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.

A Practical Resource to Battle Fear – Ep. 72 Faith Over Fear

In our ongoing battle against anxiety and fear, it can be challenging to find resources that are filled with truth and presented from a place of understanding and grace. It can be even more challenging to find biblically sound, heart-safe resources presented from a strong and mature Christ-follower who understands, because they’ve shared similar struggles. This is why books like Grace Fox’s Moving from Fear to Freedom: A Woman’s Guide to Peace in Every Situation are so invaluable. Written by a career global worker who could’ve easily lost her newborn daughter, Grace knows what it’s like to wrestle with the deep truths of God during times of intense fear. In this interview, she shares one of her most frightening moments to date, how God met her in her fear, and practical ways listeners can move from fear to increased faith and freedom. Find Grace at: https://www.gracefox.com/blog https://www.facebook.com/gracefox.author https://www.instagram.com/graceloewenfox/ 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 Podcast episode referenced: Faith Over Fear Episode 63: Finding Peace in the God of Heaven's Armies Group Discussion Questions: 1. What resonated with you most in today’s episode? 2. When do you tend to feel most vulnerable? 3. How do you normally respond when you feel vulnerable? 4. What truths or songs help you remember God’s love, strength, and faithfulness? 5. When had God reminded you of truth or passage during a time of fear? 6. What are some practical ways you remind yourself of God’s goodness, faithfulness, power, and/or sovereignty? 7. What are some practical ways you have or can remind yourself of ways God has cared for you in the past? 8. Why is it important to turn to God when we’re afraid? Episode Image Credit: Getty/Rudzhan Nagiev
  1. A Practical Resource to Battle Fear – Ep. 72
  2. Living Supernaturally Empowered – Ep. 71
  3. Hearing God’s Voice: The Peace That Comes from Being Supernaturally Led – Ep. 70
  4. Uncovering What’s Beneath Our Emotional Reactions with Steve Carter – Ep. 69
  5. Finding Courage in God Our Abba Father – Ep. 68

Quote pulled from post on teal blue gradiant background

Beneath every healthy or dysfunctional relationship, we’ll find boundaries at work. Healthy, God-honoring boundaries lead to increased health; Without them, people begin to hide, trust shatters, emotional intimacy decreases if not dies all together, and isolation grows.

When my daughter was younger, one of her friendships turned unhealthy and caused her considerable and consistent pain. She began justifying the poor behavior, telling herself the behavior didn’t, or perhaps more accurately, shouldn’t hurt and also that the other person couldn’t help it and therefore needed patience and grace. The problem is, apart from truth, grace isn’t grace. It’s enabling. As a result, over time, things became worse—the friend’s behavior, my daughter’s wounds, and the relational dysfunction.

And I struggled to see beyond the problem in that moment to all God was doing and was yet to do. Grieved by my daughter’s pain, I wanted to step in, to meddle, to fix. To control. To grasp and hold tight to things God wanted me to release—because I was afraid.

This is often my greatest challenge when setting boundaries, and honestly, this is a battle I continually fight. Many times, I know the right thing to do, but my heart struggles to comply. I don’t find it all that hard to take and maintain full responsibility for my behavior, emotions, and reactions. When I sleep in and miss a meeting, that’s on me. When I blow a deadline, that’s on me as well. When something angers me and I lose my temper? Me again.

I don’t like staying in my lane, however, when I know there’s a big old cavern up ahead in my loved one’s lane. When that occurs, I want to veer right and force them onto the shoulder or into a ditch, or perhaps rip their keys from their hands.

As ironic as this may sound, the greater my love, the harder boundaries become. The harder it is to not only realize but accept that I am not responsible for anyone else’s behavior, emotions, and reactions—nor should I attempt to make myself so. Living in that truth, however, takes courage, strength, surrender, and significant trust in Christ.

An old pastor from Louisiana used to say, “Don’t try to be the Holy Spirit in anyone’s life.”

So, what if we’re dealing with something more consequential than a hurtful friend? What if our loved one is heading toward serious self-destruction? What if their choices could, and likely will, destroy everything our relationship rests on, and thus, our relationship itself? I’m relatively certain those scenarios make us all a bit weak-kneed, because we know there’s a potential for deep, heart-breaking loss.

The greater the risk, the more challenging it is to set boundaries, which also means, the greater the potential for dysfunction.

I have to remind myself of this. When life becomes challenging, for me and those I love, all I can see are the danger signs directly attached to whatever behavior or choice concerns me. Choices I have zero control over—which may be why I’m so tempted to fight for control. To elevate the weakest, most deceptive, and often, destructive, god of all time—the god of self.

