Extravagant Love of the Father

The love of the Father is extravagant toward His children. Abba, Father, everything is possible for You. Take this cup from Me. Yet not what I will, but what You will. — Mark 14:36

Devotionals Daily
God, Our Abba Father

by Ann Spangler from Praying the Names of God

Meet Ann Spangler
Mark 14:36
But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. . . . The older brother became angry and refused to go in. . . . “My son,” the father said, “you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” — Luke 15:20, 28; Luke 15:31-32
The Hebrew Scriptures normally depict God, not as the Father of individuals but as Father to His people, Israel. Pious Jews, aware of the gap between a holy God and sinful human beings, would never have dared address God as Ab (Hebrew) or Abba, the Aramaic word for “Daddy,” which gradually came to mean “dear father.”
Jesus shocked many of His contemporaries by referring to God as His Father and by inviting His followers to call God “Father.” Rather than depicting God as a typical Middle Eastern patriarch who wielded considerable power within the family, He depicted Him primarily as a tender and compassionate father, who extends grace to both the sinner and the self-righteous.
The most frequent term for “father” in the New Testament was the Greek word pater. The first recorded words of Jesus, spoken to His earthly parents, are these:
Didn’t you know I had to be in My Father’s house? — Luke 2:49
In John’s gospel, Jesus calls God His Father 156 times. The expression “Abba, Pater” (AB-ba pa-TAIR) is found three times in the New Testament, all in prayer. It is the form Jesus used in His anguished cry in Gethsemane:
Abba, Father, everything is possible for You. Take this cup from Me. Yet not what I will, but what You will. — Mark 14:36
If you want to perceive who God the Father is, earthly models will fail you. Far better to read the parable Jesus told an audience composed of both sinners and self-righteous religious leaders, two groups that had much in common though they would not have thought so. Jesus offers both a stunning portrait of a father who responds to the appalling behavior of two sons in ways no Middle Eastern patriarch would have.
In Jesus’ time the Jewish community had a way of punishing sons who lost the family inheritance, squandering it among Gentiles. Angry villagers would gather together to conduct what was known as a qetsatsah ceremony, a ritual that consisted of filling a large pot with burned nuts and burned corn and then breaking it in front of the guilty party. As the earthenware pot shattered, the villagers would shout: “So-and-so is cut off from his people.” That would be the cue for the errant son to get out of town for good.
Remarkably, the father in Jesus’ story failed to act as His listeners expected. Instead of waiting at home for his profligate son to come crawling back, as any dignified Middle Eastern father would have done, the father in Jesus’ story keeps a lookout for him. As soon as he spots him, he runs out and throws his arms around his wayward son, showering him with kisses. By acting quickly and with so much tenderness, the father effectively prevents his neighbors from organizing a qetsatsah ceremony to cut off his son.
Kenneth Bailey, a theologian who has lived most of his life in the Middle East, explains how astonishing such a sight would have been:
Traditional Middle Easterners, wearing long robes, do not run in public. They never have. To do so would be deeply humiliating. The father runs knowing that in so doing he will deflect the attention of the community away from his ragged son to himself. People will focus on the extraordinary sight of a distinguished, self-respecting landowner humiliating himself in public by running down the road revealing his legs.
But what of the older son, angered by his father’s acceptance of his foolish younger brother? Once again, Jesus depicts the father in a way that would have surprised His listeners. Instead of slapping his son and publicly rebuking him for refusing to attend the celebration, the father humbles himself by leaving the feast in order to reach out to his angry son.
Both sons, one a law breaker and the other a law keeper, had publicly offended their father by their selfish behavior. Both were offered not what they deserved but what they needed — extraordinary grace from the father who loved them.
Ask yourself today whether you are more like the older or the younger of these sons. Then thank God for treating you not as you deserve to be treated but as a child worthy of His faithful, fatherly love.
Father, thank you for loving me even when I was “still a long way off.” You showed Your gracious, fatherly love even when I bore little resemblance to You. Strengthen my identity as Your child and help me to glorify Your name by reflecting Your character. Amen.

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Excerpted with permission from Praying the Names of God by Ann Spangler, copyright Ann Spangler. Published by Zondervan.

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Desperate for God’s Reassurance

Brokenness is universal. We all have things in life that trigger deep insecurities and our own personal ways we frantically looking for reassurance. 
The enemy wants us to feel rejected, left out, lonely, and less than. When we allow him to speak lies through our rejection, he pickpockets our purpose. Cripples our courage. Dismantles our dreams and blinds us to the beauty of Christ’s powerful love!!

The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness’. — Jeremiah 31:3

Desperate for Reassurance
by Lysa TerKeurst, from Uninvited

Whatever is true… think about such things… And the God of peace will be with you. — Philippians 4:8b, Philippians 4:9b (NIV)
If you’ve ever heard me give my testimony, you know part of what I share is being a little girl twirling around next to my daddy, wishing I could know that he loved me.
Maybe in his own way, he did love me. But something was broken in our relationship that left me feeling desperate for reassurance.
Over the years, God has healed my heart in miraculous ways. Through God’s promises I’ve been reassured of all those things I wished my earthly father would have said. I know God’s love for me is deep, unwavering and certain.
But there are still times I catch myself twirling again. Crying out again. Wishing I could feel totally secure. Hating my insecurities. And mad that this struggle I thought was over, surfaces still. Maybe it always will.

And maybe that’s not such a bad thing.
For it keeps me desperate for a reassurance I can’t get any other way. It keeps me desperate for God.
I can hear my husband tell me a hundred times that he loves me and no, my backside isn’t big … and yet I still feel my heart desperately twirling.
I can stand in an arena with thousands of people clapping for the message I just gave… and still feel my heart desperately twirling.
I can conquer my food demons and finally fit back into my skinny jeans… and still feel my heart desperately twirling.
The only thing that stops the desperation, the uncertainties, the insecurities, the twirling… is for the Spirit of God to lay across my heart and make it still. The blanket of His presence and His protection is the only perfect fit for the deep creases and crevices carved inside me.
I don’t know what tough things you’ve been through sweet sister, but I do know this: 
While brokenness is universal, God’s redemption is also universal for those who proclaim Christ as Lord. No matter what cracks and crevices we have in our hearts, if we seek the truth of God above all else, He is enough to fill in those raw places.
Whatever is true… think about such things… And the God of peace will be with you. — Philippians 4:8b, Philippians 4:9b (NIV)
Have you caught your heart twirling, desperate for reassurance lately? Today, spend a few minutes letting these truths fill your mind and seep into those desperate places of your heart:
The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in His love He will no longer rebuke you; but will rejoice over you with singing. — Zephaniah 3:17, NIV
I pray that you… may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ. — Ephesians 3:17b, Ephesians 3:18, NIV. 

Cast all your anxiety on him because He cares for you. — 1 Peter 5:7, NIV

The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness’. — Jeremiah 31:3
I pray these truths flood your heart with peace like they do mine. Peace that gives you permission to stop twirling and start to live like you are loved.
Because you are. Deeply. Abundantly. And without end.

Dear Lord, may Your spirit fall fresh upon each of us today. Remind us. Reassure us. Rest upon us. Help us to be still and know that You are our loving God. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Truth for Today
Psalm 36:5, “Your love, LORD, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies.” (NIV)
Psalm 48:9, “Within your temple, O God, we meditate on your unfailing love.” (NIV)
Used with permission from Proverbs 31 Ministries featuring Univited by Lysa TerKeurst, copyright The TerKeurst Foundation.

 

The Fullness of His Love is an Anchor in this Life.

