Tag Archives: God’s presence

God Hasn’t Moved

“Sir,” Gideon replied, “if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? And where are all the miracles our ancestors told us about? Didn’t they say, ‘The Lord brought us up out of Egypt’? But now the Lord has abandoned us and handed us over to the Midianites.”
Judges 6:13, NLT*

Gideon was bitter that God has abandoned the people and given them into the hands of Midian.

Yes, God did that. But Gideon didn’t see – or think to ask – why. When the people cried out to God in despair, He sent a prophet to remind them why they were experiencing this oppression. Perhaps Gideon didn’t hear that message, but now he was talking with the Angel of the Lord.

Gideon’s own father had an altar to idols. Did Gideon realize this was wrong before God told him to destroy it? He knew about God from history and tradition, but likely thought as many do today that those days were gone, that God had changed or maybe faded.

It sounds like he blamed God for the trouble and didn’t see it was sin that had caused the separation. God hadn’t moved. The people had.

We see the same tendency today, sometimes in ourselves, and often in the world around us. There’s no easy answer about why God allows pain, and suffering is not always a consequence of our sin. Sometimes it’s because of someone else’s sinful choices, and sometimes it’s just life with no apparent reason.

Whatever the cause, when we’re hurting we can trust the God who promised to never leave us. We can press into Him, asking Him to reveal anything that we may have allowed to come between us and to restore us to Himself. We can trust Him to forgive us if needed, and to carry and sustain us. He loves us and will be with us.

Father, forgive us when we doubt Your goodness, and when we blame You for any distance we’ve allowed to grow between us. Whatever trouble comes our way, help us use it as a motivator to rely more on You. Help us to cling to the truth of Your promise to never leave us, and help us to not give any foothold to the enemy of our souls. We belong to You and You will not abandon us. Help us to stand on Your truth.

Never Alone” from Barlow Girl talks about those times when we can’t seem to find God.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Closer to God

When he [Barnabas] arrived and saw this evidence of God’s blessing, he was filled with joy, and he encouraged the believers to stay true to the Lord.
Acts 11:23, NLT*

Many Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, and the two men urged them to continue to rely on the grace of God.
Acts 13:43, NLT*

Both of these encouragements are to ongoing, persistent behavioural patterns. How do we stay true to the Lord and continue to rely on His grace?

  • prayer and praying Scripture
  • practicing His presence
  • reading – and thinking about – Scripture
  • talking, praying, studying with other believers
  • serving where He leads
  • relying on His strength in service and in all areas of our daily lives
  • getting to know His character through life and His Word
  • noticing and keeping a record of where we see God at work in our lives
  • telling our stories of faith, and listening to others

Feel free to add other points in the comments. I think what it comes down to is that we need to let God more into our lives.

God our Sustainer and our Source of life and hope, we echo John the Baptist’s awareness of the need to decrease so that You can increase. Thank You for giving us the Holy Spirit to indwell us. Please help us to give Him full access to our hearts, so that You can grow us in our faith. Help us stay true to You and rely on Your grace every day.

I’ve always taken Cliff Richard’s “Discovering” as a song from God to us. From that perspective, listen to what He might say in invitation.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Contentment’s Secret

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.
Philippians 4:12, NIV*

Paul goes on to say that his secret is to rely on Christ’s strength (verse 13), a verse many of us have memorized. He trusts that God is enough in the moment, and he doesn’t waste mental energy with what-ifs.

Our guest speaker on Sunday challenged us that anxiety comes from dwelling on the future, but contentment comes from living in the present. Now, a person can do a bundle of complaining in the present without Paul’s attitude of God-reliance, but anxiety does feed on the unknown future.

What could go wrong? Will we have enough, be enough? What if we don’t like what happens?

When anxiety whispers, I remind myself, “Whatever happens, Jesus will be there.” Paul’s words suggest I should also be saying, “Here, in this moment, Jesus is here. His strength is enough.”

