What’s Love Got to Do With It?

February is the month of valentines, flowers, candy, and love. It’s also National Heart Health month, and at our house, we’re hoping we’ll begin to see the snow start melting and glimpses of spring around the corner.

As I thought about what to write this week, the Lord kept giving me the line from an old song “What’s love got to do with it?” If you read my January 30 blog post, Love Your Body: Revive Sexual Purity, I emphasize that God designed sex to be an expression of love in marriage between a man and a woman, His creations. So love has everything to do with sex!

I’ve also written an article for Crosswalk.com on the importance of asking God and your spouse for forgiveness for sexual encounters before you got married, even with each other. I hope everyone has, or will, take that important step. It could save a marriage.

When I think about love, my mind always goes to Jesus. Yes, my husband and I make plans to do something special to celebrate our love on Valentine’s Day, but we both know that Jesus is our first love. We wouldn’t have made it through the stresses and trials of a blended family if we hadn’t put Jesus at the center of our marriage; but most importantly, at the center of each of our lives. We don’t want to ever forget who is our First Love, Jesus Christ. (Rev. 2:4)

Recently at church, the pastor asked the children how we know Jesus is alive today. The answer: He lives in each believer’s heart. That’s true love!

So whether you’re single or married, I want to share three important points about what love has to do with our witness for Jesus, especially as we look at the tumultuous times we live in today.

Christians Need to Love Each Other

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other. John 15:16-17

Jesus was talking to his disciples in John 15:16-17, and we are Jesus’s disciples today. God chose us to bear fruit and we can’t share a message of love if we don’t love each other. We can’t have dissension in the church or among church members. Sadly, Satan has used the current political unrest to pit brothers and sisters in Christ against each other. In the Bible, there are no Democrats, Republicans, Progressives, Liberals, Conservatives . . . There is only One timeless Word of God (John 1:1, Heb. 13:8). There is also only one kind of Christian: “Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again” (John 3:3).

As born-again Bible-Believing Christians, we’re appointed to go out and bear testimony to the world together. We should unite as one in agreement on . . .

  • Whatever allows us to share the Good News that Jesus saves we’re for; whatever prohibits that freedom or tries to silence us, we’re against.
  • Whatever upholds the teachings of the Bible we’re for; whatever prohibits or alters those teachings, we’re against.
  • We stand together for the sanctity of human life, marriage between a man and a woman, God creating us as men and women, and we’re not afraid to lovingly bear that fruit for Jesus.

Anything separating us on those issues isn’t from God!

Christ Loves Us with a Never-Ending Love

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

Sadly, we only have to look at divided churches, families, friends . . . all proclaiming to be Christians separated by issues where they should be united, and Satan wins because that compromises our witness. That’s a shame! There’s a lost world that needs to know the love of Christ displayed through a body of Christ that shows the love of Christ by agreeing on what it means to be a Christian. Today that’s not the case. The good news is that nothing we do can ever separate us from the love of God for those who have truly accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

I had a man on Facebook tell me he had been a Christian for 50 years, read the Bible numerous times, been to church, talked to pastors, been in Bible study groups, and now has decided Christianity is a farce, doesn’t work for him anymore, and he told me I needed to know that Jesus is not returning. Two things came to mind: (a) you can leave Jesus, but He will never leave you. (b) you can be a Christian in name only, but never have experienced the saving grace of Jesus Christ. His words were so harsh I fear he was in the latter group.

I remember singing a song as a little girl “I have the love of Jesus love of Jesus down in my heart. Where? Down in my heart to stay.”

How Much Love Do You Have to Give?

“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him. John 3:16-18 The Message

Do you Love Jesus Enough to Share Him with others or Are You Keeping All the Love To Yourself?

Another woman on Facebook wrote this:

FB woman: “There are many other religions who do not make Jesus/Satan part of their belief system. All destined to damnation? It’s a big world out there, and much of it overcomes the negative.”

Me: “Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6

FB woman: “Written by John a century later, an evangelist trying to convert the world to his new religion. PBS and History Channel do wonderful educational shows on the origins of the Bible. Check them out. I have read the Bible extensively Janet, I just haven’t drawn the same dark conclusions. And the shows I mentioned are created by scientists and historians with no agenda but discovery. I wouldn’t want to rest my eternity on what someone else says.”

