As it turns out, God created us to be reflections of who we spend time with and what we turn our attention to. We were designed for intimacy with Him, and intended to reflect His goodness and grace.
I Corinthians 3:18 says, “And we all with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His image with ever increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”
According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, to contemplate something means “to think carefully or deeply about something.”
The surest way to any transformation is the way we think. We can be transformed for the better or for the worse depending on who or what we contemplate.
How often do we contemplate...
The “what ifs” and worst-case scenarios and become filled with anxiety?
How we’ve been wronged and find ourselves bitter and filled with unforgiveness?
Everything our marriage is not and find our marriage degrading into further turmoil?
How we’ve messed up with our kids and fallen into further burdensome shame?
On what others have (or have not) in comparison to us and become envious or prideful?
The truth is, we become like who or what we behold. The surest way to become who God originally created us to be is to spend our time looking in the right direction. When we look to Him, our perspective begins to change to what is true. When we look at the wrong things, we begin to believe lies rather than truth (much like what happened with my hair situation.)
What if, instead of the negative, we began to contemplate…
God who is with us no matter what life holds for us?
God who loves us, defines who we are, and is the defender of our hearts?
God who fights with us for the good and restoration of relationships?
God who is our Forgiver and the Lifter of our heads?
God who is the One who loves to satisfy us with Himself and teaches us to walk in humility?
As Christ-followers, we should be becoming a little more like Jesus each day. Today, take special notice of what your mind is focusing on. Are they thoughts of comparison, shame, or pride? Or are they thoughts towards Jesus, His truth, His perfection, and His glory?
If we begin to find ourselves wandering towards old ways of thinking, let’s turn our focus back and contemplate the God Who is with us, fighting for us and bigger than any situation we could ever face.
I didn’t realize it then, but this mission can be summed up in one of the most familiar prayers of all time; a prayer that Jesus Himself invited us to pray. The “Lord’s Prayer” is spoken far and wide, but when we really dig in, we find there is enough power to change our lives in the first two verses alone.
“This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name...’”
This prayer is a beautiful invitation into a different kind of life than the common self-reliant life most of us live. ‘Hallowed’ is a bit of an ancient word, but a synonym for the word is the word ‘honored.’ When we honor His name, we honor all of who He is. He is Provider, Healer, Friend, Banner (Victory), Shepherd, Peace, Refuge, Present, Righteousness, Holy, Love, and so much more.
Can you imagine if we rehearsed who He is every single day in this prayer? I imagine our fears would be calmed, our trust would deepen, we would be inwardly at rest and our identity would become fixed in Him. Focusing on God shifts perspective, gives courage and promotes love. It changes who we are and in turn changes how we live. Looking at Him paves the way for the next verse.
“‘...your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.’”
When we pray these words, we are asking for His Kingdom ways to infiltrate the earth. It can feel overwhelming to pray this until we realize His ‘Kingdom come’ is simply the result of individuals living differently. When we live with a “Your Kingdom come, your will be done” mentality, we begin to live our days on mission. We want HIS will to be done, not our own. This kind of heart changes our actions. We don’t get to choose other’s choices, but we always get to choose ours.
His ‘Kingdom come’ in our lives may look like…
Handling a temper tantrum with grace
Responding well when offended
Staying up late speaking life to a hurting friend
Welcoming others into our home with open arms
How many of the most important moments of Jesus’ ministry were, at the time, seemingly small and inconsequential? What if ‘His Kingdom come’ isn’t always a splashy moment in time, but a display of His grace, love and kindness in our hard world? What if like our friend’s home, our homes become a refuge, a sanctuary of sorts where His Kingdom ways are operating more and more?
What if we lived like that wherever we find ourselves? Never perfect, but always growing.
Father, who is above and over all, honored be your name. May YOUR kingdom come, YOUR will be done, in our lives and in our homes as it is in Heaven today.
Growing up, I was a sticker on a chart sort of girl. Little rows of boxes filled with shiny stars marking perfect attendance, good behavior, and recited verses motivated me to continue.
