Deepening our Knowledge–gnóseōs–of Christ through surrender

woman looking toward a cloudy sky and text pulled from the post

Our relationship with Christ begins and is sustained through surrender. With every crisis and uncertainty, as we close our eyes and, with boldness, relinquish our grip, we land firm and secure in our Savior’s hands. It’s then that we realize He truly is loving, faithful, all-powerful, attentive, and true.

For most of my life, I held a very distorted view of God. I knew intellectually that He was loving and kind. At least, that was the Sunday school answer I would have given, if asked. But my actions, most specifically my fears, demonstrated my true beliefs—beliefs hidden so deep, my conscious mind wasn’t even aware they were there. Through a series of events, God allowed my world to completely unravel. At least, that was what it felt like. In reality, He was unraveling lies and fears that were never meant to be part of my world so that I could truly come alive—in Him.

This all began when my husband quit his job—twice, actually, in under a year—and moved our family, quite literally, across the country. Through what became a three-year upheaval period, God allowed all my fears and insecurities to rise to the surface, uncovering the lies attached to them. In this, I came to realize, though I claimed God was my provider, sustainer, protector, guide, and friend, my continual fight for control proved I believed otherwise. In many ways, I knew of God, but I didn’t truly know God, not at the deep, peace-sustaining level.

If I had, I would have understood I had no cause for alarm and no reason to self-protect or fight for control. As I surrendered, through gritted teeth at first, I came to understand just how true all those truths Scripture revealed truly were. That terrifying, mind-shifting experience resulted in an intimacy with Christ I hadn’t even thought to pursue prior, and a much deeper understanding of who He is.

I’m learning to say, “But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider quote on knowing Christ and a picture of a candle.everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord …” (Phil. 3:7-8, NIV).

Those words in Philippians were written by an ancient church planter named Paul who truly had forsaken all things in order to know Christ. Prior to his conversation, he’d known of God but he didn’t come to truly know Him, personally and intimately, until He surrendered. And through his continual surrender, his intimacy with Christ grew to a level I suspect few of us will experience, because few of us will ever truly understand what it means to say, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21).

As I said, our relationship begins and is sustained—is deepened and fueled—I through surrender. As we rely on Him—His power, protection, strength, and provision—our understanding moves from mere intellectual assent to a deep and abiding knowledge that forms within a strong, unshakable foundation.

“This is eternal life,” Christ said, while praying to the Father, “that they know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3, NIV). The word our Bibles translate as know, ginóskó in the original Greek, points to a deep intimacy acquired through experience. But even this word lacks some of the depth revealed through its Hebrew counterpart, yada. This is the same word Scripture uses to describe the union Adam and Eve experienced through intercourse. Genesis 4:1 says, “now the man knew his wife Eve ..” (NRSV).

Our culture has turned sex into something selfish and ugly, but God designed this most intimate of acts to, in some mysterious way, unite two individuals into one. It’s a complete unveiling of oneself, a living “naked but not afraid.” To know one another fully, without shame or fear.

This is the level of intimacy Christ longs for with us, to usher us into a relationship so fulfilling, we, like Paul, would consider all else rubbish for the sake of knowing, truly knowing, Him.

We reach that place of ever-increasing intimacy through surrender.

Let’s talk about this! How does surrender lead to a deeper intimacy with Christ? When have you found this to be true? If surrender deepens our knowledge of Him, how can lack of surrender hinder this?

Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another!

Before you go, I have fun news. Wholly Loved Ministries has released their next Bible reading plan, 20 Days of Relational Health! You can find it HERE.

Our hearts crave deep, lasting connections–to know we are loved and belong. This Bible reading plan will help you Image for Wholly Loved's Relational Health Bible Reading Plangrow in your relationships as you learn to love others well, speak and live in truth, and set the healthy boundaries that will allow your relationships to thrive.

