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god-of-all-comfortIn The God of All Comfort, I share this from my prayer journal:

Friday, December 12


Where are you, God?

Tonight I drove up to Susi’s. She was having a Christmas party for the doctors and their wives from Steve’s clinic. My first time to come alone — last year I didn’t even try. I parked on the street and began walking toward the house, carrying my offering of Christmas cookies in a midnight blue tin covered with stars. Chris and Susi’s house was laced with green boughs and tiny whte lights.

I was fine until I looked through the front window. There they were: Couples. Laughing. Talking. Immersed in one another. It used to be Steve and me too.

I turned and fled before anyone could see me. The widow Brestin.

So here I am, Lord. I shed my red silk Christmas dress and retreated to my flannel nightgown and my green leather chair. I am crying out to you. Your Psalms are open on my lap. I know your Words are streams of water, and I long to put my roots deep into that water and sense You.

But where are You, God? I thirst for you, But I do not feel You here with me.

I wrote that four years ago. God has brought me through the river of grief and into His arms. I still miss Steve terribly. I honestly still break down and sob sometimes. But I also have greater intimacy with the Lord and I know my life is not over. It will never be the same, but it can be good, even wonderful. Just as He surprised the shepherds, the wiseman, Mary, and others that first Christmas, He continues to surprise and delight me. Our greatest surprise this Christmas is these four new babies. Steve had prayed for godly husbands for his daughters — and somehow I think Steve and Jesus orchestrated the births of these four little girls. We will be together at the cabin in Wisconsin. It’s already snowing up there, and my heart is rejoicing at what God has done.four-babies-with-bows-in-baskets Here they are — in baskets as newborns. They will be rolling about this Christmas on the floor and we will definitely be taking pictures. God has amazed us.

One of the ways we speak to our souls is to remember the ways God amazed us. I’d love everyone to share a recent story of how God amazed you.

1. How has God amazed you this year?

2. I love reading the Christmas story and see how God amazed people. Look with me and write down how God amazed individuals. What do you see?

a. MARY IN LUKE 1:48.  (extra credit — how has He also done this for you?)

b. ZECHARIAH IN LUKE 1:67-79 Choose one phrase that leaps out to you and explain why.

c. THE SHEPHERDS IN LUKE 2:8-20 Don’t let the familiarity of this passage keep you from seeing the wonder — find one thing that must have filled their hearts with wonder.

d. THE WISEMEN IN MATTHEW 2:1-10 (i LOVE VERSE 10) Get into their emotions — why did the reappearance of the star make them so joyful? Can you identify in any way?

3. One way God is changing me is enlarging my heart for the widow, the lonely — prisoners, elderly shut-ins, so many. Learning to see Jesus in them, and knowing that as we minister to them, we minister to Jesus. There are also amazing promises from 1 John that as we reach out to our brothers in need, our love is enlarged and our confidence in our salvation is enlarged.

A. According to 1 John 3:16a, how can you know Jesus loves you when you don’t feel His love?

B. According to 1 John 3:16-18, what exhortation are we given? How might you apply this right now this Christmas? Ask the Lord to help you see people in your path who are lonely, and to think of how to minister to them. Let’s not be afraid to be specific and share what He is allowing us to do. Don’t think of it as trumpeting your good deeds, but as encouraging your sisters.

C. What is the amazing promise of 1 John 3:19-20?

4. What is your take-away this week?

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  1. 1. I am amazed at God’s timing. I should never fear or fret as I look back on how He has delivered Joey this year. Things that I cannot know or handle He has taken care of.

    2a. Mary is well acquainted with her humility. She is female which in her day, was an inferior status. If she had been a woman of social status I don’t think she would have been betrothed to a carpenter. What she did have though was a faithful father. In that day women were not taught Torah but how well she knew it. She must have been taught by her father. She knew that God had favored her and that she would be remembered for all generations. Knowing the word as she did she must have been deeply amazed at what she had been told by Gabriel. I don’t think she had any idea of the cost (the cross I mean). God’s mercy was great in letting her deal with one ordeal at a time.

    2b. Zechariah is rejoicing in the fulfillment of long awaited prophecy for God’s salvation. It had been such a long time since God’s promise to Abraham. Zechariah was amazed to see it in his day.

    The phrase that leaps out to me is when he speaks to his son of his honor to be prophet of the Most High and share in His ministry. Zechariah is clearly amazed and rejoicing for his son and in himself. Once again I do not think he knew of the heartache to come. There was trouble enough for that day as Herod tried to also kill John. In verse 71 it seems like Zechariah is also looking for salvation from enemies of Israel.

