Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A Prayer of Trust in God -- Part Two - Taken from Psalm 4

O Father, when men think of Your attributes - that You are completely self-Sufficient, and need nothing outside of Yourself, that You are Sovereign over everything (each atom, each molecule, each thought, each word) You created, that You are Holy, Powerful, Faithful, Good, Patient, Gracious, Merciful, and Full of Wrath - they ought to tremble.  They ought not to sin.

I meditate in my heart when I lie in bed, still, before You.  I offer You the sacrifices of my righteousness - mortifying the flesh, putting to death those sinful thoughts and words and deeds that You, my Saviour, already died for.  How dare I fear?  How could I whine and complain and fret and worry?  The God of the Universe is on my side, and He Who Does Not Lie has promised never to leave me, nor forsake me.  I trust in the Living God.

Lord, it grieves me that the world cries out, "Who will show us any good?"  They see your goodness every day, in the rising of the sun, in the food on their table, in the smile of a lover... and yet, they are NEVER satisfied.

Charles Spurgeon wrote, "Never satisfied, their gaping mouths are turned in every direction, their empty hearts are ready to drink in any fine delusion which impostors may invent; and when these fail, they soon yield to despair, and declare that there is no good thing in either heaven or earth."  How terrible.  How tragic.  Lord, may my thoughts be ever turned towards You, and may I always remember that You are the fountain of life!

Lift up the light of Your countenance on me, O my God.  You have put gladness in my heart.  Whether or not I prosper, I have You, and You are enough.

Fill me with Your Spirit, O God, and let me ever sing Your praises.  Keep me from the temptation of looking at my circumstances and responding like the foolish.  Let me never sit up to watch through fear, but let me lie down upon my bed in peace, knowing that You alone, O Lord, make me to dwell in safety.

In lying down to sleep, I put my trust in You.  I let the cares of the day go, and rest in Your unfailing love, and in Your power to keep me all through the night.

You are so good to me.

I am forever grateful.

In Jesus' name, I pray.

Monday, July 14, 2014

You are not dirty even in the mud.

A Prayer of Trust in God - Part One - Taken from Psalm 4

Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness. Even that statement is amazing.   I have no righteousness in me, apart from that which YOU imputed to me by Your grace.  You are so kind to me.  You have, again and again, relieved me in my distress.  You have proved Yourself steadfast and faithful, even when I am fickle and faithless.  You have always been gracious to me, and You have always heard my feeble, sometimes fervent, prayers.  Hear me now, my Gracious Father.  Have mercy on me.

I face Your enemies every day, O Lord.  I am surrounded by those who treat Your word as a joke, and Your ways as a jest.  It was ever so.   They mocked You when You walked this dusty earth, teaching them to good news, showing them the way.  They rejected the truth.  How long will foolish men continue to love worthless fabrications, and strive towards vain, deceptive conceits?  I must stop, and think, and meditate upon the deep-seated folly of the wicked.  Their destruction is sure.  The only difference between them and me is the admirable grace of God, which has taught me to love truth and seek after righteousness.  If it weren't for the fact that You rescued me, I'd be facing the same sure destruction.

Lord, I know (and all men should know) that You have set the godly apart for Yourself.  Just as I set my mother's and grandmother's dishes apart, to be used only during a special occasion, You set me apart for Your good purposes.  You hear when I call to You.  I am Your treasure.

Thank You that You ordain my steps, and order every single event that happens to me each day.

Thank You for reminding me that no matter how I stumble, I am forever clean in  You.

Thank You for this:


Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Wrong Question, Part Two.

Our Ladies' Mid-week Bible Study is working through a book by Mindy Ferguson, entitled "Eyewitness to Majesty: Abandoning Self for Christ".  Yesterday, during the study, I expressed my disagreement with the question Mindy asked:

How do the actions of this loyal group of women challenge you to a deeper commitment to Jesus Christ?

In Part One, I explained that asking this question was the wrong question.  I outlined why these women, loyal as they were to the Lord Jesus Christ, were not at that particular time women I want to emulate.

The women at the foot of the cross had a measure of faith, but until they were indwelt by the Holy Spirit, they did not have the same understanding that we do.  They didn't understand that "Christ's death and resurrection are inseparable in effecting salvation."  ~Thomas Schreiner  They did not comprehend the darkness, the earthquakes, the temple veil that was torn in two from top to bottom, and they certainly didn't understand the Resurrection.

Apart from the resurrection of Christ, those women had no hope.  They were on their way to the tomb, bringing spices for the dead body of Jesus.  They fully expected to find His body there.  They were in mourning.

However, that very day, on the evening of the very day that the women were planning to cover the Lord's body with spices and wrap His body with fine linens, He appeared to them.  He spoke peace to them, and He breathed on them and said "Receive the Holy Spirit."

This is what compels me.  This is what challenges me to a deeper commitment to Jesus Christ!

It's all about JESUS.

It is Jesus Who speaks peace to me, no matter what storms I face.

It is Jesus who leads me to tread the path of life, rather than the path of death.  Those women were stepping heavily on the way to the tomb, not in joy and in faith, but in doubt and in sorrow, in grief and in pain.

Do you see the contrast between the path of death and the path of life that they were given?  Jesus breathed life into them, and they were now "in Christ."  If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature.  The old things have passed away, and the new have come.

 How does the Life, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ challenge you to a deeper commitment to Jesus Christ?  What change took effect on that first Easter Sunday?  How did the lives of those women and those disciples change?

What a change was wrought by the work of the cross and the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.  He has moved us from condemnation to eternal life, and brought us into a living and personal relationship with Himself.

Even as mature Christians, we need to remind ourselves continually of the basis of our acceptance-it is entirely because of what Christ has done for us. Thus, faith in Christ is not a onetime event; we must live by faith each day. ~Derek W.H. Thomas. How the Gospel Brings Us All the Way Home (Kindle Locations 183-184). Kindle Edition. 
 It is the love of Christ that compels me.  We love Him because He first loved us.  The entire story of the Bible is HIS story.  It`s not about Samson or Rahab or Job or Matthew or Mary.  It`s about what God was doing in the lives of all of the people.  Oh, I know that Hebrews 11 outlines the lives of people of faith.  However, notice what the Bible says at the beginning of Hebrews 12:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. ~Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV

It's all about Jesus.

