Misfits Welcome

Consider the Parable of the Great Supper. In Luke 14:15-24, a certain man gave a great dinner and invited many. When everything was prepared, he sent his servant out to inform the invited guests the meal was ready. One by one they gave him reasons as to why they should be excused. The servant returned to his master and reported their excuses, which made him very angry.

The Message Bible says the master then told the servant to go out into the city streets and alleys and collect all of the wretched, homeless, hungry, and misfits he could get his hands on. Once he had done so, there was still room, so the master commanded him to go to the country roads and drag in whomever he could find. One version says to go out and compel them to come in. The word compel in this form means to necessitate, drive to, or constrain by your example.

You and I are the servants being sent out by our Master. There should be such a sense of urgency in our hearts that we are driven to go to the rough parts of town and be an example of God’s love and power to those who have been disregarded. We need to act like the God we serve is more than enough to cleanse what is dirty and make whole what is broken. Because He is.

Believers should be the least-polarizing group of people on the planet. The love of God is not exclusive; it’s all-inclusive. I like how the servant did not question his master, nor did he make excuses. He simply went and compelled because he trusted his master and was confident in what he had to offer. Do not be afraid to go to the loners, oddballs, and cranks. The Lord is with you.

Isaiah 41:10 — “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand” (NKJV).

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I Ran a Marathon

1 Thessalonians 5:11So encourage each other and build each other up (NLT).

About 47 hours ago, more than 4,000 people were herded into a corral for the start of the Louisiana Marathon in Baton Rouge. Heidi and I were two of them. Most would run “only” the half marathon (13.1 miles), but we signed up for the full thing (26.2 miles). It was an incredible experience! Heidi finished in just under five hours, and I clocked in at just over five and a half. Quite an accomplishment for both of us!

But the road to crossing that finish line didn’t come easy for either of us. Heidi has been running since she was thirteen, and it has always been on her bucket list to run a marathon before the age of forty. I started running consistently about twelve years ago, and I sheepishly promised to run one with her. We typically run three miles at a time, and I honestly had no desire to ever run more than that. (The longest I had ever run was nine miles when we considered running a half marathon last year.)

When we began training together, Heidi was invaluable to me. She was a constant encouragement, and I would not have broken through the physical and mental thresholds I had established without her. As the runs stretched in length, she kept telling me to win the battle in my mind and the body would follow. I thought she as crazy—and she might be—but she was right. Unlike her, I never dreamed I’d finish a marathon, but it’s amazing what you can do when someone believes in you.

I want to encourage you today to be an encouragement. You are surrounded every day by people who have untapped potential. They’re in need of someone to come alongside them and believe they can do something outside of the norm. Be on the lookout for a person you can become a cheerleader for. Helping someone achieve his or her purpose will also breathe new life into you. Have a great Tuesday!

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*Contact us at JMI, P. O. Box 135, Forest Hill, LA 71430.

Listen and Follow

Matthew 7:24“Anyone who listens to My teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock” (NLT).

Many people, Christians included, have a shaky existence. They are very unpredictable, and their demeanor is up, down, and all around. Their levels of joy, peace, and patience are variable and based on circumstances. This should not be for a believer.

Perhaps today you are one of those I just described. You wake up as a different person every day. You’re fragile and on edge. If so, Jesus gave two steps we need to take in order to live our lives on a solid foundation.

First, you must listen to His teaching. The original Greek defines the word listen as to hear God’s voice in such a way that it births faith within. It’s one thing to casually read or hear God’s word, and an entirely different thing to hear, grab ahold of, and feed your faith with it. You need to accept His words as the final authority on everything.

Next, you must follow His teaching in order to be wise. Many people know Scripture and have a general idea of God’s will for their lives, but they still live foolishly. A wise person openly receives what He says and then obeys. You will inevitably have to step out in faith as you listen to His voice, but you can do so confidently knowing your life is built on a safe and secure foundation. Hallelujah! Have a great Friday.

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*Contact us at JMI, P. O. Box 135, Forest Hill, LA 71430.

No Shame

Romans 10:11For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame” (NIV).

When I was a teenager, and through my college years, our family had a beagle named Bailey. My parents rescued her from somewhere in the Dallas area. I never thought Dad would buy another dog because we had a rough experience with our previous one, but he caved.

One of the beautiful things about Bailey was she was potty-trained when we got her. The only thing we really had to do was teach her where to go when she needed to go—the backyard. My dad showed her the door and led her into the backyard just a few times before she had it down. Bailey was a brilliant dog.