You are full, because Christ brought the fullness to you.- Lysa TerKerust from Uninvited
Living Loved When You Feel Less Than, Left Out and Lonely
I can’t expect any other person to be my soul oxygen.
I can’t live as if my next breath depends on whether or not they give me enough air for my lungs not to be screaming in pain. Because here’s the thing. People don’t mind doing CPR on a crisis victim, but no person is equipped to be the constant lifeline to another.
We must respect ourselves enough to break the pattern of placing unrealistic expectations on others.
After all, people will not respect us more than we respect ourselves.
No, it’s not wrong to need people. But some of our biggest disappointments in life are the result of expectations we have of others that they can’t ever possibly meet. That’s when the desire to connect becomes an unrealistic need.
Unrealistic neediness is actually greediness in disguise. It’s saying, “My needs and desires deserve to tap into or possibly even deplete yours.” This will never set a relationship up for success.
Here’s the secret shift we must make:
Do I walk into situations prepared with the fullness of God in me, free to look for ways to bless others?
Or…
Do I walk into situations empty and dependent on others to look for ways to bless me?
People prepared with the fullness of God in them are not superpeople with pixie dust sparkles of confidence oozing from the pores from which normal people simply sweat. They aren’t the ones who walk into a room with the boisterous, “Hey, hey, hey! The party can start now, because I have arrived!” And they certainly aren’t the ones who circle the room, making sure their agenda is the agenda of every conversation.
No, the fullness of God is tucked into the sacred places within them. The full taking in of God is their soul oxygen. It’s not that they don’t need people. They do. God created them for community. But the way they love is from a full place, not from an empty desperation. They are living loved.
But living loved isn’t just their mind-set; it is a choice they make daily. It isn’t just a possible thing they should try. It’s the only solution that actually works. We have to tell our minds to live loved. But then we must also tell our flesh no.
The more we fill ourselves from His life-giving love, the less we will be dictated by the grabby-ness of the flesh.
I want this. And I suspect you do too. Being full of God’s love settles, empowers, and brings out the best of who we are. On the other hand, the more full of the flesh we are, the more we grab at anyone and anything to fill that ache for love and acceptance.
I don’t like to ache. In any way. One of my aches is from my deep Italian fondness for anything pasta. I mean for real, I love pasta, but it does not love me back. So, I have to make the choice not to risk the temporary pleasure of my taste buds for what will surely be hours of rebellion in my stomach. My flesh begs me to believe that short-term happiness is worth the long-term misery.
But I’ve discovered something about defeating the flesh. If I fill my stomach with healthy foods before being tempted with the pasta, I can say no. It’s so much easier to turn away a dish of pasta if you’re completely full already. But if you are desperately hungry, a dish of just about anything is hard to turn away. Our souls and our stomachs are alike in this way.
One of the most beautiful descriptions of the fullness of God is found in Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians:
For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge — that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. — Ephesians 3:14–19
My favorite part of Paul’s prayer is him asking that we have the power to grasp the fullness of the love of Christ… for then we will be filled with the fullness of God. It is impossible to grasp the fullness of God without grasping the fullness of the love of Christ.
At the core of who we are, we crave the acceptance that comes from being loved. To satisfy this longing we will either be graspers of God’s love or grabbers for people’s love.
If we grasp the full love of Christ, we won’t grab at other things to fill us. Or if we do, we’ll sense it. We’ll feel a prick in our spirit when our flesh makes frenzied swipes at happiness, compromising clutches for attention, paranoid assumptions with no facts, joyless attempts to one-up another, and small-minded statements of pride. We’ll sense these things, and we’ll be disgusted enough to at least pause. In this pause lies the greatest daily choice we can make. Am I willing to tell my flesh no, so that I can say yes to the fullness of God in this situation? Here’s where I get in trouble. And here’s where I bet you get tripped up as well.
I grasp the love of Christ.
I sense when I’m making choices that don’t reflect God’s love.
I’m disgusted by those choices.
I am willing to tell my flesh no.
I’m just not sure how to tell my flesh no.
When past rejections make me so prone to satisfying or at least numbing the flesh to avoid more pain, it’s hard to resist.
When you’re lonely and you see your ex post a picture with someone new, laughing, holding hands, and looking like the happiest they’ve ever been, your flesh will want to grab at something. It’s hard not to comfort yourself by texting another guy to grab a little attention and make yourself feel better.
When you’re listening to other parents talking about all the progress their children are making in reading and your child can’t even identify letters yet, your flesh will want to grab at something. It’s hard not to throw out a statement to one-up the bragging parents in an area where your child is excelling.
When your spouse isn’t answering his cell so you call his workplace only to learn he left early for the day, your flesh will want to grab at something. Paranoia seizes you, and by the time he walks in the door you all but accuse him of having an affair.
All these things we’re tempted to grab at? They won’t fill us the way we think they will. In the end, they only make us feel emptier and more rejected.
Yes, the concept of telling our flesh no can sound so good on paper, but in the midst of rejection’s painful pricks, we can often feel so very powerless. That’s where we have to know we aren’t expected to just put on a brave face and hope for the best. We have the power through Christ, who is over every power, including the pull of the flesh and the sting of rejection. When we have Christ, we are full — fully loved and accepted and empowered to say no.
This is true on the days we feel it and still true when we don’t feel Jesus’ love at all. If we live rooted and established in His love, we don’t just have knowledge of His love in our minds, but it becomes a reality that anchors us. Though winds of hurt and rejection blow, they cannot uproot us and rip us apart. His love holds us. His love grounds us. His love is a glorious weight preventing the harsh words and hurtful situations from being a destructive force. We feel the wind but aren’t destroyed by it. This is the “fullness of God” mentioned in the verses from Ephesians 3 that we just read.
There is power in really knowing this. This isn’t dependent on what you’ve accomplished. Or on another person loving you or accepting you. Nor is it because you always feel full.
You are full, because Christ brought the fullness to you.
Yes, I am fully loved, fully accepted, and fully empowered to say no to my flesh. Speak that truth in the power He’s given you. Believe that truth in the power He’s given you. Live that truth in the power He’s given you. That’s how you tell your flesh no. That’s how you live fully prepared in the fullness of God.
Excerpted with permission from the new release Uninvited: Living Loved When You Feel Less Than, Left Out, and Lonely by Lysa Terkeurst, copyright Lysa Terkeurst, 2016. Published by Nelson Books, an imprint of Thomas Nelson.

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Q&A with Lysa on Rejection and Living Loved
If you enjoyed today’s message, be sure to visit the FaithGateway blog to watch this video with Lysa TerKeurst and read our Q&A with her about facing rejection and learning to live loved. It’s a great interview you don’t want to miss!

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Your Turn
You are fully loved and fully accepted. Are you full of His love for you? Fully satisfied by Him? Being full of God’s love settles, empowers, and brings out the best of who we are. Today, let’s stop and receive His love as our soul oxygen so that we are better able love others from that full place. Come share with us on our blog. We want to hear from you!
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The enemy wants us to feel rejected . . . left out, lonely, and less than. When we allow him to speak lies through our rejection, he pickpockets our purpose. Cripples our courage. Dismantles our dreams. And blinds us to the beauty of Christ’s powerful love.

In Uninvited, Lysa shares her own deeply personal experiences with rejection—from the incredibly painful childhood abandonment by her father to the perceived judgment of the perfectly toned woman one elliptical over.
With biblical depth, gut-honest vulnerability, and refreshing wit, Lysa helps readers:
Release the desire to fall apart or control the actions of others by embracing God-honoring ways to process their hurt.

Know exactly what to pray for the next ten days to steady their soul and restore their confidence.

Overcome the two core fears that feed our insecurities by understanding the secret of belonging.

Stop feeling left out and start believing that “set apart” does not mean “set aside.”

End the cycle of perceived rejection by refusing to turn a small incident into a full blown issue.
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GOD WANTS US TO LIVE LOVED WHEN WE FEEL LEFT OUT, LONELY, AND LESS THAN.
In this six-session video Bible study, Lysa TerKeurst digs deep into God’s Word to help you explore the roots of rejection, the way other relationships get tainted because of a past rejection, and the truth about what it looks like to live loved. With biblical depth, gut-honest vulnerability, and refreshing wit, Lysa will take you on a visual journey in the Holy Land to some of the places where people of the Bible such as Hannah, David, and even Jesus lived and walked.
Lysa will help you and your group to enter a place of healing and new perspective, as well as a time for you to go to new places with Jesus and experience him like never before. Uninvited reminds us we are destined for a love that can never be diminished, tarnished, shaken, or taken—a love that does not reject or uninvite.
This study guide is packed with deep Bible teaching and includes guided video notes, group discussion questions, and between-sessions personal studies.
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God is good, merciful, and kind. He didn’t cause your pain, but He’s ready to help you through it. — Christine Caine, Unashamed
 You have power to choose freedom over shame

What We Don’t Reveal Can’t Heal

Christine Caine, Unashamed: Drop the Baggage, Pick Up Your Freedom, Fulfill Your Destiny

Hi, I’m Christine.

The story of the woman with the issue of blood [Luke 8:43-48] speaks to each of us. The power that healed her is available to us as well. That’s why I love this story! We all have shame wounds that are bleeding, and nothing we’ve done — no passage of time, no procedure, no ritual, no conversation or compensation — has been successful in closing them. Whether the cause of our shame was forced upon us or was the result of a choice we freely made — or as in my case, both — each of us bears that wound, that secret, that blemish. We feel unclean. But as the woman who took her shame to Jesus — who risked stepping out of the house, who in fear and trembling reached deep into her well of courage and confessed her need for Him right there in public — found healing, we can too.

