A Glorious Preview


Bible Reading:Exodus 34:29-35

→The lights in the theater dim and a deep, mysterious voice booms ominously through the speakers. On the screen, a sequence of scenes quickly establishes the setting, introduces the main characters and teases about the plot. Of course, you are watching a preview for Hollywood‘s next block-buster flick.

→However, since the film’s producers want you to plop down the bucks to watch the entire movie, they give you only a sketchy outline to pique you interest. So the preview suggests a lot more than it shows. If a theatrical preview exists in the Bible, the episode about Moses‘ radiant face provides a great teaser. We catch a glimpse of God‘s glory, but the preview suggests alot more than it actually shows. Instead of detailed description, we only read that God’s glory made Moses’ face shine. Still, the effect was so powerful that it triggered fear in the Israelites, so much that Moses, had to cover his face.

→God provided another preview of His glory in the person and ministry of Jesus Christ and the new covenant He established. The Apostle Paul connects there two previews:Now If the ministry that brought death which was engraved in letters on stone, so that Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of Its glory, transitory through it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious?2 Corinthians 3:7-8.

→Amazingly, the full picture of God’s glory still lies ahead. Even more incredibly, we’re not just audience members watching a preview. God gives us a starring role. We all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the LORD’s glory, one being transformed into His image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the LORD.2 Corinthians 3:19. Are you ready for your close-up?

To Take Away

Do you long for God’s glory? In what ways does your life show this to be true? What qualities and actions in Jesus’ life revealed God’s glory? How can you obtain a greater thirst for a close-upof God’s glory?

Pray that God will show you smaller evidences of his glory in your everyday life.

Recommended Reading:

Matthew 17:1-8;2 Corinthians 3:7-18;Revelation 21:22-22:6

 

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The Message of Love


Passages for Further Study

  1. Deut. 7:7–8
  2. Prov. 3:3
  3. Rom. 12:10
    1 Cor. 13
  4. Heb. 13:1

Recommended

 

Coram Deo

God calls us to love every Christian. He does not call us to love only our polite brothers or only our Reformed brothers or only our wise brothers. No, if we are to reflect God’s character, then we must love all of our brothers just as God loved all of His people. God forgives sinners and continues to love them despite their struggle with sin; so too must we. If you and another believer are currently at odds with each other, do what you can to bring healing to the relationship.

being a child of God:

As we continue our study of 1 John and the three tests the apostle gives us in order to determine false teaching and gain assurance, let us note that so far John has focused his attention on personal holiness and righteousness. John has also spoken of love (2:7–17) and of belief in the incarnation (vv. 18–27), but has thus far spent more time speaking of the need to live a holy life (1:5–2:6; 2:28–3:10).

Last Friday, we learned that the practice of righteousness will be evident in those who are the sons of God. Those who do not seek after holiness are not of God but instead are of the Devil. But not only is holiness a mark of all Christians, so too is love for the brethren. If we do not love other believers, we are not God’s children (v. 10).

In today’s passage, John introduces a lengthy section on love as the mark of the believer. Specifically, John is speaking of the need to love others in the covenant community (v. 11). This is the message we have heard from the beginning, for loving one another has always been an essential mark of God’s people (Lev. 19:18; John 13:34). Believers will not wander after new ideas but remain in what is taught by Jesus and His apostles and prophets. This involves loving other Christians.

Though John seems to separate love and holiness in 1 John 3:10, he does this only for matters of emphasis and not because the two are opposed. Indeed, they cannot be, for God Himself is holy (Isa. 6:3) just as He is love (1 John 4:8). To practice righteousness is to obey the commands of God (Ps. 1), and God commands us to love our brothers (1 Peter 1:22). To be holy is to love our fellow Christians, and to love our fellow Christians is to be holy.

Furthermore, we have seen that there is always a familial resemblance between God and His children. Therefore, if we are to resemble our heavenly Father, we must love His people. God Himself, out of love for His people, sent His Son to die for their sins (Rom. 5:8). While we, of course, cannot atone for the sins of others, being a child of God means that we must love God’s people and be willing to give up our lives for them if necessary (1 John 3:16).

 

 

Perfect Love


There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love” (1 John 4:18).

1 John 4:17–18

 

Yesterday we saw that as we abide in love, we can be sure we abide in God (1 John 4:16). As we receive God’s love, as we love Him in return, and as we love one another we gain assurance of our faith in His promises. In today’s passage, John reminds us of one very important experiential reality that flows from abiding in love.

 

Verse 17 begins, “by this is love perfected with us.” This refers to verse 16 and simply reminds us that God’s love reaches its full effect in us as we dwell in His love by loving Him, enjoying His love for us, and loving others. This happens in our sanctification as we submit to the Spirit’s daily guidance and renewal (Gal. 5:16).

