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New Year’s Food for Thought

Ever wonder why you’re cranky in your response when you have no reason to be?
Here’s a bit of insight.

Proverbs 18:23 (NIV)

**The poor plead for mercy,

but the rich answer harshly

Pride, wealth, confidence that you’re in need of nothing, can be the deep seated hindrences to kind, empathic, Christlike responses.

When we are full and in NO need of immediate help we are sometimes arrogant deep inside the control mechanism of human interaction.

Maybe you and I need to notice how poor we’d be without those we “snap at”
**Restaurant servers, spouses, children, God, subordinates at work, cashier’s etc…**

Our New year can really be a fresh start with an attitude that draws from the beatitudes “Blessed are the poor…”

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Posted by on December 30, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

P.S.L.

P.S.L.

P.S.L.

Modern, Western Society has become incredibly familiar with Pumpkin Spice Latte. According to 2015 Forbes, the pumpkin spice business was estimated to gross nearly $500 million dollars (©2015 Forbes, Pumpkin Spice Economy). McCormick Spice Company began it’s now famous, pumpkin-less spice blend in 1950, according to “The Dark and Murky History of Pumpkin Spice” an article in FOOD, Oct 31, 2014, by Melissa McEwen.   I remember “Pumpkin Pie Spice” was a staple on my mother’s spice shelf. Despite the fact that my mother absolutely despised “pumpkin flavor,” she seemed to love the spice and used it to flavor her sweet potato pie and even applesauce from time to time. The spice mix still gives me a wonderful feeling. I LOVE the blend of spices. I love both sweet potato and pumpkin pies equally. My favorite use of the spice is in our family tradition – sweet potato soufflé with pecan crunch topping.

All this season’s talk about PSL didn’t just stir my taste buds and memories it gave me an inspiration for life:

Pray, Serve, Live.

When you pray, you seek God’s input and hopefully His direction in your affairs. Hopefully, your prayers also include acknowledging God as your source and through prayer, you reach to Him for strength and encouragement. Jesus said in John 10:19 that he came that we “…may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”(NKJV) There is no question, leaning on Jesus helps us live more balanced and fulfilling lives. And leaning on Jesus includes taking His advice.

Consider Jesus’s famous “Sermon on the Mount.” Jesus never gave anything to the people that was not already supported by the doctrine of the Old Testament (Torah/Pentateuch and prophets) writings. But He shared some very new teaching for the people listening  that day. New, in the sense that this was “plain” language that people could apply to everyday life. This humble and daily application of biblical truth was the beginning of the life more abundantly. As they better understood scripture and the laws and principles of serving God they would find their lives in harmony, rather than in opposition to their Creator; working with God, not against Him.

Ultimately, Jesus came to save us from the “wages of sin.” But He also came to introduce us to “service.” Serving is the lifestyle that brings abundant living. Jesus revealed living with purpose, giving and serving free of guilt and shame. When we turn our lives over to HIS sacrifice and receive His righteousness, we can be truly free to serve. Jesus came to make a shift in the human condition and our focus. Instead of living always striving to get rid of sin in order to please God, because of Christ we can place our focus elsewhere: serving others, living every day with real purpose and fulfillment through our investment in our world.

When we serve the Lord with our whole heart we find our lives. Look at what Jesus said: 35 For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. Mark 8:35 (NASB). Found in three separate gospels, this statement is life changing. When you give up your life, which is exactly what Christ did, what does that look like? Considering Jesus’s example. He gave His life, the glorious one in Heaven, to come to earth and live homeless for at least three and a half years to teach the message of salvation and died a martyr’s death to take the sin of mankind and bring restitution and reconcile of our relationship with God the Father.

