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11/14/19 4:00 A

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Dealing with Difficult Relatives - UpWords - November 14

by Max Lucado

Does Jesus have anything to say about dealing with difficult relatives? Is there an example of Jesus bringing peace to a painful family? Yes, there is.

His own.

It may surprise you to know that Jesus had a difficult family. If your family doesn't appreciate you, take heart, neither did Jesus'.

"His family … went to get him because they thought he was out of his mind" (Mark 3:21).
Jesus' siblings thought their brother was a lunatic. They weren't proud—they were embarrassed!

It's worth noting that he didn't try to control his family's behavior, nor did he let their behavior control his. He didn't demand that they agree with him. He didn't sulk when they insulted him.

He didn't make it his mission to try to please them.

Each of us has a fantasy that our family will be like the Waltons, an expectation that our dearest friends will be our next of kin. Jesus didn't have that expectation. Look how he defined his family: "My true brother and sister and mother are those who do what God wants" (Mark 3:35).

When Jesus' brothers didn't share his convictions, he didn't try to force them. He recognized that his spiritual family could provide what his physical family didn't. If Jesus himself couldn't force his family to share his convictions, what makes you think you can force yours?

Having your family's approval is desirable but not necessary for happiness and not always possible. Jesus did not let the difficult dynamic of his family overshadow his call from God. And because he didn't, this chapter has a happy ending.

What happened to Jesus' family?

Mine with me a golden nugget hidden in a vein of the Book of Acts. "Then [the disciples] went back to Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives.… They all continued praying together with some women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, and Jesus' brothers" (Acts 1:12, 14, emphasis added).

What a change! The ones who mocked him now worship him. The ones who pitied him now pray for him. What if Jesus had disowned them? Or worse still, what if he'd suffocated his family with his demand for change?

He didn't. He instead gave them space, time, and grace. And because he did, they changed.

How much did they change? One brother became an apostle (Gal. 1:19) and others became missionaries (1 Cor. 9:5).

So don't lose heart. God still changes families.

From He Still Moves Stones

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11/12/19 5:33 P

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A Forever Home - UpWords - November 12

by Max Lucado

For the last twenty years, I’ve wanted a dog. A big dog. But there were always problems. The apartment was too small. The budget was too tight. The girls were too young. But most of all, Denalyn was unenthusiastic. Her logic? She’d already married one slobbering, shedding beast, why put up with a second? So we compromised and got a small dog.

I like Salty, but small dogs aren’t really dogs. They don’t bark; they yelp. They don’t eat; they nibble. They don’t lick you; they sniff you. I like Salty, but I wanted a real dog. A man’s-best-friend type of dog. A fat-pawed, big-eating, slurp-you-on-the-face type of dog you could saddle or wrestle or both.

I was alone in my passion until Sara was born. She loves dogs. And the two of us were able to sway the household vote. Denalyn gave in, and Sara and I began the search. We discovered a woman in South Carolina who breeds golden retrievers in a Christian environment. From birth the dogs are surrounded by inspirational music and prayers. (No, I don’t know if they tithe with dog biscuits.) When the trainer told me that she had read my books, I got on board. A woman with such good taste is bound to be a good breeder, right?

So we ordered a pup. We mailed the check, selected the name Molly, and cleared a corner for her dog pillow. The dog hadn’t even been born, and she was named, claimed, and given a place in the house.

Can’t the same be said about you? Long before your first whimper, your Master claimed you, named you, and hung a reserved sign on your room. You and Molly have more in common than odor and eating habits. (Just teasing.)

You’re both being groomed for a trip. We prefer the terms maturation and sanctification to weaning and training, but it’s all the same. You’re being prepared for your Master’s house. You don’t know the departure date or flight number, but you can bet your puppy chow that you’ll be seeing your Owner someday. Isn’t this the concluding promise of David?

“And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Ps. 23:6 nkjv).

Where will you live forever? In the house of the Lord. If his house is your “forever house,” what does that make this earthly house? You got it! Short-term housing. This is not our home. “Our homeland is in heaven” (Phil. 3:20).

We, like Molly, are being prepared for another house.

Don’t quench, but rather, stir this longing for heaven.

God’s home is a forever home. “And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Ps. 23:6 nkjv).

From Traveling Light

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11/11/19 12:46 P

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Holiness - UpWords - November 11

by Max Lucado

John the Baptist would never get hired today. No church would touch him. He was a public relations disaster.

Mark 1:6 says he wore clothes of camels hair and ate locusts and wild honey.

His message was as rough as his dress. A no-nonsense, bare-fisted challenge to repent because God was on His way. No, Johns style wasn’t smooth. He made few friends and lots of enemies, but what do you know? He made hundreds of converts. How do you explain it? It certainly wasn’t his charisma, nor his money or position he had neither. Then what did he have? One word: Holiness.

Holiness seeks to be like God. You want to make a difference in your world? Live a holy life. Be faithful to your spouse. Pay your bills. Be the employee who does the work and doesn’t complain. Don’t speak one message and live another! Just be God in your world.

as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, Be holy, for I am holy. (I Peter 1:15-16)

From A Gentle Thunder

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11/11/19 2:12 A

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Greed Has Many Faces - UpWords - November 10

by Max Lucado

Our obsession with stuff carries a hefty price tag. We spend 110 percent of our disposable income trying to manage debt. Who can keep up? No one can!

Jesus warns in Luke 12:15, “Be on your guard against every form of greed.” Greed comes in many forms. Greed for approval. Greed for applause. Greed for status. Greed has many faces but speaks one language: the language of more. Wise was the one who wrote, “Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income.”

The only way to feel full is to feel fulfilled. The only way to feel fulfilled is to understand that everything we have comes from God—and he gives us exactly what we need. All of it is on loan! And, someday we’ll have to give it all back, checking it at heaven’s door!

From Max on Life

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11/6/19 2:11 A

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The Parable of the Sandwich Sign - UpWords - November 5

by Max Lucado

I am the voice of the one calling out in the desert: "Make the road straight for the Lord."
John 1:23

The faces of the three men were solemn as the mayor informed them of the catastrophe. "The rains have washed away the bridge. During the night many cars drove over the edge and into the river."

"What can we do?" asked one.

"You must stand on the side of the road and warn the drivers not to make the left turn. Tell them to take the one-lane road that follows the side of the river."

"But they drive so fast! How can we warn them?"

"By wearing these sandwich signs," the mayor explained, producing three wooden double-signs, hinged together to hang from one's shoulders. "Stand at the crossroads so drivers can see these signs until I can get someone out there to fix the bridge."

And so the men hurried out to the dangerous curve and put the signs over their shoulders.

"The drivers should see me first," spoke one. The others agreed. His sign warned, "Bridge Out!" He walked several hundred yards before the turn and took his post.

"Perhaps I should be second, so the drivers will slow down," spoke the one whose sign declared, "Reduce Speed."

"Good idea," agreed the third. "I'll stand here at the curve so people will get off the wide road and onto the narrow." His sign read simply "Take Right Road" and had a finger pointing toward the safe route.

And so the three men stood with their three signs ready to warn the travelers of the washed-out bridge. As the cars approached, the first man would stand up straight so the drivers could read, "Bridge Out."

Then the next would gesture to his sign, telling the cars to "Reduce Speed."

And as the motorists complied, they would then see the third sign, "Right Road Only." And though the road was narrow, the cars complied and were safe. Hundreds of lives were saved by the three sign holders. Because they did their job, many people were kept from peril.

But after a few hours they grew lax in their task.

The first man got sleepy. "I'll sit where people can read my sign as I sleep," he decided. So he took his sign off his shoulders and propped it up against a boulder. He leaned against it and fell asleep. As he slept his arm slid over the sign, blocking one of the two words. So rather than read "Bridge Out," his sign simply stated "Bridge."

The second didn't grow tired, but he did grow conceited. The longer he stood warning the people the more important he felt. A few even pulled off to the side of the road to thank him for the job well done.

"We might have died had you not told us to slow down," they applauded.

"You're so right," he thought to himself. "How many people would be lost were it not for me?"

Presently he came to think that he was just as important as his sign. So he took it off, set it up on the ground, and stood beside it. As he did, he was unaware that he, too, was blocking one word of his warning. He was standing in front of the word "Speed." All the drivers could read was the word "Reduce." Most thought he was advertising a diet plan.

The third man was not tired like the first, nor self-consumed like the second. But he was concerned about the message of his sign. "Right Road Only," it read.

It troubled him that his message was so narrow, so dogmatic. "People should be given a choice in the matter. Who am I to tell them which is the right road and which is the wrong road?"

So he decided to alter the wording of the sign. He marked out the word "Only" and changed it to "Preferred."

"Hmm," he thought, "that's still too strident. One is best not to moralize. So he marked out the word "Preferred" and wrote "Suggested."

That still didn't seem right, "Might offend people if they think I'm suggesting I know something they don't."

So he thought and thought and finally marked through the word "Suggested" and replaced it with a more neutral phrase.

"Ahh, just right," he said to himself as he backed off and read the words:

"Right Road—One of Two Equally Valid Alternatives."

And so as the first man slept and the second stood and the third altered the message, one car after another plunged into the river.

From A Gentle Thunder

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11/5/19 12:15 A

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Second Chances - UpWords - November 4

by Max Lucado

It was small enough to overlook. Only two words. I know I’d read that passage a hundred times. But I’d never seen it.

But I won’t miss it again. It’s highlighted in yellow and underlined in red. You might want to do the same. Look in Mark, chapter 16. Get your pencil ready and enjoy this jewel in the seventh verse (here it comes). The verse reads like this: “But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee.

Did you see it? Read it again. (This time I italicized the words.)

“But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee.”

Now tell me if that’s not a hidden treasure.

If I might paraphrase the words, “Don’t stay here, go tell the disciples,” a pause, then a smile, “and especially tell Peter, that he is going before you to Galilee.”

What a line. It’s as if all of heaven had watched Peter fall—and it’s as if all of heaven wanted to help him back up again. “Be sure and tell Peter that he’s not left out. Tell him that one failure doesn’t make a flop.”

Whew!

No wonder they call it the gospel of the second chance.

Those who know these types of things say that the Gospel of Mark is really the transcribed notes and dictated thoughts of Peter. If this is true, then it was Peter himself who included these two words! And if these really are his words, I can’t help but imagine that the old fisherman had to brush away a tear and swallow a lump when he got to this point in the story.

It’s not every day that you get a second chance. Peter must have known that. The next time he saw Jesus, he got so excited that he barely got his britches on before he jumped into the cold water of the Sea of Galilee. It was also enough, so they say, to cause this backwoods Galilean to carry the gospel of the second chance all the way to Rome where they killed him. If you’ve ever wondered what would cause a man to be willing to be crucified upside down, maybe now you know.

It’s not every day that you find someone who will give you a second chance—much less someone who will give you a second chance every day.

But in Jesus, Peter found both.

From UpWords with Max Lucado

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10/31/19 12:42 P

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We Are Valuable - UpWords - October 31

by Max Lucado

Value is now measured by two criteria: appearance and performance. Where does that leave the ugly or uneducated? Where hope does that offer the unborn child? The aged? The handicapped? Not much at all. We become nameless numbers on mislaid lists.

This is man’s value system. But it is not God’s. His plan is much brighter. In God’s book man is heading somewhere. He has an amazing destiny.

We’re being prepared to walk down the church aisle and become the bride of Jesus. We’re going to live with him. Share the throne with him. We count. We’re valuable.

Jesus’ love does not depend on what we do for him. If there was anything that Jesus wanted everyone to understand it was this: A person is worth something simply because he is a person. That’s why Jesus treated people the way he did.

You have value simply because you are!

You are His.

From Cast of Characters

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10/31/19 2:03 A

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10/28/19 8:54 A

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Loneliness - UpWords - October 28

by Max Lucado

We’ll try anything to get rid of our loneliness. But should we? Should we be so quick to drop it? Could it be that loneliness is a gift? A gift from God? A friend turns away. The job goes bad. Your spouse didn’t understand. The church is dull. One by one he removes the options until all you have left is God. He would do that? Hebrews 12:6 tells us, “The Lord disciplines those he loves.” If he must silence every voice, he will. He wants you to discover what David discovered and to be able to say what David said, “You are with me.”

Loneliness. Could it be one of God’s finest gifts? Scripture says, “Perfect love casts out fear.” If a season of solitude is his way to teach you to hear his song, don’t you think it’s worth it? So do I.

From Traveling Light

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10/27/19 9:20 A

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My Crazy Thought - UpWords - October 27

by Max Lucado

My family consisted of me, two sisters and a brother. We were siblings because we came from the same family. I’m sure there have been times when they did not want to call me their brother, but they didn’t have that choice.

Nor do we. When I see someone calling God Father and Jesus Savior, I meet a brother or a sister—regardless of the name of their church or denomination.

What would happen—I know this is a crazy thought—but what would happen if all the churches agreed, on a given day, to change their names to simply church? What if reference to any denomination were removed and we were all just Christians?

Then we Christians would not be known for what divides us; instead we would be known for what unites us—our common Father.

Is it a crazy idea? Perhaps. But I think God would like it. It was his to begin with.

“Christ accepted you, so you should accept each other, which will bring glory to God” (Romans 15:7).

From A Gentle Thunder

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Hidden in His Love - UpWords - October 26

by Max Lucado

Do you ever think… If people only knew–if my secrets were ever made public, I’m not sure what I’d do! Or maybe I do….!

It is time to let God’s love cover all things in your life. All the secrets. The hurts. The mornings you woke up in the bed of a stranger? His love will cover that. The years you peddled prejudice and pride? His love will cover that. Every promise broken, drug taken, and penny stolen. Every cross word, cuss word, and harsh word. His love covers all things! Let it!

Discover with the psalmist, “He loads me with love and mercy.” Picture a giant dump truck full of love. There you are behind it; and God lifts the bed until the love starts to slide until you’re hidden, buried, and covered in His love!

“Hey, where are you?” someone asks. You say, “In here—covered in love!”

From Grace for the Moment

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10/25/19 11:39 A

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The Names of God - UpWords - October 25

by Max Lucado

In the three years as I came to know my wife, Denalyn, our relationship evolved. And with each change came a new name. She went from acquaintance to friend to eye-popping beauty to date to fiancée and wife. Now she is confidante, mother of my children, life-long partner. The more I know her the more names I give her.

And the more God’s people came to know him, the more names they gave him. Elohim, strong one or creator. Jehovah-raah, a caring shepherd. Jehovah-jireh, the Lord who provides. These are just a few of the names of God which describe his character. Study them, for in a given day, you may need each one of them.

God, the shepherd who leads, the Lord who provides, the voice who brings peace in the storm, the physician who heals the sick, the banner that guides. And most of all… He Is!

