Day 7: Encountering God’s Presence through Increasing Awareness Jeremiah 23:24 (NLT) "Can anyone hide from me? Am I not everywhere in all the heavens and earth?" asks The Lord. In the book of Jeremiah, God declares his omnipresent presence. In other words, He is always there, wherever you are. The key is this, have you been noticing His ever-present presence in your life? You've just read before that God can speak to you in any possible way, now know that He can also be present in any possible time. 3 main scenarios I can think of in your life where God can be present: 1) The good times (the mountains) 2) The bad times (the valleys) 3) The mundane/ routine-based times (the levelled paths) We’ve read the ‘mountains moment’ in Day 3’s devotion when the leper was healed and returned to thank Jesus for being present. And we’ve came across the ‘valleys moment’ in Day 4’s devotion when David faced thirst and fear yet sought after God's presence. I'm sure you've noticed God at work when you were on a mountain, perhaps after seeing yourself do really well for your examinations. On the other hand, you may have also experienced God tangible presence as He walked you through a valley, such as the continuous comfort and hope that comes from God when you did badly for an important competition. Now what about the levelled paths that you walk on every other day? These levelled paths are times when you are neither filled with extreme joy nor sadness but the everyday moments that you carry out like a routine. For instance, the moment you wake up and prepare for school, or having a meal, or just brushing your teeth and getting ready to go to bed. But do you know that God is there in all those times? No matter how seemingly routine your life can get, God can call us in our ordinary life, to see His presence unfold. So build the conscious awareness of God's presence in your daily life. Let it serve as a reminder of what He is doing in every moment because God is not just God of the mountains and valleys but also the levelled paths too. Keep at it and watch how God can touch and speak to you when you least expect it! Reflection Station: What are some everyday ‘routine’ moments where I tend to overlook God's presence? How can I be more aware of God's presence even in such moments?
Day 8: Encountering God’s Presence by Coming out of Our Shame Genesis 3:8-10 8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” 10 He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” (Read Genesis 3 for context)
The first act of sin in the history of mankind happened in Genesis 3, where Adam and Eve ate of the fruit that God had previously told them to not consume. The serpent then tempted Eve to sin, causing her to question what God had instructed her not to do. It planted a seed of doubt (“Did God really say you must not eat from any tree in the garden?” - v1b), and it sought to deceive (“You will not certainly die. For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” - v4-5). Eve eventually caved in to temptation, thinking that she knew better than God, and disobeyed Him. Worst of all she even gave some to Adam, and he gave in as well! As a result, “then the eyes of both of them were opened” (v7); and Adam and Eve were filled with shame at their nakedness, along with guilt at their disobedience towards their Creator. When they heard God coming, the couple hid among the trees of the garden of Eden, wanting to be out of God’s sight. God, being the mighty Creator of all the heavens and earth, and a Father who knows every move that we make, did something highly intriguing: He called out to them and asked, “Where are you?” The couple then came out of their hiding, knowing they could not possibly remain hidden from God. I can just imagine how their heads bowed in deep sorrow and how their shoulders drooped so low from their shame and guilt… The story of Adam and Eve however, still repeats itself among God’s people till today. While it may not the most usual happening for us to be deceived by a talking serpent, we remain as imperfect people who struggle with temptations and sins of disobedience in our life. Alongside, the realization of our sins in the light of our Holy God often stirs up a sense of humanly shame and guilt within us that instinctively drive us to hide from the Presence of God. Sounds all too familiar, isn’t it? Yet the truth is this: there is nowhere that we can go that is hidden from the sight of our loving God (so stop running and hiding from Him!). In fact, God is a loving Father and a God of 2nd chance! It pains Him greatly to know that His children have to live with the bondages of guilt and shame. So even after God disciplined and addressed Adam and Eve’s erroneous ways, He then went on to “made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them” (v21).
