“Getting a Closer Look”

 

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Once, I was traveling out of town and the hotel we were staying in had one of those beauty magnifying mirrors that swing out on an arm.  You know the ones I’m talking about.  They get up close and really personal in your face.  What you thought you looked like in a normal mirror became something totally different in this magnifying truth teller.

I often avoid those mirrors because there’s only so much truth about my face I want to see.  But, looking into these things a whole world of pores and things that seem to come out of nowhere all of sudden can’t be ignored.  The eyebrows need more manicuring than once thought.  Things need to be plucked, covered, or taken care of to present this face to the world before I left out that day.

As I said, I always avoided these mirrors but I must admit when I stepped back to see the final results I was more than pleased and fully intend on having one installed in my bathroom at home.

How often are we afraid to take a closer look at ourselves?  Not our face per se but at things like the inner man, our life, and our relationship with God.  Are we too afraid of what we’ll find when we look too closely?  Do we not want things revealed to us that may have gone by without a closer inspection?

God wants the best for His people but sometimes the best means we have some stuff that needs to be plucked and dealt with first.  We have to seek the beautifying of His Spirit in order to step back and see the glorious final results He has for us up ahead.

“Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. . .” 2 Corinthians 13:5

 

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“Waiting for the Son” – Biblical Inspiration for that Coming Day

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“And to wait for His Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come” 1 Thessalonians 1:10

One of the truest treasures we can experience in our time is the dawning of a new day.  When the sun rises it brings with it the inspiration of hope that today can be different.  There is an automatic separation of what took place in the past, in the yesterdays of life, as opposed to that promise rising in the east that speaks of what now can be.

But, there is a greater day we hold fast to in hopes of seeing.  A time when what our hearts truly are seeking after appears in the clouds (Revelation 1:7) and every eye will see Him.  He that shines more brilliantly than that sphere awakening a new physical day.  We shall see the Son as He is, awakening a spiritual dawning of triumph.  He that is glorified and full of majesty, whose radiant glow cannot be compared, shall come!

Oh, what a day that will be! The chains and the shackles of this world will be permanently loosed and true freedom will come once and for all. God’s people will rise to reign in victory because the Son has come!

For the unrepentant it will be a fearful time: “And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory,” (Mt. 24:30, emphasis mine).

Luke 21:25-28 explains it to be a time of “distress of nations, with perplexity” and that “men’s hearts failing them for fear.” That the “powers of heaven shall be shaken,” and then they will see the “Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.”

Bur, the end of verse 28 encourages us, “Lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh!” The Son is coming!

For those in a relationship with Him, the Son is coming to bless His people!  Those who have been restored and made new by the blood of the new testament (Matthew 26:28) are those who accepted Him.  Those who accepted Him are those who will rejoice at His coming because their inheritance is with Him.

The Bible gives us these promises of who we are now and what we have to look forward to:

  • “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name,” (John 1:12, emphasis mine).
  • “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus,” (Galatians 3:26, emphasis mine).
  • “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God, (Ephesians 2:19, emphasis mine).
  • “Ye are Christ’s!” He has secured membership for you and me. He has redeemed us and set in a place to be called His own. We are now “joint-heirs” with Him, we are connected with Him, (Romans 8:17, emphasis mine).
  • “Oh, how great is Your goodness, which You have laid up for those who fear You, which You have prepared for those who trust in You in the presence of the sons of men!” (Psalm 31:19, NKJV, emphasis mine).
  • “And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.” (Revelation 22:12)
  • “In the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:8, NASB)
  • “And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.” (1 Peter 5:4)

Our future ahead looks awesome because of He whom we are waiting for!

God promised a Redeemer and He is the Son, and the Son is coming! We who belong to Him have something to get happy about!

 

“Our Thoughts Vs. God’s Leading”

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I have learned, that as humans, we don’t really know what we want some of the time.  Oh, we have goals, desires, and aspirations, but often how to attain them becomes skewered in our thinking.  We may pray for God to move this obstacle out of the way or transfer that particular issue over there, and when He does, we are just not happy or totally satisfied with the results.  Sometimes things don’t look or feel like we thought it should.

That’s because as humans we have to realize our limitations.  We are not all-knowing.  We can barely get through one day with all our faculties intact, let alone for us to try to tell our own end from the beginning and what we think our tomorrows and future should look like.

