Heart is the center of holiness.
Holiness is a matter of the heart.
Pursuing holiness involves maintaining purity of the heart.
It’s not too late to make plans, or give them an upgrade — though it might be hard work scrambling at the last minute.
Even so, sometimes our best of Valentine’s intentions go awry. And when we botch it, at least we should try to learn something from it.
Here’s what John Piper learned (perhaps among other things) from botching a Valentine’s dinner. He told the story one Easter Sunday in the sermon “Irrevocable Joy.” (The Scripture text is the words of Jesus in John 16:22: “You have sorrow now, but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.”)
Noël and I went downtown for a special Valentine’s Day dinner last February 14. It was one of the many dates I have botched over the 20 years of our marriage. The restaurant I had chosen especially for her was closed. It was cold as we walked around trying to find another one. We wound up at a fast food place in the center of the city sitting by a window overlooking 8th Street.We sat there looking around at this great city. The street was dark and almost deserted. There was trash in the gutter. The little street level shops seemed worn and chintzy. The few people walking around gave the appearance that made you wonder whether more cocaine might be sold that night than chow mein and egg rolls.
The glitzy hotel facades looked pretty weak against the darkness — like they were hoping against hope that rich people would want to come down and spend some time here. The magnificent new lighting of the Norwest Bank building that gives a fairyland flavor to the Minneapolis skyline sheds no light on the streets beneath. The doors were locked.
I got the eerie feeling that this exploding downtown, this urban pearl and pride of the upper Midwest, with all its upscale shops and classy hotels and stunning skyscrapers, is built on sand. I got the sinking feeling in my stomach that the millions and millions of dollars that have been poured into downtown Minneapolis could, with just the slightest turn of popular displeasure, become a billion dollar boondoggle — a dark, sleazy, dirty downtown slum where nobody wants to be.
I mention this just to illustrate how even the big enterprises of our life and culture are very fragile. We plan and we save and we build, and things look good and successful, and then it starts to collapse. And we can’t believe it. Nobody comes to shop. Nobody rents the office space. Retailers begin to leave. The streets are deserted. The hotels can’t pull the conventions. Restaurants close. The pushers move in. The gangs take over. And pretty soon the unthinkable has happened. The pearl is ruined. The Timberwolves don’t stay. The new convention center can’t fill its schedule. And all that’s left is cheap sleaze and empty buildings.It has happened elsewhere. It could happen here. And it can happen in your own life. We are very fragile. Not much is sure and firm and solid in our lives. That’s why this word from Jesus is very precious to me. “No one will take your joy from you.” You’ve heard of unconditional guarantees — warranties that seem too good to be true? Have you ever heard of any product that says: “In this you will find pleasure and no one will take your pleasure from you”? If you read that on some box or bottle, you would smirk and call it marketing ballyhoo.
But that’s what Jesus says. Minneapolis may come “a-tumblin’ down,” and all the money be lost and the dreams be dashed, but, “No one will take your joy from you.”
by David Mathis
Some of you reading this right now are lonely. Some have been abused or hurt deeply by a spouse. Some may be single without an earthly spouse. But all of us as Christians together have a heavenly husband, and oh how great is our Groom’s love toward us!
Scripture is full of the love of God — the cross being the supreme expression of that unfathomable love.
The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. (Zephaniah 3:17)
I don’t know about you, but one of my biggest stumbling blocks in life is believing that God really does love me and that he is pleased with me. This constant insecurity I live with has been difficult on my marriage. At times, it drives me to lay down expectations my earthly husband was never intended to meet. On other occasions, it has driven me to doubt his love and his sincerity, not because of anything he has done, but because my doubt of God’s love is transferred as doubt of my husband’s.
And then there are all the times that I try to earn my husband’s love because I just can’t seem to get it in my head that this dear man genuinely loves me unconditionally, without exception. His love has never depended on how I looked, how much I weighed, or what I had achieved in or out of the home. He just loves me.
God in his grace and providence gave me a husband who knows my doubting and has diligently reminded me of God’s love over the years. He has even endured my mocking and scoffing as time and again he would quietly and gently relate: Jesus loves you, Luma.
One day in particular, about ten years ago, I insisted that those were trivial meaningless words thrown around in our superficial evangelical society. My wise husband, who knows that thinking is one of my gifts, asked me if I would be willing to spend one full day meditating on that statement Jesus loves you, Luma. I did. God, in his great mercy and love in Christ Jesus, has slowly made that statement blossom in my heart and mind little by little since that time.
I tend to be a more utilitarian woman, eschewing flowers and chocolates. But God has been using my husband over the years to soften me. Tulips are my favorite flowers, and I have began buying them for myself and letting my husband know that I would rejoice to receive them. I have also started enjoying chocolate. Not that these are marks of my “arrival” at anything, only the evidences of the personal softening of my heart — a heart which too often has doubted the love of Jesus.
