Monday’s Blog: Confidence to Persevere

I am excited to be back from my break. I took August off to catch up on some things and prayerfully prepare a schedule for my kid’s school year so that I am able to have more time to write. I checked my email messages when I returned and found some encouraging news regarding my first book “You Can Have a Happy Family: Steps to Enjoying Your Marriage and Children.” Last month, I was informed that I was a finalist in the Reader’s Favorite International Book Contest. It was announced last week that my book won a silver medal in the contest, and it will be featured in the largest International book fair in America this November in Miami.

 

pic of award

 

Receiving this award is a great blessing, not only because it opens the door to reach more people with the message God gave me to share in that book, but it’s a humble reminder to keep my confidence in Him and persevere. In April 2009, God called me out of leading Bible studies in my home to follow Him and write about what He’s done in my marriage and my family. I was ecstatic to be called, so I didn’t hesitate even though I had no writing experience.

After a couple months, my excitement was quickly replaced by fear as I began to take my eyes of Jesus and focus on my inabilities. That’s when God led me to memorize Hebrews 10:35-37, and hide those verses in my heart, so I would remember to keep my eyes on Him and persevere:

So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For, “In just a little while, he who is coming will come and will not delay.” And, “But my righteous one will live by faith. And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.” But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.

A Christian friend recently told me that persevering is the hardest thing to do.

In the verses above, we are first instructed not to throw away our confidence because that’s what helps us persevere. Our confidence is not in what we can do. Our confidence is in what God can do through us. Our confidence is in His promises that He will equip us to do what He calls us to do. When we take our eyes off Him, we shrink back (lose confidence) and don’t have the strength to persevere.

The dictionary defines persevere as:

“continue in a course of action even in the face of difficulty or with little or no prospect of success.”

When difficulties come, and it doesn’t appear God is going to come through for us, it’s tempting to take our eyes of Jesus and lose our confidence. I’ve experienced many trials since I started writing. It took me over two years to publish that first book. During those years, I received a lot of rejection. My family’s health and finances were attacked. My marriage was attacked. There were many times I felt completely alone. I often prayed for God to call someone else and let me quit. I didn’t want to persevere. But I felt like Jeremiah when he said: “But if I say, ‘I will not mention his word or speak anymore in his name,’ his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot” (Jeremiah 20:9).

By the time the book got published I was worn out. I felt like I crawled across the finish line, only to find out my race had really just begun.  With publishing came greater difficulties and rejection. God has had to regularly remind me of Hebrews 10:35-37 to keep my eyes on Him and persevere.

A year after the book was published, I felt led to make some changes and republish it.  With republishing came more difficulties. A year later, when I thought I could do no more with it, God led me back to it again. That’s when I felt led to enter it into the contest. Because of all the problems I have had with it the last four years, and all the doors that have been shut on it, I didn’t expect to receive any recognition, let alone win a medal.

I know we are not supposed to seek man’s approval. But for me, receiving an award for writing is encouraging proof that God has truly equipped, and will continue to equip, me to do His will.

The only approval we need is that God is with us. Our confidence is in Him. If you feel like you are losing strength, shift your focus back to Him. Keep your confidence in Him. He will give you all the strength you need to persevere, even when you want to give up.

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

1 Corinthians 15:58

 

Heavenly Father,

We praise You for preparing and equipping us to do Your will. Help us to keep our eyes on Jesus so we have the strength to persevere. We praise You that You are our confidence. We can do all things through Christ who gives us Your strength.

In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen!

 

 *Come back next Monday as I share more of God’s truths in His Word (John 8:31-32)!

 

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Marriage Series: Remain In God’s Love

MARRIAGE-PIC21

This is the next message in my marriage series “Two Are Better Than One.” In my last post, I shared how we need each other. Today, I want to focus more importantly on how much we need God.

Jesus said:

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.

John 15:5-11

Jesus instructs us to remain in Him and remain in His love because apart from Him we can do, not some things, but absolutely “nothing!”  The first five years of my marriage, my husband and I did not have a relationship with Christ. We were not connected to the vine, so we were not able to bear any fruit to help our marriage grow as God intended it to. We were like a branch that was thrown away and withered, picked up by the world and burned. We had no life to sustain our marriage.

