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 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.