The Ultimate Sacrifice

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I witnessed the worst and the best of humanity last night.  I was on a call as an advocate on a child abuse case.  A 14 year old girl had called the police to report her step father for sexually abusing her. This had been going on for 7 years.  Her mother had threatened her continually, if she ever told anyone she would be thrown out of the house. During the interview the young girl was asked why she decided to call the police now she said “because my little sister just turned 7 the same age when he started molesting me, I wanted to protect my sister.”

This young girl had endured horrible abuse at the hands of her step father for years, Threats from her mother, no emotional support.  Yet, the love she had for her sister caused her to risk everything to save her.  When the stepfather found out what she had done and why, he responded..”I would never touch my biological child, I have morals” really you have morals?  He was arrested and the mother decided her abused daughter could no longer live under her roof.  she would be going to her grandmothers house to live.  At the end of the night about 3am, I was sitting in the sheriffs suv crying my eye’s out and looked over and the big strapping deputy was doing the same thing.

While thinking about what a loving sacrifice this young women made for her sister. I thought about the sacrifice Jesus made for us.  Jesus paid the highest price for you and me because He loves us more than we could ever imagine. He was put to death by being crucified on a cross, and his body was laid in a tomb behind a stone. He lived and then died rejected and alone. Like a rose He was trampled on the ground. Jesus took the fall and thought of you ABOVE ALL!

Jesus saw sacrifice as something beautiful because it would bring us life.

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.” 1 John 3:16.

Jesus’ calls us to voluntarily lay down our lives as He did–to sacrificially love people even when it’s uncomfortable or painful. What if you saw sacrifice as a beautiful word?

Just as this young girl sacrificed all for her sister, sacrificed her home, her security. This is real love.  I pray for this young women, I pray when we follow up that she comes to know Jesus as her savior.  That his transforming power will heal her heart.  I know this young women changed my life with her sacrificial heart and bravery.

 

 

 

 

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Thriving After Your Storm

 

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As, I look back on this year, I am amazed at the goodness of the Lord.   And I’ll tell you why.

My son was married, to a beautiful christian girl.  My oldest daughter is engaged to her long time love.  My youngest is in the final stages of wedding preparations.

I have a wonderful fulfilling job working as an advocate for women and children.  I find myself strong, happy and more peaceful than I ever thought possible.  At the beginning of the year I was diagnosed with cancer…after radiation treatments and medication, I am doing better than I should be.

At the beginning of this year, I heard the Lord speak to me as I sat in church with my head bowed in prayer.

I felt God speak louder and clearer than I had ever heard before. a short message that held life-altering repercussions. “Go and share!”

I became overwhelmed with emotion. I had stop speaking to women a year and a half ago due to the affects of my divorce and past abuse. I was amazed that God had spoken to me about this at all, but even more so at the three words I heard. Go and share? Go and share what?

Then it hit me. Fear immediately overwhelmed me and I sank into the pew, trembling at what I thought God might be asking. I began to question God, “Surely You can’t mean share my past, Lord. I thought you wanted me to stop sharing? I don’t want to continually relive this hurt….Surely You don’t mean go and share what I prefer to keep secret.” Yet, that is exactly what He meant. And I was full of fear.

Return home and tell how much God has done for you. So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him. Luke 8:39

The man who was healed from demon possession in the scripture above experienced similar feelings. He was a tormented man that lived as an outcast for many years, naked and alone in the tombs of Gadara, near Galilee. When he saw Jesus, he fell to his knees and shouted at the top of his voice, begging for mercy from God. Jesus commanded the demons to leave him and then cast them into a herd of pigs that rushed down the steep bank into a lake and drowned. The man was healed physically, but more importantly, spiritually.

He was so overwhelmed with gratitude for what Jesus had done, he begged to travel with Jesus and stay by His side. But Jesus had other plans. Instead, Jesus told him to go and share his story. And he did.

What had once been a burden to bear became a powerful story of holy transformation. This man’s past, and the healing he experienced, became the foundation of a purpose in life that he would have never imagined — living his life as proof of the life-changing power of Jesus.

