guest posts, I Am Kept

Kept: Guest Blogger Salley Bradley

Such were some of you… ~1 Corinthians 6:11

I enjoyed Jen and Susan’s blog post on Monday. It’s always fun to see what people first think about a book titled Kept and where it takes their thoughts. For my book, Kept means different things at different times to Miska Tomlinson, my main character who is a kept woman.

Like Miska, we are all kept women. We are all slaves to something, whether we want to acknowledge that or not. It’s easy to get philosophical and say we’re slaves to our jobs or our cultures or our families or the pressures of others, but the Bible makes it pretty cut and dried. We are either a slave to Satan or to God. We are either kept by Satan himself. Or we are kept by God.

We all start out kept by Satan, and for however long we continue in that path, we tend to mostly enjoy it. We like our sin. We like those pleasures that last for a time. But when the pain of sin comes, two things can happen. We either shrug off the pain as just another fact of life, or we start looking for answers. For truth. For someone who will keep us like we’ve never been kept before.

Something that amazes me over and over is that sometimes it’s our enslaving sin that God uses to bring us to Him. We begin to hate the bondage we’re in, the pain we’re suffering, the constant battle we fight . . . and lose. There has to be more, we think. And it’s at this point that we realize that we are slaves to an evil we cannot escape on our own.

Kept begins with a snippet from I Corinthians 6. In verse nine, Paul tells the Corinthian church, a very messed-up church at the time, that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God. He lists sinners who will not inherit: fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, homosexuals, covetous, drunkards, and others.

That’s our American culture. We are running fast and hard from God. We don’t want Him to keep us; we want our sin to keep us. We want Satan. We want eternity away from God. We see this more and more, don’t we?

But then there’s that beautiful verse that gives us hope. “Such were some of you.” The verse could stop there, but it doesn’t. “Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.”

This is still happening in America. Men and women who’ve fought God are still being saved. They’re being washed, sanctified, and justified. Yes, their past is still there, but it doesn’t keep them anymore, does it?

In Kept, I wanted to explore that scenario. What if an unchurched woman runs into her complete opposite? What if she’s perfectly happy with her life as it is? What would it take to make her want Christ? And when she finally did, how would her past affect her present and future?

I hope you’re already kept by Christ. We know He won’t let us go. Once He saves us, we are His forever because it’s His power completely that saves us, nothing that we do. And that means that our past can’t control us anymore either. Yes, there will still be consequences of our sin that can’t be undone. We all deal with that in varying degrees. But once we’ve exchanged Satan’s chains for God’s, we find freedom and safety we never had before.

Here’s the verse I chose to end Kept with. It’s one of the first verses in the short book of Jude. “To those who are the called, beloved in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ: May mercy and peace and love be multiplied to you.”

Now that’s the kind of slavery I want.

Smaller HeadshotSally Bradley writes big-city fiction that deals with real issues and real hope. A Chicagoan since age five, she now lives in the Kansas City area with her family, but they get back to Chicago often for important things—like good pizza and White Sox baseball. Sally loves to connect with her readers, and you can find her at sallybradley.com and her Facebook page, Sally Bradley, Writer.

Kept is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo.kept RGB front lower resolution

guest posts

Undone by Melissa Zelniker Presser

Melissa published this recently on her blog and has kindly allowed me to re blog it here. It reminded me of Daniel’s prayer after the King’s dream had been revealed to him.

“Praise be to the name of God forever and ever, wisdom and power are His. He changes times and seasons, he deposed kings and raises up others. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. He reveals deep and hidden things, he knows what lies in darkness and light dwells with him.” ~ Daniel 2:20-22, NIV

Thank you, Melissa, for allowing me to share the work of you heart.

UNDONE

Let me be undone before you Lord

Stripped naked, set free, redeemed

Let me see your everlasting glory

The heart inside of me

You showed me love without deserving

You’ve showed me love inside your home

And you’ve come back to claim me

You’ve made me your own

Reconcile me oh Father to your son upon the cross

The one who died and rose again, the one who finds the lost

Oh you poured out on this sinner, you freed me from my chains

You broke me out of prison, redeemed me as a gain

For to you I am forgiven, to you my beauty reigns

You call me your child, righteous for your name

And if I am forgiven,

And if I am set free

How could I possibly pay the price to God nailed to that tree?

