An Open Invitation (Without an Add-on Clause)

Do you ever wonder if God's tired of you or has grown annoyed with your prayers? Like you've exhausted His patience and should've reached a certain level of spiritual maturity by now? Today our guest Julie Arduini shares her thoughts and experiences on what she's termed "add on faith."

God's Open Invitation (Without an Add-on Clause)

by Julie Arduini

It was a circular, red birdfeeder and the answer to my search. I wanted something near my office to watch as visiting birds often entertain and inspire. I placed the item in my virtual shopping cart and clicked the box that announced my purchase was complete. A message popped up on my screen.

This is an Add-On item.

If you shop Amazon, chances are you’ve come across an item listed as an add-on. It means they won’t place it in the shopping cart until you’ve spent a certain amount of money. Once you hit that mark, then they will take action.

I saw the phrase add-on this week apart from Amazon, and I thought of God’s approach with us. I’ve recently battled fear and anxiety for the future. I doubt this is a coincidence given the theme of my book is surrendering one’s dreams for God’s plans.

This year we’ve faced transition with our kids, and although I know God’s promises for them, I want to handle the job losses, relationship bumps, school miscommunications and bullying. To see a glimpse of what’s next for them. I’ve fought prayerfully for their futures, and for peace.

Experiencing peace has been a battle. And a choice. I’ve been like a toddler trying to share a toy with a friend. I hand it over, then take it back. And repeat. I beg for answers and justice. Cry when I see loved ones hurting. Then, I hear a sermon or a song, or I read a devotional that talks about fear versus faith, and then my peace returns.

I ask for forgiveness for the times I want to take justice into my hands, and when issues aren’t resolved in my time and way.

What if God shook His head and told me I needed to reach a bigger level of believing Him before He’d respond? What if He said He couldn’t complete my prayer transaction because I didn’t do enough for His heavenly cart?

My heart hurts to even think about it.

I rejoice, because Christ didn’t die for add-on faith. Because of Christ’s work on the cross, we can come to Him completely broken. Desperate. Completely hanging by a thread of faith that He might hear and answer. And God’s there.

Add-on might be a strategy for Amazon, but it’s a lie from the pit of hell when it comes to prayer and accessing God’s power through Christ. (Eph. 1:19-20) I resisted accepting Christ into my life for years because I thought God was mad at me. That I didn’t bring enough to the proverbial table. I was right about the latter, but the image in my head was wrong. God’s arms weren’t closed, and He wasn’t shaking His head at me. His arms are wide open, ready to receive. Every time. Even if it’s the same request, 1000 days in a row.

I definitely want victory over fear and to choose peace in this turbulent season. What a blessing that, no matter what our struggle, we have His love and attention. Even when I take a step back in my journey, God’s still there, waiting for me to call on Him.

He’s waiting for you, too.

Is there a struggle you’ve had where you approached it like add-on faith?

***

Julie Arduini loves to encourage readers to surrender the good, the bad, and ---maybe one day---the chocolate. She’s the author of ENTRUSTED: Surrendering the Present, as well as ENTANGLED: Surrendering the Past. The last book in the series, ENGAGED: Surrendering the Future, is coming soon. She also shares her story in the infertility devotional, A WALK IN THE VALLEY. She blogs every other Wednesday for Christians Read. She resides in Ohio with her husband and two children. Learn more by visiting her at http://juliearduini.com, where she invites readers to subscribe to her monthly newsletter full of resources and giveaway opportunities.

Connect with Julie on Facebook, follow her on Twitter, and visit her Author Page on Amazon to learn about her books.  

EntangledSurrendering the Past, is her latest release. It's book #2, Surrendering Time Series.

Back Cover Copy:

“You need to leave me alone. It’s the least you can do.”

Carla Rowling has been given her dream of attending cosmetology school. The gift is so generous she feels unworthy because of choices she made as a teen. The pressure mounts as Carla juggles school, is a single mom, helps her best friend Jenna plan her wedding, spends time with boyfriend Will Marshall, and deals with the fact that her son's father is back in their lives.

