Resting in Christ

Photo by Stuart Miles from freedigitalphotos.net

Photo by Stuart Miles from freedigitalphotos.net

Oh, to be brave! To embrace risk and challenges all for the sake of Christ with little thought of the what-ifs. To daily surrender myself so fully to Christ, I would always and only do His will…

Unfortunately, my actions are often more characterized by fear than faith and striving than surrender. But God is faithful, even when–especially when!–I’m not.

This past Saturday, I had the privilege of reconnecting with the ladies at Northland Baptist in Kansas City, MO. While there, I 11110888_10204129386370679_2892693323041088365_otalked about fear–of the world and the Lord.

One refreshes and strengthens us, the other leaves us drained, stressed, and completely exhausted.

So which will you choose?

My study on what it means to fear the Lord and how this impacts a believer’s life has FindingRefreshmentinChristbeen so rich, I decided to extend it and invite you to come alone! I’ve created a one-week study guide, which I gave to the Northland ladies and also posted on Facebook. I’ve also created a Facebook “group” and page where we can all dialogue about what God is showing us through the study. I hope you’ll join us! Later this week, Susan Aken and Julie Arduini, blogging friends of mine, will be sharing their thoughts on some of the study verses. I can’t wait! I love learning from other believers. 🙂 And on Thursday, Kimberly Rose Johnson, another writing friend, will be here to talk about waiting on God, so make sure to pop back to join that discussion!

If you’re not on Facebook, that’s OK. I can send you the questions via email. Simply shoot me an email at jenniferaslattery@gmail.com letting me know you’d like and I’ll send them off to you.

In the meantime, you can watch segment one of my speech here. I hope to have segment two posted to Youtube tomorrow.

Or, if you’d rather see the video in it’s entirety, recorded on the day of the event, you can watch that here:

 

Reaching the Fork in the Road

So much struggle. So much uncertainty. So much pain. And in one moment, one simple, ID-10016416rational choice, she could leave it all behind. Start over. Follow the easy path.

Or so it seemed….

As I read Ruth 1:1-8, I wondered how Ruth’s life would have changed if she chose to leave Naomi and return to the land of her people. Where she could stay with her relatives, find a new husband, have children, and live a life of ease.

At least, standing at the fork of indecision, that must have been how it seemed.

Read verses 8-10 again here.

To paraphrase, after Ruth’s husband died, her widowed mother-in-law’s urgings presented Ruth with a choice: She could focus on her grief, on her problems and self-preservation or she could die to herself and her needs and love her mother-in-law more than herself.

Let’s not lose sight of the significance of this. Here were two widowed women living during a time when husbands were largely a woman’s only hope of survival. This was before welfare and life insurance policies. In this agrarian society, to live without a husband meant one would be forced to depend on the generosity of others. (You can read more about widowhood in Bible times here.)

So in essence, choosing to stay with Naomi rather than return to her homeland, Ruth would be choosing a life that, could quite possibly, result in homelessness and hunger.

Can you imagine the fear? The inner turmoil this must have created?

I suspect some of you know the rest of her story, but let’s pause here, at this moment of intense pain and uncertainty. At this place of incredible tragedy, where, having lost her husband, Ruth had to decide: hold on to her life–focus on self, or surrender her life to God, not knowing what lay ahead.

In chapter one of Beyond I Do, Ainsley was given that same choice. Go back home and let someone else deliver that package to Deborah’s sick friend, or die to self, pushing past her fear, and obey.

Each day, we’re given that same choice as well, and how we decide directly affects our trajectory. With each choice, we either step closer to God’s call for us or we venture one step further away.

WeekOneVerseBIDStudy

If we try to hold on to our life, our dreams, our goals; if we focus on self-preservation, we lose. But if we surrender EVERYTHING, we win. Every time.

Oh, if only we could see the road ahead! Then our choices would be easier, wouldn’t they? But God is asking us to trust.

If you haven’t had a chance to read today’s Bible passage, or if you’re just joining us, you can read Ruth 1:1-8 here. If you haven’t purchased Beyond I Do, the novel our study springboards from, you can get an ecopy for under a buck or print copy for under ten here.

Let’s talk about this.

I encourage you to write Matthew 16:25 on an index card and keep it where you’ll regularly see it. The abundant life Christ offers begins and is sustained by surrender. But to surrender, we must learn to die to ourselves.

