Be Still and Know…by Gus Keiser

October 13, 2014

I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, you joy will overflow.

                                                                                                                                   John 15:11

 

Adela Rogers St. Johns was one of the most noted journalists and writers of the early twentieth century. She wrote screenplays for numerous silent films and reported for the San Francisco Examiner, as well as writing short stories for Cosmopolitan and the Saturday Evening Post.  She had a storied career even up until her death in 1988.  She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1970.  From one of her many writings comes the following:

 

Joy seems to me a step beyond happiness… happiness is a sort of atmosphere you can live in sometimes when you’re lucky. Joy is a light that fills you with hope and faith and love.

 

One of the things you will find as you read more and more of Scripture is a wealth of God’s promises. All of his promises are vital to our lives, but one that affects our daily life in a more impactful way than others is the one about staying connected to him as branches that are connected to a vine.  In order for us to thrive with joy in this life, we need to remain connected to the source of that joy, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

 

Earlier in this chapter from John’s gospel, Jesus speaks of peace… his Father’s peace. Like that peace, God’s joy is the only real variety.  There is no making it up, no mimicking it, and no measuring it to make sure it won’t run out.  When we have the joy of God for real in our hearts, we have it without limit.  But the only way to experience that joy is by sticking close to God, or as Jesus says, “… by remaining in his love.”

 

In the same way that he spoke these words from verse 11, Jesus emphasized his love again, so it makes perfect sense then that we should connect his joy with his love for us. These two miracles go hand in hand, and they are true miracles because the true versions originate with and emanate from God.

 

We are wise to keep that connection with both God’s love and his joy. But we also need to be aware that this life is filled with threats to both love and joy.  If you continue to read on in this chapter you’ll come across advice from Jesus about the hardships that his followers will have to endure.  So it is smart to remain connected to his words about love and joy along with his prophetic ones about the difficulties of the Christian life.

 

How do the two work together? That joy we experience as a by-product of his love serves as both protection and strength during times of heartbreak and duress.  Joy doesn’t differentiate between good times and bad times because it is never at the mercy of circumstances as happiness often is.  So thrive in joy today by maintaining your connection with Jesus and his continual sustaining promise.

 

Lord, please help me to remain connected to you today through all its ups and downs. Amen.

Be Still and Know…by Gus Keiser

They ate as much as they wanted.  Afterward, the disciples picked up seven large baskets of leftover food. ~ Mark 8.8

I enjoy watching the programming on the Do It Yourself network.  One of my favorite programs is Run My Renovation, on which homeowners agree to allow host John DiSilva and his crew to come into their home and completely renovate a room with the decisions for the finishes, furnishings, paint colors and everything being left up to voting by online viewers.  The homeowners have no say in the matter and the entire renovation is free, or as DiSilva says while driving in his truck in the opening of the show… “zip, zero, nada.”

 Nothing, Nada, Zip, Zero, Zilch.  Unless we’re getting some deal such as I just described above, the concept of nothing scares us.  We don’t like it.  We don’t feel comfortable with it.  To us, nothing means being gypped, left out, overlooked, forsaken, emptied.

 Jesus made reference to emptiness on occasion, but his ideas of emptiness were different from yours and mine, thank goodness.  Think about the miracles in the Bible.  Jesus often showed up when things looked bleakest for people, when they had run out of options.  These miracles were miracles precisely because people had run out of formulas and methods for fixing things themselves.  On each occasion, Jesus was able to turn their nothing into everything they never knew they had always needed.  Their negatives were his opportunities to shine in their lives and to introduce them to his abundance.

 We don’t like that feeling of emptiness, but within it are some blessings in disguise.  Someone whose life is going fairly well, minus a few average-sized troubles, usually can draw on their own coping mechanisms and become accustomed to living with less than God’s abundance.  These are the kinds of people who become programmed to accept half-way living as all they should expect.  After all, life is messy and tough…right?

