Gather

I decided a long time ago, like when my children were just toddlers, that resolutions were not my thing and I could not possibly hold myself accountable to unrealistic goals like dieting and loosing 50 pounds worth of baby weight in just a month. Believe it or not, that was one of my resolutions because I was so unhappy with how I looked during that season of my life. Babies are a blessing and boy do they take a toll on your body. Amen?

Some time ago, I was with one of my mentors and she suggested that we pray and ask God to reveal just one word to me for the year. During that year I would pray that word into life and earnestly seek to see it, understand it and apply it. God has been so faithful each year with my word.

Last year, I didn’t ask for a word. I didn’t want to exist. I wanted to crawl under a very dark rock and hide from the world. God had to deal with me on whole different level in 2019, but 2020 is a brand new year and after being dealt with in so many ways and learning to lean on God all over again, I asked God for a new word.

He gave me, drum roll please, GATHER.

This word make a spark in my soul when I heard it. Then I wrote it in my journal and fireworks! Beautiful, glorious, shiny, sparkly FIREWORKS! They jumped from the page and my heart raced with wonder.

Why gather? Because all of 2019 I secluded myself. I kept hidden in the shadows and tried so hard to refresh and renew a broken spirit within me. I only spoke to a few cherished friends. I worked hard to be there for the three children still at home. I struggled with keeping my marriage as a purpose. I fought so hard to not cry my eyes out every single day from all the new things that developed. I prayed a lot. I screamed inside at God a lot. I hated to live and loved that I was still alive all at the same time. BUT – I didn’t gather. I stayed alone in my thoughts.

Gather. Because God is speaking to me to bring near those that I love. Walk from the past and love the future. God has great things from what I walked through – still walk through. He has this great plan that will be so so good.

Gather. I questioned it. I asked why. I researched the word. ‘acaph (aw-sawf’) is the Hebrew word for gather. It means “gatherer”; “to bring together”. Yes, bring together of people, but I first need to bring together my thoughts, soul, and peace. I need to have an alignment in my soul that will allow me to then gather my tribe of people once again and celebrate the genuine connection that God put between us all.

Isaiah 52:12 says, “But you will not leave in haste or go in flight; for the Lord will go before you, the God of Israel will be your rear guard”

So I will gather with the Lord because he never did leave me the whole time I suffered inside and tried to hide. He knew what was coming because he had already gone before me and he came up and picked up every piece that fell from my soul and held it in his hands. My pieces were taken from sharp shards and crushed into a fine dust and then molded by my Father’s hands and put back into me to make me stronger from what I walked through. Every single piece God made stronger and better.

You can see the scars still. They are so visible, but that’s perfect. I can show them proudly because I survived. I can tell the story of how I gained my battle wounds and not be ashamed of them. I can help other moms and women walk through their journey’s having gone through such a time as 2019. I can’t say that I am proud that I needed to learn the way I did. I was mostly ashamed that I didn’t continue to go to God for healing and tried to do it on my own for so long, but that was part of my story. I learn the hard way – A LOT!

Gather. While I bring back my center and focus my soul on things above and seek God to guide my days, hours, minutes, seconds, I also am slowly bringing back into view my tribe. Those cherished that have been praying for me and waiting on the sidelines for me to come back to them. They gave me space and time. They kept on praying for me and my family. They still do. They are my people. They have a special place because God knows I need them. They know they can expect to see me soon.

S.A.D.

I’m working on a special writing for you that I promise you are going to want to stop by to read. My writing time is wedged between work, kids, and all that comes with life at the moment. But, I wanted to share a little something with you in the mean time.

Have you heard of SAD? It’s real and it touches millions each year. SAD stands for Seasonal Affective Disorder. This is a depression that comes during winter and holidays especially. It can be triggered by memories of past, loss of someone close, PTSD, or many other things.

