Guest Post: Surviving My Abusive Marriage - What I Am Most Thankful For

I'd like to introduce you to my friend Jessica Devine. She has survived one of the most horrific stories of marital abuse I have ever heard.  God reached down into her pit and pulled her and her three girls out of it.  He continues to restore them.  He continues to pour out His revelation about His goodness and His grace to her.  Enjoy some of Jessica's wisdom as she writes from the other side of the pit.

“Every choice you make has an end result.” -Zig Ziglar

I never thought I would be in a place where someone cared about what I had to say.  I’m not sure that I ever really thought I would get the chance to actually say it. But that’s the thing with God…He surprises you.  He takes you farther than you ever dreamed possible.

I was asked to write about the thing I am most thankful for after surviving an abusive marriage. What a hard thing to write about. How can I make that choice?

But that’s just it…I am most thankful for the freedom of choice.

I remember being alone on my couch thinking of ways to kill myself. I wanted to die so badly and be free of the life I was living. I thought of ways to kill my husband. I wanted a normal life.  I remember lying on the floor with my Bible, crying because I couldn’t survive another day, praying God would hear me.  He did.  He took me to Joel 2:25-27.  

“I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten—

the great locust and the young locust…You will have plenty to eat, until you are full,

and you will praise the name of the Lord your God, who has worked wonders for you;

never again will my people be shamed…. Then you will know that I am in Israel,  

that I am the Lord your God,

…so I chose to believe.

When I left my marriage after many years of abuse, I was terrified.  I was alone with 3 little girls to take care of, but I wasn’t in any shape to take care of myself.  I was so dependent on Him, not because He actually took care of me, but because I was convinced I couldn’t take care of myself.  My self-esteem was so low that I looked to any man to make me feel loved, which never worked. I was drowning in depression with no way out…

…so I chose Jesus

Finding out what my husband had done to my girls was the hardest thing I have ever had to hear.  

Hatred, anger, and guilt filled my entire being. I couldn’t sleep.  I cried all day long. I felt so many different emotions all at once and had no idea what to do with them.  While sitting in church one Sunday morning, I felt the Lord telling me what to do. I argued with Him as I walked down the aisle to the front of the church. I did not want to do this. My ex-husband definitely did not deserve it, but I had to obey.

…so I chose to forgive.

Every day I have to wake up and make a choice. I will not let what happened to me negatively affect my future any longer and you don’t have to either!  God’s Word is full of promises and full of hope. We just have to choose to believe what it says.  Jesus is greater than our circumstances and more powerful than any army that rises up against us. We can live in confidence knowing that God is always fighting for us. With him by our side, we will not be shaken (Psalm 16:8)! 

I could have given up when things got bad, and they were very bad, but I didn’t. I chose to fight. I chose to chase after victory with everything that I had and I’m still chasing it! Don’t believe the lie that says God has abandoned you or the lie that says you are stuck where you are (Daniel 3:17).

Before there was freedom, I had to choose to live. Before there was victory, I had to choose to fight. Before there was love, I had to choose to forgive.  Nothing was possible without first making a choice. 

Jessica Devine

is a survivor of an abusive marriage.  She wants to be a light to hurting women and men in this world. Her story is one of great pain, but also great hope. The Lord's restoring power is helping her to reclaim the years that were eaten up by abuse.  After her divorce, she is now married to Joe, a wonderful, Godly husband.  She and her husband and three girls live in New Castle, Indiana. Jessica shares her story of restoration on her blog “Restoring the Years.” 

Follow her on Facebook HERE.

Follow her blog “Restoring the Years” HERE.

How a Personal Prophecy Led My Husband to Fulfilling a 24 Year Old Dream

Recently my husband took a huge step toward a dream he has had since he was 16 years old.  When he was in high school his art teacher assigned his class to come up with a superhero comic book cover.

In my husband’s heart, the egotistical, self-absorbed, indestructible superhero named Punchline was born.  A few years later in college during a theology class no less – he envisioned a sidekick endowed with wisdom named Enoch.

A dream of having a comic strip in the newspaper on a regular basis like a Calvin and Hobbes was embedded in his soul.  His comic creation Punchline and Enoch became a part of him.

Through the next 20 years, the thought occasionally would come to his mind that he should do something with his superhero character.  But it just sat in a file in our office and in his mind.

Until one day the Lord convicted Tom and essentially said, “I gave you the idea of this comic strip to bring My light to a dark world.  If you do not move on it soon, I am going to give it to someone else to bring to fruition.”

Tom repented of his apathy and began working on developing the comic strip further.  But we STILL didn’t know what to do with it or what steps to take.  It seemed to be an impossible mountain to climb and Tom wasn’t completely delivered from his apathy, until we received a personal prophecy from a friend of ours.

In 2013 we were at a bible study with some friends. At the end of it we were praying together for needs. My friend who has the gift of prophecy was praying for Tom and began to speak the words of the Lord over him.

She said, “The Lord would say it is not too soon to begin to submit your comic strip to publishers.”  She said she saw him sitting at a table surrounded by people interested in his artwork.

This really opened my husband’s mind because he had decided in his heart, that he was not going to submit anything to publishers until he was happy with his artwork.

