God, My Father

Growing up, I didn’t have a father in my life, so I developed feelings of rejection, abandonment, insecurity, and inadequacy. I felt unwanted, like I didn’t fit in or belong. Growing up without a father made it difficult for me to understand acceptance. I had a stepfather in my life, and even though my mother would assure me that he loved me, I still didn’t feel like I belonged. I saw it in the way he treated his own children versus how he treated me. Being a stepchild caused me to develop a stepchild mentality: always feeling like I didn’t measure up with all the other kids and like I was less important. I brought that emotion into my adulthood. When I made mistakes, my stepfather would magnify that mistake and continually remind me of it. He let me know how I failed.

When I accepted Jesus as my Savior and Lord, I had a misconception about fatherly love and felt that God was like my stepfather in that he kept an account of my mistakes and failures. Every time I made a false move I instantly felt so condemned and was so convinced that the Lord wanted nothing to do with me. That emotion of guilt flooded my heart with a sense of being unwanted and rejected by God. That is why the Word of God is so important to me. It’s through the Bible that the Holy Spirit taught me that I am accepted by God and I have been placed in the family of God permanently. It was not based on my performance, but on the finished work of Christ.

Ephesians 1:4-5 (NLT) says, “Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.”

All that Christ has accomplished in His death, burial, and resurrection was all for me so that I can enjoy a restored relationship with God. This acceptance is available to you too. When you believe in this incredible message about Jesus and invite Him to lead your life, you will be forever changed.

Join me in this prayer: Jesus, I believe that you love me without condition and that you adopt me into your family. I receive this love and acceptance and pray that you will make me the person you created me to be.

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Maryann Roque is a mother of five children and wife to Joseph Roque. Maryann and her husband are volunteers in the county jails. They love to minister the word of God and see people set free in every area of their lives.

 

Strong Women

May we know them. May we be them. May we raise them.

“She is clothed with strength and dignity and she laughs without fear of the future.” Proverbs 31:25

God loves strong women. Strength is required for the great work our creator is calling us to. Women comprise half of humanity and our femininity was designed by God with a unique and particular purpose in mind. I’ve been told I’m strong many times. I don’t think it was always a compliment in the mind of the individual saying it, ha! I do fit the “Anne of Green Gables” redhead stereotype with my sharp mind and quick tongue. Passion is a quality I have never lacked, though I do regret that, at times, it has been misguided. In spite of that, I’m thankful to be one in a long line of strong, redheaded women.

It takes great strength to raise children, to joyfully love the same man over a period of decades, to lead a business or organization, to pick up the pieces and start again after death or divorce, to maintain a household while a husband serves in the armed forces or as a first responder. The teenage mother with an unplanned pregnancy needs strength to birth a baby and to choose whether to raise the child or give her to adoptive parents. The refugee woman in a new country, speaking a new language, requires strength to begin a new life. The victim of sexual violence requires great strength and courage to testify against her accuser. We women, we sisters and mothers and daughters and wives, we need our strength.

God has always called his people to be strong, to stand up against injustice and proclaim dignity over every member of humanity. He has called us to be strong to face impossible situations. In our beautiful and broken world, there is so much to do that will require His great strength. There are slaves to be freed, children to be adopted, victims to be rescued, refugees to be brought home, addicts to be rehabilitated, friends and enemies to be forgiven. The brokenhearted and depressed require someone to lift up their chins and look into their eyes and tell them they can have hope, that we are in this together and they are not alone.

God knew that teenage Mary had the strength to carry the son of God and believe in His resurrection. Jesus saw strength in the eyes of Mary Magdalene, when she broke the alabaster jar over the feet of her redeemer, while all the men in the room scorned her. Jesus praised the sick woman whom, with a single act of faith, compelled His power to heal her. He knew the woman who’d been caught in adultery could have the strength to “go and sin no more.”

