The Key to Dwelling in God’s Presence
The greatest privilege we can ever have is to know God, to be in His presence, and to feel His love. However, the pressures of living in our culture can cause us to lose sight of this. As we begin a new year, now is a wonderful opportunity to examine our lives.
We need to turn our hearts toward the Lord so they become tender and melt within us. Ask the Holy Spirit to examine your heart and reveal any hard places within it. Has somebody wounded you? Are you carrying an offense? These cause hardness of heart, which leads to breaking fellowship with God Almighty. Come to Him to receive forgiveness, cleansing, and healing. As we hunger and thirst for His righteousness, His desires become our desires.
David says in Psalm 27:4,
One thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple.
As Christians, we can do this every moment of every day of the year. We want to be filled with the Holy Spirit so we dwell in His presence, where His face is shining upon us. And we never have to leave that temple, for it is within us. His throne is in our hearts.
In the Jewish temple, a multitude of sacrifices had to be made and blood sprinkled on the Mercy Seat to cover people’s sins. Jesus has done all of that for us. So what sacrifice does God want from us today? He is looking for the fruit of our lips.
We do this in praise and worship, yet we should realize that everything we say is important. With our tongues we have the power to curse or bless, to give death or life. Jesus speaks very specifically about what defiles people:
“But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man” (Matthew 15:18).
It is what we express.
So we must ask ourselves, do we express hope, joy, righteousness, and peace? Or anxiety, worry, and complaining? These things come from our hearts. If our hearts are right before the Lord, the wrong things won’t come out. As David prayed in Psalm 19:14,
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight.
As we hear His Word, obey His calling, and seek to please Him, we will be salt and light to this generation. So let’s enter the new year by humbling ourselves, seeking forgiveness, and getting right with God as we start anew. And we have His promise in Psalm 23:6:
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
By Annie Yorty, Crosswalk.com
“Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God. Whenever I pray, I make my requests for all of you with joy, for you have been my partners in spreading the Good News about Christ from the time you first heard it until now. And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” – (Philippians 1:3-6 NLT)
At an age when kids usually assume everyone is ancient, I perceived my fourth-grade teacher to be very young. Her fresh face, devoid of even a hint of makeup, welcomed students with a gentle smile. Her long, walnut-colored hair never escaped the security of a white net head covering that signified her devotion to God. I don’t recall Miss Neff ever talking explicitly about God in our classroom. Unfortunately, that was, and still is, a no-no in public schools. Yet the difference I saw in her drew my heart to Him.
Miss Neff captured young imaginations with God-given creativity as she taught every subject. For part of the year, she transformed our room into a native American village for a unit study. Without pressure, she encouraged each student to participate and do their best.
At Christmas, she bought a book with her own funds for every child. On that last school day before Christmas, I admired the beautiful gift wrapping for a moment. Then I tore through the tape and paper to find Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I opened the book to a Christmas card depicting children kneeling to worship baby Jesus lying in a manger. Inside, the inscription “with love” spoke to my starving heart. I still treasure that book and card to this day.
Ray Boltz wrote a song that reminds me of Miss Neff. Named “Thank You,” the song describes a dream of heaven where the main character comes face-to-face with people who thanked him for the godly influence he demonstrated in their lives.
Miss Neff often comes to my mind as a person who significantly impacted my life. What about you? Can you think of someone who intersected your world and changed you for the better? God has orchestrated a long string of people, all acting as His agents, to woo you into His kingdom. To teach you His ways. To provide a word of encouragement, that spurs you to persevere. To remind you that you have a Father in heaven who loves you. How should we respond to God’s kindness to us expressed through His servants?
Apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians, “Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God” (Philippians 1:3 NLT).
In my adult years, I searched for Miss Neff through the power of Google. I would like to express my appreciation directly to her for her positive influence on my life. So far, I’ve been unsuccessful at finding her. She’s probably been married since then and no longer uses her maiden name. I hope the Lord has shown her through someone else how esteemed she is.
I’m sure we can all think of those special people who have said or done something to draw us to God. Can you also think of a time when you acted as God’s instrument of grace, mercy, and love? Are you a person who might receive gratitude in heaven from someone whose life changed because of your words or deeds? I don’t ask this question to encourage you to seek the thanks or approval of people. Here on earth, and later when we’re in heaven, all glory belongs to God.
“In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will prais your heavenly Father.” (Matthew 5:16 NLT)
God created us for the good purpose of representing Him to people in our world. He can use every word, every smile, and every kindness to build the kingdom of heaven on earth. God chooses to spread the good news of Jesus through you and me. We often will not know until heaven how He capitalized on everyday generosity, gentleness, goodness, and grace for greater purposes.
What if we woke up every morning remembering that God wants to use our everyday actions for significance? I encourage you to pause and consider those God placed in your life to draw you closer to Him. If possible, reach out to express your appreciation. Like Paul, pray for God to bless them. As you give thanks, commit to becoming an instrument of God that can change the life of the next person you meet. Meanwhile, if you happen to know Miss Neff, please tell her I said, “Thank you!”
Streams in the Desert – January 2
- 20232 Jan
And there was an enlarging, and a winding about still upward to the side chambers: for the winding about of the house went still upward round about the house: therefore the breadth of the house was still upward and so increased from the lowest chamber to the highest by the midst (Ezekiel 41:7).
Still upward be thine onward course:
For this I pray today;
Still upward as the years go by,
And seasons pass away.
Still upward in this coming year,
Thy path is all untried;
Still upward may’st thou journey on,
Close by thy Saviors side.
Still upward e’en though sorrow come,
And trials crush thine heart;
Still upward may they draw thy soul,
With Christ to walk apart.
Still upward till the day shall break,
And shadows all have flown;
Still upward till in Heaven you wake,
And stand before the throne.
We ought not to rest content in the mists of the valley when the summit of Tabor awaits us. How pure are the dews of the hills, how fresh is the mountain air, how rich the fare of the dwellers aloft, whose windows look into the New Jerusalem! Many saints are content to live like men in coal mines, who see not the sun. Tears mar their faces when they might anoint them with celestial oil. Satisfied I am that many a believer pines in a dungeon when he might walk on the palace roof, and view the goodly land and Lebanon. Rouse thee, O believer, from thy low condition! Cast away thy sloth, thy lethargy, thy coldness, or whatever interferes with thy chaste and pure love to Christ. Make Him the source, the center, and the circumference of all thy soul’s range of delight. Rest no longer satisfied with thy dwarfish attainments. Aspire to a higher, a nobler, a fuller life. Upward to heaven! Nearer to God!
I want to scale the utmost height,
And catch a gleam of glory bright;
But still I’ll pray, till heaven I’ve found,
Lord, lead me on to higher ground!
Not many of us are living at our best. We linger in the lowlands because we are afraid to climb the mountains. The steepness and ruggedness dismay us, and so we stay in the misty valleys and do not learn the mystery of the hills. We do not know what we lose in our self-indulgence, what glory awaits us if only we had courage for the mountain climb, what blessing we should find if only we would move to the uplands of God.
–J. R. M