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Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. Matthew 6:11-12

High maintenance people are usually described as those people who are always in need of attention, always demanding to be the center of every conversation and demanding their needs and opinions be accepted as fact. It’s their way or no way. One word describes high maintenance people: needy.

We may not like to think of ourselves this way, but in a sense, each of us is high maintenance when God is concerned. Think about that for a moment. High maintenance people always need to have their own way. What is it that gets us into trouble in our spiritual walk? Wanting to have things our way!

We want toys so we run up the credit card. We want exciting, passionate ‘romance’ so we when one partner gets boring we seek out another one. We want a pastor or church that does things our way so we change churches as soon as we are offended. We want our prayers answered when and how we feel so we get mad at God when he chooses a different path for our lives. Like it or not, if you are human, you are high maintenance.

The good news is, your Heavenly Father knew you’d be high maintenance from the very beginning. After all, wasn’t it the desire to have things their own way that led Adam and Eve to rebel against God? Wasn’t it David’s uncontrolled ‘want’ that led him to sleep with another man’s wife? Wasn’t Jesus murdered by the Jews because they wanted to keep their religion pure?

That’s why, when the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray he included provision for the things we need the most. “Give us this day our daily bread” speaks to our need for physical needs to be met. Not just food, but health, or the strength to endure when health is taken from us. Jesus knows what we need and wants us to ask for it.

Jesus doesn’t just stop at physical need even though that is the focus of our attention. Jesus goes deeper. He knew we’d need forgiveness. He knew we’d need mercy. He knew we’d need grace. He also knew our ex-spouses would need our forgiveness (even if it’s not offered or deserved). He knew our rebellious kids would need to be extended grace even though they’ve ignored their curfew for the third night in a row. He knew that the people who’ve hurt us the most would need forgiveness just like we do.

For us, high maintenance people are draining, frustrating and hopeless. Not for Jesus. With Jesus there is always hope. He doesn’t see us as high maintenance. He sees us as sheep who’ve wandered far from the flock, as little children who need understanding and a lap to sit on. Jesus always has plenty of grace and forgiveness to extend to you. All he asks is that you extend the same to the high maintenance people around you.

PRAYER: Father God, I confess to you that I’m high maintenance. I want my way. I want my needs met. I want to control my own destiny and don’t want anyone getting in the way of that. Forgive me for my stubbornness. Forgive me for my unwillingness to be patient with the high maintenance people around me. Empower me with your spirit to grant grace and forgiveness to those around me who need it as much as I do. In Jesus name, Amen.

Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. James 4:8 (NLT)

One day I was out doing errands when my wife called and asked me to grab her ‘a bite to eat’ since she was hungry. I pulled into the drive through and bought two hamburgers, two fries, and two sodas. By the time I got home I’d managed to finish all the food in the bag.

I walked into the house and my wife asked where the food was she asked me for. I was rather confused by this. I explained to her that she’d asked me to grab her food to eat. I naturally assumed she wanted me to eat it. I also was surprised she was still hungry since I ate the food for her!

Before you think I’m totally off my rocker, the above story is untrue. Seems ridiculous doesn’t it? No one can eat food and expect others to benefit from it. I can’t eat to cure your hunger pains. I can’t breathe for you. I can’t exercise for you. There are certain things in life that we have to do for ourselves.

The same is true in our spiritual lives. We can listen to good speakers. We can read a multitude of good books about the Bible or about the Christian life. But none of that compares to personally spending time with God. God can speak to you through good speakers, but he’d rather speak directly to you.

Suppose, for example, you had a crush on some person, we’ll call him Fred. Fred has a friend (Bill) who comes to you every day to tell you how much Fred loves you. Yet when you are with Fred he says nothing and does nothing to indicate any affection at all. Would you believe Bill? Probably not. You’d want to hear from Fred himself.