How can God ask us to be strong, in the face of human crisis? Sometimes the news of school shootings and war, natural disasters and poverty, displacement and sex-trafficking, can be overwhelming. Sometimes the demand from our children, our jobs, our parents and even our own expectations of ourselves can be overwhelming enough. We can be strong because He was strong in life and in death and in His resurrection.

Isaiah 61:1-7 prophesied of the redemptive heart of Jesus for our broken world:

“The Spirit of God, the Master, is on me because God anointed me.

He sent me to preach good news to the poor, heal the heartbroken,

Announce freedom to all captives, pardon all prisoners.

God sent me to announce the year of his grace—

a celebration of God’s destruction of our enemies— and to comfort all who mourn,

To care for the needs of all who mourn in Zion, give them bouquets of roses instead of ashes,

Messages of joy instead of news of doom, a praising heart instead of a languid spirit.

Rename them “Oaks of Righteousness” planted by God to display his glory.

They’ll rebuild the old ruins, raise a new city out of the wreckage.

They’ll start over on the ruined cities, take the rubble left behind and make it new.

You’ll hire outsiders to herd your flocks and foreigners to work your fields,

But you’ll have the title “Priests of God,” honored as ministers of our God.

You’ll feast on the bounty of nations, you’ll bask in their glory.

Because you got a double dose of trouble and more than your share of contempt,

Your inheritance in the land will be doubled and your joy go on forever.

Yes, Jesus went to the cross to get great strength for us. He started this work and trusted it to us until His return. We can walk in the strength and power of His Holy Spirit, knowing that God’s weakness is stronger than the greatest of human strength. We, the church: men AND women of every age, of every color, of every nation, truly are the hope of the world. Jesus is clothing you with strength and dignity for today and every day ahead. There is much to be done!

Happy International Women’s Day!

Xo,

Bethany

Also, if you are looking to connect with individuals and organizations we work with and support, check out:

Ezra Gate, with Casey Tait who contributes to Beautiful Stories

A21 Campaign with Christine Caine

Life Impact International

No Greater Love: To All the Single Ladies

To quote the queen (no, not Blair Waldorf, but yes, Queen B, Beyonce herself), “all the single ladies, now put your hands up!” So, my hand is up. Yes, I’m single and a lady, and find myself walking into church all too often to hear another message about marriage. Don’t get me wrong, I love marriage. In fact, I want to be married (any other single ladies with their hands up on that one?)! But frankly, I’m not at this point in my life (note the empty ring finger, bed, and womb that remind me daily of that fact).

My journey in “singledom” may or may not be similar to your journey, but whether you’re a 20-year old pining away for that cute guy, or you’re more seasoned in life, with a failed marriage or two under your belt, us ‘single ladies’ all have one thing in common – and it’s not our marital status (although that may seem the obvious). What we have in common with our journey is that God is the orderer of all our steps (Psalm 37:23), and whether we’ve made all the right decisions to lead us to where we are today or we took a few devastating detours to arrive at our current destination, the reality is no matter the journey: God is in control.

GOD IS IN CONTROL

It has been my greatest life lesson the last 18 months. In those months, I’ve battled a few broken relationships, struggled with comparing my life to my ‘married with three kids best friends,’ and fought insecurities of loneliness, worth, and feeling forgotten by God. So, you can imagine (or maybe you’ve even been there before), walking into church on a Sunday to hear another message about marriage, doesn’t always lead to the great, uplifting feelings of hope, but rather reiterates the feelings of despair in my heart and emotions.

