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7/16/19 9:22 A

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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 Godís perspective, is nothing to grieve. He responds to these grave facts with this great news: ďThe day you die is better than the day you are bornĒ (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. ďHeíll be coming through any minute!Ē

They canít wait to see the new arrival. While weíre driving hearses and wearing black, theyíre hanging pink and blue streamers and passing out cigars. We donít grieve when babies enter the world. The hosts of heaven donít 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 ďdeliver those who have lived all their lives as slaves to the fear of dyingĒ (Heb. 2:15).

Your death may surprise you and sadden others, but heaven knows no untimely death: ďYou 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 passedĒ (Ps. 139:16).

Dread of death ends when you know heaven is your true home. In all my air travels Iíve never seen one passenger weep when the plane landed. Never. No one clings to the armrests and begs, ďDonít make me leave. Donít make me leave. Let me stay and eat more peanuts.Ē Weíre willing to exit because the plane has no permanent mailing address. Nor does this world. ďBut we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our SaviorĒ (Phil. 3:20).

Why donít you do this: give God your death. Imagine your last breath, envision your final minutes, and offer them to him. Deliberately. Regularly. ďLord, I receive your work on the cross and in your resurrection. I entrust you with my departure from earth.Ē 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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7/15/19 2:01 P

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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. ďOn the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, ĎIf 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 waterí Ē (John 7:37-38).

He ďstood and shoutedĒ (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 heavenís 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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7/13/19 11:00 A

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Serve One Another - UpWords - July 13

by Max Lucado

Jesus ďset 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 didnít claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient deathóand the worst kind of death at that: a crucifixionĒ (Phil. 2:7Ė8 MSG).

Letís follow his example. Letís ďput on the apron of humility, to serve one anotherĒ (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 Ö

Love the overlooked. Jesus sits in your classroom, wearing the thick glasses, outdated clothing, and a sad face. Youíve seen him. Heís 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 doesnít know the father. Youíve seen her. Sheís 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. ďWhenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was meóyou did it to meĒ (Matt. 25:40 MSG).

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7/12/19 2:26 P

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Returning from the East - UpWords - July 12

by Max Lucado

Somewhere Oswald Chambers wrote: ďChristians must occasionally travel under sealed orders.Ē Such was the case for a group of us who traveled to China in August. Though we think we know the purpose of the trip, Iím confident that the real orders were seen only by spiritual forces.

Our groups consisted of ministers, representatives of two Christian colleges, a representative of Focus on the Family, a publishing delegate, a lawyer, and John Bentley, the trip facilitator and director of an orphanage in China. Our goal was simple: extend the hand of Christian friendship to high-ranking government officials in China. By his grace we were granted audiences with

- The China Social Service Commission
- The State Department
- The Department of Religion
- The Communist Party Department of International Understanding

Each meeting lasted 45 minutes to an hour. The first three meetings began with prepared speeches from the official explaining China's position on a variety of matters, but especially religion. The meetings were gracious and hospitable. In each case, our message to them was simple and identical...we extend the hand of goodwill and hope that we can enhance our relationship. We told them that we come more in the name of Jesus than in the name of a country and would like the chance to display the love of Christ through good works in China.

It was no small moment when one of the communist leaders made the statement: ďWe receive you as ambassadors of the love of Jesus.Ē

Let me also mention how cooperative the US Embassy has been. Thanks to their intervention, the meetings we feared had fallen through were held. They hosted our delegation at the embassy and encouraged us to keep up this mission.

I learned so much about the work of God in China:

- Estimates as high as 100 million Christians.

- Persecution in many cases is lessening as the country becomes more open in its understanding. Itís no longer necessary to smuggle Bibles; indeed we visited a Christian book store near the university district of Beijing.

- While the country is known for its Communist regime or exploding economy, fastest in the history of the world, it should be known for its delightful people. The people are so quick to smile and happy to serve. They are, indeed, a special nationÖ worthy of every effort to tell them about Christ.

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7/10/19 11:50 A

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An Unearthly Love - UpWords - July 10

by Max Lucado

Your goodness canít win Godís love. Nor can your badness lose it. But you can resist it. We tend to do so honestly. Having been rejected so often, we fear God may reject us as well. Rejections have left us skittish and jumpy. Like my dog Salty. He sleeps next to me on the couch as I write. Heís a cranky cuss, but I like him. Weíve aged together over the last fifteen years, and he seems worse for the wear. Heís a wiry canine by nature; shave his salt-and-pepper mop, and heíd pass for a bulimic Chihuahua. He didnít have much to start with; now the seasons have taken his energy, teeth, hearing, and all but eighteen inchesí worth of eyesight.

Toss him a dog treat, and he just stares at the floor through cloudy cataracts. (Or, in his case, dogaracts?) Heís nervous and edgy, quick to growl and slow to trust. As I reach out to pet him, he yanks back. Still, I pet the old coot. I know he canít see, and I can only wonder how dark his world has become.

We are a lot like Salty. I have a feeling that most people who defy and deny God do so more out of fear than conviction. For all our chest pumping and braggadocio, we are anxious folkócanít see a step into the future, canít hear the one who owns us. No wonder we try to gum the hand that feeds us.

3:16But God reaches and touches. He speaks through the immensity of the Russian plain and the density of the Amazon rain forest. Through a physicianís touch in Africa, a bowl of rice in India. Through a Japanese bow or a South American abraÁo. Heís even been known to touch people through paragraphs like the ones you are reading. If he is touching you, let him.

Mark it down: God loves you with an unearthly love. You canít win it by being winsome. You canít lose it by being a loser. But you can be blind enough to resist it.

Donít. For heavenís sake, donít. For your sake, donít.

ďTake in with all Christians the extravagant dimensions of Christís love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of GodĒ (Ephesians 3:18-19).

From 3:16, The Numbers of Hope

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7/10/19 1:11 A

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Learning to Listen - UpWords - July 9

by Max Lucado

Equipped with the right tools, we can learn to listen to God. What are those tools? Here are the ones I have found helpful.

A regular time and place. Select a slot on your schedule and a corner of your world, and claim it for God. For some it may be best to do this in the morning. Others prefer the evening Others prefer many encounters during the day.

Some sit under a tree, others in the kitchen. Maybe your commute to work or your lunch break would be appropriate. Find a time and place that seems right for you.

How much time should you take? As much as you need. Value quality over length. Your time with God should last long enough for you to say what you want and for God to say what he wants. Which leads us to a second tool you needóan open Bible.

God speaks to us through his Word. The first step in reading the Bible is to ask God to help you understand it.

Before reading the Bible, pray. Donít go to Scripture looking for your own idea; go searching for Godís. Read the Bible prayerfully. Also, read the Bible carefully.

Here is a practical point. Study the Bible a little at a time. God seems to send messages as he did his manna: one dayís portion at a time. Choose depth over quantity. Read until a verse ďhitsĒ you, then stop and meditate on it. Copy the verse onto a sheet of paper, or write it in your journal, and reflect on it several times.

Will I learn what God intends? If I listen, I will.

Understanding comes a little at a time over a lifetime.

There is a third tool for having a productive time with God. Not only do we need a regular time and an open Bible, we also need a listening heart. Donít forget the admonition from James: ďThe man who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and makes a habit of so doing, is not the man who hears and forgets. He puts that law into practice and he wins true happinessĒ (James 1:25 PHILLIPS).

We know we are listening to God when what we read in the Bible is what others see in our lives.

Paul urged his readers to put into practice what they had learned from him. ďWhat you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, doĒ (Philippians 4:9).

If you want to be just like Jesus, let God have you. Spend time listening for him until you receive your lesson for the dayóthen apply it.

From Just Like Jesus

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7/8/19 7:48 A

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The Footprints of Satan - UpWords - July 8

by Max Lucado

Once he was approached by a leper, who knelt before him begging his help. ďIf only you will,Ē said the man, ďyou can cleanse me.Ē In warm indignation Jesus stretched out his hand, [and] touched him.
Mark 1:40Ė41, NEB

I was in an emergency room late one night last week.

Victims of Satan filled the halls. A childópuffy, swollen eyes. Beaten by her father. A womanóbruised cheeks, bloody nose. ďMy boyfriend got drunk and hit me,Ē she said, weeping. An old manóunconscious and drunk on a stretcher. He drooled blood in his sleep.

Jesus saw the victims of Satan, too.

He saw a leper one day Ö fingers gnarled Ö skin ulcerated Ö face disfigured.

And he got indignant Ö angry.

Not a selfish, violent anger. A holy angerÖ

a controlled frustration Ö

a compassionate disgust. And it moved him. It moved him to action.

Iím convinced that the same Satan stalks today, causing the hunger in Somalia Ö the confusion in the Mideast Ö the egotism on the movie screen Ö the apathy in Christís church.

And Satan giggles among the dying.

Dear Father,

May we never grow so ďholy,Ē may we never be so ďmature,Ē may we never become so ďreligiousĒ that we can see the footprints of Satan and stay calm.

From Shaped by God

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7/8/19 2:41 A

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Practicing the Presence - UpWords - July 7

by Max Lucado

How do I live in Godís presence? How do I detect his unseen hand on my shoulder and his inaudible voice in my ear? A sheep grows familiar with the voice of the shepherd. How can you and I grow familiar with the voice of God? Here are a few ideas:

Give God your waking thoughts. Before you face the day, face the Father. Before you step out of bed, step into his presence. I have a friend who makes it a habit to roll out of his bed onto his knees and begin his day in prayer. Personally, I donít get that far. With my head still on the pillow and my eyes still closed, I offer God the first seconds of my day. The prayer is not lengthy and far from formal. Depending on how much sleep I got, it may not even be intelligible. Often itís nothing more than ďThank you for a nightís rest. I belong to you today.Ē

Give God your waiting thoughts. Spend time with him in silence. The mature married couple has learned the treasure of shared silence; they donít need to fill the air with constant chatter. Just being together is sufficient. Try being silent with God. ďBe still, and know that I am GodĒ (Ps. 46:10 niv). Awareness of God is a fruit of stillness before God.

