Diana Nesbitt

Always Go Deeper

Category: Devotional

He Didn’t Come As a Royal King Should Have

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He didn’t come as a royal king should have
The High King of Heaven come down to earth
Unwelcomed by fanfare or clamoring crowds
Quietly humble, His miraculous birth

Curled up inside of a womb He’d created
No guards to protect this valuable life
Only to outcasts His birth was announced
By angels and a great star in the night

Prophets for centuries long had foretold it
A Savior would come, would be Emmanuel
But those in Bethlehem slept, unaware
That the promised Messiah had just joined them there

Creator condemned by His own creation
He carried our sorrows and bore all our shame
Unwelcomed, unwanted, they tried to dethrone Him
They murdered Him, still He continued to reign

Next time He comes it will be in His glory
He will take up His king’s place on the throne
All knees will bow, every tongue will adore Him
Saints will rejoice as He welcomes them home

He didn’t come as a royal king should have
But it wouldn’t have been right if He had
Not only a King, but a Saviour as well
He came not to rule but to save us from hell.

I hope your Christmas is filled with sweet meditations on the most loving and gracious Gift ever given- Jesus! Merry Christmas! 

The Inescapable Presence of Immanuel

DSC07762 Immanuel- the name given the Messiah, the Promised One who would come to earth to rescue His beloved creation from the horrid mess they had gotten themselves into.

Immanuel. God with us.

No man made religion can offer real closeness with the real God. Always, in the religions man has made up, we make it unattainably hard for ourselves to reach God.

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God, however, makes it easy. He reaches for us. The history of the world is nothing more than the story of God being Immanuel- God with us, God reaching for us.

He made a perfect world with perfect closeness between man and Himself. Man sinned and severed the relationship. God continued to make ways for man to know Him, and then finally, He sent the permanent solution to our sin problem. He gave us His dearly loved Son, withholding nothing in His pursuit of us. Then He sent His Spirit to indwell every person who accepts His gift of eternal life.

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I once heard a preacher say: “You can be as close to God as you want.”

He is God with us, the One who has done everything possible to make it easy for us to come close to Him. We’re the ones who build the barriers between us and God, with our sin, mistrust, and rejection of all the goodness He offers us.

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Still, His invitation is always going out. Christmas, the fascinating time of year when, in spite of all of people’s efforts to squelch the scandalous message that God loved us all enough to send His Son to die a brutal death to pay for our sin and be raised again so those who believe can have new life, that message, it goes out over loudspeakers in stores, and on the radio, the television, and the internet.

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That message, it travels at the speed of sound, and you can cover your ears against it but you can’t stop it from leaking out everywhere. The songs of the season carry the message, the crooners, the pop artists, and all the musicians are the unwitting carriers of the message that will rescue the whole world from darkness, if we’d all stop being afraid of the Light.

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You’re hard-pressed to evade it, this time of year, this message that has infiltrated every tradition surrounding this holiday. Santa Claus? =A generous Christian saint. Happy Holidays? Holiday=Holy Day.

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It’s no surprise- Paul says in Romans 10:8, “The message is near you, in your mouth and in your heart.” In the mouth of every person who has ever sung Silent Night or Joy to the World, in the ears of every person who has heard Linus recite the Christmas story on Charlie Brown Christmas.

If only everyone would stop and wonder about what they’re singing and hearing.

Inescapable Immanuel. You can leave Him, but He won’t leave you.

What relentless, generous love. Don’t run from it, embrace it.

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“Praise be to God for His unspeakable gift!” 2 Corinthians 9:15

Why Your Bible is Like a Grapefruit

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She sat at our kitchen table, eating half of a grapefruit. I could hear her dentures cutting through the pulp of the tangy fruit as I sat with her, eating my own grapefruit. My mouth puckered as I ate the pink colored triangles drizzled with glistening honey, like evening sunlight gilding a flower. That was my favorite part of the fruit- the sweet, easy-to-eat part.

But then, when all the little triangles were gone, Grandma would dig deeper into her piece, scraping her spoon along the side of the half sphere to get all the little “juice bottles”, as we called them, that hadn’t been cut away by the knife and still clung to the rind. I did my best to scrape the side of my grapefruit, too, although it was harder to do and each bite didn’t have the sweetness of the honey-coated sections.

