Tag Archives: God’s Presence

(2 Samuel 9) Dinner’s On

Mephibosheth ate at King David’s table, was given land and protection, not because of anything he’d done, but because of whose son he was. Mephibosheth did not earn the right to be in the king’s presence by doing good deeds. The king extended grace because he loved Mephibosheth’s father.

Do you see a parallel? I am ushered into the Presence of the King through grace, not of myself, it is a gift of God. I can’t earn a place at the table, but I am blessed because God loves His Son, and I belong to His Son. God extends grace to me because He loves Jesus.

I realize Mephibosheth wasn’t healed. He remained a cripple. And God doesn’t always take away my problems, either. God’s grace doesn’t guarantee a trouble-free life. But I never want my problems to overshadow the blessings of God’s Presence and protection, or the fellowship He extends to me. Mephibosheth was blessed, and so am I.

I love living in God’s Presence. I hear Him say to me, “Pull up a chair, Connie. Dinner’s on.”

And I do.

Without Ceasing (Jude)

Do you pray in the Spirit? What does that even mean? Jude encourages us to build ourselves up in our most holy faith and pray in the Spirit. (Vs 20).

As I was sitting here thinking about this and asking God for insight, I looked at the verse printed at the bottom of the page in my journal:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. (Matthew 22:37)

I’m sitting here at the kitchen table with my sister. I’m very aware that she is here. If I have a thought, I can share it and hear her response. Her presence next to me is a comfort, and brings me joy.

I think praying in the Spirit is similar to that. It’s an awareness of the Presence. It’s the natural impulse to share a thought or ask a question, or just to stop and listen. It’s intentional communication with the Spirit who lives in me.

It’s the choice to love God with all my heart, down deep in my soul, not just an emotional feeling of love. It’s loving God with my thoughts, my intellect, my careful reading of His Word.

Paul puts it like this: “Pray continually.” Or in another translation: “Pray without ceasing.” (I Thessalonians 5:17) That is God’s will for you and me.

What a privilege to have the Spirit of God living in me. May I never take that for granted, but always be aware of the Presence. May my thoughts and words include Him, intentionally, lovingly…

Without ceasing.

No “I” (Galatians)

This past year I have been reading through God’s Word using my mother’s Bible. Mom went to live with Jesus in 1996, and I have had her Bible on my bookshelf for all these years. I always love reading God’s Word, but this year has been kind of special as I see what verses my mother underlined. Sometimes I see a verse she underlined and think, “Yeah. That sounds like Mom.” Other times I read something she underlined and wonder what was going on in her life at the time that prompted that particular verse to speak to her.

Mom underlined three passages in the book of Galatians, and I’d like to share them with you today. The first is 2:20.

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.

I no longer live.

A dead person has no goals, no plans or desires, no ego. Can I honestly say that describes me? Have I been crucified with Christ so that Connie no longer lives? That goes so contrary to the popular theme of the day, that “I” deserve, “I” need, “I” can, “I” am…

A dead man has no “I.” Do “I?”

Paul, understanding that there was still life in his body, explained how he could be a dead man walking: but Christ lives in me.

Jesus filled Paul’s body with HIS goals, plans, and desires, and Paul gladly offered his body to accomplish those things on Jesus’ heart. Paul had no ego. His life was no longer his, but Christ’s.

Paul also understood that life in this body comes with challenges. It is a constant battle with Satan. Paul explained in another verse my mother underlined, 5:16, how he could resist the temptations Satan threw his way:

So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.

Paul didn’t say there wouldn’t be desires of the sinful nature. We are all tempted in some way or another. (think of the “I” mentality I spoke about earlier. The pull to gratify sinful desires is real.) But Paul knew that if the Spirit was directing him, the ability to resist those desires would be his as well.

The third passage Mom underlined was 5:24-26.

Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with the passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

Crucifying that sinful nature can be a battle for me. Sometimes I feel like Paul in I Corinthians 15:31 because I, too, have to die daily. But I notice in this passage in Galatians, Paul gives me the key: keep in step with the Spirit. How? By spending time in God’s Word every day, praying for understanding and discernment, growing in grace and knowledge of Jesus, then I am able to keep in step with the Spirit who fills me.

