107 posts categorized "Sacrificial Love"

Grace in the Waiting

Eagle

The Israelites were a people who waited. They waited for the promise of restoration to their homeland for over 70 years. My friends, we are like the Israelites. We are also a people group united in our time of waiting as we yearn and hope for the promise of salvation. And God has given grace-filled promises for every part of it.

Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable. — Isaiah 40:28

Nothing is unknown to Him. Every possibility is the doorway to another, yet the ultimate goal is always the same. He is the one unchanging constant in this life, my friends. He exists beyond time as we understand, as He just is. He is our Creator, our Redeemer, our Savior—His heart is to be all things to us and His power, like His love, is more than we can comprehend. He never tires, falters, or doubts. He trusts us more than we trust ourselves. He believes in us more than we believe in ourselves. And how could He not? He knows what He has given us as a deposit, as His ultimate promise—His Spirit.

He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might he increases strength.
Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted; — Isaiah 40:29-30

The Hebrew word for "power" is ḵôaḥ and holds meanings such as to be firm; vigor, ability, able, chameleon, force, fruits, might, power(-ful), strength, substance and wealth. It is a "power-packed" word (yes, pun intended) that attempts encompass and define His indefinable power, presence and provision. It is who He is.

Our limited power and strength never diminish or change His plans. In fact, quite the opposite is true. Our weakness is the very condition that allows His power to be revealed and perfected (2 Cor. 12:9). And He never grows weary in His own strength and He never grows weary of helping us, providing for us, sustaining us and loving us. When we see impossible, He says possible. When we see a wall, He makes a doorway. When we see the end, He says it's just the beginning of a new time, a new season, a new opportunity...

Appointed Times and Seasons

but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint. — Isaiah 40:31

There are two Hebrew words here that hold vital meanings to our complete understanding. The first is "wait." Other translations use "hope." That's because the Hebrew word here, qâwâ, means both to wait and to hope. It also holds meanings such as to bind together, to expect, gather (together), look, patiently, tarry, wait (for, on, upon).

To hope in the Lord means to wait expectantly upon Him to fulfill His promises to us. He knows the times and season of our lives down to the smallest detail. He is always working to fulfill what He has promises us in the best timing and seasons possible. He wants us to have the fullest benefit. 

The second noteworthy word in these verses is "walk." The Hebrew word here, yâlaḵ, and means to walk (literally or figuratively); causatively, to carry (in various senses), bear, bring, carry (away), come (away), depart, flow, follow, grow, lead (forth), let down, march, prosper, pursue, cause to run, spread, take away. Take not of the meaning "prosper" in this definition. As His children, no matter what time or season we are in, we are intended to prosper and thrive. Even in the toughest of times, God is working to help us reap our reward as we grow more like His Son Jesus.

And perhaps I'm not far off in say that is our greatest "opportunity," dear friends, to be more and more Christ-like. Our lives are a continual journey toward Jesus, to be like Him and one with Him. I used to wonder if we had to discard all that we are in order to be like Jesus, but the reality is, in doing so we become who we truly are intended and designed to be. Our identity in Jesus is a lifetime spent in revelation of our unity and inheritance in Him. And we are provided for in every way and for every aspect of that journey.

There is so much grace for us in the waiting, my friends. Both the Hebrew and Greek words for "grace" mean kindness and favor. So know that as you wait, God's grace is there providing His power, strength, hope and provision as we dwell in His great kindness and favor.

SUMites, you are greater in and through Him than you will ever know. You are destined to soar on wings like eagles!

Love you!
Dineen

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Reaction Mode

Dear friends, the following is a post I did a few years back. The Holy Spirit has continually reminded me of this post the last week or so, but I wasn't sure if it was a needed subject at the moment. Then on Thursday as I was working on the registration details for the Hope Ignited conference our healing rooms and my church were hosting, I heard the Holy Spirit say over and over again throughout the day, "Don't take offense."

I assumed it was for me, specifically something the Holy Spirit knew I would encounter at some point over the weekend at the conference. Then our worship leader gave a word on this very subject Friday evening. I knew then it was a corporate word. And then Lynn's post yesterday confirmed that! Wow! Don't you just love how the Holy Spirit speaks to us?

God is on the move, my friends, to restore this nation to peace and righteousness. I truly believe we will be astonished in how He does this through His amazing love.

So, I present to you, "Reaction Mode," originally posted in September of 2011. I pray it speaks to your heart and encourages you. I've updated it just a bit for our community needs right now.

 

Reactions Mode

6a00d83451ee9f69e2014e8b804fe8970d-320wiAre you in reaction mode in your marriage?

I remember to this day when I made this revelation about my marriage. I stood in our home office, about to react to something my husband said. I believe at that moment the Holy Spirit stopped me and then gave me a complete picture of the situation. And it wasn’t pretty. If this pattern didn’t stop soon, my marriage would soon crash and burn.

And even more sobering (i.e. convicting)? I was the heart of the problem, because my heart was in a bad shape. Years of resentment toward my husband and unmet expectations had created a barrier between us.

What I call “reaction mode” is this highly destructive and very draining place where you and your spouse are walking in your marriage more like adversaries than partners. Every comment is scrutinized under suspicion and communication has completely broken down.

Though not always true, I find this often starts with women. We stop communicating out of unforgiveness and resentment. Or, like me, we never learned to communicate in a healthy manner.

The saddest part of reaction mode is that it leads to contempt toward one another. And where there is contempt, respect and love no longer exist. They simply can’t coexist. For example, a husband reacts back to his wife harshly, because he’s not receiving his deepest desire, which is to be respected. The wife then retreats or closes herself off, feeling unloved when her deepest desire is to be loved.

Do you see the vicious cycle? That’s the first and most crucial step to breaking reaction mode—seeing this pattern in your marriage. Whether you are male or female, this pattern will not stop until you make the first move. What does this change look like?

  1. Be Careful What You Speak.

You know, there were times that I realized my reactions to my husband bordered on the behavior of a sarcastic teenager. Not a pretty sight but very convicting when recognized. Our words have the power to build or break down. If you’re inclined to speak without thinking first, stop right now and ask God to help control your mouth. This is a biblical principle and He will help you. Trust me on that.

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. — Proverbs 15:1

We can also seek the Holy Spirit for the right words to speak as well. If we choose words that are honest and without an agenda to prove we’re right or place blame, we can be instrumental to restoring peace to our marriage.

  1. Dwell on the Positive.

It’s easy to fall into this place where we think our spouse has an ulterior motive to his or her words. Even simple requests can turn into a battleground, because we’ve somehow fallen into the lie that our spouse intends to harm us. This suspicion perpetuates the reaction mode and is its fuel. Suspicion can also be fueled by lies, so the best way to combat this is to counteract with the truth. What does your spouse do well?

Make a list. My husband is great about making sure the garbage goes out every week. I appreciate this even more when he’s out of town and I have to do it. Yuck! He’s also great about going grocery shopping with me, and he’s quick to show his love and affection. Start with small things and your list will grow. Then study it whenever you fall into thinking those negative thoughts about your spouse.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. — Philippians 4:8

A negative thought feeds the enemy and breeds more negativity. This can even evolve into scenarios playing out in your mind of how your spouse could potentially hurt you. Then you wind up hurt and defensive over something that never even happened.

A positive thought feeds the spirit and releases the Holy Spirit to work in your mind for transformation (Romans 12:2). He also works in your heart to help you forgive and allow God’s love to flow more freely to and through you.

Which one do you want to grow “fatter” in your life?

  1. Respect Him Even When You Don’t Want To, Love Her Even When She’s Unlovable.

Our hubbies need to know we will still stand by them when they mess up. And they will mess up, just as we do. We need to extend that hand of grace and acceptance, just as we want it extended to us. I’ve never seen anything quite as destructive to a marriage as contempt. And it is subtle in its presence. This goes right back to number one in how we use our words.

Add to that how you sound. What is your tone? Are you speaking in a way that solicits cooperation or are you condemning and accusing? This was the biggest area that I needed to change, and I know I could not have done it without God’s help. Sometimes we aren’t even aware that our tone and words hurt those we love. Pull out that list you made and go over it again. When it’s hard to show respect to your husband, find the things you can respect and show it to him. Then watch him bloom under your praise.

… and the wife must respect her husband. — Ephesians 5:33b

And loving someone when they are unlovable is one of the most powerful and sacrificial things a person can do. I have watched a woman be astonished by the fact that my church was assisting her out of our own desire to help and we weren’t getting paid by the government to do it. I have been deeply humbled by my husband's love when I was in pain and cranky. Love speaks louder than anything. Anything! Love changes hearts, marriages, families, cities and nations.

God is love so when we love, even when a person hasn’t “earned it,” we display His heart and presence in the most powerful way possible by revealing His very nature. Love (1 John 4).

  1. Keep a “We” Mentality.

Isn’t this really the truth we forget? We enter in to marriage as two “I’s” and suddenly have to figure out what it means to be a “we.” This requires putting our spouse first, this means loving and respecting even when we don’t feel it, this means seeing our marriage truly as a team effort and pulling our weight even when we feel our spouse isn’t. God sees our heart and our efforts. Your actions to honor Him in your marriage are never wasted!

Don’t quit the team. Be the one who stands strong and keeps Christ in the middle—your faith and prayers do that (1 Cor. 7:14). Whatever issues you’re dealing with, remember that you and your spouse are a team. Blame solves nothing. Teamwork always gets the job done.

For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. —Genesis 2:24

Finally, remember that we can’t make these changes on our own. We need God’s help. Start with prayer and trust that God really can work in you, in your spouse and in your marriage to bring change and healing. It takes time, but when we desire God’s will for our marriage—a partnership built on love and respect—He will give us the desire of our heart (Psalm 37:4).

SUMites, I want to leave you with one final thought here (and this is a new part I'm adding). No matter where we are in our faith journey, God sees us the same way through His love and according to who He created us to be. We are His righteousness through Christ Jesus. And He never changes for He is the God of today, yesterday and tomorrow. He doesn't function within time as we do. He is present in all places—past present and future.

Now this is where it gets really interesting and may blow your mind a bit. Just as He sees us in this way, as who He created us to be, He sees our spouse the same way. He does not define them by their lack of faith but according to the measure of faith He has set aside for them. He sees them as they are intended to be, His children. I believe that is the heart of Eccl. 3:11 too. 

Father God, give us Your eyes, Your perspective of our spouse. Help us see them in the potential and in the light of eternity that You've placed within them so that we can love them according to that image and be part of releasing the truth of Your love in them. Thank You, Lord! Thank You! In the amazing name of Jesus, amen!

Love you so much, SUMites! And God loves you even better. ;-)
Dineen

 

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Foundations Series: GOD'S LOVE

God's love is complete. Jesus made sure of that at the cross. So if God did that in order to love us that way, why would He be angry with us or withhold His goodness from us? Something to think about. The truth always turns the lie upside down.
Love you, my friends!
Dineen

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Foundations Series: FAITH, HOPE, LOVE

GodsLoveMy friends, how are you doing? There’s a lot going on in the world right now that is discouraging and heartbreaking. The more I watch how God is working in our community here; at the healing rooms as we pray Jesus’ truth into hearts, lives and bodies; through the connections and bridges I see Him building and creating between all of us—the more I understand His heart for us to know these foundational truths. Our foundations need to be firmly built in His truth.

