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Posts Tagged ‘Agape Love’

Been in somewhat of a valley recently. The timing seemed to coincide with the shortening of days and long nights of cold darkness. I have never experienced seasonal depression but I can understand how the lack of light can affect a person’s outlook. We have also had more dreary overcast days than I remember from past winters.

I have gone through a year of testing in the area of doubt and unbelief, delving into the depths myself seeking to understand what spark generates faith and what extinguishes it.  I did not lose my faith, but at times felt like I was holding it in my hand, like the stone in this blog header, examining it from the outside – yet not letting go.

For many years in my past Christian walk I have read so many faith-building stories of the people of God in terribly hard circumstances – each of them called to be a channel for His love and truth.  I have read of Divine revelations, visions, miracles, and impossible conversions, by human reasoning.  I have traveled a long road in seeking people that walk this road of the REALITY of Christ rather than theories, and who hold to His precepts – not compromising them with allegiances to worldly agendas.  I have found no such “place” in my journey to date, but I have found a few shining stars.  People who hold fast and rise above the confines of the structure of “religion”, participating in its outer structures or not, truly touch the Life of Christ and walk in it.  Not on some super-power plane, as we are all very human, but in a path of true Faith and Love.

Two of these friends have walked with me daily through so many trials in the last few years that it brings tears to my eyes right now to even write about them.  They are my spiritual family and my “church”.  They are a gift to me from the Spirit like no other I’ve ever had in my life.  We are called to believe all that our Lord has said, even in the face of all opposition, but I believe that He did not intend for us to walk the road of faith alone.  Even if we experience isolation, we still have the knowledge and memories of others who walked with us, or He will bring others into our path at the time of need.  The unity of the Family in God in the essence of His Spirit – not our finite understandings of Him – is just that.  Family.  It’s not a theory, a philosophy, or a dogma.  It’s a fellowship of Love.

It can be difficult as the world cheapens everything that is connected to Christ – either in the way the Church itself presents Him, the world mocks him, and the skeptics scorn.  It’s far more effective to convince people Christianity is a myth than to try and stamp it out by force.  This past year I have felt overwhelmed that in my own country, I don’t know how to overcome the false image people have received of Him.  It’s almost like they have been inoculated with a killed version of truth, and are now immune to the genuine.  I know the Spirit of God can overcome even this, but to my natural mind, it looks hopeless.

I understand what the scriptures say about the foolishness of the gospel.  To follow Christ in this age, as in any before, we must stand to ridicule and opposition.  I would encourage every believer to know WHY they believe what they claim.  Many atheists have given it much more thought than the average Christian.  But I find that most people will simply find a way to believe what appeals to them.  They are not willing to test either direction, for or against.  We can immerse ourselves in one side of an argument and never dig into the evidence for the the side we want to reject.  Some people may think this is dangerous to explore outside the confines of your faith.  But I have not seen people deceived by true, honest investigation.  I have seen many people led away by an obsessive hunger for that which follows a deviant path – without being willing to ask, “Is this true?”  I respect honest searching, even if the conclusion is different from my own.  But I have found so few people who have truly done this.  I know the Truth stands on its own and does not need my protection.

As I am going through a dark time, gravitating as Peter did, to be overcome by the waves and storm rather than the Master walking on the water, calling out to me to follow – I had an amazing gift this morning.  It may seem silly to some – but when God gives you a sign, your heart sees it.  When I opened my eyes from sleep, a blinding light was shining in my eyes.  As I put on my glasses I realized that the sun was reflecting off the windows of a house quite a distance behind us.  We have a very large back yard and a creek runs in a culvert between our house and the next neighborhood.  The light was shining through the blinds in our room, which are usually closed down tight – but raised last night a little to do something with the window.  They didn’t get lowered back all the way.  I’ve never seen this reflection at any time in the three years we have lived in this house.  I had to take a picture and thank Jesus for His light, and a Christmas morning light to encourage me when I really need to be reminded how dark-dispelling His light truly is.

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But this isn’t all.

