Relationship with God


Exodus 25-28 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He will go to great lengths to provide a place for fellowship with us

Anyone who wonders if God is into details should read Exodus 25-40.  It was no small undertaking for the Israelites to build the portable tabernacle with particulars from God so specific that even the colors of the thread to be used were given.  From their Egyptian spoils, the Israelites were encouraged to give to the building of the tabernacle: “Gold, silver, bronze; blue purple, purple and scarlet thread; fine linen and goat hair for cloth; tanned ram skins and fine goatskin leather; acacia wood; olive oil for the lamps; spices for the anointing oil and the fragrant incense, onyx stones and other gemstones.” (25:3-7)

The quality of the items used as well as the detailed instructions given in these chapters say a great deal about how God viewed His presence and fellowship with His people. The Israelites had been on the road out of Egypt for a little over 2 months, and they were just a few weeks travel from their final destination, the Promised Land.  However, God’s presence, the Pillar of Cloud and Fire, stopped them at Mt. Sinai for God to give Moses the laws to govern the people as well as this very in-depth instruction regarding the portable tabernacle.

Logic would say, surely the pillar would have been a sufficient location for God’s presence for just a few more weeks until they arrived in Canaan.  Was there really a need for this cumbersome tabernacle of heavy woods and linens for such a short period of time?  It was as if God knew their journey would last 40 years.  And of course, He did.

God’s priority in this journey was connection with His people – some things never change! He longed for their fellowship and for the opportunity to mold them into a people who would carry the message of His great love throughout the world.  But before the great sacrifice of Jesus, how would these imperfect people commune with a Holy God? It was through building a prescribed home for Him and by following the prescribed methods of animal sacrifices.  In doing this, they would show their obedient and contrite hearts, and they would allow God to purify their lives.

Jesus’ death on the cross changed all this.  The linen curtain of Exodus 26:31-32, separating the Most Holy Place of God’s presence from the people, was torn from top to bottom at His death (Mark 15:38).  Now, imperfect me can fellowship with a Holy God through my acceptance of the sacrifice of His Son.  He can mold me into someone who can carry the message of His great love throughout my world.  Talk about a portable tabernacle!  I can carry His presence everywhere I go, as long as He is welcomed in my life.

I think we learn from God’s detailed instructions for the tabernacle that He desires a place worthy of His dwelling.  “What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God.” (2 Cor. 6:16)  Unholy living and idol worship will drive out the presence of our God who so longs to dwell in us.  If we wonder why we no longer feel His presence in our lives, it’s time to find out what has replaced Him.  Idol worship comes in many different forms.

“Aaron will wear this robe whenever he ministers before the Lord, and the bells [on his garment] will tinkle as he goes in and out of the Lord’s presence.” (28:35)  What a daunting thought that bells would ring announcing His presence in my life!  Thank you, Jesus, for grace and for the personal relationship I have with you.  There may be bells, but they’re for His ears only. 

Moving Forward: I seek your Presence today, dear Lord, and may the bells be silent because I remain! 

Tomorrow @ 2 Samuel 15-19

Psalms 54-56 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He understands our sorrows and collects our tears

When I was a young girl, I had a friend who really let me down, and I was heartbroken.  My mom consoled me by letting me know that throughout life most of my friends would let me down at one time or another and that she would too. I remember saying something along the line of, “Thanks, Mom, for that encouragement.”  She went on to say that I would let my friends down on occasion as well, and sadly, she was right.  However, she continued by saying that there was one friend who would never let me down, one that I could trust in every situation every day of my life.  Of course, that friend is Jesus.

I’ve found my mom’s words to be true.  Sometimes we disappoint each other, but today we read about David who knew rejection and pain from those who were the closest to him. The pain was unbearable.  Hopefully, we’ll never experience the depths of his sorrow, but if we do, we can run for comfort to the one who will never let us down just as David did. 

@ Psalm 55
Most believe Psalm 55 to be David’s response to the rebellion of his son Absalom, and the betrayal of one of his closest advisers, Ahithophel, a story we will read in 2 Samuel 15-19.  Absalom was out to kill him and steal his throne, and rather than face his son, David cried out to God, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove; then I would fly away and rest!  I would fly far away to the quiet of the wilderness.  How quickly I would escape – far from this wild storm of hatred.” (6-8)  Unless we’ve experienced it ourselves, it’s difficult to grasp the depths of pain associated with this kind of hatred from a relative or close friend.  I, too, would want to run away rather than face this pain head-on.

