An Abundant Life

 

People jumpingYears went by before I thought about what happened the night my virginity was stolen. I journaled the details as they played back in my mind through a letter I wrote to my mother as part of my healing process.

I had planned on waiting until marriage to give myself to my husband. I heard in youth group the best way to start a marriage is to be sexually pure. But everything changed after my parent’s divorce.

As I wrote the letter to my mother almost twenty years after Josh raped me, I remembered a conversation just days before my boyfriend had broken up with me. My mother had suggested I go on the pill. She knew I was dating an older guy and she feared I would become pregnant. She explained that older guys would expect me to have sex with them.

Years later anger poured out of me as I scribbled the memories on the page of my journal. I realized my mother had given me permission to have sex. She had told me guys expected it. Her words caused me to question the idea of the sanctity of marriage. Instead of telling me to save and value myself she told me to give myself away.

I realized that when Josh pushed his way into me I never fought him, I never yelled, I never ran-away, but I succumbed. I never told anyone. I thought it was my fault. I never should have gone to my girlfriend’s house to visit her brother when no one else was home. But was I asking for sex? I had told Josh “no”, but he never listened. He took what was mine. He raped me, but I never called it rape. Could it be that I thought he expected sex and I should give in to him, because of what my mother told me?

From that point on, at sixteen, I vowed that no one would dump me at my doorstep again like Josh had done. Next time I would be good enough, not to be rejected. When my ex-boyfriend returned to me I won him over sexually. I secured my place in his life by moving into his apartment before my senior year of high school.

Although I knew he cheated on me, he smoked, he drank, and he had no ambition for his life I feared that I would never find someone else to love me. Finally, after two and a half years my mother’s loving words gave me confidence and courage to leave that unhealthy relationship behind. She said, “Kirsten, you’re a special young lady and you deserve so much better than Ed. I love you and I want you to move back home.”

My mother’s words changed the direction of my life. She spoke truth to me in love when I was heading down the wrong road with the wrong man.

Josh’s choice led me down a path to win a man over by being sexual. Josh is only partially to blame, as are my father’s comments toward women, his infidelity, abandonment and betrayal of our family. Today I also blame the music, movies, and media that encourage women to be sexual and promiscuous. But ultimately the choice was mine.

I chose to turn from God and go down the wide road that led to my destruction.

God was calling me to forgive Josh as I wrote the memories on the page of my journal. I decided to believe that my friend’s brother didn’t fully understand the impact of his selfish choice to take my innocence. I looked to Jesus as my example. If Jesus could say, after being brutally beat and nailed to a cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” (Luke 23:34) then I could forgive Josh.

When I started praying for God to bless Josh, I knew I truly forgave him. I wanted Josh to know God’s healing. Jesus died for Josh and for me. God showed us grace, the free gift of salvation, with Jesus death on a cross. He took the punishment of our sin. I must show Josh and others the same undeserved grace that I receive from a forgiving God. When I do, I am set free to love.

We are confused, wounded and broken children looking for love. I can now see the pain and woundedness of those who hurt me. We try to fill the God void in our lives with the temporary self-gratification of sex, material possessions, wealth, and power. I learned that only Jesus can satisfy our hearts desire for what we most long for: to be loved. He will heal our brokenness and help us to forgive those who hurt us when we ask.

I have experienced freedom from the bondage of bitterness to help others who are struggling with past pain that is causing conflict in their lives. Through my book and classes  many are living the abundant life that Christ promised. I help people recognize the lies and deception of the enemy that keeps people from experiencing all that God has for them and replacing those lies with the truth of God’s Word. Jesus said, “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).

Are you ready for an abundant life? Healing can happen for you.

God’s Word to Live By:
I will bring health and healing; I will heal my people and will let them enjoy abundant peace and security. I will cleanse them from all the sin they have committed against me and will forgive all their sins of rebellion against me. (Jeremiah 33:6,8)

Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. (Micah 7:18)

For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. (Matthew 6:14)

And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins. (Mark 11:25)

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

All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” (Acts 10:43)

Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. (Colossians 3:13)

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

I write to you, dear children, because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name. (1 John 2:12)

What To Do When Evil Strikes

when evil strikesThe recent bombings in Boston have provoked anger, despair, and fear among Christians who feel unsafe in this evil world. The question always remains, how do we respond to the evil committed against us and other innocent victims? The following are three ways we can overcome the evil of this world.

Let’s look at Jesus’ example to discover how to respond to evil. First, Jesus repaid evil with blessing as He sacrificed His life to die for you and me when we were still sinners. Jesus died on the cross for you and me. Not because of anything we did to deserve His love, but only by His grace are we saved from eternal consequences for the evil we have committed. With this understanding we can now respond to others with that same mercy, motived by a deep appreciation for what Christ has done to rescue and forgive us of our sin. When we come from the perspective that we could have easily committed the same crime if we faced a different set of circumstances then we can extend grace to those who commit evil against us.

You bless God when you bless those who do evil against you. Jesus said that what you do to the least of these you have done to Him and you will be blessed (Matthew 25:40). Jesus demonstrated how to overcome evil with blessing when unrighteous men came to arrest Him.