I recently had someone ask me if I had any oils that would help with depression during the holidays. They had no idea that this was actually a thing and thought it was just them – all alone – in all their feelings. Thank God they decided to confide and come talk to me. I researched it and found a study in by the National Institue of Health that found essential oils that can be effective for those who have these type of depression symptoms or SAD.

I decided to try and make a rollerball blend for my friend and I want to share it with you today in case you or someone you know may benefit from this as well.

I took a beautiful blue tinted 10mL roller bottle that I bought from Oil Life and added the following:

10 drops Wild Orange

10 drops Lavender

10 drops Peppermint

Fill to top with FCO (Fractionated Coconut oil)

Once you put theroller on top and push down tight to secure, you will want to rock gently back and forth to mix oils together within the bottle. I like to put stickers on the outside of the bottle of what is in it so that there is no confusion of what someone is rolling on. This oil can be rolled and massaged in to the bottom of feet or on the back of the neck at the base of you head three times a day or more if needed.

I wouldn’t be a good friend or essential oil advocate if I didn’t share with you results from using this. The friend I gave this to used it immediately and hours later came back to tell me that it worked “instantly” and they were not feeling down, blue, sad, etc anymore. They thanked me and were going to tell some other people they know about it. Of course, everyone is different and you may have different results than my friend, but it is worth a shot.

Another blend that you can try for SAD is Frankincense, Citrus Bliss, and Elevation. These all come from DoTerra collections. You may use other brands and that’s okay. If you aren’t sure what’s in each of these blends and would like to know, please shoot me an email at titusiiwomanministry@gmail.com and I would be happy to let you know. I am not paid to advertise DoTerra or any other brand that may be mentioned in any article that
I write. I share from my experience and heart and that’s all just fine with me.

I am praying and hopeful that you are going to have a great day in the Lord. Be blessed and know that you are loved and dearly cherished. I would love to pray with you. Feel free to send me your prayer requests at the email listed above.

It’s Me…

I’ll try and keep this a little short because my sixteen year old daughter wants me to go get my nails done with her and her friends. You totally read that right. What teenager wants their mom to tag along with her and her friends? Maybe she is just trying to console my mommy heart and the fact that she only has one more year of high school and then so much will change…for us all.

The blog is going to look different. There will be writings from our friends. You’ve met a lot of them through here and you are going to get to meet new ones along the way, but for the most part you will be hearing from my heart. A lot has happened in the last year. If you were out of the loop, I had taken a year to rest, rejuvenate, and recapture parts of me that I thought I would never see again. I wasn’t sure that I should be leading women when I was so vry broken inside.

I am not saying that I fixed or healed now, but I have learned a lot of what not to do in the last year. I have learned about how God should and is now my go to in hurt and pain. I learned that I need my tribe around me during all times and seasons of my life. I am still learning new things and lessons every single day, hour, minute, moment.

My biggest lesson so far from my year sabbatical: God has got a plan even in what seems impossible.

Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. ” This was a verse that I clung to and said to myself nearly every day during 2019. I needed the reminder because I was having a hard time trusting that God was still for me.

See, I had poured all of me into mothering my four kids. I gave them every part that I could and I worked hard to make sure they had what they needed and I gave them love. So much that it hurt every day.

Then we found out so many lies from our oldest child. And then more and more and more lies. What we read and heard was not the child that I raised. It wasn’t how we raised her. The words that came from her mouth were not words we spoke in our home and most definitely not to our children, ever.

During Christmas of 2018 she decided to leave our home and because we were in a state where 17 was legal age of an adult at that time, we were powerless when she left. We didn’t know where she was or how she was for two weeks and we didn’t hear a thing from her on Christmas. We tried so hard to carry on through the Holiday seasons for our three children still at home, but it was dark. Dark for all of us. Our three at home didn’t understand why she was acting the way she was or where it came from. David and I couldn’t explain it because we didn’t understand it ourselves.

