Happy Valentine’s Day!

I first published this here on February 14, 2014. And here it is again because I believe it is so appropriate for this day that’s all about love.

The other day I got to thinking about Valentine’s Day and how it’s supposed to be all about love. 1 John 4:19 immediately came to mind, and I knew this was to be my message about  love … God’s immense love … for us.

1John4-19

The Dimensions of God’s Love

We love because he first loved us. —1 John 4:19

We have all been told how much God loves us. That fact is unquestionable, especially as we look around and see the evidence of His love in all of His creation. God’s love for us can be described as multi-dimensional, so let’s look at the different ways God loves us—the Breadth, Depth, Height and Length of His love—by examining the universe He created.

Breadth

When a man and a woman get married, they usually exchange wedding bands. If you look closely at a wedding band, you cannot see where it begins or where it ends. This circle of metal is therefore used as a symbol of unending love between husband and wife. In the same way, a circle represents eternity.

That is how I think of God’s all-encompassing love for us. I visualize the circle that His arms form to surround the earth. This thought both amazes and comforts me. I am amazed because it shows how big God is. I can’t imagine any human who can “hug” the whole world. And I am also comforted because I enjoy being hugged. But the true illustration of the breadth of God’s love is found in Scripture:

ByGrace…because of his great love for us,
God, who is rich in mercy,
made us alive with Christ
even when we were dead in transgressions—
it is by faith [we] have been saved.
—Ephesians 2:4-5

He loved us “even when we were dead in transgressions.” What a truly astonishing thing!

Eternity is a difficult concept for us to understand, but God has it all under control. He loves us so much that He can’t stand the thought of being apart from us, so He has provided us with a way to spend eternity with Him:

John3-16--NumbersOfHope

For God so loved the world
that he gave his one and only Son,
that whoever believes in him
shall not perish but have eternal life.
—John 3:16

The breadth of God’s love for us is that huge. He made sure that we have a way to be with Him forever—in other words, for eternity. Trying to figure out what eternity could be like is the same as trying to count all the stars in the sky. It is impossible!

I like to imagine what it will be like to spend the rest of eternity with God, but I’m sure my limited picture of heaven falls far short of the truth. All I know for sure is that:

John1-12

“…to all who received him,
to those who believed in his name,
he gave the right to become children of God.
—John 1:12

Depth

The Grand Canyon ranges in height from 9,000 feet at the North Rim all the way down to 2,400 feet at the Colorado River. Those of us here in the Southwest know that there are no easy ways to get to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. In fact, portions of the Colorado River are barely visible from above because of the depth of the canyon. Now that’s what I call deep, but it is still measurable.

We read in Romans that:

Romans5-8

…God demonstrates his own love for us in this:
While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Since we now have been justified by his blood,
how much more shall we be saved
from God’s wrath through him!
For if, when we were God’s enemies,
we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son,
how much more, having been reconciled,
shall we be saved through his life!
—Romans 5:8-10

The love God has for us is so deep that it is immeasurable. It is impossible for me to imagine something that cannot be measured. Everything that surrounds us can somehow be measured, whether by weight or volume. But not God’s love. It is bottomless and keeps going on and on to infinity. Even though we don’t deserve any of it, He loves us that much anyway.

We hear a lot these days about “unconditional love.” The truth is that the only true, unconditional love we will ever receive is from God, Who loves us with a pure love found nowhere else. How better to explain God’s love for us in spite of all our sins and shortcomings? The fact that God loves me in spite of myself is the ultimate proof of the depth of His love.

Height

Have you read about those who have succeeded in climbing Mount Everest? This 29,035-foot mountain range is the highest in the world and the most difficult to climb. There are many people who attempt this climb more than once in the hopes of finally being able to complete the challenge of making it to the summit.

I cannot imagine being at a point 29,035 feet above sea level. That is so high that one’s breathing becomes quite labored and therefore requires extra oxygen. But that is still not as high as the heavens. In Ephesians, Paul gives us a taste of what it will be like when we’re in heaven:

Eph2-6

And God raised us up with Christ
and seated us with him
in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.
—Ephesians 2:6

There is no way we could ever understand the height of such “heavenly realms.”

