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.

Erecting Altars to Bolster Our Obedience

Woman sitting outside staring out to the horizon

Photo by Liam Simpson on Unsplash

My life has been punctuated by a series of, “Are you serious, God?” moments—times when I want to pretend I didn’t hear Him, when I’m convinced He couldn’t possibly have uttered the command I’ve sensed. And there have been times, way too many, when I’ve been tempted to cloak a disobedient heart in excuses and rationalization.

That burning I felt within while reading that passage—that must have been heartburn. That jolt I felt in my spirit when my pastor gave that sermon—the stage lights must have hit me wrong.

But in this instance, God left no room for doubt, confirming His message numerous times through numerous sources, all in the span of a week. So, reluctantly and perhaps with a few tears, I obeyed.

For just over a week, after which time I started praying for guidance once again. Over the same issue God had so clearly advised me on, as if His instructions came with an expiration date.

They hadn’t. Obedience meant remaining fully engaged in the area He’d already shown me, until He told me different. Trusting, regardless of the delay, He would indeed do just that, should my assignment change.

I thought of my reluctant obedience dance with Christ as I was reading about Sarah and Abraham’s journey, recorded in Genesis 12. God gives them both a pretty drastic command—leave everything and everyone you’ve known, your homeland, and go. To a place you’ve never been.”

Abraham obeyed and he and his wife began the long, arduous trek to the Promised Land. Their journey wasn’t quick or easy. They traveled 600 miles to Haran, where they settled for a bit, then continued on another 400 miles to Shechem. It was here that Abraham built his first altar. (Gen. 12:8)

This was a place of intimacy where Abraham met with God and declared his allegiance to Him. When His faith wavered, God’s voice seemed distant, and the fulfillment of His promise delayed, Abraham could look back upon all the altars he’d erected and remember—the moment when God met with him personally. And if his experience was anything like mine have been, the moment Abraham’s heart surrendered,  resultant peace that swept through him. Followed by the confident conviction that had strengthened his weary soul.

That altar and all the others he built following demonstrates God’s attentive care to guide and provide and  Abraham’s commitment to follow.

I’ve learned, if I want to stay strong in Christ and obedient to Him, I need to fashion my own altars—notes tucked in my Bible and journal entries stored in my bookshelves. Concrete and irrefutable reminders of times when God spoke directly to my heart, issuing a call.

Like with the situation I mentioned early in this post. Perhaps if I hadn’t recorded God’s clear commands provided the week before, I could have rationalized them away. Or forgot them entirely. But regardless of what my temperamental heart longed to believe, I knew God had spoken, and I had determined to obey.

Let’s talk about this! Can you relate to the temptation I shared? When have you been tempted to discount or rationalize away God’s guidance? Have you ever wished His instructions came with expiration dates? How do you remain focused on “the call” when life becomes challenging or it feels like His promise has been delayed?

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

The Fruit of an Obedient Heart–How God Makes Much of Our Little

Nail polish bottles of different colorsI felt ill-equipped and insufficient. Actually, I wasn’t supposed to be there at all. I planned to pop in, make sure all the volunteers had arrived and were good to go, then head off to another project I’d set up for the weekend.

But God had other plans, and it started—and perhaps ended—with my lack.

It was “Big Live” weekend, a time where the church I attended mobilized hundreds of people throughout the Metro to serve. As part of the leadership team organizing the event, I’d arranged numerous projects, one that included facilitating a “spa” night for women at a local shelter while other volunteers watched their children.

The idea seemed like a good one in the beginning, back in the planning stages when I envisioned a sizable group from my church, sitting around a table, giving mani-peds to these poor, broken women who were fighting addiction, healing, and learning how to parent.

But as the scheduled night approached, I began to worry. We were short on help. In fact, in the most crucial area, the actual spa portion, we didn’t have anyone.

Zero manicurists. Zero women who even felt comfortable pretending to be manicurists.

Simply myself—who routinely makes a mess of my nails whenever I attempt to paint them. And three others who’d come to watch children.

In other words, who also felt completely ill-equipped to paint other people’s fingernails. But as the women from the shelter began to arrive, one of the volunteers stepped up and said, “I’ll stay” (in the spa room). “I’m not very good at it, but I’ll stay.”

