13 posts categorized "Agape"

A Testimony by SUMite Holly Boone

Dear friends, Holly Boone (a different Holly from the one I shared about in my last post) shared this with me in an email and I asked if I could share it with our community. I pray it blesses you as it did me. I remember being in a similar place in my marriage years ago and knew that if I didn't begin trusting God to change me, my marriage would not survive.  And He did, so lovingly and with great beauty as Holly shares with us here. God is so good. Our hope and future rest in Him! Thank you, Holly, for sharing your heart with us. We love you! —Dineen

Confession 

Image1I decided to try a worksheet about sin I’d received from a faith based conference. I wasn’t sure what sin I was going to write down until I sat down and prayed about it. God began to open my eyes to an area I wasn’t even focusing on. I wrote, “I need to put to death the sin of belittling my husband and second guessing his work and parenting decisions.” 

Then, it happened. The floodgates opened from His Word and God laid out a step by step plan of how He was going to conquer this sin in me. It is so good, HE is so good. The passages He used to convict me and even the order of how I read them was a perfect plan of how to accomplish this. Amazing! 

First I read Proverbs 21:23, one of the first scriptures I memorized, He who guards His mouth and his tongue, guards his soul from trouble. After my confession my soul WAS troubled. It was deeply torn apart about what I was doing to my husband under the guise of “helping” him. I wasn’t helping, I was tearing him down each time I gave “advice” or my opinion that came from a prideful spirit and not a humble spirit. I wasn’t speaking harshly or out of anger so I didn’t think I was doing anything wrong. But God!!! He opened my eyes to another sin that I committed with my mouth and reminded me to guard it closely and for me it boils down to… listen more, talk less. 

The second verse was Ephesians 4:29 – Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment so that it will give grace to those who hear. I know this verse well too, but this time when I read it I was reminded of how God had cleansed unwholesome words from my mouth before. I used to have a filthy mouth. A vulgar, dirty, mouth. Once God brought me to salvation that was a big change He did in me. Those words are no longer a part of my vocabulary, they don’t even come to my mind, and when I hear them at work they make me cringe. 

Most people at work try to be respectful of me and not say things around me, but I still hear it every day. The fact that they are offensive to me now just shows the POWERFUL cleansing God can do and will do in ALL areas we give to him. So the way I was speaking to my husband when we talked about his work or issues with our daughter was not edifying and were not necessarily needed for the moment. But God!!! He can and will cleanse me from that. So step two in the plan is ask myself, are these words needed in this moment and to ask God to remove all the words from my mouth that are not good for my husband just as He removed all of the filthy words from my mouth I used to say.

Verse three is 1 Peter 3:1 – In the same way you wives be submissive to your own husband so that even if any of them are disobedient to the Word, they may be won without a word, by the behavior of their wives. The Holy Spirit is so powerful, because I again, knew this verse well but yesterday was shown a whole new part of the word “submissive.” I need to be submissive minute by minute, not just in the big decisions. I need to be submissive about all aspects of our marriage by my attitude of humility. I wanted to be submissive except in the areas I felt I was better. Pride. 

Oh the damage pride can do in a heart. I was being rebellious, the opposite of submissive. I thought I was being submissive, because I wasn’t badgering him about our spiritual differences. I wasn’t trying to change him, so I thought. But around every corner I was there to second guess his decision and let him know what I thought he SHOULD be doing instead. How he made a sandwich, how he fed the dog, how he dressed our daughter, his relationship with his boss, his relationship with his students, when he should be on his computer, when the TV should be on, what he left in the car, what he forgot to do—so many things I point out to him about what I think he needs to do differently. The biggest area I can show my submission to my husband is how I speak to him and support his decisions, and when it is time for me to help in a decision or give some insight, it HAS to be done prayerfully and with God guiding my words, not letting my flesh guide me and spitting out all that I want to say.

The last verse Proverbs 31:10-12 – An excellent wife who can find: For her worth is far above jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, And he will have no lack of gain. She does him good and not evil all the days of her life.  THIS is the sweet promise I received yesterday.  If I follow God’s plan He has promised that my husband will have “no lack of gain.”  And that I will do him “good and not evil all the days of my life.” I thought this was my desire before, I thought I was living that out, but I was so off the mark. I thank God for giving me this new desire. I WANT to do my husband good and not evil. I WANT him to have no lack of gain and God has opened my eyes on how to do that, truly. I have often described my husband as the best unbeliever there is. He supports me in many ways that a lot of husbands don’t in spiritually unequal marriages. That is a gift from God. 