David’s description gives us a brief look into what Jesus may have felt at the betrayal of Judas.  “It is not an enemy who taunts me—I could bear that…Instead, it is you—my equal, my companion, and close friend.  What good fellowship we once enjoyed as we walked together to the house of God.” (12-14)  I think about how the denial of Peter must have stung the heart of Jesus at the most difficult moment in His life on earth.  God understands more than we can imagine our pain when we are hurt by others.

@ Psalm 56
“You keep track of all my sorrows.  You have collected all my tears in your bottle.  You have recorded each one in your book.”  (8)  The One who knows how many hairs I have on my head, and probably the only one who knows their true color, also keeps track of all my sorrows and collects my tears.  This intimacy with my Creator and my God brings me to my knees.  How can I remain glum and sorrowful with Him on my side?  David expressed it well, “I trust in God, so why should I be afraid?  What can mere mortals do to me?” (11)

Although I’ve known my share of pain, I have not walked this path of despair to the degree of David, and none of us have experienced what Jesus did.  However, God keeps track of all our sorrows, and this tells us that we are not alone. He is with us, collecting teardrops along the way.  Even in all of this pain, David encouraged, “Give your burdens to the Lord, and He will take care of you.  He will not permit the godly to slip and fall.” (55:12) 

Moving Forward: With the knowledge that He is with me and caring for me, I step out bravely today because I trust Him. 

Tomorrow @ Job 37-38

Mark 15-16 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: In silence, He went to the cross as a sacrifice for our sins

What is it that causes politicians and just about everyone elected or appointed to positions of power or responsibility to suffer from amnesia. I’m baffled by this.  Perhaps the new mantle has hit them on the head and caused them to forget the values and beliefs they held for decades.  I’m not sure.  Some have suggested that once the new position is attained, these leaders will do anything to stay in power.  Our reading today is not only about the crucifixion of our precious Lord, but also about a politician whose political ambitions played right into the hands of the mob. 

@Mark 15
Pilate was a politician.  Some would say he could not help himself in the decision he made to crucify Jesus – how would a riot look on his record?  Governor of this dusty little community on the other side of the Mediterranean from glorious Rome was definitely not his dream job, but more than likely he considered it a stepping stone to bigger and better things.  Complaints and riots regarding his handling of this little Jesus incident, as he saw it, would not look good on his record, so he caved.

Pilate asked, “What crime has He committed?’ But the mob roared even louder, ‘Crucify him!’  So to pacify the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them.  He ordered Jesus flogged with a lead-tipped whip, then turned him over to the Roman soldiers to be crucified.” (14-15) And politicians have been caving ever since, failing to stand for truth because of how it might affect their poll numbers and their vote at the ballot box.  But for the record, neither Pilate nor the mob, not even the religious leaders, took the life of Jesus.  “He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone.” (I Timothy 2:6)  The leaders on that day only thought they were in charge, and this is true today as well.

There is another leader mentioned in Chapter 15 who handled the crucifixion of Jesus in an honorable way.  Joseph of Arimathea was a member of the Jewish high council, the ruling body of the Jews.  “Joseph took a risk and went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body… bought a long sheet of linen cloth.  Then he took Jesus’ body down from the cross, wrapped it…laid it in a tomb.”(43-46)  In doing this, Joseph took a stand against his peers, the very men who crucified Jesus. Apparently, showing proper respect and honor to the Son of God was more important to him than his reputation, or for all he knew, even his life!

I want to be like Joseph, not Pilate.  I want to honor Him and stand for Him regardless of what my neighbors and fellow employees may think, regardless of what persecution may come in the future and regardless of the cost.  I want to be willing to take a risk to give honor to the Lord. I don’t want to cave. 

Moving Forward: Today I will honor the Lord before others, regardless…. 

Tomorrow @ 2 Corinthians 6-8

Jeremiah 7-11 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He desires that we know Him and that we reflect His goodness

I’m not sure what it is that causes us to brag about ourselves sometimes, perhaps a need for acceptance or a need to feel valued. For some it is a way of life, living large in their own eyes on a daily basis. I remember a conversation that took place several years ago where two men were trying to impress me with who was wearing the most dollars. They had no idea that $500 shoes, $300 sweaters and $1,000 watches really didn’t impress me much. I kept thinking of what a missionary could do with that money.