Give God your whispering thoughts. Through the centuries Christians have learned the value of brief sentence prayers, prayers that can be whispered anywhere, in any setting.

Imagine considering every moment as a potential time of communion with God. By giving God your whispering thoughts, the common becomes uncommon. Simple phrases such as ďThank you, Father,Ē ďBe sovereign in this hour, O Lord,Ē ďYou are my resting place, JesusĒ can turn a commute into a pilgrimage. You neednít leave your office or kneel in your kitchen. Just pray where you are. Let the kitchen become a cathedral or the classroom a chapel. Give God your whispering thoughts.

And last, give God your waning thoughts. At the end of the day, let your mind settle on him. Conclude the day as you began it: talking to God. Thank him for the good parts. Question him about the hard parts. Seek his mercy. Seek his strength. And as you close your eyes, take assurance in the promise: ďHe who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleepĒ (Ps. 121:4 niv). If you fall asleep as you pray, donít worry. What better place to doze off than in the arms of your Father.

From Just Like Jesus

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7/6/19 9:52 A

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Untangling Life's Knots - UpWords - July 6

by Max Lucado

Itís your best friendís wedding. ďIíll take care of the reception,Ē youíd volunteered. You planned the best party possible. You hired the band, rented the hall, catered the meal, decorated the room, and asked your Aunt Bertha to bake the cake.

Now the band is playing and the guests are milling, but Aunt Bertha is nowhere to be seen. Everything is here but the cake. You sneak over to the pay phone and dial her number. Sheís been taking a nap. She thought the wedding was next week.

Oh boy! Now what do you do? Talk about a problem! Everything is here but the cake Ö

Sound familiar?

It might. Itís exactly the dilemma Jesusí mother, Mary, was facing. Back then, wine was to a wedding what cake is to a wedding today.

What Mary faced was a social problem. No need to call 911, but no way to sweep the embarrassment under the rug, either.

When you think about it, most of the problems we face are of the same caliber. Weíre late for a meeting. We leave something at the office. A coworker forgets a report. Mail gets lost. Traffic gets snarled. The waves rocking our lives are not life threatening yet. But they can be. A poor response to a simple problem can light a fuse.

For that reason you might want to note how Mary reacted. Her solution poses a practical plan for untangling lifeís knots. ďThey have no more wine,Ē she told Jesus (John 2:3). Thatís it. Thatís all she said. She didnít go ballistic. She simply assessed the problem and gave it to Christ.

Itís so easy to focus on everything but the solution. Mary didnít do that. She simply looked at the knot, assessed it, and took it to the right person. ďIíve got one here I canít untie, Jesus.Ē

ďWhen all the wine was gone Jesusí mother said to him, ĎThey have no more wineíĒ (John 2:3).

Please note, she took the problem to Jesus before she took it to anyone else. A friend told me about a tense deaconsí meeting he attended. Apparently there was more agitation than agreement, and after a lengthy discussion, someone suggested, ďWhy donít we pray about it?Ē to which another questioned, ďHas it come to that?Ē

What causes us to think of prayer as the last option rather than the first?

From A Gentle Thunder

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7/5/19 6:20 P

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They Donít Know What They Are Doing - UpWords - July 5

by Max Lucado

Anger. Itís a peculiar yet predictable emotion. It begins as a drop of water. An irritant. A frustration. Nothing big, just an aggravation. Someone gets your parking place. Someone pulls in front of you on the freeway. A waitress is slow and you are in a hurry. The toast burns. Drops of water. Drip. Drip. Drip. Drip.

Yet, get enough of these seemingly innocent drops of anger and before long youíve got a bucket full of rage. Walking revenge. Blind bitterness. Unharnessed hatred. We trust no one and bare our teeth at anyone who gets near. We become walking time bombs that, given just the right tension and fear, could explode.

Yet, what do we do? We canít deny that our anger exists. How do we harness it? A good option is found in Luke 23:34. Here, Jesus speaks about the mob that killed him. ďĎFather forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.íĒ

Look carefully. Itís as if Jesus considered this bloodthirsty, death-hungry crowd not as murderers, but as victims. Itís as if he saw in their faces not hatred but confusion. Itís as if he regarded them not as a militant mob but, as he put it, as ďsheep without a shepherd.Ē

ďThey donít know what they are doing.Ē

And when you think about it, they didnít. They hadnít the faintest idea what they were doing. They were a stir-crazy mob, mad at something they couldnít see so they took it out on, of all people, God. But they didnít know what they were doing.

And for the most part, neither do we. We are still, as much as we hate to admit it, shepherdless sheep. All we know is that we were born out of one eternity and are frighteningly close to another. We play tag with the fuzzy realities of death and pain. We canít answer our own questions about love and hurt. We canít solve the riddle of aging. We donít know how to heal our own bodies or get along with our own mates. We canít keep ourselves out of war. We canít even keep ourselves fed.

Paul spoke for humanity when he confessed, ďI do not know what I am doing.Ē (Romans 7:15, authorís paraphrase.)

Now, I know that doesnít justify anything. That doesnít justify hit-and-run drivers or kiddie-porn peddlers or heroin dealers. But it does help explain why they do the miserable things they do.

My point is this: Uncontrolled anger wonít better our world, but sympathetic understanding will. Once we see the world and ourselves for what we are, we can help. Once we understand ourselves we begin to operate not from a posture of anger but of compassion and concern. We look at the world not with bitter frowns but with extended hands. We realize that the lights are out and a lot of people are stumbling in the darkness. So we light candles.

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7/4/19 5:07 P

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America, You Exist by My Power - UpWords - July 4

by Max Lucado

Every national privilege can be traced back to the hand of God. If we have liberty, we can thank the One who came to ďproclaim liberty to the captivesÖ to set at liberty those who are oppressedĒ (Luke 4:18 NKJV). If we enjoy a robust economy or a high tide of justice, we donít limit our thanks to senators or the Supreme Court; we thank God.

Tally this up. God makes the boundaries. He determines the leaders. He dispenses the blessings. And America exists by the power of God. Can we afford to forget thisócan we afford to sever this single, silver strand that supports the whole framework of our republic?

Only at terrible risk.

ďIf you ever forget the Lord your God and follow other gods, worshiping and bowing down to them, you will certainly be destroyedĒ (Deut. 8:19, NLT).

ďAmerica,Ē God says, ďyou exist by My power.Ē Thatís the first reminder. But God doesnít stop there. A second reminder commands our attention.

America, you exist for My glory.

Recall what God said through the prophet, ďI will demonstrate my glory among the nationsĒ (Ezekiel 39:21, NLT).

God does not need the United States in order to advance His cause. He lobbies no country and depends on no government. ďNo, for all the nations of the world are nothing in comparison with him. They are but a drop in the bucket, dust on the scales. He picks up the islands as though they had no weight at all. The nations of the world are as nothing to him. In his eyes they are less than nothingómere emptiness and frothĒ (Isaiah 40:15, 17 NLT).

Supposeójust supposeóGodís glory became Americaís prayer and priority: ďNot to us, O Lord, not to us but to your name be the gloryĒ (Psalm 115:1). Suppose our elected officials daily asked. How can we honor God in our decisions? How can this school introduce students to God? How can this army promote the name of God?

Remember, who manages the hearts of rulers? Who prompts the decisions of kings? God does. God can change a nation.

For that reason, we must prayópray with all our heartsóthat America would turn back to God.

ďHelp us, O God our Savior, for the glory of your name; deliver us and forgive our sins for your nameís sakeĒ (Psalm 79:9).

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7/2/19 6:01 A

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Guilt and Grace - UpWords - July 2

by Max Lucado

Sometime ago I read a story of a youngster who was shooting rocks with a slingshot. He could never hit his target. As he returned to Grandmaís backyard, he spied her pet duck. On impulse he took aim and let fly. The stone hit, and the duck was dead. The boy panicked and hid the bird in the woodpile, only to look up and see his sister watching.

After lunch that day, Grandma told Sally to help with the dishes. Sally responded, ďJohnny told me he wanted to help in the kitchen today. Didnít you Johnny?Ē And she whispered to him, ďRemember the duck!Ē So, Johnny did the dishes.

What choice did he have? For the next several weeks he was at the sink often. Sometimes for his duty, sometimes for his sin. ďRemember the duck,Ē Sallyíd whisper when he objected.

So weary of the chore, he decided that any punishment would be better than washing more dishes, so he confessed to killing the duck. ďI know, Johnny,Ē his grandma said, giving him a hug. ďI was standing at the window and saw the whole thing. Because I love you, I forgave you. I wondered how long you would let Sally make a slave out of you.Ē (Steven Cole, ďForgiveness,Ē Leadership Magazine, 1983, 86.)

Heíd been pardoned, but he thought he was guilty. Why? He had listened to the words of his accuser.

You have been accused as well. You have been accused of dishonesty. Youíve been accused of immorality. Youíve been accused of greed, anger, and arrogance.

Every moment of your life, your accuser is filing charges against you. Even his name, Diabolos, means ďslanderer.Ē Who is he? The devil.

As he speaks, you hang your head. You have no defense. His charges are fair. ďI plead guilty, your honor,Ē you mumble.

ďThe sentence?Ē Satan asks.