 

 

Resting in God’s Sovereignty and Infallible Wisdom

Text on remaining pliable to God with a sunrise background

Irony—heading to a speaking engagement on living centered in Christ and empowered by Him while firmly planted in my wisdom and strength. I know I can do so much more surrendered to God than I’ll ever do on my own, but sometimes I forget. I only see what’s right in front of me, and even that’s often distorted. But God sees all and knows all, including how He wants to use me. My role isn’t too figure everything out but instead to listen and remain pliable to His leading.

The more out of control I feel, the more I’m tempted to fight for it. As my focus narrows, my vision slips off of my Savior, and lands squarely on fallible, short-sided, and often deceived self. I begin to think that I have all the answers or the insight to formulate the best plan.

But then God reminds me, through the chaos, that He retains full control. He saw it all, before a moment unfolded,Psalm 147:5 because He knows all (Ps. 147:5) and works in and through all (Rom. 8:28). He “works all things according to the counsel of His will” (Eph. 1:11, ESV).

As a speaker, I’ve come to expect my fall to turn hectic, that’s when most women’s groups book their annual retreats. Add in some unexpected contracts and schedule shifts, and what felt challenging before pricks all my insecurities. I worry I won’t accomplish all I need to in time or that I won’t complete the tasks well.

These worries pricked recently when a series of unexpected and challenging obligations hit.

Then came Friday, when I learned, due to unavoidable and unforeseen events, I needed to cover a speaking engagement for a friend the following Monday. No big deal, right? Sure, my schedule was tight, but I could make it work. Besides, I already had a talk written on the very subject the group needed. So, though stretched, I confidently replied, “No problem.”

She answered, in essence, “Maybe God has a plan for this.”

Such truth in that statement, for we know that He always has a plan. He’s always working behind the scenes, connecting dots and gently nudging us this way and that, as He perfects His perfect will. Sometimes we’re able to watch His perfect wisdom unfold before us; other times we catch mere glimpses and are asked to trust. To trust that He truly is sovereign and knows the best course of action, and the precise time for execution, for whatever we might face.

When God guides us toward something, He always provides all we need to accomplish whatever He’s assigned.

I know this. I do. But sometimes I get so caught up in whatever is before me, whatever seems to be standing in my way, I forget. And sometimes, in His love and grace, God provides not one but three traffic jams, and some missed turns and dead ends to remind me—He’s always in control, and His ways truly are best.

That’s precisely what happened Monday. The day quickly turned crazy with technological difficulties and numerous unexpected yet urgent responsibilities added to an already full day. As a result, I wasn’t able to rehearse my talk, other than in bits and pieces.

Then came the rush hour traffic I severely underestimated—in part due to an accident on the 680. Honestly, if I laid out my drive, you’d laugh, it became so ridiculously strange. I arrived slightly frazzled and frustrated to discover the group had experienced numerous hiccups and last-minute changes themselves. Relaying this to me, one woman replied, “I’m not surprised. Satan loves to trip us up.”

Though I understand the truth in her statement—Scripture does indeed tell us we have a spiritual enemy determined to trip us up, it also reveals a much stronger, more powerful and constant force Who is always working on our behalf. That became so clear, a short time later, as I stood and spoke grace over the woman gathered that night. Unprepared as I felt, I was forced to rely less on my wisdom and preparations and surrender to God’s leading.

I encouraged them to stop striving to be that perfect mom, to display perfect patience and grace, and to lean into their Savior instead. To let Him prove Himself strong on their behalf. The tears brimming in their eyes and the soft smiles that emerged indicated those truths resonated, I believe, much more deeply then my initial presentation would have.

That night, in my weakened, frazzled state, they got a little less of fallible Jennifer Slattery and a bit more of their ever-wise, ever-present King.

Because God knew. He knew what they needed to hear, and He knew precisely how to get me out of the way so that He could speak those truths through me.

Text from the post with a skyline pictureHis wisdom is perfect and His power unconquerable; knowing that gives me courage to surrender. In fact, I would be foolish not to.

