In the presence

Recently I attended a worship conference that concluded with a time of corporate worship. It was heavenly. I discovered during the time of worship that there were some things within me that were broken. While I was worshiping I was overwhelmed by the presence of the Lord and I sensed Him speaking to me. He spoke simply, but His words repaired my heart. If you’ve ever had a moment like that, you know how precious is the presence of the Lord.  Moses had moments like that. Let’s look at one of those moments in Exodus 24.

Exodus 24:15-16 15 When Moses went up on the mountain, the cloud covered it, 16 and the glory of the Lord settled on Mount Sinai. For six days the cloud covered the mountain, and on the seventh day the Lord called to Moses from within the cloud.

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What a moment! Moses was hanging out in the glory of the Lord. Now if you read this fast, what you see is that the glory of the Lord was there and that the Lord spoke to Moses. But if you slow down, you’ll see that Moses hung out in the glory for six days and the Lord said nothing. It wasn’t until the seventh day that the Lord spoke.

This is something I have been learning to do this last year – just hanging out in the presence of the Lord. So often, my relationship with God can become about what I need from Him. So I go to Him in prayer. I ask Him to speak. I wait on Him for vision. I place my hope in all that He can do. He is my lead, my provision, my strength, my song. He is my joy and my peace. All of these things He does for me. So I go to Him with my needs. (There’s nothing wrong with that. In fact there is everything right with that)

At the same time, He is not just to be my personal vending machine. Because that’s not how relationships work. Often in a relationship, you simply spend time together hanging out. And so this past year, I’ve tried to do more of that. I’ve attempted to still my thoughts and my mouth and just spend time in the presence of God. I have spent time in His presence while worshiping. I have spent time with Him out in nature, where trees and rivers and rocks cry out His praise. I have spent time with Him in silence, just enjoying the fact that He is my God.

Moses was at the top of a mountain waiting to hear from God. And for six days, God said nothing. He just was. He was present and Moses got to experience His glory. Today, I challenge you to spend time in the presence of the Lord. Do it with no expectations, no requirements, and no limits. You’ll be amazed at what the glory of the Lord will bring to your life!

Whoa! Or is it woe?

Amos 6:1 Woe to you who are complacent in Zion, and to you who feel secure on Mount Samaria, you notable men of the foremost nation, to whom the people of Israel come! 

Whoa there tiger! Hang on for a second, put on the brakes.  You’ve got to stop and hear this for a minute.  Ready?  God said “woe.”  When God says woe you should probably pay attention.  Now woe doesn’t mean wow or awesome or sweet.  It means: WARNING.  That’s right – warning, watch out, I know where you sleep.  When God says woe, He isn’t happy and certainly not pleased.  So what was the woe all about in Amos 6:1?

The people were complacent, feeling secure that they were God’s chosen ones.  They went about life their own way forgetting the commands of the Lord.  They started getting lazy about the sacrifices and the worship.  Worshiping idols didn’t seem like that big of a deal.  Sin came easy and cheap.  What’s the big deal, really?  After all, aren’t we God’s chosen.  It’s not like anything bad is going to happen to us.  This, my friends is what I will call “flawed thinking.”

Flawed thinking creates a false sense of righteousness.  It produces grace mongers – people who keep on sinning without restraint because God will certainly forgive.  The woe to Israel was exactly about that.  God had poured out his favor (grace) on Israel but they were abusing it.  They felt very secure when they shouldn’t.  Because you shouldn’t feel secure when you intentionally walk outside of God’s protection.  In the Old Testament, His protection accompanied obeying His commands.  Today, it is accompanied by relationship (which usually will lead you to obeying His commands).  So get in relationship with Him today.  If you are complacent, get up on your feet and put some action to your faith.  If you are a grace monger, repent and actually start striving to walk away from your sin.  Walk in all His ways today and find life and security in His presence.

Secrets

Daniel 12:4 “But you, Daniel, keep these words secret and seal the book until the time of the end. Many will roam about, and knowledge will increase.” 

God told Daniel a secret.  It was a pretty mind-blowing one, too.  He told him about the end of days and all that would happen.  He gave him a window into the future.  It must have been a humbling experience to have God tell him stuff like that.  And it isn’t just that God told him stuff like that – God told ONLY him stuff like that.  It was a secret from God’s heart to his.

Do you yearn for that kind of relationship with God?  Do you pursue Him in prayer like Daniel did?  Are you putting yourself in a position to have God tell you a secret?

Here’s the thing about secrets: they usually come in the form of a whisper.  Therefore you can’t hear them if there is a bunch of noise around.  You can’t hear a secret whispered in your ear if you are talking.  You can’t hear God’s secret if life’s noise is drowning out His voice.  You can’t hear His secret if you don’t stop talking.  I believe that God speaks to His people.  I believe He has a secret for you.  But you will never hear it unless you put yourself in a quiet place and listen.

