Lilwj #02: Living in Love With Jesus (#02 in Falling In Love With Jesus Series)
Following the success of the highly acclaimed Falling in Love with Jesus, Dee Brestin and Kathy Troccoli give women the encouragement needed to become radiant women of Christ. Living in Love with Jesus will help women go deeper with Jesus...
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Following the success of the highly acclaimed Falling in Love with Jesus, Dee Brestin and Kathy Troccoli give women the encouragement needed to become radiant women of Christ. Living in Love with Jesus will help women go deeper with Jesus by applying the secrets from John's first letter, learning to clothe themselves in Christ's love. Instead of being a washed-out beige, living mediocre lives, they can become radiant with the colors of love. Using art as a literary theme throughout the book, facets of God's love are paralleled with colors, giving women vivid pictures of how the imprint of God's love can change their lives. This art theme will be carried out visually in classic masterpieces that illustrate biblical stories of God's transforming love such as Esther, Doubting Thomas, and the Good Samaritan. ^Includes such chapters as: Embroidered with Gold It's Not Easy Being Green True Blue Red is the Color of the Blood that Flowed Down ^
Dee Brestin (www.deebrestin.com) is a writer, speaker, and teacher. Her book The Friendships of Women has sold over a million copies and was recently released in a 20th Anniversary Edition. Falling in Love with Jesus has sold over 400,000 copies. Dee has written twenty Bible studies, the first of which, Proverbs and Parables, has been in print for over thirty years. She is a frequent guest on Moody Radio (Mid-day Connection) and Focus on the Family; she also speaks to many large women's conferences yearly. A graduate of Northwestern University, Dee has studied with Covenant Seminary. She is th
Kathy Troccoli is an award-winning singer and songwriter (with album sales topping 2 million), bible-teacher and author of ten books. Her rich, melodic voice has garnered numerous 17 number-one radio hits, two Dove Awards, and three Grammy nominations. As author and coauthor of several books, her titles include Hope for a Woman's Heart and the bestseller Falling in Love with Jesus. Her numerous television appearances include Life Today, The Tonight Show, and Entertainment Tonight. With her expressive and passionate style of communication, Kathy is a sought-after conference speaker and seminar
Love one another as I have loved you.
(John 15:12 NKJV)
The Imprint of a Christian
We had just finished a wonderful conference for women. After autographing books at our table, we decided to go out for a relaxing dinner. As Kathy was cutting her burnt steak (that's how she orders it) she glanced at me sideways, smiling:
"You got a little weird with that lady."
"I did not!"
We laughed, as my immediate denial revealed I knew which woman she meant. I changed tactics from denial to defense.
"I thought I was nice . . . Wasn't I nice?"
"No, you weren't. It was a fake nice. You got that funny kind of I'm a caring Christian woman speaker plastic smile on your face."
I hit her with my napkin. "I did not!"
"You did too, Dee. You had that glazed-over look in your eyes as that poor lady was just trying to get a little attention. Some people just need to talk."
"Well, but . . ."
"Dee, you closed down. You know you did."
"Kath. There were a zillion people behind her . . ."
"I know, Dee, but she just needed to share her heart a little."
I paused, finally acknowledging the painful truth. "I hear you . . . I really do."
Let's Get Real
When we're really honest with ourselves we have to admit that there are often times when we fail to love, when we fail to care about those around us:
the weary waitress
the coworker grieving the loss of a marriage
the believer who has failed dramatically
the "trying" relative that you see every Christmas
Often our lives lack the passion and vibrancy of a life surrendered to God. We want to be women who love well, but our cups do not overflow with God's love. We want to walk in the light, but we find ourselves moving into the shadows. Like Tinkerbell in Peter Pan, when she was losing her power, our lights are dim and our colors are faded. We become dull, like an empty midnight sky. We are no longer stars that glitter in a dark universe. We lack beauty, luster, and life.
