The act of writing, of sharing the circumstances, the gifts and the graces planned and carried out by my Savior and God brings joy, peace, and contentment to know that He has my life in His hands. My prayer for those who read, who share in what I continue to learn each day, many times through my weakness, is that you will be encouraged to look for God's presence and grace in your life also.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Song of Songs: "Where There is love, there is..."

[If you would rather listen to this lecture given at our Women's Bible Study please go to... Song of Songs: Where there is love, there is...

During the past couple of weeks, I have read through Song of Songs several times; I have read papers and commentaries written on it and I have listened to sermons. And my conclusion is that a lot of really good theologians and teachers struggle with this book included in Scripture. They do agree that it is part of the entirety of Scripture and thus it is part of the whole redemption story that is the overriding theme of the Bible. They also agree that it is a poem about love, love between a man and woman. They also agree that the love story is an example given to us as to what courtship and marriage should look like. Of course there are other places in Scripture that talk about marriage and God's commands concerning it. It has also been said that Song of Songs is the least preached on, the least written about, and the hardest book in the Bible to understand. For hundreds of years the church didn't really know what to do with the book.

So don't feel badly if you struggled with this. However I will dare say that we all have a better understanding of what Song of Songs is about in general, and I dare say that we all have at least one truth, if not several to take away from these two weeks we have spent on this. If nothing else you should be walking away encouraged that God approves of marriage and the marriage bed and expects you to be passionate in the love affair you are having with your husband.

I do have to say that I heard some great sermons, I read some great papers written on it and I learned 
much. For those of you who really want to know more about Song of Songs and be blessed in the process I have a link to some great lectures given at a conference on Song of Songs. The teacher was James T Dennison, Jr from Northwest Theological Seminary. He delivered 6 lectures getting into the details and structure of the book looking at an overview, looking at the poetic structure from the Hebrew text and then going through it verse by verse. Actually quite easy to understand and will give a much deeper insight into this poem than we can do in two weeks. The link to find this is: Song of songs lectures

As we have said, Song of Songs is a love poem. As Kendra said last week it talks about marital love in a covenant marriage between a man and woman giving us insight into the intimacy involved in a sexual relationship. Their love story is one of purity before marriage, of how people in love should respond to each other and how their mutual love serves to strengthen each of them and their marriage.

But what about those of you here who are single, widowed, or divorced and are no longer in a position to experience sexual love here “under” the sun, I get that... After our car accident and Larry's head injury, I learned that I had to stay away from romance novels and movies.... couldn't go there then when I was in my 30's. It was just too hard. I missed the Larry who loved me. I didn't want to talk about it and I really did steer clear of Song of Songs along with novels and movies about love stories. The first time I ever read more than a few verses in Song of Songs was a few weeks ago. But now that I am “older,” it is easier to look back with thanksgiving at what Larry and I had without sadness knowing that God in his goodness and love had a plan for us that would be different after just eight years.. And I have to say that I know I have grown closer to Christ, felt His love more deeply that I would have if the Larry of our early marriage was the same. God is good and His plan for each of our lives is right. As someone reminded our Sunday School class on Sunday, “Count it ALL joy!”

I was really blessed by something that James Dennison said in one of those lectures about those of us who for whatever reason are not involved in an intimate, sexual love relationship in marriage right now. And that is that the Song of Songs is a beautiful picture of passionate, erotic, covenental love in a marriage between a man and a woman. Dennison went back to Genesis 1 and 2 where when God created man and then the woman and said they were to cleave one to the other and he said, “It is good.” That relationship between a man and woman is what is reflected in Song of Songs. But the Song of Songs also looks forward to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb when Christ will have His bride, the church, with him and what a celebration that will be! Actually over and over throughout the Bible, Israel and then the church is referred to as the bride and God and Christ the groom or the husband.

We must know and we can know from many other places in Scripture that God through Christ loves us, each one of his own daughters with the passionate, steadfast, covenental love that we see here in Song of Songs. This book is for us too. And if you listen to those lectures Denison talks about why looking at God's love, His extreme love for us isn't allegorical but just as real as the love the man in Song of Songs had for his “darling.”

Oh that we would know and really believe that God loves us no matter what!! And how do we experience God's love more and more? We ask him to show us; we spend time teaching the gospel to ourselves everyday; we spend time with our Lord and Savior, our heavenly groom who will one day “present us to himself in all splendor and majesty.” As women without an earthly husband we must live in gratitude and praise for the God who loves us better than any husband on earth could.

But now let's talk about our lesson for the week. It is important that we think about what love looks like in a marriage. And as she said, “where love is.... there will be....marriage, fear, words or communication declaring that love, giving of oneself and there are other things.... on my list I included strength, protection, faithfulness, and perseverance and I would add their will be commitment..

One of the things we notice as we go through this love story is that there are real ups and downs in the journey. Isn't that the truth? We all know that from experience. There are times when you couldn't be more in love with your husband...things are going well and you pray that this love story will only get better and better and then boom.... the bottom drops out, some times from circumstances beyond our control but many times because of three issues, self-centeredness, disagreements about money or PMS..
As we have learned the marriage in Song of Songs happens from 4:6 to 5:1. Around that center point there are different events that happen both before and after. And even though there were some down times before, it mainly involved the extreme longing to be with the other person. The young woman day dreams a lot about being with her beloved.

In one dream before the marriage she sought her love but could not find him. Perhaps there was some fear involved here in whether he still loved her. If this is a story about Solomon, then we must understand that she she did not have easy access to him since he was the king. Maybe she hadn't seen him for awhile. Do you remember doubts and fears you had before you got married: like “Does he really like me? Does he love me? Did I do something wrong?” Those fears are real.

