The Greatest is Love

“Bless the Lord, O my soul,
    and all that is within me,
    bless his holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
    who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
    who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good
    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

The Lord works righteousness
    and justice for all who are oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses,
    his acts to the people of Israel.
The Lord is merciful and gracious,
    slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always chide,
    nor will he keep his anger forever.
He does not deal with us according to our sins,
    nor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
    so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
    so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
As a father shows compassion to his children,
    so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.
For he knows our frame;
    he remembers that we are dust.” Psalm 103:1-14

“Jesus answered, ‘The most important is,.. you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.’” Mark 12:29-31

“So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13

The benefits from knowing and loving God are vast and innumerable, and reciting them lifts our souls to bless the Lord and Giver. They flow from who He is in His very nature, from His vast heart of love. Every blessing comes in lavish measure for as high as the heavens are above, so great is His love toward us. Do we grasp the greatness and greatestness of God’s love? (Ephesians 1:3; 3:18-19)

“What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss
to bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul,
to bear the dreadful curse for my soul!”
~Anonymous, American Folk Hymn (1835)

When we grasp His wondrous love, what impact does it make on our affections and our actions toward others? How does it affect or reorient our mindset each day, our outlook on the world? Do we not desire a mind so full of such love that we can think only the best of another, and always have the appropriate word of truth, encouragement, consolation, and hope to offer? Would we not also want a heart so full of love we can not help but feel compassion, comfort the sorrowing, and serve the needy?

What can I learn of Christ’s love from the cross? How will I endeavor to know better the facets and measure of how it translates to and through me? How can I practice it afresh in my home, workplace, church, and community? (Ephesians 3:14-19)

Lord, may I never forget and ever bless You for the benefits and blessings of Your love. Fill me with that love to overflow so that You are known and adored.

“What Sort of Man is This?”

“The centurion replied, ‘Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed…  And to the centurion Jesus said, ‘Go; let it be done for you as you have believed.’ And the servant was healed at that very moment.

“When Jesus entered Peter’s house, he saw his mother-in-law lying sick with a fever.  He touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she rose and began to serve him.  That evening they brought to him many who were oppressed by demons, and he cast out the spirits with a word and healed all who were sick… 

“And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. There arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him, saying, ‘Save us, Lord; we are perishing.’ And he said to them, ‘Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?’ Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. And the men marveled, saying, ‘What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?’”

“As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he rose and followed him.” Matthew 8:8,13,14-16,23-27; 9:9

What sort of man is this God-Man, who perceives and responds to faith, heals with a word and a touch, calms a storm, and changes a life course? He is a mighty and unique sort, the Prince of peace, everlasting Father, Healer, Creator and Sustainer of the heavens and earth, Upholder of government on His shoulders. He is worthy of our awe, esteem, fear, praise, obedience, and trust. (Genesis 1:1; Proverbs 8:22-31; Isaiah 9:6; Colossians 1:15-17)

This sort of man is intimately acquainted with all our ways, determined to use us in His kingdom work, and committed to sanctifying us. He is actively involved in awakening holy desire, prompting specific prayer and faith, healing brokenness, resentment, and besetting sins that hinder growth. He calms unreasonable fears and extends effect calls. (Psalm 139:1-3)

What sort of man is Jesus to us? Where has He been active in our thoughts, desires, dreams, and plans? How has He exhibited compassion and comfort so we will go and do likewise? Where is He urging, inspiring, teaching, shaping, and refining us? How is He shaping or reshaping our affections, the way we use our time, where we direct our attention and expenditures? (Luke 10:35-37; John 13:1-5,14-15)

“Jesus, I am resting, resting
in the joy of what thou art;
I am finding out the greatness
of thy loving heart.
Thou hast bid me gaze upon thee,
as thy beauty fills my soul,
for by thy transforming power,
thou hast made me whole.

O how great thy lovingkindness,
vaster, broader than the sea!
O how marvelous thy goodness
lavished all on me!
Yes, I rest in thee, Beloved,
know what wealth of grace is thine,
know thy certainty of promise
and have made it mine.” ~Jean Sophia Pigott (1876)

Lord, keep me marveling at You and responding to You for the sake of Your good purposes and glory.

