Trusting God to Lead and Guide Through Closed and Opened Doors

Picture of a door with text from Revelations 3;8

Sometimes I can spend more time questioning if something is God’s will than actually pursuing it. Granted, it’s good to seek clarity and to bring every thought and passion to Christ for His direction, or redirection, whichever the case may be. But often, when I’m reluctant to move forward, my hesitation comes more from insecurity and a false fear of missing out than patiently waiting on God.

A statement made by a missionary couple nearly a year ago often inspires me to forward progression. They were relatively newly married and had recently sensed God’s call to missions. When I asked them how they discerned God’s will, I expected to hear a list of resources they’d read, conversations they’d held, and divine “aha” moments. Though I have no doubt those things occurred, as God is faithful to confirm His will, their reply reminded me of the power and beauty of obedience.

“A lot of can people get stuck,” Dan Medrano said. “When they don’t know for certain something is God’s will, they won’t move forward. We don’t want to do that. So, if we think God is leading us toward something, we’re going to move forward in faith until He says otherwise. If something’s not of Him, He’ll show us through prayer, Bible reading, the Holy Spirit, and trusted friends.” (Read their full story HERE, page 5.)

I love the child-like trust and full surrender revealed in Dan’s comment: “If we think God is leading us toward something, we’re going to move forward in faith until He says otherwise.”

Dan and his wife relied, completely, on God’s sovereignty and faithfulness. They believed He’d open whatever doors He wanted them to walk through and would close whatever ones He didn’t.

Early in my writing career, as I read God’s promise to the Philadelphian church in Revelations 3:8, I sensed His whisper in my heart, “This is for you as well.”

The verse reads, “I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept My Word and have not denied My name” (NIV).

God packed so much encouragement in those two precious sentences. His plans for me aren’t dependent on my strength, which will always be woefully insufficient. Nor will I miss them or mess them up. Rather, I live out His will, in all it’s fullness and at every moment, simply by leaning into Him and continually moving forward, trusting, if I offer my heart completely to Him, He’ll stir it in whatever direction He chooses.

Sitting in that place of full surrender, of total pliability, brings such peace. It reminds us that we don’t have to hear God perfectly. He doesn’t sit up in heaven, waiting to catch us in a misstep. He’s a good, patient, tender-hearted Father who continually walks beside us.

I suggest God receives the same joy watching us grow and explore as we do with our children.

When our daughter was young, she and I often went on “adventure walks.” We were living in a Southern California suburb at the time filled with crisscrossing, winding walking paths and parks less than a half a mile in each direction. Each morning, we ventured on whatever path she chose. I was less concerned with where we landed than each precious moment shared between us. There were times I’d redirect her, like when we neared a busy road or needed to meet friends at the playground. But most of the time, I simply enjoyed walking beside her, hearing her chatter, and watching her eyes light up at every “blow flower” we encountered.

When I get logged down with to-dos and ministry demands, I have to intentionally remind myself that Christ alone is my prize, and I am His. He longs for me—my heart, child-like trust, and my moment-by-moment surrender—more than anything I might do for Him. He wants me to remain pliable. This means, when I’m heading one way and hit a dead end, rather than getting frustrated or trying to force through it, I smile, gaze up at my good, good Father, and placing my hand in His, follow. And when the road ahead looks clouded and I can only see that next step, I lean closer to my Guide, knowing however and wherever He leads will be good.

Because He is good.

Let’s talk about this! What do you tend to value more—God’s guidance for what’s ahead or Him? Your relationship with Him or what you do for Him? How might your stress, anxiety, and uncertainty level change if, moment by moment, you reminded yourself that He alone is your prize and so long as you’re prioritizing Him, everything else will follow.

Logo image for Wholly Loved's Bible reading appIf you haven’t yet, make sure to check out Wholly Loved’s Bible reading plan, available on the YouVersion app, 30 Days of Emotional Health. You can find it  HERE.

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While We Wait For Guidance

thinkinglikechristGod always answers us, and often in unexpected ways.

I have found myself, once again, in a position of awaiting divine guidance. I’ve been praying throughout the day, asking God to direct my heart and to turn my will from mine to His. As I sit with my coffee, my Bible, and my journal each morning, I stay alert for God’s guidance.