This man’s story became a testimony he was willing to share with others. How many people believed in Jesus and are now spending eternity with Him simply because this former demon-possessed man willingly allowed his terrible past to become a story of redemption and purpose?

People can cannot deny, dispute or ignore God’s transformational power in someone’s life. Our stories of pain, adversity and overcoming in Christ are meant to serve as a testimony of God’s faithfulness and power, evidence that God really can take what the devil meant for evil and use it for good.

I’ve since learned it is always God’s desire for us to go and share our stories, whether we want to or not.

God never wastes our pain. Only we do. God has a plan a great purpose and a beautiful future for all who believe in Him. Not despite our past, but because of it.

For years I’ve believed in, written about and spoken about the promise found in Jeremiah 29:11, which says “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”  Do I still believe it?

During the year of 2016 – which honestly had felt much like a disaster – I had endured one of the most difficult, heartbreaking and horrific storm I’ve ever had to go through.   But I have to admit there have been times when the burden felt too heavy to bear and an overwhelming deluge of emotions seemed to be controlling my mind and my life. I was not only dealing with a divorce, but the painful memories of years of childhood sexual abuse.  There were days when I felt weak, inadequate and hopeless, despite leaning into God as hard as I could.  The future I once thought was secure and all planned was now so uncertain, in addition to the personal sorrow of being catapulted into the unwanted roles of a single woman.

At the time, I loved my husband dearly, and have always prayed fervently for him and our marriage. Over the years, I prayed endlessly for a change in his heart and mind, and even prayed for some type of miraculous restoration to occur if that was God’s will. However, at this point, it seems abundantly, clear that restoration does not appear to be in God’s plan for us.  I have since learned many truths about my marriage that caused me to see that it was never what I thought it was.  Played for a fool in the hands of a man that used me because he could not have the life he desired. An unwilling participant in his obsession with youth and the paradox of what is appropriate and what he desires.  I was forced to play a game, I had no chance of winning. I sadly, realize now, he will never be happy, no matter who he marries until he sheds his old life and confesses, allowing the Lord to shed light on his dark life.

I would have done anything in the world to avoid this happening. However, I’ve finally come to realize through a lot of prayer, faith, and emotional and spiritual healing, that sometimes, no matter how badly we want something, strive for it or pray for it, it may not work out the way we wanted or prayed for.

The reason the Lord wanted me to share is:

God uses the hurting to help the hurting. He uses the redeemed to help redeem. God used a divorced women during my darkest days, early in my divorce healing, to give me hope that I too would survive this divorce… and maybe even thrive someday.

Every day women need to hear that I have been through an abusive marriage and a divorce, that I have been abused as a child, that I have been raped and I’ve healed, and I’m more than thriving on the other side sharing this hope and healing with them. Someone you meet is going to need to hear that you too have been through a divorce or whatever storm you have been through. Seeing how your life is better now, what it took to get through the healing process, and that you’re doing well, which will give someone hope, needed to keep moving forward in her own healing journey.

Whatever God’s purpose is for you, do it to shine a light into the dark places of pain, hurt, and struggles. Your purpose may look very different than mine, and mine different from yours, but we all can be used in distinct ways to comfort others in their times of troubles and use our purpose to benefit the Kingdom of God.

The good news is that God has been incredibly,  faithfully present throughout this storm.  I can see tangible evidence of His speaking hope into my spirit every time I so desperately needed it and how He gave me strength on the hardest of days.

Admittedly my faith has felt weak at times, but I have now personally experienced how God is strongest when we are at our weakest.  His obvious intervention in my life, along with the unconditional love, support, encouragement and prayers from beloved friends and family, are what have carried me this far.

So today, despite it all, I can honestly say I do still wholeheartedly believe in the promise of Jeremiah 29:11.   I truly believe God has a great plan and purpose for what I am going through and for my future.

