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My Success Is about Him - UpWords - August 10

by Max Lucado

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

My point, exactly. These are men we should know. They were kings of Israel. They ascended to the throne… but something about the throne brought them down.

Their legacies are stained with blood spilling and idol worship. They failed at success. They forgot both the source and purpose of their success.

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

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

The man who begged for help in medical school ten years ago is too busy to worship today.

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

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

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

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

From It's Not About Me

Team Leader Shining for Jesus
Team Leader God's Amazing Grace
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Team Leader Partnership Accountability to the Finish Line
Co-Team Leader for I Can Do All Things Through Christ
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My Message Is about Him - UpWords - August 9

by Max Lucado

The request came when I was twenty. “Can you address our church youth group?” We aren’t talking citywide crusade here. Think more in terms of a dozen kids around a West Texas campfire.

I was new to the faith, hence new to the power of the faith. I told my story, and, lo and behold, they listened! One even approached me afterward and said something like, “That moved me, Max.” My chest lifted, and my feet shifted just a step in the direction of the spotlight.

God has been nudging me back ever since.

Some of you don’t relate. The limelight never woos you. You and John the Baptist sing the same tune: “He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less” (John 3:30 NLT).

God bless you. You might pray for the rest of us. We applause-aholics have done it all: dropped names, sung loudly, dressed up to look classy, dressed down to look cool, quoted authors we’ve never read, spouted Greek we’ve never studied. For the life of me, I believe Satan trains battalions of demons to whisper one question in our ears: “What are people thinking of you?”

A deadly query. What they think of us matters not. What they think of God matters all. God will not share his glory with another (Isaiah 42:8). Next time you need a nudge away from the spotlight, remember: You are simply one link in a chain, an unimportant link at that.

Remember the other messengers God has used?
A donkey to speak to Balaam (Numbers 22:28).
A staff-turned-snake to stir Pharaoh (Exodus 7:10).

He used stubborn oxen to make a point about reverence and a big fish to make a point about reluctant preachers (I Samuel 6:1-12; Jonah 1:1-17)

God doesn’t need you and me to do his work. We are expedient messengers, ambassadors by his kindness, not by our cleverness.

It’s not about us, and it angers him when we think it is.

We who are entrusted with the gospel dare not seek applause but best deflect applause. For our message is about Someone else.

From It's Not About Me

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


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My Body Is about Him - UpWords - August 8

by Max Lucado

"Don't you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you?" (1 Corinthians 6:19 NLT).

Paul wrote these words to counter the Corinthian sex obsession. "Run away from sexual sin!" reads the prior sentence. "No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does.

For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body." (v.18 NLT).

What a salmon scripture! No message swims more up-stream than this one. You know the sexual anthem of our day: "I'll do what I want. It's my body." God's firm response? "No, it's not. It's mine."

Be quick to understand, God is not antisex. Dismiss any notion that God is antiaffection and anti-intercourse. After all, he developed the whole package. Sex was his idea. From his perspective, sex is nothing short of holy.

He views sexual intimacy the way I view our family Bible. Passed down from my father's side, the volume is one hundred years old and twelve inches thick. Replete with lithographs, scribblings, and a family tree, it is, in my estimation, beyond value. Hence, I use it carefully.

When I need a stepstool, I don't reach for the Bible. If the foot of my bed breaks, I don't use the family Bible as a prop. When we need old paper for wrapping, we don't rip a sheet out of this book. We reserve the heirloom for special times and keep it in a chosen place.

Regard sex the same way—as a holy gift to be opened in a special place at special times. The special place is marriage, and the time is with your spouse.

Casual sex, intimacy outside of marriage, pulls the Corinthian ploy. It pretends we can give the body and not affect the soul. We can't. We humans are so intricately psychosomatic that whatever touches the soma impacts the phyche as well.

The me-centered phrase "as long as no one gets hurt" sounds noble, but the truth is, we don't know who gets hurt. God-centered thinking rescues us from the sex we thought would make us happy. You may think your dalliances are harmless, and years may pass before the x-rays reveal the internal damage, but don't be fooled. Casual sex is a diet of chocolate—it tastes good for a while, but the imbalance can ruin you. Sex apart from God's plan wounds the soul.

Your body, God's temple. Respect it.

From It's Not About Me

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


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My Salvation Is about Him - UpWords - August 6

by Max Lucado

Who would look at the cross of Christ and say, “Great work, Jesus. Sorry you couldn’t finish it, but I’ll take up the slack.”?

Dare we question the crowning work of God? Dare we think heaven needs our help in saving us? Legalism discounts God and in the process makes a mess out of us.

To anyone attempting to earn heaven, Paul asks, “How is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? ….What has happened to all your joy?” (Galatians 4:19, 15 NIV).

Legalism is joyless because legalism is endless. There is always another class to attend, person to teach, mouth to feed. Inmates incarcerated in self-salvation find work but never joy.

How could they? They never know when they are finished. Legalism leaches joy.

Grace, however, dispenses peace. The Christian trusts a finished work.

Grace offers rest. Legalism never does. Then why do we embrace it? “Those who trust in themselves are foolish” (Proverbs 28:26 NCV). Why do we trust in ourselves? Why do we add to God’s finished work?

But the truth is, we don’t. If we think we do, we have missed the message. “What is left for us to brag about?” Paul wonders (Romans 3:27 CEV). What is there indeed? What have you contributed? Aside from your admission of utter decadence, I can’t think of a thing. “By his doing you are in Christ Jesus” (1 Corinthians 1:30). Salvation glorifies the Savior, not the saved.

Your salvation showcases God’s mercy. It makes nothing of your effort but everything of his. “I—yes, I alone—am the one who blots out your sins for my own sake and will never think of them again” (Isaiah, 43:25, emphasis mine).

Can you add anything to this salvation? No. The work is finished.

Can you earn this salvation? No. Don’t dishonor God by trying.

Dare we boast about this salvation? By no means. The giver of bread, not the beggar, deserves praise. “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:31).

It’s not about what we do; it’s all about what he does.

From It's Not About Me

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


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

by Max Lucado

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

I had a date with a twirler.

I learned to paint white shoe polish on school buses.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now, what I saw two decades ago in the band, I see today in the church. We need each other.

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

Some play the drums (like Martha).

Some play the flute (like Mary).

And others sound the trumpet (like Lazarus).

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

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

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

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

From Cast of Characters

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


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God Is Cheering for You - UpWords - August 4

by Max Lucado

If your God is Mighty enough to ignite the sun, could it be that He is mighty enough to light your path?

God is for you. Not “may be,” not “has been,” not “was,” not “would be,” but “God is!” He is for you. Today. At this hour. At this minute. As you read this sentence. No need to wait in line or come back tomorrow.

He is with you. He could not be closer than he is at this second. His loyalty won’t increase if you are better nor lessen if you are worse. He is for you.

God is for you. Turn to the sidelines; that’s God cheering your run. Look past the finish line; that’s God applauding your steps. Listen for him in the bleachers, shouting your name. Too tired to continue? He’ll carry you. Too discouraged to fight? He’s picking you up. God is for you.

God is for you. Had he a calendar, your birthday would be circled. If he drove a car, your name would be on his bumper. If there’s a tree in heaven, he’s carved your name in the bark. We know he has a tattoo, and we know what it says. “I have written your name on my hand,” he declares (Isaiah 49:16).

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

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


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Take Every Thought Captive - UpWords - August 2

by Max Lucado

Today’s thoughts are tomorrow’s actions.
Today’s jealousy is tomorrow’s temper tantrum.
Today’s bigotry is tomorrow’s hate crime.
Today’s anger is tomorrow’s abuse.
Today’s lust is tomorrow’s adultery.
Today’s greed is tomorrow’s embezzlement.
Today’s guilt is tomorrow’s fear.

Could that be why Paul writes, “Love … keeps no record of wrongs” (1 Cor. 13:5 NIV)?

Some folks don’t know we have an option.

Paul says we do: “We capture every thought and make it give up and obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).

Do you hear some battlefield jargon in that passage—“capture every thought,” “make it give up” and “obey Christ”? You get the impression that we are the soldiers and the thoughts are the enemies.

It was for Jesus. Remember the thoughts that came his way courtesy of the mouth of Peter?

Jesus had just prophesied his death, burial, and resurrection, but Peter couldn’t bear the thought of it. “Peter took Jesus aside and told him not to talk like that.…

Jesus said to Peter, ‘Go away from me, Satan! You are not helping me! You don’t care about the things of God, but only about the things people think are important’” (Matt. 16:22–23).

See the decisiveness of Jesus?

What if you did that? What if you took every thought captive? What if you took the counsel of Solomon: “Be careful what you think, because your thoughts run your life” (Prov. 4:23).

TYou are not a victim of your thoughts. You have a vote. You have a voice. You can exercise thought prevention. You can also exercise thought permission.

Change the thoughts, and you change the person. If today’s thoughts are tomorrow’s actions, what happens when we fill our minds with thoughts of God’s love? Will standing beneath the downpour of his grace change the way we feel about others?

Paul says absolutely! It’s not enough to keep the bad stuff out. We’ve got to let the good stuff in. It’s not enough to keep no list of wrongs. We have to cultivate a list of blessings. The same verb Paul uses for keeps in the phrase “keeps no list of wrongs” is used for think in Philippians 4:8: “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (RSV).

Thinking conveys the idea of pondering—studying and focusing, allowing what is viewed to have an impact on us.

Rather than store up the sour, store up the sweet.

From A Love Worth Giving

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


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His Wing Shelters You - UpWords - August 1

by Max Lucado

“He will shield you with his wings. He will shelter you with his feathers.”
(Psalm 91:4)

My college friends and I barely escaped a West Texas storm before it pummeled the park where we were spending a Saturday afternoon. As we were leaving, my buddy brought the car to a sudden stop and gestured to a tender sight on the ground.

A mother bird sat exposed to the rain, her wing extended over her baby who had fallen out of the nest. The fierce storm prohibited her from returning to the tree, so she covered her child until the wind passed.

