Sunday, January 20, 2013

Day Twenty: Presence

The WORD of the Day:

"The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing." 
--Zephaniah 3:17

Let Me Give You a Lift:

Do you ever stop and think about the fact that God is all around us?  I do, and honestly it is a little mind-boggling.  There are the obvious ways He is around us--we see Him in the natural world He created and all the wonder it holds.  We see him in the miracle that is our children, we see him in simple kindnesses.  But the idea that God is with us every minute of every day is a little more than my brain can comprehend. 

But it's true. How do I know this? Because in Luke 15:10, Jesus said: 
I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.
One person making a positive change causes rejoicing in heaven. Jesus actually repeats this comment twice in Luke 15. God wants to delight in His children, the way we want to delight in our own. He wants to joy in us when we accomplish, and comfort us when we fall.  

In Luke 15, where the above quote is found, Jesus is telling a series of stories about how precious each life is to God. One of those stories is that of the prodigal son.  It's a story that people are generally familiar with, but here's a paraphrase.  A very wealthy man had two sons, the younger of which was very rebellious.  Unwilling to abide by his father's rule, the son demanded his inheritance.  In modern parlance, 'Dad, pretend you are dead and give me everything I'd receive from your will right now.'

The father did what his son requested, and the son immediately headed to foreign lands where he lived large and Jesus says he "squandered all his property on reckless living." Then a famine hit the land and the son, penniless, was forced to go work as a servant tending pigs.  For a Jewish man, it was a repugnant job to clean up after unclean animals. The son, starving, was contemplating eating some of the food for the pigs when he realized he had hit rock bottom.

The son came to his senses, thinking 'if I can but be a servant in my father's house I will live better than this.' He prepared a big apology speech and began the long journey home.  He never got a chance to deliver the speech, because while he was far off, his father recognized him.  The father jumped to his feet, ran to his son, took him in his arms, and ordered a grand celebration feast. Jesus was conveying to his followers not only God's forgiveness, but God's love, and His joy when his wayward children come home.

The difference between God and the father in the story? God is always there. When we rejoice He is there; when we sorrow He is there; when we succeed He is there; when we struggle He is there. And He wants a relationship with us, to guide us into life abundant.  

But we have to want the same; we have to want a relationship. And that is hard; developing a relationship based on faith is hard. Sometimes we fall short; sometimes we still rebel against Him, even when we know God's great riches and the blessings he wants for us. Sometimes we think we know better, we think we don't need Him, and we think we can do it on our own.

Here's the thing, though. God knows we are going to stumble. He knows that sometimes we will choose the wrong path. He understands our weakness. C.S. Lewis put it very well in Mere Christianity:
God knows our situation; He will not judge us as if we had no difficulties to overcome. What matters is the sincerity and perseverance of our will to overcome them.
God knows we will stray. But he stays with us every step of the way. And when we come home, when one lost child turns around and heads home, there is much rejoicing in heaven.

Give it a Listen:

Today's song is Jeremy Camp's “Jesus Saves.” This is a praise anthem, plain and simple.  Whereas the Word of the Day is about how God rejoices over us, this song is about how we rejoice over the Almighty, and the fact that He sent His Son to save us.  

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