Walk Before Me

“When Abram was ninety-nine years old the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, ‘I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless,  that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly.’ Then Abram fell on his face. And God said to him, ‘Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you. And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.  And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God…’ When he had finished talking with him, God went up from Abraham.” Genesis 17:1-8,22

Abraham had first heard God’s promise of a son by Sarah 24 years prior. Was this walking and waiting command after 13 years of silence from God to be different from what he had done over the last quarter of his life? Could he be blameless after the debacle with Hagar and Ishmael? Would God’s promise really come to pass? Was he worthy of a new name? Indeed, he had initially believed the Lord by faith, which God counted to him as righteousness. The call now was to do so anew, to continue walking before this One who hemmed him in and led him on to fulfill His plans, despite his foibles. Abraham fell on his face in awe and worshipful submission, and remained attuned until the Lord God finished and left. (Genesis 12:1-4; 15:1-6; 16:2-6,15-16; Psalm 139:5)

When God issues a call, if we knew all that walking in obedience would entail – the sacrifice, temptations, conflicts, sorrows, waiting- we might not step forward. But when God says walk, He means one step at a time, in stride with Him, attuned to His voice. This we can do by faith that He is with us, He is good, and He knows the way and will direct us clearly, bringing to pass all He intends in and for us. (Job 23:10; Psalm 32:8; Proverbs 3:5-6; Isaiah 30:21)

Where has God called you and me to serve Him, or to step out in a new direction, a new trust? Do we tire of waiting for fulfillment of a promise, resolution to a quandary, healing in a relationship or of a long-raw wound, and want to give up walking or loving or forgiving or persisting? When God is silent, are we familiar enough with His word to keep on in what we do know, to trust what He has said?

If we remain immersed in His word, and seize His promises backed by His impeccable character, He will give the confidence and courage to walk before Him. Are we listening? Will we step out and on in faith?

Father, keep me listening and walking that Your word be fulfilled.

At Your Service

“An angel of the Lord said to Philip, ‘Rise and go south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza…’ And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah.  And the Spirit said to Philip, ‘Go over and join this chariot.’ So Philip ran to him… and asked, ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’  And he said, ‘How can I, unless someone guides me?’ And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him… Then Philip.., beginning with this Scripture, told him the good news about Jesus.”

“Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, ‘Ananias.’ And he said, ‘Here I am, Lord.’ The Lord said, ‘Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul..,  and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.’ But Ananias answered, ‘Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem…’ But the Lord said, ‘Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel…’ So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’” Acts 8:26-31,35; 9:10-13,15,17

Going about their duties and hours filled with the Holy Spirit, Philip and Ananias met opportunities to follow the Lord’s lead with ready obedience. Alert to the enemies of God, these steady servants were focused on their Lord and prepared for heavenly service no matter what. Their prompt obedience to the Lord’s clear call put into motion life-altering, world-changing moments all in a day’s service of the King. (Acts 8:5-7)

What a privilege it is as God’s children to be involved in His kingdom building! Every day we can be part of making an eternal difference. As disciples of Christ, how eager are we to seize such opportunities and fulfill God-given appointments with those in need? Devoted worship and love for Jesus compel us to serve His will in word and deed. (2 Corinthians 5:14-21; 1 John 3:18)

Would we begin our days immersed in the Word, getting filled with the Spirit, attuning our ears to prepare for wherever and to whomever God would have us minister? Would we be so yielded and full of love that we can connect with even the antagonistic and unlovable? So confident in God‘s truth that we’re not fearful of His enemies, nor uncomfortable around those different from us? When we go forth in the call, filling, and equipping of the Lord God, He does the magnificent work and we are the privileged servants. (Ephesians 5:18)

Lord, have full way and sway with me that my hours serve Your purposes and glorify Your name.

With Outstretched Hand and Uplifted Arm

“Say therefore to the people of Israel, ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment.”

