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12/5/19 5:14 A

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God Is in the Crisis - UpWords - December 5

by Max Lucado

Do you recite your woes more naturally than you do heaven’s strength? No wonder life’s tough. You’re assuming God isn’t in this crisis.

Isabel spent her first three and a half years in a Nicaraguan orphanage. As with all orphans, her odds of adoption diminished with time. And then the door slammed on her finger! Why would God permit this innocent girl to feel even more pain? Might He be calling the attention of Ryan Schnoke sitting in the playroom nearby? He and his wife had been trying to adopt a child for months! Ryan walked over, picked her up, and comforted her. Several months later, Ryan and Christina were close to giving up, and Ryan remembered Isabel. Little Isabel is now growing up in a happy, healthy home.

A finger in the door? God doesn’t manufacture pain, but He certainly puts it to use! Your crisis? You’ll get through this!

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God Came Near - UpWords - December 4

by Max Lucado

It all happened in a moment, a most remarkable moment. God became a man!

Heaven opened herself and placed her most precious one in a human womb. Jesus came, not as a flash of light or as an unapproachable conqueror, but as one whose first cries were heard by a peasant girl and a sleepy carpenter.

The hands that first held him were un-manicured, calloused, and dirty. For thirty-three years he would feel everything you and I have ever felt. Weak and weary; and afraid of failure. His feelings got hurt.

To think of Jesus in such a light seems almost irreverent. There’s something about keeping him divine that keeps him distant and predictable. But don’t do it!

For heaven’s sake, don’t! Let him be as human as he intended to be. Let him into the mire and muck of our world. For only if we let him in can he pull us out!

From UP-WORDS Max Lucado

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12/3/19 2:36 A

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Let God Define Good - UpWords - December 2

by Max Lucado

Nothing in the Bible would cause us to call a famine good or a heart attack good or a terrorist attack good. These are terrible calamities, born out of a fallen earth. Yet every message in the Bible compels us to believe that God will mix them with other ingredients, and bring good out of them. But we must let God define good.

Our definition includes health, comfort, and recognition. His definition? In the case of His Son, Jesus Christ, the good life consisted of struggles, storms, and death. But God worked it all together for the greatest of good: His glory and our salvation.

At some point we all stand at this intersection. Is God good when the outcome is not? Do you want to know heaven’s clearest answer to the question of suffering? Take a look at Jesus!

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12/2/19 1:34 A

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Unresolved Guilt - UpWords - December 1

By Max Lucado

What kind of person does unresolved guilt create? An anxious one, forever hiding, running, denying, or pretending. As one man admitted, “I was always living a lie for fear someone might see me for who I really was and think less of me. I hid behind my super spirituality but this lie was exhausting and anxiety producing.”

Unresolved guilt will turn you into a miserable, weary, angry, fretful mess. In a psalm David probably wrote after his affair with Bathsheba, the king said...

“When I refused to confess my sin, my body wasted away, and I groaned all day long. Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me. My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat” (Psalms 32:3-4 NLT).

As the apostle Paul told Titus...

God’s grace is the fertile soil out of which courage sprouts! “God’s readiness to give and forgive is now public. Salvation is available for everyone!” (Titus 2:11,15 MSG).

From Anxious for Nothing

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11/30/19 6:57 A

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Rejoice in the Lord's Sovereignty - UpWords - November 30

by Max Lucado

The next time you fear the future, rejoice in the Lord’s sovereignty.

Rejoice in what he has accomplished.

Rejoice that he is able to do what you cannot do.

Fill your mind with thoughts of God.

“He is the Creator, who is blessed forever” (Romans 1:25).

“He is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).

“His years will never end” (Psalm 102:27 NIV).

He is king, supreme ruler, absolute monarch, and overlord of all history. An arch of his eyebrow and a million angels will pivot and salute!

Every throne is a footstool to his. Every crown is papier-mache next to his. He consults no advisers. He needs no congress. He reports to no one. He is in charge.

Sovereignty gives the saint the inside track to peace. Others see the problems of the world and wring their hands. We see the problems of the world and bend our knees!

From Anxious for Nothing

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11/28/19 7:06 A

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The Symbol of Christianity - UpWords - November 28

By Max Lucado

The cross is the universal symbol of Christianity. An odd choice, don’t you think? Strange that a tool of torture would come to embody a movement of hope. Its design couldn’t be simpler.

