Live Loved

Beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, [we] are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. 
~ 2 CORINTHIANS 3:18 [KJV]

 Son Reflectors

What does the moon do? She generates no light. Contrary to the lyrics of the song, this harvest moon cannot shine on. Apart from the sun, the moon is nothing more than a pitch-black, pockmarked rock. But properly positioned, the moon beams. Let her do what she was made to do, and a clod of dirt becomes a source of inspiration, yea, verily, romance. The moon reflects the greater light.

And she’s happy to do so! You never hear the moon complaining. She makes no waves about making waves. Let the cow jump over her or astronauts step on her; she never objects. Even though sunning is accepted while mooning is the butt of bad jokes, you won’t hear ol’ Cheeseface grumble. The moon is at peace in her place. And because she is, soft light touches a dark earth.

What would happen if we accepted our place as Son reflectors? 

Such a shift comes so stubbornly, however. We’ve been demanding our way and stamping our feet since infancy. Aren’t we all born with a default drive set on selfishness? I want a spouse who makes me happy and coworkers who always ask my opinion. I want weather that suits me and traffic that helps me and a government that serves me. It is all about me. . 

How can we be bumped off self-center? . . . We move from me-focus to God-focus by pondering him. Witnessing him. Following the counsel of the apostle Paul: “Beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, [we] are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:18 KJV).

Beholding him changes us.

~ IT’S NOT ABOUT ME 

O Lord, change our focus from a me-focus to a God-focus. Work your will in our lives that we might be instruments to do your work and to tell others of your great love. Let our lives reflect your holiness through thick and thin. Help us live in pursuit of what you want rather than what we want. May we keep a firm grip on our faith no matter what hard times come our way. In all we do, may we honor you, amen.

Let all those rejoice who put their trust in You; let them ever shout for joy, because You defend them.
~ PSALM 5:11 

Sing praise to the LORD . . . and give thanks at the remembrance of His holy name. 
~ PSALM 30:4

Live Loved

“Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?” 
~ MATTHEW 8:26 

Confident in God’s Goodness

“A great storm arose on the lake so that waves covered the boat, but Jesus was sleeping” (Matthew 8:24 NCV).

Now there’s a scene. The disciples scream; Jesus dreams. Thunder roars; Jesus snores. He doesn’t doze, catnap, or rest.

He slumbers. His snooze troubles the disciples. Matthew and Mark record their responses as three staccato Greek pronouncements and one question.

The pronouncements: “Lord! Save! Dying!” (Matthew 8:25).

The question: “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” (Mark 4:38).

They do not ask about Jesus’ strength: “Can you still the storm?” His knowledge: “Are you aware of the storm?” Or his know-how: “Do you have any experience with storms?” But rather, they raise doubts about Jesus’ character: “Do you not care . . . ”

Fear does this. Fear corrodes our confidence in God’s goodness. We begin to wonder if love lives in heaven. . . .

It also deadens our recall. The disciples had reason to trust Jesus. By now they’d seen him “healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people” (Matthew 4:23). They had witnessed him heal a leper with a touch and a servant with a command (8:3, 13). . . . 

Do they remember the accomplishments of Christ? They may not. Fear creates a form of spiritual amnesia. It dulls our miracle memory. It makes us forget what Jesus has done and how good God is. 

~ FEARLESS

Gracious Lord, when the storms of life overwhelm us, open our eyes to see you in the midst of the storm. Enable us stay focused on you, not on people or circumstances. As you have so often in the past, replace the worry and terror with peace and hope. When we lose sight of your miracle-working power, remind us once again of all you have done and how good you are to your children, amen.

Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the LORD his God.
~ PSALM 146:5 

He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength.
~ ISAIAH 40:29 

 You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in Your word. 
~  PSALM 119:114

Live Loved

“I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.” 
~ JOHN 10:28 [NIV]

God Cares for His Children

God takes start-to-finish-line responsibility for his children.

We parents understand God’s resolve. When our children stumble, we do not disown them. When they fall, we do not dismiss them. We may punish or reprimand, but cast them out of the family? We cannot. They are biologically connected to us. Those born with our DNA will die with it.

God, our Father, engenders the same relationship with us. Upon salvation we “become children of God” (John 1:12 ESV). He alters our lineage, redefines our spiritual parenthood, and, in doing so, secures our salvation. To accomplish the mission, he seals us with his Spirit. “Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 1:13 NIV). A soul sealed by God is safe.

