God’s Love


Ezekiel 31-36(NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He is the Shepherd who never fails us, never leaves us

@ Ezekiel 34
Shepherds and sheep – right up my alley!  While writing the devotional book, Intimate Moments with the Shepherd, I had the joy of visiting sheep farms where I met dozens of shepherds and hundreds of sheep.  I’m sure the shepherds enjoyed watching this city girl navigate the pastures and sheepfolds while learning about the nature of sheep.  My advice for anyone pursuing an adventure like this is to wear sturdy boots, enough said.

“What sorrow awaits you shepherds who feed yourselves instead of your flocks. Shouldn’t shepherds feed their sheep?…You have not taken care of the weak. You have not tended the sick or bound up the injured. You have not gone looking for those who have wandered away and are lost. Instead, you have ruled them with harshness and cruelty. So my sheep have been scattered without a shepherd, and they are easy prey for any wild animal.” (1-5)  Ezekiel revealed this prophecy to the kings, prophets and priests of Israel, the shepherds of Israel, who with their selfish, cruel behavior had neglected and abandoned the children of Israel.

We’ve followed the sinful acts of Israel’s leadership over the past several weeks recorded in Ezekiel, Leviticus and 1 and 2 Kings.  The common thread throughout the accounts of each evil leader was disobedience to God while following their own selfish desires to be powerful, prosperous and popular.  Whether in the church world or the secular world today, the pursuit of these same three selfish desires will cause a leader to neglect and abandon those being led.  The sheep become weak, lost and scattered, no longer the strong flock they once were and because of this, sorrow awaited the shepherds.

Thankfully, the shepherds I met on my journeys were not at all like those described in Chapter 34.  Their eyes sparkled as they talked about their pride and joy and as they shared the heritage of each sheep, their parents, siblings and offspring.  The shepherds knew them so well that many of the sheep were named according to their personalities.  They knew what grasses and grains each sheep enjoyed the most and recalled the injuries and diseases certain sheep had experienced.  They would never call their sheep dumb but agreed that they indeed were willful at times…hmmm.

“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 search for my lost ones who strayed away, and I will bring them safely home again… I will bandage the injured and strengthen the weak… And I will set over them one shepherd, my servant David [Jesus]. He will feed them and be a shepherd to them.” (11-16,23)   And He did just that!  He sent His Son, Jesus, the Shepherd of Psalm 23, the Good Shepherd of John 10, “I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me, just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice my life for the sheep.” (14-15)  He is the selfless Shepherd who sacrificed His life, the faithful Shepherd who will never leave us or forsake us, and He is the intimate Shepherd who knows us by name. 

Moving Forward: Standing firm today on the care and guidance of the Good Shepherd.  I know Him, and He knows me! 

Tomorrow @ Luke 21-22

Colossians 3-4 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart:  He has chosen us to be His holy people and expects us to act and look the part.

“Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.”  Mark Twain’s words seem to span the generations – now that’s a good writer!  Naked people may make an impression, but it’s not the right one to make.  Clothes make the man, dress for success and similar prevailing thoughts have generated a multi-billion dollar clothing industry.  The movers and shakers of our day proudly wear their labels – Gucci, Versace, Karan, Coach and Jimmy Choo – and they have paid dearly for them.  At one time I was involved in this industry, a real clothes horse as they say, but I changed my focus many years ago to a more eternal line of clothing.  Don’t get me wrong, I still love the feel of great fabric and a well-made garment, but really, one day, moths will eat them all! 

@ Colossians 3
“Since God chose you to be the holy people He loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” (13)  Paul was encouraging those who came to Christ to go ahead and get a new wardrobe, and who doesn’t like that idea.  It’s a matter of trading the old clothes of selfishness, anger, pride and impatience for mercy and kindness and the other fruit of the Spirit (Ephesians 4).

Layer them on and let them be the new you, and forgive everyone in the process.  Talk about the ultimate makeover!  And after we’ve worn our new duds for a while, it doesn’t hurt to go through our clothes occasionally and see what needs to be replaced. Sometimes we slip back into those old clothes of the past, thinking they’re still acceptable, and we discover in the process a little unforgiveness, pride or unkindness.  Allowing the Holy Spirit to examine our hearts will keep us spiritually dressed for success.

Then, just to complete the ensemble, “Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.” (14)  Protect all that new fine clothing with a big beautiful coat of love, and we will live in harmony with one another and show ourselves to be “the holy people He loves.”  These clothes really do make the man or woman!

