“Only when we perceive the face of the One in whose image we were made do we come to know who we are and the One for whom we were made. And because of who He is, to behold Him and remain unchanged is impossible.” – Bill Johnson

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This past weekend, my family and I attended Greenwood Community Church’s Family Camp at Camp Timberline in Estes Park, Colorado. I’ll take several things away from the weekend, but one of the most fun takeaways will be remembering my daughters’ glowing faces. Savannah’s face was glowing because this was her first real experience in the great outdoors, she was amazed at how big the world was, and there were so many people that she had never seen before then. Charlotte’s face was glowing because she had more adventure in this weekend than any other weekend, including the camp’s zip-line, climbing wall, gut-check plank, silencer swing, and blob in the lake.

Liz and I had glowing faces due to the consistent reflection of God’s glory in this place. We saw it in the vast beauty of the mountains. We see it as God’s people sang praises to his name. We saw it in the passages of Scripture that were our guide for the weekend and we saw it in the way the Spirit led us as a body together.

It was beautiful to see God’s glory reflected on the faces of my family and the other attendees of the family camp this weekend. It made me think about the way that God can be mirrored in this life and the way that we can contribute to that reflection.

Jewish rabbis have a word for what we experience in glowing faces and that word was shekinah. Though the word is not found in the Bible, there is, in fact, a clear pattern of God’s glory being reflected on his creation.

Take for example, Moses’ face in Exodus 34:29. The verse says, “When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord.” In other words, there was a visual effect that God’s presence had on Moses’ physicality. Have you ever been around someone so radiant that it was clear God’s presence resided with him or her and that God’s beauty and majesty was being reflected. It occurred to me that if we take seriously the invitation to come near to the Lord (James 4:8), it is possible that our actual physical appearance could be altered.

Now, clearly when the Bible talks about God’s children being transformed into his likeness, the emphasis is not on a physical appearance. When Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 3:18 that “we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes form the Lord, who is the Spirit,” it is clear that he is talking about spiritual transformation. Truly, the more we see God’s glory, the more He transforms us into His likeness through the power of the Spirit. But, why would we be surprised if spiritual transformation and renewal had a physical effect? Doesn’t the Bible contain story after story of ways that the spiritual realm impacts the physical world?

In the days following the camp, we began to realize that our faces were not glowing quite as much as they had been. Further, when confronted with the daily routine, difficulties that arose, and the need to return work (and first days of schoolwork for Charlotte), our faces began to take on other, darker forms. But, we pause today to recall the glory we see on the mountain and recognize that the Spirit of God did not stay there. Instead, he brings his people through an ever-increasing glory (or, as some say, from glory to glory) so that we might better reflect his beauty and majesty. May you enjoy good health today, even as your soul is getting well (3 John 2)!

“My prayer is that we would change the culture, our mindset, that we would arm people so that they don’t walk away from Jesus when life gets difficult, but that we arm them with a proper theology of suffering. We actually embrace it as a church because we rejoice in it. So no longer are we surprised, but we expect it, no longer do we complain when it gets difficult, but we rejoice in it, and no longer do we set our lives up so that we avoid suffering at all costs but we actually want some of it so that when Christ returns we go, ‘I am one of yours. Look at my scars; look at my life; I’ve lived the life of Christ.'” – Francis Chan

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There is a beautiful passage in Exodus 16 which describes the great love that God has for his people. YHWH has passed-over the homes of his people in Egypt, has freed them from slavery, has parted the red sea, and has brought justice to the Egyptian slave masters. The Israelites sing a song of praise for who God is and what He has done in Exodus 15 and then, just a month and a half later, there it is; grumbling in the desert.

I guess, I shouldn’t say just a month and a half later. I mean, think about it. Forty-five days in the desert? I suppose that would be enough to make most of us grumble. I’ll confess freely to times that I have grumbled when the internet is slow. Now, forty-five days in the desert. I suppose we can understand and give a little empathy to the people of Israel. They’ve been through a lot. More than what most of us have been through. And so, they grumble.

I’m fascinated by this passage for three main reasons:

(1) We have all had rival longings. I’d imagine each of us can point to a time that God was leading us on to freedom in some area, and we have had a rival longing to return to the way things have always been. Addictions, challenges, and just plain comfort. I can point to several times in my life that God was leading me in the direction of freedom and I turned back because it was just easier. Such is the nature of our rival longings. We long for freedom, but long for comfort at the same time. And sometimes, as one pastor said, “We prefer the slavery we know to the freedom we don’t know.” Exodus 16 points to the freedom that God longs to bring in our lives, even in the midst of the desert.

(2) Desert experiences become desert opportunities. At the heart of the Exodus 16 passage is the message that God can use the desert experiences of our lives in order to build our faith and draw us closer to Him. In other words, our desert experiences become desert opportunities. While our tendency is to hide when things get tough, God invites us, as He invited the Israelites, to draw near. It is precisely these times that God uses the difficulty to cause our growth and reveal His glory.

(3) We all have a testimony of what God has done in the desert. As God provided the people of Israel with quail in the evening and manna in the morning, he continues to provide the Bread of Life for his people today. The instruction was for the people to take a jar of manna and keep it in the ark of the testimony for future generations. Generations later, the author of the book of Hebrews notes the faithfulness of God throughout history to provide the way of life for His people. Jesus, who said he was the very Bread of Life has come to be the lasting source of salvation for the world. Just as future generations of Israelites pointed to the desert as a time that they drew near to God, so we can provide a testimony of what God has done the desert opportunities of our lives.

John Piper says, “It is free. Christ died in our place. He rose again from the dead. He lived a life of perfect righteousness. He stands freely available to everyone who will have him and stop working for him and start eating the bread of heaven and finding him to be more precious. Fall in love with him. Fall in love with him now. You need to love him now, know him now, Trust him now. My task on this planet is to eat the bread of heaven and be satisfied and overflow for others.” Whether you are currently in the desert or on the other side, may our satisfaction be ever found in Jesus, the eternal Bread of Life. God can use the desert experiences of our lives to build our faith and give us a closer walk with the Bread of Life.

“Since the first three petitions of the Lord’s prayer give us the priority of Christ’s heart, we should learn that God’s top priority is the hallowing of his name in all the earth. If this is God’s top priority, it should be our top priority—that God be believed, feared, obeyed, and glorified by a ransomed people from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.” – John Piper

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I heard somebody say, “His will, His bill!” today. Meaning, if it is God’s will for something to happen, He is going to figure out a way to provide for it. I used to feel really strange about this statement, as if it turned God into some sort of Magic Fairy that grants wishes. Or, we it is as though we pray to Santa Claus God to bring us the presents we want. We know that the Creator of the universe cannot be reduced to that. But, a few points to remember today: (1) It is HIS will that we pray to be done. In other words, we are not praying for our gifts, our will, or our agendas. When we align ourselves to the will of the Father, we are saying that we would prefer that He accomplish His purposes, rather than our purposes be done. (2) He is, after all, the Creator and Sustainer of the universe. This mains that it is well within His power to accomplish His purposes. When we pray, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” we are asking for God to make our reality line up with His. Jesus Himself prayed this and instructed the disciples to do the same. Matthew 6:9-13 (NASB) says,

“Pray, then, in this way:

‘Our Father who is in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
‘Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
‘Give us this day our daily bread.
‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’]

‘Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.'”

“His will, His bill!” is a reminder that God, the Creator of all things, is indeed a Good, Good Father. He gives every perfect gift to his children (James 1:17) and does not withhold any good thing from those who love Him (Psalm 84:11). If we are faithful to align ourselves with His purposes, then we should not be surprised when He provides for His purposes to be accomplished here on earth as it is in heaven. God is working out a global hallowing of his name, and we have the privilege of partaking in the process.

And so we pray with renewed vigor, “Father, may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

“We should think of Christian discipleship as being similar to learning an entirely new language.” – Michael Horton

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First among words in the worship vocabulary that have been lost in recent years is the word, “ascribe.” The name of the site is Ascribe Site. This is due, in large part, to the fact that the word “ascribe” has been virtually lost from our vocabulary. Even in faith and worship circles, one will rarely hear the word and gain an understanding of what King David has in mind. 1 Chronicles 16:28-29 says, “Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name; Bring an offering and come before Him; Worship the Lord in holy array.” This hymn to the Lord, repeated virtually verbatim in Psalm 29:1-2, gives a fantastic perspective of what is going on when God’s people worship Him!

The Hebrew word for ascribe in I Chronicles 16:28-29 is יָהַב , transliterated “yahab.” The simple translation of the word is “give.” But, the better translation is this word “ascribe,” which gives a closer perspective of David’s intention in the passage. Ascribe has the connotation of giving what is already owned. When you ascribe something to something (like “glory” to the “Lord”) you are describing what the object already possesses. In other words, to ascribe glory and strength to the Lord is to give these attributes to the One who already has them. Thus, David gets at this when he says, “Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name” (I Chronicles 16:28). He is saying give to God what is already His!

This is particularly important when considering the pattern of worship of God’s people. Throughout Scripture, God reveals Himself and His people respond in praise for who He is. In this way, God does not need the praises of His people, nor do the praises of His people make God who He is. Rather, God’s people ascribe to Him what is already true about Him. He is Holy! He is Love! He is Good! He is True! In ascribing these attributes to God, His people make known among the nations His great glory and in fact, His being God.

May we ascribe the glory due to God today, in our thoughts, deeds, actions, and yes, in our words!