The question should always be,

 "What does this event, this passage, this Bible story, this man, this woman teach us about Jesus?"

The resurrection of Jesus Christ took a doubting Thomas from confusion to faith.  The resurrection of Jesus Christ took mourning women from sadness to peace.  The resurrection of Jesus Christ changed Peter from a fearful Denier to a bold and fearless Preacher.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ makes ordinary sinners into saints whose lips drip with grateful praise.

There can be only one proper response to grace: a life of grateful holiness. Christ's atoning death was "in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit" (Rom. 8:4).. . .Christians, whose sins are forgiven, now live in holy, obedient gratitude for the grace they have received. Grateful law-keeping is the saved sinner's response to received grace.
 The rest of our lives are a way of saying, "Thank you."
Derek W.H. Thomas. How the Gospel Brings Us All the Way Home (Kindle Locations 184-190). Kindle Edition. 
We love Him, because He first loved us.  When we experience forgiveness and reconciliation, we are compelled to live a life of gratitude.

If we love Him, we keep His commandments.
 Law-keeping out of love is the true path of holiness.
Derek W.H. Thomas. How the Gospel Brings Us All the Way Home (Kindle Locations 195-196). Kindle Edition. 

One day, I hope to sit with the group of women who stood at the foot of the cross.  I hope to hear them tell of the sorrow they endured as they witnessed the death of their beloved Lord.  But more than that, so much more than that, I know that they will speak of the wonders of the gospel, and the joy of being forgiven.  They will testify with gladness and gratefulness of the exceeding abundance of the Lord's provision for their sin.

Here's one more quote for you to ponder from the book I am currently reading:

For everyone "in Christ," there is no condemnation. What a beautiful statement that is. Repeat it to yourself: "I have placed my trust entirely in Jesus Christ and what He has accomplished for me in His life, death, and resurrection. I am in Jesus Christ, and there is no condemnation." What a sweet thing that is, what a glorious thing. A million questions arise, not the least of which is this: "How can God possibly love me so much?" But the truth of the matter is greater still: the blood of Jesus Christ has atoned for our past sins, present sins, and even future sins. Whatever sin you may commit tomorrow, there is no condemnation if you are in Jesus Christ. They are blotted out. ~Derek W.H. Thomas. How the Gospel Brings Us All the Way Home (Kindle Locations 196-200). Kindle Edition. 

Here's a question for you:

What compels you to a greater commitment to Jesus Christ?

The Wrong Question

I attend a weekly ladies' study group.  We're working through a book by Mindy Ferguson, called "Eyewitness to Majesty: Abandoning Self for Christ."  It's an in-depth study of the Apostle Peter as an eyewitness to the life of Christ.

It's been an interesting study.  The best part about any group study is the interaction with the other women in the group.  As we share our insights, we understand more about our sisters' journeys through this dark world, on our way to glory.

Last night, I shared my answer to a question, and I could tell by the response that I was not explaining my position clearly.  Hence this post.

On pages 130 - 131, Mindy Ferguson is leading the reader to think about the women who were at the foot of the cross.

She writes,

The women stood on the hill watching as Jesus was crucified.  Crucifixion was a slow and agonizing death by asphyxiation.

Mindy goes on to describe the suffering of our Lord, and quotes 2 Corinthians 5:21, explaining that Jesus became sin for us.

She writes,

I can't imagine how the women felt as they stood watching Him.  They saw the soldiers mock Him and spit on Him.  They watched Him breathe His last breath.  Yet these women stood beside Him.  They were Jesus' disciples.  They followed Him, believed in Him, and took care of Him.  They supported His ministry - even at the cross.

Then she asks this crucial question:

How do the actions of this loyal group of women challenge you to a deeper commitment to Jesus Christ?

That's the wrong question.

Let's think about this group of women for a minute.  There is no doubt that they loved Jesus.  They had followed Him for years, providing for Him and His disciples out of their means.  They had watched Him heal the sick and raise the dead.  They had heard Him preach the gospel and thunder the truth at the Pharisees.  These women believed He was the Messiah, and they loved Him very much.

But they didn't understand.

They stood there at the cross, weeping, mourning the fact that their Messiah was hanging there, suffering, bleeding, and dying.  They were brokenhearted.

...for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. ~John 20:9 ESV

You can see their bewilderment by reading Mark 16:1-7 and John 20:1-9.

On Sunday morning, the women went to anoint Jesus' body.  They were told by an angel, "He has risen.  He is not here. See the place where they laid Him.  But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee.  There you will see Him, just as He told you."  And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. ~Mark 16:6b - 8.

The man dressed in white told them that Jesus had risen.  He told them that He would be going ahead of them to Galilee, which is just what Jesus told his disciples a few days before His crucifixion.  (Mark 14:28)
The angel also told them to go and tell the disciples this good news.

But what did they do?  Look at Mary's words in the book of John:

Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” ~John 20:1-2 ESV

She could have run to the disciples and said, "He is risen!  The Lord Jesus is alive!  He said He'd meet us in Galilee!"

She just didn't get it.  She did not understand.

When I think about the trauma those women went through, my heart breaks for them.  I am a mother, and I try to imagine, simply on a human level, what it would have been like to be the mother of the Son of God.  Mary knew that Jesus was the Son of God, but to watch Him mocked and beaten and scourged and crucified must have brought her unimaginable pain.

So, it's understandable that Mary Magdalene didn't rush to tell the disciples the good news.  It hadn't sunk in yet.  It wasn't good news yet.  She didn't comprehend that Jesus was alive.  She only thought they'd moved His body.  It wasn't until He spoke her name, "Mary," that she began to understand.

John 20:16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” Hearing only her name, Mary recognizes the voice of Jesus. As Jesus had taught prior to his crucifixion, “He calls his own sheep by name. … and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice” (10:3–4).~ESV Study Bible notes.

