Forgive like Jesus

Forgive like Jesus

Editor’s note: During 2022, we are focusing on the scriptures found in 2 Peter 1:3-11. These verses teach us about God’s divine nature. We pray that as we reflect on God’s nature, you will see all that He has created you to be! For the month of April, we are focusing on God’s characteristic of FORGIVENESS.

Forgiveness. Does that word stir up anything in you when you hear it?

Anytime you mention forgiveness, your mind can immediately recall an offense that you’ve suffered. 

So, what emotions follow the thoughts of forgiveness? Is it joy at the thought of a relationship restored? 

Do you find yourself feeling a little sorrowful because a damaged relationship couldn’t be salvaged or restored? Does anger come rushing in and take you down a dark trail all the way back to the offense where you find yourself reliving and feeling the pain of the offense all over again?

We’ve all been hurt and abused in some fashion. These offenses, left to fester, can make us bitter, angry, and resentful. We’re robbed of our joy and peace, and eventually we can be physically affected!

So, how do we truly forgive? There are many scriptures in the Bible that address this issue. Let’s take a look at a story that you’ve read many times, and even felt some unforgiveness toward some of those in the story. It’s one of my favorite stories, because it shows the love and tenderness our Savior has toward and for us.

John 8:1-11- This is the story of the woman who was caught in adultery and brought out into public by the religious leaders. She’d  been shamed, humiliated, and threatened with stoning. Now, their purpose was to trap Jesus, but it all backfired on them. In gentleness and love Jesus told each person that if they were without sin, to stone the women. They all ended up walking away. Wait for it… the one part of the story that I had never seen before, until I was faced with having to forgive, was that Jesus stayed with the woman. He asked her where her accusers were, she responded, “there are none”, and the One person who could’ve judged her, condemned her, and stoned her, forgave her! He said, “Neither do I, now go, and sin no more”! Jesus could’ve also embarrassed and humiliated the religious leaders by calling them by name and pointing out their faults instead of simply writing in the dirt, but He didn’t.

Jesus taught all who were there a valuable lesson that day, we ALL fall short, but there is forgiveness and love if we just choose to surrender.

You see Jesus addressed her sin, without condemnation, but He forgave her, and sent her on her way as if she’d never done anything wrong. That’s when I learned the true meaning of forgiveness. No, we don’t forget, only God can do that, but He has given us the ability to choose to give up our rights to hang on to offenses, and to treat others as if they’ve never done anything to us.

Luke 23:34 is another wonderful example. While on the cross, as Jesus was being crucified for our sins, He prayed and asked the Father, “ forgive them, they don’t know what they’re doing”! Those are the sweetest words I’ve ever read. If Jesus, dying on a cross for sins I committed, can treat me as if I’d never done anything wrong, how can I hold unforgiveness in my heart? 

It takes a strong relationship with Christ, and much prayer, and surrender to walk this out.

Allow God to help you set healthy boundaries for yourself while you continue to walk in the love of Christ toward others.

I lived a life of  physical, verbal, and sexual abuse from my biological father and my stepfather.

My mother, too scared to know how to protect me, allowed it all. I was sent away to a children’s home to protect the reputation of my stepfather. My marriage suffered offenses that took a few years to work through, but by God’s grace we are stronger than we’ve ever been! I’ve been deeply hurt and betrayed by close friends. I’ve had to learn to let things go and surrender to Jesus so that I can be free to live in His grace and mercy, and to genuinely love others as He does. This is how those in our circle of influence are going to experience and see Jesus and be drawn to a relationship with Him. If we’re going to make disciples, we must follow the example that was set before us. 

We would like to thank Janie Keller for writing this blog post.

Forgiveness is LOVE with a Big Helping of Grace

Forgiveness is LOVE with a Big Helping of Grace

Editor’s note: During 2022, we are focusing on the scriptures found in 2 Peter 1:3-11. These verses teach us about God’s divine nature. We pray that as we reflect on God’s nature, you will see all that He has created you to be! For the month of April, we are focusing on God’s characteristic of FORGIVENESS.

Forgiveness-the action or process of forgiving or being forgiven. Or I prefer forgiveness-love with a big helping of grace and mercy. It’s something we all experience one way or the other. About 8 years ago, I learned what true forgiveness was and how it frees you and changes your life.

Without going into the messy details, I had to confess to my husband that I had committed adultery and because of that, I had also lost my job. I will give a little bit of background to what brought me to this point in my life. I had accepted Christ as a teenager, but never really believed that I was worthy of all He offered. I didn’t know who I was in Christ, or how much love He had for me.  I was under the assumption that if I was saved, I wouldn’t be tempted to fall into the trap of lies and sin the evil one throws at us.  Through a series of events a couple of years prior to my admission, those lies and temptations came in huge waves. The evil one knows exactly how to attack and he did just that!. I began a downward slide into lies, deception, and false identity. The farther I slid, the faster my slide became until I hit rock bottom.

