How Did Our Marriage Get Here?

Marriage Vows Under Fire 1

Everything that attacks a marriage can potentially land the relationship on its back. Adultery. Pornography. Secrecy. Meddling In-Laws. Neglect. Sins that tear us apart but can be overcome.

In Marriage Vows Under Fire, the harsh world of success, temptation, and greed surround two vulnerable families and threaten their relationships with catastrophe. But faith and prayers of a few confront the fiery trials that seem to promise devastating endings.

With comedy, suspense, and melancholy to entertain readers who can relate during moments of leisurely escape, this inspirational romance series mirrors the marital issues of couples throughout time. Set in modern-day Texas, parts one and two take us through the turbulent journeys of Natalie and Joseph, along with other couples within their families.

“Little disappearances here…inappropriate communications there. They all build up and lead to what can destroy us.” – Quoted from the heart of every desperate spouse screaming inwardly and trying to hold on to a wayward whose interests have been landing elsewhere.

Engage in the stories’ authenticity that comes within marriage along with the heartbreaks that can be overcome on the long journey of “new beginnings”. Find sweet romance in Marriage Vows Under Fire. Find the suspense and adventure. But also find reality in it. And relate.

How Christians Can Trade In Halloween Parties For Noah’s Ark Parties On October 31

Bible PagesOn October 31, combat a fear-engaging tradition. Instead of partaking in the celebration of death and demonic tales, spread the word on how to utilize a Noah’s Ark party, to counter Halloween parties and trick-or-treating, to celebrate Noah’s Ark significance in the Old Testament and now under the New Covenant of Jesus Christ. Take the idea and entertain others in the Lord with food, goodies, Noah’s Ark animated movies, Noah’s Ark storytelling, and spreading of the gospel. Share the idea with your church or open your home. Halloween does not limit us. It’s actually a practice to aggressively counter with the everlasting message of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Here’s how I hosted a Noah’s Ark party in 1997:

I encouraged invitees to dress their children up like any animal to represent their presence on the ark. I prepared food and goodies for attendees. In addition to games, I made a Noah’s Ark animated movie or two available to watch throughout the party to encourage parents and children alike why Noah’s Ark was so significant and how the eight souls saved on the boat compares to salvation through Jesus Christ. Making literature available for take-home or sharing at the party, a Noah’s Ark party serves as a celebration of life through Jesus Christ, an evangelistic way to spread the gospel, and an entertaining party for believers to come and allow their children a way to enjoy themselves in the Lord on October 31.

As a born-again believer in Jesus Christ, I learned at the very beginning of my walk to embrace God’s Word to the fullest extent. “Fullest extent” came to include denying myself the familiar worldly practices that are not aligned with God’s Word. From that point, Halloween celebration, among other worldly practices like wild partying and horror-movie watching, became a thing of the past for me. I no longer wanted to celebrate any practice that resembled the devil, the enemy of our souls, in any form whatsoever – even if the action is done with no intent to regard that adversary.

When I became a mother, I knew that teaching my child about the unbiblical appearance and undertone of Halloween’s death-related, fear-related celebrations (regardless of the subtlety within the celebration that convinces many of its pure fun apart from any grave connotation) could lead to better practices on October 31. Many churches actually counter Halloween celebrations with fall festivals (while others support the unbiblical practice of Halloween). Finding churches to visit ahead of time over the years has become labor intensive due to the number of churches that have changed the way they book activities. (Simply put, times have so changed across the board – even the trends practiced in many churches, some of which no longer even open their doors on certain evenings, including Sunday evenings.)

From this burden for Christian families with their children on October 31, I hosted a Noah’s Ark party on October 31, 1997. I also spread the news of what I was planning in order that friends and associates in the faith would take the practice and make it available to children in their own neighborhoods as well as to children within their churches.

So, again: Spread the word on how to celebrate Noah’s Ark significance in the Old Testament and now under the New Covenant of Jesus Christ. Take the idea and entertain others in the Lord with food, goodies, Noah’s Ark animated movies, Noah’s Ark storytelling, and spreading of the gospel. Share the idea with your church or open your home. Halloween does not limit us. It’s actually a practice to counter with the everlasting message of our Lord Jesus Christ.

As A Leader, Do I Love Or Do I Just Minister About Love?

Bible Pages

written by Lanette Zavala, author of Marriage Vows Under Fire

Over the years, ministering to others through speaking and writing, I have learned how more easily words of wisdom can be imparted as opposed to being implemented. Ministering about love is no exception.

God’s Word shows us how to love in a number of passages beginning ultimately with Jesus’ death on the cross for the sins of the world. When we thoroughly examine Jesus’ sacrifice for us, who were deserving of God’s wrath reserved for sin, we could humbly realize our ongoing need to learn how to replicate God’s love toward others.

Why do I say we have an ongoing need to learn to show love? Because unexpected challenges occur constantly in our lives. When do we respond to challenges with affection, when do we respond with encouragement, when do we respond with a sharp rebuke, and when do we even respond with distance? All of these and others are responses which our Lord Jesus Christ gave as examples in each unique situation He faced. And while He gave these responses, He never gave them apart from love. Learning which expression of love applies in each situation and challenge in our lives is an ongoing learning process.

As a servant who ministers love in blogs, in books, and in person, there are a few points that I have learned and am continuing to learn about the love walk to which I am called:

There is an ever-impacting difference between whether any minister actually loves or only ministers about love.

If I love…

1.  I minister love in word.

2.  I demonstrate it in deed.

3.  I show love in the face of favor and strive to show it (while I make a firm decision to maintain it) in the face of challenges against me.