Tom began working diligently on his comic strip and we submitted Punchline and Enoch to several comic syndicates.  Then we waited…

We never heard from them.  This was a disappointment but we found other ways to use his comic by creating a comic book and attending local comic conventions.

We launched a website and a facebook page (click here), had a small article in the paper.  But again the newspaper dream never took off.  

That is until one day… we simply took a chance and contacted our local paper about carrying Tom’s comic strip, Punchline and Enoch.  They were delighted to accommodate us and felt it was an advantage to them to have a local comic artist.

This is a picture of Tom seeing his comic strip
in print for the first time.  I had to take him
a copy at his work!
So last Sunday, my husband’s dream was one giant step closer to being fulfilled.  He was published in our local newspaper and will be submitting artwork on a regular basis. (Click here for the article.)

I want to help you understand that personal prophecies can be a tool that God uses to help you fulfill your purpose on earth.

Notice that when our submissions were ignored the first time – we did not consider the prophetic word that was given to us dead.  We continued with the dream and did little things until it was time to “submit” the strip in a different way.

If God gives a word through personal prophecy and He also brings confirmation as He did to my husband’s heart -  DO NOT IGNORE IT!  And do not assume that because it does not come to pass during a certain period of time that it was a false prophetic word.  God's timing is not our timing.

God still speaks.  He still uses words of knowledge and prophetic gifts. (1 Corinthians 12:8)  Ask Him to show you how the gifting called the word of knowledge works!

God speaks through others to give us wisdom for our path.

♫ Word of God speak, won’t you pour down like rain… washing my eyes to see, your majesty.  To be still and know that You’re in this place, please help me stay and rest in Your holiness.  Word of God speak! ♫

Whatever Happened to Driving Out Demons?

In my very safe evangelical upbringing our church never talked about the demonic realm.  What the church taught is that if I just prayed enough and ignored Satan enough he would go away. It was like the Bible verse “resist the devil” was translated “ignore the devil and he will flee from you.”

This of course is not true at all.  Even Jesus did not ignore demons.  He discerned exactly what was happening to people as they came to Him for help.  Some were physically sick because of demons.  Some were mentally sick because of demons.

Now I know there are some who read this blog who are very active in spiritual warfare and you already live with one foot in each realm, the natural realm and the spiritual realm.  But there are others who are living with two feet in the natural realm and have never been taught to look at a problem with spiritual eyes.

You see friends – there is an invisible world of evil spirits all around us.  Their best trick, especially in the US, is to convince us that they do not exist.  We hardly ever talk about the demonic realm.  It is rare that our first thought is “Was that a demonic attack?”

We MUST wake up from the slumber that has come upon us as far as demons go.  They are far more involved in our everyday lives than we will admit.  They don’t want us to wake up to the fact that they are influencing us because once we realize what is going on --- WE HAVE AUTHORITY OVER THEM!

Look at these references in the New Testament where Jesus gives us authority over demons:
Luke 9:1-2 When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.

Luke 10:16-18 "He who listens to you listens to me; he who rejects you rejects me; but he who rejects me rejects him who sent me."  The seventy-two returned with joy and said, "Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name." He replied, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.  I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.

We are to preach the good news of the Kingdom of God.  But sometimes we cannot do that because demons hinder us.  This is why it is necessary for us to have authority over the power of the enemy. 

I have seen people delivered from demons several times.  One time we were simply praying for a woman who was helping with a ministry event to feel better and she got really hot all of a sudden.  We didn’t know it but her sickness was being caused by a demon.  Within 5 minutes she was feeling much better.  I made a rookie mistake and didn’t take authority over that demon to keep it from pestering anyone else – and because of that the ministry event ended up being really hard.  It was like I couldn’t even speak right.  My words wouldn’t come very easily and I had taught the information many times before so the issue wasn’t me – it was a supernatural hindrance.  It was simply HARD!  What I should have done is realize that the woman just got delivered from a demon and taken authority over it and told it to go to the feet of Jesus.

I have seen people delivered from demons when they break a generational sin (click here).  I have seen others delivered when they break soul ties (click here). Other times demons leave because a person FINALLY forgives another person who wronged them (click here).  Each person feels much better and lighter.  There is no drama – there is no manifestation.  Sometimes driving out demons simply means that a person gets in line with the Kingdom of God.  What happens is that the demon no longer has a right to stay and affect a person who is right with God.  Darkness cannot dwell where the Light has dominion.  (Outward signs of being delivered of a demon are being physically hot, yawning and sneezing.)

Begin to ask God to remove the veil from your eyes as far as how the demonic is affecting your life.  Ask Him to give you a RED PILL (for you Matrix fans out there J), meaning the unvarnished truth about how He sees things.  We must begin to see in two realms with spiritual eyes – there is no way that we can withstand what is coming without seeing from Heaven’s perspective.

One more piece of advice – whenever you pray for victory over something, sealing it up with this prayer is mightily effective.  (Go Here for the Sealing Up Prayer!)

Overt vs. Covert Christianity

o·vert  -  adjective
1.    done or shown openly; plainly or readily apparent, not secret or hidden.

Most of us are Overt Christians.  We are out loud and proud of Christ. We are plain about our faith and don’t care who knows.  We are called to be bright lights in our sphere of influence.

Paul was an Overt Christian.  He spread the gospel of Jesus Christ every day of his life as a missionary.  The 12 Apostles were Overt Christians.  They were so loud that most of them were martyred for their faith.

Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King Jr., Billy Graham, the Duck Dynasty Clan, etc.  are all examples of modern day Overt Christians.

co·vert  -  adjective
1.    not openly acknowledged or displayed.

A Covert Christian is one who is an undercover Christian.  There is a reason that he or she does not display their Christianity.  These Believers can get more done by keeping their faith private than they can by shouting their faith from the rooftops.  They are the ones who are called by God to be covert for the Kingdom of God.

In the word of God Esther was a Covert Christian.  Joseph of Arimathea was a Covert Christian. 

There are many who “Think” they are called to be Covert Christians but what they really are is fearful of losing their standing in the eyes of the world.

Pay attention here – if you ARE called by God to be a Covert Christian there will ALWAYS be a point at which you have to play your card and come out of the closet.

Esther had to play her card and come out of the closet as far as her heritage was concerned.  God hid her away in order to save the Jewish people from what He knew was coming.  He WANTED her to hide her heritage so that at just the right time she could play her card and say – this is who I am and this is who I represent.  She ended up reluctantly playing her card after Mordecai gave her a wake-up call. 

In essence, her Uncle Mordecai said, “This is your moment.  It’s time to play your card.  You don’t have to play it – but if you do not play your card someone else will rise up and do God’s bidding.”

God DID want her to keep her faith quiet for a time.  But there comes a point at which the bushel must come off of the light for everyone to see in order for God’s purposes to be fulfilled.

Joseph of Arimathea was a rich man who was waiting for the Kingdom of God to be revealed.  He was a Covert Christian who played his card at just the right time.  Joseph took Jesus’ dead body after they removed it from the cross and laid Jesus in his personal tomb.  Joseph was a fulfillment of prophecy.

He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.  Isaiah 53:9

Jesus died next to the wicked but was laid in the tomb of the rich.  This is the part that Joseph of Arimathea a Covert Christian played.

But Joseph DID have to play a card and come out of the closet to fulfill this prophecy.

I bring up the difference between Overt and Covert Christians to make a few points:

1.  Stop judging others about their loud or quiet approach to their faith. They may be called by the Lord to be Covert. It comes down to their relationship with God.

2. If you believe that you are to be Covert –you must KNOW that you KNOW God has called you to be quiet for a time about your faith. If you are hiding in the closet because of fear – you will have to answer for it on judgment day. If you are hiding your faith because you fear men and ultimately are ashamed of His name. He will be ashamed of you on Judgment Day. (Luke 9:26) Covert Christianity is only for those who have been directly commanded to by the Lord to hide their faith for a time.

3. If you are called by God to be Covert – there will be a time that you will be called to play your card. You will at that time need to play it – no matter what you lose by coming out of the closet. This is how you carry your cross.

4. Those who are called to be Overt Christians (which is most of us) – shout it out loud no matter what you lose! Be a daily martyr for the Lord by lifting up the name of Christ in public. Don’t let anyone push you back and tell you that you must keep your faith quiet outside the threshold of your home and church. You take up the same mantra as the Apostles did: “We must obey God and not men!”

The Eye Needs the Hand

Several months ago I took part in a Prayer Rally when people from all different churches came together to lift up a little boy who needed a heart transplant.  I felt that God had given me a scripture to share and I had a message that I was going to give along with the scripture.

Well innocently and unknowingly the person who spoke at the Rally just before me got up said everything I planned to say.  Verbatim!  You can imagine that I am sitting in the pew hearing the exact same message I had planned come from someone else and all that I can do is laugh!  The conversation in my head went like this:  “Well God, this is not a surprise to you – I remind you of the verse that when I am brought before kings and authorities that I do not have to worry about what I will say because you are going to give it to me. (Mark 13:11)

Even as I walked up to the podium, all I had was the scripture God had laid on my heart.  This was going to get interesting really fast!  Because even I was going
to be interested in what came out of my mouth.

What I heard that evening coming from my own heart I cannot take credit for.  But it was full of grace and truth.  And it was quite timely.  What I heard myself saying that evening was a gentle word of admonishment to the Body of Christ.  It was about how our hearts needed to change toward each other.  It was a word about TRUE unity that comes from the heart of our King. 

Ezekiel 36:26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.

We need a new heart toward each other.  We need to stop judging our brothers and sisters in Body of Christ by the doctrine’s we disagree with, by the kind of worship we enjoy, or by the name in which we baptize.  A belief in the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ is what makes any person part of the Body.  Rejecting a person for anything beyond that is pride and arrogance. The eye needs the hand.  The head needs the foot. (1 Corinthians 12:15)

“…there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.”  1 Corinthians 12:25

When I got home later that evening, I was marveling that Mark 13:11 really works!  The message from earlier was still stirring in me so I wrote the word down in poem form.  May these words transform our relationships with each other and may True Unity be given to the Body of Christ in our nation.

Our agreement begins at His virgin birth,
The Son of God, He walked this earth.
He was crucified, in the grave and rose from the dead.
He’s coming again just as He said.

If you believe in these short few facts,
You belong to the Body, it’s as simple as that.
We need all of the parts, we can’t do without one.
Christ needs us to build until the work is done.