You can’t handle the truth!

1 Kings 22:6-8  6 So the king of Israel brought together the prophets—about four hundred men—and asked them, “Shall I go to war against Ramoth Gilead, or shall I refrain?” “Go,” they answered, “for the Lord will give it into the king’s hand.” 7 But Jehoshaphat asked, “Is there not a prophet of the LORD here whom we can inquire of?” 8 The king of Israel answered Jehoshaphat, “There is still one man through whom we can inquire of the LORD, but I hate him because he never prophesies anything good about me, but always bad. He is Micaiah son of Imlah.” “The king should not say that,” Jehoshaphat replied. 

It’s one of the most remembered movie scenes of recent time.  It comes from “A Few Good Men” starring Jack Nicholson and Tom Cruise.  In this scene, Lt. Kaffee (Cruise) is interrogating Colonel Jessep (Nicholson).  He wants to know if Jessep was the one who gave the orders that resulted in the death of a soldier.  As Kaffee pushes, Jessep gets increasingly agitated and the courtroom is tense.  Kaffee continues to push, finally demanding: “I want the truth!”  Jessep’s response is now immortalized in movie history. “YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH!”

I find it interesting that people avoid the truth because they don’t think they can handle hearing it.  In 1 Kings 22, King Ahab called 400 prophets to prophesy about a certain battle.  King Jehoshaphat (of Judah) asked Ahab if there was any main prophet remaining.  Was there anyone the likes of Elijah still around?  There was; his name was Micaiah.  But King Ahab didn’t like to hear from Micaiah, because he always said bad things about him.  He never had anything good to say, so he avoided him.

Micaiah had good reasons why he always had bad things to say to King Ahab.  You see, Ahab was the most wicked Israelite king to have ever lived.  He made the sins of the kings before him look trivial.  So of course, God always had bad news to deliver to him.  If you are going to be a wicked person, you probably aren’t going to get the ‘ol two-thumbs-up from the man upstairs. 

Do you ever avoid God because you can’t handle the truth that you know He will bring?  If so, you are only hurting yourself.  God desires relationship with you, but that relationship is going to be on His terms.  He loves you enough to point out your sin so that you can do something about it.  Hebrews 12:6 says that the Lord disciplines those he loves.  He wants to weed the wickedness out of your heart so that you can be fully led by Him.  So don’t avoid the truth today; face it head on.  In the long run, you will be glad you did.

It is in the being

Luke 3:21-22  ​When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” 

What a cool picture we have in Luke chapter 3, where the entire trinity shows up on the scene.  Jesus is getting baptized and is about to begin his ministry.  So the Holy Spirit descends from heaven to fill him and equip him.  (Side note: there was not a dove hovering over Jesus that day nor does the Holy Spirit look like a dove.  It says here that the Holy Spirit descended like a dove and was in bodily form.  The point is that the HS was visible and came flying down from the sky landing on Jesus the way a bird comes in for a landing.  Pretty awesome!)  Thirdly, we see God the Father’s voice booming from heaven.  I wonder what it sounded like?  I wonder if it was richer than James Earl Jones’ voice.  Probably.  Imagine being a bystander that day, watching the physical presence of God and hearing His audible voice.

His audible voice packed some pretty powerful words, too.  He called Jesus His son, whom he loved.  He said that He was pleased with him.  Time out… Jesus hadn’t done any amazing ministry yet.  He hadn’t healed anyone or forgiven sins.  He hadn’t made the lame walk or the blind see.  He hadn’t spoken of who he was or told of the good news that God had sent him to save humanity.  And yet the Father was already pleased with him.  He was pleased because pf identity and relationship.

We are so performance based in our Christianity.  We think that it is in the doing that God will embrace us.  The truth is, it is in the being.  The Father was pleased with the Son because he had prepared for ministry.  Do you know how he prepared?  He spent time with the Father.  That is what pleased God.  He was pleased because He loved.  He was pleased because Jesus was His Son.  And He is pleased with me because I, too, am His son.  It isn’t about what I do, it is about who I know.  This is the mystery of grace.  This is the mystery of God’s great love.   Yes, my God is pleased with me simply for who I am in Him.

It’s going to cost you

2 Samuel 24:21-24  21 Araunah said, “Why has my lord the king come to his servant?” “To buy your threshing floor,” David answered, “so I can build an altar to the LORD, that the plague on the people may be stopped.” 22 Araunah said to David, “Let my lord the king take whatever pleases him and offer it up. Here are oxen for the burnt offering, and here are threshing sledges and ox yokes for the wood. 23 O king, Araunah gives all this to the king.” Araunah also said to him, “May the LORD your God accept you.” 24 But the king replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.” So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen and paid fifty shekels of silver for them.

