Category Archives: HOPE

Complete and constant peace IF . . .

Image result for Free Picture Of Doctor's OfficeIn the midst of daily life, Holy Spirit speaks. Bzmmmmm. The floor-to-ceiling glaring-white machine rotated itself, and me, 45 degrees so the technician could record a different view of the heart. I closed my eyes again and took a long, slow breath, careful to stay still.

“Ten more minutes or so strapped into this device,” I thought. “Harumph! Help me have a good attitude, Lord!”

“Thank You for training me to meditate on Your Word. It helps in every situation! So, let’s start at the beginning of my verses again, with Isaiah 26:3-4.

“You will guard him and keep him in perfect and constant peace whose mind [both its inclination and its character] is stayed on You, because He commits himself to You, leans on You, and hopes confidently in You. So trust in the Lord—commit yourself to Him, lean on Him, hope confidently in Him—forever; for the Lord God is an everlasting rock—the Rock of ages.” (AMPC).

Hmm . . .  “ the mind [both its inclination and its character]”. . .  I opened my eyes and managed not to jerk upright only with effort.

“Lord, what does character of mind mean? I have repeated this passage how many times and I only now see this? I believe that “inclination of the mind” means what your thoughts are focused upon and that was my subconscious thought while meditating on this verse these many months, but what does “character of mind” mean?

Clear guidance. I was reviewing the first of the verses and passages I had memorized on my way to victory over depression last year. For the last three days, after completing the blog post for the week, I had wondered which of the many topics floating in my mind to start on for next week. I was wondering, that is, in brief snatches of time during the work of daily life, which now included extra time invested in health and thus, less time to write, some of the “troubles, trials, distresses and frustration” which Jesus said His followers would experience. I was indeed frustrated!

Image result for free picture of notes handwrittenSo many things I wanted to write! I desperately wanted to finish the book about depression but other topics, including blog posts on each verse I had memorized, had fluttered overhead like birds zipping across the high ceiling of a big building. Some writers, like me, have difficulty picking and completing one topic. But I recognized when Holy Spirit was getting my attention, like now, in the middle of the stress test. He was saying write about Isaiah 26:3-4. Now.

Complete and constant peace is possible. So, dear friend and fellow pilgrim, here we are, you and me, exploring God’s truth in Isaiah 26:3-4, the first weapon in my “spiritual arsenal”, that list of verses that opened the dungeon doors of depression and fear for me.

It helps me think deeply about the Word to put new thoughts on a new line and sometimes to put each word on a new line.  Many months ago, as I pondered Isaiah 26:3-4, I wrote it in long-hand like this.

“You will guard him and keep him in

perfect and constant peace

whose mind [both its inclination and its character]

is stayed on You,

 because                                                                 

He commits himself to You,

leans on You,

and hopes confidently in You.

So trust in the Lord—

commit yourself to Him,

lean on Him,

hope confidently in Him—forever;

for the Lord God is an everlasting rock—the Rock of ages.” (AMPC).

Let’s look at each phrase and see what God might be saying. Remember, this is the Amplified version of the Bible, which has phrases other translations do not include. These phrases give the fuller, or amplified, meaning of words that modern-day readers do not understand but which speakers of that time would have automatically known was what the words meant. I find it extremely helpful to study and meditate using the Amplified. For a more detailed explanation as to why, please see the blog post “God’s Arsenal for Peace and Security”, October 1, 2020.

Isaiah 26:3-4. Two years ago, when I desperately needed peace, I studied verses about peace. I had not purposely memorized Bible verses for a long time and those hidden in my heart years earlier, including this one, had faded.  I liked the essence of this verse that remained in memory, the concept that God keeps us in peace if we fix our minds on Him. So, I began studying this verse in more detail, through meditating on the clarifying phrases in the Amplified.

Image result for free Picture of Guard In Bible TimesGuarding and keeping. “You will guard and keep. . . “ The first thing I noticed was that the verse said God would guard and keep our minds in peace, whereas the NIV, only said God would keep.  It was reassuring to ponder that God would not only keep us in peace if we kept our minds fixed on Him, but He would guard us as well. To guard something or someone, is to protect or shield them from harm by keeping potential danger away. So that must mean God will not allow anything to damage my peace when my mind is focused on Him.

“Complete and constant peace”. The next phrase shows two aspects of the peace God promises:  it will be complete, or perfect, and it will be constant. Complete peace would mean freedom from worry about any aspect of one’s life. One aspect of peace is freedom from struggle and fighting, and phrases similar to “He was given peace from his enemies round about” appear often in the Bible. So, if the nation of Israel was given peace on all sides, then maybe God is saying we will be free from attacks of worry, or fear or irritation any such thing, on all sides of our life, in each aspect of life, including health, family, friends, finances, our world, etc. That would be complete peace.

Image result for free picture of clockAnd, I reflected, constant means constant, sixty minutes each hour, twenty-four hours each day, seven days each week, and so forth until we see our loving Father face to face and, finally, no longer have to battle the world, the flesh, and the devil. That must mean there is a way to stay in peace all the time, so that means no dread at any time–no  dreading hard mornings or exercise or the job or house cleaning, or anything! And that verse “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.” (Proverbs 14:30). Life, life from God, the good life He planned for human beings, is a peaceful life, with us enjoying every day and staying in God’s presence every day.

Inclination of mind. You will guard and keep in complete and constant peace whose mind [both its inclination and its character] is fixed on You.”  As I pondered “inclination of mind”, I thought about focusing and I thought about the psalm when the psalm writer asks God to incline His to him. To incline your ear to someone, you focus all your hearing powers on that person’s voice. And I know the earth is inclined, or tilted toward or focused, at a precise angle toward the sun and that angle causes the seasons of the earth. To me, that means our thoughts, our mind, is focused or pointed toward God. And that means I am to be consciously thinking about God—His innumerable good qualities, His love and power and goodness and strength, His loving ways, His faithfulness, and the things He has done for mankind and for me in particular. That leads to light and life and all good things.

Image result for free picture of earth tilted toward sunAnd I think that principle operates in my life only in those minutes and hours when my mind is focused or inclined, toward God, thinking about Him as the earth is inclined, tilted toward, the sun. If I incline my mind away from God, then my thoughts will start darkening.

The character of the mind.  “Hmm. . . Lord, I know we develop character by repeating actions over and over and over, like that truism most people credit to Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.”

So, just as our character, our “mental and moral qualities”, is shaped by what we repeatedly do and think, so is the quality or nature, the quality or character of our mind, shaped by what we repeatedly think and do?

Lord, I know that thinking on the Word all day long remakes our heart, but is the doing of that meditating, the habit of meditating, does that habit in itself also change the nature of the mind and how it works? Is that like if someone develops the habit of being patient by choosing, time after time, to wait quietly and calmly and then eventually they develop a patient character so that their  automatic  reaction to frustrating situations is to consciously stay calm?

I know that getting Your truths deep into my heart healed depression, but were You also changing how my mind actually works? Now, when problems arise Your Word immediately pops into consciousness. However,  before You trained me in the habit of constant meditation on Your word, my mind consistently thought negative thoughts and my heart constantly felt negative emotions, not only when problems came.

Image result for free picture of calendar That is such an encouraging thought, to know that You have already changed at the fundamental, most basic level, how I think and act, that You have already begun forming a stronger, more Christ-like character of mind. That is encouraging because I know it took months of persistence on my part, but the change did happen. So I know that, as I continue to persist, these occasional flare-ups will become less and less as You continue to give me a stronger character of mind, Lord! Thank You!

“Fixed on Him.” And “fixed on You” would mean to always have You on my mind, as that old song says, so that not only do I consciously, deliberately think about You but also in the moments when my mind is not occupied with some task or some other thinking, there You are! It’s like being in love or being a new parent or being preoccupied with an enjoyable project. So, it is a choice but it is also automatic because of deep, all-consuming love, attraction, and pleasure.

Image result for Free Picture Of Cause and Effect. . . because he commits himself to You, leans on You, and hopes confidently in YouThank you, Lord, for showing me to ponder cause and effect links in Your Word, like here, and to study entire verses and passages.  I see that You keep us in peace when we keep our minds fixed on You because we commit to You, lean on You, and hope confidently in You. I had always quoted just the first part “You will keep in perfect peace whose mind is fixed on You” (NIV) and forgotten the second part of the sentence. So I see that peace requires a trusting heart as well as a mind fixed on You. How had I overlooked that all those years?

So, trust in the Lord – commit yourself to Him, lean upon Him, and hope confidently in Him — forever.  That word “so” is another connecting word, meaning “therefore” or “for this reason”. That “So” after verse 3 means that “because of verse 3, do verse 4.” Clearly, You are saying that trust is essential in this process of having peace.

And, as I look at verses 3 and 4 together, I see another example of how Your Word defines itself. In verse 3, You say You will keep us in peace as we keep our minds on You and commit, lean, and hope confidently in You. Then verse 4 says “So trust. . .”  The Amplified version sets the next three phrases off by dashes, which signifies “additional phases of meaning included in the original word, phrase, or clause of the original language” (from the preface to The Amplified Bible, Zondervan, 1965.) So trust means to “commit ourselves to You, lean upon You, and hope confidently in You.” That shows me that the kind of trust You require is not some half-hearted thought or mindless repetition of a verse.

Rather, Your kind of trusting requires purposeful, focused thought and mental effort. You require trust like Webster’s 1828 dictionary defines it (as a verb) meaning “to place confidence in; to rely on”.  The definitions of trust as a noun give even more clarity:  “confidence; reliance or resting of the mind on the integrity, veracity, justice, friendship or other sound principle of another person.” And perhaps Noah Webster also defined trust as “confident opinion of any event” and “credit given without examination” because he was mindful of how You meant it in Your Word. Your Word is used often in Mr. Webster’s 1828 dictionary!

Image result for free picture of picnicSo, trusting You means committing to You, leaning, and hoping confidently on You. If I really trust the weather report (and wouldn’t I be a rare bird!) I will schedule a family reunion at an outdoor park, with no alternate location identified. Furthermore, I will bake beans, make potato salad, and ice cupcakes with confidence. I would thus commit to, lean upon and hope confidently in the weather report. So, if I really trust You I will go about my life with confidence and NOT WORRY! Oh, help me, Lord!

And You say we are to trust You that way for ever.  Webster’s 1828 dictionary defines “ever” as “at all times; always; continually; eternally.” That leaves no exceptions, does it Lord?

