“Be mine.” Four of my favorite valentines these days are my grandsons. Kevin and I shopped for the perfect gift to give them on this Valentine’s Day. Asher and Lucas got LaCross cleats. I am now a LaCross fan. Zeke is into everything related to Cars movies. I scoured Amazon to find any Car he did not have. Then Jax will be receiving the highest rated baby toy out there.
Last night my favorite Valentine took me to Ruth Chris Steakhouse for our Valentine date.
It’s what we do on special holidays. We love to give gifts to those we love. We give because God gave His best to us.
Over 2000 years ago God sent His One and Only begotten Son into this world.
Today I am giving you a valentine.
Here is an excerpt from my new book “On The Way.”
Down by the River
“I baptize with water,” John replied, “but among you stands one you do not know. He is the one who comes after me, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie” John 1:26-27 NIV.
“This all happened at Bethany on the other side of the Jordan, where John was baptizing. The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” John 1:28-29 NIV.
“Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter Him, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by you and do you come to me?” Jesus replied, ‘Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness” Matthew 3:13-15 NIV.
“As soon as Jesus was baptized, He went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on Him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love: with Him I am well pleased” Matthew 3:16-17 NIV.
One of my favorite TV reality shows is the “Amazing Race.” Contestants fly across the globe experiencing the cultures of the nations. I think I might enjoy the contest, but none of my family members are willing to join my team. I think it is because they know it would be them who had to carry the brunt of the burden to complete the race. I do not eat bugs or other gross stuff. I don’t like the heat. I will need a blanket in the cold, and I like the finer five star hotels. Sleeping in airports or under the stars is a little too offensive for my delicate skin, but I am good at reading maps because I have stayed in a Holiday Inn. My family will not choose me, but Jesus has chosen me to tag along as He went on His “Amazing Race.”
The son of Mary and Joseph was now a grown man. It was 30 A.D. Jesus had a destiny and a purpose to walk in. He heard the sound of His Father’s starting gun, and He was off on His amazing race. Jesus left his childhood home in Nazareth, and traveled to the shores of the Jordan River. This was the Father’s starting leg of His journey to the cross. He had a divine appointment on this day. He was to meet his cousin John the Baptist.
John had proven he was passionate for the things of God, and because he had the right heart condition, he experienced a Holy Moment with His Savior.
The setting of Jesus’ first public encounter was on the shore of the Jordan River. He walked intentionally toward John. He knew His next step. He had to be lowered into the swirling waters of the Jordan River. His cousin was to be His baptizer. Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, needed to be washed by the waters that He had created.
Jesus and John the Baptist were as different as any two you know. Each was called to run different races. John had a booming voice beckoning all to repentance, and Jesus exhibited His own disposition of grace and mercy. John was used to prepare the way for Jesus. Jesus came to bear the cross and defeat death, hell, and the grave for a dying world. An unlikely pair, but each ran their God-appointed races and ran them well.
“For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners’” Luke 7:33-34 NIV.
I gasped as I watched the American women’s four by one hundred meter relay team drop the baton during the exchange between Alyson Felix and English Gardner during the 2016 Olympics. The team was poised to win it all, instead the dropped baton disqualified them. With quick thinking Felix urged Gardner to pick up the baton and finish the race. If they were to have a chance at repealing the disqualification, Gardner had to cross the finish line. The women won their appeal and ran another qualifying relay all by themselves the next morning. They came in with the leading time of 41.77 seconds. That night the U.S. Women’s 4×100 meter relay team claimed their coveted dream. They won gold with a time of 41.01 seconds.
The original ruling of disqualification came because Allyson Felix was bumped by a Brazilian runner in the next lane. Felix’s stride was thrown off balance causing the exchange to be faulty. The baton was dropped and Felix picked it up and threw it to Gardner who finished the ill fated race.
God has called each of us to run His amazing race. He doesn’t call us to run every race. Those who are meant to run the sprints, God empowers to run sprints. Others are called to run relays, and others marathons. We have but one race, and all God asks is to run it well and cross the finish line.
