Show Me Your Glory

“And the Lord said to Moses, “This very thing that you have spoken I will do, for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.” Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” – Exodus 33:17-18. 

This prayer of Moses is one of the greatest prayers in the Bible. Just five words, “please show me your glory.” It is a simple prayer, and like Moses, who amongst us does not yearn for God to show us more of His glory. But hadn’t Moses already seen all that? Up to this point, he had experienced supernatural physical manifestations of God’s presence in the miracles in Egypt, the burning bush, the pillar of cloud and fire in the wilderness, the thick smoke-filled cloud on Mount Sinai. He had engaged in intimate conversations with God in the Holy of Holies.

Yes, he had experienced all those things but apparently Moses wanted more. The intimate relationship Moses had with God gave him the courage to ask. And as much as God probably wanted to grant Moses what he asked, He couldn’t. His brilliance, His radiance is too much for human eyes. But our loving God found a way to give Moses a taste of what he asked. He hid Moses in the cleft of a rock, covered his face with His hand, and allowed Moses a glimpse of His glory.  

What’s so remarkable is God intended for us to experience that same glory in our midst. So when the time was right, God sent His glory to earth in the form of His Son, Jesus. Jesus’ very name, Immanuel, means “God with us.” What God has given us is truly extraordinary.   

Too often today our thoughts of God are puny, limited, finite, and so unworthy of God.  We have made God compatible with our image of Him. But God is not like anything we’ve ever experienced or anyone we’ve ever known. We need to go to the Word of God and shape our view and our opinion of God based on what He has revealed to be true of Himself. Scripture enables us see Him, behold, ponder and meditate on Him.  

We know that if we saw more than that, the sight would kill us. God’s glory is so weighty, so impressive, His beauty, His majesty, His splendor—it’s so resplendent that we can’t look upon it in full view. But He gives us glimpses of His glory. And when He does, what He shows us is who He is, His character, His acts, what He’s like. Isaiah 6:2-3 says, “Attending him were mighty seraphim, each having six wings. With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. They were calling out to each other, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Heaven’s Armies! The whole earth is filled with his glory!”

I pray that we will want to see God for who He is.  That we will see His face and His glory. That we will hunger for more of His presence: Lord, show us your glory in 2021. 

Discussion Questions: 

  1. Do you believe you have seen the glory of God? If not, why not? 
  2. Can God show His glory to us today? Why or why not?
  3. What steps can we take to get closer to God in 2021?

Obedience At The End Of A Spear

“I realized that the deepest spiritual lessons are not learned by His letting us have our way in the end, but by His making us wait, bearing with us in love and patience until we are able to honestly to pray what He taught His disciples to pray: Thy will be done.” ― Elisabeth Elliot, Passion and Purity: Learning to Bring Your Love Life Under Christ’s Control.

Elisabeth Elliot was a young missionary in Ecuador when members of a violent Amazonian tribe savagely speared her husband Jim and his four colleagues as depicted in the movie, End of the Spear. Incredibly, prayerfully, Elisabeth took her toddler daughter, snakebite kit, Bible, and journal and lived in the jungle with the Stone-Age people who killed her husband. Compelled by her friendship and forgiveness, many came to faith in Jesus.  

Elizabeth went on to write dozens of books, host a long-running radio show, and speak at conferences all over the world.  For Elisabeth, the central question was not, “How does this make me feel?”  The question was, “what do I need to do about it to obey God?” How effective are we at obeying the will of God in our lives? 

If we want to obey the will of God, that means we have to know what His will is for our lives. To know His will we need to know scripture.  Many people want to know God’s plan for their lives, but they overlook the fact that 98 percent of His will is already spoken carefully through His Word.  God is very clear about many aspects of what He expects from His followers. He tells us that we should love Him and that we should love our neighbor as our self.  There are other things we should do and things that we should not do. The only way to know those things is by reading His Word.

The Word reveals His will for our lives. The Word may not tell you that you’re supposed to pack up and move to Africa but it does reveal the heart of Jesus and His character.  The Bible can help us check to see if we’ve modeled his holiness, love, goodness, justice, and mercy. Have we given grace, been bold in our faith, and patient? His Word reveals the image and character of God and we can choose to reflect His image through all of the decisions we make in our lifetime.

In addition to His word, we’ve received the gift of the Holy Spirit – the Spirit of Jesus, living inside of us. As we walk in step and submission to the Spirit’s leading, He reveals the steps we need to take. He gives the thumbs up or the thumbs down. The bottom line is we need to be aligned to the Spirit and to His Word if you desire to know His will. 

