Live Loved

God is kind to you so you will change your hearts and lives.
~ ROMANS 2:4

In the Image of Christ

Here’s God’s agenda for your day: to make you more like Jesus. “God…decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son” 

Do you see what God is doing? Shaping you “along the same lines as the life of his Son.”

Jesus felt no guilt; God wants you to feel no guilt. 
Jesus had no bad habits; God wants to do away with yours. 
Jesus faced fears with courage; God wants you to do the same. 
Jesus knew the difference between right and wrong; God wants us to know the same. Jesus served others and gave his life for the lost; we can do likewise. 
Jesus dealt with anxiety about death; you can too. God’s desire, his plan, his ultimate goal is to make you into the image of Christ.

—EVERY DAY DESERVES A CHANCE 

Heavenly Father, thank you for shaping our lives to be like your Son, Jesus. May we become more like him each minute and hour of the day. As he had no bad habits, Father, do away with ours. As he served others, may we do the same. He faced fears with courage, and this is what we long to do. Weave the threads of our lives, Father, in such a way that the final tapestry will show the true image of Christ, amen.

We ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.
~ JOHN 4:42

Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.
~ PHILIPPIANS 2:8

We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works.
~ EPHESIANS 2:10

Live Loved

If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 
~ 2 CORINTHIANS 5:17

Jesus Offers Answers

One of my Boy Scout assignments was to build a kite. One of my blessings as a Boy Scout was a kite-building dad. He built a lot of things: scooters on skates, go-carts. Why, he even built our house. A kite to him was stick figures to van Gogh. Could handle them in his sleep.

With wood glue, poles, and newspaper, we fashioned a sky-dancing masterpiece: red, white, and blue and shaped like a box. We launched our creation on the back of a March wind. But after some minutes, my kite caught a downdraft and plunged. I tightened the string, raced in reverse, and did all I could to maintain elevation. But it was too late. She Hindenburged earthward.

Envision a redheaded, heartsick twelve-year-old standing over his collapsed kite. That was me. Envision a square-bodied man with ruddy skin and coveralls placing his hand on the boy’s shoulder. That was my kite-making dad. He surveyed the heap of sticks and paper and assured, “It’s okay. We can fix this.” I believed him. Why not? He spoke with authority.

So does Christ. To all whose lives feel like a crashed kite, he says, “We can fix this. Let me teach you. Let me teach you how to handle your money, long Mondays, and cranky in-laws. Let me teach you why people fight, death comes, and forgiveness counts. But most of all, let me teach you why on earth you are on this earth.” 

Don’t we need to learn? We know so much, and yet we know so little. The age of information is the age of confusion: much know-how, hardly any know-why. We need answers. Jesus offers them.

—3:16: THE NUMBERS OF HOPE

Gracious Lord, when life falls apart around us, may we turn to you and let you fix it. Sometimes we want to take things into our own hands and fix everything ourselves. But help us remember that you are the amazing Lord of the universe who holds all the answers we need. You are a proven answer to life’s problems and a source of strength for life’s struggles. Without you our lives would be empty and futile, amen.

My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. PHILIPPIANS 4:19 

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.
PSALM 23:1 

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.
HEBREWS 10:23

Live Loved

Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!
~ PHILIPPIANS 4:4

Remember Who’s in Charge

Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! PHILIPPIANS 4:4 Remember Who’s in Charge The praetorian guard was a handpicked division of crack imperial troops. They received double pay and added benefits. They were the finest of the fine. And, in God’s sovereignty, the finest of Caesar’s soldiers are chained to the finest of God’s. How much time passed before Paul realized what was happening? How long before Paul looked at the chains, looked at the bright West Point graduate, and then smiled a smile toward heaven? Hmm. Captive audience. He leans toward the soldier. “Got a minute to talk?” Or “Would you mind proofreading this letter I’m writing?” or “Can I tell you about a Jewish carpenter I know?”

His words meet their mark. Read this line from the Philippian benediction: “All of God’s people greet you, particularly those from the palace of Caesar” (4:22 NCV).

The man may be manacled, but the message is not. The prison of Paul becomes the pulpit of Paul, and that is fine with him. Any method is fine as long as Christ is preached. . . .

Paul can write from the chill of the jail, “So I am happy, and I will continue to be happy” (1:18 NCV).

Unfairly arrested. Unkindly treated. Uncharted future. Yet unbridled joy.

Bumped off track but still in the race. How? We can summarize all the reasons with one word. Reduce all the answers to a single verb. Distill the explanations into one decision.

What is the word, verb, and decision? Trust. Paul trusted the oversight of God. He didn’t know why bad things happened. He didn’t know how they would be resolved. But he knew who was in charge.

Knowing who’s in charge counterbalances the mystery of why and how. 

—EVERY DAY DESERVES A CHANCE

Dear Lord Jesus, each day of life seems to bring a new challenge. Many of these are difficult trials that test us to the limit. We don’t understand why these things happen or how they happen. But like the apostle Paul, we want to declare in all circumstances that we are happy in you and will continue to be happy. Help us to leave the oversight of our situations to you. Remind us that you are in charge and we can trust completely in your loving grace and compassion, amen.

Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God. 
~  2 CORINTHIANS 3:5

Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.
~ 1 CORINTHIANS 15:58

Live Loved

“Please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”
~ MARK 14:36 NLT 

Face Fear with Honest Prayer 

Jesus did more than speak about fear. He faced it. The decisive acts of the gospel drama are played out on two stages—Gethsemane’s garden and Golgotha’s cross. Friday’s cross witnessed the severest suffering. Thursday’s garden staged the profoundest fear. It was here, amidst the olive trees, that Jesus “fell to the ground. He prayed that, if it were possible, the awful hour awaiting him might pass him by. ‘Abba, Father,’ he cried out, ‘everything is possible for you. Please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine’ ” (Mark 14:35–36 NLT). . . . Of what was Jesus afraid?

The cup equaled Jesus’ worst-case scenario: to be the recipient of God’s wrath. He had never felt God’s fury, didn’t deserve to. He’d never experienced isolation from his Father; the two had been one for eternity. He’d never known physical death; he was an immortal being. Yet within a few short hours, Jesus would face them all. God would unleash his sin-hating wrath on the sin-covered Son. And Jesus was afraid. Deathly afraid. And what he did with his fear shows us what to do with ours.

He prayed. He told his followers, “Sit here while I go and pray over there” (Matthew 26:36). One prayer was inadequate. “Again, a second time, He went away and prayed. . . . And prayed the third time, saying the same words” (vv. 42, 44). He even requested the prayer support of his friends. “Stay awake and pray for strength,” he urged (v. 41 NCV). 

Jesus faced his ultimate fear with honest prayer.

Lord, when you were confronted with a fearful situation, you faced it with honest prayer. Grant us the wisdom and the strength to do the same. No matter how frightening the circumstance, may we choose to share it with you in sincere and simple prayer. Before we turn anywhere else, may we turn to you. By the comfort of your Holy Spirit, may we find peace and hope and joy, amen.

For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

[HEBREWS 13:5]

“With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

[MATTHEW 19:26]

Commit your way to the LORD, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass.

[PSALM 37:5]

Live Loved

By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy; and before all the people I must be glorified.

~LEVITICUS 10:3

God’s Priority                 

The Hebrew term for glory descends from a root word meaning heavy, weighty, or important. God’s glory, then, celebrates his significance, his uniqueness, his one-of-a-kindness. As Moses prayed, “Who among the gods is like you, O LORD? Who is like you—majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?” (Exodus 15:11 NIV).

When you think “God’s glory,” think “preeminence.” And when you think “preeminence,” think “priority.” For God’s glory is God’s priority.

God’s staff meetings, if he had them, would revolve around one question: “How can we reveal my glory today?” God’s to-do list consists of one item: “Reveal my glory.” Heaven’s framed and mounted purpose statement hangs in the angels’ break room just above the angel food cake. It reads: “Declare God’s glory.” God exists to showcase God.

He told Moses: “By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy; and before all the people I must be glorified” (Leviticus 10:3). . . .

Why do the heavens exist? The heavens exist to “declare the glory of God” (Psalm 19:1 NIV). 
Why did God choose the Israelites? Through Isaiah he called out to “everyone who is called by My name, and whom I have created for My glory” (Isaiah 43:7 NASB). 
Why do people struggle? God answers, “I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. For My own sake, for My own sake, I will act” (48:10–11 NASB). 
“Then call on me when you are in trouble, and I will rescue you, and you will give me glory” (Psalm50:15 NLT).

~ Its Not About Me

Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness. 
~  PSALM 29:2 NIV 

Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
~ 1 CORINTHIANS 10:31

Live Loved

The LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.

~ 1 SAMUEL 16:7

A God-Seeking Heart

The LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

Those words were written for the . . . misfits and outcasts of society. God uses them all.

Moses ran from justice, but God used him. Jonah ran from God, but God used him. Rahab ran a brothel, Samson ran to the wrong woman,

Jacob ran in circles, Elijah ran into the mountains, Sarah ran out of hope, Lot ran with the wrong crowd, but God used them all.

And David? God saw a teenage boy serving him in the backwoods of Bethlehem, at the intersection of boredom and anonymity, and through the voice of a brother, God called, “David! Come in. Someone wants to see you.” Human eyes saw a gangly teenager enter the house, smelling like sheep and looking like he needed a bath. Yet, “the LORD said, ‘Arise, anoint him; for this is the one!’” (1 Samuel 16:12)

God saw what no one else saw: a God-seeking heart. David, for all his foibles, sought God like a lark seeks sunrise. He took after God’s heart because he stayed after God’s heart. In the end, that’s all God wanted or needed . . . wants or needs. Others measure your waist size or wallet. Not God. He examines hearts. When he finds one set on him, he calls it and claims it.

—FACING YOUR GIANTS

Gracious God, thank you for loving the misfits of society and for using them in your kingdom. You used outcasts of society like Moses and Jonah and Rahab and David. You still use those whose hearts are set firmly on you whether they are approved by society or not. While people judge us by looks or talents or accomplishments or wealth, you look at our hearts. We long to seek more strongly after you, O God. Help us to be people who seek you above all else, amen.

“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.”

~ JOHN 15:5

I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments.

~ DEUTERONOMY 30:16

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people.

~ 1 PETER 2:9