I did… even though I felt powerful reluctance as my journey progressed.
It’s ironic, but the strongest resistance to the process of healing from shame is shame itself. We’re ashamed to admit that we need healing, that we have been damaged in ways that cause us shame. But to be healed, we must acknowledge all of our wounds. The journey from shame to freedom and a full life in Christ must be a blatantly honest, nothing-hidden voyage.
Like me, you probably spent years covering up your shame wounds — so why would you now want to uncover them and look at them? When you’re suffering from shame, the last thing you want to do is make yourself vulnerable.
Your vulnerability is one of the reasons you’re suffering from shame in the first place — so why would you want to open yourself up for more?
Because what we don’t reveal can’t be healed.
Our wounds need treatment, and the only way they’ll be healed is if we acknowledge them, uncover them, and hold them up to the One who can help.
But here’s the challenge: We’ve been shackled in the dark for so long that the darkness has crippled and immobilized us. We need the light of God to shine on us — shackles, shame, and all. The entrance of his Word gives light (Psalm 119:130). That light is the understanding that sets us free.
Until we let in the light — the truth — we will remain hindered, unable to fulfill our potential.
The apostle Paul teaches in Ephesians 5 that bringing what’s hidden in the dark — our secrets of shame — into the light, into God’s merciful presence, is how they lose their power over us.
For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible — and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. — Ephesians 5:8-13
God’s light is tender, not harsh. As you trust Him with your pain, He will gently shine His healing light on all your wounds. He is for you, not against you — and will never shame you or humiliate you (Romans 8:31). That kind of treatment is not in His nature. He is good, merciful, and kind. He didn’t cause your pain, but He’s ready to help you through it.
Jesus paid for your guilt and bore your shame. He carried it all to the cross. But there He left it!
He has borne our griefs, sicknesses, weaknesses, and distresses…
He carried our sorrows and pains…
He was wounded for our transgressions…
He was bruised for our guilt and iniquities…
The chastisement needful to obtain peace and well-being for us was upon Him…
With the stripes that wounded Him we are healed and made whole. — Isaiah 53:4-5 AMP
His death, burial, and resurrection were more than enough for you — for all of us. When He emerged from that tomb, He was no longer clothed in the sin and shame of this world. Sin and its shame were left entombed. Conquered. Vanquished. Paid for. Redeemed by His blood sacrifice. It is finished. The blood of Jesus has healed you. The blood of Jesus has set you free. Jesus was wounded for your healing; He bore your shame so you could live free (1 Peter 2:24).
So, will you remain in hiding or will you, like the bleeding woman, like me, seek Jesus to heal your guilt and shame? Will you risk living free?
God answered my cry and called me daughter.
He calls you daughter as well.
That is why He came.
Excerpted with permission from Unashamed: Drop the Baggage, Pick Up Your Freedom, Fulfill Your Destiny by Christine Caine, copyright Christine Caine.
What is it that we expect from God when we’re hiding what plagues us in shame? Maybe defining that fear and claiming the truths of Scripture is a good place to start the unshackling He has for us. I know I don’t want to live in the dark feeling ashamed and afraid any more. How about you? Are you ready to hear God the Father call you daughter? Come join the conversation on our blog! ~ Laurie McClure, Faith.Full
P.S. Don’t forget to sign up (if you haven’t already) for our Unashamed online Bible study starting in three weeks! We’re giving you FREE access to Christine Caine’s 5 study videos, a 28-Day Unashamed Guided Journal, and other downloads to get started!

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 Shame is everywhere we look. It hides in the shadows, lies to us, and shackles us in the prison of our past. It holds us back in ways we do not realize. But the truth is that God is not only more powerful than anything we’ve ever done but also stronger than anything ever done to us. We can grow in freedom and strength!

“I know. I’ve been there,” writes Christine. “I was schooled in shame. It has been my constant companion from my very earliest memories. I see shame everywhere I look in the world, including in the church. It creeps from heart to heart, growing in shadowy places, feeding on itself so that those struggling with it are too shamed to seek help from shame itself.”
In her passionate and candid style, Christine leads you into God’s Word where you will see for yourself how to believe that God is bigger than your mistakes, your inadequacies, your past, and your limitations. You will see that you are not fundamentally flawed and that you are worthy of acceptance. You have been set free.
Join the journey. Lay ahold of the power of Jesus Christ today and step into the future — His future for you—a beautiful, full, life-giving future, where you can even become a shame-lifter to others. Live unashamed!
 In Unashamed, Christine reveals the often-hidden consequences of shame — in her own life and the lives of so many Christian women — and invites you to join her in moving from a shame-filled to a shame-free life. Regular $19.99. Sale $15.99. With promo code CHRISTINE: $11.99

 

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In this five-session video Bible study, author and teacher Christine Caine leads you into God’s Word to find out how to believe that God is bigger than your mistakes, your inadequacies, your past and your limitations. With Jesus you can step into a beautiful, full, life-giving future filled with purpose! Regular $12.99. Sale $11.99. With promo code CHRISTINE: $7.99

 

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The Scandal of Forgiveness

God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us. — 2 Corinthians 5:21FaithGateway

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The Scandal of Forgiveness

by Philip Yancey, What’s So Amazing About Grace?

Meet Philip Yancey
2 Corinthians 5:21
The only thing harder than forgiveness is the alternative.
Magnanimous forgiveness, allows the possibility of transformation in the guilty party. Lewis Smedes details this process of “spiritual surgery”:
When you forgive someone, you slice away the wrong from the person who did it. You disengage that person from his hurtful act. You recreate him. At one moment you identify him ineradicably as the person who did you wrong. The next moment you change that identity. He is remade in your memory.
You think of him now not as the person who hurt you, but a person who needs you. You feel him now not as the person who alienated you, but as the person who belongs to you. Once you branded him as a person powerful in evil, but now you see him as a person weak in his needs. You recreated your past by recreating the person whose wrong made your past painful.
Smedes adds many cautions. Forgiveness is not the same as pardon, he advises: you may forgive one who wronged you and still insist on a just punishment for that wrong. If you can bring yourself to the point of forgiveness, though, you will release its healing power both in you and in the person who wronged you.
Forgiveness — undeserved, unearned — can cut the cords and let the oppressive burden of guilt roll away. The New Testament shows a resurrected Jesus leading Peter by the hand through a three-fold ritual of forgiveness. Peter need not go through life with the guilty, hangdog look of one who has betrayed the Son of God. Oh, no. On the backs of such transformed sinners Christ would build His church.
Rebecca is a quiet woman, and in weeks of meeting together she had rarely opened her mouth. At the mention of divorce, though, she proceeded to tell her own story. She had married a pastor who had some renown as a retreat leader. It became apparent, however, that her husband had a dark side. He dabbled in pornography, and on his trips to other cities he solicited prostitutes. Sometimes he asked Rebecca for forgiveness, sometimes he did not. In time, he left her for another woman, Julianne.
Rebecca told us how painful it was for her, a pastor’s wife, to suffer this humiliation. Some church members who had respected her husband treated her as if his sexual straying had been her fault. Devastated, she found herself pulling away from human contact, unable to trust another person. She could never put her husband out of mind because they had children and she had to make regular contact with him in order to arrange his visitation privileges.
Rebecca had the increasing sense that unless she forgave her former husband, a hard lump of revenge would be passed on to their children. For months she prayed. At first her prayers seemed as vengeful as some of the Psalms: she asked God to give her ex-husband “what he deserved.” Finally she came to the place of letting God, not herself, determine “what he deserved.”
One night Rebecca called her ex-husband and said, in a shaky, strained voice, “I want you to know that I forgive you for what you’ve done to me. And I forgive Julianne too.” He laughed off her apology, unwilling to admit he had done anything wrong. Despite his rebuff, that conversation helped Rebecca get past her bitter feelings.
A few years later Rebecca got a hysterical phone call from Julianne, the woman who had “stolen” her husband. She had been attending a ministerial conference with him in Minneapolis, and he had left the hotel room to go for a walk. A few hours passed, then Julianne heard from the police: her husband had been picked up for soliciting a prostitute.
On the phone with Rebecca, Julianne was sobbing. “I never believed you,” she said. “I kept telling myself that even if what you said was true, he had changed. And now this. I feel so ashamed, and hurt, and guilty. I have no one on earth who can understand. Then I remembered the night when you said you forgave us. I thought maybe you could understand what I’m going through. It’s a terrible thing to ask, I know, but could I come talk to you?”
Somehow Rebecca found the courage to invite Julianne over that same evening. They sat in her living room, cried together, shared stories of betrayal, and in the end prayed together. Julianne now points to that night as the time when she became a Christian.
Our group was hushed as Rebecca told her story. She was describing forgiveness not in the abstract, but in a nearly incomprehensible scene of human linkage: husband-stealer and abandoned wife kneeling side by side on a living-room floor, praying.
“For a long time, I had felt foolish about forgiving my husband,” Rebecca told us. “But that night I realized the fruit of forgiveness. Julianne was right. I could understand what she was going through. And because I had been there too, I could be on her side, instead of her enemy. We both had been betrayed by the same man. Now it was up to me to teach her how to overcome the hatred and revenge and guilt she was feeling.”
In The Art of Forgiving, Lewis Smedes makes the striking observation that the Bible portrays God going through progressive stages when He forgives, much as we humans do. First, God rediscovers the humanity of the person who wronged Him, by removing the barrier created by sin.
Second, God surrenders His right to get even, choosing instead to bear the cost in his own body. Finally, God revises His feelings toward us, finding a way to “justify” us so that when He looks upon us He sees His own adopted children, with His divine image restored.
It occurred to me, as I thought about Smedes’s insights, that the gracious miracle of God’s forgiveness was made possible because of the linkage that occurred when God came to earth in Christ. Somehow God had to come to terms with these creatures He desperately wanted to love — but how?
Experientially, God did not know what it was like to be tempted to sin, to have a trying day. On earth, living among us, He learned what it was like. He put Himself on our side.
The book of Hebrews makes explicit this mystery of incarnation:
“We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are — yet was without sin.”
Second Corinthians goes even further:
“God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us.”
You cannot get any more explicit than that. God bridged the gap; He took our side all the way. And because He did, Hebrews affirms, Jesus can present our case to the Father. He has been here. He understands.
From the Gospels’ accounts, it seems forgiveness was not easy for God, either. “If it is possible, may this cup be taken from Me,” Jesus prayed, contemplating the cost, and the sweat rolled off Him like drops of blood.
There was no other way. Finally, in one of His last statements before dying, He said, “Forgive them” — all of them, the Roman soldiers, the religious leaders, His disciples who had fled in darkness, you, me — “forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Only by becoming a human being could the Son of God truly say, “They do not know what they are doing.”
Having lived among us, He now understood.
Excerpted with permission from What’s So Amazing About Grace? by Philip Yancey, copyright Philip D. Yancey. Published by Zondervan

