Recognizing Bad Fruit Isn’t Judging

So many times when victims of coercive control and abuse try to tell people about what their partners are doing, they are told they shouldn’t judge. Yet, in the same chapter that starts with “Do not judge,” Jesus spent a lot of time talking about false disciples and wolves in sheep’s clothing (7:15-23).

When we judge we are assessing* others based on our opinions and preferences. However, recognizing bad fruit doesn’t require judgment. It’s obvious. The fruit is either good or bad. I’d say when someone curses you again and again or spits in your face and utters hateful words, that is bad fruit. If someone oppresses you, or restricts your freedom to even think or act independently, that’s bad fruit– and God hates it.

Reading further in chapter 7, you will see that many will stand before Him on that final day professing to know Him and He will cast them out, because their actions did not match their profession. It’s a serious thing to claim His name and then treat people with contempt, or to ignore their needs (“I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat Mt. 25:42).

While we are saved by grace through faith alone, that experience should change us, and it should become evident in our actions. Micah 6:8 tells us what God requires of us– “to do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly with our God.” Those who abuse do the exact opposite. They may get away for it temporarily, but one day they will be called to account, and required to answer the only One worthy to judge. “For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” Hebrews 10:30-31.

As survivors that should not make us happy (Pr. 24:17), but we should leave justice to God and release our offenders to Him. If we harbor bitterness and anger we may find ourselves becoming like them. So until He comes, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you,” (Lk. 6:28) and leave the judgment to Him. 💗 Joy

“With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.” Jame 3:9-12

* The original word used here can also mean to condemn Greek based on our assessment more than facts.

Deadly Counseling

I’m so grateful that our churches seem to be waking up and responding better to domestic abuse these days. But for every church we see working on getting educated we see many more still resorting to counsel like this. Please continue to pray with us that our churches will wake up and show God’s love and hope to those who are oppressed.

JoyfulSurrender.com

A few weeks ago I posted a simple question to survivors of domestic violence in a few online forums. The question was, ” Could you shareexamples of bad counsel you’ve received from churches and counselors?” In less than an hour I had over 50 responses. Below arejust some the answers I received.

  • Pray more, have more sex, ask God to show you what you’re doing to make him so angry.
  • “Read this book on how to be a better wife.” “Just stop pushing his buttons; you know what they are.”
  • You need to treat your husband like he has special needs. Step back from things so you can give him your full attention.
  • “He never meant you any harm. Just trust God- don’t fight for anything in the divorce settlement. You are bitter- you need to forgive him.
  • ” Well, I don’t think he was TRYING to kill you…

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he makes all things new

Sometimes when we’ve suffered, we start to believe we will never overcome, but as you begin this new year (this new decade) my prayer for you is that you will find God’s goodness in the midst of your pain. He will make all things beautiful in his time and he will redeem what you have suffered. This excerpt from my book describes how his redemption looked in my life. As we enter 2020, I pray you will know him and his goodness as never before, and that he will make all things new for you. 💗 Joy

“Even though I would have never chosen to suffer as I did, I came to realize that suffering had done something beautiful in my life. Before, I said I trusted God, but I lived in constant fear. After my trials brought me to the end of every human resource, I found Him to be entirely trustworthy and was able to joyfully surrender my life to His loving care. I often tell people I would never have chosen that path of suffering, but I am so grateful for it, because if I hadn’t experienced it, I wouldn’t know Him the way I do now. Nothing in this world is more precious than knowing Him! The more I came to know Him and His truth, the freer I became. Over time, it felt as though I had been released from prison!

Along with my newfound freedom, I had the assurance of God’s presence and provision. Isaiah 54: 6, in which the Lord promised to be a husband to His people, became especially precious to me. As I learned to trust Him fully, He proved to be truly wonderful and faithful. In time, I realized that rather than being a victim for the rest of my life, I had become victorious, and God wanted to use my experience for good.”

From Called to Peace: A Survivor’s Guide to Finding Peace & Healing After Domestic Abuse by Joy Forrest

Facing Loss at Christmas

There are so many of you who will not have a merry Christmas this year. I’ve certainly been there. The holidays just seem to amplify all the losses we’ve experienced. Some of you may have to spend Christmas alone while your children spend the day with someone who promised to love, honor and cherish you till death, and then chose to do the opposite. Maybe a loved entered eternity and left you behind this year. Whatever your loss, I know it’s so hard! You might feel more alone than you’ve ever felt before.

