Discovering Who God Created Us to Be

Woman in hat smiling

Our purpose, infused into our hearts before we took our first breath, is universal and will never change–to know God and make Him known. How we express that purpose, however, is unique to all of us. We’ll never truly feel fulfilled until we discover and live out who Christ created us to be. My guest today, author and blogger Robin E. Mason, shares how this has proven true in her life.

What’s in Your Heart

By Robin E. Mason

“What’s wrong with me?”

I asked God that question more than twenty years ago. I had no sense of purpose or identity.

“Sit down.” I could imagine Him answering me. “This is going to take a while.”

And it did. An emotionally excruciating and physically exhausting three years of counseling. I “happened” to choose that spring to work in the yard. And as I dug up rocks to make way for daisies, I felt like the same thing was happening in my soul; God was digging and uprooting years and layers of lies that had burrowed deep in my heart.

Years, a lifetime really, of hearing “You could have done better,” had translated into nothing I did was good enough. The most staggering statement was, “You’re nothing but a failure.” Even though I knew better intellectually, it didn’t even faze me; it was the summation of what I had accepted all my life.

I grew up believing the Bible was absolute Truth. The Bible says I’m to have an “abundant” life. But mine didn’t fit that at all. I suffered depression, worked at jobs that didn’t satisfy me. Believing lies will do that. And no matter how hard I fought to be “better,” I never was.

I was a single mom and I worked to provide for my children. I did what I had to do. The problem was fighting to measure up to someone else’s standard for me, and not Father God’s design.

In a particular counseling session, my pastor held his hands out, cupped as though he held a grapefruit in each. One hand, he said, was Bible Truth. In the other were the lies I had believed. He put one hand on top of the other; the lies say this. Then he switched hands. But the Bible says. He repeated this a few times, and it registered in my broken mind. That was twenty-three years ago.

Long before I asked that fateful question, Father God had been laying groundwork to bring me to that point of recognizing the disparity between my life and His plan. And I’ve watched in the years since then as He unfolds one mercy after another—so that I like myself now, and I can say without vanity that I’m a pretty cool gal! And fun to be around!

Which brings me to my writing. Stories have always been in my head. But I was pushed in other directions, pressure to be something I’m not—someone else’s ideal of success. The stories were there; I just didn’t know I was meant to write them. But as I was struggling through the anguish of counseling I began writing—almost as a Divine form of therapy.

And for all I’ve put my hands to over the years—the temp assignments, jobs that were just awful, so many I’ve lost count—nothing has “fit” like my writing. Once I got swept up in that first storyline, I knew. This was, and is, and has always been, that desire of my heart. The words. They speak to me. They reach into me. Whether fiction or His Word.

What’s in my heart? Stories that speak to the sense of identity. Stories that help others know who they are, and to embrace and live in that knowledge. Stories that reach into the heart of others, who, like me, don’t know and aren’t living the life God intended.

Take a look inside your heart. What secret dreams are hidden in your there? How can you begin the journey to live in the fullness of Father God’s plan and purpose for you?

Get to Know Robin!

Robin's author photoMs. Mason writes stories of identity conflict. Her characters encounter situations that force the question, “Who am I really?” For all who have ever wondered who you are or why you’re here, her stories will touch you in a very real—maybe too real—and a very deep way. “I know, I write from experience.”

Ms. Mason has seven novels, Tessa, Clara Bess, and Cissy, in the unsavory heritage series, and The Long Shadows of Summer, The Tilting Leaves of Autumn, The Silent Song of Winter, and The Whispering Winds of Spring in her Seasons series. All of Ms. Mason’s books are available on Amazon, both for Kindle and in print. She also has several poems included in an anthology, Where Dreams and Visions Live (Anthologies of the Heart Book 1) by Mary Blowers, as well as a short story, Sarafina’s Light, also in an anthology, Blood Moon, compiled by Mary Blowers. She is working on a on One for the Price of Two, the first story in her new series, FourSquare, to release next year.

Visit her online HERE.

Check out her new cover of her debut novel, Tessa:

When you pretend to be something you’re not, it always finds you out.

One mother. Two daughters. One favorite. One not.

When Cassie Barclay is presented with an opportunity – or is it a curse – she jumpsCover image for Tessa at the chance. She takes on a new life, her sister’s life, and although at first, it holds appeal and promise, she soon realizes sometimes the fairy tale is tainted.

The Power of a Life Lived Well

Quote with background image of a strong woman

When all the violence, uncertainty, and hatred in the world bombards me, I have to remind myself I’m much more than a hopeless bystander. I possess great power—the power to impact lives, perhaps even entire communities, for good.

Do you remember the Saved by the Bell Days? When cartoons weren’t filled with sexual innuendo? When school shootings didn’t occur daily and parents’ concerns centered on their child’s grades and not whether they’d make it home alive.

Increasingly, this is the environment we live in, that my daughter is growing up in, and watching it all unfold, I can easily become paralyzed. I can believe the lie that our world is beyond hope and my choices don’t matter, not in the overall scheme of things.