 
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What’s So Amazing About Grace by Philip Yancey
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In What’s So Amazing About Grace? award-winning author Philip Yancey explores grace at street level. If grace is God’s love for the undeserving, he asks, then what does it look like in action? And if Christians are its sole dispensers, then how are we doing at lavishing grace on a world that knows far more of cruelty and unforgiveness than it does of mercy? Yancey sets grace in the midst of life’s stark images, tests its mettle against horrific “ungrace.”
Can grace survive in the midst of such atrocities as the Nazi holocaust? Can it triumph over the brutality of the Ku Klux Klan? Should any grace at all be shown to the likes of Jeffrey Dahmer, who killed and cannibalized seventeen young men?
Grace does not excuse sin, says Yancey, but it treasures the sinner. True grace is shocking, scandalous. It shakes our conventions with its insistence on getting close to sinners and touching them with mercy and hope. It forgives the unfaithful spouse, the racist, the child abuser. It loves today’s AIDS-ridden addict as much as the tax collector of Jesus’ day.
In his most personal and provocative book ever, Yancey offers compelling, true portraits of grace’s life-changing power. He searches for its presence in his own life and in the church. He asks, How can Christians contend graciously with moral issues that threaten all they hold dear? And he challenges us to become living answers to a world that desperately wants to know, What’s So Amazing About Grace?
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The Questions That Never Goes Away by Philip Yancey
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Finding Meaning in the Midst of Suffering
In his classic book Where Is God When It Hurts?, Philip Yancey gave us permission to doubt, reasons not to abandon faith, and practical ways to reach out to hurting people.
And now, thirty years after writing his first book, Yancey revisits our cry of “Why, God” in three places stunned into silence by the calamities that have devastated them. At some point all of us will face the challenges to faith Yancey writes about and look for the comfort and hope he describes.
There are reasons to ask, once again, the question that never goes away: Where is God when we suffer? And Yancey, once again, leads us to find faith when it is most severely put to the test.
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God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us. — 2 Corinthians 5:21FaithGatewayFaithGateway TodayThe Scandal of Forgivenessby Philip Yancey, What’s So Amazing About Grace?Meet Philip Yancey2 Corinthians 5:21The only thing harder than forgiveness is the alternative.Magnanimous forgiveness, allows the possibility of transformation in the guilty party. Lewis Smedes details this process of “spiritual surgery”:When you forgive someone, you slice away the wrong from the person who did it. You disengage that person from his hurtful act. You recreate him. At one moment you identify him ineradicably as the person who did you wrong. The next moment you change that identity. He is remade in your memory.You think of him now not as the person who hurt you, but a person who needs you. You feel him now not as the person who alienated you, but as the person who belongs to you. Once you branded him as a person powerful in evil, but now you see him as a person weak in his needs. You recreated your past by recreating the person whose wrong made your past painful.Smedes adds many cautions. Forgiveness is not the same as pardon, he advises: you may forgive one who wronged you and still insist on a just punishment for that wrong. If you can bring yourself to the point of forgiveness, though, you will release its healing power both in you and in the person who wronged you.Forgiveness — undeserved, unearned — can cut the cords and let the oppressive burden of guilt roll away. The New Testament shows a resurrected Jesus leading Peter by the hand through a three-fold ritual of forgiveness. Peter need not go through life with the guilty, hangdog look of one who has betrayed the Son of God. Oh, no. On the backs of such transformed sinners Christ would build His church.Rebecca is a quiet woman, and in weeks of meeting together she had rarely opened her mouth. At the mention of divorce, though, she proceeded to tell her own story. She had married a pastor who had some renown as a retreat leader. It became apparent, however, that her husband had a dark side. He dabbled in pornography, and on his trips to other cities he solicited prostitutes. Sometimes he asked Rebecca for forgiveness, sometimes he did not. In time, he left her for another woman, Julianne.Rebecca told us how painful it was for her, a pastor’s wife, to suffer this humiliation. Some church members who had respected her husband treated her as if his sexual straying had been her fault. Devastated, she found herself pulling away from human contact, unable to trust another person. She could never put her husband out of mind because they had children and she had to make regular contact with him in order to arrange his visitation privileges.Rebecca had the increasing sense that unless she forgave her former husband, a hard lump of revenge would be passed on to their children. For months she prayed. At first her prayers seemed as vengeful as some of the Psalms: she asked God to give her ex-husband “what he deserved.” Finally she came to the place of letting God, not herself, determine “what he deserved.”One night Rebecca called her ex-husband and said, in a shaky, strained voice, “I want you to know that I forgive you for what you’ve done to me. And I forgive Julianne too.” He laughed off her apology, unwilling to admit he had done anything wrong. Despite his rebuff, that conversation helped Rebecca get past her bitter feelings.A few years later Rebecca got a hysterical phone call from Julianne, the woman who had “stolen” her husband. She had been attending a ministerial conference with him in Minneapolis, and he had left the hotel room to go for a walk. A few hours passed, then Julianne heard from the police: her husband had been picked up for soliciting a prostitute.On the phone with Rebecca, Julianne was sobbing. “I never believed you,” she said. “I kept telling myself that even if what you said was true, he had changed. And now this. I feel so ashamed, and hurt, and guilty. I have no one on earth who can understand. Then I remembered the night when you said you forgave us. I thought maybe you could understand what I’m going through. It’s a terrible thing to ask, I know, but could I come talk to you?”Somehow Rebecca found the courage to invite Julianne over that same evening. They sat in her living room, cried together, shared stories of betrayal, and in the end prayed together. Julianne now points to that night as the time when she became a Christian.Our group was hushed as Rebecca told her story. She was describing forgiveness not in the abstract, but in a nearly incomprehensible scene of human linkage: husband-stealer and abandoned wife kneeling side by side on a living-room floor, praying.“For a long time, I had felt foolish about forgiving my husband,” Rebecca told us. “But that night I realized the fruit of forgiveness. Julianne was right. I could understand what she was going through. And because I had been there too, I could be on her side, instead of her enemy. We both had been betrayed by the same man. Now it was up to me to teach her how to overcome the hatred and revenge and guilt she was feeling.”In The Art of Forgiving, Lewis Smedes makes the striking observation that the Bible portrays God going through progressive stages when He forgives, much as we humans do. First, God rediscovers the humanity of the person who wronged Him, by removing the barrier created by sin.Second, God surrenders His right to get even, choosing instead to bear the cost in his own body. Finally, God revises His feelings toward us, finding a way to “justify” us so that when He looks upon us He sees His own adopted children, with His divine image restored.It occurred to me, as I thought about Smedes’s insights, that the gracious miracle of God’s forgiveness was made possible because of the linkage that occurred when God came to earth in Christ. Somehow God had to come to terms with these creatures He desperately wanted to love — but how?Experientially, God did not know what it was like to be tempted to sin, to have a trying day. On earth, living among us, He learned what it was like. He put Himself on our side.The book of Hebrews makes explicit this mystery of incarnation:“We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are — yet was without sin.”Second Corinthians goes even further:“God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us.”You cannot get any more explicit than that. God bridged the gap; He took our side all the way. And because He did, Hebrews affirms, Jesus can present our case to the Father. He has been here. He understands.From the Gospels’ accounts, it seems forgiveness was not easy for God, either. “If it is possible, may this cup be taken from Me,” Jesus prayed, contemplating the cost, and the sweat rolled off Him like drops of blood.There was no other way. Finally, in one of His last statements before dying, He said, “Forgive them” — all of them, the Roman soldiers, the religious leaders, His disciples who had fled in darkness, you, me — “forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Only by becoming a human being could the Son of God truly say, “They do not know what they are doing.”Having lived among us, He now understood.Excerpted with permission from What’s So Amazing About Grace? by Philip Yancey, copyright Philip D. Yancey. Published by Zondervan * * *Forward to a Friend Your TurnHave you ever forgiven an offense so severe that it was a scandalous choice to do so? What happened when you did? Join the conversation on our blog! We’d love to hear from you! CommentDon’t Miss This $5 DealWhat’s So Amazing About Grace? is $5 for a limited time only!What’s So Amazing About Grace by Philip YanceyRegular Price: $16.99 Sale Price: $5.00Buy NowIn What’s So Amazing About Grace? award-winning author Philip Yancey explores grace at street level. If grace is God’s love for the undeserving, he asks, then what does it look like in action? And if Christians are its sole dispensers, then how are we doing at lavishing grace on a world that knows far more of cruelty and unforgiveness than it does of mercy? Yancey sets grace in the midst of life’s stark images, tests its mettle against horrific “ungrace.”Can grace survive in the midst of such atrocities as the Nazi holocaust? Can it triumph over the brutality of the Ku Klux Klan? Should any grace at all be shown to the likes of Jeffrey Dahmer, who killed and cannibalized seventeen young men?Grace does not excuse sin, says Yancey, but it treasures the sinner. True grace is shocking, scandalous. It shakes our conventions with its insistence on getting close to sinners and touching them with mercy and hope. It forgives the unfaithful spouse, the racist, the child abuser. It loves today’s AIDS-ridden addict as much as the tax collector of Jesus’ day.In his most personal and provocative book ever, Yancey offers compelling, true portraits of grace’s life-changing power. He searches for its presence in his own life and in the church. He asks, How can Christians contend graciously with moral issues that threaten all they hold dear? And he challenges us to become living answers to a world that desperately wants to know, What’s So Amazing About Grace?Shop now and save for a limited time onlyDon’t Miss This Other Great DealSave 30% off Why? The Question That Never Goes AwayThe Questions That Never Goes Away by Philip YanceyRegular Price: $16.99 Sale Price: $11.89Buy NowFinding Meaning in the Midst of SufferingIn his classic book Where Is God When It Hurts?, Philip Yancey gave us permission to doubt, reasons not to abandon faith, and practical ways to reach out to hurting people.And now, thirty years after writing his first book, Yancey revisits our cry of “Why, God” in three places stunned into silence by the calamities that have devastated them. At some point all of us will face the challenges to faith Yancey writes about and look for the comfort and hope he describes.There are reasons to ask, once again, the question that never goes away: Where is God when we suffer? And Yancey, once again, leads us to find faith when it is most severely put to the test.Shop now and save for a limited time only    Inspired by today’s message? Share it with someone!ForwardFacebook Share Tweet ThisPinterestYou are subscribed to FaithGateway Today, our weekly dose of inspiration. Sign up for for other newsletters, like Devotionals Daily, Faith.Full for women or Bible Study of the Week, by clicking here.Copyright © 2016 HarperCollins Christian Publishing, All Rights Reserved.501 Nelson Place, Nashville, TN, 37214 USATerms and Conditions | Privacy PolicyManage Your eMail Preferences or Unsubscribe

