Deepening our Knowledge–gnóseōs–of Christ through surrender

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.

 

 

Resting in God’s Sovereignty and Infallible Wisdom

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.

Finding Significance Through Surrender

 

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 on Facebook and Instagram.

 

When God’s Yes Seem to Turn Into a No

What happens when you’re certain God’s leading you in a certain direction and you land in a dead end? That question Road closed sign and conesbecomes even more challenging and frustrating when it seems someone intricately involved in your decision pushes back. This was the battle my guest found herself in.

Letting Go When God Says Yes

By Jenny Fulton

The fight began over something that sounded so good.

For the past few years John and I had been talking about attending Camp Logos. We love studying the Bible together and this training would teach us how to better utilize our primary research software. We’d agreed this was something we should do. However, we hadn’t settled on when. Our two daughter’s were young and the only family member close enough to babysit was a younger sister.

We decided to keep our eyes and hearts open for God’s timing and the right opportunity.

In early January of 2018, I found it. There was a 3-day training in April about five hours from my writing partner, Eric. John and I had discussed making the trip from New Mexico to connect with Eric and his wife in North Carolina. This was perfect! We could do both in the same trip!

“Is this it, God?” I asked. “Is this the opportunity we’ve been waiting for?”

I felt an inner assurance that it was. Words flooded my mind. “This will be good for you. You need this.”

That made sense. It had been rough several months. I’d suffered two miscarriages in four months and we’d also dealt with some tough family conflicts. We definitely needed time away. Although our girls were young (4 years and 16 months), I felt confident God would help us find adequate childcare.

I rambled off my findings to John and waited for his equally eager, “Let’s do it!”

It didn’t come.

He was hesitant, but reluctantly agreed to let me buy tickets for the camp.

Though I couldn’t understand his uncertainty, I dropped any further mention of it for the time being. I’d make him come around to the idea later.

At the end of January, I discovered I was pregnant again. Doubt and concern filled my mind. “How is this possible? What happens if I lose this one? Can I handle another death?”

John and I talked. Maybe another miscarriage would indicate it was time to release our dreams for children.

The trip seemed like a better idea than ever, though, on the other hand, would it be wise to be so far from my doctor?

February came and our 17 month old suffered 2nd degree burns on her arm severe enough to land us in the hospital for a couple of days. Besides feeling scared and heart-broken over her state, I also worried about the effects this stress might have on the baby within me.

Camp Logos felt like a definite no-go. How could we leave our little girl during her recovery?

In early march, life was still uncertain. However, my pregnancy and Sophia seemed to be progressing well enough that I again sensed an urge to go on this trip.

I brought it up to John and, although we’d already bought the tickets for the training, he resisted.

Why?

I made some inquiries, found possible babysitters we could maybe patch together to cover the time, and broached the subject again, this time with more fervency.

No change.

Why was he being so stubborn? Why couldn’t he believe this was a trip God told me we needed to take?

John was concerned about childcare.

Why couldn’t he trust I’d find the right people for the job? Why couldn’t he trust God to look out for our girls while we were gone?

In mid-march, it reached a climax. I pushed it enough and he resisted enough that we went to bed without speaking. Neither of us slept very well. We retreated to opposite sides of our king bed and turned our faces to the walls. The tension was as thick as our bulky comforters. Morning came and our cold withdrawal from each other continued.

I certainly wasn’t going to apologize. Why should I? He was the one who wasn’t trusting God.

Wasn’t he?

Something stirred in my heart. One person alone rarely causes conflict.

Maybe I shared the blame, but for what?

All day, I struggled to identify my part, but couldn’t find it.

That afternoon, our pastor came over to talk about the children’s lesson I’d be teaching. Instead, I ended up pouring out the details of the fight. Surely, if anyone could help me see my error, it was him. After all, I’d heard him point out everyone else’s shortcomings in his conversations with them.

But he didn’t help me identify my sin. Instead, he started going off on all of John’s failings, related to the fight or not, and presented confidence in himself as the better alternative.

Alarms went off in my spirit, and I inwardly withdrew.

The next morning, God revealed what I had been seeking.

“If you truly trust this trip is of My doing, then why are you trying so hard to control it?”

