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3/25/20 4:40 A

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Triumph in Tragedy - UpWords - March 25

by Max Lucado

What do you say we have a chat about graveclothes? Sound like fun? Sound like a cheery topic? Hardly. Make a list of depressing subjects, and burial garments is somewhere between IRS audits and long-term dental care.

No one likes graveclothes. No one discusses graveclothes. Have you ever spiced up dinner-table chat with the question, “What are you planning to wear in your casket?”

Most folks don’t discuss graveclothes.

The apostle John, however, was an exception. Ask him, and he’ll tell you how he came to see burial garments as a symbol of triumph. He didn’t always see them that way.

A tangible reminder of the death of his best friend, Jesus, they used to seem like a symbol of tragedy. But on the first Easter Sunday, God took clothing of death and made it a symbol of life.

Could he do the same for you?

Could he take what today is a token of tragedy and turn it into a symbol of triumph?

We all face tragedy. What’s more, we’ve all received the symbols of tragedy. Yours might be a telegram from the war department, an ID bracelet from the hospital, a scar, or a court subpoena.

We don’t like these symbols, nor do we want these symbols. Like wrecked cars in a junkyard, they clutter up our hearts with memories of bad days.

But could God use such things for something good? How far can we go with verses like Romans 8:28 that says, “In everything God works for the good of those who love him”?

Does “everything” include tumors and tests and tempers and terminations?

John would answer yes.

John would tell you that God can turn any tragedy into a triumph, if only you will wait and watch.

Could I challenge you with a little exercise? Remove the word everything from Romans 8:28 and replace it with the symbol of your own tragedy. For the apostle John, the verse would read:

“In burial clothing God works for the good of those who love him.” How would Romans 8:28 read in your life?

In hospital stays God works for the good.

In divorce papers God works for the good.

In a prison term God works for the good.

If God can change John’s life through a tragedy, could it be he will use a tragedy to change yours?

From He Chose the Nails

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3/23/20 2:00 P

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A Crazy Hunch and a High Hope - UpWords - March 23

by Max Lucado

We don’t know her name, but we know her situation. According to the 5th chapter of Mark, she “had been bleeding for twelve years. She suffered very much from many doctors and had spent all the money she had; but instead of improving she was getting worse.” She was physically exhausted and socially ostracized.

She extended her arm through the crowd thinking, If only I can touch him. When her dilemma met His dedication, a miracle occurred. With that small, courageous gesture, she experienced Jesus’ tender power.

God’s help is near and always available, but it is only given to those who seek it. Do something that demonstrates faith—radical, risk-taking faith. God will respond. He has never rejected a genuine gesture of faith. Never.

From He Still Moves Stones

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3/22/20 11:29 A

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God in a Real World - UpWords - March 22

by Max Lucado

God calls us in a real world. He doesn’t communicate by performing tricks. He’s not a genie, a magician, a good luck charm, or the man upstairs. He is the Creator of the universe who is right here in the thick of our day-to-day world.

And God speaks in our world. We just have to learn to hear him. Listen for him amidst the ordinary. Do you need affirmation of his care? Let the daily sunrise proclaim his loyalty. Could you use an example of his power? Spend an evening reading how your body works. Are you wondering if his Word is reliable? Make a list of the fulfilled prophecies in the Bible and promises in your life.

Don’t they say only two things in life are certain: death and taxes? Knowing God, he may speak through something as common as the second to give you the answer for the first!

From And the Angels Were Silent

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3/22/20 2:50 A

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Simplify Your Faith - UpWords - March 21

by Max Lucado

How do you simplify your faith? How do you get rid of the clutter? How do you discover a joy worth waking up to? Simple. Get rid of the middleman. There are some who suggest the only way to God is through them. There’s the great teacher who has the final word on Bible teaching. There’s the father who must bless your acts. There’s the spiritual master who’ll tell you what God wants you to do.

Jesus’ message for complicated religion is to remove these middlemen. He’s not saying you don’t need teachers, elders, or counselors. He is saying, however, that we are all brothers and sisters with equal access to the Father. Seek God for yourself. No elaborate channels of command or levels of access.

You have a Bible? You can study. You have a heart? You can pray. You have a mind? You can think!

From And the Angels Were Silent

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3/21/20 2:11 A

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Succeed at Home First, UpWords, March 20

by Max Lucado

Quiet heroes dot the landscape of our society. They don’t make the headlines, but they do sew the hemlines and check the outlines and stand on the sidelines. You won’t find their names on the Nobel Prize short list, but you’ll find their names on the carpool, and Bible teacher lists.

They are parents! Heroes! Their kids call them mom. Dad. And these moms and dads, more valuable than all the executives and lawmakers, quietly hold the world together.

Be numbered among them. Read books to your kids. Play ball while you can and they want you to. Make it your aim to watch every game they play, read every story they write, hear every recital in which they perform.

Children spell love with four letters: T-I-M-E. Not just quality time, but hang time, downtime, anytime, all the time! Cherish the children who share your name. Succeed at home first!

From Dad Time

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3/18/20 3:46 A

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Jesus Takes Away the Sin - UpWords - March 18

by Max Lucado

Some people feel so saved they never serve. Some serve at the hope of being saved. Does one of these sentences describe you?

Do you feel so saved that you never serve? So content in what God has done that you do nothing? The fact is, we’re here to glorify God in our service.

Or is your tendency the opposite? Perhaps you always serve for fear of not being saved.

You’re worried there is a secret card that exists with your score written on it; and your score is not enough. Is that you? If so, know this: The blood of Jesus is enough to save you. John 1:29 announces that Jesus is “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”

The blood of Christ doesn’t cover your sins, conceal your sins, postpone or diminish your sins. It takes away your sins, once and for all! So…since you are saved, you can serve!

From He Chose the Nails

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3/16/20 2:27 P

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Why Did He Do It? - UpWords - March 16

by Max Lucado

Why did Jesus live on the earth as long as He did? To take on our sins is one thing; to experience death, yes, but to put up with long roads and long days? Why did He do it?

Because He wants you to trust Him. Even His final act on earth was intended to win your trust.

Mark 15:22.says, “They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha where they offered Him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it.

And they crucified Him.” Why? Why did He endure all this suffering—all these feelings?

Because He knew you’d be weary, disturbed, and angry. He knew you’d be grief-stricken, and hungry, that you’d face pain.

A pauper knows better than to beg from another pauper. He knows he needs someone who’s stronger than he is. Jesus’ message from the Cross is this: I am that Person. Trust Me.

From He Chose the Nails

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3/15/20 5:17 A

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God Wants Your List - UpWords - March 15

by Max Lucado

God not only wants the mistakes we have made—He wants the ones we are making. Are you drinking too much? Are you cheating at work or cheating at marriage? Mismanaging your life?

Don’t pretend nothing’s wrong. The first step after a stumble must be in the direction of the cross.

1 John 1:9 promises, “If we confess our sins to God, He can always be trusted to forgive us and take our sins away.”

Start with your bad moments. And while you’re there, give God your “mad” moments. There’s a story about a man bitten by a dog. When he learned the dog had rabies, he began a list. The doctor said, “there’s no need to make a will—you’ll be fine.” “Oh I’m not making a will,” he said,

“I’m making a list of all the people I want to bite!” God wants your list! He wants you to leave it at the cross.

From He Chose the Nails

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3/13/20 5:41 A

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Eyewitnesses of His Majesty - UpWords - March 13

by Max Lucado

Christianity, in its purest form, is nothing more than seeing Jesus.

Christian service, in its purest form, is nothing more than imitating Him who we see.

To see His Majesty and to imitate Him,that is the sum of Christianity.

FOR FIFTY-ONE YEARS BOB EDENS WAS BLIND. He couldn't see a thing. His world was a black hall of sounds and smells. He felt his way through five decades of darkness.
And then, he could see.

A skilled surgeon performed a complicated operation and, for the first time, Bob Edens had sight. He found it overwhelming. "I never would have dreamed that yellow is so yellow," he exclaimed. "I don't have the words. I am amazed by yellow. But red is my favorite color. I just can't believe red.

"I can see the shape of the moon and I like nothing better than seeing a jet plane flying across the sky leaving a vapor trail. And of course, sunrises and sunsets. And at night I look at the stars in the sky and the flashing light. You could never know how wonderful everything is."

He's right. Those of us who have lived a lifetime with vision can't know how wonderful it must be to be given sight.

But Bob Edens isn't the only one who has spent a lifetime near something without seeing it.

Few are the people who don't suffer from some form of blindness. Amazing, isn't it? We can live next to something for a lifetime, but unless we take time to focus on it, it doesn't become a part of our life. Unless we somehow have our blindness lifted, our world is but a black cave.

Think about it. Just because one has witnessed a thousand rainbows doesn't mean he's seen the grandeur of one. One can live near a garden and fail to focus on the splendor of the flower.

A man can spend a lifetime with a woman and never pause to look into her soul.
And a person can be all that goodness calls him to be and still never see the Author of life.

Being honest or moral or even religious doesn't necessarily mean we will see him. No. We may see what others see in him. Or we may hear what some say he said. But until we see him for ourselves, until our own sight is given, we may think we see him, having in reality seen only a hazy form in the gray semidarkness.

Have you seen him?

Have you caught a glimpse of His Majesty? A word is placed in a receptive crevice of your heart that causes you, ever so briefly, to see his face. You hear a verse read in a tone you'd never heard, or explained in a way you'd never thought and one more piece of the puzzle falls into place. Someone touches your painful spirit as only one sent from him could do and there he is.

Jesus.

The man. The bronzed Galilean who spoke with such thunderous authority and loved with such childlike humility.

The God. The one who claimed to be older than time and greater than death.
Gone is the pomp of religion; dissipated is the fog of theology. Momentarily lifted is the opaque curtain of controversy and opinion. Erased are our own blinding errors and egotism. And there he stands.

Jesus.

Have you seen him?

Those who first did were never the same.

"My Lord and my God!" cried Thomas.

"I have seen the Lord," exclaimed Mary Magdalene.

"We have seen his glory," declared John.

"Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked?" rejoiced the two Emmaus-bound disciples.

But Peter said it best. "We were eyewitnesses of his majesty."

His Majesty. The emperor of Judah. The soaring eagle of eternity. The noble admiral of the Kingdom. All the splendor of heaven revealed in a human body.

For a period ever so brief, the doors to the throne room were open and God came near. His Majesty was seen. Heaven touched the earth and, as a result, earth can know heaven. In astounding tandem a human body housed divinity. Holiness and earthliness intertwined.

Has it been a while since you have seen him? If your prayers seem stale, it probably has. If your faith seems to be trembling, perhaps your vision of him has blurred. If you can't find power to face your problems, perhaps it is time to face him.

One warning. Something happens to a person who has witnessed His Majesty.

He becomes addicted. One glimpse of the King and you are consumed by a desire to see more of him and say more about him.

Pew-warming is no longer an option. Junk religion will no longer suffice. Sensation-seeking is needless. Once you have seen his face you will forever long to see it again.

My prayer for this book without apologies is that the Divine Surgeon will use it as a delicate surgical tool to restore sight. That blurriness will be focused and darkness dispersed. And, that we will whisper the secret of the universe, "We were eyewitnesses of his majesty."

From God Came Near: Deluxe Edition

Edited by: JUDITH316 at: 3/13/2020 (14:01)
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3/12/20 3:06 A

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Thought Prevention, Upwords, March 12, 2020

By Max Lucado

We are not a victim of our thoughts. We have a vote. We have a voice. We can exercise thought prevention!

“Don’t talk to me,” we say. “I’m in a bad mood.” As if a mood were a place to which we were assigned, rather than an emotion we permit. Or we say, “Don’t mess with her. She has a bad disposition.” Is a bad disposition something we have like a cold or the flu? Or do we have a choice? Paul says we do. In 2 Corinthians 10:5 he says, “We capture every thought and make it give up and obey Christ.”

