Close To God

Imagine being close enough to hear God’s voice—Your ears will hear a word behind you, “This is the way, walk in it,” whenever you turn to the right or to the left. (Isaiah 30:21)

Here’s a great question I recently heard: “What if God doesn’t want to give us answers, because He wants to give us His presence?” 

Perhaps if God showed me my whole path, I might just take off down the path as fast as I could. Maybe I’d even say something like, “Thanks, God, I’ll take it from here!”

But God wants me close to Him. He wants me to hear His voice at every single step saying, “This is the way, walk in it.” 

The model prayer that Jesus taught us is all about that closeness and total reliance on God’s close presence: 

  • Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name [close enough to worship Him intimately],
  • Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven [close enough to know His heart].
  • Give us today our daily bread [close enough to rely on Him for all of my daily needs].
  • And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors [close enough to know His forgiving love for me and for others].
  • Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one [close enough to His strength to say “no” to temptations that would entice me off of His path].
  • For Yours is the kingdom, and the glory, and the power forever [close enough to bask perpetually in His glory and His power].

God wants us THAT close to Him—to rely on Him, to lean into Him, to be empowered by Him, to be protected in Him. 

A good question for all of us to ponder: How close to God am I?

8 Quotes From “Jesus In Me”

Anne Graham Lotz has given us a delightful book that feels like a living room chat with a friend as we discuss how the Holy Spirit operates in our lives. Check out my full book review of Jesus In Me by clicking here. 

“The Holy Spirit is not a thing but a Person. His personhood is emphasized in John 16, when eleven times in eight verses, He is referred to by the personal, masculine pronouns He, Him, or His.” 

“Could it be that you have missed the comfort of the Comforter because it has come indirectly through someone or something else? Like Mary Magdalene at the empty tomb, are your tears blinding you to the presence of Jesus right there beside you? Right there within you? My prayer is that He will use these words to comfort you as you experience the constant companionship of the Holy Spirit. Ask Him to open your eyes to the nearness of the One who is, in fact, Jesus in you.” 

“Whether your situation involves a misunderstanding with your neighbors, or a disagreement within your church, or tension in your home, or slander in your school, or gossip in your office, the Holy Spirit is able to defend you and plead your cause. Always. Ask Him. He’s never lost a case.” 

“Multiple times God has told me He would strengthen me through the howling winds of hardship. In Jeremiah He clearly warned me that people would fight against me but that He would make me an iron pillar. Through Isaiah He told me that people would rage against me and oppose me but that I was not to be afraid because He would strengthen me. He encouraged me from Revelation that if I would endure patiently and with humility, He would make me ‘a pillar in the temple of my God.’” 

“It’s a huge relief to know that it’s not my job to convict anyone else of sin. That’s the Holy Spirit’s job. Which leaves me free to love people just as they are. Yes, I can counsel and advise if they are open to it. Yes, I can speak the truth in love. Yes, I can point out the potential consequences of their sin. But in the end the most effective thing I can do is to pray for them with a heart full of love. Because the power to transform is His alone.” 

“As we choose to fix our eyes on Jesus, pursue righteousness, live by the truth, and fulfill God’s purpose for our lives, the Holy Spirit will guide us, sharpening our focus in the midst of life’s distractions and confusion.” 

“Maintaining the fire requires intentionally establishing some common spiritual disciplines. They are simple choices but not always easy. They include daily prayer, daily Bible reading, sharing the gospel, continuous obedience as you live out what God says in His Word, continuous trust as you relinquish your expectations and let Him have His way, deepening surrender to His authority—especially during times of pain and suffering.” 

“He uses all things without exception, not just some things, for my ultimate good. And my ultimate good is not health, wealth, prosperity, happiness, or sometimes the things we associate with ‘good.’ My ultimate good is to fulfill God’s purpose of shaping me into the image of Jesus Christ so I bring glory to Him.” 