These passages in Galatians highlight five things to me this morning:

  1. Crucified with Christ (is that true of me?)
  2. Christ in me (not just emptying myself, but replacing the “I” with Jesus)
  3. Live by the Spirit (being aware of His presence, making choices that He prompts me to make, spending time in God’s Word and in prayer every day)
  4. Belong to Christ (wow! I am His, and He is mine! Never alone. His precious child)
  5. Keep in step with the Spirit (I’m not emptied, then filled just to sit here and enjoy the ride. This part of these passages that spoke to my mother tells me the Spirit is on the move, and I better keep up!)

I’ve learned some things about my mother this year as I’ve read her Bible. But more importantly, I’ve learned some things about myself and my relationship with the Savior she loved.

My prayer is that today, I will not live. I pray that I will be a dead woman walking around with Jesus inside, my fingers touching the things He wants to touch, my feet going where He wants to go, my voice saying the things He wants to say. I pray that for you, too.

Choose Me (Ezekiel 42-43)

He was so willing. God would have forgiven Israel for every evil thing they ever did or even thought. “Here I am,” He said. “Here is my throne and a place for the soles of my feet. I’m not going anywhere.” They just needed to turn from their sin, put away their idols, and He would live among them forever.

Let them consider the plan, and if they are ashamed of all they have done, make known to them the design of the temple… its whole design and all its regulations and laws. Write these down before them so that they may be faithful to its design and follow all its regulations. (43:10b-11)

He was so willing. But they couldn’t do it. And neither can we.

Sometimes connecting with God’s heart breaks mine. This morning as I read these chapters I could hear His longing, and could almost feel His pain. “Choose me!” He pleads.

He’s done all the work. That altar and its regulations were fulfilled perfectly when God sacrificed Himself on the cross. “Just choose me,” He cries.

I pray that you have, at some point in your life, chosen God, that you have repented from sin, turned from your idols, and turned to the Savior. But I hope that isn’t the only time you’ve dealt with sin in your life.

Even the Apostle Paul struggled with sin. He tells us He made a conscious decision to “die” every day, to put aside self and sin, and choose God. Every. Day. “To live is Christ,” he said.

Choosing God isn’t easy, and it’s not always fun. Choosing God comes with sacrifice, hardship, selflessness. Choosing God means getting out of our comfort zones, going to battle, loving people who don’t agree with us, and praying for them. Choosing God goes against everything we’ve come to believe is true; that we should be wealthy and healthy, that we deserve to be happy, that as “children of the king” we should live the high life.

Scripture tells us that Jesus knew the world would hate us for choosing Him, because they hated Him first.

But choosing God is the most amazingly wonderful choice you will ever make. Choosing God is choosing something better than anything this world offers. Better than money, or fame, or a home on Easy Street. Choosing God is choosing love and forgiveness, help and encouragement, purpose and fellowship, and eternity more wonderful than any of us can imagine.

“Choose me,” God is saying to you. “Choose me today, and tomorrow, and the next day. Choose me this hour, this minute. Choose me and I promise I will never leave you, I’ll plant the soles of my feet in your heart and bless you with Myself.”

I choose God today. I’m praying you’ll do the same.

What God Wants You To Know (Psalm 94)

God’s Word is alive. Whenever I prayerfully read it, God always – always – speaks to me about something that applies to my life at that very moment. It might be a verse I’ve read many times before, but when I am going through something and need a word from God, that same verse brings on new meaning at just the right time. Oh, what a treasure I forfeit when I don’t spend time reading God’s love letter to me every day.

I’d like to share something Mom had underlined in her Bible, a couple verses that spoke to me from this psalm this morning. I think it might be something God wants us all to hear Him say as our world slowly opens up after the forced separation surrounding the virus.

When I said, “My foot is slipping,” your love, O Lord, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul. (verses 18-19)

My prayer is that all of us will rest in the supporting love of our Lord. I pray that any anxiety we might feel will be replaced with joy that only God can give as we allow Him to console us.

Dear one, I would ask all of us to stop listening to the media tell us how scared we should be. Stop allowing Satan to cause us anxiety and hopelessness.

Listen instead to God, read His Word instead of the newspaper, and hear Him say that He is able to keep us from falling (Jude 24); He wants us to cast our cares and anxieties on Him because He cares for us (I Peter 5:7).

