“For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. Out of all the peoples on the face of the earth, the LORD has chosen you to be his treasured possession.” Deuteronomy 14:2
You matter. You matter because you’re made in the image of God. You are a blueprint of a beauty birthed out of heaven. Your physical makeup is beautiful, because the eye of your beloved beholder is your heavenly Father. Your intellectual capacity is attractive, because in Christ, you know the mind of Christ. Your emotional energy is engaging, because you are accepted and loved by God. You matter because your Master Jesus says you matter.
You matter. You matter because you are chosen by the Lord—you are His treasured possession. Jesus wants you to be with Him like a coach who recruits athletes; He has picked you to be on His team. He calls the plays and He expects you to excel in the position suited for your skills, gifts and experiences. You matter most to the Lord of Hosts. Since Jesus Christ thinks the world of you, He laid down His life for the world on your behalf.
“The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life.” Job 33:4
What does it mean for you to be a treasured possession of Almighty God’s? Like the Hope Diamond, He values your extreme worth. He protects you, He provides for you, He prays for you and He displays you as a proud trophy of His grace to a lost and hurting world. Yes, you matter. You matter because God owns you. And His ownership displays excellent stewardship. What He owns, He takes care of. What He owns He blesses.
Furthermore, as a precious possession of God’s, your value increases over time. You are an eternal asset that appreciates in worth and significance. The allocations in your heavenly portfolio include faith, hope, love, grace and holiness. You matter. You matter, because you are filthy rich with the riches of Christ. You have been given much in your faith journey, so God expects much. Thus, you matter in helping others know they matter.
“From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” Luke 12:48b
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you that I matter much to you, so lead me to help others know they matter to You as well.
Long distance runner Ryan Hall is no stranger to notoriety: He won the marathon at the 2008 US Olympic Trials, participated in Beijing, and is currently in London representing the US again. But there’s no question Who gets the glory for Ryan’s life: Christ. In his life and profession, Ryan aims to be led by the Holy Spirit and to touch lives with the Gospel. We were thrilled to be able to bend Ryan’s ear recently for a quick chat…
Family Christian: Thanks for taking the time to chat with us, Ryan. Let’s start with a little personal and professional background…
Ryan Hall: Okay, I was born in Big Bear Lake, California about an hour from San Bernardino. I met my wife Sara at Stanford and we married in 2005. We’ve always had a desire to let our professional life affect the lives of others, so in 2009 we founded The Hall Steps Foundation to fight global poverty through better health. As a result we’ve been able to connect with thousands of runners who share our heart and do some cool projects including the building of a new hospital in Kenya’s Rift Valley. We’re humbled and honored by the way God has used and blessed our efforts.
Family Christian: That’s awesome. So do you and Sara have kids?
Ryan and Sara Hall
Ryan: Not yet. We hope to adopt one day, but we want to make sure we’re a bit more settled in our lifestyle before having kids.
Family Christian: Share with us a bit about your relationship with Christ. What has He been showing you lately?
Ryan: I have been a Christian ever since I can remember and continue to grow in my relationship with God. I was blessed to be raised in an awesome Christian family and was introduced to Jesus at a young age. However, I would say my faith really became my own when I was 13. I and was playing baseball, basketball and football (at the time I hated to run) and God gave me a vision to try and run around the lake in my hometown. This was the first time I can remember God communicating with me, or rather the first time I remember being able to hear Him. (I think He is always talking to us but sometimes I am not the best at listening.) Anyway, I listened and obeyed and went on a 15 mile run around the lake. When I got back from the run and collapsed on the couch God spoke to me again (not verbally but I could hear Him in my head) that He had given me a gift to run with the best guys in the world, but He had given me that gift to help others. It took me awhile to realize how to use my gift to love other people but since [then] I have learned to make the most of running with other runners, connecting with others in small moments and then to help others through our foundation.
