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The Strongest Love

Ah, these verses were at my wedding.  When I received this devotional in my email box, I had to share….

Song of Songs 8

 1 If only you were to me like a brother,
   who was nursed at my mother’s breasts!
Then, if I found you outside,
   I would kiss you,
   and no one would despise me.
2 I would lead you
   and bring you to my mother’s house—
   she who has taught me.
I would give you spiced wine to drink,
   the nectar of my pomegranates.
3 His left arm is under my head
   and his right arm embraces me.
4 Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you:
   Do not arouse or awaken love
   until it so desires.

   Friends

 5 Who is this coming up from the wilderness
   leaning on her beloved?

   She

   Under the apple tree I roused you;
   there your mother conceived you,
   there she who was in labor gave you birth.
6 Place me like a seal over your heart,
   like a seal on your arm;
for love is as strong as death,
   its jealousy[a] unyielding as the grave.
It burns like blazing fire,
   like a mighty flame.[b]
7 Many waters cannot quench love;
   rivers cannot sweep it away.
If one were to give
   all the wealth of one’s house for love,
   it[c] would be utterly scorned.

From Romeo and Juliet to the movie Titanic, books, films and stories tell us that there is a love that is great enough to die for. Many women would say their greatest earthly desire is for true intimacy with a man-not a vague commitment or wishy-washy affection. Some might say they want a love worth dying for. Maybe you feel the same way. In fact, if you are honest, on many days you long more for the affirmation and passion of a husband than you ache for the love of God.

God is love-even your desire for love points to him as the source of all love. The love between a man and a woman is a beautiful reflection of God’s love, but you only desire that kind of love because God has placed that desire in you.

The Song of Songs presents a picture of love between a man and a woman that reflects the love of God. God doesn’t love you at a distance or remember you as an afterthought. Look at the words used to express his love: seal, strong, unyielding, blazing and unquenchable. He loves everything about you, the way you walk, talk, laugh and brush your hair. He loves you in more ways than you can ever know because he knows you through and through. He knows your thoughts, when you sit, when you rise and when you lie down (see Psalm 139).

God wants you to believe that he loves you! He doesn’t put conditions on his love. He only asks that you respond to his love: “Place me like a seal over your heart.” Imagine God saying to you, “I love you so much that I want to be with you intimately, at all times.” God loves you with the strongest love imaginable-a love that is as strong as death. In fact, he proved his love through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. This ultimate gift showed us that his love for us was, in fact, a love worth dying for.

(from a devotional from Biblegateway.com)

Never Alone

Psalm 13

 1 How long, LORD? Will you forget me forever?
   How long will you hide your face from me?
2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
   and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
   How long will my enemy triumph over me?

 3 Look on me and answer, LORD my God.
   Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
4 and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
   and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

 5 But I trust in your unfailing love;
   my heart rejoices in your salvation.
6 I will sing the LORD’s praise,
   for he has been good to me.

In this psalm, the writer found himself feeling so alone, so seemingly abandoned by God, that he was plunged into a deep depression and despair that took him to the edge of death. He was wrestling with his thoughts. His sorrow was overwhelming.

Perhaps you can relate to such feelings. Perhaps you know what it’s like when your thoughts are whirling around in aching confusion. You may know what it’s like to plead with God for light, for peace, for an alternative to the spiritual death you think is imminent.

Then comes the “but.” The psalmist, even as he was suffering terribly, stopped himself with that little word. David chose to trust in God’s goodness even when his heart was failing and grieving. Because he knew God, he chose to trust in God’s unfailing love and rejoice even in the midst of sorrow.

Did you get that? He said, “But . . . I will” (verses 5-6). The psalmist made a choice. He made a conscious decision to trust in God’s love even when the dark clouds of terror and depression hid God’s face.

David knew this as a fact. And you can know it too: You are never alone. God is always nearby . . . even when you can’t see his face or feel his presence. When you feel alone, call out to him. No matter how you feel, the fact remains: He is here. He is everywhere. And he hears your cries.