I could’ve hugged her. I may have squealed. But then, watching yet more women trickle in, and eyeing my very meager supplies, my moment of joy was replaced by sadness. I’d so wanted to spoil these women, to make them feel special. To give them an evening of pampering that would make them feel, but for a moment, as if they were truly at a spa. Or at the very least, beautiful.

And all I could think of was my lack. I didn’t have those smelly scrubs one rubs on women’s hands after they’ve soaked in rose-scented water. I didn’t even have the rose-scented water. I had dish soap. (And soon even that ran out.) I didn’t have nice-smelling lotion, emery boards or pumice to sooth their cracked and tired feet.

These ladies had been looking forward to a luxurious spa night, and I soaked their feet in plastic bowls filled with generic dish soap then dried them with whatever hand towels and dishrags the staff had managed to scrounge up.

I couldn’t paint beautiful designs. I could do base coats—though I messed that up. I could do simple flowers using toothpicks, but yep, I messed that up as well.

I was failing. And as I sat across from one of the ladies barely four months out of prison, having just rubbed her feet with an old tattered rag, I was ready to apologize. For the night, my blunders, the disappointment I know I must have caused her.

But before I could, she looked me in the eye with a grin so large it was contagious and said, “I feel like I’m at one of those fancy spas.”

Tears filled my eyes as I realized how little it took to make these women happy. To make them feel special. I’m sure they would’ve enjoyed the fancy lotions and hand massages. The pumice stones would’ve been nice. They would’ve oohed and ahhhed, had I known how to make fancy nail polish decorations.two women standing together

But none of those things trumped what they needed most—love. Someone to look them in the eye and say, “I see you. You have value. God loves you.”

That is how God makes much of our little.

Let’s talk about this! When have you stepped out to serve or help someone and felt insufficient and ill-equipped? How did you handle that? What was the end result? When has God shown you, perhaps through your insufficiency, that your role was simply to love? Share your thoughts and examples in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another.

Visit John 6:1-14 to read another “When God Makes Much of Our Little” stories–this one told in Scripture.

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

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

 

 

When We Say No–Missing Out

It’s weighed heavy on my mind and heart for over fifteen years now–the day I said no. I was working out, minding my own business, in a crowded (and slightly smelly) Southern California gym. I went often, most every afternoon, as did a middle aged, disabled gentlemen. I don’t know his story, I didn’t even know his name, but I knew this–he was incredibly unhappy. He was always frowning, as if sending clear, “Do not approach,” signals. But one day, I felt a strong desire to pray for him. The more I thought about this, prayed for an out, the stronger the desire became.

I ignored God’s prompting that day, and I’ve regretted it ever since. I thought about that moment as I read Jana Kelley, author of Door to Freedom’s post below.

MISSING OUT

by Jana Kelley

Barbed-wire fences loomed on either side of me as I inched my car through the gates. I stopped at the guardhouse to show my volunteer badge and parked in the visitor section before making my way to one of several cottages. Nerves kept me alert as I crossed the lawn and entered the lobby. I was directed to a side room.

The juvenile detention center always made me nervous. My comfort zone waited for me somewhere far outside the confines

of this facility that housed troubled teens.

Every week, I joined two other ladies who also volunteered. One was the Bible study leader and the other lady, Kathy*, and I assisted her. Six to eight girls attended every week. We met as a group for the lesson and then divided for small group discussion and other planned activities.

As I waited for the girls to enter, I glanced at the white board on the wall. It hadn’t been erased from some previous group therapy session. Red and black marker spelled out the formative years of one of the participants: gender confusion, divorce, jail, victimization. All of this scrawled on the board for anyone’s perusal. I looked into the glazed eyes of the girls who entered the room. Medication kept most of them in a fog. I smiled at them, not expecting any smiles in return.

After the lesson, our leader called me and Kathy over.

“These two young women would like to pray to receive Jesus.” She gestured toward two of the girls then looked toward Kathy. “Can you help them do that?”

This made sense, of course, as the other volunteer had more experience than me. But she looked shocked.

“No,” she said. “I can’t do that.” She looked at me with frantic eyes. “Can you do it instead of me?”

I moved to where the two girls sat and, in simple words, explained how Jesus had taken the punishment we deserved and how He would forgive our sins if we believed in Him. That night those two girls prayed, asked Jesus to save them, and became my new sisters in Christ.

As I drove past the barbed fences and back to my comfort zone, I couldn’t help but wonder: “What happened back there?”

A Bible study volunteer was afraid to pray with others asking for salvation? Wasn’t that the “golden moment” for any believer? I felt blessed by the opportunity to guide two girls into the Kingdom. But I think that blessing was meant for the other lady. Her fear immobilized her at a most crucial time.

I learned a couple of things that night:

  • First, no amount of training enables us to do the Lord’s work if we don’t also obey the Spirit when it comes time to act.
  • Second, if I don’t step up when it’s my turn, the Lord may choose to give the blessing to someone else.

That night, I received the blessing of watching two girls receive salvation. But lest I become prideful, that night is also a reminder to me. I often give in to fear … that I’ll be laughed at, that I will be rejected, that I’m not good enough to do what the Lord asks. When I focus on fear and then refuse to listen and obey, I miss out on the blessing God has for me.

***

Jana Kelley is a Texan who hardly ever lives in Texas. Raised in Southeast Asia, Jana developed a love for cross-cultural living early in life. Her love for writing came soon after. Jana returned to Texas to attend East Texas Baptist University. She and her husband married a month after she graduated, and by their second anniversary, they were living in a remote African town. After 13 years living in Africa and the Middle East, Jana, her husband, and their three boys moved to Southeast Asia where they currently live. Jana is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, a blogger, a contributor to Voices of the Faithful by Beth Moore (Books 1 &2) and has written a trilogy set in Northern Sudan. The third book will release in September. Jana loves to connect with her readers. You can learn more about her at janakelley.com.

 

Door to Freedom:

“It’s rough and it’s smooth. It’s dark and it’s light. It’s a masterpiece. It’s us. Here in Sudan. We are scared of it and drawn to it. There is an open door, and there is much opposition.”

In the dusty, Islamic country of Sudan, Mia, who is raising her family in a Muslim country, has learned to boldly share her faith. Rania, the daughter of a wealthy Sudanese Arab, seeks to find the reason for her sister’s sudden disappearance. Mia holds some of the answers, but both women quickly discover they must each walk through their own doors to freedom—the freedom that only comes when you trust God’s sovereignty more than man-made security.

Part of New Hope® Publishers’ line of contemporary missional fiction, Door to Freedom, the sequel to Side by Side, opens the reader’s eyes to modern-day persecution and the life of Muslims in Sudan. Based on real-life events, Door to Freedom also reveals some of the struggles that Christians face when living under Islamic law. The reader will be inspired to pray for those who are persecuted for their faith as well as for the salvation of the persecutors.

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Let’s talk about this! When have you allowed fears or insecurities to hinder your obedience and what did you learn from this experience. OR, when have you chosen, despite your fear, to do something you felt God calling you to, and what was the result? In the example I shared at the beginning of this post, numerous fears kept me from obeying. It seemed strange to walk up to a stranger in a crowded gym and offer to pray. I worried I’d look like an idiot or that I’d offend him. But I’ve often wondered, what if the man was going through a tough time right at that moment, asking God if He cared or if He was there, and God wanted to answer those questions through me, or love that man through me?

I failed to obey. Because of my pride. Man, pride is such an ugly thing, isn’t it?

Your turn! Share your stories, examples, or perhaps words of encouragement with us in the comments below.

*Name changed for privacy purposes.

You may also enjoy:

Are You Teaching Fear or Faith

What or Whom Do You Fear

Choosing to Stay

Grow Up

We were created to live victorious, abundant, impactful lives, but so often, we allow fear to hold us back and hinder us from creating the ambassadors God designed us to be. And yet, we can live bold and brave. We can leave an eternal, life-changing mark on our world, and Wholly Loved wants to help you learn to do just that.

That’s why we’re launching the Bold and Brave conference. Stay tuned for more info, and “like” and “follow” our Facebook Page to stay on top of all our events.

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.

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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.)

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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.