I came home one Friday afternoon and waited for Don to come home. I confessed what I had done and that I had lost my job. Let’s just say it was not pretty. After several questions, comments, and accusations, he had me pack my stuff up and he took me to my mother. He was done. It was over. The evil one had destroyed another marriage, so he thought. But God…

Shortly after accepting Christ, I discovered Romans 8:28 that says,  “And we know that God causes ALL THINGS to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.” (Emphasis added) That became my favorite verse and one I held onto. And it’s a good thing because that verse became so real for me.

The first act of forgiveness came from my mother. Although she was very hurt by my actions, she took me in. I know it was hard for her because, when I was 8 years old, my parents divorced because my father had an affair. She had to look past the hurt and resentment of that generational curse to see her child, her child that was lost, confused, scared, and alone. The second act of forgiveness came from 3 dear friends and my sister-in-law. They were all disappointed and confused. I had become very good at hiding all my secrets and lies. These four friends could have decided to look at me with judgment and disdain but instead decided to extend grace and mercy. But the biggest act of forgiveness came from my husband. 

After Don returned home from taking me to my mother, he called our daughters, and he called his family. Our daughters came home to be with Don. Mary, our youngest, came to see me that evening. To say she was upset was a huge understatement. In her honest way, she laid into me and let me know how disappointed and hurt she was. Becky, my logical daughter, knew she needed time to process what she was thinking and feeling. She came the next day. She was very hurt, but she came with grace and mercy. During that Friday night and most of the next day, Don searched his heart. Several members of his family came on Saturday to support him and the girls. They prayed for Don, our girls, me, and our marriage. Don came the next day to talk to me. He realized he would need me to help him get through all this and realized that what God had joined together, no one would tear apart. He took me home. When we got there his family was there. Instead of anyone looking at me with judgment, they surrounded me in a prayer circle. It was not easy for us, but with prayer, love, mercy, grace, a good Christian counselor, and many hours of talking and growth, we are better than ever before.

Forgiveness doesn’t come easy. Was it easy for Christ to forgive the disciples who chose sleep over praying for Him in the garden? (Mark 14:32-42) Or the ones who called for His death? (Mark 15:13-14). Judas, one of Jesus’ disciples,  sold Jesus out for 30 pieces of silver. (Matthew 26:14-16). Another disciple, Peter, denied Christ 3 times after saying that would never happen (Matt 26:69-75). But Jesus forgave these disciples just like He forgave me.

 I recently read a devotional about the woman caught in the act of adultery (John 8:1-11). A sentence from that devotion really stood out to me. “God’s forgiving grace is greater than all of our sins.” He forgives us when we confess and ask for His forgiveness.

But, what about us? Do we forgive easily when we are wronged? Do we sit in judgment? Do we allow those who have been caught in sin be forgiven? Or do we want to stone that person? And when we are the ones who need forgiveness, do we truly accept it? When Peter denied Christ 3 times, did he hold on to that shame? I think not. Scripture tells us he wept bitterly. What it doesn’t tell us is that I think he asked for forgiveness. Mark 16:7 tells us the angel of the Lord told the women who had gone to the tomb to “go and tell his disciples, including Peter, that Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee.” If Peter had not asked for and received forgiveness, he would not have been told to “feed my sheep” (John 21: 15-17). By the way, Jesus asked Peter 3 times if he loved him, and 3 times Peter said yes. 3 denials, 3 moments of grace and mercy.

And what about Judas? When he realized what he had done he didn’t ask for forgiveness. Instead, he hung himself. What if…what if, he too, had asked for forgiveness? I can’t help but wonder what his life would have been like. Maybe he would have had an even greater testimony of forgiveness than anyone.

Forgiveness is hard. It’s hard to extend to others when we are hurt. It’s hard to point out the need to forgive or to ask someone for forgiveness. It’s hard to forgive ourselves when we have hurt those we love the most. I know, personally, I had a hard time forgiving myself. I still have times of regret remembering the pain I caused my family and friends. But I have been forgiven by them. I forgive myself. But most importantly, I have been forgiven by my Heavenly Father.

We would like to thank Hope Warren for writing this blog post.

Forgive and Let God Take Care of the Rest

Forgive and Let God Take Care of the Rest

Editor’s note: During 2022, we are focusing on the scriptures found in 2 Peter 1:3-11. These verses teach us about God’s divine nature. We pray that as we reflect on God’s nature, you will see all that He has created you to be! For the month of April, we are focusing on God’s characteristic of FORGIVENESS.

My walk with Jesus, sadly to say, didn’t start until later in my life. I’m a Whosoever (John 3:16).  

I have always known about God and believed in God wholeheartedly. I believed that the Bible was His word. I went to church. I would read a daily devotional. Occasionally, I read the Bible. I listened to podcasts. I had checked all the boxes.  