As in the story Jesus told of the Good Samaritan, we step over the needy or wounded, preoccupied with our own agenda. Likewise, it is in our very nature to size people up by the way they look, by the way they dress, by the way they talk, and even by how much money they have.
We are easily offended. And when we are genuinely wronged, we often have trouble letting it go. Unwilling to forgive, unwilling to let our wounds heal, we peer over a wall of offenses compiled, holding our weapons of anger and self-righteousness.
We love those who are easy to love, and we like it even more when they love us back. But Jesus asked,
What credit is that to you? Even tax-collectors do that! And if you exchange greetings only with your own circle, are you doing anything exceptional? Even the pagans do that much. (Matthew 5:46-47 Phillips)
We are preoccupied with thoughts about how we look, what others are thinking about us, what we're planning to eat, or watch, or do . . . It's all about us.
Let's face it. The old hymn writers dared to call us "wretches" or even "worms"-and though those terms may be politically incorrect, when we get real, we have to confess that they hit the mark. In the midst of a philosophical discussion a young woman reminded Winston Churchill: "We are all worms."
He responded: "Perhaps, Violet-but I am a glowworm."1
Don't you want to be beautiful with the vibrant colors of Jesus? Who wants to stay conformed to the world around him, burrowing through the dirt? There are so many believers who are dead and bitter. They're steeped more in religiosity than in an intimate relationship with Jesus, and they portray that to others. Instead of being alive with the colors of His love, they're watered down to a pasty beige or a murky gray.
Some of you, especially those of you who are quite literal, are thinking: Now just what are the colors of His love? You would like us to give you a list, like the colors of the rainbow, and tell you what each represents. We can't do that any more than we can list all the glorious colors God created in the feathers of the peacock, the petals of the wildflowers, or the leaves of the autumn. God is so varied in the ways He blesses, so lavish in the ways He bestows His love upon us. We can't possibly put a boundary around the infinite creativity of God. However, we are going to show you through the powerful Word of God the secrets to becoming transformed into a vibrant woman of God who clearly displays His lovely colors and, therefore, the distinguishing imprint of a Christian.
(Dee) Recently, I showed my grandchildren how to make an imprint of a leaf. I gave them each a crayon in an autumn color and a leaf from a backyard tree. Seven-year-old Emily, the eldest, led the way. She placed an oak leaf under a piece of white paper and rubbed the long side of an unwrapped Indian red crayon over the top. The more she rubbed, the more an elongated oak leaf emerged. She grinned, showing the space where her two front teeth had been, and held up her creation proudly for her siblings to admire.
Five-year-old Jessa was in earnest as she rubbed a harvest gold crayon over an elm leaf. "Gramma, look!" She gave a little cry of delight as the imprint appeared: the stem, the veins, the tiny teeth all around the edge-a distinct and perfectly compact elm leaf.
Three-year-old Simeon hopped up on the chair, insisting: "I can do it!" With a little help and encouragement to be gentle, he rubbed a blazing crimson crayon over a maple leaf. He beamed as it emerged. "I did it! I did it!" And he had. There it was-that most familiar of leaves, the maple, aflame in autumn loveliness.
There was no mistaking an oak for an elm, or an elm for a maple. Each had its own distinct imprint.
What is the imprint of a Christian?
The Greatest of These Is Love
Jim is a friend who works with troubled youth. Through the help of God he's found freedom from drugs and other prisons. Because Jim has a rough manner and poor grammar, people might easily dismiss him, but he is a true man of God, bearing the distinct imprint of a Christian. He stopped by just this morning. With his usual carefree attitude, he plopped himself on the couch. He noticed I was in the middle of writing and asked how he could pray for me. When I told him that Kathy and I had been working on a book about loving others the way Jesus does, he grinned, saying,
"Yeah, that's the real deal. When kids at the center ask me what Christians do, I go, 'They love on people.'"
I smiled, loving Jim's concise description and wishing it were always true.