You see, God disciplines us for our own good, but He also restores us with His love. And in His love God had sent Jesus to die on the cross to redeem us from our sins so that we can live a life afresh in Jesus. So today, allow God’s love to cover our shame as we enter into His Presence with gratitude and thanksgiving! Reflection Station: Are there any areas in my life that I feel shameful about and which is also causing me to hide from God? Instead of living a life of shame, how can I live a life that reflects Jesus’ life-giving redemption which allows me to enter deeper into His Presence? (E.g. living a life of repentance or seeking support from leaders…)
Day 9: Encountering the Presence of God by Seeking Refuge in Him Psalm 32: 5-6 5 Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.” And you forgave the guilt of my sin. 6 Therefore let all the faithful pray to you while you may be found; surely the rising of the mighty waters will not reach them. (Read Psalm 32 for context) I now know that hiding from the presence of God is futile because He knows me so thoroughly anyway. How then, do I find the strength to lift up our chin to look at Him in the eye again? Perhaps I could look to what King David did when he sinned against God He ran even deeper into His presence! Despite our sins and transgressions, King David exclaimed with much joy that we are “blessed”, for that our “sin the Lord does not count against” (v2). I know what you are thinking at this point......really? God does not count our sins against me? Then what was that punishment in Genesis 3 (see previous day’s devotion) all about? Well, hold your horses. The Bible indeed says that we are blessed, and that’s when our “spirit is no deceit” (v2b), meaning that we are to come into His presence in all honesty. We are to cry out to Him in repentance of our sins (v5), in which God will forgive and be found once more by us... King David then goes on to meditate upon the promises of God should he choose to remain in His presence. “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you” (v8) is what God says, that He would guide us on how to live our life in a way that is pleasing to Him. Indeed, “the Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the one who trusts in Him”! (v10b) Today, you may be caught with your foot in the mighty waters. You may be overwhelmed by the multitudes of trials, temptations and testing that have come your way, or you may find yourself bound so tightly by your sins - but this is what the Lord says: I am your hiding place & refuge; come running to Me. In the shelter of God lavishing love and in the safety of His saving arms, God will “protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance” (v7). This is the God whom we worship. So make this prayer today: Lord, today I choose to come to You as the real “I” - no deceit, no pretence. Remind me, that I have found my refuge and comfort in You. ‘May it be the real I who speaks. May it be the real Thou that I speak to.’ - C.S Lewis
Reflection Station: Are there times whereby I feel that it is hard to go to God in an honest manner? How would choosing to hide in the Godâ€™s presence and refuge change the way I live my life?
Day 10: Encountering God’s Presence through His Given Victory Joshua 1:5, 9 5 No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you… 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Read Joshua 1:1-9 for context) After Moses passed on, God appointed Joshua as the man who was to succeed the leadership of Moses. He was to be the one to lead the Israelites to cross the Jordan River and into the land that God had for them. Slipping into the shoes of Joshua at this very moment in time, I can almost feel the fear and trembling in my very own heart: “God, how will I lead these people? Moses was such a powerful leader: He parted the Red Sea, he hit a rock and out flowed water for the thirsty people to drink, he did so many miracles! How big are the shoes I have to fill? Do I have what it takes to lead these people? What if they do not follow me? What if I lead them off the course that You have set due to my inabilities?” Surely, a thousand and one questions as such would have plagued the mind of Joshua as he accepted the appointment of leadership. However, God had this in reply: “No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (v5). Joshua’s insecurities must have disappeared into thin air as the Lord assured him of the power of His presence; never will it ever be about adequacy or competency, for it has always been about His grace. After all, Joshua’s mentor Moses was himself “never been eloquent”, and was “slow of speech and tongue” (Exodus 4:10), yet God still could do so many amazing feats through Moses himself. Similarly, when God told Joshua to “Be strong and very courageous” (v7a), the insecurity in Joshua was then replaced with a solid confidence in God as he went on to lead the Israelites in their conquest in Canaan, and things more miraculous and wondrous were done through him in that land, for the Lord was with Joshua wherever He went. Joshua must have learned an important lesson from God, that our victory cannot be found in anything else other than in the presence of God! So make this prayer today: Lord, in whatever battles that I am going through, help me to see that as I seek Your presence in my life, I will find victory; the kind of victory that You intend for me to have. In fact, Your very presence is victory to me. Reflection Station: Are there instances whereby I feel inadequate or incapable? Journal it down and claim the some of the verses stated here by faith in your life. (Joshua 1:9, John 16:33, 2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