When I entered motherhood, mental charts replaced physical ones:
Patience today? Sorry, no sticker!
Kindness? There were a couple moments...
Peace? If you count laying down in the middle of the chaos imagining myself at the beach, then I guess yes.
Time for husband?
Time for friends?
Time for other important things?
I had a spiritual chart too. Enough Bible study, prayer, serving? I was never quite sure. Every night I bemoaned the missing stickers on my chart, and I was sure God was disappointed too.
The problem was, I was trying to work my way to God instead of living from what Jesus had already done. Instead of living my life IN Him, I was trying to live my life to get TO Him. Those two ways of living are worlds apart.
As we read in Exodus, the Israelites frequently found themselves in the same predicament. They witnessed God part the Red Sea, then lead them as a shading cloud by day and pillar of fire by night. He provided manna for them to eat, and even made water pour out of a rock. God had been tender towards them, telling Moses to remind them in Exodus 19:4 that He had carried them on eagle’s wings and brought them to Himself. His purpose in delivering them was for them to be with Him. This always was and still is God’s heart. He has always wanted to do life with us, since the Garden of Eden.
In Exodus 20:1-17 God gives Moses the Ten Commandments. These laws were an invitation to live a different kind of life— a life of wholeness and holiness. A life in good relationship with both people and God… and isn’t that what we all truly want?
Two times the Israelites declare, with all the gusto of good intention, “We will do everything the Lord has said!” However, the people found themselves in a place of wanting to do the right thing, but continually failing. They constantly teetered between faithfulness and faithlessness, leading to more sin and frustration.
Their good intentions weren’t enough. (They never are!) The Israelites desperately needed something else— a Savior.
Jesus came to fulfill what we could not. Because of Jesus, we no longer just do the right things outwardly, but become the right kind of people. Perfection is no longer required because He is perfect.
In Hebrews 4:14-16, we are told Jesus is our great high priest who sympathizes with our every weakness. We are invited to come to His throne of grace where we will find kindness, forgiveness, hope and mercy. We don’t have to wait for the right time, the right place, the right person or the right ceremony. He is near us, beside us and walking with us no matter what our day looks like.
Living from what He’s already accomplished, we can come to Him readily, even on no-sticker days, knowing He loves us and always wants us close to Him.
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A long time ago on a starry night, love was born. The Father who IS love, sent in love Jesus to demonstrate love to all mankind.
The God, who is not far off, stood in anticipation as the plan that He had set from the beginning of time was enacted. The enemy thought he had won. Humankind’s intimacy and relationship with the Father had been badly damaged in the fall. Mankind’s soul was aimless, not able to be what it had been created to be. The soul cannot have worth outside of the Father because we were made by God and for God. “In him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28a, NIV, emphasis added).
The divide between man and the Father was vast because of sin, but this gentle Father didn’t want Heaven without us.
Mankind was lost, searching but never finding.
In disbelief, the enemy watched as the Father sent the Son as a helpless baby, and the news spread across all mankind, from the least to the greatest. He came as love for all who would seek Him.
He came for those who find themselves in the lowest places.
For the weak, he came as a vulnerable and dependent child born to poor parents.
For the misfits, lonely and scorned, He was announced first to the shepherds who were social outcasts as well as religious outsiders. They were ceremonially unclean and therefore could not participate in the religious activities of the day. It doesn’t take a lot to imagine that given their lot in life, their family lives weren’t so great, and they had deeply broken hearts.
For the poor and the downtrodden, this God of Heaven and earth decided that not only would a palace fit for an earthly king not convey his heart, but a simple, impersonal inn or a modest home would not be low enough. He went to the deepest depths and was born in a stable, so we would understand that there is not one person too low for Him. His love reached underneath the lowest place to catch up the lowest person in His love.
But He didn’t stop there.
He didn’t forget about those set high on the social ladder because His love reaches that high. It reaches higher than the wealthiest and the wisest among us.
The wisemen came bearing expensive gifts. They had wise minds, and using that wisdom, they found Jesus by following a bright star and subsequently saw His worth as greater than their wealth and status, even risking their lives to find this child who was and is God’s love manifest.
