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 Our Soul Feels Its Worth

text, winter backdrop, snow covered light

And the Soul Felt Its Worth
By Hallee Bridgeman

The Christmas season has gotten so loud! Starting sometime in mid-August, the Christmas decorations in stores start coming out. The closer to Thanksgiving we get, the noisier it gets. Sales! Music! Lights! Everywhere you can turn, there is some reminder of the winter holiday filled with creepy elves and fat men in magical sleighs.

Even for those seek to center our hearts and minds on our Savior’s birth, it’s easy to get caught up in the chaos and the noise.

The hymn “O Holy Night” constantly grounds me during the Christmas season. Whenever I hear it, it gives me pause. The song’s lyrics provide me with a moment of such reverence and acknowledgement of the majesty of Christ’s birth. This event brought angels who sang “Glory to God in the Highest” into our realm (Luke 2:14 NKJV).

The first verse of this hymn gives us a glimpse into the majesty of Christ:

Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth

Those words pour over me and affirm all of my love and worship to our Christ.

Philippians 2:9-11 says: “Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name,  that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (NKJV).

The chorus of O Holy Night says:

Fall on your knees
O hear the angels’ voices

When that song washes over me, I long to be in that field with those shepherds so I can fall on my knees and, in person, worship the one who God has exalted and given the name above all names. It makes the ribbons and wreaths and trees fade and opens my heart to the truth: Without Christ, we are lost, pining, and our soul feels no worth.

Our family’s tradition is to participate in the Jesse Tree devotional. The book we use starts day 1 with Creation and goes in order throughout the Old Testament, then ends day 25 with Christ’s birth.

The original idea of the nightly advent is to place ornaments on a small tree that coincide with that night’s scripture and devotion. Because the nightly readings move through the Bible, I hang a garland on the wall and every ornament acts as a timeline representing the timeline of Christ through the Bible leading up to his birth. It’s a beautiful reminder to our children that God has always had it in His plan to provide a Savior to us.

We get to show them that Christ’s coming was foretold from the beginning of the Bible and He loves us enough to send His only Son into the world long lain in sin so that we can be redeemed.

I pray you have a chance during the hustle and bustle to savor the certainty of God’s love for you and that you’re able to grasp the magnitude of the gift He’s given us in His Son.

Do you have a favorite Christmas hymn that speaks to your soul this way? How do you center yourself during a busy holiday season?

Get to know Hallee!

With over half a million sales, Hallee Bridgeman is a best-selling Christian author who writes action-packed romantic suspense focusing on realistic characters who face real world problems. Her work has been described as everything from refreshing to heart-stopping exciting and edgy. Hallee loves coffee, campy action movies, and regular date nights with her husband. Above all else, she loves God with all of her heart, soul, mind, and strength; has been redeemed by the blood of Christ; and relies on the presence of the Holy Spirit to guide her.

Visit her online at: halleebridgeman.com

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

 

Who is God? Seeking Answers From the Source

We all have ideas of who God is. Some of those ideas are grounded in truth, others are assumptions we’ve made or are based on random things we’ve heard throughout our lives. When discussing who God is, I’m often amused by mankind’s adherence to their assumptions–as if they have the right to determine who God is and how they will relate to Him.

Pause to contemplate that for a moment. Then ponder the following questions:

Who do you believe God is?

What do you base that belief on?

Now pause to consider others’ assumptions about you. Which assumptions tend to be the most accurate? I suspect those that are based on things you yourself have revealed.

Why would God be any different?

What I’m saying is this:

Everyone has an idea on who God is, what He has or hasn’t done, and how He wants mankind to relate to Him. But having an idea doesn’t make it so. If we want to truly know God, we will take time to learn what He has to say about Himself. The Bible is God’s revelation to mankind. Through it, God has removed the uncertainty, has brought clarity to confusion, and has shown mankind exactly who He is, what He has and will do, and how we, His creation, can have a vibrant and ever-growing relationship with Him.

© 2010 Martin Alan Grivjack Photography Martin Alan Grivjack PhotographyToday a sweet friend, Ava Pennington, author of Daily Reflections on the Names of God, talks about one aspect of God’s character–glory–and a man who was not content to formulate his own ideas about who God was. Nope. He went straight to the source.

How did God respond? Read on, and you’ll see. 🙂

But before you do, I want to announce the winner of last week’s give-away. Laurean Brooks, congrats! You won a copy of The Redemption of Caralynne Hayman, written by Carole Brown. I’ll be contacting you soon. 🙂

Excerpt from Daily Reflections on the Names of God: A Devotional, by Ava Pennington

Published by Revell Books, 2013                      

Are You Ready?

Glory

 

Exodus 33:12-23

“Give to the Lord the glory his name deserves” (I Chronicles 16:29 GW).

 

How intimately do you know God? How intimately do you want to know Him?

Moses knew God in a way few other people knew Him. It’s possible for us to know God in a similar way simply by making the same request Moses did. He asked the Lord, “Let me know Your ways that I may know You” (Exodus 33:13).

After God said He would go with Moses and the people, Moses still was not satisfied. He made a bolder request of the Lord: “Show me Your glory!” (Exodus 33:18). Instead of becoming angry with Moses, God granted his request, causing His glory to pass by him.

What is the glory of the Lord? It is the combination of all His attributes. When He passed Moses in the cleft of the rock, God proclaimed His goodness, graciousness, and compassion. God’s glory is who He is. It is impossible to separate His glory from His character and His ways.

As we read God’s Word and spend time with Him in prayer, He opens our spiritual eyes to see His glory in ways we had not previously recognized. Are you ready to see His glory?

