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obedience

The Cost and Blessing of Obedience

Woman sitting on a dock gazing skyward with text pulled from blog post.

When have you heard God’s voice most clearly? When have you most felt His presence? During a time of strength and blessing, or perhaps when life hit hard, you faced a challenging assignment, and you felt ill-equipped and insecure?

Obedience rarely comes easily, but it can lead to the sweetest, most fulfilling blessing–increased intimacy with our Savior.

Consider the introverted, stammering Hebrew named Moses–the man who fled his homeland after what appeared to be a life-altering moral failure–murder. Long gone were the priestly robes he wore while roaming the Pharoah’s palace. Gone also were any dreams of grandeur he may once have entertained. By the time he encountered God one day, through a bush that burned without being consumed, he’d settled into a new way of life. A humble yet peaceful way of life.

God changed everything with one command: Go. Rescue my people from oppression and lead them to a land I’ve long promised.

This so wasn’t what he’d asked for. In fact, he’d debated God, explaining all the reasons he wasn’t the man, begging God to send anyone else. Someone more confident, with more authority, who didn’t stumble over their words or get tongue tied.

God refuted his protests, making it clear, He’d chosen Moses to free the Hebrews—a rebellious, grumbling, stiff-necked people—from oppression and bring them to a place of rest.

This was not the assignment Moses wanted. He was content where he was. He had a family, community, and a shepherding job that had to feed his introverted heart.

But God persisted, and he obeyed.

Fast forward two months. Moses’s assignment had proven profoundly more difficult than he’d feared. Shortly after God had miraculously liberated His people from Egyptian oppression, they forsook Him for gods fashioned from gold—the very gold God had provided.

God’s response: I’m done.

He’d step back from His people, sending His angel to lead them instead. (Ex. 32:33-33:3)

Those protests Moses began his assignment with had to be flooding his brain on replay. Yet, he remained, and Image of Jennifer sitting near the fireplace with text pulled from postin the middle of the hard, beauty unfolded. In desperation, Moses cried out to God, and that was exactly what he received—God Himself.

Isn’t that what our hearts long for most? To encounter God intimately, as not just our ruler, but one in whom we can confide. A friend who knows us deeply and who always has our best in mind? The One who confides in His children. (Ps. 25:14).

Obedience often comes with a cost, but it also comes with a priceless blessing—intimacy with our Creator.

What is God asking of you? How does knowing your obedience paves the way to close, unhindered friendship with Christ encourage you to surrender?

Oftentimes, obedience feels scary and involves risk. But Christ has given us the courage and strength to obey with boldness and bravery, whatever the situation. Join us for our next Bold and Brave Conference to learn how to overcome fear with faith and embrace the life God has for you. Visit Bethany Elkhorn’s website to learn more, and register before Sept. 22nd to snatch their early bird discount.

Contact Jennifer HERE to book the Wholly Loved speakers for your next women’s event.

Faith

The Power of Promise

Image of women with sunrise behind her and text pulled from postOur word is only as good as our follow through, but as our guest today points out, despite our best intentions, you and I will fall short eventually. But that doesn’t mean all hope is lost. To the contrary, only serve to reveal a hope beyond us and every disappointment we face or create.

The Power of a Promise

By Tara Johnson

“I would never hurt you.”

“I promise I’ll clean my room, Mom.”

“I’ll stay in touch.”

“The check is in the mail.”

“My diet starts tomorrow.”

“I’ll pray for you.”

“I won’t do it again.”

I’ve heard hundreds of promises. I’ve made hundreds more. I’m a mom who likes to believe my word is my bond, but in truth, I’ve failed my children. Probably many times over.

Part of the problem with making promises is we guarantee things we have no control over. I may promise to arrive at a certain time, but I have no way to know about the wreck on the interstate that will back up traffic and inevitably delay me. I may fully intend to return a phone call, but a sick child throws a kink in the daily’s schedule. I guarantee a day of outside fun for my children until a thunderstorm rolls in.

