I have a tendency to run ahead of God. I’ll sense a call to action and a surge of His Spirit within, then race ahead, without divine clarity on the how. Do you ever do that? Do you ever assume that first nudge is all you need, only to discover, once you’ve landed in a mess of your own making, that you were missing a few crucial pieces? Details and insight God would’ve provided, had you had the patience, humility, and self-control to wait?

One Sunday, I came to church super frustrated regarding a particularly confusing and exhausting situation. I’d given of myself sacrificially and persistently, for months, only to encounter ugliness in return. Though I knew, intellectually, the treatment I received had little to do with me, it still stung, and in my hurt, I wanted to retreat. To self-protect and give up. To be done with that particular “assignment” and invest my time, energy, and heart elsewhere. 

But then, in the middle of church service, God spoke life and encouragement into my weary and bruised soul and helped me see things more clearly. Through the story of a life changed, He reminded me of the power and persistence of His love and grace. 

He reminded me of the cross. 

As soon as service concluded, I rushed out–and rushed ahead. The result? I fell out of step with God. And I was reminded that it’s not enough to start well, or even to leap forward on the best intentions. If I truly want to honor Christ, to live as His life-giving ambassador, I must allow Him to direct my every step. 

Woman gazing ahead.

That requires patience, a fierce commitment to surrender, and remaining alert to the unceasing battle within. I know I’m not alone in my relentless fight against myself. In this inner tug-of-war that has me pinging between love and compassion and grace one moment and pride and selfishness the next. Because, apart from Christ, nothing good dwells within me.  (Romans 7:18).

Not a drop or a moment. 

My only hope? To remain vitally connected and surrendered to Christ. This means I’ll have to learn to slow down. To do more listening than speaking, more praying than running.

And a whole lot more seeking and receiving than doing. 

In Galatians 5, the apostle Paul phrased it this way: “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (v. 16, NIV). 

I’m reminded of a battle the Israelites faced in Exodus 17. Scripture tells us the Amelekites launched a surprise attack on the nation. In response, Moses sent Joshua and some of their men out to fight while he stood on top of a hill with the “staff of God” in his hands. According to verse 11, “As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amelekites were winning” (v. 11, NIV). Not because his staff held any supernatural power. Rather, through Moses’s raised hands, God was teaching the Israelites an important lesson, one you and I must master as well. Victory comes through our continual, moment by moment, reliance on God. 

The moment we think we’ve got everything figured out, the moment we take our eyes off Him, in essence, lowering our staffs, we fail. We experience victory through our surrender–when we raise our arms and keep them raised, so to speak, toward heaven. 

When is it most challenging for you to remain surrendered to the Holy Spirit? What are some ways ways you can remain more consistently surrendered to Him during those challenging circumstances? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, and connect with Jennifer on Facebook and Instagram.

The Courage to Speak Truth – Ep. 76 Faith Over Fear

Our world has become increasingly angry, argumentative, and hostile to the gospel and biblical truth. Unfortunately, the church is, in part, to blame; we’ve become more known for what we’re against than for what we are for. But we mustn’t let the hateful misrepresentation of Christ silence our voice. People need the hope and power of Christ now more than ever. In this episode Jennifer Slattery and Ava Pennington discuss ways to increase our courage while simultaneously upping our truth and grace. Find Ava Pennington at: https://www.AvaPennington.com https://www.facebook.com/AvaPennington.AuthorPage https://www.instagram.com/avapennington3/ Find Jennifer: https://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com https://www.facebook.com/JenSlatte https://www.instagram.com/slatteryjennifer/ Find Wholly Loved, at: https://www.WhollyLoved.com Join the private Faith Over Fear Group Here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/442736966614671 Group Discussion Questions: 1. What encouraged you most during today’s episode? 2. What are some emotions you would have struggled with, had you been in Timothy’s position? 3. What emotions arise when you consider initiating spiritual conversations with others? 4. When do you find it most challenging to share your faith? 5. Why is it important to remind ourselves of our calling (whether that’s in a particular role or the general call to share Christ with others) during times of opposition? 6. What are some ways you can “fan” your gift “into flame”? 7. How can asking questions help reduce our listener’s defenses? 8. Why is it important to balance truth with clearly revealed grace? 9. Consider a time when someone came at you with grace-less truth. How did you respond and why? 10. Consider a time when someone spoke truth to you in a gentle and grace-filled way. How did you respond and why? 11. Why is it important to establish a relationship with someone before attempting to speak truth into their life? 12. What is one action step God might be wanting you to take this week? Episode Image Credit: Getty/Ponomariova Maria
  1. The Courage to Speak Truth – Ep. 76
  2. The Courage to Heal from Church Hurt – Ep. 75
  3. Introducing: Reframed The Power of Perspective
  4. Healing from Religious Abuse (with Philip Yancey) – Ep. 74
  5. The Courage to Seek Counseling – Ep. 73

