Years ago, while fostering a particularly challenging teenager, a youth pastor made a statement I wish I’d paid more attention to. He said, in essence, “Never jeopardize the gospel.” At the time, I didn’t fully understand his meaning. Unfortunately, rather than pausing to prayerfully unpack his advice, I blindly, and forcefully pressed ahead, focusing on so many issues that felt super important in that season but that I’ve now come to realize hindered my access to the kid’s heart.

Quote from post on dark teal background.

If asked, I would’ve told you, emphatically, of how desperately I longed to help this youth heal. I might’ve even said that I was committed to doing whatever it took to make that happen. But that wasn’t entirely true. In reality, my pride, desire for personal comfort, and aversion to pain frequently tainted my actions and confused and distorted my perception.

As a result, I routinely pushed the teen away from myself, relationship, and true and lasting change. I fear I created barriers between Him and the God able to heal and transform as well. 

A while ago, God reminded me of that situation while I wrestled with Him, in anxiety and angst, over another individual I believed He was asking me to walk beside. I had said some things that felt so necessary in the moment. And if you had asked me then, as the words built within my mind, ready to spill from my mouth, I could’ve provided numerous reasons as to why. I probably could’ve offered Scripture to back up each one as well—fully convinced of my rational. 

And utterly blind to the state of my heart, which I can now see was filled with love, yes, compassion, for sure, but also fear, selfishness, and pride. Jeremiah 17:9 states, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (NIV).

Quote from post on dark teal background.

Who is it our heart deceives? You and I. We might, at times, mislead others, but we’re most skilled at fooling ourselves. As a result, we often remain oblivious to our true, and often mixed, motives and are unable to discern them on our own. With Christ, we fare better in that God has given us new life, increased spiritual understanding and insight, and a God-given desire to please Him. But that doesn’t mean our actions and perceptions, our view of ourselves and others, immediately become accurate and honorable. 

Prior to conversion, many of us spent a lifetime absorbing all the false ideas and perspectives of our culture. Negative behaviors and attitudes have in many ways become so ingrained within us, it will take our entire lives for God to replace those lies with truth. 

In 1 Timothy, while instructing his “true son in the faith,” the apostle Paul told Timothy to encourage those in the Ephesus not to get caught up in pointless disputes, adding, “The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (NIV). 

That’s God’s call for me and you as well, that we would display the type of love that flows from: 

A pure heart: one completely free of sin. I’m not sure if I’ve ever reached that place. But I believe, if I continue to seek God, to meditate on Scripture, and learn to more consistently yield to and rely on Him, His righteousness in me will increase, progressively overpowering the residual ugliness within me.

A good conscience. A deep and growing awareness of what does and doesn’t please God and a commitment to pursue His will and His heart.

A sincere faith. Annihilating every trace of hypocrisy within, asking God to reveal and destroy my hidden agendas while igniting a passion for the things of eternity that are truly worth living for. 

We know, based on who Paul was and what he wrote in various places throughout Scripture, he wasn’t telling Timothy to forsake or downplay truth. Rather, I believe he was saying, “Make sure when you choose to fight, you fight for those things that move you and others toward increased life in Christ.” 

While each component Paul mentioned is an important spiritual trait, it’s the condition of my heart that tends to trip me up most. Honestly, I’m not sure if it’s ever truly pure, completely free from selfishness, pride, and all the other self-defeating, relationship-harming sins that so grieve my father and have a tendency to inflict such pain. The more I recognize this, however, the more I remain alert to just how mixed my motives truly are, the more I’m able to prepare, through prayer, Bible reading, meditating on truth, and yielding to the power of the Holy Spirit. 

The moment I forget this, or think I’ve arrived at a certain level of spiritual maturity and therefore can quickly rush ahead based on what I already know or have already read, I almost inevitably wound someone else. 

This irresponsible tendency grieves God, inevitably damages others, and deeply saddens me. And while I recognize I’ll probably never experience complete victory over my sin, this side of heaven, by God’s grace, I’m determined to improve.

I want to heed the advice provided by that youth pastor so long ago to prioritize the gospel, God’s free gift of life, above everything else. 

Therefore, I must: 

  1. Seek then following Christ’s wisdom regarding when to speak, what to say, and when to remain silent. 
  2. Learn to doubt my perspective so that I will more consistently seek Christ’s. 
  3. Slow down and recognize that most of what feel so urgent today truly isn’t. (God is rarely, if ever, in a hurry, perhaps because He knows the outcome of that “crisis” today is much less consequential than the state of the individual’s soul.
  4. Regularly invite God to search and then cleanse my heart, knowing He will find gunk there, guaranteed, and that gunk, if not purged, will cause harm. 

Because I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather live with effectiveness than regret.  