The Difference Between the Women at the Cross and Christians Today

The women at the foot of the cross were devastated.  They were in shock.  They mourned and wept, and could not comprehend the plan and purpose of God.  They watched Jesus die.  They thought He was dead.  On the first day of the week, they were heading to the tomb in order to treat His dead body with the respect that all of the dead were afforded.  It was their normal cultural practice.  In their eyes, He was dead.

He Was NOT Dead

But Jesus was very much alive!  That very evening, the evening of that day, Jesus did an amazing thing:

On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.~John 20:19-22 ESV

He appeared to His Disciples!  He stood among them!  He showed them His hands and His side!  And He spoke words of peace to them.

What grace!  These men and women had gone through four days of trauma, and Jesus spoke Peace to them.

The next thing He did is the point of this blog post:

He breathed on them and said to them, 

Receive the Holy Spirit.

The resurrection changed everything.

Let me repeat that:

The Resurrection Changes Everything.

See Part 2 to find out why I think it was the wrong question.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Greatly Loved

I read Matthew 21 this morning.  It's the familiar story of Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem.  When you read it, right away you see the omniscience and omnipotence of the Lord Jesus Christ, as he sent two of His disciples to get a colt donkey that He could ride.


He knew precisely where the mare and the colt would be tied.
He knew that the disciples would be questioned, and He provided the answer ahead of time.


The colt had never been ridden, yet it submitted to Jesus.  Even the cloaks tossed on its back ought to have sent it into a tizzy.  Add to that the crowds of people, waving palm branches, crying out "Hosanna!  Hosanna!"  If you've ever been around an unbroken donkey, you'll know how astounding it is that Jesus rode it calmly into Jerusalem.

Exactly 483 years 

In Daniel, Chapter 9, verses 24 - 26, we read Daniel's confession as he cried out to God in shame because of the rebellion of God's people.  The angel Gabriel came to Daniel to tell him God's decree.

You are Greatly Loved

Gabriel said to Daniel, "O Daniel, I have come out to give you insight and understanding.  At the beginning of your pleas for mercy a word went out, and I have come to tell it to you, for you are greatly loved. Therefore, consider the word and the vision."

It struck me that Jesus, being OMNISCIENT, was well aware of the date when He sent the disciples to get the colt.  He knew that the angel Gabriel had been sent to Daniel to assure him that in spite of how terrible everything appeared to be, God was in control.  The time of transgression would end, and there would be an end to sin.  A full atonement for the sins of God's people would be made.

It's okay, Daniel.  You are greatly loved.

Jesus knew about Daniel's prayer.  He knew the angel would be sent to comfort him.  And He knew that exactly 483 years later, He would be riding the colt of the donkey, heading into Jerusalem in the midst of the crowds.

He also knew, in spite of the praise of the people, that they would turn on Him in a few short days.

Like Daniel, I am greatly loved.  How do I know this?  

I know this because I know that Jesus is omniscient, and on the day of the triumphal entry, He knew what He was about to face.  He loved me when He sat on that donkey and rode into Jerusalem.

He rode right up to the temple, then went in and cleansed it a second time.  This time He stayed, and preached, and healed the blind and the lame.  He did wonderful things, and the children knew it, and cried out again as they had in the streets, "Hosanna!  Hosanna!  Hosanna to the Son of David!"

You'd think the leaders of the people would have been blessed by this.  As they witnessed Him cleanse the temple of the money changers, the buyers and sellers who were cheapening the house of God, it should have crossed their minds that here was a man with authority.

As He gathered the people around Himself, teaching them, explaining to them the ways of God, they ought to have listened and taken His message to heart.

As He smiled at the lads who were raising their voices in songs of praise, they ought to have wondered, "Is this the Messiah that was promised?"

Instead these leaders, the chief priests and scribes, indignant and miserable, demanded to know:  "Do you hear what these boys are saying?"

Jesus answered, "Yes."  (Of course, He heard!)

He then quoted from Psalm 8:2 - "Out of the mouths of infants and nursing babies" you have prepared praise.

Jesus greatly loved.

He loved the boys who had gathered around to praise His Holy name.

He loved the prophet Daniel, who fell to his knees and cried out to God on behalf of his people.

He loved this granny, Janet, who sits and types at her computer, thinking about how He set aside His majesty in order to atone for her sins.

When I look at Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars which You have set in place, what is man, that You are mindful of him, and the son of man, that you care for him?

He greatly loved me, enough to set aside His position and authority as Creator of the universe.  He greatly loved me, keeping me in His mind as He set His face like flint, and went to the cross of Calvary.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

You are Peter. Get thee behind me! Thoughts from Matthew 16 & 17

Oh, Peter, how I can't wait to meet you.

You had just confessed that Jesus was the Son of God.  Jesus told you that this truth was revealed to you by the Father... you were so privileged to see it.

YOU ARE THE CHRIST, the Son of the Living God.

What a great confession!  

Jesus responded with these words:  "You are Peter, and upon this rock, this little stone, I will build my church."  Jesus, the Architect, the Builder, the Chief Cornerstone, was saying that even though you were a little stone, a pebble of insignificance, you would be used in His plan to redeem a people unto Himself.

This gives me hope.  No matter how small and insignificant I am, God is using ME, too, in His great plan.

Jesus went on to tell you, Peter, about His looming death.  No way did you want to hear that.  You loved your Master, and you wanted only the best for Him.  So, you rebuked the Lord Jesus, and He blasted you:


Ouch.  That must have hurt.


Peter, you were not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.  You didn't understand that the death of the Perfect, Beloved, Holy Son of God was exactly what was needed in order to save a people from their sins.  You didn't think God's way.  You didn't want Jesus to suffer and die.


Imagine those words - what a terrible shock.
Peter was just told that he was the rock
Upon which the Saviour would build His great church.
I think Peter's stomach must have leapt in a lurch.

"You are a hindrance to me," Jesus said.
"Do you see there's a problem inside your head?
You must set your mind on the things of God,
'Cause the things of man are most seriously flawed."

Oh, Satan's a sneaky one, that is for sure-
Using Peter to hinder God's purpose most pure.
Jesus set His mind to accomplish God's plan,
But Peter was tempted to think thoughts of man.