From how many winds is God protecting you? His wing, at this moment, shields you. A slanderous critic heading toward your desk is interrupted by a phone call. A burglar en route to your house has a flat tire. A drunk driver runs out of gas before your car passes his. God, your guardian, protects you from:

“every trap” (Ps. 91:3);

“the fatal plague” (Ps. 91:3);

“the plague that stalks in darkness” (Ps. 91:6);

“the terrors of the night…the dangers of the day” (Ps. 91:5).

One translation boldly promises: “Nothing bad will happen to you” (Ps. 91:10 NCV).

“Then why does it?” someone erupts. “Explain my job transfer. Or the bum who called himself my dad. Or the death of our child.” If God is our guardian, why do bad things happen to us?

Have they? Have bad things really happened to you? You and God may have different definitions for the word bad.

God views your life the way you view a movie after you’ve read the book. When something bad happens, you feel the air sucked out of the theater. Everyone else gasps at the crisis on the screen. Not you. Why? You’ve read the book. You know how the good guy gets out of the tight spot.

God views your life with the same confidence. He’s not only read your story…he wrote it.

His perspective is different, and his purpose is clear.

God uses struggles to toughen our spiritual skin.

Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way. (James 1:2–4)

"Trust him. “But when I am afraid, I put my trust in you” (Ps. 56:3). Join with Isaiah, who resolved, “I will trust in him and not be afraid” (Isa. 12:2).

God is directing your steps and delighting in every detail of your life (Ps. 37:23–24). In fact, that’s his car pulling over to the side of the road. That’s God opening the door. And that’s you climbing into the passenger seat.

There now, don’t you feel safer knowing he is in control?

From Come Thirsty


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


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Focus on the Task at Hand - UpWords - July 31

by Max Lucado

Life is tough enough as it is. It’s even tougher when we’re headed in the wrong direction.

One of the incredible abilities of Jesus was to stay on target. His life never got off track. Not once do we find him walking down the wrong side of the fairway. He had no money, no computers, no jets, no administrative assistants or staff; yet Jesus did what many of us fail to do. He kept his life on course.

As Jesus looked across the horizon of his future, he could see many targets. Many flags were flapping in the wind, each of which he could have pursued. He could have been a political revolutionary. He could have been a national leader. He could have been content to be a teacher and educate minds or to be a physician and heal bodies. But in the end he chose to be a Savior and save souls.

Anyone near Christ for any length of time heard it from Jesus himself. “The Son of Man came to find lost people and save them” (Luke 19:10). “The Son of Man did not come to be served. He came to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many people” (Mark 10:45).

The heart of Christ was relentlessly focused on one task. The day he left the carpentry shop of Nazareth he had one ultimate aim—the cross of Calvary. He was so focused that his final words were, “It is finished” (John 19:30).

How could Jesus say he was finished? There were still the hungry to feed, the sick to heal, the untaught to instruct, and the unloved to love. How could he say he was finished? Simple. He had completed his designated task. His commission was fulfilled. The painter could set aside his brush, the sculptor lay down his chisel, the writer put away his pen. The job was done.

Wouldn’t you love to be able to say the same? Wouldn’t you love to look back on your life and know you had done what you were called to do?

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

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


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Honor God in Your Work - UpWords - July 30

by Max Lucado

Heaven’s calendar has seven Sundays a week. God sanctifies each day. He conducts holy business at all hours and in all places. He uncommons the common by turning kitchen sinks into shrines, cafés into convents, and nine-to-five workdays into spiritual adventures.

Workdays? Yes, workdays. He ordained your work as something good. Before he gave Adam a wife or a child, even before he gave Adam britches, God gave Adam a job. “Then the LORD

God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it” (Gen. 2:15 NASB). Innocence, not indolence, characterized the first family.

God views work worthy of its own engraved commandment: “You shall work six days, but on the seventh day you shall rest” (Exod. 34:21 NASB). We like the second half of that verse. But emphasis on the day of rest might cause us to miss the command to work: “You shall work six days.” Whether you work at home or in the marketplace, your work matters to God.

And your work matters to society. We need you! Cities need plumbers. Nations need soldiers.

Stoplights break. Bones break. We need people to repair the first and set the second.

Someone has to raise kids, raise cane, and manage the kids who raise Cain.

Whether you log on or lace up for the day, you imitate God. Jehovah himself worked for the first six days of creation. Jesus said, “My Father never stops working, and so I keep working, too” (John 5:17 NCV). Your career consumes half of your lifetime. Shouldn’t it broadcast God? Don’t those forty to sixty hours a week belong to him as well?

The Bible never promotes workaholism or an addiction to employment as pain medication. But

God unilaterally calls all the physically able to till the gardens he gives. God honors work. So honor God in your work. “There is nothing better for a man than to eat and drink and tell himself that his labor is good” (Eccles. 2:24 NASB).

Here is the big idea:

Use your uniqueness (what you do)
to make a big deal out of God (why you do it)
every day of your life (where you do it).

At the convergence of all three, you’ll find the cure for the common life: your sweet spot.

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

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


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Too Good to Be True - UpWords - July 29

by Max Lucado

“Free Flight: Rio de Janeiro to Miami, Florida.”

I wasn’t the only person to hear about the offer but one of the few to phone and request details.

The courier service offered an airline ticket to anyone willing to carry a bag of mail to the States.

No company makes such offers anymore. But this was 1985 - years before intense airport security. My dad was dying of ALS, and airline tickets were expensive. Free tickets? The offer sounded too good to be true.

So I walked away from it.

Many do the same with John 3:16. Millions read the verse. Only a handful trust it. Wary of a catch perhaps? Not needy enough maybe? Cautioned by guarded friends?

I was. Other Rio residents saw the same offer. Some read it and smelled a rat. “Don’t risk it,” one warned me. “Better to buy your own ticket.”

But I couldn’t afford one. Each call home to Mom brought worse news. “The doctor says it’s time to call hospice.”

So I revisited the flyer. Desperation heightened my interest. Doesn’t it always?

When desperation typhoons into your world, God’s offer of a free flight home demands a second look. John 3:16 morphs from a nice verse into a life vest.

Some of you are wearing it. You can recount the day you put it on. These words have kept you company through multiple windswept winters. I pray they warm you through the ones that remain.

Others of you are still studying the flyer. Still pondering the possibility, wrestling with the promise. One day wondering what kind of fool offer this is, the next wondering what kind of fool would turn it down.

I urge you not to. Don’t walk away from this one. Who else can get you home? Take Jesus’ offer. Get on board. You don’t want to miss the chance to see your Father.

Thanks to the courier folks, I was present at my father’s death. Thanks to God, he’ll be present at yours. He cares too much not to be.

Believe in him and you

will...

not...

perish.

You will have life, eternal life, forever.

From 3:16, The Numbers of Hope

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


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Prepare the Soil and Sow the Seed - UpWords - July 28

by Max Lucado

Who has a greater chance of helping our children live in their sweet spots than we do? But will we? God’s Word urges us to do so. Listen closely to this reminder, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).

Don’t interpret this verse to mean, If I fill them with Scripture and Bible lessons, they may rebel but eventually they’ll return. The proverb makes no such promise. Godly parents can prepare the soil and sow the seed, but God gives the growth (1 Corinthians 3:6). Show them the path?

Yes. Force them to take it? No. To train up means to awaken thirst—to develop thirst. One translation (ASB) margins this verse with the phrase according to his way. So, the greatest gift you can give your children is not your riches, but revealing to them their own.

From Cure for the Common Life

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


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Marys - UpWords - July 26

by Max Lucado

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

Marys have one foot in heaven and the other on a cloud. It’s not easy for them to come to earth, but sometimes they need to.

Sometimes they need to be reminded that there are bills to be paid and classes to be taught.

But don’t remind them too harshly. Flutes are fragile. Marys are precious souls with tender hearts. If they have found a place at the foot of Jesus, don’t ask them to leave. Much better to ask them to pray for you.

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

Every church desperately needs some Marys.

We need them to pray for our children.

We need them to put passion in our worship.

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

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

We need them because we tend to forget how much God loves worship. Marys don’t forget.

They know that God wants to be known as a father. They know that a father likes nothing more than to have his children sit as his feet and spend time with him.

Marys are good at that.

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

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

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What Makes Heaven Heavenly - UpWords - July 23

by Max Lucado

You will be you at your best forever. Even now you have your good moments. Occasional glimpses of your heavenly self. When you change your baby’s diaper, forgive your boss’s temper, tolerate your spouse’s moodiness, you display traces of saintliness.

It’s the other moments that sour life. Tongue, sharp as a razor. Moods as unpredictable as Mount Saint Helens. This part wearies you.

Just think what Satan has taken from you, even in the last few hours. You worried about a decision and envied someone’s success, dreaded a conversation and resented an interruption. He’s been prowling your environs all day, pickpocketing peace, joy, belly laughs, and honest love. Rotten freebooter.

But his days are numbered. Unlike he did in the Garden of Eden, Satan will not lurk in heaven’s gardens. “There shall be no more curse” (22:3 NKJV). He will not tempt; hence, you will not stumble. You will be you at your best forever!

Christ will have completed his redemptive work. All gossip excised and jealousy extracted. He will suction the last drop of orneriness from the most remote corners of our souls. You’ll love the result.

No one will doubt your word, question your motives, or speak evil behind your back. God’s sin purging discontinues all strife.

No sin means no thieves, divorce, heartbreak, and no boredom. You won’t be bored in heaven, because you won’t be the same you in heaven. Boredom emerges from soils that heaven disallows.

The soil of weariness: our eyes tire. Mental limitations: information overload dulls us. Self-centeredness: we grow disinterested when the spotlight shifts to others. Tedium: meaningless activity siphons vigor.

But Satan will take these weedy soils to hell with him, leaving you with a keen mind, endless focus, and God-honoring assignments.

We might serve in the capacity we serve now. Couldn’t earthly assignments hint at heavenly ones? Architects of Moscow might draw blueprints in the new Liverpool. We will feast in heaven; you may be a cook on Saturn.

God filled his first garden with plants and animals. He’ll surely do the same in heaven. If so, he may entrust you with the care and feeding of an Africa or two.

One thing is for sure: you’ll love it. Never weary, selfish, or defeated. Clear mind, tireless muscles, unhindered joy. Heaven is a perfect place of perfected people with our perfect Lord.