Grandma kept scraping and digging with diligence, even breaking down the translucent walls that sectioned the pulp and eating some of them, relishing every last drop of juice. I couldn’t get as much out of my grapefruit as Grandma could, nor could I imagine enjoying it as much, but it was still fun to watch her just the same.

Those memories of my early experiences with eating grapefruit came back to me one morning as I sat at the kitchen table, scraping my grapefruit the same way I had seen my mother and grandmother do before me. And as I looked at my Bible lying on the table before me, I realized that grapefruit isn’t the only thing you can acquire a taste for.

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Is the Bible really boring, or does the problem lie with us?

When I hear people say the Bible is boring I cringe for two reasons: one, because I know it’s not, and two, because I feel we should show more respect when referring to the living Word of God. I understand the feeling, though. The Bible isn’t the easiest Book to understand, and it certainly takes more work to enjoy it than it does to sit down and read a novel or watch a movie. But we shouldn’t fault the Book for that. It’s a living book, and we can never outgrow its depth, so we shouldn’t be surprised when it challenges us.

But just because it’s challenging doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep trying to love and understand the Word of God. So here are a few suggestions to encourage you to go deeper in your knowledge of the Bible if you’re struggling with it:

Get the big picture. Study both the Old and the New Testaments. When you do, the intricate weaving of the truths and themes that are echoed and intensified in each book becomes more clear, and it’s truly amazing.

Learn about the culture. Knowing about the background information of something you’re studying can really make it come alive. The more you understand about the contemporary events surrounding the teachings of the Bible, the better you are able to grasp the significance of what the writer of the book was saying. Wings of Refuge and the Chronicles of the Kings series are novels written by my favorite author that do a fantastic job of bringing Biblical history alive. I’m not usually a fan of Biblical fiction (it seemed dull and sometimes the authors took a little too much liberty with the accounts) but this author builds her story about the Biblical accounts, not the other way around. (Disclaimer: I have only read the first two Chronicles of the Kings books, and there was some content in them that might be a bit mature for young readers.)

Keep reading it-the parts you like and the ones you don’t. Just like I wouldn’t have learned to like grapefruit as much as I do now if I had just quit eating it, you won’t learn to love the Bible if you stop reading it.

Learn from other people. If you have more mature Christians in your life, ask them how they study the Bible- when, what books they use, how much time they spend doing it each day. Or if you would like, feel free to contact me. I would love to go through a Bible study with you or answer any questions you might have!

Use books to help you. When I try to pick up the Bible and read just anywhere I get easily distracted. I need a guide to keep me focused and help me ask the right questions to get the most meaning out of the text. (Inductive Bible Studies by Kay Arthur are my favorite!)

Ask God to teach you. This is where the Bible differs from all books; it doesn’t matter if you’re really good at understanding things or not, it is possible for you to understand the Bible. If you know Jesus as your Savior, you have the Holy Spirit in you, and 1 John 2:27 says that “…His anointing teaches you about all things and is true and is not a lie…” That’s a promise from God- claim it boldly. He will always reveal Himself to anyone who wants to know Him better.

Apply it to your life. When you finish studying, take a minute to think about (or better yet, pray about) how you can begin living out any principles you’ve unearthed. Applying Biblical truth to your life isn’t  always comfortable, but it is always freeing. {tweet that} And it’s in reading this book that you can discover just how your story ties in with God’s.

And finally…

Ask God to help you love His Word. ‘Nuff said.

Don’t make the mistake of assuming the Bible is just an old, dry Book and leaving it on the shelf. It’s the living, effective Letter of the God of the universe to you. It contains everything you need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3&4, 2 Tim. 3:15-17) It is your only offensive weapon against the tactics of the devil (and be forewarned, he doesn’t like it when you study it. But don’t let that stop you!).

It takes time and effort to understand the Bible, but it’s the most rewarding investment you will ever make!

If you’re up for it, try this exercise to learn more about the Bible and how valuable it is: Read Psalm 119 and make a list of everything you learn about God’s Word (watch for the different names used for it, such as precepts, instruction, etc. This is an exercise from the inductive Bible study book of Psalms.)