ďThe wages of sin is death,Ē explains the judge, ďbut in this case the death has already occurred. For this one died with Christ.Ē

Satan is suddenly silent. And you are suddenly jubilant. You realize that Satan cannot accuse you. No one can accuse you! Fingers may point and voices may demand, but the charges glance off like arrows hitting a shield. No more dirty dishwater. No more penance. No more nagging sisters. You have stood before the judge and heard him declare, ďNot guilty.Ē

From In the Grip of Grace

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6/29/19 6:51 A

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That's How Much I Love You - UpWords - June 29

By Max Lucado

Untethered by time, [God] sees us all. From the backwoods of Virginia to the business district of London; from the Vikings to the astronauts, from the cave-dwellers to the kings, from the hut-builders to the finger-pointers to the rock-stackers, he sees us. Vagabonds and ragamuffins all, he saw us before we were born.

And he loves what he sees. Flooded by emotion. Overcome by pride, the Starmaker turns to us, one by one, and says, ďYou are my child. I love you dearly. Iím aware that someday youíll turn from me and walk away. But I want you to know, Iíve already provided you a way back.Ē
And to prove it, he did something extraordinary.

Stepping from the throne, he removed his robe of light and wrapped himself in skin: pigmented, human skin. The light of the universe entered a dark, wet womb. He who angels worship nestled himself in the placenta of a peasant, was birthed into the cold night, and then slept on cowís hay.

Mary didnít know whether to give him milk or give him praise, but she gave him both since he was, as near as she could figure, hungry and holy.

Joseph didnít know whether to call him Junior or Father. But in the end called him Jesus, since thatís what the angel said and since he didnít have the faintest idea what to name a God he could cradle in his arms.

Neither Mary nor Joseph said it as bluntly as my Sara, but donít you think their heads tilted and their minds wondered, ďWhat in the world are you doing, God?Ē Or, better phrased, ďGod, what are you doing in the world?Ē

ďCan anything make me stop loving you?Ē God asks. ďWatch me speak your language, sleep on your earth, and feel your hurts. Behold the maker of sight and sound as he sneezes, coughs, and blows his nose. You wonder if I understand how you feel? Look into the dancing eyes of the kid in Nazareth; thatís God walking to school. Ponder the toddler at Maryís table; thatís God spilling his milk.

ďYou wonder how long my love will last? Find your answer on a splintered cross, on a craggy hill. Thatís me you see up there, your maker, your God, nail-stabbed and bleeding. Covered in spit and sin-soaked. Thatís your sin Iím feeling. Thatís your death Iím dying. Thatís your resurrection Iím living. Thatís how much I love you.Ē

From In the Grip of Grace

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Because He Chooses To - UpWords - June 28

by Max Lucado

Love. Weíve all but worn out the word. This morning I used love to describe my feelings toward my wife and toward peanut butter. Far from identical emotions. Iíve never proposed to a jar of peanut butter (though I have let one sit on my lap during a television show). Overuse has defused the word, leaving it with the punch of a butterfly wing.

Biblical options still retain their starch. Scripture employs an artillery of terms for love, each one calibrated to reach a different target. Consider the one Moses used with his followers: ďThe LORD chose your ancestors as the objects of his loveĒ (Deuteronomy 10:15).

This passage warms our hearts. But it shook the Hebrewsí world. They heard this: ďThe Lord binds [hasaq] himself to his people.Ē Hasaq speaks of a tethered love, a love attached to something or someone. Iím picturing a mom connected by a child harness to her rambunctious five-year-old as the two of them walk through the market. (I once thought the leashes were cruel; then I became a dad.) The strap serves two functions, yanking and claiming. You yank your kid out of trouble and in doing so proclaim, ďYes, he is as wild as a banshee. But heís mine.Ē

In this case, God chained himself to Israel. Because the people were lovable? No. ďGOD wasnít attracted to you and didnít choose you because you were big and importantóthe fact is, there was almost nothing to you. He did it out of sheer love, keeping the promise he made to your ancestorsĒ (Deut. 7:7Ė8 MSG). God loves Israel and the rest of us because he chooses to.

From 3:16, The Numbers of Hope

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I Will Speak to You in Your Language - UpWords - June 27

By Max Lucado

Pilate wrote a sign and put it on the cross.

It read: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS. John 19:19

The framer of our destiny is familiar with our denseness. God knows we sometimes miss the signs. Maybe that's why he has given us so many. The rainbow after the flood signifies God's covenant. Circumcision identifies God's chosen, and the stars portray the size of his family.

Even today, we see signs in the New Testament church. Communion is a sign of his death, and baptism is a sign of our spiritual birth. Each of these signs symbolizes a greater spiritual truth.

The most poignant sign, however, was found on the cross. A trilingual, hand-painted, Roman-commissioned sign.

Every passerby could read the sign, for every passerby could read Hebrew, Latin, or Greekóthe three great languages of the ancient world. "Hebrew was the language of Israel, the language of religion; Latin the language of the Romans, the language of law and government; and Greek the language of Greece, the language of culture. Christ was declared king in them all." God had a message for each. "Christ is king." The message was the same, but the languages were different. Since Jesus was a king for all people, the message would be in the tongues of all people.

There is no language God will not speak. Which leads us to a delightful question. What language is he speaking to you? I'm not referring to an idiom or dialect but to the day-to-day drama of your life. God does speak, you know. He speaks to us in whatever language we will understand.

There are times he speaks the "language of abundance." Is your tummy full? Are your bills paid? Got a little jingle in your pocket? Don't be so proud of what you have that you miss what you need to hear.

Are you hearing the "language of need"? Or how about the "language of affliction"? Talk about an idiom we avoid. But you and I both know how clearly God speaks in hospital hallways and sickbeds.

God speaks all languagesóincluding yours. Has he not said, "I will ... teach you in the way you should go" (Ps. 32:8 NIV)? Are we not urged to "receive instruction from His mouth" (Job 22:22 NASB)? What language is God speaking to you?

And aren't you glad he is speaking? Aren't you grateful that he cares enough to talk? Isn't it good to know that "the LORD tells his secrets to those who respect him" (Ps. 25:14)?

Think a word of thanks to him would be appropriate? And while you're at it, ask him if you might be missing any signs he is sending your way.

From He Chose the Nails

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God Is Love - UpWords - June 25

by Max Lucado

ďThis is what real love is: it is not our love for God; it is Godís love for us. He sent his Son to die in our place to take away our sinsĒ (1 John 4:10).

When it comes to love, be careful. Take a good look around. Donít force what is wrong to be right. Be prayerful. Love is a fruit of the Spirit. Ask God to help you love as he loves. ďGod has given us the Holy Spirit, who fill our hearts with his loveĒ (Romans 5:5).

Be grateful for those whoíve encouraged you to do what is right and applauded when you did. And isnít it good to know that even when we donít love with a perfect love, he does? God always nourishes what is right. He has never done wrong, led one person to do wrong, or rejoiced when anyone did wrong. For he IS love!

From A Love Worth Giving

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Filling Our Minds With God's Love - UpWords - June 24

By Max Lucado

What happens when we fill our minds with thoughts of Godís love? Will standing beneath the downpour of his grace change the way we feel about others?

Itís not enough to keep the bad stuff out. Weíve got to let the good stuff in. Itís not enough to keep no list of wrongs. We need to cultivate a list of blessings. Paul says in Philippians 4:8,

ďWhatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.Ē

Thinking conveys the idea of pondering, studying, and focusingÖ allowing what is viewed to have an impact on us. You want to make a list? Then list his mercies. List the times God has forgiven you. Rather than store up the sour, store up the sweet!

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Welcome Home - UpWords - June 23

by Max Lucado

I came home one night to find the place unusually quiet. Molly was gone.

Sheíd slipped out unnoticed. The search began immediately. Within an hour we knew that she was far, far from home. Now, if you donít like pets, what Iím about to say is going to sound strange. If you do like pets, you will understand.

Youíll understand why we walked up and down the street, calling her name. Youíll understand why I drove around the neighborhood at 10:30 P.M. Youíll understand why I put up a poster in the convenience store and convened the family for a prayer. (Honestly, I did.) Youíll understand why I sent e-mails to the staff, asking for prayers, and to her breeder, asking for advice. And youíll understand why we were ready to toss the confetti and party when she showed up.

Here is what happened. The next morning Denalyn was on her way home from taking the girls to school when she saw the trash truck. She asked the workers to keep an eye out for Molly and then hurried home to host a momsí prayer group. Soon after the ladies arrived, the trash truck pulled into our driveway, a worker opened the door, and out bounded our dog. She had been found.

When Denalyn called to tell me the news, I could barely hear her voice. It was Mardi Gras in the kitchen. The ladies were celebrating the return of Molly.

This story pops with symbolism. The master leaving his house, searching for the lost. Victories in the midst of prayer. Great things coming out of trash. But most of all: the celebration at the coming home. Thatís something else you have in common with Mollyóa party at your homecoming.

Those you love will shout. Those you know will applaud. But all the noise will cease when he cups your chin and says, ďWelcome home.Ē And with scarred hand heíll wipe every tear from your eye. And you will dwell in the house of your Lordóforever.

From Traveling Light

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An Uncommon Call to an Uncommon Life - UpWords - June 21

by Max Lucado

Each person is given something to do that shows who God is. 1 Corinthians 12:7 MSG

Da Vinci painted one Mona Lisa. Beethoven composed one Fifth Symphony. And God made one version of you. He custom designed you for a one-of-a-kind assignment. Mine like a gold digger the unique-to-you nuggets from your life.

When I was six years old, my father built us a house. Architectural Digest didnít notice, but my mom sure did. Dad constructed it, board by board, every day after work. My youth didnít deter him from giving me a job. He tied an empty nail apron around my waist, placed a magnet in my hands, and sent me on daily patrols around the building site, carrying my magnet only inches off the ground.