May we all choose to say, daily, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me, and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”

As we die to ourselves—our wisdom and our will—Christ’s power is unleashed within us.

Let’s talk about this! How often do you contemplate God’s unfathomable wisdom? What does His wisdom mean for your current situation? How does His unchanging nature encourage your surrender?

Share your thoughts and stories or suggestions with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from one another!

Before you go, I have fun news. Wholly Loved Ministries has released their next Bible reading plan, 20 Days of Relational Health! You can find it HERE.

Our hearts crave deep, lasting connections–to know we are loved and belong. This Bible reading plan will help you Image for Wholly Loved's Relational Health Bible Reading Plangrow in your relationships as you learn to love others well, speak and live in truth, and set the healthy boundaries that will allow your relationships to thrive.

Before you go, I invite you to join me on Gail Pallotta’s blog to hear a bit about my first Love Inspired novel, Restoring Her Faith. You can read more HERE.

Finding Significance Through Surrender

 

Image of stairs with text pulled from the post

Sometimes our greatest assignments, the steps towards our calling, come during the most mundane activities. And I wonder if the converse might be true as well. Is it possible to miss an amazing, God orchestrated opportunity when we’re focused only on chasing after something we believe will be amazing? I suspect perhaps, because whenever we chase a thing, be that dreams or success, more than God, we’ve slipped into idolatry, and Our loving Father cannot bless that, as worship of “self” always robs, steals, and destroys.

As some of you may know, I never wanted to be a writer or speaker. It wasn’t that I was opposed to those roles; I just never considered them. I thought I was going to be a teacher. I don’t know why that career came to mind. I think I just wanted to do something and that seemed like something I could do. So I started attending college. I also began serving in my local church, mostly where I saw a need. 

When our daughter was young, we lived in Southern California, and the church we attended hosted Friday night services. Those often had the most inconsistent childcare, so, wanting to ensure options for parents who worked Sundays, Steve and I covered that time slot . 

That was crazy hard for numerous reasons, in part because we had a large class filled with students of widely varying ages and attention spans. But, week after week, we did our best. 

I soon became involved in other ways. I wrote curriculum, sometimes that never got used, other times that was used for a season. I also wrote dramas, parent newsletters, and short story snippets, almost always with no one, besides myself and the person I served under, knowing I’d written it. But God knew. And He was working in and through me to grow me and lead me to where I am today. In fact, God used those activities and experiences to awaken my love for writing.

I’ve experienced opposite scenarios as well. I sensed God nudging me to launch Wholly Loved Ministries for at least two years before I finally responded. I felt I was too busy with my writing career and pursuing activities I found most important. I wasn’t in outright disobedience as I always attributed those heart pricks to vague stirrings, but I never hit pause long enough to truly seek God’s will in how He wanted me to spend and prioritize my time. I was too busy moving ahead. 

I became overly focused on my career and under-focused on my Savior, my power source, faithful guide, and stabilizer. As a result, my stress and anxiety levels grew, as did feelings of discouragement and disillusionment.

Eventually, out of mercy, God intervened and halted my writing for a time. Long enough for me to launch my ministry and for Him to purge and realign my heart.

Back then, it felt a bit like death, but in reality, God was restoring life to what had become diseased. 

Jesus said “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much” (Luke 16:10, NIV). Our faithfulness in the little things reveals our readiness to takepicture of a wheelbarrow with text pulled from post. on greater tasks. This means those who work behind the scenes, those who show up every Sunday, who do what needs to be done regardless of who else knows or sees, or what accolades they receive, will also be faithful in the big and glorious tasks. Perhaps because their heart won’t be in the accolades or the thank yous, but in serving and glorifying their Savior. Conversely, those who aren’t faithful in the little things—the trash emptying and toilet scrubbing, the baby rocking and phone call making, won’t be faithful in the big assignments either.

Maybe because we’ll make them about ourselves—our agendas and glory—rather than God’s.

