God’s Presence


Psalms 84-86 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: His Presence provides a restful place for the whole being 

@ Psalm 84
Tired from the hustle and bustle of life? Looking for the ultimate travel destination for total serenity of body, soul and spirit?  Well, just visit Psalm 84. It’s all there and then some!  “How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord…I long, yes, I faint with longing to enter the courts of the Lord.  With my whole being, body and soul…Even the sparrow finds a home…What joy for those who can live in your house, always singing your praises.”(1-4)  A lovely place for the whole being, complete with birds, joy, singing and praises…that’s for me!  Where is it and how do I get there?

The other day I was sitting in a very crowded, noisy restaurant.  With babies screaming, waitresses flying back and forth and dishes clattering, it was difficult to think much less carry on a conversation.  Amidst all this chaos sat a woman at the table next to me reading a book.  I couldn’t help but wonder how she could turn down the volume in the room to concentrate and found myself occasionally glancing back at this phenomenon.  She sat with a slight smile as she read something that obviously delighted her, oblivious to all those around her.  I don’t know where she was, but I know it was a good place.

It was in a good place where the writer of Psalm 84 desired to be, God’s dwelling place of peace and joy, so much so that he was faint with longing for it, a longing I have known as well. But, like the woman in the restaurant, when life has gotten chaotic and crowded with hardly a moment to think, I have found Him amidst all the commotion. When I tune out the noise, turn off my racing mind and call on Him, I realize that the place where I find myself is His sanctuary, and He has been there all along. There I sit, oblivious to the chaos and obviously delighted with Him. “I can never escape from your Spirit!  I can never get away from your presence!  If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the grave, you are there.”  (Psalm 139:7-8)

When we need a respite for the body, soul and spirit, there’s a good place we can go.  When we need communion with the One who knows us better than any other, there’s a good place we can go.  When we find ourselves so full of thanksgiving and praise that we think we may burst, there’s a good place we can go.  And He’s as close as the mention of His name.

Moving Forward: When the hustle and bustle of life crowds my space, I’ll find His presence and receive His rest. 

Tomorrow @ Proverbs 11-12

2 Kings 6-10 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He surrounds us with His army of protection

Spies, counterspies and espionage – all ingredients for a great story, at least in my mind.  I love spy stuff and really enjoyed visiting the Spy Museum in Washington, D.C. a few years ago.  The inventory of spy gear, listening and recording devices and weapons developed through the years boasts of a well developed spy industry around the world.  The Museum tells the story of many notorious spies dating back to early Roman times, and even offers the visitors the opportunity to adopt a spy profile and memorize their covers. Fun stuff.

Most spies through the ages had one goal in mind and that was to secure classified information from enemy territory for their king, country or company, and they used many different tools to accomplish it.  However, one spy in history never had to infiltrate enemy territory, never used spy gear and was always right on the money.  What government wouldn’t pay big bucks to sign up the prophet Elisha!  Unfortunately, his services have been terminated…but not his Source. 

@ 2 Kings 6
The King of Aram was at war with Israel, but every strategic move he planned fell into the hands of his enemy, Israel.  Certain there was a spy within his ranks, he questioned them and soon learned that the prophet Elisha was the culprit, “It’s not us, my lord the king,’ one of the officers replied.  ‘Elisha…tells the king of Israel even the words you speak in the privacy of your bedroom!’” (12)  Obviously, Elisha had supernatural help.

The king sent a large army to capture the threat to his kingdom, but they were no match for this humble prophet.  When the mighty army surrounded Elisha, his servant cried out, “Oh sir, what will we do now?”(15)  More calm, cool and collected than 007, Elisha replied, “Don’t be afraid!…For there are more on our side than on theirs!’ Then Elisha prayed, ‘O Lord, open his eyes and let him see!’  The Lord opened the young man’s eyes, and when he looked up, he saw that the hillside around Elisha was filled with horses and chariots of fire.”(16-17)

In the battles we face against our enemy, there is a dimension beyond what we see in the natural, a Source not limited by spy paraphernalia.  He knows the enemy’s strategy and is never taken by surprise.  We may be tempted to cry out in the heat of battle, “What will we do now?”  But that is when, like Elijah, we should pray, “O Lord, open my eyes and let me see.”  And at that moment, we will see through eyes of faith the invisible and know that we are not alone for there are more horses and chariots of fire on our side than any number of enemies we may face

“The angel of the Lord is a guard:  he surrounds and defends all who fear him.” (Psalm 34:7)   He was with Daniel in the lion’s den, the Hebrew children in the fiery furnace, Peter in the prison cell and He is with us in whatever battle we are facing.  “If God is for us, who can ever be against us.” (Romans 8:31)  When we pray, He will open our spiritual eyes to see His hand, His army, His whatever that is needed to bring victory to our lives and we will not be afraid! 