We can pray about things that bother us and concern us but ultimately we have to be willing to let God lead.  And, sometimes we even have to pray that He would help us to follow that leading.  When He leads, we don’t always understand the outcome, but then again, if we did, it wouldn’t be the walk of faith, filled with trust in our God that we are called to walk.

Our thoughts can lead us into the land of wondering, but it is our daily prayer that our hearts will follow God in the pursuit of what He has in store for our lives.  The Bible tells us, “The LORD knows the thoughts of man, that they are futile,” (Psalm 94:11, NKJV).  Some other translations relate that word “futile” found in the NKJV as “worthless” (NLT), “vanity” (KJV), and “meaningless” (HCSB) just to name a few.

In other words, our thoughts about a situation compared to God’s cannot be matched.  Did not the Bible tell us, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts,” (Isaiah 55:8-9)?  What He knows about a circumstance far surpasses anything our intellectual capabilities can begin to even imagine.  With that being said, our thoughts take a back seat to His sovereign leading.  

As hard as it may be to let go of the wheel and allow God to steer, it is something we must do if we are to drive in the right direction and course for our best and most successful life in Him.  We have to end the constant back and forth tug of war for control of our lives and submit to the One who is in control of our lives.

 

 

“Jesus Loves You To The End!”

“Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end,” John 13:1

Eventually, the love of friends fades.  As years go by we grow up and move on with our lives.  Even some familial relationships can wane with the passing of time.  But, there is one love that never quits on you.  His promise was to never leave you nor forsake you, Heb. 13:5.  He showed His devotion to His disciple right up to the end.  And daily, He shows His devotion to each and every one of us by continually being there for us, loving us, interceding for us and hearing us when we call.

I am personally amazed at His undying devotion to us.  Through all of our faults, shortcomings, and mess, He still stays committed to us even “to the end.”  This is a source of comfort and reassurance for them that are His.  Despite the tragedies of life or how much we feel like we are not measuring up, we have a Savior, nay a friend that sticks closer than a brother, Pro. 18:24.

The times and tides of life may ebb and flow, come and go, but Jesus is a solid source never to be moved.  Somebody said, “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over!”  And, since we are here today alive and with breath in our bodies, guess what, it’s not the end.  Bolster your faith today in this great truth that no matter what it may look like right now, Jesus loves you to the end!  God bless you!

A Word for Today: “Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

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Dealing with defeat is more than just being discouraged.  Defeat has a way of getting deep down within the spirit of man and making them feel crushed beyond measure.  It’s more than a heavy load.  It’s carrying the weight of disappointment, hopelessness, and pain without seeing any real way of being able to experience the least bit of victory in the end.  Therefore, the shoulders slump forward without the strength to be lifted up.

How does one go one when they think they have no more power for the press of this life?  There is nothing you and I can do to overcome on our own.  A humanistic way of thinking will formulate plans over and over again but they come to nought.  Or, any measure of peace we think to feel becomes fleeting and never lasting.

In Jesus Christ, we have our ultimate source of victory.  He said, “Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”  HE IS THE DEFEATER OF DEFEAT.  He is the power that stands aright with no competition to put Him down.  He is our way when there seems to be no way.  Our comfort when the love of people is few and far between.

There is NOBODY like my JESUS!  Ain’t that the truth!  He’s my comfort when I am comfortless.  He’s my fortress when I am surrounded by enemies.  He’s my strength when everything within me feels weak.  He has overcome anything and everything this world has thrown at Him and He stands ready to overcome for you, too.

We are far from defeated.  We are more than conquerors.  Everything that tries to convince us otherwise is a bald-faced lie from the enemy.  We are secured in Christ.  Christ has already won all the competitions of this life.  He has already overwhelmed the enemy.  He has taken this world by storm and we rest in the realm of His power, strength, and love.

To say that Christ has won is an understatement.  He has literally crushed, obliterated, and stands on the head of every adversary we may face today.  The world may think they have won but Jesus will flip the script on them every time and show who He really is.  He has “disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross,” (Col. 2:15; NIV).  His enemies are being made a footstool at His feet (Hebrews 10:13; NIV).  He is the King of all kings and Lord of all lords and will conquer everything and everybody that tries to war against Him (Revelation 17:14).

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, WE ARE ON THE WINNING SIDE!  There is no defeat for a child of God.  We have too much victory available to us through the name and the blood of Jesus Christ, our Savior, our Redeemer, and our Victor.

