Giving Up Our Mirrors

[Bezalel] made the laver of bronze and its base of bronze, from the bronze mirrors of the serving women. —Exodus 38:8

When Moses gathered the children of Israel together to begin work on the tabernacle (Ex. 35–39), he called on Bezalel, a gifted artisan, to help make the furnishings. We’re told that certain women were asked to give their precious bronze mirrors to make the bronze basin he was constructing (38:8). They gave them up to help prepare a place where God’s presence would reside.

Give up our mirrors? For most of us, that would be hard to do. That’s not something we’re asked to do, but it makes me think about how too much scrutiny and self-examination can be disconcerting. It can make us think too much about ourselves and not enough about others.

When we can forget about our own faces quickly and remember that God loves us as we are—in all our imperfections—then we can begin to “look out not only for [our] own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Phil. 2:4).

Augustine said that we get lost in loving ourselves but found in loving others. Put another way, the secret of happiness is not getting our face right but giving our hearts away, giving our lives away, giving our selves away, in love.

Father, may I think more of others today than I think of myself. May I lose my thoughts about myself in my thoughts of other people and their needs.
A heart that is focused on others will not be consumed with self.
INSIGHT: Paul wrote the letter to the Philippians while he was under house arrest. He was waiting for a verdict that would either set him free or result in his execution. It was in these circumstances that he wrote about “consolation,” “comfort,” and “fellowship” (v. 1). Paul reminds the Philippians (and us) that these things come from our commitment to Christ. We have consolation in Christ, comfort from His love, and fellowship with the Spirit. All of our love for each other comes from following the example of Christ (vv. 2-5), which Paul explains in verses 6-11.


Hand Me The Binoculars!

The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork. —Psalm 19:1

When I was in elementary school my friend Kent and I would often spend time looking at the night sky with a pair of German-made binoculars. We marveled at the stars in the sky and the mountains on the moon. All throughout the evening we took turns saying, “Hand me the binocs!”

Centuries earlier a Jewish shepherd boy looked up at the night sky and also marveled. He did not have a pair of binoculars or a telescope to aid him. But he had something even more important—a personal relationship with the living God. I imagine the sheep quietly bleating in the background as David gazed skyward. Later he would write the inspired text: “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge” (Ps. 19:1-2).

In our busy schedules, we can so easily forget to stand in awe of the heavenly beauty our Creator has prepared for our enjoyment and His glory. When we set aside time to look at the night sky and marvel at what is there, we gain a deeper understanding of God and His eternal power and glory.

We believe that this is Your world, Lord. We marvel at You and Your creativity when we look at the sky and the world around us. You, and what You have done, are amazing! We stand in awe of You.
In the wonders of God’s creation, we see His majesty and His character.
INSIGHT: Charles Haddon Spurgeon wrote this about David and Psalm 19: “In his earliest days the psalmist, while keeping his father’s flock, had devoted himself to the study of God’s two great books—nature and Scripture; and he had so thoroughly entered into the spirit of these two only volumes in his library that he was able with a devout criticism to compare and contrast them, magnifying the excellency of the Author as seen in both. . . . He is wisest who reads both the world-book and the Word-book as two volumes of the same work, and feels concerning them, ‘My Father wrote them both.’”


Shocking Accessibility

You received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” —Romans 8:15

When John F. Kennedy was president of the US, photographers sometimes captured a winsome scene. Seated around the president’s desk in the Oval Office, cabinet members are debating matters of world consequence. Meanwhile, a toddler, the 2-year-old John-John, crawls around and inside the huge presidential desk, oblivious to White House protocol and the weighty matters of state. He is simply visiting his daddy.

That is the kind of shocking accessibility conveyed in the word Abba when Jesus said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for You” (Mark 14:36). God may be the sovereign Lord of the universe, but through His Son, God became as approachable as any doting human father. In Romans 8, Paul brings the image of intimacy even closer. God’s Spirit lives inside us, he says, and when we do not know what we ought to pray “the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered” (v.26).

Jesus came to demonstrate that a perfect and holy God welcomes pleas for help from a widow with two mites and a Roman centurion and a miserable publican and a thief on a cross. We need only call out “Abba” or, failing that, simply groan. God has come that close to us.

We want to talk to God, but it can be difficult to find words to express the emotions of our heart. The Discovery Series booklet Let’s Pray may help. Read it online at www.discoveryseries.org/hp135
Prayer is an intimate conversation with our God.
INSIGHT: The indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives is the evidence that we are saved. The Holy Spirit is also called “the Spirit of God” and the “Spirit of Christ” (Rom. 8:9). Paul taught that the Spirit is the deposit that guarantees our salvation (Eph 1:13-14) and the source of our new life (Rom. 8:11). Assuring us that we are God’s children, the Holy Spirit enables us to affectionately call out to God, “Abba, Father” (v. 15). As “the Spirit of adoption” (v.15), the Spirit changes our status from slaves to sons (Gal. 4:6), giving us the full privileges of sonship—making us heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:17). The indwelling Spirit helps us to pray by interceding for us and with us (v. 26).