 Well, yea.  Jesus’ abundance doesn’t negate the many difficulties we’re forced to deal with in this life.  Those thousands he fed with that small amount of loaves and fishes had already gotten hungry.  He didn’t stop that reality.  Instead, he revealed his glory to them by filling up their emptiness, both physically and by filling up their spiritual emptiness as well.

 When you and I truly are running on nothing, by ourselves, we can’t escape that need.  We can’t merely pass it off as that is all there is to life.  We need to recognize that we need help and we need it now if we’re going to make it.

 Reserve some room in your emptiness for a bit of excitement to sneak in, because it’s about time for you to experience a bit of Jesus’ abundance.  He is going to fill you with so much of himself that what you thought you needed wasn’t what he knows you need.  But he is going to provide abundantly for you if you turn your emptiness over to him.

Father God, thanks for your help at the hunger times.  Help us to hang on as you fill our emptiness.  Fill us as you see fit.  Amen.

Be Still and Know…by Gus Keiser

Let me know your ways, so that I may understand you more fully. ~ Exodus 33:13

God loves to hear from us.  He loves to hear the sound of our voice.  He loves to hear us calling out to him, inviting him into our lives.  God loves to hear our prayers, our praises, our problems, our joys and our requests.  But of all the requests we offer up to him, God loves to hear those that ask for more of him.  Everything he does, all his answers to our prayers are his way of showing us his character.  God loves a heartfelt request for more of him instead of for more “stuff” on our behalf.  Would you want to be appreciated as the one who doles out perks and provisions more than for being who you are?  You’d probably end up feeling used, wouldn’t you?  So why should it be any different when it comes to God in our lives?

 Throughout the course of the Exodus, God promised to grant Moses’ request for his presence with the people because Moses acknowledged the people’s primary need for God himself to be with them.  The rescue from Egypt and the manna God provided were wonderful gifts, without question, but the people first needed to know the wonder of who their God was and is… his characteristics as mighty Lord, yet intimate Savior.

 The gift of God’s presence is so precious because he doesn’t ever owe or have to give us the time of day, yet he wants nothing more than to spend time with us.  God continues to woo us with his love, his goodness, his faithfulness, his mercy, and his many other qualities that invite us to love him in return.  It is when he shows himself uniquely to us, that we are able to get a glimpse of eternity.

 God’s presence is the greatest gift we could ever hope for, the greatest one he can make available to us.  Just as he promised Moses, God’s going to tuck us into a safe place and keep u covered by his presence… “And the Lord continued, ‘See, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock; and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of a rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by.”  Today and every day, enjoy the presence of God, and enjoy being safe in his hands.

 Perhaps it was Cleland McCafee who phrased it most appropriately in his words that make up one my favorite hymns…

There is a place of comfort sweet, near to the heart of God.

A place where we our Savior meet, near to the heart of God,

There is a place of full release, near to the heart of God.

A place where all is joy and peace, near to the heart of God.

 

Lord, sometimes I think we begin to understand how precious your gift of you is.  But God, please awaken us to even more of you today.  Amen.

Be Still and Know…by Gus Keiser

“…and that this assembly may know that the Lord does not save by sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s and he will give you into our hand.” ~ 1 Samuel 17:47

Christmas as it usually does, provided me with book money and gift cards to Barnes and Noble.  One of the books that I previewed back before Christmas and that I purchased the day after Christmas was Malcom Gladwell’s David and Goliath.  Rather than being just a sole treatise on the ancient Biblical story, Gladwell explores and relates this event to our modern day lives that are filled with “confronting the “giants” that we encounter on a daily basis.

 So it is here that we take a look at that topic…GIANTS… those larger-than-life fear instigators that attack as health problems, job insecurities, relationship disasters, and grown up bullies, just to name a few.  We all end up facing them, and they are mean and ugly.

 But, like David, let’s, with God’s help, cut them down to size.  After all, God is bigger than any “giant” we may face, and he’s on our side.

