Devotional: Father Knows Best

This never happened in my house (lol), but in every family sitcom I’ve ever seen a group of awe-struck kids ask their father for something.  Then, as the kids continue their efforts to change their father’s mind, the mother shouts from another room in the house, “Kids!  Listen to your father!”

Now, to be honest, in my house, the scenario always played out differently: ask Dad; dad says no, ask Mom; Mom asks, “What did your father say?”  Then we retreat to come up with plan b. But I digress…

In spite of those variances, the end result is the same: the children are advised to follow the guidance of their father.

Why?

Because in most families, in some situations – and according to a TV show years ago – father knows best.

Today I want to remind you that indeed, Father knows best.

I would challenge you to think about your situation today:

 

You’re trying everything you can to get a promotion, but nothing happens.  Why?  Your heavenly Father knows best and He says in scripture:

 

Psalm 75:6-7

Amplified Bible (AMP)

6 For not from the east nor from the west nor from the south come promotion and lifting up.

7 But God is the Judge! He puts down one and lifts up another.

 

 

You’ve been praying for your husband to get right for what seems like forever, but still nothing.  Why? Because Father knows best:

 

1 Peter 3

Amplified Bible (AMP)

3 In like manner, you married women, be submissive to your own husbands [subordinate yourselves as being secondary to and dependent on them, and adapt yourselves to them], so that even if any do not obey the Word [of God], they may be won over not by discussion but by the [godly] lives of their wives,

 

 

Your money is funny.  Your paychecks aren’t covering the bills and you’re stressed out and confused.  What should you do?  Trust that Father knows best and read Malachi 3.

 

The doctors have done all that they know how, and now you are stuck between hoping for a miracle or preparing to die.  Don’t give up.  Father knows best:

 

Isaiah 53:5

Amplified Bible (AMP)

5 But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our guilt and iniquities; the chastisement [needful to obtain] peace and well-being for us was upon Him, and with the stripes [that wounded] Him we are healed and made whole.

 

 

See, I could literally go on and on, but the bottom line would be the same: no matter what you’re facing, no matter what you’re going through, no matter how difficult the circumstances or how insurmountable the challenge looks, Father knows best.

Look, I’m not going to beat you over the head today.  And I’m not going to prolong this devotional.

I just want to say this to you: your Father knows best.

He knows best because He knew what challenges you’d face before they met you.  He knows what He’s created you to accomplish, He knows what He’s put in you, and He knows what your victory looks like.

I mean, why look anywhere else for advice or guidance or the answer?

He wrote the script of your life and He knows the end.

Father knows best!

My prayer for you today is that you’ll ask your heavenly Father to reveal to you the areas where you’re trying, toiling and struggling in your own strength to make something happen instead of listening to the guidance of the Father.

You – tired, battered, weak, weary, losing hope, seeking peace, praying for a miracle – you.  Listen to me.

Your Father wants to bless you beyond your wildest dreams.  He wants you to cast your cares on Him.  And He wants you to retain the peace He left us when He died on the cross for our sins.

Your Father knows you.

And your Father knows best!

DEVOTIONAL: Mind Your Mouth

You may not know this, but, in addition to being fishers of men, we are also called to be builders.

Not the worldly kind of builders – with physical brick and mortar building.

No, our tools of building are our words.

You see, it is written in Proverbs 18:21 that the power of life and death lies in our tongues.

In fact, the Bible is chocked full of directives telling us to speak things, because there’s something powerful about putting those words out into the atmosphere in heaven and earth.

The very words we speak have the power to prosper and bless OR to curse and condemn, others as well as ourselves.

So with every word we speak we’re either building something up – whether it’s another person, or ourselves, our futures, or our hopes – or we’re tearing something down, speaking curses, ill will, and idle words out into the atmosphere.

And let’s remember that we are admonished in Matthew 12:36 that we will be judged by our idle words.

Haven’t we all been guilty at one time or another?

You know what I’m talking about.  The conversations we sometimes find ourselves in with other people when we aren’t really talking about anything, just killing time or trying to be social.