Will Marshall is the one Speculator Falls resident everyone can count on. His truck deliveries are reliable. He's the first to help friends like Ben Regan with boat work or be a card partner with Bart Davis. Will's ready to settle down with Carla, loving her is natural. He's bonded with her son, Noah. But when Carla starts cosmetology school, she puts emotional distance between her and Will.

Can Carla release her past and create a future full of highlights, or, will she burn her options worse than a bad perm?

Although Entangled can standalone, if you’d like to read Entrusted: Surrendering the Present first, click here: https://www.amazon.com/Entrusted-Surrendering-Present-Time/dp/0692709177/

***

Let's talk about this! It brings me such comfort to know God is always with me, always listening, and always welcoming me into His presence with open arms. This begs the question: How often do I accept the invitation? Or, do I shy away, because I feel inadequate or like I've prayed for help in a certain area more than it seems I should?

What about you? Have you approached a problem or struggle as if God expected you to have an "add on faith?" What thoughts or feelings arose as you read Julie's post? How do you feel knowing God "bends His ear" to listen? Do you take advantage of that? Join the discussion on our Facebook page because we can all learn from and encourage one another!

 

When it Feels Like the Waiting Will Never End

Have you ever longed for something for so long, you became convinced God wasn't listening? Or that He'd chosen to ignore your cries? Or perhaps you've determined the answer is no and have moved on to something else, and then the next thing, and then the next.

Waiting is hard. The more we long to see something happen, the harder the wait is. But Romans 8:28 tells us that God works all things for the good of those who are called, all who belong to Him. 

All things. If that's true, what does that say about our times of waiting?

My Emmaus Road: When It Feels Like The Waiting Will Never End

by Tara Johnson

“A watched pot never boils.” 

The old adage has rolled around in my brain more times than I care to admit, yet I traitorously return time and again to watch the pot on the burner. Why is waiting so hard? 

The watched pot represents something different for each of us. Perhaps it's a dream that once seemed so certain, but has now become frustratingly elusive. Maybe it's a petition for the good health you once enjoyed, or for finances that are never quite enough, or for a job that would mean the difference between your family's comfort and barely scraping by.

Or maybe you find yourself scanning the horizon day after day watching for the limping return of your rebellious child and the thought of surviving one more moment without word from him scrapes your heart until you fear you'll bleed.

Whatever the reason, times of intense of waiting can often feel like God has forgotten about us. Do you know where the enemy targets most of his most cunning attacks? In the realm of our emotions. He tells us that because we feel a certain way, it must be so. We feel God doesn’t love us because we can't sense Him with us, so therefore, God must not love us. We feel neglected by our husbands, so therefore, we are neglected. We feel hopeless in our circumstances, so therefore there must not be hope.

The blunt truth? Our emotions have very little to do with reality. They swing and dive with alarming speed. Truth doesn’t.

Not long ago I experienced my own intense season of waiting. The disappointment mounted as the enemy’s hissing lies increased. One morning I rose and, contemplating another day void of answers, burst into tears.

“This is never going to happen, is it, Lord?”

Heart-sore, I opened my Bible to Luke 24. 

This passage tells about two of Jesus’ followers who were returning from Jerusalem. They were grieving all that had transpired during Passover. Jesus, the man they thought would be the Messiah, had been brutally beaten and killed. They were disillusioned and feeling defeated. Yet the newly resurrected Christ appeared beside them on the Emmaus Road, talking with them along the way.

And they didn’t even recognize Him.

The two men said, “We were hoping he would free Israel….”

They hoped. They wanted. They had dreamed and all their plans seemed to have been crushed into dust.

It struck me just how blind those two men were. They were lamenting everything that was wrong, how their plans didn’t fit God’s and yet they were oblivious to the fact that the Savior of the world was walking beside them.

With a start, I realized I was no different. I was walking on my own Emmaus Road, obsessing about God not doing things my way and, in the process, totally missed the main event.

There is a blessedness, and a time of leaning hard on Jesus, in the waiting, but we often lose sight of what matters when we obsess about the whys. Why haven’t I met Mr. Right yet? Why isn’t my ministry taking off? Why is my marriage in so much turmoil? Why is my health fading? Why are my children rebelling?

