The Attribute of God We’ve Forgotten

If there’s a way God is most thought of these days, I’ll tell you one thing, it’s not holy. First off you can’t turn the TV on without hearing his name misused. Nor can you walk down the hallway at school or buy Christmas tree ornaments for that matter. (Yes, I saw “OMG” on a Christmas Tree ornament last year. After gasping in sheer revulsion, I ran for my life in fear of the store going up in flames.)


Devotional Scripture: Exodus 19:9-25
Key Verse: “You came down on Mount Sinai and spoke with them from heaven and gave them right rules and true laws, good statutes and commandments.” Nehemiah 9:13


Then there’s the flippant way we talk about God. (As though he owes us something.) The lax way we approach God. (As though it ain’t no thing.) And the general way we feel about God and His word. (Most days we could take it or leave it.)

But God, He is holy. Set apart. There is none like him; perfect in goodness; flawless in righteousness. A consuming fire, He is to be worshiped with reverence and awe (Heb. 12:28-29). Dwelling in unapproachable light, God is so holy it is unsafe to just barge into his presence. The only way to enter is to be holy thy self. “Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD? And who shall stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart” (Ps. 24:3-4a). A feat accomplished only in Christ.

So when God announced to Moses that he was going to come down on Mt. Sinai and meet the people – there was some serious preparing to do. For two days they got ready. Verse 14 says they washed their garments and Moses consecrated them. How? It doesn’t tell us. Perhaps by offering sacrifices on behalf of the people. For without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins. (Heb. 9:22)

Furthermore, they were to abstain from sex and anyone, young or old, who even touched the edge of the mountain was to be killed. It was serious stuff. God’s presence was not to be taken lightly.

Then on the morning of the third day, “there were thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud on the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people in the camp trembled” (v. 16). Even the mountain trembled at God’s arrival (v. 18) and smoke went up from it like a kiln, “because the LORD had descended on it in fire” (v. 18).

Consequently, when Isaiah had a vision of God sitting on the throne, “the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke” (Is. 6:4). Then later when John got a glimpse of God’s throne in Revelation we find out, “From the throne came flashes of lightning, and rumblings, and peals of thunder” (Rev. 4:5).

So I don’t think the thunder and lightning was there just for effect. God himself had descended on the mountain. Shrouding himself in smoke so the Israelites would not be consumed in the presence of His glory.

And when the Israelites heard the trumpet blast they didn’t pat each other on the back saying, “Hey cool! There’s God!” No, they were terrified. And so was Moses for that matter (Heb. 12:21).

So terrified in fact, the people told Moses, “Hey from now on, why don’t you just go up and talk to God and then let us know what he says. Deal?” (My paraphrase.)

Which in turn, pleased the LORD. “They are right in all they have spoken. Oh that they had such a mind as this always, to fear me and to keep all my commandments” (Deut. 5:28b-29a). Why was God pleased?

Because reverence for God determines the godliness of our response.

To set apart Christ as holy (1 Peter 3:15) is to determine that His honor and glory come first. God’s holiness is everything. It’s why we do what we do. 1 Peter 1:15-16 says, “But as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:15-16).

Just as Leviticus 19:2 says, “Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them, You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.”

So to disregard the holiness of God is to disregard all reason for godly living.

Which is where I think we’ve gotten off track. No longer is God esteemed as he should be. If He were, we’d uphold his commands as invaluable. We’d respect His words. We’d fear the God who is able to save and destroy. Like a student under the watchful eye of a head master, we’d do what we’ve been told, instead of weeding through the stuff we like and rejecting the things we don’t.

To revere God is to fear God. Not in the sense of being afraid because we know there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:1), but to be in awe of Him. To tremble in the wake of His vast glory, as Israel did the day they saw God descend on Mt. Sinai.

He is still the same God today as He was then. Just because we’ve been declared holy by the blood of Christ and allowed to enter God’s presence, doesn’t mean God is any less holy. It simply means He is kind. And merciful. And abounding in love to a thousand generations. Nonetheless, that’s the temptation, isn’t it? To bring God down to our level.  To diminish His excellency.