God’s enemy does what he can to divide.
He separates us with technical pride.
We let differences in doctrine keep us apart,
When all that matters is belief in our heart.

We can argue with respect about the differences we hold.
But love should transcend and make the Body whole.
God can correct when the parts are out of line.
Let’s pray for the Truth to make the Body align.

Let us lay down our judgments about who can belong.
Let us pray together to see families become strong.
Let’s include all the parts, to make a unified team.
Together we’re stronger against the devil’s schemes.

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus; His finished work on the cross.
If we keep our eyes focused, we will not suffer loss.
Nothing is impossible for those that believe,
When we all come together united in peace.

Do You Have Trouble Obeying God? Here's Why.

Do you find that you struggle to obey God?  Do you struggle with a secret sin that you stumble over again and again? Or maybe He has given you an assignment that you simply have never gotten around to completing?  Do you procrastinate when the Holy Spirit says to move on something?

I have certainly been there.  And I’d like to share with you the insight that brought me out of my lazy and delayed disobedience.

I used to give myself A LOT of grace when it came to disobeying God.  I would make excuses about not keeping my word.  I would allow doubt to cloud my mind and tell myself I didn’t really hear God in a specific situation.  I would look at others around me and compare myself to them and say “Well, their disobedience is worse than my disobedience. So I’m OK.” 

We call that greasy grace.  I was actually abusing the grace given to me by God.  It would be like telling our children to clean up their room but they make up excuses to not do it, or they procrastinate and then tell themselves that

Mom and Dad love me so much they won’t mind if I don’t obey


My mindset was out of balance with the Word of God.  For the Word of God says "If you love me, you will obey what I command.”  John 14:15


I was so focused on God’s love for me that I didn’t think about the perspective that my obedience represented my love for Him.

In all honesty, I was heartbroken to understand this.

I really didn’t love the Lord nearly as much as I thought I did.  Because if I loved Him, I would be obeying Him.  My disobedience was a measure of my love.

I began to practice obedience in EVERY corner of my life.  I wanted to LOVE God!  My bad habits and procrastination began to dissipate.  I became passionate about uncovering places of disobedience in my heart.

As I obeyed the Lord more and more I found that there is actually a huge benefit for obedience that I hadn’t seen before in scripture. 

“Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him

and show myself to him."

  John 15:21

The more I obeyed the closer that I felt to Him.  The more I obeyed the more I understood His ways.  Obedience was even MORE than just loving Him… there was also a reward for obedience.  Jesus showed Himself to me.

I promise you after you take those first few steps of obedience, it immediately becomes worth it. The best thing that any Believer could do is to become addicted to loving the Lord and become obedient in every aspect of our lives.

Believers: It's Time to Live Out Loud!

Believers: Are you living your life in Jesus Christ out loud?  Are you afraid to mention His name in public so that people are not offended?  We have all felt the Politically Correct walls closing in on us over the past few years in America.  The public pressure to keep Jesus behind the threshold of our churches and our homes is very real.  The statement “separation of church and state” has been twisted from its original intention to make us afraid to be public about our faith in Jesus.

I know of people who are trying their hardest to sit on the fence between the world and Christianity and they say it is because they want to pull the world across the fence to Jesus.  But this is not the example that we are given in the Word about how to live our lives in God’s Kingdom.

Jesus was crucified.  Stephen was stoned. Peter was crucified upside down.  Bartholomew was skinned alive and then beheaded.  That was only the beginning… so many others throughout history have died for living out loud.  Yet – it was the example that our leader left us… Jesus LIVED OUT LOUD!

We cannot live under cover anymore.  
Christianity is not a religion of “being nice.”  Even pagans are “nice.”  Christianity is knowing that you are a sinner and in need of a “Christ” or a “Messiah.”  Being nice does not save a soul.  Being nice does not bring a heart to repentance.  Nor does being nice change a culture.  Undercover Christianity needs to become a thing of the past. Honestly, we WILL be put to the test in these last days.  We will have to choose to be an out loud Christian to be a Christ follower.

I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes… Romans 1:16

We must not be afraid to use the name of Jesus.
Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.  (Acts 4:12)  Buddha does not save. Muhammed does not save.  Only Jesus saves and He saves us by His name.

The first apostles were not afraid to use His name.  In fact, they were beaten for using the name of Jesus. In Acts 5:41 it says: “…They rejoiced because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ.”

If we do not lift up His name, He cannot draw people to Himself.
“Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John replied, "Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God's sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard."  Acts 4:18-20

The name of Jesus is like giving people the Red Pill to get out of the devil’s Matrix they are living in.  Jesus is the one who cracks open the eyes of unbelievers to see beyond this life into the next.  He is the Deliverer.  He is the Healer.  He is the Provider.  He is LIFE! 

I have found that when I use Godly wisdom and wait for the Holy Spirit to give me the green light, using the name of Jesus in a conversation, at an event, on a Facebook post, in a letter can be the most powerful tool that I own.  When I am lifting up the name of Jesus for His sake – He does the drawing of hearts to Himself.  (John 12:32)

Yes there will be some who will be offended by His name.  But really it is not so much people who are offended at the name of Jesus… it is the deception that they are in from the devil that rises up to keep them in darkness.  Jesus was willing to offend those who were in deception.  It is often pain that the Lord uses to open the eyes of those who walk in darkness.  Jesus is not afraid to bring pain to someone in order set them free.