One beam horizontal—the other vertical. One reaches out like God’s love. The other reaches up, as does God’s holiness. One represents the width of His love; the other the height of His holiness. The cross is the intersection. The cross is where God forgave His children without lowering His standards. God treated His Son as a sinner, so that Christ could make us acceptable to God. Why would He do it?

John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world.” Aren’t you glad the verse doesn’t read: For God so loved the rich?. . .the famous? Or the sober or successful?

No, it simply reads: “For God so loved the world!”

From He Chose the Nails

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11/21/19 1:40 P

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He Loves to Be with the Ones He Loves - UpWords - November 21

by Max Lucado

Holiday travel. It isn’t easy. Then why do we do it? Why cram the trunks and endure the airports? You know the answer. We love to be with the ones we love.

The four-year-old running up the sidewalk into the arms of Grandpa.

The cup of coffee with Mom before the rest of the house awakes.

That moment when, for a moment, everyone is quiet as we hold hands around the table and thank God for family and friends and pumpkin pie.

We love to be with the ones we love.

May I remind you? So does God. He loves to be with the ones he loves. How else do you explain what he did? Between him and us there was a distance—a great span. And he couldn’t bear it. He couldn’t stand it. So he did something about it.

Before coming to the earth, “Christ himself was like God in every-thing.… But he gave up his place with God and made himself nothing. He was born to be a man and became like a servant” (Phil. 2:6–7 NCV).

Why? Why did Jesus travel so far?

I was asking myself that question when I spotted the squirrels outside my window. A family of black-tailed squirrels has made its home amid the roots of the tree north of my office. We’ve been neighbors for three years now. They watch me peck the keyboard. I watch them store their nuts and climb the trunk. We’re mutually amused. I could watch them all day. Sometimes I do.

But I’ve never considered becoming one of them. The squirrel world holds no appeal to me.

Who wants to sleep next to a hairy rodent with beady eyes? (No comments from you wives who feel you already do.) Give up the Rocky Mountains, bass fishing, weddings, and laughter for a hole in the ground and a diet of dirty nuts? Count me out.

But count Jesus in. What a world he left. Our classiest mansion would be a tree trunk to him.

Earth’s finest cuisine would be walnuts on heaven’s table. And the idea of becoming a squirrel with claws and tiny teeth and a furry tail? It’s nothing compared to God becoming a one-celled embryo and entering the womb of Mary.

But he did. The God of the universe kicked against the wall of a womb, was born into the poverty of a peasant, and spent his first night in the feed trough of a cow. “The Word became flesh and lived among us” (John 1:14 NRSV). The God of the universe left the glory of heaven and moved into the neighborhood. Our neighborhood! Who could have imagined he would do such a thing.

Why? He loves to be with the ones he loves.

From Next Door Savior

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11/18/19 5:03 A

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Spill Your Heart Before God - UpWords - November 18

By Max Lucado

As a member of God’s family, come to Him— not as a stranger, but as an heir. Earnestly make your requests known to him; not because of what you have achieved, but because of what Christ has done! Jesus spilled his blood for you. You can spill your heart before God.

Jesus said if you have faith, you can tell a mountain to go and jump into the sea (Mark 11:23).

What is your mountain? What is the challenge of your life? Call out to God for help! Will he do what you want? I cannot say, but this I can say, “He will do what is best.” That includes any force that is seeking to drive you out of the Promised Land. “Ask and it will be given to you,”

Jesus said in Matthew 7:7. It is a battle, but you do not fight in vain. Call on God for great things!

From Glory Days

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11/18/19 12:20 A

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A Big View of God - UpWords - November 17

by Max Lucado

Exactly what is worship? I like King David’s definition in Psalm 34:3, “O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together.” Worship is the act of magnifying God, enlarging our vision of him, and observing how he works.

Of course his size doesn’t change, but our perception of him does. As we draw nearer, he seems larger. Isn’t that what we need? A big view of God? Don’t we have big problems, big worries, and big questions? Of course we do. Hence, we need a big view of God. Worship offers that. How can we sing, “Holy, Holy, Holy” and not have our vision expanded? How can we sing these words and not have our countenance illuminated? A vibrant, shining face is the mark of one who has stood in God’s presence. God is in the business of changing the face of the world! Let him begin with yours!

From Just Like Jesus

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11/14/19 4:01 A

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Dealing with Difficult Relatives - UpWords - November 14

by Max Lucado

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

His own.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What happened to Jesus' family?