What starts out as small talk about the weather or the game unsuspectingly devolves into gossiping or complaining, or listening to others to do those things.

In those times – and really every time we speak – we should think about what our words are building.

We really must mind our mouths.

Are we speaking truth and light and God’s word?  Are we building people up with encouragement and living water?

Or, are we tearing them down with negative words, selfish thoughts, and empty chatter?

***

There’s an old hymn that goes like this:

My hope is built on nothing less

than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.

I dare not trust the sweetest frame,

but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

Refrain:

On Christ the solid rock I stand,

all other ground is sinking sand;

all other ground is sinking sand.

Word by word, brick by brick, we are either building something or tearing something down.

Let’s endeavor today to be mindful of every word that falls from our lips.

Not just because they power they wield, but because of what they tell us about ourselves…

Luke 6:45 (NLT)

45 A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart.

It is imperative that we are mindful of what we say.  Not simply because our words are not just tools of creation or destruction, but because they are also one of the easiest ways to know what is in our hearts and who we are as people.

 

Devotional: Walking Jackpot

A few months back, on the way home from our date, my husband mentioned to me that the Powerball jackpot had reached $500 million.

I looked at him, bemused, and we spent the duration of our car ride daydreaming about how we’d spend $500 million.

We decided that we’d tithe to a number of churches, all of which had played a role in our spiritual development.

We talked about putting money aside for our children and for our retirement.

We then dreamed about being able to pay off family members’ bills, their mortgages, car notes, student loan debts.

It was fun to think about how many people we could bless with $500 million.

Once I got home, I found myself still giddy at the thought of being able to be such a blessing.

That’s when I heard in my Spirit, “You don’t have to have millions of dollars to be a blessing.”

***

It’s true: everyday that we’re blessed to walk this earth we are blessed to be a blessing to someone else.

With the gift of speech we can speak encouragement and blessings over someone else.

With the ability of our legs we could run errands for those unable.

With whatever money we have we could forego our lattes and coffees in exchange for meals for the hungry, the homeless, the less fortunate.

If we have jobs we can do those jobs to the very best of our ability, being a blessing to our bosses and organizations.

If we have a car, we can use it to help those without cars make it to their appointments or to deliver goods for charities.

If we have homes, we can open them up to small groups and bible studies to grow in the Lord with others.

I mean truly there are immeasurable ways that we can be a blessing to someone else based simply on what we already have.

Sadly though, we’re often so fixated on material things, on wordly ideas of riches, that we take for granted the little miracles that happen every moment of every day – our breathing, our thinking, our walking, our talking.

And not only do we take them for granted, we undervalue them – overlooking them instead in pursuit of worldly measures of blessings and favor.

Now don’t feel bad, I’m talking to myself here as well.

I’m guilty, too.

But you know what I realized?  This revelation reveals a new context for an oft-quoted bible verse:

Philippians 4:10-13 says this:

10 How I praise the Lord that you are concerned about me again. I know you have always been concerned for me, but you didn’t have the chance to help me. 11 Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. 12 I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. 13 For I can do everything through Christ,[c] who gives me strength.

 

Now while you and I know that this is the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Church of Philippi, what the Lord revealed to me is that this passage could also be a reminder to not just be content with what we have, but to be content with what we can do with what we have.

We have got to stop comparing ourselves to one another and the world – using those skewed observations to define our standards for success.

We’ve got to remember that being able to do all things through Christ isn’t just what we tell ourselves when we want to avoid cussing someone out or overcoming some fear.

No, doing all things through Christ also applies to being able to bless others as God leads us because the fact of the matter is that when God gives us vision to bless others, He’ll always also give us the provision to make it happen.

So be content with the $3 you use to buy someone a meal.

Be content with the little bit of gas you spare to take the elderly to their doctor appointment.

Be content with the time you donate at the local charity.

Realize your blessings, and thank God that you’re empowered to give back at all!

