Live Loved

Conduct your lives in love.
~ 2 JOHN 6 [MSG]

The God-Centered Life

Self-promotion. Self-preservation. Self-centeredness. It’s all about me!

They all told us it was, didn’t they? Weren’t we urged to look out for number one? Find our place in the sun? Make a name for ourselves? We thought self-celebration would make us happy . . . But what chaos this philosophy creates.

What if a symphony orchestra followed such an approach? Can you imagine an orchestra with an “It’s all about me” outlook? Each artist clamoring for self-expression. Tubas blasting nonstop. Percussionists pounding to get attention. The cellist shoving the flutist out of the center stage chair. The trumpeter standing atop the conductor’s stool, tooting his horn. Sheet music disregarded. Conductor ignored. What do you have but an endless tune-up session!

Would we see a change in families? We’d certainly hear a change. Less “Here is what I want!” More “What do you suppose God wants?” . . .

Life makes sense when we accept our place. The gift of pleasures, the purpose of problems—all for him. The God-centered life works. And it rescues us from a life that doesn’t.

~ IT’S NOT ABOUT ME

O Lord, rescue us from self-promotion and self-centeredness. Remind us that it is the God-centered life that works. Help us learn what part you want us to play in the orchestra of life, and give us the grace to make your song our highest priority. May we be willing to decrease so that you and your kingdom might increase. Give us godly hearts that serve you by serving others, amen

So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.
~ ISAIAH 55:11 

A thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan, to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. 
~  2 CORINTHIANS 12:7 [NKJV]

Live Loved

Love . . . bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
~ 1 CORINTHIANS 13:4, 7
 

Believe in Others

Everyone else has written off the person you care about. “He’s too far gone.” “She’s too hard . . . too addicted . . . too old . . . too cold.” No one gives a prayer. But you are beginning to realize that maybe God is at work behind the scenes. Maybe it’s too soon to throw in the towel . . . You begin to believe.

Don’t resist these thoughts.

Joseph didn’t. His brothers sold him into Egyptian slavery. Yet he welcomed them into his palace.

David didn’t. King Saul had a vendetta against David, but David had a soft spot for Saul. He called him “the LORD’s anointed” (1 Samuel 24:10).

Hosea didn’t. His wife, Gomer, was queen of the red-light district, but Hosea kept his front door open. And she came home.

Of course, no one believed in people more than Jesus did. He saw something in Peter worth developing, in the adulterous woman worth forgiving, and in John worth harnessing. He saw something in the thief on the cross, and what he saw was worth saving. And in the life of a wild-eyed, bloodthirsty extremist, he saw an apostle of grace. He believed in Saul.

Don’t give up on your Saul. When others write him off, give him another chance. Stay strong. Call him brother. Call her sister. Tell your Saul about Jesus, and pray. And remember this: God never sends you where he hasn’t already been. By the time you reach your Saul, who knows what you’ll find. 

~ OUTLIVE YOUR LIFE 

Thank you, Lord Jesus, that you believed in people. You looked beyond the mistakes and weaknesses to see potential and possibilities. No sinner was ever turned away from you. You opened your heart and your arms to the worst of the world when you gave your life on the cross. When people give up hope on themselves or others, open our eyes to see souls worth saving. Let us look beyond belligerence to see someone in need of your blessing. Let us look beyond pain and poverty to see someone saved by your mighty power, amen.

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up.
~ 1 CORINTHIANS 13:4 

 He who sows righteousness will have a sure reward. 
~  PROVERBS 11:18 

Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know. 
~  JEREMIAH 33:3

Live Loved

Resentment kills a fool, and envy slays the simple.

~ JOB 5:2 [NIV]

Imitating God

Some people seem graced with mercy glands. They secrete forgiveness, never harboring grudges or reciting their hurts. Others of us (most of us?) find it hard to forgive the purveyors of pain in our lives.

We forgive the one-time offenders, mind you. We dismiss the parking place takers, date breakers, and even the purse snatchers. We can move past the misdemeanors, but the felonies? The repeat offenders? The ones who take our youth, retirement, or health?

Can you forgive the scum who hurt you?

Failure to do so could be fatal. “Resentment kills a fool, and envy slays the simple” (Job 5:2 NIV). 

Vengeance fixes your attention at life’s ugliest moments. Score-settling freezes your stare at cruel events in your past. Is this where you want to look? Will rehearsing and reliving your hurts make you a better person? By no means. It will destroy you.