A battle is raging in everyone's mind-
God's thoughts are too high for mere mortal mankind,
Yet His Spirit indwells and we take up our cross.
God works in our sorrows - He purges the dross.

And we learn to think God's way, with wisdom & grace,
To put on our armour, to gaze on His face
As He shines like the sun, with clothes purest white
And transforms us, His children, for endless delight.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

An open letter to my friend.

My dear friend,

I visited with you yesterday.

It's a privilege, every single time.  Your faith is evident.  You are a light to all.

You let me know how things are going.  You shared what it's like to live with fluid building up in your abdomen, needing to be drained every week, simply so you can breathe.  You told me of the kindness of your palliative care team, especially the doctor who came to your house to listen, to offer alternatives, to minister to you during this difficult time.  You spoke of your husband, and your words told me that your love for each other is strong, and good, and holy.

Your marriage is a picture of Christ and His Bride, the Church.

You told me of the side effects, the twitching, the sleeplessness, the pain.  You told me of the joy you have in listening to preaching and considering joy - the joy of all Christians that is there for us to claim, if we view our circumstances through eyes of faith.

You spoke of your children.  Always with love, always with concern, always with faith that God will do what is best in their lives.

Then you said this (not word for word, but this is the gist of it):

"What's hardest for me is that I cannot do what I used to do.  I cannot serve others.  I cannot minister to them.  The gift God gave me was the gift of service, and I cannot serve.  This is so hard for me."

Oh, my dear, brave, Warrior Friend... 

You have no idea how much you are serving!

You sit on your couch and welcome all who are privileged to come into your presence.  Your smile lights up the room.  Your countenance is joyful and full of faith.  You shine with beauty and poise, even in the midst of your suffering.

Do you realize that you are a picture of Christ to everyone?  Just as our Saviour was filled with the Holy Spirit, so are you, dear friend.  We see God in you!

The Holy Spirit indwells you.  He has given you new life.  He has matured you, sustained you, strengthened you, and empowered you for ministry.  It's not the ministry you would have chosen, but it is what HE chose for you to do, and you are doing it well!  You are producing fruit that will last.  God's power is made perfect in your weakness.

2 Corinthians 12:9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Just as the Holy Spirit empowered the Lord Jesus  (Hebrews 9:14) when He laid down His life for us, the Holy Spirit dwells in you and will empower you to face whatever lies ahead triumphantly.  He sustains you in your suffering, my friend.  Just as He raised Jesus (Romans 1) He will raise you up, and you will dwell with Him eternally, praising and glorifying His Holy name.

Remember, dear friend, that Jesus said to the disciples, "If you have seen me, you have seen the Father."  Jesus showed us by His life what PERFECT HUMANITY looks like.  The Holy Spirit works in us to make us look like Jesus.

God is so good to us.  He has taken corrupted, marred, scarred and broken image bearers, and restored in them the likeness of His perfect and Beautiful Son, Jesus Christ.

1 John 3:2Beloved, 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.
Dear, Sweet Warrior Princess, read these words.  Sink into them.  Repeat them over and over again.  Let them saturate your mind and fill your spirit:

But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
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. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. ~Romans 8:25-30
Do you see?

The Holy Spirit helps you in your weakness.

He is praying for you. (Think about that! The Holy Spirit dwells within you and prays for you, when you don't even know how to pray.  He utters groans on your behalf.  He is PRAYING for you!)

He is working all things together for good.

He is conforming you to the image of His Son.  Jesus suffered, and you are sharing in the fellowship of His suffering.  

He has called you.  You will be glorified!

Ephesians 2:10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

You are a fine porcelain vase, special, set aside for a purpose.  God prepared the work for you to do, and you are doing it well.  One day you will hear those blessed words, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant.  Enter into the joy of the Lord!"

Be patient, dear friend.  Delight in each moment.  When you suffer, look to Jesus.  When you sorrow, look to Jesus.  In your joy, look to Jesus.  

And remember, when others look at you, they see Jesus.

Janet  (hugs and prayers)

Friday, January 31, 2014

Thoughts about John the Great and Herod the Not-Great

Consider Herod Antipas.

He was ruling in Israel during Jesus' ministry on this earth.  His father was Herod the Great, who was not a great man in any way.  He was the one who ordered the murder of all the baby boys in the region of Bethlehem.

Herod Antipas was the Roman ruler over the region where Jesus ministered. He was only 17 years old when his father, Herod the Great, died. The kingdom was divided among three of Herod’s sons—Archelaus, Antipas, and Philip II (see note on 2:22). Herod Antipas was made tetrarch (the ruler of a fourth part of a kingdom) of Galilee and Perea and had a long rule (4 b.c.a.d. 39).

Matthew 2:18
“A voice was heard in Ramah,
weeping and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.”

Herod's son Philip married Herodias, his niece, the daughter of Aristobulus who was the brother of Philip and the son of Herod the not so great.  Philip and Herodias had a daughter, Salome, then they were divorced and Herodias married another uncle, Herod Antipas, whom we are considering.

What a tangled web!

Along comes John the Baptist, about whom Jesus said, "Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. ~ Matthew 11:11

John the Baptist (this truly great man who actually deserved to be known as John the Great, for he was MUCH greater than Herod) was outraged that a ruler in Israel would disregard God's Law about marriage, so he told Herod "It is NOT lawful that you should have her."  

John knew Herod's power.  He knew Herod could throw him in prison or chop off his head.

He didn't care.

The honour of God was at stake!

So, John rebuked Herod severely.  Herodias didn't like that.  She wanted to keep up appearances.  She schemed and connived to ruin her enemy.

You know the story.  The nobles and lords, the commanders and leaders, all of the great ones were invited to a party.  It was Herod's birthday, and he was putting on the Ritz.  Salome, the daughter of Herodias and Philip, danced before the group of lustful men, and pleased Herod so much that he offered to give her whatever she wanted.

She wanted John's head on a plate.  She was prompted by her mother.

Think about your influence, Moms.  You can influence your daughter for good.  Or, you can influence your daughter for evil.  How I pray that my influence will point my daughters to Christ!

Almighty Father,
     You are Sovereign over all.
          All events.
               All storms.
                    All rulers.
                         All consequences.
You are in control of all things.

