Love Without Boundaries| By Gabby Jones

Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Matthew 22:37‭-‬39

Many of my friends tell me, “I love the way you love!”

Honestly, if they were to tell me that years ago, I would not know what they were talking about. I do take this as a compliment and give all thanks to God for opening up my heart to love, but it has not always been this easy…

When I was 7-years old, my mom and dad went through a rough patch in their marriage and ended up getting a divorce. Even though I was really young, that was the beginning of my world war with love. For almost ten years, I looked at love as if it were my enemy and not worth dealing with because I saw how conditional it was with my parents. I tried to dodge love in relationships or look for it in the wrong places when I thought I knew what it was. It was not until Jesus wrecked my heart that I knew what true love was.

Growing up in church, I was always taught about the obedience side of Christianity, and rarely did I hear the love and mercy side of it. I only read my Bible because I HAD to; I only went to church because I HAD to; I only prayed because I HAD to. I did not enjoy it most of the time, and I did not love it.

The night I gave my heart to Christ, I was not fully expecting to surrender my entire life. I thought I would be a Christian around similar people and be “myself” around my other friends, but I was quite wrong.

That night, they showed a clip of Christ dying on the cross and stated, “Jesus died for your sins and because He fully loves you and your heart, no matter where it is.”

I was expecting them to say He died so we would love Him and obey Him, not because He LOVED US (1 John 4:19).

For many years after that night, I began to really open myself up to loving others, but only at a cost. That cost was: I will love you with the love of Christ, but what can you do for me? I was in the right place with the wrong mindset. We don’t love others because they love us or can do something for us. We love DESPITE what others may feel or do for us. That means loving your sister who despises your very existence; loving your fellow church goers even when they judge your every move; loving your disabled neighbor who cannot give you anything. Love is not easy, but it is worth it.

I am 24 years old, but it was not until I was 22 when I really began to love hard and without restraints.

Also, just because you love someone, it does not mean you have to agree with everything they do or say. That is not the love of Christ and that is not reality.

God has taught me to love in truth and love like I have never been hurt. However, it is hard, and I would not recommend that you do it in your own strength.

There have been times where I was hurt by guys, my family, or friends, and I turned my back on those that I loved. I have pushed away friends that have taken my love for granted or who did not reciprocate like I wanted them to do. I have never loved perfectly, but I have strived to love like Jesus every single day. When you begin to love without fear, boundaries, and judgement, God will open your eyes and heart to a new world. Nothing will be brighter or greener on the other side. However, you will see a world who is hungry for the love of Christ but does not know where to go to fulfill it.

Let us step out and love others with courage, truth, and Christ in us. Start with your closest friends and family and watch how Jesus begins to take their heart of stone and make it into a heart of Flesh. (Ezekiel 11:19)

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” John 13:34 (NIV)

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A Mother’s Redemption| By Amanda Maduell

image2 (2)As I lay and watch my two-year-old sleep, it is hard to believe that not long ago he started out as a tiny “blip” on the monitor. As I laid on the exam table at my OBGYN office, tears of guilt, shame, and fear rolled down my cheeks. This is not the reaction that any woman deserves to have as she experiences the expected arrival of her first child. A woman’s heart should be full of joy, love, and excitement during this time. My story is not the same.

For I know the plans I have for you ,”declares the LORD, “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

Everyone knows this Bible verse as it has become so incredibly popular, but it is so much more to me. This verse was my bread and butter. I had it saved on my phone screen saver for my entire pregnancy. Every time I was in despair, God reminded me of this message.

When I was encouraged by the father of my child to have an abortion, I turned to God and this verse.

I would think to myself, “God created this life inside of me, and He already knows the plans for it! How could someone want to throw this away?”

“For you formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb.I will praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Psalm 139:13-14

I knew from the beginning that abortion was never an option for me, but I could not convince the father of my child to feel the same way. I thank God everyday for giving me His strength to see through and overcome that. I agreed that I would trust God, and I would wear the shame of my sin in front of me, whether the father of my child was willing to stand by me or not.

I have to admit that it was not easy.

At times, the enemy convinced me to believe that it was me. That I was not good enough or worthy enough for this person, and that this is what I deserved for committing these sins. But again that was just the enemy.

I felt lonely from the outright rejection that was displayed toward my unborn child, and I was immersed in pain. I wanted nothing more than to be loved, appreciated, and respected by the person whom I had created life with. I experienced just the opposite.

