God’s Familiarity With You

Psalm 139: 1-4: O Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord.

When I feel distant from God, I often go to Psalm 139 in order to draw nearer to God. In Psalm 139, we are given the promise and the assurance that God is always with us. He is there when we wake up each morning and He is still there when we fall asleep at night. Knowing that I have that intimate, personal connection with God helps me to pull in closer to Him. It helps me to realize that God is there, He continues to know who I am and He watches over every detail of my life.

This psalm of David is an appeal for God to examine the heart and even the soul. David is declaring his loyalty to God and the awareness that God knows his every thought. God even knows the words that David (and you and I) will speak before they are formed on his tongue. I wonder how different the words that come out of our mouth would be if we considered that before we spoke.

Knowing that God perceives our every thought and has knowledge of what lies deep in our hearts can be troubling to many of us. We hold grudges, we judge others, we harbor hate, and we want God to bless us but not necessarily someone that we don’t like. This psalm tells us that we can’t hide these thoughts from God because God’s presence is everywhere. God is present in the heavens, the depths of the sea, and all across this world that we live in. God knows what we are thinking at this very moment, as He “searches” our hearts.

Psalm 139: 13-17: For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!

This passage helps me to remember that God continues to “think” about me and about you. The same God that created us continues to watch over us and wants to be intimately involved in each of our lives through His Holy Spirit. Even in those times when we try to run away from God, He is still there. God greatly desires to draw us close to Him again. I don’t know about you, but that gives me hope and encouragement to continue on my path of following and seeking God.

David then concludes this psalm with these last two verses. Psalm 139: 23-24: Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

David is asking God to examine his heart and to make him aware of anything that he needs to correct. The psalmist is declaring his love and devotion to God, while also acknowledging that he continues to have impure thoughts and motives. He is asking God to search his heart for those thoughts and to forgive him. He then asks God to guide him to the path that leads to eternal life. We should all pray that God will lead us down that path instead of the path that lead to worldliness and destruction.

When you are feeling that God is distant or if you think that God has forgotten about you, I encourage you to read Psalm 139. Remember that you are God’s creation and you are loved and known by God. That same creator God wants to be involved in every detail of your life. God is asking you to seek Him for relief from life’s daily struggles, worry and anxiety. God is with you and He alone can bring peace and assurance to your life today.

Hear these words of promise and hope from James 4:8: Come near to God and he will come near to you.

Praying for our Nation

2 Chronicles 7:14 (ASV): if my people, who are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

As a country, we are not seeking God. Many have fallen for the countless lies that come from the evil one and the desires of the world that we live in. We are told by the world that we should be tolerant, understanding, and respectful of the views and beliefs of others. However, when Christians begin to talk about our views and beliefs, we are attacked and ridiculed for our values and principles. This passage from 2 Chronicles reminds us that we must first “humble” ourselves and realize that we are all sinners. 1 John 1:8 (NIV): If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. For me personally, I am going to take a deep breath and confess to God my sinfulness, and get myself right with God. That is the first step for all of us before we go around pointing fingers and casting judgment on others.

Then I am going to pray, pray, and continue to pray for our country and for every person in our country. God has established, through His Holy Word, the manner in which we should live our lives as a person that was created by God. God’s intentions for how we are to live our lives are crystal clear and there is not a court or a political leader that can redefine that. God always has been, continues to, and will eternally be in control of this world that we live in.

As Christians, we must seek the “face” of God through daily prayers and the continued reading of God’s Holy Word. Psalm 27:8 (ESV): You have said, “Seek my face.” My heart says to you, “Your face, Lord, do I seek.” We must begin to seek God every day and to pray for the healing of our nation. We must pray that people will “turn from their wicked ways” and live a righteous and holy life that pleases and honors God’s design for human beings. If Christians will continue to do this on a daily basis we can have hope that God will work in the hearts and minds of those that are “lost” and help them to “turn from their wicked ways.”

Will you dedicate yourself to pray for our nation and for the healing of our land on a daily basis?

Ezekiel 22:30 (ASV): And I sought for a man among them, that should build up the wall, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found none.