I would be remiss if I failed to mention that additional clothing will be needed – an entire suit of armor, but that’s a topic for another day @Ephesians 6. 

Moving Forward: I’m dressing for success today, examining my wardrobe and making sure it will show me to be the holy woman He loves and has chosen me to be. 

Tomorrow @ Leviticus 16-18

Ephesians 1-3 (NLT Link)

Discover His heart: He lavishes His unfathomable love on His creation

The Louvre was closing in 30 minutes, and after a full day of exploring this mammoth museum, I was ready to call it a day when suddenly I realized that I had missed the prize of the Louvre!  In all our exploration of unbelievable paintings and artifacts, including ruins from Babylon, we had missed the masterpiece of the Museum, the pièce de résistance, The Mona Lisa!  However, it’s amazing what can happen when adrenaline kicks in.

Energy renewed, we flew through the vast exhibits and galleries and breathlessly arrived to view The Masterpiece, a rather smallish, glass-enclosed painting.  At first glance, I wondered what in this painting took Da Vinci seven years to paint!  But as I studied it, I, too, saw all the things that made it memorable – the eyes that seemed to follow me as I moved across the room, the mystery of the unmatched background, its subtle coloring and that enigmatic smile. What was she smiling about?!  Although many believe it was painted over a self-portrait, a makeover if you please, the end result is indeed a masterpiece. 

@ Ephesians 2
“God saved you by His grace when you believed.  And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago.”(8,10)  God took the old canvas of what I was and created a masterpiece.  Talk about the ultimate makeover!

Just as the one who posed for the Mona Lisa, I can’t take credit for His workmanship because it was His gift to me for simply believing in His grace. Unlike the Mona Lisa, we do not hang on a wall to be admired by all.  No, we are living masterpieces, possessing a greater purpose – to do good works. 

@ Ephesians 3
As His living masterpiece, and yes, we are a work in progress, our Creator paints into our lives from His unlimited palette all that is needed to complete us. “I pray that from His glorious, unlimited resources He will empower you with inner strength through His Spirit.  Then Christ will make His home in your hearts as you trust Him.  Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.  And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high and how deep His love is.  May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully.  Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.” (16,18-19)

How wide, how long, how high and how deep His love is!  His love is wide enough to reach around our entire world. His love is long enough to reach from here to eternity.  His love is high enough to reach every mountaintop experience.  And His love is deep enough to reach into the lowest valley we face. Through our relationship with Christ living in us, we come to understand in part this otherwise unfathomable love.  When others look at us and see the smile His love brings to us, His masterpiece, they may wonder what we are smiling about.  And of course, we will feel obliged to tell them. 

Moving Forward: Sometimes hard to believe yet true, I am His masterpiece, the creation of His workmanship.  When others in the traffic of life see my smile today, may it cause them to ask, “Now, just what is she smiling about?” 

Tomorrow @ Leviticus 1-3 (More than meets the eye!)

Isaiah 29-33 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He waits for us to come to Him so that He can show His love

With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, our thoughts are turned to those we love and the ways we will express our love.  Capitalists that we are, we have turned this sentiment into a multi-billion dollar enterprise – chocolate, flowers, diamonds…and again I say chocolate!  In step with this focus on love, television programming is filled with love stories to touch our hearts and to remind us of our own love story.

A familiar story is one of unrequited love where the dear young man desperately loves the young woman who seeks after the more dashing or successful men in her life and ignores his adoration.  Or another story is where the young woman, listening to her biological clock, becomes impatient in waiting for the right man to come along and almost marries Mr. Wrong.  Fortunately, with television movies of this nature, love sweeps in at just the right moment and everybody lives happily ever after. (Sigh) In our reading today, Isaiah talked about God’s unrequited love for an impatient nation, a love deeper than Hollywood could ever imagine. 

@ Isaiah 30
“Only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved.  In quietness and confidence is your strength.  But you would have none of it.  You said, ‘No, we will get our help from Egypt.  They will give us swift horses for riding into battle.’” (15-16)  As the advancing Assyrian army threatened Judah, God asked them to rest in Him, and in due time He would deliver them, but Judah was impatient.  Time was ticking away, and they considered an alliance with Egypt. This response reminds me of an impatient young woman, her biological clock and unfortunate alliances.