And, SUMites, perhaps it sounds a bit trite and cliché because it’s been said so many times, but we are not of this world. We live in it, we have a mission and a purpose here, but God’s plans, purposes and HIS PROMISES go way beyond the now and span all of eternity. In other words, He’s got us covered. We can rest in the reassurances He’s given us and walk in the truth of Who He is and who we are in Him. That’s our identity—another part of this foundation series I sense is coming.

Today’s foundational truth is found in a verse we know well, and Paul is the scribe who wrote these words of God’s truth.

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. — 1 Corinthians 13:13

As I sought Holy Spirit’s help to understand what He wants us all to understand about this truth is that these three are like the Trinity—Father, Son, Holy Spirit. They cannot stand alone as they are part of the whole. 

Love is, as Paul says, there greatest of these three and represents the God-head.

Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. — 1 John 4:8

So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.  — 1 John 4:16

Hope represents Jesus, who is the hope of the world. 

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. — 1 Peter 1:3

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus according to the commandment of God our Savior, and of Christ Jesus, who is our hope, — 1 Timothy 1:1

When I did a search for the word “hope” throughout the Bible, Psalms had the most references, but can you guess which book came next? The book of Job. Did you know that in the Old Testament the words hope and wait are used interchangeable because the Hebrew word is the same? And in the New Testament the definitions for the various forms of the Greek word for “hope” used always included the definition “joyful and confident expectation”?

Which then sheds a whole new light on this verse:

…looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross… — Hebrews 12:2

Faith is representative of the Holy Spirit, whose highest purpose is to teach us about Jesus and grow the seed of faith we are given when we received salvation. 

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. — Ephesians 2:8-10

Like the three fold cord spoken of in Ecc 4:12, faith, hope and love are intertwined and purposed to function as a whole. The real clue, amazingly, came when I looked up that fascinating word, abide

menō — to stay (in a given place, state, relation or expectancy): abide, continue, dwell, endure, be present, remain, stand, tarry (for), to wait for.

Without love, hope and faith lack the soil for their roots to grow deep and strong. Without hope, love wanes and faith dies. Without faith, love shrivels and hope fades. My friends, as a wordsmith of sorts I find it very difficult to fully explain this mystery for a mystery it truly is.

What I do know is that God’s love is the substance, the birthing place, of miracles. That hope is a divine expectation of God’s love to overcome and save. That faith holds love and hope in the birthing room of those miracles with great tenacity and perseverance. 

The entire Bible is about these three words, because the Bible is about God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. And these three words embody the heart of God.  

Perhaps the mystery isn’t so mysterious at all and is simply and ultimately a decision to believe the Truth (Jesus) and trust and look for God in every part of our lives. We are not meant to live our faith only during our quiet time with God and church attendance, but as part of every aspect of our lives. To do otherwise keeps God in a box and leaves us disappointed. But to live the abundant life, full of God’s love, hope and faith brings joy, peace and prosperity.

Faith, hope and love. Love is the greatest, the most powerful force on this earth. And all we have to do is ask for it, my friends. Ask God to overwhelm and flood us with His love so that it pours out all around us. Ask Him to love others through us. Ask Him to show us how He loves others and do likewise. There is no set formula, no pattern, no correct way to do this. Just simply follow His lead. He’s an expert!

I love you, SUMites, with the love of God, with the hope of Jesus and with the devotion of the Holy Spirit. May the Lord drench you with His amazing love and renew your spirit. In the name of Jesus, amen!
Dineen

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Foundations Series: SALVATION

SalvationHello my dear friends. I just love the Scriptures you’re sending in response to my post on Tuesday. Thank you for sharing your treasures with me. I’m so blown away by your stories of how God is moving! I will be writing these precious Scriptures on the beams of our house and holding them close in my heart and prayers as I stand with you. God is so good and so amazing! 

This next foundational truth—salvation—seems pretty obvious, my friends, but I feel like Abba wants us to understand there is more to it than what we think. So much more that we can comprehend actually. And it’s all about Him.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. — Isaiah 55:8-9

Yes, God’s thought are not ours. They are pure, perfect and all encompassing. All-encompassing—that right there blows me away when I contemplate (or attempt to) the depth of God’s heart and thoughts toward us, let alone His relentless and enduring love. How His plans are always for good and how He works things out for our good no matter how complicated they are or how many people are involved. He’s magnificent!

So, here’s what has my heart burning about the foundational truth of salvation, SUMites. We know what this word has meant to our own lives and we hold it like a hidden treasure, pursued by our prayers for our loved ones to know its precious worth as well.

First let’s take a look at another Scriptural truth (I’m a big fan of 2 Peter 3:9) that addresses God’s desire that ALL people would be saved.

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. — 1 Timothy 2:1-6

The word saved here in Greek is sōzō and means to save, i.e. deliver or protect (literally or figuratively): — heal, preserve, save (self), do well, be (make) whole. 

1. to save, keep safe and sound, to rescue from danger or destruction: A. one (from injury or peril) to save a suffering one (from perishing), i.e. one suffering from disease, to make well, heal, restore to health. B. to preserve one who is in danger of destruction, to save or rescue to save in the technical biblical sense negatively to deliver from the penalties of the Messianic judgment, to save from the evils which obstruct the reception of the Messianic deliverance.

That’s a lot of meaning. Normally I try to bring out just the key parts but this one is so full of meaning that I find to be “all-encompassing” so I’ve included the full definition according to Strong’s.

Now here is what I sensed Abba speaking to my spirit. We wait for the moment of salvation, we pray into it, anticipate it, and at times even despair of it ever happening. Yet God waits for the heart of the one He pursues and as He waits, He builds, prepares, woos, establishes, equips, prepares, celebrates and rejoices. We may not see Him, but that doesn't mean He's not there.

In other words, my friends, salvation is so much more than a moment. And its process begins long before we are ever aware of it. As Scriptures says, it is the Father who draws us to the Son (John 6:44 & 65). This is a mystery we don’t fully understand but know to be true. Abba Father sets into motion His great plan according to His wise timing.

And looking at the full meaning of sōzō, we see something that is much more than a moment. It’s about building. It’s about preparing the ground for the framework, laying down the rebar and materials to make the foundation solid and able to support the rest of the structure—all this before the concrete is even poured. 

Yes, my friends, in our time of waiting and praying, God is working to build the foundation so that when the rest of the structure is built, it will stand with integrity and truth. It’s a process that is done with such care and intentionality.

After the foundation of our house was completed, they discovered an error in the blueprints. If not corrected the foundation under the stairs would not be sound. The process was stalled for a time to figure out how best to correct the foundation to make it right. Two areas of the cement had to be cut out, reinforced and re-poured.

At times we feel this kind of delay in our loved one’s journey to salvation. We question what’s happened so far and doubt. Wonder if we misunderstood. But what if that’s simply a time that God is reinforcing the foundation so that the structure to come will stand strong? What if we shifted our prayers along those lines, asking Abba, “What needs to be covered with prayer as the process continues?” Or to simply ask Jesus, “What are you doing now? What can I be doing to partner with You?”

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. — Philippians 2:12-13

For even after the “moment” we come to the truth of Jesus, the process must continue so that we become more and more like Him. What joy is it to walk in salvation and not reflect the image of the Gift Bearer? What sense is there in the seed of the tree that remains a seed and never reaches its full potential to grow deep roots and tall branches to bring life and shade to the world it inhabits?

My dear friends, salvation is so much more than the solution to the question of heaven or hell. It is life, the very breath of God, intended to fill us, save us, heal us, restore us and love us beyond reason. It is all-encompassing for our every need that is designed to bring wholeness to our past, present and future.

I don’t confess to full comprehend the full ramification of the word “salvation” that is simply nine letters, yet encompasses the entire heart of our Creator. He doesn’t expect us to either, my friends. He simply asks us to believe. Trust. Love.

And this is where I will leave us today, my friends, with the prayer that the all-encompassing truth will firmly solidify in the foundation of our faith and the ones we are contending for. In the mighty name of Jesus, amen!

Don’t miss my prayer video tomorrow. Next week, more foundational truths and a reader question I know will speak to your heart for your marriage. 

Love you so very, very much, SUMites!
Dineen 

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No Greater Love

52448900_sMy friends, I’m so glad to be back at home in Florida. I’m still catching up with emails, writing, and unpacking boxes, but my heart is relieved to be back not only in our Florida digs (well, our temporary ones until our house is completed) and back here with you. You are my precious friends. You are my faith family. You are my sisters and brothers in Christ Jesus. And for a gal who grew up an only child wanting siblings, how cool is that?!?!

I want to tell you a quick story, or rather, tell you about an image that is emblazoned upon my mind like a photograph. I saw it while traveling cross country. I don’t remember which state we were in, but it doesn’t really matter.

What matters is what I saw. From my passenger side comfy seat I glanced up and saw an EMT vehicle. Not one of those average ambulances but one of the full blown, decked out rescue vehicles that we often send up prayers for when we see them flying down the road, lights flashing.

Except this one didn’t have its lights on. It was just cruising down the road next to us. As I glanced up, I noticed the driver had his arm resting against the window and his tattoo was pressed against the glass. Not an image but words and numbers.

John 15:13

Now I’ve seen quite a few faith-based tattoos, and they usually have an evangelistic message to them. I didn’t know this verse off hand, yet assumed it served the same purpose. But I wanted to know for sure. Love my cell phone Bible app…

There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. — John 15:13

What a fitting verse for a man who risks his life to rescue others. Perhaps not every day is filled with peril, but I’d expect he leaves every day for work with that expectation. This is his life verse, his statement of purpose, the motivation behind what he does every day.

To lay down his life…

My friends, as I pondered this in the days that followed, the heart of this message expanded to you. As believers, we have laid down our lives for Jesus. As SUMites, we have laid down our lives for our spouses. As soldiers in God’s army, we day our lives for each other. Or should I say our hearts?

That’s what we do here, with every post. We love on each other, we pray for each other, we encourage each other, we empathize and often sympathize with each other. We wear each other’s shoes, so to speak.

We live the truth of John 15:13 every…single…day. 

So my dear friends, I am celebrating you this week, this month, this year—how about always? Always in my heart. I can’t think of better words than to say (and please receive them from my heart), I am so proud of you. Of us. Of what God has done in the SUM community to grow us into a church without walls.

We are coming up on 10 years for this community. We have grown so much and in so many ways. And so much more is coming. 

So much more. In the last week or so God has been showing me His great heart for us, SUMites. He is drawing us together even more in unity and purpose.

More is coming. More is coming. More is coming. I sense this deep in my spirit and my soul. We’ve walked a long journey, we’ve grown and God has prepared us. Now all that is being called into place. I don’t know what that will look like or what it means, but I just somehow KNOW it’s coming.

As we stand in faith for our spouses and with each other, God is moving. I can’t wait to see what He does next. How about you? What are you hearing Holy Spirit speak to your heart?

Love you, SUMites!
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The Tearing of the Veil

IMG_4884My friends, I’m heading Holy Spirit’s nudge to write about the veil, which hung in the Jewish Tabernacle built by the Israelites and Moses per God's detailed specifications. I've always been fascinated with the veil and how it tore at the moment Jesus died. But let's go back to the first place the veil was established.

It stood as a physical and spiritual separation between the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place, an inner room that held the Ark of the Covenant, the very presence of God. Made of finely woven linen and embroidered with blue, scarlet and purple cherubim, the veil hung from gold hooks attached to four posts of acacia wood, which were also overlaid with gold (Exodus 26:31-33). And strict rules determined when and how the priests could enter this Most Holy of Places, which if not adhered to resulted in death.