There it was; John wasn’t the only one who lacked faith.

“Do you really believe this trip is of Me?” God asked.

“I do.”

“Do you believe it enough to let go?”

This was a tougher question. Did I trust God enough to release my hold? Was I willing to give up on the venture altogether so He could work without my interference?

“I want to, Lord.”

It was a start.

John and I talked again that evening. I set aside my insistence and allowed myself to listen and feel his concerns for our girls. Can’t fault a man for being protective of his children can you?

In turn John heard my heart on the emotional and spiritual need for this vacation.

We came to an agreement. If I could nail down the childcare question, we’d both go. If I couldn’t, then I would go for the full week, and he would join me half-way through.

It wasn’t ideal—definitely not what I felt was best, but it was something. And this time, I knew I could trust God to bring about the best results.

Early that week, I finalized the childcare situation. A few days later, things came to a breaking point with our pastor. After attending one more service, we made the decision to step away from him and his church until we’d had more time to process.

Ultimately, everything came together better than I hoped. We left for the whole week. At Camp Logos, we rekindled our love for God and for studying Scripture together as we sat in a room full of likeminded men and women from all denominations. The second half of the trip was spent in the Appalachian Mountains where we had time to pray and work through the tumultuous events of the past several months.

God knew in January about all the turmoil we’d encounter. He knew about Sophia’s arm, my pregnancy, and the pastor’s behavior. God saw all of this and made a way for us to escape before we knew how much more we’d desperately need rescuing from.

God wanted me to rest in Him.

Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your wayswoman walking toward sunset with text from Prov. 3:5-6 acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight” (ESV).

Though it’s incredibly difficult to let go of our hopes and dreams, we need to believe that if they are truly of God, then He will bring them to fruition in far greater ways than we could imagine or manufacture in our own strength.

He is good.

May we continue to lean on Him and remember His faithfulness as we go through our week.

“Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21, ESV).

How has God been there for you in past?

What are your dreams for the future?

Is there something God is asking you to let go of?

Get to know Jenny!

Jenny's author photoJenny Fulton is a writer, educator, and mother with a passion for communicating truth through stories. She works part-time as a free-lance writer and is a collaborative author for the Invisible Battles youth fantasy series. Jenny has three beautiful daughters and writes as much as time and opportunity allow. She loves the creative process and gathers inspiration from her experiences overseas, her years as a teacher, wife, and mother, and through in-depth study of God’s word.

Connect with Jenny on her Website, Facebook, and Instragram.

Before you go, make sure to check out Wholly Loved’s Bible reading plan, available on YouVersion.

You can find it HERE. You can grab a copy of Jennifer Slattery’s latest release, Hometown Healing, HERE.

Keeping Our Eyes on the Call and the God Who Calls

Woman staring out at a field with text pulled from the post.

Image by Priscilla Du Preeze on Unsplash

Sometimes I feel bombarded by a world of takers and, when my eyes land on them instead of my Savior, I begin to feel discouraged. Frustrated. Taken advantage of. I know God calls me to serve Him above all else and to follow His will. In other words, to concern myself with obedience and nothing else. But so often my vision drifts off the path He’s laid out for me and onto others. Like the apostle Peter in John 21:21, I ask my Savior, “But what about him, Lord?”

To which God responds, “You must follow Me” (NIV).

I’ve heard others say they want to be leaders, but I wonder if they realize what this means. Leading means giving all of yourself without expecting anything in return. It means elevating others while you slip quietly into the background. It’s giving others the credit for wins and taking full responsibility for each loss.

In short, it’s doing all you can to act like Jesus, the One who gave His life so that we might live.

Honestly, that’s every Christian’s call, and we’re all leaders in some capacity. Whether we’re guiding little ones each day, speaking life into our coworkers, or demonstrating to our neighbors what it looks like to follow God.

We all have a sphere of influence, precious hearts God has entrusted to our care, and He asks us to lead them well. With passion, strength, courage, perseverance, and self-sacrifice.

In order to do so, our eyes must be locked on our Savior and whatever task He’s assigned.

