The Days When God Watched Over Me

We’re meant to identify with Job. While the degree of our sufferings might not approach his, our suffering is still our suffering. And we especially connect with Job when we don’t know the why’s or wherefore’s of what we’re going through. And, while Job’s demands for an explanation from God often seem to cross a line when it comes to how one should address the God of the universe, who having suffered doesn’t, at some point, yearn for what Job yearns for? When in the thick of trials who doesn’t long for the good old days? The days when God watched over me.

And Job again took up His discourse, and said: “Oh, that I were as in the months of old, as in the days when God watched over me, when his lamp shone upon my head, and by his light I walked through darkness, as I was in my prime, when the friendship of God was upon my tent.”

(Job 29:1-4 ESV)

Job’s done. Done with the suffering, done with the sorrow, done with the silence from heaven. He just wants to go back. Back to the days when the mornings began with sunshine instead of clouds. The days when God’s presence was almost palpable. The days of his prime. The days when everything going on in his life (read the rest of the chapter) said, God’s with me as an intimate, close companion. Back to the days when God watched over me.

Job longed for the days when he knew God was guarding him because life was going well. The days when Job knew God was paying attention because God prospered him. Being watched over by God had become equated with expecting a certain ease in return for living a life which was blameless, upright, God fearing, and turned away from evil (Job 1:1). Good people should be enjoying the good life. And the good life, so Job apparently thought, was evidence that a good God must be engaged.

But we know the rest of the story. We know that behind the scenes God had, in fact, restrained Satan’s hand (Job 1:12, 2:6). That, even in Job’s unimaginable season of suffering, God was watching, God was heeding, God was even protecting. That while Job couldn’t find a way to connect the dots between his righteousness and his wretchedness, God’s lamp was still present, His light still leading, and His friendship still in tact. God’s unchanging promises hadn’t changed, it was just that His purposes weren’t understood.

And that’s okay. ‘Cause God is god and we are not. His ways aren’t always our ways. His thoughts, a little higher than our thoughts. His purposes, never at odds with His promises.

So, while we might long for the good old days — those days that seemed clearer and were marked by God’s tangible favor — we shouldn’t think that in those days God was nearer just because the days were easier.

God is still watching over us. The Sovereign, though perhaps seeming somewhat silent (though never silent if we stay in His word), is still in control of the seasons. His steadfast love is still steadfast. His grace still sufficient. Our good still His long-game for His glory.

Rejoice, weary saint. God is still every much engaged in this season. Heeding, guarding, protecting, keeping.

Trust. Rest. And know that these are still the days when God watched over me.

By His grace. For His glory.

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On Earth as In Heaven

Mone. It seems the Greek word is only used twice in the Bible. Both times used by John in his gospel. Both times used in John 14. Once to speak of a heavenly anticipation. Once to speak of an earthly reality. Once to provide hope for the future. Once to assure strength for the day. Reminded this morning that when it comes to being at home with the Lord, now on earth as will be in heaven.

Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.

(John 14:23 ESV)

Jesus is preparing to depart, but He says He’ll send “another Helper” — a Counselor and a Comforter, an Advocate ready, willing, and able to draw alongside. He says He is going to go and prepare a place for His disciples in His Father’s house, a house where there are many rooms, or abiding places, or homes (mone). Yet, Jesus says, until those who follow Him are taken to be with Him and inhabit that heavenly home, the Father, through the Son, by the Spirit will make Their home (mone) with them. On earth as in heaven.

Resting this morning in the promises. A promise that one day soon we will be at home with the Lord. At home in paradise. At home in a heavenly city occupying heavenly space prepared in advance for those who love the heavenly Builder. There is a sense in which each day’s sojourn, though often weighty and wearying, is ultimately about making our way home. Weighty and wearying because this world ain’t paradise. This earth ain’t no heavenly city. Yet, even here and now, able to rest this morning because, while going home, we’re at home.

