You are Loved

 

Today is Valentine’s Day and love is in the air! As much as I love my husband, God loves me more! In fact, our Bible verse today is taken from Hosea 2:19, “I will take you to be my wife forever. I will take you to be my wife in righteousness, justice, love, and compassion.” (CSB) To give a little background on this verse, God has asked Hosea to take a harlot for a wife. This marriage was to be a representation of Israel’s relationship with God. He loved Israel, but they were unfaithful to Him in many ways, just as Hosea’s wife was unfaithful to him. Hosea 1: 2 relates God’s instruction to Hosea, “When the Lord first spoke to Hosea, he said this to him, “Go and marry a woman of promiscuity, and have children of promiscuity, for the land is committing blatant acts of promiscuity by abandoning the Lord.” (CSB)

Despite Israel’s unfaithfulness, God still loved her, just as Hosea loved his wife, Gomer. No matter how many times she would run to other lovers, Hosea always took her back. Hosea is an example of how God loves us. The Bible says that “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us,” (Romans 5:8) and “We love, because He first loved us.” (I John 4:19) We were unfaithful to Him, and yet He loved us, He loved us first!

God’s love for us is an example of what married love should be like. We are to give each other totally to the other. Their needs come first before our own. God uses the example of marriage to explain our relationship with Jesus. He is the Bridegroom and we, as Believers, are His Bride. We are to be spotless and pure. His love for us is an example of how we are to love each other. Marriage is a covenant between God, the Bride, and Groom. It isn’t just a piece of paper that says we are married, it is a contract, a covenant, promising to love, honor, respect, obey, and be totally devoted to each other and to God. Marriage consists of three people, God as the Head of the family, the husband is to be the head of the wife, loving her and being submissive, obedient, and under the leadership of God; and the wife is to honor, respect, obey, and be submissive to not only her husband, but also to God.

My husband is such an awesome man. He loves God with all his heart and carries that love for God to me. He realizes that my first love MUST be God and he comes second, just as I recognize that his first love MUST be God and I come second. As we love each other, we in turn love God, and together, we serve Him. When we faulter in our walk with the Lord, God loves us still, and draws us back to Himself, just as Hosea pleaded for Gomer to return to him. No matter how many times we turn our back on God or choose to be rebellious, God still yearns for us to come back to Him and love Him just as He loves us.

God is the total embodiment of love, the Bible says, “God is love” (I John 4:8). Love describes God, it is His total essence. The description of love is God! He is the ultimate example of pure love. He is our example! We are to pattern ourselves after Him.

God’s love to us is Agape love, that unconditional, selfless, sacrificial kind of love that Jesus showed as He hung on the cross for our sins. That is the kind of love we are to have for each other – selfless, unconditional, sacrificial, giving ourselves for the other.

As we celebrate Valentine’s Day with our spouses, boyfriends or girlfriends, remember to love as God loves us.

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A Call to Holy Living

Today’s Bible Journaling is from I Peter 1:13-14, “Therefore, with your minds be ready for action, be sober-minded and set your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires of your former ignorance.” (CSB) I recently journaled on the 13th verse, but today’s “musings” is focusing on both verses. In the CSB version I picked up on something I didn’t see the last time I journaled this passage.

We have already talked about taking action when going about fulfilling the goals we have set for ourselves. But what stood out to me today was a list of things that we must accomplish to live a holy life. The first thing is to be ready to act. Planning comes before everything. What steps will we take to accomplish this thing? Part of planning also involves prayer, asking God to help us reach the goal we have set for ourselves.

The next step is to set our hope on grace. Peter says, “set your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” When we see Jesus revealed it brings us hope. We then realize that, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13 NASB) He gives us the strength and the ability to accomplish our goal. Spiritually, when we are attempting to become like Jesus, changing attitudes or behavior, the strength He gives us to be successful in living a life that is holy and well pleasing, is what helps us as we realize it is through His grace that we are able to do what He is asking of us.

We then must be obedient to what it is He requires of us, and that can be combined with the next point. We are not to be conformed to the fleshly desires of our past life. Those are the things that have kept us away from God and hindered our relationship with Him. Obedience is a dying to the fleshly desires of the past. Look at the word “Obedience”, right in the middle of the word is another word, “die.” We are to die to our own selfish desires, turn direction, and live a life holy and pleasing to God. That is an act of our will. We must intentionally decide to die to the old habits and behaviors, and change our way of thinking, our attitude, our behavior, and our allegiance. Disobedience is to follow the enemy’s ways. This can lead us into areas of discontentment, dissatisfaction, loss of peace and joy, and misery. Obedience brings a whole new perspective on things, and brings us contentment, joy, peace, and a strengthened walk with the Lord.

