When God Says Give Up

Women with head down

Image by Abbie Bernet on Unsplash

I’ve tried running my life, and it landed me in a mess. The more I fight for control, the more that which I’m fighting for begins to control me. But surrender …

My guest today, novelist and pastor Nathan D. Maki, shares how God called him to give up something he held dear, and what resulted from that. Read his thoughts then share yours in the comments below.

***

Have you ever felt like giving up? Sure you have. Exhausted by the race, flattened by the burden, devastated by the loss…we all hit the wall at some point. If I can be perfectly candid, I’ve been teetering on the edge of giving up writing. Between pastoring a small church, managing a business to pay the bills, and being husband and father to my wife and son the thought of releasing one thing – my writing – is seductive.

“It’s more of a hobby anyway,” I told myself. “It’s not really taking off or paying off for the amount of work and time involved. Maybe you’re a hack anyway.”

Yes, that kind of uplifting, positive self-talk.

But then God told me to give up.

God told me to give up my selfish struggle for success. To relinquish the dream of quitting my day job and just writing and pastoring till He comes or my days end. To give up this book, The Keeper’s Crown. As a symbol of that surrender, he told me not to put a penny of its profits in my pocket.

I’ll be honest, that wasn’t easy. This book is my baby that I’ve worked on for three years hoping it would be my break-out novel. A year ago, when I was still querying agents and dreaming of a deal with a major publisher it probably would have been unthinkable. But God had brought me to a place of surrender. Of giving up. And instead, I gave it to Him.

And you know what? As soon as I agreed to give up peace settled over me. It’s like my whole perspective changed in that moment, and I suddenly realized that I’d Man sitting in nature, contemplativebecome jaded because I was measuring success all wrong. I was measuring in copies sold and dollars and cents, in fame and recognition, in book deals and all the rest. But that’s not how God measures success. In fact, that’s what The Keeper’s Crown is all about, how to measure Godly success – which the Apostle Paul would say is simply obeying what God tells you to do, regardless of the results. I guess I’d kind of forgotten that until God smacked me upside the head at that altar on a Sunday morning not too long ago.

So half the proceeds of this book are going to Hope for Orphans, an orphanage my parents started in a little village in Congo. Half to our church’s breakfast fund, where my wife and our ladies have been serving disadvantaged kids a hot breakfast every Sunday for the past 8 years. That’s what God asked. Jesus sure does love the little children.

The Keeper’s Crown and my writing career are God’s hands now, and looking back through the Scriptures, that’s an exciting thought.

quote imageGod asked a man named Abraham to give up his son Isaac, and he not only received his son back alive but became the Father of the Faithful. (Genesis 22:2)

God asked a nervous wreck named Gideon to give up the safety of his winepress, then turned him into a warrior who brought safety to his entire country by driving out the invaders. (Judges 6 and 7)

God asked three young Hebrew captives in Babylon to give up their lives to the furnace and then brought them out unscathed to make a believer out of King Nebuchadnezzar. (Daniel 3)

God asked a handful of fishermen to give up their ships and nets, and they founded the Church. (Mark 1:16-20)

God asked Paul to give up his freedom, and he preached to the Emperor of Rome and converted even those of Nero’s household and his Praetorian Guard. Paul gave up his life, but attained a victor’s laurel and immortality. (2 Timothy 4:7-8)

What will God do with what I’ve given up? Only time will tell, but I’m crazy excited to find out!

What is God asking you to give up? And how will you answer?

***

cover image for the Keeper's CrownCheck out Nathan’s novel, The Keeper’s Crown!

Quintus

As a boy, he dared to fight Nero. Worse, he won.

Stripped of his family, the love of his life, and his self-respect, he sets out on a quest to win a victor’s crown, rescue his parents, and restore his family’s honor. But his path to glory in the restless province of Judaea is threatened by the corrupt governor Felix, the murderous priest Melechi, and most of all by the rabble-rousing Paul of Tarsus.

When Quintus finds himself in Rome chained to Paul all hope of a crown seems lost, but Paul’s example makes him question the true meaning of success. And why does Jael, the mysterious young Jewess who once saved his life, now respond with barely restrained flashes of hate?

Jael

The Romans took her father and her brother from her.

Now Jael vows to fight for her father’s faith, fulfill her brother’s oath, and avenge their deaths. But the further she travels with Paul and Quintus the more she feels torn. Can she follow her heart and still keep her vow?

Paul

He turned the world upside down.

Paul never expected to end his ministry in chains, but even still, he is determined to carry the gospel to Rome and the Emperor Nero himself. But what if those who need the gospel most are those closest to him?

As the Great Fire strikes Rome, fanning Nero’s persecution of the Christians to a white-hot fury, murderous secrets, impossible choices, and steadfast faith will lead to tragedy and triumph.

Grab a copy HERE.

Join Nathan on Monday, April 2 from 11-3 for a fun, Facebook launch party. There will be Q & A with yours truly, trivia and games, a virtual tour of Rome via pictures he took on his trip, hourly e-book giveaways, and two grand prizes of signed proof copy paperbacks (of only 5 proofs ever printed.) Plus, you’ll get to connect with other book lovers!

Get to know the author!

author headshiot--Nathan MakiA life-long love for historical fiction and a passion to create high-intensity, realistic novels from a Christian world view has propelled Nathan Maki into his writing career. He is the author of the War Within series of novels set in Ancient Rome, and most recently The Keeper’s Crown, a novel of the Apostle Paul.

A recent trip to Rome to walk the ancient streets, explore the Catacombs, and stand in the Coliseum plunged Nathan even deeper into the ancient world he brings to life for his readers. Nathan’s novels combine the faith and romance of Francine Rivers’s Mark of the Lion trilogy with the action and adventure of Bernard Cornwell or Conn Iggulden. Nathan lives in Ontario, Canada, with his wife, son, and three very spoiled dogs. He pastors a church and manages his own business in addition to his writing. Sometimes he even sleeps.