We see this throughout Scripture. Moses, an orphaned baby turned Egyptian prince turned fugitive turned liberator, received God’s call while watching sheep (Ex. 3), a mundane and largely thankless job he performed day after day, with no one watching, and probably no one paying much attention to. God called the ancient prophet Elisha, Elijah‘s predecessor, while he was working in a field (1 Kings 19:19-21). God anointed Saul, Israel’s first king, to leadership, while he and a servant engaged in a three day journey in search of a donkey (1 Sam. 9-10). Then there was Joseph, a braggart teen who received a God-sized dream but was “discovered” while serving, faithfully, as an imprisoned slave (Gen. 37-41). 

I could go on. The Bible is filled with men and women who learned of amazing and history-changing assignments while performing mundane and humble tasks. We also see those who became obsessed with certain roles or opportunities, who put their desires for self-elevation and respect or prestige above their relationship with and worship of God, who lost it all. Who not only lost that very thing they so fervently sought, but who traded inner calm for anxiety, significance for futility, and joy for defeat.

May we, myself included, learn from their example.

Let’s talk about this! What are you chasing after most, that next promotion or opportunity or your Savior? What occupies your thoughts most, your achievements and goals or God’s glory? Can you share a time when God redirected you off of an obsession and onto Him? What was the result?

Connect with Jennifer on Facebook and Instagram.

 

When God’s Yes Seem to Turn Into a No

What happens when you’re certain God’s leading you in a certain direction and you land in a dead end? That question Road closed sign and conesbecomes even more challenging and frustrating when it seems someone intricately involved in your decision pushes back. This was the battle my guest found herself in.

Letting Go When God Says Yes

By Jenny Fulton

The fight began over something that sounded so good.

For the past few years John and I had been talking about attending Camp Logos. We love studying the Bible together and this training would teach us how to better utilize our primary research software. We’d agreed this was something we should do. However, we hadn’t settled on when. Our two daughter’s were young and the only family member close enough to babysit was a younger sister.

We decided to keep our eyes and hearts open for God’s timing and the right opportunity.

In early January of 2018, I found it. There was a 3-day training in April about five hours from my writing partner, Eric. John and I had discussed making the trip from New Mexico to connect with Eric and his wife in North Carolina. This was perfect! We could do both in the same trip!

“Is this it, God?” I asked. “Is this the opportunity we’ve been waiting for?”

I felt an inner assurance that it was. Words flooded my mind. “This will be good for you. You need this.”

That made sense. It had been rough several months. I’d suffered two miscarriages in four months and we’d also dealt with some tough family conflicts. We definitely needed time away. Although our girls were young (4 years and 16 months), I felt confident God would help us find adequate childcare.

I rambled off my findings to John and waited for his equally eager, “Let’s do it!”

It didn’t come.

He was hesitant, but reluctantly agreed to let me buy tickets for the camp.

Though I couldn’t understand his uncertainty, I dropped any further mention of it for the time being. I’d make him come around to the idea later.

At the end of January, I discovered I was pregnant again. Doubt and concern filled my mind. “How is this possible? What happens if I lose this one? Can I handle another death?”

John and I talked. Maybe another miscarriage would indicate it was time to release our dreams for children.

The trip seemed like a better idea than ever, though, on the other hand, would it be wise to be so far from my doctor?

February came and our 17 month old suffered 2nd degree burns on her arm severe enough to land us in the hospital for a couple of days. Besides feeling scared and heart-broken over her state, I also worried about the effects this stress might have on the baby within me.

Camp Logos felt like a definite no-go. How could we leave our little girl during her recovery?

In early march, life was still uncertain. However, my pregnancy and Sophia seemed to be progressing well enough that I again sensed an urge to go on this trip.

I brought it up to John and, although we’d already bought the tickets for the training, he resisted.

Why?

I made some inquiries, found possible babysitters we could maybe patch together to cover the time, and broached the subject again, this time with more fervency.

No change.

Why was he being so stubborn? Why couldn’t he believe this was a trip God told me we needed to take?