“. . . because the Lord God is an everlasting Rock – the Rock of Ages.” And here is another connecting word. We are to trust You like that because You are our Rock. I had seen Scripture use rock as a metaphor for the Lord many times, which I knew from a footnote (I forget where) that says rock means a source of strength. And sure enough, that is how Webster’s 1828 defines rock: “defense; means of safety; protection; strength; asylum; and a firm or immovable foundation.”  In looking into this, I saw that the website for R. C. Sproul clarifies that the meaning for this metaphor is multifaceted and that it “. . . tells us of the Lord’s stable, unchanging nature (Deuteronomy 32:4)” as well as “His strength and ability to safeguard His people, much as stone fortifications provide an excellent refuge from the elements and other dangers.”  https://www.ligonier.org/learn/devotionals/rock-ages/.

And Father, six days after starting this piece of writing, I see another truth: we are to trust You like You said so because doing so strengthens us. Phew! I need strengthening today, Lord, especially so thank You for  fresh insight today. That is related to the thought that just as meditating continually on Your Word has made big changes in the character of my mind so will keeping my mind on You make me stronger. That is so encouraging, Lord.  You really do know just how to encourage us and You know when we need it most. You are such a loving and good Father, Lord. Thank You for loving us like You do, with such understanding and such tender mercies!”

So, dear friend, in conclusion, when considering the whole chain of thought in Isaiah 26:3-4, I see that because our God is our Defender and our impenetrable place of refuge, He will surely guard us and keep us in complete and constant peace IF we keep our minds fixed on Him AND trust in Him, in the full, original meaning of those words. That is a guarantee from God, who cannot lie (Numbers 23:19, 1 Samuel 15:29) and whose promises are always yes.

“For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God” (2 Corinthians 1:20, NIV).

Image result for Free Picture of Rock of Ages CleftOur Rock of Ages. Writing this has made me more aware of the fact that it is God who does the work here. Certainly, I have to “try” my best, but the bottom line, the reason we are to keep our minds fixed on Him and fully trust Him is because He will defend and protect us. That takes the emphasis off me and my fickle frailties as I visualize seeking refuge from a storm in the hollow of a huge mountain, as Augustus Toplady, writer of that great hymn “Rock of Ages” actually did.

The fiercest wind, snow or rain cannot penetrate into the cleft of a great mountain. That mountain, and that small, sheltered place within the side of the mountain, will be untouched by any storm. The mountain, and that small hollowed out place, stand firm. All I have to do is choose to walk into that place and stay there.

Rain through Bedroom WindowAs a native Floridian, I know the snug feeling of being safe inside while hurricane force wind howls and rain flings itself against buildings. In the storms of my life and each ordinary day of my life, I can let my mind be battered and pounded, or I can choose to step into peace, into the everlasting, almighty, merciful, and ever-loving arms of my Heavenly Father, as I fix my mind on Him and trust (lean, rely, and hope confidently in) Him. And in doing that, I can know He will give me strength for whatever I need. It will be His strength, not my own weak strength, and it will make His strength complete. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

And, I am thinking it must give God a special joy when we turn to Him with trusting hearts and let Him take care of us and bear our burdens, just like a loving parent is gratified when they can carry a tired child and snuggle them close in their loving arms.  Oh, my Father! Let it ever be so! Amen.

Father Carrying Children

Fretting is forgetting

Fretting is forgetting, eyes off what He has done—
the victories He has given, the battles He has won.
My peace is in the knowing, eyes fixed on Him not me—
heart pondering His power.
In trusting, I am free.

See the source image

A personal note. My dear friend, I am sharing how I have stumbled and how God put me back on the right path. My prayer is that it encourages you to receive more of God’s goodness and grace and to better understand His deep, abiding passion for all of us.

Since God healed deep depression and fear, I have stayed in victory for many months. However, deep emotional struggles tangled up the last few days, and feelings have gradually worsened for weeks. One morning, I reviewed the past month, searching for what had gone wrong. A  month ago when reviewing  the nearly complete manuscript about overcoming depression, I had been living daily life consciously with God, being productive, and free from thoughts, feelings and reactions caused by depression and fear. And I was writing almost daily, my work for God and my joy.

I moved away, not God. So, on that first truly cold day here in Austin, I sat in the rocker with the window cracked two inches, relishing the truly cold air and the predawn darkness outside the window, re-reading my journaling notes back to when I had felt so close to God and joyful and excited about each day.  I have heard, more than once, that when you feel distant from God, it is you who moved, not God. So, I knew that because I no longer felt close to God meant that I had moved away, not Him.

So, I prayed and began taking notes as I reviewed the month.

Fretting is forgetting, eyes off what He has done. I had by grace been walking in the light (Psalm 56:13), BUT when several physical problems intensified simultaneously (asthma, feet issues, joints, heart concerns, etc.) I spent precious time and energy doing the best I could with each problem, which included prayer, going to doctors, refining my diet, adding more stretches and exercise as well as rest, etc. That was where my eyes turned off God and toward the problems, thus, toward darkness.

Image result for free picture of a dark pathThe path of fretting leads to darkness. Although I know better, I began fretting, focusing on problems, rather than God’s promises. We can focus on only one thing, so in turning my focus away from light, and toward my problems, I was heading toward the darkness with its deadly snares of discouragement, fear, and despair.  And I kept on in that direction, unaware that my pathway was growing darker, my vision growing dimmer. God lovingly warns us in Psalm 37:8 b:  “. . . Do not fret– it leads only to evil.” (NIV)

The victories He has given, the battles He has won.  Even though the book I was finishing described the many victories God had given over depression, I was not thinking about them myself and thanking God for them afresh, which would have kept my attention on God’s power and my heart filled with light.

Image result for free picture of poisonWithout God’s power and victories in mind, we often start thinking our current situation is impossible. We begin losing hope and subconsciously begin doubting God and His power and His love for us. Eventually we can even start to doubt His goodness and fall for the same lie Satan told Eve in Genesis 3:4-5. Satan told Eve that God was withholding good from her and Adam, that He was not giving them the best.  Those kinds of evil thoughts can flow subconsciously, in our hearts, beyond our awareness because, as Jeremiah 17:9 cautions, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9, NIV)

Psalm 105 to 107: the wisdom of often remembering what God has done.  Psalm 105, 106, and 107 clearly tell us it is wise to consciously, intentionally  recall what God has done. These three psalms show the wisdom of regularly observing and heeding the Lord’s “goodness and loving-kindness and His wonderful works to the children of men.” The key idea that links these psalms is Psalm 107:43:

“Whoso is wise [if there be any truly wise] will observe and heed these things; and they will diligently consider the mercy and loving-kindness of the Lord. (AMPC).”  

“These things” are God’s goodness and loving-kindness and “His wonderful works for the children of men”, some of which are recounted in Psalm 105 and 106.

Psalm 105 opens with “O give thanks unto the LORD; call upon His name; make known His deeds among the people” (KJV) Verses 1 through 5 tell us five things to do: thank the Lord, sing to Him, glory in His holy name, look to Him and His strength, and remember “the wonders He has done.”  In the rest of Psalm 105 God reminds Israel, and us, of how faithful He was to them, beginning with Abraham all the way through their history to when He gave them the promised land in order that “they might observe His statutes and keep His laws (hearing, receiving, loving and obeying them].” (AMPC) In other words, He created a people of His own and put them in the wonderful land He had prepared so that they could love and follow Him. He does the same thing when He matures us, taking us on a journey to a position of right-standing with Him, so that we can enjoy the fulfillment of His promises.

Image result for free picture of red seaPsalm 106 starts with praise for God and His merciful doings and then confesses that “our fathers in Egypt understood not nor appreciated your miracles; they did not [earnestly] remember the multitude of Your mercies, nor imprint Your loving-kindness [on their hearts], but they were rebellious and provoked the Lord at the sea, even at the Red Sea (v. 7, AMPC) Then we read that “nevertheless, He saved them for His name’s sake [to prove the righteousness of the divine character], that He might make His mighty power to be known.”   And we read how He saved them over and over when they kept rebelling all throughout their wilderness journey. Read for yourself and see how merciful God was with them, “nevertheless” hearing their cry and how

He [earnestly] remembered for their sake His covenant, and relented their sentence of evil—according to the abundance of His mercy and loving-kindness [when they cried out to Him]” v. 45, AMPC)

They forgot what God had done and turned away over and over and over but every time God rescued them when they called out to Him.

Psalm 107. Then read Psalm 107, which opens with “O give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; for His mercy and loving-kindness endure forever.” (AMPC). Notice that the idea of thanking the Lord for his goodness and mercy and loving-kindness is repeated four times as a lament, in verses 8, 15, 21, and 31. The psalmist is deeply grieved that people are not doing that. He laments –“Oh, that men would praise [and confess to] the Lord His goodness and loving-kindness, and His wonderful works to the children of men!”  Psalm 107 concludes with verse 43, which tells us it is truly wise to “observe and heed these things” and “diligently consider the mercy and loving-kindness of the Lord.”

God is clearly telling us what to do—we are to “Give thanks to the LORD because He is good. His love endures forever.” (Psalm 107:1, 136:1, NIV) And, as with all that He does, it is for our good. Selah and selah and selah, oh my soul!

Image result for free picture of gods loveBesides Psalm 107, another psalm, Psalm 136, also opens with “O give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; for His mercy and loving-kindness endure forever.” The phrase “His mercy and loving-kindness endures forever” is repeated in all 26 verses of Psalm 136, after statements about His great wonders from the time of creation to His current bountiful provision for Israel. God wants us to remember that “His love endures forever” (NIV)

So, dear friend, I lament . . . If only I had remembered to remember His countless gifts to me personally and His eternal loving nature, I would have recalled the battles He had fought for me and the victories we had won as He trained me to keep myself calm in times of adversity (Psalm 94:13). I would not have kept fretting about my problems and looking to my own strength. I could have stayed out of the snares of discouragement and despair that bound me up in self-focus.

My peace is in the knowing, eyes fixed on Him not me. In hindsight, I can see where I failed in my part of the blessed promise in Isaiah 26:3

“ You will guard him and keep him in perfect and constant peace whose mind [both its inclination and its character] is stayed on You, because he commits himself to You, leans on You, and hopes confidently in You.”  (AMPC)

My heart remained committed to Him but I was leaning on my own understanding–my mind not fixed on Him– as I tried to figure out solutions to the problems. I was trapped in the snare of fretting and worry because it made me feel in control. I had stopped hoping confidently in God. How the enemy must love it when he manages to steal our hope and our conscious confidence in God!

. . . heart pondering His power. . . in trusting, I am free. When my mind is on God, either through talking with Him or pondering on His Word, I am free from hurt from the world, my flesh, and the devil. Keeping my mind on God and the truths of His Word keeps me trusting, believing, and waiting with confident expectation.

