Encouraging Devotions Blog

“Longing for the Presence of God.”

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Exodus 33:7–11
Now Moses used to take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, a good distance from the camp, and he called it the tent of meeting. And everyone who sought the Lord would go out to the tent of meeting which was outside the camp. And it came about, whenever Moses went out to the tent, that all the people would arise and stand, each at the entrance of His tent, and gaze after Moses until he entered the tent. Whenever Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent; and the Lord would speak with Moses. When all the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, all the people would arise and worship, each at the entrance of His tent. Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, just as a man speaks to His friend. When Moses returned to the camp, His servant Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent.

What if we long for the presence of God the way Mocha longs to be in the presence of her ball, she never gets tired of it, she finds the same joy each time she chases it what if we were the same with chasing after the presence of God?

I may be a bit biased, but our dog, Mocha, is the cutest dog on the planet. She is a chocolate labradoodle who has been obsessed with tennis balls since the day we brought her home.

At the park, I launch the ball, and she chases it down at top speed, as if at any moment, someone might get to the ball before she does. Running back to me, she then drops it at my feet, wags her tail and barks hysterically, impatiently bouncing her paws up and down until I throw it again. Sometimes, I'll throw the ball around the house, and it's funny because she still goes after that ball as if it’s a race against a pack of competitors.

My dog’s obsession is life is that squeaky yellow tennis ball, and she’s not easily distracted by it. There can be other dogs in the area, people walking by, even a mail carrier walking up to the house, but if she has her ball, she’s not tempted to pursue other interests. She never gets tired of it, and she finds the same joy each time she chases it down.

What if we were the same with chasing after the presence of God?
Moses set up the tent of meeting outside the camp after the people had broken fellowship with God at Sinai when they had made the golden calf (Exodus 33:3). For those who once again desired to be in the presence of God, when Moses set up the tent of meeting, they would arise and stand at the entrance knowing that that was the place that God was.

And I love that it says, “Joshua wouldn’t leave that place.” He loved being where God was and longed to be in His presence.

I think we would all agree that we want to seek after God’s presence that way, but we often forget how to pursue it. So what are some practical ways that we can put ourselves in the presence of God?
We can be aware of our sin - sin quenches the Holy Spirit, while God is always there, we won’t know His nearness when we are caught in patterns of habitual sin. Sin hinders man’s experience of God’s presence. We would be wise as Christians to check our hearts and examine our lives. The apostle Paul quickly answered the question that he hypothetically asked, “Are we to continue in sin that grace might abound? He said, “May it never be!” This was an emphatic statement; in other words, he was saying, “no, no, no, no!” How can we who have been freed from sin continue in it? By being aware of our sin and acknowledging it through repentance, we can once again sense the nearness and presence of God in our midst.
We can worship - God inhabits the praises of His people. Have you ever wondered why you sometimes feel closer to God when you're in a church service, singing hymns or praise songs? It could be because that's where worship tends to take place. When you start praising Him, regardless of where you are, you'll sense His presence because you're no longer focused on yourself, but on Him. Worship is the very thing that we were created to do. Worship reminds us of the greatness of God and allows us to get our eyes off of ourselves and our circumstances. This is what allows us to be able to sing at midnight and find His presence even in our darkest hours.
We can look around - A primary way God nourishes our souls with His loving presence is through the beauty of nature. The face of the Lord shines in the sun. The moon and stars remind us that God is light and His love shines to us even in the dark. The joy of the Lord comes to us in splashing waves and playful animals! Enjoying the things that God has created like spring flowers, a sunrise or sunset, the thick green of a forest, or the waves crashing on the shoreline can remind us of God’s presence. The heavens and earth declare the glory of God, and we can connect with Him through the beautiful things He has created.
We can make time - following Jesus’s example; He always made time even with His busy schedule to seek after the presence of His Father. The Bible tells us that Jesus had compassion on the crowds. He was always teaching them and healing them, even to the point where He didn’t have time to eat. But He always made time to find a secluded place to pray. There were even times when the crowds were so great that Jesus asked His disciples to get a boat ready because He knew He needed that time to seek the presence of His Father. Perhaps some of us need to be more intentional is pursuing time with our Father.
So friends, my encouragement for us today is to take a look at ourselves, examine our lives for patterns of sin, repent and get right with God. Worship intentionally, look around and enjoy the marvels of God’s creation and make time to be in His Presence. If you will make His Presence your singular passion, you will be as satisfied as Mocha with her tennis ball. You will never get tired of it and you will find joy every time you chase it down.

"My fellow refugees, we can take courage and rejoice!"

1 Peter 1:1
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen.

Peter starts off his first letter by saying that he is an apostle of Jesus Christ. We know that this word apostle was used occasionally before the New Testament and had the general meaning of a "messenger" or "one sent with a message." According to the gospels, Jesus gave this term a much deeper meaning when He selected the twelve that He poured into as His apostles.

We see right at the beginning of his letter; Peter is establishing his authority for his readers. When the readers of this letter received it, they could sit down and realize it has a seal of approval, knowing that God spoke through His apostles. This letter of 1 Peter is valuable because an apostle wrote it.

As we study God's Word ourselves, it should be no different for us. We should understand the importance of it and how it applies to our lives today. What we study is the very spoken Word of God. It is perfect and infallible. It is the very word that the Psalmist said we should treasure more than riches. We should be excited about it in the same way the original readers were.

I love the NIV translation of 1 Peter 1:1:

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to God's elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout…

This translation helps us understand that Peter was writing to God's chosen people, those who were elect and scattered according to God's foreknowledge. In the Old Testament, this word scattered usually meant that God's people were moved out of Jerusalem because of sin in their lives. But in 1 Peter, Peter is addressing Christians who had been scattered geographically because God chose them to be a part of the body of Christ. These were both Jews and Gentiles alike.

Peter is emphasizing the fact that the church is to be scattered throughout the earth as pilgrims, or quite literally, as refugees! A refugee is someone who has been removed from their home and is temporarily living somewhere else. People typically become refugees because they are either fleeing war or persecution or some abuse, and they have to leave to save their lives.

As believers, we are currently living in a home away from home. Heaven is our true home. Heaven is the place we should long for, and earth is the place that we are to know God and make Him known.

I think that's worth repeating, as Christians, heaven is our home, and earth is the place that we are to know God and make Him known. This is our purpose as believers: to know God and to make Him known amongst the nations.

The Bible tells us:

Philippians 3:20
For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Hebrews 13:14
For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come.

You are a Christian refugee in this world, and the supreme authority of your life is the written Word of God. Unlike the changing rules and laws of our earthly nations, the Word of God does not change. We can anchor ourselves to it and believe it is entirely trustworthy because it is the embodiment of the nature of God Himself. It will never, never, never fail.

So, my fellow refugees, we can take courage and rejoice! This world is not our final destination! Our citizenship is in heaven!

We are to be seeking the city which is to come… but are we truly doing that? Are we recognizing that we are to live on this earth as pilgrims, as exiles, as temporary residents, as sojourners, as refugees, as foreigners, living in temporary environments…differently than the rest of the world? Because we have a living HOPE and a future in heaven, as followers of Christ, we are to live differently. We are to model hope for people who have no hope. Church, we have been scattered for a reason.

Today, let's be reminded of our heavenly citizenship. While we are refugees, let's be busy about our Father's business, inviting the lost people around us to come and be refugees in this world who have the sure hope of a future in the kingdom of heaven.

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