After new year she came our house and wanted to live with us, but we just could not let life continue as it was. We had rules that would need to be adhered to and expectations that were not optional. One of the rules we set before her was a deal breaker for her and so she set out to find other means of living away from us – her family, the ones who had always been there for her, loved her, cherished her.

So many words were said that weren’t true, but I fought the internal battle and prayed that God would bring out truth in his timing. And He did eventually, but she left home to live away from us and then I felt that I was no longer good enough to be a mother to these precious children that God had blessed me with. And so began all the things that I tried to fix on my own accord.

I couldn’t fix it and it took me quite a few months to really refocus my attention on letting God take control and find a way to reach my broken place.

Soon, I will begin to write on new things happening and how I found a way to heal and learn to listen to God in a new way. Soon, I will give you parts of my heart story and tell you more of my journey. I will be here for you when you need a friend. So will the others in our tribe of women.

Today, though, take this with you…God never leaves you alone. You always have Him fighting for you when you don’t feel it. You may not understand why you are going through this season, but God has a plan and it will end well. It will be good. God doesn’t make bad. God only makes good. He will allow bad in order to get you closer to him and that is always good.

Take heart and carry on and I will help lift you when you don’t feel like you can keep going.

Blessed are you,

Struggling with Struggles

Can I be honest with you?  I struggle with struggles in life.  What I mean is that when life doesn’t go the way I thought it should and a curve ball is thrown, I swing for the fence and usually miss entirely.  And I usually feel like that’s my third strike. “YOU’RE OUT!” and “good luck next time” are usually how I feel my situation comes to an end. 

I’m a person who also likes resolution to any disputes or conflict.  When that resolve in not achieved, my whole world is turned upside down. It’s like taking a fastball down the middle for strike two and the game getting delayed, indefinitely, due to a “storm” that blew in… can anyone relate?

How we deal with the struggles in life is what really defines us.  Do you try to handle them yourself? Do you run away? Do you seek guidance or outside insight? How about procrastinating and just not dealing with it? Or maybe you handle your situations with poise and confidence. 

There are many kinds of conflict that we deal with throughout our lives.  Ephesians 4:26 states that we should not let the sun go down on our anger… really!?!  Well in Alaska, they have both 20+ hours of sun light and darkness, respectfully throughout the time of year.  So, what is this verse really saying, especially in today’s day and age?

Everyone reacts to anger a little differently.  Some people sulk and get quiet.  Some people scream and slam doors.  Some people say harsh and mean things.  Some people do all of these things and more.  Anger can be a powerful and destructive thing.  Anger can destroy families, relationships, and even lives.  Even suppressed and buried anger can be destructive.  So, if it is ok to be angry, where is the line when it goes too far?

“According to Paul, even though we feel anger, we are still supposed to not let evil talk come out of our mouths, but speak the truth in love and speak only things that impart grace.  We are told not to let the sun go down on our anger because we should not burry it, let it fester and hold on to it.  We are told to deal with our anger in a constructive and grace-affirming way.  I know, I know, at this point some of you are thinking – ‘yeah right, if you only knew what they did.’  You are right, I don’t know, but God does.” Liz Arkelian

( https://patch.com/michigan/grossepointe/dont-let-the-sun-go-down-on-your-anger )

In this article the author, Liz Arkelian, talks about how each issue, negative in nature, we deal with in life is typically dominated by the anger that we feel about those kinds of situations.  “Often, anger is a mask that keeps us from dealing with the real issues” (Arkelian).  Proverbs 15:1 shows us that, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”  So, is it better just not to say anything when I feel like I still need to be resolved? Is it ok to be angry?

Like most of you, I don’t have all the answers.  And most of the time I need someone else to feed into my life to help me walk through these struggles.  Proverbs 21:23 says, “whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.”  I can’t remember how many times I’ve had to “bite my lip” in order to not cause more issues, even though everything in me was screaming at the person/issue that stood in my face.

