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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Jesus: Majestic, not Messy

In a few days, we will be celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior! My heart and our home are ready. Our house looks “Christmasy.” My attention continues to be drawn to our nativity. With the little lights of the stable twinkling and the infant Jesus in the spotlight, Christ is the center of our Christmas scene. Today I see Jesus – not the messy manger. What if there were cobwebs and straw piles along with some dung around the manger that night over 2000 years ago? My focus is on Jesus. He is the light and the life. Today I want to correlate several verses of the first chapter of Ephesians in the Living Letters translation with the birth of Jesus as recorded in Luke 2:7 NIV.

Now she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths,
and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
Luke 2:7
NIV

When Jesus, Son of God and Son of man, was born, Mary used a cow’s feeding trough for a cradle. However, before she laid him on his bed, she tightly wrapped him in a clean blanket. What a discrepancy between the purity of the newborn baby and the messy manger!

Long ago before He made the world God chose us o be His very own,
through what Christ would do for us; He decided then to make us holy in His eyes,
without a single fault –
we who stand before him covered with His love.
Ephesians 1:4 LL

I focus on the highlighted portion of this verse. While thinking about Jesus wrapped in swaddling cloths, I also picture myself swaddled in God’s love. All of us are privileged to be tightly wrapped in God’s perfect love even though we live in a world that appears to be like a messy manger.

Now all praise to God for His wonderful kindness to us and His favor that
He has poured out upon us because
we belong to His dearly loved Son.
Ephesians 1:6 LL

When Jesus was born, his cradle was a cow’s feeding trough. Thirty-three years later, he died on the cross creating the way for us to belong to Him. We no longer have to be controlled by the world’s mess. Jesus cleans up the messiness of our lives when He cleanses us from all unrighteousness. (See I John 1:9) As the emphasized words proclaim, we belong to Jesus, not the world’s messy manager.

And this was His purpose: that when the time is ripe He will gather us
all together from wherever we are – in heaven or on earth-
to be with Him – in Christ – forever.
Ephesians 1:10 LL

According to Matthew 1:23, Emmanuel was the name of the baby to be born of Mary and conceived by the Holy Spirit. Emmanuel means God with us. Emmanuel came to be with us at Christmas. Emmanuel will be with us forever! He is coming again to rescue us from the world’s messy manger. He will then take us to live with Him in the eternal city where He now resides in the throne room of God. (See Revelation 22:1-5) What a difference from the messy manger! Jesus says in Revelation 22:7, “Behold, I am coming soon!”

I pray for you constantly asking God the glorious Father
of our Lord Jesus Christ to give you wisdom to
see clearly
and really understand who Christ is and all He has done.
Ephesians 1:17 LL

While gazing at the figure of baby Jesus in our nativity scene, I no longer see a messy manger. I  envision His majesty. He did not stay in a wooden cradle. He later died upon a wooden cross and rose again as the Savior of all who live in a messy world. Philippians 2:5-11 LL says, “Try to be like Jesus Christ Who, though He was God, did not demand and cling to His rights as God, but laid aside His mighty power and glory, taking the disguise of a slave and becoming like men. And he humbled Himself even further, going so far as to actually die a criminal’s death on a cross. Yet it was because of this that God raised Him up in the heights of heaven and gave Him a Name which is above every other name, That at the Name of Jesus every knee shall bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth, And every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

In honor of the birth of Jesus, please join me in singing the first verse of Away In A Manger and the chorus of O Come All Ye Faithful.


Away in a manger, no crib for a bed
The little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head
The stars in the bright sky looked down where he lay
The little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay.

O come let us adore him
O come let us adore him
O come let us adore him, Christ the Lord!

 

 

Childlike or Childish?

Childlike    Childish    Childlike   Childish    Childlike   Childish  Childlike   Childish    Childlike

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So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith,
Galatians 3:26

Through faith in God, I became part of His family and now I am known as a child of God. Daily, it is my choice as to how I behave as His child. I can be childlike or I can be childish. Childlike is defined as resembling a child showing pleasing qualities such as innocence and trust. In contrast, childish is described as being marked by immaturity and a lack of poise.

Most young children trust their father and run to him with open arms ready to receive his love. They are not consumed with cares and worries because they know Dad will provide. As a child of God, I have the same privileges from a spiritual perspective. My Heavenly Father desires a personal loving relationship with me. My thoughts and actions reveal whether I am childlike or childish. If I am childlike, I will love my Heavenly Father and trust Him with my life. If I am childish, I will demand my way and I may cry if I do not feel like I have my Father’s complete attention. Yes, I desire to be childlike, but if I am honest, there have been times when I not felt loved by my Heavenly Father. There have been times when I have cried out to God in my prayers asking “Why?” or “Where are You?”