But even though I say our marriage is good I think I am really thinking, “it is good enough.” For the situation I am in, it is good enough. In spite of our spiritual differences, it is good enough. Compared to others in my situation who have it a lot worse, it is good enough. But God!!! 

Yesterday after confessing sin, asking him for nothing except forgiveness what He gave me was a promise of MORE! He has so much more for my marriage than just “good.” If I follow His plan He has shown me that He has something far greater waiting for me and my husband. What a loving God we have. When I thought that we were in a good place and I had settled in to this place in our marriage, God said, “Oh no dear child, you just wait and see what I have in store for you.”  

My submission to my husband is submission to God. That is what I desire more than anything, even if I receive nothing. But God still continues to give and give and give blessings to me. A wise man recently was writing of his trial, but in the middle of it still thinking “why me God, why are you so good to me and generous with your blessings? I do not deserve it.” I often think this as well. Why me God? You are so good to me and shower me with blessing and goodness and always bring my perspective back in focus when I have wandered. The answer to why He is so good to me is because He is God. A perfect Father. A perfect example of love.

 After this encounter I could only do one thing. Get down on the ground on my knees with my head down worshipping God. I sang the chorus to one of my new favorite songs:  

Holy Spirit you are welcome here, 
come flood this place and fill the atmosphere. 
Your glory God is what our hearts long for, 
to be overcome by your presence Lord.

I was overcome by His presence. It was a glorious afternoon of worship and tears as an offering to God, and, other than the words of the song, all I could say was thank you God, thank you Father.

If we confess our sins He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. — 1 John 1:9

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Weekend Worship — It Starts With a Willing Heart

So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My lambs.” He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “ Shepherd My sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Tend My sheep." — John 21:15-17

933344_i_love_youI know I talked about this passage a while back, maybe even a couple years ago, but the depth of this interchange has deepened even more for me recently. Just to review, the first two times that Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him, Jesus uses the Greek form agapao, which is a sacrificial love. And each time Peter replies with the Greek form, phileo, which is a brotherly love. The third and final time that Jesus asks this question, He switches to phileo, and again Peter replies with the same form.

I believe Jesus was asking Peter if he was ready to be sold out for Him, to love Jesus before anything else and to step fully into a life of faith and belief, to tend lambs and shepherd sheep. Jesus was speaking of people, of course. He was asking Peter to live his life sharing Jesus and helping others to know who the Great Shepherd really was.

Yet we see Peter hold back. I can only imagine how fear held him. How he may have judged himself a failure and untrustworthy based upon how he denied knowing Jesus three times, as Jesus had predicted.

What I also love about this passage is Jesus' patience and love for Peter. I believe Jesus switched to Peter's use of phileo to meet Peter right where he was. As if to say, "Okay, if that's what you feel you are capable of, let's start right there."

Such grace, such acceptance, such love.

I love Peter's story because it's my own. For a long time my own fear and feelings of insignificance kept me from saying a full yes to living my life for Jesus. I would get close but ultimately I clung to the last tendrils of self perceived control of my life. I was afraid of what Jesus would ask me to do. And afraid of how I would be perceived by those around me.

We know that we are God's children and co-heirs with Christ (Rom 8:17). The thing is, it's not just about being related to Jesus but having a relationship with Him. And He is so very trustworthy. He is patient and brings us along on this journey exactly like the master potter that coaxes and gently forms clay on a wheel to take form and purpose. And if you've ever done this, you know how the slightest pressure brings form, yet too much causes the piece to go out of balance and the potter must either attempt to correct the piece quickly or start over.

My friends, don't lose patience with yourself in this process. Jesus will bring you along exactly as He knows is best for you. Take another look at Peter. By the time we delve into the later chapters of Acts, he is moving and walking in the Spirit and by the time he wrote his letters he is completely sold out for Jesus.

Sometimes you may feel like you're doing everything you should yet inside, everything feels wrong. I've found those are the times that Jesus is cleaning the house—our heart. I discovered the hard way it's easier to work with Him by recognizing the issues He's dredging up, acknowledging them, then asking for forgiveness, healing, release, or for Him to change this area of your heart and life.

