nearness to God

Psalm 73 is a most interesting mix between closeness to God and complete inward desolation in which one feels not only poor and troubled, but left behind by God. It is typical of many of the psalms which go in and out between complaint and praise.

The sanctuary of God is the key and transition between darkness and light in this psalm. We are often so acclimated to darkness that we actually somehow find some sort of comfort and relief apart from God. It usually and perhaps always for us will be in things which are not necessarily bad in and of themselves. But the sanctuary of God is different. Into that place we take nothing except ourselves in all our brokenness and nakedness before God. We have essentially tuned out other things, and are tuned in to one thing only: the things of God, and more than that, God himself.

Again, other things might have their place, but if we have been in a season akin to “the dark night of the soul,” in which all is difficult, including the sense we can make out of life, all might seem empty, then perhaps that is preparation for entering into God’s sanctuary where we might find the peace and rest, even the very presence of God.

We need that sanctuary, I’m sure again and again, but it’s a reminder that God’s presence actually fills all things, even the very thing which troubles us and threatens to bring us down. But we can only come to realize that through entering the sanctuary, God’s holy place, and remaining there for a time, in and through Jesus.

grace comes through real life

Too often we are so caught up in how we feel, or what we’re up against, that we can become discouraged and be tempted to despair, even while we continue to plod along. And add to that, the ideal put in front of us that we shouldn’t be that way, that we should be on top of the world, feeling well and fine and dandy. That can make us feel all the more down.

But God’s grace in Jesus comes through in the real and rugged parts of our lives. We need not despair, even when we feel in despair, and sometimes for some good reason. God in Jesus is present. Remember: Emmanuel: God-with-us. We are not alone, and we’re not on our own.

We certainly face challenges along the way. On a number of fronts in our world, life can indeed be hard. It is the real world, after all. Certainly there are blessings as well, along the way, and we need to “count [our] many blessings,” no doubt. We should be thankful to God for his rich provision for us. At the same time, we don’t need to pretend that all is well. In the real world all is not well. Obviously there are sicknesses out there, as well as broken places everywhere, some especially broken in need of serious help, and divine intervention where there seems to be no answer. Yes, we live in the real world.

But like a cup of coffee can help us get going in the morning, remembering that God in Jesus is for us, and that by faith we belong to him, can give us that needed spiritual boost to continue on with confidence and good cheer that God will help and see us through, and even that we are victorious, indeed “more than conquerors through him who loves us” (Romans 8). Right in the midst life in the real world. A word that I need this Monday morning.

interacting with God

I know this post title sounds incredibly pretentious to many. Even many of us in the church can roll up our eyes and shake our heads over some of the claims our fellow Christians make. Yes, we can imagine God’s voice from our own imagination, even if God can speak to us through the imagination.

What I am getting at here is our need as those in Jesus to regularly interact with God. To keep the lines of interaction, even communication open. It is said that God is always speaking and wants to be heard. The problem is not with God, but with us, with our own blindness and stubborness of heart, or just our own condition and habit of not being in tune in heart and mind.

The good news from that, though, is that our very need and lack can become the means by which God’s grace is poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit through Jesus. As we pray to God, even cry out to him about the needs we are concerned about, and there are plenty in this life, God will meet us, if in faith we pray to him and listen. Of course that includes the ongoing need for us to confess our sins to God (1 John 1:5-2:2).

This requires a commitment on our part. We’re naturally wired as human beings to see reality in terms of our experience now. So that unless we have the sense of God now, we feel completely lost. Like the difference between standing in the sun, or being in the shade, or a cloudy day and a sunny day. That analogy actually is apt in more ways than one: God’s presence still a difference maker, just like the sun, in either case. Felt presence, the difference here.