Nothing in life worth anything is free, is it?  That free service you signed up for has a catch.  That free food tastes like, um, not food.  That free trial program just billed $19.95 to your credit card.  Check the fine print, people.  Free has an ulterior motive.  But we like free – it is enticing and it is easy.  Free doesn’t cause us any pain; it doesn’t cost.  Relationships aren’t free either.  Sacrifice, compromise, and time are all a part of relationships.  You have to give something of yourself to have a great relationship.  That isn’t a bad thing, it just costs you something.

“I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.”  This reminds me of the story Jesus told about the widow who gave her last coin to the Lord.  He compared her to those with great wealth who gave more in quantity.  But they gave out of their excess; it didn’t cost them all that much.  For the widow, it cost her everything.   And David understood this heart approach to God.  He was at a place of repentance and he wanted to get right with God.  He knew that if someone just provided all the stuff for his sacrifice, it would be too easy.  He needed to feel the pain of loss.  He wanted to let God know how truly sorry he was.  So he insisted on paying something.

As much as I don’t like saying it, walking with God is going to cost me something.  It is going to require my time as I sacrifice to make time with Him.  It is going to cost money as I commit not only to responding to Him in obedience by tithing, but by being His very hands and feet and giving to the poor and needy.  It will certainly come out of my lack, for I have no overflow… neither of time or money.  It will cost me my flesh, too.  It will cause me to give up my selfishness and pursue His thoughts about my day.  It will require that I put Him first and me last.  But it’s all worth it.  Like David, I don’t want God to just get what is left over in my life; I want to give Him my best.  Even if it costs me my comfort.

You get Him all

2 Samuel 6:6-12  6 When they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah reached out and took hold of the ark of God, because the oxen stumbled. 7 The LORD’S anger burned against Uzzah because of his irreverent act; therefore God struck him down and he died there beside the ark of God. 8 Then David was angry because the LORD’S wrath had broken out against Uzzah, and to this day that place is called Perez Uzzah. 9 David was afraid of the LORD that day and said, “How can the ark of the LORD ever come to me?” 10 He was not willing to take the ark of the LORD to be with him in the City of David. Instead, he took it aside to the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite. 11 The ark of the LORD remained in the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite for three months, and the LORD blessed him and his entire household. 12 Now King David was told, “The LORD has blessed the household of Obed-Edom and everything he has, because of the ark of God.” So David went down and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-Edom to the City of David with rejoicing.

Let’s be honest, we’ve all been mad at God.  It’s so taboo, isn’t it?  We think that if we get mad at God we aren’t quite spiritual enough.  We think that he will reject us or send us to hell if we express some anger His way.  So we try really hard to repress it.  The funny thing is, He knows how we feel.  He knows when you are sleeping, he knows when you’re awake, he knows when you’ve been bad or good…. Oh wait, that’s Santa.  The point is, I think we have all struggled with not knowing what to do with our feelings toward God.  We feel that if we get frustrated with Him, we must not have very much faith or understanding of who He is.  That might be true.  But I love the honesty of this scripture today, as David just gets angry.  It’s an honest response to a relationship.

You see, earlier that morning, they had transferred the ark to another cart.  I’m not entirely sure if they touched it, but it’s likely that they did.  Then you have this guy Uzzah who reaches out to make sure the ark didn’t fall.  You wouldn’t want the presence of God to fall and get broken would you?  Surely God must need some help with this one.  So he reaches out with seemingly good intentions and God kills him.  This really got David frustrated.  “I don’t get you God!  He was just trying to help!”  We don’t understand why God does all that He does, do we?  Maybe Uzzah had an issue going on in his heart we don’t know about.  Maybe his problem was thinking God needed his help.  Maybe he simply violated one of God’s rules by touching it.  Who knows?  The reality is, God’s wrath showed up and that was the end of Uzzah.

Like David, we get pretty bent out of shape when we don’t understand why God does what He does.  We get frustrated when He doesn’t seem to show up on time, when He doesn’t heal.  But the truth is, we don’t understand His ways.  I don’t know exactly why God killed Uzzah and it frustrates me too, but it’s not up to me.  It was His decision.  I am not in sin for wondering or thinking it was mean.  I am free to take that to Him in the context of our relationship.

Look how God responded to David’s anger.  He didn’t retaliate, He just blessed someone else.  David learned that when you get God, you get Him all.  With the danger and mystery and wrath of the presence of God, also came great blessing and prosperity.  With the fear of the Lord also came great peace.   So what did David do?  He got over it and decided he wanted all of God.  He wanted that blessing and that covering.  He wanted the presence of God to be in his city, in his midst.   That’s what we get with God.  Our relationship with Him is not all about our blessing.  It is also about our sacrifice and the understanding that He is the Sovereign Lord.