The cynic might say Valentine’s Day is the day for florists, candy and card makers to earn a great deal of money. I walked into a local supermarket yesterday, and I was overwhelmed by the amount of flowers, cards and candy that were on display. On the love side, Valentine’s Day is a day when we can express our love for one another freely and not be thought of as sentimental or mushy. How about God? How does God express His love for us? Here is a familiar verse that gets right to the heart of God.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that who ever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For He did not sent his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” John 3:16-17
How much more love could God show towards us than sacrificing His only Son on our behalf? He loved us that much. He sent Him so that through faith in Jesus we could be saved and not condemned. Only sinless Jesus could erase our sin and present us whole and perfectly clean before our Holy God.
When you say ‘thank you’ today for a Valentine gift you receive, a card, note, flowers or someone simply saying ‘Happy Valentine’s Day’, think about thanking God too. Thank Him for sending Jesus. Thank Him for making a way for your salvation and eternal life with Him. That is the best Valentine I can think of that is filled with all of God’s love for now throughout eternity.
Blessings on this Valentine’s Day.
The first few weeks of January I write about goals, motivation, change, etc. This morning God has laid on my heart the idea of rising up and going. That may sound weird, but where do you get your get up and go? What makes you want to get up in the morning and pursue your day? For the believer, it is partly motivated by their understanding that God has a purpose for each day. I love Lamentations 3:22-24 and here it is from the Message, which may bring new meaning to these verses for you, “God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out, his merciful love couldn’t have dried up. They’re created new every morning. How great your faithfulness! I’m sticking with God (I say it over and over). He’s all I’ve got left.” Knowing that God’s love and mercy are new each morning gives us hope and the ability to start a new day.
Another motivation for the believer can be taken from Acts 3:6-8 when Peter healed the man that had been lame from birth at the Beautiful Gate in Jerusalem. But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” 7 And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong.” Then look what happened in verse 8 “And leaping up, he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God.” How about you? Has Jesus healed you in mind, body or spirit? What is your life’s reaction to that healing? Are you leaping and walking and praising God in your life? Today is the day to begin!
Each day, each year are new opportunities for us to walk, talk and live praising God. Let’s determine today to live that way. Put a smile on your face and live like you mean it because you know that God loves you, has mercies ready for you and wants to hear your praise as you journey through this day.
Walk with Him towards a day of blessing,
The Messiah next returns to Isaiah 53:8 as Handel continues to show the suffering and rejection of our Savior. His birth at Christmas is a celebration but it led to a pathway filled with grief and sorrow for our Lord Jesus. I think the Amplified Translation will help us to see this verse more clearly.
Isaiah 53:8 “After oppression and judgment He was taken away;
And as for His generation [His contemporaries], who [among them] concerned himself with the fact
That He was cut off from the land of the living [by His death]
For the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke [of death]was due?
Jesus’ persecution by both the religious Jews in several illegal mock trials and then His judgement by Jews and condemnation by the Romans are what is spoken of here as oppression and judgement. His trial before the Sanhedrin is recorded in Matthew 26:62-67 “Then the high priest stood up and said to Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?” 63 But Jesus remained silent. The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God:Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.” 64 “You have said so,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: From now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” 65 Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy. 66 What do you think?” “He is worthy of death,” they answered. 67 Then they spit in his face and struck him with their fists. Others slapped him.” Later before Pilate they all demanded death for Jesus. Matthew 27:20-23 “But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed. 21 “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” asked the governor. “Barabbas,” they answered. 22 “What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” Pilate asked. They all answered, “Crucify him!” 23 “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”
Verse 8 also states that Jesus would be cut off from the land of the living and sentenced to death for the transgressions of the people not his own. Paul puts this cutting off plainly in Romans 5:6-8 “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
How can we be encouraged by these words of suffering and death of our Savior? Jesus came as a babe fully aware of his life and purpose. Even as young as 12 when he spoke in the temple people were amazed. Luke 2:46-47 “After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.47 Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers.” When Mary and Joseph asked him about it he replied in verse 49 ““Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” Jesus knew His purpose and came to earth to do the will of His Father in heaven. He came for us. Are you motivated by the love of God to give yourself willingly to serve others? It is Jesus’ example to us given at Christmas for us to ponder and imitate in our own lives. What better time of year to put this into practice!