Christ, who strengthens us, help us rely on Your power in at work in our lives, to help us do the Father’s will and to help us live with surrendered, trusting spirits. Protect us from fear of the future, and protect us also from discontent in the present and regrets for the past. Help us live in You moment by moment, following Your leading and not relying on our own understanding.

Our song this week is the classic hymn, “I Know Whom I Have Believed,” sung here by the Antrim Mennonite Choir. The chorus comes from Paul’s words to Timothy, and it echoes his contentment.

*New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

To Depend on God

So now, come back to your God.
Act with love and justice,
and always depend on him.
Hosea 12:6, NLT*

What does it mean to depend on God?

First, it’s an active reliance. We don’t sit and wait for Him to do what needs doing while we channel-surf.

We depend on His strength in us to equip us to serve. We depend on His Spirit in us to replace our natural reactions with the “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” that He wants us to display. (Galatians 5:22-23, NLT*)

When we’re mistreated, instead of taking revenge, we depend on “Him who judges justly” (1Peter 2:23, NIV) and we dare by His Spirit to forgive the offender and to pray that instead of staying hard and receiving what he or she deserves, that person will surrender to God and receive mercy.

We read the Bible and learn about God’s character, His ways, and His will. And about His promises. We choose to depend on who He is and what He says, not on what we feel and see.

We learn to recognize how He speaks to us as individuals, and we step out in faith to obey Him.

We overcome our fears by choosing to depend on God’s care and His power – and on the assurance that His presence will be with us no matter what.

God of Abraham, of Isaac, of me: because You don’t change, we can know and depend on You. Draw us who love You nearer to Your heart, and grow us in our faith. Draw those who don’t yet know You. Help them see their need of You, and how ignoring and defying You diminishes their lives. Because of Your great mercy, don’t give up on them.

To depend on God, we need to remind ourselves of who He is. Brian Doerksen’s song, “Faithful One,” reminds us (sung here by Robin Mark).

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Expectant Life

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation…
1 Peter 1:3, NLT*

Peter’s talking about new life in Christ, and along with this “great expectation” we’re to live with, he speaks of our future hope of Heaven. Since he mentions these separately, I think the expectation is for the daily here-and-now.

I’ve been impacted by the invitation to become more aware of the presence of God, exemplified by Brother Lawrence and Frank Laubach. It’s a slow progress for me, with more forgetting than remembering. The key, says Brother Lawrence, is to simply turn back to God in prayer, acknowledging the lapse, and start afresh with Him.

This is the sort of prayer we can expect God to answer. Of course He wants to draw us closer to Himself. That’s the Gospel. And He has great patience in the drawing.

I think part of this great expectation Peter mentions is expecting God to be with us. This isn’t excited anticipation of a specific event, but a security, a calm trust.

What else might we expect, thinking of His presence?

  • Wisdom and guidance, not usually via angelic messenger, but as we quiet our spirits in submission to Him, He will communicate His leading.
  • Protection, of our souls, even if He allows our hearts and bodies to experience hurt.
  • Comfort, because He is with us and loves us.
  • Opportunities to serve Him through the people around us… and the strength to do so.
  • Insights and spiritual growth, as we rely on His grace and learn to see as He sees.

God of all grace and mercy, thank You for bringing us into relationship with Yourself and for Your promise to never leave or abandon us. Your patience and love are beyond any limits we could imagine. Help us to grow in faith, and teach us to rely more and more on Your presence.

With the phrasing the NLT gives our focus verse, what better song could I leave us with than Steven Curtis Chapman‘s “Great Expectations“?

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Not Obnoxious

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
Philippians 4:4-6, NIV*

Steph Beth Nickel’s guest post last Friday was titled “Do Not Be Anxious About Anything — Even the Good Stuff.” If you’ve read it, you know she shared some hard-earned wisdom. (If you haven’t, just click the link.)

After I’d scheduled a tweet to share her post, I went to double-check it and I misread the title to say “Do Not Be Obnoxious About Anything.” This was near bedtime, and I found it funny.

But I think there’s wisdom there too. What do we do when we’re anxious or stressed? We tense up, speed up, put up defenses. Some of us get obnoxious.