What are some ways you prioritize the gospel in your relationships and interactions? Share your thoughts and insights with us in the comments below. And if you haven’t done so, make sure to check out the latest Faith Over Fear episode.

God’s Promise to Place The Lonely in Families – Ep. 104 Faith Over Fear

Sadly, we live in an increasingly disconnected culture where many people are forced to endure the pain of loneliness. Others, perhaps having felt isolated in the past, have developed a strong fear of loneliness. Still others, due to previous wounds, have come to expect rejection and, out of fear of future hurt, remain in emotional hiding. If any of these scenarios resonate with you, be encouraged: God planted the need for connection deep within the human heart, which means He doesn’t want us to live disconnected and He invites us to trust Him to lead us to those with whom we can feel seen, known, and loved. Find the Ephesians Bible Reading plan at:https://my.bible.com/reading-plans/25255Find Wholly Loved at:https://www.WhollyLoved.comFind out about Wholly Loved’s small groups at:https://whollyloved.com/resources/online-studies/Find Wholly Loved Ministries at:WhollyLoved.comJoin the private Faith Over Fear Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/442736966614671Join the Private Wholly Loved Community Group (also on Facebook):https://www.facebook.com/groups/443325386241769Group Discussion Questions:1. When have you felt unknown and unseen? 2. Consider your typical interactions. Do you tend to feel rejected or accepted? If you feel rejected, how have past hurts impacted this, if at all?3. When have you felt seen and known? 4. How does it feel to know that God cares about your relationships and doesn’t want you to feel alone? 5. If you struggle with loneliness, are there places you can go or clubs you can join in order to build connections? If so, where?6. How would you describe the health of your faith community?7. If you cannot go to people, how can you use technology in order to connect with others? 8. What are some truths you can remind yourself of the next time you feel unvalued and unseen?
  1. God’s Promise to Place The Lonely in Families – Ep. 104
  2. Trusting God’s Promise to Give Us Abundant Life – Ep. 103
  3. Trusting God’s Promise to Give Our Lives Purpose – Ep. 102
  4. Trusting God's Presence to Guide Us – Ep. 101
  5. Trusting God’s Promise to Remain Present – Ep. 100

couple sitting with backs turned to each other(This first published in September, 2018.)

I can easily fall prey to our “fix-it-quick”, culture, tossing out truths that are, well, true, but fail to hit their mark. In fact, there’ve been times when I’ve caused more harm than good. When I’ve hurt others and damaged relationships. Usually my motives were good. I desperately wanted friends and loved ones to come to Jesus. I wanted them to experience the life, healing, and freedom only He can offer.

But in my zeal (often coupled by fear), I took off running and verse touting and left the Holy Spirit far behind. I was convinced I was right. After all, I only spoke truth, and truth sets people free, right?

Besides, Jesus never shied away from hard conversations, nor did He worry about offending people. When He encountered the adulterous woman, didn’t He tell her to go and sin no more? And the “invalid” He healed by the pool of Bethesda to stop sinning?

Yes and yes, but He also told the Samaritan woman who’d cycled through men (or perhaps had been discarded by them) to go and grab her husband. And the tax collector in Matthew nine to “follow Him.”

In other words, Jesus addressed each individual individually, speaking directly to their deepest needs, deceptions, and unique stumbling blocks. But He had something you and I don’t—insight.word image Jesus knew the history, hurts, and fallacies each of them held. In fact, He knew each man and woman better than they knew themselves. So when He spoke, He always hit His mark.

You and I don’t have that insight, nor do we always invest the time necessary to gain it. At least. When engaging others in spiritual conversations, I didn’t even consider there might be deeper issues involved.

But then God reminded me of my story. Through I trusted in Jesus for salvation at a young age, I didn’t begin growing in Him until my early adult years. Actually, for a while I spiraled in the opposite direction, living a drunken, partying, throw-myself-away type of lifestyle. By the time I met my husband, I was consumed with shame and self-loathing.

Around then, pastors started coming around. Not just one, but two. One would come knocking at our door, would step inside and talk with us a bit, and then leave. Another took my husband and I out to lunch with him and his wife. I don’t remember much of what either of them said, but I do recall the warmth in their smiles and the easy way they conversed. I remember the way they made me feel—safe. Loved. Welcomed.

The interesting thing is, my husband I were living together, unmarried, at the time. In other words, living in sin. (Though my worldview was so warped, I didn’t think a thing of our lifestyle. It seemed normal to me.)

Had those men come at me with “truth”, they only would’ve deepened my shame and pushed me away. They would’ve confirmed to me what I already believed—that I was worthless and disgusting. Bad. Not just that I was doing bad, but that I was bad. I understood that I was a sinner. What I didn’t understand, what I needed to see, was grace.

That’s exactly what those pastors showed me. With every interaction, they revealed the gentle love of Christ. A love that beckoned and drew me, that healed me bit by bit, and ultimately, transformed me.