In short, I act as if God has somehow fallen down on the job and needs me to step in and meddle and fix and arrange.

This lies at the root of every choice and action. At each moment, I’m living in surrenderedquote pulled from post trust and obedience to Christ or I’m trusting in the god of me.

When I reach this place, I need to get honest with myself, with my fears, and with God. Do I really believe everything I claim to be true about God? Do I believe that He’s all-knowing, all-seeing, all-loving, faithful and true? Do I believe that He has the power to change hearts—and that I don’t, no matter how much I argue, nag, pester, or cajole? Do I believe He has the power to bring order to mental chaos, clarity to confusion, and truth to deception—not only in the minds of those I’m worried about but within me as well?

Do I believe God has a plan in the mess, and that He’ll bring good through it? That He longs to use the situation, as painful as it might be, to grow us all and make us more like His Son?

My internal struggle reveals I likely don’t truly, deeply believe those things, therefore the first and greatest work God wants to do is within me. And so, I need to hit pause. I need to quiet myself before Him and ask Him some heart-probing, life-changing questions, like:

  • What sin are You wanting to purge within me?
  • What lie or lies are You revealing?
  • What cracks in my faith do You need to mortar with truth?
  • And just as importantly, how do You want me to model life, light, health, and faith through this situation?

The next time we land in this place, may God remind us who He is, who we are, and who we are not. What He’s assumed responsibility for, and what He has not conceded to us.

He is the initiator, redeemer, Savior, Counselor, Guide, Teacher, and Father. The One who knows all and sees all and is in all.

Scripture tells us:

God:

Our role is to:

  • Listen for His guidance.
  • Speak truth.
  • Honor God’s principle of sowing and reaping. (This means not attempting to shield others from the consequences for their actions.)
  • Seek personal growth.

When do you find it most challenging to set and maintain healthy boundaries? Why do you think this might be? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another!

If you haven’t already done so, you may want to listen to the following podcast episodes:

On Faith Over Fear:

The Courage to Set Healthy Boundaries

The Courage to Have Hard Conversations

On my Thriving With Chronic Illness podcast:

Setting Healthy Boundaries Part 1

Setting Healthy Boundaries Part 2

Image for Wholly Loved's Relational Health Bible Reading PlanYou might also find Wholly Loved Bible reading plan, 20 Days of Relational Health, found on the YouVersion Bible plan. You can access it HERE.

quote from Francis Chan with teal background

Why are you here, in this time period, in that neighborhood, or at that work place? Years ago, this question seemed to make all the social media rounds as everyone was encouraged to live with Queen Esther-type determination and bravery. And while I applaud all who demonstrate such courage in the face of danger, I can’t help but wonder how many of us, in our search for the big and the grand and the miraculous, completely miss eternally-significant assignments.

In 2005, Katrina captured the entire nation’s attention. Stories abounded—of heartache and devastation, but also of awe-inspiring acts of love. Of churches housing hundreds, even thousands. Of businesses giving away truckloads full of food. Of volunteers arriving in buses to clear out the wreckage. We were living in Bossier City, Louisiana at the time, far enough from the storm to remain untouched personally, but close enough to receive a rapid influx of displaced survivors. While my involvement was limited, it felt exciting to be part of something so huge, so … emotional. But then, we moved to a small town in Texas and a much smaller church, not knowing how long we’d stay or where we’d move next.

There weren’t any grand ministries to join or history-making events to serve in. We’d also recently lost a great deal, though not from the storm, including our involvement in ministries we found deeply fulfilling.

In this new environment, we were newbies and strangers, quite literally sojourners who were merely traveling through.

Initially, I wanted to pass my time until “real life,” whatever that might look like, resumed. Quote pulled from text on mint backgroundBut God prompted a sense of anticipation that He had a plan for me, even there. That He had indeed moved us there for “such a time as this.” Not worrying about what that might look like, I began my mornings with a simple yet expectant prayer: What do You have for me today, God?

God consistently answered—calling me to love, to serve, to engage, right where I was at, however I could. So, I got plugged in to the local homeschool community and began serving in that small-town church.

About a month later, we moved once again, initially, to another rent-by-the-month apartment, this one much worse than the previous. Our door had five deadbolts, an indication of the area’s safety, and the carpet was so saturated in pet urine, the smell could knock a person back. Thankfully, we knew our stay would be short but weren’t certain we’d land next.

In many ways I was living in the interim, that uncertain and undefined middle ground of transition.

