Devotional

God’s Love for You and Me

God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.  I John 4:9, 10 NLT

I have a pile of love letters from my husband from the years we dated, and cards and notes from the years we’ve been married, too. I also have special letters written by my now adult children, some in their childhood scrawls of just learning to write. I keep the letters because the senders are precious to me. I love them.

God wrote His love letter to each of us. It’s called the Bible, or Scripture. Throughout the Bible God tells us how much He loves us. His love is true love: Love is patient, kind, not envious, not proud, not rude, does not rejoice in iniquity but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. (from I Corinthians 13)

God our Father loves us perfectly.  As He declared Himself to Moses, God is “The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and fourth generation.” (Exodus 34:6-7 NKJV)

If all the iniquities are to be set upon the following generations, there is no hope for us. But because God loves us so much, He provided a way of escape. He didn’t just say He loves us, He showed us His love for us by sending His one and only Son into the world as a human being to be our sacrifice to take away our sins.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16 KJV)

Jesus Christ loves us so much that He willingly sacrificed Himself for you and me! We know this from Scripture. Jesus told the disciples (and us through the Bible) “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love.” (John 15:9 NKJV)

Image by Uce from Pixabay

Even when don’t abide or stay in Jesus’ love and we wander away from God, He does not give up on us. I take great hope in that! When I stray, He brings me back, causing me to desire fellowship with Him. He forgives me when I turn to Him. When loved ones turn away from God and follow the world, He cares and will rescue them. “For this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I myself will search and find my sheep. I will be like a shepherd looking for his scattered flock. I will find my sheep and rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on that dark and cloudy day.”(Ezekiel 34:12 NLT)

God’s love for us is so immense. Is it any wonder that I love the Lord? I hope you do, too.

We love Him because He first loved us. (I John 4:19 NKJV)

Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for Your great love for me. Dear Jesus, thank you for the sacrifice You made on the cross for me. Your love for me is beyond my comprehension. Help me to show Your love to others around me by loving them as You love me. Amen.

Devotional

What is LOVE?

Love… bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. (I Corinthians 13: 7, 8a NKJV)

What do you think of when you think of the word L-O-V-E? Is it hearts, flowers, and chocolate? Valentine’s Day hype? Or is it something deeper? Is love romance and sex? Is love the deep care for another? What about love for our family and friends?

If love, as we know it, is so enduring and never fails, why do so many relationships fall apart?

Could it be that we need to follow a better definition of love?

Let’s take a look at the Bible’s description of love using a variety of Bible versions of I Corinthians 13.

4 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud.  (NLT) The New King James Version replaces “Love is patient” with Love suffers long. Certainly some of our patience with others can require some longsuffering. It’s easy to lash out or become irritated rather than to show kindness and patience. I’ve found that I have to swallow pride to go to my husband of 36 years and tell him I was wrong in a spat. An ‘I told you so’ does additional  harm if I’m boasting I was right. Oh, that I would love like God does! I’m so glad my Heavenly Father is patient and kind with me.

5 [Love] is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; (RSV)  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. (NIV) Ouch. This part of the definition of love is one I need to practice more. How many times have I been irritated when the dishes have been left on the table, or angry when I thought my ‘rights’ were being ignored or I thought something would have been better if it was done my way. Didn’t I just tell my husband of someone’s wrong against me? That does not honor the person, and it certainly does not honor my Lord God.

6 [Love] does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth. (NKJV) It does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right.(RSV) A prayer partner once told me that while she wanted me to pray for her prodigal child, the specifics were best left to the Lord and not told. She didn’t want the actions of her daughter to become the focal point, or a matter of gossip disguised as a prayer request. What was important was the young woman’s return to Christ.

7 Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. (NLT)   It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (NIV)

8 Love never fails.(NKJV)   Love never ends. (RSV) Did you note the words “never” and “always” in these verses? True love is consistent. The Lord’s love for us is the best example. He never gives up on loving us, no matter what we do or don’t do. His love endures whatever the circumstances.  There is always hope in Jesus Christ and His forgiveness. Jesus persevered even to the cross to show God’s love for us.

13 Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love. (NLT)

Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay 

How can we show true, biblical love to others around us? Is our love the love with which God loves us? Let’s focus on showing true love to our spouse or romantic love interest, to our parents, siblings, children, friends, neighbors, and co-workers. Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to flow through us with LOVE.

Dear Heavenly Father, Please teach me to love others as You love me. Help me to look past another’s foibles and to see them as You do. Amen.