My pain is now your glory,

My story it is true He died so I could live again,

He died for me and you

Lord please make me holy and strip me of myself

I will be your servant, I will be your help

And I sit here writing words which flow from me with grace

I long to see your glory, I long to see your face

And one day I will meet you,

I’ll bow before your throne

But until that time we meet again

I’ll stay safe inside your home.

Melissa Zelniker Presser lives with her wonderful husband Shlomi and their three children Avery, Collin and Meadow in South Florida. Melissa was born and raised in a Jewish home and later found Jesus at the age of 35. Shlomi, an Israeli Jew, was not far behind, finding the Lord shortly thereafter. Both Melissa and Shlomi are practicing attorneys in the criminal justice field. Their journey is one of brokenness, mercy and redemption. She blogs at http://www.workforthecausenottheapplause.com

guest posts, I am called to Surrender

His Will or Mine? A Guest Post by Jeannie Fulbright

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us. ~Ephesians 3:20

My fifth baby wasn’t human. The first four had arms and legs. Number five? Let’s just say he was more than the world to me; he was the whole Universe. He was a book. An Astronomy book.

I self-published for exactly a year and sold 200 copies. Because I’m a writer, not a business person, I lost money. I couldn’t print any more books. Time to find a publisher.

Usher in desperation. Invite fear. Welcome determination. Most of all, ignore God because I’ve got this one covered with blood, sweat, tears and my own ideas for my future.

Enter rejections. Dead ends. Anxiety. Anger. Don’t they see how good my book is?

Before we hung up, my friend asked me if I had any prayer requests. She’s just that kind of person. I used to be. I told her about this publisher I needed and how they needed me. “Pray they call and say yes.” She began spouting some infuriating prose about “if it’s Your will.” I was livid. No! Not “if it’s Your will!” Pray it happens. This is what I NEED! It must happen. It’s the ONLY way.

With a tight voice and clamped teeth, I thanked her for her inept prayer, hung up and crossed my arms. Why didn’t she pray what I asked her to pray? Why couldn’t she just ask God for what I needed? Why did she have to invalidate it with the “if it’s Your will” caveat?

Two hours later, the publisher called with bad news. I fell to the floor and wept. It was over. All over. I had poured three years into this book. Three years of my life swept away as if they didn’t count. Dust. I was broken and couldn’t understand God’s seemingly cruel dealings with me. I thought the book was His will. I believed He led me to write it. Like a faithful servant, I was obedient to Him. It was His book, not mine. Each chapter was wrought after travailing prayer. The book was truly an act of worship, only to be thrown into a sludge pile and spit upon.

Wait a minute! A whisper to my soul. It was His book. It’s still His book. Whatever happens with His book is not my concern. My only concern was to act in obedience and write the book—whether anything came from it or not. I had done His will but had expected an outcome that was never promised. Conviction reigned down upon me. Surrender. Give up your rights to that book. It doesn’t belong to you. It belongs to God, and He will have his way with it. “Not my will, but Your will be done.”

I opened my hand and like a balloon released into the sky. I let it go. Peace flooded my spirit—a peace I had forsaken when my will was master. Oh, to be free. To be free from what I want, from what I need, from what I think is best, from what I desire to happen. All at once, I was released from my prison and could live again. I could smile again and look with hope to my future as a child of God.

“I give this book to you, Lord. Accomplish Your will with it. It’s not mine. I have no ownership over it. It’s Yours.”

When I finally released the book to God, He was able to have His own way with it. His plans were abundantly beyond all that I could ask or imagine. Surrendering to God our plans, our desires, our rights, our hopes and dreams will enable Him to fulfill His purposes for us.

Jeannie Fulbright is the author Apologia’s award winning, best-selling elementary science series. Exploring Creation with Astronomy is the first-born book in her series. She is writing a college handbook for high school students and, in her free time, is creating inspirational romance fiction under the name Jeannie Kaye. Visit her website at www.jeanniefulbright.com and her blog at http://www.jeanniesjournal.com

 

guest posts, I am called to Surrender

Baby Steps: Reblogged Post from Kathleen’s Faith Walk

He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” ~Mark 16:15

Six years ago a schoolteacher in our fellowship retired. He wanted to serve God in some way. Could I make a suggestion?

