Tag Archives: God’s presence

Leviticus 26-27; Psalm 112; Hebrews 10

Of all the Scripture in the Bible, Hebrews 10 has caused the most fear in my heart.  Fear that I will fall out of love with God, relapse into perdition, and lose my way in a world of hurt. It’s been a while since I’ve felt this kind of fear. But lately, I’ve caught myself (though not in time to stop my tongue, sadly) speaking increasingly negative comments about politicians, neighbors, family members…even to the point of tossing a curse word or two into my annoyed monologue. Fear of saying the wrong thing in front of those around me is eclipsed by my conscience which hears the displeasure of my Lord. So I’ve started looking for the expected punishments. Knowing that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, I am really made uncomfortable by Leviticus 26:24 a, “If despite these [punishments] you will not be chastised toward Me, and you behave casually with Me, then I, too, will behave toward you with casualness…” I read a commentary that explains this passage by saying that if we persist in thinking that all the “carefully calibrated punishments” by God were coincidental; thereby invalidating God’s message, then He withdraws His Presence and makes it harder for us to see His Divine truth. Therefore, it is easier to continue falling away.

Hebrews 10:29 speaks clearly on this same principal, though with an even greater penalty than exile or plagues. “Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?” Of course, I’m not speaking about a curse word slipping out. I’m thinking that the intent of my heart to follow the will of God is slipping away at these times. Whether because of treating the Word of God casually, forsaking the assembling with sisters and brothers in Christ, or casting away my confidence of hope to the saving of my soul, I see the danger in drawing back from God’s truth. Should God withdraw His Presence, how will I be able to see His Divine truth; and will I be able to trace His hand as He continuously writes His will on my heart?

Psalm 112:6-8, speaking of the righteous man, says, “Surely he will never be shaken; The righteous will be in everlasting remembrance. He will not be afraid of evil tidings; His heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord. His heart is established, he will not be afraid…” Lord Jesus, You are the righteous Man who made even my sins, though red as scarlet become white as snow. Meditating on Your truth slows the rapid, chaotic beating of my heart.  I can stop holding my breath and breathe deeply. Breathing in Your Spirit of truth and trusting the complete perfection of Your sacrifice expels my fear of having Your Presence withdraw from me. Lord, let Your Presence drive out my mindless mimicry of the media, acceptance of unholy Hollywood drama, and my desire to sit in the company of the scornful. I know better than this. Help me breathe deeper still until my breath matches the pace of God’s timeless hand writing His will for my eternity.



Filed under 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, Hebrews, Leviticus, New Testament, Old Testament, Psalms, Uncategorized

Exodus 25-27; Psalm 90; Philippians 1

They shall make an ark of acacia wood. Two cubits and a half shall be its length, a cubit and a half its breadth, and a cubit and a half its height. You shall overlay it with pure gold, inside and outside shall you overlay it, and you shall make a molding of gold around it…There I will meet with you, and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim that are on the ark of the testimony, I will speak with you about all that I will give you in commandment for the people of Israel.” Exodus 25:10-11&22 ESV

I was just reading about the ark of the covenant in my bible study called,“Anointed-Transformed-Redeemed.” It is about the life of David. In it Priscilla Shirer says, “The ark represented God among His people. For centuries this sacred chest not only symbolized but evidenced God’s presence. God promised to meet with and speak to His children there. No doubt years of personal communion with God had seared into David’s mind the need for such divine meetings. He knew it would be impossible to rule with power and for Israel to remain separated from other people groups without the indwelling power of and communion with God.”

Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.” Psalm 90:1&2 ESV

Just as David wanted the ark brought back, I need God’s presence in my life. There are times when I think of God’s presence being in a place. But He is reminding me that He is in me and with me always. A daily awareness of His presence breathes life into my sometimes weary soul.

Dear Father, thank you for the ways You show me your presence. Thank you for giving me Your Holy Spirit. I am amazed at how You care about the big and small details of my life. “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”Philippians 1:3-6 ESV.


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Joshua 1-3; Luke 1:57-80

God tells Joshua three times:

Be strong and courageous.

Be strong and courageous, for you are the one who will lead these people to possess all the land I swore to their ancestors I would give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you. Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left. Then you will be successful in everything you do. Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do. This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:6-9, NLT.

The scouts who slip into Jericho’s walls meet Rahab, a prostitute, who helps them. She tells them how word has spread throughout the region of God’s power and presence with them.

“I know the Lord has given you this land,” she told them. “We are all afraid of you. Everyone in the land is living in terror. 10 For we have heard how the Lord made a dry path for you through the Red Sea when you left Egypt. And we know what you did to Sihon and Og, the two Amorite kings east of the Jordan River, whose people you completely destroyed. 11 No wonder our hearts have melted in fear! No one has the courage to fight after hearing such things. For the Lord your God is the supreme God of the heavens above and the earth below.” Joshua 2:9-11, NLT.

I read on of them preparing themselves to move forward into God’s promise.

