Valentine’s Day

“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 (NLT)

My birthday parties when I was young all had a Valentine’s theme. Since my birthday is only three days before Valentine’s this always made sense to me. Therefore I now get super excited when, the day after Christmas, I see Valentine’s coming out. I love the spring flowers, the heart shapes, the classroom valentines, all of it makes me smile.

Since I became an adult, however, Dale and I either celebrate one or the other, not both. I usually want to celebrate my birthday because I know the flowers that he would get me on my birthday are cheaper than the ones available afterwards. It bothers me that the cost of everything goes up for one day. Today as I went to the store, I saw men of all ages carrying bouquets of flowers. As I placed my purchases in the car I watched as an older man parked behind me filled out cards and put them in the bouquets he had bought. I smiled at the sweet gesture.

Tomorrow I will spend the bulk of the day in the kitchen. I am planning a nice dinner for the two of us. I am looking forward to making a nice meal as a gesture of my love for Dale. Of course it won’t be much different from other evenings where I cook, and honestly, every time I cook it’s an act of love for him.

When I think of this day, many memories flood my mind. They are sweet memories and I smile as I reminisce.

There is one valentine I cherish. I didn’t receive it on February 14th, it came on April 18th. That day I received the greatest gift ever given to mankind. I received the gift of salvation.

God gave His only son to die for me. Jesus thought of me on the cross. As a parent, (especially the past few weeks), I agonize when my daughters are going through difficult times. Neither of them has come to the point of giving their life for others. The Father in heaven watched as Jesus died for us. He watched as Jesus took on the sin of all mankind. This is the ultimate act of love. It is the greatest Valentine gift ever given.

A White Stone

17 “Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches. To everyone who is victorious I will give some of the manna that has been hidden away in heaven. And I will give to each one a white stone, and on the stone will be engraved a new name that no one understands except the one who receives it.” Revelation 2:17 (NLT)

In Bible Study this week we talked about this verse. In particular, we talked about the white stone.

White stones were considered a covenant stone. A promise. A gift. In a court of law a white stone meant not guilty. These white stones were given to victors in an athletic event. This stone allowed them to participate in the victory parties held after the games. People who were honored were given a white stone with a message written on it. The white stone is a wonderful thing. When we are called to heaven as the Bride of Christ, we will receive a white stone. This stone will have a new name written on it, that only the Lord and I will understand.

After talking about this stone, I passed around some white stones I found in our driveway. This was something tangible to hold onto and remind ourselves of. The stones I passed around were not smooth. Some had some variations of colors in them. I had bleached the stones to get the dirt from the driveway off of them.

When we accept our Lord as our Savior, we are made white as snow (bleached) by the shed blood of our Lord. When we meet Him, as His Bride, we will receive a smooth and glorious stone, although now, our stone is not perfect. We are still preparing ourselves to receive that stone, so we have a few rough edges and some variations deep in us.

But, someday those rough edges will be made smooth. Our only color will be white . We will be able to meet our Bridegroom, Jesus, where He will gift us with a covenant stone. This stone will indeed be special as He will honor us as only He can. The stone we receive will have an intimate name that only the Lord and I will understand.

What I think this may be, in my limited knowledge is an endearing name, that will describe our journey of faith and life. I love how a simple white stone that we often trample under our feet is a symbol of a precious gift from our Lord. I don’t think I will view them in the same way again.

Isaiah 7:14 ~ God with Us

 “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Listen carefully, the virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and she will call his name Immanuel (God with us).” Isaiah 7:14 (AMP)

This verse I love. It brings comfort to me, I can’t explain the calm I feel when reading it. It is often read during Advent, the time leading up to Christmas, but it is a promise from Father God that we know was fulfilled with Christ’s birth.

Emmanuel came to earth. He left the glory of heaven, the glory of being with Father and Holy Spirit and became man. He left His home, with all the infinite power and glory and became an infant. An infant that needed to be fed, changed, and clothed. He had to depend on Mary and Joseph, two He created.

Jesus was here on earth, He was with us. He experienced all that we learned as children, skinned knees, colds, the heat of the summer, the cold of winter, hunger, excitement. He felt all that we feel. God with us.