Abundant life is free in Christ, but there are things we must do to access it. When we surrender everything to our Heavenly Father by allowing Jesus to take residence in our hearts, we begin a life that focuses on HIS will. God’s love works not on the merit of others but on the mercy and kindness of God Himself. We might find temporary fun and enjoyment in living for others without Christ in our hearts, but the meaning and the greatest fulfillment gets lost when we focus on ourselves.   When we give as Jesus gave, we often get nothing but the spiritual payback for the work we’ve done. The effort is made on behalf of God’s love, not the value or worth of the one to whom we express loving service. This kind of God-centered service is done regardless of another’s ability to pay or return the favor. They don’t have to please us or impress us. God brings the reward. This is life abundantly!!!

This fall and winter, try doing more than handing out treats at Halloween, giving gifts to co-workers and family or writing scriptures on your waitress’s check. (Besides she might be more committed to Jesus than you anyway – FYI.)   Try getting involved in community outreaches organized by your church or another charitable organization. Maybe compassionately reach out to a friend who is sometimes seen as high maintenance or needy. See what you can do to help alleviate his/her pain, by merely listening first, have ONLY your friend’s need and God’s will as your focus, rather than your own discomfort.   Try giving to three significant organization that work to end both physical and spiritual suffering through caring services, physical goods, and the gospel. It will surely be more fulfilling when you know you’re carrying a few others with you into abundant life by your acts of service. According to Matthew 25: 34-40 doing this will benefit your eternal future as well. Conversely, the end of the chapter is quite strong regarding the consequence of not serving or reaching out to bring others along. Serving is really quite important to God.

The Jewish new year, is a fall event according to Judaism 101, found online. When fall comes we find new beginnings anyway. We start back to school, we might have hopes of new political views taking hold in our local or national offices, we see festivals and holidays on the horizon. Let’s add a “new year” celebration to our festivities and commit to not only keep “quiet time” promises, but commit to serve.

Enjoying the cooler weather and our fall and winter rituals, maybe even sipping a hot Pumpkin Spice Latte? Let’s use it to remind ourselves what really makes life worth living the next time we see those three letters:

Let’s remember to P.S.L.

©2017 DianneDunnagan All rights reserved

 

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Abundant Life

John 10:7-14 (10b)…I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full

What do you think Jesus meant: “Life more abundantly” (KJV)?  What decisions do we make based on our assumptions of this verse?  Are we choosing pleasures and activities that give us enjoyment?  The founding fathers of our nation wrote that we have the right to pursue happiness.  I wonder if after all that has happened through the years under the effort to “find happiness” if our founders would rephrase that statement.   Maybe the words “find fulfillment and purpose as God wills” would better flow with the character we see they exhibited in their pursuit to form a “more perfect union,” their courage, their unwavering faith that they served a higher calling and purpose.

God tells us to be HOLY (I Peter 1:14-19).  He doesn’t tell us to be happy, not that He wants us to be unhappy, but we are not commanded to focus on happiness.  If we have life abundantly – in light of “holy,” do we then rephrase “happy” to something else?

In his sermon “Different: Part 2 “Different Values in an Unholy Culture” Craig Groeschel addresses the challenges faced by the modern American family desiring to be holy.  He too understands the distinction that our culture has focused on happiness, but God is focused on holiness. Check out his sermon on the attached YouTube link : Different: Part 2

We are faced with daily challenges to determine what “life more abundantly”/ “life… to the full” means, but our best indicator might be to simply think about life from the moment we’re leaving it.  Imagine you are at the last moments, very near taking your last breath.  What would be on your mind: happiness or making a difference, leaving a legacy, doing the RIGHT thing, having no regrets?

Maybe you have trouble imagining breathing your last, then reflect on the words of those who are older?  What do they regret?  Of course there are some who are like Flynn Rider in Disney’s Tangled who long to have themselves “surrounded by enormous piles of money.”  Still we know those we find that have lived well are usually those who have been unselfish; lived with honor and integrity; and made significant differences in the lives they’ve touched.  Maybe you have people you admire. What are the qualities you see (saw) them exhibit that make them admirable?

