Be who God made you to be and stop comparing yourself to others!!

What in your life do you need to let go of today in order to fulfill the call God has placed upon you?

Let Go of Comparison
by Tsh Oxenreider, Notes From a Blue Bike

One of the best things about the Internet is the exposure to many ways of living life. With a few taps of our fingers, we’re connected to parenting methods in Brazil or the best way to tour New York City on a budget with our kids.

We hear others’ convictions and passions about how to best live life, and we’re privy to more tutorials for sewing tote bags than we’d ever possibly need. The Internet is a beautiful place to work, and I’m proud to be part of it.

But one of the worst things about the Internet is the exposure to many ways of living life.

As we read how other families function scattered around the globe, we’re tempted to be confused at best, discouraged and defeated at worst. One site is chock-full of gardening tips, and as we read, we’re convinced that we could probably live off our backyard if we just gave it some time and attention.

Then we click over to another site that’s rich and deep and full of spiritual encouragement, and we’re convicted that we need to spend more time journaling our prayers.

We check our e-mail, and there’s a blogger giving us step-by-step instructions for how to build an outdoor play tent for kids, so now we’re motivated to run to the fabric and hardware stores for supplies— but not before we’re stopped by another site that spills out a list of the fifty best read-aloud books for kids under ten, so now we add library to our errand list too.

It’s overwhelming and exhausting, and it often means we throw in the towel and almost never do any of these well-intentioned tasks at all. And then we’re depressed and ashamed, so why not just order another pizza and watch moreFriends reruns for the evening?

Living intentionally ultimately means staying true to yourself and how your family is made.

As you scour the Internet for ideas, listen to that still, small voice that says,This is you. That voice you hear? I think it’s a little nudge to wander down that one path, which thereby gives you permission to ignore the other path.

Your time is limited. Don’t waste it living someone else’s life. – Steve Jobs

God made a lot of people, and if he wanted us all the same, well, he didn’t do a very good job. I’m fairly convinced he tapped into his creativity when he made us.

Are you convinced that your family needs to be in your public school system, making positive changes there for the better and developing relationships with your neighbors? Then do it, and don’t feel the need to apologize.

Do you feel you need to stay in your desk job right now instead of pursuing that business idea percolating in your head, because your family has health issues and you really need the insurance? By all means, stay where you are, and become a stellar employee so that you’re rewarded for your labor.

Is your family more interested in saving up money to buy an RV and camp across the country than backpacking around the world? Have a great time and send me a postcard. (You all still need to leave your home country together at least once, though. That’s a nonnegotiable.)

Most of life’s decisions don’t come with black-and-white answers, and that’s a beautiful, marvelous thing. We’re each given freedom to choose our decisions, and that responsibility is the very definition of living with intention, after all: making daily choices so that your life lines up with your passions and values. It should all make sense in your head.

Go forth, then, and do it with zealous delight. No matter where you live, the size of your family, or what’s truly most important to you, may you live intentionally in a way that makes sense in your head. And maybe our paths will cross one day.

Prayer:

Jesus help us to be intentional about the way we live our lives today focusing on the plans You have for each of us as individuals and trusting You. Help us not to compare ourselves to others as a measuring stick but to seek Your heart and guidance.

in Jesus name,

amen

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Delight yourself in the Lord Today

The way of Jesus is the way of joy; to follow Him is to follow joy. –

Robert Crosby
Devotionals Daily

Jesus promised His disciples three things — that they would be completely fearless, absurdly happy, and in constant trouble. — F. R. Maltby

Let God’s love set your soul on fire.

Jesus wants His followers to experience great joy. I am convinced of this. As late as His Last Supper discourse, He let them know they could find joy in part from their prayer life:

Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. – John 16:24

I know Christians are supposed to be joyful people. And I realize joy is a result of having the Spirit in me. Among all the people of the earth, Christians have the greatest reason to be full of joy. But sometimes life steps in and robs me of the joy. I know I should feel it, but sometimes I just don’t. The questions emerge: Is joy something I should just wait for? Will it just come upon me?

I am not alone. There seems to be a great absence of joy in the lives of many Christians and congregations today. Of the several fruits “of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22–23), joy seems to be the most elusive.

Interestingly enough, the Bible never recommends we rejoice; it commands us to do so.

I will say it again: Rejoice! – Philippians 4:4

When I first realized this, a few questions immediately came to mind: How can I suddenly have the emotion of joy? According to the Bible, how can it be cultivated? In short, what can I do to work on my joy?

After plowing through some of these questions, I made up my mind a few years ago that I wanted to be a joyful Christian, not periodically, but consistently. I wanted to be a person who regularly experiences the fullness of joy that Christ promised. Most of all, I wanted my experience and expression to be authentic, real, and contagious.

But God won’t force the expression of joy on us. Much like a host throwing a party, who invites you to the event in full hopes you will absolutely enjoy yourself, He provides all that is needed for a good time — the atmosphere, the food, the people — but your attitude and actions determine how much you enjoy the event.

Disciplines Leading to Joy

In order to tap into the joy supply Christ has secured for us, we will need discipline. Joy is not merely an emotion felt within; it is a discipline we must cultivate and practice.

The Bible makes it clear that certain disciplines in our daily routine will lead to a greater sense of joy. Here are some I have found:

1. Joy Reads!

Reading the Scripture can be an incredible source of joy. The psalmist apparently tapped into this source of joy often:

The commandments of the Lord are right, bringing joy to the heart. – Psalm 19:8

and

I rejoice in your word like one who discovers a great treasure. – Psalm 119:162

2. Joy Sings!

Singing, whether in a church or in my car, is one of my favorite ways to stir up and release the joy of the Lord in my heart. Singing allows my soul to move its focus away from the circumstances of life and toward the character of God. It’s downright therapeutic. Even Paul encouraged the Ephesian Christians to make music a habit in their lives:

Be filled with the Spirit… Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord. – Ephesians 5:18-19

3. Joy Gives!

A generous spirit is a joyous spirit. Paul praised the Corinthians for their cheerful giving:

Now I want you to know, dear brothers and sisters, what God in his kindness has done through the churches in Macedonia. They are being tested by many troubles, and they are very poor. But they are also filled with abundant joy, which has overflowed in rich generosity. – 2 Corinthians 8:1-2

4. Joy Communes!

At this stage of growth in Christ, in the Twelve, the primary characteristic of a follower is being a comrade. Our focus and much of our joy come not only from walking with Christ, or working for Christ but also from doing both of these together with others in community.

