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“Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned. John 5:28-29

Have you ever been in a large room with a large group of people? There are conversations going on all around you. Some are a little louder than others. Some are laughing, some engaged in serious conversation.

Suddenly, in the midst of all the noise you hear the voice of your loved one. Not calling you necessarily. Their voice doesn’t even have to be louder than the others. You hear it because it’s a voice of distinction. It’s a voice you know because you love that person. You’ve talked with that person during intimate times and while discussing the mundane things of life. You respond because you have a love relationship with the owner of that voice.

Someday, and perhaps soon, Jesus will return to earth. He’ll come to gather up those who recognize his voice. He’ll call them from the grave that has held them. With one word they will come forth because they will recognize the voice of the one whom they love.

These are the ones who have walked with Jesus during the tough times of life. They’ve followed his ways when the world screamed at them to follow them. They have struggled. Some have fallen, often. But every time they failed they would return to him for forgiveness and then try again to change their ways. Some were victorious in areas of their lives. Some struggled from the day of their birth to the time their earthly bodies could no longer hold them. Regardless of the struggles, they respond because they know his voice as the one they love. This was the voice of one in whom they built a relationship.

Sadly, there will be others who will come forth. These are the ones who heard the voice once or twice but never responded. They chose the way of the world rather than the way of God. They worked hard to make sure that they enjoyed all the ‘good things of life’. They may have followed religion. They may have been spiritual. But they never responded to the call of Jesus to come to him for forgiveness.

They will respond to his voice now. They won’t respond because they recognize him. They will respond because Jesus is Lord of all. He is Lord over those who have responded to him in life. He is Lord over those who have rejected him in life but will come forth in death.

Those who have built a relationship with Jesus in life will be called forth to join him for eternity. Those who have not built a relationship with him in life will be sent into eternity without him,

Today, Jesus is calling you. He’s calling you to enter into a relationship with him. He’s calling you to receive the forgiveness and mercy and grace that comes freely because of his death and resurrection. He’s asking you to let him enter into your life. Someday, and someday soon He’ll call you again. This time, He won’t call you and ask to invite him into your life, He’ll call you to enter into his home. A home that will last for eternity. A home that is free of sin and sorrow and sickness and death.

Will you answer his voice today? Will you accept his invitation now to join in relationship with him based on forgiveness and mercy and grace? Let him live with you now so you can live with him in eternity.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus. I’ve heard your voice on occasion. I’ve heard about you. I’ve even attended places that teach about you and I’ve sung your songs. But I’ve never asked you to forgive me of my sin. I’ve never chosen to follow you in obedience built on relationship and love. I’m asking you now. Forgive me of my sin. Enter into my life now so I can spend eternity with you. In your name I pray. Amen.


And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! Philippians 2:8

Jesus tells a story about a merchant who, in his travels, found something of such value that he returned home and sold everything he had so he could have this one, prized possession. Nothing else mattered in life once he acquired it. Whatever the object was, it didn’t do anything to attract the man’s attention. Even so, it was precious enough to pursue.

What could be so valuable that you’d give everything to own it? What could be so important that you would risk everything you had to keep this in your possession? What could one feel so passionate about that they would pursue it with such tenacity? The answer, quite frankly is you.

You see, when the Roman soldiers walked with Jesus to the hill of Calvary it wasn’t their swords that prodded Jesus along the way. It was God. It wasn’t the hands of the executioner that held Jesus’ hands in preparation for the blow of the hammer on the nail. It was Jesus’ Father. It wasn’t the jeers and verbal harassment that caused him to feel so alone as he hung there dying. It was the fact that his Heavenly Father turned his back on him that cause the most pain. The nails and sword didn’t hold him to the, love did. It was an extreme, intense, passionate love for you that kept him on the cross.

The next time you question if you are loved, remember the cross. The next time you feel you are of no value, remember what was price was paid to purchase you. The next time you think you’ve gone to far, made too many mistakes, rebelled one too many times, remember what held Jesus to the cross. His Father, your Heavenly Father, the creator sustainer of the universe put him there so he  could enjoy you for eternity.

Could God have rescued his son from the tree that day on Calvary? You bet he could, but then He’d never have been able to call you his own. God loves you passionately and Jesus death on the cross is an eternal reminder of his love and forgiveness. Live today as the cherished possession you are.

PRAYER: Father God, thank you for loving me so much that you gave all you had to  make me your own. I’m so unworthy of the grace and forgiveness you have given me. As I go throughout my day help me to remember the price you paid. Remind me of my value in your eyes. Empower me to live for you in light of your great eternal love for me. In the name of Jesus my Lord I pray, Amen.


Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” John 13:35 (NLT)

One of my favorite past times is to watch people. You have to be discreet in this process because there’s a fine line between watching people and staring at people. People tend to get a bit uncomfortable if they sense some stranger is staring at them…but I digress.

Sometimes when you are watching a group of people it’s pretty easy to see the family resemblances.

‘That group over there? The father and mother are with their son and daughter-in-law. It’s obvious that the young man is the son. He’s the image of his father! And the young lady? Obviously part of the group, but not by blood. She looks nothing like the rest of the group. Accepted? Yep. Blood relative? Not a chance’

Jesus tells us that people will know we, as Christ-followers, will know we are family. They’ll know we are the children of our Heavenly Father. How? Not by hair color or color of the eyes. Not by the protruding chin or obnoxious laugh. Nope, people will know we are children of our heavenly father because our love for one another will be obvious. Our love for each other is the defining characteristic of being a Christ-follower.