As a writer and speaker, I’m constantly battling my people-pleasing tendencies and its underlying fear of rejection. One would think this would get easier with the more content I share, and in some ways it does. But in other ways, this inner struggle between self-protection and unhindered obedience seems to have gained momentum. Perhaps because I feel more is at stake. I’ve also discovered, with increased reach and exposure, often, comes increased backlash. Granted, the positive feedback I receive by far outweighs the ugly emails, messages, or comments. But as much as I hate to admit this, every attack leaves something of a mark.

Sometimes that mark is small, but a temporary annoyance, almost like that pesky fly that buzzes around your plate at the picnic table. Other times, like when the remark comes from someone I care about, they sink a bit deeper, causing worries and anxieties.

Then there are those moments when I wrestle with uncertainty, not knowing what to speak when. Is that jolt in my spirit from God, personal offense, or pride? Is my reluctance and discomfort an indication that God wants me to remain silent, or simply my anxiety rising within? I certainly don’t want to add to our world’s often mind-numbing noise with yet another humanity-driven post.

In short, in everything I do and say, I want to be Spirit, not Jennifer Slattery, led. That sounds oh-so-spiritual, doesn’t it? But living that desire out? That’s hard. It takes courage, patience, and a deep and continual reliance on Christ.

When I do that, not only will I find increased clarity regarding when and how to use my voice, but I’ll also find the strength and boldness to do so. Even in the face of great danger.

At least, that’s my hope and my goal. I want to be so filled with Christ, so surrendered to Him, He alone holds the key to my tongue. I don’t want to gauge my obedience on how others might respond or react to me.

I want to publicly, vocally, and courageously live for God, even if that means taking on the rich, the influential, and the powerful, like John the Baptist did, prior to his death. Scripture indicates, at some point, his words captured the attention of Herod the tetrarch who ruled Galilee in the early first century. Mark 6:18-20 tells us that “John had been saying to Herod, ‘It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.’ 19 So Herodias nursed a grudge against John and wanted to kill him. But she was not able to, 20 because Herod feared John and protected him, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man. When Herod heard John, he was greatly puzzled; yet he liked to listen to him.

Notice, John’s words weren’t light or affirming. He spoke some hard truths. And though he came “in the spirit and power of Elijah” and indeed turned many hearts toward Jesus (Luke 1:17), not everyone responded positively to his message. Some, like Herod, were intrigued, others were changed, and still others, like Herodias, lashed out against him.

When we share truth, we should expect similar results.

But God calls us to share His good news with all people—the angry and the kind, the curious and apathetic—relying on Him and leaving the result to Him.

I’m not there yet. I have moments where I speak with courage and other times when I remain quiet out of insecurity or fear. This is an area I need to grow in. I want to be alert to how God might want to use me and remain ready to respond. I want His voice, not my insecurities or other people’s responses, to drive my actions.

What about you? What stood out to you most in John’s behavior? Or, if you read the full account (found HERE and HERE), what stood out to you most in the passage? How might God be speaking to you through it?    

For those following along with our chronological Bible reading plan through the New Testament, today’s post kicked us off on day one.

Make sure to connect with Jennifer on Facebook and Instagram.