We’re quick to forget we haven’t been invited to the throne through any means of our own. We’re on the guest list because of Christ. God owes us nothing, yet we owe him everything.

He is still untouchable. He is still to be feared. He is still to be praised. Honored with our mouths and respected in our homes. Yet where has the reverence gone? Why has the adoration subsided?

Oh that we might fear God as Israel did the day they heard His voice and saw the mountain quake at His presence. For we too have heard His voice. Not audibly of course, but in our hearts, the day he called each of us to repentance.

And He is with us. His presence a promise we can hold fast to. Yet He is still God my friend. Holy and awesome, there is none like Him. “To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” 1 Timothy 1:17

Contemplate and Evaluate:
Do you think God’s holiness is lost or upheld in the church today? What about in the home?
Why should God’s holiness motivate us to live upright and obedient lives?
What choices have you made to honor God as holy?

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The Kindness of God Israel Missed. Have We Missed it Too?

God is so kind. Have you figured that out yet? Instead of leading the people into a battle with the Philistines they #1 weren’t ready for and #2 weren’t prepared for, He led them south. Yet I wonder how many Israelite’s mistook God’s kindness as an act of stupidity. “Why in the world are we going this way?” “This is ridiculous.” “The most direct route is over there.”


Devotional Scripture: Exodus 13:17-22

Key Verse: “By a pillar of cloud you led them in the day, and by a pillar of fire in the night to light for them the way in which they should go.” Nehemiah 9:12


I can almost hear the murmurs. Can you? Mostly because I know I’ve said something similar. Or perhaps it was more like. “You know, if I were running this show, we’d be doing things MUCH differently.” (Guilty again.)

Nonetheless, out of kindness, God took them south. Leading the people with a pillar of cloud by day and fire by night. Anyone else a little curious what that looked like? Did it reach to heaven? Could you see at the back of the pack? I imagine so. Since it says pillar I’m picturing something tall and skinny that during the day spread out at the bottom like a huge cloud to cover the people from the hot desert sun. (Again, kindness.)

Psalm 105:39 says, “He spread a cloud for a covering, and fire to give light by night.” Protection at all hours of the day! The people, though in a land they didn’t recognize, were never without a visible manifestation of God’s presence.

At the completion of the tabernacle God’s glory in the form of cloud and fire then settled into the Holy of Holies. Exodus 40:38 says, “For the cloud of the LORD was on the tabernacle by day, and fire was in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel throughout all their journeys.” If the cloud lifted the people knew it was time to pack up and move again. But if the cloud stayed put, the people stayed put.

They never had to question when or where to move. They never had to wonder if God was with them. They never had to debate the glory or existence of the eternal God. He was right there!

God could have just privately told Moses where to go, but instead, in kindness, He made His presence known.

A picture to us of the Holy Spirit today. Who out of kindness, has been given to us as a helper to guide our steps; to show us which way to go; to counsel us in the ways of the word; to comfort and protect. Though not visible, the Holy Spirit is a manifestation of God’s presence in every believer so we don’t have to go this journey alone. Or question the existence of the eternal God because He’s always and forever right here!

Do you see it? The similarities between the pillar of cloud/fire and the Holy Spirit are many.

1. The “cloud” was not given to Israel until after the lamb had been slain, just as it was not until after Christ had been crucified, resurrected, and ascended that the Holy Spirit was given. (1 Peter 4:14 – But now we can say “the spirit of glory and of God rests on us.”)

2. The “cloud” was a merciful and gracious gift to Israel. Nowhere does it indicate that the people asked God for a “cloud” to guide them. And nowhere in the New Testament does it indicate that the apostles asked for the great Comforter to be given to them. It is God’s daily gift to us.

3. Just like the cloud was a covering over Israel, so is the Holy Spirit a covering over us. Protecting us from the evil one and sealing us for the day of redemption (Eph. 1:13-14).