John was concerned about childcare.

Why couldn’t he trust I’d find the right people for the job? Why couldn’t he trust God to look out for our girls while we were gone?

In mid-march, it reached a climax. I pushed it enough and he resisted enough that we went to bed without speaking. Neither of us slept very well. We retreated to opposite sides of our king bed and turned our faces to the walls. The tension was as thick as our bulky comforters. Morning came and our cold withdrawal from each other continued.

I certainly wasn’t going to apologize. Why should I? He was the one who wasn’t trusting God.

Wasn’t he?

Something stirred in my heart. One person alone rarely causes conflict.

Maybe I shared the blame, but for what?

All day, I struggled to identify my part, but couldn’t find it.

That afternoon, our pastor came over to talk about the children’s lesson I’d be teaching. Instead, I ended up pouring out the details of the fight. Surely, if anyone could help me see my error, it was him. After all, I’d heard him point out everyone else’s shortcomings in his conversations with them.

But he didn’t help me identify my sin. Instead, he started going off on all of John’s failings, related to the fight or not, and presented confidence in himself as the better alternative.

Alarms went off in my spirit, and I inwardly withdrew.

The next morning, God revealed what I had been seeking.

“If you truly trust this trip is of My doing, then why are you trying so hard to control it?”

There it was; John wasn’t the only one who lacked faith.

“Do you really believe this trip is of Me?” God asked.

“I do.”

“Do you believe it enough to let go?”

This was a tougher question. Did I trust God enough to release my hold? Was I willing to give up on the venture altogether so He could work without my interference?

“I want to, Lord.”

It was a start.

John and I talked again that evening. I set aside my insistence and allowed myself to listen and feel his concerns for our girls. Can’t fault a man for being protective of his children can you?

In turn John heard my heart on the emotional and spiritual need for this vacation.

We came to an agreement. If I could nail down the childcare question, we’d both go. If I couldn’t, then I would go for the full week, and he would join me half-way through.

It wasn’t ideal—definitely not what I felt was best, but it was something. And this time, I knew I could trust God to bring about the best results.

Early that week, I finalized the childcare situation. A few days later, things came to a breaking point with our pastor. After attending one more service, we made the decision to step away from him and his church until we’d had more time to process.

Ultimately, everything came together better than I hoped. We left for the whole week. At Camp Logos, we rekindled our love for God and for studying Scripture together as we sat in a room full of likeminded men and women from all denominations. The second half of the trip was spent in the Appalachian Mountains where we had time to pray and work through the tumultuous events of the past several months.

God knew in January about all the turmoil we’d encounter. He knew about Sophia’s arm, my pregnancy, and the pastor’s behavior. God saw all of this and made a way for us to escape before we knew how much more we’d desperately need rescuing from.

God wanted me to rest in Him.

Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your wayswoman walking toward sunset with text from Prov. 3:5-6 acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight” (ESV).

Though it’s incredibly difficult to let go of our hopes and dreams, we need to believe that if they are truly of God, then He will bring them to fruition in far greater ways than we could imagine or manufacture in our own strength.

He is good.

May we continue to lean on Him and remember His faithfulness as we go through our week.

“Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21, ESV).

How has God been there for you in past?

What are your dreams for the future?

Is there something God is asking you to let go of?

Get to know Jenny!

Jenny's author photoJenny Fulton is a writer, educator, and mother with a passion for communicating truth through stories. She works part-time as a free-lance writer and is a collaborative author for the Invisible Battles youth fantasy series. Jenny has three beautiful daughters and writes as much as time and opportunity allow. She loves the creative process and gathers inspiration from her experiences overseas, her years as a teacher, wife, and mother, and through in-depth study of God’s word.

Connect with Jenny on her Website, Facebook, and Instragram.

Before you go, make sure to check out Wholly Loved’s Bible reading plan, available on YouVersion.

You can find it HERE. You can grab a copy of Jennifer Slattery’s latest release, Hometown Healing, HERE.

