Going Into The Heavy Presence Of God

“The King of glory” is a phrase that’s only used five times in the Bible, and all five times are packed into just four verses of Psalm 24. In this psalm, David lets us know who can enter into this awesome, heavy presence of the King of Glory. 

Why do I say “heavy”? The definition of the Hebrew word for glory always refers to a heaviness. There is something majestically, awesomely heavy about going before the All-Righteous, All-Powerful, All-Holy, All-Knowing, Absolutely Perfect God. Can any mere mortal enter into this presence? 

In an earlier psalm, David said, “For the Lord is righteous, He loves justice; the upright will see His face” (Psalm 11:7). But in this psalm, David asks, “Who can ascend Your holy hill? Who can come into Your presence?” (Psalm 24:3). 

He answers the question with these words: the upright, the one with clean hands and a pure heart (he expands this list even more in Psalm 15), then he calls on us to Selah—pause and weigh this as if on a scale. David is asking, “Do you really want to enter into the weighty presence of the King of Glory?” 

If you do, something needs to happen first. David calls his generation (and our generation) the generation of Jacob. You can read the story of Jacob’s life beginning in Genesis 27. Jacob was a pragmatic man. If he could get away with something, he did. He only looked out for his own interests. He deceived, he connived, he bribed, he calculated his odds—he did what he had to so that he could advance himself. He didn’t realize God’s weight. He saw God only through a scarcity-mindset that gave God limits. He thought there was only a limited supply, and if somebody else was getting a blessing, then that meant there was less for him to get.

Then Jacob encountered God and discovered that he couldn’t do a thing against this weighty King of Glory. When he finally submitted to God, his name was changed to Israel. Jacob—the self-sufficient man—would never be allowed to enter the doors into God’s heavy glory. But Israel—the submitted man—may ascend the hill of the Lord and stand in His holy presence. Jacob means deceitful; Israel means the man without any deceit. 

For the rest of his life, Israel walked with a limp. It was a constant reminder that he simply wasn’t the man he was before he wrestled with God.

  • Jacob could only obtain what he could finagle; Israel is the recipient of all God’s blessings. 
  • Jacob could only keep his gains for this life; Israel got God’s blessings for eternity. 
  • Jacob might be vindicated by men; Israel is definitely and completely vindicated by God. 
  • Jacob couldn’t enter the presence of the King of Glory; Israel was welcomed as a prince into God’s presence.

Here’s the challenge I would give you… Use either Psalm 15 or Psalm 24:3-4 and let the Holy Spirit wrestle with you. Is there anything that’s holding you back from going through those doors into the weighty presence of the King of glory? If there is, confess it, repent from it, and even limp away from it (if you have to) so that you don’t miss out on God’s eternal blessings. 

Join me this coming Sunday as we continue our look at the Selahs in the Book of Psalms. 

Grudges Can Block God’s Blessings

In Psalm 7, some guy named Cush is giving David trouble. How much trouble? David felt like Cush was a lion about to rip him apart! 

We would naturally expect David to cry out for God’s help from this tormentor (which he does in the opening verses), but then what David does next is quite unexpected—he asks to God to search his heart to see if he might be the cause for Cush’s attack: 

  • Have I done something wrong?
  • Is there guilt on my hands?
  • Have I done such an evil to cause him to attack? 
  • Have I somehow robbed Cush of something? 

This introspection in God’s presence was apparently a regular habit for David. He made this a regular habit when the heat was on, and also when he was at peace (see Psalm 139:23-24). 

Not only did David want to make sure his hands were clean, but he also wanted to make sure he wasn’t carrying a grudge against Cush. A grudge is a feeling of anger or resentment toward someone who has wronged us. But the most devastating thing about a grudge is that it takes our eyes off God and places them on our tormentor. 

In other words, as long as we hold a grudge, we continue to give our tormentor power over our lives. 

So after asking those introspective questions, David writes Selah. One definition of this word—which is probably quite appropriate here—is pause, and calmly think of that. 