Young children grow up and eventually leave their childhood homes to become independent adults. However, as a child of God, I do not want to grow up and move away – I only want to grow deeper and closer to Him.

But Jesus called the children to him and said,
“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them,
for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.
Luke 18:16

In this section of scripture, people were bringing their children to Jesus desiring Him to bless their little ones while the disciples felt this was an imposition upon Jesus and they told the people to leave. Jesus contradicted His disciples and reached out to the children surrounding Him. Oh, how I appreciate the privilege of coming into the presence of Jesus and receiving His blessings because I am a child of God!

Truly I say to you, unless you change and become like children,
you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
Therefore,
whoever then humbles himself like this child, he is the
greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 18:3-4

This chapter of Matthew begins with the disciples asking Jesus who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Jesus responds by pointing out the characteristic of humility – not necessarily a quality of the disciples at this time. James 4:6 says, “But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: ‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.’” I desire to be a humble King’s kid!

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young,
but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct,
in love, in faith and in purity.
I Timothy 4:12

Being a child of God does not mean that I just get to play – that would be childish. John 6:1-13 tells of Jesus feeding the 5000 because a boy offered Him five small barley loaves and two small fish. This child did something no one else did that day. He was not worried about what Jesus would do with what he had, he just gave it trustingly. I want to follow the example of this young boy and set an example by my speech and conduct as to how to live as a child of God.

But the LORD said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’
You must go to everyone I send you to and say
whatever I command you.
Jeremiah 1:7

Jeremiah was a young boy when the Lord touched his lips with a coal to prepare him to speak. As a child of God, I can expect my Heavenly Father to equip me to do whatever He calls me to do. If I am afraid, I would be more childish than childlike. In Psalm 139:13, David tells about his Heavenly Father creating his inmost being and knitting him together in his mother’s womb. Then in Jeremiah 29:11, the Lord tells Jeremiah of His plans and purposes that would give him a hope and a future. Exodus 2:1-10 gives the account of how Moses as a baby was left in a basket in the river, but God took care of him. Neither will God neglect me because He has a plan for me just as He had plans for David and Jeremiah and Moses.

Then you will call on Me
and come and pray to Me,
and I will listen to you.
Jeremiah 29:12

When reading this verse from Jeremiah, I picture myself as a child of God climbing into the lap of my Heavenly Father and having a two-way conversation with Him. This is known as prayer! Our Heavenly Father wants to embrace all of us as His sons and daughters. No matter what our biological age, we can be His spiritual children. Most of us may tend to have times when we act childish if things do not go the way we want physically or spiritually. However, our Holy Father is always ready to help us be more childlike in both respects. My Reader, do you live as a child of God? Your Heavenly Father is waiting for you.


The Only One Left

,,, began to go away one at a time, … until only Jesus was left, with the woman ….
John 8:9

I have chosen only a couple of phrases from the entire verse of John 8:9 for reflection today. These words are taken from the account of Jesus with the sinful woman who was brought to Him by the Pharisees. The religious leaders wanted her stoned for adultery while Jesus wanted to forgive her. However, it was only after everyone had left that Jesus had a One on one conversation with this woman.

I may not be an adulterous woman but I have to admit that I am a woman who can sin. Although I strive to live a godly life, Romans 3:23 points out that all of us sin and fall short of the glory of God. Two things become evident to me through this account in John 8. First, I require Jesus’ forgiveness. Second, I hear Jesus speaking to me best when I am alone with Him.

In John 8:7 Jesus says, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Jesus is pointing out that all of us have sin in our lives that needs to be dealt with. The Pharisees were in the same category as the adulterous woman. Jesus did not condemn anyone but He did acknowledge the frailties of human nature. The Pharisees responded by simply leaving Jesus and the woman according to John 8:9. They walked away from their sinful natures by walking away from the presence of Jesus. They did not deny that they could have committed a wrongful act at some point in their lives but neither did they acknowledge their sinfulness to Jesus and ask for forgiveness.

In John 8:10 Jesus asks, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” Jesus waits until He is alone with the woman before He confronts her about her lifestyle. Even then, He does not place condemnation upon her but He does point out that her actions have not been righteous. When she admits her sin, Jesus forgives her. And He goes to say in John 8:11, “Go now and leave your life of sin.” He instructs her not only to confess her sin but to repent which includes a change in lifestyle in addition to acknowledging her wrong doing. What I want to emphasize is that Jesus dealt with this woman alone. He did not confront her in a public surrounding.