He has already overcome and we will overcome with Him!  Be of good cheer.

The Process of a Champion

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You could’ve taken off like a rocket ship with tanks of fuel lighting your tail, sending you fast to reach the stars. Yet, God chose a different journey; one with a paced climb, step by step, your path ascending a little higher each day.

Sometimes it seems slow. Painfully so.  But, have you ever considered it just means the potential on the inside is powerful.  Therefore, great care has to be taken in developing, caring, and raising your growth inch by inch.

Shooting high and shooting fast – the world has enough of that. Superstars with no substance are all they are.  But, God made you to be a champion.

So what’s the big deal?

Champions create change. Champions endure – they tough it out.  They fight the cause with the very last breath, staking their all to see victory come to its best.  They are a peculiar creature not willing to forgo the promise or give up too quickly on the process.  There’s a hope and a knowing that if they just stay on the wheel a little while longer the Master will develop a treasure from this little lump of clay.

Your value is too precious to be rushed. Let those who will zoom if they please.  But you, my friend, take joy in knowing there is great care being taken in making you who He wants you to be.  So, let Him have His way and perfect the precious in you.

Spotlight creepers. Thrill seekers.  This course is not for you.  Only champions, whose heart will bend to His molding; who will ride the wheel to impact lives will understand this can’t be rushed. They are created for more and with that, embrace the process of being shaped, knowing dear champion, that’s who God wants you to be.

“. . . Behold, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are ye in mine hand . . .” Jeremiah 18:6

“There is power in prayer!”

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“Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him.” Acts 12:5 (read Acts 12:1-11)

Martin Luther is quoted as saying, “To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.” Why is that? Because as breath is with the body, with each inhale and exhale one’s life is sustained; so is the prayer line that fosters that interpersonal relationship between God and man. It is not only life-sustaining, but it’s soul-sustaining keeping that glorious love connection betwixt the two opened and flowing.

Prayer is and of itself a discipline where one places themselves at the feet of the Almighty; to draw near to Him; to get to know Him more. Yet, prayer is often as well a plea of desperation when the times and trials of this life are too hard to bear. When we are at the end of our rope; or, when we just don’t understand what is happening or the road we should take – we pray.

We pray because deep within ourselves we know that try as we might, we can find no better help. Nor, is there any higher intervention than that which comes from God. Therefore, through prayer, we seek the release of His help and power into our problems, our lives, and the lives of those whom we intercede for.

Prayer is, and becomes, that connective key where God and man meet to converse on an intimate level, recognizing His greatness and sovereignty in the midst of our humanness and weaknesses.

And, this is what the church was hoping for when they offered up prayers on behalf of Peter who was now in prison. By this time persecution was not a new thing to the church. Throughout the Book of Acts, there are uprisings against the faith. The idea of the church enduring hardship was not going away anytime soon.

As a matter of fact, James, one of Jesus’s original disciples, was killed in the process by the sword (beheading, some say). Then, seeking, even more, favor among men, Herod proceeded further in attacking the church and imprisoning Peter also.

The Bible tells us, “Prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him,” (Acts 12:5). This is the epitome of what it means when the Psalmist declared, “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the LORD. . .” (Psalm 121:1-2a).

Pain and suffering were taking place in the church but hope was not lost because their hope was not in the circumstances that surrounded them – their hope was in God who reigned above them.

Therefore, they prayed!

Don’t tell me prayer doesn’t matter; that it doesn’t make a difference. Yes, it does! God will literally make chains fall off and set captives free through the power of prayer (as He does for Peter here).

Unbeknownst to Peter, God heard their prayers and He was working on his case. Peter, shackled and asleep between two soldiers, was about to experience a miraculous breakthrough of a lifetime. He may have been appointed to be kept under the guard of four squads of four soldiers each; but, Peter had just one God that would step in and free him from their midst.

See, it doesn’t matter how bad they have you wrapped up, God can break through it all. It doesn’t matter how many chains and shackles the enemy will try to place on you, prayer to the right Source; to God alone, will free you from their hold.

Peter was getting an up close and personal lesson in this area. God sent an angel to come to Peter in the night. With light filling the prison house the angel stood before Peter and aroused him from his sleep by hitting him on his side.  He spoke, “Arise up quickly,” (Acts 12:7). And, immediately his chains fell off.

