Live Loved

“Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; not about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?”

[Matthew 6:25]

Worry Doesn’t Work

Shortfalls and depletions inhabit our trails. Not enough time, luck, credit, wisdom, intelligence. We are running out of everything, it seems, and so we worry. But worry doesn’t work.

“Look at the birds. They don’t need to plant or harvest or put food in barns because your heavenly Father feeds them. And because you are far more valuable to him than they are. Can all your worries add a single moment to your life.” (Matthew 6:26– 27)

Fret won’t fill a bird’s belly with food or a flower’s petal with color. Birds and flowers seem to get along just fine, and they don’t take antacids.

What’s more, you can dedicate a decade of anxious thoughts to the brevity of life and not extend it by one minute. Worry accomplishes nothing…

When legitimate concern morphs into toxic panic, we cross a boundary line into the state of fret. No longer anticipating or preparing, we take up membership in the fraternity of Woe-Be-Me. Christ cautions us against this. Look at how one translation renders his words: “Therefore I tell you, stop being perpetually uneasy (anxious and worried) about your life” (Matthew 6:25).

Jesus doesn’t condemn legitimate concern for responsibilities but rather the continuous mind-set that dismisses God’s presence. Destructive anxiety subtracts God from the future, faces uncertainties with no faith, tallies up the challenges of the day without entering God into the equation. Worry is the darkroom where negatives become glossy prints.

[Fearless]

Father,

Though you urged us not to worry, we often do just that. We’re anxious over things we can’t control. We fret about the maybes and what-ifs. Help us remember that you care for the birds, you care about your creatures, and you care about each of your children. When anxious thoughts come to mind, help us turn them over to you. Replace them with calm confidence in you, our loving Father,

Amen.

“I will feed My flock, and I will make them lie down,” says the Lord God.

[Ezekiel 34:15]

The Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.

[Deuteronomy 31:6]

~ Max Lucado ~

Live Loved

Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.

[James 1:27]

The Nazareth Manifesto

God makes the poor his priority. When the hungry pray, he listens. When orphans cry, he sees.

Jesus, in his first message, declared his passion for the poor. Early in his ministry he returned to his hometown of Nazareth to deliver an inaugural address of sorts. He entered the same synagogue where he had worshipped as a young man and looked into the faces of the villagers. They were simple folk: stonecutters, carpenters, and craftsmen. They survived on minimal wages and lived beneath the shadow of Roman oppression. There wasn’t much good news in Nazareth.

But this day was special. Jesus was in town. The hometown boy who had made the big time. They asked him to read Scripture, and he accepted. “And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written” (Luke 4:17)…

He shuffled the scroll toward the end of the text and read, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted” (v. 18, quoting Isaiah 61:1).

Jesus lifted his eyes from the parchment and quoted the rest of the words. The crowd, who cherished the words as much as he did, mouthed the lines along with him. “To proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord” (vv. 18–19).

Jesus had a target audience. The poor. The broken-hearted. Captives. The blind and oppressed.

His to-do list? Help for the body and soul, strength for the physical and spiritual, therapy for the temporal and eternal. “This is my mission statement,” Jesus declared. The Nazareth Manifesto.

[Outlive Your Life]

Precious Lord,

You showed us by your life how to be compassionate. You reached out to the poor, the sick, the hurting. You healed their bodies and their souls. You cried over broken hearts, and you smiled when the downtrodden were lifted up. Teach us to do the same. Let our arms reach out to help the oppressed. May we willingly spend our lives serving those in need,

Amen.

“He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed.”

[Luke 4:18]

~ Max Lucado ~

Live Loved

Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.

[Psalm 50:15]

One Good Day at a Time

Rejoice in this day? God invites us to. As Paul rejoiced in prison; David wrote psalms in the wilderness; Jonah prayed in the fish belly; Paul and Silas sang in jail; Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego remained resolute in the fiery furnace; John saw heaven in his exile; and Jesus prayed in his garden of pain … Could we rejoice smack-dab in the midst of this day?

Imagine the difference if we could.

Suppose neck deep in a terrible … day you resolve to give it a chance. You choose not to drink or work or worry it away but give it a fair shake. You trust more. Stress less. Amplify gratitude. Mute grumbling. And what do you know? Before long the day is done and surprisingly decent.

