Who Shall Dwell On Your Holy Hill?

Today’s readings come from 1 Samuel 14 and Psalm 15.

Yes, it’s mid February. And yes, we are still listening to Christmas Carols. Earlier this week my four year old son asked me to pause the song and wanted to know what the third verse of Away in a Manger meant – “how do we fit us for heaven”?  I tried to explain it in the simplest way possible that a tiny (yet growing) mind may understand:

  • God is so holy and perfect in every way.
  • We must be made pure and clean to be with Him in heaven.
  • We sin and are unclean, but because Jesus is perfect, when He died on the cross to pay for our sin, He makes us clean.
  • Our time here on earth is to truly believe in Jesus, every day love Him with all of our heart. This is how we “get ready” or “get fit” to live with God in heaven.

Psalm 15 takes us through a much better description of who can be in God’s presence, in His holy place, or “fit for heaven”.  And WOW, it’s convicting and motivating! I can’t wait to read this scripture with my little guy as a follow up to his question.

Psalm 15

O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent?
    Who shall dwell on your holy hill?

He who walks blamelessly and does what is right
    and speaks truth in his heart;
who does not slander with his tongue
    and does no evil to his neighbor,
    nor takes up a reproach against his friend;
in whose eyes a vile person is despised,
    but who honors those who fear the Lord;
who swears to his own hurt and does not change;
who does not put out his money at interest
    and does not take a bribe against the innocent.
He who does these things shall never be moved.

While this isn’t a checklist to enter heaven, if it were, we would all fail.  We are all disqualified at the very first qualification: blameless. Because we have all sinned, we all have blame. But Jesus took our blame and shame that day on Calvary. Our belief in Him is what allows us to dwell with Him in His holy place.

As I continue studying the different verse meanings and praying through each one, the Holy Spirit is challenging me to rid and repent of any of these sins in my life.  One characteristic that really stands out is the end of verse four. Am I able to keep my word and commitments even when it hurts?  Am I unchanging even when it’s hard?

I’m humbled that my God still loves me through my failings, continues to cleanse me through His perfect Son, and keeps calling me to a deeper communion with Him.  I can’t help but think of another kids’ song I’m thankful for:

He’s still working on me, to make me what I ought to be.
It took Him just a week to make the moon and stars,
The sun and the Earth and Jupiter and Mars.
How loving and patient He must be,
He’s still working on me. 

Are you there?

 

Todays Reading

I Samuel 9, Psalms 10

Have you ever been in a position in your life that you are asking God “Are you there?” It could be during a difficult examination; receiving some bad news; being at the bedside of a loved one; or the passing of a close relative. We all have at one time or another asked the question “God, are you there? God do you care?” The answer is hard to contemplate during these times because were are human and want to have the results instantaneously.

This week we will be starting the Lenten season of reflection and insight, and as we enter this season we seek a new and profound relationship with God. Some may sacrifice items or time to allow them to pursue Christ more. Some may commit to a particular practice as prayer, devotion, or mediation to connect. But during this time some of us will have immediate connection with God and others it may take some time. Through these time of intentional reflection or devotions God is present and He is continually mindful of us, his children. God is a father that is in tuned with His people and knows our desires, pains, and afflictions before we are aware of them. We may feel that He is distant, but He is actually right beside us in these most vulnerable times.

In my own experiences , I have asked the questions of “Are you there?” many times. The ones that I remember very vividly are: Exactly seven years ago this week, my son, Ollie was admitted to the hospital and my wife and I had no idea the pain and suffering he was experiencing. At six weeks old, Oliver had a 21-day stay at OSF in Peoria and we did not know what each day would entail. We as first time parents did not know if our son would survive each following day. “God, Are you there?”   Four years ago, on the day that my daughter, Ruby, was born and she was immediately placed in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) due to her having several conditions that were potentially life threating. My wife was not able to see my daughter until 12 hours after her birth. I went to the NICU with Ruby and held her hand the entire time. I prayed constantly “ God, Are you there?” Last year, my daughter Nadya, had an accident at a store and had several issues with consciousness and alertness.    I rushed her to the hospital and waited with her as she underwent test and exams to ensure that she did not have a concussion or seizures. As I wait, I ask “ Are you there?” Now as I reflect on these powerful and impactful times in my life, I can assure you that the last portion of the Psalm is true:

Psalms: 10-16-18

The Lord is king forever and ever;
the nations perish from his land.
17 O Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted;
you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear
18 to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed,
so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.