From 3:16, The Numbers of Hope

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

by Max Lucado “. . .

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

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

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

No visitors. Maybe tomorrow.

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

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

His eyes, for the first time, popped open. Saucer wide. His head lifted. Doubt laced his response: “I think I am.”
“Do you want to be sure?”
“Oh yes.”

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

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

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

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

From 3:16, The Numbers of Hope

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The Only One and Only - UpWords - July 17

by Max Lucado

Two of our three daughters were born in the South Zone of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. We lived in the North Zone, separated from our doctor’s office and hospital by a tunnel-pierced mountain range. During Denalyn’s many months of pregnancy, we made the drive often.

We didn’t complain. Signs of life do a samba on every street corner. Copacabana and her bathers. Ipanema and her coffee bars. Gavea and her glamour. We never begrudged the South Zone forays. But they sure did bewilder me.

I kept getting lost. I’m directionally challenged anyway, prone to take a wrong turn between the bedroom and the bathroom. Complicate my disorientation with randomly mapped three-hundred-year-old streets, and I don’t stand a chance.

I had one salvation. Jesus. Literally, Jesus. The Christ the Redeemer statue. The figure stands guard over the city, one hundred twenty-five feet tall with an arm span of nearly a hundred feet.

More than a thousand tons of reinforced steel. The head alone measures ten feet from chin to scalp. Perched a mile and a half above sea level on Corcovado Mountain, the elevated Jesus is always visible.

Especially to those who are looking for it. Since I was often lost, I was often looking. As a sailor seeks land, I searched for the statue, peering between the phone lines and rooftops for the familiar face. Find him and find my bearings.

John 3:16 offers you an identical promise. The verse elevates Christ to thin-air loftiness, crowning him with the most regal of titles: “One and Only Son.”

Do what I did in Rio. Seek him out. Lift up your eyes, and set your sights on Jesus. No passing glances or occasional glimpses. Enroll in his school. Make him your polestar, your point of reference. Search the crowded streets and shadow-casting roofs until you spot his face, and then set your sights on him.

You’ll find more than a hospital.
You’ll find the Only One and Only.

From 3:16, The Numbers of Hope

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When Death Becomes Birth - UpWords - July 16

by Max Lucado

You live one final breath from your own funeral.

Which, from God’s perspective, is nothing to grieve. He responds to these grave facts with this great news: “The day you die is better than the day you are born” (Eccles. 7:1).

Now there is a twist. Heaven enjoys a maternity-ward reaction to funerals. Angels watch body burials the same way grandparents monitor delivery-room doors. “He’ll be coming through any minute!”

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

Oh, but many of us weep at the thought of death. Do you? Do you dread your death? And is your dread of death robbing your joy of life?

Jesus came to “deliver those who have lived all their lives as slaves to the fear of dying” (Heb. 2:15).

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

Dread of death ends when you know heaven is your true home. In all my air travels I’ve never seen one passenger weep when the plane landed. Never. No one clings to the armrests and begs, “Don’t make me leave. Don’t make me leave.

Let me stay and eat more peanuts.” We’re willing to exit because the plane has no permanent mailing address. Nor does this world. “But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior” (Phil. 3:20).

Why don’t you do this: give God your death. Imagine your last breath, envision your final minutes, and offer them to him. Deliberately. Regularly. “Lord, I receive your work on the cross and in your resurrection.

I entrust you with my departure from earth.” With Christ as your friend and heaven as your home, the day of death becomes sweeter than the day of birth.

From Come Thirsty

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Water for Your Soul - UpWords - July 15

by Max Lucado

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

People had packed the streets for the annual reenactment of the rock-giving-water miracle of Moses. Each morning a priest filled a golden pitcher with water from the Gihon spring and carried it down a people-lined path to the temple.

He did this every day, once a day, for seven days. “On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying,

‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water’ ” (John 7:37-38).

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

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

Internalize him. Ingest him. Welcome him into the inner workings of your life. Let Christ be the water of your soul.

Toward this end, I give you this tool: a prayer for the thirsty heart. Carry it just as a cyclist carries a water bottle. The prayer outlines four essential fluids for soul hydration: God’s work, God’s energy, his lordship, and his love. You’ll find the prayer easy to remember. Just think of the word W-E-L-L.

Lord, I come thirsty. I come to drink, to receive. I receive your work on the cross and in your resurrection. My sins are pardoned, and my death is defeated. I receive your energy.

Empowered by your Holy Spirit, I can do all things through Christ, who gives me strength. I receive your lordship. I belong to you. Nothing comes to me that hasn’t passed through you. And I receive your love. Nothing can separate me from your love.

Don’t you need regular sips from God’s reservoir? I do. I’ve offered this prayer in countless situations: stressful meetings, dull days, long drives, demanding trips, character-testing decisions.

Many times a day I step to the underground spring of God and receive anew his work for my sin and death, the energy of his Spirit, his lordship, and his love.

Drink with me from his bottomless well. You don’t have to live with a dehydrated heart.

Receive Christ’s work on the cross, the energy of his Spirit, his lordship over your life, his unending, unfailing love.

Drink deeply and often. And out of you will flow rivers of living water.

From Come Thirsty

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Returning from the East - UpWords - July 12

by Max Lucado

Somewhere Oswald Chambers wrote: “Christians must occasionally travel under sealed orders.” Such was the case for a group of us who traveled to China in August.

Though we think we know the purpose of the trip, I’m confident that the real orders were seen only by spiritual forces.

Our groups consisted of ministers, representatives of two Christian colleges, a representative of Focus on the Family, a publishing delegate, a lawyer, and John Bentley, the trip facilitator and director of an orphanage in China.

Our goal was simple: extend the hand of Christian friendship to high-ranking government officials in China. By his grace we were granted audiences with

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

Each meeting lasted 45 minutes to an hour. The first three meetings began with prepared speeches from the official explaining China's position on a variety of matters, but especially religion.

The meetings were gracious and hospitable. In each case, our message to them was simple and identical...we extend the hand of goodwill and hope that we can enhance our relationship.

We told them that we come more in the name of Jesus than in the name of a country and would like the chance to display the love of Christ through good works in China.

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

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

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

- Estimates as high as 100 million Christians.

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

- While the country is known for its Communist regime or exploding economy, fastest in the history of the world, it should be known for its delightful people.

The people are so quick to smile and happy to serve. They are, indeed, a special nation… worthy of every effort to tell them about Christ.

Listen to UpWords with Max Lucado at Oneplace.com

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Prayerful Waiting - UpWords - July 11

by Max Lucado

“They all met together continually for prayer.” Mark uses the same Greek word here translated “continually” to describe a boat floating in the water, waiting on Jesus. The Master, speaking on the beach of Galilee, told the disciples to have a boat ready and waiting (Mark 3:9).

The boat was “continually” in the presence of Christ. So are the Upper Room disciples. One day passes.

Then two. Then a week. For all they know a hundred more will come and go. But they aren’t leaving. They persist in the presence of Christ.

The followers were willing to do one thing: wait in the right place for power.

We’re so reluctant to do what they did. Who has time to wait? We groan at such a thought. But waiting doesn’t mean inactivity—rather inHIMactivity.

Waiting means watching for him. If you are waiting on a bus, you are watching for the bus. If you are waiting on God, you are watching for God, searching for God, hoping in God.

Great promises come to those who do. “But those who wait on the LORD will find new strength. They will fly high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint” (Isa. 40:31).

To those who still struggle, God says, “Wait on me.” And wait in the right place. Jesus doesn’t tell us to stay in Jerusalem, but he does tell us to stay honest, stay faithful, stay true.

Desire power for your life?

It will come as you pray. For ten days the disciples prayed. Ten days of prayer plus a few minutes of preaching led to three thousand saved souls. Perhaps we invert the numbers. We’re prone to pray for a few minutes and preach for ten days.

Not the apostles. Like the boat waiting for Christ, they lingered in his presence. They never left the place of prayer.

From Come Thirsty

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An Unearthly Love - UpWords - July 10

by Max Lucado

Your goodness can’t win God’s love. Nor can your badness lose it. But you can resist it. We tend to do so honestly. Having been rejected so often, we fear God may reject us as well.

Rejections have left us skittish and jumpy. Like my dog Salty. He sleeps next to me on the couch as I write. He’s a cranky cuss, but I like him.

We’ve aged together over the last fifteen years, and he seems worse for the wear.

He’s a wiry canine by nature; shave his salt-and-pepper mop, and he’d pass for a bulimic Chihuahua. He didn’t have much to start with; now the seasons have taken his energy, teeth, hearing, and all but eighteen inches’ worth of eyesight.

Toss him a dog treat, and he just stares at the floor through cloudy cataracts. (Or, in his case, dogaracts?) He’s nervous and edgy, quick to growl and slow to trust.

As I reach out to pet him, he yanks back. Still, I pet the old coot. I know he can’t see, and I can only wonder how dark his world has become.

We are a lot like Salty. I have a feeling that most people who defy and deny God do so more out of fear than conviction.

For all our chest pumping and braggadocio, we are anxious folk—can’t see a step into the future, can’t hear the one who owns us. No wonder we try to gum the hand that feeds us.

3:16 But God reaches and touches. He speaks through the immensity of the Russian plain and the density of the Amazon rain forest. Through a physician’s touch in Africa, a bowl of rice in India.

Through a Japanese bow or a South American abraço. He’s even been known to touch people through paragraphs like the ones you are reading. If he is touching you, let him.

Mark it down: God loves you with an unearthly love. You can’t win it by being winsome. You can’t lose it by being a loser. But you can be blind enough to resist it.

Don’t. For heaven’s sake, don’t. For your sake, don’t.

“Take in with all Christians the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love.

Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length!

Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:18-19).

From 3:16, The Numbers of Hope

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Practicing the Presence - UpWords - July 7

by Max Lucado

How do I live in God’s presence? How do I detect his unseen hand on my shoulder and his inaudible voice in my ear?

A sheep grows familiar with the voice of the shepherd. How can you and I grow familiar with the voice of God? Here are a few ideas:

Give God your waking thoughts. Before you face the day, face the Father. Before you step out of bed, step into his presence. I have a friend who makes it a habit to roll out of his bed onto his knees and begin his day in prayer.