Here’s the point I missed…that goal, that dream, that prayer, the waiting is not the next step in the journey. Jesus is the journey. It's about being with Him as we journey through life...not waiting for the next thing around the bend.

 “The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.” ~ Lamentations 3:25-26

As I was dwelling on my own Emmaus Road, my Father spoke to me plainly. “Little one, you’re so driven but often for the wrong things. If you’re driven, be driven to know Me. If you’re looking for contentment, be content with Me alone. I am enough. Let Me be your obsession.”

What about you? Have you ever tried to rush God’s timetable? What are other advantages and blessings that can be found in a time of waiting?

***

Tara Johnson is an author, speaker and singer from Alexander, AR.  A passionate lover of stories, she loves to travel to churches, ladies retreats and prisons to share how God led her into freedom after spending years living shackled as a people-pleasing preacher's kid, and a steep battle with depression and perfectionism.

Her first nonfiction book Hollow Victory: How to Identify and Disarm 5 Landmines that Make Victorious Christian Living Feel Like a Lie was released in 2014.  She has won the Bronze Medal in the Frazier awards hosted by My Book Therapy and has articles published in Plain Truth Magazine and Live It Loud Magazine and has been a featured guest on Voice of Truth radio and Enduring Word radio. Tara is a member of ACFW and is represented by Janet Grant of Books & Such Literary Agency. She and her husband Todd have been married for nineteen years and the Lord has blessed them with five children:  Bethany, Callie, Nate, as well as Taylor Lynn and Morgan Lane who are with Jesus.

Visit her online at her Website, on her blog, follow her on Twitter at @TaraMinistry, connect with her on https://www.facebook.com/tara.johnson.1401, and follow her on Instagram

***

Waiting is always hard, but the more we understand who God is, what He's promised, and how much He loves us, the easier it becomes. God doesn't just love; He is love, and everything He does and allows is because of His immeasurable love. Knowing this allows us to weather the uncertainties and disappointments with peace. 

We'd love to help you do just that! Join us this coming Saturday in Lincoln, Nebraska for our Wholly Loved Conference where you'll learn how to rest deeply in God's love and grace, allowing Him to heal your wounds, smooth away your rough edges, remove the false labels you've grabbed hold of, and shift your thinking so that you begin to see yourself as He sees you--deeply and wholly loved, created on purpose and for a purpose, and beautifully and intentionally unique. 

Visit our Events Page to find out more or email us at contact(at)whollyloved(dot)com for more information, with questions, or to book us for your next women's event! And stay tuned for more information on our Bold and Brave Conference, where we help women to live the courageous and empowered lives Christ died to give them!  

Protecting Our Relationships

Relationships matter--whether at home, at work, in our neighborhoods. I believe God created women with tender, emotionally-alert hearts so that we could be the relational buffers. The nurturers and tone setters. 

Stressers come, and people won’t always live up to our expectations. We may not always understand why they do the things they do, or perhaps we wish they’d do things differently. Regardless, we are to love. Deeply, faithfully, consistently. Today our guest Jennifer Henn shares a time when God showed her how to reveal His love to her daughter. As you read her testimony, prayerfully consider who God’s called you to love. Are you protecting that relationship or inadvertently tearing it down?

The Wise Woman Builds Her House 

by Jennifer Henn

Hannah sat at the computer long after I thought she should be finished with her assignments. Gripping the back of her desk chair, I started to swing her around to face me, then thought better of it.

Why can’t she just do her work? She’s falling behind, but refuses my help.

The online school we’d decided to try was turning into a disaster. I was torn between wanting her to toughen up and do the work, and getting through the year without hating each other. 

I believed she could do better. What kind of punishment could I give to bring the situation under control?

Without harming our relationship.

She’s a preteen, and several women told me this was it; I had four years of hell coming. I wanted to prove them wrong. And I knew anger would destroy what I really wanted. I wanted us to have a Hallmark movie type of relationship. The kind where she’d trust me enough to tell me about the guy she has a crush on or ask me for advice.