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

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

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

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

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

From He Still Moves Stones

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11/12/19 5:33 P

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A Forever Home - UpWords - November 12

by Max Lucado

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Traveling Light

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Holiness - UpWords - November 11

by Max Lucado

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

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

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

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

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

From A Gentle Thunder

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Greed Has Many Faces - UpWords - November 10

by Max Lucado

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

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

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

From Max on Life

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11/6/19 2:12 A

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The Parable of the Sandwich Sign - UpWords - November 5

by Max Lucado

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

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

"What can we do?" asked one.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From A Gentle Thunder

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Second Chances - UpWords - November 4

by Max Lucado

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whew!

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

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

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

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

But in Jesus, Peter found both.

From UpWords with Max Lucado

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We Are Valuable - UpWords - October 31

by Max Lucado

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

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

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

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

You have value simply because you are!

You are His.

From Cast of Characters

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Loneliness - UpWords - October 28

by Max Lucado

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

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

From Traveling Light

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My Crazy Thought - UpWords - October 27

by Max Lucado

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

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

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

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

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

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

From A Gentle Thunder

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Hidden in His Love - UpWords - October 26

by Max Lucado

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

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

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

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

From Grace for the Moment

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10/25/19 11:39 A

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The Names of God - UpWords - October 25

by Max Lucado

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

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

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

From UpWords with Max Lucado

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

by Max Lucado

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

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

There was that time years before …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mark the weariness in the words.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That's when he realizes who Jesus is.

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

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

From He Still Moves Stones: Everyone Needs a Miracle

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10/23/19 11:32 A

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

by Max Lucado

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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10/22/19 3:10 P

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Do Good Quietly - UpWords - October 22

by Max Lucado

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

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

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

Hypocrisy turns people away from God. When God-hungry souls walk into a congregation of wannabe superstars, what happens? When God seekers see singers strut like Las Vegas entertainers . . . When they hear the preacher—a man of slick words, dress, and hair—play to the crowd and exclude God . . . When other attendees dress to be seen and make much to-do over their gifts and offerings . . . When people enter a church to see God yet can't see God because of the church, don't think for a second that God doesn't react. "Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you don't make a performance out of it. It might be good theater, but the God who made you won't be applauding" (Matt. 6:1 MSG).

Hypocrisy turns people against God. So God has a no-tolerance policy. Let the cold, lifeless bodies of the embezzling couple issue their intended warning. Let's take hypocrisy as seriously as God does. How can we?

1. Expect no credit for good deeds. None. If no one notices, you aren't disappointed. If someone does, you give the credit to God. Ask yourself this question: If no one knew of the good I do, would I still do it? If not, you're doing it to be seen by people.

2. Give financial gifts in secret. Money stirs the phony within us. We like to be seen earning it. And we like to be seen giving it. So "when you give to someone in need, don't let your left hand know what your right hand is doing" (Matt. 6:3 NLT).

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

Bottom line: don't make a theater production out of your faith. "Watch me! Watch me!" is a call used on the playground, not in God's kingdom. Silence the trumpets. Cancel the parade. Enough with the name-dropping. If accolades come, politely deflect them before you believe them. Slay the desire to be noticed. Stir the desire to serve God.

Heed the counsel of Christ: "First wash the inside of the cup and the dish, and then the outside will become clean, too" (Matt. 23:26 NLT). Focus on the inside, and the outside will take care of itself. Lay your motives before God daily, hourly. "Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life" (Ps. 139:23-24 NLT).

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

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

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

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

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10/21/19 9:12 A

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Every Gift Is Needed - UpWords - October 21

by Max Lucado

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From A Gentle Thunder

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Pray First, Pray Most - UpWords - October 20

by Max Lucado

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Max Lucado

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

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

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

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

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

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

From You’ll Get Through This

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10/18/19 11:58 A

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

by Max Lucado

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

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

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

From Max on Life

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A Prayer of Confession - UpWords - October 17

by Max Lucado

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

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

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

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

From Before Amen

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God Hates Arrogance - UpWords - October 15

by Max Lucado

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

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

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

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

From Traveling Light


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We Need a Good Shepherd - UpWords - October 13

by Max Lucado

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

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

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

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

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

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

From a A Gentle Thunder

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A Vision of the Reward - UpWords - October 10

by Max Lucado

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

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

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

From In the Eye of the Storm

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Who Is in Charge? - UpWords- October 9

by Max Lucado

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

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

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

Who is in charge of this journey?