Here when she went looking for him in her dream she found him. But after the marriage we have the disturbing scene where she is half asleep and he knocks on the door but she “had put off my garment; how could I put it on? I had bathed my feet; how could I soil them?” She hesitates to open the door because doesn't want to be bothered, she would be inconvenienced. Perhaps there had been a disagreement. And then when she finally does go to the door, he is gone. And then real fear sets in and she frantically goes looking for him. The result is not good and she ends up hurt and bruised. In later verses if you listen to Dennison he explains how there is reconciliation which in the end strengthens their marriage.

Marriage is not a bed of roses. At times it is downright hard, but those hard times come to strengthen us to teach us about the folly of our own selfishness, our lack of trust in our spouse and even our trust in God.

The thing is fear can have a very damaging effect on a marriage. One pastor I listened to said one question he always asks young couples when they come to him for marriage counseling is “Do you trust her totally?” “Can you trust him?” “Can you trust this other person for the rest of your life?” If you can't then do not get married. He said that a lack of trust leads to fearfulness in your relationship. With trust comes obedience, submission, putting the needs of the other person first. In the NT we read that perfect love casts out fear.

Also when we find ourselves fearful, we must realize we are not understanding God's sovereignty in our life. I think one of the worst questions that I have heard from married women or that I ever said in my own head is this one: “Did I marry the right person?” “Did I make a mistake?” Wow... the very next question we must ask ourselves is, “How sovereign is God?” If you really believe He is sovereign over all things, then I married the right person and so did you. That does not take away from being wise in choices, we still have responsibility but we can know without a shadow of a doubt that God indeed planned this man for my husband because through this man given to you, God will conform you to the image of his Son. He will use the good and the bad, the wonderful times and the hard, hard times to teach you about Himself as you trust God and His perfect plan for your life.

I am so glad that in Song of Songs the hard times in marriage are included. Their romance and marriage was not a fairy tale; it was very real. Remember when you were young, thinking about finding the man of your dreams, the perfect man who would love you perfectly, who would make you perfect and get rid of all your issues. The man who would fix everything and the two of you along with your perfect children would live happily ever after. And then you found him and he was perfect, or almost because he loved you. And then you got married.

One time a young man who was dating a girl told me that even though loved this girl, he wasn't sure he could marry her because of some problems she had. Those problems might make marriage to her less than ideal. First, I reminded him that he had problems too. But as I told him, marriage is indeed a glimpse of heaven on earth. The intimate relationship we will have with our Lord and Savior is seen in the relationship with our spouses when we are giving our love to each other without restraint, or selfish motive...when we give all we have to make the other person the best they can be. Isn't that what Christ does for us and we will reach the climax of that love when we see him in heaven, when we receive our inheritance. But, the truth is marriage here under the sun does have its problems. We are not only saints but we sin and we live in a broken world. So what marriage really does is sanctify us as we are forced outside of our selfish desires to give to another. God gives us our spouses to mold our characters in ways nothing else can.

So just how important are “declarations of love” in our relationships, especially the relationship with our spouse?

How many of you like to read or even write poetry? I love poetry... just for fun let me read you one of the most famous love poems in history.

"How do I love thee? Let me count the ways..."
by Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861)
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday's
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with a passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints, --- I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! --- and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

Can you imagine how Robert Browning felt after he received this written declaration of Elizabeth's love for him? He also wrote love poems to her but probably the best reaction to the love poems she was writing him is found in a letter he wrote before they were married.
Written January 10th, 1845
New Cross, Hatcham, Surrey
I love your verses with all my heart, dear Miss Barrett, -- and this is no off-hand complimentary letter that I shall write, --whatever else, no prompt matter-of-course recognition of your genius and there a graceful and natural end of the thing: since the day last week when I first read your poems, I quite laugh to remember how I have been turning again in my mind what I should be able to tell you of their effect upon me -- for in the first flush of delight I though I would this once get out of my habit of purely passive enjoyment, when I do really enjoy, and thoroughly justify my admiration -- perhaps even, as a loyal fellow-craftsman should, try and find fault and do you some little good to be proud of herafter! -- but nothing comes of it.

Poor Robert. He wanted to get her poems out of his mind, dismiss them, but he couldn't. He even tried to be critical but “nothing comes of it.” Her words to him in poetry form only drew him closer to her.
Here in Song of Songs we have the words of this couple's love story written down. The love they had was put into words by both of them. The way they felt about each other was not only said out loud but it was written down and put in the cannon of Scripture.. Now I don't know if they wrote their feelings down when it all happened. But I can't help but wonder if they really did write notes to each other when they weren't together? I have a feeling that did happen. But we do know that at times they were speaking directly to each other. They shared their feelings, their thoughts with each other.

Communication is so important from the beginning of a courtship and throughout the years of marriage. I also know that some of you have husbands who do not express their feelings out loud...they aren't poetic, they aren't good with words. Maybe your husband is like the old man who was asked when was the last time he told his wife he loved her. His reply took a few seconds... “Told her back on the day we were married and haven't changed my mind. I'll tell her when I do.”

One thing I used to do when I was teaching English and we would read some of the love poems written by Shakespeare, Woodsworth, Shelley, Elizabeth and Robert Browning was to talk about how important sharing what you were thinking about the person you love with that person. Most of the male students I had came from ranches and farms in the midwest and believe me they were more into trucks, tractors and guns than words, especially romantic words. But I would tell them this, “When you meet the girl that you know you want to marry, make sure of that... a girl you can't live without... write her a poem telling her what she means to you or what you love about her. Don't do that unless you really plan to marry her because if you don't marry her, you will break her heart.”

In the years since, I have had several former students tell me that their husbands who were also students did just that and it was what put them over the edge. That one poem sealed their decision to say yes forever.

Some of you sitting here who have been married for years, would love to get a poem or even a note from your husband.... maybe he can't say it out loud but you yearn for that confirmation of his feelings. As women we need to have confirmation of our husband's love. So I have a couple suggestions.