Tell us: What are your suggestions for gaining a better understanding of and love for God’s Word?

Why It’s Good to Give Thanks for Everything – Even Fleas

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It was almost too much to bear. They were in the infamous Ravensbruck concentration camp, the worst of all concentration camps, being transferred to more permanent quarters. Corrie had already cried when they first arrived as she had cut Betsie’s long chestnut hair off because of lice, and now this.

The two Dutch sisters, Corrie and Betsie ten Boom, were shown where they were to sleep in the women’s barracks, with its rows of tightly packed, straw-covered sleeping platforms stacked in bunks of three high. They hauled themselves up to the middle tier of the platforms and crawled across other pallets to find their own sleeping space in the center. Unable to sit up because of the closeness of the upper tier, they lay back on the reeking straw. A moment later Corrie jumped as something pinched her leg.

“Fleas! Betsie, the place is swarming with them!” Corrie cried. They scrambled off the pallets and made their way to a patch of light. Sure enough, they found more fleas.

Corrie was in despair. “Betsie, how can we live in such a place?”

“Show us how. Show us how.” After a second Corrie realized her sister was praying. A moment later Betsie’s face lit up. “Corrie, He’s already given us the answer! We read it this morning in our devotions!”

Corrie pulled out their precious New Testament and found the passage they had read that morning: “In everything give thanks, for this is God’s will in Christ Jesus concerning you.”

“That’s it, Corrie, that’s His answer!” Betsie exclaimed. “‘Give thanks in all circumstances!’ We can begin giving thanks for every single thing about this new barracks!”

Corrie looked around her at the dark, foul-aired room. “Such as?” she said.

“Such as being assigned here together.”

Corrie bit her lip. “Oh yes, Lord Jesus!”

“Such as what you’re holding in your hands.”

“Oh yes, thank You for Your precious Word and for the women who will meet You in Its pages.”

Betsie continued her list of thanksgiving. “Thank You for the overcrowding so that more women will hear about You, and for the fleas and for-”

“The fleas! Oh, Betsie, now that is just too much!” Corrie cut in, protesting.

“‘Give thanks in all circumstances,’ Betsie quoted. “It doesn’t say, ‘In pleasant circumstances.’ Fleas are part of this place where God has put us.”

And so, as they stood in a patch of light in flea-infested Barracks 28 in Nazi Germany, the two sisters bowed their heads and gave thanks for fleas.

But this time Corrie was sure Betsie was wrong.

During the dark time since the day the Gestapo had raided their quiet Dutch home above their father’s watch shop and sent their family to the Nazi concentration camps for hiding Jews in their home, their small Bible had been the sisters’ lifeline, their only source of hope and light in a world characterized by hatred. Here, in the ever-deepening darkness of Ravensbruck, it was no different. The living pages of the Book held increasing wonder for Corrie and Betsie as the overwhelming bleakness of their circumstances drove them closer to their Savior.

Each night in the back of the barracks, under a single light bulb hanging from the ceiling, Corrie or Betsie would read from their Dutch New Testament to the crowd of women prisoners gathered for their “worship service”. The other women would translate aloud in German, and still others translate the words into French, Polish, Russian, Czech, and back into Dutch, sustenance for starving souls passed from one prisoner to another.

At first, Betsie and Corrie were worried that the guards would hear and disapprove of the meetings, but as night after night they held them and no guard came near, they became bolder. They didn’t understand it, but they took advantage of it nonetheless.

Then one day it all came clear. Corrie met Betsie at dinner time, and they went through the line together to receive their food. Betsie’s eyes were twinkling, and Corrie wondered why.

“I found out why we’ve had so much freedom in our barracks,” Betsie told her, unable to keep the note of triumph from her voice.
“Today there was some confusion in our knitting group about sock sizes and we asked the supervisor to come and settle it, but neither the supervisor nor the guards would step foot into the room. And do you know why? Because of the fleas! That’s what the guard said, ‘That place is crawling with fleas!'”

It turned out that the fleas were indeed something to be thankful for: God had used them to give Corrie and Betsie the opportunity to freely share His Gospel with hundreds of women!