(taken from a Biblegateway.com Women’s devotion)

At Issue – Abuse

(Psalm 3:3-4)

3 But you, LORD, are a shield around me,
   my glory, the One who lifts my head high.
4 I call out to the LORD,
   and he answers me from his holy mountain.

He said you were worthless. He said you deserved everything he dished out. He said no one would believe you or take your side. Maybe he’s still saying it. Whether he’s your father, husband, boyfriend or boss-whoever he is-he’s wrong. Listen to what God says. He knows the truth. He’s on your side. He gives you his glory and says that makes you precious and valuable. He lifts up your head and tells you to look down to no one because of who you are in him. Won’t you start listening to God instead?

(taken from a Biblegateway.com  Women’s devotion)

Chapter 13: Lord, Preserve Me in Purity and Holiness

Before I started reading this chapter, I was worried.  Me?  Holy?  How is that possible?   In the past few days, I have felt far from it.  My choices in how I react to things have not been the greatest.  This past Friday, my mantra going through my head was “remember, you are a Christian.” … I even asked several friends to remind me if I forgot.

I read through her 7 ways to live in holiness….

#1: separate yourself from the world:  I believe I have done this fairly well.  There are a lot of things that the world loves that I have personally chosen to avoid and not participate in.   Instead of filling up a credit card with things I want, my husband and I choose to work hard, save our money and only buy things when we have the money to pay for it.

#2: purifying yourself: this is the one I was failing on Friday.  My thoughts were not in line with God.  My day started off horribly, and I got so very angry.  Instead of saying a quick prayer for God’s assistance, I let the situations fester and anger me. This was definitely not holy.

#3: living in the Spirit and not in the flesh: this isn’t just sexual sin, it’s the anger I felt Friday.  It’s being jealous of your neighbor who has something you don’t.  Things from keeping our spirit pure and our lives focused on God and not on us.

#4: staying clear of sexual immorality: I am so glad I am past this area of my life.  I did sell myself short as a young adult.  I am grateful that my husband accepted me and forgave me of my past.   I promised to remain faithful to him, and that is a promise I plan on keeping until death do us part! 🙂

5: being sanctified by Jesus: once we belong to Christ, we need to shed off our sinful ways.   In many ways, I think I have.  But I realize I am a work in progress, even after 19 years of belonging to Christ.

6: walk close to God: it is so important to be close to God.  Not just when trouble comes, but all the time.  That way, we feel peace and comfort in knowing that God is with us no matter what.

7: let God keep you: holiness is God’s will for our lives.   He planned it from the beginning for us.  When we live right, God will keep us from sin.   This is such encouraging thoughts.   The more I am closer to God , the more I can be like God.  We all should strive to be as close to God as we can.

He is ALIVE!!!

1On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. 2They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. 5In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? 6He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 7‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ” 8Then they remembered his words. (Luke 24:1-8)

Yes! He is alive! Just as he said! He overcame the grave and he is alive!

Put yourself in the place of these women. They were coming, hoping to properly embalm the Lord’s body, and they found the stone rolled away already. A stone which could not easily be rolled away. And where were the guards? The tomb had been sealed and guards placed outside. Where were they? Why did they leave their post? To leave an assigned post in those times would have been cause for the death of the soldiers. What had happened to cause this to happen? Matthew 28:2-4 tells us “2there was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. 4The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. Did they faint? It surely sounds like somehow these men passed out from what they saw! When word got back to the chief priests and elders, they told the guards to tell this story as they gave them a large sum of money to do so….(Matthew 28:13-14) “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ 14If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” This makes me laugh. If they were asleep, how would they know who took the body? If the governor were to find out that they were ALL asleep on the job, no matter what the chief priest say to him, these men are in big trouble. Admitting to sleeping on the job? All of them at the same time? They are still in big trouble.

