When You Give a Banquet – Your Invitation List

a-Luke 14-13-14 imageThe YouTruth in Luke 14: 13-14

“But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

Not many of us are in the regular business of giving banquets. Huge lavish gatherings with hundreds of high-profile invitees and five-course meals don’t fill up the typical daily planner. Nevertheless, this passage has much to say to us. Whether we know it or not, we are all capable of throwing banquets on an incredible scale. We just have to understand banquets from the Kingdom’s perspective.

A man stands on a street corner with “Hungry, please help” scrawled on a piece of cardboard torn from an old box. You respond by buying an extra sandwich at the shop down the street and hand it to him. At that moment, that man has received his invitation to sit at Jesus’ banquet table.  You have ushered him into the banquet hall and shown him to his seat near the head of the table.

A women’s car is broken down on the side of the road. She has a crying toddler on her hip and a distraught look on her face. You respond by arranging for a tow truck, paying the towing fee, and providing some extra money to help with the repairs. That woman and her child have received their invitation to sit at Jesus’ banquet table. You have ushered them into the banquet hall and shown them to their seats near the head of the table.

You see, in God’s Kingdom, we can build our banquets one person at a time. And over time, the size of the banquet you give in Jesus’ name, can be far bigger than any lavish, celebrity event the richest of the rich could throw in this world. So have at it! Get your banquet invitations ready to deliver! God will put those in your path that He intends for you to invite.

The Guarding Peace – Do Not Be Anxious About Anything

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 The YouTruth in Philippians 4: 6-7

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

So many things can cause anxiety. I’m sure you can recount situations or circumstances that created anxiety for you. You may even experience anxiety today. God has a prescription for the ailment of anxiety that has three equally important ingredients—prayer, petition, and thanksgiving.

It starts with thanksgiving. This can be the hardest part when you’re feeling anxious! But this is what makes the rest of it work. The one thing you can know for certain is that God loves you immensely. He sent His Son to die for you after all. In this grand love for you, God is always working to bring about what is best for you. It’s always good to remember that God exists eternally outside of the confines of time. Therefore, in every case of anxiety you face, He has already worked out what is best for you in your current situation (and for every future situation you will ever face)! It’s already done!

Armed with a state of thanksgiving all that is left to do is to talk to God about what is happening. Don’t hold anything back! He can handle it! Ask Him for things. Ask Him to take the anxiety away. Ask, ask, ask, all the while thanking Him for already having it all worked out.

When using these three ingredients together, not only does God take away the anxiety, He does you one better. He replaces it with a piece of Himself—the  peace  of Himself. You will recognize it right away because, though you will experience it, you won’t be able to understand it. It will come directly from eternity and will deliver you to an eternal peace that is out of this world.

Are you feeling anxious today? Try God’s remedy right away!

Binding and Writing – Let Love and Faithfulness Never Leave You

a-Prov 3-3 imageThe YouTruth in Proverbs 3:3

“Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.”

As Christians, we are commanded to make love and faithfulness an ever-present part of our character and witness. This is not news to most of us. We hear this throughout the Scriptures. There is also something implicit in the passage that must not miss. If we don’t do something to prevent it, love and faithfulness will escape from us. It is our job to recognize this and to know what to do to prevent it.

Thankfully, the verse immediately follows with the preventive measures. The instruction to bind them and write them on tablets seem a little obscure, but what they really are telling us is, start from the inside out.

Writing love and faithfulness on the tablet of your heart is, to Christian believers, turning areas of our heart over to the power and leading of the Holy Spirit that dwells within us. It is surrendering our attitudes or actions that are not loving or faithful to God and asking Him to transform us into His likeness in these areas. This is the cool thing about writing upon the tablet of a believer’s heart—we don’t have to do the writing ourselves! We can turn over the writing to God who is (let’s face it) far more qualified to do the writing than we are anyway.

Binding love and faithfulness around your neck is taking what God has written on the inside and moving it out in the open where all can see it. It is translating the loving, faithful desires of the heart into loving and faithful actions that bless those around you in His name. It is not just wearing a cross necklace around your neck, which would seem to meet the literal expectation. It is the outward demonstration of love and faithfulness that allows those around you to understand who Jesus is and how much He loves each of those you interact with every day.

Standing Firm with Abe and Paul

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Abe & Paul

Abraham Lincoln said, “Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm.”

The Apostle Paul said it this way in 1 Corinthians 15:58: “Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”

Paul and Abe have something pretty cool to say here. Follow this two-step plan:

Find the right place. Stay there.

