Blessed Obedience –– Guest Post

If God told us ahead of time, where our steps of obedience would lead, I’m certain we’d surrender to His leading. Well, assuming everything turned out as we hoped. But then, therein lies the problem, right? We know God is good, loving, faithful, and true, and we know He will ultimately work all things out for our good, if not today, then in heaven. But what if the journey He calls us to between now and then is hard quote on obedience pulled from post with a sunset backgroundand painful? Does that question ever hinder your response? It has mine. But perhaps there’s a more important question we need to ask: what if, in our disobedience, we miss something amazing and life-changing? What if we miss the very thing God created us for?

Blessed Obedience
By Martha Rogers

“You need a change!” I slammed my notebook on my desk and plopped into my chair. One more confrontation with a principal about something over which I had no control led me to this angry comment. I didn’t realize the impact those words would have on life or where they would eventually lead me.

I taught at a public high school and loved teaching, but the principal’s temperament and his behavior with another teacher troubled me. In addition, my responsibilities with school and family gave me no time to pursue my ultimate dream of being a published writer. As I prayed about the situation, God confirmed my thoughts. “Yes, you need a change.” The words were as clear as if He sat next to me.

Our church had opened a private school for students from preschool to high school, and I thought about teaching there, but it would mean a cut in pay whereas transferring to another school in the district or going to another district wouldn’t.

With more prayer for guidance, the Lord tugged on my heart and pulled me toward the private school. I still held doubts, but after more prayer, I could no longer deny the call God laid on my heart. In 1981, I obeyed, applied at the private school, was accepted, and resigned my position in the public school.

At the time, I didn’t think of it as obedience. Instead, I saw the opportunity to get out of an unpleasant non-Christian environment. I loved the new school and the people there. The teachers became good friends who were willing to help each other and pray for each other. The teenage students I taught were typical teens with all different behaviors and attitudes, but for the most part easy to teach. I even had time to begin work on a novel I had in my head and wanted to write.

A few months ago, our First Place 4 Health group began a study called, Seek God First. One of the lessons was on obedience. On one day, the writer discussed the blessings and the rewards of obedience. She asked the question, “Has there been a time in your life when you were obedient to something God spoke to about?” That question took me back to God’s direction to change schools. As I looked at my life since that spring of 1981, I began to see that if I had not followed His direction in obedience, I would have missed so much He had planned for my life.

I had the opportunity to go back to college and earn my MEd in Curriculum with an emphasis on Creative Writing. I thought seventh and ninth grade English and loved it. However, after ten years, a new headmaster came in and told me, along with a number of other teachers, that our contracts would not be renewed.

Although I was able to procure a college teaching position because of my graduate degree, I held disappointment and resentment against God in my heart for a year. During that year God brought circumstances into my life I couldn’t have handled if I’d still been teaching full time. Once again God spoke to my heart and I realized I’d been grieving the Holy Spirit while being in the exact place God needed me to be at that time.

I released my resentment and prayed for the Lord to show me what He wanted me to do and where He wanted me to go. He started me on the next part of the journey which would take me through major ups and downs until I finally reached where God wanted me to be.

While teaching at the college level, I worked on my novel, joined writing groups and attended writing woman writingconferences. I also battled breast cancer, but continued to write and teach as I went into remission. When the cancer returned, I sensed God wanted me to retire. I did and went through more treatment, and the cancer was healed.

Now I had the time to work on the novel, attend more writing conferences, and become more active in a local and national writing group. I met other wonderful authors and the woman who became my literary agent. I also had several magazine articles published, and stories selected for various compilations.

In 2009, another ten years after retirement, I received my first contract for a historical novel that led to six books in that series and two more four book series. In the next ten years I went on to publish over fifty novels and novellas.

If I hadn’t obeyed, I wouldn’t have had the time to return to school and earn my master’s degree. Without that degree, I wouldn’t have been able to teach at the college level when God took me from the private school. Then God gave me the time to work on my writing and attend conferences and to move forward.

Now, almost forty years later, I sit at my computer pounding out words in fulfillment of a dream I had as a child. God fulfilled my dream because I chose obedience to His call no matter where it led.

Let’s talk about this! Has there been a time when you went ahead with plans of your own without truly asking God what He wanted you to do? What was the result?

Why is it sometimes so hard for us to listen to what we know is right, but our hearts rebel against doing it?

Get to know Martha!