This leads me to look at my daily lifestyle to see if I allow for personal time with the Lord so He can convict me of changes I need to make in my life. If Jesus is considerate enough to wait and deal with me privately, then I must be considerate enough of Him to give Him time to speak to me. What do I allow to crowd around me that prevents me from hearing the Lord? Who and what do I need to dismiss from my life so I can hear what Jesus is saying?

George Matheson has asked the question, “Have you ever pictured yourself as the last remaining person on earth, or the only person left in the entire universe?” He then goes on to say, “If you were the only person left remaining in the universe, your every thought would be, ‘God and I…. God and I …!’” Yet in reality, this is how God perceives each of us today. God desires to be close to us and be with us if we will give Him that time and place of honor. Matheson challenges us by saying, “Practice dismissing the crowd!” If I dismiss the crowd, Jesus will personally speak to me. He most likely will convict me of my sin but He will also forgive me of my sin. Then He will guide me and empower me to live my life in a way that will glorify Him.

I desire to be the only one left in the presence of Jesus! I want to have a one on One conversation with Jesus like the woman in the account of John 9. He will not embarrass me about my shortcomings but He will make me aware of them. According to I John 1:9, if I confess my sins, He will be faithful and just and will forgive my sins and purify me from all unrighteousness. I never need to be afraid of being alone with Jesus. Rather, I should desire to be with Him and listen to His voice. Jesus assures me in John 15:4 that if I remain in Him, He will remain in me.

Joyfully,
Cheryl

Heavenly Father’s Day

This coming Sunday we will be observing Father’s Day. How do you feel about that day? For some of you, it will be a time to get together with your family and celebrate dads. While others of you may try to forget that the day even exists. Are positive or negative images reflected within your mind when you think about your biological father? Will you feel lonely on Sunday because this will be the first Father’s Day that you do not have your dad beside you? Or, maybe you are excited because this year will be your first opportunity to celebrate fatherhood with the birth of a baby. Personal circumstances and experiences affect our outlook towards Father’s Day.

Our relationship with our earthly father not only affects our attitude towards Father’s Day, but it also can influence our relationship with God, our Heavenly Father. If you feel like you cannot trust your biological father, it may be hard for you to trust your Heavenly Father. However, no earthly father’s feelings or actions can compare to the holiness of God. Our Heavenly Father invites us into a relationship with Him that is more rewarding than we can ever imagine. A healthy understanding of God as our Heavenly Father is essential to having this relationship with Him. Allow me to help you get better acquainted with your Heavenly Father by creating for you a portrait of your Heavenly Father’s heart through a few specific scriptures.

And, “I will be a Father to you,
and you will be my sons and daughters,
says the Lord Almighty.”
II Corinthians 6:18

God is love.
I John 4:8

the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.
And by Him we cry, “Abba, Father.”
Romans 8:15

See what great love the Father has lavished on us,
that we should be called children of God!
I John 3:1

Love is patient, love is kind
I Corinthians 13:4

The LORD is like a father to His children,
tender and compassionate to those who fear Him.
Psalm 103:13 NLT

your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.
Matthew 6:8

Look at the birds of the air;
they do not sow or reap or store away in barns,
and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.
Are you not much more valuable than they?
Matthew 6:26

We must remember that earthly fathers will disappoint us at some point in time. Only our Heavenly Father is perfect. May we fulfill Ephesians 3:`4-5 that says,I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives it name.” Whether or not you are able to celebrate Father’s Day with your earthly father, I want to encourage you to celebrate Father’s Day with your Heavenly Father because in Psalm 68:5 God promises that He will be, A father of the fatherless.”

Joyfully,
Cheryl

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Jesus, Chickens and Mothers

mother-and-child-2chickens-1Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
Proverbs 31:28

With this coming Sunday being designated as Mother’s Day, I want to take time to honor our mothers and fulfill Proverbs 31:28. However, I am pondering what qualifies a female to be a mother. I believe any woman who reflects a lifestyle of nurturing and caring for others is a mother. Motherly characteristics are exhibited not only by human beings, buy also by animals and birds. Jesus described His love for Jerusalem (a symbolic representation of all believers) as being like that of a mother hen. I am not saying Jesus or mothers are chickens! However, I think there is a revelation of Jesus’ love and a mother’s love when we look at the life of a chicken. I grew up on a farm and we had chickens, so maybe that is why I am attracted to this image today. Let’s see how we can tie together the hearts of Jesus, chickens, and all women who function in a mother role.

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you,
how often I have longed to gather your children together,
as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings,
and you were not willing.
Matthew 23:37

When I read this verse from Matthew, I not only see a mother hen drawing her little chicks close to her body but I also picture Jesus doing the same with each of us as His children. I am reminded of the refrain of the old hymn Safe in the Arms of Jesus by Frances Crosby, “Safe in the arms of Jesus, Safe on His gentle breast; There by His love o’ershaded, Sweetly my soul shall rest.” Psalm 91:4 NLT says, “He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with His wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection.” This image is similar to a picture of an earthly mother holding a baby in her loving, caring arms. There is a feeling of warmth and security as well as love when a baby chick, a believer in Christ, or a young child is snuggled near to the body of the one emanating love. 