That love isn’t bound by denominational lines, theological persuasions, past experiences or relational stability. It’s not controlled by a particular eschatological view point, race, gender or political party. It’s not determined by our ability (or inability) to drive properly, sing on key or practice some particular spiritual gift. Our love for one another supersedes anything we see here on earth.

So the question each of us must answer today is this: “Do others see that I’m a child of my Heavenly Father by the way I love others who are different than me?”  Think about that answer before you blurt it out. Is there someone you haven’t forgiven yet? Is there someone you’ve offended that you haven’t made it right? Have you spoken evil of someone or sarcastically joked about them?

How can you show the love of the Father to someone you don’t particularly agree with? How can you show patience and acceptance to people who live a life-style that goes against your personal convictions? In a word, how will you show God’s grace to those around you today? That’s what love is really about. Showing God’s Grace to those who deserve it the least.

PRAYER: Father there are so many times I let my personal feelings get in the way of how I treat other people. So many times when I can rationalize my critical spirit and judgmental nature. Please forgive me for the lack of love and grace in relationships with others, especially my brothers and sisters in Christ. Empower me by your Spirit to let others see your image of love in my life. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.


See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 1 John 3:1

Of all the promises God gives us, none is more precious, more powerful and more amazing than the fact that we are his children. Ponder that thought today. Say it slowly in your mind and contemplate its meaning.

‘I am God’s child. The Creator/sustainer of the universe is my dad.’

When you were in grade school and kids were getting to know you, a question that often came up was “So what does your dad do for a living?” The question was more than a casual one. You were, in a sense, judged by the answer. ‘My dad is a carpenter or my dad works at a gas station’ may not carry as much clout as ‘my dad is a doctor or lawyer or president of the United States.’ Your importance was determined by the value placed on what your father did and you were expected to behave according to that distinction.

Today it’s a bit harder to get the concept of fatherhood established. For one thing, many kids have fathers who are uninvolved in their lives or only see them on given days. The term ‘father’ has lost its luster due to divorce and the dysfunctional state of the family, especially in the USA. The fact that earthly father’s often fail us doesn’t change the character or meaning behind our Heavenly Father. He isn’t distracted by getting the lawn mowed or finishing some project at work. He’s not more interested in his golf score than your well-being. He can be trusted, counted on to always be there, to be a ‘man’ of action not words. Your Heavenly Father will do just exactly what he says he’ll do. He’ll take care of you and knows what is best for you. You can trust your Heavenly Father because you are his child.

I don’t know if the story is true or not. I heard it years ago, but true or not it gives us a perfect picture of how we can trust our Heavenly Father.

The story is told of a house that caught fire in the middle of the night. The parents made it out but were unable to reach their little boy on the second floor. When the fire fighters arrived they heard the boy calling for help from a second floor window. They tried to coax him to jump so they could catch him, but he didn’t recognize their voices and the smoke and darkness (not to mention fear) kept him from being able to see his rescuers.

Then, his father called to him and implored him to jump. Immediately the boy jumped into the darkness to be wrapped in the arms of his father. What made him jump? It was the assurance that his daddy lay on the other side of the darkness and his daddy could be trusted.

You are God’s child. The creator of the universe is your daddy. He chose to make you so. Live today in the assurance that your Father loves you, cares for you, is ready and willing to forgive you of anything in your life that will keep you from relationship with him. He is real. He is powerful. He passionately loves you.

PRAYER: Dear Dad, Much as I love my earthly father I have to confess there were times he didn’t understand me like you do. There are times as a parent I’ve failed my own children. I praise you for always being there for me. Forgive me for the times I’ve doubted you or rebelled against you. Help me to live in such a way that even though the world doesn’t know you, they will know I’m your kid. In Jesus name, Amen.

 


Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. Hebrews 13:20-21

One of the great cripplers of society is stress. Stress seems to attack us at ever opportunity, robbing us of our joy, our physical health, our self-image and our relationships with others and God. Divorce, financial ruin and a whole lot of other issues can often be directly or indirectly attributed to stress.

Stress is a complicated issue dependent on each person’s circumstances, perspective and background. However, one of the causes of stress in our lives is our desire to get what we want. Who can fault us for wanting a nice home; for providing for our children or retirement; for having as successful business? But too many times the desire to attain those things leads to spiritual, physical and emotional turmoil…or stress.

The writer to the Hebrews closes his letter with a prayer for his readers and for each of us. He prays that God’s peace would be at work in us. It’s an easy prayer to make. Our Heavenly Father’s purpose for sending Jesus, for raising him from the dead and promising us present blessing and eternal life was to provide peace for us.

Many times, in the dark, honest moments of our lives we need to ask ourselves this question: “Am I doing all this for my good or for God’s good?” God wants to give us things to relieve our stress. God wants to give us peace. God wants to equip us for a successful life. His equipping is so that the things we do are for His glory and not our temporal earthly comfort. Those things may come as a result, but they are not a prerequisite to God’s good work being done through us.

What does God want for you? Peace. Peace gained through doing the things he wants us to do with the gifts he’s given us for his glory. It may be as a pastor or a server at the local coffee shop. The important thing is that you are doing the right thing for the right reason with the gifts God has supplied for you.

PRAYER: Father God, stress seems to be an ever-present part of my life as I strive to survive and succeed in life. I pray that you would help me to use the gifts you have given me for your glory and not my comfort. Place me where you want me so that I can do the work you have for me. Remove the obstacles that cause unneeded stress in my life. In Jesus name, Amen.

 

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