Job 38:1,4-7
Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm. He said: “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone—
while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?

God will not be mocked. Even well intentioned Christians, who make light of God raining down judgment upon our nation, are on shaky ground. There is not a person on earth who has the understanding or the right to say what God will or will not do. God is sovereign and He has already decided what needs to be done to get our attention focused squarely back upon Him. 

Paul’s advice to Timothy is good advice for all of us who believe in God and his charge to those of us who belong to Him. As Christians, we are called to bring the “lost” to the saving knowledge of Christ. All of us who are followers of Christ have this duty, especially in light of the events of recent days.

2 Timothy 4: 1-5 (NIV): In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: 2 Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 3 For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 5 But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.

Please join me in continued prayer for our nation and for God’s forgiveness and healing.

Living a Holy Life in an Unholy World

1 Peter 1:13-16 (NIV): Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”

1 Peter 2: 11-12 (NIV): Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

I have been thinking a lot lately about what it means for Christians to live “good lives.” How do we live out our life of faith in a world that does not glorify God? As believers, we have a decision to make. Will we lead lives that reflect our faith and God’s guidance in our lives? Or will we only give lip service to our beliefs and surrender ourselves to the desires of this world that we live in?

The apostle Peter tells us that our minds must be “alert and fully sober.” We must constantly be aware of the sinful lures of this world so that we can overcome enticing thoughts and actions before we act on them. We all have sinful desires that attempt to pull us away from God and prevent us from leading a life that is a witness to our faith and pleasing to God. Overcoming these desires is crucial for our soul but it is also important if we desire to be an effective witness for Christ. Our lives should reflect the degree to which God’s forgiveness and mercy has changed us. Our witness then, becomes living a life that demonstrates to unbelievers how our faith and belief in God has changed us.

A friend of mine once told me that she had been observing how I led my life as a Christian. To be honest, that scared me. I immediately started thinking about the times that this lady has seen me act in a way that was not consistent with my faith. She told me that she was not a believer but she wanted to know more about my faith because she could sense just how important our faith was to our family. She passed away a few years later but not before coming to accept Christ as her Lord and Savior. This is precisely what Peter is referring to when he urges believers to lead holy lives – because you never know who is watching. In this case, someone who didn’t know God was watching and she saw that my actions were, for the most part, consistent with my beliefs. There are times when my actions don’t correspond to my beliefs, so I constantly pray to God that he will strengthen me to lead a life that always reflects my faith.

The Apostle Peter writes, ‘But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”’ I don’t know about you but I am uncomfortable being called holy. It sounds like someone who never makes a mistake or is somehow above sin. Holy means to be set apart or to belong to God. Being holy is living in a unified relationship with Christ, through the Holy Spirit. Galatians 2:20: I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

As followers of Christ, we face many sinful desires which “wage war” against our soul. I believe that the forces of evil are constantly waging war against Christians so that our witness will be weakened or ineffective. It’s time that believers live out a life of faith that shows the world that we are set apart from the sin of this world. The way we live our lives will reflect who we are and who we truly follow. Our choice is this: Do we give in to the sinful desires of this world, or do we try to lead holy lives that reflect the love, mercy and forgiveness of our loving God and our Savior, Jesus Christ?

1 John 2:17: The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.

Faith in God

I heard a sermon yesterday that talked about faith and there was a quote from Corrine ten Boom that really spoke to my heart. So for my devotional today, I feel led to give you some well-know quotes from this woman of deep and abiding faith along with scripture. It is my hope that this will help and encourage you in your own walk of faith with God.