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

From In the Eye of the Storm

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Look at What You Have - UpWords - October 7

By Max Lucado

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

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

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

From Facing Your Giants

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An Anchor for the Soul - UpWords - October 6

By Max Lucado

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

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

Because you have a valuable vessel—your soul.

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

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

From Unshakable Hope

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God Chats in the Closet - UpWords - October 4

by Max Lucado

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

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

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

The words surely stunned Jesus’ audience.

The people were simple farmers and stonemasons.

They couldn’t enter the temple.

But they could enter their closets. The point?

He is low on fancy, high on accessibility.

You need not woo him with location!

Or wow him with eloquence.

It’s the power of a simple prayer.

From Before Amen

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You Are His - UpWords - October 2

by Max Lucado

God’s grace defines you!

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

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

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

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

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

According to Him, you are His. Period.

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

From UpWords with Max Lucado

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God’s Workshop - UpWords - September 30

by Max Lucado

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

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

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

From UpWords with Max Lucado

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Heaven's Tribunal - UpWords - September 29

by Max Lucado

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

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

From Unshakable Hope

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The Bandit of Joy - UpWords - September 27

by Max Lucado

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

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

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

From UpWords with Max Lucado

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Jesus Honors You - UpWords - September 25

by Max Lucado

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

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

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

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

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

No wonder they call Jesus the Savior.

From UPWords.com

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Prayer Is a Habit Worth Having - UpWords - September 24

by Max Lucado

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

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

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

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

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

From When God Whispers Your Name

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A Godly Touch - UpWords - September 23

By Max Lucado

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

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

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

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

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

From UpWords with Max Lucado at OnePlace

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Oops posted wrong blog

Edited by: JUDITH316 at: 9/23/2019 (05:59)
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Fear of Global Calamity - UpWords - September 20

by Max Lucado

“Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.” (Matthew 24:4-8 NIV)

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

Jesus equipped his followers with farsighted courage. He listed the typhoons of life and then pointed them “to the end.” Trust in ultimate victory gives ultimate courage. Author Jim Collins makes reference to this outlook in his book Good to Great. Collins tells the story of Admiral James Stockdale, who was a prisoner of war for eight years during the Vietnam War. After Stockdale’s release Collins asked him how in the world he survived eight years in a prisoner-of-war camp.

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

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

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

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

From Fearless

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When Grace Goes Deep - UpWords - September19

by Max Lucado

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"But it won't fit my thumb."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Come Thirsty

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Take Goliath Down - UpWords - September 17

by Max Lucado

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

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

Focus on giants—you stumble.

Focus on God—your giants tumble.

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

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

1. THE STONE OF THE PAST

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

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

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

Then select …

2. THE STONE OF PRAYER

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

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

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

3. THE STONE OF PRIORITY

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

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

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

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

4. THE STONE OF PASSION

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

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

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

Do the same!

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

One more stone, and finger, remains:

5. THE STONE OF PERSISTENCE

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

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

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

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

From Facing Your Giants

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Through the Valley of Death - UpWords - September 16

by Max Lucado

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

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

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

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

“Death has been swallowed up in victory!”

From Unshakable Hope

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A Call to Common Courtesy - UpWords - September 15

By Max Lucado

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From A Love Worth Giving

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Unfailing Love - UpWords - September 12

by Max Lucado

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

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

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

Love "will last forever" (NLT).

It "never dies" (MSG).

It "never ends" (RSV).

Love "is eternal" (TEV).

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

Love never fails.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He loves you when you don't feel lovely.

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

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

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

From A Love Worth Giving

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Read Your Life Backward - UpWords - September 10

by Max Lucado

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

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

Set apart for a special work.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Cure for the Common Life

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Your Kindness Quotient - UpWords - September 8

by Max Lucado

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who could that be? You.

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

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

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

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

From A Love Worth Giving

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He Can Do the Impossible - UpWords - September 7

by Max Lucado

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They laugh at the lunacy of it all.

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

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

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

From The Applause of Heaven

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

Here is Part 1

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

By Max Lucado

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God, a plumber?

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

And then, one Sunday, he shows up.

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

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

What would you think?

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

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

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

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

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

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

And so, some missed him.

And so, some miss him still.

From A Gentle Thunder

Edited by: JUDITH316 at: 9/5/2019 (09:49)
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Looking for the Messiah, Part 2 - UpWords - September 5

By Max Lucado

Some missed him.