Embracing the gospel has freed me to trust the love of my earthly husband, who has always been good to speak to me the love of our heavenly husband.
The dinner, the flowers, and the chocolate may or may not be there, but it really doesn’t matter. The best Valentine’s gift I could ever receive is a husband who is constantly reminding me, Jesus loves you, Luma.
As someone who has lived a life of doubt in that statement, I want to encourage you today. No matter where you are in this life, or what circumstance you are dealing with regarding earthly love, meditate on this: Jesus loves you.
God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
by Luma Simms
You could call it a re-run, and no matter what channel, it’s always the same one… the story, that is. My outward actions might look like TBN, but my mind is channeling HBO, because the static flow in my mind is churning this anger against my brothers and sisters; callousing hatred ’till it turns into blisters.
You see, I’ve got a rough heart that pursues only pride, and boy, I’ve tired swallowing, but it just comes back up time after time. You know, I should clean that, because surely no one wants it, but just like a dog, I return to my vomit. My heart is bulimic and my soul is exhausted.
I’ve fallen in this hole, with the pieces of me crying out to be whole – even more, to be holy! But the whole He requires is a puzzle much too large. Besides, I lost my pieces between the pillows of the couch.
The failures you’ve counted in seconds and minutes were taken care of in six hours of darkness. I went through a week-ness that can’t be measured, because in your darkest hour, you were still my pleasure. I was in love with your present, not your future.
And to answer the question, no you’re not worthy. My death was the punishment you were deserving, I paid the time you should be serving, preserving My glory and reserving your spot in My family.
My guarantee was my engagement, which meant I’d never leave you or forsake, but that I’d take you to be My bride. We’d be lawfully wed, only the vows are a little different – we don’t part after death.
Becuase you see, you are My masterpiece, the act of Me painting My mastery over your apathy. See, Calvary was My poetry, and the Cross was My love letter, promising not just better, but perfect – unfettered to work it out and finish this art that I started before – not painting your heart, but painting Mine over yours.
So yes, you are my canvas. You are My potter’s clay. You are the blank Word document that bears My Word, worded in such a way to make people say, “Yo, word.”
You are My sandlot, empty and barren until I came and laid down My foundation, topped with the Cornerstone the other builders rejected. I erected the walls and prevented the falls pre-empted by sin’s call which has tempted you all and sentenced your small fate. Then I built upon you a roof of justice – a tower so tall that it points only to Me.
In fact, this house looks so good, I’ll make it My temple, starting to resemble the image of Me, the image you see when you look at My people and find infinity and divinity inside this bit of humanity. My Trinity definitively resting and completely investing in you.
Are my Canvas.
Here’s my testimony! I’m Nicole, 17, and a senior in high school
This is my public witness to you all that I believe and know that Jesus has cleansed me of my sins. Like everybody else in this world, I am a sinner who desperately needs the grace of God. I know that the Lord sacrificed His Son to save me and make me His new creation. He has made something beautiful out of the dust. I love God with all my heart and I plan to follow Him my whole life. I know that I’m not saved through baptism or works, but through faith.
I didn’t really have that one moment where everything changed for me. This has all been a gradual process with many decisions, trials, and revelations along the way. In each period of my life, I’ve grown in my faith and understanding of God and His word.
The seeds of faith were first planted in me by my parents. I owe so much to them, but I’m most grateful for them because they raised me with Christian values and principles. They helped lay down the foundation of my faith that only grew with my own decisions. My faith took root with my upbringing, but at the point, I only believed in God.
I began to make conscientious decisions like reading the Bible by myself and just learning about God. As I slowly began to understand what it meant to be a Christian and my faith grew, I began to experience my first trials.
For some time, my faith was challenged as I had questions and doubts and struggled with depression. I felt downcast for a while, yet I managed to overcome my trials, with God’s helping hand. I had revelations and grew in faith as I truly realized what it meant to love God and be loved by Him. I realized what it meant to be a Christian and what it meant to give my life to Christ.
These past few years, I’ve tried to witness to others and bring them to Christ, but it’s been very hard. I’ve had debates or civil discussions with non-believers and atheists, and they always made me feel like I was not doing my job well enough. For some time, I also tried to be an example to one of my friends at school. For years, she seemed to be very interested in church and following God, yet she struggled with making the decision and committing her life to God. A little more than a year ago, I began to see changes in her that just made me inexplicably happy. She found the Lord and a church where she grew in her faith. I’m so happy to have a friend who now doubles as a sister in Christ. Sometimes, she even inspires or encourages me in my walk with God. I don’t take any credit in her transformation. It took a long time, and at times I was very doubtful, but it was God who worked in His own way and in His own timing. I learned to trust in His timing and I knew that He could use me in small ways to do good for others.
