You were created for an intimate relationship with God. Jesus came to make that possible. Sometimes I find I get distracted, caught up with other things – even my work for God can distract me from my relationship with him. At other times, I am absolutely desperate for God’s presence, his mercy and grace. When we find ourselves in this place of desperation, nothing but the presence of God will satisfy.
Desperate for God’s thoughtsPsalm 139:17–24
It is an amazing blessing to be able to wake up each morning and know that God is with you and that he wants to speak to you: ‘Oh, let me rise in the morning and live always with you!’ (v.18, MSG). This is why I love to read the Bible first thing in the morning. I am desperate to know God’s thoughts.
David is desperate for God. He wants to know God’s thoughts: ‘How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand. When I awake, I am still with you’ (vv.17–18).
David is also desperate not to offend God in any way:
Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting (vv.23–24).
Lord, I am desperate to know your thoughts and to hear your voice. Lead me into your presence, I pray. Draw me close to you.
Desperate for God’s truthJude 1:1–25
Not long ago, I discovered that a dishonest and deceptive South Korean cult called Shincheonji had been trying to infiltrate our church and churches all over the world. These false teachers invite young people to a ‘Bible study’, lead them astray and teach them to deceive other people.
Jude is desperate for his readers to hold on to God’s truth and not to be led astray by false teaching: ‘I have to write insisting – begging! – that you fight with everything you have in you for this faith entrusted to us as a gift to guard and cherish’ (v.3, MSG).
Jude encourages his readers to stick to the teaching they were originally given, and to ‘contend for the faith’ (v.3). The truth really matters. You have been entrusted with it (v.3). You must contend for the truth – against false teachers and false teaching. Why?
First, because we know that God’s judgment is on them – and that is serious (vv.5–10). Second, because we know the harm they can do, which is also serious (vv.11–16): ‘[They] split churches, thinking only of themselves’ (v.19, MSG).
Jude gives a description of the characteristics of false teachers and false teaching. Typically, cults will display at least one of these:
They are deceptive. They ‘have secretly slipped in among you’ (v.4)
They reject authority. They want to replace ‘sheer grace’ with ‘sheer license’ (v.4, MSG)
They deny Jesus Christ ‘as our one and only Master’ (v.4, MSG)
They look down on and ‘sneer at anything they can’t understand’ (v.10, MSG)
They ‘do whatever they feel like doing’ (v.10, MSG)
They are immoral: ‘carousing shamelessly’ (v.12, MSG)
They grumble, complain and find fault (v.16)
They grab for themselves ‘the biggest piece of the pie’ (v.16, MSG)
They are ambitious, ‘saying anything they think will get them ahead’ (v.16, MSG).
God’s people are encouraged to be desperate for God’s truth. The beginning and the end of the letter speak of an intimacy with God and how to live as those desperate for God’s truth.
I love the way that Jude begins this letter. He sees himself as ‘a servant of Jesus Christ’ (v.1). There is no higher calling or a more liberating job than to see every day as an opportunity to serve Jesus Christ.
He then reassures his readers that they are ‘called’ and ‘loved’ by God the Father ‘and kept by Jesus Christ’ (v.1). This is true of every Christian. What he wants for his readers is ‘mercy’, ‘peace’ and ‘love in abundance’ (v.2). If these were the only verses we had in the whole Bible, we could meditate on them for the rest of our lives.
He ends by urging them to:
Study the truth: ‘Build yourselves up in your most holy faith’ (v.20)
Pray: ‘Pray in the Holy Spirit’ (v.20). The Holy Spirit will guide you into the truth
Stay close to God: ‘Keep yourselves in God’s love’ (v.21)
Be merciful: ‘Be tender with sinners, but not soft on sin’ (v.23, MSG)
Lord, help us to be desperate to hold on to your truth and to contend for the faith (v.3).
Desperate for God’s Justice and God’s BlessingZechariah 5:1–8:23
Zechariah warns of God’s judgment and the need for God’s justice (chapter 5). There is also great hope here as the prophet foresees the rebuilding of the temple and the restoration of God’s presence at the heart of his people.
Joshua the high priest foreshadows Christ. He has a crown on his head (6:11) and he is named ‘the Branch’ (v.12). He will rebuild the temple of the Lord and be clothed with majesty and will sit and rule on his throne. He will be a priest on his throne (v.13). Like Melchizedek, he combines the kingly and the priestly role, which was ultimately fulfilled in Jesus, the King of kings (Revelation 17:14) and our Great High Priest (Hebrews 4:14).
You, like God’s people back then, are called to clean up your act and enable justice for all: ‘This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. In your hearts do not think evil of each other”’ (Zechariah 7:9–10).
There is such a passion in the heart of God that it could almost be said that it verges on desperation in his own heart: ‘The Lord Almighty says: “I am very jealous for Zion; I am burning with jealousy for her… I will return to Zion and dwell in Jerusalem. Then Jerusalem will be called the City of Truth, and the mountain of the Lord Almighty will be called the Holy Mountain”’ (8:2–3).
The Lord Almighty speaks of an amazing future for God’s people. There is peace, harmony, prosperity, joy and truth. Both for the people back then, and for us now, some of these blessings are for now, and some are not yet. God says, ‘now I will not deal with the remnant of the people as I did in the past’ (v.11), and ‘now I have determined to do good again to Jerusalem and Judah’ (v.15).
You experience many blessings now through your connection to Christ, but some blessings you will only experience in full measure in the future, in the new heaven and the new earth.
However, right now we are to work to bring this blessing into being: ‘O Judah and Israel, so will I save you, and you will be a blessing. Do not be afraid, but let your hands be strong’ (v.13).
For example, God is concerned for everyone whatever their age. We too should be concerned for both old and young: ‘Once again men and women of ripe old age will sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each of them with a cane in hand because of their age. The city streets will be filled with boys and girls playing there’ (vv.4–5).
Again, God is concerned for truth and peace, and so we too must be concerned for these things: ‘These are the things you are to do: Speak the truth to each other, and render true and sound judgments in your courts; do not plot evil against your neighbour, and do not love to swear falsely… Therefore love truth and peace’ (vv.16–19).
Above all, God is concerned that as many people as possible experience the blessing of his presence. You are to be a blessing to those around you who do not yet know God through Christ, and a pointer to God through your actions and your words. When others see the difference that God makes, they will be drawn to him. ‘This is what the Lord Almighty says: “In those days ten people from all languages and nations will take firm hold of one Jew by the hem of his robe and say, ‘Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you.’”’ (v.23).
When you are desperate to be a channel of God’s love, justice and blessing, then others will come to know God’s presence.
Lord, we are desperate for you. Please fill your church with your presence. Help us to be a place that ministers to the poor and needy, and a place of truth and peace, where people bring their friends and family because they have heard that ‘God is with you’.
‘Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.’
Let God search our hearts, as we can deceive ourselves. I have many anxious thoughts but God knows them all. I need to hand them over, let go and allow him to guide me.
Verse of the Day
‘Mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance’ (Jude 2).
Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.
Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group. Unless otherwise stated.