A few nights ago I was out for a drive which I sometimes do in order to have some time alone when I’m really distraught.  My emotions were swinging between grief and rage over a situation.  Sometimes you feel that you cannot keep walking the same path, yet leaving it would cause even more pain.  This circumstance is directly related to faith and unbelief, but I cannot say more.  As I made my way back home, driving through an affluent neighborhood, I saw a junk pile on a curb.  I can’t resist these no matter what my state of mind.  In fact, I find it therapeutic the way some people might find shopping at the mall running up their credit card debt.  I pulled over and tried to see in the dark.  Among some interesting finds, I saw a medium-sized white box which had something encased in Styrofoam, but I could not tell what it was.  Curiosity prompted me to take it home just to find out.  I discovered a fairly large snow-globe with a nativity scene in it.  It has a music box, and when I put batteries in it, discovered that the manger lights up.  Yes, this might be a pretty cheesy Christmas decoration, one that I never would have actually purchased.  They say timing is everything, and it’s the thought that counts.  The best Gift  of Light we have received continues to reassure us, guide us, and comfort.

Merry Christmas to my true Family in Christ.  May His light shine brightly on you.

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I really believe the human default (for adults that is) is law and legalism. I am not sure we are born with it, but society operates on this paradigm so it’s drilled into us at a very early age. Even if you don’t grow up in a legalistic religion, classmates and teachers both will make sure you understand the ground rules of success both socially and academically. How far back can we trace our fear of failure and rejection? Maybe parents were critical and you felt you must achieve something to gain their love. I am starting to see behavior-based religion as a secondary element that we choose because it flows with the worldview we already have. All the world religions I know of fall well into this same paradigm.

The problem isn’t that the law framework is false. Reaping and sowing are obvious – and even Jesus talked about this.  But grace is the supernatural variable that comes in, and unconditional love sees only that which remains – the good He planted in you – His own life and breath spreading light into the world.

The shocking, scandalous grace Jesus brought offends this law-based world, largely because we are led to believe that law is an end in itself. We never imagined there was another way, so if we can’t see the higher way He taught, we will try to fit him into the old wineskin where we understand how things work.

I read an essay yesterday by an environmental activist who saw the tragedy in living by a contract – that you will give no more than you absolutely have to. Sustainability concepts teach that you should endeavor to not take more from a living system than you put in, whether it be your land, community or family. This “contract” he stated, has created a mindset of people who are not willing to go out of their way for anyone or anything if they believe they have fulfilled their obligation. I understood exactly what he meant. Legalism at its finest.

Yesterday my children gave me a beautiful picture of what it looks like when Love trumps Law. I left my younger two with their older brother while I went to run errands. The house had been neglected for three days as we had spent most of our time working in the garden and yard over the holiday weekend. I constantly struggle with feeling overwhelmed, unable to keep up with my own expectations (law) about what I believe I need to accomplish.  I left them with two things I wanted them to do while I was gone, not really expecting it to be done by the time I returned. This brother and sister can take ALL day to clean a room, between playing and fighting – very normal kids.

When I came home, I instantly noticed the living room looked unusually tidy. My young son couldn’t wait to tell me what they did. But he didn’t have to tell me because I could see it! I walked into the kitchen to find my daughter sweeping the floor, and a note on the table said, “For You Mom”. The table was cleared off, along with the rest of the clutter around their desk and school area. She pointed to my bedroom door and said, “Look we even made your bed!” They also had started their laundry. I nearly cried. My gratitude for this gift was beyond measure. They weren’t even asking for extra allowance! They just wanted to help me. As I kept telling them how much I appreciated this extra help, my son said, “Wow mom, I didn’t think you would be THAT happy.”

I very soon thought of our Father in heaven and how it must touch his heart when we joyfully do things as a gift of love for Him, and not just doing our duty. Doesn’t the Scripture say, “God loves a cheerful giver?” I always go back to our human family as a reflection of our relationship with Him. Where there is love, no law is needed. Love goes above and beyond. It is a Law in itself, but one that breathes life and joy. (Not saying children don’t need boundaries… they do!) But as they grow and mature I want this love to be their motivation, not living up to my law or anyone else’s version of “have to”. Because everyone seems to have one, in and out of church or religions.