Some miss him still.

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

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

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

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

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

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

We must let God define himself.

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

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

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

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

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

"And what might that sin be?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From A Gentle Thunder

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Fear of What's Next - UpWords - September 3

by Max Lucado

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

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

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

On the eve of his death, Jesus gave his followers this promise: "When the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you. I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don't be troubled or afraid" (John 14:26-27 NLT).

As a departing teacher might introduce the classroom to her replacement, so Jesus introduces us to the Holy Spirit. And what a ringing endorsement he gives. Jesus calls the Holy Spirit his "representative."

The Spirit comes in the name of Christ, with equal authority and identical power. Earlier in the evening Jesus had said, "I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever" (John 14:16 NIV).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Fearless: Imagine Your Life Without Fear

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Jesus Is Praying for You - UpWords - September 1

by Max Lucado

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

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

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

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

From Unshakable Hope

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When You are Low on Hope - UpWords - August 31

by Max Lucado

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

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

All day he looked for the dove’s return.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love has hope in you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Behind the Shower Curtain - UpWords - August 28

by Max Lucado

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Examples? How much time do you have?

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

Peter denied Christ before he preached Christ.

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

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

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

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

You won't find it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

We could do the same.

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

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

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

And some of them will be surprised to see us.

From When God Whispers Your Name

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You Have Clout with God - UpWords - August 25

by Max Lucado

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

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

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

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

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

From Unshakable Hope

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Taking Out the Trash - UpWords - August 24

by Max Lucado

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

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

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

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

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

From Great Day Every Day

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The Bad News Preacher - UpWords - August 21

By Max Lucado

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God is faithful even when his children are not.

That's what makes God, God.

From A Gentle Thunde

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Dashed Hopes - UpWords - August 20

by Max Lucado

"I had intended …"

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

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

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

A conjunction happened.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Facing Your Giants

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Tender Words to the Tired Heart - UpWords - August 17

by Max Lucado

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

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

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

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

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

This could be his worst hour.

But he makes it one of his best.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He and the remaining four hundred fighters resume the chase.

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

And what about the two hundred men who had rested?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brook Besor blesses rest.

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

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

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

From Facing Your Giants

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Directions for the Road Ahead - UpWords - August 16

by Max Lucado

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

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

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

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

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

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

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He Did it Just for You - UpWords - August 15

by Max Lucado

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

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

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

Want to know the coolest thing about the coming?

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

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

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

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

That was cool, incredibly cool.

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

He did it for you. Just for you.

From His Name is Jesus

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

by Max Lucado

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are eight worry stoppers to expand your tally:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Fearless

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8/11/19 1:21 A

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My Success Is about Him - UpWords - August 10

by Max Lucado

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From It's Not About Me

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8/5/19 4:10 P

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

by Max Lucado

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

I had a date with a twirler.

I learned to paint white shoe polish on school buses.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some play the drums (like Martha).

Some play the flute (like Mary).

And others sound the trumpet (like Lazarus).

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

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

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

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

From Cast of Characters

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8/3/19 3:45 P

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Perfect Love - UpWords - August 3

by Max Lucado

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be prayerful.

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

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

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

Be grateful.

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

From A Love Worth Giving

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7/27/19 8:07 A

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Marthas - UpWords - July 27

by Max Lucado

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Cast of Characters

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7/26/19 9:57 A

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Marys - UpWords - July 26

by Max Lucado

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

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

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

Every church desperately needs some Marys.

We need them to pray for our children.

We need them to put passion in our worship.

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

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

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

Marys are good at that.

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

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

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7/26/19 12:51 A

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Love Always Protects - UpWords - July 25

by Max Lucado

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

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

God covers them. He protects them.

Love always protects.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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7/23/19 1:39 A

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Is This All There Is? - UpWords - July 22

by Max Lucado

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From 3:16, The Numbers of Hope

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To Hear the Applause of Heaven - UpWords - July 21

by Max Lucado

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

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

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

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

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Our Work Can Be Worship - UpWords - July 20

By Max Lucado

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

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

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

From Cure for the Common Life

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

by Max Lucado

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

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

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

No visitors. Maybe tomorrow.

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

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

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

“Do you want to be sure?”
“Oh yes.”

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

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

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

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

From 3:16, The Numbers of Hope

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When Death Becomes Birth - UpWords - July 16

by Max Lucado

You live one final breath from your own funeral.