Most recently I have started what I call "faith-based" coaching, which I began in the fall of 2010. "Faith-based" coaching basically means that instead of having a traditional coach, I apply what I hear from God through prayer, the Bible, and others to my running. In the fall of 2010 I was feeling more and more desperate for God. I was feeling that I needed to position myself where I had to hear from God. Faith became a “must” rather than something on the side. It made me desperate to hear from Him because even though I have had many great coaches that the Lord has taught me through, I realize I am not a coach. God is my Coach and what He says I try to do. I don't always get it right but I am getting better.
The way I apply this to my running is through [practical ways like] obeying the Sabbath by taking one day a week off from running and verses like, "…in the abundance of counselors there is victory." God has built a team of experts around me to help me along the way. I know I am not supposed to be on this journey alone and He has made sure that I have all the support I need to accomplish what He wants me to do.
Family Christian: Are you a book lover? What books are you reading?
Ryan: I do like to read. I am big Bill Johnson fan. One of my favorites is When Heaven Invades Earth.
Family Christian: What music do you like?
Ryan: I love Jesus Culture.
Family Christian: And how many times have you watched Chariots of Fire?
Ryan: Too many to count!
Family Christian: Tell us a little about your connection to World Vision…
Ryan: Sara and I were spokespersons for Team World Vision Chicago in 2008. We were essentially team captains for a team there that helped raise funds for a community of 90,000 people in Zambia through fundraising and racing the 2008 Chicago Marathon. We were able to go visit the community and we were never the same. We continue to support World Vision projects through our foundation and are still close with the staff of World Vision.
Family Christian: Okay, a couple of questions about running. What is your favorite Asics shoe and why?
Ryan:Gel Hyperspeed. I raced my first half marathon in them when the shoe was a prototype. In 2007 I set the American Record of 59:43 in that race. I have been racing in them ever since. I run all my marathons and half marathons in them. They are light, yet supportive and feel great.
Family Christian: Cold or warm weather - what's your preference?
Ryan: Cold, without a doubt. I'm terrible in the heat.
Family Christian: Geographically speaking, what part of the country do you most like to run?
Ryan: Honestly, my favorite place to run is in Redding, California, where I spend half of the year. We spend the other half in Flagstaff, AZ.
Family Christian: Do you personally know the other runners that you will be competing against in the Olympics?
Ryan: I know some of the guys. I know my teammates Meb and Abdi really well. They are great guys. I have been looking up to them since I was in high school, so it is a bit surreal to be on the same Olympic Team as them.
Family Christian: What are your goals for the future? What happens after the Olympics, and after running?
Ryan: Well, I hope to have my very best stuff in the Olympics (whatever that looks like) and hope to experience the joy of knowing that Jesus is the prize no matter what place I finish. After the Olympics I will continue to train and race in hopes of maximizing the talent God has given me and to broaden the impact that runners can make on fighting global poverty. After running, Sara and I hope to do some type of work in developing countries to continue to fight poverty, perhaps through rallying runners as we have done in the past.
Family Christian: Thank you for taking the time to chat with us – especially during this period of your life. Wishing you all the best in London, Ryan!
Do you think that you can run as fast as Ryan? Check out this video of people attempting to do just that.
Tears are evidence of a kind and caring heart. They are the nectar of God that brings sweet support to another suffering soul. Moist eyes make a friend feel understood and accepted. It is this tenderness of spirit that seizes a hurting heart and won’t let go until it lingers long in love. Tears create crevices of comfort where words will never lodge. Indeed, liquid love is possible for anyone whose heart has been touched by the love of Jesus.
When our tear ducts have dried up, our heart may have shriveled up. When we are too strong to cry, we may have become too weak to really care. When the tears of others make us uncomfortable, we may be comfortable in our own self-reliance. However, when we comprehend the compassion of Christ and see His wet eyes of love for us, we weep. He weeps over our loss, He cries for our comfort, and He hurts over our hurt. He weeps for us.
