God’s Presence


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

Numbers 9-12 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He is with us even when our life is on hold

Waiting for the big move, waiting for the next step, waiting for the ship to come in … waiting, waiting, waiting.  When an airport gets backed up with planes ready to land, we find ourselves circling the airport in a holding pattern for what seems like an eternity.  The inconvenience of a late arrival is insignificant, however, compared to the possibility of running out of fuel while waiting for our opportunity to land.  In these moments, tempers often flare and the stress factor is huge.  Sometimes life hands us a similar scenario – waiting to get to our destination but concerned that we’ll run out of gas, so to speak, before we arrive. Stressful.

“Sometimes the cloud would stay over the Tabernacle for only a few days, so the people would stay for only a few days, as the Lord commanded…Sometimes the cloud stayed only overnight and lifted the next morning. But day or night, when the cloud lifted, the people broke camp and moved on. Whether the cloud stayed above the Tabernacle for two days, a month, or a year, the people of Israel stayed in camp and did not move on. But as soon as it lifted, they broke camp and moved on.” (9:20-22)  I can’t cut the Israelites much slack concerning their constant grumbling about their nomadic lifestyle.  I mean really, a tangible cloud to follow and know exactly where to go and when to go?  But I guess that holding pattern got to them at times, and waiting can add significant stress in our lives as well.

A few years ago I had my finger on the Delete key, ready to delete this blog.  My life was in a holding pattern, I felt I had little to say of importance, and I was running out of gas.  The Lord stopped me mid-strike on the key and directed me to blog each day about my daily Bible reading.  Even during the holding patterns of life, God has purpose for us.  We can grumble and complain about our situation, but we are better served by focusing on Him and His purposes.  Perhaps the Israelites would not have spent the next 40 years on the road had they used their down time to worship their God who guided them so clearly and desired fellowship with them instead of whining about almost everything.

“While they were at Hazeroth, Miriam and Aaron criticized Moses because he had married a Cushite woman. They said, ‘Has the Lord spoken only through Moses? Hasn’t He spoken through us, too?’ But the Lord heard them. (Now Moses was very humble—more humble than any other person on earth.)” (12:1-3)  During one of their stops, the siblings of Moses got a little irritable and developed a critical spirit about their brother – not the right response to their holding pattern.  When we lose our focus on Him during these periods of waiting, it’s very easy to become self-absorbed, and what a price was paid by Miriam!

God was displeased by her critical spirit and Miriam was stricken with leprosy and forced to live alone outside of the camp.  “So Miriam was kept outside the camp for seven days, and the people waited until she was brought back before they traveled again.” (15)  Can you imagine Miriam’s humiliation?  As one of Israel’s leaders, she was the reason Israel continued in a holding pattern.  Often, our attitudes and responses are what keep us on hold.

No matter how we look at it, waiting, waiting, waiting is difficult, but our response to it is what makes all the difference.  Focusing on God and finding our purpose while we are in our holding pattern will insure that we are ready when that cloud begins to move.

Moving Forward:  So thankful today that He is with me in my holding pattern and that He has given me purpose.

Tomorrow @ I Chronicles 15-19

Psalm 99-101 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: “We are His people, and the sheep of His pasture.”

@ Psalm 100
The first scripture that I remember singing, at least knowing that it was scripture, was Psalm 100.  We were youth pastors at the time and the youth sang it, a lot, and that was good.  I recall thinking during those many times of worship that if they could get the message of this Psalm deep into their hearts and minds, it would change their lives forever.  Seeing their faces now as I think back…Barb, Kim, Jon and many others, I know their lives were changed, with some in ministry today.  I love to sing His Word.

“Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands.  Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing.  Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.” (1-3 KJV)  Regardless of what the evolutionist and new agers say, we didn’t evolve or create ourselves.  With their propaganda almost everywhere we turn, it’s good to sing a little Psalm 100 once in awhile.  He made us, not we ourselves.

In fact, it would be a good idea for us to read Psalm 139 at least once every week.  “You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body…you saw me before I was born…every moments was laid out before a single day had passed.” (13-16)  Mom and dad had a lot to do with our existence, but it was God who gave us breath and spirit.

He places within us wonderful gifts and talents; and as time goes on, we discover them and tend to take ownership as if we created them in us.  We use them as we want, but what He desires is that we surrender our gifts to Him to be used for His glory, not ours, because that is why they were given to us.  He made us, not we ourselves.

