by Kirk Walden, Advancement Specialist
Valentine's Day brings thoughts of chocolate, cards, cute little stuffed animals, candlelight dinners and so much more. The merchants love this day, filling greeting card racks with hearts and cupids the week after Christmas. We are flooded with advertisements, reminding us to honor our chosen Valentine appropriately (errr, expensively!).
Yet, Valentine's Day is also a great time to reflect on love, real love. Powerful love. Life changing love.
If we are honest, all of us are on a continuing journey to better understand love and to grow in our love for God and our love for those around us. None of us on this Earth today has the idea of love completely figured out. None of us is perfect in accepting love, and none of us lives out a flawless life of giving love.
The good news? We have a perfect example in Jesus. Having lived among us, he knows something about how difficult it can be to love. He knows the struggle of conflict, he knows what it means to be misunderstood, and he knows—better perhaps than any of us—the pain of rejection.
As we follow Jesus and look to emulate his love, he brings words of incredible hope in John 13:34, giving all of us a starting point for understanding the true nature of love.
Talking to the disciples, Jesus says, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another."
Was this commandment actually "new?"
Yes. To the disciples in fact, relating love to living out faith in this world was actually revolutionary thinking. Here is why:
The disciples knew, and tried to follow, the Old Testament Law. Yet, while there were many commandments in this Law, there were no laws commands focused on loving others. Yes, there were many regulations on how to treat others, but no specific teachings on loving others.
God sent Jesus to introduce love in a new way. We see this in Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, where the Lord takes many Old Testament laws and adds to them, "But I say to you . . . ." He was introducing a higher standard for our thinking and behavior based on a foundation of love.
Today, we still have this "new" foundation for our faith which weaves a tapestry throughout our lives: Love.
If every action we take is launched from love, the world changes. If the truth be known, the world around us is not quickly attracted to faith's perspective on social issues (such as life), behavior and relationships.
The world however, is always attracted to those who truly love others selflessly. Jesus knew this, showing us that if we love, we are more likely to move a culture toward God.
Valentine's Day can be fun and full of nice surprises. Yet there is a greater love that can be new every day.
So take heart. If our launching point for each day is love, we are on the right track. Jesus tells us so, and he changed the world.
It's a resource intended for kids, with fun pictures and summarized versions of some of the main events throughout God's story of redemption in the Old and New Testaments. Anabelle, my daughter, always asks to turn back and see the pictures of the characters (both men and women—she hasn't quite grasped the idea of a tunic yet) in their "princess dresses."
But the more we read through God's story with Anabelle, the more I'm convinced that she's not the primary beneficiary night by night... not by a long shot.
That's because The Jesus Storybook Bible is a kids' Bible that hits the nail on the head more than some commentaries I've stumbled upon. The book's subtitle, "Every story whispers his name," tips the reader off that its author, Sally Lloyd-Jones, intends to teach little ones (and their parents!) how every episode throughout Scripture points directly, unmistakably to Jesus.
This is exactly what the resurrected Christ explains to the disciples on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24 when, "beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself." (Luke 24:27).
And so, as we read through Anabelle's Bible night after night, I'm moved and refreshed by what Lloyd-Jones calls God's "Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love" for his people.
There's a more succinct way to sum up this special love God has for his people. It's God's covenant love. Or, as the Psalms refer to over and over, his "steadfast love."
This is the love God promises to his people—who he promises to love simply because he loves them (Deuteronomy 7:8)—it's the love that reconciles sinners to himself, meeting us where we are in our sin and brokenness and making us his friends. It's the love that then painstakingly crafts us into the image of the Son he loves.
This is the love that assures us we have a Father who is invincible, and means to do good to us--regardless of the cost--in all circumstances:
What shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all good things? (Romans 8:31-32).
As this text points out, the Always and Forever love of God is the kind of love that's guaranteed with blood. The moment our first parents rebelled against God and their nakedness was exposed, the shedding of blood became necessary to clothe them and make them acceptable to the holy God against whom they sinned.