The Kingdom of Me and the Joy of Christ

Quote from post with mint and coral background.

Often, it’s the good things, the “God things” that most keep me from Him. It’s sad how easily my heart becomes swayed. One would think I’d learned by now, that I’ve become adept at putting effective guardrails in place and being extra diligent to guard my heart. But so often, busyness and pride and selfishness seeps in and my service that began with such pure intensions becomes ugly and self-elevating.

I’m all too proficient at building my kingdom, when my efforts should be centered on the things of God. Last week, we talked about chasing God ordained dreams. This week, let’s consider the dangers that come with doing so as we intentionally remind ourselves Woman sitting with text from postwhere every God-given dream leads—to Himself.

The more I surrender to Him, the more I yield to His Spirit within and align my heart with His plans and purposes, the more joy and freedom I feel. The more I slip, bit by bit, from this, the more miserable I become.

At every moment, I’m worshipping someone—God or myself.

The god of self is a vicious, defeating, deceiving contender, one I’ve found quite difficult to kill. She rises up when I least expect her to, whispering lies in my ear, making promises—to give me joy and fulfillment—which she has no power to fulfill.

As C. S. Lewis put it, “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

Every promise made by my Savior is certain and true, and here’s what He tells me: joy, peace, and deep, soul-enriching fulfillment is found only in Him. He is my prize, and He alone can fill me to overflowing, in abundance, with the very life I crave.

This is the promise He’s made to all mankind. This invitation to love and live loved, made by our Creator Himself, resonates so deeply, upon hearing it, our souls leap for joy. Until we encounter something flashier or louder or momentarily more alluring. And we begin amassing our wealth, our toys, our successes, and our homes, until the voice of God, the call of God, fades.

Unfortunately, building the kingdom of “me” comes much too easily.

This was certainly true for the ancient Israelites, returning home after captivity. Their journey had been long and arduous. Their sorrow deep, when they arrived in their beloved city to find the Temple of God—the place where He Himself communed with His people—reduced to a pile of rubble.

And yet, they began to rebuild, for a time, until opposition hit. Then, they started building the kingdom of me. “‘My house lies in ruins,” says the Lord of Heavens Armies, ‘while all of you are busy building your own houses’” (Hag. 1:9, NLT).

And note, God was speaking about so much more than a building, as glorious as this manmade structure once was. His Temple housed His presence.

God was inviting His people into relationship. To leave all their false gods behind, once and for all, and to connect deeply and intimately, with Him. And like we read last week, they responded enthusiastically for a while, craving the very thing God promised.

But then they stopped and shifted their focus.

I get it. I’ve been there. And unfortunately, I’ll likely land there again. But when I do, God offers me the same invitation He did His people, so long ago. “Return to Me,” He says, “and I will return to you” (Zech. 1:3, NLT). He is only a prayer or repentance away, and He offers much more than the kingdom of Me ever can. He gives Himself without Woman staring out at horizon with text pulled from postmeasure, inviting us to meet with Him, to be held by Him. To be loved deeply and completely, and in this, to be filled with joy and peace.

“I will fill this place,” God says, speaking of His Temple (Haggai 2:7), which, thanks to the blood of Jesus, is us. He alone can fill our deepest, darkest, most hidden placed with Himself.

And in that moment, when the power and glory of our Creator fills us completely, we’re reminded yet again, He is our prize, and He is enough.

More than enough.

Let’s talk about this! Can you relate to my ongoing struggle? When does the god of self most threaten to rise up within you? How to beat her back?

Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Speaking of idolatry, you may also enjoy my latest article on Bible Study Tools. You can read it HERE.

And if you haven’t done so, join Wholly Loved’s Facebook group, a safe, grace-filled place where you can connect with other women seeking to grow in Christ, ask questions and share struggles and celebrations.

Wholly Loved Ministries
Closed group · 379 members
 

Join Group

 

A place for women to come together, share their struggles, celebrations, and insights, and inspire one another to be all God created them to be.

