Seeing God’s Presence in the Daily Grind

Today’s reading: 1 Samuel 17:1-18:30

Godly men and women trust in the Lord’s presence and guidance in the day to day details of life.  They don’t need extraordinary circumstances to spring into obedient action. They do what God calls them to and He makes it turn out for His glory.

Have you learned this truth?

[For more reflections on this passage see the corresponding reading in my book Cover to Cover: Through the Bible in 365 days].

Seeing Yourself Correctly

Seeing yourself correctly is important. Not everyone does, so how can you be sure you do?

Today’s reading: Ezekiel 32-33; 1 Peter 1

“You consider yourself a lion of the nations,
but you are like a dragon in the seas;
you burst forth in your rivers,
trouble the waters with your feet,
and foul their rivers.
Thus says the Lord God:
I will throw my net over you
with a host of many peoples,
and they will haul you up in my dragnet.                                         Ezekiel 32:2b-3

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.                                             1 Peter 1:3-5

Pharaoh was one of those people who had a faulty and exalted opinion of himself. He saw himself as a “lion of the nations”, but God had another view of him. Through Ezekiel, the Lord told the king of Egypt that he was no lion but a dragon who was fouling the rivers and who was about to be caught and destroyed.

Peter wrote that Christians are heirs of God. It is not their own doing. They didn’t earn this status. God, by His mercy, has granted it to His people. There is a process. First, He caused them to be born again. He did it. They did not will themselves to be reborn. Jesus told Nicodemus a new birth was an absolute prerequisite in order to see the Kingdom of God (John 3:3). Rebirth is a gracious gift from God’s mercy. Second, because of that new birth, believers have a living hope through Jesus Christ’s resurrection. Whatever they hoped in before is perishable, defiled, and fading. This new living hope is in an inheritance  totally unlike any material and earthly inheritance. Thirdly, they cannot lose this hope because the inheritance is kept in heaven (not Wall Street!) for them and they are guarded by God’s power through faith for a salvation which they will see at the last time.

Do you see yourself in the way Peter described, an heir of God with a living hope? If you know the new birth has been granted to you and your faith is in Jesus Christ, you should. Consider if your view of yourself is accurate in accordance with the way God sees you. Remember seeing yourself correctly glorifies God.

Authenticity in Worship and Work

God hates hypocrisy whether done in the name of religion or done in the workplace.

Today’s reading: Isaiah 29-30; Ephesians 6

15 Ah, you who hide deep from the Lord your counsel,
whose deeds are in the dark,
and who say, “Who sees us? Who knows us?”
16 You turn things upside down!
Shall the potter be regarded as the clay,
that the thing made should say of its maker,
“He did not make me”;
or the thing formed say of him who formed it,
“He has no understanding”? Isaiah 29:15-16

Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, 6 not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, 7 rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free. Ephesians 6:5-8

Isaiah calls the people to worship with truth, not pretense, thinking that God cannot see their hearts and that He will be impressed by their phony professions of faith. Some think darkness is a safe cloak for their sin. These ideas are laughable. The prophet compares them to a lump of clay taking credit for its own existence and denying its maker. .

Laughable, but very real and very persistent. Jesus quoted Isaiah’s words from 29:13-14 (Matthew 15:8,9; Mark 7:6,7) in His indictment of first century Judaism. It could easily be applied today. People trust in their own works, but even religious works like baptism, Bible reading and church attendance are not able to deliver us from God’s wrath. Only the grace of God in Christ to those who repent of their sin and believe in Him is sufficient.

Paul addresses another kind of hypocrisy in his letter to the Ephesians. He tells bondservants to obey their masters as they would Christ. Their service is not for them but for Him. Some of these servants were only creating an appearance of work which the Apostle called “eye-service” and people pleasing. The Christian is always serving Christ, no matter who he works for.

In the gospel, we learn that through faith we become Christ’s own people. We are called to authenticity in our worship and in our work. Let it be so every Lord’s day and every work day.

The Sniff-able Christian

Godly Christians are called to shoulder a heavy responsibility, one that even the Apostle Paul found daunting.

