Economic upheaval and social strife at home. Civil wars and natural catastrophes aboard. All these cause us to continually feel anxious, apprehensive, and nervous. The belief that God keeps us gives comfort and assurance at a time when both (comfort and assurance) are greatly needed.
In the Old Testament the most popular use of keep is nastar and shamar. Nastar means to guard, protect, or preserve. We see this in Isaiah 27:3 when God speaks of His protection of Israel, “I the LORD do keep it; I will water it every moment: lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and day.” Shamar is similar in meaning—the sense is one of “watching over someone or something.” It is likened to a hedge strategically placed for protection. In Number 6, the LORD uses shamar in the priestly blessing for the children of Israel.
“The LORD bless thee, and keep thee:The LORD make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.”
The New Testament continues this thought of protection and preservation with its Greek meaning of keep—tereo and phulasso. The book of Jude closes with this popular blessing.
“Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and for ever. Amen.”
God’s also extends His keeping to our emotional and spiritual needs.
- You (God) will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in You. (Isa. 26:3)
- And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4:7)
God’s promise to keep us in “His reach and watch” gives us blessed assurance that cannot be matched. We have nothing to fear for He has set Himself as our sentinel and watchman. He is the God who keeps. (2 Tim. 1:12)
When Jesus left this earth, He left many things for His new found followers to ponder. Through His Great Commission, He instructed us to make disciples. Through His teachings, He taught us how to live our lives until either He returns or He calls us home. The greatest lesson, however, was included in His Great Commandment.
First, “love the Lord with all you heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. Second, love your neighbor as yourself. (Matt. 22:37-40) Therein lies the real opportunity for Christians, especially the church, with its spirtual and financial resources, to show our love and compassion in a world that believes only in “me and mine.” This is the opportunity for churches to contribute to their communities–communities beyond their three (3) mile radius of ther church.
As a nation, we are facing enormous financial and social challenges. All “indicators of life” are operating at “record” levels—the highest unemployment, the greatest number of homeless and the largest increase in crime (which includes the cost of food and gas), just to name a few. But where is the care and concern for the needy, the weak, and the unprotected. The proverbial “crack” people fall into is already full of the first casualities of our fragmented and fractured society. I’m not surprised by the “society”–it’s a fallen, sin-sick place doing what it does best–endulging itself. BUT WHAT ABOUT THE CHURCH, ITS MINISTRIES AND OUTREACH PROGRAMS? Jesus told the “masses” (similar to today’s church congregations of believers, seekers, and ‘others’)
- Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. (Matt. 5:13)
- Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. (Matt. 5:14-16)
So what’s the problem with the “salt and the light”? What do you think about the findings in the Barna study? I really want to hear from you “good church folk!”
After experiencing the presence of the Lord, it is hard to return to “business as usual.” As His truth and righteousness burn in our hearts, we leave renewed and ready to follow the path He has designed for our life.
In His presence, Peter, James and John experienced the transfiguration of Christ. (Matt. 17:1-13) They were so astonished with what they saw and heard that they desired to build a tabernacle to glorify the Lord. These disciples came desiring to be part of Jesus’ “in crowd” but left instead as witnesses of the Christ. (Acts 1:8)
In His presence, the Samaritan woman found the chance for a new beginning. (John 4) Often ostracized and demeaned by both men and women, this woman was offered refreshment that satisfied the soul’s true thirst—unconditional love and forgiveness. The woman at the well came desiring physical water but found instead a Savior and everlasting life. (John 4:14)
In His presence, Zacchaeus initially came as a seeker. (Luke 19:2) He hoped to merely catch a glimpse of this great prophet. Imagine Zacchaeus’ (and the hypocritical observers’) surprise with Jesus’ invitation to “abide” at his home. Zacchaeus came to observe from a tree but became the object of Jesus’ attention and the “poster child” for true reconciliation. (Luke 19:9)
We often come into God’s presence unknowingly like the woman at the well. Other times, we are like Zacchaeus, very intentional in our desire to see the glory of the Lord. Regardless of how we come into His presence, it is important that we leave changed for the better and ready to accomplish the purpose He has established for our life.
God does not play “hide and seek” with His children. He desires to “be found” by all. If we desire to find God, we need only “search for Him with all our heart.” Jeremiah 29:12-13 holds the key.
“Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me and I will hearken unto you.
And you shall seek me and find me when you search for me with all your heart.”