My grip on the chair loosened. Worst case scenario, she’d flunk every class, then I’d look like a failure. Can I live with that? So what, it doesn’t matter what people think of me. I know she’s smart, and we can bounce back from a difficult seventh-grade year. But if I’m a tyrant while trying to get the school work done, our relationship might not recover.

 My shoulders relaxed. Almost smiling, I said, “It’s okay, don’t worry about it.”

She turned with a mixture of question and doubt in her eyes, “What?”

“Don’t worry about it, it’ll be okay.”

She studied me. She knew how I felt about getting school work done. Any minute my scorn might return and I’d start lecturing. 

But I didn’t.

Within weeks of deciding not to fight, we discovered she needed glasses. Not being able to see the computer screen clearly had a lot to do with her inattentiveness. She got her glasses that November and spent the day walking around saying, “Look, I see leaves on the trees instead of a blob of green.”

Things like that make you feel guilty as a parent.

She continued to struggle.

One day, I sat at her computer to complete a days’ worth of studies. I went through the work and followed all the instructions. Each subject took me over an hour.

Second guilty moment: why hadn’t I done that before?

I’d looked at the program and separate subjects multiple times, but until I worked it, I didn’t get it. The program was labor intensive. The school said you didn’t have to do everything listed in the assignments, but I could tell it’d be hard for her to discern which parts she could omit.

After that, we worked together more, and I encouraged her, but we both experienced plenty of frustration. After a lot of hard work, it looked like she would fail every class. I didn’t think she’d actually land on my “worst-case scenario,” but here we were. 

Because this online school was a public charter school, she was required to take the state of Georgia end of year exams at a satellite location. The exam covered core subjects. When the test results came in, she had met the requirements for math and history. In language and science, she exceeded the requirements.

Next year, I’ll start her in eighth grade, but not in online school.

The difficulties of the school year didn’t ruin our days together because I set my goal with a long-term mission in mind—relationship.

Not worrying about her grades caused me to set aside my pride and control only what I could, namely my responses. Since then, there’ve been plenty of times I’ve acted poorly, or we’ve argued, but we don’t hold grudges. And today I pinch myself; it’s a dream come true. The “four years of hell” didn’t happen as others predicted, and my daughter says she loves spending time with me.

That’s what I’ve always wanted.

The wise woman builds her house [on a foundation of godly precepts, and her household thrives], But the foolish one [who lacks spiritual insight] tears it down with her own hands [by ignoring godly principles]. (Proverbs 14:1 AMP)

During a time of failing classes, a temporary condition, God gave me the grace and strength to build up a house that thrives.

***

Jennifer Henn strives to leave perfection behind and embrace reality. She shares with transparency the fun, failures, and heart-aches she’s had while homeschooling her three children. Her true passion is fulfilled by encouraging women who feel defeated.

After 16 years of homeschooling, she’s on to her next career as she writes, speaks to homeschool groups, serves on the board of a nonprofit, and leads a Word Weavers critique group.

Her heart and home are full where she lives in metro Atlanta with her husband of twenty-five years, her three kids and two cats. For homeschool encouragement, visit Jennifer online at JenniferHenn.com

***

Let's talk about this! I'm pretty sure none of set out to damage our relationships, but it happens. A careless word here, a selfish act there. I've found, living selfishly and shortsightedly comes much too easily to me. I have to make a continual and concerted effort to put others and relationships first. One way I do this is by planning relationship-building time into my week because I've found if I just let things happen as they may, I can easily get swept up in my to-do list and forget about what matters most--those precious friends and loved ones God has given to me.

What about you? What are some ways you intentionally build into your relationships? What are some things you avoid doing in order to protect them? Pop on over to our Facebook page to join the conversation! 

And for those who live in the Omaha Metro or Lincoln, Nebraska area, mark your calendars and make sure to join us on Saturday, June 24th for our inspiring and encouraging Wholly Loved Conference. Visit our Event Page to find out more! 

Growth Through Trial

I've experienced times when it felt like my sorrow would never end. Days when my fears regarding what lay ahead felt all-consuming. Moments when I've shaken my fists toward heaven, wondering why God wasn't helping. Why He wasn't fixing the situation. 