From UpWords with Max Lucado

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10/24/19 5:29 P

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Galilean Grace Part 2: When You Let God Down - UpWords - October 24

by Max Lucado

This wasn't the first night that Peter had spent on the Sea of Galilee. After all, he was a fisherman. He, like the others, worked at night. He knew the fish would feed near the surface during the cool of the night and return to the deep during the day. No, this wasn't the first night

Peter had spent on the Sea of Galilee. Nor was it the first night he had caught nothing.

There was that time years before …

Most mornings Peter and his partners would sell their fish, repair their nets, and head home to rest with a bag of money and a feeling of satisfaction. This particular morning there was no money. There was no satisfaction. They had worked all through the night but had nothing to show for it except weary backs and worn nets.

And, what's worse, everyone knew it. Every morning the shore would become a market as the villagers came to buy their fish, but that day there were no fish.

Jesus was there that morning, teaching. As the people pressed there was little room for him to stand, so he asked Peter if his boat could be a platform. Peter agreed, maybe thinking the boat might as well be put to some good use.

Peter listens as Jesus teaches. It's good to hear something other than the slapping of waves.

When Jesus finishes with the crowd, he turns to Peter. He has another request. He wants to go fishing. "Take the boat into deep water, and put your nets in the water to catch some fish" (Luke 5:4).

Peter groans. The last thing he wants to do is fish. The boat is clean. The nets are ready to dry.

The sun is up and he is tired. It's time to go home. Besides, everyone is watching. They've already seen him come back empty-handed once. And, what's more, what does Jesus know about fishing?

So Peter speaks, "Master, we worked hard all night trying to catch fish" (v. 5).

Mark the weariness in the words.

"We worked hard." Scraping the hull. Carrying the nets. Pulling the oars. Throwing the nets high into the moonlit sky. Listening as they slap on the surface of the water.

"All night." The sky had gone from burnt orange to midnight black to morning gold. The hours had passed as slowly as the fleets of clouds before the moon. The fishermen's conversation had stilled and their shoulders ached. While the village slept, the men worked. All … night … long.

"Trying to catch fish." The night's events had been rhythmic: net swung and tossed high till it spread itself against the sky. Then wait. Let it sink. Pull it in. Do it again. Throw. Pull. Throw.

Pull. Throw. Pull. Every toss had been a prayer. But every drag of the empty net had come back unanswered. Even the net sighed as the men pulled it out and prepared to throw it again.

For twelve hours they'd fished. And now … now Jesus is wanting to fish some more? And not just off the shore, but in the deep?

Peter sees his friends shrug their shoulders. He looks at the people on the beach watching him. He doesn't know what to do. Jesus may know a lot about a lot, but Peter knows about fishing. Peter knows when to work and when to quit. He knows there is a time to go on and a time to get out.

Common sense said it was time to get out. Logic said cut your losses and go home.

Experience said pack it up and get some rest. But Jesus said, "We can try again if you want."

The most difficult journey is back to the place where you failed.

Jesus knows that. That's why he volunteers to go along. "The first outing was solo; this time I'll be with you. Try it again, this time with me on board."

And Peter reluctantly agrees to try again. "But you say to put the nets in the water, so I will"

(Luke 5:5). It didn't make any sense, but he'd been around this Nazarene enough to know that his presence made a difference.

That wedding in Cana? That sick child of the royal ruler? It's as if Jesus carried his own deck to the table.

So the oars dip again and the boat goes out. The anchor is set and the nets fly once more.

Peter watches as the net sinks, and he waits. He waits until the net spreads as far as his rope allows. The fishermen are quiet. Peter is quiet. Jesus is quiet. Suddenly the rope yanks. The net, heavy with fish, almost pulls Peter overboard.

"John, James!" he yells. "Come quick!"

Soon the boats are so full of fish that the port side rim dips close to the surface. Peter, ankle deep in flopping silver, turns to look at Jesus, only to find that Jesus is looking at him.

That's when he realizes who Jesus is.

What an odd place to meet God—on a fishing boat on a small sea in a remote country! But such is the practice of the God who comes into our world. Such is the encounter experienced by those who are willing to try again … with him.

Peter's life was never again the same after that catch.

From He Still Moves Stones: Everyone Needs a Miracle

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10/23/19 11:31 A

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Galilean Grace Part 1: When You Let God Down - UpWords - October 23

by Max Lucado

The Sun was in the water before Peter noticed it—a wavy circle of gold on the surface of the sea. A fisherman is usually the first to spot the sun rising over the crest of the hills. It means his night of labor is finally over.

But not for this fisherman. Though the light reflected on the lake, the darkness lingered in Peter's heart. The wind chilled, but he didn't feel it. His friends slept soundly, but he didn't care.

The nets at his feet were empty, the sea had been a miser, but Peter wasn't thinking about that.

His thoughts were far from the Sea of Galilee. His mind was in Jerusalem, reliving an anguished night. As the boat rocked, his memories raced:
the clanking of the Roman guard,
the flash of a sword and the duck of a head,
a touch for Malchus, a rebuke for Peter,
soldiers leading Jesus away.

"What was I thinking?" Peter mumbled to himself as he stared at the bottom of the boat. Why did I run?

Peter had run; he had turned his back on his dearest friend and run. We don't know where.

Peter may not have known where. He found a hole, a hut, an abandoned shed—he found a place to hide and he hid.

He had bragged, "Everyone else may stumble … but I will not" (Matt. 26:33). Yet he did. Peter did what he swore he wouldn't do. He had tumbled face first into the pit of his own fears. And there he sat. All he could hear was his hollow promise. Everyone else may stumble … but I will not. Everyone else … I will not. I will not. I will not. A war raged within the fisherman.

At that moment the instinct to survive collided with his allegiance to Christ, and for just a moment allegiance won. Peter stood and stepped out of hiding and followed the noise till he saw the torch-lit jury in the courtyard of Caiaphas.

He stopped near a fire and warmed his hands. The fire sparked with irony. The night had been cold. The fire was hot. But Peter was neither. He was lukewarm.

"Peter followed at a distance," Luke described (22:54 NIV).
He was loyal … from a distance. That night he went close enough to see, but not close enough to be seen. The problem was, Peter was seen. Other people near the fire recognized him. "You were with him," they had challenged. "You were with the Nazarene." Three times people said it, and each time Peter denied it. And each time Jesus heard it.

Please understand that the main character in this drama of denial is not Peter, but Jesus.

Jesus, who knows the hearts of all people, knew the denial of his friend. Three times the salt of Peter's betrayal stung the wounds of the Messiah.

How do I know Jesus knew? Because of what he did. Then "the Lord turned and looked straight at Peter" (Luke 22:61 NIV). When the rooster crowed, Jesus turned. His eyes searched for Peter and they found him. At that moment there were no soldiers, no accusers, no priests.

At that predawn moment in Jerusalem there were only two people—Jesus and Peter.

Peter would never forget that look. Though Jesus' face was already bloody and bruised, his eyes were firm and focused. They were a scalpel, laying bare Peter's heart. Though the look had lasted only a moment, it lasted forever.

And now, days later on the Sea of Galilee, the look still seared. It wasn't the resurrection that occupied his thoughts. It wasn't the empty tomb. It wasn't the defeat of death. It was the eyes of Jesus seeing his failure. Peter knew them well. He'd seen them before. In fact he'd seen them on this very lake. (Continued next week)

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Do Good Quietly - UpWords - October 22

by Max Lucado

"They love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men" (Matt. 6:5).

This is the working definition of hypocrisy: "to be seen by men." The Greek word for hypocrite, hypokrit?s, originally meant "actor." First-century actors wore masks. A hypocrite, then, is one who puts on a mask, a false face.

Jesus did not say, "Do not do good works." Nor did he instruct, "Do not let your works be seen." We must do good works, and some works, such as benevolence or teaching, must be seen in order to have an impact. So let's be clear. To do a good thing is a good thing. To do good to be seen is not. In fact, to do good to be seen is a serious offense. Here's why.

Hypocrisy turns people away from God. When God-hungry souls walk into a congregation of wannabe superstars, what happens? When God seekers see singers strut like Las Vegas entertainers . . . When they hear the preacher—a man of slick words, dress, and hair—play to the crowd and exclude God . . . When other attendees dress to be seen and make much to-do over their gifts and offerings . . . 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" (Matt. 6:1 MSG).

Hypocrisy turns people against God. So God has a no-tolerance policy. Let the cold, lifeless bodies of the embezzling couple issue their intended warning. 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. Ask yourself this question: If no one knew of the good I do, would I still do it? If not, you're doing it to be seen by people.

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" (Matt. 6:3 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.

Heed the counsel of Christ: "First wash the inside of the cup and the dish, and then the outside will become clean, too" (Matt. 23:26 NLT). Focus on the inside, and the outside will take care of itself. Lay your motives before God daily, hourly. "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" (Ps. 139:23-24 NLT).

Do good things. Just don't do them to be noticed. You can be too good for your own good, you know.

But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. (Matthew 6:3-4 NIV)

Lord, you make it plain in your Word that you hate hypocrisy, especially because it turns others away from you. So, Father, I pray that you would blunt my natural inclination to seek personal recognition for whatever good things you allow me to do. I don't want to be a phony, but neither do I want to be a glory hound. Fill me with your Spirit, and teach me to follow his example in gladly giving all glory to your Son. In Jesus' name I pray, amen.

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Every Gift Is Needed - UpWords - October 21

by Max Lucado

Two of my teenage years were spent carrying a tuba in my high school marching band. Not necessarily what you’d describe as a call from God, but it wasn’t a wasted experience eituher.

I learned some facts about harmony that I’ll pass on to you. Would you attend a concert of a hundred tubas? Probably not.

But what band would be a band without a tuba? Or a flute? Or a trumpet? Or a steady drum? Get the idea?

The operative word is need. They need each other. By themselves they make music. But together, they make magic.

What I saw decades ago in the marching band, I see today in the church. We need each other.

Not all of us play the same instrument. Not all of us make the same sound. Some are soft, and others are loud. Some convert the lost. Others encourage the saved. And some keep the movement in step. But all are needed!

“Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:12).

From A Gentle Thunder

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Pray First, Pray Most - UpWords - October 20

by Max Lucado

One of our Brazilian church leaders taught me something about earnest prayer. He met Christ during a yearlong stay in a drug-rehab center. His therapy included three one-hour sessions of prayer a day. Patients weren't required to pray, but they were required to attend the prayer meeting. Dozens of recovering drug addicts spent sixty uninterrupted minutes on their knees.

I expressed amazement and confessed that my prayers were short and formal. He invited (dared?) me to meet him for prayer. I did the next day. We knelt on the concrete floor of our small church auditorium and began to talk to God. Change that. I talked; he cried, wailed, begged, cajoled, and pleaded. He pounded his fists on the floor, shook a fist toward heaven, confessed, and reconfessed every sin. He recited every promise in the Bible as if God needed a reminder. He prayed like Moses.

When God determined to destroy the Israelites for their golden calf stunt, "Moses begged the Lord his God and said, ‘Lord, don't let your anger destroy your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with your great power and strength. Don't let the people of Egypt say, "The Lord brought the Israelites out of Egypt for an evil purpose." ...

Remember the men who served you—Abraham, Isaac, and Israel. You promised with an oath to them'" (Ex. 32:11-13 NCV).

Moses on Mount Sinai is not calm and quiet, with folded hands and a serene expression. He's on his face one minute, in God's the next. He's on his knees, pointing his finger, lifting his hands. Shedding tears. Shredding his cloak. Wrestling like Jacob at Jabbok for the lives of his people. And God heard him! "So the Lord changed his mind and did not destroy the people as he had said he might" (v.14 NCV).

Our passionate prayers move the heart of God. "The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much" (James 5:16). Prayer does not change God's nature; who he is will never be altered. Prayer does, however, impact the flow of history. God has wired his world for power, but he calls on us to flip the switch.

Most of us struggle with prayer. We forget to pray, and when we remember, we hurry through prayers with hollow words. Our minds drift; our thoughts scatter like a covey of quail. Why is this? Prayer requires minimal effort. No location is prescribed. No particular clothing is required. No title or office is stipulated. Yet you'd think we were wrestling a greased pig.
Speaking of pigs, Satan seeks to interrupt our prayers. Our battle with prayer is not entirely our fault. The devil knows the stories; he witnessed the angel in Peter's cell and the revival in Jerusalem.

He knows what happens when we pray. "Our weapons have power from God that can destroy the enemy's strong places" (2 Cor. 10:4 NCV).

Satan is not troubled when Max writes books or prepares sermons, but his knobby knees tremble when Max prays. Satan does not stutter or stumble when you walk through church doors or attend committee meetings. Demons aren't flustered when you read this book. But the walls of hell shake when one person with an honest heart and faithful confession says, "Oh, God, how great thou art."

Satan keeps you and me from prayer. He tries to position himself between us and God. But he scampers like a spooked dog when we move forward. So let's do.

Let's pray, first. Traveling to help the hungry? Be sure to bathe your mission in prayer. Working to disentangle the knots of injustice? Pray. Weary with a world of racism and division? So is God. And he would love to talk to you about it.

Let's pray, most. Did God call us to preach without ceasing? Or teach without ceasing? Or have committee meetings without ceasing? Or sing without ceasing? No, but he did call us to "pray without ceasing" (1 Thess. 5:17).

Did Jesus declare: My house shall be called a house of study? Fellowship? Music? A house of exposition? A house of activities? No, but he did say, "My house will be called a house of prayer" (Mark 11:17 NIV).

No other spiritual activity is guaranteed such results. "When two of you get together on anything at all on earth and make a prayer of it, my Father in heaven goes into action" (Matt. 18:19 MSG). He is moved by the humble, prayerful heart.

Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart. Pray for us, too, that God will give us many opportunities to speak about his mysterious plan concerning Christ. Colossians 4:2-3 NLT

Outlive Your Life book; God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, you created all that exists, and you keep it running through your infinite wisdom and boundless power. Yet you invite me to come to you in prayer, boldly and with the expectation that you will hear me and answer me. Teach me, Lord, to take full advantage of this amazing privilege, especially in regard to reaching others with your love. Give me a heart for those who have yet to experience the fullness of your grace, and prompt me to pray for them and for their welfare, both in this world and in eternity. Lord, bring me to the front lines of this battle. In Jesus' name I pray, amen.

From Outlive Your Life: You Were Made to Make a Difference

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God Is Doing What's Best for Us - UpWords - October 19

By Max Lucado

God is at work in each of us whether we know it or not, whether we want it or not.

Lamentations 3:33 says, “He takes no pleasure in making life hard, in throwing roadblocks in the way.”

He doesn’t delight in our sufferings, but He delights in our development.

