Valentines Day Devotionals

Golden Crosses
Sunday my  Pastor preached the most powerful message, (in my opinion) I have heard him preach in the six years I have been under his ministry.  The title alone, "Candy Coated Cross," moved me to write a poem before I ever heard the sermon.  If I had to pick one line, or one point that meant the most to me from Pastor's message it would have to be when he said, "Christians sometimes say, the cross is too gory, let's just talk about the story. By being afraid of offending Christians, we have offended Christ." I have found that to be true in many instances in my past.
The one stanza in my poem that stood out to me was the line that mentions gold cross necklaces.
We have candy coated the cross
And made it into necklaces of gold.
As we collect *Mounds of treasure here,
We forget Jesus for a few pieces of silver was sold.
Even though I wrote the lines, I wondered, "Where did that come from?"  Often when I write I feel the words definitely don't come from me but from God.  I myself have worn cross necklaces through the years.   They are a beautiful reminder to each of us of the suffering of Christ.   I think the gold cross on a chain around our neck is a reminder to pick up our cross daily and follow Him. So if that is my opinion why would I write anything negative about the gold cross necklace?
I think God showed me as I wrote those lines that we sometimes wear the gold necklaces in an effort to show the world that we are Christians, that we belong to Christ.  We proudly wear the golden, water downed version, of what the cross He was crucified on really looked like.  There is no blood, no evidence of the suffering, the torture, the betrayal.  There is only beauty.  This bothers me now.   At one time in my life, it didn't. I thought the elegant golden cross was a good way to show those who didn't know me that I was indeed a Christian.  Now I believe I should not only know who I am in Christ but also show others who I am by my life, not by a piece of jewelry.  I  still sometimes wear my cross necklace.  Now I think I will sometime wear it where it can't be seen by others, not because I am ashamed, but because I feel I should display  Jesus Christ crucified, His cross, by my actions, not by a piece of gold around my neck. 
As I wrote these words I thought of the cost of my golden cross necklace. I didn't really remember the exact cost.  I wondered how much did the actual cross that Jesus was crucified on cost.  I searched and searched, but couldn't find that exact price either. I did find that it was possibly just a fence post which I am sure didn't cost much.
 Background of the word "cross."
A. Greek word stauros originally indicated pointed, vertical stake. Used of fence posts.
B. Later used to refer to an instrument of torture and execution
I also thought of the popularity of gold cross necklaces.  Everyone wears them, even non-Christians.  I searched and searched for statistics of how many on average are sold in a year.  I didn't find those statistics. However, I did find 19,987,431 sites when I typed in the words "gold cross necklace" on a popular search engine.   I too thought of how crucifixion crosses were once very popular.  It was, of course, a popular means of corporal punishment in the Roman empire, long before and after Jesus was crucified. 
I thought of what the two have in common, crosses of gold hanging around our neck, and crucifixion crosses of wood like Jesus was hung on. They have both been popular at one time or another.  They are both shaped basically the same.  The similarities really end there.  The cost of both is different.  The significance of both is different.
There is a worship song that says, "I'll never know how much it cost to see my sin upon that cross."  Even though the actual wooden cross probably didn't cost very much, the actual event of Jesus hanging on that bloody cross dying for each of us is immeasurable in every sense, monetarily and otherwise.
Today, as we wear our gold, covered crosses hanging around our necks; we should each wear them as a reminder to ourselves that we are to pick up our cross and follow Him daily.  We should wear the gold covered cross as a reminder of the blood covered cross where Jesus was hung and crucified for each of us.  If we wear a  golden cross for others to see,  we need to make sure we are displaying Christ' cross through our lives, not by a gold covered cross hanging around our neck.
Mark 8:34
And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
Candy Coated Cross
We have candy coated the cross
To make it nice and sweet.
As we *Skittle through this life,
We forget the nails in Jesus' feet.
We have candy coated the cross
And made it into necklaces of gold.
As we collect *Mounds of treasure here,
We forget Jesus for a few pieces of silver was sold.
We have candy coated the cross
To make it represent whatever we need.
As we *Take 5 minutes to remember Christ,
We forget the 39 lashes that made Him bleed.
We have candy coated the cross
And made it into a once a year display.
As *Baby Ruth  we take to church for an  hour
We forget Jesus thirsting on that long dark day.
We have candy coated the cross
And made it's suffering melt into beauty
When  our *Pay Day comes along
We give to perform our Christian duty.
Yes, the cross is indeed coated over and covered with earthly things.
We sometimes forget each nail, each lash, each stripe, which our healing brings.
Today remember no * Mr. (or Mrs.) Goodbar is good enough to make it on our own.
It's through the cross, His blood, His grace alone,
That we are forgiven for each human, fleshly shortcoming and sin.
The cross brings cleansing through His precious sweet blood flowing in.
Experience the pure *Joy and the *Burst of exhilaration Christ can unfurl,
As you uncover the cross and all its power
II Corinthians 9:15 -
Now thanks be to God for His Gift, [precious] beyond telling [His indescribable, inexpressible, free Gift]!