Unexpected Encounter

he Lord repay your work, and a full reward be given you by the Lord God of Israel. —Ruth 2:12

Drew, young and enthusiastic, was leading the singing for the first time in a large church. Lois, a long-time attender, wanted to encourage him, but she thought it would be too difficult to get to the front of the church before he left. But then she saw a way to snake through the crowd. Lois told Drew, “I appreciate your enthusiasm in worship. Keep serving Him!”

As Lois walked away, she ran into Sharon, who she hadn’t seen in months. After a short conversation, Sharon said, “Thank you for what you do for the Lord. Keep serving Him!” Because Lois had gone out of her way to give encouragement, she was now in the right place to receive unexpected encouragement.

After Ruth and her mother-in-law, Naomi, left Moab and returned to Israel, they received an unexpected blessing. They were both widows with no one to provide for them, so Ruth went to glean grain from a field (Ruth 2:2-3). The field happened to be owned by Boaz, a distant relative of Naomi’s. He noticed Ruth, provided for her needs, and later became her husband (2:20; 4:13). Ruth received a blessing because she was in the right place at the right time (2:11-23).

Sometimes God uses unexpected encounters to bring unexpected blessings.

Dear Lord, help me to go out of my way to encourage others—whether or not I receive anything in return. My heart’s desire is to help others along the way to know You. May I be Your hands and feet.
When it comes to helping others, don’t stop at nothing.


Pursuing Holiness

Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord. —Hebrews 12:14

We often see surveys that ask people if they are happy, satisfied with their work, or enjoying life. But I’ve never seen an opinion poll that asked, “Are you holy?” How would you answer that question?

One Bible dictionary defines holiness as “separation to God and conduct fitting for those separated.” Author Frederick Buechner said that when writing about a person’s character, “nothing is harder to make real than holiness.” He adds that “holiness is not a human quality at all, like virtue. Holiness is . . . not something that people do, but something that God does in them.”

Romans 6 presents the stunning gift that God gives us through faith in Christ: “We were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (v.4). The pursuit of holiness occurs daily as we yield ourselves in obedience to the Lord instead of following our old ways of self-gratification. “Now you are free from the power of sin and have become slaves of God. Now you do those things that lead to holiness and result in eternal life” (v.22 nlt).

Are you becoming more holy? By God’s grace and power, the answer can be a resounding “Yes! More and more each day.”

Father, I want to cooperate with You in Your work of changing me to become more like Jesus. Help me to walk in Your ways. Without Your work in me, nothing of lasting value will occur in my growth in holiness.
The choice to pursue holiness is a matter of life or death.
INSIGHT: In Romans 6:23 we are shown the great contrast between earned wages and the gift of grace. All that we are capable of earning (wages) is death, but in Christ (the gift of God) we are offered payment for our sins and life forever.


The Power To Survive

We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed. —2 Corinthians 4:8

When I was growing up, I had an inflatable plastic punching dummy. It was about as tall as I was and had a smiling face painted on it. My challenge was to hit it hard enough to make it stay down. But no matter how hard I tried, it always bounced right back up again. The secret? There was a lead weight in the bottom that always kept it upright. Sailboats operate by the same principle. The lead weights in their keels provide the ballast to keep them balanced and upright in strong winds.

It’s like that in the life of a believer in Christ. Our power to survive challenges resides not in us but with God, who dwells within us. We’re not exempt from the punches that life throws at us nor from the storms that inevitably threaten our stability. But with full confidence in His power to sustain us, we can say with Paul, “We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Cor. 4:8-9).

Join the many travelers through life who through deep waters of pain and suffering embrace with unshakable confidence the truth that God’s grace is sufficient and that in our weakness He is made strong (12:9). It will be the ballast to your soul.

Where do you turn for stability when you’re in a stormy season of life? Read Anchors In The Storm by Joe Stowell online at www.discoveryseries.org/hp073 for help.
The power of God within you is greater than the pressure of troubles around you.
INSIGHT: In fulfilling his calling as an apostle (Acts 9:15), Paul endured great suffering. In 2 Corinthians 1:8-10, 6:4-10, and 11:23-27, he elaborated on the many persecutions, threats, and dangers he faced. But in the midst of great opposition, persecution, and painful suffering, Paul’s refrain is: “We do not lose heart” (2 Cor. 4:1,16). Speaking of himself as an “earthen vessel,” Paul acknowledges his frailty, limitations, and expendability (v. 7). His confidence is not rooted in himself but in God’s sovereign power, in His sustaining grace, in Christ’s resurrected life, and in the expectation of future reward and eternal glory (vv. 7-18).


Solving The Mystery

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. —Romans 5:8

One of the most popular tourist attractions in England is the giant stone pillars of Stonehenge. These massive pieces of granite are also a great source of mystery. Every year, people travel to Stonehenge with questions such as: Why were they erected? Who accomplished this extraordinary engineering marvel? And perhaps we wonder most of all how they did it. But visitors leave having received no answers from the silent stones. The mystery remains.

The Scriptures speak of a greater mystery—the fact that God came to live among us as a man. Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 3:16, “Great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up in glory.”

