#11 Gifted to Change

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For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

– John 3:16, NASB

All journeys are made for a reason. We usually begin one to achieve or earn some item, some recognition, some reward of value – a treasure.

But what if the treasure came at the beginning of your journey, given without being earned first? Would you then disregard your travels, having already received the award, or would you be motivated even further by this gracious gift?

Grace, itself, is a gift – a little idea with such consuming power that it can transform hate into love, anger into joy, and enemies into friends. It is a present that requires nothing of us, but because of its worth, its immeasurable value, its beauty – it becomes the reason for the journey and that which sparks us forward, not out of duty of hope for gain, but out of something more pure: gratitude.

Pray | Ask that you’ll respond to God’ grace in a transformative way

Read | Meditate on these verses this week: Jeremiah 29:11 / Romans 6:1-2 / 2 Corinthians 5:17 / Romans 12:2 / James 2:14-26

Act | Think about Christ’s sacrifice and do loving action in light of it

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#7 Gust of Freedom

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Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

– Matthew 11:29-30

It seems counter-intuitive to think that a windy day may be the best kind for a runner. Though fighting against strong gusts slows the runner down, making her push harder for less result, it’s not disappointment that she feels. Instead, the runner is exhilarated, cooled by breezy blasts that make the punishment of running into a task that’s enjoyable.

A life lived according to scripture sometimes feel the same. Weighed down by laws, demands, rules, and morals, the “word of God” could seem stifling, like the words of a tyrant that are outdated, out of touch, and unwelcome.

When lived out legalistically, scripture can indeed be all that, like a hot blast in an already burning heat. But when one comprehends the meaning of grace, running that life becomes the opposite experience, like that of a runner basking in a cool breeze blowing in her face. This, she notes in breathless wonder, is freedom. And that unfettered, brisk, refreshing existence lies in wait for us, too.

Pray | Ask to understand with your heart, if not also with your head, the freedom that grace can bring

Read | Meditate on these verses this week: James 2:8-11 / Romans 6:11-14 / Hebrews 10:1-4 / Galatians 2:15-16 / James 2:12-13

Act | Think of the moral rules you live and/or judge others by and contemplating how grace meets us when we’re unable to live by those same rules

#6 One True Love

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So Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her.

– Genesis 19:20

It may be far-fetched, but the fanciful thought that “one true love” exists for each of us is certainly appealing. Television, movies, and anime tell us that perhaps there is such a thing, and in our heart of hearts, we may believe it, too.

We all desire a fulfilling love. Some of us know this inclination intimately, as our thoughts and actions frequently stray toward seeking affection. Others may already have devoted support and not even comprehend that they’ll feel incomplete if they lost such affection.

We are designed to love – to give it and to receive it. Our relationships, imperfect as they are, demonstrate as much. They also suggest something splendid: although the love we experience is faulty, a perfect, pure, and never-failing love lies in wait for us.  It’s all ours – we only need surrender to it.

Pray | Ask to experience God’s love, either more fully, if you’re a believer, or in some shape or manner, if you are not

Read | Meditate on these verses this week: John 15:9-17Matthew 6:24 / 1 John 3:18 / Proverbs 17:17 / Psalms 63:3

Act | Reflect on the role that the desire for love plays in your life, and how that relates to your relationship with God

#5 Break Up

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But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

– Romans 5:8

Break-ups can be devastating. They take time and support to get through, and in all honesty, there are some relationships we never get over.

And as with grieving, we might pass through emotional stages after a split, including guilt.  Why did she dump me?  What did I do?  What’s wrong with me?

Those feelings speak to something dreadfully honest within us – that we feel something is wrong.  Our exes, who knew us as well as anyone, saw into our very hearts, and they ran away.

There’s someone else, too, that sees our hearts – that knows them better than any boyfriend, better than we even know our own hearts.  He sees all of our faults, insecurities, and selfishness, and still speaks this to us: “I’m never leaving you.”

This the one to whom we can always turn – who will never leave or “break up” with us. There’s no better lover.

Pray | Ask God to reveal his forgiving and loving character to you

Read | Meditate on these verses this week: Jeremiah 17:9 / Romans 5:6-8 / Jeremiah 7:21-26 / Romans 5:20-21 / Ephesians 2:8-9

Act | Purposely reach out to someone who may have hurt you, understanding that you, too, own many faults

#2 Returning Love

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You took the broken pieces, and made them whole.

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God

– Ephesians 2:8

Romantic relationships sometimes feel like purchasing a product.  If the item is broken, or not as advertised, or fails to live up to our expectations in any way, we return it and get our money back.  When a problem occurs during dating, we might consider “returning” our mate and starting again.  The more difficult the issue or the more issues there are, the more likely we are to call it quits and say, “this transaction just didn’t work out.”

Unfortunately, this idea extends beyond dating.  Cohabitation, marriage, friendship, and even family can break down when people disappoint, hurt, and otherwise fail to meet expectations.  And what happens when we’re treated like a purchase?  When we’re dumped, passed over for a promotion, or ignored by friends, as if we don’t matter?  It’s painful to be on the receiving end because it makes us feel like a defective product.  Who could love me?

Real love is not a transaction.  It’s not “I’ll give you this if you give me that.”  Instead, it’s about loving a person for who they are, no matter the circumstances and at great personal expense.  Scripture tells us that this is how God approaches His relationship with us.  Even though we failed Him, over and over again, He loves us to the utmost expense, to the point where He came to die in our place.  God bought us, defects and all, but decided this: He’ll keep and treasure us forever.

Pray | Tell God about the broken relationships in your life and thank him for his enduring love for you
Read | Read and meditate on these verses this week: Zephaniah 3:14-17 / Psalms 86:15 / Romans 8:37-39 / Luke 12:6-7 / Ephesians 2:4-10
Act | Take a step toward healing a broken relationship this week through a message, phone call, or something more