Do You Need Your Own Established Place to Meet with God?

“It was Moses’ custom to set up the tent known as the Tent of Meeting far outside the camp. Everyone who wanted to consult with the LORD would go there.” — Exodus 33:7 (NLT)

True confession. I’ve been going through a season in which it has been hard to connect with God, and I can tell you that it’s not God’s fault. I’ve been busy and distracted by many things, and the older, more leisurely ways that I used to use to connect with God aren’t working for me now. I’m not happy with my situation. Far from it! The problem is that I have been stumped as to what to do about it. Just recently, however, as I was talking to God about my struggle, I felt like He suggested that I take a closer look at the life of Moses to see if I might find some ideas that would help me. So as I began looking at an old familiar passage, I found some real gems that I believe will make a difference in my life. Perhaps you also are not satisfied with how your walk with God has been going, so perhaps there are things that might help you, as well.
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Right from the first verse gems of truth started jumping off the page. Exodus 33:7 is meant as an introduction to the passage, and as an introduction, such gems are not expected. But here we see something special that Moses did. He set up a place for people to meet with God. It is referred to as the Tent of Meeting. This tent was meant to be a place where anyone could go, yet many commentators believe that it was only ever used by Moses and his faithful assistant Joshua. How sad if this is true! Yet the fact that Moses established this place with not only himself but others in mind speaks clearly about his heart that everyone be invited to have intimacy with God.

I realize that one hindrance I experienced in connecting with God is noise and distraction. I think God likes it when we are able to focus on him alone, and so the idea of establishing a place where I can focus — my own Tent of Meeting — is a powerful one. If you are wondering how to do this, perhaps there is a room in your home that can be set aside for meeting with God? I know that many of us don’t have a separate space we can use, so maybe it would be possible to repurpose a space that you are already using for something else? Maybe a desk generally used for other purposes might transform nicely into a place of prayer, Bible reading, and journal writing. Even a kitchen table could be transformed. You could help to make it special by placing a candle or cross on it, or changing the lighting in the space, or turning on worship music. You just need to be creative!

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God’s Visible Presence in Our Lives

One of my heroes of faith is Moses. The first thing that attracted me to Moses is that he set up a tent of meeting, where he would go to meet with God. And apparently God liked it, because God showed up and talked to Moses like a person talks to a close friend, face-to-face (Exodus 33:7-11). Then I like the fact that Moses knew that he needed God so much that he told God that if God didn’t go with he and the Israelites, then it would be better not to go to the Promised Land, because no one would know that they had that special relationship with God. And Moses wanted others to know God’s presence (Exodus 33:14-16).
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God seemed to answer Moses’ prayer for letting others know about God’s favor and presence in a most unusual way. It appears that not long after Moses prayed that prayer, God called him up on the mountain to receive the Law once again. And when Moses came down from the mountain, his face glowed so much that it actually scared the people, and Moses had to put a veil on his face to calm them down (Exodus 34:29-33). While it’s not my goal or purpose to scare people, one of my goals in life is to have such a level of intimacy with God that I glow. I want the presence of God to be so strong in me and with me that people will see a testimony of the love and nearness of God, with the hope that they too will draw near to God.

One important thing to note from Moses’s example was that he didn’t know he had any tangible sign of God’s presence. Others had to tell him. The only time that he was aware of God’s presence is when he set aside time to devote to God. Then God showed up in a way that was tangible to Moses. That might just be a general principle for all of us. We won’t often be aware of God’s presence as we go about our day, and if we want to be aware of God’s presence, then we need to come aside to a private place to meet with God face-to-face.

Unfortunately, because we don’t see what others see in us, we can fall into discouragement, because we aren’t aware of how God has transformed us, and we can feel like we are failures because we don’t see much fruit in our lives from our faith. So we need to speak positively to ourselves about God’s work in our lives – even if we can’t see it, speaking it out is an act of faith. But this is also a call to action for each of us to encourage one another in a very particular way: we call out the good and Godly things we see in others. We actually “reflect back” to them what we see in them. This is a powerful way to build up another person, and as we built up part of the Body of Christ, we build up the whole body of Christ.

