Let’s Talk: Devotions for Valentine’s Day
Conversation hearts are a part of each Valentine’s Day, a tradition that began in 1866 when Daniel Chase created the machine that pressed food dye letters into the candy lozenges his brother Oliver made famous as founder of the New England Confectionery Company (NECCO).
For the third year, we asked the Triad Baptist staff to pen spiritual “conversation heart” devotions drawing on their life experiences and celebrating God’s heart and love. These are the contributions for Valentine’s Day week in 2017:
MELT MY HEART
When I first met my wife-to-be at 18 years of age, my heart melted. She was putting the syrup on the French toast in the cafeteria line at 7 a.m. in the morning. My heart had become like that syrup (lol). I told my buddy next to me, “I am going to marry that girl one day.” He laughed and said, “That is not gonna happen.” Well...She was dating someone else at the time and it took me a year to get a date with her but you bet I married her! We’ll be married 33 years on Feb. 25.
What does it take to melt your heart? The Bible tells us that “a melted heart” is exactly what God is after in us. As people continue to live in sin or experience hurt after hurt, the heart becomes harder and harder. Ultimately, the hardness of the human heart can only be repaired by the grace of God. It is He who can restore us, by taking away our heart of stone and giving us a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 11:19-20).
I remember so well the first time I realized my need for God’s grace! My heart began to melt and I began to change. Really change! God is love and when His great love encompasses every facet of your undeserving life, you are renewed by Christ. Your heart melts. Is it time to let God begin melting something that has hardened in your heart?
Lead Pastor Rob Decker
CRAZY FOR YOU
It’s kind of a strange thing to watch. Sometimes the things people do and say when they first start dating or they become newlyweds seem somewhat odd, even crazy.
Yes, the passion of new love does strange things to a person: nervousness, butterflies, and certainly a laser-like focus on the object of that love — often at the expense of everything else. This Valentine’s Day, may we each rekindle some of that same passion, reflecting on the true loves of our lives. Those may include our spouse, children, and others but most certainly our Savior. It’s so easy to get complacent. Let’s revive that uncommon love that is still deep within, and not be afraid to be crazy again about the ones we love!
Tim Gerber, executive pastor for children and ministries
Love is powerful. In relationships, love can break down barriers, build bridges, fill in the gaps, and overcome the odds. When love is lacking, it can prove to be detrimental to a relationship. But where one is absolutely sure that they are loved, the relationship can survive many hardships.
In order to live a fruit-producing Christian life, a healthy, vibrant relationship with Jesus is absolutely necessary. So what makes this type of relationship with Jesus possible? In John 15:9, Jesus tells his disciples, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in MY LOVE.” In essence, we must believe without a doubt that Jesus loves us at ALL times. This is what Jesus knew to be true of His Father's love. So how exactly has the Father loved Jesus? Because Jesus says that this is the type of love that the disciples (and we) must abide in in order to bear fruit.
The Greek word for the love described here is “agape.” It’s used to describe an unconditional and affectionate commitment to the benefit of another. But here’s the thing: Jesus knew that the excruciating pain of the cross was on the horizon as He said these very words. And above all, His death on the cross was actually the FATHER’s plan from the beginning — that Jesus would be crucified in the place of sinners like you and me. Yet He is able to say that the Father loved (agape) Him. To a lot of people, that doesn’t sound like an unconditional and affectionate commitment to Jesus’ benefit.
But here’s what Jesus knew, and also what he wants us to know: The Father is good and right in everything He does. And even though the pain of the cross was in His future, Jesus also knew that He could trust that His Father was doing the right thing, which would eventually result in His (Jesus’) ultimate exaltation and the Father’s glory. That’s why, in response to Jesus’ willingness to abide in His Father’s love, Philippians 2:9 says, “Therefore, God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
So when Jesus says, “Abide in MY LOVE,” this is exactly what He means. We need to grow so close to Jesus, as He was close with His Father, that we trust Him no matter what may come our way. In life, there may be hardships, loss, suffering, persecution, famine, and anything else undesirable to us from a human perspective. But if we are abiding in Jesus’ love for us as those things come, THEN we will see fruit produced in our lives that will result in the praise of HIS glory and the working for our good, and we will prove ourselves to be His disciples.
Jared Hoots, high school student pastor
We often hear the phrase “my hero” in great books and films just after the good guy saves the world from the selfish, destructive, evil villain; and often we equate the “good guy” with the muscular, brawny, selfless man wearing a cape. But does it really take a perfect person in a cape to be a true hero? In the real world filled with so much chaos and confusion perhaps all it takes to be a hero is one who has centered their life on the ultimate Savior, Jesus, and shares that victory with the discouraged and despondent. But how can we do that? What does it take to be a Christ-centered hero in the spiritual warfare in which we’re surrounded?
