BLOG site of Amy R. Maxwell

I am the wife of B.J. Maxwell (married August of 1997) and mother of our four adopted children.
I am blessed with the awesome privilege to care for & love my husband, invest in & love our children, and keep our home.
May I steward these gifts well, for the glory and praise of Christ Jesus our precious Lord & Savior!

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus . . . sweetest name I know!

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Molested and Growing in Grace

A story of grace.

When I was in my early teens I was molested. Decades later I still have a hard time saying that word. How could such a small word, with such a simple meaning, take away all that is sacred and pure? Though the wounds have healed, I still carry deep scars. That little word changed my life forever.

For most of my childhood, our family lived at Christian camps. You know, the camps you go to with your church for a week in the middle of nowhere. I loved it! Each summer I would apply for a new position. I washed dishes & cooked (for 100's of people at a time). I was also a trail & tubing guide, camp nurse, administrative assistant, and lifeguard. Each summer brought new adventures! But one of my favorite things about summer was living in staff housing. Bunk beds, late night hikes, sneaking into the kitchen for midnight snacks, and the pranks . . . oh how I loved the pranks! (I admit, I filled a shower head or two with powdered Jello and covered a few toilets in plastic wrap!) My parents trusted me, as well as the staff they hand picked, so it was not unusual for me to live away from home for the summer, even at a young age. But my second summer away from home I met a man who was nothing short of wolf in sheep's clothing.

My wolf came in the form of blond hair, blue eyes, and a mouth full of Scripture. He was much older than I. I was shocked, yet flattered, that someone like him would pay attention to me. His advances were innocent at first. Yet through the flirting I knew this whole situation was wrong. But, a part of me loved being noticed . . . admired perhaps? And I felt like I could trust him. He was older and wiser, and he loved the Lord, or so he said. He quoted Scripture and would often tell me Hebrews 13:5, saying, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” No, I was not admired. I was preyed upon by a selfish, godless wolf.

I remember his first touch. He was playful and charming even when I said “no”. I recall thinking in my head, “My daddy is going to kill you. Just wait until my daddy finds out.” But, my daddy never found out. I kept it a secret. Every place he took me to was secluded, in the dark. I don't know when exactly I finally gave in. I was so sleep deprived that summer. He would get frustrated with me because I fell asleep a lot. I physically could not work all day and stay up all night, every night.

There were many signs that summer that I chose to ignore. (1) He was much older than me. Obviously, I should have sought counsel instead of falling for his flattery. (2) He always made me walk behind him. Always. He insisted I do this because his “love” for me could not be known to anyone. It was a secret that only we shared. (3) He had no concern for me. He was using me for his sake. I did not see this at the time. I blamed myself for years that I allowed this to happen. Perhaps if I had gotten more sleep, I would have seen him for who he was? I don't know. It happened.

After summer ended, he left. I never heard from him again. My body was sick with grief and shame. I had mono for the first month of school. I slept and slept. I tried to wrap my mind around the events that took place that summer. At first I was hurt that he left me. He left a huge hole in my heart. Then, as I gained strength and clarity, I saw him for who he really was . . . a wolf. How in the world did this happen? I allowed a wolf to take away my innocence and purity. Shame covered me as thick as the darkness of night. How could God forgive me?

I carried this dreadful secret for months. By God's grace, a dear friend whom I had opened up to, urged me to tell my parents what had happened. I was terrified. I thought this was my fault. Eight months after he left, I finally revealed my secret. My walls fell down and God began to bring healing. This certainly did not happen overnight. But little by little God began to pour out His grace. 

During high school, I found myself yearning for someone to fill the hole that the wolf had left in my heart. I am not proud of the fact that I dated many guys. I was looking for acceptance, worth, and fulfillment in all the wrong places. Looking back now, I see that the hole he left was a sacred hole, only intended for marriage. That hole is the unique oneness that happens in marriage. God blesses that kind of oneness. I see now that He created us to be fulfilled in Him alone and that marriage, and the sexual union of man and wife, is a gift that is sacred and holy.

