Live Loved

“If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.”

~ MARK 9:35

The Ingredient of a Great Day

We regularly face subtle yet significant decisions, all of which fall under the category of who comes first: do they or do I?

When the parent chooses the best school for the children over a career-advancing transfer.

When the student eats lunch with the neglected kids rather than the cool ones.

When the grown daughter spends her days off with her aging mother at the dementia unit.

When you turn away from personal dreams for the sake of others, you are, in Christ’s words, denying yourself.

“If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24 NLT).

Behold the most surprising ingredient of a great day: self-denial.

Don’t we assume just the opposite? Great days emerge from the soil of self-indulgence, self-expression, and self-celebration. So pamper yourself, indulge yourself, promote yourself. But deny yourself? When was the last time you read this ad copy: “Go ahead. Deny yourself and have the time of your life!”?

Jesus could have written the words. He often goes counter-cultural, calling us down rather than up, telling us to zig when society says to zag.

In his economy the least are the greatest (Luke 9:48); the last will be first (Mark 9:35); the chosen seats are the forgotten seats (Luke 14:8–9). He tells us to honor others above ourselves (Romans 12:10); and consider others better than ourselves (Philippians 2:3).

— EVERY DAY DESERVES A CHANCE 

O Lord, your Word teaches us to deny ourselves. But our natural tendency is to indulge ourselves, to seek our own interests rather than the interests of others. We know this does not please you, for you have taught us that the least are the greatest and the last will be first. When we have opportunities to make a decision about who comes first, fill our hearts with a sacrificial love that will choose to put others first, amen.

Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another.

~ ROMANS 12:10

Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.

~ PHILIPPIANS 2:3

Live Loved

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.

[PSALM 139:23–24 NLT]

Slay the Desire to Be Noticed

When people enter a church to see God yet can’t see God because of the church, don’t think for a second that God doesn’t react. “Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you don’t make a performance out of it. It might be good theater, but the God who made you won’t be applauding” (Matthew 6:1 MSG).

Hypocrisy turns people against God. So God has a no-tolerance policy. Let’s take hypocrisy as seriously as God does. How can we?

1. Expect no credit for good deeds. None. If no one notices, you aren’t disappointed. If someone does, you give the credit to God.

2. Give financial gifts in secret. Money stirs the phony within us. We like to be seen earning it. And we like to be seen giving it. So “when you give to someone in need, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing” (v. 3 NLT).

3. Don’t fake spirituality. When you go to church, don’t select a seat just to be seen or sing just to be heard. If you raise your hands in worship, raise holy ones, not showy ones. When you talk, don’t doctor your vocabulary with trendy religious terms. Nothing nauseates more than a fake “Praise the Lord” or a shallow “Hallelujah” or an insincere “Glory be to God.”

Bottom line: don’t make a theater production out of your faith. “Watch me! Watch me!” is a call used on the playground, not in God’s kingdom. Silence the trumpets. Cancel the parade. Enough with the name-dropping. If accolades come, politely deflect them before you believe them. Slay the desire to be noticed. Stir the desire to serve God. Do good things. Just don’t do them to be noticed. You can be too good for your own good, you know.

~ OUTLIVE YOUR LIFE

Lord Jesus, forgive us for the times we have faked spirituality and participated out of pride. Forgive us for acts done to be seen or to receive praise. Give us hearts that are humble and willing to serve you in secret. May we be quick to give you all the honor and glory. May your church reflect you, for the sake of the lost and for our own sakes, amen.

For our boasting is this: the testimony of our conscience that we conducted ourselves in the world in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshy wisdom but by the grace of God. . . . 2 CORINTHIANS 1:12

Live Loved

He who follows righteousness and mercy finds life, righteousness and honor. 
~ PROVERBS 21:21
 

 The Depths of God’s Love

People can exhaust you. And there are times when all we can do is not enough. When a spouse chooses to leave, we cannot force him or her to stay. When a spouse abuses, we shouldn’t stay. The best of love can go unrequited. I don’t for a moment intend to minimize the challenges some of you face. You’re tired. You’re angry. You’re disappointed. This isn’t the marriage you expected or the life you wanted. But looming in your past is a promise you made. May I urge you to do all you can to keep it? To give it one more try? 

Why should you? So you can understand the depth of God’s love.

When you love the unloving, you get a glimpse of what God does for you. When you keep the porch light on for the prodigal child, when you do what is right even though you have been done wrong, when you love the weak and the sick, you do what God does every single moment. Covenant-keeping enrolls you in the postgraduate school of God’s love. 

Is this why God has given you this challenge? When you love liars, cheaters, and heartbreakers, are you not doing what God has done for us? Pay attention to and take notes on your struggles. God invites you to understand his love.

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”  
~JOHN 13:34 

 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works.  
~ HEBREWS 10:24 

 As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. 
~ 1 PETER 4:10

Live Loved

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

Proclaim God’s Glory

Whatever? Whatever. Let your message reflect his glory.

“Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16 NIV).

Let your salvation reflect God’s glory. “Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:13–14 NIV).

Let your body reflect God’s glory. “You are not your own. . . . Glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19–20 NASB).

Your message, your salvation, your body, your struggles, your success—all proclaim God’s glory.

—IT’S NOT ABOUT ME 

 Gracious Father, we pray that every facet of our lives would bring glory to you. We want to honor you with every struggle we face as well as every success. May our words and actions uplift your name. May the testimony of our own salvation draw others to you. May our lives be consistent proclamations of your glory. You deserve all the honor and praise, amen.

Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father. ~ COLOSSIANS 3:17 NASB

Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. ~ GALATIANS 5:16

If you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. ~ ROMANS 8:13                 

Live Loved

Pour out your heart like water before the face of the Lord. Lift your hands toward Him for the life of your young children.

~ LAMENTATIONS 2:19

Praying Parents

Parents, we can do this. We can be loyal advocates, stubborn intercessors. We can take our parenting fears to Christ. In fact, if we don’t, we’ll take our fears out on our kids. Fear turns some parents into paranoid prison guards who monitor every minute, check the background of every friend. They stifle growth and communicate distrust. A family with no breathing room suffocates a child.

On the other hand, fear can also create permissive parents. For fear that their child will feel too confined or fenced in, they lower all boundaries. High on hugs and low on discipline. They don’t realize that appropriate discipline is an expression of love. Permissive parents. Paranoid parents. How can we avoid the extremes? We pray.

Prayer is the saucer into which parental fears are poured to cool. Jesus says so little about parenting, makes no comments about spanking, breast-feeding, sibling rivalry, or schooling. Yet his actions speak volumes about prayer. Each time a parent prays, Christ responds. His big message to moms and dads? Bring your children to me. Raise them in a greenhouse of prayer.

~ FEARLESS

Lord Jesus, when you were here on earth, you showed tender love for children. You protected them and defended them. May we be as dedicated and devoted to our own children. When we begin to worry and be anxious for them, teach us to talk to you about our fears. Lord, you love our children even more than we do. You want what is best for them even more than we do. We can trust you to take care of our children and to guide us as we seek to be godly parents, amen.

All your children shall be taught by the LORD, and great shall be the peace of your children.

~ ISAIAH 54:13

The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers.

~ 1 PETER 3:12

The righteous man walks in his integrity; his children are blessed after him.

~ PROVERBS 20:7

Live Loved

Always be joyful. Pray continually, and give thanks whatever happens. That is what God wants for you in Christ Jesus.

~ 1 THESSALONIANS 5:16–18 

A Grateful Heart

God notices the grateful heart. Why? Does he have an ego problem? No. But we do. Gratitude lifts our eyes off the things we lack so we might see the blessings we possess. Nothing blows the winter out of the day like the Caribbean breeze of thankfulness. Need some trade winds?

Major in the grace of God. When Paul sent Timothy off to spiritual university, he told him to major in the grace of God: “You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 2:1). Do the same. Focus on the cross of Christ. Grow fluent in the language of redemption. Linger long at the foot of the cross. Immerse yourself in the curriculum of grace. And . . .

Loved with a Wise Love                 

 

Measure the gifts of God. Collect your blessings. Catalog his kindnesses. Assemble your reasons for gratitude and recite them. “Always be joyful. Pray continually, and give thanks whatever happens. That is what God wants for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16–18 NCV). Look at the totality of those terms. Always be joyful. Pray continually. Give thanks whatever happens.

~ EVERY DAY DESERVES A CHANCE ~

Heavenly Father, too often we concentrate on the weeds in life even when we live in the garden of your grace. Help us remember that gratitude is always an option. Whatever comes our way, may we choose to give thanks to you. When we forget, remind us of the innumerable blessings you have poured into our lives. When we remember your gifts to us, we can’t help but be filled with gratitude and joy. Teach us to rejoice in all things, amen.

Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving.

~ COLOSSIANS 4:2

Let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.

~ HEBREWS 13:15

In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

~ 1 THESSALONIANS 5:18

Live Loved

He who endures to the end shall be saved.” ~ MATTHEW 24:13

Farsighted Courage

Life is a dangerous endeavor. We pass our days in the shadows of ominous realities. The power to annihilate humanity has, it seems, been placed in the hands of people who are happy to do so. . . . If the global temperature rises a few more degrees . . . if classified information falls into sinister hands . . . if the wrong person pushes the wrong red button . . . What if things only get worse?

Christ tells us that they will. He predicts spiritual bailouts, ecological turmoil, and worldwide persecution. Yet in the midst of it all, he contends bravery is still an option. “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed” (Matthew 24:46 NIV).

Things are going to get bad, really bad, before they get better. And when conditions worsen, “See to it that you are not alarmed” (v. 6 NIV). Jesus chose a stout term for alarmed that he used on no other occasion. It means “to wail, to cry aloud,” as if Jesus counseled the disciples, “Don’t freak out when bad stuff happens.”

Don’t freak out at the heresy, calamity, and apostasy. Don’t give in or give up, for you’ll soon witness the victory. “But he who endures to the end shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come” (vv. 13–14).

Jesus equipped his followers with farsighted courage. He listed the typhoons of life and then pointed them “to the end.” Trust in ultimate victory gives ultimate courage.

Some days, holy Father, it seems that the world is spinning out of control. Worldwide turmoil increases, and we are alarmed. It is easy to lose courage. But this is not what you want for your children. You have given us ample warning that these things will happen. May we remember that they are preparations for the end of time. When we forget, remind us that ultimate victory belongs to you. Help us face the future with courage and confidence, amen.

 

The LORD shall preserve you from all evil; He shall preserve your soul.

~ PSALM 121:7

But the LORD your God you shall fear; and He will deliver you from the hand of all your enemies.

~ 2 KINGS 17:39

He saved them for His name’s sake, that He might make His mighty power known.

~ PSALM 106:8