Jesus seemed to live his life on earth consciously in the presence of the Father. He often would get away in early morning hours to commune in prayer with the Father. Then in the course of a day, he would be doing this and that, often preaching the word and healing, along with teaching the disciples, so that he was busy. Of course in his case, though he was tempted to sin, and on the cross even felt abandoned by God (many say, because he was, although I don’t think so), he didn’t have the problem of sin which we still struggle with, and at times fall into, and in a sense live, though God’s grace in Jesus makes it in a way as if we do not.

Yet even that sense of our falling short or great need, including our actual sins themselves can help drive us to God. In the words of the tax-collector: “God be merciful to me, a sinner.” Our great need can work like the thirst the psalmist described as those in a hot, barren land, a thirst for God, to meet God, yes to experience God (Psalm 63).

I know that I am in great need all of the time. I need God, and I need to interact with God, which I do by remaining in God’s word, in scripture. And from that, I pray. Of course we can pray, and it’s good to pray first, but I find that God’s word helps me to respond to God in prayer. And besides that, it’s good just to be silent before God, and especially so, as we continue to meditate on God’s word.

And so yes, I try to remain in a place of interactivity with God. Ironically enough in the rough and tumble of life, I realize my need more for this. Whereas when resting, and having some time to enjoy this or that, especially so during a vacation, it can be more of a challenge to continue this. But when one sees that this is where we in Jesus are to live, that this is real life, such interactivity surely enhances all of life.

And so my goal today, this Saturday, with this and that I need to do, as well as a time of relaxation which hopefully follows is to remain in that interactivity with God, through the word and prayer in and through Jesus.

when left to ourselves

Elijah was a man as human as the rest of us (James 5). After the great confrontation against and God-given victory over the prophets of Baal with the verdict in Israel that the Lord (Yahweh) is God, Elijah ran off and hid from Queen Jezebel, who was bent on his destruction, and seemed to despair of life itself. He had been on the mountain, but now he was not only in the valley, but in the desert, so to speak. He was lost, out of sorts, and in despair. He had done God’s will, in a most contentious context, and God has brought about a great victory. But now it seemed to Elijah, all for nought. He was ready for his life to end.

On a much smaller scale, nothing in comparison, but nevertheless the case, I’ve been on a similar trek. I will do something which I either think might be God’s leading, or seems good at the time, only to not only want to take it back later, but to grovel in a kind of despair and regret over having done it in the first place. To be forewarned is to be forearmed. And it seems like what happened to Elijah, we can expect will happen to ourselves as we endeavor to live in faith and obedience in a world that is set against, and even hostile to such faith. Of course there can be a settled indifference in the world as well. But when push comes to shove, one can be sure the world will respond, and it won’t be pleasant.

When left to ourselves apart from God’s grace, we are going to be at a loss for sure, and our actions, or more precisely, our reactions, are more often than not going to be unhelpful.

In spite of himself, God supplied what Elijah needed at the time. He needed food and rest. And orders for his next task, or the sense of mission and how God was leading him beyond that time (1 Kings 18-19).

The God who is with us to help us do his will in the midst of opposition, will be with us afterward, and beyond. We are not left to ouselves. And not only did God not forsake Elijah, but a remnant of no less than seven thousand remained faithful to the Lord. We also have each other in Jesus.

Therefore we need to faithfully plod along, taking one step at a time. Intent on seeking God and endeavoring to live in his will, come what may. Assured that he goes before and behind us, and with us, each step of the way.

God’s faithfulness in the inevitable upheaval of life

Right now in the United States, there is surely one of the most contentious elections ever, people up in arms on both sides- frustrated, and thinking something of the world will end if so and so gets elected, or at least that it will be bad, to say the least. I too share in something of that concern. And there’s the ongoing difficulties and occasional trials which we all face. Oftentimes first-world problems for us, but even those of the first-world sometimes face situations which seem life threatening to some extent, and at least possibly life-changing in ways which are not desirable, or necessarily good. And we look at the world today: There seems to be a move more toward an isolationist mindset, which can make the scene ripe for dictators to step in and take over. Everyone wants easy, quick answers to difficult problems which either don’t go away, or crop up again, after supposedly being nipped in the bud.