Connect with Nathan online:

Facebook

on his website

Follow him on Twitter: @NathanDMaki

Email him at: NathanDMaki(at)hotmail(dot)com

Running Ahead of God?

Woman sitting at cluttered desk

Image by Andrew Neel from Unsplash

I don’t like chaos, uncertainty, or when things don’t go according to plan–and I almost always have a plan, carefully outlined, day by day, hour by hour, in my day planner. The problem is, I can get so focused on the plan, on my agenda or even what I think God wants me to do, that I quick seeking Him. Linda’s post, below, was a gentle call to slow down, listen, and follow (which I can’t do if I’m running full-speed ahead!).

 Running Ahead of God?
by Linda Shenton Matchett

Crisis mode is never a good way to operate, but I have found myself there on more than one occasion.

I manage a boarding school’s dining hall, and meals tend to run smoothly. Until we lost electrical power. Chaos reigned. Fortunately, dinner had already been prepared or we would have had to serve PB&J. As the kids streamed in, we stumbled around looking for flashlights. (Of course, more than one contained dead batteries!)

Convinced the power would soon return, I waited before breaking out the paper plates and plastic forks. Dirty dishes, cups and silverware stacked up the dish room while the chefs figured out how to keep hot things hot and cold things cold. Our biggest concern was whether we would have enough to feed five hundred people. Though we got through the meal, the dining staff became frustrated and exhausted.

Fast forward to last week, when we lost power again. This time we had procedures in place that included having battery-powered lanterns and flashlights close at hand (with fresh and extra batteries!). Staff members had assignments, thus knowing exactly what was expected of them. The chefs had a standby “without power” menu. Although challenging, we served dinner with smiles in the soft glow of emergency lighting. Preparation and planning made all the difference.

God used both experiences to speak to me about preparation (and the lack thereof) in my life. He asked me how many times I’d done something Woman thinking while drinking coffeewithout preparation that resulted in disastrous outcomes. I became disappointed when things didn’t go as I wanted.

Perhaps if I’d planned ahead, and more specifically, prayed about the situation, the outcome would have been positive.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, isn’t it? But forethought is even better.

I’m a doer. As much as I enjoy being with people-lots of people-when it comes to a task, I prefer to work alone. I love the feeling of charging ahead to get the job done. Did you catch that? “Charging ahead.”

Though I’ve been a Christian most of my life, I often run ahead of God, turning to look behind to see if He’s keeping up. Fortunately, He is patient with me, and He reins me in with His soft, gentle voice. The Holy Spirit nudges me to seek the Father’s will before I start the task, project, or journey-to ask Him if it’s something I should be doing or should wait to begin. To consider whether He’d like others to be involved. He reminds me that listening to God is how one plans ahead.

What about you? Have you raced ahead of God lately? Do you need to rethink your modus operandi? Reach for God’s hand. He wants to be your partner.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11, NLT).

***

Let’s talk about this! What resonated most with you as you read Linda’s post? Do you have a tendency to run ahead of God? What’s the result been? Have you ever had Him use chaos, like He did with Linda, to guide and teach you? Share your thoughts and stories with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from each other!

If you enjoyed today’s post, I encourage you to sign up for my free, quarterly e-mailing; the next edition releases soon! 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 for my e-mailing HERE.

Get to know Linda:

Linda Matchett, headshotLinda Shenton Matchett is an author, journalist, blogger, and history geek. Born in Baltimore, Maryland, a stone’s throw from Fort McHenry, Linda has lived in historical places most of her life. She is a volunteer docent at the Wright Museum of WWII and a trustee for her local public library. Active in her church, she serves as a choir member, usher, and treasurer. She lives in the central New Hampshire. Connect with her on at her website, on Facebook, follow her on Pinterest, and sign up for her newsletter HERE.

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright (c) 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinios, 60188. All rights reserved.

Check out her latest release, Under FireCover image for Under Fire by Linda Matchett

Set in April 1942, Under Fire tells the story of Ruth Brown whose missing sister Jane is declared dead. Convinced her sister is still alive, Ruth follows clues from their small New Hampshire town to war-torn London trying to find her. Discovering that Jane has been murdered results in a faith crisis for Ruth, and she decides she must find Jane’s killer. In her pursuit, she stumbles on black marketers, resistance fighters, and the IRA – all of whom may want her dead

 

 

God’s Never Changing, Unfailing Love

Change can be uncomfortable; uncertainty, even more so. If we’re not careful, we can allow the uncertainties of change to paralyze us and keep us from experiencing the abundant life God promised. But no matter how often our circumstances shift, no matter what hurdles or roundabouts life throws our way, we can rest assured and move forward with confidence, because that which is most important, that which holds us most securely, will never change.   

Today as you read Mary Bowen’s devotion on the depth, truth, and permanence of God’s love, ask Him to help you rest in that–in who He is and who you are in Him. Because as we like to say at Wholly Loved Ministries, when we live wholly loved, everything changes.

God’s Never Changing, Unfailing Love

by Mary Bowen

Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken. . .” (Isa. 54:10 NIV).

She giggles. “Mommy, the flowers keep changing!” Her smile grows as she rotates the kaleidoscope. With each turn of the tube, another captivating image melts away into a different one altogether.

Life is like a kaleidoscope, always changing. Here in Atlanta shoppers grumbled when long-established stores such as Rich’s, Blockbuster and Borders closed their doors, “gone with the wind.” Spring, summer, fall, winter – we like the variety of the seasons, but often chafe at the changes they bring. Just when we’re basking in balmy breezes, a cold wind freezes our picnic plans. And how do you dress when a chilly 50 degrees rises to 75 the next day?