We’ve heard it said, “Home is where the heart is.” But if I’m picking up what the Savior is laying down, home is where the Triune God is.

“We will come to him and make Our home with him.”

While the Son is preparing your mone so you can be where He is, We — the Father and the Son through the Spirit — will make Our mone with you. We’re moving in. We’re staying. We’re settling down. We’re abiding. Make some room, your dwelling is our Our dwelling. You casa Our casa.

Really? Almighty God making His home with mere mortals? Yeah, really.

Wandering? Weighty? Wearying? You bet.

Alone? Not in a million years (and that’s just a start).

Don’t fully get it but, on the authority of God’s word, I’ve fully got it.

At home. On earth as in heaven.

By God’s grace. For God’s glory.

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Not An Orphan

Sometimes, you just need a fallback position. When everything around you seems like shifting sand, when nothing seems predictable, when you find yourself waiting for another shoe to drop (and realizing that whoever’s wearing those shoes has way more than two feet), it’s then you need to reclaim your solid ground. It’s then you need to find the space to remember what’s true in order to have some context for what’s traumatic. To reorient to the transcendent before taking on today. Such a bottom-line reality hit my radar this morning. Thus, I’m chewing on the reminder that I am not an orphan.

And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. You know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”

(John 14:16-18 ESV)

I will not leave you as orphans. That’s a promise to claim.

Jesus was preparing His disciples for what they were realizing with dread was to come. But until they walked through it, they really couldn’t imagine what it all would entail. They knew in their heads that Jesus was going to die, but they couldn’t reconcile in their hearts why the Messiah must die. What lay ahead of them over the next few hours, days, months, and years was beyond their ability to prepare for. There’s a lot you don’t know about the future, says Jesus, but know this, “I will not leave you as orphans.”

I will come to you. I will come to you through another Helper. One just like Me. One I will ask the Father to send to you. One who will dwell with you and live in you. One who will be with you forever. The Spirit of truth. Thus, you will never be on your own. You will never have to go it alone. I will not leave you as orphans.

For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”

(Romans 8:15 ESV)

The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of adoption. No orphans among those He indwells, only sons and daughters. Every child of God not left to power through life alone, but enabled to persevere through the active agency of the Power of Life (Rom. 8:11) within them. What’s more, joined through the Spirit with other never-to-be-orphans, other sons and daughters, bound together in community as family. None left to have to go it on their own.

The Spirit seeks not attention, but only to glorify the Son (Jn. 16:14). He is ever-present, but as the wind (Jn. 3:8). He is the unseen guarantee of life everlasting (Eph. 1:13-14). He is solid ground we can stand on each day. He is the One who ever lives within us ensuring us we are not an orphan.

Thank You, God the Son for asking the Father to send another Helper. Thank You, God the Father, for sending the Spirit to live with us forever. Thank You, God the Spirit, for enabling us, leading us, and keeping us as we walk as children of God.

You are the abiding testimony of God’s grace. You are the abiding power to live for God’s glory.

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Pay Attention to Me?

Hovering over Job 23 this morning. And it occurs to me that Job’s issue wasn’t that he didn’t know who God was. I actually think Job had a pretty accurate understanding of the nature of God. He acknowledges God as “my judge” (v7). He knows that He is all-knowing (v10), unchanging (v13a), and all-powerful (v13b). He knows that whatever God wants for Job, Job will receive (v14). “Therefore,” says Job, “I am terrified at His presence; when I consider, I am in dread of Him” (v14).

I don’t think Job had too low a view of God. I think he had too high a view of himself.

Oh, that I knew where I might find Him, that I might come even to His seat! I would lay my case before Him and fill my mouth with arguments. I would know what He would answer me and understand what He would say to me. Would He contend with me in the greatness of His power? No; He would pay attention to me.

(Job 23:3-6 ESV)

Job’s ready to bring it. Like, literally ready to bring it.