Jesus is the author and perfecter of our faith (Heb. 12:2), so it’s a part of our faith journey to grow and yield, to form and change to be more like our Creator. And when we step fully into this process with trust, we are transformed.

Since my encounter with God at Bethel Church last October, my own faith journey has exploded and I know there is no way possible I could have done any of it on my own. I never even imagined the possibilities of where God would take me when I asked for more. I was tired of feeling like an ineffective Christian and tired of myself. I knew there had to be more to this faith journey, and I wanted more!

And it is an amazing journey full of fun and delight! Yes, there are times that I quake in my boots when God calls me to stop and talk to a complete stranger, which winds up being either a time to encourage, share Jesus, or pray with them. But I always walk away awestruck and so full of God's love, because I am walking in the Spirit.

There is no better place to be, my friends! This is exactly what Jesus meant when He said He came to not only give us life but give it abundantly. This is what He wants for you too. And the absolutely and only requirement is to have a willing heart. Doesn’t matter where you are coming from, because Jesus is more interested in where He wants to take you.

When the Holy Spirit gives you that nudge, just say yes, then do what He asks. That's it. The results and outcome are not up to you. He already has that covered, just like He did for Peter.

Trust Jesus and take a step of faith. As you do this more, you will find that your fear will turn into anticipation as you begin to look for your next divine appointment. You won’t want to miss a single one—that’s my prayer now, “Lord, don’t let me miss a divine appointment.”

My precious SUMites, I want you to fully experience this kind of life and I am asking Jesus to meet each of you right where you are. Share in the comments how Jesus is meeting you and what He’s asking you to do. Now is the time to stand strong in prayer over each other because God is calling us up as a community to be part of His Great Harvest. I don’t want any of you to miss out on a single bit of it!

Love you with the passion of Jesus in my heart! 

Dineen

And now for some worship!

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The Seeds of God's Love

7222186_sAs I passed the vase of flowers I noticed one of the buds had fallen to the table still closed tightly like a tube. I intended to throw the bud away but something nudged me to open its petals. I gently pushed the flower open to see the seeds inside.

As I examined the contents, the Holy Spirit spoke this to me, "Trust that the seeds are there even when you can't see them."

My friends, this goes to even broader places than we what we usually talk about here at SUM. I want to propose a question to you that hit me in a quiet moment with God and has me thinking on a scale I never anticipated.

I believe God is calling us to use all that we are learning about living in mismatched marriage and apply it to the world. To our neighbors, to our friends, to our cities and to our government.

You see, we are also spiritually mismatched with the world. Like in a marriage we are desperate to live our faith in a way that is faithful to God and yet respectful to those around us.

The title of our first book is Winning Him Without Words. What if we applied that goal to the world?

Winning the World Without Words.

I'm not saying we shouldn't speak our beliefs and share Christ. We don't say that in our book either. What I'm saying is what if we left the changing and the saving to God and just did the loving?

This world needs love desperately. God's love. And God is calling His people to love like never before. It is the very heart and breath of this Great Harvest that He is calling us to see and be a part of.

By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” — John 13:35

God started this process in our homes, our very hearts and now is asking us to bring it to the world. And loved one, if you are sitting there in the middle of a crumbling marriage, a separation, or a divorce, I want you to hear God's heart right now.

You are part of this Great Harvest. Just because your situation isn't what you expected, that does not negate all that God has done, is doing and will do in your life. It neither defines who you are, determines how God loves you (it's a done deal—He adores you!), nor does it limit or keep you on the sidelines.

We, the SUMites, have some of the most unique faith skills and experience of all. No wonder God is calling us up to this great calling! We walk and learn everyday what God wants the whole world to know.

That God loves us, even when we don't love Him. He loves us first.

And when we love, we plant seeds. It's not our job to change the world, just like it’s not up to us to change our spouse. Our job is just to love those that God leads us to each day. Sometimes we will see the fruit of the seeds we plant, many times we won't.

But God wants us to trust the seeds are there, even if we don't see the sprouts. Whether that applies to our prebeliever (I'm right there with you in that I see no changes in my husband), a family member, a neighbor, or our cities—believe that the seeds are there and will one day bear fruit.

The amazing thing is this. When we do this, when we keep our motivations in a place of love because we want that person to know Jesus as we do, to know His love for us, His heart for us, His promises for us, His freedom that He died to give us, change happens. It’s starts small and grows like wild fire.

The seeds of God’s love are the spark of the revival that’s coming. 

