The Debilitating Fear of Failure

Fearful woman looking upFear of failure can paralyze the most gifted writers, singers, artists … (insert any other field) perhaps more than anything else. Here’s the ironic part–it is this fear, not any failure we may experience, more than anything else that gets in our way. One of these days, I really want to unpack this common and insidious fear, because I’m 99.9995% certain, when it rises up, it’s being fueled by something else, namely, a false sense of identity.

In our Wholly Loved conferences, we talk a lot about fear and moving past it through faith. Each conference, see women taking steps toward that, and it’s inspiring and amazing and incredibly awesome. Can you imagine the impact we’d have if we consistently focused not on our gifts or our plans or even our insufficiencies and instead centered our vision and thoughts on Jesus and learned to lean hard on Him?

My guest today, a sweet friend and Wholly Loved ministry partner, shares how God helped her do just that.

The Debilitating Fear of Failure

By Kristen Terrette

My fear of failing has paralyzed me.

I was keenly aware, through much prayer, that God wanted me to take a step in faith and venture into writing, but my fear of failure stalled and suffocated. The risks were too high. I was afraid.

I didn’t know how to write a novel! And as a children’s ministry director, I enjoyed a flexible job which provided my family a second income and health insurance. I worked with my spiritual mentors, one of whom was my lead pastor and one of the greatest men I’ve ever known. He took a chance on me and gave me my first staff position in ministry. He helped me become a leader in our church.

Could I give all that up? What if I did and failed?

But still, my desire to write grew stronger each day that I fought it. I smothered myself with excuses. I asked, how could God be telling me to quit a job I love? How can I abandon the kids in the ministry or my pastor and staff? How could I give up my income and insurance? How could I become a writer with no formal training?

And as the months went by, I became bitter and anxious. My love for teaching on Sundays lessened. My husband’s growing resentment toward our church and all the duties I had on the weekends soured our marriage. Even my kids began to dislike attending services.

After a while, my husband and I finally had a serious discussion. We laid it all out—our fears, anger, loneliness, and decided it was time for me to be home and present for my family. We felt God was calling me into new ministry—to my husband and my kids.

In Mark 5:36, Jesus spoke to a synagogue leader whose daughter had just died. “Don’t be afraid; just believe,” Jesus said, then Woman jumping with sun behind her and text for Mark 8:36He raised the dead child to life.

God says the same to us every day, in every situation.

To believe. And take that next step toward whatever He’s calling us to do.

I did. And guess what? When I told my pastor, he celebrated with me and helped me prepare to leave my position. Years later, he’s one of my biggest supporters. I resigned gracefully and was able to devote time to writing while our kids were at school and pre-school.

What’s more is that God protected us financially. We cut a few expenses, sure, but it’s miraculous how we didn’t “miss” my income. Bills were paid on time with money left over. I look back and think how in the world it was even possible, and the only answer is that it was supernatural.

God did it.

I’d like to pretend that four years later I have a thriving writing career and tons of book sales. That’s not the case, but I’m obedient … and I’m joyful, which I know comes from being in God’s will. But best of all my husband and kids are happy too. They love Sundays again.

Let’s talk about this! What is God asking of you? Have you allowed fear to hold you back? Has God given you an instruction and you’re being disobedient to His call? I pray you’ll remember Jesus’ words to the synagogue leader, “Don’t be afraid. Just believe.”

Get to Know Kristen!

Kristen Terrette's author photoKristen holds a Master’s degree in Theological Studies and served as a Children’s Ministry Director for five years. She cherishes her Southern roots and currently lives forty-five minutes outside of Atlanta, GA. With the support of her husband and two children, she stays at home writing Christian fiction, allowing God to take the story where He needs it to go. She’s also serves on the women’s leadership and teaching team at her church and writes for Wholly Loved ministries at WhollyLoved.com and Crosswalk.com. You can read her personal blog and check out her current novels at www.kristenterrette.com.

Check out her upcoming release, Morning Star:

Morning Star, Kristen’s third installment in her Christian Contemporary Romance series called Moanna Island, releases January 8, 2019 with pre-orders starting soon. In her new novel, love interests Shane and Cover image for Kristen's Book, Morning StarAddie, both struggle with fears over failures and taking risk. Read below to get glimpse of her upcoming release:

Addie McHenry, restoration home builder extraordinaire, catches her big break when the House to Home network contracts her to film a reality TV show focusing on how she brings homes back to life. She sets her sights on one of the oldest on Moanna’s beach and has to risk everything just to get it.