    2c. What stands out to me about the shepherds is that they were probably uneducated in the Torah but had heard of the longed for Messiah. I’m sure there was much speculation over the centuries about who He was and what His coming would mean to Israel, especially among those who lived hard lives. I wonder if they had lost hope thinking that He was only interested in the highly respected and educated men. What joy and hope must have swelled in their hearts as they understood this news and beheld the glory of the messengers. This great blessing was for ALL men!

    2d. I have heard that these wisemen were possibly from Babylon and that their knowledge originated with Daniel. This idea was well explained in The Star of Bethlehem that someone shared on the blog. They knew the stars and that God was possibly speaking through them. That was a long trip to set out on with just a hunch. I think they had seen enough to be sure but as I so often do, they at times were still not sure they had heard Him right. I can relate to that for sure. They must have gone to Herod when the star disappeared thinking that he would know about a prophesied King. The heavens and stars were their life’s work, to hear God’s voice in them must have been glorious. When the star reappeared they knew they understood God rightly.

    Once again our study has been a balm to my soul.

    1. Anne, Last night we had some dear friends over for dinner..Donna and I got into a lengthy discussion about what Mary really understood..She mentioned exactly what you said about God having mercy on Mary…I thought that was cool to come here and see that you too had the same thought! 🙂

  2. I would have to agree with Anne above on being amazed at God’s perfect timing. In the last couple of days especially, with the huge amount of snow dumped on us in WI and my vehicle buried in snow, I couldn’t help but miss my former husand who thrilled to be out in the snow. He was a whiz at getting cars out of the ditch or from wherever they were stuck. This year I won’t be shopping for a Christmas gift for him. I have been feeling pretty sorry for myself without a husband when this morning in my Bible I discovered a passage I had never seen before, a passage I KNOW came from our Lord, meant as a gift for me: “For your Maker is your husband–the LORD Almighty is his name–the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth. The LORD will call you back as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit–a wife who married young, only to be rejected,” says your God. (Isaiah 54:5-6). This scripture totally touched me heart. It fits my circumstances. God knows all about it. God understands my desire to be a wife, something I feel is a title of honor. So, I do have a Husband. He has chosen me. I am loved again. Yes, I am amazed by this. This is His Christmas gift to me. 🙂

    1. Oh Deb..That about made me cry..God is so good.. 🙂 After reading Dee’s story and then reading yours..I just want to ball..At first because I literally feel your’s and Dee’s pain as I read and then to see how God has done such amazing things in both of your lives..new births of new and wonderous blessings in the midst of such pain.. Kind of like finding a rose sprouting up in the midst of the snow..

    2. Deb,
      What a beautiful gift in His Word did the Lord give to you!
      You are His treasure, for sure!
      Thank you for sharing that!

  3. 1. God amazed me this year when he nudged me into this group of women who want to grow deeper with our Lord. He knew I needed the gentle compassion I found here to complete a deep, deep level of healing.
    God is doing something really special with this blog and I am grateful he encouraged me to ‘jump into the deep and start swimming’.

    1. Tammy, Amen sister!

    2. Oh my goodness…you have given me something to ponder. It was your comment about God nudging you to jump into the deep and start swimming. You see, when we were kids we had to take swimming lessons in a lake from our school coach, an old Navy Seal frogman who believed in the “swim or drown” method. He pulled us into the lake on a white raft and once we were well over our heads in water, told us to jump off and swim to shore, even though we didn’t know how to swim. Since my divorce, I have felt like I am stuck out there on that white raft, at the mercy of the waves and wind. It never occurred to me that God might be extending His hands to me, asking “Come.” Oh me of little faith! I am going to consider what this means in my life. Such an Advent this is, after all! Just when I expected doom-and-gloom, again, there is that glimmer of light from the stable. Thank you.

      1. Deb,
        That was an amazing word picture you used about the white raft, being stuck out there in the lake, and God asking you to come to Him and swim!
        I, too, often feel “stuck”, not even knowing which thing to do first.

      2. Oh, and also how when all we can see is “doom and gloom”, that we would see “the glimmer of light from the stable”.
        Thank you Deb for your hopeful words.

  4. 1. God amazed me this year while planning my moms’ memorial service. In the middle of a notepad, we “just happened” to find a poem my mom wrote to her grandchildren 10 years ago. The last line she wrote was “even though I am no longer here on earth, I will always have my arms wrapped around you.” As this first Christmas without her will be do very difficult, I hope I can feel her “arms wrapped around me”.