The first thing God directs us to do is to “call upon the Him.” This required awareness of our personal brokenness and total dependence on Him. God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness. (2 Cor. 12:9)
God then directs us to “go and pray unto Me.” It is here that connection with God is established. It is here we begin to understand God’s purpose for His people—a future with hope. (Jer. 29:11)
And how will God respond? “I will hear you.” (Jer. 29:12) God hears us when we prepare our hearts and minds to receive Him. When we seek God first (versus our will) He will hear our prayers and “show Himself strong on our behalf.” (2 Chr. 16:9)
In the final verse of our text, God shares with us the ultimate secret to finding God. “When you seek Me you will find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” (Jer. 29:13, NIV) How do you search for God with all your heart?
- Make Him the priority of your life.
- Actively pursue Him.
- Stay in His presence.
Hide and seek really is a child’s game. Trade up to seek and find God?
Is it OK to be weak? 2 Chronicles 16:9 (KJV) gives great insight into God’s heart for weak things. “For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward (committed to) Him.
Why would someone choose weak things? Do you remember childhood games that required you to “choose” your teammates? Do you remember the kid that was not the first choice? They were too slow, too small, or simply not good at the game. Sometimes that kid was you. Do you remember how humiliated you felt as you were the last to be chosen? But God chooses differently. He looks beyond our faults and weaknesses as He chooses us as instruments to accomplish His purpose. (2 Tim. 2:21)
The world sees weak things as objects of scorn and distain. Therefore, it disregards and marginalizes the old, the poor, and the disenfranchised. But God, increases the power of the weak. (Isa. 40:29) His grace is sufficient for His strength is made perfect in weakness. (2 Cor. 12:9) Sometimes we forget that fact and try to do His work in our own strength. But God, after several unsuccessful attempts on our part, gently whispers in our ear, “You can do nothing without Me.” (John 15:5)
When you rise in the morning, do you expect
to hear from the Lord? As you walk into the office, do you look for signs of His presence? Let me tell you that God speaks each and every day. The question is, “are you prepared to hear Him?” If you haven’t heard from Him lately, ask yourself these questions. Be brutally honest.
- Have I spent time in reading and meditating on God’s Word?
- Is there sin in my life that I refuse to confess?
- Have I placed other priorities ahead of God?
- Am I harboring bitterness, anger, or unforgiveness for someone in my life?
- How much time do I devote to prayer?
- Am I grieving the Spirit by being willfully disobedient?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you may have found the source of your communications breakdown with the Lord. We are told to constantly examine our Christian walk (2 Corinthians 13:5) What are questions you ask yourself when you feel God is silent?
The first Thursday in May has been designated as the National Day of Prayer. While millions are asked to unite in prayer on that one day, Christians are admonished to pray continuously…to pray without ceasing. (1 Thess. 5:17) What exactly does that mean and how do you do it? To me, praying without ceasing is an attitude we adopt as part of our Christian life style.
To pray without ceasing is …
Purposeful. We come to hear from God. Our motivation to pray may vary—upon reading His Word, facing a problem or in anticipation of a particular event. While prayer is initiated by believers, we must also be “eager listeners” as God responds to our petitions and supplications. He desires to act on our behalf. (2 Chron. 16:9)
Relational. We spend time with God. It is here that we begin to understand His nature—His ways and His works. He is Abba Father, so we approach Him as the
loving nurturer and protector of our soul and life. In prayer we can be “totally transparent” showing Him all our faults and flaws. He knows our heart. (Ps. 103:13-14)
Dynamic. We can come to God in the morning, throughout the day, or at the close of the day. Our prayers should never be “repetitive babblings” but genuine expressions of our needs and concerns. We often do not know how to pray about a particular situation or for a person. We can depend on the Holy Spirit to guide our petitions. (Rom.8:26-27)
Inclusive. We are sensitive to the Holy Spirit as He identifies the needs of those around us. Prayer is not just about us. God will send people through divine appointments who need our prayers. We are to pray for those God “puts on our hearts”—our leaders, our nation, even our enemies. We are to pray for all saints. (Eph. 6:18)
As we pray without ceasing, let us take a KISS approach—Keep It Simple Susan. Let us come to Him with a contrite and humble heart, ready to hear and obey. Never stop praying.
Why do you follow Christ? Why did you choose HIM for your savior? That was the issue behind Jesus’ statement to the crowds that pursued Him after His miracle of feeding five thousand adults. Jesus had gained a huge following as a result of His miracles, wonders and signs. (John 6:22) After this miracle, they were relentless in their search for His next stop—the next place that they could receive the benefit of His miracles—bread.