Personally, I don’t get that far. With my head still on the pillow and my eyes still closed, I offer God the first seconds of my day.

The prayer is not lengthy and far from formal. Depending on how much sleep I got, it may not even be intelligible.

Often it’s nothing more than “Thank you for a night’s rest. I belong to you today.”

Give God your waiting thoughts. Spend time with him in silence. The mature married couple has learned the treasure of shared silence; they don’t need to fill the air with constant chatter.

Just being together is sufficient. Try being silent with God.

"Be still, and know that I am God” (Ps. 46:10 niv). Awareness of God is a fruit of stillness before God.

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

Imagine considering every moment as a potential time of communion with God. By giving God your whispering thoughts, the common becomes uncommon. Simple phrases such as “Thank you, Father,” “Be sovereign in this hour, O Lord,” “You are my resting place, Jesus” can turn a commute into a pilgrimage.

You needn’t leave your office or kneel in your kitchen. Just pray where you are. Let the kitchen become a cathedral or the classroom a chapel. Give God your whispering thoughts.

And last, give God your waning thoughts. At the end of the day, let your mind settle on him.

Conclude the day as you began it: talking to God. Thank him for the good parts. Question him about the hard parts. Seek his mercy. Seek his strength. And as you close your eyes, take assurance in the promise:

“He who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep” (Ps. 121:4 niv).

If you fall asleep as you pray, don’t worry. What better place to doze off than in the arms of your Father.

From Just Like Jesus

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

by Max Lucado

Anger. It’s a peculiar yet predictable emotion. It begins as a drop of water. An irritant. A frustration. Nothing big, just an aggravation. Someone gets your parking place.

Someone pulls in front of you on the freeway. A waitress is slow and you are in a hurry. The toast burns. Drops of water. Drip. Drip. Drip. Drip.

Yet, get enough of these seemingly innocent drops of anger and before long you’ve got a bucket full of rage. Walking revenge. Blind bitterness. Unharnessed hatred.

We trust no one and bare our teeth at anyone who gets near. We become walking time bombs that, given just the right tension and fear, could explode.

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

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

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

And when you think about it, they didn’t. They hadn’t the faintest idea what they were doing.

They were a stir-crazy mob, mad at something they couldn’t see so they took it out on, of all people, God. But they didn’t know what they were doing.

And for the most part, neither do we. We are still, as much as we hate to admit it, shepherdless sheep. All we know is that we were born out of one eternity and are frighteningly close to another.

We play tag with the fuzzy realities of death and pain. We can’t answer our own questions about love and hurt. We can’t solve the riddle of aging.

We don’t know how to heal our own bodies or get along with our own mates. We can’t keep ourselves out of war. We can’t even keep ourselves fed.

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

Now, I know that doesn’t justify anything. That doesn’t justify hit-and-run drivers or kiddie-porn peddlers or heroin dealers. But it does help explain why they do the miserable things they do.

My point is this: Uncontrolled anger won’t better our world, but sympathetic understanding will.

Once we see the world and ourselves for what we are, we can help. Once we understand ourselves we begin to operate not from a posture of anger but of compassion and concern.

We look at the world not with bitter frowns but with extended hands. We realize that the lights are out and a lot of people are stumbling in the darkness. So we light candles.

UpWords with Max Lucado at OnePlace

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Traveling Light - UpWords - July 1

by Max Lucado

I fell asleep in the Louvre.

The most famous museum in the world. The best-known building in Paris. Tourists are oohing and aahing, and that’s me, nodding and snoring. Seated on a bench. Back to the wall. Chin to my chest. Conked out.

The crown jewels are down the hall. Rembrandt is on the wall. Van Gogh is one floor up. The Venus de Milo is one floor down. I should have been star struck and wide eyed.

Denalyn was. You’d have thought she was at Foley’s Red Apple sale. If there was a tour, she took it. If there was a button to push, she pushed it. If there was a brochure to read, she read it.

She didn’t even want to stop to eat.

But me? I gave the Mona Lisa five minutes.

Shameful, I know.

But it wasn’t my fault. I like seventeenth-century art as much as the next guy … well, maybe not that much. But at least I can usually stay awake.

But not that day. Why did I fall asleep at the Louvre?

Blame it on the bags, baby; blame it on the bags. I was worn out from lugging the family luggage. We checked more suitcases than the road show of the Phantom of the Opera.

I can’t fault my wife and daughters. They learned it from me. Remember, I’m the one who travels prepared for an underwater wedding and a bowling tournament. It’s bad enough for one person to travel like that, but five? It’ll wear you out.

You think I’ll ever learn to travel light?

I tell you what. Let’s make a pact. I’ll reduce the leather bags, and we’ll both reduce the emotional ones. After all, it’s one thing to sleep through the Louvre but quite another to sleep through life.

We can, you know. Do we not dwell in the gallery of our God? Isn’t the sky his canvas and humanity his magnum opus? Are we not encircled by artistry? Sunsets burning. Waves billowing.

And isn’t the soul his studio? The birthing of love, the bequeathing of grace. All around us miracles pop like fireflies—souls are touched, hearts are changed, and…

Yawn. We miss it. We sleep through it. We can’t help it. It’s hard work carrying yesterday’s guilt around.

It’s also enough to make you miss the magic of life.

Then let’s get rid of the bags! Once and for all, let’s give our luggage to him. Let’s take him at his word! “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28 NLT).

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Fearlessly Facing Eternity - UpWords - June 26

by Max Lucado

Joe Allbright is a fair and fearless West Texas rancher, a square-jawed, rawboned man with a neck by Rawlings. In Andrews County, where I was raised, everyone knew him.

One of Joe’s sons, James, and I were best friends in high school. We played football together. (More honest, he played while I guarded the team bench.) One Friday night after an out-of-town game, James invited me to stay at his house. By the time we reached his property, the hour was way past midnight, and he hadn’t told his father he was bringing anyone home.

Mr. Allbright didn’t know me or my vehicle, so when I stepped out of the car in front of his house, he popped on a floodlight and aimed it right at my face. Through the glare I saw this block of a man (I think he was in his underwear), and I heard his deep voice. “Who are you?”

I gulped. My mind moved at the speed of cold honey. I started to say my name but didn’t. Mr. Allbright doesn’t know me. My only hope was that James would speak up.

A glacier could have melted before he did so. Finally he interceded. “It’s okay, Dad. That’s my friend Max. He’s with me.” The light went off, and Mr. Allbright threw open the door. “Come on in, boys. Food is in the kitchen.”

What changed? What made Mr. Allbright flip off the light? One fact. I had aligned myself with his son. My sudden safety had nothing to do with my accomplishments or offerings. I knew his son. Period.

For the same reason, you need never fear God’s judgment. Not today. Not on Judgment Day. Jesus, in the light of God’s glory, is speaking on your behalf. “That’s my friend,” he says. And when he does, the door of heaven opens.

Trust God’s love. His perfect love. Don’t fear he will discover your past. He already has. Don’t fear disappointing him in the future. He can show you the chapter in which you will. With perfect knowledge of the past and perfect vision of the future, he loves you perfectly in spite of both.

Perfect love can handle your fear of judgment.

From Come Thirsty

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God Is Love - UpWords - June 25

By Max Lucado

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

When it comes to love, be careful. Take a good look around. Don’t force what is wrong to be right. Be prayerful. Love is a fruit of the Spirit. Ask God to help you love as he loves. “God has given us the Holy Spirit, who fill our hearts with his love” (Romans 5:5).

Be grateful for those who’ve encouraged you to do what is right and applauded when you did.

And isn’t it good to know that even when we don’t love with a perfect love, he does? God always nourishes what is right. He has never done wrong, led one person to do wrong, or rejoiced when anyone did wrong. For he IS love!

From A Love Worth Giving

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

By Max Lucado

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

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

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

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

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You Are Not a Victim of Your Thoughts - UpWords - June 22

By Max Lucado

Life has a way of unloading her rubbish on our doorstep! Your husband works too much. Your wife gripes too much. Your boss expects too much. Your kids whine too much. The result?

Trash. Loads of pessimism, guilt, anxiety—it all piles up. And what about the Pharisees? They killed Christ in their hearts before they killed him on the cross.

Today’s thoughts are tomorrow’s actions. Could that be why Paul writes, “Love…keeps no record of wrongs?” (1 Corinthians 13:5). We do have a choice. Paul says we do when he writes, “We capture every thought and make it give up and obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).

Selfishness, step back! Envy…get lost! You are not a victim of your thoughts. If today’s thoughts are tomorrow’s actions, what happens when we fill our minds with thoughts of God’s love? Will standing beneath the downpour of his grace change the way we feel about others? Absolutely!

From A Love Worth Giving

Edited by: JUDITH316 at: 6/22/2020 (13:50)
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An Uncommon Call to an Uncommon Life - UpWords - June 21

by Max Lucado

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

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

When I was six years old, my father built us a house. Architectural Digest didn’t notice, but my mom sure did. Dad constructed it, board by board, every day after work. My youth didn’t deter him from giving me a job. He tied an empty nail apron around my waist, placed a magnet in my hands, and sent me on daily patrols around the building site, carrying my magnet only inches off the ground.

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

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

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

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

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

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

You have one. A divine spark. An uncommon call to an uncommon life. “The Spirit has given each of us a special way of serving others” (1 Cor. 12:7 CEV).

So much for the excuse “I don’t have anything to offer.” Did the apostle Paul say, “The Spirit has given some of us …”? Or, “The Spirit has given a few of us …”? No. “The Spirit has given each of us a special way of serving others.” Enough of this self-deprecating “I can’t do anything.”

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

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

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

Edited by: JUDITH316 at: 6/21/2020 (05:11)
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Nevertheless… - UpWords - June 20

by Max Lucado

And the king and his men… spoke to David, saying, “You shall not come in here; but the blind and the lame will repel you,” …Nevertheless David took the stronghold of Zion (that is, the City of David). - 2 Samuel 5:6-9

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

Nevertheless.