Did you hear me, friend? Sex and intimacy are a gift. They are intended for marriage alone. God will not bless sin. I see so many people that are searching for fulfillment in all the wrong places. Just like me. Once you taste that intimacy, you crave it. Nothing quenches it outside of marriage.
“Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, within you, which you have from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body" (1 Corinthians 6:19, 20).
John Piper says, 
“O, what an offensive word to our rebel human nature. The body in which you dwell is not yours to do with simply as you please. God bought your body from the curse of sin by the payment of his own Son, and now your body should serve one all-encompassing purpose: 'Glorify, God in your body.' . . . In marriage God has designed a unique and stable and lasting relation for our most intimate expression of love. I believe experience confirms that something good and beautiful is lost from our sexual intimacy in marriage if we gave ourselves away outside that union. God can forgive that sin, but the scar he does not remove. The act will never be the same again. There is an inexpressible deepening of the union of marriage, which God intended, when a husband and wife can lie beside each other in perfect peace and freedom and say, 'What I have just given you I have never given to another.'”
It is easy to glorify God with your mouth, but do we glorify Him with our body? I did not glorify God with my body that summer. Though I knew in my heart that I would only give myself to my husband, somehow I failed. My fault or not, I failed. Could God forgive me?

Fast forward to my first year in college . . .

The fall of my freshman year we had a pastor come in and speak on forgiveness. I was mesmerized as I listened to him explain what the Bible says about our need for forgiveness. I will never forget the words of Matthew 6:14-15, “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.”

The Holy Spirit pricked my heart. I had sought God's forgiveness, but had I forgiven the wolf? No, I had not. I hated him. The thought of him made me want to vomit. I blamed him for taking away my innocence and I wanted nothing but hardship to come his way. He was evil. I had every right to hate him. But God . . .

Paul said in Ephesians 4:32, "Forgive each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you."

Thomas Watson answers the question of when should we forgive others:
“When we strive against all thoughts of revenge; when we will not do our enemies mischief, but wish well to them, grieve at their calamities, pray for them, seek reconciliation with them, and show ourselves ready on all occasions to relieve them . . . We are not bound to trust an enemy; but we are bound to forgive him.”
God, by His Spirit and through the preached Word, opened my heart to see truth and freedom for the first time. Truth – God forgives us of our offenses over and over and over again. His grace runs deep and His love is everlasting. Who am I to judge and hold on to unforgiveness when I am but a sinner in need of a Savior too? God called me that night to let go. And I did. I felt like I needed to come to a place in my life where I could forgive my wolf and pray for his salvation because an eternity apart from our gracious God is horrific. When I let go, I prayed for him and that is where I found freedom. Hallelujah! I was no longer a prisoner of unforgiveness. You see, unforgiveness kills the soul. In fact, it can even kill the body. David spoke of this in Psalm 34. God never intended for us to live in that sort of darkness. He calls us out and into His glorious light . . . where there are springs of love, grace, and joy! Oh how I needed the cool waters of His grace. It was sweet balm for a weary soul.

After I began practicing forgiveness in all areas of my life, God began to bless many of my relationships. (I could write pages on what the Lord has done!) I am thankful for His kindness and patience with me even when I made a mess of things (on countless occasions). But most importantly, God blessed my marriage. I was able to give all that I had to my husband, and God honored that. The scars from the wounds inflicted by the wolf are still there. I fight hard to cover them in grace and truth. It is not always easy, but it keeps me running to Christ. Anything that keeps us humble and dependent on Christ is always a good thing. So, I accept these scars as grace. I have nights where I am that young teenager all over again. If I am awaken from a deep sleep (if BJ rolls over or the kids awaken me) I run to a place in the house and hide, fearing that the wolf is after me. But, besides those nights, which are getting less the older I get, I have truly found freedom. I have not seen my wolf since that summer. I have no idea what became of him. But I pray that I would speak of Jesus and His grace if we ever cross paths.
I have been wanting to write my story for many years now. I don't seek accolades for being brave (in sharing my story) nor do I want pity over what happened. Life happens. Bad things happen to all of us. We will "face trials of many kinds" in this life (James 1:2-4). Often we begin identifying ourselves by these trials. We become a victim. But that is not God's kind intention. The Westminster Catechism says that, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.” Leave the judgment, wrath, and debt to God. How can we enjoy Him forever when we are entangled in a web of fear and hatred. Life is hard. But we must make the choice to obey God's Word and glorify Him in all things, in all areas, for all eternity! We obviously cannot do this apart from Christ. We need new hearts that love the things God loves. Our "heart is deceitful" (Jeremiah 17:9). We need hearts that no longer deceive but live for a life that is yet to come. We need hearts like that of Christ who emptied Himself, taking the form of a mere servant, and became obedient to the point of death (Philippians 2). We need THAT kind of heart. I needed THAT kind of heart.