Control is an illusion. We can’t promise what we don’t have.

Many of us are seek security, yearn for one steady place amid the chaos. We put our hopes in people that will ultimately let us down because they’re human, like us. On the flip side, we’re so desperate to create stability for others that we guarantee things we can’t possibly fulfill, despite our desires.

As many of us know, a broken promise can equal a broken heart.

The One who keeps the universe spinning is the only one able to make and fulfill all His promises. When God makes a vow, it’s asTwo friends sitting beneath a starry sky with text of quote pulled from post good as done. “Every word of God proves true; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him” (Proverbs 30:5, ESV).

The power of a promise is in the character of the promise giver. To put it another way, guarantees are only as strong as the person who gives them.

“Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?” (Jeremiah 32:27, ESV).

“I will not violate my covenant or alter the word that went forth from My lips” (Psalm 89:34, ESV)

Some of God’s promises are conditional and some are not.

Adding them all up, the closest count is 3,573 vows God has made to His children. These promises sit on the unshakeable foundation of Who He is, not who we are. Isn’t that good news?

I don’t second guess God nearly as much as I did when I was younger. Why? Because he’s proven himself over and over again. When I read His Word, I know the vow is already completed.

My security rests in Him.

Let’s talk about this! Is there a particular promise God’s made that brings you comfort? How does knowing God’s promises rest on His faithfulness not ours give you peace? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, and make sure to visit us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for inspirational messages and images.

Get to know Tara!

Tara Johnson's author photoTara 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.

Tara 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, her husband, and children live in Arkansas.

Visit her on her website, Facebook, and follow her on Instagram.

cover image for Engraved on the HeartCheck out her debut release, Engraved on the Heart:

Reluctant debutante Keziah Montgomery lives beneath the weighty expectations of her staunch Confederate family, forced to keep her epilepsy secret for fear of a scandal. As the tensions of the Civil War arrive on their doorstep in Savannah, Keziah sees little cause for balls and courting. Despite her discomfort, she cannot imagine an escape from her familial confines-until her old schoolmate Micah shows her a life-changing truth that sets her feet on a new path . . . as a conductor in the Underground Railroad.

Dr. Micah Greyson never hesitates to answer the call of duty, no matter how dangerous, until the enchanting Keziah walks back into his life and turns his well-ordered plans upside down. Torn between the life he has always known in Savannah and the fight for abolition, Micah struggles to discern God’s plan amid such turbulent times.

Battling an angry fianci, a war-tattered brother, bounty hunters, and their own personal demons, Keziah and Micah must decide if true love is worth the price . . . and if they are strong enough to survive the unyielding pain of war.

Buy link it HERE!

Hardships and Trials, wisdom

Wisdom to Survive Trials Well

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His sons, dead. His land, devoured by fire and thieves. His body, covered in painful sores. Most people who hear the name Job assume his story is about overcoming intense suffering. We use it as a beacon of hope in our times of trial. But I see a more important idea emerging from the pages. A story of humble pie.

Job certainly had reason to be upset, but he aimed his mistrust in the wrong direction. Like we tend to do during hard times, he started to wonder if God was good, if He cared, or if He was just plain cruel. Basically, Job wondered if God knew what He was doing.

And now my soul is poured out within me; days of affliction have taken hold of me… God has cast me into the mire, and I have become like dust and ashes. I cry to You for help and You do not answer me; I stand, and You only look at me. You have turned cruel to me; with the might of Your hand You persecute me. You lift me up on the wind; you make me ride on it, and You toss me about in the roar of the storm” (Job 30:16,19-22 ESV).

Job let his suffering shape his view of God instead of trusting God in his suffering. I’ve been guilty of this too. When lost in grief following miscarriages, I wondered if I could really trust God anymore. Didn’t He see my pain? Worse, if He saw my pain, why did He continue to let me suffer? I started to think I knew better than God, which made me bitter and left me grasping for control.

