Quote from J. Edwin Orr on blue background

Trying to live a God-honoring life in our own strength is like spring cleaning with our hands zip-tied and strobe lights flashing. Bound and vision distorted, we may be able to knock some cobwebs out of our way, but we’ll remain oblivious to the spiders forming them. We may, in fact, help hide and thus fortify their webs.

As commentator Jamieson-Fausset-Brown put it: “Whatever in religion Is disconnected from Christ comes to nothing.” Worse than nothing in fact. Unless empowered by our Savior, our most fervent efforts inevitably lead to exhaustion and increased bondage. To a life where we’re always grasping and striving, never quite able to reach the freedom for which our souls so desperately ache. I’ve been there. I know what it feels like to fight against sin, to fight for a better life, only to feel the weight of it all come crashing down.

Whenever I see others in that self-defeating cycle, I remember the soul-crushing futility I once felt. And my heart cries out, “Look up! Your rescue has arrived.” Only they can’t see it, or if they do, they discount it. Because in order to grab hold of salvation, they first must come to terms with the depth of their mess. That can feel terrifying for those who’ve spent a lifetime hiding behind laced curtains.

This has always been God’s call. To trust, and ultimately to admit, despite how we appear in all those photo-shopped pictures we so readily share across social media, that we truly don’t have it all together. That we’re floundering and need a Savior.

In love, He urges us to open wide the doors of our hearts so that His grace can swoop into every corner, every crevice, and truly wash us clean.

Quote from post on light blue background.

Speaking to the religious elite of His day—those who routinely hid their filth like greed, pride, and lust, behind a well-polished veneer, Jesus said, 21 “When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are safe. 22 But when someone stronger attacks and overpowers him, he takes away the armor in which the man trusted and divides up his plunder.

23 “Whoever is not with Me is against me, and whoever does not gather with Me scatters.

24 “When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ 25 When it arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order. 26 Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first” (Luke 11:21-26, NIV).

In context, He was refuting accusations that His power against evil came from evil, which clearly made no sense. But His message went even deeper. In essence, He told them, “I stand before you, greater than all the forces of darkness that war against your soul. You can’t fight your demons alone. You need me. And I am here.”

He’s offering the same invitation to us. We can dress up our outsides with smiles, appropriate religious slogans, and charitable acts, or we can surrender to the only one with the power to truly make us clean. To truly set us free.

Only then can we say, without hesitation or hypocrisy, “Blessed” –happy and free— “is the one whose sin the LORD does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit” (Ps. 32:2, NIV).

No hiding. No pretending. No frantic polishing. Simply resting, yielding, and transforming.

For those following the New Testament Chronological Bible reading plan … Today’s post kicks off day one’s reading.

Week 18's Bible reading plan daily readings.

And if you’re looking for a Bible plan but don’t want to read through the New Testament, you may enjoy my Journey Through Ephesians plan, produced by Wholly Loved Ministries and available on the YouVersion app. Find it HERE.

Those with teenage and young adult daughters might find my article on helping our daughters who might struggle with mental health helpful. You can find that HERE.

The Courage to Share Your Story – Ep. 58 Faith Over Fear

The parts of our story that feel the most devastating or shameful can become those stories God uses to lead others to freedom. Many times, they directly related to our calling as well. But to share them, we might need to risk vulnerability and rejection. Yet, God’s focus isn’t only on whoever might hear about our struggles and our pasts. He’s focused on bringing us to a place of increased healing and deeper relational connection as well. Shame leads to hiding which leads to more shame and increased isolation. There’s joy and peace in living totally free. Find Jennifer Slattery at: https://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com https://www.facebook.com/JenSlatte https://www.instagram.com/slatteryjennifer/ Find Wholly Loved, at: https://www.WhollyLoved.com Suggested Resources: Becoming His Princess Bible Study by Wholly Loved Ministries Group Discussion Questions: 1. Why do you think hiding our pasts tends to increase our shame? 2. In what ways can hiding our pasts lead to increased isolation? 3. In what ways can sharing our past with safe people help bring healing? 4. How can a person determine who is safe to share their story with? 5. Think of testimonies shared by others that deeply impacted you. What was it about their story you found most touching, thought-provoking, or inspirational? 6. In what ways does or can our story reveal the power of the gospel? 7. In today’s episode, Jennifer shared how one person’s casual statement regarding children with alcoholic fathers hindered a woman’s willingness to share her story. When has a similar situation affected you in a similar manner? 8. What are some reasons why God might not want us to share certain parts of our story? 9. What are some ways you can create safe spaces for others to share their stories? 10. What is God calling you to do after listening to today’s episode? Episode Image Credit: getty/MargaretW
  1. The Courage to Share Your Story – Ep. 58
  2. Overcoming Agoraphobia: Jodie Bailey’s Story
  3. The Courage to Pursue Relational Healing – Ep. 56
  4. Fighting Anxiety by Fighting Stress – Ep. 55
  5. The Faith-Bolstering Power of the Lord’s Prayer – Ep. 54