This theme is developed again and again throughout the biblical plotline. Noah offers a sacrifice following the flood. Abraham is spared from offering his son on the mountain (sound like a foreshadowing?) when God provides a ram. The lamb is slaughtered in every Hebrew house in order that the Destroyer would pass over the firstborn. And finally, the sacrificial system is established with the giving of the Law, offering an on-going reminder that "without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins." (Hebrews 9:22).
What's with all the blood? What did that all mean? And what's it got to do with love?
In a word, this is all about the Word. The Word of God taken on flesh and dwelling among men. Not only that, but taking on the form of a servant—a suffering servant who lived the life we should have lived, bore the wrath of a holy God in our place, conquered death, and disarmed Satan by his vicarious death for sinners and victorious resurrection.
In other words, "God demonstrates his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8).
Or, as Paul rehearses this gospel to his beloved friends in Ephesus, "God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved..." (Ephesians 2:4-5).
This means that the love of God for us is entirely secure. Our position in his grace never changes. It can't be undone:
Who shall bring any charge against Gods elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died--more than that, who was rasied--who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separated us fro the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? ... No, in all these things we are more than conquerers through him who loved us... (Romans 8:33-37).
What costly love! What expensive and resolute mercy! It's the kind that never stops, never gives up, always lasts forever. It's the kind of love that multiplies and motivates our love for others and each other. It's the kind that sustains us on our worst day, humbles us on our best day, and gives us the strength to love those our Father brings along our way, no matter how bent on self-destruction and misery they may seem to us.
This is the kind of love Who has never given up--and will never give up--on me.
And it's the kind I'll never get tired of reveling in at my daughter's bedside.
by Jay Hobbs, Communications Assistant
Most of our clients come to us to confirm that they are pregnant. At least that is what they say they want. But for those of us who have been involved in this ministry for any length of time, we know that pregnancy test is only a symptom of a much greater issue.
If our clients only knew what made good relationships or what to look for in the opposite sex!
Nowadays, our clients often just settle for anyone who comes along. Knowing that this is a growing problem in our society, and feeling that we in the pregnancy center have a great opportunity to educate clients on healthy relationships, we have revised one of the tools of The Sexual Integrity™ Program to help you educate.
“Ingredients for Successful Relationships” is a three-step questionnaire that clients (male or female) fill out to examine their present relationships. Those who are not currently in a relationship can fill out just step two of this questionnaire.
This tool is an excellent way to begin a conversation about healthy relationships and help our clients navigate towards good ones.
Download a pdf of this valuable tool: “Ingredients for Successful Relationships”
Dr. Neil Clark Warren, the founder of eHarmony.com®, takes all of his relationship research and unfolds the secrets behind the web site’s huge success. This book outlines the compatibility that creates a powerful attraction and leads to fulfilling, long-term love.
I found this book most helpful because of the many young men and women who come through the doors of our pregnancy centers looking for love in all the wrong places. This book not only helps equip you to communicate the truth to them, but it is also a great book for them to read and learn about the ingredients that make healthy relationships last a lifetime. This book is a must read for anyone working in the pregnancy center and wanting to offer relationship education to their clients.
Reviewed by Katy Flood, Heartbeat’s Sexual Integrity Specialist
Did you hear the one about the lawyer who traveled overseas and taught a bunch of U.S. military families how to better serve women facing unexpected pregnancies?
Fair enough, there’s not much promise for a joke in that question, but you have to admit, the latest Heartbeat International international training does sound a bit peculiar when you first hear about it.
The story took place October 25, when Ellen Foell, Heartbeat’s legal counsel, taught a day-long session of The LOVE Approach™ to a group of 28 staff, volunteers, and potential volunteers at Heartbeat Crisis Pregnancy Center in Ramstein, Germany.
The center, under the direction of Carrie Beliles, primarily serves U.S. military personnel and their families stationed at Ramstein Air Base, home of the 86th Airlift Wing and headquarters of U.S. Air Forces Europe.
“It was the first time teaching this material, so I really didn’t quite know what to expect,” Foell, who has been with Heartbeat International since 2012, said. “God really put two things on my heart that I tried to express to the group: The first was to encourage them to embrace their unique, God-given giftedness, and the second was to allow themselves to be released to really exercise that giftedness as they sought to serve women coming to the center.”
