God’s Love Letter

By Major Beth Desplancke

Back when my husband and I were dating, early on in our relationship, Frank had to go out of town for a conference and was gone for almost two weeks. In that time, I remember receiving a long love letter from him. In this letter he talked about his dreams for our future, including marriage, family, and our life as Officers together. It was several handwritten pages filled with messages of love.

I was surprised to receive something other than a bill in the mail. The fact that he had written his letter so neatly, which meant he took some time to make legible (I did not fall in love with him because of his penmanship), and he openly shared his heart with me was thrilling. At this time, we had only been dating a little more than 2 months (to be honest, we had dated without dating for a lot longer, but two months was us “officially dating”), so what he wrote was things I had never heard before. He is much more guarded with his words in person, but on paper he was so open and so free, and everything he wrote oozed with love for me.

What did I do with that letter after I read it? You know, I read it again and again and again. I absorbed every word that was lovingly written on the page. I laughed at some of his ideas, cried tears of joy that God had finally led me to the “one” whom I would spend the rest of my life. I carried that letter around with me for weeks (it was tucked in my Bible so I could read it during class since it was while I was a cadet at CFOT). I prayed over it. I dreamed about it. I shared tidbits from it with my close friends! I still have that letter in a special box of treasures 25 years later!

I didn’t treat it like it was junk mail. It was not thrown into the trash unread. It wasn’t casual correspondence that I read once and then moved on with my life. It wasn’t a bill that I dreaded receiving. It was a beautiful letter filled with words of love from someone who is very dear to me.

God did the same thing. He gave us a love letter – His Word! We have 66 books filled with messages from Him about His love for us, and His desire for us to have a relationship with Him. And just like the love letter my husband sent me 25 years ago (he has sent me more since then), I didn’t just look at it once and then discard it. I treasured it! I meditated on it! I cherished it!

Let me share with you just a few of my favorite love verses from our Heavenly Father, who loves us more than any human possibly could love us. Hopefully we will treasure these words, cherish them and meditate on them!

The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” Jeremiah 31:3

For God so love the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. John 3:16

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are. 1 John 3:1a

Have you taken the time to read God’s love letter to you lately? May we be women who know God and His love, and love to be in a deeper relationship with Him through reading His love letter to us daily. May we read God’s Word, memorize it, think on it, chew on it, devour and digest it, and most importantly may we take what we read in God’s amazing love letter to us and live it out in our daily lives. May these words be true of each of us:

My passion and delight is in your word, for I love what you say to me! I long for more revelation of your truth, for I love the light of your word as I meditate on your decrees. (Psalm 119:47-48, The Passion Translation)

February 2022 Craft & Devotional: Love Your Neighbor

By Captain Ryan Boyd
Missoula, MT Corps – Northwest Division

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’[a]; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
Luke 10:25-37

The story of the Good Samaritan is one that, like you, I have heard a million times. In it, we read that we should love God and love our neighbor as ourselves. And no doubt about it, the Good Samaritan showed great love to the man going to Jericho. But as I was reading this passage, it came to me. Often, we (as people) tend to be more like the expert in the law than the Good Samaritan.

As Jesus is telling this story, the people listening were probably feeing challenged by His words. If loving God means obeying his commands and loving our neighbor means loving with compassion, care, and cost, am I really loving? Am I living up to this standard? We probably feel this way as well when we read these words.

And because we are human, we start looking for a loophole. We know we haven’t lived up to these standards and so we try to bend the standards to fit what we can attain. God says, “do this” and we think “well, surely He meant only do this when I feel like it. I’m totally doing that. I’m such a good Christian.” So, when Jesus says to love your neighbor, immediately they think “well, who is my neighbor?” Because if my neighbor means those I am close to, those I agree with, those who hold the same religious and political beliefs that I do, then YES! Done. So maybe it just all depends on how we define who our neighbor is. So, the expert in the law asks that very question.

But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Now this question is not really a question to find out who his neighbor is. It says right in the beginning that he wanted to justify himself. He knew he wasn’t living up to the standard. The question he asks, “who is my neighbor?” is really asking who do I not have to love? Who is my neighbor? = Who don’t I have to love?

That is what he really wants to know. Just how far does my love have to extend and where can it end? So Jesus tells the story of the Samaritan and asks the expert in the law “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

We hear the story of the Good Samaritan and think that is terrible that those first 2 people did not help. That Samaritan man was so nice. That is because we have heard this story so many times AND We don’t have the cultural reference points of those who were hearing this story the first time. I’m sure that the people listening to Jesus were appalled that he was using priests and Levites as the poor examples. Jews felt the priests and the Levites were good people, righteous in fact. And a Samaritan was one of the most despised people to the Jews. They were half breeds. They did not keep their race pure or their religion.