As He [Jesus] approached Jerusalem and saw the city, He wept over it.” Luke 19:41
Do you by faith drink in the liquid love of the Lord Jesus? Has the compassion of Christ captured your heart so that you now care for others? Yes, this life can be hard, unfair, and careless in its concerns, but you have the privilege to console a community and to love your family. Your passion for people is assurance that Almighty God cares for them in their fears and insecurities. Don’t be afraid to weep for injustice. Cry over sin and ask the Lord to glorify Himself out of your tears.
Your emotions are meant to be moved by the fate of those who, today, risk separation from God tomorrow. Your passionately tearful prayers tear into the enemy’s territory. Imagine holding your child’s hand and silently praying a prayer touched by a tear. Perhaps you ask forgiveness with moist eyes of contrition or embrace a loved one with a comforting caress. Your liquid love speaks volumes when words won’t work.
“When Paul had finished speaking, he knelt down with all of them and prayed. They all wept as they embraced him and kissed him.” Acts 20:36-37
Prayer: Heavenly Father, break my heart for what breaks Yours. Moisten my eyes.
Who may ascend the hill of the LORD? Who may stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false. He will receive blessing from the LORD and vindication from God his Savior. Psalm 24:3-5
Sincere worshippers of God long to be close to Christ. This is our eternal end game. This is the outcome we crave. It is proximity to Christ that places us close enough for Him to wipe away our tears. It is closeness to Christ that reveals our sin and leads us to repentance. It is closeness to Christ that instills the best perspective. It is closeness to Christ that calms our heart, engages our mind, and sets our feet to dancing. There is no earthly substitute for the fulfillment and the feeling of significance that comes from snuggling up to our Savior. But it is not without effort on our part. Just as a teenager has to slow down long enough to be with his or her parents, so we have to gear back and get with God. A life of chronic activity misses intimacy with the Almighty.
Furthermore, closeness comes from cleanliness. We came from the dirt. We started out unclean. Dirt in our heart throws off dust in our eyes. We struggle to see God when we have not cleansed our heart. The pure in heart see God (Matthew 5:8). But the impure of heart are like blind bats fluttering around in futility. We are from the dirt in the valley and He is high atop His holy mountain. The snow-capped mountain of God is pure and clean. The air is crisp and clear of earthly pollution. So as we ascend to the Almighty by faith, we ask Christ to clean us up so we can go up. We confess motives that are full of self and void of humility. We come clean over our lust and covetousness. We ask God to remove our anger and replace it with patience and kindness. We lay our lies before the Lord and ask Him to convert them to honesty and uprightness.
So we approach the holy hill of the Lord with clean hands and a pure heart. It is an outward and inward purification that we pursue. Our behavior and our beliefs both need sanitizing. Try living with one and not the other, we still limp along, distant from the Lord. Closeness to Christ comes when we align both our actions and our attitude. Our ways have to match our words or no one will listen to our claim of loyalty to the Lord. It is when what we say we believe transforms the way we talk and relate to others, that we draw into intimacy with Jesus. A soft-spoken person who has a hard heart is still in the foothills of faith, outside the mountaintop of maturity. Pride may be masked in the moment, but over time it will lash out in anger and rejection. Therefore, come clean with Christ. We would not expect a server in a restaurant to bring out our meal with soiled hands. Nor are we to serve our Lord with the dirt of denial under our fingernails. Clean hands and a pure heart raise us up.
God trusts those whom He holds close to His chest. He trusts them because they are nearby to hear His instructions and obey His commands, to hunger for His heart and thirst for His trust. Closeness continually communes. It is not like the adult child who only comes close to home when he needs something. Instead, hang out often in a scheduled quiet time with the Lord. There is intentionality that goes into intimacy. This qualifies you for closeness to Christ. God trusts those whom He believes in. He blesses those who are close by. Therefore, stay close to Christ.