Dear friend, you are not alone! Our God took on flesh and came to earth to restore relationship with his creation. He suffered horrendous abuse and rejection. He faced a barbaric death alone, so he understands what you are going through. Just imagine it! The ruler of the universe chose to enter our pain! Such amazing love will never let you go. He is the Prince of Peace, and while peace might seem elusive to you right now, he gives peace that passes human understanding. Our Prince of Peace fills us with his Spirit. He is a Comforter to our broken hearts, a Counselor to our troubled minds and he is wonderful in the midst of terrible.

Whatever pain you are facing this season, bring it to Him. Pour your heart out to him and praise him for what he has done on your behalf. Thank him for sharing in your suffering. There is so much power in making him bigger than your problems. He will give you peace in the midst of turmoil, and you might even find joy! We can rejoice in knowing that he is with us whatever we face. We also know he will redeem our suffering. If we shift our focus from our pain to Him, we will find victory in the midst of loss.

Looking back on my life, I realize some of the most precious moments were those I spent grieving in His arms and declaring his promises— in spite of the pain. Somewhere in the midst of it all I came to know him in a way I never could have imagined. He became my everything, and I found that he was enough. If you find yourself struggling this Christmas because of losses, I pray that you will cling to Him and find peace and joy that transcends this world. 💗 Joy

Beautifully Broken

When I look at Scripture, I love that it is so honest, and filled with accounts of broken people that God somehow managed to use. From Abraham and Jacob, to Moses, David, and Elijah, the Bible is filled with stories of heroes of the faith who messed up in some very big ways or suffered some very painful circumstances. Yet, in spite of their faults, sins and traumas, God wove them into His eternal narrative of redemption. God called David (an adulterer, murderer and neglectful father) a man after His own heart. Jesus used Peter (a man who cursed and denied him 3 times) to powerfully help establish the early church. And let’s not forget women like Rahab the harlot and Mary Magdalene who both overcame broken pasts to further His kingdom.

I’ve worked with many shattered lives over the past twenty years, and I’ve certainly walked my own broken path. In fact, once when I was speaking at a conference the leaders of the event pulled me aside to let me know that in the next session, I should tell the ladies that I missed God’s best plan for my life. Surely God couldn’t be in a messy divorce and such. At the time, I did as they asked, because I knew I had certainly missed God’s ideal plan for marriage, and it seemed I’d missed His calling into ministry at an early age. Yet, somehow in God’s economy my broken path has been used for ministry. Just a few years after that conference Called to Peace Ministries was born, and its mission to those who have experienced the ultimate betrayal of abuse has flourished beyond what I would have ever expected.

Even before the inception of Called to Peace, I found that in my counseling and teaching ministries my past experiences were a great source of encouragement to people. When I think about it now, I realize that my brokenness gave me a gift I never would have known if my life had been trouble-free. It was when I lost everything that I came to know God in a way I never could have imagined before. When my abuser destroyed the furniture I inherited and threw my personal belongings into a large dumpster, Jesus was there sharing in my suffering. My pride was shattered. My will was broken, and I felt about as worthless as the trash that surrounded me. Before that day, I had always tried to maintain some sort of control over my life, but suddenly I recognized that was no longer possible. It really hadn’t been before, but I had been able to fool myself into believing it was until that day when it all unraveled before my very eyes.

It was nearly dusk when I climbed down into the rubbish that day. I saw so many of my precious belongings strewn over mounds of garbage. Ink had been poured over my most expensive clothes that lay on top of the pile. It seemed as if every personal item I owned was in that dumpster. Some trash bags contained my things; others just had garbage, and I had to open them to find out which was which. Before long I was thigh deep in dirty diapers and rotten food, and suddenly my husband was back and yelling at the men helping me. He ordered them to stop taking my things out and told them that he was burning all the furniture at home. It was getting dark outside, so I turned off my flashlight and prayed that he would not see me. He didn’t but began throwing items back into the dumpster. First, he threw a lamp that barely missed my head, and then a large bag that knocked me over into the debris below. I just sat there and prayed until he left.

“As I stood up, I found myself saying, “Lord, nobody has ever been through this before! Nobody knows what I’m going through!” As soon as I uttered those words, something amazing happened. His supernatural peace flooded my soul. In my spirit, I could hear Somebody gently saying, “I have. I know.” God was with me, and everything on earth faded in His presence. There are no words that can adequately describe what happened to me that day, as I had a revelation of His love unlike anything I had ever experienced. He knew the betrayal I was suffering. He had been betrayed by an intimate friend and was beaten and shamed by those He loved. Although I had known Him for over twenty years, I had never experienced the depths of His love like I did at that moment. He had endured the cross because he knew sin would cause me to suffer, and He chose to share in my suffering. In the darkest moment of my life, His amazing light came shining through.

