Live Loved

He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.
[Philippians 1:6]

A Hope-Filled People

If you look hard enough and long enough, you’ll find something to complain about.

Adam and Eve did. Doesn’t the bite into the forbidden fruit reflect a feeling of discontent? Surrounded by all they needed, they set their eyes on the one thing they couldn’t have. They found something to complain about.

The followers of Moses did. They could have focused on the miracles: Red Sea becoming the Yellow Brick Road, fire escorting them by night and a cloud accompanying them by day, manna reflecting the morning sunrise and quail scampering into the camp at night. Instead they focused on their problems. They sketched pictures of Egypt, daydreamed of pyramids, and complained that life in the desert wasn’t for them. They found something to complain about.

What about you? What are you looking at? The one fruit you can’t eat? Or the million you can? The manna or the misery? His plan or your problems? Each a gift or a grind?

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. (Philippians 4:8)

This is more than a silver-lining attitude, more than seeing the cup as half full rather than half empty. This is an admission that unseen favorable forces populate and direct the affairs of humanity. When we see as God wants us to see, we see heaven’s hand in the midst of sickness, … the Holy Spirit comforting a broken heart. We see not what is seen, but what is unseen. We see with faith and not flesh, and since faith begets hope, we of all people are hope filled. For we know there is more to life than what meets the eye.

[Every Day Deserves a Chance]

Dear Lord,

Forgive us when we fail to recognize your hand in our lives. Be patient with us when we focus on our own small plans and fail to see your grand design for our lives. Increase our faith so that we see only your daily love and care,

Amen.

Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God.

[Psalm 146:5]

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.

[Jeremiah 29:11]

~ Max Lucado ~

Live Loved

For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not received? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?

[1 Corinthians 4:7]

God Served Us First

The apostle Paul knew to go low and not high. He was saved through a personal visit from Jesus, granted a vision of the heavens and the ability to raise the dead. But when he introduced himself, he simply stated, “I, Paul, am God’s slave” (Titus 1:1 msg). John the Baptist was a blood relative of Jesus and one of the most famous evangelists in history. But he is remembered in Scripture as the one who resolved: “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30)…

The greatest example of this humility is none other than Jesus Christ. Who had more reason to boast than he? Yet he never did. He walked on water but never strutted on the beach. He turned a basket into a buffet but never demanded applause. A liberator and a prophet came to visit him, but he never dropped names in his sermon. He could have. “Just the other day I was conferring with Moses and Elijah.” But Jesus never thumped his chest. He refused even to take credit. “I can do nothing on my own” (John 5:30 nrsv). He was utterly reliant upon the Father and the Holy Spirit. “All by myself ”? Jesus never spoke such words. If he didn’t, how dare we?

We can rise too high but can never stoop too low. What gift are you giving that he did not first give? What truth are you teaching that he didn’t first teach? You love. But who loved you first? You serve. But who served the most? What are you doing for God that he could not do alone?

How kind of him to use us. How wise of us to remember.

[Outlive Your Life]

Mighty God,

We humbly bow before you in thanksgiving for all you have done. Every breath is a gift from you. We cannot do anything without you. Your power and your Word enable us to live each day for you. When we serve, may we serve for your glory. When we love others, may they see your hand, your heart, your love for them,

Amen.

The humble also shall increase their joy in the Lord, and the poor among men shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.

[Isaiah 29:19]

The humble He guides in justice, and the humble He teaches His way.

[Psalm 25:9]

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”

[Matthew 5:5]

~ Max Lucado ~

Live Loved

He has made His wonderful works to be remembered; the Lord is gracious and full of compassion.

[Psalm 111:4]

Our Message

I“I have a duty to all people,” Paul told the Roman church (Romans 1:14). He had something for them—a message. He’d been entrusted as a Pony Express courier with a divine message, the gospel. Nothing mattered more to Paul than the gospel. “I am not ashamed of the gospel,” he wrote next, “because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” (v. 16)…

What people think of us matters not. What they think of God matters all…

God doesn’t need you and me to do his work. We are expedient messengers, ambassadors by his kindness, not by our cleverness…

And we entrusted with the gospel dare not seek applause but best deflect applause. For our message is about Someone else.