During those 18 months, I had a major breaking point. I (thankfully) called on a friend during my low-point, and they did what every good friend should do – they listened and then they created space for me to meet with the only One who could really help me in that moment with all that inside junk. They turned on the United Pursuit song Never Going Back (yes, pause and go download it now!). I sat in their car, tears streaming down my cheeks, exhausted from battling my heart and emotions, listening to the lyrics of this song:

You say I am Yours

I never am alone
You found me

And I’ve made up my mind
I’m never going back

The lyrics hit my heart like a weight, pressing down on my insecurity of loneliness and the feeling of being forgotten; those misguided emotions that kept trying to squeeze the life out of me, kept me singing along hopelessly with Queen B and all the single ladies. Overwhelmed by the weight of my emotions and the puffiness of my eyes (not to mention, the mascara parading down by face like a black waterfall), I sat there silently waiting for Jesus to show up. At that point, the song shifts, and all of a sudden, so does my perspective…

I’m singing out Your lovely name
I’m giving You everything
You make my soul alive
You put Your love inside

Where my soul felt choked by my season and emotions that surrounded my circumstance, I realized He is what makes my soul alive! Maybe it’s a no-brainer for you and I’m just late to the game, but in that moment, my soul felt life again; my soul felt God. My soul felt peace that comes not from having all the circumstances right (cuz they weren’t) or all the prayers answered (cuz I’m still waiting on some…) or even all the emotions in a healthy place (cuz, well, I’m a girl and when are we not emotional?!); but it felt peace that transcends my understanding (Philippians 4:7). Peace that comes from when He’s in control and not me.

I kept trying to control my circumstances and season. If I could just look this certain way, talk to that certain guy, live in this certain place, do this or do that, then surely, I’d no longer be singing Single Ladies, but instead Prince Charming would be sweeping me off my feet with his own rendition of Train’s Marry Me. And that was the problem. I was trying to be in control. And quite frankly, it wasn’t working.

So, I decided to give Him everything. It’s in that place of surrender, where I genuinely let Him be in control that my soul found life. It brought greater meaning to the verse that says when I lose my life, that’s when I find it (Luke 9:24). When I give up control and allow Him to lead, that’s when I find life; that’s when my soul is truly alive, full of joy and peace that can only come from Him.

You’re like… isn’t she a pastor? What does she mean she wasn’t surrendered to God? I love God; loved Him for a long time. I obey the Bible to the best I can, reflect Christ in my daily life as much as I can, but still held onto a few things trying to stay in control. Control is comfortable and familiar, so I thought. Like a good backseat driver, I let Jesus take the wheel, but I kept trying to give Him directions.

So surrendering completely to Him, meant letting Him drive and trusting He knew the best route and the best timing and the best people to take along on the ride. It shifted from comfortable control to the adventurous life of faith. The difference was the One calling the shots.

YOUR LOVE INSIDE

Don’t get me wrong, I still want to meet the love of my life. I want to have someone who loves me the most and thinks of me first; someone to put a ring on it, fill my bed and my womb! However, in that moment where I felt my soul come alive, I realized I don’t need that to be alive, fulfilled, and happy. I realized WHY my soul felt alive: because His love is inside me and He is in control!

He loves me. He put His love on the inside of me. There’s no greater love than the love of God towards me. It may seem so elementary, but for me it was revolutionary. I can’t control my love life, I can’t control people, I can’t control circumstances, seasons of life or anything else. But I know the One who controls it all; the One who puts His love on the inside of me, that drowns out every insecurity, comparison, and deferred hope.

John 15:13 says there is no greater love, than a love that will lay down their life. Jesus loves us so much, He demonstrated the greatest love, to give His life, that I could have life in Him. Greater than the love of any man, parent, friend is the love of God towards me. There is truly NO greater love. Don’t let that RomCom, Insta post, or person tell you anything otherwise! Jesus is the greatest love story to hit human kind!

NEVER GOING BACK

I made a determination that day, that I’m never going back to life without His love inside. Not that it ever wasn’t there, but I let the lack of love from other sources overshadow the most incredible love of all time! And I would never go back to that.

I lean fully into Him. He’s in control of the circumstance, in control of the season, in control of my life. He’s in control! And that’s relief – I don’t have to be!

I’m not going back to insecurity – I’m secure in His faithful love.

My future is secure in His faithful love.

My heart is secure in His faithful love.