She was also stubborn as a mule; and as she got older, she became increasingly lazy. This added up to her not always going to the bathroom in the backyard. It wasn’t often, but every once in a while she would do her business on the carpet somewhere. And when she did, Bailey would always tell on herself. She couldn’t help it. She’d slump into whatever room we were in, cower at our feet, hang her head, and look up at us with her shame-filled, puppy dog eyes. She would get in trouble and depression would set in for several hours.

I think a lot of people live their lives the same way. You might be one of them. You know the difference between right and wrong, but sometimes you mess up. And when you do, you go into mourning, fearing God is going to throw the proverbial book at you. Nothing could be further from the truth. He has already forgiven you and will never put you to shame. Sure, He wants you to repent and learn from your mistakes, but He doesn’t want you to live in fear of making a mistake or with guilt when you do.

Be encouraged today. God is not waiting for you to make a mistake; He’s waiting to restore you when you do.

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*Contact us at JMI, P. O. Box 135, Forest Hill, LA 71430.

Don’t Lose Heart

Romans 8:28And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them (NLT).

Yesterday, we looked at how God made you on purpose with a purpose. Today, I want to expound on this truth.

Not everything you go through on the path of God’s will is going to be free and easy. Life happens to everyone, even the most devout believer. I wish I could tell you that with Jesus comes the promise that nothing bad will ever happen to you again, but I’d be lying to you. What I can tell you is that with Him comes the promise that God will work the good, the bad, and the ugly that happens to your advantage.

Perhaps today you are facing an adverse situation. Maybe you’ve lost your job or a loved one. You might have a rebelling child or spouse you just can’t seem to figure out. No matter what your currently going through—good, bad, or ugly—God wants to use it to strengthen and encourage you. Do not lose heart!

If you love God and are called according to His purpose, He is working on your case. And with His involvement comes joy, peace, and victory! Have a wonderful Wednesday.

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*Contact us at JMI, P. O. Box 135, Forest Hill, LA 71430.

Two Quick Things

Proverbs 16:4The Lord has made everything for His own purposes, even the wicked for a day of disaster (NLT).

There are a couple of things I want to quickly mention concerning this verse. I believe both of them will bring you great comfort, especially if you are struggling with self-worth or direction for your life.

First, the Lord has made everything. This, of course, includes you. You are not here by accident, nor are you the product of a mistake your parents made. God chose to create you because He loves you and desires intimate fellowship with you. Others will do their best to get you to doubt yourself and question your value, but remember this: You are fearfully and wonderfully made, handcrafted by Almighty God, a masterpiece.

Second, the Lord has made everything for His own purposes. God did not create anyone to simply exist. He had a specific purpose in mind for you before you were ever born, and He calls it good, pleasing, and perfect (Romans 12:2). You are on planet earth by divine design, and you have a significant role in His master plan. In Jeremiah 29:11, God said, “For I know the plans I have for you,” and the great thing is He’s not withholding that information from you. All you have to do is ask and be led by His Spirit.

Have a great Tuesday!

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*Contact us at JMI, P. O. Box 135, Forest Hill, LA 71430.

Be Thankful

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus (NLT).

Today concludes the 3-part series on God’s will for our lives. If you question His purpose for your life, or you’ve got off track altogether, these three verses in 1 Thessalonians are a great starting point. First, always be joyful. Second, never stop praying. And third, be thankful in all circumstances.

There are two key words I want to point out in the third step. (I’ve italicized them below for your convenience.)

Be thankful in all circumstances.

The word be leaves nothing up for debate. To be thankful is a command, not a suggestion, and you and I determine whether or not we will be thankful. Giving thanks is a choice. Psalm 34:1 says, “I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth” (NKJV). King David wrote here that he would bless the Lord. He dictated whether he would express gratitude to God, not his circumstances.

The second word I want to point out came as no surprise I’m sure: all. Did you know you can choose to be thankful no matter how awesome or awful the circumstances are surrounding your life? Sure you can. Before you utter a complaint, or develop a woe-is-me mentality, stop and take inventory of the many blessings you have received. Then praise God for them. If you don’t know where to begin, start by thanking Him for another day of life. After all, you just read this devotion, didn’t you?

*Check out http://www.amazon.com/author/mikejonker for more info and resources.

*Contact us at JMI, P. O. Box 135, Forest Hill, LA 71430.