My prayer for you and I today is that we’ll take stock of our wealth, of all that we have that could be used to bless others, and that we then seek God in how to use those resources.

And, if you’re bummed that you didn’t win the Powerball, or still feel like you’d like to win something, then let me remind you that you’ve already won the greatest prize there is: eternal life through Christ.

How?

Because Jesus gave all He had – his life, which some might view as little – and He gave it on our behalf.

What greater example do we need to use every bit of our lives to be a blessing to someone else?

Devotional: Keepin’ it 100

Look, I’m just going to go ahead and call this what it is: we are a bunch of frauds y’all.

We walk around here, doing our best to look pulled together, pieced together, holding it together.

We put on a good front for others.

We say the right things, pray the right things.

We’re always calling on the name of the Lord, speaking in tongues, naming and claiming it.

 

I think my parent’s generation called it putting on airs.  And my generation now calls it faking, frontin’, or not keeping it 100.

In every case, this is when keeping it real goes wrong.

And no matter what we call it, we ought just stop with the games and be real.

 

If we’re really honest with each other (and ourselves!), each one of us is only  one bad phone call, one bad email or text from falling apart from at the seams.

Literally we’re one paycheck from ruin.

One bad break-up from thinking about ending it all.

We’re just one more thing away…

I tell you this not so you are fearful, but so we’re honest with ourselves and one another.

Because the reality is that all that we have and all that we are has nothing to do with us, and everything to do with God.

 

Look at 1 Corinthians 15:10:

New Living Translation (NLT)

10 But whatever I am now, it is all because God poured out his special favor on me—and not without results. For I have worked harder than any of the other apostles; yet it was not I but God who was working through me by his grace.

And if that doesn’t convince you, listen to this…

Romans 12:3:

New Living Translation (NLT)

3 Because of the privilege and authority[a] God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.

2 Corinthians 3:5:

New Living Translation (NLT)

5 It is not that we think we are qualified to do anything on our own. Our qualification comes from God.

 

The reality is that so many of us are trying to walk around living our lives “like it’s golden,” that we fall woefully short of living our lives like they are God’s: His vessels, His tools, His walking resume of His power, mercy and miracles.

Yeah, you could walk around trying to project the image of having it all, doing it all, and being all that.  But that’s like trying to look like you’re the man/woman while driving someone else’s car.

It doesn’t work.

More than it not working, you do a few very harmful things when you fake it like this:

1. You rob God of His glory.  How can others come to know and praise God for His power, mercy, grace, miracles and favor in YOUR life if you never allow yourself to be honest about what He’s done for you?

2. You rob others of a chance to see and know God.  For the same reasons above, how can you minister to someone – say that God will bring them out – if you don’t allow your life to support your testimony that it’s possible?  God uses each of our lives as an illustration of who He is, what He’s capable of, and how much He loves all of us.  If you aren’t transparent with SOMEONE, or allowing yourself to be held accountable by SOMEONE, you aren’t helping ANYONE.

3. You rob yourself of reality.  Don’t let the enemy convince you that you’ve got it going on because you pulled yourself up from your bootstraps.  No, you may look like you’re all that, but if you do, it’s because God ordained it, allows it, and is using it for His glory, His kingdom and His will.

Truly get this in your spirit: it ain’t about you, boo!

So, the next move is up to you.

You can keep killing yourself from the inside out with stress, worry, fatigue just trying to keep up with the Joneses.

Or you can do less “living life like it’s golden,” and more living Godly.

DEVOTIONAL: E.W.F Teaches Us Devotion

If you would turn with me to the book of Earth, Wind and Fire, and read with me this passage:

Thru devotion, blessed are the children

Praise the teacher, that brings true love to many

Your devotion, opens all life’s treasures

And deliverance, from the fruits of evil

I bring up this song because as I thought about what to share with you today, I began to consider the word “devotion.”

By definition, the word “devotion” means love, loyalty, or enthusiasm for a person, activity, or cause. A religious worship or observance.  The Ecclesiastical definition is religious zeal.