Jesus saw their hearts yet He did not admonish or reject them. He saw their real need as an opportunity to redirect their focus from their bellies to their souls. He offered them the true “bread from heaven”—bread that would not perish but had eternal benefit. He offered Himself, the Bread of Life. (John 6:35) They did not understand because their focus was tethered tightly to the immediate needs of this life. Unfortunately, many walked away still hungry—physically AND spiritually. (John 6:66)
When many of us initially came to Christ, we too, followed for bread. Some of us came for provision—blessings, healing, or miracle. Some came for protection—fire insurance to guard against the “fire and brimstone” threatened by well-meaning pastors and teachers. We lacked information about the “pearl of great price.” In 2011, are you still seeking bread—food, clothing, shelter alone while forgetting His true value? If this is your list, I recommend a change in diet—Jesus Christ. He is life. (1 John 5:11-13) He is joy and peace. (Rom. 15:13) That’s why I follow Him. Why do you?
This morning I had tea with my girlfriend, Kim. She is my prayer intercessor and sister in Christ. As part of our commitment to the Lord, we have agreed to meet the last Friday of every month for spiritual support and accountability. Today as we talked, she mentioned a phrase that God had dropped in my spirit last week as a potential post to share with you.
Kim proclaimed, “We daughters of Christ are in weight training for the Lord. He is building us up to do kingdom building.” This was too much like God to be coincidental. I began to laugh and posed this question to her, “w-e-i-g-h-t or w-a-i-t training?” She responded, “Both!” We both laughed and then began to praise God for His illumination and revelation. This is what He shared with Kim and I.
- God is building our upper body so we will be able to “do His will.” The “head and heart” is where we are conformed to the image of Christ. Philippians 2:5 admonishes us to “Let this mind be in you that was also in Christ Jesus.” Christ was loving (when people were unlovable), obedient (when He was tempted to do otherwise) and steadfast (when Satan tried to distracted Him from the cross). He did nothing on His own but only what the Father told Him to do. (John 14:10)
- God is building our lower body so we will be able to “do His work.” It is time for us to move forward with the individual ministries God has placed in our heart to do. Ephesians 2:10 states, “We are His workmanship created unto good works which He has before ordained that we should walk in.” We think ministry work is limited to the pulpit and to the preacher. Wrong! Ministry in Greek means service. (Acts 1:17; Ephesians 4:12) We were not saved to “sit” but to “serve.”
- God is building our “wait” muscles so that we will be able to “trust and believe.” Learning to wait is an area that Kim and I pray for each other (alot). Isaiah 40: 31states: “They that wait upon the Lord will renew their strength.” Our ability to trust is based on our confidence in what or who we believe in. Our belief is influenced by what we know. To build strong wait muscles, we must trust and believe in God–His greatness, His goodness and His fidelity.
Well, there you have it–weight/wait training for Christians. What training has God shared with you that may help Kim and I in our faith walk? What tips do you have to help us run this spiritual race?
John 1:4 states, “In Him was life and His life was the light of men.” Life in Greek is “zoe” and it means “soul and spirit.” The soul is where our spiritual DNA resides. For we were made in the image of God. It provides our unique (and sometimes quirky) personality. It consists of our mind, will, and emotions. It is from our zoe that we “live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28) It is here that we do those “good works” for which God has created us. (Ephesians 2:10)
Light in Greek is “phos” and it means “unquenchable” light. To illustrate the power of phos, we need only look to the heavens. The planets, circle the sun, and it is the sun that provides their light or illumination. They have no “light bearing capacity” of their own. They are dependent on the sun for their light. The sun, however, needs no illumination, for it has a “light bearing capacity” of its own, that is unquenchable and cannot be extinguished.
As I reflect on this extraordinary word from God on life and light, I became humbled at the thought that Jesus, the God Man, came to be both “light and life” for us. Now as partakers of His divine nature, we have His power to also be both “light and life” in a very dark world. As I listen to the news and see the condition of our world, I became convicted and asked myself, where has the “light and life” gone? Where are the saints during this time of great darkness?
My prayer for you today comes from Ephesians 1:17-19:
That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation of the knowledge of Him; That the eyes of your understanding may be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope of His calling and what are the riches of His inheritance in the saints. And what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who have believe according the working of His mighty power.
Today make it your purpose to be both zoe and phos in your “universe.” .