Written by Dani M.
Everyone has the desire to be loved and wanted by others. We often think the more friends the better, the more people that like us the happier we will be. In middle school I looked for approval in my classmates, rather than the one whose opinion is most important- God.
Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm (Proverbs 13:20)
Picking the right friends with good morals was a struggle for me in middle school. Instead of looking for friends with Godly attributes I desired to be liked and looked up to by my peers. I craved acceptance from the other girls at the lunch table. Early October one year, I vividly remember sitting at the long table in the cafeteria when I started to hear conversation about Halloween. It was common for each lunch table to do a group costume and attend the same party. When I noticed that most of the girls in the group were being secretive, I immediately felt a pit in my stomach. Shortly after, I had heard from a few of the girls that a separate group chat was created without me in it to discuss the costume. I went up to my room that day after school and cried for hours. I felt unworthy, unwanted and unimportant. I confronted my close friends in the group and asked why they did not want me to be a part of the costume? They confided in me and had told me that the ringleader of the group had not wanted me to be apart and influenced the other girls to exclude me.
A few days passed and it wasn’t long before my mother asked me what was wrong. I told her the story and she asked me the question, “What does the Bible say about friendships?” At the time I didn’t think the Bible could solve my friend drama or make me feel any better. Well, was I wrong! Here’s what I learned.
Jesus longs for a personal friendship with each one of us. He wants to be the one we love to spend time with, the one to whom we pour out our heart, the one we high five when we do well on a test! He’s our best friend, wise, patient and the definition of love (John 15:13). When we get to know Jesus we learn our true value and purpose. God created us to be in fellowship with Him and this is the example we are to recreate with the friends we choose in life. I learned to be more selective and find friends who had godly wisdom (Proverbs 13:20) to share and were reliable (Proverbs 18:20).
God gives many examples of powerful and strong friendships in the Bible: David and Jonathan, Naomi and Ruth, Christ and Mankind. It is important to examine your own friend group and ask, is this a clique or a friendship circle? Am I doing anything to make someone feel unwanted? Am I surrounding myself with people who make me feel good for who I am? Good friendships take time to develop but are a gift from God. What kind of friend are you?
By April Sliwak
Recently I was in a conundrum about which direction to take the ministry that God has entrusted to me. This is a pretty big deal because as the leader, (and if you’re making decisions about which path to take, you’ll identify with this too), it’s a big responsibility. I don’t like to make conclusions on my own because then it’s just that, on my own. But when I reach out to God and I hear from him, he’ll show me the way and the plan will succeed.
"Commit your actions to the LORD, and your plans will succeed. " Proverbs 16:3
However, I wasn’t hearing from God like I usually do and the more time that passed the more opinions, suggestions and ideas I received. But where was God? I hadn’t received the confirmation that I needed to proceed. Confusion, doubt and fear started to set in and I knew these thoughts weren’t from the Lord because he is not a God of confusion but of confidence. This was spiritual warfare.
"For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of confidence."
1 Timothy 1:7
I needed discernment without all the distractions and so I took some time to contemplate. These steps always work for me and encourage you to give them a try next time you’re looking for the path you should go:
Step 1: WITHDRAW
I stepped away from everything for a while to fast and pray. Fasting helps me focus on Jesus and his will and praying opens me up to a word from him.
Isaiah 66:18 says, “If I had not confessed the sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.” I needed to get right with God by confessing regularly so he would hear my requests.
Step 2: THE WORD
The Bible is the purest form of discernment and direction for ministry, (and life). It’s unbiased, and its motive is for God’s glory.
Psalm 119:140 “Your word is very pure; Therefore, Your servant loves it.”. As much as I value opinions and vision, I rely on guidance from the Lord to reveal and confirm his will. God’s answers are for his purpose and glory.
Step 3: WAIT
I waited for an answer. Waited to hear from him with clarity and faith to receive blessing. Wait can be super hard but as decision makers, we have to wait for a word and it takes trust and patience.
Isaiah 30:18, “For this reason the Lord is ready to show you mercy; he sits on his throne, ready to have compassion on you. Indeed, the Lord is a just God; all who wait for him in faith will be blessed.”
I finally heard from God and this is what he said: “April, I chose you to do this work, what the heck are you confused about? My yes is yes! GO!”
That’s all I needed to hear. Encouragement and affirmation!
So, any time we need to know for certain what God is calling us to do or an important decision to make, try these three steps and watch what God can do.
What are you faced with today that these steps could be applied?
It was this summer, 20 years ago in 1999, that my life was going to change but I had no idea it would. It was then that I was invited by a friend to a women’s Bible Study while my daughters were attending Vacation Bible School, (VBS). At this point in my life I was hungry to know God and this was a great opportunity to do so. I walked into the Pastor’s wife’s living room by myself, I didn’t know anyone. I sat down amongst a room full of women who were obviously familiar with each other and the Word of God. For the first time in my life, I kept my mouth shut!
I’m not kidding. I felt out of my league. While listening to these sage women of faith talk about God in their stories, I thought to myself, “Where have I been all my life?”. They all seemed to know this secret, this way of loving God like a friend, knowing God personally, having felt God and seen him in their lives. I knew God. But not like this. I knew him traditionally, seasonally; at holidays and funerals, I knew he was “up there” and I was “down here”, I knew I could recite scripture prayers to him like the Lord’s prayer and 23rd Psalm, I knew he created the world and everything in it, I knew he died on the cross and rose again.
But these women knew something else, something more. They knew Jesus like a family member and friend. They shared authentic stories of their families, marriages, and children and who God was in their lives. I saw a dependency and faith in God that I had never experienced before. God used these Titus 2 women, (mature women in faith who teach about God), to grab my attention, help me to see who God is in a personal way, and recognize that I have my own story to share.