“Then Jesus came close to them and said, ‘All the authority of the universe has been given to me. Now go in my authority and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And teach them to faithfully follow all that I have commanded you. And never forget that I am with you every day, even to the completion of this age.” (Matthew 28:18-20 TPT)

Discussion Question:

  1. How did you react to the Elizabeth Elliot story? Is it possible to have the faith that she had? 
  2. What can we do this week and in the weeks to follow to better know the will of God? 

I Love You, Lord Jesus

“I love You, Lord Jesus…Look down from the sky…And stay by my side…Until morning is nigh” – Chorus from Away in a Manger. 

Love they say makes the world go round. More songs and poems have been written about love than just about any other subject. And yes – love is absolutely essential in our lives. From the moment we’re born until when we die. So … why is it that so many people don’t experience love in their lives? Real love – the sort that God talks about a lot. Saying the words “I love you” is easy, but do you love so deeply that you have absolutely no expectations of receiving something in return. We are talking about the kind of love that is unending; the type of love that is unmerited because it is not deserved and unconditional because it is not based on actions. We are talking about the kind of love that is supernatural because it is not something that can be done in your own strength. We are talking about the love of God. 

God loves you with unconditional love. To know God is to know love in its truest form because He is love. Love isn’t just something He gives. It isn’t just something that He feels. It is who He is. God’s love for you is limitless and has the power to set you free from every wound, thought, sin, and broken relationship that causes you to live anything less than a joyful and content life.

This unconditional love will inspire you to respond to others in the same way. The love of God is forever. It never runs out no matter how bad a day you are having or how far you wander away from Him. Jeremiah 31:3 says, “ Long ago the Lord said to Israel: “I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself.”

God’s love is sacrificial, leading to the point of death on the cross. “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” ( John 3:16) The love of God is inseparable, it will be with us through thick and thin. We can’t run away from it. “Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?…And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.  No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8: 35, 38-39) 

It is expansive, beyond what we can grasp or imagine. “And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.”  (Ephesians 3:18)

So how do we experience that love? There is only one way and that is Jesus. The love of God for me is there. And nothing can separate us from His love.

Discussion Questions: 

  1. If you meditate on the depth of God’s love for you, how do you think it would change your perspectives? What keeps you from experiencing God’s love? 
  2. This week, allow God’s love to renew within you a longing to spend more time with him. Rest in His presence. Spend time with your heavenly Father just letting Him love you.

Away In A Manger

“And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.” – Luke 2:6-7.

Children today are born in pristine operating rooms. Once they arrive, they are wrapped in a soft, warm blanket and placed in a spotless crib in the pristine nursery. And once the stay at the hospital is over the baby is brought home to a pristine home nursery months in the making. Such a marked difference from the story we see unfold in scripture of another baby’s birth.

Mary and Joseph were traveling to Bethlehem because of a census decreed by Caesar Augustus. A very pregnant Mary traveled with Joseph to the town of his family to be counted. When they arrived, they discovered there was no room at the inn. Luke 2:7 says: “She (Mary) wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger because there was no lodging available for them.” At first, you might think that where Jesus was born was a fluke of fate — a random misfortune. But the Bible suggests otherwise. The prophet Micah lived seven hundred years before the birth of Jesus and prophesied that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem:“But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, are only a small village among all the people of Judah. Yet a ruler of Israel, whose origins are in the distant past, will come from you on my behalf.” (Micah 5:2 )So God had planned the arrival of His Son in the right place, at the right time, and in the right way. He chooses Mary and Joseph, who lived in Nazareth, not Bethlehem. And He plans for Mary to get pregnant far from the prophesied town and He arranges to move Joseph and Mary from Nazareth to Bethlehem by means of an empire-wide census. He could have arranged for an available room but didn’t because Jesus was lying in exactly the place God planned: a manger.

The manger was a sign to the shepherds.”And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” Every baby in Bethlehem was wearing swaddling cloths so that didn’t narrow the field at all. No the manger was the sign and a glorious sign it was. No sooner were the words out of the angel’s mouth — “you will find a baby . . . lying in a manger” — than “Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” (Luke 2:13–14)

The manger was step one on the road to Calvary. The Savior’s life starts low and ends lower. This is the point of Philippians 2:6–8: “Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being.When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.”

This is how the Savior saves. This is how the Messiah fulfills all the promises.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Jesus went from a throne in heaven to a manger in a stable. How does this single act demonstrate how much God loves each and every one of us?
  2. How do we keep the manger in our minds on a daily basis? 