One look at my tools and you could guess my job. Stray-nail collector.

One look at yours and the same can be said. Brick by brick, life by life, God is creating a kingdom, a ďspiritual houseĒ (1 Pet. 2:5 CEV). He entrusted you with a key task in the project.

Examine your tools and discover it. Your ability unveils your destiny. ďIf anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus ChristĒ (1 Pet. 4:11). When God gives an assignment, he also gives the skill. Study your skills, then, to reveal your assignment.

Look at you. Your uncanny ease with numbers. Your quenchless curiosity about chemistry.

Others stare at blueprints and yawn; you read them and drool. ďI was made to do this,Ē you say.
Heed that inner music. No one else hears it the way you do.

What about you? Our Maker gives assignments to people, ďto each according to each oneís unique abilityĒ (Matt. 25:15). As he calls, he equips. Look back over your life. What have you consistently done well? What have you loved to do? Stand at the intersection of your affections and successes and find your uniqueness.

You have one. A divine spark. An uncommon call to an uncommon life. ďThe Spirit has given each of us a special way of serving othersĒ (1 Cor. 12:7 CEV). So much for the excuse ďI donít have anything to offer.Ē Did the apostle Paul say, ďThe Spirit has given some of us ÖĒ? Or, ďThe Spirit has given a few of us ÖĒ? No. ďThe Spirit has given each of us a special way of serving others.Ē Enough of this self-deprecating ďI canít do anything.Ē

And enough of its arrogant opposite: ďI have to do everything.Ē No, you donít! Youíre not Godís solution to society, but a solution in society. Imitate Paul, who said, ďOur goal is to stay within the boundaries of Godís plan for usĒ (2 Cor. 10:13 NLT). Clarify your contribution.

Donít worry about skills you donít have. Donít covet strengths others do have. Just extract your uniqueness. ďKindle afresh the gift of God which is in youĒ (2 Tim. 1:6 NASB).

From Cure for the Common Life: Living in Your Sweet Spot

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NeverthelessÖ - UpWords - June 20

by Max Lucado

And the king and his menÖ spoke to David, saying, ďYou shall not come in here; but the blind and the lame will repel you,Ē ÖNevertheless David took the stronghold of Zion (that is, the City of David). - 2 Samuel 5:6-9

Did you see it? Most hurry past it. Letís not. Pull out a pen and underline this twelve-letter masterpiece.

Nevertheless.

ďNevertheless David took the strongholdÖĒ

Wouldnít you love God to write a nevertheless in your biography? Born to alcoholics, nevertheless she led a sober life. Never went to college, nevertheless he mastered a trade.

Didnít read the Bible until retirement age, nevertheless he came to a deep and abiding faith.

We all need a nevertheless. And God has plenty to go around. Strongholds mean nothing to him. Remember Paulís words? ďWe use Godís mighty weapons, not mere worldly weapons, to knock down the Devilís strongholdsĒ (2 Cor. 10:4 NLT).

You and I fight with toothpicks; God comes with battering rams and cannons. What he did for David, he can do for us. The question is, will we do what David did? The king models much here.

Two types of thoughts continually vie for your attention. One proclaims Godís strengths; the other lists your failures. One longs to build you up; the other seeks to tear you down. And hereís the great news: you select the voice you hear. Why listen to the mockers? Why heed their voices? Why give ear to pea-brains and scoffers when you can, with the same ear, listen to the voice of God?

Do what David did.

Turn a deaf ear to the old voices.

Open a wide eye to the new choices.

Who knows, you may be a prayer away from a nevertheless. God loves to give them.

Peter stuck his foot in his mouth.
Joseph was imprisoned in Egypt.

The Samaritan woman had been married five times.

Jesus was dead in the grave Ö

Nevertheless, Peter preached, Joseph ruled, the woman shared, Jesus rose ó and you?

You fill in the blank. Your nevertheless awaits you.

From Facing Your Giants

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Headed Homeward - UpWords - June 19

by Max Lucado

Aging is Godís idea. Itís one of the ways he keeps us headed homeward. We canít change the process, but we can change our attitude. Here is a thought. What if we looked at the aging body as we look at the growth of a tulip?

Do you ever see anyone mourning over the passing of the tulip bulb? Do gardeners weep as the bulb begins to weaken? Of course not. We donít purchase tulip girdles or petal wrinkle cream or consult plastic-leaf surgeons. We donít mourn the passing of the bulb; we celebrate it.

Tulip lovers rejoice the minute the bulb weakens. ďWatch that one,Ē they say. ďItís about to blossom.Ē

Could it be heaven does the same? The angels point to our bodies. The more frail we become, the more excited they become. ďWatch that lady in the hospital,Ē they say. ďSheís about to blossom.Ē ďKeep an eye on the fellow with the bad heart. Heíll be coming home soon.Ē

ďWe are waiting for God to finish making us his own children, which means our bodies will be made freeĒ (Romans 8:23).

Are our bodies now free? No. Paul describes them as our ďearthy bodiesĒ (Phil. 3:21 MSG). Or as other translations state:

ďour lowly bodyĒ (NKJV)

ďthe body of our humble stateĒ (NASB)

ďthese weak mortal bodiesĒ (NLT)

ďour vile bodyĒ (KJV)

ďour simple bodiesĒ (NCV)

You could add your own adjective, couldnít you? Which word describes your body? My cancerous body? My arthritic body? My deformed body? My crippled body? My addicted body?

My ever-expanding body? The word may be different, but the message is the same: These bodies are weak. They began decaying the minute we began breathing.

And, according to God, thatís a part of the plan. Every wrinkle and every needle take us one step closer to the last step when Jesus will change our simple bodies into forever bodies. No pain. No depression. No sickness. No end.

This is not our forever house. It will serve for the time being. But there is nothing like the moment we enter his door.

From Traveling Light

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God's Translator - UpWords - June 16

by Max Lucado

There were a few occasions in Brazil when I served as a translator for an English speaker. He stood before the audience, complete with the message. I stood at his side, equipped with the language. My job was to convey his story to the listeners. I did my best to allow his words to come through me. I was not at liberty to embellish or subtract. When the speaker gestured, I gestured. As his volume increased, so did mine. When he got quiet, I did, too.

When he walked this earth, Jesus was ďtranslatingĒ God all the time. When God got louder, Jesus got louder. When God gestured, Jesus gestured. He was so in sync with the Father that he could declare, ďI am in the Father and the Father is in meĒ (John 14:11NRSV). It was as if he heard a voice others were missing.

I witnessed something similar to this on an airplane once. I kept hearing outbursts of laughter. The flight was turbulent and bumpy, hardly a reason for humor. But some fellow behind me was cracking up. No one else, just him. Finally I turned to see what was so funny. He was wearing headphones and apparently listening to a comedian. Because he could hear what I couldnít, he acted differently than I did.

Just Like Jesus The same was true with Jesus. Because he could hear what others couldnít, he acted differently than they did. Remember when everyone was troubled about the man born blind? Jesus wasnít. Somehow he knew that the blindness would reveal Godís power (John 9:3). Remember when everyone was distraught about Lazarusís illness? Jesus wasnít. Rather than hurry to his friendís bedside, he said, ďThis sickness will not end in death. It is for the glory of God, to bring glory to the son of GodĒ (John 11:4). It was as if Jesus could hear what no one else could. How could a relationship be more intimate? Jesus had unbroken communion with his father.

Do you suppose the Father desires the same for us? Absolutely. Paul says we have been ďpredestined to be conformed to the image of his SonĒ (Rom. 8:29 NRSV). Let me remind you: God loves you just the way you are, but he refuses to leave you that way. He wants you to be just like Jesus. God desires the same abiding intimacy with you that he had with his son.

From Just Like Jesus

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No Pecking Orders with Jesus - UpWords - June 15

by Max Lucado

Love does not boast, it is not proud (1 Corinthians 13:4 NIV). Jesus has no room for pecking orders. His solution to man-made caste systems? A change of direction. In a world of upward mobility, choose downward servility. ďRegard one another as more important than yourselvesĒ (Philippians 2:3 NASB). Jesus flip-flopped the pecking order.

Would you do what Jesus did? He swapped a spotless castle for a grimy stable. He exchanged the worship of angels for the company of killers. If you knew that only a few could care that you came, would you still come? If you knew that those you loved would laugh in your face, would you still care? The palm that held the universe took the nail of a soldier. Why? Because thatís what love does! He loves you that much! Drink deeply of Godís love for youóand ask him to fill your heart with a love worth giving!

From A Love Worth Giving

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The God of Great Grace - UpWords - June 14

by Max Lucado

He doesnít speak. He removes his robe and takes the servantís wrap off of the wall. Taking the pitcher, he pours the water into the basin. He kneels before them with the basin and sponge and begins to wash. The towel that covers his waist is also the towel that dries their feet.

Itís not right.

Isnít it enough that these hands will be pierced in the morning? Must they scrub grime tonight? And the disciples Ö do they deserve to have their feet washed? Their affections have waned; their loyalties have wavered.

Look around the table, Jesus. Out of the twelve, how many will stand with you in Pilateís court? How many will share with you the Roman whip? And when you fall under the weight of the cross, which disciple will be close enough to spring to your side and carry your burden?

None of them will. Not one. A stranger will be called because no disciple will be near.

Donít wash their feet, Jesus. Tell them to wash yours.

Thatís what we want to say. Why? Because of the injustice? Because we donít want to see our King behaving as a servant? God on his hands and knees, his hair hanging around his face? Do we object because we donít want to see God washing feet?

Or do we object because we donít want to do the same?

Watch Jesus as he goes from disciple to disciple. Can you see him? Can you hear the water splash? Can you hear him shuffle on the floor to the next person? Good. Keep that image.