Capture every thought—you get the impression we’re the soldiers and the thoughts are our enemies. The minute they appear we go into action. Selfishness, step back! Envy, get lost! Find another home, Anger…you aren’t allowed on this turf!

Capturing thoughts is serious business! But, you can do it!

From Max on Life

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3/10/20 6:12 A

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Hidden Heroes - UpWords - March 10

By Max Lucado

A revival can begin with one sermon. History proves it. John Egglen had never preached a sermon in his life. Never.

Wasn’t that he didn’t want to, just never needed to. But then one morning he did. The snow left his town of Colchester, England, buried in white. When he awoke on that January Sunday in 1850, he thought of staying home. Who would go to church in such weather?

But he reconsidered. He was, after all, a deacon. And if the deacons didn’t go, who would? So he put on his boots, hat, and coat and walked the six miles to the Methodist Church.

He wasn’t the only member who considered staying home. In fact, he was one of the few who came. Twelve members and one visitor. Even the minister was snowed in. Someone suggested they go home. Egglen would hear none of that. They’d come this far; they would have a service. Besides, they had a visitor. A thirteen-year-old boy.

But who would preach? Egglen was the only deacon. It fell to him.

And so he did. His sermon lasted only ten minutes. It drifted and wandered and made no point in an effort to make several. But at the end, an uncharacteristic courage settled upon the man. He lifted his eyes and looked straight at the boy and challenged: “Young man, look to Jesus.

Look! Look! Look!”

Did the challenge make a difference? Let the boy, now a man, answer. “I did look, and then and there the cloud on my heart lifted, the darkness rolled away, and at that moment I saw the sun.”

The boy’s name? Charles Haddon Spurgeon. England’s prince of preachers.

Did Egglen know what he’d done? No. Do heroes know when they are heroic? Rarely. Are historic moments acknowledged when they happen?

You know the answer to that one. (If not, a visit to the manger will remind you.) We seldom see history in the making, and we seldom recognize heroes.

But we’d do well to keep our eyes open. Tomorrow’s Spurgeon might be mowing your lawn.

And the hero who inspires him might be nearer than you think.
He might be in your mirror.

From When God Whispers Your Name

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3/7/20 7:10 A

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The Beginning of Joy - UpWords - March 7

by Max Lucado

In Matthew 11:28 Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and I will give you rest.”

You’ve been there. You’re turned your back on the noise and sought his voice. You’ve stepped away from the masses and followed the Master as he led you up the winding path to the summit.

His summit. Clean air. Clear view. Crisp breeze. The roar of the marketplace is down there, and the perspective of the peak is up here. Gently he invited you to sit on the rock and look out with him at the ancient peaks that will never erode.

Just remember, he says, you’ll go nowhere tomorrow that I haven’t already been. Truth will still triumph. Death will still die. The victory is still yours. And delight is one decision away—seize it!

Joy begins by breathing deep up there before you go crazy down here!

From The Applause of Heaven

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3/6/20 5:05 A

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No Child Ever Leaves God's Sight - UpWords - March 6

By Max Lucado

We taught our kids the Bible, but they have left God. What happened? We thought if we trained them in God’s Word, they would not depart from him. Isn’t that what the Bible says?

Train up a child in the way he should go,
And when he is old he will not depart from it. (Prov. 22:6 NKJV)

Be careful with this verse. Don’t interpret it to mean “If I put my kids on the right path, they’ll never leave it. If I fill them full of Scripture and Bible lessons and sermons, they may rebel, but they’ll eventually return.”

The proverb makes no such promise. Salvation is a work of God. Godly parents can prepare the soil and sow the seed, but God gives the growth (1 Cor. 3:6).

Moms and dads soften hearts but can’t control them.

Show them the path? Yes.

Force them to take it? No.

At moments in my own life I stood at the crossroads of the path and even took a few steps down the wrong one. One thing always brought me back—that inner compass shown to me by my Christ-loving parents.

No child ever leaves God’s sight. A child may turn his back on God or try to hide from his sight. But leave God’s view? Impossible. God has his eye on every child of his.

The Holy Spirit will follow your child down every back road, every dark alley, every dead end and always remind him of the foundation of belief you showed him—the road back home.

My wife shares this verse with the parents of prodigals. It is a good one for you:

“The Lord says, ‘This is my agreement with these people:

My Spirit and my words that I give you will never leave you or your children or your grandchildren, now and forever’” (Is. 59:21 NCV).

From Max on Life: Answers and Insights to Your Most Important Questions

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The Mark of a Disciple - UpWords - March 5

By Max Lucado

The mark of a disciple is his or her ability to hear the Master’s voice! The world rams at your door, but Jesus taps. Voices scream for your allegiance, but Jesus softly and tenderly requests it. Which voice do you hear? There is never a time during which Jesus is not speaking. Never.

There is never a place in which Jesus is not present. Ever. There is never a time when He is not tapping gently on the doors of our hearts—waiting to be invited in.

Few hear His voice. Fewer still open the door. But never interpret our numbness as His absence. For amidst the fleeting promises of pleasure is the timeless promise of His presence.

“Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

There is no chorus so loud that the voice of God cannot be heard. . .if we will but listen!

From In the Eye of the Storm

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Relying On God's Power - UpWords - March 3

By Max Lucado

For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

Our Lord's prayer has given us a blueprint for the Great House of God. From the living room of our Father to the family room with our friends, we are learning why David longed to "live in the house of the LORD forever" (Ps. 23:6).

In God's house we have everything we need: a solid foundation, an abundant table, sturdy walls, and an impenetrable roof of grace.

And now, having seen every room and explored each corner, we have one final stop. Not to a new room, but to one we have visited earlier. We return to the chapel. We return to the room of worship.

The chapel, remember, is where we stand before God and confess, "Hallowed be thy name."

The chapel is the only room in the house of God we visit twice. It's not hard to see why. It does us twice as much good to think about God as it does to think about anyone or anything else.

God wants us to begin and end our prayers thinking of him. Jesus is urging us to look at the peak more than we look at the trail. The more we focus up there, the more inspired we are down here.

Some years ago a sociologist accompanied a group of mountain climbers on an expedition. Among other things, he observed a distinct correlation between cloud cover and contentment.

When there was no cloud cover and the peak was in view, the climbers were energetic and cooperative. When the gray clouds eclipsed the view of the mountaintop, though, the climbers were sullen and selfish.

The same thing happens to us. As long as our eyes are on his majesty there is a bounce in our step. But let our eyes focus on the dirt beneath us and we will grumble about every rock and crevice we have to cross.

For this reason Paul urged, "Don't shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to the things going on around Christ—that's where the action is. See things from his perspective" (Col 3:1-2 MSG).

Paul challenges you to "be alert to the things going on around Christ." The Psalmist reminds you to do the same, only he uses a different phrase. "O magnify the LORD with me and let us exalt his name together" (Ps. 34:3).

Magnify. What a wonderful verb to describe what we do in the chapel. When you magnify an object, you enlarge it so that you can understand it. When we magnify God, we do the same.

We enlarge our awareness of him so we can understand him more. This is exactly what happens in the chapel of worship—we take our mind off ourselves and set it on God. The emphasis is on him. "Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever."

And this is exactly the purpose of this final phrase in the Lord's prayer. These words magnify the character of God.

I love the way this phrase is translated in The Message:

You're in charge!

You can do anything you want!

You're ablaze in beauty!

Yes! Yes! Yes!

From The Great House of God

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When We Love Them, We Love Him - UpWords - March 1

By Max Lucado

Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me. Matthew 25:40 (MSG)

There are many reasons to help people in need.

"Benevolence is good for the world."

"We all float on the same ocean. When the tide rises, it benefits everyone."

"To deliver someone from poverty is to unleash that person's potential as a researcher, educator, or doctor."

"As we reduce poverty and disease, we reduce war and atrocities. Healthy, happy people don't hurt each other."

Compassion has a dozen advocates.

But for the Christian, none is higher than this: when we love those in need, we are loving Jesus. It is a mystery beyond science, a truth beyond statistics. But it is a message that Jesus made crystal clear: when we love them, we love him.

This is the theme of his final sermon. The message he saved until last. He must want this point imprinted on our conscience. He depicted the final judgment scene. The last day, the great Day of Judgment.

On that day Jesus will issue an irresistible command. All will come. From sunken ships and forgotten cemeteries, they will come. From royal tombs and grassy battlefields, they will come.

From Abel, the first to die, to the person being buried at the moment Jesus calls, every human in history will be present.

All the angels will be present. The whole heavenly universe will witness the event. A staggering denouement. Jesus at some point will "separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats" (Matt. 25:32).

Shepherds do this. They walk among the flock and, one by one, with the use of a staff direct goats in one direction and sheep in the other. Graphic, this thought of the Good Shepherd stepping through the flock of humanity. You. Me. Our parents and kids. "Max, go this way." "Ronaldo, over there." "Maria, this side."

How can one envision this moment without the sudden appearance of this urgent question:

What determines his choice? How does Jesus separate the people?

Jesus gives the answer. Those on the right, the sheep, will be those who fed him when he was hungry, brought him water when he was thirsty, gave him lodging when he was lonely, clothing when he was naked, and comfort when he was sick or imprisoned. The sign of the saved is their concern for those in need. Compassion does not save them—or us. Salvation is the work of Christ. Compassion is the consequence of salvation.

The sheep will react with a sincere question: when? When did we feed, visit, clothe, or comfort you (vv. 34-39)?

Jesus will recount, one by one, all the acts of kindness. Every deed done to improve the lot of another person. Even the small ones. In fact, they all seem small. Giving water. Offering food.

Sharing clothing. The works of mercy are simple deeds. And yet, in these simple deeds we serve Jesus. Astounding this truth: we serve Christ by serving needy people.

Some of them live in your neighborhood; others live in jungles you can't find and have names you can't pronounce. Some of them play in cardboard slums or sell sex on a busy street. Some of them walk three hours for water or wait all day for a shot of penicillin. Some of them brought their woes on themselves, and others inherited the mess from their parents.

None of us can help everyone. But all of us can help someone. And when we help them, we serve Jesus. Who would want to miss a chance to do that?

Then the King will say to those on his right, "Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me." (Matthew 25:34-36 NLT)

O Lord, where did I see you yesterday... and didn't recognize you? Where will I encounter you today... and fail to identify you properly? O my Father, give me eyes to see, a heart to respond, and hands and feet to serve you wherever you encounter me! Transform me, Lord, by your Spirit into a servant of Christ, who delights to meet the needs of those around me.

Make me a billboard of your grace, a living advertisement for the riches of your compassion. I long to hear you say to me one day, "Well done, good and faithful servant." And I pray that today I would be that faithful servant who does well at doing good. In Jesus' name I pray, amen.

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

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You Are Included - UpWords - February 29,2020

By Max Lucado

It’s nice to be included. You aren’t always. Universities exclude you if you aren’t smart enough. Businesses exclude you if you aren’t qualified enough, and sadly, some churches exclude you if you aren’t good enough.

But though they may exclude you, Christ includes you. When asked to describe the width of His love, He stretched one hand to the right and the other hand to the left and had them nailed in that position so you would know He died loving you.

Surely there has to be a limit to this love. You’d think so, wouldn’t you? But David, the adulterer, never found it. Paul, the murderer, never found it. Peter, the liar, never found it. When it came to life they hit bottom. But when it came to God’s love they never did.

How wide is God’s love? Wide enough for the whole world. And you are included!

From He Chose the Nails

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He Wants to Comfort You - UpWords - February 25, 2020

by Max Lucado

My child’s feelings are hurt. I tell her she’s special. My child is injured. I do whatever it takes to make her feel better.