    1. What a treasure you found, that poem from your mom! My heart aches for the pain of your loss. I am sending prayers of comfort for you and for peace to settle into your heart. Hugs to you!

  5. 1. God amazed me recently..My husband was going through a rough time in his walk over a long period of time… I began to resign myself that my husband wasn’t going to come out of this and my faith grew weak in this area..But since being on this blog my prayer life has really been strengthened..I began to really sincerely cry out to God to quicken my husband’s heart to keep his eyes fixed on Him..Then a few weeks later my husband called me and he began pouring out in a very passionate way the things he was struggling with.. Here is the amazing thing God did: I wanted to butt in and correct my husband but I heard the Holy Spirit tell me to be quiet and to trust that this is part of the process God is taking him through. I can’t explain it, but I haven’t had that strong of a confirmation from the Holy Spirit in a long time.

    Over time I saw a HUGE change in his countenance and in his confidence of who he is in Christ..Also, he has thrown off a lot of unnecessary ‘performance’ guilt and is free to be who God has made him to be. Yes, my husband is in a season where God is showing him what it means to be free!!

    What God has shown me is that I wasn’t “confident” in the truth that He who began a good work in my husband will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ!!..Phil 1:6 In that verse God tells us to be ‘confident’ in this!! 🙂

  6. Oh and I know I said this in my testimony above, but Dee, I sincerely must say that your prayer life on this blog has sharpened and encouraged me in my prayer life..Can’t explain it but it is the Lord quickening my soul in this area..Also, every gal on here has ministered to me in such a way that I have been challenged in my walk.. IN every way God is moving here from the bible studies to the insight from the ladies here, to the deep and moving prayers..To us really praying for one another..This blog is truly an oasis of light from the Lord..I look forward to coming here to see the weekly surprises God has in store.. It is never the same..it is always challenging and new each week.. Thanks so much Dee..

  7. I want to comment on what Anne wrote above about God’s mercy toward Mary in that “God let her deal with one ordeal at a time”.
    We were asked on the last post what we thought Mary really knew and understood.
    That is a great thought, Anne, that it was God’s mercy toward Mary that she didn’t know the full cost of what the future held for Jesus.

    I had looked yesterday at passages in Luke’s gospel, and in 1:19, it says, and this was after the shepherds’ visit, that “But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart”.

    In 1:13 it says, after Joseph and Mary encountered Simeon at the temple, “And His father and mother were amazed at the things which were being said about Him”.

    And in 1:48, when Jesus disappeared and was found back in Jerusalem at the temple, “And when they saw Him, they were astonished, and His mother said to Him, Son, why have You treated us this way? Behold, Your father and I have been anxiously looking for You.”

    Mary heard all the marvelous and wondrous words of the shepherds, of the angel Gabriel, of Simeon and Anna, yet she took them all in her heart and treasured and pondered them, I’m sure, all of her life!
    What Anne said made me think that had Mary had full understanding that Jesus would end up on a Cross, how could she have enjoyed those years of raising them? There would always have been the shadow of death hanging over her experiences with Jesus.
    Perhaps it was much like Jesus’ disciples, who, even after He told them again and again that He must suffer, really didn’t “get it” until after He had been raised; otherwise, why were their hopes so bitterly dashed after His crucifixion?

  8. 1. How had God amazed you this year?

    God amazed me by bringing my dad to Himself this past summer.
    I never imagined myself sitting at a prayer meeting in a church next to my dad, hearing my dad say “This is all new to me, but now that I am God’s son…..” To get to talk to my dad about what he has read in the Bible; to see my dad’s handwriting in the front of his Bible where he wrote that on June 24 he asked Jesus to be his Savior.

    The “knife in our hearts” over the death of my nephew, Thomas, my dad’s beloved grandson, will always be there. I know that knife goes especially deep in my mom and dad’s hearts. He was like a son to my dad. Thomas trusted in Jesus as a young boy. I can’t help but wonder that Thomas knows about his grandpa’s salvation; Thomas so loved his grandpa.

    1. Susan, The joy in the reflection of your dad receiving Christ and yet at the same time the sting of losing your nephew reminds me of Dee’s story of Steve and then the birth of her four grand daughters..Like God sent you a rose in the midst of healing from a storm..He is amazing!