“It really was great to watch this group wrestle through how to apply The LOVE Approach to the real situations involving real human beings they are dealing with every day.”
While the majority of attendees were Americans connected to the military community in Ramstein, one participant came from another part of Germany with the hope to launch a pregnancy help organization in another part of Germany.
According to Heartbeat International’s Worldwide Directory, there are currently 114 pregnancy help organizations in Germany, although Heartbeat Crisis Pregnancy Center is the only Heartbeat International affiliate.
“These servants learned how to handle a great tool, and that was encouraging to see,” Foell said. “I was really impressed by the cross-section of ages and generations, and thrilled to see the seeds of more pregnancy help organizations being planted in Germany.”
Foell was joined by Heartbeat International Vice President Jor-El Godsey, who keynoted the center’s annual banquet and facilitated a meeting with European pro-life leaders during a three-day span Oct. 24-26 in Ramstein.
"For the love of Christ controls us..." -2 Cor. 5:14
Do you feel the weight of this simple, yet other-worldly profound phrase from the Apostle Paul?
As someone who's neck-deep in the difficulties, sorrows, and burdens of others on a day-in, day-out basis for the sake of the gift and the Giver of life, you certainly know something of this weight.
But what keeps you going? Why take on this weight?
Why immerse yourself in a work that promises to be exhausting, confounding, and--at least sometimes--totally deflating?
Because, as Paul says, "the love of Christ controls us." We get a better picture of what this dynamic phrase means as the Apostle unpacks its meaning in the words that follow:
"For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised." (2 Cor. 5:14-15)
Why continue laboring in this field? Because the very love Christ had for lost sinners like us when he submitted himself to death for our sake is on full and glorious display when you sit across the table from a newly expectant mother who carries the weight of the world on her shoulders.
Love--more specifically, the love of Christ--is your language as you come alongside a woman who's mind, as one center director put it, "was only abortion." Love is your language as you take the time to help her slow down and truly consider her options, as well as the ramifications any choice she makes could have on her long-term physical, mental, and even spiritual health.
Why continue to hope--against all odds, it seems--that your words and very demeanor could change somebody's world and literally make the difference between life and death? Because the love of Christ controls us, and you no longer live for yourself, but for the sake of him who was raised.
Love is your language as you hope in Jesus, the ultimate Victor over sin, Satan, and death in all its forms. Love is your language as you communicate the unbelievably good news of peace and restoration with God through the death and resurrection of Jesus in a thousand ways to each client and family your center serves.
Love is your language when God gives you a glimpse of His ultimate triumph over death, as a family embraces a child they otherwise may have lacked courage to welcome, if not for you.
Take heart. The sacrificial, triumphant love of Christ is ours by faith. Ours to receive, and ours to extend.
Israel said to Joseph, “I never expected to see your face again, and now God has allowed me to see your children too. (Genesis 48:11)
The Lord’s promises are sure to come to pass, for He is a loving and faithful God. Jacob never expected to lay eyes on his son, no less his grandchildren. From his perspective Joseph was gone forever. But God!
As we look forward to a new year, expect the love of God to surprise you! It’s a year to taste and see that the Lord is good!
In Genesis 48, Joseph was told, “Your father is ill.” Concerned for his father, Joseph travels with his sons, Manasseh and Ephraim to see Jacob. Approximately 17 years earlier, we are told that Jacob had made Joseph a richly ornamented robe because he loved him more than any of his sons for he had been born to him in his old age. The robe symbolized his father’s love, favor, and the future destiny the Lord had for him.
His brothers became jealous of him as a result of this favor and because of the revelation he received in dreams. They attempted to take his life, but God intervened through his older brother Reuben! Instead, Joseph, and his dreams were thrown into a pit, and then into prison.
Now we must remember, in Jacob’s heart, he believed he would never see his beloved son again. He “had proof” that a wild animal had torn Joseph to pieces. He witnessed with his own eyes the robe dipped in blood. Joseph entered a time of exile, but when the prison doors swung wide 13 years later, the man who emerged looked very different than the young man who was originally thrown into a pit.