I remember coming home from working one of my two jobs and crying so hard in my bathroom that I would vomit. I lived alone, and I was too ashamed to reach out to many of my friends, I felt as though I had, “brought this upon myself.” I was scared of the unknown, I was scared of what people would think of me for having a baby without a father, I was scared of being another, “single mom statistic”, and worst of all, I was scared that I would never be able to trust or love again.

I was disappointed in myself for taking a chance on someone who had consecutively lied about his commitment. I had become so consumed in sins of the flesh. Although I considering myself a “Christian”, I still thought it was okay to have sex with my ex-boyfriend. I justified it by telling myself, “we were in love”, and because we, as adults, have “needs.”

However, I was reminded that God has a purpose for us. Although we may not always understand it, the Bible clearly states that His plan is solid. God knows before we sin against Him, and He still sends His love and grace down upon us in ways we don’t even realize in the moment. For some, like myself, it takes “struggles” like this for us to see God’s unfailing love and mercy for us.

“In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me. From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help, and you listened to my cry.” Jonah 2:2

Before my son was born, I picked the name Jonah after reading the short book of Jonah in the Bible. In Jonah’s story, he disobeyed God, and he was swallowed by a big fish. He prayed to God and asked for forgiveness from inside the fish. After three days, the Lord had the fish spit Jonah out, and he was forgiven.

Jonah knew that he was disobeying God by not following his instructions to go to the city of Nineveh and speak out against its wickedness. Just as I knew that I was disobeying God by continuing a sinful relationship with my son’s father. I felt as though going through an unplanned pregnancy without the father was my storm.

However, the birth of my son was my forgiveness, my redemption, and my second chance. We are children of a loving and forgiving God. I cried out to him at my lowest point, when I experienced the rejection, fear, and disappointment, He forgave me and restored me by allowing me to be the mother of one of His precious children.

After the birth of Jonah, The Lord continued to be the father that my child and I deserve, time and time again. Just when I reach my breaking point he catches me and says, “Trust me.”

Two years later, my son and I are doing great. I am blessed with phenomenal parents who were there for me during my pregnancy and birth of my son and also now. I am part of a women’s group, and I just signed a mortgage on our first home. All of this is possible because we are the children of a perfect and faithful God who has a perfect way for us, even when we can see no way for ourselves. 

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Let Us Return to the Lord| By Tori Savoy

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“Just give up on me. I am not worth it any longer,” I told, or basically yelled, toward God.

My guilt had overwhelmed me, and I felt as if I would never be good enough to be loved by a perfect Savior. Even though I knew God gives us forgiveness, I could not quite forgive myself enough to accept God’s love again. I kept failing Him time and time again. I did not feel deserving of His love. All I felt was shame.

But Romans 8:35-39 (NLT) tells us differently.

35 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?

36 (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”)

37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.

38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.

39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The love of God is something we could never earn, and if we cannot earn it, how could we lose access to it?

One of the most impactful books of the Bible for me is the book of Hosea. A prophet of God, Hosea was given instructions to take Gomer, a prostitute, as his wife. Yet, over the course of their marriage, she remained unfaithful and went chasing after her lovers.

Eventually, she became used up and worthless to the point no man wanted her. However, Hosea bought her back for a costly price.

“She will chase after her lovers but not catch them; she will look for them but not find them. Then she will say, “I will go back to my husband as at first, for then I was better off than now.'” Hosea 2:7 (NIV)

“When the LORD began to speak through Hosea, the LORD said to him, ‘Go, marry a promiscuous woman and have children with her, for like an adulterous wife this land is guilty of unfaithfulness to the LORD.’” Hosea 1:2 (NIV)

This story is a representation of God’s love for us. We have chased after our lovers whether that be a person, money, or success to fulfill us. God knew before we were even born that we would rebel and be unfaithful to him. Yet, He willingly chose to go to the cross and pay the highest price for our souls.

“God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

Yes, there will be consequences to our decisions, but God is always waiting with open arms to forgive and shower us in love.

“Come, let us return to the LORD. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds.” Hosea 6:1 (NIV)

The Devil will fill your heart with shame. But God will shower it in forgiveness. The Enemy will make you feel hatred for yourself. But God will reign down His love upon you. No matter how broken you return, God just wants you back in His arms so He can mend you.

If you are dealing with guilt over mistakes you have made, God is calling you to return to him. He is waiting with open arms and unending love for you. Nothing can separate you from that love, and no love of this world can compare to the love of a Savior.