My hope is secure in His faithful love.

I am secure in His faithful love, and I trust Him.

The message of marriage is powerful – Ephesians 5 tells us it’s the closest replication of God’s love towards His bride, the church. But even the love of a man and woman in marriage cannot compare to the love of God towards me and towards you. So now when I hear another message about marriage, I’m reminded of God’s incredible love. I’m reminded of my season and that God’s in control of it, and so far, His track record is perfect in always knowing better than me and working things together for my good. So I’ll rest in that.

So to all my single ladies, what a beautiful season to be lavished in the love of God. What a beautiful season to fix your heart and attention on Him and trust Him to faithfully work ALL things together for your good (Romans 8:28). It takes all the pressure off, puts peace in your heart and mind, and makes for a beautiful, adventurous life of faith. I’m content He’s in control.

I’m confident someone will come and “put a ring on it” and I will be ready to say yes, quicker than the Bachelor can hand out roses! But my hope and security are not in that. I am secure in His faithful love. We are secure in His faithful love; and for me, I’m never going back to anything else.

IMG_4788Breanna Giberson is an associate pastor and executive administrator at The City Church. She serves weekly at the Ventura campus. Breanna moved from Seattle to help Pastors Jude and Becky plant the City Church in 2011 and loves the sunshine in Southern California. Breanna experienced God in a powerful way as a high school student and served in youth ministry for many years. She is passionate about introducing people to Jesus Christ and raising up leaders in City Groups. She adores her nieces and nephews and is  affectionately known and loved by all of the City Church staff kids as, “Auntie B.”

Keys to a Lasting Marriage

February 14th is right around the corner.  This is the day we choose to celebrate love.  Everyone want to experience romantic love, but not everyone wants to put in the effort it takes to turn one day a year into a lifetime of investment and caring for the person we chose to marry.  Many young couples are willing to put energy into preparing for the Wedding Day, but put little thought and preparation into the lifetime of marriage.  If I’m honest, my first years of marriage to Jude  were difficult simply because we didn’t spend the time and energy necessary to prepare for our marriage.  We went from being friends to being engaged and married three months later!  Jude proposed to me over the phone and I was the one who called him!  A lot of what we learned about marriage was from watching other couples in our lives who seemed to make marriage look so easy.  Well, we have now been married 31 years and have been through every season a married couple will face and we are still together by the grace of God. Sometimes marriage seems like a piece of cake, full of amazing memories and laughter and other times we have to “fight for what’s left.”  

When you have been married 31 years, other couples always ask, “What is the secret to having a lasting marriage?”  Here are a few things I have learned over the years, that may be helpful as you pursue your dream of a happy marriage that lasts a lifetime:

Remember Marriage is a COVENANT NOT a CONTRACT:

Matthew 19:6 ESV “So they are no longer two but one flesh.  What therefore God has joined together let no man separate.”

For Jesus followers, marriage is about God joining us together. We make an eternal commitment before Him to LOVE our husbands. If we look at our marriage as a conditional agreement, and our spouses fail at something, we want to break the contract. But God offers us His “overwhelming, never-failing, reckless,” covenant love to draw from. The Bible is a love story in itself, one in which we broke the contract, and culminating in a beautiful marriage celebration as we, the church, become His bride. When we receive the undeserved love and forgiveness of Jesus, He fills us with the power of HIs Holy Spirit to love our husbands without keeping score. When we make the decision to grow old together, we don’t make quitting an option, knowing that God is able to help us in every area of weakness.

Be Grateful for the Marriage God gave you!

I Peter 3:7 “Husbands, you must in turn treat your wives with tenderness, viewing them as feminine partners who deserve to be honored, for they are CO HEIRS with you of the  “divine grace of life” so that nothing will hinder your prayers.”