This morning God assured me He hears me as I read Psalm 16:

“I will bless the Lord who guides me; even at night my heart instructs me. I know the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for He is right beside me” (Psalm 16:7-8 NLT).Psalm16verse

Not exactly the answer I was hoping for, but a promise none the less. Assurance that as I grow closer to Him, as I spend time with Him and reading His Word, the Bible, He’ll shift my thinking and sway my heart so that I can say, like my Savior did, that I only do what I see the Father doing.”

This is a process, and one that is infinitely more important than any decision I make today. I often have a very short term focus, getting caught up in the here and now. I allow myself to be deceived into thinking this thing, whatever it is, is more urgent, more necessary than the weightier and eternal matters relating to my character and spiritual growth.

This has become a cliche’ but I’ll say it anyway: God is more concerned with our journey than our destination. Yes, He is always working out His plan. Yes, He is always working on our behalf. Yes, He guides us regarding which path to take, what opportunity to accept or decline, and how to handle the difficulties that arise. Like a loving Father, He wants the very best for us.

But what if that best is not so much what happens to us but instead within us? 

Tuesday, as I was reading Psalm 15, I sensed God saying to me, “Why are you asking Me what you should do? You already know. Live out what you know to be right. I’ll show you the rest in time.”

Let me share the passage I read with you, one that has become my memory goal for this week:

psalm15versejpg“Who may worship in Your sanctuary, Lord? Who may enter Your presence on Your holy hill? Those who lead blameless lives and do what is right, speaking the truth from sincere hearts. Those who refuse to gossip or harm their neighbors or speak evil of their friends. Those who despise flagrant sinners, and honor the faithful followers of the Lord, and keep their promises even when it hurts” (Psalm 15:1-4 NLT).

There’s enough instruction packed in that short passage to keep me occupied for weeks. Months. The rest of my life.

livingbygracepic-jpLet’s talk about this. I like to have all the answers. To know what’s ahead and how to get there, and I can get so caught up on the whats and whens that I lose sight of what God is trying to do in and through me in the here and now. Can you relate? When you look back at your moments of uncertainty or indecision, can you see God’s hand working not just in the situation, but in and through you as well? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below or on Facebook at Living by Grace, because we can all learn from one another!

Before I go, I’d love to invite you to visit the Wholly Loved blog where my ministry team and I share stories on how we’re learning to live wholly loved, as God’s image bearers who surrender our whole selves, quirks, faults, and all, to God, so He can mold us and use us for His glory as we learn to lean deeper into Him.

I also invite you to read a few stories behind the story in my newest release.

Read about how my family’s interaction with a poor, single mom in Omaha influenced the missional thread in Restoring Love HERE.

You can read how God used a difficult time to birth my passion for single moms HERE.

And you can read some of the reviews that have been coming in for the story HERE.

And for the discount lovers among us …

ebook-sale-2

Learning to Lean

2012 was an incredibly tough, incredibly painful year for me. That was the year everything changed, but it was also one of the  most incredibly beautiful periods of my life because that was the year when, day by day by day, God revealed the depth of His love and the unshakable shelter of His abiding presence. I thought back to Johnnie Alexanderthat painful, frightening time as I read Johnnie Alexander’s beautiful post today.

As an added bonus, she’s giving away an ecopy of her novel to one lucky reader, chosen randomly from the comments left on today’s post. 

As you read her testimony, may you be reminded of God’s unchanging, ever-present, love-filled nature. I also encourage you to pray for her, and for one another, as many of you are going through some incredibly difficult situations. You don’t need to know one another’s name or struggle to pray for your sister and brother. God knows. However, if any of you would like to openly share your trials in the comments below, giving me permission to share your prayer requests with my readers next Thursday, please feel free. For the prayers of the righteous are powerful and effective.

The Whisper

By

Johnnie Alexander

It would be overly dramatic to say my world was falling apart. But morning after morning, I curled up in my comfy chair—the oversized multi-pillowed one tucked into the bay window—and wondered where I’d be a year later.

As I read both my Bible and insightful devotionals by Sarah Young and Oswald Chambers, I prayed I’d stay within God’s will for my life. But I questioned how to reconcile what I believed was going to happen with what I knew of Scripture.