Corrie ten Boom and her family helped Jews escape the Nazi Holocaust during World War II and, by all accounts, saved nearly 800 lives. During World War II, she and her family harbored hundreds of Jews to protect them from arrest by Nazi authorities. Betrayed by a fellow Dutch citizen, the entire family was imprisoned. Corrie survived and started a worldwide ministry and later told her story in a book entitled The Hiding Place.¹

“Faith sees the invisible, believes the unbelievable, and receives the impossible.” (Corrie Ten Boom)
Hebrews 11:1: Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

“Worry is like a rocking chair: it keeps you moving but doesn’t get you anywhere.” (CTB)
Matthew 6:34: Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

“Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow. It empties today of its strength.” (CTB)
Matthew 6:25-27: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.” (CTB)
Hebrews 11:6: And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

“There is no panic in Heaven! God has no problems, only plans.” (CTB)
Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

“Trying to do the Lord’s work in your own strength is the most confusing, exhausting, and tedious of all work. But when you are filled with the Holy Spirit, then the ministry of Jesus just flows out of you.” (CTB)
Matthew 28:19: Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Philippians 4:7: And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
John 14:27: Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

“Let God’s promises shine on your problems.” (CTB)
Deuteronomy 31:6: Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

“When I try, I fail. When I trust, he succeeds.” (CTB)
Proverbs 3:5-6: Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.

¹http://www.biography.com/people/corrie-ten-boom-21358155

Where is God when I need him?

Editors Note: This is a reposting of a entry from February 2014. As I was writing a devotional for today, God led me back to this one from last year and I felt the need to share it again today.

As you read this devotional writing today, it is likely that you are striving to “hear” from God or to at least feel His presence in some way in your life. This world that we live in can be demanding and at times overwhelming. There are moments when we question God’s presence in the midst of our pain and disappointment. This world that we live in can cause us to lose hope. You may be feeling discouraged today because you want to feel God’s presence but instead you feel nothing. Recalling the words of Matthew 7:7, we pray, we ask, we seek, we knock, but yet we are met with silence. God, I know that you promised to never leave me or forsake me but I need some reassurance that you are with me in the midst of my suffering.

Jesus had just shared the Last Supper with his disciples and was explaining to them the events that would soon take place. Jesus washed his disciples’ feet in order to show them how much he loved them. “Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love” (John 13:1). Our Lord and Savior then predicted that one of his disciples (Judas) would betray him and even Peter would soon disown Jesus three times. Jesus then tells his disciples, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me” (John 14:1). Do you trust in the things of this world or do you place your faith and trust in God?

Yesterday was one of those days in which the world sent a lot of trouble my way. Normally when this happens, I remind myself to stop and seek God and ask for guidance and peace. However on this occasion, things began to unravel so quickly that I failed to seek God or ask for His calming presence. I was reminded of just how difficult the world can be to those who follow Christ. As followers of Christ we are warned that this world will cause disappointment, heartache, and pain. Jesus said to his disciples, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

So where is God in the midst of our pain and suffering? Why does it seem that God is silent when we call out to him and plead for some assurance that He is with us? There are times when God chooses to not reveal himself to us and we must honor that because God has given us that same free will to make our own decisions in life. I believe that God often is working on a solution to our present problems while we are in the midst of them. We all must make a choice; do we follow the world or do we follow God? If we decide to follow God we can be assured that God is always present with us, whether we can sense His presence or not.

As Joshua was preparing to succeed Moses and lead the Israelites into the Promised Land, Moses spoke these words from God to all of Israel. “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged” (Deuteronomy 31:eight). That same promise applies to all believers today. God is always with us and God goes before us to guide us along the path that He calls us to follow.

Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27). May the peace of Christ be with you and guide you in the knowledge that Christ has already overcome this world and defeated Satan and all the powers of evil. In this world we will have trouble, but in Christ we can experience complete peace. As followers of Christ we have been given the assurance of eternal life. Remember that promise when the world sends trouble your way. May God be with you and bless you today.

Big Problems, Bigger God

Psalm 8:1-9 (NIV): A Psalm of David

Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory
in the heavens.
2
Through the praise of children and infants
you have established a stronghold against your enemies,
to silence the foe and the avenger.
3
When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
4
what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?

5
You have made them a little lower than the angels
and crowned them with glory and honor.

6
You made them rulers over the works of your hands;
you put everything under their feet:

7
all flocks and herds,
and the animals of the wild,
8
the birds in the sky,
and the fish in the sea,
all that swim the paths of the seas.
9
Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Most of us tend to go through life without ever slowing down and noticing the beauty of God’s creation. We often take the beauty of our world for granted and in doing so we fail to see God all around us. This past week, while sitting on the beach and enjoying the view of the ocean, I was reminded of the vastness of God’s creation. The book of Genesis describes to us how this world looked just before God spoke His creation into being: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters” (Genesis 1:1-2).