Keeping Our Eyes on the Call and the God Who Calls

Woman staring out at a field with text pulled from the post.

Image by Priscilla Du Preeze on Unsplash

Sometimes I feel bombarded by a world of takers and, when my eyes land on them instead of my Savior, I begin to feel discouraged. Frustrated. Taken advantage of. I know God calls me to serve Him above all else and to follow His will. In other words, to concern myself with obedience and nothing else. But so often my vision drifts off the path He’s laid out for me and onto others. Like the apostle Peter in John 21:21, I ask my Savior, “But what about him, Lord?”

To which God responds, “You must follow Me” (NIV).

I’ve heard others say they want to be leaders, but I wonder if they realize what this means. Leading means giving all of yourself without expecting anything in return. It means elevating others while you slip quietly into the background. It’s giving others the credit for wins and taking full responsibility for each loss.

In short, it’s doing all you can to act like Jesus, the One who gave His life so that we might live.

Honestly, that’s every Christian’s call, and we’re all leaders in some capacity. Whether we’re guiding little ones each day, speaking life into our coworkers, or demonstrating to our neighbors what it looks like to follow God.

We all have a sphere of influence, precious hearts God has entrusted to our care, and He asks us to lead them well. With passion, strength, courage, perseverance, and self-sacrifice.

In order to do so, our eyes must be locked on our Savior and whatever task He’s assigned.

He reminded me of this truth this morning as I was reading about Ezra’s commission to rebuild the Temple of Jerusalem. This call came while the Jews were in captivity, living in a foreign nation. I imagine many felt stuck. As if their situation was too bleak for hope. But then God “stirred the heart of Cyrus” the King of Persia to proclaim in writing, “The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth. He has appointed me to build him a Temple at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Any of you who are the Lord’s people may go there for this task. And may the Lord God be with you!” (NLT).

God is sovereign. No matter what is going on around us, regardless of our challenges or circumstances, we can rest in this truth. Our ministries, that assignment we can’t afford to botch—He reigns over those as well.

And notice, it is God who calls His people to action—those who chose to respond. In other words, when God gives us a task, not everyone will contribute. But those whom God calls will, as Ezra 1:5 demonstrates. “Then God stirred the hearts of the priests and the Levites and leaders of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin to go to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple of the Lord” (NLT).

We’re not alone in this walk of obedience. God is always with us, and though some may leave, betray us, or take advantage of us, others won’t. Others will help and encourage and support. And God will provide everything else. All we need and more.

This is precisely what He did for those rebuilding His Temple. Ezra 1:6 says, “And all their neighbors assisted by giving them articles of silver and gold, supplies for the journey, and livestock. They gave them many valuable gifts in addition to all the voluntary offerings” (NLT).

God amply supplied.

He’ll do the same for us. When I’m focused on God and resting in His sovereignty, I’m freed to move forward in peace Woman walking down road with text pulled from post.and faith. I’m not defeated or frustrated by other people’s actions, because I know God’s in control and will guide me toward His very best. If I’ve spent hours working on an important topic someone else gets credit for, I’m not phased because I know God’s bigger. If others don’t come through or leave in the middle of a job, I won’t feel defeated because I know God will supply what I need when I need it to complete precisely what He has planned.

Let’s talk about this! Do you ever have the wandering, “What about him, Lord?” When are you most prone to do so? How does (or might) remembering God’s sovereignty–over you, your situation or ministry, and those in your sphere–help you remain focused and encouraged? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another!

For those wanting to follow along with my Bible reading (as I have a feeling many of my preceding posts will stem from that), here’s a daily reading list. (I’m reading out of a chronological Bible so am simultaneously in Ezra, Haggai, Daniel, and Psalms.) I’ll share some questions you can use each day to help you process what God might be telling you below. They’re pulled from Day One Option One of Wholly Loved’s Becoming His Princess Bible study.