Poetry Saturday—Taladh Chriosda

The Lord my shepherd is and I 
shall not want. He makes me lie 
in green pastures, leads me by 
refreshing waters, still.

Restore my soul, Lord, day by day.
Lead me in Your righteous way 
for Your Name’s sake, Lord, I pray 
according to Your will.

And though through death’s dark vail I go,
I no fear of evil show, 
for Your rod and staff, I know, 
shall guard and comfort still.

A table You before me spread 
in the midst of those I dread, 
and with oil anoint my head.
My cup You overfill.

Thus goodness e’er shall follow me, 
mercy all my path shall see,
Your house shall my dwelling be 
forever after still. —T.M. Moore, in Bricks And Rungs

The Nearness Of God

I think too often we’re in too big of a hurry when we read the Bible. 

Think with me for a moment how much longer it takes to sing the lyrics of a heart-stirring song than it does to just say the words. The psalms were written as songs, and although the melodies that accompanied them have been lost to the pages of history, we would still do well to move more slowly and deliberately and passionately through these inspired songs. 

Let’s slowly consider Psalm 46 from four different perspectives…

First, as a pause from the noise. Selah can be used three different ways: (1) a pause to reflect; (2) a deep breath to crescendo into something bigger; or (3) a contrast between two very different things. There are three selahs in this psalm, and all of them call us to a pause from something noisy. To pause from…

    • natural upheavals—the earth gives way, the mountains fall, the waters roar, the mountains quake
    • political upheavals—nations are in an uproar, kingdoms fall 
    • religious upheavals—God has to serve the judgment of desolation, as He breaks the bow, shatters the spear, burns the shield

Selah/Pause from these upheavals and reflect—God is our refuge … the Lord Almighty is with us.

Second, notice the contrasts. The songwriter takes us to man’s mountains that fall and quake, but reminds us that THE mountain of God is our sure fortress. In the imagery of water, we see man’s attempts at refreshing that are roaring and foaming, but we also see God’s river that brings life and makes people glad. And look at how man’s use of power results in an uproar, but God makes wars to cease. 

Selah/Pause and reflect—aren’t God’s ways better than man’s ways? 

Third, notice the nearness of God. Twice the songwriter reminds us “The Lord Almighty is with us.” And then we hear God Himself speak to our anxiety-prone hearts, “Be still and know that I am God.” Those words “be still” can also mean “let go.” Let go of earthly things, negative voices, fears, trying to control events. If your hands are full of that, how can you grab onto God?! 

Selah/Pause and reflect—God is calling me to go—and stay—near to Him! 

Fourth, see how God’s peace and protection surrounds AND permeates me. In our Western literature, we are used to the climax—or the payoff—being at the end of the story. The story builds and then comes to a conclusion where the hero prevails. But in Hebrew poetry, the climax—or the payoff—is typically in the middle. So when we read Psalm 46, it’s tempting to say, “Hallelujah! Verse 11 says God is my fortress. That’s the climax, the payoff!” But really the payoff—the most important part—is the middle. In this psalm, that is verse 6. Everything else builds to this and radiates out from this. 

Read this psalm for yourself by reading the verses in this order: 6, 5, 7, 4, 8, 3, 9, 2, 10, 1, 11.

Selah/Pause and reflect—God is not only IN me, He also surrounds me. I’m invited to come close to Him because He is already in me. Nations rage, but His voice in my heart silences the upheaval. He is with me. He is the Most High Sovereign God that controls the outcome of all nations. Earth quakes and kingdoms rumble, but I will have no fear; I will be still and know He is God. He is my refuge, my strength, my help, my fortress! 

Don’t rush the reading of the Psalms. Slowly “sing” these inspired lyrics and listen to how the Holy Spirit will whisper to your heart. 

I’ll be continuing our series on the Selahs in the Psalms this Sunday, and I would love to have you join me. 

40 Days With Jesus (book review)

Martin Luther said, “The Bible is alive, it speaks to me.” Truly, the Bible is God’s Word speaking to us every time we peer into its pages, so I love how Sarah Young strings passages of Scripture together to allow us to hear Jesus speaking to us in a first-person voice. 