Once we started seeking Christ, and God poured His love into our hearts, He began producing fruit and bringing life into our marriage. God worked many miracles in our marriage that first year of seeking Him. One miracle was He completely took away my jealously and insecurity. My husband and I used to have horrible fights. Walls would get punched out. Things would get broken. Sentimental items would get destroyed. My husband even ended up in the hospital once after hurting himself from one of our fights. My parents moved into our old apartment complex recently and my husband and I were just recounting all the walls we had to patch then. We praise God those intense fights ceased completely once He began to pour His love into our hearts.

Jesus said to remain in Him and His love so that His joy would be in us and our joy would be made complete. Several years ago, my husband was feeling guilty for not being the husband he felt he needed to be. He felt convicted when he thought about our daughter and how he would want her husband to be. At the time, I was experiencing a fresh revelation of God’s love and was overflowing with joy. As my husband was saddened by all the things he did and didn’t do, I encouraged him that I already had all I needed. I was content because God’s love was more than enough to fill me. I didn’t need anything else.

Even now, when I allow the busyness of life to get in the way of my relationship with Christ, I begin to lose my joy and see it affect my marriage. When I am on fire for Christ, and I feel His love, nothing my husband does wrong matters to me. The joy of the Lord is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10). We can battle anything in life when we are in God’s love and His joy is complete in us. All our faults and our spouses’ faults don’t matter when we are filled with a revelation of God’s love.

And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

Ephesians 1:22-23

If you are not fulfilled and satisfied with your marriage, I encourage you to ask God for a fresh revelation of His love. Remain in Jesus and His joy will be made complete in you. 

Heavenly Father,

We praise You for sending Jesus to fill us in every way. Help us to remain in Jesus so we can bear much fruit to strengthen and bring life to our marriages. Give us a fresh revelation of Your love so we can be content and not need our spouses to change in order to make us happy. Fill us in every way with Your love so that Your joy will be made complete in us.

In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen!

 

*My marriage series will end this Monday. You can read more about my marriage testimony and how to enjoy your marriage in my book “You Can Have a Happy Family: Steps to Enjoying Your Marriage and Children” (available in paperback, ebook, & audio format).

 

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Eighteen Years Ago

Eighteen years ago today my husband asked me to officially be his girlfriend.  I shared how God first drew our hearts together in the first post in my marriage series.  You can follow follow this link  to read it.

I am happy to announce the second winner in my giveaway is Livivua Chandler. Livivua, I will email you shortly.  Thanks to all who entered.  I will continue sharing my personal marriage testimony on Friday. And tomorrow, Warren Baldwin will be sharing how godly wisdom has helped strengthen his marriage of 31 years.

Lastly, today is the last day the ebook version of my book “You Can Have a Happy Family: Steps to Enjoying Your Marriage and Children” is free on Amazon. You can use the share tabs below to let others know.


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Marriage Series: “Scrambled Yoke” by Kerry Johnson

MARRIAGE PIC2

 

This is the second post in my marriage series “Two Are Better Than One.” Remember, if you live in the U. S., every marriage post that you comment on through July 19th, you will receive an entry into a drawing for a $50 Brinker Restaurant gift card (can be used at Chili’s, On the Border, Macaroni Grill, or Maggiano’s) and my book “You Can Have a Happy Family: Steps to Enjoying Your Marriage and Children). Two winners will be announced. One on July 20th and the other on July 21st.

Monday, I shared how God first drew my husband’s and my heart together. My dear friend, Kerry Johnson, and I have similar stories of when we first met our spouses. Today, she’s shares how God drew her heart away from an unequally yoked relationship, and drew her heart to the one God had chosen for her, Trevor Johnson.

 

 

kerry 3

SCRAMBLED YOKE

by Kerry Johson

egg[1]

“Can I break the egg?” Chase was already pulling the kitchen chair toward the counter’s edge as I ripped open the brownie box. Of our two children, Chase is more interested in trying different foods and participating in the baking and cooking process. I’m not a particularly fancy cook, but our seven-year old enjoys assisting as I mix flour, eggs, sugar, oil, and anything else on the recipe card.

He especially loves to break eggs.

The recipe called for one large egg, and it lolled around the counter, drawing my younger son’s eyes and hands in quick order.

“I want to see the yellow part. What’s it called again?”

“The yolk.”

He smiled and repeated the word, his pink lips puckering up around the ‘y’ and the hard consonant ending sound. Chase was born with an abundance of exuberance, and his hands shook as he cracked the shell and split it into the mixing bowl with the water and oil.

Later, I thought about that funny-sounding word Chase had inquired about. Not the yellow, laid-by-a-chicken version, but the other spelling – yoke. The farming word that evokes images of two oxen plowing a field, their combined, identical strength accomplishing what two mismatched animals could not. As a verb, it means to be united together or joined with something else, in order to accomplish something.

