Sunday, November 24, 2013

God of Glory

This week I have chosen to focus on the glory of God. Instead of writing about it, I wanted to let you discover insight and heart convictions as you walk through scripture. I suggest printing it or reading at a time when you can ruminate on and respond prayerfully to these Scriptures and the short audio clip about God's glory.



Then he led me to the gate, the gate facing east.  And behold, the glory of the God of Israel was coming from the east. And the sound of his coming was like the sound of many waters, and the earth shone with his glory... And I fell on my face. (Ezekiel 43:1-3, ESV)

* * *

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.  And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”
And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”

Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar.  And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” (Isaiah 6:1-7, ESV)

* * *

There he came to a cave and lodged in it. And behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and he said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”  He said, “I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.”  And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.  And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (1 Kings 19:9-13, ESV)

* * *
And above the expanse over their heads there was the likeness of a throne, in appearance like sapphire; and seated above the likeness of a throne was a likeness with a human appearance. And upward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were gleaming metal, like the appearance of fire enclosed all around. And downward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and there was brightness around him.  Like the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud on the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness all around.
Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. And when I saw it, I fell on my face... (Exekiel 1:26-28, ESV)

* * *

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.”  And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.  But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.”  And the Lord said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by.  Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.” (Exodus 33:17-23, ESV)
* * *

 The Lord reigns, let the earth rejoice;
    let the many coastlands be glad!
Clouds and thick darkness are all around him;
    righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.
Fire goes before him
    and burns up his adversaries all around.
His lightnings light up the world;
    the earth sees and trembles.
The mountains melt like wax before the Lord,
    before the Lord of all the earth.
The heavens proclaim his righteousness,
    and all the peoples see his glory.
(Psalm 97:1-6, ESV)

* * *
I encourage you to listen to this short 3-minute clip by John Piper on "What is God's Glory?"
* * *
The "going public of God's infinite worth" is an idea that sets my heart and mind on Christmas. God went public through sending His Son, according to His promise. And that compels me to recognize all heaven's glory in the unembellished entry of Jesus Christ into the world. He was plain and weak, a human. His glory was not in His outward appearance but in who He was.
For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
    and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
(Isaiah 9:6, ESV) 
* * *
But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
    who are too little to be among the clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
    one who is to be ruler in Israel,
whose coming forth is from of old,
    from ancient days.
(Micah 5:2, ESV)

* * *
Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets,  but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.  He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.  (Hebrews 1:1-4)
* * *
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.  (Philippians 2:5-11, ESV)
* * *
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.  And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,  and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.  (Colossians 1:15-20, ESV)
* * *

And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say,
“Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty,
    who was and is and is to come!” 
(Revelation 4:8, ESV)

* * *

And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.  And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. (Revelation 21:22-23, ESV)


Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.

Monday, November 11, 2013

God Revealed

He is a God who makes Himself known. He's not a hider, a player, a manipulator, or an avoider. He's honest and intentional. And that makes me responsible.

Have you ever wondered if you missed His voice? Is the spiritual volume not turned high enough? From the beginning God has communicated about Himself. He walked and talked with Adam and Eve in the garden (Genesis 1:28-29; 3:8ff; 4:6). He interacted with Moses to lead the Hebrew people home (Exodus 3:4-10). He set apart prophets to speak on His behalf (Isaiah 6:8). His Son, Jesus, spoke face-to-face with men and women in the first century (Matthew 9:1-7). And God revealed Himself to the church through the work of the Holy Spirit. Because of the Holy Spirit we have both intimacy with God and a work of inspired texts that are a foundation for our remembrance of Him (John 16:13; Acts 2:1-11; 2 Peter 1:20-21).

God reveals Himself through the pages of the Bible.

Sometimes that truth feels too lofty and theoretical. I sit to read my Bible or pray, unimpressed with God's historical faithfulness. Felt needs, busyness, and circumstances harden my heart to the compassion and closeness of God. Yesterday, I read Psalm 60 and rolled my eyes. It made no sense, and I was tired. I'll read another one tomorrow that I can interpret with emotions rather than the sweat and work of Bible study. And I'll feel wonderfully confident about my closeness to God...tomorrow.

Wow. My spirituality is oozing out in such flattering ways. But I'll apologize later and chalk it up to my flesh struggle. You win, God. I lose. No biggie. No real repentance.

On the contrary, with unmatched grace God made Himself knowable to me! First by the messages of others. Then through prayer. And especially in the Bible. The truths of God accepted by faith can also be acted upon in faith. So am I acting in faith by seeking to know God through His revelation of Himself?