And catch the latest Faith Over Fear podcast episode here:

The Courage to Speak Truth – Ep. 76 Faith Over Fear

Our world has become increasingly angry, argumentative, and hostile to the gospel and biblical truth. Unfortunately, the church is, in part, to blame; we’ve become more known for what we’re against than for what we are for. But we mustn’t let the hateful misrepresentation of Christ silence our voice. People need the hope and power of Christ now more than ever. In this episode Jennifer Slattery and Ava Pennington discuss ways to increase our courage while simultaneously upping our truth and grace. Find Ava Pennington at: https://www.AvaPennington.com https://www.facebook.com/AvaPennington.AuthorPage https://www.instagram.com/avapennington3/ Find Jennifer: https://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com https://www.facebook.com/JenSlatte https://www.instagram.com/slatteryjennifer/ Find Wholly Loved, at: https://www.WhollyLoved.com Join the private Faith Over Fear Group Here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/442736966614671 Group Discussion Questions: 1. What encouraged you most during today’s episode? 2. What are some emotions you would have struggled with, had you been in Timothy’s position? 3. What emotions arise when you consider initiating spiritual conversations with others? 4. When do you find it most challenging to share your faith? 5. Why is it important to remind ourselves of our calling (whether that’s in a particular role or the general call to share Christ with others) during times of opposition? 6. What are some ways you can “fan” your gift “into flame”? 7. How can asking questions help reduce our listener’s defenses? 8. Why is it important to balance truth with clearly revealed grace? 9. Consider a time when someone came at you with grace-less truth. How did you respond and why? 10. Consider a time when someone spoke truth to you in a gentle and grace-filled way. How did you respond and why? 11. Why is it important to establish a relationship with someone before attempting to speak truth into their life? 12. What is one action step God might be wanting you to take this week? Episode Image Credit: Getty/Ponomariova Maria
  1. The Courage to Speak Truth – Ep. 76
  2. The Courage to Heal from Church Hurt – Ep. 75
  3. Introducing: Reframed The Power of Perspective
  4. Healing from Religious Abuse (with Philip Yancey) – Ep. 74
  5. The Courage to Seek Counseling – Ep. 73

Quote from post on multi-shaded blue background

When God calls us to something, we should expect difficulties and opposition. Not everyone will understand our actions or motivations. Some people might even misjudge us or actively fight against us. The question is, how will we respond? Will we shrink back? Lash out in anger and frustration, or diligently, confidently forge ahead?

In short, when obedience feels challenging, whose voice will we give preeminence? Those of our naysayers or our own insecurities? Or will we give our Savior the authority He deserves?

Years ago, I served in an area for which I was unqualified and ill-prepared. Having received zero training, I wanted to learn to lead well. To glean from other female leaders who had perhaps encountered similar challenges and understood all the relational dynamics involved with leading women. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find that in the church I attended at the time, so I began reaching out to others in my community. Within a week, I’d gathered eight Christ-led, wise women of grace excited to share their insights and also to learn from others. Basically, to join a mission-minded group of ladies.

Two women praying together.

Filled with joy, I began envisioning what our meetings might look like. We could discuss highlights from ministry-related articles and books, pray for one another, and share ideas. We could learn from one another’s successes and failures and together, impact our community for Christ.

My excitement quickly deflated, however, when one of the pastors I served under called me in to his office. His facial expression, body language, and tone made it clear—he was not a fan of my endeavors. I sensed, in fact, that my actions raised suspicion, as if this small group of women were in some way acting with subterfuge.

Hurt and confused, I said I would quietly let this group I’d launched die and determined to do my best to honor my role with my limited training and experience. But my heart continued to ache for deep, ministry-related connections with other Christ-focused women. And I was saddened to know how close such a group had come to taking form.

My soul felt burdened to pursue the call God had given me, but the doors in front of me felt perpetually closed.

One afternoon, I shared my frustrations with my husband.   

He shook his head and said, “Don’t let anyone stop you from doing what you know is right.”

I contemplated his statement for some time, struggling to determine my next best, most God-honoring step. Did He want me to initiate change in my current environment? Was He calling me to seek support elsewhere?

I prayed over that situation, over the need, the hole God made increasingly apparent, for over a year, until I knew with certainty, He was calling me to act. The following week, Wholly Loved Ministries was born, a place where women from diverse denominations can grow in their gifting and their relationship with Christ. That small group of women who gathered together in a local coffee shop to dream of all the lives God might change, through our first timid yet obedient steps, has now grown to a team of 30 speaking life across the globe.

All by God’s grace, and in part, because we refused to allow opposition to dictate our actions.

Perhaps you’ve experienced a similar situation—an invitation to act that left others confused or even angered. And maybe in the moment, compliance felt easier, safer. Certainly less confrontational. But if we want to live for Christ and fully embrace all God’s called us to, we cannot be swayed by other people’s hostility.