Obedience in the Mundane

Have you ever felt invisible? Wondered if anyone would notice, should you stop doing whatever it is you’re doing, day JohnStudy1in and day out?

When our daughter was younger, I often wondered what would happen if I didn’t make the bed–after all, it’d only get messed up again. Or what if I left the laundry and dishes untouched.

There were times, many, when the tedium of the day wore me down and left me feeling … insignificant.

They say integrity is doing what you know is right when no one is watching.

Except, Someone is always watching, right? Psalm 139 tells us God is attentive to our every move. He knows every detail of our lives and every thought that flits through our brain. More than that, He takes great delight in us.

Psalm 37:23 says, “The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the Lord upholds them by the hand” (NLT, emphasis mine).

Pause to consider that verse for a moment. The Lord delights in every detail of our lives–when we’re doing something grand and exciting and when we’re folding towels for the umpteenth time. Perhaps because He knows our character, that part of us He’s continually molding, is grown in the big and the small.

I don’t know about you, but I want to be a woman of integrity.

I want to be known for my character and obedience. I want God to look down on me, when I’m elbow deep in dishwater, and smile, and I want to do it all–everything–for Him and His glory.

For obedience sake.

These emotions and thoughts were triggered as I read Luke 1:5-7. Elizabeth and Zechariah, an old and childless couple, were known for being righteous and carefully obeying God’s commands and regulations. When we read this passage, it’s easy to skip over that, probably because we know the end of the story. They were faithful, and God rewarded them with something they’d deeply longed for–a child. Not just a child, but the one birthed to proclaim the coming of Christ.

Wow. Pretty awesome, right?

But let’s step back. Back to when, still childless and likely unnoticed, John’s parents lived obediently. Scripture tells us Zechariah was a Jewish priest, and as such, his responsibilities were to maintain the workings in the temple, instruct the people, and on occasion, if the lot cast landed on him, to enter the Holy Place of the Tabernacle to burn incense on the altar of incense.

I’m not a statistician, but it seems likely he could go his entire life and never, not once, receive this honor. He was one of 20,000 priests! Though Scripture doesn’t tell us, I think it’s safe to assume there were times he felt unseen and wondered if what he did mattered. After all, should he simply cease performing his duties, there were 19,999 other men ready and able to take his place, many of which likely had children.twins-1628843_1920

Let me explain the significance of that for a moment. In Bible times, children were seen as a blessing from God; barrenness was seen as a curse. Meaning, Elizabeth and Zechariah were likely judged for their infertility. The common assumption of their day–They’d likely done something wrong or had displeased God in some way, and that was the reason they were barren.

In other words, Elizabeth and Zechariah served God faithfully in the midst of their sorrow. Despite the fact that He hadn’t granted them the one thing they likely longed for above all else.

That’s integrity.

They obeyed in the mundane, in the hard and painful, simply because it was the right thing to do.

They obeyed because they knew God is worthy, amen? colossians-verse

This leads me to this week’s memory verse: “Whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father” (Col. 3:17 NLT).

romans12-1-verseThere’s a verse I love, and one I pray often: “And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all He has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice–the kind He will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship Him” (Romans 12:1 NLT).

In view of all God has done for us, in view of Christ’s sacrificial death so we might live, may we offer our whole bodies–all we are. Our time, our gifts, our words, our thoughts–to Christ, as a living sacrifice.

Sometimes life is a sacrifice, right? Obedience isn’t always easy or glamorous. But that is “truly the way to worship [God].” Or to put it another way, every time we scrub toilets, mop floors, wipe snotty noses, or answer phones, if we’re doing it in obedience to Christ, we’re worshiping Him.

Isn’t that cool?

For further discussion, I invite you to join Cynthia Simmons and I for a video discussion on today’s passage.


livingbygracepic-jpLet’s talk about this!

What were your thoughts as you read today’s focal passage? Is there an area in your life or something you do that feels insignificant? How does it feel knowing God is watching you every time you engage in that activity? How does it feel knowing that thing, whatever it is, can be an act of worship?

Did you have any other insights to share?

For those wanting to learn how to dig deeper into Scripture, join me in our Facebook group where we’ll be talking about reading biblical passages in light of their historical context. We’ll also touch a little on what I encouraged you to do last week–jot down observations and any questions you might have.

