No Fear in Love|By Tori Savoy

In just a few days, I will celebrate two years of marriage to my high school sweetheart. As I sit and reflect not only on the two years of marriage but the last 9 years we have spent together, I cannot help but thank God for each and every day.

Everyone asked after the first few months of marriage, have you had your first big fight yet? Has he gotten on your nerves?

Actually, no. A few disagreements maybe, but nothing that has kept us in a bad mood for more than a few minutes.

Some may say I lucked up with a great marriage or found my perfect match. However, fear tells me another story. Fear tells me to wait around every corner for hell to break loose in my marriage.

Marriage has always been the most terrifying thing to me. I grew up surrounded by unsuccessful marriages. Even the ones that did not end in divorce, were nothing but a prison for the two.

“Marriage is for life,” I heard growing up in church. What if I ended up trapped in a marriage that was miserable when I thought I would love this person forever?

God had to heal me a lot before my wedding day in order for me to consider committing my life to Brandon. There was no doubting I loved him. I was just afraid for so long of that love ending.

However, God placed some godly marriages in my life just when I needed it most. He restored hope that marriage could be something beautiful. In these marriages, I saw perseverance through the hard times, and love that did not waver through the decades.

So on March 25, 2017, I took a step out in faith and said “yes” to my best friend. I put on the white dress and walked down the aisle to the promise of God waiting for me at the end of it. As I said my vows, I felt an overwhelming peace. I felt gratitude that God had sent this man into my life to show me what real love was like. To this date, choosing to do life with him has been the best decision I have made (aside from giving my life to Christ).

Although my hope in marriage was restored, the devil still likes to bring back that fear. He tells me I am not good enough for my husband, and one day he will decide to leave me. I sometimes strive to be a better wife out of fear of losing him rather than my love for him.

The enemy attacks the things that are good in life and keeps you from embracing the memories to be had in the here and now.

Every time I become crippled by my fear, God reminds me of the beautiful marriages he placed in the latter part of my life. He has promised to make this marriage beautiful from beginning to end. So when the devil’s lies come, I hold on to the promises of God.

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians‬ ‭1:6‬ ‭(ESV)‬‬

When the devil says, “Work harder to keep your husband”,

God says “Work less and let me carry the weight”.

“The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” ‭‭Exodus‬ ‭14:14‬ (‭ESV)‬‬

When the devil says, “Your marriage will only be happy for a season”,

God says, “I renew your marriage daily and make it new”.

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” ‭‭Lamentations‬ ‭3:22-23‬ (‭ESV‬‬)

When the devil says, “Your husband may want to leave you for better looking woman”,

God says, “you were created for such a time as this”.

Fear cripples us temporarily, but God’s words are eternal.

Marriage will definitely have its challenges. This I am sure of. However, I also know God’s word stands, and the challenges will not end my marriage. We will walk through life’s challenges with our love still intact.

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.” Isaiah‬ ‭43:2‬ ‭(ESV)‬‬

If you find yourself fearful of marriage and love because of the world around you, just know that God is writing your love story. Do not let the lies of the devil distract you from the beauty of what love can be when a relationship is centered around Christ. We need a generation of individuals ready to fight for the sake of love and marriage, not cowering in fear as the devil would have us. Because when two people choose to love like God intended, powerful things unfold.

“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 (ESV)

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Tidal Waves| By Stephanie Cain

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Over the last year, almost every area of my life has been stretched, prodded, or flat out attacked – especially my faith. A few days ago I was watching my son play in his walker corner when I had a flashback. A few years ago my husband’s family decided to go to the beach together. On that day, the water was rough – not enough for red flags but enough that children did not leave the shallows. However, as adults, we ventured out to chest height and jumped into the tidal waves as they rolled in.

One time I did not jump soon enough, and the wave swept over me. Suddenly, I was tumbling under the water with no clue what was up or down. My feet found the ocean bottom, and I pushed up, gasping for air as soon as the next wave rolled in. I was immediately toppling under the water again desperately trying to find the surface for air. This happened two more times until finally my husband caught me and helped me stand. It was such a scary experience that I stayed in the shallows after that.

Where I am now in life feels a lot like that beach. As soon as I find my footing and catch my breath, a new wave is rolling in on top of me sending me spinning again. However, Jesus reminded me of something He did while here on earth.

Mark 4:35-41 chronicles the time when Jesus and His disciples were in rough waters because of a storm. Jesus spoke to the storm and said “Peace! Be still!” The winds and waves obeyed him and stopped. Jesus reminded me that He does not just calm physical storms, but He can calm the waves in our lives. If we listen to Him as He speaks through the Holy Spirit to us, “Peace! Be still!”, we will see the waves that were engulfing are now a soothing ripple. This is not to say that we will not have storms. Of course we will! There may be times in our lives that the winds and waves are so loud and big that you can’t hear the Lord’s still, small whisper of peace.