Living life “to the full” isn’t about living for your selfish senses of self-indulgence  – that’s too fleeting.  Even Jedediah in Night At the Museum 3 spoke of the illusiveness of human happiness.  Barbara Bush’s famous quote from Anna Quindlen’s Villanova commencement address :  “No man ever said on his deathbed I wish I had spent more time at the office,” also offers us insight on the worthless task of climbing the corporate ladder.

We are hungry souls and only Jesus can satisfy, because  He created that hunger producing void He intended to fill.  The reality however is that HE WILL NOT — unless you invite Him to do so.  Abundant life, life to the full — is fully dependent on the contributions made to our hearts by the one who authored the plan for that full life.  His Father declares for us to be holy.  Jesus is the way to the Father because, Jesus makes us holy.   We need only to lean into Him and full life will be ours – not merely illusive happiness, but fullness — meaning, purpose and fulfillment!!!!

Carve your way to purpose, pray your way to LIFE and cling to the One who gives it abundantly.  Follow Him, live your purpose! Chase illusive happiness no more – Live life abundantly, as you live tethered to the Author of The Plan for “life…to the full,” Christ the Hope of Glory (Colossians 1:25-28)

©2017 DianneDunnagan

 
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Posted by on August 18, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

The Future IS now!

Looking at the clock do you see it?   The future?  Do you see it?  Actually, no.  When you look at the clock all you see is the past.  At the very moment you see the numbers on the clock you see the moments you have ALREADY lived.  The clock marks your time past.  You are the future!  The moments you live following those you see the clock telling you have past; those are the seconds of your present and future.

As a math student and eventually a math teacher I struggled with the reality of values.  Values on the number line are found in the spaces.  When the year 2000 came mathematicians were arguing which date actually marked the new millennium 2000 or 2001 for this very reason.  For some, when we were in 2000 we were living in the final 10th of the last decade.  For others, we were living in the beginning of the new decade.  I didn’t follow the debate so I am not sure the questions were resolved.  But I do know that life is what we have not yet measured.  What I mean is you have already lived what has been measured.  You only have those moments, days and years that have yet to be counted to do anything more with or through your life.

James 4:13-17 (link) speaks of the smallness of time and our lives.  James challenges us to realize our lives are so small that we must always hinge them on our confidence in God, not in ourselves.  When we live our lives as if we have the power to make them happen we can very well find ourselves losing those things we counted as most important. I Tim 6:17-19 (link) and 2 Peter 3:11-13 (link) are wonderful passages to offer wisdom for handling the temporal-ness of life and all that surrounds us.

Living our lives, banking on the coming of tomorrow or the moments of our future is a trap. Luke 12: 16-21 (link) holds a parable of Jesus about one such person who did this and found himself utterly wasted.  The Gospel of John records the words of Jesus as- He, speaking of himself, must work…while it is day.  But then Jesus goes on to tell us something more when He states “Night is coming, when no one can work.” (NIV) John 9:3-5.

We are finite, limited when we look at the constraints of time.  We can feel helpless or overwhelmed at best when we contemplate our limits.  But when we take the challenge that we only have NOW and what we see here is the accumulation of what has already past, we can be energized to do more than we have ever done in our lives prior.

It takes only seconds to reach into tomorrow.  Just sit up at midnight and see how quickly one day fades to another.  But in God’s perfect love, by the power of His Holy Spirit your life can be more than passing time, more than fog or vapor—YOUR LIFE in Christ, can change the world!   Start now!  Begin in this moment to take that clock as your motivator.  Realize that you are seeing the measure of what is behind and live the life the Apostle Paul encouraged himself to live:

Philippians 3:12-14 (NIV)

12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

(Please click the links provided to enhance your access to scriptures referenced in this devotional)

© Dianne Dunnagan 2016  All Rights Reserved

 

Fairy Tale

Do you want to be like Cinderella?  Do you want to be Cinderella?   Of course if you’re a man maybe Joseph would have your version of a Cinderella story.   Looking at Cinderella or Joseph we see some very “un-fairy-tale-like” realities that rarely receive the attention they deserve.  We are always happy to hear “rags-to-riches” or a “heartache- to- Joy” kind of story, but looking at a fairy tale there isn’t just the happy ending there is so much more.  Let’s use Cinderella as our fairy tale princess to help us get some of our facts straight.