But in that quiet place of waiting, God stirred within me the assurance that He could use me, even there. And so, I repeated my prayer, “What do you have for me today, God?” And once again, He spoke, not with words, but with a spark—to write. Yielding to Him in that dark and dreary apartment, I started typing a curriculum. My obedience, frankly, made no sense and had no clear outlet. In fact, I was certain the project wouldn’t go anywhere beyond my personal computer, and it didn’t, not until another move, and another year, later. One morning, I sensed Him calling me to reach out to the educational minister at that small-town Texas church we’d visited for such a short time, to tell him about what I’d written.

The idea felt preposterous and embarrassing! After all, how was I expecting him to respond? To congratulate me for pounding away at my keyboard? But God’s leading felt clear and strong, and so, not concerning myself with the whys or hows, I obeyed.

After yet another move and another full year, with that email long forgotten, I received a phone call. It was from the children’s director employed by that small Texas church. They wanted to use my curriculum for their summer vacation Bible school. What’s more, they wanted me to come speak to their parents on their “celebration night.”

Ephesians 5:15-16 tells us to “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil” (NIV).

This verse reminds me that our world needs Jesus, now more than ever. We’re all living in a “time such as this.” God might call some of us to lead or launch ministries and others of us to walk across the street. And our small steps of obedience might carry us, one surrendered act at a time, to a more clarified or specific calling, like mine did, or they might simply characterize a life of love, which is, I believe, even more glorious. Regardless, we can know this: God can and will use us, right where we are, and right at this moment.

We can waste our days, waiting for that great opportunity or more convenient time—like when all the C19 social distancing ends, or we can quietly ask God, “What do you have for me today?”

I guarantee He’ll answer.

Speaking of living each moment for Christ, I recently shared a similar conversation with Dawn Scott Damon, host of the Arise Podcast. You can listen HERE.

Scripture taken from:

THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Before you go, I’ve got exciting news!

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Quote pulled from text on gradiant backgroundI might be the proudest person I know. I like to believe I’m right, that I know how to fix every situation and am the perfect person to do so, of course. I want others to think I’m smart, important, talented, successful. But I was called to so much more!

Whenever I give in to pride, I place myself in direct opposition to God and His purposes. 1 Peter 5:5 says, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble” (NIV). That’s a strong statement! The word our Bibles translate as opposes, antitassó in the original Greek, means to square off,” “reject the whole arrangement,” and “is used in antiquity of organized resistance, like an army assuming a specific battle-array position to resist in “full alignment”; to disagree (oppose) intensely.]*”

Whatever my pride fights for, whatever I think I might gain in feeding it, that thing can never be worth the cost.

I cannot live for Christ and myself. I cannot build His church while chasing my agenda.

Self-love nearly destroyed my marriage. It told me my way was best, my needs and comfort most important. Oh, the damage my husband and I created, the trust we weakened, through our constant fight for self. But then God began to shift our hearts and our thoughts until they more closely aligned with His. He showed us, while pride creates ever-increasing dysfunction, mutual submission and humility lead to relational health.

This, Scripture says, is how we are to interact with one another:

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage;
rather, He made Himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
He humbled Himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:3-8, NIV).

But Christ’s motivation wasn’t lowliness for lowliness’s sake. Love, for you and I, drove Him to the cross. Nor did He fail to grasp His true worth. Not once did He think, “I am nothing, worth nothing.” Rather, His unshakable, certain identity enabled Him to so humbly die. He knew precisely who He was. His value wasn’t dependent on how others viewed Him, how prestigious He appeared, or the societal successes He achieved. Those standards were far too insufficient, too inferior, to ever encapsulate Christ. He was, and is, God’s Son, matchless in wisdom and power, the Savior to whom, one day, all knees will bow.

Similarly, God doesn’t ask us to humble ourselves to bend our backs. Instead, He knows where our gaze most naturally lies and also where it leads. We focus on ourselves, to our own demise. Our pride leads us into arguments, division, isolation, and defeat. It causes us to rely on ourselves, elevating our wisdom and strength above Christ’s, and thus to drift further and further from the only One with the power to save. And so, He bids us to die, so that in Him, we might truly live, unhindered, totally free, anchored secure in who we are and who we belong to.

In Christ, we’re chosen, redeemed, and empowered children of God, people of incomprehensible worth. How could we possibly seek alternative ways to define ourselves? By success? That fades, and rises and falls with man’s ever-changing standards. By our relationships with sinful and often fickle man? By our intelligence, which so often is challenged by the next idea or well-crafted argument? All of those things are far too insufficient, inferior, to encapsulate our worth and drive our actions.