Show me where God’s at and I’ll bust down His door. And when I get to the throne, then He’ll get an earful. It’s time for some answers, and if I knew how to get to Him, I’d get those answers. And is He going to refuse me? No way! He would pay attention to me!

Good thing for Job (and for us) that the God who evokes dread within Job — He who is the all-knowing, unchanging, all-powerful, Sovereign Judge of the earth — is also a God of infinite patience and limitless grace toward Job.

Pay attention to me? Come on, Job. Really? Who do you think you are?

Who do you think you are? Isn’t that a question we all would do well to ask ourselves periodically? I’m thinkin’. Especially those who have been “inside the camp” for a long time.

Easy, I think, having walked by faith for awhile to become a bit complacent in the faith. Easy, having stood firm in the faith, to somehow start to think it’s because of our strength in the faith. Having known His presence and power over our long pilgrim journey, to maybe start presuming it’s our perseverance and power that has got us this far. Having been clothed in His robe of righteousness for decades, perhaps easy to start thinking we somehow now merit the robe.

Fact is, Job was a righteous man. Job was a sincere follower of the Almighty God. Job was, by God’s own repeated testimony, “blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.” Yet, in his suffering, though not diminishing His God, Job seems to succumb to elevating himself. Faith in God above being supplanted by an almost manic focus on his situation below. An unchecked quest for answers leading to confusion as to who is the creator of who.

Not judging Job. Relating. Not wondering how Job could get to where he got. Instead, a warning that I could get there too.

A reminder that, especially in hard times, a humble posture is probably a good posture. That when things are overwhelming I need to find refuge under the shadow of the Sovereign rather than demand answers for the situation.

No need to demand He pay attention to me. Because I know He always has.

Because of His grace. Eventually for my good. Ultimately for His glory.

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He is Able

Started in on Jude a couple of mornings ago in wonder that I was a kept man for Jesus (Jude 1:1b). Redeemed not only from my sin, but to Himself, “that where I am you may be also” (Jn. 14:3). How amazing is that? Pretty amazing.

This morning. as I hover over the closing promise of Jude, I’m reminded that being kept only means something if the one doing the keeping can keep.

Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of His glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

(Jude 24-25 ESV)

The only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, is able to keep those He has called to be kept. He is able.

Purposes, provisions, promises are all well and good. But without power — without the ability to act on those purposes, provide those provisions, and make good on those promises — it’s what I referred to in my corporate days as “vapor-ware.” Nice packaging, however not much practical benefit.

But God is able. Able to keep me from stumbling beyond recovery. Trip ups and slip ups, even crashes and burns, covered through the finished work of the cross — the blood of Christ able to cleanse me from all my sins. What’s more, the active agency of the Spirit of resurrection within me, able to restore, renew, and re-energize my desire and ability to walk in the way of the kingdom of heaven for the praise of the King of heaven.

Yes, God is able. Able to present Me before His glorious presence. Mortal meeting the Eternal. Those set apart as holy here and now, soon there and then to stand in the presence of Him who is holy, holy, holy. Blameless. Righteous. Fit for a King, because they are clothed in the King’s righteousness.

Yessir! I am a kept man only because He is a keeping God.

I am sure of my future, because He is steadfast in His love.

I purpose to live according to the promise, because He is able to act according to His infinite power.

He is able to keep me by His grace. He is able to keep me for His glory.

Keep on keepin’, Lord!

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A Kept Man

Not a big deal, really. Not a big deal, literally. It’s the difference between a three-letter word and a two-letter word. But as I chew on it this morning, it’s the difference of being thankful for feeling secure versus being in awe as, with all the blood-bought saints of God, I realize I’m kind of special. Either way, praising God this morning that I am a kept man.

Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James, To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ: May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.

(Jude 1-2 ESV)

Kept for Jesus Christ. Or, as it says in my footnotes, could be kept by Jesus Christ.