I love knowing that those of us who have accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord will be up in heaven with God forever, seated with Him and serving Him in all His honor and glory. Even though we’ll be higher than we’ve ever been, we will not suffer the usual effects of high altitude such as headaches, nosebleeds or labored breathing. God has made sure of that. I believe that heaven will be the most comfortable place ever!

Col3-1-4

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ,
set your hearts on things above,
where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.
Set your minds on things above,
not on earthly things.
For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.
—Colossians 3:1-3

Length

It is estimated that right now the universe is at least 46 billion light years in radius. My puny human mind cannot comprehend such a measurement. Look up at the billions of stars in the night sky and then try to understand the lengths to which God will go for us. He could have designed just an adequate place for us to live, but did He? No. He chose to give us a wonderful universe filled with beautiful planets and stars. It stretches on and on, just like His immense love for us.

The daytime sky and the night sky are the same, yet very different. During the day we cannot see the stars because of the light of the sun. At night, the stars and moon illuminate the dark sky. When we are in heaven, things will be greatly changed.

NASB_Revelation_22-5

There will be no more night.
They will not need the light of a lamp
or the light of the sun,
for the Lord God will give them light.
And they will reign for ever and ever.
—Revelation 22:5

No more night? Really? What will that be like? And imagine not needing a lamp to read a book.

Being part of such an exciting eternity with God requires only this:

  • recognize that we are sinners and be truly sorry for our sins
  • believe in Jesus Christ as God’s Son and our Savior
  • acknowledge that He died on the cross at Calvary and that His death paid the penalty for our sins
  • and trust that He rose from the dead on our behalf so that we might live forever with Him—and all because of the length of God’s love for us.

1Tim1-15-17

Paul related this aspect to Timothy:

But for that very reason
I was shown mercy so that
in me, the worst of sinners,
Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience
as an example for those
who would believe on him and receive eternal life.
—1 Timothy 1:16

His “unlimited patience.” How I love those words! They remind me that even though I so often lose patience with the things and people in my life—and myself—God never loses patience with me. His patience is eternal!

Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible,
the only God,
be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
—1 Timothy 1:17

Beloved, on yet another Valentine’s Day I am so glad we have a God Who shows His immense love for us in so many ways, in spite of our sinful selves! How amazing is that?

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The Story of Joy and Sorrow

Reblogged from Lynn Mosher: Encouraging the Heart-Uplifting the Soul.

This wonderful post from my bloggy friend, Lynn Mosher, goes along with my JOY and FAITH themes this year. Lynn has a special way of making a story come alive, and I know you’ll appreciate this as much as I do.

Thank you, Lynn, for allowing me to share this with my readers.

The Story of Joy and Sorrow

Photo credit: Lynn Mosher

Photo credit: Lynn Mosher

Once upon a time, twin sisters, Joy and Sorrow, lived in the same house with their Father, whose name was Comfort.

Joy skipped along her way enjoying every moment, savoring the sights and sounds of her everyday life, as her heart overflowed with praise and thanksgiving to her Father.

Sorrow, on the other hand, was somewhat defiant, rebelling against her Father, grumbling because of the pain in her life.

Nevertheless, they both experienced the same trials and heartaches, and yet, they each went about their day singing a different tune.

Read the rest here.

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The ONE Who Holds the Future

None of us knows what the future holds
but we do know the ONE
who holds the future.

Romans8-18-19-WhoHoldsTheFuture--AMP

I consider that our present sufferings
are not worth comparing with the glory
that will be revealed in us.

For the creation waits in eager expectation
for the children of God to be revealed.
—Romans 8:18-19

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The Saga of the Four Chaplains

72 years ago today, on February 3rd, 1943, four Army chaplains committed an amazing act of faith, courage and bravery that has never been forgotten.

Although the Distinguished Service Cross and Purple Heart were later awarded posthumously Congress wished to confer the Medal of Honor but was blocked by the stringent requirements which required heroism performed under fire. So a posthumous Special Medal for Heroism, The Four Chaplains’ Medal, was authorized by Congress and awarded by the President on January 18, 1961.

It was never given before and will never be given again. 

This story is definitely worth reading!

On Feb. 3, at 12:55 a.m., a periscope broke the chilly Atlantic waters. Through the cross hairs, an officer aboard the German submarine U-223 spotted the Dorchester.