Bible study and prayer are the tools God left me to use as I seek to be in relationship with Him. But Bible study takes work. That's why I sometimes avoid making eye contact with my Bible, why I read lightly and quickly out of guilt and then put my sticker on the chart, or why I get frustrated at someone else who "obviously" isn't reading theirs.

The Holy Spirit faithfully convicted me of my attitude toward Psalm 60. Tonight I rolled up my sleeves and did the work of Bible study. I grew closer to God through understanding the struggle of His people to trust in His sovereign care. I saw God speak directly to them, though He did not fix their immediate difficulty. I learned that God may allow a time of loss while still upholding His sovereign plan for good.

That's truth that I can digest.

If you have difficulty studying the Bible, please ask for help. A treasure awaits!

(C) Kendra Higgins 2013.

Image courtesy of Robin D/

Monday, October 28, 2013

God Everlasting, Today

Today, I trust God exists.

As I silently prayed this morning, I realized that I believe God exists. I easily rested in this truth, not struggling with questions and fear as I once did. His faithfulness has cultivated a growing faith in me. As I open my mouth in prayer, I acknowledge His eternal nature. He always has been and always will exist as a real and personal being. He receives and gives actions such as hearing and responding when I pray.

Today, I trust God extends grace to me.

Grace is God's chosen method in revealing Himself and cultivating relationship with us. It's easy to downplay the significance of grace because we're trained to gain through our own efforts. This is good when we labor as a productive part of creation, but it is prideful when refusing to humble ourselves before God's gifts. Through pride or self-sufficiency, our sinful nature can often find grace offensive or illogical. 2 Timothy 1:8-9, NASB says,

"...but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity."

God has chosen to have a relationship with me through grace. God determined to begin what He is fully able to carry out. It was His plan from eternity past and affects eternity future. His grace will be sufficient for me today.

Today, I trust that my life is a holy moment for God's glory.

Some days are easygoing, some painful. Other days I am filled with hope, and other days my mind teems with questions. Some days I am full of Him and others, full of myself. Each day I have the beautiful opportunity to resign my will to His, acknowledging that He has a plan for His glory that includes me. No matter how I feel, my situation and emotions do not change this holy moment. My very breath is being sustained by God. He desires my heart to be honest before Him, humbled, and obedient to what pleases Him. And that process might be part of the day's learning opportunity. I am one small star in the scope of the heavens who God created, named, and has purpose for (Isaiah 40:26).

Today, I trust that I am responsible to live for God's glory.

God expends His grace on us so that we can live according to our created purpose. Grace is not God's way of fattening us up for Christian laziness. When our focus is on God's glory and not our own, we connect with our responsibility in God's eternal plan. And more than a responsibility, it is our fullest joy to be a part of God's plan to share the grace we have received with others. Listen to Paul's admonition to Timothy in regards to the gospel message:

Hold the example of sound words which you have heard from me,
in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.
Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us,
the treasure which has been entrusted to you."
1 Timothy 1:13-14, NASB

We guard the gospel so that future generations will be able to hear the same message that Jesus proclaimed. Guard? How? We have a responsibility to understand God's plan (revealed and recorded for us in the Bible), to believe ourselves to be an active part of it, and to act as His children who are entrusted with the gospel and empowered by the Holy Spirit. God's plan for allowing others to hear the good news of Jesus includes our choices to actively live out our created purpose--to know God and make Him known.

(c) Kendra Higgins 2013.

NASB Study Bible. Ed. Kenneth Barker. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995.

Image courtesy of Maxime Perron Caissy /

Monday, October 21, 2013

God Everlasting (Psalm 90:1-2)

A sweet friend recently finished reading the Old Testament on her journey through the Bible cover-to-cover. She jokingly drew out her words as she noted the many, many genealogies that listed the families in Israel throughout the OT. We both laughed at her feigned pain, but were genuinely excited. Reading the Bible as a whole is no small goal. It's a chance to watch God interact with every human generation that has and will live.

Can you imagine that one day we will be the names on the list? Someone else will butcher our twentieth and twenty-first century names like they come from a different language. (Get a feel for how strange your name will sound. Mispronounce your name and greet a friend with the wrong pronunciation while you're at it!) Maybe a few of us will have short-lived fame or have our names "immortalized" on paper, metal, rock, or in the light of a computer screen. Most of us will be remembered for a few generations after we die by those who love us. Our names carry memories, but only for a while.