Today’s reading: Proverbs 17-18; 2 Corinthians 2

3 The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold,
and the Lord tests hearts.                                                      Proverbs 17:3

14 But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. 15 For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, 16 to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things?                              2 Corinthians 2:14-16

One of the themes in Proverbs is the dichotomy between fools and wise people, between the faithful and the slothful, between those who receive instruction and those who are wise in their own eyes. While it is not always evident to the observer the true state of another person’s heart, God is able to test hearts and He does. Precious metal is purified by fire. The hearts of people are tested by God. So God’s judgment will never be unjust. He is a Judge who truly has all the information. [Romans 2:15-16]

Paul bears his thoughts and feelings about his ministry. He finds it painful to confront people on hard issues and when he does, he does it because he loves them. This does not mean that the responses he gets are always positive. He gets strong reactions to his mere presence because wherever he goes God “through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.”

That fragrance will be either the scent of life or the stench of death depending on the heart condition of the one doing the sniffing. So God who tests hearts uses His people to reveal the state of hearts. This is not the only way God tests hearts, but it is certainly one way.

And Paul exclaims, “Who is sufficient for these things?”

Indeed, who wants to carry such a burden? Who wants to be the person who, when entering the room, causes the crowd to either flee from him or flock to him? But that is the role of the believer and, if we are such, we should assume this role with humility and submission.

No, we are not sufficient for these things. But it is not us. It is Christ in us. He “always leads us in triumphal procession.” Trust Him. Follow Him. Expect to be sniffed.

By the way, if you find Christians abhorrent, be forewarned. You are probably perishing. May God give you grace to repent, believe, and find life in Him.

God Is…

Today’s reading: Psalm 93-95; Romans 11:22-36

4 Mightier than the thunders of many waters,
mightier than the waves of the sea,
the Lord on high is mighty!

5 Your decrees are very trustworthy;
holiness befits your house,
O Lord, forevermore. Psalm 93:4-5

33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?”
35 “Or who has given a gift to him
that he might be repaid?”

36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. Romans 11:33-36

God is too great and glorious to be described in human words, but we must try. When we have exhausted our efforts, we worship Him by ascribing to Him all glory forever.

How do you describe God? Psalm 93 uses an analogy to the highest human authority, the king. Admittedly, that comparison falls far short because God is a king whose reign always was and always will be. He is eternal. He rules, but not over some limited territory, over the whole earth.

How do you describe God? The Psalmist draws from the most powerful forces in nature: a flood, mighty waters, the sea. The waters roar. They sweep away everything in their path. But that is not an adequate description of the power of God for He is mightier than the sea. He is on high above it all.

How do you describe God? Human kings make decrees, but they cannot guarantee their fulfillment. Maybe the kingdom will be overthrown. Maybe the king will die suddenly. The king’s decree is only a statement of his intention. But God’s decrees are “very trustworthy.” He is holy, set apart, completely other. Forever.

Paul compares God to the wisest counselor or the richest man on earth. They could add nothing to the Lord’s understanding nor supply Him with anything He lacks. The Apostle seems out of superlatives as he cries out, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! …To him be glory forever. Amen.” We cannot adequately describe God, but give it a try. He is worthy and accepting of all our feeble, but heartfelt, efforts to praise Him.

The Prayer that Never Fails

Today’s reading: Psalm 28-30; Acts 21:1-14

10 The Lord sits enthroned over the flood;
the Lord sits enthroned as king forever.
11 May the Lord give strength to his people!
May the Lord bless his people with peace!                                               Psalm 29:10-11

12 When we heard this, we and the people there urged him not to go up to Jerusalem. 13 Then Paul answered, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” 14 And since he would not be persuaded, we ceased and said, “Let the will of the Lord be done.”                                                                                             Acts 21:12-14

The prayer that never fails, according to the fictional Father Tim of  novelist Jan Karon’s Mitford series, is “Thy will be done.” This phrase was part of the prayer Jesus taught His disciples. These same words, He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane before His crucifixion. Here in Acts, Paul’s friends prayed it also.  (Matthew 6:10; 26:39-42)

In Tyre, concerned believers understood that Paul would suffer if he went to Jerusalem. Luke tells us that “… through the Spirit they were telling Paul not to go on to Jerusalem” (vs. 4).  Agabus, a prophet, foretold Paul’s imprisonment in Jerusalem. Others in Phoenicia urged him not to go. It was hard for Paul to hear this and it hurt him because it was going to hurt them. Nevertheless, he was determined to go to Jerusalem though it cost him his life. He had settled that matter. He believed it was what God wanted him to do. They resigned themselves with the words, “Let the will of the Lord be done.”