*First and foremost, pray that the Holy Spirit will move him to do that. Pray that words will be given to
him. God really does answer specific prayers. Share with God that you need that affirmation from your man who has a voice here under the sun.
*Second, be an example. Instead of talking so much (which women do fairly easily) you can write down your feelings about him and what he means to you. Remember what men need is not so much to know that they are loved but that they are respected. So you tell them specifics about what they do to make you feel loved, protected, provided for and cherished. Leave little notes around the house. When they travel, put a note or several in their suitcase. And then pray some more. And who knows they might learn from your example.
*And here I'm going to add something for those of you who don't have a husband or maybe a husband who can't be a husband....because we need that affirmation of love too. Begin a journal where you write down verses from the Bible that deal with Christ's love to you. Those of us who don't have arms of flesh to wrap around us need to remind ourselves over and over, daily of Christ's love for us and what he did. Grace is another word study that will lead you to his love, protection and provision for you. “Fall in love with Christ all over again by letting his love permeate your very being.” If we don't do that, I will tell you that the same thing that creeps into loveless marriages will creep into your heart and that is bitterness, cynicism, and a critical spirit accompanied by anger, depression and hopelessness.

To take this one step further, words of encouragement are important to all of us. And everyone of us in this room know someone who is either unmarried, widowed, alone, or a woman who is really struggling in her marriage and does not have someone with fleshly arms to show them love. What would happen if we each reached out to one woman like that?

Let me tell you about someone who did that for me a few weeks ago. As most of you know, Larry fell the end of August and my life turned upside down for a couple of months. It meant no sleep for me, rarely leaving the house, Larry couldn't be left alone for even a minute. I was exhausted, I was alone, and wondering what the future looked like. Then one day, at the end of my rope, I sat down at my computer and wrote in my blog about what was going on. I asked my sisters to please pray for me... And God did answer the prayers of my sisters. Immediately my spirit was lifted, Larry slept most of the night that night and I was greatly encouraged. Many sent me notes by email or on FaceBook. Some called and some sent cards. But several days later, someone in this room, if she is here today, sent me a message on FB. “There is a little something on your front step. Thought it would encourage you.”

Now, you probably don't all know this but my love language is gifts... and there on my front step was a little basket with a tin of mint Tazo tea (awesome tea), a bag of Lindor chocolates (I'm so glad that came before I found out I had to cut sugar out of my diet), and a book by Elysse Fitzpatrick, “Comforts From the Cross” which is all about the passionate love of God for us.

Ladies, you have no idea what that basket did for me--that tangible evidence of a sister's love. She took the time to drive it to my house and leave it on my step. I don't know if she rang the doorbell or not, since we had left the house for about 30 minutes to run a quick errand, but I'm sure if she did there would have been a tangible hug to go with that. Gals, we need to encourage each other. We need to be there to show love to those who are hurting or lonely. When Jesus came to earth “Love came down” so we can spread that love to others.

Which leads us right into the fact that love is the giving of oneself....as Kathleen said, “There is exclusive giving of oneself.” There were many examples here in Song of Songs that we talked about in our small groups.

This idea of giving of oneself to another to meet their needs, to help them without any thought of what we will get from them is totally counter-cultural today. Actually when someone wants to do that in our culture they are looked at as suspect because there has to be an ulterior motive.

But the truth is that marriage is designed in such a way that if the exclusive giving of oneself does not happen, if there are not two people giving everything they have plus that much more to the other person, the whole thing can fall apart.

I love the Christmas story by O Henry called “The Gift of the Magi.” A summary of it written on Wikpedia says:

Mr. James Dillingham Young ("Jim") and his wife, Della, are a couple living in a modest flat. They each have only one possession in which they take pride: Della's beautiful long, flowing hair, almost to her knees and Jim's shiny gold watch, which had belonged to his father and grandfather.
On Christmas Eve, with only $1.87 in hand, and desperate to find a gift for Jim, Della sells her hair for $20, and eventually finds a platinum fob chain for Jim's watch for $21. She found the perfect gift at last and runs home and begins to prepare dinner, with 87 cents left.
When Jim comes home, he looks at Della with a strange expression. Della then admits to Jim that she sold her hair to buy him his present. Jim gives Della her present — an assortment of expensive hair accessories (referred to as “The Combs”), useless now that her hair is short. Della then shows Jim the chain she bought for him, to which Jim says he sold his watch to get the money to buy her combs. Although Jim and Della are now left with gifts that neither one can use, they realize how far they are willing to go to show their love for each other, and how priceless their love really is.
The story ends with the narrator comparing the pair's mutually sacrificial gifts of love with those of the Biblical Magi:[4]
The magi, as you know, were wise men – wonderfully wise men – who brought gifts to the new-born King of the Jews in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. Being wise, their gifts were no doubt wise ones, possibly bearing the privilege of exchange in case of duplication. And here I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest. Of all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the Magi.

And so we come to the end of our little study in Song of Songs....a beautiful book with all its imagery of nature, and its poetic devices used to tell the story; with all the characters, even those besides the couple who help give us a picture of what love should look like in community. I'm sure none of you know this but there is a Hollywood star who actually wrote a commentary about Song of Songs because he thought it would show that God approved of erotic love expressed by anyone, especially outside of marriage. What he found (and I can't remember his name) was that this book included in the canon of Scripture was different. He actually looked at erotic love poems written at the same time as Song of Songs and came to the realization that this was different. This was special.

So as you wives go from here use what you have learned to enhance your marriage, to love your husband passionately, to express your love for him in more tangible ways. For you who are not in a marriage now, (and also for those who are married) go from here understanding that God loves you with a steadfast, faithful and passionate love which was shown when he sent his Son to die for you so that one day at the Marriage supper of the Lamb we will celebrate with our groom His passionate love for us.

Ephesians 3:14 +
 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.

And Amen.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

A huge thank you for praying...

That last post I wrote was where I was.... exhausted and in need of the prayers of my sisters.  Thank you so much for reading and praying.  You are all good at that.