Sometimes we feel far from God. We feel he’s forgotten us or doesn’t love us. We hear all about His love but never experience it for ourselves. Hearing about God’s love but not experiencing God’s love is nothing more than religion. It’s empty, meaningless and cold.

Relationships aren’t built by hearing about someone. Relationships are built by learning firsthand about that person by talking with that person. To know God means we make the time daily to talk with him (prayer) and learn more about him (Bible reading). Good sermons and good books are great, but nothing compares to discovering God on your own through prayer and Bible reading.

Feel like God has drifted far from you? Guess what. He hasn’t moved. But the distractions of the world can make him seem distant if we neglect our relationship with him.

PRAYER: Father God. I know about you. I’ve heard about you and read about you. But I’m not sure I really know you personally. Help me to grow closer to you. I want to be your friend; to feel your presence; to know your love in a way I’ve never felt before. Help me to draw closer to you by talking with you more and reading the letter you sent me. In Jesus name, Amen.

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. Psalm 139:13

Have you ever had some feeling deep down inside yourself that you couldn’t describe, not even to yourself? Some deep seeded feeling that you didn’t understand or even agree with? You didn’t want, or couldn’t share it with anyone because no one would understand you and you feared being misunderstood.

If you’ve ever felt this way then you will appreciate what the Psalmist has to say about your deepest, most secret emotions. No one on earth can truly understand how you feel. They may empathize or sympathize. They may have been through similar circumstances. But if anyone says “I know exactly how you feel”, feel free to gently inform them that they can’t possibly know EXACTLY how you feel!

There is one person, however, that does know exactly how you feel. He knows your deepest darkest secrets. You know, those things you don’t even talk with yourself about. The hidden desires. The questions you don’t dare ask. The dreams you never got a chance to pursue. It’s all there. Deep down inside and no one but you knows the whole truth…no one that is except God.

Genesis tells us we’re created in God’s image. The Psalmist gives us more insight. We aren’t mass produced. We’re knitted. Now, I don’t have the slightest idea how to knit, but I’ve watched those who do.

From my observations, knitting is a very personal thing. You can have a group of people sitting together knitting, but each person is producing a unique creation. It doesn’t matter if everyone is attempting to make the same hat, scarf or whatever; no two of them will be exactly the same. The artist creating the object is personally involved with every aspect of the project. Every creation is a masterpiece.

So it is with us. God was intimately involved in every aspect of your development while you were in your mother’s womb. Your weren’t just some mass of matter. You weren’t just a fetus in the process of development. You were a special creation. A masterpiece of Gods workmanship.  Nothing left to chance. No flaws. No mistakes. God in all his wisdom made you just as planned. We judge by outward appearance, but the true self is the inner quality God intended us to have.

The next time you feel worthless; remember the one who planned you intimately and passionately. You are so much more than a developed fetus or mass of cells formed haphazardly. You are the personal masterpiece of the living God!

PRAYER: Father God. I’ve spent my whole life trying to be accepted by others. I’ve struggled to be something I’m not and bear the scars of broken dreams and poor choices. In spite of all the scar tissue my physical body bears, I am your masterpiece, created for you and redeemed by your son. I worship you because as your masterpiece I am, as the Psalmist says, wonderfully made. Empower me to live as your special creation. In Jesus name, Amen.

So be strong and courageous, all you who put your hope in the Lord! Psalm 31:24 (NLT)

Fear is an amazing thing. Its power over us can cripple us or it can motivate us. It can drive us to new heights of accomplishment or destroy our potential and perspective. The difference between success and failure is often dependent on what we do with fear.  

One time I was going through a very difficult and devastating period in my life. I was unemployed, staring bankruptcy in the face and really saw no way out. All my dreams had vanished in a period of six months. I wasn’t ‘suicidal’ but I was close.

I remember walking with a friend of mine one day. She told me she’d heard a radio show that day. The commentator on the show was talking about what one quality we see in other people’s lives that draws us to them. She then told me that when she thought about me, the one enduring quality she saw was courage.

