Live Loved

Yes, and everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.
~ 2 TIMOTHY 3:12 NLT

Strength and Courage

“Now when [the accusers] saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13).

Peter and John had been with Jesus. The resurrected Jesus. In the Upper Room when he walked through the wall. Standing next to Thomas when the disciple touched the wounds. On the beach when Jesus cooked the fish. Sitting at Jesus’ feet for forty days as he explained the ways of the kingdom.

They had lingered long and delightfully in the presence of the resurrected King. Awakening with him, walking with him. And because they had, silence was no longer an option. “We cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” (v. 20).

Could you use some high-octane boldness? If you want to outlive your life, you could. As long as you are stationary, no one will complain. Dogs don’t bark at parked cars. But as soon as you accelerate—once you step out of drunkenness into sobriety, dishonesty into integrity, or lethargy into compassion—expect the yapping to begin. Expect to be criticized. Expect to be mocked. Expect to be persecuted.

So how can we prepare ourselves? Simple. Imitate the disciples. Linger long and often in the presence of Christ. Meditate on his grace. Ponder his love. Memorize his words. Gaze into his face. Talk to him. Courage comes as we live with Jesus.

Peter said it this way. “Don’t give the opposition a second thought. Through thick and thin, keep your hearts at attention, in adoration before Christ, your Master. Be ready to speak up and tell anyone who asks why you’re living the way you are, and always with the utmost courtesy” (1 Peter 3:14–15 MSG).

As we meditate on Christ’s life, we find strength for our own.

—OUTLIVE YOUR LIFE

Father, help us to be bold for you like Peter and John. May our lives count for your kingdom. Outfit us with courage to overcome tests and trials. We will meditate on your grace and ponder your love. You, Lord, are the center of our lives, amen.

Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.
~ JOSHUA 1:9

Say to those who are fearful-hearted, “Be strong, do not fear!”
~ ISAIAH 35:4

Live Loved

Let the words of Christ, in all their richness, live in your hearts and make you wise. [COLOSSIANS 3:16 NLT]

“Your Servant Is Listening” Has any other book ever been described in this fashion: “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12 NIV)?

“Living and active.” The words of the Bible have life! Nouns with pulse rates. Muscular adjectives. Verbs darting back and forth across the page. God works though these words. The Bible is to God what a surgical glove is to the surgeon. He reaches through them to touch deep within you.

Haven’t you felt his touch?

In a late, lonely hour, you read the words “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you” (Hebrews 13:5 NLT). The sentences comfort like a hand on your shoulder.

When anxiety termites away at your peace, someone shares this passage: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6 NIV). The words stir a sigh from your soul.

Put them to use. “Let the words of Christ, in all their richness, live in your hearts and make you wise. Use his words to teach and counsel each other” (Colossians 3:16 NLT). Don’t make a decision, whether large or small, without sitting before God with open Bible, open heart, open ears, imitating the prayer of Samuel: “Your servant is listening” (1 Samuel 3:10 NLT).

—FACING YOUR GIANTS

Precious Lord, your Word is an awesome treasure. It is filled with words to guide, to instruct, and to comfort us. Your holy Word is powerful and as true today as when it was written. Thank you for this truly amazing gift. May we never let one day pass without reading the Bible. Please open our hearts and minds to hear what you want to say through your Word. We are listening, Lord, amen.

He who heeds the word wisely will find good, and whoever trusts in the LORD, happy is he.

~ PROVERBS 16:20 Great peace have those who love Your law, and nothing causes them to stumble.

~ PSALM 119:165

Give me understanding, that I may learn Your commandments.

~ PSALM 119:73

Live Loved

God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance.
[2 CORINTHIANS 9]

God Already Has a Plan

If your father were Bill Gates and your computer broke, where would you turn? If Stradivari were your dad and your violin string snapped, to whom would you go? If your father is God and you have a problem on your hands, what do you do? Scripture tells us what to do:

• Is your problem too large? “God . . . is able . . . to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20 NLT).

• Is your need too great? “God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance” (2 Corinthians 9:8 RSV).

• Is your temptation too severe? “[God] is able to help us when we are being tested” (Hebrews 2:18 NLT).

• Are your sins too numerous? “He is able, once and forever, to save those who come to God through him” (Hebrews 7:25 NLT).

• Is your future too frightening? “God . . . is able to keep you from falling away and will bring you with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault” (Jude 24 NLT).