I cherish those times now, for what God showed me regarding who He is and who I am in Him. For what He did in me. Today our guest Maria Morgan, author of Outrageously Fruitful, shares a time when God allowed her to face something rather unpleasant, and what He showed her through that. 

As you read her testimony, ask God what He wants you to take away from her story, and how you can cooperate with Him as He makes you more like Himself. 

More Like Him

by Maria I. Morgan

It wasn't what I wanted to hear. An x-ray and ultrasound confirmed that I had two large fibroid tumors in my uterus. At least I had an answer. No wonder I always felt full whether I ate a large meal or hardly anything at all. It only made sense to do a little research while I waited for the doctor to call me with options.

All things pointed to the dreaded 'H'-word: hysterectomy. As I scanned articles and procedures, I put in my request. "Lord, let this surgery be something that can be done laparoscopically." A two-week recovery time was so much more appealing than an eight-week stint. Besides, with a busy schedule, I couldn't imagine having to take it easy for two full months.

The phone call came. Not what I wanted to hear. I could leave the fibroids alone and have them monitored, unappealing since they were creating discomfort already. I could have a myomectomy, which would remove the tumors, leaving my uterus intact. But there was no guarantee more fibroids wouldn’t develop. Or I could have a hysterectomy, which would remove both tumors and uterus, eliminating the issue.

I heard the door close on my previous prayer request when the nurse said either '-ectomy' would require an abdominal incision because the tumors were too large to remove any other way.

Definitely not what I wanted to hear.

But God was at work. Reminding me that I'm not the one in control - He is. As I mentally prepared for surgery, I had a choice to make: give in to fear, or trust God.

The 'what-ifs' swirled through my head. I’d heard countless stories of others enduring painful procedures, nicked bladders, infections, and crazy reactions to pain medications. What if I had a similar experience? What if something went wrong?

But words penned by David, the sweet Psalmist of Israel, gave me every reason to trust, "Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth" (Psalm 46:10, KJV).

Focusing on God and who He is gave me comfort. Reading Scripture wove a beautiful tapestry that showed me the qualities of my Heavenly Father. Characteristics that will never change. He is my:

*refuge (Psalm 46:1)

*strength (Psalm 46:1)

*very present help (Psalm 46:1)

*shelter (Psalm 61:3)

*strong tower (Psalm 61:3)

Each of these graphic nouns pointed to safety. In spite of the unknowns, my security was tied to Christ. No matter the outcome, I could trust God's plan would be accomplished. (Romans 8:28-29).

Familiar verses. I wanted assurance that everything would turn out great. But I needed to look at these verses through a God-filter. My comfort and happiness aren't as important as my Christ-likeness. Sometimes the messes in my life and things I'd label as 'bad', are the very things the Lord uses to make me more like Him.

Having major surgery with an uncertain outcome wasn't something I would have chosen. But I could embrace it knowing the Lord was in control. That His plans were good.

Everything He allows me to experience has been filtered through His hand and is God-approved to conform me to the image of Christ. So by God's grace, I'm choosing trust over fear today.

"Trust in him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us. Selah." (Psalm 62:8).

Your turn

What are you facing today? What step will you take to trust God instead of giving in to fear?

***

Maria I. Morgan is an inspirational writer and speaker. She is the award-winning author of Louie’s BIG day! and the writer of a women’s Bible study, Outrageously Fruitful. Regardless of the age of her audience, her goal is the same: to share God’s truths and make an eternal difference.

Connect with Maria online at her Website, on Facebook, and follow her on Pinterest and Twitter

Learn more about her Bible Study, Outrageously Fruitful:

Society's message is clear: live for yourself. God's message is revolutionary: live for Him and others. This sounds radical, right? We all want love, joy, and peace to saturate our lives. But the Holy Spirit's plan begs us to look beyond our own little world and see His bigger picture. So how do we win the battle against selfishness?

Outrageously Fruitful addresses this question and more. This 10-week study is made up of a series of brief daily lessons that encourage an honest look at current behavior and provide a biblical foundation to rekindle faith and put it into action.