I was shocked. I asked her how on earth she could say that courage was a quality I had. I reminded her of all the bad stuff that had happened. I recounted how my future looked bleak on the good days. Bad days were another story. I felt anything but brave and courageous that day.

Her response stuck with me though. She said “I don’t think I could go through all you are going through without going crazy or blaming God or something. I draw a huge amount of faith and strength by the way you handle the stuff you are going through.”

I’ve thought about that walk many times in the past few years and I’ve come to a couple of conclusions. First, the only way we can learn to be ‘strong and courageous’ is to test our strength. God isn’t in the business of making milk-toast followers. He’s in the business of making warriors and warriors don’t grow strong in times of peace. They get their strength from warfare. Why else would Alexander the Great cry when he realized there were no more worlds to conquer. He had run out of battle.

The second thing I realized is that often times the way we handle battles speaks much more loudly to those around us than our words. Warriors are admired simply because they know how to handle the battles before them.

When we go to battle in our own strength we have reason to fear. We are fallible and weak mortals. When we go to battle in the strength of our God we go knowing that even though we may lose a battle along the way, eventually we will become victorious. Strong courageous people are those whose strength comes from enduring the very hardship that they’d rather avoid but makes them stronger. Strong and courageous people gain strength from faith in the God of Genesis. The mighty warrior.

PRAYER: Father, as I look at my life I realize that many of the things I fear are really there to make me stronger. Empower me with your Spirit to fight the battles I face in your strength. Allow me to show your strength by going through life leaning on your grace. In Jesus name, Amen.

For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God. Romans 1:20 (NLT)

How can you believe in something you can’t see? People ask that question regarding God as they seek spiritual freedom. In reality we believe in many things we can’t see. It’s our choice to believe in them or not. For example, I can say I no longer believe oxygen is required for life because I can’t see oxygen. Does that change the life-giving qualities of oxygen? Nope. How about gravity? Suppose I climb to the highest peak of my roof and announce to the world, “Gravity, I no longer accept your existence! I can’t see you. You have done me no good. Therefore you either don’t exist or don’t care!” If I then proceed to jump from my roof, what will be the result? Will gravity have any less effect? Unfortunately, no.

Ok, (you may say) suppose I choose to believe in God. What proof can you give of his existence? Gravity shows itself every day. Science has been able to ‘see’ oxygen. Where can I see proof of God? My answer to you will be to look out the window. When I look out the window or take a walk or travel I see many things about God that point me to him.

  • I see that God is creative. Just looking outside now I see at least 10 different shades of green. Just one color! Yet many different shades.
  • I see that God admires beauty when I look at a sunset or scan the horizon from a high peak, or look into the face of the one I love.
  • I see that God is gentle when I touch the petal of a flower and feel its softness.
  • I see God enjoys mystery when I contemplate how life begins and the many different life forms that are seen and unseen, extinct and still walking our planet. It takes more faith to believe in evolution than to believe in the creator God of Genesis.
  • I see God is very smart when I look at the scientific community and hear of the things we’ve ‘discovered’. I admit I chuckle when we use that term. We don’t ‘discover’ things. We simply find the things God has put into our world for us to find.
  • I see God is powerful when I see the power of an earthquake or storm and realize that all of our human resources alone can’t control nature. But God can control it with a spoken word.
  • I see God is passionate when I watch people who are truly in love interact with life.
  • I see God is forgiving when I remember that he sent his very own son to die for me when I least deserve it.

There are so many other ways God shows himself to us on a daily basis. Too often we are too busy to notice. Take time today, as you go about your tasks, to look for examples of god’s inner qualities in nature around you.

PRAYER: Holy God, I’m in awe when I contemplate the great power of your world. I worship and praise you for showing us so many things about you. Thank you for Jesus. Thank you for your Spirit that dwells within. Empower me to day to give you glory with every step I take, every word I speak and every action I take. In Jesus name, Amen.

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