Living loved

Listening for God

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My eyes popped open. Did anyone else hear that? To my relief, all heads were still bowed in prayer. Good thing—then no one would notice the tears that gently slid down my face as I struggled to keep it together. My heart pounded. God had just spoken to me for the first time.

I’d experienced my Heavenly Father’s magnificent voice, and I wanted more.

Because God first spoke to me in the context of worship, I anticipated that again. It made sense that I would hear from Him in church—His house, where everything was about Him, and where He had my undivided attention. However, as week after week of worship passed with no divine encounter, I began to feel discouraged.

Was that it—the one and only time I’d hear from God?

But, something deep within knew differently, and numerous verses in the Bible indicate otherwise:

“and when you turn to the right hand, and when you turn to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way. Walk in it.”” (Isaiah 30:21)

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27)

And even though I was relatively new to the concepts of Christianity, I knew that God desired a relationship with me. How could I have an intimate connection with someone if we didn’t speak regularly? I have ongoing communication with family members and close friends, so why should it be any different with God?

Then, I had get painfully honest with myself. If I know someone well, I can identify them simply by their voice. Could I do that with God? The way He spoke to me the first time was undeniable, but would it always be like that? Did I know my Heavenly Father well enough, through reading and studying His Word, to be certain I’d recognize His voice again?

christa-quote-listening-7-16iIt was clear that I needed to adjust my thinking. I’d made worship the exclusive place where I could experience God, assuming I had to physically go to church to encounter His presence. My attitude was an ignorant. “Ok, God, I’m here. Talk to me”I was limiting a limitless God, expecting Him to show up when, where, and how I wanted like an actor responding to their cue. Thankfully, God is much bigger than the confines of my expectations.

I wondered how many times I’d missed opportunities to connect with my Heavenly Father, because I was too busy looking for Him elsewhere—how many times I’d drowned out His still, small voice with the clanging of my own demands.

So, I quieted my soul, let go of expectations, and asked God to speak to me. I also began to dig into my Bible. Pretty soon, I started to hear Him. Sometimes it was a clear, resonating sound within—leading, guiding, affirming, or correcting me. Other times, it was small and sweet—a whisper to remind me He was near, a verse from Scripture that jumped off the page as I read, or worship lyrics that continually ran through my head. I felt Him speak to me through creation, heard Him when others’ words sparked something inside of me, and experienced His presence in ways that are simply too difficult to articulate.

As my relationship with God blossoms, I marvel and rejoice that the Creator of heaven and earth desires for us to be in constant communion with Him. He doesn’t need us, but he wants us—to be close enough to rest assured that we are known, seen, heard, held, and above all, loved.

Let’s talk about it! Do you hear God regularly, or is it a struggle to decipher His voice above the noise of life? What can you do today to draw closer to Him and position your heart to listen?

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Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION(R), NIV(R) Copyright (c) 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. (R) Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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Freedom Through Surrender — Video Devotion


 

“I give up!”

The word surrender often makes us think of defeat and failure, right? But what if I told you surrender can mean victory…even freedom?

As a toddler, my mantra was, “I can do it myself!” Unfortunately, I carried that attitude into adulthood. I wanted to be in control and live my way, on my terms. To me, that was freedom—not being dictated by anything or anyone …certainly not God.

But my perceived liberty was a lie.

We were created with an innate longing—to be seen, known and loved. I now know only God can fulfill that desire. But, for years I tried to satisfy the craving with things the world promised would bring contentment. I just needed the right —job, relationship, house, clothes, physique, whatever—and then I’d be happy. Such pursuits, though, tethered me to them…enslaved me. I gave my all, but one by one, each accomplishment and item failed to live up to my expectations, or left me exhausted, living with regret. Ultimately asking: Is this all there is to life? I constantly felt restless and unsatisfied, like something was missing

I finally discovered what I was missing—the most important thing in life, the foundation that gives everything else in my life meaning and purpose. God.

Not the God I’d misunderstood for so long…the distant, controlling dictator. But, the One who “fearfully and wonderfully made” each of us for a specific purpose. The God who sees us—knows us better than we know ourselves—and loves us so much that He sent His Son, Jesus, in the greatest love story ever told—to rescue, to free us from bondage to a broken world.

“Surrender” has never been so victorious as the day I gave up serving myself and this world and placed my life in Jesus’ precious, nail-scarred hands. The day I discovered that living in His love is where true freedom is found.

Are you living free? Lay down your pride and fears today and run to Jesus, as you learn to live Wholly Loved.

Video Devotion

Conflict Resolution Through Humble Reconciliation–Video Devotion

“I LOVE conflict!” said no one ever. But, I’ve found out the hard way that evading relational disagreements is worse. The problem will keep growing, expanding, and festering until one day, “BANG!”, it explodes.

Sadly, we have to face the fact that conflict is unavoidable.

God designed us to be in relationship with Him, and with others, and for those connections to be deeply rewarding. But, because of sin, our relationships don’t function perfectly, do they? Friendships can go from marvelous to messy in an instant when we say or do something that hurts other’s feelings, or our friend does the same to us.

Because confrontation is ridiculously uncomfortable, when that happens, we may want to avoid one another, or pretend like nothing happened, which isn’t healthy. Of course, a worse option would be to vent on social media. That’s definitely not a good idea!

We know God desires reconciliation, but how do we make this happen?

The first thing I do is breathe and give myself some distance to think clearly. A response in the heat of the moment may indulge my feelings, but it’s not necessarily what God wants me to say or do. Then, I pray.

Matthew 5:9 says “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (ESV).