Image result for free picture of chainThere is a deep mystery and connection for me between the words trust, faith, hope, confidence and expectation and what it produces in the life of God’s believing children. I see a faint glimmer of how it works. It is cause and effect, like the links of a chain. I believe the mechanism of its operation, the way it works, is summarized in “We live by faith, not by sight.” or as I heard paraphrased recently, “We live by believing not by seeing.”

To me, that means we have to reach out, into the unseen and eternal spiritual realm (2 Corinthians 4:18) and when we do, our faith (which is trust, hope, and belief) is doing our part and then God responds. I know our faith pleases God, because He says we have to believe in Him and have to believe that He will reward our diligent seeking of Him.

“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.” (Hebrews 11:6, NIV)

The way of faith in Psalm 91. In Psalm 91, I see this same cause and effect between our faith and the rewards of being consciously aware of God’s presence, which includes peace.

When I do my part and dwell in the secret place of the Most High (verse 1) and

When I say the Lord “. . . is my Refuge and my Fortress, my God; on Hm I lean and rely and in him, I [confidently] trust!

THEN He delivers me from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence.

THEN He will cover me with His pinions,

and while I am there, under the covering of His wings—and His wings are spread over me, covering me, BECAUSEI reached out in faith to Him—I shall (which means definitely) be enabled to trust and find the refuge I seek.

And His truth and faithfulness will THEN be my shield and my protection.

This Is the main idea of the poem that started this writing, this idea that when I remember what God has done, I can put my faith—my active, reaching out trust—in Him. THEN, in the act of trusting itself, I am at peace.

Like firmly embedded nails, during my emotional stumbling, our loving Shepherd has deeply rooted more of His wisdom about trusting into my heart (Ecclesiastes 12:11). And I am grateful.

Image result for free pictukre of child on stairsHis discipline is so, so loving.  The depth of God’s love—the little we can understand of its fathomless depths—is astounding. “God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in His holiness” (Hebrews 12:10b, NIV).  I get a small understanding of this when I recall a story I heard long ago. As a woman tearfully watched her young son, who had a pronounced limp, struggle to get his tricycle up the stairs and onto the porch, her friend asked why she did not help. The loving mother replied, “If I help him now, he will never learn to do things for himself.”

Think about how much God loves us, but also consider His wisdom. He knows we have to learn basic disciplines of the Christian faith, that we must remain faithful to His teachings (John 8:31), that we must keep growing and developing (2 Peter 1:3-10) and pressing on toward maturity (Philippians 3:12-21). So, God lovingly sends circumstances that force us to grow. He lovingly prunes us (John 15:2) so we will bear even more fruit. And He trains us to cleanse ourselves from ignoble purposes, so that we may be “instruments for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work” (2 Timothy 2:20-21)

When I am in painful struggles, I may wonder, at least subconsciously, as perhaps that precious little boy did, why God does not remove the problem when it would be so easy for Him to do so. But, I can choose, by faith, to remember that God is working for my good, in all things (Romans 8:28). I can also choose to say I am blessed because “Blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied) is the man whom You discipline and instruct,  Lord, and teach out of Your law, that (emphasis added)  You may give him power to keep himself calm in the days of adversity, until the [inevitable] pit of corruption is dug for the wicked. “Psalm 94:12-13, AMPC)

Image result for free pictukre of heartThe blessings of this trial – a renewed heart and renewed commitment. God used this latest turbulent time, of my own making, to show I needed a specific plan to keep walking in victory and to stay out of the pit of depression and fear. By His grace, I had developed some excellent spiritual disciplines during that season of intense healing, but I needed some “insurance” that I would maintain those disciplines as well as some other habits that guard against discouragement and depression. Failing in some of these areas is, I believe, what opened the door to discouragement this last time. So, I am confessing and repenting of those sins, as I have already done with a close friend, knowing He will cleanse me from them. (“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” I John 1:9, NASB).

I believe God clearly showed me the need for a specific plan to stay out of the pit. I am earnest about this agreement with God, but I am not calling it a vow. Failing to keep vows is sin. It is disrespectful to God and foolish. We are to stand in awe of God in all things. Regarding vows, He tells us clearly:

“When you make a vow to God, do not delay to fulfill it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow. 5It is better not to make a vow than to make one and not fulfill it. 6Do not let your mouth lead you into sin. And do not protest to the temple messenger, “My vow was a mistake.” Why should God be angry at what you say and destroy the work of your hands? 7Much dreaming and many words are meaningless. Therefore, fear God. (Ecclesiastes 5:4-7, NIV).

Image result for free pictukre of waling with godStaying in His presence, feasting on His Word, serving Him with love. I am setting my heart to be as careful as I can in maintaining the spiritual habits I personally need as well as certain other habits. I am recommitting to love the Lord in this way with “all my heart and with all my soul and with all my strength” (Deuteronomy 6:5).  My plan is to:

  • Maintain the daily devotional times of Bible study and prayer He has shown are needed for me personally,
  • The best I can to either talk with God or be meditating on the Word, (Psalm 1), all day, from rising up to lying down, and
  • Do whatever my hand finds to do with all my might and to do it willingly, as for the Lord (Ecclesiastes 9:10, Colossians 3:23).

Confident joy! We can be confident that God is with us when we seek to follow Him more closely, and that He will help us and give us strength.  He says in Isaiah 48:10

“Fear not, [there is nothing to fear], for I am with you; do not look around you in terror and be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen and harden you to difficulties, yes, I will help you; yes, I will hold you up and retain you with My [victorious] right hand of rightness and justice.” (AMPC)

We can also be confident because we know that growing in Him is in accordance with His will.

“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15And if we know that he hears us-whatever we ask-we know that we have what we asked of him.” (I John 5:14-15, NIV)

How blessed we are that God shows us clearly how to live, patiently teaching over and over what we need to know, whether our walk with Him has been long or short! How blessed we are that His presence fills us with joy and the promise of eternal pleasures with Him!

“You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in Your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. “(Psalm 16:11, NIV)

Selah, and selah, and selah, oh my soul!

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God’s Arsenal for Peace and Security

Image result for free picture of swords, guns and shieldsOverview:

  • God’s weapons for spiritual warfare.
  • Why these particular verses?
  • Why in this particular order?
  • How to use the key word sentences.
  • Why meditate?
  • Why memorize?
  • Why the AMPC?
  • God’s Word has power to change your heart and your life.
  • How does God’s Word change your heart?
  • As God’s truth increases in your heart, lies and darkness decrease.
  • A word of encouragement about meditating and memorizing.
  • God’s Arsenal for Peace and Security – List of Verses

God’s weapons for spiritual warfare. The power of God’s Word– the power of Truth–restored my mind after a long season of severe depression. According to Webster’s online dictionary, https://webster-dictionary.org/definition/arsenal, an arsenal is a “military structure where arms and ammunition and other military equipment are stored and training is given in the use of arms.”

God’s Word contains every truth a child of God needs for victory in this world, and His Word trains us how to use those truths. His Word is a weapon, and it is also a place of training. His Word is an arsenal.

Diligently studying His Word equips you to “put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” (Ephesians 6:11, NIV) The Word teaches you how to put on and use the pieces of spiritual armor God has prepared for us that include truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, faith, salvation, and “the sword the Spirit wields, which is the Word God.” (Ephesians 6:17, AMPC)

Image result for free picture of peaceWhy these particular verses? The verses given here are a fundamental part of the arsenal of God’s Word because they will help you fight for peace and for confidence that God loves you and will always take care of you. We all need peace, every day, and we all need confidence that God is with us and will take care of us.  These verses will help build that peace and that confidence. I discovered these verses as I searched the Word for healing from depression and for courage to face my everyday life.

Why in this particular order? When I began studying the Word for myself in my areas of personal need, I started studying verses about fear. However, I soon discovered that studying about peace helped more. While I studied, I selected the verse that seemed most comforting and meditated on that verse, phrase by phrase, all day long, until I nearly memorized it, which often took days. When I realized I was memorizing almost by accident as I meditated, I decided to try a bit harder and intentionally memorize the verses.

So, while memorizing the current verse, I kept studying, searching for Scriptures in my areas of need. Once I had a verse memorized, I went on to the next Scripture I had found during study time. Soon, I had a long chain of Scriptures I could play in my mind when negative thoughts and feelings threatened to steal my peace. But I forgot them when I did not have my list with me or when I could not take time to read it, for example, when driving.  What to do?

Image result for free picture of person holding listHow to use the key word sentences.  As I kept trying to remember the list of verses, I saw that the key word or thought in each verse formed a sentence.  Look at the sample below. The left column gives the Scripture reference, and the right column gives the key word or thought of that Scripture. If you read straight down the right column, you will see that the key words form sentences, which are themselves comforting truths. For example, “Peace never fails to return to the secret place.” That thought reassures us that we can always find peace when we stay in the secret place.

Sample of How to Use Key Word Sentences

Scripture Key Word Sentences
Isaiah 26:3 Peace
Hebrews 13:5 never fails
Isaiah 30:15 to return
Psalm 91 to the secret place.

By the way, I did not deliberately put these verses in this order. Holy Spirit did that, by “accident” as I searched the Word! He is our perfect Teacher.

The last page of this article contains the list of verses that I call “God’s Arsenal for Peace and Security.” It fits on one page, which will be helpful. A printable version of this page is on the “Books and More” tab of this website. You will see four sets of verses. Please do not be intimidated!  Take it one verse at a time, at your own pace. Although I suggest you for sure do the first two sets, you do not have to do them all. You might find Holy Spirit leading you to a different chain of Scriptures or adding to these. Let Him lead you. He knows exactly what you need. (Psalm 139)

Why meditate? We know we are to think about and meditate on God’s Word all day, every day. God tells us to meditate, in Deuteronomy 11:18-21, Joshua 1:8, Psalm 1, Proverbs 4:20-23, and Philippians 4:8. Meditation is good for us  and can be health to our bodies if we are diligent with it. (Proverbs 4:23). Thinking about God’s Word throughout the day helps keep us far from sin and close to Him in our thoughts and actions. Hearing, and believing, God’s Word will change the way we think, feel, and live.

Image result for free picture of flaming arrowsWhy memorize? As described earlier, as you meditate on a verse or passage, you are more than halfway to memorizing it anyway. Having what God’s Word says about life’s situations available in your memory is powerful. I compare God’s Word in your mind to having a huge body guard with you 24/7. If you have planted the Word in your mind, then Holy Spirit, like the perfect Guardian and Protector He is, will bring the Scripture you need to your conscious mind in each situation you face. The Word keeps the enemy out of your mind. He may shoot flaming arrows of thoughts, but even the worst of his “lie arrows” bounce off the shield of Truth and do you no harm.