Plain and simple – unforgiveness is disobedience.

I love what Peter said in 1 Peter 4:8, “Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.”

We all need grace. We are imperfect people who need a precious, perfect Savior.

As I said before, being molested changed my life forever. How? Because God opened my heart in radical ways to see my need for forgiveness. My life is forever changed not by a selfish act of sin, but by God's grace. Jesus forgives sinners and we should want to be like Jesus.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Wherever He Leads I'll Go

The hymn, Wherever He Leads I'll Go, has special meaning to me. Although the story behind this hymn is worth noting. You can click on the following link to find the meaning behind the words:

BJ and I were living in Ohio back in 2004. BJ was in his first year of ministry as a pastor of a local Baptist church. Conflict in the church led to his removal and church split.

This was already an intense time for BJ and myself, as we were in the process of adopting Lydia. Our removal from the church meant that we would lose our income and need to move. What was God doing? Were we going to lose Lydia? Adoption is COSTLY, especially if you do it privately, and we had to live in-state with her for 6 months until the adoption finalized. I remember many days of weeping.

I will never forget the day of the vote. Before the morning service, several of us met in the sanctuary to pray. A hand full of folks were on their knees begging for God's mercy & help. I got up after we prayed and went to the piano and started playing & singing hymns. The hymn the Lord lead me to that morning was Wherever He Leads I'll Go. Since that morning the words (and emotions) of that song have been forever seared onto my heart. It holds such special meaning to me. That morning, I prayed to truly find joy in Christ alone and to be obedient in whatever He was going to do.

11 years later . . . 
We, obviously, were able to adopt Lydia Grace! Praise the Lord! God led us to a sweet church in Texas after her birth where we served & worshiped alongside precious brothers & sisters in Christ - and who helped us adopt a couple of more! (You can read about that journey on my other BLOG - Adoption BLOG) God took the pain of those days & months in Ohio and used it for HIS glory and our good. I am thankful for His faithfulness and grace.
“Take up thy cross and follow me,”
I heard my Master say;
“I gave me life to ransom thee,
Surrender your all today.”

Wherever He leads I’ll go,
Wherever He leads I’ll go,
I’ll follow my Christ who loves me so,
Wherever He leads I’ll go.

He drew me closer to His side,
I sought His will to know,
And in that will I now abide,
Wherever He leads I’ll go.

It may be through the shadows dim,
Or o’er the stormy sea,
I take my cross and follow Him,
Wherever He leadeth me.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Teaching Our Kids About Same-Sex Marriage

First and foremost . . .
I am a Christian.

I believe Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” From that verse on, I believe that God has orchestrated all of history to testify what He would do and is doing through Christ Jesus, His Son. I believe in John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

I believe that Jesus is the Son of God. He bore our sins at the cross and He rose from the dead. I believe the truth of Romans 5:8-9, that God “demonstrated His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.”

As a follower of Christ, I believe that we must be born again (John 3). I believe that salvation is not merely a belief in God (James 2:19) but a life that is set apart by faith through Christ Jesus our Lord. I now rejoice in the amazement of Galatians 2:20, for “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Because Christ now lives within me, I am compelled by faith to obey Scripture and do that which is pleasing to my Heavenly Father (2 Timothy 1:9). I am no longer conformed to this world (Romans 12:2) for I am “His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works” (Ephesians 2:10). I do not seek to gain man's approval (Galatians 1:10), but rather, I seek to live a life that is brimming over with much love, faith, hope, and steadfastness. I believe that Christ is glorified in me when I love and obey the truths of Scripture. I esteem to follow the commands of Colossians 3:12-17:
“So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.”
My life will never be perfect. I will struggle with sin until my eyes close in death and open to the Word of God in the flesh. Often I do not long for what is good and right and I seek after things that are foolishness. I struggle with pride, anger, bitterness, selfishness, gluttony, laziness, the approval of others, and discontentment . . . among many others. Yet, God's Word tells me that I am no longer enslaved to that sin (Romans 6:12-19) and that I can run to God who is rich in mercy and grace (2 Peter 1:2; Hebrews 4:16). We all need the grace and forgiveness of Christ Jesus our Lord. Sin is sin. We all need “new hearts” (Ezekiel 36:26).