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Come Thirsty

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Water for Your Soul - UpWords - July 15

by Max Lucado

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

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

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

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

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Serve One Another - UpWords - July 13

by Max Lucado

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Returning from the East - UpWords - July 12

by Max Lucado

Somewhere Oswald Chambers wrote: “Christians must occasionally travel under sealed orders.” 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, I’m 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: “We receive you as ambassadors of the love of Jesus.”

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. It’s 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 nation… worthy of every effort to tell them about Christ.

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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 need—an 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. Don’t go to Scripture looking for your own idea; go searching for God’s. 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 day’s portion at a time. Choose depth over quantity. Read until a verse “hits” 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. Don’t forget the admonition from James: “The 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 happiness” (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. “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, do” (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 day—then apply it.

From Just Like Jesus

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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. “If only you will,” said the man, “you can cleanse me.” In warm indignation Jesus stretched out his hand, [and] touched him.
Mark 1:40–41, NEB

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

Victims of Satan filled the halls. A child—puffy, swollen eyes. Beaten by her father. A woman—bruised cheeks, bloody nose. “My boyfriend got drunk and hit me,” she said, weeping. An old man—unconscious and drunk on a stretcher. He drooled blood in his sleep.

Jesus saw the victims of Satan, too.

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

And he got indignant … angry.

Not a selfish, violent anger. A holy anger…

a controlled frustration …

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

I’m convinced that the same Satan stalks today, causing the hunger in Somalia … the confusion in the Mideast … the egotism on the movie screen … the apathy in Christ’s church.

And Satan giggles among the dying.

Dear Father,

May we never grow so “holy,” may we never be so “mature,” may we never become so “religious” that we can see the footprints of Satan and stay calm.

From Shaped by God

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Practicing the Presence - UpWords - July 7

by Max Lucado

How do I live in God’s 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 don’t 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 it’s nothing more than “Thank you for a night’s rest. I belong to you today.”

Give God your waiting thoughts. Spend time with him in silence. The mature married couple has learned the treasure of shared silence; they don’t need to fill the air with constant chatter. Just being together is sufficient. Try being silent with God. “Be still, and know that I am God” (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 “Thank you, Father,” “Be sovereign in this hour, O Lord,” “You are my resting place, Jesus” can turn a commute into a pilgrimage. You needn’t 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: “He who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep” (Ps. 121:4 niv). If you fall asleep as you pray, don’t worry. What better place to doze off than in the arms of your Father.

From Just Like Jesus

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Untangling Life's Knots - UpWords - July 6

by Max Lucado

It’s your best friend’s wedding. “I’ll take care of the reception,” you’d 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. She’s 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 …

Sound familiar?

It might. It’s exactly the dilemma Jesus’ 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. We’re 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 life’s knots. “They have no more wine,” she told Jesus (John 2:3). That’s it. That’s all she said. She didn’t go ballistic. She simply assessed the problem and gave it to Christ.

It’s so easy to focus on everything but the solution. Mary didn’t do that. She simply looked at the knot, assessed it, and took it to the right person. “I’ve got one here I can’t untie, Jesus.”

“When all the wine was gone Jesus’ mother said to him, ‘They have no more wine’” (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 deacons’ meeting he attended. Apparently there was more agitation than agreement, and after a lengthy discussion, someone suggested, “Why don’t we pray about it?” to which another questioned, “Has it come to that?”

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

From A Gentle Thunder

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They Don’t Know What They Are Doing - UpWords - July 5

by Max Lucado

Anger. It’s 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 you’ve 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 can’t 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. “‘Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’”

Look carefully. It’s as if Jesus considered this bloodthirsty, death-hungry crowd not as murderers, but as victims. It’s as if he saw in their faces not hatred but confusion. It’s as if he regarded them not as a militant mob but, as he put it, as “sheep without a shepherd.”

“They don’t know what they are doing.”

And when you think about it, they didn’t. They hadn’t the faintest idea what they were doing. They were a stir-crazy mob, mad at something they couldn’t see so they took it out on, of all people, God. But they didn’t 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 can’t answer our own questions about love and hurt. We can’t solve the riddle of aging. We don’t know how to heal our own bodies or get along with our own mates. We can’t keep ourselves out of war. We can’t even keep ourselves fed.

Paul spoke for humanity when he confessed, “I do not know what I am doing.” (Romans 7:15, author’s paraphrase.)