The Lord told Joshua, “Today I will begin to make you a great leader in the eyes of all the Israelites. They will know that I am with you, just as I was with Moses. Give this command to the priests who carry the Ark of the Covenant: ‘When you reach the banks of the Jordan River, take a few steps into the river and stop there.’” Joshua 3:7-8, NLT.

I hunker into a literary huddle inside the camp, leaning in to listen. Joshua was probably speaking loudly to a crowd, but in my mind, he whispers so I draw closer in expectation.

So Joshua told the Israelites, “Come and listen to what the Lord your God says. 10 Today you will know that the living God is among you …” Joshua 3:9-10a, NLT.

Step in and stop. This phrase sticks with me through the years, and I’m reminded today. I read these verses several years ago when we were preparing to move. Today, I can look back at that time of life and see God’s hand throughout the details.

Sometimes God leads into unfamiliar territory. I am thankful for every single step (tear and fear) of that journey. There was no doubt of his presence at the time, even when stepping out in faith was heavy and hard. Don’t miss his glory. Look for him, even in times of deep sadness or fear … the living God is among you. The Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

Courtney (66books365)

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Filed under 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, ESV Through the Bible in a Year, Joshua, Old Testament

2 Samuel 7; 2 Corinthians 1; Ezekiel 15; Psalms 56, 57

Willingness to endure the hard times, as much as enjoy the good times.

When we suffer for Jesus, it works out for your healing and salvation. If we are treated well, given a helping hand and encouraging word, that also works to your benefit, spurring you on, face forward, unflinching. Your hard times are also our hard times. When we see that you’re just as willing to endure the hard times as to enjoy the good times, we know you’re going to make it, no doubt about it. 2 Corinthians 1:6-7, The Message. (emphasis mine)

I listened to a message on grief by Rick Warren. He said if you’re only living in the party, you’re only living half a life. That in grief, that’s where we grow. (And if you’re not grieving your losses, you’re stuck in that spot until you do.)

We don’t want you in the dark, friends, about how hard it was when all this came down on us in Asia province. It was so bad we didn’t think we were going to make it. We felt like we’d been sent to death row, that it was all over for us. As it turned out, it was the best thing that could have happened. Instead of trusting in our own strength or wits to get out of it, we were forced to trust God totally—not a bad idea since he’s the God who raises the dead! And he did it, rescued us from certain doom. And he’ll do it again, rescuing us as many times as we need rescuing. You and your prayers are part of the rescue operation—I don’t want you in the dark about that either. I can see your faces even now, lifted in praise for God’s deliverance of us, a rescue in which your prayers played such a crucial part. 2 Corinthians 1:8-11, The Message.

In my lowest moments (persecution, exclusion, depression, the waiting), after realizing I had done all that I could do–and all to no avail–I was at a place where I learned surrender. Over the course of three years, I would get lots of practice in learning to differentiate between the things over which I had control, and those that I did not. I learned how to lean on the Lord, and that I could trust him. I learned to pray, and to ask for prayer.

As it turned out, it was the best thing that could have happened.

Thank you, Jesus.

Courtney (66books365)

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Filed under 2 Corinthians, 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, M'Cheyne Bible reading plan

Judges 1; Acts 5; Jeremiah 14; Matthew 28

God is with (us) always. His will prevails.

This is the overture, the repeating refrain and undercurrent of the readings. Judges: God gives land and victory to Judah. Victory was given before they even started, but there was still a fight.

After the death of Joshua, the Israelites asked the Lord, “Which tribe should go first to attack the Canaanites?”


The Lord answered, “Judah, for I have given them victory over the land.” Judges 1:1-2 NLT

(Israel, however, fails to conquer other lands.)

Jeremiah, the land is parched and cracked from drought, and a people suffer. False prophets paint a brighter picture and the Lord responds.

13 Then I said, “O Sovereign Lord, their prophets are telling them, ‘All is well—no war or famine will come. The Lord will surely send you peace.’”

14 Then the Lord said, “These prophets are telling lies in my name. I did not send them or tell them to speak. I did not give them any messages. They prophesy of visions and revelations they have never seen or heard. They speak foolishness made up in their own lying hearts. 15 Therefore, this is what the Lord says: I will punish these lying prophets, for they have spoken in my name even though I never sent them. They say that no war or famine will come, but they themselves will die by war and famine.” Jeremiah 14:14-15 NLT.

The apostles are imprisoned for speaking of Jesus. God makes a way for their escape, and the religious leaders find them back in the temple courts.

29 But Peter and the apostles replied, “We must obey God rather than any human authority. 30 The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead after you killed him by hanging him on a cross. 31 Then God put him in the place of honor at his right hand as Prince and Savior. He did this so the people of Israel would repent of their sins and be forgiven. 32 We are witnesses of these things and so is the Holy Spirit, who is given by God to those who obey him.”