For a short time in college, I worked at a vacuum cleaner plant. We assembled the appliance from plug to hose. The last step on the assembly line was “sealing and shipping.” By this point, the company had invested hours and dollars in the machine. So they took extra care to protect their product. They mummified it in bubble wrap, secured it with Styrofoam, wrapped the box with tough-to-tear tape, stamped the destination on the box, and belted it inside the truck. That machine was secure. But compared to God’s care of his saints, workers dumped bare machines into the back of a pickup truck. God vacuum-seals us with his strongest force: his Spirit. He sheathes his children in a suit of spiritual armor, encircles us with angels, and indwells us himself. The queen of England should enjoy such security. Christ

Christ paid too high a price to leave us unguarded. “Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption” (Ephesians 4:30 NLT). . . . You may slip—indeed you will—but you will not fall.

~ 3:16: THE NUMBERS OF HOPE

God, my Father, it is an honor to be your child and to be sealed with your precious Holy Spirit. Thank you for securing our salvation and freeing us to rest peacefully in that security. We belong to you and we live for you, our heavenly Father. Thank you for circling our lives with your angels and guarding us with your powerful love. You are the hope of our salvation, amen.

The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. They stumble, they will never fall, for the Lord holds them by the hands.

~ PSALM 37:23–24 NLT

Live Loved

We don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen.

~ 2 CORINTHIANS 4:18 [NLT]

Over a hundred years ago in England, the borough of West Stanley endured a great tragedy. A mine collapsed, trapping and killing many of the workers inside. The bishop of Durham, Dr. Handley Moule, was asked to bring a word of comfort to the mourners. Standing at the mouth of the mine, he said, “It is very difficult for us to understand why God should let such an awful disaster happen, but we know Him and we trust Him, and all will be right. I have at home,” he continued, “an old bookmark given to me by my mother. It is worked in silk, and, when I examine the wrong side of it, I see nothing but a tangle of threads, crossed and re-crossed. It looks like a big mistake. One would think that someone had done it who did not know what she was doing. But, when I turn it over and look at the right side, I see there, beautifully embroidered, the letters GOD IS LOVE.

“We are looking at this today,” he counseled, “from the wrong side. Someday we shall see it from another standpoint, and shall understand.”19 Indeed we shall. Until then, focus less on the tangled threads and more on the hand of the weaver. 

~ EVERY DAY DESERVES A CHANCE

Loving God, our lives often seem to be a mass of tangled threads. Yet we know that you are the Master Weaver who is making something beautiful of our lives. When we are puzzled and perplexed and want to give up hope, encourage us to shape our worries into prayer. When our hearts waver, keep us steady. Teach us to replace our frazzled fears with confidence in you. Let our faith flourish, amen.

He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand.
~ PSALM 95:7 

How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them! 
~ PSALM 139:17 

Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds. Your righteousness is like the great mountains. 
~ PSALM 36:5–6

Live Loved

My heart said to You, “Your face, LORD, I will seek.”
~ PSALM 27:8

The Glory of God

When Ezekiel saw it, he had to bow. 
It encircled the angels and starstruck the shepherds in the Bethlehem pasture. 
Jesus radiates it. 
John beheld it. 
Peter witnessed it on Transfiguration Hill. 
Christ will return enthroned in it. 
Heaven will be illuminated by it.

It gulfstreams the Atlantic of Scripture, touching every person with the potential of changing every life. Including yours. One glimpse, one taste, one sampling, and your faith will never be the same . . . Glory.

God’s glory.

To seek God’s glory is to pray, “Thicken the air with your presence; make it misty with your majesty. Part heaven’s drapes, and let your nature spill forth. God, show us God.”

What the word Alps does for the mountains of Europe, glory does for God’s nature. Alps encompasses a host of beauties: creeks, peaks, falling leaves, running elk. To ask to see the Alps is to ask to see it all. To ask to see God’s glory is to ask to see all of God. God’s glory carries the full weight of his attributes: his love, his character, his strength. . . . 

Every act of heaven reveals God’s glory. Every act of Jesus did the same.