Part 2 of Handel’s Messiah returns to Isaiah for some prophecies of Jesus and what His time on earth will bring to pass. Isaiah 53:3 “He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.” Isaiah 50:6 “I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard; I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting.” Both of these prophecies were given hundreds of years before Messiah was born. They tell of the pain and suffering He was to endure both mental and physical. He was going to be despised, rejected, suffer beatings, insults, mocking and would be spit upon. During His ministry He was rejected and despised, Mark 8:31 “He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.” He would be beaten, insulted, mocked and spit upon. Matthew 27:26-32 “Then he (Pilate) released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified. Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him. 28 They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand. Then they knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. 30 They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. 31 After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.”
What do these prophecies say to us today during the Season of Advent? Jesus came willingly that Christmas into a world that would reject and hate Him. He came because He loves us. John 3:16 says it best, “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.” Because of His LOVE, He came. Praise Him today for coming and celebrate His victory over sin on our behalf. “But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15:57
He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young. Isaiah 40:11
This prophecy in Isaiah points to the coming Messiah as a shepherd who will tend His flock with care and love. Jesus called himself the good shepherd, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep, John 10:11. A few verses later in 10:14 He said, “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me”. Some of the most tender and reassuring verses about Jesus’ love and care for us are found in John 10:27-28 “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.” No one, nothing, nowhere and at no time can anyone or anything snatch us away from Jesus. Once we belong to Him we are His eternally. He is with us 24/7 and is always accessible instantaneously through prayer.
Let the assurances of the good shepherd carry you through this day and bring you comfort.
The librettist, Charles Jennens, of Handel’s Messiah put these two prophecy’s of HOPE together. Both of them tell of the good news of Christ’s coming. It is seen as prophecy applying to their return to Jerusalem from exile in Babylon, Christ’s first coming as a babe in the manger to save us from our sins and can be applied to Christ’s second coming where He will return as victor and judge. All were good news of God’s care and plan to save mankind.
Isaiah 40:9 “Go on up to a high mountain,
O Zion, herald of good news;
lift up your voice with strength,
O Jerusalem, herald of good news;
lift it up, fear not;
say to the cities of Judah,
“Behold your God!”
Isaiah 60:1 Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
Just reading the words of Isaiah 40:9 makes me want to shout the good news of salvation in Jesus from the mountain tops! The assurance of Isaiah 60:1 is profound- your light has come! I am so thankful that Jesus came because He loved me and you. Think back to 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” Ponder anew the amazing provisions of our God both then, now and in the future.
What does it mean when scripture refers to David as ‘a man after God’s own heart’? “After removing Saul, he made David their king. God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’” Acts 13:22 What did David do that pleased God? I have concluded that God’s answer was also given here- “he will do everything I want him to do”. David was willing to submit to God’s will and do as He commanded. In 1 Samuel 15:22, Samuel was speaking to Saul about God’s heart’s desire. But Samuel replied: “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.” God commanded the Israelites to do various sacrifice rituals to atone for their sins. It was a temporary fix to the issue of sin but showed their obedience to God’s laws and their devotion to Him. However, Samuel was telling Saul that following God and pleasing him was about more than following His laws. It was about following God with your heart in obedience. Obedience seems to be the key to God’s heart and our being willing to do submit to God’s will for our lives. If you look at David’s life, you quickly see that he did not do everything right and did not follow God’s laws all the time. He sinned big time with the intentional killing of Uriah and the lusting after Bathsheba. However, David accepted his discipline from God and was repentant. He was obedient in following the Lord and his faith never wavered. He trust God 100% and submitted to God’s will in his life.