 

In I Samuel, the 9th Chapter, we see that God knows the direction and the timing of all the things that are for His good. In this chapter each detail that is explained has been already set into motion by the Most High and we all have the ability to acknowledge and accept Him. He directs Saul to a certain region in response to one mission, but God has a different plan and purpose for him. Samuel has been given insight at the exact time and location that he will meet Saul. Then the meeting of the two allows each one to fulfill God’s purpose. God gives us the options and we have to ask for discernment to make the best decision.

So the question is “Are you there?”, the answer is “Yes, are you listening and are you aware of my presence?” Throughout the bible, the Spirit of God is present at all places and is now present of the believers. We now have to ask ourselves “ Are we ready to acknowledge Him?”

Have  a blessed week.

 

 

 

Rejoice, Repent, Relinquish

1 Samuel 2 & Psalms 3

In today’s readings we follow three attitudes and approaches to God from three different people (Hannah, the Sons of Eli, David). 1 Samuel outlines Hannah’s song of praise and then in contrast, the choices of the worthless sons of Eli.  Turning to Psalms we find David’s prayer of trust in God.

After years of praying and waiting, Hannah is blessed with a son, Samuel, and her response is one of genuine joy and gratitude. She declares in this prayer-song who the Lord is, what He has done, and what He will do.  His knowledge and judgement are perfect: He makes the feeble strong, feeds the hungry, brings babies to the barren, poor become rich, exalts the lowly, and protects His faithful. Her worship to the Lord with her words is a foreshadowing of Mary’s song in Luke 1, praising God for who He is and what He has done.

Meanwhile, Eli’s sons continue to disobey God and are called worthless men who do not know the Lord. One of the transgressions detailed is their taking advantage and dishonoring the sacrifices to God from the people. Eli rebukes his sons, and instead of responding with sorrow and repentance for their sin, they continue in a sinful lifestyle – even sleeping with servant women at the temple entrance. They demonstrate complete disregard for Eli’s admonishment, and most of all for God. They are arrogant in their positions as Eli’s sons and ‘servants of the priest’, and it is known among Israel.

Fast-forward to Psalm 3, David’s prayer-song to God of the events unfolding (that come later in 2 Samuel 15-16).  David’s son Absalom has created a conspiracy against David and has turned the people against him. As David flees from Jerusalem to the Jordan river, he cries out to the Lord. Verses 1 & 2 outline the reality of David’s situation and what he is up against – many, MANY enemies that are against him and almost taunting his faith and salvation. I love verse 3, the turning point in this song, beginning with “But YOU, Oh Lord…”, David’s hope and fear is in the Lord, not in man. He declares God’s protection, answering, and sustaining, even when he is surrounded. He turns it over to God and His trust is in Him alone.

These three scenarios leave us with examples of how we can respond to God.  Both Hannah and David declare WHO God is, what He has done, and what He will do.  One after experiencing a miracle and the other in a plea for protection and prayer of trust.  And finally, we have an example that leads to destruction: responding to God with continued sin and rebellion. I can’t read these accounts without examining my own response to God.

In times of blessings and miracles right in front of me, do I stop and praise God for His perfect provision and timing? What a beautiful example of rejoicing Hannah gives us! Whether it be something small that the world may brush off as coincidence, or something much bigger that is clearly divine, do I give God all the glory? Do I continually believe in WHO God is and WHAT He will do?

In times of Godly correction, can I soften my heart to repent or will I rebel even more? Maybe it’s a prompting from the Holy Spirit showing me my sin, a sister in Christ sharing a truth I need to hear, or a scripture speaking right to me.  I can look back at times when my response was much more like Eli’s worthless sons, rationalizing and justifying my actions, instead of turning to God with sorrow for my sin.

In times of desperation, like David, can I turn my fear into faith? Do I say ‘But YOU, Oh Lord…’ when faced with trials that seem unfair? Am I willing to believe that His judgement and justice is best?  David could have fought to stay in Jerusalem and clear his name, instead he chose to protect his followers and flee to keep them out of harm’s way. Can I praise Him in the midst of fear and heartache? Am I willing to let God fight my battles and relinquish the control I think I have?

Lord, you ARE the Almighty, King of all Kings. Your ways are far beyond my understanding. Thank you for showing me grace and patience as I repent for my sin and rebellion. Please give me the rejoicing heart of Hannah and the relinquishing trust of David. Amen.