I bring up the topic of devotion today because as I survey my life, I realize that I am tremendously blessed, unbelievably favored – and right now, just going through a tough patch.

Sure my life is full and I have nothing to complain about, but sometimes the relationships we value the most, the commitments, the things we enjoy — sometimes they come together in a way that just, well, tires you out; frays your edges.

But in this rough patch, I’m reminded – appropriately and necessarily – of the oft-quoted scripture in John 10:10, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”

When I think about my close friends, family and my husband, I think of Romans 12:10, “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.”

And when I get excited thinking about my career and professional opportunities, Proverbs 16:3 comes to mind: “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.”

I mention these scriptures because it appears that Earth, Wind and Fire were right. We DO need devotion.

Devotion to the appropriate – let me say this again, APPROPRIATE – people and activities shows our gratitude to God for the lives and all of the blessings He’s given us.

And it’s this devotion we must remember, hold tight to – especially during the rough times.

Much how we delight in seeing someone enjoy a gift we give them, I believe and the Word agrees, that God wants to see us happy. It makes Him happy to see us enjoying our lives and living them to the full.

Indeed, through devotion we can find deeper value in life.

Devotion to good will thwart the enemy.

Devotion to God overcomes every weapon of the enemy.

And God’s devotion to us overcame death and the grave.

Devotion.

Earth, Wind and Fire go on to say:

In everyone’s life, there’s a need to be happy.

Let the sun shine, a smile your way.

Open your heart, feel a touch of devotion.

Maybe this song, will help uplift your day.

Make a better way

You need devotion

My prayer for you today is that you experience devotion . And that if you can’t readily identify it in your life, that God will show you His devotion to you in the many people, places and things that cross your path today.

Don’t just live. Thrive.

Don’t just do, do with passion.

You, I, WE need devotion.

Devotional: Where Is Your Faith?

When I was growing up I remember a commercial that would come on television every night.  It was a simple commercial that frankly asked, “It’s 8 o’clock.  Do you know where your children are?”

Now I cannot remember the imagery that accompanied that ad, but the ad itself is prominent in my memory.  The idea that every family, every parent, every child could reach a point at which it was necessary to check-in, to do a status check.  That fascinated me.

And then on top of that, to know that other parents and other kids were hearing the same commercial down the street, the next neighborhood over, heck, even in the next state.

That commercial for me signified the importance of contact, of following up, of checking in, of knowing where you – or your kids – stood before…

Before something bad happened, before it was too late, before someone else asked you.  Whatever the “before” was, it always felt like this short question gave parents the opportunity to step away from whatever they were doing and take stock.

You know, as I think about it more I’m led to ask you this question: It’s prayer time.  Do you know where your faith is?

The Reverend James Cleveland asked the very same question years before I was born in a song I heard a lot growing up:

Say you’ve been sick? Tell me about it. And you think you can’t
get well
Where is your faith? Where is your faith in– God?

Say you’re in trouble? Tell me about it. And you’re going to court next week
Where is your faith? Where is your faith in– God?

Say you’re out of work? Tell me about it. And all your bills are due
Where is your faith? Where is your faith in– God?

Say you’ve got a habit? Tell me about it. Think you’re hooked and can’t get free
Where is your faith? Where is your faith in– God?

Say you’re out of money? Tell me about it. And you’re down to your last dime
Where is your faith? Where is your faith in– God? 

***

Last year, Pastor Keith Battle at Zion Church did a series called “In God We Trust.”  Over a series of weeks he walked us through identifying the error in some of our ways, the mistake that is trusting in other people, places and things.

See, it is so easy to begin putting our faith in other people and things.  We trust our bosses and our spouses.  We put our faith in plans and big ideas.  We put our faith in our cars, ourselves.  But what we really need to do is put and keep our faith in God.

The oft-quoted Proverbs 3:5 comes to mind now.  It says, “Lean not to your own understandings.  But in all your ways acknowledge Him and he will direct your path.”