The Hebrew word for veil holds one unusual definition—separatrix. In mathematics, separatrix is defined as the boundary separating two modes of behavior. Dictionary.com defines it as "something that divides or separates, as the line between light and dark areas on a partially illuminated surface."

This veil would remain in place for hundreds of years, a constant reminder of the separation that existed between man and God due to sin. Darkness on one side, light on the other...

Exodus 28:36-38 speaks of the gold medallion adorning Aaron's turban. He was required to wear this on his turban to bear any guilt of the Israelites when they consecrated their sacred offerings in order to make the people acceptable. As the animal sacrifices were a prophetic representation of the final and complete Sacrificial Lamb, this medallion held the prophetic representation of the the Cross, the finished work of Jesus.

Fast forward to Good Friday, the darkest day of history that would usher in the greatest Light of all. Jesus spoke his last and released His spirit into the Father's hands. 

And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!” — Matthew 27:51-54

Not a simple tear, but a violent act from Heaven. I believe this was the first entrance of God's Kingdom come to earth. Our Heavenly Father gave His Son to remove the barrier and He wanted us to know it. Ripped from top to bottom, the symbolic act clearly tells of the fierce love of God removing the barrier. Nothing would separate God from people for the Son had become the bridge and His Holy Spirit the constant connection.

I am awestruck by this act, so violent yet full of love. A human being would have most likely torn the curtain from the bottom, clearly an act of man. Father God made it clear this tear was by His hand, from top to bottom, from Heaven to Earth. The final declaration of forgiveness and acceptance. 

It shook the earth, split rocks, opened tombs and raised the dead to life. Light had invaded the darkness and brought new life, new beginnings, a new way. The Way, the Truth and the Life.

Jesus.

The old way, with laws etched in stone, led to death, though it began with such glory that the people of Israel could not bear to look at Moses’ face. For his face shone with the glory of God, even though the brightness was already fading away. Shouldn’t we expect far greater glory under the new way, now that the Holy Spirit is giving life? If the old way, which brings condemnation, was glorious, how much more glorious is the new way, which makes us right with God! In fact, that first glory was not glorious at all compared with the overwhelming glory of the new way. So if the old way, which has been replaced, was glorious, how much more glorious is the new, which remains forever! — 2 Corinthians 3:7-11

My friends, I have this image of the veil in my mind, it's weighty fabric musty and old from all the years it hung between God and man. As the ground began to shake, I imagine dust shaking loose from the aged fibers and the weighty fabric undulating gently at first from its golden hooks, then rippling more violently as the earthquake shook the ground and framework of the Tabernacle. 

Then the heavens opened and perhaps a surge of light shot down from the sky, renting the cloth in two with a tearing sound as loud as thunder and startling as the earth shaking beneath it. Almost as if the fabric once thought to be holy now hung as an offense to the One who hung on the cross.

Do you see it, my friends? The tattered edges of the veil, split and rendered useless? Nothing would separate God from His creation any longer. Do you see how the passion of the Christ rendered the veil impotent and powerless?

But whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image. — 2 Corinthians 3:16-18

The enemy will attempt to replicate the veil in our loves ones, but even he knows the truth, that he wears the shame of defeat and the veil of lies he attempts to project cannot stand up under the light of Jesus. 

And we reflect His light. We reflect His love. We reflect the heart of the Father's love that made a way for ALL to come to Him. And that is the promise of Easter! He is RISEN! He is RISEN INDEED! AMEN!

Happy Easter, my friends. Love you!
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Broken In A Thousand Pieces But..... Jesus..

SUMites, ANOTHER profound email. What is happening in our community? Ten years of praying, believing, trusting. The fruit is ripe and I celebrate every victory in our SUMite Nation. And I continue to pray and trust for those yet to come.

Today, please meet Kim Valentine. Her story is TRULY miraculous!!!!  Thank you Jesus. (Read to the end because this story is astonishing!)

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One day after 18 years of marriage my husband informed me he was moving out.  As soon as the words left his lips, I knew this time it wasn’t an idle threat. God immediately began revealing to me every sin I committed that degraded, emasculated and disrespected my husband. Every time I blamed, criticized, condemned or withheld intimacy was before my very eyes. The blinders were ripped off and the ugliness of my sin was repulsive to me! Here I was a Christian for 16 years, playing the part, talking the talk and holding the church positions. I felt so valued by my Christian “family” as one of Christ’s ambassadors to the world, but the witness to my own husband was like filthy rags before God.

 “Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.” James 1:26

I felt stripped bare to the core that day, but in that process God miraculously transformed my heart for my husband. I experienced an infilling of unconditional love for him that was beyond human comprehension. The persistent nagging inside my being that had to speak up and criticize my him was miraculously gone. So many things that irritated me in the past were washed away.  I began to see him through God’s eyes as a precious human being created and loved by Him.

“Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” Isaiah 43:19

We had become strangers in the same house living separate lives. We were more like roommates than a married couple and our lives rarely intersected. We hadn't shared a bed for over eight years but I was comfortable with that arrangement, so I didn't care to change.

Had I not realized over the years I was not treating my husband well? I could say “no” and blame other men who had hurt me, other people or society. I have to confess that deep on a spiritual level I knew my actions were damaging to my husband and our whole family.  All factors may be reasons for my behavior but no excuse to treat him with disrespect he didn't deserve.

This new love for my husband welled up inside me and overflowed. I had never felt this way and I wanted him to receive this love from me, but was it too late? I had taken control and removed him as head of our family where God intended him to be all along. Would he think that my actions were nothing more than a ploy to make him stay? Regardless, I started to treat him with respect and submission the way I should have all along.

But I was not completely obedient and trusting God. I fought for control of the situation by plotting and intervening like an amateur detective. I intercepted emails and monitored his bank account justifying it because I was trying to save our marriage. God began to convict me of my intrusion and I realized it was actually an invasion of my husband’s privacy. The harsh reality was, he was leaving and there was nothing I could do to control or manipulate that outcome.

After he moved out I withdrew and began to focus on my own pain.  I started to dwell on my husband’s contribution to the marriage breakdown in my own private pity party. I remember lying on my kitchen floor weeping and begging Jesus to take me Home. I felt like my heart was broken and I was in a thousand pieces. I now believe it was my own sin and lack of “control” eating me alive. One morning I woke up in tears telling the Lord that I couldn't go on any longer, I was too weak.

I turned to my devotional and the scripture verse was from 2 Corinthians 12: 8-10:

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

God wanted to heal my heart and life before He could ever heal our marriage. This journey of reconciliation wasn’t only about our marriage but also about my disconnection with the Lord. I took my eyes off Him and lived life my own way.

God used prayer and study to open my eyes and discover I was the contentious or quarrelsome woman of Proverbs. In the message Proverbs 27: 15-16 reads: A nagging spouse is like the drip, drip, drip of a leaky faucet; you can’t turn it off, and you can’t get away from it.

 “It’s better to live alone in the desert than with a quarrelsome, complaining wife.” Proverbs 21:19

God now had my complete attention and I wept in brokenness. Even though my heart had been transformed, I continued to hold on to control. I had to be obedient to the Holy Spirit, renew my mind, be accountable to the Lord for my own actions and not blame anyone else. My obsession with control destroyed our marriage.

A week after this epiphany, my husband contacted me out of the blue and asked me to go out for coffee. I hadn’t heard from him in months. The first meeting started as a casual meeting between “friends “but was actually the beginning of our restoration journey.

My husband had a new softness to him I had never before seen, so I knew his heart was changed. He is back home now and we don't just have a marriage restored but a one that's transformed. I tell people I have the husband I’ve always wanted but never allowed him to be. We are blessed to fall into a deeper love with each other. I am witness as he grows in confidence as the head of our household. There are days I still struggle with wanting control, but being aware helps me learn to surrender it to the Lord.

Learning to be a wife as God intended is counter cultural as the world dictates women be independent. We are supposed to take control in marriage and family instead of depending on the Lord but this is so counterproductive. I have new joy embracing the role God has graced me with as wife and help mate for my husband. I know that after God, my husband is my priority. This is how I honor the Lord.

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2.

I have had the privilege of watching the Lord draw my husband to Him.  It has been more than two years since our reconciliation and my husband has recently become a follower of Jesus Christ. I stand in awe at how the Lord is developing him into the spiritual leader in our home. It’s all about Him!

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9

For many years I sought to find my identity and affirmation in education, positions and career but these pursuits became my gods. I had built my foundation on sinking sand destined to wash away. It gave me a feeling of superiority over my husband. I lost focus that my true identity is found in only in Jesus Christ and the role he has for me as His child, a wife to my husband and a mother to our children.

Kim Valentine 2016I am a  50-something  daughter of the King, wife to one awesome husband, mother to two amazing children and one special "son in love", future grandmother and nurse.  I strive to be a woman after God's own heart and walk in His steps.

"To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps"
1 Peter 2:21

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A Single Decision Can Change Everything

Today I welcome SUMite, Holly Boone who wrote me this amazing account of her life. Today she shares it with all of us. I pray you are encouraged in your decisions. Hugs, Lynn

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I had a decision to make tonight.

I have been putting it off all week, assuming as the day drew nearer I could make a decision. This wasn’t a big deal, no major crisis, no one would really care either way what I decided. I had been invited to two different gatherings on the same night. So I had to decide which one I would go to. At first I was just trying to decide on which to attend. One was a girl’s night, some at-home shopping at a friend’s house. The other was a dinner with those from a ministry I’m involved in. Both inviting, both I wanted to attend. I mentioned it to my husband, that I had two things going on Thursday night and I had to choose one. Mid-week I still just couldn’t make a decision, I wanted to spend time with all of the people involved and didn’t know how to pick which group. The night before I realized there was a third option; stay home with my family. I know that was God showing me I needed to put my family first tonight.  As the day progressed, the decision was being made, yes, I will stay home with my family. Now this is not to say there is anything wrong with a girl’s night or a night of spurring each other on with a dinner and encouragement. There have been nights that I of course have done those things and there will be more in the future. What is so cool is that God steered me in the way I should go.

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you. Psalm 32:8.

Up to this point I was thinking about what I would miss out on if I didn’t attend one of the gatherings but now I was looking forward to that chosen time with my family, and let me tell you the fruit of my decision was bountiful!

We have been going through an intense time of teaching boundaries and discipline with our daughter as she pushes back and struggles with obedience. Progress is being made and my husband and I are working together (the snow days gave us some extra time of full days of parenting together which was good!) and I just saw that staying home tonight would help since I have to go back to work for three nights in a row starting tomorrow. I texted my husband at 3:00 today that I would be staying home tonight and told him what was on the menu for dinner. He replied back with a smiley face :) Just that simple little gesture reassured me I had made the right decision. It meant something to him that I made a choice to stay home.

When my husband arrived home Sophie set the table and dinner was served. Right before I sat down Sophie said “Mommy can we pray first and can I say the prayer?” Now Sophie has prayed before. She prays at night or after we’ve had a moment that needed forgiveness, and sometimes when I ask she will pray at dinner but she never has asked to say the prayer at dinner on her own. She reached for my hand and her daddy’s hand and started her prayer.

“Dear God, thank you for this wonderful day, thank you for this family dinner, and thank you for my mommy and daddy, in Jesus name, Amen.”

Behold, children are a gift of the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward. Psalm 127:3 That moment right there was worth every contraction or labor pain times a million. My husband looked at me and asked if she always prays like that. I told him she does pray but has never asked to do it at dinner without my prompting.  He told her that was a really sweet prayer. Usually when he is home for dinner I say it really quickly with her before he is in the room or we don’t say it at all. I think Sophie may have just changed that.