When Jesus’ followers saw what was going to happen, they said, “Lord, should we strike with our swords?” And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear. But Jesus answered, “No more of this!” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him (Luke 22:49-51).

Instead of lashing out with anger, Jesus took the time to heal the man’s ear. This was one of the men who intended to put chains on Jesus and lead Him to his death. This act of kindness illustrates how Jesus repaid evil with blessing to win them over to God.

Who knows how that servant of the high priest would be changed by the act of compassion that Jesus demonstrated. Notice that although Jesus repaid evil with kindness, He still had to suffer a brutal death. His blessing came when he was resurrected from the dead and ascended to heaven and was seated at the right hand of the Father (Acts 2:33).

As a Christian our ultimate blessing is the reward of heaven, but not only this, we are set free to experience the abundant life on earth that Christ offers through our obedience to repay evil with blessing.

Our Promise from God

Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. (1 Peter 3:9)

How do we repay evil with blessing to receive a blessing?

1. Pray for those who persecute you.

You may be the only one on the planet praying for that person who has committed evil. In Matthew 5:44-45, God says, “But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons and daughters of your Father in heaven.” That evil and unlovable person needs you! Actually, that person needs God and God wants to work through you. Although that person may seem impossible to love, God has called you for the task and He knows you can handle it through prayer. While you pray, be patient as God works in your heart and in the heart of the person you are praying for. He is at work, even if you never have the opportunity to see that person change. Take heart. Know that God is faithful to His promises. God is at work when you pray.

2. Forgive the person who commits evil.

Forgiveness is not about the person who hurt you or your loved ones. We are instructed to forgive to be right with God. Our bitterness and hatred separates us from a holy and loving God. Not only that, our unforgiveness separates us from the people we love. With a root of bitterness we lash out with impatience and unkind words toward innocent victims. God forgives us, and He says we must forgive to be forgiven (Matthew 6:14). You see, God knows that an unforgiving heart will cause us suffering. He wants us to be free of that pain, to have inner peace, and be in a right relationship with Him and the people in our lives. Forgive to be set free from the bondage of bitterness in order to love and be loved. Jesus will heal our brokenness and help us to forgive when we ask.

3. Do not live in fear of man.

God says, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9). We are not to fear man, but to have a holy and reverent fear of the Lord. We should fear the power and glory of God, the giver and taker of life, but not people. Revere God to find His delight as promised, “The Lord delights in those who fear [revere] Him, who put their hope in his unfailing love” (Psalm 147:11).

God used the apostle Paul to demonstrate and communicate God’s power, love, and wisdom in the midst of persecution. God says, “You do not have a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7NKJV). God equips you with supernatural ability to conquer the enemy against all odds. He is your Strength, Refuge, Protector, Warrior, and Friend.

Fear works to defeat our effectiveness to bring honor and glory to God. Our best weapon is to arm ourselves every day to fight against the enemy who tries to rob us from God’s peace, joy, and purpose. We are in a spiritual battle where God is victorious when we trust and follow Him.

Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 6:10-13).

Your battles are not against evil people. Your battle is in the spiritual realm. The enemy puts fear and doubt in your mind, he knows your weaknesses, and he will tempt you to not trust in a mighty and powerful God. The evil one wants to destroy your testimony and make you live in the bondage of fear. Each morning and throughout your day STOP: Surrender each moment to God. Trust that He loves you and is with you. Obey God’s Word to see Him at work in your life and have the peace that transcends all understanding. Pray with a thankful heart to be protected from the evil of this dark world and pray for those who commit evil against you and others that they may know the love of Jesus so that they may be transformed into the loving person God intended.

Have you bought my book LOVING THE UNLOVABLE? Click here to buy it today on Amazon.

Steps to Gain Victory Over Negative Thoughts

victory over neg thoughtsMy husband and my 16-year-old son loaded up the car to go hunting this morning for wild turkey. Friends were meeting them at our house to carpool to Julian. Awake at 3:30 am to see them off, I sat in the livingroom preparing to spend time with God. They made sure the dog was fed and in the house then I heard the garage door open and shut.

My heart sank as I realized they were gone. They had left without saying good-bye to me.

Moments later the phone rang. Nervously, my son chuckled, “Hey Mom, we forgot to say good-bye. Oh, and Daddy says he loves you.”

I said something sarcastic to cut the pain.

At first, my mind raced to a pity party of poor me and unkind thoughts of “He doesn’t love me.” “How typical.” “I don’t mean anything to them.”

When I cried out to God to lead me in His Word for peace, comfort, and direction I randomly opened to the following scripture:

“A wise woman builds her house, but the foolish pull it down with her hands”  (Proverbs 14:1).

I marveled at God. He was telling me to be wise, not a fool.

My husband and son had made a mistake.  In their eagerness to go hunting before the sun rose, they left without considering me. I needed to hold my thoughts captive and not let my imagination run wild by rehearsing my pain.