Shane Armstrong moved from Savannah to his grandmother’s Moanna oceanside house when his world shattered five months before. He went on leave from his job as a Coast Guard helicopter rescue swimmer, hopeful his grandmother’s peaceful street will help him heal. The reality TV show’s arrival threatens this serenity.

But the construction and camera crews are nothing compared to Addie herself. She’s tough as nails, challenging, and superbly bossy as she works to get her way. But she’s also kind, hardworking, and has a relationship with God Shane can’t begin to understand.

With each encounter, Shane’s walls start to crumble as Addie brings more than just the historical home back to life, but him as well. Addie tries desperately not to enjoy spending time with the irritable and scowling boy from next door. He hides his heartache well, but she sees it there behind his prickly exterior. Soon she begins to uncover the sacrificial hero underneath the façade.

With both of them only temporary residents on Moanna Island, their thin ice relationship crashes to a halt. Can Shane return to his risky job with the Coast Guard? Does he even want to? And can Addie let him go and follow her dreams even when tragedy strikes?

 

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Sharing God’s Love in the Face of Fear

verse image of 1 John 4:18

Fear is a destructive, enslaving emotion that, when fed, pushes us farther from the life God desires for us. The more we give in to it, the uglier and more selfish our behavior becomes until we bear little resemblance to our generous and loving Savior Jesus Christ.

We all remember the Great Recession of 2008 that leveled countless Americans. Banks collapsed, over 2.6 million lost their jobs, and almost four million saw their homes in foreclosure.

We were living in Kansas City at the time, and though our neighborhood hadn’t been hit as hard as those in Los Angeles, Detroit, or Orlando, the devastation was obvious. Piles of furniture and other belongings littered the sidewalks and red foreclosure or for sale by auction signs stood in numerous lawns—evidence of loss, financial ruin, and deeply hurting families.

Fear dominated. People worried the economy might never bounce back and began to fill their pantries and basements with canned foods and dry goods. Anxiety and survivalism rose dramatically while charitable giving plummeted—at a time when millions of Americans desperately needed aid.

Maybe you were one of those desperate Americans, or maybe you joined in the stockpile craze.

As we’ve seen again and again, chaos and need can trigger fear, and fear can lead to hoarding and selfishness. To apathy and isolation.

But fear can also be a catalyst to faith—an emotion that drives us not to ourselves but to our God as we seek His wisdom and power in our most chaotic situations. When we do that, what a testimony to grace we provide!

This was precisely what the ancient world witnessed in a group of beaten down and oppressed new believers living in Thessalonica. While experiencing “severe suffering” that scholars believe included economic persecution and property seizures, they excelled in faith (1 Thess. 1:7), in their evangelistic efforts (1 Thess. 1:8), and in generosity (2 Cor. 8:2). So much so that Paul used them as an example of faithfulness in his letter to the Corinthians:

“In the midst of a very severe trial,” Paul said, “their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing this service to the Lord’s people” (2 Cor. 8:2-4, NIV, emphasis mine).

Despite their “persecutions and hardships” (2 Thess. 1:4), they gave above and beyond, from a human perspective, what they were able.

What a statement this must have made to the watching world! It’s one thing to tell others about Jesus our Provider; it’s another matter to live as though He is. People might ignore our proclamations of God’s power and sovereignty, but when we behave as though we believe our words are true—that’s when questions arise, curiosity is stirred, and God-willing, our faith becomes contagious.

Sadly, there are times when I resemble the 2008 survivalists more than those world-changing ancient Christians. When that happens, it’s usually because I’ve lost focus. Somewhere between my struggle and my reactions, I forget my role and what’s at stake—that this world won’t last forever, and once their time on earth ends, my friends and neighbors will spend eternity in one of two places—experiencing the joy of God’s presence in heaven or forever separated from Him in the darkness of hell.

When I remember that, my desire to self-protect and sock-pile fade as God’s love for His broken and sin-ravished world take hold.