4.  I communicate about what I disapprove of – with either a light or firm approach, depending on each circumstance – and still genuinely promote peace toward that person I have to challenge, but without dropping my love for him/her.

5.  I affirm and confirm the grace I have for others despite their faults (some faults being directed against me) because of the grace God always shows toward me despite my faults.

6.  I actively, repentantly depend on Jesus to forgive and purify me when I fall short of my call to love.


If I only minster love…

1.  I can’t stretch my limited supply of love to reach beyond the boundaries of my emotions, my mood, my human tolerance level, or any popularity I might gain as a “good preacher/teacher/singer” on love.

2.  I can’t ensure that the love contained within my boundaries will last toward people who haven’t yet offended me to the extent that others, who stepped outside my love boundaries, have dared to offend me.

3.  I can so gravely mistake flattery as being love – flattery toward me and flattery from me.

4.  I can’t recognize the need for correction (even when it’s to be delivered boldly) as an expression of love from me or towards me.

Synthetic Vs. Authentic Love

Bible Pages

Written by Lanette Zavala, author of Marriage Vows Under Fire and publisher of eMagazine.

How in the world can “true love” for one person turn us against another person? As believers in Christ, are we really able to find God-fearing love within our hearts if, while we embrace some people, we shun others for reasons that God’s Word would not validate?

Experiencing divisions within families, cliques within churches, and broken relationships in which one person was chosen to love unconditionally while others were branded to avoid, I have learned that synthetic love exists right alongside authentic love –  everywhere.

Like any other born-again believer, I am learning more about God’s Agape love from His Word gradually – never at a point of complete understanding and never at a point of perfection, though I press toward that perfection as I surrender to the heart-cleansing power of Jesus Christ. I’m like any other believer abiding in Him. Having said that, I can add that I’ve learned a few truths about love. There is human love, and there is Agape love.

Synthetic Human Love

Have you ever been in a relationship that required or strongly compelled you to turn against someone in order to support the person with whom you have that special relationship? Did you honestly think that true love made you come to the decision of shunning one person (for no valid reason) in order to demonstrate loyalty toward the other? True love does not influence such a decision. Human love – synthetic love – influences such a decision.

This kind of love has broken up families, alienated thousands of church members who eventually left fellowships where they had once perceived as loving environments (and hopefully left for Word-based fellowships elsewhere), stolen spouses to spin off families in the appearance of pseudo-honor, formed cliques that give friendship a twisted meaning, and resulted in other issues that complicate life to the point where God has often become the problems’ blame during consequences.

Who can really count on synthetic love? You’ve got to keep up charades, appearances, and acceptable behavior in order to retain it. Don’t believe me? Mess up once or too many times and see what happens. In most synthetically loving relationships, just repent and embrace God’s truth; then, see what happens. A disassociation takes place.

People begin to avoid those who disrupt a carnal flow that once felt comfortable for everyone trapped inside it. Sometimes that comfortable flow is deception.  Sometimes it’s a co-dependent relationship that allows one person to wreck havoc on others who passively foster the chaos for the sake of a peace that really doesn’t exist. Sometimes flattery is all people can tolerate in relationships based on human love. I believe this statement has dwelt in the back of most of our minds: “As long as you tell me what I want to hear about myself, you’ve got a friend in me.”

Here is what synthetic love requires:

1)  Secrecy to cover up lies

2)  Flattery

3)  Formation and upkeep of pedestals

4)  Clique activity

5)  Disassociation from one in order to maintain association with another

Is there forgiveness for synthetic love and all the problems stemmed from it? Absolutely. God gave His only begotten Son as the Remission for our sins in order that He can readily forgive the sins of those who surrender to Jesus Christ in repentance. Through this loving gift, He empowers His followers to distribute that love, which we’ve experienced.

When Jesus explains in His Word to us how to love our neighbors, He gave an unfailing model that was a sure outline to follow. He said that we were to use our love for ourselves as an example of how we are to love others. “Love your neighbor as yourself” means love your neighbor in the same way you love yourself. (Mark 12:31)

Agape Love (The Love of God) Which Is Authentic

Jesus told us in John 15:13, “Greater love has no man than this: that a man lay down His life for His friends.” Primarily, Jesus was referring to Himself as He made that statement and as Himself setting an example of how His followers (born-again believers) are to love.

I Corinthians 13 is one of the most frequently read chapters when defining how we are to love others with God-fearing love. Paul very thoroughly elaborates in the entire chapter how we as Christ-followers love. We love in self-denial, in truth, in humility, in kindness, in simplicity, in hope, in forgiveness, and in perseverance. It’s a life-long lesson that we learn through triumphs relying on Christ and through failures from which we rebound in faith after loving in our humanly way.

Where there is opportunity to engage in the complacency, shallowness, and even elementary easiness of synthetic human love, can we dare to take the high road by choosing God’s Agape love that instructs us how to do so in His Word? Agape love within a believer never flatters, never deceives, never forces decisions on someone to choose “us versus them”, and never stops standing corrected on how to love. But Agape love may require distance with forgiveness while ensuring that the love does exist. Agape love may require a sharp rebuke where praise may have been the option – but the wrong option – in the face of an offense (like adultery, violent tendencies, or traumatic negligence).

Agape love can be tough at times yet always gentle. Dealing with so many people in our lives, there is no blanket solution in dealing with all problems in a Godly loving way. But because God’s wisdom accompanies His love, there are unique ways to deal with each person in our lives without setting aside Agape love in order to do so. We can continue to learn firsthand that It never fails.