Live Loved

Comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing.

~ 1 THESSALONIANS 5:11

Uncommon Community

Something holy happens around a dinner table that will never happen in a sanctuary. In a church auditorium you see the backs of heads. Around the table you see the expressions on faces. In the auditorium one person speaks; around the table everyone has a voice. Church services are on the clock. Around the table there is time to talk.

Hospitality opens the door to uncommon community.

It’s no accident that hospitality and hospital come from the same Latin word, for they both lead to the same result: healing. When you open your door to someone, you are sending this message: “You matter to me and to God.” You may think you are saying, “Come over for a visit.” But what your guest hears is, “I’m worth the effort.”

Do you know people who need this message? Singles who eat alone? Young couples who are far from home? Coworkers who’ve been transferred, teens who feel left out, and seniors who no longer drive? Some people pass an entire day with no meaningful contact with anyone else. Your hospitality can be their hospital. You can join the ranks of people such as . . . Abraham.

He fed not just angels, but the Lord of angels (Genesis 18).

Rahab, the harlot. She received and protected the spies. Thanks to her kindness, her kindred survived, and her name is remembered (Joshua 6:22–23; Matthew 1:5). Martha and Mary. They opened their home for Jesus. He, in turn, opened the grave of Lazarus for them (John 11:1–45; Luke 10:38–42).

OUTLIVE YOUR LIFE

Lord Jesus, as you gave of yourself so generously to others, may we also look for ways to serve others. Let us use our time and talents and resources to help the hurting. Open our eyes to see people who are lonely and need a healing touch. Even if it may not always be convenient, teach us to open our hearts and homes to those who long for someone to be kind to them. Let us put the needs of others above our own self-serving interests. Let us be gracious examples of your love for the needy, amen.

We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death.

~ 1 JOHN 3:14

The LORD has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted.

~ ISAIAH 61:1

Live Loved

Be careful what you think, because your thoughts run your life.
~ PROVERBS 4:23 [NCV]

Positive Thoughts Purvey Hope

Two types of voices command your attention today. Negative ones fill your mind with doubt, bitterness, and fear. Positive ones purvey hope and strength. Which ones will you choose to heed? You have a choice, you know. “We take every thought captive so that it is obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5 God’s WORD).

Do you let anyone who knocks on your door enter your house? Don’t let every thought that surfaces dwell in your mind. Take it captive . . . make it obey Jesus. If it refuses, don’t think it.

Negative thoughts never strengthen you. How many times have you cleared a traffic jam with your grumbles? Does groaning about bills make them disappear? Why moan about your aches and pains, problems and tasks?

“Be careful what you think, because your thoughts run your life” (Proverbs 4:23 NCV). 

~ EVERY DAY DESERVES A CHANCE

O Lord, teach us to choose positive thoughts over negative thoughts. Help us take every thought captive, shape it to fit into a life that pleases you. May every emotion and impulse be pleasing to you. Rather than moan and groan about the difficult things in life, teach us to give up grumbling and be glad that you are in control of every detail. When we have the choice to fill our minds with doubt and bitterness or hope and strength, we will choose hope and strength, amen.

Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. 
~ COLOSSIANS 3:2 

The work of righteousness will be peace, and the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance forever. 
~  ISAIAH 32:17 

~ Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. 
~ ROMANS 12:2

Live Loved

Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. 
~ 2 CORINTHIANS 4:17

Just for a Moment

Remember the story of the eagle who was raised by chickens? From the floor of the barnyard, she spots an eagle in the clouds, and her heart stirs. “I can do that!” she whispers. The other chickens laugh, but she knows better. She was born different. Born with a belief.

You were too. Your world extends beyond the barnyard of time. A foreverness woos you. Your heavenly life Everests the pebbles of your earthly life. If grains of sand measured the two, how would they stack up? Heaven would be every grain of sand on every beach on earth, plus more. Earthly life, by contrast, would be one hundredth of one grain of sand. Need a phrase to summarize the length of your life on earth? Try: “Just a moment.”