  9. 2.a. Mary in Luke 1:48

    Mary is so amazed that God “took notice of His lowly servant girl” (NLT)
    Mary was a “nobody” in her world, a common, ordinary young girl; she had no social status or wealth. How she must have marveled and felt amazement that she was chosen by God to be the mother of His Son, and that she would be remembered by all future generations. In her day, she would have had no association with a king or a ruler; yet, she was chosen to bear the King of all kings!
    It’s hard for me to really “get” this, because we have the whole big picture of God’s Word today, and these truths that Jesus emptied Himself and came as a servant are so familiar to me, so to step back and try to imagine how truly mind-boggling this would have been to Mary is not easy!

    How had He also done this for you?

    Well, I was the total opposite of Mary as a young woman, for sure. She was humble, I was self-centered and proud; selfish and sinful. I still have a pride problem. Why He would have chosen me, I dont know. But if He hadn’t chosen me, I still wouldn’t know Him. I didn’t grow up in a Christian home, didn’t go to church, had no idea what it meant to be saved, nor did I know I needed to be. I was conforming myself to this world, and while Mary was pure, I was not.

    For He had regard for the lost state of Susan, and had mercy;
    from this time on all generations will count me redeemed; rescued, forgiven, saved by grace.

  10. 2. a. MARY IN LUKE 1:48. (extra credit — how has He also done this for you?)

    * God amazed Mary in that He took her, a lowly woman in man’s eyes yet a humble servant favored in His eyes and raised her up to be blessed by men forever.
    God has amazed me by saving me..A wretch..He pulled me out of the muck and mire and set my feet on a rock..This was in 1988 and He sustains me through the valleys..He has give me hope..No one or nothing has been able to snatch me out of His hands..Satan sure has tried but can’t..I am sealed..I am His eternally..

    b. ZECHARIAH IN LUKE 1:67-79 Choose one phrase that leaps out to you and explain why.

    * Verses 78 and 79..”78 Because of the tender mercy of our God,
    With which the Sunrise from on high will visit us,
    To guide our feet into the way of peace.”

    * This is what He did for me..It was His TENDER MERCY toward me, toward us all that caused Him to come and to take on my punishment for my sin..God Eternal conceals himself in the womb..humbled himself as a babe, then died a brutal humiliating death, was buried and rose again that He would shine on my darkness and deliver me from death and guide my feet in His peace..Peace only He can give..And He is coming back in power and glory!!

  11. Another thing that struck me in Luke 1:78,79 Was that he ‘visited us’..It reveals God’s tender, loving and kind nature..he came into our life on our level..He is “God with us” He is not some distant God on high….ANd, once we are saved He stays with us regardless of our rebellion, our stubbornness…

  12. Sisters, would you please pray for me, Joey and his youth and small group leaders. He confessed to them that he has purchased and smoked marijuana this past fall. None of us have the sense of true repentance, just that he was afraid he would get caught. I need wisdom and strength. His leaders need wisdom and he needs a heart of reverence and repentance. I am trying so hard not to be scared.

    1. Anne, am praying for Joey..I KNOW this must be tearing at your heart sister..

    2. Holy Father
      Open Joey’s eyes to Your Truth. I ask for the removal of the veil of deception, that an indulgence of the flesh is the answer to his pain. Open his eyes to see that he has a mom who loves him as you intend. One who sets boundaries and does not let a teachable life moment slip by. Give Anne your joy which is her strength. Hear our cries on behalf of our beloved sister. In the name of our King of Kings and Lord of Lords Amen.

      1. Lord, you have made Joey..Lord you came and died for Joey to set him free from the bondage of sin and to have a relationship with him. Lord, soften his heart to you..draw him to you..give him a true repentant heart toward you..Help him to turn and trust you..Give his leaders and friends in the youth fellowship wisdom, courage and your love to help turn Joey’s face to you Lord. Help them to show him kindness as you do toward us. Lord, really grab Joey’s heart soon..We trust Lord that you will for you love him and are very very concerned for him too.

        Give Anne your peace Lord..oh how you can relate to what she is feeling..Thank you for sustaining her through this in Isaiah, and for her heart..Lord you have given her such a humble heart of love for you..Help her to keep her mind stayed on you through this and thank you for the grace you give her when she struggles keeping her eyes on you..

        Give her confidence and strength in you today that you are going to finish the work you have started..Thank you Lord that you don’t abandon us, but we can have confidence in that..We love you Lord Jesus and we long for your return!! In these days of ever increasing evil and chaos in this world help us keep our eyes stayed on you!!