Give me the courage to be like John the Baptist.
     Who saw the truth.
          Who spoke against sin.
               Who did not worry about offending powerful people in high places,
                because he was offended by actions that shouted to the world,

"There is no God in Israel!"

Oh, the devil, he laughed
Clasped his hands with delight
Watched John tossed into prison
Thought he'd won that dark night...

Oh, the devil, he schemed
Saw the social elite
All together to party
To drink and to feast...

So, he whispered to Herod,
"Call the girl out to dance
You'll impress all the leaders
With her whirls and her prance."

Then Herod the Wicked
Who was not at all wise
Made a promise, not thinking
To impress all the guys:

"Up to half of my kingdom
I'll grant," he did state,
And Salome demanded
John's head on a plate.

The king, he was sorry, but he had to save face.
To not keep his word meant that it would erase
The appearance of things that he tried to maintain
So he did the wrong thing to continue his reign.

The king did the wrong thing for fear of his guests,
And John did the right thing, and he would be blessed
to open his eyes in the Kingdom of Light
Where there's no more sorrow, and there's no more night.

May we live like Great John,
     Standing firm for God's glory,
May fear of mere man be no part of our story...
Make us into prophets, hearts bared before You
Dear Lord God in heaven, make us ever true.

Monday, January 27, 2014

January 27, 1990

Our son Daniel was born too soon.  

I knew the doc was serious when he pulled grapefruit-sized clots away.  As soon as he took one, another one appeared.  "It's time,' he said.

I asked, "Are you sure?"  I was worried about the baby.  I thought he needed just a bit more time to grow.  He wasn't due until the first week of March, and I knew that premie boys had a rougher time of things.

Doctor Nurse (NOT kidding) pulled another huge clot from me.  "We have to go now."

Despite the many tests and ultrasounds that had been done, the surgical team cut right through the placenta in order to deliver my son.  I lost a massive amount of blood.  Worse, Daniel was born unresponsive and in shock.

I didn't know all this, because I was under a general anesthetic.  The first thing I remember when I came to was a nurse shoving a clipboard at me.  "Sign this!" she demanded.

"What is it?" I asked groggily.

"The consent form for your surgery."

I chuckled a bit, wincing from the pain.  "It's a bit late for that, isn't it?"  I could feel the tension in the room, and briefly wondered what would happen if I didn't sign.  I scrawled my signature, then promptly upchucked into a bowl.

It's disconcerting to say the least to be lying on a gurney, pillow against the incision, vomiting every few minutes.  "Where's the baby??" I demanded.  I want to see him.

"First the doctor wants to talk to you."

I expected Dr. Nurse to come to tell me how the C-Section went.  Instead, a somewhat familiar face appeared at my bedside.

"I know you", I said.

It was Dr. Peter Thornback, pediatrician.  I had no idea he was working at KW Hospital!  I'd met Peter 15 years previously, when we were expecting our first baby.  We lived in North Bay, and I'd been doing a lot of reading about natural childbirth.  When I saw an ad in the paper (The North Bay Nugget) about a course offered at Canadore College, I picked  up the phone and enrolled.  Peter and his wife Liz were also expecting their first baby, and took the course right along with us.  Our instructor, Meg, was brilliant and kind and supportive.  I'll never forget her card: "Congratulations! Now comes the hard part..."  Inside, it read, "... the next twenty years!"

We liked Peter and Liz immediately.  They were at least 10 years older than us, but were kind and friendly and welcoming, even inviting us to lunch at their home.  So when he showed up at my bedside that January morning, I was relieved to know he was caring for our baby.

Relieved for about 1.5 seconds.

Dr. Thornback was mad.  He told me that the surgical team should have known better than to have cut right through the placenta!  They had all the ultrasounds, and they knew exactly where the placenta was lying.  I don't know why they decided to do what they did, but I do know that it put our son in grave danger.

The doctor told me that Daniel might have to go by air ambulance to Hamilton, unless they could get him stabilized.  He told me more details about his condition, but all I could think was "my baby's in danger."

"Do you want to see him?"

Do I!!

They pushed me on the gurney down to the NICU.  There was our baby, mask on his face, tubes and wires on his head, his arm, his chest and his feet.  Poor wee baby.  But he was beautiful.

I couldn't see his face, but I loved him just the same.  I lay there and gazed at him, praying that God, the Healer of the sick, would strengthen and heal our son.

The next few hours were a blur.  I was taken to my room and given pain meds, so I drifted off to sleep.  Every time I woke, I prayed for our boy.  The day was a haze of meds and tears and prayers and ladies who came and stood by my bed, praying for me and for Daniel, that God would spare him, and that he'd grow up to be a man of God.

I don't remember how many hours it took, but suddenly Daniel rallied.  He didn't have to be taken to Hamilton.  He was able to be weaned off the ventilator.  Slowly they took out wires and tubes.  What joy!  He was in my arms.

I did a search for Dr. Thornback this evening.  He's now in his 70's, working overseas, still caring for little ones.  He survived cancer a few years back, and was the oldest person to compete in a Triathalon in 2011. I'm sure he's been a blessing to many, many families over the past 40 years he's been practicing as a physician.  But the blessing to the Billsons is Daniel, our son, who overcame a difficult birth and a rough start by the grace of God, and has increased in wisdom and stature, in favour with God and man.

Happy Birthday, my son.

I'm glad Dr. Thornback was there that day. :D

Thursday, January 23, 2014


In an effort to be more hospitable and to be able to willingly welcome friends and family into our home on a weekly basis, we've set up some cleaning zones:

Zone 1- Monday - Bedrooms

Wash area rugs
Straighten up makeup
Straighten drawer cabinets
Polish Furniture
Clean cobwebs
Wash mattress pad/dust ruffle
Flip mattress
Empty trash
Wash windows
Cull some books from bookcase
Straighten bookcase
Clean under the bed
Straighten drawers
Rearrange videos/games/books

Straighten the top shelves
Arrange the shoes
Dust shoe bookcase
Clean cobwebs
Straighten desk
Put away stray items
Sort out-grown clothes

Dust shelves
Organize books
Smoke Alarm

Zone 2 – Tuesday - Living Room/Library, Office

Clean cobwebs
Clean windows
Straighten bookcases
Wash ornaments and knick-knacks
Clean out end tables
Wipe fingerprints from walls
Polish furniture
Clean Piano
Organize Music books
Clean instruments
Clean under cushions
Move furniture and vacuum
Wash lights and light switches
Wash floor

Office /Library
Clear off the desk surfaces
Throw away pens that don’t work
Sharpen pencils
Throw out all the trash
File papers
Straighten one drawer at a time
Toss out old receipts from over 7 years
Clean off the monitor screen
Fill printer caddy with paper
Establish a place for current bills
Vacuum under desk and the whole room
Dust furniture
Clean windows
Remove cobwebs

Check supplies of paper and printer cartridges
Stamps and envelopes
Water plants

Zone 3 – Wednesday - Great Room

Clean fish; change filter
Clean cobwebs
Clean windows
Straighten and dust bookcases
Water plants
Clean out tables
Wipe fingerprints from walls
Polish furniture
Clean out videos/ clean TV
Clean under cushions
Clean out fireplace/ ashes
Move furniture and vacuum
Wash floor
Clean Kitty Litter Box

Weekly Cleaning Schedule

1: Monday - Bedrooms
2: Tuesday - Living room – Library, Offices
3: Wednesday - Great Room
4: Thursday - Bathrooms
5: Friday - Entrance/front porch
6. Saturday - Kitchen /laundry room

 Zone 4 – Thursday – Bathrooms

Scrub Tub/Shine fixtures
Scrub and shine sinks
Scrub toilet
Wash area rugs
Scrub floor
Straighten drawers/ cabinets
Clean medicine cabinet
Throw away empty bottles
Check for cobwebs
Empty Trash

Upstairs bathroom

Sweep/scrub  floor
Straighten drawers/cabinets
Clean shower/tub stall
Wash down outside of toilet
Clean inside of toilet
Throw away empty containers
Empty Trash
Check supplies

Zone 5 – Friday – Entrance/Front Porch

Start at the ceiling and work your way down to the floor.
Clean cobwebs
Dust window sills and front door
Wash window
Clean switch plate of hand prints and walls if needed
Put plants in to the shower and give them a good rinse.
Straighten the coat rack
Sweep vacuum or mop the floor
Add your own personal touches to make it more welcoming.

Front Porch
Sweep down cobweb and spider webs
Sweep off porch furniture.
Sweep the porch.
Throw away any dead plants.
Prune back unruly bushes from the entrance.
Repot planters if necessary (in summer)
Refill bird feeders.
Wipe off tables, banisters, and light fixtures.
Get rid of unwanted items.
Add your own personal touches to welcome friends and family

Zone 6 – Saturday – Kitchen/Laundry

Empty fridge/clean thoroughly
Clean microwave inside and out
Clean stove/oven
Wash canister/knick-knacks
Straighten drawers/cupboards
Wipe fingerprints off walls
Wash inside windows
Clean fan/vent-a-hood filters and hood
Scrub down cabinet fronts (only a few at a time)
Clean light defusing bowls (glass globes over light bulbs)
Clean under sink/throw away old rags
Clean pet dishes

Laundry room
Wipe down the top of the washer and dryer
Clean the gunk from under the washer lid
Clean out the dryer vent
Throw out empty bottles and boxes
Empty the garbage can
Check supplies of laundry detergent, softener, spot remover
Sweep and mop the floor
Remove the cobwebs
Put away all clothes
Look behind appliances for odd socks

 I really don't care if our house is perfect.  What I care about is that I want our home to be welcoming, to be a place where visitors are comfortable and relaxed.  I want to be able to love others and to be able to demonstrate the love of Christ to them.  A clean and organized environment is part of that.  A welcoming heart matters most.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Isn't Seven the Perfect Number?

It`s coming up to seven years.

Seven years since I was happily on my way home one dark, wintery night, the trunk full of groceries and my heart full of anticipation.

In just a few minutes I'd pass the farmhouse where my daughter lived with her husband and sons.  She was expecting twins, and I couldn't wait!  I knew I'd wave and honk as I drove past, eagerly thinking of the reunion.

Twelve minutes after Rachel's house, I'd see the familiar lane, lined with maple trees over a hundred years old.  I'd see the porch light on, and know that the kids would pile out of the house to welcome me home and carry in the groceries.


Disoriented.  Where were my glasses?  What was that noise?  Why was some guy opening my passenger door, telling me to turn off the engine?

"Are you all right?" he asked as he reached in and turned the key.  (I hadn't done what he asked...it simply didn't register that the engine was still running, but the car wasn't moving.  It was never moving again.)

I want my glasses.  I can't see.

I plead with the man.  "Can you find my glasses?"  He feels for them on the floor of the car, and hands them to me.

Ah, that's better.  They're crooked, but not broken.

At least I can see.

"Can you find my cell phone?"

He does, and I instantly call my hubby.

"I've been in an accident."

"Are you all right?"

"No, I can't move."  I meant the car.  The car wasn't going to move again.  But Rick thought I was paralyzed.  What was I thinking?

I wasn't thinking.  I was in shock.

I managed to call 911.  Through faltering lips I told them the intersection: Perth Line 44 and Road 150.

I snapped at the man who had driven right into my lane.

"No, I don't want to sit in your vehicle."  (Leave me alone!)

My glasses-finder and cellphone rescuer noticed the shaking.  Shock.  He insisted I get out of my car, and helped me to his truck.  My teeth were chattering and soon would crack, I thought.  He turned up the heat.

Police.  Ambulance.  Rick.  Mike.  Hospital.  Rachel.  Waiting, waiting, waiting.

Waves of pain.  Worry.

Am I going to die?

What are these waves of electricity running through my skull?  Am I having a stroke?


"You're fine, Mrs. Billson.  Go home and rest."


It's been nearly seven years, and I still remember many details of that evening.  I remember how the snow felt, pelting against my face.  I remember my heart leaping when I saw Rick drive up in the big truck.  I remember worrying when I saw Mike (I didn't want to worry his pregnant wife, Rachel... with the twins!)