What do we in Jesus need to count on, and keep counting on as long as life lasts, and  beyond- not only in the world to come, but in this world for our loved ones and for everyone else (which we’re to love, too, as neighbors) who is left behind? God’s faithfulness, that’s what. We need to count on the reality that God is going to be faithful, come what may, and God is present to see everyone and everything through to a good end, even through the worst and most challenging of times.

Everything good comes from God: the measure of health that we have, the basics for life, the enjoyment of life, the wonder of creation, etc. Of course we don’t rest easy because many don’t share in the same blessings we have. Rife injustice is seen in such evil as human trafficking, along with a host of other evils. What we have to count on in all of this, not just for us, but for others is the faithfulness of God. Which means that we are to pray, and act in ways that might be God’s answer to our prayer, counting on God’s faithfulness to us and to the world in and through Jesus.

The key to God’s faithfulness is in Jesus. The Father sent the Son into the world, and the Spirit is sent by the Father through the Son. We are not alone: God is present in Jesus. Other things people place their confidence in come and go over time. A danger can be when an institution goes on and is so successful, so that people put their confidence in that, rather than in the God from whose faithfulness every good gift/thing comes. We rest assured on one reality for sure, whatever else may happen: God is faithful. God will deliver us from all evil, and in the end deliver the world from that as well, and bring us and everything else through judgment and salvation in Jesus safely into his heavenly kingdom. We can count on that.

face to face

Moses knew God face to face in a unique way, and the blessing in the Pentateuch is that the Lord would bless and keep his people and make his face shine on them, and give them peace. And the psalmist wrote that this should be so, so that all the peoples of the earth might come to know God. They would somehow come to see the face of God through God’s face shining on them.

John in one of his letters says that he hoped to appear to the recipients that they might see each other face to face.

I think this is surely a blessing for all of God’s children in and through Jesus. By the Spirit we experience the enduring glory of the new covenant, with a brightness that doesn’t fade as was the case in the old covenant with Moses. God’s glory from face to face times with God would gradually fade away in Moses’s case, but somehow in our case, though it’s not the visible kind, yet it is visible to eyes that can see this glory by the Spirit.

That to say this: I want to be more and more in God’s Presence in Jesus, and I want to be more and more in the presence of others in Jesus, as well as those who are not. We somehow can receive more and more of God’s glory though God’s grace to us in Christ. And we pass on something of that to each other. As well as the world hopefully coming to see something of the face of the Lord, of Jesus even through our faces, especially our faces together, but also our faces apart, individually.

Yes, I need so much more of this face to face blessing from God. And I want to receive it from others in Jesus, the blessing from God which comes through their faces. And we hope that somehow that glory might be seen by others not in Jesus, that they might be grace see and believe and share in that glory with us in and through Jesus.

being present

A key posture and practice in our lives is simply to be present, period, end of point. Simply being present is underrated. Instead it’s about us giving our spiel, or doing something else which we either see as more important or more productive. Of course there are many things we do in the course of a day, the least of which can surely be something we ourselves enjoy.

God is present with us in Jesus by the Spirit always. And our caling in large part is to be present before others, and with the tasks God has given us. Completely present. That can be challenging since there are distractions left, right and often center nowadays on people’s cell phones. Not to say people can’t use their phones and still really be present with each other. But that can be a challenge. For me, I like to be in the word bit by bit in the course of a day. I simply pick up where I left off. In the course of that, I find that I can be present with others. And at the same time I’m trying to be present with God through the word.

Presence in God’s love is what life is all about as to where we live. And our goal should be to live in that same love in our lives with each other, with all the give and take, forgiving and being forgiven, not giving up on someone or some relationship. But not by having all the answers, or any answer at all. But simply being present with the Lord and that person. As God is present with us in and through Jesus.