VIDEO His Love for Us: God Loves Us by Dying!

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

Thermopylae is the ancient Greek location of numerous battles of antiquity, most notably between the Greeks and the invading Persians in 480 B.C. A vastly outnumbered Greek army—including the 300 Spartans—were tasked with delaying the hundreds of thousands of invading Persian warriors. Knowing they were doomed to defeat, they went to Thermopylae to die. Such was the Spartan ethic: Life was consummated in a noble death.

Such was Jesus’ ethic: He came into the world to die for sinners. (And not just to die, but to conquer death and live forever—1 Corinthians 15:54-55.) Such was His love for us that He “set [His] face like a flint” (Isaiah 50:7) and “steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51) to die the death of a sinner. Why did He do this? Because “greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13).

We may never be called to die physically for another, but we are called to love others by dying to ourselves daily. Make February a “month of love” by putting others’ needs ahead of your own.

Until you are free to die, you are not free to live.  Unknown

Unrivaled Love – Romans 5:6-11 – Skip Heitzig

Something New

See, I am doing a new thing! . . . I am making . . . streams in the wasteland. Isaiah 43:19

Farming is difficult in areas that lack fresh water. To help solve this problem, the Seawater Greenhouse company has created something new: “cooling houses” in Somaliland, Africa, and other countries with similar climates. Cooling houses use solar pumps to drizzle saltwater over walls made of corrugated cardboard. As the water moves down each panel, it leaves its salt behind. Much of the remaining fresh water evaporates inside the structure, which becomes a humid place where fruit and vegetable crops can flourish.

Through the prophet Isaiah, God promised to do a “new thing” as He provided “streams in the wasteland” for ancient Israel (Isaiah 43:19). This new thing contrasted with the old thing He had done to rescue His people from the Egyptian army. Remember the Red Sea account? God wanted His people to recall the past but not let it overshadow His current involvement in their lives (v. 18). He said, “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness” (v. 19).

While looking to the past can bolster our faith in God’s provision, living in the past can blind us to all the fresh work of God’s Spirit today. We can ask God to show us how He’s currently moving—helping, remaking, and sustaining His people. May this awareness prompt us to partner with Him to meet the needs of others, both near and far. 

Reflect & Pray

What new thing is God doing in your life? How is He using you to touch others’ lives and help make the world a better place?

Dear God, I praise You as the living One who constantly does new things. Help me to trust You to meet my changing needs.

Our Amazing Bible

Psalm 119:97-104

We often take our Bibles for granted. But have you ever considered how astounding it is that the God of the universe cared enough about humanity to give us His written Word so we could know Him? The Scriptures record God’s thoughts, words, desires, and purposes as well as His interventions in human history. The climax of His revelation is encompassed in the coming of His Son as our Savior, His plan of redemption, and Christ’s future return as King of Kings.

Amazingly, the Scriptures were compiled from the writings of more than three dozen people, recorded over period of about 1,400 years! Each book of the Bible reflects its human author’s personality, background, and vocabulary, yet every word was inspired as God Himself spoke through each writer (2 Peter 1:20-21). What’s more, though written by multiple hands over multiple centuries, Scripture is a cohesive compilation: Its message is consistent in truth, purpose, and prophecy.

Without God’s Word, we would know very little about Him and nothing about redemption. So never take your Bible for granted. Each time you open it, you are hearing God’s voice speaking directly to you. Take advantage of this privilege and read it regularly.

Confirmation of the Gospel

“Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace.” (Philippians 1:7)

The gospel, of course, embraces all the truths concerning the person and work of Jesus Christ, from creation to consummation. Since these truths have been under Satanic attack throughout all the ages, it is vital that the gospel both be defended against its enemies and confirmed in the hearts and minds of its friends.

The word for “defense” (Greek apologia) is the same as “answer” in 1 Peter 3:15, where we are commanded to “be ready always to give an answer…a reason of the hope that is in you.” The word for “confirmation,” on the other hand, is essentially the same as “established,” or “stabilized,” as in Colossians 2:7: “Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith.” Thus, the saving gospel of Christ—from its foundation in genuine creationism to its consummation in His coming kingdom with its central focus on the crucifixion and resurrection—is both to be defended against false teaching and established as truth. These two aspects correspond in general to apologetics in defending the faith and Christian evidences in establishing the faith.

This is not merely a job for certain theological or scientific specialists, however. All believers need to be “partakers” of this grace (literally “convinced co-participants”). Real “partakers” do not just go along for the ride but are firmly committed and fully comprehending supporters. However, both those who lead out in such a work, as well as those who are “partakers,” are exhorted to do so in grace! “Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man” (Colossians 4:6). HMM

Wild-Eyed Fanatics

Quench not the Spirit .Despise not prophesying. Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. —1 Thessalonians 5:19-21

This is a crude illustration, but let me tell you what we did after planting a field of corn when I was a young fellow in Pennsylvania. To save the field of corn from the crows, we would shoot an old crow and hang him by his heels in the middle of the field. This was supposed to scare off all of the crows for miles around. The crows would hold a conference and say, “Look, there is a field of corn but don’t go near it. I saw a dead crow over there!”

That’s the kind of conference that Satan calls, and that is exactly what he has done. He has taken some fanatical, weird, wild-eyed Christians who do things that they shouldn’t, and he has stationed them in the middle of God’s cornfield, and warns, “Now, don’t you go near that doctrine about the Holy Spirit because if you do, you will act just like these wild-eyed fanatics.”   COU063

Keep us, Lord, from shying away from such valuable truth and experience as the ministry of the Holy Spirit because of the excesses of a few fanatics. We lose too much, and we can’t afford the loss. Amen.

Faith—the Highest Kind of Reason

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast —Ephesians 2:8-9

In our day, we send reason ahead on its little short legs and faith never follows. Nobody marvels, because the whole business can be explained. I have always claimed that a believing Christian is a miracle, and at the precise moment that you can fully explain him, you have a Christian no longer!

I have read the efforts of William James to psychologize the wonders of God’s workings in the human life and experience. But the genuine child of God is someone who cannot be explained by human reasoning.

In this relationship with Jesus Christ through the new birth, something takes place by the ministry of the Spirit of God which psychology cannot explain. This is why I must contend that faith is the highest kind of reason after all, for faith goes straight into the presence of God. FBR040

The reason that faith is so important an element in every true life is simply because it links our nothingness with God Himself. CTBC, Vol. 3/146

Valentine’s Day

1 John 4:8-10

Grandma, why do we give Valentines to each other?” The question sent me scurrying to find the answer. No use simply saying, “It is to show we love someone!” That would never satisfy the questing mind of this young lady!

We sat down on the rumpus room floor with books before us and began our search. We discovered, of course, that Valentine was a man and not a message of love. He was a young pagan priest in Rome during the reign of Claudius II. He hated the persecution the authorities had unleashed against the Christian community and he helped as many of these tortured people as he could, but he was found out and imprisoned.

During his imprisonment he was converted and became a Christian. He became a martyr, for he was clubbed to death on February 14, in the year 269 A.D. Actually, St. Valentine’s day is consecrated to his memory.

While Valentine was in prison, he wanted most of all to tell his loved ones of his affection for them. Tradition has it that he could reach his arm through the prison bars and pick violets growing in the yard. He picked leaves and pierced a message on them, “Remember your Valentine” and sent them to his friends. The story says that eventually, he changed the wording simply to, “I love you.”

The story of Valentine is but the faintest reflection of God’s “Valentine” to us. God did not send a sentiment, He sent His Son.

“God is love. This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:8-10).

Janet Wiseman, Bridging the Year