Jim continued, "And then they ask me, 'Even the ones that make you wanna puke?'"
Thoughts raced through my head, thinking of a few of the "hard-to-love" people in my life.
Jim's face was filled with compassion as he reflected. "Dee, you can't imagine the junk thrown at these kids-at home they get cussed at, beat, and worse . . . And so I tell them: 'Especially them. It's no big deal to love the easy ones. Love starts with the hard ones. That's where Jesus comes in.'"
Kathy, like my friend Jim, is real. One of the many reasons Kathy is loved the way she is comes from her authenticity. The Lord has given her an ability to cut right to the heart of the matter. Even as a baby Christian, she came to the Scriptures with the kind of childlike faith and simplicity that Jesus tells us we all need. The following story she tells illustrates this so clearly, but we want to preface it by saying that this is not to be interpreted as bashing a particular belief, for that is the exact opposite of the message of this book. The Lord has given us a deep love and appreciation for the church, the body of true believers, and for the unique dimensions that various denominations can bring to the body of Christ. But this story illustrates how sometimes even believers can fail to leave the stamp of Christ. We confuse the genuine imprint with a lot of other things, influenced by what our particular denomination or circle of friends emphasizes as important.
(Kathy) I was a new Christian when I was getting asked to sing at many different places on Long Island and in New York City. I was immediately thrown into a sea of churches: Assembly of God, Catholic, Baptist . . . I was often drowning in the confusion of all the different theologies I was hearing.
Speak in tongues.
Don't speak in tongues.
Raise your hands.
Don't raise your hands.
Don't sing at all.
I'd often come home from singing at church events or coffeehouses with a heavy heart. I found that the simple realization that Jesus loved me and wanted me to love others was suddenly clouded by what seemed like so many divisive ways of expressing Christianity. Arrogance permeated so many places. People thought their church "did it right." People thought their beliefs were "the true beliefs." People thought everyone else was "a little off base." It affected me deeply because in my naivet�, I expected we would live together as one big happy family, being cherished by a big and holy God. I remember being saddened at the creeping feelings of disillusionment that were slowly smothering my newfound joy.
I came home late one night, after singing at yet another church service. I went into my bedroom and sat on the floor against the wall. I was weary, confused, and discouraged. Looking up to God I said,
Lord, I don't know what to make of all of this.
If this is Christianity -I'm not sure I want it.
I let out a big sigh and remained quiet for a while. My kite had been soaring so high and now it felt as if it were taking a nosedive. Since then I've learned it is in times like these, in the stillness, that Jesus comes gently. This is what I sensed He was saying to me that night:
Open the Gospels. Look at Me. Look at My life.
Take in the things I've said. I will teach you.
He is so wonderful like that. When we are at the end of ourselves, He comes to us and shows us Himself. Even now when moments of frustration arise, when there is obvious hypocrisy or twisting of the Word of God, I go back to that moment.
I continued to travel all over the New York area and had quickly become a national recording artist. At the time, I traveled by myself, with just my guitar and a little box of records to sell. I was constantly meeting new people: in hotels, on planes, at lunches and dinners. Conversations with complete strangers had become a way of life.
One particular time, I was invited to eat lunch at a restaurant with a senior pastor and some people from his congregation. We sat at a very long table because there were twelve of us. I was on one end and the pastor was on the other. We were all immersed in little clusters of conversation. All of a sudden the pastor said,
"Kathy, can I ask you something?"
All conversations ceased. All eyes turned to me.
Because this was the first time he had spoken directly to me, I was expecting the simple exchanges of getting to know one another, such as: Where are you from? How was your flight? Or even, How was your lunch? Instead, this is what he asked me:
"Are you baptized in the Holy Spirit?"
An awkward silence engulfed the table. Many thoughts raced through my mind. Am I before a jury here? Is everyone waiting for the right answer? Why would he ask me this? If I say, "Yes," am I in the club? If I say, "No," are they all going to lay hands on me right here at the table?
