Category Archives: God With Us

The Lifeline of His Presence

“Believe Me, woman,” Jesus replied, “a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.”  John 4:21

The book of Exodus has pages and pages of instructions on how to build the tabernacle, the place where God would reside, and the Israelites would come to be with him.  It wasn’t just something slapped together.  Every detail was carefully planned and executed.

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Later in history, the Israelites would build a more permanent dwelling for God — the temple.  This would be even more elaborate and detailed.

temple

From looking at the tabernacle and the temple, we can see that having a physical place where people could go to be with God was a huge deal.

To the Jews, the location of the temple was also important.  It was in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah.  The last temple was destroyed in 70 AD, but modern Jews still consider the area of Mount Moriah, the temple mount, to be sacred.  At this point, a Muslim shrine, the Dome of the Rock, is built on its location.  Jews are allowed to visit certain parts of the area, although some traditional Jews will not walk on the temple mount, because they don’t want to unintentially enter the holiest of holies.

temple mount

But Jesus was talking to a Samaritan woman, who worshipped God, not in Jerusalem, but at Mount Gerizim.  Why the difference in places of worship?  When the northern kingdom of Israel fell to the Assyrians in 721 BC, some of the Israelites were taken away into captivity, and some stayed behind.  Those who stayed  intermarried with Gentiles, and produced a new race of people: the Samaritans.  Samaritans believe that the true place to worship God is not Jerusalem, but on Mount Garizim, where Abraham was going to sacrifice Isaac.  This has been such a strong point of contention that if a Samaritan converts to Judaism, they can be required to refute Mount Garizim as the center of worship.

mount gerizim

So we can see why it was such an epic statement that Jesus said that the time was coming when the center of worship would be neither in Samaria, nor in Jerusalem. Everyone was extremely focused on where they could go to be in God’s presence.  And Jesus was saying that they wouldn’t have to go to one place or another any longer.

He was saying that they would have the Spirit, and God would actually reside with them.

That is incredible.  If it meant a lot to the Jews and the Samaritans to have a place to physically be with God, how much more can it mean to us today to carry this place around with us?

It can make all the difference in our lives.

I love this passage David Takle wrote in “Forming: A Work of Grace,” “My first step in being connected to God is to believe with all my heart that He really is as close as my next breath, that He permeates the membranes of my body and exists in and between every cell of every part of me.”

It’s so true.  We need God’s presence.  Realizing that we have it is the first step in connecting with him on a deeper level.

I’ve been having trouble lately with waking up in the middle of the night and feeling very negative.  I can’t seem to find even one positive thought.  God’s love seems so unreal.  After studying out today’s passage, I began to just try to believe that God is with me in these dark times.  I found that I could do that, and it helped.  Then, I could remember that it makes God’s heart happy to be with me, and that he was genuinely concerned about the struggle I was going through.  I prayed that he would show me a way to get back to sleep, and he did.

Being in God’s presence is the foundation of everything we need as a Christian.

This past weekend, I worshipped at the North River Church of Christ in Atlanta and our old friend Travis Hawkins was preaching.  He reminded us of how Moses said to God, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.”  Ex 33:15

travis preaching

How can we go out or do anything without God?  Whatever we’re going through spiritually, the starting place is to believe that he is truly with us.

Today, let’s all make the belief that God is with us our lifeline.

It was vital to the Jews.  It was vital to the Samaritans.  It is vital to us.

 

 

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Go On A Date With God!

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When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.”  John 4:7

The thing that I love about Jesus is that he was always ready.  If I were tired, and sitting there at the well, I might have zoned out.  I might have made excuses to myself why I shouldn’t talk to the woman who came.  Even if I was thirsty, I might have had this negativity, like, “Here I am thirsty, and there’s only a Samaritan woman, so I’m just going to have to suffer.”

But Jesus sees this woman like, “Here is who God brought to me today.  Let me ask her for water and see what happens next.”

Two days ago, I decided to go on a date with God all day long.  I love doing this!!  So I’m doing it every day.  Yesterday,  I went to the grocery story, and since God and I were on a date together, it was a whole different experience.  I remarked to one woman how pretty the sunflowers were that she was buying. She agreed, in delight, and we shared a laugh.  Another woman started talking to me about what was on the shelf, and we chatted for a minute.  I bought some shrimp at the seafood department, and because of my friendly interest, the man behind the counter gave me some cooking tips for it.  I joked with the check out clerk and ended up inviting her to church.