 

As a result of this love perfected in us over time, we gain “confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world” (1 John 4:17). As God’s love reaches its full effect in our lives we become increasingly like Christ, and like He was, we are in, but not of, the world. Though we will not be perfectly like Him before we die, our union with Jesus means His love will indeed be perfected in us over time (Rom. 8:29–30). As we see ourselves become more like Christ we will gain confidence that we will be vindicated on the day of judgment — just as He was in His resurrection.

 

First John 4:18 tells us we can be confident because perfect love casts out the fear of punishment. Apart from Christ, we have reason to fear the judgment seat of God, but when we are in Him, we have nothing to fear, for He has borne our punishment, and in turn we are seen by God as clothed with His righteousness (2 Cor.5:21).

 

The love that casts out such fear is perfect love. In asserting this, John is not teaching we will have such perfect love before death, for sin will be present with us throughout our lives (1:8–9). We will not abide in love perfectly until our glorification. Nevertheless, the end of the ages has already come upon us (1 Cor. 10:11); therefore, we already have a taste of this love and are empowered to strive toward it by the work of the Spirit. As we submit to Him, we are gradually perfected in love and grow more confident that in Christ we need not fear judgment.

 

Coram Deo

In commenting on this verse, John Calvin writes, “though fear is not wholly shaken off, yet when we flee to God as to a quiet harbor, safe and free from all danger of shipwreck and of tempests, fear is really expelled for it gives way to faith.” If you are a believer yet fear punishment, you must not flee from the Lord but run to Him in repentance. Endeavor to perfect your love by turning from sin and turning toward Him so that you might be cleansed.

 

Passages for Further Study

1 Chron. 28:20
Pss. 23; 27
2 Tim. 1:6–7
Heb. 10:19–39

 

 

 

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How to Leave a Legacy®


I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.” 2 Timothy 1:5 (NIV)

Tod’s family went to church faithfully. That’s what they had always done. But once inside the brick walls of their home, the story was different. There the masks came off, and Tod and his little brother lived with the painful reality of their parents’ bad choices. Living a double life became the norm for Tod, and he learned early that Christianity was something you put on with your church clothes.

Summer, however, brought more than relief from school, homework, and the daily routine of life. Summer brought with it a short break from living in the craziness of his family, because summer meant time at his grandparent’s home.

Grandma and Grandpa Whitwer were humble people. They served alongside each other as ministers, sacrificially laying down their lives to travel from church to church in many different states. They served well into their retirement years, and never gave up ministering to others.

Throughout the years they saw the pain of their son’s choices, choices that drastically affected the lives of their grandchildren. But there was little they could do to intervene. At least it was little in the eyes of the world.

What they were able to do had a lasting impact on Tod. Quietly and consistently, they showed their grandson love. Their never-wavering faith was an anchor. Their unconditional love was like water to a thirsty child. Their integrity was a light on a hill to a lost boy. Amel and Elise Whitwer gave hope to a young boy; hope that there was more to God and to this life than what he knew. Moreover, Tod learned that Christianity was something you lived out every day, not just on Sundays.

Through the faith of two humble people, my husband and I learned that God’s most effective influence often comes in quiet ways. God can change a life, and a generation of lives, using gentle, consistent, sincere people who love and serve Him.

The faith of a godly woman … the faith of a God-fearing man …. it changed my husband’s life. It changed my life. And it is changing our children’s lives. Never underestimate the power of faith, and a godly legacy, to make an impact over generations.

Note: Before Tod’s parents passed away, we were blessed to see both of them receive healing and restoration, to God and to their families.

Dear Lord, thank You for the model of faith You have given me through the lives of previous generations. Help me to honor those people who love and honor You. Like them, I long to be a woman who creates a legacy of faith to those who will follow in my footsteps. Help me be the woman You want me to be. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Reflect and Respond:
If your grandparents are still alive, take the time to write them a letter, or call them. If you are a grandparent, write your grandchildren a letter.

Think of an older woman who has been a model of Christian faith. What are some of her most memorable characteristics?

What can you do now to become a woman of faith who will leave a legacy?

Power Verses:
Isaiah 55:11, “… so is my word that goes out from my mouth; It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” (NIV)

Daniel 4:34b, “His dominion is an eternal dominion; his kingdom endures from generation to generation.” (NIV)

Deuteronomy 7:9, “Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands.” (NIV)

Collateral Damage


Collateral Damage (film)
Collateral Damage (film)

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3 (ESV)

 

My house has a crack. Just over the doorframe, creeping to the
ceiling. It catches my eye every time I sit on my couch in my living
rom. My house isn’t that old, so when I asked how this happened, the
answer was,
collateral damage.

 

Collateral damage is defined as damage to things that are incidental
to the intended target. Who knew that the sunny rays outside could
fracture the wall of my nicely air conditioned home? But it happened.

