November 3

Psalms 139:5-7 (NIV) 5You hem me in–behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. 6Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. 7Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?

God is in front of you. God is behind you. Don't try to wiggle out of it, as His hand is upon you. Some will struggle their whole life to get away from His presence that surrounds us, and if they persist, He will give them their desire. We cannot imagine how horrible it would be to escape the presence of our good God. He surrounds us to show us His love and turn us from our destructive ways. His hand is upon us to bless us. Any restraint is out of mercy and grace to keep us from falling off a cliff of sin. God is intimately involved in each of our lives whether we want Him there or not.

Now, consider the billions of people upon the earth. His involvement and love is just as amazing in every single life. I can't imagine that because I am finite. I am bound to this physical area my body inhabits. What an amazing God!

I love my wife dearly, but I could never be involved with her to the extent that God is involved with me, though that is God's goal for me as a husband. I love my children, but if I was that involved in their lives they would feel suffocated. That is because my love is so mixed with my own character that is not enough like God's perfect character. My love often has my selfish motives mixed in, but not so with God. His love is entirely selfless and for my good.

I can't escape that love, that presence, no matter where I flee. There is no place on earth to hide, but why would I want to? If I long to know Him better, this passage is a reassuring promise. If I want to rebel or reserve a part of my life for my lust, then this verse is a dreadful warning. Do you sense His presence all around you, His hand upon you? What a great deterrent when I would consider the pleasure of sin for a season!

Consider: Wonderful or dreadful, it is up to you, but you can't change the fact that He envelopes you in His presence. Think about that as you go through your day today.

November 3

2 Timothy 2:24-26 (NIV) 24And the Lord's servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. 25Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, 26and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.

Paul was teaching Timothy to walk in his calling as an elder. Paul had learned from many debates with legalistic Jews that quarrels aren't fruitful. As someone has said, "A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still." If the discussion becomes heated, someone is unwilling to listen, and both parties are wasting their time.

Instead of being argumentative, God's servants should be kind to everyone, able to teach, and not resentful. Kindness is a fruit of the Spirit. When we are unkind, it is a clue that we are in the flesh. The elders should be able to teach. He may not have teaching as his main gift, but he should know the Word well enough to teach it. When the church passes up this qualification, we set ourselves up for problems. The freedom from resentment means the person is ready to forgive, knowing that God has freely forgiven them.

We will always face opposition. Paul told Timothy that the proper response was gentle instruction. Gentleness turns away wrath. Our hope is that our opposition will be saved. There are so many testimonies of love winning over those who persecute. The only way we can possibly do that is to realize that these people have fallen into the trap of the devil. They are captured slaves doing Satan's will. In this war over the souls of men, everything we do and say should be with the hope of setting the captives free. Our natural response will push them further into the trap, but a spiritual response would be to extend a loving hand to draw them to freedom. Only the life of the Spirit in us can cause us to react in the way Paul has described.

Remember: Quarreling is unproductive, but love never fails.