God’s Presence


Psalms 45-47 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: His Presence is a river of joy in our lives

Watching the news unfold today is not for the faint of heart.  Many parts of the world are filled with political chaos while other areas are facing catastrophic events unlike any time in history.  Individuals performing ordinary tasks on any given day have had their world turned upside down with earthquakes, floods or storms, but we can take heart in the words of Jesus, “when you see all these things, you can know his return is very near, right at the door.” (Matthew 24:33)

This section of Psalms begins with a prophetic account of the marriage of Christ and His bride, the Church, in Psalm 45.  The King, anointed with the oil of joy (7) at this happiest of all occasions is joined with His Bride, who has left her past life (10) for the delight of one who loves her eternally. These are the things of which movies are made, and one day, this will be our reality!  But until then… 

@ Psalm 46
Psalm 46 reminds us of the protection He offers His beloved as we wait for His return.  “God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.”(1) Have we seen any trouble lately?  “So we will not fear when earthquakes come and mountains crumble into the sea.”(2) Hundreds of earthquakes around the world are reported each day, ever growing in strength.  “The nations are in chaos, and their kingdoms crumble!” (6) Have we ever seen a day like today where countries are facing national bankruptcy, with our own country on the verge of collapse at times?  “God’s voice thunders, and the earth melts!” (6)  Today we see tsunamis leveling cities and lava destroying everything in its path, filling the air with volcanic ash.  Fearsome are the days in which we live.

However, The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is here among us.(7)  We will not fear!  Even though the events surrounding Jerusalem at the time this Psalm was written were chaotic, there was a river bringing joy to the city, “A river brings joy to the city of our God, the sacred home of the Most High.” (4).  No, Jerusalem did not have a river like we would think; it was a different kind of river.  It was a river of joy from the throne of God, filling God’s people with His presence regardless of the circumstances surrounding them.  As long as they stayed in the river, peace and joy were theirs.

We, too, have a river of joy, the very presence of God flowing through our lives to bring peace and joy in troubled times. We should not fret and wail like those who have no hope, but we should follow His advice, “Be still, and know that I am God!” (10)  I stand silent in His Presence. 

Moving Forward:  I will not fear. I will remain in the river of joy today, ever confident that “The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is here among us!” (11) We are not alone. 

Tomorrow @ Job 31-32

Psalms 42-44 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He satisfies the thirst of all those who long for Him

Once in a while we hear stories about individuals who have been lost at sea, clinging for life to a small buoy or dingy. Their greatest need is always the hope of rescue, but their most immediate need is something to drink. With the sun beating down its brutal heat, the body quickly loses a great deal of water and through parched lips, the poor souls cry out for water. Of course, we see the irony here – surrounded as far as the eye can see with water, but unable to drink it. It’s water that won’t satisfy; it’s water that will cause even more thirst.

Animals in the wild will travel great distances to find water during a dry spell. Deer and other animals can actually smell the water in the air and will follow their noses to the source. All living things need water. While the feeling of thirst is what signals our need, the need is there long before our bodies sense it. We require a constant intake of water to keep our bodies functioning properly, and so it is with the soul.

@ Psalm 42
“As the deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you, O God. I thirst for God, the living God. When can I go and stand before Him?” (1-2) The psalmist of Psalm 42 paints an accurate picture of how we feel when we haven’t stayed connected to the source of living water, and we find ourselves in a dry condition. “When can I go and stand before Him?” I would say that now would be a good time to so do, better sooner than later.

“Why must I wander around in grief, oppressed by my enemies? They scoff, ‘Where is this God of yours?’” (9-10) It seems that when we are at our thirstiest, the enemy comes around to taunt us with questions about the God we love and serve, but just like the psalmist, we can go to the Source who fills our thirsty souls with living water. “Send out your light and your truth; let them guide me. Let them lead me to your holy mountain, to the place where you live. There I will go to the altar of God, to God—the source of all my joy.” (43:3-4)

Send out your light! “Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.” (Psalm 119:105) Send out your truth! “For the Spirit teaches you everything you need to know, and what He teaches is true.” (I John 2:27) His Word and His Spirit lead us to Him, and it is there that, “All humanity finds shelter in the shadow of your wings. You feed them from the abundance of your own house, letting them drink from your river of delights. For you are the fountain of life, the light by which we see.” (Psalm 36:7-9)

There’s no need for us to be thirsty, wandering in the dark! His Word and His Spirit will lead us to Him, and it is in that place where we can drink from His river of delights. Thirst no more!

Moving Forward: I don’t want to get dry today, so I’m drinking first thing, getting full up, from His river of delights!

Tomorrow @ Job 29-30

Psalms 36-38 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He responds to our delight in Him with delight!