He reminded me of this truth this morning as I was reading about Ezra’s commission to rebuild the Temple of Jerusalem. This call came while the Jews were in captivity, living in a foreign nation. I imagine many felt stuck. As if their situation was too bleak for hope. But then God “stirred the heart of Cyrus” the King of Persia to proclaim in writing, “The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth. He has appointed me to build him a Temple at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Any of you who are the Lord’s people may go there for this task. And may the Lord God be with you!” (NLT).

God is sovereign. No matter what is going on around us, regardless of our challenges or circumstances, we can rest in this truth. Our ministries, that assignment we can’t afford to botch—He reigns over those as well.

And notice, it is God who calls His people to action—those who chose to respond. In other words, when God gives us a task, not everyone will contribute. But those whom God calls will, as Ezra 1:5 demonstrates. “Then God stirred the hearts of the priests and the Levites and leaders of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin to go to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple of the Lord” (NLT).

We’re not alone in this walk of obedience. God is always with us, and though some may leave, betray us, or take advantage of us, others won’t. Others will help and encourage and support. And God will provide everything else. All we need and more.

This is precisely what He did for those rebuilding His Temple. Ezra 1:6 says, “And all their neighbors assisted by giving them articles of silver and gold, supplies for the journey, and livestock. They gave them many valuable gifts in addition to all the voluntary offerings” (NLT).

God amply supplied.

He’ll do the same for us. When I’m focused on God and resting in His sovereignty, I’m freed to move forward in peace Woman walking down road with text pulled from post.and faith. I’m not defeated or frustrated by other people’s actions, because I know God’s in control and will guide me toward His very best. If I’ve spent hours working on an important topic someone else gets credit for, I’m not phased because I know God’s bigger. If others don’t come through or leave in the middle of a job, I won’t feel defeated because I know God will supply what I need when I need it to complete precisely what He has planned.

Let’s talk about this! Do you ever have the wandering, “What about him, Lord?” When are you most prone to do so? How does (or might) remembering God’s sovereignty–over you, your situation or ministry, and those in your sphere–help you remain focused and encouraged? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another!

For those wanting to follow along with my Bible reading (as I have a feeling many of my preceding posts will stem from that), here’s a daily reading list. (I’m reading out of a chronological Bible so am simultaneously in Ezra, Haggai, Daniel, and Psalms.) I’ll share some questions you can use each day to help you process what God might be telling you below. They’re pulled from Day One Option One of Wholly Loved’s Becoming His Princess Bible study.

Day one: 2 Chronicles 36:22-23, Ezra 1:1-11

Day two: Ezra 2

Day three: Psalm 126, 147

Day four: Ezra 3

Day five: Ezra 4

Day six: Spend a day reviewing, journaling on, and praying over what God showed you during your day one-five Bible reading time.

Questions you can work through as you read your daily Bible passages:

Who are the main characters in this passage?

What does this passage reveal about the human condition, such as:

  • Mankind’s rebellion against/obedience toward God?
  • Mankind’s attempts to fill their needs apart from Him or relying on Him for their needs?
  • Mankind’s attempts to reach Him on their own terms?

What does this passage reveal regarding God’s nature?

What does/might this passage reveal about God’s plans?

How might this passage reveal mankind’s need for the gospel?

In what ways are you/have you been similar to one or more of the characters in this passage?

What might God want you to know through this section of Scripture?

What might He be asking you to do?

End your reading in prayer, asking God to help you apply the biblical truths discovered and live out whatever you sense Him impressing on your heart.

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

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

When God Says Give Up

Women with head down

Image by Abbie Bernet on Unsplash

I’ve tried running my life, and it landed me in a mess. The more I fight for control, the more that which I’m fighting for begins to control me. But surrender …

My guest today, novelist and pastor Nathan D. Maki, shares how God called him to give up something he held dear, and what resulted from that. Read his thoughts then share yours in the comments below.

***

Have you ever felt like giving up? Sure you have. Exhausted by the race, flattened by the burden, devastated by the loss…we all hit the wall at some point. If I can be perfectly candid, I’ve been teetering on the edge of giving up writing. Between pastoring a small church, managing a business to pay the bills, and being husband and father to my wife and son the thought of releasing one thing – my writing – is seductive.

“It’s more of a hobby anyway,” I told myself. “It’s not really taking off or paying off for the amount of work and time involved. Maybe you’re a hack anyway.”