But then I read about King Josiah, a young man who, upon discovering God’s forgotten law during a time of rampant and widespread idolatry, instituted complete and instant reform. (2 Kings 23:1-20) He burned altars erected for the Amorite and Moabite gods, annihilated pagan priests, and initiated a widespread return to godly living.

This took courage, perseverance, passion, and conviction—the kind that motivates one from merely seeing a problem to actually taking steps toward solving it.

Granted, as king, Josiah had much more power and influence than you and I, but no matter where we live or whom we encounter, we still have influence—and the power of the risen Savior residing within. So, in that sense, we actually have more power than an earthly, albeit godly, ancient king.

We know this intellectually, but I think sometimes we forget, or maybe we think, because we don’t always see the impact of our actions, that they have little effect. But God’s word says differently. Scripture promises every time I tear down idols in my heart and set it firmly on the things of God, more of the Holy Spirit’s power is unleashed in me. Whenever I choose love over hate, sacrifice and generosity over selfishness, and obedience over rebellion, God’s glory is revealed in me.

Through obedience, my life shines like a bright light or star in a culture of darkness, hatred, and pain. quote image with candles in the dark(Phil. 2:15) We likely will never physically tear down idols and pagan altars, like Josiah did, but each day, as we live for Jesus, our actions are tearing down strongholds. With each kind act offered, word of truth spoken, and life touched, we’re sending out ripples of hope and life that miraculously extend beyond us, our neighborhood, and even our generation.

Never underestimate the power of a life lived well.

Why Spiritual Training is Necessary

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.

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Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life

What’s Your Motivation?

It’s a word we use often, a phrase I myself have uttered countless times. It’s occupied songs and prayers for generations, but do we truly understand what it means to “confess Jesus as Lord” (Romans 10:9)? More importantly, do we live that out? Today, Alexis uses one of my loves–storyworld–to show us how to live under Christ’s Lordship.

What’s Your Motivation?

 by Alexis A. Goring

 When actors are working on a movie, they always ask the director, “What’s my character’s motivation?” or “What does my character want in this scene?”

Allow me to clarify and explain: The actor is not asking for their motivation as an actor, they’re asking for the motivation of the character that they are portraying. The actor needs to know their fictional character’s motivation in order to properly act it out. Their motivation determines how the character would act.

Therefore, when an actor knows this information, it determines how the actor will portray the character.

Actress Jenn Gotzon said, “Motivation is why a character does something. Why a character makes choices, why a character feels certain ways about other people.”
As a Christian fiction writer, I’ve learned the importance of determining the emotional, physical, and spiritual goal/motivation/conflict (GMC) of my fictional characters before starting the story because for me as a writer, knowing these details helps me to not only deeply understand my characters but it determines how I write the story.

When I know my character’s motivation in their fictional life then I know why they have certain goals and I know what kind of conflict is needed to make their journey interesting and worthwhile. Knowing my characters’ GMC makes the story. It helps me to guide their every step because I know what they are moving toward, and as the creator of the story, I know the best route for them to take in order to reach their destination in “the end.”

Recently, I was thinking about this and I realized there is a parallel to real life in all of this because God is our Creator, this world is His creation, and He is the Director of this movie called Life. Famous or not, we ALL have a part to play in this movie and nobody can portray our character better than we can because God created us to be unique.

As our Divine Director, God already knows our deepest desires and He is well aware of our motivation. But unlike most movies, we are not bound to a script. It’s up to us to determine our motivation.

Are we just here to have a crazy fun time and do all these bad things that are against God’s desires for us to live a righteous life? Or is our motivation to “do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with our God” as God advised in Micah 6:8?

So the choice is yours. You’re a star in this movie called Life. What’s your motivation?

***

Let’s talk about this!

I loved Alexis’s film and story analogy, and it reiterated what I’d been studying in my morning Bible reading time. Lord, kurios in the Greek, means master and indicates “a person exercising absolute ownership rights” and “he to whom a person or thing belongs, about which he has the power of deciding” (Thayer’s Greek Lexicon)

Ownership rights. The power of deciding–how my life will go, how I’ll spend my time, what I’ll pursue and relinquish. I say I’ve made Christ my Lord, but as I consider Alexis’s devotion in light of what this truly means, I must wrestle with this–have I truly given Christ lordship over my life and my agenda?

Have you? What area are you withholding? Ask God to give you the courage, faith, and strength to surrender that area to Him. Because honestly, He’ll manage it must better than you (or I) will or can. Share your thoughts here or on Facebook at Living by Grace, because we can all learn from and encourage one another!

***

Alexis A. Goring is a passionate writer with a degree in Print Journalism and an MFA in Creative Writing. She loves the art of storytelling and hopes that her stories will connect readers with the enduring, forever love of Jesus Christ. 