Moving Forward: I will move forward this day with the confidence that my Source already knows the enemy’s strategy and has surrounded me with an invincible defense. 

Tomorrow @ Psalm 81-83

1 Kings 19-22 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He speaks to us through His gentle whisper

@ 1 Kings 19
I don’t know why it is, but so often we find ourselves on the floor of the valley after an incredible mountaintop experience.  That is where we find the great prophet Elijah in our reading today.  God had just shown up BIG at Mount Carmel; what a demonstration of His greatness! Now rain had come to the dry parched land, and Elijah should have been walking on air, but he wasn’t.  We find him under a broom tree wanting to die. Not good.

Jezebel wanted Elijah dead for killing all her prophets of Baal, “So Jezebel sent this message to Elijah, ‘May the gods strike me and even kill me if by this time tomorrow I have not killed you just as you killed them.’  Elijah was afraid…” (2)  If you’ve ever experienced a Jezebel in your life, you probably understand his fear. Even now, almost 3,000 years later, most everyone understands that a Jezebel spirit, often attractive and compelling, is evil personified and represents a controlling spirit bent on taking us down.  Rather than living in the grip of fear, we will do well to remember Jezebel’s fate – she was thrown out a window, trampled by horses and eaten by dogs.(2 Kings 9:30-37)  God is not threatened by Jezebel.

However, Elijah sat under the broom tree discouraged, fatigued, afraid and ready to die, but God was not going to let His servant stay that way.  He sent food to strengthen Elijah for a 200-mile journey to Mt. Sinai.  After he arrived, the Lord asked him this question, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”(9)  Elijah gave a little history lesson of all had happened, something that really wasn’t necessary, and then said, “I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me, too.”(10)

Then God showed up BIG for Elijah with a mighty wind, an earthquake and fire, proving once again that He was able to control all things including the fate of one Jezebel, but God’s message to Elijah was not in these demonstrations. It was in the gentle whisper where God spoke and caught Elijah’s attention, “And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper.  When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.  And a voice said, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’” God went on to tell him all about his role in the future events of Israel. (12-18) Everything He said came to pass.

As with Elijah, we may have finished a great task, built a new church, held a big event or completed an assignment and find ourselves on the floor of the valley feeling discouraged, fatigued and afraid of what the future may hold.  We may be tempted to give Him a history lesson of all that has happened.  We may be looking for the great wind, the earthquake and fire, sky writing or a great leader to show up in our lives with a word, but perhaps God is whispering to us: What are you doing here, dear one?  Get up and eat from My Word, My bread, and be strengthened for the journey ahead.  At my Holy Mountain, in My presence, I will direct your steps and all that I have said will come to pass.  What are you doing here, dear one? 

Moving Forward: Strengthened by your Word today, I wait in your presence and listen for your gentle whisper

Tomorrow @ Psalms 75-77

Leviticus 7-9 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He has cleansed us to serve Him in the priesthood

The soon return of the Lord was a daily conversation in my home when I was young.  My mom would often go to a window, look up at the clouds and say, “One of these days we will see Jesus coming in the clouds, and we will rise to meet Him in the air.” When she said this, I imagined grabbing onto her skirt for all I was worth so that I could go with her.  Over time I learned that it would be my own blood-bought commitment to the Lord that would give me rise.  The same was true in Old Testament times – no one got a free ride into the presence of the Lord. 

@ Leviticus 8
The process for priestly ordination was lengthy and detailed.  Although Aaron the High Priest was from Levitical lineage, he was instructed by Moses to follow the process of cleansing for priestly duties.  His sons, also priests, were not exempt from this cleansing because of who their father was and what he had done.  They, too, were submitted to the same cleansing that would make them worthy instruments of service for God, “So Moses followed the Lord’s instructions, and the whole community assembled at the Tabernacle entrance.  Moses announced to them, ‘This is what the Lord has commanded us to do!’  Then he presented Aaron and his sons and washed them with water.” (4-6)

The Tabernacle was then anointed with oil throughout and sacrifices were offered for the forgiveness of sins for the priests and another for the congregation.  A third sacrifice was offered for the ordination of the priests, and in this ceremony, blood was applied to the right ear lobe, the right thumb and the right big toe.  The ceremony had become very personal for Aaron and his sons at this point.

Scripture does not elaborate on the significance of this blood application, but most believe it speaks for itself.  The blood on the right ear lobe was symbolic of the dedication of the priests to hear and listen to God’s Word.  The blood on the right thumb represented a willingness to do His work, and the blood applied to the right big toe was a commitment to walk in His ways and commands.  All priests were to follow this ordination process, even lefties like me, because it demonstrated total commitment to God.