God has answered... Larry has slept much better for three nights now... much better, and perhaps we have a habit forming.  Only got up 3 times last night.  Some might say "Only?????" Yes, but that is good and one of the times was four hours between.... (Remember those days of infant feedings at night?)

He is still walking very bent over....can't quite figure that out, but would so appreciate prayers for that issue.  Not standing up means someone has to pretty much walk everywhere with him so he doesn't topple over. I am doing the "hamstring stretch" with him twice a day now. I have to say that at one point, after Sunday morning, when I was wondering if we would get him to the car without carrying him, I pled, "Holy Spirit, I need help here....what to do."  Shortly after I remembered the hamstring stretch thing....seems to have helped some.

Anyway all of this to say "THANK YOU!"  After the last post, there were times when it would hit me that life was better, I wasn't so exhausted, and Larry was doing okay.  "Oh my, people are praying..."

Thank you all!!

This semester in our women's Bible study, we are studying Ecclesiastes.  And to be honest, that is not a book I would have chosen.  Preachers don't choose it much either.  Most of us have the idea that it is a very negative book, dealing with the futility of life.  You know phrases like "all is vanity" and "it is just striving after the wind," don't help our perception.

But as I was working on lessons 3 and 4 last night, I was overcome with God's goodness and love for us because of his sovereignty in the plan he has for each of our lives.

When we try to plan our lives,
     when we strive for control of what is happening in our lives,
            when we try to fix things,
                 when we try to figure it all out "under the sun",
we get discouraged, disillusioned, and defeated.
Because of the hard things in our lives, we begin to think life is hopeless, unbearable, and absolutely no fun.

But when we realize that God is indeed in control,
     that he has our life planned for good (even if it isn't what we would have chosen),
           that he is above the sun where there are riches and wonders we can't imagine,
                that his Son paid the ultimate price so we could spend eternity with him,
Then we will be able to have the joy that God has for us.
Yes, we will understand that all of life here is a gift from God including eating, drinking, working, and the hard things that draw us into dependence on him.

During these last weeks, I have been able to finish a book that I started months ago, Unbroken.  I can't imagine anyone going through what Louie went through as a Japanese POW during WWII. But through the book, over and over, the reader sees how God and only God spared his life...to be sure barely at times.... but spared his life so that one day Louie would come to the realization of who God is and what God had done for him. Definitely put what we were dealing with in perspective.

Again, I thank you all for your prayers....My prayers for you continue along with my thanks to God for each one of you.

Ecclesiastes 3:9-15

What gain has the worker from his toil? 10 I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. 12 I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; 13 also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God's gift to man.
14 I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him.15 That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already has been; and God seeks what has been driven away.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

A new normal?

About five weeks ago, life at our house changed.  Larry fell, which he tends to do once in awhile but until now those falls only gave him bruises and even swollen areas around joints but he recovered quickly, probably because he didn't remember he had fallen more than a few minutes so didn't know he should hurt.  He also can't remember what it is like not to hurt so whatever "hurts" he has become normal to him.

But this "fall" was different.  After trips to ER, Urgent Care, a doctor visit, a ct scan, blood work, and a colonoscopy we only know that he has a compression fracture in his back, and a few other normal issues for someone his age (actually he is better than many his age).

But something is wrong.

Now comes the hard part...change in what he can and can't do resulting in needing someone with him all the time.  He is weaker, he falls much more easily, he gets up many more times at night to go to the bathroom and needs help each time, he is less alert, but he doesn't realize anything is different.

For me this means CHANGE of routine.  I can't leave him with others because they can't be with him all the time, deep sleep at night has to be avoided for me, and most of the activities I was involved in before have been set aside.

The hardest part is I don't really know what is wrong.  The tests haven't revealed anything so far, so the question becomes, "Is this the new normal?"

And I liked the old normal.  I liked to be able to go places, be involved, do things with others.

And then comes fear of the unknown....what lies ahead? Is this really our new normal? How can I make this work? How do I get some sleep?

Thinking about all of this wears me out....
    Trying to figure out what is happening wears me out...
          Planning what to do wears me out...
               Worrying about all of it really wears me out.

In all of this I realize just how much I don't like change, the unknown, or being helpless.

Oh, I know what you are thinking... I'm thinking the same thing:
"This should be yet another time to really trust God."

"Trust God."  Boy, hasn't God been teaching me how to trust for the last 36 years?  Hasn't he taken me through lots of other trials to teach me who He is and how He provides and cares for us?

Of course He has and now comes another time, another chance to learn who He is. To watch for Him every single day and rest in His Steadfast Love and Faithfulness.  But along with that comes my mind and the plans and control I want to have.

I really have been asking Him to lay it on the hearts of those I know to pray for me as I am praying for those I know.  And one thing I do know is that I'm not the only one struggling today.... as I just read in Glorious Ruin, "Every person suffers every single day of their life in some way."

One thing for sure....as I am home more...there is time to read more, pray more, write more, and enjoy the presence of my Savior without all the things "out there" to keep me busy.

"So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal." II Corinthians 4:16-18

Monday, September 23, 2013

Through it all....God

"No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure 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 spearate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:37-39

What a beautiful morning....cool, clean and charming with flowers still blooming, butterflies still flying, and birds still chirping.  Fall is here with its promise of tall aspen's color, pumpkin pies, chili, and flames in the fireplace.

I love fall and I love spring....but winter and summer are months I walk through enjoying what they
offer but dreading their extremes, times of off the charts heat and cold and all that comes with those.

And so it is with life...

Days of color and butterflies fluttering...
    Days of perfect temperatures and soft flames flickering...
        Days of flowers blooming and pumpkin pies covered in whipped cream...
               Days we give thanks for.... days we see God's presence everywhere.

Days of bitter cold penetrating to our bones...
    Days of suffocating heat wilting not only the flowers and trees but our energy....
          Days of little light, allowing the darkness to envelope all the light around us....
                Days of sadness and grief because of want or loss.
Days where God's presence is beyond our grasp.