After this Selah pause of introspection in God’s presence, David must have felt clear of any guilt (because we don’t see him repenting, as is his habit), but we also see him being very careful of not holding on to a grudge against Cush. 

David then begins to affirm in the remaining verses that God is more than capable of handling evil people and keeping the righteous protected. David determines that he will give thanks to the Lord because of His righteousness, and will sing praise to the name of the Most High (v. 17). 

Here’s an important thing for anyone who has been injured by someone else to remember—

By holding on to a grudge, you’re holding yourself in bondage! 

How can your hands be free to receive God’s blessings if your hands are full of the grudges you are holding? 

Learn from David’s Selah these two lessons when someone torments you: 

  1. Ask God: am I to blame? If so, repent. If not, ask question 2.
  2. Ask God: am I holding on to a grudge? If so, let it go so your hands are free to receive God’s blessings! 

Join me next Sunday as we continue our look at the Selahs in the Psalms. 

The Selah That Keeps Us From Sinning

There is a very natural emotion that we humans have when someone has hurt us, but if we don’t pause (Selah), that natural emotion can lead us into sin. David has good counsel for angry people in Psalm 4. 

Many scholars think that Psalm 4 is a continuation—or a part 2—of Psalm 3. As you will notice in the preface of Psalm 3, David is on the run from his son Absalom, who is trying to steal the kingdom of Israel from him. 

Look at the swing of David’s emotions:

  • Troubled/sad (v. 1) 
  • Anger (v. 4)
  • Contentment (v. 7)
  • Peace (v. 8)

The first time David tells his readers to Selah pause is between verses 2 and 3. The change is almost an about-face: 

Look at this: look who got picked by God! He listens the split second I call to Him. Complain if you must, but don’t lash out. Keep your mouth shut, and let your heart do the talking. Build your case before God and wait for His verdict (vv. 3-5 in The Message). 

My friend Josh Schram shared these truths: 

  1. Don’t sin by letting anger control you. 
  2. It’s right to be angry, but it’s not right to sin. 
  3. When someone hurts us, it’s tempting to break God’s law. We can almost justify it, but it is a sin to give in to anger. 

“Search your heart and be silent”Selah. This pause gives us hope that we can “build your case before God and wait for His verdict.” 

In Romans 12:17-21, Paul gives similar counsel when dealing with enemies:  As far as it depends on you…

  • Don’t repay evil for evil. 
  • Do repay evil with doing what’s right. 
  • Don’t take revenge. 
  • Do let God handle it. 
  • Don’t mistreat your enemies. 
  • Do bless your enemies. 
  • Don’t be overcome by evil. 
  • Do overcome evil by doing good. 

Since David let his anger go, that also means he didn’t sin! His clear conscience meant he could lie down and sleep in peace. 

You cannot hold a grudge and peace in the same heart. 

Please join me next week as we continue our look at the Selahs in the Book of Psalms. 

What Is Church?

All across the world on Sunday morning, people met for church? But what exactly is church? Is it a place we go to? Is it something that only happens on Sundays? 

The Greek word for church is ekklesia. It meant an assembly of citizens. Luke used the term when he recorded a government official saying, “If there is anything further you want to bring up, it must be settled in a legal assembly” (Acts 19:39). But in the New Testament, it came to mean “a community based on a special religious idea and established in a special way” (Dr. Marvin Vincent). It can also mean either a local group of Christians or “the whole body of Christians scattered throughout the earth” (Dr. James Strong). 

Church never means a building. Nowhere does the phrase “go to church” appear in the New Testament. Instead, church carried the idea of a living, growing organism because church was wherever a follower of Jesus was. Sometimes the church met collectively in one location, and sometimes individual believers were out in the community. But wherever the Spirit of God went, church was happening. 

If church is not something we go to, it’s also not something that takes place only one day per week. Look at what Jesus did on the Sabbath day: 

But we also see Jesus doing all of these things EVERY day of the week. 