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Key to Bible Versions:

NKJV- New King James Version; NLT –  New Living Translation; NIV –  New International Version; RSV – Revised Standard Version

Love Block photo by Ylanite Koppens on Pexels.com

Devotional

What Is My Purpose?

by Kathryn J. Hughes

May he grant you according to your heart’s desire, and fulfill all your purpose. Psalm 20:4

New Year’s Day has come and gone. Did you make resolutions? I tend to spend some time in reflection as I change yearly calendars. How did I do on my goals? What should I try to accomplish this new year? How have I grown in my faith? What areas have I failed in? What are my goals for the next year and several years?

I’m late in going through this reflection this year. I’m reviewing a book on organization that I read many years ago. It talks about starting first with a mission statement. A mission statement helps to guide the goals. Another way of stating my mission is to ask, what is my purpose in life? Certainly being a wife, an employee, a friend, and a mother to adult children are all part of my life. But what is my mission or purpose as a follower of Jesus Christ?

Jesus knew His purpose. In telling His disciples of His coming crucifixion, He said, “Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this Hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour.” John 12:27. He knew His purpose was to die to pay the penalty of sin so mankind could be rescued from eternal punishment. He knew He would come back to life, showing His power over sin and death.

Jesus gave His disciples final instructions regarding their purpose. “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20

It follows that telling others of Jesus and teaching them to observe His commands is part of my objective. Hmmm. I need to be more faithful in the telling and the teaching.

I also need to be better at knowing and observing Jesus’ commands.One of Jesus’ commands were to abide in Him even as He did in the Father. Keeping His commandments was key in abiding. “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” If I’m abiding in Jesus, then my desires should reflect His desires. Another commandment was to love one another as Jesus loved us. (John 15).

Later followers of Christ were encouraged to continue in the Lord. When he (Barnabas) came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord. (Acts 11:23) ‘Purpose of heart’ means it’s a firm, conscious decision. It’s said that people often do not choose to wander from God, but that it is a slow eroding away of commitment that leaves them open to the enemy’s attacks and to choices that do not honor God. Part of my mission, then, is to stay on target with God and not allow a foothold for the enemy. I’m to continue in the Lord, and not give up when discouraged, nor become ‘too busy’ to spend time with God.

Photo by Engin Akyurt on Pexels.com

So what is my purpose? My mission is to follow Jesus, obey His commands, and to tell others how they can know Jesus and observe His teachings, too. My mission is to abide in Jesus Christ and His love. I am to love others as Jesus loves me.

Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith… I Timothy 1:5

What is your mission statement? Are your goals on target with your purpose?

Lord, I want to live according to the purpose You have for me. Please help me be faithful to You. Show me how to set my goals to match my purpose, and then to follow through. Amen.

Devotional

Who is Jesus Christ?

Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name. (John 20:30, 31 NIV)

Every year we celebrate the birth of Jesus. But who is He? Why is He important? Jesus claimed to be the Son of God, the Messiah foretold by prophecy throughout Scripture. Is He? Does he fulfill prophesies about Him?

According to Josh McDowell of Josh McDowell Ministry, there are 333 Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah that go back hundreds of years before Christ. They are fulfilled in Jesus. Some would claim that it is a coincidence that these prophecies came true. If Jesus were a fake, He would not have been statistically able to fulfill them.

Let’s look at some of them.

  • Jesus was from the house of David through both Mary (Luke 3:23-38) and his foster father, Joseph (Matthew 1:1-17) as the Prophet foretold in Isaiah 9:6, 7.  
  • The Messiah would be born of a virgin. “Therefore the LORD Himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”(Isaiah 7:14) Mary asked the angel Gabriel how she could give birth. “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” (Luke 1:26-38). Joseph was told by the angel not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife, “for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 1:18-25)
  • His birthplace would be Bethlehem (Micah 5:2, 4a). Mary and Joseph were from Nazareth, not Bethlehem. Caesar Augustus decreed that all of the Roman world should be registered. Joseph and his betrothed wife Mary had to register in Bethlehem, the town of David. The angel of the Lord told the shepherds a Savior was born in the town of David. (Luke 2:8-20). Later, the wise men visited King Herod to find the King of the Jews who had been born. The chief priests and scribes told Herod of Micah’s prophesy regarding Bethlehem. The wise men went there, and the star they were following stopped over the house where the young Child was. (Matthew 2:1-12)
  • The king would come to Jerusalem righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, and on a colt. (Zechariah 9:9) All four Gospels recount Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a colt while crowds spread branches on the ground and shouted, “Hosanna to the son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
  • Jesus is the suffering Savior of prophesy. Psalm 22 foretold His crucifixion 800 years before Jesus’ death and resurrection, long before the Roman Empire existed and started using crucifixion.  Psalm 22 describes the mocking; his clothes being distributed by division and the casting of lots; the piercing of his hands and feet, and bones being out of joint. All of this happened to Jesus, as described in Matthew 27, Mark 15, Luke 23, and John 19.  Jesus alludes to Psalm 22 when He cries out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Psalm 22:1 and Matthew 27:46)