God's love is the most powerful force in heaven and earth. When we love like this, we are literally bringing heaven down to earth, bringing God's will to earth as it is in heaven (remember the Lord's Prayer?).

That is where our strength lies, my friends. In God's love. I have no doubt that God is moving each of us into unique places to expand what we have been learning to be a part of His Great Harvest.

And those seeds we are planting are God's promises and they extend far beyond us and our children.

For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.” — Acts 2:39

Abba, we stand ready at the edge of the Great Harvest and want to be faithful to Your call. Lead us forward, King Jesus. Lead us to the many you are calling to Yourself. Show us how to love each one, especially the prebelievers in our homes. Fill us with Your love—so full that our loved ones and the world will see You shining through us. Lord, open their eyes! Help them see that love is for them too! In Your holy and powerful name, Jesus, amen!

Planting seeds with you, my precious friends!
Dineen 

Image credit: itana / 123RF Stock Photo

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Weekend Worship — FREEDOM!

My precious friends, since our conference I am more and more convinced that God is moving is a big way and His message is all about Hi love and freedom—the freedom that comes when we walk in faith, trusting Him for our lives and knowing who ecactly we are in Jesus.

Recently I wrote a couple posts about steps of faith and I'm seeing that same message everywhere. God is speaking the same things to people from all over the world—people who don't even know each other and it's big, big, BIG!

When I catch a glimpse of that big picture (thank you, Lord), I am awestruck and struck by God's GOODNESS. All that He does comes from His goodness. That's His nature and the only way He works. He is completely truthworthy and faithful!

I chose the lyrics version of this song from Jesus Culture because someone out there needs to see these words and accept them as God's truth for them. Let's worship together, my friends, and praise God for our freedom in Jesus and ask Him to do even more in our lives so that we can share it with others. 

Our Abba wants us FREE!

Love you so very, very much!
Dineen

 

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Weekend Devo — God Loved Us First!

1415366_heart_cross_2
My friends, we have a wonderful week of devotions planned for next week. Rosheeda has prayfully written something for each day so that we can walk through the week with hope, faith and love planted squarely in our Jesus, and celbrate the greatest gift of this life and the next (yep, it's the gift that truly keeps on giving...). 

What I am learning (and hearing from all over the place) is that until we know who we are and whose we are, we are limping along in faith. This is where our true power, strength and freedom sits, my friends. Take it from someone who has limped along for so many years and is now beginning to understand how deeply we are loved.

One new revelation came to me just this week (from that step of faith I made!). In Mattthew 22:34-40 Jesus answers the Pharisees that the greatest commandment was to love God with all your heart, soul and mind. That was the old covenant. 

In Matthew 5:17-18, Jesus said He came to fulfill the law. And He did by coming and dying for us. And 1 John 4 (and please read through this amazing chapter) is all about the truth and that God loved us first. This is the new covenant.

Now, let's connect the dots. Under the law they were commanded to love God. In the fullment of the Law (Jesus' death) we are loved by God first. When we embrace this love and begin to understand that we no longer have to perform and work to love God, His identity is released into us. Then we can't help but love Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. It is profound, my friends, and yet so beautifully simple in it's truth.

This is the greatest truth I've been embracing since last fall and the process has been astounding, beautiful and so liberating. I want this and am praying for this for every single one of you.

God loves you. No ifs, ands, or buts. Jesus came for you. You don't have to do a thing to embrace that kind of love except to say yes and then to believe you are totally loved—that God can't love you anymore or any less than He already does. And nothing you do now will make you any less righteous in His eyes than the day you accepted Jesus.

Walk in this truth, my precisous sisters and brothers in Jesus. We are loved.

Loving and praying for you with the heart of Jesus!
Dineen 

 

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Weekend Worship — Let Your Love Loose!

HandHoldingCrossLike Lynn said in yesterday's post, love has the power to conquer all. As I read that a fuller impact of what it means really hit home. This is something I've known since a child. Not sure how other than God just wired me that way, but I never fully understood what kind of love can do that until I began walking with Jesus and studying the Bible.

The mind blowing part of this is the beauty in the way it works. It's part of the beautiful mystery of who God is and how He works. His love funnels down to us through His Son, Jesus, so when we invite Christ into our hearts, that love now dwells in us. 