Jesus isn’t teaching people to believe like Samaritans. In this story, He is not even teaching that all priests and Levites are bad. Jesus is answering two questions and doing it in a way that is going to offend some and challenge those who have ears to hear. My goal is to be challenged every single time. The questions are: 1. Am I loving the way that God calls me to love? and 2. Am I loving WHO God calls me to love?

Am I loving the way that God calls me to love?

Am I loving WHO God calls me to love?

Sometimes, loving people is so easy it’s like second nature. We have the world’s best Home League Secretary, Norma, at our corps. She is so helpful and selfless and anticipates needs and meets them. When Josh started coughing during his sermon, the next week there was a water bottle. She takes such good care of us. She’s so easy to love that I want to shower her with gifts and words of affirmation. I want her to see what a blessing she is to me and the Kingdom.

I am all about being real and transparent. Sometimes, loving people is so hard I don’t want to do it anymore. There is a lady who comes in for services at our building all the time. We are the only place she can be inside in town and she suffers from trauma and severe mental health issues. She likes to call me names, she uses our lawn as a bathroom, and she yells at and berates us daily. I don’t want to buy her anything. In fact, days where she doesn’t come visit us are so peaceful.

But God calls me to love her just like I love Norma. The difference is Norma’s love costs me nothing. In fact, I gain with Norma. But loving the second woman costs me my patience, my pride, and, some days, my ability to show love. I don’t tell you this because I think I’m amazing – because I don’t think I am. In fact, I think I fail at loving her just as much as I succeed – but I think that she keeps coming back because she feels God’s love coming from our building. She is my neighbor. God calls me to love her as I love myself.

I can see why the religious people of the day were like Jesus, are you sure? And God is saying yes. 100%. I am sure that you need to love them as you love yourself. When I read the question “and who is my neighbor” I always imagine Jesus saying “everyone I died for is your neighbor. The whosoever.”

I think there’s another side of this story that I never considered until I saw it on a meme. I don’t usually get my theology from a meme, but this one spoke to me. It said: “The Good Samaritan story is not just an example of compassionate spirituality. It is a critique against religious passivity. If “church people” won’t work for justice and mercy, God will find some other people who will.”

OUCH! God uses us to do his work on earth, but we are not the end-all-be-all for him. If we don’t follow his commands, he will find someone who will. His will is going to be accomplished. The question is do we want to be a part of it? And if the Samaritan man – if people who don’t know the Lord as their savior – are just as compassionate as those who do, what does that say about the church?

We need to do better. Who is our neighbor? It’s the whosoever.

Check out this easy craft that goes with this devotion: https://www.craftymorning.com/puzzle-piece-valentine-craft/