As the weather fluctuates, so do our relationships. A shift here, a misunderstanding there, and the distance widens. Like the glass bits in a kaleidoscope, sometimes friendships change color; a rich, bright red slowly darkens to brown, while a dull grey connection can suddenly flash with shining silver. Changing circumstances affect us as well. If someone we love moves away, we feel a sense of loss. The ultimate separation, death, leaves us feeling empty and alone.

Can we keep our equilibrium on life’s emotional roller coaster? Is there anyone we can depend on not to let us down? What a relief to know that God’s love for us doesn’t change, because He Himself is immutable, or unchangeable. “I the Lord do not change,” God declares in Malachi 3:6.

Nothing reveals character like self-sacrifice. When God gave us His Son, He proved His love for us (Jn. 3:16). Jesus died in our place, paying the penalty we owed for our sin. “And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us” (Rom. 5:5, BSB). Nothing can separate us from God’s love (Rom. 8:39). These truths anchor our souls in life’s sea of change.

One of my favorite hymns describes God’s unfailing love: “Loved with everlasting love/Led by grace that love to know. . . /In a love which cannot cease, I am His and He is mine.” (words by George Robinson). As we seek to know God better, He progressively reveals His personal love. In John chapter 15, Jesus declares His friendship. He is with us all the time, unlike any other relationship. Jesus’ name is Immanuel, or “God with us.” The Holy Spirit living within the believer keeps God near.

God knows and understands us better than any earthly friend. Psalm 139 describes in detail this intimate knowledge. God’s unfailing, personal love is our security. Though the kaleidoscope of life keeps turning, we can rest securely.

Let’s talk about this! When I was a young adult, I was perhaps the most insecure woman in all of Southern California (where we lived). I constantly worried what others thought of me, if I was doing enough or too much, if I was doing the right things or wrong. When things changed or an uncertainty hit, I fell into a panic! But the closer I grew to Christ and the more I learned to rest in His deep love, the more my confidence–in Him!– began to replace my insecurities.

When we recognize how deeply loved we are, as I said before, everything changes. I know now if I face a rough patch, God has allowed it to mold and grow me, and I can rejoice in that. If God challenges me to a difficult role or endeavor, I know He’ll go with me, equipping and empowering me. If I “fail” in some task, whatever it is, I know in reality I’ve done anything but as I have only Him to please, and He calls me beloved and adored. If others reject me, I know He never will. When I sin, rather than wallowing in guilt and regret, I know I can turn to Him and allow Him to work within me, making me more like the radiant bride He already sees me to be.

The challenge for each of us is to learn to live more deeply and consistently in God’s never-changing love, because that is where freedom is found. Join the conversation here, in the comments below, or on Living by Grace on Facebook.

***

Mary Bowen writes and edits for Grace Ministries International in Marietta, Georgia. For many years her articles and poetry have been published in newspapers, magazines and anthologies. She has worked as a reporter and freelancer, and served as an editor with the North American Mission Board.

Are You Trying to Market God?

megaphone-1381104_1920Sharing our faith is tough. We want to be sensitive to our listener, and more than anything, we long to see them experience the deep love of Christ. But so often, our efforts are filtered through a heavy lens of self. This can result in an effort to market God and to love others on an agenda. Today, fellow ACFW member Emilie Hendrix

Are You Trying to Market God? 

by Emilie Hendryx

In today’s media-saturated culture we are in tune with marketing in a way that no one has been before. It’s everywhere we look, whether we’re at the grocery store, mall, bookstore, fitness center, or just driving down the road. We market pretty much everything from objects, food, thought processes, books, people, and faith.

But has this marketing-centric culture negatively affected us as Christians? I think it has, and I’d like point out three things that we can fall prey to when we try to “market God”.

Marketing tells you why “they” think you need it

At first glance this could sound like a good thing. And I agree, we do need to tell others about God! But, how we go about doing that is what’s important here. When we try to “market God” to those around us we can often pinpoint an “issue” (maybe this is an obvious sin etc.) and then make it our job to make sure that person knows why they need God.

The issue here isn’t in the sharing (that’s the good part) it’s in the heart of those who share and how they share. Do we share the gospel from a heart that overflows with love for others? Or a heart that shares in arrogance and condemnation?

Marketing tells why the “product” is the best, but leaves things out

I believe that a relationship with Christ is the only way to heaven. Sharing that is easy and personal. But, part of the difficulty when we try to “market God”, is that we can be tempted to leave out the hard parts. Sometimes it’s hard to stand up for what you believe in, especially in today’s culture. I know there are things I believe that set me apart from others. The temptation here is to gloss over, ignore, or not address these things when talking about the gospel.

Jesus is the perfect example of what to do in order to resist the temptation to “market God”. He took no effort to hide His affiliation with those who were considered unloved, forgotten, despised, or labeled as sinners in His day. But what did He do while he spent time with them? He spoke the truth. Just like when He had a conversation with the woman at the well (John 4). He told her to “go and sin no more” – so, to walk away from her sinful lifestyle – but He didn’t ignore her.

In our culture, it’s almost assured that we’ll be faced with someone challenging our beliefs. Don’t give in to the temptation to “market God” to make Him look “better” or “more accepting” or less “judgmental” just because you’re afraid you’ll make Him look bad (or afraid you’ll look bad). If your faith and understanding is rooted in Biblical truth and you’re speaking from a place of love and peace, then His truth will be conveyed.

Marketing is incentivized

 In our current culture it is almost a guarantee that any major brand you see worn by a celebrity is most likely due to the fact they got it in exchange to talk about/show real-estate-agents-1537461_1920off/or represent that product. I run an Etsy shop and have a Society6 shop where I create bookish products to sell and I choose “Reps” for my brand. These are people who pledge to represent my brand and my products on their Instagram accounts. I don’t pay them to say nice things about my products, but they choose to Rep for me because they like my products and believe in them. This is not the case all the time however. There are many companies who pay people to Rep for them in addition to giving them products for free.