He was now prepared to fulfill the dreams and destiny the Lord gave him so long ago! Get ready for the Lord to resurrect and release what has been imprisoned in your life!
What a sweet surprise Jacob received from the Lord in his latter years, not only was he restored to his son, but he was given the opportunity to bless the next generation, his grandsons! As this year unfolds, expect the love and goodness of the Lord to overtake you. For truly, He desires to bless you abundantly, above all you could ask or think of!
So expect the unexpected, and taste and see that the Lord is good!
"In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another."
1 John 4:9-11
“In this the love of God was made manifest…..” We have all heard it said, “Actions speak louder than words.” This is a true saying! God’s love language manifested louder than words….because in John 1:14 it tells us The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. God with us, Emanuel!
So much of God’s love is communicated through His loving actions toward us. First and foremost He gave; He gave what was most precious to Him, His only Son.
How do we comprehend such love? God’s covenant love for us includes all His benefits. He is absolutely 100% committed to us, desiring for us to enjoy all the blessing that are ours in Christ. Those in relationship with God in the new covenant have many spiritual blessings as new creatures in Christ Jesus. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 1:3
Those spiritual blessings express God’s love for us, and some are listed in Ephesians 1; we have been chosen, adopted, and accepted in the beloved. We are redeemed, forgiven, and have become part of His perfect plan and purpose. In addition, we are laborers together with God (1 Corinthians 3:9); we are ambassadors bringing the message of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:20); we are the bride of Christ (2 Corinthians 11:2).
We have peace which passes understanding (Philippians 4:7); we prosper in every way and keep well, even as our soul keeps well and prospers (3 John 1:2); and we have the assurance that nothing is able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:39).
The word for "covenant" in the Old Testament comes from a Hebrew root word that means "to cut." The death of Jesus ushered in the new covenant under which we are justified by God's grace and mercy. Jesus' sacrificial death served as the oath, or pledge, which God made to us to seal this new covenant.
In 1 Samuel 18 we are told that Jonathan makes a covenant with David because he loved him as his own soul. In verse 4 it tells us that Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was upon him, and gave it to David, and his apparel, even to his sword, and to his bow, and to his girdle.
Similarly, Jesus in covenant love for us, stripped Himself of His robe, His majestic apparel (John 13), and laid down His life for us. There was a divine exchange. “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangs on a tree: that the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” Galatians 3:13
The Father gave us His only Son, and now we have the ability to live, and to love through Him, to love others because He first loved us. Let our language and speech become a conduit of His love.
by Debra Neybert
Debra Neybert, long-time friend of Heartbeat International and former Heartbeat employee, is presenting an In-Depth Day at the 2019 Heartbeat International Annual Conference called Spiritual Retreat: Joy Comes in the Morning. This In-Depth Day is designed to instill great hope (confident expectation of what God has promised) in the hearts of participants as they journey toward personal wholeness and fulfillment. The day will include topics listed, worship and personal time with the Lord. See other In-Depth Day options and more information about this year's conference in Dallas by clicking here!
By Brittany Hudson, Founder of 4TheLoveofAlex.org
I sat in a cramped, overstuffed nurse’s office with clammy hands as we went over the information in front of her.
I had discovered two months earlier that I was pregnant, but when excessive bleeding and cramping sent me to the emergency room, I was hoping that I had somehow avoided an unintended pregnancy. I was referred to my doctor for a follow-up and an ultrasound the next day.
The simple test revealed a fluttering heartbeat and what seemed to be a very healthy little life resting in my womb. My doctor smiled at the monitor as I cried. I really didn’t want to go through this.
I was still swimming in grief over the loss of my husband just 10 short months earlier. My lapse in judgment over seeking comfort in the arms of another man turned into the trial of my life within the trial of my life. How could this be happening?
My doctor scheduled another appointment for me to meet with his nurse to go over my options. The time between visits gave me time to think it through.