She then asked if we could turn the lights off and light the candles so we could not only have a family dinner but a “candlelit family dinner”. So we did. We proceeded to the living room after dinner for ice cream and games. I asked my husband how much work he had to do tonight and what did he need to get done and he replied “I’m not doing any work tonight”. I believe he was honoring my decision, my choice, to stay home when I could have had a night away, by making his own choice to put work away and savor this sweet time we were having. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. Colossians 3:14.

My home was in perfect harmony tonight. Each one of us loved the other well. God showed me to put my family first tonight and His mercies and gifts showered us the rest of the evening. Sophie bowed her head to God in thanksgiving and sweet blessings flowed from that. My husband, by God’s grace, saw the importance of a puzzle and games over TV in the background or work.

God works like this every day. This was a beautiful picture tonight but He also reminded me that there are moments that aren’t this beautiful that are still filled with His mercies and that we are to Rejoice always! May I remember to rejoice always even in the disobedience, because it brings me closer to seeing my own disobedience and a closer relationship with the Lord. Rejoice always even when the boundaries are pushed because I see her as my little arrow then and the gifts and strengths God will use in her future to bring Him glory. Rejoice always even when I wonder if I am teaching her enough to prepare her for the battles and decisions she will face in the future because tonight she showed me it is sinking in, she is hearing me and she CHOSE to thank God tonight, in front of her daddy and it hit a sweet spot with him.

Therefore, as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed and overflowing with gratitude. Colossians 2:6-7.

I am overflowing with gratitude for the union I have with Christ, that rock, that firm root that allows me to abide in Him which results in being able to make a decision that seemed to be small and not important but that was part of God’s plan to pour love on us tonight and draw me closer to Him and bring him much glory.  Praise God!

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Holly BooneI love studying God's Word and encouraging others through it as I write what God is teaching me. I have been married ten years to the kindest man I know and anticipate the day his heart is opened to God's truths.  God pursued me relentlessly and in my mid 30's after living with devastating decisions and a lifestyle of debauchery I accepted Christ as my savior and I have been on fire for the Lord ever since. We have a four-year-old girl and are awaiting how God will grow our family through adoption. I am the director of the M.O.M.S. Ministry in my hometown and have a heart for encouraging women to meet God in His living and perfect Word. 

 

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The Power and Blessing of Giving Comfort

ComfortGiversMy friends, today I want to talk to you about an interesting phenomenon I've observed in my own life and in others. It's a very curious thing and is quite the opposite of our "normal" tendency. And I believe it is one of the weapons of spiritual warfare that Paul talks about in 2 Corinthians:

For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, — 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 (ESV)

We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ. — 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 (NLT)

These verses have continued to "show up" repeatedly for me so I've been praying for Abba to show me what these spiritual weapons are. The obvious ones are God's Word, prayer, truth, love, faith and praise. SUMites, I'm sure you can add to this list as well, and please do. And I find that most of these weapons are opposite in value and in instruction to what the world teaches.

Today I have another to add to that list that I believe is probably on the extreme opposite end of what this world values and understands, though I do believe in this season of joy and celebration we catch a glimpse of it more.

This weapon is service. Specifically when we serve others when every "argument" of this world would tell us not to, that we should take care of, fix, minister to our own lives and issues first. Granted, we do need to do these things as well so that we can continue to give and serve as God calls us too, but I'm speaking of the spiritual warfare aspect of this today.

Let me give you a scenario that I think will help clarify. You're mired in confusion and anxiousness over something you really can't change at the moment. It consumes your thoughts at times and leaves you feeling depressed and even in despair at moments of deep contemplation. You know the truth of 1 Peter 5:6 that says to cast your cares on Jesus, but it's just not helping. 

Then you get a call, an email, or a Facebook message from a friend about something that's happened or that she's struggling with. You can relate to her anguish but your first thought is of your own struggle and you feel you have nothing to offer. Or you feel you have to fix yourself and/or your situation before you can help anyone else. 

So, we pull back, withdraw, and continue to focus on our own situation. I know that's our "normal" tendency, and that's the exact reaction and course of action the enemy wants us to take because he knows two things.

1.) We will miss the opportunity to encourage someone.

2.) We will miss the opportunity to be encouraged.

More often than not, God will make you aware of another person's need as an answer to your own prayer for relief, help, strength, etc. 

Think about the times you have felt the most alive and encouraged in your faith? Has it been while you were helping someone else? And while you were doing that, were you focused on your own issues?

My friends, don't let the enemy steal a blessing from you by using the false arguments against you that your needs, problems, or challenges keep you from helping others. Those very challenges and weaknesses in your life will suddenly become your strength as you give comfort and compassion to someone because you understand that need. 

He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. — 2 Cor. 1:4

Astonishing things happen when we do this. As we comfort, we are comforted. As we help to give clarity, we receive clarity. As we help another make their mountains fall into the sea, our own mountains begin to tumble and fall too.

It is so contrary to what the world says, isn't it? The world says to take of yourself. God says, "Seek my kingdom first and you will receive all you need." (My translation.) My observations of others and my own behavior has show me that self-seeking leads to depression, yet selfless living with a heart for others brings such joy and excitement!

What do you think, SUM family? Share your thoughts in the comments. And even better, share your stories that come to mind as you think about this. I know you have some good ones. Our family here is full of the most giving and loving people I have ever had to privilege to meet and know. You show Jesus by your love for each other each and every day!

This week I'm in New York with my mother and a dear friend to see the city at Christmas. My mother was born and raised in Manhattan and has always wanted to show her daughter (me!) what the city looks like at Christmas. God has blessed us with the provision so that we can finally do this. So I will be back next week, dear friends, hopefully with some amazing Christmas stories from New York!

Love you!
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Love Conqers All

IMG_4126My friends, I am overwhelmed by the force of God's love. It is powerful, relentless, consuming and vast. It is tender, gentle, perfect and complete. It is who He is, what we long for, what the world needs, and the answer to every thing.

Love. God's love. The greatest force on earth and the conduit to faith. The longer I walk this path of the mismatched the more I am seeing—now—that love is the key. Lynn and I have said this all along and you know it, but right now in this time and place, I sense a greater call to love than I have ever discerned before.

God's love enables us to love Him and love others. All we have to do is let go and let Him do this in and through us. That's faith expressing itself through love.

What is important is faith expressing itself in love. — Galatians 5:6b

On Tuesday I put my youngest daughter on a plane to go back home. I wept to see her go, yet my heart was so full of thankfulness for all the love God has put in my life. It's not been easy at times and moving 3,000 miles away from my girls is not the direction I thought my life would go. But God has filled every aspect with His love and presence.

He showed me as a child that love is what "makes the world go round." And I am understanding more and more I that it is His love that holds all things together (Col 1:17). 

All things. Everything.

SUMites, as we enter this time of Thanksgiving, let's take stock of the love God has placed in our lives. The people He has given us to love. The ways He is has shown and is showing us to love. And the incomprehensible, relentless and unending love He has for us.

Our greatest impact on this world is our love. Let it shine, SUMites. Look upon everyone you know and meet with love. Let them see God's love shining in you and watch what happens. I’ve noticed that as I do this, as I meet people eye to eye, they hesitate at first and then smile. I’m just starting to notice this, and I know it’s the love of Jesus shining through. 

This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples––when they see the love you have for each other. — John 13:35 (MSG)

We change the world by loving the people in it, my friends. We are the SUMites, and we know how to do that better than most I think! You are amazing! Love you!
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How Do We Love?

3KeysMy friends, I’d planned to talk briefly about love and then move into thankfulness, but the Holy Spirit impressed our Father’s heart on this subject upon me and I want to give that ample space. So today we will talk about love, the second key in this Abundant Life series. 

I want to tell you that this series simmered in my heart for a few weeks and at first I thought love should come first since it is so foundational to all we feel, think and do. But I realized that unforgiveness needed to be covered first because when we hold that unforgiveness we are actually trying to control a person or situation, and we have talked in the past about how love and control can’t coexist, especially in a marriage.

And your comments were so good, so honest! Never discount how much sharing your heart here ministers to others. That is one of the aspects of our community that I love so much, SUM family. You’re amazing in the love that you show!

As I prayerfully prepared for this post, the Holy Spirit told me to read Galatians. I suspected He had a nugget for me there and wow, did He. This one piece of truth from Paul in his letter to the Galatians says it all:

For when we place our faith in Christ Jesus, there is no benefit in being circumcised or being uncircumcised. What is important is faith expressing itself in love. — Galatians 5:6 (NLT)

Paul wanted the Galatians to return to the truth of their salvation in Jesus and not listen to the group of Jewish Christians who had come and was teaching they still need the Law in order to be saved. Paul’s statement was a powerful truth for the Galatians then and for us today.

Without love, we can’t represent Jesus accurately, because He is love. 

All who confess that Jesus is the Son of God have God living in them, and they live in God. We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. — 1 John 4:15-16

This piece of truth reveals that it is because of God’s love and His love for us that we are able to love others. And not only love others, but love Him. And that is what I feel the Holy Spirit wanting us to truly embrace today about God’s love. 

You see, God designed us with a need to be loved. This need is even stronger than our need for food. I remember as a child somehow understanding that love was the answer to everything and the key to solving all problems. My understanding was limited though because I only understood love as the world defined it.

But now, as I walk closer and closer to God, I realize I was almost right. God’s love is the answer to everything—to all our needs, wants, conflicts and dreams; physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

God created us to need love, to need Him. And He created us to love Him and others. Thus our primary commandments to love God and love others isn’t just a command to please God. It is basic instruction to do what we have been created to do.

God living in us means Love is in us—His love. When we let Him increase and overflow in us, we are transformed. And that ripples out to everything around us. We’re not the only ones changed. Those around us are affected, influenced and changed. Lives, communities and nations.

God’s love is the most powerful force in heaven and on earth, because it’s Him. God is love. No matter how many times I say and think it, I’m astounded by the magnitude of this truth. He is vast. No wonder we need the Holy Spirit’s help just to understand it!

So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith —that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. — Ephesian 3:17-19

My friends, we will spend our entire lives here on earth and eternity learning about God’s love. And you know what? That’s what our Abba Father wants most. To love us, for us to love Him, and then to release that love into others. And it happens in that order. Faith expressing itself through love. The abundant life...

Earlier this year I prayed and asked the Lord for a key to breakthrough. He said, “Love.” And He led me to this verse, the first one that follows 1 Corinthians 13, the love chapter.

Let love be your highest goal! — 1 Cor. 14:1.

Love as our highest goal…that’s so powerful, my friends. And that is the story of my marriage. I made loving my husband my highest goal. Not to change him or convince him God was real. Just to love him because I believe in God and I believe He, His love, transforms everything. And it has transformed my marriage and filled it with so much love, I’m blown away by it almost every day. That’s God, present and living and loving.

Share your thoughts in the comments, my friends. Share how God’s love has touched and changed your life. Share how loving someone changed a life, a heart—possibly yours. Because love always ricochets as a blessing.

And I love you, SUM family! With all the love God pours into my heart for you! He is love and He is GOOD!
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Even Bullies Need Love

NotAloneStudyImageHello, SUMites! Welcome to week three of the Equipping Our Kids in a Contrary Culture series. This week I’m zeroing in on chapter six in our book, Not Alone, about Generous Kids

I share some stories in this chapter about my daughters, stories that are near and dear to my heart and one that nearly tore my heart out at the time. I bet just about every one you out there has a parenting story like that. I’d rather suffer myself than see my children suffer. Anybody else out there feel the same? 

