He Comes

“The Lord cometh, even though we have to wait for him, he cometh even though we grow as old as Anne, as gray as Simon … but we must wait for him in his house.” — Kierkegaard, Journals, Dec. 31, 1838 

This quote by Søren Kierkegaard really captured my heart. We must wait for him in his house. The Anne and Simon to whom he refers is Simeon and Anna, the daughter of Penuel, written about in the second chapter of Luke. 

Simeon was the righteous man who met Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus in the Temple when they came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses. Luke writes of Simeon: 

Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts … Luke 2:25-27 

The second person Kierkegaard refers to is the prophetess Anna, who was also in the Temple that day and every day: 

There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. Luke 2:36-38 

Simeon and Anna were waiting for the Messiah to come. They believed the scriptures about Him and they were looking for Him. They had been waiting all their lives. Perhaps they were thinking of this prophecy of Haggai: 

“This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. I will shake all nations, and what is desired by all nations [the Messiah] will come, and I will fill this house with glory,’ says the Lord Almighty.” Haggai 2:6-7 

They knew He was coming and they were waiting in the Temple to welcome him. Today we are the temple, both individually and joined together with other believers to become the true church. 

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own. 1 Corinthians 6:19 

In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. Ephesians 2:21-22 

The physical Temple in Jesus’ day, and before, was the place where the Shekinah glory of God dwelt above the Mercy Seat in the Holy of Holies. We are that Temple now, but only if we are the temple of the Holy Spirit, only if God lives in us by his Spirit. Think of that! Dwelling there in the temple with God, never leaving, always in the Presence. I believe that if we are always in His house, waiting, we will hear the shout and the trumpet call. We will see him when he comes, and we will be there to meet him. 

Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them; let all the trees of the forest sing for joy. Let all creation rejoice before the LORD, for he comes … Psalm 96:12-13 

You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For, “In just a little while, he who is coming will come and will not delay.” Hebrews 10:36-37 

He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. Revelation 22:20 

” … but we must wait for him in his house.” 

Image, Bright Sunrise, free download from Stockvault 

Incognito

“We may ignore, but we can nowhere evade, the presence of God. The world is crowded with Him. He walks everywhere incognito.” — C.S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm 

Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition of incognito: with one’s identity concealed.  

Synonyms for incognito: 

anonymous,    

faceless,   

innominate,  

nameless,  

unbaptized,  

unchristened,  

unidentified,    

unnamed,    

untitled 

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’  

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” Matthew 25:37-40 

Image by Michael https://flic.kr/p/8cP1vw  

The Face of God

Jesus endured the complete rupture of his fellowship with God – the horrible darkness and pain of God’s face turned away – so that I could dwell in the Presence of God always. 

Restore us, O God; make your face shine on us, that we may be saved. Psalm 80:3 

Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote a wonderful book called Sanctified Through the Truth all about the last prayer of Jesus for his disciples, the prayer where Jesus consecrates himself to be the sacrificial Lamb of God that we might be sanctified as God’s people. Reading Lloyd-Jones’ book, I came across this stunning statement: 

“He [Jesus] is now submitting himself, therefore, to the most terrible thing that he ever contemplated, namely that he should be separated from his Father. He had come out of the eternal bosom. He was in God from the beginning, he is co-equal, and co-eternal with God; but here he realises, and he faces it, that in order to save and to sanctify these people he has to undergo this separation from God and to be made a curse. It means the breaking of the contact, and he submits himself even to that. He is prepared to endure even the loss of the face of God on the cross that we might be sanctified. He separates himself to this.” — Martyn Lloyd-Jones (emphasis mine) 

The loss of the face of God! “The Hebrew word for ‘face’ in the Old Testament is often translated ‘presence.’ When we seek the face of God, we are seeking His presence.”1 For those hours on the cross God would turn his face away from Jesus. Jesus would become sin for us that we could become the righteousness of God, that we might be sanctified or set apart to God. But in the process, he had to lose the face, or Presence, of God. Jesus had to endure the Face of God turned away from him, refusing to hear his cry. 

But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear. Isaiah 59:2  

The face of God is what Adam and Eve freely enjoyed in the Garden. It is also what they hid from. 

And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence (face) of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. Genesis 3:8 (ESV) 

The loss of the Face is ultimately death. It is to be in darkness, adrift. It is to experience rejection and abandonment. The Face turning to shine on us is life and light and gracious acceptance. The light of His Face gives understanding and piercing self-realization. Isaiah’s response to seeing God was anguish at his sin, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:5). 

The Face of God can cut to the heart, but He always sends grace and healing to the humble. After Isaiah’s anguished repentance, God sent the cleansing coal from the altar: And [the angel] touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” (Isaiah 6:6-7) 

From the Face of God we receive salvation, blessing, grace, peace, deliverance, and the knowledge of God. 