I’ve found the best way to counteract habitual braggarts is to beat them to the punch by complimenting and bragging on them before they have a chance to open their mouths. This makes everyone happy. In our reading today, God has an even better idea on the subject.

@ Jeremiah 9
“This is what the Lord says: ‘Don’t let the wise boast in their wisdom, or the powerful boast in their power, or the rich boast in their riches. But those who wish to boast should boast in this alone: that they truly know me and understand that I am the Lord who demonstrates unfailing love and who brings justice and righteousness to the earth, and that I delight in these things.’” (23-24)

If we find it necessary to boast, the only thing worth boasting about it that we know God. In Hebrew, the term to know speaks of an intimate and personal relationship. When we are intimate with someone, we know how they think and act, and we seem to know what they are going to say before they say it because we are of one mind. Of course, the more we know God, the more we realize how little we know Him. It’s an ongoing ever-present quest for us as believers, but what a journey!

The more we know Him, the more we understand and reflect His divine attributes, and He summed them up so clearly for us in His words to Jeremiah – unfailing love, justice or fairness, and righteousness. The more we exhibit these traits in our lives, the more obvious it is that we are on the quest to know Him, yet we understand with Jeremiah, “Lord, there is no one like you! For you are great, and your name is full of power… Among all the wise people of the earth and in all the kingdoms of the world, there is no one like you.” (10:6-7)

In light of this, should we give up on our pursuit to know Him, to be like Him? No! Paul challenged us in Ephesians 5:1, “Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are His dear children.” 2 Peter 1:3 gives us this hope, “By His divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know Him, the one who called us to Himself by means of His marvelous glory and excellence.” Most assuredly, no one will ever mistake us for God in our pursuit, but through Jesus, He has given us everything we need to Him resemble Him along the way.

Moving Forward: My prayer and song today, “More love, more power, More of You in my life. More love, more power, More of You in my life. I will worship You with all of my heart. And I will worship You with all of my mind. And I will worship You with all of my strength. For you are my Lord, You are my Lord.” (Jeff Deyo)

Tomorrow @ Mark 7-8

I Samuel 16-20 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He looks at our hearts to determine our role in His kingdom

I was recently at a party and spent much of the night eyeing a delicious-looking cake on the food table. Artfully crafted with gooey chocolate buttercream frosting and gorgeous sugar glazed strawberries adorning it, the cake seemed to be beckoning me throughout the meal.  I was really looking forward to dessert time. Finally, the cake was cut, and we casually made our way to the dessert table. After all, this wasn’t a sale at a bargain basement, and some decorum was expected.

Disappointment is just too generic of a term to describe how I felt after taking my first bite, but of course, devastated is just too dramatic. The buttercream wasn’t butter, and I’m almost certain the cake had freezer burn…dry and tasteless. A single strawberry saved the day! Once again I was reminded that we just can’t judge a book by its cover. I would imagine this is somewhat the point the prophet Samuel was making when he chose the next king of Israel, but with a more eternal illustration.

@ I Samuel 16
When [Jesse’s sons] arrived, Samuel took one look at Eliab and thought, ‘Surely this is the Lord’s anointed!’ But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.’” (6-7) While the baker was able to fool me by the outward appearance of a cake, God is never fooled by how we look on the outside. He is able to look past what man is able to see right through to the heart of the matter, and with David, God saw pure gold.

“Then Samuel asked, “Are these all the sons you have?’ ‘There is still the youngest,’ Jesse replied. ‘But he’s out in the fields watching the sheep and goats.’ ‘Send for him at once,’ Samuel said…So Jesse sent for him. He was dark and handsome, with beautiful eyes. And the Lord said, ‘This is the one; anoint him.’”(11-12) In light of God’s previous statement, David could easily have been ugly, but he was handsome as well. However, God’s anointing on David had nothing to do with his appearance.

Sometimes we are tempted to think that if we were more attractive, more charismatic or more irresistible, then we could be more used by God, but that is how man looks at things. David and also Moses were both trained and equipped for service to the Lord because of what God saw in their hearts.

No doubt the long hours spent in the pastures as a shepherd sharpened David’s musical skills as he played the lute and harp to where he would one day play in King Saul’s court. No doubt David’s commitment to protecting the flock against the animals of prey made him strong, agile and a sharpshooter who was trained to take down a giant. No doubt David’s faithful care for his father’s sheep at any cost prepared him to lead the great nation of Israel.