How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!… For there the Lord bestows His blessing, even life forevermore. – Psalm 133:1, Psalm 133:3

5. Joy Meditates!

Our joy is renewed by remembering God, by meditating on His goodness, by recalling his specific acts of faithfulness to us:

You satisfy me more than the richest feast. I will praise You with songs of joy. I lie awake thinking of You, meditating on You through the night. Because You are my helper, I sing for joy in the shadow of Your wings. – Psalm 63:5-7

6. Joy Serves!

Jesus came into this world presenting Himself as a servant, not a king (Philippians 2). He came to show us that the greatest joy is found when we learn how to truly serve God and people in need. The journey of serving God is supposed to be one paved with great joy:

Serve the Lord with gladness. – Psalm 100:2

7. Joy Enjoys!

What about enjoying God? God wants us to worship Him, and He wants us to enjoy Him. The psalmist wrote,

In Thy presence is fulness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore. – Psalm 16:11

Pastor John Piper says, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.”

Choosing Joy

C. S. Lewis also recognized the importance of making the joy choice, even when doubts arose:

Moods will change, whatever view your reason takes. I know that by experience. Now that I am a Christian I do have moods in which the whole thing [Christianity] looks very improbable: but when I was an atheist I had moods in which Christianity looked terribly probable… That is why Faith is such a necessary virtue: unless you teach your moods “where they get off,” you can never be either a sound Christian or even a sound atheist.

In the final analysis, joy is a regular experience no Christian can afford to miss. It requires certain disciplines, but they are well worth it. Growing in Christ takes us from one experience of finding our joy in God to another. Paul referred to it as moving “from glory to glory” (2 Corinthians 3:18). And on that journey,

in the Crowds, we experience that joy listening to Christ and watching Him at work;
in the Five Thousand, we experience it by receiving from Christ;
in the Seventy, we find joy in working for Christ; and
in the Twelve, we find the joy of walking with Christ.
Growing as a Christian might best be described as working on our joy and the joy of those around us. One day our final destination will be not only entering into heaven but entering into joy itself! And we’ll hear,

Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord. – Matthew 25:21

Remember… in the Twelve, the way of Jesus is the way of joy; to follow Him is to follow joy.

Christianity is a Relationship and a Lifestyle

This statement is Truth:
Your commitments can develop you or they can destroy you, but either way, they will define you. – Rick Warren,

The Purpose Driven Life 10th Anniversary edition

Your heavenly Father’s goal is for you to mature and develop the characteristics of Jesus Christ.

Sadly, millions of Christians grow older but never grow up.

They are stuck in perpetual spiritual infancy, remaining in diapers and booties. The reason is that they never intended to grow.

Spiritual growth is not automatic. It takes an intentional commitment. You must want to grow, decide to grow, make an effort to grow, and persist in growing. Discipleship – the process of becoming like Christ – always begins with a decision.

Jesus calls us, and we respond:

‘Come, be My disciple,’ Jesus said to him. So Matthew got up and followed Him. – Matthew 9:9

When the first disciples chose to follow Jesus, they didn’t understand all the implications of their decision. They simply responded to Jesus’ invitation. That’s all you need to get started: Decide to become a disciple.

Nothing shapes your life more than the commitments you choose to make. Your commitments can develop you or they can destroy you, but either way, they will define you.

Tell me what you are committed to, and I’ll tell you what you will be in twenty years. We become whatever we are committed to.

It is at this point of commitment that most people miss God’s purpose for their lives. Many are afraid to commit to anything and just drift through life. Others make halfhearted commitments to competing values, which leads to frustration and mediocrity. Others make a full commitment to worldly goals, such as becoming wealthy or famous, and end up disappointed and bitter. Every choice has eternal consequences, so you had better choose wisely. Peter warns,

Since everything around us is going to melt away, what holy, godly lives you should be living! – 2 Peter 3:11

Christlikeness is the result of making Christlike choices and depending on His Spirit to help you fulfill those choices. Once you decide to get serious about becoming like Christ, you must begin to act in new ways. You will need to let go of some old routines, develop some new habits, and intentionally change the way you think. You can be certain that the Holy Spirit will help you with these changes. The Bible says,

Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose. – Philippians 2:12-13

This verse shows the two parts of spiritual growth: “work out” and “work in.” The “work out” is your responsibility, and the “work in” is God’s role. Spiritual growth is a collaborative effort between you and the Holy Spirit. God’s Spirit works with us, not just in us.

This verse, written to believers, is not about how to be saved, but how to grow. It does not say “work for” your salvation, because you can’t add anything to what Jesus already did. During a physical “workout,” you exercise to develop your body, not to get a body. When you “work out” a puzzle, you already have all the pieces – your task is to put them together. Farmers “work” the land, not to get land, but to develop what they already have. God has given you a new life; now you are responsible to develop it “with fear and trembling.” That means to take your spiritual growth seriously!

Christianity is not a religion or a philosophy, but a relationship and a lifestyle.

The core of that lifestyle is thinking of others, as Jesus did, instead of ourselves. The Bible says,

We should think of their good and try to help them by doing what pleases them. Even Christ did not try to please Himself. – Romans 15:2-3a

Thinking of others is the heart of Christlikeness and the best evidence of spiritual growth. This kind of thinking is unnatural, counter-cultural, rare, and difficult. Fortunately we have help:

God has given us His Spirit. That’s why we don’t think the same way that the people of this world think. – 1 Corinthians 2:12a

Christianity is a relationship and a lifestyle

Excerpted with permission from The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren, copyright Zondervan.