Restore us, O God; make your face shine upon us that we may be saved. Psalm 80: 3, 7, 19 

In Psalm 80, the psalmist asks God to restore them and “make your face shine upon us” three times. The word translated “restore” is shub (שׁוּב). It means turn back, return, repair, restore and rescue. The interesting thing is that it is the same word (translated “return”) that is used in verse 14: 

Return to us, O God Almighty! Look down from heaven and see! Watch over this vine … 

The Face of God turning back to us, looking down, watching over, equals our restoration, repair, rescue – our salvation and peace. 

The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace. Numbers 6:24-26 

So why do we keep hiding from him? Even if not actively hiding from Him, why is it so hard to remain before His face, in His presence? Why do I keep looking elsewhere? Why do I keep forgetting that He is right here with me when I am gasping and despairing in the midst of the storm? Why do I keep thinking I have to struggle on by myself, thinking nobody cares, no one will help me? Jesus became the sacrificial lamb and endured the complete rupture of his fellowship with God – the horrible darkness and pain of God’s face turned away – so that I could dwell in the Presence of God always. 

For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God (before the face of God) on our behalf. Hebrews 9:24 (ESV)  

Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16 (NKJV) 

1What does it mean to seek God’s face? Got Questions https://www.gotquestions.org/seek-Gods-face.html  

Image, hand-colored lino print by Sheila Bair. Copyright 2020, all rights reserved. 

Ever-Present (Psalm 46)

God is my refuge, my strength 

He is my ever-present help in trouble 

He is the Ever-Present one 

I am the holy place where He dwells 

where the Most High dwells 

God is within me, I will not fall 

God will help me 

The Lord Almighty is with me 

Ever-Present 

here 

with  

me 

On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. John 14:20 

Photo by Jack Bair

The Presence is Here

Yes, God is with us. And the relationship He wants with me is way simpler than I have made it.

Enoch walked with God … Genesis 5:24 

One of the coolest things I have ever done lately was sitting in the big stuffed rocker beside my granddaughter, eating crackers and listening to music. We didn’t have to say anything, just being there together, savoring each other. I get that feeling about Enoch in the above verse. I don’t think Enoch did anything special. I think he and God just liked being together. Derek Prince put it this way: 

“Enoch just ‘walked with God’ (see Genesis 5:22, 24). As we go on further in the Bible, we meet the great father of faith, Abraham, with his most honorable title, which was ‘friend of God’ (James 2:23). He and God simply enjoyed one another’s company. I sometimes long to get away from all the theology and all the religious formalities and just have a relationship of being God’s friend—walking with Him and enjoying His company. I really believe God loves to be enjoyed by His people.” — Derek Prince 

I got a deeper revelation about this yesterday – maybe a deeper healing too as someone raised in a conditional love-based-on-performance home – as God sent my way this Prince quote and several other verses and messages from fellow bloggers. I love when He does that! Yes, God is with us. I just have to purposely remain aware of that. And the relationship He wants with me is way simpler than I have made it. He just wants me to know that he is sitting there in the rocking chair beside me, enjoying my company, walking along beside me on my dark path, loving me. 

“Just get down on your knees. There is an awful lot you do not need to know to find God. The light shineth, the voice calleth and the Presence is here.” — A.W. Tozer, And He Dwelt Among Us 

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? Psalm 139:7 

“As the years advanced I learned to rely upon His presence and lovingkindness regardless of any trials; He assured me in the dark times, and I was able to sing His praises regardless of circumstances. Yet in the darkest times, when I had no voice to sing I silently lifted my hands in surrender to Him. I remember them even today, the overwhelming comfort of His presence reassured me beyond any words I could write for you. It was the presence of His Spirit beyond any doubt.” — Alan Kearns https://devotionaltreasure.wordpress.com/2022/06/21/singing-in-the-dark/  

Why are you in despair, my soul? Why are you disturbed within me? Hope in God! For I shall still praise him for the saving help of his presence. Psalm 42:5 

Image free download from Pixabay

Patches of Joy

A couple of weeks ago I published a blog called Grace Recognized. That is the definition of the Greek word translated “joy” in the New Testament – just recognizing God’s working around us. And many times, just as His voice is not a loud shout, but a still, small voice, His works of grace are found in what C.S. Lewis called “patches of Godlight.” I hope these quotes will bless you and help you recognize these patches of joy. 

“We – or at least I – shall not be able to adore God on the highest occasions if we have learned no habit of doing so on the lowest. At best, our faith and reason will tell us that He is adorable, but we shall not have found Him so, not have ‘tasted and seen.’ Any patch of sunlight in a wood will show you something about the sun which you could never get from reading books on astronomy. These pure and spontaneous pleasures are ‘patches of Godlight’ in the woods of experience.” – C.S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer, San Diego: Mariner, 2002. 

