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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

In His Presence

Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act. Don’t worry about evil people who prosper or fret about their wicked schemes. Psalm 37:7

How difficult it is for a child to be quiet and sit quietly.  My cousin came for a visit when she was seven years old.  When her father came to pick her up, he asked if she talked too much, commenting, “If she talked half as much as she does at home, she talked too much.” 

Somehow, we do not like silence.  We are uncomfortable with silence.  If we are silent - uncomfortable thoughts may intrude.  Thoughts such as reality, making decisions, ignoring punctuation marks like commas and periods signifying the end of a thought.  A writer is cautioned about ‘run-on’ sentences, and an incessant talker is in love with verbalized ‘run-on’ thoughts.

When I was a child, the lyric to a hymn caught me by surprise.  Maybe you have sung, them, too.  And He walks with me, and He talks with me, and He tells me I am His own.  And the joy we share as we tarry there, None has ever known.  (In the Garden – Merle Haggard)  I knew no one has seen God, but how can God walk and talk with us?  We must choose to be in His Presence.
Ask Adam and Eve who hid from God as He walked in the Garden.  Ask Moses as he prepared to lead the Children of Israel out Egypt and God promised - The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” – Exodus 33:14.  Ask Daniel as he told the King the morning after spending the night in the Lions’ Den - My God sent his angel to shut the lions’ mouths so that they would not hurt me, for I have been found innocent in his sight. And I have not wronged you, Your Majesty.”  Daniel 6:22.  Ask Abraham, when tested, took his only son Isaac to the top of the mountain to sacrifice him.  As Abraham raised the knife he heard, But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” Genesis 22:11-12
There are others besides you and me – who want to be In His Presence.  Why?  How? 
In the Psalms we find….You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever.  Psalm 16:11. 

That is part of why – the joy and pleasure of living, walking and talking with God forever.

Think about those angels who are continually in God’s presence - Then the angel said, “I am Gabriel! I stand in the very presence of God. It was He who sent me to bring you this good news!  Luke 1:19.  Zechariah, a Jewish Priest, is told, as an old man, that he will have a son – John.  Gabriel, from the Presence of God, gave Mary the news of the virgin birth of Jesus.  Gabriel presented the first good news about the Son of God born in the flesh, because God’s love is for all of us who believe, trust and have faith in God alone. 

Belonging to Him, we will produce fruit of the Holy Spirit.  This is through the Christ Jesus dying on the cross and being raised to walk anew.  Our identity, as a Citizen of Heaven, begins in that moment.  This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!  2 Corinthians 5:17

Imagine producing this fruit of the Spirit, as given in Galatians 5:22-23! But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

When I was sixteen, as a part of our youth group activities at church, we were to name the qualities we would like in our future mate.  I remember that none of these fruit were on my list.  Simply outward appearances appeared.  When it was time to make a decision for my mate, I recognized other qualities than the appearance.  My choice was a man who lived goodness, kindness and gentleness.  Even as Samuel, the Prophet of God, chose the next King of Israel.  But the Lord said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”  I Samuel 16:7

When you hear a praise song or a hymn, let the words penetrate your heart.  When you pray, know his presence.  When you thank Him during the day for food, for breath, for loving you, know that He hears you.  When you enjoy God’s bounty and goodness during the day, God smiles.  When you see the wind rustling through the trees and ripple through the flowers, listen for his voice.  Just as we do not see the wind, we know its presence on our faces.  Just as we do not see God, we know the difference He makes in our hearts and lives.

In His Presence, we truly come alive and know that God is Love.  Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life.  God is with us.  God is near us. God is the One God.  God is the Light.  God is Spirit.  God is true.  God is the Eternal King.  God is faithful and steadfast. God is the Great I Am.

 And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place.  And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water.  Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.  And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.  Hebrews 10:19-25


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

"God Bless You!"

My friend and I sat together listening to the music and the message of God, and the serving of the Lord’s Supper.  At the end of the service, she grasped my face, kissed my the side of my face and said, “God bless you!”

Her prayer of blessing uttered each week with such simplicity and love touched my heart and echoed often during the week that followed.  Another scene, in another state, and another time during a morning Bible Study, a different scene was portrayed.  It was time for prayer.  Prayer requests dealing with so many different ailments of those we know, we added to the list.  Then it came time for praises.  The room was silent as if praises, the response to blessings, were none existent or timidly offered.  This empty response was from those who walked with the Lord?  How can that be?

What is a blessing?  What does, ‘God bless you’, mean?  It is a spiritual prayer of someone who invokes God’s continued favour and protection us.  It is serving a need of others through giving help that can be financial, emotional or physical to someone else. My Mom, a giver and server, found herself in the hospital with cancer surgery.  She was near tears when others blessed her by taking care of her needs.  She did not have the strength to return their kindnesses.  She lived by “it is better to give than to receive”.  She didn’t understand that she needed to let others give to her, to receive all the blessing of giving to others. 

This is difficult to do – and one I am learning as we need more and more help in this stage of our lives.  Sometimes my heart is so filled with gratitude for those who do, those who pray, those who listen, those who care, that it brings me to tears.  Our children are at the top of the list of those who show God’s love to us and bless us daily with the love, their attention and care in many ways. 