Maria I. Morgan explores the characteristics the Spirit longs to develop within us. A fresh perspective is given of each characteristic, disarming some of today's popular misconceptions:

*Love is a feeling

*Circumstances determine joy

*Absence of conflict is the key to peace

*Why be long suffering? Take the easy way out

*Meekness is the same thing as weakness

*Temperance is outdated: if it feels good do it

Trust God - let go and let Him make your life outrageously fruitful.

Fear is a common, and at times, helpful emotion. But God doesn't want us to live in fear. In Christ, we have been given everything we need to live godly, victorious, and impactful lives! And we want to help give you the tools to do just that. Stay tuned for information on our Bold and Brave Conference! 

We also invite you to join us this month at Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church in Lincoln for our Wholly Loved Conference, because when we live Wholly Loved, everything changes and we're freed to live authentically, as we were created. No more worrying about what others are thinking of us or if we measure up. Simply leaning deeper into Christ as we allow Him to heal, grow, and transform us into the radiant women He created us to be. 

Find out more HERE or email us at contact(at)whollyloved(dot)com to book us for your next women's event. 

Why We Must Learn to Forgive

The deeper the hurt, the harder it can be to forgive, and many times, nothing breaks our heart and initiates a desire to fight back quite like when we see those we love being treated unfairly. We women have a fierce nurturing side, one that can easily leave us vulnerable to bitterness, if we're not careful.

Today our guest author Kristen Terrette shares a time when wounds her daughter experienced cause her Momma Bear to rise up, nearly squelching the love residing in her heart, and how God met her there, showing her a better way--His way.

Why We Must Learn to Forgive

by Kristen Terrette

From an early age, we’re told to offer and ask for forgiveness, but often it’s hard to do so or truly feel this in our hearts.  

In the story of the unmerciful servant found in Matthew 18:21, Peter asks Jesus, “Lord how often should I forgive someone who sins against me?” And then he adds, “Seven times?” (NLT)

I love Peter. He reminds me of myself. I imagine Jesus had a few loving laughs over Peter’s responses and questions the three years they were together. I can see Him smiling at Peter and answering, “Not seven times… but seventy times seven!” (Matthew 18:22 NLT).

Jesus’ makes it clear that forgiveness is always the expected response.

Always.

So why was forgiveness heavy on my heart? A week ago, my middle school-aged daughter found out a student and teammate was spreading a rumor about her. This was a lie, and hurtful to not only her, but to another teammate as well. To make matters more difficult, this was a teammate she’d already had some not-so-happy dealings.

So there I was—an adult, a wife, a mom, a woman in ministry—mad as a hornet about this injustice towards my daughter.

And yet, Proverbs 17:9 says, “Love prospers when a fault is forgiven, but dwelling on it separates close friends.” (NLT) I was suffocating love, the first and greatest commandment from Jesus, and allowing this incident, the UN-forgiveness I was carrying inside my heart, to ruin my whole week. I thought about this rumor constantly, about what I wanted to say to this student, her mother, their coach… I dwelled on the negativity stemming from this.

Proverbs 17:9 put me in my place like only the Scripture can, and I went to God to flush my un-forgiveness from my heart. I went into prayer-mode. I needed to stop fuming and go to Him about it. I needed to tell Him how hurt I was, ask Him to help me get over my anger, and ask Him to help my daughter and her classmate figure out how to move forward.

Job 11:13-16 says, “If only you would prepare your heart and lift up your hands in prayer! Get rid of your sins, and leave all iniquity behind you. Then your face will brighten with innocence. You will be strong and free. You will forget your misery; it will be like water flowing away.” (NLT)

Jesus promises in John 7:38, when we come to Him, “Rivers of living waters will flow from His heart.” (NLT) Prayer bursts open wide this Living Water, so it can flow outward, affecting everyone in its path. It washes all things, brings them back to life, soothes any pain, and removes any stain.

Like Peter, I’m a work-in-progress, and I imagine Jesus has plenty of loving grins over my responses and actions. But after turning to Him in prayer, I felt free again, unbound by the chains of my un-forgiving heart.

Are you trapping His Living Water from flowing outward with your un-forgiving heart? Heed Job’s words. Go to Him and get busy flushing it out.