This month flew by and our summer right along with it. 🙂

Last month, God taught me to walk with an eyes-wide-open approach, ever-alert to the open doors He provided. This month He’s been teaching me perseverance. I’m a doer by nature, and I like to see results, but walking by faith means obeying even if we never see the why or what. It means giving, expecting nothing in return, loving even when our love is spurned, and committing to a life of prayer even if it feels our prayers amount to naught.

It means clinging tight to God’s promise that tells us our work in the Lord will be rewarded. The ultimate reward, I believe, will be seeing men and women gathered at the throne of God, having crossed over from spiritual death to life. But as we continue to share God’s love with others, we need to remember, each person reaches that bridge at a different bend. Only God knows when. All we can do is obey with full, faith-filled, love-saturated surrender, leaving the rest to Him.

Virginia Hamlin’s story, Transformed by Love, touched me deeply. Watching the same homeless men and women come in and out of Taking it to Streets every Wednesday and Friday, I can easily become discouraged. (You may remember the post I wrote about this very thing the previous Saturday. You can read it here.) But Virginia reminded me to keep moving forward, to keep loving, to keep serving, because we never know when our Melodie will arrive.

“My husband and I were involved in our church’s compassion ministry for over five years from 2002-2007.

We helped prepare 100 meals each Sunday to feed the homeless in a local park. (We enlisted the help of other s to serve and sometimes play worship.) My husband would give a message and then we would break bread with the homeless. Yes, we would sit down at the picnic tables and get to know people. It was during one of those times that I was inexplicably drawn to a woman, Melodie, who was seated alone. We only talked briefly, but I knew God had ordained the meeting. I invited her to our home Bible study and ….” (Read the rest here.)

In Are You in Over Your Head, Katie Ganshert’s post reminded me it isn’t about me–my abilities, talents, or resources. Instead, it’s about the awesome, all-powerful God standing behind me. Watch her vlog here.

Tanya Eavenson reminded me to love without an agenda–unconditionally, with no strings attached. This is a hard one. We all want to receive this kind of love from others, but oh, it’s so hard to give out! Unconditional love–the kind God shows us–says, “I love you even if you never love me in return.” It’s a love exemplified in Christ who, while we were yet sinners, while we spurned Him, rebelled against Him, turned our back to Him, He died for us.

“The Bible clearly states in James, “If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them,  ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?” But what happens when the poor aren’t responsive to your help?

I’ve recently been faced with situations like this. How do you share the love of Christ with a man who’d rather live in the woods and give his every last cent to his addiction? Or the woman who would rather sell herself to prostitution instead of receiving help to start over?

Do I give up?” (Read the rest here.)

I’d love to hear from you. What reach out story impacted you most and why? What lessons has God been showing you this month? Is there a loved one you’ve been praying for, reaching out to, for decades? In what ways has God encouraged you to keep pressing on? Tell us about it!

I also want to give a final shout out to my July Reach Out donors:

Elaine Marie Cooper with the Road to Deer Runand the Promise of Deer RunSandra Robbins with Shattered IdentityKatie Ganshert with Wildflowers From WinterJoAnn Durgin with Awakeningand Ann Lee Miller with Kicking Eternity

Do you have a Reach Out story to share? Send it to me at jenniferaslattery(at)gmail(dot)com.

Authors, agents, and publishers, if you or one of your authors/clients would like to donate a book to one of the Reach Out gift baskets, shoot me an email at the above address.