Known And Unknown Threats

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I call on the Lord in my distress, and He answers me (Psalm 120:1). 

What power and love is packed into this short verse! “I call…He answers.” There’s nothing else I need to do—just called to my God. There is no delay or deliberation on His part—He answers me. 

Distress” comes from the root word that can mean a tight spot, or it can mean a hard pebble. The distress we face may be a full frontal assault or it may be a nagging, almost indefinable, annoyance. Since Psalm 120 is a Psalm of Ascent, whatever the distress is, the psalmist feels like it is keeping him from going up into God’s presence. He lists three known distresses: 

  1. Deceit—people around him were lying or distorting the truth. 
  2. Separation—he wants to ascend into God’s presence but feels held back by those among whom he lives. 
  3. Turmoil—he’s looking for peace, but everyone around him wants to stir up trouble and controversy. 

What about those annoying, hard-to-identify distresses? In the next Psalm of Ascent the call is for us to trust God and to not worry. But in this psalm, there’s no calling to God for help because no specific threats have been identified. Still we learn that our Heavenly Father, who does not slumber, perpetually watches over us. Our Father knows our needs before we can even perceive them, and He is fully prepared to handle them. 

So we are promised: 

  • I can sleep securely
  • I can travel safely
  • I can work each day confidently
  • I can pass through the night unharmed
  • I can move around without having to look around
  • The LORD will watch over my coming and going both today and forevermore! 

Father, may any distresses I experience today send me ascending into Your presence. Whether I know what the threats are or not, I know that You are watching over me and will answer me whenever I call to You. I thank You for this confidence that I have both today and forevermore! 

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Encouraging Presence

Have you ever been down in the dumps? Ever been discouraged or blue? Have you ever felt like no one gets you? In those moments, have you asked God for encouragement?

The Apostle Paul was feeling a little down, and he asked God to send him encouragement. God answered this way

But God, who encourages those who are discouraged, encouraged us by the arrival of Titus.

Paul says in the next verse, Titus’ presence was a joy.

This word for encourage simply means showing up for a friend. Do you realize you could be a huge source of encouragement to someone just by showing up?

“A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out.” —Walter Winchell

Who needs you to just show up by their side today? Just by showing up, you could be the answer to someone’s desperate prayer for encouragement.

Go, be there for a friend!

Hurrying To Wait

In Genesis 18 God comes to visit Abraham. It’s interesting to note how Abraham responds. In a word: quickly.

  • He hurried from where he was sitting to meet God.
  • He hurried back to his wife Sarah and said, “Quick, make some bread for our Guest.”
  • He ran to his herd to pick out a calf to serve.
  • His servant then hurried to prepare the calf.

Abraham hurried to get into God’s presence.

However, once he’s there everything slows down.

  • He stood nearby while the Lord and His angels ate the food.
  • He walked with God as He continued toward Sodom.

Abraham WASN’T quick to leave God’s presence.

At this point, the Bible gives us an important word: Then. After Abraham hurried to get into God’s presence and continued to linger there, THEN God took Abraham into His counsel.

Why is it that my natural tendency is to do just the opposite?

  • I delay going into God’s presence because I try to figure things out on my own.
  • Once I finally go into His presence, I share my need with Him and then hurry along my way.

Abraham was called God’s friend. Maybe because he hurried into God’s presence, and then stayed right there.

Today I’m going to try it Abraham’s way.

Presents Or Presence

We kicked off The Q Series last night with some very appropriate-for-the-season questions: what is Christmas? where did it come from? how are we supposed to celebrate Christmas?

As I was preparing to answer this question, the thought came to me that Christmas is the celebration of God’s presence among us, but we’ve turned Christmas into a focus on presents. God wants to give us Himself (His presence), but many times we’re more interested in the presents we think He should give us.

Even in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve exchanged a piece of fruit (a present, the devil told them) for God’s presence.

Quick: Can you think of a present someone gave you last Christmas? This probably doesn’t come easily to mind. Can you think of a time this last year when someone “being there” for you (their presence) was meaningful? This one you could probably think of more quickly.

Presence trump presents.

As you celebrate Christmas this year, focus on God’s presence in your life, and not the presents you’re asking Him for. And then remember those around you want your presence way more than they want your presents, so figure out how to give it to them.

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