Seems pretty simple, yet I’d dare say many of us may find it hard to do. One of the reasons for this might be that we tend to presume that where we are now is the right place. Once we open our hearts to the possibility that we might not be at the right place, we can actually get started with step one…

Finding The Right Place 

How do we find where the right place is? How do we evaluate the place we are to determine whether we should keep on walking or dig our heels in? Wouldn’t it be great if a large “Right City Exit Ahead” sign appeared along the highway or a “Right Blvd.” sign was posted at the correct intersection?  Well if we search Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians for this signage, lo and behold, I think we find it! Here’s the kicker. Paul’s road sign tells us that the right place is not a place at all, but an attitude. The right place is devotion to the work of the Lord and faith that His glorious purposes will be done through it. Giving ourselves fully to the Lord’s work puts our feet in the right place—on the solid Rock of Jesus Christ. Once there, it’s on to step two…

Standing Firm

The Rock upon which we are stand, is not a fixed location but an ever-deepening relationship with Jesus as our Savior and Lord. This Jesus, is not a passive, stay-put Lord, but one that is always at work in the world, always directing us to those He intends for us to reach in His name. So we must set our feet on the Rock of Jesus and be ready to rock ‘n’ roll with Jesus! Standing firm is not standing still. It is resolving to keep close to Him and the work He has for us, no matter where it takes us.

Lincoln did it. While battle plans changed, political coalitions changed, world affairs changed, He stood firm on the work He felt the Lord calling him to do—unite our nation.

Paul did it. When the Spirit said, “Don’t go there,” he didn’t. When the Spirit said, “Help us over here,”  he went. When he was with Jews, he remembered their customs. When he was with Gentiles, he tailored his witness to their culture. But he stood firm on the truth he preached and the fervency with which he preached it.

We must do it too – We must never refuse to obey the leading of the Holy Spirit. We must be willing to follow Jesus where He leads us, to love those He loves (that’s everybody), and to proclaim Him always. We must never stand firm in the place of our choosing if it is not the place of His choosing. We must never stand in firm inaction when loving action is called for.

You and The Way Out: Temptation and Our Faithful God

1 Cor 10-13 imageThe YouTruth in 1 Corinthians 10:13

“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”


Temptation is a powerful enemy. In our broken world, we will face temptations. No one, no matter how strong in their faith, will be exempt from this condition. In this passage, the nature of temptation and the nature of God are put on display. Understanding both natures is the key to “the way out.”

The Nature of Temptation—Common
Temptation is common to mankind. A card-carrying members of mankind, we face common temptations that every other card-carrying member faces. No one gets to claim that their temptations are more severe than anyone else’s. Our response to temptations we face is what creates seeming severity. It is not the temptation that is more severe, it is the mess that is made in response to temptation that makes it more severe.

The Nature of God—Faithful
No temptation can bring you down without your permission. God always puts His governing hand on the temptations you face to ensure that they, by themselves, cannot overtake you. If you, wittingly or unwittingly, install additional weaponry to temptations, then it can overtake you. God always provides a way out. All you have to do is to take it. This can be hard to do, particularly if a pattern of being overcome has established strong resistance to his way out. Remember, it is not our lack of resistance to the temptation that is the problem. It is a strength of resistance to God’s way out that is the problem.

Keep a keen eye out for The Way out today. When temptation comes, and it will come, you will be able to endure it and emerge victorious over it.

The Lord Will Be At Your Side

proverbs 3-25-26 imageThe YouTruth in Proverbs 3: 25-26

 

“Have no fear of sudden disaster  or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked,
for the LORD will be at your side and will keep your foot from being snared.”

 

Yikes! Sudden disaster doesn’t sound like very much fun. Ruin doesn’t either. God has much to say about avoiding both in today’s passage. To get the full blessing of God’s message it will be important to dial in to the context provided by this passage so we don’t “over-apply” it and face disappointment as a result.

In this chapter of Proverbs, a father instructs his son in the seeking and application of wisdom. As a reader of this chapter today, you get to live vicariously through this father and son relationship. You can also understand that, at its core, the passage reflects the relationship your Heavenly Father longs to have with you. The preceding 24 verses instruct the son that Wisdom is found in God alone, and to vigorously seek after Him to attain true Wisdom. So our passage above relies heavily on this context. Therefore, if you seek after God for Wisdom, He will be, by definition, by your side. And if you have God by your side, He will keep your foot from being snared.