Psalm 145

Our reading for today is Psalm 145, and after reading it through, it is simply perfect for the day after Christmas. Psalm 145 is a psalm of praise, written by David to his Lord:

I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever.

Every day I will bless you and praise your name forever and ever.

Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable.

One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts.

On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.

They shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds, and I will declare your greatness.

They shall pour forth the fame of your abundant goodness and shall sing aloud of your righteousness.

The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made.

All your works shall give thanks to you, O Lord, and all your saints shall bless you!

They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom and tell of your power, to make known to the children of man your mighty deeds, and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.

Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures throughout all generations.

The Lord is faithful in all his words and kind in all his works.

The Lord upholds all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down.

The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season.

You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing.

The Lord is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works.

The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.

He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them.

The Lord preserves all who love him, but the wicked he will destroy.

My mouth will speak the praise of the Lord, and let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever. (Psalm 145)

In this psalm, David lists several reasons why God is worthy of our praise: He is great. His greatness is unsearchable. He does mighty and wondrous works. He is abundantly good. He is righteous. He is gracious and merciful. He is slow to anger. His love is steadfast (I love this one! – It reminds me of the picture of an anchor). He is good to all. He has mercy on us. He is powerful. His kingdom is everlasting. He is faithful and kind. He upholds the fallen. He is a provider. He satisfies our deepest desires. He is near. He saves. He preserves all who love him. That’s quite a list, right?!

David’s response to all of who God is is simply this: praise. David will meditate on God’s works, and in response, David will declare God’s greatness and sing aloud of His righteousness. David says that he will extol God, and that he will bless Him and praise His name forever. David praises God for the work He has done in David’s life, and for who He is.

Perhaps this is a good time, as we near the end of 2017, to take some time to write out your praises to God. Consider what He has done for you this year, and praise Him for the times of blessing and the times of stretching and growing. Consider His attributes, the aspects of His character, and praise Him for those. And consider that when we praise Him, we link arms with those around the world who are doing the exact same thing. We join in that chorus of praise. Merry Christmas!

The Best-laid Plans

People, by-in-large, are good at setting and achieving goals.  Day-in-day-out billions of people arrive to work on-time, remember to do more things than they forget, have a roof to sleep under and manage to feed and clothe themselves.  People, by-in-large, are used to setting goals, making plans and seeing them through to some measure of success.  This can be a dangerous thing.  (Proverbs 4:12, Proverbs 16:25)

In the 139 Psalm, King David proclaims God’s omniscience (v1-6), omnipresence (v7-12), and omnipotence (v13-18), as well as David’s own obeisance (v19-24).  King David has reached a point where his perspective of himself and his abilities compared to God’s are right.  It is beautiful to witness.  

Throughout scripture, God does amazing things for people as soon as they realize what David realized.  Have you ever found your heart pouring out to God saying some version of, “I’m done.  I don’t want to do it my way ever again. It always ends up hurting. God: I want what you want. Lead me. Thy will be done.”?

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
24 And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!
– Psalm 139:23-24

Painful outcomes or trials can leave us feeling this way.  The danger is when we have “success” in our plans.  Success is not a history of achieving personal goals.  Success and achieving personal goals are not by default the same thing.

We have wisdom when we see things as God sees things.  In my estimation, the key question to reflect on and be sure our heart has the true answer to is this:

What is God’s definition of success?

This holiday season I encourage everyone confronted with the question “Who is successful?” whether spoken, worn, driven, sat in, or otherwise to consider God’s definition.  To be prepared the truth.  How can we press into the truth and be a blessing to others?  

Customers, Vendors, Christmas Shopping, and Teamwork

Today’s reading: Mark 1 and Psalm 125

They that trust in the Lord shall be as mount Zion,
which cannot be removed, but abideth for ever.
As the mountains are round about Jerusalem,
so the Lord is round about his people from henceforth even for ever.
– Psalm 125:1-2

Have you ever been in a situation in your life that left you hoping for a different outcome?  How about at your job?  Maybe it was a problem that needed fixing, a situation that needed correcting, a shortcoming that called for personal growth, or any number of things.  No matter what the situation, Scripture tells us, “They that trust in the Lord shall be as mount Zion”. (Psalm 125:1a).   I don’t know about you, but that truth simplifies things for me.  It relieves me.  It eases my burden.  God, please help me in the work You have given me to do, as well as in every area of my life, to trust You fully and to look to You for answers.