Let’s talk about this! When you feel afraid, does your fear normally drive you to Jesus? How might focusing on Him, His heart for you and the world, and the gospel, change your response in the middle of your greatest chaos? Share your examples, stories, and victories with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another.

If you struggle with fear (like, I believe, most of us do), I encourage you to come to our next Wholly Loved Bold and Brave event, hosted by Calvary Community Church in Lincoln. You can find out more and register HERE. (Or, contact me HERE to host your own Bold and Brave event.)

Before you go, make sure to sign up for Jennifer’s free quarterly newsletter (HERE)!

You’ll receive great content sent directly to your inbox (a short story, devotion, recipe, and more) cover image for study based on 1 Timothyalong with a free, 36-lesson study (ebook) based on 1 Timothy (sent separately via a clickable link in the follow-up welcome letter). Note: If you signed up for her newsletter but never received your free ebook, please contact me HERE.

Want Jennifer or one of her team members to come speak at your next women’s event? Contact her HERE. 

 

Revealing a Faith That Stands

mother and child and inspirational message

Moms, what you do each day matters. How you live your faith, it matters. When you pray, turn to praise music, or simply power through—it matters.

They say children learn more about faith from watching us than they do from anything we might tell them. And though I think that’s probably true, I hope it’s not. Because there’ve been so many times I’ve messed up. Times when I’ve chosen selfishness over love, pride over forgiveness, and disobedience over surrender.

If left on my own, I would’ve completely messed our daughter up ten times over. But whenever my heart would begin to stray or deception set in, God would gently nudge me, saying, “This is the way, My daughter. Walk in it” (Isaiah 30:21). And because of that—because of Him—situations that could’ve destroyed our family and greatly hindered our daughter’s faith had the opposite effect.

The most memorable occurred when we were living in Louisiana. The year before, my husband had quit his job and we packed our things and headed south, far from the church and friends we’d grown to love, only to find our lives uprooted less than six months later.

I was angry, frightened, and confused, and began to withdraw within myself, so consumed with what was going on within me, I was completely oblivious to how my growing irritability and sadness affected everyone else.

women and childUntil one morning, while laying in bed, Bible spread open before me, I read Proverbs 14:1, which says, “The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down” (NIV). The moment I finished reading the verse, my daughter said, “Mommy?” and I looked up to find her standing in my bedroom doorway, watching me.

My heart wrenched as realization took hold. My daughter needed me, and she needed to see Jesus in me. She needed to see not only the faith that shouted hallelujahs on Sunday mornings or carted her off to Bible class. She needed to see the type of faith that could stand when it felt like the world was crumbling.

She needed to see what it looked like to lean on Jesus—that this Christianity thing was more than cheery slogans adults say to one another. She needed to see a real, living, steadfast faith, and our season of chaos offered the perfect opportunity.

From that morning on, I determined to behave differently. I was still sad and frightened. I was still angry over some of things that had happened, but instead of pulling within myself, I began to focus on Jesus. Dinner turned from times of tension and silence to prayers and family devotions. Bedtimes turned to faith discussions where we openly talked about what we knew to be true in the midst of all that was going on.

And as a result, our family grew closer and I believe, Jesus became all the more real to a young, impressionable, and equally frightened little girl who needed an unshakable faith to stand on.

Let’s talk about this! What are some ways you reveal enduring faith when life feels hard or uncertain? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another!

Before you leave, make sure to sign up for my free quarterly newsletter.

Subscribers receive image of cover for study based on 1 Timothygreat, free content sent directly to their inbox along with a free, 36-lesson study (ebook form) based on truths presented in 1 Timothy (sent separately). (If you signed up and haven’t yet received your free study, please contact me through this website so I can get that to you!) You can sign up HERE.

The Faithfulness of God in the Middle of Our Uncertainty

I know fear. I know uncertainty. I know the desire to cling to and remain in my comfort zone, and I’ve seen what happens when I follow God and step out, whether that means walking across the street to engage with a neighbor, joining a ministry, maybe galavanting across the nation–as I happen to be doing right now. 😉

If you were in the audience this past Monday, you learned I can easily allow fear to hinder my obedience. But I’m learning not only how futile many of my fears are, but where I need to place them–in Christ’s hands.