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Your Turn

Have you decided to be a disciple of Jesus? To get up and follow Him and Him alone? What are you committed to? Have you decided to grow? Are you making an effort to grow, or persisting in growing? Are you beginning to act differently? Join the conversation on our blog! We’d love to hear your story about how you are growing up! ~ Devotionals Daily

10 years ago, Rick Warren wrote the Purpose Driven Life, which became the bestselling hardback non-fiction book in history, and is the second most-translated book in the world, after the Bible. The Purpose Drive Life has inspired and changed tens of millions of lives… Now, Rick has updated and expanded the book with new chapters on the greatest barriers to living your purpose, plus 42 video introductions to each chapter theme, and 42 additional audio messages that go deeper into each chapter. People WANT to know their purpose in life! The Purpose Driven Life will enable a new generation to discover God’s purposes for their lives and empower your church with a fresh new wind of hope, joy, and vitality!

Learn more about The Purpose Driven Life 10th Anniversary Edition….
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Falling In Love With Jesus

All great characters in stories are the ones who give their lives to something bigger than themselves.

Loving Jesus

by Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz

A guy I know named Alan went around the country asking ministry leaders questions. He went to successful churches and asked the pastors what they were doing, why what they were doing was working. It sounded very boring except for one visit he made to a man named Bill Bright, the president of a big ministry. Alan said he was a big man, full of life, who listened without shifting his eyes. Alan asked a few questions. I don’t know what they were, but as a final question he asked Dr. Bright what Jesus meant to him. Alan said Dr. Bright could not answer the question. He said Dr. Bright just started to cry. He sat there in his big chair behind his big desk and wept.

When Alan told that story I wondered what it was like to love Jesus that way. I wondered, quite honestly, if that Bill Bright guy was just nuts or if he really knew Jesus in a personal way, so well that he would cry at the very mention of His name. I knew then that I would like to know Jesus like that, with my heart, not just my head. I felt like that would be the key to something.

I remember the first time I had feelings for Jesus. It wasn’t very long ago. I had gone to a conference on the coast with some Reed students, and a man spoke who was a professor at a local Bible college. He spoke mostly about the Bible, about how we should read the Bible. He was convincing. He seemed to have an emotional relationship with the Book, the way I think about Catcher in the Rye. This man who was speaking reads through the Bible three times each year. I had never read through the Bible at all. I had read a lot of it but not all of it, and mostly I read it because I felt that I had to; it was healthy or something.

The speaker guy asked us to go outside and find a quiet place and get reacquainted with the Book, hold it in our hands and let our eyes feel down the pages. I went out on the steps outside the rest room and opened my Bible to the book of James.

Years ago I had a crush on a girl, and I prayed about it and that night read through James, and because it is a book about faith and belief I felt like God was saying that if I had faith she would marry me. So I was very excited about this and lost a lot of weight, but the girl gave her virginity to a jerk from our youth group, and they are married now. I didn’t care, honestly. I didn’t love her that much. I only say that because the book of James, in my Bible, is highlighted in ten colors and underlined all over the place, and it looks blood raw, and the yellow pages remind me of a day when I believed so faithfully in God, so beautifully in God. I read a little, maybe a few pages, then shut the Book, very tired and confused.

But when we got back from the conference, I felt like my Bible was calling me. I felt this promise that if I read it, if I just read it like a book, cover to cover, it wouldn’t change me into an idiot, it wouldn’t change me into a clone of Pat Buchanan, and that was honestly the thing I was worried about with the Bible. If I read it, it would make me simple in my thinking. So I started in Matthew, which is one of the Gospels about Jesus. And I read through Matthew and Mark, then Luke and John. I read those books in a week or so, and Jesus was very confusing, and I didn’t know if I liked Him very much, and I was certainly tired of Him by the second day. By the time I got to the end of Luke, to the part where they were going to kill Him again, where they were going to stretch Him out on a cross, something shifted within me. I remember it was cold outside, crisp, and the leaves in the trees of the park across the street were getting tired and dry. And I remember sitting at my desk, and I don’t know what it was that I read or what Jesus was doing in the book, but I felt a love for Him rush through me, through my back and into my chest. I started crying, too, like that guy Bill Bright.

I remember thinking that I would follow Jesus anywhere, that it didn’t matter what He asked me to do. He could be mean to me; it didn’t matter, I loved Him, and I was going to follow Him.

I think the most important thing that happens within Christian spirituality is when a person falls in love with Jesus.

If you haven’t done it in a while, pray and talk to Jesus. Ask Him to become real to you. Ask Him to forgive you of self-addiction, ask Him to put a song in your heart. I can’t think of anything better that could happen to you than this.

Great characters give their lives to something bigger

Excerpted with permission from Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller, copyright Thomas Nelson.

* * *

Your Turn

Have you experienced that feeling of falling in love with Jesus or remember meeting Him for the first time?

Prayer:

Dear Jesus

Bring me to a place of fresh encounter with you. I want to know you more and step into the fullness of your love. Nothing satisfy my soul like you. I know you delight in loving me. I too want to experience delight in being loved by You and loving you and others in return.

In Jesus Name,

Amen

God does not change and neither does His love!

God does not change — and neither does His love. He loved you before you were born… He loves you now… and He will love you forever. –

Blessings of the Cross
by Billy Graham

O LORD my God, You are very great; …You who laid the foundations of the earth. – Psalm 104:1 , Psalm 104:5

God’s love did not begin at Calvary. Before the morning stars sang together, before the world was baptized with the first light, before the first blades of tender grass peeped out, God was love.

Turn back to the unwritten pages of countless eons before God spoke this present earth into existence, when the earth was “without form and void” and the deep, silent darkness of space stood in stark contrast to the brilliance of God’s glory and His cherubim and seraphim.

