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Grace, Loving Others, Relationships, Uncategorized

The Perfect Christian

A few years ago, I thought my faith was strong, until I encountered a friend who acted like an enemy. I didn’t know how to deal with her desire for competition and rivalry. Instead of putting my faith into practice and responding with kindness, bitterness took hold. As I went to God for help, He taught me that withholding mercy in relational strife doesn’t lead to peace. Instead, as hard as it is, we’re called to love others even when they act hurtfully.  

In Matthew 5:48, Jesus said, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” That command seemed impossible and daunting in my situation until I truly understood what it meant.

Teleios is the original Greek word in this passage for perfect, which when translated, means complete, full grown, having reached the end. In essence, He’s calling us to be completely mature in faith, fully grown up in love. Notice this word has nothing to do with making mistakes. It’s about reaching completion. 

In Matthew 5:43-45, Jesus showed us what this looks like: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:43-45 ESV). 

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Our faith is complete, in part, when we love our enemies and pray for people who’ve wronged us. When we do so, Jesus says we demonstrate that we’re children of God. This is the type of love our Father modeled when, despite our sin and rebellion, He sent Jesus to die for our sins.

Praise God that our Father’s love for us is complete and perfect, despite all our blunders and moral failings. Knowing that makes me want to be more like Him. This means, when our neighbor is rude, we don’t retaliate. If someone betrays us, we forgive. When others come against us, we pray for them. And with each act of mercy and grace our faith is more Teleios, more complete, more perfect, just like our Heavenly Father.

How has God perfected your faith lately? Who challenges your patience or takes rather than gives? Pray for them and give grace knowing your loving actions will build your faith.

Join the conversation in the comments below and connect with us on Facebook and Instagram!

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fear, surrender

Fear of Missing Out

  • quote pulled from text with a purple background

My schedule had ballooned, leaving me fighting for air. Though I managed to juggle all the demands and responsibilities bombarding me each day, I made numerous errors. I epitomized the phrase, “Jack of all trades but master of none.”

Or perhaps that’d be better phrased as “Doer of all but proficient in few.”

My joy, peace, and relationship with Christ was suffering. In my constant rush to tackle one task after the other, my prayer time had shifted from treasured and protected soul care to something I squeezed into my already rushed day, out of guilt and obligation rather than a desire to genuinely connect with my Savior.

Though I claimed God’s sovereignty over my present and future, my schedule and mistakes—my choices, my will—became my God.

If I did X, Y would happen. If I failed to do C, D would never occur. And if I stepped down from a certain role that, potentially, led to promotion, my life’s dreams would be irrevocably derailed.

In other words, when I evaluated the root of my busyness, it came down to this: Fear of missing out. Fear that if I said no to a particular opportunity, I was potentially robbing myself of something good that could lead to something even better.

My fight for control and fear of missing out, of in some way hindering God’s very good plans for me, revealed deep-seated, faulty views of God.My fight for control and fear of missing out, of in some way hindering God’s very good plans for me, revealed deep-seated, faulty views of God. Click To Tweet

Either I believed He was sovereign or I didn’t. And if I did, then I didn’t need to stress over the small stuff or my ever-changing circumstances. Instead, I’d rest in the One who walks beside me, stands behind me, goes before me, and holds me secure.

Either I believed He was supreme and worthy of all my praise, or I didn’t. If I did, then I’d recognize that everything I engage in or pursue on earth is but a shadow of what God has prepared for me. I’d remember how insufficient temporary pleasures were in filling my deepest needs and heart’s desire.

My schedule revealed my priorities—my true gods. But perhaps most convicting, my stress and fears revealed what I truly believed about God, His heart, and ability to care for me.

That realization empowered me to make changes. I analyzed my thought processes and the things that caused anxiety in light of truth, and I asked God to center me in reality.

Text pulled from postHere’s reality—God is in control. 1 Chronicles 29:11-12 says , speaking of God, “Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and You are exalted as head above all. Both riches and honor come from You, and You rule over all. In Your hand are power and might, and in Your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all” (ESV).

