Sunday, January 28, 2018

FREE AT LAST!
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that over 50 percent of female, homicide victims are murdered by a spouse or boyfriend. According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, more than (one in three) women (35.6%) in the United States have experienced rape, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
Abused women suffer paralyzing fear, physical and emotional torment, isolation from friends and family, and threats of death. Because of the recent rash of women murdered by partners or ex partners, I am sharing my story with an urgent plea to all women — leave your abuser before it is too late!

It was New Year's Eve of 1968. My cousin was having a gathering at his apartment. While there, he introduced me to a handsome and very charming career officer in the United States Coast Guard. After a whirlwind romance, we married.

Immediately, he forbid me to have further communication with my friends. He monitored my phone calls and my coming and going. He went through my belongings and trashed anything that he believed connected me with my past. Eventually, his unrelenting verbal abuse and threats broke me, so that I shook  violently when I heard the rattle of his keys in the door. I lived in constant fear, not knowing what would set him off.
A little over two years into the marriage, I became pregnant. He demanded I get an abortion. I refused; he refused to allow me to buy maternity clothes. Fortunately, a co-worker loaned four maternity outfits. He then began shoving and knocking me to the floor. I feared for my baby and knew that I needed to escape before the violence escalated, because it always does.
Daily, the neighbors heard him shouting foul profanities at me. They pleaded with me to leave him. During the last four months of pregnancy, I planned our escape. Ten days after my son was born, I waited for my husband to leave for work. The movers rushed in, packed my things, and with my infant son securely in my arms, I headed for the airport.
A month later, my estranged husband called. Evidently, my attorney had shared my phone number with his attorney.  He offered the same ingratiating platitudes: "I am so sorry; it will never happen again."  "Things will be different." "We can work this out; You know I love you." 

I had heard it all before, so with great resolve, I told him it was over. And yes, I feared he might find me, but as a new Christian of just one month, I had placed my life and my son's life in God's hands. However, I have no doubt that had I caved into his charms, both my son and I would have become another statistic in the news, which brings me to the reason for writing this.
Abuse is unacceptable. Don't believe the lie that if you were a better person, he would stop the abuse. No matter how much you try to please him, he will continue to abuse you by shaming you into thinking that you are the problem. He will demoralize you into believing that you are ugly, stupid, worthless, and useless.


Generally, abuse begins with belittling, criticizing, screaming, and telling the victim they are worthless. This type of demoralization escalates into pushing and shoving and eventually turns to violent physical abuse, and even murder. These incidents are often followed either by threats of more violence, if the woman doesn't keep silent, or the offender gives gifts, with a promise that it will never happen again. A brief honeymoon from violence may follow, but just when it seems that things will be better, tension builds over a frivolous issue. Despite attempts to soothe and de-escalate the situation, the woman's efforts only fuel her abuser's wrath, and the abuse begins again.


Sadly, victims suffer in silence, because they minimize the violence and blame themselves instead of the abuser. They fail to understand that abusers have deep insecurities and actually feel powerless. Thus, they become distrustful, jealous, possessive, controlling, aggressive, verbally abusive, and violent.


The truth is that God created you in His own image (Genesis 1:27). Before you were formed in the womb, God knew you (Jeremiah 1:5). Imagine...God knew you before He created your inward parts and knit you together in your mother's womb. You have value, because you were wonderfully made by God's hand (Psalm 139:13-15)He created you to be a shining light for Him, and Satan wants to snuff out your light. 

God never intended that anyone live in fear. Nor should any woman remain in an abusive relationship, for He said, "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." Abuse is not the future that God has for you (Jeremiah 29:11). We have all been created in His image; therefore, abuse of another human being is a direct assault on God.

Those caught in this cycle of abuse, especially if there are children involved, should seek immediate help and safety in a shelter, where they can find support and counseling. For help in locating a local shelter, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.

I suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), resulting from the extreme mental abuse, which far exceeded the physical. I would hear a noise or comment that reminded me of my ex-husband and would have flashbacks and shake violently. My self-esteem and confidence had been obliterated, and my fear and anxiety levels were at an all time high. In my distress, I prayed and asked God to heal me, so I was shocked when He spoke into my spirit, "Forgive him and pray for him."  My initial response was, "I can't."  Then, reluctantly, I prayed,  "Father, I forgive (_____). I pray that he comes to know the love of Christ and accepts Him as His Lord and Savior." 

I prayed that prayer every day for two years, until one day, I realized that the fear, pain, shame, insecurities, and hopelessness were no longer in my thoughts. I no longer trembled when I heard his name or a sound that reminded me of him. The anger was gone. For God had given me wings to soar above the past. I had peace in my heart and was truly free at last! 


