In Your Presence

Being in the presence of Almighty God is amazing, and we’re all continually in His presence (He 13:7); there is no place or time where God’s not fully present (Ps 139:7) or His glory hidden. (Is 6:3)

We’re instinctively aware of His presence: we know He hears us as we pray, any time, anywhere. So, if we aren’t enjoying God it isn’t because He’s far away, it’s that we’re ignorant (Ep 4:18) and blind(2Ki 6:17)

It’s impossible to be physically separated from God, to create any space between Him and anyone else. Anyone who desires the infinite God is invited to continually enjoy His glory (2Co 3:18), basking in His immediate presence and feeding in His majesty, in unbroken fellowship with Him. (Ps 16:11) The question isn’t, “Where is God?” but “Where are we.” (Ge 3:9) Do we want Him?

We may think we do, that we’d simply love for Him to reveal Himself to us … but if we aren’t already enjoying Him all the time, cleaving to Himdelighting in His Law and rejoicing in Him every hour of the day, when He’s right beside us, in and through us (Ac 17:28) … if we aren’t avidly internalizing the written revelation in which He’s already revealing Himself (Col 3:16), continually hiding it in our hearts so we won’t offend Him (Ps 119:11), and systematically meditating on it so we’ll know Him (Ps 119:99), it should be obvious that we’re not after God Himself.

I think what most of us are really after is an image we’ve constructed of God in our own minds, an idol in every sense: we’re making a god up as we wish him to be, like ourselves: aloof, uncaring, capricious, unjust, hard to reach and connect with. But God isn’t like that: He’s anything but that.

Let’s face it: the problem isn’t God … it’s us. The problem isn’t finding God, it’s wanting Him. Being with God isn’t an option; no one will ever be separated from God, not now, not ever, not even in Hell. What makes Hell unbearable isn’t the absence of God, but His holy, terrifying, indignant presence, as He unveils His infinitely holy nature to the desperately wicked, who genuinely hate and despise Him, which is, evidently, almost everyone. (Ro 3:11)

We can choose to seek God (He 11:6) until He transforms us into beings who enjoy Him, drinking Him into our innermost being, or we can continue trying to hide, lurking in make-believe shadows, hating the light (Jn 3:19-20), as we did in the Garden in our primal father, Adam. (Ge 3:8) Either way, we’re all going to spend eternity with Him, and He’s spending eternity with each and every one of us, right now.

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Fiery Darts

The shield of faith enables us to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. (Ep 6:16) These fiery darts aren’t physical, but they’re very real. What are they? How do we quench them?

The wicked shoot fiery darts and arrows at us with their words: sharp, biting, cutting remarks designed to wound and scar us. (Pr 12:18) The poison and fire they carry are lies intended to make us feel unimportant and inferior, ashamed, rejected and unloved, isolated and vulnerable.

The wicked are prompted to speak these words by their father (Jn 8:44) the enemy, who works in them (Ep 2:2) to steal our joy, kill our passion and zeal, and destroy our witness. (Jn 10:10) As we receive these words, the enemy injects the emotions of fear, rejection and shame into our minds and hearts, lending supernatural, debilitating force to the jabs. It is an all-out, frontal assault on our spiritual life, from which we must be quick to defend ourselves.

When our faith shields are down, and we aren’t being mindful of the precious promises and faithfulness of God, we let these darts through to wound us. They continue to afflict and harm us until we engage our faith, lifting our shields to heal our minds and hearts, by reminding ourselves of the three basic truths:

  1. We’re loved infinitely by God (1Jn 3:1), Whose love is all we’ll ever need; we’re totally accepted by Him in Christ (Ep 1:6), and for Christ’s sake. (Ep 4:32)
  2. God is in control of all things at all times (Da 4:35), and He has a glorious purpose in all our suffering (Ro 5:3-5); nothing is out of order or amiss in His plan (Ep 1:11), and
  3. We each have a unique purpose in God’s eternal plan (2Ti 1:9), and He’s working everything out for our good and for His glory, all the time. (Ro 8:28)

If God is for us, who can be against us? (Ro 8:31) We thus dismiss these fiery darts as the nothings that they really are, ignoring them as lies with no substance, and continue rejoicing in God.

In understanding that those delivering the enemy’s darts are lost, or perhaps that the enemy’s exploiting the elect as they walk out the mystery of faith, as they reach out to us in love and good conscience as best they can, we’re free to look for and receive any constructive criticism or wisdom to strengthen our walk with God, without any threat to our souls, and be the better for it.

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Let Me Not Wander

Without God, the human heart is totally depraved, unable to do anything good. (Je 13:23) Even the best of men are like this, in and of themselves. (Jn 15:5) In our natural state we’re prone to wander away from God, away from the light, from all that’s wholesome and good, and grope about in the darkness for security, fulfillment, and purpose.