To be Cinderella you have to be an orphan.  You also have to have an angry, jealous, evil step-mother, who married your father for his money and social advantage.  And you, as Cinderella, would need to be eternally blissful, optimistic, purely kind and NEVER vengeful!   As Cinderella, you would live for many months, maybe years as a slave to people who had essentially stolen your birthright, your family’s good name (reputation) and in return only show kindness and serve such persons– graciously.

The beauty of Cinderella’s story is that she is being taken from all the disappointment and pain.  But this kind of honor, the kind Cinderella was given, is only bestowed upon the painfully beaten brow of a tender heart that possesses not only external beauty but also temperance, self-control, wisdom and kindness.  One who is endlessly capable of love in the face of the deepest expressions of unjustly served hate.

Are you a “Cinderella” (or a Joseph)?  Perhaps you see yourself as mistreated but do you also – endlessly repay evil with good?  This is the make-up of fairytale royalty; a fairytale princess/ a royal ruler!  These honorable characters are not spoiled, belligerent, self-serving, arrogant slave drivers.  The heroes/heroines of fairy tales are ultimately self-less givers, who refuse to compromise values of true unselfish love as is described in I Corinthians 13:4-8

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.(NLT)

We, as moderns, get angry that we don’t find selfless love to carry us off into the sunsets of “happily ever after” but are we willing to also be the one whose life, in the pre– happily ever after, is froth with tragedy and offering unselfish love in exchange?  Because THAT is the KEY!  Kindness begets kindness; even if the one to whom you have been kind does not reciprocate.  Evil for evil never brings goodness!

The teachings of Jesus tell us how to be “Cinderella(s)” by loving in the face of hatred and harsh circumstances.  He says “you have heard… eye for  eye… 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person…. 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” (Mt 5:38-48 NIV)

It might be fairytale to expect to one day become the princess that Cinderella became or in our modern times -even the Egyptian ruler Joseph became, but living to show the love of Jesus to a hurting world certainly is no fairytale!  And in due season, scriptures tell us…  And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. (Gal 6:8-10NKJV)

The Apostle Paul told Timothy near the end of his own life, that there was a crown awaiting him and it could be the same for everyone who is longing to follow God’s plan and submit in love.  2 Timothy 4:7-11 (NIV)

Don’t lose heart!  You might not be Cinderella the princess and you might never feel like the kingly ruler God granted the blessing to Joseph to ultimately become, but when you submit to the heart of God and choose good over evil as God clearly explains in the Bible, you will be rewarded!  And on that day, scripture tells us the suffering of this present world is not to be compared to what lies ahead!  Read Romans 8:16-19—Glorious!!!!

© Dianne Dunnagan 2016  All Rights Reserved

 
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Posted by on August 16, 2016 in Devotional

 

He Was (is) There All The Time

Hebrews 1:10  He also says, “In the beginning, O Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands.

Psalm 139:12-14 (NIV)  12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;  the night will shine like the day,  for darkness is as light to you.  13 For you created my inmost being;  you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

Are you alone, even in a crowd of people?  Are you confused as to why God made you if you were gonna feel so miserable?

These questions do not reference an experience unique only to you.  These feelings are part of the human experience. As far back as the early Old Testament writings we can find these questions and feelings.  Even the great father of early biblical writings, Moses, faced the frustration of wondering how, why and what.

Numbers 11:14-16 (New Living Translation)

14 I can’t carry all these people by myself! The load is far too heavy! 15 If this is how you intend to treat me, just go ahead and kill me. Do me a favor and spare me this misery!”