How many ways does God bless us when we belong to Him totally?  Giving our lives to Him in many ways, looking to help others in some small way?  Have you ever sung the hymn, Count your many blessings, name them one by one? Did the lyrics touch your heart?

Will we enter into the middle years and beyond without knowing, realizing, and being a blessing to someone else?  The first time I heard someone pray for me by name, I cried. That was a blessing to me.  God is a forever Giver and his bottom line is LOVE.  Until we learn to love like Jesus, unconditionally, we can’t understand Him or His love completely. 

Have you ever wondered, when things are bad, if the sun is going to come up in the morning?  Have you ever wondered if you would go hungry?  Have you ever held a grudge?  Do you judge others from their heart or their appearance or actions?  The Lord’s Prayer is a blessing from God because it gives us a blue print of being truly His.

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
 on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  Matthew 6:9-13

Below is my partial list of the ways God blesses me.  There are more.  My prayer is that I can bless others with the blessings God gives me.  Have you tried to make a list of your blessings?

- For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, for through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.  Ephesians 2:8,18.  The blessing of faith and grace, a gift of God.

† -In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, Ephesians 1:11  The blessing of an eternal inheritance – life everlasting.

 † -But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.  John 1:12.  The blessing of becoming children of God.

† - But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.  Romans 6:22.  The blessing of choosing to serve God.

† - For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.  2 Timothy 1:7.  The blessing of having a sound mind and losing fear.

† - Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.  John 14:27.  The blessing of knowing peace and being unafraid in life through Jesus Christ.

† - In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? John 14:2. The blessing of the surety of an eternal home with Jesus Christ.

† - And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever John 14:16. The blessing of the knowledge that Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to comfort and guide us in this life on earth.

† - The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.  2 Timothy 4:18.  The blessing of knowing our citizenship is in Heaven.

† - Waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ. Titus 2:13.   The blessing of the return of Jesus to earth.


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Hallelujah Hope!

Ready for some music, last Lord’s Day, I sat with my friend and waited for the music to begin.  The first song declared, “Jesus is alive, Jesus is alive, Happy Day, I’ll never be the same, I have been changed.  Celebrate, Jesus is alive!”  And I remember…why every day is a happy day since I was eight years old for my sins were washed away.  As the songs continued, the lyrics of each one permeated my heart and soul and I remember Whose I am and will always be. 

Memories of Mother, playing hymns on the piano as I drifted off to sleep each night as a child, came to mind.  Then came the older hymn I did not remember – a hymn written by Philip Bliss in 1875, Hallelujah, What a Savior.  The verses give the gospel story, sung with an unpretentious simple melody.  I sat with my eyes closed and listened to the 500 voices around me.  I gave myself to the worship of our Lord with thousands before me, and thousands after me. 

Each time Hallelujah, What a Savior was repeated, it sank deeper into my soul, Hallelujah, Praise the Lord, What a Savior.  Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.  Although Praise the Lord is a phrase often repeated in the Bible, I did not find Hallelujah until the book of Revelations.

I am drawn to the Psalms, and found in Psalm 146:1-2 - Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord, O my soul! I will praise the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being
Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise from the end of the earth, you who go down to the sea, and all that fills it, the coastlands and their inhabitants.  Isaiah 42:10
For as the earth brings forth its sprouts, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to sprout up, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to sprout up before all the nations.  Isaiah 61:11
 Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Psalm 95:1

Philip Bliss wrote the Gospel Story in Song….
“Man of Sorrows!” what a name
For the Son of God, who came
Ruined sinners to reclaim.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!
   He was despised and rejected— a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care. Isaiah 53:3
   Jesus responded, “Salvation has come to this home today, for this man has shown himself to be a true son of Abraham.  For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.  Luke 19:9-10 
Bearing shame and scoffing rude,
In my place condemned He stood;
Sealed my pardon with His blood.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!
 †  Pilate responded, “Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” They shouted back, “Crucify him!” “Why?” Pilate demanded. “What crime has he committed?” But the mob roared even louder, “Crucify him!” Matthew 27:22-23
   A sign was fastened above him with these words: “This is the King of the Jews. ”One of the criminals hanging beside him scoffed, “So you’re the Messiah, are you? Prove it by saving yourself—and us, too, while you’re at it!”  Luke 23:38-39
Guilty, vile, and helpless we;
Spotless Lamb of God was He;
“Full atonement!” can it be?
Hallelujah! What a Savior!
  For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God freely and graciously declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.  For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin.  Romans 3:23-25
 Can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on obeying the law. It is based on faith. So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law. Romans 3:27-28
Lifted up was He to die;
“It is finished!” was His cry;
Now in Heav’n exalted high.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!
 A jar of sour wine was sitting there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put it on a hyssop branch, and held it up to his lips.  When Jesus had tasted it, he said, “It is finished!” Then he bowed his head and released his spirit. John 19: 29-30
When He comes, our glorious King,
All His ransomed home to bring,
Then anew His song we’ll sing:
Hallelujah! What a Savior!
 And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.” And he also said, “It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega—the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give freely from the springs of the water of life. All who are victorious will inherit all these blessings, and I will be their God, and they will be my children.  Revelation 21:5-7
 Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Revelation 19:1