John 13:12 says, ďWhen he had finished washing their feet ÖĒ

Or do we object because we donít want to do the same?

Watch Jesus as he goes from disciple to disciple. Can you see him? Can you hear the water splash? Can you hear him shuffle on the floor to the next person? Good. Keep that image.

John 13:12 says, ďWhen he had finished washing their feet ÖĒ

Please note, he finished washing their feet. That means he left no one out. Why is that important? Because that also means he washed the feet of Judas. Jesus washed the feet of his betrayer. He gave his traitor equal attention. In just a few hours Judasís feet would guide the Roman guard to Jesus. But at this moment they are caressed by Christ.

Thatís not to say it was easy for Jesus.

Thatís not to say it is easy for you.

That is to say that God will never call you to do what he hasnít already done.

From A Gentle Thunder

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Praying the Lord's Prayer - UpWords - June 13

by Max Lucado

Hereís an example of how the Lordís Prayer can guide your prayers:

Our Father

Thank you for adopting me into your family.

who is

Thank you, my Lord,
for being a God of the present tense:
my Jehovah-jireh (the God who provides),
my Jehovah-raah (the caring Shepherd),
my Jehovah-shalom (the Lord is peace),
my Jehovah-rophe (the God who heals),
and my Jehovah-nissi (Lord, my banner).

in heaven,

Your workshop of creation reminds me: If you can make the skies, you can make sense out of my struggles.

Hallowed be thy name.

Be holy in my heart.
You are a ďcut aboveĒ all else.
Enable me to set my sights on you.

Thy kingdom come,

Come kingdom!
Be present, Lord Jesus!
Have free reign in every corner of my life.

Thy will be done,

Reveal your heart to me, dear Father.
Show me my role in your passion.
Grant me guidance in the following decisions Ö

On earth as it is in heaven.

Thank you that you silence heaven to hear my prayer.
On my heart are the ones you love.
I pray for Ö

Give us this day our daily bread.

I accept your portion for my life today.
I surrender the following concerns
regarding my well-being Ö

Forgive us our debts,

I thank you for the roof of grace over my head,
bound together with the timbers and nails of Calvary. There is nothing I can do to earn or add to your mercy.
I confess my sins to you Ö

As we also have forgiven our debtors;

Treat me, Father, as I treat others.
Have mercy on the following friends
who have wounded me Ö

Lead us not into temptation,

Let my small hand be engulfed in yours.
Hold me, lest I fall.
I ask for special strength regarding Ö

Our Father Ö give us Ö forgive us Ö lead us

Let your kindness be on all your church.
I pray especially for ministers near
and missionaries far away.

Thineónot mineóis the kingdom,

I lay my plans at your feet.

Thineónot mineóis the power,

I come to you for strength.

Thineónot mineóis the glory,

I give you all the credit.

Forever. Amen.

Thineónot mineóis the power. Amen.

From The Great House of God

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Stunned by His Grace - UpWords - June 12

by Max Lucado

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 heíd heard I was pretty open about who I have fellowship with. Heíd read the words I wrote: ďIf God calls a person his child, shouldnít I call him my brother?Ē And, ďIf God accepts others with their errors and misinterpretations, shouldnít we?"

He didnít like that. ďCarrying it a bit too far,Ē he told me. ďFences are necessary,Ē he explained. ďScriptures are clear on such matters.Ē He read me a few and then urged me to be careful to whom I give grace.

ďI donít give it,Ē I assured. ďI only spotlight where God already has.Ē

Later I had a great thought. A why-didnít-I-think-to-say-that? insight.

If the subject resurfaces, Iíll say it. But in case it doesnít, Iíll say it to you. (Itís too good to waste.) Just one sentence:

Iíve never been surprised by Godís judgment, but Iím still stunned by his grace.

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 wonít find it.

Seems to me God gives a lot more grace than weíd ever imagine.

We could do the same.

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

And if we never agree, canít we agree to disagree? If God can tolerate my mistakes, canít I tolerate the mistakes of others? If God can overlook my errors, canít I overlook the errors of others? If God allows me with my foibles and failures to call him Father, shouldnít I extend the same grace to others?

One thingís for sure. When we get to heaven, weíll 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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Angels Watching Over You - UpWords - June 11

by Max Lucado

One of my friends recently took a heart-stopping mission trip to Vietnam. He and two companions set out to smuggle Bibles and money to Christians there. Upon landing, however, he was separated from the other two. He spoke no Vietnamese and had never traveled in Hanoi. Imagine his thoughts, then, as he stood in front of the airport, holding a bag of Bibles, wearing a belt of cash, and knowing nothing more than the name of his hotel.

Taxi driver after taxi driver offered his services, but he waited and prayed. Finally, knowing he needed to do something, he climbed into a taxi and spoke the name of the hotel. After an hour and a thousand turns, he found himself deposited at the designated place. He paid his drivers, and they went on their way.

Thatís right, ďtheyĒ drove off. The front seat of his taxi had been occupied by two men. Only later did the uniqueness of this fact strike him. He saw hundreds of taxis during his days in Vietnam, but not another one of them had two drivers.

Angels minister to Godís people. ď[God] has put his angels in charge of you to watch over you wherever you goĒ (Ps. 91:11 NCV).

Billy Graham reminds us, ďIf you are a believer, expect powerful angels to accompany you in your life experience.Ē But what if you are not a believer? Do angels offer equal surveillance to Godís enemies? No, they donít. The promise of angelic protection is limited to those who trust God. Refuse God at the risk of an unguarded back. But receive his lordship, and be assured that many mighty angels will guard you in all your ways.

God sends his best troops to oversee your life. Imagine the president assigning his Secret Service to protect you, telling his agents to motorcade your car through traffic and safeguard you through crowds. How would you sleep if you knew D.C.ís finest guarded your door? How will you sleep knowing heavenís finest are doing just that? You are not alone. Receive Godís lordship over your life. Heavenís many, mighty angels watch over you.

From Come Thirsty

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Doubtstorms - UpWords - June 10

By Max Lucado

The following is excerpted from Chapter 13 of In the Eye of the Storm.

On Sundays I stand before a church with a three-point outline in my hand, thirty minutes on the clock, and a prayer on my lips. I do my best to say something that will convince a stranger that an unseen God still hears.

And I sometimes wonder why so many hearts have to hurt.

Do you ever get doubtstorms? Some of you don’t, I know. I’ve talked to you.

I think you are gifted. You are gifted with faith. You can see the rainbow before the clouds part. If you have this gift, then I won’t say anything you need to hear.

But others of you wonder...

You wonder if it is a blessing or a curse to have a mind that never rests. But you would rather be a cynic than a hypocrite, so you continue to pray with one eye open and wonder:

- about starving children
- about the power of prayer
- about the depths of grace
- about Christians in cancer wards
- about who you are to ask such questions anyway.

Tough questions. Throw-in-the-towel questions. Questions the disciples must have asked in the storm.

The light came for the disciples. A figure came to them walking on the water. It wasn’t what they expected. Perhaps they were looking for angels to descend or heaven to open. Maybe they were listening for a divine proclamation to still the storm. We don’t know what they were looking for. But one thing is for sure, they weren’t looking for
Jesus to come walking on the water.

‚Äú‚ÄėIt‚Äôs a ghost,‚Äô they said and cried out in fear‚ÄĚ (Matthew 14:26).

And since Jesus came in a way they didn’t expect, they almost missed seeing the answer to their prayers.

And unless we look and listen closely, we risk making the same mistake. God’s lights in our dark nights are as numerous as the stars, if only we’ll look for them.

When the disciples saw Jesus in the middle of their stormy night, they called him a ghost. A phantom. A hallucination. To them, the glow was anything but God.

When we see gentle lights on the horizon, we often have the same reaction. We dismiss occasional kindness as apparitions, accidents, or anomalies. Anything but God.

‚ÄúWhen Jesus comes,‚ÄĚ the disciples in the boat may have thought, ‚Äúhe‚Äôll split the sky. The sea will be calm. The clouds will disperse.‚ÄĚ

‚ÄúWhen God comes,‚ÄĚ we doubters think, ‚Äúall pain will flee. Life will be tranquil. No questions will remain.‚ÄĚ

And because we look for the bonfire, we miss the candle. Because we listen for the shout, we miss the whisper.

From In the Eye of the Storm

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Facing Your Grief - UpWords - June 9

by Max Lucado

‚ÄúDavid sang this lament over Saul and his son Jonathan, and gave orders that everyone in Judah learn it by heart.‚ÄĚ (II Samuel 1:17-18 MSG)

David called the nation to mourning. He rendered weeping a public policy. He refused to gloss over or soft-pedal death. He faced it, fought it, challenged it. But he didn‚Äôt deny it. As his son Solomon explained, ‚ÄúThere is‚Ķa time to mourn‚ÄĚ (Eccles. 3:1, 4 NIV).

Give yourself some. Face your grief with tears, time, and‚ÄĒone more‚ÄĒface your grief with truth. Paul urged the Thessalonians to grieve, but he didn‚Äôt want the Christians to ‚Äúcarry on over them like people who have nothing to look forward to, as if the grave were the last word.‚ÄĚ (I Thess. 4:13 MSG).

God has the last word on death. And, if you listen, he will tell you the truth about your loved ones. They’ve been dismissed from the hospital called Earth. You and I still roam the halls, smell the medicines, and eat green beans and Jell-O off plastic trays. They, meanwhile, enjoy picnics, inhale springtime, and run through knee-high flowers. You miss them like crazy, but can you deny the truth? They have no pain, doubt, or struggle. They really are happier in heaven.

And won‚Äôt you see them soon? Life blisters by at mach speed. ‚ÄúYou have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man‚Äôs life is but a breath‚ÄĚ (Ps. 39:5 NIV).