I don't want to address the subject of baptism by the Holy Spirit here. What I do want to address is how we approach one another. Do we have sensitivity, gracious timing, and respect for another's beliefs? We are often more concerned with people's "spiritual state" than with trying to understand or get to know them. We don't know their background, their religion, their culture-we may not even know their names-yet we quickly present our agenda.
At that moment, I didn't feel like the pastor cared about me. In fact, I felt somewhat shamed. The only thought that came to my head and quickly out of my mouth was:
"Well, Pastor, are you asking me if I love well?"
He responded with a nervous laugh. I just smiled and went on in conversation, asking about him and his family. I knew my words to the pastor seemed pointed but they simply were an overflow of what I had been reading in the Gospels and my recent frustration of how we express our Christianity. My sister had recently married, and at the service I read 1 Corinthians 13.
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal . . .
If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:1, 3)
The Bible is so clear that if we don't have love, we have nothing. I guess I wanted this man to be inquisitive about me, or I wanted at least to sense that he cared about me. As believers, we may be quick to give our thoughts on salvation, or doctrine, or even immorality, and what we say may be true and vital, but if we don't care about an individual's state of mind or heart, the person will certainly know it. You would be surprised how much more respect you get from someone when you really listen and show him you care.
Isn't it wonderful that God is a perfect gentleman? He is chivalrous and sensitive. He is love. And if we are going to bear His imprint, then we must be His love.
So often we make the mark of a Christian something quite different from what Jesus commanded and lived out. For example,
A priest might have asked:
"Are you going to confession and communion regularly?"
A Methodist or Episcopalian might have questioned:
"Are you volunteering in our soup kitchen?"
A Baptist might have wondered:
"Are you having your daily quiet time?"
(Have we officially offended everyone by now?) All of those things may be good things, but it is possible to be doing them all and yet not bear the imprint of Christ. When people brush up against us, the way Dee's grandchildren brushed their crayons across their leaves, what is the imprint that comes forth?
Jesus tells us what it must be. The imprint is His distinctive love. This is how we leave, as J. B. Phillips puts it, "the stamp of Christ." This is the identifiable image of Christ that should come forth when someone interacts with you, whether it is a quick brush or a more intense interaction.
The Most Important Thing
(Dee) Often we say the most heartfelt things when time is running out. When I wrote The Friendships of Women many years ago, I wrote a paragraph that turned out to be prophetic:
If God permits me the knowledge, I will sit at the bedside of a dying parent or friend. Though the sorrow may be deep, I will not consider it wasted sadness. My presence may give the one I love comfort. Closing expressions of love may give consolation for years to come. The more final the good-bye, the greater the sadness, but the more cherished the memory.2
This year, on my way to a speaking engagement in Dallas, I received a call that my dad had suffered a massive stroke. I flew to California to be at his side in the intensive care ward. For eight days I sat with him, wondering if he knew I was there. His eyes were closed, his breathing, labored. Those eight days were some of the hardest and yet the most precious of my life. Dad had always been a giant in my eyes: a man of integrity, a man of intellect, a man of strong opinions (not all of which I shared), but a man absolutely committed to his wife and three daughters. Now life was ebbing from him. He seemed so frail, so helpless. My mother, his bride of sixty-five years, sang him love songs, breaking my heart with:
"Let me call you Sweetheart, I'm in love with you . . ."
She was telling him the most important thing. She was telling him of her love for him.
My sisters and I did the same.
One night, after a long day at the hospital, I went back to my parents' home. As I sat at Dad's desk, I was comforted to spy a gift I'd given to him one Father's Day. It was a clothbound journal, in which I had written a reason, on each page, why I loved him. Though it was several years old, there it was, right on his desk. I slipped it in my purse to read to him at the hospital. I didn't know when he would die, though it seemed likely it would be soon. I kept changing my return flight home. Finally, God gave me a peace about saying good-bye. With tears I pleaded with the Lord to give me a special moment with him, one in which Dad would open his eyes and hear me, really hear me.