Certainly! There were many opportunities for ministering to inmates at the local jail.  Or, perhaps he could teach Sunday school or become involved in our college campus outreach. There’s also the Bible table along the beach promenade on Sunday afternoons.

Unfortunately, Dave felt all of the above were too “interpersonal” for him. He would help with the church’s technical needs instead.

Meanwhile, Dave’s wife became part of our beach evangelism team.  Dave faithfully came to help load and deliver our table, Bible and books each week. Two hours later he’d return to help us carry our load back to storage.  He would spend a couple hours shopping or taking power walks along the beach promenade until we were ready to leave.

One day he decided to sit on a nearby bench and pray while waiting for us.  He did this for several weeks. Then one day Dave quietly picked up a stack of tracts and began handing them to people who passed by!

Today he is an active part of our beach ministry.  He easily engages people,  sharing the Lord with walkers and surfers who stop at our table. He offers to pray with those who express a need.  He is a delight to have on our team!

I recently asked, “Dave, I thought this ministry was too interpersonal for you.”

He replied. “It was.  I needed baby steps.”

 

About Kathleen

God delights in working through His people as they submit to Him. Jesus said to go into all the world and preach the good news to everyone (Mark 16:15). No matter where we live on this planet, people are separated from God because of sin. We ALL need a Savior, and there’s only ONE. It brings me great joy to share Christ with the lost and lonely. Over the years I’ve learned a great deal while facilitating Bible studies. I’ve found myself on college and university campuses, the beach, the streets, the hospital, the jail and the juvenile facility for incarcerated teens sharing God’s message of love. I also serve as an online missionary with Global Media Outreach. I’ve seen countless lives transformed when people turn away from sin and turn to Jesus. The changes God makes are real and lasting. These are some of my experiences… and they keep on coming!

Thank you, Kathleen, for allowing me to reblog this post! You can find Kathleen at http://www.kathleensfaithwalk.com

 

guest posts, I am called to Surrender

Called to Surrender: Guest Post by Sondra Kraak

One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living. Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” And they left their nets at once and followed him. A little farther up the shore Jesus saw Zebedee’s sons, James and John, in a boat repairing their nets. He called them at once, and they also followed him, leaving their father, Zebedee, in the boat with the hired men. (Mark 1:16-20)

All those who follow Jesus must come to him by way of surrender. When Jesus calls, “Come, follow me,” the disciples do not pack up their gear and tote it around on a donkey. They leave their nets at once and follow him. Surrender, for a disciple of Christ, is a sacrifice, an act of worship, an all-out devotion.

Lest we think we might give over some of our life to the Lord and hold on to other parts, consider these words of Jesus from Luke 14:26, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters– yes, even his own life– he cannot be my disciple.” Jesus simply means that we must come to him with all that we are. All our priorities, our relationships, our values, our service. Everything must be his.

This seems like an impossible calling. How can I, a control-freak perfectionist, live open-handed before the Lord Jesus Christ? The key to a surrendered life, I think, is to change our idea of “surrendered” to “surrendering.” The continuous tense implies something ongoing, and our surrender to Christ is to be ongoing. The Holy Spirit within us not only leads us into all truth, comforts us, and guides us, but empowers us to do what we cannot do on our own: live the surrendered life.

I was humbled last summer to hear the testimony of an ex-army ranger, a guy as tough as they come. This is a man whose incredible faith has led him to lay his life on the line multiple times while serving on the mission field the past twenty years. But he spoke of having an epiphany regarding surrender. Though he’d committed his life and service to the Lord, he still held on to his “never surrender” mentality of his army days. That perseverance attitude had carried him through many tough situations, but he realized it had snuck into his relationship with the Lord. He wanted to be control, to depend on his skill and expertise while romping through jungles. But finally, while in a situation well beyond his control, he spoke of surrendering afresh to the Lord and realizing that true strength came in living surrendered before the Lord.

What is my attitude toward life? Do I have the idea that I can write my own story? That I can worship God in church on Sunday and then do what I want during the week—as long as it’s morally acceptable? Every minute of my life must be surrendered to God, which to me means my life is like a soft wad of clay that at any moment the Potter might reach down and sculpt into something new.

Will you be clay in his hands?