My child is afraid. I won’t go to sleep until she is secure.
I’m not a hero. I’m not a superstar. I’m not unusual. I’m a parent. When a child hurts, a parent does what comes naturally. He helps.

And after I help, I don’t charge a fee. I don’t ask for a favor in return. When my child cries, I don’t tell her to buck up, act tough, and keep a stiff upper lip. Nor do I consult a list and ask her why she is still scraping the same elbow or waking me up again.

I’m not a prophet, nor the son of one, but something tells me that in the whole scheme of things the tender moments described above are infinitely more valuable than anything I do in front of a computer screen or congregation. Something tells me that the moments of comfort I give my child are a small price to pay for the joy of someday seeing my daughter do for her daughter what her dad did for her.

Moments of comfort from a parent. As a father, I can tell you they are the sweetest moments in my day. They come naturally. They come willingly. They come joyfully.

If all of that is true, if I know that one of the privileges of fatherhood is to comfort a child, then why am I so reluctant to let my heavenly Father comfort me?

Why do I think he wouldn’t want to hear about my problems? (“They are puny compared to people starving in India.”)

Why do I think he is too busy for me? (“He’s got a whole universe to worry about.”)

Why do I think he’s tired of hearing the same old stuff?

Why do I think he groans when he sees me coming?

Why do I think he consults his list when I ask for forgiveness and asks, “Don’t you think you’re going to the well a few too many times on this one?”

Why do I think I have to speak a holy language around him that I don’t speak with anyone else?

Why do I not take him seriously when he questions, “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:11)

Why don’t I let my Father do for me what I am more than willing to do for my own children?

I’m learning, though. Being a parent is better than a course on theology. Being a father is teaching me that when I am criticized, injured, or afraid, there is a Father who is ready to comfort me. There is a Father who will hold me until I’m better, help me until I can live with the hurt, and who won’t go to sleep when I’m afraid of waking up and seeing the dark.

Ever. And that’s enough.

From The Applause of Heaven

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Problems Have a Purpose - UpWords - February 24

By Max Lucado

Trust me in your times of trouble, and I will rescue you, and you will give me glory.
Psalm 50:15 NLT

God will use whatever he wants to display his glory. Heavens and stars. History and nations.

People and problems. My dying dad in West Texas.

The last three years of his life were scarred by ALS. The disease took him from a healthy mechanic to a bedbound paralytic. He lost his voice and his muscles, but he never lost his faith. Visitors noticed. Not so much in what he said but more in what he didn’t say. Never outwardly angry or bitter, Jack Lucado suffered stately.

His faith led one man to seek a like faith. After the funeral this man sought me out and told me.

Because of my dad’s example, he became a Jesus follower.

Did God orchestrate my father’s illness for that very reason? Knowing the value he places on one soul, I wouldn’t be surprised. And imagining the splendor of heaven, I know my father’s not complaining.

A season of suffering is a small assignment when compared to the reward.

Rather than begrudge your problem, explore it. Ponder it. And most of all, use it. Use it to the glory of God. . . .

Your pain has a purpose. Your problems, struggles, heartaches, and hassles cooperate toward one end—the glory of God. —from It’s Not About Me

Heavenly Father, when problems and pain come my way, help me to remember that nothing comes into my life without your approval. Rather than complain and cry about the challenges I face, help me consider them as opportunities to bring glory to you. Give me the strength and patience to bear my burdens in a way that will honor you. I will lift my eyes off the trials and keep them fixed firmly on you, amen.

Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us. Daniel 3:17

Not a word failed of any good thing which the Lord had spoken to the house of Israel. All came to pass. Joshua 21:45

Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all. Psalm 34:19

From Lived Loved: Experiencing God’s Presence in Every Day Life

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God's Loving Pursuit - UpWords - February 23

God's Loving Pursuit

by Max Lucado

"Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life." ~~ Psalm 23:6

Dare we envision a God who follows us? Who pursues us? Who chases us? Who tracks us down and wins us over? Who follows us with "goodness and mercy" all the days of our lives?
Isn't this the kind of God described in the Bible? A God who follows us?

Moses can tell you about it. He was forty years in the desert when he looked over his shoulder and saw a bush blazing. God had followed him into the wilderness.

Jonah can tell you about it. He was a fugitive on a boat when he looked over his shoulder and saw clouds brewing. God had followed him onto the ocean.

The disciples of Jesus knew the feeling of being followed by God. They were rain soaked and shivering when they looked over their shoulders and saw Jesus walking toward them. God had followed them into the storm.

John the Apostle was banished on Patmos when he looked over his shoulder and saw the skies begin to open. God had followed him into his exile.

Lazarus was three days dead in a sealed tomb when he heard a voice, lifted his head, and looked over his shoulder and saw Jesus standing. God had followed him into death.

Peter had denied his Lord and gone back to fishing when he heard his name and looked over his shoulder and saw Jesus cooking breakfast. God had followed him in spite of his failure.

God is the God who follows. I wonder... have you sensed him following you? We often miss him.

Through the kindness of a stranger. The majesty of a sunset. The mystery of romance.

Through the question of a child or the commitment of a spouse. Through a word well spoken or a touch well timed, have you sensed his presence?

His goodness and mercy will follow us all the days of our lives.

From "Traveling Light: Releasing the Burdens You Were Never Intended
to Bear"


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Pasture of the Soul - Upwords - February 21

by Max Lucado

When God gave the Ten Commandments and it came to Sabbath rest, His message was clear: If creation didn’t crash when I rested, it won’t crash when you do! You know we need to rest. For a field to bear fruit, it must occasionally lie fallow. And for you to be healthy, you must rest. When David says in the 23rdPsalm, “He makes me to lie down in green pastures,” he’s saying, “My shepherd makes me lie down in his finished work.”

With His own pierced hands, Jesus created a pasture for the soul. He pried loose the huge boulders of sin. In their place He planted seeds of grace and dug ponds of mercy. Can you imagine the satisfaction in the heart of the shepherd when the work is completed and he sees his sheep rest in the tender grass? Can you imagine the satisfaction in the heart of God when we do the same?

From Traveling Light

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A Hope-Filled Heart - UpWords - February 15

by Max Lucado

You and I live in a trashy world. Unwanted garbage comes our way on a regular basis. Haven’t you been handed a trash sack of mishaps and heartaches? Sure you have. May I ask, what are you going to do with it? You could hide it. Pretend it isn’t there. But sooner or later it will start to stink. So what will you do?

If you follow the example of Christ, you’ll learn to see tough times differently. God wants you to have a hope-filled heart. . .just like Jesus. Wouldn’t you want that? Jesus saw his Father’s presence in the problem. Sure, Max, but Jesus was God. I can’t see the way he saw. Not yet, maybe. But don’t underestimate God’s power. He can change the way you look at life.

From The Lucado Inspirational Reader

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Let's Major in God, UpWords, February 14

by Max Lucado

David just showed up this morning. He clocked out of sheep watching to deliver bread and cheese to his brothers on the battle-front. That’s where David hears Goliath defying God...

Read the words he spoke, not just in the battle, but in the Bible: “David asked the men standing near him, ‘What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and removes this disgrace from Israel? Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?’” (1 Sam. 17:26 niv).

David shows up discussing God. The soldiers mentioned nothing about him, the brothers never spoke his name, but David takes one step onto the stage and raises the subject of the living God...

No one else discusses God. David discusses no one else but God...

David sees what others don’t and refuses to see what others do. All eyes, except David’s, fall on the brutal, hate-breathing hulk... The people know his taunts, demands, size, and strut.

They have majored in Goliath.

David majors in God. He sees the giant, mind you; he just sees God more so. Look carefully at

David’s battle cry: “You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel” (1 Sam. 17:45).

— originally printed in Facing Your Giants

Lord God, train us to walk on your path. Teach us to see you in situations that are dangerous and difficult. Like David, when we are surrounded by overwhelming challenges may our thoughts and words turn first to you. Rather than discuss the problem, remind us to discuss you. May our first thought in the morning and our last thought at night be centered on you.

Rather than worry about the impossibilities, let us major in your mighty power. When we am tempted to look at the giants in our lives, we will choose to look at you, amen.

Let the God of my salvation be exalted!
Psalm 18:46

We walk by faith, not by sight.
2 Corinthians 5:7

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Find Your True Home- UpWords- February 12, 2020

by Max Lucado

The journey home is nice, but the journey is not the goal. I prepared part of this message on an airplane. As I looked around at fellow passengers, I saw content people. Thanks to books, pillows, and crossword puzzles, they passed the time quite nicely. But suppose this announcement were heard:

“Ladies and gentlemen, this flight is your final destination. We will never land. Your home is this plane, so enjoy the journey.”

Passengers would become mutineers. We’d take over the cockpit and seek a landing strip. We wouldn’t settle for such an idea. The journey is not the destination. The vessel is not the goal. Those who are content with nothing more than joy in the journey are settling for too little satisfaction. Our hearts tell us there is more to this life than this life. We, like E.T., lift bent fingers to the sky. We may not know where to point, but we know not to call this airplane our home.

In God’s narrative, life on earth is but the beginning: the first letter of the first sentence in the first chapter of the great story God is writing with your life.

Do you feel as if your best years have passed you by? Hogwash. You will do your best work in heaven.

Do you regret wasting seasons of life on foolish pursuits? So do I. But we can stop our laments. We have an eternity to make up for lost time. Are you puzzled by the challenges of your days? Then see yourself as an uncut jewel and God as a lapidary. He is polishing you for your place in his kingdom.

Your biggest moments lie ahead, on the other side of the grave.

So “seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God” (Col. 3:1 NKJV). Scripture uses a starchy verb here. Zeteo (“seek”) is to “covet earnestly, strive after, to inquire, desire, even require.”

Seek heaven the way a sailor seeks the coast or a pilot seeks the landing strip or a missile seeks heat. Head for home the way a pigeon wings to the nest or the prodigal strode to his papa. “Think only about” it (3:2 NCV). “Keep your mind” on it (3:2 GWT). “Set your sights on the realities of heaven” (3:1 NLT). “Pursue the things over which Christ presides” (3:1 MSG). Obsess yourself with heaven!

From God’s Story, Your Story

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Do You Trust Him? - UpWords - February 10

by Max Lucado

I know God knows what's best.

I know I don't.

I know he cares.

Such words come easily when the water is calm. But when you're looking at a wrecked car or a suspicious-looking mole, when war breaks out or thieves break in, do you trust him?

Scripture, from Old Testament to New, from prophets to poets to preachers, renders one unanimous chorus: God directs the affairs of humanity. No leaf falls without God's knowledge.

No dolphin gives birth without his permission. No wave crashes on the shore apart from his calculation. God has never been surprised. Not once.

I am the one who creates the light and makes the darkness. I am the one who sends good times and bad times. I, the Lord, am the one who does these things. (Isa. 45:7)

Some find the thought impossible to accept. One dear woman did. After I shared these ideas in a public setting, she asked to speak with me. Husband at her side, she related the story of her horrible childhood. First abused, then abandoned by her father.

Unimaginable and undeserved hurts scar her early memories. Through tear-filled eyes she asked, "Do you mean to tell me God was watching the whole time?"

The question vibrated in the room. I shifted in my chair and answered, "Yes, he was. I don't know why he allowed your abuse, but I do know this. He loves you and hurts with you." She didn't like the answer. But dare we say anything else? Dare we suggest that God dozed off?

Abandoned his post? That heaven sees but can't act? That our Father is kind but not strong, or strong but doesn't care?

I wish she could have spoken to Joseph. His brothers abused him, selling him into slavery. Was God watching?

Yes. And our sovereign God used their rebellious hearts to save a nation from famine and the family of the Messiah from extinction.