“And when in time to come your son asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ you shall say to him, ‘By a strong hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, from the house of slavery.” Exodus 6:6; 13:14

“The God of this people Israel chose our fathers and made the people great during their stay in the land of Egypt, and with uplifted arm he led them out of it…  He put up with them in the wilderness [a]nd after destroying seven nations in Canaan, gave them their land as an inheritance.  All this took about 450 years. And after that he gave them judges until Samuel the prophet.  Then they asked for a king, and God gave them Saul…  And when he had removed him, he raised up David to be their king, of whom he testified, ‘I have found in David a man after my heart, who will do all my will.’ Of this man’s offspring God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, as he promised…

“And though they found in him no guilt worthy of death, they asked Pilate to have him executed. And when they had carried out all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb.  But God raised him from the dead.” Acts 13:17-23,28-30

The arms of God have worked throughout history to perform His will. They are immeasurably wide with mercy and mighty to save and deliver, redeem and judge. His arms raise up kings and bring low, settle nations in place and make them great. After His Savior Son died with outstretched arms at calvary, God raised Him to bring believers into His embrace. (Daniel 2:21)

When we trace His hand through our years, we recognize where He has led, guarded, and upheld. When we see the Son of God on the cross and contemplate the nail scars in His hands, we can trust He bore the weight of all our sin. How are these realities making a difference in our sense of value and security? Do we trust His working for our good and His glory? Do we believe and enjoy all He’s won for us? (John 20:24-28; Romans 8:28)

Will we trust Him to protect us from enemy onslaught in the keeping of His Spirit, and deliver us from all that burdens mind and soul? Do we draw near to worship under the shadow of His resurrected arms that were lifted high in benediction at His ascension? Will we feed daily on the sustenance He serves? (Luke 24:49-52; John 21:9-14; Acts 1:7-9)

Where am I faint or failing? What burden is untenable and impossible to bear? The arms of the eternal God stand ready to deliver, envelop, and sustain. The Savior who was pierced is He who heals. God who delivers is He who settles. He who lifts up is He who holds close. (Deuteronomy 33:27; Psalm 3:3; 91:4; Isaiah 53:3)

Lord, keep me firmly in Your grip and straight in Your way to perform Your bidding. Thank You for all You have worked and will complete to promote Your purposes and glorify Your name.

The Work of Prayer

“As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before God.  I said, ‘O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love.., let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, to hear the prayer of your servant that I now pray before you day and night for the people of Israel your servants, confessing the sins of the people, which we have sinned against you. Even I and my father’s house have sinned.  We have acted very corruptly against you and have not kept the commandments… that you commanded your servant Moses.  Remember the word…”if you return to me and keep my commandments and do them, though your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there I will gather them and bring them to the place that I have chosen, to make my name dwell there.” They are your servants and your people, whom you have redeemed by your great power and by your strong hand.  O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant, and… your servants who delight to fear your name, and give success to your servant today, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.’

“Now I was cupbearer to the king.” Nehemiah 1:4-11

Nehemiah, now an exile for two decades, had become a trusted official of Persia’s king. He was also a man of prayer. So when he heard that Jerusalem was in shambles and the remnant of God’s people in trouble and shame, he went to his Lord. He wept with God-given love for God’s place and children. He fasted and agonized in prayed, and over days before his Lord, began to see God’s unfolding plans and to hope. Time in prayer led him through a process of unhurried introspection and confession. He recounted God’s true promises and held to them in expectant faith, surrendering himself to serve as God would lead. Then he specifically, boldly asked for favor as God made the initial steps of His plan clear. (Nehemiah 1:1-3)

Prayer changes us. It calms the restless heart and teaches us to breathe in divine rhythm. It moves us from being overwhelmed with circumstances to being overcome by God’s character and promises. It allows us to see ourselves under heavenly light, exposing dross and leading through repentance to freedom. It untethers anxiety and takes us from impossibility to possibility.