But my relationship with Jesus started when I was suddenly awakened early one morning with a jolt and with, what I know now, was the Holy Spirit. In my spirit, He had said that it’s “time to deal with it!” 

I already knew what that meant. You see, I had been sexually abused as a small child. Of course, I had that little tidbit buried deep. I didn’t see any reason that anyone should ever know that. It was one of those things that we bury from our past – you know those deep, dark, secrets that we hope no one can find out about. But I had scars and personality traits that were not meant for me to have. However, I wasn’t sure what to do about it. 

That morning, I suddenly realized God does have a plan for our lives and mine had just started. And  when God has a plan, He also has a way.  

 A couple of nights later, I awoke with another word: study. So that is what I did. Each book I read, and each verse I read, the Lord was teaching me. It didn’t happen fast, but along the way, I was learning how deep Jesus’ love is for me. I could feel my soul healing. With the help of the Holy Spirit, I was learning and healing. Sometimes that help would come through the word, sometimes in a dream and sometimes through people.  

 As I look back and realize where He took me and why, I’m still just as amazed today. When it came to the part of the journey where the Holy Spirit let me know the Father wants me to forgive, that was hard! I had to forgive the ones who hurt me. My first thought was: You must be kidding!! Does He know what they have done? I can now see how I must have looked like a mad customer marching up to the service desk, yelling “I need to speak with Jesus”. 

I remember walking around my house praying and even sometimes, praying VERY LOUD!. I was afraid my neighbors would think I was crazy. 

I didn’t want to do it; I didn’t think I could do it. But the first thing to do is pray. You are talking to your Daddy, and you just must be honest. He already knows what you’re thinking anyway. Here are some prayer starters. 

  • Lord give me the power to forgive. 
  • Lord grant me the grace to forgive. (2 Cor. 1:10) 
  • Pray that God will enable you. (Heb. 12:15) 

It’s hard to hate them when you pray for them.  Make a choice to do it, and God will do the rest

Perhaps one of the most Godlike things we can do in life is to forgive and forget it. When you pray for them, don’t gossip about them, just speak well of them. If there’s a need that comes up and you can meet that need, that’s the full force of forgiveness.  

Here are a few other verses about forgiveness. 

  • Matthew 18:21-22 “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times? Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy – seven times”. (This one got me good).  
  • Matthew 6: 14-15 “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” 
  • Romans 12:18 “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

Here are a few things I’ve learned.  

  • If you don’t forgive, it will be a burden that you carry, and it will torment you. 
  • It will open a door for Satan. Once you make the choice to forgive someone and you don’t feel different, don’t let the Satan deceive you, making you feel like you didn’t. How you feel has nothing to do with it. 
  • Once you choose to forgive, trust that God will make your feelings change. 
  • Once you forgive someone, it will set you free.  

God has a plan for your life, I would not have chosen the things that happened to me, but be assured that God does work things out for our good. I see it almost every day. My journey with Jesus just gets better, so do yourself a favor and forgive. 

We would like to thank Julie Duke for writing this blog post.

My First Love

My First Love

Editor’s note: During 2022, we are focusing on the scriptures found in 2 Peter 1:3-11. These verses teach us about God’s divine nature. We pray that as we reflect on God’s nature, you will see all that He has created you to be! For the month of February, we are focusing on God’s characteristic of LOVE.

As a six year old little girl, my first memory was of fear and hate.  My parents were alcoholics and Daddy was a mean drunk every weekend.  Having an outhouse meant you used a coffee can after dark to relieve yourself.  This was happening one night when my seven year old male cousin walked into the bedroom where I was.  Daddy came in immediately after and whipped off his belt.  He was so mad that I would “allow” a boy to come in while I was using the bathroom.  The whipping didn’t stop until my shoes were filled with blood.  That was when Daddy got worried that I would get an infection.  He laid me on top of an ironing board and poured a bottle of rubbing alcohol on my back and legs.  That was when I not only felt hatred toward me, but I felt hate toward another.  This was how life continued until right before I turned fourteen.

I would spend most of the summer with my cousin in the country.  We would hoe cotton to make money for school clothes.  They were in the habit of going to church on Sunday mornings and I would go with them.  One particular Sunday, there was a missionary conference and different missionaries would do the preaching.  That Sunday evening the one preaching kept talking about how “Jesus loves you”.  It seemed like I was the only person in the room.  

Jesus loves me, this I know

For the Bible tells me so

Little ones to Him belong

They are weak, but He is strong. 

Those words resonated through my soul.  I accepted Jesus as my Savior that evening.  For the first time in my life I truly felt love.  I knew that those words were true.  Jesus loves me!!!  I didn’t even know what the word love meant until then.  Jesus was truly my first love.  

The weekend drunken tirades didn’t stop, but there was something different now.  I knew Jesus was with me and would never forsake me.  1 Chronicles 28:20 says that, “Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.” I felt his presence and knew that I had a loving Father that would never harm me.  Daddy could beat my body, but my soul belonged to my heavenly Father.  