I often tell people that that day was both the worst and best of my life, because my eyes were opened wider to the depths of His great love for me. Paul’s words seemed to sum up my feelings perfectly; “I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ” (Phil. 3:8). I never would have chosen the suffering I was experiencing, but Jesus chose to endure something far worse, because of His great love for me. The thought was overwhelming. I stood in the dumpster and thanked Him for His amazing love, and I knew that a God who loved me that much would never let me go. I determined that I would not let go of Him either.”[i]

Friend, our God doesn’t stand off from a distance watching as we suffer, but He enters the brokenness with us, and when He does it is life changing. At this point, I have worked with over a thousand survivors of domestic abuse, and I can tell you that without a doubt God is a redeemer. As much as He hates violence and cruelty, He manages to weave it together to achieve His good purposes for us. I’ve seen it hundreds of times over with those who choose to believe Him in the midst of their pain.

These days, when I think back on the statement I was asked to make about missing God’s best for my life, I realize that the exact opposite has been true. Only in brokenness was I made whole, and only in great loss did I truly recognize my desperate need that only He could fill. Whatever it is you are facing today dear friend; I know He will do the same for you. As you yield your brokenness to Him, He will do what only He can. He will turn ashes into beauty and mourning into joy. He is good, even in the midst of horrible circumstances. Today, my prayer for you is that you will choose to receive the peace He offers in the midst of suffering, and that you will know the beauty of finding Him in the face of great brokenness.  


[i] Forrest, Joy. Called to Peace: A Survivor’s Guide to Finding Peace and Healing After Domestic Abuse. Blue Ink Press, 2018 (35-36).

shining Through the darkness

As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and behold the face of God?  (Ps. 42:1-2)

Oh Lord, You are my greatest longing! Your goodness and love overwhelm me day by day, and yet I struggle to keep my eyes on the Lover of my soul. Forgive my scattered mind and divided heart. Help me to soar above the distractions of life. I know You are always with me, but I am not always listening to your voice. Forgive me. Make my ears ever sensitive to hear. I know You put people in my path for a reason, so help me to seek your purposes rather than my own in every conversation and interaction.

Let me show the world the same love and grace You have shown me. I can’t imagine a life without You—it would not be life at all! You have transformed my life—transferred me from the darkness and brought me into your marvelous light (Col.1:13). You have held me in times of despair and traded your strength for my weakness (2 Cor. 12:9). I bring you nothing, and You give me everything (Rom. 8:32). I wasted so many years knowing You from a distance. I gave you lip service, but did not surrender all, and You allowed me to reap what I had sown. Yet, You were also merciful! You met me in my misery. Thank You!

There just aren’t words… I owe You all that I am, and that is certainly nothing compared to what You have given me. I ask You to let me live with passion—don’t let this dreary world obscure the amazing beauty You pour on me daily. “For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” (2: Cor. 4:6-7).  Thank You that You can use this cracked jar of clay. The cracks from damage of life can be made beautiful for your kingdom. I think about that carved clay candle holder I bought in Costa Rica. It’s nice enough unlit, but when the light shines through it is captivating. It’s the light that makes it, and the same is true with me. Please help me to shine for You. Amen

Dear Child, you are mine. I have called you by name and love you with an everlasting love (Is. 43:1, Jer. 31:3). Share my love with others. You can be confident that I have heard your prayer, and because you are praying according to my will, I will answer (1 Jn. 5:14-15). I delight in those who desire to do my will, and I will bring you relief and peace as you continue to seek my face (Ps. 18:19). I have good plans for you, my child. Rest in that knowledge, and choose the “better” and eternal things as you go (Lk. 10:42, 2 Cor. 4:18). Seek my face more than anything else. You are seeking many things, and are easily distracted, but if you seek Me and my kingdom first, I will give you the other things you need and desire. Delight yourself in Me, and I will give you the desires of your heart (Ps.37:4).