Even then, God was love. Before the worlds were created, He knew all about us and the need we would have some day for Christ to die for us. So in His love

He chose us in Him before the creation of the world. – Ephesians 1:4

God does not change — and neither does His love. He loved you before you were born… He loves you now… and He will love you forever. Will you love Him in return?

God’s love never changes

Excerpted with permission from Blessings of the Cross, copyright Thomas Nelson.

* * *

Lord Jesus thank you for loving me and delighting in loving me. I am overwhelmed with this degree of love and kindness and so very grateful you died for me as the supreme act of love. Teach me today to love others with an unchanging love and kindness. Nothing in this life is more important than your loving kindness impacting the world and changing lives.

in Jesus Name,

Amen

Lavish Grace, It Changes Everything!!i

Grace takes the initiative to live with passion and compassion; it does not play it safe, but lavishes itself on others, just as grace is daily lavished on us.

Read on as Shelia Walsh shares her heart.

God wants you to live, not just get through one more day. ~ Sheila Walsh

Shame and Grace
by Sheila Walsh, Loved Back to Life: How I Found the Courage to Live Free

Meet Sheila Walsh

Too many of us are at war within ourselves. When that is the case, the following questions arise:

How can you extend grace to others when you have not received it yourself? Where do you go when you feel flawed? Where do you find healing when you know you are sick?

For me, the only place to go was to the feet of the only One who is perfect, the only One who fully understands how flawed I am and yet who loves me completely.

Jesus said, Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. – Matthew 11:28

When our Lord was brutally executed, He took upon Himself all the filth and decay of a diseased world. He knew that we could not make it on our own, so He took our place. Wherever He encountered darkness, He brought light. When He met people who were in hiding, He called them out. Whether it was a “scarlet woman” or a little man hiding up a tree, His words were words of healing and hope and freedom. Isaiah told us,

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. – Isaiah 9:2

I have a friend who is a missionary on the border between Thailand and Cambodia. He has a heart for people suffering from leprosy in the refugee camps. He and his colleagues began to spend time with those men and women, doing what they could to aid them physically and spiritually. Eventually a church was born, right there in the middle of a leper camp. During one of their services, a man who had been among the first to make a commitment to following Christ said, “One of the most wonderful things that has happened to me since I met Jesus is that now I can look you in the face. I was too ashamed before because of my disfigurement, but if Jesus loves me so much, then I think that I can hold my head up high.”

That is how it is supposed to be for us all. Jesus has restored our dignity. What we sold so cheaply in Eden, He has bought back for us at a great price. We all struggle with our humanity, with our soulishness, but cleansing is not found in the shadows; it is found in the burning light.

The word grace is now as familiar to me as wind or rain, although it took me some time to be able to receive this lavish gift.

Grace was never meant to be rationed, something we nibble on to get us through tough times. It is meant to soak us to (and through) the skin and fill us so full that we can hardly catch our breath.

My problem was that I had such a tight grasp on my life, there was very little room into which grace could be poured.

I remember running to the altar at the church I visited while in the hospital, dragging my shame and grief behind me. Everything was different from that day on. Grace gave me the courage to face my biggest fears and the harshest truths about my life because it held on to me and never let go. I felt an overwhelming thankfulness deep in my bones. I knew I could never pay for this awesome gift, but it had my name on it, and it would never be taken away.

True grace is so overwhelming you are compelled to extend it to those around you, whether they deserve it or not.

George MacDonald said:

Whether he pay you what you count his debt or no, you will be compelled to pay him all you owe him. If you owe him a pound and he owes you a million, you must pay him the pound whether he pay you the million or not. . . . If, owing you love, he gives you hate you, owing him love, have yet to pay it.

That is a truly joyful and liberating way to live. Your mind is set; your path is clear; you need not depend on the reactions of others to determine how you will react to them because you have already made your choice. Grace takes the initiative to live with passion and compassion; it does not play it safe, but lavishes itself on others, just as grace is daily lavished on us.

Can you imagine how the world would be transformed if we all chose to live with gracious, generous hearts? Can you imagine the peace we would encounter if we set aside our petty differences and narrow-minded prejudices and embraced one another as we have been embraced by Christ? This kind of living would transform everything it came in contact with.

Consider the woman who broke her jar of expensive perfume over the feet of Jesus. Even though she was criticized by others for the recklessness of her act, Christ reprimanded her critics, telling them they did not understand what she had done.

There is no better moment to pour your love out on another. Carpe diem: seize the day!

I treasure my volumes of the collected sermons of Charles Spurgeon, who spoke about grace with such depth and simplicity. He described returning home one evening after a very busy day when he was suddenly confronted by the text, “My grace is sufficient for thee.” He thought about the words for a while, and then their meaning came to him in a new way: “My grace is sufficient for thee.” He said he burst out laughing, it was so clear. “It seemed to make unbelief so absurd,” he wrote.

It was as though some little fish, being very thirsty, was troubled about drinking the river dry, and Father Thames said, “Drink away little fish, my stream is sufficient for thee” . . . Little faith will bring your souls to heaven but great faith will bring heaven to your souls.

All we have to do is humble ourselves before God. As we move toward Him, we will see Him running to meet us. We may feel incredibly unworthy (and we are), but we must remember that God loved us so much “He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

Everyone’s story is different. Perhaps you have been told you should never have been born, that you were a mistake. Perhaps you were told you would never amount to anything. So many things that happen to us as children leave greasy fingerprints on our souls. Children who have been beaten feel at some level that they deserve their beatings; those who have been sexually abused become accustomed to equating anything sexual with “love.” Yet Jesus said He came to give us abundant life, life running over at the edges, more than we could ever imagine.