 

Lord God, I want to know Your ways more intimately than I have,

that I may know You.

 

Have I become complacent in my relationship with the Lord?
How will I look for Him to show me His ways today?

Daily Reflections on the Names of God:

Every name of God revealed in the Bible shows us something about his character and his ways. This book offers readers a wonderful opportunity to spend time each day getting to know God more intimately. This insightful guide to the names of God provides 366 life-changing, personal devotions for new Christians and longtime believers. As readers explore 122 names and attributes of God, they will discover something special about who God is, who they are, and how they relate to others. Includes a Scripture and name index for easy navigation to favorite verses. Now in paper.

Ava Pennington is a writer, Bible teacher, and speaker. Her newest book, Daily Reflections on the Names of God: A Devotional, is endorsed by Kay Arthur, founder of Precept Ministries International.

Additionally, Ava is co-author of Faith Basics for Kids. The first two books in the series are Do You Love Me More? and Will I See You Today? She has also written numerous articles for magazines such as Today’s Christian Woman, Power for Living, and Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse.

Ava also teaches a weekly, Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) class of 175+ women. She is a passionate speaker and teacher, and delights in engaging audiences with relevant, enjoyable presentations.

For more information, visit her at www.AvaWrites.com

To purchase Daily Reflections on the Names of God, visit:

AMAZONBARNES & NOBLE, or CHRISTIANBOOK

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this. At the end of her devotion, Ava encouraged us to ask ourselves some great questions:

Have I become complacent in my relationship with the Lord?
How will I look for Him to show me His ways today?

I’ll answer first. I seem to go up and down in my relationship with God. The “downs” are usually the result of unchecked busyness, and this to my own detriment. I can only be busy and spiritually neglectful for so long before my heart begins to dry out.  I’ve found life is so much better, so much richer, more peaceful and fulfilling, when I connect with and stay connected to my Savior. What about you? Join the conversation in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook. 

Oh, and don’t forget about our daily acts of kindness challenge! 🙂 Each day find some way to make someone else’s life a little better.

True Survival Adventure by Max Elliot Anderson

I love a good story. I love a true, God story even better! Today’s story-devo first appeared in Guidepost in 2005. It was then reprinted on Max Elliot Anderson’s Books for Boys, on Friday, November 26th. Hopefully I’ll never get stranded along a desert road, but if I do, I know God will be right there with me. His arm is never too short to save nor His ear to dull to hear. What a mighty, loving, merciful God we serve!

*                                      *                                      *

“Living Legends” is the title of a film we were shooting. It documented what happens in a Native American family when the father becomes a Christian and leads his family.

Our final family interview was shot on the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation. We finished early, allowing us to begin our trip back home sooner than expected. One of the local people gave us directions including a shortcut, right through the reservation, which would cut fifteen to twenty miles off the trip.

We set out on the course we thought would take us to the main highway, but things went very, very wrong.

Oh, the scenery was beautiful, so long as we were sitting in a moving car, on a good road. But things deteriorated quickly after our tires left the pavement and we continued on a gravel surface.

With my military training, I should have known better and turned back the way we had come. We didn’t do that and soon I was stopping the car in order to jump out to remove jagged rocks from our path so our car didn’t bottom out and cause damage.

We reached a place called Seven Mile Wash. It looked like I could just drive across the dry sand, and continue where the road started up again on the other side. Immediately our tires became mired in what I can only describe as a powdery dust that resembled talcum powder. It took hours to jack the car up, dig out the tires, place logs under them, and inch the car forward, only to repeat the process over and over again.

Eventually, as I drove over a rise, with the sun in my eyes, the car started down the next hill and we hit a patch of those jagged rocks, tearing a hole in the transmission pan. As the fluid gushed out, gears began to slip until the car couldn’t travel any further. Our car was disabled and we were hopelessly lost.

As my dad stood next to it, I wrote down the numbers on a marker so we could try and explain to someone where our car was, after we hiked out of that wilderness. Well, that didn’t go as planned either. After several hours of hiking, we found that we’d gone in a full circle, in the dark, and wound up right back at our car. At about 2 AM, we were at 5000 feet of elevation, it was freezing out, so we spent the night sleeping in the car.

At daylight, we decided to try hiking out again. It wasn’t long until we discovered what a hostile environment we were stranded in. We walked for most of that day, lost touch with each other a couple of times, and my father fell and split his head open. Both of us became pretty discouraged. We were hungry, thirsty, and very lost. That’s when I hiked to the top of a rugged hill, to try and find out where we should go. As I sat on the ground, beneath a small tree, a sparrow landed on a branch just above my head. He began singing his lungs out as if to remind me that if God’s eye is on the sparrow surely he knows where I am and what I need. In the distance I could see the reflection of a car on a straight road. It was miles away, but there was no mistake that help was in that direction. So on and on we trudged through gullies, across ice-covered streams, through brush and rocks.

It was almost cruel when we reached the area of the road because, from where we stood, it was a climb nearly straight up and our strength was gone. Somehow, with super-human strength, we made it to the top.

I took a roll of camera tape out of my jacket pocket and quickly made a sign that said, “Help!” The first car that saw it stopped and took us to the nearest town where we arranged to retrieve the car in the morning, and then slept for what felt like days.

Because I had written down the marker number, our tow truck driver knew exactly where our car was located. We piled in with him and drove off.

Our car was hooked up and taken into town where repairs were made. Finally we were on our way home after one of the greatest survival adventures of my life.

But before we left the area, we decided to drivew back to the place where we were rescued and take one last look.
Humm. Maybe I’ll have to write a book about that some day.

Max Elliot Anderson
Author Web Site