4. It was from within the cloud that the LORD spoke to Israel (Psalm 99:7; Ex. 33:9; Num. 12:5). Just as it’s by way of the Holy Spirit God speaks to believers. Instructing us in the way of truth. John 14:26 says, “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”

5. The “cloud” was with Israel until they reached the promised land. And so too is the Holy Spirit with every believer until we reach heaven. God didn’t remove his presence when the Israelite’s failed or rebelled and neither does he remove his presence from us. Purchased by the blood of the Lamb, it’s a done deal. Jesus said in John 6:37, “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.”

Just as God was with Israel day in and day out, so is He today with every one of His children, day in and day out. The question is, will we listen? Will we pay attention? Will we follow? Or like the Israelites will the manifestation of God’s presence come to mean nothing to us?

A year later (give or take), standing at the edge of the Promised Land, the pillar of cloud and fire having lead them every step of the way, the Israelites grumbled in their tents saying, “Because the LORD hated us he has brought us out of the land of Egypt, to give us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us.” (Deut. 1:27).

Never mind God’s kindness to us thus far. Never mind His constant presence. God must hate us because the people are like giants in the land of Canaan and the cities are too big! Ever been there? At the corner of bleak and uncertainty, a little dumbfounded as to why God would bring you here, to this place, at this point in your life?

Like the Israelite’s, in overwhelming situations, we’re often quick to forget the Holy Spirit is still guiding, still helping, still comforting, still protecting. And instead of looking up to the pillar of cloud still standing tall over the top of us we look down, overcome by worry at what might lie ahead.

If the Israelite’s had taken a moment to remember God’s kindness, seeking comfort in God’s presence, instead of sinking in their circumstances, I think the story would have turned out much differently. Yes, it was the pillar of cloud that lead the Israelite’s into the wilderness, but it was their sin that kept them there. God was ready to go, but they weren’t willing to follow.

Are we? With the Holy Spirit ever with us, guiding, comforting, helping, protecting, will we go where God calls? Or will we stay put? Forgetting all about His kindness and the promise of His presence no matter where life leads.

Psalm 105:37 says when the LORD brought the people out of Egypt, “there was none among his tribes who stumbled.” Lead by God, under His watch, not one fell on the rough terrain. Likewise Jude 24 says, “Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy,” be all the glory!

God’s got this! In kindness, He’s given us His spirit to guide us. He alone can keep us from stumbling. The question is, are we willing to follow?

Contemplate and Evaluate:
What similarities do you see between the pillar of cloud/fire and the Holy Spirit?
How have you seen God’s kindness in your life?
Faced with difficult circumstances when have you been willing to follow and when have you not?

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Whose Presence Do You Rely on Most

My nemesis in the fourth grade was reading out loud. I dreaded it. And inevitably the weekly story was read paragraph by paragraph, around the room, one desk at a time. Instantly I’d start counting. Which paragraph is going to be mine? Is it long? Is it short? Are there any words I don’t know how to pronounce?


Devotional Scripture: Exodus 4:10-17, 27-28
Key Verse: “Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.” Exodus 4:12


Because that’s the worst, right? Reading a hard-to-sound-out word entirely wrong. Like the word colonel, which I phonetically sounded out as call-on-el, instead of kernel, much to the dismay of my classmates. But since when did the letter L make an R sound? And how had I missed the memo?

Incidentally, my second fourth grade archrival, the spelling bee. Waiting in line to spell a word in front of all my peers; I may as well have been waiting in line to have my arms broken.

Maybe it’s not a struggle for you, but for many, whether reading or speaking or praying or reciting a well memorized speech, the sound of one’s own voice in a public setting, can be paralyzing. The thought of messing up, sets every anxiety induced nerve at full throttle.

Just thinking about it, are you nervous yet? Moses was. The thought of speaking to Pharaoh in front of all those people; he didn’t want to do it. His excuse? A lack of eloquence. Saying to the LORD, “I am slow of speech and of tongue” (v. 10).

To which the LORD replied, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak” (v. 11-12).