After Jesus’ resurrection, He said to two disciples on the walk to Emmaus, “How foolish you are and slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory? And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning Himself. (Luke 24:25-27 NIV) Jesus also told His followers of His resurrection before he went to the cross for you, me, and all who choose to come to faith in Him.

The Bible is full of prophesies about the coming Savior, the Messiah. Foretold from Genesis through Revelation, Jesus’ first advent came to pass, and we can rest assured that the second advent of Jesus Christ will come as He said. Prophesy foretells His return in Revelation and Paul wrote about it in I Thessalonians 4:13-18.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Why does Jesus being who He said He was matter to me? Jesus is my Savior, my rescuer from the penalty of sin’s eternal death. I have life with God because of the price Jesus paid in my stead. I can face death and know beyond doubt that I will spend eternity with Jesus because He is the Son of God as He claimed. He can help me live life according to His plan. He is coming back again! His fulfilled prophesies tell me who He is.  

Who is Jesus to you? What does that mean for your life?

Dear Jesus. I’m overwhelmed by how You alone fulfill Scripture. I choose to follow You, for You are who You claim. Amen.

Additional Resources:

Devotional

What did Joseph Know?

By Kathryn J. Hughes

This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream…When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus. (Matthew 1: 18, 19, 20a, 24 NIV)

In my last devotional I considered what Mary knew that convinced her to agree to become the mother of Jesus. Mary had great trust in God that led her to submit to the changes of her plans and to her willingness to face the problems she would encounter giving birth to God’s only Son.

What about Joseph? What did Joseph know that caused him believe this seemly outlandish claim that his virgin promised wife carried the Son of God in her womb? Joseph knew the baby was not his. Her pregnancy gave him reason to break their betrothal contract to get married. Even though the wedding had not yet occurred, it was binding as if married, and a betrothed couple was often referred to as husband and wife.

Photo by JINU JOSEPH on Pexels.com

We know from Scripture that Joseph did not believe Mary at first. Joseph was a just man, but also a compassionate one. Matthew chapter one tells us that Joseph being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. Mary could have been stoned for immorality. If Joseph wanted to maintain his own claim of moral purity, Mary’s punishment may have stopped people questioning his own actions.

Joseph received visits from the angel of the Lord. While he was thinking of breaking their betrothal, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call his name JESUS, for He will save his people from their sins.” So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken through the prophet, saying, “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” (Matthew 1:18-25 NKJV)

Joseph was obedient to God. He followed the angel’s instructions to take Mary as his wife. Obedience to the Lord God was more important to Joseph than his reputation or the fact that the Child was not his own and that he would have the responsibility for raising Jesus. He exhibited patience and self-control. He did not have marital relations with Mary until after Jesus was born. He followed whatever the Lord directed him to do.

Later, when an angel warned Joseph to flee from Bethlehem to Egypt because Herod sought to destroy the young child, Joseph immediately moved his small family to that foreign culture. His other angelic dreams told him to return to Israel after Herod’s death, and then to settle in the region of Galilee. Joseph could have argued that he had his carpentry trade established in the various places they lived. Instead, Joseph was quick to act as he is directed. Joseph couldn’t know everything the future held any better than any of us. He and Mary both marveled at the things that were spoken of Jesus by Simeon. (Luke 2:25-33) He obeyed anyway.

* * *

May we be like Joseph, righteous, just, and obedient to God. We may not have angelic instructions, but we have the Holy Spirit who guides us. What is He directing you to do? What are some steps you can follow so you will do it?

Dear Holy Spirit, Thank you that my righteousness comes from Jesus Christ because of His sacrifice for me. Please help me to hear your directions and to obey. Please help me to be just in my dealings with others. In Jesus’ name, Amen.