February 2022 Korean Devotional: Blessing is Channel of Love

By Captain Eunha Kim
Eastside, WA Corps – Northwest Division

하나님은 우리에게 성경을 통하여 사랑을 말씀하신다.
성경책은 사랑의 책이라고 하여도 맞을 것이다.
요한복음에서만해도 사랑이라는 단어는 50번을 넘게 우리에게 말씀하셨다.
주님은 왜 우리에게 사랑이라는 말씀을 계속하셨을까?
그것은 아마도 사랑한다는 것이 쉬운 것 같아도 어렵기때문일것이다.
왜냐면 원수도 사랑하기 힘들고 나를 괴롭히는 사람, 나를 싫어하는 사람, 내가 미워하는 사람도 사랑하기 힘들기 때문이다
그런데 하나님은 우리에게 말씀하신다. 원수도 사랑하라고 하시고 구약에서는 내 이웃을 네 몸처럼 사랑하라 말씀하시고 요한복음 13장 34절에서는 더 넓게 모든 사람과 더불어 서로 사랑하라고 말씀하신다
즉, 구약에서는 내 이웃에서 신약에서는 내 이웃 뿐만 이 아니라 내 지역 사회 그리고 더 나아가서 다른 민족까지도 서로 사랑하라고 새 계명을 주셨다
나는 요한복음 13장을 묵상하면서 오늘은 13장 1절 말씀 중에 ‘끝까지 ‘라는 단어가 유난히 눈에 띄었다.
우리는 사랑하기는 쉬어도 끝까지 사랑하는 것이 힘들지 않은가?
믿음 생활도 하기는 쉬운데 우리의 믿음도 끝까지 지키는 것이 힘들지 않은가?
주님께 순종 하겠다 하면서도 끝까지 순종하지 못하는 때가 많다
그러나 예수님은 우리를 끝까지 사랑하셨다 그리고 하나님의 말씀대로 끝까지 순종하셨다
우리는 너무 쉽게 사랑하고 너무 쉽게 사랑하는 마음을 잃어버리지 않는가?
그렇다면 어떻게 주님이 우리를 끝까지 사랑하신것처럼 우리도 끝까지 서로 사랑할 수 있을까?
주님께서 사랑하라 하셨으니 무조건 사랑하는 마음을 갖으면 사랑할 수 있을까?
너무나도 풍족 해지고 있는 이세상은 주님이 말씀하신것처럼 더 많은 사람과 함께 서로 사랑하기가 힘들어지고 있지 않은가?
삶이 풍요로워 지면 우리는 서로 나누면서 서로 사랑할 수 있을 것 같지만 지금의 세상은 점점 개인주의로 나를 중심으로 살며 나만 잘 살면 되고 내 가정만 잘 살면 되는 그런 사회로 변해가고 있다.
35절에는 우리가 서로 사랑하면 이로써 모든 사람이 주님의 제자인 줄 알 것 이라고 말씀하고 계신다.
주님의 제자가 된다는 것은 주님의 말씀대로 살아가는 것이 제자가 되는 것이다.
예수님의 제자로 살겠다고 주님께 날마다 기도하지만 끝까지 주님의 제자로 사는 것도 어려울 때가 많다.
왜냐면 우리의 삶은 항상 똑같지 않기 때문이다.
어떤 때는 평지를 걷다가 어떤 때는 오르막길이 나오고 산도 만나게 된다.그것이 우리의 인생이 아닐까?
오늘의 말씀처럼 어떻게 주님께서 주신 새 계명처럼 내가 너희를 사랑한것처럼 너희도 서로 사랑하라는 말씀대로 살수 있을까?
나는 그 대답을 룻기에서 찾을 수 가 있었다.
나오미에게는 룻과 오르바 두명의 며느리가 있었는데 사랑하는 남편과 두명의 아들을 잃어버리는 아픔을 겪고 두며느리들에게 떠나라고 권고한다.
그러나 두명 중에 한명 오르바는 비전이 보이지않자 자신이 자랐던 곳으로 다시 돌아가고 룻은 어려운 환경에 있지만 나오미와 함께 베들레햄으로 가서 보아스를 만나 결혼을 하게 된다.
나는 보아스를 만나게 되는 그 과정에서 사랑할 수 있는 답을 찾았다.
바로 축복 이였다.
보아스는 만나는 모든 이들에게 주님의 축복을 항상 원했다.
자신보다 낮은 자리에 있는 자들에게도 축복을 하고 힘이 없고 약한 여인들 에게도 축복을 전했다.
그리고 보아스로부터 받은 모든 은혜를 룻에게로 부터 들은 나오미도 보아스 를 축복해 주었다.
축복은 우리가 서로 사랑할 수 있는 축복의 통로가 되는 것이 아닐까?
하나님이 우리에게 원하시는 사랑은 낮은 자를 돌아보며 약한 자와 가난 한자를 축복 할 때 우리는 서로 사랑할 수 있을 것이다.
신앙생활을 하면서 상처를 많이 받는 곳은 의외로 가정과 교회라고 한다
배우자와 자녀를 서로 사랑하지 못하고 신앙생활을 같이하는 성도도 서로 사랑하기 힘들 때가 많다.

우리 모두는 하나님이 사랑하시는 똑같은 자녀이다
많고 적게 가진 자도 아니요 높은 자와 낮은 자도 아닌 우리 모두를 주님께서는 사랑하신다.
주님의 사랑은 나보다 다른 사람을 더 귀하게 생각할 때 축복하고 사랑할 수 있을 것이다.
오늘 하루를 나에게 만남을 허락하신 모든 사람을 더 귀하게 섬기며 축복할 때 우리는 서로 사랑하는 주님의 제자가 될 것이다.
“새 계명을 너희에게 주노니 서로 사랑하라 내가 너희를 사랑한 것 같이 너희도 서로 사랑하라” 요한복음 13장 34절

Download the English Translation of this devotional.

February 2022 Devotional: Choose Love

By Lt. Isabella Green
Bellingham, WA Corps – Northwest Division

Twenty-four years into my life and I’ll finally admit it, I was an angry kid. I had a short fuse that my sister especially was great at lighting. She would say something, push just the right button, and I would go off on her. Then, in true sister fashion she would run to my parents crying about how mean and awful I was, and I would be the one to get in trouble. Typical right? It sure was in my household.

After every spat and fight, my dad would sit me down, and I would say through my tears, “but Papa! She made me do it! She made me mad!” and he, in all his fatherly wisdom and patience would once again remind me that she can’t make me do anything. I chose to get mad. I chose to react. I chose to do something I knew would get me in trouble.
Choices. We all make them. We make good choices, we make bad choices, we make choices with unknown outcomes. Choices.

1 Corinthians 16:14 tells us to “do everything in love.” As believers in Christ, we are called to make choices that reflect that belief and relationship. We are called to make choices guided by love. When we read through Scripture we see time and time again God choosing love. The promise that the rainbow stands for is a promise of love. Gods continuous patience with Israel was a continuous choice He made with love. The birth and death of His son, and all the things Jesus did during His time on earth, is an incredible example of God choosing love, even if it was hard. God loves us, to the point of sending His son to die for all of us. We don’t always make it easy for Him either, but, He always chooses love.