Sometimes I had been known to blow a situation out of proportion in my mind. This time I needed to make a choice to hold my thoughts captive and stop wallowing in a pit of “I deserve better”. Satan wants us to focus on the negative to destroy our relationships and to tear apart our homes, but a wise person focuses on God’s promises and builds their home on forgiveness, kind thoughts, and encouraging words.

Promise from God

“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corin. 10:5).

Feelings of rejection can often trigger times when we felt abandoned or betrayed. These negative thoughts can lead to anger. Instead of fretting over the past, make an effort to dwell on the good.

4 Steps to Gain Victory Over Negative Thoughts

  1. Refuse to play the offense over and over in your mind. “Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret (or mull it over in your mind)—it leads only to evil” (Psalm 37:8).
  2. Think on God’s precious promises. “He has given us His very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires “(2 Peter 1:4).
  3. Confess your sin of unkind thoughts. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
  4. Praise God that He forgives and forgets your sin. “I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more” (Isaiah 43:25).

Prayer to God

Forgiving Father, Thank you that you love me, you show me grace, and forgive me. Thank you that when I confess my negative thoughts that you are faithful and just to forgive me and purify me of all my sin. Thank you that you never forget me. Thank you that you give me your precious promises so that I can focus on your Word instead of turning to bitterness that leads to evil. Help me to memorize your promises so that I may hold my thoughts captive and think on what is right and true that I may remain pure and my relationships will be blessed. Allow me to remember your grace that I may show others grace. In Jesus name I pray. Amen.

7 Reasons to Forgive

why forgiveDo you have bitterness toward someone? If you do, that anger is keeping you from becoming the person that God created you to be. In fact, unforgiveness will destroy your relationships and your potential to accomplish your dreams. Be set free of bitterness by extending forgiveness as God extended forgiveness to you.

God’s promise when you forgive is directly from the mouth of God when Jesus said, “If you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you” (Matthew 6:14). God forgives you when you ask Him, but true repentance is asking Him to forgive  all of your sin. The sin Jesus took upon Himself when He died for your and me includes the anger you’re holding onto toward that person who hurt you..

If we accept Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for our sins, but don’t forgive others then we are hypocrites and doubleminded. When we’re doubleminded we have conflict within. God created us to be in right relationship with Him and with others. That bitterness is causing guilt, shame and conflict. Bitterness interferes with our peace and purpose in life.

Jesus was talking to the people who were following Him when He said,  “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32).

Do you feel free? If not, then you may not be holding onto God’s teachings on forgiveness.

If you want to experience full freedom, joy and peace  in your life then ask the Holy Spirit to help  you forgive.

Why should you forgive?

1. Forgive to avoid Satan’s stronghold. “In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” Ephesians 4:25-27

2. Forgive to prevent from further sinning. “Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness. Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing (anger, bitterness, rage) in him to make him stumble.” 1John 2:9-10

3. Forgive to please the Holy Spirit. “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Eph. 4:30-32

4. Forgive to be forgiven. “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.” Matt 6:14-15

5. Forgive to obey God. Jesus answered, “I tell you, (forgive) not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” Matt 18:21-22

6. Forgive to be set free of the bondage of bitterness. “I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32

7. Forgive to receive God’s blessings. Jesus replied, “Blessed are those who hear the word of God and obey it.” Luke 11:28

To receive complete emotional, spiritual and possibly physical healing make the decision to forgive. This article is based on the book LOVING THE UNLOVABLE, Transforming difficult relationships with God’s truth, by Kirsten Strawn, THE FAITH COACH. Kirsten’s book is available on AMAZON by clicking HERE.

A Call To Community

Fear. Pride. Anger. Pain. What’s keeping you from being all that God created you to be?

A paralytic man had four faithful friends that carried him on his mat to see Jesus in the book of Mark chapter two. The crowded house where Jesus taught kept the men from entering the home in the traditional way, through the door, yet these men stopped at nothing.

From the rooftop they lowered their paralytic friend down with ropes to be healed by Jesus. The faith of these desperate friends allowed this young man to receive the forgiveness of sin and the ability to walk by the power and authority of Jesus Christ.

When we become involved in a community of Christians we allow people to come along side us through a difficult time, to carry us on our mat, so that eventually we can help others through their struggles. God promises in 2Corinthians 1:4 that we have a God of comfort and compassion, “who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”

I faced the fear of unemployment, the fear of my son dying from leukemia; the pain of abandonment, date rape, and abortion; the struggles of marriage and trying to train and teach my teenagers. I was even stuck on the mat of unbelief for years. When I humbled myself, admitting my need for help, I reached out to a group of women to study the Bible. I received prayer, encouragement, and accountability that changed my life.

I realized Jesus not only sits at the right hand of God in heaven, but he is with us in our darkest hour, in our valley. We are not alone. Jesus is by our side. We must allow the body of Christ, the church, to come alongside us to experience the love of Jesus through His people.

What is your mat?

Do you need the support of a community to help you through a difficult time? Or maybe Jesus has brought you through a struggle where you can be that person that comes alongside someone who is hurting. This is the time to get off your mat, to get involved in a community of Christians, to do life together.

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