Hammock of Grace

Stretch yourself out in the hammock of grace!
I will give you rest. — Matthew 11:28
Devotionals Daily

You Can Rest Now
by Max Lucado, from Grace: More Than We Deserve, Greater Than We Imagine

Matthew 11:28
God’s promise arrives as pure gift. That’s the only way everyone can be sure to get in on it. — Romans 4:16 MSG
A man whose hands are full of parcels can’t receive a gift. — C. S . Lewis
Faith’s only function is to receive what grace offers. — John Stott
Our merits merit nothing. God’s work merits everything.
You’re tired. Fatigue is not a foreign word. You know all too well its fruit: burning eyes, slumped shoulders, gloomy spirit, and robotic thoughts. You are tired.
We are tired. A tired people. A tired generation. A tired society. We race. We run. Workweeks drag like Arctic winters. Monday mornings show up on Sunday night. We slug our way through the long lines and long hours with faces made long by the long lists of things we need to do, gadgets we want to buy, or people we try to please. Grass to cut. Weeds to pull. Teeth to clean. Diapers to change. Carpets, kids, canaries — everything needs our attention.
The government wants more taxes. The kids want more toys. The boss, more hours. The school, more volunteers. The spouse, more attention. The parents, more visits. And the church, oh, the church. Have I mentioned the church? Serve more. Pray more. Attend more. Host more. Read more. And what can you say? The church speaks for God.
Every time we catch our breath, someone else needs something else. A taskmaster demands another brick for the newest pyramid.
“Stir that mud, you Hebrew!”
Yes, there he is. Your ancient counterpart. The loin-clothed, bare-backed, stoop-shouldered, brick-stacking Hebrew slave of Egypt. Talk about tired! Slave drivers popped whips and shouted commands. Why? So Pharaoh with his Nile-sized ego could brag about another pyramid even though his fingers never developed a callus or lifted a piece of straw.
But then God intervened.
I am the Lord; I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, I will rescue you from their bondage, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. — Exodus 6:6
Did He ever! He opened the Red Sea like a curtain and closed it like a shark’s jaws. He turned Pharaoh’s army into fish bait and the Hebrews into charter members of the Land of No More. No more bricks, mud, mortar, and straw. No more meaningless, mind-numbing forced labor. It was as if all of heaven shouted,
“You can rest now!”
And so they did. A million sets of lungs sighed. They rested.
For about one-half of an inch. That’s the amount of space between Exodus 15 and 16. The amount of time between those two chapters is about one month. Somewhere in that half-inch, one-month gap, the Israelites decided they wanted to go back into slavery.
They remembered the delicacies of the Egyptians. Couldn’t have been more than bone stew, but nostalgia is no stickler for details.