Yes, that kind of uplifting, positive self-talk.

But then God told me to give up.

God told me to give up my selfish struggle for success. To relinquish the dream of quitting my day job and just writing and pastoring till He comes or my days end. To give up this book, The Keeper’s Crown. As a symbol of that surrender, he told me not to put a penny of its profits in my pocket.

I’ll be honest, that wasn’t easy. This book is my baby that I’ve worked on for three years hoping it would be my break-out novel. A year ago, when I was still querying agents and dreaming of a deal with a major publisher it probably would have been unthinkable. But God had brought me to a place of surrender. Of giving up. And instead, I gave it to Him.

And you know what? As soon as I agreed to give up peace settled over me. It’s like my whole perspective changed in that moment, and I suddenly realized that I’d Man sitting in nature, contemplativebecome jaded because I was measuring success all wrong. I was measuring in copies sold and dollars and cents, in fame and recognition, in book deals and all the rest. But that’s not how God measures success. In fact, that’s what The Keeper’s Crown is all about, how to measure Godly success – which the Apostle Paul would say is simply obeying what God tells you to do, regardless of the results. I guess I’d kind of forgotten that until God smacked me upside the head at that altar on a Sunday morning not too long ago.

So half the proceeds of this book are going to Hope for Orphans, an orphanage my parents started in a little village in Congo. Half to our church’s breakfast fund, where my wife and our ladies have been serving disadvantaged kids a hot breakfast every Sunday for the past 8 years. That’s what God asked. Jesus sure does love the little children.

The Keeper’s Crown and my writing career are God’s hands now, and looking back through the Scriptures, that’s an exciting thought.

quote imageGod asked a man named Abraham to give up his son Isaac, and he not only received his son back alive but became the Father of the Faithful. (Genesis 22:2)

God asked a nervous wreck named Gideon to give up the safety of his winepress, then turned him into a warrior who brought safety to his entire country by driving out the invaders. (Judges 6 and 7)

God asked three young Hebrew captives in Babylon to give up their lives to the furnace and then brought them out unscathed to make a believer out of King Nebuchadnezzar. (Daniel 3)

God asked a handful of fishermen to give up their ships and nets, and they founded the Church. (Mark 1:16-20)

God asked Paul to give up his freedom, and he preached to the Emperor of Rome and converted even those of Nero’s household and his Praetorian Guard. Paul gave up his life, but attained a victor’s laurel and immortality. (2 Timothy 4:7-8)

What will God do with what I’ve given up? Only time will tell, but I’m crazy excited to find out!

What is God asking you to give up? And how will you answer?

***

cover image for the Keeper's CrownCheck out Nathan’s novel, The Keeper’s Crown!

Quintus

As a boy, he dared to fight Nero. Worse, he won.

Stripped of his family, the love of his life, and his self-respect, he sets out on a quest to win a victor’s crown, rescue his parents, and restore his family’s honor. But his path to glory in the restless province of Judaea is threatened by the corrupt governor Felix, the murderous priest Melechi, and most of all by the rabble-rousing Paul of Tarsus.

When Quintus finds himself in Rome chained to Paul all hope of a crown seems lost, but Paul’s example makes him question the true meaning of success. And why does Jael, the mysterious young Jewess who once saved his life, now respond with barely restrained flashes of hate?

Jael

The Romans took her father and her brother from her.

Now Jael vows to fight for her father’s faith, fulfill her brother’s oath, and avenge their deaths. But the further she travels with Paul and Quintus the more she feels torn. Can she follow her heart and still keep her vow?

Paul

He turned the world upside down.

Paul never expected to end his ministry in chains, but even still, he is determined to carry the gospel to Rome and the Emperor Nero himself. But what if those who need the gospel most are those closest to him?

As the Great Fire strikes Rome, fanning Nero’s persecution of the Christians to a white-hot fury, murderous secrets, impossible choices, and steadfast faith will lead to tragedy and triumph.

Grab a copy HERE.

Join Nathan on Monday, April 2 from 11-3 for a fun, Facebook launch party. There will be Q & A with yours truly, trivia and games, a virtual tour of Rome via pictures he took on his trip, hourly e-book giveaways, and two grand prizes of signed proof copy paperbacks (of only 5 proofs ever printed.) Plus, you’ll get to connect with other book lovers!