Taken from Reading #15 in the 90-day devotional book, “Seeking God in the Psalms”… http://bit.ly/bQHNIE
Post/Tweet this today: Grace living gears back and gets with God. #grace #prayer
“For seven days they celebrated with joy the Feast of Unleavened Bread, because the Lord had filled them with joy by changing the attitude of the king of Assyria, so that he assisted them in the work on the house of God, the God of Israel.” Ezra 6:22
Attitude is everything; it can lift you up or bring you down. It is the barometer of your heart. If your heart is not right, your attitude will suffer. Attitude is critical because it influences your course of action. If your attitude is negative, then your words and your behavior will be too. There is a difference in being a realist about negative circumstances, and living with a chronic bad attitude. Naïve are those who ignore warning signs of trouble, and carry on oblivious to the storm clouds of sin. However, your attitude is rooted in who you are in Christ, so there is no need to be fearful, guilty, or insecure.
The attitude that Jesus exhibited was one of humility and servant leadership. His attitude reflected submission to His heavenly Father, which resulted in service, generosity, and love for people. Jesus was joyful and hopeful because He rested in the will of God. Do not allow others’ bad attitude to influence yours. Be the attitude influencer instead. Greet a frown with a smile, crush criticism with affirmation, and listen patiently until fury loses its steam. A positive attitude will eventually outlast and overpower a negative one. Most of all, pray for those who thrive on negativity. Pray for them to be set free from their hurt, anger, guilt, and insecurity. God has you in their lives to reflect the Almighty and to encourage an attitude adjustment through Him.
God is the genesis of a right attitude. He is the right attitude sustainer. He wants His attitude to be our attitude. This is why you need a daily attitude alignment from your heavenly Father. Each day, your attitude gets knocked around and abused by life. If left unattended, your attitude will drift into wrong thinking, harsh words, and bad behavior. Self-pity and anger can begin to replace selflessness and forgiveness. With just a little bit of daily tweaking, your attitude stays in line with His. It is subtle, but sometimes attitudes need to be adjusted moment by moment.
Lastly, slow down and pray when you feel your attitude eroding. When you’re in the midst of a bad attitude, don’t make important decisions; the time isn’t right for that. You will regret every decision you make during a time of emotional upheaval. Be patient, and wait until your anger has subsided, your heart is cleansed, and your attitude is objective. Almighty God is into attitudes that trust Him and reach out to others with compassion and understanding. Open-minded and reasonable attitudes lead to rich and robust relationships. Anyone can be negative; so don’t be anyone, be different. Allow God to shape your attitude on the anvil of His heart.
An attitude molded by God is infectious and transforming. Allow Him to change yours, and then trust Him to change another’s. The Bible says, “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus…” (Philippians 2:5).
Taken from the July 26th reading in the 365-day devotional book, “Seeking Daily the Heart of God”… http://bit.ly/bQHNIE
Post/Tweet this today: A right attitude leads to rich and robust relationships. #attitude
“Ill-gotten treasures are of no value, but righteousness delivers from death” (Proverbs 10:2).
Ill-gotten treasures insult integrity in the process of procuring profit. It is money manipulated by man, rather than blessed by God. There is no profit for the soul, because the means by which the money was made was centered on self, not on the Savior Jesus. He clearly addresses this, “For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26 nasb).
Indeed, the method and motive for making money does matter. Can financial integrity be assured without transparency in our business dealings or personal financial management? Does God wink at our wrong ways when we attach aggressive giving to ill-gotten gain? We need to be careful not to allow the end of philanthropy to justify the means of dishonesty. However, honestly earned treasures display the hand of heaven on your head. You can go to the bank and thank God along the way.
So, how do we know if our acquired treasures are legitimate, as the Lord defines legitimate? One indicator is the extent of His blessing, for God blesses benevolence birthed out of brokenness and honest work. For example, you invite trustworthiness when there is full disclosure in financial reporting. It may mean losing a deal, but the Lord can lead you to better, even more lucrative opportunities.