“Nevertheless David took the stronghold…”

Wouldn’t you love God to write a nevertheless in your biography? Born to alcoholics, nevertheless she led a sober life. Never went to college, nevertheless he mastered a trade.

Didn’t read the Bible until retirement age, nevertheless he came to a deep and abiding faith.

We all need a nevertheless. And God has plenty to go around. Strongholds mean nothing to him. Remember Paul’s words? “We use God’s mighty weapons, not mere worldly weapons, to knock down the Devil’s strongholds” (2 Cor. 10:4 NLT).

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

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

Do what David did.

Turn a deaf ear to the old voices.

Open a wide eye to the new choices.

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

Peter stuck his foot in his mouth.

Joseph was imprisoned in Egypt.

The Samaritan woman had been married five times.

Jesus was dead in the grave …

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

You fill in the blank. Your nevertheless awaits you.

From Facing Your Giants

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Quiet Heroes - UpWords - June 17

by Max Lucado

Quiet heroes dot the landscape of our society. They don’t wear ribbons or kiss trophies; they wear spit-up and kiss boo-boos. They don’t make the headlines, but they do sew the hemlines and check the outlines and stand on the sidelines. You won’t find their names on the Nobel

Prize short list, but you will find their names on the homeroom, carpool, and Bible teacher lists.

They are parents, both by blood and deed, name and calendar. Heroes. News programs don’t call them. But that’s okay. Because their kids do … They call them Mom. They call them Dad.

And these moms and dads, more valuable than all the executives and lawmakers west of the Mississippi, quietly hold the world together.

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

Children spell love with four letters: T-I-M-E. Not just quality time, but hang time, downtime, anytime, all the time. Your children are not your hobby; they are your calling.
Your spouse is not your trophy but your treasure.

Don’t pay the price David paid. Look ahead to his final hours. To see the ultimate cost of a neglected family, look at the way our hero dies.

David is hours from the grave. A chill has set in that blankets can’t remove. Servants decide he needs a person to warm him, someone to hold him tight as he takes his final breaths.

Do they turn to one of his wives? No. Do they call on one of his children? No. They seek “for a lovely young woman throughout all the territory of Israel… and she cared for the king, and served him; but the king did not know her” (1 Kings 1:3-4).

I suspect that David would have traded all his conquered crowns for the tender arms of a wife.

But it was too late. He died in the care of a stranger, because he made strangers out of his family.

But it’s not too late for you.

Make your wife the object of your highest devotion. Make your husband the recipient of your deepest passion. Love the one who wears your ring.

And cherish the children who share your name.

Succeed at home first.

From Facing Your Giants

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No Pecking Orders with Jesus - UpWords - June 15

By Max Lucado

Love does not boast, it is not proud (1 Corinthians 13:4 NIV).

Jesus has no room for pecking orders. His solution to man-made caste systems? A change of direction. In a world of upward mobility, choose downward servility.

“Regard one another as more important than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3 NASB). Jesus flip-flopped the pecking order.

Would you do what Jesus did? He swapped a spotless castle for a grimy stable. He exchanged the worship of angels for the company of killers. If you knew that only a few could care that you came, would you still come?

If you knew that those you loved would laugh in your face, would you still care? The palm that held the universe took the nail of a soldier. Why?

Because that’s what love does! He loves you that much! Drink deeply of God’s love for you—and ask him to fill your heart with a love worth giving!

From A Love Worth Giving

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Stunned by His Grace - UpWords - June 12

by Max Lucado

I was mulling over a recent conversation I had with a disenchanted Christian brother. He was upset with me. So upset that he was considering rescinding his invitation for me to speak to his group.

Seems he’d heard I was pretty open about who I have fellowship with. He’d read the words I wrote: “If God calls a person his child, shouldn’t I call him my brother?” And, “If God accepts others with their errors and misinterpretations, shouldn’t we?"

He didn’t like that. “Carrying it a bit too far,” he told me. “Fences are necessary,” he explained.

“Scriptures are clear on such matters.” He read me a few and then urged me to be careful to whom I give grace.

“I don’t give it,” I assured. “I only spotlight where God already has.”

Later I had a great thought. A why-didn’t-I-think-to-say-that? insight.

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

I’ve never been surprised by God’s judgment, but I’m still stunned by his grace.
Story after story. Prayer after prayer. Surprise after surprise.

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

You won’t find it.

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

We could do the same.

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

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

One thing’s for sure. When we get to heaven, we’ll be surprised at some of the folks we see. And some of them will be surprised to see us.

From When God Whispers Your Name

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Angels Watching Over You - UpWords - June 11

by Max Lucado

One of my friends recently took a heart-stopping mission trip to Vietnam. He and two companions set out to smuggle Bibles and money to Christians there. Upon landing, however, he was separated from the other two.

He spoke no Vietnamese and had never traveled in Hanoi. Imagine his thoughts, then, as he stood in front of the airport, holding a bag of Bibles, wearing a belt of cash, and knowing nothing more than the name of his hotel.

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

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

Angels minister to God’s people. “[God] has put his angels in charge of you to watch over you wherever you go” (Ps. 91:11 NCV).

Billy Graham reminds us, “If you are a believer, expect powerful angels to accompany you in your life experience.” But what if you are not a believer? Do angels offer equal surveillance to God’s enemies? No, they don’t.

The promise of angelic protection is limited to those who trust God. Refuse God at the risk of an unguarded back. But receive his lordship, and be assured that many mighty angels will guard you in all your ways.

God sends his best troops to oversee your life. Imagine the president assigning his Secret Service to protect you, telling his agents to motorcade your car through traffic and safeguard you through crowds.

How would you sleep if you knew D.C.’s finest guarded your door? How will you sleep knowing heaven’s finest are doing just that? You are not alone. Receive God’s lordship over your life. Heaven’s many, mighty angels watch over you.

From Come Thirsty

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Doubtstorms - UpWords - June 10

by Max Lucado

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

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

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

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

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

But others of you wonder...

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

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

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

The light came for the disciples. A figure came to them walking on the water. It wasn’t what they expected. Perhaps they were looking for angels to descend or heaven to open. Maybe they were listening for a divine proclamation to still the storm.

We don’t know what they were looking for. But one thing is for sure, they weren’t looking for
Jesus to come walking on the water.

“‘It’s a ghost,’ they said and cried out in fear” (Matthew 14:26).

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

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

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

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

“When Jesus comes,” the disciples in the boat may have thought, “he’ll split the sky. The sea will be calm. The clouds will disperse.”

“When God comes,” we doubters think, “all pain will flee. Life will be tranquil. No questions will remain.”

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

From In the Eye of the Storm

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Facing Your Grief - UpWords - June 9

by Max Lucado

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

David called the nation to mourning. He rendered weeping a public policy. He refused to gloss over or soft-pedal death. He faced it, fought it, challenged it. But he didn’t deny it. As his son Solomon explained, “There is…a time to mourn” (Eccles. 3:1, 4 NIV).

Give yourself some. Face your grief with tears, time, and—one more—face your grief with truth.

Paul urged the Thessalonians to grieve, but he didn’t want the Christians to “carry on over them like people who have nothing to look forward to, as if the grave were the last word.” (I Thess. 4:13 MSG).

God has the last word on death. And, if you listen, he will tell you the truth about your loved ones. They’ve been dismissed from the hospital called Earth. You and I still roam the halls, smell the medicines, and eat green beans and Jell-O off plastic trays.

They, meanwhile, enjoy picnics, inhale springtime, and run through knee-high flowers. You miss them like crazy, but can you deny the truth? They have no pain, doubt, or struggle. They really are happier in heaven.

And won’t you see them soon? Life blisters by at mach speed. “You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man’s life is but a breath” (Ps. 39:5 NIV).

When you drop your kids off at school, do you weep as though you’ll never see them again?

When you drop your spouse at the store and park the car, do you bid a final forever farewell?

No. When you say, “I’ll see you soon,” you mean it. When you stand in the cemetery and stare down at the soft, freshly turned earth and promise, “I’ll see you soon,” you speak the truth. Reunion is a splinter of an eternal moment away.

So go ahead, face your grief. Give yourself time. Permit yourself tears. God understands.

He knows the sorrow of a grave. He buried his son. But he also knows the joy of resurrection.

And, by his power, you will too.

From Facing Your Giants

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The Kindness Quotient - UpWords - June 8, 2020

By Max Lucado

I’ve attended my share of seminars on strategizing and team building. But I can’t say I’ve ever attended or even heard of one lecture on kindness. Jesus, however, would take issue with our priorities.

“Go and learn what this means,” he commands. “I want kindness more than I want animal sacrifices” (Matthew 9:13).

How kind are you? Which person is the most overlooked or avoided? A shy student? A grumpy employee? And here’s a challenge—what about your enemies?

How kind are you to those who want what you want or take what you have? How about the boss who fired you or the wife who left you. Mercy is the deepest gesture of kindness.

The Apostle Paul said, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you!” (Ephesians 4:32).

From A Love Worth Giving

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Our God Is a Good God - UpWords - June 6, 2020

by Max Lucado

“You are good, LORD. The LORD is good and right” (Ps. 25:7–8).

“Taste and see that the LORD is good” (Ps. 34:8 NIV).

God is a good God. We must begin here. Though we don’t understand his actions, we can trust his heart.

God does only what is good. But how can death be good? Some mourners don’t ask this question. When the quantity of years has outstripped the quality of years, we don’t ask how death can be good.

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

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

And—this is important—though you and I may wish a longer life for our loved ones, they don’t. Ironically, the first to accept God’s decision of death is the one who dies.

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

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

How do we know he didn’t?

Who among us is privy to a person’s final thoughts? Who among us knows what transpires in those final moments? Are you sure no prayer was offered? Eternity can bend the proudest knees.

Could a person stare into the yawning canyon of death without whispering a plea for mercy? And could our God, who is partial to the humble, resist it?

He couldn’t on Calvary. The confession of the thief on the cross was both a first and final one. But Christ heard it. Christ received it. Maybe you never heard your loved one confess Christ, but who’s to say Christ didn’t?

We don’t know the final thoughts of a dying soul, but we know this. We know our God is a good God. He is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9 NKJV). He wants your loved one in heaven more than you do. And he usually gets what he wants.