 It was with that truth firmly entrenched in his mind that the boy, David, was able to trust God to turn a small pebble into a guided attack missile that provided him with, albeit impossible and improbable, an impressive and miraculous victory.

 I’ve often wondered what thoughts may have been going through God’s mind as he watched the weak but innocent devastate the powerful and wicked.  Did he look at David and say, “That’s my boy”?   Did he grieve the carnage that Goliath and the Philistines had caused?  Did he rejoice with the angels over another victory against evil?  Or perhaps he did all those things, because he certainly cared about David as this young man faced the giant.

 What do you think God thinks of your “giants”?  Be assured that God sees and cares deeply about you as you stand both before and in the midst of them.  He wants them felled, and he has no fear of them.  He knows that he is going to work through you to destroy them, and he know precisely how and when.

 God’s also sure about the courage you should feel knowing that he is always on your side.  You don’t have to know how he will help you win the battles… but you can bet his solution will always be a creative one.  All you really need to know is that you have a Giant fighting for you, and all you need to do is let him be who he will be because he will always be bigger than any giant (problem) that you will ever face.

 When it comes to giants, it isn’t a case that you are small and that your opponent is big.  Really it is that they are small and God is big… your God…your Giant.  So why not give him the blessing of watching you trust in him?

 

Thank you, Lord, for being a gigantic force against problems that tower over us but that are miniscule to you.  Continue to be that conquering Giant in our lives.  Amen.

Be Still and Know…by Gus Keiser

 

And the Lord God commanded the man, “you may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die. ~ Genesis 2:16

Since we are here, poised at the beginning of New Year, I thought that we might take a look at another beginning, that being the start of our world.  But before we do that, I want us to consider an issue that seems to affect, at least at one time or another, all of us… that being the problem of always “following the rules.”

 From the time of our earliest childhood, we have been told that rules have been created for our good, but we constantly complain about rules that seem to limit our freedom and violate our rights.  Do you remember loathing that staid old parental phrase “because I said so”, vowing never to use it with your own children?  But you have, haven’t you?  We don’t like feeling controlled.  It’s in our nature to want what we want, and we typically want the first and final say about our freedoms.  But that’s a problem when it comes to God’s rules, and the reason may surprise us.  For, it seems, our definition of freedom is far too limiting when compared to God’s.

 That having been said, let’s go back to the Creation scene.  God created Adam and placed in a lush garden full of breathtaking scenery and mouth-watering delicacies, precious resources and flowing waterways.  Eden was a veritable heaven on earth, and it was all for Adam and his descendants, including us.  Surely, Adam and Eve couldn’t want for anything.

 God did, however, set one boundary.  They were not to eat the fruit from one special tree.  Far from being a killjoy, God set that guideline in place so Adam and Eve could enjoy more life.  Obey, and they’d thrive in free and open communication with their Maker.  Disobey, and they’d lose freedom.  Of course, they did what any of us would have done eventually and indeed have done in our own ways… they stepped outside of God’s safety net by choosing their will instead of his.  And they paid dearly for it.  Their sin had locked them out of the utopia God had given them… a sin we are still paying for today.

 Whether we like it or not, some things in life are simply “because God said so”.  That will never change, and what a wonderful thing that is!

 So, that, good Christian, leaves you with a decision.  You are free to choose to follow God or take and alternate route.  What will your choice cost you or someone else?  Will you free your grip on your will and trust God’s boundaries for you?

 It was the noted writer, Alan Keyes, who wrote: “Freedom is not an unlimited license, an unlimited choice, or an unlimited opportunity.  Freedom is first of all a responsibility before the God from whom we come.

God, thank you for the freedom you offer.  Please don’t let us be satisfied with anything less.  Amen.

Be Still and Know… by Gus Keiser

And the one who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”

Well, we’ve made it!

