May 12

(This first posted on September 14, 2017.)

Every day is a battle—for truth versus deception. For relational intimacy versus isolation. For growth and godliness versus sin and self-destruction. Ultimately, for love toward God and others versus idolatry of self.

This—the battle against self—is by far my greatest battle. This is what threatens to derail me more than any outward casualty or setback I may experience. Self-love leads me toward self-elevation (which is idolatry). Agape love centers me in the will of Christ.

At their root, each of these is a battle between light and darkness.

Two extremes, continually pitted against one another. The only solution? Surrender to Jesus Christ.

It’s almost ironic, as I type this this morning, over a week before it will go “live,” I am and have been in the throws of this battle, one I thought I’d won but a week prior. And the week before that. And the week before that as I prayerfully “crucify my flesh” as Scripture puts it, asking the Holy Spirit to give me the strength to offer all of me to Him as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1).

And yet, here I am again, resisting the ugly within me so the pure, honorable, self-sacrificing love of Christ can shine forth.

My battle plan? Prayer and praise as I seek to be filled with more and more of Christ, knowing when that happens, all else will fade away. Because He is my treasure, and this present world is short but eternity is forever.

About five years ago, I spoke to women living in a women and children’s shelter in Kansas City, women who had lost nearly everything—their homes, their livelihoods, their self-respect. Some were experiencing the consequences of poor choices. Some were, but not all. Others were simply in a really rough place, likely crying out to God, asking Him why. Why had He allowed them to reach that place?

Did He not see them? Was He deaf to their cries? Had He forgotten them?

Did He not care?

But what if, in fact, His attentive eye was zeroed in on them, in the middle of their darkness, as He shined His love and light through them?

That night, I shared the story of Joseph, a man who, from the very beginning had been given an incredible promise from God—that God would raise him, second to the youngest of twelve sons, to a place of leadership, where the rest of his family would “bow down” to him.

photo by Viktoria Hall-Waldhauser from Unsplash

If you’re familiar with this account, you know God had much more planned for Joseph than simply familial leadership. But first, Joseph went through some incredibly hard years facing struggles and humiliation that would, quite frankly, send me hiding in by bedroom with the blankets pulled up to my chin and a big ol’ bag of tootsie rolls within reach.

You can read his story in its entirety in Genesis 37-51, but to paraphrase, God allowed Joseph to be sold into slavery, dragged to a foreign land where he was stripped of all rights and forced to spend his every waking moment in service to another, and then thrown into prison. And at each step, he was given a choice: focus on himself and all he’d lost or perhaps all he “deserved,” (after all, he’d been called, personally, by Creator God!), or surrender and live, 100% in obedience to and for the glory of His Creator.

Because he chose the latter, he shined the light of God in the middle of some incredibly dark places.

I believe this was the battle God had called him to, and make no mistake, it was an intense, moment-by-moment battle! This was also the battle God called Timothy to, as he pastored that church, filled with false teaching and division, in Ephesus. And it’s a battle God calls each one of us to, as we stand against discontentment, selfish ambition, and greed—the very attitudes that had caused the false teachers in Ephesus to wreak such destruction (1 Tim. 1:6-7, 6:4-5).

And so, this brings our study full-circle with the reminder that it’s all about love. God’s kind of love. A love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and genuine faith.

We can fight many battles in any given day, but the battle that wars within is the most vital, because everything else stems from that. We are most effective when we are most yielded to God’s Spirit at work within and through us. He has a plan, a good, victorious plan, for tackling whatever battle is warring around us, and He may (or may not) use us to fight it.

But make no mistake; He’s the One who will do the fighting. He’s the One who will win the victory. Our role is quite simple—to surrender and obey. If we do anything else, we’ll merely be getting in His way.

For those who’ve been following the 1 Timothy Bible study, this weekend, I encourage you to take time review what you’ve learned in the previous weeks. Journal what God has shown you, and simply take time to rest at His feet. Make Romans 12:1 your prayer:

Dear Lord, in view of Your mercy, in view of all You’ve done for me, help me to offer my body—my time, my thoughts, my will; my whole self—to You, as a living sacrifice because of all You have done for me. May that be how I, daily, worship You.”