Another time in Jesus’ ministry (Mark 6:45-52), His disciples were in a boat rowing against the wind. This time, rather than calm the wind with His words, the Lord walked on top of the water. He invited Peter onto the water with Him, and as long as Peter kept His eyes on the Lord, He walked over the waves too. This is HUGE! In those times when we cannot hear Jesus speaking peace in our situation, we look to Him and trust Him for every step onto the waves.

In my life, that looks like this:

A problem arises. I see no possible solution. Anxiety swells. Rather than allowing it to topple over me I say, “I can’t see a way, but I trust you Lord. I know you have a plan, a purpose, and it is for my good.” Take a deep breath. Move forward with my life one step at a time.

My hope is that these words encourage you today. Whether you are in the storm of life or not, I pray that you keep your eyes focused on Him because walking on the water is a much bigger adventure than hiding in the shallows.

“The LORD your God is in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” – Zephaniah 3:17

Not Meant To Walk Alone| By Jasmine Beard

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War is not an easy task, and believe it or not, we are in a war every day as Christians. The war is not against man, but against the Devil who is scheming and desiring to destroy us at any chance he gets.

I do not say this to scare you, but to give you a true depiction of the enemy’s schemes that are not always visible.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10 NIV

You may see his schemes through illnesses, financial hardships, relational problems, the way you view yourself, and the way you view God.

One of the biggest tactics the enemy schemes against me in is in my relationships with others. Ever since I can remember, I have been a chatterbox and always loved meeting new people and making lasting friendships.

I remember right after high school I started attending a new church. Everyone there was super nice and welcoming, but I still felt very alone even though I had made new friendships.

The enemy would whisper lies to me like:

“They don’t really like you.”

“They’re just being nice because they have to.”

And after sometime I started to believe the lies of Satan.

I began leaving church early and just crying about not being loved and wanted. This was all part of Satan’s plan. He loves Christians to be divided and out of fellowship. Our relationship with other believers is pivotal to our walk with God. Without it, we will likely perish spiritually.

“Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the others can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 (NLT)

While Satan had plans of destroying me through isolation, God had other plans. A girl named Megan befriended me from my church, and I began going to her small group. Through that time, I recognized that I wasn’t alone. I was actually loved and that Satan was just lying to me.

If you are feeling attacked or like you cannot go on another day, I want to encourage you to remember that we were not meant to run this race alone.

God has made every single one of us with an innate desire to know others and to be known. As people, we must stop fighting each other and start warring together against the schemes of the enemy.

Today, remember that people are not your enemy. Do not be afraid to reach out to others when you need prayer, a helping hand, or just someone to lean on. God has created us for community to ensure that we do not walk or fight this race alone.

 

An Open Invitation|By Heaven Harris

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Have you ever tasted something for the first time and instantly thought, “How in the world have I went this long without this in my life?”  

It opened not just your pallet, but your life to something new and different. Something refreshing!

“Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!” Psalms 34:8

This has always been one of my favorite scriptures. Reading it always reminds me of the passionate pursuit of God for us as His children, and it honestly brings me back to the day I gave my life to Christ.  I remember it vividly. I was 15 years old and sitting on the edge of my seat while the pastor preached the love of God.

In those moments, even though I may not have known this scripture in its entirety, these are the very words Jesus was speaking to me, “Taste, see that I am good for you.  Let me open your eyes to my goodness!”

My favorite thing about God is this very aspect., He is always in pursuit, and He is ALWAYS a gentleman. Our God is no harlot, and the God that is love is the very one that knows exactly how to pursue.  He invented the very concept. His strategy is an open invitation.

“Come and taste… let me show you who I am and what I have for you.”  

“Taste and See!”

Sound familiar?

Same words, different context, different motive.

Let’s take a journey back to Genesis 4 in The Garden of Eden, the oasis of perfection God created for us.  There was a sly enemy, whispering to Eve those same words… “Taste and see! See that the Lord has been withholding from you.  Taste and see that He is not really for you the way that He claims He is. Taste and your eyes will be opened.”

It was a trick, a curse. Eve tasted, as did Adam, and yes, their eyes were open to the world and shame in a way God never intended for them, and the enemy was sure he had won. He thought this was the ending to the story, but he was wrong then, and he is wrong now.

God, knowing end from the beginning, knew what He would have to do, and He did it with our names written on His heart. He sent His son, His one and only, to reverse those words that were used to trick all those years ago.

”His example is this: Because his heart was focused on the joy of knowing that you would be his, he endured the agony of the cross and conquered its humiliation, and now sits exalted at the right hand of the throne of God!” Hebrews 12:2 (TPT)

To imagine enduring the cross with joy is a pure display of the true love that Jesus has for us.  

I am now 31 and if I am being honest, I have not always stuck by the God who is love. I have been the prodigal daughter more times than I care to admit.  Almost two years ago I found myself in a marriage that was falling apart after only seven months and like Eve, I thought maybe God was holding out on me. In my pride, I tried to take control of my own life which led to divorce and a child out of wedlock.  

The day I found out I was pregnant was one of the hardest days of my life, but it was also one of the most redeeming. I sat in my car crying and crying out to God asking why now? Why this way?  

