creating book covers, and watching videos to learn everything. I made myself sick from not drinking enough nor sleeping well. When the books released, I had such a sense of accomplishment.

Then the temptation kicked in.

After the books were active on Amazon, I needed to continue to promote them. As I did, I noticed that other romances, the kind that mirrored Fifty Shades of Grey that would turn me 100 shades of red, got a lot of attention.

traffic-sign-416439_1920And sales.

I can’t even look at the covers but I’d see the hundreds of stars next to reviews or the bestseller status. Me? I’m trying to get readers to know my work exists, let alone have anyone buy enough to make any splash in the world as an author.

Slowly, the sneaky thoughts dropped in.

All the attention is on ero*-ick!-a.

Who cares about clean romances with a message of hope?

Do you know how piddly your royalties are compared to the others?

You could write under a false name and no one will know.

I’d love to tell you that I immediately cast those thoughts away in the name of my Best Friend, but no, I entertained them. I thought about money I’m not making against time I’ve spent. It didn’t seem fair when the “other” writers were doing so well.

That’s when it hit me.

John the Baptist lived in the wilderness, physically and spiritually. He didn’t cater to anyone. He let Herod know his marriage to Herodias was wrong because she was basically his sister-in-law. Telling the truth, doing the right thing, was his death sentence.

And his legacy.

I resolved to do the same. The moment I confessed my tempting thoughts to Jesus and focused on staying true to God’s call, I had peace. Did everything change? Not quickly. My royalties are still small, especially against time spent. But I’m starting to see favor. People are starting to find me that aren’t related or friends. They are leaving reviews, strong ones that speak louder than any promoting I could do.

John the Baptist was a strange man by the world’s standards, but he was obedient to the end. This pioneer is encouraged by his testimony. I hope you are, too.

***

Julie Arduini loves to encourage readers to surrender the good, the bad, and —maybe one day—the chocolate. She’s the author of the re-release, ENTRUSTED: Surrendering the Present, as well as the sequel, ENTANGLED: Surrendering the Past. She also shared her story in the infertility devotional, A WALK IN THE VALLEY. She blogs every other Wednesday for Christians Read. She resides in Ohio with her husband and two children. Learn more by visiting her at http://juliearduini.com, where she invites readers to subscribe to her monthly newsletter full of resources and giveaway opportunities at JULIE ARDUINI: SURRENDER ISSUES AND CHOCOLATE and the weekly e mail. SUNDAY’S SURRENDER AND CHOCOLATE. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Instragram, and follow her on Amazon.

entangled2_editedEntangledSurrendering the Past

Book #2, Surrendering Time Series

“You need to leave me alone. It’s the least you can do.”

Carla Rowling has been given her dream of attending cosmetology school. The gift is so generous she feels unworthy because of choices she made as a teen. The pressure mounts as Carla juggles school, is a single mom, helps her best friend Jenna plan her wedding, spends time with boyfriend Will Marshall, and deals with the fact that her son’s father is back in their lives.

Will Marshall is the one Speculator Falls resident everyone can count on. His truck deliveries are reliable. He’s the first to help friends like Ben Regan with boat work or be a card partner with Bart Davis. Will’s ready to settle down with Carla, loving her is natural. He’s bonded with her son, Noah. But when Carla starts cosmetology school, she puts emotional distance between her and Will.

Can Carla release her past and create a future full of highlights, or, will she burn her options worse than a bad perm?

Buy it HERE. Buy book one HERE

 

 

Let’s talk about this. We all have a purpose, a role God has assigned specifically for us–one we are uniquely able to fulfill. From the time we are born until the time He takes us home, He is lovingly and patiently molding and equipping us to fulfill that role. But in our comparison-based and social-media saturated culture, it’s easy to allow the noise all around us obscure or even devalue our purpose. When that happens, we can begin to feel defeated and insignificant.

It’s really a matter of focus. When defining ourselves, evaluating our to-do lists and accomplishments, and prioritizing our time, who will we listen to, our rapidly imploding culture or that gentle yet steady voice of our Savior that guides us toward His very best.

The choice is ours.

At Wholly Loved Ministries, we want to help you zero in on God’s voice and learn to clearly discern His will, because we know none of us will find fulfillment until we are doing that which we were created to do. Join us for one of our upcoming conferences.

livingbygracepic-jpLet’s talk about this! I think we all face struggles similar to what Julie expressed. I have to believe John did for sure. He was an amazing man of God, but he was also human. What do you think helped him to remain so steadfast to his calling? Have you felt God call you to something difficult, and if so, how did you respond? What do you think we can do, in the day-to-day, to tune out all the cultural noise and stifle our tendency to compare ourselves and our lives with one another so we can focus fully on God’s will for us?Share your thoughts in the comments below, at Living by Grace on Facebook, or in our online For the Love Bible study, because we can all learn from and encourage one another.

 

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