Peace within the storm

‘One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple. For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling;’ Psalm 27.4-5

When David spoke about his joy in the presence of God, this was not about some false sense of peace and comfort.  David was aware that the presence of God existed alongside the troubles of life, but also that it would have a real impact on whatever was going on.  The very fact that there were troubles did not mean that God was not there; it meant that the troubles would not consume him.

The hardships we face may come in a variety of guises. They may include sickness, persecution, temptation, hardship, tensions within relationships or any number of things.  Yet despite the existence of these, the presence of God is still with us; available to be sought, enjoyed and to bring change to our lives.

The fact that you have troubles of some kind does not mean that God is displeased with you or that he has gone away.  He is still there – watching, waiting and loving.

Seeing God as the first thing

‘One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.’ Psalm 27.4

David had experienced many things in his life: he was a warrior, shepherd, king, a rich man, poet and someone acquainted with love.  In this verse he lays out the one thing in life that he really cherished and valued; the one thing that if everything else was taken away he would want to be left with.  This thing is the presence of God.  In everything else that he has found, what moved him most was to be in God’s presence.

I wonder if you would agree with him?  You would probably say so with your lips, but if someone looked at your life from the outside is this what they would see as the main thing in life that you are pursuing?

Of course it is very easy to feel guilty about the priority we place on prayer, and we do

have other responsibilities to which God has called us (just like David), but in this verse God lays out a beautiful offer to us.  He assures us that to seek him and sit in his presence is a real possibility for each of us.

You carry God’s presence within you, so take a moment to be aware of this and catch the reality that when you pray, before any words are spoken, you are with him – and enjoy gazing upon his presence.

Being a place of God’s glory

‘Lord, I love the house where you live, the place where your glory dwells. Psalm 26.8

It is wonderful to find the presence of the Lord, and when we take time to consciously seek it we are often rewarded with a sense of his peace.  However, the temptation is to feel that we have to seek his presence, whereas the reality is that it is with us all the time.

In 1 Corinthians 6.19, Paul reminds us that we are temples of the Holy Spirit – places where he dwells, no matter whether or not we are aware of him.  This verse takes such thinking a stage further when it talks of us being a place where his glory dwells.  The implication of this is that in whatever situation we find ourselves, the glory of God is there – active, able to bring change and able to transform.

The presence of God’s glory does not depend on our awareness of it, yet it is ourawareness that is going to open our eyes to the potential of what he could do.  Why

not take a few minutes to let these words sink in: ‘I am a place where the glory of God dwells’.  Imagine taking this truth seriously throughout the day, into all the places you will go and situations you will face.  Imagine the change that God could bring through you.

It’s all about Grace

‘So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to perform signs and wonders.’ Acts 14.3

If there is one concept that shines out from this verse, it is that of grace – the undeserved, active kindness of God.  It is through this grace that Paul and Barnabas had such a powerful message to proclaim – that what God had for his people could not be earned but was given out of his love for them.  We are told that it was the grace of God that enabled great works of healing to flow, and all that God has for us flows from his undeserved, active kindness.

If you are on your own journey of healing or seeking his touch in some other way, it is always worth holding before you this vision of grace.  If you lose sight of it, then you are likely to follow a more legalistic path and start assuming that if you do ‘x’ or ‘y’ then God will bless you, and if he doesn’t it must be because there is something else that you have to do.

Grace can sound a bit weak, but in reality it is wild, uncontrollable and at times confusing.  The more you can keep this vision of grace before you, then the more you will be open to standing in the flow of the river of God’s grace in your life.

Just Do It!

‘Paul and his companions travelled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia.’ Acts 16.6

This verse gives us a wonderful picture of the way in which Paul operated.  It seems that rather than asking for specific guidance where he should go, he took it for granted that he should keep moving forward until he came across a barrier.  For Paul, the need for people to be introduced to Jesus seemed to be all the permission he needed, so he kept on going.

We can be very reticent about stepping out in the name of the Lord, whether it be a matter of witnessing, praying for people or even simply being good.  A specific nudge from God to do something would probably increase our boldness, but in the absence of such a nudge we feel (sometimes thankfully!) released from exercising whatever ministry we might otherwise have done.  If Paul could say anything to us, it would probably be something along the lines of – just do it until God stops you!

Each of us carries the presence of God within us.  The world is desperate for him, and he is desperate to touch his world.  Rather than wait for a nudge, look for the need and ask yourself how you can bring something of God to it.

Seeing Others Through God’s Eyes

‘Do not remember the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me, for you, Lord, are good, O Lord.’ Psalm 25.7

It is wonderful if we can begin to catch God’s vision for us – and it is even better if we can begin to catch it for other people.  If it is true that God remembers us according to his love, and in doing so keeps no record of our wrongs, then it must be equally true that he also keeps no record of the wrongs of others.  The problem is that we so often do!

