God Within Us

In 1 Samuel 7 the Ark has been returned and the Israelites have returned to their God. Samuel tells them all together and he will pray for them. As they are gathered the Philistines see an opportunity to attack and the Israelites plead for Samuel to not stop praying for them. As a result, the LORD thundered a mighty sound that drove the Philistines into confusion and they left.

“What an amazing thing,” you might think, “to see God work in such an obvious way.” I would not disagree with you. There are many events in the Old Testament that would be a marvel to witness; Noah building the ark, the parting of the Red Sea,  Daniel coming out unscathed from the lions’ den, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego walking out of the fiery furnace without a burn and not smelling of smoke. You might also think that it may have been easier for them, being able to see such physical evidence of God’s existence. I may have thought the same at one time, but not anymore.

In reading this last chapter I was reminded of a book I read a year or so ago, Kyle Idleman’s Not a Fan. At one point in the book he sets up a scenario of what it might be like in heaven; us getting to talk with people we’ve read about in the Bible & getting to ask them what it was like to be in the midst of such things. With the same fervor, he thinks, they might be wanting to know from us just exactly what it is like to have God Himself living within us.

Do you typically think that way? That you have God living within you? If you are in Christ, you have exactly that, the Holy Spirit, living within you.

In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. ~Ephesians 13-14

And not only do we have Him, but we have direct access to God the Father, because of the once and for all sacrifice of God the Son, that is, Jesus. Because of this we need no human priest to intercede on our behalf. We are able to talk directly to God without fear that He will strike us down, as He did to the men who looked upon the Ark in the previous chapter (1 Samuel 6:19).

So, while miracles like those in the Bible may not be as prevalent today, we can find peace in knowing we can approach God, in any circumstance, and He will hear us.

do not be anxious about anything,but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. ~Philippians 4:6-7

We can draw upon the strength and power of the Holy Spirit, who resides within us, to get through this life, with hope, one day at a time.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. ~Romans 15:13

Those are great and amazing things. I strive to remember them, more often than not, and pray the same for you, dear friend.

Love & Blessings,

KJ

Advertisements

A God Above All Other gods

I read through 1 Samuel 5 & 6 this morning in order to stay on track. Together they tell the story of the Philistines taking Ark of the Covenant into their land, its effect upon their people and land, and their ultimate return of it to Israel.

I didn’t really understand the part about Dagon in the beginning of chapter 5, so I did a little research. Dagon was a god of the Philistines and in bringing the Ark back to their land they brought it to a temple of Dagon’s where they left it by a statue of the god. This makes more sense as then the next day they find the statue of Dagon face down in front of the ark and they “put him back in his place (v 3).”

I cannot imagine what they thought upon seeing this scene; a statue of a god they worshipped looking as if it was worshipping a symbol of a God from another land. Perhaps, at first, they thought it an accident, for they just picked the statue up and put it back. But the next day it had fallen again, this time its head and hands cut off. Not broken off from having fallen, but cut off, intentionally so. This shook them up more as so they began to move the Ark around their land to different cities. In each place its effects were felt; tumors, death, mice infesting the land.

The Philistines had heard about what happened in Egypt, they knew all about the plagues and the hardening of the Pharaoh’s heart. They also attributed this to the God of the Israelites, and so they learned from those mistakes and sent the Ark back to Israel, not on its own, but with guilt offerings to this God as well.

I find it so interesting that the Philistines were aware of God, they had heard of what He had done in Egypt and yet they waged war against Israel. God allowed them to win, perhaps to the purpose of showing the Philistines His power directly. In sending the Ark back, they watched the cows pulling it in a cart go right back to the land of Israel; a sure sign that it was this God who worked these things against them. And while many Israelites died in the battle with the Philistines, God ultimately won that battle, by no help, really, from them.

It doesn’t say that the Philistines then came to worship Israel’s God, though they had evidence that He was higher than one of their own. They paid Him tribute, offering sacrifices, in the hope that He would cure them of the ailments He inflicted upon them. But they did not then follow Him, though they had come to see the truth.

How many people see evidence of God’s existence and still refuse to acknowledge Him for who He is? How many times do we, half-heartedly, pray or do things that we think will “placate” God without really trusting in who His is and what He is capable of?

When the Ark makes it back to Israel, there are people there, even, who die (God’s own people) because they looked upon the Ark and were not worthy to do so. Those around said,”Who is able to stand before the LORD, this holy God?” (6:20a). A holy God cannot abide sin. No one can stand before Him, be they other “gods”, or even His own people. That was true then. It is true now, as God doesn’t change. He still cannot abide sin.

BUT…

God, Himself, took on sin. Jesus Christ came to earth. He lived a perfect life that we could not. Being fully God and fully man, He was able to stand before the Father, the perfect sacrifice for our sin. Because of Him, we are able to stand before the Father and not be struck down, for He sees Christ’s righteousness upon us.