The one thing I do know, is that we as Christ followers are called to be peace-makers.  I like how the Daniel Mace New Testament words Romans 12:18, “do all you can to live peaceably, if it be possible, with all mankind.”  Other versions have the phrase: “as it depends on you” which to me is a profound statement.  To me, that, “as it depends on you”, statement puts the responsibility on me and you in any and all situations that we encounter. 

The one thing that I must continually remind myself is that I’m not left alone to deal with my life’s curveballs.  So, with that, I want to remind you that you are not alone!  You do not have to deal with your situations without help.  We, as believers in Christ, have two of the most important resources available.  First, other believers, and more importantly, God!  Enough said!

I do want to leave you with the 7 Steps out of a Selfish Cycle of Personal Conflict:

1. Submit to God – what are you holding away from Him?

2. Resist the devil – what are you giving over to Him?

3. Draw near to God – where are you hiding or running from Him?

4. Cleanse your hands – what outward behavior needs to stop?

5. Purify your heart – what inward attitude needs to change?

6. Be wretched mourn and weep – where do people need to see godly sorrow?

7. Humble yourself – where do you need to admit you’re wrong and ask forgiveness?

Remember, those who are in Christ are called to be peace-makers. That requires for us to be intentional with how we deal with conflict.”  Biblical Soul Care Harvest Bible Chapter

( https://www.biblestudytools.com/blogs/association-of-biblical-counselors/resolving-conflict-in-relationships-biblically.html )

Matthew 5:9, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”

David DeMaris

David has a bachelor’s degree from Crown College and a Master’s in Athletic Administration from Idaho State University. David and his family make their home in north central Missouri and is the father to five children. He strives to teach them to see God in every moment of the day and lean on Him. David is a U.S. Army veteran who endured three deployments before being medically discharged in 2013. David joins the Titus II Ministry team as the executive leader of men’s discipleship and mentoring.

Reason for Everything

If you haven’t opened your life to Christ, what are you waiting on?

Yes, we were created by God, but we were also created for God. Our ultimate goal is to show glory to God. It is the reason for everything that exists, including us. Everything created by God reflects his glory. Psalm 19:1 says, “The heavens declare the gory of God.” (NIV)

God has revealed his glory to people in different ways. The clearest picture of God can be found in his Son, Jesus Christ. In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.” (Hebrews 1:1-3, NIV) Jesus came so that we could fully understand God’s glory. (John 1:14)

We owe him every honor we can give. He deserves all the glory because he made all things. It is a sin to not give Him glory. Loving anything else more than God. Prideful rebellion. This was Satan’s fall and will be our fall unless we change the way we see our purpose and everything He has given us.

Living for God’s glory is he greatest achievement. The Bible says, “everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” (Isaiah 43:7, ESV) Giving God the glory should be our number one goal.

In his book The Purpose Driven Life Rick Warren explains five purposes for the life of a Christian and here is a summary of those five things:

  1. Bring glory to God by getting to know and love him.

Worship. It is our responsibility to worship Him. This is more than going to a church service and singing a few songs. Worship is a lifestyle of enjoying and loving God. It is giving ourselves to be used for His purposes while on earth. Worship should be motivated by love, thanksgiving, and delight – not duty. Everything you do should be an act of worship. “Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.” (Romans 6:13, ESV)

  1. Bring God glory by learning to love other Christians.

Fellowship. When you commit your life to Christ, you become part of the family God has created. You are adopted in. For better or for worse. God wants you to feel as if you belong too. God wants you to learn to love, and learn to love as He loves. It is essential to be connected to a local church body to help you grow in your understanding of the Word and in faith. He made us to need each other. (John 13:34-45)

  1. Bring God glory by becoming like Christ.

God wants us to grow spiritually mature. Becoming like Jesus in the way we think, feel, and act. You give more glory to God the more you develop Christlike character. “As the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like him and reflect his glory even more.” (2 Corinthians 3:18, NLT) He wants you to continue the process of changing your character to be more like Him with your remaining days on this earth.