My Father continued to work in my life and I could feel the Lord nudging me toward forgiving Daddy.  I wasn’t easy to persuade, but God never gave up on me.  I eventually succumbed to the gentle nudges and forgave not only Daddy, but Mama as well for not sticking up for us.  I started praying for them both, knowing that they were in the same place I was before I found the Lord.  They didn’t understand love either.  

My mother accepted the Lord first, then when Daddy was ninety years old, he came to know Jesus as his Savior as well.  We have such a loving, merciful Father!  Love is a Person!

I don’t know how I would have survived my childhood without having Jesus’ presence with me and I know I don’t ever want to live a single day without my first LOVE.  

We would like to thank Naomi Jones for writing this blog post.

Raising Kind Children in an Unkind World

Raising Kind Children in an Unkind World

Editor’s Note: During the month of January, we will be reposting some of the top posts from 2020. I hope these encourage you. We have some great series planned for 2021. Stay tuned for all new posts coming in February!!

I am a mother of four wonderful and beautiful children, but if I am being honest, it’s not always rainbows and sunshine. Some days I feel like I could write a book on parenting, and other days, I would like to crawl in a ball, with my stash of chips (that I hide from the kids), and hide in the closet. We don’t live in a perfect world, but having the responsibility of raising our children to not only be productive members of society but also caring and kind, can be overwhelming at times.

“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). One thing I have learned during this pandemic and being quarantined and at home so much is that, number one: six people can get tired of each other, pretty quickly; number two: my children have no choice but to feed off of my attitude. It was a realization of how, even though being stuck at home all the time was irritating, I now had the opportunity to mold my children and to model behavior without having any outside behaviors influence them. I suddenly found myself grateful to the Lord for the lesson through the storm. In Ephesians 6:4 it says, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”  The Lord provided me with a time of reflection and a gift of time to mold habits that my children could learn from.

My children are all two years apart, so they fight like crazy. I discovered that being kind to one another had become a very hard thing for them to do. They didn’t understand that words cannot be taken back. They clearly did not know how to control their behavior and think about what they said before they actually said it. 

I think a lot of times, in society now, even adults do not understand that concept. Social Media has become a platform to say anything you’d like, without thinking there may be a consequence for it. This is all learned behavior that is being passed down to our children. We cannot simply sit back and expect our children to learn the gift of kindness from school or friends, because kindness seems to be a forgotten characteristic. It is our responsibility, as parents to instill this quality in our children.  I think about the story of Moses and how he trusted in the Lord to guide him, even against his father’s beliefs.

In our family, we have to actually sit down and explain in detail the lessons that we need our children to understand. We, as parents, cannot expect them to just “know.” If we aren’t careful, someone else will teach them the bad behavior that will have lasting consequences, and eventually habits will be created that will be tough for them to break.

It is an amazing feeling to know that God left these tiny humans in my hands and care. The Lord wants to guide us through raising our children and doesn’t want it to be an overwhelming experience but a gratifying one. I pray daily for my children and that the Lord will give me the guidance to not “mess up” my kids. 

Kindness goes a long way, but it has to be modeled and created in a home because the world is a scary place. Some days I fail, but I am grateful that God blesses us with a new day. I want my children to see that I’m not perfect. I don’t always say the right things. I do hurt their feelings sometimes. But I understand the consequences of my behavior and correct it. I tell them this all the time: It is fine to say that you are sorry, but by apologizing for something you did, that means you are going to intentionally put effort into not making that mistake again. “I am sorry” becomes a meaningless phrase when actions do not follow. Children have to be taught that.  

“I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (3 John 1:4). The peace that brings my heart is such a blessing. I pray that it blesses you, too, as you seek to raise up kind children in this unkind world. 

We would like to thank Brooke Vancleave for writing this post!

Loving Your Husband When It’s Not Easy

Loving Your Husband When It’s Not Easy

Editor’s Note: During the month of January, we will be reposting some of the top posts from 2020. I hope these encourage you. We have some great series planned for 2021. Stay tuned for all new posts coming in February!! The following post is a bit more vulnerable in nature. We’ve chosen to leave the author anonymous in order to protect those involved.  Many of us fight battles behind closed doors and are struggling to find  healing in those dark places.  We pray this will bring hope and encouragement if you’re walking through a similar situation.  As always, Harvest Christian Fellowship is here to help you.  Please reach out at anytime.  We are praying for you and we know God is always working things out for good for those who love Him and are called according to his purpose.  Much love, Julie Snellgrove (julie@harvestchristianfellowship.org)

I could’ve easily titled this blog, “Dealing With My Husband’s Porn Journey,” but I’ve realized, this isn’t only about him; it’s our journey. And yes, I’m going to talk about pornography today.  (Insert smile here)

I came into our marriage with trust issues because of choices I made in my past. I was a guarded woman, and fear had taken root in my heart about infidelity and lust. As newlyweds, there were a lot of career and family distractions, so it was easy to shove my pain and my hurt under the rug and pretend I didn’t know my husband had a problem with lust and pornography. I was scared to face it, honestly. I was scared to address it because I knew that meant pain for us both. 

