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fear

Fearing Forward with Jesus

Heart pounding. Dry mouth. Hands shaking. Words fumbling. Anxiety at its finest. The first time I spoke in front of an audience about God was a total flop by earthly standards. I rushed  through as fast as possible so I didn’t have to stand up there alone for one more second. I had let fear take over and drive me into failure. Or so I thought.

I went home and cried.

Why did God call me to write, speak, and encourage others in His name if I couldn’t physically do it? Didn’t He know  I wasn’t capable of this? Didn’t He know I’m comfortable hiding right here in front of my computer?

He did know that, but He also knew I needed to learn an important lesson before moving forward. That none of this– the failures nor the wins– are about what I am capable of alone. It’s about Jesus working with me for my good and the good of others as we  step forward in faith.

After seeing their beloved Jesus die on a cross, I imagine His followers were confused and afraid, too. Maybe they even felt abandoned in the faith they were once so sure of. Jesus, knowing every one of their fears, showed Himself to His disciples to encourage their faith and to instruct them.

Some followers believed when they saw Jesus, others needed help believing so they could move forward in faith.

“And when they saw Him they worshiped Him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age’” (Matthew 28:17-20 esv).Matt28-20Blog

When faced with fear, followers of Christ have a choice to make — will we doubt His presence? Or believe Jesus is truly with us in the struggle? What we choose determines if we can overcome our fears.

Many times I’ve doubted in my life. I’ve believed I was alone in parenting struggles, marriage lows, job crises, health scares — and most recently the first time I stood in front of an audience. Somehow I got the idea that God was here for the overall picture but not the day to day ugly. Wrong.

I poured over Matthew 28:17-20 thinking about how Jesus tells to go out boldly in his name. It struck me that before Jesus asks His disciples to go, He tells them all authority in heaven and on earth belongs to Him. This is important, not just because it allows us to trust that we have a powerful God, but because of the words that follow.

“And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” If Jesus is with us, that means His power is too.

As a language teacher I know words cannot be translated perfectly. I wanted to know exactly what that meant that “I am” would be “with” us “always”. So I looked up the original Greek to better understand these important words of our Savior.

Here’s the gist….

The word here for “I am” is “ego eimi” which is the same name Jesus refers to himself when He says “I am the way” in John 14:6. Interestingly, the Greek word for “with” in this passage is an active with. It’s a “with” that means Jesus is working in us, not just standing by watching as we labor solo . Lastly, “always” means each and every part of the total. Each moment that makes up our entire lives. Not just the pretty ones.

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Putting this all together, Jesus promises to work with us every time He calls us to step out of our comfort zones.

Knowing this breaks down my fear when I step out in faith. Believing Jesus is working behind the scenes every time I put myself out there in obedience grows my confidence and propels me forward.

We’re not alone, but when we feel as if we are, let’s remember Jesus’ promise. The great I Am will be working with us in every moment, always.

 

Read more from Andrea at www.afruitfulwoman.com

 

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Let’s talk about this! How is God asking you to step out in faith? Do you believe that He will work in that area with you? Tell Jesus your doubts and fears through prayer and ask him to strengthen you when you are unsure.

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Unless otherwise indicated, 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.

Heart Issues

Cultivating a Thankful Heart

Image of colored leaves and text to 2 Cor. 9:11

Happy Thanksgiving from the Wholly Loved family!

Sometimes, I get so caught up in rushing about, I forget to pause and say thanks. But when I do, peace ushers in as my mind shifts off of all that could or maybe has gone wrong to all that has gone right. To all the abundant blessings God provides each day, and those are numerous. If I were to contemplate my relationship with Christ and all the spiritual blessings He’s provided, that alone would give me ample reason for praise.

I’ve been adopted into an eternal, inter-connected family.

I’ve been redeemed.

I’ve been washed clean–given a new slate and, each day, a chance to begin again.

I’ve been lavished by grace and empowered by the Holy Spirit.

But most importantly, I’ve been given the gift of intimacy with my Savior.

Pause this afternoon or perhaps this evening to contemplate all the gifts God has given you in His Son. Write Him a letter thanking for Him each one, and see if that doesn’t elevate your heart to praise and connect you, on a deeper level, with the Giver of all that is right and true and beautiful and eternal.