So, I’ll ask again: it’s prayer time.  Do you know where you faith is?

What? Your faith is in check?  OK, then maybe I should ask you like this…

The bills are due; do you know where your faith is?

The doctor said there’s no more he can do; do you know where your faith is?

You’ve submitted that job application; do you know where your faith is?

You’re waiting for your mortgage or rent application to be approved, do you know where your faith is?

You’ve got to ring out at the grocery store; do you know where your faith is?

Your gas tank is nearly empty and it’s only Tuesday, do you know where your faith is?

You just received more bad news; do you know where your faith is?

That great opportunity fell through; do you know where your faith is?

You’re still waiting for your husband or wife; do you know where your faith is?

Your kids can’t get right; do you know where your faith is?

Your friends can’t be found and you’ve gotta talk to someone, do you know where your faith is?

Your loved one is gone; do you know where your faith is?

They’re giving you hell at work; do you know where your faith is?

You’re getting hell at home; do you know where your faith is?

Your problems are so bad that they’re following you to bed, showing up in your dreams. It’s bedtime; do you know where your faith is?

Look, the reality is that no matter what time it is for you in your life right now – no matter what you’re waiting for or what miracle you stand in need of – now is the time to check your faith and check-in with God.

My grandmother’s church used to say it like this.  They’d say,

“My faith is built on nothing less, but Jesus’ blood and righteousness.

I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

On Christ the solid rock I stand.

All other ground is sinking sand,

All other ground is sinking sand.”

Look I don’t know what time it is in your life.

I don’t know if you’re just entering a storm, riding through one, or at the midnight hour.  But what I do know is  no matter your circumstances, no matter your situation, now is the time to make sure your faith is anchored in Christ Jesus.

Don’t trust in other people.  Don’t try to fix it yourself with your own plans.  But give it over to God.

What time is it for you?  And where is your faith?

 

God is in the Fire

I heard a fantastic sermon this weekend from Pastor Keith Battle at Zion Church.

He talked from Exodus about Moses and one of the things that he spent some time on was how God got Moses’ attention with the burning bush.

In Exodus 3 we find Moses basically wandering with his flock of sheep.  Then He notices this bush on fire.

Now, this is where I leave the beaten path of devotionals and sermons on this topic because what I want to focus on these two things:

1. God was in the fire.

2. The bush was not consumed.

So often we find ourselves in hot water.  Whether we cause it ourselves, or whether God leads us there for growth and blessing, it’s an uncomfortable situation to be in.  And, our natural response is to flee, to try to get out of it.  You know how we do: try to make an exit, try to solve the problem, do anything to get out of the discomfort.

And then, if you’re like me, sometimes when things get really rough we wonder, “Where’s God in this?  Why would He allow this?  Doesn’t He see I’m hurting?”

I would remind you, much like the burning bush, God is in the fire.  He hasn’t sent you to that place alone.  And whether it be our own doing or some divine rite of passage, He’s there with us, in the fire.  The word is very clear that God cares about our feelings.  In fact, it says in Isaiah 63:9 that our distress distresses the Lord:

Isaiah 63:9

New International Version (NIV)

In all their distress he too was distressed,
and the angel of his presence saved them.
In his love and mercy he redeemed them;
he lifted them up and carried them
all the days of old.

So, know that when we’re going through, God is going through with us.  He knows and feels our pain, but He protects us and encourages us because He also knows the blessing that awaits us.

But I think it is equally important to note that when God is in the fire with us, we are not consumed.

The Bible makes a priority of pointing out that the burning bush was on fire, but was not consumed.  It wasn’t burnt up, it didn’t burn out, and there was no spread.  It was an intense, isolated fired but it never destroyed the bush or those around it.

Get this is in your Spirit: nothing that God allows in our lives will destroy us.

He goes through with us so that we will not be consumed: burnt up and burnt out from all the foolishness, sin, mistakes, guilt, shame, attacks of the enemy, and anything else causing our discomfort.

His presence in the fire with us meant that when we finally decided to walk away from that relationship He kept us from taking our lives or ending up in jail.

