HOW MUCH DO YOU LOVE ME?

It certainly is no secret that a new baby in the house upsets the applecart for parents as well as for older siblings.

Newborn baby ready to come home from hospital
Newborn baby ready to come home from hospital

It sometimes is a stressful time with the older siblings wondering if Mom or Dad have enough love to go around.  This is especially true given the emphasis (rightfully so) on the newborn baby which has now taken the place of priority over that of the older children.  “Mom, do you still love me with all your heart?  You love me more than the baby, right?”  Of course Mom would respond that she loves both the children with all her heart. Then she is asked: “How can you love both of us with all your heart – you have 2 hearts?”  Math and biology have now become real issues!

Child looking at infant sibling
Child looking at infant sibling

We smile at the question, but as adults, don’t we sometimes wonder how much we are loved, whether it is by our spouse or our children or our friends?  Sometimes, during hard times, we even wonder if God still loves us … if He did, surely He would have prevented “X” from happening.  [You fill in the blank.]

When it comes to God, I think the answer to how much God loves us is encapsulated in the saying:

“There is nothing that I can do to make God love me more than He does; and there is nothing that I can do to make God love me less than he does.”

I believe that this saying captures the definition of divine security.  Human love is strong, but it is sometimes fairly conditional.  Not so with God.  Scripture teaches that His love for me began even before I was born and it will continue throughout eternity. I did not earn it, I did not merit it, and I cannot lose it.

In Psalm 139, the Psalmist describes God’s creation of his being and the intimacy of God’s knowledge of him personally.

You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.  You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, LORD, know it completely.

Psalm 139:2-4 [NIV]  (Emphasis mine)

The Creator of all things knows me so intimately that He knew the number of my days even before I was born, before I “came to be”.  Further, He knows what I am going to say, even before I say it!  [That thought is difficult for me to even put into a post – praise Him for forgiveness!]

The scope of God’s knowledge of us and of His love for us is beyond my comprehension; I can only bow in thankful praise and abject submission to this God of love who sent His Son to be my Savior.

Easter at Canterbury Cathedral, Canterbury, England
Easter at Canterbury Cathedral, Canterbury, England

The depth of His love is shown by Calvary and the tomb; and, His power over death is shown by the Resurrection!

Philippians 2:8-11 describes Jesus’ sacrifice like this:

And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.  [ESV]

Praise the Lord that He has reached out and has adopted us into His family, by faith in His Son, Jesus Christ.  We are children of the Sovereign Almighty God.  We are members of God’s family, and we are sisters (and brothers) of the Lord of Lords and King of Kings.  See Romans 8:15-17.

There is no question that God loves His children.  His love is more than sufficient for His children; it is perfect and guaranteed by the Holy Spirit.  We read in 2 Corinthians 1:21-22 that:

And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. [ESV]

Thus, the real question is “Do you love Jesus?”

Jesus asked this very question of Simon Peter, the disciple who often seemed to put his foot in his mouth before thinking.  The impetuous Peter had affirmed his devotion to Jesus in the Garden before Judas and the guards came … then, during Jesus’ “trial”, he denied that he knew Jesus, not just once but three times.

After the resurrection, Jesus was with Peter and he asked “Do you love me?” three times – paralleling Peter’s three denials.   The story is told in detail in John 21:15-19.

Peter said that he did love the Lord and Jesus’ response was to direct Peter to “feed my lambs”, to “take care of my sheep”, and to “feed my sheep”. [NIV]  In other words, saying you love Jesus is not the end of the inquiry … you have a job to do.  In Peter’s case, it was to be a missionary feeding, caring and tending for the Lord’s sheep, and ultimately dying a martyr’s death.

That may not be what Jesus calls us to do … but He does call us to do something for which He will equip and provide direction and strength.

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

Ephesians 2:10 [ESV]

So, how much do you love Jesus?  Enough to obey Him?  Enough to be a witness for Him wherever you go?

Father, help me to be a witness for my Lord.  Give me strength when I think I cannot go on, and give me wisdom to know when I should simply express love.  Help me to let Jesus shine through me in all things for your glory and praise.

REST – GET IT WHERE YOU CAN!

We were out to eat last weekend when a family passed us on their way to the restaurant table … a young child was asleep on his Daddy’s shoulder. What caught my attention was this sleeping child’s hand that was hanging over the man’s arm – the child was so sound asleep, his hand was absolutely limp so that it waved and wobbled with each step the man took.

Think about the last time you have really watched a child sleep. They seem to be able to sleep almost anywhere, with no trouble. Asleep at the porch table … I guess the food was not brought fast enough!

Child fell asleep waiting for lunch!
Child fell asleep waiting for lunch!

 

Then again, swinging and bouncing can sometimes lead to a tired child; touching the carpet with your tip‐toes can be hard for a little guy!

Swinging and bouncing can be exhausting!
Swinging and bouncing can be exhausting!

Think about being asleep with all sorts of commotion going on around you.

Asleep sitting up!
Asleep sitting up!

We have all seen little ones who are asleep in the car seat or carrier. A common sight often as infants are being carried through the store, swinging on Mom’s arm.

When we see these little ones we want to pray for their future, that they would know the Lord and for all the dreams, hopes and aspirations that come with new life.

 

Sleeping newborn.
Sleeping newborn.

 

Then there is the sleep of a child in the arms of one who loves him/her.  We love the times that our children and grandchildren have climbed up into waiting arms and cuddled, secure in the embrace of a parent/grandparent who loves them, who will defend them, and care for them even when they are asleep and dreaming their wonderful infant dreams.