This is where the indwelling Holy Spirit brings to our remembrance what Jesus taught us; the truth he taught.

"I will never leave you, nor forsake you."

"The thief comes only to steal and to kill, but I have come that you may have life and more abundantly."

"I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand."

"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle, and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls."

Be comforted and lifted up each of us, in the trials we face today....

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Thank you Lord, for water...

This summer there will be water restrictions here ....only two days a week  and not between the hours of 10 AM and 6 PM.  And if we use over a certain amount, the price of the water goes up to a cost that is prohibitive. (60 cents a gallon)

Guess I will be praying for rain... and carrying an umbrella.

Growing up in Colorado on a farm, water was a big deal.  Since it didn't rain a lot, my dad depended on irrigation to grow alfalfa and corn to feed the dairy cows.  All eight of us kids took our turns moving the irrigation pipes through the fields, snakes and all.

To this day, I love dark, dark clouds in the summer along with lightening. I'm sure it goes back to all those times we looked longingly and prayerfully to the skies for clouds  that would actually produce rain.

I guess Colorado hasn't changed that much...still semi-arid on the Eastern slope and always needing more rain.  Now they can forecast the weather better than back in the 50's and 60's. And it sounds like could be in for yet another year of drought.

Like I said, I will be praying for rain.....and carrying an umbrella..

My garden? Well, I won't be planting new things, unless they are drought resistant. But I will be thanking God for every bloom that comes, every zucchini, tomato and squash picked.  Maybe I will have time to sit down and really enjoy the sound of the waterfall, and I do love waterfalls.

There is just something about water, rushing water: the reflected, dancing sunshine, the bubbles, the foam, the sound, and of course the fresh smell.

God's grace and love around me....Thank YOU for:

#653...waking up to see sun shining on wet wood and ground....raaiinnnnnnn.................mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

#654...reminder in sermon of "hesed" love from God....steadfast and faithful love...

#655... moments to be still and watch fish, gold, orange, red and white, realize it is warming up and spring really is coming....

#656...YOUR WORD....always new, always true, always life giving, always comforting.

#657...prayer...O THANK YOU for the privilege of approaching YOUR throne, of talking to you, of just  telling you what's going on and asking YOU, who created all things, for what I need.

#658....babies.  For every single one of them.  For life...

#659...the green blades of new life coming up through brown left-over winter...

#660...provision to pay bills and to give to others...

#661...hard things our lives like cancer, altzhimers, accidents, lost jobs, unbelieving children, broken marriages, hard separations by death....circumstances that drive us to you...to learn more about you and that trust is the answer....and heaven is the hope; that the best place we can be is dependent on YOU.

#662...healing here and the hope of heaven ever after...

#663...a vacation trip with my sister...the views, the water, the food, the warmth, and the laughter. Oh, and for Scrabble games.

#664... Renee and Greg and their willingness to take care of Larry.

#665...snow, snow and more snow with moisture.

#666...lunch with a friend who brought it here.

#667...the gym.

#668...second hand stores for needed things and surprise finds.

#669...being able to still have lunch with my 96 year old dad and his "little" sister, in her 80's.... and my sister and brother and wife.

#770...fun sunglasses that made a splash in Jamaica.... :-)


Monday, March 25, 2013

Thank you, LORD, for music...

"Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre,
praise him with tambourine and dancing, praise him with the strings and flue,
praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals.
Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD."  Psalm 150:3-6 (NIV)

Someone posted this video on Facebook this morning.  Watching it, I found myself worshiping my God as I praised and thanked Him for the gift of music; for the joy that comes because of the skills of others.

Music draws us all together as it lifts our spirits, fills our hearts with gladness, and envelopes us with joy through what we hear and see. Watch this short video and you will see what I mean.

The children were what caught my eye in that video.  They couldn't stand still, they couldn't contain what the music did in them and they moved.  Oh that we could be so expressive as we get older.

"Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.
Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs."
--Psalms 100:1-2 (NIV)

Musical skill was not one of the things that Larry and I had in common when we began dating.  He was getting his Masters degree from UNC in music education.  He not only played the trombone extremely well, but he could play every instrument there was.  He also loved singing harmony with other guys and had a beautiful bass voice.  And then there was me....who in 6th grade had been asked to just mouth the words in the choir for a concert, [I later had a music teacher who told me I really could sing if I just thought a little higher so I didn't go flat.].  I did play the piano for church, but as Larry often said "She plays by blunt note...not pretty but sufficient."

But music has always been a huge part of who I am....

Maybe it goes back to all the Saturday afternoons growing up when the house was cleaned, the baking done, and Mom turned on the radio to the "Metropolitan Opera."  Every single Saturday afternoon we listened while we quietly read or worked.  There was no TV on those afternoons it was just opera.

Maybe it was the hours Mary Jane, my BFF, and I cleaned the church each week.  We would clean as fast as we could and then sit at the piano.  I would play hymns and we would sing every verse of every hymn as loudly as we could.  Oh the joy of those times. We thought we sounded great.

Or maybe it was even all those senior recitals and concerts I went to in college that year I was dating Larry, and then all the junior high and high school concerts I went to with Larry when he taught music.

All I know is music puts me closer to my Creator...
    -music gives me a desire to talk to Him....
        -music teaches me about Him.

Today, I do thank Him for His amazing gift of music...

"Sing for joy to God our strength; should aloud to the God of Jacob!
Begin the music, strike the tambourine, play the melodious harp and lyre.
Sound the ram's horn at the NEW Moon, and when the moon is full, on the day of our Feast;
this is a decree for Israel, and ordinance of the God of Jacob."
Psalm 81:1-4

"And I saw what looked like a sea of glass mixed with fire and, standing beside the sea, those who had been victorious over the beast and his image and over the number of his name.
They held harps given them by God
and sang the song of Moses the servant of God and the song of the Lamb:
'Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty. 
Just and true are your ways, King of the ages.'"
Revelation 15:2-3 (NIV)

"David and all the Israelites were celebrating with all their might before God, with songs and with harps, lyres, tambourines, cymbals and trumpets." I Chronicles 13:8 (NIV)

"David told the leaders of the Levites to appoint their brothers as singers to sing joyful songs, accompanied by musical instruments: lyres, harps and cymbals." I Chronicles 15:16 (NIV)

Thank you Jesus for...

