Live Loved

“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts.
ISAIAH 6:3

Loved by the Eternal God


“To whom, then, will you compare God?” the prophet invites (Isaiah 40:18 NIV). To whom indeed? “Human hands can’t serve his needs—for he has no needs” (Acts 17:25 NLT). You and I start our days needy. Indeed, basic needs prompt us to climb out of bed. Not God. Uncreated and self-sustaining, he depends on nothing and no one. Never taken a nap or a breath. Needs no food, counsel, or physician. “The Father has life in himself” (John 5:26 NIV). Life is to God what wetness is to water and air is to wind. He is not just alive but life itself. . . .”

“Hence, he always is. “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever You had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God” (Psalm 90:2).


God never began and will never cease. He exists endlessly, always. “The number of His years is unsearchable” (Job 36:26 NASB).
Even so, let’s try to search them. Let every speck of sand, from the Sahara to South Beach, represent a billion years of God’s existence. With some super vacuum, suck and then blow all the particles into a mountain, and count how many you have. Multiply your total by a billion and listen as God reminds: “They don’t represent a fraction of my existence.”


He is “the eternal God” (Romans 16:26 NIV). . . . He was something before anything else was. When the first angel lifted the first wing, God had already always been.


Most staggering of all, he has never messed up. Not once. . . . God is holy. Every decision, exact. Each word, appropriate. Never out-of-bounds or out of place. Not even tempted to make a mistake. . . . No wonder he said, “I am God, and there is none like me” (Isaiah 46:9 NIV).”

“3:16: THE NUMBERS OF HOPE”

Gracious God, you are incomparable and you are eternal. You have always been and always will be. You are the creator of life: physical life and spiritual life. You are holy and mighty beyond measure. Yet you love and care for each of your children. Your eternal presence gives hope and courage. We rely on you and trust you. You are good to your children, and you are committed to your children. Thank you and praise you, amen.

I will declare Your name to My brethren; in the midst of the assembly I will praise You.
~ PSALM 22:22

Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever You had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.
~ PSALM 90:2

Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations.
~ PSALM 46:10”

Live Loved

Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb is a reward.
~ PSALM 127:3

The semitruck of parenting comes loaded with fears. We fear failing the child, forgetting the child. Will we have enough money? Enough answers? Enough diapers? Enough drawer space? Vaccinations. Educations. Homework. Homecoming. It’s enough to keep a parent awake at night. . . .

Fear distilleries concoct a high-octane brew for parents— a primal, gut-wrenching, pulse-stilling dose. Whether Mom and Dad keep vigil outside a neonatal unit, make weekly visits to a juvenile prison, or hear the crunch of a bike and the cry of a child in the driveway, their reaction is the same: “I have to do something.” No parent can sit still while his or her child suffers. . . .

But our kids were God’s kids first. “Don’t you see that children are God’s best gift? the fruit of the womb his generous legacy?” (Psalm 127:3 MSG). Before they were ours, they were his. Even as they are ours, they are still his.

We tend to forget this fact, regarding our children as “our” children, as though we have the final say in their health and welfare. We don’t. All people are God’s people, including the small people who sit at our tables. Wise are the parents who regularly give their children back to God.

~ FEARLESS


Heavenly Father, you surely know the concerns and burdens of a parent’s heart. You are a father yourself. When we feel overwhelmed with the responsibilities of raising our children, may we remember that they are your children first. You created them and gave them as a gift to us. May we daily give them back to you and rest calmly in your promise to give us wisdom and guidance to raise them for you, amen.

Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness.
~ HEBREWS 12:10 [NIV]

He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers.
~ MALACHI 4:6 [NIV]

Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.
~ PROVERBS 22:6 [NIV]

Live Loved

“The work God wants you to do is this: Believe the One he sent.” 
~ JOHN 6:29 [NCV] 

One Path Leads to God

Some historians clump Christ with Moses, Muhammad, Confucius, and other spiritual leaders. But Jesus refuses to share the page. He declares, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me” (John 14:6 RSV). He could have scored more points in political correctness had he said, “I know the way,” or, “I show the way.” Yet he speaks not of what he does but of who he is: I am the way. 

His followers refused to soften or shift the spotlight. Peter announced: “There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12 NLT).

Many recoil at such definitiveness. John 14:6 and Acts 4:12 sound primitive in this era of broadbands and broad minds. The world is shrinking, cultures are blending, borders are bending; this is the day of inclusion. All roads lead to heaven, right?

But can they? The sentence makes good talk show fodder, but is it accurate? Can all approaches to God be correct?