As I described above, if you take one verse a day phrase by phrase, going over each phrase many times during that day, you will nearly have it memorized. If it is not fixed in memory during that day, focus on that verse another day. Memorizing God’s Word weaves it into the fabric of our very being so that it guides our actions. A child who has been told often enough to “Say thank you” finally starts doing so automatically. Hiding God’s Word in our heart works the same way. It helps keep us acting as God wants. Hiding His Word in our heart keeps us from sin (Psalm 119:11).

Why the Amplified translation of the Bible? Here is the description of the Amplified translation from www.lockman.org, the publisher.

“The Amplified Bible is a Literal Equivalent translation that, by using synonyms and definitions, both explains and expands the meaning of words in the text by placing amplification in parentheses, brackets, and after key words. This unique system of translation allows the reader to more completely and clearly grasp the meaning as it was understood in the original languages. Additionally, amplifications may provide further theological, historical, and other details for a better understanding of the text.”

Image result for free picture of dog with a boneTo meditate means to ponder, consider, to roll something over and over in your mind, and to work at it like a dog works at a bone or a cow chews her cud.  Compare the translations of Isaiah 26:3-4 below.

  • NIV – “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast in You because they trust in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal.”
  • NKJ – “You will keep in perfect peace Whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in You. Trust in the Lord forever. For in Yah, the Lord, is everlasting strength.”
  • NLT – “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in You, whose thoughts are fixed on You. Trust in the Lord always, for the LORD GOD is the eternal rock.”
  • AMPC – “You will guard him and keep him in perfect and constant peace whose mind [both its inclination and its character] is stayed on You, because he commits himself to You, leans on You, and hopes confidently in You. So trust in the Lord – commit yourself to Him, lean on Him, hope confidently in Him—forever; for the Lord God is an everlasting rock—the Rock of Ages.”

Picture of All Punctuation MarksYou will see that the Amplified has more words than most other translations.  These “extra” words—those set off in dashes, braces, brackets and parentheses –are shades of meaning that the original readers of the Bible would have automatically understood when they heard that word or phrase. Slowly, carefully reading these phrases in the Amplified is one way to meditate. It slows the mind down and guides the thought process. If I meditate on Isaiah 26:3 in the NIV or the NKJ, for example, I will come up with my own ideas about what “perfect peace” and a “steadfast mind” and “trust” mean, but the “extra” words in the Amplified are, I believe, the first thoughts we should  dwell on as we meditate on a verse or passage because they are, I believe, levels of meaning that God intended when He inspired the writers of Scripture.

So, using the Amplified has two clear benefits for meditation. First, it will force you to slow down and spend more time as you meditate. Second, it will help your meditation uncover more completely, in my opinion, what God is saying in His Word.

One clear example is the word trust in Isaiah 26:3-4. Isaiah 26:3 tells us to trust in the Lord and verse 4 defines trust in the clarifying words of the Amplified, the words between dashes. Verse 4 says “So trust in the Lord—commit yourself to Him, lean on Him, hope confidently in Him—forever. . .”  That means to me that when I see God use the word trust, He means “to commit myself to Him, to lean on Him, and to hope confidently in Him.”  Using my own thoughts, I did not think of those three layers of meaning.

I suggest you try using the Amplified translation to memorize. If, after a sincere effort, you are not blessed then use a translation such as the New King James or New International. I also recommend using the Amplified Classic edition. Later editions leave out some of the amplifying phrases.

God’s Word has power to change your heart and your life. The power of God’s Word will “fix” your heart no matter if your problem is addiction, anger, self-control, loneliness, depression, or fear. Then, as your heart changes, your life will change.

Image result for free picture of a judgeHebrews 4:12 tells us that God’s Word is alive and full of power, and that it “judges the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (NIV) One thing that phrase means to me is that God’s Word in my mind enables me to discern, or to judge, whether thoughts and feelings in my heart are good or bad, true or false, beneficial or detrimental, holy or corrupted, whether they are from God or from the devil, and whether they lead toward life or lead toward death.

When I was deeply depressed and cowered down by fear, most of my thoughts were negative. The enemy and my own downtrodden heart generated thoughts and feelings of hopelessness and discouragement, day after day. Only when I began studying the Word for myself in my areas of need and then consciously kept those verses in my mind minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day, did the healing begin.

The verses in “Your Basic Arsenal” are listed in the order in which I studied and then memorized them during that season. What I needed most when I first began was peace, so I kept repeating God’s promise to keep me in peace if I kept my mind fixed on Him (Isaiah 26:3).  The truth of that Word made the lies in my heart flee, little by little. The light of truth chases the darkness of lies away, just as dawn chases the darkness of night away (Proverbs 4:18).

How does God’s Word change your heart? Here is one example of how the Word changes hearts. Whispering SilhouetteIsaiah 26:3 is true. It is a fact that God will keep in perfect peace all those who trust in Him, whose thoughts are fixed on Him. (NLT) But the enemy tries to make us believe things that are not true. He tries to make us believe his lies, just as he did with Adam and Eve. I became and stayed depressed because, although I knew a lot of the Word, the enemy shot lying thought arrows into my heart, thoughts like “I will always feel bad and stay depressed. God cannot heal me. I am too messed up. I have wasted too much time. I have disappointed God, and He is mad at me.” If you hear something often enough, you can start to believe it, even if it is not true.

But because God’s Word is “alive and full of power,” it is active, it operates in our hearts, it energizes our hearts, and it is effective in our hearts. (Hebrews 4:12, AMPC). As soon as I heard even one short statement of truth (for example, God will never fail me in any way), the light that comes from that truth drove away some of the darkness–immediately. As I kept repeating that truth and thinking about it, pondering what exactly it meant, more light came into my mind and then my feelings.

As I searched the Bible for verses about peace, God led me first to Isaiah 26:3 and Hebrews 13:5. I started trying to keep the truths in those verses in my mind, by reading them repeatedly, then by repeating them over and over all day long, day after day, and thinking about them phrase by phrase, thinking about what each phrase meant, what each word in the phrases meant.

Image result for free picture of dawnAs God’s truth increases in your heart, lies and darkness decrease. When we meditate on God’s truth, truth and light start to take up more space in our thoughts than lies, so that truth becomes dominant, or foremost.  That is like changing undrinkable salt water by adding more fresh water until it becomes drinkable. Really, it is more like a desalinization plant because the salt, or lie, is actually removed, not just diluted!

I believe that is one reason God tells us, many times, to think about His Word all day long. As we keep His Word in our mind, hour by hour, day by day, we begin to think about life and situations like God thinks about them because we have more of the truth about life and those situations in our hearts. We start to walk in truth, to live in truth, to think like God and to act in a godly way.

As we keep diligently studying the Word, building up our library of knowledge about life as it really is, as God explains it in His Word, we grow up spiritually and grow stronger, and we fall for Satan’s lies far less often.

A word of encouragement about meditating and memorizing. You do not have to actually memorize the verses, although it will benefit you more to do so. You will find that if you ponder, think about, and puzzle over what each phrase means, you will nearly have it memorized without even trying. If you have an especially  hard time memorizing I urge you to give it your best effort, with prayer, for at least a week, with just one verse. If you really feel you cannot memorize, then do work faithfully to at least develop the habit of meditating on a specific verse or two each day, hour by hour intentionally rolling it over in your mind.

Image result for free picture of workbootsI heard a story about a man who worked as a laborer, with no way to pause and read the Word of God during the long hours he labored with his hands and back. But that man deeply loved God and the Word, so he memorized what he could of one verse each morning and meditated on that all day. The pastor who told the story said that man had a deeper understanding of God’s Word than many of the formally educated pastors and theologians he knew. The point, to me, is:  try the best you can, with all your heart, to study the Word and God will make your efforts succeed. Study Psalm 1 and selah – pause to think about what it says!

Remember the table below “God’s Arsenal for Peace and Security” is available as a printable Word document on the Books and More tab at www.wordsofhopeandhealing.com.

“Grace and peace to you from God our father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (I Corinthians 1:3, NIV)

Gods Arsenal for Peace and Security

Scripture Reference Key Thought – Memory Cue
Section One  
Isaiah 26:3 1. Peace
Hebrews 13:5 2. never fails
Isaiah 30:15 3. to return
Psalm 91 4. to the secret place.
Section Two
Lamentations 3:25-26 5.  God is good,
Genesis 28:15 6. He is near, so
Psalm 27:14 7. I can wait,
Isaiah 41:10 8. and not fear,
Psalm 94:12-15 9. And keep myself calm!
Section Three
John 16:33 10. I can be of good cheer!
Psalm 18:30-36 11. (because) God is perfect.
Psalm 1 12. I can think about Him all day.
Psalm 107 13. And I can thank Him.
Section Four
II Chronicles 15:2 14.  I will find Him
Philippians 4 15. as I rejoice, and
Psalm 103 16. and praise Him.
2  Chronicles 16:9 17. He longs to strengthen me.
See the “Books and More” page at www.wordsofhopeandhealing.com for a printable Word document of this table.

 

 

 

God notices you – always

Image result for Jacob Ladder to Heaven“Behold, I am with you and will keep [careful watch over you and guard] you wherever you may go, and I will bring you back to this [promised] land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” Genesis 28:15 (AMPC) – Part of God’s promise to Jacob, when he left his father Isaac’s house.

“Behold, I am with you.”  I stepped out of the front door of my daughter’s house, noticing that her key chain had a heft mine did not. Cool air caressed my face, and I inhaled deeply, relishing the crispness of it, and hoping the chilly days of February would extend well into the springtime.

I climbed into my daughter’s SUV and put the my purse, thermos of water, and two napkins (which my grandsons would put in their laps to, somewhat, catch cracker crumbs from their after-school, on-the-road snack)  in the passenger seat, my usual weekday routine. As I backed up and drove down the neighborhood street under the oaks that nearly met overhead. I started repeating the phrases of Genesis 28:15, my current meditation verse.

Father, that phrase ‘Behold, I am with you’, starts with ‘Behold’, which means to pay attention to something, to stop and take notice, like when the angels announced the birth of Jesus to the shepherds. You really want me to stop and realize You are with me, don’t You?”

Tears moistened my eyes. My throat tightened. “Thank You, Father that You know how I feel. You know I still feel so small and unimportant and so guilty sometimes that I wasted two years being so depressed and fearful. I am so, so grateful that You are healing the depression as You give me the strength to keep my mind on You and Your Word all day.