640... music to praise You...
641... music to lift up hurting hearts...
642... music to calm....
643... music to share in joy and laughter...
644...music for sadness...

645... moisture....
646... testimony of a prayer warrior to challenge...me.
647...tea....blessed tea to comfort and sooth...
648...books to help me understand the plans You have for others..
649...air to breathe...
650....water to drink,,,
651....food to eat...and enjoy...
652...sunshine on ice over waterfall...

Another post you might enjoy

Monday, March 18, 2013

Knowing the presence of God involves focusing on his gifts...

[Won't you grab a cup/glass of tea, take a deep breath, and give yourself some time to just sit and reflect on God and his presence.]

How I long for heaven....for a perfect body and heart that won't be concerned with things here, that won't get distracted by the world and its attractions, its stuff, its problems, and its false provisions...

Maybe it is this study in I John, maybe it's the Spirit, maybe it's last nights concert with Michael Card and the lyrics to the songs about just what Christ did for me when he died for me....
and probably it is all those things;
 but I do pray for more focus on...
     my God and Savior,
        my Father and my LORD,
             my Creator and my Provider,
                 my Rock and my Victory.
                      my All in All
                         Who really is all-sufficient.

A YOUtube video making the rounds on FB is one with two twins, clad only in their diapers, standing in front of the refrigerator "talking."  And I mean they are talking, without reservation, without one coherent word in any language. Their body language is amazing and they even laugh. click to watch,

I can guarantee a few things about that conversation....
   They weren't trying to say the right thing in the right way.  They spoke with total abandon sharing what was in their hearts.

Oh that we could do that with our Father.  I know if I would just "talk" to him without trying to do it right, sharing my deepest hurts, needs and desires, telling him about what is happening, what I love, what I see around me that he gave me, what bothers me, what I'm not doing well, and what I would like to do,  my days would be filled with his love because I'm in contact with HIM.

 Perhaps then I would just know that he is here, right now in this very place and he cares more deeply that I can understand.

But to get there,
   I have to be thankful, grateful....
       I have to see his work in me and all around me....
          I have to ASK...
And then be grateful....

I love this verse with all the feeling and emotion of what we need to express to our God.

"Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen." Revelation 7:12

And so "Father, I thank you for....:

#616...pastor's wives....for the gifting You have given to bless many

#617...mountains...Pikes Peak all alone that screams God's majesty...every day.

#618...tea...fellowship, smiles, warmth.

#619...blankets to enfold tiredness.

#620..."A Violent Grace" concert with Michael Card...so full of truth, grace, the message of the gospel. "Come to the Table"

#621... suffering that strengthens our trust in You.

#622...time with friends who share desire to help others.

#623...friends staying overnight.

#624...a clean house.

#625...for the motivation to clean.

#626...the fragrance of rain, even a little.

#627...telephone to keep in touch with children, to encourage children, father, brothers, sisters, to share circumstances, feelings, blessings, love.

#628...a card from a friend just to say, "I care."

#629...spring surprises pushing through brown, dry soil.

#630...Zeus, a big dog, who with unbridled happiness remembers the toy I like to play with him.

#631...______ who takes time in SS to say "hello" to Larry and visit for a few minutes.  Bless him abundantly.

#632...for mangoes.

#633...for a grandchild coming soon...July 2 or 3 or 4 or.......

#634...silence...coughs gone.

#635...abundance to give from...

#636... new snow sparkling on Pikes Peak.

#637...trails to hike.,,,the anticipation of new pictures.

#638...grace, given to me over and over when I don't deserve it.

#639....grace, to show to others because of your example of love undeserved.

[You might also enjoy an archived post
"Spring at the Right Time of the Year."]

Monday, March 11, 2013

Giving Thanks for God's love....

Isn't it strange how we forget so easily that we are loved....

   How often we forget that God is right here, right now, righteousness in me...

         And the answer to my forgetfulness is THANKFULNESS.... remembering what He does...
                  "Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving." Colossians 2:6-7

"...abounding in thanksgiving..." I love that word "abounding"...maybe like a kangaroo, or a jack rabbit, or a deer sailing through the woods or just in front of my house.  The fact is the more we give thanks, the more abounding will happen and that sounds like pure JOY.

So here goes....I don't remember where I left off...I think somewhere around #600 but I am going to join with Ann and make this a habit, to remind myself daily how much I am loved.

#601...for bodies that are made to get well.

#602...for joy that washes over me when I think of that grand-baby coming in only three-and-a-half months.

#603...for John (the Disciple) and the inspired words in I John about abiding and loving and light and eternal life and His Spirit.

#604...for friends who care and love and listen.

#605...for warm cups of tea on cold days.

#606...for the websites to listen to sermons when coughs keep us home.

#607...for snow that is white and clean and sparkles.

#608...for moisture and springs of living water to nourish.

#609...for sunlight shining in...making life bright and warm.

#610...for pictures to see on FB...places I haven't been...showing your design and beauty

#611...for books...to enjoy,
#612...for books...to learn from,
#613...for books...to share,
#614...for books...to see your work in others.

#615...for love....God's steadfast love and faithfulness that saves sinners....wretched sinners and makes us, each one wondrously clean...white as snow.

Thank YOU

Friday, March 8, 2013

Knowing that God Loves Us, I John 4:13-21

[The following is the lecture I prepared for March 7, 2013 for our Women's Bible Study.  I especially enjoyed this study because of all the reminders about how God loves me and all that he has done by sending his only Son to die for my sins.  "Thank you, Father."]