How can all religions lead to God when they are so different? We don’t tolerate such illogic in other matters. We don’t pretend that all roads lead to London or all ships sail to Australia. All flights don’t land in Rome. . . .

Every path does not lead to God. Jesus blazed a standalone trail void of self-salvation. He cleared a one-of-a-kind passageway uncluttered by human effort. Christ came, not for the strong, but for the weak; not for the righteous, but for the sinner. We enter his way upon confession of our need, not completion of our deeds. He offers a unique-to-him invitation in which he works and we trust, he dies and we live, he invites and we believe.

We believe in him.

~ 3:16: THE NUMBERS OF HOPE 

Gracious Father, you are not willing that any person spend life without you. You have made a pathway of salvation for all who choose to walk on that way. The Bible teaches us that your Son, Jesus, is the way and the truth. There are not many ways to make our hearts right before you. There is only one way, and that is through the death of Jesus Christ. Thank you that you offer this unique invitation of salvation to all who choose to believe in you, amen

Nor is there salvation in any other; for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. 
~  ACTS 4:12 

 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth. 
~  PHILIPPIANS 2:10

Live Loved

I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more. 
~ 1 CORINTHIANS 9:19
 

“Follow Me”

Does Christ still use simple folks like us to change the world? Edith would say yes.

Edith Hayes was a spry eighty-year-old with thinning white hair, a wiry five-foot frame, and an unquenchable compassion for South Florida’s cancer patients. I was fresh out of seminary in 1979 and sitting in an office of unpacked books when she walked in and introduced herself:  “My name is Edith, and I help cancer patients.” She extended her hand. I offered a chair. She politely declined. “Too busy. You’ll see my team here at the church building every Tuesday morning. You’re welcome to come, but if you come, we’ll put you to work.” . . .

Edith rented an alley apartment, lived on her late husband’s pension, wore glasses that magnified her pupils, and ducked applause like artillery fire. 

God doesn’t call the qualified. He qualifies the called. Don’t let Satan convince you otherwise. He will try. He will tell you that God has an IQ requirement or an entry fee. That he employs only specialists and experts, governments and high-powered personalities. When Satan whispers such lies, dismiss him with this truth: God stampeded the first-century society with swaybacks, not thoroughbreds. Before Jesus came along, the disciples were loading trucks, coaching soccer, and selling Slurpee drinks at the convenience store. Their collars were blue, and their hands were calloused, and there is no evidence that Jesus chose them because they were smarter or nicer than the guy next door. The one thing they had going for them was a willingness to take a step when Jesus said, “Follow me.”

Are you more dinghy than cruise ship? More stand-in than movie star? More plumber than executive? More blue jeans than blue blood? Congratulations. God changes the world with folks like you. 

~ OUTLIVE YOUR LIFE

Lord Jesus, thank you for not calling the qualified but qualifying those you call. You don’t require us to be a specialist or an expert to be used by you. You simply choose those who will follow you. You don’t stipulate diplomas or dollars or dignity. You simply ask for dedication. You choose to change the world through simple folks like me who are willing to say yes. Thank you, amen.

Now all the glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. 
~ EPHESIANS 3:20 [NLT]

Live Loved

Take in with all Christians the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. 
~ EPHESIANS 3:18 [MSG] 
 

Loved with a Heavenly Love

Your goodness can’t win God’s love. Nor can your badness lose it. But you can resist it.

I have a feeling that most people who defy and deny God do so more out of fear than conviction. For all our chest pumping and braggadocio, we are anxious folk—can’t see a step into the future, can’t hear the one who owns us. No wonder we try to gum the hand that feeds us.

But God reaches and touches. He speaks through the immensity of the Russian plain and the density of the Amazon rain forest. Through a physician’s touch in Africa, a bowl of rice in India. Through a Japanese bow or a South American abraço. He’s even been known to touch people through paragraphs like the ones you are reading. If he is touching you, let him.

Mark it down: God loves you with an unearthly love. You can’t win it by being winsome. You can’t lose it by being a loser. But you can be blind enough to resist it. 

Don’t. For heaven’s sake, don’t. For your sake, don’t.

“Take in with all Christians the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:18–19 MSG). Others demote you. God claims you. Let the definitive voice of the universe say, “You’re still a part of my plan.” . . . God will not let you go.

~ 3:16: THE NUMBERS OF HOPE 

Lord, you have reminded us of your loving plan of salvation. May we never try to replace your sacrificial gift with our own attempts to be good enough to deserve it. May we never forget that we don’t have to win your love. May we never fear that we might lose your love. Make us bold to tell others of this amazing gift, amen.

As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds His people.

~ PSALM 125:2

What manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!