We have been talking through the Supreme Court's decision (to recognize same-sex marriage) with our children over the past few days. We have emphasized that God's Word is very clear on the matter of “marriage” (Genesis 1:27; 1 Timothy 1:9-10; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Romans 1:26-27; Leviticus 18:22); just as it is very clear on a deceitful tongue, stirring up strife, worry, hate, etc. We reminded them that God commands us, above all, to love. Remember when the Pharisees asked Jesus (in Matthew 22:34-46) what was the greatest commandment in the Law? Jesus answered, “YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.” So what does this look like when we are faced with neighbors who struggle with sin that is different than ours? We love them. We don't shame them. We don't ignore them nor make fun of them. We look to God for our example, “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). We should never condone anyone's sin. We should never encourage others to explicitly go against the Word of God. But rather, we put on the Lord Jesus Christ and look to his example in Philippians 2:1-11, as well as the many encounters we read about in the Gospels where Jesus lived & taught among “the tax collectors and sinners” (Mark 2:15). Our life must be governed by the truths and commands of Scripture if we claim to be born again.

I have several friends on social media who are in same-sex relationships. I would never want to shame them publicly. Is this how I would want to be treated? We all need Jesus. Perhaps they do not even know Jesus, or the truths of Scripture. How helpful is it when believers are judging and condemning others on what they might see as truth? “How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard?” (Romans 10:14) Show them Jesus. Show them the Jesus of Scripture.
“And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
When in doubt, love. 
Love like Jesus.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Endurance in Trials (James 1:2-4)

The kids and I are studying the book of James this summer. I have always loved this little New Testament letter. I am grateful for the many ways James addresses our “tongues” and for his exhortation to rejoice in trials. My all time favorite verse (3:17) is also tucked away in this little gem.

The past two days the kids and I have been discussing verses 1-18 of chapter 1. We have especially sought God's wisdom & grace on verses 2-4. This morning we discussed various trials that the Lord has brought us through . . . Nana T's death, Abby's sickness (when she was hospitalized), our last church situation, losing Miriam, Mommy's health, etc. We then discussed how James tells us to consider these trials as “joy”. What?! Those trials are/were some of the hardest and most painful we have had to bear as a family. How can we count them as JOY?!

We returned to verse 3. It says, “the testing of your faith produces endurance.” What exactly is endurance? How does the testing of our faith produce endurance?
In Merriam-Webster's Dictionary, endurance is defined as, “the ability to withstand hardship or adversity; the ability to sustain a prolonged stressful effort or activity.”
So, going through trials gives us the ability to withstand hardship? But that still does not explain how we can count it as joy. We looked to verse 4 for help. Verse 4 reads, “And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” Obviously, we can't be perfect this side of heaven. Now what? Who is the only perfect man to walk this earth? “Christ Jesus, it is he!!” (My mind automatically went to the hymn, A Mighty Fortress is Our God.) The children were quick to put this point together . . . “Enduring trials makes us more like Jesus. And Jesus helps us endure trials!”

“Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial.” (v12)

We discussed many trials (big and small). What happens when a sibling hits you and calls you a name? Or a friend tells a lie about you? It is easy to react quickly with anger and to unleash our tongues. But does that bring honor to God? Are we “enduring” and shining the light of Jesus when we react in anger? Absolutely not. We seek God for help & grace so that we can respond in love & wisdom. Endurance is putting on Jesus.

Our faith will be tested. That is inevitable. How we respond to trials is important. Our response to these trials reveals what we treasure the most . . . It reveals where our desires truly lie. As I sought to apply this to our family, I reminded the kids that their response to sin (whether or not they are truly sorrowful over sin) and their reactions in the face of trials/hardships reveal whether the Lord has truly given them new hearts. James tells us that a “new heart” is not a heart the merely believes in Jesus (2:19) but a heart that is sorrowful over sin and esteems Christ (and his work at the cross). Trials are a sure way to reveal what is hidden in our hearts.

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him . . . Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.” (James 1:5, 17)

Thank you, Heavenly Father, for making us more like your Son, Jesus Christ, through “various trials”. Help us to endure with great hope, joy, and faithfulness.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Religious Freedom Restoration Act

I have been thinking a lot about my home state of Indiana lately. It recently passed the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act.” As I read rants and such on the internet I am always surprised, although I should not be, at how quickly Christians, in particular, forget that Scripture is truth. Yesterday as I watched my two daughters play at an AWANA event, we were asked to recite the Pledge of Allegiance twice (before each tournament). The words . . . “One nation, under God . . .” really struck me. If we claim to be a nation “under God” why is Scripture, and the truths of it, so offensive? And it is not the world, necessarily, that finds it so offensive. As believers in Christ we simply cannot look to Scripture and say it is "out dated" or "irrelevant". This was never God's intention. If we claim to be believers of the Gospel we HAVE to obey Scripture. Scripture is very clear on all matters of life.

