Live Loved

When He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.

[MATTHEW 9:36]

Let’s Hurt with the Hurting

“What do we see when we see . . .

• the figures beneath the overpass, encircling the fire in a five-gallon drum?

• the news clips of children in refugee camps?

What do we see? “When [Jesus] saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd” (Matthew 9:36). . . .

Let’s be the people who look at the hurting until we hurt with them. No hurrying past, turning away, or shifting of eyes. No pretending or glossing over. Let’s look at the face until we see the person.”

A family in our congregation lives with the heartbreaking reality that their son is homeless. He ran away when he was seventeen, and with the exception of a few calls from prison and one visit, they have had no contact with him for twenty years. The mom allowed me to interview her at a leadership gathering. As we prepared for the discussion, I asked her why she was willing to disclose her story.

“I want to change the way people see the homeless. I want them to stop seeing problems and begin seeing mothers’ sons.”

Change begins with a genuine look. And continues with a helping hand.

Works done in God’s name long outlive our earthly lives.

[OUTLIVE YOUR LIFE]

Lord, we are surrounded by hurting people who have no hope. They are miserable and lost without your mercy. Forgive us when we turn away from them in careless indifference. May our hearts be broken with the things that break your heart. May we look into the face of every hurting person and extend a helping hand. Teach us to touch desperate lives with works done in your name. Soften our hearts to love others as freely and graciously as you have loved us. Let us be your hand extended, amen.

He raises the poor out of the dust, and lifts the needy out of the ash heap.

[PSALM 113:7]

But concerning brotherly love you have no need that I should write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another.

[1 THESSALONIANS 4:9]

“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”

[JOHN 15:13]

Live Loved

God is my strength and power, and He makes my way perfect.

[2 SAMUEL 22:33]

Yes, You Can

Two types of thoughts continually vie for your attention. One says, “Yes, you can.” The other says, “No, you can’t.” One says, “God will help you.” The other lies, “God has left you.” . . . One proclaims God’s strengths; the other lists your failures. One longs to build you up; the other seeks to tear you down.

And here’s the great news: you select the voice you hear. Why listen to the mockers? Why heed their voices? Why give ear to pea brains and scoffers when you can, with the same ear, listen to the voice of God?

Turn a deaf ear to old voices. And, as you do, open your eyes to new choices. . . .

I had a friend who battled the stronghold of alcohol. He tried a fresh tactic. He gave me and a few others permission to slug him in the nose if we ever saw him drinking. . . .

One woman counters her anxiety by memorizing long sections of Scripture. A traveling sales rep asks hotels to remove the television from his room so he won’t be tempted to watch adult movies. Another man grew so weary of his prejudice that he moved into a minority neighborhood, made new friends, and changed his attitude.

Turn a deaf ear to the old voices.

Open a wide eye to the new choices.

[FACING YOUR GIANTS]

Lord, your word has promised that we can do all things through you because you give us strength. Our hope is in you, Father. Teach us to concentrate on your strengths rather than on our failures. Grant us grace to do our part in overcoming difficulties, and give us the wisdom to know when to let you do your part, amen.

You shall go out with joy, and be led out with peace; the mountains and the hills shall break forth into singing before you.

[ISAIAH 55:12]

Holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.

[PHILIPPIANS 2:16]

“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

[JOHN 16:33]

Live Loved

Oh, how great is Your goodness, which You have laid up for those who fear You, which You have prepared for those who trust in You.

[PSALM 31:19]

God Provides

Our days stand no chance against the terrorists of the Land of Anxiety. But Christ offers a worry-bazooka. Remember how he taught us to pray? “Give us day by day our daily bread” (Luke 11:3).

This simple sentence unveils God’s provision plan: live one day at a time. God disclosed the strategy to Moses and the Israelites in the wilderness. “Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Look, I’m going to rain down food from heaven for you. The people can go out each day and pick up as much food as they need for that day’” (Exodus 16:4 NLT).

Note the details of God’s provision plan.

He meets daily needs daily. Quail covered the compound in the evenings; manna glistened like fine frost in the mornings. Meat for dinner. Bread for breakfast. The food fell every day. Not annually, monthly, or hourly, but daily. And there is more.

He meets daily needs miraculously. When the people first saw the wafers on the ground, “the Israelites took one look and said to one another, man-hu (What is it?). They had no idea what it was” (v. 15 MSG).

The stunned people named the wafers man-hu, Hebrew for “What in the world is this?” God had resources they knew nothing about, solutions outside their reality, provisions outside their possibility. They saw the scorched earth; God saw heaven’s breadbasket. They saw dry land; God saw a covey of quail behind every bush. They saw problems; God saw provision.

Anxiety fades as our memory of God’s goodness doesn’t.

[EVERY DAY DESERVES A CHANCE]

Lord, you are a great and good God. You provide for our needs each day. You provide peace when we face problems. You send solutions for our struggles. Your Word guides us with wisdom when we lose our way. May we remember that you carefully measure the events of each day. Today you give us strength for this day, and tomorrow you will give us strength for that day. We depend on you to meet our daily needs each day and in a miraculous way, amen.

In the day when I cried out, You answered me, and made me bold with strength in my soul.

[PSALM 138:3]

His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.

[LAMENTATIONS 3:22–23]

Do not sorrow, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.

