Drawing Near to God

Picture of day planner and to-do listRelationships take work. The more effort and time we put in, the greater our emotional intimacy with our friend, spouse, and … God. Many of us know this, and yet, if you’re like me, you allow so many lesser things to crowd God out. I know intellectually, when I’m busiest, I need Christ most, and yet often that is when I tend to neglect Him in leu of my agenda or to-do list. In the middle of a busy conference season, my guest’s post today really resonated.

Come Near by Aliseea Cromer

“Come near to God and He will come near to you.” James 4:8, NIV

Relationships. We see them all around us. We all desire to create and grow relationships with others, maybe even to go walking up to a stranger with confidence, a warm smile, our hand out, as we share our name.

For some of you, introducing yourself to others might not have been as easy. Maybe you stood on the sidelines and watched others interact with one another and kept to yourself.

Maybe you’re shy.

Maybe you’ve been hurt in the past and have a hard time opening up to others.

It’s easy for some of us to create relationships while it is more challenging for the rest. But how are you doing with your relationship with God? Are you too caught up with friends and family or too closed off to turn to pursue Him? I’m not asking this with a pointed finger because I’ve been there—pushing off reading my Bible or allowing hurt to keep me from Him.

But our hearts need Jesus. He alone can heal, sustain, and fulfill us. He’s pursued us time and time again, but some of us have ignored Him and dismissed times we could’ve spent with Him.

“I’ll read my Bible later.”

“I have to get ready for work. I don’t have time for God now.”

“I need to clean the kitchen before I leave. I can’t do that and read my devotionals.”

I’ve come up with too many excuses as to why I can’t spend time with God, why it’s ok to put Him at the bottom of my list, stating that I’ll get there when I’ve got time.

Perhaps you’ve been there—entertaining reasons why you don’t need to deepen your relationship with God, why He would

Woman reading on her cell phone.

Image by rawpixel.com on Unsplash

much rather you do that thing than spend time reading Scripture.

We’re imperfect and sinful, more often focused on our agendas than the condition of our hearts. But here’s the amazing thing: we’re imperfect sinners saved by grace. Every day we get a new start to open our Bibles and spend time with Him. (“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23, NIV.) We need to begin with saying, “I’m going to spend time with God today. I’m not making any more excuses.” By doing this, we will be rewarded. Not in money, clothes, or beauty, but by growing closer to Him, which is the best reward we could receive. And as we continue spending time with Him, we’ll be more alert to His voice talking back to us.

Let’s talk about this! How are you going to start spending time with God today? What can you do that will make a difference in your walk with God? How can you come near to Him, knowing that He is, in that moment, drawing near to you?

Get to know Aliseea!

Aliseea P. Cromer's headshot

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Aliseea P. Cromer is a youth leader, teacher’s aide, aspiring author, and a firm believer in Christ. She was born and raised in a Christian home and came to know Christ when she was four.

It wasn’t until 2016 that Aliseea truly started to pursue her dream as an author. One of the first books she’s ever written, but never published, was a sci-fi/teen fiction genre about a young girl who was different than anyone else. It was through the time she was looking at getting her book published that the wise words of her mother and the conviction of the Holy Spirit that Aliseea should be using this gift to honor God through her books. After a year of seeking God’s direction, Aliseea wrote the story that’s been on her heart and is now praying for guidance as she looks for an agent to represent her. In the mean time, Aliseea continues to write, whether it’s on her blog or in her journal, to honor and praise God and point others back to Him.

Aliseea is currently in the process of editing her book and doesn’t have anything published. She is getting ready to launch her blog on May 5th, 2018 and prays that it will be used to encourage others.

Before you go, make sure to stop by WhollyLoved.com to catch a glimpse of Christa Cottam’s latest video devotion–focused on starting our day right by spending time with Jesus. That’s our focus all week–learning to abide. Because life is found in Christ alone! Connect with us on Facebook and follow us on Instagram for more encouragement on prioritizing Jesus.

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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

Choosing What Ball to Drop

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

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

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

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

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

So what is?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where? With His Father.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Growing in Love–a 1 Timothy Bible study

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!

Why is it, the moment we start to pray, our mind jumps to a thousand other things? Why does an hour in church service launch launch thoughts of our to-do list? These questions arose as I read my guest blogger’s post this morning. Fellow ACFW writer Sue Barr shares a comical yet thought-provoking analogy below, from a writer’s perspective. Enjoy, and happy Easter!