Wasn’t this the phrase of choice for Paul? “Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2 Corinthians 4:17). 

What if we had a glimpse of the apostle as he wrote those words? By this time he had been “beaten times without number, often in danger of death. Five times,” he writes, “I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep” (2 Corinthians 11:23–25 NASB). He goes on to refer to life-threatening river trips, wilderness wanderings, and exposure to cold, attacks, hunger, and thirst. These, in Paul’s words, are light afflictions to be endured for just a moment.

What if we took the same attitude toward life? What if we saw our tough times as a grain of sand scarcely worthy of contrast with the forever dunes? 

IT’S NOT ABOUT ME

Lord Jesus, you have told us that we will have troubles and tribulation here on earth even as your children. But you have also promised to help us tackle these troubles. You promise your grace to overcome and your strength to triumphantly endure the hard times that come our way. When we face affliction, may we take Paul’s view that it is just for a moment. May we keep a perspective that extends beyond the present problem to an eternity spent with you, amen.

Live Loved

The LORD is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth.
~ PSALM 145:18

Never Alone

Is God a distant deity? Mothers ask, “How can the presence of God come over my children?” Fathers ponder, “How can God’s presence fill my house?” Churches desire the touching, helping, healing presence of God in their midst.

How can the presence of God come to us?

Should we light a candle, sing chants, build an altar, head up a committee, give a barrelful of money? What invokes the presence of God? . . .

God’s present is his presence.

God’s greatest gift is himself. Sunsets steal our breath. Caribbean blue stills our hearts. Newborn babies stir our tears. Lifelong love bejewels our lives. But take all these away—strip away the sunsets, oceans, cooing babies, and tender hearts— and leave us in the Sahara, and we still have reason to dance in the sand. Why? Because God is with us. . . .

God wants us to know. We are never alone. Ever.

God loves you too much to leave you alone, so he hasn’t. He hasn’t left you alone with your fears, your worries, your disease, or your death. So kick up your heels for joy. . . .

He is a personal God who loves and heals and helps and intervenes. He doesn’t respond to magic potions or clever slogans. He looks for more. He looks for reverence, obedience, and God-hungry hearts.

And when he sees them, he comes!

~ FACING YOUR GIANTS

Thank you, Lord God, that you are a personal God. You come right into our lives with help and healing. You do not stay far off from us, but you come up close. There is no place on earth so distant that we would not find you there. You love us too much to leave us alone. You care too much to let us face disease and death without you. Your generosity has filled our lives with an abundance of gifts: orchids, oceans, and cooing babies. But you are the greatest gift of all. We rejoice in you, amen.

My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.
~ EXODUS 33:14

He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
~ PSALM 91:1

If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 
~  1 JOHN 1:6

Live Loved

Undeserved, Unexpected Grace

“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”

~ LUKE 23:34

What does the thief on the cross next to Christ see? . . . He sees the God who wrote the book on grace. The God who coaxed Adam and Eve out of the bushes, murderous Moses out of the desert. The God who made a place for David, though David made a move on Bathsheba. The God who didn’t give up on Elijah, though Elijah gave up on God. This is what the thief sees.

What does he hear? He hears what fugitive Moses heard in the desert, depressed Elijah heard in the desert, adulterous David heard after Bathsheba. He hears what…

• a fickle Peter heard after the rooster crowed,

• the storm-tossed disciples heard after the wind stopped,

• the cheating woman heard after the men left,

• the oft-married Samaritan woman heard before the disciples came,

• the hardheaded and hard-hearted Saul would hear after the light shone,

• the paralytic heard when his friends lowered him through the roof,

• the blind man heard when Jesus found him on the street,

• the disciples would soon hear from Jesus on the beach early one morning.

He hears the official language of Christ: grace. Undeserved. Unexpected. Grace. Today you will be with me in paradise”

~ Luke 23:43.

~ EVERY DAY DESERVES A CHANCE

Precious Savior, we are amazed at your grace. You cancel out our sins and mistakes and restore us to a right relationship with our heavenly Father. You don’t keep track of our sins. You wipe the slate clean with your mercy. Truly we are humbled by the gift of your grace. We don’t deserve it, yet you freely give it. Even when we don’t expect it, you offer it. We cannot make our hearts right. We trust you to do that for us. And we thank you for pouring your generous grace into our lives, amen.

God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.

~ 2 CORINTHIANS 9:8

Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

~ HEBREWS 4:16

Live Loved

He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. 
~ EPHESIANS 5:2 [MSG]

Loved with an Incomparable Love

Gomer was . . . an irascible woman married to a remarkable Hosea. She had the fidelity code of a prairie jackrabbit, flirting and hopping from one lover to another. She ruined her life and shattered Hosea’s heart. Destitute, she was placed for sale in a slave market. Guess who stepped forward to buy her? Hosea, who’d never removed his wedding band. The way he treated her, you would have thought she’d never loved another man. God uses this story, indeed orchestrated this drama, to illustrate his steadfast love for his fickle people. . . .

His is agape love. Less an affection, more a decision; less a feeling, more an action. . . .

Our finest love is a preschool watercolor to God’s Rembrandt, a vacant-lot dandelion next to his garden rose. His love stands sequoia strong; our best attempts bend like weeping willows.

Compare our love with God’s? Look at the round belly of the pregnant peasant girl in Bethlehem. God’s in there; the same God who can balance the universe on the tip of his finger floats in Mary’s womb. Why? Love.

Peek through the Nazareth workshop window. See the lanky lad sweeping the sawdust from the floor? He once blew stardust into the night sky. Why swap the heavens for a carpentry shop? One answer: love.

Love explains why he came. Love explains how he endured.

His hometown kicked him out. A so-called friend turned him in. Hucksters called God a hypocrite. Sinners called God guilty. Do termites mock an eagle, tapeworms decry the beauty of a swan? How did Jesus endure such derision? . . . “Observe how Christ loved us. . . . He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us” (Ephesians 5:2 MSG).

~ 3:16: THE NUMBERS OF HOPE 

Blessed Savior, the thought of your strong love brings joy and hope. How grateful we are for your agape love that is steadfast and true. When we are discouraged by the fickle and feeble love of others, remind us of your totally unselfish love. May your extraordinary love be an example to us in loving others. May your generous love shape our lives, amen.

By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.

~ 1 JOHN 3:16

In His love and in His pity He redeemed them; and He bore them and carried them all the days.

~ ISAIAH 63:9

Live Loved

“I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever.”

~ JOHN 14:16 NIV

Peace of Mind and Heart

The way we panic at the sight of change, you’d think bombs were falling on Iowa.

“Run for your lives! Graduation is coming!”

“The board of directors just hired a new CEO. Take cover!”

“Load the women and children into the bus, and head north. The department store is going out of business!”

Change trampolines our lives, and when it does, God sends someone special to stabilize us. On the eve of his death, Jesus gave his followers this promise: “When the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit— he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you. I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid” (John 14:26–27 NLT).

As a departing teacher might introduce the classroom to her replacement, so Jesus introduces us to the Holy Spirit. And what a ringing endorsement he gives. Jesus calls the Holy Spirit his “representative.” The Spirit comes in the name of Christ, with equal authority and identical power. Earlier in the evening Jesus had said, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever” (John 14:16 NIV).

“Another Counselor.” Both words shimmer. The Greek language enjoys two distinct words for another. One means “totally different,” and the second translates “another just like the first one.” When Jesus promises “another Counselor,” he uses word number two, promising “another just like the first one.” And who is the first one? Jesus himself.

~ Fearless

O Lord, you know every thought of our hearts. You know how easily we are frightened by change. But you have not left us to face change alone. You have given us a helper: your precious Holy Spirit. When life brings change and uncertainty and we start to panic, may the power of the Holy Spirit bring peace to our minds and hearts. May we honor you by replacing fear with trust, amen.

But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God.
~ JUDE 20–21 

When He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth. . . . 
~  JOHN 16:13