It's discouraging to think of it like that. If you and I gain significance by what others think (ie. what we gain for ourselves at the expense of others), by what can be attained, or by what can be posted or tweeted, we lose sight of the significance of our moment. We lose sight of trusting God for who He is and what He is accomplishing in us. Life is a sacred moment within eternity. God has given it. God sustains it. And one day God will take it away through death.

After Isaac was born to Abraham--a father at the young age of 100--Abraham had trouble with water bullies. He worked a deal with the local king to secure rights to a well that would continue to sustain his family and livestock in a dry land. After the foreign king granted Abraham his rights, Abraham planted a tree and called on El Olam, the everlasting God (Genesis 21:22-34). He recognized God's quality of existing from eternity past and continuing into eternity future. This small victory showed God's help and His ability to keep His promise to Abraham: that land would one day be his. God doesn't skip rocks across the timeline of history. His everlasting nature is part of what encourages us, sustains us, and keeps us looking toward the fulfillment of His promises.

Psalm 90 by Moses is noted as the oldest of the Psalms. Moses was a man with the fear of speaking who God used to confront Pharaoh of Egypt. In trust he wrote:

Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations.
Before the mountains were born or you gave birth to the earth and the world,
Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.
You turn man back into dust and say, "Return, O children of men."
For a thousand years in Your sight
Are like yesterday when it passes by,
Or as a watch in the night. (vv.1-4)

Moses does not despair in the truth of "from dust to dust." His life was sovereignly appointed for a moment in God's everlasting lifetime. He is not so unique that he trusts God for something new. Instead, he trusts God for being the same as He has been for all people. He is the place of safety and rest to which man can look. Man gains something by looking to Him. And from an eternal perspective, He has always been and will always be God. He can be trusted as a secure and enduring help because that is what He has chosen to do for His gain, His glory.

My encouragement for you (and me) today is to consider how an everlasting God brings hope to the difficult moments, the challenges, the pain, and the unknown you face. God sees this moment and has chosen to be close. But He will not stop to dwell only in your pain or difficulty; He will continue on into eternity and lead you there.

(c) Kendra Higgins 2013.

Image courtesy of Roger Kirby /

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Naughty List

This time of year, I try to do my best to make Santa's good list, but after this weekend I might have to settle for coal in my stocking. On our lazy Saturday morning, my husband and I sat and shared about our Bible reading of late. He read in Proverbs and I, Psalms. We both encountered an address to or wisdom about the "wicked" or unfaithful person's folly. Being that Proverbs and Psalms were read to the Jewish congregation and not on the street corner to strangers, I wondered, "Who is the fool? Who is God talking about? Is God calling one of His children a fool?"

I assumed the Bible was meaning those outside of the faith community and pointed my finger there. I obviously didn't point to myself. Who doesn't prefer God's encouragement? But my conscience wouldn't let that pass. These teachings were given to the community of faith for edification. The fool or wicked person in the Bible isn't only found out on the streets. I could miss the opportunity to hear what God has to say. He could be talking to me.

Can you see a little of your own heart in these naughty lists?

"Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and thing like these..." Galatians 5:19-21, NASB

"Do not be afraid when a man becomes rich, when the glory of his house is increased;
For when he dies he will carry nothing away; His glory will not descend after him.
Though while he lives he congratulates himself-- And though men praise you when you do well for yourself--He will go down to the generation of his fathers; They will never see the light.
Man in his pomp, yet without understanding, Is like the beasts that perish." Psalms 49:16-20, NASB

"The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, But the soul of the diligent is made fat." Proverbs 13:4, NASB

"...being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice, they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful..." Romans 1, NASB

Even though in Christ you and I have become a new creation, it's easy to become impatient when these lists show me that sanctification is a process and not a fully realized result. I don't want to relate to the fool! I don't want to trust that God, in His gracious timing, is overseeing my journey in sanctification and that he will not stomp off in anger because I didn't make the cut...AGAIN. I want the ease of good emotions, happy thoughts, and happy places. I want control. So which would I rather have: my happy place or a more fully realized grasp of God's sufficient grace?

I find encouragement from an unlikely place: screenwriting and movies. Everyone loves a good villain, right?! The best villains are those who are believable and relatable. When I see the villain in a movie, I see little pieces of myself. He's human; he's a family man; he has a secret to hide; he wants to make a better life for himself; he wants to be better but just can't. Remember Gru in Despicable Me? He's a criminal mastermind that gets transformed by three orphan girls. Although the movie has another fun villain, Gru is a villain unto himself because of his unwillingness to love and change. He's fun to relate to and laugh at. That's your assignment! Watch a movie you love and think about why you love the main character so much and why you love to hate (or sympathize with) the villain.