I can’t help but feel a little cheated when I see a celebrity talking about something they “love” only to find out they are getting paid to say those things. Doesn’t it make it seem as if all of their kind words, though probably drawn from real experiences with the product, are tainted?

I think the same can happen with Christians who “market God”. This comes to the heart of it all. To the why of sharing the gospel with others. Are we trying to “market God” because we a) think He needs our help b) think its “the right thing to do” c) feel pressure or guilt to do it d) like the attention we get when we look smart in front of others or e) another answer I haven’t thought of…?

The reasons we should share the gospel (and not market it) come from His commands to us to go and spread the gospel (Matthew 28:16-20, Acts1:8) paired with a heart that overflows with love for our Savior and the overwhelming realization that we cannot keep this Good News to ourselves.

I don’t know you (most likely), so what I say here is largely taken from what I see myself falling prey to. In March on my blog I focus on Marketing and Social Media for writers and authors and, as I contemplated what I wanted this post to be about, I realized that I may do a good job at marketing products and books, but I cannot let that negatively affect my faith.

west-826947_1920I can’t expect to go out “into the world” and arrogantly tell others why they are wrong and need the Lord, but I can share my personal experiences with them and pray for the Holy Spirits conviction in their hearts. I can’t try and make Christianity look “better” or gloss over the heavy issues because I serve a Big God who handles the tough questions. And I can’t have any other motivations aside from desiring to share the hope that I have (1 Peter 3:15) with those around me.

Have you struggled with trying to “market God”? Which of these three things can you relate with most? What other things (positive or negative) do you see that have been influenced by this “marketing society” we live in?

***

Emilie is a freelance writer and photographer living in Dayton, Ohio. She’s a member of ACFW and writes romantic square-mesuspense while dreaming up YA Sci-Fi worlds on the side. She’s got a soft spot in her heart for animals and a love for the mountains of the Pacific Northwest. In her spare time you can find her designing fun bookish items for her Etsy and Society6 shops all while drinking too much coffee.

Connect with her on Instagram, Facebook, Goodreads, follow her on Twitter and Pinterest, and visit her online at her blog, Thinking Thoughts.

 

 

 

Safety Net

safetynetjpgLife is a lesson in trust. In choosing to fix our thoughts on God’s promises or obsess over our fears, concerns, and anxieties. We may feel as if we’re free falling, but as you’ll see when you read my friend, Toni Shiloh’s post, we never are. We’ve got a strong, sure, unmoving safety net. So if God calls you to jump …

Safety Net by contemporary romance author Toni Shiloh

Have you ever stood on the ledge of choice making and wished there was a safety net to catch you? It’s hard to overcome fear at times. We’re shown too many times the consequences when something goes wrong. For those of us who struggle with anxiety, worry, etc, making a decision and taking the steps to bring it into fruition can be particularly troublesome. We wish for a safety net. We want to know with 100% certainty, that God will make our choices a success.

And we’re always told we have to take a leap of faith. That there are no guarantees. It’s not something we want to hear. It’s not something that soothes anxiety. Well, today, I’m here to tell you, there is a safety net. God’s Word has shown us this, but it wasn’t until a recent sermon at church that it finally dawned on me.

trustprov30-5verseProverbs 30:5b, states, “He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him” (NKJV).

Y’all, our safety net is trust.

We should not be scared to trust in a God that has proven Himself over and over again. He is a God who makes promises He keeps. Not just any type of promises, but covenants that are unbreakable. Jesus shows us this when He establishes the new covenant.

“For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:28, KJV).

We can trust God because He is TRUST.

 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me” (John 14:6 KJV).

We should trust that no matter what happens, it happens because God has our best interest at heart. Theretonisquote are no failures when we take a leap of faith, although the world may disagree. The world may see a person who lost their job as a failure, but God sees a person who is now free to pursue His pursuits. The world may see a person who is debilitated by chronic illness, but God sees a person who has made Him their strength.

Trusting in God frees us from the constraints that the flesh (and enemy) would put on us. Trusting in God allows our perception to finally match that of reality: God’s way. When fear comes upon us, when anxiety seeks to freeze us, we must:

“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.”  (Proverbs 3:5-6 KJV).

God has you, so trust Him.

***

SONY DSC

Toni Shiloh is a wife, mom, and Christian fiction writer. Once she understood the powerful saving grace thanks to the love of Christ, she was moved to honor her Savior. She writes to bring Him glory and to learn more about His goodness.

She spends her days hanging out with her husband and their two boys. She is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and the local Virginia Chapter.

You can find her on her website.

Her latest release, Buying Love, a sweet romance that is receiving great reviews, is the first in her Maple Run series. Reviewers are calling this novel refreshing, engaging, with a much-loved heroine that is equal parts sassy and sweet and a hero MeezCarrie from Reading is My Superpower calls yummy.

 

blBuying Love:

Will money ruin everything?

Nina Warrenton is ready for the next step in her life plan—marriage, but there is one problem. No one has proposed! Taking matters into her hand, she places an ad in the newspaper hoping to entice a willing stranger. But when she begins to fall for the small-town chef, she realizes how much she wants him to love her and not her money. 

Dwight Williams needs fast cash to save the family restaurant. When he sees Nina’s monetary offer for a husband, he goes for it. He’s determined to save the legacy his dad left him, but can he let it go to prove his love for her?

 Can Nina and Dwight find true love, once money has entered the equation?

livingbygracepic-jpLet’s talk about this. How did Toni’s post speak to you? Is God asking you to step out, or perhaps to be still? Or maybe to view a situation through His eyes, knowing He is always working all things out for your good? Share your thoughts with us on Facebook at Living by Grace or in the comments below, because we can all encourage and learn from each other.