As a young girl, I remember seeing the chickens running around in their open space while I was swinging on my tree swing. One of my recollections is of a mother hen leading her newborn chicks out for a walk. With the mother hen in the lead, five or six fluffy little chicks followed in a parade. The new hatchlings followed their mother wherever she went. They trusted her to lead them along the right path. Mothers of young children also lead and instruct their children. Proverbs 22:6 instructs moms (and everyone else) to “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” David says in Psalm 25:4, “Show me your ways, LORD, teach me your paths.”

While living on the farm, there were occasions when I remember hearing a lot of squawking from the chickens. Usually it meant that some predatory animal, or even another chicken, was trying to attack a brood of young chicks. The one making the most noise was the mother hen who was trying to protect her defenseless chicks. If the attack was instigated by another chicken and her squawking was not enough of a deterrent, she would ruffle her feathers and attack. Psalm 121:7 says, The LORD will keep you from all harm– He will watch over your life.” The Lord watches over our lives, a mother hen watches over the lives of her chicks, and mothers watch over the lives of the children entrusted to them.

Jesus, chickens and mothers are not synonymous words, but it has been fun to search for similarities. While exhibiting love and compassion, mothers are also protective and defensive of their children. Their goal is to help their children grow and mature to be who God created them to be. Any woman who finds herself in the role of a mother is worthy of honor on Mother’s Day and every day.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Joyfully,
Cheryl
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Liquid Love

liquid-loveI recently awoke in the night repeatedly hearing the phrase Liquid Love in my mind. With the observance of Good Friday taking place in a couple of days, it seems appropriate for me to share thoughts with you about our Lord’s Liquid Love. I have chosen to elaborate upon this phrase by using various alliterations for love. I pray these thoughts will allow you to linger in our Lord’s presence. May you feel His Liquid Love being poured out for you and upon you.

Lavishing Love

According to I John 4:8 God is love. Consequently, He reveals Himself to us through His love. In I John 3:1, we are told that the Lord lavishes His love upon us. When He lavishes His love on us, He imparts His nature to us. The Lord is lavishing His love upon us because He sees us as ravishing in beauty according to His words as the Lover of the Beloved in Song of Solomon 6:10. The Lord has lavished His love upon us by shedding His blood for us. John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

Lamb of Love

In John 1:20, Jesus is described as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. He is the Lamb of Love. He is known as a lamb because He was the final sacrificial lamb offered for the forgiveness of sin. Many lambs were constantly being offered as sacrifices in the Old Testament, but Jesus came as the Lamb of God who died once and for all for all our sins. He is the sacrificial Lamb of Love.

Liquid Love

Liquid Love is love colored red. Liquid Love is the blood of Jesus. He shed His blood because of His love for us. Our Lord’s love was manifested as liquid love as He poured out His blood for us. Romans 5:8 says, “God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.:  I John 1:7 says that Jesus’ blood cleanses us of all unrighteousness, all sins, assuring us of everlasting life. We have everlasting life because of the Lord’s everlasting love. In Jeremiah 31:3 we are assured that we are loved with our Lord’s everlasting love.

Laver of Love

Within the tabernacle, the laver was the basin where the priests cleansed themselves before they offered sacrifices. Sacrificing animals was part of their function, their labor. The labor of the priests began at the laver. Connecting the Old and New Testaments, we read in Ephesians 5:26 that we are washed in the water of the Word. The Word informs us of how Jesus was the Lamb of God who poured out His life, His love, His blood for us. It was definitely a labor of love for Jesus to die upon the cross for us.

No Lack in Love

Love is lovely! In Hosea 4:6, the Lord says that His people can be destroyed from lack of knowledge, but there is no lack in the Lord’s love for us. According to I Corinthians 13, love is kind and according to Romans 2:4, the Lord’s kindness leads us to repentance. Repentance leads us the cross where Jesus shed His blood. The Lord has poured out and continues to pour out His blood as Liquid Love. There is no lack in what He offers us today!

Liquid Love Lives

According to Leviticus 17:11, there is life is the blood. There is life in Jesus’ Liquid Love. On Sunday we will celebrate that Jesus has risen from the dead. Our Lord lives! Our Lord loves! Because Jesus is alive, we too can live. Romans 8:37-39 says, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” All of this is possible because of the Lord’s Liquid Love !

Joyfully,
Cheryl
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