Now, whether I think we’ll actually be able to stand on our feet before God Almighty, that’s another conversation altogether. I, myself, think I’ll be on my knees or, more likely, on my face, before Him; knowing the great gift I’ve been given but such a loving and unobligated giver. Knowing I’ve been saved, by no merit of my own.

I pray you know of the great gift God has given us, through faith alone, by grace alone, in Christ alone. And not only that you know of it, but that you are living it out daily. Because of it, we are able to stand before Him justified, Non-guilty. And while we will all bow before Him one day, those who find themselves in Christ will not perish.

If you’re unsure about all of this, I highly encourage you to do some investigating. Pick up a Bible and read the book of John. Talk to someone you know and trust who is a believer. Visit churches near you to learn more about it all. I pray the LORD will reveal Himself to you so that you may see Him, truly see Him, all He has done for you, and your great need of Him.

Love & Blessings,

KJ

 

An Omnipotent God

I’ve read through 1 Samuel 4 a couple of times and the one thing that I keep coming back to is the fact that the Hebrews thought bringing the Ark of the Covenant into battle would give them the victory. Instead, though, they were met with devastating ruin and that which was most treasured by them, the Ark, was taken as a spoil.

Now, I know that God is not surprised by anything. Nothing catches Him off guard and there’s nothing He cannot handle. If God had wanted the Israelites to win the battle, they would have won, no question.

 “Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me? ~ Jerimiah 32:27

I do wonder the reason for them losing. These are my two thoughts on the matter:

  1. God foretold that Eli’s sons would both die on the same day. In the loss of the battle, both of them were killed, thus bringing about what God foretold. That is a pretty easy conclusion to come to, the second is more of my pondering.
  2. What did God think that they just brought the Ark with them? There is no mention of them petitioning God Himself before the battle, but still they thought the presence of it would save them.

That second thought has just made me wonder how often I do that. How often do I think God will get me through something without actually reaching out to Him? Granted, He knows what’s going on, and yes, He can help us without our asking. Ultimately, as I said before, His will will be done, but I think I tend to take such things for granted, thinking that His will always matches with what I would like to happen. Sometimes it does, but often it doesn’t and who am I to say that’s wrong?

So, where’s the good news? Even when things seem darkest, God knows what is going on. He is not looking in the other direction. He is not taken by surprise. Perhaps He is using the darkness so that when the light comes you cannot help but be drawn to it.  That you will have no doubt of its existence. The flame of a candle burning in a lit room may be hard to see. A flame in the darkness cannot be mistaken.

If you are experiencing darkness, keep your eyes upon the flame. I pray it becomes evident to you and that it grows so that the darkness flees.

Love & Blessings,

KJ

 

A God of His Word

Have you ever doubted the truth of God’s word? Have you ever thought He’d go back on His word because surely things could never turn out for good? In trying times it’s sometimes difficult to trust that God’s promises are true, though, to those that do, they are a great source of comfort and encouragement. What if you knew that He said things would get worse?

Reading 1 Samuel 3 reminded me of the truth of God’s word. That what He says will come to pass. And regardless if we see that as good or bad, who are we to judge the Creator of the universe? Eli was a good example for us in this. Previously a man of God came to him and told him his sons would die because of their actions in the temple. When God called to Samuel and told him the same, Samuel passed the news on to Eli. Did Eli stomp his foot and say it wasn’t fair? Did he curse God?

No.

He simply said, “It is the LORD. Let him do what seems good to him.” (V18)

To be completely honest, I’m amazed at his response. Eli knew that God was true to His word. Eli also saw the bigger story and was not focused on just himself. With his sons gone, there was no one to pass his priesthood down to but Samuel. The boy God put in place to be His prophet to Israel in a time when they so desperately needed him.

How are you at looking at the bigger story? Most times I stink at it. I get so focused in on me that I can’t see any possible reason for my circumstance outside of how it affects me or those very close to me. This is also a big reason why I’m trying to get into God’s Word more, so that I know what it says. So that when time are trying (regardless of how they got that way) I can rely on God’s word, His promises, knowing they are true. Knowing He says that nothing can separate me from Him.

For I am sure that neither life nor death, 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

I pray you are striving for that understanding, that comfort, that assurance, as well.

Love & Blessings,

KJ

 

A Mighty God

In reading 1 Samuel 2 tonight (you can read it here) one thought rose above all the rest; our God is mighty. Hannah goes to the temple with Samuel to give him into the Lord’s service (he’s about 3 or so years old) and she prays a heartfelt prayer. Overarching the whole prayer is the fact that God is in control.