Prayer begets prayer. When we pray and God prompts, and we faithfully step out to follow His lead, He continues to unfold His plan and provision. He lights the next turn in the path, often doing more than we ask or imagine. (Nehemiah 2:1-8,12; Proverbs 3:5-6; Ephesians 3:20-21)

Are we gripped with grief? Petrified in panic? Faced with disturbing news- of escalating international tension, a sobering medical prognosis, a fractured relationship? Pray! (Nehemiah 4:7-9)

How committed are we to a meaningful, effective prayer life? Lip service will never effect bold prayer, nor will vague self-centered asking effect specific answers and praise. What time do we allot for focused prayer, and how diligently do we persist? How has God built expectancy and answered?

Father, keep me praying. Have Your way with my posture, emotions, thinking, and words. Lead me to fulfill Your intentions and glorious deeds.

What’s Not to Know, What’s to Know

“When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ He said to him, ‘Feed my lambs…’  Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.’ (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, ‘Follow me…’

“When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, ‘Lord, what about this man?’  Jesus said to him, ‘If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!’” John 21:15,18-19,21-22

“So when they had come together, they asked him, ‘Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He said to them, ‘It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.’ And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.’” Acts 1:6-11

Peter the impulsive wanted to understand and anticipate everything, so he made everything his business. But Jesus, purveyor of all truth and knowledge, focused him on what was vital to know and next do, and commanded that he trust what he could not know about others or future times. Some things that piqued his curiosity were not important or would detract from his obedience. Others should take center stage.

We too can become busybodies by making business ours that is the Lord’s (and others’) alone. Usually this distracts from the main thing and gets us off the course He has marked for us. He gives clear commands and reveals everything we need to know for the task at hand. When chafed by impatience or struggling to understand, we must remember that it is His wisdom and privilege to hold secret things, yet reveal all He intends us to apply, obey, and teach now. (Deuteronomy 29:29; Hebrews 12:1-2)

On what do we focus when it comes to God’s instructions? Are we prone to delay obedience or nitpick and try to negotiate with the Lord when we don’t comprehend His reasoning? Are they are commands we get hung up on because we want all the details of how and outcomes first? What is the enemy dangling that causes mental confusion and a divided heart?

Lord, grant me an undivided heart and mind to receive, and a whole will to act on all You want me to know, to Your ends and glory. (Psalm 86:11)

Uncontained

“The high priest rose up, and all who were with him (that is, the party of the Sadducees), and filled with jealousy  they arrested the apostles and put them in the public prison.  But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, ‘Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life.’ And when they heard this, they entered the temple at daybreak and began to teach.

“Now when the high priest came, and those who were with him, they called together the council, all the senate of the people of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought. But when the officers came, they did not find them in the prison, so they returned and reported, ‘We found the prison securely locked and the guards standing at the doors, but when we opened them we found no one inside…’ And someone came and told them, ‘Look! The men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people…’ 

“And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. The high priest questioned them, saying, ‘We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.’  But Peter and the apostles answered, ‘We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree.  God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.  And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.’” Acts 5:17-23,25,27-32

The apostles drew attention as the power of God’s indwelling Spirit transformed lives and healed and worked wonders through them. Although many were drawn, the religious leaders were jealous and wanted them stopped and silenced. But the word of God and the Spirit of God cannot be contained by man. (Acts 5:12-16)

In many places in the world today the Word of God is squelched. Regulations from government leaders to corporate decision-makers, and caustic criticism from professors to colleagues to neighbors to even family members attempt to stop and silence the movement of God’s Spirit. But He is more powerful than any force opposed to Him, and as the Author of life reigns sovereignly over the movement of His gospel. (Acts 3:15; 1 John 4:4)

What tamps down the work of the Spirit in our lives? Have we slid into sloth over time, no longer exposing ourselves to the probing of God’s word and the admonition and refining that regular fellowship brings? Do we shrink at the first remark of criticism or threat of cancellation? What if we embraced the power of God’s Word and daily sought the Spirit’s filling? What might change in relationships, work, outlook, and desires, if we were so bold as to obey God rather than man, fear, and feelings? What if we allowed the Spirit free rein and reign? (Proverbs 27:17; Ephesians 4:15; 5:18; Hebrews 4:12; 10:24-25)

Lord, so fill me with Your Word and Spirit that You spill over in irresistible ways, that many will be drawn to know, love, and honor You.