Let’s go back to the ladies who came to the tomb. Matthew tells us that the two ladies who came were Mary Magdalene and another Mary. Luke says there were more than two ladies at the tomb that morning. I don’t really think it matters how many were there, but ladies, isn’t it awesome to hear that WOMEN were the first ones to find out that the Lord had risen from the dead? These women ran back to the apostles to tell them what they had seen and heard. Have you ever been in a group of ladies who were so excited they were speaking so fast and probably didn’t make a lick of sense? I have a feeling that was what happened. Luke 24:11-12 11But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. 12Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.

Jesus also appeared to Cleopas and another man on the road to Emmaus. They didn’t recognize him at first, but when he broke bread with them, they realized that it was He in their presence. Jesus then appeared in the presence of the 11 Apostles. In the flesh. Flesh and bones. He ate with them, opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he told them to stay in the city until they were “clothed with power from on high” (v.49)

Each of the four Gospels give different witness accounting of what had happened that Sunday morning, but they all concur on one thing. Jesus was alive.

Matthew 28:5-7 5The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. 7Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”

Mark 16:5-7 5As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.  6“Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. 7But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’ “

Luke 24:4-7 4While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. 5In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? 6He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 7‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ “

John 20: 10-18 10Then the disciples went back to their homes, 11but Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. 13They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” 14At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. 15“Woman,” he said, “why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”  16Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher).

Dear ones, we celebrate today because Jesus overcame the grave. It was written in the scriptures that he would be crucified, die and be buried, and rise again on the 3rd day. He was placed on the cross to take our place, to bear our sin, so that we would be sinless in the sight of God. It’s a free gift for you. The Lord died for you right where you are in this time. You don’t have to clean up anything. You don’t have to redeem yourself first to accept this gift. God loves you. It may be hard to believe with the sin we all bear, but he will never leave or forsake you. He wants you to be a part of his forever family. Put out your hands. Accept the free gift of His Son. Jesus didn’t die. He is alive today and will return for His people.

Celebrate!  He is Risen!  He is Risen indeed!

Happy Day

The emotions of Easter

I teach chapel at the preschool I work at.   We take the kids age 3-5 to the choir suite in the church and treat it like middle of the week church for them.   Today, after yesterday’s horrid weather here in the Metroplex, I was too drained to do it, but the church had one saving grace for me…. it had set up many stations in a hallway that went through Jesus’ last day on this earth, starting with the Last Supper all the way through the crucifixion.  I decided to take each class through the stages today instead of regular chapel.

The first station was the last supper…describing to the children the celebration of Passover, why we take the Lord’s supper at church.  The second station was a bag with some money… Judas’ fee for turning in Jesus.  We talked about how Judas’ kiss was Jesus’ betrayal.   The next stage had a whip in it … leather whip knotted with razor sharp small blades in it.  I explained to them about the lashings Jesus was put through.  Next stage was the crown of thorns.   I cannot imagine the agony my Savior was going through at the time.   We talked about the agonizing trek to the crucifixion site, carrying the cross on his back.  The church had an actual large cross there…. the nails…. they had big, thick nails for me to show the children how they were driven into Jesus’ hands and feet.   They had dice there… how they drew lots for Jesus’ clothing…. in the end, we sat down criss cross applesauce to talk about the rest of the story.  That’s where I broke down after the third time of telling the story….

You see, Jesus didn’t deserve any of that.   I told the kids that Jesus shouldn’t have been on the cross… I told them I should have been on that cross… lol, that really got their attention.   I explained to them, practically in tears, that Jesus bore my sin on the cross for me.  For all the sin I have, I am the one that deserves to die, not Christ.   But I told them of his great love for us, he CHOSE to die on the cross, to bear all of our sins, so that we don’t ever have to pay the punishment for it.  Talk about love.   Our PreK class got it the most of course.   I explained to them that nothing was require of us, except to believe that Jesus died for their sin.   No work is never required, all God asks us to do is believe that his Son is our Saviour.   Seems too easy, doesn’t it?

