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

Live Loved

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” 
~ MATTHEW 5:7
 

 We Choose to Give Grace

Forgiveness is, at its core, choosing to see your offender with different eyes. When some Moravian missionaries took the message of God to the Eskimos, the missionaries struggled to find a word in the native language for forgiveness. They finally landed on this cumbersome twenty-four-letter choice: issumagijoujung-nainermik. This formidable assembly of letters is literally translated “not being able to think about it anymore.”

To forgive is to move on, not to think about the offense anymore. You don’t excuse him, endorse her, or embrace them. You just route thoughts about them through heaven. You see your enemy as God’s child and revenge as God’s job.

By the way, how can we grace-recipients do anything less? Dare we ask God for grace when we refuse to give it? This is a huge issue in Scripture. Jesus was tough on sinners who refused to forgive other sinners. Remember his story about the servant freshly forgiven a debt of millions who refused to forgive a debt equal to a few dollars? He stirred the wrath of God: “You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt. . . . Shouldn’t you have mercy . . . just as I had mercy on you?” (Matthew 18:32–33 NLT). 

In the final sum, we give grace because we’ve been given grace.

~ FACING YOUR GIANTS 

O Lord, Thank you for forgiving every sin of everyone who calls you Lord. May we be as merciful to others as you have been to your children. Teach us not only to forgive but also to forget about the offense. Fill our hearts with a willingness to leave the consequences in your hands. As you forgave a debt we could never pay, so we choose to forgive the debts of others, amen.

Forgive as the Lord forgave you. ~ COLOSSIANS 3:13 [NIV]

Always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all. ~ 1 [THESSALONIANS 5:15]

Live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. ~ [2 CORINTHIANS 13:11]

Live Loved

As heaven’s advertising agency, we promote God in every area of life, including success. 

That’s right—even your success is intended to reflect God. Listen to the reminder Moses gave the children of Israel: “Remember He is the one the LORD your God who gives you power to be successful, in order to fulfill the covenant he made with your ancestors” (Deuteronomy 8:18 NLT).

From where does success come? God. “It is the LORD your God who gives you power to become successful.”

And why does he give it? For his reputation. “To fulfill the covenant he made with your ancestors.”

God blessed Israel in order to billboard his faithfulness. When foreigners saw the fruitful farms of the Promised Land, God did not want them to think about the farmer but the farmer’s Maker. Their success advertised God.

Nothing has changed. God lets you excel so you can make him known. And you can be sure of one thing: God will make you good at something. This is his principle: “True humility and fear of the LORD lead to riches, honor, and long life” (Proverbs 22:4 NLT). . . .

“We are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us” (2 Corinthians 5:20 NASB). The ambassador has a singular aim—to represent his king. He promotes the king’s agenda, protects the king’s reputation, and presents the king’s will. The ambassador elevates the name of the king.

May we do the same. May God rescue us from self-centered thinking. May we have no higher goal than to see someone think more highly of our Father, our King.

~ IT’S NOT ABOUT ME 

Father, enable us to serve you with our whole hearts. Show us how to love, serve, help, teach, and care. May your will be done here on earth and in our lives. Teach us to center our goals and plans and ambitions on you. May the world know what an amazing and loving Savior you are, amen.

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

 “He who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do.” 
~  JOHN 14:12 

 He gave some to be apostles, some prophets . . . and some pastors. 
~  EPHESIANS 4:11

Live Loved

“You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” 
~ ACTS 1:8

“You Will Be My Witnesses” 

The tall one in the corner—that’s Peter. Galilee thickened his accent. Fishing nets thickened his hands. Stubbornness thickened his skull. His biggest catch in life thus far has come with fins and gills. Odd. The guy pegged to lead the next great work of God knows more about bass and boat docks than he does about Roman culture or Egyptian leaders.

And his cronies: Andrew, James, Nathanael. Never traveled farther than a week’s walk from home. Haven’t studied the ways of Asia or the culture of Greece. Their passports aren’t worn; their ways aren’t sophisticated. Do they have any formal education? 

In fact, what do they have? Humility? They jockeyed for cabinet positions. Sound theology? Peter told Jesus to forget the cross. Sensitivity? John wanted to torch the Gentiles. Loyalty? When Jesus needed prayers, they snoozed. When Jesus was arrested, they ran. Thanks to their cowardice, Christ had more enemies than friends at his execution.

Yet look at them six weeks later, crammed into the second floor of a Jerusalem house, abuzz as if they’d just won tickets to the World Cup Finals. High fives and wide eyes. Wondering what in the world Jesus had in mind with his final commission: “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8 NIV).

You hillbillies will be my witnesses. 

You uneducated and simple folk will be my witnesses.

You who once called me crazy, who shouted at me in the boat and doubted me in the Upper Room.

You will be my witnesses.

You will spearhead a movement that will explode out of Jerusalem like a just-opened fire hydrant and spill into the ends of the earth: into the streets of Paris, the districts of Rome, and the ports of Athens, Istanbul, Shanghai, and Buenos Aires.