What does Paul say here? “Let your gentleness be evident to all.” Why? “Because the Lord is near.”

God’s got this. Whatever this is. And whatever happens, He’ll be right there with us, able to work even in the worst messes.

Because God is near, Paul tells us to bring our concerns to Him. We can be confident that He already knows what He wants to do in the situation. It may not be what we want, but if we truly believe Him to be wise, good, powerful and loving, we can choose to trust Him.

As Stephanie said, it really comes down to a question of whether we trust God or not.

Holy and majestic God of the universe, it’s scandalous to even suggest You’re not trustworthy, yet You know our weakness and our doubts, and the fears that snare us, and You know sometimes we don’t trust You. Or we don’t act on the trust we think we have. Please forgive us and help our unbelief. Help us surrender the fight or flight reflex that can make us obnoxious. Teach us to rely on Your goodness and Your presence, so we can show others how good You are.

Our song this week is Mercy Me‘s “Here With Me.”

*New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.®Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Waiting as Worship

Wait for the Lord;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the Lord.
Psalm 27:14, NIV*

Waiting. It’s a challenge. We who hope in God wait for Him to act, to speak, to comfort.

There’s an element of strain in that. “When, Lord? How long?”

When we give in to that strain, we miss part of the waiting. We miss simply waiting for (or with) God. Being with Him, even when we can’t sense His presence. He’s with us – He promised, and we can depend on that, whatever we feel.

His timing won’t speed up if we’re peering at the horizon and begging, “Are we there yet?” I’m learning that when I do that, I miss what He has for me in the now. Maybe it’s rest. Maybe it’s a quiet word He wants to drop into my spirit. It could be an opportunity I’ll miss if I’m looking too far ahead.

Most of all, I miss His presence. Especially in the stressful times, His presence is subtle, easy to miss. And it’s what I most need.

Quieting ourselves before God, entrusting our needs to Him and abiding in Him, is trust. It’s an act of worship. It honours Him for who He is, not for what He can do for us.

Our God, You see our hurts, needs and fears. Yes, we need Your intervention, and we pray for Your help. Forgive us when we come clamouring to You with requests without taking time to appreciate You for who You are. Whisper into our spirits and teach us to worship You in trust and adoration. Help us set our hearts on You, no matter what goes on in and around us. You are our greatest treasure and our deepest need.

Here’s a simple prayer of longing for God’s company: “If I Could Just Sit With You Awhile,” sung here by Todd Agnew.

*New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Enough Time

My times are in your hands;
deliver me from the hands of my enemies,
from those who pursue me.
Psalm 31:15, NIV*

This is one of my comfort verses. The NLT translates “times” as “future,” and that seems to be the major meaning of the text in context of the danger from David’s enemies.

My “times,” then, are all the minutes of my life. God holds my future and no enemy can shorten it. He also holds my present.

Sometimes all that’s pursuing me are to-do lists and deadlines. I’m in the middle of a very busy patch right now, and what a treat to wake yesterday with this verse in my mind.

One of the to-do items was this post, and I knew God would provide one after doing so for six years, but I didn’t yet have it and I knew there wasn’t a lot of free time to find and write it before Wednesday morning.

Writing time is scarce for now, with some temporary employment, a kitchen renovation and being away last weekend. God knows all that. My times are in His hands.

To the best of my understanding, I’m only taking on what He has for me. As I take time each morning to commit the day to Him and pray to know and heed His presence in it, I can be sure He will help me best use the minutes and the hours. This is one of those stretches where there won’t be much left over for relaxation, but He even provides some of that. I had the most delightful stroll with a cone of gelato on Saturday.

God who made the universe, thank You for giving each of us a part to play in it. Thank You for opportunities to serve You and to show Your love to those around us. Today and each day, help us resist anxiety and choose to trust in Your sufficiency. Open our eyes to see how to use the time You give us. Give us self-discipline to turn away from those things we’d like to do that aren’t on Your agenda for the moment. Help us find soul-rest in You

Casting Crowns shares the secret of how to live fully no matter our circumstances: “I Know You’re There.”