“So the Lord must wait for you to come to him so he can show you his love and compassion.  For the Lord is a faithful God.  Blessed are those who wait for his help.” (18)   Here was a compassionate God waiting for Judah to fall in love with Him, to stop looking to others for love and protection.  Unrequited love.

If they would once again fall in love with God and not turn to others, He would love and protect them beyond their wildest dreams. “He will be gracious if you ask for help. He will surely respond to the sound of your cries…he will still be with you to teach you… Your own ears will hear him.  Right behind you a voice will say, ‘This is the way you should go,’ whether to the right or to the left.” (19-21)   Their gracious God who loved them so dearly would answer, teach and guide if they would only turn to Him, forsaking all others.

And what a great message for us in the climate that we live in today!  Instead of turning in panic to unknown sources for our answers and help, God asks us to patiently wait for Him to respond to our hearts cries.  He will be gracious if we will ask for help.  He will respond to our cries and teach us along the way as we wait on Him.  He will direct our steps on the very best path and at the perfect moment in time.

When we are tempted to turn to others first for help, He waits for us to come to Him so that He can show His love and compassion to us and be gracious to us.  A sovereign God, so full of love, created us to be the recipients of this great love – He only has eyes for us!  How can we resist so great a love?  How can we make Him wait? 

Moving Forward:  As I patiently wait on Him today, I’ll listen for His voice right behind me, directing my path.  I love Him so. 

Tomorrow @ Matthew 14-16

Song of Solomon 3-4 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He planned intimacy for us to enjoy

Tom and I recently celebrated our 44rd wedding anniversary.  We thought we were really in love the day we got married, but when I think about our love today and how much it has grown over the years I realize our early love was just a drop in the bucket of what it would become.  Our young couple in Song of Solomon has just embarked on their marriage journey; and as can be expected, it is with great excitement. 

@ Song of Solomon 4
You are beautiful, my darling, beautiful beyond words. Your eyes are like doves behind your veil. Your hair falls in waves, like a flock of goats winding down the slopes of Gilead. Your teeth are as white as sheep, recently shorn and freshly washed.” (1-2) Solomon, you sweet talker!  Well, he started out right – every woman wants to be called beautiful, but the references to farm animals are lost to me.  For the shepherdess woman, however, these words held their own special charm.  Solomon wooed his new bride with compliments, and compliments are never lost on anyone.

“Come with me from Lebanon, my bride, come with me from Lebanon. Come down from Mount Amana…” (8)  The young man invited the young bride to come away with him as they started their home together and asked her to leave all the beautiful mountains and places she may have known in the past that held meaning for her.  This was the beginning of their marriage as Jesus described in Matthew 19:5-6, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh?’ So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”  Leave and cleave, one flesh, forever – this is God’s plan for us.

I must admit that even today, after all these years together, when I catch a glimpse of my husband across a crowded store or room and our eyes meet, my heart often does a little thing.  I’m not exactly sure what it is, but take it from me, it’s all good.  I’m fairly certain that Solomon understood it when he said, “You have captured my heart, my treasure, my bride. You hold it hostage with one glance of your eyes.” (9)

We may feel somewhat like voyeurs as we read the passionate words of this young couple so desperately in love, but the love language they share and the commitment they profess should only serve to enrich our personal relationships to be what God has intended.  Then, when we think of God’s love for us that is really too intense, too deep to be contained in simple words such as these, we should be challenged to come away with Him.  May we be inspired to leave all the things familiar to us in exchange for a time of intimacy with Him because His deep love has captured our hearts. 

Moving Forward:  I’m exceedingly blessed by His love and by his love today and so very thankful for both. 

Tomorrow @ Revelation 7-11

Song of Solomon 1-2 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He satisfies all our longings

“Are the stars out tonight? I don’t know if it’s cloudy or bright, ‘cause I’ve only got eyes for you…”  This old love song comes to mind every time I read the love story of the couple in Song of Solomon.  What a delightful portrayal of the passion and purity of love between a man and a woman!  Solomon tested our obedience with the Proverbs, he challenged our minds with the philosophy and questioning of Ecclesiastes and now he delights our hearts in Song of Solomon.  This book is not only an intimate love story about the covenant between a man and wife, but it’s also a beautiful portrayal of God’s eternal covenant with mankind and Christ’s commitment to His bride.