It is highly likely that we will remember only too well the faults of some of the people with whom we will come into contact over the course of the next few days, especially if they have an impact on us personally.  It is not that God has let them off their sins and expects us to do the same, but rather that by dying on the cross, Jesus paid the price for their sin so that they are free of it.  If we could choose we would probably rather them suffer than Jesus, but this is not a choice given to us!  Jesus has paid for their sin and now he remembers it no more, just as he has paid for our sin and remembers it no more.

When your heart is tempted to judge, remember the cross.  As you make a conscious decision to forgive others, let it deepen your gratitude for what God has done for you.

Seeing Ourselves Through God’s Eyes

‘Do not remember the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me, for you, Lord, are good.’ Psalm 25.7

When David prays these words to God, it is not as if God was wondering what to do – should he remember David’s sins or shouldn’t he?  It is not that God needed persuading to see him in a different light, but rather that David was seeking to see himself through the eyes of God.

This can be very hard for us as we remember only too well our mistakes and failings, so it seems only logical that God does as well!  David presents us with a completely different way of perceiving how God sees us, and this is remembering us according to his love.  What does this mean?  Paul brings a beautiful insight to this when he writes about love in 1 Corinthians 13.5, and one of the points that he makes is that love ‘keeps no record of wrongs’.  If God really is the perfect definition of love, then for God to remember us according to his love is for him to look at us and keep no record of wrongs.

When you look at your image in a mirror, you may be confronted by many thoughts and memories.  You may indeed recall the past as it looms large over your shoulders, but God does not.  He sees you as the beautiful, adopted and forgiven person that he created.  The next time you see yourself in the mirror – give thanks for his vision.

An honoured guest

‘You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.’ Psalm 23.5

Your opinion of your Christian life may not be entirely positive.  Many people have a sense deep-down that they will only manage to scrape into heaven by the back door, and that when they meet with Jesus he will probably have a problem remembering their name!

This particular verse from one of the most well-known passages of scripture gives us a whole new way of seeing ourselves – not as people who just about scrape in, but rather as honoured guests of God.  In this verse, God is portrayed as a host preparing a table for us.  He anoints us and gives us a cup – not containing dregs but one that is overflowing.  The Good News Bible translates it: ‘you welcome me as an honoured guest’.

This would be easier to grasp if we could understand why!  If we could list our great achievements or point to reasons why we should be so honoured it would make more sense.  Yet there is no reason other than the grace of God.  Before the very foundation of the world we were chosen by him, not because of our goodness but because of his love.

As you come before God today, try not to come full of apologies for your existence, but rather as a welcomed, cherished child in whose presence he longs to be.

Prayer – not assumption

‘…a synagogue leader came and knelt before him’ Matthew 9.18

This synagogue leader was also a desperate father and his action was to be the key to two beautiful miracles in the New Testament.  He came to Jesus on behalf of his sick daughter (who actually died as the story enfolds) and during the course of the narrative a woman from the crowd touched the cloak of Jesus and was healed.  It all started with two desperate people coming to Jesus, rather than with him looking out for people in need.

The point is obvious – it all begins with coming to Jesus.  However this is a step that can be hard for us to take.  Doesn’t he already know about our suffering and what we are going through?  Of course he does – and he cares about it – but the encouragement of scripture is that we actively cast our burdens upon him (1 Peter 5.7) and don’t assume that he will automatically do everything for us.

Another step for us to take, that might seem even more difficult, is to ask for God’s help through other people – to ask someone to pray for us.  It means admitting that all is not well and that we need the help of others.  Yet, as in the case of the synagogue leader who knelt before Jesus, it is these acts of humility that so often open the door for God to do things in our lives that otherwise he may not do.

Where is God when I need him?

‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish?’ Psalm 22.1

These words are very familiar to us as it is this scripture with which Jesus identified when he suffered on the cross.  In some way, by using similar words, many people have echoed this sentiment as they find themselves going through difficult times – ‘God, where are you?’

However, there is something else about these words that is important to catch; they are not just words of desperation but also words of intimacy.  The words are not addressed to God, but to ‘My God’.  It is this word ‘my’ that changes a desperate cry into something more intimate and personal.  He is ‘our’ God, not in the sense of us possessing him but more in the sense of us belonging to him; we are identifying ourselves with him.  Precisely because we make this identification we can hold on to the promise that comes later in the psalm, when the psalmist proclaims that the God in whom he trusts ‘has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.’ (v24)

At times you may feel the abandonment of God, but if you can call upon him as one to whom you belong, then you can begin to catch the certainty of his commitment to you.