Through the initial intervention of prayer, God was literally breaking chains off of Peter to set him free! You have to get happy about that and feel it in your spirit what God wants to do for His people. God will move and instruct His heavenly hosts to work on your behalf as He did for Peter through the power of prayer.  Never underestimate the power of God. He can do “exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think,” (Ephesians 3:20).

The church was praying corporately and God was listening attentively, and He was working it out. When the shackles fell from his hands, the angel then instructed Peter to get himself together and put his shoes on and to follow him (Acts 12:8).

Acts 12:10 tells us, “When they were past the first, and the second ward, they came unto the iron gate that leadeth unto the city; which opened to them of his own accord: and they went out, and passed on through one street; and forthwith the angel departed from him.” Amazing!  You have to admire the beauty of it all coming together. God not only freed him, but took him past one enemy, and then another enemy. He took him through the prison and out the huge iron gate unknown to anyone. This blew my mind. None of the enemies had a clue to what God was up to in freeing Peter. I don’t know if they were all in a heavy sleep or not, but God did it. He freed Peter.

Peter’s freedom was spawned through the prayers of the church. Yes, God could most certainly move without the intervention of anyone. But, here in these verses, a special note was made to stand out that when they prayed; when they got together collectively and on one accord to seek for Peter’s freedom, that’s when the miracle happened. God wants us to know the importance and the power of prayer. He said, “Call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me,” (Psalms 50:15).

Prayer was a huge key at work in the moving and miracles of the first-century church and it should be a huge key at work in our current lives and ministries as well. Paul later teaches, “I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting,” (1 Timothy 2:8). There is never a wrong time or place to pray. And, when you pray – BELIEVE! Believe that He hears, and believe that He will answer as He sees fit.

Your prayers DO make a difference. There is power in prayer! “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” (Matthew 7:7-11).

God made the impossible happen for Peter and He can do so in the church today. People can be freed. Chains can be broken. Ministries can flourish through the power of prayer. Prayer never hurts anyone, but it can always help everyone.  We are told, “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit,” (James 5:16-18).

What can you do through your prayer life?

Trust and believe that your prayers are never wasted; that there is power in prayer. Prayer can reach where physically we cannot. Prayer can go behind the veil into the throne room of God. Think about that for a second and let it sink in. Didn’t the book of Hebrews tell us, “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)? This is done through prayer.

We are not alone in this life. Our way of viewing things and situations can become impaired in our day to day struggles. We may feel like we don’t have power to do anything; as if we are in the dark, but prayer offers a light of hope.

Whether falling on our knees or reverently and silently offering up with heart pleas and thanksgivings to God, your prayers matter.

We serve a God who wants to hear from us and invites us to pray.  We will never know all the ins and outs of why God answers some prayers immediately, and why with some He chooses a different course. But, I do know this; prayer is never wasted, nor is it a waste of time. God hears each and every petition. He’s paying attention to the cause of His people. Don’t be discouraged if it seems like it’s not coming through for you like you want it to. God may have a greater course of destination in mind. Just hold on, keep the faith, and never stop praying. There is power in prayer!

 

“When Jesus Cleansed our Temple…”

 

One of the events most etched in people’s minds and history when recalling the events that occurred during this blessed time of the years was the cleansing of the temple (Matthew 21:12-13; Mark 11:15-17; Luke 19:45-46).  It is during this time when Jesus had had enough! It was time to get the house of God cleaned up! Unashamedly and without regard for roving eyes and the tsk tsk tsking of the people’s lips, He flips tables over and starts throwing people out to get His Father’s house back in order.  With holy force, He sought to reclaim what was rightfully God’s.

But, can I tell you, His fight didn’t stop there.  He wanted more than a building to reclaim for God, He wanted people that rightfully belong to Him.  He wouldn’t gain that by flipping over tables, rather He flipped over the gates of hell.  He wouldn’t get there by driving people with wrong intents away, but with force, He drove the enemy of our soul away and crushed him under His feet. He wanted to win the temple of people’s heart for His Father and this fight could only be won on the cross.

The whips that were used against Him were nothing in comparison to the sting He was delivering to the enemy.  The ridicule He experienced couldn’t overshadow the words of comfort and the prayers of forgiveness He offered as He hung there.  The thorns that were placed on Him and the sword that pierced His side couldn’t contend with the piercing plea of souls searching for everlasting freedom the cross could provide.  On the cross, He would remain until the victory to reclaim the lost and hurting world to His Father was won.  On the cross, He would stay until the temple of the one who would believe in Him could be cleansed and made new that true worship and true fellowship with the Father could be restored.