Because Jesus knew my story. He knew what was keeping me from living in His will. While it’s true my lifestyle was very contrary to God’s desire for me, this wasn’t because I was actively trying to rebel against Him. Rather, it was because I’d given up on myself.

I needed Jesus, revealed through the grace-filled actions of others, to rekindle my hope so that, eventually, I had the desire to reach for life.

Please don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying we should never speak truth nor that we should accept or coddle sinful behavior. What I am saying is we should approach each broken, hurting child of God carefully and prayerfully, being careful to follow the Holy Spirit’s leading.

I often think of how I might talk to someone standing on a rooftop, ready to jump. I think of how alert, how attentive, how “others-focused” I’d be. My greatest desire in that moment would be not to say anything that would tip them over the edge and to coax them, ever-so-gently towards life.

That might seem like a drastic analogy, until we remember, with every interaction, real lives are at stake, lives that will either spend eternity with Jesus or separated from Him. That doesn’t mean we should become paralyzed by fear of messing up. But it does mean we should ensure, with each conversation, that God, and not our pride or our fear, is doing the leading. Only He knows when to speak truth and how much, when to listen, and when to simply say, “I love you, and I’m here.”

Let’s talk about this! Is there someone you’re trying to reach out to? How can you build trust and get to know them better—beyond surface level? Would you add anything to my thoughts? Do you perhaps disagree? Share your thoughts and feelings in the comments below.

Woman standing on a country road with quote pulled from post.

If the past two years have taught us anything, it’s this: Life will be tough, and you can’t plan for everything. We can wear ourselves out trying, fill our brains with all sorts of information we hope will help us stand firm through the next recession or global pandemic. Or we can travel light and alert, releasing our fear and expectations, with our arms linked and our hearts set on Christ. 

That’s the only way we can truly run this race well, and we’ll need God’s help to do so. May He inform our prayers and our steps. 

Like many of you, I’m anticipating a busy fall, and honestly, I’m feeling a bit nervous. I know God is leading me and more than sufficient for all I and my team might need. But I also know I’m going to be more dependent on Him, and potentially, others, than ever before. I know, if He doesn’t “come through” I’ll fail, in so many areas. 

And yet, I’m determined not to evaluate my time and assignments through my abilities and limited perspective. Instead, I’m trusting God to lead me step by step and to give me all that I need.

He’s been so faithful. Each morning, as I open my Bible, He lovingly, gently, speaks to my soul, encouraging and preparing me for all that’s ahead. Alerting me to challenges, those obstacles and storms I can’t yet see but He can. 

In response, He urges me to unite myself with His mission-minded children, and to pray, as He instructed His disciples when He sent them out in pairs to preach His truth. 

Scripture says, “Now after this,” likely referring to when He sent out the 12 in the chapter prior, “the Lord appointed seventy-two others, and sent them in pairs ahead of Him to every city and place where He Himself was going to come. And He was saying to them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore plead with the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. Go; behold, I am sending you out like lambs in the midst of wolves. Carry no money belt, no bag, no sandals, and greet no one along the way’” (Luke 10:1-4, NASB).

Jesus wanted His disciples to travel light and to remain dependent on Him, but He didn’t want them to journey alone. Not only did He pair them up, thus providing them with the support they’d need to stand confident and firm when surrounded by “wolves.” But He also told them to ask God to raise others up to help further His mission.

Women friends with quote from post

I was struck by how often I get this backwards. When I see a large assignment, I tend to take off running, recruiting people to help along the way. But notice, Jesus told His disciples to pray first, and not just to pray but to “plead” with God that He would raise up allies and coworkers. This reminds me of the importance of the mission and how much I need co-laborers. I’m to pray for them with the desperation as if I was praying for myself. 

I’m left wrestling with this: When was the last time I felt that level of urgency for those who don’t know Jesus? 

When did I last surround myself with those brought to tears over the condition of someone’s soul? 

How might you answer those same questions?

Lord, help us to live with deeper dependence. Dependence on You and one another, because we know this mission of breaking through darkness with light is too big and too important for us to race forward alone. Touch our heart afresh. Draw us so close to Yourself that our hearts and prayers resembles Yours. And raise up Your children. Ignite our souls, link our arms, and mobilize our feet.  

Connect with Jennifer on Facebook and Instagram.