Years ago, I asked Jesus to help me love others as He loves them. I still pray this prayer and ask Him to help me see others as He sees them, including my kiddos and my hubby. And without judgement. That can be a tough area to walk in today’s world, especially when we are being mistreated. Or our child is being mistreated.

How do we love the kid that’s bullying our child and making him or her miserable? How do we love the friends our children bring home who have an attitude of entitlement? How do we love our own teenager when we find out they’re not as “well behaved” as we thought? 

Moms and Dads, as I get older and hopefully just a little bit wiser, I’m finding it has everything to do with love—God’s kind of love that is full of mercy, forgiveness and grace. We can’t love people like that on our own and neither can our children. And as we learn and model this, they will learn it from us. 

As much as I wanted to hate the pint-sized bully who terrorized my youngest daughter, I knew I couldn’t. I knew for my own sake and hers, we had to pray for him. I prayed not only for the situation but also for understanding of what caused this young boy to behave so horribly. I had a hard time believing a child capable of such actions. And helping my daughter understand was no easy task. 

But as I prayed, God revealed the situation to me and to my daughter. We discovered this was a boy who had a father who traveled all the time and a mother who was a severe alcoholic. Just a few months after I began praying for this boy and his family, they moved away. My daughter and I both learn a valuable lesson about God’s faithfulness.

Today, my daughter sees this experience as part of the experiences that have shaped who she is today and even now, her first reaction to an offense is to try and understand the why behind the what. 

My friends, I think most people expect one kind of reaction to the offenses of this world, but when we, as believers, don’t react but reach out with a heart to love and understand, we shock the world. We bring the truth of Christ into full scope—and the evidence of His salvation.

And I believe we walk in God’s favor to do such things. When we seek God’s heart first, we can work with our child’s teacher to peaceably find a solution to stop the bullying with a heart to not only help our own child but the one doing the bullying. You could very well be the answer to the prayer of a hurting or abused child.  

When we seek God’s heart first, we can see the more challenging friends our child brings home and welcome them with the love and grace of Jesus. We can be firm in our rules, but loving and encouraging too. You may plant a seed of truth in a child that will sprout and bloom at just the right moment when they are faced with a decision that could take them down the wrong path.

When we seek God’s heart first, we can help our own children navigate the challenging and painful places in their lives, and teach them that no situation or person is beyond God’s reach. And we can teach them to love others without judgement, no matter where they come from or who their parents are.

My friends, this is the hope we carry and are called to pass on to our children. This hope burns bright like an torch, and we are called to carry it everywhere we go. The light we carry brings solutions by changing atmospheres. That is what truth does—when revealed, lies and darkness can no longer operate. The atmosphere shifts and brings change. And hope.

A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people. Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn the truth. Then they will come to their senses and escape from the devil’s trap. For they have been held captive by him to do whatever he wants. — 2 Tim. 2:24-26 

Question: Do you have an area in your life in which God is calling you to love others specifically? How can you teach this to your children?

Prayer: Lord Jesus, help me to see and love people through Your eyes and heart. And help me teach my children do the same. In Your name Jesus, amen!

SUMites, our ministry verse is 1 Peter 3:1-2 and tells us our godly lives will speak for themselves. We are mismatched with this world too, my friends. Our godly lives and love, and the growing godly lives and love of our children will show Jesus, the hope of the world.

All in His love,
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Part 1: The Journey to Complete Abandonment

SUMites, Lynn here. I will be traveling this week. While I'm away, one of our long-time readers and Sister, SUMite Gillian Russell will be sharing a portion of her story. You may remember her and her astonishing story of traveling to meet me and Dineen in Texas. You can find her story about that adventure, here

Thank you Gill for taking time to share your faith with us. Hugs, Lynn

Although I came to my faith for the first time as a twenty year old, somehow God grabbed hold of me very early on in my journey: within a month I was completely sold out on God and I never looked back. While I struggle with many things, trusting God has rarely been an issue for me. (By this I mean for big stuff, trusting God in the little interruptions and frustrations in my day is a completely different story). Maybe it's also that I've always been impulsive, but when God says jump, I jump, (and think and ask questions later!) Honestly, it doesn't matter what it is, all I need is to hear from Him. 

So what does that mean for a mismatched marriage? It has certainly created some odd discussions but there are so many blessings that have flowed into all our lives from this obedience, because after all, God always works only for our best. 

A few years ago, while praying on my way home from a church event I heard these words CLEARLY in my spirit: 

Until your husband sees you, visibly different, (like my best friend saw the change) truly submitting to him, he’s not going to believe.’ That’s what it will take for him to come on board etc, radical humility. ‘Only when you are willing to lay down your will, will he be able to know Me.’ 

Gulp. 

Part 1.JPG Gill
Since then God has been helping me, one little step at a time, to lay down my wants, my desires, my way. In Texas God had taught me that I didn't need to try to run the show because He was in control, and of course He knows what's best. I was reminded of what God had told me about letting go of my will, and it was clear God needed me to stop controlling my husband, trying to get him to live his life how I wanted. 

In fact, God took it a step further by showing me clearly that as long as I was doing this, God would never be able to reach him. Like the prodigal son, my husband had to be able to live free, even free to make mistakes, and that would require my cooperation. This actually made perfect sense, so I trustingly said yes to God. 

A few days later I began to see just what that yes meant.

You see, my husband was invited to a party I did not want him to go to. Besides the fact that it was overnight and shouldn't a husband and father be home with his family, I knew that part of the festivities included strippers (Bachelor party). I knew this situation was not going to be healthy for him or for our marriage...and I wanted to put my wifely foot down, that he was NOT GOING.

Instead I had to lay that urge down, and let him make the decision himself, and look to God to get me through it. So I trusted my heart to God, only to have it broken when he chose to go anyway. I clung to God through the fears and hurt that followed, and offered up the pain I felt to God, together with the cross of Christ to win graces for my husband. Even though I couldn't see any real changes, I had to trust that God was using this to humble my husband, as he saw how his decision affected me.

I had never been so broken, but The Lord stood with me. Truly, I'd never felt so close to my Lord as I did those few days. I had given Him everything I had. 

The night before, after my husband had left for the party, I felt like Jesus alone in the garden of Gethsemane wrestling with the Father's will as my heart wrestled with surrendering this completely to God, for better or worse. Now God had taken my heart, and I had nothing left to give Him. In that place I found myself completely abandoned to His will, whatever it might be, from that moment forward.  There, kneeling by the water in full view of the cars going by, I raised my hands to the heavens in humble surrender. 

Three days later I watched God do a work of redemption in our marriage that only He could do. Afterwards I even shared with my husband a little of how God was responsible for it, because it was only because I was following God's directions that this new breakthrough happened. 

Only God could turn that place of darkness into a new dawn. Truly, the Almighty works ALL things for our good. 

Gill Intl Life
--- Stay Tuned, Part II is next--- Gill

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July 4th: Renewing Our Hope and Trust in God

4thJulyDear SUM family, Lynn and I hope and pray the series on the Books of Peter has encouraged and strengthened you. We enjoyed sharing this journey with you, and Lynn and I both feel so honored to be a part of this community and to be praying for you. Your requests Monday have moved our hearts so deeply, and we know they have moved our King Jesus' heart too. He died for us, He lives for us, He cries with us, He heals us. We believe this in the Name of Mighty Jesus, and as His Word stands,

But I will reveal my name to my people, and they will come to know its power. Then at last they will recognize that I am the one who speaks to them. — Isaiah 52:6 NLT

My friends, this is the truth we stand on and right now as many of are grappling with the recent supreme court ruling. Lynn and I want you to know that we are too. We have felt our own grief along with a heavy grief that we can only describe as coming from the spiritual realm. We are processing this with hearts and minds turned to Abba for wisdom and guidance, and we are determined to stand on the truth and in the great love and hope of Jesus above all.

He is faithful, my friends. As I walked and prayed on Monday, the Holy Spirit whispered to my heart that the Lord is releasing hope for His children right now. And as I looked up into the sky, I heard His still soft voice say,

"I reign supreme."

Things are shifting and changing, yes, but Our God is the same as always. 

So as we celebrate Independence Day in America, my friends, let's renew our hope and trust in God. He reigns supreme and nothing changes that. I know it's challenging right now, as many of us are walking in places of disappointment and defeat. Next week, Lynn and I have some very encouraging words to share with you, things the Holy Spirit has impressed upon us to share to encourage, uplift and strengthen you so we can persevere and run this race well together as God's family.

Lynn and I are taking the rest of the week off, but we'll still be hanging out in the comments. As of next week, I will be switching my posting days to Tuesday and Thursday and Lynn will continue to post on Monday and Friday. We feel this will better serve our community. We hope you think so too.

And just a heads up. We have something very special planned for August. Our Lord is so good. He is working to put things into place to equip you, my friends. Lynn and I are excited to share this study that we believe will help you to equip your children in navigating the waters of this changing world and stand for God's truth. Right in their schools. We will be using our book Not Alone as reference to do this.

Lots happening, SUMites. Lynn and I truly believe our SUM family is here for such a time as this. Have an amazing holiday, hug your hubby and kiddos tight and tell them how thankful you for them. Perhaps the face of freedom is shifting in this country, but our freedom in Christ is the same as ever, my friends.

We love you, SUMites! See you on Monday!
Dineen and Lynn

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Books of Peter: Secure in the Face of Opposition (part 2)

6a00d83451ee9f69e201b8d11ef502970c-320wiDear friends, on Wednesday we talked about how it was Peter’s intent to encourage his readers to be of one mind as believers, to place loving each other as brothers and sisters in Christ above disagreements and insults. 

Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude. Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will bless you for it. For the Scriptures say,

“If you want to enjoy life
and see many happy days,
keep your tongue from speaking evil
and your lips from telling lies.
Turn away from evil and do good.
Search for peace, and work to maintain it.
The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right,
and his ears are open to their prayers.
But the Lord turns his face
against those who do evil.” 

Now, who will want to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it. So don’t worry or be afraid of their threats. — 1 Peter 3:8-13

I also proposed that this is our model to follow with all those we encounter, whether they believe as we do or not, and that what we have learned in our mismatched places is exactly what the world needs right now. Launching from the truths I listed on Wednesday of what we have learned and are learning in our mismatched marriages, we can:

  • seek unity with those we encounter everyday, not to adjust our beliefs but show freedom of choice as God has given us and therefore show others they too have the freedom to choose Jesus, and not feel forced.
  • love others unconditionally with tenderness and humility so they catch a glimpse of Jesus’ heart for and acceptance of them just as they are. They don’t have to clean up their act first to earn salvation.
  • use our words to bring encouragement and love to those who need it and as we do this and earn their trust, we can speak the truth of Jesus into their lives in that same love.
  • practice hospitality so that others may see what a home filled with the peace of Christ looks and feels like.
  • stand before our God and lift up the ones we know need Him and ask the Lord to bring His presence and help.
  • be alert to opportunities to help others with whatever resources we have. God always seems to provide exactly what is needed for the present situation. Remember the fish and loaves. Look at what you do have and how you can use it help. God will multiply it.
  • be a blessing everywhere you go. At the grocery store, on the phone with the insurance company representative (that’s a challenging one for me!), at your child’s school, at church, shopping at the mall, at the restaurants you frequent. Even at the park or playground. Smiles and kind greetings open doors of opportunity for us to show Jesus. Most likely it won’t happen the very first time, but the more we do it, the more those divine appointments will present themselves and we’ll be ready. 