Before I go, I wanted to share information on a complimentary study that was recently launched by a dear friend:

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: http://www.mariaimorgan.com/its-time-bible-study

Other articles and videos you might find helpful:

Meaning in the Mundane

In Absence of Integrity

The Invisible Woman

Being His Help Meet

Have you ever heard it said that a woman should be a help meet (or helpmate) to her husband? How did that make you feel? Today, my guest Elle E. Kay shares her perspective on what, exactly, being your spouse’s help meet actually means. But first, a caveat–Elle is not saying a wife must be a doormat, or that she should completely lose who God uniquely created her to be. Instead, she is expressing how she adapts her behaviors so that they have the greatest impact in conveying love and support. Hopefully, her husband is doing the same, but she has no control over that. All she can do is love her husband and love him well.

-Do all things without murmurings or disputings.-Philippians 2-14, KJV

Being His Help Meet
by Elle E. Kay

Some may think that there is something degrading about being a man’s help meet. If you explore it from a biblical perspective, you realize that it is an honor. God made man. He then set out to get man a help meet (Gen 2:18-20). In the process of choosing a help meet, Adam was shown that there were no creatures suitable for his needs. God made Eve from Adam’s own rib bone (Gen 2:21). She was a precious gift. A woman who was “meet” (suitable, proper, fitting) to satisfy his needs.

wedding-559422_1920 PIXABAYWhen I think about it, I realize that in agreeing to wed my spouse, I agreed to be the woman who would meet his needs. To be a suitable mate in every way. If I set out to do that in our daily lives, we are both happy.

Every man is different and has different needs. My husband is a strong independent male. He wouldn’t be happy with me fussing over him all the time. There are some men who want just that and there are some women who are happy to provide that. My husband wants a partner who will handle the things he doesn’t like to do and who will depend on him to do “manly” things. He’s a carpenter. He likes to build things. It made him happy to make me a pool shed, a barn, and a chicken coop. He’s also a gentleman and enjoys opening doors for me. That doesn’t mean that he doesn’t need or want my help. He does. He may never vocalize his needs, but if I pay attention, I’ll know them. He doesn’t like to put away laundry. I do that. He enjoys a good meal, I enjoy cooking for him.

The point is, I fill in where he needs me. I don’t try to fit some ideal of a perfect wife. I simply do what makes him happy. My house is rarely perfectly clean and dust free, but the things that need to be done are done. The things that drive him crazy like a sink full of dirty dishes are avoided (most of the time). In turn, I get the satisfied feeling of knowing I’ve met his needs. We’ve all heard the expression “happy wife, happy life.” It works just as well in reverse. If we spouses rise up to the challenge and do the hands-1022212_640things that make our husband’s lives easier, they will be happier. If they are happy, we are happy.

I didn’t say anything about a proper help meet staying home cooking and cleaning. A proper help meet can only be defined by the needs of her spouse. Barring that I would look to Proverbs 31. A Proverbs 31 woman does a lot more than dust and vacuum her home.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention one other small thing. The things I do for my spouse, I must do without complaint. It wouldn’t make anyone happy if I walked around the house mumbling and grumbling as I went about my business.

“Do all things without murmurings and disputings” (Philippians 2:14, KJV).

We are designed to help our husbands, but that doesn’t mean we must agree on every matter. How much help would we be if we simply nod our ascent as our husbands drive our families off the edge of a cliff? Sometimes we need to speak up. Help comes in many forms and may not always be easy. God designed us to be up for the challenge.

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Abandoned by her dearest friend, Stella is running-scared. Life and rsz_stella3death decisions force her to re-examine her faith, as well as her priorities. The handsome, Jason, only exacerbates her anxiety. Should she trust him? Something is amiss in the quiet town of Edinsville. How will Stella fare as her world gets turned upside down?

 

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ElleEKayElle E. Kay lives on a farmette in the Back Mountain region of Pennsylvania. An introvert, she surrounds herself with farm animals rather than people most of the time. But once you break down her initial walls, she can be quite talkative.

Connect with Elle on Facebook, Amazon, Twitter, and her website.