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Uncluttered Faith - UpWords - June 4, 2020

by Max Lucado

One of my favorite stories concerns a bishop who was traveling by ship to visit a church across the ocean. While en route, the ship stopped at an island for a day. He went for a walk on a beach. He came upon three fishermen mending their nets.

Curious about their trade he asked them some questions. Curious about his ecclesiastical robes, they asked him some questions. When they found out he was a Christian leader, they got excited. “We Christians!” they said, proudly pointing to one another.

The bishop was impressed but cautious. Did they know the Lord’s Prayer? They had never heard of it.

“What do you say, then, when you pray?”

“We pray, ‘We are three, you are three, have mercy on us.’ ”

The bishop was appalled at the primitive nature of the prayer. “That will not do.” So he spent the day teaching them the Lord’s Prayer. The fishermen were poor but willing learners. And before the bishop sailed away the next day, they could recite the prayer with no mistakes.

The bishop was proud.

On the return trip the bishop’s ship drew near the island again. When the island came into view the bishop came to the deck and recalled with pleasure the men he had taught and resolved to go see them again.

As he was thinking a light appeared on the horizon near the island. It seemed to be getting nearer. As the bishop gazed in wonder he realized the three fishermen were walking toward him on the water. Soon all the passengers and crew were on the deck to see the sight.

When they were within speaking distance, the fisherman cried out, “Bishop, we come hurry to meet you.”

“What is it you want?” asked the stunned bishop.

“We are so sorry. We forget lovely prayer. We say, ‘Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be your name …’ and then we forget. Please tell us prayer again.”

The bishop was humbled. “Go back to your homes, my friends, and when you pray say, ‘We are three, you are three, have mercy on us.’ ”

From And the Angels Were Silent

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Uncluttered Faith - UpWords - June 4, 2020

by Max Lucado

One of my favorite stories concerns a bishop who was traveling by ship to visit a church across the ocean. While en route, the ship stopped at an island for a day. He went for a walk on a beach. He came upon three fishermen mending their nets.

Curious about their trade he asked them some questions. Curious about his ecclesiastical robes, they asked him some questions. When they found out he was a Christian leader, they got excited. “We Christians!” they said, proudly pointing to one another.

The bishop was impressed but cautious. Did they know the Lord’s Prayer? They had never heard of it.

“What do you say, then, when you pray?”

“We pray, ‘We are three, you are three, have mercy on us.’ ”

The bishop was appalled at the primitive nature of the prayer. “That will not do.” So he spent the day teaching them the Lord’s Prayer. The fishermen were poor but willing learners. And before the bishop sailed away the next day, they could recite the prayer with no mistakes.

The bishop was proud.

On the return trip the bishop’s ship drew near the island again. When the island came into view the bishop came to the deck and recalled with pleasure the men he had taught and resolved to go see them again.

As he was thinking a light appeared on the horizon near the island. It seemed to be getting nearer. As the bishop gazed in wonder he realized the three fishermen were walking toward him on the water. Soon all the passengers and crew were on the deck to see the sight.

When they were within speaking distance, the fisherman cried out, “Bishop, we come hurry to meet you.”

“What is it you want?” asked the stunned bishop.

“We are so sorry. We forget lovely prayer. We say, ‘Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be your name …’ and then we forget. Please tell us prayer again.”

The bishop was humbled. “Go back to your homes, my friends, and when you pray say, ‘We are three, you are three, have mercy on us.’ ”

From And the Angels Were Silent

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Living Loved - UpWords - June 1

by Max Lucado

The secret to loving is living loved. It’s the forgotten first step in relationships. Remember Paul’s prayer? “May your roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love” (Ephesians 3:17 NLT).

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

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

From A Love Worth Giving

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Remarkable - UpWords - May 31

by Max Lucado

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

If I don’t do what he says, he doesn’t burn the book or cancel my subscription. If I disagree with what he says, lightning doesn’t split my swivel chair or an angel doesn’t mark my name off the holy list.

If I don’t understand what he says, he doesn’t call me a dummy.

In fact, he calls me “Son,” and on a different page explains what I don’t understand. Remarkable.

At the end of the day when I walk through the house, I step into the bedrooms of three little girls. And one by one, I bend over and kiss the foreheads of the angels God has loaned me.

Then I stand in the doorway and wonder why in the world he would entrust a stumbling, fumbling fellow like me with the task of loving and leading such treasures. Remarkable.

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

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

I’m learning not to take these everyday miracles for granted.

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

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

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

From In the Eye of the Storm

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Our Group - UpWords - May 27

by Max Lucado

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

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

This man was casting out demons (the very act the disciples had trouble doing in Mark 9:20).

He was changing lives. And, what’s more, the man was giving the credit to God. He was doing it in the name of Christ.

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

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

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

I’ve asked that question. I am deeply appreciative of my heritage. It was through a small, West Texas Church of Christ that I came to know the Nazarene, the cross, and the Word. The congregation wasn’t large, maybe two hundred on a good Sunday.

Most of the families were like mine, blue-collar oil-field workers. But it was a loving church. When our family was sick, the members visited us. When we were absent, they called. And when this prodigal returned, they embraced me.

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

A Brazilian Pentecostal taught me about prayer. A British Anglican by the name of C.S. Lewis put muscle in my faith. A Southern Baptist helped me understand grace.

One Presbyterian, Steve Brown, taught me about God’s sovereignty while another, Frederick Buechner, taught me about God’s passion. A Catholic, Brennan Manning, convinced me that Jesus is relentlessly tender. I’m a better husband because I read James Dobson and a better preacher because I listened to Chuck Swindoll and Bill Hybels.

And only when I get home will I learn the name of a radio preacher whose message steered me back to Christ. I was a graduate student who’d lost his bearings. Needing some money over Christmas break, I took a job driving an oil-field delivery truck. The radio only picked up one station.

A preacher was preaching. On a cold December day in 1978 I heard him describe the cross. I don’t know his name. I don’t know his heritage. He could have been a Quaker or an angel or both for all I know. But something about what he said caused me to pull the pickup onto the side of the road and rededicate my life to Christ.

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The Desires of Your Heart, UpWords, May 26

by Max Lucado

“Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.”
Psalms 37:4

I recently met a twenty-year-old, just discharged from the military, and pondering his future. He bore a square jaw, a forearm tattoo, and a common question. He didn’t know what to do with the rest of his life. As we shared a flight, he told me about his uncle, a New England priest.

“What a great man,” the ex-soldier sighed. “He helps kids and feeds the hungry. I’d love to make a difference like that.”

So I asked him the question of this chapter. “What were some occasions when you did something you love to do and did it quite well?”

He dismissed me at first. “Aw, what I love to do is stupid.”

“Try me,” I invited.

“Well, I love to rebuild stuff.”

“What do you mean?”

He spoke of an old coffee table he had found in a garage. Seeing its potential, he shaved off the paint, fixed the broken legs, and restored it. With great pride, he presented it to his mom.

“Tell me another time,” I prompted.

“This one is really dumb,” he discounted. “But when I worked at a butcher shop, I used to find meat on the bones others threw out. My boss loved me! I could find several pounds of product just by giving the bone a second try.”

As the plane was nosing down, I tested a possibility with him. “You love to salvage stuff. You salvage furniture, salvage meat. God gave you the ability to find a treasure in someone else’s trash.”

My idea surprised him. “God? God did that?”

“Yes, God. Your ability to restore a table is every bit as holy as your uncle’s ability to restore a life.” You would have thought he’d just been handed a newborn baby. As my words sank in, the tough soldier teared up.

See your desires as gifts to heed rather than longings to suppress, and you’ll feel the same joy.

Reflect on your life. What have you always done well and loved to do?

From Cure for the Common Life

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The Weight of Glory - UpWords - May 24

by Max Lucado

“Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.”  (2 Corinthians 4:17)

The words “weight of glory” conjure up images of the ancient pan scale.  Remember the blindfolded lady of justice?  She holds a pan scale- two pans, one on either side of the needle.  The weight of a purchase would be determined by placing weights on one side and the purchase on the other.

God does the same with your struggles. On one side he stacks all your burdens.  Famines.  Firings.  Parents who forgot you.  Bosses who ignored you.  Bad breaks, bad health, bad days.  Stack them up, and watch one side of the pan scale plummet.

Now witness God’s response.  Does he remove them?  Eliminate the burdens?  No, rather than take them, he offsets them.  He places an eternal weight of glory on the other side.  Endless joy.  Measureless peace.  An eternity of him.  Watch what happens as he sets eternity on your scale.

Everything changes!  The burdens lift.  The heavy becomes light when weighed against eternity.  If life is “just a moment,” can’t we endure any challenge for a moment?

We can be sick for just a moment.
We can be lonely for just a moment.
We can be persecuted for just a moment.
We can struggle for just a moment.

Can’t we?

Can’t we wait for our peace?  

It’s not about us anyway.  And it’s certainly now about now.

From It’s Not About Me

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The Touch of God - UpWords - May 21

by Max Lucado

In Scripture Matthew 8:2 is symbolic of the ultimate outcast: infected by a condition he did not seek, rejected by those he knew, avoided by people he did not know, condemned to a future he could not bear. And in the memory of each outcast must have been the day he was forced to face the truth: life would never be the same.

The banishing of a leper seems harsh, unnecessary. The Ancient East hasn’t been the only culture to isolate their wounded, however. We may not build colonies or cover our mouths in their presence, but we certainly build walls and duck our eyes. And a person needn’t have leprosy to feel quarantined.

The divorced know this feeling. So do the handicapped. The unemployed have felt it, as have the less educated. Some shun unmarried moms. We keep our distance from the depressed and avoid the terminally ill. We have neighborhoods for immigrants, convalescent homes for the elderly, schools for the simple, centers for the addicted, and prisons for the criminals.

The rest simply try to get away from it all. Only God knows how many individuals are living quiet, lonely lives infected by their fear of rejection and their memories of the last time they tried. They choose not to be touched at all rather than risk being hurt again.

Just Like JesusSome of you have the master touch of the Physician himself. You use your hands to pray over the sick and minister to the weak. If you aren’t touching them personally, your hands are writing letters, dialing phones, baking pies. You have learned the power of a touch.

