Identity in Christ

Moving Past Self-Doubt — Video Devotion

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surrender

Fighting Enslaving Behaviors by Leaning Into Jesus

Flower image with quote pulled from post.

Though I trusted in Christ for salvation as a child, you never would’ve believed this, had you encountered me in my young adult years.

It was like I’d grabbed hold of the fringes of eternal life but not the full expression of it.

I had a tainted, partial view of God. I saw Him as lofty, for sure. The One who not only set the rules but had every right to do so. I also knew I didn’t deserve the gift of grace He’d given me. In fact, I felt so undeserving, I was certain that was how He viewed me as well. As if He tolerated me on occasion but was mostly disappointed.

He certainly had cause to be. I wasn’t living anything like my Bible said I should. I went to church on Sunday and Bible study on Tuesday then got drunk with my friends on Friday. I took my daughter to playdates and acted like a responsible and emotionally stable adult. Then, while my husband and daughter slept, I spent the quiet night hours binging and purging in a desperate attempt to fill all my empty places inside.

I was trying to live the Christian life in my own strength, apart from Jesus, and I was failing miserably. Each night, I’d promise God the next day I’d do better, only to find myself falling into the same self-destructive behaviors.

Then one day, I stumbled upon Jesus’ response to temptation. You may be familiar with the story. Scripture tells us the Spirit led Him into the wilderness where He was bombarded, again and again, by the forces of darkness. Yet, He remained strong. Unshakable. Victorious. As I read Matthew 4:1-11 and all the ways Christ engaged in a more intense spiritual battle than you and I ever will, it was as if He were holding His hand out to me, saying, “Come on. Watch what I do. Follow Me.”

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So I began to do just that. I started to look at my faith differently; less about what I needed to do or not do and more about what God wanted me to learn. My first and most important lesson—discovering who He was. Gaining full knowledge of His love and glory, because only then could I truly live in Him.

In John 14, shortly before His death, Jesus spoke to His disciples. He left them final instructions regarding a rather overwhelming assignment—launching His church during a time of intense persecution. This by a group of men who, in a few short hours would abandon Him. In other words, individuals who, like me, were nowhere near strong or wise enough for the task.

But Jesus said to them, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; Believe also in Me.” In fact, He used the word believe six times in the span of fourteen verses. “Believe not in yourself or your might or plans but in Me,” Jesus said (paraphrased).

Jesus' invitation: Believe not in yourself or your might or your plans but in Me. Click To Tweet

As I fought against old behavior patterns, it was as if Jesus was saying the same to me. “I have so much more for you, Jennifer. I’ll show you precisely what that is, in due time. But today, believe in Me. Lean on Me, and learn from Me. (Matthew 11:28). We’ll take this journey together.”

Woman on swing with quote from post.

That was just under twenty years ago, and I’m grateful to say, Christ conquered each one of those enslaving habits and more as He’s molded me, slowly but steadily, into His image. This transformation hasn’t been quick or easy, but it’s been freeing and sure.

He’ll do the same for you.

Host Wholly Loved Ministries’ Fully Alive conference and learn how to move from striving and merely surviving to thriving, and visit Jennifer online at her weekly devotional blog found HERE. Check out her latest book release HERE.

 

freedom, Hardships and Trials

Freedom From the Ink-Stained Life

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Picture a white sheet of paper, alive with the promise of a great story only to have a well of ink splatter and spread all over its page.  What starts as a small blob, seeps through fiber by fiber, expanding to whatever it touches. This was how my life, prior to Jesus, felt to me.  What started out as insecurities and naivety turned into unhealthy relationships, self loathing, and destructive living.

I’ve watched my kids draw countless pictures, make a mistake, then ball the page up and toss throw it away. This is where I felt my worth had landed. It resided deep inside, haunting me, telling me this ruined piece of paper would never amount to much.

Trying to live free from the shame on my own didn’t help. That was like trying to flatten a crumpled paper into its once flawless state.

What does work? Jesus. He took my mistakes, my failures, my regrets and paid for them with His death on the cross. When we choose to follow Jesus, God never holds our past against us nor keeps lists of our wrongs, because as far as He’s concerned we’re made new.God never holds our past against us nor keeps lists of our wrongs because as far as He’s concerned we’re made new. Click To Tweet

But like my kids with their drawings, I will still mess up. I’ll lose my temper with my family and friends. I won’t always use my time effectively, and I’ll act selfishly. It’s hard not to get down on myself daily, or have a recurring feeling of failure. However, I forget that being a follower of Jesus doesn’t exempt me from being human. I may still have sinful behavioral patterns, but my Father gives me an unending supply of His mercy that grants me the ability to start new every day.

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It seems too good to be true, but it isn’t. When we are in Christ, we are a fresh piece of white paper, pulled straight from the ream, ready for a new story, a new destiny, authored and empowered by the One who is calling you live fully in His grace.

What will your story be? Grab hold of His promise that, in Christ, you are made new every day, seen through the lens of who He designed you to be. Take out your pen and let Him lead the way.

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If you haven’t asked God for forgiveness of your sins yet and haven’t experienced the life changing power of being made new in Him, we would love to talk with you! Leave a comment or send us your info through our contact page.