With the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus, this ritual is no longer necessary because we have a new High priest, the Lord Jesus, and those who have had His blood applied to their lives are now part of a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9; Rev. 1:6)   A whole new process is in place, “And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting Him.” (Hebrews 10:19-22)

By the personal acceptance of His sacrificial blood to our lives, we may now enter His Holy presence just as Aaron and his sons did, no need grabbing hold of another’s coattail. As part of His royal priesthood, we are qualified to serve Him with sincere hearts by listening to His Word, and fully trusting Him when doing His work and following His ways.  Sometimes we just don’t fully understand what His supreme sacrifice has accomplished in our lives.  We are His royal priests, and we have ministry to do!

Moving Forward: Ever mindful of my ministry role, I will keep my life cleansed and pure, listening to His voice, doing His work and following His ways. 

Tomorrow @ 1 Kings 19-22

Ezekiel 7-12 (NLT link)

Discover His heart: He provides a sanctuary for His people – anywhere.

The prisoner slowly makes his way to the execution chamber with the knowledge that all will be over soon.  Appeal after appeal has been denied, and now the end is in sight.  It’s 11:59 p.m., and the straps have been tightened, the hood is in place and…a telephone rings. The Governor has issued a reprieve, and the prisoner will live!  Dramatic I know, but I would imagine the exiles in Babylon felt a similar rush of relief at the news from the prophet Ezekiel, a reprieve if you will, that God would be with them in Babylon!

@ Ezekiel 11
Tragic prophecies had been given repeatedly to the Exiles about Jerusalem, their homeland, and all hope was gone in their minds for restoration because they were far from God’s Temple presence.  Now, God was issuing a reprieve for those who had turned their hearts toward Him.  “I will be a sanctuary to you during your time in exile.” (16)

Just like the Israelites, sometimes we find ourselves in a place that seems far from what we desire.  Perhaps we’ve arrived there through no fault of our own, or maybe our deeds have put us there.  Regardless, when we turn our hearts to God, He will provide a sanctuary where we can fellowship with Him.  I like the way the KJV says it, “Yet I will be to them as a little sanctuary in the countries where they shall come.”

Most believe that little sanctuary is referring to a short period of time while in captivity rather than space, but I think of it also as a place where we can meet with Him, wherever we may be, whether in a huge church or in a tiny closet far from home.  It doesn’t matter – He will be for us a little sanctuary in the prison cell, on the hospital bed or the work cubicle.  “I can never escape from your Spirit!  I can never get away from your presence!” (Psalm 139:7) God is omnipresent, everywhere, waiting for our cry for help, waiting to be our safe haven, our sanctuary.

“And I will give them singleness of heart and put a new spirit within them.  I will take away their stony, stubborn heart and give them a tender, responsive heart, so they will obey my decrees and regulations.” (19-20)  Some situations in life may hardened our hearts, not only toward God, but towards others as well.  It is in His sanctuary where He softens us and makes our hearts tender like His heart.

Within this prophetic dream from Ezekiel is a promise to Israel as a nation, “I, the Sovereign Lord, will gather you back from the nations where you have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel once again.” (17)  The Jews have lived in Israel periodically throughout history, but in 1948, it was recognized politically as a nation.

While nations around the world have fought hard to destroy this tiny nation, it remains!  It is a testimony of God’s blessing on it, and His miraculous power.  However, this prophesy of Ezekiel will not be fully realized until the Second Coming of Christ, when the end-time believers, Jews and Gentiles alike, will inhabit the New Jerusalem.  What a day it will be!

For all who follow God, both Jew and Gentle, He longs to give us one heart, undivided, tender and fleshy that is responsive to Him and one that follows His Word.  “Then,” He says, “they will truly be my people, and I will be their God.” (20) 

Moving Forward: I will enter His sanctuary today, wherever I am, with a tender heart and with a prayer on my lips for the nation of Israel. 

Tomorrow @ Luke 13-14

Psalms 72-74 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He leads us to our glorious destiny regardless of how things may seem

@ Psalm 73
Psalm 73 was written by Asaph who was a Levite appointed by David to direct the choirs, and in this role, he composed psalms, songs and played the cymbals.  He was one that we would say “grew up in the church,” and as a Levite, he more than likely understood the sacrifice involved in serving the Lord.

By the manner he began his psalm, we can sense his love for God and his desire to view God and His goodness in the proper perspective, but it didn’t take him long to get to the heart of the issue that was troubling him.  “For I envied the proud when I saw them prosper despite their wickedness.  They seem to live such painless lives…they don’t have troubles like other people.” (3-5)

When I read this Psalm, I immediately wanted to remind Asaph that things are not always how they seem to be.  I’ve lived on the planet long enough to see that “He gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.” (Matthew 5:45)  We should never judge an individual’s trouble factor by how things appear. In fact, prosperity often brings greater, more intense troubles.  We seldom are aware of the family issues, health problems and immense stress levels that those around us are facing.  I’ve known many wealthy parents who would trade all they owned for the salvation of their children.  Everyone has trouble.