As Joseph told them, "God turned into good what you meant for evil" (Gen. 50:20).

Best of all would have been a conversation with Jesus himself. He begged God for a different itinerary: a crossless death. From Gethsemane's garden Christ pleaded for a Plan B. Redemption with no nails.

" ‘Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will, not mine.' Then an angel from heaven appeared and strengthened him" (Luke 22:42-43).

Did God hear the prayer of his Son? Enough to send an angel. Did God spare his Son from death? No.

The glory of God outranked the comfort of Christ. So Christ suffered, and God's grace was displayed and deployed.

Are you called to endure a Gethsemane season? Have you "been granted for Christ's sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake" (Phil. 1:29 NASB)?

If so, then come thirsty and drink deeply from his lordship. He authors all itineraries. He knows what is best. No struggle will come your way apart from his purpose, presence, and permission.

What encouragement this brings! You are never the victim of nature or the prey of fate. Chance is eliminated. You are more than a weather vane whipped about by the winds of fortune.

Would God truly abandon you to the whims of drug-crazed thieves, greedy corporate raiders, or evil leaders? Perish the thought!

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they will not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched,
Nor will the flame burn you.
For I am the Lord your God.
(Isa. 43:2-3 NASB)

We live beneath the protective palm of a sovereign King who superintends every circumstance of our lives and delights in doing us good.
Nothing comes your way that has not first passed through the filter of his love.

Learn well the song of sovereignty: I know God knows what's best.Pray humbly the prayer of trust: "I trust your lordship. I belong to you. Nothing comes to me that hasn't passed through you."

A word of caution: the doctrine of sovereignty challenges us. Study it gradually. Don't share it capriciously. When someone you love faces adversity, don't insensitively declare, "God is in control." A cavalier tone can eclipse the right truth. Be careful.

And be encouraged. God's ways are always right. They may not make sense to us. They may be mysterious, inexplicable, difficult, and even painful. But they are right.

"And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them" (Rom. 8:28).

From Come Thirsty

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Believe in Him - UpWords - February 9

by Max Lucado

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

The phrase “believes in him” doesn’t digest well in our day of self-sufficient spiritual food.

“Believe in yourself ” is the common menu selection of our day. Try harder. Work longer. Dig deeper. Self-reliance is our goal.

And tolerance is our virtue. “In him” smacks of exclusion. Don’t all paths lead to heaven?

Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and humanism?

Salvation comes in many forms, right? Christ walks upriver on this topic. Salvation is found, not in self or in them, but in him.

Some historians clump Christ with Moses, Muhammad, Confucius, and other spiritual leaders.

But Jesus refuses to share the page. He declares, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me” (John 14:6 RSV). He could have scored more points in political correctness had he said, “I know the way,” or “I show the way.” Yet he speaks not of what he does but of who he is: I am the way.

Many recoil at such definitiveness. John 14:6 and Acts 4:12 sound primitive in this era of broadbands and broad minds. The world is shrinking, cultures are blending, borders are bending; this is the day of inclusion. All roads lead to heaven, right? But can they?

The sentence makes good talk-show fodder, but is it accurate? Can all approaches to God be correct? Every path does not lead to God.

Jesus blazed a stand-alone trail void of self-salvation. He cleared a one-of-a-kind passageway uncluttered by human effort. Christ came, not for the strong, but for the weak; not for the righteous, but for the sinner. We enter his way upon confession of our need, not completion of our deeds. He offers a unique-to-him invitation in which he works and we trust, he dies and we live, he invites and we believe.

We believe in him. “The work God wants you to do is this: Believe the One he sent” (John 6:29 NCV).

This union is publicly dramatized in baptism, for to be baptized, as Paul wrote, is to be baptized into Christ. (Gal. 3:27)

Believe in yourself? No. Believe in him.

Believe in them? No. Believe in him.

And those who do, those who believe “in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

From 3:16, The Numbers of Hope

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The Gift of Hope - UpWords - February 7

by Max Lucado

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.

Thank 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 for you.”

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.

What a wonderful God we have—he is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the source of every mercy, and the one who so wonderfully comforts and strengthens us in our hardships and trials.

And why does he do this? So that when others are troubled, needing our sympathy and encouragement, we can pass on to them this same help and comfort God has given us.
(2 Cor. 1:3–4 TLB)

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

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The Cure for Disappointment - UpWords - February 6

by Max Lucado

Don’t ask God to do what you want. Ask God to do what is right.

When God doesn’t do what we want, it’s not easy. Never has been. Never will be. But faith is the conviction that God knows more than we do about this life and he will get us through it.

Disappointment is cured by revamped expectations.

I like that story about the fellow who went to the pet store in search of a singing parakeet. Seems he was a bachelor and his house was too quiet. The store owner had just the bird for him, so the man bought it. The next day the bachelor came home from work to a house full of music. He went to the cage to feed the bird and noticed for the first time that the parakeet had only one leg.

He felt cheated that he’d been sold a one-legged bird, so he called and complained.

“What do you want,” the store owner responded, “a bird who can sing or a bird who can dance?”

Good question for times of disappointment.

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

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God Listens - UpWords - February 2

by Max Lucado

You can talk to God because God listens. Your voice matters in heaven. He takes you very seriously. When you enter his presence, the attendants turn to you to hear your voice. No need to fear that you will be ignored. Even if you stammer or stumble, even if what you have to say impresses no one, it impresses God—and he listens.

He listens to the painful plea of the elderly in the rest home. He listens to the gruff confession of the death-row inmate. When the alcoholic begs for mercy, when the spouse seeks guidance, when the businessman steps off the street into the chapel, God listens.

Intently. Carefully.

The prayers are honored as precious jewels. Purified and empowered, the words rise in a delightful fragrance to our Lord. “The smoke from the incense went up from the angel’s hand to God.” Incredible. Your words do not stop until they reach the very throne of God.

Then, the angel “filled the incense pan with fire from the altar and threw it on the earth” (Rev. 8:5). One call and Heaven’s fleet appears. Your prayer on earth activates God’s power in heaven, and “God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven.”

You are the someone of God’s kingdom. You have access to God’s furnace. Your prayers move God to change the world. You may not understand the mystery of prayer. You don’t need to.

But this much is clear: Actions in heaven begin when someone prays on earth. What an amazing thought!

When you speak, Jesus hears.

And when Jesus hears, thunder falls.

And when thunder falls, the world is changed.

All because someone prayed.

From Lucado Inspirational Reader

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Overtime - UpWords - February 1

by Max Lucado

My job requires lots of overtime, so I can’t attend many of my kids’ school activities. My wife worries about this a lot. Could this have a negative effect on our kids? Or on my relationship with them?

As a father of three girls, I struggled with the same issues. As God blessed my ministry, more and more calls came in from all over the world, wanting me to speak at churches, conferences, and grand openings of supermarkets. It was hard to say no at first. I felt every opportunity was from God.

Finally I realized that every time I said yes to something, I had to say no to something else. It’s called Max’s Yes Law of Inverse Dynamics. Look it up! It says this: with every yes in your schedule, there is an equal and opposite no reaction. When I said yes to another speaking engagement, I said no to another family dinner. When I said yes to another meeting, I said no to my girls’ volleyball game. When I said yes to another book tour, I said no to taking a walk with my wife.

So how do we show people that we love and believe in them? There are many ways to express those feelings—verbal affirmations, love letters, phone calls, even a quick text message saying, “I’m thinking of you.” They’re all good, but there’s one that’s the best.

I talked about it in my book A Love Worth Giving:

Do you believe in your kids? Then show up. Show up at their games. Show up at their plays. Show up at their recitals. It may not be possible to make each one, but it’s sure worth the effort

. . . You want to bring out the best in someone? Then show up.

Now that my girls are all grown up, believe me, I’m glad I made that decision to show up before it was too late. Now (cue “Cat’s in the Cradle” in the background) I miss those Meet the Teacher Nights and seeing their papier-mâché volcano at the science fair and sitting in the stands at the big volleyball meet, even if they were on the bench the whole time.

When it comes to kids and family, it is a lot easier to make money than to make up lost time.

MAX ON LIFE: Answers and Insights to your Most Important Questions

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Peace for Anxious Days - UpWords - January 30

by Max Lucado

When my daughters were single-digit ages—two, five, and seven—I wowed them with a miracle. I told them the story of Moses and the manna and invited them to follow me on a wilderness trek through the house.

“Who knows,” I suggested, “manna may fall from the sky again.”

We dressed in sheets and sandals and did our best Bedouin hike through the bedrooms. The girls, on my instruction, complained to me, Moses, of hunger and demanded I take them back to Egypt, or at least to the kitchen. When we entered the den, I urged them to play up their parts: groan, moan, and beg for food.

“Look up,” I urged. “Manna might fall any minute.”

Two-year-old Sara obliged with no questions, but Jenna and Andrea had their doubts. How can manna fall from a ceiling?

Just like the Hebrews. “How can God feed us in the wilderness?”

Just like you? You look at tomorrow’s demands, next week’s bills, next month’s silent calendar. Your future looks as barren as the Sinai Desert. “How can I face my future?” God tells you what I told my daughters: “Look up.”

When my daughters did, manna fell! Well, not manna, but vanilla wafers dropped from the ceiling and landed on the carpet. Sara squealed with delight and started munching. Jenna and Andrea were old enough to request an explanation.

My answer was simple. I knew the itinerary. I knew we would enter this room. Vanilla wafers fit safely on the topside of the ceiling-fan blades. I had placed them there in advance. When they groaned and moaned, I turned on the switch.

God’s answer to the Hebrews was similar. Did he know their itinerary? Did he know they would grow hungry? Yes and yes. And at the right time, he tilted the manna basket toward earth.

And what about you? God know what you need and where you’ll be. Any chance he has some vanilla wafers on tomorrow’s ceiling fans? Trust him. “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes” (Matthew 6:33-34).

From Every Day Deserves a Chance

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Healing Prayer - UpWords - January 27

by Max Lucado

In my med-school class we discussed the place of prayer in the hospital. As you can imagine, we heard strong opinions on both sides. What are your thoughts? What is the purpose of healing prayer?

We tend toward one of two extremes on this subject: fanaticism or cynicism. Fanatics see the healing of the body as the aim of God and the measure of faith. Cynics consider any connection between prayer and healing as coincidental at best and misleading at worst. A fanatic might seek prayer at the exclusion of medicine; a cynic might seek medicine at the exclusion of prayer.

A healthy balance can be found. The physician is the friend of God. Prayer is the friend of the physician.

The example of Jesus is important.

Great crowds came to Jesus, bringing with them the lame, the blind, the crippled, those who could not speak, and many others. They put them at Jesus’ feet, and he healed them. The crowd was amazed when they saw that people who could not speak before were now able to speak. The crippled were made strong. The lame could walk, and the blind could see. And they praised the God of Israel for this. (Matt. 15:30–31 NCV)

What did the people do with the sick? They put them at Jesus’ feet. This is the purpose of praying for the ill. We place the sick at the feet of the Physician and request his touch. This passage also gives us the result of healing prayer. “They praised the God of Israel for this.” The ultimate aim of healing is not just a healthy body but a greater kingdom.

If God’s aim is to grant perfect health to all his children, he has failed, because no one enjoys perfect health, and everyone dies. But if God’s aim is to expand the boundaries of his kingdom, then he has succeeded. For every time he heals, a thousand sermons are preached.

Speaking of sermons, did you notice what is missing from this text? Preaching. Jesus stayed with these four thousand people for three days and, as far as we know, never preached a sermon. Not one time did he say, “May I have your attention?” But thousands of times he asked, “May I help you?” What compassion he had for them. Can you imagine the line of people? On crutches, wearing blindfolds, carried by friends, cradled by parents.