But others of us tend to forget. Our hearts are good; it’s just that our memories are bad. We forget how significant one touch can be. We fear saying the wrong thing or using the wrong tone or acting the wrong way. So rather than do it incorrectly, we do nothing at all.

Aren’t we glad Jesus didn’t make the same mistake? If your fear of doing the wrong thing prevents you from doing anything, keep in mind the perspective of the lepers of the world. They aren’t picky. They aren’t finicky. They’re just lonely. They are yearning for a godly touch.

Jesus touched the untouchables of the world. Will you do the same?

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The Winsomeness of Holiness - UpWords - Ma
by Max Lucado

John the Baptist would never get hired today. No church would touch him. He was a public relations disaster. He “wore clothes made from camel’s hair, had a leather belt around his waist, and ate locusts and wild honey” (Mark 1:6). Who would want to look at a guy like that every Sunday?

No, John would never get hired today. His tactics lacked tact. His style wasn’t smooth. He made few friends and lots of enemies, but what do you know? He made hundreds of converts.

“All the people from Judea and Jerusalem were going out to him. They confessed their sins and were baptized by him in the Jordan River” (Mark 1:5).

Look at that. “All the people of Judea and Jerusalem.… ” How do we explain such a response? It certainly wasn’t his charisma or clothing. Nor was it his money or position, for he had neither.

Then what did he have? One word. Holiness.

John the Baptist set himself apart for one task, to be a voice of Christ. Everything about John centered on his purpose. His dress. His diet. His actions. His demands.

He reminded his hearers of Elijah. And he reminds us of this truth: “There is winsomeness in holiness.” You don’t have to be like the world to have an impact on the world. You don’t have to be like the crowd to change the crowd. You don’t have to lower yourself down to their level to lift them up to your level.

Nor do you have to be weird. You don’t need to wear camel’s-hair clothing or eat insects.

Holiness doesn’t seek to be odd. Holiness seeks to be like God.

You want to make a difference in your world? Live a holy life:

Be faithful to your spouse.

Be the one at the office who refuses to cheat.

Be the neighbor who acts neighborly.

Be the employee who does the work and doesn’t complain.

Pay your bills.

Do your part and enjoy life.

Don’t speak one message and live another.

Note the last line of Paul’s words in 1 Thessalonians 4:11–12.

Do all you can to lead a peaceful life. Take care of your own business, and do your own work as we have already told you. If you do, then people who are not believers will respect you.

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The Beggar and the Bread - UpWords - May 17

by Max Lucado

A beggar came and sat before me. “I want bread,” he said.

“How wise you are,” I assured him. “Bread is what you need. And you have come to the right bakery.” So I pulled my cookbook down from my shelf and began to tell him all I knew about bread.

I spoke of flour and wheat, of grain and barley. My knowledge impressed even me as I cited the measurements and recipe. When I looked up, I was surprised to see he wasn’t smiling. “I just want bread,” he said.

“How wise you are.” I applauded his choice. “Follow me, and I’ll show you our bakery.” Down the hallowed halls I guided him, pausing to point out the rooms where the dough is prepared and the ovens where the bread is baked.

“No one has such facilities. We have bread for every need. But here is the best part,” I proclaimed as I pushed open two swinging doors. “This is our room of inspiration.” I knew he was moved as we stepped into the auditorium full of stained-glass windows.

The beggar didn’t speak. I understood his silence. With my arm around his shoulder, I whispered, “It overwhelms me as well.”

I then leaped to the podium and struck my favorite pose behind the lectern. “People come from miles to hear me speak. Once a week my workers gather, and I read to them the recipe from the cookbook of life.”

By now the beggar had taken a seat on the front row. I knew what he wanted. “Would you like to hear me?”

“No,” he said, “but I would like some bread.”

“How wise you are,” I replied. And I led him to the front door of the bakery. “What I have to say next is very important,” I told him as we stood outside. “Up and down this street you will find many bakeries. But take heed; they don’t serve the true bread.

I know of one who adds two spoons of salt rather than one. I know of another whose oven is three degrees too hot. They may call it bread,” I warned, “but it’s not according to the book.”

The beggar turned and began walking away. “Don’t you want bread?” I asked him.

He stopped, looked back at me, and shrugged, “I guess I lost my appetite.”

I shook my head and returned to my office. “What a shame,” I said to myself. “The world just isn’t hungry for true bread anymore.”

I don’t know what is more incredible: that God packages the bread of life in the wrapper of a country carpenter or that he gives us the keys to the delivery truck. Both moves seem pretty risky. The carpenter did his part, however. And who knows — we may just learn to do ours.

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When Fishermen Don't Fish- UpWords- May 12

by Max Lucado

Bread is eaten daily. Some fruits are available only in season. Some drinks are made only at holidays. Not so with bread. And not so with Jesus. He should be brought to our table every day. We let him nourish our hearts, not just in certain months or on special events, but daily.

Bread can meet many needs. So can Jesus. He has a word for the lonely as well as for the popular. He has help for the physically ill and the emotionally ill. If your vision is clear, he can help you. If your vision is cloudy, he can help you. Jesus can meet each need.

Can you see why Jesus called himself the Bread of Life?

I can think of one other similarity. Consider how bread is made. Think about the process.

Wheat grows in the field, then it is cut down, winnowed, and ground into flour. It passes through the fire of the oven and is then distributed around the world. Only by this process does bread become bread. Each step is essential.

Jesus grew up as a "small plant before the LORD" (Isa. 53:2). One of thousands in Israel. Indistinguishable from the person down the street or the child in the next chair.

Had you seen him as a youngster, you wouldn't have thought he was the Son of God. He was just a boy. One of hundreds. Like a staff of wheat in the wheat field.

But like wheat, he was cut down. Like chaff he was pounded and beaten. "He was wounded for the wrong we did; he was crushed for the evil we did" (Isa. 53:5). And like bread he passed through the fire.

On the cross he passed though the fire of God's anger, not because of his sin, but because of ours. "The LORD has put on him the punishment for all the evil we have done" (Isa. 53:6).

Jesus experienced each part of the process of making bread: the growing, the pounding, the firing. And just as each is necessary for bread, each was also necessary for Christ to become the bread of life. "The Christ must suffer these things before he enters his glory" (Luke 24:26).

The next part of the process, the distribution, Christ leaves with us. We are the distributors. We can't force people to eat the bread, but we can make sure they have it.

"I am the bread that gives life." John 6:35

From A Gentle Thunder, Copyright 1995 Max Lucado

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Confess and Believe- UpWords- April 26

by Max Lucado

Can we know we are truly saved?

The Bible says, “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).

Confess and believe…and you will have salvation.

Catch what the verse does not say: live perfectly, be nice to everyone, don’t mess up, always smile—and you will be saved. Can’t do it. Impossible. Just confess and believe. Salvation will follow. It’s so easy. . .yet so hard.

God wants us to know we are saved, for saved people are dangerous people, willing to face off with the world, unafraid of the consequences since we know that, whatever happens, we will have eternal life.

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1 NIV).

Watch out, world!

From Max on Life

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The Shadow of a Doubt - UpWords - April 25

by Max Lucado

Sunday mornings. I awake early, long before the family stirs, the sunrise flickers, or the paper plops on the driveway. Let the rest of the world sleep in. I don’t. Sunday’s my big day, the day I stand before a congregation of people who are willing to swap thirty minutes of their time for some conviction and hope.

Most weeks I have ample to go around. But occasionally I don’t. (Does it bother you to know this?) Sometimes in the dawn-tinted, pre-pulpit hours, the seeming absurdity of what I believe hits me. The fear that God isn’t. The fear that “why?” has no answer. The valley of the shadow of doubt.

To one degree or another we all venture into the valley. In the final pages of Luke’s gospel, the physician-turned-historian dedicated his last chapter to answering one question: how does Christ respond when we doubt him?

For both the dejected Emmaus bound disciples (Luke 24:13-35) and the frightened upper room disciples (Luke 24:36-49): A meal is served, the Bible is taught, the disciples find courage, and we find two practical answers to the critical question, what would Christ have us do with our doubts?

His answer? Touch my body and ponder my story. We still can, you know. We can still touch the body of Christ. We’d love to touch his physical wounds and feel the flesh of the Nazarene.

Yet when we brush up against the church, we do just that. “The church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself ” (Eph. 1:23 NLT).

Christ distributes courage through community; he dissipates doubts through fellowship. He never deposits all knowledge in one person but distributes pieces of the jigsaw puzzle to many.

When you interlock your understanding with mine, and we share our discoveries . . . When we mix, mingle, confess, and pray, Christ speaks.

The adhesiveness of the disciples instructs us. They stuck together. Even with ransacked hopes, they clustered in conversant community. They kept “going over all these things that had happened” (Luke 24:14 MSG).

Isn’t this a picture of the church—sharing notes, exchanging ideas, mulling over possibilities, lifting spirits?

And as they did, Jesus showed up to teach them, proving “when two or three of you are together because of me, you can be sure that I’ll be there” (Matt. 18:20 MSG).

From Fearless

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He Can Heal the Hurt- UpWords- April 23

by Max Lucado

Grudge is one of those words that defines itself. Its very sound betrays its meaning.

Say it slowly: “Grr-uuuud-ge.”

It starts with a growl. “Grr …” Like a bear with bad breath coming out of hibernation or a mangy mongrel defending his bone in an alley. “Grrr …”

Remove a GR from the word grudge and replace it with SL and you have the junk that grudge bearers trudge through. Sludge. Black, thick, ankle-deep resentment that steals the bounce from the step. No joyful skips through the meadows. No healthy hikes up the mountain. Just day after day of walking into the storm, shoulders bent against the wind, and feet dragging through all the muck life has delivered.

Is this the way you are coping with your hurts? Are you allowing your hurts to turn into hates? If so, ask yourself: Is it working? Has your hatred done you any good? Has your resentment brought you any relief, any peace? Has it granted you any joy?

Let’s say you get even. Let’s say you get him back. Let’s say she gets what she deserves. Let’s say your fantasy of fury runs its ferocious course and you return all your pain with interest.