Now, I know that doesn’t justify anything. That doesn’t 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 won’t 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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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 “proclaim liberty to the captives… to set at liberty those who are oppressed” (Luke 4:18 NKJV). If we enjoy a robust economy or a high tide of justice, we don’t 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 this—can we afford to sever this single, silver strand that supports the whole framework of our republic?

Only at terrible risk.

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

“America,” God says, “you exist by My power.” That’s the first reminder. But God doesn’t stop there. A second reminder commands our attention.

America, you exist for My glory.

Recall what God said through the prophet, “I will demonstrate my glory among the nations” (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. “No, 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 nothing—mere emptiness and froth” (Isaiah 40:15, 17 NLT).

Suppose—just suppose—God’s glory became America’s prayer and priority: “Not to us, O Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory” (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 pray—pray with all our hearts—that America would turn back to God.

“Help us, O God our Savior, for the glory of your name; deliver us and forgive our sins for your name’s sake” (Psalm 79:9).

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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 Grandma’s 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, “Johnny told me he wanted to help in the kitchen today. Didn’t you Johnny?” And she whispered to him, “Remember the duck!” 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. “Remember the duck,” Sally’d 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. “I know, Johnny,” his grandma said, giving him a hug. “I 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.” (Steven Cole, “Forgiveness,” Leadership Magazine, 1983, 86.)

He’d 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. You’ve been accused of immorality. You’ve been accused of greed, anger, and arrogance.

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

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

“The sentence?” Satan asks.

“The wages of sin is death,” explains the judge, “but in this case the death has already occurred. For this one died with Christ.”

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, “Not guilty.”

From In the Grip of Grace

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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, “You are my child. I love you dearly. I’m aware that someday you’ll turn from me and walk away. But I want you to know, I’ve already provided you a way back.”
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 cow’s hay.

Mary didn’t 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 didn’t know whether to call him Junior or Father. But in the end called him Jesus, since that’s what the angel said and since he didn’t 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 don’t you think their heads tilted and their minds wondered, “What in the world are you doing, God?” Or, better phrased, “God, what are you doing in the world?”

“Can anything make me stop loving you?” God asks. “Watch 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; that’s God walking to school. Ponder the toddler at Mary’s table; that’s God spilling his milk.

“You wonder how long my love will last? Find your answer on a splintered cross, on a craggy hill. That’s me you see up there, your maker, your God, nail-stabbed and bleeding. Covered in spit and sin-soaked. That’s your sin I’m feeling. That’s your death I’m dying. That’s your resurrection I’m living. That’s how much I love you.”

From In the Grip of Grace

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Because He Chooses To - UpWords - June 28

by Max Lucado

Love. We’ve 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. I’ve 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: “The LORD chose your ancestors as the objects of his love” (Deuteronomy 10:15).

This passage warms our hearts. But it shook the Hebrews’ world. They heard this: “The Lord binds [hasaq] himself to his people.” Hasaq speaks of a tethered love, a love attached to something or someone. I’m 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, “Yes, he is as wild as a banshee. But he’s mine.”

In this case, God chained himself to Israel. Because the people were lovable? No. “GOD wasn’t attracted to you and didn’t choose you because you were big and important—the fact is, there was almost nothing to you. He did it out of sheer love, keeping the promise he made to your ancestors” (Deut. 7:7–8 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 Greek—the 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 languages—including 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

“This is what real love is: it is not our love for God; it is God’s love for us. He sent his Son to die in our place to take away our sins” (1 John 4:10).

When it comes to love, be careful. Take a good look around. Don’t 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. “God has given us the Holy Spirit, who fill our hearts with his love” (Romans 5:5).

Be grateful for those who’ve encouraged you to do what is right and applauded when you did. And isn’t it good to know that even when we don’t love with a perfect love, he does? God always nourishes what is right. He 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 God’s love? Will standing beneath the downpour of his grace change the way we feel about others?

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

“Whatever 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.”

Thinking conveys the idea of pondering, studying, and focusing… 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!

A Love Worth Giving

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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.

She’d slipped out unnoticed. The search began immediately. Within an hour we knew that she was far, far from home. Now, if you don’t like pets, what I’m about to say is going to sound strange. If you do like pets, you will understand.