Because He’s in the fire with us, when that misstep at work should have meant we lost our job, He kept us employed.

Because He’s in the fire with us, that decision to mismanage our funds didn’t result in us losing our house.

Because He’s in the fire with us, our get-rich-quick scheme didn’t derail His destiny for us.

Because He’s in the fire with us, our grumbling and complaining about our present circumstances doesn’t change His promises for our future.

Because He’s in the fire with us, we didn’t end up beat up, shot up or worse when we ran off at the mouth with the wrong person.

Because He’s in the fire with us, the friends and family that we mistreated haven’t given up on us.

Because He’s in the fire with us, the habits that are tearing us apart have torn our family apart; in fact folks praying even harder for us – they aren’t giving up.

Because He’s in the fire with us WE ARE NOT CONSUMED!

Look, I don’t know what you’re going through.  I don’t know your situation or your circumstances, but I know this: God is with you. He hasn’t forgotten about you.  He hasn’t forsaken you.  He doesn’t love you any less.  He hasn’t turned His back to your situation.

He sees the tears you cry when you’re alone. He’s there when you cry yourself to sleep at night.  He knows the hurt and anger and pain that’s built up in your heart, a pain so heavy you can’t even  speak it and don’t know where it came from.

He feels the despair you feel in your job, your marriage, your home.  He’s worried about your kids, too.  He wants you to get out of debt, too.  He wants you to live out your dreams – the dreams He gave you – too!

How does that Fred Hammond song go?  He sees you, He loves you and He cares.

And your evidence of all of this?  Your evidence is that the stuff you’ve been through, the things you’ve overcome, they’ve caused other folks to lose their minds, their homes, their jobs, their families, their hope, their faith, their vision, their LIVES…BUT YOU ARE NOT CONSUMED!

Don’t let the enemy lie to you a minute longer.  GOD DOES CARE.  GOD DOES SEE YOU.  GOD DOES LOVE YOU.  He hasn’t left you.  He’s in the fire with you and He’s making sure that YOU ARE NOT CONSUMED because truly, no weapon formed against you will prosper…bu that doesn’t mean the enemy won’t try though!

Yes it hurts.  Yes it’s uncomfortable, or painful.  Yes it may feel like you’ve been here forever.  But God is in the fire.  You WILL NOT be consumed.  And just like Moses and everyone else God called, appointed and qualified, there is a great blessing on the other side.

I think there’s a great song to remind us that God will gladly go through ANY fire just to show you how much He loves us.  This selection is from the Gospel of Chaka Khan:

Through the fire, to the limit, to the wall
For a chance to be with you
I’d gladly risk it all
Through the fire
Through whatever, come what may
For a chance at loving you
I’d take it all the way
Right down to the wire
Even through the fire

…God is in the fire.

You will not be consumed!

DEVOTIONAL: Lord in E Flat (“He Loves Me”)

Have you heard Jill Scott’s song “Lyzel E Flat?”  She talks about how he loves her…differently…specially…especially different.

God loves us like that.  In fact, there’s a church-companion, if you will, to that song.  And the chorus goes like this:

He loves me.

Oh – how he loves me.

Oh – how he loves me.

Oh – how he loves me.

You know, I heard a teaching on God’s love recently that really blessed me.  So I wanted us to take a little time to talk about and reflect on that love today.

We all know the scripture. It’s John 3:16.  It tells us that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, so that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.

But for a minute, let’s look at that same verse in the Amplified version.  It reads this way:  For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He even gave up his only begotten unique son, so that whoever believe in, trusts in, clings to, relies on Him shall not perish, come to destruction, or be lost, but have eternal everlasting life.

The part that I wanted to look at was that word “begotten.”  But more than that, I want to look at the word that follows that in the Amplifed version: unique.

To be unique means that you’re one-of-a-kind.  There’s no one else like him.  No twin, no duplication, no copy, no clone.  You’re the only one.