PRAYER:
LORD, I feel trapped in this abusive (marriage/relationship) and I don't know how to leave. Give me strength to seek help. Protect my family and me against any retribution. Your Word tells me that I must forgive, but right now I don't feel I can. Help me to forgive (name), because if I refuse to forgive, You will not forgive me of my sins (Matthew 6:16). Heal my broken heart and bring restoration to my life. I ask that You lead and guide me and make provision for my safe escape. In Jesus name, amen.

"In all things, we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us."
(Romans 8:37)





Tuesday, January 23, 2018

THE FENCE

When we lived in Florida, our next-door neighbor had a very tall Doberman that he kept in his yard behind a four-foot, chain-link fence. One day, my husband asked him, "What's preventing Duke from jumping the fence? He clearly has the ability." With a grin, he answered, "Because he doesn't know he can."

How many of us have missed opportunities, because we only saw an obstacle and believed it to be greater than our ability to circumvent it? I know that in my life there were times when I was deterred by a "fence."

Has God ever asked you to do something that you believed was beyond your abilities? All you could see were potential barriers, that were bolstered by negative, lying tapes being played in your head: "It's too difficult."  "You're not talented enough, smart enough, trained enough, or educated enough." "You failed before, so why should this work?" "Why try? You probably won't succeed?" "What if you make a fool of yourself?" For years those negative tapes played in my head until one day, I rejected the lies and accepted the truth that those in Christ are a new creation. The old life with its past failures, mistakes and sins, are gone; all things have been made new (2 Corinthians 5:17). 

Alexander Graham Bell was an overcomer. When asked, "As an inventor you suffered many failures before attaining your many successes. What advice do you have for those who have met failure?" Bell answered, "When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us." In his long career, failure never became a "fence" that prevented him from exploring new ideas.

Jesus said, "[Satan] was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44). No matter our age, any negative thoughts or doubts that we might have about ourselves, are lies meant to destroy and abort God's intended destiny for us.

God placed within every individual unique abilities and talents to be used in accomplishing His will on earth. Unfortunately, we have a tendency to believe the enemy's lies that tell us we can't do something; we shouldn't do something; or if we were to do something, our efforts would have little meaningful affect or value. 

Jesus explained to His disciples what He was about to accomplish according to God's will. He would go to Jerusalem where He would suffer, be killed, and on the third day be raised to life. Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. "Never, Lord!" he said. "This shall never happen to You!" Jesus turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns" (Matthew 16:20-24). Jesus was addressing the lie that Satan had spoken into Peter's heart.

Remember that Satan is not only the father of lies but he is a clever manipulator. He was able to lead one-third of Heaven’s angels into a rebellion against God. If he was able to deceive angels who are smarter than humans, then we need to be mindful of his tactics and not be caught unawares.

Satan is so arrogant and full of himself that he even tried to deceive the very Son of God who was fasting in the desert for 40 days and 40 nights. Satan came to Him with three lies, and with each lie, Jesus spoke the Word. Satan left and angels came and ministered to the Lord (Matthew 4:1-11).

Speaking God's Word in faith has great power. Jesus sent forth His Word and healed them and delivered them from their destruction (Psalm 107:20). The Word spoke all things into existence (Genesis 1). For the Word of God is living and active. It discerns the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).  When self-defeating or incriminating words knock at the door of our minds, we should answer with God's Word.

Each day is a new beginning. We must not believe the enemy's lies that tell us that we cannot do what God has placed within us to achieve. For it is not by our own power or might that we accomplish great things. It is through God, who gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (I Corinthians 15:57).

If God places in our hearts a talent or desire, it is not to be wasted. It is to be used to benefit His kingdom. Most assuredly, He also placed within us everything we need to accomplish that goal. However, we must believe that we can do all things through Him who gives us strength (Philippians 4:13). It may seem impossible, but with God, all things are possible (Matthew 19:26). Most limitations are first birthed in the mind. With God, there are no limitations, because we have been made overcomers, capable of far more than what we could ever think or imagine.

When I was a child, I heard constant negative voices speaking into my life. Eventually, I believed those lies. However, over the years, I have learned not to entertain negative thoughts or words, because I know who I am in Christ. Negative words, if harbored, will morph into a self-fulfilling prophecy, which falsely defines the truth. Thus, that false belief becomes a new false reality.

We must release those negative thoughts so that we can move forward with God and fulfill our ordained destiny, knowing that we have been made more than conquerors through Christ (Romans 8:37). God has given us everything we need to overcome adversity and life's challenges.

Life is full of trials and risks; nothing comes easy. Everything that is worth having requires faith in God, prayer, integrity, diligence, dedication, perseverance, tenacity, and commitment. In fact, we are told to consider it all joy when we are faced with "fences," because it is a testing of our faith, which then produces perseverance to finish the work in us, so that there is nothing lacking (James 1:2-4).