When I walked into his room, I was overwhelmed because, for the first time, his eyes were open. When someone is prayed for so diligently, you know God is faithful to bring His abiding presence-especially at the end of his life. This is exactly what I sensed at my father's bedside. With tears streaming down my cheeks, I held his weakened hands, telling him the most important things-of my love, and of God's love for him. He was watching me intently. My adult son John sat by watching, weeping, and praying.
"Mom," he said, "look at how his eyes are fixed on yours. He's hearing you."
I shared about Jesus once again, and then I read to him from the journal, telling him the reasons I loved him. I thanked him for his devotion to Mother, for his enthusiasm for life, for introducing me to the classics, for taking me to faraway places, for loving dogs, for always being there when I needed him. One of the pages I read was:
Thank you, Dad, for always being at the gate whenever I came home. I knew I could count on you. As soon as I walked out of the plane, I'd see your eyes intent on the door, watching for me. Then your handsome face would light up and you'd cry: "There she is!" Then you'd laugh and open your arms for our great hug.
I began to sob.
"Please Daddy, please, please. Be at the gate."
Those were the last words I spoke to him. He died two days later.
What do we say when time is running out? The most important things.
Kathy and I were scheduled to begin writing this book on Tuesday, September 11, 2001, at 9 a.m. We had gone to my cabin in Door County, Wisconsin, for time away from the world, where we could really concentrate. I was all set up and ready to go: I had our working table facing the waves of Green Bay, the coffee was brewing, and the fire was crackling in the fireplace. For four days we would write. I was putting on my jacket to go get Kathy at her hotel, when the phone rang.
(Kathy) I had turned on the television as I was getting ready to take a shower. There it was: an airplane flying into one of the World Trade Towers. I was horrified. I began to weep. I called Dee to tell her to turn on her TV. We quickly hung up. The other plane hit the second tower. I sat on my bed completely paralyzed. My beloved city was crumbling right before my eyes. A knock at the door awakened me from the nightmare that I wished were just a dream. It was Dee. I fell into her arms and we both sobbed. All we could do was cry out to Jesus. We continued to watch the news together. As the day wore on, we learned what had actually happened: an evil had descended on this nation, taking with it thousands of lives. Story upon story unfolded of people calling from hijacked planes and burning buildings.
Men calling wives to say, "I love you."
Sons calling mothers to say, "I love you."
Sisters calling brothers to say, "I love you."
What do we say at the end? The most important thing.
Tell Them I Love Them
It's remarkable that as Jesus neared the cross, He wanted to convey the same message as those who were about to die on that tragic September day: "Let them know that I love them."
First He told them,
My children, I will be with you only a little longer. (John 13:33a)
Then He reminded them of His love and gave them a command:
As I have loved you, so you must love one another. (John 13:34b)
Do you see? He loves us. And we are not only to tell others of His love, we are to be His love, give His love, live His love. We are to bear this imprint to one another. Jesus was very clear about this. He went on to say:
By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. (John 13:35)
When you brush a crayon across a leaf, you can see its veins, its stem, its unique shape. The identity of the tree that birthed that leaf, that gave it life, is distinctive.
What is the imprint of a believer? Is it obvious who gave us birth? Can they see His hands, His eyes, His heart, His love? When people brush up against us, are they intrigued and inquisitive about the source of our love? Do they recognize Jesus?
It is no coincidence that the message gets muddied and the imprint faded.
It is no coincidence that the message gets distorted and the imprint counterfeited.
If the church were a heart, its current failure to love is like a massive heart attack. We, as the arteries, get clogged with judgment, hate, pride, and gossip. How can His lifeblood flow through us toward each other, let alone into a world so desperate for the love of Christ?