Imagine yourself standing over the corpse of the one you have hated. Will you now be free?

The writer of the following letter thought she would be. She thought her revenge would bring release. But she learned otherwise.

I caught my husband making love to another woman. He swore it would never happen again.

He begged me to forgive him, but I could not—would not. I was so bitter and so incapable of swallowing my pride that I could think of nothing but revenge. I was going to make him pay and pay dearly. I’d have my pound of flesh.

I filed for divorce, even though my children begged me not to.

Even after the divorce, my husband tried for two years to win me back. I refused to have anything to do with him. He had struck first; now I was striking back. All I wanted was to make him pay.

Finally he gave up and married a lovely young widow with a couple of small children. He began rebuilding his life—without me.

I see them occasionally, and he looks so happy. They all do. And here I am—a lonely, old, miserable woman who allowed her selfish pride and foolish stubbornness to ruin her life.

Unfaithfulness is wrong. Revenge is bad. But the worst part of all is that, without forgiveness, bitterness is all that is left.

The state of your heart dictates whether you harbor a grudge or give grace, seek self-pity or seek Christ, drink human misery or taste God’s mercy.

No wonder, then, the wise man begs, “Above all else, guard your heart.”

David’s prayer should be ours: “Create in me a pure heart, O God.”

From The Applause of Heaven

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Daily Deeds of Kindness - UpWords - April 20

By Max Lucado

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven .”Matthew 5:16

In the final days of Jesus’ life, he shared a meal with his friends Lazarus, Martha, and Mary. Within the week he would feel the sting of the Roman whip, the point of the thorny crown, and the iron of the executioner’s nail. But on this evening, he felt the love of three friends.

For Mary, however, giving the dinner was not enough. “Mary came in with a jar of very expensive aromatic oils, anointed and massaged Jesus’ feet, and then wiped them with her hair. The fragrance of the oils filled the house” (John 12:3). . . .

Judas criticized the deed as wasteful. Not Jesus. He received the gesture as an extravagant demonstration of love, a friend surrendering her most treasured gift. As Jesus hung on the cross, we wonder, Did he detect the fragrance on his skin?

Follow Mary’s example.

There is an elderly man in your community who just lost his wife. An hour of your time would mean the world to him.

Some kids in your city have no dad. No father takes them to movies or baseball games. Maybe you can. They can’t pay you back. They can’t even afford the popcorn or sodas. But they’ll smile like a cantaloupe slice at your kindness.

Or how about this one? Down the hall from your bedroom is a person who shares your last name. Shock that person with kindness. Something outlandish. Your homework done with no complaints. Coffee served before he awakens. A love letter written to her for no special reason. Alabaster poured, just because.

Daily do a deed for which you cannot be repaid.
—from Great Day Every Day

Precious Savior, we pass people every day who need a demonstration of your love. May we search for ways to show extravagant gestures of gracious love, and outlandish acts of kindness. Make us people who set a goal of doing daily deeds for which we cannot be repaid.

Set our hearts on fire for people who do not know you. Consume us with compassion for the desperate and downtrodden. Let us pour our lives out in love . . . just because, amen.

Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart… I Peter 1:22

From From Live Loved: Experiencing God’s Presence in Everyday Life

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Come Away My Beloved: Frances J Roberts



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Simon Carries Jesus' Cross - UpWords - April 19

by Max Lucado

“A man named Simon from Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was coming from the fields to the city. The soldiers forced Simon to carry the cross for Jesus” (Mk. 15:21)

Simon grumbles beneath his breath. His patience is as scarce as space on the Jerusalem streets. He’d hoped for a peaceful Passover. The city is anything but quiet. Simon prefers his open fields. And now, to top it off, the Roman guards are clearing the path for some who-knows-which-dignitary who’ll march his soldiers and strut his stallion past the people.

“There he is!”

Simon’s head and dozens of others turn. In an instant they know. This is no dignitary.

“It’s a crucifixion,” he hears someone whisper. Four soldiers. One criminal. Four spears. One cross. The inside corner of the cross saddles the convict’s shoulders. Its base drags in the dirt. Its top teeters in the air. The condemned man steadies the cross the best he can, but stumbles beneath its weight. He pushes himself to his feet and lurches forward before falling again.

Simon can’t see the man’s face, only a head wreathed with thorny branches.

The sour-faced centurion grows more agitated with each diminishing step. He curses the criminal and the crowd.

“Hurry up!”

“Little hope of that,” Simon says to himself.

The cross-bearer stops in front of Simon and heaves for air. Simon winces at what he sees.

The beam rubbing against an already raw back. Rivulets of crimson streaking the man’s face.

His mouth hangs open, both out of pain and out of breath.

“His name is Jesus,” someone speaks softly.

“Move on!” commands the executioner.

But Jesus can’t. His body leans and feet try, but he can’t move. The beam begins to sway.

Jesus tries to steady it, but can’t. Like a just-cut tree, the cross begins to topple toward the crowd. Everyone steps back, except the farmer. Simon instinctively extends his strong hands and catches the cross.

Jesus falls face-first in the dirt and stays there. Simon pushes the cross back on its side. The centurion looks at the exhausted Christ and the bulky bystander and needs only an instant to make the decision. He presses the flat of his spear on Simon’s shoulders.

“You! Take the cross!”

Simon dares to object, “Sir, I don’t even know the man!”

“I don’t care. Take up the cross.”

Simon growls, balances the timber against his shoulder, and steps out of the crowd onto the street, out of anonymity into history, and becomes the first in a line of millions who will take up the cross and follow Christ.

He did literally what God calls us to do figuratively: take up the cross and follow Jesus. “If any of you want to be my followers, you must forget about yourself. You must take up your cross each day and follow me” (Lk. 9:23 CEV).

From His Name is Jesus

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Many Gifts of the Cross- UpWords- April 16

by Max Lucado

Much has been said about Jesus’ “gift of the Cross.” But what of the other gifts? What of the nails, the crown of thorns? The garments taken by the soldiers? Have you taken time to open these gifts? He didn’t have to give us these gifts, you know. The only required act for our salvation was the shedding of blood, yet He did much more. So much more.

Search the scene of the Cross—and what do you find? A wine-soaked sponge. A sign. Two crosses beside Christ. Divine gifts intended to stir that moment, that split second when your face will brighten, your eyes will widen, and God will hear you whisper, “You did this for me?” Dare we think such thoughts? Let’s unwrap these gifts of grace– as if for the first time. Pause and listen. Perchance you will hear Him whisper, “I did it just for you!”

From He Chose the Nails

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Life is Not Fair - UpWords- April 15

by Max Lucado

May I gently but firmly remind you of something you know but may have forgotten? Life is not fair. That’s not pessimism, it’s a fact. It’s not a complaint, it’s just the way things are.

I don’t like it. Neither do you. Ever since the kid down the block got a bike and we didn’t, we’ve been saying the same thing, “That’s not fair!”

At some point someone needs to say to us, “Who ever told you life was going to be fair?” God didn’t. In James 1:2, he didn’t say, “If you have many kinds of troubles,” he said, “When you have many kinds of troubles.” Troubles are part of the package.

Jesus said, “My kingdom does not belong to this world. My kingdom is from another place (John 18:36).”

When all of earth turns against you, all of heaven turns toward you. To keep your balance in this crooked world, think of home!

From And the Angels Were Silent

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They Saw Jesus - UpWords- April 14

by Max Lucado

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews. John 20:19



Picture the scene. Peter, John, James. They came back. Banking on some zany possibility that the well of forgiveness still had a few drops, they came back. Daring to dream that the master had left them some word, some plan, some direction, they came back.

But little did they know their wildest dream wasn’t wild enough. Just as someone mumbles, “It’s no use,” they hear a noise. They hear a voice.

“Peace be with you.” (John 20:19)

Every head lifted. Every eye turned. Every mouth dropped open. Someone looked at the door.

It was still locked.

It was a moment the apostles would never forget, a story they would never cease to tell. The stone of the tomb was not enough to keep him in. The walls of the room were not enough to keep him out.

The one betrayed sought his betrayers. What did he say to them? Not “What a bunch of flops!” Not “I told you so.” No “Where-were-you-when-I-needed-you?” speeches.

But simply one phrase, “Peace be with you.” The very thing they didn’t have was the very thing he offered: peace.

It was too good to be true! So amazing was the appearance that some were saying, “Pinch me, I’m dreaming” even at the ascension. No wonder they returned to Jerusalem with great joy! No wonder they were always in the temple praising God!

A transformed group stood beside a transformed Peter as he announced some weeks later:

“Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” (Acts 2:56)

No timidity in his words. No reluctance. About three thousand people believed his message.

The apostles sparked a movement. The people became followers of the death-conqueror. They couldn’t hear enough or say enough about him. People began to call them “Christ-ians.” Christ was their model, their message. They preached “Jesus Christ and him crucified,” not for the lack of another topic, but because they couldn’t exhaust this one.

What unlocked the doors of the apostles’ hearts?

Simple. They saw Jesus. They encountered the Christ. Their sins collided with their Savior and their Savior won! What lit the boiler of the apostles was a red-hot conviction that the very one who should have sent them to hell, went to hell for them and came back to tell about it.

From Six Hours One Friday

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Triumph in Tragedy - UpWords - March 25

by Max Lucado

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

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

Most folks don’t discuss graveclothes.

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

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

Could he do the same for you?

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

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

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

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

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

John would answer yes.

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

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

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

In hospital stays God works for the good.

In divorce papers God works for the good.

In a prison term God works for the good.

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

From He Chose the Nails

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

by Max Lucado

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

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

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

From He Still Moves Stones

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God in a Real World - UpWords - March 22

by Max Lucado

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

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

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

From And the Angels Were Silent

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Simplify Your Faith - UpWords - March 21

by Max Lucado

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

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

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

From And the Angels Were Silent

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Succeed at Home First, UpWords, March 20

by Max Lucado

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

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

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

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

From Dad Time

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Jesus Takes Away the Sin - UpWords - March 18

by Max Lucado

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

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

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

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

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

From He Chose the Nails

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Why Did He Do It? - UpWords - March 16

by Max Lucado

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

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

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

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

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

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

From He Chose the Nails

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