When our identity is moored in Christ, however, our feet and our hearts remain firm, confident; Quote from post with gradiant backgroundwe’re empowered to love fully, as we are fully loved. Strengthened for humility, we begin to realize it is pride that is true weakness and our greatest deception.

Love, Christ’s love, soaked deep into every crevice, truly does set us free, enabling us to live and love as we were intended: free of fear, free of striving, of record keeping and conniving. This doesn’t mean we allow abuse, for love never tolerates disease. Rather, we speak truth, seek health, and the authority of Christ, our humble yet victorious Savior, over all, ourselves included.

Humility may appear to bend us low, but in reality, it elevates us to our rightful place—secure, for eternity, in our Savior’s love—the One who knows us, chose us, and calls us to greatness, not by man’s deceived and subjective standards, but His.

*Taken from Biblehub.com, 498. Antitassó, Copyright © 1987, 2011 by Helps Ministries, Inc.

And THAYER’S GREEK LEXICON, Electronic Database. Copyright © 2002, 2003, 2006, 2011 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission. BibleSoft.com

Scripture taken from New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Additional resources:

Seven Subtle Symptoms of Pride by Fabienne Harford

Humility by Andrew Murray

On a different topic, I encourage you to read my latest article on iBelieve: How to Have Conversations With Difficult People.

Make sure to connect with Jennifer Slattery on Facebook and Instagram.

Find her latest release, Building a Family, HERE.

cover image for Building a FamilyCreating a circle of love together…

Can love for two little matchmakers unite their reluctant hearts?

Worried that Noah Williams is still the reckless bull rider she remembers, Kayla Fisher is convinced he isn’t the right person to care for their orphaned niece and nephew. Now she’s back home, determined to fight for custody. But Noah is a changed man, and he intends to prove it. When Noah and Kayla start falling for each other, could raising the children together be the perfect solution?

Listen to her latest podcast episode, the Courage to Fight Against Fear, HERE.

Quote regarding a life committed to God on colorful background

I can easily become entitled. This can remain hidden when life goes well. But when difficulties hit, I find myself battling a slowly corroding heart, half of which longs to surrender to Christ while the rest fights for “self.”

About a decade ago, our family experienced a period of upheaval that triggered some pretty deep and latent wounds. We’d moved across the country six months prior, something I hadn’t wanted to do. I’d just begun to get settled and connected with the local faith and home school communities, when my husband quit his job. Though the logical side of my brain, which shrunk considerably in that moment, understood why, my insecure child threw a fit.

Soon fear turned into bitterness that morphed into depression. As our savings dwindled and we made plans to move yet again, my anger grew. I found the situation unjust, as if I were a victim to my husband’s decisions.

In short, I determined I deserved better. When my life began to crumble, my sense of entitlement wreaked havoc with my peace and surrender.

Somehow I’d forgotten that all life is a gift. I’d forgotten the beauty of salvation—that years prior, my holy God looked down on rebellious and self-destructing me, and in place of judgement, offered me mercy and grace. Whenever I lose sight of the cross, of who God is and all He’s done, my heart begins to turn. Ugliness seeps in, whispering toxic lies like, “This isn’t fair,” and “You deserve better.” The more I listen, the darker my world becomes.

That winter, I began plunging into a gloom that felt heavy and oppressive and might’ve swallowed up everything precious and right in my life, had God not intervened. But He did, with one simple yet profound question:

“Do you love Me now?”

I understood precisely what He was asking. He wanted to know if my love was based on what He did or didn’t give me. Was it a shallow, conditional love that expanded when blessings came and shrunk during hardships? Or did the One who bled and died for me have my heart?

Tears poured down my face as reality hit—not just regarding my current plight, but of who Christ was, in all His risen glory. He’d given His life so that I might live, and in that moment, I gave mine back to Him. I surrendered.

As I did, peace and joy rushed in, giving me the strength to endure our challenges well as I leaned fully on Him.

Now, when entitlement begins to rise up, I contemplate Scriptures like Psalm 8. Written as a hymn, the words remind me of who God is and who I am in relation to Him.

“Lord, our Lord,” David wrote, calling Him not just Yahweh, the powerful Creator, but Adonia, his master as well.

“How majestic is your name … You have set Your glory in the heavens …” (v. 1). There I pause, for as long as necessary, prayerfully meditating on God’s power and vastness. “When I consider the heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have set in place, what is mankind” or who is Jennifer Slattery “that You are mindful of them, human beings that You care for them?” (v. 3-4).