Trusting God With Our Children Part II

When did our children’s behavior become an extension of ourselves? Or am I the only one who seems to have a difficult time recognizing that my child is autonomous, able to make her own decisions and mistakes? When I speak to parents, especially those raising prodigals, I encourage them to analyze the parable Jesus told of the man with the wayward son. Once we recognize who the father represents in the story, I believe we’ll begin to cut ourselves some slack. Because honestly, parenting is crazy-tough, and we all could use a fair amount of grace in this area.

headshotToday, Robin Patchen visits us again to share part two of her encouraging and insightful piece on what it looks like to entrust our children to Christ.

Trusting God With Our Children Part 2 by Robin Patchen

When my oldest chose drugs over our family, my husband and I let him walk away. But we didn’t forget him—not for a moment. No, we prayed and begged God to bring him home. At one point when I was praying, I felt the Lord’s words in my ears. “Do you trust me with your son?”

Did I trust him? Too many young people, many children of godly parents, get lost to drugs and alcohol—or simply lost to their own foolish choices. Some kids end up in prison, others end up homeless. Some run away and aren’t heard from for years. And some end up in the grave. There are no guarantees for any of us. Trusting God meant facing that my son could be lost to us for a time, or for good. But I knew I couldn’t fix it, and I believed God could. I was out of options.

I decided at that moment that I did trust Him with all my children. It was either trust Him or go mad with grief and fear.

My first-born’s story has been a testimony to God’s provision. He brought my son home. He went to rehab, he got clean, and now he’s studying to be a missionary with Youth with a Mission.

God’s plan for my son was not my plan for him. He rejected us and rejected God, but God never rejected him. God wooed him back, pulled him through, and turned him into this amazing, Spirit-filled young man with a burning passion for Christ. None of that would have happened apart from the rebellion that started it all.

So are we failures as parents, because our son landed in rehab? Or, are we good parents, because now he’s walking with God? Or, are we merely imperfect parents, doing our best—all anyone can be asked to do? God knows our faults and shortcomings, and He blessed us with these young people anyway. How they turn out is ultimately in His hands. No matter what happens, I will continue to trust Him with my children.

***

Robin Patchen is an award winning multi-published author, but only because she can’t pursue her other dream.

If time and money were no object, Robin would spend her life traveling. Her goal is to visit every place in the entire world–twice. She longs to meet everybody and see everything and spread the good news of Christ. Alas, time is short and money is scarce, and her husband and three teenagers don’t want to traipse all around the world with her, so Robin does the next best thing: she writes. In the tales she creates, she can illustrate the unending grace of God through the power and magic of story.

Find out more at Robin’s website, and connect with her on Facebook.

robin_twistedliesTwisted Lies: Hidden Truth Series Book #2

She thought they’d never find her.  And then her daughter vanished.

Marisa Vega’s life as an adoptive mom in a tiny Mexican village isn’t what she’d dreamed while growing up in New York, but as the target of a man who’s convinced she stole millions of dollars from his financial firm, Marisa believes hiding is her only way to stay alive. When her daughter is snatched and held for ransom, Marisa must discover who really stole the money in order to rescue her.

Months after being kidnapped, tortured, and left with PTSD, Nate Boyle is ready to live a quiet life in rural New Hampshire. When the source of his breakout newspaper article—and the woman who haunts his dreams—begs for help, he gets pulled into a riddle that’s proved unsolvable for nearly a decade.

Can Nate and Marisa unravel the years-old mystery and bring her daughter home?

Buy it on Amazon, KoboiBooks, B&N, and find it on Goodreads.

No Longer Alone

 

We’re taking a brief break from our For the Love series to center ourselves in Christ.

I’ve heard it said one doesn’t truly understand that Christ is enough until He is all that they have. When Jenna Victoria’s world came undone, God showed up. Read on to see how, and may her story encourage you to hold tighter to the God who never leaves nor forsakes.

Going It Alone ~ Not Quite
by Jenna Victoria

When our world gets crazy busy with interruptions or requests, we might envy the many species God created that choose being solo over one-of-a-crowd. From red cross-1448946_640panda to platypus, sloth to skunk or eagle to armadillo—these creatures revel in their solitude.

Frustration with crowds aside, there’s a lot to say in support of seclusion. Especially Christian solitude, as this partial verse in John’s Gospel attests.  For when we are alone, we are not actually alone. Our Savior, our Father in heaven, is with us. How magnificent it is to grasp this truth.

In 2012, I was diagnosed with invasive ductal breast cancer. After a long road of prayers, chemo, a right mastectomy, and radiation, my family, friends, coworkers and I celebrated my being cancer-free in early 2013. Five weeks later, that was no longer true. The cancer spread to the scar tissue of my mastectomy site, and to the left side breast and lymph nodes. Re-radiation, a lumpectomy and more chemo followed. In 2014 and 2015, as treatment continued, friends and family started to draw back. Close relatives and friends who had formerly been by my side, returned to their own lives and commitments – and rightly so. My rock, my one special knight-in-shining-armor then decided at the end of 2015 they had enough and essentially walked away. I was alone, I thought.

As the days and weeks of early 2016 drew out, I clung even more tightly to the One who book-1209805_640never leaves us or forsakes us. I downloaded more than 1000 Christian podcasts from preachers all over the world, and listened to the Word being taught every night. I soaked every drop of wisdom into my brain. I listened to praise & worship songs, studied the Bible and let God’s thoughts fill my thoughts.

In time, that head knowledge became heart knowledge. In my loneliness, I heard the whispered words of my Savior, “I am enough.”  As the cancer is now staged as metastatic, I will always be on some type of IV chemotherapy, but I don’t sit in the infusion suite alone. God is with me. I have contentment and, unbelievably, unshakeable joy in the midst of my circumstances and my solitude. The words “I am enough” wield great power. This sense of peace is not of my strength and ability; it is 100% from God and it did not happen overnight. I chose to embrace God as being enough, and He has become my portion.

It is comforting to know that John, our “companion in tribulation,” was given the words of the book of Revelation to write down, while he was alone, in exile on the island of Patmos.

I’d like to believe he, too, heard those same words from our Lord.  “I am enough.”