He was not after the poor. He was not after the rich. He was not after the simple. He was not after the wise. He was after ALL. WE are who He came for.
If you are lonely, His love is for you.
If you are depressed, His love is for you.
If you are grieving, His love is for you.
If you are stressed, His love is for you.
If you are poor, His love is for you.
If you are surrounded by people, His love is for you.
If you are happy, His love is for you.
If you are excited, His love is for you.
If you are at rest, His love is for you.
If you are rich, His love is for you.
His love is for you.
There is not a place where You can be where He is not wanting to show you His love. Only those who resist and reject Him will not know it, and even then, He so wants to show His love that He stands with His arms wide open. “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in His name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12, NIV, emphasis added).
Word of the Day: For God so love the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16, NIV)
Prayer: Father, Thank You that You love me. Help me to see and know Your love for me more deeply. During this Christmas season, help me to remember that love truly is what this season is about—Your love for mankind. I give my problems, fears, worries and even my celebrations to You. Show me Your heart for me and for those around me. I love You and thank You for Your love for me.
Author: Wendy Gerdes
I love manger scenes of all kinds and find myself regularly stopping and staring at them wondering what that experience must have been like. What was Mary thinking? Joseph? What about those shepherds who were tending their sheep like every other night of their lives when their world was turned upside down by a choir of angels announcing that the Messiah, God with us, had come?
The one night when heaven touched earth and turned history on its head. The night that God staged a rescue in the most unremarkable, remarkable way. The most demonstrative action of love ever performed began in the heart of God a long time before, but this was the night that the plan began to unfold. I wonder if Heaven stood in anticipation holding its breath the night that the birth took place?
All knowing, esteemed, and exalted Jesus now a helpless baby who couldn’t walk, talk, or even roll over on His own. This Son of God who was part of creating the world and all that is in it, couldn’t even lift His head. What must have it been like to watch the esteemed Son make a quiet entrance into the broken world of mankind as a helpless baby?
This was a covert operation to bring hearts back to Him. His love demonstrated, mankind’s heart turned towards Him, and the second Adam enabling man to live differently. The ability to live according to God’s Kingdom now—all because of this little baby. This God/man miracle would make a way for broken hearts to be mended, sinful hearts to be forgiven, depressed hearts to be filled with joy, hopeless hearts to be filled with hope, and relationship with God to be restored. Some would miss Him—many would miss Him in fact.
Some were standing on a promise that had already been answered. They were still waiting in hope not realizing that Hope had come. Without the full picture, a baby seems to be a sad answer to the world’s problems. A baby is not a warrior. A baby can’t free anything, much less a captive world. This was not what they were hoping for, but some saw.
Some saw that God had a bigger plan that was unfolding. They understood that what they were seeing was a plan enacted by the God who created the universe; thus it must be good, grand, perfect, and show-stoppingly amazing. A plan by God can’t be anything other than that. Hope in this baby took a lot of faith. Knowing the whole story, it’s easier to see—although many still cannot see.
It takes a great deal of trust to hope when we cannot see. If we are hoping in our circumstances, we will lose hope if things don’t turn out like we think they should. If our hope is in Him—that He knows, is moving, and holds our lives— we will not be shaken. He is writing our stories and they are woven within the fabric of the larger picture of what He is doing. When we try to make our stories about us, we will always come up empty handed, but when we offer our lives up as part of the larger story He is writing, He will make sense of hopeless situation. We may not be able to see it now, but we can have hope in the God who writes grand stories. Those who hope in Him will not be disappointed.
In that little baby, born on a starry night, was all the hope the world would need. It is all the hope that WE will ever need. His Kingdom come, His will be done…
For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed. (Romans 10:11, NAS)
Father, Help me to trust You. I know that You are writing My story, and even though I can’t always see what is going on, You know. I trust You, and I will allow You to be the writer of my story, the designer of my life, and the One who I put all of my hope in. Help me to see as You do, but even when I can’t, help me to trust Your intentions toward me, and Your grand plan for my life. I choose to hope in You.
Author: Wendy Gerdes