When you drop your kids off at school, do you weep as though you‚Äôll never see them again? When you drop your spouse at the store and park the car, do you bid a final forever farewell? No. When you say, ‚ÄúI‚Äôll see you soon,‚ÄĚ you mean it. When you stand in the cemetery and stare down at the soft, freshly turned earth and promise, ‚ÄúI‚Äôll see you soon,‚ÄĚ you speak the truth. Reunion is a splinter of an eternal moment away.

So go ahead, face your grief. Give yourself time. Permit yourself tears. God understands. He knows the sorrow of a grave. He buried his son. But he also knows the joy of resurrection. And, by his power, you will too.

From Facing Your Giants

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The Kindness Quotient - UpWords - June 8

by Max Lucado

Iíve attended my share of seminars on strategizing and team building. But I canít say Iíve ever attended or even heard of one lecture on kindness. Jesus, however, would take issue with our priorities. ďGo and learn what this means,Ē he commands. ďI want kindness more than I want animal sacrificesĒ (Matthew 9:13).

How kind are you? Which person is the most overlooked or avoided? A shy student? A grumpy employee? And hereís a challengeówhat about your enemies? How kind are you to those who want what you want or take what you have? How about the boss who fired you or the wife who left you. Mercy is the deepest gesture of kindness. The Apostle Paul said, ďBe kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you!Ē (Ephesians 4:32).

Read more A Love Worth Giving

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The Observatory - UpWords - June 7

by Max Lucado

A few mornings back I was jogging through my neighborhood, and even I could not miss the significance of that day. It was the first day of school.

It was no surprise to me, then, to see a pretty little girl step out of her house wearing new clothes and a backpack. ďHave a great first day of school,Ē I greeted as I jogged past.

She stopped and looked at me as if Iíd pulled a rabbit out of a hat. ďHow did you know?!Ē

She was stunned. Somehow I had miraculously discerned why she was up so early and where she was going. And she was impressed.

ďOh, I just know those kind of things,Ē I shouted back to her. (No need to burst her bubble.)

You, on the other hand, are not so easily impressed. You understand the difference between a child and a grownup. Take the difference between the girl and me, amplify it a million times over, and we begin to see the contrast between us and our Father.

We ask for grace, only to find forgiveness already offered. (How did you know I would sin?)

We ask for food, only to find provision already made. (How did you know I would be hungry?)

We ask for guidance, only to find answers in Godís ancient story. (How did you know what I would ask?)

God dwells in a different realm. ďThe foolishness of God is higher than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strengthĒ (1 Cor. 1:25). He occupies another dimension. ďMy thoughts are not like your thoughts. Your ways are not like my ways. Just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughtsĒ (Isa. 55:8Ė9).

From The Great House of God

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Our God Is a Good God - UpWords - June 6

by Max Lucado

ďYou are good, LORD. The LORD is good and rightĒ (Ps. 25:7Ė8).
ďTaste and see that the LORD is goodĒ (Ps. 34:8 NIV).

God is a good God. We must begin here. Though we donít understand his actions, we can trust his heart.

God does only what is good. But how can death be good? Some mourners donít ask this question. When the quantity of years has outstripped the quality of years, we donít ask how death can be good.

But the father of the dead teenager does. The thirty-year-old widow does. How could death be good?

In Godís plan every life is long enough and every death is timely. And though you and I might wish for a longer life, God knows better.

Andóthis is importantóthough you and I may wish a longer life for our loved ones, they donít. Ironically, the first to accept Godís decision of death is the one who dies.

While we are shaking heads in disbelief, they are lifting hands in worship. While we are mourning at a grave, they are marveling at heaven. While we are questioning God, they are praising God.

But, Max, what of those who die with no faith? My husband never prayed. My grandpa never worshiped. My mother never opened a Bible, much less her heart. What about the one who never believed?

How do we know he didnít?

Who among us is privy to a personís final thoughts? Who among us knows what transpires in those final moments? Are you sure no prayer was offered? Eternity can bend the proudest knees. Could a person stare into the yawning canyon of death without whispering a plea for mercy? And could our God, who is partial to the humble, resist it?

He couldnít on Calvary. The confession of the thief on the cross was both a first and final one. But Christ heard it. Christ received it. Maybe you never heard your loved one confess Christ, but whoís to say Christ didnít?

We donít know the final thoughts of a dying soul, but we know this. We know our God is a good God. He is ďnot willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentanceĒ (2 Pet. 3:9 NKJV). He wants your loved one in heaven more than you do. And he usually gets what he wants.

From Traveling Light

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Take This Quiz - UpWords - June 5

by Max Lucado

Name the ten wealthiest men in the world.

Name the last ten Heisman trophy winners.

Name the last ten winners of the Miss America contest.

Name eight people who have won the Nobel or Pulitzer prize.

How about the last ten Academy Award winners for best picture or the last decadeís worth of World Series winners?

How did you do? I didnít do well either. With the exception of you trivia hounds, none of us remember the headliners of yesterday too well. Surprising how quickly we forget, isnít it? And what Iíve mentioned above are no second-rate achievements. These are the best in their fields. But the applause dies. Awards tarnish. Achievements are forgotten. Accolades and certificates are buried with their owners.

Hereís another quiz. See how you do on this one.

Think of three people you enjoy spending time with.

Name ten people who have taught you something worthwhile.

Name five friends who have helped you in a difficult time.

List a few teachers who have aided your journey through school.

Name half-a-dozen heroes whose stories have inspired you.

Easier? It was for me, too. The lesson? The people who make a difference are not the ones with the credentials, but the ones with the concern.

From And the Angels Were Silent

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The Lord Heals All Diseases - UpWords - June 2

By Max Lucado

The psalmist says, ďThe Lord heals all your diseasesĒ (Psalm 103:2-3 NIV). Do you think among those diseases might be the affliction of anger? God can help you get rid of your anger.

Do you want him to? This isnít a trick question. You may be addicted to anger. You may be a rage junkie. Anger may be part of your identity. But if you want him to, God can change your identity.

Do you have a better option? Like moving to a rejection-free zone? If so, enjoy your life on the deserted island. When others reject you, let God accept you.

Leave your anger at the tree of Calvary. He is not frowning. He is not mad. He sings over you. Take a long drink from his limitless love, and cool down!

From A Love Worth Giving

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Living Loved - UpWords - June 1

By Max Lucado

The secret to loving is living loved. Itís the forgotten first step in relationships.

Remember Paulís prayer?

ďMay your roots go down deep into the soil of Godís marvelous loveĒ (Ephesians 3:17 NLT).

Many people tell us to love. Only God gives us the power to do so. We know what God wants us to do. ďThis is what God commands. . .that we love each other.Ē (1 John 3:23). But how can we? How can we be kind to those who are unkind to us? How can we love as God loves? By being loved.

By following the principle: receive first and love second. God loves you personallyÖpowerfullyÖpassionately! He loves you with an unfailing love. Others have promised and failed. But God has promised and succeeded!

From A Love Worth Giving

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Remarkable - UpWords - May 31

by Max Lucado

Every day I have the honor of sitting down with a book that contains the words of the One who created me. Every day I have the opportunity to let him give me a thought or two on how to live.

If I donít do what he says, he doesnít burn the book or cancel my subscription. If I disagree with what he says, lightning doesnít split my swivel chair or an angel doesnít mark my name off the holy list. If I donít understand what he says, he doesnít call me a dummy.

In fact, he calls me ďSon,Ē and on a different page explains what I donít understand.

Remarkable.

At the end of the day when I walk through the house, I step into the bedrooms of three little girls. And one by one, I bend over and kiss the foreheads of the angels God has loaned me. Then I stand in the doorway and wonder why in the world he would entrust a stumbling, fumbling fellow like me with the task of loving and leading such treasures.

Remarkable.

Then I go and crawl into bed with a woman far wiser than I Ö a woman who deserves a man much better looking than I Ö but a woman who would argue that fact and tell me from the bottom of her heart that Iím the best thing to come down her pike.

After I think about the wife I have, and when I think that I get to be with her for a lifetime, I shake my head and thank the God of grace for grace and think, Remarkable.

Iím learning not to take these everyday miracles for granted.

Iím discovering many things: traffic jams eventually clear up, sunsets are for free, Little League is a work of art, and most planes take off and arrive on time. Iím learning that most folks are good folks who are just as timid as I am about starting a conversation.

Iím meeting people who love their country and their God and their church and would die for any of the three.

Iím learning that if I look Ö if I open my eyes and observe Ö there are many reasons to take off my hat, look at the Source of it all, and just say thanks.

From In the Eye of the Storm

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God Is Still Sovereign - UpWords - May 30

By Max Lucado

Paul urges us to ďrejoice in the Lord always!Ē (Philippians 4:4). Not just on paydays, good days, or birthdays. But rejoice in the Lord always.

Rejoice in the Lord always? ďYeah, right,Ē mumbles the person from the hospital bed. ďHow?Ē sighs the unemployed dad. ďAlways?Ē questions the mother of the baby born with a disability.

Itís one thing to rejoice in the Lord when life is good, but when the odds are against you? Itís not easy, but it is possible. Lay claim to the promise of God in Colossians 1:17: ďHe is before all things, and in him all things hold together.Ē Rejoice in the sovereignty of God. His throne is still occupied. His will is still perfect. Rejoice in the Lordóalways. God uses everything to accomplish his will.

From Anxious for Nothing

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The Lord Looks at the Heart - UpWords - May 29

by Max Lucado

ďGod does not see the same way people see. People look at the outside of a person, but the Lord looks at the heart.Ē 2 Samuel 16:7

Seven sons pass. Seven sons fail. The procession comes to a halt.