She sat there and consoled me as I cried. When I rallied, she started talking. “Are you going to keep your baby or are you going to terminate the pregnancy?”
My mind spun with her statement. How could the same thing change terminology within the same sentence, simply depending on my ‘choice’? How did a baby become something that I could just dispose of?
I wish I was a fly on the wall for what came next. “No, I am seeking adoption for this child.” I said, looking down at her paperwork. I watched her face go chalky as she drummed her fingers on the desk. She slowly turned her chair around to the rack of information behind her, knowing she didn’t have anything to offer me. Her sighing told me what I already knew. I was on my own.
“I don’t know what to tell you. I don’t have anything for you to take. I have never been in this situation before. Why don’t you go on the internet and see if you can find an agency in the area.” Her nervousness came through her voice as she tried to avoid direct eye contact with me. I left her office after a few exchanges and a follow-up appointment scheduled.
I left with nothing but a card with a date on it.
The internet seemed daunting. Who was reputable? Who was in my area? I didn’t know anyone who had gone through this before. Could I trust an agency? What if they wanted to make me sign something right away? What are my rights?
I found a site and read what they had to say, but I then discovered I was at least 14 hours from their nearest location. They referred me to Bethany Christian Services, where I called and left a message for someone to return my calls. I then prayed to God that I wouldn’t be lied to or talked into something I wasn’t ready for.
Facing the fact that I was pregnant was hard enough. Even though I knew what I wanted to do, I also know that it would have made a world of difference to have someone who knew me come alongside to tell me about what I’d decided before I had to launch headlong into a dialogue with an adoption agency.
I wished the nurse had known as much about choosing to parent and parenting through adoption as she had about abortion. It would have eased my mind and helped curb my fears.
My adoption went just fine. In fact, it went as well as I could have hoped, even though it was very difficult to go through.
The things I’ve learned for myself, and the experiences I went through have come together to form a ministry for the woman who chooses adoption for her unborn child. I give these women what I wished I had—a listening ear, independent guidance, direction, and the very real hope of restoration in Christ in the midst of an unintended pregnancy.
The women I’ve mentored so far have all come from agencies who see the value in coupling an expectant mother with a birthmother who has lived the experience of an unintended pregnancy for herself.
There is peace in being able to relate to someone and help them see there is a life after the trial. It is my joy to see that God uses the most painful things in life to create something beautiful. And He does so wonderfully.
By Mary Peterson, Housing Consultant
Ever tossed a coin into the air, caught it, and cupped it on the back of your hand to see if it's "heads" or "tails?"
It's a classic way of making simple decisions. The two sides of the coin are unique, each with distinguishing marks, but together, they make one coin.
In the context of our maternity homes, we face a wide variety of challenging situations. We know we must always respond in love, that's a given. But just as there are two sides to a coin, there are two sides to the love we live out in our homes: tough and unconditional.
Rather than the random response of a coin toss, though, we get to choose which side of the “love coin” to apply in any given situation.
Tough love is the love of coaches, teachers, and mentors. It’s the love that says, "I know there’s more in you, and I want you to challenge you to make the most of it." It’s the love of accountability and direct feedback.
Tough love involves rules, structures, and consequences. It’s the type of love God expresses when He prunes and judges, when He commands us how to live, and when He allows consequences to unfold.
Unconditional love is the love of friends and family. It’s the love that says, "No matter what, I am going to love you." It’s the love of second chances, leniency, and forgiveness. Unconditional love involves overlooking things said in anger, or giving the benefit of the doubt when another isn't at their best.
Unconditional love is expressed in those special moments when a mother gazes at her child. Mercy and forgiveness are expressions of the unconditional nature of God’s love.
As a people defined by love, we are not called to become merely hard-nosed rule-enforcers nor feeble doormats. Love is not an either-or proposition. Love requires the both-and virtue of fierce tenderness, unconditional-yet-expectant.
We are called to live out both dimensions of love— tough and unconditional—in the context of relationship as we face daily life in our maternity homes. But we need the Holy Spirit’s help to know when and how to rightly apply love in each situation, and so we pray:
Come Holy Spirit! Make us more capable of perfect love!
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