It’s what Paul pointed out in Philippians 1:6 when he wrote, “God began doing a good work in you, and I am sure He will continue until it is finished when Jesus Christ comes again.”

Don’t see your struggle as an interruption to life but as preparation for life. No one said the road would be easy or painless. But God will use this mess for something good. This trouble you are in isn’t punishment, it’s training.

It is the normal experience of children. God is doing what’s best for us, training us to live God’s holy best!

From You’ll Get Through This

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A Reminder of Who is in Charge - UpWords - October 18

by Max Lucado

Prayer reminds us of who is in charge. You don’t take your requests to someone with less authority. You take them to someone who outranks you in the solutions department.

The same is true in prayer. You don’t pray just to let God know what’s going on. He’s way ahead of you on that one. You pray to transfer “my will be done” to “God’s will be done.” And, since he’s in charge, he knows the best solution.

Prayer transfers the burden to God and He lightens your load. Prayer pushes us through life’s slumps, propels us over the humps, and pulls us out of the dumps. Prayer is the oomph we need to get the answers we seek. So, pray…today!

From Max on Life

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A Prayer of Confession - UpWords - October 17

by Max Lucado

Confession isn’t a punishment for sin; it’s an isolation of sin so it can be exposed and extracted. Exactly what is it that you need forgiveness for? For being a bad person? That’s too general. For losing your patience in the business meeting and calling your coworker a creep? There, you can confess that.

Be firm in a prayer of confession. Satan traffics in guilt and will not give up an addict without a fight. Exercise your authority as a child of God. Tell guilt where to get off. “I left you at the cross, you evil spirit. Stay there!”

Then for heaven’s sake, stop tormenting yourself. Jesus is strong enough to carry your sin. Psalm 103:12 says, “He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.”

Before you say amen—comes the power of a simple prayer.

From Before Amen

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God Hates Arrogance - UpWords - October 15

by Max Lucado

Proverbs 16:18 reminds us as humility goes before honor, “pride goes before a fall.”

Ever wonder why churches are powerful in one generation but empty the next? The Bible says, the Lord will tear down the house of the proud. God hates arrogance. He hates it because we haven’t done anything to be arrogant about. Is there a Pulitzer for ink? Can you imagine a scalpel growing smug after a successful heart transplant? Of course not. They are only tools.

So are we. We may be the canvas, the paper, or the scalpel, but we are not the one who deserve the applause.

David declares who does in Psalm 23, “He makes me, He leads me, He restores my soul… for His name's sake." For His name's sake! No other name. This is all done for God’s glory. He takes the credit, not because He needs it, but because He knows we cannot handle it!

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We Need a Good Shepherd - UpWords - October 13

by Max Lucado

Sheep aren’t smart. They tend to wander into running creeks for water, then their wool grows heavy and they drown. They have no sense of direction.

They need a shepherd to lead them to calm water. So do we!

We, like sheep, tend to be swept away by waters we should have avoided. We have no defense against the evil lion who prowls about seeking whom he might devour.

Isaiah 53:6 reminds us, “We all have wandered away like sheep; each of us has gone his own way.” We need a shepherd to care for us and to guide us. And Jesus is that Good Shepherd.

The Shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep. The Shepherd who protects, provides, and possesses his sheep. The Psalmist says: The Lord is my shepherd! (Psalm 23).

The imagery is carried over to the New Testament as Jesus is called the good shepherd of the sheep. (John 10:14-15).

From a A Gentle Thunder

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A Vision of the Reward - UpWords - October 10

by Max Lucado

Paul said in II Corinthians 4:16-18, “We do not lose heart. . .for our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.”

Hear what Paul called “light and momentary”—not what I’d have called them, and I think you’ll agree. Imprisoned. Beaten. Stoned. Shipwrecked three times. In constant danger. Hungry and thirsty. Light and momentary troubles? How could Paul describe endless trials with that phrase? He tells us. He could see “an eternal glory that far out-weighs them all.”

And you–you want to go on, but some days the road seems so long. Let me encourage you with this: God never said the journey would be easy, but he did say that the arrival would be worth it!

From In the Eye of the Storm

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Who Is in Charge? - UpWords- October 9

by Max Lucado

A day transporting a family from one city to another is closely akin to God transporting us from our home to his. And some of life’s stormiest hours occur when the passenger and the driver disagree on what takes place during the trip! Can you imagine the chaos if a parent indulged every child’s wishes? Can you imagine the chaos if God indulged each of ours?

I Thessalonians 5:9 says “God has destined us to the full attainment of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

God’s overarching desire is that you reach that destiny. His itinerary includes stops that encourage your journey. He frowns on stops that deter you. When his sovereign plan and your earthly plan collide, a decision must be made.

Who is in charge of this journey?

If God must choose between your earthly satisfaction and your heavenly salvation, which do you hope he chooses? Me, too!

From In the Eye of the Storm

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Look at What You Have - UpWords - October 7

By Max Lucado

Linger too long in the stench of your hurt, and you’ll smell like the toxin you despise. I spent too much of a summer sludging through sludge. Oil field work is dirty at best. But the dirtiest job of all? Shoveling silt out of empty oil tanks. The foreman saved such jobs for the summer help. Thanks boss! My mom burned my work clothes. The stink stuck!

Your hurts can do the same. The better option? Look at what you have. Your hurts and pain took much, but Christ gave you more! Catalog His kindnesses. Everything from sunsets to salvation—look at what you have.

Let Jesus be the friend you need. Talk to Him. Spare no detail. Disclose your fear and describe your dread. Will your hurt disappear? Who knows? And in a sense, does it matter? You have a friend for life. What could be better than that?

From Facing Your Giants

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An Anchor for the Soul - UpWords - October 6

By Max Lucado

Sometimes we just run out of hope. When we do, where can we turn? Hebrews 6:19-20 says, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf.”

The anchor has one purpose—to steady the boat. You and I need a good anchor. Why?

Because you have a valuable vessel—your soul.

When God breathed into Adam, he gave him more than oxygen, he gave him a soul. The anchor for the soul is set, not on a boat or person or possession, but it is set in the inner sanctuary behind the curtain where Jesus has entered on our behalf.

In other words, our anchor is set in the very throne room of God. Death, failure, betrayal, sickness, or disappointment—they cannot take your hope, because they cannot take your Jesus.

From Unshakable Hope

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God Chats in the Closet - UpWords - October 4

by Max Lucado

Religious leaders loved to make theater out of their prayers. The show nauseated Jesus.

In Matthew 6:6 He said, “When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father who cannot be seen.

Your Father can see what is done in secret, and He will reward you.”

The words surely stunned Jesus’ audience.

The people were simple farmers and stonemasons.

They couldn’t enter the temple.

But they could enter their closets. The point?

He is low on fancy, high on accessibility.

You need not woo him with location!

Or wow him with eloquence.

It’s the power of a simple prayer.

From Before Amen

Edited by: JUDITH316 at: 10/4/2019 (03:35)
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You Are His - UpWords - October 2

by Max Lucado

God’s grace defines you!

Society labels you like a can on an assembly line. Stupid. Unproductive. Slow learner. Fast talker. Quitter. But as grace infiltrates, criticism disintegrates. You know you aren’t who they say you are.

You are who God says you are: “spiritually alive.” Heavenly positioned, “seated with him in the heavenly realms.” “One with Jesus Christ.”

Of course, not all labels are negative. Some people regard you as clever, successful. But it doesn’t compare with being “seated with him in the heavenly realms!” God creates the Christian’s resume!

Grace defines who you are. The parent you can’t please is as mistaken as the doting uncle you can’t disappoint.

Listen, God wrote your story. He cast you in his drama. You hang as God’s work of art, a testimony in his gallery of grace.

According to Him, you are His. Period.

“And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 2:6

From UpWords with Max Lucado

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God’s Workshop - UpWords - September 30

by Max Lucado

I remember knowing kids whose fathers were quite successful. One was a judge. The other a prominent physician. I attended church with the son of the mayor. “My father has an office at the courthouse,” he could claim. Guess what you can claim? “My Father rules the universe!””

Scripture says, “The heavens declare the glory of God and the skies announce what his hands have made.” (Psalms 19:1) Nature is God’s workshop. The sky is his resume. You want to know who God is? See what he has done. You want to know his power? Take a look at his creation.

How vital that we pray, armed with the knowledge that God is in heaven. Pray with any lesser conviction and your prayers are timid, shallow, and hollow. But spend some time walking in the workshop of the heavens. Seeing what God has done—seeing what your Father has done and watch how your prayers are energized!

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Heaven's Tribunal - UpWords - September 29

by Max Lucado

Some people will stand before God on the judgement day who didn’t treat him like God, refusing to worship him. They traded the glory of God who holds the whole world in his hands for cheap figurines you can buy at any roadside stand. They spent a lifetime dishonoring God and hurting his people. They mocked his name and made life miserable for their neighbors.

Even our judicial system forces no defense on the accused. The defendant is offered an advocate, but if he chooses to stand before the judge alone, the system permits it. So does God. He offers his Son as an advocate. At the judgment Jesus will stand at the side of every person except those who refuse him. When their deeds are read, heaven’s tribunal will hear nothing—but silence! It’s a sobering truth in Acts 17:31, “The day is coming when God will judge the world.”

From Unshakable Hope

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The Bandit of Joy - UpWords - September 27

by Max Lucado

The bandit of joy is Fear. Fear of death, fear of failure, fear of God, and fear of tomorrow. His arsenal is vast. His goal? To create cowardly, joyless souls.

We try unsuccessfully to face our fears with power, possessions, or popularity. Only inward character creates courage. And it is those inward convictions Jesus is building in the Beatitudes. The result of this process is courage—“they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5). No longer shall the earth and its fears dominate us, for we follow the one who dominates the earth.

If you are in Christ, you are guaranteed that your sins will be filtered through, hidden in, and screened out by the sacrifice of Jesus. That means failure is not a concern for you. Your victory is secure. How could you not be courageous?

From UpWords with Max Lucado

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Jesus Honors You - UpWords - September 25

by Max Lucado

You are valuable just because you exist! Remember that the next time some trickster tries to hang a bargain basement price tag on your self-worth.

Just think about the way Jesus honors you—and smile! I do. I smile because I know I don’t deserve a love like that. None of us do.

When you get right down to it, any contribution any of us makes is pretty puny. All of us, even the purest of us, deserve heaven about as much as that crook on the cross did.

It makes me smile to think there’s a grinning thief walking the golden streets of heaven who knows more about grace than a thousand theologians.

No one else would have given the thief on the cross a prayer. But in the end that is all he had. And in the end, that is all it took!

No wonder they call Jesus the Savior.

From UPWords.com

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Prayer Is a Habit Worth Having - UpWords - September 24

by Max Lucado

Do you want to know how to deepen your prayer life? At the risk of sounding like a preacher—which I am—may I make a suggestion? Why don’t you check your habits?

In Romans 12:12, Paul says, “When trials come endure them patiently; steadfastly maintain the habit of prayer.”

Prayer is a habit worth having. Don’t prepare to pray. Just pray. Don’t read about prayer. Just pray. Don’t attend a lecture on prayer or engage in discussion about prayer. Just pray.

Posture, tone, and place are personal matters. Select the form that works for you. But don’t think about it too much. Don’t be so concerned about wrapping the gift that you never give it.

Better to pray awkwardly than not at all. And if you feel you should only pray when inspired, that’s okay. Just see to it that you are inspired every day.

From When God Whispers Your Name

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A Godly Touch - UpWords - September 23

By Max Lucado

The power of a godly touch. Have you known it? The doctor who treated you, or the teacher who dried your tears? Was there a hand holding yours at a funeral?

Haven’t we known the power of a godly touch? Can’t we offer the same?

Some of you use your hands to pray for the sick. If you aren’t touching them personally, you’re writing notes, calling, baking pies. You’ve learned the power of a touch.

But others tend to forget. Our hearts are good; it’s just that our memories are bad. We forget how significant one touch can be.

We fear saying the wrong thing, or using the wrong tone or acting the wrong way. So rather than do it incorrectly, we do nothing at all.
Aren’t we glad Jesus didn’t make the same mistake? Matthew 8:1-4. Will you do the same?

From UpWords with Max Lucado at OnePlace

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Edited by: JUDITH316 at: 9/23/2019 (05:58)
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Fear of Global Calamity - UpWords - September 20

by Max Lucado

“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. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.” (Matthew 24:4-8 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.”

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. Author Jim Collins makes reference to this outlook in his book Good to Great. Collins tells the story of Admiral James Stockdale, who was a prisoner of war for eight years during the Vietnam War. After Stockdale’s release Collins asked him how in the world he survived eight years in a prisoner-of-war camp.

He replied, “I never lost faith in the end of the story. I never doubted not only that I would get out, but also that I would prevail in the end and turn the experience into the defining event of my life, which, in retrospect, I would not trade.”

Collins then asked, “Who didn’t make it out?” Admiral Stockdale replied, “Oh, that’s easy. The optimists. . . . they were the ones who said, ‘We’re going to be out by Christmas.’ And Christmas would come, and Christmas would go. Then they’d say, ‘We’re going to be out by Easter.’ And Easter would come, and Easter would go. And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again. And they died of a broken heart.”

Real courage embraces the twin realities of current difficulty and ultimate triumph. Yes, life stinks. But it won’t forever. As one of my friends likes to say, “Everything will work out in the end. If it’s not working out, it’s not the end.”

Though the church is winnowed down like Gideon’s army, though God’s earth is buffeted by climate changes and bloodied by misfortune, though creation itself seems stranded on the Arctic seas, don’t overreact. “Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act. Don’t worry about evil people who prosper or fret about their wicked schemes” (Ps. 37:7 NLT).

From Fearless

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9/19/19 2:34 P

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When Grace Goes Deep - UpWords - September19

by Max Lucado

The prodigal son trudges up the path. His pig stink makes passersby walk wide circles around him, but he doesn't notice. With eyes on the ground, he rehearses his speech: "Father"—his voice barely audible—"I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am not worthy to be called your son." He rehashes the phrases, wondering if he should say more, less, or make a U-turn to the barnyard.

After all, he cashed in the trust fund and trashed the family name. Over the last year, he'd awakened with more parched throats, headaches, women, and tattoos than a rock star. How could his father forgive him?Maybe I could offer to pay off the credit cards.

He's so focused on penance planning that he fails to hear the sound of his father…running!

The dad embraces the mud-layered boy as if he were a returning war hero. He commands the servants to bring a robe, ring, and sandals, as if to say, "No boy of mine is going to look like a pigpen peasant. Fire up the grill. Bring on the drinks. It's time for a party!"

Big brother meanwhile stands on the porch and sulks. "No one ever gave me a party," he mumbles, arms crossed.