For seventy-two hours Jesus stared into face after hurting face, and then he said, “I feel sorry for these people” (v. 32 NCV). The inexhaustible compassion of Jesus. Mark it down. Pain on earth causes pain in heaven. And he will stand and receive the ill as long as the ill come in faith to him.

And he will do what is right every time. “God will always give what is right to his people who cry to him night and day, and he will not be slow to answer them” (Luke 18:7 NCV).

Healing prayer begs God to do what is right. My friend Dennis, a chaplain, offers this prayer over patients: “God, would you put on the surgical gloves first?”

I like that.

MAX ON LIFE: Answers and Insights to your Most Important Questions

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What if Things Only Get Worse? - UpWords - January 25

by Max Lucado

Christ tells us that they will. He predicts spiritual bailouts, ecological turmoil, and worldwide persecution. Yet in the midst of it all, he contends bravery is still an option. (Matthew 24:4-14)

Things are going to get bad, really bad, before they get better. And when conditions worsen,
"See to it that you are not alarmed" (Matt. 24:6 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."

"See to it…" Bosses and teachers are known to use that phrase. "See to it that you fill out the reports." Or "Your essay is due tomorrow. See to it that you finish your work." The words call for additional attention, special focus, extra resolve.

Isn't this what Christ is asking of us? In this dangerous day, on this Faberge'-fragile globe, with financial collapse on the news and terrorists on the loose, we have every reason to retreat into bunkers of dread and woe.

But Christ says to us, "See to it that you are not alarmed." (NIV)

"Keep your head and don't panic" (MSG).

"See that you are not troubled" (NKJV).

And remember: "All these [challenging times] are the beginning of birth pains" (Matt. 24:8 NIV), and birth pangs aren't all bad. (Easy for me to say.) Birth pains signal the onset of the final push. The pediatrician assures the mom-to-be, "It's going to hurt for a time, but it's going to get better."

Jesus assures us of the same. Global conflicts indicate our date on the maternity calendar. We are in the final hours, just a few pushes from delivery, a few brief ticks of eternity's clock from the great crowning of creation. A whole new world is coming!

From Fearless

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Jesus Heals a Blind Man - UpWords - January 21

by Max Lucado

“As [Jesus] passed by, He saw a man blind from birth”
(John 9:1).

This man has never seen a sunrise. Can’t tell purple from pink. The disciples fault the family tree. “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?” (v. 2).

Neither, the God-man replies. Trace this condition back to heaven. The reason the man was born sightless? So “the works of God might be displayed in him” (v. 3).

Talk about a thankless role. Selected to suffer. Some sing to God’s glory. Others teach to God’s glory. Who wants to be blind for God’s glory? Which is tougher—the condition or discovering it was God’s idea?

The cure proves to be as surprising as the cause. “[Jesus] spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and applied the clay to his eyes” (v. 6).

The world abounds with paintings of the God-man: in the arms of Mary, in the Garden of Gethsemane, in the Upper Room, in the darkened tomb. Jesus touching. Jesus weeping, laughing, teaching … but I’ve never seen a painting of Jesus spitting.

Christ smacking his lips a time or two, gathering a mouth of saliva, working up a blob of drool, and letting it go. Down in the dirt. (Kids, next time your mother tells you not to spit, show her this passage.) Then he squats, stirs up a puddle of … I don’t know, what would you call it?

Holy putty? Spit therapy? Saliva solution? Whatever the name, he places a fingerful in his palm, and then, as calmly as a painter spackles a hole in the wall, Jesus streaks mud-miracle on the blind man’s eyes. “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (v. 7).

The beggar feels his way to the pool, splashes water on his mud-streaked face, and rubs away the clay. The result is the first chapter of Genesis, just for him. Light where there was darkness.

Virgin eyes focus, fuzzy figures become human beings, and John receives the Understatement of the Bible Award when he writes: “He … came back seeing” (v. 7).

Come on, John! Running short of verbs? How about “he raced back seeing”? “He danced back seeing”? “He roared back whooping and hollering.”

From His Name is Jesus

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Who Is God? - UpWords - January 20

by Max Lucado

So who is God? Can I trust Him to take care of me? How much time do you have?

The weather changes—but God is UN-changing! Fashion changes. Even change changes. But Hebrews 6:17 says God is always the same—yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

So can we trust God? Is He powerful enough? You and I are limited—I think that goes without saying! One sneeze in my direction, and I’m contaminated, sick with a cold and out for a week.

No one can soil or stain God. No sin contaminates Him.

We’re limited by brain capacity, time, relationship overload, and responsibilities—you can only be at one soccer game at a time after all! And patience! But God? He has no limit to his time, power, knowledge and love.

Check it out for yourself in Psalms 147:4-5
He counts the stars
and names each one.

Our Lord is great and very powerful.
There is no limit to what he knows.
So—can God take care of you? I’ll let you answer that!

From Max on Life

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Loved with a Steadfast Love - UpWords - January 18

by Max Lucado

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness.
Lamentations 3:22–23 RSV

Jeremiah was depressed, as gloomy as a giraffe with a neck ache. Jerusalem was under siege, his nation under duress. His world collapsed like a sand castle in a typhoon. He faulted God for his horrible emotional distress. He also blamed God for his physical ailments. “He [God] has made my flesh and my skin waste away, and broken my bones” (Lam. 3:4 RSV).
His body ached. His heart was sick. His faith was puny. . . .

He realized how fast he was sinking, so he shifted his gaze. “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him’ ” (vv. 21–24 RSV).

“But this I call to mind...” Depressed, Jeremiah altered his thoughts, shifted his attention. He turned his eyes away from his stormy world and looked into the wonder of God. He quickly recited a quintet of promises. (I can envision him tapping these out on the five fingers of his hand.)

1. The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases.
2. His mercies never come to an end.
3. They are new every morning.
4. Great is thy faithfulness.
5. The Lord is my portion.

The storm didn’t cease, but his discouragement did.
—Fearless

Thank you precious Savior, that your love is steadfast. Thank you that your mercies are new every morning. Thank you for your great faithfulness, not only to me but to all your people from the first day of creation. When I am tempted to become depressed and distressed, may I choose to gaze on you. May I remember that you are my portion. May I hope in your unceasing love, amen.

Inasmuch as there is none like You, O Lord (You are great, and Your name is great in might).
Jeremiah 10:6

God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
1 Corinthians 1:9

He is the living God, and steadfast forever; His kingdom is the one which shall not be destroyed, and His dominion shall endure to the end.
Daniel 6:26

From Lived Loved: Experiencing God’s Presence in Every Day Life

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No One Compares to Him - UpWords - January 16

by Max Lucado

Psalm 89:6 asks the question: “Who among the sons of the mighty is like the Lord?”

And the answer is, any pursuit of God’s counterpart is vain. No one and nothing compares to him. No one advises him. No one helps him. You and I may have power. But God IS power.

Unlike the potter who takes something and reshapes it, God took nothing and created something. God created everything that exists by divine fiat. John said in Revelation, “You, God created all things, and it is for your pleasure that they exist and were created. Revelation 4:11″

Even God asks, “To whom will you compare me?” As if his question needed an answer, he gives one: “I am God–I alone. I am God. There is no one else like me! Isaiah 46:4-9″

We’re blessed to be his children. We can only stand humbly before him and praise his glorious name!

From Live Loved

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Make Friends with Whatever's Next - UpWords - January 14

by Max Lucado

Embrace it. Accept it. Don't resist it. Change is not only a part of life; change is a necessary part of God's strategy. To use us to change the world, he alters our assignments. Gideon: from farmer to general; Mary: from peasant girl to the mother of Christ; Paul: from local rabbi to world evangelist.

God transitioned Joseph from a baby brother to an Egyptian prince. He changed David from a a shepherd to a king. Peter wanted to fish the Sea of Galilee. God called him to lead the first church. God makes reassignments.

But, someone might ask, what about the tragic changes God permits? Some seasons make no sense…do such moments serve a purpose?

They do if we see them from an eternal perspective. What makes no sense in this life will make perfect sense in the next. I have proof: you in the womb.

I know you don't remember this prenatal season, so let me remind you what happened during it. Every gestation day equipped you for your earthly life. Your bones solidified, your eyes developed, the umbilical cord transported nutrients into your growing frame…for what reason?

So you might remain enwombed? Quite the contrary. Womb time equipped you for earth time, suited you up for your postpartum existence.

Some prenatal features went unused before birth. You grew a nose but didn't breathe. Eyes developed, but could you see? Your tongue, toenails, and crop of hair served no function in your mother's belly. But aren't you glad you have them now?

Certain chapters in this life seem so unnecessary, like nostrils on the preborn. Suffering. Loneliness. Disease. Holocausts. Martyrdom. Monsoons. If we assume this world exists just for pregrave happiness, these atrocities disqualify it from doing so.

But what if this earth is the womb? Might these challenges, severe as they may be, serve to prepare us, equip us for the world to come? As Paul wrote, "These little troubles are getting us ready for an eternal glory that will make all our troubles seem like nothing" (2 Corinthians 4:17 CEV).

From Fearless

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Set Your Compass in the Right Direction - UpWords - January 7

by Max Lucado

The problem is not that God hasn’t spoken but that we haven’t listened.

Imagine your reaction if I were to take a telephone book, open it up, and proclaim, I have found a list of everyone who’s on welfare!Or what if I said, Here is a list of college graduates! Or, This book will tell us who has a red car. You’d probably say, “Now wait a minute—that’s not the purpose of that book. You’re holding a telephone book. Its purpose is simply to reveal the name and number of residents of a city during a certain time frame.”

Only by understanding its purpose can I accurately use the telephone book. Only by understanding its purpose can I accurately use the Bible…

The purpose of the Bible is simply to proclaim God’s plan to save his children. It asserts that man is lost and needs to be saved. And it communicates the message that Jesus is the God in the flesh sent to save his children.

Though the Bible was written over sixteen centuries by at least forty authors, it has one central theme—salvation through faith in Christ. Begun by Moses in the lonely desert of Arabia and finished by John on the lonely Isle of Patmos, it is held together by a strong thread: God’s passion and God’s plan to save his children.

What a vital truth! Understanding the purpose of the Bible is like setting the compass in the right direction. Calibrate it correctly and you’ll journey safely. But fail to set it, and who knows where you’ll end up.

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

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The Choice - UpWords - January 6

by Max Lucado

IT'S QUIET. It's early. My coffee is hot. The sky is still black. The world is still asleep. The day is coming.

In a few moments the day will arrive. It will roar down the track with the rising of the sun. The stillness of the dawn will be exchanged for the noise of the day. The calm of solitude will be replaced by the pounding pace of the human race. The refuge of the early morning will be invaded by decisions to be made and deadlines to be met.

For the next twelve hours I will be exposed to the day's demands. It is now that I must make a choice. Because of Calvary, I'm free to choose. And so I choose.

I choose love . . .

No occasion justifies hatred; no injustice warrants bitterness. I choose love. Today I will love

God and what God loves.

I choose joy . . .

I will invite my God to be the God of circumstance. I will refuse the temptation to be cynical . . . the tool of the lazy thinker. I will refuse to see people as anything less than human beings, created by God. I will refuse to see any problem as anything less than an opportunity to see God.

I choose peace . . .

I will live forgiven. I will forgive so that I may live.

I choose patience . . .


I will overlook the inconveniences of the world. Instead of cursing the one who takes my place, I'll invite him to do so. Rather than complain that the wait is too long, I will thank God for a moment to pray. Instead of clinching my fist at new assignments, I will face them with joy and courage.

I choose kindness . . .

I will be kind to the poor, for they are alone. Kind to the rich, for they are afraid. And kind to the unkind, for such is how God has treated me.