So as I stood there and reflected on it, I looked at that cross there in the hallway.  I imagined Jesus, on that cross, dying for me.  It’s too overwhelming to think of his sacrifice.   I don’t deserve it and neither do you.  But Jesus thinks we’re to die for, and he did.  I don’t know about you, but I am so grateful that he loves me that much.

So, on this Good Friday, take some time to reflect on your life.  Do you know Jesus Christ?  If you don’t, please feel free to email me in the Got Questions section.   It’s hard to wrap your mind around this kind of sacrifice, since it is hard to know if faced with this situation, what we would have done…. would you have died for your spouse?  your children?  your family or friends?   He chose to do it.  Out of love for us.   Thank you, Lord Jesus, for loving us so much.   Please help me, Lord, to help others to hear the Good News about you and eternal life with you and my Abba Father.  I love you, Lord.  Thank you is not enough, but it’s all I have.  Until we meet again……

 

A Reminder from God

I know that I usually write on women of the Bible, but today I decided to step outside the box to a man who we all know from the Old Testament, Elijah.   Elijah is one of my favorite prophets in the Bible because he reminds me of myself, even though I believe him to be a stronger man of God than I am….but I am hoping to fix that.

In 1 Kings 17, we are introduced to Elijah.  1 Kings 17:1  “Now Elijah the Tishbite, from Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.” Oh, yeah.  He’s the prophet that made it not rain for awhile.   Well, God made it not rain, Elijah was the messenger.   And of course, just as he said, it didn’t rain.  Not one drop.  Rivers and streams dried up, but God provided for Elijah during this time and kept him safe from the angry King Ahab and his evil wife, Jezebel.   After three years of no rain, God told Elijah “Go and present yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the land.”, so Elijah obeyed.  (1 Kings 18:1)   So Elijah met with King Ahab and told him that for too long he had worshipped Baal and had stopped obeying God’s commands.  He had a challenge for Ahab.   Send 450 of your prophets of Baal to build an altar, slaughter a bull to be sacrificed and Elijah would do the same.   Then they should call on their god to burn up the offering.  He let the prophets of Baal go first.   They prepared their bull to be sacrificed and called on the name of Baal from morning until noon.  They danced and called out to Baal.  Can you picture what that looked like?   I bet they did some crazy things!  Elijah even taunted them, “Shout louder!” he said. “Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.” (1 Kings 18:27)  These prophets shouted and cut themselves with swords (ouch!) until evening.   Still, no word from Baal.   The sacrifice was not burned.  (By the way, I LOVE the way he taunts them…maybe your god is traveling?  busy?  deep in thought?  SLEEPING?  bahahahahaha)

At that point, Elijah repaired the altar for God that was Jacob’s and his 12 descendants.  He dug a trench around it.  He arranged wood on it and cut his bull into pieces for the offering and laid it on the wood.  He then had the people fill 12 large jars of water and poured it on the offering and the wood.     Hold on a minute.  He just poured all this water on his offering.  There is no way that wet wood burns, right?   The water covered the offering and filled the trench around the altar!   “At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: “O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me, O LORD, answer me, so these people will know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.”  Then the fire of the LORD fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench. (1 Kings 18:36-38)   If I had witnessed this myself, I would have been staring at these events with my mouth hitting the floor.  WOW!   Isn’t God amazing?   Elijah obeyed all that God told him to do, and God showed up!   Well, not that he isn’t always there, but these people who were worshipping Baal saw God show up in a big way!

BUT

All you have to do is turn one page.  One page in the Bible, and this faithful man of God has a brain fart.  (Okay, someday in Heaven, I promise to apologize to Elijah for that one)

Her name was Jezebel, the prophet killer.  (1 Kings 19:1-2)   Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.”