Divine Nature of Work

God took Adam and placed him in the Garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.  (Genesis 2:15)  Later God gave Eve to Adam to help him. (Genesis 2:18)  As I studied and reflected on this scene here are the main things I was taught about work:

  1. The divine nature of work was established from the beginning – this was before the fall.
  2. God placed Adam – God provides the domain (time and place).
  3. God gave Adam work to do – God provides the work.
  4. God gave Eve to Adam to help him – God provides the people to help (the team).

Divine Purpose of Work

Moses had just received orders from God to get ashes from the furnace, stand in the presence of Pharaoh, and sprinkle them up toward heaven.  The ashes brought boils upon man and beast.  The next morning God gave Moses a message for Pharaoh that included the purpose of Pharaoh’s position.

16 And in very deed for this cause have I raised thee up,
for to shew in thee my power;
and that my name may be declared throughout all the earth.
– Exodus 9:16

It was another Wednesday morning and Bob was on the receiving end of a sales call.  The vendor had just finished listing off their qualifications in painstaking detail and was starting in on their industry awards when Bob’s mind began to wander.  “When was the last time I heard a salesperson talk about how their team felt called to their line of work or that they feel God gave them special skills to serve Him?  Where can I connect with a vendor like that?”  

Here we have an example of Pharaoh, full of pride and arrogance, He is oblivious to the truth.  He needed a reminder that God placed him where he was to do what everyone will eventually do: glorify God.  We also have a modern day example of a potential customer (Bob) wishing he was being called on by someone who understood this truth instead of a modern-day, self-absorbed vendor. 

  1. Work, like everything else, is about glorifying God.
  2. Whether customer or vendor, we can join the hallelujah choir or not – but we can’t escape God’s glory.
  3. I’ll take a humble vendor who is working for the Lord over just about any other vendor.

Divine Setting of Work

A young professional sat reflecting on their career in yet another staff meeting. “If I had only lived in the roaring twenties, I’d pretty much be a shoe-in to take over Rockefeller’s interests.  I can’t believe I’m here in Illinois, where the property taxes just went up.  Again.  If I were in Texas or Tennessee I’d really be able to grow.  And then there’s my financial guy, I mean does he even know there is such a thing as Microsoft Word, I swear he’d send me emails in Excel if he could figure out how.  If only I had Warren Buffet in here to help me I would finally be able to really do things right.”  The meeting snapped back into his ears just as a request for input on the best type of cups for the Christmas party was made. 

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works,
which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
– Ephesians 2:10

  1. Trusting in God means being content with His plan and seeking His glory right where we are.
  2. Teamwork includes believing that God hasn’t prepared all the work for me.
  3. The best teammate or vendor is the one sent by God to do the work he prepared for them.
  4. Teambuilding means searching for the person God prepared the work for.
  5. Being the best teammate or vendor means being sure you’re doing what God called you to do.

As I studied this Scripture I feel I received a deeper understanding of how closely connected work and worship are.  Work, like worship, (like everything really) is all about God’s glory.  God has preordained our setting.  He has placed us.  He has sent us the work.  He has sent us the people to help us and for us to help.  The mistake, I think, is to miss these things and trust something else instead.  

Satan might like you to think that clerk is just incompetent or doesn’t care and is only getting in the way of your shopping goals and schedule this Christmas season.  Like the young professional that didn’t trust in the setting God placed them in, Satan might like you to think that your coworkers are holding you back.  Satan doesn’t much care what you trust in as long as it’s not the one truth because he knows everything else will lead to pain.  

The truth is if God wanted you to live in the roaring twenties or have a billion dollars, you would.  The truth is God has plans for His glory in all the work that will happen this Christmas season and beyond.   The truth is God has good work prepared for you and others, all you have to do is open your eyes to His glory and join in His hallelujah choir.

Image: Building Solomon’s Temple by John Millar Watt

 

P.S. More Studies on Work.

Choosing a vendor – If you’re interested in a study on customer-vendor relationships from 1 Chronicles 28, message us on Facebook or email me at mike@internrocket.com and I can send you what we have so far.  If you’re interested in other studies on Bible truth about work topics, do the same and I can add you to our distribution list.  If you have anything you’d like to share please be in touch, we’d love to hear it.