Then make sure to check out our holiday Bible reading plan, available for FREE on the YouVersion app. You can find it HERE.

surrender

When Small Acts of Obedience Lead to Great Impact

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What began as a major inconvenience turned into a beautiful blessing adding purpose to my monotonous days and revealing God’s tender heart.

We were living in Southern California at the time. My husband worked long hours, traveled a lot, and I often felt lonely, insignificant, and unseen. As a stay-at-home mom, I wanted something exciting, something “important” to do.

I was not looking for more ways to “mother”, but that was precisely what happened. One afternoon, an acquaintance called needing an after school ride for her daughter. Thinking this was a one-time occurrence, I agreed, only to receive another call, then another.

I grew frustrated and felt taken advantage of. Soon, I attached all sorts of assumptions to her requests,I thought, “Obviously this woman devalues my time and thinks I spend my days watching television. She should at least pay my gas!”

I never considered that God might have a glorious and eternal plan in it all

A few months later,my perspective changed when the teen began asking questions about God. Then I was able to look back, to filter every boring or frustrating or humbling car ride through the knowledge and discernment that can only come from Christ. I realized He was trying to use me for His important work while doing a seemingly ordinary task.

During our interactions, I learned the girl’s home life was hard, emotionally cold, and painful, her heart broken and her thinking deceived. She desperately craved answers—truth that would heal her soul and bring security to her chaos.

When the teen’ mom first called, I had no idea all her daughter had endured or hoped to find. But God knew, and He placed me in a position to be used by Him. To speak life and hope to someone whose world felt dark and hopeless.

Our obedience—in the big and the small, the exciting and the mundane—leads to eternal impact. Click To Tweet
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Because that’s how God operates. Scripture reveals this again and again.

The apostle Paul, a Pharisee turned Christ-follower, is one of my favorite examples. He began his missionary journey with one desire: to share the hope that had changed his life. He didn’t really care where he went, nor was he consumed with how others responded. He simply obeyed—immediately and without question.

We see this in Acts 16:6-10, which states “Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phyrgia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. During the night Paul had a vision of a man from Macedonia standing and begging him, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’ After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them” (NIV, emphasis mine.)

When the Spirit led or redirected him, Paul obeyed.

The result? He planted numerous churches, discipled countless believers, and wrote a good chunk of the New Testament.

Paul is an example not of the power of a great man nor a brilliant ministry strategy but rather an obedient heart. His obedience led to incredible eternal impact and transformation. Click To Tweet

We too are called to significance, not by the measure of achievement, but by faithfully going where God leads.

What is God calling you to do today? Pause to ask Him, then commit to obeying.

Share your action step with us, and if you have any stories demonstrating how God used a simple act of obedience for something eternally significant, share that too, because we can all learn from and encourage one another!

Before you go, have you checked out our next Bible reading plan, 20 Days of Relational Health, yet? 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.

And make sure to connect with us on Facebook and Instagram. Jennifer would love to connect with you on Facebook and Instagram as well.

Relationships

When Women Encourage Rather Than Criticize or Compete

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Blessing and Bonding

By Victoria Mejias

Ever feel like you don’t belong? I have. I still do.

I have one older brother. I never had a sister. And for a long time, I was the only girl on my mom’s side of the family. So growing up, I tended to be closer to my aunts. I longed for that camaraderie among women. I wasn’t getting it at school.

In fact just about every girl I thought was my friend growing up, turned out to be catty and gossiped about me. I couldn’t understand it. Most of the gossip and rumors they spread weren’t true.

It didn’t take long for me to keep to myself. I focused on my studies–hard. I graduated high school as fast as I could, at the age of 16, just to get out of that place. My mom and I had recently moved here from the east coast and boy was it a culture shock!

Back east, it’s such a melting pot that no one notices race or ethnicity. That wasn’t the case when I moved to Nebraska. Right away I learned I didn’t belong. Our family is from Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory in the Caribbean. I was born in New York, NY. But that didn’t seem to matter.

I’d immediately get asked if I was in the country legally; if I was Mexican or Guatemalan; if I had a visa; if I had any good enchilada recipes…Till then, I had never even tasted an enchilada.