• Is your enemy too strong? “[God] is able even to subdue all things to Himself ” (Philippians 3:21).

Make these verses a part of your daily diet. God is able to accomplish, provide, help, save, keep, subdue. . . . He is able to do what you can’t. He already has a plan. God’s not bewildered. Go to him.

[EVERY DAY DESERVES A CHANCE]

Father God, you are a strong and kind father to your children. You are concerned about the smallest detail of our lives. You have numbered the hairs of our heads. You are all-knowing and all-powerful. There is nothing too hard for you. May we never forget that you are always present with us and always ready to hear the cries of our hearts. No problem we face is unimportant to you. No facet of our lives is too big or too small to bring to you. We praise you for being our faithful, loving heavenly Father, amen.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

~ JEREMIAH 29:11

He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.

~ HEBREWS 7:25

We do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.
 

~ HEBREWS 4:15

Live Loved

Why should you . . . be enraptured by an immoral woman, and be embraced in the arms of a seductress?

[PROVERBS 5:20]

The Protective Fence of Fidelity

Casual sex, intimacy outside of marriage, pulls the Corinthian ploy. It pretends we can give the body and not affect the soul. We can’t. We humans are so intricately psychosomatic that whatever touches the soma impacts the psyche as well. The me-centered phrase “as long as no one gets hurt” sounds noble, but the truth is, we don’t know who gets hurt. God-centered thinking rescues us from the sex we thought would make us happy. You may think your dalliances are harmless, and years may pass before the x-rays reveal the internal damage, but don’t be fooled. Casual sex is a diet of chocolate—it tastes good for a while, but the imbalance can ruin you. Sex apart from God’s plan wounds the soul.

Sex according to God’s plan nourishes the soul. Consider his plan. Two children of God make a covenant with each other. They disable the ejection seats. They burn the bridge back to Momma’s house. They fall into each other’s arms beneath the canopy of God’s blessing, encircled by the tall fence of fidelity. Both know the other will be there in the morning. Both know the other will stay even as skin wrinkles and vigor fades. Each gives the other exclusive for-your-eyes only privileges. Gone is the guilt. Gone the undisciplined lust. What remains is a celebration of permanence, a tender moment in which the body continues what the mind and the soul have already begun. A time in which “the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed” (Genesis 2:25 NASB).

Such sex honors God. And such sex satisfies God’s children.

IT’S NOT ABOUT ME 

 Heavenly Father, you created marriage and gave us guidelines for that relationship. Because of your great love, you gave us these guidelines for our own well-being. You want to protect us from heartbreak and remorse. Help us to heed your words, Father, and to be obedient to your commands about sex. May every act of our lives, whether physical or spiritual, bring honor and glory to you, amen.

Whoever commits adultery with a woman lacks understanding; he who does so destroys his own soul. 

 [PROVERBS 6:32]

 Rejoice with the wife of your youth. As a loving deer and a graceful doe, let her breasts satisfy you at all times; and always be enraptured with her love.

[PROVERBS 5:18–19]

Live Loved

Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here!”

[MATTHEW 14:27 NLT]

God’s Call to Courage God’s call to courage is not a call to naïveté or ignorance. We aren’t to be oblivious to the overwhelming challenges that life brings. We’re to counterbalance them with long looks at God’s accomplishments. “We must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it” (Hebrews 2:1 NASB). Do whatever it takes to keep your gaze on Jesus.

When a friend of mine spent several days in the hospital at the bedside of her husband, she relied on hymns to keep her spirits up. Every few minutes, she stepped into the restroom and sang a few verses of “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.” Do likewise! Memorize scripture. Read biographies of great lives. Ponder the testimonies of faithful Christians. Make the deliberate decision to set your hope on him. Courage is always a possibility. . . .

As followers of God, you and I have a huge asset. We know everything is going to turn out all right. Christ hasn’t budged from his throne, and Romans 8:28 hasn’t evaporated from the Bible. Our problems have always been his possibilities. The kidnapping of Joseph resulted in the preservation of his family. The persecution of Daniel led to a cabinet position. Christ entered the world by a surprise pregnancy and redeemed it through his unjust murder. Dare we believe what the Bible teaches? That no disaster is ultimately fatal? Feed your fears, and your faith will starve. Feed your faith, and your fears will.