Like the media industry, God uses the fool and the wicked man in the Bible to stir the heart. A Jew or Christian (OT or NT) who doesn't care about loving God with his or her whole self probably isn't going to respond or feel conviction from the truth. But the wise heart gains instruction when fools are reproved. A commentary on Psalm 50 says, "The purpose of these verses [vv. 16-21] is to prick the conscience of God's people so as to make them more responsive to God's requirements of the community. Those who are really interested in being his "consecrated ones" will wisely respond, whereas the wicked will foolishly cast God's requirements of the faith and repentance aside as not being relevant." 1

So, God is talking to me. He's using the foolish and unfaithful to teach me about myself and others. I can have peace when the Holy Spirit brings conviction. I don't have to fear coal in my stocking. I can be confident when I am "tainted" by sin. This is my opportunity to see myself with eyes regenerated by the Holy Spirit through faith in Christ. I can see! This is my opportunity to respond in the way I did when I first believed. I am alive! Oh, friend. God is persistent and good. My beauty began with and is being perfected by Him. He purposed for me to be a whole woman in Christ before the world began and is working toward that purpose. I am free!

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation,
a people for God's own possession, so that you may proclaim
the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness
and into His marvelous light
1 Peter 2:9, NASB

(c) Kendra Higgins 2013

1 The Expositor's Bible Commentary, Vol. 5. Frank E. Gaebelein, Editor. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1991), p. 377.

Image courtesy of Hazel Bregazzi /

P.S. - Two books that helped me enjoy the role of the villain so much more are  The Writer's Journey by C. Vogler and The Moral Premise by S. Williams.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Escaping Hypocrisy through the Gate of Grace (2 Peter 1:2-7)

Living out grace is not so easy. If I'm honest, I see myself operate by legalism and behavioral modification much too often. I do 'A' and hope that people respond 'B'. If 'B' doesn't happen, I see the ugly side of my heart start to rule my attitude and thought: attention seeking, neediness for approval, the fight for my "rights." It's scary to see what truly resides in my heart, but the Holy Spirit is faithful to continue shaping me in the divine nature (2 Peter 1:2-7). Thank goodness for God's free gift of love as I wrestle with how to apply the gospel of grace to my own heart and carry out the will of God.

Take for example my husband and I. Last night we discussed how to apply both grace and truth to a hypothetical situation. And we got into a fight. I would feel less foolish if it were a real situation. Nope. Just good ol' theory and opinion and self-righteousness. The discussion was based on a hypothetical situation, and we let it divide us for a short time.

It's so easy to want to be heard.
It's so easy to desire calculated responses from people.
It's so easy to demand that I be counted as relevant. (Meaning my husband responds the way I want.)

Ha! Doesn't that last one seem like an inalienable right. I should be affirmed for holding a valid opinion. How dare he! What I didn't mention is that I inwardly rolled my eyes at my husband's perspective and barely listened. I discounted his opinion even before it came out of his mouth because I wanted so much to be right in this made-up-not-real situation. I even confronted him about his "sin" as I fought to be right. I was void of love. But if I word it just right, you'll side with me, feel sorry for me, or start feeling that injustice is in play. I can craftily play the victim and try to get you on my side. I can demand grace without extending it myself and still get others to support me.

Oh the terrible web I wove to look better in my own eyes and in others'! Can you relate?

All it took for me to tuck my tail between my legs was church. I sang about God's free gift of love and His work through Jesus' death and resurrection. I sang about His goodness and melted into the pew, confessing my own sin. Over and over. Not for the sake of more forgiveness, but because even in confession I struggled with defending myself. Waves of grace kept washing over me as God led my heart toward humility. Once home my husband and I confessed our shortcomings and asked for forgiveness from one another.

We, those who love Jesus, have an important role to each other as church family: to remind one another of the gospel and God's wonderful self. Sometimes the best I can do is surrender in my great need for Christ and allow other believers to lead me by the proclamation of the good news of Jesus. And it impacts me anew. Through it my Savior reminds me of the abundant grace already supplied. He invites me to shed hypocrisy--which He hates because it denies His own work on my behalf.

Praise be to our faithful God. Praise be to our wonderful Savior. Praise be to the Holy Spirit who gets His hands dirty in so much ugliness so that something beautiful will result.