Because God is bigger than any obstacle or setback I might face, and no matter how things might appear today, in the end, He wins.Because God is bigger than any obstacle or setback I might face, and no matter how things might appear today, in the end, He wins. Click To Tweet

Let’s talk about this! Do you struggle with a fear of missing or disrupting God’s plans for you? How might focusing on obedience help you find peace in the uncertainties and abundance of opportunities assaulting you each day?

If today’s post encouraged you, make sure to watch out for Jennifer’s Faith Over Fear podcast, releasing soon by Salem Communications, during which she discusses how to overcome our fear of missing out to choose trust in Christ instead.

Hardships and Trials

When Disillusionment Steals Our Joy

 

It’s easy to allow discouragement to morph into disillusionment and for disillusionment to taint our heart, distancing us from God and blinding us to His hand. But, as my guest today shares, if we’re alert and prayerful, if we’re diligent to hold tight to truth and Christ, disillusionment can also lead to incredible growth and can provide a glorious redirection.

Quote image: God sees you

I Didn’t Think it Would be Like This.

By Donna Jones

We never saw it coming. I expected this kind of behavior from a non-believer, but from a Christian?

Never.

The gap between my expectations and my reality left my tender soul shredded into tiny little pieces, like the bits of paper you throw as confetti. Except this was no celebration. I wondered how a heart ripped to shreds could ever be whole again.

Enter disillusionment; the place where expectations and reality collide.

I remember thinking, How did this happen? Why did this happen?

I’ve heard the same sentiment echoed a thousand times by women in different circumstances: The wife whose husband walked out the door; the couple that followed God’s leading, only to be hurt by those they tried to help; the gal who battled health and financial crisis; the woman who stepped out in faith, and failed. And then there’s the mom of the toddler, the mom of the teenager, the mom of the prodigal, and the sweet gal who just wants to be a mom.

They all wrestle with the thought: I didn’t think it would be like this.

But it is.

So, what now?

 

Generally, disillusionment doesn’t happen overnight (although it can). Typically, disillusionment starts as disappointment, which leads to discouragement, which morphs into discontentment, which lands as disillusionment. Think of it like this:

Disappointment + Time = Discouragement

Discouragement + Time = Discontentment

Discontentment + Time = Disillusionment

How do you know if you’ve moved from disappointment to disillusionment?

You’ve lost hope.

You’ve checked out.

You’re desperate to control.

You’re bitter

You’re cynical.

You’re mad at God.

You’re suspicious of others.

You’ve given up on your faith, yourself, or God.

May I whisper just a few words of hope to you? You. Are. Not. The. First.

In the Bible, the prophet Elijah dealt with disillusionment. So did Sarah, the matriarch to the Jewish nation revealed in Genesis, and Job, the ancient man whose intense suffering is revealed in the Bible book bearing His name. At some point, most of us travel through the dark tunnel of disillusionment. How we deal with disillusionment determines how we come out on the other side. Click To Tweet

So how can we handle disappointment so it doesn’t morph into disillusionment, and derail us?

  1. Acknowledge Loss

It’s OK to feel sad when things don’t turn out like we hoped. Part of navigating disappointment before it becomes disillusionment is to acknowledge our loss.

During difficult seasons David, ancient Israel’s second king, poured out his heart to God. Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge” (Psalm 62:8 NIV).

1 Peter 5:7 tell us to “cast all your anxiety upon Him, for He cares for you.”

When we pour out our problems to God, God pours in His perspective to us.

If we bottle our burdens we may become convinced God doesn’t care, but if we cast our burdens we may be certain God does. Click To Tweet
  1. Examine Expectations

Disillusionment occurs when we feel something is not as good as we believed it to be. These beliefs are based on expectations.

Unexamined expectations are likely to be unrealistic expectations, and unrealistic expectations are likely to become unrealized expectations.

Unrealized expectations leave us disappointed, discouraged, discontent, and disillusioned.

When an expectation isn’t realistic, it’s easy to become disillusioned, so we must ask, “Is my expectation realistic?”