My friends, I am so moved to seek Abba for this place of security. I want to live what I picture in my mind. That when I am faced with opposition to my belief in Jesus and His Word, I can share the truth in love without feeling threatened or defensive, so that the other person will feel unthreatened and even shocked by what they see. As they see Jesus in me.

There is one final part to this, my friends, that I feel compelled to share. This place of security must be grounded in humility. As Peter says, “a humble mind.” The Greek translation uses only one word for this phrase, philophrōn, and it means to act kindly from a mind-set of personal affection.

For if pride enters in any way, then we become that clanging cymbal, because pride crowds out love. 

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. — 1 Cor. 13:1

It is a fine line that we walk, my friends, but we have a great big God who equips and guides His kids well. The beauty of this has become my simplest prayer of simply living authentic faith. As we reach the end of our study of Peter, let’s pray it together.

Lord, help us be the people You created to be so that by just being who we are and secure in Whose we are, we show our pre-believers, our children and the world Your Son Jesus. In His saving name we pray, amen.

We live it. He does it. This is the kingdom of God on Earth.

Standing with you, my friends!
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The Books of Peter: Secure in the Face of Opposition (part 1)

6a00d83451ee9f69e201b8d11ef502970c-320wi

Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude. Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will bless you for it. For the Scriptures say,

“If you want to enjoy life
and see many happy days,
keep your tongue from speaking evil
and your lips from telling lies.
Turn away from evil and do good.
Search for peace, and work to maintain it.
The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right,
and his ears are open to their prayers.
But the Lord turns his face
against those who do evil.”

Now, who will want to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it. So don’t worry or be afraid of their threats. — 1 Peter 3:8-13 NLT

My friends, these passages have come together with something I felt the Holy Spirit impressing upon me during my walk and pray the other day. We live in a time of opposition and daily see what that looks like all over the world. Yet it is more likely in places like our churches, on Facebook and social media, and the internet that we come in direct contact with opposition. And let’s not forget that we SUMites live with it every day as well. Whether it is spoken or not, we stand in places where our beliefs are not accepted in our very homes.

As I walked this particular day, the thought or pondering came to a question. 

What would happen if we were so secure in who we are in Jesus and what we believed that no matter what the opposition we faced, we did not feel threatened or the need to prove ourselves or God.

It starts with our identity and along with that knowledge, understanding that we are truly secure in Christ. The Bible says throughout the Old and New Testaments that God is our refuge and our safety. 

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? 

Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, yet I will be confident.— Psalm 27:1 & 3

I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust. — Psalm 91:2

David faced great opposition, yet stood his ground in his faith and trust in the God he knew would not fail him. That didn’t make his path any easier but the truth sustained him to keep going, to keep believing and in the end, it was God who proved him.

I remember as a new believer feeling overwhelmed by my husbands questions about my growing faith and also feeling so ill-equipped to defend it. And I am thankful for that because it thrust me into the Bible to study its truths and truly understand what I believed. That is the foundation I have now that enables me to answer my husband’s questions without feeling threatened or the need to prove myself, because I trust God to prove His presence and truth in me. Even if I must risk my husband’s opinion of me, I know I must stand on God’s truth.

Peter’s intent in these Scriptures was to encourage his readers to be of one mind as believers. He encouraged them to place loving each other as brothers and sisters in Christ above the disagreements and insults that seem inevitable as human beings who interpret everything we perceive, read and see in our own unique ways. 

Peter calls us, challenges us, to rise above and agree to disagree when needed so that we can maintain the true focus of doing good out of love for one another. Let me propose that this is our model to follow with all those we encounter, whether they believe as we do or not. We know this better than most, SUMites, and what we have learned in our mismatched places is exactly what the world needs right now.

In line with 1 Peter 3:8-13 we have learned and are learning to: 

  • seek unity in our marriages with our pre-believer.
  • love our pre-believer unconditionally with tenderness and humility in our acceptance of them just as they are, just as Jesus does.
  • hold our words with more care and speak with love and truth.
  • bring peace of Christ to our homes and maintain it through prayer.
  • stand before our God in the righteousness of Christ Jesus as we pray and seek the Lord’s face not only for ourselves but for our pre-believer and our children.
  • be zealous to do good even when we have felt limited.
  • be a blessing to our pre-believer and to bless them even in the face of opposition.

No matter what I am faced with, my friends, I want to be so secure in my knowledge of and faith in God that I can listen to another person share their beliefs and not feel threatened within my own. Because I believe when we are secure in such a place, that we can listen and not try to change their mind, they are more willing to hear what we have to say. 

It is not our job to change their mind or their heart. It is God’s. When we leave that to Him and simply share in an exchange of beliefs with another person, we allow the love of Christ to be present and begin that change of heart and perspective in a lost soul.

I will stop here for now. In the second part of this post I will share what these things we have learned look like when we apply them to the world at large and live our faith from this place of security in who are and Whose we are. My friends, it’s a place I firmly believe will have greatest impact on the world and those God is bringing into our realms to love and share Jesus. And there is an element to doing this that Peter mentions right in his words that I feel is crucial to the mix. Can’t wait to share that with you!

Love you, my friends. So thankful to be living this life with you!
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2 Peter 3: God Waits Too

6a00d83451ee9f69e201b8d11ef502970c-320wiSo happy to be with you today, my friends. I love our community. We are family and live daily the truths of Jesus Christ together. Lynn and I love our S.U.M. family so much. You all amaze and bless us everyday in how you love and pray for each other. And for us! Just wow…my heart is so full of pride in you, if I may say that. And I sense what I’m feeling is coming from our Papa God’s heart. He is proud of us, SUMites. We are known by our love. 

So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples. — John 13:34-35

As we continue our Summer Bible Study in the books of Peter, I found myself this week at the end of these two books, and felt the Holy Spirit pointing to two verses that are precious for us, SUMites.

The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent. — 2 Peter 3:9

I think we all struggle with waiting. We wonder. We pray. We wait some more… But this verse shows our Abba Father’s heart. He wants everyone to repent and will go to great lengths to give our pre-believers every chance to change their mind and turn to God. And that is what this word repentance means in the Greek: metanoia—reversal of decision.

This past year the Holy Spirit has led me to pray for divine connections for my hubby. Not with people but in his work and surroundings, whether he’s wrangling code (he’s a computer programmer/analyst) or playing disc golf. That he would begin to see God’s presence and perfection as the real explanation for what he appreciates intellectually. I never would have thought of that, my friends.

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This was my dad's Bible. I'm holding onto it for the day when I can give it to my hubby.

And then the Holy Spirit has led me to pray for holes, literal holes, to be punched in my hubby’s unbelief so that these connections can be revealed. Again, not something I would have thought of. 

What’s my point in telling you this? I will tell you what I told someone else recently as an explanation of my confidence that God will move and do this in my husband. 

Why would God lead me to pray in such specific ways and not doing anything? I know my God and know His heart. And His heart is to be patient and wait. Just as we wait…

And remember, our Lord’s patience gives people time to be saved. This is what our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you with the wisdom God gave him— — 2 Peter 3:15

Our Lord waits for good reason, doesn’t He? So if His waiting is good, I can’t help but think that ours is good too. In moments of discouragement, this gives me great peace and comfort, my friends. I see no change in my husband (yet) and I’m approaching 20 years of being mismatched.

But in our waiting God accomplishes so much. So much! I look at my marriage and see what it could have easily become and am overwhelmed by what it is—truly blessed by God. And I look at you, this community and the love and encouragement we share and I SEE evidence of the good God is working out for us as we wait.

The Holy Spirit has stirred my heart to speak out loud every morning the truth of Psalm 118:24: 

“This is a day the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it.” 

And every day, I see Him. Our God is so good, my friends. SO good.

Love you so much, my SUM family. You are all so precious.
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20 Years of Parenting In Faith

SUMites,

Train up a ChildIt’s late in the day on Sunday, Mother’s Day. And it’s quiet now as my son and his family have left for home and my hubby of 23 years is having a Sunday afternoon snooze. I’ve waited years and cried many tears hoping for a day such as today. Mother’s Day was simple yet profound. My family attended church with me this morning and then lunch was at our house. Yep, Mike sat beside me in church again.

Yet as I’m alone in my hallway office, typing, my heart is stirring with some emotions and thoughts about you.

I know Mother’s Day can turn out to be a giant disappointment to many in our community. I want you to know right now, I’m praying for your disappointed heart, even broken heart. Often our family members don’t remember to send a card or phone. Often our husband doesn’t remember and we feel forgotten, taken advantage and hurt. We tend to have high expectations of this day that even a super human would be unable to meet. Yet, we want to be validated for the blood, sweat and tears of mothering. So, let me share some words I scribbled down about two weeks ago as I was thinking about mothering from God’s place of vision.

Two weeks ago my daughter, who will turn 20 years old next month was home from college. She was preparing an assignment for one of her classes in which she was to interview her father about his thoughts, his formative years, his beliefs and opinions. I wanted so badly to listen in but I refrained. I did hear one question from the other room however that struck a deep cord in my soul. She asked her dad, “Do you believe in God?”

I couldn’t hear his reply in the distant room. But as I sat there on the couch, 20 years of God’s faithfulness rush past my eyes. Here is my little girl, whom I prayed for like crazy, dragged to church, preached to, loved on, protected and begged Jesus to keep her heart in His hands, here is my little girl, all grown up… Now as a young woman, full of faith, brave enough to have a conversation with her Dad about faith.

It’s 20 years in the making but I’ve been blessed to see the validation of my years of mothering.

So, today, I will be the voice of hope for you today. I will tell you that the years of poop wiping, dragging kids to church, praying with them, crying with your kids, the years of soccer practice, play rehearsal, cramming for a Monday morning test, the cooking, cleaning, laundry, and on and on and on… All those efforts and thankless tasks, well mom. THEY ARE WORTH IT.

To watch this moment where my daughter, a believer in Jesus, interviews her dad about faith, this is what I poured 20 years of my life out to watch happen before my very eyes.

Faithfulness.

My friends, it’s not just God’s faithfulness but my faithfulness as a mother. We, the believing parent, absolutely impact our children’s faith decision. What we speak over them is powerful. What we model is the life they will live. What we pray matters.

So this Mother’s Day I want to share what I did as an ordinary mama beginning years ago. I prayed. I prayed for that child since before she was born. I pray for her now, by name, every day. I pray for her friends, her heart, her studies, her teachers, her mind, her faith, her concerns, triumphs and heartbreaks. I pray for her future spouse and I pray for her in-laws.

My dear SUMites, if we as parents aren’t praying for our children, who is?

We have the most profound opportunity to prepare our children for success in this world but even greater than that, we have the privilege to prepare them to live forever in the Kingdom of God.

Our prayers matter.

Our prayers are powerful.

God’s heart is moved by the prayers of a righteous mama.

Release your unmet expectations today and just know down deep, you are doing the right thing even if not one noticed today. God approves and is so very well pleased in you, Mom.

I love you. Lynn

image from www.spirituallyunequalmarriage.com

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A Tribute to Mothers and Grandmothers

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Mom and I with Lynn at the conference we did in May 2013 in southern CA. Loved having Mom (Donna) there with us!

In honor of Mother's Day, I would like to tell you the story of my mother, Donna. I love my mom. She's one of my best friends. She's the one who put me on the church bus each Sunday when I was four years old and has always encouraged me to stay true to my beliefs. Even when they may have seemed a bit different at times.