Samuel counts the siblings: one-two-three-four-five-six-seven. ďJesse, donít you have eight sons?Ē A similar question caused Cinderellaís stepmother to squirm. Jesse likely did the same. ďI still have the youngest son. He is out taking care of the sheep.Ē (v. 11)

The Hebrew name for ďyoungest sonĒ is haqqaton. It implies more than age, it suggests rank. The haqqaton was more that the youngest brother- the runt, the hobbit, the ďbay-ay-ay-by.Ē

Sheep watching fits the family haqqaton. Put the boy where he canít cause trouble. Leave him with woolly heads and open skies.

What caused God to pick him? We want to know. We really want to know.

ďThe Lord does not see as a man sees: for the man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heartĒ (v.7)

Those words were written for the haqqatons of society, for misfits and castouts. God uses them all.

Moses ran from justice, but God used him.

Jonah ran from God, but God used him.

Rahab ran a brothel, Samson ran to the wrong woman, Jacob ran in circles, Ruth ran to a distant land, Elijah ran into the mountains, Sarah ran out of hope, Lot ran with the wrong crowd, but God used them all.

And David? God saw a teenage boy, serving him in the backwoods of Bethlehem, at the intersection of boredom and anonymity, and through the voice of a brother, God called, ďDavid! Come in. Someone wants to see you.Ē

God saw what no one else saw: a God-seeking heart. Others measure your waist size or wallet. Not God. He examines hearts. When he finds one set on him, he calls it and claims it.

From Facing Your Giants

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Our Group - UpWords - May 27

by Max Lucado

ďTeacher, we saw someone using your name to force demons out of a person. We told him to stop, because he does not belong to our group.Ē
- Mark 9:38

John has a dilemma. He and the other disciples ran into someone who was doing great work.

This man was casting out demons (the very act the disciples had trouble doing in Mark 9:20). He was changing lives. And, whatís more, the man was giving the credit to God. He was doing it in the name of Christ.

Everything about him was so right. Right results. Right heart. But there was one problem. He was from the wrong group.

So the disciples did what any able-bodied religious person would do with someone from the wrong group. ďWe told him to stop, because he does not belong to our groupĒ (v. 38).

John wants to know if they did the right thing. Johnís not cocky; heís confused. So are many people today. What do you do about good things done in another group? What do you do when you like the fruit but not the orchard?

Iíve asked that question. I am deeply appreciative of my heritage. It was through a small, West Texas Church of Christ that I came to know the Nazarene, the cross, and the Word.

The congregation wasnít large, maybe two hundred on a good Sunday. Most of the families were like mine, blue-collar oil-field workers. But it was a loving church. When our family was sick, the members visited us. When we were absent, they called. And when this prodigal returned, they embraced me.

I deeply appreciate my heritage. But through the years, my faith has been supplemented by people of other groups.

A Brazilian Pentecostal taught me about prayer. A British Anglican by the name of C.S. Lewis put muscle in my faith. A Southern Baptist helped me understand grace.
One Presbyterian, Steve Brown, taught me about Godís sovereignty while another, Frederick Buechner, taught me about Godís passion. A Catholic, Brennan Manning, convinced me that Jesus is relentlessly tender. Iím a better husband because I read James Dobson and a better preacher because I listened to Chuck Swindoll and Bill Hybels.

And only when I get home will I learn the name of a radio preacher whose message steered me back to Christ. I was a graduate student whoíd lost his bearings. Needing some money over Christmas break, I took a job driving an oil-field delivery truck. The radio only picked up one station. A preacher was preaching. On a cold December day in 1978 I heard him describe the cross. I donít know his name. I donít know his heritage. He could have been a Quaker or an angel or both for all I know. But something about what he said caused me to pull the pickup onto the side of the road and rededicate my life to Christ.

From In the Grip of Grace

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When Everything Changes - UpWords - May 25

by Max Lucado

Are you on the eve of change? A new chapter? A new season? Heavenís message for you is clear: when everything else changes, Godís presence never does. You journey in the company of the Holy Spirit, who ďwill teach you everything and will remind you of everythingĒ he has told you (John 14:26 NLT). So, make friends with whateverís next.

Change is a part of life, and a necessary part of Godís strategy. To use us to change the world, he alters our assignments. But, someone might ask, what about the tragic changes God permits? Some seasons make no sense. They do, however, if we see them from an eternal perspective. What makes no sense in this life will make perfect sense in the next.

As Paul wrote, ďThese troubles are getting us ready for an eternal glory that will make all our troubles seem like nothingĒ (2 Corinthians 4:17 CEV).


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The Dungeon of Doubt - UpWords - May 23

by Max Lucado

Some time ago, I took my family to the bicycle store to purchase a bike for 5-year-old Jenna. She picked out a shiny "Starlett" with a banana seat and training wheels. And Andrea, age three, decided she wanted one as well.

I explained to Andrea that she was too young. I told her she was still having trouble with a tricycle and was too small for a two-wheeler. No luck; she still wanted a bike. I explained to her that when she was a bit older, she would get a bike, too. She just stared at me. I tried to tell her that a big bike would bring her more pain than pleasure, more scrapes than thrills. She turned her head and said nothing.

Finally I sighed and said this time her daddy knew best. Her response? She screamed it loud enough for everyone in the store to hear: "Then I want a new daddy!"

Though the words were from a child's mouth, they carried an adult's sentiments.

Disappointment demands a change in command. When we don't agree with the One who calls the shots, our reaction is often the same as Andrea's-the same as John the Baptist's. "Is he the right one for this job?" Or, as John put it, "Are you the one? Should we look for another?"

Andrea, with her three-year-old reasoning powers, couldn't believe that a new bike would be anything less than ideal for her. From her vantage point, it would be the source of eternal bliss.

And from her vantage point, the one who could grant that bliss was "sitting on his hands."

I can't believe that God would sit in silence while a missionary is kicked out of a foreign country or a Christian loses a promotion because of his beliefs or a faithful wife is abused by an unbelieving husband. These are just three of many items that have made their way onto my prayer list-all prayers that seem to have gone unanswered.

Rule of thumb: Clouds of doubt are created when the warm, moist air of our expectations meets the cold air of God's silence.

If you've heard the silence of God, if you've been left standing in the dungeon of doubt... you may learn, as John did, that the problem is not as much in God's silence as it is in your ability to hear.

From The Applause of Heaven

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You Have Captured God's Heart - UpWords - May 22

by Max Lucado

Just look at the gifts he has given you: He has sent his angels to care for you, his Holy Spirit to dwell in you, his church to encourage you, and his word to guide you. You have privileges only a fiancťe could have. Anytime you speak, he listens; make a request and he responds. He will never let you be tempted too much or stumble too far. Let a tear appear on your cheek, and he is there to wipe it. Let a love sonnet appear on your lips, and he is there to hear it. As much as you want to see him, he wants to see you more.

He is building a house for you. And with every swing of the hammer and cut of the saw, heís dreaming of the day he carries you over the threshold. ďThere are many rooms in my Fatherís house; I would not tell you this if it were not true. I am going there to prepare a place for you. After I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me so that you may be where I amĒ (John 14:2Ė3).

You have been chosen by Christ. You are released from your old life in your old house, and he has claimed you as his beloved. ďThen where is he?Ē you might ask. ďWhy hasnít he come?Ē

There is only one answer. His bride is not ready. She is still being prepared.

Engaged people are obsessed with preparation. The right dress. The right weight. The right hair and the right tux. They want everything to be right. Why? So their fiancťe will marry them? No. Just the opposite. They want to look their best because their fiancťe is marrying them.

The same is true for us. We want to look our best for Christ. We want our hearts to be pure and our thoughts to be clean. We want our faces to shine with grace and our eyes to sparkle with love. We want to be prepared.

Why? In hopes that he will love us? No. Just the opposite. Because he already does.

You are spoken for. You are engaged, set apart, called out, a holy bride. Forbidden waters hold nothing for you. You have been chosen for his castle. Donít settle for one-night stands in the arms of a stranger.

Be obsessed with your wedding date. Guard against forgetfulness. Be intolerant of memory lapses. Write yourself notes. Memorize verses. Do whatever you need to do to remember. ďAim at what is in heaven . . . Think only about the things in heavenĒ (Col. 3:1Ė2). You are engaged to royalty, and your Prince is coming to take you home.

From When Christ Comes

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Looking for the Messiah, Part 2 September 7

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 Ö

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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Looking for the Messiah, Part 1 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 Ö 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 Ö 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 Ö

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

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The Fear of Not Protecting My Kids... September 2

by Max Lucado

Parents, we canít protect children from every threat in life, but we can take them to the Source of life. We can entrust our kids to Christ. Even then, however, our shoreline appeals may be followed by a difficult choice.

As Jairus and Jesus were going to Jairusís home, ďa messenger arrived from the home of Jairus, the leader of the synagogue. He told him, ĎYour daughter is dead. Thereís no use troubling the Teacher now.í But when Jesus heard what had happened, he said to Jairus, ĎDonít be afraid. Just have faith, and she will be healedí Ē (Luke 8:49Ė50 NLT).

Jairus was whipsawed between the contrasting messages. The first, from the servants: ďYour daughter is dead.Ē The second, from Jesus: ďDonít be afraid.Ē Horror called from one side. Hope compelled from the other. Tragedy, then trust. Jairus heard two voices and had to choose which one he would heed.

Donít we all?

The hard reality of parenting reads something like this: you can do your best and still stand where Jairus stood. You can protect, pray, and keep all the bogeymen at bay and still find yourself in an ER at midnight or a drug rehab clinic on visitorsí Sunday, choosing between two voices: despair and belief. Jairus could have chosen despair. Who would
have faulted him for deciding ďEnough is enoughĒ? He had no guarantee that Jesus could help. His daughter was dead. Jairus could have walked away. As parents, weíre so glad he didnít.

