HS #227 Audioblog Steve Demme God is For Us
Steve Demme and his wife Sandra have been married since 1979. They have been blessed with four sons, three lovely daughters-in-law, and two special grandchildren. Their fourth son has Down Syndrome and lives with them in Lititz, PA. He is the creator of Math-U-See and the founder of Building Faith Families.
Steve and his wife Sandra have been married since 1979. They have been blessed with four sons, three lovely daughters-in-law, and two special grandchildren. Their fourth son has Downs Syndrome and lives with them in Lititz, PA.
Steve has served in full or part time pastoral ministry for many years after graduating from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He is the creator of Math-U-See and the founder of Building Faith Families. Steve’s desire is to strengthen, teach, and encourage parents and families to love God with al their heart and to love each other as God in Christ as loved them.
God is for Us!
Every year I look forward to reading Deuteronomy. This anointed book is the distilled wisdom of Moses, who walked with God and spoke to him “face to face as a man speaks to his friend.” In this inspired book God’s heart for families is revealed in one verse, “Oh that they had such a heart as this always, to fear me and to keep all my commandments, that it might go well with them and with their descendants forever!” (Deuteronomy 5:29). God is for us and for our children. He is on our team encouraging and cheering us on. Jesus is even now praying for us as we teach and disciple our children.
I can quote Deuteronomy 6:7 for it was my blueprint for raising our children. “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Teaching God’s word to my children diligently, was an exhortation for having regular family devotions. Not having grown up in a Christian home, Sandi and I sought to implement reading a portion of God’s word every day. When our children were younger we read to them. When they were older we read with them.
Talking of these principles when we sit in our house, walk by the way, lie down, and rise, was a significant impetus to homeschool our children. How else could we hope to fulfill this command if we were not together? With God’s help and encouragement, we set out to teach and disciple our children at home and did so through high school. Sandi carried the lion’s share of the teaching with my full support. I helped with physical education and of course with math.
In the Spring of 2011 I was speaking about our experiences to a homeschool audience and quoted Deuteronomy 6:7. After the session a mom asked me a question that would change my life. She said, “Why did you begin with the seventh verse instead of the fifth and sixth verses. I didn't have an answer. I found my Bible. I read, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.” (Deuteronomy 6:5-6)
As I read these verses a light bulb went on. Instantly I saw the wisdom and the order in God’s inspired Word. Before I can instruct my children to love God and His Word (verse 7), I need to love God and His Word (verses 5 and 6). I had been so focused on what I should do for my children, I had missed what God was saying to me as a parent. I asked myself, did I love God with everything in me? Was His Word first in my heart?
I remembered the church in Ephesus mentioned in Revelation 2:1-4. They had done so much well, but they didn’t love God as they once had. They were still believers, but sadly they had lost their first love. I did not want this to be said of me. Because of this mom’s simple question, I began to earnestly ask God to help me love Him with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength.
God wonderfully and mysteriously answered this prayer. He began to reveal how much He loved me, through sermons, songs, and Scripture. This is not what I thought would happen and I told Him so. I expected to awaken one morning with a great desire to worship God and read His Word. Then 1 John 4:19 immediately came to mind, “We love because He first loved us.” This is how God helps me love Him, by taking the initiative and revealing how much He loves me. His ways are perfect. In the ensuing months, the more I comprehended His love and kindness to me, the more I appreciated and loved Him.
The primary Scripture that the Spirit of God used to touch my heart was John 15:9, (Jesus is speaking to His disciples) “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.” I had read this chapter so many times and remembered the vine and my need to abide, but had missed this nugget. Those eleven words penetrated my heart and I rejoiced to grasp this incredible truth: As much as God the Father loves His Son, the exact same way does the Son love me. Wow! This verse continues to reverberate in my heart and mind.
I have long struggled to assimilate grace. I know in my head about God’s unfailing love, but in my inner man, I mistakenly believe that God loves me more, if I do more stuff for Him. John 15:9 entered my world as a breath of fresh air and I tasted grace and God’s unfailing unchanging love. I have known how tight the Father and the Son are and have observed their close relationship, especially in the Gospel of John. Now I was included in this amazing love. Just as the Father loved His Son, so did Jesus love me.
The last four words of John 15:9 are also powerful, “Abide in my love.” I was tasting God’s affection and now He is telling me to abide or stay in His love. I didn’t want to lose what had been given to me. I sought to abide in His love by searching the Scripture and assembling passages to help transform my thinking. Several years of being intentional about obeying this command, I now believe God not only loves me, He also likes me. The impact on me has been profound. The impact on my family has been even greater.