The father tries to explain, but the jealous son won't listen. He huffs and shrugs and grumbles something about cheap grace, saddles his high horse, and rides off. But you knew that. You've read the parable of the gracious father and the hostile brother (see Luke 15:11-32).

But have you heard what happened next? Have you read the second chapter? It's a page-turner. The older brother resolves to rain on the forgiveness parade. If Dad won't exact justice on the boy, I will.

"Nice robe there, little brother," he tells him one day. "Better keep it clean. One spot and Dad will send you to the cleaners with it."

The younger waves him away, but the next time he sees his father, he quickly checks his robe for stains.

A few days later big brother warns about the ring. "Quite a piece of jewelry Dad gave you. He prefers that you wear it on the thumb."

"The thumb? He didn't tell me that."

"Some things we're just supposed to know."

"But it won't fit my thumb."

"What's your goal—pleasing our father or your own personal comfort?" the spirituality monitor gibes, walking away.

Big brother isn't finished. With the pleasantness of a dyspeptic IRS auditor, he taunts, "If Dad sees you with loose laces, he'll take the sandals back."

"He will not. They were a gift. He wouldn't…would he?" The ex-prodigal then leans over to snug the strings. As he does, he spots a smudge on his robe. Trying to rub it off, he realizes the ring is on a finger, not his thumb. That's when he hears his father's voice. "Hello, Son."

There the boy sits, wearing a spotted robe, loose laces, and a misplaced ring. Overcome with fear, he reacts with a "Sorry, Dad" and turns and runs.

Too many tasks. Keeping the robe spotless, the ring positioned, the sandals snug—who could meet such standards? Gift preservation begins to wear on the young man. He avoids the father he feels he can't please. He quits wearing the gifts he can't maintain. And he even begins longing for the simpler days of the pigpen. "No one hounded me there."

That's the rest of the story. Wondering where I found it? On page 1,892 of my Bible, in the book of Galatians. Thanks to some legalistic big brothers, Paul's readers had gone from grace receiving to law keeping.

I am shocked that you are turning away so soon from God, who in his love and mercy called you to share the eternal life he gives through Christ. You are already following a different way that pretends to be the Good News but is not the Good News at all. You are being fooled by those who twist and change the truth concerning Christ.… (Galatians 1:6-7)

Joy snatchers infiltrated the Roman church as well. Paul had to remind them, "But people are declared righteous because of their faith, not because of their work" (Rom. 4:5).
Philippian Christians heard the same foolishness. Big brothers weren't telling them to wear a ring on their thumb, but they were insisting "you must be circumcised to be saved" (Phil. 3:2).

Even the Jerusalem church, the flagship congregation, heard the solemn monotones of the Quality Control Board. Non-Jewish believers were being told, "You cannot be saved if you are not circumcised as Moses taught us" (Acts 15:1 NCV)

The churches suffered from the same malady: grace blockage. The Father might let you in the gate, but you have to earn your place at the table. God makes the down payment on your redemption, but you pay the monthly installments. Heaven gives the boat, but you have to row it if you ever want to see the other shore.

Your deeds don't save you. And your deeds don't keep you saved. Grace does. The next time big brother starts dispensing more snarls than twin Dobermans, loosen your sandals, set your ring on your finger, and quote the apostle of grace who said, "By the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10 NKJV)

From Come Thirsty

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9/17/19 11:33 A

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Take Goliath Down - UpWords - September 17

by Max Lucado

Goliaths still roam our world. Debt. Disaster. Dialysis. Danger. Deceit. Disease. Depression.

Super-size challenges still swagger and strut, still pilfer sleep and embezzle peace and liposuction joy. But they can't dominate you. You know how to deal with them. You face giants by facing God first.

Focus on giants—you stumble.

Focus on God—your giants tumble.

You know what David knew, and you do what David did. You pick up five stones, and you make five decisions. Ever wonder why David took five stones into battle? Why not two or twenty?

Rereading his story reveals five answers. Use your five fingers to remind you of the five stones you need to face down your Goliath. Let your thumb remind you of …

1. THE STONE OF THE PAST

Goliath jogged David's memory. Elah was a déjŕ vu. While everyone else quivered, David remembered. God had given him strength to wrestle a lion and strong-arm a bear. Wouldn't he do the same with the giant? A good memory makes heroes.

"Remember His marvelous works which He has done" (1 Chronicles 16:12). Catalog God's successes. Keep a list of his world records. Has he not walked you through high waters?

Proven to be faithful? Have you not known his provision? How many nights have you gone to bed hungry? Mornings awakened in the cold? He has made roadkill out of your enemies. Write today's worries in sand. Chisel yesterday's victories in stone. Pick up the stone of the past.

Then select …

2. THE STONE OF PRAYER

Note the valley between your thumb and finger. To pass from one to the next you must go through it. Let it remind you of David's descent. Before going high, David went low; before ascending to fight, David descended to prepare. Don't face your giant without first doing the same. Dedicate time to prayer. Paul, the apostle, wrote, "Prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long" (Eph. 6:18 MSG).

Prayer spawned David's successes. His Brook Besor wisdom grew out of the moment he "strengthened himself in the Lord his God" (1 Sam. 30:6). When Saul's soldiers tried to capture him, David turned toward God: "You have been my defense and refuge in the day of my trouble" (Ps. 59:16).

Invite God's help. Pick up the stone of prayer. And don't neglect …

3. THE STONE OF PRIORITY

Let your tallest finger remind you of your highest priority: God's reputation. David jealously guarded it. No one was going to defame his Lord. David fought so that "all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. Then all this assembly shall know that the Lord does not save with sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord's" (1 Sam. 17:46-47).

David saw Goliath as a chance for God to show off! Did David know he would exit the battle alive? No. But he was willing to give his life for the reputation of God.

What if you saw your giant in the same manner? Rather than begrudge him, welcome him.

Your cancer is God's chance to flex his healing muscles. Your sin is God's opportunity to showcase grace. Your struggling marriage can billboard God's power. See your struggle as God's canvas. On it he will paint his multicolored supremacy. Announce God's name and then reach for …

4. THE STONE OF PASSION

David ran, not away from, but toward his giant. On one side of the battlefield, Saul and his cowardly army gulped. On the other, Goliath and his skull-splitters scoffed. In the middle, the shepherd boy ran on his spindly legs. Who bet on David? Who put money on the kid from

Bethlehem? Not the Philistines. Not the Hebrews. Not David's siblings or David's king. But God did.

And since God did, and since David knew God did, the skinny runt became a blur of pumping knees and a swirling sling. He ran toward his giant.

Do the same!

Let your ring finger remind you to take up the stone of passion.

One more stone, and finger, remains:

5. THE STONE OF PERSISTENCE

David didn't think one rock would do. He knew Goliath had four behemoth relatives. For all David knew, they'd come running over the hill to defend their kin. David was ready to empty the chImitate him. Never give up. One prayer might not be enough. One apology might not do it.

One day or month of resolve might not suffice. You may get knocked down a time or two … but don't quit. Keep loading the rocks. Keep swinging the sling.

David took five stones. He made five decisions. Do likewise. Past. Prayer. Priority. Passion. And persistence.

Next time Goliath wakes you up, reach for a stone. Odds are, he'll be out of the room before you can load your sling.

From Facing Your Giants

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Through the Valley of Death - UpWords - September 16

by Max Lucado

It seems most people think death is to be avoided or postponed and ignored. But God promises that death will be swallowed up in victory! (1 Corinthians15:54). Jesus rose from the dead, not just to show us his power, but also to lead us through the valley of death.

Recently I discovered it’s possible to record a message for my tombstone. And if I do, this may be what you’ll hear:

Thanks for coming by. Sorry you missed me, but I’m not here. I’m home. Finally home! At some point my King will call, and this grave will be shown for the temporary tomb it is. You might want to step to the side in case that happens while you are here. Hope you’ve made plans for your own departure. All the best, Max.

Yeah, I know it needs some work! But while the wording might change, the promise never will.

“Death has been swallowed up in victory!”

From Unshakable Hope

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A Call to Common Courtesy - UpWords - September 15

By Max Lucado

Perhaps you've never placed the word courteous next to Christ. I hadn't until I wrote this chapter.

But you know how you never notice double-cab red trucks until your friend says he wants one—then you see a dozen of them? I had never thought much about the courtesy of Christ before, but as I began looking, I realized that Jesus makes Emily Post look like Archie Bunker.

He always knocks before entering. He doesn't have to. He owns your heart. If anyone has the right to barge in, Christ does. But he doesn't. That gentle tap you hear? It's Christ. "Behold, I stand at the door and knock" (Rev. 3:20 NASB). And when you answer, he awaits your invitation to cross the threshold.

And when he enters, he always brings a gift. Some bring Chianti and daisies. Christ brings "the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38). And, as he stays, he serves. "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve" (Mark 10:45 NIV). If you're missing your apron, you'll find it on him. He's serving the guests as they sit (John 13:4-5). He won't eat until he's offered thanks, and he won't leave until the leftovers are put away (Matt. 14:19-20).

He is courteous enough to tell you his name (Exod. 3:15) and to call you by yours (John 10:3).

And when you talk, he never interrupts. He listens.

He is even on time. Never late. Never early. If you're checking your watch, it's because you're on a different itinerary. "There is a time for everything" (Eccles. 3:1). And Christ stays on schedule.

He even opens doors for you. Paul could preach at Troas because "the Lord had opened a door" (2 Cor. 2:12 NIV). When I asked my dad why men should open doors for women, his answer was one word: "respect." Christ must have abundant respect for you.

He knocks before he enters. He always brings a gift. Food is served. The table is cleared.

Thanks are offered. He knows your name and tells you his, and here is one more.
He pulls out the chair for you. "He raised us up with Christ and gave us a seat with him in the heavens" (Eph. 2:6).

My wife has a heart for single moms. She loves to include a widow or divorcée at the table when we go to a restaurant. Through the years I've noticed a common appreciation from them.

They love it when I pull out their chair. More than once they have specifically thanked me. One mom in particular comes to mind. "My," she blushed, brushing the sudden moisture from her eye, "it's been a while since anyone did that."

Has it been a while for you as well? People can be so rude. We snatch parking places. We forget names. We interrupt. We fail to show up. Could you use some courtesy? Has it been a while since someone pulled out your chair?

Then let Jesus. Don't hurry through this thought. Receive the courtesy of Christ. He's your groom. Does not the groom cherish the bride? Respect the bride? Honor the bride? Let Christ do what he longs to do.

For as you receive his love, you'll find it easier to give yours. As you reflect on his courtesy to you, you'll be likely to offer the same.

From A Love Worth Giving

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Unfailing Love - UpWords - September 12

by Max Lucado

"Love," Paul says, "never fails" (1 Corinthians 13:8 NIV).

The verb Paul uses for the word fail is used elsewhere to describe the demise of a flower as it falls to the ground, withers, and decays. It carries the meaning of death and abolishment.

God's love, says the apostle, will never fall to the ground, wither, and decay. By its nature, it is permanent. It is never abolished.

Love "will last forever" (NLT).

It "never dies" (MSG).

It "never ends" (RSV).

Love "is eternal" (TEV).

God's love "will never come to an end" (NEB).

Love never fails.

Governments will fail, but God's love will last. Crowns are temporary, but love is eternal. Your money will run out, but his love never will.

How could God have a love like this? No one has unfailing love. No person can love with perfection. You're right. No person can. But God is not a person. Unlike our love, his never fails. His love is immensely different from ours.

Our love depends on the receiver of the love. Let a thousand people pass before us, and we will not feel the same about each. Our love will be regulated by their appearance, by their personalities. Even when we find a few people we like, our feelings will fluctuate. How they treat us will affect how we love them. The receiver regulates our love.

Not so with the love of God. We have no thermostatic impact on his love for us. The love of

God is born from within him, not from what he finds in us. His love is uncaused and spontaneous.

Does he love us because of our goodness? Because of our kindness? Because of our great faith? No, he loves us because of his goodness, kindness, and great faith. John says it like this:

"This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us" (1 John 4:10 NIV).

Doesn't this thought comfort you? God's love does not hinge on yours. The abundance of your love does not increase his. The lack of your love does not diminish his. Your goodness does not enhance his love, nor does your weakness dilute it. What Moses said to Israel is what God says to us:

The LORD did not choose you and lavish his love on you because you were larger or greater than other nations, for you were the smallest of all nations! It was simply because the LORD loves you. (Deut. 7:7-8 NLT)

God loves you simply because he has chosen to do so.

He loves you when you don't feel lovely.

He loves you when no one else loves you. Others may abandon you, divorce you, and ignore you, but God will love you. Always. No matter what.

This is his sentiment: "I'll call nobodies and make them somebodies; I'll call the unloved and make them beloved" (Rom. 9:25 MSG).

This is his promise. "I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself" (Jer. 31:3 NLT).

From A Love Worth Giving

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Read Your Life Backward - UpWords - September 10

by Max Lucado

God is working in you to help you want to do and be able to do what pleases him.
Philippians 2:13 NCV

What God said about Jeremiah, he said about you: "Before I made you in your mother's womb, I chose you. Before you were born, I set you apart for a special work" (Jer. 1:5 NCV).

Set apart for a special work.

God shaped you according to yours. How else can you explain yourself? Your ability to diagnose an engine problem by the noise it makes, to bake a cake without a recipe. You knew the Civil War better than your American history teacher. You know the name of every child in the orphanage. How do you explain such quirks of skill?

God. He knew young Israel would need a code, so he gave Moses a love for the law. He knew the doctrine of grace would need a fiery advocate, so he set Paul ablaze. And in your case, he knew what your generation would need and gave it. He designed you. And his design defines your destiny. Remember Peter's admonition? "If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies" (1 Pet. 4:11).

I encountered walking proof of this truth on a trip to Central America. Dave, a fellow American, was celebrating his sixty-first birthday with friends at the language school where my daughter was studying Spanish. My question—"What brings you here?"—opened a biographical floodgate. Drugs, sex, divorce, jail—Dave's first four decades read like a gangster's diary. But then God called him. Just as God called Moses, Paul, and millions, God called Dave.

His explanation went something like this. "I've always been able to fix things. All my life when stuff broke, people called me. A friend told me about poor children in Central America, so I came up with an idea. I find homes with no fathers and no plumbing. I install sinks and toilets and love kids. That's what I do. That's what I was made to do."

Sounds like Dave has found the cure for the common life. He's living in his sweet spot. What about you? What have you always done well? And what have you always loved to do?

That last question trips up a lot of well-meaning folks. God wouldn't let me do what I like to do—would he? According to Paul, he would. "God is working in you to help you want to do and be able to do what pleases him" (Phil. 2:13 NCV). Your Designer couples the "want to" with the "be able to." Desire shares the driver's seat with ability. "Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart" (Ps. 37:4 NIV). Your Father is too gracious to assign you to a life of misery. As Thomas Aquinas wrote, "Human life would seem to consist in that in which each man most delights, that for which he especially strives, and that which he particularly wishes to share with his friends."