A European village priest in medieval times once gathered his church for a special service. “Come tonight,” he told them, “for a special sermon on Jesus.” And they did. They came. To their surprise, however, no candles illuminated the sanctuary. They groped their way to the pews and took their seats. The priest was nowhere to be seen. But soon he was heard walking through the church toward the front. When he reached the crucifix that hung on the wall, he lit a candle. Saying nothing, he illuminated the pierced feet of Christ, then the side, then one hand, and then the other. Lifting the candle, he shed light on the blood-masked face and the crown of thorns. With a puff, he blew out the candle and dismissed the church.

May we do nothing more.

May we do nothing less.

[It’s Not About Me]

Father God,

You are the message this world needs to receive. Your loving forgiveness is the antidote for the sins of a world that would be lost without you. Without you there is only pain and hopelessness. With you there is forgiveness, hope, and a future. Let us be your faithful messengers. Help us not to care what others think but to care what you think,

Amen.

He saved them for His name’s sake, that He might make His mighty power known.

[Psalm 106:8]

Or let them hear and say, “It is truth.” “You are My witnesses,” says the Lord, “And My servant whom I have chosen that you may know and believe Me, and understand that I am He.”

[Isaiah 43:10]

~ Max Lucado ~

Live Loved

The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and great in mercy.

[Psalm 145:8]

What More Do You Need?

Next time your day goes south, here is what you do. Steep yourself in the grace of God. Saturate your day in his love. Marinate your mind in his mercy. He has settled your accounts, paid your debt. “Christ carried our sins in his body on the cross” (1 Peter 2:24).

When you lose your temper with your child, Christ intervenes: “I paid for that.” When you tell a lie and all of heaven groans, your Savior speaks up: “My death covered that sin.” As you lust, gloat, covet, or judge, Jesus stands before the tribunal of heaven and points to the blood-streaked cross. “I’ve already made provision. I’ve taken away the sins of the world.”

What a gift he has given you. You’ve won the greatest lottery in the history of humanity, and you didn’t even pay for the ticket! Your soul is secure, your salvation guaranteed. Your name is written in the only book that matters. You’re only a few sand grains in the hourglass from a tearless, graveless, painless existence. What more do you need?

[Every Day Deserves a Chance]

Lord, you give gifts without measure. You give the gift of your grace. You give the gift of your mercy. You have settled our debts. You carry our burdens and guide us on the good paths of life. You provide answers and solutions to our problems. You give strength. You have made our souls secure and have promised us life eternal with you. We worship you and seek to bring honor to you, precious Savior, amen.

I will sing to the Lord because He has death bountifully with me.

[Psalm 13:6]

He will again have compassion on us, and will subdue our iniquities. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.

[Micah 7:19]

Though He causes grief, yet He will show compassion according to the multitude of His mercies.

[Lamentations 3:32]

~ Max Lucado ~

Live Loved

If our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things.

[1 John 3:20]

Loved with a Perfect Love

We are convinced that God must hate our evil tendencies. We sure do. We don’t like the things we do and say. We despise our lustful thoughts, harsh judgments, and selfish deeds. If our sin nauseates us, how much more must it revolt a holy God! We draw a practical conclusion: God is irreparably ticked off at us…

Yes, we have disappointed God. But, no, God has not abandoned us…

Jesus loves us too much to leave us in doubt about his grace. His “perfect love expels all fear” (1 John 4:18 nlt). If God loved with an imperfect love, we would have high cause to worry. Imperfect love keeps a list of sins and consults it often. God keeps no list of our wrongs. His love casts out fear because he casts out our sin!

Tether your heart to this promise, and tighten the knot. Remember the words of John’s epistle: “If our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things” (1 John 3:20). When you feel unforgiven, evict the feelings. Emotions don’t get a vote. Go back to Scripture. God’s Word holds rank over self-criticism and self-doubt.

As Paul told Titus, “God’s readiness to give and forgive is now public. Salvation’s available for everyone! … Tell them all this. Build up their courage” (Titus 2:11, 15 msg). Do you know God’s grace? Then you can love boldly, live robustly. You can swing from trapeze to trapeze; his safety net will break your fall.