The Mark of a Christian
(Dee) I went through some of the same struggles Kathy did when I began my journey into Christianity. So many messages came at me, and I was trying to discern who was "right" and what was most important. God ministered to me through an eloquent little book entitled The Mark of a Christian by Francis Schaeffer, a man who was a prophet in his time, cutting to the core, discerning where the church was headed. Dr. Schaeffer stressed that not only did Jesus command us to be His love, He prayed we would be His love in John 17. This passage has been called His "High Priestly Prayer." When did Jesus pray this? Near the end of His life on earth, when time was running out, just before He was betrayed. We must listen carefully. In this prayer He again tells us the mark of a Christian.
For three years, Jesus has lived under a death sentence, which is now just days away. Jesus prayed first for His disciples, but then He looked down through the generations, to you and to me, and said:
My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message . . . (John 17:20)
And what did He pray for us?
. . . that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. (John 17:21)
Do you see? Unless we genuinely love each other, unless we truly care for each other, unless we are living in harmony, the world will not believe. There is so much dissension out there: quarreling, misunderstanding, and belittling. The world lives like this. The world lives without hope. We do much of the same. Why would anybody without Jesus want our life with Jesus if it looks the same? Believe me, they're watching. We watch! Why wouldn't they be watching?
Everybody wants the real deal. And when you show the real deal, the purity of love, it is hard to resist. There is no moving toward God without love. If we who bear His name do not love, Jesus tells us the world will dismiss Him. This is sobering, because we all know Christians who do not bear this imprint, and each of us at one time or another could step to the front of that line. Jesus gives us two commands about loving others: we are to love our neighbor as ourselves; we are to love our brother as Christ loved us. Both love commands are vital and both kinds of love are to be seen in the mark of a Christian. It certainly would be ugly to love just other believers and not our neighbor. Yet Scripture stresses that there is something terribly important about loving our brother. When unbelievers witnessed the great love between the believers in the book of Acts, when they saw how they took care of their poor, when they saw how strong the bond was between believers, they were drawn to Jesus as well. Again and again it is repeated in the New Testament that it is absolutely vital that we, in the body of Christ, show love for one another. See these dual commands, including the emphasis on the new command:
Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. (Galatians 6:10)
Francis Schaeffer explains:
The church is to judge whether a man is a Christian on the basis of his doctrine . . . and then his credible profession of faith . . . But we cannot expect the world to judge that way, because the world cares nothing about doctrine . . .
Jesus turns to the world and says, "I've something to say to you. On the basis of my authority, I give you a right: you may judge whether or not an individual is a Christian on the basis of the love he shows to all Christians."
We are not to choose between loving all men as ourselves and loving Christians in a special way . . . but we can understand how overwhelmingly important it is that all men be able to see an observable love for those with whom we have these special ties.
. . . We must be very careful at this point, however. We may be true Christians, really born-again Christians, and yet fail in love toward other Christians. As a matter of fact, to be completely realistic, it is stronger than this. There will be times (and let us say it with tears), there will be times when we will fail in our love toward each other as Christians.
The point is that it is possible to be a Christian without showing the mark, but if we expect non-Christians to know that we are Christians, we must show the mark.3
How can we be certain to show the mark? How can we be transformed?
This is the exciting part, for John wrote a letter that could be called Christianity 101, giving us basic principles that can transform us into beautiful women of God. If you are a man reading this, the principles will work for you too. The backbone of this book is four principles found in John's first letter. These four transforming principles of Christlike love-for His love is different from the world's love-are based on
God is so wonderful in that in addition to giving us principles, He gives us pictures of people to help us really see His truth. Cain, for example, refused the light of God. His destructive life is a vivid illustration of what will happen to us if we do likewise. Esther, in contrast, is changed into a beautiful woman because she embraced all of these transforming principles. We are also excited, as we tell you these stories, to show you paintings from the Masters-incredible portraits of Cain, Esther, and of others. We will show you these paintings in black and white, and in their lovely colors in the video, if you are doing the accompanying Bible study (to be released Spring 2003).