Who am I, sinful and rebellious and often woefully deceived, that You, my Lord, would notice me? That You would die for me?quote from post with colorful background

When I meditate on the cross, everything else begins to fade. And all I can say is, “Thank You.”

Let’s talk about this! When has a sense of entitlement stolen your peace and joy? How did God redirect you back to gratitude, surrender, and praise?

Speaking of tending our hearts, have you checked out Jennifer Slattery’s Bible reading plan, Cultivating a Thankful Heart? You can find it HERE. And keep an eye out for her upcoming podcast, Faith Over Fear, hosted by Salem communications and her correlating Faith Over Fear Bible reading plan on YouVersion. Both will release in early 2020.

Additional resources:

Entitlement Will Rob You of Rest by Chelsea Patterson Sobolik on Desiring God

The Entitlement Cure: The Path to Jesus by Dr. Townsend

Freedom From Entitlement by Jennifer Slattery

Fighting Discontentment by Jennifer Slattery

The Entitlement Cure by Proverbs 31 Ministries

 

sunrise image with quote on surrender(Taken from a lesson cut from Wholly Loved’s Unshakable, Unbreakable Joy study, releasing soon.)

I often decide, before my feet hit the floor, how my day will go. Will I be disappointed and frustrated or at peace and fulfilled? Will I be self-obsessed and therefore prideful or insecure or will I sift everything through a story more beautiful and enduring than anything I could ever dream of or achieve on my own?

We can decide how we will respond before difficulties and frustrations ever hit. When we cultivate a surrendered heart, life feels much easier, more joyful, and we’re less reactive. We can stand strong and faithful, empowered, no matter what we encounter.

So often, we forfeit our joy through default. We behave as if we’re victims to our circumstances and other people’s reactions and forget that God the enormity of God. We forget that He’s in all things, working through all things, andMountain image with quote from post will ultimately redeem all things.

More than that, we allow life’s temporary challenges to overshadow the things of eternity.

My daughter is getting married this spring. By the time this study releases, the wedding, with all its glamor and chaos, laughter and tears, will be over. The vows will have been spoken. The guests, many of them family we see maybe once a year, will have come and gone. Those first dances—between my princess and her prince and my girl and her daddy—will be but memories and captured photographs. The spilled drinks will be mopped up, the trash carted away …

I have no idea what that day will bring, but here’s what I know: I’ll cherish every moment; I’ve already decided this, and I refuse to let temporary circumstances and mishaps steal what’s most precious. Those moments, whether celebrated or bemoaned, that I’ll never be able to get back. Knowing this, I will choose celebration over bemoaning.

I refuse to allow inconsequential details distract me from my part and enjoyment of the bigger story.

I wonder, what might my life, my joy, and my effectiveness might look like if I made this decision daily, no matter the situation? If I began with an attitude of surrender and determined to remain there? If I didn’t allow the problems of today to distract me from the glory of eternity.

When our daughter was young and I felt perpetually insecure, I carried 2 Timothy 2:4 in my pocket. It says: “No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer” (NIV). Or to phrase it differently, no one called to serve an eternal king becomes entangled in daily drama. They remain focused on their higher calling.

If you were to pick up any of my copious Bibles stacked on my shelves, you’d likely find one phrase underlined again and again: “a servant of Christ.” That was perhaps Paul’s favorite way to introduce himself. This was the mindset he maintained. More than anything else, more than being a church leader or pastor or traveling evangelist or even husband, he was a slave of Christ. Nothing else mattered, and therefore nothing else had the power to defeat or derail him.

I want to live with such focus, such purpose, each and every day. Thanks to Christ in me, I can.

So can you.

Let’s talk about this! Can you share a time when you chose surrender in a chaotic or unpleasant situation? What helped you make that choice and what was the result? Share your comments, thoughts, and stories with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another.

You might find Wholly Loved’s latest Devotional, Intentional Holidays: Finding Peace in the Prince of Peace helpful:

cover for Wholly Loved's devotionalThis holiday season, God invites us to slow down our hustle and to trade our striving for resting and rejoicing. Immanuel, God with us, encourages us to hit pause in the middle of our crazy, beautiful, and not-so-glamorous moments to experience Him. No matter how busy our days, fragmented our minds, disrupted our plans, or frazzled our hearts, God beckons us to draw near so that we can live filled and refilled. We can experience peace, no matter our circumstances, through the Prince of Peace, our Savior.

Grab your copy HERE.