What I love about our relationship is our ability to be open with each other and share. She has allowed me to share my faith with her over years, listening to my stories of this crazy faith journey, and she reads the books I write—even the bad ones!

Years back she read the very first faith based novel I wrote—one that will never see the light of day, thank goodness. Yet I'll never forget what she told me about how it changed her perspective of God's love.

Here’s the story of a pivotal day in her faith journey. Do you remember when the Passion of the Christ first came out? One Sunday I went to see it with two friends, and when I returned home, my husband told me I needed to call my mom, and he seemed concerned.

I called and found out she'd seen it that day too! Amazing to think that even though we lived in different states, she and I sat in theaters at the same time, watching this life-changing movie.

I'll never forget that phone conversation. The movie profoundly affected her. At the end she couldn't stop crying and couldn't leave the theater. As she says, “She couldn’t leave Jesus.” 

People touched her shoulder as they left the theater. She managed to finally leave and sat on a bench outside. A woman she didn't even know walked up to her, gave her a beautiful smile, and then left. I've no doubt that was an angel rejoicing in my mother's encounter with Jesus that day.

I still remember the question I asked her over the phone. "Mom, what do you think of Jesus now?"

She said with great emotion, "I looooove Jesus." 

I still get emotional when I tell that story. All I did was pray, live and share my faith. God took care of the rest. He took care of her…

When I moved to Florida, I started attending her church and now it's my church home too. I love going to church on Sundays for the worship and the message, and especially because I'm there with my mother. Something I prayed and hoped for for a long time.

For her birthday last month I sent her a daily Bible, leather bound and geared for women. She has a Bible app on her iPad, but I wanted to mark this time in her faith journey with a special gift. 

My friends, my mother is one of my greatest inspirations in this life. She has overcome so much in her life to guarantee her daughter was able to walk a much better path than she did. I would not be the woman I am today without her constant unconditional and sacrificial love in my life. And to know I have been able to share my faith with her and be any part of her journey to know Jesus is stunning and beautiful.

She is learning more and more about Jesus' love and healing, which she has experienced first hand. God miraculously healed a bone spur on her knee that kept her from walking more than 15 or 20 minutes at a time without great pain. We’d prayed for her healing for several months. 

In March, she was like a little kid again, walking the beach with us for an hour and half, pain free. Her joy fills me with joy too! And now, she is one of the people speaking into my daughter Leslie's life about healing. She is impacting her granddaughter's faith now.

Happy Mother's Day, Mom! I love you. I am so thankful for you!

My friends, I am stunned at how Jesus moves to bring things full circle, for good and for His glory. So today, let's praise Him, let's share stories of mothers, motherhood, and how Jesus is working in the midst of it all, no matter how messy or tidy it may be. For more encouragement, read this letter, Beloved Mother, from our Not Alone book and be blessed!

And to all those moms and grandmothers reading this, Happy Mother's Day! You are pouring greatness into your children and grandchildren. Don't stop. Keep believing. Trust God. He is faithful. And the prayers of a righteous mama (and grandmama!) are powerful and affective (James 5:16). Amen!

Love and hugs!
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The All Encompassing Promise of the Shepherd

18567885_sDear friends, we are in the tomb waiting for the promise to be revealed. Yet we know the promise already. We know Jesus and He knows us. I told you on Wednesday that I had another nugget to share with you and this one is so tender and intimate as it shows our Savior’s heart for us long before He even came. 

Let’s take a trip back in time to the book of Isaiah. The book of Isaiah is full of prophetic words and pictures of the Messiah, but this one touched my heart deeply. Our English words don’t fully bring the meaning behind it. Take a look specifically at the words I’ve italicized. 

He will tend His flock like a shepherd;
He will gather the lambs in His arms;
He will carry them in his bosom,
and gently lead those that are with young. — Isaiah 40:11 (ESV)

Again, I went to the original Greek translation out of curiosity and the gently nudging of the Holy Spirit and this is what I found.

Tend in the Greek translation is râ’râ and it has a list of meanings that fills a page. Among the obvious meanings in this imagery, it also means to keep company with, make friendship with, be a companion, or special friend

I love this so much because Jesus really and truly is our best Friend. He’s your BFF for life and nothing you do will change that.

Carry in the Greek is nâśâ’ and also has a list of meanings, even longer than tend. This list is the one that blew me away because you can find almost every reason why Jesus came and died for us. Take a look:

to lift, in a great variety of applications, literal and figurative: accept, advance, arise, (able to, (armor), suffer to) bear (- er, up), bring (forth), burn, carry (away), cast, contain, desire, ease, exact, exalt (self), extol, fetch, forgive, furnish, further, give, go on, help, high, hold up, honorable (+man), lade, lay, lift (self) up, lofty, marry, magnify, needs, obtain, pardon, raise (up), receive, regard, respect, set (up), spare, stir up, swear, take (away, up), utterly, wear, yield. 

And…

to lift, bear up, carry, take: to lift, lift up to bear, carry, support, sustain, endure.

Through this one image, Isaiah captures the heart, purpose and loving intentions of the Messiah to come roughly 700 years before Jesus was born. It captures every aspect of His heart and love for us, all His intentions. His love is so vast and all encompassing! Did you see the word “marry” is in there too? Wow…

He came to be everything to us, my friends. Even for our pre-believers who aren’t seeking Him yet (hope you caught the nugget from Wednesday about that).

Happy Easter, SUMites! He is risen. He is risen indeed. He has emerged from the tomb to be our Friend, our Light, our Savior. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. The abundant life that is so much more than we could ever hope or imagine.

Thank You, Lord Jesus, for being our precious Shepherd. Thank You, that Your love far exceeds anything we can hope for or imagine. Thank You, Abba Father, for sending Your Son to save us. Thank You, King Jesus, for leaving your throne and becoming One like us and sacrificing Your life to save us. We declare by the power of Your blood that we are Yours and we love You! And thank You, Holy Spirit, for being our constant Companion and Comforter. Fill and empower us for the kingdom of God. We, the SUMite Nation, are the sons and daughters of God! We have overcome by the power and the blood of the Lamb! We stand united in and by His love, a force to be reckoned with. In the name of Jesus, amen!

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The Throne of Grace, Part Two

My friends, at the end of my post on Wednesday I said I had another stunning piece of this treasure hunt we are on. Below is a page from my Sanctuary Bible (yes, the very one Abba led me to) and it holds an excerpt from a book titled, Never Alone by David and Teresa Ferguson. Read it and then meet me below this new way to look at our marriages and pray into them.

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First, I want to speak to those of you who are separated and whose spouse has walked away from God. As I've shared in the past, my heart is heavy for you and remains so. My heart and prayers are with you. And today, I want to speak a message to you that I feel Jesus wants you to know more than anything.

Jesus understands your betrayal and rejection better than anyone. Read the accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and you will see that Jesus was betrayed and abandoned by those closest to Him. And even in the moment that He bore our sins to death, He felt abandoned by Abba Father. So, my friend, when I say He knows your pain, understand that He KNOWS it intimately as He has lived it. His compassion for you is great. Receive His comfort and peace today, in the mighty and overcoming name of Jesus.

As I read the devotion above for the first time, my spirit stirred dramatically at the thought of loving my spouse as an act of love and worship of Jesus. It makes sense. We've talked about how loving our spouses unconditionally honors God.

But the Fergusons' words took it deeper for me. And it is part of that grace flowing through us to our pre-believers that we've been talking about. I am seeking Jesus for more wisdom and understanding of how I can minister and love my husband and, in turn, minister to our sweet Jesus. Wow, just stunning to think about...

Will you pray this with me?

King Jesus, You are so worthy to receive glory, power, and blessings. Lord, we bless You! As part of Your creation, we declare that we want to bring You the pleasure You deserve. We want to minister to You with loving comfort, attention, acceptance, appreciation, support, encouragement, affection, respect, security, and approval through loving our spouse in this manner. Lord, we are in awe that You are such an intimate part of our mismatched marriage! And we worship You today as the only One worthy to receive glory, honor and praise. In the mighty and compassionate name of Jesus, amen!

Have a wondrous weekend, my friends!
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The Greatest Romance of All Time

22641640_sOn Sunday I sat in church and watched a short video clip done by an energetic young man. I can’t remember much of what he said because partway through he said something that planted a thought in my mind that bloomed into something I’m finding quite amazing. Then today (yesterday as you read this), the Holy Spirit brought me to a Scripture that opened the fuller meaning and picture of this thought. 

I am a bit undone by it. Let’s see what you think, my friends.

As women, we long to be wooed. I remember as a young girl playing with Barbies, I would stage Barbie’s wedding to Ken. It was quite something actually, at least in my mind. As a teenager, romance books replaced Barbie and Ken to feed my imagination of what romance meant. And no, not in a good way.

So, as a young adult, my hubby’s formal proposal (or lack there of) kind of left a gap in my longing for a great romance, to be swept off my feet and carried away. After all, Ken always swept Barbie off her feet. But that’s not what I want to talk about today. What I want to talk about is a different kind of marriage proposal. The greatest marriage proposal of all. 

The cross.

This the thought that came on Sunday and has mulled and simmered in my heart and mind since. The cross of Jesus Christ is a marriage proposal. And when you think of the Biblical references to us being the bride of Christ, it fits.

Christ came down (went on bended knee?) and humbled Himself, sacrificed His dignity to woo us. To call to us out of His great love. To ask, “Will you bind your life with Mine forever?”

At our yes, He presents us with a gift to hold and seal the promise of the promise to be fulfilled. The ring—the Holy Spirit.

And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. — 2 Cor. 1:21-22 (ESV)

We could call our time here on earth our engagement period. We are promised to the One and we seek to know and love Him better as the romance continues in preparation for our coming life together (eternity). Or we could call our baptism (by water and/or the Holy Spirit) the wedding (a public ceremony) and our continued faith walk our “marriage” to the Lover of our soul.

It is a beautiful analogy, my friends. One I am still pondering as it explains to me the longings of a woman’s heart (and I am only speaking to women here as I am woman. I dearly hope we will have at least one male commenter to share his perspective of this great wooing). We long to be wooed, romanced, desired and yes, claimed in the sense of knowing to Whom we belong. And in the pure hands of Jesus, it is a beautiful and right thing. In the hands of the world and the enemy of our soul, it becomes twisted and selfish.

I had no intention of bringing up the movie 50 Shades of Grey, but as this imagery of the cross as a marriage proposal bloomed in my mind, I realized we are not much different really from the women (unbelievers and believers alike) who are flocking to this movie, for I also believe they are indeed seeking to fill this yearning. We are all God’s creatures, designed to have this longing for the eternal bond (marriage) with our Savior Jesus Christ.

Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. — Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NLT)

As the bride of Christ we have found the truest longing of our hearts—a place that can never be filled by a person or romance books or a movie. For these things translated into some sort of reality for an individual will lose their glimmer and promise in the enduring light of day. The truth is always exposed. The initial satisfaction of these false imitators of the love and passion of Christ will fade because our souls are wired with that eternity Abba Father has placed in us. It recognizes the imposter and rejects him. 

And we are left broken and longing yet again. The great awakening we truly long for is in Him, who longs for us out of the purest motivations for our good—our salvation and identity in Him. This is the place of satisfaction and excitement and wonder. A place where we are loved and cherished and valued, called worthy and beautiful and identified.

The romance never dies with Jesus. He is constant in His loving pursuit of us. He does not stop once He has captured our hearts. He continues to delight and love us more and more, as much a we will allow and follow Him. And there is always more. 