And check out the latest Faith Over Fear podcast:

God’s Promise to Place The Lonely in Families – Ep. 104 Faith Over Fear

Sadly, we live in an increasingly disconnected culture where many people are forced to endure the pain of loneliness. Others, perhaps having felt isolated in the past, have developed a strong fear of loneliness. Still others, due to previous wounds, have come to expect rejection and, out of fear of future hurt, remain in emotional hiding. If any of these scenarios resonate with you, be encouraged: God planted the need for connection deep within the human heart, which means He doesn’t want us to live disconnected and He invites us to trust Him to lead us to those with whom we can feel seen, known, and loved. Find the Ephesians Bible Reading plan at:https://my.bible.com/reading-plans/25255Find Wholly Loved at:https://www.WhollyLoved.comFind out about Wholly Loved’s small groups at:https://whollyloved.com/resources/online-studies/Find Wholly Loved Ministries at:WhollyLoved.comJoin the private Faith Over Fear Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/442736966614671Join the Private Wholly Loved Community Group (also on Facebook):https://www.facebook.com/groups/443325386241769Group Discussion Questions:1. When have you felt unknown and unseen? 2. Consider your typical interactions. Do you tend to feel rejected or accepted? If you feel rejected, how have past hurts impacted this, if at all?3. When have you felt seen and known? 4. How does it feel to know that God cares about your relationships and doesn’t want you to feel alone? 5. If you struggle with loneliness, are there places you can go or clubs you can join in order to build connections? If so, where?6. How would you describe the health of your faith community?7. If you cannot go to people, how can you use technology in order to connect with others? 8. What are some truths you can remind yourself of the next time you feel unvalued and unseen?
  1. God’s Promise to Place The Lonely in Families – Ep. 104
  2. Trusting God’s Promise to Give Us Abundant Life – Ep. 103
  3. Trusting God’s Promise to Give Our Lives Purpose – Ep. 102
  4. Trusting God's Presence to Guide Us – Ep. 101
  5. Trusting God’s Promise to Remain Present – Ep. 100


Sometimes we can become so focused on where we wish God would work that we’re unable to see where He’s working all around us. We can become so fixated on trying to shove through a closed door, we miss a thousand other openings He’s prepared for us.

About five years ago, my husband and I decided to become more intentional with outreach. God had recently opened our eyes to some pretty deep hurts in our community—generational hurts often experienced by families attempting to navigate our world alone. Struggles we understood, because we’d been there. We’d been the couple with the failing marriage, the family with suffocating debt. The man and woman, husband and wife, mother and father who desperately wanted to do better, to live and love better, but felt powerless to change for any significant period of time.

Then one afternoon, a woman in our neighborhood invited me to church, and so I went. At first, I went alone, but soon, my husband joined me. We began to learn what life with Jesus—real life period!—could look like, and bit by bit, everything changed. He steadily, progressively broke the chains that bound us, healed our hurts, and purified and deepened our love for one another.

And we wanted everyone we knew to experience that same freedom, a freedom we knew could only come from a thriving relationship in Christ. We soon discovered, however, not everyone wanted that. Some people—the very people we felt led to reach out to, in fact, appeared unreceptive to our message and really anything other than surface level interactions. Yet, we persevered, for years, with zero results. I began to feel discouraged. I knew God had called us, as Christ followers, to share His truth. But how could we, when no one seemed interested in hearing it?

Our excitement started to fade, but then God began to shift our view. In the midst of that seemingly unfruitful year, He brought people into our circle—people looking for community, for support, and for truth. Honestly, it took me a while to shift my direction. In my stubborn fixation on how I was expecting God to work, I almost missed all the miracles He was inviting us to participate in.

Two thousand years ago, Jesus’s disciples seemed to struggle with a similar problem. They abandoned everything to follow Jesus on His eternal, life-saving mission, but He often took them places and to speak to people they never expected. A Canaanite woman with a demon-possessed daughter. Tax collectors, peasants, the lame, and the leper. And a five-times married Samaritan woman, someone Rabbis in their day would’ve gone great lengths to avoid.

But Jesus sought her out, spoke truth into her heart, and used her to reach her entire village. Those of you familiar with the hatred Jews felt for Samaritans, and Samaritan women especially, who were considered perpetually “unclean” can envision how shocking this must’ve been. I imagine their shock intensified, maybe even turning to disgust, when their respected teacher agreed to stay in that Samaritan village, eating off their dishes, sleeping in their homes, for two days.

Based on Christ’s words to His likely stunned disciples, this was not the ministry they’d been expecting. He said, “Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest” (John 4:35, NIV).

It’s like He was saying, “Open your eyes to what God is doing all around you. Speak to those He’s already preparing. Those who are hungry for life change.”

I wonder if He’s saying the same to us. We should reach out to everyone, absolutely. But may we never become so fixated on how we expect or hope God to work that we miss a whole village anxious for truth.

Let’s talk about this. First, I’d love to hear if you’re enjoying our chronological stroll through the New Testament. Today’s passage, John 4:27-38, kicks off week seven. Second, I’d love to read about times when God opened your eyes to a ministry outlet you might’ve otherwise missed. What did God teach you through that? Did anything else stand out to you in today’s passage?

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