  1. Cling to Christ

When disappointment leaves us reeling, we have two choices: Run to God, or run from God. One choice brings closeness and comfort; the other choice brings distance and disillusionment.

Is it always easy to rely on God while enduring difficulty? No, it isn’t.

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But reliance on God during my storm brings redemption from God to my story. Click To Tweet

Joseph, the ancient Hebrew turned Egyptian slave, experienced this first hand, after his brothers’ betrayed him. Because Joseph clung to God through the heartache and hurt, he could look his brothers square in the eye and declare, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.(Genesis 50:20 NIV)

How do you handle disappointment from unmet expectations? What lessons have you learned by choosing to rely on God, even when it’s hard? 

The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you or forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” (Deuteronomy 31:8 NIV) 

 

Get to know Donna! 

A pastor’s wife and national speaker, Donna Jones is a Bible teacher/explainer, who’s spoken in twenty-five states and on four continents, keynoting events of more than 1000. Donna is the author Seek: A Woman’s Guide to Meeting God, Raising Kids with Good Manners, and Taming Your Family Zoo, and is a contributing author to the 365-day devotional, A Moment to Breathe. She has been on numerous radio and television shows, including Focus on the Family and Good Day Dallas, and writes regularly for Crosswalk.com. 

Donna loves sipping a really good cup of coffee, and hanging with her pastor/hubby or one of their three young adult kids, who frequently sit on her kitchen counter just to chat. Donna would love to connect with you at www.donnajones.org or on Instagram at donnaajones.

Disillusionment hurts and can derail us or push us to draw us closer to Jesus. For those of you who’ve been doing our Becoming His Princess study, you’ll see, for Sarah, unmet longing appeared to follow the negative progression Donna warns us of in her post. As Donna shared, we all face this risk. When disillusionment hits, it can drive us closer to Jesus or distance us from Him. You can hear my thoughts on this, and how we can actively guard our hearts against this, in Becoming His Princess’s opening session, week three. Listen HERE.

If you’re just starting the study, you can watch week one’s opening session HERE and week two’s opening session HERE. (Video sessions will be uploaded as they’re completed.)

You can listen to session two HERE.

And you can pick up your own copy, free, HERE.

Cover image for studyIf you live local, you can still join us for live teaching each Tuesday night at Wildewood Christian, located in Papillion. You can also join us, starting in March, for live teaching on Tuesday mornings or evenings (two options) at Christ Community Church in Omaha. (Registration links will open soon.)

Want us to come to your church? Contact us HERE.

identity

Owning the Label I Once Spurned

Picture of Jessica with text pulled from post

It took me a long time to own up to being a Christian. I believed in God and willingly accepted Jesus as my Savior—all that was fine.

I didn’t want to be lumped in with some of the other Christians I knew, and frankly didn’t like very much. The sanctimonious girl at school who invited me to church not because she wanted me there, but because she felt it was her job to expose me to her denomination. The cutthroat, super-ambitious guy at work who ogled me daily but wore his churchgoer status like it was his get-out-of-jail-free Monopoly card. The nosy neighbor who’d tell me all about her church bake sale and that Sunday’s sermon while simultaneously gossip-slaughtering everyone else on the block. No thanks.

So when my friend called and offhandedly teased me about having “turned into one of those Christians,” I was taken aback. While I knew what I believed, I certainly didn’t want to be relegated to the judgy, holier-than-thou classification she wanted to pin on me.

I’m not sure whether I laughed her off and changed the subject, or flat-out denied her tag to save face. But I do remember hanging up the phone and feeling just like the Apostle Peter after Jesus’s arrest.

Peter was extremely close with Jesus and part of his inner-circle, so fervent and loyal a Christ-follower that Jesus called him “the rock” upon which He would build His church (Matthew 16:18-19). When Jesus told him he’d fall away and, in fact, reject Christ three times before the rooster crowed that very night, you can almost see Peter’s “no way, never!” scoff (Matthew 26:34).

Yet, sadly, that’s exactly what happened. Trying to avoid capture himself, Peter insisted once, twice, and finally a third time that he “didn’t know the Man.” Just then, the rooster crowed, “And Peter remembered Jesus’ statement, ‘Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.’ And he went out and wept bitterly” (Matthew 26:75 ESV).