More than likely by the time you read this it will be, or at least close to, New Year’s Day and another year will have passed, another year of growing older and, hopefully, just a bit wiser.  Hopefully also it has been another year during which you’ve created some more history with your Lord and Savior.  I don’t know how your relationship began with him this year, perhaps somewhat distant, maybe not even close, or with a confidence that you and he were close until something unusual happened and you discovered that you really weren’t as close as you thought.

 Well, by Wednesday of this week, that year will be behind you, the end of something, and, God willing, the beginning of some new things.  One of God’s amazing qualities is his habit of always having something new in store… more newness beyond your greatest success, more than the sum of even your costliest weaknesses, more than your hugest hurts, and more than the deadliest penalties for your sins.  The God we serve is the God of more, yet, his is a love that is profoundly simple and pure in its newness.

 As you continue your relationship with him into this new year, commit to discover what more his new means in regard to your life.  And remember, you can always count on his thoughts to outshine even your own dreams.

 But keep in mind that this new may include some heartaches; because heartaches often serve as catalysts for new growth in Jesus’ grace, new understanding of his heart, and new and healthy habits.  And as this new year dawns, don’t waste time doubting that new also means fresh reasons for joy and unprecedented depths of peace as long as you remain close to him.

 Learn from the past, but then put away the past so that you don’t trip over it as you keep in step with Jesus throughout the coming year.  End this one well by committing to begin the next one even better.  By doing so, you just may find that it may be the year that God sends his Son into your life once again, bringing his message of hope and promise to you.  Carry the encouragement of that possibility into each moment, trusting that God’s newness will last into eternity.

HAVE A HAPPY AND PROSPEROUS NEW YEAR!!

Be Still and Know…by Gus Keiser

If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life… For I know where I came from and where I am going.

~ John 8: 12.14

We’ve all gone through the shoe break-in process.  For most of us, it takes several weeks of wearing a pair of new shoes before we really feel comfortable in them.  But what about the comfortableness of our own shoes as it relates to our life?  For most of us; getting comfortable in our own shoes takes most of us into early adulthood to accomplish.  None of us have survived our childhood without scars because the people with whom we shared that childhood, including our parents, were imperfect.  School days for a lot of children, whether they care to admit it or not, bordered on a nightmare.  Imperfect teachers didn’t always fill our heads with positive feedback, and the playgrounds crawled with peers who often didn’t treat us as worthwhile.  So, it didn’t take much negativity to imprint our psyches with our perceived failures.

 As we grew, we developed coping mechanisms that still either fight for our self-worth or bury our hurts.  Either way, we have learned to deal with life in healthy and not-so-healthy ways.  We rejoice in those infrequent and brief bouts of confidence, but just when we think we’ve managed to overcome our issues, we end up re-visiting that same old, repackaged junk.

 One of the oldest troubles known to humankind is a crisis of identity.  Ever since Adam and Eve’s first sin we’ve faced this uphill battle against human nature that cripples us and separates us from God.

 But Jesus came to earth to reestablish our identity with his heavenly Father.  Jesus never wasted any energy wondering who he was or whether he was worthwhile, and he doesn’t wonder that about us.  He was entirely comfortable in his own sandals because he knew his Father so well, and he knew the greatness of his Father’s heart.

 When we make the choice to follow Jesus, he leads us to a deeper understanding of God’s love for us.  He lights the path through our confusion about ourselves, and he invites into the wholeness he enjoys with his Father, God.

 God loves you and he has sent his Son to tell you so.  No matter where you’ve come from, no matter what negative things in life you’ve experienced, God offers you a secure future with him.

 You are cherished by your Creator.  Enjoy being his treasure.

Abba, Father, it’s tough to fight the negative thoughts that shout inside us.  Please replace them with your words of love, and help us to move forward with you.  Amen.

Be Still and Know…By Gus Keiser

 

Be still, and know that I am God ~ Psalm 46:10

This psalm opens with a world in turmoil… earthquakes are coming, mountains are shaking and crumbling, and the oceans are roaring and surging.  What the psalmist is describing here is an earth on the verge of destruction.