Now that idea of Jesus, Son of God, being unique is important because it really puts a scope on God’s gift and love.

How many of you have ever been invited to a party, or maybe played that secret santa game at work.  And you have to provide a gift.

Well, I won’t call any names, but I know some folks who are only comfortable offering as gifts things they already own, things they won’t miss, things they  maybe have two or three of and they can part with.

You know, you pick the gift that’s still nice but maybe it’s been lying around for a while, or someone gifted to you and you never really liked it, or maybe it was just easy.

I think a lot of us have been guilty of giving gifts that we wouldn’t want back or that we hope we never see again.

But get this, all of the silver, the gold, the diamonds, the money, heck, even all of the stars belong to God.

He could have easily given any of those to pay the ransom for our sin-sick souls, but He didn’t.

He chose the one thing that meant the most to Him, the one thing that once He gave He’d have no more, the one thing that would cost Him something, the one thing that He loved dearly.  He chose THAT THING – His only son  – to give.

Yeah, He could have given the silver, the gold, the money, the stars, or whatever, but there are so many of those things that He’d still have plenty left over.

No – and we’re thinking back to John 3:16 now – God loved us SOOOO much that He gave the only thing that would cost Him everything.

That’s deep y’all, get that in your spirit.  He didn’t give what was convenient, He didn’t give what the world would prize.  No He gave of Himself the one thing that He’d feel, the one thing that would prove His love.

I mean, any parent I know couldn’t even fathom giving away one of their children to anyone for anything.

So just think about giving away your son or your daughter to pay someone else’s tab!

I mean, He loves us THAT much y’all!

Ain’t that good to you?  Don’t that make you want to shout?

But that’s not all.

By giving us His son, God proved that He loved us.

See the scripture says that God so loved the world.  Let’s pause there for a second, because that word “so” means that this ain’t no ordinary love. (Cue the Sade song…”This is no ordinary love.  No ooooordinary loooove.”)

This is the difference between telling someone you’re hungry, and then telling someone you’re SOOOO hungry.  It’s that kind of love y’all.

So yeah, the scripture tells us that God SO loved the world THAT.

Now let’s stop there, because that THAT means that He didn’t stop at telling us.  God didn’t stop at giving us lip service, at just whispering sweet nothings, at saying the right thing.  He took the extra step of taking an action to PROVE that He loved us.

I tell you what, we tell folks we love them so much these days that in some ways the word is greatly watered down.

And beyond that, for those we tell, there are but a few folks we tell AND THEN PROVE that we love them.

And then we can whittle that down even further by saying there are even fewer folks that we tell we love them, go further by acting to prove it, and in doing so give them something we prize more than anything else in the world.

Look, I don’t know what you’re up against.  I don’t know what you’re facing, but I know the enemy is whispering lies in your ears.

He’s telling you you ain’t nothing, you ain’t never been nothing, and you ain’t gonna be nothing.  You ain’t never gonna make it, you’re forgettable, unimportant, un-impactful, unnecessary, don’t matter to no one, the world would be better off without you, you don’t amount to nothing and you don’t contribute nothing to society.

But I’m telling you right now that God paid the highest price EVER just FOR YOU.  The price He paid just so He could call you His own and love you and give you a life and a future was so high there is nothing in this earth that could match it.

And I don’t know about you, but I don’t pay for junk.

I dare you to tell the devil to go back to the pits of hell from whence he comes.

I dare you to declare that you are the apple of God’s eye.  That you’re favored.  That you’re prized.  That the Lords thoughts of you are like the number of the grains of sand.

I dare you to pop your collar, do a  little dance, and say, “Jesus loves me soooooo much!”

You ain’t got to love me.  Heck, you ain’t got to like me.  But Jesus loves me soooooo much!

God loves you.

God love you.

God LOVES you.

GOD. LOVES. YOU.

And there ain’t nothing no devil in hell can do to stop it, separate you from it, or change.

For God so loved YOU and ME that…He gave His only son, he blesses us, favors us, keeps us, provides for us, prospers us, protects us, loves us, corrects us, directs us, guides us, talks to us, walks with us.