I mean, think about it. First John 4:7-21 is one of the most powerful pieces of Scripture, my humble opinion. It says repeatedly that God is love. If Jesus is living in us, that means this powerful love, this agape love that's so strong and sacrificial that it drove Jesus to the cross to save us, lives in us as well. This is what I believe, again in my humble opinion, is meant by what Paul says in Ephesians 1:18-21 where he speaks of the very power that raised Jesus from the dead.

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. (emphasis mine)

That's the most powerful kind of love I can even being to comprehend! The kind of love that brings the dead back to life! A dead heart, a dead marriage...

This is the miraculous part of walking with Jesus and this is the power that lives in us—to love with a miraculous and supernatural love that defies the world, that defeats the enemy of our souls and shines like the brightest beacon in the darkest places.

So, my precious friends, let your love loose! Let that love that God has placed in you free. Ask Him to bring it on and let love flow through you to everyone in your home and everyone you meet. Do this and watch your world change and when  you change your world, you will impact those around you. 

Through God's love living in us, we have the power to change our lives, our marriages and the world. So let your love loose!

Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love. — 1 Cor. 16:13-14

Loving with you and loving YOU!

Dineen 

Now let's WORSHIP!

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Weekend Devo — Sifted Like Wheat

WheatSiftingYesterday we were blessed by a POWERFUL reader letter. In it she mentions Luke 22:31-32:

“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

If you’ve read Peter’s story you know that he becomes completely sold out for Jesus. But it’s a process he has to walk through. (Click here to read my original post about Peter’s journey.)

What I love about Peter is that he goes from being “sifted” as a man who is more full of faith in himself to a man who so full faith in Christ that his love for Jesus is transformed from a brotherly love (phileo) to a sacrificial love (agape). He is totally committed to the path Jesus set before him that fateful day on the shores of Galilee when Jesus ministered to this disciple’s broken heart with words of love and breakfast.

God does this for us too, my friends. Lynn and I are undergoing a time of sifting—I truly believe that is part of this time of searching and testing. God wants to bring us to a new level of faith and trust in Him. It is necessary for our faith and for this ministry.

I just want to encourage you to consider every trial and difficulty from a point of thankfulness because one, God is very much there as He’s allowed it for a reason and two, He is using every bit of it for our good. God is faithful and trustworthy.

When we can view our trials from that place of faith, then we can know the peace that surpasses all understanding because it exists regardless of how smooth or choppy our lives are. Our lives are not meant to be easy but they are meant to be full of love, faith and purpose.

Praying and believing,
Dineen

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It Had to be Him...

Heart&Cross

I love my husband. No, I really, really love my husband. And it’s not the same as when I married him.

It’s better.

I can’t take credit for it either. At all. It’s totally God. I started praying years ago that God would help me love my husband the way Jesus did, to love him with a godly love.

And He answered that prayer bigger and better than I ever imagined.

Now this is coming from someone who almost canceled her wedding a month before because I was scared to death! Every marriage in my family had ended in divorce and most of my relatives had married and divorced multiple times.

My fear went even deeper than that. I will confess to you that the first time my husband told me he loved me, I told him to go to heck (not the word I used but you get the idea) and drove away. I was scared to death of walking the path I’d seen so much of my family go through. That was the norm for us.

But not for my husband. Quite the opposite for him. Everyone in his family except one person was still in their first marriage and had been married for years. That was the norm for them.

You know what? God isn’t about “the norm.” He’s about the impossible, about the miraculous, about doing what we can’t (and can) in even bigger and better ways.

Like loving my husband with a humanly impossible love.

A few posts ago, one of you shared that you remind yourself in that God loves your husband too when faced with times that make it difficult to love. That’s the norm for God, to love us in our best and worst states.

He loves us despite ourselves so we don’t have to go to hell.

Jesus came for you and me. And He came for our unbelieving hubbies too. He loves our men with a fierce passion that makes our love look feeble and weak.

Having trouble loving your guy this week? Ask God to help you love that man the way He does. Pray it constantly. This delights God and He will do it!

Now get ready. Bigger and better love than you ever imagined is coming your way.

Praying and believing,
Dineen

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He Came Upon a Midnight Clear—For YOU!

IStock_000018440676XSmallMy Bible study group completed our study yesterday. We’d walked the past 11 weeks through the story of David with Beth Moore. On this last day she shared a powerful visual of a staff that had once been a vine. The bottom was straight but about half way up, the thick stalk rose upward in a tight spiral.