Consider the example Jesus provided in Matthew 12:9-14. He’d recently made some pretty big claims: That He was the Son of God who knew God intimately and always did as God desired. (John 5:16-21.) That He possessed the same life-giving power as God the Father. And that He was Lord of the Sabbath. Then He performed miracles to validate His claims.

About this time, the Bible says Jesus went over to the Pharisee’s synagogue. While there, He noticed a man with a deformed hand. Seeking a way to trick Christ, the Pharisees asked, “Does the law permit a person to work by healing on the Sabbath” (Matthew 12:10, NLT).

They saw this individual as an opportunity for entrapment. But Jesus saw the man’s wounded heart, his need, and was moved by deep compassion. Though He knew His actions would lead to increased opposition, He chose to advance God’s light. He told the man to stretch out his hand. When he obeyed, Scripture says “it was restored, just like the other one” (Matthew 12:13, NLT).

Can you imagine the man’s joy? This was cause for celebration. He had been touched by the light of Christ. But the religious leaders were not impressed. Instead they “called a meeting to plot how to kill Jesus” (Matthew 12:14, NLT).

And yet again, Jesus remained focused on His mission and, leaving the area, continued healing and teaching.

He didn’t let spiritual resistance keep Him from the synagogue or hinder His decision to heal. Nor did He try to fight against it, at least, not as we might expect. Instead, He kept moving forward, kept spreading the light, wherever He went and to whomever would receive it.

His faithful, steady actions provide a model for us. When darkness hits, and it will, we can falter in fear, lash out in anger, or faithfully advance God’s light.

In what way is God calling you to advance His light this week? In what way has darkness threatened to halt your steps? What is one truth that will help you move forward in confidence and victory?

Speaking of embracing our calling, if you haven’t already done so, I encourage you to listen to Faith Over Fear episode: The Courage to Pursue Our Calling.

The Courage to Speak Truth – Ep. 76 Faith Over Fear

Our world has become increasingly angry, argumentative, and hostile to the gospel and biblical truth. Unfortunately, the church is, in part, to blame; we’ve become more known for what we’re against than for what we are for. But we mustn’t let the hateful misrepresentation of Christ silence our voice. People need the hope and power of Christ now more than ever. In this episode Jennifer Slattery and Ava Pennington discuss ways to increase our courage while simultaneously upping our truth and grace. Find Ava Pennington at: https://www.AvaPennington.com https://www.facebook.com/AvaPennington.AuthorPage https://www.instagram.com/avapennington3/ Find Jennifer: https://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com https://www.facebook.com/JenSlatte https://www.instagram.com/slatteryjennifer/ Find Wholly Loved, at: https://www.WhollyLoved.com Join the private Faith Over Fear Group Here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/442736966614671 Group Discussion Questions: 1. What encouraged you most during today’s episode? 2. What are some emotions you would have struggled with, had you been in Timothy’s position? 3. What emotions arise when you consider initiating spiritual conversations with others? 4. When do you find it most challenging to share your faith? 5. Why is it important to remind ourselves of our calling (whether that’s in a particular role or the general call to share Christ with others) during times of opposition? 6. What are some ways you can “fan” your gift “into flame”? 7. How can asking questions help reduce our listener’s defenses? 8. Why is it important to balance truth with clearly revealed grace? 9. Consider a time when someone came at you with grace-less truth. How did you respond and why? 10. Consider a time when someone spoke truth to you in a gentle and grace-filled way. How did you respond and why? 11. Why is it important to establish a relationship with someone before attempting to speak truth into their life? 12. What is one action step God might be wanting you to take this week? Episode Image Credit: Getty/Ponomariova Maria
  1. The Courage to Speak Truth – Ep. 76
  2. The Courage to Heal from Church Hurt – Ep. 75
  3. Introducing: Reframed The Power of Perspective
  4. Healing from Religious Abuse (with Philip Yancey) – Ep. 74
  5. The Courage to Seek Counseling – Ep. 73

And there’s still time to sign up for Wholly Loved’s Beautiful Mess Mother Daughter Conference. Find out more HERE.

For those following our chronological New Testament Bible reading plan, today’s post kicks us off with the first suggested passage.

Graphic of week 12's chronological reading plan passages.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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.

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.

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

 

 

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.

***

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.