If we read I Peter 1:15, Peter says that “as the one who called you is holy, you also are to be holy in all your conduct.” Our attitude, how we act and speak, reflects who is sitting on the throne of our heart. We are to daily evaluate ourselves to see if we are sitting on that throne or if we are allowing God to sit on there. When we allow Him to be the Lord, Master, and King of our lives, we find we can accomplish what He is asking us to do. It takes a mind and attitude that is totally surrendered to Jesus.

Faith Without Works is Dead

Today’s Bible Journaling is taken from James 2:17, “Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.” (NASB) Sometimes I think this passage can cause a little conflict and confusion in the Believer. When we read what James says in this passage and then compare it to what the Apostle Paul states in Romans 3:27-28, Ephesians 2:8-9, Galatians 2:21, and other verses, the Bible seems to contradict itself.

However, there is no contradiction. James is not saying that our salvation comes by works, but that our salvation is shown in the works we do. We do those works because of our love for Jesus and what He did for us on the cross, and not because we feel we must work our way to Heaven. Paul focused on the fact that salvation comes by faith alone, and James believed that also, but he was pointing out that we can talk about having faith in God all day long, but if that faith is not poured out in action, it’s basically all talk and nothing more.

James gives an example in verses15-16, “If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,’ and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?” Faith is important, for without it we cannot be saved, our lives are made more difficult if we don’t have faith to believe God for the things we need, and we cannot grow in our Christian lives. But having faith and not showing that faith by our actions, does no good. James explains that we should show our faith by our works.

I remember having a conversation with a young man many years ago. He was in a denomination that was very works driven and he hammered away at this passage as his proof for why he believed as he did. I tried to explain that works could not buy his way into Heaven, it takes faith in the sacrifice of Jesus’ death and resurrection that gets us a place with the Father in Heaven. He had a very hard time grasping it. It was obvious he had read his Bible, but the idea that faith alone would get him to Heaven, and accepting Jesus’ sacrifice as payment for his sins, was something he just couldn’t understand. I tried to explain that it takes a personal relationship with Jesus that is the basis of our faith, and that through that faith and love for Jesus that our works are displayed. I don’t know if that young man ever came to know Jesus as His Savior, but I pray that he ran into someone who could minister to him in a way that he could understand.

Faith requires obedience as well. The Apostle Paul explains in Romans 1:5 that it is through Jesus that we receive grace that brings about obedience of faith. Because we have faith in what Jesus has done for us, we are obedient to His will for us, and that obedience of our faith shows forth in our deeds.

I believe that as we act on our faith, it will show forth the love of Jesus to others as well. That is where we can become an example to unbelievers. As we pour out our love for them in the deeds we do, they begin to see that it is because of our faith in Jesus that we love them and show our concern for them and their spiritual condition, and that makes them want that same love and faith. So, let your faith take action!

Think Carefully

Today’s Bible Journaling comes from Haggai 1:5, “Think carefully about your ways.” (CSB). This month we’ve been talking about having goals, making plans, and God’s plans and promises. To give a little background on this passage, the prophet, Haggai was directed by God to give a message to Zerubbabel, who was the governor of Judah. God was displeased with the children of Israel because they had tended to their own houses and left the temple in ruins. They were supposed to be rebuilding the temple, but they were more concerned with their own personal comfort and well-being, that they disregarded God’s house while reconstructing their own homes.

God gave them a directive, “Think carefully about your ways.” He mentions this twice, in verse 8 God once again tells them, “Think carefully about your ways.” He’s dead serious about this, hence the repeating of his instruction. Their hearts were in the wrong place. They did not desire to be obedient, and God showed His displeasure with their heart attitudes. Verse 6 talks about how they planted but their harvest amounted to little. They eat and drink, but they are not satisfied. They put on clothes, but they never have enough to stay warm. God held back blessings from them because of their disobedience and disregard for His house. Therefore, He charges them to think carefully about all they have done.

As we sit down and make our goals, and make plans to accomplish those goals, we must think carefully about how we are going to accomplish what we want. Whether it’s something as physical as losing weight, or as spiritual as becoming more like Christ in attitude and action, we must carefully think about how we are going to meet that goal.