 

Last year we had one of the hottest summers on record and the parched
ground around the foundation strained the frame, which put pressure on
the walls, and eventually a crack appeared.

 

Collateral damage can also take place within our family when we’ve
been hurt by something or someone else, no matter how long ago.

 

Because a parent made you feel unworthy of love, you lash out when your child doesn’t eat the meal you lovingly prepared.

 

Because your trust was shattered by another, your loyal husband pays
the price as his faithfulness is questioned again and again.

 

Because of negative words poured over your tender heart, you struggle to believe your value to God.

 

Collateral damage. All of it.

 

Years ago I struggled with collateral damage. Because of my own past
hurts, sometimes I lashed out, or withdrew from a loved one. Sometimes I
worked way too hard to be accepted by a God who loved me right where I
was.

 

Psalm 147:3
promises God can fix these broken parts. As He began to heal my heart,
He showed me the cracks weren’t the source of the problem. My behavior,
my inadequacies, even my struggle to feel grace … these were
superficial issues.

 

The foundational issue was there from the time when a little girl
tried hard to stay out of trouble, to make peace, and yet nothing I did
worked. So I learned how to hide, how to defend myself, and a few other
unhealthy behaviors along the way. Do you relate?

 

By taking my eyes off the cracks and opening my heart to God, the
original source of damage was in plain sight … where it could be
addressed and healed. The more I soaked those wounds in God’s truth, the
more I began to recognize the cracks and see them in an entirely
different Light. The more He healed me.

 

The fact that your trust was shattered by another just makes the gift of a loyal husband/wife that much more sweet.

 

The fact that negative words were poured over your tender heart means
the thousands of words etched in Scripture are that much more powerful
because they redefine you, as seen and loved by your Heavenly Father.

 

The crack in my living room is slated to be fixed. And next summer
I’ll be sure to water my foundation in the fierce heat. But as for me,
my heart is bound and secure, and that foundation has become a source of
collateral gifts in my marriage, with my children and grandbabies, and
in my relationship with my God.

 

Dear Jesus, before today I pointed out the cracks, those
superficial acts and behaviors that I’ve tried to patch over. But today I
hold up my heart. You see the foundation of my brokenness. Thank You
for binding up my wounds, for healing, and for my new journey to
wholeness
. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Reflect and Respond:
If you take your eyes off the cracks, what do you see?

Invite God into those broken places. He’s been waiting to fix the foundation of your heart for a long time.

Power Verses:
Proverbs 4:20-22, “My son, be attentive to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Let them not escape from your sight; keep them within your heart. For they are life to those who find them, and healing to all their flesh.” (ESV)

A New Pattern of Thought


“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Romans 12:2 (NIV)

It’s usually very subtle. I’ll think about something I want to do or sense God calling me to, and a feeling of uncertainty comes over me. Doubt whispers You can’t do that. You’re not good enough. Out of the blue, I’ll get that awful, insecure feeling.

Too many times in the past I’ve gone along. Without realizing it, I agreed with my insecurities.

For years, I didn’t tell anyone about my doubts. I figured if they knew the reasons I doubted myself, they’d notice flaws I had worked hard to hide. Honestly, I thought I was the only one who struggled with doubt.

However, I didn’t call it doubt. Maybe you don’t either. Sometimes I called it worryworry that I was going to disappoint someone, worry that I might make a mistake and get criticized for it, worry that I might start something but not be able to finish.

Other times I’d call it fearfear of not measuring up, fear of rejection, fear of looking prideful by thinking I could do something special for God.

What I’ve realized over the years is that these feelings may end up as fear or worry, but their source is self-doubt. Looking back, I see there was a pattern in my thinking that led to the pattern of my doubting.

As a child I thought I wasn’t worth keeping. My insecurity kept me from riding the carousel at an amusement park because I doubted my dad would wait for me. In school, I thought I wasn’t smart enough. I avoided great opportunities because they came with the risk of failure.

The apostle Paul challenges us in Romans 12:2 to not let our minds be conformed by the patterns of this world. This means we need to take our patterns of thought into consideration because they affect what we believe about ourselves and what we believe about God’s view of us and others.

The world’s patterns of thought tell us our worth is measured by our weight or bank account, our job or spouse, by the number of our friends, or if we are able to have children. And if we do have children, the world tells us we’re only good parents if our children behave ‘just so.’

Have any of these thoughts ever convinced you you’re not enough or don’t have what it takes to do all God’s calling you to do?

Just this week, doubt tried to convince me I couldn’t handle my life. I had a sick teenager, a huge deadline to meet, several therapy appointments for my daughter and very concerning health problems with my mom.