We wander away from God by neglecting and forgetting His commands, Torah, and as we do we deceive ourselves (Jas 1:22) into thinking that we aren’t actually wandering off, that we’re following God and doing the right thing. We ignore God’s definition of sin (1Jn 3:4) and light (Pr 6:23), thinking we can decide what’s good and evil on our own, just making it up as we go.

It’s not just that we’re blind without God, that we can’t see, it’s that in our natural state we love darkness; we hate light. (Jn 3:19) This mindset can’t be reasoned with; it isn’t rational, and it’s our default state, as natural as breathing. We can’t escape it because we won’t, ever, not unless He quickens us. (Ep 2:1)

Knowing this, yet finding within ourselves that our hearts actually are going fully after God, cleaving to Him and keeping His Law, we pray with the psalmist, “With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments.” (Ps 119:10) We acknowledge that this in itself is the work of God, that we are going after Him, and we ask God to maintain this Godward state in us, to keep us from wandering away from His Law, away from Him. We ask Him to keep us from falling and to present us faultless before Himself, knowing He’s able and willing to do this. (Jud 1:24)

Yes, God works in His own to will and to do according to His good pleasure. (Php 2:13) He opens our eyes and gives us delight in His law (Ro 7:22) and in Himself, in His way, sanctifying us and conforming us to the image of Jesus Christ. We can’t explain our love for Him in and through Torah any other way. (Ro 8:7)

“Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love. Here’s my heart LORD, take and seal it; seal it for thy courts above.” (R. Robinson)

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Not Grievous

In affirming that the love of God is keeping His commandments, God reminds us His commands aren’t grievous. (1Jn 5:3) His law, all of it, is profoundly good. (Ro 7:12)

Just take a gander at how God recounts His laws for a new generation (my summary):

  • Love God and cleave to Him. (De 10:20)
  • Hide God’s words in your heart and teach them to your kids. (De 11:18-20)
  • Respect yourself. (De 14:1)
  • Don’t eat disgusting things. (De 14:3)
  • Enjoy God’s parties. (De 14:26)
  • Feast with the poor. (De 14:29)
  • Periodically relieve the poor of debt. (De 15:2)
  • Be generous with employees. (De 15:14)
  • Party with God in Spring, recalling His salvation(De 16:3)
  • Party with God in Summer, thanking Him for the harvest. (De 16:10-11)
  • Party with God in the Fall, camp out with Him, thankful for more provision. (De 16:13)
  • Ensure justice in all the land. (De 16:18)
  • etc.

The pattern continues … Love God, respect yourself, party with God, care for the poor, be decent, be just … Really tough stuff here … They say God’s law is “a burden … legalism … just can’t do it.”

Can’t? Or won’t?

The carnal mind just isn’t interested in God’s Way, not even enough to find out what it is. (Ro 8:7-8) What a treasure we miss!

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Let the Dam Go

The promise of longevity accompanies only a few of God’s commands: honoring parents (Ep 6:2-3), maintaining consistent standards in business (De 25:15), and freeing a mother bird that’s protecting her young; if we happen to find a bird’s nest we’re not allowed to take the dam, only the babies. (De 22:6-7)

Parents represent God, giving us life, protecting and guiding us, so honoring them is intuitive, and a just measure is the basis of any healthy economy. But God’s not concerned about animals per se (1Co 9:9), so why’s this third command so important?

Elizabeth
Hoolah

Mothers instinctively endanger themselves to protect their own. My own dear wife Elizabeth, for example, screaming and praying for God’s mercy as a pit bull was killing our dog Hoolah, stuck her hands in its mouth to pry open its jaws, risking life and limb. My wife knows she’s infinitely more important than our dog, but in the moment she completely forgot about herself and saved Hoolah’s life. (Full story in 3rd comment below.)

Taking advantage of an animal as it tries to protect its young is a type of extortion; it’s cruel, sadistic and disrespectful. If it’s wrong to take advantage of birds in this way, how much more so of people? (1Co 6:9-10)

In promising longevity in these commands, it seems God is telling us that respecting authority, each other, and the dignity of life forms the basis of a healthy society. Cultures which follow God’s Law tend to thrive (Ps 19:7,11); those that don’t suffer deeply. (Pr 4:19)

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Christ the Firstfruits

Christ our Passover (1Co 5:7) is also the firstfruits of God’s harvest (1Co 15:23); He’s the firstborn from the dead (Col 1:18), the first of many to rise again eternally. It’s a savor of both life and death. (2Co 2:15-16)

The resurrection of Christ proves everyone shall rise from the dead (Jn 5:28), some to endless splendor and joy, some to shame and everlasting contempt. (Da 12:2) As when we plant crops and expect a harvest, we see the same in spiritual things: we reap what we sow, later than we sow, and more than we sow. (Ga 6:7-8)

Regardless what we sow, our sowing comprises God’s eternal harvest as well as our own. (Re 14:14) He shall gather out of His kingdom all things that offend and cast them into a fiery furnace (Mt 13:41), and He will also gather a harvest of His saints together to Himself to enjoy forever. (Ps 50:5)

On this day of Firstfruits, let the resurrection of Jesus remind us that we’re destined for eternity. We’re part of an everlasting crop, a harvest in God’s eternal plan, so let’s bring forth fruit befitting of resurrection life. (Mt 3:12) Jesus overcame death in every sense that it could be conquered, and He lives in His elect to do the same. (Col 1:27) There is no temptation or trial too strong for Him. (Jn 16:33)

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God Is Kind

God is good, benevolent and merciful to all (Ps 117:2), so it’s tempting to confuse answered prayer and temporal blessing with divine approval, thinking God’s kindness implies His validation. We may be like that, but not God.

