Are You Holding God Back?

January 9, 2021 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By Jennifer Slattery –

Christian, are you growing cobwebs? Are you spending so much time praying for clarification, you’ve barricaded yourself permanently in your prayer closet?

Be careful not to view divine opportunities through a human lens tinted by human limitations. You see, how we live life is not about our abilities or failings, our strengths or weaknesses. Instead, it is about saying yes to a mighty God who longs to shine powerfully through us.

Here are some people I believed lived with reckless abandon to God, trusting in His power and not limiting their actions based on what they believed they could accomplish.

During the age of rationalism and revivalism, John Wesley traveled over 200,000 miles on horseback to preach 42,000 sermons, wrote 200 books, organized his followers and a Methodist society and built a chapel.

Charles Spurgeon gave enough sermons and wrote enough material to fill 200 large books. And what about the works of CS Lewis, Martin Luther, Tyndale and Wycliffe?

Were these men super Christians? Did they have more of God? God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. He created the universe. Honestly, He doesn’t need us and if He chose, He could raise up a stone and make it the world’s greatest orator. For some mysterious reason He has chosen to work through man–not super humans, but ordinary men and women who trust in an extraordinary God to do mighty things through us.

I believe the question is not can we accomplish A or B but will we allow God to accomplish A or B through us.

Stop and think back to some of our heroes of faith. A murder named Moses, standing on the edge of a raging sea. A young boy named David fighting the giant Goliath. The people of Israel marching around the fortified wall of Jericho.

The Red Sea never would have parted had Moses remained in Midian. Goliath never would have been conquered had David remained in the fields, and Jericho never would have collapsed if the Israelites remained in their camp. God called them to take the city. Could they do it? Absolutely, but not in their own strength. But could God do it through them? Piece of cake.

What would our world look like if people started taking God at His word and surrendered their lives completely to Him?

“Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty” (Zechariah 4:6b).

You Can Do It

November 24, 2020 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By Jennifer Slattery –

Last year a seminary professor came to our church and recited 2nd Timothy. All of it, from 2 Timothy 1:1 to 2 Timothy 4:22. Sound amazing? Perhaps even impossible?

And yet, pause now and think about all the songs you sing to on the radio–those you know word for word. Add to them the commercial slogans and theme songs you know.

When my daughter was seven or eight, the church we attended had a contest. The child who could memorize the most verses won an American Girl doll. My daughter memorized 51 verses in four weeks. Sound unbelievable? Like she’s a super child? Nope. She just wanted the doll.
It’s not that we can’t memorize. We memorize all the time. The question is what are we filling our brains with?

Think back to your favorite song. There was a time when it was new to you, but the more you listened to it and tried to sing along, the more familiar it became until familiarization turned to memorization.

I believe we can do the same with Scripture, which leads me to my next question—Why don’t we?

I think there are a few reasons.

First, we lack confidence. I don’t think we realize how truly phenomenal the human brain is.

Second, we lack follow through. I’m talking to myself now. Where I tend to pray, I have slips of paper with verses written on them–verses I wanted to memorize. Yet five months later, I’ve hardly given those verses a second glance. Think back to my song analogy. We don’t learn the songs we don’t listen regularly to, right?

Third, I think we lack focus. Again, talking to myself about those verses in my basement. I started with one that seemed to pop out at me one morning while reading Scripture. Soon, another verse spoke to me, so I wrote it down. Now I have a stack of verses to memorize with no clear plan as to how I’m going to do it. I need focus.

Now imagine what we might do, how we might grow, if we approached verse memorization with confidence, followed through, and operated with a clear focus. I imagine our faith would grow, peace would ensue, and Satan would start running for cover.

Tripping Over Cracks

October 25, 2020 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By Jennifer Slattery –

Make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm” (Proverbs 4:26, NIV).

We live in the Midwest. Normally, we get nasty blizzards, tornadoes, thunderstorms, and have hot, humid summers. I’ve even seen a few Toto’s running around our neighborhood. To me, a native North Westerner, all signs of the Midwest. We also have beautiful deciduous trees with thick trunks and branches. This means, we have roots–the ones that wiggle beneath sidewalks, uplifting big chunks of cement. When I run, these ruts and raises turn an easy jog into quite an obstacle course.

Most times, I navigated over the bumps and crevices without a problem, but every occasionally, when I’m tired or lost in thought, the raised cement catches me off guard and sends me flying.

Not a pretty sight.

In fact, I’ve been known to stop traffic, and not in a good way. Nothing like seeing a thirty-something howl like a toddler before falling prostrate on the cement. Yep. Attractive.

So I pick myself off the ground, tell the gawkers I’m okay, and glance back at the mammoth boulder I tripped over. Heat tears sear my cheeks as I realize I stumbled over not a boulder, but the tiniest of cracks. After one particularly embarrassing fall, I decided to choose my route a bit more carefully. I forewent the raised slabs of cement, opting for a smooth roadway instead.

I think our spiritual walk is like this sometimes. Often we can traipse through life without a bump or a stumble. During those times, it’s easy to get over-confident. Sin will never happen to us. We’re strong. But then, when we least expect it, we trip over a bump in the road. It might not even be a big bump. But it’s big enough to send us flying.

God knows this about us and has provided warnings in His Word—like the one I quoted at the beginning of this post. He wants us to choose level paths—to live with intentionality. Our level path might look different than our neighbor’s path.

