Redemption

Posts in Category

perfect love casts out fear
Perfect Love Casts Out Fear (Stacey’s Story)

Many evils confront the (consistently) righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.
Psalm 34:19

“You are nobody! You will always be nobody! No man will ever want you! You are crazy! It’s all your fault!” These are actual words I have heard growing up and in relationships. It seemed no matter where or who I turned to, the end results would be the same; a deep wound to the soul. So desperately longing to be loved, accepted, validated, I would subconsciously seek out relationships that would only solidify my already low image of myself.

Oh, I didn’t do this on purpose, mind you. But, when you have grown up with rejection, it does attach itself to you throughout your life, until something changes. The residue of rejection will torment you until God intervenes and you make the choice to accept His love and help.

I didn’t grow up in a church. There were a couple times I remember my aunt taking us to church for Vacation Bible School, but I never knew the Lord. The idea of a Jesus out there that could love me was hard for me to grasp. Not even my own father could love me, and if a heavenly Father, God, was anything like my earthly father, then surely He must be an angry, unapproachable, and a disappointed God of wrath too.

It is true, our first relationship with our father does shape how we view our Heavenly Father. Sadly, the representation here on earth does not always nurture a true image of a Father’s love.

This is what rejection does to you:

  • It causes you to hide.
  • It causes you to lie.
  • It causes you to fear.
  • It cause you to not trust.
  • It causes you to not know your own identity.

As a young runaway, I learned how to be whoever I needed to be in the given moment. It was a survival tactic. I had so many aliases, I didn’t even know who I was anymore. Living on the street, then cocktail waitressing in NYC at the age of 15, I met some shady characters. I also met some good people. You know, we do not always recognize the hand of God on us, or His protection, at the time. It is usually a hindsight, when we look back and wonder how we even survived.

Funny, the very thing I was running from, I ran right to. I ran from an abusive father right into a marriage with an abusive man. Having been on my own, mostly since the age of 12, I didn’t know what it was to be a real woman. I didn’t know what a healthy relationship looked like. I had my “idea” of what I wanted, I just didn’t know how to get there. I believe inside I didn’t believe I deserved anything better than to be beat down, abused, abandoned, rejected, cheated on, and used. I did not know what love looked like.

His Word says, “There is no fear in love [dread does not exist], but full-grown (complete, perfect) love turns fear out of doors and expels every trace of terror! For fear brings with it the thought of punishment, and [so] he who is afraid has not reached the full maturity of love [is not yet grown into love’s complete perfection].” 1 John 4:18 (AMP) I was covered in fear.

We all have a past, we come from different walks of life, different experiences, and most of us carry deep wounds that pierce even to the soul. The depth of the wounds can blind us to truth, cloud our vision, and distort our minds. But God!

I could probably write page after page of everywhere I have been, what I have done, or has been done to me. We could sit here and swap war stories all day, no doubt. But, I would much rather give God glory, because I was not an easy case, I was deeply wounded, scared, and in hiding.

Yet, He reached down and pulled me up. He did this, not because I was looking for Him, but because He was looking for me. What He has done for me, He will do for you.

And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.

Revelation 12:11

Of course, if I had a choice, I would have written a better life story. But, I do not regret one experience, because had I not experienced what I have, I may not be where I am now. I would not have the ministry I have now. Of course there are still some residual effects, but He is delivering me and healing me from it all.

I met Jesus when I was in my early thirties. It was no gradual introduction, either. I believe He speaks to us in a way He knows we will understand. He meets us right where we are. In our mess, He is right there.

He grabbed me, opened my eyes to see Him, loved on me, and changed me from the inside out. He did such a mighty move inside of me, I looked in the mirror and expected to see Him staring right back at me.

Where I was once surrounded by darkness, He shone His light. Nature was more beautiful, the sky was bluer, He gave me a love for people, and a hunger for His Word. In short, I could not get enough of Him. He planted me in a home church that mentored me and helped me to grow.

perfect love casts out fear

Fast forward… He called me as an Evangelist. I was in ministry and doing a good work for Him. It would be easy to think if you are doing a good work for Him and trusting Him everything would be easy, right? I mean, after all, I am a Spirit filled believer, chasing after His heart, seeking to do His will and believing every Word He spoke. But, there is a reason He has told us to pick up our cross… a cross is a heavy thing to carry. A cross is what He hung from. A cross signifies death. And there is death in carrying the cross, it is a death to yourself, to the world, and to what once held you in bondage. There were times I felt utterly alone and the only consolation I had was clinging to His promise He would never leave me.

Being saved and in ministry did not save my marriage. I am not saying it was His will for my marriage to end. But we all have a free will, don’t we. His love is unconditional and unending. There may be natural consequences to our choices, but He is not angry with us, His children. It seemed the closer I got to Him the more hell was raining down on me. The attacks were very real and came from those I loved dearly.

I remember one evening, looking into the night sky and crying out to Him. “God! Are You even out there?!” I was broken and hurting. I was tired of loss. I had no one else to turn to, I had only Him, and I wanted Him to intervene and make things all better. I was asking the wrong questions. I was asking Him to change my circumstances, I should have been asking Him to change me. So, I yell out, “God! Are You even out there?!” and immediately He answered, “I am right here.”

Ah, yes, He is right here. And with Him is peace that passes all understanding. The kind of peace that says, I do not know why things are the way they are, and I do not know what the future holds, but I do trust You have it all under control, I trust You.

Salvation is the greatest gift and testimony we could have. The testimony is, while we were far away from God He sent His Son to reconcile us and draw us close. Throughout our walk with Him in the flesh that dies daily, He does do marvelous works in and through us. His Word promises, He will never leave us or forsake us. Though the world rejects you, though those who you love dearly and trusted may abandon you, He never will. And how can we know this unless we experience it?

There have been many times the demon of rejection will come knocking on my door and I have to resist it. Perfect love cast out all fear takes on a new meaning when you understand His love is perfect. When we truly know and believe how much He loves us then we will not have to fear the loss of anything or anyone in this temporal life here. We will find true freedom in His love to know who we are in Him and what our calling is.

Of course I have not arrived to complete healing. The wounds from the past are deep. He takes me step by step, glory to glory, and together He and I unearth the wounds and He says, “Do not be afraid, I am going to walk with you through this.”

Romans 8:28 has become my life verse. For I know all things will work together for my good, because I love Him and I have been called according to His purpose. The key word is HIS PURPOSE. Not my purpose, His purpose. Think about that. We partner with Him for His purpose. He chose us!

There is a season for everything. We have seasons of rest and then we have seasons where we have to do battle and resist. We must remember, the battle is not ours, but it is His. We have to trust He will fight for us, protect us, and when we have gone through the fire we will come forth as gold.

Do not be ashamed of where you have been, or where you came from. Your past does not dictate your future. Once you have received Him you are a new creation. Only He is able to heal and deliver. Only through Him do we find wholeness, nothing lacking.

How wonderful that God, creator of all things, who has no beginning and no end, chose us! He is the same today, yesterday, and forever. The God who parted the red sea will go before you and make your path straight.

You are loved by Him, highly favored by Him, and in Him there is no shame.

Be Free & Stay Free

overcoming homosexuality
The Hard Step to Take – Michael’s Story

I‘ve been a Christian my whole life, and I have many stories of God’s love and miracles. I’ve personally experienced his healing power, both spiritually and physically. One of these stories, when God healed my lungs of asthma, was what I was planning to share when I was asked to share a testimony. But it’s not what God wanted me to share this time.

God wanted me to share something much more personal than that – something that I have moved past, but that I still have trouble speaking about, even to my closest friends.

I’ve always had the dream of being a father. I’ve always wanted to know that kind of love – the love a parent has for his children. But at the same time, I was scared of that dream. What if I wasn’t a good dad? What if I messed it up and my son or daughter resented me? These were fears I shouldn’t have had for many years yet, but they troubled me during heartbreaks in high school. I began to realize that people there weren’t looking for permanence.

So I blocked off my heart from feeling anything for girls, telling myself I would wait until I understood my calling and had room for a partner.

The problem was – and this is the hard part for me to talk about – I was a teenage guy, and my desires were no different from any other guy my age. And since I had blocked off my heart from running to any woman… I turned to men. There were other factors and reasons – mostly vain excuses – but the fact is that I became gay because I was afraid of relationships with women.

The whole time, I knew it was wrong and that I was giving up my dream of parenthood, and that made my pain worse – so in my pain, I turned to my already twisted relationships to try to alleviate my pain.

During my Discipleship Training School at YWAM, my leaders helped me turn back to God and free myself from this, and I thought I could leave it all behind me and still keep it mostly in the dark. But God kept bringing gay people into my life. I wondered if He was testing me, and why. It was like reopening a scar.

Part of my calling is to minister to the homosexual community
What gave me the answer was when I heard people saying that there was one single thing they told God they wouldn’t do, and that is exactly what God told them to do. That’s what God told me to do. Part of my calling is to minister to the homosexual community – that’s why they keep coming to me. I have agreed with God’s calling for me every step of the way until this came up, and I started fighting because I was afraid.

I’m still afraid.

But now I’m choosing to trust God, because I know He’s right. The fact is, I understand the reasons people decide to be gay, and I can use that knowledge to help them get out of the hole that I fell into.

overcoming homosexualityIn the moment, it feels right. It feels like you’re following your heart. But because I’ve been there, I know the pain, the shame, the fear, and the loneliness. More to the point, I know what God used to get me out of that mess. My heart breaks for those people and I want to help them.

I guess there are three reasons God wanted me to write about this. The first is to encourage you, the readers. That one thing in your heart where you said “no” to God… That may be what God wants for you to do, but it’s alright. God has a reason that you likely won’t understand until afterward, and it really is the best option for you and the people around you.

The second is to say that there is hope. If you’re caught in sin, there is a way out and God will use your past to reach out to others in the same situation. When you minister, you should be able to say “I know what you’re going through. I’ve been there.”