33 When they heard this, the high council was furious and decided to kill them. 34 But one member, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, who was an expert in religious law and respected by all the people, stood up and ordered that the men be sent outside the council chamber for a while. 35 Then he said to his colleagues, “Men of Israel, take care what you are planning to do to these men! 36 Some time ago there was that fellow Theudas, who pretended to be someone great. About 400 others joined him, but he was killed, and all his followers went their various ways. The whole movement came to nothing. 37 After him, at the time of the census, there was Judas of Galilee. He got people to follow him, but he was killed, too, and all his followers were scattered.

38 “So my advice is, leave these men alone. Let them go. If they are planning and doing these things merely on their own, it will soon be overthrown. 39 But if it is from God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You may even find yourselves fighting against God!

40 The others accepted his advice. They called in the apostles and had them flogged. Then they ordered them never again to speak in the name of Jesus, and they let them go.

41 The apostles left the high council rejoicing that God had counted them worthy to suffer disgrace for the name of Jesus. 42 And every day, in the Temple and from house to house, they continued to teach and preach this message: “Jesus is the Messiah.”

In Matthew, Jesus breathes the Great Commission.

18 Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20 NLT.

And this is what I take away: There is victory in life, and fight–Judah fought; the apostles persevered through hardship. But if it is from God, He will make a way. His truth will prevail.

Lord, irritations pick at me lately. I find myself wanting to retreat–my heart tells me that’s the way to peace, and it sounds much like the empty visions of false prophets. But you tell us all to go and make, teach and obey–let my steps and my life proclaim in word and deed that you are the Messiah.

Courtney (66books365)

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Deuteronomy 33, 34; Psalm 119:145-176; Isaiah 60; Matthew 8

There are so many voices that clamor for attention in every day life: the people I see face to face, email, phone calls, Face Book, mail, the books I read, the radio I listen to. It’s an incredible thing to stop the noise and be silent. I’d like to give you the impression that because of Christ’s presence in my life, I possess this centeredness, this place of calm and peace. It’s what I crave.

I call with all my heart; answer me, O Lord, and I will obey your decrees. I call out to you; save me and I will keep your statutes. I rise before dawn and cry for help; I have put my hope in your word…Yet you are near, O Lord, and all your commands are true. Psalm 119:145-147, 151.

That peace, that presence of God is outside me and within. There is a sweet and magnetic ache in my heart that hungers for his presence within me. His Holy Spirit within draws me to his Word. That inward craving isn’t satisfied by things that aren’t true.  My heart has this touch of homesickness that is only satisfied by God. Sometimes, I sense his presence; sometimes I don’t, but reality remains the same.  He is near:

Arise, shine, for your light has come and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn. Isaiah 60:2-3

It’s a mystery that God dwells within our humble, sinful frames. A mystery that I don’t deserve, but is true nonetheless. I am thankful that his love and his power are far greater than me. May his love shine in all of us today.


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Genesis 28; Matthew 27; Esther 4; Acts 27

Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.  Genesis 28:16

Christian or not, there are times in life when it would appear that God is nowhere to be found.  For me, one of those times was during my acute care internship at a large university hospital.  Fresh out of the suburbs,  having just finished the academic portion of my education and newly married,  I found myself working in  various intensive care units of this teaching hospital.  To say it was intimidating is an understatement. Never before had I seen how far a human body could be punished and broken and still maintain a tenuous grip on life. Sometimes it was the result of disease or accident;  other times, the result of violence.  The pain and suffering of patients and their loved ones (if they had someone holding vigil for them) were excruciating.

Type A me was struggling at my internship and my clinical instructor told me that I should have chosen a different field of work.  I was full of selfdoubt and ashamed that perhaps I had just wasted my parents money and the last four years of my life pursuing a path with a dead end.  The peace of God alluded me and in stepped my Esther in the place least expected.

She was a new bride and her husband was a patient of mine in the ICU.  He had sustained a massive head injury and high level spinal cord injury in a motor vehicle accident.  He had been on life support for a month, was unresponsive and the prognosis was poor. He looked nothing like the beautiful young man she had fallen in love with.  I came in twice a day to treat him and when I did, she and I talked.  This went on for a couple of weeks.

At the end of the long day in which my clinical instructor had  suggested I find a new line of work,  I took a few moments to have a good cry in the privacy of a garden outside the hospital. I felt alone and forgotten by God amongst forsaken, suffering people.  Who should find me, but my patient’s wife. God showed up in the new bride of a dying man to speak words of vision and encouragement. The irony of her consoling me! The internship didn’t become easier, but knowing that God heard my prayers and answered them through this woman dramatically changed my understanding of who He is. It gave me the strength to stay the course.

We are no different from Jacob.  God is always present, but when our eyes are finally open to it, we are changed.  We need to be like the people of Israel and sit around the fire (or computer) and tell one another stories of  how God has opened our eyes to his presence. We can share how He has provided Esthers in our lives. We will be strengthened for the days to come.


Addendum:  It’s thirty years later and I have saved a letter from my garden friend.  Here’s her closing line, “And don’t get too busy to remember to live and enjoy that husband, ok!”  I take take that advice to heart.


Filed under 66 Books, Acts, Esther, Genesis, M'Cheyne Bible reading plan, Matthew