Kept. Preserved, according to King James. Literally, to attend to carefully; to guard; to reserve, or withhold for personal ends. It’s that last possible nuanced meaning I think that tips it for the ESV translators.

And hey, whether it’s for or by, what kind of wave of gratitude washes over you as you noodle on the fact that God the Father has determined to call you, love you, and keep you? A pretty big wave, I’m thinking.

So if it’s “only” kept by His blessed Son, how soul-soothing is that? The finished work of the cross sufficient to atone for our sins, all of our sins — past, present, and future. The intercessory work of the risen, ascended Christ able to save to the uttermost “since He always lives to make intercession” for us (Heb. 7:25).

Because we are kept by Jesus Christ we can be assured that, truly, the work God has begun in us He will complete in us (Php. 1:6). Even when we may feel like we’re losing our grip, His grip is steadfast and sure. Our Savior assuring us of eternal life as He is confident that we “will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of My hand” (Jn. 10:28).

Kept by Jesus? To be sure. What blessed security and assurance.

But kept for Jesus, as well? Hmmm . . .

Not just rescued, not just redeemed, but reconciled to Him and for Him.

He wants us. Not that He needs us. Not because of who we are, nor because of what we can bring to the relationship. In fact, wonder of wonders, He wants us despite what we’ve done, the penalty for which sent Him to the cross.

Still, He wants us. The way a Bridegroom desires His bride (Eph. 5:25-27). And so we are kept for Jesus. That’s why He’s preparing a place for us and has promised to come for us and take us to Himself “that where I am you may be also” (Jn. 14:3b). Thus, even as we walk into this day, we are being kept for Jesus.

Oh, who am we to merit such favor? Wrong question.

Who is He? The glorious, gracious, King of kings and Lord of lords. The Head of the church. The blessed Bridegroom.

Jaw-dropping. Love evoking. Worthy of all our worship.

I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine. (Song of Solomon 6:3 ESV)

A kept man.

Only by His grace. Only for His glory.

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Lessons from a Jerk

I know that all Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for our teaching and equipping (2Tim. 3:16). I know that while none of these books were written to us, they were all written for us — “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction” (Rom. 15:4). So, as I hover over Job 20 this morning, I am trying to figure out what I am supposed to picking up from what’s being laid down here.

Continuing the back and forth debate between Job’s position of “I did nothing wrong to deserve this” and his so-called friends counter-argument, “Oh yeah? You must of, or all that’s happened to you wouldn’t have happened to you.” Chapter 20 hands over the podium to Zophar. Z, you have three minutes to state your argument.

Zophar’s basic argument? God will judge the wicked with terrible stuff. You are have suffered terrible stuff. Ergo, you must be wicked. (Actually, Z’s a little more eloquent than that).

Do you not know this from of old, since man was placed on earth, that the exulting of the wicked is short, and the joy of the godless but for a moment? Though his height mount up to the heavens, and his head reach to the clouds, he will perish forever like his own dung; those who have seen him will say, ‘Where is he?’ . . . Utter darkness is laid up for his treasures; a fire not fanned will devour him; what is left in his tent will be consumed. The heavens will reveal his iniquity, and the earth will rise up against him. The possessions of his house will be carried away, dragged off in the day of God’s wrath. This is the wicked man’s portion from God, the heritage decreed for him by God.”

(Job 20:4-7, 26-29 ESV)

Check that out. Those are the words of someone come to “comfort” Job who has lost all his possessions, all his children, and is covered in open sores. What a jerk!

Not too compassionate sounding. Not really all that understanding. He’s pretty cocky and sure of himself when it comes to discerning the purposes of heaven as to why his buddy is being slammed on earth. I’m pretty sure this is how not to do it.

So what’s the profit in noodling on this? Why chew on it? What instruction am I to pick up from this jerk?

Maybe it’s about how not to be a jerk.

I can know the will of God (the wicked will be judged), but I need to be careful in thinking I have a handle on all the ways of God. Suffering could be judgment. But maybe not. Suffering could also be sanctifying.

Seems to me that when it comes to the long-game, the 30,000 foot view of what God has in mind, I think I can have a reasonable assurance, based on the Scriptures, as to what God’s gonna do. But when it comes to the details, to connecting the dots in the here and now, I need to have a certain humility in my “discernment.” And, for sure I need to have a whole lot of compassion for those whose lives are turned upside down and trying to figure out a reason why.

I think reading the Scriptures as a mirror isn’t a bad practice, even when it comes to trying to figure out a guy like Z.

At the least it can be a warning. Who knows, it might even be a reflection that leads me in God’s kindness to repentance and by God’s grace again to the cross.

Huh. Maybe you can learn lessons from a jerk.

By God’s grace. For God’s glory.

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A Revealer of Mysteries (2011 Rerun)

RRF . . . Rerun Friday. It’s a thing. Actually, it’s not a thing. But this morning it will be. Here’s some thoughts on my opening reading in Daniel from 10 years ago.

The story is classic . . . King eats too much before bedtime . . . king goes to sleep . . . supper starts fighting back . . . king has weird dream . . . king calls his magicians, astrologers, and sorcerers . . . king tells them the weird, digestive induced visions he had during the night . . . the court jesters get all creative and come up with a good tale on what the king’s dream means . . . king feels important that even his cramped colon can produce such great truths . . . king’s counselors feel important that they could be so wise as to interpret gastric goings on . . . game, set, match . . . we’ll play again another day. But in the second year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign (Daniel 2:1), the rules of the game were to take a sudden change . . . and the stage was set to introduce to a pagan king a Revealer of Mysteries

On that night, the dreams was different. They were vivid and they were troubling to the core. Not just about some tossing and turning, but shake-you-to-your-core frightening, so that there was no sleep to be had. And the king wanted answers . . . no game playing . . . he wanted the truth . . . he wanted to understand what it was all about and so, he called his “wise men” to him and required that before interpreting the dream that they demonstrate they were really in the know by first recounting the dream to him. Nope . . . uh, uh . . ain’t going to happen . . . “There is not a man on earth who can meet the king’s demand, for no great and powerful king has asked such a thing of any magician or enchanter or Chaldean. The thing that the king asks is difficult, and no one can show it to the king except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh” (Daniel 2:10-11).

Well, they got it part right . . . no man was going to meet the king’s test. But, there is a God who dares to dwell among flesh . . . the God who seeks to redeem those He created in His own image . . . the God who desires to tabernacle with His people . . . the God of heaven . . . the God who is a Revealer of Mysteries.

If you go just on repetition alone, the core message of Daniel 2 has got to be that the God of heaven (2:18, 19, 28, 37, 44) is a Revealer of Mysteries (2:19, 28, 29, 47). Sure, we can get caught up with Daniel’s prophetic interpretation of the the king’s dream, but if we step back just a bit, how amazing is it that the God of heaven has determined to reveal the secrets of heaven to mere mortals? I’m thinkin’ pretty amazing!

I can be so comfortable with the concepts of the faith . . . that Christ is God come in the flesh . . . that Jesus died and rose again the third day as an atoning sacrifice for all my sin — past, present, and future . . . that righteousness is credited to all who believe Jesus is the Lamb of God and own Him as Lord of All . . . that Jesus is even now preparing a place for us and that our mortal bodies will give way to immortality . . . and the list goes on.

But this morning “comfort” gives way to awe. That the God of heaven . . . He whose ways are higher than my ways . . . He whose thought are so beyond anything I could conceive . . . that He would reveal, by His grace, the secrets of the kingdom to a person of darkened understanding . . . that He would illuminate our minds to grasp in some measure such out-of-this-world revelation.

