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“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”


-Jeremiah 29:11

The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. (Romans 8:16)

How can we KNOW as this verse says, that we are indeed, “God’s children?”

He is intentional: God is love. (1 John 4:8)

I believe that for those not grounded in the word of God this phrase often gets misinterpreted. It says: God is love, but based on conversations I’ve had over the years it is often interpreted as: “Love is God.” And that is a very different statement. As an example, I have a friend who believes there is not a God but rather a “life force” or “energy” that is love itself. In one conversation I pointed out that love alone can’t be just some energy or force emanating through the universe. Love is an action. Action requires intentionality… and intentional action can only come from a source of personhood. She smiled at me and said: “You got me… you got me there with intentionality…” She did not mean that I’d won an argument, but that I’d spoken to her heart.

Here is the hard heart truth that we have such a difficult time facing and which we must admit: We are a mess of sins— we are dead in them. If we are honest, often even our good deeds have selfish motives. Whether languishing in indulgent sin or climbing the ladder of success by the pride of our “good deeds,” we are at the heart: not good, not even close to good, not any one of us: for as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one. For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:10, 23)

AND YET…

This is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent his son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sin. (1 John 4:10)

Even in the midst of our sin and brokenness God loved us, even when we did not love Him. Why? Just because He does! He’s proven it. Every other religion and its leader says you must climb the mountain to get to God and hope you are good enough and can get close enough to be accepted. But the Christian faith says: God came down to us! He made himself incarnate, in the form of Jesus, to save us from our mess of sins. He was willing to sacrifice everything to bring us home to the Father. It is faith in this truth that will give you and I the unshakable confidence to know: In Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. (Galatians 3:26)

God did not remain distant from us. He came to us and laid down his life for us. That is love in action. Jesus said: Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13) This is what Jesus did for us on the cross. He died in our place. He lived the life we should have lived- perfect and blameless. And then he died the death we should have died- accused, wretched and outcast. Why? Love.

Jesus did not come to make bad people good. He came to make dead people alive through the power of LOVE— a real, unconditional, sacrificial tenderness of grace that says: “I’m giving up my own life for you. Because I die now, you may live forever. Not because you earned it. Not because you deserve it, but just because I love you.” Who can gaze on that moment and not be brought to awe and adoration? If we have any love in us at all it is only because we embrace this truth. 

We must learn to love our Lord God and Savior first, by gazing constantly on this truth. Then we can learn to love others.


This is an excerpt from its original publication here and is shared with the author's permission.

Monica is her husband’s adoring wife, her little girl’s “Mama,” a crazy dog lover, and everyday falling more deeply in love with the Lord! In September of 2008 the Gills were blessed with a fifth tiny addition to the family (this time a baby instead of a puppy!) Grace is an ever-present wonder and a constant source of joy. Monica has been an active Bible teacher, writer and speaker for women's ministry and youth for twenty years. She loves to combat every challenge of life with this truth: Jesus is the answer! Jesus is always the answer!

 You can find Monica at www.lifewithgrace.net or contact her at monica@lifewithgrace.net

More of Monica Gill: www.lifewithgrace.net

I’ll Always Be There For You -  

This devotional was written by Jim Burns

 

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” —Hebrews 13:5

 

A parent’s unconditional love is often the closest illustration we have of the “I will never leave you nor forsake you” kind of love from God. Yet even a parent’s love pales compared to the depth, breadth and integrity of God’s love and passion for you. I love how one of my favorite authors, Max Lucado, describes this kind of love in a story about a father, a son, a tragedy and a great victory.

 

The 1989 Armenian earthquake needed only four minutes to flatten the nation and kill thirty thousand people. Moments after the deadly tremor ceased, a father raced to an elementary school to save his son. When he arrived, he saw that the building had been leveled. Looking at the mass stones and rubble, he remembered a promise he had made to his child: “No matter what happens, I’ll always be there for you.” Driven by his own promise, he found the area closes to his son’s room and began to pull back the rocks. Other parents arrived and began sobbing for their children. “It’s too late,” they told the man, “You know they are dead. You can’t help.” Even a police officer encouraged him to give up.

 

But the father refused. For eight hours, then sixteen, then thirty-two—for thirty-six hours he dug. His hands were raw and his energy gone, but he refused to quit. Finally, after thirty-eight wrenching hours he pulled back a boulder and heard his son’s voice. He called his boy’s name, “Arman! Arman!” And a voice answered him, “Dad, it’s me!” The boy added these priceless words, “I told the other kids not to worry. I told them if you were alive, you’d save me, and when you saved me, they’d be saved too. Because you promised me, “No matter what I’ll always be there for you.”*

 

GOING DEEPER:

1. Can you imagine your heavenly Father possessing this kind of passion for you, His child? He does! Read Hebrews 13:5 and let the words sink in about what it means for your life.

 

2. What does it mean for God to never leave you nor forsake you when problems and struggles still come to all humans?

 

FURTHER READING:

Deuteronomy 31:5-8; 1 John 4:10

 

* Max Lucado, When Christ Comes (Nashville, TN: Word Publishing, 1999), pp. 21-22.