Our marriages are a gift from God. We must view our marriages as an “inheritance” or “gift” to be cherished rather than something we are owed.  Think about it, when we work for something we “expect” to get paid.  If we won a lotto ticket or got an unexpected Inheritance we would be grateful for what we received.  Remember, our husbands chose to love us and be committed to us unconditionally. Is there any greater gift one human being could give to another? I encourage you to be thankful for your spouse because he is a gift to you.

Remember we are better together.  Fight FOR one another not against one another!  

Ecclesiastes 4:9 “Two are better than one because they help each other succeed” NLT

It’s so important to  reflect on the value that our husbands bring to our marriages.  Your husband may be very different from you. Jude is certainly very different from me! Sometimes it’s easier for us to value only the qualities we work to have but countless studies have shown that teams whose players have diverse gifts always have increased effectiveness.  As we make a decision to stop and appreciate the gifts, talents and perspective that our husbands have, we will end finding better success together.  We will often discover better ways of doing things that would have never occurred to us! Remember you started this race with the same vision. You are on the same team going in the same direction trying to accomplish the same goals.  

Remember, everyone has struggles in their marriage but marriages are worth fighting for!  If you are in a desperate place, if you have experienced the heart break of divorce, God sees you and loves you. Please don’t feel you have to fight or figure it out alone. Our church is full of people with beautiful stories of God redeeming the ugliest moments of strife and disagreement into redemptive and joyful and lasting love. This is our year of believing BIG and God is able to do a big miracle in your life and in your marriage. Join a City Group, attend our XO marriage conference in March, reach out to a pastor or City Group leader. We are here to help! Let’s choose to celebrate love and marriage all year long!

I believe in you!

XO

Becky Fouquier

 

Jesus Jams

Hi Friends!

So, if you have read my post, entitled Jesus Time, you might have noticed that I kind of have a thing for music. One of my all-time favorite things to do is to find new music that I can worship and spend time with Jesus to.  I typically end up going in phases, binging on certain songs for a time as they apply to my season and/or situations.

This has never been truer than now. If you read my other post (Delight Yo’ Self) you will know that I am going through a season that is really stretching. On one hand I am uber excited because I know on the other side that Jesus will have something amazing for me, better than what I can even imagine at this very moment. I also know that this testing of my faith will produce perseverance, and as perseverance works in me, I will end up mature, complete, lacking nothing (James 1:3-4). But in the meantime, I need a lot of reminding.  I mean A LOT.  This flesh of mine has had so much time leading and directing my life and does not take to the backseat without a fight.

When I feel my flesh rising up, trying to bring emotions and thoughts that do not align with what the Lord promises, I turn to three things: The Word, Holy Conversation (aka prayer) and worship.  This month I have created a playlist that is full of songs that help refocus my mind and spirit. These songs help me to step outside of my circumstances and into the Presence of God. Some are popular, some are not. Some are quiet and some are loud. Some are soulful and some are folk-y. Some sound like the songs we sing in church on a Sunday and some don’t. But all help remind me that God is good and has good things for me; they all help me remember that God is great, holding all power in His hand, able to do exceedingly, abundantly, above anything I can ask.

So I thought I would share my playlist with you.  Perhaps you find yourself needing to be reminded of God’s faithfulness this holiday season. Maybe you need to redirect your focus to trusting in our Heavenly Father instead of the things of this world. Or you might just want to check out what I am currently listening to during my Jesus Time. Whatever it is, I hope you can find something that ministers to your spirit and draws you into a closer relationship with the Holy Spirit.

Worship Playlist (check it out here with Spotify)

Fall Afresh by Kari Jobe also check out The Belonging Co. version

Build My Life by Housefires

You Alone by North Point Inside Out

More by Red Rocs Worship

Still Waters by Stephanie Alessi

Simple Pursuit by Passion

I Am No Victim by Kristene Dimarco

Peace be Still (feat. Lauren Daigle) by The Belonging Co.

Jesus, We Love You (live) by Bethel Music

Be Still by Travis Greene

Power to Redeem by Lauren Daigle.

XO,

Shaleta