Feeling defeated and angry with myself, God sweetly whispered, “I will show you my love in a whole new way with this child.”

In what felt like a whirlwind of failure that I would never recover from, God opened His arms wide and beckoned me to taste and see what He had for my future.  In that moment, I chose Him. It’s all He has ever wanted anyway, in our freedom, to choose Him daily. In that moment, and the days that followed even into the here and now, He redeemed this heart of mine and is daily showing me how amazing He is.  What seemed like my curse, God turned it around as my most precious blessing.

Genesis 50:20 says that what the enemy meant for evil, God meant for good. (paraphrased).

His invitation has no bias or conditions.  His goodness, His fullness, His promises are for us all.  No matter where you are, I encourage you today, God is near to you and extending His invitation to you.  He is standing at the door knocking, like a gentleman, waiting for you to open the door to your heart. He is waiting for you to taste who He is. Only then, can your eyes be opened to beauty that encompasses His very nature.

 

 

 

Who Wore It Better?|By Jasmine Beard

 

2way8Comparison.

It is said to be the killer of joy, yet all of us at one time or another have compared ourselves to someone else.

Today we live in a society where people boast about the highs of life and often mask the reality of their lives.

As people, we often want others to view us as better than we actually are because of pride. It is because of this that now in our society, people are suffering with depression and anxiety triggered through social media. Instead of getting our worth and value from God as He intended us to do, we tend to measure how we are doing in life in comparison to others.

“Of course, we wouldn’t dare to put ourselves in the same class or compare ourselves with those who rate themselves so highly. They compare themselves to one another and make up their own standards to measure themselves by, and then they judge themselves by their own standards. What self-delusion!” ‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭10:12‬ (‭TPT‬‬)

Even before social media, people have been comparing themselves to others for centuries. Not only do we compare ourselves to others, but we compare other people to each other.

A perfect example is Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle.

Tabloids read:

“Who’s prettier?”

“Which wedding dress did you like better?”

And forbid Meghan Markle does not appear outside a hospital a couple hours after giving birth like Kate Middleton did after having her children. The tabloids will literally explode with comparison.

Growing up, people loved to compare me and my best friend. We did everything together and were almost like twins. We were inseparable.

Unfortunately, throughout the years, people often compared us to each other. I was labeled the the “cute friend”, and she was labeled the “smart one”.

By people comparing me to her all the time, all I strived for after that was to be smart. However, no matter what I did, she was always smarter. If I made an A, she made an even higher A.

On the other hand, no matter how pretty my friend looked (and she is beautiful), I always got more compliments than her. This resulted in me feeling like I wasn’t smart and left her feeling like she wasn’t pretty. But the truth is we are both smart and beautiful.

Comparison is not only the killer of joy, but it is a liar. You will never reach your full potential by comparing your life to someone else or by being envious.

“Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else.” Galatians‬ ‭6:4‬ ‭(NLT‬‬)

If you keep your gaze on others, you will always find someone you think is prettier than you, someone you think has a better husband than you, and someone you think has a better life than you. But when we turn our gaze onto Jesus and are grateful for how He created us and the life He has entrusted to us, His truth can prevail.

I Am Not A Single Mom| By Chrystol O’Connor

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I’m not a single mom. I have several roles, and single and mother are just two of them. I hate when there are categories that I am forced to fall under. I am a sister, a teacher, a student, a daughter, a woman, a mother, an American, and most importantly a child a GOD.

Indeed, I am a single mother. I have a five- year-old daughter that brings absolute joy to my life. Just like every other role in my life, this too has its challenges. Being a mother is not easy, especially when you do it alone.

Of course, sometimes we receive help, a great support system or awesome parents who help make the load feel lighter. I, for one, am one of those single moms. I have great supportive parents and lots of sisters, which means several built in sitters.

But, it is still not an easy yoke to carry. I dealt with feeling inadequate as a mother, crazy, afraid, and shameful because when I got pregnant with my daughter I was involved in church.OH MY GOSH, yes, all in church. Shame and regret were things that I carried in my heart for a long time.

The enemy comes at us in so many different areas especially when raising a warrior for the kingdom. God has had to come and remind me so many times of my value regardless of past mistakes. I am reminded of this scripture 1 Peter 2:9:

“But you are chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into wonderful light.”

Even though it doesn’t have everything to do with me being a single mom, it signifies what God has done in my life. It reminds me of the redemption that took place in me when I had my daughter.

I decided to live for Christ shortly after finding out I was pregnant, perfect timing right? I had a daughter to set an example for and God had proven himself so faithful when she was still in my womb. I am forever grateful for the grace and mercy that was showered over me while I was bearing proof of my sin in my stomach.

Maybe you’re reading this, and you’re a single mother. I want to inform you that there is hope. GOD is truly so faithful. I look back at my past struggles and some of the seasons and changes God brought me through, and I realized He was walking with me the entire time. Just like me, you are a daughter of the most high God, and nothing can separate you from His love– no past mistakes, no past pain or hurts, no regret or shame.