I’m thinking of an old comedy routine. Joe complains to Jerry about the irritating habit of a mutual friend. The guy pokes his finger in Joe’s chest as he talks. It drives Joe crazy. So he resolves to get even. He shows Jerry a small bottle of highly explosive nitroglycerin tied to a string. He explains, “I’m going to wear this around my neck, letting the bottle hang over the exact spot where I keep getting poked. Next time he sticks his finger in my chest, he’ll pay for it.”

Not nearly as much as Joe will, right? . . . An eye for an eye becomes a neck for a neck and a job for a job and a reputation for a reputation. When does it stop? It stops when one person imitates God.

~ FACING YOUR GIANTS

Father God, it isn’t easy to forgive those who hurt us. It is difficult not to harbor resentment and bitterness against them. But we know, Father, that harboring grudges is destructive. Give us the strength to lay all offenses at your feet, Father, and to leave them there. Help us imitate your matchless mercy and grace, amen.

Whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.” 
~ MARK 11:25 

Take careful heed to do the commandment and the law which Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, to love the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways. 
~  JOSHUA 22:5

Live Loved

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”

~ MATTHEW 5:16 

Daily Deeds of Kindness

In the final days of Jesus’ life, he shared a meal with his friends Lazarus, Martha, and Mary. Within the week he would feel the sting of the Roman whip, the point of the thorny crown, and the iron of the executioner’s nail. But on this evening, he felt the love of three friends.

For Mary, however, giving the dinner was not enough. “Mary came in with a jar of very expensive aromatic oils, anointed and massaged Jesus’ feet, and then wiped them with her hair. The fragrance of the oils filled the house” (John 12:3 MSG). . . .

Judas criticized the deed as wasteful. Not Jesus. He received the gesture as an extravagant demonstration of love, a friend surrendering her most treasured gift. As Jesus hung on the cross, we wonder, Did he detect the fragrance on his skin? 

Follow Mary’s example. 

There is an elderly man in your community who just lost his wife. An hour of your time would mean the world to him.

Some kids in your city have no dad. No father takes them to movies or baseball games. Maybe you can. They can’t pay you back. They can’t even afford the popcorn or sodas. But they’ll smile like a cantaloupe slice at your kindness.

Or how about this one? Down the hall from your bedroom is a person who shares your last name. Shock that person with kindness. Something outlandish. Your homework done with no complaints. Coffee served before he awakens. A love letter written to her for no special reason. Alabaster poured, just because. 

Daily do a deed for which you cannot be repaid. 

~ EVERY DAY DESERVES A CHANCE

Precious Savior, we pass people every day who need a demonstration of your love. May we search for ways to show extravagant gestures of gracious love and outlandish acts of kindness. Make us people who set a goal of doing daily deeds for which we cannot be repaid. Set our hearts on fire for people who do not know you. Consume us with compassion for the desperate and downtrodden. Let us pour our lives out in love . . . just because, amen.

You yourselves are taught by God to love one another.
~ 1 THESSALONIANS 4:9

What is desired in a man is kindness. 
~  PROVERBS 19:22 

“A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good.” 
~  LUKE 6:45

Live Loved

“I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink.” 
~ MATTHEW 25:35 [NLT]

Loved to Love Others

There are many reasons to help people in need. But for the Christian, none is higher than this: when we love those in need, we are loving Jesus. It is a mystery beyond science, a truth beyond statistics. But it is a message that Jesus made crystal clear: when we love them, we love him. 

Many years ago I heard a woman discuss this work. She visited a Catholic church in downtown Miami, Florida, in 1979. The small sanctuary overflowed with people. I was surprised. . . . Some sat in windowsills. I found a spot against the back wall and waited. I don’t know if the air-conditioning was broken or nonexistent, but the windows were open, and the south coast air was stuffy. The audience was chatty and restless. Yet when she entered the room, all stirring stopped. . . .

She wore her characteristic white Indian sari with a blue border that represented the Missionaries of Charity, the order she had founded in 1949. Her sixty-nine years had bent her already small frame. But there was nothing small about Mother Teresa’s presence. 

“Give me your unborn children,” she offered. (Opening words or just the ones I remember most? I don’t know.) “Don’t abort them. If you cannot raise them, I will. They are precious to God.”

Who would have ever pegged this slight Albanian woman as a change agent? Born in a cauldron of ethnic strife, the Balkans. Shy and introverted as a child. Of fragile health. One of three children. Daughter of a generous but unremarkable businessman. Yet somewhere along her journey, she became convinced that Jesus walked in the “distressing disguise of the poor,” and she set out to love him by loving them. . . . 