Then, may we all go through this day, and tomorrow, and the next day with the confidence of God’s support, the joy that is ours through our relationship with the Creator. This is the day the Lord has made. We can rejoice and be glad in it, May 29, 2020, virus and all.

I think that’s what God wants us to know today.

Gatekeeping (I Chronicles 9)

Reading about the men who were assigned the position of gatekeepers for the Tabernacle, God’s house, convicts me. These men protected every inch, inside and out, day and night. No side or entrance was without someone making sure no unauthorized person had access. The treasures of God housed within those canvas walls were cherished and diligently covered with protection at all times. The Presence of God was guarded carefully.

Which makes me wonder how diligent I am about guarding God’s dwelling place in 2020. And according to I Corinthians 6:19, I am God’s dwelling place, His temple in the twenty-first century. Sadly, my gatekeepers aren’t always on the job.

Sometimes my heart isn’t protected from the enemy, or from unauthorized influence. I know there have been times when I’ve left a door unguarded, and allowed a thought, or a philosophy, or action enter because it looks harmless enough. Or maybe because I just wasn’t paying attention, the evil gets a free pass. Have there been times I’ve given the enemy access to God’s temple called Connie because others seem to think it’s ok and have given the enemy access to their hearts first?

Then, knowing God’s Church today is made up of individual temples like me, I have to ask myself how diligent I am about protecting her. Do I stand up for the truth of Scripture, do I hold my teachers and pastors accountable? Do I boldly stand up for what God has expressly stated as right, and just as emphatically reject what He says is wrong? Am I doing the job of gatekeeper over the treasures of Holy God, His Son Jesus, and the gift of grace?

Or am I a slacker? May God give me courage to be the gatekeeper He deserves. May I guard my heart, and the doors of my church with a boldness that honors Him and keeps His dwelling place pure.

I’m Not Feeling It (Psalm 88)

I was bothered by this psalm this morning. Heman the Ezrathite was in a bad way. I understand some scholars believe he was foretelling what Jesus experienced in the events surrounding the cross, and I can see some similarities for sure. But I read this psalm as from a man who was in despair himself at that moment. He is at the lowest point in his life, drowning, suffering, overwhelmed, and friendless. In fact, the psalm ends with him saying that darkness is his closest friend.

Then to top it off, he feels abandoned by God. The psalm left me feeling uneasy. But I continued with my reading plan, reading other psalms that were uplifting and hopeful. I just could’t shake the feeling I’d gotten from Psalm 88.

So I went back to look at it again. “What is it You want me to see, Lord?” I prayed. I didn’t have to look very hard.

O, Lord, the God who saves me, day and night I cry out before you. May my prayer come before you; turn your ear to my cry. (verses 1-2)

Heman didn’t feel all warm and fuzzy toward God. It wasn’t one of those times when the Presence of the Lord made him joyful, calm, and confident. It was one of those times when he couldn’t even feel the Presence of God at all.

But Heman KNEW God was his Savior. He KNEW God was present, even if it didn’t feel like it. And Heman was determined to continue to pray to the God he trusted.

God is asking me if I only want a relationship with Him when the circumstances of life are going in my favor, or do I trust Him in those times when I feel like I’m drowning, suffering, overwhelmed, and alone? Do I pray expecting God to snap to it like a bellboy at a five star hotel, and grant me my wish as demanded? Do I give Him the silent treatment when I don’t think He’s paying attention?

Heman prayed to “the God who saves me.” Not to the God who makes me feel good. Not even to the God who loves me. And Heman didn’t pray to the God who CAN save me. I love Heman’s confidence in God in the midst of his trouble. The God who saves me! Period.

So when my life seems out of control, I like Heman, can know that as His child, God is the God who saves ME. He doesn’t depend on my feelings. But I can depend on His faithfulness. Even when things are hard. Even when I’m lost and alone.

Even when I’m not feeling it. God is the God who saves me!

Dumb As An Ox (Psalm 73)

In our economy, we have come to believe that good should be rewarded, and bad should be punished. Even in some Christian circles, it’s believed that obedience should result in material blessings and disobedience should result in suffering. Sounds logical.

Even David struggled with his own sense of fair-play. When David looked at the success of people who had rejected God, he went as far as to say:

Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure; in vain have I washed my hands in innocence. (vs 13)

The old pity party raises its ugly head. Been there. Done that.