  1. Bring glory to God by serving others.

We were all given certain talents to be able to serve better. Custom-designed. This is also your ministry. God wired everyone to have a ministry niche. It was no accident how each of us were wired. He didn’t give us abilities to be selfish with them or benefit self. “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 4:10-11, ESV)

  1. Bring God glory by telling others about him.

God doesn’t want to be kept a secret. We will have to change our priorities, schedules, relationships and much more to follow Christ and tell others about him. Sometimes we will have to choose a difficult path instead of an easier one. Even Jesus struggled with this (2 Corinthians 4:15).

The final question is this: Who are you going to live for – yourself or God? Right now, god is inviting you and me to live for his glory by fulfilling the purpose he made us for. “Real life begins by committing yourself completely to Jesus Christ.” If you have not already asked Christ to be your savior and made the commitment to follow him, here’s your chance. Pray with me: Lord, I believe in you and I receive you. Thank you for dying for me and paying for all my sins. I ask that you come into my life and help me to learn how to know you, trust you, and love you. Amen

If you sincerely meant that prayer, welcome to the family! Tell someone of your commitment and if you don’t already have a church home, start that search now. We want to be a good resource for you. If you don’t have anyone near that you can tell, tell us! We will do everything we can to put you in touch with a local church near you. You now have the purpose of glorifying God in everything you do.

Happy to have you as family,

Tara DeMaris

Tara is the founder and president of Titus II Ministry as well as a contributing writer and speaker. She is the wife to David, eighteen years, and the mother to their five children. Together, they make their home in Missouri. She is a graduate of Crown College and most passionate about reaching the hearts of women globally through mentoring, friendship, and God’s Word. She is also the co-author of Journey In Faith. “Make history with God and He will make history through you.”

THE WONDER OF ~ JOY

May the God of hope fill you with joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit”. Romans 15:13.

I was in Hobby Lobby recently and noticed the words JOY, written on a decorative piece put out for Christmas. Lately I have seen this word on many forms of design; a feel-good word but so little of it in people’s hearts.

Do you have a special place you can meet with Jesus every day? It is so important, for that is the wonder of renewed joy.  The darkest of days can envelop you and when you retreat to that place and find your Lord waiting with His everlasting arms He becomes your joy. Are you in need of His everlasting arms or the warmth of His joy today? He spoke through His word saying” He will drive out your enemies”, the menace of depression, discouragement, lack of faith “before you, saying destroy them!” Deuteronomy 33:27. For me, going to Corinne’s Garden and walking or often just sitting on one of the lovely benches allows me to shed the tears that pour forth from my soul; over and over to read God’s word and focus on what I am learning about Him or just being still and knowing that He is God.; It is His gift of Joy.

You know friend, I have been a follower of Jesus for decades but just recently I realized the significant difference between joy and happiness. I think it isn’t that I didn’t know the difference it is just that the Holy Spirit began to shine His light upon my mind and give a clear understanding of this “gap”. The Bible tells us to be filled with joy (Philippians 4:4) – the truth is the Bible never promises happiness, however Psalm 16:11 speaks this. “You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand”. This verse brought a hymn to mind ~” joy unspeakable and full of glory” (Barney E. Warren, 1900). Hear these words from God- “and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory. 1 Peter 1:8(NASV)

Gracious Father, there are many things that rob us of our joy; simple little daily “things”. Help us to “take joy our King” (I love You Lord. Laurie B. Klein) daily- your joy, not happiness, but joy in you. Thank you for being patient with me as I learn what it is to set my mind on you. I love you Jesus, Amen

Nancy Bjorklund

Nancy visits the Titus II Ministry blog throughout the year with inspiration and poetic writing. She lives in Nebraska with her husband, Bob, and they are the parents to four grown children as well grandparents and great-grandparents. She holds both bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Nebraska in education. Her much loved verse comes from Proverbs 3:5 and 6, “trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths”.