Although the happenings of 2018 are yet to be known, I am choosing to be hopeful and believe God has a wonderful year ahead with exciting new opportunities, relationships, blessings and adventures in store. I am choosing to believe my story is still being written, and trust God will be with me during the journey.

In His love and trusting in His continued goodness,

Search My Heart

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Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me, and know my anxieties;
And see if there is any wicked way in me,
And lead me in the way everlasting.  Psalm 139 23-24

David was a man who loved God with a reckless abandon. His life was a picture of success and failure, and his biblical record shows the fact that David was far from perfect. But what made David a cut above the rest was that his heart was always pointed toward God. He had a deep desire to follow God’s will and do “everything” God wanted him to do. He was a man after God’s own heart.  One of the reasons why David is called a man after God’s own heart is that he had absolute faith in God. He was also a prayerful man and God had granted David understanding and wisdom through his daily meditation. We should look to David as a role model and not only read God’s Word but also think about and meditate on it throughout the day, for God loves it when we think about Him. “Blessed are they who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart. They do nothing wrong; they walk in his ways” (Psalm 119:2–3).

After David sinned, he was always truly repentant.  He shows us our first and most important reaction to sin should always be to ask God to search us. There are times when we know that we sinned, but there are also times that we sin and we aren’t even aware of it until it is revealed to us. This is why we need to allow God to search us and “know” our hearts. Let him reveal the sin in your life that you may not even know you have committed.

I want to encourage you today to let the Lord search you. Take the time to ask Him to “know your heart.” We don’t need to spend time walking in the anxiety of our sinful nature. Instead, how much more freeing would it be to release it, trust God with it, allow Him to lead us out of it and in so doing, give us the confidence to know that we are His. Be comforted today in knowing that a sin found, forgiven, and forgotten is a sin you no longer have to concern yourself with.

In conclusion, David was a man after God’s own heart because he demonstrated his faith and was committed to following the Lord. Yes, his faith was tested on a grand scale, and he failed at times. But after his sin he sought and received the Lord’s forgiveness. In the final analysis, David loved God’s Law and sought to follow it exactly. As a man after God’s own heart, David is a role model for all of us.

May God, through our humble confession and prayer, so reveal His Son to us that we can say with the early believers, “We ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world” (John 4:42).

Dear Heavenly Father

Teach me how to align my heart with Yours. I recommit myself as a man/woman after Your heart. I choose to seek Your face (Psalm 27:8). In difficult times, open my heart to receive Your revelation. Hide me in the shelter of your tabernacle (Psalm 27:5). Reveal deeply to my heart Your love for me. Rescue me in the midst of difficult circumstances, and bring me into a spacious place (Psalm 18:19). Teach me to enjoy life the way you desire. I choose to be confident in Your love. I am Your Bride. “I love you, O LORD, my strength” (Psalm 18:1). 

Learning To Accept God’s Love

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Do you ever struggle with unanswered prayers?

Although, every believer has unanswered prayer, it can sometimes, lead a person to conclude that he or she is not worthy enough or deserving of God’s favor.

I have had such a deep longing within my heart that I’ve desperately wanted to see come to pass. For the last several years I have waited for the Lord to answer my prayer. I wait patiently on my good days and tell myself “It’s just not God’s timing yet”  But, on my bad days I feel afraid and hurt and unworthy.

I began to wonder why I struggled with unanswered prayer so much and why I always felt defeated.  You see, I never realized the correlation between how I view God and my prayer life before; Let me explain.

I was raised in an angry, abusive home where I was sexually abused. The only role models I had were quick tempered mean alcoholics.  Needless to say,  I grew up scared of men. My life was filled with so much fear, pain, hurt, betrayal, and lies. Manipulation and deceit were at the core of our home.  I found myself thinking I was not lovable. In my mind if my own parents could not love me, there had to be something wrong with me.