It is my prayer that those of us in desert places and filled with loneliness also receive grace to hear them too.

***

war-of-the-heart-2

When a vintage snow globe sends Boston dress designer Louise Martin & British B&B owner George Walker back in time to London, December 1940, they race against the clock to reconcile a feud between their families and solve a 75-year-old mystery. As Louise relies on God; and on George for guidance, friendship then love, will the future George envisions strangle her own dreams? Will their love survive generations of mistrust, the Blitz and being stranded in wartime 1940, possibly never to return to their former lives?

***

jennavictoriaEver since her grandfather co-created Twinkies, Snowballs & Hostess cupcakes for Intercontinental Baking Company, circa 1959, Jenna’s yet to taste a cake she hasn’t liked.
Jenna is the author of  “fiction that feeds your faith” – Happily-Ever-After romance & romantic suspense stories with a Christian world view. She also writes clean, wholesome romances. Her stories emulate those she enjoys reading…with a heroine who is in grave danger & a hero who is smart enough to get out of her way as she kicks butt & takes down names… and those that feature the sweetest of fairy-tale-ending love stories.

She writes romances that glorify God and His sacrificial love through His Son, Jesus Christ and show how He gives us hope & peace amidst unbearable situations. After her first breast cancer diagnosis in 2012, several reoccurrences and metastasis, Jenna continues to praise God and trust His oversight in her life; and continues to write more books.

Connect with Jenna on her website and Facebook.

livingbygracepic-jpLet’s talk about this! First, do you have any words of encouragement you can give Jenna? I cannot imagine going through what she is, and to turn such heartache into an opportunity to proclaim God’s goodness–wow.

Can you share a time when you discovered, in a deeper way than ever before, that God was enough? Share your thoughts, questions, and examples here in the comments below or on Facebook at Living by Grace, because we can all encourage and learn from one another!

Raising Children Who Reveal Christ

JohnStudy1

 

I had a very difficult pregnancy, one characterized by the constant fear that I would lose the precious child I’d prayed for, that I’d grown to love so deeply, from the moment I knew she existed. One night in particular, everyone–myself, my husband, our doctor–was certain I had. I was awakened in the middle of the night by a strong, rapid, and continual trembling and rolling in my abdomen followed by significant bleeding, and my husband rushed me to the hospital. As I lay on that cold, hard table, all I could  pray was, “No. Please Lord, no.”

I went home that night with my sweet Ashley, still very much alive, but my prayers took on a desperation after that. A bit of bargaining*. “Lord, if you’ll just help me keep this baby to term, I’ll give her back to you.”

I remembered that promise often in the days and years ahead: When I was tired and table-rock-943215_1920-1tempted to forgo our nightly Bible reading. When I was frustrated and tempted to take the easy road, parenting wise. When my heart was breaking over something she’d endured and I was tempted to focus on fixing the situation rather than helping her grow in Christ.

All I can say is, 19 years later, as I see the young woman God’s molded our girl into, I’m oh-so-grateful for that promise and how God used it to help me raise a child who does her best to reveal Christ.

This is our focus this week in our For the Love Bible study, and my special guest author Candee Fick talks about what this looked like for John the Baptist’s parents and how we can follow their example.

Raising Children Who Reveal Christ
by Candee Fick

It’s not everyone who gets a supernatural birth announcement or a miraculous baby after years of infertility. Personally, I think Zechariah and Elizabeth might have needed the baby-179378_640overly-dramatic beginning to give them the stamina and dedication to prepare their child for his destiny—to prepare the way for the Messiah. Every day they saw John’s face they had to remember that God was intimately involved in their lives, and then remember that John was born to tell others about the coming Christ.

Can you imagine the stories shared around the fire? John must have grown up surrounded by village tales of a heavenly voice in the Temple and a temporarily-speechless father not to mention an entire hill country wondering what he would grow up to become.

John’s life was the stuff of legends and the angel even said he would be great. Being told he would be filled with the Holy Spirit and go before the Lord in the power of Elijah could have led him to believe that he was something special.

And he was.

Except he wasn’t the greatest. Somewhere along the way, his parents not only raised John with the skills he would need to fulfill his personal mission of bringing the people of Israel desert-1197972_640back to God, they had to teach him to deflect the attention toward God. Huge crowds gathered to listen to John’s message of repentance, then one day John looked up from baptizing folks on the banks of the Jordan River and knew the time had come for his audience to follow Someone else instead. Between the Holy Spirit and the training he received from his parents, John obviously recognized the pivotal moment for what it was and transferred the crowd’s fickle attention with his announcement for them to “Behold, the Lamb of God.”

How did John’s parents raise a child who pointed others to Christ?

  • First, Zechariah and Elizabeth lived a personal example of faith. Between their priestly lineage and the gift of prophecy at critical moments, John couldn’t help but be raised with a solid foundation of truth and the knowledge of God’s power through history.
  • Second, they obviously also set up some behavioral boundaries to keep him on the right path and not derail his future. The angel told them to keep him away from the wine and fermented drinks (a cultural sign that he was set apart for God’s work) while later in the first chapter of Luke it states that John lived in the wilderness before he began his public life.
  • Third, I have to believe that every time John did something great or had some amazing insight thanks to the Holy Spirit in his life, his parents pointed out how that was an example of God working in and through him. Always pointing John back to person-371015_640God so that he could in turn point others to God.

I’ve got a son who is gifted with some serious athletic talent. In fact, he lettered in four sports his senior year of high school and is now in college with a basketball scholarship. All that to say, it would have been very easy for him to get a big head and strut his stuff down the hallways.

While this isn’t on the scale of a John the Baptist, as a mother I have tried to constantly remind my son of the Gift-Giver and his responsibility to use those gifts in a way that points people back to God. I strive to keep the presence of God in the middle of our family through prayer, devotions, and natural testimonies of what God is doing in my own life. To identify examples of God’s hand at work in the lives of others. Ultimately, my hope is that my oldest son will use his platform as an athlete to be the right kind of example for younger boys to model as he deflects attention heavenward.