There is power in His name.
Listen – the enemy HATES the name of Jesus and he does not want you to use it.  He loses every time we use the name of Jesus because there is power in it!  JESUS holds the keys to death and hell!  Those keys are a painful reminder to the devil about how big he lost at the cross of Calvary.

Everything in heaven, on earth and under the earth will bow to the NAME of Jesus... that's what I call POWER!

The enemy of your soul is going to do what he can to keep you believing that just being nice is good enough to be a Christian.  In America, we are not physically beaten for using His name, we are socially beaten for using it.

We must come to a place where we rejoice in being counted “worthy of suffering disgrace for the NAME.”  What’s a little suffering compared to the glory that will be revealed?

What will you hear on Judgment Day? 
There is a difference between Salvation (free gift) and Reward (earned through works).  Using the name of Jesus and living out loud will multiply what Jesus has given you, and will bring you a reward on Judgment Day.

Dying (literally and figuratively) for His name is the highest honor.  We’ve got to stop trying to save face with the people of this world.  LIVE FOR HEARING “WELL DONE” IN HEAVEN… not “well done” from people on earth.

Jesus has done so much for you… let Him overflow into your life, into your relationships, into your conversations and LIVE OUT LOUD!


The Dark Night of the Soul

This Article was published in the Courier Times on June 21, 2014

By Tisha Sledd

This past week, my family watched “The Ten Commandments” with Charleton Heston.  It's old school, but I still think some old school culture is relevant for the next generation. We 'forced' our boys to watch it a little at a time.  My youngest exclaims “It's four hours?”

During the part that we watched this

week, Moses lost everything he had in Egypt and was forced into the desert.  Although “The Ten Commandments” does not adhere strictly to scripture, it is truly thought provoking to think about how much Moses lost at age 40 when he left everything behind.  He probably did have a woman that he had imagined his life with but had to let her go.  He left behind his family, his comfort and money and had no direction as to where he was going.  All he had were the clothes on his back and the hand of God on his life.

I was explaining to a friend the other day about the phrase “Dark Night of the Soul.”  It is the season of life where you lose everything except for God.  We don't talk about it much anymore maybe because we focus more on the gentle lamb part of God rather than the lion in today's culture. 

The Dark Night of the Soul is all about the Lion of God.  It's the part of life that He uses to shape us into being His servants.  It's where the flesh is sanded away, we're required to give up everything, and everyone seems to turn against us.  It is in the middle of this night that we truly find what we're made of.  When we come to the conclusion that we are made of nothing and our confidence in ourselves is crucified, it is then that we learn the only place to put our confidence is in God.

There is not a hero in the Word of God that did not have to go through the Dark Night of the Soul.  David spent his Dark Night in caves.  Joseph spent his Dark Night in prison.  Elizabeth spent her Dark Night barren.  Mary, the mother of Jesus, spent her Dark Night in shame and misunderstanding.  In more recent history, you will find that most men and women who do great things for God had a Dark Night of the Soul: George Washington, William Wilberforce, C.S. Lewis, Abraham Lincoln, Corrie Ten Boom.  These are all people who had to pass the test of perseverance through difficulties in order to become the 'heroes' they were called to be.

While reading Daniel in the word one day, I remember thinking that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego had gone through a major test at the fiery furnace.  And the Holy Spirit spoke to me and said “No, Tisha, they already had passed the test.  The testing was done in private.  This trial was to glorify Me.” 

You see dead men can't lose anything.  This is precisely why the Dark Night of the Soul is necessary for God's people to go through.  Because it puts to death everything within us.  It puts fear to death. It puts doubt to death. It puts pride to death.  A dead man can't be confused, or offended, or frightened, or lustful, or deceived.  If every fleshly desire is put to death within us we become the devil's worst nightmare.  We become fearless.

Jesus experienced His Dark Night of the Soul during the 40 days in the desert.  The next 3 1/2 years were simply walking out His purpose, even death on a cross. 

I firmly believe that there are heroes that we have never heard of because they did not persevere through the Dark Night.  They quit.  It seemed too hard.  Or possibly they forgot the promise that God gave them before the Dark Night.  Because you must cling to the promise through the difficult night season.

The Dark Night of the Soul is an honor.  It is the call to be Christlike.  As Paul said in Philippians 3:10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

Maybe You Don't Understand Love as Well as You Think You Do...

“Love is patient, love is kind, it does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

1 Corinthians 13:4-8

We listen to it at a wedding. We love to quote it on social media. But the truth is these few verses are NOT the final and complete definition of love. We have a habit as believers to take specific parts of the Word of God - the parts that preach really good – and think we’ve got the subject of love covered. We have not been trained very well to use the “whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). As with all things in scripture we must receive the entire word of God to have a complete picture of

His character.

1 Corinthians 13 is an easy one to preach. It’s poetry. It makes us feel all warm inside. It doesn’t offend. But if we are to take the whole counsel of God we must recognize that several chapters earlier in 1 Corinthians 5:11-13 Paul actually commands the Church to do something that would not fit in with most Christians’ definition of love.

“But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. "Expel the wicked man from among you."