*New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.®Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Squandering the Inheritance

All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends. Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!
Luke 15:29-30, NLT*

Can’t you hear the bitterness in the older brother’s voice as he accuses his father? (If you’re unfamiliar with the story of the prodigal son, you can read it here: Luke 15:11-32)

Squandering… that’s exactly what the younger brother did with his share of the inheritance, advanced to him by his still-living father.

But the father had divided his estate between the two sons, and I think the older one was squandering his share too. Just in a different way. Because he didn’t realize it was his.

He hadn’t received it.

Have we, as Christians, fully received the inheritance that God gave us when He saved us? I’m not talking about the treasures we’re called to be storing up in Heaven, but those things we forget to notice, or don’t fully believe are ours.

The promises that are already ours: forgiveness, abundant life, the fruit of the Spirit that will grow as we work out our salvation: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23, NLT*)

The little gifts in each day: sunbeams (or fat, gorgeous snowflakes), a loved one’s smile, the perfect parking spot when late, a cup of tea steeped just right?

The wealth of God’s presence with us in the now.

Squandering our inheritance… it’s the same thing whether we misuse it or fail to receive it.

I haven’t run away like the younger son, but in some ways I’m like the elder one, “in the house, but not home.” I want to be home – engaged with God’s presence, relying on Him and receiving all He has for me.

It’s a simple matter of turning to God – returning to Him even if we’re not far away – repenting, in a sense. And it’s a lifetime to master the constant turning that keeps us close to Him when our natural bent is to slip away. For encouraging insights, I recommend Janice Dick’s first-Tuesday-of-the-month series of conversations about Brother Lawrence’s book, The Practice of the Presence of God. (Here’s the link to the first post: Satisfied by God)

Lord Jesus, You know how many days I just push through, head down, missing the tangible gifts You’ve strewn across my path and the more valuable spiritual gifts I need only stop and receive. I’m helpless to live the abundant life on my own, and that’s how You designed it. Teach me to be mindful of Your presence and my need, whether I’m quiet before You or attending daily duties. Open my eyes to see, ears to hear, and heart to receive all that You have for me.

Take four minutes and let this song from Steven Curtis Chapman bless you: “Be Still and Know.”

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Getting It. Remembering It.

And Israel looked at the Egyptian dead, washed up on the shore of the sea, and realized the tremendous power that God brought against the Egyptians. The people were in reverent awe before God and trusted in God and his servant Moses.
Exodus 14:31, MSG*

The people finally get it. They’ve seen God in action: the ten plagues that broke Egypt, and now the dramatic parting of the Red Sea and destruction of the Egyptian army.

How else could they respond but in worship and reverent awe? And by trusting this God and the man He chose as their leader?

They get it. They truly get it.

I’m sad that it doesn’t last long. Before the end of the next chapter, they’re complaining there’s no safe drinking water. (Exodus 15:24) As if the God who’s leading them might have run out of resources.

And how about us? God connects with us in a personal way. We know He’s real, our spirits respond in worship and reverent awe. We trust Him.

Those are the best moments of our lives. But they don’t last.

The feelings fade. That’s disappointing, but we don’t live by feelings. We live by faith, or at least we’re called to. In trust. In reverent awe. In worship.

We don’t want to drift apart from God any more than the Israelites did. Living on this side of the Cross, Christians have the Holy Spirit in us, a closer and more intimate connection with God. You’d think we’d stay close.

He shouldn’t have to keep calling us back like He did the people of Israel.

Isn’t it good that He does it, though? He doesn’t just dust off His hands and walk away. He loves us, and He woos us back.

God our Saviour, patient and abundant in mercy, forgive us for the many ways we let ourselves get distracted from You. Draw us close to You, and teach us to keep looking at You in love and awe. We’re incomplete apart from You, and unable to be Your light in the world. Grow us in faithfulness and in truth, into the children You’ve designed us to be.

May our prayer be “Draw Me Close to You,” sung here by Michael W. Smith

*The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson