Choose Love| By Jasmine Beard

Five hours into my family vacation, I had parked the car, got out of the driver’s seat, and flung myself into the backseat with my arms folded.

Traveling with family is never an easy feat. However, add three frustrated and confused adults to the mix and it makes for quite the ordeal. 

We were already tense due to some arguing earlier that morning between my mother and I.

As I sat in the backseat and begged for someone else to take the wheel, my mom fussed, and my dad complained.

None of our attitudes were helping the situation.

We were all tired, lost, hot, and, did I mention, hangry?!

This is not what I had in mind when I planned this trip two months ago. I knew the vacation would be taxing, but I did not expect conflict so soon into the trip.

Sometimes, when we experience conflict with a loved one, we tend to blame the Devil.

“Ugh, that stupid devil is trying to bring division in our family.”

Maybe you have thought that before and that is very true, but as Christians we are still accountable for our actions.

“…remember, we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For the Scriptures say,  ‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bend to me, and every tongue will declare allegiance to God.’ Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God.” Romans 14:10-14 (NLT)

Before the time of creation, humans were created to be relational. We all have a deep desire to be loved and to be known. Paired with that desire, we long to know others intimately.

Unlike some relationships, we cannot choose who our parents are or who our siblings are. Whether we have chosen them or they have chosen us, relationships take work, sacrifice, and an abundance of love.

Throughout my vacation with my family, I was reminded that love is a choice. Did I feel like swallowing my pride and getting back into the driver’s seat? No, but I did because I chose to show love where others had not.

Through this venture, I was also reminded that love is sacrifice. On our 4-day excursion, I did nothing I planned to do on vacation, and everything my parents desired. All because I love them.

Sometimes you feel love, and it is like you are dancing on a cloud of daisies. You are enjoying every moment of serving and loving the other person. Other times, you do not feel love at all.

I may have sacrificed a lot on my family vacation and showed grace, but it is because I know someone who chooses to love me no matter my behavior or whether I reciprocate His love.

His name is Jesus and He is the very essence of what love is.

{Jesus} is patient and kind. 

{Jesus} is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude.

{Jesus} does not demand its own way.

{Jesus}  not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. 

{Jesus}  does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 

{Jesus} never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. Love verses 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NLT)

If we take the word love and abandon all that we know from the world’s definition of the word, we find that love is God because God is love. As a believer, the Holy Spirit dwells inside of us, and the essence and embodiment of love is a part of our DNA.

How cool is that?!

Are you having trouble showing love today?

Is it because you do not feel it? Or because the other person does not deserve it?

I want to encourage you today to let go of all records of wrongs and choose to love.

Choose to love your mom.

Choose to love that father that abandoned you.

Choose to love your siblings who maybe never call you.

Choose to love your spouse even when they have an attitude.

And most importantly, choose to love yourself.

“‘Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?’ Jesus replied, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:36-40 (NLT)

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)

Kind Words are Like Honey| By Jasmine Beard

“You are such an accepting person. I know and feel like I can tell you anything,” my friend said.

I smiled and thought to myself, “If only she knew all the thoughts and judgements I thought of throughout the day. My heart is not pure. I wish I wasn’t judgemental. I’m so far from where I should be in my walk with God.”

You read that correctly. Someone gave me a compliment, and instead of receiving it, I rejected their words and reversed what they spoke over me. Instead of allowing the words of affirmation and blessing to sink into my mind, heart, and spirit, I let who I believed I was to sink into my mind, heart, spirit, and eventually into my identity.

I wish I could say this type of dialogue was a rare happening in my life, but truthfully it is far more common than I would like to admit. And what is even more hard to admit is that I am only now just realizing it.

“I’m so mean to myself and because of the way I view myself, I tend to judge others through that same lens,” I listened on the other end of the phone as another friend shared those words with me. Her words did not resonate with me immediately, but overtime I understood more and more what she meant.

Behaviors, circumstances, and interactions can become familiar to us. And when something becomes familiar, it does not appear abnormal. Take for instance, a woman’s husband has been wearing the same cologne for the last six years. After six years, she may not even smell the fragrance, but simply identify the smell with her husband. However, let’s say that same woman’s husband walked in their home wearing a different cologne than the one he had wore for the past six years, and she’d probably notice instantly.

This same familiarity can be true in our dialogues with ourselves. We can get so use to speaking harsh words to ourselves that we no longer see them as harsh, but as normal. The reality is that the words we speak to ourselves can be anything but normal and are actually cruel and self-loathing behavior.

It was not until my friend mentioned to me how mean she was to herself that I began to notice my very own self-loathing behavior. I have always chalked my inner dialogue with myself to have something to do with my perfectionist mindset and less to do with my self-esteem and value of myself.

The Bible tells us that, “kind words are like honey—sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.” Proverbs 16:24 (NLT)

Are your words like honey?

Are they sweet to your soul and bringing nourishment to your body?

Are you the person who can shower others with compliments, but can’t receive one?

Do you smile and immediately disregard the kind comment someone has relayed to you?