Based on the LORD’s reply many scholars believe Moses had a speech impediment. A stutter, perhaps. But seeing as public speaking has been a top priority fear for umpteen generations, I’d say it’s also entirely possible his resistance was all nerves. After all, the LORD had just told him to go and tell the most powerful man on earth he was losing his free work force. “No thanks Jesus, please send someone else.”

Which is exactly what Moses said, kindling the LORD’s anger. (Finally.) Yet still the LORD didn’t rant at Moses. He didn’t bring up the number of times Moses had already questioned him. Or yell at him for lacking faith. Instead, the LORD graciously offered the help of Aaron, Moses’ older brother. Whom the LORD had already prompted to start walking that way (v. 14). (Isn’t He so very kind?)

The LORD knows our frailties, the cause of our undoing’s.  He knows what makes us feel safe and what makes us squirm. And he knows we need each other. He’s made us for fellowship and interaction. He’s made us for friendship and communion. That’s why he’s made us part of the body of Christ.

So we can help each other. So we can encourage and lift one another up. It’s a privilege, not a problem, to come alongside a sister in Christ with much needed words, a hot pan of lasagna, a skill, or an effort far above anything I could do on my own. I know it, every time I’m on the receiving end.

The downside, it’s much easier to rely on the tangible hand of my mom, sister, best friend, or man than it is to rely on my God. Whose ways are not my ways. Whose thoughts are not my thoughts.

God had assured Moses multiple times, “I will be with you.” Over and over he said it. Yet, it was only after gaining the assurance of Aaron by his side – a weak, sinful man, like himself – that Moses agreed to go.

And I get it. All too well. The security a friend offers. The boldness it instills to have a physical hand to hold. A visible face. A discernable voice. It just feels good and right and easier. (So much easier.)

But when our go to is the word of a friend, instead of the word of God, it’s good to reevaluate. Because where does my help come from? “My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth” (Ps. 121:2). Along with my mouth and hands and heart. Forming, arranging, weaving, until I was just right, for the kingdom worthy works He prepared in advance for me to do (Eph. 2:10).

There’s no greater presence than the Almighty. And no better friend than the one who made me. He gets me, inside and out, He gets me. Yet my tendency, like Moses, is to find more comfort in the assurance of weak human flesh, than in the promised presence of Jesus. When there’s no one more able than He.

When the LORD says go there and do this. Or stay here and don’t miss the powerful way I’m going to work through you. I can do it. I can watch or wait or speak or move forward because it’s the LORD God Almighty who’s with me.

I love God’s assurance to Moses. “I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.” How much better it is when we go in His strength and our weakness; for His power is made perfect in weakness (2 Cor. 12:9). His glory made known in the trenches. His majesty unveiled every time we allow Him to lengthen our short comings.

Thanks be to God who made my mouth. And promised always to go with me, whether I pick up a friend along the way or not. Incidentally, reading out loud is now one of my favorite things. And speaking? Another. If you have a lady’s event, I’d be honored to come in His strength, by His might, with His word, and share what God’s been teaching me. Rothbury Community Church, I’ll see you in a few weeks. (Just don’t ask me to join a spelling bee.)

Contemplate and Evaluate:
Whose presence do you rely most on?
Do you tend to go to God first or a friend, spouse, or relative, when you have a concern? Is the presence of God enough to make you go or do or be whatever God asks of you? Why or why not?

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The Absurd Reality of Every Believer

There’s a truth seeking to intrude the everyday moments of life – both the mundane and the monumental. A truth I let slip into the daily drama every once in awhile but would do well to let drench the difficulties and decisions and dilemmas that arrive on my doorstep each morning. A truth I long to live within – snug and secure within the boundaries it provides, the comfort it gives, and the hope it exhales.


Key Verse: “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” 1 Corinthians 3:16


But instead of soaking in this immeasurably wonderful revelation, with all it’s lovely attributes, I more often than not set it aside for less feasible realities. Like having a beautifully put together life (the kind that is social media worthy) or a number on the scale that is less than last week or a completely picked up house or every dish in the cupboard or a floor that has less food on it than an all you can eat buffet.