Spiritual Bunny Trails

By Sue Barr

Being that the Easter weekend is only a few days away, I thought I’d share a small story about bunnies. Plot Bunnies to be exact. Cute, fuzzy, totally adorable and can lead you down a merry path where you lose focus and ultimately don’t meet any of your goals. I know of which I speak.

Plot Bunny dropped a single line into my brain and then proceeded to hop around adding ideas, characters and exciting scenes. Soon I found myself scouring sites for character inspiration and the whole story consumed me. I lost a few days of precious writing time before the Lord gently reminded me of my current work in progress.

Ultimately, I believe I was allowed to run amok because God had a plan to link plot bunnies with the way we behave as children of God. Fitting, don’t you agree?

How often do we lose focus in our Christian lives? We become sidetracked by social activities within our church family as well as our blood families. Ever catch yourself thinking about where you’ll go for lunch after service when you should be praising God? Do you tune out the pastor as you quickly send/receive a text or peruse the church bulletin? Do you wonder if, or think about, or…the list is long.

Why is that?

In the big picture called Life, our loving Father asks very little of us and we sometimes struggle to spend a few precious minutes focusing on Him. The plot bunnies of life intrude and all they really do is take away our joy.

Then you will call upon Me and you will go and pray to Me and I shall heed you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with your heart. (Jeremiah 29:12-13 One New Man Bible)

What a promise.

God does not lie, and this is a promise we can cling to. We will call. We will pray. Ergo, we will focus, and He shall heed us.

This Friday is Good Friday, when we reflect on the ultimate sacrifice of Christ. He laid down His life so we could stand before our Holy Father blameless and forgiven. Let’s focus our attention on what is true. Cast aside those plot bunnies which threaten to sidetrack us and steal our joy. Give God the Glory, for the things He has done. I love that hymn.

***

Sue Barr is a wife, mom, grandmother and a Christian fiction writer. She’s a member of ACFW as well as Romance Writers of America and their satellite chapter, Faith, Hope and Love. She writes small town contemporary romance as well as Jane Austen Fan Fiction (JAFF).

Her latest release, Caroline, is first in the series Pride & Prejudice continued. Reviewers agree that although Caroline Bingley is a character we all love to hate, they reluctantly find themselves rooting for her throughout the book. Which is exactly why Sue penned this novel. God placed on her heart to write a story of redemptive love and healing of shattered dreams. Something He’s exceptionally good at.

Caroline:

Whatever happened to Caroline Bingley after her brother and unrequited love interest married a Bennet sister?

Caroline Bingley, beyond frustrated with her brother and Mr. Darcy both proposing to the Bennet sisters, dreads their upcoming nuptials. For three years her sole focus has been on attaining a marriage proposal from one Fitzwilliam Darcy of Pemberley, only to be foiled by a country miss with ‘fine eyes’. Adrift and not sure of her place in life, she meets the devastatingly handsome Lord Nathan, who equally vexes and intrigues her.

Lord Nathan Kerr, third in line to a Dukedom, had a well-earned reputation as a Rake. He cast all that and his noble title aside to become Mr. Darcy’s vicar in Kympton, finding contentment in leading his small flock and doing the Lord’s work. His plan for a quiet, country life is thrown into upheaval when he meets the fiery Miss Bingley. Can he reconcile his rising desire for the spoiled miss with how a vicar’s wife ‘should’ behave?

Buy the book HERE.

Visit Sue on her website and blog, connect with her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.

You might also enjoy:

Taming ADD Prayers

Grabbing Hold of God Moments

And for those who like to follow the devotions on Wholly Loved, this week guest blogger Eileen Rife shared how we can find peace and fulfillment when our life-roles shift. You can read that HERE. (If you’d like Wholly Loved to come to you, email us at contact(at)whollyloved(dot)com, and visit our website to learn more.

 

 

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.

 

Obedience in the Mundane

Have you ever felt invisible? Wondered if anyone would notice, should you stop doing whatever it is you’re doing, day JohnStudy1in and day out?

When our daughter was younger, I often wondered what would happen if I didn’t make the bed–after all, it’d only get messed up again. Or what if I left the laundry and dishes untouched.

There were times, many, when the tedium of the day wore me down and left me feeling … insignificant.

They say integrity is doing what you know is right when no one is watching.