That is the seal and the promise we are given. It is stunning to think that God gave us a part of His very Self to give us a guarantee of His promise. I stand in wonder at this new realization of the depth of such sacrificial love.

For me. For you. For every woman out there. And for every man. We are the center of this great wooing by the heart of Jesus, that draws us to Him without overriding our will or demanding control. It is the purest form of love that seeks nothing but to give, to save, to free.

And in the freedom we are free to love and give ourselves to our Bridegroom who has waited for us since the very beginning of time itself. I can’t think of anything in this world that can match this level of romance, my friends. 

I will close with one final thought that continues to simmer and form in my spirit: This wooing is happening to our pre-believers, whether we see it or not. 

SUMite Ann H. left a comment on Lynn’s post about waking from a dream with the words “pray for the resting of grace” and the image of my face. And yesterday I read this sentence in the book, The Elijah Task by John and Paula Sandford:

Only the Holy Spirit gives the grace of belief—otherwise nothing, neither persuasion nor miracles, will bring about true belief.

So as Jesus woos my hubby, I will be praying for the “resting of grace” upon him so that the Holy Spirit will release this grace of belief into him.  

I believe, my friends. I truly believe this will happen. Jesus said that if we have faith and don’t doubt, we can move mountains. 

I am praying and shouting “GRACE” at his mountain of unbelief, and I am ready to see it move. I am asking Jesus to show me how I can be part of this great romance for my husband’s soul.

How about you, SUMites? I’m looking forward to reading your comments and hearing your thoughts. 

Love you dearly!
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Guest Post by Trish Fuhlendorf: Happy vs. Holy

IStock_000016466788XSmallAfter I became a Christian, it seemed like my marriage got a little worse every day. Stu couldn’t stand the fact that I was a Christian. He hated seeing me read the Bible and if he saw me reading a paperback, he would always ask what I was reading; knowing that it would be another Christian book. Then the criticism would begin, “Is that the only thing you can read?”

In addition to the light vs. dark dynamic that was getting worse all the time, his drinking and subsequent anger were on the rise. I got to a point where I couldn’t find any commonality between us and I dreaded him walking through the door each evening.

I remember seeking counsel from a woman at my church. She suggested that I make a list of Stu’s positive attributes. This would accomplish two things, it would help me focus on the good qualities of my husband and also give me ideas of things on which I could compliment him. However, asking me to swim the English Channel would have seemed an easier task. I stared at a blank piece of paper for what seemed an eternity. Finally, I came up with 2 or 3 attributes. It was a painful and ultimately pathetic assignment.

Where was the relief? I searched the Bible for an “out clause” of my marriage, but found nothing that applied to my situation. I cried out, “I am so unhappy. Isn’t there something in the Bible that tells me that God is concerned about my happiness?” I found verses talking about the “joy of the Lord,” but nothing about me being happy. But how can God expect me to go through life unhappy?

Then He impressed upon me my role as a godly woman. I am called to live in relationship with God and that should affect all of my earthly relationships. My children will most likely be married someday. Do I want them to start their relationships with the legacy of divorce nipping at their heels? Would I ever advise them that if they’re unhappy in their marriage, they should just bail? What kind of godly example would I be if I ran to divorce just like so many in the world?

I didn’t fully comprehend what God was trying to tell me. Is God more concerned with my holiness than my happiness? Yes.

It was time for me to accept the husband that the Lord gave me, but it was also time for a change in me. This would only happen through Him.

Now, I wish there was a guarantee, that our obedience to Christ would one day be rewarded with happiness here on earth, but there is not. So, in choosing to actively love our spouses every day, even though you might think they don’t “deserve” it; remember that we do not deserve God’s grace and forgiveness, yet He gives it to us freely.

I started thinking about how much God loves my husband. I eventually thought to ask God to allow me to see my husband through His eyes. Almost instantly, I developed a profound compassion for him.

I also learned the difference between love, the feeling of affection, and love, the verb. And that love, the verb, is crucial to a successful marriage. I started enacting small, loving gestures each day toward my husband; resting my hand on his leg as he spoke to me, a kind text message in the middle of the day, a little unexpected gift, etc. These gestures were not easy at first. I had to force myself to do them, but over time they became easier and those feelings of affection returned to me.

Ultimately, God’s request for me to love my husband was not only possible, but with His help, my marriage improved tenfold. Happiness is not a goal that can be pursued or a state of being that can be lost. It is simply an emotion that we experience on and off throughout our entire lives as a reaction to our circumstances. Nine times out of ten, we have no control over the circumstances that dictate when our feelings of happiness come and go. So, the notion that a person will be happier if they trade in their current spouse for a different one is a bit ridiculous when you consider the lack of a logical foundation.

But, one thing God does tell us to pursue is joy. Joy and happiness are not the same thing. Happiness is a fickle and fleeting emotion, while joy is contentment in the presence of God. I contend that if we grow in Christ and engage his expectation for our holiness, that joy will be present regardless of whether or not happiness chooses to show up.

 

Trish headshotTrish Fuhlendorf is first and foremost a lover and follower of Jesus Christ. She is a wife, married 27 years. God saved her in her mid thirties, then her husband about 10 years later. She is a tireless advocate for the covenant of marriage and has a love and compassion for those in the bondage of addiction. She is a Regional Manager for K-LOVE and Air1, a mother of 2 adult children, loves her home state of Colorado, her 2 big dogs, cooking and exercise (to off-set the cooking).

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Empowered Living: Romans 8:31-39

Psalm119-1622My friends, we’re at the end or our Romans study. I’m amazed at how much the Holy Spirit has been showing and teaching us. I never imagined this series would wind up being nine parts. I absolutely love studying and teaching God’s Word. Thank you so much for taking this journey with me. I’ve loved reading your comments and hearing your hearts so much. God is movin’ and “groovin’” in the SUMite community!

On Wednesday I shared my favorite verse (Romans 8:28) with you and how the enemy tried to make me doubt what I knew to be true—that God is GOOD, always. This last part of Romans 8 holds a truth that meant more to me last year than I ever imagined. Let’s take a look at Romans 8:31-39:  

ESV: 31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.[j] 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

VOICE: 31 So what should we say about all of this? If God is on our side, then tell me: whom should we fear? 32 If He did not spare His own Son, but handed Him over on our account, then don’t you think that He will graciously give us all things with Him? 33 Can anyone be so bold as to level a charge against God’s chosen? Especially since God’s “not guilty” verdict is already declared. 34 Who has the authority to condemn? Jesus the Anointed who died, but more importantly, conquered death when He was raised to sit at the right hand of God where He pleads on our behalf. 35 So who can separate us? What can come between us and the love of God’s Anointed? Can troubles, hardships, persecution, hunger, poverty, danger, or even death? The answer is, absolutely nothing. 36 As the psalm says,

On Your behalf, our lives are endangered constantly; we are like sheep awaiting slaughter.

37 But no matter what comes, we will always taste victory through Him who loved us. 38 For I have every confidence that nothing—not death, life, heavenly messengers, dark spirits, the present, the future, spiritual powers, 39 height, depth, nor any created thing—can come between us and the love of God revealed in the Anointed, Jesus our Lord.

Right off the bat, Paul takes the truth, turns it around and asks us a question: If God is for us, then what can measure up to that or threaten that? I mean really, think about it. If you have the Creator of the Universe on your side, what can possibly come against you? David said the same thing in Psalm 27:

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? — Psalm 27:1 ESV

And that is one truth I spoke over myself over and over again last year when fear tried to grow and take over. Speak it out loud, my friends. The Lord is my light and salvation, I have nothing to fear! 

In verse 32, Paul again takes the truth and turns it into a question: If the God of the Universe is willing to give up His Son for you, then how could He withhold any of His goodness and love from you?

Let’s revisit another verse that says the same thing:

For the Lord God is our sun and our shield.
He gives us grace and glory.
The Lord will withhold no good thing from those who do what is right. — Psalm 84:11

In verse 33 Paul goes back to where he started, that there is no condemnation in Christ. He repeats this point in light of all the exhortation that he has given thus far, especially after the questions he asked in verses 31 and 32. In essence he is asking, “In light of these truths, how can anything come against us?”

But even then, Paul isn’t finished making his point, because he’s building to one of the most profound truths in the Bible. He asks who has the authority to condemn and then answers the question with Jesus. Jesus has the authority to condemn but He chose another way—the way of sacrificial love. For He knew to condemn would drive us away and His heart was to be the solution to draw us near—into relationship and not religion and fear. He did what had to be done to defeat all that had formerly come against us, separating us from Him. The separation would now be forever removed.

Most likely Paul understood better than most what it felt like to wonder if God could truly forgive all he had done. As Saul, he had persecuted the church, watched Stephen stoned to death as he held the coats of those throwing the rocks. He cheered it, welcomed it, believed it was his mission to stop this new group identifying themselves as “The Way.”

Recently I asked Abba again if He was sure He had the right girl for a calling He has made clear for my life. I seem an unlikely choice in light of all I know this will mean and entail. He told me that was precisely why He has called me to it, because I am the least likely.

As was Paul, yet his voice and testimony had more power and truth precisely because of his past origins. Paul could understand, speak and encourage because he knew what Jesus had done for him. And if Jesus could use a man like Saul for his Kingdom, then Paul knew Jesus could forgive and bless anyone willing to answer that call.

Profound. The truth. Jesus.

Thus begins Paul’s point to one of the greatest truths in the Bible. Nothing can separate us from God’s love for us. Nothing can separate us from a love so great, so sacrificial that He was willing to die for us. Nothing can separate us from a love that is so beyond our ability to understand it that we must pray for understanding of it.

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith —that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. — Ephesians 3:14-19

Paul finally brings his conclusion to this: Our place of victory is already assured because of God’s great love and even makes a list of everything that we might think could come between us and God and says, “No, not even that.”

My friends, one dark morning last year as I sat with my Bible, reading Romans 8 again, as the Holy Spirit told me to, I reached the end of this chapter and the still small voice of God whispered in my ear.

“Not even you.”

Nothing I had done, thought, or felt could separate me from God’s love. The truth finally broke in and burned away the shame and guilt I had accepted from the enemy and had been carrying far too long. I finally understood the magnitude of this truth.

Nothing I did or could do (or not do) could stop God from loving me. And when this truth settles deep into our heart, it doesn’t give us free license to do whatever we want. No, it brings us to our knees in gratitude and with a longing to love God more.

For how could we ever match such love—a love that is powerful enough to cast out fear? We cannot, and grace says we don’t have to. We don’t have to measure up. We only need say yes, and let the fruit of the Spirit grow in us so that we can love Abba Father, King Jesus, and Holy Spirit more and more each day.

This is the way, the truth, and the life, my friends. To walk in the truths of God’s Word and understand that every single promise and truth in its pages is our inheritance in Jesus. He is ours and we are His.

Thank you again for walking through Romans 8 with me. On Friday, our dear friend Trish Fuhlendorf has a wonderful message for us, “Happy vs. Holy.” You don’t want to miss this one.

Love you, SUMites!
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Links to previous parts to this series:

 

A Introduction to Empowered Living
Empowered Living: Romans 8:1-4 (part one)
Empowered Living: Romans 8:1-4 (part two)
Empowered Living: Romans 8:5-8
Empowered Living: Romans 8:9-11
Empowered Living: Romans 8:12-17
Empowered Living: Romans 8:18-25
Empowered Living: Romans 26-30

 

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