This brief overview of the life of Christ—the mystery of godliness—is remarkable. What prompted the Creator of the universe to come and live and die for His creation, however, is not a mystery. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). God’s great love for us is at the root of the mystery of godliness, and the cross has made it plain for all to see.

Lord, we may not understand everything You have done for us, or how You have done it. But we know You love us and sent Jesus to die for us, and that is all we need to know.
How Christ became a human being may be a mystery, but God’s love isn’t.
INSIGHT: An inclusio is a writing device where an idea or word is repeated at the beginning and end of a passage, but the idea in the middle is the author’s primary focus. In today’s passage, an inclusio is formed with the word “rejoice” (vv. 2,11). The emphasis is directly in the middle of the passage in verse 6: “Christ died for the ungodly.”


Start With Me

Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. —Philippians 2:4

I call them Mell Notes—little comments my daughter Melissa made in her Bible to help her apply a passage to her life.

In Matthew 7, for instance, she had drawn a box around verses 1 and 2 that talk about not judging others because, when you do, “with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” Next to it she wrote this Mell Note: “Look at what you are doing before you look at others.”

Melissa was an “others-oriented” teen. She lived the words of Philippians 2:4. Her classmate Matt, who knew her from church nursery through her final days in the eleventh grade when she died in a car accident, said of Melissa at her memorial service: “I don’t think I ever saw you without a smile or something that brightened up people’s days.” Her friend Tara said this: “Thanks for being my friend, even when no one else was as nice and cheerful as you.”

In a day in which harsh judgment of others seems to be the rule, it’s good to remember that love starts with us. The words of Paul come to mind: “Now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor. 13:13).

What a difference we’ll make if, when we look at others, we say, “Love starts with me.” And wouldn’t that be a great reflection of God’s love for us?

Lord, thank You for the great love You lavished on us when You sent Your Son to die and be resurrected so that we could be with You eternally. In response, help us to love others. Lord, we want to be like You.
Embracing God’s love for us is the key to loving others.
INSIGHT: In 1 Corinthians 13 Paul is extolling the value of love, but it is not just any kind of love. In Greek, there are a variety of words for love that range in meaning from physical to fraternal. Here, the word translated “love” is agape, which speaks of supreme love—the kind that sacrifices itself for the one loved. This is the love God demonstrated for us by giving His Son to pay the price for our sins (John 3:16; Rom. 5:8).


House-Hunting Ants

Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations. —Psalm 90:1

According to researchers from the University of Bristol, the European rock ant may be better than we are at staying on top of the housing market. The researchers found that the ant colonies use scout ants to continually monitor their colonies’ living conditions. Using social skills complex enough to stun the scientists, the rock ants work together to find the right living space, darkness, and security needed to give the queen mother and her larvae the best available housing.

In the days of Moses, the families of Israel were looking for a new home. The slave yards of Egypt had been brutal. The wilderness of Sinai was no place to settle down. But there was a problem. According to Israelite scouts, the homeland to which God was leading them was already occupied—by walled cities and giants who made the scouts feel like grasshoppers in their own eyes (Num. 13:28,33).

Sometimes it may be helpful to compare ourselves to insects. House-hunting rock ants instinctively follow the ways of their Creator. But we often let our fears keep us from following and trusting God. When we rest in the assurance of His presence and love, we can say, “Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations.”

Father in heaven, please help us to see that today there is no better place to live than in Your presence and love. Help us learn to settle in and be comfortable with our place in You.
Finding ourselves at home in God is a good place to be.


A Season For Everything

To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven. —Ecclesiastes 3:1

If you’re like me, you’ve struggled with having to say no to taking on a new responsibility—especially if it’s for a good cause and directly related to helping others. We may have sound reasons for carefully selecting our priorities. Yet sometimes, by not agreeing to do more, we may feel guilty or we may think that somehow we have failed in our walk of faith.

But according to Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, wisdom recognizes that everything in life has its own season—in human activities as in the realm of nature. “There is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven” (3:1).

Perhaps you are getting married or becoming a parent for the first time. Maybe you are leaving school and entering the workforce, or moving from fulltime work to retirement. As we move from season to season, our priorities change. We may need to put aside what we did in the past and funnel our energy into something else.

When life brings changes in our circumstances and obligations, we must responsibly and wisely discern what kind of commitments we should make, seeking in whatever we do to “do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). Proverbs 3:6 promises that as we acknowledge Him in all our ways, He will guide us in the way we should go.

Heavenly Father, give me Your wisdom to know what priorities I need to have at this season of my life. Guide me in all that I do. I only want to bring You the honor You deserve with the way I live.
Commitment to Christ is a daily calling that challenges us.
INSIGHT: The book of Ecclesiastes shows what life is like without God (1:1-2) and reminds us to include Him in our lives (12:1). In today’s passage, Solomon affirms God’s sovereignty over all human life (3:11). He observes that we are time-bound, experiencing between birth and death a complexity of events (vv. 2-8). God is in control of our lives, making “everything beautiful in its time” (v. 11).