Except, Someone is always watching, right? Psalm 139 tells us God is attentive to our every move. He knows every detail of our lives and every thought that flits through our brain. More than that, He takes great delight in us.

Psalm 37:23 says, “The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the Lord upholds them by the hand” (NLT, emphasis mine).

Pause to consider that verse for a moment. The Lord delights in every detail of our lives–when we’re doing something grand and exciting and when we’re folding towels for the umpteenth time. Perhaps because He knows our character, that part of us He’s continually molding, is grown in the big and the small.

I don’t know about you, but I want to be a woman of integrity.

I want to be known for my character and obedience. I want God to look down on me, when I’m elbow deep in dishwater, and smile, and I want to do it all–everything–for Him and His glory.

For obedience sake.

These emotions and thoughts were triggered as I read Luke 1:5-7. Elizabeth and Zechariah, an old and childless couple, were known for being righteous and carefully obeying God’s commands and regulations. When we read this passage, it’s easy to skip over that, probably because we know the end of the story. They were faithful, and God rewarded them with something they’d deeply longed for–a child. Not just a child, but the one birthed to proclaim the coming of Christ.

Wow. Pretty awesome, right?

But let’s step back. Back to when, still childless and likely unnoticed, John’s parents lived obediently. Scripture tells us Zechariah was a Jewish priest, and as such, his responsibilities were to maintain the workings in the temple, instruct the people, and on occasion, if the lot cast landed on him, to enter the Holy Place of the Tabernacle to burn incense on the altar of incense.

I’m not a statistician, but it seems likely he could go his entire life and never, not once, receive this honor. He was one of 20,000 priests! Though Scripture doesn’t tell us, I think it’s safe to assume there were times he felt unseen and wondered if what he did mattered. After all, should he simply cease performing his duties, there were 19,999 other men ready and able to take his place, many of which likely had children.twins-1628843_1920

Let me explain the significance of that for a moment. In Bible times, children were seen as a blessing from God; barrenness was seen as a curse. Meaning, Elizabeth and Zechariah were likely judged for their infertility. The common assumption of their day–They’d likely done something wrong or had displeased God in some way, and that was the reason they were barren.

In other words, Elizabeth and Zechariah served God faithfully in the midst of their sorrow. Despite the fact that He hadn’t granted them the one thing they likely longed for above all else.

That’s integrity.

They obeyed in the mundane, in the hard and painful, simply because it was the right thing to do.

They obeyed because they knew God is worthy, amen? colossians-verse

This leads me to this week’s memory verse: “Whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father” (Col. 3:17 NLT).

romans12-1-verseThere’s a verse I love, and one I pray often: “And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all He has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice–the kind He will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship Him” (Romans 12:1 NLT).

In view of all God has done for us, in view of Christ’s sacrificial death so we might live, may we offer our whole bodies–all we are. Our time, our gifts, our words, our thoughts–to Christ, as a living sacrifice.

Sometimes life is a sacrifice, right? Obedience isn’t always easy or glamorous. But that is “truly the way to worship [God].” Or to put it another way, every time we scrub toilets, mop floors, wipe snotty noses, or answer phones, if we’re doing it in obedience to Christ, we’re worshiping Him.

Isn’t that cool?

For further discussion, I invite you to join Cynthia Simmons and I for a video discussion on today’s passage.


livingbygracepic-jpLet’s talk about this!

What were your thoughts as you read today’s focal passage? Is there an area in your life or something you do that feels insignificant? How does it feel knowing God is watching you every time you engage in that activity? How does it feel knowing that thing, whatever it is, can be an act of worship?

Did you have any other insights to share?

For those wanting to learn how to dig deeper into Scripture, join me in our Facebook group where we’ll be talking about reading biblical passages in light of their historical context. We’ll also touch a little on what I encouraged you to do last week–jot down observations and any questions you might have.

Before I go, I wanted to share information on a complimentary study that was recently launched by a dear friend:

How do we win the battle against selfishness? Outrageously Fruitful is an 11-week online Bible study that explores the characteristics the Spirit longs to develop within us. Traits like: love, joy, peace, and goodness. Let go and let God make your life outrageously fruitful! For more information and to register: http://www.mariaimorgan.com/its-time-bible-study

Other articles and videos you might find helpful:

Meaning in the Mundane

In Absence of Integrity

The Invisible Woman