The third reason is more personal. I’ve never fully opened up to anyone on this topic, and I needed to take a step. As long as my past controls me, I’m not free, even if this stays in the past. So by writing this and signing my name on it, I’m finally taking a step forward into God’s freedom.

Michael Krantz

Barren to Blessed

I was raised attending church, but not forced to attend.  At the age of nine while riding in the front seat of our old station wagon, I felt this urging and told my mom that I was ready to accept Christ as my Savior. Not too long after speaking with my pastor about it, I was baptized. This was an exciting day in my life.

Two years after my baptism I suddenly became gravely ill. An infection had spread throughout my abdomen, and the damage from it resulted in having a hysterectomy at the age of eleven. The surgery, and impact of it, was extremely difficult to wrap my head and heart around. I was barren, and would be for the remainder of my life.

In that one single moment, everything changed.  I went from believing in this giving; all-knowing Heavenly Father who I had been told created me with great purpose, to questioning what my purpose was.

I continued to believe in God but to be totally honest; I did not know how I could fully trust a loving Father who nearly allowed me to die from a rare bacterial infection. He also allowed my ability to have children to be taken away.

I did not stop believing in Him and was part of a Christian youth singing group for a few years after my surgery. However, as I became an adolescent, I strayed far away from what I once believed to be so important. Straying from my faith led to choices of which I am not proud of. I felt alone in my struggle, and knew that infertility was going to be a life-long road to which I would wander.

Questions like “What if I’m never a mom?” circled around in my mind for years.
In college, I continued to live as though I did not know the Lord, even though I continued to believe that God existed.  I just sort of saw God as this big “tool box in the sky”.  I sincerely believed that all religions were tools in the box that ultimately led to Him. I still had not found a good reason why the Lord would have allowed my illness to happen. Questions like, “Will I ever fall in love and get married?” “What if no one wants to marry me because I cannot have children?” and “What if I’m never a mom?” circled around in my mind for years.

I did meet a guy who accepted infertility. We had a wonderful relationship that was built upon friendship, trust, respect, and love. He proposed, and I eagerly accepted. However, about a year before I was married, I was really struggling with life in general. I had a great fiancé who treated me wonderfully, and was in graduate school working on my Master’s Degree. Things were pretty good for a twenty-something. Despite these things, it just seemed that I could not make out what was nagging at me, and the void I felt. I tried to fill it with friends, shopping, going-out, etc, but nothing worked.

Love Finally, my aunt asked if I wanted to go to church with her. I said, “Yes.”  The service was very casual with contemporary Christian music.  I was nearly overwhelmed with the warmth and love that I felt sitting in the chapel. It was as if I was the only person there. I felt as though the music and the message were surely written just for me.

I began recognizing God needed to be in control because I was clearly not. I was the person who always had a goal, always kept out of trouble, or at least did not get caught; always stayed loyal to my family and friends, and always presented with the “I’ve got it all together here” personality.

But the truth is, internally I was still that child who was deeply hurt, saddened, and longed for an answer.

I began to read my Bible more and listen to contemporary Christian music which provided a great ministry through lyrics. It became abundantly clear to me that God wanted me back. Or, better yet, He always wanted me. It was I who had turned away and chose to ignore. He still wanted me to walk through the pain, but this time, I needed to allow Him to numb it a little. I needed to let Him truly take over and start to put me back together again.

I began seeing Him in a different way. Instead of this loud controlling Father punishing me, I saw Him as this loving, worried Dad who wanted His daughter back.

In the book, The Problem of Pain, C.S. Lewis writes: 

“God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
C.S. Lewis

God was shouting to me through all of the pain of the years and for the first time I listened.

I sought forgiveness from Him. I felt as though I had been released from the burden of shame I had carried about various choices in life. This helped me to see the true grace of forgiveness. 

For the first time, I felt like I understood the concept of faith as being more than just a blind and immobile notion, but one that required full attention.

Perhaps it was maturity or perhaps it was desperation, but either way, I returned to the God that created me, loved me, and watched me through the years. I was that rebellious child that learned the hard way that it is always best when you really do follow what your parents’ say- especially your omniscient Heavenly Father.

It has been several years now since I nervously walked through the church doors with my aunt. I have not stopped attending church since, but it is not just about attending church.

It is about not stopping in the yearning for the Lord.  It is about not ceasing in praising Him.  It is about serving and loving others as He has asked us to do.  It will always be about living out a life that recognizes mercy, forgiveness, and salvation.

The Lord has not only revealed His love to me, He has fulfilled my heartfelt and desperate plea to be a parent. My faith in Him is what carried me through fostering my children, and it is what continues to carry me through parenting them.

Kids

Another piece of my story is that I work for a Christian child welfare agency that helps to put families back together. I am able to reach out to people who may be struggling with infertility or answering the call to be foster/adoptive parents.  I am truly blessed to have a job that is also a ministry.

My greatest struggle in life was barrenness. However, through the healing redemption of a loving Father, I am now a parent. I am also able to share my story and encourage others through my blog.

The truth is – I love Christ.

I need Christ. 

I am a work in progress…

but He’s okay with that.

photo credit: Randy OHC via Flickr cc