This was me, and it may be you today. But friend, I want to encourage you to fall in love with you, the person you are today, not the woman you aspire to become. Fall in love with the journey. And most importantly, fall in love with the King, the King of kings and Lord of lords.

His word tells us that we are made in His image. We are a reflection of His splendor and beauty, and as we fall more in love and awe with the King, the more we reflect His marvelous light.

So when you find that you have nothing kind to say to yourself or about yourself pray what the Psalmist wrote in Psalms 139:14 (TPT)

“I thank you, God, for making me so mysteriously complex! Everything you do is marvelously breathtaking. It simply amazes me to think about it! How thoroughly you know me, Lord!”

Miss Know It All| By Jasmine Beard

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“Know it all.”

“Bragging Brat.”

These are just two of the phrases that ran through my mind when I thought of my new friend. I know it sounds harsh, but it was definitely my perception at the time.

I had just started a new school and hoped to meet new people with similar beliefs and interests.

I finally met a friend. She was pretty, appeared happy, and, most importantly, she was a Christian.

Bingo, I found my friend, my person, my bff for life…

But after awhile my new friend, well, she aggravated me.

I would ask God, “why does she talk about herself so much? Why does she act like she has the answers to everything?”

He had a simple response, as He normally does.

He said, “Just love her.”

Needless to say, God’s response baffled me. Love her? What do you mean love her, Jesus? She seems loved enough to me, and according to her, she’s really got it going on.

This is the exact same way we can act towards God. We come into his presence and babble and complain about the precious life He has given us. We think everyone else is the problem, when the real issue is us.

We like to think we have it all together and that we know everything. Thankfully we serve a God that is all knowing and is SO merciful.

In Luke 23:34 (NIV), Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

Instead of holding our behavior over our heads, God chooses to love us, forgive us, and gently point us in the right direction.

You see, “Miss Know It All” and “Miss Has It All” really didn’t have it all or know it all. On the inside, just like all of us, she was a broken girl covering a life riddled with her own insecurities.

I don’t know about you, but that’s a person I can relate to, a person I can sympathize with.

People are hardly what they appear to be on the outside. We often put on a masquerade of what we want others to believe about us, and omit the parts in our lives we don’t want seen.

So, the next time your friend, acquaintance, co-worker, or spouse’s persona is screaming pride, know that they could just be broken inside – just like you, just like all of us.

Instead of being judgmental, simply choose to love them and extend grace to them as Christ has done for you.

“If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love beats all things, believes all things, endures all things.” 1 Corinthians 13:3-7

Love Series: Love Your Neighbor As Yourself| By Rachel Lukinovich

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A gardener was walking through his field one day and stood in front of one of his cherished trees. It was a medium-sized tree, with tiny white flowers flourishing all over.

He said, “wow, what a beautiful tree! I truly am blown away with this one!”

A worker next to him said, “I think this tree is okay, but the flowers are a little weird.”

The gardener reassured the worker that he, the gardener, was the only one who can see the full beauty of this tree because he is the one who invested his life into caring for it.

He then cut off a branch, only to find that the inside was weak and brittle. The worker was surprised, but the gardener was sorrowful because he gave the tree everything it needed to be strong and confident.

This is what I imagine insecurity can look like. Sometimes it is obvious and the whole tree produces little to no flowers because of its weakness, but sometimes the tree seems healthy on the outside and can feel the exact opposite on the inside.

No one really wants to admit it, but as women we struggle all too often with this. Have you ever said these words to yourself?

“What were they thinking about me?”

“Why do I ALWAYS do that?”

“Why can’t I be more like her?”

These thoughts replayed way too often in my brain after awkward encounters with people. It only increased as the Lord placed me in ministry and again when I became a mother. Areas of insecurity were exposed that I never thought were there. Although it did not cause me to shy away, it definitely affected my emotions and consumed brain time when it was unnecessary. I was once that flowering tree mentioned above, seemingly healthy on the outside, but sometimes weak and brittle on the inside.

You see, we don’t want to admit this weakness because we think it’s embarrassing, and others will think less of us.  As a result, we put on a facade as though we have it all together. Let’s just expose this for what it really is- a strategy of the devil. He wants to rob the security of who we are in Jesus. He thrives on us comparing ourselves to others and judging them. He does whatever it takes to steal our attention from how much our Gardener loves us and cares for us, resulting in insecurity and incomplete love for others.

When I saw the strategy of the enemy for what it really was, I made the choice to truly receive my father’s love for me, found security and acceptance from Him, and in return, was able to love others more completely.

“The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” Mark 12:31

When I dismissed the devil’s lies and received God’s truth about me from His Word, I could more fully walk in the freedom He has given me and truly love my neighbor as myself more effectively.

Judgements and comparisons no longer bound me from loving others, regardless of who the person is.

You see, Jesus saw our full beauty all along. He literally gave His life for it. We cannot let the enemy rob us of what is already ours – security, freedom, and most importantly love.

The victory is ours, ladies!