Always There

Read Psalm 139:7-12

There is a fact of human reality which is impossible to overcome-no one can be two places at one time. The limits of our human existence include the inability to be in more than one location at any given time. If you have the need to avoid or be hidden from another person, you may be grateful for this reality since it may help you to escape detection. The flip side of this truth is that when we have a need or desire to be in two different locales at the same time, we must choose because this is impossible for us.

Due to the spiritual nature of God, the human limits of time and place do not apply. God can, and is, everywhere at all times. The psalmist states this in today’s verses. The psalmist affirms that there is nowhere which a person can go, or be, that the Lord is not present.

Realizing that the observation in this psalm is absolutely true carries a mixed dynamic for us. If we feel a need to hide from the Lord (which Adam and Eve once did), we cannot be successful. Our God will be present wherever we may go. The other portion of this dynamic is comforting because for us it means the Lord is always present. We are never alone in facing any aspect of life. God is there, always desiring to provide whatever we may need in the time and place of our existence.

This portion of the ancient song gives us two truths to incorporate in our lives:

  1. Strive always to never have the need to hide from God.
  2. Remember that you are never alone because the Lord is always with you.

Fairness

Read Matthew 20:1-16

Many of us grew up with parents and grandparents who were committed to fairness in gift giving. Whether it was Christmas, birthdays, graduations, or any other opportunity to give a gift, these important people in our lives would strive to make sure that each child or grandchild received equally. As the receiver of the gifts, anytime we failed to see equity in the giving, we may have  had a tendency to exclaim that it was unfair.

The fairness of giving and receiving is addressed in the story which Jesus tells in our passage for today. Workers hired early in the day protest the fairness of receiving the same daily wage as those who were hired in the final hours of the work day. The vineyard owner is quick to point out that all the workers received exactly the wage for which they agreed to work. The owner continues by lifting up that it was his money being paid so he had the right to determine the amount as long as it was not lower than the agreed upon amount. Jesus was addressing some of the issues regarding the Jews versus the Gentiles in coming to believe. 

This battle of fairness can appear among believers today. People begin believing in the Lord at various points in their lives. There are some who develop a belief early in their lives, maybe because they have been raised in the fellowship of the Church. Others start developing their faith as young adults or even when they reach middle age. Still others may not come to believe until they are facing death. No matter when in life our belief begins, we all receive the fullness of our Lord’s promises fulfilled. In fact we receive this before we even begin to understand our belief. The grace given to all is the Lord’s to give. Instead of crying foul when a new believer accepts the gift of grace and promises fulfilled, we should celebrate.

Still

Read Psalm 46:10

There are people who relish quiet. Other people become uneasy when there is prolonged silence. A majority of individuals fall somewhere in the middle when it comes to a comfort level with quietness. I have discovered that time has changed my desires for silence. As I have aged, I covet quiet much more frequently than I did in my younger years.

Wherever you may currently fall in the quietness spectrum, there is a need to have mindful quiet time in our relationship with the Lord. During periods of silence we are given an opportunity of hearing the voice of our God. We have the chance to consider the magnitude of the One who created us.

Today’s passage is a message for us in our busy and noise-filled lives. We are invited by the words of the psalmist to be still and quiet. In this period of noise-free inactivity, we may come to know more of the nature of the Lord. We can be reminded of the love of the One who is in control.

Take time to deliberately be still and know that God is God.

Being Known

Read Psalm 8:4-8 and Ephesians 2:8-9

We live in a world where our accomplishments, status, background, and experiences define who we are in life. The lesson which is frequently taught, starting at a young age, is that we are the only ones who can make a name for ourselves. Each of us has a longing to be known. This longing drives us to expend a lot of energy and resources to establish our name among our peers.

There is one with whom we do not have to make our name known. In fact, none of our accomplishments, efforts, status or anything else can establish our identity with this one being. God knows who we are even better than we know ourselves. Our  true identity is found not in ourselves but in the Lord. Because we are known by God, we receive so much love and care from our Lord. When we remember that as a child of God, we are known, loved and have full acceptance, our striving to be known loses some importance. 