For Jesus, neither the day of the week nor the location determined the way He lived. Peter summed it up this way, “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. Then Jesus went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him” (Acts 10:38). 

In fact, before they were called Christians the church was simply called “the Way” letting us know that the church was a way of life, not a day of the week. 

Based on how Jesus lived and how the Apostle taught, I think we can see the Church Way like this: 

In other words, EVERY day and in EVERY place the followers of Jesus were being enriched in their own lives so that they could reach out to the hurting so that they could come to know Jesus personally so that their lives could be enriched so that they too could reach out to others, and on, and on, and on it goes! 

Limiting “church” to a specific location or to a specific day of the week is way too small-minded. Church as Jesus intended it was a powerful force that would set people free EVERY day and in EVERY place from the power of the devil and introduce them to God’s eternal life! 

A Warrior For God’s Favor

I love this guy! 

Caleb is a dog. I’m not kidding: his name literally means dog. To be more specific his name actually means a rabid dog. What?! Yeah, but it totally fits his life. 

Caleb first shows up on the scene when the Israelites are getting ready to explore Canaan for the first time. They have just been delivered from Egypt and in about two months have arrived at the border of their promised land. Moses wants to send a representative from each tribe to scout out the land. 

So the first thing we learn about Caleb is that he is a leader of the largest, most powerful tribe in Israel (Numbers 13:1-3, 6). 

After scouting the land for 40 days, these men come back with a report for everyone. Halfway through their report, Caleb interrupts everyone—“We should go take the land right now, for we can certainly do it!” (13:30). Caleb was outspoken for God’s favor. He firmly believed that God was for them. 

Unfortunately, nearly all the other scouts (except Joshua) disagreed with Caleb. They warned that there were giants in the land that would eat them for lunch. In essence, the same people who had seen God deliver them from the Egyptians and part the Red Sea for them now thought that God wasn’t able to defeat giants. This vocal majority turned the entire nation against Moses and wanted to return to Egypt! 

So God promised that none of the adults would enter the promised land, with only two exceptions: Joshua and Caleb. God pointed out that Caleb “has a different spirit and follows Me wholeheartedly” (Numbers 14:24). This is where we first learn that Caleb is rabid. The term rabid means zealous, intense, fanatical, inspired. Caleb is a man who is focused—intensely, wholeheartedly focused—on God. In fact, this word wholehearted is used about Caleb three more times (see Joshua 14: 8, 9, 14). 

Along with the rest of the Israelite community, Caleb wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. He never thought God had forgotten him; he never lost his intense wholeheartedness; he stayed rabid the whole time. He had a trust in God that never diminished. His motto might have been: “God said it; I believe it.” 

After 40 years in the wilderness, and then five more years fighting to claim their promised land, Caleb was still raring to go. He told Joshua, “I am still just as strong as I was 45 years ago. I’m 85 years old and still ready to take on giants. Let me at ‘em!” And he did it! Caleb drove out three giants in order to claim his territory (Judges 1:20).

But Caleb wasn’t done yet. He then used God’s favor to be a blessing to others. The Apostle Paul tell something that Caleb lived out: God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need AND plenty left over to share with others (2 Corinthians 9:8). Without a word of complaint, Caleb gladly accepted not only the responsibility of letting the Levities live in the town he had conquered, but he also took on the added duties of making that city of Hebron a “city of refuge.” In this city, Caleb would keep anyone safe from those seeking their lives until a proper trial could be held. 

Caleb was successful for nearly 90 years because he was convinced that God was for him.

Nothing could distract him from wholeheartedly clinging to God’s favor! 

Caleb was a warrior for God’s favor, and he was a successful warrior because of God’s favor. The same can be said of you IF you will decide to cling to God’s favor wholeheartedly.

God’s Gift To The World

You are a gift. You are God’s grace gift to the world. 

Max Lucado said it this way: “You are you-nique. 

God made you on purpose and for a purpose.

God implanted unique abilities in you from conception (see Psalm 139:13). And check out what God said to Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew and approved of you…” (Jeremiah 1:5). Before you were even conceived, God already knew all about you AND He approved of you! 