Moreover, treat others as you want to be treated. Jesus said, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Luke 6:31). Thus, you avoid intimidation, fear tactics, and disrespectful attitudes. God blesses respect.
Lastly, a company with a Christ-like culture is attractive. You don’t have to look over your shoulder because you know other team members cover your back. Indeed, honesty is the best policy in producing profit. Untainted treasure comes from trusting God. It matters as much how you make it, as how you give it away.
“Make sure that your character is free from the love of money” (Hebrews 13:5 nasb).
Prayer: Where is my character being tempted to compromise for the sake of cash, and how can I make sure I behave correctly?
Brandon Heath is certainly no new comer to the music scene. His career has taken him on some amazing journeys through the years. Brandon has written songs not just for his own albums, but also for Bebo Norman, Matt Wertz, Joy Williams of Civil Wars, Britt Nicole, Jars of Clay and others... Most fans know him for writing and recording songs like "I'm Not Who I Was," "Give Me Your Eyes" and "Your Love."
Carrie Underwood's Wedding
Not many folks know that Brandon sang his song, "Love Never Fails," at Carrie Underwood's wedding. Carrie has been a fan of Brandon for a number of years and she wanted him to sing the song for her first dance with her new husband, Mike Fisher.
This October, Brandon releases his newest album, Blue Mountain. From the dynamic first single, "Jesus In Disguise" to the heartwarming tale of "Paul Brown Petty," Brandon weaves together a collection of songs full of heart and rich with redemption. Staying true to his craft of personal songwriting, Blue Mountain's back porch ease further establishes Brandon Heath's accessible brand of story telling.
The first single from Blue Mountain is Jesus In Disguise. Below is the lyric video for you.
Earlier this year, Brandon recorded an acoustic EP earlier this year. Songs include "Give Me Your Eyes," "Your Love" and "Wait and See." Click the image to see the album.
PS - Bonus video here. Brandon with Third Day, singing a great song from the late Rich Mullins.
“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” Romans 12:9-10
I often forget that it’s not about me. Humility reminds me that it’s Him first, them, and then me. I struggle with keeping myself off the throne of my life. Only one King can reign over a surrendered soul and that’s my Savior Jesus. Yet, daily, my old life seeks to dethrone the Lord with its selfish whims and spiritual disengagement. Fortunately, by faith through grace, I am able to resist the flesh’s foolish coup to overtake Christ.
Love wins, only when we use it as our spiritual strategy of choice. Devotion to one another in love is irresistible to the recipient and extremely fulfilling to the dispenser of grace. Sometimes it seems easier to be devoted to the Lord than to another human being. Yet, devotion to each other need not be fickled when unconditional love is the motivation Devotion loves deeply. Indeed, our unselfish devotion is the fruit of purity.
“Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart.” 1 Peter 1:22
What does it mean to honor another above yourself? How do you honor someone who is not honorable? The gift of honor is not based on whether someone is deserving or not—it is based on whether they are breathing or not. So, as children we honor our parents by involving them in our lives. As parents, we honor our children by being available to aid them. As team members at work, we honor each other by helping one another succeed.
You extend honor when you listen with empathy and show compassion. You are honorable when you value a relationship over money. Honor wins when you respond in quiet humility, not loud hostility. It is honorable not to lower yourself to the dishonorable behavior of others, but to respond with direct and respectful conversation. You represent Jesus well, when you honor both those who know Him and those who don’t.
Above all else, let your honor of others flow from your honor of the Lord. You honor Him best by becoming a living sacrifice of love and obedience to His expectations. Honor Him with your corporate worship at church and your individual service in Jesus' name. Honor Him by giving generously to the poor and needy. Honor Him with your body by remaining pure. Mostly, honor Him by being with Him to love and be loved. You know it’s not about you when you gain joy and define JOY by: Jesus—Others—You.