Sondra Kraak

Sondra Kraak is a wife, mother, pianist, writer, and nature-lover. She blogs at http://www.sondrakraak.wordpress.com. A Pacific Northwest girl for years, she now lives with her husband and two children in the mountains of North Carolina. Sondra has degrees in English and Biblical Studies and teaches Bible study at church.

guest posts, I am God's Workmanship

Working with the Master Carpenter, A Guest Post

By Tim Shaffer

I’m not a carpenter. I’m a musician. I have no illusions about my skills with a hammer, drill, or—hit the deck—a nail gun! But I just spent four days last week working on a building project at my parents’ house. My brothers and brothers-in-law hatched a plan to add a garage to our parents’ home. They want our folks to have an easier time using the car in bad weather. While I knew I wouldn’t be much help with the skills needed to draw up plans, order materials, or measure and cut lumber, I could offer my back and arms—the most basic manual labor—and then only with clear instructions and close supervision.

carpenter's handsMy brother-in-law, Greg, is a master carpenter. He decided each day what I could do to help, and then showed me how to do it. Like I said, I have no illusions about my skills at a building site. I only do what I’m told. I check with the “boss” several times while I’m working to make sure I’m still doing it right, and I never move on to a new job without waiting for further instructions. I often am embarrassed and apologetic about my lack of carpentry skills when I’m working with Greg. I hate that I have to ask so many questions, and that it takes me twice as long to get things done. But Greg has told me that he’d rather have help from someone who doesn’t know what he’s doing and admits it than deal with a guy who really doesn’t know, but won’t admit it. A guy like that keeps going when he should stop and often ends up making more work by doing things without asking. Some jobs have to be redone or completely undone. He ends up wasting time, material, and even his own sweat!

I also serve another Master Carpenter. He grew up in Nazareth and learned the trade from his dad. After working for my brother-in-law, I’ve been wondering why I have a hard time admitting to the Master Carpenter from Nazareth that I have no carpentry skills. I really need his guidance and instruction to build anything worthwhile with my life. But for some reason, I find that very tough to admit. It’s difficult to wait for the Master Carpenter’s direction. And sometimes, I just don’t like his job assignments for the day or I think I know better how it should be done.

What is it that makes it so simple for me to submit to my brother-in-law’s authority on a construction site—even when the job he gives me is nothing more than moving a stack of two-by-fours from this corner to that? And why is it so difficult for me to submit to the Carpenter from Nazareth—even when the job is simple and straightforward?

I can think of several reasons for my attitude when I’m working for Greg:

I respect his knowledge and ability as a carpenter and construction foreman.

I know he drew up the plans for this project and he sees the big picture.

I know that on my own, I couldn’t begin to get that garage built with straight walls and a sturdy roof.

I don’t want to hurt others or myself by using tools I don’t know how to handle—like the nail gun!

Finally, and probably most important, I enjoy hanging out with my brother-in-law. I don’t want to annoy him or disappoint him by not following orders on the job site.

I see a progression in my attitude working for Greg—a breaking down of my pride. First, I recognized his knowledge and authority. Then I acknowledged my ignorance and need for help to do things right. And finally, I admitted my need for a friend who appreciates me and accepts me for who I am. I progressed from the brain to the heart. From a pretty obvious acceptance of the facts: Greg knows much more than I do about building a garage and I don’t want to mess it up; to the point where I finally admitted: I just want to hang out, be a part, have a buddy, have value.

Can you accept that the Master Carpenter from Nazareth has a good reason for His work in your life? Do you realize he drew up his plans for you before you were born? Are you willing to admit you just don’t have the know-how to build a life on your own that won’t bend and twist and collapse in the next storm? Do you want a friend, the best friend you’ll ever have, to teach you how to build your life His way? The Master Carpenter tells us: “You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” John 15:14-15.

Is there a wall to be knocked down in your life, or a new foundation to be laid? Let the Master Carpenter show you how to do it right. He’s your best friend, and His work in you will be the masterpiece He is delighted to present to His Father.

Tim Shaffer is a professional bassist and teacher in the Chicago area. He and his wife, Lynn, are celebrating 25 years of marriage this year. They both enjoy reading, gardening, traveling, and mentoring young people. For many years Tim has also led a group in his church for men struggling with addictions.