Ex33-14picGod’s presence was clear during those quiet times as again and again I read the promises of His steadfast love and His provision. Whatever the future held, I was assured He held me in his arms.

During this time of insecurity, I visited a gift shop in our small town. As I walked in the door, my eyes were drawn to a ceramic bluebird perched on a shelf. I cradled it in my hand and smiled at the words on its wing:

Be brave.

I placed it back on the shelf, not intending to purchase it even though it had touched my heart. But when I set it down, I felt a clear and sweet whisper surround me.

It’s for you.

I hesitated a moment. After all, nothing like this had ever happened to me before. And yet I knew the message was real, and I knew who it was from.

More than a year has passed, and my life has taken a path I once thought impossible. I still stumble a little over the D-word, so let’s just say my marital status has changed. While I wish this wasn’t my story, and it Ps32v8picbreaks my heart that this is my children’s story, my trust in God’s promises has only gotten stronger. He had prepared the path I was to walk, with all its pits and snares, before I ever knew I’d be on it.

I left my comfy chair behind but not my treasured bluebird. When I unpacked it, I paused a moment to whisper a prayer of thanks for this reminder of God’s tangible presence.

Indeed, His love is steadfast.

“Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10a; NIV).

“Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!” (1 Chronicles 16:34; ESV).

***

Johnnie Alexander writes inspiring stories that linger in the heart. Where Treasure Hides, her debut novel, won the ACFW Genesis Contest (2011) and Golden Leaf Award (2014). The first of her three contemporary romances, Where She Belongs, releases from Revell in January 2016.

She also has won Best Novel and Best Writer awards (Florida Christian Writers Conferences), and Bronze Medalist (My Book Therapy Frasier Contest).

A graduate of Rollins College (Orlando) with a Master of Liberal Studies degree, Johnnie treasures family memories, classic movies, road trips, and stacks of books. She lives in the Memphis area where her morning chores include feeding dogs, cats, chickens, and a small herd of alpacas.

Connect with her online:

at her blog, on FacebookTwitterGoodReadsPinterest, and at her Amazon Author Page

Where-Treasure-Hides-682x1024 new coverWhere Treasure Hides:

Artist Alison Schuyler spends her time working in her family’s renowned art gallery, determined to avoid the curse that has followed the Schuyler clan from the Netherlands to America and back again. She’s certain that true love will only lead to tragedy—that is, until a chance meeting at Waterloo station brings Ian Devlin into her life.

Read the first chapter here!

Buy it here:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Christian Book Distributors

Drawn to the bold and compassionate British Army captain, Alison begins to question her fear of love as World War II breaks out, separating the two and drawing each into their own battles. While Ian fights for freedom on the battlefield, Alison works with the Dutch Underground to find a safe haven for Jewish children and priceless pieces of art alike. But safety is a luxury war does not allow.

As time, war, and human will struggle to keep them apart, will Alison and Ian have the faith to fight for their love, or is it their fate to be separated forever?

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this! What a gift God’s presence is! I think sometimes I take His abiding, ever-present love for granted and either wallow in self-pity rather than drawing close to and leaning hard on Him, or allowing the busyness of life to steal my joy, praise and focus. But when my world crashes down, I’m reminded, He is and always has been there. When has a particularly hard, frightening or painful time reminded you of God’s constant presence and unchanging nature. Share your experience with us! And don’t forget about our ongoing Call to Praise Blog Hop! Share your thoughts here in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook.

Receive more devotions, author updates, and segments to a serial story only available to newsletter subscribers by subscribing to my joint-author newsletter here:

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Before you go, (wow, this is one loooooooooooooooong blog post!) I wanted to let you know my debut novel is still on sale, print and kindle version, for under $3! If you haven’t read it but have been wanting to, get it here! 
And to my Nebraska friends, I’ll be in Lincoln tomorrow chatting with book lovers at the Bethany Branch library, and Saturday, I’ll be signing copies of both novels at Divine Truth Christian Bookstore in LaVista. If you can’t make it but would like a signed copy, call the store at 402-592-4866 and they’ll get ya’ hooked up! 🙂

Easily Swayed

I’m in a time of waiting. Everything in my life, it seems, is at a fork and I’m waiting for God’s direction. Not for the final destination. I’ve walked with Him long enough to know that rarely comes. He may give me a glimpse now and then, enough to ignite passion, but normally that’s all it is–a glimpse. Most likely because He knows, if given the Mapquest version, I’d trudge ahead in self-reliance.