My husband and I have never bought extravagant gifts for each other on our anniversaries. We usually enjoy a nice dinner together at a favorite restaurant and often give each other some little meaningful gift. One year my husband told me that his gift to me that day was that he would spend as much time at the shopping mall with me as I desired. You probably don’t understand the magnitude of this gift, but let it suffice to say that he’d rather have his fingernails pulled off one at a time than walk in a mall. This was huge!

Well, needless to say, I gratefully received his gift, and we strolled through the mall for several hours, laughing, drinking coffee and shopping for Christmas presents. My husband’s gift made me feel cherished and appreciated and brought me much joy. His gift was intentional because he knew me so well, and he delighted in being with me and giving me joy. My response was to make him feel cherished as well.

@ Psalm 37
“Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires.” (4) Because we are made in his image, the actions that delight the Lord are not so unlike our own. Just as we celebrated our special anniversary day, what would delight the Lord more than for us to intentionally give honor and celebration to His special day – the Sabbath? “Keep the Sabbath day holy. Don’t pursue your own interests on that day, but enjoy the Sabbath and speak of it with delight as the Lord’s holy day…Then the Lord will be your delight.” (Isaiah 58:13-14) On our anniversary, we pulled away from our regular activities to honor our special day and delight in one another. On His day, we bring joy to His heart when we rest from our busy lives and delight only in Him.

What could delight the Lord more than for us to spend as much time as He wants at the place where He most desires our fellowship – His Presence? “You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:11) Pleasures forevermore!

“…and He will give you your heart’s desires.” This promise that follows our delight in Him can be understood in two different ways. First, when we delight in Him, when we take time to honor His special day and cherish our time spent with Him, His response is to fulfill our heart’s desires. We understand this response because we react to delight in much the same way.

His response that I know to be true as well is that He will place in our hearts the desires that He wants us to have because we delighted in Him. He will give us what our hearts should desire. Delight in Him and suddenly our heart’s desires will be His will and receive His stamp of approval. When our desires are not in sync with God’s word, perhaps we are not delighting in the Lord and have found someone or something else to delight in. In this case, God is not the one we take pleasure in, appreciate, revel in and enjoy.

“The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives.” (23) We delight in Him, and He delights in us! When we question our next step in life or the path we should follow, our best effort to find direction is when we delight in the Lord. Honor His day, seek His Presence, revel in Him, cherish, savor and enjoy Him. His will becomes our heart’s desires, and He directs our steps.

Moving Forward: My song today, “I delight in the Lord, with all my heart…All my mind and my soul. I delight in the Lord, with all my heart…All my mind and my soul. As I wait upon the Lord, I grow stronger…” (Boloche)

Tomorrow @ Job 25-26

Psalms 15-17 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He grants entrance into His presence for those who live righteous lives

Advice floats down through the decades, words of caution, helpful hints and all the sayings that mom passed down.  I remember hearing advice such as, if you want to know how a man will treat you after you’re married, find out how he treats his mother now.  Or, if you want to know how a man will treat his children, see how he treats his pets.  I’m not certain these would be proof-positive, but they might give an indication of future behavior.  When I’ve sought employment in the past, I will admit that I made careful observation of how the potential employer treated others in the workplace. Come to find out that in our reading today David believed that God has his own kind of litmus test, if you will, for those seeking a visit with Him. 

@ Psalm 15
“Who may worship in your sanctuary, Lord?  Who may enter your presence on your holy hill?” (1)  This is an appropriate question for someone like David who’s greatest desire was to live in the presence of God all the days of his life (Psalm 27:4)  In verses 2-5, David gave ten principles regarding worship before the Lord.  These principles are not about how much God loves us or about our freedom to call on Him at any time. They reflect David’s heart on who may worship in God’s sanctuary?  Those who:

  • Lead blameless lives. Our hearts are motivated by the desire to live a life of integrity before God and others.
  • Do what is right.  Our actions promote good.  They may not be the easy thing to do, but they are the right thing to do.
  • Speak the truth.  Our words are not clouded by little white lies and deception.
  • Refuse to gossip.  Even when it may hamper our popularity and acceptance with some, we refuse to backbite and speak unkindly about others.
  • Refuse to harm a neighbor.  We do not negatively influence how others view our neighbors, co-workers and others in order to promote ourselves.
  • Refuse to speak evil of a friend.  We treat our friends with loyalty and honor in the presence of others.
  • Show honor to God’s faithful followers, not to the ungodly.  We do not celebrate those who live ungodly lives, but honor those who are faithful to God.
  • Keep promises even when it hurts.  We are faithful to our word, and others can depend on it regardless of how it affects our own well-being.
  • Lend money without charging interest.  We lend to those who are in need without attempting to get rich off of them.
  •  Cannot be bribed to lie about the innocent. There is not an amount of money that could cause us to compromise our integrity.