It is easy to think that the glowing face of Moses was because he spent 40 days and nights in God’s presence. Certainly it is true that Moses first glowed after that experience. But he also spent much time before that in the Tent of Meeting, during which he built an intimate relationship with God. And Moses did not settle for this one mountaintop experience, thinking that he had somehow “arrived” because he got his credentials with God and that he had street cred with his people because he glowed. No, Exodus 34:34-35 tells us that Moses continued to meet with God, and that his face glowed after every meeting. His desire for intimacy with God and for God’s presence did not stop with the mountaintop experience. He kept up his intentional meeting with God, and God’s presence in his life was consistently the result.

May we all set apart time to focus on God, and may that lead us to become thoroughly saturated in His wonderful presence!

How not to Be a Jerk on Facebook, and Still Express Yourself

At the time of writing this article near the end of 2016, Facebook has 1.71 billion monthly users. That’s a lot of potential friends! But unfortunately, not all interaction on Facebook is friendly, especially in this election cycle in the U.S. In fact, many people have pulled themselves back from using Facebook, because of all of the angry exchanges that seem to permeate their newsfeeds. Reading all the angry comments can really wear out the softer-hearted people (and I think most of us, at the core, have soft hearts).

Truth is, there are a lot of jerks on Facebook! Yet these Facebook jerks generally seem to be nice enough people if you meet them off the internet. I have to say that it would be fair to say that I have been a Facebook jerk, and so I’m not coming from the perspective of being an angel telling transgressors how to repent, but from the perspective of someone who has not behaved well, but is learning all the time how do better.

I never set out to be a jerk, it just happened. I think the main problem for me is that I was new to expressing ideas in what is essentially a public venue in which multiple people can jump in, and so I didn’t have a clear idea how to have boundaries and rules that kept me safe from saying things in ways that were not wise, resulting in angry exchanges, not just by me but by teams of people going back and forth yelling at each other in writing.
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Don’t Assume You Know God’s Will Without Checking First

Just this past week, I was praying by myself for a friend who is a missionary. And I was about to launch into a prayer for his influence on the nation for the sake of the Kingdom of God when my mind flashed to the story of Jesus rebuking Peter with such strong language, saying “‘Get behind me, Satan!'” (Matthew 16:23, ESV). Jesus said this in response to Peter telling Jesus that he should not be thinking that he (Jesus) was going to be killed, even though Jesus just told them he was. And when this thought flashed into my mind, I was instantly aware of what the Holy Spirit was saying to me: “Don’t assume that what appears to be a great success by human standards – even by standards the Church would say is successful – is what God’s will is.”

When I heard that, I realized that I was doing what I often do: rushing into prayer, asking of God things that seem right, but not necessarily for things that line up with what He wants. So in response to this message, I change directions and asked God how He wanted me to pray for my friend, and what He wanted to do in and through my friend. When I sensed His answer, I was able to go forward and pray more of what I perceived to be God’s will, rather than what I had previously assumed that God wanted.

Jesus explained to Peter after the strong rebuke that the reason he was being rebuked was that, “You are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man” (Matthew 16:23, ESV). And while the Son of God being killed certainly seemed to all Godly people of the day like it was a devastating loss, they soon saw God’s richer plan in Jesus’s death on the cross, followed by His resurrection. Where would be be today without that happening? What appeared to be a great failure was the most unexpected and marvelous success!
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Getting the Bride Ready for Jesus

The Church – the collection of all faithful followers of Jesus – is pledged in marriage to the very Son of God, and one day, perhaps very soon, we will experience the fulfillment of that promise (see Revelation 21). But since it is a promise, is there anything for us to do while we are waiting?
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A normal bride would be busy planning the wedding, to be sure. But in addition to all of the details of sending invitations, choosing colors, and selecting venues, she would be doing her best to make herself beautiful for her husband to be (and all those witnessing her at the wedding). It’s not uncommon for a bride to go on a diet, spend time at the gym, try to find just the right hairstyle, find a person skilled to help her with her makeup, and of course be sure to have the perfect dress, along with shoes and jewelry to complete the look.