When you step out from the shadows into the storm, you may be at the mercy of the wind for a while, but Christ is Lord over the wind and the storms, and you will be truly alive — not just a whisper of who God called you to be. There is so much more to life than mere survival! God wants you to live, not just get through one more day. We can try in vain to fix ourselves, but only the One who made us knows the path to healing.

I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people… to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness. – Isaiah 42:6-7

When you find yourself at an emotional crossroads, you have to choose whether you will push your emotions down one more time, dismissing them as lightly as a summer cold, or will you stop and listen and ask God to help you understand why your life is so painful? Perhaps, like me, you will find things out about yourself that are disappointing. I, for instance, am learning to distinguish between healthy shame that alerts me to areas of my life that need to change and the unhealthy ocean of shame that does not belong to me. At times you may be overwhelmed with sadness, but if you are willing to sing its song for a little while, a great burden will be cut from you and roll down the mountain.

Lord Jesus,

Your love for me is beyond my understanding.

I am so ashamed of what I bring to You today —

my fears, my shame, my hopelessness.

Today I choose to come out of the shadows

into Your light,

into Your healing,

into Your hope,

into Your life.

Amen.

Register now for our live chat with Sheila Walsh!

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Excerpted with permission from Loved Back to Life by Sheila Walsh, copyright Thomas Nelson, 2015.

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Your Turn

Doesn’t that sound glorious? Are you weary and burdened? Overwhelmed with sadness, shame, or other unhealthy weights that do not belong to you? Do you long to have those unbearable loads cut from you so that you can turn and see them rolling away? Today, let’s determine to stop and intentionally listen and ask God to help us understand why life is so painful and partner with Him towards recovery, restoration, and being loved back to life in Jesus.

Waiting is Active and Worth it!

Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. – Psalm 37:4
Devotionals Daily

Waiting Well
by John Mark Comer, Loveology

A Form of Torture Called Waiting

America is at war in Europe and in the Pacific. Millions of young men are dropping everything to go and fight. My grandfather, Bill Comer, is a senior in high school when he meets a girl named Ruth from the nearby town of Muncie, Indiana. A few months later, right after graduation, he joins the Air Force, but while he’s away at basic training, they start writing letters.

They fall in love. One letter at a time.

Ten months later she takes the train down to Alabama, where he’s in training, and they get married. Three days later he ships out for Guam. Not exactly an ideal way to start off a marriage. He’s a bomber pilot flying sorties over Japan, and she’s all alone at an Air Force base in the States.

They were nineteen and twenty.

Here’s what was crazy — that was normal! Most of that generation married right out of high school. But today, most of you will spend a decade between graduation and marriage. Tammy and I married young, but that’s so rare now that it’s weird.

For the first time in US history, there are more single people than married people. Fewer and fewer people are getting married at all.

Waiting is a part of life. Even if you marry young, like I did, you still end up waiting. There’s always something on the horizon, just out of your reach. Graduation, a job, an experience, a dream you’re working toward — the list is endless.

The trick is to learn how to wait well.

Psalm 37

King David was no stranger to waiting. He spent thirteen years between his anointing as king and his coronation. That’s brutal.

When God has put something in you and you know it’s from the Spirit and it’s bursting to get out, but… nothing… happens. It’s torture. Waterboarding on the soul.

David spent most of that time on the run as a fugitive from his jealous rival, King Saul. He spent years hiding under rocks in the desert.

Waiting.

Psalm 37 was probably written during that time. At En Gedi or in some alcove tucked into a mountain. It’s a raw, unfiltered poem, one that questions if God’s ever going to come through. And if so, when? How much longer?

The psalm reads…

Do not fret because of those who are evil or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away. Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him and He will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun.

For thousands of years, people like you and me have found solace in David’s lyrics. Because David’s story is our story. His lament is our lament. We all know what it feels like to be stuck waiting when we feel like we’re ready to move on. When “those who are evil” thrive and flourish and get ahead, and we shrivel up on the inside and fall behind and scrape by.

How is it that people who don’t follow God’s way sometimes do well? Really well. How is it that those of us who do follow God sometimes limp along. How is that fair? Or put another way, how is it that people who ignore loveology meet somebody, have great sex (whenever they want), get married, and do well? And how is it that thousands of Jesus followers work and fight and pray to do life God’s way, but end up alone?

The truth is that God’s wisdom on love and marriage and sex and romance and the rest works as a general rule — not as a “promise from God” in every scenario, all the time, but as wisdom. As a general rule, people who follow the way of Jesus thrive, and people who buy into culture’s way don’t. But there are exceptions all over the place. And it’s the exceptions that get under our skin — that make us question why we should go through all this trouble if people who take the easy route sometimes do just fine.

David’s answer is, “Just wait”… “Like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away.” It’s only a matter of time until the bottom falls out. A relationship that was built on the sand will fall. It might take a year or a decade or longer, but it will fall. Of course, that’s not God’s heart — He’s all about healing and re-creation. The second you turn over your life to God, He’s right there, waiting to reset the foundation in your cracked relationship, because if you don’t get the foundation right, you’re in for disaster.

The way of Jesus is so different from the world. And Jesus’ way is good, but it’s hard. Really hard at times. Every cell in your body wants to cave in, to take matters into your own hands. To follow the crowd, not the Rabbi from Nazareth.

David says, “Just wait. Life isn’t over yet.” But waiting is hard to do. That’s why David’s call is to “wait patiently” for the Lord. Not for a man or a woman. Not for a proposal or a “yes.” Not for a ring wrapped around your finger, but for God. And don’t forget that God is with you, right now. You’re not solitary. You’re not alone.

You see, we’re not just waiting for God. We’re waiting with God.

Waiting is active, not passive. Notice the language. Trust, do good, dwell, enjoy, take delight in, commit, be still — seven staccato commands all leading up to “wait patiently” for the Lord. Each one is dripping with implications.

Wait Patiently for God

Finally, after getting all that out on the table, David writes, “And wait patiently for Him.”