Image courtesy of Mateusz Stachowski /

(c) 2013 by Kendra Higgins

Monday, September 16, 2013

Fix Your Hope (1 Peter 1:13)

Pounding the pavement by starlight this morning with friends, I reunited with my inner adventurer. The cool morning air lifted away the usual burden of bearing up under the heat of the day. I thought excitedly about possibilities and chatting rather than fretting over water stops, salty sweat burning my eyes, and how to handle exhaustion. As I fixed my attention on the starry blanket above, I considered the bigness of God and the excitement of being alive and in His will.

It's funny how a little change can affect outlook. Focused upward, I failed to notice that it must have been trash day. Overflowing trash containers lined the sidewalks. Trash bags and heaps of stuff blocked the path. Soon enough my focus was back on earthly things. Headlights warned of oncoming cars. Garbage smells grabbed my focus as I jumped over a trash bag.

Could this be what Peter was talking about?

...fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
(1 Peter 1:13, NASB)
I doubt that Peter had garbage bins in mind. But he knew about the daily grind and difficulties that believers faced. Persecution was a real threat in the life of a believer who heard this letter read in the church. Within a decade, Peter himself would be persecuted to death under the Roman Emperor Nero's suppression of the Christian faith. Being fixed on hope was more than an expression of freedom and positive thinking like we American Christians would relate to. Being fixed on hope because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ was the only chance a believer under persecution had to persevere. They would need to cling to Christ's example of suffering and Peter's words of instruction.
I recently had a friend who wanted so much to give birth naturally, without an epidural anaesthetic. During labor her good friend, who had already given birth naturally, came to encourage her. She was able to say at the right moment, "You're doing great. You're almost done!" Not many could have coached a woman in labor through such difficult pain, except one who had already been there. Her words were a trusted and empathetic guide.
Peter gives Jesus as the believer's example in handling sin and suffering. Jesus is our trusted and empathetic guide. Peter says to look at Jesus and fix your hope on grace. One who loves Jesus will put all eggs in one basket--grace. The believer looks forward to a life with God that could never be earned and is already theirs. Like a starry sky where we fix our eyes, fixing or resting our hope upon God's grace in Christ allows the present suffering to be an opportunity for beautiful obedience and deepened relationship with the Savior.
Today, I am considering two things:
  1. The persecution of Christians is real. Paul's words are given to those who are tasting difficulty, especially persecution because of Christ. I want to be sensitive in my application of this text, knowing that my present difficulties are not so difficult. My life is not endangered by family, community, or a government that despise Jesus Christ. I need to pray for brothers and sisters under persecution. (Want to know more? Voice of the Martyrs / Open Doors)
  2. No matter how much I see and experience the garbage-lined streets of a sinners life among other sinners, hope lives. I need to daily remind myself of the beautiful blood of Jesus that was shed for me (1 Peter 1:18-19). Jesus is worthy of praise. Have I praised Him today and set my hope on meeting Him face-to-face very soon?
(c) 2013 by Kendra Higgins
Image courtesy of Just2shutter /

Monday, September 09, 2013

Love is Enough (1 John 4:11-12) by Alex Wilks

Hey there, I’m Alex! As a response to God's faithfulness to me, this year I have been asking Him to teach me how to be more faithful. One of the ways He answered my prayer was to allow me to spend 6 weeks in Thailand this summer loving on these precious babies.

1 John 4:11-12  says, “Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love has been brought to full expression through us” (NLT).

Just sit with that verse for a minute. Have you ever fully digested that? For those of us who have been called by God and adopted into his family this verse says that when we love others God is being expressed through us. What a privilege!

I spent this summer in Thailand doing mission work with a family who welcomes girls into their home who have no one to care for them. In a foreign country, language barriers present a unique problem to encouraging and discipling others. Because I don't speak their language, I found myself frustrated that I couldn’t lead a Bible study or ask these sweet kids questions about what they learned in a quiet time. Talking with my community back home, I was constantly encouraged to simply love them with God’s love. “Sometimes that’s enough,” they would say.
Then I read 1 John 4.

It is enough. What an amazing truth this scripture exclaims: God is love; He lives in me. When I love others, I am expressing God. I am being the hands and feet of Jesus. I am living the gospel. And if you are in Christ, you are too!