A Thrill of Hope, The Weary World Rejoices.

 “O Holy night, the stars are brightly shining…It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth…Long lay the world in sin and error pining…till He appeared and the soul felt it’s worth…A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices…For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn…”

We picture the birth of Jesus as a Thomas Kinkade painting: stars shining, angels singing, wise men bringing gifts, the cattle gently lowing as they hum the newborn Savior off to sleep. As we imagine this pastoral scene we see Mary smiling and Joseph beaming.  We don’t see a mother who just gave birth or a father who had a lot on his mind after a very difficult journey.  

But this was not the scene. Jesus was not born into the technological marvels that are our hospitals today. Nor was He born into the civilized society of today. He was born into a completely different time. For example,  Jesus was born into a day and age where the rulers of the land, could command the murder of every baby under the age of two. Biblical times could be very desperate. Jesus was not born of wealth and greatness, strength, and supremacy. He did not arrive like we would expect a ruler and hero would. He came to earth as a newborn, fragile, and indefensible. His first home, a stable – not a palace, or even a temple. But a small building full of smelly animals.

This baby who is called, “Wonderful, Teacher, Powerful God, Father Who Lives Forever, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6), was born to an unknown man. This baby who was God in the flesh was born to a peasant girl in a stable. Think about that for a second: if God injected himself into the world in the most humble circumstances, then there is indeed nowhere and no one where His presence, love, grace, and holiness cannot be housed and hope found. Hope in the form of a Savior born on a holy night so many years ago. 

Luke included in his narrative the miraculous and mysterious events surrounding the mundane, utterly normal, yet all-together glorious birth of Jesus Luke 2:8-14. Little did Luke know that these words, written to a first-century audience, would still bring hope and awaken faith over two thousand years later. After all the centuries, the incarnation brings comfort to this weary world.

You may be hunting for hope this holiday season. The good news is you always have hope in Jesus. The thrill of hope that the world felt when Jesus finally arrived thousands of years ago in the manger in Bethlehem is still the hope that you and I have today. And for that, we should be grateful for that holy night in Bethlehem.   

Christmas Rescue

“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” – Mark 10:45. 

This passage cuts to the heart of why Jesus had to come. He came to give His very life to save ours. He was born into the world so that He could die for the world. Jesus came to rescue us: “What an agonizing situation I am in! So who has the power to rescue this miserable man from the unwelcome intruder of sin and death? I give all my thanks to God, for his mighty power has finally provided a way out through our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One…” (Romans 7:24-25)

Jesus rescued us. He paid our debt. And the fact of the matter is He continues to rescue us. Think of it this way: After work, you walk over to your car to drive home. But your car won’t start because the battery is dead. You need a jump. There is nobody around so you call a friend and ask them if they could come and jump the battery.  It’s late and it is cold, so you hate to bother them, but you really need their help. The friend grabs their jacket and heads out to help you in your time of need.  That is a true friend because you matter to them. They are someone who can be counted on and that only deepens the friendship between you.  

God planned to save us from the consequences of our wrongs and restore our relationship with Him. We can’t do this ourselves. Since we’re already imperfect, there’s no way to become perfect again. We can’t reach up to God, so He reached down to us by sending a Rescuer, Jesus.

God came to earth as a human, Jesus, to sacrifice Himself for us. Christmas is the celebration of the Rescuer arriving — a celebration of the birth of Jesus. Think about this: When God came to earth, He started out in the same weak and vulnerable state as the rest of us.  Jesus lived a human life from infanthood to adulthood, with all of life’s challenges. He did what we could not: He lived a perfect life.

Jesus then opened the final act of the rescue plan. He sacrificed Himself to break down the barrier between God and people and restore our relationship with God. On Good Friday, Jesus sacrificed Himself by dying in our place. Jesus’ perfect life allowed Him to stand in our place and take the penalty for our wrongdoings. But why did Jesus have to die? Couldn’t God just rescue us without a sacrifice? God is loving, but He’s also just, so He can’t ignore wrongdoing and its consequences. The ultimate consequence for all of our wrongdoing is separation from God, or spiritual death. Someone had to pay that price, so God came to earth in the form of Jesus to pay it for us. But the rescue plan doesn’t end with Good Friday. Jesus didn’t stay dead; His separation from God wasn’t forever. On Easter, Jesus broke free from death, coming back to life to complete the rescue mission.

I hope we celebrate Christmas this year for what it is – as a daring rescue and to fall in love again with our amazing Savior.  