 But then the psalmist switches his focus.  Those scenes of devastation and destruction suddenly fade into the quietness of a gentle river as it slowly meanders through God’s beautiful city.  Its waves carry joy into God’s dwelling place, and it is his presence that protects the city from any threats of annihilation.

 But then the focus changes yet again, this time explaining that, yes, the world is bent on ruin.  The psalmist then assures us that God is determined to destroy anything that opposes him and his people.  So he warns his enemies, “Watch out!”  God’s victory is sure, and he will ferociously defend the ones he loves.

 As believers in Christ, we dwell in that city of safety.  God takes seriously his role as the defender of our hearts.  When we open up our hearts and welcome him in, it make him glad, and God is prepared to move heaven and earth to protect his investment in us.

 Whether you feel it or not, God presence is a very real part of your life.  Whenever the trickles of peace meander into your life, it is then that you sense his closeness.  And when the threat of your enemies are upon you, it is then that you wait to hear the thunderous sounds of his heavenly armies coming to your defense.

 Just as you would make any sacrifice to keep your home and loved ones safe, God has already given everything to ensure his home in you is secure.  Once his Holy Spirit lives within you; invading enemies will never be able to set up their camps.  They may… no, they will attack.  But they can never take over what God has already claimed for himself.  Your future is stable and secure once you’ve invited God to rule and protect your life.

 Right now, use this time to take the advice of the psalmist, to be still, and know that God is God.  Allow yourself the luxury of being quiet with him.  Enjoy living in the shelter of your King and Defender… and know that he is God once more today.

Lord, thanks for living within us.  Thanks for the ever-present peace and protection you offer.  Help us to rest in the understanding that you are our God.  Amen.

Be Still and Know…by Gus Keiser

So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. When they came together, the Lord made her conceive, and she bore a son. ~Ruth 4: 13

I’m not some schmaltzy sentimentalist or romantic, but I will admit; I love a good love story… and that’s exactly what we find here in the book of Ruth.  Most of the time, when we look at the book of Ruth, we are able to read about this nice little love story… or even this great, little love story.  And unless you read beneath the veneer of this account, that’s all that it is.  But in reality, it’s a story that displays just how deep and long-reaching the work of God is carried out in our lives and in the lives of those who will come after us.

 Let’s examine this story of Naomi, Ruth and Boaz.  None of these characters really stands out as being anyone special or outstanding.  In fact, if it were possible for us to look all around during the time these three lived, we would find that there were quite a few other persons whose circumstances were very similar to those in which these three found themselves.  And while all three of these individuals each possessed admirable qualities… qualities that we can and should mimic in our own lives… that’s not all there is to their story.

 Their story shows how each of us may well have an impact on those generations to follow us… people we aren’t ever going to live to meet but who will be affected immensely by what we may say or do today… and leave it to God to orchestrate it all.

 Many of those things we say and do today will have significant impact and have the potential of affecting the lives of our great-great-great-great grandchildren.  There is no way we can ever realize just how our lives may touch the lives of those who will come after us.  But God has given us this way of knowing how to live our lives now, today.  Each of us has the opportunity to be the kind of ancestor that anyone would be glad to have as part of their family tree.  So, as we work our way through this life, let us not forget… to do our best to live wisely and in a way that always brings honor to God, so that one day, someone will look back upon his or her family tree, and be able to say with pride… “That great person was my ancestor, and that makes me want to live my life the way he (or she) did, so that my descendants will someday feel the same way about me.”

 Don’t ever forget…no matter what may happen in your life, the impact it may have on those who follow you will go a long way in helping them to handle any situation in their life… and when that impact is God-based, their life will be benefitted beyond measure.

God, may the lives we lead in your name and in your honor be a blessing and a benefit to those who will follow after us.  Amen.