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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: 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.”

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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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.

Perfect Love: The Antidote to the Poison of Fear

It never ceases to amaze me the things God uses to speak needed truths to my heart when I’m walking sthrough an emotionally difficult season. This morning, God used a book I’m currently reading, one that I’ve been interested in reading for a while but picked up at precisely the time I was needing its message.

I Still Believe: Discovering hope and healing in the midst of life’s deepest valleys, is an auto-biography of Contemporary Christian singer and song writer Jeremy Camp’s journey through the fire and anguish of the loss of his first wife Melissa to cancer, just a few months after their joyous wedding and honeymoon. It is a testimony of how to turn earthly sorrow into heavenly hope. I Still Believe is the source of an upcoming Christian film by the same title, currently in pre-production by the same production team that did the film I Can Only Imagine, with a planned theater release in March 2020.

This morning, as I was laying in bed reading a chapter in this book before getting up to begin my day, the Lord clearly spoke to my heart. The chapter I was reading is near the end of the book, around six years after Melissa’s death. Jeremy has remarried, to his current wife Adrienne, and they have two precious and dearly loved daughters, Isabella Rose and Arianne Mae.

In this chapter, Jeremy shares a personal battle with fear he walked through with the birth of his children. He wondered, “Would God possibly think of taking one of them home?” He continues, “These thoughts and emotions became so pervasive that I would hold my daughters extra close and pray extra hard for their protection.”

Jeremy took these fears to God and he says God spoke a gentle but firm word to his heart, one that was not what he was expecting to hear. “Do you not understand how much I love you, Jeremy? I love you perfectly, so much more than you could ever love your children.”

When I read these words that God spoke basically the same message to my heart. As most of you know, my husband and I lost our special needs son David last November. When I read this chapter, my eyes were opened to the source of the fear I’ve been dealing with in my current health-related problems. Like Jeremy, I needed a reminder of God’s provision for overcoming fear – His perfect love.

1 John 4:18 (NIV) says, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” This morning, I added 1 John 4:18 to a list of Bible verses I’ve been memorizing and reviewing daily during this season of dealing with physical pain, unsteady emotion, and probable surgery ahead, a list I put on my Bible Memory App and entitled “Promises to Hold Onto.”

Like Jeremy, I’ve been struggling with fear, as I wait for an appointment next Tuesday with a new orthopedic surgeon to come up with a treatment plan for my left knee. I’m likely facing a major surgery, which is complicated by Complex Regional Pain Syndrome in that knee. And this morning the Lord showed me my fears concerning what lies ahead were rooted in the pain of losing our son David and in the need to truly understand God’s perfect love.

Christian Author Jerry Bridges said God’s love is “an objective fact affirmed over and over in the Scriptures. It is true whether we believe it or not. Our doubts do not destroy God’s love, nor does our faith create it. It originates in the very nature of God, who is love, and it flows to us through our union with His beloved Son.”

The perfect love of God toward us as His blood-bought children, everyone who has accepted the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross as the full payment for our sin and received Him as our Savior and Lord, is a love that is complete and committed. It is a love that is sacrificial and steadfast. Though our feelings may come and go, God’s love for us is constant and unchanging. Though we are imperfect, God loves us perfectly. Though we are incomplete, God loves us completely. Nothing in all creation—present or future – can come between us and God’s love!

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans‬ ‭8:38-39‬

On this Thankful Thursday, I’m grateful for God’s perfect love that drives out fear. If you are personally walking through one of life’s deep valleys, I encourage you to join me in memorizing this verse and in seeking for a new depth of understanding of God’s love for you and me.

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The Sacrifice That Pleases God

“Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and perform your vows to the Most High, and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me…

The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me; to one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God!” Psalms‬ ‭50:14-15, 23‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Are you in a “day of trouble”? That would be a good way to describe the season I’m currently walking through, with a pending knee replacement surgery that I’ve been purposefully avoiding for several years because of the complexity of my knee problems.

In addition to having final stage osteoarthritis and meniscus tears in my left knee, I also have Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) in the joint. This was caused by the extensive damage to the joint and surrounding nerves from the automobile accident we had over forty years ago, so bad that the doctors told my husband they weren’t sure I’d ever be able to walk on that knee. The most common cause of CRPS is actually Knee Replacement Surgery. So while this surgery could relieve the pain and inflammation in my joint and restore the range of motion in that joint that the original damage took away, there’s also the possibility that another surgery would make the pain worse.