So years later, after I became a believer, the concept of a kind, loving heavenly Father was a completely foreign concept to me. The words my pastor spoke sounded wonderful, like a fairy tale, but deep down I couldn’t escape the sense of God’s judgement and anger.  Even when I read my Bible, I seemed to focus on the legalism aspect of scripture. And every time I failed, messed up or fell short, I felt myself the target of God’s anger. I came to almost expect unanswered prayer, because I believed I did not deserve to be blessed.

This began a cycle of falling short all the time and making unwise choices.  Never realizing the connection between my childhood and my skewed perception of God.  The years of an unloving atmosphere filled with anger and fear had warped my brain, therefore, unconsciously blocking the truth of who God really was.

It wasn’t until after my second abusive marriage, I began to recognize that I had become comfortable with accepting less than what the Lord desired for me.  This was bolstered by the declaration from my ex-husband that the Lord had told him to divorce me and had in fact, taken me out of our marriage for his ministry.  That are marriage was never ordained by God.?  I guess in some way, this belief somehow absolved him of all the hurt he had caused me. Since I had been long ago programmed to believe that everything was my fault, I bought into his lie.  This had devastating effects on my heart and feelings of worth. I felt so much shame for my divorce and thought, “here I go again disappointing God, once again falling short, I had failed as a wife.”  I did not even sign my divorce papers when I was served, because I feared God’s wrath.

I remember sharing with my counselor that I desperately wanted to please God.  I shared how I knew God was mad at me, because I had failed again.  That I knew I did not deserve a happily ever after, like most Christians.  My counselor took my hand and said “Cheryl, God is not angry with you, He loves you, He cares for you and He understands your past and wants desperately to heal you. Slowly thru my brokenness and pain, and on my knees seeking God, that the truth started soaking in.  I think this was the first time I realized that maybe, it was true, God was not angry with me and in fact loved me.

The Lord is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy. Psalm 145:8

This verse which says God is slow to anger, that He offers forgiveness when I confess my failures and that He does not hold my shortcomings against me, began transforming not only my brain, but my heart. And if that were not awesome enough, the fact that God is abounding in mercy and loving-kindness toward us..” As I meditated on this verse I began to believe God’s truth, the massive wall that had protected my heart as a child and continued into adulthood, slowly began to come down.

The unanswered prayer that was weighing on my heart for so long, was lifted.  I began to see that the Lord is my Daddy, the Dad I never had.  I realized as I love my children unconditionally and want what is best for them, so does my Heavenly Father.  My prayers began to change, I started trusting that I could trust Him with my deepest hurts and needs.  He knows my heart and the heart of the person I was praying for.  He and only He knows how this prayer should be answered. I began to truly have a peace that passes all understanding.  Knowing if this door closes, He has something better for me.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. in all your ways acknowledge Him,  and He will make your paths straight Psalm 3:5-6

He is our gracious heavenly Father who loves and accepts us as we are, patiently bearing with us, teaching and guiding us as we grow and mature in Christ. He is not mad at me, and He is not mad at you. God is for us, not against us (Romans 8:31). He has good plans for our lives (Jeremiah 29:11), and He loves us with an everlasting love.

Jeremiah 31:3 The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.

Sometimes our past experiences shape us in ways we don’t fully understand. But through the power of the Holy Spirit, God reshapes us, transforming our hearts and minds as only He can. Though it often takes time, God’s truth can work its way deeply into our hearts and completely break down walls built of lies. And oh, how He loves to bring those walls down!  I learned I am worthy, worthy of love and am a beloved child of God.  Amen

So, the sentence at the beginning; Although, every believer has unanswered prayer, it can sometimes, lead a person to conclude that he or she is not worthy enough or deserving of God’s favor. Is far from the truth, The Lord either answers are prayers with a yes, or a no and No is because we have a good Father in God, who, just like a good earthly father, desires to give His children what’s best for them even if He has to say no to something they want right now. Or He is teaching you to trust in His timing, to wait on Him, If you’ve asked God for answers but find yourself waiting longer than you planned, take a moment now to thank Him in advance for His answer. Trust that He is working behind the scenes on your behalf. Don’t give up. Look forward in hope and expectancy for Him to respond and remember that the Lord is good to those who seek Him.   The question is: Do we really believe that He is good? If we did, wouldn’t that be cause to celebrate, whether He says yes or no?

