WITH RECKLESS ABANDON

From 30 devotions for youth leaders devotional

As Jesus peers across the Temple, He looks deeply into the souls of the congregants. He wasn’t auditing their actions. Instead, He was searching their hearts and assessing their motivations.

The way He commends the widow causes me to question my own patterns of living and giving. When Jesus affirms her for giving “out of her poverty,” it convicts me to the core. It reveals how little I understand the love of Christ, that I would underestimate His provision and care for me. Life has taught me:

To risk only from a place of safety.

To love only from a place of security.

To defend only from a place of certainty.

To explore only from a place of predictability.

To dream only from a place of realism.

To give only from a place of plenty.

This is not Jesus’ plan. He calls us to live with the abandon of souls set free. In spite of our desperation and brokenness, he asks us to live generously.

We love because He first loved us.

We give because He emptied the treasury of heaven for us.

We risk because our safety is found in Christ alone.

We forgive because He forgave.

We defend the defenseless because He wielded His sword for them.

We abandon bias and prejudice because His assessment of the soul exceeds our ability.

We reconcile because He alone is judge.

We live “out of our poverty” because it is there that we can plumb the depth of our worth in Him.

It is no sacrifice to give from a full account. But when Jesus looks across the temple, He sees beyond our actions to assess our motivation and sacrifice. Jesus, our model and master, knows the pain of our sacrifice, the depth of the well from which our gifts are given.

When we give out of our poverty we tap into the limitless love of Jesus. Live from a place of confidence in Christ, not from the “safety” of self­ reliance.

WORTHLESS WORSHIP

““Isn’t it true that a son honors his father and a worker his master? So if I’m your Father, where’s the honor? If I’m your Master, where’s the respect?” GOD -of-the-Angel-Armies is calling you on the carpet: “You priests despise me! “You say, ‘Not so! How do we despise you?’ “By your shoddy, sloppy, defiling worship. “You ask, ‘What do you mean, “defiling”? What’s defiling about it?’ “When you say, ‘The altar of GOD is not important anymore; worship of GOD is no longer a priority,’ that’s defiling. And when you offer worthless animals for sacrifices in worship, animals that you’re trying to get rid of—blind and sick and crippled animals—isn’t that defiling? Try a trick like that with your banker or your senator—how far do you think it will get you?” GOD -of-the-Angel-Armies asks you.

“Get on your knees and pray that I will be gracious to you. You priests have gotten everyone in trouble. With this kind of conduct, do you think I’ll pay attention to you?” GOD -of-the-Angel-Armies asks you. “Why doesn’t one of you just shut the Temple doors and lock them? Then none of you can get in and play at religion with this silly, empty-headed worship. I am not pleased. The GOD -of-the-Angel-Armies is not pleased. And I don’t want any more of this so-called worship! “I am honored all over the world. And there are people who know how to worship me all over the world, who honor me by bringing their best to me. They’re saying it everywhere: ‘God is greater, this GOD -of-the-Angel-Armies.’ “All except you. Instead of honoring me, you profane me. You profane me when you say, ‘Worship is not important, and what we bring to worship is of no account,’ and when you say, ‘I’m bored—this doesn’t do anything for me.’ You act so superior, sticking your noses in the air—act superior to me, GOD -of-the-Angel-Armies! And when you do offer something to me, it’s a hand-me-down, or broken, or useless. Do you think I’m going to accept it? This is GOD speaking to you!”

‭‭Malachi‬ ‭1:6-13‬ ‭MSG‬‬

May we never come to the place where the joy, wonder, and enthusiasm goes out of our worship. What we do for the Lord Jesus Christ should never be “a weariness.” OwPerhaps you’ve heard people complain, “Are we going to church again? Do we have to sit there and be bored?” No matter how large the crowd, it’s sad to see a full church with empty people trying to overflow. One of the worst insults to God is half-hearted worship

We need to ask ourselves daily, Have we become weary in our worship? Are we enthusiastic about our worship of God, about our daily walk with Him? The answer will help us gauge if our worship is worthless or not. We must never allow ourselves get to the point of offering worthless worship, it is both a waste of time and effort because it goes no where and achieves nothing.

ENGAGE YOUR HEART AND MIND IN THE WORSHIP OF GOD TODAY!!

LOVE, MY PERMANENT RESIDENCE

“God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we’re free of worry on Judgment Day—our standing in the world is identical with Christ’s. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love.” 1 John‬ ‭4:17-18‬ ‭MSG‬‬

Can you imagine it? Can you just let your heart come into the space where we live in God and God lives in us? A place where God truly has the run of the house(our lives), where we allow Him make the day to day decisions of our lives, give Him full control? What a glorious, stress-free, liberated, joyful, joyous, bold,dynamic, and awesome life we would have. All our fears and worries taken away and dealt with by a God that cares about us unconditionally and loves out without measure.

Can we take a minute today and let Him into our lives completely and totally and give Him permission to enter every room of our life and heart, clear it out and take up residence.

GOD IS LOVE!!