So decent, in fact, that you resolve to give the next day the same fighting chance. It arrives with its hang-ups and bang-ups, bird drops and shirt stains, but by and large, by golly, giving the day a chance works! You do the same the next day and the next. Days become a week. Weeks become months. Months become years of good days.

In such a fashion good lives are built. One good day at a time.

[Every Day Deserves a Chance]

Wonderful Savior,

Each day is a gift from you. It is an opportunity to bring glory to you. We can do that by rejoicing in the circumstances that come our way today, and the next day, and the day after that. Give us strength to praise you and be joyful no matter how difficult the day. May our joy bring joy to you,

Amen.

The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and He knows those who trust in Him.

[Nahum 1:7]

I will turn their mourning to joy, will comfort them, and make them rejoice rather than sorrow.

[Jeremiah 31:13]

You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

[Psalm 16:11]

~ Max Lucado ~

Live Loved

You will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.

[Matthew 24:6]

Loved by a Trustworthy God

Nature is a pregnant creation, third-trimester heavy. When a tornado rips through a city in Kansas or an earthquake flattens a region in Pakistan, this is more than barometric changes or shifts of ancient fault lines. The universe is passing through the final hours before delivery. Painful contractions are in the forecast.

As are conflicts: “wars and rumors of wars.” One nation invading another. One superpower defying another. Borders will always need checkpoints. War correspondents will always have employment. The population of the world will never see peace this side of heaven.

Christians will suffer the most. “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me” (v. 9 niv).

But remember: “All these [challenging times] are the beginning of birth pains” (v. 8 niv), and birth pangs aren’t all bad. (Easy for me to say.) Birth pains signal the onset of the final push. The obstetrician assures the mom-to-be, “It’s going to hurt for a time, but it’s going to get better.” Jesus assures us of the same. Global conflicts indicate our date on the maternity calendar. We are in the final hours, just a few pushes from delivery, a few brief ticks of eternity’s clock from the great crowning of creation. A whole new world is coming! …

All things, big and small, flow out of the purpose of God and serve his good will. When the world appears out of control, it isn’t. When warmongers appear to be in charge, they aren’t. When ecological catastrophes dominate the day, don’t let them dominate you.

Let’s trust our heavenly Father.

[Fearless]

Glorious God,

All things flow out of your purposes. You are in control even when catastrophes dominate the day. When global conflicts increase, may we remember that these are birth pangs preparing the way for a whole new wonderful world. May we lay aside all anxiety and fear and see these singular events as signs for rejoicing and anticipating your peaceful kingdom,

Amen.

Though an army may encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war may rise against me, in this I will be confident.

[Psalm 27:3]

Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.

[Ephesians 6:10]

~ Max Lucado ~

Live Loved

Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God.

[Psalm 42:11]

Face Your Fears by Facing God

“I look at this people—oh! what a stubborn, hard-headed people!” (Exodus 32:9 msg). God spoke these words to Moses on Mount Sinai. The disloyalty of the calf-worshipping Hebrews stunned God. He had given them a mayor’s-seat perch at his Exodus extravaganza. They saw water transform into blood, high noon change to a midnight sky, the Red Sea turn into a red carpet, and the Egyptian army become fish bait. God gave manna with the morning dew, quail with the evening sun. He earned their trust…

And yet, when God called Moses to a summit meeting, the people panicked like henless chicks. “They rallied around Aaron and said, ‘Do something. Make gods for us who will lead us. That Moses, the man who got us out of Egypt—who knows what’s happened to him?’” (Exodus 32:1).

The scurvy of fear infected everyone in the camp. They crafted a metal cow and talked to it…

Note: the presence of fear in the Hebrews didn’t bother God; their response to it did. Nothing persuaded the people to trust him. Plagues didn’t. Liberation from slavery didn’t. God shed light on their path and dropped food in their laps, and still they didn’t believe him. Nothing penetrated their hearts…

More than three thousand years removed, we understand God’s frustration. Turn to a statue for help? How stupid. Face your fears by facing a cow? Udderly foolish!

We opt for more sophisticated therapies: belly-stretching food binges or budget-busting shopping sprees. We bow before a whiskey bottle or lose ourselves in an eighty-hour workweek. Progress? Hardly. We still face fears without facing God.

[3:16: The Numbers of Hope]

Loving Father,

You know how weak and frail we are when faced with fears. We tend to turn to things and people for answers and solutions to life’s problems rather than turn to you. Or we try to work out solutions in our own feeble strength, when you are eager to provide the solution for us. Forgive us when we disappoint you, Father. May we always turn first to you,

amen.

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

[Romans 15:13]

You are my hope, O Lord God; You are my trust from my youth.

[Psalm 71:5]

Blessed is that man who makes the Lord his trust.

[Psalm 40:4]

~ Max Lucado ~

Live Loved

Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.
[Acts 3:6]

Works Done in God’s Name

A gate called Beautiful. The man was anything but.

He couldn’t walk but had to drag himself about on his knees. He passed his days among the contingent of real and pretend beggars who coveted the coins of the worshippers entering Solomon’s court.

Peter and John were among them.

The needy man saw the apostles, lifted his voice, and begged for money. They had none to give, yet still they stopped. “Peter and John looked straight at him and said, ‘Look at us!’” (Acts 3:4).

Then Peter said, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk” (v. 6).

The thick, meaty hand of the fisherman reached for the frail, thin one of the beggar. Think Sistine Chapel and the high hand of God. One from above, the other from below. A holy helping hand. Peter lifted the man toward himself. The cripple swayed like a newborn calf finding its balance. It appeared as if the man would fall, but he didn’t. He stood. And as he stood, he began to shout, and passersby began to stop. They stopped and watched the cripple skip.

An honest look led to a helping hand that led to a conversation about eternity. Works done in God’s name long outlive our earthly lives.

Let’s be the people who stop at the gate. Let’s 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.

[Outlive Your Life]

Lord,

There are so many people whose needs can only be healed by your gracious love. When we see people in need, help us not to rush by but to stop and lend a helping hand. Open our eyes to see the hurting and soften our hearts to hurt with them. Let us learn from your example how to reach out in loving compassion to help those in need,

amen.

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.

[Ephesians 4:32]

And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.

[James 5:15]

Be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.

[2 Corinthians 13:11]

~ Max Lucado ~

Live Loved

Then all this assembly shall know that the Lord does not save with sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s, and He will give you into our hands.

[1 Samuel 17:47]

Take a Swing at Your Giant

David… runs toward the army to meet Goliath (1 Samuel 17:48)…

Goliath throws back his head in laughter, just enough to shift his helmet and expose a square inch of forehead flesh. David spots the target and seizes the moment. The sound of the swirling sling is the only sound in the valley. Ssshhhww. Ssshhhww. Ssshhhww. The stone torpedoes through the air and into the skull; Goliath’s eyes cross and legs buckle. He crumples to the ground and dies. David runs over and yanks Goliath’s sword from its sheath, shish-kebabs the Philistine, and cuts off his head.

You might say that David knew how to get a head of his giant.

When was the last time you did the same? How long since you ran toward your challenge? We tend to retreat, duck behind a desk of work or crawl into a nightclub of distraction or a bed of forbidden love. For a moment, a day, or a year, we feel safe, insulated, anesthetized, but then the work runs out, the liquor wears off, or the lover leaves, and we hear Goliath again. Booming. Bombastic.

Try a different tack. Rush your giant with a God-saturated soul. Giant of divorce, you aren’t entering my home! Giant of depression? It may take a lifetime, but you won’t conquer me. Giant of alcohol, bigotry, child abuse, insecurity … you’re going down. How long since you loaded your sling and took a swing at your giant?

[Facing Your Giants]

Gracious God,

There are days when we feel surrounded by giants. Insecurities and doubts and worries flood our minds. But your mighty power instills confidence to confront every giant in life. Saturate our souls with your word. Remind us to look at every obstacle through your power and your might. May we be victorious through your holy name,

Amen.

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

[Psalm 138:3]

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

[2 Samuel 22:33]

You have been my defense and refuge in the day of my trouble.

[Psalm 59:16]

~ Max Lucado ~