If we struggle with drinking, it means no hanging out in bars. If we struggle with impure thoughts, we probably need to avoid many of today’s secular novels, movies, and television shows. If we struggle with discontentment, we might need to toss out those clothing catalogs. If we struggle with gossip, we might need to be selective about whom we spend our time with. Sounds restrictive, I know. Perhaps even unnecessary, but take it from a fellow pavement-eater, choosing level paths is much more pleasant than loosing skin.

What about you? Any rerouting God might want to do in your life? Maybe you’ve already made a hard right, veering onto a new, smooth course. Tell us about it.

Not by the Sweat of our Brow

August 9, 2020 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By Jennifer Slattery –

We’re a “pick yourself up by your bootstraps” type of people. We take great pride in a job well done, an obstacle conquered, and a goal reached. Self-help books frequent the best-seller’s lists with titles like, How to Win Friends and Influence People, Act like a Woman, Think Like a Man, and The Seven Principles For Making Marriage Work, and yet, society as whole, has not changed.

Not to say that there hasn’t been progress. Better health practices, iPhones, and wireless Internet has made life easier. But morally, for the most part, we’re the same. At least from where I’m sitting. Some say we’re worse. I’m not sure if that’s the case, but I don’t see the euphoria that all those self-help books and documentaries should have created if they worked.

As a writer, I spend a great deal of time studying others, and once I make it past the outward smile or the teeth-gritting stick-to-it-ness, I begin to see some very dark and lonely hearts. And although I am limited to the study of those with whom I am in contact with, from where I sit, it seems like those who frequent the self-help section the most are often some of the most miserable.

They’ll make progress for a while. They’ll read books, post notes to their mirrors, doorframes and cupboards, but over time, their best efforts fizzle, sometimes even leaving them worse than they were before. Where is the progress the five steps promise? Ah, but we’ve found the solution. We’ll just try another book, and then another, and then another. And if we try harder, and commit, next time will be different. We’ll find the perfect relationship, lose those pesky twenty pounds, eradicate our insecurities, and suddenly gain the confidence to feel comfortable in our skin. And so the never-ending cycle continues. Our drive for perfection, fueled by our momentary successes, until our lives are enslaved by goal sheets, to do lists, and frequently chanted affirmations.

Others seem to float through life on a perpetual cloud of peace. While some marriages fail, theirs deepens. While bitterness consumes others, they are filled with joy, peace, and increasing love. Not a love of convenient reciprocation, but a genuine love that bubbles from within, coloring all they see and do. And so, we raise them up onto our “self-help” pedestal and make an analysis of what they do, focusing on their outward behaviors instead of what drives them. We run for another rag and spruce up the outside of our cup, leaving the inside, our inner selves, untouched. Because stick-to-it-ness can only take us so far, and its effects will last but a moment. Life changes, real life changes, the kind only the Father can provide, last forever.

In Matthew 11:28 Jesus calls us to surrender our burdens so we can relax in His arms. “Come to Me all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yours souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Jesus calls us to stop striving, grasping, reaching, and performing. He bids us to come to Him so that we may rest. And as we grow in Him, He takes care of all the rest.

Endurance Training

July 27, 2020 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By Jennifer Slattery –

A few years ago, I underwent intense training in order to compete in a triathlon. Having a defined goal to shoot for encouraged me to push past laziness, run through drizzle, and fight against my self-justifying tendencies. I had a two part-goal: To develop endurance and to train muscle memory. Muscle memory is when your body responds as if by instinct, allowing your body to work more effectively.

Endurance comes through repetition and consistently pushing your body one step, one hill, one mile farther. They call this “brick-workouts” and like the cement blocks that hold a house aright, these long training sessions carry the athlete through the bulk of their race. They in turn have a two-part function: to develop an “I can” mind-set and reduce the amount of fatigue an athlete experiences during a race.

In our spiritual lives, trials and disappointments often serve the same purpose. They take the sting out of many of life’s events, enabling us to press through without giving up. The first trial might leave us sore and trembling, like a first work-out does, but over time, it gets easier. In fact, we develop “spiritual memory.” Our actions, like responding in love when we’ve been wronged or biting our tongue in a tense situation, become more natural, and soon turn into habit.

And like with running, the mental component here is equally important. Everything is more manageable when we face it with the right mindset. If we have other “brick-workouts” to look back on, suddenly our current training session doesn’t appear so daunting. In fact, we know we can make it through because we’ve done it before.

But like with any training, the minute we take our eyes off the goal—the minute we quit moving forward, we start slipping backward. This leads to unsightly flab. It’s easy to spot the physical flab. It encircles our mid-section, widens our backsides, and creates less than appealing jiggles in diverse areas. Spiritual flab is often equally apparent—quick tempers, apathy, selfishness. To truly battle the “bulge,” we need to take our training seriously. Otherwise we give in to comfort more often than not, and choose the path of least resistance.

My current exercise schedule is a perfect example. Now that I’m not training, I find it increasingly difficult to stay on task. My rest days grow more frequent and I don’t approach my work-outs with the same intensity. Break a sweat? I’d rather not. Feel the burn? Maybe tomorrow. Or Friday. Better yet, next week. The result? A little more cushion around my middle and less endurance to carry me through the day.

I think our spirituality is a lot like that. Without goals and intentionality, we’ll muddle through, never quite breaking a sweat, and thus, lingering near immaturity. But God has called us to more. He’s called us to excellence—to run after Him with everything we’ve got. Why?

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