I would have been pleased enough if they had done what I asked. But to see them thinking outside of themselves, beyond reward or punishment to what would bless someone else, gave me a far greater joy – not just for the help it gave me, but for them to know this joy also. I don’t want to see them living a life seeking only their own benefit which leads to the never-enough syndrome, whether it’s in trying to ensure they avoid the wrath of God, or just impress the world on its terms. My prayer is they choose Love.  

 

 

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My mental backlog of blog posts is starting to get a little overwhelming.   I could go into all the reasons why I have no time to write, but I guess I’ll just let this one fly off the cuff tonight.  It’s been a really strange, but wonderful day.

First I will start with a dream I had this morning, which I don’t fully understand, but feel it’s related in some way.  It was definitely one of “those” dreams – the kind that stands out from the normal kind, whatever normal is.  But some just scream, “Pay attention!’

I was in a small village, out in the main street, and many people were out walking around.  News was spreading that someone important was coming, and everyone seemed excited and started lining up on the sidelines like it was going to be a parade.  But a man began warning to not go and see, not to look.  He said a powerful woman was coming in really fine, splendid clothes, and an entourage, and you will want to look at her, but you must not look.  If you glanced at her in the least, you would be under her dominion in some way.  My excitement turned to fear, and I began looking for a place to hide from this splendid, yet frightfully powerful woman.  I could find nowhere, until I came upon a seating bench that had a lid with storage underneath.  I was trying to get in and place the lid over me, but I realized I was too late, so I sat behind it, facing away from the street, hoping to just not be seen.  I could hear the crowds going wild and felt powerless to stop what was happening.  A woman was standing near me who was not cheering, yet she was not hiding either.  A man from the entourage stopped, and I pretended to be asleep (so I could keep my eyes closed and not see anything.)  I could hear the woman near me talking to him.  She wasn’t afraid, but she was pleading with him.  The man was her brother.  She kept saying how much she loved him and it seemed she was hoping to be the one with the most influence over him instead.   Then I realized that I had based all my fear on the warning of one man, and not even known if he was telling the truth or not.  Then I woke up.

Not long after I awoke, my husband received a phone call from someone we met through this blog who does desire to obey God through Torah observance.  We never knew if we would meet in person or not, but he just happened to be in town today, so we readily agreed to get together, and had him over for dinner.  As I was working in the kitchen preparing the meal, and he and my husband were having a good visit in another room (which I could not hear), I had the strong impression that this dream is about our meeting in some way.  I will let the reader decide in discernment.

I let them know when the meal was ready and we all sat down.  He was very kind to patiently listen to my expounding (I get really passionate about Jesus, Spirit, and the power of Love).   We went around the usual circular discussions that are inevitable whenever the Old and New Covenant ways of thinking collide.  There are so many ideas, so many angles, and ways of seeing things.  I can’t give someone my eyes, or my heart vision.  Nor can I judge their heart.  I sensed in him a deep conviction, and desire that was very familiar.  I have it too.  I used to walk on that path he is on, but found a different way to apply that conviction.  In fact the practical application of my belief system continues to change and grow.  I believe now more than ever that patience and love is the most important element in relationships of any kind where religious differences are present.  Can we make the other party approach the table this way?  No.  Can we choose to?  Yes.  I have seen and sadly been party to some painful divisions since leaving the HRM between people who had much more in common than they disagreed on, yet the mountains of offense continued to build over differences in information and perception.

If someone believes with all their heart, they are doing the right thing, then they are.  Even if their ways seem crazy to us, their hearts are being true to what they believe.  I have a great deal of respect for our new friend who loves God, trusts God, and wants to obey Him.  That is a beautiful thing, even if that looks much differently to him than it does to me now.  Of course I did my best to explain the new and improved version of righteous fruit (it’s not really new, we just have it in HD with Jesus, with the static taken away).  But I can’t force him to see the world my way.  No one could have forced me.

After our friend had gone, I saw a status post on facebook:  “Do the right thing, regardless of whether bad things may come later or what it might lead to. Do the right thing today.”  This friend does not observe Torah as given to Moses, but follows Jesus whole-heartedly.

A short time later I found a similar quote while continuing an internet search I had been on for a few days about my family history.  I ran across an article written in 1961 about my grandfather who gave up his 15 year career as a law enforcement officer because he had just been baptized as a Seventh-day Adventist.  They would not allow for him to have Saturdays off, so he turned in his badge.  Ironically, the article was written by my other grandfather who was the pastor that baptized him.  The editors added a relevant quote from Ellen White that read, “It is the very essence of all right faith to do the right thing at the right time.”