Additional resources:

Preparing Our Hearts For Christmas, Wholly Loved’s latest Bible reading plan on YouVersion:

This holiday season, take some time to slow down and reflect on God’s goodness and the precious gift of Christ with us.

Find it HERE.

Additional resources:

Freedom From Self-Sufficiency (video)

Choose a Positive Attitude, Pastor Rick McDaniel

Don’t Let a Bad Attitude Rule Your Life (Proverbs 31 Ministries)

 

woman looking toward a cloudy sky and text pulled from the post

Our relationship with Christ begins and is sustained through surrender. With every crisis and uncertainty, as we close our eyes and, with boldness, relinquish our grip, we land firm and secure in our Savior’s hands. It’s then that we realize He truly is loving, faithful, all-powerful, attentive, and true.

For most of my life, I held a very distorted view of God. I knew intellectually that He was loving and kind. At least, that was the Sunday school answer I would have given, if asked. But my actions, most specifically my fears, demonstrated my true beliefs—beliefs hidden so deep, my conscious mind wasn’t even aware they were there. Through a series of events, God allowed my world to completely unravel. At least, that was what it felt like. In reality, He was unraveling lies and fears that were never meant to be part of my world so that I could truly come alive—in Him.

This all began when my husband quit his job—twice, actually, in under a year—and moved our family, quite literally, across the country. Through what became a three-year upheaval period, God allowed all my fears and insecurities to rise to the surface, uncovering the lies attached to them. In this, I came to realize, though I claimed God was my provider, sustainer, protector, guide, and friend, my continual fight for control proved I believed otherwise. In many ways, I knew of God, but I didn’t truly know God, not at the deep, peace-sustaining level.

If I had, I would have understood I had no cause for alarm and no reason to self-protect or fight for control. As I surrendered, through gritted teeth at first, I came to understand just how true all those truths Scripture revealed truly were. That terrifying, mind-shifting experience resulted in an intimacy with Christ I hadn’t even thought to pursue prior, and a much deeper understanding of who He is.

I’m learning to say, “But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider quote on knowing Christ and a picture of a candle.everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord …” (Phil. 3:7-8, NIV).

Those words in Philippians were written by an ancient church planter named Paul who truly had forsaken all things in order to know Christ. Prior to his conversation, he’d known of God but he didn’t come to truly know Him, personally and intimately, until He surrendered. And through his continual surrender, his intimacy with Christ grew to a level I suspect few of us will experience, because few of us will ever truly understand what it means to say, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21).

As I said, our relationship begins and is sustained—is deepened and fueled—I through surrender. As we rely on Him—His power, protection, strength, and provision—our understanding moves from mere intellectual assent to a deep and abiding knowledge that forms within a strong, unshakable foundation.

“This is eternal life,” Christ said, while praying to the Father, “that they know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3, NIV). The word our Bibles translate as know, ginóskó in the original Greek, points to a deep intimacy acquired through experience. But even this word lacks some of the depth revealed through its Hebrew counterpart, yada. This is the same word Scripture uses to describe the union Adam and Eve experienced through intercourse. Genesis 4:1 says, “now the man knew his wife Eve ..” (NRSV).

Our culture has turned sex into something selfish and ugly, but God designed this most intimate of acts to, in some mysterious way, unite two individuals into one. It’s a complete unveiling of oneself, a living “naked but not afraid.” To know one another fully, without shame or fear.

This is the level of intimacy Christ longs for with us, to usher us into a relationship so fulfilling, we, like Paul, would consider all else rubbish for the sake of knowing, truly knowing, Him.

We reach that place of ever-increasing intimacy through surrender.

Let’s talk about this! How does surrender lead to a deeper intimacy with Christ? When have you found this to be true? If surrender deepens our knowledge of Him, how can lack of surrender hinder this?

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

Before you go, I have fun news. Wholly Loved Ministries has released their next Bible reading plan, 20 Days of Relational Health! You can find it HERE.

Our hearts crave deep, lasting connections–to know we are loved and belong. This Bible reading plan will help you Image for Wholly Loved's Relational Health Bible Reading Plangrow in your relationships as you learn to love others well, speak and live in truth, and set the healthy boundaries that will allow your relationships to thrive.

Connect with Jennifer Slattery on Facebook and Instragram. Check out her blog on Crosswalk HERE.

 

Text on remaining pliable to God with a sunrise background

Irony—heading to a speaking engagement on living centered in Christ and empowered by Him while firmly planted in my wisdom and strength. I know I can do so much more surrendered to God than I’ll ever do on my own, but sometimes I forget. I only see what’s right in front of me, and even that’s often distorted. But God sees all and knows all, including how He wants to use me. My role isn’t too figure everything out but instead to listen and remain pliable to His leading.