Beth Moore then showed how the vine would have grown around a branch, surrounding it, holding it, and referred to Jesus’s words that He is the vine and we are the branches (John 15).

It’s a visual that I will never forget because it so aptly shows how Christ is all around us, surrounding us. This vine that climbed from a small beginning. . .

She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”—which means, “God with us.” — Matthew 1:21-23

Then He grew up and up and around and around, His purpose clear and true. . .

“Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he was saying to them. — Luke 2:49-50  

Each year, each day, each moment—from a child to an adult, walking as a man on earth, yet fully God. . .

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross! — Philippians 2:6-8

He twines around and through us, giving us breath and life. Giving life meaning and definition. . .

He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. — Colossians 1:17

And no matter what we do, He is always there either pursuing us or waiting for us to come to Him. His love never wavers, nor does his faithfulness. . .

If we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself. — 2 Timothy 2:13

Christ came to give us Himself. He is the ultimate culmination of God’s love for us and His goodness. . .

The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. —Romans 8:16-17

His love is unshakable and unending. His Word is His story from beginning to end, the promise of His coming, His arrival and His return.

He came for me. He came for you. Nothing can change that truth or take it away from you. . .

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. — Romans 8:38-39

In Christ we are adopted, accepted, blessed, chosen, forgiven and redeemed (Ephesians 1). And it all started with a baby who grew to a man, our God who is ever present, always with us, around us, and in us.

We are his, and He is ours.

Praying and believing,
Dineen

*****

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Spouse-Based or God-Based?

IStock_000010120543XSmallWhat is the difference between a spouse-based marriage and a God-based marriage?

This is the question my Sunday school leader asked our group this past weekend. We’re currently doing Gary Thomas’ video series, Sacred Marriage, which goes with his book by the same title. It’s a great course, and I have loved hearing different perspectives on marriage and how God works in our marriages and uses them to refine us.

The answer to this question also fits into our “Out-Love Your Spouse” challenge. So here it is:

A spouse-based marriage is performance based. In other words, I’ll do something nice for him if he does something for me. Or, why should I do that for her? She never does anything for me? And how about this one: He was grumpy last night. No way am I going to be nice to him today.

Basically, as long as our spouse is performing to our standards, and meeting our needs, we will love them, help them, and be a good spouse in return. As soon as they stop meeting that standard, we withdraw our affection, love and help.

In a God-based marriage we love our spouse because that is what Jesus has asked us to do—love one another. We love our spouse whether they are grumpy or happy. We help our spouse without the expectation of getting something in return. We serve our spouse as an act of serving God.

See the difference? I know this challenge to “out-love” our spouse isn’t an easy one, especially if you’re in a difficult marriage. Especially if you’re in a situation where there is hostility and rebuff. But I want to encourage you to persevere, because I am confident of two things:

1. When we love our spouse from the motivation that we are serving God—being obedient to God—God sees our efforts. Our spouse may not, but God sees. And He is faithful!

2. In some way, our spouse will be affected on some level. They may not respond right away. They may not respond in a way that you’d expect. But when we are loving our spouse from the motivation to serve God—in essence, if we are loving our spouse from a place of loving Jesus—we become a conduit for the love of Christ to reach our spouse. That’s powerful!

Look at Hebrews 10:23-24:

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.

My friends, we heard what Shelley shared with Lynn in the video about what her pastor told her. Our calling to love and serve begins right in our own homes. God wants us to start there before He can bring us out into the mission fields of our workplace, our neighborhood, or even our friends and extended family.

Don’t give up. God calls us to love even the most unlovable. Even if that defines our spouse at the moment. And if we’re totally honest here, we aren’t always very lovable either, are we?

Last week, I did small things for my hubby, like sitting on the couch with him instead of the chair I usually sit on. I looked for little things that would make his life a little easier and his home a haven to return to. God put this on my heart as away to comfort my stressed out guy. One night, this poor guy thanked me for making dinner—twice in one meal. I didn’t ask for that appreciation. I only sought to do what God was showing me to do.

And finally, let me say that just because our spouse isn’t a believer (yet) doesn't mean we can’t have a God-centered marriage. You are the conduit to bring God into your marriage. Keep the faith and remember that through that very same faith, your spouse partakes in your sanctification (read “Sanctified Unbeliever” here) and God’s covering.