Why did God implant these unique abilities in you? Because He knew of the unique opportunities you would face during your lifetime (see Psalm 139:16). Because God is for you, He gave you all that you would need to successfully face every opportunity that came your way. 

Every one of us has been given these grace gifts of unique talents and opportunities, The Bible says, “to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it” (Ephesians 4:7). If God is for you, and God is for me, then that means that you have been gifted to be a blessing to me and I have been gifted to be a blessing to you (Romans 12:3-6; 1 Corinthians 12:4-7).

Let me state it again: every one of us has been entrusted by God with unique talents in order to successfully face the unique opportunities that He knew we would face. Jon Bloom reminds us, “Some are given more, some are given less, but all are given much.” 

So what do we do with what we’ve been entrusted? There are two possibilities: (1) We can invest our talents and abilities in a way that glorifies God, or (2) We can squander the talents God has given us. 

How do you squander the grace gift of your life? 

  1. Not discovering it—I have a gift?
  2. Devaluing it—I’m nothing special.
  3. Overvaluing it—I’m super-important. I don’t need anyone else.
  4. Laziness—I don’t want to mess it up, so there’s no need for me to invest my gift.
  5. Short-sightedness—My gift is just for me, so it doesn’t matter what I do with it.

I hope we can all say what Erma Bombeck wrote: “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left but could say, ‘I used everything You gave me.’”

How do you honor God with your you-niqueness? I can tell you in just three simple words—You be you! 

If you will just be who God made you—not downplaying your talents, not wishing you had someone else’s talents—that’s when you will feel fulfilled, and God will be glorified, and the rest of the world will be blessed! So…

YOU BE YOU! 

Do People Know That You Know That God Is Good?

If you’ve been reading my series on God’s favor the last few weeks, I hope you truly know this: God is for you! 

But the key question for Christians comes down to this—Do others know that you know that God is for you? 

You see, God is for you because God is joyful and happy, and He wants you to not only know this but to radiate this joy and happiness to those around you. 

Here’s how it works:

(1) Joy is an inside job. The dictionary defines joy as “a feeling of great delight caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying.” When we know by our personal experience with Him how good God is, joy is birthed in our heart as we see Him as All-Good and All-Satisfying. 

(2) Joy is regardless of my external circumstances. Some people try to pursue happiness apart from joy. Trying to get happy without having the foundation of joy is like having a flower that has been picked from the plant. Happiness may be pretty for a short while, but it is already fading because it is completely dependent on the environment around it. True happiness isn’t dependent on external circumstances because it is rooted in something far greater. 

(3) Knowing God’s favor fuels our joy. There is a Hebrew word for know which means “knowledge through intimate, personal experience.” Psalm 100 describes happy people and their joyful praise. Their joy comes from this: They know that their Lord is God and that He is good. This joy comes from seeing and savoring God’s favor.  

(4) Our internal joy should bubble up into external happiness. All throughout the Bible we read how those who are filled with joy as they get to know this exceptionally good, all-satisfying God cannot help but burst out in songs of happy praise (see Psalm 28:7 and Luke 10:21).

(5) Our external happiness becomes our testimony. In Psalm 126 we read that God’s people who were full of God’s joy burst out into happy praise. When they did the people around them recognized that God had done great things for them. 

Check this out—

“I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that to be a Christian and to be unhappy is a sin. An unhappy Christian gives God no praise, robs His glory, and paints God in a bad light. A happy Christian knows the Lord is his strength, his comfort, his supply. The happy Christian lifts God high and invites others to know this All-Good, All-Happy God too!” —Craig T. Owens 

So let me ask you again: If you call yourself a Christian, do people know that you know that God is for you? Are you making God look All-Good and All-Satisfying by your deeply fueled joy and your face-brightening happiness? 

What a testimony it is when God’s people are happy in Him! 

If you have missed any of my other teachings about God’s favor, be sure to check them out:

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