Each and every day, we need to choose love, just as God does. When your sister pushes your buttons, you need to choose love. When your boss tests your patience, you need to choose love. When that car in front of you cuts you off and makes you late for an important event, you need to choose love. When it seems impossible to choose anything else, choose love.

Let all that you do be done in love. 1 Corinthians 16:14

She Leads… With Inspiration to Serve

By Captain Felicia Grant
Seattle, WA Social Services Director – Northwest Division

From its humble beginnings, the Founder of Home League (1907), now Women’s Ministries, coined it a “help one another society.” Women in social work is one of the continuous strands of ministry for The Salvation Army. We see Women’s Ministries impact and significance throughout our history, beginning in 1890 when Captain Emma Brown organized the first Slum Sisters brigade. Serving families living in deplorable conditions, such as no heat or running water in cramped spaces, often shared with other families and shared bathrooms. On-call day or night, they bathed the sick, fed children, washed clothing, cleaned houses, and cooked a lot of hot meals. During World War I in 1917, women Officers of The Salvation Army, trusting ingenuity, equipped with very few supplies: gas masks, helmets, and .45-caliber revolvers; served up thousands of donuts to WWI soldiers. 

Even before becoming an Officer, I remember serving, supporting, and sharing with people who just needed a little help rebounding from an unexpected situation or experiencing a series of unfortunate events, those who in the past had been the ‘giver’ and now need to ‘receive,’ most often in a state disbelief and shame. Scripture shares our victory because of Christ in 2 Corinthians 4:8-9: We are hard-pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” We find ourselves in a unique place throughout history as Ambassadors of the Gospel, Proclaimers of Peace, lavishing love as was lavished on us, equipped and prepared to meet both the spiritual and practical needs, to aid and to inspire those who enter our doors. What a fantastic opportunity to have this eternal impact at pivotal times in the lives of so many! 
Women in Social Services are inspired by the love of God and knowing His love is for all, and they want to share that Good News. The Salvation Army operating and ministering through the arm of Women’s Ministries in Worship, Service, Fellowship, and Education in 132 countries, in every zip code in the US, is and will continue reaching the world for Christ! 
Inspire, in Latin inspirare means to ‘breathe or blow into’ from in- ‘into’ + spirare ‘breathe.’ The word was originally used of a divine or supernatural being, in the sense ‘impart a truth or idea to someone. This definition takes my mind to the song “Great Are You Lord” by Casting Crowns. The chorus says, “It’s Your breath in our lungs, so we pour out our praise Your only.” Inspired by the love of God, His Word, and the Power of His Holy Spirit, through our praise we also inspire others.

What does that look like in day-to-day Social Work? Through Relational Social Services, a simple yet genuine conversation, as shared in the Gospel of John Chapter 4, shows how a conversation can transform lives. When we can and want to inspire others, we establish a beautiful bond through the experience of speaking, teaching, and lovingly restoring women (and men) from all walks of life who are in a place to be inspired. As we follow the model of Apostle Paul, unapologetic in who he was in Christ (Galatians 2:20), we plant seeds of hope and reflect on God’s grace and provision in the lives of those we serve. I believe we see this hope in the story of The Good Samaritan told by Jesus in the Gospel of Luke 10:25-37. [Note: Check out this month’s craft & devotional, Love Your Neighbor, that also talks about the Good Samaritan]

Women’s Ministries, inspired through Educating, Fellowship, Service, and Worship, and now we encourage others as we serve our communities, wrapping our arms around them in acceptance, love, understanding, and grace. Personally, I have experienced the bonds that tie through Women’s Ministries, gained life-long friendships and have been blessed and (hopefully) have been a blessing to many. Our time in serving others, lives on in each family, and organically spreads hope beyond our service to an individual or their family but often it spreads through family, social circles, either sharing their experience with The Salvation Army or modeling and serving others in their own capacities. As they carry on the love and concern shown to them, I believe through the realization of what Christ has accomplished in their life, they can begin to personally consider inviting Christ in their life.

Relational Social Services allows The Salvation Army to partner with clients and journey with them helping them move past barriers and obstacles to the betterment of their lives. During this time, we have the opportunity to inspire them during conversation; with our faith and experience in who Christ is and how God sees each one of us and knows our every need, inspire! Women’s Ministries is the perfect partnership that leads to the opportunities for families to become introduced into Corps programs.

(Major Jason Swain, n.d.)
(https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/donut-girls-wwi-helped-fill-soldiers-bellies-and-get-women-vote-180962864/, 2017)
(Centralusa.salvationarmy.org, 2019)