[FEARLESS]

Holy Father, you call us to courage. Your Word assures that nothing comes our way that you have not allowed. The Bible teaches that our problems are your possibilities. Help us remember to feed our faith by reading your Word. We set our hope on you, amen. “I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

[MATTHEW 28:20 NIV]

Nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.

[ROMANS 8:38 NLT]

Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.

[1 JOHN 3:18 NASB]

Live Loved

“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” says the Lord, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”

[REVELATION 1:8]

God’s Invitation

The hero of heaven is God. Angels don’t worship mansions or glittering avenues. Neither gates nor jewels prompt the hosts to sing . . . God does. His majesty stirs the pen of heaven’s poets and the awe of her citizens. They enjoy an eternity-long answer to David’s prayer: “One thing I ask of the LORD . . . to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD” (Psalm 27:4 NIV). What else warrants a look? Inhabitants of heaven forever marvel at the sins God forgives, the promises he keeps, the plan he executes. He’s not the grand marshal of the parade; he is the parade. He’s not the main event; he’s the only event. His Broadway features a single stage and star: himself. He hosts the only production and invites every living soul to attend.

He, at this very moment, issues invitations by the millions. He whispers through the kindness of a grandparent, shouts through the tempest of a tsunami. Through the funeral he cautions, “Life is fragile.” Through a sickness he reminds, “Days are numbered.” God may speak through nature or nurture, majesty or mishap. But through all and to all he invites: “Come, enjoy me forever.”

Yet many people have no desire to do so. They don’t want anything to do with God. He speaks; they cover their ears. He commands; they scoff. They don’t want him telling them how to live. They mock what he says about marriage, money, sex, or the value of human life. They regard his son as a joke and the cross as utter folly (see 1 Corinthians 1:18). They spend their lives telling God to leave them alone. And at the moment of their final breath, he honors their request: “Get away from me, you who do evil. I never knew you” (Matthew 7:23 NCV)

—3:16: THE NUMBERS OF HOPE

Holy God, we honor you as the hero of heaven. We long to be with you and gaze on your beauty. Thank you for inviting every living soul to spend eternity with you. We pray that many will come to know you and will accept you as their Lord and master. May your kingdom increase and your will be done here on earth as it is in heaven, amen.

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

]MATTHEW 11:28]

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

[1 PETER 1:3]

Live Loved

By humility and the fear of the LORD are riches and honor and life. PROVERBS 22:4 Pursue Humility The story of David and Bathsheba is less a story of lust and more a story of power. A story of a man who rose too high for his own good. A man who needed to hear these words: “Come down before you fall.”

“First pride, then the crash—the bigger the ego, the harder the fall” (Proverbs 16:18 MSG). This must be why God hates arrogance. He hates to see his children fall. He hates to see his Davids seduce and his Bathshebas be victimized. God hates what pride does to his children. He doesn’t dislike arrogance. He hates it. Could he state it any clearer than Proverbs 8:13: “I hate pride and arrogance” (NIV)? And then a few chapters later: “God can’t stomach arrogance or pretense; believe me, he’ll put those upstarts in their place” (16:5 MSG).

You don’t want God to do that. . . . ’Tis far wiser to descend the mountain than fall from it.

Pursue humility. Humility doesn’t mean you think less of yourself but that you think of yourself less. “Don’t cherish exaggerated ideas of yourself or your importance, but try to have a sane estimate of your capabilities by the light of the faith that God has given to you” (Romans 12:3 PHILLIPS). . . .

Resist the place of celebrity. “Go sit in a seat that is not important. When the host comes to you, he may say, ‘Friend, move up here to a more important place.’ Then all the other guests will respect you” (Luke 14:10 NCV). Wouldn’t you rather be invited up than put down?

[FACING YOUR GIANTS]

Heavenly Father, you have taught us in your Word that you hate pride but you honor humility. We live in a culture that feeds the natural desire to put ourselves first and to inflate our egos. It is far easier for us to be selfish than to be selfless. We need your help to live humbly in a way that pleases you. Remind us of the self-giving example of your Son, Jesus Christ. Like him, may we learn to think less of ourselves and more of others, amen.

Better to be of a humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud.

[PROVERBS 16:19]

By humility and the fear of the LORD are riches and honor and life.

[PROVERBS 22:4]

With all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, [bear] with one another in love.

[EPHESIANS 4:2]