In this passage of scripture, (Quoted from the New Living Translation) Moses is overwhelmed and exhausted, among other things that were perhaps unclear to us from scripture’s record.  Nonetheless, Moses was desperate for God to change his situation.  He was past going.  He felt death was easier than the burden he believed he had to carry. However, reading on in the passage, you will see God’s provision for Moses of help, rest and a light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel experience.

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb” found in Psalms, tells us God formed us.  Genesis recorded that God formed man from the dust of the earth (Gen 2:19) and then David speaks of his being formed in the womb.  We know then that God formed all of humanity.  YOU were formed- handcrafted by God.  If the creator of heaven and earth [(Psalm 102:25) In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands.] took the time to form you in your mother’s womb, He has more for you than wasted time and misery.  Jeremiah reminds us of God’s thoughts and plans for us-   11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)  God is loving and merciful.  Our world is damaged and therefore poorly conveys that truth at times.  What we must prompt ourselves to remember in those moments of confusion are Jesus’s words to His followers and to us via their message: Matthew 28:20 (NASB) 20… lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”  A promise also stated in both Old and New Testaments that can validate this statement further:

Deuteronomy 31:6 (NIV)6 Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Hebrews 13:5 (KJV)

 5Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.

Take note also of these scriptures that give certainty that when we feel alone there is still God’s power, assurance, instruction and presence with us:

Isaiah 30:21 (NASB) 21Your ears will hear a word behind you, “This is the way, walk in it,” whenever you turn to the right or to the left.

Psalm 32:7-8 (New International Version)

 7 You are my hiding place;    you will protect me from trouble   and surround with songs of deliverance.  Selah

 8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.

The life you live, in the world you live, pounds at you to miss God in the everyday.  But God, Jehovah speaks to you every day, in the simplicity of the everyday.  Listen to Him. Don’t let the lies drown out the truth that you are not alone; He is near; He loves you with an everlasting love, and that His plans for you are great, both through you and IN you!

He hasn’t left you, He is ALWAYS RIGHT THERE!

© Dianne Dunnagan 2016 All Rights Reserved

 

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Celebration

Jeremiah 33:11-12 (NASB) 11 the voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the voice of those who say, “Give thanks to the Lord of hosts, For the Lord is good, For His loving kindness is everlasting”; and of those who bring a thank offering into the house of the Lord. For I will restore the fortunes of the land as they were at first,’ says the Lord. 12 “Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘There will again be in this place which is waste, without man or beast, and in all its cities, a habitation of shepherds who rest their flocks.

Celebration- the event when we rejoice over something we have, something we’ve accomplished or intend on gaining or accomplishing.

When we think of marriage, we celebrate.  The thrill of finding a mate is a wonderful reality.  Scripture even celebrates this reality in proverbs as it being “favor” with the Lord:   Proverbs 18:22 (NASB)22 He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord.

Marriage is a basic part of our society.  It’s the place where life is formed; a place where children grow to know the differences between a man and a woman and the treasure each of them is.  Yet the celebration of marriage is ever on the decline. This decline in our modern world began many years ago, especially so when women felt enslaved by their chauvinistic husbands.  Women wanted more consideration, more attention, a feeling of being treasured and loved.  We find evidence for this desire all over the Bible. Women were correctly reading that they were more valuable than “property.”  The scriptures teach: Ephesians 5:25 (NASB) “ 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her…” Colossians 3:19 (NASB) “19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be embittered against them.”

1 Peter 3:7 emphasizes just how important the woman is in marriage and how she is to be treated: In the same way you married men should live considerately with [your wives], with an intelligent recognition [of the marriage relation], honoring the woman as [physically] the weaker, but [realizing that you] are joint heirs of the grace (God’s unmerited favor) of life, in order that your prayers may not be hindered and cut off. [Otherwise you cannot pray effectively.] Amplified Bible (AMP)

The modern woman had God on her side.  She was too precious to be trivialized and treated as unimportant.