Praying and believing,
Dineen

*****

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Loving God Helps Me Love My Husband

1228973_love_1 I will tell you, in all honesty, that I cannot love my husband in my own strength. It’s not possible. I tried to for a many years and would do fine for a while, but inevitably I would run out of steam. Resentment would seep back in and these feelings and thoughts that had to with how little I perceived to be getting back. That's the self creeping in, because to out love our spouses requires unconditional love that's centered in Christ, not us.

First, I had to ask God to help me love my husband the way He loves him. To put a love in my heart for my spouse that far exceeds what I am capable of. God answered that prayer and keeps answering it faithfully, but it truly starts in my love for God. The more we love God—the more we live for Him—the more we are able to love others unconditionally.

Take a look at Matthew 22:37-39:

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’"

You've probably heard this Scripture a lot but let's take a closer look at it. First, and foremost, we're told to love God with everything we've got. THEN, we are to love others. Maybe, like me, you thought the part about loving God came first, well, because God wants to be first in our lives. You would be right, but I also think it's because that second part just isn't going to happen unless we get the first part down.

Jesus boiled down the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible, to two commands. Love God first, then love others. And in that order. As I've said before, God never seems to have only one reason for anything He says and does. He is the most efficient being there is! He doesn't just tell us to make Him first in our lives, He's also telling us that in order to be able to love others like this, we have to love Him first.

Loving God first opens the door for God to love others through us. That is how we love sacrificially.

And out loving our spouse, or anyone for that matter, means loving sacrificially. The only way to love sacrificially is through Christ. We just can't do it our own.

So, that's where we start, right there in your heart. Ask God to help you love Him more than anything else in your life, including yourself and your spouse. Then ask Him to out love your spouse through you.

Then watch what happens. You will be amazed.

Praying and believing,
Dineen

*****

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Weekend Devo — Giving Love

933344_i_love_you On one of last week’s post, a commenter asked if God could teach her to love her husband unconditionally. This is such a good question, that I decided to share some of my answer here today.

This is such a crucial area that I think we need to talk more about not only loving our unbelieving spouses unconditionally, but also HOW we do that.

Can we love our spouses unconditionally? The answer is YES! I am a living testimony to that. For years I loved my husband a lot when he was meeting my expectations, then not so much when he didn't.

I was loving him on my own strength.

As God showed me this, I began to pray that God would help me be the wife He needed me to be for my husband. Then I began to pray that God would help me love my husband unconditionally, in his strength.

My husband isn't perfect. Our marriage isn't perfect. And I am so far from the mark, I thank God everyday for His mercy, grace and strength. But I will tell you, I love my husband more today than I did when I first married him. Our daughters laugh at us because we're like kids, anxious to see each other and spend time together. We send each little messages sometimes during the day. He even calls me during his lunch walk at work so we can chat.

It hasn't always been this way. I give God all the credit. That doesn't mean I just sat back and let God do all the work either. We have to be intentional in our marriages EVERY DAY! And like I said, it hasn't been by my strength but God's.

How I love my husband today would be impossible without Christ in me. That's when we can love our husband's unconditionally and sacrificially.

If you’re struggling in this area, call out to God to show you where to start and to give you the strength to do each step. To be your strength. It will be slow, little by little. God does that so YOU won't be overwhelmed. I promise you, you will be amazed at what God does in you. You will be amazed at how you wind up loving your husband.

With God, we can do anything He calls us to do. Our marriages can be the greatest adventure of our lives, next to our walk with God!

Praying and believing,
Dineen

*****

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Weekend Devo — Love Never Fails

Bible "Love never fails." — 1 Corinthians 13:8

I grew up thinking love was the key to everything. I don't know why, but this was my mental make-up as a child, a teenager, and then a young adult. Yet as I grew older, I started to question if love was really enough.

Over time I noticed that love seemed to fail over and over again—failed marriages, broken families, shattered friendships. And even in my faith I questioned whether love alone was enough to save anyone or anything.

Too young to understand the difference as a child, I'd defined love according to our human capacity, philia, which translates to friendship or brotherly love (man's capacity). Only later did I learn about God's love, agape, which is selfless and self-sacrificing (God's capacity).

As I reflected on the childhood ways I'd left behind (as Paul says), I suddenly saw the connection which brought me full circle to the truth I'd embraced as a Christian.

My simple belief as a child was right. Love can accomplish anything, save anyone, heal everyone.

When it's God's.

Praying and believing,
Dineen

*****

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