The U-223 approached the convoy on the surface, and after identifying and targeting the ship, he gave orders to fire the torpedoes, a fan of three were fired. The one that hit was decisive–and deadly–striking the starboard side, amid ship, far below the water line.

Read the entire story here.

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Read the Word of God

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Reading the Word of God for yourselves,
reading it rather than notes upon it,
is the surest way of growing in grace.
Drink of the unadulterated milk of the Word of God,
and not of the skim milk.
—Charles Spurgeon

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Cataclysm Missions International

 I am so blessed and honored to announce that I will be a blogger for Cataclysm Missions, International. This great venture was recently started by my friend, Nikole Hahn, of The Relevant Christian (TRC), an online magazine for which I write. Here’s the official announcement:

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

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Welcome Anna Popescu! http://wp.me/p5BBMm-3b

Please welcome our newest addition to CMI. Her name is Anna Popescu. You can read more here: http://cataclysmmissionsintl.com/about/writers/.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

CMI’s Mission Statement:

Real life + Online Life = One Voice
To connect the online world with local churches
and local churches to the online world.

To focus on the story of missions
and to equip and educate the Christian to engage the culture.

Beloved, if you would like to be part of a ministry to share the faith, hope and joy you have in Jesus Christ with people all over the world, go to the CMI site and read the various volunteer position descriptions.    

Meanwhile, stay tuned for my first blog post there.

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Cataclysm Missions International

Beloved, this post is about a project I think is very needed right now. I am sharing this for Nikole Hahn, a friend of mine who is the editor of The Relevant Christion” (TRC), an online magazine for which I write.
 
Nikki recently started a new venture called Cataclysm Missions International (CMI). The mission statement is:
…..
Real Life + Online Life = One Voice
To connect the online world with local churches
and local churches to the online world.
To focus on the story of missions and to equip and educate
the Christian to engage the culture.
…..
Please forward this to your Christian friends who you believe would be interested in either passing it on to their Christian friends, or who might be interested in becoming a part of this great venture, or both! Also, if any of you are interested in becoming involved with CMI, the contact info is below.

CMI-Graphic

 

Please consider becoming a part of CMI. Also, please feel free to share this post with your friends. Thank you!

Copyright © 2015 Cataclysm Missions International. All rights reserved.

Cataclysm Missions International 
P.O. Box 3175 
Chino Valley, AZ 86323 

http://www.cataclysmmissionsintl.com/

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Joy Inexpressible

As I wrote in JOY and FAITH earlier this week, I will be writing about JOY and FAITH during 2015. I am purposely capitalizing those two words, and if you want to think of it as my shouting them, that’s exactly right! How can we feel true JOY or FAITH without thinking of them in such a huge way that we want to shout it out to the world?

Today I’d like to share with you another of Pat Knight’s devotionals. She has written about JOY many times in her writing career, and I always appreciate what the Holy Spirit has given her to share about this important subject.

Joy Inexpressible

By Patricia Knight

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 Joy!

What a small word for such a giant effect it creates in others and us. “Joy inexpressible and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8) is how our Guidebook, the Bible, assumes is the attitude and method of every Christian. Joy is dynamic and ready to do its work. Joy can flow out from one person to another or it can rush in to fill a life.

The exchange of wedding vows, the birth of a child, the acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord of one’s life are times when joy knows no bounds. It overflows, gushes, whirls, either causing an action or a reaction. We cannot ignore joy. And, who would want to disregard such an important emotion?

The times we remember best in our lives are the joyous occasions, those that offer us great delight and gladness of heart.

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“The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy” (Psalms 126:3). “Filled with joy” is not a phrase I hear used often, but it sure does sound like a good idea to be infused, saturated, slathered with a good dose of joy. Imagine the result if we were all living joy-filled lives. I rarely hear about it, though I have heard of the opposite—”to be filled with anger.” I can even envision that anger at work, as a person’s face reddens and his voice and actions become irrational. As Christians, we are commanded to have joy. There’s no preference of when to have or when to share it. Joy must be an integral part of our being, with instant preparedness for sharing.

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:4-7). Notice how joy, thanksgiving, and prayer have all been interlocked in this command. For us to have joy, we need to be thankful. If we follow God’s command to give thanks in all things, we will be joyful people. If we have joy in our own lives, then we yearn to give it away. Living in perpetual communication with our Lord, our supply will never be depleted.