How many deflated helium balloons and empty heart-shaped boxes are going in the trash this week? What if all those balloons could be refilled, recycled,  and reused next February?  What if those boxes could be refilled and passed on to someone else? 
Most retailers probably wouldn't love the idea very much.

This Valentine's Day I received a recycled gift from my seven-year-old grandson. Hunter's mother bought him a stuffed animal with a heart on it. As soon as he got it, he brought it to me and told me to keep it sitting on my computer.  He loves me and knows a lot of time is spent at this computer,  Every time I see the cute fluffy bear I will think of him.  His older brother also received a cuddly bear with a heart. Clay too recycled his gift and gave it away, but not to me. Clay gave his gift to a little girl.

So what's your opinion? Is it ok to re-gift?  Some say sure, pass on the gift. Some say no, you should never give away a gift that someone gave to you, just keep it for yourself. The bear I was given meant just as much, or more to me, than if Hunter had gone and bought it for me.  Hunter loved me so much he wanted to give the gift to me that he had been given.   He didn't want to keep it to himself. Clay too chose to pass on his gift and make someone else smile.

As I thought of gifts being passed on I thought of an old song we once sang at church camp.
It only takes a spark to get a fire going.  Soon all those around can feel its warm glowing. That's how it is with God's love, once you've experienced it, you want the world to know,  you want to pass it on.

As we think of gifts of love,  we should think of God continuously refilling us with His love.  We should allow Him to reuse us and recycle the Gift He gave.  Re-gift.  Share Jesus with someone who needs to smile today. Pass it on. It only takes a spark to get a fire going. The world needs to know the warmth of  His love.

Are You Sure God's In That?

Valentine's Day, yet another holiday, commercialized beyond belief it seems. The Valentine "aisle" at Wal Mart seems to grow every year.  I went shopping for my grand children's valentine cards and got lost in stuffed animals, valentine edition toys, candy,  hearts, and silk roses.   When I was young we were always thrilled just to get a box of cards for about fifty cents to distribute to our friends at school. 

Alas, times have changed.  As I shopped I wondered, "Who thought of all this?"  I wondered if they made any money off this idea while they were alive.  I knew they definitely didn't make as much as Wal Mart is making today.  I did a little research and found where this all got started.  My, how this holiday has grown since the 1500s.

Originally the word Valentine meant the person whose name was picked from a box to be chosen as your sweetheart up until the 1500s.  Then around 1533, it meant the folded piece of paper with the sweetheart's name on it.  By 1610 it then became the gift given to this special someone and by 1824 it then became a poem, letter or verse to a sweetheart.

As I said, how it has grown, from a folded piece of paper with a name on it to a whole section at most major chain stores.  I often find myself wondering what does God think of things.  As I shopped and saw some cards that I didn't really think God would approve of, I thought of the word saint.  St. Valentine, was he a saint?  I researched this loveable saint and was very surprised at what I found.

Although Valentine's Day is celebrated on February 14 every year, it originates from the Roman celebration called Lupercalia.
Roman armies invaded countries physically as well as socially.  When the Romans invaded France, they introduced this festival in which Roman boys drew names of Roman girls out of an urn (to determine their partners) and then the couple exchanged gifts on the festival's day.  This was considered a pagan celebration, so in 469 C.E., Pope Gelasius decided to put a Christian spin on this celebration by declaring that it was now to honor St. Valentine (A young Roman who was martyred by Emperor Claudius II who was said to have died on February 14, 270 C.E. for refusing to give up Christianity).   

 Another story goes like this...A man named Valentine (who was in prison for helping persecuted Christians) witnessed to his jailor and ended up converting his entire family to Christianity. The jailor also had a blind daughter, Julia, that Valentine ended up falling in love with (as well as restoring her sight).  But love did not prevail. :(  On the morning of Valentine's execution, he sent a message to the daughter signed,
 "From your Valentine."

So perhaps if either one of these stories is true, Valentine, the man, if not a saint, was at least a pretty good fellow. The first story said he refused to give up Christianity, which was definitely a good thing.  The second story said Valentine was a witness for Christ in prison. 

Today when you get your Valentine gift, remember how this all started.  Remember Valentine who stood up for Christ.  Also remember the greatest gift ever given, Jesus Christ who loved us sooooooooooo much that He died for us so that we may live forever with Him in heaven. Who knows, we might even meet Valentine there one day and he can tell us which of the above stories is true.

Romans 5:8

But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Happy Valentine's Day