One night, I’d had enough and called him out when I saw him looking at another woman.  We had come to a spot in our marriage I never dreamed we’d find ourselves in: broken.  I’m not sure I will ever forget the pain that I felt that night. Women are emotional beings, and we tend to attach our self-worth to the attention we get from our husbands. And when our husband’s attention is not 100% on us, we get jealous. We feel hurt, inadequate, less than, betrayed, violated, not good enough, ugly. To compensate, we put up walls, cover up, and aren’t as willing to have sex. Is anyone with me? I became very jealous and hyperaware. The enemy had a foothold at this point. 

The evening that I lost it was the night the Lord began healing us both. My husband didn’t change instantly, and I didn’t trust instantly. Things actually got worse before they got better. I had a really hard time trying to understand; I felt so betrayed by these fake images.  It took some hard conversations, some honest evaluations of where we were in our relationship, some boundaries, and a lot of counseling to get through.

The Lord graciously gave me insight to this specific addiction. Desire for the opposite sex in itself is not sinful; it’s what we do with those desires.  I’ve found that pain from old wounds is what drives a man to look at porn. It’s a deep-rooted problem. If this is a struggle your husband is dealing with, he probably hates that he does it. He probably prays for enough strength to not look at those images and asks other men for wisdom and prayer for healing. He probably lives his life in constant shame. Through this process, the Lord brought enough healing to my heart that allowed me to see that my husband was being honest and had a desire to change. I realized that I needed to find a way to help him.

Here are some things that really helped us:

  • HONESTY. One evening, we sat down and my husband allowed me to ask some really tough questions under the agreement that we wouldn’t get mad at each other. I would much rather know and have him be honest with me about where he is than keep it from me. Warning: these conversations are NOT fun. But there is something supernatural that happens in your marriage when you get to this place of honesty (Proverbs 12:22). 
  • BOUNDARIES. We put boundaries in place and made a commitment to stay within them. Boundaries bring safety and cultivate deeper intimacy (1 Corinthians 13:6-7). 
  • COUNSELING. We went to counseling together, and I unloaded a bunch of pain that I had been holding onto. I realized that my husband was wrong for looking at porn, but I was wrong in assuming wayyyyyyyyyyy too much because of pain I had not dealt with in my own life. I had to swallow my pride (Ephesians 4:32). 
  • FRIENDSHIP. I was completely vulnerable with a few friends and they supported me, listened to me, grabbed my hand and told me I was strong and brave and could do hard things. They spoke life into my bones (Proverbs 17:17). 
  • COMMUNICATION. This is the bottom line: had we talked about our struggles years before, they wouldn’t have bled into more than 5 years of marriage. It’s taken a long time to take off each brick that has been put around my heart as a result of lust and porn. Our marriage isn’t perfect; we aren’t perfect. But we have learned some very valuable lessons along the way, and one of the most important is to communicate with your spouse (Proverbs 16:24). 
  • LOVE. I learned to love him through the sin. Together, we didn’t accept or support the sin; we acknowledged the sin and agreed to love each other through the sin. It was hard to love him while I knew he was still struggling with looking at porn. But love conquers all. Even a porn addiction (1 Peter 4:8). 
  • PRAYER. I prayed like crazy over my husband and myself. I prayed for freedom from this addiction. I prayed for empathy to rush over me. I wasn’t perfect, and I had to humble myself and realize I am a sinner, too. I prayed for forgiveness and understanding (1 Peter 3:8-9). 
  • SCRIPTURE. I saturated myself in the Word of God and in His Truth. I did my best to take every evil thought about my husband captive and submit it to the Word of God (Philippians 4:6-9). 
  • SUBMISSION. I learned that my husband was created for intimacy and has a sex drive, and my role as a wife is to submit to him and his needs. If I’m not giving my husband what he needs, it may be a stumbling block. Sex with your husband is a weapon of unity against the enemy (1 Corinthians 7:3-4).

With confidence, I can say the Lord met us in these hard places, and with a lot of hard work, He delivered my husband from his sexual sin, and my heart was healed from jealousy and filled with trust. And I can confidently say that the Lord will meet you. He will walk with you through this valley (Psalm 23:4).  We had some very ugly fights and hard conversations, but the rewards are worth it. We now have an open and honest relationship with more intimacy than I ever thought possible.

Never be ashamed of seeking help; we ALL have issues. You may feel hopeless or feel like the pain is too deep. But know there is always hope! Our God is a God of healing and restoration. Please send an e-mail to the church office if you’d like more information on counseling. We are here for YOU!