I don’t know when I’ve had so many interactions in the grocery store!  And it all felt so natural.  If I had gone in there with the intent to share, it would have been different. I would have been focused on performing.

But in this case, I was like, “God, let’s just enjoy interacting with whoever is in our path today.”

Maybe that’s how Jesus was when he met the Samaritan woman.

He certainly believed that God was with him.  He knew that God was working.  And he was ready to work with God on whatever God was doing.

Paul said in I Cor. 3:9, “For we are God’s fellow workers.”  This is a great picture!!  We don’t just work alone for God, we work with him.  And since we love him so much, it’s a sweet adventure to work together.

Let’s have a sweet adventure today.  And if it’s not so sweet, if we face trials, battling them together with God is a good fight.

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The Real and Firm Presence

Sunrise

Then the LORD will create over all of Mount Zion and over those who assemble there a cloud of smoke by day and a glow of flaming fire by night; over everything the glory will be a canopy.

It will be a shelter and shade from the heat of the day, and a refuge and hiding place from the storm and rain.  Isa 4:5-6

This is the coolest passage!  In my blogging about Isaiah, I’m skipping over the last part of Isaiah 3, and the first part of Isaiah 4, and focusing on these words, because they are just what I need to hear.

The verses talk about a time when God will establish his presence with his people as a very firm and real thing.  They harken back to the time when he led the Isrealites out of Egypt, and through the desert: “And the LORD went before them in a pillar of cloud to guide their way by day, and in a pillar of fire to give them light at night, so that they could travel by day or night.” (Exodus 13:21)

The imagry also references the tabernacle in the desert that Moses set up.  God’s presence would come down on the tabernacle in a cloud of glory.  When the cloud was over the tabernacle, the Isrealites knew they were to stay where they were.  When it lifted, this signified it was time to travel.  “So the cloud of the Lord was over the tabernacle by day, and fire was in the cloud by night, in the sight of all the Israelites during all their travels.” (Exodus 40:38)

So Isaiah 4:5-6 was prophesying about a time when God would establish his presence as the same thing that the Israelites had.  And Isaiah went on to describe this presence as a protection, refuge and hiding place.

There are all kinds of ways to look at this prophesy, but I think that one application of it has to be that today we are the Lord’s temple, and we have his presence with us in the form of the Holy Spirit.  “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?”  (I Cor 3:16)

Here’s what Jesus said in John 14:26 about the presence of the Holy Spirit with us, “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”

And in this 14th chapter of John, we see the giving of the Spirit as a part of a whole narrative.  Jesus starts out by telling the disciples, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Believe in God.  Believe  also in me.”  He goes on to talk about heaven.  “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?”  Then he assures them that he will not leave them as orphans, but will come to them.  He concludes with comfort, “Peace I leave with you.  My peace I give you.”

Here are two lessons I got from comparing the presence of the Lord in the story of Moses with the presence of the Lord that we now have through the Holy Spirit:

  1. The pillars of cloud and fire, and the cloud of glory over the tabernacle, were guides.  The Spirit that is with us is meant to be a guide as well.    The clouds led the Israelites through the desert to the Promise Land.  The Spirit leads us through our life on earth to heaven.
  2.  The very visible presence of God was meant to comfort the Isrealites, so they would know they were not alone.  Jesus makes it clear that we are to be comforted.  He will not leave us alone.  He is sending us the Spirit, his peace.

May we see how much of a comfort the presence of the Lord can be!  This past week was very challenging for me.  I kept getting extremely upset.  My emotions took me hostage and carried me away.  My mind went around and around and I couldn’t stop it.

It was a true Godsend that I read Isaiah 4:5-6.  When I couldn’t sleep, I pictured God being there with me.  I thought of his goodness, love, faithfulness and mercy and how these are like unbreakable tent poles that go into the ground and form an absolutely solid and reliable foundation around me.  I imagined God’s presence like the tent on these poles — warm and safe.  I saw the things that troubled my heart were like fierce winds that could buffet the tent without affecting it in the least.*

Now this wasn’t specifically the Holy Spirit that I was picturing, but it was extremely helpful to remember that God is with me.  And we live in an age when God is with us as never before, when Jesus promised he is with us always! (Matt 28:20)

How amazed and grateful we can be that God is our safe place!  We are not at the mercy of chaos.

How peaceful we can be as we realize that God is guiding us!  He does not leave us alone, as orphans, to wander aimlessly.

He IS with us, the most real, solid, reliable thing ever.

(* I got this imagry from reading Max Lucado’s book, “anxious for nothing.“)

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Filed under God With Us, Isaiah