God loves His enemies; He’s kind to the unthankful and to the evil (Lk 6:35), and often showers the wicked with earthly blessings and health. (Ps 73:3-7) In fact, God may often answer prayer that’s abominable to Himself. (Pr 28:9) There’s no strict correlation between God’s provision for us and His approval of us.

God knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust until the day of judgment to be punished. (2Pe 2:9) By afflicting the righteous He teaches us His ways (Psa_119:67 71), so it would seem that one way He reserves the wicked for judgement is by blessing them and giving them what they want in this life.

If God is answering the prayers of the wicked we shouldn’t be envious (Ps 37:1-2), nor find satisfaction in Him paving their way to destruction. (Pr 24:17-18) God takes no pleasure in the ruin of the lost (Ez 33:11); we should be weeping for them (Php 3:18-19), esteeming others better than ourselves.

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The End of All Things

God says to us, “But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer.” (1Pe 4:7) If God was exhorting saints to prepare for the end of the world two millennia ago, then we are at a loss; the world didn’t end then and it hasn’t since. Immediate context provides precious little help in interpreting, so we turn to the broader context of Scripture for insight.

BarnInStormThe fact that God pleads with us to not expect Messiah’s return before the time (2Th 2:1-3), suggests God isn’t warning us that the end of the world is upon us; there must first come a falling away, which we still have not seen.

The key here appears to lie in the word end, which may convey the idea of a goal or purpose or final result. (Ja 5:11) If we understand it this way, God is telling us that the goal or purpose of all things, the reason everything happens, is at hand, or obvious, or readily perceived. This purpose is repeated in many places, as in the immediate context, “that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ.” (1Pe 4:11)

God is evidently telling us that we should be sober, prayerful, thoughtful, deliberate in our actions because He intends to glorify His Son Jesus Christ in and through everything. Though sin should grieve us, we need not fret and worry and stew over rebellion, blindness and brokenness all around us, or try in any way to control any of it; God will glorify Himself in and through all. (Ro 11:36)

Rather than letting corruption steal our joy, we should be thankful in and for all things (Ep 5:20), knowing that our God works all things together for good to those who love Him (Ro 8:28), and allows all for a purpose: to glorify Himself. (Ps 46:10)

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God Is Faithful

RainbowDoubleGod is faithful (1Co 1:9): true to His word, keeping His promises, trustworthy, dependable; we can safely trust Him to do what He says He’s going to do.

We can see this both in Scripture (2Th 3:3) and in Nature: for every need He’s designed fulfillment. YHWH is good; we need Him to be faithful, and He is, more than we can know. (Je 17:7-8)

But the enemy lies to us about God’s nature, twisting God’s promises and promoting wrong expectations so when God doesn’t meet them we’re tempted to mistrust Him. Falling for his lies steals our joy and traps us in bitterness; it’s too painful.

So God set His bow in the clouds to remind us of His faithfulness (Ge 9:13); scientists still don’t fully understand how He does it. Jehovah’s gone out of His way to assure us that He’ll never break His Word; He makes no promise lightly; He puts His reputation on the line in every single one. God’s promises are exceedingly precious gifts, open doorways inviting us into His nature. (2Pe 1:4) 

As we wait on the Lord, expecting Him to be faithful, we’re saved by hope; it’s an abundant life of faith rooted in the character and nature of God. (Jn 10:10) 

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Too Painful

When I lose sleep over injustice, and recently it seems to be often, I know I’m not handling it well — it’s too painful for me (Ps 73:16); I’m letting the enemy steal my joy. (Php 4:6) It’s time for a little reminder: God is just. (Pr 2:8)

What if God always rewarded good and evil with immediate pleasure or pain,BarnStorm training us like Pavlov’s dogs? We’d never know the depravity of the human heart … or the goodness of God.

In order to fully reveal Himself God must allow evil to go unchecked for a season; this exposes the human heart, and provides Jehovah a venue to glorify Himself. (Ro 9:22-23) The season may be longer than we’d like, but it’s a necessity.

I remind myself that God is faithful; He will bring every secret thing out into light; all will be revealed (Mk 4:22), dealt with and straightened out. (Lk 3:5-6) He may not be as prompt we’d like, but He’s perfectly just (Ro 2:2) and His timing’s always best. (Ps 104:31) My focus is to walk worthy of Christ, in intimate fellowship with God, and leave the rest to Him. (Ro 14:4)

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