“Walk with the wise and become wise” Proverbs 15:22a
This is when my spiritual journey began. From there, God led me into various communities of women to grow in faith, do life together, and to experience all of the One Anothers that we encounter in the Body of Christ.
“Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed”
Doing life together, starting at any stage is crucial. It’s a declaration by Jesus. He knows we need one another to love, pray and support our decisions, struggles, loss, etc. Numerous times in the scriptures Jesus displays community by sharing, teaching, loving and eating around a table. I think Jesus enjoyed a good meal too!
Twenty years later, I still need my community of friends and they need me. I can tell you wholeheartedly that I would not be the same person today if it not for the intimacy, authenticity, non-judgmental and confidentiality we share. It’s been a sacred and very special journey and we depend on one another still as we are going into the next season of our lives; parenting adult children, weddings, caring for our aging parents, illness, grandchildren, empty nesting, downsizing, moving, death, and leading ministry.
“Where there is no guidance, a people fall, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety” Proverbs 11:14
I didn’t know then how God would use my community of friends to mold my life and fill a need that I didn’t know I would have. They’ve made an impression in my heart that is forever imprinted which reveals itself in every area of my life to this day. I didn’t know… But God did.
Thoughts to ponder:
It can be really hard to go somewhere by yourself. A friend encouraged me to go to a Bible Study and I went by myself and it changed my life forever. My invitation to you: Would you join us at a Her Life Speaks Small Group in September?
Imagine what your life would have looked like if you had a community of women to do life with 5 years ago… 10 years ago…. Last year… If you had community of Titus women pouring into you with love, support, wisdom and prayer. What would your life will look today?
Imagine what your life will look like with a community of women you can do life with now and what it will look like one year from today!
“But wisdom is shown to be right by its results” Matthew 11:19
The number one-way women attend a small group community is by invitation from a friend. Who can you invite to the Her Life Speaks community this Fall?
By April Sliwak
By Denene Lucas
What has the power to change the trajectory of someone’s life? What has the power to metamorphosize someone who is broken emotionally beyond repair, to wholeness? What can arrest a person who is living a destructive life full of self- hatred, low self-esteem, rage and addiction, to one whose heart chases after Jesus, whose identity is found in Christ and whose rage has been transformed into a passion to see souls saved?
Every day we awake to hear and read about the atrocities that occur in this world, we hear about husbands killing wives, mothers killing children, we see the acts of hatred perpetrated against individuals and groups of people simply because of the color of their skin, their religious beliefs, gender bias, we see a world full of hurting and severely broken people, lost and devoid of the knowledge of the one thing that possesses the power to change anything it faces. This one thing has the ability to change any situation, any condition, ANYTHING, if that person(s) allows it to enter and reside in her or his heart and by extension their life. What kind of love is this? A love that brings truth into the midst of lies and chaos and calms the storm, it’s the kind of love that takes a person who is at the end, in the gutter, and filthy, raises her up, cleans her from the inside out and gives her a new garment. What kind of love is this? God’s Love.
His Love Saved Me…
One of my favorite songs in Contemporary Gospel is “Your Love Saves Me” by Ashmont Hill. This song speaks of God’s redemptive and transforming love and its power to reach you no matter where you are positionally.
When I accepted Christ at 17 I was broken and shattered by sexual assault, betrayal, and abandonment, I was plagued with thoughts of suicide, I was in a dark place, angry, battle worn, and exhausted from the emotional war that was waging inside of me, I called on the Lord and He heard my cry, and when I made my heart and my wounds accessible, His transformational love took that young woman full of despair and changed me at my core! God’s love is the only love with the ability to change a person, a nation, the world at its very core, when given admittance, how awesome is that?!
God’s love heals you, which enables you to tell your story from a place of victory and not from a place of victimization and shattered pieces. God’s love is transformational, unfailing, restorative, redemptive, rejuvenating, boundless, unconditional, sacrificial, in relentless pursuit to gain access to your heart, a never-ending source.
1 John 4:10 NIV “This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us.” God’s love is self-generated, spontaneous, it isn’t predicated on our performance, He doesn’t love us because of our faithfulness, His love isn’t temporal, it doesn’t fluctuate based on how we treat Him. God’s love is born from within Him, because He is love.
Max Lucado said “God’s love does not hinge on yours. The abundance of your love does not increase His. The lack of your love does not diminish His and your goodness does not enhance His love, nor does your weakness dilute it.”
My 16-year-old son would say “That’s LIT!” (hyped or outstanding)
What kind of Love is this?!
John 3:16 tells us, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.”
This scripture is incredibly significant because it illuminates the potency and potentiality of God’s love. Let’s consider just how different the lives of the lost, the disenfranchised, the agnostic, the atheist, the hate group member, those of us who still haven’t fully embraced, received or trust the love of God would be. This love is so transformative it makes us want to share it, to declare it and offer it to those in need. This love doesn’t have to get acquainted with you, this love doesn’t have to figure out your likes and dislikes, this love already knows you, it knows your hurts, your aches, your pains, it knows what makes you smile and what makes you cry, it doesn’t look for your value, it already knows your value and it asks nothing more from you but to let it in and take residence. God’s love fills every furrow and every aperture. What kind of love is this? The love of God!
And that's a wrap! Her Life Speaks gathered on June 10th at Montclair Community Church to share a meal with one another, hear a word from Executive Director April Sliwak on this year's small group theme, "Women of the Bible", and share praises and testimonials. Summer is dedicated to the team to rest in the word and in God's presence. Everyone is looking forward to connecting again in September and finding out what the Lord holds this year for Her Life Speaks.
Her Life Speaks is all about Her testimony, Her life, and who God is in Her story. Here we write our stories in hopes of helping other women find their relationship with Jesus Christ.