So they told Moses they wanted to go back to the land of labor, sweat, and blistered backs.
The response of Moses?
Did someone put a hex on you? Have you taken leave of your senses? — Galatians 3:1 MSG
Oops, my mistake. Those are the words of Paul, not Moses. Words for Christians, not Hebrews. New Testament, not Old. First century AD, not thirteenth century BC. Understandable error, however, since the Christians of Paul’s day were behaving like the Hebrews of Moses’. Both had been redeemed, yet both turned their backs on their freedom.
The second redemption upstaged the first. God sent not Moses but Jesus. He smote not Pharaoh but Satan. Not with ten plagues but a single cross. The Red Sea didn’t open, but the grave did, and Jesus led anyone who wanted to follow Him to the Land of No More. No more law keeping. No more striving after God’s approval. “You can rest now,” He told them.
And they did. For about fourteen pages, which in my Bible is the distance between the sermon of Peter in Acts 2 and the meeting of the church in Acts 15. In the first, grace was preached. In the second, grace was questioned. It wasn’t that the people didn’t believe in grace at all. They did. They believed in grace a lot. They just didn’t believe in grace alone. They wanted to add to the work of Christ.
Grace-a-lots believe in grace, a lot. Jesus almost finished the work of salvation, they argue. In the rowboat named Heaven Bound, Jesus paddles most of the time. But every so often He needs our help. So we give it. We accumulate good works the way Boy Scouts accumulate merit badges on a sash. I kept mine on a hook in my closet, not to hide it, but so I could see it. No morning was complete without a satisfying gander at this cummerbund of accomplishment. If you’ve ever owned a Boy Scout merit-badge sash, you understand the affection I felt. Each oval emblem rewarded my hard work. I paddled across a lake to earn the canoe badge, swam laps to earn the swimming badge, and carved a totem pole to earn the woodworking badge.
Could anything be more gratifying than earning merit badges? Yes. Showing them off. Which I did every Thursday when Boy Scouts wore uniforms to middle school. I strode through the campus as if I were the king of England.
The merit-badge system tidies life. Achievements result in compensation. Accomplishments receive applause. Guys envied me. Girls swooned. My female classmates managed to keep their hands to themselves only by virtue of extreme self-control. I knew they secretly longed to run a finger over my signaling badge and to ask me to spell their names in Morse code.
I became a Christian about the same time I became a Boy Scout and made the assumption that God grades on a merit system. Good Scouts move up. Good people go to heaven. So I resolved to amass a multitude of spiritual badges. An embroidered Bible for Bible reading. Folded hands for prayer. A kid sleeping on the pew for church attendance. In my imagination angels feverishly stitched emblems on my behalf. They scarcely kept pace with my performance and wondered if one sash would suffice. “That Lucado kid is exhausting my fingers!” I worked toward the day, the great day, when God, amid falling confetti and dancing cherubim, would drape my badge-laden sash across my chest and welcome me into his eternal kingdom, where I could humbly display my badges for eternity. But some thorny questions surfaced.
If God saves good people, how good is “good”? God expects integrity of speech but how much?
What is the permitted percentage of exaggeration? Suppose the required score is 80 and I score a 79? How do you know your score? I sought the advice of a minister. Surely he would help me answer the “How good is good?” question. He did, with one word: do. Do better. Do more. Do now. “Do good, and you’ll be okay.” “Do more, and you’ll be saved.” “Do right, and you’ll be all right.”
Do.
Be.
Do. Be. Do.
Do-be-do-be-do.
Familiar with the tune? You might be. Most people embrace the assumption that God saves good people. So be good! Be moral. Be honest. Be decent. Pray the rosary. Keep the Sabbath. Keep your promises. Pray five times a day facing east. Stay sober. Pay taxes. Earn merit badges.
Yet for all the talk about being good, still no one can answer the fundamental question: What level of good is good enough? Bizarre. At stake is our eternal destination, yet we are more confident about lasagna recipes than the entrance requirements for heaven.
God has a better idea:
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God. — Ephesians 2:8
We contribute nothing. Zilch. As opposed to the merit badge of the Scout, salvation of the soul is unearned. A gift. Our merits merit nothing. God’s work merits everything.
This was Paul’s message to the grace-a-lots. I picture his face red, fists clenched, and blood vessels bulging a river on his neck.
Christ redeemed us from that self-defeating, cursed life by absorbing it completely into Himself. — Galatians 3:13 MSG
Translation: “Say no to the pyramids and bricks. Say no to the rules and lists. Say no to slavery and performance. Say no to Egypt. Jesus redeemed you. Do you know what this means?”
Apparently they didn’t.
Do you? If you don’t, I know the cause of your fatigue. You need to trust God’s grace.
We find it easier to trust the miracle of resurrection than the miracle of grace. We so fear failure that we create the image of perfection, lest heaven be even more disappointed in us than we are. The result? The weariest people on earth.
Attempts at self-salvation guarantee nothing but exhaustion. We scamper and scurry, trying to please God, collecting merit badges and brownie points, and scowling at anyone who questions our accomplishments. Call us the church of hound-dog faces and slumped shoulders.
Stop it! Once and for all, enough of this frenzy.
Your hearts should be strengthened by God’s grace, not by obeying rules. — Hebrews 13:9 NCV
Jesus does not say, “Come to me, all you who are perfect and sinless.” Just the opposite.
Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. — Matthew 11:28 NASB
There is no fine print. A second shoe is not going to drop. God’s promise has no hidden language. Let grace happen, for heaven’s sake. No more performing for God, no more clamoring after God. Of all the things you must earn in life, God’s unending affection is not one of them. You have it. 
You can rest now.
Excerpted with permission Grace: More Than We Deserve, Greater Than We Imagine by Max Lucado. Copyright Max Lucado

Your Turn

Are you tired of working so hard for God’s favor? Of trying to earn Christian merit badges and Christian brownie points? What if you believed in grace — really believed in in — enough to stop and rest? Join the conversation on our blog! We want to hear from you! ~ Devotionals Daily
Grace by Max Lucado
We talk as though we understand the term. The bank gives us a grace period. The seedy politician falls from grace. Musicians speak of a grace note. We describe an actress as gracious, a dancer as graceful. We use the word for hospitals, baby girls, kings, and premeal prayers. We talk as though we know what grace means.
But do we really understand it? Have we settled for wimpy grace? It politely occupies a phrase in a hymn, fits nicely on a church sign. Never causes trouble or demands a response. When asked, “Do you believe in grace?” who could say no?
Max Lucado asks a deeper question: Have you been changed by grace? Shaped by grace? Strengthened by grace? Emboldened by grace? Softened by grace? Snatched by the nape of your neck and shaken to your senses by grace?
God’s grace has a drenching about it. A wildness about it. A white-water, riptide, turn-you-upside-downness about it. Grace comes after you. It rewires you. From insecure to God secure. From regret riddled to better-because-of-it. From afraid to die to ready to fly.
Grace is the voice that calls us to change and then gives us the power to pull it off.
Let’s make certain grace gets you.

 
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Shipwrecked!

Have you ever felt shipwrecked? It’s that feeling when we realize that the life we thought we had, or dreamed of, we’ve lost. Yet God’s Word encourages not to lose heart for our inner being is being renewed day by day. This is the miracle of life in the spirit; the essence of what it means when Jesus said; “For whoever wishes to find his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”This endless stirring to create, to love, to live, to give of yourself when there is no self left to give — this comes from the Holy Spirit. 

Read on and be encouraged in the depths of your soul today.

God on the Other Side of a Shipwreck  
by Jonathan Martin, from How to Survive a Shipwreck.