***

Kristen Terrette has been an avid reader since childhood, a self-confessed book nerd, and always had characters running through her mind- completely made up of course. She went back to school years ago to obtain a Master's degree in Theological Studies because she felt God's tug towards ministry, but she didn't know then what God had in mind.

After five years on staff at her church, she followed God's leading to a different kind of ministry- one with words, love, pain, and real-life characters. She now stays at home during the day while the house is quiet writing stories she hopes will bring readers to a stronger understanding of how God works and His love for sinners like us. She always has contemporary romance characters and plots running through her mind and considers romance her first love...but she has a few literary fiction novels up her sleeve as well. Both genres fight for time occupying her mind.

Visit her online at KristenTerrette.com

You may also find THESE RESOURCES, listed on Christianity Today's website, helpful. 

 

The Truth With the Power to Change Everything

by Chaka Heinze

When fears and insecurities threaten to paralyze me, one truth prevails.

Too often I forget the truth that first saved me. The truth that made me whole, changed my identity, forgave my sins, rebuked my shame, reclaimed my self-worth, renewed my hope, and filled me with child-like joy.

Jesus loves me.

There’s such power in those words.

Children accept with unquestioning innocence the lyrics “Jesus loves me,” and if you ask them how they know, they might respond with the rest of the verse, “for the Bible tells me so.”

The past couple of weeks have been challenging. I’ve mourned my shortcomings as a mom as I parent a strong-willed ten-year-old, and a teenager exerting his independence. I’ve lamented my physical limitations, my need to budget my time to manage responsibilities with my limited energy and a propensity for migraines. I’ve struggled through the gray days when my SADS (Seasonal Affective Disorder) dims my mind to happy thoughts. And I’ve fought my fears: Do I have the strength to do this? Am I enough? Did God pick the right person?

All those issues can lurk malevolently in the background of my mind, but recently they decided to launch a united, frontal assault on my brain. The stress I felt left me feeling helpless to organize, plan, and act. In other words, my anxiety affected my ability to function.

One night I went to bed with the pressures of the day heavy on my heart, and I searched to find God in any of it. I was busy sifting through my circumstances and deeds to find some way that I might have pleased Him or some way I could see His love for me in the middle of my hardship, and the truth came to my mind like a whisper:

Jesus loves me.

With that thought, I was miraculously changed. The oppressive burden was lifted. The darkness scurried away. The truth once again set me free.

Too often we allow that truth to live only on the lips of children. We don’t claim the freedom, power, and security of knowing that the one who formed the universe and purposefully knit us together, loves us. These words are not trite, dated, or empty. Walking every day, every moment beneath the shelter of Jesus’ unconditional love is powerful protection against the attacks from within and without.

Remembering that “Jesus loves me” didn’t make me a perfect mom, but it reminded me that I’m His masterful work in progress, and I can’t ever drive Him away.

Jesus loves me didn’t completely erase my physical limitations, but it gave me the security to know that what I offer up to Him will be enough.

It doesn’t remove mental bombardment from SADS, but it assures me of my value regardless of what my darker emotions might say.

It didn’t answer all the “how tos” or provide me with a blueprint for organizing my schedule and maximizing my efficiency, but it restored my peace of mind so that I could get moving again.

I don’t have all the answers, but what I do have I offer you. Jesus loves you too.

Can you rest a moment in that truth? Can you consider how it might change your feelings toward yourself if you allowed yourself to accept it? Can you imagine the freedom you might feel if you realized that His love is not tied to your performance or your perfection? Can you fathom what it might be like to have the one who knows the stars by name and has the power to create with a mere word or thought on your side?

Jesus loves me, and Jesus loves you. Such a simple statement, but one that has the power to change everything if we let it.

When we live wholly loved, absolutely everything changes. Our fears are soothed by God's power and grace, our deepest wounds begin to heal, and we're freed to live, to rest, in who we are in Christ. No more worrying about whether we measure up. No more feeling like we have to have all the answers or do everything right. Simply leaning deeper into Christ and resting in His grace as we allow Him to mold us into the treasured masterpieces He created us to be (Eph. 2:10).

Join us for the next Wholly Loved Conference to learn how to rest in the Christ's love, to embrace and live out your immutable purpose, and to discover then celebrate why your uniqueness, quirks and all, is all part of God's glorious and beautiful plan.