Our Coach instructs us to stay in the lane He has designed for us. The people in the next lane may bump us and throw us off balance. Our batons may drop, but God says, “Finish the race. I will be with you wherever you go.” Our race may not look pretty and it might not even be the one we’ve dreamed of winning, but when we cross that final finish line we will hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
The Amazing Race
John woke up that morning and wiped the dust off his camel hair robe. His bones were weary and his muscles ached. He must have dunked hundreds of people in the Jordan River over the past few days. He didn’t mind though; the aches and pains reminded him of the fight he was engaged in. He had been given an assignment from God. That assignment had been poured into him from before he was even conceived. He knew his lane and he was running in it all the way to the finish line.
During those days, everyone was gripped with messianic expectations. They believed the Messiah would come at any moment. They flocked to the Jordan to be baptized by John. John spoke the message of repentance, and it sliced though the listeners very souls and pierced their hearts.
It was time. It was past time for the children of Abraham to get their hearts right before the Lord, so that is what he preached. John told the crowds, “I baptize only with water.” So he walked out into the Jordan and began the dunking, symbolically washing each one who desired repentance, but in his heart he knew there would be One who would baptize in the power of the Holy Spirit. Day after day he too longed to see the One who would come after him whose sandals he was not worthy to untie.
Jesus put on the outer robe his mother, Mary, had woven for Him. He kissed her cheek and tasted the tear rolling down. He could see the plea written in the sorrow of her eyes. “Don’t go,” He knew she wanted to beg, but He also knew she would never say it. She felt the winds of change blowing the same as He did. The words of Gabriel echoed down the halls of time.
Jesus felt the fear and dread that shrouded their good-byes. It was a fear that was evident in her shallow breaths. Jesus knew Simeon’s words spoken to her thirty years ago engulfed her heart. “A sword will pierce your own soul.”
Mary’s nails dug into His shoulders as she kissed Him then she released her son. They said their good-bye’s. He felt her penetrating gaze follow Him down the lane as He walked into the world He had created with His Father.
His Amazing Race had begun. The Father had revealed it to Him. He descended the hills of Nazareth. He had an appointment at the Jordan River. His Father had made it. He knew who He must meet, He knew where they must meet, and He knew what the meeting would accomplish. His Father in Heaven was sending Him. His Father had prepared Him. He too had been given an assignment, but there was one thing He must accomplish before He was propelled to run the race.
He walked the 30 miles and found His cousin baptizing in the Jordan River, right where His Father had sent Him. He walked into the River and clasped the hand of His cousin in greeting. They had met before. They had met in each of their mother’s wombs before either had even been born into this world. John recognized Jesus then with excitement, and he recognized Jesus now with humility.
“I will be baptized by you, John, on this very day,” Jesus said to the Baptizer. “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” John spoke humbly to His Messiah. “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Both Savior and servant had a desire to do everything right before God Most High.
John took the Savior of the world, the Lamb of God, his Cousin, into His arms and immersed Jesus into the flowing water of the Jordan River. His heart pounded because this was a Holy Moment and he was thankful the Lord allowed him to be a part of it.
Jesus came up praying as His face broke the plane of the water. His eyes were cast to the skies. He and John both saw the heavens open. Then Jesus saw His Heavenly Father release the Holy Spirit of God. God’s Spirit descended like a dove and lit upon His shoulder. He remembered the dove Noah had released once a long time ago. Noah never knew where the dove landed but Jesus always had His eye on that dove, and now the Spirit of God had come to Him in that form.
Jesus heard His Father’s booming voice once again, “This is my Son whom I love; with Him I am well pleased.” That voice and those words gave Him courage. With the knowledge that His Father was pleased with Him, He could face the challenges and the wildernesses of this earth. And He walked off to run His Race.
Waypoints to your destination:
1) What was John doing on this day?
2) How did John describe Jesus as He walked toward him?
3) What was John’s attitude when Jesus told him to baptize Him?
4) What did God say as Jesus rose from the waters?
“Lord, may I decrease as You increase. Lord, may I walk in the purpose You have called me to. Help me to run my race for the glory of God.”
Visit my store to purchase your copy. Now thru the end of the month it will be on pre sale.