Notice how much is crammed into that last phrase. The imagery isn’t of a guy sitting in a waiting room, bored out of his mind, waiting for God to call his name. It’s of trusting, doing, dwelling, enjoying, cultivating, delighting, committing — it’s of a man or a woman walking with God into the future.

The reality is that there’s so much work to be done right now. Before you ever meet him or her, or get married. Before you graduate. Before you do whatever. There’s so much that has to happen in your life to shape you into the kind of man or woman who’s ready for that next step.

More important than finding your spouse is becoming the kind of person who’s ready to get married. All we can do is work hard to become the kind of man or woman Jesus is calling us to be. The kind of man or woman for whom someone out there is waiting.

David wrote, “Those who wait for the Lord, they will inherit the land.” There is a land — a life rich with God’s blessing — that can be yours, but so much of it depends on waiting well.

Waiting well is active

Excerpted with permission from Loveology by John Mark Comer, copyright Zondervan 2014.

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Love doesn’t rescue the pain. It protects the ones we love from going through the pain alone.

Lord Jesus thank you for demonstrating to us so powerfully that Love endures pain and long-suffering. Help us with those that we love, not to set out to rescue their pain, but to come alongside of them and help to carry their  burden, so they will not be alone. This is what you mean when you say love always protects. It creates a safe place.

Love… always protects. – 1 Corinthians 13:7
Devotionals Daily

Love Always Protects
by Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott, Love Is: Meditations for Couples on 1 Corinthians 13

Several years ago we were speaking in Washington, D.C., at a national marriage conference. With two hours of unstructured time one afternoon, we caught a cab and made our way to the Smithsonian Institute to view one of our nation’s most prized documents, the Declaration of Independence.

We stood in a long line for a brief look at this historical treasure. Before we reached the viewing area in front of the bulletproof glass I noticed that almost everyone said something to the guard who stood nearby. When our turn came, I studied the document for a few moments and then turned to the guard myself. “It looks like almost everyone makes a comment or asks a question of you before leaving,” I said. “What question do you hear the most?”

The guard didn’t pause. “Everyone,” he said, “wants to know how the Declaration of Independence is protected.”

He proceeded to tell us how each night it is mechanically transported into a huge vault sunk deep beneath the ground of the museum.

As we caught our return cab back to the conference, Leslie mused, “It’s so true. We want to be sure the things we love are safe and sound.” Paul makes the point as plain as possible: “Love always protects.”

But can it really? Can love safeguard your husband or wife from pain? Not really. To guarantee such a promise is absurd. But love can protect the one you love from walking in pain alone. In fact, some of life’s most piercing pain comes from not having a companion who walks with us. The Latin origins of protect literally mean to cover over or walk in front of. And that’s just how love’s power to protect works. It moves us to carry our partner’s pain as if it were our own.

It compels us to cover our partner with companionship.

Consider the painful times in your own life. Didn’t the most dramatic relief come when someone entered your situation with you and helped you carry your burden? This person literally protected you from further pain by carrying some of it away. Because of his or her love, your pain became less difficult to bear. And to take it a step further, love not only protects us by reducing our pain, it protects us by enabling healing to begin once the pain is present. In other words, love protects us from letting an emotional wound fester with anger and resentment.

Love knows how to keep its mouth shut and just listen. Love creates a safe place to talk it out and thus protects us from doing something foolish.

Love keeps us safe by its very nature.

It is a foolproof security system. It wraps us in acceptance and guards us in its embrace. When we are loved — when we are wanted, claimed, and enjoyed by another — nothing can hurt us to the core. Because love always protects.

Excerpted with permission from Love Is: Meditations for Couples on 1 Corinthians 13 by Les and Leslie Parrott, copyright Zondervan.

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What is love? What does God have to say about it? Look no further than the ancient letter from the apostle Paul to the Corinthians. This view of love stands above all the others. The beautiful, moving, and challenging chapter of 1 Corinthians 13 has defined real love for over 2,000 years.

In Love Is, relationship experts Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott bring together different translations of this well-known chapter of the New Testament – the Love Chapter, as it has been called – to inspire and offer direction to anyone who wants to love better. Pairing meditations with the translations, they offer compelling insights into this rich treasury of God-given love. Love Is offers affirmation and encouragement for couples of in any stage of relationship–engaged, newly married, or empty-nesters. This beautifully designed devotional book is a wonderful gift for engagements, weddings, and anniversaries. Love Is contains reflections on 1 Corinthians 13 featuring 16 different translations and paraphrases of the Bible’s beloved ‘Love Chapter’.

Contagious, Audacious Love; Don’t miss it!!

Contagious Audacious Love by Bob Geoff

I used to think being loved was the greatest thing to think about, but now I know love is never satisfied just thinking about it. – Bob #LoveDoes

We have a house down by the water, and there’s a little grass path where couples hold hands and walk along the bay front. My wife and I sit on the back porch and hold hands a lot too as we watch the couples meander by. We’re close enough to the water that they wave to us, and we wave back, a nostalgic snippet from another time where people waved to each other during slow walks. This is how I met Ryan.

One day, Ryan came walking down the path all alone. Ryan waved to us and we waved back like we did to everyone. But instead of moving on, Ryan just stood there on the path, waving and not moving. Because he kept waving, we kept waving. It was a little awkward, honestly. I wondered if perhaps this young man wanted to talk, so to break the tension, I made the short walk from the porch to the path to say hello.

“Hi there, how’s it going?” I said, reaching out to shake his hand and give him a break from all the waving.

“Hi, I’m Ryan and I’m in love,” he said confidently. Ryan had that glazed-over look that smitten guys get.

“Well, Ryan, that’s just great! Congratulations.”

“No, no… that’s not why I came,” Ryan stammered. “What I wanted to say is that I walk by your house all the time… and I have this girlfriend, you see… and…” He paused.

“I want to know if it would be okay…” He paused again. “. . . if I asked my girlfriend to marry me in your backyard?”