It's been nearly seven years, and I haven't had a day without pain.  Not one day.  My neck hurts.  My head hurts.  My back is tight and sore and painful. My chest hurts.  And oh, how my shoulder hurts.  Pain is ever-present.  It keeps me awake at night.  It keeps me from hobbies and fun.  It keeps me feeling grouchy at times.  Pain is my constant companion.

But God...

God takes the most eminent and choicest of His servants for the choicest and most eminent afflictions. They who have received most grace from God are able to bear most afflictions from God. Affliction does not hit the saint by chance, but by direction. God does not draw His bow at a venture. Every one of His arrows goes upon a special errand and touches no breast but his against whom it is sent. It is not only the grace, but the glory of a believer when we can stand and take affliction quietly.–Joseph Caryl

The Enemy meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.

He will bring beauty out of the ashes of the crash.  He will teach patience in affliction, perseverance in the midst of pain.  He will give grace to endure, and He will remind me that these past seven years are a light and momentary affliction, because GLORY is FOREVER.

 I'm a little late in discovering this brother's blog, but Greg Lane is a most eminent and choice servant of the Most High God.  I wish I'd known of his blog before this, because he's just announced that he won't be blogging any more, as ALS has robbed him of the ability to do so.  He's written many a post, so go there and explore.  I know I will.

Sunday, January 5, 2014


The sermon today was about living a balanced Christian life.  I'll put a link to the sermon notes when I get them done.  I'm not disagreeing with the premise that we need to live a balanced life.

But here's a quote to ponder:

Regarding balance, I can sure see where that is a very serious trap--for if we are the determiners of balance, then we would be usurping the authority of God. . . In Christ, we have utterly forsaken balance -- we don't even try to balance our salvation- - we pitch ourselves fully into the arms of Jesus who carries us through to the other side. The problem of balance then rests with the one who carries the weight -- and He said, "Cast all your cares (weights) on me" . . . or He speaks of His yoke and burden which is light. So how can Jesus, who bore the sin of the world upon himself, be a light burden for us? Praise God that He is a light yoke/burden! That means He is the one responsible for balance -- we just have to surrender it all to Him! . . . If we have thrown the weight of our burden onto Christ, and He in turn has had us take up His yoke and burden which is light, then of course we are out of balance. ~ Jack Helser
I'm thinking there's something to be said for passion, for intention, for determination, for wholehearted pursuing after the One who has given us our every breath.

Friday, January 3, 2014

What love is NOT.

It's come to my attention recently that in some circles men think it is their right to discipline their wives.

I'm talking about spanking.  A husband spanking a wife.

I'd likely spank right back.  I asked my husband what he thinks about this, and he also was flabbergasted. His response:  "Why would it enter anyone's mind?" 

 RC Sproul Jr wife spanking

I don't know how the advertisers got away with this sort of thing back in the 50's.  I do know that in my own home my father would never have considered beating my mother for any reason.  Even though my grandfathers were considered the heads of their respective homes, they always treated their wives with love and appreciation.  

What really boggles my mind is the fact that it is Christian husbands and wives who seem to be accepting this as normal practice for a marriage.  

We have come a long way from the wisdom of theologians like Matthew Henry, who wrote a commentary that many still refer to in 2014.  His comments include (from Ephesians 5):

The duty of wives is, submission to their husbands in the Lord, which includes honouring and obeying them, from a principle of love to them. The duty of husbands is to love their wives. The love of Christ to the church is an example, which is sincere, pure, and constant, notwithstanding her failures. Christ gave himself for the church, that he might sanctify it in this world, and glorify it in the next, that he might bestow on all his members a principle of holiness, and deliver them from the guilt, the pollution, and the dominion of sin, by those influences of the Holy Spirit, of which baptismal water was the outward sign. The church and believers will not be without spot or wrinkle till they come to glory. But those only who are sanctified now, shall be glorified hereafter. The words of Adam, mentioned by the apostle, are spoken literally of marriage; but they have also a hidden sense in them, relating to the union between Christ and his church. It was a kind of type, as having resemblance. There will be failures and defects on both sides, in the present state of human nature, yet this does not alter the relation. All the duties of marriage are included in unity and love. And while we adore and rejoice in the condescending love of Christ, let husbands and wives learn hence their duties to each other. Thus the worst evils would be prevented, and many painful effects would be avoided.

We see that the love of a husband towards his wife ought to be like the love of Christ towards the church.  Many painful effects (such as humiliation of the wife and domination of the husband, for which he must repent) could be avoided, if married couples learn to love one another as Christ loves the church.

More from Matthew Henry, on 1 Peter 3:

Verses 1-7 The apostle having treated of the duties of subjects to their sovereigns, and of servants to their masters, proceeds to explain the duty of husbands and wives.I. Lest the Christian matrons should imagine that their conversion to Christ, and their interest in all Christian privileges, exempted them from subjection to their pagan or Jewish husbands, the apostle here tells them,1. In what the duty of wives consists.

(1.) In subjection, or an affectionate submission to the will, and obedience to the just authority, of their own husbands, which obliging conduct would be the most likely way to win those disobedient and unbelieving husbands who had rejected the word, or who attended to no other evidence of the truth of it than what they saw in the prudent, peaceable, and exemplary conversation of their wives. 

Matthew Henry explains that Christian wives ought to be cheerful and respectful towards their OWN husbands, even if the husband is not a Christian.  

(2.) In fear, or reverence to their husbands, Eph. 5:33 .
(3.) In a chaste conversation, which their unbelieving husbands would accurately observe and attend to. 
(4.) In preferring the ornaments of the mind to those of the body

Christians ought to understand that the inward man is far more important than the outward. A Christian woman ought to dress appropriately and modestly, but she ought to take care to adorn her soul rather than her body. Outward adornments fade away... clothes wear out, jewelry tarnishes, even the body ages. Yet a meek and quiet spirit cultivated by a godly Christian woman will become brighter and better as she matures in Christ. This is precious in the sight of God!