Consumed with the hope of making such lofty goals the truth of my everyday, I forget the real truth. The truth that would have blown the sandals off every godly Israelite of Moses’ day or Joshua’s day or David’s day.

The truth that in Christ, God is with me. Always and forever with me. Indwelling me with His perfectly righteous Spirit. Going before me, walking beside me, carrying me when I’m too tired to walk on my own. Or too overcome. Or too weary. Or too confused to take one more step.

“That’s impossible!” The Israelites would have said. “A holy God cannot dwell within sinful man!” Yet this side of the cross, He does. It’s not a ridiculous notion, it’s reality. The God who was once shielded nicely behind two curtains, on the other side of an altar, constantly smattered with blood – now dwells within every man, woman, and child that confesses Christ as LORD.

It’s a privilege unlike any other considering only the high priest could enter the presence of God (within the Holy of Holies), prior to the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And even then it was only once a year, on the Day of Atonement, after cleansing and draping himself with special clothing. To do a job only he could do – sprinkle the mercy seat with the blood of atonement.

While the people outside waited. Are we accepted, or are we not accepted? Fear intermingled with hope; desperation threatening any shroud of confidence they felt after watching a goat, 2 bulls, 1 ram, and 7 lambs make their way across the bronze altar – the required number of sacrifices for that special day.

The vast gap between God’s righteousness and theirs requiring more of the same sacrifices not only on the Day of Atonement but at the first of every month and the Feast of Unleavened Bread and Pentecost (Feast of Weeks). Along with two daily lambs a year old, without blemish, split open every morning with a drink offering and every night with an offering of grain – as long as they existed.

But nothing compares to the Feast of Booths. It lasted eight days during which 71 bulls, 15 rams, 105 lambs, and 8 goats were required to be struck, broken, and splattered across the altar that kept guard over the tabernacle entrance like a fierce watch dog reminding the people to not come any closer. To remember their unholiness. Confess their uncleanness. And adhere to the commands of the LORD or face the consequences.

Yet me, on this side of the cross, I get to walk right past the altar of burnt offering, past the bronze basin that the priests used for washing, through the veil separating the Holy Place from the courtyard, with its “blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen,” (Ex. 26:36), straight into the light of the golden lampstand.

Past the bread of the presence, which I could eat of if I wanted to, straight to the curtain separating me from the Holy of Holies.

Lungs filled with the sweet smells escaping the altar of incense, I get to slide the golden rings to one side, folding the cherubim embroidered on the large, expansive curtain, and walk straight into the presence of God.

Invited by the King himself. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). Cleansed and covered by His blood, I am not only encouraged to approach the throne of grace with confidence (Hebrews 4:16), I’m expected to as an adopted daughter of the Most High. So that the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, may shield me wherever I go. (Phil 4:6-7)

An awesome blessing every believer this side of the cross has the privilege to experience. Yet what do we do with it? What do we do with this ever present reality? Do we exchange it for something less lovely? Less beneficial? Less likely?

Sometimes we do. Ignoring the fact that we are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in us (1 Cor. 3:16). An amazing concept I long to capture.

The presence of God is not shielded from me, but dwells within me (within you). “Therefore we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary” (Heb. 6:18b-19, NLT).

My friend, whatever reality you’re facing today, in Christ, this is the truth behind it – You are welcome in God’s presence. Invited by and through the blood of Jesus Christ.

What a privilege! A reality I pray we each live within – snug and secure within the boundaries it provides, the comfort it gives, and the hope it exhales. May it always and forever be the truth that rises to the top and prevails. Mending the brokenness of yesterday and binding up the uneasiness of tomorrow in the pure wonderment it provides.

Thank you Jesus for your presence in my life. Forgive me for setting it aside. Help me to live within the reality of this great and wonderful truth. In Jesus name, Amen.

Contemplate and Evaluate:
Why is God’s presence in us such an amazing privilege? Is it reality you live within? How can you make fellowship with God a truth you daily experience?

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