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Never Alone: God’s Presence & His Rest

Early in July, on the day before I was scheduled to go in for an MRI on my left knee, I heard the still, small voice of God speak a very clear message to my heart. Since the pain in that knee had gone from very mild to extremely severe overnight over a month before, I was ready for some answers. But what I heard wasn’t exactly what I was asking for in prayer. Instead, the Lord clearly spoke two verses of Scripture to my heart, with the strong impression that I was going to need to hold onto these to make it through the following months in victory. I immediately opened the Bible Memory app I use as a part of my daily quiet time, entered these two verses, and began memorizing them.

The first verse was Deuteronomy 31:8, which says (in NIV84, the version I frequently use when memorizing Scripture), “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

The second verse was today’s I Am Not Alone verse, Exodus 33:14. In the same version, it reads “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

Since that day, though God has given me several other verses that have been helpful during this time of dealing with multiple health issues, these two verses have been the ones that I’ve returned to over and over and over again. So on Wednesday morning, when I looked on our list of verses for the I Am Not Alone Bible Reading Plan to find today’s verse, I didn’t need to stop first to look up the verse in my Bible.  After reviewing this verse nearly daily since July 8th, I immediately recognized the Exodus 33:14 reference. “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.

Now, let’s dig a little deeper into the meaning of today’s verse. It contains two promises from God, first to the children of Israel to whom it was originally addressed, but as we’ll see later, also promises God has given us.

First, it says, “My presence will go with you.”

The children of Israel were on a journey. God had delivered them from bondage and oppression in Egypt, He had gone with them through a wilderness experience characterized by disobedience, dangers and drought, and now it was time for the final stage of the journey to begin, actually entering Canaan, the land of milk and honey God had promised His people.

But as Exodus 33 begins, God is not exactly happy with His people. Read these words God spoke to Moses at the beginning of this chapter.

“The Lord said to Moses, ‘Depart; go up from here, you and the people whom you have brought up out of the land of Egypt, to the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘To your offspring I will give it.’ I will send an angel before you, and I will drive out the Canaanites, the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; but I will not go up among you, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people.” Exodus 33:1-3 ESV

‭‭So what happened between verse 3 and verse 14, today’s key verse? Moses interceded before God for the stiff-necked people he had been called to lead. A part of Moses’ prayer is recorded in verses 12-13.

“See, you say to me, ‘Bring up this people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. Yet you have said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found favor in my sight.’ Now therefore, if I have found favor in your sight, please show me now your ways, that I may know you in order to find favor in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people.”

Basically, Moses was apprehensive about taking on the responsibility of leading God’s people into the promised land without God’s help, and he appealed to the mercy of God. He told Almighty God, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here.” And today’s verse is God’s response. Moses’ prayer of intercession changed God’s mind.

As God’s people under the New Covenant, He has made the same promise to us, as the verses we have been studying this month have confirmed over and over again.

‭‭The second promise of today’s verse: “And I will give you rest.”

First, what exactly does the word “rest” mean as it is used in the Bible. There are several words both in the Old and New Testament, but for today I’m going to stick to the three that most directly apply to us.

The Hebrew word used in the Exodus 33, “nawach,” means “to rest, settle down and remain; to repose, have rest, be quiet.”

When Christ taught on entering rest, He used the Greek word anapauō” which refers not to a “rest from work” but rather to a “rest in work.” Christ’s rest is not the rest of inactivity, but rather the inner rest of living in harmony with God.

But the word used in the Hebrews passage I’ll refer to later “katapausis” more closely parallels the Hebrew word used in Exodus 33 and includes the idea of “to cease, refresh, be quiet.”

God’s presence and His rest are inseparably joined in today’s verse. But there is also something required of us to enter God’s rest. Let’s look in the book of Hebrews for a clearer understanding of the process of entering God’s rest.

For the children of Israel, this was a promise of rest from the toils and dangers of the wilderness wanderings as they entered their promised land. Unfortunately, Hebrews 3:18-19 explains that they failed to enter His rest for two closely tied reasons, disobedience and unbelief.

The good news is that the account in Hebrews concerning entering God’s rest doesn’t end with these words. Hebrews 4 begins with a promise that the possibility of entering God’s rest still stands. These verses also include a warning for us, a reminder that entering God’s rest has the same two requirements for us that it had for Israel, faith which is demonstrated through obedience.

If it’s your desire to enter God’s rest in the midst of the sufferings and conflicts that are a part of life on this earth, take time today to open your Bible and read Hebrews 4:1-13. Remember, rest is found in God’s presence, but it also requires something from us.