One good way is to utilize the commands found in these power verses and to follow the instructions carefully: “...Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me — practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:8-9)
With the “God of Peace” clearing the path ahead of us, we can defeat the evil one and enjoy a “happily ever after!”
Jeremy Chandler, creative communications director
As a contemporary worship pastor, I know a few things about rock. And what rocks more than a rock itself?
All throughout scripture, God is described as being our rock. This should be influencing how we relate to God and think of him. The psalmist prays in the second and third verses of Psalm 61, “Lead me to the rock that is higher than I, for you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy.”
In times of weakness, uncertainty, difficulty and pain we have a strong rock and foundation in our true and living God. If we learn to heed his invitation to cling to him during those turbulent times, he will reveal himself as our faithful and loving Father.
Not only will He Himself be our rock, but He’ll also reveal Himself through His ways and statues that will be the sure foundation for our lives to be built upon. At the close of Jesus’ opus of teaching in Matthew 5-7 our Lord tells us, “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” Therefore, we can place our hope fully in Him who is sufficient for our every need.
Braden McKinley, contemporary worship director
In the movie, Santa Claus 2, there is a scene where the main character, Scott Calvin, is out on a blind date. When his date arrives she asks him what he does for a living and he replies that he’s in the toy business. Her response to him is, “No way,” to which he responds, “Way.” Later she states that she’s hoping to make it in the music industry as a songwriter to which he replies, “No way,” and she sarcastically answers, “Way.”
The Urban dictionary defines “no way” like this: impossible; I really can’t imagine how that can be true; there’s 0% chance that something has occurred or will happen.
When man rebelled and sinned in the garden, the fellowship and relationship with God was broken. Man was condemned to physical death and eternal separation from God. Ever since, he’s been trying to fix it and save himself by doing things his own way. Proverbs 14:12 says, “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” God knew there was “No way” man could save himself, but what is impossible with man is possible with God. Luke 18:27 says, “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.” Man’s hopeless “no way” is overcome by God’s “way,” Jesus Christ. Jesus says in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”
God loves you and gave His Son to provide salvation for you. You could never be good enough to merit it. You could never work enough to earn it. And you could never have enough money to purchase it. There is “no way” to a relationship with God, except through Jesus.
Scott Compton, worship director
What is true love? It's a question that our culture seems to ask a lot. Is it a feeling, an action, something you can control, or something you can't? In 1 John 3:16 the Bible gives us an answer. “By this we know love, that He laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.” True love is what Christ did for us on the cross. He laid down his life for us not because we earned or deserved it, but because He loved us.
If you want to show true love this year consider this type of sacrificial love. Your lives should be laid down for your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Sacrifice for your spouse, your children, your church, and your neighbors and they will know that you love them. Christ's ultimate sign of love was the laying down of His life which was the ultimate sacrifice.
What is it that you need to sacrifice to show your love this year?
Toby Pegram, middle school student pastor
Our grandchildren love to play hide-and-seek. We alternate hiding, but usually the game involves finding or “not finding” the grandchildren. Unfortunately they tend to hide in the same places so we must pretend like we don’t know where to look. We’re trying to teach them the true point of the game. What we’ve ended up teaching is that the grandparents are complete idiots, because we cannot seem to find them before they get bored of hiding for an extended period of time.
We’ve been trying to show them that the fun of hide-and-seek is the seeking. But for them, no matter what we try, the fun part is always the finding.
God wants us to seek him as illustrated in Matthew 7:7. But, like children, He understands that the real joy is not in seeking, but in finding. He wants to be found. He has not planned the Christian life to be an impossible hunt for an elusive God that requires enormous faith. Quite the contrary; the Christian life is a simple walk to a welcoming God that requires only child-like faith.
The story of the Prodigal Son best illustrates our God who wills to be found. In Luke 15, Jesus tells the story where a son rejects and abandons his father to live selfishly and wildly in a distant country. When he sees how foolish he's been, he decides to return home, to seek his father. Expecting his father to be furious with anger, the son is met with a surprise. When the father sees his son at a great distance, he does not wait for him to reach the house. Instead, the father, full of joy that his son has returned, runs out to meet him on the road, embraces him, kisses him, and is overjoyed to have his son home again.
This is the image of our heavenly father’s love. It is the image of a God yearning to be found, the God James says will draw near to us if we draw near to Him. Revelation 3:20 tells us that He is the God who stands at the door and knocks, who will come in and eat with anyone who opens the door. We are called to seek the God who wants to be found.
Dennis Roberts, executive administrator
Have a story idea for Connections you’d like to share? Email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.