Discussion Question:

  1. Have you ever thought of Christ coming to earth as a rescue? 
  2. What can we do this week to be thankful and grateful for being rescued?

Focus on Christ This Christmas

“O come, all ye faithful; Joyful and triumphant. O come ye, o come ye to Bethlehem. Come and behold Him. Born the King of Angels! O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him. Christ the Lord”

Christmas is special. It’s a seemingly simple story, a baby born in a manger, but it changed everything. The birth of Jesus meant the Messiah had come. Jesus’ birth broke the separation between God and man. His coming was anything but simple; it changed everything then and everything for us today.

Christmas has become hyper-commercialized. It’s hard to not get caught up in the magic of the season. Most of us love this season and yet we really struggle to break from our traditions. Sadly, the holiday is becoming mostly about parties, sweets, decorations, and a pile of presents that puts last year’s to shame. But that is not what Christmas is about.

We can take steps to redeem Christmas. Amidst all the commercialization, and the glazed-look of holiday shoppers faces, we can remember that, “Jesus is the reason for the season.” Christmas is not about buying gifts. Christmas is a birthday. And not just any birthday. But the birthday of Jesus Christ the Messiah, the Savior of the world.

All the fanfare around Christmas prompts a simple, but convicting question: Why am I was so focused on myself during someone else’s birthday celebration? I am not the reason for the season, Jesus is. In all of the hustle and bustle of doing things for Jesus I somehow was forgetting to connect with Jesus.

As Christmas gets closer, it is important to take time to focus and connect with Jesus on a personal level. Yeah, it is a busy time of the year, but it is a time that we celebrate the birth of the Messiah. We’re running and we’re rushing and I wonder if we can hear our Father’s voice from heaven if he would sound something like this: “Hey, hey, hey. It’s called Christmas because it’s about Christ.” It’s not called Giftmas or Decorationmas or Perfect Family Picturemas.

Since we are celebrating His birthday, it is appropriate for us to give Him a gift. For those of us that have children we realize that time spent with our kids is more valuable than any gift they can buy for us. So, consider giving Jesus the gift of your time. It doesn’t even have to be large quantities of time, but just being aware and connecting with Him in the moments of your day. As you are doing your job, or going to school, etc., connect with Him is some small way.  This is His birthday. Make sure that you take some time to make it about Him.

This Christmas find a quiet room, lock the door, leave the phone in your pocket. I want you to breathe in and breathe out and think, “It’s about Jesus.”

Discussion Question:

  1. What have you done to celebrate Christmas the last few years? What are you going to do different this year? 
  2. Name two ways you will focus on jesus this holiday season? 

Remembering God’s Faithful Love

“But then I recall all you have done, O Lord;  I remember your wonderful deeds of long ago.” – Psalm 77:11.

Remembrance is an important element of human activity.  We remember birthdays, anniversaries, and special events.  We remember things that happened in our lives and the lives of loved ones, but can we truly remember things we have not lived through?  Psalm 77 says that we can. 

Because, in the span of all of history, God remembered us.  So this holiday season—complete with party invitations, packages to wrap, trees to decorate, and dozens of other fun activities vying for our attention—let’s remember why we celebrate Christmas. God loved us so much that He sent His Son to die for our sins so that we can be in a relationship with Him. Invest in that relationship. Prioritize time with Him. And remember. 

Unfortunately, for most of us, it seems life’s accelerator gets stuck to the floor the week of Thanksgiving and stays wide open until we coast into the first week of the new year. We are so overwhelmed that we fail to pause and to reflect on the meaning of Christmas. But it shouldn’t be that way. We may celebrate Christmas, but do we take time to remember who God is and what He is done in our lives? 

The word remember is used 245 times in the King James version of the Old Testament. God reminds His people often that He will “remember” the covenant He made. He will not forget what He has promised. But God also admonishes His people to, “Remember the Lord your God.” There are so many passages that call us to remember the greatness of God. “be careful not to forget the Lord, who rescued you from slavery in the land of Egypt.” (Deuteronomy 6:12) 

We need to remember simply because we are too quick to forget. We don’t spend enough time remembering God’s faithfulness to us, to remember the times He’s been there for us or acted on our behalf. We should be reminded of what God has done throughout 2020 in sustaining us and bringing us to the threshold of another year. God is so faithful. As I Samuel 7:12 says, “…Up to this point the Lord has helped us.”