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livingbygracepic-jpLet’s talk about this: So often, society puts a negative connotation on something God creates to be beautiful. Have you experienced this? How do you strive to be a help meet to your spouse? How has that blessed you and your marriage? Share your thoughts in the comments below or over on Living by Grace. I’d love to hear them!

Healthy Living

Have you ever walked into a brick wall when you’re trying to get healthy? And then tried to scale that brick wall to get over it? If you have, you know just how hard it is, whether you’re trying to get healthy physically, mentally, or spiritually. Today, my guest and dear friend, Stacey Muff, has some great encouragement for you. Read on.

crossfit-534615_640

 

“Healthy” Takes Work
by Stacey Muff

feet-965688_640I’m on a quest to be healthy!  Healthy spiritually, physically, mentally, and emotionally.  Why am I on this quest?  Because as I grow in my pursuit of God, I realize He is all about healthy. His amazing Word, the Bible, “renews” our minds, or in other words produces true and healthy thinking. This new way of thinking can bring health to our relationships and in the end, enable us to pursue our individual purpose God has laid out for us without those heavy chains of unhealthy thinking and beliefs weighing us down.

My quest started with a declaration from a gifted medical professional that told me, “You are a train-wreck, girlfriend. I’m pretty sure you have fibromyalgia. But if you are willing to do the work … I can help you.”  Fast forward a year and I am fibro-free, not in constant pain, and I am not a train wreck!  (I have occasional derailments, but no all out wrecks!)  I feel better than I have in years!

The journey this last year was not easy.  It took work, time, commitment, and healthy thinking.  But through it all God has shown me that “healthy” takes work and time, but it is worth every minute!!

2013calendarpg1This reminds me of my marriage. My Hubby and I have been married 21 years. We’ve had ups and downs, good times and bad. We’ve worked really hard and invested a lot of time in our relationship in order to make it healthy. I can honestly say that I love that man more today than I ever have. Through pursuing God, praying for our intimacy, and for our own spiritual growth, we have resolved and are in the process of resolving many issues.

It would have been a lot easier to just to live our busy lives day in and day out and not focus on growing our relationships with God. It would’ve been easier to not plan to go to a marriage conference every few years. We had plenty of reasons not to. Money was tight, babysitters were hard to find and expensive.  And further more–is it really okay to leave the kids for two days? What about dealing with hard topics?  That certainly isn’t fun! We frankly still struggle with that one. But it seems whenever we start to really grow weary of doing the work, when we start to wonder, “Is this really worth it?” and “Are we really doing okay?” God reminds us of how blessed we are. We enjoy a laugh together, a victory together, an intimate connection.

I imagine I’ll never reach the ultimate, complete “healthy” in any area of my runner-888016_640life here on earth. But God says to persevere, don’t give up, run like you are to win the prize, and don’t grow weary! Jesus came to give us life … an abundant life!

“The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life” (John 10:10, NLT).

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.  Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect” (Romans 12:2, NLT).

God is perfect, holy, healthy, true, and I could go on and on. We, on the other hand, are broken. He is our Father and wants to help us with all of our needs. He loves us and wants to be as close to us as possible.  That is why He sent Jesus to save us from our brokenness. When we first trust in Him, God sends the Holy Spirit to counsel, comfort, and guide us every day of our lives. What an incredible gift! And that, my friends, is the secret to pursuing a healthy marriage and a healthy life!

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways submit to Him and He will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes, fear the Lord and shun evil.  This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones” (Proverbs 3:5-8, NIV).

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Family PictureStacey Muff is the wife of 21 years to her High School sweetheart, Will.  She is also a Mother to two fun-loving teenage boys.  Stacey loves to spend time with her family, cook nourishing foods, talk about God’s Word with her friends at Bible Study and take walks in the sunshine!

Stacey and Will help lead Re/engage Marriage Ministry at Reality Church in Papillion, Nebraska.  If you are interested in working hard for a healthy marriage go to www.marriagehelp.org to find a Re/engage Ministry near you.

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livingbygracepic-jpLet’s talk about this: Boy, do I ever know the struggle of becoming healthy in body, mind, and soul. How has God been faithful in helping you past your brick walls? What actions, books, or Bible verses helped you work through getting healthy? Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook. We all need one another!