And to know, to have You say to my mind almost audibly through that verse, that You are right here with me in this car, that You are here with me in all my failures and fears, well, Father, it is more than I can understand but I thank You so much for letting me feel Your presence. Thank You, Father, thank You. If You are with me, everything will be okay. Help me remember that.”

Image result for free picture of street with brown trees and grass“I will keep watch over you with care.” I turned left on Stassney, then right on Manchaca, heading toward school, driving through streets surrounded by faded brown winter trees and grass and a low, gray sky above. Leaving the heater gave the air inside the car a pleasant, brisk bite.

And the thought, Father, that You keep watch over me, why that is a military term, isn’t it? You want me to think of You like a soldier standing guard through the night and the day, purposefully focused on keeping that which he is guarding safe from all harm. And You say you keep watch over me with care, which means diligently, paying attention to each detail. And it is You, You, Lord, Who made and sustains the entire universe, You are the One who is keeping watch over every detail of my days, every day. That is just too wonderful for me to understand, Lord.”

“I will take notice of you wherever you may go.” The familiar road dipped down then up then turned left in a slow arc as I drove by offices and stores. Excitement and pleasure built, as it always did, when I was about to see my grandsons.

Image result for free picture of parent and child in woods“Lord, there is something about that phrase “take notice of you.” I know it means to pay special attention to, or to be interested in, and the dictionary said it means ‘to observe with special attention.” Father, the picture that comes to mind each time with that phrase is of a parent noticing the tiny things her child is doing and how much that little child wants the parent to notice them, to pay attention to them, to help build a block tower or to take a walk in the park to find roly-polies and pine cones.

I guess that’s why that phrase means so much to me, Lord. You know the hurts of the past that You are still healing. You know I felt unnoticed and unimportant growing up. I did not feel loved, even though I was. And You know how the enemy has used those same lies for all my life to torment me, to steal good things from my life and to get me depressed and discouraged so often through the years.

Thank You, Father, that Your Word, Your truth, is changing my heart at the root level as I keep thinking about Your truths, over and over a hundred times a day even with the same truth, like now, that You, You, Lord up in heaven, are noticing me, right now, this very moment. And that what I am doing—this ordinary, mundane thing—is precious in Your sight. You are noticing how I have prepared the little snack the boys love, You notice how I love the cool weather You’ve given, You notice that I am trying to memorize Your Word, You notice that I am trying with all my heart to please You and do what You want all day long.

Image result for free picture of daytime skyYou notice me, Lord! Help me never take that for granted.  You notice when I feel I have failed, and the truth of Your wonderful Word tells me that Your love for me is as high as the heavens are above the earth, that Your love has separated my sins—and that includes my failures—as far as the east is from the west. Your Word tells me that You do all that because You love me and have compassion on me like a father loves and pities his children, and that You have imprinted on Your heart that I am just dust, a frail human being.  Thank you, Father, for those comforting truths in Psalm 103.

Thank You, Father, thank You. To know that You notice each thing I do, that You observe me with special attention is comforting. It gives me strength to keep going and to trust that You will continue the healing.”

“. . . and I will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done all of which I told you.”  I parked on the street bordering the school, along with other parents and grandparents, then walked up the sloping hill to the school entrance, slowly to avoid getting too short of breath. Sitting on the bench encircling a grandfather oak, waiting for the bell, I saw Ansel, head swiveling as he walked out, third behind his teacher. He broke out of line, said something to her, then, as she saw me, she nodded to him, bumped fists, and he ran toward me, backpack wobbling from side to side, his face lit up.

Image result for free picture of child leaving school“Nana!”, he yelled. “I knew you were coming!”

We waited on Ben’s class, then the three of us walked to the car. As we drove home, I listened to their brotherly chatter in the back seat. I also listened to what Holy Spirit whispered in my heart as I repeated the last phrase of Genesis 28:15-16.

“Thank You, Lord.” I silently prayed as Ansel asked Ben if he had seen the new swings on the playground,  “Thank You that I know You will finish the good work of healing You have started in me. Thank You that I know You will be with me every moment, just as You are right now.”

A personal request

Dear, dear reader, I wish I could adequately explain what a difference keeping God’s Word in my mind has made for me. The scene described above happened many months ago, when I had just  started the habit of studying the Word of God, diligently, in my areas of personal need and meditating upon and memorizing the verses Holy Spirit showed me. During the months of doing that, God healed deep depression and fear. Counseling and medicine had helped, but life remained a daily misery until God’s Word began its healing work.

And the healing came, hour by hour, day by day, week upon week, as I kept studying and meditating all day long on God’s truths about peace and His loving provision and other healing truths. The truth of God did its work as I drove to work, got groceries, spent time with my family, and most of all when I was home, alone with God, facing the struggle of reclaiming the happy and productive life depression had stolen for two years.

God’s Word will heal your life. Your problem may not be depression and anxiety, but whatever it is, God’s Word will heal your heart and your life. I beg you to start the habit of constant, all-day and night meditation upon verses from the Bible that address your needs.

Usually, a piece of writing seems to end itself. But I only know how to end this one by pleading, once again: Please make getting God’s Word into your heart a daily priority.  God’s Word will make your heart whole and sound. God’s Words truly are “ . . . life to those that find them, healing and health to all their flesh.” Proverbs 4:22, AMPC.

The next blog post, “The Arsenal of God’s Word” will give a list of Scriptures that will lead you toward peace and explain more about how the Word works in your heart.

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“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.” (Philemon 25)

 

 

God Promises His Presence IF . . . Part Eight

Review:Image result for Free Picture of Clouds

  • Part One – God’s presence is often termed “God’s face”, He tells us to seek His face, it is a vital need for us, and He will help us.
  • Part Two – Basic truth’s about God’s presence. He promises His presence if we love and obey Him.
  • Part Three – Some of the many ways we can love God.
  • Part Four –  We sometimes see God’s face and sometimes not because God is sovereign. He initiates our awareness of His presence, He responds to our reaching out, and He withdraws temporarily. There are also hindrances to His presence over which we have some control.
  • Part Five: Hindrances to God’s presence include disobedience, lack of love, our physical condition, and our soul’s condition, our spiritual condition, lack of experience or knowledge, hidden sin, and lies from the enemy.
  • Part Six: The enemy attacks our minds with vicious lies, trying to keep us from being aware of God’s presence.
  • Part Seven: What to do if you do not feel His presence or never have.

In this last part of the series “God Promises His Presence IF. . . “, we see why we must never give up.

PART EIGHT:  DO NOT GIVE UP!

  • Rely on God, and do not turn to the world. God answers us when we rely on Him. (2 Chronicles 14:11).
  • “God is with you when you are with Him. If you seek Him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you.” (2 Chronicles 15:2b, NIV)
  • God is always looking out for us, to strengthen us.
  • We win our battles when we rely on the Lord because it is the Lord Who does the fighting, not us.

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Rely on God, and do not turn to the world. God answers us when we rely on Him. (2 Chronicles 14:11).  In 2 Chronicles 14, King Asa “did what was right and good in the eyes of the Lord” (2 Chronicles 14:2). He began removing idol worship and commanded his people to seek God. “God gave him rest” during those years (v. 6). After Asa had built up his kingdom, the Cushites, the fiercest army on earth at the time, attacked. But Asa prayed,

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“LORD, there is no one like you to help the powerless against the mighty. Help us, O LORD our God, for we rely on You, and in your name we have come against this vast army. O LORD, you are our God; do not let man prevail against you.” (v. 11, NIV).

Asa won a mighty victory over the Cushite army that day. Why? Because he relied on God.

God is with you when you are with Him. If you seek Him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you.”  (2 Chronicles 15:2b, NIV). In 2 Chronicles 15, as King Asa and his army were returning to Jerusalem after the mighty victory described in Chapter 14, the prophet Azariah went out to meet him. Azariah told Asa and all his kingdom that:

The LORD is with you while you are with Him. If you seek Him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you.”

The prophet reminded Asa that, in previous times, the whole world was in turmoil because they had rejected God. He said that if Asa would be strong and not give up, his work would be rewarded (v. 7).  Asa was encouraged and continued his work of removing idol worship that he had begun before the Cushites attacked. And Asa had peace for many years.

Although our world is in turmoil, if we, like Asa, remember the battles God has already won for us as we relied on him, if we remember that God is with us when we are with Him, we can draw on His strength to finish the work God has for us.

See the source imageGod is always ready to give us His strength when we are weak and need encouraging. He says that very thing in 2 Chronicles 16. God is always looking out for us, to strengthen us. 2 Chronicles 16:9, tells us  “For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth, to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him.” (NIV)

Sadly, this same King Asa, who was so encouraged in Chapter 15 by hearing that “The Lord is with you while you are with Him”, this same king who carried out a major reform of his entire kingdom, this same king who was clearly warned not to forsake God or God would forsake him– this same King did indeed forsake God. In Chapter 16, after many, many years of peace, when King Asa’s city was besieged, Asa bought help, with treasures from the Lord’s temple no less, from another king.

But because Asa relied on another king for help rather than God, this time he did not have victory. Then a different prophet, Hanani, reminded King Asa that, in the previous battle years ago, God had delivered the mighty Cushite army into Asa’s hand because Asa had relied on the Lord. Hanani said that though the Cushite army was mighty, “Yet when you relied on the LORD, he delivered them into your hand.” (V. 8). Why? Hanani tells King Asa:

“For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen the hearts of those whose hearts are fully committed to Him.”

Image result for free picture of parent and child and training wheelsThat reassures us that any time we begin to lose heart and become discouraged, we can count on God to steady us and give us what we need to move forward. I like to think of that as the way a parent walks right beside a child who is just learning to ride without training wheels.  The parent hovers as the child pedals along, and holds his hands on either side, ready to instantly catch and set the child upright should there be a wild wobble.

Then Hanani continued speaking to King Asa. “You have done a foolish thing, and from now on you will be at war.”

God is clearly teaching us that we win our battles when we rely on the Lord because it is the Lord Who does the fighting, not us. He gives us His strength when we need it because He is always looking out over the entire world, every moment, for His children who need His strength. He wants us to know that because it encourages us.

God sees every single person on earth whose heart is fully committed to Him. God watches us every moment, He knows when we are struggling, for whatever reason, and He will deliver us.