Consistently pointing back to Christ is a difficult lesson to learn and even harder to live. Yet aren’t we all called to do the same, to use our gifts for God’s glory and then become less so that God’s message can become more? Thanks to the influence of his parents, John learned to to do just that.

***

danceoverme-500x750-1Danielle Lefontaine, a fledgling actress raised to the lullaby of Broadway, searches for her long-lost brother and her place on the stage, but a jealous cast member and numerous fruitless leads threaten to drop the curtain on her dreams and shine a spotlight on her longing for a place to belong. Meanwhile, Alex Sheridan is living his dream except for someone to share it with. When Dani dances into his life, he hopes he’s found the missing piece to his heart but fears the bright lights of a bigger stage could steal her away.

Will the rhythm of dancing feet usher in their deepest desires or leave them stranded in the wings?

Find Dance Over Me on Amazon in ebook and paperback.

And for a funny, more lighthearted post by Candee, visit my alter ego’s blog to read how she lives in continual weather-confusion. (You can read that HERE.)

***

candee-fick_headshotCandee Fick is the wife of a high school football coach and the mother of three children, including a daughter with a rare genetic syndrome. When not busy with her day job or writing, she can be found cheering on the home team at football, basketball, baseball, and Special Olympics games. In what little free time remains, she enjoys exploring the great Colorado outdoors, indulging in dark chocolate, and savoring happily-ever-after endings through a good book.

Connect with Candee on her web site, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Goodreads, and Google+.

Let’s talk about this! If you’re parenting now, what are some ways you try to raise your children to point to and reveal Christ? What makes this hard? If your children are grown, what were some ways you did this while they were growing up? Can you see the results of your efforts now that they’re adults? Share your thoughts with us here in the comments below on Facebook at Living by Grace, or join our Facebook Bible study group For the Love to discuss this further. Because we can all learn from and encourage one another!

john12-24versejpgAnd for those following our Bible study, here’s this week’s memory verse, one God intends for each of us to live out, daily, and to teach our children to do the same.

*Note: God’s will cannot be “bargained” nor does this post intend to support that or encourage one to even try. Rather, it shares a moment of heartache and terror and my human response, and how God later used that, because He truly can use it all–our successes and failures, our steps of obedience and our regrets and weaknesses.

When the Wait Is Over

JohnStudy1

 

The pain of infertility runs deep and cannot fully be understood unless one has experienced it. I suppose that’s true of anything we face, be it tragedy, joblessness, illness … Last week in For the Love Bible study, we talked about how to stay strong when it feels as if our prayers fall on deaf ears, and Chaka Heinze shared an incredibly powerful testimony revealing how this plays out in her life. You can read that HERE. Then, Monday, Maria Morgan talked about choosing faith over doubt. You can read that HERE. Today those two messages come together in a celebratory post by my sweet friend Susan Aken.

When the waiting ends
by Susan Aken

“But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.” Luke 1:7

“LORD, Please hear my prayer! You know my heart and how I long for a child. I want to shy-863056_640hold my own baby and know the joy of motherhood. I desire this with all my soul. Will You give me a child? If not, help me bear this pain and find contentment with empty arms. If it is Your will, please show me what to do. Help me to trust You.”

The cry of a childless woman runs deep. This longing is confronted at every turn with a woman who is a mother. The new babe who smells so sweet. The woman lovingly caressing her swollen abdomen. The toddler who runs around on chubby legs. On and on.

Living in a culture where being childless was a sign of God’s displeasure added to Elizabeth’s pain. Maybe she asked herself, “What did I do wrong?” Sympathetic and condescending smiles mocked her.

“Look at poor Elizabeth! I’m glad it isn’t me.”

Elizabeth’s one recorded quote after becoming pregnant is telling,

“’The Lord has done this for me,’ she said. ‘In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.’” Luke 1:25 (NIV)

Why can’t I have a child Lord? Why do other women get this blessing and not me?

I felt that pain. I always wanted a husband, children and the American dream. But things didn’t happen the way I hoped. I found myself single at the age of twenty-nine. Not the way I’d have written my story. Then I met my wonderful husband, got married and prepared my heart for children. I soon discovered he wasn’t ready (he was younger than I) so I waited.

Years went by. He decided he didn’t want children. I won’t share the whole girl-926225_640story here but I found myself at the age of thirty-eight hoping to get pregnant by means of insemination. Month after month nothing happened. After a year of special treatments, I faced the truth I might not ever be a mom and my prayers were similar to the one I began with. Similar to what Elizabeth may have prayed.

Then came a phone call about a baby boy who needed a mom and dad. Twenty-two hours later I was holding our son! Like Elizabeth my miracle came. The wait was over.

Euphoria! Grace in the form of a newborn baby. A love letter from God. Grace in every cry and squeak. Grace in arms filled with a sweet baby boy. I knew that I didn’t deserve the miracle God

Week 3 memory verse

Week 3 memory verse

gave. We made several decisions along the way that should’ve taken us off the miracle list. I hadn’t even been seeking God with my whole heart.

child-337540_640Did Elizabeth feel that euphoria? I’m certain she did! Did she see grace in the face of that newborn boy? I believe so.

She went from shame to rejoicing.

I wouldn’t change one thing about how our son came to us. I imagine Elizabeth would say the same. God’s timing is always perfect.

In that moment, when the waiting ends, God’s grace is painted in living color and all we can do is bow and give thanks.

“For this child I prayed, and the LORD has granted me my petition that I made to him.” 1 Samuel 1:27 (ESV)

***

Amazing Hope:

This is a 40-day devotional book on the topic of hope. Each day’s amazingdevotion includes verses from the Bible, inspirational thoughts by the author, reflection questions and a prayer. The topics include many of the struggles common to us all such as parenting, death, fear, sin, and the futility of daily life. There are also devotions on the character of God, the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the power of God’s word and other topics. These writings express the hope that gets me through each day and I pray they will also help you.