        1. Oh, and Lord THANK YOU that Joey admitted what was going on to the youth group and the leaders.. That takes a lot of courage and is HUGE..thank you that you are working in his heart!

    3. Praying for Joey and his leaders and you, Anne. Praise God he confessed. That is a huge beginning.

  13. I went to BSF tonight and the first thing the lecturer said was the question. What can we give God for Christmas that would just really delight Him. I thought about Lottie Moon offering among other things. Her answer was to trust Him. How profound but she hammered it home from Isaiah 28-33. I felt very talked to…

    Trusting ourselves means distrusting God. Trusting God means distrusting ourselves.

    Israel’s real crisis was not Assyria, it was unbelief. They trusted what their eyes could see rather than the reality of the spiritual.

    We can have overwhelming victory if we trust God or overwhelming defeat if we do not.

    Do we go to the world or to the Word.

    He inflicts wounds that He will heal (very loose paraphrase).

    How precious is the treasure that is ours in our God (that’s from me).

    Joey also went to his class about which he says little but he seemed so lifted up on the way home. Lord, light up Your word in his life.

    1. Anne, this is what God wanted me to hear this morning: “Trusting ourselves means distrusting God. Trusting God means distrusting ourselves.” Thanks for sharing that.

  14. Heavenly Father,
    Please speak to Joey in his heart and show him that what You have to offer him is so much better than what the world has to offer him. Please let Your Holy Spirit convict Joey that smoking marijuana does not fit who he is, a child of the Living God; and turn his eyes away from worthless things. Please free Joey from this snare of the enemy, and give his youth leaders alot of wisdom as they seek to help him. Please protect Anne’s heart from fear and worry, help her to say the right words to her son, keep their relationship open with the lines of communication open, and help Anne to show unconditional love. Shut the door to Satan’s influence in Joey’s life.
    I pray this in Jesus’ name, Amen and Amen.

    1. and Amen!

  15. 2b. Zechariah in Luke 1:67-79

    Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
    For He has visited us and accomplished redemption for His people.

    I, too, was struck with the phrase “for He has visited us…”
    God always, from the beginning, being the initiator, the One who comes to us; never the other way around.

    “and accomplished redemption for His people”

    It doesn’t say, “and WILL accomplish…”, it says it is already done!

    Also, 1:71, “Salvation from our enemies, and from the hand of all who hate us”. I know this speaks to the Jewish people, but I can’t help but think of how God saved us from our enemy, Satan, from the hand of Satan who does hate us.

    1. Wow Dee, That is so amazing, that you could memorize all that.

    2. Dee, Great job!! What an awesome poem to memorize.

    3. Beautiful – especially love the last stanza! Thank you for sharing Dee!

  16. Thank you all for praying. What a wonderful resource we have on this blog and in each other. I doubt I will be on any more this week. Joey and I are going to Disney World tomorrow until Sunday. I will take the poem so I can think about it. That will help me to stay grounded in the chaos. May all of you be blessed as you ponder this great wonder:o)

  17. c. THE SHEPHERDS IN LUKE 2:8-20 Don’t let the familiarity of this passage keep you from seeing the wonder — find one thing that must have filled their hearts with wonder.

    * Verses 13 and 14.. After the angel appeared to the Shepherds and told them about Jesus being born all of a sudden a MULTITUDE of heavenly hosts appeared with the Angel praising God…I couldn’t imagine an innumerable amount of angels-God’s army..How beautiful that must have sounded and wonderous that must have been to witness, and at the same time to know God was revealing to them..the not so lofty people, ‘shepherds’..the Gospel..This must mean that they were the first people to spread the gospel-Jesus who is the son of God and God has come..He is our savior..After hearing and witnessing what they witnessed it is obvious why went with haste to see Jesus and then shared what they heard and saw with Mary and Joseph..

    1. Dee, awesome encouragement! Thanks so much…

  18. 3. One way God is changing me is enlarging my heart for the widow, the lonely — prisoners, elderly shut-ins, so many. Learning to see Jesus in them, and knowing that as we minister to them, we minister to Jesus. There are also amazing promises from 1 John that as we reach out to our brothers in need, our love is enlarged and our confidence in our salvation is enlarged.

    * I experienced this yesterday with a sister in need..God amazes me how He works..But after ministering to her, I realized Jesus just ministered to me, and then I come here and read this encouragement..

    I am thinking more on this today which is HUGE for me because I can be REAL selfish with my time and schedule, but I knew yesterday when she called me out of the blue that being with her was more important than cleaning and doing Christmas shopping..