“Let your gentleness be known to all.” God means all-inclusive, no matter to whom, in whatever conditions and circumstances we find ourselves, and for all reasons. The word “all” can be a little tricky. It is a small, three-letter word that can easily be ignored. It isn’t a difficult word to understand, but applying its meaning to our everyday life presents a challenge. In my personal life, I have struggled with expressing joy and thanks for constant pain. There doesn’t seem to be a purpose to it. That’s when God asks me to be thankful and trust Him enough to be joyful regardless of my life’s circumstances. I have to acknowledge that before the pain enters my body, God has approved it and because it is part of His plan for my life, I can thank Him that His will is being done and be joyful in His decisions for my life.

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“The ransomed of the Lord will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will overtake them and sorrow and sighing will flee away” (Isaiah 51:11).  To be “overtaken by joy”? That is what God says. What would result if all of us took a new approach to joy? I suggest that we all begin a new day with an abundant, heaped-to-the-top-and-running-over package of joy.

Perhaps that sounds a little fantastic, not really credible. If God is in charge, and He tells us that “all things are possible with God” (Mark 10:27), then being overtaken with joy is possible. I want to be overtaken with joy so that there is no room for conflicting negative emotions. Nothing can quench the joy. If it were God’s wish that we be completely consumed with joy, then why do we find ourselves moping about at times, bemoaning our situation? God may wonder too. If He has given the instruction, He will also give the strength and power to accomplish what He has commanded.

“For God did not give us a spirit of timidity,
but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline”

(2 Timothy 1:7).

God not only fills us with joy but also adds a sweet fragrance to that joy.

“But thanks be to God,
who also leads us in triumphal procession in Christ
and through us spreads everywhere
the fragrance of the knowledge of Him.
For we are to God the aroma of Christ
among those who are being saved
and those who are perishing”

(2 Corinthians 2: 14,15).

“The fragrance of the knowledge of Him.” Now, that should cause us to smile. So much revenue is spent on cosmetics, many for the purpose of erasing deep frown lines that have formed over the years. Smiling takes substantially fewer muscles than frowning. Did you ever practice smiling in front of a mirror? It provides a light-hearted experience, putting a smile on your face, and one in your heart.

There are some extremely expensive fragrances on the market for which both women and men pay lofty amounts. As aromatic as these may be, there is no sweeter fragrance than that emitted by Jesus. We “are to God the aroma of Christ” among people being won to Him. What a privilege and a responsibility! We need not think we have to spread His joy alone. God manufactures it and gives it to us, the most expensive fragrance in the world, bought with the highest sacrifice in heaven and on earth. Then, God will help us distribute it to the destitute in heart. The source is readily available, renewable, and inexhaustible.

FruitOfTheSpirit--AMP

Joy is one of the “fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22). In a long line of attributes, joy is second in line, snuggling right up close with love. We are told to have joy, ALWAYS! Have we been neglecting something important in our lives? We need possession of the immediate joy that sparks a flame of excitement plus the persistent joy that produces a daily expression of happiness and thanksgiving.

Worship flows naturally out of a thankful, joyful heart.

Praise, song and love all emerge from a heart previously primed with joy.

When we are consumed with joy, there is no room for negativism. As we are caught up in serving God and men with a happy heart, we are celebrating God and the joy He places there for us. When we share with others, our joy multiplies and carries with it a sweet aroma. People are encouraged.

Phil2-14-sm--AMPWe are commanded to do everything without complaining or grumbling (Philippians 2:14). I have never learned how to express joy while complaining, nor do I believe God intends for us to combine the two.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds” (James 1:12). Choices are made from the attitudes we form. No matter how negative our lives appear, no one can force us to match it with a negative attitude. Even though we tend to blame others for our problems, we as Christians are to rise above our circumstances. We choose our responses. We also choose joy. Though joy is free flowing and available, we have to embrace it for our personal life style for it to become an effective tool for us. An outpouring of our inner joyfulness is our gift to others.