To Shine on Those Living in Darkness (Luke1:79)

Difficult seasons are a normal part of the Christian experience, but knowing that doesn’t make those times easier to walk through. The past several months have been a difficult time of transition for me. One of the biggest things I am battling is self-pity. My two favorite sources of wisdom, God’s Word and Elisabeth Elliot, have come to my rescue. First, Scripture:

God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.”  (Hebrews 6:10-12, NIV)

Here’s a few more:

“Do not gloat over me, my enemy! Though I have fallen, I will rise. Though I sit in darkness, the LORD will be my light.” Micah 7:8

“So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.” Hebrews 10:35

“Even in darkness light dawns for the upright, for the gracious and compassionate and righteous man.” Psalm 112:4

Deuteronomy 6:23 was a game-changer: “But He brought us out from there to bring us in and give us the land that He promised on oath to our forefathers.”

Being “brought out” meant, for the Israelites, a time in the desert; transition is almost always harder than we expect. I feel like I’m wandering in the desert, but it’s not the first time. I actually wrote a list of the darkest times in my life, and I can see that God was faithfully using the pain to bring me out of what was unhealthy and in to Himself. Instead of feeling sorry for myself, I can feel hopeful that God is leading me to a good place.

What does Elisabeth Elliot say about self-pity? I read this quote of hers in Lina AbuJamra’s book Resolved: “[Self-pity] is a death that has no resurrection, a sinkhole from which no rescuing hand can drag you because you have chosen to sink.”

When I’m slipping into the self-pity sinkhole, I must choose to step out on to solid ground and refuse to follow the negative, quicksand-like thoughts that suck me down to despair. Sinking is my choice.

Now, in this Christmas season, hope glimmers again in my heart. After all, Jesus came “to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.” (Luke 1:79).

Holly Oswald

Holly Oswald is a regularly contributing writer to the blog. Holly lives with her husband, Luke, in Nebraska. Being one of six kids, she enjoys spending time with her large family. Holly also spends time reading, drinking coffee, deciphering her Greek New Testament, writing, and being outdoors. Her travels have led her to Texas, Kansas, Indonesia, Uganda, China, Italy, and Hungary, and she likes fixing international foods. Holly currently works as an elementary school para, assisting with writing and English language learning. She and Luke are also involved in children’s ministry at their local church.

Character Over Comfort

Have you ever thought of life here on earth as a temporary assignment from God?

We won’t be here long. In God’s timing, our time here is but a minute. In our timing, we have a hundred ears, if we are lucky. It’s really just a shadow of time to God, but we allow ourselves to get attached to this place and all that we have here.

David prayed, “Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. remind me that my days are numbered—how fleeting my life is.” (Psalm 39:4, NLT) So too should we pray this. As believers, we need to realize that there is far more to life than just our time on this earth. Our home is in heaven and everything here won’t matter in eternity.

God is very up front with the dangers of living for what you have here on earth. You’re cheating on God. If all you want is your own way, flirting with the world every chance you get, you end up enemies of God and his way.” (James 4:4, MSG)

This world and all that is in it will pass away (1 Corinthians 7:31). He says to make good use of all we have been given, but do not get attached. Life is easy here, for many of us. We have all the entertainment we could want, attractions are at every corner, media allows us to see all, and modern travel lets us experience many places and cultures. The pursuit of all these things is not what life is about.

We are preparing for something better. “So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18, MSG) I really love how The Message puts these verses. The things that we see today will be gone tomorrow, but the things we can’t see will last forever. Our eternity in heaven we can’t see today, but that is what will last forever.

Feeling discontent or dissatisfied is not a bad thing. We aren’t supposed to be completely fulfilled and happy here on earth. We find that when we enter our real home. C.S. Lewis said, “All this is not eternal is eternally useless.”