So go ahead; reflect on your life. What have you always done well and loved to do?

Some find such a question too simple. Don't we need to measure something? Aptitude or temperament? We consult teachers and tea leaves, read manuals and horoscopes. We inventory spiritual gifts and ancestors. While some of these strategies might aid us, a simpler answer lies before us. Or, better stated, lies within us.

The oak indwells the acorn. Read your life backward and check your supplies. Rerelish your moments of success and satisfaction. For in the merger of the two, you find your uniqueness.

From Cure for the Common Life

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Your Kindness Quotient - UpWords - September 8

by Max Lucado

How kind are you? What is your kindness quotient? When was the last time you did something kind for someone in your family—e.g., got a blanket, cleaned off the table, prepared the coffee—without being asked?

Think about your school or workplace. Which person is the most overlooked or avoided? A shy student? A grumpy employee? Maybe he doesn't speak the language. Maybe she doesn't fit in. Are you kind to this person?

Kind hearts are quietly kind. They let the car cut into traffic and the young mom with three kids move up in the checkout line. They pick up the neighbor's trash can that rolled into the street.

And they are especially kind at church. They understand that perhaps the neediest person they'll meet all week is the one standing in the foyer or sitting on the row behind them in worship. Paul writes: "When we have the opportunity to help anyone, we should do it. But we should give special attention to those who are in the family of believers" (Galatians 6:10).

And, here is a challenge—what about your enemies? With the boss who fired you or the wife who left you. Suppose you surprised them with kindness? Not easy? No, it's not. But mercy is the deepest gesture of kindness. Paul equates the two. "Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you" (Eph. 4:32 NKJV). Jesus said:

Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you.… If you love only the people who love you, what praise should you get? … [L]ove your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without hoping to get anything back. Then you will have a great reward, and you will be children of the Most High God, because he is kind even to people who are ungrateful and full of sin. Show mercy, just as your Father shows mercy. (Luke 6:27-28, 32, 35-36)

Kindness at home. Kindness in public. Kindness at church and kindness with your enemies. Pretty well covers the gamut, don't you think? Almost. Someone else needs your kindness.

Who could that be? You.

Since he is so kind to us, can't we be a little kinder to ourselves? Oh, but you don't know me,

Max. You don't know my faults and my thoughts. You don't know the gripes I grumble and the complaints I mumble. No, I don't, but he does. He knows everything about you, yet he doesn't hold back his kindness toward you. Has he, knowing all your secrets, retracted one promise or reclaimed one gift?

No, he is kind to you. Why don't you be kind to yourself? He forgives your faults. Why don't you do the same? He thinks tomorrow is worth living. Why don't you agree? He believes in you enough to call you his ambassador, his follower, even his child. Why not take his cue and believe in yourself?

Be kind to yourself. God thinks you're worth his kindness. And he's a good judge of character.

From A Love Worth Giving

Edited by: JUDITH316 at: 9/8/2019 (14:45)
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He Can Do the Impossible - UpWords - September 7

by Max Lucado

The kingdom of heaven. Its citizens are drunk on wonder.

Consider the case of Sarai. She is in her golden years, but God promises her a son. She gets excited. She visits the maternity shop and buys a few dresses. She plans her shower and remodels her tent … but no son. She eats a few birthday cakes and blows out a lot of candles

… still no son. She goes through a decade of wall calendars … still no son.

So Sarai decides to take matters into her own hands. (“Maybe God needs me to take care of this one.”)

She convinces Abram that time is running out. (“Face it, Abe, you ain’t getting any younger, either.”) She commands her maid, Hagar, to go into Abram’s tent and see if he needs anything. (“And I mean ‘anything’!”) Hagar goes in a maid. She comes out a mom. And the problems begin.

Hagar is haughty. Sarai is jealous. Abram is dizzy from the dilemma. And God calls the baby boy a “wild donkey”—an appropriate name for one born out of stubbornness and destined to kick his way into history.

It isn’t the cozy family Sarai expected. And it isn’t a topic Abram and Sarai bring up very often at dinner.

Finally, fourteen years later, when Abram is pushing a century of years and Sarai ninety … when Abram has stopped listening to Sarai’s advice, and Sarai has stopped giving it … when the wallpaper in the nursery is faded and the baby furniture is several seasons out of date … when the topic of the promised child brings sighs and tears and long looks into a silent sky …

God pays them a visit and tells them they had better select a name for their new son.

Abram and Sarai have the same response: laughter. They laugh partly because it is too good to happen and partly because it might. They laugh because they have given up hope, and hope born anew is always funny before it is real.

They laugh at the lunacy of it all.

They laugh because that is what you do when someone says he can do the impossible. They laugh a little at God, and a lot with God—for God is laughing, too. Then, with the smile still on his face, he gets busy doing what he does best—the unbelievable.

He changes a few things—beginning with their names. Abram, the father of one, will now be Abraham, the father of a multitude. Sarai, the barren one, will now be Sarah, the mother.

But their names aren’t the only things God changes. He changes their minds. He changes their faith. He changes the number of their tax deductions. He changes the way they define the word impossible.

From The Applause of Heaven

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Today I am posting 2 Parts of this Devotional: Looking for the Messiah:

Here is Part 1

Looking for the Messiah, Part 1 - UpWords - September 4

By Max Lucado

SUPPOSE JESUS CAME to your church. I don't mean symbolically. I mean visibly. Physically.
Actually. Suppose he came to your church.

Would you recognize him? It might be difficult. Jesus didn't wear religious clothes in his day.

Doubtful that he would wear them in ours. If he came today to your church, he'd wear regular clothes. Nothing fancy, just a jacket and shoes and a tie. Maybe a tie … maybe not.

He would have a common name. "Jesus" was common. I suppose he might go by Joe or Bob or Terry or Elliot.

Elliot … I like that. Suppose Elliot, the Son of God, came to your church.

Of course, he wouldn't be from Nazareth or Israel. He'd hail from some small spot down the road like Hollow Point or Chester City or Mt. Pleasant.

And he'd be a laborer. He was a carpenter in his day. No reason to think he'd change, but let's say he did. Let's say that this time around he was a plumber. Elliot, the plumber from Mt. Pleasant.

God, a plumber?

Rumor has it that he fed a football field full of people near the lake. Others say he healed a senator's son from Biloxi. Some say he's the Son of God. Others say he's the joke of the year. You don't know what to think.

And then, one Sunday, he shows up.

About midway through the service he appears in the back of the auditorium and takes a seat.

After a few songs he moves closer to the front. After yet another song he steps up on the platform and announces, "You are singing about me. I am the Son of God." He holds a Communion tray. "This bread is my body. This wine is my blood. When you celebrate this, you celebrate me!"

What would you think?

Would you be offended? The audacity of it all. How irreverent, a guy named Elliot as the Son of God!

Would you be interested? Wait a minute, how could he be the Son of God? He never went to seminary, never studied at a college. But there is something about him …

Would you believe? I can't deny it's crazy. But I can't deny what he has done.
It's easy to criticize contemporaries of Jesus for not believing in him. But when you realize how he came, you can understand their skepticism.

Jesus didn't fit their concept of a Messiah. Wrong background. Wrong pedigree. Wrong hometown. No Messiah would come from Nazareth. Small, hick, one-stoplight town. He didn't fit the Jews' notion of a Messiah, and so, rather than change their notion, they dismissed him.

He came as one of them. He was Jesus from Nazareth. Elliot from Mt. Pleasant. He fed the masses with calloused hands. He raised the dead wearing bib overalls and a John Deere Tractor cap.

They expected lights and kings and chariots from heaven. What they got was sandals and sermons and a Galilean accent.

And so, some missed him.

And so, some miss him still.

From A Gentle Thunder

Edited by: JUDITH316 at: 9/5/2019 (09:50)
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Looking for the Messiah, Part 2 - UpWords - September 5

By Max Lucado

Some missed him.

Some miss him still.

We expect God to speak through peace, but sometimes he speaks through pain.

We think God talks through the church, but he also talks through the lost.

We look for the answer among the Protestants, but he's been known to speak through the Catholics.

We listen for him among the Catholics but find him among the Quakers.

We think we hear him in the sunrise, but he is also heard in the darkness.

We listen for him in triumph, but he speaks even more distinctly through tragedy.

We must let God define himself.

When we do, when we let God define himself, a whole new world opens before us. How, you ask? Let me explain with a story.

Once there was a man whose life was one of misery. The days were cloudy, and the nights were long. Henry didn't want to be unhappy, but he was. With the passing of the years, his life had changed. His children were grown. The neighborhood was different. The city seemed harsher.

He was unhappy. He decided to ask his minister what was wrong.

"Am I unhappy for some sin I have committed?"

"Yes," the wise pastor replied. "You have sinned."

"And what might that sin be?"

"Ignorance," came the reply. "The sin of ignorance. One of your neighbors is the Messiah in disguise, and you have not seen him."

The old man left the office stunned. "The Messiah is one of my neighbors?" He began to think who it might be.

Tom the butcher? No, he's too lazy. Mary, my cousin down the street? No, too much pride. Aaron the paperboy? No, too indulgent. The man was confounded. Every person he knew had defects. But one was the Messiah. He began to look for Him.

He began to notice things he hadn't seen. The grocer often carried sacks to the cars of older ladies. Maybe he is the Messiah. The officer at the corner always had a smile for the kids. Could it be? And the young couple who'd moved next door. How kind they are to their cat.
Maybe one of them …

With time he saw things in people he'd never seen. And with time his outlook began to change.

The bounce returned to his step. His eyes took on a friendly sparkle. When others spoke he listened. After all, he might be listening to the Messiah. When anyone asked for help, he responded; after all this might be the Messiah needing assistance.

The change of attitude was so significant that someone asked him why he was so happy. "I don't know," he answered. "All I know is that things changed when I started looking for God."

Now, that's curious. The old man saw Jesus because he didn't know what he looked like. The people in Jesus' day missed him because they thought they did.
How are things looking in your neighborhood?

From A Gentle Thunder

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Fear of What's Next - UpWords - September 3

by Max Lucado

"I am going away" ( John 14:28).

Imagine their shock when they heard Jesus say those words. He spoke them on the night of the Passover celebration, Thursday evening, in the Upper Room. Christ and his friends had just enjoyed a calm dinner in the midst of a chaotic week. They had reason for optimism: Jesus' popularity was soaring. Opportunities were increasing. In three short years the crowds had lifted Christ to their shoulders . . . he was the hope of the common man.

And now this? Jesus said, "I am going away." The announcement stunned them. When Jesus explained, "You know the way to where I am going," Thomas, with no small dose of exasperation, replied, "No, we don't know, Lord. We have no idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?" ( John 14:4-5 NLT).

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).

Jesus' promise: allos—"another one just like the first one." And who is the first one? Jesus himself. Hence, the assurance Jesus gives to the disciples is this: "I am going away. You are entering a new season, a different chapter. Much will be different, but one thing remains constant: my presence. You will enjoy the presence of ‘another Counselor.' "

Can you see how the disciples needed this encouragement? It's Thursday night before the crucifixion. By Friday's sunrise they will abandon Jesus. The breakfast hour will find them hiding in corners and crevices. At 9 a.m. Roman soldiers will nail Christ to a cross. By this time tomorrow he will be dead and buried. Their world is about to be flipped on its head. And Jesus wants them to know: they'll never face the future without his help.

Nor will you. You have a travel companion. When you place your faith in Christ, Christ places his Spirit before, behind, and within you. Not a strange spirit, but the same Spirit: the parakletos. Everything Jesus did for his followers, his Spirit does for you. Jesus taught; the Spirit teaches. Jesus healed; the Spirit heals. Jesus comforted; his Spirit comforts. As Jesus sends you into new seasons, he sends his Counselor to go with you.

God treats you the way one mother treated her young son, Timmy. She didn't like the thought of Timmy walking to his first-grade class unaccompanied. But he was too grown-up to be seen with his mother. "Besides," he explained, "I can walk with a friend." So she did her best to stay calm, quoting the Twenty-third Psalm to him every morning: "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life . . . "

One day she came up with an idea. She asked a neighbor to follow Timmy to school in the mornings, staying at a distance, lest he notice her. The neighbor was happy to oblige. She took her toddler on morning walks anyway.

After several days Timmy's little friend noticed the lady and the child.
"Do you know who that woman is who follows us to school?"
"Sure," Timmy answered. "That's Shirley Goodnest and her daughter Marcy."
"Who?"
"My mom reads about them every day in the Twenty-third Psalm. She says, ‘Shirley Goodnest and Marcy shall follow me all the days of my life.' Guess I'll have to get used to them."

You will too. God never sends you out alone. Are you on the eve of change? Do you find yourself looking into a new chapter? Is the foliage of your world showing signs of a new season? Heaven's message for you is clear: when everything else changes, God's presence never does. You journey in the company of the Holy Spirit, who "will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you" (John 14:26 NLT).

From Fearless: Imagine Your Life Without Fear

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Jesus Is Praying for You - UpWords - September 1

by Max Lucado

Have you ever have anyone stand up for you? The answer is yes. Jesus stands at this very moment, offering intercession on your behalf! Jesus says to you what he said to Peter.

Knowing the apostle was about to be severely tested by Satan, Jesus assured him, “But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail” (Luke 22:32).

Jesus promises to pray and stand up for you. When we forget to pray, he remembers to pray.

When we are full of doubt, he is full of faith. Where we are unworthy to be heard, he is ever worthy to be heard. We’d prefer to have every question answered, but Jesus has instead chosen to tell us this much: “I will pray you through the storm.” Are the prayers of Jesus answered? Of course they are! And because God’s promises are unbreakable our hope is unshakable!

From Unshakable Hope

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When You are Low on Hope - UpWords - August 31

by Max Lucado

Water. All Noah can see is water. The evening sun sinks into it. The clouds are reflected in it. His boat is surrounded by it. Water. Water to the north. Water to the south. Water to the east. Water to the west. Water.

He sent a raven on a scouting mission; it never returned. He sent a dove. It came back shivering and spent, having found no place to roost. Then, just this morning, he tried again. With a prayer he let it go and watched until the bird was no bigger than a speck on a window.

All day he looked for the dove’s return.

Now the sun is setting, and the sky is darkening, and he has come to look one final time, but all he sees is water. Water to the north. Water to the south. Water to the east. Water to the …

You know the feeling. You have stood where Noah stood. You’ve known your share of floods. Flooded by sorrow at the cemetery, stress at the office, anger at the disability in your body or the inability of your spouse. You’ve seen the floodwater rise, and you’ve likely seen the sun set on your hopes as well. You’ve been on Noah’s boat.