Get to know the author!

author headshiot--Nathan MakiA life-long love for historical fiction and a passion to create high-intensity, realistic novels from a Christian world view has propelled Nathan Maki into his writing career. He is the author of the War Within series of novels set in Ancient Rome, and most recently The Keeper’s Crown, a novel of the Apostle Paul.

A recent trip to Rome to walk the ancient streets, explore the Catacombs, and stand in the Coliseum plunged Nathan even deeper into the ancient world he brings to life for his readers. Nathan’s novels combine the faith and romance of Francine Rivers’s Mark of the Lion trilogy with the action and adventure of Bernard Cornwell or Conn Iggulden. Nathan lives in Ontario, Canada, with his wife, son, and three very spoiled dogs. He pastors a church and manages his own business in addition to his writing. Sometimes he even sleeps.

Connect with Nathan online:

Facebook

on his website

Follow him on Twitter: @NathanDMaki

Email him at: NathanDMaki(at)hotmail(dot)com

The Hardest Thing to Surrender

woman sitting on rooftop gazing at citylineIf God were calling me to a  temporary fast, I could do it. Give up sugar? Ice cream? Television and technology? Foregoing those things wouldn’t be easy, but I could do it. But this, what God’s calling me to surrender, indefinitely, feels more harder than anything He’s asked of me before. This thing cuts to the core of my hopes and dreams, triggers insecurities and fear, and ultimately, reveals where my heart truly lies.

So what is this thing that God calls me, persistently, to relinquish?

Control.

My agenda. My time and my to-do list. Whatever I’m striving for that keeps me from saying, at each moment, “Not my will, but Yours, Lord Jesus, be done.”

When I’m sitting with my Bible, reading of His love and care, meditating on all He’s done for me, surrender comes easily. Or perhaps I should say, easier. “Take everything, Lord. And help me to obey You. Help me to give up everything to follow after You.”

But then the day begins, and pricks of selfishness weaken my resolve and hinder my obedience. My prayers sound more like complaints and long-winded requests than commitments to my Savior.

This is my greatest, most fervent and frequent battle—the battle against self, saturated in pride and selfishness.

But Christ calls me to love—not with the conditional, temporary, convenient love our world offers, but the kind He demonstrated when He stripped Himself of all His heavenly glory, took on flesh, and died in my selfish, prideful place. (Phil. 2:5-11)

For over a year now, I’ve been praying about some things, and He’s answered, but not in the way I expected. I’m looking ahead at all the lives I long for Him to touch through me, but His focus is zeroed in on something of utmost importance, something that enables great ministry to occur and true love to flow, and that’s my heart.

If I want to be used by God and touch lives for eternity, my life must be touched first by the transforming power of God, the God who shows me how to love, to surrender, and to give all of myself no matter the cost.

Even if it means surrendering everything I hold dear.

In Romans 12:1, Paul urges us to “offer [our] bodies as living sacrifices.” In other words, to live sacrificially for Christ, not just today, or when it’s urgent or convenient, but always. To put God’s agenda above our own.

This is the call. The first step to greatness, and it begins with a quiet, yet desperate plea, “Change me, Lord. Help me. Do whatever you need to

Woman thinking

image by Chalis on Unsplash

within me to make me pliable in Your hands, a cleansed and open vessel always and ready to do Your will and Your will only.”

***

Let’s talk about this! Did anything resonate with you as you read today’s post? Is God asking you to lay down, or perhaps pick up, anything? What makes that hard? Share your thoughts and stories with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from each other!

If you enjoyed today’s post, I encourage you to sign up for my free, quarterly e-mailing! Subscribers receive image of cover for study based on 1 Timothygreat, free content sent directly to their inbox along with a free, 36-lesson study (ebook form) based on truths presented in 1 Timothy (sent separately). (If you signed up and haven’t yet received your free study, please contact me through this website so I can get that to you!) You can sign up HERE. I also encourage you to visit my blog on Crosswalk. Find out how to join me for one of my upcoming events HERE, and learn more about my speaking ministry HERE.

Scripture taken from the Holy Bible New International Version, Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.