Undo Shame

Editor’s Note: During the month of January, we will be reposting some of the top posts from 2019. I hope these encourage you. We have some great series planned for 2020. Stay tuned for all new posts coming in February!!

In Brene Brown’s words, “Shame is an intensely painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – something we have experienced, done, or failed to do make us unworthy of connection.”

Shame is one of the first things introduced into the world after Adam and Eve sin. And what did they do as a direct response to their sin? They hid. They covered up. They lied. They blamed. I can identify with their shameful feelings and their reaction to those feelings. What are some things you and I hide behind or use to cover up our shame? We use busyness, procrastination, alcohol, pride, eating, social media, vanity, shopping/spending, our careers, perpetual lying…

Self-identity shame comes in all forms and fashions. This is a list of some lies I have believed during different seasons in my life directly resulting from shame:

  • I will never be good enough.
  • I am unclean.
  • I have failed.
  • Something must be wrong with me.
  • I am not qualified.
  • I am unwanted.
  • I’m not as pretty as {insert name here}.
  • I am unworthy.
  • My kids literally acted like animals in public. I must be a bad mom.
  • I literally acted like an animal to my children. I must be a bad mom.
  • My kids were rude to a bunch of people today. I must be a bad mom.
  • Why doesn’t my marriage look as happy as theirs? I must be a bad wife.

Can anyone relate??

Have you ever thought about how our culture makes money off of making women feel less than? That if you would just buy that one thing it will make your life better. For example, if you use this product on your cellulite, it will make it go away and you will be prettier. So therefore, if you have cellulite, something must be wrong. Hmmmm. You just took a bite from the forbidden fruit called marketing. So, you buy the cellulite product only to see zero results. Then you stop using it and swallow the lie that you just won’t ever be perfect enough.

BOLOGNA!

And what about social media? How does it tell you daily that you are less than? I’m not even going there. Ladies, so much of our brain power goes into shaming ourselves for the way we look. Something, somewhere is always screaming to us that we are defective. The truth is: we have been fed lies and manipulation for years.

We learn to fixate our thoughts on those feelings. For many years, I believed the lies the devil was feeding me. I strived and strived to become good enough. I stuffed and stuffed to become happy enough. I hid and hid to seem “ok” enough. It was a toxic, vicious cycle and it affects everyone at some point.

How did I break it?

  1. Attending Freedom in Christ – This was a huge part of my healing. My eyes were opened to the unconditional love my Savior has for me. For the first time, I heard the truth that I am right with God. There is nothing that I have done in my past, nor will do in the future, that will change my value in Christ. Mistakes, failures, scars, and all, he accepts it and loves it! I learned that my works-based righteousness wasn’t going to help my issues. I couldn’t do better, act better, or be better to please God. This took time breaking my old thought patterns and creating new ones, but daily surrendering those and allowing the Lord to speak his truths over my heart changed me!
  • A loving friend called me one day and said, “JuLea, I think you need help”. To be honest, I wasn’t really looking for her to tell me that and, quite frankly, I was embarrassed. But I knew she was right. I reached out for help. I started seeing a counselor and still do to this day. There is such a stigma associated with counseling, but what is so crazy about seeking wise help?

When we learn to identify this within ourselves, we can then start the change. Undoing the shame of my struggle was a catalyst to my healing.

The lies women struggle with are all different. But the path to identifying those lies are all the same. Don’t let fear hold you captive to your struggles. Shame has a way of isolating us. And isolation FEEDS our shame. So the result is more isolation and more shame. Exactly what the devil wants.

Shame is simply an emotion. Emotions are part of every human experience. You are human. Offer yourself grace TODAY!

Breaking these thought patterns about ourselves takes time, patience, and a lot of will power. Breath by breath, you will rise out of the waters. To not drown, you HAVE to move your arms, lift your head, and MOVE forward. Shame will begin losing its power over you. God helped me face and overcome shame and He will help you, too!

The good news is the discussion about your value and ability is OVER. It was decided on the cross.

YOU ARE GOD’S MASTERPIECE. Created for good works. God made you just the way you are. God is a perfect God – He doesn’t make mistakes.

You are WHOLE, COMPLETE, FLAWLESS, LACKING NOTHING. Jesus is your righteousness and your provider of everything you need. Philippians 4:19

Here are a few practical ways that can help you start winning your battle over shame that helped me:

  1. Pray, pray, pray in the spirit on every occasion without ceasing.
  2. FORGIVE YOURSELF. Or others.
  3. Live in a constant state of worship.
  4. Write notes on the bathroom mirror or the car to remind you of your value.
  5. Set an alarm every 30 min. to declare a truth of scripture over yourself. (Really, JuLea?!? YES, do it!!)
  6. Hang around life giving people who speak life into who you are in Christ, not who you were.
  7. See a counselor. Get help. Reach out to someone. Bring it to light. (This was huge!)

Believe what your Heavenly Father says about who you are today… not your social media. Our minds are a battlefield. Jesus died on the cross and has already won that battle you are facing today. Claim that ground back. Defeat shame and claim victory!