I stuck out – and not in a good way.

I enrolled in college at the age of 16 and persevered there, too. But I didn’t want to. I wanted to belong to something so badly. I’ve always had this nagging feeling that I was made for more. It’s what led me to Christ. But prior to that I searched for places of acceptance and none of them worked out well for me. I explored joining a sorority to have that sisterhood I longed for.

Long story short – that didn’t end well either.

After college, I married and had children. Boy did I want female bonds then. Pregnancy scared me! It didn’t help that both of my pregnancies were back to back, at risk, and I ended up on bedrest for one.

I called my mother, grandmother, aunts and any woman I could think of who had had children to hear about their experiences. I had questions, lots of them! I’m a planner at heart and needed to know what to expect.

I’m so grateful for the handful of women in my life I could trust and lean on during those times.

This reminds me of a story from Luke Chapter 1 where a newly pregnant Mary, Jesus’ mother, went to visit her cousin Elizabeth. I cannot imagine what Mary was thinking.

Nevertheless, she visits her cousin who is also expecting. I love Elizabeth’s reaction. Though also pregnant, she wasn’t jealous because Mary carried God’s Son. She didn’t drill her with questions or pry into how Mary conceived and second-guess who the father was. No. She blessed her.

Scripture says,“ In a loud voice she exclaimed: ‘Blessed are you among women,and blessed is the child you will bear! 43 But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?’” (Luke 1:42-43, NIV).

And Elizabeth was blessed by Mary’s visit.

“‘As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!’” (Luke 1:44-45, NIV).

What would the world look like if women banded together, leaned on one another, and blessed each quote pulled from post on gray backgroundother no matter the circumstance? What if we rid the world, or at least our circle of gossip? What if during life’s trials, we reminded each other that we are blessed and loved by the Lord Most High?

The Bible addresses how poisonous gossip can be. And I firmly believe that women are created with a divine and irreplaceable purpose. I have never understood the need-to-know curiosity and temptation to gossip. But I have seen the damage that it causes.

I’m certain that’s why I’ve gained the confidence of some pretty amazing women locally, nationally, and around the world. Eventually I did find a bond with women, one I wouldn’t trade anything for. And I’m raising a daughter that is approaching teenage years. My prayer is that she’d focus on uplifting others, rather than tear anyone down. I pray that for all women. I pray that for me and you.

What are ways you stay in community with women who keep you rooted and growing in Scripture? How can you invest in women seeking to deepen their relationship with Christ?

My hope is that women everywhere would join forces, encourage and remind one another that we are each wholly loved by God.

Let’s talk about this! How easy is it for you to celebrate someone else’s wins? If it’s hard, why do you think that is? How might remembering we serve a sovereign God of abundance help? Share your thoughts, stories, and examples with us in the comments below or on our Facebook Page, because we can all learn from and encourage one another. You can also connect with us on Instagram.

If today’s post encouraged you, make sure to check out our latest Bible reading plan, 20 Days of Relational Health. You can find it HERE.

Get to Know Victoria:

Victoria Mejias is a graduate of the University of Nebraska – Omaha and attended the University of Nebraska College of Law prior to making a leap into public service. She has nearly 20 years of experience in the private, public, legal and non-profit sectors. She has previously served as the Missions and Small Groups Pastor at StoneBridge Christian Church and the Development Director for Open Door Mission / Lydia House. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for Heartland United for Puerto Rico and her past service includes a variety of other boards.

Victoria Mejias is a graduate of the University of Nebraska – Omaha and attended the University of Nebraska College of Law prior to making a leap into public service. She has nearly 20 years of experience in the private, public, legal and non-profit sectors. She has previously served as the Missions and Small Groups Pastor at StoneBridge Christian Church and the Development Director for Open Door Mission / Lydia House. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for Heartland United for Puerto Rico and her past service includes a variety of other boards.