Martha Rogers is a free-lance writer and multi-published author from Realms Fiction of Charisma Media Martha Roger's Headshotand Winged Publications. She was named Writer of the Year at the Texas Christian Writers Conference in 2009. She is a member of ACFW and writes the weekly Verse of the Week for the ACFW Loop. ACFW awarded her the Volunteer of the Year in 2014. Her first electronic series from Winged Publications, Love in the Bayou City of Texas, debuted in the spring of 2015.  Martha is a frequent speaker for writing workshops and the Texas Christian Writers Conference. She is a retired teacher and lives in Houston with her husband, Rex. Their favorite pastime is spending time with their twelve grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. Visit her online HERE.

Check out her latest release, Legacy of Deception:

Cover image for Legacy of DeceptionA case of mistaken identity, a long hidden family secret, a plan to take away a woman’s wealth, and a determined young woman’s plan to stop it, all lead to a family showdown when evil is uncovered and deceptions are.exposed that will change lives forever.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When God Speaks––Where Obedience Can Lead

Quote on following God's plan by Francis Chan

We’ve all sensed God nudging us to do something that appeared to make no sense. Maybe we sensed Him to pray for a stranger, speak certain words to a friend, or step into an area that you feel countless others in your circle would be more qualified for.

How do you respond in those situations? When you sense that nudge into the unknown, what fears most often hold you back? That you’ll fail? That you’ll embarrass yourself? That you’ll be misjudged or misunderstood? That you’ve heard God wrong and therefore will be venturing forward alone?

Years ago, after Wholly Loved’s first women’s conference, a woman approached me. Standing in that busy and noisy atrium, though I struggled to understand her words, her eyes and voice carried an unmistakable intensity. God had gripped her heart that day and planted within her the first seeds of her assignment. He wanted her to speak for Him.

But here’s the thing. At the time, she could barely speak. She’d suffered two back-to-back strokes less than a year prior, strokes that should’ve taken her life but instead, stole her mobility and her speech. By the time of the conference, she’d relearned how to walk, but was in the midst of retraining her brain to talk. As a result, she stammered and stuttered significantly through each sentence.

God was calling this woman, who could barely get her words out that afternoon, to stand on a stage and speak for Him. Can you imagine the inner angst, the wrestling, the questions that must’ve swirled through her brain as she sat in the audience, sensing God’s call? Maybe even fighting His call? The call to speak in general, but also the call to speak to me that day? Even if she was convinced, without a doubt, that God was asking her to do both, she had to worry how I might respond. At least, I would’ve. And then, assuming I got up and began to put feet to His call, I worry I would’ve talked myself out of obedience with every step I took.

But not Sarah Conaway, tri-founder of Stromies, a ministry to stroke survivors. She rose on her less-than-Anonymous Quote on looking forward with hopesteady legs, navigated around the throng of women gathering in the atrium, waited in line to talk to me, and then looked me in the eye and boldly said, “I want to do what you do.” She wanted to share her story, to proclaim, to whomever would listen, all that God had done.

The woman who was struggling to speak and likely had moments when she wondered if she’d be able to do so coherently ever again, wanted to publicly speak for Jesus.

That was less than five years, and God has done amazing things during that time. Sarah is indeed speaking for Him. Her story has quite literally reached across the globe. Her ministry has nearly 2,500 Instagram followers and 1,300 followers on Facebook. She’s spoken at Rotary, Kiwanis clubs, the University of Nebraska Medical Center, was interviewed on her local Channel 3 station, and has spoken to numerous support groups.

And all because, even when obedience made no sense, she told God yes.

What’s God asking you to do? What’s hindering your obedience? Give those fears, all of them, to God. Give Him all your doubts, then, after you’ve done so, give Him your obedience. Your surrender, trusting your faithful, loving God to lead you to His very best.

Visit Sarah’s ministry HERE and find Stromies on Facebook HERE. Watch for Jennifer Slattery’s upcoming Thriving With Chronic Illness to hear her full story and how God’s using her. If you’re sensing a nudge from God but are struggling to find the courage to move forward, make sure to listen to Jennifer’s Faith Over Fear Episode on fighting fear of failure. You can find it HERE.

For those looking for perfect, timeless Father’s Day gifts, read her latest article on iBelieve HERE.

Fear No More–Finding Eternal Significance in Christ

In my young adult years, I wasted so much energy, so much peace, trying to prove my worth. Driven by a hidden fear of insignificance, I chased after one goal after another and defined myself by external and subjective standards. As a result, I developed a rather shallow sense of purpose and believed the lie that I was what I did. Therefore, my heart inevitably shifted toward pride or insecurity, and it often bounced between the two numerous times each day.