The more out of control I feel, the more I’m tempted to fight for it. As my focus narrows, my vision slips off of my Savior, and lands squarely on fallible, short-sided, and often deceived self. I begin to think that I have all the answers or the insight to formulate the best plan.

But then God reminds me, through the chaos, that He retains full control. He saw it all, before a moment unfolded,Psalm 147:5 because He knows all (Ps. 147:5) and works in and through all (Rom. 8:28). He “works all things according to the counsel of His will” (Eph. 1:11, ESV).

As a speaker, I’ve come to expect my fall to turn hectic, that’s when most women’s groups book their annual retreats. Add in some unexpected contracts and schedule shifts, and what felt challenging before pricks all my insecurities. I worry I won’t accomplish all I need to in time or that I won’t complete the tasks well.

These worries pricked recently when a series of unexpected and challenging obligations hit.

Then came Friday, when I learned, due to unavoidable and unforeseen events, I needed to cover a speaking engagement for a friend the following Monday. No big deal, right? Sure, my schedule was tight, but I could make it work. Besides, I already had a talk written on the very subject the group needed. So, though stretched, I confidently replied, “No problem.”

She answered, in essence, “Maybe God has a plan for this.”

Such truth in that statement, for we know that He always has a plan. He’s always working behind the scenes, connecting dots and gently nudging us this way and that, as He perfects His perfect will. Sometimes we’re able to watch His perfect wisdom unfold before us; other times we catch mere glimpses and are asked to trust. To trust that He truly is sovereign and knows the best course of action, and the precise time for execution, for whatever we might face.

When God guides us toward something, He always provides all we need to accomplish whatever He’s assigned.

I know this. I do. But sometimes I get so caught up in whatever is before me, whatever seems to be standing in my way, I forget. And sometimes, in His love and grace, God provides not one but three traffic jams, and some missed turns and dead ends to remind me—He’s always in control, and His ways truly are best.

That’s precisely what happened Monday. The day quickly turned crazy with technological difficulties and numerous unexpected yet urgent responsibilities added to an already full day. As a result, I wasn’t able to rehearse my talk, other than in bits and pieces.

Then came the rush hour traffic I severely underestimated—in part due to an accident on the 680. Honestly, if I laid out my drive, you’d laugh, it became so ridiculously strange. I arrived slightly frazzled and frustrated to discover the group had experienced numerous hiccups and last-minute changes themselves. Relaying this to me, one woman replied, “I’m not surprised. Satan loves to trip us up.”

Though I understand the truth in her statement—Scripture does indeed tell us we have a spiritual enemy determined to trip us up, it also reveals a much stronger, more powerful and constant force Who is always working on our behalf. That became so clear, a short time later, as I stood and spoke grace over the woman gathered that night. Unprepared as I felt, I was forced to rely less on my wisdom and preparations and surrender to God’s leading.

I encouraged them to stop striving to be that perfect mom, to display perfect patience and grace, and to lean into their Savior instead. To let Him prove Himself strong on their behalf. The tears brimming in their eyes and the soft smiles that emerged indicated those truths resonated, I believe, much more deeply then my initial presentation would have.

That night, in my weakened, frazzled state, they got a little less of fallible Jennifer Slattery and a bit more of their ever-wise, ever-present King.

Because God knew. He knew what they needed to hear, and He knew precisely how to get me out of the way so that He could speak those truths through me.

Text from the post with a skyline pictureHis wisdom is perfect and His power unconquerable; knowing that gives me courage to surrender. In fact, I would be foolish not to.

May we all choose to say, daily, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me, and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”

As we die to ourselves—our wisdom and our will—Christ’s power is unleashed within us.

Let’s talk about this! How often do you contemplate God’s unfathomable wisdom? What does His wisdom mean for your current situation? How does His unchanging nature encourage your surrender?

Share your thoughts and stories or suggestions with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from one another!

Before you go, I have fun news. Wholly Loved Ministries has released their next Bible reading plan, 20 Days of Relational Health! You can find it HERE.

Our hearts crave deep, lasting connections–to know we are loved and belong. This Bible reading plan will help you Image for Wholly Loved's Relational Health Bible Reading Plangrow in your relationships as you learn to love others well, speak and live in truth, and set the healthy boundaries that will allow your relationships to thrive.