Filled and Radiant

“No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar or under a basket, but on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light. Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when it is bad, your body is full of darkness. Therefore be careful lest the light in you be darkness.  If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, it will be wholly bright, as when a lamp with its rays gives you light.’

“And the Lord said to him, ‘Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness.  You fools! Did not he who made the outside make the inside also?'” Luke 11:33-36,39-40

“Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.” 1 Peter 3:3-4

Those whom the Lord has saved have His Spirit of light within. Upon regeneration, He clarifies vision and a fits us with a spiritual filter for what we take in from the world, giving discernment and the will to make good decisions. His inextinguishable light creates imperishable beauty that distinguishes His own. (Ephesians 1:13-14)

This light within should be radiating by way of love, grace, ready forgiveness, and generosity. Our living and working should make evident the light that Jesus is and gives. It will expose untruth with wisdom and kindness. It will warm and embrace with interest, care, and hope as it radiates through demeanor and welcome. It will dispel the dark of sadness and invade and lift the heaviness of a heart. And it will shine on the way forward toward eternal life for those who walk in darkness.

But if our shine is dull, it betrays a darkness we coddle inside. Jesus knows everything hidden, and while we might do a decent job of cursory coverup, our glossing over before the seen world doesn’t fool Him. His word penetrates and exposes the darkness within us. It convicts of snapping back with irritated words, rolling eyes with disdain at the unlovable, our huff and crank when inconvenienced. Will we allow Him to enter the inner chambers of heart and mind to wash and shine? (Luke 12:2-3; Hebrews 4:12)

What wrong right are we nursing? What resentment, superiority, greed, sloth, or unchecked drive do we feed, pet, and justify? What besetting sins have we hidden for too long that the Spirit is prompting us to relinquish forever? How can the burning, brilliant light of Jesus transform us today, and where might it shine anew?

“Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart;
naught be all else to me, save that thou art–
thou my best thought, by day or by night;
waking or sleeping, thy presence my light.” ~Irish 8th c

Lord Jesus, search me and remove any wicked way, any willful sin. Create in me a new heart that I might shine Your heavenly light for others to see. (Psalm 19:13; 51:7,10)

The Power of an Intangible Witness

“Wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct. Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—  but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves…

“Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.

“Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. For

“’Whoever desires to love life
    and see good days,
let him keep his tongue from evil
    and his lips from speaking deceit;
let him turn away from evil and do good;
    let him seek peace and pursue it…’

“In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” 1 Peter 3:1-5a,7,8-11,15

Peter knew the impulsiveness of speaking and jumping in to plan and do. Early on, with him it was all talk and brash action. But he’d learned from untamed whim and unchecked assertions. He’d been corrected, and by God’s grace transformed, by the Holy Spirit over years of maturing in faith. Now his instruction went straight to the heart. Since every action stems from what is thought and believed, he addressed the inner and hidden condition that held sway in life. (Mark 14:27-38; Luke 9:28-35; John 18:10)

It is our tendency to assess and measure behavior by things done and said, but tending to the inner self makes more difference then we may want to believe. Our human nature wants to take control of will and actions and reactions, but unless our hearts are right with the Lord and yielded under His sovereign rule, we will fail to exhibit Christlikeness in any disciplined way or winsome manner.

Are we willing to do the hard inner work necessary for an attractive, fruitful witness? Do we focus on performance more than purification? On doing over devotion? The heart at rest and the soul fixed on Jesus will bear out in grace, kindness, and imperishable beauty in the external. What if we endeavored to convince with self-control over argument, sympathy over sanctimony, and devotion over debate? How will we practically pursue a gentle spirit, unity, peace with others, and mutual respect in a culture of sides, blame, and vitriol? (Romans 12:18)

Father, may I daily set apart Christ as Lord of all of me, so I can exhibit all of You to a hungry, needy world.