Matthew Henry explains that the Apostle Peter gives examples of holy women of old, who trusted in God.  Sarah obeyed Abram, and called him "Lord" (a sign of respect) even though she did not know where they were going.  God knows what is going on, and keeps an exact record of all of the actions of all men and women.  He knows our difficult circumstances, and is pleased when we accept our lot and trust God to work it out.  Even if we are married to a churlish husband, we can honour God by respecting him and serving him in love.  

Matthew Henry goes on: 

II. The husband’s duty to the wife comes next to be considered.
1. The particulars are,
 (1.)Cohabitation, which forbids unnecessary separation, and implies a mutual communication of goods and persons one to another, with delight and concord. 
(2.) Dwelling with the wife according to knowledge; not according to lust, as brutes; nor according to passion, as devils; but according to knowledge, as wise and sober men, who know the word of God and their own duty.
(3.) Giving honour to the wife giving due respect to her, and maintaining her authority, protecting her person, supporting her credit, delighting in her conversation, affording her a handsome maintenance, and placing a due trust and confidence in her.
2. The reasons are, Because she is the weaker vessel by nature and constitution, and so ought to be defended: but then the wife is, in other and higher respects, equal to her husband; they are heirs together of the grace of life, of all the blessings of this life and another, and therefore should live peaceably and quietly one with another, and, if they do not, their prayers one with another and one for another will be hindered, so that often "you will not pray at all, or, if you do, you will pray with a discomposed ruffled mind, and so without success.’’ 

Learn, (1.) The weakness of the female sex is no just reason either for separation or contempt, but on the contrary it is a reason for honour and respect: Giving honour to the wife as unto the weaker vessel. 
(2.) There is an honour due to all who are heirs of the grace of life. 
(3.) All married people should take care to behave themselves so lovingly and peaceably one to another that they may not by their broils hinder the success of their prayers.

One of my teachers at Bible College explained that the "weaker vessel" is like a fine china teacup compared to a pewter mug.  The mug is stronger and won't break as easily if handled roughly.  The teacup is more delicate, and must be treated with care to be enjoyed.

Notice that the Scriptures (and Matthew Henry) teach that the wife is equal to her husband, and that they are heirs together.  Theirs is a relationship that pictures the love and sacrifice of Christ for His bride, the Church.  

That does not, in any way, include a spanking.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Baby, it's cold outside.

It's cold outside.

That's an understatement.  I read online that places on earth today were colder than Mars, and that Ottawa was colder than Antartica.  Brrrr.

In spite of the cold, two of our daughters came for a visit, bringing with them 13 delightful children.  The chaos reminded me of the weekly gatherings we used to have.  Our married daughters would come once a week for homeschool co-op.  Teaching, fellowship, fun outside, crafts, food, noise and confusion were the order of the day.  It was exhausting, but it was well worth the effort.

As I watched the kids and listened to the women chat and laugh and share their lives, I reflected on the fact that we rarely do this any more.  Kids have grown, schedules are full, and there have been some difficulties in relationships.  We don't get together once a week for co-op, and that makes me sad.

However, I am grateful for many things.

I'm glad we see all of our kids on a fairly regular basis.
I'm thankful that the grandkids are healthy and happy and growing like weeds.
I'm ever so grateful that our married kids have good, loving, hard-working spouses.
It's good to know that this old house is big enough to hold 15 more than normal, which is 6.

It's cold outside, but my heart is warmed.  

Thank You, Lord, for family.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Word of the Year - 2014 - LOVE

I was intrigued last year by the practice of choosing a word as the theme of one's year.  I'd read Ann Voskamp's posts on the words she chose (beginning with eucharisteo, to give thanks).   She did it so she'd have direction for the year ahead.

A little bit of poking around on the internet revealed that instead of writing a long list of resolutions that would soon either be discarded or cause the resolver to experience the agony of defeat, people were simply choosing ONE word.

Last year, my word was "sink".  I wanted to give up striving to do my best when it meant running roughshod over my family.  I wanted to sink into Jesus, into rest, into BEING instead of doing.  I'm actually amazed at how many times my one word popped into my head, especially when I was under stress and feeling overwhelmed.  Sink was a good word for 2013.

The word I have chosen for 2014 is LOVE.

It's an attribute of God.  The two greatest commandments speak of love - loving God and loving neighbour. When we love, we reflect God, the God Who is Love.  Little children learn that love is "doing what's best for the other person".  That means it is other-centered rather than self-centered, and it takes effort, not just emotion.

What does love look like?

One of the basic counselling questions I learned when I took Biblical Counselling courses was just that: What does love look like?  In the situation you're experiencing, what is the best thing you can do or be to demonstrate love to God and love to others?

Love doesn't always look kind.  Love can seem harsh.  I vividly remember standing outside the special care nursery watching a highly trained nurse pick up a baby and turn him upside down, pounding his little back.  Bystanders were aghast, not aware that the nurse was saving the baby from choking.  It didn't look very nice, but in that case, that's what love looked like.

My son has been banned from electronics this week, because I am training him to be responsible, to keep his room clean, and to pick up after himself.  He's not happy with the ban, as he delights in playing Minecraft with his nephew over the internet.  However, in this case, this is what love looks like.

Love takes courage.

It's not easy to love.  It's far easier to think of self than of others.  Our sin nature assures that we'll put self first, every time, unless we are filled with the Spirit.  Jon Bloom of Desiring God Ministries wrote about the courage it takes to love God and neighbour:

"But let’s also be clear: making love our aim in 2014 will demand more courage and faith than any other resolution we can make. Nothing exposes the depth of our sin like really seeking to love God with our entire being and loving our neighbors as ourselves (Luke 10:27)."

I'm planning to revisit his blog and put the suggestions into practice.

Lord, I pray, teach me to love.  Make this year, 2014, the year of LOVE for me.  Help me to love You more, to love Your people more, and to love the family You have blessed me so abundantly with.  Teach me to ask myself what love looks like in each and every situation.  When trials come, teach me to love.  When joys overflow, teach me to love.  When I go to church or jot a few lines or make homemade soup, may I do it with love.  Fill me with You, Oh Lord, for You alone are truly LOVE.  Make me more like You, I pray, in Jesus' name.  Amen.