When Jesus stepped in the place for us, He cleansed our temples with the only thing that could work: His Blood.  His blood is the only thing that could turn the enemy of our soul upside down.  His blood is the only thing that could deliver from the eternal death to come.  His blood is the only way to reclaim the hearts of the people; the temple of their souls for the Father.

When Jesus cleaned our temple, He did for us what we couldn’t do for ourselves.  More than a building was rightfully returned to God.  You and I and everyone who believes were won by the cleansing power of the cross.

When Jesus cleansed our temple He did more than flip over tables.  He took who we used to be and made us brand new.  He turned our world upside down and gave us entrance into the kingdom of God, and we are so glad He did.

“Religion says earn your life. Secular society says create your life. Jesus says, ‘My life for your life.” – Timothy Keller

“Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

Only the blood of Jesus can cleanse us, yet if we withhold ourselves from that blood, we will be unclean forever.” – Aiden Wilson Tozer

“Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.” Titus 3:5

“What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus; What can make me whole again? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.” – Robert Lowry

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” 1 John 1:7

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“Rise Out of the Shadows of What Others Think”

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Shadowing living is not for the people of God unless they are living under His shadow (see Psalms 91:1).  And, constantly living, ordering, and covering your life by what others think is a trap.  It is not up to you to change people’s minds about you or to constantly seek their approval for this or that.  If you are living for Christ, then you are living to be approved by Him and not to win a positive vote from others (see Galatians 1:10).  Recognize that some people will never look at you in a positive light no matter what you do to “prove” yourself worthy to them.  Some people take very long or will never get over your past or your mistakes and will tend to look at you with eyes of suspicion and mistrust and categorize you as such in their thoughts.  At the same time, there are others who will keep their thoughts focused on what they see as lack and short-comings in your life, and to them, you just don’t measure up.

That’s why the Bible tells us, “The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the LORD shall be safe,” (Proverbs 29:25).  The job of the Christian, who knows Christ bore the worst part of us and our sins on the cross, and that it is He and His Spirit that is empowering us, is not to live life like cowering dogs with tails tucked in because of people.  It’s not to let oneself continually carry the burden of guilt, shame, or misgivings of your abilities that others try to force on you when Jesus already paid it all, gave it all, and supplied it all.  That kind of life is a trap and it is dangerous because one will always be consumed by what others think.  And, when one is so worried about what others think, they are less focused on what God thinks.

But, God said, “I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give to each man according to his ways, According to the results of his deeds,” (Jeremiah 17:10, NASB).  God is the only judge whose standards of living we need to be concerned about because He holds the results and the rewards.  He knows our every move in life and even our innermost thoughts (Psalm 139:2).  He knows the works we do (Isaiah 66:18).  He knows the secrets we hold (Psalm 44:21).  He knows the plans we make (Proverbs 16:9).  He knows everything about us and He also knows that Jesus Christ has freed each one of us, that is found in Him, to rise out of the shadows of the thoughts of others that you might live fully in Him and completely for Him.  Trust more in what God thinks as opposed to what people think and choose to live freely in Him today!

“Decorated in Glory”

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Being called to the front of the assembly to receive awards of excellence was one of my greatest joys in my private elementary school.  One year I excelled in every category, so instead of receiving multiple name calls of recognition – I was given one all-encompassing award.  I remember not liking it one bit.  An over-all award meant specifics were not being named in front of my peers and others, and I didn’t have the pleasure of playing the role of jack-in-the-box in my seat with my constant popping up and down to receive individual accomplishments.

As we get older in life we realize every achievement does not need to come with applause or recognition (at least, not here on earth anyway).  But, in heaven, your works are going to be rewarded.  You and I are going to be decorated in glory.  These rags of humanity will be replaced with robes of righteousness.  As a soldier being medaled for victories, we shall be adorned and dressed in the finest of the heavenlies, telling our story of overcoming.  We made it through and now He speaks, “My reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be,” Revelation 22:12.

Take heart.  What you do today may escape the notice of man but the eye of the Lord sees it all.  And, when we get to that heavenly city we will have all the recognition we will ever need.  For it is there we receive the greatest thing no earthly prize can give: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord,” Matthew 25:21, 23.

And, that’s all the glory one needs to be decorated with.