I choose goodness . . .

I will go without a dollar before I take a dishonest one. I will be overlooked before I will boast. I will confess before I will accuse. I choose goodness.

I choose faithfulness . . .

Today I will keep my promises. My debtors will not regret their trust. My associates will not question my word. My wife will not question my love. And my children will never fear that their father will not come home.

I choose gentleness ..

Nothing is won by force. I choose to be gentle. If I raise my voice may it be only in praise. If I clench my fist, may it be only in prayer. If I make a demand, may it be only of myself.

I choose self-control . . .

I am a spiritual being. After this body is dead, my spirit will soar. I refuse to let what will rot, rule the eternal. I choose self-control. I will be drunk only by joy. I will be impassioned only by my faith. I will be influenced only by God. I will be taught only by Christ. I choose self-control.

Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. To these I commit my day. If I succeed, I will give thanks. If I fail, I will seek his grace. And then, when this day is done, I will place my head on my pillow and rest.

From When God Whispers Your Name

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Treat Me As I Treat My Neighbor” - UpWords - January 5

by Max Lucado

Are you aware that this is what you are saying to your Father? Give me what I give them. Grant me the same peace I grant others. Let me enjoy the same tolerance I offer. God will treat you the way you treat others.

In any given Christian community there are two groups: those who are contagious in their joy and those who are cranky in their faith. They’ve accepted Christ and are seeking him, but their balloon has no helium. One is grateful, the other is grumpy. Both are saved. Both are heaven bound. But one sees the rainbow and the other sees the rain.

Could this principle explain the difference? Could it be that they are experiencing the same joy they have given their offenders? One says, “I forgive you,” and feels forgiven. The other says, “I’m ticked off,” and lives ticked off at the world.

It’s as if God sends you to the market to purchase your neighbor’s groceries saying, “Whatever you get your neighbor, get also for yourself. For whatever you give him is what you receive.”

Let’s take this a step further. Suppose your neighbor’s trash blows into your yard. You mention the mess to him, and he says he’ll get to it sometime next week. You inform him that you’ve got company coming and couldn’t he get out of that chair and do some work?

He tells you not to be so picky, that the garbage fertilizes your garden. You’re just about to walk across the lawn to have a talk when God reminds you, “Time to go to the market and buy your neighbor’s groceries.” So you grumble and mumble your way to the store, and then it hits you, “I’ll get even with the old bum.” You go straight to the skim milk.

Then you make a beeline to the anchovies and sardines. You march right past the double-chocolate ice cream and head toward the okra and rice. You make a final stop in the day-old bread section and pick up a crusty loaf with green spots on the edge.

Chuckling, you drive back to the house and drop the sack in the lap of your lazy, good-for-nothing neighbor. “Have a good dinner.” And you walk away.

All your brilliant scheming left you hungry, so you go to your refrigerator to fix a sandwich, but guess what you find. Your pantry is full of what you gave your enemy. All you have to eat is exactly what you just bought. We get what we give.

Some of you have been eating sardines for a long time. Your diet ain’t gonna change until you change. You look around at other Christians. They aren’t as sour as you are. They’re enjoying the delicacies of God, and you’re stuck with okra and anchovies on moldy bread. You’ve always wondered why they look so happy and you feel so cranky. Maybe now you know. Could it be God is giving you exactly what you’re giving someone else?

From The Great House of God

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When God Whispers Your Name - UpWords - January 4

by Max Lucado

The sheep listen to the voice of the shepherd. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.
—John 10:3

WHEN I SEE a flock of sheep I see exactly that, a flock. A rabble of wool. A herd of hooves. I don't see a sheep. I see sheep. All alike. None different. That's what I see.

But not so with the shepherd. To him every sheep is different. Every face is special. Every face has a story. And every sheep has a name.The one with the sad eyes, that's Droopy. And the fellow with one ear up and the other down, I call him Oscar. And the small one with the black patch on his leg, he's an orphan with no brothers. I call him Joseph.

The shepherd knows his sheep. He calls them by name.

When we see a crowd, we see exactly that, a crowd. Filling a stadium or flooding a mall. When we see a crowd, we see people, not persons, but people. A herd of humans. A flock of faces.

That's what we see.

But not so with the Shepherd. To him every face is different. Every face is a story. Every face is a child. Every child has a name. The one with the sad eyes, that's Sally. The old fellow with one eyebrow up and the other down, Harry's his name. And the young one with the limp? He's an orphan with no brothers. I call him Joey.

The Shepherd knows his sheep. He knows each one by name. The Shepherd knows you. He knows your name. And he will never forget it. I have written your name on my hand (Isa. 49:16).

Quite a thought, isn't it? Your name on God's hand. Your name on God's lips. Maybe you've seen your name in some special places. On an award or diploma or walnut door. Or maybe you've heard your name from some important people—a coach, a celebrity, a teacher. But to think that your name is on God's hand and on God's lips . . . my, could it be?

Or perhaps you've never seen your name honored. And you can't remember when you heard it spoken with kindness. If so, it may be more difficult for you to believe that God knows your name.

But he does. Written on his hand. Spoken by his mouth. Whispered by his lips. Your name. And not only the name you now have, but the name he has in store for you. A new name he will give you . . .

When God Whispers Your Name is a book of hope. A book whose sole aim is to encourage.

I've harvested thoughts from a landscape of fields. And though their size and flavors are varied, their purpose is singular: to provide you, the reader, with a word of hope. I thought you could use it.

You've been on my mind as I've been writing. I've thought of you often. I honestly have. Over the years I've gotten to know some of you folks well. I've read your letters, shaken your hands, and watched your eyes. I think I know you.

You're busy. Time passes before your tasks are finished. And if you get a chance to read, it's a slim chance indeed.

You're anxious. Bad news outpaces the good. Problems outnumber solutions. And you are concerned. What future do your children have on this earth? What future do you have?

You're cautious. You don't trust as easily as you once did.

Politicians lied. The system failed. The minister compromised. Your spouse cheated. It's not easy to trust. It's not that you don't want to. It's just that you want to be careful.

There is one other thing. You've made some mistakes. I met one of you at a bookstore in Michigan. A businessman, you seldom came out of your office at all and never to meet an author. But then you did. You were regretting the many hours at work and the few hours at home and wanted to talk.

And the single mom in Chicago. One kid was tugging, the other crying, but juggling them both, you made your point. "I made mistakes," you explained, "but I really want to try again."

And there was that night in Fresno. The musician sang and I spoke and you came. You almost didn't. You almost stayed home. Just that day you'd found the note from your wife. She was leaving you. But you came anyway. Hoping I'd have something for the pain. Hoping I'd have an answer. Where is God at a time like this?

And so as I wrote, I thought about you. All of you. You aren't malicious. You aren't evil. You aren't hardhearted, (hardheaded occasionally, but not hardhearted). You really want to do what is right. But sometimes life turns south. Occasionally we need a reminder.

Not a sermon.

A reminder.

A reminder that God knows your name.

From When God Whispers Your Name

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When God Sighed - UpWords - January 3

by Max Lucado

Two days ago I read a word in the Bible that has since taken up residence in my heart.

To be honest, I didn't quite know what to do with it. It's only one word, and not a very big one at that. When I ran across the word, (which, by the way, is exactly what happened; I was running through the passage and this word came out of nowhere and bounced me like a speed bump) I didn't know what to do with it. I didn't have any hook to hang it on or category to file it under.

It was an enigmatic word in an enigmatic passage. But now, forty-eight hours later, I have found a place for it, a place all its own. My, what a word it is. Don't read it unless you don't mind changing your mind, because this little word might move your spiritual furniture around a bit.

Look at the passage with me.

Then Jesus left the vicinity of Tyre and went through Sidon, down to the Sea of Galilee and into the region of the Decapolis. There some people brought a man to him who was deaf and could hardly talk, and they begged him to place his hand on the man.

After he took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus put his fingers into the man's ears. Then he spit and touched the man's tongue. He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him,"Ephphatha!" (which means, "Be opened!"). At this, the man's ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly. (Mark 7:31-35)

Quite a passage, isn't it?

Jesus is presented with a man who is deaf and has a speech impediment. Perhaps he stammered. Maybe he spoke with a lisp. Perhaps, because of his deafness, he never learned to articulate words properly.

Jesus, refusing to exploit the situation, took the man aside. He looked him in the face. Knowing it would be useless to talk, he explained what he was about to do through gestures. He spat and touched the man's tongue, telling him that whatever restricted his speech was about to be removed. He touched his ears. They, for the first time, were about to hear.

But before the man said a word or heard a sound, Jesus did something I never would have anticipated.

He sighed.

I might have expected a clap or a song or a prayer. Even a "Hallelujah!" or a brief lesson might have been appropriate. But the Son of God did none of these. Instead, he paused, looked into heaven, and sighed. From the depths of his being came a rush of emotion that said more than words.

Sigh. The word seemed out of place.

I'd never thought of God as one who sighs. I'd thought of God as one who commands. I'd thought of God as one who weeps. I'd thought of God as one who called forth the dead with a command or created the universe with a word … but a God who sighs?

Perhaps this phrase caught my eye because I do my share of sighing.

I sighed yesterday when I visited a lady whose invalid husband had deteriorated so much he didn't recognize me. He thought I was trying to sell him something.

I sighed when the dirty-faced, scantily dressed, six-year-old girl in the grocery store asked me for some change.

And I sighed today listening to a husband tell how his wife won't forgive him.
No doubt you've done your share of sighing.

If you have teenagers, you've probably sighed. If you've tried to resist temptation, you've probably sighed. If you've had your motives questioned or your best acts of love rejected, you have been forced to take a deep breath and let escape a painful sigh.

I realize there exists a sigh of relief, a sigh of expectancy, and even a sigh of joy. But that isn't the sigh described in Mark 7. The sigh described is a hybrid of frustration and sadness. It lies somewhere between a fit of anger and a burst of tears.

The apostle Paul spoke of this sighing. Twice he said that Christians will sigh as long as we are on earth and long for heaven. The creation sighs as if she were giving birth. Even the Spirit sighs as he interprets our prayers. (Romans 8:22-27)

All these sighs come from the same anxiety; a recognition of pain that was never intended, or of hope deferred.

Man was not created to be separated from his creator; hence he sighs, longing for home. The creation was never intended to be inhabited by evil; hence she sighs, yearning for the Garden.

And conversations with God were never intended to depend on a translator; hence the Spirit groans on our behalf, looking to a day when humans will see God face to face.

And when Jesus looked into the eyes of Satan's victim, the only appropriate thing to do was sigh. "It was never intended to be this way," the sigh said. "Your ears weren't made to be deaf, your tongue wasn't made to stumble." The imbalance of it all caused the Master to languish.

So, I found a place for the word. You might think it strange, but I placed it beside the word comfort, for in an indirect way, God's pain is our comfort.

And in the agony of Jesus lies our hope. Had he not sighed, had he not felt the burden for what was not intended, we would be in a pitiful condition. Had he simply chalked it all up to the inevitable or washed his hands of the whole stinking mess, what hope would we have?

But he didn't. That holy sigh assures us that God still groans for his people. He groans for the day when all sighs will cease, when what was intended to be will be.

From God Came Near: Chronicles of the Christ

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The Love Test - UpWords - January 2

by Max Lucado

Have you ever made decisions about your relationships based on your feelings instead of the facts? When it comes to love, feelings rule the day. Emotions guide the ship. Goose bumps call the shots. But should they? Can feelings be trusted? Can a relationship feel right but be wrong?

Feelings can fool you. Yesterday I spoke with a teenage girl who is puzzled by the lack of feelings she has for a guy. Before they started dating, she was wild about him. The minute he showed interest in her, however, she lost interest.