Day one: 2 Chronicles 36:22-23, Ezra 1:1-11

Day two: Ezra 2

Day three: Psalm 126, 147

Day four: Ezra 3

Day five: Ezra 4

Day six: Spend a day reviewing, journaling on, and praying over what God showed you during your day one-five Bible reading time.

Questions you can work through as you read your daily Bible passages:

Who are the main characters in this passage?

What does this passage reveal about the human condition, such as:

  • Mankind’s rebellion against/obedience toward God?
  • Mankind’s attempts to fill their needs apart from Him or relying on Him for their needs?
  • Mankind’s attempts to reach Him on their own terms?

What does this passage reveal regarding God’s nature?

What does/might this passage reveal about God’s plans?

How might this passage reveal mankind’s need for the gospel?

In what ways are you/have you been similar to one or more of the characters in this passage?

What might God want you to know through this section of Scripture?

What might He be asking you to do?

End your reading in prayer, asking God to help you apply the biblical truths discovered and live out whatever you sense Him impressing on your heart.

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Life Change on the Other Side of a Storm — Guest Post

No one enjoys hard lessons, and yet, they seem to be my most certain routes to growth. In fact, my greatest healing, steps toward freedom, and perspective shifts have occurred during my most challenging and uncertain periods. I suspect most of us could say the same. When the false securities we cling to turn shaky, we’re invited to plant my feet in the only One who’s steady and sure. As my guest today shares in the post below, sometimes destructive storms can have beautiful results.

The 2am Wake Up Call

By Meredith Kendall

It took a major storm for God to rightly shift my focus and priorities. It’d been raining all day and wasn’t supposed to let up anytime soon. The news reports indicated that the worst of the storm, including the threat of tornadoes, would hit around 2am. We knew a good night’s sleep wasn’t in our future primarily because we  had a little stream in our backyard. That night, that creekbed turned into a raging sea. 

The water remained inside its banks, but was rushing so rapidly that nothing in its way had a chance of survival. Once satisfied it would be okay, we set the alarm for 2am. But I felt unsettled, so I went upstairs, grabbed all three girls, put their sleeping bags on the floor in the family room, and kissed them goodnight.

I woke with a startle. The light on the alarm clock was flashing. The power had gone out. My cell phone read 2am. rain seen through the window on a dark, stormy nightWanting to check on things, I rolled over, put my feet on the floor. “Squish.” My toes hit soaked carpet. All I thought of was my girls laying in a pool of water. Yelling at my husband to wake up, I rushed to the family room to get to the girls. They were safe. The water reached just to the edge of their sleeping bags.

I’m not sure where my sense came from, but I didn’t attempt to open the door. Instead I went upstairs to the landing. Knowing water inside meant the creek had crested, I grabbed the keys to our vehicles and bolted outside.  As I backed the last automobile to safety, the water let loose and soon stood three feet against the back of the house.

Standing in the rain, I started to calculate all the damage we’d accrue. When the storm was done, I’d be left picking up the pieces.

Yes, you read this right. I made this mess all about me. My loss. My inconvenience. My inability to comprehend why God had allowed this to happen to me. Then I remembered a verse I’d memorized recently during a financial class.

Matthew 6:24 says, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money” (ESV).

This forced me to ask, who and what was I serving? I may have told you God, but my lifestyle and actions indicated otherwise.

What if you were to honestly answer the same question?

If God took everything away from you, would you still serve Him? What can you do today to

center your heart more deeply in Him?

Get to Know Meredith! 

Meredith Kendall is a change agent, driven by her God-given passion to equip struggling families to achieve their unique God-given potential.

As a nationally recognized sales leader, Meredith Kendall learned how to build bridges and make connections with the heart of what people need. God called her to co-found Advancing the Gospel which serves those who are often forgotten. Today she uses her gifting’s to help people understand the root causes of their struggles and find freedom through Christ.

Her upcoming book My GiGi’s House: Finding Hope will be released October 2019. Visit her online at www.the180program.org and her personal website www.meredithsagekendall.com