He commands the Church not to even eat with believers who are sexually immoral, greedy, idolaters, slanderers, addicted or a thief (note he is not speaking of unbelievers). We must take these kinds of passages into account when formulating our definition of love. Friends I know this is hard but this scripture actually tells us not to associate with believers who are sexually immoral.

Most people would say “How is that love?” Perhaps Paul was attempting to illuminate the thought that Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth.

We must receive the whole counsel about Who He is – not just the parts that we agree with. Either all of the Bible is true or none of it is. I believe it’s all true. Even the difficult parts.

Unfortunately we have redefined who God is because of our subjective definition of love. It doesn’t work like that. If you are going to love God with all of your heart, mind, soul and strength – you have to love the truth about His character too. You cannot make God conform to your idea of what love is.

Love is not the definition of God... God is the definition of love.

When examining our definition of “love” we must take into consideration several things that happened in the New Testament. (I use only the New Testament to make my point for those who believe that The Old Testament no longer represents God’s character after Jesus shed His blood.) These things God caused to happen might shake you to the core if you don’t really understand God’s characterization of the word LOVE:

1 ) Ananias and Sapphira are struck down dead after lying to the Holy Spirit. (Acts 5)

2) Herod is struck down dead by an angel of the Lord. (Acts 12)

3) Paul directly tells the churches to stay away from specific people who are false teachers and calls them by name. (2 Timothy)

4) Jesus Himself called church leaders to their faces: hypocrites, snakes, white washed tombs, murderers and blind guides. (Matthew 23)

5) Jesus overturns marketplace and whips the people who are selling in the temple. (John 2)

6) Jesus has a dire warning for people who cause His children to sin.  The punishment would be worse than being drowned with a brick around their neck. (Matthew 18)

7) In Revelation 2 and 3, in His prophecy to the seven churches Jesus HATES the practices of certain people.

He threatens to remove one of them from the lampstand in heaven.

He says he is going to bring suffering on a woman named Jezebel and everyone who supports her.

He says He will repay the churches according to their deeds.

He spits out of His mouth those who are lukewarm.

He tells one of His churches that they are poor, pitiful, naked and blind.

In Revelation 11, two witnesses are given the power to burn to a crisp those who try to hurt them.

You must include these characteristics of God when forming your opinion of love.

I know this might seem harsh to some of you but all of these actions are included in the definition of love. We must open our minds a little more about the definition of love because those few verses in 1 Corinthians 13 cannot cover the vast characteristics of who God is.

Check out one of Paul’s prayers in Philippians 1:9:

“And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight. So that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ.”

Love has depth to it. There is knowledge and understanding that comes with the definition of love – we are meant to discern (judge) what is best so that we are pure and blameless. Love must include the fruit of righteousness. Love is costly, and we cannot simply throw it around and say, “God loves you unconditionally so you can behave however you want to behave.” That is not a discerning love.

The Message interprets Philippians 1:9 like this:

“So this is my prayer: that your love will flourish and that you will not only love much but well. Learn to love appropriately. You need to use your head and test your feelings so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush.”

Too many people have considered 1 Corinthians 13 as the final definition of love. If you do not take the whole counsel of the Word of God and the characteristics of God’s personality what you get is SENTIMENTAL GUSH.

Friends, God is not a sentimental gushy Heavenly Father. He is a God that will not hesitate to punish sin. (1 Thess 4:2-6) To punish sin is an act of love! A loving Father DISCIPLINES His children. (Rev. 3:19)

It’s like getting your hand burned on the stove as a child. If you touch a hot stove once and get burned you won’t do it again because it harms you. Our loving Heavenly Father doesn’t have a problem letting those who sin get hurt by it because He wants you to stay away from things that hurt you!

Allowing suffering into our lives is a way of disciplining us. Speaking with sharp words to us in order to get us to repent is a way of disciplining us. God allows a separation when we sin against Him, this is another way that God disciplines us. He is not afraid to hurt our feelings.

Our definition of WHO God is must include the characteristic of Holiness. God hates what sin does to His children. It harms us. It harms His plan for our lives. He has no problem bringing painful discipline because He wants it to produce in us harvest of righteousness. (Heb 12:11) I am so grateful for the times when God has brought painful discipline to me. He has kept me from such disastrous mistakes because when His discipline came, though it was painful, it caused me to seek Him for His truth. And the Truth set me FREE!

There was one time that I knew a friend of mine was entering a marriage that was not from God. I very gently told her to really think about it before she entered the marriage. Then I just put it in God’s hands and left it alone. She married the man and it all fell apart very quickly, he was a charlatan. A few years later we were discussing my gentle warning and she looked at me with pain in her eyes and said “Why didn’t you rebuke me more harshly?! I might have listened if you had hurt me.”

Another time I did hurt a friend with the truth, and our relationship suffered a season of separation because of it. But God confirmed to my friend that I indeed had brought her the truth and she repented and God restored our relationship. She was so thankful that I was bold enough to hurt her feelings. The path that she was on would have forever altered the course of her family’s life and caused great damage to everyone.

In my own life, God warned me through a sermon I 'just happened' to hear on the radio that if I continued on the rebellious path I had chosen that I risked being removed from this earthly life sooner than He planned. That REALLY hurt my feelings!  But I was headed for destruction.  And He was incredibly gracious to fully inform me of the consequences of my choices.  Now as I look back at the stern rebuke I received from the Lord, I feel incredibly loved and protected by His unvarnished truth.