DOUBTSTORMS

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

Copyright 1991, Max Lucado

Even When You Don’t Have Words: Faith

There are times when words simply fail us. Praying in these moments can seem unimaginable. And yet—remarkably—God makes provision for us to pray even when we have no clue what to say.

In Romans 8, Paul acknowledges that we live in a broken world. We experience suffering now. Loss. Sometimes the brokenness comes at our own hands; sometimes we are the ones who are broken by outside factors. Paul first encourages us that things won’t always be this way. We were made for a whole, healed world, and one day that will be reality. In the meantime, we groan. And all of creation groans along with us.

Then Paul says that even when we don’t know how to pray as we ought, the Spirit of God intercedes for us with groaning that are too deep for words. In a broken world, we often don’t even know what to ask God for. But he still wants to be with us. He still longs for that conversation. So in these moments, his Spirit will pray for us. We don’t know what to say, but he does. We may not even know what we truly want or need. But the Spirit will do the talking. Our role is to simply enter his presence.

This is praying in faith. We don’t have the answers, but we know the one who does. The specific requests are not as important as the conversation. So we keep coming back to God in faith, not because we know how he should solve our problems, but because we know he is the only one who can. Sometimes the conversation is quiet and tear-filled, but it matters even then. Perhaps especially then.

From a devotional by Echo Prayer

VERSE OF THE DAY

“GOD, investigate my life; get all the facts firsthand. I’m an open book to you; even from a distance, you know what I’m thinking. You know when I leave and when I get back; I’m never out of your sight. You know everything I’m going to say before I start the first sentence. I look behind me and you’re there, then up ahead and you’re there, too— your reassuring presence, coming and going. This is too much, too wonderful— I can’t take it all in!

Is there anyplace I can go to avoid your Spirit? to be out of your sight? If I climb to the sky, you’re there! If I go underground, you’re there! If I flew on morning’s wings to the far western horizon, You’d find me in a minute— you’re already there waiting! Then I said to myself, “Oh, he even sees me in the dark! At night I’m immersed in the light!” It’s a fact: darkness isn’t dark to you; night and day, darkness and light, they’re all the same to you.

Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out; you formed me in my mother’s womb. I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking! Body and soul, I am marvelously made! I worship in adoration—what a creation! You know me inside and out, you know every bone in my body; You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something. Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before you, The days of my life all prepared before I’d even lived one day.

Your thoughts—how rare, how beautiful! God, I’ll never comprehend them! I couldn’t even begin to count them— any more than I could count the sand of the sea. Oh, let me rise in the morning and live always with you! And please, God, do away with wickedness for good! And you murderers—out of here!— all the men and women who belittle you, God, infatuated with cheap god-imitations. See how I hate those who hate you, GOD, see how I loathe all this godless arrogance; I hate it with pure, unadulterated hatred. Your enemies are my enemies!

Investigate my life, O God, find out everything about me; Cross-examine and test me, get a clear picture of what I’m about; See for yourself whether I’ve done anything wrong— then guide me on the road to eternal life.”

‭‭Psalm‬ ‭139:1-24‬ ‭MSG‬‬

WHEN THE SPIRIT SPEAKS

“Now an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, saying, “Arise and go toward the south along the road which goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is desert. So he arose and went. And behold, a man of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under Candace the queen of the Ethiopians, who had charge of all her treasury, and had come to Jerusalem to worship, was returning. And sitting in his chariot, he was reading Isaiah the prophet. Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go near and overtake this chariot.” So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he asked Philip to come up and sit with him. The place in the Scripture which he read was this: “He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; And as a lamb before its shearer is silent, So He opened not His mouth. In His humiliation His justice was taken away, And who will declare His generation? For His life is taken from the earth.” So the eunuch answered Philip and said, “I ask you, of whom does the prophet say this, of himself or of some other man?” Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him. Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?” Then Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him. Now when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away, so that the eunuch saw him no more; and he went on his way rejoicing. But Philip was found at Azotus. And passing through, he preached in all the cities till he came to Caesarea.”
‭‭Acts‬ ‭8:26-40‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Several things come to mind as I read this passage of the bible

1. Philip’s sensitivity and obedience to the Spirit – He heard the Spirit speak and He moved, no question! He wasn’t so bothered about where or if he ever got there, he was just ready to go as the Spirit led him. Philip was available, he was present to be used. Sometimes being produces more than doing. Philip obeys the command to go and be near the chariot. He was there, he was present, he was available.

2. The eunuch is returning from a pilgrimage to the Temple, a place laden with Spirit-filled 1st century Christians, and he leaves still not knowing Christ. Was he overlooked or ignored? Was there no one there that could see his need and help him? Was he not connected? Did he not see or feel God in that gathering? What went wrong? Was it not his time? Or was God just preparing him for a closer encounter? We may never know exactly the reason but we can be assured of one thing, God saw his heart, that he was seeking for a personal knowledge of Him and He made it possible through a Faithful, Available and Teachable (FAT) vessel.

As we go through today can we ask the Holy Spirit to open our eyes to opportunities to meet the needs of others and may we be sensitive enough to see when He is prompting us. May we take our eyes off the ‘destination’ and enjoy the journey and go as He leads.