That day on the phone with my friend, I denied my Lord. In my reluctance to get categorized as the “wrong kind of Christian,” in effect I’d taken myself out of the category altogether. What I’d done felt like a punch to the throat.

See, denying Jesus isn’t just rejecting our faith. It’s also being embarrassed about the label we carry. It’s being more concerned about the way others see us than the way God sees us. Click To TweetLooking back, I recognize I denied Him in other ways throughout my youth, like when I didn’t speak up when I witnessed injustice, or when I caved to sin instead of holding fast to what I knew to be right.

Today I’m proud to call myself a Christian. When I meet someone who gives me the side-eye, even better—I know it’s a chance to give someone a new perspective on the term, a chance to represent what it looks like to be a modern-day Jesus-follower. Click To Tweet

Owning my Christian label was a big step in embracing my faith and my identity in Jesus. As with Peter, it took understanding how I’d fallen short—and making a choice to step up from then on out—to experience freedom.

Have you ever felt hesitant to claim a label because you were afraid how you’d be perceived? How have you learned to overcome your discomfort?

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

And before you go … have you grabbed your free ecopy of our Bible study yet? If not, you can do so HERE! (You can get a print copy for just $5 HERE.)

Also, make sure to visit us on Crosswalk to receive daily devotions sent directly to your inbox. You can find our devotions HERE. 

Heart Issues

The Care and Keeping of Our Hearts

woman looking out the window at the night-time city(Taken from Wholly Loved Devotionals on Crosswalk. Find them HERE.)

My heart, when left unprotected, inevitably begins to decay. The busier I am, the greater my stress, the greater the threat. If I want to remain strong and filled with the love, truth, and peace of Christ, I need to guard against negative influences while soaking in all that is good and right and true.

When my daughter was young, I ached for adult conversation. She was an only child, and I worried she was lonely as well, so I began signing us up for low-cost activities and social clubs. I became deeply engaged with one group in particular. We met numerous times each week, for outings and park days or to simply sit in one another’s homes. Unfortunately, our discussions often centered on life’s difficulties and how terrible or inconsiderate everyone’s husband was.

I’d like to say I managed to listen without getting sucked into the toxic vortex, but I didn’t. I always left frustrated with my life and marriage.

Then, one day, reality hit. I realized I always left those interactions crabby and dissatisfied, with life and my husband. These “venting” women were actually harming my marriage. I needed to be selective with my influences—to guard against negativity while intentionally studying and contemplating and learning to live in truth.

The winds may blow, but the woman anchored in Christ has deep, immovable roots. Drought may woman prayingcome, and a heat wave may beat upon her branches, but though these outward challenges are unpleasant, they won’t and can’t destroy her, because she is continually fed by the sweet, pure stream that will never run dry.

Her fruitfulness isn’t dependent on her circumstances or outward influences but the strength, wisdom, and power of God’s Spirit welling up within.

This is God’s call for all of us.

If you found today’s post helpful, you may also enjoy Wholly Loved’s Christmas Bible Reading Plan, Preparing Our Hearts for the Holidays. Find it HERE.

Wholly Loved’s holiday devotion, Intentional Holidays. Find it HERE.

Join our private Facebook group by clicking below. We’re also gearing up for spring conferences. We’d love to come to you! Visit our Conference Page for information on some of our most popular presentations, and contact us HERE to book us for your next event.

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A place for women to come together, share their struggles, celebrations, and insights, and inspire one another to be all God created them to be.

Additional resources:

30 Days of Emotional Health Bible Reading Plan by Wholly Loved

Cultivating a Thankful Heart Bible Reading Plan by Jennifer Slattery

Unclogging Our Spiritual Valves by Jennifer Slattery

The Anatomy of a Tender Heart and a Strong Voice by Amy Carrol

The Heart You Know and the Heart You Don’t by John Piper

Psalm 1: The Way of the Righteous and the Way of the Ungodly, by Enduring Word Bible Commentary