How can the church make Herself beautiful? I think that Isaiah 62 gives us some ideas. In an extended metaphor, the prophet is speaking from God’s perspective about Jerusalem. But what is Jerusalem in this metaphor? We see in Revelation 21 that the new Jerusalem represents the Church. And in Isaiah 62, especially verses 4 and 5, we see Jerusalem being promised as a bride to God. We can therefore use this passage in Isaiah to help us understand what the Lord wants to happen leading up to the great wedding.
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You’re Not Weird, You’re Rare: Embrace It and Value It

by Pastor Tim Thomas

I spent a large part of my life trying to be someone else, because I didn’t particularly like who I was. But I’ve come to realize that I was looking at myself through lenses that could only provide a distorted picture. Once God healed me from a deep-seated issue of rejection , I was able to more readily take in the truth that God had been speaking to me all along: that he loved me as I was, with all my seeming imperfections and weaknesses; that he made me as I am intentionally, and that it was meant not only for my good, but for the good of others; and that he wanted me to embrace who he created me to be, so that his purpose in this creation could be revealed in light rather than hidden in the shadows.
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I would say to anyone reading this, that if you don’t feel loved, special, and with purpose for your life, you either need healing at some deep places in your life; or truth spoken to you and then embraced to replace what you are now believing; or both.

For me, healing came through the ministry of some friends one evening as they prayed with me. It was a God-appointed time. What changed me was a vision that God gave me of him carrying me in his arms when I was a baby at an orphanage before I was adopted. He spoke to my heart something that I didn’t even know I needed to hear – that he never abandoned me, but was always with me, watching over me, caring for me. That picture set me free from believing I was rejected and deserving rejection. I was healed on the inside, and I started believing my worth. And once I was healed, I was more readily able to receive God’s love and the love of others.

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How Jesus Disarmed Conflict and Opened Communication

Part 1 from “Jesus, the Expert in the Law, and the Parable of the Good Samaritan”

During a recent time of prayer, I felt like God was saying to me, “Love wider.” I instantly understood what he meant by that unusual phrase. He was referring to loving in circles beyond the circles of people I care about, into the realm of loving people I don’t know (yet). I don’t generally immediately trust what I hear in prayer, so sought a Biblical context for what God seemed to be saying to me, as a confirmation of the word. I felt led to take a look at the Parable of the Good Samaritan, which is found in Luke 10:25-37. This is the first in a series of articles based on this passage.

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Let’s begin by taking a look at the first part of this passage, through the first words of verse 30, and let’s use the New Living Translation (NLT), since it does a nice job bringing out some of the nuances of meaning.

One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: “Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus replied, “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?”

The man answered, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

“Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!”

The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Jesus replied with a story.

The first thing we see here is that Jesus was being tested. We’re not sure what the motivation or the goal of the testing was. Was it to see what kind of theology Jesus had — something we might chalk up as a asking a legitimate question or demonstrating a reasonable curiosity? Or was it something more malicious, such as to show Jesus up and embarrass him publicly? Perhaps there was some other motivation. In any case, Jesus knew that he was being tested and perhaps challenged in some way.

I learned a lot by how Jesus replied. In his approach, he didn’t try to show the lawyer how bright he was or how holy he was, as perhaps another expert in the law might have done — or as I perhaps would have done. Jesus’ ego wasn’t involved in the answer — he was secure in who he was, and didn’t need to prove his credentials or his worth. Instead, he reflected the question back to the lawyer, for him to answer. Reflecting the question back can be helpful when you see that someone is looking to start a verbal confrontation. First of all, many people really just want to tell their position more than they want to refute yours. Second, understanding is about listening, and listening can start with a question. This might be a good technique for all of us to learn to diffuse potential conflict in conversation — reflecting the question back, and then really listening to the response.
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God Looks for the Good in Our Hearts

“Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God.” — 1 Corinthians 4:5 (NASB)

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God is so misunderstood. Many of God’s dearly loved children think that He is always looking for things that they are doing wrong so that he has more material to punish them for. They seem somehow convinced that their hearts are inherently evil, despite the Bible telling us that by turning to Jesus we have been given new hearts and new spirits (Ezekiel 11:19, 36:26). In the verse above, there is an unexpected twist. The Apostle Paul tells us that there will be a time when God brings to light the things hidden in darkness in our hearts. This is where those who do not have a clear concept of God as a genuinely loving father start sensing the wrath that is about to be revealed.

