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)

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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 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.

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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.

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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

The Lord Keeps His Promises

When Storm Clouds Gather series, devotional # 8

Then God said to Noah and his sons, “I solemnly promise you and your children and the animals you have brought with you…that I will never again send another flood to destroy the earth. And I seal this promise with this sign: I have placed My rainbow in the clouds as a sign of My promise until the end of time, to you and to all the earth.” (Genesis 9:8-13 LB)

Noah and his family went through a terrible storm, the flooding of the whole earth. They lost not only their home, but friends and neighbors. It must have been reassuring to know God promised not to destroy everything with another flood, and to see His bow as a sign of that promise when storm clouds gathered. They experienced how the Lord carried them safely through the storm. They saw God’s power and His redemption in their lives.

I have seen God’s power and redemption in my own life. My health is good. I’m cancer free. Relationships that were once tumultuous are now calm and loving. My husband is employed after periods of job losses. It encourages me to know that the Lord keeps His promises, for He is faithful and trustworthy. When storm clouds gather, it helps me to look back at how the Lord has carried me through to the other side. Reading His love letter to us reassures me as I read His promises in Scripture.

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Below are some of God’s promises that mean a lot to me. I hope they bring you joy and peace.

  • Promises of forgiveness
    • I write to you, little children, for your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake. (I John 2:12)
    • Psalm 103 is full of King David’s praise for who the Lord is and His forgiveness.  
  • Assurance of Salvation
    • For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.  John 3:16 (RSV)
    • Romans 10:8-13   If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For man believes in his heart and so is justified, and he confesses with his lips and so is saved. Verses 9-10
  • God will finish His work in me and in loved ones
    • Philippians 1:6; I Thessalonians 5:23-24
  • God’s Holy Spirit lives in me 
    • John 14:15-18
  • The Lord will never leave me.
    • Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 13:5
  • He will guide me:
    • He has good plans for me that will give me a future and a hope.  Jeremiah 29:11
    • God will give me wisdom when I ask without doubting. James 1:2-8
    • The Lord will teach and lead me. Psalm 25
    • The Holy Spirit will guide me in all truth.  John 16:12-15
  • The Lord loves and cares for me. 
    • Psalm 23; I John 4:19; Ephesians 5:25; Psalm 139
  • My ultimate future- I will spend eternity with Jesus Christ.
    • I Thessalonians 4:13-18; John 14:1-3, 6
  • God is faithful to keep His promises
    • Hebrews 10:23; Numbers 23:19

What are some of God’s promises that are meaningful to you? May we not just read them, but absorb God’s promises into our lives and cling to them. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. Hebrews 10:23 (NKJV)

Dear Lord, I give You thanks for your many promises. I praise You for Your faithfulness. Amen.

Devotional

Prayer: Hold On to the Lifeline

When Storm Clouds Gather series, devotional # 7

As for me, I call to God, and the Lord saves me. Evening, morning and noon I cry in distress, and He hears my voice. (Psalm 55:16, 17 NIV)

A storm can make it hard to know where we are going. In Laura Ingalls Wilder’s book, On the Bank of Plum Creek, Laura described a blizzard so bad that Pa was lost in it for four days without knowing that he was very close to home. He couldn’t see the light in the window. During the blizzard, Ma had to hang onto the clothesline to find her way from the house to the barn to care for the animals, or she would have been lost. The clothesline acted as a lifeline.

In the storms of life, such as financial setback, ill health, or other crisis, we may not see our way to safety. The path ahead can be dark, and we may not feel God’s presence. It’s easy to lose our direction, our hope, and our peace.

Prayer is our lifeline.

Prayer is talking to God. It doesn’t need to be full of ‘spiritual’ phrases. Our Heavenly Father wants us to communicate with Him, just as we want our children to communicate with us. The Lord listens and He answers our prayers.

Jesus expects us to pray. When He taught the disciples how to pray in Matthew, chapter six, He said “When you pray”, not “If you pray.”

The Apostle Paul also told believers to pray. Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (I Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIV)

Sometimes we may not know how to pray, or what to ask of our loving Heavenly Father. Is what we are asking according to God’s will?

We have a Helper. Paul assured us that “the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us … And He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.” (Romans 8:26, 27 NIV)

In 1988 I heard a Focus on the Family broadcast that ultimately changed my prayer life. Dr. James Dobson was interviewing Fern Nichols, founder of Moms in Touch International (now called Moms in Prayer International). Fern described how she and other women gathered weekly to pray for an hour for their children and for their children’s schools. I looked at my three-month-old daughter and decided that when she entered Kindergarten, I would join a Moms in Touch (MITI) group. When that day came, I was fearful. I’d known Jesus since my childhood, yet how would I pray for an hour? I certainly couldn’t imagine that I would later lead MITI groups and eventually teach Moms in Prayer (MIPI) on mission trips.

I learned how to pray using Scripture, as I’ve done using I Thessalonians 5:16-17 in the prayer below. The following prayer format used by Moms in Prayer still helps me to pray. I hope that it helps you.

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  • Praise – Praising God for who He is, His attributes, His name, or His character.
  •  Confession – Confessing your sins to the God who forgives. (In a MIPI meeting the confession is done silently.)
  • Thanksgiving – Thanking God for what He has done.
  • Intercession – Coming to God in prayer on behalf of others.

Writing and dating the prayer requests and God’s answers to prayer in a prayer journal helps us to see the way God has worked on our behalf in the past and reminds us that God will answer in the future. Let’s talk with God.

Dear Heavenly Father, I praise You for being the God who listens. I confess that I grumble and I forget to seek You. Please forgive me. Thank you for loving me. Please help me to rejoice always, pray continually, and to give thanks in all circumstances; for this is Your will for me in Christ Jesus. Amen.