I’ve been told the questions I posed Thursday were a bit… abundant so I’m going to post a shortened list today. 🙂 Even so, please don’t feel as if you have to answer them all. Rather, choose a few to think and talk about and journal on.

I encourage you to join the discussion here, through our email loop (let me know if you’d like to join. 🙂 ) or on our study’s FB page.

Our Bible reading: Ruth 1:1-8
Focus: evaluating our past and present hurts in light of God’s sovereignty and grace.
What thoughts arose as you read Ruth 1:1-8?
We read about Naomi’s heartache but not much about Ruth’s. Why do you think that is?
What are some difficulties Ruth faced as a widow?
Why do you think Ruth chose not, at least from what we see, to voice her pain to Naomi?
In what ways can we see Ruth’s love for her mother-in-law?
In what ways did Ruth exhibit self-sacrifice?
When has God asked you to focus on others and not on your pain or trial, and what was the result?
ACTION PLAN: What might God be asking you to do this week?
Make sure to stop by Beth’s blog on Friday to discuss Ruth 1:8-22

Some questions to consider and pray about in preparation for Friday’s discussion:
What is it that keeps me from my calling?
What stops you from moving forward with God, or, if you are following God, what makes this difficult?
What does self-preservation mean to you and has it affected your walk with the Lord?
What are some ways you can know what God is calling you to?

 

 

Beyond I Do Bible Study Group!

BiblestudyinviteGood morning and happy Monday! I continually hear from readers how my debut novel has stretched their thinking in some area or challenged them to embrace a deeper level of surrender in order to grab hold of the abundant life Christ offers. I cannot express how encouraging it is to know my writing is being used by Christ to grow and strengthen His children! But perhaps the most encouraging comment I’ve received came from a fellow Living by Grace host and a dear friend, Beth Farley.

Last week she responded to a link I’d posted on Facebook, saying she’d tacked a key verse from my novel on her bathroom mirror to review it daily.

This touched me deeply and excited me to think of the divine adventure that awaits this precious sister in Christ. As I rejoiced on God’s mercy and grace, I wondered, what if we all spurred one another toward a deeper level of surrender?

With this in mind, I decided to form an online Bible study group that uses Beyond I Do as our springboard. As we follow Ainsley Meadows, my heroine, in her journey toward full surrender, we will dig deep into the biblical truths that will encourage us to do the same.

This study will be hosted on Facebook on Tuesdays and Fridays (those participants can interact daily, if they choose). Discussion questions and conversations will also be hosted here (on Tuesdays) and on Beth’s blog FirstHalfDay (on Fridays). I will also be creating a yahoo email group for those who prefer to interact that way. (Let me know if you’d like me to send you an invite to the email group.)

ID-10083723Join us as we surrender our dreams, plans, fears, and insecurities to our Savior, the One who promises to lead us toward the abundant life He promised.

When: Nov. 10th-Dec. 10th

Where: Cyberspace! Here, Facebook, and Beth’s blog

How: Interact through the comments here, on Beth’s blog, on Facebook, or simply sit back and soak it all in.

Please note: You do not have to have read the book to participate.

If you haven’t purchased the book but would like to, it is available for $2.39 on CBD! Get it here.

Going Deeper With Living by Grace

When Living by Grace launched, our goals were two-fold: 1) To create a safe community where brothers and sisters could come together to build relationships centered in Christ 2) To encourage one another to draw closer to Christ.  We like to think of our corner of cyber-space as a modern-day-meet-at-the-well experience. For those of you unfamiliar with that term, back in biblical times, the local well was a place of community where women gathered to connect and share their lives with one another.

Today, we are so busy and spread out, it can be hard to connect on a deeper level. For many, Facebook has provided a safe and convenient way to develop, foster, and maintain relationships.

For some time now, Patty Wysong, one of our hostesses, has felt the nudge to go deeper than a short devotional or testimonial. She’s passionate about God’s Word and seeing others grow, but even more importantly, she has the grace to create a safe and encouraging environment where others feel comfortable expressing themselves.

I’m excited to announce the launching of Living by Grace’s first ever Bible study! Patty’s kicking us off with the book of James.

Join us at Living by Grace as we take our faith a little bit deeper.

Start at Patty’s blog to read her great intro, Faith in Action, then join the conversation at Living by Grace. And if you’re around, come back to Living by Grace Saturday from 11-12 to chat more about the passage.  (If you’re not on Facebook but want to be part of the discussion, shoot me an email and I’ll make sure to find a way to make that happen.)