I have a friend who is so deeply connected with God that he can see joy where I expect only sadness. He travels much and meets countless people. When he returns home, I always expect him to tell me about the difficult economic situation of the countries he visited, about the great injustices he heard about, and the pain he has seen. But even though he is very aware of the great upheaval of the world, he seldom speaks of it. When he shares his experiences, he tells about the hidden joys he has discovered. He tells about a man, a woman, or a child who brought him hope and peace. He tells about little groups of people who are faithful to each other in the midst of all the turmoil. He tells about the small wonders of God. At times I realize that I am disappointed because I want to hear “newspaper news,” exciting and exhilarating stories that can be talked about among friends. But he never responds to my need for sensationalism. He keeps saying: “I saw something very small and very beautiful, something that gave me much joy.”  

The father of the prodigal son gives himself totally to the joy that his returning son brings him. I have to learn from that. I have to learn to “steal” all the real joy there is to steal and lift it up for others to see. Yes, I know that not everybody has been converted yet, that there is not yet peace everywhere, that all pain has not yet been taken away, but still, I see people turning and returning home; I hear voices that pray; I notice moments of forgiveness, and I witness many signs of hope. I don’t have to wait until all is well, but I can celebrate every little hint of the Kingdom that is at hand.  

This is a real discipline. It requires choosing for the light even when there is much darkness to frighten me, choosing for life even when the forces of death are so visible, and choosing for the truth even when I am surrounded with lies. – Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Return of the Prodigal Son (full quote here https://generositymonk.com/2020/01/27/henri-nouwen-learn-to-steal-and-lift-up-real-joy/

Lord, make me see thy glory in every place. — Michelangelo 

His Right Hand is Free

If God is holding me by my right hand I can’t use it.

Yet I am always with you; 
you hold me by my right hand. 
You guide me with your counsel, 
 and afterward you will take me into glory. 
Whom have I in heaven but you? 
 And earth has nothing I desire besides you. 
My flesh and my heart may fail, 
 but God is the strength of my heart 
 and my portion forever. Psalm 73:23-26 

When I was meditating on these verses I realized that if God is holding me by my right hand I can’t use it. And since I am right-handed anything I tried to do with my left hand would be awkward and malformed.  

The right hand in the Bible is a symbol of strength. Also, “The right side of a man is the side on which God ‘marches’ when assisting him in battle (Isa. 63:12; Ps. 109:31; 110:1, 5) and it is the right hand which God grasps as a symbol of election (Isa. 41:13; 45:1; Ps. 73:23).” i  

Wow, what amazing grace! He has grasped my right hand; He has chosen me! But, if my right hand is in His, I basically can’t do anything in my own strength. I would have to take my hand out of His. That explains my frequent urge to do just that – shake Him off and do it myself. Fearful that things are taking too long, that I’m missing out, afraid He has forgotten me.  

But His word assures us that He will never forget. Yet, I am always with you. He will never leave us or forsake us. And think of this: though His left hand is occupied holding on to me, His right hand is free. And so, “though my flesh and heart may fail” God is my strength and help. He is fighting for me with His mighty right hand. 

Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life; you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and your right hand delivers me. The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever. Psalm 138:7-8 (ESV) 

For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you. Isaiah 41:13 

Lord, keep my right hand in yours

iJewish Virtual Library “Right and Left” 

Photo, free download from Piqsels

The Good Gift

If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Luke 11:13 

At the beginning of the eleventh chapter of Luke the disciples ask Jesus to teach them to pray. The first word of prayer that Jesus teaches them is “Father.” And one of the only five things that Jesus teaches them to request from the Father is “give us each day our daily bread.”  

Jesus goes on to tell a story of another father (“my children are with me in bed”) who also has the required and requested bread. This father, when his friend comes knocking and seeking and asking for bread, is reluctant to get up and give it. But he finally does “because of the man’s boldness.” Jesus assures the disciples that if they ask, seek, and knock on the Father’s door it will be opened and they will receive. 

We assume he means bread because he has been talking about bread, and because he then goes on to talk about more food, asking the fathers in his audience, 

“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?” (Luke 11:11-12) 

And then Jesus, after bringing us along skillfully thinking about needed daily sustenance, makes this stunning conclusion: 

“If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:13) 

What? Wait. I thought we were talking about food – actual food – bread, fish, eggs. But then Jesus says, what you are really hungry for, what you are really knocking, seeking, asking for, your Father will give you – Himself. The Good Gift. 

Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. Mark 10:18 

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:33 

Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God. Matthew 4:4 

When Jesus promised, “How much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” he dealt the fatal blow to what is called the “prosperity gospel.” 