Running after earthly treasures is counterproductive. Even if you attain the things you seek, you will find no satisfaction if I am not first in your life. Think of that thirsty deer longing for a stream of water. His first priority is to find water, knows he will perish without it, and is not easily diverted on the way. You must understand that your need for me is even greater, so do not allow yourself to be distracted by things of lesser importance. I see your needs, and I will provide. Yes, you have responsibilities, but if you seek Me first, I will order your day in a way that makes it easier to fulfill them. Come to the waters; drink deeply before you embark on your day. I stand ready to help you and empower you. I desire to shine through you, and will surely do it as you seek Me with all your heart.

caring for the least of these

Let’s be honest, most of us spend a great deal of time focusing on how to improve our lot in life. We think about how we can increase our income, improve our health, and find satisfaction in our relationships. It’s rare that we meditate as much on how we can bless others. Yet, in the passage I read this morning God tells us that blessing others is one of the keys to being blessed.

At the end of every three years, bring all the tithes of that year’s produce and store it in your towns, so that the Levites (who have no allotment or inheritance of their own) and the aliens, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied, and so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. (Dt. 14:28-29)

I love how God highlights helping the “fatherless and the widows.” Besides traditional widows, in modern terms, we have many single moms and children who no longer have full time fathers in their lives. I believe the church has greatly failed to answer his call to these assist the “least of these” among us. This is a theme that runs throughout the bible; yet it certainly doesn’t seem to be much of a focus in many of our churches today.

In our ministry we see many single women and their children struggling with poverty. Women who chose to stay at home with their children have suddenly been forced back into the workforce after experiencing the devastation of abuse and divorce. Many face constant court battles just to get a small fraction of their previous income in spousal and child support. It can take months to years to get these issues finalized, and I have seen many women give up and return to abuse in order to survive, because the system seems so unfair.

Rather than seeing churches reaching out to assist these modern widows and orphans, too often I have heard the women complain that they suddenly feel like second-class citizens because they were unable to save their marriages. Some have even been asked to leave their churches all together after they fled the abuse (they experience loss upon loss). Most of the women I have seen in these situations were stay-at-home moms, and did not want divorce, and their churches were more concerned about saving their marriages than about the safety and welfare of the people in it. Their counsel seems reminiscent of the religious leaders in Jesus’ time who elevated institutions over individuals.

I can’t tell you how many times I have seen women counseled to return to abusive situations and to try to win their husbands with a quiet and gentle spirit. Unfortunately, such counsel leaves women and children in extreme distress and danger. The bottom line is that there are children and mothers who are suffering, and the church needs to come along beside them. Sadly, over the years, I have watched scores of women and children move from plenty to needy with very little help from God’s people. They are forced to seek government assistance, which is usually far from adequate. How it breaks my heart!

James 1:27 says that caring for widows and orphans is pure and undefiled religion. It is the sort of religion God accepts and desires. Perhaps we don’t get involved, because the task seems overwhelming. Or maybe we operate under the erroneous assumption that they can find all the help they need in domestic violence shelters or with organizations like ours. Nothing could be further from the truth. Most DV shelters stay full 50-70% of the time, and even when there are openings stays are limited to 30-60 days– hardly enough time to get a life together. We have a vision for transitional housing, but financially it’s not even in the realm of possibility yet. Fundraising, for organizations like ours, is extremely difficult. The majority of our regular donors are stretched thin financially, and give out of their need. We receive many widow’s mites at CTP and continually run on a shoestring budget. It seems that those who have never been touched by these issues turn a blind eye to this type of need.

According to that verse in James, refusing to see the need will not only hurt the women and children in need, but it will withhold blessings from the church as well. Until his people begin to obey his command to care for widows and orphans, I doubt we will see the revival so many of us say we want. Until we learn to care for those who are suffering and needy, we will not be the church he desires. God’s heart is for justice, and caring for the needs of others. When we rise up and answer that call, we will finally be acting like his people, and then will bring blessings on ourselves.

Lord, help you church rise up to become repairers of broken walls and restorers. Sometimes the task seems overwhelming, but with you all things are possible. Open our eyes and show us how to minister most effectively. Lead us and we will follow. Lord, please wake up your slumbering church to the needs of the fatherless and widows in their midst. Amen

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2/5/20 Would you be willing to answer God’s call to help these modern day widows and orphans? This month Called to Peace Ministries is seeking to increase our monthly pledges by $2000 in an effort to effectively serve the multiple victims of abuse who reach out to us each month. Please join us in ministering the heart of the Father to the least of these. Click here to learn more and to give.

“Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for a man to humble himself? Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying on sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD? “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter– when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. “If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.” (Is. 58:5-12)

Keys to Victorious Christian Living

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