Valentine’s Day is just around the corner!
On this beloved day of the calendar, we celebrate our love for that special someone in our lives. Many of us will be giving (or receiving) boxes of chocolates and bouquets of roses as an expression of that love.
But sometimes those roses have thorns, don’t they?
The truth is, love sometimes hurts. It can cost us something.
We think of Valentine’s Day as simply about romantic love, but the history behind this day shows us that true love is often about sacrifice.
This was certainly the case for Saint Valentine of Rome, for whom Valentine’s Day is named.
This third-century priest was known for his evangelistic work and for aiding persecuted Christians. He was martyred for his faith on February 14 in AD 269, executed by order of Emperor Claudius for refusing to deny Christ.
Saint Valentine patterned for us a life focussed on loving others; he refused to deny the Source of that love, even if it cost him his life.
Christ modelled that sort of sacrificial love, too.
He would let nothing stop His purpose of showing love to others by securing for them a way to spend eternity with Him, even if it cost Him His life.
And it did.
Do you have a friend who’s a bit of a screw-up?
No? You’ve got to get one!
Friends who make a shambles of things are amazing, because they make you feel so competent by comparison.
Your friend Sue might misplace one of her children, regularly set off the smoke detector when cooking, or accidentally rear-end a police car.
You roll your eyes smugly and think, “At least I’m not as bad as she is!”
In the same way, we like to justify ourselves before God by comparing our sins to those of others.
We think, “At least I’m not a bank robber or a serial killer. I’m not as bad as others. On the whole, I figure I’m a pretty decent person. I don’t think I really qualify as a ‘sinner.’ ”
The problem with this is that we’re using the wrong yardstick.
Instead of measuring ourselves against other people, we should be seeing whether we pass muster according to God’s standards.
Have you ever had a time in your life when God did a work for you that came straight out of left field?
The blessing, provision or miracle he bestowed on you caught you off guard and astonished you. It was completely unexpected and surprising.
You never saw it coming.
God seems to like to work that way, doesn’t he?
Think of Moses in the Old Testament, when he was leading the children of Israel out of bondage in Egypt.
They found themselves in a jam: cornered at the Red Sea with the Egyptian army snapping at their heels.
Moses had faith that God would save them, but I wonder if he was racking his brains trying to figure out just how it would happen.
Maybe God would send a flotilla of boats from the other side to rescue them, Dunkirk-style? But no one knew they were coming, and at any rate, the only people on the other side were either enemies or strangers.
Maybe God would send an affable and reasonable Egyptian captain to negotiate with Moses? Not likely, since all of Egypt’s firstborn had just been killed. The Egyptians were in no mood to parley with their escaped slaves.
No matter what Moses came up with as a potential solution, he never could have expected the curveball that God threw:
God miraculously parted the waters of the Red Sea and allowed the Israelites to cross over on dry ground, then closed up the waters to drown their enemies. Moses surely didn’t see that one coming!
And that’s not the only curveball that God threw…
In a match between a ground squirrel and a deadly rattlesnake, whom would you bet on?
Remember, this is a ground squirrel: it can’t run up a tree to escape.
And if the squirrel needs to defend its burrow with its babies inside, it doesn’t have much choice: it has to stand its ground.
What chance does it have against a venomous rattlesnake?
More than you’d expect.
California ground squirrels have an ace up their sleeve.
When confronted by a rattlesnake, this squirrel is able to engorge its tail with extra blood. It then waves its tail back and forth vigorously, super-heating the blood.
The snake, while lethal, has relatively poor vision, so it can’t clearly see what it’s facing. It instead uses its built-in infrared sensor to detect heat.
The squirrel’s hot, blood-filled tail swishing to and fro mimics the heat signature of a much larger animal. The snake thinks twice about taking on such a formidable creature, and more often than not it slinks away, defeated.
The squirrel has been saved from its enemy by the blood.
And so are we.
On our own, we are no match for that serpent of old, Satan.
What makes something your “finest hour”?
To answer that question, we first have to reach back to June 16, 1940, when that phrase was made famous in a speech by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
World War Two had begun the previous year. France, Poland, Norway, Denmark, Belgium and the Netherlands had all fallen under the jackboots of the Nazis. It was a dark time, and the only thing standing between Hitler and control of the rest of Europe was the island nation of Britain.
In this context, Churchill prepared his people for the immense sacrifices that would be asked of them in the coming battles. He told them that the survival of their nation and way of life lay at stake. He let them know the consequences both of success and of failure in the task ahead of them.
He concluded his speech with one of the great rallying cries in history:
“Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, ‘This was their finest hour.’ ”
Churchill was telling the British people that their finest hour would not be a time of ease or comfort. Rather, it would encompass pain, sacrifice, duty, and selflessness.
The same holds true for us.
And the same held true for Jesus in His finest hour.
