God’s Love


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

John 16-18 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He is praying for us

I can’t begin to imagine how strange it would feel to find out that the leader of my nation was thinking about me right now, talking with his staff about my life and possibly about the challenges I’m facing.  Of course, the leaders of most countries have a general concern for the welfare of their constituents, the people who vote for them, but I’m talking about my leader zeroing in on little old me with his thoughts and concerns.  For this, my friends, I am not holding my breath, but it’s a fascinating notion.  It would be humbling, and actually frightening, to think that anyone with power and prestige would focus on me.  However… 

@ John 17
I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.” (20-21)  Forget presidents and powerful leaders! This is astounding to me! Jesus, the Son of God, present at creation, seated at the right hand of God the Father is thinking about me, and He is praying for me.  He is concerned about my welfare – and He is someone who can actually do something about it.

In His prayer, Jesus first prayed for His disciples who had followed Him while He was on earth, but added, “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me.”  As His followers and disciples today, we, too, are included in His prayer.  The prayer Jesus offered to God for us in Chapter 17 was not a multipurpose “God bless, so and so,” etc.  No, He had specific requests in mind.

Jesus prayed for our protection.  “I have given them your word. And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. They do not belong to this world any more than I do.” (14-16)  What in this world do we have to fear with Jesus praying for our protection?

Jesus prayed for holiness.  “Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth.  Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world. And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth.” (17-19) Jesus paid a great price for our holiness.  How could we ever trade it or dirty it for the pleasures of this world?  His truth sets us free from all that.

Jesus prayed for our unity. “I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.” (22-23)  He has given us the glory of God, the revelation of who God is, by revealing Himself to us.  This is our common bond, our unity.

As the body of Christ, we may differ in style of worship or formality, but we should let nothing we do hinder or damage our message of Christ crucified so that the world will know that God loves them.  How could we do anything to impede God’s perfect plan to save a lost world?

Jesus is praying for us!  “Sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.” (Romans 8:34)   “He lives forever to intercede with God on [our] behalf.” (Hebrews 7:25)  No matter what we’re facing today, perhaps feeling like no one cares enough to even pray for us, we can be assured that Jesus cares.  He is thinking about us, talking to God about us, zeroing in on us and praying for us.  So very humbling. 

Moving Forward:  One of my favorite songs, “He’s ever interceding to the Father for His children…Through Him you can reach the Father so bring Him all your heavy burdens…” (C. Gillman) 

Tomorrow @ Philemon

John 10-12 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He has provided the gateway into His presence

Even though the wonderful relationship between the Shepherd and His sheep expressed in Psalm 23 needs no affirmation, John 10 does just that.  David explained that relationship from the viewpoint of a sheep, and Jesus confirmed it from the viewpoint of the Shepherd.  I can’t help but give pause to John 10.  Here’s an excerpt from Intimate Moments with the Shepherd, Chapter 48, a visual impression from the Lord entitled,“The Gatekeeper.”

Night was advancing across the countryside as the sheep rushed past the Shepherd to the fold, tired and ready for rest.  As the Shepherd approached the fold, He found a bottleneck at the somewhat narrow gate as the sheep pushed and jostled to move through it.  The Shepherd moved to the middle of the gateway and stood, allowing the sheep to pass one by one on either of Him safely into the fold.

Although it would seem that His position at the gate would narrow the passageway even further, it actually brought order and safety to the flock.  As the sheep passed by Him one by one, the Shepherd, knowing each name as He did, was able to see who was there and who was not.

Why not have many gates and avoid all this chaos?  More sheep could enter more quickly and rest would come all the sooner to the weary flock. “‘I assure you, I am the gate for the sheep,’ [Jesus] said.” (John 10:7)  Why is the gate so narrow?  “Enter through the narrow gate.  For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.” (Matthew 7:13)  Why is there only one way into heaven?  Wouldn’t a loving God want everyone there?  “All others who came before me were thieves and robbers.   But the true sheep did not listen to them.  Yes I am the gate.  Those who come through me will be saved.” (John 10:8-9)  “I am the way, the truth and the life.  No one can come to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

None of our questions will change the facts.  The Lord our Shepherd is the only gateway into eternity with God and He was chosen by God to fulfill this role.  God, our creator, overflowing with great love for His lost creation, sent His Son, the only part of Him that our finite minds could ever understand, to be our gateway to Him.  All that is required of us is to accept this Savior and to follow Him to His Father.

Any other gate would be an insult and a mockery of God’s sacrificial gift to us.  “There is only one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and there is only one God and Father, who is over us all and in us all and living through us all.  However, he has given each one of us a special gift according to the generosity of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:4-7)  Paul, not known to mince words, laid it out plainly in this passage. An individual who believes someone or something created life other than God may take exception to this declaration.  Unfortunately, eternity will clear that up one day should that mindset continue.

Order was not the only benefit given to the flock by the Shepherd positioned as the gate.  Their Shepherd was a very personal shepherd, and He knew each one by name.  Because of this familiarity, the Shepherd would know immediately if one had failed to pass by Him, and He would search for the missing sheep.

Our God knows us by name, as well.  In fact, His knowledge of us is so personal that He actually has numbered the hairs on our head. (Matthew 10:30)  For those who are hair challenged this may not be such a big deal, but for most of us, it screams intimacy—intimacy with our Creator.  Although He will not force our devotion, He will pursue us and abundantly fill us with His love.  Bless the Gatekeeper!

Moving Forward: I’m so thankful for my intimate relationship with the Shepherd today.  I know Him and He knows me…intimate moments. 

Tomorrow @ 2 Timothy 3-4

Hosea 8-14 (NLT link)

Discover His heart: Because of His love for us, He does not willingly let us go

The value of a soul.  Well, we really can’t place a value on one’s soul – it’s priceless.  So much so that God sent His only Son to die in order to redeem that soul.  When we’ve been praying for someone for a long time, one who is resistant to the Lord, we’re often tempted to give up on that soul.  Hosea continued to reveal God’s abiding love for His people even though they had rejected Him.

“Oh, how can I give you up, Israel?  How can I let you go?…My heart is torn within me, and my compassion overflows.” (11:8)  In the previous three chapters, Hosea summarized Israel’s rebellion against God, and because of their continued rejection of God, they would harvest what they had planted (8:7)  But God’s heart was torn, “How can I let you go?

Hosea challenged those who had rejected God for so very long, “Bring your confessions, and return to the Lord.  Say to him, ‘Forgive all our sins and graciously receive us, so that we may offer you our praises.’” (14:2)  This, this is what God is longing to hear; and His response to heart-felt repentance is, “I will heal you of your faithlessness; my love will know no bounds, for my anger will be gone forever.”(4)

There are several individuals I have prayed for as long as I can remember, asking God to touch their lives and change their direction.  I must admit that I have gone through periods where I’ve just given up because it all seems so futile.  Then I read something like this, revealing God’s unbelievable capacity to love and to hope, and my commitment is renewed to keep praying, keep believing.  These dear ones I have been praying for may walk through some seeds they have sown, but if our pure and Holy God loves them so very deeply, who am I to give upon them? 

Moving Forward: My hope is renewed today as I continue praying for those who desperately need fellowship with the One who loves them so deeply. 

Tomorrow @ John 10-12

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