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In the Bible, the word ‘yoked’ is pointedly placed in Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth.

“Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?” 2 Corinthians 6:14

Paul received disheartening news about the church he had founded in the famously pagan city of Corinth. Believers were behaving irresponsibly and immaturely, and Paul’s letters were intended to pull them back to the gospel – Jesus Christ’s finished work on the Cross – and to God’s best for their lives. Paul instructed the Corinthian Christians that they were not to take God’s grace and run back to sin, reminding them, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

A few verses later, Paul reminds them – and us – that Christians “are the temple of the living God…Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord” (6:16 & 17).

The wisdom Paul shared with the sin-saturated Corinthian church – and us –  wasn’t meant to give Christ-followers a superiority complex or to make our lives miserable. Instead, it was given for our protection and out of love, because our Creator knows what is best for us.

That’s worth repeating over and over…God knows what is best for us.

In my early 20s, I learned firsthand why Paul warned of this very thing. Testing the truth of 2 Corinthians 6:14, I stepped into a relationship with a non-believer. Trevor and I had dated during the latter part of our teenage years, but we were weren’t ready to get married, and at 21 we broke up. Shortly after I began walking a rebellious path, yoking myself to a person who didn’t share my faith in Jesus Christ. He considered himself agnostic, and it took only a couple of months of dating before our foundational faith differences overflowed.

We were sharing a scrambled yoke.

The longer I dated him, the more stifling the burden became. He didn’t understand or appreciate the burden I carried for sharing my faith with him, which created a root of bitterness in me. There was a huge part of my heart that he would never identify with, and my soul struggled with his worldly leanings. Our earthly common ground was negated by the vast spiritual gulf between us. We were unbalanced – mismatched in the yoke God intended only for two believers.

2 Corinthians 6:14 is heavenly wisdom that sets boundaries intended to protect Christ-followers. A scrambled, unequal yoke will create cracks in the foundation of the family, which is His specific, loving design for His creation. Because the family – built upon a marriage between one man and one woman – is God’s best for His creation.

God knows what is best for us.

Eventually, the vast differences between this young man and I created enough dissension that the relationship dissolved. I pray for him and wish him well, and I learned that being unequally yoked with an unbeliever will lead me away from where I want to be in my relationship with Christ and bring only heartache and frustration. No amount of emotional love or sinful desire is worth that.

I praise God for His grace and mercy during my wayward years, and that I’m now equally yoked with my wonderful hubby.

“Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel.”

~ 1 Corinthians 9:14

kerry2

Kerry Johnson lives in sunny Tampa Bay with her loud and very ticklish family. Patient hubby Trevor and their two boys, Cole and Chase, give the best hugs ever. She’s been published in Sanctified Together, Granola Bar Devotionals, and Tampa Bay’s Overflow Magazine, and her first novel semi-finaled in the American Christian Fiction Writer’s Genesis Contest in spring 2013. She has her Bachelor of Science in English Education and enjoyed seven blessed years as a stay-at-home wife and mom. She’s passionate about her family, reading and writing, exercise and chocolate (not necessarily in that order), and especially sharing the love of Jesus through her writing at http://candidkerry.wordpress.com/.

 

 

*Remember to enter to win the gc and book by leaving a comment below. Share how God drew you and your spouse’s hearts together.

*To celebrate this marriage series, the ebook version of my book “You Can Have a Happy Family” is free at Amazon today through Sunday (7/5-7/7).

 

 

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New Marriage Series: Two Are Better Than One

 

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Photo source: Stock.Xchng

Today, I am starting a new series on marriage titled: “Two Are Better Than One.” The series will run every Monday and Friday through July. I invited several guest bloggers to share their marriage struggles and testimonies, and will post them throughout the series as well.

If you live in the U.S., every marriage post that you comment on in this series from now until Friday, July 19th, you will be automatically entered into a drawing for a $50 dinner gift card and a signed copy of my marriage book “You Can Have a Happy Family,which was just announced a finalist in the 2013 Reader’s Favorite International award contest 

Since my husband’s and my first “real” date was at Chili’s (see our story below), the gift card will be for Brinker restaurants and can be used at either Chili’s, On the Border, Macaroni Grill, or Maggiano’s. I will be drawing TWO winners  since “Two Are Better Than One!” I will announce the first winner and give away one gc and book on my husband’s and my 17th wedding anniversary, July 20th. And I will announce and give away another gc and book on our 18th dating anniversary, July 21st.