I’ve been back in the states for about a month, and I still have moments when I struggle to believe that loving someone might just be enough. I struggle against the need to always find or be the solution to problems. I fight my pride that says, “It is God that they need, but it might be a little bit of me that they need, too.”
So, I am asking God to show me when it is best for me to simply love — and more importantly — what it looks like to love with His love. Pray with me that he will continue to refine us so that when we love, it is purely the love of God we offer and it is only because He loved us first.

I pray that you will have the opportunity to love others today and that when you lay your head on your pillow tonight, you will be able to see how faithful God was to use you as He revealed himself to this world.


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Monday, September 02, 2013

Never Ending, Unfailing Love (1 Peter 1:6-7a) by Kim Smith

Hi All! My name is Kim Rayfield. I am a wife of just over 3 years to a Navy Supply Officer on the USS Pennsylvania, a submarine, and mother to two precious littles that keep me ON. MY. TOES. Jacob is 2 ½ years and Gracelyn 7 ½ months.

Recently I have been up to my eyeballs in diapers, potty training, rocking to sleep, re-rocking to sleep, boo-boo kissing, and toy picking up—only to pick them up again 20 minutes later. (Why-oh-why do I persist in continually picking them up then?!) The words that primarily come out of my mouth these days are:

“No SIR, sister is NOT for hitting.”

“That’s 3; take a timeout.”

“Dude, put your pants BACK ON…people are coming over!!”
If you’re a mother or have worked with little ones, I’m sure you can imagine how busy home life can be. Quiet time with God has been difficult, even rare, over the past three years.  It’s just been recently that I realized how truly dry I’ve become and how much I am craving the Living Water.  Many times I’ve struggled to connect with God in the same way that I did as a single woman in ministry. Do you ever question how to connect with God in the midst of life’s chaos?  I SURE have over the past three years.  I used to have built-in spiritual retreat days and times AT WORK for quiet time with God.  I spent every day in my Bible.  Now I’m lucky to read it once a week.  And I’ve wondered if God and I can EVER have the kind of connection we once had.

In reading over 1 Peter, verses 1:6-7a just kept hitting me between the eyes over and over, “So be TRULY GLAD. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while.  These trials will show that your faith is genuine.  It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold – though your faith is FAR MORE PRECIOUS than mere gold” (NLT).


Be Truly Glad.


These past three years have certainly tested my faith and my ability to be “truly glad.” I left full-time ministry, got married and got pregnant over the course of less than a year.  During our 3 years of marriage, we moved to Charleston, SC; Pensacola, FL; Newport, RI; spent a year apart while my husband did school and I waited out my pregnancy in Martinsville, IN; and now to Washington state where we’ve spent the last several months trying to re-integrate as a family. I’ve attended several churches, but never long enough to “plug-in.” 

I could go on and on but let me get to the point.  My attitude has slipped to full on WHINY-HEINEY over the past few years.  I’ve blamed God for our deteriorated relationship and not allowed the daily trials of my life to “show that my faith is genuine.”  Consequently, I’ve felt worn out and insignificant, and not sure what to do about it.

My son has a children’s Bible that we read at breakfast almost daily. And if I forget…it won’t be long before Jacob is saying, “Mama, mama: GOD BOOK!” The writer of the Jesus Storybook Bible is continually referring to God’s “Never stopping, never giving up, unbreaking, always and forever love.” Seriously, throughout the entire Old and New Testament the writer refers to God’s love for his children in this way. One day, while reading God Book to Jacob it hit me: God is no less present in my life as I wipe bottoms, tears, and yucky hands, as He was when I had the luxury of sitting quietly in a room reading His word and talking with Him.  Our relationship looks DIFFERENT, but it’s no less significant. I may not be able to spend hours in His word but I can invite and welcome Him into every moment of my every day.

Okay, so “be truly glad.” I want a heart adjustment. I LONG for one, and I believe that a heart adjustment is the key for me to connect with God more deeply.  God promises in 1 Peter 1:6-7a that wonderful joy awaits, that the trials will not last for long and that the things I go through will purify my faith. I will cling to these promises in the chaos…in the mundane…in the every day.  I may not be able to spend hours in God’s word…but as I tell Jacob and Gracie about his never stopping love, I can ask God to firmly plant that into my own heart. I can recognize His presence in every moment and be thankful for it!
For more information on the Jesus Storybook Bible, visit their website here. Kim was formerly a Children's Pastor and has a good eye for usable and fun materials!

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Gospel Consumed (1 Peter 2:21-25)

"I'm sorry, we just don't have anything for you."
"We'd love to help you look elsewhere."