So, what does a life in Christ look like? i.e. What does a life centered on the truths of Scripture look like?
Therefore, walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace . . .

We are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming, but speaking truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him (Jesus) who is the head . . .

But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints; and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather of giving thanks . . .

Therefore, be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.  Ephesians 4:1,14; 5:3-4, 15-17
So, we don't act like jerks on Facebook or wherever else. The world will always be against the truths of Scripture. The world will always see the cross as “foolishness”. But as believers in Christ, we have been "set apart" and called to "walk in the light". We have even been called to "walk by the Spirit."
"For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love, serve one another . . . Walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh . . . Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, against such there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.  Galatians 13, 16, 19-25

We, then, should put on love, humility, and kindness, never wavering from truth. We should never dishonor Christ in what we say or do. To live a life that is honoring to God may look a little weird to this world. You know, it may even look quite offensive to some. But we haven't centered our lives on the “Victorian era” or a form of "Greek mythology" . . . We have centered our whole lives on the TRUTHS of Scripture and are therefore compelled to live by it. Our lives should reflect the life of Christ Jesus, our Lord.
Every word of God is tested;
He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him.
Do not add to His words or He will reprove you,
and you will be proved a liar.
Proverbs 30:5-6

Sanctify them in the truth;
Your word is truth.
John 17:17

Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's,
and to God the things that are God's.
Matthew 22:21
Live a life of love and truth.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

The Sting of Rejection

If you could see inside the corridors of my heart, to see the joy, pain, & fears, you would find an entangling weed that has taken residence for years. I don't remember when it first began to grow, or when I finally felt its cold, drab grip. For years it bore roots, seeping into every thought and action. But, by the grace of God alone, it is slowly withering away. Christ Jesus has been the only hope and remedy. He has been a healing balm.

What is this awful weed that rears its ugly head? It grew from the trenches of fear and was watered by a need for love & approval. You see, the thing I dread the most, the millstone I long to hurl, is the fear of rejection. Simply put, I walk into every relationship expecting to be rejected.

God has blessed me with many wonderful relationships that have not ended in pain and rejection. In fact, those relationships that have “failed” are just a tiny percentage. Yet, I still fear it will happen. I have never felt rejected from my husband nor have I dealt with the disdain or hate of my children. Our little family chooses to love & forgive and we work through the challenging stuff. If there is anything I long to teach my children, I long for them to know and live out the grace and love of Christ Jesus our Lord. In that type of love, that freedom of grace, all fear is lost and a flood gate of JOY abounds! Hallelujah! I long to embrace the Christ-exalting love, joy, and freedom I feel within my family as I cultivate relationships with those around me.

Why do I fear rejection? Do I desire man's approval? I believe God's Word to be true. I believe what God says in Galatians 1:10 and 2:20, 
“For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ . . . I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” 
That is truth. That is freedom! Yet, though I long to live a life pleasing to God alone, this fear of rejection from man plagues me.

I believe we all long to be loved and accepted. This is not necessarily a sinful desire. We long to be loved by family and friends, to know that we actually mean something to them. Perhaps this is but a taste of Heaven where our love for God and one another will flow like rivers into a vast ocean, its depths and currents running long and wide. Even Scripture itself testifies to the fact that love is a great and marvelous gift! God commands us to pursue and give of it willingly.

But a life of faith, a life of love, is not easy. Though full of unimaginable joy in Christ, suffering, sorrow, and pain abound. Until our eyes close in death, we will battle our flesh and the darkness of this world. Indeed, if there is anything we can be certain of as a believer, it is the fact that we WILL suffer this side of Heaven. People will hurt us. Relationships will fail. And no matter how hard we try, we will wound others.

I was molested when I was a teenager. I thought I was receiving love and approval, but I was not. It was an act of selfishness and sin. For years my soul anguished over this betrayal and loss of innocence. It wasn't until I was in college that the Lord opened my heart to forgive and extend grace to those who had hurt me. Hallelujah! I discovered much freedom and joy in forgiveness. I had never tasted that before. There is, indeed, something ever so sweet in giving all your pain & anger to Jesus, knowing that He alone will vindicate what has been wronged. In Christ, I have been set free. And in forgiveness there is joy & hope!