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After the war, after Corrie had been released from the concentration camp and began sharing what Jesus had taught her through her experiences in the concentration camps, she would recite this poem while holding a piece of needlework with the underside, which looked like a tangled mess of knots, facing the audience:

“My life is but a weaving
Between my God and me.
I cannot choose the colors
He weaveth steadily.

Oft’ times He weaveth sorrow;
And I in foolish pride
Forget He sees the upper
And I the underside.

Not ’til the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly
Will God unroll the canvas
And reveal the reason why.

The dark threads are as needful
In the weaver’s skillful hand
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned

He knows, He loves, He cares;
Nothing this truth can dim.
He gives the very best to those
Who leave the choice to Him.”

At the end of the poem she would flip the piece of cloth over to reveal a beautiful tapestry of gold and royal blue, showing her audience, as God had shown her, that what looks like a tangled mess of awfulness to us is a masterpiece of ordered beauty from God’s perspective.

This story is one of my favorites because it is a perfect example of why it is good, appropriate, and yes, even wise, though it may not seem like it at the time, to give thanks to God for all things in all circumstances. Like Corrie’s poem said, God is the Master Weaver, or if you prefer another analogy, the Master Storyteller. We are the characters in the story. We don’t know the end of the story, but He does.  Psalm 139 says that God had our story all written for us before it even began:

“Your eyes saw me when I was formless;
all my days were written in Your book and planned
before a single one of them began.”

When challenges come and there seems to be no reason for them, it is still God’s will that we give Him thanks for them. We may not always find out the reason for the difficulty here on earth like Corrie and Betsie did, but one day in Heaven we will see the right side of the tapestry and we will find out that the challenges that seemed so senseless to us had an appropriate and beautiful place in the tapestry of our lives. We just need to know Him well enough that we will trust Him no matter what.

Note: The story in this post was adapted and some sections quoted from The Hiding Place, by Corrie ten Boom and John & Elizabeth Sherrill. It is one of my favorite books, and I can’t recommend it highly enough! 

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Question: What helps you trust God even when you don’t understand what He’s doing? Have you ever had an experience where you realized that the hard thing in your life was really a blessing? Share it with us in the comments!

Finding Beauty in Barrenness

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I used to think this time of year, after the leaves fall and before the snow flies, was ugly. The bleak grayness of the barren landscape would depress me . I saw no beauty in the brown undergrowth or the skeletal trees standing against the gray sky.

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In recent years, however, I’ve come to discover that the beauty of nature during this time of year is not lost; you just have to look for it. Unlike the flashy glory of the autumn foliage, the beauty of this season is elegantly subtle. It does not arrest the eye as the scenery in earlier months of the year does; like high art, it archly displays its glory only for those who have learned to appreciate it.

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When the pervading ambiance of the outside world is death, it may seem odd to find beauty in it. But we need only to look to the Cross of Jesus to find beauty in death. Death that holds promise for life. For if the trees and plants held on to their summertime and autumnal splendor, the weight of the snow would drag them down and break them. They must be stripped of their own glory before they can receive the weight of a greater glory. And if they did not die, the seeds bound tightly within them would never be broken free from their caches to spawn new life for another year. Death must precede life.

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So it is with us. In the death of Jesus, our Savior, we find the promise of eternal life. We must be stripped of our own glory so that we may be clothed with the weight of God’s pure glory. We must hold a death sentence to our flesh within ourselves so that the seeds of Christ’s righteousness planted within us at salvation may bear an abundant harvest of fruit for His glory.

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Question: How do you view November – as beautiful or barren? How do you find beauty in things that at first seem ugly or unpleasant?

Starlight and the Bible: Hidden Jewels

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photo credit © Josh Nesbitt

The deep blue of the night sky hung over me like a seamless piece of velvet as I dashed out to my car to get some tissue paper I had stashed in the trunk for my mother’s birthday the next day. As is my habit whenever I’m outside at night, I looked up at the stars on my way back to the house.

“We should go outside and look at the stars,” I said to my mom as I closed the front door behind me. I stowed the tissue paper away in my room and went back outside, sitting down on the porch swing and trying to peek out from beneath the awning. The patch of sky I could see showed only a few faint stars.

“Not that there are many to see,” I told her through the window screen. There weren’t as many stars out as I first thought, even though it was a fairly clear night. However, the cool evening air made me want to stay outside, so I stood on the porch and craned my neck to stare at the small light show the sky had to offer.