And you’ve needed what Noah needed; you’ve needed some hope. You’re not asking for a helicopter rescue, but the sound of one would be nice. Hope doesn’t promise an instant solution but rather the possibility of an eventual one. Sometimes all we need is a little hope.

That’s all Noah needed. And that’s all Noah received.

Here is how the Bible describes the moment: “When the dove returned to him in the evening, there in its beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf!” (Genesis 8:11).

An olive leaf. Noah would have been happy to have the bird but to have the leaf! This leaf was more than foliage; this was promise. The bird brought more than a piece of a tree; it brought hope. For isn’t that what hope is? Hope is an olive leaf—evidence of dry land after a flood. Proof to the dreamer that dreaming is worth the risk.

To all the Noahs of the world, to all who search the horizon for a fleck of hope, Jesus proclaims, “Yes!” And he comes. He comes as a dove. He comes bearing fruit from a distant land, from our future home. He comes with a leaf of hope.

Have you received yours? Don’t think your ark is too isolated. Don’t think your flood is too wide. Receive his hope, won’t you? Receive it because you need it. Receive it so you can share it. Receive his hope, won’t you? Receive it because you need it. Receive it so you can share it.

What do you suppose Noah did with his? What do you think he did with the leaf? Did he throw it overboard and forget about it? Do you suppose he stuck it in his pocket and saved it for a scrapbook? Or do you think he let out a whoop and assembled the troops and passed it around like the Hope Diamond it was?

Certainly he whooped. That’s what you do with hope. What do you do with olive leaves? You pass them around. You don’t stick them in your pocket. You give them to the ones you love. Love always hopes. “Love … bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Cor. 13:4–7 NKJV, emphasis mine).

Love has hope in you.

The aspiring young author was in need of hope. More than one person had told him to give up. “Getting published is impossible,” one mentor said. “Unless you are a national celebrity, publishers won’t talk to you.” Another warned, “Writing takes too much time. Besides, you don’t want all your thoughts on paper.”

Initially he listened. He agreed that writing was a waste of effort and turned his attention to other projects. But somehow the pen and pad were bourbon and Coke to the wordaholic.

He’d rather write than read. So he wrote. How many nights did he pass on that couch in the corner of the apartment reshuffling his deck of verbs and nouns? And how many hours did his wife sit with him? He wordsmithing. She cross-stitching. Finally a manuscript was finished. Crude and laden with mistakes but finished.

She gave him the shove. “Send it out. What’s the harm?”

So out it went. Mailed to fifteen different publishers. While the couple waited, he wrote. While he wrote, she stitched. Neither expecting much, both hoping everything. Responses began to fill the mailbox. “I’m sorry, but we don’t accept unsolicited manuscripts.” “We must return your work. Best of luck.” “Our catalog doesn’t have room for unpublished authors.”

I still have those letters. Somewhere in a file. Finding them would take some time. Finding Denalyn’s cross-stitch, however, would take none. To see it, all I do is lift my eyes from this monitor and look on the wall. “Of all those arts in which the wise excel, nature’s chief masterpiece is writing well.”

She gave it to me about the time the fifteenth letter arrived. A publisher had said yes. That letter is also framed. Which of the two is more meaningful? The gift from my wife or the letter from the publisher? The gift, hands down. For in giving the gift, Denalyn gave hope.

Love does that. Love extends an olive leaf to the loved one and says, “I have hope in you.”

Love is just as quick to say, “I have hope foryou.”

You can say those words. You are a flood survivor. By God’s grace you have found your way to dry land. You know what it’s like to see the waters subside. And since you do, since you passed through a flood and lived to tell about it, you are qualified to give hope to someone else.

From A Love Worth Giving: Living in the Overflow of God’s Love

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Behind the Shower Curtain - UpWords - August 28

by Max Lucado

I'm going to have to install a computer in my shower. That's where I have my best thoughts.
I had a great one today.

I was mulling over a recent conversation I had with a disenchanted Christian brother. He was upset with me. So upset that he was considering rescinding his invitation for me to speak to his group. Seems he'd heard I was pretty open about who I have fellowship with. He'd read the words I wrote: "If God calls a person his child, shouldn't I call him my brother?" And, "If God accepts others with their errors and misinterpretations, shouldn't we?"

He didn't like that. "Carrying it a bit too far," he told me. "Fences are necessary," he explained.
"Scriptures are clear on such matters." He read me a few and then urged me to be careful to whom I give grace.

"I don't give it," I assured. "I only spotlight where God already has."

Didn't seem to satisfy him. I offered to bow out of the engagement (the break would be nice), but he softened and told me to come after all.

That's where I'm going today. That's why I was thinking about him in the shower. And that's why I need a waterproof computer. I had a great thought. A why-didn't-I-think-to-say-that? insight.

I hope to see him today. If the subject resurfaces, I'll say it. But in case it doesn't, I'll say it to you. (It's too good to waste.) Just one sentence:

I've never been surprised by God's judgment, but I'm still stunned by his grace.

God's judgment has never been a problem for me. In fact, it always seemed right. Lightning bolts on Sodom. Fire on Gomorrah. Good job, God. Egyptians swallowed in the Red Sea. They had it coming. Forty years of wandering to loosen the stiff necks of the Israelites? Would've done it myself. Ananias and Sapphira? You bet.

Discipline is easy for me to swallow. Logical to assimilate. Manageable and appropriate.
But God's grace? Anything but.

Examples? How much time do you have?

David the psalmist becomes David the voyeur, but by God's grace becomes David the psalmist again.

Peter denied Christ before he preached Christ.

Zacchaeus the crook. The cleanest part of his life was the money he'd laundered. But Jesus still had time for him.

The thief on the cross: hellbent and hung-out-to-die one minute, heaven-bound and smiling the next.

Story after story. Prayer after prayer. Surprise after surprise.

Seems that God is looking more for ways to get us home than for ways to keep us out. I challenge you to find one soul who came to God seeking grace and did not find it. Search the pages. Read the stories. Envision the encounters. Find one person who came seeking a second chance and left with a stern lecture. I dare you. Search.

You won't find it.

You will find a strayed sheep on the other side of the creek. He's lost. He knows it. He's stuck and embarrassed. What will the other sheep say? What will the shepherd say?

You will find a shepherd who finds him. (Luke 15:3-7)

Oh boy. Duck down. Put hooves over the eyes. The belt is about to fly. But the belt is never felt. Just hands. Large, open hands reaching under his body and lifting the sheep up, up, up until he's placed upon the shepherd's shoulders. He's carried back to the flock and given a party!

"Cut the grass and comb the wool," he announces. "We are going to have a celebration!"

The other sheep shake their heads in disbelief. Just like we will. At our party. When we get home. When we watch the Shepherd shoulder into our midst one unlikely soul after another.

Seems to me God gives a lot more grace than we'd ever imagine.

We could do the same.

I'm not for watering down the truth or compromising the gospel. But if a fellow with a pure heart calls God Father, can't I call that same man Brother? If God doesn't make doctrinal perfection a requirement for family membership, should I?

And if we never agree, can't we agree to disagree? If God can tolerate my mistakes, can't I tolerate the mistakes of others? If God can overlook my errors, can't I overlook the errors of others? If God allows me with my foibles and failures to call him Father, shouldn't I extend the same grace to others?

One thing's for sure. When we get to heaven, we'll be surprised at some of the folks we see.

And some of them will be surprised to see us.

From When God Whispers Your Name

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You Have Clout with God - UpWords - August 25

by Max Lucado

You may find yourself in an impossible situation. You feel outnumbered and outmaneuvered. You want to quit. Could I ask you to memorize this promise and ask God to bring it to mind? Write it where you’ll find it. Tattoo it, if not on your skin at least on your heart:

“When a believing person prays, great things happen” (James 5:16).

If you’ve taken on the name of Christ, you have clout with the most powerful being in the universe. When you speak, God listens. Jesus said, “When two of you get together on anything at all on earth and make a prayer of it, my Father in heaven goes into action” (Matthew 18:19).

Prayer is just the first step. God has power you’ve never seen, strength you’ve never known. He delights in answering prayer!

And because his promises are unbreakable, our hope is unshakable!

From Unshakable Hope

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Taking Out the Trash - UpWords - August 24

by Max Lucado

Who wants to live with yesterday’s rubble? Who wants to hoard the trash of the past? You don’t, do you? Or do you?

I’m not talking about the trash in your house, but in your heart. Not the junk of papers and boxes but the remnants of anger and hurt. Do you rat-pack your pain? Amass offenses? Record slights?

A tour of your heart might be telling. A pile of rejections. Accumulated insults. No one can blame you. They’re innocence takers, promise breakers, and wound makers. They’re everywhere and you’ve had your share.

Jesus answered Peter’s question in Matthew 18:21-22 when he asked: “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?” “No, not seven times,” Jesus said. “Seventy times seven!”

Do you want to give every day a chance? Jesus says to get rid of the trash. Give the grace you’ve been given!

From Great Day Every Day

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8/21/19 5:17 A

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The Bad News Preacher - UpWords - August 21

By Max Lucado

I didn't like the preacher I sat by on the plane. I know, I know. You're supposed to like everyone, but this fellow …The plane was crowded. It was a Sunday afternoon, and I was tired from Sunday-morning services. I was speaking that evening in Atlanta and had planned on taking a nap on the flight.

But this fellow had other ideas. Though he had been assigned another seat, he took the one next to me since it was closer to the front. And when he took it, he took every inch of it—and then some. Knowing I couldn't sleep, I figured I'd review my thoughts for the evening lesson, so I opened my Bible.

"What ya' studying there, buddy?"
I told him, but he never heard.

Yes "The church is lost," he declared. "Hellbound and heartsick."

Turns out he is an evangelist. He speaks in a different church every weekend. "I wake 'em up," he growled. "Christians are asleep. They don't pray. They don't love. They don't care."

With that pronouncement, he took on his preaching tone and cadence and started listing all the woes and weaknesses of the church, "Too lazy-uh, too rich-uh, too spoiled-uh, too fat-uh …"

The folks around were beginning to listen, and my face was beginning to redden. I shouldn't have let it bug me, but it did. I'm one of those fellows who never knows what to say at the time but then spends the next week thinking, I wish I'd thought to say that.
Well, I've spent the last few days thinking about it, and here is what I wish I'd said to the bad news preacher: God's faithfulness has never depended on the faithfulness of his children. He is faithful even when we aren't. When we lack courage, he doesn't. He has made a history out of using people in spite of people.

Need an example? The feeding of the five thousand.
One would be hard pressed to find much faith on the hill that day.

Philip was cynical.
Andrew was doubtful.
The other disciples were negative.

The preacher I met on the flight would've felt right at home with these guys. Look at them: They aren't praying, they aren't believing, they aren't even seeking a solution. If they are doing anything, they are telling Christ what to do! "Send the people away" (Mark 6:36). A bit bossy, don't you think?

Looks like the disciples are "hellbound and heartsick." Looks like they are "too lazy-uh, too rich-uh, too spoiled-uh, too fat-uh." Let me be clear. I agree with the preacher that the church is weak. When he bemoans the condition of the saints, I could sing the second verse. When he laments the health of many churches, I don't argue.

But when he proclaims that we are going to hell in a handbasket, I do! I simply think God is greater than our weakness. In fact, I think it is our weakness that reveals how great God is. The feeding of the five thousand is an ideal example. The scene answers the question, What does God do when his children are weak?

When the disciples didn't pray, Jesus prayed. When the disciples didn't see God, Jesus sought God. When the disciples were weak, Jesus was strong. When the disciples had no faith, Jesus had faith. He thanked God.

Look what he does next. "Jesus divided the bread and gave it to his followers, who gave it to the people" (Matt. 14:19).

Rather than punish the disciples, he employs them. There they go, passing out the bread they didn't request, enjoying the answer to the prayer they didn't even pray. If Jesus would have acted according to the faith of his disciples, the multitudes would have gone unfed. But he didn't, and he doesn't. God is true to us even when we forget him.

Why is that important to know? So you won't get cynical. Look around you. Aren't there more mouths than bread? Aren't there more wounds than physicians? Aren't there more who need the truth than those who tell it? Aren't there more churches asleep than churches afire?

So what do we do? Throw up our hands and walk away? Tell the world we can't help them?

That's what the disciples wanted to do. Should we just give up on the church? That seemed to be the approach of the preacher I met on the plane.

No, we don't give up. We look up. We trust. We believe. And our optimism is not hollow. Christ has proven worthy. He has shown that he never fails, though there is nothing but failure in us.
I'll probably never see that proclaimer of pessimism again, but maybe you will. If you do, will you give him a message for me?

God is faithful even when his children are not.

That's what makes God, God.

From A Gentle Thunde

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8/20/19 4:12 A

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Dashed Hopes - UpWords - August 20

by Max Lucado

"I had intended …"

David had wanted to build a temple. And who better than he to do so? Hadn't he, literally, written the book on worship? Didn't he rescue the ark of the covenant? The temple would have been his swan song, his signature deed. David had expected to dedicate his final years to building a shrine to God.

At least, that had been his intention. "I had intended to build a permanent home for the ark of the covenant of the LORD and for the footstool of our God. So I had made preparations to build it" (1 Chron. 28:2 NASB).

Intentions. Preparations. But no temple. Why? Did David grow discouraged? No. He stood willing. Were the people resistant? Hardly. They gave generously. Then what happened?

A conjunction happened.

Conjunctions operate as the signal lights of sentences. Some, such as and, are green. Others, such as however, are yellow. A few are red. Sledgehammer red. They stop you. David got a red light.

I had made preparations to build it. But God said to me, "You shall not build a house for My name because you are a man of war and have shed blood.… Your son Solomon is the one who shall build My house and My courts." (1 Chron. 28:2-3, 6 NASB, emphasis mine)

David's bloodthirsty temperament cost him the temple privilege. All he could do was say:

I had intended …
I had made preparations …
But God …

I'm thinking of some people who have uttered similar words. God had different plans than they did.

One man waited until his midthirties to marry. Resolved to select the right spouse, he prayerfully took his time. When he found her, they moved westward, bought a ranch, and began their life together. After three short years, she was killed in an accident.

I had intended …
I had made preparations …
But God …

A young couple turned a room into a nursery. They papered walls, refinished a baby crib, but then the wife miscarried.

I had intended …
I had made preparations …
But God …

I had intended …
I had made preparations …
But God …

What do you do with the "but God" moments in life? When God interrupts your good plans, how do you respond?

The man who lost his wife has not responded well. At this writing he indwells a fog bank of anger and bitterness. The young couple is coping better. They stay active in church and prayerful about a child. And what about David? When God changed David's plans, how did he reply? (You'll like this.)

He followed the "but God" with a "yet God."