Visit our Events Page to find out more or email us at contact(at)whollyloved(dot)com to find out more. 

Fighting Against Guilt

“Too many Christians are more readily aware of the absence of God than they are of the presence of God, and they are more aware of sin than they are of grace.” ~ C.J. Mahaney, Humility: True Greatness

It's one thing to feel convicted; it's another to become consumed by guilt. The first can spark a Spirit-infused inspiration to change. The latter enslaves us in negative, self-defeating thinking. 

Today devotional writer Susan Aken shares the difference and how we can break free from guilt. Read her thoughts then share yours!

Fighting Against Guilt

by Susan Aken

 My failures weigh heavy on my soul like a blanket suffocating me. I can’t measure up to anyone. Others are more loving, kind, giving, and joyful. When I observe other Christians, thoughts like these bombard me:

 “You’ve wasted so much of your life!” 

“You call yourself a Christian; look at all the people you’ve ignored!”

“What do you have to show for yourself?”

“Have you made any progress?”

Overwhelmed with negativity one morning, as I was getting in the car, the song “Greater” by MercyMe came to mind.  The lyrics expressing how God, within me, is greater than he who lives in the world, resounded. I turned on the car and those exact lyrics were playing on the radio!

Some would say this was a coincidence but as a believer, I’ve learned when something like this happens, God is giving me a message. Later that day, I shared my struggles with a friend.

She said, “That’s the enemy! God doesn’t talk to us like that.”

A light came on in my heart and I remembered the song. Reading the lyrics, I realized I was under attack. The enemy was filling my heart with accusations! But the blood of Jesus Christ has covered my sin! “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that He lavished on us” (Ephesians 1:7-8a NIV).

I wish I could say I had victory from then on, but the enemy doesn’t take a vacation. He looks for an opportune time when we let our guard down ... then strikes. He mixes in enough truth to bring us to our knees. It’s true that I struggle with pride, selfishness, laziness, and jealousy. But, I’m no longer under condemnation! The grace of Jesus is always there.  When I’m off track, I confess and ask His help. God never prompts me to give up because of my sin.

He calls me to repent and keep going.

The Holy Spirit will convict a specific sin and call us to repent, but He doesn’t oppress us with guilt, a feeling of failure, or condemnation. We need to grieve over sin, but not wallow in gloom. We humble ourselves, confess, and move on in joy.

When you’re attacked, feeling condemned and overwhelmed by your weaknesses, call out to Jesus.

If you feel that conviction, but you’ve never given your heart to Christ, know this truth from Romans 10:9: “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (NIV).

Once you are His, Jesus said, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.” When we sin, He promises in 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

Once He cleanses us, our sins are wiped away.

If you’re a believer and feel convicted of sin, confess it and move on. If there’s a sense of condemnation and accusation, that’s the enemy! Resist him! “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7 NIV). Meditate on the truth of Scripture. Spend time praising God. “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit has set you free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:1-2 NIV).

Susan Aken is a homemaker, substitute teacher and writer. She lives in Nebraska but was born and raised in Oklahoma. Her greatest love is for the Lord Jesus Christ who has redeemed her and set her free. Her other loves are her husband and son (she is now an empty nester). Susan enjoys reading, photography, spending time with family and friends and writing. She has a heart for prayer ministry and loves her church! Visit her online at Soaring With Butterfly Wings and check out her devotional HERE

Let's talk about this! 

Guilt defeats, discourages, enslaves, and, left unchecked, can completely paralyze us! But God calls us to growth and freedom. John 8:36 says, "So if you Son sets you free, you will be free indeed" (NIV).

The trick is learning to live and walk in that freedom!

We want to help you do just that, because when we live wholly loved, everything changes.

Join us for one of our upcoming conferences to learn how to live in God's incredible, freeing love for you. Find out more HERE!

And stay tuned to hear about our next conference, Bold and Brave, where women will learn how to live in freedom and grab hold of the abundant life God promised to all believers. 

Email us at contac(at)whollyloved(dot)com to find out more or to book us for your next women's event.