I thought of this, and my self-protecting tendency, when left on my own, as I read Laura Hilton’s post below. If you find yourself clinging to safety nets and searching for comfort zones, may you be encouraged, inspired–and challenged–by Laura’s devotion.

The Faithfulness of God in the Middle of Our Uncertainty

by Laura Hilton

“For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7, NIV). 

I am a coward. There is no other way to put it.

My son was graduating from A school with the Coast Guard. This is a school where Coasties are sent to learn the job they would be doing in the Coast Guard. My son is a DC rating and his job is “Firefighter” but firefighting is only a small part of what he does.

Basically, he is a “Damage Controlman” and does it all. Construction. Plumbing. Welding. Firefighting. And so much more.

So, my Coastie really wanted us to come to his graduation. This is a big moment for them. This, and when they graduate from bootcamp.

But I’m looking at the map from the northern part of Arkansas to Newport News, Virginia and thinking, “Um, we have to drive through Nashville, Tennessee.”

Terror strikes. I get freaked out driving through Little Rock, Arkansas and Springfield, Missouri. Memphis, Tennessee is a nightmare. And Nashville will only be worse.

Thankfully, my husband loves me. We loaded up the car with three of the five kids (one was in college and couldn’t come) and headed toward Virginia. And he googled the trip so we could take a bypass around Nashville.

But then there was Knoxville. He hadn’t googled to find a bypass for Knoxville and we hit it at five o’clock rush hour. Five lanes of traffic, going one way, all at a complete stop.

I was praying, shaking, but trying so hard not to freak out and scare the girls, because they were scared enough. Like me, they were used to rural Arkansas traffic where five cars on the road is considered a traffic jam.

But God came through. We survived Knoxville. And the Great Smokies and Appalachian Mountains we saw were absolutely gorgeous. Some of God’s best handiwork. I was able to stand on the Appalachian Trail (an item on my bucket list) and my children actually hiked a portion. And standing on the trail I knew why people hiked it to find God. There is just a tangible peace around that place.

And I saw the ocean. For the very first time. In real life. I handled it. In my hands. Another item on my bucket list.

Even though I was ripped out of my comfort zone, the trip was worth it. For more than one reason. I got to meet some Coast Guard Moms I’d become internet friends with. I planned to meet some reader friends (but that didn’t work out.) I met courageous young men my son talked about as they were in his classes in A school. I saw my son. And I checked two items off my bucket list.

God came through. And even though I’ll probably panic when facing a long trip through major cities again, I learned that God is able to protect us in rush hour in unfamiliar cities. And He has some pleasant surprises along the way.

***

Let’s talk about this! When have you felt fearful, uncomfortable, or insecure about something but chose to do it anyway? What was the result? Would you do it again, if given the choice? Did you learn anything about God during those times? About yourself?

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

And while we’re talking about encouragement … I’ll be releasing the next edition of my quarterly newsletter this month! Are you a subscriber yet? If not, how come? You’re missing out on some fun and inspiring free content: short stories, recipes, devotions, and of course, info on where I’m at or what’s next for me. Plus, in the very near future, I’ll be hosting regular fun give-aways available only to subscribers. Want to sign up? You can do so HERE.

***

Laura V. Hilton is an award-winning, sought-after author with almost twenty Amish, contemporary, and historical romances. When she’s not writing, she reviews books for her blogs, and writes devotionals for blog posts for Seriously Write and Putting on the New.

Laura and her pastor-husband have five children and a hyper dog named Skye. They currently live in Arkansas. One son is in the U.S. Coast Guard. She is a pastor’s wife, and homeschools her two youngest children.

When she’s not writing, Laura enjoys reading, and visiting lighthouses and waterfalls. Her favorite season is winter, her favorite holiday is Christmas. Visit her online at

her blog,  follow her on Twitter @laura_V_Hilton, and connect with her on Facebook.

Second Chance Brides:

Hope for Happy Endings Is Renewed in Nine Historical Romances

Meet nine women from history spanning from 1776 to 1944 feel the sting of having lost out on love. Can their hope for experiencing romance again be renewed?