We would like to thank JuLea Bouma for writing this post.

The Unexpected Expiration Date: Divorce

Editor’s Note: During the month of January, we will be reposting some of the top posts from 2019. I hope these encourage you. We have some great series planned for 2020. Stay tuned for all new posts coming in February!!

Every story is different. He cheated, she cheated, finances, loneliness, abandonment, alcohol, drugs, mental and physical abuse, etcBut such stories end with an unintentional expiration date leaving many women not knowing where to turn.

We had just celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary when a series of events began to unravel that revealed betrayal, defrauding, and sexual immorality. At one point, there were hopes of reconciliation, but a turn of events left our family shattered, in shock, and broken. 

No one gives us a book on how to be divorced when we first get married, yet community and family love to tell us how we should act or how we should “handle” our situation.  NOTHING can prepare a woman of faith for the demise of wearing The Scarlet Letter: D among your believer friends and family. 

I did not know how to be single.  It was so difficult to hang out with a singles Sunday School class.  Even being divorced, I did not feel single.  I DID NOT KNOW HOW TO BE DIVORCED. 

What I discovered after being raised in a church community is the church community is “family-centered”.  The divorced single is not always the most welcome in a “family community”.  The adjustment is not easy. I hated being alone. 

What I did discover through the guilt, the anger, the bitterness, and the daily emotional roller coaster was that I learned to embrace something new I had not known. And that was SILENCE.  And in that silence with God and his ultimate stillness, I just learned to listen and let God be God. There were no dramatic downpours of spiritual renewals, but stillness and peace became my comfort and solace at night when coming home from work that finally granted me SLEEP I had not experienced in a long time. 

“Be still and know that I am God” Psalm 46:10

When I learned to BE STILL and LISTEN, I learned to embrace SILENCE and hear God’s words and voice for my life. I became a better person and a better mom to my college age girls. I asked God to use what I had gone through to help others find their way through this path of divorce, so they would not feel so alone as believers. 

No matter your story Women of Faith, JESUS PRAYS FOR YOU when you don’t know what to say or where to turn. 

Even as a believer, when you don’t know what or how to pray, Christ intercedes and prays for us. His grace is bigger than our insufficiencies.

“I have prayed for you” Luke 22:32

“Jesus prays for you as well” John 17:11, 20

There must be a recovery and restoration of YOU. RAISE the BAR for yourself and expectations of relationships.  

“You are precious and honored in my sight, and I love you” Isaiah 43:4

Don’t settle for less than God’s best for YOU.  There is life after divorce.  There is HOPE.  

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope” Jeremiah 29:11

No matter how difficult the situation, FORGIVENESS must take place in your heart.  The need to SALVAGE (not required to go back into a relationship, but gain insight and understanding) a relationship when there can be no RESTORATION to the relationship…Pastor Brad, Sept. 2018

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for those who love God….” Romans 8:28

I finally realized that I was OKAY being alone and understood the basis of truly relying on Christ instead of another human being for my happiness.  When I came to that place after being single for 5 years (went back to school for Ph.D.) following 25 years of marriage, the Lord allowed me to meet Chris Buford.

And a new chapter in my life began……  

We would like to thank Debra Flournoy-Buford for writing this blog!

Rage Vs. Self Control

Editor’s Note: This fall we will be doing a 10-part series on Flesh vs. Spirit. We hope these ladies’ testimonies will encourage and inspire you to keep pushing through, to keep battling, to keep believing in God’s truth that says you are an OVERCOMER. Though it sometimes feels like we are losing the battle, we have overwhelming victory though Christ and His blood shed on the cross. Be encouraged today!

“Move me, O Spirit, to quiet my heart…”

Imagine you are writing a recipe to cook up the yuckiest, most rage-filled moments of your life. I can tell you mine in this season of life (to which I am sure some of you can relate at one time or another), but everyone’s recipe looks a little different. Mine goes a little something like this:

Ingredients:

1 C snoozed alarm (enough to make everyone frantic)

2 C early morning demands with no routine to follow

1.5 C argument with husband

½ C toddler refusing shoes

½ C hair drama

¾ C late night tv watching/Facebook scrolling

2 tsp horrible diet

2 tsp caffeine jitters

1 ½ tsp traffic

Directions: Preheat oven to 5,000 degrees. Throw all ingredients into a bowl. Mix vigorously. Pour mixture into a pan. Cook to a burnt, crunchy crisp.

I joke obviously, but I really have found myself cooking up this recipe time and time again, and not surprisingly, I lose my religion every time over something as mundane as a forgotten water bill. And although the ingredients may vary, this recipe always leads to an explosion of words and tears and all sorts of nonsense that ain’t nobody got time for!