"Yet, the LORD, the God of Israel, chose me from all the house of my father to be king over Israel forever. For He has chosen Judah to be a leader; and in the house of Judah, my father's house, and among the sons of my father He took pleasure in me to make me king over all Israel." (1 Chron. 28:4 NASB)

Reduce the paragraph to a phrase, and it reads, "Who am I to complain? David had gone from runt to royalty, from herding sheep to leading armies, from sleeping in the pasture to living in the palace. When you are given an ice cream sundae, you don't complain over a missing cherry.

David faced the behemoth of disappointment with "yet God." David trusted.

His "but God" became a "yet God."

Who's to say yours won't become the same?

From Facing Your Giants

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Tender Words to the Tired Heart - UpWords - August 17

by Max Lucado

Brook Besor. Don't feel bad if you've never heard of the place. Most haven't, but more need to.

The Brook Besor narrative deserves shelf space in the library of the worn-out. It speaks tender words to the tired heart.

The story emerges from the ruins of Ziklag. David and his six hundred soldiers return from the Philistine war front to find utter devastation. A raiding band of Amalekites had swept down on the village, looted it, and taken the women and children hostage.

The sorrow of the men mutates into anger, not against the Amalekites, but against David. After all, hadn't he led them into battle? Hadn't he left the women and children unprotected?

Isn't he to blame? Then he needs to die. So they start grabbing stones.

This could be his worst hour.

But he makes it one of his best.

David redirects the men's anger toward the enemy. They set out in pursuit of the Amalekites.

Keep the men's weariness in mind. They still bear the trail dust of a long campaign and haven't entirely extinguished their anger at David. They don't know the Amalekites' hideout, and, if not for the sake of their loved ones, they might give up.

Indeed, two hundred do. The army reaches a brook called Besor, and they dismount. Soldiers wade in the creek and splash water on their faces, sink tired toes in cool mud, and stretch out on the grass. Hearing the command to move on, two hundred choose to rest. "You go on without us," they say.

How tired does a person have to be to abandon the hunt for his own family?

The church has its quorum of such folks. Good people. Godly people. Only hours or years ago they marched with deep resolve. But now fatigue consumes them. They're exhausted. So beat-up and worn down that they can't summon the strength to save their own flesh and blood. Old age has sucked their oxygen. Or maybe it was a deflating string of defeats. Divorce can leave you at the brook. Addiction can as well. Whatever the reason, the church has its share of people who just sit and rest.

And the church must decide. What do we do with the Brook Besor people? Berate them?

Shame them? Give them a rest but measure the minutes? Or do we do what David did? David let them stay.

He and the remaining four hundred fighters resume the chase.

David and his men swoop down upon the enemy like hawks on rats. Every Israelite woman and child is rescued. Every Amalekite either bites the dust or hits the trail, leaving precious plunder behind. David goes from scapegoat to hero, and the whooping and hollering begin.

And what about the two hundred men who had rested?

You might feel the way some of David's men felt: "Because they did not go with us, we will not give them any of the spoil that we have recovered, except for every man's wife and children" (1 Sam. 30:22).

A Molotov cocktail of emotions is stirred, lit, and handed to David. Here's how he defuses it:

"Don't do that after what the Lord has given us. He has protected us and given us the enemy who attacked us. Who will listen to what you say? The share will be the same for the one who stayed with the supplies as for the one who went into battle. All will share alike." (1 Samuel 30:23-24)

Note David's words: they "stayed with the supplies," as if this had been their job. They hadn't asked to guard supplies; they wanted to rest. But David dignifies their decision to stay.

David did many mighty deeds in his life. He did many foolish deeds in his life. But perhaps the noblest was this rarely discussed deed: he honored the tired soldiers at Brook Besor.

Someday somebody will read what David did and name their church the Congregation at Brook Besor. Isn't that what the church is intended to be? A place for soldiers to recover their strength?

If you are listed among them, here is what you need to know: it's okay to rest. Jesus is your David. He fights when you cannot. He goes where you cannot. He's not angry if you sit. Did he not invite, "Come off by yourselves; let's take a break and get a little rest" (Mark 6:31 MSG)?

Brook Besor blesses rest.

Brook Besor also cautions against arrogance. David knew the victory was a gift. Let's remember the same. Salvation comes like the Egyptian in the desert, a delightful surprise on the path. Unearned. Undeserved. Who are the strong to criticize the tired?

Are you weary? Catch your breath. We need your strength.

Are you strong? Reserve passing judgment on the tired. Odds are, you'll need to plop down yourself. And when you do, Brook Besor is a good story to know.

From Facing Your Giants

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Directions for the Road Ahead - UpWords - August 16

by Max Lucado

The key question in life is not “How strong am I?” but rather “How strong is God?”
Focus on his strength, not yours. Occupy yourself with the nature of God, not the size of your biceps.

That’s what God told Moses to do. Remember the conversation at the burning bush? The tone was set in the first sentence. “Take off your sandals because you are standing on holy ground” (Exodus 3:5).

With these eleven words Moses is enrolled in a class on God. Immediately the roles are defined. God is holy. Approaching him on even a quarter-inch of leather is too pompous…No time is spent convincing Moses what Moses can do, but much time is spent explaining to Moses what God can do.

You and I tend to do the opposite. We would explain to Moses how he is ideally suited to return to Egypt… Then we’d remind Moses how perfect he is for wilderness travel…We’d spend time reviewing with Moses his résumé and strengths.

But God doesn’t. The strength of Moses is never considered. No pep talk is given, no pats on the backs are offered. Not one word is spoken to recruit Moses. But many words are used to reveal God. The strength of Moses is not the issue; the strength of God is.

From Let the Journey Begin: God’s Roadmap for New Beginnings

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He Did it Just for You - UpWords - August 15

by Max Lucado

When God entered time and became a man, he who was boundless became bound. Imprisoned in flesh. Restricted by weary-prone muscles and eyelids. For more than three decades, his once limitless reach would be limited to the stretch of an arm, his speed checked to the pace of human feet.

I wonder, was he ever tempted to reclaim his boundlessness? In the middle of a long trip, did he ever consider transporting himself to the next city? When the rain chilled his bones, was he tempted to change the weather? When the heat parched his lips, did he give thought to popping over to the Caribbean for some refreshment?

If ever he entertained such thoughts, he never gave in to them. Not once. Stop and think about this. Not once did Christ use his supernatural powers for personal comfort. With one word he could’ve transformed the hard earth into a soft bed, but he didn’t. With a wave of his hand, he could’ve boomeranged the spit of his accusers back into their faces, but he didn’t. With an arch of his brow, he could’ve paralyzed the hand of the soldier as he braided the crown of thorns. But he didn’t.

Want to know the coolest thing about the coming?

Not that he, in an instant, went from needing nothing to needing air, food, a tub of hot water and salts for his tired feet, and, more than anything, needing somebody—anybody—who was more concerned about where he would spend eternity than where he would spend Friday’s paycheck.

Not that he kept his cool while the dozen best friends he ever had felt the heat and got out of the kitchen. Or that he gave no command to the angels who begged, “Just give the nod, Lord. One word and these demons will be deviled eggs.”

Not that he refused to defend himself when blamed for every sin since Adam. Or that he stood silent as a million guilty verdicts echoed in the tribunal of heaven and the giver of light was left in the chill of a sinner’s night.

Not even that after three days in a dark hole he stepped into the Easter sunrise with a smile and a swagger and a question for lowly Lucifer—“Is that your best punch?”

That was cool, incredibly cool.

But want to know the coolest thing about the One who gave up the crown of heaven for a crown of thorns?

He did it for you. Just for you.

From His Name is Jesus

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Count to Eight (Woe, Be Gone) - UpWords - August 13

by Max Lucado

“We have here only five loaves and two fish.” (Matt. 14:17)

How do you suppose Jesus felt about the basket inventory? Any chance he might have wanted them to include the rest of the possibilities? Involve all the options? Do you think he was hoping someone might count to eight?

“Well, let’s see. We have five loaves, two fish…and Jesus!” Jesus Christ. The same Jesus who told us:

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. (Luke 11:19 NIV)

If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. (John 15:7 NIV)

What ever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. (Mark 11:24 NIV)

Standing next to the disciples was the solution to their problems…but they didn’t go to him. They stopped their count at seven and worried.

What about you? Are you counting to seven, or to eight?

Here are eight worry stoppers to expand your tally:

Pray, first. “Casting the whole of your care [all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, once and for all] on Him…(I Peter 5:7 AMP)

Easy now. Slow down. “Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him (Ps. 37:7).

Act on it. The moment a concern surfaces, deal with it. Don’t dwell on it. Head off worries before they get the best of you. Be a doer, not a stewer.

Compile a worry list. Over a period of days record your anxious thoughts. Then review them. How many of them turned into a reality?

Evaluate your worry categories. Detect recurring areas of preoccupation that may become obsessions. Pray specifically about them.

Focus on today. God meets daily needs daily. He will give you what you need when it is needed.

Unleash a worry army. Share your feelings with a few loved ones. Ask them to pray with and for you.

Let God be enough. “Your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.” (Matt. 6:32-33 NLT).

Eight steps. Pray, first. Easy, now. Act on it. Compile a worry list.

Evaluate your worry categories. Focus on today. Unleash a worry army. Let God be enough.

P-E-A-C-E-F-U-L

From Fearless

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My Success Is about Him - UpWords - August 10

by Max Lucado

With success comes a problem. Just ask Nadab, Elah, and Omri. Or interview Ahab, Ahaziah, or Jehoram. Ask these men to describe the problem of success. I would, you might be thinking, if I knew who they were. My point, exactly. These are men we should know.

They were kings of Israel. They ascended to the throne… but something about the throne brought them down. Their legacies are stained with blood spilling and idol worship. They failed at success. They forgot both the source and purpose of their success.

You won’t be offered a throne, but you might be offered a corner office, a scholarship, an award, a new contract, a pay raise. You won’t be given a kingdom to oversee, but you might be given a home or employees or students or money or resources. You will, to one degree or another, succeed.

And when you do, you might be tempted to forget who helped you do so. Success sabotages the memories of the successful. Kings of the mountain forget who carried them up the trail.

The man who begged for help in medical school ten years ago is too busy to worship today. Back when the family struggled to make ends meet, they leaned on God for daily bread. Now that there is an extra car in the garage and a jingle in the pocket, they haven’t spoken to him in a while. In the early days of the church, the founding members spent hours in prayer. Today the church is large, well attended, well funded. Who needs to pray?

Success begets amnesia. Doesn’t have to, however. God offers spiritual ginseng to help your memory. His prescription is simply, “Know the purpose of success.” Why did God help you succeed? So you can make him known.

Why are you good at what you do? For your comfort? For your retirement? For your self-esteem? No. Deem these as bonuses, not as the reason. Why are you good at what you do?

For God’s sake. Your success is not about what you do. It’s all about him—his present and future glory.

Success begets amnesia. Doesn’t have to, however. God offers spiritual ginseng to help your memory. His prescription is simply, “Know the purpose of success.” Why did God help you succeed? So you can make him known.

Why are you good at what you do? For your comfort? For your retirement? For your self-esteem? No. Deem these as bonuses, not as the reason. Why are you good at what you do? For God’s sake. Your success is not about what you do. It’s all about him—his present and future glory.

From It's Not About Me

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Your Place in God's Band - UpWords - August 5

by Max Lucado

Two of my teenage years were spent carrying a tuba in my high school marching band. My mom wanted me to learn to read music, and the choir was full while the band was a tuba-tooter short, so I signed up. Not necessarily what you would describe as a call from God, but it wasn’t a wasted experience either.

I had a date with a twirler.

I learned to paint white shoe polish on school buses.

And I learned some facts about harmony that I’ll pass on to you.

I marched next to the bass-drum player. What a great sound. Boom. Boom. Boom. Deep, cavernous, thundering.

And at the end of my flank marched the flute section. Oh, how their music soared. Whispering, lifting, rising into the clouds.

Ahead of me, at the front of my line, was our first-chair trumpet. He could raise the spirit. He could raise the flag. He could have raised the roof on the stadium if we’d had one.

The soft flute needs the brash trumpet needs the steady drum needs the soft flute needs
the brash trumpet.

Get the idea? The operative word is need. They need each other.

By themselves they make music. But together, they make magic.

Now, what I saw two decades ago in the band, I see today in the church. We need each other. Not all of us play the same instrument. Some believers are lofty, and others are solid.

Some keep the pace while others lead the band. Not all of us make the same sound. Some are soft, and others are loud. And not all of us have the same ability. But each of us has a place.

Get the idea? The operative word is need. They need each other.

By themselves they make music. But together, they make magic.

Now, what I saw two decades ago in the band, I see today in the church. We need each other. Not all of us play the same instrument. Some believers are lofty, and others are solid.

Some keep the pace while others lead the band. Not all of us make the same sound. Some are soft, and others are loud. And not all of us have the same ability. But each of us has a place.

Some play the drums (like Martha).

Some play the flute (like Mary).

And others sound the trumpet (like Lazarus).

Mary, Martha, and Lazarus were like family to Jesus. After the Lord raised Lazarus from the dead, they decided to give a dinner for Jesus. They decided to honor him by having a party on his behalf (see John 12:2).

They didn’t argue over the best seat. They didn’t resent each other’s abilities. They didn’t try to outdo each other. All three worked together with one purpose. But each one fulfilled that purpose in his or her unique manner. Martha served; she always kept everyone in step.

Mary worshiped; she anointed her Lord with an extravagant gift, and its aroma filled the air. Lazarus had a story to tell, and he was ready to tell it.

Three people, each one with a different skill, a different ability. But each one of equal value.

From Cast of Characters

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Perfect Love - UpWords - August 3

by Max Lucado

Isn�t it good to know that even when we don�t love with a perfect love, he does? God always nourishes what is right. He always applauds what is right. He has never done wrong, led one person to do wrong, or rejoiced when anyone did wrong.

For he is love, and love �does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth� (1 Cor. 13:6 NASB).

God passes the test of 1 Corinthians 13:6. Well, he should; he drafted it.

So where does this leave us? Perhaps with a trio of reminders. When it comes to love:
Be careful.

Until love is stirred, let God�s love be enough for you. There are seasons when God allows us to feel the frailty of human love so we�ll appreciate the strength of his love. Didn�t he do this with David? Saul turned on him. Michal, his wife, betrayed him. Jonathan and Samuel were

David�s friends, but they couldn�t follow him into the wilderness. Betrayal and circumstances left

David alone. Alone with God. And, as David discovered, God was enough. David wrote these words in a desert: �Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.� My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods� (Ps. 63:3, 5 NIV).

Be prayerful.

What if it�s too late? Specifically, what if you�re married to someone you don�t love�or who doesn�t love you? Many choose to leave. That may be the step you take. But if it is, take at least a thousand others first. And bathe every one of those steps in prayer. Love is a fruit of the Spirit.