But somewhere in the middle of the trial, I surrendered my pain to Jesus. I decided to trust His will for my life and accept that He really did want what was best for me, even if that involved a season of hurt.

I think that’s why Job’s story is important to reflect upon. Not because everything turns out great for him in the end, but because difficulties will come, but we can choose now to trust in God’s wisdom instead of our own limited view.

I look back on my season of loss, as backwards as it sounds, I am grateful for it. Without AndreaQuote3Ins9-3that hard time, I would not have sought a relationship with God. I would’ve missed out on Jesus and all the love and joy that came through a life spent with Him.

God knew wholeness would come when all I could see was brokenness. He could see the end when I could only see the next minute.

Job put it this way once he regained a little faith: “From where, then, does wisdom come? And where is the place of understanding? It is hidden from the eyes of all living and concealed from the birds of the air…God understands the way to it, and He knows its place. For He looks to the ends of the earth and sees everything under the heavens…then He saw it and declared it; He established it, and searched it out. And He said to man, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding’” (28:20-28 ESV).

Coming near to Jesus is the key to wisdom. Meanwhile relying on ourselves will cause more problems than good. Job couldn’t lead himself out of suffering, nor could I, nor can you. We need our God for that.

In our hardest moments when we wonder where God is and if He’s still in control, let’s remind our doubting hearts that His way is best. Our God sees everything under the heavens including our need, so we needn’t worry. Instead, hold onto him with all we’ve got. And then hold on a little more.

fear

When Others Deem Our Actions Foolish

author image with text pulled from post

Sometimes the best choices are the hardest to make. Sometimes wisdom appears foolish and faith fanatical. As a young mother striving to live for Jesus, I quickly learned just how contrary the things of God can appear to some.

When I chose to stay home, some deemed me lazy.

When I attempted to follow the Holy Spirit’s guidance and guard our daughter’s influences, I was accused of sheltering her. I was told my actions would ultimately harm her and leave her maladjusted.

My attempts to explain, or perhaps more accurately, to defend my choice, didn’t help. My discussion of God’s leading—of His gentle voice, spoken softly yet clearly to my heart—and the deep assurance that followed made no sense to those who had never heard Him or hadn’t learned to discern His voice.

Perhaps some even found me delusional:

“She claims to hear from God,” they say, with a raised eyebrow and slight smirk. “Does she talk to the Easter Bunny too?”

Over time, I learned to be a little more cautious regarding what I shared and with whom. And honestly, I hate that. I hate that I so often allow other people’s opinions to hold me back. I wish, like Paul, I could boldly and consistently say, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes …” (Romans 1:16, ESV) and then back this up with my actions.

I’ve been ridiculed by my peers. He’d been imprisoned for his faith. I’d stood against cultural opposition to raise our daughter. He stood against the religious elite and angry mobs. I’ve been excluded from certain groups due to my “passion for Jesus”, but he’d been smuggled out of Berea in order to save his life.

There’s a lot of reasons I could give for why, at times, sharing the gospel makes my stomach knot and my palms text image using quote pulled from postget sweaty, and yet, in each instance, it comes down to this—whenever I stifle God’s message within, I’m putting my pride above someone else’s salvation.

When I look at it that way, my concerns and fears seem petty at best.

I imagine Paul felt as I have, on many occasions. Otherwise why the need to make such a bold and declarative statement—for I am not ashamed. Unless maybe he’d been tempted to feel ashamed in the past—perhaps when mobs of angry people shook their fists at him, spit on him, and hurled stones at him. Or perhaps others, maybe even believers in Rome, had demonstrated that they were ashamed of him. Or maybe he was simply stating a fact with all the courage the Holy Spirit allowed—I am not ashamed! No matter what others say, no matter how foolish or irrational my words appeared, I choose to speak life.

Even if it costs me mine.

Lord, help me have that same confidence Paul demonstrated again and again, regardless how others respond or how unpopular Your message appears. Because life’s too short and there’s too much at stake for any of Your children to remain silent.