Victoria received her Certification in Urban Ministries from the Dallas Theological Seminary’s Urban Ministry Institute in 2012. She has spoken at a variety of venues on matters of leadership, diversity, spirituality and faith– locally, nationally and internationally as far out as Damoh, India at the World Leaders Evangelical Conference. Recently Victoria was the recipient of two Congressional awards for her service by Puerto Rican Congresswoman Jenniffer González-Colón and Nebraska’s Congressman Don Bacon during a floor speech at the US House of Representatives. She has two children, loves the Lord, reaching the lost and enjoys travel, arts and culture. Visit Victoria online at www.victoriaelizabeth.com.

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

Living loved, Uncategorized

When We Can’t Feel God’s Love

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For a long time, my view of God and His love was skewed. If you’d asked, I probably would’ve provided an accurate description. I would’ve talked about how merciful and gentle He was, how faithful He was to remain beside us, and how He’d stop at nothing, even His own death, to draw us close.

But I lived as if He placed conditions on His affection, as if He somehow loved me more when I behaved or served Him in a certain way but grew weary of me when I messed up.

One year, a friend invited me to a women’s retreat, my first ever. I was crazy-nervous about going. It hadn’t been all that long since my oh-so-glamorous homeless period, and I was lugging around a heavy load of shame and self-loathing. In short, I felt I didn’t belong.

I didn’t want to go. The whole event felt far too intimate for a gal who plotted ways to remain in hiding. But I sensed God wanted to do something amazing and miraculous. So I packed my bags and headed to a monastery in Santa Barbara, where our retreat was held.

The first night, our leader read the account of the Samaritan woman, and Jesus invitation to her gripped me. “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water” (John 4:10). He was inviting her to receive salvation, yes, but His invitation involved so much more than that. He was drawing her into an intimate, completely authentic, relationship with Himself.

The next morning, I went for a long run, processing everything from the night before. I, too, wanted to be filled, but I felt so empty, and I couldn’t understand why. I belonged to Jesus and had trusted Him for my eternal salvation. So why wasn’t my heart like a bubbling spring that welled up with eternal life?

After my run, still needing time alone, I walked the monastery grounds, hoping to hear from God.

Nothing. No words of assurance from heaven or comforting whispers to my wounded heart. Frustrated, I cried out, “Why won’t You love me?!”

His response, though not audible, came swift and clear: “You won’t let Me.”

That stunned and confused me, and I spent the next six months or so prayerfully trying to figure out what God meant. He showed me that my disconnect came not from Him but from within me. My failure to grasp the depths of His love, my continual expectation of rejection, and past wounds that left me closed in and fearful, hindered my ability to fully experience Him. I was approaching Him through a lens of hurt instead of one of grace and truth.

I realized I needed to learn how to give and receive love, and so I asked Him to teach me. Over the next ten years or so, that’s precisely what He did. He slowly but steadily healed my heart, removed my distrust, and replaced all the lies I’d melded with truth.

Truth like:

God is love (1 John 4:8), and His love is eternal (Psalm 136:1b). It doesn’t increase when I return it or God's love is constant on an image with a heart locketdecrease when I push Him away. Nothing, not “death or life or angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation” (Romans 8:38-39) can separate me from His love. He loved me when I was at my worst (Romans 5:8) and will love me when I’m at my best. His love isn’t dependent on my actions nor how I feel, and He has no favorites (Romans 2:11).

That means He loves me, and you, as much as He loved the apostle Paul, who planted numerous churches and wrote a chunk of the New Testament. He loves me, and you, as much as He loves all the saints who’ve given their life for Him and the gospel. He loves me, and you, as much, and no more, than the alcoholic on the street corner and the sweet Sunday school teacher who’s never had a drop of wine.

Because His love doesn’t depend on us. The next time you’re struggling to rest in God’s love, hit pause. Ask Him to show you the cause of your disconnect and the lies you’ve embraced. Ask Him to help you replace them with truth. Ask Him to remind you of His truth again and again until it permeates your every thought, until His truth speaks louder than your deception.

Let’s talk about this! Do you ever struggle to rest in God’s love, and if so, why do you think that is? Have you ever asked God to show you the root cause behind your disconnect? What are some Scripture passages that can help, the next time you feel discarded, rejected, or perhaps unworthy of God’s affection? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, and make sure to connect with us on Instagram and Facebook.

Before you go, I have fun news. We’ve 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.