PRAYER:
LORD, I long to see Your plan fulfilled in my life. Give me ears to hear Your voice as it speaks and instructs my spirit. In everything I do, help me to use the gifts You have given me, so that I may work heartily for You and not for myself or for man (Colossians 3:23-24). For I believe Your Word that promises that in everything I do, if I put You first, You will direct my steps and crown my efforts with success (Proverbs 3:6). In Jesus name, amen.




Monday, January 15, 2018

 GOD IS GOOD

The world continually belches out violence and evil, while many ask, "If God is so good, why does He allow evil?" Why the question? Hadn't God warned Adam and Eve not to partake of the tree of good and evil, which would result in spiritual and physical death? (Genesis 2:17) Instead, they chose Satan's lie, and death and sin became infused into the souls of mankind. Only through the cleansing blood of Christ could people be redeemed.
       Because of mankind's rebellion against God, He forewarned us of things to come: "There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God  — having a form of godliness but denying it's power?(2 Timothy 1:3-9)
            [Satan], the god of this age, has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God (2 Corinthians 4:4 NIV). So, why are so many shocked by the direction our nation has taken? Why is God's goodness measured by the evil we see? God is not the problem, for God is good (Psalm 135:3). Sin is the problem; it hardens hearts and rejects God and His Word.
       God's Word warned that a time would come when people would not accept sound teaching, but would have itching ears and be drawn to teachers who suited their own passions (2 Timothy 4:3). Today's sinful passions are justified, and morality has been redefined. What was once called evil is now good, and what was good is now defined as evil. Who could have imagined 56 years ago, that the removal of prayer and Bibles from schools would send America into apostasy?
      The only way to change the world is through prayer and fasting. Christians are the Church. Each follower of Christ has been called to be a prayerful bulwark against evil that brings about violence and the breakdown of a moral society. Sadly, prayer has been left to the clergy, with many Christians engaging in prayer only when a desperate need arises. However, God calls His people to pray without ceasing, each devoted to prayer, while being watchful and thankful and always praying for all the Lord's people (Colossians 4:2; 1 Thessalonians 5:17; Ephesians 6:18).
        In the Book of Revelation, the Lord addresses the people of God. His chastisement, encouragement, and warning is for the purpose of awakening us to repentance, prayer, and seeking Him with our whole heart:

THE DEAD CHURCH I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you." "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches" (Rev. 1-6 NIV).
THE FAITHFUL CHURCH — "I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied My name.  Since you have kept My command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches (Rev. 3:8-13 NIV).
THE LUKEWARM CHURCH “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot.  So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,’ and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked" (Rev. 3:15-17) "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.  Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me (Rev. 3:19-20). He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches (Rev. 3:22 NKJV).
       God is sending a strong message to the people of God. Repent of your lukewarmness towards Me! I am looking for disciples who, regardless of life's challenges, will follow Me, pray to Me, learn of Me, fellowship with Me, embrace My will, trust Me, love Me, and be My voice. No longer can "Christians" be satisfied to live a minimal, Sunday only, Christian life as they pursue their own agenda and pleasures. "Know that I am gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love and good to all; I have compassion on all I have made" (Psalm 145:8-9). “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
      A "yoke" joins two oxen, so that they walk together harmoniously. It would be foolish to yoke a mule with an ox. Jesus cautioned us not to be unequally yoked with a non-believer, for one will pull against the other. In other words, we can't be yoked with the Lord and with the world (2 Corinthians 6:14). When yoked with Christ in mind and spirit, where He goes, we go with Him; His thoughts become our thoughts.
      God has not turned a blind eye to world events. He is waiting for His Church to arise from deadness and lukewarmness. If we want God's involvement in our lives and world affairs, then we must invite Him with our prayers. He is waiting for His people to become the "faithful church" that obeys Him in lifting holy hands and voices in praise and prayer, as they call upon Him, for He said to call on Him in the day of distress and He will deliver us, and we will glorify Him (Psalm 50:15).

PRAYER:
LORD, You call us to humble ourselves, to pray, to seek Your face, and to turn from any sinful, immoral, wrongful ways. Only then will we hear from heaven, and You will forgive our sins and heal our land. (2 Chronicles 7:14). I humbly repent of any lukewarmness or failure to daily pray with purpose and intent for the Church, this nation, our leaders, those in authority over us, my family and friends, and others that had been placed on my heart. Yoke me with You and Your purposes, so that I may be a part of the "Faithful Church" that accomplishes Your will on earth as it is in heaven. In Jesus name, amen.