Love in the Crossfire by Lauralee Bliss – Trenton, New Jersey, 1776
Gretchen Hanson watched her beau go off to war and never return. She soon falls for an enemy scout who stumbles upon her farm. If Jake is discovered, it could mean death for them all. Will Gretchen let go of love or stand strong?

Daughter of Orion by Ramona K. Cecil – New Bedford, Massachusetts, 1859
Whaling widow, Matilda Daggett, vows to never again give her heart to a seaman. But when debt drives her to masquerade as a cabin boy on a whaling ship, a young harpooner threatens both her vow and her heart.

The Substitute Husband and the Unexpected Bride by Pamela Griffin – Washington Territory, 1864
Cecily McGiver, a mail-order bride, arrives in the rugged Washington Territory shocked to find herself without a husband—that is until Garrett, a widower, offers to take the position. Can the challenges that face them lead to love?

The Prickly Pear Bride by Pam Hillman – Little Prickly Pear Creek, Montana Territory, 1884
Shepherdess Evelyn Arnold left her intended at the altar so he could marry the woman he really loved. Dubbed Miss Prickly Pear, Evelyn is resigned to a loveless life and the ridicule of her neighbors. When Cole Rawlins sweeps her out of a raging river, she realizes even a prickly pear can find love.

The Widow of St. Charles Avenue by Grace Hitchcock – New Orleans, 1895
Colette Olivier, a young widow who married out of obligation, finds herself at the end of her mourning period and besieged with suitors out for her inheritance. With her pick of any man, she is drawn to an unlikely choice.

Married by Mistake by Laura V. Hilton – Mackinac Island, 1902
When a plan to pose for advertising goes awry, Thomas Hale and Bessie O’Hara find themselves legally married. Now Bessie and Thomas must decide whether to continue the charade or walk away. Either choice could ruin them if the truth gets out.

Fanned Embers by Angela Breidenbach – Bitterroot Mountains, Montana/Idaho border, 1910
Stranded in the treacherous railroad camp after her husband’s murder, Juliana Hayes has no desire to marry a ruffian like Lukas Filips. Can she release prejudice to love again? Or will they even survive the fiery Pacific Northwest disaster to find out?

From a Distance by Amber Stockton – Breckenridge, Colorado, 1925
Financial Manager Trevor Fox sets out to find a lady to love him and not his money, then meets and falls for an average girl only to discover she’d deceived him to protect her heart after he unknowingly rejects her.
Buy it HERE.  

 

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.

Counting Down to Our Study

So soon to launch day!

July 11th! 

I’m excited! I learn so much dialoguing with other women! Not to mention, I cherish the relationships I develop when I “sit” (online or in person) and study God’s Word, the Bible. There’s something unifying, something incredibly nourishing and fulfilling, some peace-ensuing, about soaking in God’s timeless truths.

I hope you’ll join us!

We’ve created our Facebook page and working hard, studying, praying, in preparation. We can’t wait to take this journey with you as we journey together with Christ, learning how to live lives of love.

I have a tendency to make things entirely too complicated. To get myself fixated on, to worry about, and obsess over things that simply don’t matter. If I’m not careful, I can be swayed by other people’s opinions, sucked into mindless chatter, enthralled by sensationalized news broadcasts.

Unless I intentionally fight against this, my life can be characterized by whatever is going on around me rather than what God is trying to do in and through me. I can easily allow all the gunk to rob me of my focus, my passion … and my purpose.

Life without purpose is empty, and that is not the kind of life God has called us to! God has called us to a live lives of impact characterized by a deep love for Him and His children. Regardless of what is going on around us. And I believe He’s given us the tools to live that out in a letter written by a man to his young, insecure mentee some 2,000 years ago.

Over the next ten weeks, join Maria Morgan and I as we dig deep into this ancient yet incredibly relevant book to learn how we can live filled with the love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and a genuine faith.

Here’s what to expect:

Tuesday –
*an in depth look at the week’s verse/passage (on Maria’s site)
*suggested Bible reading & discussion questions (on Maria’s site)
*discuss what God has shown you (right here on Facebook)

Wednesday –
*relevant Bible reading & additional questions for you to consider (right here on Facebook)

Thursday –
*a short testimonial with personal application and a brief discussion (on Jennifer’s site)

Friday –
*final Bible reading with discussion questions to wrap up the week (right here on Facebook)

 

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!