I'm thinking also of a young mom. Being a parent isn't as romantic as she anticipated. Diapers and midnight feedings aren't any fun, and she's feeling guilty because they aren't. Am I low on love? she wonders.

How do you answer such questions? Ever wish you had a way to assess the quality of your affection? A DNA test for love? Paul offers us one: "Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth" (1 Cor. 13:6 NIV). In this verse lies a test for love.

Want to separate the fake from the factual, the counterfeit from the real thing? Want to know if what you feel is genuine love? Ask yourself this:

Do I encourage this person to do what is right? For true love "takes no pleasure in other people's sins but delights in the truth" (1 Cor. 13:6 JB).
If you find yourself prompting evil in others, heed the alarm. This is not love. And if others prompt evil in you, be alert.

Here's an example. A classic one. A young couple are on a date. His affection goes beyond her comfort zone. She resists. But he tries to persuade her with the oldest line in the book: "But I love you. I just want to be near you. If you loved me …"

That siren you hear? It's the phony-love detector. This guy doesn't love her. He may love having sex with her. He may love her body. He may love boasting to his buddies about his conquest. But he doesn't love her. True love will never ask the "beloved" to do what he or she thinks is wrong.

Love doesn't tear down the convictions of others. Quite the contrary.
"Love builds up" (1 Cor. 8:1).

"Whoever loves a brother or sister lives in the light and will not cause anyone to stumble" (1 John 2:10).

"You are sinning against Christ when you sin against other Christians by encouraging them to do something they believe is wrong" (1 Cor. 8:12 NLT).

Do you want to know if your love for someone is true? If your friendship is genuine? Ask yourself: Do I influence this person to do what is right?

From A Love Worth Giving

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Laws of the Lighthouse - UpWords - January 1

by Max Lucado

The first of the year is known for three things: black-eyed peas, bowl games, and lists. Some don’t eat black-eyed peas. Others hate football. But everybody likes lists.

The Bible certainly has its share of lists. Moses brought one down from the mountain.

There are lists of the gifts of the Spirit. Lists of good fruit and bad. Lists of salutations and greetings. Even the disciples’ boat got into the action as it listed in the stormy Sea of Galilee. (If you smiled at that, then I’ve got a list of puns you’d enjoy.)

But the greatest day of lists is still New Year’s Day. And the number one list is the list I call the Laws of the Lighthouse.

The Laws of the Lighthouse contain more than good ideas, personal preferences, and honest opinions. They are God-given, time-tested truths that define the way you should navigate your life. Observe them and enjoy secure passage. Ignore them and crash against the ragged rocks of reality.

Smart move. The wise captain shifts the direction of his craft according to the signal of the lighthouse. A wise person does the same.

Herewith, then, are the lights I look for and the signals I heed:

– Love God more than you fear hell.

– Once a week, let a child take you on a walk.

– Make major decisions in a cemetery.

– When no one is watching, live as if someone is.

– Succeed at home first.

– Don’t spend tomorrow’s money today.

– Pray twice as much as you fret.

– Listen twice as much as you speak.

– Only harbor a grudge when God does.

– Never outgrow your love of sunsets.

– Treat people like angels; you will meet some and help make some.

– ‘Tis wiser to err on the side of generosity than on the side of scrutiny.

– God has forgiven you; you’d be wise to do the same.

– When you can’t trace God’s hand, trust his heart.

– Toot your own horn and the notes will be flat.

– Don’t feel guilty for God’s goodness.

– The book of life is lived in chapters, so know your page number.

– Never let the important be the victim of the trivial.

– Live your liturgy.

To sum it all up:

Approach life like a voyage on a schooner. Enjoy the view. Explore the vessel. Make friends with the captain. Fish a little. And then get off when you get home.

From In the Eye of the Storm

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Hard Hearted - UpWords - December 30

by Max Lucado

Hardhearted people are hopelessly confused. Their minds are full of darkness; they wander far from the life God gives because they have closed their minds and hardened their hearts against him. They have no sense of shame. They live for lustful pleasure and eagerly practice every kind of impurity. (Eph. 4:17-19)

A hard heart ruins not only your life, but the lives of your family members. As an example, Jesus identified the hard heart as the wrecking ball of a marriage. When asked about divorce, Jesus said, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because our hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning.” (Matt. 19:8) When one or both people in a marriage stop trusting God to save it, they sign its death certificate. They reject the very one who can help them.

My executive assistant, Karen Hill, saw the result of such stubbornness in a pasture. A cow stuck her nose into a paint can and couldn’t shake it off. Can-nosed cows can’t breathe very well, and they can’t drink or eat at all. Both the cow and her calf were in danger. A serious bovine bind.

Karen’s family set out to help. But when the cow saw the rescuers coming, she set out for pasture. They pursued, but the cow escaped. They chased that cow for three days! Each time the posse drew near, the cow ran. Finally, using pickup trucks and ropes, they cornered and de-canned the cow.

Seen any can-nosed people lately? Malnourished souls? Dehydrated hearts? People who can’t take a deep breath? All because they stuck their noses where they shouldn’t, and when God came to help, they ran away.

When billions of us imitate the cow, chaos erupts. Nations of bull-headed people ducking God and bumping into each other. We scamper, starve, and struggle.

Can-nosed craziness. Isn’t this the world we see? This is the world God sees.

Yet, this is the world God loves. “For God so loved the world…” This hard-hearted, stiff-necked world. We stick our noses where we shouldn’t; still, he pursues us. We run from the very one who can help, but he doesn’t give up. He loves. He pursues. He persists. And, every so often, a heart starts to soften.

Let yours be one of them.

When my daughters were small, they liked to play with Play-Doh. They formed figures out of the soft clay. If they forgot to place the lid on the can, the substance hardened. When it did, they brought it to me. My hand were bigger. My fingers stronger. I could mold the stony stuff into putty.

Is your heart hard? Take it to your Father. You’re only a prayer away from tenderness. You live in a hard world, but you don’t have to live with a hard heart.

From 3:16, The Numbers of Hope

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The Brand New You - UpWords - December 28

by Max Lucado

What'all this talk about a new body? Do we change bodies? Is the new one different than this one? Will I recognize anyone? Will anyone recognize me?

"He will take these dying bodies of ours and change them into glorious bodies like his own" (Phil. 3:21 TLB).

Your body will be changed. You will not receive a different body; you will receive a renewed body. Just as God can make an oak out of a kernel or a tulip out of a bulb, he makes a "new" body out of the old one. A body without corruption. A body without weakness. A body without dishonor. A body identical to the body of Jesus.

Would you like a sneak preview of your new body? We have one by looking at the resurrected body of our Lord. After his resurrection, Jesus spent forty days in the presence of people. The resurrected Christ was not in a disembodied, purely spiritual state. On the contrary, he had a body—a touchable, visible body.

Jesus didn't come as a mist or a wind or a ghostly specter. He came in a body. A body that maintained a substantial connection with the body he originally had. A body that had flesh and bones.

Real enough to walk on the road to Emmaus, real enough to appear in the form of a gardener, real enough to eat breakfast with the disciples at Galilee. Jesus had a real body. (Luke 24:13-35; John 20:10-18; John 21:12-14.)

At the same time, this body was not a clone of his earthly body. Mark tells us that Jesus "appeared in another form" (Mark 16:12 RSV). While he was the same, he was different. So different that Mary Magdalene, his disciples on the sea, and his disciples on the path to Emmaus did not recognize him. Though he invited Thomas to touch his body, he passed through a closed door to be in Thomas's presence. (John 20:14; John 21:1-4; Luke 24:16; John 20:26)

So what do we know about the resurrected body of Jesus? It was unlike any the world had ever seen.

What do we know about our resurrected bodies? They will be unlike any we have ever imagined.

Will we look so different that we aren't instantly recognized? Perhaps. (We may need nametags.) Will we be walking through walls? Chances are we'll be doing much more.

Will we still bear the scars from the pain of life? The marks of war. The disfigurements of disease. The wounds of violence. Will these remain on our bodies? That is a very good question. Jesus, at least for forty days, kept his. Will we keep ours? On this issue, we have only opinions, but my opinion is that we won't. Peter tells us that "by his wounds you have been healed" (1 Pet. 2:24 NIV). In heaven's accounting, only one wound is worthy to be remembered. And that is the wound of Jesus. Our wounds will be no more.

God is going to renew your body and make it like his. What difference should this make in the way you live?

Your body, in some form, will last forever. Respect it.

You will live forever in this body. It will be different, mind you. What is now crooked will be straightened. What is now faulty will be fixed. Your body will be different, but you won't have a different body. You will have this one. Does that change the view you have of it? I hope so.

Your pain will NOT last forever. Believe it.

Are your joints arthritic? They won't be in heaven.

Is your heart weak? It will be strong in heaven.

Has cancer corrupted your system? There is no cancer in heaven.

Are your thoughts disjointed? Your memory failing? Your new body will have a new mind.

Does this body seem closer to death than ever before? It should. It is. And unless Christ comes first, your body will be buried. Like a seed is placed in the ground, so your body will be placed in a tomb. And for a season, your soul will be in heaven while your body is in the grave. But the seed buried in the earth will blossom in heaven. Your soul and body will reunite, and you will be like Jesus.

From When Christ Comes: The Beginning of the Very Best

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God's Higher Purpose - Upwords - December 27

By Max Lucado

No moment, event, or detail falls outside of God’s supervision. God is the one who “causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:45 NIV).

He isn’t making up this plan as he goes along. Daniel 5:21 says, “The most High God rules the kingdom of men, and sets over it whom he will.”

So, if God is in charge, why does he permit challenges to come our way? Wouldn’t an almighty

God prevent them? Not if they serve his higher purpose. The ultimate example is the death of Christ on the cross! Everyone thought the life of Jesus was over. Jesus was dead and buried, but God raised him from the dead. God took the crucifixion of Friday and turned it into the celebration of Sunday. Can he not do a reversal for you?

From Anxious for Nothing

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Unceasing Prayer - UpWords - December 26

by Max Lucado

Unceasing prayer may sound complicated, but it needn’t be that way. Do this. Think of prayer less as an activity for God and more as an awareness of God. Seek to live in uninterrupted awareness. As you stand in line to register your car, think, “Thank you, Lord, for being here.” In the grocery store as you shop, think, “Your presence, my King, I welcome.” As you wash the dishes, worship your Maker.

Brother Lawrence called himself the “lord of all pots and pans.” He wrote, “The time of busy-ness does not with me differ from the time of prayer; and in the clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are calling for different things, I possess God in as great tranquility as if I were upon knees at the blessed sacrament.”

So talk to God, always. Besides, it makes more sense to talk to God than mumble to yourself!

From Max on Life

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Waiting Forwardly: A Day to Anticipate - UpWords - December 25

By Max Lucado

"Now in Jerusalem there was a man named Simeon. He was an upright and devout man; he looked forward to Israel's comforting and the Holy Spirit rested on him"
(Luke 2:25 TKB, emphasis mine).

Let's take a look at Simeon, the man who knew how to wait for the arrival of Christ. The way he waited for the first coming is a model for how we should wait for the Second Coming.

"The Holy Spirit had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen him—God's anointed King" (v. 26 TLB).

You've got to wonder what a message like that would do to a person. What does it do to you if you know you will someday see God? We know what it did to Simeon.

He was "constantly expecting the Messiah" (v. 25 TLB).

He was "living in expectation of the salvation of Israel" (v. 25 PHILLIPS).
He "watched and waited for the restoration of Israel" (v. 25 NEB).
Simeon is a man on tiptoe, wide-eyed and watching for the one who will come to save Israel.

Studying each passing face. Staring into the eyes of strangers. He's looking for someone. He was waitingforwardly. Patiently vigilant. Calmly expectant. Eyes open. Arms extended. Searching the crowd for the right face, and hoping the face appears today.