I John 4:13-21
“By This we Know”
   13. “By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.
  1. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.
  2. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.
  3. 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.
  4. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world.
  5. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts our fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.
  6. We love because he first loved us.
  7. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.
  8. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

How we know we abide in him:
  1. Because he has given us his Spirit
  2. The testimony of the apostles who saw him and touched him
  3. Our own confession of who Jesus is.
  4. The experience of God's love
  5. The practice of God's love
At the end of I John 4, John lays out very clearly how we can know we abide in him. Each week when I go through the lesson, when I really dig into what John is talking about I am more convinced that what John has laid out in this letter is how we can be encouraged to really know that we dwell in him....that God is in us.....that Christ is in us and that we are in God and that we are in Christ. What he is absolutely not doing is giving us a check list of what we can do to measure up to God's holy requirements of being a Christ-follower. He is not giving you a to-do list. He is telling us that we have arrived because what he, God, the all powerful, all knowing, all present God has done for us, the most undeserving, wretched sinners. My salvation, my faith, my abundant life in Him is only because of him.....not me.

But here in this last part of John 4, John encourages us even more as he lays down in detail the truths that are before us so that we can know without doubt that we do indeed dwell in, abide in God and in his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ.

# one is in verse 13. “By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.”
Sometimes discussions about the Holy Spirit abiding in us, making his dwelling place in us, talking to us, teaching us, leading us can be a little bit puzzling. Many of us have friends who talk about the Spirit freely, who are very much in tune with the Holy Spirit and well sometimes I'm just not so sure about them. The truth is, sometimes I've been afraid to really find out about this “Spirit in me” because I'm afraid of what he might make me do or say. After all I wouldn't want to be considered a fanatic. And so we shy away from just what the work of the Spirit is in us. I want to challenge you and myself to really take a look at Scripture and what it says the Spirit's work is. I am simply going to read a few Scripture verses that talk about his work....some here in I John and some throughout the New Testament.
Romans 8:16 “The Spirit himself bears witness with out spirit that we are children of God.”
The assurance we get that we are children of God comes from the Spirit. Without him, we would not know that.

In Matthew 10:19-21, Christ told his disciples some really encouraging truth. Think how this would change your actions if you really believed it:
When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not YOU who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you....”

It is the spirit who deals with our flesh. Without the Spirit, we don't have a chance to control our flesh.
John 6:63 “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.”
Romans 8:9 “You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.”
Galatians 5:16 “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.”

Our prayer life would not be effective if it weren't for the Spirit. Romans 8:27-28 “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”
I Corinthians 12:8 “For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom , and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit,”

I Corinthians 12:13 “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free---and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.”

I love this one....the more I studied this the more amazed I was...
I Corinthians 2:9-12 “But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him.
These things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person's thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.”
It is only, ONLY through the Spirit that God has given us, that we can know God, that we can understand the things of God. It is NOT because we are intelligent that we understand God....it is because the Spirit reveals God to us.

And earlier in chapter 4 verse 2 we read, “By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God.”

And then it is the Spirit that he gave us to be our HELPER....
John 14 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.
.”But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”

Galatians 4:6 “And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” Because of the Holy Spirit in us, we can cry out to our Daddy. We can go to our heavenly Father multiple times a day, multiple times in an hour, even every minute and ask him what we need, tell him how we feel, find a refuge in him. WE do not make atonement for our sins only once a year as the Israelites did. The heavenly gates have been opened wide for us....wide open and we can approach the mercy set without fear.

And of course Galatians 5:22-23 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control;”

And I could go on and on....but it comes down to this fact....”We know God abides in us, each of us personally, because he has given us of his Spirit.

#Two verse 14 “And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.”

We have confidence that Jesus came down to earth....he lived a sinless life.....he was sacrificed on the cross for our sins and he rose again. He was also seen after his resurrection by the disciples and many others. John was one of those who not only heard Jesus, incarnate but he saw him with his own eyes, he touched him. Jesus came and died for us, he came to redeem us and because of the testimony of the apostles and all the truths in the Bible we can know him....

#Three verse 15 “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.”

Confession of what I believe...that Jesus came in the flesh and died for me...is part of our faith. But we also see in Scripture that there even the demons confessed who Jesus is. So confession is not just of the mouth but also of the heart. And that means that we surrender to the authority of God in our lives....we give him full control of our hearts, to change our hearts.

#Four verses 16-18 “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. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us.”

So the fourth way we know that we abide in God is we “come to KNOW and to BELIEVE the love that he has for us.”

I would hope that all of us sitting here would say, “Oh, yes, I know that God loves me.” But in practicality many of us here, perhaps most of us here, and probably all of us here don't always act like we really know that. We don't always believe that he really loves us.

And here I'm going to talk about me. There are days when things just don't go well... or maybe I should say they don't go like I think they should go, things happen that make me feel like I'm not doing a very good job at this “living life” thing. Could be the washing machine starts leaking, a piece of jewelry falls in the toilet, I realize I could write my name in the dust on top of the piano, I eat 3 scones instead of 1 and my attempt to lose weight is totally jinxed for the whole day, I get upset with Larry for something that he cannot and will not ever be able to do correctly this side of heaven. In other words all my attempts to do life right, to improve myself as a house keeper, caregiver and controller of myself have failed.

My problem is that somewhere deep in my being, I still think I can do it. I still think there is something within me that will enable me to do life better. I really don't realize the depth of my wickedness, my selfishness, my depravity. And as long as I keep trying to fix me because I'm fixable, God's love will be a distant mirage. I will not understand it, or really accept it. The problem is I don't think God can really be trusted with my life, With my day to day boring life, with my everyday problems. So I try to fix me and take care of things myself. And guess what I get frustrated, angry, depressed, and at times even bitter when things don't go the way I want them too.