 

Faith

In God’s Wisdom — Of Greater Consequence Than What We Do Today

Woman walking on planked walkway with quote pulled from text

I have a tendency to focus on all the problems and opportunities in front of me. To plan and plot and scheme and strive. But I’m learning, God is more concerned with what is going on within me than anything going on around me.

God is more concerned with what's going on within me than anything going on around me. Click To Tweet

He’s much more concerned with my growth, in wisdom and character, than any role I fill or opportunity I accept. As a result, He rarely tells me what’s up ahead. Instead, He gently whispers guidance for today.

One summer, I found this particularly frustrating. I was wrestling with some career decisions, feeling as if I needed answers immediately. I wanted to follow God’s wisdom, to yield to His guidance, but He appeared to be silent. Feeling discouraged and unsettled, I met with a friend for coffee.

I shared with her all my concerns, all my options, and of course, all of my confusion.

“Well,” she said, “What’s God saying to you?”

I sighed. “Nothing. Other than character-growth stuff.”

She smiled. “Then that’s what He wants you to focus on.”

Later that afternoon, as I puttered around my house, tidying up (also known as allowing my thoughts to stew), realization hit. My personal growth would have far greater benefits, not just in terms of my faith and relationships with God and others, but also in relation to future success, than any momentary decision I could make.

We don’t need to have everything figured out. We simply needed to follow God’s guidance, trust in His wisdom, & lean into His strength.

Scripture and experience tells me my view is faulty and distorted on my best day. But God’s wisdom is perfect and infinite. He knows everything I’ll face tomorrow and precisely what I’ll need, internally and externally, to overcome every challenge.

Foggy road with quote pulled from postIn His wisdom and infinite love, God was preparing me for what lay ahead. This understanding lifted my heart and stilled my swirling, chaotic thoughts. I didn’t need to have everything figured out. I simply needed to follow God’s guidance, trust in His wisdom, and lean into His strength.

We don't need to have everything figured out. We simply needed to follow God’s guidance, trust in His wisdom, & lean into His strength. Click To Tweet

The rest would come, in His perfect timing. And it did. With each opportunity, and endeavor, God showed me precisely what steps to take, leading me in a direction I hadn’t known existed but proved far better than anything I could conceive on my own.

He’ll do the same for you.

Let’s talk about this! Are you in a period of waiting? Are you tempted to jump ahead, to make things work out according to your plans and wisdom? Do you trust that God truly does want to guide you toward His very best? How might focusing on that truth give you the courage to yield to Him–His timing and will? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

 

identity

God’s Plans Versus Mine

I sat in the dusty Zimbabwean earth, peering up at the nowhere-near-ready church, and fumed. Our construction mission trip had just turned on end.

We’d traveled thousands of miles, spent thousands of dollars more to come this far, and now we were forced to face the hard fact: None of the building materials had been purchased. We had nothing to do but wait.

Anger coursed through me, and frustration. I looked down at my just-purchased work boots and gloves, eyed our unused tool belts stacked in a heap. What a waste!

But our team huddled and prayed, determined to give our work to God anew. And in the waiting came fresh blessings.

Helping the women of the village cook, shop for groceries, draw water from the well, braid hair. Playing soccer and King of the Mountain with a horde of barefoot children. Learning the native language while getting to know the bored men hired on for labor. Shining God’s light in spite of setbacks.

Two days later, we were working again. The plan had changed, and we didn’t leave with the completed frame of the new church as we’d hoped. But we left with friends and a heart for the people and the nation of Zimbabwe we probably never would have formed otherwise.

God’s plan had prevailed, after all.

When we set ourselves to doing God’s work and our plans fall apart, it’s hard to see the big picture. Our pride makes us think our plans are His.

The Bible has so many examples of God using the difficult and even catastrophic for good, and then we realize—He was there all along. Click To Tweet

For example, in Genesis, a Hebrew teenager named Joseph is sold into Egyptian slavery by his brothers, a terrible betrayal. Joseph was the son most beloved by his father Jacob, also called Israel, and his brothers hated him for it (Genesis 37:4). But God’s plan was always at work. Not only did Joseph cling to God and rise to Egyptian leadership in spite of his shackles, but he eventually saved both Egypt and his family during a time of severe famine.

When his brothers realized their transgression, they fell down before the brother they had once despised. Joseph wept and responded, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Genesis 50:20 ESV).

Sometimes, heeding God’s will means letting go of our own plans. Click To Tweet

I imagine Joseph, stripped of everything and cowering at the hands of his brothers, didn’t have any idea the God of the universe had a master plan to make all this good. But he trusted God anyway. Though all of Joseph’s hardships, the Bible tells us, “The Lord was with him” (Genesis 39:3). And after Joseph died, his bones were ultimately carried out of Egypt by Moses, the man God called to liberate His people when they, hundreds of years later, endured their own slavery, and buried in his people’s new home, Israel.

When I look back on my time in Zimbabwe, I don’t much remember the church we helped construct, but I do remember the people—their faces, their dreams, their songs, their laughter. I remember and celebrate our connection as Christian men, women and children united in a common goal.

I’m certain that was God’s plan all along.

Have you ever struggled to accept God’s plan over your own? How did it turn out?

Share your thoughts here in the comments below and make sure to connect with us on Facebook and Instagram!

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