Such was the lifestyle of Simeon, and such can be ours. Haven't we, like Simeon, been told of the coming Christ? Aren't we, like Simeon, heirs of a promise? Are we not prompted by the same Spirit? Are we not longing to see the same face?

First, we must wait. Paul says "we are hoping for something we do not have yet, and we are waiting for it patiently" (Rom. 8:25). Simeon is our model. He was not so consumed with the "not yet" that he ignored the "right now." Luke says Simeon was a "good man and godly" (2:25). Peter urges us to follow suit. Hope of the future is not a license for irresponsibility in the present. Let us wait forwardly, but let us wait.

But for most of us, waiting is not our problem. Or, maybe I should state, waiting is our problem.

We are so good at waiting that we don't wait forwardly. We forget to look. We are so patient that we become complacent. We are too content. We seldom search the skies. We rarely run to the temple. We seldom, if ever, allow the Holy Spirit to interrupt our plans and lead us to worship so that we might see Jesus.

It is to those of us who are strong in waiting and weak in watching that our Lord was speaking when he said, "No one knows when that day or time will be, not the angels in heaven, not even the Son. Only the Father knows. . . . So always be ready, because you don't know the day your Lord will come. . . . The Son of Man will come at a time you don't expect him" (Matt. 24:36, 42, 44).

Simeon reminds us to "wait forwardly." Patiently vigilant. But not so patient that we lose our vigilance. Nor so vigilant that we lose our patience.

In the end, the prayer of Simeon was answered. "Simeon took the baby in his arms and thanked God; ‘Now, Lord, you can let me, your servant, die in peace, as you said'" (Luke 2:28-29).

One look into the face of Jesus, and Simeon knew it was time to go home. And one look into the face of our Savior, and we will know the same.

From When Christ Comes: The Beginning of the Very Best

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We Didn't Design the Hour - UpWords - December 22

By Max Lucado

Hollywood would recast the Christmas story! Joseph’s collar is way too blue. Mary is green from inexperience. The couple’s star power doesn’t match the bill. Too obscure. Too simple.

The story warrants some headliners. And what about the shepherds? Do they sing? A good public relations firm would move the birth to a big city. The Son of God deserves a royal entry.

Less peasant, more pizzaz.

But we didn’t design the hour. God did. And God was content to enter the world in the presence of sleepy sheep and a wide-eyed carpenter. No spotlights, just candlelight. No crowns, just cows chewing cud. If God was willing to wrap himself in rags, then all questions about his love for you are off the table. When Christ was born, so was our hope. That’s why I love Christmas!

From Because of Bethlehem

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Resentment - UpWords - December 20

By Max Lucado

Resentment is a prison. When you’ve put someone in your jail cell of hatred, you are stuck guarding the door. If you’re out to settle a score, you are never going to rest. How can you? For one thing, your enemy may never pay up.

As much as you think you deserve an apology, your debtor may not agree. The racist may never repent. The chauvinist may never change. As justified as you are in your quest for vengeance, you may never get a penny’s worth of justice. And if you do, will it be enough?

You see, resentment is a prison. Jesus doesn’t question the reality of your wounds. He just doubts whether resentment is going to heal you. What are you going to do? Spend your life guarding the prison jail cell? Or entrust your wounds to Jesus?

From The Great House of God

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The Arrival - UpWords - December 19

By Max Lucado

God had entered the world as a baby.

Yet, were someone to chance upon the sheep stable on the outskirts of Bethlehem that morning, what a peculiar scene they would behold.

The stable stinks like all stables do. The stench of urine, dung, and sheep reeks pungently in the air. The ground is hard, the hay scarce. Cobwebs cling to the ceiling and a mouse scurries across the dirt floor.

A more lowly place of birth could not exist.

Off to one side sit a group of shepherds. They sit silently on the floor; perhaps perplexed, perhaps in awe, no doubt in amazement. Their night watch had been interrupted by an explosion of light from heaven and a symphony of angels. God goes to those who have time to hear him—so on this cloudless night he went to simple shepherds.

Near the young mother sits the weary father. If anyone is dozing, he is. He can’t remember the last time he sat down. And now that the excitement has subsided a bit, now that Mary and the baby are comfortable, he leans against the wall of the stable and feels his eyes grow heavy. He still hasn’t figured it all out. The mystery of the event puzzles him. But he hasn’t the energy to wrestle with the questions.

What’s important is that the baby is fine and that Mary is safe. As sleep comes he remembers the name the angel told him to use … Jesus. “We will call him Jesus.”

Wide awake is Mary. My, how young she looks! Her head rests on the soft leather of Joseph’s saddle. The pain has been eclipsed by wonder. She looks into the face of the baby. Her son. Her Lord. His Majesty. At this point in history, the human being who best understands who God is and what he is doing is a teenage girl in a smelly stable. She can’t take her eyes off him. Somehow Mary knows she is holding God. So this is he. She remembers the words of the angel. “His kingdom will never end.” (Luke 1:33)

He looks like anything but a king. His face is prunish and red. His cry, though strong and healthy, is still the helpless and piercing cry of a baby. And he is absolutely dependent upon Mary for his well-being.

Majesty in the midst of the mundane. Holiness in the filth of sheep manure and sweat. Divinity entering the world on the floor of a stable, through the womb of a teenager and in the presence of a carpenter.

She touches the face of the infant-God. How long was your journey!

This baby had overlooked the universe. These rags keeping him warm were the robes of eternity. His golden throne room had been abandoned in favor of a dirty sheep pen. And worshiping angels had been replaced with kind but bewildered shepherds.

Meanwhile, the city hums. The merchants are unaware that God has visited their planet. The innkeeper would never believe that he had just sent God into the cold. And the people would scoff at anyone who told them the Messiah lay in the arms of a teenager on the outskirts of their village. They were all too busy to consider the possibility.

Those who missed His Majesty’s arrival that night missed it not because of evil acts or malice; no, they missed it because they simply weren’t looking.
Little has changed in the last two thousand years, has it?

From God Came Near

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Christ Does a Work in You - UpWords - December 17

by Max Lucado

Jesus not only did a work for us; he does a work in us! Colossians 1:27 tells us, “The mystery in a nutshell is just this: Christ is in you.” He commands our hands and feet, requisitions our minds and tongues. As Romans 8:29 declares, “He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son.”

We’ll never be sinless, but we will sin less. And when we do sin, we have assurance that the grace that saved us also preserves us. We may lose our tempers, our perspective, and our self-control. But we never lose our hope. Scripture promises, “He is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy"!

From Because of Bethlehem

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A Heavenly Affirmation - UpWords - December 16

by Max Lucado

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?

We can’t control the way our family responds to us. When it comes to the behavior of others toward us, our hands are tied. We have to move beyond the naive expectation that if we do good, people will treat us right. The fact is they may and they may not—we cannot control how people respond to us.

I can’t assure you that your family will ever give you the blessing you seek, but I know God will. Let God give you what your family doesn’t. If your earthly father doesn’t affirm you, then let your heavenly Father take his place.

God has proven himself as a faithful father. Now it falls to us to be trusting children. Let God give you what your family doesn’t. Let him fill the void others have left. Rely upon him for your affirmation and encouragement. Look at Paul’s words: “You are God’s child, and God will give you the blessing he promised, because you are his child” (Gal. 4:7, emphasis added).

And] don’t lose heart. God still changes families.

From He Still Moves Stones

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12/13/19 12:45 A

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Do You See Him? - UpWords - December 12

by Max Lucado

It's Christmas Night. The house is quiet. Even the crackle is gone from the fireplace. The last of the carolers appeared on the ten o’clock news. The last of the apple pie was eaten by my brother-in-law. And the last of the Christmas albums have been stored away having dutifully performed their annual rendition of chestnuts, white Christmases, and red-nosed reindeers.

It’s Christmas night.

The midnight hour has chimed and I should be asleep, but I’m awake. I’m kept awake by one stunning thought. The world was different this week. It was temporarily transformed.

The magical dust of Christmas glittered on the cheeks of humanity ever so briefly, reminding us of what is worth having and what we were intended to be. We forgot our compulsion with winning, wooing, and warring. We put away our ladders and ledgers, we hung up our stopwatches and weapons. We stepped off our race tracks and roller coasters and looked outward toward the star of Bethlehem.

It’s the season to be jolly because, more than at any other time, we think of him. More than in any other season, his name is on our lips.

And the result?

For a few precious hours, he is beheld. Christ the Lord. Those who pass the year without seeing him, suddenly see him. People who have been accustomed to using his name in vain, pause to use it in praise. Eyes, now free of the blinders of self, marvel at his majesty.

All of a sudden he’s everywhere.

In the grin of the policeman as he drives the paddy wagon full of presents to the orphanage.

In the twinkle in the eyes of the Taiwanese waiter as he tells of his upcoming Christmas trip to see his children.

In the emotion of the father who is too thankful to finish the dinner table prayer.

He’s in the tears of the mother as she welcomes home her son from overseas.

He’s in the heart of the man who spent Christmas morning on skid row giving away cold baloney sandwiches and warm wishes.

And he’s in the solemn silence of the crowd of shopping mall shoppers as the elementary school chorus sings “Away in a Manger.”

Emmanuel. He is with us. God came near.

It’s Christmas night. In a few hours the cleanup will begin—lights will come down, trees will be thrown out. Size 36 will be exchanged for size 40, eggnog will be on sale for half price. Soon life will be normal again. December’s generosity will become January’s payments and the magic will begin to fade.

But for the moment, the magic is still in the air. Maybe that’s why I’m still awake. I want to savor the spirit just a bit more. I want to pray that those who beheld him today will look for him next August. And I can’t help but linger on one fanciful thought: If he can do so much with such timid prayers lamely offered in December, how much more could he do if we thought of him every day?

From God Came Near

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The Key to Spiritual Growth - UpWords - December 7

By Max Lucado

Key to Spiritual Growth

by Max Lucado

The key to spiritual growth isn’t increased church attendance or involvement in spiritual activities. People don’t grow in Christ because they’re busy at church. They grow in Christ when they read and trust their Bibles.

Desire some “Glory Days?” Engage with the Bible. Think and re-think God’s Word. Let it be your guide. Set your sights on the unchanging principles of God. Let God’s Word be the authoritative word in your world.

To begin, join me in our Scripture Memory Challenge. It’s an adventure to hide God’s Word deep in our hearts. This week let’s memorize Joshua 1:9, God’s promise of power. “Have I not commanded you be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid. Do not be discouraged for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go!”

From UpWords Max Lucado

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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!

From 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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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!

From You’ll Get Through This

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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10/31/19 12:42 P

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We Are Valuable - UpWords - October 31

by Max Lucado

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

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

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

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

You have value simply because you are!

You are His.

From Cast of Characters

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10/28/19 8:54 A

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Loneliness - UpWords - October 28

by Max Lucado

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

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

From Traveling Light

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10/27/19 9:20 A

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My Crazy Thought - UpWords - October 27

by Max Lucado

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

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

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

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

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

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

From A Gentle Thunder

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Hidden in His Love - UpWords - October 26

by Max Lucado

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

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

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

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

From Grace for the Moment

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10/25/19 11:39 A

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The Names of God - UpWords - October 25

by Max Lucado

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

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

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

From UpWords with Max Lucado

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

by Max Lucado

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

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

There was that time years before …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mark the weariness in the words.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That's when he realizes who Jesus is.

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

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

From He Still Moves Stones: Everyone Needs a Miracle

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10/23/19 11:31 A

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

by Max Lucado

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Do Good Quietly - UpWords - October 22

by Max Lucado

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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10/21/19 9:11 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 11:47 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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10/17/19 12:27 P

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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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10/15/19 8:08 P

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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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