[NEHEMIAH 8:10]

Live Loved

[God, the Son] loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

[EPHESIANS 5:2 NIV]

The Depths of God’s Love

Who has plumbed the depths of God’s love? Only God has. “Want to see the size of my love?” he invites. “Ascend the winding path outside of Jerusalem. Follow the dots of bloody dirt until you crest the hill. Before looking up, pause and hear me whisper, ‘This is how much I love you.’”

Whip-ripped muscles drape his back. Blood rivulets cover his face. His eyes and lips are swollen shut. Pain rages at wildfire intensity. As he sinks to relieve the agony of his legs, his airway closes. At the edge of suffocation, he shoves pierced muscles against the spike and inches up the cross. He does this for hours. Painfully up and down until his strength and our doubts are gone.

Does God love you? Behold the cross, and behold your answer.

God the Son died for you. Who could have imagined such a gift? At the time Martin Luther was having his Bible printed in Germany, a printer’s daughter encountered God’s love. No one had told her about Jesus. Toward God she felt no emotion but fear. One day she gathered pieces of fallen Scripture from the floor. On one paper she found the words “For God so loved the world, that he gave . . .” The rest of the verse had not yet been printed. Still, what she saw was enough to move her. The thought that God would give anything moved her from fear to joy. Her mother noticed the change of attitude. When asked the cause of her happiness, the daughter produced the crumpled piece of partial verse from her pocket. The mother read it and asked, “What did he give?” The child . . . answered, “I do not know. But if He loved us well enough to give us anything, we should not be afraid of Him.”

[IT’S NOT ABOUT ME]

Father, we cannot plumb the depths of your love. For only such an immeasurable love would have sent your Son to suffer for our sins when he himself committed no sin. Because of this we can be restored to a right relationship with you. Thank you for loving us even when we chose not to love you. Thank you for pursuing us patiently with your Holy Spirit. Thank you for making us your children. We cannot fathom such love, but we gratefully accept it, amen.

Neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God.

[ROMANS 8:38–39]

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. [ROMANS 5:8]

Live Loved

I am with you always, even to the end of the age.

[MATTHEW 28:20]

Here Is God

When ancient sailors sketched maps of the oceans, they disclosed their fears. On the vast unexplored waters, cartographers wrote words such as these:

“Here be dragons.”

“Here be demons.”

“Here be sirens.”

Were a map drawn of your world, would we read such phrases? Over the unknown waters of adulthood, Here be dragons. Near the sea of the empty nest, Here be demons. Next to the farthermost latitudes of death and eternity, do we read, Here be sirens?

If so, take heart from the example of Sir John Franklin. He was a master mariner in the days of King Henry V. Distant waters were a mystery to him, just as they were to other navigators. Unlike his colleagues, however, Sir John Franklin was a man of faith. The maps that passed through his possession bore the imprimatur of trust. On them he had crossed out the phrases “Here be dragons,” “Here be demons,” “Here be sirens.” In their place he wrote the phrase “Here is God.”

Mark it down. You will never go where God is not. You may be transferred, enlisted, commissioned, reassigned, or hospitalized, but—brand this truth on your heart—you can never go where God is not. “I am with you always,” Jesus promised (Matthew 28:20).

Don’t be afraid; just believe.

[EVERY DAY DESERVES A CHANCE]

Father God, you have promised to be with us always. There is no place we can go without your presence. That is why we put our hope in you. Whatever happens, we can rest in your presence and your power. There is only you and your unfailing goodness, amen.

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.

[ISAIAH 41:10]

Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

[JOHN 14:27]

You enlarged my path under me; so my feet did not slip.

[2 SAMUEL 22:37]

Live Loved

I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will.

[ACTS 13:22]

The Heart God Loves

One might read David’s story and wonder what God saw in him. The fellow fell as often as he stood, stumbled as often as he conquered. He stared down Goliath, yet ogled at Bathsheba; defied God-mockers in the valley, yet joined them in the wilderness. An Eagle Scout one day. Chumming with the Mafia the next. He could lead armies but couldn’t manage a family. Raging David. Weeping David. Bloodthirsty. God-hungry. Eight wives. One God.

A man after God’s own heart? That God saw him as such gives hope to us all. David’s life has little to offer the unstained saint. Straight-A souls find David’s story disappointing. The rest of us find it reassuring. We ride the same roller coaster. We alternate between swan dives and belly flops, soufflés and burnt toast.

In David’s good moments, no one was better. In his bad moments, could one be worse? The heart God loved was a checkered one.

We need David’s story. Some note the absence of miracles in his story. No Red Sea openings, chariots flaming, or dead Lazaruses walking. No miracles.

But there is one. David is one. The God who made a miracle out of David stands ready to make one out of you.

[FACING YOUR GIANTS]

Father, we stand in awe of your wonderful love. A love that sees beyond our sin to significance. A love that patiently forgives. A love that rejoices in our joy and is saddened by our tears. That bears our burdens and lifts our loads. Thank you, Father, for your amazing, miraculous love, amen.

Teach me Your way, O LORD; I will walk in Your truth; unite my heart to fear Your name.
[PSALM 86:11]

Cause me to know the way in which I should walk, for I lift up my soul to You.
[PSALM 143:8]

You shall teach them the statutes and the laws, and show them the way in which they must walk and the work they must do.
[EXODUS 18:20]

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]