Remembering the wisdom in today’s key verse, I paused to consider the pattern of my thoughts and knew they didn’t line up with God’s thoughts. For instance, in Philippians 4:13 God tells me, “… I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength” (NLT).

I claimed God’s promise by weaving it into my thoughts, knowing I could do it all if I depended on the strength God promises to give. And when I did, God transformed my heart by renewing my mind with His peace and confidence.

It takes time to replace our patterns of thought with God’s thoughts. The ways of the worldfear and worry are powerful forces. But God’s Word trumps them, always. Today, let’s be intentional to lay down self-doubts and replace them with truth, remembering “… he who began a good work in [us] will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Phil. 1:16 ESV).

Lord, I want to have a confident heart in Christ and persevere in Your truth so that when I have done Your will, I will receive what You have promised. When doubt tells me I can’t do something, I’ll remember all things are possible to her who believes. In Jesus’ Name, Amen!

Reflect and Respond:
What motivates you the most to be free from self-doubt?

What would you do differently if you were free from worry and fear, and fully trusted God? Let go of unforgiveness? Volunteer more? Travel? Start a new hobby or look for a new job? Ask the Lord to help you replace self-doubt with His confidence and what your first step of freedom should be.

Power Verse:
Isaiah 26:3, “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!” (NLT)

WHEN I MISS GOD


English: sleep deprived
sleep deprived
"Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you." James 4:8 (ESV)


It’s 3:30 a.m. I stare at the clock and something inside me whispers, “You should get up.” I toss, turn, and wrestle with my sleep-deprived thoughts for a few minutes before I finally climb out of bed.

Downstairs, I turn on the coffee pot and sit down in the white chair. Opening my journal, these words pour out of my parched soul: “God, I miss You.”

Life has been moving at a warp speed lately. Work has been busy for both me and my wife , our three girls’ lives are full, and someone always needs something.

Truth is, I would pay a lot of money for 28 hours in a day.

But mostly, in this stretched season of life, I’m experiencing how “it” happens … how people move far from God.

It’s not always intentional:

The kids are sick … so church is missed.
Carpool has to start earlier the next morning … leaving no time for quiet prayer.
Bodies need exercise … reading the Bible gets pushed aside.
Meals must be prepared … so worship becomes secondary.
Reports and projects have to be finished … you get the idea.

The list goes on and on of what can keep us from the closeness of God.

I understand these struggles all too well. And I’m finding there is a great danger in these stretched times of life.

We can miss being with God, but we also can miss the movement God is doing in our lives. Missing God {either way} is tragic and threatening to our souls that long to thrive with God.

Recognizing how much I’ve missed God, I’m taking some time for reflection of this struggle. I’m burdened but also hopeful in the words He is breathing during these soul-stretching moments.

Maybe you too feel that tug in your heart, pulling you back to Him? I share these three things we can do to move closer to the heart of God, because maybe, like me, you’re just as fearful of unintentionally moving too far from God … of missing Him as much as I am.

1. Find our God-space.

Even if it means it’s 3:30 a.m. When life feels busy, stretched and chaotic I can stay open to the Spirit’s prompting on my heart to create God-space.

Obviously 3:30 a.m. won’t always work for me, so I do need to be intentional about scheduling time with God. Finding the moments of white space where we can fully be with Him is important.

May we find our God-space … everywhere, knowing He is always near.

Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. (James 4:8 ESV)

2. Experience the awe of God.

The colors of the sky on the drive into the officeexperience it. The sun warming our skin on a chilly dayexperience it. Giggles from children, the way someone we love smiles, the praise of God’s peopleexperience it.

May these moments remind us what it’s like to be fully alive and connected to Something much bigger than ourselves.

“… stand in awe of God. (Ecclesiastes 5:7b NIV 1984)

3. Have ears that listen {always}.

The prompting in your heart to slow down, to breathe in the moment … listen to it. A nudge on your soul to say no when you really want to say yeslisten to it [or vice-versa].

May we not want to just dream about the promises God has for our life, but want to live them by listening to His voice, always.

And after the fire came a gentle whisper.” (1 Kings 19:12 NIV 1984)

There is always an opportunity in the midst of our busy lives to be aware of God. As we find Him, experience Him, and listen for Him, our intentional steps will always lead us closer to His presence.

Lord, please help me to be intentional with my steps towards You. I can’t always control the things around me, but I know with Your guidance I can still draw close to You when life feels so stretched. Amen.

Reflect and Respond:
Which do you struggle with the most: Finding your God-space? Experiencing the awe of God? Or having ears that listen?

What would you have to change to spend more time with God?

Power Verses:
James 4:8, “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.” (ESV)

Ecclesiastes 5:7b, “… stand in awe of God.” (NIV 1984)

1 Kings 19:12, “And after the fire came a gentle whisper.” (NIV 1984)