Father God, today I choose joy because I believe You are always saying yes. Sure, there are places of disappointment in my life and there are things I would like to be different, but I choose to give thanks. Starting today, I choose to respond to You as if You are always good — a Father who has my best in mind. Because You are good. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Faith is not the belief that God will do what you want. It is the belief that God will do what is right.” Max Lucado

A Year Of Favor – Happy New Year

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The New Year is a time to learn to rely more heavily on the grace of God. Now I’ve met a few self-made men and women and so have you, but so often these people seem proud, self-centered and driven. There is another way: beginning to trust in God’s help. One secret from the Apostle Paul: “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength,” he said. (Phil 4:13, NIV) And God’s strength saw him through pain, joy, and accomplishment.

By the gentle touch
of His grace you will find
happiness on your path
His love gives us confidence
to embrace a great new year

 

God Uses The Weak

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I had the pleasure of speaking to a group of women who have suffered childhood sexual abuse yesterday. I almost canceled, because I had a huge setback in my recovery as a survivor this week. It was a setback that almost made me stop and retreat, it was something that on the surface should have been no big deal, but left me deeply wounded and hurt.  It left me doubting my gifts and my ability for God to use me. No one ever talks about the little things, the not so obvious things that we as survivors of childhood sexual abuse have to manage privately. …The imprint of childhood trauma shows up in our lives in the smallest ways. In what we see, in what we hear or what we smell. … It’s all those things that trigger us day in and day out when we least expect it.   Sometimes, it’s what people say that tear us down, like telling us we are acting like a victim or get over it and move on. These little things can make us retreat and shut down. Every story deserves to be told and every voice deserves to be heard. We need to encourage survivors and victims to speak out and talk about it. Don’t be the cause as to why they remain silent.

The Lord in His goodness showed me that He uses the weary, feeble, powerless… Sometimes when we feel physically or spiritually weak, we’re tempted to take a “time-out,” thinking that God will use us again when we are stronger. In Judges 6, we’re introduced to Gideon who was taking a “time-out.” It was wartime, and Gideon was hiding when an angel of the Lord appeared to tell him that he would be the one to save Israel. Imagine Gideon’s astonishment: “How can I save Israel? Lord, I come from a nobody family, and I’m the lowest nobody in my family. And You’re going to use me?”

After God enlisted the nobody Gideon, He got a nobody army. Then God took those nobodies and won the battle! God takes us in our weak state and uses us so He alone can be glorified. Thank you, Lord.

Why does God delight in choosing the weak:  The first reason is found in 1 Corinthians 1, verse 29: “that no flesh should glory in His presence.” When we get to heaven, not one of us will be able to say we got there on our own merit. We’re saved simply by the grace of God. The second reason is found in verse 31, “He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.” If we operate in our own strength and not God’s, we risk taking the glory and credit for ourselves. Scripture tells us that we must be weak and low enough in order for God to use us.

God wants to take us down to the very depths of ourselves to teach us that if there is any power, it is the power that is in God, and not in us. God doesn’t need to make us into performers or superstars in order to use us. Instead, He’s looking for men and women who have hearts that say, “Lord, I’m a nobody. I’m nothing without You. Will You use me?” When God finds such a heart, something extraordinary happens — that nobody is promoted to the ranks of God’s nobility.

Don’t allow the enemy to convince you that God cannot use you because you are “flawed”, weak, or seemingly inconsequential. Like I almost did! No, instead, remember that He uses the ordinary, often broken, people…to do extraordinary things. Our God is not looking at your wealth, your social status or your education — He’s looking at your heart! If your heart is willing and your life is available, then He is more than able to perform miraculous work through you for His Kingdom’s sake. With so much work to be done, don’t allow the enemy to stifle or steal the Lord’s vision for your life –- He has a plan to use you to confound the wise of this world, and to bring to naught the things th