None of this had anything to do with David’s appearance but had everything to do with his heart. “But God removed Saul and replaced him with David, a man about whom God said, ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart. He will do everything I want him to do.’” (Acts 13:22/I Samuel 13:14) God’s choice of David to lead His people was all about David’s heart of obedience to God, and as we read last Tuesday, obedience is more beautiful to the Lord than anything else

Yes, in consideration of others, every day I do a face-check before the mirror, enhancing as best I can, but every day I also do a heart-check before the Lord. I ask the Lord to purify my heart of anything I have allowed to taint it, those little things that over time will change the condition of my heart. I surrender my heart and life to Him to be used however He pleases. I don’t want to just look my best on the outside – I want a heart that looks like His heart.

Moving Forward: Once again, Lord, purify my heart, make me a pure reflection of who you are and then anoint me for your service.

Tomorrow @ Psalms 39-41

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

I Samuel 1-5 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He is speaking to us all the time

One of my earliest memories is listening to my mom tell the story of Samuel.  I remember her emphasizing Samuel’s early years, about hearing the voice of the Lord and obeying Him.  The story was so real to me that I often fell asleep expecting to hear the Lord calling my name; and just for the record, that was a wonderful way to fall asleep.  In reading Samuel’s story today, I’ve thought about how the years have made me less expectant and more sophisticated in my approach to God and to how He speaks to me.  But in this reflection today, just thinking about the Lord audibly saying Phyllis sends chill bumps all over me.  I’m listening.

The story of Hannah touches every woman’s heart because of her desire to bear a child. We get it.  Sharing our husband with another wife?  This we really don’t get, but only understand that it was tolerated in Hannah’s day to fill the earth with God’s people.  Peninnah’s ridicule of Hannah made her more desperate than ever for a child, but she did not take matters into her own hands and resort to a surrogate as Sarah had done.  I mean, really, there were enough women around the house.  Hannah did the one thing that would change her dire situation.  Hannah prayed, and God answered her prayer. 

@ I Samuel 2
With gratitude for God’s answer to her prayer, Hannah dedicated her child to God for fulltime service.  Because the exploits of Eli’s ungodly sons were known throughout Israel, I’ve often wondered if Hannah truly understood that she was sending her beloved son to a home without apparent discipline and care.  However, God was with him, “Though he was only a boy, [Samuel] served the Lord. He wore a linen garment like that of a priest. Each year his mother made a small coat for him and brought it to him when she came with her husband for the sacrifice…Samuel grew up in the presence of the Lord.” (18-21)

When we dedicate or set aside our children for the Lord, it’s no small thing, and God takes it seriously.  However, Hannah’s responsibility didn’t end with her act of dedication.  Samuel remained in Hannah’s heart as she made clothing for him, no doubt praying for him with every stitch as any loving mother would do and trusting God to keep what she had committed to Him. While Eli’s sons carried on in their sin and disobedience to the Lord, Samuel did just the opposite.  “Meanwhile, the boy Samuel grew taller and grew in favor with the Lord and with the people.” (2:26) 

@ I Samuel 3
“The boy Samuel served the Lord by assisting Eli. Now in those days messages from the Lord were very rare, and visions were quite uncommon.”(1)  But that was about to change.  Israel’s spiritual condition had degraded to the point where God’s visitations were mostly ignored, but now God had the ear of one who would listen.

“Samuel did not yet know the Lord because he had never had a message from the Lord before.  So the Lord called a third time… Then Eli realized it was the Lord who was calling the boy. So he said to Samuel, “Go and lie down again, and if someone calls again, say, ‘Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.’”(7-8)  Samuel knew about God, but now he would know God in a personal way and would listen to His voice, “And the Lord came and called as before, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’  And Samuel replied, ‘Speak, your servant is listening.’”(10)  God protected Samuel in Eli’s house of cards because he listened to the voice of the Lord and obeyed Him.

In the dedication of our children to the Lord, what greater training can we give than to teach them to listen for God’s voice because He is speaking all the time.  As my mother encouraged so many years ago, I’m listening for His voice.  Whether He speaks audibly to me, through His still small voice to my heart or through His anointed Word, I know He speaks! 

Moving Forward: My heart is saying to the Lord as I move through this day, “Speak, your servant is listening.”

Tomorrow @ Psalms 30-32

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