Jim Burns is President of HomeWord and Executive Director of the HomeWord Center for Youth and Family @ Azusa Pacific University. Jim speaks to thousands of people around the world each year. He has over 1.5 million resources in print in over 25 languages. Jim’s radio broadcast is heard on over 800 stations a day and heard around the world via podcast at HomeWord.com. 

Some of his recent books include: Faith Conversations for Families; Teenology: The Art of Raising Great Teenagers, Closer: 52 Devotions to Draw Couples Together, Confident Parenting, The Purity Code and Creating an Intimate Marriage. Jim and his wife, Cathy and their three daughters Christy, Rebecca, and Heidi live in Southern California. 

More of Jim Burns: www.homeword.com

How to Love God -   

This devotional was written by Dan Johnson

 

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. —1 John 4:16

 

There was a boy named David in my fifth grade class. Although it’s difficult to remember much about that year in a north Florida school — except a crush on my teacher, the gorgeous, young, Mrs. Cox — I still remember David.

 

Let me share two memories of him: He was a messy-looking boy with a head full of brown curly hair and he smelled like urine. The class teased him mercilessly and there was a sense that David didn’t have much of a home life. The second memory has endured more powerfully than the others. Many years after fifth grade came and went, I was going through some old school yearbooks. While thumbing through my elementary book there was David’s photograph. I didn’t remember that he had signed my yearbook, but sure enough, there was his note. Simple, yet profound, it read: “Jesus loves you. David.”

 

Here was a kid, abused and unloved by others, who, not returning like for like, gave back the love that was in his own heart. What kind of positive energy must a child like that have possessed to overcome the negative feelings of others toward him?

 

Being attracted to others is a biological ability. It comes naturally and doesn’t require a bit of discipline or effort. Loving someone who loves us is warm and fuzzy. It’s hard to dislike someone who treats us well. The David kind of love is difficult. It’s the kind that is mature enough to empathize and not sympathize. It’s the kind of love that asks: “What’s it like for that person?” Or, “What could I do to help that person live a better life?” It’s the kind of love that makes us most like God.

 

So how do we love God today? By treating someone well when he or she “appears” to be of no immediate value to us. Do you want to be great today? Start looking for someone to love and encourage, someone whose generous soul may be hidden in filthy clothes. Loving the “unlovable” can turn them into the princes they were meant to be. And it turns the lover into someone resembling a King.

 

GOING DEEPER:

1. Who do you know that is difficult to love?

 

2. What steps can you take to reach out to them?

 

FURTHER READING:

John 3:16; 1 John 1:10

This devotional originally appeared in “HomeWord with Jim Burns” on Crosswalk’s Family Devotional section. For more information about HomeWord with Jim Burns devotionals, please visit us online.

More of HomeWord with Jim Burns: http://www.crosswalk.com/devotionals/homeword/

How About Jesus?   

This devotional was written by Kelly McFadden

 

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.—Hebrews 12:1-4

 

For a while, driving the 405 freeway in Southern California was an irritating experience. Now, you may be thinking, “Does anyone enjoy driving on California freeways? I’ve heard about that LA traffic!” And while there is some merit to this line of thought, I’m not referring to the traffic. “What?” you ask not understanding. “Is there any other reason to hate driving in Los Angeles?” You see, there was a billboard looming high above the freeway. I can see it now, countless numbers of people driving past its message everyday. My stomach gets queasy just thinking about it! It’s an ESPN ad, seemingly harmless, with a couple of WNBA players on it. It is the text that seizes me… “Without Sports who would we follow?” 

 

In an age consumed with the life of glamour and the love of money, it should not be a surprise that this ad insinuates we actually need sports stars in order to have role models. Who would we follow?! I have an answer. How about Parents? Youth Pastors? Missionaries? Firemen? Teachers? Nurses? Doctors? How about Jesus?

 

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have athletes as role models. But there is more to a person that what they do for a job. As we pick and choose our role models, it is essential to look at the heart of the person. Hebrews talks about a ‘great cloud of witnesses.’ All around us are people who love the Lord and serve him in their daily lives. How awesome that you and I were not sent into this sinful world alone! The Lord gave us brothers and sisters in Christ who will run this race with us and help us through the entangling powers of sin. The important thing to remember, however, is that it is Jesus who we fix our eyes on. The role models in this world are other Christians running the same race and serving as examples.

 

GOING DEEPER:

1. According to Hebrews 12:1-4, who should we follow?

 

2. Write down the names of some role models in your life. Why are they role models? Are these healthy people to model your life after?

 

FURTHER READING:

Psalm 119:105-109; Hebrews 11; 1 Corinthians 4:16-17; Titus 2: 1-8

This devotional originally appeared in “HomeWord with Jim Burns” on Crosswalk’s Family Devotional section. For more information about HomeWord with Jim Burns devotionals, please visit us online.

More of HomeWord with Jim Burns: http://www.crosswalk.com/devotionals/homeword/

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