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. Philippians 2:3-4
Prayer: Dear Lord, show me how to make my life about first honoring You and others.
“Even if you had ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. Therefore I urge you to imitate me. For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church.” 1 Corinthians 4:15-17
Spiritual fathers and mothers are necessary for growing disciples of Jesus. These are mature believers who have experienced bumps, bruises and brokenness over their lifetime of following the Lord. They know what it means to enjoy God’s grace and peace, and they know how to give Him the glory in their success. These seasoned saints don’t pretend to know it all; on the contrary, they are diligent students in the school of faith.
Wise are we to be on the look out for older friends who are worthy to follow. Their humble heart attracts our heart and their keen mind challenges our thinking. It is out of our mentor’s engagement with Jesus that they are able to parent us in the faith. Avoid a self-proclaimed sage, seek instead a servant of the gospel. We only imitate those who first imitate Christ. Who do I follow that will make me wiser tomorrow?
“Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.” 1 Corinthians 11:1 NKJV
What are the holy habits you see in other genuine Jesus followers? How do they spend their free time? Be on the look out for inspiration and creativity in growing your intimacy with Christ. Ask your spiritual parent what they read and how they hold themselves accountable to God’s standards as defined in Holy Scripture. You become what you read and you become like those you are with. Gaining wisdom is not accidental, it’s intentional.
If you want to grow in your prayer life, pray with people who know how to pray. If you want to grow in your Bible knowledge, study with those who know how to rightly interpret the word of truth. If you want to become a humble servant of Jesus, serve with those who quietly serve others in Jesus’ name. If you want to learn contentment as a single adult, hang out with single adults who are content in Christ. If you want to become the best in your vocation, be with those who are the best in your vocation.
Above all else, make it your number one priority to first imitate Christ. As you grow in your love and obedience to the Lord, others will see that you are worthy of following. Embrace this privilege as an opportunity to give back what other generous souls have so freely given you. When you become a spiritual parent to newly born babes in Christ, you are accountable to parent them well. Indeed, you imitate Jesus and they imitate you!
“You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.” 1 Thessalonians 1:6
Prayer: Lord Jesus, allow my heart to follow hard after you, so that I am worthy to be followed.
“The woman Folly is loud; she is undisciplined and without knowledge” (Proverbs 9:13).
What is flirtatious folly? It is enticement into reckless living. You may ask, “What does it look like?” Its coyness is conceived in attractive idiots, as these disguised fools seek to lure naïve ones into their stupidity. Foolishness loves friends. It approaches in the form of a well-dressed, well-spoken man or woman. They draw you in with their looks and latch onto you with their words.
Folly can be found among the experienced and educated or run rampant in lives of the young and simple. It forces itself on the middle-aged father who has grown discontent with his faith, family, or vocation. Instead of listening to the voice of reason, he socializes with silliness and invites irresponsibility. However, he does not harvest happiness, because the fruit of folly is death: relational, spiritual, and emotional.
“She caught him by his cloak and said, ‘Come to bed with me!’ But he left his cloak in her hand and ran out of the house” (Genesis 39:12).
Moreover, wise men and women recognize the futility of folly and flee from its influence. They avoid sexual folly by cultivating a caring marriage. A happy wife is a happy life, and a happy husband is a happy home. Furthermore, financial folly is fleeting for a family who lives well within their means, growing in generosity. Their money becomes a means of honoring their Master Jesus (see Matthew 6:21).
What form of folly is staring you in the face? Wisdom is your warning to flee where good judgment is absent. It may require changing schools, breaking off a relationship, or moving to another neighborhood. Wisdom may not be sexy, but it brings success and satisfaction. Walk in wisdom and you will reap rich relationships, robust faith, and peace of mind.
“I will listen to what God the Lord will say; he promises peace to his people, his saints—but let them not return to folly” (Psalm 85:8).
Prayer: Where do I need to force folly from my life, replacing it with wisdom and discernment?
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