Think about snaring for a minute. When an animal gets its foot snared in a trap, there are usually deadly consequences. Even if the animal can somehow wriggle free, it escapes with significant injuries. In either case, disaster and ruin are good descriptors of the outcome. There are similar consequences for you, if you disregard God’s Wisdom and pursue a path without it. God does not want this for you! He knows how devastating the consequences will be. He loves you so much and desperately wants you to avoid this disaster and ruin.  He also wants you to live a life without the debilitating effects of fearing these things.

Seek after God for wisdom today, and fear not, for He will be at your side. Make today a “snare-free” day!

Use The Gift You Have Received

1 Peter 4-10 imageThe YouTruth in 1 Peter 4:10

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.

What are your gifts? Are you good at working with young children? Are you musically inclined? Are you good with tools and building projects? Do you feel like you don’t have any true gifts? I can assure you, that in God’s economy, everyone has gifts and in those gifts, however small or insignificant they may seem at times, there is a great and glorious purpose.

There are some important things to remember about your gifts: you did not earn them and they do not belong to you! They are gifts, entrusted to you, and they belong to God. Adopting this understanding about your gifts goes a long way to understanding how to use them. Their use should be directed towards others and not just used for self-serving purposes.

Another thing to remember is that your gifts, and the countless gifts of others, are all various expressions of God’s grace. God’s grace and your gifts are wrapped up together in a great, big care package He has freely given to you. When you use your “grace gifts” to share God’s love with others, you become part of God’s wonderful grace delivery system.

So, be a grace gift deliverer today! Use whatever gift you have received to serve others.

Give and Stand – Let Nothing Move You

1 Corinth 15-58 imageThe YouTruth in 1 Corinthians 15:58

“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”

Working for the Lord can be a hard thing to do. God promises that work done in His name is never done in vain. The world will marshal a lot of resources to discourage you from believing this and to encourage you to move away from His work.

The world will start by telling you, “There is no reward for the Lord’s work!” The evidence may be quite compelling; lack of praise or encouragement from others, lack of financial gain, lack of comfort or ease. This can be discouraging indeed. The world will follow by encouraging you to change, “Give it up already and join us in this worldly work! See what fun and success we are having?” The world’s pressure is designed to move you away from God’s work.

Paul had the answer: Give and stand.

Giving yourself half-heartedly to the work of the Lord makes you an easy victim of the world’s discouraging tactics. You will not be on firm footing, and it will be easier for the world to knock you off your spot. Giving yourself fully to the work of the Lord guards your heart against the pressure the world applies, keeps you standing firm, and opens your heart to the eternal rewards that flow out of doing His work—the glint of gratitude in a homeless mother’s eyes as you provide food for her and her hungry children, the joy in the voice of an elderly shut-in during your visit to his home, the smile on a child’s face as you tell the story of Jonah. These are rewards that eclipse anything the world can offer!

So, make today a “give and stand” day. Give yourself fully to the work the Lord has for you today, and nothing the world can muster up will be able to move you from it!

Do Not Let Your Hearts Be Troubled

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The YouTruth in John 14:1

“‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.'”

A troubled heart. I’m pretty sure you’ve had one of these. In fact, I’m pretty sure you’ve had one of these several times. You may be experiencing an ongoing “troubled heart condition.” If any of these statements is true about you (at least one them is surely true), Jesus has the remedy.

In this chapter of John’s gospel, Jesus is reassuring disciples with deeply troubled hearts. He’s been telling them that He is going to die, one of them is going to betray Him, and that one of them is going to deny he even knows Him. This is troubling news indeed! And then Jesus issues the encouragement above and lays before them the path to a trouble-free heart.

You believe.

This is your path to a trouble-free heart too. Believe in God. Believe in the One who created the universe and all that is in it: majestic mountain peaks, roiling oceans, birds in flight, peaceful evening breezes, all of it. Believe in the God that is eternal and outside His creation, not bound by the confines of space and time, but in all places at all times. Any trouble you may be facing, He saw coming before you were even born. He’s got it. He can handle it. He can guide you through it. Don’t let that trouble into your heart. It will do damage in there.

The path continues. Believe also in Jesus. Jesus is one quite familiar with trouble! He faced betrayal, denial, and a savage death on the cross. And despite these horrible troubles, He overcame them and sits at God’s right hand forever. Therefore, He can guide through your troubles too. He’s “been there, done that.”

God and Jesus are a package deal, part of the Triune Godhead. They are together. They completely know of your trouble, and know the way out of it. Believing in this, shuts and locks the door to your heart when trouble comes knocking.