Casting Crowns have communicated this beautifully in their song, Who Am I. Take time to listen to this song and reflect upon how the Lord has established your name in the Book of Life.

Fear

Read Psalm 103:13

One of the most misunderstood words in the Bible is the word fear. Anyone who has studied the ancient languages of Hebrew and Greek realize that English translations of words from these two are challenging at best. Hebrew words require can understanding of the culture from which they derive. While it may be argued that this fact is true in regard to any language, it seems even more so when it comes to Hebrew because Hebrew words are emotive and convey different understandings based on the emotion being expressed at the time. It can be said that few English words accurately express what is actually being said in Hebrew. Culture and context must be considered when choosing an English equivalent but even then the true meaning is seldom captured.

This brings us back to our dilemma with the word fear. Often when this word is heard in English, the hearer understands it to mean an emotion which arises because someone or something is dangerous and may cause harm. Clearly this is the intent when we encounter this English word translated from some of the Greek on Hebrew passages. However, there exist times when this would be a misunderstanding of the original ancient word. The verse from Psalm 103 is one of many places in Scripture where this confusion can easily be demonstrated.  This verse speaks of God’s compassion. Compassion usually is not associated with an emotion arising from a perceived danger. God does not show compassion on those who are concerned about God being harmful toward them. So how are we to understand this word?

In this instance we have to look at the original Hebrew word. When we do so, we must realize that in their culture God is seen as extremely powerful and deserving of great reverence. The God which has given so much to and done so much for the Israelites is one who is deserving of all devotion, love and praise. Coming from this viewpoint, the Hebrew word here is better understood as worshiping or revering. This is not totally foreign to the English word fear, Webster lists as one definition of the word, “Extreme reverence or awe.”

The proper message being conveyed by the psalmist is that we experience great compassion from the God we have revered and stood in awe before.

The Return

Read Luke 15:11-32

There is a saying which gets spoken often that goes like this, “There is no going back home.” In many situations, this saying is applicable. A desire to return to some point in our lives has crept into almost everyone’s thoughts. We can become nostalgic for a different time in our lives which our memories fool us into thinking was easier and problem-free. However, if we are to honestly to recall exactly what our views were at the specific time, we would have to admit that even then we longed for something else, something better and problem-free. So to some degree, the saying is true that we cannot go back, even if we could, it would not be the same. We really would not want it to be the same.

There is an exception of sorts to what I just presented to you. The exception has to do with reconciliation and restored relations. Jesus presents this exception in the form of a story about a father and his two sons. The story’s focus character is the man’s youngest son who longs for something better. The son takes his future inheritance and hits the road in search of adventure, only to find himself destitute and longing to go back home. When he finally gets the courage to return, the son fully reconciles with his father and the relationship is completely restored.

Jesus tells this story to give us understanding into the promise of reconciliation and restoration offered by God. With the Father, we are more than able to go back home. Not only is the ability made possible by the Lord, it is greatly desired by God. The chance to reconcile our relation with God is one of the greatest signs of love given to us. This opportunity is available as many times as we need it.

The other son in Jesus’s story also provides an important lesson for us. Even though the father was ready to, and did, reconcile with his youngest son, the older brother responded the opposite way. How many times do we reject the offer of reconciliation from others? Jesus communicated here the need for us to always work for reconciliation with one another.

Gain Understanding

Read John 13:1-7

As humans, the scope of our understanding is finite. It is true that with age we gain increased understanding. Yet even at the most advanced age, we are limited. Adults often tell children that right now something may not make sense but with time they will understand. The struggle is often having the patience to wait. This struggle is not only for children but for adults as well.