This woman was confused, but I was able to point out to her that John was actually with Jesus, not a century later, and she was resting her eternity on what scientists and television said rather than letting God speak to her through the Bible. Maybe I made some headway. My heart breaks for those misled by the liberal progressive godless agenda and the many “belief systems,” and the Christians who have forgotten their first love. Love says we will take the time to share the truth.

During the election and since Donald Trump became POTUS, many have been mean, vicious, and vile on social media. I often have to remind myself that Jesus died for them too, and it’s my job to let them know that in a loving way. It’s up to them to make the choice. I don’t try to convince them, because you can’t reason with someone blinded by evil. If they’re not following God, they’re following Satan. Those are the only two roads; there is no middle path. But now they’re accountable for knowing there is another way and maybe someone else will share a little more love down the road. Who knows, they just might decide that heavy load of anger, bitterness, revenge, meanness, bullying, whatever that has turned their heart so hard, just isn’t worth carrying around anymore.

No one who trusts in you will ever be disgraced,
    but disgrace comes to those who try to deceive others.

Show me the right path, O Lord;
    point out the road for me to follow.
Lead me by your truth and teach me,
    for you are the God who saves me.
    All day long I put my hope in you.

Psalm 25:3-5 NLT

What does love have to do with it?

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 1 Cor. 13:6-7

Opening picture from crosscards.com

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Die to Yourself to Live

Die to Live

If you’re a Christian feeling stressed or overwhelmed, could it be that you are trying to hold onto some of your old ways of life while putting on your new life in Christ? That will never work. “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” (2 Corinthians 5:17 NLT).

In March of 2010, I wrote a blog post about what it means as a Christian to die to self. This was the highest read blog for 2013! Almost daily, someone clicks on that post, and just last week, I received a new comment on it. That tells me many are interested in learning more about this subject. God has been prompting me to expand on my original post, so here goes, and I would love it if you shared your comments for others to read.

You Want to Do What?

I was surprised at my husband’s shocked reaction to my request; but then I’d had time to think and pray about it…

I became a believer at the age of twelve, but by my late twenties, I was a divorced single mom with a successful career. For the next seventeen years I backslid into a world dominated by a cultural shift away from Christian values. Then my hairdresser invited me to a Harvest Crusade led by Pastor Greg Laurie who challenged the crowd, “If you died tonight, are you ready?” No, I wasn’t ready!

I cried out to God that His prodigal daughter was returning and I promised to do whatever He asked and go wherever He led.

I didn’t know then the ramifications of my vow, but slowly my life began changing. I married a godly man, enrolled in seminary, started the Woman to Woman Mentoring Ministry at Saddleback Church, and founded About His Work Ministries. But something still didn’t feel right. I was about the Lord’s work, yet so much of me was at the core of everything I did: My ministry. My writing. My speaking. My team. My, my, my…

I opened my Bible and saw the problem and solution:

“We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives” (Romans 6:6 NLT).

“My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not “mine,” but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I am not going to go back on that (Galatians 2:19-20, The Message).

Convicted, I asked my husband: “Will you pray over me to completely die to myself and only live for Christ.” I expected an enthusiastic, “Honey, that’s wonderful! Let’s do it now.” Instead, he asked, “Are you sure? You really need to pray about that.” I assured him I had prayed and I had to get me out of the way to be About His Work.

After praying about my request, Dave said if I was going to take such a significant spiritual step, he would take it with me. So we knelt, held hands, and prayed that God would help us die to our own agendas and live solely for Him. We didn’t expect suddenly to be selfless—it’s a life-long process, but we did immediately feel the significance of our commitment to the Lord and to each other.

The Secret to a Happy Marriage

Several years ago, I heard a couple interviewed on the Oprah show. It was a second marriage for the husband and wife, and the wife raved about what a wonderful husband he was and that she never knew a man like this existed. Oprah asked the husband what he did to make his wife so happy and he said, “I died to myself.” Oprah didn’t understand what he meant, and questioned something to the effect of: What do you mean you’ve died? You look pretty alive to me! The wife explained: “As Christians, we’ve died to ourselves.” Oprah was still perplexed and confused. She shook her head and changed the subject.

My husband and I understand what this couple had discovered. Here’s what my husband wrote in the Epilogue to Dear God, He’s Home! A Woman’s Guide to Her Stay-at-Home Man.