Today, I want to start the series with my husband’s and my story of how God drew our hearts together. I pray this testimony helps rekindle those feelings you had for your spouse when you first fell in love with them.

 

Joining Two Hearts Together

jason and amanda

My husband, Jason, and I first met when I was 17 and he was 22. I was working at my friend’s restaurant at the time. Jason walked into the restaurant. I took one look at him, turned to my friend and said,  “That’s the man I’m going to marry!” Even though I was half joking, there was something about him that strongly attracted me to him from the start. After our first meeting, my husband would frequently come into the restaurant with his friends. Every time he came in, my attraction for him continued to grow, and it became obvious to him and his friends. His friends would often joke about it because they knew my husband had no interest in dating a 17-year old. He was tired of dating and had recently made his mind up that the next girl he dated would be his wife. A flirtatious, immature high school girl wasn’t exactly marriage material.

About six months after we first met, I was waiting on him at the restaurant when out of the blue he asked for my phone number. Shaking, and about to pass out from shock, I wrote down my number and gave it to him. For several weeks, I waiting anxiously by the phone for him to call, but he never did. Then one day, one of his friends came into the restaurant. I asked him if he knew why Jason would ask for my number but not call me. His friend replied, “Because he has a girlfriend.” I can still remember that feeling as those words came out of his mouth and crushed me.

A few weeks later, Jason came into the restaurant. Heartbroken, I told him what his friend said. He laughed and explained that his friend lied. He said he didn’t call me because he had a hole in his pants and my number must have slipped out. I wasn’t buying it, though. Discouraged, I grudgingly gave him my number again, without expecting a call. The next day or so, I was caught by surprise when I received a call from him.

For the next six months, we talked frequently on the phone and saw each other at the restaurant, but nothing more than that. May of 1995, my senior year, I got up enough nerve to invite him to my prom. He declined without saying why. Crushed once again, I lost hope that he’d ever be interested in me. A few days after prom, on our senior skip day, I met a guy my age at the beach, and we started dating that evening. By that time, I had known Jason for about a year and he hadn’t asked me out once. I met this guy and he asked me out the first day we met. So I decided it was time to stop pursuing Jason and start moving on. In June 1995, I graduated High School. I came home from my ceremony and received a call from Jason. This time, he didn’t call just to talk. He called to ask me out on a date. I was blown away and in shock! After a year of waiting, I couldn’t turn down this opportunity. I wasn’t going to let the fact that I was dating someone else stop me from finally going on a date with Jason.

I met Jason at my friend’s house for our first date, and then he drove me to Taco Bell of all places. Not exactly my idea of a dream date with my dream guy. But it would do. I nervously stood in line waiting for him to go ahead of me and order, but he insisted I go first.  “What a gentlemen,” I thought. So I went up to the register, expecting him to order after me and then pay for us. But he continued to stand back and wait. I didn’t know what to do. I hadn’t expected to pay so I didn’t bring any money. I scrambled to find loose change in the bottom of my purse and found enough for one taco. Jason waited for me to finish paying before he stepped up, placed his order, and paid for his food. I was surprised, and a little confused, but I didn’t care. I was finally on a date with him!

After our first date, we continued to talk on the phone, and I continued to go on dates with the other guy while waiting to see if Jason would ask me out again. The other guy was moving a lot quicker, showing me attention, taking me to nice places and paying for everything, but my heart  was beating stronger for Jason each day. Finally one day, Jason asked me on a real date to Chili’s, and though I came prepared with enough money, he paid for me. We went on more dates after that, and each time he’d end the date by telling me he wasn’t sure what he wanted. Not sure our relationship would ever develop into anything, I continued dating the other man.

In the middle of July, I went away on vacation for a week. When I returned, I decided to let the other man go and let Jason go as well. It wasn’t right to hold onto the other man and lead him on if my heart wasn’t for him. And I was falling in love with Jason, but I couldn’t bare the pain of dragging our relationship out any longer only to lose him in the end. The only choice was to let him go too.

Image0003On the evening of what I thought would be our last date, July 21st 1995, I was getting ready to tell him that I couldn’t take this anymore, when he interrupted me and asked, “Will you go out with me?” I replied that we’ve already been going out on dates. He responded, “No, I want you to go out with me, exclusively. I want you to officially be my girlfriend.” I can remember the excitement and relief I felt when those words I so longed to hear finally came out of his mouth. He was mine!