You’ll understand why we walked up and down the street, calling her name. You’ll understand why I drove around the neighborhood at 10:30 P.M. You’ll understand why I put up a poster in the convenience store and convened the family for a prayer. (Honestly, I did.) You’ll understand why I sent e-mails to the staff, asking for prayers, and to her breeder, asking for advice. And you’ll 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 moms’ 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. That’s something else you have in common with Molly—a 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, “Welcome home.” And with scarred hand he’ll wipe every tear from your eye. And you will dwell in the house of your Lord—forever.

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 didn’t notice, but my mom sure did. Dad constructed it, board by board, every day after work. My youth didn’t 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 “spiritual house” (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. “If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ” (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. “I was made to do this,” you say.
Heed that inner music. No one else hears it the way you do.

What about you? Our Maker gives assignments to people, “to each according to each one’s unique ability” (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. “The Spirit has given each of us a special way of serving others” (1 Cor. 12:7 CEV). So much for the excuse “I don’t have anything to offer.” Did the apostle Paul say, “The Spirit has given some of us …”? Or, “The Spirit has given a few of us …”? No. “The Spirit has given each of us a special way of serving others.” Enough of this self-deprecating “I can’t do anything.”

And enough of its arrogant opposite: “I have to do everything.” No, you don’t! You’re not God’s solution to society, but a solution in society. Imitate Paul, who said, “Our goal is to stay within the boundaries of God’s plan for us” (2 Cor. 10:13 NLT). Clarify your contribution.

Don’t worry about skills you don’t have. Don’t covet strengths others do have. Just extract your uniqueness. “Kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you” (2 Tim. 1:6 NASB).

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

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Nevertheless… - UpWords - June 20

by Max Lucado

And the king and his men… spoke to David, saying, “You shall not come in here; but the blind and the lame will repel you,” …Nevertheless 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. Let’s not. Pull out a pen and underline this twelve-letter masterpiece.

Nevertheless.

“Nevertheless David took the stronghold…”

Wouldn’t 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.

Didn’t 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 Paul’s words? “We use God’s mighty weapons, not mere worldly weapons, to knock down the Devil’s strongholds” (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 God’s strengths; the other lists your failures. One longs to build you up; the other seeks to tear you down. And here’s 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 …

Nevertheless, Peter preached, Joseph ruled, the woman shared, Jesus rose — 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 God’s idea. It’s one of the ways he keeps us headed homeward. We can’t 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 don’t purchase tulip girdles or petal wrinkle cream or consult plastic-leaf surgeons. We don’t mourn the passing of the bulb; we celebrate it.

Tulip lovers rejoice the minute the bulb weakens. “Watch that one,” they say. “It’s about to blossom.”

Could it be heaven does the same? The angels point to our bodies. The more frail we become, the more excited they become. “Watch that lady in the hospital,” they say. “She’s about to blossom.” “Keep an eye on the fellow with the bad heart. He’ll be coming home soon.”

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

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

“our lowly body” (NKJV)

“the body of our humble state” (NASB)

“these weak mortal bodies” (NLT)

“our vile body” (KJV)

“our simple bodies” (NCV)

You could add your own adjective, couldn’t 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, that’s 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 “translating” 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, “I am in the Father and the Father is in me” (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 couldn’t, he acted differently than I did.

Just Like Jesus The same was true with Jesus. Because he could hear what others couldn’t, he acted differently than they did. Remember when everyone was troubled about the man born blind? Jesus wasn’t. Somehow he knew that the blindness would reveal God’s power (John 9:3). Remember when everyone was distraught about Lazarus’s illness? Jesus wasn’t. Rather than hurry to his friend’s bedside, he said, “This sickness will not end in death. It is for the glory of God, to bring glory to the son of God” (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 “predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son” (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. “Regard one another as more important than yourselves” (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 that’s what love does! He loves you that much! Drink deeply of God’s love for you—and 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 doesn’t speak. He removes his robe and takes the servant’s 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.

It’s not right.

Isn’t it enough that these hands will be pierced in the morning? Must they scrub grime tonight? And the disciples … 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 Pilate’s 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.

Don’t wash their feet, Jesus. Tell them to wash yours.

That’s what we want to say. Why? Because of the injustice? Because we don’t 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 don’t want to see God washing feet?

Or do we object because we don’t 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, “When he had finished washing their feet …”

Or do we object because we don’t 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, “When he had finished washing their feet …”

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 Judas’s feet would guide the Roman guard to Jesus. But at this moment they are caressed by Christ.

That’s not to say it was easy for Jesus.

That’s not to say it is easy for you.

That is to say that God will never call you to do what he hasn’t already done.

From A Gentle Thunder

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