Now, Elijah had been provided for by God when all the other prophets were being hidden or were killed by Jezebel.   God just showed up in a big way on Mt. Carmel.   So Elijah stood up with his chest stuck out and told her to come and get me…..

Nope.  He ran.   Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. That’s what the Bible says.   Top it off, he ran into the desert.   He ran for a whole day into the desert.   Elijah, where are you going??   Surely you know that God has more planned for you!  We’ve only known you for 2 chapters!   He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, LORD,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.”  Then he lay down under the tree and fell asleep.

Wow.   I wonder if he were depressed.   It seemed to him like he was the only prophet left in the world.   All the others were gone, and now they were after him.    Christian, have you ever felt like you were the only one left?   Have you ever felt despondent, hopeless, and this desperate?  Elijah was so down that all he wanted to do was sleep.  Jonah did the same thing while the ship he was sailing in was about to be destroyed by the storm.   But take my life?   Was Elijah serious?  If that was part of God’s plan, wouldn’t he be dead like the rest of the prophets?    It wasn’t part of God’s plan because God sent him an angel.  All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” He looked around, and there by his head was a cake of bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again. Yoo hoo!  Elijah!   That was an angel trying to strengthen you…not only your body, but your soul!  And you are sleeping again?   Here’s my confession time.  I am Elijah.   Lots of people I know look up to me as a woman of true faith, but I am Elijah.  I have seen great things that the Lord has done, but yet, I sleep, too.   Literally.   My son calls me narcoleptic.   He might be right.   Just today, he fell asleep on my bed after school.   When I woke him up for dinner, he literally said, “Hey, I pulled a Mom!”   I may be depressed somewhat, too lately.   I haven’t really been able to put my finger on why.   Is it because I feel like I am the only one at work who can do things correctly?  Probably.   Is it because when I see a miracle or when I see God’s hand in something, but then something else goes wrong, that I lose sight?   Yes, I am sure it is that now.   Like Elijah, I have seen some wonderful things that can only be God’s doing.   Yet, I run from him when something goes wrong.   And I sleep.  Literally.

The angel of the LORD came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. There he went into a cave and spent the night.

Just last week, a new problem at work hit…. I bet I had at least 3 employees that thought I was crazy … I was muttering, “Something for God to do… Something for God to do” over and over and over, to convince myself that I needed to give it up to Him.

I just love this next part.   God speaks to Elijah in that cave… “What are you doing here, Elijah?“   Elijah goes on to tell God, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.” I can hear God saying to him, “Be still, listen to me.”   The LORD said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.”

Okay, do you see the scene from Titanic when Rose is standing on the bow of the ship with her arms outstretched…..feeling the wind whipping though her hair and how exhilarating it is to be there?   Elijah goes up to the mountain…. Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake.  After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.  When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Sometimes, loved ones, we just need to take the time to be still and listen.   I tell the children I teach that yes, sometimes God speaks to us in a loud audible voice, but other times he is so quiet because he wants us to be still and listen for him.   Let all the noise leave us.  Leave all the stress behind us.  Just come to the feet of our Abba Father, and wait for him.   Be still, my child.   Daddy is here.

Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” God’s calm, quiet voice.  What is wrong, my child?

He replied, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”

Like the patient Father that he is, the LORD said to him, “Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram.  Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet.  Jehu will put to death any who escape the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death any who escape the sword of Jehu.  Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel-all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him.”

I have a plan my child….and like the scene in The Empire Strikes Back, when Luke goes off to face Darth Vader….Obi Wan Kenobi says, “That boy was our last hope.”, but Yoda responds with “No, there is another.”   Elijah was saying, I am your last hope, Lord…but God told him there were others….7,000 others!   Talk about lifting your spirits!

Please remember, when it looks like there is no hope, the Lord is your hope.   Be still and know that He is God.  He knows the beginning.  He knows the end.   He knows who wins.  He does.   Take some time to be still.

Be Still