He talked like he had been holding his breath for quite some time. I was taken aback by this love-glazed kid who would approach a complete stranger and ask to use his house to stage a great caper. But that’s the way it is when you are in love, isn’t it? All he knew was that he wanted the girl and was going to do whatever it took to get her.

“Ryan, that sounds like a fantastic idea!” I said, laughing.

“Really?” Ryan answered. I guess he had expected an instant no or a gentler “I’ll think about it.”

“Sure! Go get your girl and let’s get you two engaged!” With that, Ryan went half skipping, half floating down the grassy path. I think his feet hit the path about every twenty feet or so.

He was being strategic; he was being audacious; he knew what he was going to do. He was going to get his girl.

A few days later, we were sitting on the back porch again.

Couples were walking down the path holding hands. We would wave to them and they would wave to us. Then came an animated figure bouncing and waving happily with both arms. It didn’t take long for me to figure out that it was Ryan, and I walked down to the path to greet him.

“Hi!” Ryan yelped with his wonderfully goofy, glazed-over, I’m-in-love grin.

“Hi, Ryan, what can I do for you?”

“Well, you know how I am going to propose in your backyard?”

Yes, I remembered that. “I was wondering if you think it would be possible for us…” He did another Ryan pause, so I knew whatever followed would be a whopper. “… to have dinner on your back porch before I pop the question?”

I bit my tongue to keep from laughing out loud.

I’d never even met Ryan before that week, and now he was asking if he could have a marriage proposal and dinner on my back porch?

This kid has it bad! After a short pause, I shot back to young Ryan, “What the heck, of course you can have dinner on my porch, Ryan! That’s a great idea! What can I make for you?”

I don’t think he heard the question because off went Ryan, down the path. He seemed to be levitating — he may have touched down on the grass once or twice over the next hundred yards.

Ryan was another step closer to the prize. He was all in. He was all about doing and not just dreaming. He was going to get the girl.

By now, I found myself looking forward to my afternoon encounters with young Ryan. It reminded me how fun it was to be young and in love. I even started coming home early from work to sit on the back porch waiting for him, checking my watch every five minutes or so, wondering when he would come bouncing down the path with another outlandish request for a total stranger. And sure enough, Ryan came bounding down the path again, so I went down to greet him.

“Hi, Bob. Hey, I was thinking…” And then the pregnant pause. “Would it be possible for me to have some friends of mine serve us when we are having dinner on your porch?”

“You bet,” I shot back, laughing. I was already this far in with Ryan; what could it hurt to have a few of his friends over? “What a great idea. How many would it take to serve you two dinner?”

Ryan looked up with a Cheshire cat grin and sheepishly said, “Twenty?” Did he just say he wanted twenty people inside my house to be his servers? I was wonderfully stunned by the consistently audacious, almost vertical trajectory of Ryan’s plans. He wanted twenty people to serve a dinner for two? Now that’s service.

But when loves does, love does it big.

Love pursues blindly, unflinchingly, and without end.

“What a great idea, Ryan! Twenty it is!” I said without hesitation.

Ryan bounced away down the bay front. I could tell that his head was ready to explode with anticipation. He had the vision, he had the plan, he had the place, and he had the staff. He was trigger-locked on the goal, and he was going to get that girl.

A few days later, I was at my post. Almost on cue, Ryan came galloping down the path.

“Ryan, how are the plans coming?”

“Well,” he said, “I was actually wondering if it would be okay if after dinner, and after my friends leave, you could put some speakers on the porch and maybe we could dance a bit?”

Of course you want to dance on a stranger’s porch. “Speakers it is,” I told him. “Anything else?” I was trying to get all the possibilities out of him now.

“Well, I think that about covers it for now. I’ll ask her to marry me after we dance for a bit.”

“Great idea,” I said to Ryan. “Go get that girl!” Ryan skipped off.

A day or two passed with no Ryan sightings. I almost felt a low-grade depression sinking in on me. Was the planning over? Were there no more whimsical and outrageous ideas from Ryan as he planned his caper? Was the mischief done? I sat on my porch, reflecting on how contagious Ryan’s brand of love was. And then, almost on cue, Ryan came running down the pathway again.

At this point, Ryan was a regular and he bounded across the lawn and up to the porch without hesitation. He was pretty winded, actually, leaning over with his hands on his knees trying to catch his breath. I wondered if I should give him a paper bag to breathe into. After a few long moments, Ryan straightened up. There was a pause while our stares met. I had learned that a pause by Ryan meant there was another whopper of an idea brewing in his head.

“Hey, Ryan, what’s up? It’s great to see you. How are the plans coming?”

“Do you…” He exhaled. “… have…” He inhaled. “… a boat?”

“A boat?!” I was belly-laughing as I asked him to repeat what I thought he’d just said.

“Yeah, do you have a boat?” Ryan asked more confidently as he straightened a bit.

“Well, actually, Ryan, I do!” I said with half enthusiasm and half awe at Ryan’s love-induced, audacious bender. He had that glazed look again as he looked me squarely in the eyes.

“Well, can I borrow it?”

Ryan was out of control. He had no idea what an outrageous thing he was asking. But you see, to Ryan, I wasn’t a total stranger — no one was. To him, the whole world was full of co-conspirators when it came to winning over his love. He was completely unaware of and unimpeded by what was proper, what was acceptable, and what was conventional. Nothing was going to get in the way of what he decided he was going to do.

“Okay, Ryan. The boat’s yours!” I said. “I’ll take you and your girlfriend out on my boat after dinner at my house, after your twenty friends finish serving you, and after you dance together on my porch. You can pop the question to your girl up on the front deck of my boat.”

Ryan floated away once again, clueless of the beautiful ridiculousness this girl was bringing out of him. Ryan was a study in focus, tenacity, and abandon. He was all gas and no brake.

What Ryan didn’t realize is that I decided to one-up him.