It is not God’s goal for our lives to give material prosperity or success as the world defines. He is more interested in your character than your comfort. God is interested in what you are becoming and not in making life easy. “Friends, this world is not your home, so don’t make yourselves cozy in it. Don’t indulge your ego at the expense of your soul. Live an exemplary life among the natives so that your actions will refute their prejudices. Then they’ll be won over to God’s side and be there to join in the celebration when he arrives.” (1 Peter 2:11-12, MSG)

Think about this: Since God is more interested in your character than comfort, how does that change the way you view and respond to every day?

Until next time,

Tara DeMaris

Tara is the founder and president of Titus II Ministry as well as a contributing writer and speaker. She is the wife to David, eighteen years, and the mother to their five children. Together, they make their home in Missouri. She is a graduate of Crown College and most passionate about reaching the hearts of women globally through mentoring, friendship, and God’s Word. She is also the co-author of Journey In Faith. “Make history with God and He will make history through you.”

Breakthrough

Have you ever sat back and thought about love without conditions; the type of love that is unconditional? We all love to use the phrases, “I’ll pray for you” or “I’m praying for you”, but to what extent do we really pray? To what extent do we really love? At this point you are probably sitting there with arms crossed wondering what I am getting at.

In life we have tendency to look at the present and go “wow”. You look at someone’s present circumstances and you try to determine the steps that it took for that person to get where they are. We judge the beginning based on what we see in the present. What if you could see the past and it would give a clearer depiction of the present?

My name is Joey and I am a bi-vocational associate/youth pastor. In your mind, you are already trying to figure out the events that brought me to where I am today. You might weigh the educational and experience and completely miss the truth. I grew up going to an inner-city public-school system and my prayer everyday was for God to use me… no matter what.  If you saw me in elementary school you would notice that in every class picture I would be standing next to the teacher because I was the shortest kid in the class. I was the one that would sit at his desk with his hands folded. I remember walking down the halls, getting slammed into the lockers, spit on, stuffed in a trash can, laughed at, called ugly, stupid and worthless. If you looked into my elementary school records you will read about a student who was falling way behind, attended summer school, supposed to be held back a grade, couldn’t comprehend anything he was reading or writing, needed a speech and reading therapist, needed a math tutor, and had those big glasses on top of it all. No matter what grade level in school, you will see a student that was made fun of, yet never gave up and always persevered. Every year there were new obstacles and people that made life difficult, but what I did with that made all of the difference. Each problem or circumstance may have been different, but my response would always be the same.

I could tell you countless stories about those who tried to hurt me, made fun of me, mocked me for my faith and yet this passage will come to mind:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:43-48)

The reality is: Hurt People, Hurt People. Each of those people that make life difficult have a story and, so do you? I can still remember running to my room after school, tears pouring down my face because of something someone said or did. I wish I could show you the inside of that tear stained room because you didn’t and wouldn’t see a bunch of hate letters. In my room there was a bunk bed and every inch of those boards were covered by colored paper with a passage of scripture on it. If you would look at the walls you would see wall to wall to wall to wall of names of every person that I was praying for. Every person that was in my life, in my class, that I came in contact with their name was on that wall. It didn’t matter if you were nice or rude to me, I prayed for you. If you opened my school locker, you would see scripture on post it notes because I was going to go to war on your behalf. I could tell you story after story about how those that bullied me growing up now come to me years later asking for forgiveness or asking my advice. They have a story about the hurt and pain that they are going through and you may be their easiest target. In no way am I saying that their lashing out is right… it’s not.

I could tell you about each and every person that laughed at me, shoved me, and called me names, but I can also tell you of a person that dropped to his knees and watched God transform their lives.