Life’s much too short and Your love for the broken too strong for any of us, Your mouthpieces, to live afraid.

To the contrary! As ambassadors of the sovereign King, we can walk into any and every situation with our heads held high, our voices sure, and our message clear: “I am not ashamed, and I refuse to be, because the words I speak have power and life.”

Let’s talk about this! When has obedience caused you to look foolish in the moment or left you misunderstood? How did you gain the courage to step forward in faith? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage each other. And make sure to engage with us on Facebook and Instagram where we post daily snippets of encouragement!

Relationships

Our Innate Need for Community

Quote from Rick Warren with background of friends

God doesn’t want anyone to be alone, and I’m not going to disappoint Him.”

That’s a powerful quote from my grandmother, something she said to my mother when she was a child. They apply, among other things, to how we do life with others, especially our brothers and sisters in Christ.

God made us to come together and worship Him. Scripture reveals the importance of church community on every page! God wants us to live together and learn from, as well as teach, one another.

Christ-centered relationships, together in a community or church, were instituted by God.

Jesus is the foundation of church. (1 Peter2:5-7)

Paul helped spread it. (Acts 9:20)

And intended for us to continue it.

Once we accept Jesus as our Savior, He longs for us to do more than simply set foot inside a building, commonly known as a church, to worship Him on Christmas and Easter. Or, maybe, to do more than never set foot in one at all.

Let me be clear in how I define church. It’s a group of believers in an environment who seek to grow in their relationship with, and their understanding of, Jesus through many ways including music, prayer, discussion, and/or listening to a message.

This can be a small group held in a home or coffee shop, or a formal service in a traditional or contemporary setting. It can take place in a small or stadium-sized space, or any time and any day. Scripture shows church as place where people are gathered together to praise and learn about God.

Notice the use of we, us, and our in these verses:

“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken [heaven], let us be thankful, and so worship God with acceptable reverence and awe” (Hebrews 12:28).

“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name” (Hebrews 13:15).

“Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker …” (Psalm 95:6).

According to the gospels, Jesus gave sermons to thousands. He allowed groups to gather around Him as He revealed Scripture. I’m sure these people grew stronger in their faith and leaned on each other in hard times—like when their very lives were threatened after Jesus’ death and resurrection.

The Apostle Paul, the accepted writer of two-thirds of the New Kristen speaker image and quoteTestament, elaborated on this, mostly in letters he wrote to churches. He loved to use phrases like, “Brothers and sisters” and “Dear Friends” when addressing first century believers. In Acts 9:15, we’re told he wanted his ministry companions to join him as soon as possible. They, his friends, were needed by the great Apostle. In Acts 2:42-47 we read an account of some of the first groups of Christians, known as a fellowship of believers.

The question is why? Why is doing ministry together better? I believe God uses us to help and grow each other. To pray for, meet a need for, to celebrate an answered prayer with one another.

God designed us to live in community, to never be alone, as my grandmother might say, in our journey on earth and with Him. In order to live this out, and using the Bible as our example, we must prioritize our time with other believers. We must walk alongside them and help each other worship Jesus and learn about Him.

Where do you stand? Are you heeding God’s call to remain connected with other Christians?

We’ve found, often it’s our fear of rejection that isolates us from each other. But God didn’t create us to live in fear! In Christ, He’s given us everything we need to live Bold and Brave! Join us for one of our upcoming Bold and Brave conferences to gain tools that will help you develop deep community and walk in freedom. Find our more HERE.

Want us to come to you? Contact us HERE to find out about hosting your own Wholly Loved event or inviting one of our speakers to join you for your next women’s event.

Cover image for Wholly Loved giveaway devotionalIf 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. Plus, when you sign up, as our way of thanking you for your support, we’ll send you a free 30-day devotional (ebook). You can sign up HERE. (If you sign up and don’t receive a welcome email with a link to the free download, please contact us HERE.)

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.

Related resource: Included in Christ: Living a New Story From Ephesians by Heather Holleman