Pray this prayer often, and then wait and see what God does. Wait and see how He uses you to bring healing to the hurting, life to the dead, and sight to the blind.

What resonated most with you in today’s post? What inner battle do you tend to fight the most, and what can you do today to strengthen your connection with Christ–the One who has equipped and empowered us for victory? What are some ways you fight the battle against self-love?

Share your thoughts and insights with us, because we can all learn from one another! And make sure to check out the latest Faith Over Fear Podcast episode.

How to Have Peace When God Is Silent – Ep. 110 Faith Over Fear

Everything feels easier when we sense God is guiding us. But what do we do when it seems as if God isn’t responding to our prayers? During periods of divine silence, we might assume that we have done something to make God angry or turn away from us. If we carry shame and unhealed wounds, we might be tempted to view God’s supposed non-response as confirmation of the inner lies that tell us we’re worthless, discardable, or a failure. Our assurance grows, however, when we fill those gaps with truth and remember and reflect upon God’s heart.In this episode, Jennifer Slattery discusses some of the common assumptions people make during periods of divine silence, what these assumptions reveal, and various truths that can help us stand in the full assurance of God’s grace. Resource mentioned:Your Daily Bible Verse podcast, April 5th, 2022:https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/your-daily-bible-verse/id1477482900Find Wholly Loved Ministries at:https://www.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/443325386241769Questions:1. What resonated with you most in today’s episode?2. Can you share a time when you felt God wasn’t answering your prayers? How did you feel?3. Did you learn anything through that seemingly silent period?4. Why is it important to remind ourselves of God’s character and heart toward us?5. During times of silence, why is it important to reflect on God’s grace?6. What Scripture passages do you turn to when you wait on God (for answers or intervention)?7. Is there anything you’re doing, or not doing, on your end that might drown out God’s voice?8. What are some of the ways God speaks to us? (Name as many as you can think of.)9. Why is it important that we consistently read our Bibles?10. What is one action step God is asking you to take after having listened to today’s episode?
  1. How to Have Peace When God Is Silent – Ep. 110
  2. The Power of Breath Prayer to Calm Your Anxiety (with Jennifer Tucker) – Ep. 109
  3. The Courage to Embrace Career Risk – Ep. 108
  4. The Courage to Surrender Our Hurts to Jesus – Ep. 107
  5. Trusting God’s Promise to Use Our Suffering for Good – Ep. 106

And catch the latest Your Daily Bible Verse podcast episode here:

Don't Get Tired of Doing Good (Galatians 6:9) Your Daily Bible Verse

Want to listen without the ads? Become a BibleStudyTools.com PLUS Member today: https://www.biblestudytools.com/subscribe/Meet Our Hosts:Jennifer Slattery is a writer and speaker who hosts the Faith Over Fear podcast. She’s addressed women’s groups, Bible studies, and writers across the nation. She’s the author of Building a Family and numerous other titles and maintains a devotional blog at https://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.comFollow Jennifer:https://www.lifeaudio.com/faith-over-fear/https://www.facebook.com/JenSlattehttps://www.instagram.com/slatteryjennifer/Grace Fox has published hundreds of articles and authored 10 books including the award-winning devotional, Finding Hope in Crisis: Devotions for Calm in Chaos. She’s a member of the “First 5” writing team for Proverbs 31 Ministries and a regular contributor to Guideposts’ Mornings with Jesus. Grace lives aboard a sailboat in Vancouver, British Columbia. Married in 1982, she and her husband celebrate three grown kids and eleven grandchildren.Check out Grace’s newest book, Keeping Hope Alive: https://www.tyndale.com/p/keeping-hope-alive/9781649380517Subscribe to her weekly devotional blog and monthly update on her website: www.gracefox.comFollow Grace:Facebook: www.fb.com/gracefox.authorInstagram: https://www.instagram.com/graceloewenfox/  Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/gracefoxauthor
  1. Don't Get Tired of Doing Good (Galatians 6:9)
  2. Showing Grace to Those Who Are Hard to Love (Ephesians 2:1)
  3. Lessons Learned in the Waiting Room of Life (Genesis 8:1)
  4. Maintaining and Honoring Healthy Boundaries (Luke 10:40)
  5. A Scripture-Based Prayer for Your People (Joshua 22:5)