When I too, like Asa, get discouraged and fearful because l am besieged by real problems, unable to have what I need, including my usual supply of God’s presence and peace just as King Asa could not get supplies for his kingdom when he was under siege, I can seek help from God, who never, never, never fails me. And I can wait, with confidence, knowing that He will again give me the peace that comes from awareness of His presence. If I spend my efforts trying worldly methods to find peace, as Asa spent his wealth trying to buy help from worldly kings, I will fail and be at war. If I seek relief through entertainment, food, other people, drugs, or whatever, peace will elude me. But, if I put my trust in God, if I trust Him and obey. . .

WHILE YOU WAIT ON HIM . . . TAKE COURAGE!

Stay Strong in the FaithAll of us are being challenged lately, in many ways, to stand strong in faith. This is an excellent time to strengthen our ability to walk closely with God and to be aware of His presence. If awareness of His presence is new to you, be patient. Give your relationship time to grow and while it is growing, be assured that God is pleased with your reaching out to Him. So . . .

  • Remember He never leaves you for one moment. (Deuteronomy 31:8; Isaiah 41:10-13)
  • Remember that being desperate for God is a good thing. God tells us to desperately seek Him. In Psalm 27:8 David says to God, “You have said, Seek My face [inquire for and require My presence as your vital need].”
  • Remember God loves to be with us. Recall Eden. It gives Him pleasure to be with us, and we were created for the purpose of glorifying God and giving Him pleasure (Isaiah 43:7 and Revelations 4:11)
  • Remember He is longing, passionately, to let you lean on Him and his strength, like a tired wife leans on her loving husband or a child leans on his trusted father. (Isaiah 30:18)
  • Remember always to revere, respect and appreciate God’s presence and who He is but also remember He wants close fellowship with us. Although we are to stand in awe of God, God also wants us to be affectionate with Him. The book of Psalms, in the Amplified version, includes eighteen passages that say we are to “bless (affectionately and gratefully praise) the Lord”. And Jesus says when we observe the Lord’s supper “to call Me [affectionately to remembrance] (I Corinthians 11:24-25, AMPC).  We can approach God like the perfect Father He is, all-powerful but full of compassion and mercy and love for us, His dearly beloved and cherished children.

See the source imageAnd I say, again, because it is important: Although we are to stand in awe of God, God also wants us to be affectionate with Him. We are His dearly beloved and cherished children. If a human father treasures the affection of his children, how much more deeply must our love touch our Heavenly Father?

FINALLY, WAIT WITH CONFIDENT EXPECTANCY!

Waiting with expectation is the key to peace and victorious living.  Remember that in Psalm 27 David talks about the importance of seeking God. The last verse, verse 14 encourages us: “Wait and hope for and expect the Lord; be brave and of good courage and let your heart be stout and enduring. Yes, wait for and hope for and expect the Lord!” We can have confidence that God will deliver us and if we wait for Him with expectancy, we will maintain our peace and walk in His ways as we wait. That will make our lives a light to others!

Your deliverer is coming!  I wish I had remembered to listen to the song “My Deliverer is Coming!” by Rich Mullins during the first part of writing this little book. While I was studying the topic and struggling to perceive God’s presence, the spirit of hope in this song would have helped.

I urge you to look up and read the lyrics over thoughtfully, then listen to the song. You can find the lyrics  and several videos on God Tube as well as You Tube by using your web browser.  The anointing on some songs truly goes beyond words. This is one of those heavily anointed songs. It will give you the shivers. It will give you courage. And, it will make you take a deep breath, squint your eyes, clench your fists, raise your hands toward heaven  and say “Yes, Lord! Whatever it takes!”

Friend and fellow pilgrim, whatever you face in your life, God WILL answer and you will feel His peace. Wait, I say again, “Wait for, hope for and expect the Lord!” (Psalm 27:14, NIV) Our Deliverer is coming! Hallelujah! All glory and honor and praise be unto our King of Kings and Lord of Lords!

Think of it! One day soon we will be part of that great multitude described in Revelations 7. We will fall facedown before the throne and worship God, saying:

“Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!” (Revelations 7:12, NIV)

 

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God Promises His presence IF . . . Part Seven

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  • Part One – God’s presence is often termed “God’s face”, He tells us to seek His face, it is a vital need for us, and He will help us.
  • Part Two – Basic truth’s about God’s presence. He promises His presence if we love and obey Him.
  • Part Three – Some of the many ways we can love God.
  • Part Four –  We sometimes see God’s face and sometimes not because God is sovereign. He initiates our awareness of His presence, He responds to our reaching out, and He withdraws temporarily. There are also hindrances to His presence over which we have some control.
  • Part Five: Hindrances to God’s presence include disobedience, lack of love, our physical condition, and our soul’s condition, our spiritual condition, lack of experience or knowledge, hidden sin, and lies from the enemy.
  • Part Six: The enemy attacks our minds with vicious lies, trying to keep us from being aware of God’s presence

PART SEVEN: IF YOU DO NOT FEEL HIS PRESENCE NOW OR NEVER HAVE

Image result for free picture of someone behind youGod is with you, whether or not you feel His presence. When I searched the web for free pictures of “someone behind you” I chose this picture. Why? It is cute and light-hearted and I know God wants us to have a joy-filled relationship with Him. To everything there is indeed a season (Ecclesiastes 3:1) and that includes times for joy and, yes, silliness. I wanted to remind you, and me, that although we are exploring a serious subject, it is also a most happy one.

I urge you, if you have lost the feeling of being connected to God, or if you never have been consciously aware of Him, to persevere in seeking Him. I especially want to remind you that God is always with you, no matter if you are aware of Him or not. I also especially want to encourage you that in seeking His face, you are doing a wonderful thing! Resist any self-critical thoughts that might try to take root in your mind about this matter of seeking God’s face. God is not mad at you in bringing this to your attention. He is longing to bless you even more than He has already! His intentions toward us are always, always, always loving and kind. And He is not only watching over us, like that cute kitten, He lives in us if we love and obey His commands (John 14:15-21).

Remind yourself that God never fails and God never fails YOU. In Hebrews 13:5, God reassures us that He will never fail us. After telling us not to crave earthly possessions but to be satisfied with what we have we hear:

“He [God] Himself has said, ‘I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. [I will] not, [I will] not, [I will] not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor let [you] down (relax my hold on you) [Assuredly not!] (AMPC)

Notice that this promise covers every situation and circumstance. Notice the superlative language: in any way, in any degree. Notice that God repeats three times “I will not, I will not, I will not . . . “ Then He adds even more emphasis with “Assuredly not!”  Friend, He will surely help us in this matter of seeking His face!

Image result for free picture of hide and seekRemind yourself that He promises we can find Him. God is not playing hide and seek with us. In Deuteronomy 4, God reassures His people and tells them that even after they have been worshipping idols and have been taken captive that “if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find Him if you look for him with all your heart and all your soul.” (Deuteronomy 4:29, NIV).  This comforting promise tells me that even if I have put something before God, which is idolatry, if I seek Him with all my heart and all my soul, I will find Him.

Ask and be persistent.  When Jesus taught His disciples about prayer He said:

  • Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. (Luke 11:9-10, NIV)

Do not be afraid of spiritual things and of going deeper with God. Unfortunately, Satan uses fear to keep some of us from pursuing a closer closeness with God. Spiritual things can indeed seem frightening. We cannot see God and we cannot see Satan, and Satan has saturated our culture with lies about the unseen world and terrifying visual images of what might be around us but invisible to us. He also leads some people who claim to be influenced by God to behave in weird and eerie ways. Is it any wonder some of us are afraid to just sit alone with God and talk with Him? Is it any wonder some of us are afraid that doing so might open a door to something evil?

Parents Give Children GiftsGod knows our hearts. He understands our fear and does not condemn us for it. And He knows that truth sets us free and removes fear.  So He reassures us that if we seek Him, we will find Him, not something bad. After Jesus instructs us to ask, seek, and knock because we will receive, we will find, and the door will be opened to us (Luke 11:9-10), He says:

11 “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for[a] a fish, will give him a snake instead? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (NIV)

Ask Holy Spirit to search your heart and show you if you have sinned in some way or if there is something He has told you to do that you have not done. It might seem a “little sin” or some little thing to do or stop doing, but if God told you, it is important. Recently, God showed me I needed to be more systematic in the Bible passages I meditate on each day. I could not feel His presence until I began doing that.

Remember that sin causes God to turn His face way from us (Isaiah 59:2). One of the many things Holy Spirit does is to convict us (John 16:8) but He does so without condemnation (Romans 8:1). The enemy criticizes, belittles, and ridicules. God is gentle with us. Notice how He pleads with us in Isaiah 1:18

“Come now. Let us reason together’, says the Lord. ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool”.

That is a gentle, loving offer! God wants us to talk together with Him, and He promises to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves, of course – to rid us of sin, of the places in our lives where we miss the mark. God is pleased when we try to draw closer to Him, and He helps us do that. Holy Spirit teaches us (John 14:26), and He gives us wisdom. “For the LORD gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.” (Proverbs 2:6, NIV).

Image result for free picture of father and childrenGod speaks to each of us in different ways so do not expect your experience to be identical to that of anyone else. If you have been blessed to observe and interact with children, you know some are loud and rowdy, always seeking attention whereas others prefer more peaceful activities, out of the spotlight.  God understands absolutely each detail about everyone of His many, many children.  (Do we need to remind ourselves again that He knows how many hairs are on our head?)

God will communicate with you in the way He knows is best for you. You may hear Him speak through a song when you start up your car. You may feel His love in the smile of a grocery store checker. He may blanket you in peace as you gaze at a sunset, a flower, a caterpillar, or your grandchild’s face.

God says, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, before you were born, I set you apart.” (Jeremiah 1:5a, NIV) He tells you “even the very hairs of your head are numbered.” (Matthew 10:30, NIV). One reason He included Psalm 139 in the Bible, I believe, is to reassure our frail human hearts how intimately He knows us. Take time to read Psalm 139 now. Selah! Pause and calmly think about it!

I also urge you to make three things your daily habit:  Thank Him, talk with Him as often as you can remember, and meditate on the Word. These three habits are powerful helps to find God’s presence. For more details, read the blog post entitled “My Spiritual Emergency Kit.” These three habits greatly increase awareness of God’s presence in my daily life.

In Part Eight, the last part of this series, we will look at some Biblical reasons why we should never give up in pursuing God. The most reassuring reason for me is this:

“For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen the hearts of those whose hearts are fully committed to Him.” (2 Chronicles 16:9, NIV)

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God Promises His Presence IF . . . Part Six

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  • Part One – God’s presence is often termed “God’s face”, He tells us to seek His face, it is a vital need for us, and He will help us.
  • Part Two – Basic truth’s about God’s presence. He promises His presence if we love and obey Him.
  • Part Three – Some of the many ways we can love God.
  • Part Four –  We sometimes see God’s face and sometimes not because God is sovereign. He initiates our awareness of His presence, He responds to our reaching out, and He withdraws temporarily. There are also hindrances to His presence over which we have some control.
  • Part Five: Hindrances to God’s presence include disobedience, lack of love, our physical condition, and our soul’s condition, our spiritual condition, lack of experience or knowledge, hidden sin, and lies from the enemy.