I wonder if God creates people like Mother Teresa so he can prove his point: “See, you can do something today that will outlive your life.”

OUTLIVE YOUR LIFE 

Lord Jesus, help us outlive our lives for you. May our lives count for your kingdom. Let us be your hands, extended to those who need help. May we look for every opportunity to show your love to others. May your love be perfected in us as we give love gladly and freely. Open our hands to give gifts. Open our hearts to give kindness. Open our eyes to shed tears for the sorrows of others. Open our ears to hear hurting hearts, amen.

Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share.
~ 1 TIMOTHY 6:18 

 “These things I command you, that you love one another.” 
~  JOHN 15:17

Live Loved

We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. 
~ JOHN 1:14 [NIV]

Jesus Has All Authority

When parents beget or conceive a child, they transfer their DNA to the newborn. Jesus shares God’s DNA. Jesus isn’t begotten in the sense that he began but in the sense that he and God have the same essence, eternal life span, unending wisdom, and tireless energy. Every quality we attribute to God, we can attribute to Jesus. 

“Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father!” Jesus claimed (John 14:9 NLT). And the epistle to the Hebrews concurs: “[Christ] is the radiance of [God’s] glory and the exact representation of His nature” (1:3 NASB). . . .

Jesus claims not the most authority, but all authority. “My Father has entrusted everything to me” (Matthew 11:27 NLT).

Christ claims ultimate clout. Unshared supremacy. He steers the ship and pilots the plane. When he darts his eyes, oceans swell. When he clears his throat, birds migrate. He banishes bacteria with a single thought. “He sustains everything by the mighty power of his command” (Hebrews 1:3 NLT).

He is to history what a weaver is to a tapestry. I once watched a weaver work at a downtown San Antonio market. She selected threads from her bag and arranged them first on the frame, then on the shuttle. She next worked the shuttle back and forth over the threads, intertwining colors, overlapping textures. In a matter of moments a design appeared.

Christ, in like manner, weaves his story. Every person is a thread, every moment a color, every era a pass of the shuttle. Jesus steadily interweaves the embroidery of humankind. “‘My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,’ says the LORD. ‘And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine’” (Isaiah 55:8 NLT).

~ 3:16: THE NUMBERS OF HOPE

Lord Jesus, you are the Master Weaver. You are carefully weaving each thread in our lives according to your perfect plan. Even when we cannot understand everything that is happening, we will trust you. Your thoughts are far beyond our thoughts. Thank you for the wisdom and love you are pouring into the story of our lives, amen.

Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness. 
~ PSALM 37:3 

He shall cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler. 
~  PSALM 91:4 

 Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. 
~  1 PETER 5:7

Live Loved

Beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, [we] are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. 
~ 2 CORINTHIANS 3:18 [KJV]

 Son Reflectors

What does the moon do? She generates no light. Contrary to the lyrics of the song, this harvest moon cannot shine on. Apart from the sun, the moon is nothing more than a pitch-black, pockmarked rock. But properly positioned, the moon beams. Let her do what she was made to do, and a clod of dirt becomes a source of inspiration, yea, verily, romance. The moon reflects the greater light.

And she’s happy to do so! You never hear the moon complaining. She makes no waves about making waves. Let the cow jump over her or astronauts step on her; she never objects. Even though sunning is accepted while mooning is the butt of bad jokes, you won’t hear ol’ Cheeseface grumble. The moon is at peace in her place. And because she is, soft light touches a dark earth.

What would happen if we accepted our place as Son reflectors? 

Such a shift comes so stubbornly, however. We’ve been demanding our way and stamping our feet since infancy. Aren’t we all born with a default drive set on selfishness? I want a spouse who makes me happy and coworkers who always ask my opinion. I want weather that suits me and traffic that helps me and a government that serves me. It is all about me. . 

How can we be bumped off self-center? . . . We move from me-focus to God-focus by pondering him. Witnessing him. Following the counsel of the apostle Paul: “Beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, [we] are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:18 KJV).

Beholding him changes us.

~ IT’S NOT ABOUT ME 

O Lord, change our focus from a me-focus to a God-focus. Work your will in our lives that we might be instruments to do your work and to tell others of your great love. Let our lives reflect your holiness through thick and thin. Help us live in pursuit of what you want rather than what we want. May we keep a firm grip on our faith no matter what hard times come our way. In all we do, may we honor you, amen.

Let all those rejoice who put their trust in You; let them ever shout for joy, because You defend them.
~ PSALM 5:11 

Sing praise to the LORD . . . and give thanks at the remembrance of His holy name. 
~ PSALM 30:4