As I recently recounted about a neighbor who failed to sit down and plan out the building of his house and failed miserably, we can fail in accomplishing our goals without careful planning, thinking about what steps we must take to be successful, setting ourselves up for meeting that goal.

In a spiritual sense, not only must we think carefully about how we will be more like Jesus, but we must also consult God. Spending time in prayer and Bible study, seeking wisdom from godly counselors, all help us to accomplish our desire to be more like Him.

For me, the first step is taking account of where I am right now with Jesus. What attitudes and actions am I exhibiting? Are they reflecting a Christ-like attitude? If not, what do I need to do to change? Then I need to go to God in prayer, asking Him to help me be the person He wants me to be. As I look into His Word, I must ask Him to show me verses that will help me to succeed. Accomplishing my goal is done one step at a time. As I succeed with each trial that makes me choose the right attitude or action, I then need to thank Him for His help. When I have reached the goal then I must remember not to let pride take hold, for if I become prideful then I am like the children of Israel who disregarded God’s instruction.

Heart attitude is so important. We can cause all the good we do to be of no account because of a poor heart attitude. Then the goals we have accomplished become as nothing. “Think carefully about your ways.” Only then can we be truly successful in achieving our goals.

God Sees

Today’s Bible Journaling is from Isaiah 58:11, “And the Lord will continually guide you, And satisfy your desire in scorched places, And give strength to your bones; And you will be like a watered garden, And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.” (NASB) I decided to read the entire chapter to get a background of this verse. God is giving Isaiah a message to deliver to the Israelites. They observe the fasts as God required, however; they were doing so with wrong attitudes, wrong motivation, and a wrong commitment. They were fasting and observing holy days with an attitude that was not one of complete dedication to God. They would appear to be holy, yet mistreat their fellow Israelite, not feeding the hungry, having an attitude of, “It really doesn’t really matter if I’m totally committed to this, I’m going to do it my way.”

I decided to look up the definitions of attitude, motive, and commitment to be sure I was applying the correct words to the thoughts I’m trying to convey. Motive is defined as, “a reason for doing something, especially one that is hidden or not obvious.” Attitude is defined as, “a settled way of thinking about someone or something…” Commitment is defined as, “the state or quality of being dedicated to a cause, activity, etc.” In my mind, all of these can be combined in our justification for doing something.

Scripture tells us that God sees the heart (I Samuel 16:7) when others see the outside. We can appear to be so holy and yet have motivations and attitudes that are totally opposite from our actions. God was pointing out that they were not totally sincere in fasting and carrying out the observances He required, and therefore, He didn’t recognize their efforts. But if they would change their motivation, their attitude, and their commitment to Him, then He would bless them, He would guide them.

My mind goes to being on the Worship Team. I love being on the Worship Team! God has called me to use my musical abilities for Him, and it’s my outlet to show God how much I love Him! It gives me an opportunity to lift my voice and my instrument in praise to Him for everything He has done for me. But I also have to be very careful, because I can play and sing with wrong motivations and attitudes. Am I doing this for my own self-gratification and to get the accolades of those in the congregation, or am I singing and playing to give honor, praise, and glory to God? Does what I do point others to Jesus or to myself? Every time I get ready to step onto the platform at my church I pray and ask God to check my attitude. Is it proper, does it reflect Him and not myself? I’m committed to playing and singing, but why? That’s where I must look at myself and check that I’m doing this for Him and not me. I must remember it’s all about Him and not about me.

When I am obedient to what He wants me to do, then He blesses my efforts, He blesses my life, and He fills me with joy at having the opportunity to minister to others. He makes my soul satisfied, and I am like a well-watered garden, growing and full of Spiritual fruit. The more I am obedient to what He asks me to do, the more He blesses me and gives me peace and satisfaction. When I have the proper attitude and motivation, He is pleased with me, and my commitment to Him is even greater, and it is a joy to serve Him in everything I do. Doing an attitude/motivation check is a good way to be certain we are in line with God’s will and plan for our lives.

Teach Me Lord

Today our Bible Journaling verse is Psalm 32:8, “I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go; I will guide thee with mine eye.” (KJV) As we are looking at God’s promises, seeking counsel, and accepting instruction, this verse is such an encouragement to me. As I was thinking about this, the thought came to me that to be taught we must be willing to accept the teaching. There are times when God shows us something about ourselves that is hard, and we don’t want to face.