I felt rejected like Vivianne in Pretty Woman. Remember the scene where she tries to go shopping and is asked to leave from a shop on Rodeo Drive? In Christ I feel so richly blessed. I have a purse full of grace and wonder at the way Christ is transforming me. In Him I am ready for action and fix my eyes on the wonderful fulfillment of his grace in full measure (1 Peter 1:13). Yet at times I've felt like the body of believers and life situations want to throw me back out on the street.

Why is it that at times other Christians, and even God himself, seem to reject us? We feel cast out rather than welcomed in. We feel lonely rather than surrounded by a community. We feel naked and hungry instead of fulfilled. In these broken moments, the mountain of missed expectations and hurt constantly knock on the door of the heart.

Knock-knock-knock. "Hello, my name is. . .Oh my! You poor thing. Those clothes just aren't fitting for a woman like you. You deserve something better. I have a catalog of distractions here that will make you feel so good about yourself. Let's take a look, shall we?"

Knock-knock. "Good afternoon. I'm selling a wonderful set of self-justification. Yes! They have rejected you, haven't they. Did you know that not everyone is deserving of grace? You have every right to. . ."

Beware of the peddlers. They prey on emotion and sidestep the gospel.

First Peter 2:21-25 offers Christ as an example of how to conduct one's mind and actions in the midst of suffering or trial. Christ affixes his valuation of himself and his situation on the Father. Do you see how evil intent surrounded Him as He hung dying? His circumstances did not reflect His position before God nor did people treat Him with such dignity.

PAUSE   If you find yourself struggling today, or have a place of hardness in your heart from being hurt, find a moment to identify with the Lord in suffering. Tell Him how you are feeling. Unload the layers of emotion and thought, but withhold from placing blame. Acknowledge that He understands the place of suffering, though He was sinless and you are not. The mind can become a playground when we don't acknowledge that God sees our hearts and mind. Learn to stop playing "Tag" and placing blame in this moment. Be a broken sinner and talk to Him about it.

The passage says that Jesus, while reviled, did not revile in return. He did not retaliate because they missed His expectations. He didn't gasp and complain when he was brought to a cross rather than a throne. He expected those around Him to be sinners and to miss the significance of a holy moment.

Can you imagine Jesus being like us?

"You forgot my birthday, AGAIN! I am Jesus, and you forgot my birthday. I hate you!" (Feet stomp off. Door slams. Mary and Joseph stand watching aloof.)

My expectations sometimes place people into positions that God doesn't intend. It's easy to have a bank full of expectations waiting to be fulfilled by God and others, isn't it? For example, last week I mentioned that during my first year of marriage I realized my lust for a title and a position in ministry. This is not a bad desire when ministering to the body of believers matches my passion and gifting. But God and others are not bound by my desire or goals. My desire turned sinful when I required a position to do what only God could. I lusted after a role and not God to affirm me. Feeling rejected from ministry and volunteer opportunities this past year was hard. I never thought I'd be sitting at home so much after spending so many years pouring into my church family.

Yet, I have no right to a particular station in life. And God never intended a station in life to affirm who I am through Christ. Like Christ, I should not demand that others reflect my value and fulfill my expectations. That is business between God and myself. After all, my expectations might look good on the outside, but be motivated by sin--envy, pride, or selfish ambition. This year through missed expectations, I was forced to unpack my heart to understand why I felt rejected from ministry positions and volunteer opportunities, and why I wavered in my emotional control.

PAUSE   Our expectations of others can form a legalistic structure of giving and earning love. Can you see any expectations that are ruling your mind? How do you feel like others or God have failed you? Is your right to these things promised in scripture? Have you sinned against someone by withholding grace? Have you disrespected God by approaching Him with a demanding attitude? Now is a great time for reflection and confession. These ways are contrary to the gospel. We must learn to consume the gospel like babies needing milk. Jesus' work on the cross for us attained peace with God. Are you at peace? Jesus' resurrection from the dead attained for us a new life ordered by grace. Are you giving and receiving grace today?

Friends, we are so fortunate to believe in a God we've never seen. We are richly blessed to have a Savior who walked this earth and reordered all things back to God through Himself. We are privileged to come before God and realize the person we were created to be. We have so much freedom to pursue our hearts' desires through grace. Read the passage once again and watch what Jesus does between Himself and his Father.