I had seen this piece in a scrap book a long time ago.  Our family had held it up for many years as the picture of integrity.  My husband also for years would not accept a lucrative promotion at work because he refused to work on the Sabbath.  We followed our conscience and I don’t regret that.  However during those years, we have many regrets about failures to love with our whole heart.  Which will hold more weight in the end?   I am thankful for the few instances where we were given a chance to redeem those lost opportunities.

Today I also saw a picture of my grandmother’s headstone, wife of the former police officer.  I did not attend her funeral, and she is buried far from where I live.  It was the first time I’d seen it.  Under her name it reads, “She Loved Country Music.”   She also observed the Sabbath and the feasts, and out of respect for her, I will only say that it makes me sad this was the love she was known for.  I loved her, but she loved very little and it has grieved me to see how the pain of not being loved gets handed down from generation to generation.

So there we have it, a day all about doing the right thing, which is not exactly defined the same way by everyone.  HRM followers disagree about this all the time between themselves, as well as Christians.  We think having a Law would simplify it and preserve it.  It doesn’t.

Often the right thing is determined by fear.  There is something that needs to be avoided, controlled, or protected, or an approval to gain and keep.  These fears used to drive my view of faith, scripture, and my value system about what is right.  I understand this path very well.  I go back there a lot in other areas of my life as it seems to be my default operating system installed since birth.  It takes conscious effort, or realignment I should say, to His heart and mind, to operate from the other center point.

Perfect Love casts out all fear.  I believe this is the example of the fearless woman in my dream.  What if the right thing was determined only by what was Love.  Perfect love loves no matter what.  Even to the death.  What is the right thing?  A legal system can never answer this question because the explanations take volumes of Talmud, endless Supreme Court cases, or other books and tapes and videos without end.  Yet there is always something left unclear and uncovered, or impossible.

Love answers the question with itself and satisfies all.

Romans 13:8 Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loves another has fulfilled the law.
Romans 13:10 Love works no ill to his neighbor: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
Galatians 5:14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
James 2:8 If you fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, you shall love your neighbor as yourself, you do well:

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I have not gotten into any good debates (i.e. arguments) for quite awhile.  I have grown tired of them and don’t feel a burden to dialogue with the firmly convinced about anything.  Aren’t we all convinced? 

But in the last few days I’ve had some interesting and unexpected exchanges.  Okay, I’ve opened my typewritten mouth in some places where I haven’t in a long time.  And I was reminded of an interesting phenomenon among people who believe themselves to be supremely “right”.  They don’t have room for anyone who isn’t.

I ran across an interesting post on Craig’s List in the middle of the night, trying to amuse my insomnia.  The ad claimed to be a seeker of truth, asking to discover what a real Christian is.  I had a pretty good idea this was bait, so I bit.  I was right.  In fact I was even right about what kind of bait it was – a person zealous for the old paths, a “Nazarene watchman” as he called himself.  This is a unique brand of Torah observance (if you ask, most HRM followers will claim they don’t believe like the rest of them), but the premise is the same as the rest of the crowd; the Law of Moses is the final Word, not Jesus, as Hebrews 1:1 explains.  He was not a seeker of truth but a seeker of pupils.  I did confront him on the manner of his search, to which he humbly and surprisingly responded that he wouldn’t misrepresent his intentions anymore.  I admire his sincerity and his zeal.  However, he made it clear that if I wasn’t interested in his message, he was going to move on.  Aw shucks.  I thought we were going to be great friends. lol.  But it brought home to me again one of the fruits of false religion; selective love for those who agree with me.  I have heard several stories of families  being torn apart because a follower of the law starts to see that only those on his (or her) own path are really a part of the spiritual kingdom they belong to.  Those who don’t agree, even under their own roof, become less and less important.  What they think and feel don’t matter anymore.  No need to be kind or patient.  They see even their own spouses as disobedient and rebellious.