The Demmes have a family business which began with Mathusee. In 2012 we transitioned to make it a family owned company, which required a lot of necessary and painful conversations. During these sessions I discovered that my faulty understanding of grace, and other personal scars and baggage from my past, had hurt the very people I was seeking to bless and protect, my wife and sons. One day, my wife courageously confronted me and said I had many wonderful attributes, and then she shared a remarkable insight, “you can’t do enough to please God and you’re hurting our family.” With her wise input and my sons carefully and bravely pointing out some of my blindspots, I knew I needed help. I sought the help of therapists and reached out to brothers in Christ for support. This one paragraph is a short summary of the hardest and best year of my life. Our family went through a difficult season, but God has brought us into a good place.
Most of the changes happened in my own heart. I found I had to do a lot of repentance and dying. I prayed, “search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalm 139:23-24) I diligently pursued God and become more “rooted and grounded in love” (Ephesians 3:17) I now am aware, as never before, that my relationship with God impacts my relationship with my family. There is no one that can build them up like me. There is no one who can hurt them like me. I also discovered that I am unable to love well until I am loved well.
Jesus was loved well, which enabled Him to love us well. As I continued to meditate on John 15:9, I wondered how God the Father loved His Son. For the passage clearly says, “As the Father loves me.” I thought about the baptism of Jesus which gives us a glimpse of their relationship. Jesus emerged from the water, the Spirit came upon Him, and His Dad uttered life changing words to His Boy. “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.” (Matthew 3:17 NLT). My translation: I am so glad you are my Son. I love you to pieces. You are a delight to me.
At this point in time, Jesus had not done anything. He had not fed the five thousand, raised the dead, or healed lepers. Yet His Dad gave Him the greatest gift a son could receive. He affirmed that Jesus belonged to Him. He was beloved. He was pleasing. Jesus was a loved Son, which prepared Him to be a loving Savior. Since He had been loved well, He was equipped to love well. The good news is we have also been loved well. But sometimes we need to invest the time and effort to assimilate His love.
The Spirit assists us in our quest to comprehend this truth (Romans 5:5, 8:15-16). He helps us believe that the same way Jesus was loved, is the exact same way He loves us. I now believe that since I have trusted Jesus, I am His adopted child and belong to the family of God. And I am a beloved child. And since Jesus has cleansed, forgiven, and clothed me in His righteousness, I am a also a delight and well-pleasing to my Dad. This is true now. This is true today, and this minute.
Building on this truth, John 15:12 directs me to “love one another as I have loved you.” I see now that I that the best thing I can do for my family is let God love me. As I abide in His love, I am enabled to love others as I have been loved. With this newfound understanding of God’s plan, I carve out time each day to spend time with my Dad. I am learning to be still and know that my Dad likes me for who I am. I frequently read Psalm 139 which convinced me that God knows me intimately and loves me still. There is nothing I can do to make God love me more. There is nothing I can do to make God love me less. He loved me when I was a sinner. He loves me now as His adopted son.
As a parent, there is no one who loves my children more than my wife and myself. We were designed for this high calling of raising our children to live forever. We have prayed for them for decades, taught them God’s Word, and sought to live out our faith before their eyes. We’ve read books aloud, learned together, and fully embraced the homeschooling lifestyle. All of this was done with the best intentions and we have no regrets for all we did in our home.
During all those years that they were together, we sought to put God first and then family. We poured our time and energy into building a family of faith. The one thing I did not do was invest energy in my connection with heaven. I read my Bible, attended church, and prayed, but I did not spend enough one on one time with my Dad. I sought to pour out and give, but spent very little time drinking and being still. If I had a do-over, I would invest more time in my relationship with my Heavenly Father. I would seek “to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18) I would also spend time reflecting on my wounds and scars from my past, lest I pass on my own pain to my wife and children.
One of the vessels of grace that God brought into our home to teach us about love is our fourth son who was born with Down Syndrome. He is a special child. Compared to him, I am the needy one. Almost every morning he comes downstairs and finds me when I am usually reading my Bible and having my morning quiet time. He gives me a hold, not a hug, for a hug is brief, while a hold takes time. Then he kisses me until I wrestle him off to his delight. We love each other. Our affection is not based on what we can do for each other, but for who we are. He is my son. I am his pop.
I have learned from John. I too need to find my Dad each day and receive a hold. I need to be reaffirmed that because of Jesus: I am His son, He loves me to pieces, and I bring Him great joy. For the more I am loved, the greater my capacity to love others as He has loved me. Currently, God has led me to take daily ‘walks with God’ where I come close to my Dad, knowing that as I do, He will come close to me. I seek and find Him on these precious saunters.
My hope and prayer is that each of you may “have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.” (Ephesians 3:18-19 NLT) And may you be convinced as was the Apostle Paul that “neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 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.” (Romans 8:38-39) Amen.
He has many free resources to strengthen and encourage families which can be found at buildingfaithfamilies.org. He records a weekly podcast, sends out a monthly newsletter, and has written Crisis to Christ, Knowing God’s Love, Speaking the Truth in Love, Loved to Love, and Family Worship. He has also compiled a collection of 100 Hymns for Family Worship. All of these are available in book form or as free PDFs on his website.
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