As you read these verses, thank God for the gift of rest that He is offering you today, but also take some time to pray and ask God to show you if there is anything in your life that needs to be dealt with so that you can enter His rest. Any unbelief? Any disobedience to something He has clearly instructed you to do in His Word? God’s rest is one of the richest gifts He has offered His children. As Hebrews 4:11 (NLT) says, “So let us do our best to enter that rest.”

‭‭On this Thankful Thursday, let’s thank God for this gift of His rest and do our best to enter that rest.

Never Alone: Three Benefits of Being Jesus’ Sheep

Today’s I Am Not Alone Scripture, John 10:27-30, has special meaning to me during this difficult season I’ve been walking through. In the midst of some of the biggest health challenges I’ve faced in several years, I’ve experienced the ability to hear the voice of God as clearly as I ever recall during my nearly fifty years as a believer in Christ. Yes, there have been times when God was silent. But overall, as I’ve spent time daily in God’s Word and seeking understanding of the path He is taking me down, His clear direction has given comfort that He is with me in all that I have been and still am walking through.f

Another important truth in these verses: No one is able to snatch us out of the Father’s hand! If we have repented of our sin, received Jesus as our Savior and Lord, we have been given eternal life and that’s not going to change.

Protection from the attack of wolves and other predators is one of the responsibilities of the shepherd, and our Good Shepherd will never fail to fulfill this responsibility for His sheep. We are safe and secure in Him. He will lead us by His voice, provide the Spiritual nourishment we need to keep growing through His Word, and protect us from the attacks of the enemy as we grow in our knowledge of Him.

What are you needing today from your Good Shepherd? First, make sure He truly is your Shepherd, that you are one of His sheep. And if you are secure in this truth, remember the benefits of being His sheep.

  • You are able to hear His voice. The main way He speaks to us is through His written Word, but sometimes He also uses other Christians, the still small voice of His Spirit within, and even circumstances to make His voice heard. Just be sure what you are hearing lines up with His written Word, because He never contradicts Himself. “Whoever is of God hears the words of God.” (John 8:47a)
  • He will lead you and you have the freedom to decide to be led. God doesn’t force us to follow Him. But if we have truly made Jesus both Savior and Lord, one of the fruits in our lives will be a desire to do what is pleasing in His eyes. “for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.” (Ephesians‬ ‭5:8-10‬)‬‬
  • He will protect us when the enemy comes against us. We have a part in this too, but by putting on the full armor of God (see Ephesians 6:10-18), we will be empowered to stand and keep on standing in the victory our Good Shepherd has already won on our behalf. “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians‬ ‭15:57‬)‬‬

Never Alone: Amazing Love!

Today’s I Am Not Alone verse, Ephesians 3:17, is a part of a section labeled in my ESV Bible Prayer for Spiritual Strength. It covers the following verses.

“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” Ephesians‬ ‭3:14-21‬ ‭ESV‬‬

This is a prayer for strength and power through the indwelling Holy Spirit that we will be able to fully grasp the width and length and height and depth of the love of Christ and then be filled with the fullness of God. It’s also a reminder that the One who lives within us is able to do abundantly more in and through our lives than we are able to ask or think, through His power that is at work within us.

When I think of the love of Christ, the first thing that usually comes to mind is 1 John 3:16, which says, “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.” Christ’s willingness to lay down His life to make a way for us to come to Him in repentance, receive forgiveness for our sins, and be restored to fellowship with our heavenly Father should remove any doubts we have about His love.

‭But Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf began long before His sacrificial death on the Cross of Calvary. Have you ever considered what Christ, fully God and fully man, gave up just to come to earth and become a human being like us? I love this quote written by William Dyer, a godly pastor in London during the late 1600s. In his book Christ’s Famous Titles, he wrote:

“Christ uncrowned Himself—to crown us!

He put off His robes—to put on our rags!

He came down from heaven—to keep us out of hell!

He fasted forty days—that He might feast us to all eternity!

He came from heaven to earth—that He might send us from earth to heaven!”

On this Thankful Thursday, let’s take some time to reflect on the immense sacrifice Jesus made in coming to earth to fulfill the most familiar promise of Scripture to most of us as believer’s in Jesus Christ. Because Jesus isn’t the only One who loves us with this amazing love. He is a perfect reflection of the perfect love of the Father, expressed in another John 3:16, this time the Gospel of John.

“”For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

Never Alone: God’s Presence Within

I used to wish I had lived during the time when Jesus walked in Jerusalem and the surrounding area and could have actually heard Him teaching. Can you imagine what it would have been like to have been among the crowd as Jesus stood on the Galilean hillside now known as the Mount of Beatitudes, and began speaking these words most of us have read many times?