How can I be a peacemaker, God? His answer is always humility. In a humbled posture before God, I’m able set aside my desires, admit my inability to restore the situation alone, and ask for His for help. Help to see my own faults and shortcomings and how I may have contributed to the issue. Help in knowing when to talk to my friend, what words to say, for the strength to be a good listener and the grace to forgive. Above all, I ask that His love will prevail, and that He can be glorified in the situation.

Do you need to make peace with someone? God wants to help you. Humble yourself at His feet and allow His love to guide you as you learn to live Wholly Loved.

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Relationships

Beautiful, Messy Friendship

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I was that woman. The outgoing one who could talk to anyone, made friends easily and was comfortable being herself. I couldn’t relate to the fear so many women felt in stepping out to make a new friend. What was the big deal?

Then came the friendship that changed it all.

I thought we were on the same page regarding our relationship—good friends. She was also sure we were on the same page—best friends. I started to feel claustrophobic. Do you see the train wreck coming? Once I realized what was going on, I attempted to do the wise thing (NOT!) and avoid conflict by backing away slowly. No surprise—that didn’t work. Once we finally had the hard conversation, our relationship was beyond repairable. I felt absolutely awful for wounding her so deeply—I never intended to hurt her! Further, I bound myself up in regret for not handling the situation with more maturity.

Suddenly, I understood the apprehension to initiate friendship.

Feeling the pain of a relationship gone wrong, I could grasp the idea that maybe it was better to be alone than to open myself up to another emotional trauma. Who needs friends anyway?! But, we weren’t designed to live in isolation. God Himself lives in community—in constant communion with Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Since He created us in His image, we’re also meant to live in relationship—with Him and others. (I realize there are many introverts who just cringed.) Remember in Genesis 2:18 when God said, “It’s not good for man to be alone”? That’s why long stretches of time without meaningful contact with others feels so incredibly lonely—so wrong. We are supposed to live together—as marvelous, mundane, or messy as that may be.

Sadly, it wasn’t long after Creation before sin fractured the harmonious, beautiful relationships God intended. And, we’ve been doing a bang-up job of carrying on that tradition ever since—hence the fate of my friendship. Which leaves us at a crossroads—if it’s clear God doesn’t want us to be alone, but sin assures we’ll screw up our relationships, how are we supposed to proceed?

With God.

In His amazing ability to work everything for good, God used my unfortunate experience for growth. He helped me see that I’d been relying on my own wisdom and strength in friendship. Trusting that God wouldn’t give us an innate desire to be with others without also providing guidance, I dug into the Bible to discover what He said about friendship.

WL-blogProv17-17-BScripture offers advice about choosing friends (1 Cor. 15:33), the faithfulness of companions (Proverbs 17:17), establishing boundaries (Proverbs 25:17), and how we can help each other grow (Proverbs 27:17). But, God’s Word also allows us to emotionally experience stories of loyalty and compassion (Ruth and Naomi, David and Jonathan), as well as painful moments of betrayal, abandonment and rejection in friendship (David, Jesus, Paul).

Scripture reveals that you’re not alone if you’ve been blessed by a deep, abiding friendship. Praise God today for that precious gift! Nor are you alone if you’ve been betrayed or hurt and are fearful to expose your heart again. Marinate in the truth that God will never leave you or forsake you. He is your refuge and strength. Allow your heart to remember the hurts of your past just long enough to learn, grow and heal, but not so long that you begin to dwell in regret, anger, or fear. Then, soaked in divine wisdom and strength, move forward in faith…with God.

Let’s talk about it! How have friendships, whether good or bad, shaped who you are today?

If you enjoyed today’s post, would like more inspirational content sent directly to your inbox, and want to stay up-to-date regarding what’s new with us, make sure to sign up for our free quarterly e-mailing. You can do that HERE. 

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Fear of rejection, Video Devotion

Moving Past Fear of Rejection–Video Devotion


We were best friends, and then we weren’t. It was as simple as that. My friend’s mom decided I wasn’t popular enough for her daughter, so we could no longer be friends. As an adult, I see that the situation had nothing to do with me—it was about serious issues with my friend’s mom. But at the time, all I felt was…. rejected.

The pain my middle-school heart felt cut deep. This was personal. I was rejected because of who I was—or rather, who I wasn’t. My young mind—not mature enough to handle the emotional complexity of the situation—concluded I wasn’t good enough. In fact, I felt worthless.

That experience brought my confident, self-assured childhood to a screeching halt. From that day forward, I was different. I desperately wanted to prevent the pain of rejection again, so I guarded my heart in relationships, and avoided situations where I might be told “You didn’t make the team”, or “You’re not right for the job.” I strived to prove my worth through hard work, surmising that I wouldn’t be discarded if I was useful. And, I pridefully elevated myself to positions of authority so I couldn’t be eliminated.

Jesus knew deep rejection. Isaiah 53:3 says, “He was despised and rejected”—that “we turned our backs on him and looked the other way.” Yet, He never wavered—He knew who and whose He was. (NIV)

After inviting Jesus into my heart, I saw that my fear of rejection stemmed from being dependent on the world to define my worth and identity. I was horribly afraid to be rejected because it forced me to come face to face with my deepest fear … that I lacked value.

I overcame that fear by recognizing that my identity and worth are found in Christ, and that I’m God’s created daughter. Nothing God creates is worthless. And should I ever forget, His love letter to me—the Bible—reminds me.

What causes you to fear rejection? Bring it into the healing light of God’s truth today, as you learn to live Wholly Loved.

Translation used: NIV

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