Standing there taking in the grandeur of the heavens, I tried to replicate in my own heart that feeling of smallness David had when he wrote these words:

“When I observe Your heavens,
the work of Your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which You set in place,
what is man that You remember him,
the son of man that You look after him?”
~Psalm 8:3 & 4

As I continued to gaze heavenward, pondering the fact that God knows the name of every star and yet cares personally about me, a wondrous thing happened. Another star appeared. Then another. And another. Before long, the formerly barren-looking sky was filled with faintly twinkling jewels. The longer I looked, the more stars appeared. 

Even thought it was only natural that I should see more as my eyes adjusted to the darkness, it surprised and awed me nonetheless, and I peered eagerly at the sky, waiting to see what new specks of light might appear next.

And then, as my soul adjusted to the quietness like my eyes had adjusted to the darkness, a nugget of spiritual truth unveiled itself to my heart. God and His Word are like the night sky, full of beauty and depth that are often hidden to those who will not take the time to stop and look up, to quiet themselves and let the pupils of their souls be opened wide to the wonders that are waiting to be found.

Many times we go to the Bible and find it dry, lacking the inspirational quality we expect it to have. But like the night sky, it does not offer up the full splendor of its sacred beauty  to those who only take the time to give it a passing glance {tweet this}. It requires a searching gaze and a heart willing and eager to learn for the jewels of truth encased within the ageless tome to be revealed. The benefits of such seeking could fill a book, but here is one: “The one who looks intently into the perfect law of freedom [the Bible] and perseveres in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer who acts – this person will be blessed in what he does.” (James 1:25)

The hymn “Take Time to Be Holy” came wafting into my mind, echoing the truth the stars had just whispered:

Take time to be holy, speak oft with thy Lord;
Abide in Him always, and feed on His Word.
Make friends of God’s children, help those who are weak,
Forgetting in nothing His blessing to seek.

Take time to be holy, the world rushes on;
Spend much time in secret, with Jesus alone.
By looking to Jesus, like Him thou shalt be;
Thy friends in thy conduct His likeness shall see.

Next time you’re outside at night, look up at the stars and let them be a reminder to you to “take time to be holy” and gaze into the Word of God. Don’t miss out on the treasures tucked within the pages of the Bible. 

The entirety of Your Word is truth, and all Your righteous judgments endure forever. Princes have persecuted me without cause, but my heart fears only Your Word. I rejoice over Your promise like one who finds vast treasure.” Psalm 119: 160-162 {tweet this}

If you’re not sure where to start in studying the Bible (or would like to try something new), check out these Bible study books using this method. They are a wonderful tool for digging deeper into the Bible!

Question: What treasures have you found in the Bible?

How to Sing When You’d Rather Scream

Last week I fought the grumpies for a couple of days. As I was in the midst of this battle one morning, the lower dishwasher rack came partially off the tracks on the door. It has the tendency to do this occasionally, and I have the tendency to be royally irked by it.

Feeling my temper flare, I shouted, “I hate it hate it hate it!” Immediately I felt foolish for my lack of self-control (because a dishwasher is just something you shouldn’t complain about), and then, along with that sense of guilt came a thought – a challenge, really:

What if I praised as loud as I complained? What if every time I yelled in frustration, I immediately changed my tune and shouted praise and thanksgiving, in volume equal to that of my complaint?

It took me a few minutes to gather my courage, but after I picked up something else to put in the dishwasher I opened it up and hollered (for lack of anything wittier to say), “I like it I like it I like it!” (I admit, I wasn’t quite brave enough to say it quite as loud as I had complained. Dad was on the phone, after all.)

I won’t deny it, I felt kind of foolish, doing that.

But why?

Why do we feel less conspicuous when we scowl than when we smile?

Why do we complain in shouts and give thanks in whispers?

Let’s face it, when we’ve got a case of the grumps, we are fully aware that we’re not exactly exuding the Fruit of the Spirit. We’re usually not too afraid to have other people notice it, either. In those moments when we release self-control, lose our temper and throw a grown-up version of a fit, we don’t much care how nasty we look.