40 Days With Jesus was designed as a series of readings during the Lenten season, as we walk with Jesus to the Cross and His resurrection from the dead. But any time is a good time when we can walk with Jesus and hear His unmistakable voice reassuring our hearts. 

Are you walking through a dark time in your life? Know that Jesus is walking with you. 

Do you want to live a life of purpose and lasting value? Listen to Jesus counsel you. 

Are you standing at a crossroads trying to make the right decision? Let Jesus point the way. 

Each time I read a Sarah Young book, it reignites my heart to read the Bible as though Jesus is personally speaking to me. Because He is! 

40 Days With Jesus is a great starting point for you to learn to hear Jesus speaking to you every time you open your Bible. The Holy Spirit will then use those words read in your quiet time to continue to bring you direction and reassurance all throughout your day (John 14:26). 

I highly recommend this book (or any other book by Sarah Young)!

Does Self-Help Get God’s Help?

This is part 1 in our series looking at phrases that sound biblical and then asking, “Is that in the Bible? 

Statement #1—God helps those who help themselves. Is that in the Bible? No, it is not! 

The reason why I think people have accepted this as biblical is an incorrect view of God. 

  1. Humanism says God is us, which makes us believe, “If it’s going to be, it’s up to me.” 
  2. Fatalism says there is no God and therefore no meaning to life, which makes us believe, “The outcome is what it is and no one has any say in the matter.” 
  3. Deism says there is a God, but it’s hard to get His attention, which makes us believe “He is either disinterested in me or unapproachable. He’s only available for the ‘big’ things.” 

The Bible flat-out rejects all three of these isms. 

Instead, we see a loving, approachable God. One who is both all-powerful and all-loving. He says things like…

  • I made you and know everything about you, and I remain infinitely interested and intimately involved in your life 
  • Come to Me and I will give you rest
  • I want you to cast all your anxieties on Me
  • Don’t be anxious about anything, but tell Me about everything that troubles you (Psalm 139:1-18; Matthew 11:28-29; 1 Peter 5:7; Philippians 4:6)

Not only is “God helps those who help themselves” untrue, but the exact opposite is also true—God helps those who cannot help themselves! 

In Isaiah 40:28-29, we read that God gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. 

“Yes, it is our strength, not our weakness, that is our hindrance and stumbling block.” —Horatius Bonar 

God gives power to the weak. He gives strength to those with no might of their own. God does NOT help those who think they can help themselves! God helps those who cannot help themselves! This is what Jesus came to do, and why we should rejoice in the fact that He does indeed help those who could never rescue themselves (Isaiah 53:4-5; 2 Corinthians 12:9)!

It is our can’ts that God uses as His opportunities to show how limitless He is. Our limitations magnify His love and His power. 

One of the best prayers you could ever pray is simply, “God, help!” This simple prayer acknowledges in just two words that you can’t but He most assuredly can! 

But those who wait for the Lord—who expect, look for, and hope in Him—shall change and renew their strength and power; they shall lift their wings and mount up close to God as eagles mount up to the sun; they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint or become tired. (Isaiah 40:31 AMP) 

Join me next week as we continue to explore various statements and ask, “Is that in the Bible? 

A Very Present Help

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. (Psalm 46:1)

God is not just present—He is very present! 

God is not merely in the room with you, He is fully attentive to you. He’s never distracted, preoccupied, or disinterested. 

Regardless of the quaking or roaring around you, He is so very present that He knows your quietest sigh. You don’t have to look anywhere else for help because He is VERY present at this VERY moment. 

The rest of this psalm reiterates this promise:

  • God is in the midst
  • God will help
  • The Lord of hosts is with us
  • God is our stronghold 

God Himself speaks the words of the natural conclusion we should draw when we realize that He is VERY present at this VERY moment—

“Be still, and know that I am God!”

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