It’s interesting that David’s answer to the question of who may worship in God’s sanctuary has nothing to do with how we approach God on the outset, but everything to do with how we approach our relationships with others.  It’s in our treatment of others that we show God how much we truly love Him, “He loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins…since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other…if we love each other, God lives in us, and His love is brought to full expression in us.” (I John 4:10-12)

Psalm 15 ends with a promise, “Such people will stand firm forever.” (5)  For those who serve God in this way, no storm can move them; no hazards can displace them because they have not given place to the enemy.  Their righteous lives of integrity will allow them to stand firm forever before Him in worship.

Moving Forward:   May nothing I do or say to others today disrupt my worship before the Lord.  I want to stand firm in His presence. 

Tomorrow @ Job 11-12

Nehemiah 1-4 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He is always attentive to our prayers

Leaving our church youth pastor position of six years to transition to a state youth position several years ago was a difficult move for us.  We dearly loved our pastor, our youth and youth leadership, and it was a tearful time.  On our last Sunday morning at the church, the youth choir sang, “Friends are friends forever if the Lord’s the Lord of them…” by Michael W. Smith.  Most everyone cried with us that day as we listened, but, thankfully, we have remained “friends forever” with these dear ones.

Life has kept us running and has afforded little time for fellowship with these friends, but when we have the opportunity to meet, the friendship is still there. We remember our history together, but now all the new details have to be filled in.  This is sometimes how we feel when our relationship with the Lord has grown distant, but today we read about a man whose friendship with God was fresh and up to date.

Nehemiah was a Jew born in captivity in Persia, but he had a profound knowledge of God’s laws and a deep affection for the land of his ancestors.  He was a godly man.  Deeply distressed about the safety of the Jews who had returned to a defenseless Jerusalem, Nehemiah knew exactly Who to talk to about it, “When I heard this, I sat down and wept.  In fact for days I mourned, fasted and prayed to the God of Heaven.” (1:4)  Nehemiah had an intimate relationship with God.  It wasn’t a casual or distant friendship, and he didn’t need to reintroduce himself to God, so to speak – it was fresh.

In his prayer, Nehemiah asked God to give him favor with the King of Persia as he went to speak to him on behalf of Jerusalem’s broken walls.  “The king asked, ‘Well, how can I help you?’  With a prayer to the God of heaven, I replied, ‘If it please the king, and if you are pleased with me, your servant, send me to Judah to rebuild the city where my ancestors are buried.’” (2:4-5)  Right there amid the dialogue with the King, Nehemiah offered a silent prayer to God for His ears only.  There really wasn’t time for getting caught up in the relationship or exchanging sentiments.  No, their friendship was spontaneous and current.

It isn’t as though God doesn’t hear or care about the prayers of a long-lost friend because He knows our prayers before we even pray. (Matthew 6:8)  It’s more about our comfort level in asking something from a friend we haven’t talked to for a long time.  We feel awkward and unworthy to make a request.  We have a tendency to struggle through the situation alone, without help from someone who could assist us.  I can’t count the number of hurting souls I have talked to through the years who felt too distant to approach God for help.

Just like our friendships with distant friends, our relationship with God is but a call away.  He misses us in our absence, and He is ready to hear our heart’s cry.  But I want to be like Nehemiah, ready to offer spontaneous prayers even in the middle of a conversation, at a second’s notice without regret or an apology for my neglect.  I often find myself praying throughout the day to Him, offering a word of thanks, a request or a praise.  And He’s one friend who never seems to get tired of hearing from me. 

Moving Forward: “With a prayer to the God of heaven” I move through this day with confidence that He is listening and answering. 

Tomorrow @ Psalm 137-139

Ecclesiastes 1-2 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: All that is meaningful in life comes from Him

Many individuals feel a need as they begin to age to make a record or a memoir of their years on earth.  Some memoirs are filled with funny escapades and joyous moments, some are tell-alls written simply to embarrass others and some memoirs are just plain sad with stories of disappointments and tragedy.

Most memoirs are filled with both the hills and the valleys of life, like the memoir of my husband’s Aunt Ottie.  She was in her 80’s when she decided to write it all down – finding the Lord as her Savior, fulfilling God’s calling on her life as a Kentucky mountain missionary, raising a family, losing a husband and God’s faithfulness through it all.  I loved reading it because it’s a memoir that lifts the spirit.  Ecclesiastes is a memoir of sorts that doesn’t have quite that same affect due to the negative outlook of the author, most believing it to be Solomon.  However, mixed in with all his pessimism are some wonderful truths that make it well worth the read.