PART SIX: LIES ABOUT GOD’S PRESENCE  THAT THE ENEMY USES

Satan “is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44, JNIV.) He is the enemy of God and of us, so of course he does not want us to have the blessings of God’s presence. So, he lies, wanting Image result for Free Picture Of poisonsus to believe some of the following poisons.

  • Awareness of God’s presence is reserved for a special few.
  • We are not worthy to be in God’s presence.
  • I do not have the personality to be quiet and still.
  • I do not have the time and place, etc. to seek God
  • Other attacks of the enemy.
  • Fear is the enemy’s biggest weapon.

Awareness of God’s presence is reserved for a special few, only for those who live an especially good life, like pastors, teachers, and “special” people.  Jesus says,

Come unto me all (emphasis added) you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls. ((Matthew 11:28-29, NIV). 

And when God says “whosoever” in John 3:16, He means any person.  Period.

We are not worthy to be in God’s presence. On the surface, this seems true because none of us humans could ever be good enough by our own works to be accepted by God. But the blessed truth is that when we trust God, our faith puts us in right standing with God (Romans 4:5).  Chapters Four through Eight of Romans explain this gift of right-standing, or righteousness, with God by faith, so that by grace, through faith, we may have it. These chapters are part of the believer’s foundation. Have you read them recently?

Image result for free picture of personalityI do not have the personality to be quiet and still long enough. I believe it is easier for those of us with quiet personalities to spend time alone with God and the Word. However, those of us with outgoing, very sociable personalities can also cultivate this habit. God does all things well, and He is fair. Each type of personality finds certain things difficult.  And as for being quiet and still long enough, that is different for each person.

If you are an extrovert who blossoms in the company of other people, the enemy would likely tell you that you must be quiet and still for hours. Not true! Try God and see. God gave you your personality, and He knows how to communicate with you in the way that is best for you.

I do not have the time and place, etc. to seek God. Although some may have to sacrifice greatly to carve out time for being alone with God, and some may not have the luxury of a quiet spot in their own home, God will make time and a place for those who sincerely seek to have devotional times with Him. If we ask God for something that is clearly His will, we can be sure He will provide it (I John 4:4-15).

Other attacks of the enemy. Some of trials we experience in this life are caused by the enemy of our souls. While we are here on earth, the enemy attacks us with sickness of body and mind, loss of loved ones, financial hardships, delays, obstacles, etc., etc.

But fear not!  Jesus tells us “In this world you will have troubles and trials, distress and frustration, but be of good cheer [take courage, be confident, certain, undaunted]! For I have overcome the world. [I have deprived it of power to harm you.] (emphasis added) (John 17:33, AMPC).

The things of this world, including what the enemy does, cannot harm us in the long run. They may look bad, and be bad for a while, but God is sovereign! Psalm 115:3 tells us “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.”. Furthermore “. . . we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28). What the enemy intends for evil for us, God intends for good (Genesis 50:20)

The first and second chapters of the book of Job clearly shows us that God is sovereign. Satan has to get permission from God before he does anything to a child of God. Yes, that can be a hard concept to accept. However, as we “diligently consider the mercy and loving-kindness of the LORD” (Psalm 107:43), we will “give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind.” (Psalm 130:8, 15, 21 and 31, NIV). Notice that the phrase “give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind” is repeated in the same words four times in this Psalm, in verses 8, 15, 21 and 31.  Hmmm . . . God must  think it is important for me to remember that!

If we carefully, thoughtfully consider all the kind things God has done for mankind and our own lives, we cannot help but praise Him and give Him thanks. That leads to peace and also helps us choose to believe God when He says that “in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28, NIV)

Image result for free picture of earthAnd remember that Jesus has overcome the world and its troubles for us.  It is good to repeat again the verse where Jesus tells us why we can be of good cheer:

“In the world you will have tribulation, trials, distress and frustration; but be of good cheer [take courage; be confident, certain and undaunted]! For I have overcome the world. [I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you.] (John 16:33, AMPC)

Fear is Satan’s biggest weapon.  Reread the previous section about the power and mercy of God. I John 4:4 reassures us that God, who is in us, is greater than Satan, who is in the world. Setting “our hearts on things above” (Colossians 3:1, NIV) and thinking on the “whatsoevers” in Philippians 4:8 will drive fear out.

It is good to study what God says about fear and to hear sound teaching on the subject, because it is the favorite tactic of Satan. I have heard many teachers say that fear is mentioned in the Bible 365 times. God obviously wants us to be on guard against fear. I studied many scriptures on fear because it was a huge problem for me. Along the way, I found that studying peace was a safeguard against fear. Think about that! Start with three verses about peace and hide them in your heart. The peace that comes from God’s truth will shield your mind the next time fear attacks.

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In Part Seven, we will talk about what to do if you have never consciously felt God’s presence or if you have not in a long time. Be blessed!

 

 

God Promises His Presence IF . . . Part Four

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  • Part One – God’s presence is often termed “God’s face”, He tells us to seek His face, it is a vital need for us, and He will help us.
  • Part Two – Basic truth’s about God’s presence. He promises His presence if we love and obey Him.
  • Part Three – Some of the many ways we can love God.

PART FOUR: WHY WE SOMETIMES SEE HIS FACE AND SOMETIMES NOT 

During the 29 days it took to write this, I came to a partial understanding, based on studying God’s Word, so far, of this question. Even so, it is a partial understanding, with many unknowns. The simplest, and most complex, answer is that God IS sovereign. Period!  Nevertheless, here are some reasons that seem obvious.

  • God initiates.
  • God responds.
  • God withdraws temporarily.
  • It is a blessing for God to discipline, or train, us.
  • We encounter hindrances.

God initiates. He sovereignly makes people aware of His presence. Consider Moses and the burning bush, God calling out to Samuel in the night, and those times He simply overwhelms us, like my early morning experience I described. Why does He do that? Well, He loves us and wants to be with us; He wants to bless us; He wants to guide us; and a host of other reasons far beyond my understanding! I suppose the world filled with books could not contain the reasons any more than the world could contain all the wonders that Jesus performed while on earth. “If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written. (John 21:25, NIV)

Image result for Free Picture of Father And childrenGod simply loves us and delights to be with us, as a loving father delights to be with his children. Revelations 3:20 He says, “Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.” (NLT)

He, of course, knows that His presence is good for us. And, it pleases Him. As I wrote this, I was embarrassed at how seldom I ponder the fact that God has feelings. And I sincerely appreciate the gentle reminder from Holy Spirit to do so. . . often. I also decided to look up Scriptures on God’s emotions. Part of loving someone is wanting to know more about them. Let’s see, I know He loves us, He hates sin, He rejoices or feels joy, He is jealous of our love, He gets angry, He is compassionate, and He feels grief.

God responds. Sometimes we feel His presence because we have reached out to Him, because we have hoisted our sails.  Sometimes, I believe He is waiting on us to reach out to Him first. In my mind, I compare that to our human love relationships. We may be confident and rejoice in the fact that our spouse or child or friend loves us and always responds when we reach out and ask for their attention, but when they reach out to us first, it does something different.

How often during the day does God tell us and show us He loves us?

How often during the day do we take 30 seconds to stop and say “I love You, Lord! Thank You for . . . “ ?

How would I feel if my family said, “I love you” and “Thank you” to me as often as I say those words to God?

Image result for free picture of legosWhen Ben asks, “Will you read to me, Nana?”, and when Ansel says, “Come look at my new Leggo set Nana!” it reinforces that they love me and just want me to be with them and share in their life. I respond!

God withdraws temporarily. The Bible is clear that God turns His face away, or hides His face from us, and does not answer us because of sin (Micah 3:4, Ezekiel 39:23-24).  I think another reason we cannot feel His presence is that God sometimes deliberately removes our awareness of His presence because He is training us. Part of that training is requiring us to learn how to keep ourselves calm during troubles. And what best gives us calmness in the middle of troubles? The peace that comes from awareness of God’s presence. Do you think this is part of what Psalm 94:12-13 means?

“Blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied) is the man whom You discipline and instruct, O Lord, and teach out of Your law, that (emphasis added) You may give him the power to keep himself calm in the days of adversity until the [inevitable] pit of corruption is dug for the wicked.”

It is good to remember that training usually takes more than a day or two. You might not feel His presence for a long time, and perhaps it is because God knows of adversities ahead in your path that could steal the peace of His presence if you are not made stronger first. Or perhaps, He is training you to a closer, more mature walk with Him. That requires being able to do more things on your own.

Image result for Free Picture of Child Feeding DogA parent stays with a first-grader learning how to care for the family dog, but a ten-year-old is able to fill the bowls without parental supervision.

It is a blessing for God to discipline, or train, us. When I cannot feel God’s presence, I am miserable. I believe this is one way He uses to guide me. I often meditate on Hebrews 12, especially when I know God is using a situation to reveal hidden sins and weaknesses in my heart.  God trains those He loves, and sometimes that training process is very painful, uncomfortable, and downright irritating! Training, pruning, the refining fire, and the potter’s wheel all seem painful – but only for a season. Lifting weights, biking, and long walks all take effort, but these exercises produce muscles, cardiovascular strength, and good health.

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of peace and righteousness for those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:11, NIV)

What aspect of God’s training makes you shrink back? If you ask, God will show you and He will strengthen your heart in that area. He loves it when we grow! (3 John 1:4)

Hindrances we can do something about. The previous paragraphs discussed reasons why we do not always feel God’s presence that are related to the sovereignty of God. In Part Five, we will look at hindrances over which we have some control.

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God Promises His presence IF. . . Part Three

Review: In Part One on this subject, we learned that God’s presence is often termed “God’s face”,  that He tells us to seek His face, that it is a vital need for us, and that He will help us.  Part Two covered learn basic truth’s about God’s presence and the fact that He promises His presence if we love and obey Him. In Part Three, we will examine some of the many ways we can love God.

5. HOW DO WE OBEY AND LOVE GOD?

Image result for Free Clip Art of QuestionsSo, if God tells us to seek His face: What do we do to find Him? Why do we sometimes feel aware of Him and other times not? What makes it more, or less, likely?