~1 JOHN 3:1

May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully.

~EPHESIANS 3:19 NLT

Live Loved

The soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.

~ 1 SAMUEL 18:1

You Have a Friend in Jesus

Jonathan could have been as jealous of David as Saul. As Saul’s son, he stood to inherit the throne. A noble soldier himself, he was fighting Philistines while David was still feeding sheep. 

Jonathan had reason to despise David, but he didn’t. He was gracious. Gracious because the hand of the Master Weaver took his and David’s hearts and stitched a seam between them. “The soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul” (1 Samuel 18:1).

As if the two hearts were two fabrics, God “needle and threaded” them together. So interwoven that when one moved, the other felt it. When one was stretched, the other knew it. . . . 

Oh, to have a friend like Jonathan. A soul mate who protects you, who seeks nothing but your interests, wants nothing but your happiness. An ally who lets you be you. You feel safe with that person. . . . God gave David such a friend.

He gave you one as well. David found a companion in a prince of Israel; you can find a friend in the King of Israel, Jesus Christ. Has he not made a covenant with you? Among his final words were these: “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

Has he not clothed you? He offers you “white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed” (Revelation 3:18). Christ cloaks you with clothing suitable for heaven. . . .

Catalog his kindnesses. Everything from sunsets to salvation—look at what you have. . . . Let Jesus be the friend you need.

FACING YOUR GIANTS

Precious Savior, you are the friend we need. We can trust you with our destiny. We find our identity in the life you plan out for us. We come to you freely in faith and love. In you we find help and hope for our daily needs. You are a friend who walks with us each minute and each step of the way. There is nowhere we can go but you have already been there. You know our thoughts and our feelings. Thank you for being our dearest friend, amen

~Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” 
~ JOHN 15:13 

“Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
~ MATTHEW 28:20

I called on the LORD in distress; the LORD answered me and set me in a broad place. 
~ PSALM 118:5

Live Loved

Our Purpose

God made all things, and everything continues through him and for him. To him be the glory forever. 
~ ROMANS 11:36 [NCV]

If we boast at all, we “boast in the Lord” (2 Corinthians 10:17 NASB). 

The breath you took as you read that last sentence was given to you for one reason, that you might for another moment “reflect the Lord’s glory” (3:18 NIV). 

God awoke you and me this morning for one purpose: “Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples”
~ Chronicles 16:24 [NIV]. 

“God made all things, and everything continues through him and for him. To him be the glory forever”
~ Romans 11:36 [NCV]

 “There is only one God, the Father, who created everything, and we exist for him”
~ 1 Corinthians 8:6 [NLT]

Why does the earth spin? For him. Why do you have talents and abilities? For him. Why do you have money or poverty? For him. Strength or struggles? For him. Everything and everyone exists to reveal his glory. Including you.

IT’S NOT ABOUT ME 

Father in heaven, may our only boast be in you. You have created everything and we exist for you. The earth spins for you. The moon shines for you. The flowers burst into bloom for you. May our lives bring glory to you. Use our talents and abilities for you. All our strengths and struggles are for you. Our hearts sing only for you and give you glory. May that always be the purpose and passion of our lives, amen.

Sing to Him, sing psalms to Him; talk of all His wondrous works!
~ 1 CHRONICLES 16:9 

I thought it good to declare the signs and wonders that the Most High God has worked for me. 
~ DANIEL 4:2 

 Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness.
~ PSALM 107:8

Live Loved

May the God of peace . . . make you complete in every good work to do His will. . . . 
~ HEBREWS 13:20–21

Kindness without Compensation

Want to snatch a day from the manacles of boredom? Do overgenerous deeds, acts beyond reimbursement. Kindness without compensation. Do a deed for which you cannot be repaid. 

Here’s another idea. Get over yourself.

Moses did. One of history’s foremost leaders was “a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth” (Numbers 12:3 NIV).

Mary did. When Jesus called her womb his home, she did not boast; she simply confessed: “I’m the Lord’s maid, ready to serve” (Luke 1:38 MSG). 

John the Baptist did. Though a blood relative of God on earth, he made this choice: “This is the assigned moment for him to move into the center, while I slip off to the sidelines” (John 3:30 MSG)

Most of all, Jesus did. “Jesus . . . was given a position ‘a little lower than the angels’ ” (Hebrews 2:9 NLT). 

Jesus chose the servants’ quarters. Can’t we?

We’re important, but not essential; valuable, but not indispensable. We have a part in the play, but we are not the main act. A song to sing, but we are not the featured voice. God is.