But David comes to his senses and said something that made me not only laugh out loud, it got me thinking. Look at what he says in verses 21-22:

When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you.

Yes, God, when I find myself jealous of the prosperity of people who don’t give you a thought, I’m being ridiculous. I’m as dumb as an ox, as silly as a goose.

The truth is, those people who reject God, yet seem to have it all, are on a slippery slope, heading for destruction, and they don’t even know it. What looks like success and happiness is, at best, temporary. And probably, most likely, it is a smoke screen for what is going on within. Money, and things, are not what we were created for.

On the other hand, I have God Himself! It is God who holds me, gives me direction, and blesses me in ways the world cannot understand. And I am heading toward eternity with God in a place too wonderful for words.

Whom have I in heaven but you? And being with you, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (vv 25-26)

 

 

What Am I Missing? (Joshua 16-18)

The thing that always hits me when I read these chapters is how the Jews allowed the enemy to survive, knowing God specifically said to destroy them completely. They not only allowed the enemy to survive, the enemy was allowed to co-exist with them in the towns God had given the Jews.

I am also struck when I read these chapters, and hear Joseph’s clan demand more land than what they’d been assigned. They said their numbers were too large to fit in that portion of land, so they needed more. Joshua called them out and, in effect, told them the problem wasn’t the amount of land. The problem was that Joseph’s clan was just too lazy, or too fearful to do what needed to be done. They had all the land they’d ever need – if they’d clear it.

Sure, the Canaanites were a formidable foe. But the Canaanites were no match for God’s army. Joseph’s clan just needed to quit whining and go to war.

God uses these chapters to ask me if I have allowed the enemy to co-exist in my life. Is there a sin I’ve gotten used to having around? Have I watched enough TV to be desensitized to the seriousness of sin? Do I turn my head and ignore sin in myself and/or in others close to me?

When I read these chapters God also reminds me there is land to clear. There are battles to be fought in order for me to enjoy the Promised Land of His Presence in my life; in order for me to embrace all of Him and receive everything He has in store for me. God reminds me I need to go to war.

It’s tempting to ask God for more of Himself, more blessings, more opportunity to serve Him, without even trying to defeat the enemy in our lives. People pray, “Heal our land,” when they should be praying, “Heal my heart.” People pray, “Send revival,” when our prayer should be, “Revive me.” The problem isn’t that we live in a sinful world. The problem is that we are sinful, living in this world.

When I read these chapters in the book of Joshua, I wonder what it is I am missing by not trusting God to help me take everything available to me through the blood of Jesus.  What blessings have I forfeited? What opportunities have I squandered? What joy have I missed?

Dear God, I want it all. I want everything a relationship with You can bring. I want to go to war against sin in my life. I want to clear my heart of any remnant of the enemy. Convict me. Break me. Strengthen me to win my battle over the enemy. Oh God, I don’t want to miss a thing.

An Alternative To Grumbling (Numbers 16-17; Psalm 90)

My mother underlined Psalm 90:12,14 in her Bible. As I think about those verses this morning I am blessed by the fact that God knows the number of my days in this flesh and blood body I’m wearing. In fact, He’s already seen my physical death and welcomed me home, because He lives outside of time. I am forced to live this life one sixty second minute at a time. He is not. And knowing my days are in His hands brings me peace and assurance. May I begin every morning, allowing God to satisfy me with His unfailing love, with His joy so that I will sing his praises and be glad all my days.

The Old Testament Jews were always grumbling, always complaining about something. What a miserable way to spend our days. There has to be a better way, an alternative to complaining, doesn’t there?

Moses said something to the complaining Levites that spoke to me today. He asked them, “Isn’t it enough that God has set you apart and brought you near to himself? Isn’t it enough that God has given you the privilege of serving Him today in a way no one else can serve Him?”

The answer is, “Yes, it is enough.” Or at least it should be the answer. In fact, it is more than enough. More than I deserve.

So when I find myself wanting to grumble about something, I pray I learn to number my days, to get alone with God who has drawn me near, and allow Him to satisfy me with His unfailing love and joy. May I read His Word and pray, may I be “in the moment” of His embrace. May I be quick to turn from complaining, to singing His praises.

Oh, I can always find something to grumble about. But there is a better alternative.