Day 11: Encountering God’s Presence through His Security Psalm 139:13-16 13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. 15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. 16 Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. (Read Psalm 139 for context) Here is a passage that many of us are familiar with. These verses remind us that God is omniscient (all-knowing), for He “knows when I sit and when I rise” and “perceives my thoughts from afar” (v2). Every single move that we make in our everyday lives, every thought that makes its way across our minds even before “a word is on my tongue” (v4a)...... God knows it in its entirety. God is also omnipresent (present everywhere at the same time); for He is there “if I go up to the heavens” or “if I make my bed in the depths” (v8). It is not possible to escape, or hide from His presence, and there is nowhere that we can go that He is not there. And finally, God is omnipotent (having unlimited power; able to do anything), for even “if I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea”, even there His Hand “will guide me” and “hold me fast” (v9-10). What we deem as power from our earthly point of view is not power to Him - His power goes beyond what our limited minds can fathom. It is in light of this knowledge of God that the Psalmist placed his security in the Creator and praised God for creating him. God had put his soul into our bodies, placing each organ in it, ensuring they function, breathing life into us. We all are works of art, handiworks knitted together by God, a masterpiece whereby God was the artist. There could be no mistake in how he was wired, for His “works are wonderful” (v14b). There is no cause for worry with regards to what is to come, because “all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (v16). God has it all worked out! Like many people around me, I often find that when I start to feel insecure about myself or my future, when I start to worry about things beyond my control, or when I live in constant fear of the unknown, it is usually because I have lost sight of how great God is. Sometimes it is such so easy to let our knowledge of God slip out of our minds when we are facing a multitude of problems; yet, it is in choosing to remember God for who He is that we are able to have our hearts at peace. A knowledge of who God is gives us a knowledge of who we are. Today, let us be held assuredly in the power of His presence. Reflection Station: How does my knowledge of God assure me of my identity and future in Him? In what ways should I live my life to reflect this security that I have found in God Himself?
Day 12: Encountering God’s Presence by Carrying His Presence Acts 2:42-47 42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. The presence of God came onto the disciples in Acts 2, when everyone was filled with the Holy Spirit. With that, the understanding of the disciples grew. They were once with the “physical presence” of God (Jesus). Now, they began to experience God’s presence through the Holy Spirit! From there, they began to build God’s Church and experienced so much of God’s tangible presence while doing so! What was their secret then? The answer is simple: they carried the presence with God with them wherever they went. As the apostle Paul reminded in 1 Corinthians 3:16, “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?”… God’s dwelling place is in us, and in the church! This means that the presence of God is in us, and the power of that presence is living in us as well. Whatever that we do now, we have the presence of God backing us up. Whatever we do unto others, is to them, a representation of the presence of God as well. So to carry this presence of God in our lives is to essentially keeping to our spiritual disciplines relentlessly, and to partner with God through whatever we do every day. It is not just the worship sessions during service, nor the sharings during lifegroups that facilitate us experiencing the presence of God, but also through the little acts in our everyday living that we carry with His presence. We could study in His presence, and that would give us peace, assurance and self-discipline; we could work in His presence, and we would do so with a spirit of excellence as we seek to honor Him. We could be washing the dishes in the kitchen, yet doing so with so much love and patience, for we are doing those chores with His presence. Carrying His presence, is indeed, such a privilege and life-transforming experience! Reflection Station: How does the knowledge that God dwells in me (I’m God’s temple) affect the way I live my life daily? What can I do to carry more of God’s Presence wherever I go?