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What happens when you lost a document? One you remember writing, reading to your husband, and setting aside to share here two weeks later, yet you can’t remember its title nor seem to find it no matter how many times and ways you search your documents folder?

You re-share a piece from … 2017, updated slightly to make sense when read five years later. Wow, five years. Is it a sign of aging when half a decade seemed to zip by? 

And now, back to our regular programming … or blogging. (And thank you in advance for your grace!)

***

When in the middle of a crisis, one word dominates my mind—help! I’d do anything, give up anything, if only God would come through. But oh how quickly pride and entitlement creep in, once the chaos has passed.

It was maybe ten years ago, we were living in a beautiful, spacious home in a gated community, attended a church we loved, and I spent my days doing what I loved—homeschooling our daughter.

In a flash, everything changed, leaving me scrambling, fearful, and crying out for aid.

Our daughter and I were sitting at the breakfast bar, completing her lessons, when I heard the familiar screech-rumble of the garage door opening. I glanced at the time, finding it strange that my husband would come home so early.

When he walked past me without a word a moment later, heading straight for our bedroom, I knew something was wrong.

I immediately followed.

The defeat I saw in his eyes tore at my heart, but what he said after weakened my knees.

That morning began a six-month bout of unemployment that left us scrambling and me crying out to God, “Help us, please! Fix this.”

Then one day, He did. By this point, we’d depleted the last of our savings, and, with all our belongings in storage, we’d moved to a 500 square-foot, furnished, rent-by-the-month apartment. My husband had found temporary contract work while continuing to seek something more permanent.

It’s interesting what happens, when life hits hard and everything is reduced to necessity. In that tiny apartment, with its cheap used furniture, paper-thin walls, and stained and torn linoleum, I learned to become content. To rejoice, actually, in what I had. By taking away our big, fancy house and all the other fluff I’d come to rely on, God granted me an incredible gift—the ability to cherish those things that mattered most—time with my husband and daughter.

So when His aid came and He opened a door for my husband at Union Pacific railroad in Kansas City, MO, I thought I’d arrived. I’d learned my lesson, had found contentment, and could move forward, receiving God’s blessings with open hands.

Open hands that, once they quit clinging to Christ, quickly grasped and strived, until my easily-swayed heart became consumed with a sense of entitlement. It started while house hunting. Needless to say, our budget had changed drastically, and the houses our realtor showed us looked much different than the large, newly built home we’d frantically sold in Louisiana. As we toured smaller, older, and less aesthetically appealing homes, a sense of entitlement emerged, initiating an ugly and growing discontentment.

It was as if I’d forgotten all God had done—how He’d held my family together, kept us from debt, and provided for us at just the right time.

I had fallen into the same pattern the Israelites had, after God miraculously freed them from slavery to Egypt, provided for them in the desert, and personally led them, by a pillar of fire by night and a sun-shielding cloud by day, to the Promised Land.

“They forgot what He had done—the great wonders He had shown them” (Psalm 78:11 NLT).

They forgot and became discontent, and their discontentment turned their hearts from God, from the One who saved them, the One who loved them, and who cared for them as a parent for their young.

There’s danger in forgetting. Or perhaps I should say, there’s incredible power in remembering all God’s done. It frees us from entitlement, keeps us humble, grateful, and I believe, surrendered with a heart that’s ready to receive whatever God has for us.

Let’s talk about this! Do you ever find yourself slipping into a sense of entitlement? Do you notice, when you do, that your discontentment and misery increases? What do you do to stay centered in gratitude and surrender? In what ways has God used life circumstances to purge the sense of entitlement from you? Share your stories, suggestions, and examples with us, because we can all learn from each other!