Love never fails.

Love includes 1 Corinthians 13. It is patient, it is kind. We are to pray for our enemies and those who use us. We are to turn the other cheek. We are absolutely called to lay down our lives for our brother, and sometimes be crucified by them and their words, and as you are bleeding we are required to follow Christ and say “Father forgive them.” But love does not end there we are also called to confront sin with the truth. This is also love.

Our definition of love must come through the lens of what God says love is. Otherwise we are creating an idol out of our own imagination into a twisted version of love in which everyone is free to do whatever they want without consequence.

God is love. Not the other way around.

PATHWAY TO PURPOSE | from assistance to significance

PATHWAY TO PURPOSE (Women of Hope/Men of Strength):

In 2007, God stirred our hearts with a ministry to a forgotten part of New Castle. I haven't spoken much about this ministry as we felt it important to keep it under the radar. But I had a dream the other night in which God wanted me to be more open about it. So here goes...

WE BEGAN Women of Hope as an outreach to the mothers of Eastwood school in 2007. It was evangelistic to begin with - just bringing HOPE to many
women who were desperate for it. We did everything from Chocolate University to Mary Kay Makeovers:) Every year we did a Queen for a Day event where the Eastwood Cafeteria looked like we held a prom! Each woman would get a rose and was escorted by a handsomely dressed gentleman who treated her with respect and dignity and waited on them at their table. We handed them HOPE from the only place where it can truly come from - Jesus.

THERE CAME A POINT several years into the ministry that we felt established in these women's lives and that it was time to help them begin to climb their "Mountain of Purpose." Many of these women were simply going around the same mountain year after year. Making the same decisions again and again which kept them in a perpetual prison. We needed for them to begin to develop climbing muscles to achieve their God-given purpose. Thus began the discipleship/mentoring shift of the ministry. It was time to stop giving hand outs and start giving hand ups! 
We have had much help over the past 8 years. From those who have prayed with us to those who have labored with us - we are truly grateful for you - May God richly reward you for giving these women a 'hand up'!

LAST YEAR we added 'Men of Strength' to our group which my husband Tom Sledd oversees. Now the women who come also bring their husbands and boyfriends. We believe that by creating a stronger family unit - that we create a stronger community. We want every person in New Castle to be fulfilling their purpose whether that is being a doctor, a business owner, a sales clerk or a foster grandparent.
WE ARE NOW CALLED Pathway to Purpose. And we don't just serve Eastwood anymore - we are not here for people in a poor socioeconomic status - we are here for the poor in spirit.
If you or someone you know is tired of going around and around the same mountain - we invite you to join us at Pathway to Purpose. It is a 7 week intense Christ-centered mentoring session beginning January 29 at Foursquare Gospel Church. It is a place where you can come and lay down your burdens and your shame - rich or poor, young or old, sinner or saint ...just come as you are!
GOD HAS A PLAN for you and we want to help you up your mountain!! 

The Journey to Joy

The Journey to Joy

by Tisha Sledd as published in 'her' magazine

My mother Peggy and my brother Toby and me

     I walked into Mancinos with my newborn son in a carrier.  It was all I could do to keep my emotions in check.  I was exhausted and depressed.  I felt abandoned by friends.  My husband had just finished college so financially we were more strapped than we had ever been.  The cloud I was under seemed to indicate that there was no hope.  There was no plan. Did God even care about the darkness that surrounded me?

 I mustered up my courage and put on a brave face to meet with an old friend of

my mother's who had been asking to meet with me.  I wanted to honor her request, but everything within me simply wanted to stay home in my dungeon and hibernate.  It is funny now to think back to my demeanor that day because I had no idea what God was about to do right in the middle of Mancinos.

You see I really never knew my mother.  She died of breast cancer when I was just four years old.  She was 29 years old when she found a lump in her breast.  The doctor took a look at the lump but said to watch it for 6 months and of course, by then it was too far gone.  It's amazing how far we've come since 1977! 

Since I was so young the only memories I have are of getting her a blanket and I remember visiting her in the hospital.  She died a month after my fourth birthday.  I remember my dad and aunt taking my brother and I in the back room of my grandparents house and telling us she had died. I didn't understand death but I do remember the somberness of everyone.  And then as reality set in on me, there was a kind of heaviness that was painted over my soul.  It was a seed of self-pity.

My Mother Peggy and father Virgil with

my brother Toby and me.

The ramifications of my mother's death and how my father handled life afterward sent my world into a vortex of chaos.  “Poor Tisha,”  I remember my grandmother saying over me. No one understood how those words ended up defining me.

I told my sister not long ago that I felt death had been my companion most of my life.  The heaviness of death and self-pity were always close to me as I grew up.  Looking back now I can see how many events in my life were overshadowed by a dullness, not really ever being “in” the moment, always thinking about the next highlight.  I learned to numb my pain with everything from food to television.  Silence was my enemy, because the creeping thought of how much I hated my life would be so loud it would paralyze me. 

Until one day at age 26, a ray of light broke through my cloud, it was in a healing prayer session.  God began to show me that I had great worth, no matter what life threw at me.  That the events in my life and the labels my grandmother and others had given me didn't have to stick.  God showed me that because I agreed with the label “Poor Tisha” I could not rise out of the darkness.  The self-pity was a layer of heavy lead in my foundation.