Seven months later, on Valentine’s day, Jason proposed and we were married on July 20, 1996, the day before our 1 year anniversary. I didn’t know the Lord at the time, but I have no doubt that His hand lead us together. I found out years later that Jason and I had  separately accepted Christ at Vacation Bible camps when we were kids. I was too young to remember. But my husband remembers his experience. When he came home from camp he said he had no one to teach him how to grow in his relationship with Christ, so he just continued to follow the path of the world. Both of us were traveling down the same road when God so graciously crossed our paths so we would meet each other. He’d then draw our hearts together, and (five years into our marriage) ultimately draw our hearts back to Him (Read next Monday’s post for that story).

My husband eventually told me why he took so long to give in and allow God to draw his heart to me. I wasn’t what he was looking for. He prayed for a wife. He wanted someone older, more mature, and ready to settle down. I was young, wild, and not even thinking about marriage. He normally dated short women. I was tall, and with heels, taller than him. He liked a more natural looking woman. I caked on the makeup. He liked a more conservative dressed woman. I dressed like I was ready to go to the bar most of the time.  He told me despite my wild appearance, he was attracted to my heart. The more time we spent together, the stronger that feeling became, and the outward differences no longer mattered. I was the one God had chosen for him, and he was the one God had chosen for me. That’s why I had such a strong attraction for him from the moment I first met him. He was mine. And I was his. Our hearts were created to be one. It just took him a little longer than me to see that.

The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.

Genesis 2:23-24

Once we marry our spouses and life goes one, it’s so easy to forget those feelings we had when we first fell in love with them. When our hearts were beating strong for them, we didn’t care about all our differences and take offense by all their faults. I didn’t care that my first date with Jason was at Taco Bell and he made me pay. My love for him was greater than the offense.

…love makes up for all offenses.

Proverbs 10:12, NLT

God wants us to keep our hearts beating strong for our spouses because most of our differences, and the things our spouses do that offend us, are often not offensive as they appear. After we got married, I asked my husband about some of the odd things he did when we first met. He actually did have a hole in his pants and lose my number. He turned down my invitation to prom  because he thought my classmates would think he was too old. He waited until my graduation day to ask me out on a date because he didn’t want people to think he was disrespectful for dating a girl still in High School. And as you are probably wondering, the Taco Bell incident was because he had recently dated a woman who wanted to pay for all her own meals. He thought that would be what I wanted.  He was doing it to impress me, not to offend me.

As I was writing this post, and recounting the journey God took my husband and me through to join our hearts together, I felt that beating in my heart for my husband powerfully revive in me. If you have lost that beating in your heart for your spouse, or it’s slowing down, I encourage you to prayerfully allow God to take you back to when you first met. Recount that journey with God and let Him rekindle those feelings for your spouse once again.

Heavenly Father,

We praise You for this marriage series. Your Word says that marriage should be honored by all (Hebrews 13:4). We pray this series would honor You as we allow Your will to be done in our marriages.  We praise You for joining our hearts together with our spouses. Keep our hearts beating strong for them.  When our hearts begin to drift away, remind us of when we first fell in love, and rekindle those feelings once again.

In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen!

 

*Don’t forget to leave a comment below if you want to receive an entry into the drawing. Come back Friday for another entry as Kerry Johnson shares how God drew her heart away from an unequally yoked relationship, and drew her heart to the one God had chosen for her. 

 

 

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My books are FREE for Valentine’s Day!

I wanted to announce that both my books, You Can Have a Happy Family & The LOVE Walk Devotional, are FREE in ebook format TODAY ONLY for Valentine’s Day and to celebrate National Marriage Week! Follow the links on the pictures below.

 

If you prefer paperback, you can get my books today for $5.00 off with this code (GTTTMXCK) directly through Createspace. Follow the link to purchase You Can Have a Happy Family: Steps to Enjoying Your Marriage and Children.

Follow this link to purchase The LOVE Walk: A 15-Week Devotional on 1 Corinthians 13:4-8.

Don’t forget to enter the code GTTTMXCK at checkout for your discount.

 

If you prefer audio, you can follow this link to The LOVE Walk. It’s only $6.95 on audible. You Can Have a Happy Family is a little more ($19.95) since it’s 5 1/2 hours long. But very well worth it. My narrators did a wonderful job. I was blessed by both books as they ministered to me as well.

*For more info about each book, and to read excerpts,  follow this link to my website AmandaBeth.net.

Hope you all have a blessed Valentine’s Day walking in love!

God bless,

Amanda Beth

“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

Mark 12:29-31

 

 

 

 


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