Do you sometimes doubt that God cares for you or even considers you? David, future King of Israel, probably felt that way as he was on the run from King Saul’s men. He had proof of God’s presence with him over the course of his young life, but he surely must have felt that God had at times forgotten him or was too busy with other matters to look after him. David was aware that God was all around him through the created world. And although he couldn’t actually see God, he sensed his presence by gazing at the “moon and the stars” and he saw God in the beauty of God’s creation. David needed this reminder of God’s presence with him.

I imagine that David felt small in comparison to the vastness of God’s creation. It’s possible that, as he wrote this psalm, he was lying on his back looking up at the heavens, gazing at the constellations and the splendor of the night time sky. God’s universe is so vast that we as humans can’t begin to comprehend just how expansive it is. You may feel that you are not important enough for God to be concerned with your life and with your problems. Does God really care about the mounting bills, the car that needs to be repaired or replaced, or the tumor that is not responding to treatment?

Like David, we may not understand how God can juggle our needs with the needs of the whole world and the running of the universe, but rest assured; God cares deeply for each of us. Trust God and have faith. God may be working out an answer to your prayer at this very moment. While you may not receive an answer immediately, have faith in God and trust that He is aware of your specific need and know that He is with you as you walk through the valley of shadows. God cares for you and He will not leave you. God, who created this magnificent world and universe, is much larger than all of our problems and worries.

 

Perseverance and Hope

Romans 5:1-5 (NIV): Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

I have always admired people that refuse to quit. Over the course of my life, I have witnessed those types of individuals who refused to let a setback or failure define them. It seemed that they believed something greater was almost in their grasp. That greater “thing” could have been the dream to start a new business in order to better provide for the hopes and dreams of their family. It could have been finding a cure for some terrible disease or identifying solutions to meet the growing demand for energy in our world. Whatever the goal might be, I have always respected those who refuse to give up until they reach their goal.

My youngest daughter loves playing, and sometimes watching, basketball. Her immediate dreams are to play for her middle school and later high school basketball team. Her long range goals are to play for the University of Georgia and eventually the WNBA. A few nights ago, she and I were watching the NBA finals and we saw a great example of a player refusing to give up. Kyrie Irving of the Cleveland Cavilers was defending Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. Curry, who is an excellent ball handler, drove past Irving and appeared to have an easy layup that would have put his team ahead. But Irving, refusing to give up, hustled and made a fingertip block of the attempted layup by Curry. Slow motion replays showed that Irving had blocked the potential go-ahead shot with his fingertips. That type of determination and effort is what makes good players great and I used that example to teach my daughter a valuable basketball and life lesson – don’t ever give up!

Perseverance is something that we as followers of Christ should be reminded of from time to time. We often tend to lose our focus and we aim for quick solutions to our problems. This passage from Romans serves to remind us that, we grow and mature (hopefully), as we endure the many challenging and difficult moments of life. “Suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”

Years ago, I remember an interview that a local news station did with an elderly grandmother, who was talking about the advice that she constantly gave to her grandchildren. I had heard this advice before but I just loved the way that this lady expressed it. She said, “I always tell my grandchildren to never get tired of doing what’s right.” That is certainly good and timely advice for many of us today, as we continue to persevere, whatever our situation in life. The Apostle Paul put it this way in Galatians 6:9: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

Prayer: God, we often feel weary and heavy burdened. We feel that the load we carry is too heavy for us and it seems that we are about to buckle under the enormous weight of our problems and worries. It is tempting to just give up and be crushed under the weight of our doubts and unbelief. But you call those of us who believe in you to persevere and to refuse to give up. Our calling is not to place our hope and trust in the world, but rather in you, our Creator and our Redeemer, the One who sustains us. I pray for your presence today God, for those of us who are struggling to persevere. Constantly remind us Lord, that “our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” Amen.

2 Corinthians 4:17 (NIV): For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.