A Valentine for 365 Days

Universally, the heart is a symbol of love. However, on February 14, the heart is commercialized in more ways than one can imagine. Greeting cards are created in the shape of hearts decorated with lace and flowers. Heart-shaped boxes enfold decadent chocolates. Bouquets of red roses with a plastic heart stuck in the middle are advertised. Even fluffy stuffed animals portraying love are for sale. Whatever the expression of love, there is always a heart included with the sentiment “Be My Valentine.”

Why magnify love only one day of the year? True love lasts longer than one day. Love is more than a few romantic words composed by Hallmark. Love is more valuable than commercial stuff. God’s love is lavished upon us 365 days of the year. (see I John 3:1) God is love according to I John 4:8.

Let’s make a few comparisons between what God says about love and what the marketing industry sells.

The Greek language has several unique words for love. Agape is God’s love – selfless love. Eros is passionate or romantic love. Valentine’s Day focuses on Eros.

Here are images of angels. Cupid is the valentine angel. In classical mythology, Cupid is the god of erotic love. A cupid is described as a winged being symbolic of love.

In comparison, we see an image of Michael, God’s archangel. Micheal is a warring angel who fights for us. (see Revelation 12:7-9) In Revelation 5:11, John heard the voice of “thousands upon thousands and tens thousand times ten thousand” angels. Too many angels to count! Psalm 91:11 a  loving verse telling each of us about our personal guardian angel. Weapons are evident in these images. In the valentine image, Cupid is shooting an arrow with his bow. On many valentines, there is an arrow of love aimed for the beloved’s heart. Is this truly romantic?

The other image is symbolic of the sword of the Spirit – part of God’s armor. (see Ephesians 6:18) The sword of the Spirit is the Word of God. Offensively, God’s Word can penetrate the unbeliever’s heart allowing him/her to experience the love of God. Much more powerful than an arrow!Is love costly? Looking on the back of a valentine card, one discovers how expensive a particular piece of folded paper can be. Is Eros love worth this amount of money?

Agape love cost Jesus His life. That’s costly! Romans 5:8 NLT says, “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” And I Corinthians 6:20 says, “God bought you with a high price.”Pictured above is an old-fashioned valentine. On a flimsy piece of paper, a cute little angel says, “It would be heavenly to have you for my Valentine.” Although this might be a sweet sentiment, there is no sincere commitment.

In contrast, God reveals His love for us throughout the Bible. In Revelation 21 and 22, the angel of the Lord shows John the new heaven and the new earth that will last throughout eternity. The Lord’s love endures forever.  (see  I Chronicles 16:34)

So, forget the commercial hype of Valentine’s Day. Concentrate on God’s  love. Listed below are  scriptural love notes from God. (Emphasis is by the writer.)

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this:
While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:8

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,
that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God.
I John 4:7

The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
I John 4:8

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.
But
the greatest of these is love.
I Corinthians 13:13

and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us
and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
Ephesians 5:2

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We Quit – God Doesn’t

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Earlier today, the Lord led me to several scriptures that may not necessarily be correlated. However, the Holy Spirit connected them for me. Please give me a few liberties with what I share today.

I began reading II Kings 4:1-7. This is the story of the widow who possessed only a little oil. Elijah instructed her to collect jars from her neighbors. Then she began pouring her oil into the containers. The oil never ran out until she ran out of empty jars.
Could the widow pouring oil into containers be symbolic of my pouring out prayers to the Lord?

 Next I read Psalm 56:8 NLT that tells about the Lord collecting tears in His bottle.
My prayers are often cried out to the Lord in tears.
Can I make the analogy of God keeping my prayers in a bottle? 

Finally, I read Revelation 5:8 that says golden bowls are full of incense – with prayers being the incense. Angels present these bowls to Jesus in the throne room of heaven.
I wonder if Jesus responds to my prayers by pouring out His answers to me from similar golden bowls.

Putting these three scriptures together, this is what I envision:
All my prayers are kept in God’s bottle with my name upon it. At the appropriate time, Jesus tips the bowls of prayers. He pours out His answers in my direction. The number of prayers answered depends upon the number of prayers I have prayed (how many bottles I have filled).

If this is true, why does it appear that not all of my prayers are answered?

It certainly is not because of God’s inability. Luke 1:37 NKJV says, “For with God nothing will be impossible.” It must be me. The Lord declares in Isaiah 55:8, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways.”

Sometimes I quit praying before God answers.

I am reminded of Zachariah and Elizabeth’s experience. They prayed and prayed for a child. No baby was conceived. Finally, they decided their prayers would not be answered as they desired. They were too old. They quit praying.

They gave up, but God did not.

Reading Luke 1:5-25, I find out what happened.
While Zachariah was serving in the temple, the angel Gabriel announced that Elizabeth would bear a son named John. Zachariah couldn’t believe it! How? Why at this time?

Scripture says that Zachariah and Elizabeth were “upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commandments and regulations blamelessly.” (see Luke 1:6) I believe God wanted to entrust them with a particular infant who would grow to be a man with a message.

God foreknew that He would send His Son, Jesus, to live as a human on earth. Part of His strategy included another man, John the Baptist, who would prepare the way for His Son. Two baby boys had to be born during the same historical time period. God did not answer Zachariah and Elizabeth’s prayer earlier because they were to be the parents of John the Baptist.

Although Zachariah and Elizabeth may not have been faithful to continue to pray their petitions, God was still faithful to answer their previous prayers. God had the answer in His hands, ready to be released at the appropriate time.

I love this concept! God answers prayers we no longer pray.

God collects our prayers in a bottle. They are as sweet as incense to Him. God has no limit to the number of bottles He will fill. Our part is to keep pouring out our prayers to Him. At the appropriate time, He will pour out His answers – answers that will glorify God and be for our good.

Two Applications of TLC

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TLC – the abbreviation for Tender Loving Care. TLC – the first letters of each word for The Lost Coin parable. Is there a correlation between these two definitions of TLC? Let me share this parable with you and then make a few comments.

Or what woman, if she has ten silver coins and loses one coin,
does not light a lamp and sweep the house and search carefully
until she finds it? “When she has found it, she calls together
her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have
found the coin which I had lost!’ “In the same way, I tell you,
there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one
sinne
r who repents.”
Luke 15:8-10

The woman does three things after losing her valuable coin: (1) Lights a lamp. (2) Sweeps her house. (3) Searches for the coin carefully. With each action, she hopes to find what she has lost. Success! She then invites her friends and neighbors to celebrate with her. I see myself in this parable from two different perspectives.

I am Like the Coin

I am the lost coin. The woman symbolizes Jesus. In the parable, the coin was probably lost because it slipped from the woman’s hands and rolled away. If I do not cling to the hand of Jesus, it is easy for me to stray and become lost. However, I am priceless to Jesus. I am worth more than any coin’s monetary value. Jesus cherishes me. How does He search for me?

First, Jesus not only lights a lamp but He is the light Himself. In John 8:12 Jesus says, “I am the light of the world.” He is the brightest light that shines throughout the world. He can find me wherever I go.

Secondly, He symbolically sweeps the floor, or foundation, of my life. Dirt symbolizes sin. James 2:21 says, “Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.” Then John 1:1 declares, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Putting these two scriptures together, I learn that I can get rid of the filth and dirt in my life by allowing Jesus to sweep away my sin.

Thirdly, Jesus is constantly searching and seeking not only for me but for everyone who is lost. Luke 19:10 declares, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

I am Like the Woman

Another way for me to look at this parable is to put myself in the position of the woman who lost the coin. This time, people lost in sin represent the lost coin. Do I consider lost lives valuable enough to ask Jesus to help seek them? Does my life exemplify Jesus to those with whom I interact?

First, I must light my lamp. Matthew 5:16 encourages me to be a witness to the lost. Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Next, I need to think about sweeping the floor. I do not do anyone a favor if I allow others to sweep the dirt or their sin into a corner. The Psalmist asks in Psalm 94:16, “Who will rise up for me against the wicked? Who will take a stand for me against evildoers?” And James 5:20 says, “Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.”

Last, I must be diligent to search. Paul says in II Corinthians 5:20 NLT, “So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making His appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, ‘Come back to God!’” When searching for those stuck in the muck in sin, I am a witness for Christ. I encourage the lost to come to Him. Everyone is valuable to the Lord. He seeks our help to seek and find those who are lost.

From Jesus’ viewpoint, I am a valuable coin. Jesus also wants to use me as a woman who searches for what is lost. Both perspectives are valid.

Thank you, Lord, for TLC! The parable of The Lost Coin is a perfect example of your Tender Loving Care!

 

Life’s Chains and Rope

chain-2

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How would you define a chain?  According to the dictionary, it is a flexible series of joined links, usually made of metal.

What is a rope? A rope is defined as a thick strong cord made of strands twisted together, usually fiber.

Both are types of cords that hold things together. I want to think about these “strong strings” from a spiritual perspective.

Ecclesiastes 4:12 concludes, “A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” When this verse was read at our son and daughter-in-law’s wedding, they proclaimed God to be the third strand of their marriage bond. To me, this cord of three strands could be symbolic of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Whatever application of the three stands one may choose, this verse gives a positive description of a spiritual cord.

CHAINS. Jesus says in John 8:34 NLT, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin.” A slave to sin is a person chained to sinful desires. The length of the chain holding one in bondage depends upon the number of sins accumulated in a person’s life. The chain portrays a negative picture.

Spiritual chains are composed of links of lies told by the enemy. John 8:44 says, “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. . . . When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” If a person is chained to Satan, he/she will take on his character. John 10:10 begins by saying, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.”

ROPE. In contrast to the chains of bondage, a rope can be a source of freedom.  For example, a lifeguard might throw a rope to a drowning victim –  the rope functions as a lifesaver. In John 10:10 Jesus says, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

What a disparity between the enemy’s chain of lies and the Lord’s rope of life! 

Paul and Silas’s encounter with physical chains and a spiritual rope is recorded in Acts 16:22-26. These men were in physical bondage with metal chains. However, when they praised God, their fetters were loosed. Paul and Silas were freed while clinging to a spiritual rope of divine power. The Lord inhabits the praises of His people according to Psalm 22:3. The Lord was present with Paul and Silas – and the Lord released His power and broke their chains.

I am reminded of two applicable songs.

The first is the contemporary song Break Every Chain by Tasha Cobbs. Her lyrics proclaim, “There is power in the name of Jesus to break every chain, break every chain, break every chain.” Yes, I want every link of the enemy’s chains broken from my life!

I am also thinking of the old hymn, Blessed Be the Tie that Binds by John Fawcett. The specific words that ring in my mind are, “Blest be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love.” For me, this tie is Jesus whom I have been describing as a rope. With His love, Jesus binds me to Himself. This is the rope to which I cling!

My Reader, I encourage you to cast off chains and reach for a rope.

 

 

 

 

 

Prayer – God amd Me with 2 or 3 (Part 2)

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For where two or three gather in my name,
there am I with them.”
Matthew 18:20

Occasionally, I enjoy meeting with two or three friends for coffee and conversation. We share what has been happening in our lives and then pray together for our concerns. Although the Lord may be invisible, His omnipresence is evident.

In my post last week, we looked at the importance of personal one on One prayer with God. This week we will discover the power of agreeing with others in prayer and having others pray for us. Our key verse gives us the promise that Jesus will be with us when we gather together in agreement with Him. Such a sweet promise! Once again, Moses will be our example.

Exodus 17:8-13 records the battle between the Israelites and the Amalekites at Rephidim. Aaron and Hur are with Moses.

In verse 9 Moses says to Joshua, “Tomorrow I will station myself on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.” Moses promises to pray while Joshua and his men fight.

Verse 11 tells us, “So it came about when Moses held his hand up, that Israel prevailed, and when he let his hand down, Amalek prevailed.” The power of prayer is exhibited in this verse. However, no one, not even Moses, could pray indefinitely without becoming tired.

Verse 12 says, “But Moses’ hands were heavy. Then they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it; and Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side and one on the other. Thus his hands were steady until the sun set.” Here is a situation where three men gathered together to support each other in prayer. Moses needed the assistance and agreement of Aaron and Hur.

The result of the three men praying together is recorded in verse 13, “So Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword.”

Let’s look closely at the actions and reactions of Moses in this scriptural account.

On the morning of the battle at Rephidim, Moses made praise a priority in his prayers. As Moses raised his hands, I believe he was praising the Lord as well as petitioning Him for help. This is a good reminder for us when we gather in our prayer circles. Psalm 22:3, “The Lord inhabits the praises of His people.” 

As the battle continued throughout the day, Moses needed the assistance of Aaron and Hur. Moses exhibited humility as he requested these men to pray with him. One of the common temptations in leadership is to yield to the pressure of feeling like one must do it alone.  Moses may have felt like he was compromising his integrity as the Israelites’ leader if he asked for help.

But Noses was tired. We can all identify with the weariness of praying alone for a specific need. When we feel weak, we should call upon our Aarons and Hurs to agree with us and stand with us in prayer. If it worked for Moses, it will work for us. I Peter 5:6 NLT says, “So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor.

The Amalekites were conquered in the battle of Rephidim. Joshua was victorious on the battlefield because Moses, along with Aaron and Hur, were victorious on the battlefield of prayer. With the Lord’s help, each of these men were part of the triumph.

Are you in a leadership position like Moses? If so, be willing to humbly surround yourself with people who will pray with you and for you.

Or, are you a helper like Aaron or Hur? If this is you, consider it a privilege to lift up others in prayer.

Are you fighting a battle like Joshua? If this is where you find yourself, graciously accept the assistance of intercessors during your time of struggle.

Colossians 1:18 NKJV says, “that in all things He may have the preeminence.” Some translations use “supremacy” or “first place”. Whatever the language, the message proclaims the priority of Christ no matter where you find yourself within the circle of prayer.

God not only surrounds us with believers who will pray for us, but He also places us with others who will benefit from our prayers. May we be among those described in Acts 1:14, “They all joined together constantly in prayer.” Where two or three gather in His name, the Lord promises to be there as well.

 

Prayer – Just God and Me (Part 1)

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Come near to God and He will come near to you.
James 4:8

Recently, I spent time with a new friend getting to know her better. While sipping coffee, we shared our experiences and expectations, our likes and dislikes, our hopes and fears. Just the two of us chatting together! Similarly, the best way to get better acquainted with God is to spend time with Him and talk with Him. In other words, pray. Each of us should daily have one on One conversations with the Lord, not only expressing our opinions and needs but also listening for His response. He will talk with us, Spirit to spirit, if we will give Him the opportunity.

 

The primary point for us to notice is the choice the people made. In verse 27 they said to Moses, “Go near and hear all that the LORD our God says; then speak to us all that the LORD our God speaks to you, and we will hear and do it.” They encouraged Moses to meet with God but they did not do so themselves. God’s response to Moses is recorded in verses 30-31, “Go tell them to return to their tents. But as for you, stand here by Me, that I may speak to you….”

 

Moses is an excellent example of a man who talked with God. Let’s look at Deuteronomy 5:24-33. The Israelites wanted Moses to act as an intermediary between themselves and God. Although they had a reverential fear of God, I believe they also had a human fear of God.  This torment prevented them from seeking a face to Face encounter with the Lord.

They told Moses in verses 25-26, “Now then why should we die? For this great fire will consume us; if we hear the voice of the LORD our God any longer, then we will die. For who is there of all flesh who has heard the voice of the living God speaking from the midst of the fire, as we have, and lived?” Which was stronger – their fear of losing their lives or their reverential fear of the Lord?

The primary point for us to notice is the choice the people made. In verse 27 they said to Moses, “Go near and hear all that the LORD our God says; then speak to us all that the LORD our God speaks to you, and we will hear and do it.” They encouraged Moses to meet with God but they did not do so themselves. God’s response to Moses is recorded in verses 30-31, “Go tell them to return to their tents. But as for you, stand here by Me, that I may speak to you….

Moses had a personal encounter with the Lord that the others were unable to experience because they chose to stay away. What a difference!

Relating the Israelites’ experience to our privilege of prayer, may we be encouraged to draw near to God. He desires to hear what is on our hearts through our words of praise and petition. Corporate prayer and support from prayer partners are legitimate forms of prayer (more on this next week), but they do not take the place of our privilege of personal one on One prayers. We deny ourselves beautiful times of intimacy with the Lord if we do not take time to personally pray.

In Exodus 34:29-35, we find the account of Moses’ face shining and reflecting God’s glory when he came down from the mountaintop.

Verse 29 says, “It came about when Moses was coming down from Mount Sinai . . . , that Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because of his speaking with Him.” In fact, Moses had to hide his face behind a veil because he reflected God’s radiance.

Verses 32-35 tell us, “When Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil over his face. But whenever Moses went in before the LORD to speak with Him, he would take off the veil until he came out; and whenever he came out and spoke to the sons of Israel what he had been commanded, the sons of Israel would see the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face shone. So Moses would replace the veil over his face until he went in to speak with Him.

In Deuteronomy 5:29, God says,Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear Me and keep all My commands always, so that it might go well with them and their children forever!” The Israelites could have reflected God’s glory if they had reverentially eared Him. However, their hearts remained darkened and their minds blinded to the very thing they so desperately needed.

I see Moses’ veil as being a prophetic picture of the tabernacle’s veil that separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place. When Jesus died on the cross, the veil in the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. (see Matthew 27:51) No longer need we be afraid to see the face of God or to be in His presence. The blood of Jesus cleanses us from any sin that would prevent us from being in His presence. Reverential fear of God is mandatory.  However, there is no place for human fear. What a privilege we have through prayer! Let us not deny ourselves this opportunity. When we experience the Lord’s presence during personal prayer time, we too reflect His glory.

In Leviticus 10:3 NLT, Moses explained to Aaron, “This is what the LORD meant when He said, I will display My holiness through those who come near Me. I will display My glory before all the people.” Today the Lord still desires to reveal His holiness to us if we will come near to Him. In Psalm 37:7 NLT, David instructs us, “Be still in the presence of the LORD, and wait patiently for Him to act.May we come into the Lord’s presence and take time to wait for His response. After all, prayer is a two-way conversation – we are not to do all the talking. May we echo the words of Samuel in I Samuel 3:10, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”

 

Manger to Mansion for Me

Christmas is past but our house is still a mess because of our celebration. Consequently, I continue to think about the messy manger. What a mess! Messy manger – messy world – messy house – is there a “messy me” as well?

Throughout Advent, we unpacked how Jesus was born in a messy manger. We came to the conclusion that He is not uncomfortable in our messy hearts or the messy world today. However, Jesus does not leave us in a mess. Philippians 3:20a assures us, “Our citizenship is in heaven.” Yet, there is a preparation process. Acts 3:19 tells us to, “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.” Another verse to consider is I Thessalonians 3:13, “May He strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all His holy ones.” When Jesus returns, whether our hearts are messy or cleaned up will determine where we will spend eternity. Listen to what Jesus says about His coming again in Revelation 22:12, “Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done.”

As a young girl, I heard a fictional story of a little boy who reminisced on Christmas night about the joy of celebrating the holiday. At the end, the boy said, “Now I have to wait 365 days to celebrate Christmas again!” According to the calendar, this is true. However, Christmas is more than one day of festivities. While Christmas is a celebration of the first coming of Jesus to earth as a baby, He promises to come again. No one knows the time when He will return – it may be tomorrow or it may be in another 365 days or it may be more years than we can comprehend. Luke 12:40 informs us, “You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.

While living on earth, Jesus promised in John 14:2-3, “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. When Jesus first came to earth, we gave Him a messy manger. Now, He is preparing a majestic mansion for us in heaven. What a contrast! When I refer to the manger of Jesus, I am speaking of the natural world, but when I refer to the mansion Jesus is preparing, I am speaking of the spiritual world. Continuing with this comparison, we can say that Jesus experienced a natural birth to make it possible for us to be spiritually born again. In John 3:3 NLT Jesus emphasizes, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God” John 3:16 clearly states, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” When our spirits are born again, we are assured of eternal life. Today, we are waiting for Him to come again to earth to take us to His spiritual mansion. In summary, we can say that Jesus humbled himself when He came to earth and lived in a temporal home as a human being so that we can be lifted up into the mansion He prepares as our eternal home. John tells us in Revelation 21:3-5, “And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.’ And He who sits on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’”

When Jesus was born as a baby, most people missed His coming. As far as we know, many residents of Bethlehem were oblivious to His birth. However, when He comes again no one will miss Him. Luke 21:27 says, “they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” And, within Revelation 1:7 we are told,”… every eye will see Him….” During December we have taken time to prepare for Christmas. Now as we near the beginning of a new year, may we take time to prepare our hearts for Jesus’ second coming. Let’s clean up our messy mangers. We do not want to miss His return!