But the Lord whose will they sought is One who presides over the chaos and turmoil of human life on planet Earth (not to mention the entire universe). As the Psalmist says, He sits enthroned over the flood. His reign never ends. His will is always done. He is the One who gives strength to His people so they may endure the trials He sends. He grants peace so that even in the face of sure suffering His servants know quietness as they pray the prayer that never fails.

Must you see bright skies every day in order to have peace? Do you frantically seek to avoid any discomforting situations, much less, life-threatening ones? Make it your aim to be content as long as His will is done.

 

Seeking God

Today’s reading: Psalm 7-9; Acts 17:1-15

9 The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed,
a stronghold in times of trouble.
10 And those who know your name put their trust in you,
for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.                   Psalm 9:9-10

11 Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. 12 Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men.                                                                                               Acts 17:11-12

God, who knows the hearts of all, is near to those who seek Him, even when His will for them may include trials and suffering.

As Paul, Silas, and Timothy continued on their missionary journey through the towns of Asia Minor, they preached about Jesus to the Jews and those Gentiles who adhered to Judaism. The response was mixed, not everyone believed and some became hostile, but they saw faith everywhere they went, too. The Jews in Berea who heard Paul were especially diligent in studying the Scriptures to see if what Paul was telling them was really true. These were people who, no doubt, had been seeking God in His word. God would not forsake them and He sent them none other than the Apostle Paul to proclaim to them the truth of Christ.

David knew suffering and difficulties throughout his life, but he also had learned to count on God no matter what came his way. He knew how to take refuge in God (Psalm 7:1). He knew that God would never abandon him or anyone else who was seeking Him. God was his rock and stronghold no matter whether circumstances were good or bad.

How does your daily life reflect a seeking after God? Are you dependent on success in your activities and business in order to remain confident in the Lord or are you spiritually stable no matter what storm you are in? Seek the Lord through His word and prayer. This was the way of the Bereans, and Paul, Silas, and Timothy. Seek Him for He will never forsake those who seek Him.

Foolish Views of God

Today’s reading: I Kings 19-20; John 2

28 And a man of God came near and said to the king of Israel, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Because the Syrians have said, “The Lord is a god of the hills but he is not a god of the valleys,” therefore I will give all this great multitude into your hand, and you shall know that I am the Lord.’” I Kings 20:28

23 Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. 24 But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25 and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.  John 2:23-25

A common two part error of many humans is to think they know God, but that God doesn’t know them. They attempt to use these false assumptions to their advantage, but it never works.

The Syrians under King Benhadad suffered a defeat by King Ahab and the army of Israel. Behadad’s advisers told him that the power of the God of Israel was limited to the hills and that He could do nothing if they fought Israel in the plains. God sent a prophet to tell Ahab that He would give them victory over Syria in the valleys to show His power. Although Israel’s army is described as “two little flocks of goats” and the Syrian invaders “filled the country,” God did give Israel the victory and King Benhadad was captured (I Kings 20:26, 29).

When Jesus came to Jerusalem, He demonstrated His authority by cleansing the temple. Perhaps the people had heard that He turned water to wine previously. They professed to believe in Him, but Jesus saw through them. They only believed superficially. They wanted signs. They would ask for bread and healing, but they did not truly commit themselves to Him. They saw Jesus as a source of power and provision, but not their Lord and Master.

It is futile to try to manipulate God for personal advantage. It is dangerous to defy Him, believing that He is in any way limited. He is God, omniscient and omnipotent. As Paul warned the church in Galatia: “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap” (Galatians 6:7).