How incredible that the God of the Universe humbled Himself and became man. How incredible for us, that He did. Emmanuel, God with us, while He was on earth as He is now.

For Us, For Me

“But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins.
He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed.  All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all.” Isaiah 53:5-6 (NLT)

The end of this week we commemorate the events leading to Easter.

Jesus left Heaven and all of it’s glory to come to Earth. He did not have to do this. God the Father created this Earth, He (the Trinity) could have decided that they were done with this creation and with a word ended this whole thing. They decided differently,giving us a pure example of love in parenting, giving our children another try, God chose to send His Son to Earth, making a way for us to discover redemption and relationship.

Jesus came to earth as an infant. He was human, as we are. He cried as an infant, cut teeth, had childhood ailments, ear infections, fevers, colds, and flu. He skinned His knees, stubbed His toes, most likely got sunburned. He came to experience everything we do as humans.

He was human and God. This boggles my brain when I think of it. Have the power of God Almighty and yet choose to be human and restrained in these bodies. He didn’t do it grudgingly, He did it willingly. That humbles me.

On Thursday night we remember the Last Supper. Jesus brought his friends and followers together. He knew one would betray Him, and yet Jesus celebrated with this man. He broke bread with him, He included him. I couldn’t do that. If I knew someone was going to stab me in the back, I would keep that person at a distance and have no fellowship with them. Not Jesus, He feasted with Judas.

After the feast, Jesus went off to pray, His disciples slept off the meal, even after hearing that Jesus was going to be betrayed. What did Jesus pray? He prayed for us. He prayed for our protection. He prayed that we would continue in God. He thanked Father God for us, for me. (John 17)

When we have an appointment like a dentist or surgery there is a feeling of panic. We dread going. We ask for prayer. We warily approach the time of what we feel is going to cause us agony.

Not many of us go through what Jesus did. Yes, people around the world have been persecuted and martyred, but for the most part, we have no idea what that agony is like. We panic at the sound of a drill, or the sight of a needle.

Jesus knew. He knew what was about to happen. He knew He would be brought in front for a mock trial. He would be beaten. Not like what we see in movies, He was beaten, think about a piece of meat we have tenderized with a meat mallet. How that meat is stretched and mutilated. That is what Jesus did for us, for me.

That was just the beginning. He was crowned with thorns. Not those jiggers we get from roses or brush. Thorns long enough to piece through His skull. He did it for us. He did it for me.

We complain when we have to carry a bunch of groceries up stairs and we think it is so inconvenient and hard. Jesus carried His cross. With a pounding bloody head, and His flesh torn apart. He did it for us. He did it for me.

All of this sounds terrible. I know I haven’t begun to truly describe what He went through. After all of this, Jesus was nailed to a cross. His flesh, once more thrust with pain and agony. When we first went to Japan, we had an English language paper delivered to our home. One day, I opened the paper to see photos of several people crucified. Crucifixion was still allowable then. I stared at the photos in disbelief. They were gruesome and I was stunned. Jesus allowed Himself to be crucified, because of us, because of me.

“This is the kind of life you’ve been invited into, the kind of life Christ lived. He suffered everything that came his way so you would know that it could be done, and also know how to do it, step-by-step. He never did one thing wrong, Not once said anything amiss. They called him every name in the book and he said nothing back. He suffered in silence, content to let God set things right. He used his servant body to carry our sins to the Cross so we could be rid of sin, free to live the right way. His wounds became your healing. You were lost sheep with no idea who you were or where you were going. Now you’re named and kept for good by the Shepherd of your souls.” 1 Peter 2:21-25 (MSG)

Today I have had my mind filled with the sacrifice Jesus made for us, for me. Simply saying, ‘Thank You, Lord’ just isn’t making me feel better. I know He freely did all of that because of love. Forty-five years ago this Monday I asked Christ to come into my life and save me from my sins. I did this with Dale as we knelt beside our bed. There was no altar call or music leading us to the decision, it was our Lord, gently poking and prodding us to come to Him, freely. We did. The past forty five years I have tried to put into words what the remembrance of Christ’s death has meant to me. All I can say is He did it for us. He did it for ME.