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:5-12)

But more recently, as I’ve begun an in-depth study on the Holy Spirit as a beginning step in writing a Bible study on the names and functions of the Holy Spirit for the small group I work with at our church, I’ve seen this a little differently. No, we can’t be a part of the large crowds that gathered to hear Jesus’ teaching. But because of the promise in today’s “I Am Not Alone” verses, we experience something even more amazing. If we have surrendered our lives to Jesus as our Savior and Lord, we have the Holy Spirit, also known as the Spirit of God and the Spirit of Jesus, living within us as our ever-present teacher.

The setting of today’s verses was Jesus’ last supper with His disciples, during which He warned that one of these gathered around Him as a trusted friend, Judas Iscariot, would betray Him and He also foretold of Peter’s coming denial. Jesus had just told His disciples He was leaving them, and their hearts were troubled.

Jesus was trying to reassure these who had walked so close to Him that He was leaving but He wasn’t leaving them alone.

“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.” (John 14:16-17)

These verses told the original disciples that the Father would give them another Helper, another Counselor, Comforter, Teacher and Friend to be with them. A Helper of the same kind, The Spirit of truth who would teach them and guide them into all truth. And a couple chapters later in the Gospel of John, He explains it is to their advantage He is returning to the Father, because this Helper would not just walk beside them. He would live within them, to be their Teacher, and close Friend. And this indwelling Holy Spirit would empower them as they completed the work Jesus had appointed them to do.

The good news for us today is that these promises were not limited to these original disciples. If you have accepted Jesus Christ’s sacrificial death on the Cross as payment in full for your sins and received Jesus as your Savior and Lord, these verses equally apply to you. You are Never Alone because God lives within you in the form of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth.

Today’s message in song:

Ten Essential Truths About The Goodness of God

Yesterday, I did a short “Thankful Thursday” post for God-Living Girls with Chronic Illness on Strengthening Ourselves in the Lord. It was based on 1 Samuel 30, where David and his men return to their home-base in Ziklag, only to find the city had been attacked by Amalekite raiders, burned to the ground, and all the inhabitants of the city, including the wives and children of David and his men, taken captive.

As if this wasn’t enough for David to deal with, the passage also tells us that his own men had turned against him and were talking of stoning him. To say David felt overwhelmed is an understatement. Yes, the passage says David (and those with him) “wept until they had no strength to weep.” But then David did something else. The final words of 1 Samuel 30:6 say, “But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God.” After doing this, David had the courage and wisdom to turn this dire situation around.

This has been a difficult week, as I’ve dealt with the disappointment of no obvious improvement in knee pain well past the five days it usually takes to tell if a cortisone injection will be effective. But after reading this passage, I had to admit my bad days aren’t even worthy to compare with what David experienced in this chapter.

I also knew God had a clear message for me from this Old Testament historical narrative. I needed to spend some time strengthening and encouraging myself in the Lord. That was the “next step” God was calling me to take, before I was ready to face the uncertainties of the future and begin moving forward.

And the Lord went a step further and showed me a specific area where the enemy had been using difficult circumstances of the last nine months to chip away at my trust in one of the major truths of the Christian life, the goodness of God. Without a firm foundation built on the goodness of our God, difficult circumstances can result in a type of emotional paralysis that keeps us from moving forward.

I’ve spent some time yesterday afternoon and this morning studying what God’s word has to say about the goodness of our God. God is with us whether we have awareness of His presence or not. He is always loving, whether our circumstances are a clear reflection of that love or not. And God is good, in every situation, even when our emotions are making it hard for us to believe this.

The truths that God is with us and will never leave or forsake us, that He loves us with a steadfast and unfailing love, and that no matter what is going on in our lives God is still good are three foundational truths about the nature of God that we need to accept by faith to make it through the tough seasons of life.