Grandfather and infant grandson resting together!
Grandfather and infant grandson resting together!

 

 

Grandmother holding sleeping grandson.
Grandmother holding sleeping grandson.

While we know that sleep is mandatory, that it is something that we must have for us to be healthy, often we adults simply do not get enough of it. Unfortunately, the pace of our world with jobs, housework, family, church, social obligations and who knows what else [you fill in the blank], creates such a frenetic atmosphere that we as adults simply cannot rest, relax … or sleep.

But sleep does not elude us just because of our calendars. Sometimes we have physical issues such as pain from an injury or surgery. Then too there are the psychological, emotional and spiritual issues that claim our night hours. It might be that we have worries about finances or health of ourselves, family or friends. There could be concern about employment security, about financing retirement, or about obtaining that first job in a market where jobs are truly scarce.   Perhaps it is concern about words spoken that should not have been; deeds that we knew should be done but which were not; attitudes that colored our views of people and conversations which were unkind, at best.  And aging, for some reason, seems to rob us of sleep so that it is harder to fall and stay asleep than it was years earlier.

Just as we cuddle our grandchildren, Scripture teaches that God longs for us to come to Him with outstretched arms.

God says in Isaiah 49:15 [NIV]:

 “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!

 

Again, in Isaiah 66:13 [NIV], the Prophet records God as saying:

 “As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort  you; and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.”

 

 

David knew of this longing. Psalm 139 is an incredibly beautiful song talking of God’s love and His care for His children. I urge you to read the entire Psalm, but verses 8 through 10 [ESV] describe the omnipresence of God’s love and care:

If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.

 

 

Hundreds of years after Psalm 139 was written, Jesus said:

 “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 [ESV]

 

 

As Christians, the closeness that we have with God is described by Paul in Romans 8:15:

 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” [ESV]

 

 

Where can you get rest? Ultimately, true rest is only through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ who has, through His death and resurrection, secured our ability to call out to God, “Abba Father”.

Believe in Him, then rest in Him, Beloved. He will hold you through all your difficulties, and He will never let you go!

So, where do you find your rest?

I SEE YOU!

Did you ever play “peep-eye” with a young child? You know the game – the adult puts their hands over their eyes or perhaps covers the baby’s eyes and then says “Where are you?” After an appropriate pause, the adult quickly allows the child to see again and says “Peep-eye, I see you!” Almost always the young child laughs in glee and sometimes they laugh so hard they get hiccups!

Baby sitting with bib after playing I see you with grandparent
Baby sitting with bib after playing I see you with grandparent.

Actually, watching the adults playing this with the children raises the question about who is having more fun!

The childhood game is fun and grandparents love to play it with their infant grandchildren and it is a harmless way to bond together. (Usually the parents are too busy to do it, but that’s why God created grandparents!)

I was reminded of the “I see you” game when we were on our camping trip recently when we were joined by some dear friends and their two German Shepherd dogs, Quincy and Dixie.   I was trying to get a picture of Dixie whose canine face is beautiful, and I was using my Kindle camera rather than my little red electronic camera. All this to say, I could “snap” multiple pictures rapidly in an attempt to catch her face just right.

Dixie, the German Shepherd Dog
Dixie, the German Shepherd Dog

Ultimately, I believe that I did get a good representation of her face, when we were at the campfire later in the evening.  It was not until I was looking at the pictures to see if any of them “caught” the character of Dixie that I saw the following series of pictures.

Doggie I see you #1
Doggie I see you #1
Doggie I see you #2
Doggie I see you #2
Doggie I see you number 3
Doggie I see you number 3

It was as if Dixie was playing “I see you” with the camera while it actually was my inability to get her face inside the lens parameters.

But, I wondered if the Lord was speaking through this series of pictures.

We often act as if no one is watching when the reality is that the world is, indeed, watching how we live our life if we proclaim Christ as our Savior. What difference does He make in how we conduct our business, how we interact with our neighbors? Does Christ make any difference in how we train our children? Is our marriage a testament to the vow that we took, to love and honor our spouse?

Does Jesus have any connection to our day to day life or is He relegated to Sunday morning services?

I see you! Children see their parents talk about how important church is while they lay in bed and let the church bus pick the kids up. Children see us as we ignore the stop sign, ignore the extra change mistakenly provided by the fast food server, and ignore the call to help in our community or church while at the same time telling the children that they should always be helpful on the school playground. They see when we lie about something or when we say something cutting about our spouse, only to tell the children that we were just kidding!

Inconsistencies between actions and words – guess which the children will remember!

I see you! Even for those who have no children, the world is watching. Our co-workers see when extra pens and paper are taken from the office, under guise that “I do work from home sometimes!” Or they see when the hours on the clock indicate 8.5 but we forget to deduct for the extra time we took at lunch. Our neighbors will resent our preaching that they should go to church when they see us doing yard work when the worship service is beginning. A visitor at church will wonder about our loving fellowship if we start to belittle a fellow worshipper in our post-service visit with them.

Inconsistencies between actions and words – guess which the children/ neighbor/ world will remember!

The Psalmist in Psalm 139 recites the numerous ways in which God knows each of us. In verses 2 and 4 David says that God even knows our thoughts and words:

“You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. … Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether”

I see you!   It is more than a game to play with a baby – it is something to remember every day of our life. Even if no one is around to see what we are doing, the omnipotent, omnipresent God sees us.

Let Psalm 139 be in our minds and hearts as we go through the week … let us remember that God sees what we are doing, He knows our path, and He desires that we live for Him.