Jesus entrusts himself to God. He does not avoid recognizing the sin of those around Him. He knew it and moved forward with grace. You, too, will be affected by others' sin as well as being sinful yourself. Face it. Confess. Forgive. And then entrust yourself to God's good pleasure. He sees our situation. He meets us at the place of difficulty. He trains our eyes to look directly at Him in the midst of His sovereignty that allows difficulty.

My turning point this past year happened during prayer. I finally broke and let faith be the only avenue of seeking a future plan. I cried to God for faith. I wanted faith in Him to guide my steps and to stop looking for a position to affirm that I was still chosen to minister the gospel of peace to others. I stopped trying control the safe box in which ministry would happen. He would be my guide of stepping to the right or to the left. He would guide me to the door I should knock on. And He did.

As an act of celebrating God's grace through Jesus, prayerfully entrust yourself to the hand of God in your moment--this place where you find yourself yearning for God and struggling with the flesh. It is a beautiful place!

(c) 2013 by Kendra Higgins

Next Week

For the next two weeks, we will have two lovely women sharing about their own consumption of the gospel in the midst of life's challenging situations. I'm so excited for you to hear from women who are faithful to Christ and honest about themselves. Please pray for them as they prepare to share!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Curbing An Appetite for Sin (1 Peter 2:1-3)

My first year of marriage has been a blessing bundled in change. After 34 years of singlehood, I married a wonderful man and was grafted into a new lifestyle. I previously ministered within the church in various jobs with titles such as Secretary, Administrative Assistant, Coordinator, Intern and volunteer. I even landed a job as a Sorority House Director for many years, living in the house with the gals as a platform for loving them in the name of Christ. I devoted much of my time to pursuits that hit my life's core values and interests, and reaped the rewards of having such titles. I could focus my attention on what mattered. People knew me, recognized me. People sought me out. Those titles and roles stood as an open door to direct people my way.

After a lovely piece of metal and rock adorned my finger, I set my course to plan a wedding in a few months time. (When you're single so long, who wants to wait?!) I left my beloved job at the sorority house. I stepped aside from church-based ministry. And I began to let God's current of change sweep me away.

One year later I've ridden the rapids of how much I loved myself way too much and struggled to navigate around an invisible existence. ("Invisible" meaning unable to attain the attention I wanted for myself.) My previous titles blessed me with open doors to minister to hearts the Lord directed toward me, but they also served my sinful appetite of being known. To be recognized by people is a tool God can use for influence. But the human heart has an appetite for sin, even in the midst of holy pursuits.

Cast Off
This is why Peter, in his letter to the churches, instructs churchgoers to get rid of or lay aside certain behaviors and to crave pure spiritual nourishment so that we might grow up into saved adults instead of remaining immature (1 Peter 2:1-3). As a sinner saved by grace, my desire for sin did not leave me. God didn't wave his magic wand and surround me with an aura of light and angelic singing. I'm as sinful as I was before. I see it. I smell it. I know it. I recognize that I am a new creation in Christ and saved from the guilt of my sin. Even still, I need someone to remind me to quit what is outside of God's will and to hunger after God Himself.

My niece P recently potty trained. It was quite the struggle for her little self. But tasting of something better ahead, she set her mind to conquering the flesh. Her fear of the toilet was NOT going to keep her from getting into preschool. Her esteemed big brother had the privilege of attending preschool as a part of the potty-trained community; she wanted that. She worked hard and earned her letter of acceptance, but P needed to first hear about her need for growth and to understand how to get there.

Similarly, Peter knows that Christians still need training in regards to spiritual growth. We get tangled, like I did in the esteem of titles and attention. But if we direct ourselves to the growth that Peter encourages, the Holy Spirit will help us recognize that in Christ some thing are no longer needed or acceptable. We do not need to entertain evil in our minds, to envy one another, to speak against and criticize one another. Instead Peter commands us to leave that behind, to love sincerely and to ingest what is spiritually pure. First Peter 1 explains that what is pure comes from God and is directed by the Holy Spirit: God's chosen revelation of Himself through the prophets, the teaching and testimony of Christ, and the good news of salvation preached by those who believe.

Today, I invite you to let the Holy Spirit minister to your heart. Take a moment to consume what is spiritually pure: repeat the good news of Jesus to yourself, listen to the Bible and pray. He will reveal what you need to lay aside and walk away from today. Be encouraged, God will not hold against you the fact that you don't desire what is good in the first place. That's why the Holy Spirit was given to you as an encouraging gift--a revealer of sin and builder of holiness. He is equipped with the power of change.

Let Jesus be the glory you walk towards.

(c) 2013 by Kendra Higgins