***

susanakenSusan is a homemaker, substitute teacher and writer. She lives in Nebraska but was born and raised in Oklahoma. Her greatest love is for the Lord Jesus Christ who has redeemed her and set her free. Her other loves are her husband and son (she is now an empty-nester). Susan enjoys reading, photography, spending time with family and friends and writing. She has a heart for prayer ministry and loves her church!

Connect with Susan on her web site and Lulu.com.

Let’s talk about this! When our prayers aren’t answered on our timetable, when our waiting takes years, even decades, we may assume God isn’t listening or that He doesn’t plan to answer our prayers at all. But Scripture tells us God is always working on our behalf. That doesn’t mean He’ll grant every one of our desires, but it does mean He will always and only do what is for our best.

This brings me to this week’s memory verse: “From ancient times no one has heard or perceived, no eye has seen any livingbygracepic-jpGod besides You, who intervenes for those who wait for Him” (Isaiah 64:4 NET).

Can you share a time when it felt as if God wasn’t listening only to find out later He’d been working behind the scenes, setting things into motion, on your behalf? How might focusing on His promise to work things out for our good (Romans 8:28) help you maintain hope and spiritual strength during a time of waiting?

Share your thoughts here in the comments below or on Facebook at Living by Grace or For the Love Bible study, because we can all learn from and encourage one another.

Will You Believe the God of the Impossible?

JohnStudy1We know intellectually that nothing is impossible with God, and yet, when trials hit or dreams are sparked, it can be hard to live in that knowledge. Maybe because, though we say it, we don’t really believe it?

Today, continuing with our For the Love study, my sweet friend Maria Morgan shares how, when facing the impossible, we can choose faith over doubt. Because, yeah, it is a choice, and in Christ, we have the power to make it.

The God of the Impossible: Will You Believe?

By

Maria I. Morgan

Painting by Ashley Slattery of AS Art  asartgallery.wordpress.com/

Painting by Ashley Slattery of AS Art
asartgallery.wordpress.com/

Our God is a God of the impossible. The words of His mouth brought the heaven and earth into existence. He made the lame walk, caused the blind to see, and brought the dead to life. This is the God we serve, and yet in our humanity we often choose doubt over faith.

When trials come, our natural default is to worry, instead of rest in the One who knows what is best for us. I’m guilty. I start considering all my options in a feeble attempt to fix things rather than trusting the Lord to use the situation to continue to mold and shape me into His image (Romans 8:29).

Rewind two thousand years to when a couple named Zechariah and Elizabeth lived. The circumstances were much different, but the response was similar. They were “… righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless” (Luke 1:6; KJV).

A problem

But they had a problem – they didn’t have any children. Elizabeth was barren. And they were well beyond child-bearing age. Children were considered a blessing, so Zechariah and Elizabeth’s childless state was viewed as a curse. No doubt the couple had prayed repeatedly for a child. It was a humiliating and impossible situation from a human standpoint – one that only Almighty God could change.

While Zechariah reverently performed his priestly duties, the people prayed outside. Imagine Zechariah’s shock when angod-of-the-impossible angel of the Lord appeared in front of him. The angel spoke, “. . . Fear not, Zacarias*: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth* shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John” (Luke 1:13 KJV).

How amazing! This was a direct answer to what was likely one of their deepest desires. While the people outside the temple were probably praying for the coming of the Messiah, the angel of the Lord was letting Zechariah know that he and Elizabeth would be the parents of John – the forerunner of Christ.

Questions & doubt

Although Zechariah had longed to hear this news, his logical mind couldn’t believe it. Questions plagued him as he responded to the angel with doubt: “. . . Whereby shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years” (Luke 1:18 KJV).

Sound familiar? When God’s answers defy human logic, we often choose unbelief over faith in the God of the impossible. Because of his unbelief, Zechariah was unable to speak until the birth of his son, John.

A few months later, the angel Gabriel visited a young Jewish virgin named Mary in Nazareth. She was afraid when the angel appeared to her. The message she heard from the angel was as unbelievable as what Zechariah had received. Mary would conceive and have a baby she was to name, Jesus. She didn’t understand. How could she have a baby when she was a virgin?

The angel’s explanation was unusual: “. . . The Holy Ghost* shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35 KJV).

Questions & belief

Mary had to decide: would she believe God, or doubt His word? Her response is beautiful: “And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to Thy Word” (Luke 1:38 KJV).

She believed God and embraced His plan.

You and I are faced with the same decision as Zechariah and Mary – will we trust God or will we doubt Him? Remember the God of the impossible is the same God you serve. Trust Him today!

Let’s talk about this! What difficulty are you facing today? What step will you take to trust God in your situation and obey with a “Yes, Lord” attitude? Join the conversation here or in our For the Love Facebook group, because we can all learn from and encourage one another! Then, make sure to come back Thursday to read an encouraging post from my sweet friend Susan Aken about something amazing God did in her life when her waiting ended.

Maria Morgan is an inspirational writer and speaker. She is the award-winning author of Louie’s BIG day! Regardless of the age of her audience, her goal is the same: to share God’s truth and make an eternal difference.

Visit her online at Maria Morgan.com, Facebook, and Twitter.

And check out her latest Bible study, Outrageously Fruitful:

How do we win the battle against selfishness? Outrageously Fruitful is an 11-week online Bible study that explores the characteristics the Spirit longs to develop within us. Traits like: love, joy, peace, and goodness. Let go and let God make your life outrageously fruitful! For more information and to register: www.mariaimorgan.com/its-time-bible-study

*Zacarias is the KJV spelling of Zechariah, Elisabeth is the KJV spelling of Elizabeth, and the Holy Ghost is how the KJV terms the Holy Spirit.