 Devotions from the Front Porch

You’re Still Here
The first things overboard when your ship wrecked were all the reasons you ever had for sailing. And when the life you knew is a life you know no longer, and the ship that took you on a thousand adventures before can no longer even keep you afloat, you are right to wonder if there is anything left worth having.
There used to be so many things that we could not live without! How could you live without this person? How could you live without this job? How could you live without this relationship? How could you live without this house? How could you live without your dignity? How could you live without your good reputation? And then death came to someone you loved, or you lost the job, or you sabotaged the relationship or felt your love sabotaged you, or you suffered public humiliation, or you lost your all-important sense of honor. And you thought you really would die.
There was a part of you, maybe even a really large part of you, that really did. There are some losses that in their way mark you forever, and some things you never get over. And because you loved this person or this life and career you built, or valued your dignity, when the bow broke, everything in you screamed. While the sails were ripping and the boards splitting, you heard the sound of your spirit dying. The life you had was over. But to your own shame, you were not over, as much as you may have wanted to be.
Maybe like a proud samurai, it seemed the best thing you could do on the other side of the shipwreck was to fall on your own sword and stage a protest against anything you once found beautiful. Because you were so sad. Because you were so guilty. Because you were so scared that in the loss of something outside yourself, you lost your own heart to the sea’s black rage.
And then came what might be the worst discovery: You didn’t die — not really. You walked away from the accident, whether or not you think you or God or the devil or the fates are somehow responsible for it. You just knew you would die, and at times it felt like something in you did.
But not you. Not all of you, anyway. The ship may have gone down, but miracle of miracles, you’re still here.
Can you remember the first time after the funeral, after you could not bear to eat or drink, that the pangs of hunger overwhelmed you? Did you feel incredulous at yourself, at the animal part of you that still wanted food after such a thing? What about when there was a particular taste you wanted, because it was a taste that on some level you actually desired? However much fog, however much sorrow, however much grief — the experience of loss may have altered your taste buds forever. But it hardly killed them.
You watched dreams you cradled in your arms with the strength of all your tenderness descend into the sea. All that animated you, all that moved you before, could move you forward in the world no longer. The water filled your mouth and your nostrils, and you choked at the taste of it. But when the grief or the guilt or the loss recedes into the night and your soul sets sail again, you still dream — despite yourself. There is still a kind of music you will hear that stirs within you an unspeakable longing. There is still an ache, not just for all you lost, but to see and know and be seen and known still, to explore and imagine and create.
However much the longing for the past may assault your senses, it is not the only longing that remains. There is still a part of you that wants to make love, to feel yourself somehow connected. There is still a part of you that yearns for something outside yourself. You felt yourself out to sea, and yet some kind of desire, for something or another, bears you along, and you find yourself still somehow here — almost against your own wishes. And even in the moments when anything that felt like conscious desire went out with the tide, there is still some kind of near-morbid curiosity of how your life and story are going to turn out — even if you are lost enough to only behold what’s left of your life as a kind of bystander.
Somewhere between your body’s animal refusal to go down quietly, your mind’s refusal to stop imagining, and your heart’s refusal to stop dreaming, in the tangled mess of synapses and memories and impulses, there lies God.
In whatever remains in you that wants to create, to make, to birth something new, in whatever corner that longs for some kind of resurrection on the other side of death, something divine quietly snaps, fires, clicks, flickers. This is the Spirit of God, lurking in your own broken spirit.
You may find that your grief and sense of loss over the world you once knew seem endless. And yet there are possibilities and potentialities within you that are more endless still.
What is this unseen force that carries you forward despite yourself? Why can you not seem to choke, always and forever, your own irrational yearning, this buried but still breathing hope for more?
This ache is God’s fingerprint.
The stirring to create, to love, to live, to give of yourself when there is no self left to give — this comes from the Spirit.
You were created in the image of God. Before you knew anyone or did anything, everything was in you necessary to live at home in divine love. However buried that image of God is within you, that part of you that knows what it is to be perfectly loved, held, and known — it is still very much there. There is a part of you that does not need anything else, or anyone else in particular, to be alive. There is a part of you that knows this — part of you that has always known this — but has long since forgotten.
The God who sustains all created things with love sustains you. The God who created the world not to be exploited, dominated, or needed, but to love and to enjoy without clinging, is awake in your belly. And so in you is the capacity to love and to live without needing the world to work out a certain way in order for you to be okay. Your life, your existence, is contingent on that Spirit. But it is not contingent on anyone else, or anything else.
This is the liberating, terrifying discovery of life on the other side of the shipwreck. That while you are a creature — humble, dependent, small, in need of love and food and Shelter — you didn’t need anything else as much as you thought you did. That the things you knew would kill you don’t actually kill you. That the fire in you the sea should have drowned out, burns within you yet, if you do not let yourself smother it (and maybe even if you do). So much of the world you have known is no more. But if there is any truth in any of this at all, the shipwreck that threatened to destroy you utterly may be the thing that saves you yet. It may not drown you; it may transfigure you.
And if there is something truthful, something larger, about this irrational lust for life that is forged in the fires of death, it says something too about the people you lost. For if there is a God who not only creates but sustains and resurrects, then there can yet be life on the other side of death for all things. Then there is hope, not only for the yearning in you to drive you into union with God, but to be realized in union with those others. If death is not the final word, and chaos produces creation rather than destroys it, then many of the stories of the life you thought were long over are far from over yet.
Believing this won’t mean you won’t still feel the weight of deep, sharp, piercing grief, or that you should feel guilty when you do. On the contrary, people who don’t experience deep pain have not experienced deep love and are not to be envied. That doesn’t mean they are shallow — all of our souls surely have something of the same depths — they just may not be aware of their own yet. That day will come for them. But when you feel your own deep capacity for passion, compassion, mourning, even rage, you are glimpsing something of your soul’s own infinite capacity to know, to feel, and to become. Within the depths of all you feel the most deeply, something of the Spirit’s own immortal depths is reflected in you.
We have a capacity for love and hope and beauty seemingly too big for our heads and hearts, because we are created in the image of God.
Watch the Video for How To Survive a Shipwreck
Watch the video
Excerpted with permission from How to Survive a Shipwreck by Jonathan Martin, copyright Jonathan Martin. Published by Zondervan.

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If you’ve survived a shipwreck in your life — a divorce, the death of someone dear, any profound loss — you’ve likely experienced wondering how on earth you can continue on in the face of such grief. Did you discover that there can yet be life on the other side of that death? How did God show Himself to you in that season? Come share with us on our blog! We want to hear from you! ~ Devotionals Daily 
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Life is turbulent. On that, we can all agree. Disappointed dreams, broken relationships, identity crises, vocational hang-ups, wounds from the past—there are so many ways life can send us crashing up against the rocks.
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Everything changes when you know the pilot. 

 Do not remember the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me, for you, LORD, are good. — Psalm 25:7

Devotionals Daily

Lord, You Are Good 
by Max Lucado, from Before Amen

As I boarded a plane last week, the pilot called my name. He was standing in the cockpit entrance, greeting passengers.
“Well, hello, Max.” I looked up. It was my friend Joe. My old friend. He is the Methuselah of the airways. He’s been flying forever. He flew transports in Vietnam and has logged a bookful of hours as a commercial pilot. He’s faced every flight crisis from electrical storms to empty fuel tanks. He is a good pilot.
And he is a friend, a good friend. He’s not my neighbor, but if he were, our property value would increase. If I were in the hospital, he’d keep a bedside vigil. If I were on vacation, he’d keep my dog. If I offended him, he’d keep his cool until we could talk it through. He could no more tell a lie than a mosquito could sing the national anthem. He never swears, gets drunk, cheats, or swindles. He is that good. He is good—good in skill and good in heart.
We chatted for a few minutes, and I went to my seat with a sense of assurance. What more could I request? I thought. The pilot is experienced and proven. Even more, he is my tried-and-true friend. I am in good hands.
The knowledge came in handy. An hour into the flight we hit a wall of winds. People gasped, dentures rattled, and the attendant told us to check our seat belts and rosary beads. I’ve had smoother roller coaster rides.
Unlike the other passengers, however, I stayed calm. I didn’t have a death wish, but I had an advantage. I knew the pilot. I knew Joe. I knew his heart and trusted his skill. Joe can handle this, I told myself. The storm was bad, but the pilot was good. So as much as one can relax in a squall, I did.
Friend, it’s a stormy world out there. Every day brings turbulence. Moody economy. Aging bodies. Declining job market. Increasing street violence. The question during these troubling times is this: Do we have a good pilot?
The resounding response of the Bible is yes!
You are good, Lord. (Psalm 25:7)
Good and upright is the Lord. (Psalm 25:8)
You, Lord, are forgiving and good. (Psalm 86:5)
God is good – good in skill and good in heart.
Most people suffer from small thoughts about God. In an effort to see Him as our friend, we have lost His immensity. In our desire to understand Him, we have sought to contain Him. The God of the Bible cannot be contained. He brought order out of chaos and created creation. With a word He called Adam out of dust and Eve out of a bone. He consulted no committee. He sought no counsel. He has no peer.
I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me. – Isaiah 46:9
The greatest kings have surrendered their crowns. Alexander the Great is a mound of dust in a tomb. The queen of England is called Her Majesty, yet she must eat and bathe and rest. The True Majesty, on the other hand, is never hungry. He never sleeps. He has never needed attention or assistance.
From the tiniest microbe to the mightiest mountain,
He sustains everything by the mighty power of His command. – Hebrews 1:3
He has authority over the world and…
He has authority over your world. Your sleep patterns.
Your eating habits. Your salary. The traffic of your commute. The arthritis in your joints. God reigns over all these. He’s never surprised. He has never, ever uttered the phrase “How did that happen?”
God’s power is unsurpassed.
And His heart is unblemished.
There is nothing deceitful in God, nothing two-faced, nothing fickle. – James 1:17 MSG
He has no hidden agenda or selfish motive. He loves with a good love and forgives with a good forgiveness. Good as in “beautiful, best… bountiful.”
God’s goodness is a major headline in the Bible. I think I know why. If God were only mighty, we would salute Him. But since He is merciful and mighty, we can approach Him. No wonder the psalmist invited,
Taste and see that the Lord is good. – Psalm 34:8
A glimpse of God’s goodness changes us.
God’s unrivaled goodness undergirds everything else we can say about prayer. If He is like us, only slightly stronger, then why pray? If He grows weary, then why pray? If He has limitations, questions, and hesitations, then you might as well pray to the Wizard of Oz.
However, if God is at once Father and Creator, holy – unlike us – and high above us, then we at any point are only a prayer away from help.
When I was fifteen years old, I inherited a Rambler station wagon from my big brother. Look up the word jalopy in the dictionary, and you might see a picture of the car. Faded paint, standard shift on the column, worn interior. It wasn’t much to look at, but it was mine. My brother was heading off to college in his graduation present, a used Plymouth. And I was entrusted with the Rambler. I remember the passing of the keys.
“You have to keep gas in the tank,” Dad advised.
“I know.”
“Air in the tires.”
“I know.”
“Can you change the oil and keep the car washed?”
“Of course I can,” I lied. Truth be told, I didn’t know the difference between a manifold and a windshield wiper. Which was odd since my dad was a mechanic. He made a living repairing oil field engines. And he made a hobby out of rebuilding car engines. He worked with machines like Monet worked with colors – daily and delightfully. He tried to teach me the trade, and I tried to learn, but when it came to machines, my brain was Teflon. Nothing stuck.
I wasn’t about to tell that to my father though.
My ineptness surfaced the following Saturday. Dad reminded me that it was time to change the oil in the Rambler.
“Do you know how to do it?”
“Yes,” I answered.
“You want me to help you?”
I should have said yes.
I spent an hour beneath the car looking for the oil pan and another hour wrestling with the plug. I finally removed it, drained the oil, crawled out, and poured in five new quarts. Finished at last.
Or so I thought. Dad was waiting for me in the garage.
“All done?”
“All done.”
“You sure?”
“Yessir.”
“Then what is that?”
He pointed to a river of oil running down the driveway – clean oil. I’d forgotten to replace the plug in the oil pan.
“Max,” he said, “we need to talk.” He walked me over to his oil field pickup. He opened the side panel and showed me the trays of tools. He began to describe the purpose of each. “I use this one to remove valves, this one to tighten clamps, this one to attach hoses, this one to…”
He took me tool by tool through his truck. After what seemed like an hour of show-and-tell, he closed the cabinet, locked it, and looked me straight in the eye.
“Son,” he said, “I fix things for a living. What is hard for you is simple to me. I may not be good at everything, but I am good with machines. Let me help you. I’m a mechanic. And, besides, I’m your dad.”
I never spilled another drop of oil. (Of course, now I pay the guy at the lube store to do the work.)
Here is what I think: our toughest challenges are simple oil changes to God.
Here is what else I think: a lot of us make unnecessary messes. But we can change that. May I make a suggestion?
Before you face the world, face your Father.
Here is how it works. It’s a Monday morning. The alarm clock lives up to its name. Clang! Clang! Clang! You groan, roll over, and sit up. In the old days you would have made the coffee, turned on the news, and begun your day with a briefing on the toxic problems in the world.
But today you turn to the Pocket Prayer. Still half asleep you take your coffee, and you lumber toward a chair and take a seat. You don’t look like much: face pillow creased, hair smashed. No matter. You haven’t come to look at you. You have come to look at God.
Father, my Daddy… The words come slowly at first. But you stay at it. You are good. Your heart is good. Your ways are right… The words stir you. Something within begins to awaken. The weather is bad, the economy is bad, but, God, you are awesome.
Don’t underestimate the power of this moment.
You just opened the door to God and welcomed truth to enter your heart. Faith sneaked in while despair was dozing.
Who knows, you might start to worship.
Father, You are good. Good enough to love me, care for me, and come for me. You are good! An arch of Your eyebrow, and a million angels will pivot and salute. Every throne is a footstool to yours. Every crown is papier-mâché to Yours. You have no questions, second thoughts, or backward glances. You consult no clock. You keep no calendar. You report to no one. You are good!
Is your world different because you prayed? In one sense, no. Wars still rage, traffic still clogs, and heartbreakers still roam the planet. But you are different. You have peace. You’ve spent time with the Pilot. And the Pilot is up to the task.
My friend Joe, as it turns out, got us through the storm just fine. He landed the plane and stood in his cockpit door as we exited the flight.
“Got a bit choppy there, Joe,” I commented.
“Yeah,” he agreed. “Were you scared?”
“Not really,” I replied. “Everything changes when you know the pilot.”
Excerpted with permission from Before Amen by Max Lucado, copyright Max Lucado. Published by Thomas Nelson.