After this revelation, it was as though a hole was poked in my layer of darkness.  It was an arrow of hope and I began to lift my head.  It wasn't gone, but I was starting to figure out that I might even be able to find joy in this life.

Up to that point joy seemed unattainable. I would experience a moment of joy at a wedding or a birth,  but to feel joy on a daily basis was a far off thought.

I was in a similar state that day in Mancinos.  My trials overwhelmed me and “Poor Tisha” felt like an appropriate name tag.  My mother's friend was telling me all about how special my mother was.  She was telling me what a trooper she was through the cancer.  As sick as she was my mother would send cards to other people in the church who were sick.  She told me of her deep love for others.  She was determined to be at home for my fourth birthday party though it took every ounce of energy she had.  And then she said something that God used to touch my heart in a way that only could have been divinely conceived. 

   “You know, your mother would always say, 'Sorrow may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning!'”

     When my lunch companion said this, it was as though God opened up heaven and it was my mother speaking this wisdom directly to me.

It was like she was saying, “I know where you are headed, because I am cheering you on from Heaven's grandstands.  It is going to get better.  Your trials are momentary.  Joy is just up ahead!”

I don't know how I held it together that day in the restaurant.  But I made it home and released my pain though a flood of tears.  I lifted my head a little higher and began to re-evaluate my definition of joy.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”  James 1:2-4

This verse seemed so contrary to my understanding of joy.  In my immaturity, I thought 'joy' was the equivilant of 'happy'.  But this verse was quite clear that is not the case.  Consider your painful trials as pure joy because eventually it will lead to maturity if we persevere. 

It reminded me of another verse, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross.” Hebrews 12:2.  Again, that seemed so contrary to my definition of joy.  Jesus endured the pain of the cross because He knew there was joy set before Him.  Jesus knew that His pain was accomplishing something.  He was looking forward to being with me.  His death brought me life and that brought Him joy.

My mother was able to endure cancer because no matter the outcome, she knew that one day there would be joy in eternity and that we would be together.  I can endure difficult life circumstances because I know the One who will turn it all for my good.  Though my natural life may be in chaos and darkness if my mind is fixed on the morning that is coming, I will never walk without joy again.

In my journey to understanding true joy, I have come to this conclusion.  Pain and trials are inevitable, but they don't define me.  In the midst of even the darkest pain there is joy ahead, because if I persevere my pain is accomplishing something.  That is where my mind must be set. Morning is coming, and oh the joy that awaits!

J-23 | The Healing of Joel Haler

Many of you know 20 year old Joel Haler.  Energetic, former Trojan basketball star, son of Pastor Eric and Karen Haler of New Covenant Worship Center, brother to Abe and Rebecca, and paralyzed for the past three months.  That is until January 23, 2014.

Joel had been having back pain and woke up one morning in October and could not feel his legs.  His entire family has been through a very difficult valley and yet always trusting that God would eventually bring Himself glory through the trial.

The second week of January, as Joel was praying he heard this word: “J-23”.
And he felt that God was speaking to him.  He then had a 4 year old boy come up to him at church on January 19th and said “Joel, you are going to walk on Thursday.”  Several other people have recently had dreams of Joel walking including Joel’s dad.

On January 23rd, Joel woke up feeling a tingling in his legs and by 5:30 was able to walk into his parents room to wake them up.  He had not walked in over 3 months.

That morning there was the most incredible sign in the sky.  It was a parhelion; a beautiful rainbow ring around the sun.  It reminded me of the verse in Joel 2:30 “I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth…”

Friends, this entire account is what we call a mighty work of God!  God does miracles and mighty works so that we might repent and turn to Him.

I have had quite a revelation
recently that has really spurred my heart even more toward the Kingdom of God.  The revelation comes from Matthew 11 where Jesus began rebuking cities for not repenting.  Matthew 11:20- 24 Then He began to rebuke the cities in which most of His mighty works had been done, because they did not repent: “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades; for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you.”

Jesus was saying that if the miracles of healing and deliverance and raising the dead had been done in Sodom and Tyre and Sidon, the whole city would have repented.  God intends for His goodness to cause us to turn to Him!

We have become hardened to the mighty works of God.  We have become cynical when we hear testimonies, and dismiss them as not truly extraordinary.

Recently, a woman gave a testimony about how God had healed her and the church clapped but really didn’t really appreciate the MIGHTINESS of God at work.  Another friend of mine has completely come out of drug addiction and homosexuality and still I was rather numb to the MIGHTY work of God.  Instead of thinking what a nice testimony, I really should be amazed and astonished!  Recently my family has been given several remarkable gifts and I was convicted that I truly didn’t appreciate how MIGHTILY God worked through others on our behalf.

This revelation has caused me to repent and look at it from God’s perspective.  And I am now in awe of His mighty works.  God STILL heals!  God STILL delivers!  God STILL gives good gifts to His children and we should be in Holy Awe of the Lord.  He has done MIGHTY works on our behalf!

Let us not wait to repent until the next bad thing happens for us to turn toward God. Begin today to look at life through God’s eyes.  Look today at His mighty work in your lives.  Let His goodness bring us to repentance, for the Kingdom of heaven is near you!