Just as the gift of music is a way of expressing God's truth and beauty, so is the gift of art. An artist is like a Bible commentator, in that he portrays the account as he sees it. It may be a slightly different perspective from yours, but it is always good to look at Scripture from a fellow traveler's perspective. Slow down, and see what you can discover. Not only can these artists open windows of understanding for us, their portraits can etch the truths in our memories, helping us become what God longs for us to be.
To give you a taste of what is to come, one of the primary principles in John's first letter is that a child of God shows Christlike love to his brother. Actively loving our brother will help us to know we "belong to the truth." John writes:
If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. This then is how we know that we belong to the truth . . . (1 John 3:17-19a)
This principle springs to life with a picture, the story that Jesus told of the Good Samaritan. In the story (Luke 10:30-37), the believers hurried past the victim (the man who had been beaten and robbed), preoccupied with their own agendas, but the Samaritan, an unbeliever despised by the Jews, had compassion and stopped to help.
Jesus was not saying that the Samaritan was a believer, nor that the priest or the Levite who hurried past the wounded man were unbelievers, but that the Samaritan was doing a better job of bearing the mark of a Christian. We meet people all the time who put some Christians to shame. If they are so impressive as unbelievers, we often wonder what they'd be like if they committed their lives to Christ.
Her eloquence-how would she speak for Jesus?
His faithfulness-how could that be directed for the Lord?
Her compassion-how many lives would be touched by the heart of God?
If an unbeliever who had good things poured into his soul through a healthy family can bear the mark of God, then we who know the Lord should be radiant, filled with the colors of His love. Our imprints can become vivid masterpieces if we learn to apply the principles of John's letter.
(Kathy) Loving others can seem like such an obvious principle, yet we often fail to do so. I have found that when I actively love someone, it sucks the poison out of my heart. If it is a person that I don't really know, such as the clerk at the grocery store, when I show her love, I find myself caring more, seeing her through God's eyes. If that person is someone who was unkind to me, by actively showing them compassion and forgiveness, I find I have more mercy toward them, and that the irritation or hurt begins to be absorbed. This simple principle of John's letter transforms me.
John has often been called the apostle of love, and the primary purpose of his first letter is to tell us how to bear the imprint of a Christian. We are all works in progress, and in some of us the imprint is barely discernible and the colors are pale. John's simple yet profound principles, if obeyed, will make the imprint distinct and the colors vivid. These principles will transform you with the radiance of Christ.
When we approached writing our first book together, Falling in Love with Jesus, each of us thought: I love Jesus, but do I live in a constant state of abandonment to Him? We knew we didn't. Yet we wrote because a deeper love relationship is the cry of our hearts and we are seeing progress as we continue to abandon ourselves to God and grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ.
So here we are again. We love others, but we also fail miserably. We are all humbled by the good Samaritans around us. Yet as we fall at the foot of the cross and absorb all of what it represents, a power will be unleashed, transforming us into women who love well. We are promised that.
We pray that we may live lives full of the love of Jesus Christ. We pray that for you as well. May we never grow cold, dull, and gray. May we never become like snow that has lingered too long in a city, collecting soot, sitting in crusty, dirty piles along the sidewalk.
We both travel a great deal, and very often early flights are involved. Even though that can be exhausting, the one good thing is that they allow us to see the sunrise from the air. Have you ever experienced this? It is a breathtaking way to start the day. Looking out our windows before takeoff, the sky is normally blue-black. The city is sleeping. As we soar above the clouds, the light of the majestic orange-yellow sun transforms everything. What a beautiful sight. As the minutes pass by we are certain that this same light will stream into kitchen windows, set farmlands ablaze, and glisten like diamonds on city skyscrapers. Tiny churches and grand cathedrals will become iridescent because of the penetrating light through their stained-glass windows.
The sun definitely touches the world with a unique beauty. The light of Jesus Christ can do the same through us. We can touch the world with the colors of His love.