I’m learning God wants me to stay light-footed, easily swayed, ever listening, ever waiting, ever drawing near.

Psalm 32:7-10 (NASB)

7 You are my hiding place; You preserve me from trouble;
You surround me with songs of deliverance.
Selah.
8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go;
I will counsel you with My eye upon you.
9 Do not be as the horse or as the mule which have no understanding,
Whose trappings include bit and bridle to hold them in check,
Otherwise they will not come near to you.

10 Many are the sorrows of the wicked,
But he who trusts in the LORD, lovingkindness shall surround him.

Sharing the Journey

As you probably know, our family was leveled by our recent trip to El Salvador–in a good way. We’ve known about orphans, and have felt compassion for them, but there’s something about living among them. Holding a hurting child in your arms makes it personal–puts a name and a face to the statistics. On our last night in El Salvador, my husband and I made a commitment to one another and to God–a commitment to not forget. A commitment to do what we can to create positive change. We refuse to allow the downward spiral of apathy strangle out the love God instilled in our hearts for these hurting children.

And in the meantime, God’s opened our eyes to the millions of other children living on the streets right now. Initially, we decided to keep our journey to ourselves…out of self-preservation, I’m sure, in case we fail. But as we’re trying to navigate our way toward what we believe God is calling us to do, finding little by way of direction, we realized…what if someone else wants to follow in our footsteps? Maybe the reason it’s so hard to find information is because everyone’s like us–afraid to tell others what God’s doing for fear they’ll fail, or hit a dead-end, or fizzle out.

So we decided to be candid about our journey. We’re not saying we’re going to do anything great. In fact, our goals and dreams may come to naught. But…perhaps in watching our journey you will be encouraged to press forward, even when every door appears to be closed or when common sense tells you to seek the predictable and secure.

Because here’s the thing–we were never intended to live in a vacuum. We need each other.

And, if we’re following whole-heartedly after God, there’s nothing to fear. Even failure becomes a glorious stepping stone, because if we “fail,” but do so following God, then we know our failure was God-ordained. Meaning, there was something we needed to learn, or a weakness that needed to be strengthened, or a sin that needed to be sliced out, through that failure.

So join us as we, along with a few members from our church, seek God’s guidance on how to deal with the enormous problem of global orphans.

Our journey began in a 500 foot El Salvadoran hotel room. It was our first mission trip. You may remember, I’m terrified of flying. Terrified. Prior to this trip, I hadn’t been on a plane in about 10 years. We’ve traveled all over the united states, by van. (I always joke that my husband’s an enabler, giving in to a twenty hour car ride rather than forcing his neurotic wife on a plane.)

The plane ride was rough, and at one point, the plane actually dropped. So it’s pitch black, we’re flying through a storm, and my stomach’s knotted to the point of nausea, then we drop. It felt like one of those roller coaster rides when your stomach leaps into your throat. I thought for sure we’d die. Yep, my imagination flew. I white-knuckled my seat’s armrests the rest of the flight. Then, we landed with quite a blam! (Not a crash bam, but a very rough landing, as if the ground caught our pilot by surprise.)  As I followed my husband and daughter down the aisle I wondered how I’d ever make it back home because I never, ever wanted to get on another plane. Told my husband that very thing. “I’m never doing this again! Once we get home, I’m never flying ever again!”

He laughed.

Then we got to the hotel room. We were exhausted. We’d left our house at 8:30 that morning and pulled into our hotel about 11, maybe 12. The hotel was not quite what we expected, and once again, I told my husband I was never coming back. Honestly, I wondered how I’d ever make it through the week. I’m sure God laughed, knowing the three-sixty He was about to bring me to.

Because by day three, Steve and I realized we HAD to come back.

Funny how God flips our hearts taking a selfish couple from, “I can’t do this,” to “Show me what you’d have me do. Lord, please love through me. I want to STAY!” in less than three days.

But that’s how God works. If you give Him access to your heart, He’ll rock your world. And hopefully, the world around you.