He did well before our birth; he’ll do fine after our deaths. He started it all, sustains it all, and will bring it all to a glorious climax. In the meantime, we have this high privilege: to surrender personal goals, discover the thrill of the doubled distance, do deeds for which we cannot be paid, seek problems that others avoid, deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and follow Christ.

EVERY DAY DESERVES A CHANCE

Lord and Savior, you gave up your throne in heaven to be born as a tiny baby. You grew up the son of a humble carpenter. As a man here on earth, you chose the servants’ quarters. When we start thinking we are indispensable, remind us, Lord, that we are important but not essential. You are the main act. Thank you for letting us have even a small part to play in your grand scheme of things. May we be willing to go the extra mile and to deny ourselves for the sake of your kingdom, amen.

Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. 
~ ROMANS 12:16 

He who is of a proud heart stirs up strife, but he who trusts in the LORD will be prospered. ~ PROVERBS 28:25 

 “Not My will, but Yours, be done.” 
~  LUKE 22:42

Live Loved

We have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view.
~ 2 CORINTHIANS 5:16 [NLT
]  

Label Them or Love Them?

Categorizing others creates distance and gives us a convenient exit strategy for avoiding involvement.

Jesus took an entirely different approach. He was all about including people, not excluding them. “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood” (John 1:14 MSG). Jesus touched lepers and loved foreigners and spent so much time with partygoers that people called him a “lush, a friend of the riffraff” (Matthew 11:19 MSG). Racism couldn’t keep him from the Samaritan woman; demons couldn’t keep him from the demoniac. His Facebook page included the likes of Zacchaeus the Ponzi-meister, Matthew the IRS agent, and some floozy he met at Simon’s house. Jesus spent thirty-three years walking in the mess of this world. “He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human!” (Philippians 2:6–7 MSG). . . .

God calls us to change the way we look at people. Not to see them as Gentiles or Jews, insiders or outsiders, liberals or conservatives. Not to label. To label is to libel. “We have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view” (2 Corinthians 5:16 NLT). 

Let’s view people differently; let’s view them as we do ourselves. Blemished, perhaps. Unfinished, for certain.

In our lifetimes you and I are going to come across some discarded people. Tossed out. Sometimes tossed out by a church. And we get to choose. Neglect or rescue? Label them or love them? We know Jesus’ choice. Just look at what he did with us.

Precious Savior, change the way we look at people. Forgive us for categorizing and classifying others. We have failed you by labeling people and keeping them at a distance. When you walked here on earth you reached out to all people, even the lepers and sinners. You came near to outcasts and misfits, and you touched them with love. Teach us to walk in the mess of the world like you did, breaking down barriers and reaching out with a helping hand, amen.

Love does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked. 
~ 1 CORINTHIANS 13:5 


 As we have opportunity, let us do good to all. GALATIANS 6:10 Everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.
~ 1 JOHN 4:7

Live Loved

He who heeds the word wisely will find good, and whoever trusts in the LORD, happy is he. 
~ PROVERBS 16:20

“Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you?” (1 Corinthians 6:19 NLT). Paul wrote these words to counter the Corinthian sex obsession. “Run away from sexual sin!” reads the prior sentence. “No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body” (v. 18 NLT)

What a salmon scripture! No message swims more upstream than this one. You know the sexual anthem of our day: “I’ll do what I want. It’s my body.” God’s firm response? “No, it’s not. It’s mine.” 

Be quick to understand, God is not antisex. Dismiss any notion that God is antiaffection and antiintercourse. After all, he developed the whole package. Sex was his idea. From his perspective, sex is nothing short of holy.

He views sexual intimacy the way I view our family Bible. Passed down from my father’s side, the volume is one hundred years old and twelve inches thick. Replete with lithographs, scribblings, and a family tree, it is, in my estimation, beyond value. Hence, I use it carefully.

When I need a step stool, I don’t reach for the Bible. If the foot of my bed breaks, I don’t use the family Bible as a prop. When we need old paper for wrapping, we don’t rip a sheet out of this book. We reserve the heirloom for special times and keep it in a chosen place. 

Regard sex the same way—as a holy gift to be opened in a special place at special times. The special place is marriage, and the time is with your spouse. 

~ IT’S NOT ABOUT ME

Lord God, may we treat the marriage covenant as sacred. May we resist any temptation to break down the walls of protection around our marriage. We want to honor you with our bodies and our sacred vows, amen.

Sexual immorality is a sin against your own body. 
~ 1 CORINTHIANS 6:18 [NLT]

You must abstain from . . . sexual immorality. If you do this, you will do well. 
~ ACTS 15:29 [NLT]

When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures. 
~  GALATIANS 5:19 [NLT