Following the change in women’s attitudes of their role in marriage, modern society presented less and less interest in commitment and increasingly selfish world views. But building a healthy loving marriage is truly one of the most unselfish undertakings.  Matthew 19:4-5 and Mark 10:6-7 both declare that a man is to leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife, which in this context means to be closely united (source: link kjv dictionary).  In marriage a man is not fully engaged unless he completely moves from being bonded to his parents to being bonded to his wife.  He is to transition from being controlled by or strongly influenced by his parents to being fully dependent on the mandates of  a healthy committed  relationship with his wife: What his wife needs is to become what he needs (The converse is true for the wife as well.).

Yet when a man is not willing to follow these self-sacrificing principles the wife is left feeling demeaned and forgotten.  She then becomes scorned and the struggle for value in the relationship makes its way into the very fiber of the relationship.  [And if the wife too fails to be unselfish, the man finds himself resentful struggling with his need to feel powerful and strong.] The celebration is lost in the selfish conflict of the husband and wife pulling away from the unity toward their individual needs.

So, on the foundation of this loss within relationship, women began struggling to find reasons to be married.  As they built their own way into the business world partially due to the industrial revolution, it appeared there were fewer reasons to marry.  Given that scripture supports the value of women, all of society found it only right to continue to elevate her status.

As women gained value in society, men continued to feel repelled and were often even more controlling in marriage in a futile attempt to keep his view of “order” in his home.  This of course did little to improve the impression of marriage on their daughters who also decided that marriage was potentially dangerous to her (their) future.

All in all, many in society began to conclude marriage was old fashioned, out dated and merely a way for men to oppress women.  Men found this a bit freeing as well because the sexual revolution encouraged women to be “free” of not only marriage but of the mandates of chastity.  And consequently men found more and more women available without the need for a “try at marriage.”

In more recent times, we have faced new challenges to the idea of marriage, its purpose and its definition.  But in concluding that marriage (or the lack thereof) is merely for humanity’s enjoyment, we have lost its foremost purpose which is to reflect the incredible commitment of the Trinity to push through the challenges and be reconciled and devoted to humanity. The type of challenges found when totally opposite worlds work to become one.  And the most profoundly difficult and miraculous examples of opposites are found in the forging of a unity between a husband and wife (who are essentially opposites with nothing but God’s grace and their individual desire to fuse their hearts) (Gen 2:24, Mark 10:8, Matt 19:5, I Cor 6:16, Eph 5:31).

Having the biblical worldview, we must continue to celebrate marriage not merely because a man and woman find a reason to come together through love but also because they are presented with the opportunity to uncover the mystery of God’s love and His incredible commitment to His beloved children- The joining of Christ with His Bride [The Bride of Christ] Eph 5: 20-28  where the wedding celebration will be epic Revelation 19:9 (NASB) Then he said to me, “Write, ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’” And he said to me, “These are true words of God.” And where the celebration of this unity will never end 1 Thessalonians 4:17 (NIV) 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.

As we struggle with the modern and continually changing world view regarding marriage and the desires to lessen the celebration, we should continue to remind ourselves of the wonderful gift that marriage between man and woman is.  Remembering all that it gives to the human heart in both earthly and heavenly revelation of God’s unfailing commitment to humanity; giving us the opportunity to better recognize His willingness to transcend the struggles our differences (our sins) create; choosing to bond with us in love and kindness through the sacrifice of His son Jesus Christ.  (Phil 2:5-11). And in the memory of this very reality of God’s plan for marriage, The Bride of Christ and His Church, we should CELEBRATE even more!!

© Dianne Dunnagan 2015 All Rights Reserved

A follow-up devotional that might be helpful: https://diannedunnagan.wordpress.com/2015/07/06/this-is-for-real/

 

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