“Camp’s not fair!  Camp’s not fair!” was the slogan at one of our youth camps one year.  A camper had expressed to the camp director that camp was not fair because of something that had happened that he didn’t like.  Well, camp wasn’t always fair, but then neither is life, and the director grabbed that comment and turned it into a chant for the week.  We laughed at the injustice of it all, and we also learned that things were not always as unjust as they seemed.  Most importantly, we learned to roll with it.

However, Asaph was not rolling with it. “Look at these wicked people – enjoying a life of ease while their riches multiply.  Did I keep my heart pure for nothing?  Did I keep myself innocent for no reason?…I tried to understand why the wicked prosper.  But what a difficult task it is!” (13-16)  Asaph even began to question His walk with God and the injustice of it all, something that can happen regardless of how long we know Him.

How do we move past injustice?  “Then I went into your sanctuary, O God, and I finally understood the destiny of the wicked.” (17)  A trip to His sanctuary was the answer!  He now viewed life through the enlightened eyes of grace, no longer through eyes of envy.

The presence of the Lord changes everything.  It opens our eyes to truth, removes bitterness and resentment, floods us with His peace and moves our understanding to the eternal side of living.  “Then I realized that my heart was bitter, and I was all torn up inside.  I was so foolish and ignorant…Yet I still belong to you; you hold my right hand.  You guide me with your counsel, leading me to a glorious destiny.”  Well, it just doesn’t get much better than that!

Life may not seem fair, but He is always fair and just. When we focus on the eternal side of living, rather than the here and now, our thoughts and deeds are influenced by those things with eternal value, and we find that a trip to His sanctuary is a worthwhile journey. 

Moving Forward: Regardless of the injustice in this world that surrounds me today, I will focus on those things of eternal value.  Life may not seem fair, but He is! 

Tomorrow @ Proverbs 5-6

1 Kings 5-9 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He fills our lives with His glorious presence to accomplish His will

“During the fourth year of Solomon’s reign he began to construct the Temple of the Lord…480 years after the people of Israel were rescued from their slavery in the land of Egypt.” (6:1) The construction of the portable Tabernacle that we have read about in Exodus was built to last for several lifetimes – 480 years!  God was specific in His instructions for a reason.

Those of us who have been involved in temporary church sites in strip malls and rented spaces understand the cumbersome putting up and tearing down week after week of sound systems, chairs and all that goes with church.  Compared to 480 years, our duration seems insignificant, but because these accounts in the Bible are given to us as lessons, we would do well to consider the reasons for the delay in the building the permanent temple.

During the 480 years, the Israelites were often disobedient and willful against the Lord and were ruled by many judges of like mind.  The people wanted to be like other nations and demanded a king to rule over them because God was not quite enough in their thinking.  King Saul was a major disappointment to everyone, including God, and David the warrior king had too much bloodshed on his hands for the building of God’s temple.

Finally, King Solomon was chosen for this task.  In the building of almost everything, God uses people as his instruments to accomplish His will.  When the building is taking longer than we desire, it never hurts to examine our hearts.  Are we disobedient or willful in our labors?  Is God’s plan enough in our thinking or are we compelled to help Him out, usurping His plan?  No doubt this will slow down our progress.

A major hindrance to the building of the temple was Israel’s enemies.  From the moment they entered the Promised Land, nobody wanted them there. The Israelites fought to take possession, fought through the judge era and then through the early kings, but they never gave up.  We can be sure that anything we build for the glory of the Lord, be it family, career or church, will be met by resistance from our enemy.  He will attempt to defeat us at every turn, but we can never give up!  Every demon from hell in local governments will thwart our attempt to build a church or a business for the Lord, raising our costs and burying us in red tape.  The enemy may bring out the big guns by attacking our families, but we can never give up!

How do we defeat our enemy and stay strong in our process of building the temple, our family or whatever it is? We do it the same way we maintain victory once we achieve it.  At the completion of the temple, “When the priests came out of the Holy Place, a thick cloud filled the Temple of the Lord.  The priests could not continue their service because of the cloud, for the glorious presence of the Lord filled the temple.”(8:10-11)  I just love it when the presence of the Lord fills my space to the point where I can no longer perform (NIV) or continue my service and it becomes all about Him.  Willfulness and disobedience cannot exist there in His Presence and governments and enemies must bow before Him.  With tenacity to complete the task, I yield to His direction, His handiwork – He is more than enough. 

Moving Forward:  Submitted to His plan for my day, I call for His glorious presence to fill my space, to defeat my enemies and to complete the work He has begun.

Tomorrow @ Psalms 66-68

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