What does that mean for you and me? Obedience in faith and worship = putting God first above all else and believing in His Son. Obedience in our daily walk = seeking to please God by loving Him and others. That means spending time with Him daily in prayer and in His Word. It also means having Jesus’ attitude of compassion and love for those around us. Obedience in service = working by ourselves and/or with other Christians to show the world Jesus by reflecting Him in our words and deeds. God wants all of our heart transformed to work for Him with joy, love, obedience, in purity, devotion, kindness, compassion, with forgiveness for ourselves and others, in peace, faith and humility. There is so much God wants for us and striving through the power of the Holy Spirit to live for God makes us a people after God’s heart. Those things are reflected in a heart of obedience, submission and love. It is a life-long process that brings and bears much fruit and blessings to us from God.
Striving to walk each day in obedience to God with heart that is pleasing to Him,
I love studies of the Old Testament as I learn so much about the character of God. His attributes shine through as He exhibits His faithfulness and sovereignty over all creation. In 1 Samuel is the story of God sending the prophet Samuel to identify the son of Jesse that He has chosen to be the next king of Israel. The Lord gave Samuel some good advice that we need to take to heart as we look at others and even ourselves. But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7 When God looks at us, He looks at our hearts. Therefore, He desires that our hearts be transformed, renewed and cleansed. He wants more for us than we can even imagine. He sees what is truly in our hearts and knows our innermost thoughts. It is a humbling and sobering thought that God knows all and in His love and mercy He see what I can be not what I am at the present. God looks at our hearts.
I am comforted by Psalm 10:17 where the psalmist proclaims what God will do for him. “O Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear” God will listen to me and the cries of my heart then He will strengthen me. He knows I need transformation and will listen to my heart cries and then give me strength to persevere in pursuit of His transformation in my life.
Our challenge today is seek His transformation for our lives from a heart filled with obedience and love and then to seek to see others as God does. We are limited and can’t see the heart of others but we can learn not to judge by outward appearances and seek to reach out to others with love and kindness. We can ask God for insight and wisdom in dealing with others.
Thankful for a loving God that will give me strength to live for Him,
God is very intentional in His transformation of our hearts. I would say there is no wasted efforts or motions in God’s plans. Unlike man, God is omniscient and knows the beginning and the end. He knows where we are going and how to get us where He wants us to be. Here are a couple of verses that point to God’s intent or purpose in transforming our hearts.
Psalm 90:12 “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.
Jeremiah 32:40 “I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me.”
God wants us to realize that we are accountable to Him and use our time here on earth wisely. He desires we affect others with our lives and show His goodness and glory in what we say and do. In the Jeremiah passage God tells us what He will do for believers. We have an everlasting covenant of salvation in Jesus, He promises to not turn from us- He is completely faithful, He desires good for us and will do it and He wants us to love and follow Him. God wants us to spend eternity with Him and the only way that is possible is if we wisely turn to Him, accept His salvation in Jesus and have a make-over of our heart’s desires. A transformed heart is essential for the Christian believer and something God does with intentionality. Look back at the ways He transforms our heart… with joy and praise, love and faith, commitment, purity, kindness, compassion and forgiveness, devotion and obedience. His way brings results and fills our hearts with His heavenly treasures.
Let’s make this a day of Thanksgiving to God for His grace and mercy. Thanking Him that for transforming us so we can live lives of purpose and bear fruit for His kingdom.
One of the clearest verses in scripture that tells us what we have to do to be Saved is Romans 10:9-10. ” If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved.” Once you believe in Jesus within your heart and say it you are saved. The saying confirms what your heart is telling you that Jesus is the son of God and that He came and died for your sins and was raised from the dead. In dying He took your sin and mine upon himself as the perfect sacrifice but in rising from the dead He conquered death and buried our sins forever. Romans 10:9-10 show us that a heart that believes in God is essential to faith. We have to believe in Jesus with the very core of our being, our heart, for salvation. Jesus told us about the importance of heart faith in Matthew 22:37 “Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ God will accept nothing less that our whole heart, soul and mind. Loving and knowing God requires it all.
How about you? Do you have a sincere heart love for God? Are you willing to tell others that Jesus is your Savior? God demands that our love be all consuming. He is a jealous God and wants all of us. Exodus 20:5 “You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods.” Are you devoted to God and willing to give all of your heart to Him? Meditate and about this today. Consider how much of your heart you are giving to God, remembering He wants it all.
Let this be said of me as I seek to give all my heart to Jesus,