“Kiss me and kiss me again, for your love is sweeter than wine.  How fragrant your cologne; your name is like its spreading fragrance,” (1:2-3) said the Shulamite woman.  From the very beginning, we understand that the Song includes the passion of love.  In fact, at one time or another, it expresses three of the four meanings of love recently discussed (December 3 @ I John 4-5).  God intends for us to enjoy all forms of love, and here the young woman spoke of eros, or the pleasure of love.  We can’t separate ourselves from the desire of this love because it is God’s gift to us to enjoy, but through the Song, the young woman delivered a challenge to the chorus of women around her.

“Promise me, O women of Jerusalem, by the gazelles and wild deer, not to awaken love until the time is right.” (2:7)  Throughout scripture, especially the writings of Solomon, men are confronted with the challenge to remain pure, but now the gauntlet is passed to the women.  This love is reserved for a permanent, monogamous marriage, and what a challenge for women today who are confronted at every turn with the enticement of premarital or extramarital sex.  For men and women alike, we will never experience the excited passion of Song of Solomon that God intends for us by diluting its intensity with lustful substitutions of any kind.  They only cause us to crave more and more and never satisfy what only God can give when He divinely blesses our marriage bed.

“I have compared thee, O my love, to a company of horses in Pharaoh’s chariots,” responds the King. (1:9,KJV)  I must admit that being compared to a company of horses is not really the love language I would want to hear at this point; but in fact, it is one of the greatest endearments a husband can express, outside of his wife’s ravishing beauty, of course.  With the term love in this verse, the King declared that his beloved was his friend and companion, the one he was familiar with, a love that was phileo.  Along with all the other joys of marriage, my husband and I are best friends, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

“He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love.” (2:4) For the first time in the Song, the Hebrew equivalent to agape is used for love, the selfless, pure love from God.  The King’s banner represented a covering, a protection, an intimacy for the one he possessed and who possessed him, and God’s love for us is all this and more.  Be still my heart…

In response to our reading today, my heart is full of love for my husband and for my God who has divinely blessed our marriage covenant.  I can’t help but thank Him for the fulfillment of His love covenant with mankind in the coming of His Son to redeem us.  The joys of love while here on earth are but a foretaste of the perfect love we will share with Him through all eternity. I can only imagine. 

Moving Forward:  I’m thankful for my husband – thrilled and protected by his love and selfless commitment.

Tomorrow @ Revelation 1-6

I John 4-5 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: God is love

My husband performs a beautiful wedding ceremony for young couples.  What I enjoy most about it is his challenge to the bride and groom about the kind of love on which they should base their marriage.  The English language has one word for love.  We love each other, we love chocolate and we love sports.  Many other languages have several words that differentiate the type of affection being expressed.

In his wedding ceremony, Tom explains the four Greek words for love and how they apply to a marriage.  Eros is a sensual or passionate love and is conditional on how someone makes us feelPhileo is a friendship love and is conditional on similarity in interests or direction.  Storgē is the love shared within a family based on the family ties.  While these forms of love are valid, they are all conditional on something, and when the conditions no longer exist, so often neither does the love. 

Agape is unconditional, supernatural love that exists regardless of flaws and weaknesses in others, regardless of affection, regardless of love offered in return.  This love is higher and more perfect than any love that man can achieve by himself.  This love is God’s pure, selfless unaffected love, and John writes all about it today. 

@ I John 4
“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.” (9-10)  In verses 7-21, John expressed the agape form of love 27 times, and knowing this helps us to understand that the love John is talking about is not love that we can achieve through our own desire or works.  We need God’s help.

“God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.  And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the Day of Judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world. Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.” (16-18)  As we follow the Lord and become more like Him, our love becomes more like His – pure, selfless and unaffected by the behavior of others.  It was God’s love that allowed Jesus and Stephen to forgive those who were killing them.  We won’t live with fear of man, with fear of the future or with fear of judgment when we are filled with God’s agape.

The more we know Him and surrender every part of our life to Him, the more our human love changes to His perfect love, “our love grows more perfect.”  It is through His perfect love that we are able to love others with the pure, selfless love of I Corinthians 13, not only in marriage but in all of our relationships.  “We love each other because He first loved us.” (19)  If we want to know how to love others, love others the way He loves us!

Moving Forward:  May I grow closer to His perfect love today and reflect His love to all those I meet. 

Tomorrow @ Deuteronomy 23-25

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