Before you go, I invite you to join me on Gail Pallotta’s blog to hear a bit about my first Love Inspired novel, Restoring Her Faith. You can read more HERE.

Connect with Jennifer Slattery on Facebook and Instragram. Check out her blog on Crosswalk HERE.

 

Image of stairs with text pulled from the post

Sometimes our greatest assignments, the steps towards our calling, come during the most mundane activities. And I wonder if the converse might be true as well. Is it possible to miss an amazing, God orchestrated opportunity when we’re focused only on chasing after something we believe will be amazing? I suspect perhaps, because whenever we chase a thing, be that dreams or success, more than God, we’ve slipped into idolatry, and Our loving Father cannot bless that, as worship of “self” always robs, steals, and destroys.

As some of you may know, I never wanted to be a writer or speaker. It wasn’t that I was opposed to those roles; I just never considered them. I thought I was going to be a teacher. I don’t know why that career came to mind. I think I just wanted to do something and that seemed like something I could do. So I started attending college. I also began serving in my local church, mostly where I saw a need. 

When our daughter was young, we lived in Southern California, and the church we attended hosted Friday night services. Those often had the most inconsistent childcare, so, wanting to ensure options for parents who worked Sundays, Steve and I covered that time slot . 

That was crazy hard for numerous reasons, in part because we had a large class filled with students of widely varying ages and attention spans. But, week after week, we did our best. 

I soon became involved in other ways. I wrote curriculum, sometimes that never got used, other times that was used for a season. I also wrote dramas, parent newsletters, and short story snippets, almost always with no one, besides myself and the person I served under, knowing I’d written it. But God knew. And He was working in and through me to grow me and lead me to where I am today. In fact, God used those activities and experiences to awaken my love for writing.

I’ve experienced opposite scenarios as well. I sensed God nudging me to launch Wholly Loved Ministries for at least two years before I finally responded. I felt I was too busy with my writing career and pursuing activities I found most important. I wasn’t in outright disobedience as I always attributed those heart pricks to vague stirrings, but I never hit pause long enough to truly seek God’s will in how He wanted me to spend and prioritize my time. I was too busy moving ahead. 

I became overly focused on my career and under-focused on my Savior, my power source, faithful guide, and stabilizer. As a result, my stress and anxiety levels grew, as did feelings of discouragement and disillusionment.

Eventually, out of mercy, God intervened and halted my writing for a time. Long enough for me to launch my ministry and for Him to purge and realign my heart.

Back then, it felt a bit like death, but in reality, God was restoring life to what had become diseased. 

Jesus said “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much” (Luke 16:10, NIV). Our faithfulness in the little things reveals our readiness to takepicture of a wheelbarrow with text pulled from post. on greater tasks. This means those who work behind the scenes, those who show up every Sunday, who do what needs to be done regardless of who else knows or sees, or what accolades they receive, will also be faithful in the big and glorious tasks. Perhaps because their heart won’t be in the accolades or the thank yous, but in serving and glorifying their Savior. Conversely, those who aren’t faithful in the little things—the trash emptying and toilet scrubbing, the baby rocking and phone call making, won’t be faithful in the big assignments either.

Maybe because we’ll make them about ourselves—our agendas and glory—rather than God’s.

We see this throughout Scripture. Moses, an orphaned baby turned Egyptian prince turned fugitive turned liberator, received God’s call while watching sheep (Ex. 3), a mundane and largely thankless job he performed day after day, with no one watching, and probably no one paying much attention to. God called the ancient prophet Elisha, Elijah‘s predecessor, while he was working in a field (1 Kings 19:19-21). God anointed Saul, Israel’s first king, to leadership, while he and a servant engaged in a three day journey in search of a donkey (1 Sam. 9-10). Then there was Joseph, a braggart teen who received a God-sized dream but was “discovered” while serving, faithfully, as an imprisoned slave (Gen. 37-41). 

I could go on. The Bible is filled with men and women who learned of amazing and history-changing assignments while performing mundane and humble tasks. We also see those who became obsessed with certain roles or opportunities, who put their desires for self-elevation and respect or prestige above their relationship with and worship of God, who lost it all. Who not only lost that very thing they so fervently sought, but who traded inner calm for anxiety, significance for futility, and joy for defeat.

May we, myself included, learn from their example.

Let’s talk about this! What are you chasing after most, that next promotion or opportunity or your Savior? What occupies your thoughts most, your achievements and goals or God’s glory? Can you share a time when God redirected you off of an obsession and onto Him? What was the result?

Connect with Jennifer Slattery on Facebook and Instagram.