It occurs to me, that by God’s grace, I’m kind of like Daniel in that the God of heaven has revealed to me deep and profound mysteries . . . that, by His grace, He has given me the mind of Christ (1Cor. 2:16) . . . that, through His abiding Spirit, He leads me into truth.

Oh, that I might respond like Daniel and bless the God of heaven . . . the Revealer of Mysteries!

“Blessed be the name of God forever and ever,
to whom belong wisdom and might.
He changes times and seasons;
He removes kings and sets up kings;
He gives wisdom to the wise
and knowledge to those who have understanding;
He reveals deep and hidden things;
He knows what is in the darkness,
and the light dwells with Him.
To You, O God of my fathers,
I give thanks and praise . . . ”

(Daniel 2:20-22 ESV)

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A Whole Lot of Testifying Going On

Testimony. A solemn declaration of what is true or actual.

Testify. To bear witness. To give evidence or proof of something existing or being the case.

Hovering over 1John 5:6-12 this morning. And there’s a whole lot of testifying going on.

In this passage the Spirit testifies. The water and the blood testify. There is the testimony of God. And whoever believes has the testimony in themselves.

What are they giving proof of? What evidence are they presenting as to what is actual and true?

And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

(1John 5:11-12 ESV)

Be it known, says John, Jesus is the Son of God. Be it known, God have given eternal life. Be it known, that life is in His Son.

How important is it that Jesus is the Christ? Pretty important. How important that He is God incarnate? Pretty important-er.

That’s why John has already urged us children in the faith to “not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1Jn. 4:1).

By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.

(1John 4:1-2 ESV)

Jesus is the Son of God. That’s the truth we have in ourselves.

Evidenced by the water of baptism, God testifying Himself that Jesus was His beloved Son. Proven by the blood shed on Calvary, that God became flesh to be the once for all atoning sacrifice for sin (for “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Heb. 9:22)). Corroborated by the power of the Spirit who raised Him from the dead and now lives in us, so that we too have this testimony in ourselves.

Thus we testify,

God gave us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.

Not sure what to do with this. For now, just in awe of what we’re to know. Amazed by the reminder of what is.

Jesus is the Son of God and whoever has Jesus has life. That’s our testimony. Of that we’ll testify. And we’re in good company.

This is my story, this is my song,
praising my Savior all the day long!

The enduring evidence of God’s grace. The enduring acclamation for God’s glory.

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By This We Know – Part II

Yesterday, I was reminded that our salvation is more than just a profession of faith, it is more so a possession of the evidences of faith. That to claim you believe in a certain truth will manifest itself in that you behave in a certain way. That by this we know He abides in us, that we love not only in word or talk but in deed and in truth (1Jn. 3:18-19, 24-25).

But John’s not done. This morning he narrows down “deed and truth” and focuses on the need to love one another.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. . . Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and His love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.

(1John 4:7, 11-13 ESV)

Loving the brethren, and the sistren (it’s a word, check it out). By this we know that our salvation is the real thing. Family affection, extending goodwill, willing to love fellow believers as Christ loved us into believing, that’s how we know this whole abiding dynamic is actually “dynamic-ing.”

Can’t see God. No one has. But know God living in and through us? Experience evidences of His presence and power? Witness the ways of Spirit on spirit melding? That can be seen — as we love one another.

Hover over 1John 4:7-21 and tell me you don’t get how important it is that we love one another? Not just for our good (though knowing God is pretty good), but that God’s glory may be known in a world where, as lawlessness increases, “the love of many will grow cold” (Matt 24:12). Loving the church (the people not the institution, the building, or the programs) is integral to advancing the mission. The church hanging together is visible evidence of a hope that is real in a world that is falling apart.

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” ~ Jesus

(John 13:34-35 ESV)

Love one another as God has loved you.

By this we’ll know that the abiding thing is a real thing.

By this the world will know the power of the gospel is also a real thing.

Because of God’s grace. For God’s glory.

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