Visit her on  Facebook, her website, or her blog. Follow her on TwitterPinterest, and Goodreads

I also encourage you to check out her latest release, A Second Chance:

Newly single food critic and newspaper reporter Traci Hightower is done with dating. After the man of her dreams left her at the altar on their wedding day and ran off with the woman she thought was her best friend, Traci resolves to focus on work and resigns herself to being a bachelorette for life.


Marc Roberts is a political reporter who is known as Mr. Nice Guy, the one who always finishes last. However, Marc’s compassion and kindness are of invaluable help to his newly widowed sister Gina Braxton who is trying to raise her two kids in the wake of her firefighter husband’s death.

Traci and Marc may be the perfect match, but they don’t know it yet. With God’s guidance and the help of Gina’s matchmaking skills honed by her career as a bestselling romance novelist, there is hope for a happily ever after for these two broken hearts.

Waiting Well

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.

Staying True to Your Purpose

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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.

 

For the Love — an Online Bible Study

JohnStudy1When a biblical character hits me, stays with me for months, and fills me with questions that draw me, daily, deeper into Scripture, I’ve learned to take notice. And to hit my knees, because often, God is about to do something.

This happened six or seven years ago, when I became fascinated with Joseph (from Genesis), and I had a quiet yet steady niggling–hold tight. You’re about to be trained.

I soon realized how true that was as, for the next few years, God hit me with challenge after challenge. Not exactly fun times but oh, so necessary.

Fast forward a few–or seven–years, and a character flaw became more and more apparent–a selfishness, or perhaps self-obsession, had begun to rise. So I prayed for God to help me close my ears to accolades and expectations, turn my heart from sales numbers and worldly success, and to daily offer myself on the alter (Romans 12:1-2) so that Christ might shine, unhindered, through me.

Around this time, I visited a friend’s church–just once, mind you, rather coincidentally, or so one might think. As I sat there, rather distracted by my tumbling thoughts, one word caught my attention: deflect.

Deflect, spoken in reference to John the Baptist, a man whose life exemplified his famous quote, “He must become greater; I must become less” (John 3:30 NIV).

A statement that is easy to make but oh so hard to live. Yet so very necessary, because Christ is worthy, amen? And His mission–the mission He’s assigned each of us–is worth cross-423157_1920it. So much is at stake. Everything we do or say creates an eternal impact. We’re either drawing others to Christ or pushing them further away. We’re either exemplifying what it means to love as He did or we’re consumed with self.

We’re either revealing God’s amazing grace or we’re distorting it.

You and I, we were created with purpose for a purpose; a glorious, eternal purpose. And yet, we’re still being created as God removes everything within us that gets in His way and sharpens and hones those things that further His kingdom.

That, my sweet brothers and sisters, is where this study comes in. Join me and some of my most cherished blogging friends for the next two and a half months as we take an indepth look at the life of John the Baptist. Not only will we be digging deep into Scripture and discussing how it applies to our lives today, but we’ll also be sharing some Bible study methods to enable you to glean God’s truth from your own reading.

You can join discussions here, and we also invite you to interact with one another on Facebook in our John Study Group.

You can begin this study by reading Luke 1:1-10 each day for the next week, jotting down every question and observation that comes to mind. Consider reading the passage in numerous Bible translations. Then bring your notes back here, next Thursday when we’ll discuss ways we, like John’s parents Elizabeth and Zechariah, can be faithful in the mundane. (Luke 1:1-7)

Then, on September 12th, join me on Christians Read where I’ll discuss making prayer a priority. (Luke 1:8-10)

Then, on the 13th, I’ll be on Faith, Friends, Chocolate expanding on the importance of prayer further and sharing how we can make our prayer time rich and meaning. (Luke 1:8-10)

On September 15th, the amazing and insightful Chaka Heinze will visit us here to talk about those times when we’re crying out to God but it feels as if He’s not listening. (Luke 1:5-7)

On the 19th, my dear friend Maria Morgan will discuss ways we can choose faith over doubt. (She’ll also be sharing some information about a wonderful Bible study she’s launching.)

On the 22nd, Susan Aken will talk about a painful time in her life when it felt as if she’d be waiting forever, and what happened when that waiting ended.

Finally (for the month of September), on the 29th, my guest Candee Fick will talk about how as parents and grandparents can raise children who deflect (live lives that point others to Christ).

That’s it for September.

I hope you’ll join us, because as iron sharpens iron (Proverbs 27:17), we can all learn from and teach one another.

livingbygracepic-jpLet’s talk about this. Can you relate to my steady tug? When has a biblical story or character fascinated you and resulted in an extended study? Did you find God used that person or story to teach or show you something? How about John that Baptist–have you spent much time studying his life? What intrigues or inspires you most about him? Share your thoughts here with us in the comments below or on Facebook at Living by Grace.

In the meantime, if you’re looking for a chuckle (at my expense), pop on over to Modern Day Mishaps to read how I almost became Trapped in Atlanta, and how God preemptively saved me from my scatterbrained mess.