Look at verse 17....I couldn't help but think that John really understood women when he wrote this....of course this is inspired by the Spirit so I guess I could say that the Spirit really understands us, because he gave John words to use that speak to us. There are three words here that resonate with most of us....we want them: LOVE and PERFECTION and CONFIDENCE. Satan uses those very three things to allure us to what the world offers....Whether that is through people, intellect, position, riches, looks or power. We want someone to love us no matter what we do; we want to be perfect so we look to the world's wisdom to become perfect, to fix ourselves; and we want to have confidence. We want to be that person who has it all together, who others look to for answers, for a model of what they should be like. And what do we get from Satan and his world....emptiness....we end up feeling like a worse failure no matter how hard we try.
And then he uses one word that sums up the thing that many women deal with every day....FEAR. You name it and we fear it....and once again it is because we are looking to the world for answers: for security, for safety, for meaning of life, for approval, for peace. It never works but only leads to disillusion, because the world can never give us enough security, safety, the real meaning for our existance, approval or peace. Those things are only found in God and his love for us.

As John says in these verses God's love in the key....knowing God is love, abiding in his love, abiding in him because he is love is the only answer to our quest, our desire for love, perfection and confidence. You see God put those desires in us....he put them there so that we would seek Him, desire Him, trust Him, love Him, thank Him.

Think what a difference it would make if instead for worrying, fretting, agonizing over our bank accounts, houses or other assets we have, we would think about all that we have inherited through Christ. We are the children of God and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ. We have spiritual blessings in the heavens that we cannot fathom.
Think what a difference it would make if we thought about and meditated on the fact that the God of Creation is our refuge, our shelter, our ROCK.
Think what a difference it would make if we realized that God approves of me totally, right now because of the righteousness of Christ that covers me.
Think about what a difference it would make if we rested in him. If we rested in his peace.

Would that affect how you approach your day....with its dirty diapers, sick children, ruined plans, or even the lure of the world with its “stuff” and the passions of our flesh that draw us away from God.
But to get there, we have to really know and understand the depth of God's love. In John 17, when Jesus was praying to the Father in the Garden before he was arrested, he ended his prayer for all of those whom God had given him, with “O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you. I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

Paul in Ephesians when he was praying for Spiritual strength for the church prayed, “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.”

You see until we really understand what Christ did for us we will never know the depth of his love for us. Elysse Fitzpatrick in her book “Because He Loves Me” said “God's love first transforms our hearts, then it changes our behaviors....without the recognition of this prior and ongoing work of love, we won't have the courage or the strength we will need to fight sin the way we ought.”
John reminds us about just what the God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit did to show their love for us.
   God sent his only Son into the world to be the Savior of the world,
  • Jesus came to be the propitiation for our sin
  • Jesus cleansed us from all sin.
  • Because of God's love in sending His only Son we are called children of God
  • And one day when he appears we shall be like him for we shall see him as he is.
  • Jesus loves us so much that he, the Son of the Almighty, laid down his life for us.
  • And because of that love we can ask him our requests and he hears us and answers.

When we understand the love with which we are loved, words like election, justification, redemption, reconciliation, propitiation, sanctification and glorification will begin to be a part of our daily lives. You see the gospel is meant to affect our daily lives, every aspect of our life.
Because when we are totally persuaded, totally convinced of God's love for us, when his love is perfected in us and Fear is gone, then God's work in our inner being will be evident to all those around us.

# FIVE verses 20-21
Which leads us to the last way John says we know we abide in him is when we see God's love flow outward through us. The practical out flowing of his love to others becomes a consistent way of life. We love BECAUSE he first loved us. We will love our brothers, we will keep his commandment and love God and love our neighbor as ourselves and love our brothers because the love of God has been perfected in us, in our inner being.

If we grasp the immeasurable love of God for us and what he has done, how could we do any less than keep his commandment and love others?
Last year we studied the book of John....it was one of the most life-changing studies I have ever gone through. And here is one of the reasons...I learned about the relationship of Jesus to his Father and the Father to the Son....and the love Jesus had for the Father. Jesus lived a sinless life. He did it all right....he never, not once sinned. He was tempted greatly but he didn't fail. Why was he able to do this? Because of Love. Let me read you a few things he said about that very thing in John.

“I always do the things that are pleasing to him.”
“I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father”
“My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work”
I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work”
“I do not seek to receive glory from people”
“I have come down not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me”

In closing I want to share with you a couple of things that Elysse Fitzpatrick said in her book “Because He loves ME.” If any of you sitting here struggle with really believing and accepting that God loves you, you need to read this book. It is one, you can't read quickly but there is so much truth, it is so worth the read.
I hope this will help you understand just what God's love means for you.
She is talking about justification here and about how not only did God wipe our slates, our record clean because of Jesus death for our sins past, present and future but he put Jesus record on our slates.
So when God looks at you he sees a person who
-always does the things that are pleasing to him;
-is so focused on accomplishing his will and work that doing so is your daily food;
-doesn't seek your own will but seeks his will instead;
-doesn't seek to receive glory (praise, respect, worship) from others;
-has always kept all his commandments;
-lives in such a way that your life brings holiness to others;
-loves others and lays down your life on a consistent basis for others;
-seeks to obey every command so that righteousness will be fulfilled.
In God's opinion, and that is the only one that counts, that is what he sees on each of our records today, and yesterday, and tomorrow.

The following are some of the verses in I John that speak to our our being in God and all that is positive about our relationship with him.  May I suggest, since I'm not reading this aloud to you as I did to my audience, that you sit down with a cup of your favorite tea and read slowly, savoring every statement here.  Be blessed.
“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called the sons of God, and so we are.”
Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.
No one who abides in him keeps on sinning....
Whoever practices righteousness is righteous as he is righteous.
No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God....
“We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers...
“By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers...
“By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything.
“Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we aks we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.
Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world......We are from God.
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God...God is love.
“In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.
“In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
“Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
“...if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
“By this we know we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.
“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. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is, so also are we in this world.
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.
“We love because he first loved us."