In truth, when an eruption occurs, we know that it is not really the things on the surface that actually cause the explosion. It is all the feelings and emotions not being dealt with underneath the surface, simmering and pressurizing, and eventually exploding under the weight of life’s chaotic nature. It is the flesh holding onto feelings and control in such a deep way that it causes a blast of fury. It is desperately trying to control everything on the outside, instead of what is really happening on the inside.

Proverbs 25 says that “a person without self-control, is like a house with its doors and windows knocked out.” Our flesh is the same as this house. Even though the house is standing tall and strong, the enemy can just climb through a window or walk through the front door and go straight after all the precious valuables inside the home. When we allow our spirit to be pulled away from our flesh and we engage in a rage-filled frenzy, our defenses are down. Our beloved heart, God’s most precious treasure that He has filled with His wisdom and mercy, is left wide-open for attack by Satan, who loves to see us weak and broken. But friends, no one can live in a house with a broken door and windows. And no one can live with a broken heart that has no security or protection. That is not how God has asked us to live.

Choosing to live in the spirit with a heart that is centered on self-control begins with surrender. The Psalmist writes that God “rules over the oceans and the swelling seas…when the stormy waves rise, He speaks, and they lie still.” The wave of rage takes us over because we have failed to surrender all the overwhelming feelings that our Divine Maker never intended for us to carry around. But alignment and control are not on your shoulders. Surrender the feelings. Surrender the control. Surrender the idea that you are more powerful and mighty than the Creator of the Universe. Believe me, you are not. And you don’t want to be!

You have the greatest defender of them all in your corner.

Next time you are standing in the middle of a raging storm of chaos, stop and think about who is fighting your battle and protecting your heart. If you are standing firm in the spirit of the Living God, your windows and door cannot be broken, and you will not feel rage. You will feel peace. Because God is the Prince of Peace. And He will be your Peace, even when you don’t feel peace.

At the end of the day, all the craziness and chaos that make this life hard, will not cease. But remember friend, you are ruled by the One who already has your heart completely.

I’ll end with this beautiful scripture from James 1: 19-21, in one of my favorite translations, The Message. Tend to the weeds and thorns in your heart, so that your Father God can “make a salvation-garden of your life.” Love you friends.

“Lead with your ears, follow up with your tongue, and let anger straggle along in the rear. God’s righteousness doesn’t grow from human anger. So, throw all spoiled virtue and cancerous evil in the garbage. In simple humility, let our gardener, God, landscape you with the Word, making a salvation-garden of your life.” James 1: 19-21 MSG

We would like to thank Emily Parker for writing this blog!

The Blood of Jesus

School’s started back, which means we’ve gotten back into a routine. I actually make sure my kids bathe more than once a week.

Along with routines of personal hygiene come some other great routines. A spiritual hygiene routine, if you will. One of my favorites is declarative prayer over my family. Recently a friend from church encouraged me to plead the blood of Jesus over my kids.

What does that even mean?
“Pleading the blood” is a biblical reference to placing someone or something under the protection of the Lord. In the Old Testament, God told Moses to apply the blood of an unblemished lamb on the doorposts of their dwellings so the Angel of Death would see that a sacrifice had already been made, therefore he could “pass over” that home. Everyone in that home was protected from death (separation from life). In the New Testament, Jesus is our sacrificial Lamb because He was without blemish and shed His blood for us on the cross.

His blood is powerful. Here are a few of the priceless things Jesus gave us through His blood.

The blood of Jesus:
Purchased us (Acts 20:28)

Because He purchased us with His blood, He takes responsibility for us. The enemy has no legal claim on me or my kids. Whoever is under His blood is under His protection. Doesn’t that sound like a great position to place your children in?
Made peace between us and God (Col. 1:20)

Between God and me, things are good. I’m not an utter disappoint to Him. And neither are our kids.
Redeemed us and forgave our sin (Eph. 1:7)

His blood didn’t just sweep my sin under the carpet. His blood made eternal payment for sin I’ve committed or will commit. This is very good. Especially when I think about my behavior during some of those Get-The-Kids-to-School-Morning-Routine.
Cleanses our consciences from acts that lead to death (Heb. 9:14)

We’ve all done things that create gaps of separation between those we love most. Jesus’ blood cleanses our consciences and give us courage to mend those gaps, ask people for forgiveness, and do better next time.
Purifies us from all sin (1 John 1:7)

Pure. I love that word. Not only does Jesus’ blood cleanse us, but He makes a way to purify our heart to the deepest depths and makes good come from it. Illustration: not only does He cleanse the polluted river, He goes back to the source up in the mountains and purifies it to where what issues forth from the rock is good.
Gives us confidence to approach God (Heb. 10:19)

I don’t have to clean my act up before I go to God to spend time with Him or ask Him for help. Our kids need to know this too.

There are gobs more verses about the value of Jesus’ blood. It makes God happy when we take Him at His word. Pick up your sword and get busy declaring God’s truth over your loved ones.

We would like to thank Jodi LaFrance for writing this blog post.