Why should he have all the fun? That night, I called the Coast Guard and told them about Ryan’s elaborate plan and his glazed over enthusiasm for his girl, which had swept him into a state of unparalleled whimsy. Ryan’s enthusiasm was contagious, and pretty soon the guy on the other end of the phone had caught the bug too. The Coast Guard officer and I hatched a plan of our own.

When the big night came, everything was in place. The night was balmy, the air was clear, and I think the stars even came out a few minutes early to see Ryan’s elaborate scheme unfold.

Ryan and his girl came walking down the path. When they got to the white Nantucket house on the bay, he led her up the stairs and across the lawn toward a candlelit table on the porch.

“Ryan, what are we doing? Is this okay? Whose house is this?” she whispered as she held his arm a little tighter. Ryan pulled out her chair and said this was for her as he sat her down.

The service at dinner by the twenty servers was impeccable, and the after-dinner dance was endearing as these two stood with arms around each other, slowly moving together on the porch. As they danced, they twirled and talked quietly. By now, evening had fully set in and the lights of the city mixed with the stars were starting to dominate the skyline. It was as if the early appearing stars had gone home and invited all of their friends, telling them, “You have got to see this.”

The evening was coming to its natural end, and Ryan took his girl by the hand and they headed back to the path. I’ve always wondered what was going through her head during all this. I hope it all felt like a dream.

As they got closer to the dock behind the house, Ryan gripped her hand, turned, and took her toward a boat that was tied to the end.

“Ryan, what are we doing?” she half demanded.

“C’mon,” is all he had to say as they came onto my boat. I was at the helm and they made their way to the bow. With the stars out in full view, we slowly motored out into the bay. After a short time, we approached the spot where Ryan and I agreed I would stop the boat so he could pop the question.

In a total coup de grâce, Ryan had fifty more of his friends on the shore to spell out “Will you marry me?” with candles — just in case he got tongue-tied or overwhelmed in the intensity and whimsy of the moment.

With their flickering sign as his backdrop, Ryan got on one knee.

“Will . . .” He exhaled. “. . . you . . .” He inhaled. “. . . marry . . .” He paused. “. . . me?”

There was a gasp followed by an immediate and enthusiastic yes.

In this, the most special moment of their lives, neither Ryan nor his bride-to-be noticed that the Coast Guard had pulled in behind us with their firefighting boat, just as the officer and I had planned. I gave the thumbs-up — the sign that she said yes — and he shot off every water cannon he had on the entire rig! It was a scene that belonged in New York Harbor on the Fourth of July with the Statue of Liberty in the background. But it wasn’t happening there, it was happening for Ryan because that’s the way love rolls; it multiplies. Ryan and his bride-to-be let the mist from the water cannons settle over them like a thousand small kisses.

Ryan’s love was audacious. It was whimsical. It was strategic. Most of all, it was contagious. Watching Ryan lose himself in love reminded me that being “engaged” isn’t just an event that happens when a guy gets on one knee and puts a ring on his true love’s finger. Being engaged is a way of doing life, a way of living and loving.

It’s about going to extremes and expressing the bright hope that life offers us, a hope that makes us brave and expels darkness with light. That’s what I want my life to be all about—full of abandon, whimsy, and in love. I want to be engaged to life and with life.

I enjoy those parts of the Bible where Jesus talks about how much He loves His bride. It makes me wonder if the trees and mountains and rivers are things He planned in advance, knowing they would wow us. I wonder if God returned over and over to this world He placed us in thinking what He had created was good, but it could be even better, even grander. I wonder if He thought each foggy morning, each soft rain, each field of wildflowers would be a quiet and audacious way to demonstrate His tremendous love for us.

I don’t know if God was a little bit like Ryan when He created everything, or if Ryan was a little bit like God. But what I do know is that Ryan’s audacious love is some of the best evidence I’ve found of the kind of love Jesus talked about, a love that never grows tired or is completely finished finding ways to fully express itself.

Excerpted with permission from Love Does by Bob Goff, copyright Thomas Nelson.

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Your Turn

Have you ever felt explosively, contagiously in love like Ryan? Have you ever considered that that is how God is in love with YOU? Maybe this week is painful for you because it’s a reminder of love that soured or a love you’re still waiting for. Maybe you long to feel that unabashedly loved by God but feel unworthy of it. Spend some time with the Lord right now asking Him to meet you right where you are, to heal your hurting heart, and to show you His love.

Making a theater production of our faith is hypocrisy!!

Let’s get honest! Why do we do what we do? What motivates the things we value, our time, and our priorities? Peel back the layers and inventory your motives. Something can appear sincere and done for all the right reasons, but God is graciously revealing our human tendencies toward; people pleasing, self rightousness, the need to be needed and feel special, our drive for success, insecurity and fear of what others think, the need for control and power, etc, underneath our well intended gestures and priorities in this life. He doesn’t do this to condemn us. He reveals these lesser god’s because we are easily deceived and seduced by their ability to feel good, to be like God, and to live our lives apart from God. We are vulnerable to hypocrisy at many levels but God is raising us up to be men and women of Faith so that lost people can see sincere believers whose lives were, and continue to be, transformed by Him.

Guard your heart today from hyposcrisy and allow yourself to be authentic before God who sees your heart struggles and motives, and loves you anyway. Surrender to the changes He is making so others will trust the real work of grace Christ is doing in your heart and want to turn toward Him.

Read on as Max Lucado speaks directly about hypocrisy.

Max Lucado.
Hypocrisy turns people against God, so he has a no-tolerance policy. Let’s take hypocrisy as seriously as God does. For starters, expect no credit for good deeds. None! If no one notices, you aren’t disappointed. If someone does, you give the credit to God. If no one knew of the good you do, would you still do it? If not, you’re doing it to be seen by people.

Give financial gifts in secret. We like to be seen earning money. And we like to be seen giving it. Matthew 6:3 says, “So when you give to someone in need, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.”

Don’t fake spirituality. 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!