So I leave you with these final words: Living with your spouse in stay-at-home man seasons of life, while different, is no more challenging than any other season of married life. You just have to constantly die to self as God teaches us, consider your spouse more important than yourself, and work as a team . . . I’m still learning this principle and have to die to myself many times daily.

Experiencing the Blessing of Dying to Self

Since Dave and I prayed to exchange our ways for God’s ways, God has seen us through challenging times and amazing times and we’re always careful to give Him the glory. Every morning I pray John 30:31 “He [Jesus] must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.”

If you too want to experience the blessings of dying to self, are you ready to—

  1. Completely surrender your will to God’s will?
  2. Seek God’s direction before making decisions and respond accordingly?
  3. Be in the minority—sometimes even among fellow Christians?
  4. Care about others more than your own well-being and comfort?
  5. Live counter-culture?
  6. Care more about what God thinks about you then what people think about you?

Don’t worry if you can’t answer yes to all the questions, this is a process. Choose one area to start with and ask God to help you see things through His eyes, to hurt where He hurts and love how He loves. Get ready—you’re on your way to dying to self so that you can live a new life in Christ!

Then, calling the crowd to join his disciples, he [Jesus] said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul? Mark 8:34-37

I would love to hear your comments on what it means to you to die to yourself to live.

Picture Credits

51: Daily Inspirational Bible Verse

Source:

Flickr

Title:

51: Daily Inspirational Bible Verse

Owner:

Tito & Eva Marie Balangue

License:

http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

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Dear God, We Need Friends!

Wedding Day

When Dave and I were newlyweds, we prayed and asked God to bless us with Christian friends. God answered beyond our wildest expectations and He continues blessing us with new friends. As one friend recently exclaimed, “You sure do have allot of friends!”

Ours was a second marriage for both of us. I had been single for 17 years, so my friends were mostly single and Dave, single only several years, had focused on work and his kids. We knew it would be important for us to have a social life comprised of couples who shared our values and beliefs, so we said an intentional prayer that God would bring those couples into our lives that He wanted us to have as friends.

Making Friends Outside the Box!

Dave and I met in a small group Bible study he was co-leading through Saddleback Church, where we were both members. This group was for people in the business world, but there were several couples in the group, so we had a head start on our quest for “couple friends.”

We were willing to look outside our church home of Saddleback Church, so when I heard about a course called Marriage Builders offered at another local church; we decided this was perfect preparation for our upcoming marriage. And you guessed it . . . we made another group of friends, had a great time socializing with the couples group at this church, and the pastor who taught Marriage Builders officiated at our wedding. A couple in the group we became very close with videotaped our ceremony.

While considering where to go on our honeymoon, I heard an advertisement on the radio for a cruise to the Caribbean with Calvary Pastors Chuck Smith, Jon Courson, and David Hawking. I thought: What a great way to spend our honeymoon on a cruise with hundreds of Christian couples. It didn’t matter what church they attended—we were all in the family of God. It was great fun being the “newlyweds” on the cruise and we came home with a new group of friends.

Come Join Our Small Group or We’ll Form One

Dave and I were intentional about asking other couples we met at the gym, at church, in the grocery store, friends of friends . . .  if they would like to join our small group Bible study. Soon the focus of the group changed from business-oriented to topical and everyone was welcome to join. As the group expanded, so did our circle of friends.

Several years into our marriage, Gary Smalley came to Saddleback with his Making Love Last Forever conference. Dave and I took a training to lead Making Love Last Forever couples groups and found ourselves leading a group of much younger couples, who had all been married longer than we had, but were newer in their faith. The couple who hosted that group in their home refers to Dave and me as, “The most influential couple in their faith journey.” That’s humbling.

We’re Moving—Opportunity for New Friends

We bought a “writing” cabin in the mountains and immediately started making new friends, even though we were “weekenders.” We attended the local church, invited neighbors to walk, come over for dinner, play games . . .  and soon people were saying I should run for mayor because I knew so many people.

Then two years ago, we made the major move from California to the mountains of Idaho where we knew no one except our daughter’s family, who live over an hour away. I wondered how we would make new friends, but I didn’t wonder for long. Again, we joined the local community church where the members embraced and welcomed us. Soon we had invitations to potlucks, football parties, game nights, and a neighbor reached out to me and we’re best friends and walking buddies—even though we our theology differs, we both love the Lord. Another group of friends surrounded us.