Summary:
How we behave when we truly love another human instructs us how to obey and love God.

  • If we love Him. . . we will obey His commands.
  • If we love Him, we will . . . meditate on the Word.
  • If we love Him, we will . . . talk with Him – all day
  • If we love Him, we will . . . live our life for Him and do our specific work for Him each day
  •  However, there is no magic formula.

Image result for Free Picture of Father In ParkHow we behave when we truly love another human instructs us how to obey and love God. We will do work for those we truly love, like a parent lovingly labors to provide for his family and does special works of love as well. A mom will stay up late, making a Ralph S. Mouse costume for book character day. A dad will take his kids to a park, even when he is exhausted.

When we love a person, we will also do what they ask, we will think about the words they say, we will talk with them when we are with them, we will sing that person’s praises to others, and we will simply dote on them, as when a parent takes a child into their lap and cuddles them or when a husband and wife embrace. If we truly love God, all these things will come naturally, just as they come naturally when we love a human.

The most important thing, however, is obedience.  God clearly says that if we do not obey Him, we do not truly love Him.

He who has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me.“  (John 14:21, NIV)

If we love Him. . . we will obey His commands. God told Old Testament believers how to seek Him. Psalm 24:4-5 gives God’s first requirement of those who would seek Him. We are told to have clean hands and a pure heart,  to not worship idols (be sure God is first in our life), and never tell lies (Psalm 24:4, NLT) And verse 6 in the AMPC clearly says “This is the generation [description] of those  who seek Him  . . . ) (emphasis added).

If we love Him, we will . . .  meditate on the Word. If you really love someone, you think about what they said they wanted you to do right? That holds true whether that is a child, a friend or a spouse. God tells us what He wants us to do in His Word. For every believer, it is essential to think on His Word all day. He tells us to in Deuteronomy 6:7 and numerous other places in the Bible. Why? So we will live like He wants us to rather than yielding to the temptations of the world, “the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.” (I John 2:16, KJV)

Another reason, I believe, that God commands us to ponder on His Word constantly is that thinking about God’s Word all day keeps our human mind safe from fear and worry, which are more of a problem for some of us (like me) than others. Also, if we are always learning some new Bible truth about issues that trouble us, we will gradually learn the Bible principles pertaining to that issue or at least enough to master it with God’s grace.

Image result for Free Clip Art of ShieldGod’s Word in my mind is a shield around my mind.

If we love Him, we will . . . talk with Him – all day. Perhaps you have heard of the classic little book “The Practice of the Presence of God”? Written in the 17th century, this small book shows us how to be aware of God’s presence throughout the day, every day. Brother Lawrence, the author, shows that the most important thing is to simply to talk with God as we go about our everyday tasks of life. The Bible models this behavior for us. Consider Abraham, whom God called His friend. You certainly talk with a friend. Consider Enoch who “walked with God”; surely when we walk with someone, we talk with them! Consider David, who obviously talked with God often!

“Brother Lawrence insisted that, to be constantly aware of God’s presence, it is necessary to form the habit of continually talking with Him throughout each day.” (The Practice of the Presence of God, p. 11)

Whenever I feel distant from Him, I usually find I have stopped talking with Him during daily life, and, that simply to begin talking with Him again restores my soul. It is amazing that I so often forget this simple thing, but I can only thank God for always reminding me to talk with Him and for telling me clearly that He does not condemn my human weaknesses (Psalm 103:14).

IImage result for free clip art of workf we love Him, we will . . . live our life for Him and do our specific work for Him each day.  Throughout the 29 days it has taken to write this, Holy Spirit has edited heavily! One essential truth I left out in the first few drafts was:  We find His presence so often when we are just doing our best to live our individual, simple daily life for Him (I Peter 2:12, I Thessalonians 4:11).

We also find God when we are doing our specific work for Him, letting our light shine into the darkness (Mathew 5:16). We find the joy of His presence as we serve Him.

The love, the joy, the peace, all the good fruits that He showers on us every day as we live for Him are all part of His presence, and they are Him. God is love (I John 4:8), He is our peace (Ephesians 2:14-18), His joy in us gives us His strength (Nehemiah 8:10), and on and on.

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We cannot outgive God! When we give Him a daily life that pleases Him and when we do the work He told us to, He surprises us with good things, like awareness of His presence and the indescribable pleasures that His presence brings.

However, there is no magic formula, even when we do all we can. There is no magic formula to make ourselves aware of God’s presence. God is God! He is in heaven, and we mere humans, His creations, are here below on earth. It would be presumptuous to think we have control over anything at all, much less anything concerning God, the Almighty, the Creator, the First and the Last, the Alpha and the Omega!  Take heed and stand in awe of God. Let us remember our proper place, at His feet, in constant, grateful worship and swift readiness to obey His slightest command.  Remember Micah 6:8? We are to walk humbly before our God.

But, let us at the same time, remember He does tell us to seek his presence and He does tell us how we can do that.  So, why are we not always aware of Him?

To be continued in Part Four.  Be blessed as you seek God’s presence today!

God Promises His Presence IF. . . – Part One

Image result for Royalty Free Picture of Crepe Myrtle Pink BlossomsAwakened by His presence. In the dim light of early morning, before the sun had risen above my line of sight with the buildings east of the window, I sat at my computer, tracing out green and brown intricacies of tree branches. Holy Spirit had woken me up early this morning. Half awake, at 6:30, I was simply aware of His presence, aware of being loved and aware I felt at peace. This early morning gift of a special awareness of His presence has happened several times since last year when depression and fear motivated me to desperately pursue God’s presence. It has happened at other times, too, most often when writing. However, this time, for many days I had been unable to feel His presence at all, much less that blessed intense awareness of His love for me.

Still enveloped in that peace that had covered me like a soft blanket while I was lying in bed,  I watched clusters of fuschia blossoms and seed pods at the ends of slender branches, swaying in the gentle morning wind.

“Hmmm,” I thought. “Only the branches on the edges of the trees catch the breeze, only those that reach out, like an unfurled sail.”

Image result for Royalty Free Picture of SailboatJust beyond the grasp of memory, I saw a motivational poster, an aerial shot of a solitary sailboat, sail hoisted, on a large lake, with something inspiring in large letters across the bottom, something like “If you don’t hoist your sail, you’ll stay stuck” only it was worded positively.

As I rocked in my desk chair, sipping iced coffee, I pondered how that paralleled reaching out to God. Although I am not a sailor, I know that even with the wind blowing hard, until a sail is hoisted, a boat will only drift with the tide and current. I pondered. . . God is always, always with us but until we reach out, we sometimes do not feel His presence.  Was that right?

How this little book grew. This book began a month ago as a short blog post that grew like Boston ivy! When I began writing, I felt close to God most of every day. But through the month, trials added up, and awareness of His presence wobbled. The times when I felt separated came more often until finally, I felt panicky and discouraged three days in a row, unable to feel God’s presence. That entire month I was working on this little book, studying and learning about His presence and His peace.

One blessing from that trial was discovering a spiritual emergency kit for finding the peace of God’s presence. As I reflected, I realized three simple things never fail to restore me to the secret place of the Most High:

  • Thanksgiving and praise,
  • Just talking with God throughout the day, and
  • Meditation on the blessed Word of God.

Details about the emergency kit are in a blog post entitled “My Spiritual Emergency Kit.” The goal of this little book about God’s presence is to bring deeper understanding of God’s presence and how to find and stay in “the shelter of the Most High.” (Psalm 91)

An overview. Listed below are the main points of this discussion. These are only a starting point for your own Bible study on this essential topic.

      1. What do we mean by God’s presence and His face?
      2. God tells us to seek His face.
      3. Basic truths about God’s presence.
      4. God promises His presence if we love and obey Him.
      5. How do we love and obey God?
      6. Why we sometime do not sense His presence.
      7. Hindrances to awareness of God’s presence.
      8. Lies from the enemy about God’s presence
      9. If you do not feel His presence.
      10. Do not give up no matter what or how long!
      11. Take courage!
      12. Wait with confident expectancy!
      13. “My deliverer is coming!’
      1. WHAT DO WE MEAN BY GOD’S PRESENCE AND HIS FACE?

Seeking the face of God means to seek His presence. A common Hebrew translation of “face” is “presence”. ( www.gotquestions.org) In this writing, when I talk about seeking God’s face or His presence, I mean seeking the conscious awareness of His presence. He is always with us, but the topic of this writing is being consciously aware of His presence.   Pastor and teacher John Piper says we do not seek God because he is lost. Rather

“. . . there is always something through which or around which we must go to meet him consciously.” (“What Does it Mean to Seek the LORD?” at www.desiringgod.org)

2. GOD TELLS US TO SEEK HIS FACE.

  • Seeking His face is a vital need.
  • He will help us.
  • Seek Him like David did.

The Bible tells us over and over to seek God’s face.  Psalm 105:4 says “Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always.” (NIV)

Image result for Royalty Free Picture of Seeking God“You have said, Seek My face [inquire for and require My presence as Your vital need]. My heart says to You, Your face {Your presence}, Lord, will I seek, inquire for, and require [of necessity and on the authority of Your Word]. (Psalm 27:8, AMPC.) 

Seeking His face is a vital need. Notice that God says to seek His face, to ask for and insist upon His presence as our vital need, or something without which we cannot survive. Because this is clearly God’s desire, we can ask for help and be confident He will give it. I John 5:14-15 assures us about “the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.”  (NIV) The wording of verse 15 in the Amplified Classic is even more reassuring.

And if (since) we [positively] know that He listens to us in whatever we ask, we also know [with settled and absolute knowledge]  that we have [granted us as our present possessions] the requests made of Him.”

He will help us. If God tells us to doImage result for royalty free clipart of i can do all things something, we can do it because His grace is sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9), so we can confidently say with Paul “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:13, NIV) That “everything” includes being aware of God’s presence. We may “approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16) We can call upon God for help because Jesus is our great High Priest who has “been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet without sin.” (v. 15).

Jesus sympathizes with our weaknesses. He understands our difficulties, and that includes the difficulty we have sometimes in doing what God says.

Seek Him like David. Read all 14 verses of Psalm 27 and see how David felt about the presence of God. In the first stanza (v. 1-3), David praises God and expresses gratitude to Him for taking such good care of him. In the second stanza (4-6), he expresses confidence that if he seeks God’s presence, God will keep him safe; and in the third stanza (7-12), David voices deep yearning for God’s presence. Finally, in the fourth stanza (13-14), David says He is confident He will see God’s goodness while he lives on earth, and he encourages himself and the listener to “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” God is everything to David. No wonder David longs to be in the presence of God!

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