In my earlier career, I worked at a medical facility where a friend of mine was later hired in the social services department. Martha was the most effervescent, enthusiastic and happy woman I had ever met. She possessed a beautiful smile and used it unsparingly, with a deep, engaging laugh. Other workers were aloof toward her and later shared with me that they didn’t trust Martha and were suspicious of her. They reasoned that she was too happy and smiled too much. I am still shocked by their logic. The unhappy, insecure workers were not going to befriend a newcomer who embodied joy and confidence. Studies have proven the power of a positive attitude in achieving the healing and recovery process. Martha understood the benefit of permeating her life and profession with joy.

Each day we have a predetermined amount of energy. When our supply of energy is used positively and creatively, we contribute to the joy in our lives and in the lives of others. If we look for laughter and sunshine wherever we go, we are able to increase the joy that we discover. Joy shared is multiplied. Joy restrained is limited. God commands that we prioritize joy. Look for the brilliance in the early morning sunrise, the diamonds bouncing off the rippling water, and the crystals radiating from newly fallen snow. Then, store those scenes in your mental imagery and share that beautiful joy with someone else when the opportunity arises.


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“Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Serve the Lord with gladness;
come before Him with joyful songs.
Enter into His gates with thanksgiving
and His courts with praise;
give thanks to Him and praise His name”
(Psalm 100: 1, 2, 4).

That same compelling joy will gladden your own heart and travel far and wide to affect the lives of others.

…..

Pat, you are one of the most joyful people I have ever met and I am so blessed to have you in my life. Thank you so much for allowing me to share this wonderful and joyful devotional! 

 

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Thankful for God’s Joy

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I am still feeling surrounded with the joy of Jesus Christ’s birth, so I’d like to share another of the devotionals I wrote for the anthology titled Anytime Prayers for Everyday PeopleThis particular devotional was included in the section titled Prayers of Praise and Thanksgiving. 

 

When I want to thank God for His joy . . .

Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.
Worship the LORD with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.

—Psalm 100:1-2
 

[The  LORD says] The joy of the LORD will fill you to overflowing.
You will glory in the Holy One of Israel.

—Isaiah 41:16 NLT
 

We are praying . . . that you will be filled with his mighty,
glorious strength so that you can keep going  no matter what happens—
always full of the joy of the Lord.

—Colossians 1:11 TLB
 

You will make known to me the path of life;
in Your presence is fullness of joy.
—Psalm 16:11 NASB
 

Be full of joy in the Lord always.
I will say it again, be full of joy.

—Philippians 4:4 NCV

 

. . . I will pray.

Glorious Father,

Today I woke up singing a praise song that I heard on the radio yesterday. I guess it must have settled into my mind because I remember hearing it play through my dreams during the night as I slept. What a wonderful way to start the day! No matter how tired, cranky, or achy I feel when I wake up, praising You in song overcomes any pain or irritation I may be experiencing.

There are so many reasons to be joyful when thinking about You. Knowing I can always turn to You for guidance makes me smile with gratification. Your comforting arms holding me close make me sigh in blissful contentment.

Your heavenly joy becomes visible when I hear the delighted giggling of a child or see the tiny hands and feet of a newborn baby. And how can I not rejoice wit You when a glorious rainbow paints the sky? I always appreciate Your readiness to show me the joys in life, especially when I’m at my lowest. You give me joy enough for each and every day. Thank You for Your gracious gift.

Amen.

I have no understanding of a long-faced Christian.
If God is anything, He must be joy.

—Joe E. Brown

 

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[From Anytime Prayers for Everyday People. Copyright © 2006 Bordon-Winters LLC]

 

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Happy Anniversary to my Beloved!

Today marks 16 years since Rick and I were married in a covenant ceremony. Like all married couples, we have had our ups and downs, but through it all one thing never wavers: the love God instilled in us for each other. He brought us together and only through Him are we complete. You can read the story of our meeting and courtship here.

This collage shows only a few of the memories we’ve shared over the years. Wherever we go, whatever we do, we are ever thankful for each other. Even though my activities these days are dependent on how I feel and how often I can get out to do things with Rick, we still have a strong love and that certain peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7). As long as we continue to look to Jesus as the head of our marriage and our eternal Hope, He continues to bless us beyond anything we can imagine!

Rick-Anna-Anniversary2014Collage

To my beloved Rick, the other half of my orange: I love you so much! Your continuous and undeniable love for me are truly God’s gift to someone who has always had some trouble thinking of herself as lovable. 

I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine… —Song of Solomon 6:3

 

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