Vacationing with the Family of God—A Glimpse of Heaven

In my blog post “Love Song Couples Getaway,” I shared the story of Dave and me deciding to celebrate our 20th anniversary . . . just as we did on our honeymoon . . . with a group of Christian couples we didn’t know. It was the best vacation of our married life, and in just one week, we made friends with couples who have become near and dear to us. They live in Southern California, where we just moved from, but we still have our mountain cabin and grandkids in So Cal and recently joined these couples for a reunion.

Staying in Touch

The friend I mentioned in the opening paragraph who exclaimed, “You sure do have allot of friends,” was reacting to the recap of our trip to Southern California. We told him about:

Lunch with the wife of that host couple of the Making Love Last Forever group, whom we hadn’t seen in 10 years after they moved out of So Cal. We picked up the conversation like we had never been apart. I discovered they would be in So Cal the same time as us on Facebook—a great way to keep in touch with friends.   Lunch with Robin Coleman
We had a reunion with three couples we met on our Love Song Couples Getaway vacation in May. Love Song Couples Getaway reunion

Enjoyed a lovely sunset dinner with couples from that original small group Bible study where Dave and I met, and we’re always welcome to stay with them when we return to Orange County.

Dinner with our original couples small group friends

We then spent a week at our So Cal mountain cabin socializing and visiting with our friends and neighbors, including my author friend Joanne Bischof and her husband Noah

Dinner with author Joanne Bischof and Noah

Friendships Are Our Witness

In Praying for Your Prodigal Daughter, I tell the story of my daughter Kim contemplating becoming a Christian and worrying that she might not have any friends. But then, she said, “Well you and Dave have so many friends and you’re always having a good time. And I guess I don’t need those friends who won’t accept me.” When she made that comment, Dave and I had only been married five years …we were just getting started on making friends.

As Christians, we need to remember that someone is always watching us to see how we interact with others and are we open to fellowshipping.

We must also befriend nonbelievers or how else will they learn about the blessings and joys of knowing Christ. But those we “hang with”, and share our lives with, should share our morals and values, and we should be a support system for each other.

Proverbs 17:17
A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need.

Let’s be friends on Facebook!

I would love to hear how you make treasured friends.

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Mentor From Your Mess

Kathy McDaniel and me

Kathy and Janet in Colorado

I saw the following post on the Facebook page of a dear long-time friend of the family. Kathy is a mom weathering through a difficult and long divorce. I asked to share her sage words of wisdom with my readers because she describes lived-out mentoring.

Kathy said absolutely and prays that her sharing will help many others!

God doesn’t allow us to go through difficult circumstances just to build our own character. As we experience His faithfulness in all situations, He wants us to share where our strength comes from with someone on a similar journey.

My passion is to help other women understand that mentoring is simply—Sharing Life’s Experiences and God’s Faithfulness—my tagline for living the Christian life. Kathy gets that. I hope you do too!

Kathy’s Facebook Post with editorial review:

Reach Out and Touch Someone

I continue to hear more and more stories of women in the midst of divorce or separation, physical, verbal, and emotional abuse, and the victims of financial “money moving.” If you know someone going through this, please reach out to her. Let her know you care and that you’re there for her.

Pray consistently for her and her children! I can’t tell you how isolating it can be when your world is crashing down: you’re bruised and battle scarred, scared, and trying to be strong for your kids. It’s so easy to isolate because you have nothing left to give; but that’s when you need others to hold you up, pray for you, and bring you a Costco pizza so you remember to eat and feed your kids.

Don’t Let Anyone Walk Through Difficulty Alone

I never would have made it through without my family, friends, and church family, huddling around me and lifting me up in prayer. They wouldn’t let me isolate—even when I tried—and I am so blessed because of it. The numbers of women walking through this battle is staggering, and we need to make sure they don’t walk alone! And if you know a dad in this situation, reach out to him. The numbers aren’t as great, but the pain is just as deadly!

Honor Faithful Love

My heart aches when I see so many families torn apart by infidelity, abuse, porn, and arrogance. To those with a faithful spouse who keeps walking with you in the middle of life’s chaos, hold him/her close. Treasure them, pray for them!

Adopt a broken family into your hearts. Let their kids see a healthy marriage—they need to know it’s possible.