But then, sickness temporarily robbed me of my ability to perform all those tasks I thought defined me. Roles shifted rapidly in our home as the caretaker became the one receiving care. There were days I felt worthless, like a burden and a drain. I hadn’t learned to live anchored in my Christ-centered identity.

It took temporarily losing myself—who I thought I was—to recognize and rest in where my true significance lay. One afternoon, battling pain and fatigue, I asked God, in frustration, why He wouldn’t heal me. After all, couldn’t I serve Him better well—strong and energetic? Just imagine all the studies I could lead, the women I could mentor, the outreach events I could help plan!

But as I sat in His presence, He spoke heart-soothing truth to my soul. He hadn’t created me to launch ministries, raise perfect children, or even to embark on oversea missions. Now, He may indeed call me to do those things, but that wasn’t why He gave me breath. Instead, He formed me by His loving hands for His pleasure and His glory. That’s where my true significance lies—in Him—and I can live that out, no matter my circumstances or limitations.

When I was sick, that meant sitting in His presence every day and connecting, Father to daughter, and knowing in those moments, that was enough. I didn’t have to perform, impress, strive, or to stress. I simply needed to live loved and to love God and others in return.

As a mom, I get this. I’m crazy proud of my daughter, of all she’s accomplished and overcome, but her external achievements aren’t what bring me greatest pleasure. Rather, my heart fills with joy whenever she turns off her phone, sets her agenda aside, and simply sits with me. Those are the moments I cherish most. She doesn’t have to impress me or present a polished image of herself. She doesn’t have to check off numerous sacrificial tasks to enter my presence. She simply needs to come, and when she does, I welcome her near. In fact, were she to forfeit time with me to achieve what she hoped might impress me, I’d be saddened.

I suspect God would say the same. Though He longs for our obedience, of course, and for us to live our lives surrendered to Him, He desires us most of all. He paid a high price—death on the cross—to remove the sin that separated us and to draw us close. Ephesians The price Christ paid to draw us near1:5 says, “God decided in advance to adopt us into His own family by bringing us to Himself through Jesus Christ. This is what He wanted to do, and it gave Him great pleasure” (NLT, emphasis mine).

Can anything be more glorious, more fulfilling, more significant than that—to bring all mighty God, Creator and Ruler of all, pleasure? According to Scripture, that’s precisely what we did the moment we received Christ’s grace.

During my time of illness, as I daily rested in Him, simply connected with Him, I sensed and echoed His pleasure. I received pleasure not from anything God had done or might do but simply through my union with Him.

During those soul-to-Christ encounters, God reminded me of my second yet equally important purpose—to make Him known. Though I’d always assumed I did that best through some grand act of service, perhaps leading Vacation Bible School or speaking from a stage, He helped me see how my weakness, my steady leaning on Him, could provide the purest proclamation of the gospel.

God wasn’t asking me to be a super-hero Christian displaying super-human strength. Rather, He was asking me to demonstrate a super-hero, ever-present, ever-loving God able to carry me through every struggle and triumph. That’s what it means to bring Him glory. The gospel is most clearly revealed through our dependence on Him, and sometimes that dependence shows clearest when we feel as if our significance, at least as our culture might define it, has slipped away.

My identity is in Christ—I am loved by and belong to Him, and that will never change.

My significance is in Christ—He defines my worth and assigns my purpose.

What’s more, my purpose is to know Christ and make Him known, and I can do that when well, when sick, when energetic, and when tired.

Let’s talk about this! In what ways have you allowed your identity, value, and purpose to become tangled? Have you based your significance on the roles you fill or tasks you perform? How might God be calling you to go deeper—in Him? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Connect with Jennifer Slattery on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, join her private Faith Over Fear Facebook Group, listen to her Faith Over Fear podcast HERE

Additional resources:

What Makes My Life Significant by John Piper

Finding Significance in Christ by Abiding Above Ministries

Who Am I? A New Way to Define Identity by Melissa Crutchfield

Visit Jennifer’s Faith Over Fear page for more faith-building resources

 

Fear of Missing Out–Finding Faith in God’s Leading

Woman walking down dirt road

Thirteen years ago, as we packed our minivan from top to bottom to move literally across the country, I felt as if I was losing myself. I thought my dreams, which God had slowly birthed within me as I served in a close-knit Southern California church, would languish then die.

Ten years later, when one transition after another crippled an organization I wrote for, my journey once again felt unsteady. Fearful to lose something that brought such fulfillment, I began striving and stressing and fighting to control every area of my career. As a result, every opportunity left me with more confusion than clarity, more exhaustion than hope or joy.