  19. This is a great video of Sara Groves where it shows video of her going to Rwanda and Lousianna..The song is called “Love is a worthy cause.”… I thought it related to Dee’s encouragement of being alert to the people and family God puts in our path: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=me-eSbQzlg0

    1. This video was awesome, thanks for sharing it.

      1. Dee, YES another great video to see..It was incredible-made me love her more and opened my eyes..How they helped and loved one another..A true picture of Jesus..

        Oh and I was able to buy my mom and I a ticket for a front row seat when you and Sara are here in Kansas City!! Also, I have a few friends who are going who have teenage girls who are excited about the breakout session for teens..Looking so forward to seeing God move!

    1. You got it sis..Will be praying..Will it be this weekend? I guess the timing doesn’t matter.. i will pray starting today..

    2. Dee, I understand how difficult that can be. I’ve been praying for you!

  20. 3B.

    * God has a special place in his heart for the poor, the needy, the oppressed and the downtrodden..Jesus said “What you do to the least of these you do to me.” I have to be honest God has surprised me once again..He is moving in my heart in a way He has never before..It started with Dee’s study here and God is revealing His heart to me for people..We miss that sometimes..I have missed that..So, I am ‘alert’ and by the grace of God I will give up what I tend to ‘hold onto’ and ask Him to remind me of His heart..

    He topped it off this week with the video on Sarah Groves going to Rwanda and Lousianna to minister to the lost, lonely and hurting.. Then God had me watch a series on the life of Rich Mullins on You Tube. It is called “Homeless Man”.. I HIGHLY recommend watching it..It will change you..

    It was by no mistake Dee exhorted us to be alert this week for the lost, lonely and hurting, and to help out our brothers and sisters in need..God is showing me more and more His heart and that He can work through me if I let go of myself..

    Here is a link to the first video of 6 of the “Homeless man” tribute to Rich Mullin’s life..We watched all 5.. I couldn’t find the 6th one..This will bless you..http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n_P8n6eysZ0

  21. 2c. The shepherds in Luke 2:8-20.

    I tried to read this through as if for the first time. One thing I noticed is, I had always imagined the shepherds sitting out by the fire at night and an angel suddenly appearing somewhere up in the night sky, kind of up high or something like that.
    But the text says in v. 9,
    “And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terribly frightened.”
    That was a wondrous thing – out of nowhere, a great being suddenly is standing there right in front of them. The appearance of an angel must be somewhat other-worldly, because usually at their appearance, people are frightened. They must look magnificent.

    And then, “suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God…”

    Angels appearing out of nowhere, right in front of the shepherds, their message of hope, that Messiah has been born. And the shepherds went quickly to see this thing – they believed what they had seen and heard.

    2d. The wise men in Matthew 2:1-10

    I agree with Anne’s post on this one – they had been following this star that they had seen in the east, in their country, and had journeyed for so long; they sought Herod to see if he would know of this king when the star perhaps disappeared; they were seeking confirmation – had they heard God rightly?
    And then, the same star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them and finally stood over the place where Jesus was.
    They were filled with joy and “rejoiced exceedingly” when they saw that star.
    Anytime the Lord has given me confirmation that He is working in my life, whether through His Word, or circumstances, or another person, it does give me a sense of joy and hope and uplifts my spirits.
    To be doubting and wondering, and then to be given a real definite sign that is so unmistakablely God, those are times to rejoice.

  22. 3A. According to 1 John 3:16a, how can you know Jesus loves you when you don’t feel His love?

    “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us…”

    I have to speak the truth to my soul, despite my feelings, and God’s Word tells me Jesus died for me because He loves me.

    B. According to 1 John 3:16-18, what exhortation are we given?

    Just as Jesus died for us, so are we to sacrificially give of our lives to others; if we have much, and see others who are in need, we can’t ignore their needs; otherwise, how can we say we love God?
    We must love not with our words only, but put love into action.

    How might you apply this right now this Christmas?

    We’ve had opportunities for this through my daughter’s school and our church. My daughter and I participated in the Angel Tree ministry, where we were able to purchase gifts for two children whose fathers are in prison. It was fun to shop for these unknown girls, and try to choose gifts that would delight them. My daughter also made a shoebox for Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child.

    I also resonate with Dee’s post above, about needing grace to deal with certain family members who I tend to be judgemental toward. It’s really easy to be so kind to complete strangers or people you never meet personally, as in our above gifts, but this verse from 1 John takes on real flesh and bones when it’s people in your own family that you need to show unconditional love to.