But instead of talk of wrath, Paul talks of praise. And this not praise of God, but praise from God of what is hidden in our hearts. The secret motives of good that are there. Praise for the compassion we have for people. Praise for our desire to do good. Praise for our hopes of seeing God presented to others in a way that leads them to relationship with Him. What good father doesn’t look for praiseworthy things in their kids? If earthly fathers know what good fathers should do, certainly the ultimate good father does so even more.

One of the Apostle Paul’s points here is that we need to be very careful what we judge other people to be. We see what appears to be wrong motives — or perhaps we see someone who still has very far to grow in Christ-likeness — or someone who is very rough around the edges. Yet, we don’t easily see the good that is residing in their hearts. We are not to be premature in writing off anyone. Furthermore, even though we can never see inside another’s heart very clearly, we are given the hint that we are to look for the gold there — look for the good there — look for the praiseworthy there. That is, if we are actually trying to be more like Jesus.

I have grown more in my life through people calling forth the good they see in me than people yelling about the bad they see in me. By calling out the good, people help me see what I in many cases had not been able to see. And in helping me see, they help me become what God always intended me to be.

Let us be life-giving people, and let us understand our Father in heaven as really being a good and loving Father in reality, and not just in words.

Strengthen Yourself in the Lord

Just read an excellent devotion by Bill Johnson in Spiritual Java. It was on strengthening yourself in the Lord, and was based on David’s response to a serious situation at Ziklag when the wives and children of he and his men were kidnapped while they were off fighting a battle elsewhere. His men were going to stone him, but he strengthened himself in the Lord and then led his men to take back their wives and children. The article was about being able to press into the Lord and then taking a courageous step that requires faith. Bill Johnson says that doing so helps us grow in favor with God.
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I wonder what pressing into the Lord looks like practically? I think it must be more than simply being courageous, or at least acting like we are courageous. I think it must involve coming to the Lord, and in our time with him grappling with and agreeing with what he wants us to do to step forward in the situation.

I experienced this about 6 years ago when my consulting business wasn’t bringing in enough money, and I failed in my attempts to drum up more business or find an alternative job. I was scared and thought for sure I needed to sell my house before it got foreclosed on. But God spoke to me in his quiet voice and directed me to look at Isaiah 7, in which Isaiah challenges the king to take a stand against the foreign army. In verse 9, Isaiah basically tells the king (and this is paraphrased into how I interpreted it for my situation), if you don’t stand firm in faith now, you’ll always be running in tough situations. So, as a result, I redoubled my efforts to pray and trust God, and I got a phone call from someone offering me a position I neither knew about or applied for. And I am there to this day.

Truthfully, over the course of my life, I have had more failures than successes in this area, but as I grow older, I hope to see many more successes than failures. For us to do this, I think this requires us to both recognize that God is mighty, but also recognize ourselves as people valuable enough to God that he will act on our behalf. Consider the second part of Hebrews 11:6, that faith requires us to believe that God rewards those of us who seek him.

May God give us strength to stand firm in faith, to go up against giants, and not shrink in fear, but go forth using the weapons that we have!

Confidence from God’s Love Overcomes Fear of People — A Quote by Mike Bickle in “Loving God”

“A focus on Jesus ultimately leads us to an increased knowledge of His heart of affirmation for us. This is absolutely vital. As important as human affirmation is, it is woefully inadequate without God’s affirmation of us. When we are secure and confident in God’s love, we grow out of our fears related to how people receive and treat us.”

— Mike Bickle, “Loving God”, Kindle location 828

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