Organized cults nearly always drive wedges between their followers and their friends and family who are not converted to the “truth”.   They are taught to see others as less enlightened and holy.  But often those who don’t belong to an organized group (and often claim Divine revelation) are found to have the same fruit operating in their lives, even in the absence of human spiritual leadership.  They may have even stronger defense mechanisms because they believe their directives come from God Himself and no human agent.  But regardless,  we can bear the fruit of genuine love ONLY in the Holy Spirit.  If we do not, we are of another spirit, no matter how right we believe ourselves to be.

How we respond to those who do not agree with us tells much of which spirit we follow, or at the least our maturity in the Lord.  I have many many times throughout my life responded in a haughty manner.  While I may be blunt (as is my manner often) I pray to not be puffed up and arrogant toward those who disagree, or to see them as having no more value as human being.  I long to love with God’s love, not be moved only for those whom I know are aligned with my beliefs and preferences.  

I have recently decided to branch out and associate with people outside the Christian ghetto and I find it challenging me on many levels.  I have new friends who most certainly would not agree with me on much, but I am happy to say that God has filled my heart with love for them and shown me how much they matter, to Him.

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Today I read a passionate argument against some “hyper-grace” teaching that has become popular.  Living under my rock, I am not in a position to comment on teachings I have not heard for myself, but this has never stopped me before.  🙂  I will concede that maybe the message of Grace in Christ could be presented badly.  But I find it hard to believe that it could ever be too much.

I’m not sure if the reaction is toward something that may actually be heretical or if maybe much of the Church has never understood that law and grace were never meant to be in balance.  Grace replaces law because it does what the law could never do; creates a new life, draws with love rather than fear of punishment, transforms desires which in turn guides a life toward Christ instead of self.  Maybe those teaching “hyper-grace” don’t know this either, but I have never heard anyone teach that Jesus has no affect on a life.  He just saves you and that’s all there is to it?  Nothing changes except you go to heaven instead of hell?  Are people really teaching this?  Or are some people afraid to let go and let Him be the Lord of the road people are on while seeking Him.  I would speculate it’s possible that neither side of this debate really know Grace.

I have wanted to write about this so many times, and never could quite seem to figure out how to approach it – because it’s kind of the depth and scope of everything about living in Christ. It’s like, if you don’t get it – I can’t give it to you.  But I see so many Christians , churches, and creeds missing the awesome power of Grace.

Real Grace (which is even beyond my ability to accurately define) is such a transforming power that squabbling over what you think you are allowed to do or not allowed to do becomes pointless.   Those debates are for those who don’t have enough grace, not too much.  Grace fills you with love for God that keeps Him in mind in all your actions, words, and even your thoughts.  Grace fills you with love for other people so that you lay down your prejudices, hates, grudges, and feelings of superiority.  Your heart lives with those who are last, not first, and you learn to lay down your life and take up your cross.  You even find yourself loving those who hate you.  Grace isn’t always easy, but it’s glorious.  It’s Jesus on a cross loving you and His executioners, saving us who were against Him.  You can’t have too much of Him.  Loving Him with your whole heart, mind, and soul does not lead to licentiousness.  Quite the opposite.  People think that when Christians begin to get comfy with sin (which is also sadly defined only by moral behavioral lines while the sins against love are ignored), they need more law.  I disagree. They need to see more Jesus, and we so seldom speak of Him.  We love to dwell on agendas and abstract ideas.  Even New Covenant recovering theology junkies like me are in danger of this.  Life is not a good idea we can talk about at a distance.  It’s a Person who is your Life and has an active participation in it.  We often turn His Spirit into a dead doctrine  or a band-wagon, either one.   Both of these forget that He is standing there as our Bridegroom, waiting for us to realize the intimacy and power of His Love.  Imagine an unpublished final chapter of Pride and Prejudice.  Elizabeth Bennett,  in spite of her hard-won love and admiration of Mr. Darcy, turns to a life of crime because he wasn’t stern enough to keep her in line.  That’s not how love stories go, and I don’t believe it’s what Jesus intended for those who fall in love with Him.