A few years back, my family and I moved back to my hometown. My daughter’s go to the same school district that I grew up going to. Could it be that God heard prayers from when I was a student and is continuing to answer those prayers in the lives of current students including the ones that I was originally praying for? My girls sit in the same classrooms and walk the same halls that I prayed for my bullies in. Sometimes God likes to add cherries on top: My girls are actually friends and classmates with the kids of classmates that I had (their names were on my wall). Every year my girls end up getting the “kind bulldog award”

Here are some tips and questions that you need to ask:

Why is that friend or person being mean? What is their family life like? Who hurt that person?

How can I overcome bullying in school? How can God change this for His Glory?

If you are going through a struggle or know someone that is:

If you see something, say something. Talk to your teacher, your counselor, your pastor, your parents.

Joey Winafeld

Joey Winafeld is a bivocational  Associate/Youth Pastor at True North Church in Minerva, Ohio. He has a Bachelor of Arts in Youth Ministry & Pre-Seminary Christian Counseling from Central Bible College and is an Ordained Minister with the Assemblies of God. Joey and His wife, Mikayla, live in Canton, Ohio and have two incredible daughters that love to serve alongside them in ministry. Joey is a lifelong learner that is dedicated to training and equipping students of all ages in discovering their gifts and talents in order to reach their world for Christ.

It’s More Than a Feeling

I’ve been in an interesting season of life lately.  Those of you that have been part of the Titus II family for any length of time know that Tara and I embarked on writing a book together recently and I have been a regular writer for Titus II from the beginning. Even in the lowest parts of our family life when I sat down to write, words would pour onto the page. I would look back and read over things I had written and be amazed at the things God said through me.

Now, to be honest, I’ve missed my last two deadlines, if I hadn’t written this it’d be three. When I sit to write, my cursor seems to blink in time with the minutes that pass as I stare blankly at the screen and nothing comes. I don’t feel like God is far away or that He’s abandoned me, He’s just not giving me words like before. I read my Bible and trust that His word will not return void, as it states in Isaiah, but it’s not coming alive as it has before.

I love to journal. If you sat next to me during my devo time, you’d probably be annoyed at the amount of space I take up. I have a huge study Bible, a notebook and a pen at the ready. I write down everything, verses that jump out, commentary that speak to me or I want to remember to investigate further. It’s been a huge part of my time with God. Those pages lay as blank as the one I stare at before me. I don’t have answers, but I know better than to ask why?
Instead I ask God, “What are you trying to teach me?”

There must be a lesson to learn about trusting God when He seems silent. He’s not left. He’s the same today as the day before. I think about men of the Bible. Paul and Silas, as they waited those long days and nights in prison. Did they ever feel like God was silent? Elijah waiting for the faintest sound of rain to hit the earth. I think our humanness makes us prone to feeling this way from time to time. It’s not God that has moved, it’s me. I’m trying to re-evaluate changes I’ve made that could have set this lull in place. I’m still not fully sure of the answer, but one thing I do know – drawing closer to Jesus and spending more time with Him will only help.

The most I can do today is encourage those that might be in a similar season. This is when you decide like Joshua, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Keep reading, keep praying, don’t give into the lack of “feelings.” Just like loving people is a decision, not a feeling the same is true of our decision to follow Jesus.

There are days when I don’t “feel” like loving my family, but I’ve made the decision and commitment to do so. It’s no different with my relationship with Jesus. Even in the times when Bible doesn’t jump out at me like it used to, it doesn’t make it less true than before. I know on the other side of this I will write the lessons that God taught me through this time, I just have to trust in the midst of the waiting.

Amanda Keller

Amanda is a Worship Pastor and Tech Director and contributes as a writer and speaker for Titus II Ministry. She is a homeschooling mother of two great children and wife to Nathan of seventeen years. Their family makes their home in North Dakota. Amanda’s passion for leading others in worship shines through along with her love for Jesus, her family and laughter. Amanda holds associates degrees in both music performance and office administration from Trinity Bible College. “Your greatest contribution to the kingdom of God may not be something you do but something you raise.” ~Andy Stanley

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