This last year of high school has been a lot more stressful than I thought it could ever be. I didn’t realized how much life could distract me, yet I have remained aware of God’s presence, mainly through His blessings and many small miracles when assignments are delayed or cancelled in my most stressful weeks. I’ve struggled at times this year, yet I have learned that even when it’s physically impossible for me to read and take notes every day, I can still connect to God through prayer. God does answer prayers and performs miracles. Though the miracles may be small, I know that God cares for me and is always with me.
The Lord has blessed me with my school and grades, and especially now in this time of applying to colleges. I’m excited and scared at the same time for college. I know that college can be a very dangerous place and a huge trial for many Christians, yet I will try my best to stay by my principles that my parents instilled in me and will rely on God’s strength to help me stay away from bad things. I’m excited for college because I cannot wait to make new friends and find other Christians and continue to grow in my faith. I may not know where I’ll be going, but I know God holds my future and has something great planned for me.
I’ve struggled for a period of time in my walk with God because I used to think that being on fire for God was solid evidence that I was saved. For a while, I was on fire for God and had this passion that continually fueled me. When that fire began to slowly die down, I worried. I thought, “If I’m not excited or happy in my relationship with God, I’m not truly saved or loving God.” I would have good times and bad times; I’d be on fire for God or I’d be back to worrying. It took me awhile to see the error in my logic.
Psalm 1 verse 3 says, “He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its own season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.” I now know that I’ve always been on fire for Christ, only that my fire has not always been visible. Sometimes you’re fire is burning bright, sometimes it’s a low ember waiting to catch fire again and glow even brighter. Those times when we are on fire for God is when we bear our fruits. Like trees, we do not bear our fruit all the time, only in its season, meaning that our fire for the Lord may not always be visible. When we are not bearing fruits and lose our fire, the fire is still slowly burning among the embers, and we still have leaves on our branches that never die. Like trees, we may not always be beautiful or useful, yet we are always showing signs of life. Our faith and trust in God will not go away, but there are always times where we will grow and fall back. Life is a rollercoaster: you learn something that makes you stronger and more committed to God in the low times, leading to good times with God. As long as we have roots that take up water from the rivers of life, we will be alive in Christ.
This and other revelations have made me confident and positive that I am saved and am excited to take the next step, baptism, and to take communion with my brothers and sisters in Christ. Thank you all for your time and for listening to my story.
the kingdom of God,
Lord, help me say ,,NO!” to:
Anxiety, arrogance, anger, adultery,
Busyness, bored, bitterness, blame others, boast, boasters,
Complaining, concerns, coveting, compromise, car speed, coldness, criticism, confusion, competition, covetousness,
Down, deceit, doubting, depressed, defeated, dismayed, disrespectful, deception, defense (let God), disappointment, divorce, debate, disobedience of God, drunkenness (physical or spiritual),
Evil desires, evil thoughts, envy, expectations, easily provoked,
Fear, foolishness, fornication,
Greed, gambling, grumbling, gossip, guile (viclenie),
Hurry, haste, hurt, harsh words, hypocrisy, haters of God, hatred, heresies,
Inner turmoil, ignorance, independent of God, impatience, irritability, irresponsibility, idolatry,
Laziness, lies, lost, lasciviousness,
Maliciousness, murder, malignity, murmuring,
Pride, pressure, pay back, passive, panic, prejudice,
Sadness, small talk, self-centeredness, self-pity, strife, superficiality, selfishness, stubbornness, stupidity, seditions,
Unrest, unfaithfulness, unforgiveness, uncleanness,
Worry, wrath, weakness, witchcraft, wrong doing, whisperers, wickedness.
Lord, You, only YOU, can help me say ,,NO” to all of these, because these things do not belong to Your Kingdom!
Love, agape love, does not keep records of wrong doing, but forgives all and everything!
Lord, my God and my Father, You are agape love! YOU are my help!
I say “YES!” to AGAPE LOVE!
Lord, YOU can help me say “NO!” to all that is not of YOU!
,,I know my Redeemer lives,
and that in the end
He will stand upon the earth.”
I know that my Redeemer lives!
I see His love is everywhere.
I see it in the caring smiles and warmth that people share.
I see it in my family, friends, church and every answered prayer.
I know that my Redeemer lives!
I know His victory sets me free to live each day in joy with faith in all that’s yet to be.
I know I have a future! One day I will see Him and my joy will be complete.
And to know my way is safe because He always watches over me.
I know that my Redeemer lives!
your Christmas is blessed with a very real sense of just
how near the Lord always is to you,
and just how much He loves you!
Merry Christmas to you and yours!
May the Christ of Christmas fill
your life with joy and hope,
your soul with peace
and your heart with songs.