God's Word commands us to forgive. Jesus Himself says in Matthew 6:14-15, “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” This has always convicted my soul. Who am I to withhold forgiveness when God has forgiven me time and time again? I love Daniel 9:9, “The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him.” Indeed, He is a gracious and loving Heavenly Father! Through His Son, Jesus Christ, there is not only the forgiveness of sins, but there is power to forgive & love the unforgivable.

I have felt the sting of rejection and betrayal in other relationships. Though I have no desire to call out names or wound those that have hurt me, I have felt the unimaginable pain of rejection from close family and friends. This pain has perhaps been one of the hardest to shed. But should I be surprised, as if God owes me a life void of this? For even Christ Himself suffered rejection and was betrayed by those whom He loved. WE rejected Christ, the Son of God, who knew no sin. So why does it hurt so much? It hurts because we are not made to live in love-less relationships. We were made in the image of Christ Himself, the Son of God. Scripture testifies that “the one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (I John 4:8) Love-less relationships, an unforgiving spirit, a heart that does not seek reconciliation . . . all of these do not bring honor to God. Period. To reject a brother or sister, whom God has accepted in Christ, is an attempt to overrule God. My soul shudders to think of such pride.

Yet, the very thing I fear is often the very thing I am guilty of. We have all chosen hate over love, anger over humility, and silence over reconciliation. If we are honest, we must confess that we have lied, manipulated, and selfishly pawned our way through the lives of those around us. I think of Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; Who can understand it?” The only remedy to broken relationships . . . the only remedy for fear, anger, hurt, and rejection is Jesus Christ our Lord! “He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds [we] have been healed." (I Peter 2:24) Praise Him with shouts of JOY!

My prayer this year is for grace to continue persevering each day in the truths of Scripture. I will battle with fears & sin until my eyes close in death. Oh, how my soul longs for that day, when my eyes shall finally open to see the Word of God in the FLESH! But until then, I pray the Lord would help me to truly love and forgive those around me. I pray to crucify that dread of rejection that weighs so heavy on my soul. I pray the Lord would continue to supply His healing balm. I do not have the power to remove this rooted milestone . . . but Jesus does! How?

It is no longer I that lives.
It is CHRIST that lives in me!

Run to Jesus, my friends. Having a relationship with Christ is not merely believing. James 2:19 says, “You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.” Satan and his demons believe in God but they are not counted as righteous. They are forever damned by God's wrath and judgment. Jesus Himself said in Matthew 7:14, “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”

Has God done a work in your heart? I love what John Piper has to say about the assurance of salvation:
The most agonizing problem about the assurance of salvation is not the problem of whether the objective facts of Christianity are true (God exists, Christ is God, Christ died for sinners, Christ rose from the dead, Christ saves forever all who believe, etc.). Those facts are the utterly crucial bedrock of our faith. But the really agonizing problem of assurance is whether I personally am saved by those facts.”
If you have ever asked yourself the following questions: “Do I really have saving faith? Is my faith real? Am I self-deceived? Am I a child of God?” I encourage you to finish reading Piper's article.

A hymn I love to sing (Eliza E. Hewitt, pub.1891) . . .
My faith has found a resting place,
Not in device or creed;
I trust the ever-living One,
His wounds for me shall plead.

I need no other argument,
I need no other plea,
It is enough that Jesus died,
And that He died for me.

Enough for me that Jesus saves,
This ends my fear and doubt;
A sinful soul I came to Him,
He’ll never cast me out.

My heart is leaning on the Word,
The living Word of God,
Salvation by my Savior’s name,
Salvation through His blood.
My great physician heals the sick,
The lost He came to save;
For me His precious blood He shed,
For me His life He gave.

And my favorite psalm, one that has brought much comfort to my soul,
Psalm 27
The LORD is my light and my salvation-- whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life-- of whom shall I be afraid?

When evil men advance against me to devour my flesh, when my enemies and my foes attack me, they will stumble and fall. Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then will I be confident.

One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple. For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon a rock. Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me; at his tabernacle will I sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the LORD.

Hear my voice when I call, O LORD; be merciful to me and answer me.
My heart says of you, "Seek his face!" Your face, LORD, I will seek.
Do not hide your face from me, do not turn your servant away in anger; you have been my helper.

Do not reject me or forsake me, O God my Savior.
Though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me.

Teach me your way, O LORD; lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors.
Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes, for false witnesses rise up against me, breathing out violence.

I am still confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.
Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.