~ IT’S NOT ABOUT ME

Father, we ask you to show us your glory. Open our eyes to behold your majesty and your powerful presence in our lives. May these glimpses of your glory change our lives forever. We want to keep our eyes on you as we try to live your holy best. We pray that every detail in our lives—words, actions, thoughts—would bring glory to you. Our goal is to bring honor to your glorious name. We celebrate you, amen.

They shall sing of the ways of the LORD, for great is the glory of the LORD.
~ PSALM 138:5 

Blessing and honor and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne. 
~ REVELATION 5:13 

God is great, and we do not know Him; nor can the number of His years be discovered.
~ JOB 36:26

Live Loved

The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?
~ PSALM 118:6 

Loved by the Lord of Life

Satan cannot reach you without passing through God. 

Then what are we to make of the occasions Satan does reach us? How are we supposed to understand the violence listed in Hebrews 11? . . . Or, most supremely, how are we to understand the suffering of Jesus? Ropes. Whips. Thorns. Nails. These trademarked his final moments. Do you hear the whip slapping against his back, ripping sinew from bone? 

In polite Roman society, the word cross was an obscenity, not to be uttered in conversation. Roman soldiers were exempt from crucifixion except in matters of treason. It was ugly and vile, harsh and degrading. And it was the manner by which Jesus chose to die. “He humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:8 NIV).

A calmer death would have sufficed. A single drop of blood could have redeemed humankind. Shed his blood, silence his breath, still his pulse, but be quick about it. Plunge a sword into his heart. Take a dagger to his neck. Did the atonement for sin demand six hours of violence?

No, but his triumph over sadism did. Jesus once and for all displayed his authority over savagery. Evil may have her moments, but they will be brief. Satan unleashed his meanest demons on God’s Son. He tortured every nerve ending and inflicted every misery. Yet the master of death could not destroy the Lord of life. Heaven’s best took hell’s worst and turned it into hope.

— FEARLESS

Lord of all the earth and heavens, we stand in awe to think how you suffered to bring salvation to your children. Because of your suffering, our sins are forgiven. You triumphed over evil and freed us from its tyranny. Your death brings hope and healing to our everyday lives. This greatest act of love gives grand gifts to all who will receive them. Thank you, amen.

We know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.
~ 1 JOHN 3:2–3 

By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, for He shall bear their iniquities.
~ ISAIAH 53:11

Our soul waits for the LORD; He is our help and our shield. For our heart shall rejoice in Him, because we have trusted in His holy name.
~ PSALM 33:20–21

Live Loved

Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven—and the future starts now! 
~ 1 PETER 1:3–4 [MSG]

Help for Your Challenges

Others offer life, but no one offers to do what Jesus does—to reconnect us to his power. But how can we know? How do we know that Jesus knows what he’s talking about? The ultimate answer, according to his flagship followers, is the vacated tomb. Did you note the words you just read? “Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand-new life.” In the final sum, it was the disrupted grave that convinced the maiden Christians to cast their lots with Christ. “He was seen by Peter and then by the twelve apostles. After that, Jesus was seen by more than five hundred of the believers at the same time” (1 Corinthians 15:5–6 NCV).

Can Jesus actually replace death with life? He did a convincing job with his own. We can trust him because he has been there. . . .

He’s been to Bethlehem, wearing barn rags and hearing sheep crunch. Suckling milk and shivering against the cold. All of divinity content to cocoon itself in an eight-pound body and to sleep on a cow’s supper. Millions who face the chill of empty pockets or the fears of sudden change turn to Christ. Why?

Because he’s been there.

He’s been to Nazareth, where he made deadlines and paid bills; to Galilee, where he recruited direct reports and separated fighters; to Jerusalem, where he stared down critics and stood up against cynics. 

We have our Nazareths as well—demands and due dates. Jesus wasn’t the last to build a team; accusers didn’t disappear with Jerusalem’s temple. Why seek Jesus’ help with your challenges? Because he’s been there.

~ 3:16: THE NUMBERS OF HOPE 

Precious Savior, you walked the dusty roads of Galilee. You lived in our world and experienced daily burdens and blessings just like we do. You set aside the robes of divinity to be wrapped in swaddling clothes. You know more about us and our world than we know ourselves. That is why we can come to you with complete assurance that you understand our empty pockets, our stressful demands, and our wounded hearts. We know that you are sympathetic to our every need, amen.

Thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place.
~ 2 CORINTHIANS 2:14 

Whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.
~ ROMANS 15:4