I will praise You, O LORD, with my whole heart; I will tell of all Your marvelous works. 
~ PSALM 9:1

Live Loved

Lord, I believe; help my unbelief! 
~ MARK 9:24
 

 A Parent’s Concerns

Jairus was a Capernaum community leader, “one of the rulers of the synagogue” (Mark 5:22). Mayor, bishop, and ombudsman, all in one. The kind of man a city would send to welcome a celebrity. But when Jairus approached Jesus on the Galilean shoreline, he wasn’t representing his village; he was pleading on behalf of his child.

Urgency stripped the formalities from his greeting. He issued no salutation or compliment, just a prayer of panic. The gospel reads: “[Jairus] fell at his feet, pleading fervently with him. ‘My little daughter is dying,’ he said. ‘Please come and lay your hands on her; heal her so she can live’” (vv. 22–23 NLT).

Jairus isn’t the only parent to run onto gospel pages on behalf of a child. A mother stormed out of the Canaanite hills, crying, “Mercy, Master, Son of David! My daughter is cruelly afflicted by an evil spirit” (Matthew 15:22 MSG). A father of a seizure-tormented boy sought help from the disciples, then Jesus. He cried out with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24).

The Canaanite mother. The father of the epileptic boy. Jairus. These three parents form an unwitting New Testament society: struggling parents of stricken children. They held the end of their rope in one hand and reached toward Christ with the other. In each case Jesus responded. He never turned one away.

His consistent kindness issues a welcome announcement: Jesus heeds the concern in the parent’s heart. 

~ FEARLESS

Loving Father, every day brings opportunities for parents to panic about their children. There are so many unknown dangers and potential pitfalls we cannot control. But you are in control, Father. So we plead on behalf of our children. We ask you to protect them, to guide them, and to give us wisdom to raise them for your glory and honor. We thank you that you care about the concerns of a parent’s heart, amen.

These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road. . . 

~ DEUTERONOMY 6:6–7 [NIV]

One day some parents brought their children to Jesus so he could lay his hands on them and pray for them. 
~  MATTHEW 19:13 [NLT]

Live loved

Walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us. . . . 
~ EPHESIANS 5:2
 

 People of Hospitality

Is it just me, or is human contact going the way of the snow leopard? There was a time when every activity spurred a conversation. Service your car; greet the attendant. Deposit a check at the bank; chat with the teller about the weather. Buy a gift, and speak with the salesclerk. Not now. You can gas up with a credit card, make deposits online, and order a gift over the Internet. You can cycle through a day of business and never say hello.

Call us a fast society, an efficient society, but don’t call us a personal society. Our society is set up for isolation. We wear earbuds when we exercise. We communicate via e-mail and text messages. We enter and exit our houses with gates and garage door openers. Our mantra: “I leave you alone. You leave me alone.” 

Yet God wants his people to be an exception. Let everyone else go the way of computers and keyboards. God’s children will be people of hospitality.

Long before the church had pulpits and baptisteries, she had kitchens and dinner tables. “The believers met together in the Temple every day. They ate together in their homes, happy to share their food with joyful hearts” (Acts 2:46 NCV). 

It’s no wonder that the elders were to be “given to hospitality” (1 Timothy 3:2 KJV). The primary gathering place of the church was the home. . . .

Not everyone can serve in a foreign land, lead a relief effort, or volunteer at the downtown soup kitchen. But who can’t be hospitable? Do you have a front door? A table? Chairs? Bread and meat for sandwiches? Congratulations! You just qualified to serve in the most ancient of ministries: hospitality. 

~ OUTLIVE YOUR LIFE

Lord Jesus, may we open our homes to serve others. May we give a meal or a minute or a meaningful time of fellowship to others. May we joyfully share what we can in your name to bring hope and healing to the hurting, amen.

Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness.
~ 1 TIMOTHY 6:11 

 A friend loves at all times. 
~  PROVERBS 17:17 

The world of the generous gets larger and larger. 
~  PROVERBS 11:24 MSG

Live Loved

Do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.
~EPHESIANS 6:4 

 Cherish Your Children

Quiet heroes dot the landscape of our society. They don’t wear ribbons or kiss trophies; they wear spit-up and kiss boo-boos. They don’t make the headlines, but they do sew the hemlines and check the outlines and stand on the sidelines. You won’t find their names on the Nobel Prize short list, but you will find their names on the homeroom, carpool, and Bible teacher lists. 

They are parents, both by blood and deed, name and calendar. Heroes. News programs don’t call them. But that’s okay. Because their kids do . . . They call them Mom. They call them Dad. And these moms and dads, more valuable than all the executives and lawmakers west of the Mississippi, quietly hold the world together.

Be numbered among them. Read books to your kids. Play ball while you can and they want you to. Make it your aim to watch every game they play, read every story they write, hear every recital in which they perform.

Children spell love with four letters: T-I-M-E. Not just quality time, but hang time, downtime, anytime, all the time. Your children are not your hobby; they are your calling.

Cherish the children who share your name. 

~ FACING YOUR GIANTS

Lord God, when you give us children, you give us a precious treasure. May we be serious about raising our children to serve you. Teach us how to train them to love you and serve you. May we be good examples to them of godliness. May our lives reflect your character. May our mouths speak forth your words. May our hearts be filled with compassion and wisdom to help our children fulfill your purpose for their lives, amen.

“See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.”
~ MATTHEW 18:10 [NIV]

“Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.”
~ MARK 9:37 [NIV]

Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. 
~  EPHESIANS 6:4 [NIV]