The LORD kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up. The LORD makes poor and makes rich; he brings low and he exalts. He raises up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor. For the pillars of the earth are the LORD’S, and on them he has set the world. ~1 Samuel 2:6-8

I don’t know about you, but I find much comfort in this fact and was glad to be reminded of it once again. I can never be reminded of this too much, as I am all too quick to forget this in times of stress, anxiety, worry, and fear. BUT, knowing God’s got this, as well as everything else on the earth, brings me peace. This bit just adds to the comfort that this knowledge brings:

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. ~Romans 8:28

Through the whole part of Eli’s sons being awful and not following the rules God set for them I wanted to have a “REALLY?” moment; like “God has instructed you as to how you are supposed to deal with the offerings from His people so that they also provide your food and you are so unsatisfied with that that you take what rightfully belongs to God? REALLY?” But then I realized that I do similar things each and every day. I take time that rightfully belongs to God and squander it on things that don’t matter. I take potential gifts and talents that God has given me to use for His kingdom, and I ignore them because I don’t want to put in the effort. How grateful I am that Jesus came to be my redeemer so that I will never come to the same end that Eli’s sons did.

It was not only the sons’ actions that were in the wrong though; there was also the fact that Eli heard about it, told them to stop, but did not seem to go any further when they did not listen. A man of God comes to him to tell him that he has put his sons above God and there will a drastic price to pay; the death of his sons. And again I’m reminded of how I easily put things in my life above God. Some of them are even good things, but as God is the best thing, nothing should come close to comparing to who He is and all He’s done for me.

There’s a lot for me to still think about here; reminders of God’s great promises and also conviction of things that need to change in my life. I am grateful to have God’s Word; that through it the Holy Spirit can open my eyes to these things, help me to change, and draw me closer to my God. I pray you’re aware of His work in your life, too.

Love & Blessings,

KJ

Not Relief, but Redemption

I’m starting my Bible reading in 1 Samuel. I have read through this book before, but it was brought up a couple of weeks ago and I thought I would like to read it again. Looking through it, I found it has 31 chapters – I think I’ve found what I’m going to be reading through for this month 🙂 If you don’t have a Bible on hand, go ahead and read 1 Samuel 1 here.

A couple of weeks ago I went with some friends to Spring Ladies Day at America’s Keswick. It was a lovely day that we got to spend in worship and fellowship, and teaching from God’s Word. Susie Larson was the speaker and she reminded me (and the other thousand or so women there) of some great truths about who we are in Christ and how disappointments can lead us to believe otherwise. In this, she brought up Hannah and how she looked for more than relief from her disappointment, she sought redemption.

Hannah was barren. Her husband’s other wife had many children and didn’t think twice about rubbing that fact in Hannah’s face. This more than saddened Hannah and every year when they went up to the temple she would find herself in sorrow for what she did not have. Her husband would ask her the reason for her sadness, for he loved her, and at one point, said to her, “Am I not more to you than 10 sons?”

It is here where I stopped to let this sink in. I am reminded that I, too, am blessed with a loving husband. Someone whose existence I doubted at one point (or rather many points) in my life. I am reminded of God’s great love and provision and perfect timing throughout our relationship. I am reminded that he and I are a family, with or without children. And I feel convicted by not being content with that, for now.

Perhaps Hannah was stuck in the trap of “if only.” I, for one, do not begrudge her for her deep desire to have a child. She went to the only One who could help her in this situation; she went in the temple and turned to her God. She could have just prayed for Peninnah (her husband’s other wife) to leave her alone. She could have just prayed for a child. But Hannah sought more than relief from her disappointment, she sought redemption. And so, Hannah prayed, not only for a son, but also that if her prayer was answered, she would give her son back to the Lord; she would entrust her son to the Lord’s service.

Hannah wasn’t just looking at how her disappointment in not having a child could be assuaged; she was looking to how her prayer could be answered to the benefit of God’s Kingdom. She was looking at a bigger picture than just herself and her desires and God, in His wisdom and compassion, fulfilled her prayer. She went home, no longer saddened by her circumstance, and soon she and her husband conceived a child.

We all can make grand plans and say that if God answers a prayer in our favor we will somehow use it for Him. I’m not saying that God will not honor that, but, truth be told, He doesn’t really need us for anything. And honestly, anything we have, be it material wealth, time, talents, etc., we should be using for His honor and glory anyway. Please don’t read this as if I always do…for that is nowhere near the truth.

But if there is a great desire you have; for a certain kind of job, for a child, for a spouse, what have you, take it to our Lord. Earnestly pray, asking Him to fulfill your desire, knowing first, that He is the only One who can truly fufill you. Look to Him for your redemption; knowing He is good, His timing is perfect, and His ways are not our ways. This is my focus in my prayer today as I work through disappointment to find not just relief for a day, but redemption for a lifetime. I pray, if there is something you’re struggling with, that you will look to the cross and find your way there, as well.

Love & Blessings,

KJ