God has certainly helped us to this day. He has strengthened us, comforted us, loved us, forgiven us, delivered us, guided us, empowered and blessed us, and answered our prayers time and again. God doesn’t want us to forget His goodness. That is why He told the Israelites time and time again to remember Him and all the things He has done “It is my pleasure to tell you about the miraculous signs and wonders that the Most High God has performed for me.” ( Daniel 4:2 NIV)

Let’s do whatever we can to remember our God and all He has done for us. And may His faithfulness of yesterday make us trust Him today and give us hope for tomorrow.

Discussion Question:

  1. How do you feel when you have to keep reminding people to do things? How do you think God feels when He keeps reminding us not to forget Him? 
  2. What did this devotional teach you about remembering God?

O Holy Night

“All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet:“Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.” — Matthew 1:22-23

You’ll hear “O Holy Night” sung in practically every style, from gospel to choral, to country, to pop. But no matter what genre, it is hard to sing. It’s a solo, for one thing, with tempos and soaring sustained notes not meant for unskilled singers. Back in the old days, there were a number of audible sighs when O Holy Night was being sung. But it is a beautiful song about a holy night that changed history.

Jesus came to earth as a baby, born of a woman, to change the world. At no time of the year are we more reminded of just how much He has changed the world than at Christmas. In Philippians 2:6-8, Paul tells us of the glory of Christmas. “Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to.Instead, he gave up his divine privileges he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.” Paul is reminding us why the night on which Jesus was born was such a Holy Night. The entire Old Testament, from Genesis to Malachi, points to the birth of Jesus Christ.

The line in the song that stood out to me the most was the line, “the soul felt its worth.” Many people struggle with this idea of worth.  We too readily listen to people tell us “you’re never going to amount to anything.”  Or“You’re not smart”  and we carry those narratives with us. Most people struggle with trying to earn their own righteousness. We are wired for the law. We don’t understand grace. I think the more we can show people that their worth is not the issue, the better they will understand it.   

The message of the gospel is the message that although you are unworthy, He (God) deems you as having unending value and worth. He proved it by living and dying and taking our sin upon Himself and conquering death through the resurrection.  You cannot read the Christmas story and not come to the conclusion that in the eyes of God humanity has deep, deep worth and value. Since the resurrection, followers of Jesus have been reminded that for some reason we are of great worth to the King of kings and the Lord of lords.  

We can throw our misgivings and our personal appraisals out the window. They are not relevant. What is relevant is the fact that Jesus took on flesh, lived a perfect life, died on a cross for you and for me. As we celebrate the day of His birth, remember that you are deeply loved by the King of kings.  In His eyes you’re worth it.  Think about that for a are worth it.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How do you balance your worth with Christ dying on the cross for you? 
  2. What is the best way to celebrate the holy night of Christmas?

Adopted Children

“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.” – Galatians 4:4-7 (ESV). 

I don’t think most Christians would identify themselves as sons and daughters of God. Yes, we were created by God, but do we really grasp what it means to be the adopted children of God. Grasping that God has adopted me would change everything. That means we would truly understand that God loves us with unending love. He has chosen me and called me His own. 

Galatians 4:-5 says – “But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children” Verse 7 adds, “Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are his child, God has made you his heir.”

It’s all God. Start to finish, it’s God. It’s Father, Son, Spirit, working together to make us children of God. His beloved. His precious adopted children. All we need is faith and the commitment to be His children.  We need a childlike love and a childlike faith in our Abba, Father.  

The heart of God is that His people would know they are His sons and daughters. He wants us to know who we are to Him – which is to say, He wants us to know who we are to the only One who has the authority to define us: our Creator, our Lord, our King. We are His sons. We are His daughters. If our faith is in Him, this is who we are. Over and above anything and everything else, this is who we are.

In the secular world, adoption was usually for the benefit of the adoptive parents, not for the benefit of the child. For example, a farmer might want help with tilling his land, or a childless couple might want someone to look after them in old age, or an aristocrat might want someone to perpetuate the family name. In the New Testament, the benefits are all the other way. While we may be sure that adoption gives God immense satisfaction, He never adopts in order to meet some need of His own. He adopts us because He loves us. And because He loves us, He showers upon us every spiritual blessing (Ephesians 1:3) and fills our lives with the melody of joy and victory (Psalm 118:15).

The whole reason for Christmas is this: God wants you to be His child. God wants that kind of relationship with you. He wants you to experience the intimacy, the privileges, that come from being His child.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How does knowing God as your Father impact the way you view your relationship with Him?
  2. How does viewing God as your Father impact the way you approach Him in prayer?