Nothing fosters courage like a clear grasp of grace.

[Fearless]

Gracious Father,

We know that we don’t always please you. We fall short of your standards again and again. When we are discouraged and feel we are failing you, remind us of your perfect love and your grace. Thank you for reminding us that your perfect love casts out every wrong and keeps no lists of our failures. Every time we fall, help us to reach for your grace,

Amen.

He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love.

[Colossians 1:13]

“He who believes in Him is not condemned.”

[John 3:18]

These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.

[1 John 5:13]

Live Loved

“Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; not about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?”

[Matthew 6:25]

Worry Doesn’t Work

Shortfalls and depletions inhabit our trails. Not enough time, luck, credit, wisdom, intelligence. We are running out of everything, it seems, and so we worry. But worry doesn’t work.

“Look at the birds. They don’t need to plant or harvest or put food in barns because your heavenly Father feeds them. And because you are far more valuable to him than they are. Can all your worries add a single moment to your life.” (Matthew 6:26– 27)

Fret won’t fill a bird’s belly with food or a flower’s petal with color. Birds and flowers seem to get along just fine, and they don’t take antacids.

What’s more, you can dedicate a decade of anxious thoughts to the brevity of life and not extend it by one minute. Worry accomplishes nothing…

When legitimate concern morphs into toxic panic, we cross a boundary line into the state of fret. No longer anticipating or preparing, we take up membership in the fraternity of Woe-Be-Me. Christ cautions us against this. Look at how one translation renders his words: “Therefore I tell you, stop being perpetually uneasy (anxious and worried) about your life” (Matthew 6:25).

Jesus doesn’t condemn legitimate concern for responsibilities but rather the continuous mind-set that dismisses God’s presence. Destructive anxiety subtracts God from the future, faces uncertainties with no faith, tallies up the challenges of the day without entering God into the equation. Worry is the darkroom where negatives become glossy prints.

[Fearless]

Father,

Though you urged us not to worry, we often do just that. We’re anxious over things we can’t control. We fret about the maybes and what-ifs. Help us remember that you care for the birds, you care about your creatures, and you care about each of your children. When anxious thoughts come to mind, help us turn them over to you. Replace them with calm confidence in you, our loving Father,

Amen.

“I will feed My flock, and I will make them lie down,” says the Lord God.

[Ezekiel 34:15]

The Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.

[Deuteronomy 31:6]

~ Max Lucado ~

Live Loved

Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.

[James 1:27]

The Nazareth Manifesto

God makes the poor his priority. When the hungry pray, he listens. When orphans cry, he sees.

Jesus, in his first message, declared his passion for the poor. Early in his ministry he returned to his hometown of Nazareth to deliver an inaugural address of sorts. He entered the same synagogue where he had worshipped as a young man and looked into the faces of the villagers. They were simple folk: stonecutters, carpenters, and craftsmen. They survived on minimal wages and lived beneath the shadow of Roman oppression. There wasn’t much good news in Nazareth.

But this day was special. Jesus was in town. The hometown boy who had made the big time. They asked him to read Scripture, and he accepted. “And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written” (Luke 4:17)…

He shuffled the scroll toward the end of the text and read, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted” (v. 18, quoting Isaiah 61:1).

Jesus lifted his eyes from the parchment and quoted the rest of the words. The crowd, who cherished the words as much as he did, mouthed the lines along with him. “To proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord” (vv. 18–19).

Jesus had a target audience. The poor. The broken-hearted. Captives. The blind and oppressed.

His to-do list? Help for the body and soul, strength for the physical and spiritual, therapy for the temporal and eternal. “This is my mission statement,” Jesus declared. The Nazareth Manifesto.

[Outlive Your Life]

Precious Lord,

You showed us by your life how to be compassionate. You reached out to the poor, the sick, the hurting. You healed their bodies and their souls. You cried over broken hearts, and you smiled when the downtrodden were lifted up. Teach us to do the same. Let our arms reach out to help the oppressed. May we willingly spend our lives serving those in need,

Amen.

“He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed.”

[Luke 4:18]

~ Max Lucado ~