This troubling situation has resulted in lots of time spent crying out to God in prayer for wisdom concerning what I’m to do. My desire is to walk through this situation in a way that brings glory to God, so when I read the above verses this morning they really spoke to my heart.

Are you currently in “the day of trouble”? If so, join me in following the instructions given in the above verses.

  • OFFER TO GOD A SACRIFICE OF THANKSGIVING. The Lord no longer calls us to offer animal sacrifices for sin that were a part of the Old Covenant, since Jesus “appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.” (Hebrews‬ ‭9:26‬) But there still is one type of sacrifice that pleases God. My Bible gives an alternative translation of this phrase: “Make thanksgiving your sacrifice to God.” That could include acknowledging your sin and receiving cleansing from it (1 John 1:8). It could be songs of worship to our good God. It could be simply giving Him thanks for the good things He’s doing in your life in the midst of this difficult season.
  • PERFORM YOUR VOWS TO THE MOST HIGH. Have you made any vows to God? A vow is a binding promise, made to men or to God. Vows made to God especially need to be kept. “If you make a vow to the Lord your God, you shall not delay fulfilling it…” (Deuteronomy 23:21a).
  • CALL UPON ME IN THE DAY OF TROUBLE. We call upon the Lord in the day of trouble by coming to Him in honesty, sharing our fears and concerns with Him, and then asking Him to intervene. We run to Him as our refuge and strength, our very present help in our times of trouble (Psalm 46:1).
  • TO THE ONE WHO ORDERS HIS WAY RIGHTLY I WILL SHOW THE SALVATION OF GOD. This is a promise we can stand on during “the day of trouble.” To order our way rightly is to make sure it lines up with the will of God, as revealed in His Word. For me, this means praying for wisdom concerning how I am to walk through the current trial, spending time in prayer and in the Word of God to put myself in a place where I can hear His voice, and then being a doer of the Word and not a hearer only (James 1:5-8, 22-25; 3:17-18).

On this Thankful Thursday, I encourage you to spend time sharing the troubles you are currently walking through with the Lord and possibly with a trusted friend. But also remember these clear instructions from Psalm 50 about how we are to walk through the “day of trouble.” What will you offer up to God today as a Sacrifice of Thanksgiving?

A Psalm for Giving Thanks

Psalm 100: “A Psalm for Giving Thanks.”

“Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!

Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing!

Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!

For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.”

Other than Psalm 23, the above verses are some of the most often memorized from the book of Psalms. Many of us who have been attending church from childhood memorized at least some of these verses as young children.

I know for me personally, I can’t remember a time that I wasn’t familiar with the ideas expressed in these familiar verses. The idea of making a joyful noise to the Lord, even if I never had the best singing voice, was familiar. And the truth that we enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise were known, even if I had no idea what God’s gates and courts were. Now I understand these terms refer to entering the presence of God.

Psalm 100:4 says we “enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise.” Do you sometimes find it difficult to connect with God? To stir your desire for Him? Then open the gates with words of gratitude for all the good things He has done for you. Find a song of praise, especially one that acknowledges His power, worthiness, and glory, and enter into praise.

Are you having a good day? Give thanks to the Lord. Lift your voice in praise.

Are you having a bad day? Give thanks to the Lord. Lift your voice in praise.

Remember, the Lord is good every day. Even if you’re not having a good day. He’s always loving, always faithful. And He’s waiting for your words of appreciation and praise.

As Ann Voskamp has said, “Gratitude is not only a response to God in good times – it’s ultimately the very will of God in hard times. Gratitude isn’t only a celebration when good things happen. It’s a declaration that God is good no matter what happens.”

On this Thankful Thursday, let’s practice using our mouths to speak out words of gratitude to God. Let’s take some time singing songs of praise or possibly reading aloud some Psalms as confessions of praise. Today and every day, God is worthy of our expressions of gratefulness and praise, regardless of what we may currently be facing. Remember, the gates into God’s presence swing open when we lift up our words of thanksgiving to the Giver of all good gofts.