We must be willing to accept those things, be willing to listen, and be obedient to the Lord in changing those things that need changing. I know for me, sometimes, that is so hard to do. I’ve never been one of those kinds of people that was wild about change, but if it had to be done, I would try and make those changes that were needed.

One time, change was very hard for me. My first husband had just had his first stroke and was in the hospital after having brain surgery. I had been off work for two weeks, spending every day at the hospital with him. When I came back to work there were a lot of things that had changed. Our department was revamping procedures, the station was doing something new and we needed to be on board with it. At about that time things at home were falling apart because my hubby couldn’t take care of it and it was something I couldn’t do. To say I was stressed out was an understatement. The changes at work were like the straw that broke the camel’s back. So much was changing all at the same time and I just couldn’t handle it. My boss was trying to get me to change without throwing a small fit. All I could say was, “Why can’t there just be one thing that doesn’t change?” It was all I could do to keep from breaking down in a crying jag. I wasn’t willing to change what needed to change and I wasn’t happy, and my boss was frustrated with me.

We can be like that with God. We can throw a two-year old tantrum, stomping our feet and telling God, “NO!” All that accomplishes is us being miserable and God being very patient with us. He takes us around that mountain again to learn the lesson we are refusing to learn. It amazes me how patient God is with us! As humans, we would most likely give up after a while and leave the stubborn one to their own devices. Sort of “let them stew in their own juice” as it were. God isn’t like that. He patiently puts us back on that pathway heading for the thing we need to learn, and He keeps putting us in that place until we are willing to learn the lesson. Then, and only then, can we have peace. Isaiah 26:3 says, “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” (NIV) Deuteronomy 11:13 says, “It shall come about, if you listen obediently to my commandments which I am commanding you today, to love the LORD your God and to serve Him with all your heart and all your soul,” (NASB) Being obedient, willing to learn, and accepting of changes that need to be made, help us to grow in our walk with God.

We must be willing to say, “Teach me Lord!” and then accept the teaching He gives. We must relinquish control of our lives, let Him lead, guide, and teach us, and then we can walk in peace.

 

Receive Instruction

As we continue to look at seeking counsel this week, our Bible Journaling comes from Ecclesiastes 4:13, “A poor yet wise lad is better than an old and foolish king, who no longer knows how to receive instruction.” (NASB) The Christian Standard Bible says it like this, “Better is a poor but wise youth than an old but foolish king who no longer pays attention to warnings.”

Part of seeking counsel involves something on our part. Once someone gives us the counsel we are seeking, it is up to us to decide whether or not to receive their counsel. This involves discernment on our part. Is the person giving the information to us someone we can trust? If so, then it is up to us whether we will take what they tell us and use it.

My mother was an elementary teacher for 35 years. For most of those years she taught the gifted kids, but for a while she had a mixture of children who were extremely intelligent and ones who weren’t as bright. Grades ran the gamut, the straight A kids and the ones who were barely hanging on. In some instances, she had kids who were really smart, but for whatever reason, just didn’t apply or accept what she was trying to teach them. The ones who could have done better did not use discernment in receiving what she was teaching them. They didn’t want to be in school, they didn’t want to learn, and they decided they were not going to apply themselves in learning.

We can be just like those kids. If the information is from someone we aren’t sure whether or not to trust, then discernment and wisdom is needed. However, if the advice and counsel is from someone we respect and their ideas make a lot of sense, and we don’t take their advice, then we are like that foolish king in our verse today who won’t take instruction, and like those kids in my Mom’s class who refused to learn.

We can also be like those people when it comes to God’s guidance, instruction, and teaching. When we refuse to take God’s Word to heart and learn from it, we are in rebellion. Just like those kids in my Mom’s class, they rebelled against her in refusing to do the work, we can be stubborn and say “NO” to God in defiance or just decide to do it our own way. Most times that just gets us into trouble. Do we forget that God’s ways are the best for our lives, or are we actively defying God’s instruction? How foolish we are to ignore God’s leading and instruction!

I know in my own life there have been times when I verbally said, “No God, I don’t care what you say, this is what I want!” I found myself in a long time of digging myself out of a situation in which I should never have been. I had to learn the hard way, that my defiance and outright rebellion was going to take me in a path I didn’t want to go down. But, when I heed His voice, when I listen to instruction and follow obediently, then life goes a lot smoother. I begin to learn from Him when I follow His leading! Proverbs 1:5 says, “A wise man will hear and increase in learning, And a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel.” Good words of advice!