Once I was in the Orthodox Jewish neighborhood of Chicago on a Saturday afternoon. I was in a doughnut shop and I witnessed an orthodox father come in with his two sons after service. With great delight, he told them they could pick out anything they wanted. I could see this was a weekly tradition and the sons came with great expectation. What struck me was that, as wonderful as the doughnuts were, their real delight was in each other. The father’s delight was in his sons. The sons’ delight was in their father and this wonderful being-together time that they shared each Saturday. They would continue to delight in each other if the doughnut shop closed down, if there were no more doughnuts at all. 

I’m not saying that God doesn’t care for our physical needs. Jesus said not to worry about what we would eat or drink, that, like God fed the birds, he would feed us. And I know he will. But He doesn’t want food and drink to be my “Good Gift.”

After the people saw the sign Jesus performed [feeding bread to the 5,000], they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself. John 6:14-15 

Jesus doesn’t want to be the King of Bread, the King of Stomachs, the King of Prosperity. Jesus wants to be the King of our hearts. If our “good gift” is prosperity, bread and fish and eggs, what will happen when the food is gone, when the supply is short and the bread lines long? But if our good gift, our delight, is the Holy Spirit – the Presence of God – then we will always have Him. For He will never leave us nor forsake us.  

He will be with us in the bread line. He will be with us when we lose our job, if we are homeless on the street. He will be with us in the cemetery, standing over the grave. He will be with us when we are mocked and persecuted. He will be with us in prison. 

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:16 

In him [Jesus] and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. Ephesians 3:12 

Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4 (ESV) 

Photo of doughnuts by Doriguzzi https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Duck_Donuts.jpg  

Air Plant

The Presence of God. That is where I will truly live, abide, dwell.

I used to love plants, seeing them grow and bloom. I loved having plants inside the house with me too. Our previous home was like the Garden of Eden. We could grow anything because of the rich black dirt outside and a sun room inside for house plants. But, when we moved to our current home, surrounded by trees, nothing seemed to want to grow. The soil is extremely acidic outdoors. A nut tree even makes it toxic. And it is too shady indoors for most houseplants.  

So, I’ve watched one plant after another fail to thrive, or wither and die. Many seeds refused to come up at all. Houseplants, too, valiantly tried, but most were spindly and struggling. After a while I gave up on trying to force things to grow where they were not meant to grow.  

Then I discovered air plants. I love them! They don’t need soil at all and they thrive even in low light. They absorb the water and nutrients they need mostly right from the air. Today when I was looking at one God said, “That’s what you are like. You have been trying to be what you are not, to put down roots where you were not meant to grow. But your life, your roots are in Me, in my Presence.”  

This reminded me of the Michael W. Smith song, “Breathei.” 

This is the air I breathe 

This is the air I breathe 

Your holy presence living in me 

Yes! The Presence of God. That is where I will truly live, abide, dwell. He is my air, life, light, sustenance. Help me Lord not to try and put down roots in the hostile, deadly dirt of this world, looking for something – love, acceptance, meaning, identity, peace – that only you can provide. Help me to remember I am a foreigner here, not meant for this toxic soil. Let your holy Presence be my very breath. Let me be an air plant breathing in You, breathing out your love. 

Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 1 Peter 2:11 (ESV) 

Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. Psalm 84:5 

I am a stranger on earth … Psalm 119:19 

The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life. Job 33:4 

i Full lyrics here: https://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/michaelwsmith/breathe.html 

Photo by Sheila Bair 

Torn

This was the plan from the beginning, from the sealing shut of Eden – to make a Way back into the Presence of God.

At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. Mark 1:9-10 

With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. Mark 15:37-38 

Did you see that? Did you ever really see that!? I didn’t. At the beginning and end of Jesus’ earthly ministry the way into the Presence of God was opened. Not just a casual opening of a window either. But a cleaving asunder, a rending, a tearing apart.  

The Greek word translated “torn” in both verses is schizó (σχίζω). It means to split, divide, rend, sever (literally or figuratively), break, open, make a rent.  

The Matthew 27 telling of the moment of Jesus’ death uses the word schizó twice and captures the passion and energy: 

And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn (schizó) in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split (schizó). Matthew 27:51 (ESV

This was the plan from the beginning, from the sealing shut of Eden – to make a Way back into the Presence of God. He has done His part and torn away the veil, the dividing wall between us and God because of our sins. Let us tear away what we stubbornly hold onto that keeps us from Him.

Let us be as passionate, and even violent, about it as He is. Jesus said, “if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off … if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out.” Let us love Him with our whole heart.

Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity. Joel 2:13

Come into His Presence! Jesus made the way for you. 

This was his eternal plan, which he carried out through Christ Jesus our Lord. Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence. Ephesians 3:11-12 (NLT) 

On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out (cried out loudly and urgently using a shout that expressed deep emotioni), “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive … John 7:37-39 (ESV) 

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life. Revelation 22:17 

Salvation

icf. HELPS Word-studies for 2896 krázō, by Discovery Bible 

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