And make sure to check out the latest Your Daily Bible Verse podcast!

 

Don't Get Tired of Doing Good (Galatians 6:9) Your Daily Bible Verse

Want to listen without the ads? Become a BibleStudyTools.com PLUS Member today: https://www.biblestudytools.com/subscribe/Meet Our Hosts:Jennifer Slattery is a writer and speaker who hosts the Faith Over Fear podcast. She’s addressed women’s groups, Bible studies, and writers across the nation. She’s the author of Building a Family and numerous other titles and maintains a devotional blog at https://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.comFollow Jennifer:https://www.lifeaudio.com/faith-over-fear/https://www.facebook.com/JenSlattehttps://www.instagram.com/slatteryjennifer/Grace Fox has published hundreds of articles and authored 10 books including the award-winning devotional, Finding Hope in Crisis: Devotions for Calm in Chaos. She’s a member of the “First 5” writing team for Proverbs 31 Ministries and a regular contributor to Guideposts’ Mornings with Jesus. Grace lives aboard a sailboat in Vancouver, British Columbia. Married in 1982, she and her husband celebrate three grown kids and eleven grandchildren.Check out Grace’s newest book, Keeping Hope Alive: https://www.tyndale.com/p/keeping-hope-alive/9781649380517Subscribe to her weekly devotional blog and monthly update on her website: www.gracefox.comFollow Grace:Facebook: www.fb.com/gracefox.authorInstagram: https://www.instagram.com/graceloewenfox/  Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/gracefoxauthor
  1. Don't Get Tired of Doing Good (Galatians 6:9)
  2. Showing Grace to Those Who Are Hard to Love (Ephesians 2:1)
  3. Lessons Learned in the Waiting Room of Life (Genesis 8:1)
  4. Maintaining and Honoring Healthy Boundaries (Luke 10:40)
  5. A Scripture-Based Prayer for Your People (Joshua 22:5)

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.

How to Have Peace When God Is Silent – Ep. 110 Faith Over Fear

Everything feels easier when we sense God is guiding us. But what do we do when it seems as if God isn’t responding to our prayers? During periods of divine silence, we might assume that we have done something to make God angry or turn away from us. If we carry shame and unhealed wounds, we might be tempted to view God’s supposed non-response as confirmation of the inner lies that tell us we’re worthless, discardable, or a failure. Our assurance grows, however, when we fill those gaps with truth and remember and reflect upon God’s heart.In this episode, Jennifer Slattery discusses some of the common assumptions people make during periods of divine silence, what these assumptions reveal, and various truths that can help us stand in the full assurance of God’s grace. Resource mentioned:Your Daily Bible Verse podcast, April 5th, 2022:https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/your-daily-bible-verse/id1477482900Find Wholly Loved Ministries at:https://www.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/443325386241769Questions:1. What resonated with you most in today’s episode?2. Can you share a time when you felt God wasn’t answering your prayers? How did you feel?3. Did you learn anything through that seemingly silent period?4. Why is it important to remind ourselves of God’s character and heart toward us?5. During times of silence, why is it important to reflect on God’s grace?6. What Scripture passages do you turn to when you wait on God (for answers or intervention)?7. Is there anything you’re doing, or not doing, on your end that might drown out God’s voice?8. What are some of the ways God speaks to us? (Name as many as you can think of.)9. Why is it important that we consistently read our Bibles?10. What is one action step God is asking you to take after having listened to today’s episode?
  1. How to Have Peace When God Is Silent – Ep. 110
  2. The Power of Breath Prayer to Calm Your Anxiety (with Jennifer Tucker) – Ep. 109
  3. The Courage to Embrace Career Risk – Ep. 108
  4. The Courage to Surrender Our Hurts to Jesus – Ep. 107
  5. Trusting God’s Promise to Use Our Suffering for Good – Ep. 106

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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.

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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.

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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.