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Across the Pastor’s Desk: True Valentine love and devotion

Across the Pastor’s Desk by John Holt

This Sunday is Valentine’s Day.  We observe the day with gestures of devotion to people we love. Legend has it that the original St. Valentine lived in Italy and Rome in the 3rd century AD. As a Christian priest or bishop, he was martyred for his devotion to Jesus.

John Holt

Devotion to the one you love is more than a gift of flowers or chocolate one day a year. True devotion is an everyday priority.  As much as I enjoy and value romantic gestures, I would ask you to give some attention to your love and devotion to God.

In the Holy Bible we read “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”   That defines devotion to God. Jesus, in the New Testament, declared that call to love God as the greatest commandment, adding “And love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus also quoted the prophet Isaiah when he said, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”

In the Old Testament, many times God is disappointed with his people when, even though they still kind of believe in him, they bring in other idols. It shows that their faith and devotion are not authentic. It’s kind of like if a husband or wife were having an illicit affair.  And, it’s bad for the people; they suffer because of their lack of true devotion to the Lord. 

In our area we don’t commonly see old-fashioned idols like a golden calf, Asherah pole, Baal statues around us these days. Nevertheless, we may have idols in our lives that compromise our devotion to the Lord.  Ask yourself what may be an idol in your life? I have heard that the use of pornography has increased during the pandemic. How about the place of sports? Casino gambling? Money? Do you read God’s Word, come to church or tune in to worship; or have other things taken priority? I don’t think God is against wholesome pursuits in our lives, but he might ask, “Where is your heart?”  After all, the faith relationship with Christ that forgives and saves is a matter of the heart. Jesus cares deeply about our hearts.

Psalm 139 shows us how completely God knows each of us. It concludes with: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

God wants the whole you, not just a part. True Valentine’s Day love begins with a heart fully devoted to God. Then, with his blessing, guidance and strength, our other relationships fall into place.  After all, God’s heart is devoted to us: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”

Happy St. Valentine’s Day in the light of God’s love!

John F. Holt is lead pastor of First Lutheran Church in Albert Lea.