It makes me sad when people believe Jesus isn’t enough and we need to step back to Moses to get a good dose of morality to stay on the straight and narrow, or to even find conviction for sin.  This isn’t what He taught.  The inheritance He gives us, His Spirit, His Life.. is so much more, so much greater.  And it’s continuing to open my eyes to areas that I had not surrendered to Him before.  Grace loves me enough to not leave me to wallow in my own ways.  In the last year, I’ve seen things that were so out of line with Him, that I used to believe were true (similar to the awakening which inspired the start of this blog).   The areas of my life being pruned would never have been brought into the light with the Law.  His Spirit goes deep into the heart and tests things against the Law of Love.  So much in my heart has failed this test.   This did not come about because someone came and said, “you need to repent of x,y, and z”.  Rather, it’s the fruit of walking with Him, and hearing His heart.  And I have much further to walk.  Maybe we need to move past God as a doctrine and realize that living in communion with him (as a husband and wife, father and child, etc… whatever family or friend relationship you relate to) doesn’t operate on this score and control system when it’s healthy.  What friend of Jesus did He ever have to force Himself upon?  Was there ever a more attractive Person?

I may have never encountered this actual problem of hyper-grace, and I may misunderstand the arguments against it, but I do appreciate the chance to say, Jesus is enough. 🙂  Always.

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People who know me know… I hate being on the lens side of a camera. I don’t know when the problem started, but for many years I have not been able to stand how I look in photos. I didn’t even know why, but today I figured it out. I got myself ready this morning and thought I looked unusually chipper for a change. Decided maybe I’d try to take a half-way acceptable profile picture in case I ever get brave enough to actually use one. Tried the phone, the camera… all of them had the same effect as usual. Just yuck. That’s not me!!! That’s not what I see in the mirror, and why isn’t it the same? I decided to experiment and take a picture of my mirror reflection instead and see if there was a difference. I felt ridiculous because that’s what 16 year old girls on social networking sites spend all day doing. But it worked!!! I was amazed to finally see a photograph that matched what I see in the mirror! I suppose that’s why all the “young people” (yep.. I’m old) use the mirror, right? I am a little slow to catch on.

With excitement I told my son of my discovery, who promptly deflated my elation. He explained how he’s heard we psychologically take the image we see in the mirror and think we look like 15 times better than we actually do. Really?! I asked him why my mind doesn’t do that with the photographs too. He didn’t know. For some reason, the 2D image of my face in the mirror is much kinder than the nuances the camera lens seems to find, especially as age brings sags, wrinkles, and is my nose really getting bigger? Sigh. But the question remains, “What do I actually look like???” Do people see what my mirror shows, or what my camera sees, or something completely different?

Suddenly I realized, I have no idea what I really look like, and I don’t have any way to know.

For over 20 years my husband has told me I am beautiful. He is so sweet but I never have figured out what HE sees. My view of things is never the same as his! But no matter how old I get, he still keeps telling me that. After a long time, he finally convinced me that he really means it; from his perspective it’s an absolute truth. From mine, it’s hard to understand.

What does that have to do with this blog? If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’ll explain. People say the Law was a character mirror, given to mankind to reveal our sinful and ugly nature.  Without getting into theological debates about the purpose of the Law, I will agree that it can have that affect on some people.  But we can also try to dress up, put on make-up, convince ourselves we are “all that” and maybe even fool ourselves when we look in the mirror.

Then we have our close friends and family who may see us differently and give us various perspectives, both good or bad, about what we look like on the inside. Sometimes they are unfairly critical, sometimes patronizing, or just needfully honest. I have always believed that our closest relationships are one of the most effective avenues the Holy Spirit uses to show us our helplessness and depravity without Him.

But looking at ourselves is so discouraging. All these mirrors, all this feedback we keep working to build up our defenses against. We may try to run away from what we see, cover it up, dress it up, or contemplate plastic surgery.

The the Bridegroom comes and says… “You are beautiful to me no matter what.” You can argue all you want, but His answer is always the same. “I love you and you are beautiful, precious, priceless.” We can’t see what He sees. But we can look at Him instead of ourselves, and choose to believe His words and His love toward us.  That truly changes everything!  Maybe not all in one day, but day by day we are changed into His image. 

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part;

then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

1Corinthians 13:12

Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man

while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law,

and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress.

Likewise, my brothers,

you also have died to the law through the body of Christ,

so that you may belong to another,

to him who has been raised from the dead,

in order that we may bear fruit for God.

Romans 7:3 ,4

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