Ten Essentials Truths About the Goodness of God

  1. The goodness of our God is with us always, whether we have awareness of it in our emotions or not.
  2. God both is good and does good, goodness marks His nature and His works. “You are good and do good…”(Psalm 119:68a)
  3. God’s goodness follows me daily through this life, and because He gave His Son for my sins – His ultimate act of goodness – I will spend eternity with Him. “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalm 23:6)
  4. By faith I receive God’s goodness in the midst of daily trials. “I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living!” (Psalm 27:13)
  5. God’s goodness is tangible – we can “taste and see” it. “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!” (Psalm 34:8 ESV)
  6. Because of His goodness, He is a stronghold we can flee to in the day of trouble. “The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him.” (Nahum 1:7)
  7. Giving thanks to the Lord should be our response to His goodness. “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!” (Psalm 107:1)
  8. God’s goodness is for all. “The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made.” (Psalm 145:9)
  9. God especially promises to show goodness to all who wait on Him. “The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.”(Lamentations 3:25-26)
  10. While goodness is a fruit of the Spirit and a character attribute we are to extend toward others, no one is fully and truly good but God! “No one is good except God alone.” (Mark 10:18; Luke 18:19)

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When God Is Silent

I spent some time reading and praying yesterday about today’s Teach Me Tuesday post. If there has been one key truth God has been teaching me recently it’s that life and encouragement are found in the lessons He is teaching, not in the ideas that spring out of my own understanding. And yesterday was a day of not sensing any new truths to share.

This month, I’ve been focusing on the truth that we are not alone. This morning, as I did some personal study on this subject, one truth seemed to stand out. God promises to NEVER leave or forsake us. But He does not promise we will FEEL His presence daily. He will go before us to lead the way, be with us in every circumstance we face, but there are times when our awareness of His presence will be missing. So what are we to do during such times?

As I prayed about this earlier today, three things came to mind.

1. When God is silent, remember He is still there. Keep seeking His face.

2. Go back to the last thing(s) He spoke to you, and be sure you are walking out the previous truths He has shown you.

3. Rest in the Lord as you wait for His next instructions.

One of the recurring messages I’ve heard over the past two and a half months is that faith doesn’t focus far into the future. Faith is walking in obedience to the steps God has already revealed. As Joni Eareckson Tada has said, “it’s simply taking God at His Word and taking the next step.” Sometimes, God is waiting for us to get moving so He can continue to lead us into the future He has for us.

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God’s Presence in Pain and Suffering

I received a free excerpt from Kelly Minter’s newest Lifeway Bible Study, Finding God Faithful, in my email on Tuesday, opening and reading it soon after I returned home from an appointment with a new orthopedic surgeon that morning. It looks like a great study on the life of Joseph, one I’d love to do sometime soon, but that’s not why I’m sharing it here. I wanted to share the following quote that began the enclosed excerpt from the study – which as soon as I read it “jumped off the page” as if if were on a neon sign.

“We can get through just about any pain or suffering if we know the Lord is in it with us. But when we feel forsaken or abandoned, our pain becomes unbearable. In a most trying circumstance, the psalmist expressed what the Lord’s presence meant to him with the imagery, ‘Even when I go through the darkest valley, I fear no danger, for you are with me; your rod and your staff—they comfort me’ (Ps. 23:4, emphasis mine).”

This last nine weeks have been very difficult physically for me. But they have also been some of the most encouraging in recent years as God’s presence has been amazingly near. As Paul said in 2 Corinthians 4:16, this situation I have been walking through since the last week of May has been a reminder not to lose heart, for even though my outer self – my physical body – is wasting away, my inner self – my soul and spirit – is being renewed day by day. And why is that? God’s presence in these trying circumstances has been the one constant.

At least a couple times a week, I’ve heard a clear message from the Lord concerning how I was to walk through this difficult season. As I read the above quote early this afternoon, my eyes were opened to the fact that each message I’ve heard from the Lord had one central theme: His presence is what you and I need to make it through this and every season of suffering.

Never once has He given me a word that had to do with my symptoms or what I was to do about them. When I left for today’s appointment, none of my questions about what treatment was best in this situation had been answered. Each time, God’s message centered on His presence being the answer I was needing to make it through this difficult season victoriously. Each time I prayed and sensed a word from the Lord, it focused on Him.

There was the word that He was taking me on a detour from my planned route to my destination, but the message I heard emphasized His control over the detour and His purpose in it. Then the Lord reminded me through Deuteronomy 31:8 that He would go before me and be with me, He would not leave me or forsake me. I was not to give place to fear or discouragement. Instead, I was to fix my eyes on the Lord and not on my circumstances.

I was reminded of His perfect love that casts out fear (1 John 4:18). I was encouraged by the truth that His steadfast love and faithfulness go before me (Psalms 94:14). God brought to my mind the truth that I needed be still before the Lord so I could hear His still, small voice (1 Kings 19:12). And as I read the familiar verses at the end of Matthew 2811, three simple words stood out to me, “Come to me.” (Matthew 11:28).

On this Thankful Thursday, let’s give thanks to God for His sustaining and strengthening presence that enables us to make it through the tough seasons in our lives. No matter what we are currently facing, the Lord’s presence is what we’re needing above all else.