While it is true that, to those who believe in Him, He is loving and that He has given His Son as an offering for our sins, He calls us to submit ourselves joyfully and gratefully to Him, not to mock Him by disregarding His commands or neglecting our worship and service to Him. Flee foolish views of God.  Serve Him.

To Fear or Not to Fear

Today’s reading: I Samuel 1-3; Luke 12:1-34

30 Therefore the Lord, the God of Israel, declares: ‘I promised that your house and the house of your father should go in and out before me forever,’ but now the Lord declares: ‘Far be it from me, for those who honor me I will honor, and those who despise me shall be lightly esteemed. I Samuel 2:30

5 But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! 6 Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. 7 Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows. Luke 12:5-7

In this world of frivolity and competition, what matters is how you are valued by God and how you are valued by God depends on how you honor Him.

Eli held a position of high honor in ancient Israel. He was a priest. He ministered in the tabernacle. He was well acquainted with the law of God and the rituals associated with sacrifices and with intercession before God. But Eli was an indulgent father. He allowed his sons to misuse their positions to satisfy their physical appetites for food and promiscuous sex. Eli was held responsible for dishonoring the Lord.   Judgment was about to come upon him, his sons, and his posterity. He showed more fear of his sons than he did of God.

Jesus warned His disciples about the right and wrong kinds of fear. You should not fear anyone whose greatest power is to kill your body, He told them. You should fear the One who has authority to send you to hell. God deserves to be feared above all others. Yet He is the One who watches over sparrows. He is the One who numbers the hairs of your head. You are of much greater value than a sparrow.

What are you afraid of? Are you afraid of being forgotten? Overlooked? Having a meaningless existence then dying in obscurity? If you are God’s child, He will not forget or overlook you. Are you afraid of being caught, tortured, and executed for your faith? Fear not. God has power over your eternal destiny. All your enemy can do is kill you and inadvertently send you into the bosom of Abraham.

Honor God by fearing Him above anyone or anything else.  And trust God, if you know Him. You will not be forgotten.

The Authority of God

Today’s reading: Joshua 14-15; Luke 4:33-44

12 So now give me this hill country of which the Lord spoke on that day, for you heard on that day how the Anakim were there, with great fortified cities. It may be that the Lord will be with me, and I shall drive them out just as the Lord said.” Joshua 14:12

36 And they were all amazed and said to one another, “What is this word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out!” Luke 4:36

God rules over all people and all events in human history. This truth comes through in today’s readings as it does on every page of the Bible.

Caleb, who along with Joshua was one of two adult survivors of the Exodus from Egypt, appeals to Joshua to grant him the hill country of Hebron as his inheritance in the land. Caleb, demonstrating, not doubt but, humility and an unassuming air, expressed his dependence on the Lord to be with him so that he could be successful in clearing the enemy Anakim out of the territory he desired. The Anakim were a tall and frightening group of warriors whom the spies had met 40 years earlier when they went in to spy out the land. Joshua granted Caleb his request and blessed him. The effort was successful because the Lord had authority over the Anakim and all the other great pretenders of this world.

Jesus had authority over every kind of disease. He healed Simon’s mother of a fever so quickly and completely that she immediately resumed her duties as hostess and homemaker as if nothing had occurred. The townspeople lined up to have Jesus heal them, too. Whatever sickness they had, he graciously healed.  But what seems to have gotten their attention was his power over unclean spirits. A demonic man made a scene in the synagogue, screaming out his fear of being destroyed by Jesus. He even said accurately that Jesus was the “Holy One of God.” The demon threw the man down, but Jesus commanded him to be silent and come out of him, which he did. The crowd was stunned at this demonstration of power.

Do you have confidence in the power and authority of God over this world? The triune God has revealed Himself, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, one God in three persons who rules over all the universe.  Through the grace of Jesus His Son, the Father gives His Spirit to live in His children.  All power and authority belongs to Him.   In Christ, you belong to Him who has power and authority over everyone and everything. Fear not. Trust Him who reigns over all.