It felt as if I was standing at a main trail head with a thousand paths extending before me trying to discern which one would lead to my desired destination. And in my inability to make a decision, to rest in my Father’s loving and faithful arms, I chose them all, or at least, as many as I could, inevitably forfeiting my joy, peace, and effectiveness.

Ironically, my fear of missing out—of that perfect opportunity or experience or role—caused me to miss out on those things that truly mattered. Eventually, everything became stressful and burdensome, like I was constantly kicking against high tide.

Defeated and discouraged, I told God I was tired of the work, of the stress, and the pressure. I told Him I wanted to quit.

He agreed, though He didn’t want me to quit writing and serving. He wanted me to quit striving. He wanted me to rest in Him. To trust that He had a plan and was big enough and strong enough and loving enough to bring that plan to pass.

He’s strong enough to perfect all that concerns me, all that concerns my loved ones, and all that concerns the women I serve.

Like Psalm 139:16 promises, “all the days ordained for me were written in [His} book before one of them came to be” Psalm 139:16 with sunrise background(NIV).

If I believe this to be true, for me and those I love, I have no reason to fear or to strive. I simply need to listen, surrender, and obey.

Whenever I begin to feel exhausted and overwhelmed, whenever I’m tempted to chase after that next shiny or exciting thing, I have to ask myself why. Because I’ve self-analyzed enough to know there’s almost always something deeper going on—some hole I’m hoping to fill, wound I’m trying to numb, or fear I’m trying to avoid.

True peace comes when I humbly pray, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24, NIV).

Search me: Penetrate to my depths, to those deepest, most hidden parts of me. Expose my self-deception and faulty perception and flood every shadowed crevice within my heart with Your truth-bearing, lie-expelling light.

Know my anxious thoughts: Reveal to me what I’m really thinking and those nagging lies that fuel distrust. Lies such as: God doesn’t care, doesn’t hear, or lacks the desire and power to lead me and those I love.

Lead me in the way everlasting: Purge everything false, everything hurtful or idolatrous, so that Your faith-bolstering truth may reign. Lead me in Your way, for only You and the things of You are eternal, and only You know how to feed and fill my heart.

Let’s talk about this. How often does fear of missing out—the fear that you or someone you love will miss out on something—drive your behavior?

For example, fear that:

  • turning down that extra project will cost you that promotion
  • not signing your child up for that traveling sports team will cost them popularity and social connections
  • declining that invitation will place you on the outskirts of your peer group
  • setting boundaries in that relationship will prevent you from getting married or having a family
  • should you prioritize financial wisdom over that vacation, the opportunity may never come again

But perhaps an even better question: Are you living like a called, empowered, and loved child of the sovereign God or like an orphan?

What is one truth you can meditate on this week to live more consistently as God’s chosen and deeply loved child and move deeper into freedom?

Additional resources:

Four Ways to Fight Fear of Missing Out by Jon Bloom

Have No Fear of Missing Out by

Countering Fear of Missing Out by Jennifer Slattery

Visit Jennifer’s Faith Over Fear page HERE for additional resources.

Let’s talk about this! Do you struggle with a fear of missing out, and if so how? How does remembering Christ is control and has a plan for you help you move from fear to faith.

Connect with Jennifer Slattery on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, join her private Faith Over Fear Facebook Group, Logo image for Faith Over Fearlisten to the first two episodes of her Faith Over Fear podcast HERE and find her free Bible reading plan HERE.

Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.comThe “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™

When Anxiety Tries to Win

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When I’m feeling anxious, which is often, my husband says he’s going to “sit on me.” This isn’t some idle threat, nor a threat at all. Rather, his words convey a promise to, literally and figuratively, cover me with his strength and love, though he doesn’t actually sit. Instead, he rolls over on top of me, completely enveloping me in his much bigger and stronger self. Perhaps he’s attempting to squeeze out all my angst, or maybe, not knowing what else to do, simply wants me to know he’s there, sees my inner struggle, and that he cares.

The first time he “covered me” in his love occurred around eight years ago. It had been a tough week during which God had allowed some deep, long buried hurts from my past to resurface. In the middle of this painful, fragile time, I received a phone call that left me sobbing so hard, I couldn’t catch my breath. It was as if every hurt once suppressed suddenly rose to the surface. It’s hard to describe the intensity of my emotions except to say that it literally felt as if my heart were shredding .

And in the middle of my ugly cry, as I lay in bed, tears coursing down my cheeks, my husband came to my side and immediately rolled on top of me, squishing me in the strongest, firmest, most immovable hug I’d ever experienced. “I love you, I love you, I love you,” he said over and over. Then, after maybe the tenth time, realization hit: “That’s Jesus.”

I understood, with tear-quieting clarity, that Christ was loving me through my husband in that moment. Though this experience and the understanding that followed didn’t alleviate my pain, it did make it more bearable, because I knew I wasn’t alone. Through my husband, Jesus showed me that He saw me, loved me, was with me, and would carry me through.

When my emotions and circumstances feel out of control, I love to spend time reading through the Psalms. Many of them were written by a man named David who was hunted down for years and, at one point, forced to hide in a cave. Though proven to be a courageous warrior, many of his psalms reveal he also struggled with fear. But in the midst of his most terrifying circumstances, he never lost sight of what he knew to be true: that sovereign creator God was always with him, would never leave him, and would one day turn everything to good.

When others warned him of threats, encouraging him to flee, he responded, in essence, saying, “I trust God to protect me, so why should I run.” (Psalm 11:1) Even if a thousand dangers lurked in the shadows (Ps. 11:3), David refused to Quote pulled from post
cower, because he knew God was both intimately near (in His holy temple) and reigning from heaven (Ps. 11:4), where He could see all. Though life and David’s circumstances might have felt out of control, truth told him otherwise. He knew with unshakable certainty that the all-powerful, all-knowing God was with Him, in the middle of his greatest challenge, engulfing him in love and truth.

As David Guzik from the Enduring Word puts it, “When David considers the greatness of God, the care of God, and the vision of God, it all outweighs the danger.”

When we’re anxious, may we consider and meditate on those same unchangeable truths, and may we wrap ourselves deeply, completely, in God’s loving, protective embrace. Though this may not alleviate our anxiety, it will make it more bearable as we cling to the certainty that God will carry us through.

Let’s talk about this! Do you struggle with anxiety? If so, what are some things you’ve found to help?

If you haven’t already done so, consider joining my private Faith Over Fear Facebook group where I share daily challenges designed to help all of us move from fear to faith. You can join HERE.

I also invite you to join Wholly Loved’s private group where you can share your struggles, celebrations, doubts, and prayer requests and link arms with other women learning to anchor themselves in grace. You can find us HERE.

Additional resources you might find helpful:

Breaking the Fear Cycle by Maria Furlough

When Our World Feels Out of Control

Tracing Our Fears to Their Proclamations

Faith Over Fear Bible Reading Plan

Fear and Faith: Finding the Peace Your Heart Craves by Trillia J Newbell

 

 

 

Refreshing Our Prayer Life Through Remembering

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Have you ever paused to consider where you might be now if not for God’s intervention? I need to do this regularly, otherwise I become complacent, prideful, and entitled. I begin to focus on minor inconveniences—a traffic jam that makes me late for a meeting, or an unexpected bill that eats my coffee fund—rather than Christ and eternity.

Worse, I forget to listen and I resist surrender. I deceive myself into thinking I have all the answers, that I alone hold the outcome of my future. And with every forgetful step, my pride rises up, urging me to follow the god of self.

I know that god well, and I know precisely where she leads. Her progression from selfishness to isolation and broken relationships. Uncontrolled finances. Unresolved hurts and unchecked faulty perceptions. Lord, help me remember those dark, confused places and every battle You won on my behalf.

Perhaps that’s why Scripture often encourages us to remember and warns us not to forget.

In Deuteronomy 6:12 the Israelites were told to “take care lest you forget the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” In Psalm 78, we learn the people rebelled because “They forgot what [God] had done, the wonders He had shown them” (NIV). But perhaps most powerfully are Christ’s words, spoken the night before He died, when taking the bread and the wine: “Do this in remembrance of Me” Luke 22:19 (NIV).

Because in the remembering:

I find courage to relinquish my grip, knowing I’ll always land firmly in my Savior’s hands. He’s proven Himself faithful again and again. He’s demonstrated, through my blunders and moments of surrender that His knowledge greatly exceeds mine and His ways truly are best.

I find strength to keep moving, regardless of how steep the climb. Why? Because God’s helped me conquer similar, perhaps even rockier, terrain before, and the strenuous hike always pales compared to the beauty experienced upon the mountain’s peak.

I gain peace as I contemplate God’s steadfast presence and all the years and days and hours that He faithfully walked beside me. I couldn’t always hear Him, and there were times I couldn’t feel Him, and yet, He was there. Always, just as He promised. And also, just as He promised, He will be with me now, today, and tomorrow, and forever more.

Through remembering, praise and strength fill my heart and soul, and the joy of Christ floods my being.

And so I wonder, why don’t I practice this discipline more?

Sometimes my prayers turn perfunctory. I go through my list and often repeat the same requests day after day. While there’s nothing wrong with asking for God’s help—in fact, He bids us to lay all our concerns before Him– I long for more.

Throughout my daughter’s life, she’s asked for many things, and rightly so. We fed her, clothed her, purchased gifts and paid for experiences with us and her friends. When she’s concerned, hurting, or frightened, I hope her father and I are the first people she comes to. I hope she knows we’ll always draw her close and will never turn her away.

But when she simply comes, to connect and spend time with me—those moments are priceless.

The other day, my daughter sent me a message that said simply, “You’re a good mom.” I took a screen shot of her words image of message from daughterand saved them, and I suspect I’ll read them again and again. Not because I feel insecure or even need her validation. Rather, I cherish her and the relationship we’ve cultivated. That was what she expressed in her message—our relationship.

But more than that, I cherish her heart. Her grateful, kind, loving heart.

Is that perhaps how God feels, when we offer Him similar praise? When we pause to reflect, to remember, who He is and what He’s done. When we really take time to sit in those memories, to let them bolster our hearts and our souls.

What are some ways you pause to remember? How do you make those moments times of intimacy between you and your Savior? What are some ways you keep your prayer life fresh and vibrant? Share your thoughts and ideas with us in the comments below. And make sure to connect with Jennifer Slattery on Facebook and Instagram.

Additional resources:

What Does the Bible Say About Remembering on Open Bible

Remembering Then But Now on Bible.org

A Holy Reminder by Jana Kelley

Remembering God’s Blessings by Dr. Charles Stanley

 

Powerful Truth For When Our Hearts Grow Ill

Quote regarding a life committed to God on colorful background

I can easily become entitled. This can remain hidden when life goes well. But when difficulties hit, I find myself battling a slowly corroding heart, half of which longs to surrender to Christ while the rest fights for “self.”

About a decade ago, our family experienced a period of upheaval that triggered some pretty deep and latent wounds. We’d moved across the country six months prior, something I hadn’t wanted to do. I’d just begun to get settled and connected with the local faith and home school communities, when my husband quit his job. Though the logical side of my brain, which shrunk considerably in that moment, understood why, my insecure child threw a fit.

Soon fear turned into bitterness that morphed into depression. As our savings dwindled and we made plans to move yet again, my anger grew. I found the situation unjust, as if I were a victim to my husband’s decisions.

In short, I determined I deserved better. When my life began to crumble, my sense of entitlement wreaked havoc with my peace and surrender.

Somehow I’d forgotten that all life is a gift. I’d forgotten the beauty of salvation—that years prior, my holy God looked down on rebellious and self-destructing me, and in place of judgement, offered me mercy and grace. Whenever I lose sight of the cross, of who God is and all He’s done, my heart begins to turn. Ugliness seeps in, whispering toxic lies like, “This isn’t fair,” and “You deserve better.” The more I listen, the darker my world becomes.

That winter, I began plunging into a gloom that felt heavy and oppressive and might’ve swallowed up everything precious and right in my life, had God not intervened. But He did, with one simple yet profound question:

“Do you love Me now?”

I understood precisely what He was asking. He wanted to know if my love was based on what He did or didn’t give me. Was it a shallow, conditional love that expanded when blessings came and shrunk during hardships? Or did the One who bled and died for me have my heart?

Tears poured down my face as reality hit—not just regarding my current plight, but of who Christ was, in all His risen glory. He’d given His life so that I might live, and in that moment, I gave mine back to Him. I surrendered.

As I did, peace and joy rushed in, giving me the strength to endure our challenges well as I leaned fully on Him.

Now, when entitlement begins to rise up, I contemplate Scriptures like Psalm 8. Written as a hymn, the words remind me of who God is and who I am in relation to Him.

“Lord, our Lord,” David wrote, calling Him not just Yahweh, the powerful Creator, but Adonia, his master as well.

“How majestic is your name … You have set Your glory in the heavens …” (v. 1). There I pause, for as long as necessary, prayerfully meditating on God’s power and vastness. “When I consider the heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have set in place, what is mankind” or who is Jennifer Slattery “that You are mindful of them, human beings that You care for them?” (v. 3-4).

Who am I, sinful and rebellious and often woefully deceived, that You, my Lord, would notice me? That You would die for me?quote from post with colorful background

When I meditate on the cross, everything else begins to fade. And all I can say is, “Thank You.”

Let’s talk about this! When has a sense of entitlement stolen your peace and joy? How did God redirect you back to gratitude, surrender, and praise?

Speaking of tending our hearts, have you checked out Jennifer Slattery’s Bible reading plan, Cultivating a Thankful Heart? You can find it HERE. And keep an eye out for her upcoming podcast, Faith Over Fear, hosted by Salem communications and her correlating Faith Over Fear Bible reading plan on YouVersion. Both will release in early 2020.

Additional resources:

Entitlement Will Rob You of Rest by Chelsea Patterson Sobolik on Desiring God

The Entitlement Cure: The Path to Jesus by Dr. Townsend

Freedom From Entitlement by Jennifer Slattery

Fighting Discontentment by Jennifer Slattery

The Entitlement Cure by Proverbs 31 Ministries

 

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.

When Hard Times Cause You To Question Your Faith — Guest Post

Sunrise amid clouds with text pulled from post

Everyone has moments of doubts. Some of us have years and even decades of wrestling with deep truths and what we’ve learned about God. But as I often say, doubts don’t so much cause the cracks in our faith as they reveal them. They show us false beliefs, misconceptions, and lightly held truths. In other words, our doubts, when presented honestly to God, when we seek Him and His answers, can pave the way to certainty. Read more from my guest today, Marla Bautista, to see what I mean.

When Hard Times Cause You to Doubt Your Faith

By Marla Bautista

I’ve doubted God, a lot. When my life was at its lowest, I had nothing. I was homeless, broke, and without support from family or friends. I didn’t understand why God allowed me to suffer and wouldn’t alleviate my pain. I was sure He’d left me alone in the world. I spent many nights on the streets, searching for who I was supposed to be, for hope, and ultimately, for peace. I stopped going to church and reading my Bible because I felt abandoned.

Have you ever felt this way?

Yet God promises to remain with us, to help us, and to strengthen us. Isaiah 41:10 reads,: “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” (ESV).

My life hasn’t been easy. Both my parents passed away before I turned ten years old. I was left with an abusive stepfather. I experienced sexual, emotional, and mental abuse throughout my childhood. I ran away from home many times. Taking my younger brother and sister, I sought refuge from someone, somewhere, to no avail. At the age of 18, I became homeless. I was confused, alone, and scared. I constantly asked myself what I did to deserve the life I received. When I went to church, I was prayed over and ministered to, but I left; homeless, still hungry, and still hurting.

While on the streets, I saw and did things that were far from God’s desire. I was lost. I attempted to restore myself. I struggled. Some days, I didn’t have a place to sleep, others, I slept in a jail cell. Many nights I cried out to God, begging for forgiveness, safety from harm, and most of all, mercy. But I lacked faith that God truly cared for me or wanted to restore me.

Over time, I fell into despair. I no longer believed God heard my prayers. Yet, along my journey, there were signs that He did. I was walking down a street one day, hungry, and in tears. I prayed, “God please, I’m hungry. If You can hear me please help me.” As I walked hopelessly for miles, I felt defeated. Later that day, something told me to reach into my pocket. I did and pulled out two dollars. Initially, I felt scared. I’d had those Jeans on for three days. If there was any money in the pockets, I would have known. Jesus, thank You, I said as tears rolled down my cheeks.

In that moment, God began to restore some of my trust in Him.

Having doubt doesn’t mean you don’t believe in God. It means you’re uncertain about your faith. When things occur that we don’t understand, we question them. Our faith is no exception. If you’re in a period of spiritual wrestling, take it as an invitation to get to know God through Scripture.

Throughout the Bible, it speaks about the restoration of faith through prayer, fasting, and obedience. God invites us to seek Him, then to hold tight to His response when He gives it. James 1:6 reads:

“But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by Wind-tossed waves and text from James 1:6the wind” (NIV).

I saw this truth played out in my life.

God revealed that He was always with me. He kept a hedge of protection over my life, even in the worst of times. I’m here today only because of His love. He continues to restore me and has equipped me to use my testimony to prove his undying love, and unfathomable mercy toward His children. He will do the same for you.

Are you experiencing a season of doubt? If so, I challenge you to submerge yourself in prayer for seven days. Ask God to reveal Himself and His purpose for you. Study Scripture, take your doubts to God in prayer, and most importantly, obey what He reveals when you read the Bible.

Let’s talk about this! Can you share a time when God met you in the middle of your doubts? What are some ways God has shown Himself real to you? Or maybe you’re struggling right now. What do you most need to hear from God?

Get to know Marla!

Marla Bautista a Military Spouse and mother of three children. She is also the published author of My Thoughts Abandoned, released in 2017. As a freelance writer and blogger, she has written for many publications. Her passion is giving back to people in need. Marla is the Founder of The Bautista Project, a custom décor and apparel company, which uses its profits to provide for homeless communities. The Bautista Project has provided food and basic living essentials to hundreds of people in need.

Visit her online at her website, connect with her on Facebook, and follow her on Instagram.

If you’re going through a difficult time, especially if you’re in a period of waiting, you may find this video, taken from the Becoming His Princess Study, helpful.

I also invite you to check out Wholly Loved’s Bible app, 30-Days to Emotional Health, available on YouVersion. Find it HERE. And make sure to join our online community by clicking the button below. Oh, and almost forgot: Only five days to release day! Keep an eye out for my next novel, Hometown Healing, releasing in Walmarts and B&Ns near you on the 20th! Woot!

 

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When Life Hits Hard, Remembering the Journey and the Mission

About ten years ago, a major upheaval initially leveled me, but then God used it to bring about incredible healing and growth. Ultimately, He shifted my focus off of myself and onto others and His redemptive mission. He showed me He wanted to use me, right then and there, in the middle of our difficult and uncertain circumstances.

This was shortly after Katrina and Rita, which hit the south back to back. We were living in

Picture of a hurricane

Image by Sadiq Nafee on Unsplash

Louisiana at the time, and though we weren’t directly impacted by the storm, a good proportion of those we encountered were.

During this time, we went through a period of unemployment. My husband later received contract work just outside of New Braunfels, TX. To stay out of debt, we sold our home within a week, packed our minivan with everything we thought we’d need, and crammed everything else in storage. Then we moved to TX and into a 500 sq foot, rent by the month apartment, not knowing how long we’d be there, how long my husband’s contract work would last, or where we’d go once it ended.

This was a hard time for me, in part because of things I’d experienced previously.

But God used this period to bring such freedom, to show me His love and constancy, and to heal some pretty deep wounds. He also created a sense of anticipation. I felt certain we were in that place at that time (wherever He moved us and for however long we stayed) for a specific purpose. So each day I began with an expectant, “What do you have for me today, God? Why am I here at this moment?”

He answered that prayer each day and often used our exact struggle to help me encourage others. I was able to love on them with a compassion I wouldn’t have otherwise.

I thought back to this experience as I was reading through Ezra and how the previously exiled Israelites celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles or Shelters almost immediately upon their return to Jerusalem. (Ezra 3:1-6).

This feast was instituted by God when the people were at Mt. Sinai. He’d rescued them from Egypt and brought them to Himself. This was a time of liberation but also of loss. They’d given up everything to follow God (and Moses) into the unknown, into a literal desert but likely also a spiritual dessert. They lived in tents, as foreigners and travelers, and had no idea what lay ahead. All they knew was, when the cloud of God’s presence rose each morning, they followed. When it stopped they stopped. That was the extent of their knowledge.

God brought them to a place of complete dependence. They couldn’t run to the Nile River to catch fish or sneak to an Egyptian farm to snag a fig. God alone provided their food and water in the desert. As they traveled, in essence homeless, among the foreign nations, they were also to remember their mission. They were God’s chosen people, selected to reveal to every nation they encountered, who God was and how mankind was to relate to and interact with Him.

So, when they celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles or Feast of Booths, generations later, they remembered their ancestors’ journey, their dependence, and God’s presence.

This festival contained two important elements: light and water. Light reminded them of God’s presence–the pillar of fire that led the people each night as they fled their slavery and journeyed to the Promised Land. Light also played an important part in God’s temple. The people were to keep a candle burning continually, also to signify God’s constant presence.

Water reminded them of God’s protection and provision, of how He’d parted the Red Sea–the seemingly insurmountable barrier between them and safety and the land God had promised. It also reminded them of when God provided water through a rock in the desert, and 1 Cor. 10:1-5 tells us that Rock was Christ.

In all of this, they reminded themselves they weren’t alone or abandoned, and that God still had a plan for them.

For those of us in the middle of hard circumstances, I wonder how many have received the call to missions right where we are, in the middle of our hard. How many of us, like the Israelites, are being, not cast off, as we may be inclined to think, but chosen to reveal the power and presence and love of Christ in the middle of difficult situations. To reveal a faith that extends beyond Sunday mornings and sunshine weekends. Because you are precious in His sight, His chosen and redeemed, His daughters, a royal priesthood, called to proclaim the One who brought you out of darkness and into His marvelous light.

Let’s talk about this! When has God called you to serve Him in the middle of a painful or uncertain period, and what was the result? In what ways is He calling you to live on mission for Him today?

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

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.

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