“Everything is meaningless,’ says the Teacher, ‘completely meaningless!…Everything is wearisome beyond description. No matter how much we see, we are never satisfied…I observed everything going on under the sun, and really, it is all meaningless—like chasing the wind.” (1:1,8,14)  This sounds like someone having a really bad…life.  We struggle through life trying to achieve and accumulate a fraction of all that Solomon had, and then he has the nerve to say that it is all meaningless.  I guess he would know.

In his pursuit of a meaningful life, Solomon tried pleasures of all kinds that included drinking, gaining material possessions, philosophy and even hard work, but it all was meaningless to him, like chasing the wind, a pointless pursuit to say the least.  The real problem was that at some point, Solomon left God out of his life.  God blessings without humility can become a very destructive thing in a life, and Solomon, the wisest man on earth, had done a very foolish thing when he became distracted by all his blessings and deserted the God of his father.

Solomon painted a dismal picture of life and its meaning without God, but thankfully, a moment of clarity came to him as he neared the end of his life. “So I decided there is nothing better than to enjoy food and drink and to find satisfaction in work. Then I realized that these pleasures are from the hand of God. For who can eat or enjoy anything apart from Him?   God gives wisdom, knowledge, and joy to those who please Him.” (2:24-26)

Forgive me if I sound a little Solomonesque, but I often think of each day that God gives to us as a flower.  We can enjoy our flower, smell its fragrance, enjoy its beauty and make the very most of it or we can ignore it, cast it aside or even step on it.  The choice is ours.  Our flower will fade by day’s end, but tomorrow is another flower from God’s hand, and it just seems we would want to enjoy what He has handed to us. I question how we can glory in any achievement or gain we have enjoyed yet disregard the One who gave it to us.  I guess it would be, as the man said, meaningless. 

Moving Forward:  “And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave.   But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.” (I John 2:17) Looking forward to that day, the flower that never fades!

Tomorrow @ Habakkuk

Psalms 105-107 (NLT link)

Discover His heart: He will never abandon us and waits for our return when we are lost

I worked part time at a fine jewelry store in the mall while in high school.  I learned all about diamonds and precious gems, and my little teenage heart went pitter patter whenever a couple came in to select an engagement ring.  One Friday evening the store manager asked me to deliver an expensive wedding ring on my way home after work.  It seems a couple needed it for their Saturday morning wedding.  I was happy to do so but concerned because I was unfamiliar with the area of their home.

Sure enough, I got lost and found myself in the seedier part of town. Sixteen year-old girl, no cell phone back in the dark ages, $3,000 ring, nighttime and on the wrong side of the tracks – not a good scenario. I did what I only knew to do. I prayed for God to help me find my way, and He did.

Searching for landmarks I had passed, I retraced my path back to my store, the one place I knew with certainty had not moved.  I studied my directions, discovered the error of my ways and safely delivered the ring to the beaming bridegroom who was waiting for me at the door.  I was relieved and thankful that I hadn’t given up in my search, and most thankful for God’s help.  David knew something about searching with tenacity and never giving up. 

@ Psalm 105
Search for the Lord and for his strength; continually seek him.” (4)  If we find ourselves in the position of needing to search for the Lord, it could only be because we have become lost.  I mean, it’s not as though His address has changed over the last billion or so years. His address has never changed.  “For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you,’” (Hebrews 13:5,NKJV) so obviously, we are the culprits.  Sometimes we think we know a better way to go or have someone or something else we would rather follow.  Not good.

David definitely understood walking away from the Lord in a moment of defeat, but he also knew the best recourse was to run back to the Lord in repentance.  We don’t need to stay lost!  David encouraged us in this Psalm to search for Him, find our way back to Him and receive His strength to remain there.  And we can do this with confidence because Jesus also promised, “Everyone who seeks, finds.” (Matthew 7:8)

When we’re traveling and realize we’re lost, we usually look for landmarks – something familiar to us to guide us back to where we belong, and David had that covered too.  “Remember the wonders he has performed, his miracles, and the rulings he has given.” (5)  When we remember where we have been with the Lord and where His presence has touched our lives, we will find Him once again.  Sometimes it requires going back to the very beginning where our journey started with Him to realize how faithfully He has led us throughout life.

God’s Word will draw us to Him as well as our communion with Him in prayer – definite landmarks for us.  And we will also find Him in the place where the impossible becomes possible and where the unknown becomes known because He loves to reveal Himself in this way.

When we are lost or in unfamiliar territory where God seems so very far away, we should “Continually seek Him,” (4) and not be discouraged.  He hasn’t moved, left the country or abandoned us.  He rewards our efforts to find Him because He loves us so, “Anyone who wants to come to Him must believe that God exists and that He rewards those who sincerely seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6)   Found! 

Moving Forward: I’m so thankful today for our faithful God who never leaves us and longs for us to return to Him when we are lost. 

Tomorrow @ Proverbs 22

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