HALLELUJAH?

HALLELUJAH!

If you don’t remember anything today, take joy in this: GOD LOVES YOU SOOOOOOO MUCH!

DEVOTIONAL: Your Encore

Recently I was reading the website for a non-profit.  The name of the organization is Encore.

 

And their mission is this: building a movement to make it easier for millions of people to pursue second acts for the greater good. These second acts are called “encore careers” – jobs that combine personal meaning, continued income and social impact – in the second half of life.

 

Isn’t that something?  I mean, isn’t that just supremely inspiring?  The idea that when everyone else counts you out, says you’re washed up, you’re finished, you’re of no more good, no more use, there’s an organization that wants to give you a second shot; they want to give you an encore.

 

What would you do if someone came to you today, knocked on your door and said, “Money’s not an object.  Your past no longer matters.  Today, right now, you can do whatever you want.  You’re free.  This is your encore.”

 

What would you do?  Where would you go?  What would you buy?  If today was the first day of your encore, what would you do?

 

Well, I know I’ve shared with you once before that thanks to the blood of Christ, we can ask for an encore any moment.  Once we accept Him as our Lord and Savior, our Redeemer and our Salvation, we have instantaneous access to his redemptive powers.  All we have to do is ask.

 

But if you need a more of an example of how to do an encore the right way, look no further than  Jesus, the Son of God.

 

I mean, encores don’t get any better than that.

 

He closed the first act in service, with humility.  I mean think about it, He didn’t fight the end.  He didn’t brag about what He’d done.  He actually prayed for his haters and then let the curtain fall.

 

But get this, out of his humility came his encore.  He beat the devil, death and the grave to rise with all power to the glory of God.

 

And let me tell you how smooth Jesus was with His encore.  He was so smooth with it that when he rose, He just went back to his people – back to his block, His hood – and asked them, “What’s up?  Why y’all crying?”  As if to say, “What did I miss?”

 

Now that, my friends, THAT’S how you do an encore.

 

I say all of that to say this: because of Jesus’ encore you and I can start our encore today.  We can leave our pasts behind us and walk freely into the futures that God has for us.

 

But let’s strive to do our second act – or third, fourth, 17th, one millionth, on trillionth act – let’s do it like Jesus: with humility and an expectant faith in God.

 

What can you do with this new opportunity that God’s given you? with this brand new day?

 

You can make the most of it, to the fullest glory of God!

 

Who can you bless?  Who can you encourage?  How will you let God use you?

 

You know, the reality is that your ability to make the most of your encore today isn’t just about saving and helping others, but it’s about you; it blesses you to be a blessing.

 

Seize the day, my friends.  Because Jesus rose, you can – AND SHOULD! – too!

 

Today’s your second act. Move on, move up and move towards being and doing all that God created and called you to do!

 

I’ll leave you with this, Hebrews 3:13-15:

 

 But encourage one another daily,(U) as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.(V) 14 We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold(W) our original conviction firmly to the very end.(X) 15 As has just been said:

“Today, if you hear his voice,
    do not harden your hearts
 as you did in the rebellion.”[c](Y)

So they talked about you.  Criticized you.  You messed up, made mistakes.  You’ve been abandoned and counted out.  You’ve fallen over and over.  Your resume isn’t full of ivy league names.  Your background is far from silver spoons and mommy/daddy’s money.  You’ve had it rough.  You’ve gone it alone.  You’ve cried, been hurt, and felt like you had nowhere to turn.

But guess what…

Today is your encore.  Thank God for keeping you, growing you, getting you over and pulling you through.  And you take to the stage of your life today ready to live a life that so fully glorifies God that when it’s all said and done, they won’t have anything to say about you but, “Bless God.”

This is your encore.  Live today on purpose.  Don’t care about what other people think or do.  Do you — and do it so well that you just drop the mic, leave the stage, and let God get the applause.

Today, brothers and sisters.  Today.