We witness Jesus telling the disciples that they will have to wait for understanding. In all likelihood this could be applied to all of Jesus’s ministry and teaching while he was alive. Many times the followers struggled to understand. This specific time was at the start of the feast before Passover. By the end of the night the disciples would be even more confused as Jesus is arrested in the Mount of Olives. At the moment in our passage, Jesus has taken the role of the lowliest servant and began to wash the feet of the disciples. Peter begins to protect with a question about Jesus washing his feet. Jesus responds to Peter, and the confusion of all the disciples, by acknowledging that this may not make sense now but with time it will.

As believers there are situations when we witness aspects of life and are confused. Where is the Lord in this situation? How does this connect to the Lord’s purpose? How should I understand this in light of my belief in Jesus Christ? As Peter and the disciples were told on that night, we receive the same instruction from the Lord. Right now we lack understanding but there will be a time when we will understand. The time may be during our earthly life, or it may not be until we have crossed into our spiritual existence. Our challenge is to be patient and trust the Lord to make sense of it all.

Our Need

Read Psalm 42:1-2

We were created to be independent and capable. When God envisioned humanity, humans were intended to be on a level in which a compatible relationship could be established between God and humanity. There is a built-in dependency between us and our Creator. Humans have attempted to live independent of God since shortly after creation. Each attempt results in some level of failure. When we break down and admit our need for the Lord, we do not find rejection but forgiveness and the grace of love.

Chris Tomlin puts our prayer into words and music…

Remembering Is Important

Read Deuteronomy 6:4-9

How do you make sure that you remember important things? I am a person who is very grateful for technology serving as a memory aid. Alexa helps me keep track of my various shopping lists. Google Calendar syncs with all my electronic devices and laptop so that I remember appointments, birthdays, and anniversaries. Microsoft To Do is on all my electronic devices to assist me in remembering the various tasks which I have each day. While the system is not perfect, i.e., I have to remember to add things to these various platforms, I would be much less successful in remembering things without this technology.

God wants the Israelites to remember the commands, laws, and decrees which they have been given. Like the various methods I use to remember important details, God gives the Israelites a variety of ways to remember. God instructs the people to integrate these guides into every aspect of their lives. They are to talk about them, create visual reminders, and incorporate them into their daily activities.

As the Israelites were instructed to remember God’s guidance, so we too are instructed. The teachings  passed down to us through the prophets, Scripture writers, Apostles, faith leaders, and especially Jesus, should infiltrate every aspect of our lives. We should talk regularly about these teachings with our family and fellow believers. We should think about them throughout our daily activities. We should place reminders where we see them on a regular basis. This is how we impress them upon our hearts as God instructed the Israelites to do.

God Provides

Read 1 Kings 19:3-9a

Embarking on a journey requires planning and preparation. Packing all that you need while you are away must be thought out, taking into account weather, planned activities, and the amount of space for items, lest you forget something. Lately, if I am driving a long distance for my journey, I try to plan some snacks to have in the car to help me stay energized. When you have to make a trip in haste, you do not have time for  all this planning and preparation. The passage for today is one of those unplanned and hasty trips.

Elijah, a prophet of God, has been in a tussling match with King Ahab’s wife, Jezebel. He has been holding Ahab accountable for the sins which he and Jezebel continue to commit. Elijah has just defeated the prophets of Jezebel’s religion. When Jezebel learns of this defeat through her husband, she declares that she will have Elijah killed. Since  she has already had other prophets  of God assassinated, Elijah has little doubt that this would be his fate as well so he flees. In his hasty flight, Elijah has no time to prepare. He has no plans for lodging, no plans for food on the journey, and no idea what he would do next. He just leaves as quickly as possible. God, however, does have a plan for Elizak and provides all the prophet’s needs in food, shelter, and rest.

There are times when we are required to act quickly and without an opportunity to plan everything out. God may be calling us into action immediately, or we may feel threatened so we act upon our fear. Either way, we have a Lord who never abandons us. God will provide for our immediate needs. Trusting in the provisions of God, we are able to make whatever journey may be necessary.