The First Step in Healing is Helping

For those who have walked the broken road and survived, share your story, wisdom, failures, hugs . . . as God leads you. Offer hope to those who can’t see past today! God allows us to go through trials because He has a greater purpose than we can see. One of those purposes is to comfort those who are on a similar journey. You understand what they are dealing with, when no one else can. You know how to pray for them. You know how to help them avoid things that you didn’t avoid. Guide them through the deep waters so that one day they can guide someone else.

Most importantly, point them to the ultimate Guide: Jesus Christ!

—————————————

Kathy is living out my paraphrase of Titus 2:3-5: Teach another woman what you’ve been taught so she can someday teach what you taught her . . .

Read more of Janet’s thoughts on mentoring.

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Love Song Couples Getaway

God’s Call?

Last fall, I was browsing Facebook and the web looking for a picture of the Harvest Crusade for a power point presentation to accompany my testimony at a retreat. 20 years ago, I rededicated my life to Christ at a Harvest Crusade led by Pastor Greg Laurie. When Pastor Greg asked if we were ready to die tonight, I knew at that time my answer would have been, “No.” Even though I had accepted Christ as my Savior at the age of twelve, as a divorced single mom I had spent many years backsliding.

On the Harvest Crusade Facebook page, there was a picture of Pastor Greg Laurie, so I decided to “Like” his Facebook page and saw that he was speaking in Maui in May 2013 at an event called The Love Song Couples Getaway at the Grand Wailea in Maui.

The Love Song Couples Getaway sounded like a perfect way to celebrate and commemorate two major life events. The same night I rededicated my life at the Harvest Crusade, I also heard God telling me to rededicate myself to the godly man He had given me to date, Dave! I did, and we were married 6 months later. So it was not only the 20th anniversary of me rededicating my life, but also our 20th wedding anniversary, which we had talked about celebrating in Hawaii. And Pastor Greg was going to be speaking at the Getaway…this had to be God!

I presented all this to Dave and he said, no. I told him that Mac Powell from Third Day would be leading worship, along with Chris August and Leeland, but still he felt it was too extravagant. So I gave up the cause . . . until December when I saw that they were having a Christmas discount. I again approached Dave, and this time he was more receptive. Several days later, he booked us to go!

The Witness

I was able to witness to so many people about why I thought God was leading us to take this trip. I told them about rededicating my life to God at the Harvest Crusade twenty years ago and that Pastor Greg Laurie would be speaking at the event in Maui, which just happened to coincide with our 20th wedding anniversary. Then I told them about how I had broken up with Dave before the Crusade, but that night we had sat in his car hashing out our relationship until the parking lot of Anaheim Stadium emptied, and how I felt God calling me to rededicate myself to Dave. I told versions of this story to people at the grocery store, hairdressers, family, friends, friends’ of friends, strangers . . . anyone who asked where we were going on vacation! It became quite a testimony.

A Glimpse of Heaven

The trip seemed so far off when we booked it last December, but May 23 we took off for the best vacation of our lives! Imagine Mac Powell, Chris August, and Leeland playing worship music on the sprawling lawn in front of the Grand Wailea chapel with the soft sound of the ocean waves accompanying them, or watching a beautiful Hawaiian sunset while listening to a worship concert by one of these amazing godly musicians. Or listening to Greg Laurie or Pastor Jim Wright (from Oregon) talk about our marriage relationship and our relationship with the Lord.

We all wore blue wristbands for admission into the Love Song events, but the wristbands also allowed us to identify each other on and off the resort. We made many new friends from all over the United States, Canada, and Australia because when you saw the wristbands, you knew this person was “family” . . . the family of God.

It was a glimpse of heaven: a tropical paradise with amazing Christian worship music morning and night and fellowshipping with hundreds of Christian believers.

When they announced where the trip would be next year—back to Maui or Paradise Island in the Bahamas—Dave was one of the first to jump out of his seat to sign up for the Bahamas.

If you’re looking for a vacation that combines Christian teaching, worship music, lots of free time, a chance to make new friends, or just be alone in a beautiful oasis, we highly recommend this God-centered vacation. The young couple orchestrating Love Song Couples Getaway feels it is their ministry to provide outstanding Christian getaways for couples. Dave and I would agree they are definitely fulfilling God’s call!

Mac Powell of Third Day and me                    Getting a book signed by Pastor Greg Laurie