Did you ever play games with flowers as a child?
Perhaps you squeezed the “mouth” of a snapdragon flower to make it “talk.”
Or maybe you held a buttercup underneath the chin of a friend. If it reflected back a yellow colour, it meant that they liked butter (apparently, everyone does!).
Probably one of the most famous flower games involves the daisy: it’s considered the oracle of affairs of the heart. The daisy supposedly has the ability to tell you if your sweetheart truly loves you or not.
It goes like this: you pluck off each petal of a daisy in turn, and as you do so, alternately say, “He loves me,” or “He loves me not.”
The final petal tells you which statement is true.
You’re left in suspense the whole time, and worry about what the last petal will reveal.
I know this is just a children’s game, but even as adults we sometimes worry if we’re truly loved, don’t we?
Human love can be a fickle thing, and we can often be unsure about the commitment and loyalty of those we love.
That’s why it’s so good to know that with Jesus, we’re never left wondering whether He loves us or not. He never leaves us in suspense as to whether He cares.
He always does.
And He always will.
It’s natural to divide your life into “before” and “after,” isn’t it?
We mentally calculate whether something happened before or after certain important events in our lives.
We might say that such-and-such happened before we moved to Boston, or after we got married. We may recall that another thing happened after we had our son but before the twins were born.
Ancient cultures did something similar. Those with monarchies would mark events in relation to what king was on the throne at the time. They’d say that something happened in the 9th year of the reign of King so-and-so.
Certainly, most of us will divide our lives into pre-and post-pandemic eras. March of 2020 was a clear demarcation point between our previous “normal” life and one dominated by COVID-19.
The dividing lines of our lives will be different for all of us, but what most of the world has in common is the use of the same calendar system to mark off years. This system has its own before-and-after pivot point.
For instance, most of us just celebrated the start of AD 2022.
What does the “AD” mean, anyway? Or “BC” for that matter?
It seems like marriage proposals these days are a competitive sport.
It used to be that a man would propose to his beloved over a romantic dinner, with flowers on the table and perhaps some violins playing. He would get down on bended knee, present a ring, and ask for her hand in marriage.
Apparently, that just doesn’t cut it anymore.
Now, proposals have to be over-the-top. They might feature anything from fireworks to skywriting. A will-you-marry-me moment nowadays might involve a scavenger hunt, a fake movie trailer, a full orchestra and choir, or a ride in a hot-air balloon.
More adventurous grooms might enlist a celebrity in the proceedings, hire a flash mob at Times Square, or arrange to appear on the Jumbotron at a sports game.
And then there’s the man whose proposal took an entire year to create. Unbeknownst to his girlfriend Jennifer, each day for 365 days Dean Smith videotaped himself proposing to her, every time with a unique message. On the 366th day, he showed her the completed video and finally proposed in person (she said yes).
Why do people go to so much trouble?
Because they want to show their intended how much they’re loved.
Did you know that God has done the same for you?
He loves you deeply and He wants you to know it!
Let’s see how God stacks up when it comes to showing love.
If you were paying attention during physics class in high school, you’ll know that there are certain laws that the natural world abides by.
The Law of Gravity, for instance. Legend has it that this principle was discovered by a young Isaac Newton when he was hit on the head by an apple which fell from the tree he was sitting under.
Or the Law of Inertia, which states that an object at rest or in motion will continue in that state unless acted upon by an external force. So when I’m sitting in my easy chair and don’t want to get up to do any housework, I’m not being lazy. I’m simply obeying the law of inertia.
I recently heard a wag rephrase Newton’s Third Law of Motion (“For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction”). He dubbed it the Law of Emotion: for every male action there is a female overreaction!
Then there’s the Law of Conservation of Energy, which says that energy can’t be created or destroyed, but can be altered from one form to another. For instance, our bodies transform the chemical energy in food into kinetic energy to help us move around.
I think sin has a principle attached to it which is similar to the Law of Conservation of Energy.
Sin can’t just disappear. It has to be dealt with in some way.
But it can be transformed.
As author Dorothy Sayers said, “There is only one real law—the law of the universe. It may be fulfilled either by way of judgement or by the way of grace, but it must be fulfilled one way or the other.”
Don’t you love it when someone anticipates your needs?
You feel good when someone makes provision for something you’ll require before the need even arises. Or when they start setting in motion something for you before you even ask.
It makes you feel sort of special, doesn’t it?
As a teen, I’d occasionally stop by a small fish-and-chip joint on my way home from school. This little restaurant had an open kitchen, and the owner/cook could see the street through the front window.
Carlo, the owner, would see me get off the bus and wait at the lights. He knew what I liked to eat, so he’d start deep-frying my halibut before I even crossed the street and entered his restaurant.
He anticipated what I’d want and started cooking it before I even placed my order.
God does the same sort of thing for us, too.