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Your Turn

Lord, You are good… What a powerful prayer! Do you start your day telling God that you know He is good? Do you know that He is good? Even in the storm you are in? Come share with us on our blog! We want to hear from you about the Pocket Prayer! ~ Devotionals Daily 
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About the Book
We all pray . . . some.
We pray to stay sober, centered, or solvent. When the lump is deemed malignant. When the money runs out before the month does. When the marriage is falling apart. We pray.
But wouldn’t we like to pray more? Better? Stronger? With more fire, faith, and fervency?
Yet we have kids to feed, bills to pay, deadlines to meet. The calendar pounces on our good intentions like a tiger on a rabbit. And what about our checkered history with prayer? Uncertain words. Unmet expectations. Unanswered requests.
We aren’t the first to struggle with prayer. The first followers of Jesus needed prayer guidance too. In fact, prayer is the only tutorial they ever requested.
And Jesus gave them a prayer. Not a lecture on prayer. Not the doctrine of prayer. He gave them a quotable, repeatable, portable prayer. Couldn’t we use the same?
In Before Amen best-selling author Max Lucado joins readers on a journey to the very heart of biblical prayer, offering hope for doubts and confidence even for prayer wimps. Distilling prayers in the Bible down to one pocket-sized prayer, Max reminds readers that prayer is not a privilege for the pious nor the art of a chosen few. Prayer is simply a heartfelt conversation between God and his child. Let the conversation begin.
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In this four-session video-based study, best-selling author Max Lucado reveals his struggles with prayer and how he discovered that it is not a privilege for the pious or the art of a chosen few but a simple tool everyone has been given to have a conversation with God. He shows you how to let go of uncertainties about prayer, trust that God hears you, and embrace a prayer life that brings peace and rest.
Join Max Lucado on a journey to the very heart of biblical prayer and the power unleashed with five simple sentences: “Father, you are good. I need help. They need help. Thank you. In Jesus’ name, amen.” 
This study guide with DVD includes a DVD with four video sessions from Max Lucado and a study guide with discussion questions, video notes, and in-between studies. 
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What to do when life is hard.

Sometimes God has us in a place or situation we simply wish wasn’t part of our lives. This is a crossroad of trusting faith or discouragement. Seek His reassurances that He does not intend to harm you but to give you a hope and a future. And choose to trust His love for you. 

In Your presence is fullness of joy. — Psalm 16:11
Devotionals Daily

Draw Close to Me
by Sarah Young, from Jesus Today Devotional Journal

Psalm 16:11
Sometimes My Sovereign hand — My control over your life — places you in humbling circumstances. You feel held down, held back, and powerless to change things. You long to break free and feel in control of your life once again. Although this is an uncomfortable position, it is actually a good place to be. Your discomfort awakens you from the slumber of routine and reminds you that I am in charge of your life. It also presents you with an important choice: You can lash out at your circumstances — resenting My ways with you — or you can draw closer to Me.
When you are suffering, your need for Me is greater than ever.
The more you choose to come near Me, affirming your trust in Me, the more you can find hope in My unfailing Love. You can even learn to be joyful in hope while waiting in My Presence — where Joy abounds.
Persevere in trusting Me, and I will eventually lift you up. Meanwhile, cast all your anxiety on Me, knowing that I care for you affectionately and am watching over you continually.
Which of your circumstances are causing you the most discomfort? Surrender each one, beloved. You can trust Me.
Many are the woes of the wicked, but the Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the man who trusts in Him. — Psalm 32:10
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. — Romans 12:12
You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore. — Psalm 16:11
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you. — 1 Peter 5:6–7
Excerpted with permission from Jesus Today Devotional Journal by Sarah Young, copyright Thomas Nelson.

Where are you uncomfortable and powerless to change the circumstances? Bring that pain before the Lord today. Draw close and lean into His everlasting love and say it again — I trust You, God. Join the conversation on our blog! We want to hear from you about remaining faithful in difficult times! ~ Devotionals Daily 

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Jesus Today was written during a very difficult time in beloved and bestselling author Sarah Young’s life. Yet the words of Scripture and Jesus’ own Presence were ever near, bringing her hope and comfort for each new day. Whether you are in need of a lifeline in your discouragement or are simply longing for a boost in your day, this devotional journal will speak hope into your life. It is written as if Jesus Himself is assuring you that He is in control, that He is good, and that a glorious future awaits all who anchor their hope in Him.
This special edition provides all of the full devotional content of Jesus Today, but with additional journaling prompts and space to write thoughts and prayers. You will be encouraged and renewed with a deeper sense of hope as you grow in grace, learn from God’s Word, and walk ever more closely with Jesus.
Reaching out with peace-filled reminders from the Word of God, these devotions will intimately and quietly connect you with Jesus—the One who meets you where you are. Hope shines brightest when your world is darkest!
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