Ask God to help you love as he loves. �God has given us the Holy Spirit, who fills our hearts with his love� (Rom. 5:5 CEV). Ask everyone you know to pray for you. Your friends.

Your family. Your church leaders. Get your name on every prayer list available. And, most of all, pray for and, if possible, with your spouse. Ask the same God who raised the dead to resurrect the embers of your love.

Be grateful.

Be grateful for those who love you. Be grateful for those who have encouraged you to do what is right and applauded when you did. Do you have people like that in your world? If so, you are doubly blessed. Be grateful for them. And be grateful for your Father in heaven.

From A Love Worth Giving

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Marthas - UpWords - July 27

by Max Lucado

Every church needs a Martha. Change that. Every church needs a hundred Marthas. Sleeves rolled and ready, they keep the pace for the church. Because of Marthas, the church budget gets balanced, the church babies get bounced, and the church building gets built. You don’t appreciate Marthas until a Martha is missing, and then all the Marys and Lazaruses are scrambling around looking for the keys and the thermostats and the overhead projectors.

Marthas are the Energizer bunnies of the church. They keep going and going and going. They store strength like a camel stores water. Since they don’t seek the spotlight, they don’t live off the applause. That’s not to say they don’t need it. They just aren’t addicted to it.

Marthas have a mission. In fact, if Marthas have a weakness, it is their tendency to elevate the mission over the Master. Remember when Martha did that? A younger Martha invites a younger Jesus to come for dinner. Jesus accepts and brings his disciples.

The scene Luke describes has Mary seated and Martha fuming. Martha is angry because Mary is, horror of horrors, sitting at the feet of Jesus. How impractical! How irrelevant! How unnecessary! I mean, who has time to sit and listen when there is bread to be baked, tables to be set, and souls to be saved? So Martha complained, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me alone to do all the work? Tell her to help me” (Luke 10:40).

All of a sudden Martha has gone from serving Jesus to making demands of Jesus. The room falls silent. The disciples duck their eyes. Mary flushes red. And Jesus speaks.
“Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things. Only one thing is important. Mary has chosen the better thing, and it will never be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41-42).
Apparently Martha got the point, for later we find her serving again.

“Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume” (John 12:2–3 NIV).

Is Mary in the kitchen? No she is worshiping, for that is what she loves to do. But this time Martha doesn’t object. She has learned that there is a place for praise and worship, and that is what Mary is doing. And what is Mary’s part in the dinner? She brings a pint of very expensive perfume and pours it on Jesus’ feet, then wipes his feet with her hair. The smell of the perfume fills the house, just like the sound of praise can fill a church.

An earlier Martha would have objected. Such an act was too lavish, too extravagant, too generous. But this mature Martha has learned that just as there is a place in the kingdom of God for sacrificial service, there is also a place for extravagant praise.

From Cast of Characters

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Marys - UpWords - July 26

by Max Lucado

Mary's are gifted with praise. They don’t just sing; they worship. They don’t simply attend church; they go to offer praise. They don’t just talk about Christ; they radiate Christ.

Marys have one foot in heaven and the other on a cloud. It’s not easy for them to come to earth, but sometimes they need to. Sometimes they need to be reminded that there are bills to be paid and classes to be taught. But don’t remind them too harshly. Flutes are fragile. Marys are precious souls with tender hearts. If they have found a place at the foot of Jesus, don’t ask them to leave. Much better to ask them to pray for you.

That’s what I do. When I find a Mary (or a Michael), I’m quick to ask, “How do I get on your prayer list?”

Every church desperately needs some Marys.

We need them to pray for our children.

We need them to put passion in our worship.

We need them to write songs of praise and sing songs of glory.

We need them to kneel and weep and lift their hands and pray.

We need them because we tend to forget how much God loves worship. Marys don’t forget. They know that God wants to be known as a father. They know that a father likes nothing more than to have his children sit as his feet and spend time with him.

Marys are good at that.

They, too, must be careful. They must meditate often on Luke 6:46. “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ but do not do what I say?” Marys need to remember that service is also worship.

If God has called you to be a Mary, then worship! Remind the rest of us that we don’t have to be busy to be holy. Urge us with your example to put down our clipboards and megaphones and be quiet in worship.

From Cast of Characters

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Love Always Protects - UpWords - July 25

by Max Lucado

Genesis 3:21 has been called the first gospel sermon. Preached not by preachers, but by God himself. Not with words, but with symbol and action.

“The LORD God made clothes from animal skins for the man and his wife and dressed them” (Gen. 3:21).

God covers them. He protects them.

Love always protects.

Hasn’t he done the same for us? We eat our share of forbidden fruit. We say what we shouldn’t say. Go where we shouldn’t go. Pluck fruit from trees we shouldn’t touch.

So what does God do? Exactly what he did for our parents in the garden. He sheds innocent blood. He offers the life of his Son. And from the scene of the sacrifice the Father takes a robe—not the skin of an animal—but the robe of righteousness. And does he throw it in our direction and tell us to shape up? No, he dresses us himself. He dresses us with himself. “You were all baptized into Christ, and so you were all clothed with Christ” (Gal. 3:26–27).

God has clothed us. He protects us with a cloak of love. Can you look back over your life and see instances of God’s protection? I can too. My junior year in college I was fascinated by a movement of Christians several thousand miles from my campus. Some of my friends decided to spend the summer at the movement’s largest church and be discipled. When I tried to do the same, every door closed. Problem after problem with finances, logistics, and travel.

A second opportunity surfaced: spending a summer in Brazil. In this case, every door I knocked on swung open. Two and one half decades later I see how God protected me. The movement has become a cult—dangerous and oppressive. Time in Brazil introduced me to grace—freeing and joyful. Did God protect me? Does God protect us?

And you? Did he keep you from a bad relationship? Protect you from the wrong job? Insulate you from _______________ (you fill in the blank)?

“Like hovering birds, so will [the LORD Almighty] protect Jerusalem” (Isa. 31:5 JB).

“He will strengthen and protect you” (2 Thess. 3:3 NIV).

“He will command his angels … to guard you” (Ps. 91:11 NIV).

God protects you with a cloak of love....

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Is This All There Is? - UpWords - July 22

by Max Lucado

Something is awry—we feel disconnected. We connect with a career, find meaning in family, yet long for something more.

We feel the frustration I felt on Christmas morning, 1964. I assembled a nine-year-old’s dream gift: a genuine Santa Fe Railroad miniature train set, complete with battery-powered engine and flashing crossing lights. I placed the locomotive on the tracks and watched in sheer glee as three pounds of pure steel wound its way across my bedroom floor. Around and around and around and . . . around . . . and around . . . After some time I picked it up and turned it the other direction. It went around and around and around . . .

“Mom, what else did you get me for Christmas?”

Similarly, our lives chug in long ovals, one lap after another.

First job. Promotion. Wedding day. Nursery beds. Kids. Grandkids. Around and around . . . Is there anything else?

Our dissatisfaction mates with disappointment and gives birth to some unruly children: drunkenness, power plays, eighty-hour workweeks, nosedives into sexual perversions—all nothing more than poorly disguised longings for Eden. We long to restore what Adam lost. As someone once said, “The man who knocks on the door of a brothel is seeking God.”

Where and when the brothel fails, Jesus steps forth with a reconnection invitation. Though we be “dead in [our] transgressions and sins (Eph. 2:1) and separated from the life of God (Eph. 4:18), whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God (I John 5:1). Reborn!

This is not a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan—this rebirth comes from God.” (John 1:13.)

Don’t miss the invisible, inward miracle triggered by belief. God reinstates us to Garden-of-Eden status. What Adam and Eve did, we now do! The flagship family walked with God; we can too. They heard his voice; so can we. They were naked and unashamed; we can be transparent and unafraid. No more running or hiding.

“Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven—and the future starts now!” (1 Pet. 1:3–4 MSG).

From 3:16, The Numbers of Hope

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To Hear the Applause of Heaven - UpWords - July 21

by Max Lucado

The Beatitudes end with this compelling promise— “Great is your reward in heaven!” (Matthew 5:12).

The Book of Revelation could be called the Book of Homecoming. In Revelation 21 verse 2, John describes heaven as a “bride beautifully dressed for her husband.” Verse 4 says “there will be no more death.” The most hopeful words are in verse 5 , “I am making everything new.”

The Master Builder will pull out the original plan and restore the vigor, the energy, the hope, and the soul.

Each step you take brings you closer to home. Before you know it, you’ll enter the City. You’ll hear your name spoken by those who love you. And maybe, just maybe—in the back, behind the crowds—the One who would rather die than live without you will remove his pierced hands from his heavenly robe and… applaud.

From Applause of Heaven

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7/20/19 11:58 A

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Our Work Can Be Worship - UpWords - July 20

By Max Lucado

Many people dread their work. If you’re one of them, try changing your attitude toward your work! God’s eyes fall on the work of our hands. One stay-at-home-mom keeps this sign over her sink: “Divine tasks performed here, daily.” Indeed, work can be worship.

Peter wrote, “You are a chosen people. You are a kingdom of priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. This is so you can show others the goodness of God.” (1 Peter 2:9). So, let every detail in your life—your words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus. (Colossians 3:17).

You don’t drive to an office, you drive to a sanctuary. You don’t attend a school, you attend a temple. You may not wear a clerical collar, but you could, because your work is God’s pulpit!

From Cure for the Common Life

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7/18/19 6:58 A

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Heaven's "Whoever" Policy - UpWords - July 18

by Max Lucado

"... whoever believes in him shall not perish . . .”

Some years ago I took a copy of God’s “whoever” policy to California. I wanted to show it to my Uncle Billy. He’d been scheduled to visit my home, but bone cancer had thwarted his plans.

My uncle reminded me much of my father: squared like a blast furnace, ruddy as a leather basketball. They shared the same West Texas roots, penchant for cigars, and blue-collar work ethic. But I wasn’t sure if they shared the same faith. So after several planes, two shuttles, and a rental-car road trip, I reached Uncle Billy’s house only to learn he was back in the hospital.

No visitors. Maybe tomorrow.

He felt better the next day. Good enough to come home. I went to see him. Cancer had taken its toll and his strength. The recliner entombed his body. He recognized me yet dozed as I chatted with his wife and friends. He scarcely opened his eyes. People came and went, and I began to wonder if I would have the chance to ask the question.

Finally the guests stepped out onto the lawn and left me alone with my uncle. I slid my chair next to his, took his skin-taut hand, and wasted no words. “Bill, are you ready to go to heaven?”

His eyes, for the first time, popped open. Saucer wide. His head lifted. Doubt laced his response: “I think I am.”

“Do you want to be sure?”
“Oh yes.”

Our brief talk ended with a prayer for grace. We both said “amen,” and I soon left. Uncle Billy died within days. Did he wake up in heaven? According to the parable of the eleventh hour workers, he did.

Some struggle with such a thought. A last-minute confessor receives the same grace as a lifetime servant? Doesn’t seem fair. The workers in the parable complained too. So the landowner, and God, explained the prerogative of ownership: “Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me?” (v. Matt. 20:15 RSV).

Request grace with your dying breath, and God hears your prayer. Whoever means “whenever.”

And one more: whoever means “wherever.” Wherever you are, you’re not too far to come home.

From 3:16, The Numbers of Hope

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When Death Becomes Birth - UpWords - July 16

by Max Lucado

You live one final breath from your own funeral.

Which, from God’s perspective, is nothing to grieve. He responds to these grave facts with this great news: “The day you die is better than the day you are born” (Eccles. 7:1). Now there is a twist. Heaven enjoys a maternity-ward reaction to funerals. Angels watch body burials the same way grandparents monitor delivery-room doors. “He’ll be coming through any minute!”

They can’t wait to see the new arrival. While we’re driving hearses and wearing black, they’re hanging pink and blue streamers and passing out cigars. We don’t grieve when babies enter the world. The hosts of heaven don’t weep when we leave it.

Oh, but many of us weep at the thought of death. Do you? Do you dread your death? And is your dread of death robbing your joy of life?
Jesus came to “deliver those who have lived all their lives as slaves to the fear of dying” (Heb. 2:15).

Your death may surprise you and sadden others, but heaven knows no untimely death: “You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed” (Ps. 139:16).

Dread of death ends when you know heaven is your true home. In all my air travels I’ve never seen one passenger weep when the plane landed. Never. No one clings to the armrests and begs, “Don’t make me leave. Don’t make me leave. Let me stay and eat more peanuts.” We’re willing to exit because the plane has no permanent mailing address. Nor does this world. “But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior” (Phil. 3:20).

Why don’t you do this: give God your death. Imagine your last breath, envision your final minutes, and offer them to him. Deliberately. Regularly. “Lord, I receive your work on the cross and in your resurrection. I entrust you with my departure from earth.” With Christ as your friend and heaven as your home, the day of death becomes sweeter than the day of birth.

From Come Thirsty

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Water for Your Soul - UpWords - July 15

by Max Lucado

Where do you find water for the soul? Jesus gave an answer one October day in Jerusalem.

People had packed the streets for the annual reenactment of the rock-giving-water miracle of Moses. Each morning a priest filled a golden pitcher with water from the Gihon spring and carried it down a people-lined path to the temple. He did this every day, once a day, for seven days. “On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water’ ” (John 7:37-38).

He “stood and shouted” (NLT). The traditional rabbinic teaching posture was sitting and speaking. But Jesus stood up and shouted out. Forget a kind clearing of the throat. God was pounding his gavel on heaven’s bench. Christ demanded attention.

He shouted because his time was short. The sand in the neck of his hourglass was down to measurable grains. In six months he'd be dragging a cross through these streets. And the people? The people thirsted. They needed water, not for their throats, but for their hearts. So Jesus invited: Are your insides starting to shrivel? Drink me.

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Serve One Another - UpWords - July 13

by Max Lucado

Jesus “set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human!

Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that: a crucifixion” (Phil. 2:7–8 MSG).

Let’s follow his example. Let’s “put on the apron of humility, to serve one another” (1 Pet. 5:5 TEV). Jesus entered the world to serve. We can enter our jobs, our homes, our churches.

Servanthood requires no unique skill or seminary degree. Regardless of your strengths, training, or church tenure, you can …

Love the overlooked. Jesus sits in your classroom, wearing the thick glasses, outdated clothing, and a sad face. You’ve seen him. He’s Jesus.

Jesus works in your office. Pregnant again, she shows up to work late and tired. No one knows the father. According to water-cooler rumors, even she doesn’t know the father. You’ve seen her. She’s Jesus.

When you talk to the lonely student, befriend the weary mom, you love Jesus. He dresses in the garb of the overlooked and ignored. “Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me” (Matt. 25:40 MSG).

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