    1. Susan, RIGHT ON…Loved your answer to 3A..Sometimes we aren’t going to feel his love..I have to be honest, there are many times I don’t feel His love.. I do love that He is taking me through discovering His heart/love for others..All of us, and the special place he has in his heart for the oppressed, hurting and for children. There are so many examples of Jesus loving people in scripture..Of God’s mercy and grace and of God’s disdain for the Oppressors..We have to grasp onto that and have confidence of His unfathomable love for us even on the days we don’t feel it.

  23. C. What is the amazing promise of 1John 3:19-20?

    I think this is speaking of having assurance that we know the Lord.

    “We shall know by this…” is the “by this” when we are putting our love into action…

    “that we are of the truth…” that we belong to God?

    I need a little help grasping verse 20

    (and shall assure our heart before Him) “in whatever our heart condemns us; for God is greater than our heart, and knows all things.”

    Can anyone help?! I know I often feel “condemned” in my heart over what I have done or failed to do, over my sin…

    1. Susan,

      Me too..I tend to be a walking condemnation factory..I think for me that is actually a huge problem I admit..It might be a red flag that my confidence at that time is in me and not in the finished work of Christ?

      I think it is pretty powerful what God said in verses 22 and 23:

      22 “whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight.

      23 “This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us.”

  24. Susan, (Continued)…I rabbit trailed here on question “C” so I edited my answer.. Sorry! 🙂

    I was thinking when I condemn myself it takes my eyes off of Him and onto me and then it binds me and keeps me from reaching out and loving others..But the weird part is that God even understands that or He wouldn’t have wrote that passage in 1 John..He knows we will condemn ourselves and He wants to gently lift our eyes toward Him..MAN I can’t fathom His love for us-It makes love Him more..WOW…There is so much freedom that even though we can’t grasp His love we can be confident in it..

  25. I often feel the same way, condemned in my heart over what I’ve done or failed to do, over my sin. Remember when we talked about how God has forgiven us but we can’t forgive ourselves? I fall into that over and over again. I have to keep reminding myself that I’m forgiven and bringing it up repeatedly is like putting Christ back on the cross again. He paid for my sins and only by grace am I blessed enough to be forgiven. I have to forgive myself and let it go. I’m so unworthy, but praise God, through his grace, he loves and forgives me.

    1. Joyce, Amen!!

  26. Guys, update on how God is moving in us “being alert” these past two weeks..

    My husband does a paper route in the middle of the night so I can stay home with the boys..We sent out a Christmas card flyer with our boys picture on it..We received a card in the mail..It touched us deeply..The family wrote that the picture of our boys touched them deeply for they lost their 16 year old..He committed suicide at home due to being caught up on the internet on the dark side. Enclosed in the card was a check for $25.00 telling us to take our kids to McDonalds and another Toys R Us card for $25.00 telling us to go and buy a couple of family games and play them with our boys..They urged us to spend time with them, for they didn’t-they were too busy..They urged us to have dinner together as a family, as they didn’t do it that much..

    So, I googled their son’s name to find out more..I came upon his obituary and found out he was in a youth group at a really solid church in town, on the debate team at school, and was working toward getting his eagle scout badge in boy scouts…It is possible his parents are believers too..

    So, we are going to send a thank you note via the paper and write a personal thank you and tell them how their card touched us..We are also leaving our contact information..We don’t know how God will use this..SO far all I know is that this couple is still grieving and may be believers..AND God used them to remind us that relationship with our boys is more important than anything..We do play board games with our boys and eat dinner together, BUT we are going to buy a couple more board games and honor their request..

    There are hurting people out there..I can’t imagine it..The pain..Not only grieving their son’s death, but the guilt and self condemnation that follow..

    1. Oh Rebecca,
      It is no accident that your family has been brought to this family; God arranges all such “chance” encounters.
      My mind does not want to go there to what it was like for these parents to find their precious son dead in their home.
      I try not to go there much anymore with thoughts of my nephew, who overdosed at home, and was found first by his sister early in the morning, downstairs in the den. When I let my mind go there, it gets very hard to bear it. This mom and dad will be grieving this, I’m afraid, for the rest of their lives… though one day I pray God will dull the memory of finding their son and give them better memories to hold onto.

      God bless you for reaching out to them as they did to you.