“I Will Write My Law on Your Heart”

Thousands of years ago, God promised the people of Israel a new covenant. Today, as we begin another new year, our thoughts tend towards new things. Yet, just as with Israel long ago, if we try to match old with new, the hope and promise of the new covenant will fail and the same old, same old will continue.

“But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day,” says the Lord, “I will put my laws in their minds, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.”

Jeremiah 31:33 (NLT)


The new year brings to mind the prospect of new beginnings. A new start. The hope of shedding those things that have brought us down in the past that we may rise to new heights in the future. Jesus was, among many other things, the bearer of new beginnings for many during His time on earth. We hear many stories of Jesus turning lives around in incredible ways. Why was He able to do this? Can He do this for each of us still today?
Let’s answer these two questions.

Jesus fulfilled God’s promise for a new covenant.
Through the prophet Jeremiah, God promised a new covenant. When Jesus came to earth, lived a sinless life, died and was raised from the dead, He fulfilled God’s promise. But many did not recognize that Jesus was the standard bearer for the new covenant. Why did they miss it when it was right in front of them? For the same reason many today miss it. You see, the new covenant required then, and still requires today, that something else also be new in order for it to work. Without this something else, anything that might masquerade as new is really just the old in disguise, frustratingly ineffective for any who stick to it. Jesus found many bound and determined to stick to the old components and taught them to recognize that the new covenant needed to be truly new in order for it all to work. What He taught them was…

The old covenant is static; the new one isn’t
One day Jesus was asked why His disciples didn’t fast as many other righteous men of the time did. Jesus immediately saw people stuck in the old covenant and used an example to illustrate His point. Just using old rituals (fasting) to enable the new covenant was like putting new wine into an old wineskin. In those days, new wine was placed into goatskin flasks to ferment, which stretched the skins out. Once stretched to their limit, the skins could not be used for new wine again because they would burst, spilling the wine and ruining the skin. The new covenant, like new wine, must have room to grow. The new covenant was not just about rituals, but about a dynamic, growing relationship with God. This required something that was new and pliable that could grow along with it.

Old hearts are hard; we need new hearts that aren’t
Our hearts, in old covenant mode, are described by God as hardened, stony, with sin chiseled into them. (see Jeremiah 17:1) This doesn’t sound like something that can stretch and grow as a relationship with God grows, does it? Trying to approach a relationship with God with a hard heart doesn’t work. It would, if God would allow it, ruin both the covenant and the heart. Imagine the new covenant spilling uselessly on the ground among the shattered pieces of an unyielding heart. God knows the new covenant is far too precious to be placed into such a predicament. The old covenant rituals, such as fasting,  are temporary, imperfect ‘band aids’ that need constant reapplication. They help us know about God, but they don’t fundamentally change hard hearts, they just serve as reminders of our sinful nature and our need for redemption. The new covenant is not an old reminder, it’s a new heart. A ‘new covenant’ heart allows God to live within us, in a personal relationship, so we can exchange the old, distant, knowing about God with intimately knowing God. In response, God puts His will in our minds and writes it permanently on our hearts. From this point forward, our relationship with God can grow and expand to meet all that God has purposed and planned for us.

A rich young man  (see Matthew 19:16-22)
A young man came to Jesus and asked “what good things must I do to have eternal life?”
Jesus recognized the ‘old covenant’ at work immediately. Eternal life is not something earned by good deeds, but established in a personal relationship with God. Jesus steered the conversation to reveal this to the young man. In response, the young man sadly walked away. This new covenant did not fit into a stony heart that the young man was unwilling to open up to Jesus.

Another rich young man  (see Luke 19:1-10)
A man named Zacchaeus sought out Jesus also. Now Zacchaeus had an occupation that required a hard, stony heart—he overcharged his fellow Jews for the taxes they owed to the Roman government and got rich pocketing the difference. After Jesus spent an evening with him, Zacchaeus agreed to give half of his possessions to the poor and to pay back four times what he had cheated out of others. Zacchaeus got it! He entered into the relationship that the first young man turned down. He received the new covenant with a new heart!

Jesus’ new covenant offer still stands today. The requirement remains the same, something else must be also be new— it’s the heart . If we will toss aside our old, hard hearts and accept a supple, tender, new heart, the new covenant can live and grow in us. That’s the truth.

“But this is the new covenant I make with you. I will put my laws in your mind, and I will write them on your heart. You must receive My covenant with your new heart so the you can come to truly know Me as your God. Then  you will be all Mine and I will be all yours!

That’s the YouTruth – I Will Write My Law on Your Heart.

Happy New Year!