Some of you find the story of Jairus difficult to hear. You prayed the same prayer he did, yet you found yourself in a cemetery facing every parentís darkest night: the death of your child. No pain compares. What hope does the story of Jairus offer to you? Jesus resurrected Jairusís child. Why didnít he save yours?

God understands your question. He buried a child too. He hates death more than you do. Thatís why he killed it. He ďabolished death and brought life and immortality to lightĒ (2 Tim. 1:10). For those who trust God, death is nothing more than a transition to heaven. Your child may not be in your arms, but your child is safely in his.

Others of you have been standing for a long time where Jairus stood. Youíve long since left the waterís edge of offered prayer but havenít yet arrived at the household of answered prayer. Youíve wept a monsoon of tears for your child, enough to summon the attention of every angel and their neighbor to your cause. At times youíve felt that a breakthrough was nearing, that Christ was following you to your house. But youíre
not so sure anymore. You find yourself alone on the path, wondering if Christ has forgotten you and your child.

He hasnít. He never dismisses a parentís prayer. Keep giving your child to God, and in the right time and the right way, God will give your child back to you.

From Fearless

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Jesus Is Praying for You - UpWords - 1

Jesus Is Praying for You
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, ďBut I have prayed for you, that your faith should not failĒ (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. Weíd prefer to have every question answered, but Jesus has instead chosen to tell us this much: ďI will pray you through the storm.Ē Are the prayers of Jesus answered? Of course they are! And because Godís promises are unbreakable our hope is unshakable!

From Unshakable Hope


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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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The Woodcutter's Wisdom August 27

by Max Lucado

Once there was an old man who lived in a tiny village. Although poor, he was envied by all, for he owned a beautiful white horse. Even the king coveted his treasure. A horse like this had never been seen beforeósuch was its splendor, its majesty, its strength.

People offered fabulous prices for the steed, but the old man always refused. "This horse is not a horse to me," he would tell them. "It is a person. How could you sell a person? He is a friend, not a possession. How could you sell a friend?" The man was poor and the temptation was great. But he never sold the horse.

One morning he found that the horse was not in the stable. All the village came to see him. "You old fool," they scoffed, "we told you that someone would steal your horse. We warned you that you would be robbed. You are so poor. How could you ever hope to protect such a valuable animal? It would have been better to have sold him. You could have gotten whatever price you wanted. No amount would have been too high. Now the horse is gone, and you've been cursed with misfortune."

The old man responded, "Don't speak too quickly. Say only that the horse is not in the stable. That is all we know; the rest is judgment. If I've been cursed or not, how can you know? How can you judge?"

The people contested, "Don't make us out to be fools! We may not be philosophers, but great philosophy is not needed. The simple fact that your horse is gone is a curse."

The old man spoke again. "All I know is that the stable is empty, and the horse is gone. The rest I don't know. Whether it be a curse or a blessing, I can't say. All we can see is a fragment. Who can say what will come next?"

The people of the village laughed. They thought that the man was crazy. They had always thought he was a fool; if he wasn't, he would have sold the horse and lived off the money. But instead, he was a poor woodcutter, an old man still cutting firewood and dragging it out of the forest and selling it. He lived hand to mouth in the misery of poverty. Now he had proven that he was, indeed, a fool.

After fifteen days, the horse returned. He hadn't been stolen; he had run away into the forest. Not only had he returned, he had brought a dozen wild horses with him. Once again the village people gathered around the woodcutter and spoke. "Old man, you were right and we were wrong. What we thought was a curse was a blessing. Please forgive us."

The man responded, "Once again, you go too far. Say only that the horse is back. State only that a dozen horses returned with him, but don't judge. How do you know if this is a blessing or not? You see only a fragment. Unless you know the whole story, how can you judge? You read only one page of a book. Can you judge the whole book? You read only one word of a phrase. Can you understand the entire phrase?

"Life is so vast, yet you judge all of life with one page or one word. All you have is a fragment! Don't say that this is a blessing. No one knows. I am content with what I know. I am not perturbed by what I don't."

"Maybe the old man is right," they said to one another. So they said little. But down deep, they knew he was wrong. They knew it was a blessing. Twelve wild horses had returned with one horse. With a little bit of work, the animals could be broken and trained and sold for much money.

The old man had a son, an only son. The young man began to break the wild horses. After a few days, he fell from one of the horses and broke both legs. Once again the villagers gathered around the old man and cast their judgments.

"You were right," they said. "You proved you were right. The dozen horses were not a blessing. They were a curse. Your only son has broken his legs, and now in your old age you have no one to help you. Now you are poorer than ever."

The old man spoke again. "You people are obsessed with judging. Don't go so far. Say only that my son broke his legs. Who knows if it is a blessing or a curse? No one knows. We only have a fragment. Life comes in fragments."

It so happened that a few weeks later the country engaged in war against a neighboring country. All the young men of the village were required to join the army. Only the son of the old man was excluded, because he was injured. Once again the people gathered around the old man, crying and screaming because their sons had been taken. There was little chance that they would return. The enemy was strong, and the war would be a losing struggle. They would never see their sons again.

"You were right, old man," they wept. "God knows you were right. This proves it. Your son's accident was a blessing. His legs may be broken, but at least he is with you. Our sons are gone forever."

The old man spoke again. "It is impossible to talk with you. You always draw conclusions. No one knows. Say only this: Your sons had to go to war, and mine did not. No one knows if it is a blessing or a curse. No one is wise enough to know. Only God knows."

The old man was right. We only have a fragment. Life's mishaps and horrors are only a page out of a grand book. We must be slow about drawing conclusions. We must reserve judgment on life's storms until we know the whole story.

I don't know where the woodcutter learned his patience. Perhaps from another woodcutter in Galilee. For it was the Carpenter who said it best:

"Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself." (Mt. 6:34)

He should know. He is the Author of our story. And he has already written the final chapter.

From In the Eye of the Storm

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The Cave People August 26

by Max Lucado

He came to the world that was his own, but his own people did not accept him. John 1:11

LONG AGO, OR maybe not so long ago, there was a tribe in a dark, cold cavern.

The cave dwellers would huddle together and cry against the chill. Loud and long they wailed. It was all they did. It was all they knew to do. The sounds in the cave were mournful, but the people didn't know it, for they had never known joy. The spirit in the cave was death, but the people didn't know it, for they had never known life.

But then, one day, they heard a different voice. "I have heard your cries," it announced. "I have felt your chill and seen your darkness. I have come to help."

The cave people grew quiet. They had never heard this voice. Hope sounded strange to their ears. "How can we know you have come to help?"

"Trust me," he answered. "I have what you need."

The cave people peered through the darkness at the figure of the stranger. He was stacking something, then stooping and stacking more.

"What are you doing?" one cried, nervous.

The stranger didn't answer.

"What are you making?" one shouted even louder.

Still no response.

"Tell us!" demanded a third.

The visitor stood and spoke in the direction of the voices. "I have what you need." With that he turned to the pile at his feet and lit it. Wood ignited, flames erupted, and light filled the cavern.

The cave people turned away in fear. "Put it out!" they cried. "It hurts to see it."

"Light always hurts before it helps," he answered. "Step closer. The pain will soon pass."

"Not I," declared a voice.

"Nor I," agreed a second.

"Only a fool would risk exposing his eyes to such light."

The stranger stood next to the fire. "Would you prefer the darkness? Would you prefer the cold? Don't consult your fears. Take a step of faith."

For a long time no one spoke. The people hovered in groups covering their eyes. The fire builder stood next to the fire. "It's warm here," he invited.

"He's right," one from behind him announced. "It's warmer." The stranger turned and saw a figure slowly stepping toward the fire. "I can open my eyes now," she proclaimed. "I can see."

"Come closer," invited the fire builder.

She did. She stepped into the ring of light. "It's so warm!" She extended her hands and sighed as her chill began to pass.

"Come, everyone! Feel the warmth," she invited.

"Silence, woman!" cried one of the cave dwellers. "Dare you lead us into your folly? Leave us. Leave us and take your light with you."

She turned to the stranger. "Why won't they come?"

"They choose the chill, for though it's cold, it's what they know. They'd rather be cold than change."

"And live in the dark?"

"And live in the dark."

The now-warm woman stood silent. Looking first at the dark, then at the man.

"Will you leave the fire?" he asked.

She paused, then answered, "I cannot. I cannot bear the cold." Then she spoke again. "But nor can I bear the thought of my people in darkness."

"You don't have to," he responded, reaching into the fire and removing a stick. "Carry this to your people. Tell them the light is here, and the light is warm. Tell them the light is for all who desire it."

And so she took the small flame and stepped into the shadows.

From A Gentle Thunder

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You Have Clout with God 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 youíll find it. Tattoo it, if not on your skin at least on your heart: ďWhen a believing person prays, great things happenĒ (James 5:16).

If youíve taken on the name of Christ, you have clout with the most powerful being in the universe. When you speak, God listens. Jesus said, ďWhen two of you get together on anything at all on earth and make a prayer of it, my Father in heaven goes into actionĒ (Matthew 18:19). Prayer is just the first step. God has power youíve never seen, strength youíve never known. He delights in answering prayer! And because his promises are unbreakable, our hope in unshakable!

From Unshakable Hope

judithscott.wordpress.com/
Team Leader Shining for Jesus
Team Leader God's Amazing Grace
Team Leader God Answers Prayer
Team Leader Partnership Accountability to the Finish Line
Co-Team Leader for I Can Do All Things Through Christ
Team Leader Christians Walking in Faith


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