When a challenge comes along, we try to fix it or change it all on our own.  I would never take a broken watch to the shoe repair shop to be fixed.  No, I would take it to the watchmaker who understands the inner works and would know exactly how to fix it. But for some reason I want to fix all my hurts and challenges myself instead of taking them to my maker who understands my inner workings and knows exactly how to fix me.  He made us, not we ourselves.

“We are His people, and the sheep of His pasture.” (3)  Not only did He make us, but He also has provided a place for us.  Not one of His sheep is homeless!  We may face a time without a tangible home, but He provides a place to hang out during our waiting where we find comfort and rest in HIS presence–-HIS pasture, Home, Sweet Home!

“For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.” (5)  No wonder we are encouraged in this Psalm to shout to the Lord, worship with gladness, give thanks to Him and praise His name.  He created us in intimacy, He always provides a place for us and He is goodness, mercy and truth…forever!  As I said, it’s good to sing a little Psalm 100 once in a while – we have a lot to sing about! 

Moving Forward: I surrender today to the One who made me, the One who knows exactly how to use me and also how to fix me.  Singing, “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord…” 

Tomorrow @ Proverbs 19

Luke 23-24 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He is the Bread of Life for those who follow Him, and they will never hunger again

We consider an acquaintance as someone we know only slightly, someone we greet but not necessarily engage in a personal conversation.   But, we also have friends, individuals with whom we share our personal and often intimate thoughts.   It’s a special treat when we have the opportunity to reconnect with a friend from long ago, where 20 or 30 years have passed without communication.  Sometimes we feel a little apprehensive about an upcoming visit, wondering if we will even recognize our friend from the past, but uneasiness melts away when we sit down to fellowship with one another.  We feel like the relationship picks up right where it left off, not missing a beat, and that is true friendship.  Our travelers on the road to Emmaus experienced a similar reconnection with a friend; it just took them a while to realize it. 

@Luke 24
Luke is the only New Testament writer that goes into detail about this encounter on the road to Emmaus. Scripture is not clear as to their identity, but we do know they are followers of Jesus and one is called Cleopas.  Many believe him to be the brother of Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus, and the other traveler to be his wife who was at Calvary (John 19:25), and they were returning home from Passover and the events of that weekend.  Regardless of their identity, they were blessed beyond measure by an intimate encounter with the risen Lord.

When Jesus came alongside of them on the road and inquired as to what they were discussing so intently with such sadness, they did not recognize Him.  Cleopas replied, “You must be the only person in Jerusalem who hasn’t heard about all the things that have happened there the last few days.’ ‘What things?’ Jesus asked. ‘The things that happened to Jesus, the man from Nazareth,’ they said. “He was a prophet who did powerful miracles, and He was a mighty teacher in the eyes of God and all the people…We had hoped He was the Messiah who had come to rescue Israel.” (18-21)

To the travelers Jesus was a man, a prophet, a teacher, but not the Messiah.  He had died without doing what they had expected the Messiah to do by overthrowing the government and setting up His throne.  When I read their response that He was just a man, I envision the nails and cross all over again for Jesus.  But loving His followers like He does, He decided to give them a little history lesson.

Over the next couple of hours, Jesus recounted to them the 120 plus prophecies from the Old Testament regarding Himself.  I can only imagine the anointing that burned up that road as they walked that day, with Jesus, the King of Glory, reciting all the Scriptures about His suffering, rejection, death and resurrection.  They felt it, we know, when they said, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us as He talked with us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?” (32)  But wasn’t He just an acquaintance that they met on the way to Emmaus? It wasn’t until they had fellowship with Him later, when He broke bread and blessed it that they realized He was Jesus, their friend, the resurrected Lord.

When they received from Him the broken bread, something happened.  It wasn’t the Lord’s Supper or like the feeding of 5,000 – it was just dinner.  Scripture doesn’t explain their sudden awareness; but for me, it was symbolic that their eyes were opened when they had fellowship, ate bread with Jesus the Bread of Life. “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again.” (John 6:35)

In most of the world’s religions today, Jesus is accepted as a man, as a prophet and as a teacher, one who went about doing good.  They can know all about Him and even read His words, but sadly, until they fellowship with Him, sup with Him, and receive Him as the Bread of Life, they will not understand that He is the Messiah, the King of Glory, the Prince of Peace, the only Son of God.

Moving Forward: Who can I tell about the Bread of Life today?  Whose eyes can be opened to knowing Him as more than a man, more than a prophet or teacher, but as the Savior? 

Tomorrow @ I Thessalonians 4-5

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

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