      I came home from church today realizing that yes, EVERYONE carries a burden in their heart. A fellow Sunday school teacher shared with me how she’s been tearful this past week; her mom died three years ago but she still misses her.
      Our usher in our section where we sit mentioned how his 19 year old son doesn’t want to come to church anymore, while he was talking to me and my 19 year old son.
      The hurting are everywhere around us, and each of us on this blog have shared our burdens, too.

  27. I did a little digging on 1 John 3:19-20

    Matthew Henry’s Whole Bible Commentary

    God is chief judge of the court: if our heart condemn us,
    God is greater than our heart, superior to our heart and
    conscience in power and judgment; hence the act and
    judgment of the court are the act and judgment of God; as,
    1. If conscience condemn us, God does so too: For, if our heart
    condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things, v.20.
    God is a greater witness than our conscience, and knoweth more
    against us than it does: He knoweth all things; He is a greater
    Judge than conscience; for, as He is supreme, so His judgment
    shall stand, and shall be fully and finally executed.

    The verse in The Message

    My dear children, let’s not just talk about love, let’s practice real love. This is the only way we’ll know we’re living truly, living in God’s reality. It’s also the way to shut down debilitating self-criticism, even when there is something to it. For God is greater than our worried hearts, and knows more about us than we do ourselves.

    This is still a difficult passage to grasp.

    1. Dee, How did your time go with family?

  28. We got home this afternoon. We had a wonderful time but I really missed my times with the Lord as we were so busy. Even when I had time in the early mornings it was hard to focus. It is so good to be back and read all of your prayers and responses and to go through the last few questions myself. Once again I am blessed as I study.

    3a. I know Jesus loves me because He died for me. His love is a fact with physical evidence that is always there no matter how I feel.

    b. Our exhortation is not to speak words only without deeds of caring and compassion. How empty are loving words when deeds speak otherwise. Being able to minister to another in need is a great blessing and is always tremendously rewarding. So often I do things in the flesh with poor results. I think that is what makes it hard for me to reach out sometimes. I am afraid my efforts will cause more harm than good. The key is as Dee said, ask the Lord to guide me, and follow His leading.

    c. The amazing truth is that as we obey this command our hearts will not be condemned by God, even if we feel condemned because of other things. This is hard for me to understand also because of the verse that says there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ. I think that verse is talking about final condemnation. Apparently there is a condemnation for one who has the ability to help someone in need and does not do it, especially if one carries Christ’s name.

  29. 4. My take away this week is to stop and look and be amazed. The Bible is full of God’s wonders as is my life as I walk this earth with the Lord by my side. I have been battling anxiety and depression so much lately that it is making me physically sick. The enemy is seeking those he can devour. By God’s grace it will not be me or any of us. Rebecca, my heart goes out to this family God has brought across your path. I will be praying that God will bring amaze them. My heart is broken for them.

    Oh God, I know that You enable us to bear all that we must. More remarkable than the wounds that You allow is the healing You bring. I pray You will heal the wounds this family suffers. Help them to cling to You and to see that You have defeated the enemy. May these parents find forgiveness and freedom in You. Through the tragedy that they have suffered may they bring Your healing to many. Thank You for the way they have spoken into Rebecca’s family. Help Rebecca, her husband and her children to minister Your love to them. Thank You for bringing them together.

    1. Anne, That was beautiful. Thanks so much for praying for that family..My heart has ached for them this past week..

      Lord, help Anne this week with her depression/anxiety issues..Help her to see you in this time and Lord I ask that you would bind Satan..Use it for your Glory Lord and help Anne to sift through what is causing this and possibly bring someone in to help her if need be..Lord we trust you are more powerful than this depression/anxiety and Lord you have given Anne a heart after your own heart, you never give up, instead you draw closer to us in our times of need. I ask you would cause Anne to really sense your presence as she struggles and that you would strengthen her..Help her to cling to you through this..

      Anne, You and I have a lot in common, even with our boys and their issues..Me too in regard to your battle with depression..I can so relate!!

    2. Rebecca, thank you for your kind words. What you shared about this family touched me so deeply. I think it is because I look back with so many regrets. I know Dee has taught us about that in our study but I just seem to be hounded by them. It is the enemy I know. God is able to work all things together for good, even my mistakes. He has protected Joey so many times. Thanks for your prayer this morning. God did indeed answer.

      Remember the book I mentioned by Leslie Leyland Fields about parenting myths? It came yesterday and I started it today on my break. I think it is going to be very helpful to me.

      1. Anne, let me know what you think..I will get it if it is helpful to you. It sounds great and like something I need as well. 🙂