But to burst out into a fit of praise, when the dishwasher comes off the tracks or a clean floor gets dirty or children are misbehaving or the internet is down, or when we just know God is good and we ought to recognize it audibly for a moment?

Horrors. How embarrassing!

But wait. Aren’t we commanded by God to give thanks in everything?  And when King David, whom God called a man after His own heart and who continuously sought to praise God both publicly and privately, was berated by his wife for making a fool of himself  in front of his subjects by dancing before the Lord with all his might when the ark of the Lord was brought to his city, he replied, “I will celebrate before the LORD, and I will humble myself even more and humiliate myself.” (2 Samuel 6:21b-22a)

Praising Even When It Feels Weird

It doesn’t sound as though we’re supposed to prize our personal sense of dignity over our responsibility of praising God. So then, what if we take those moments when we’re just about to make fools of ourselves (or when we just have), when we have the urge to let something out, and instead of releasing something ugly, we release something beautiful?

It might feel crazy to us, especially at first; but to God, it’s perfectly appropriate.

Turning Defeat into Victory

That evening, as I was pouring juice into a glass, some of it spilled onto the floor. Right away I growled in frustration, but then stopped myself and burst into my favorite song for such occasions: “Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition.” My mother, who was nearby, promptly joined my little concert, and together we cleaned up the floor.

I felt a little less strange that time. But I’m glad that both times I challenged my cowardly sin nature, that would rather complain loudly and praise quietly. Because God is just too good a God for His children to go around yelling like people who have no sufficient grace offered continuously to them to help them have self-control when irritating things happen.

Singing Instead of Screaming

So I share with you the challenge: next time you find yourself in a grumbling mood and something makes you holler in anger, be brave enough to change your tune and praise in equal proportion and volume to that of your complaint. And please note, this isn’t about about pretending like everything is hunky-dory when you really feel like blowing your top. It’s about winning a life-over-death battle against your sin nature and doing everything you have to- even if it feels foolish- to stand your ground. It’s about taking a moment that could lead to failure and turning it into a moment of victory by God’s grace. Making a sacrifice of praise.

At any rate, knowing you might have to yell something like “I like it I like it I like it!” is pretty good motivation not to complain in the first place. 😉

 Therefore, through Him let us continually offer up to God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of our lips that confess His name. ~Hebrews 13:15

 

The Purpose of Life Summed up on a Semi

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The sun sank towards the horizon. I watched, soaking in the warm beauty of it as I chased it west through New York state, prolonging its descent. Its warm glow intensified and deepened from golden to orange as it bathed the earth in warm light and then left it cold and darkening, allowing nothing to distract from its own glory in the last brilliant moments of day.

A passing truck caught my eye as the side of it flashed red, reflecting the glory of the vermilion rays back to the glowing orb.

There it was, summed up in an instant on the side of a semi: the purpose of life.

Reflecting glory.

This is what we were created for: reflecting God’s glory. When man rebelled against God and desired his own glorification instead of God’s, we all fell and a veil of darkness covered us, destroying our ability to reflect His glory back to Him. But through Christ’s merciful and loving blood sacrifice in our place for our sins,  it is possible for us be redeemed and restored to God, and for the veil to be lifted from our hearts when we accept Him as Savior.  We are enabled to once again fulfill our purpose for being placed on this earth, radiantly reflecting the glory of our God as He sets our hearts ablaze with the knowledge of Himself.

The apostle Paul says of those who have had the veil lifted from their hearts, “We all, with unveiled faces, are reflecting the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; this is from the Lord who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:18

As we lift our faces and gaze on our Savior (by studying the Word and praying), letting His light shine into our hearts to make us more like Him, we become more radiant, more able to communicate the knowledge of God’s glory to a darkened world. And when people see this in us, they will be ignited to praise and glorify God.

It’s a hall of mirrors, an unending cycle of God’s purpose being fulfilled: we see the glory of God in Christ and reflect it back to Him. As we reflect it to Him others see the glory also and are moved to reflect it back to Him.  “For God, who said, ‘Light shall shine out of darkness’- He has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of God’s glory in the face of Jesus Christ.” 2 Corinthians 4:6

Therefore, whether you eat or drink,

or whatever you do,

do everything for God’s glory.”

1 Corinthians 10:31 (emphasis mine)

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