Last weekend, I was out in nature with my husband, Matt, and our girls. We love to hike and explore as a family. There are no distractions, but plenty to do. Nature allows us to connect with each other and with God. I feel His presence, as if He is exploring right beside us, whispering direction and words of excitement in my ear. He nudges Matt and I to recognize the teaching moments with our girls and every opportunity to laugh together.
I see God’s beautiful creations surrounding us and I get swept away in His love. The trees, some are young saplings while others are strong and towering pillars above. The light and shadows from the sun breaking through the canopy. The river, so still and calm in one place and raging over rocks in others. I hear and feel the wind soft and cool on my face. The birds sing, setting the tone for our adventure and calmly warning others of our presence. My senses are firing, and the awareness I have for life outside of my daily routine is refreshing for my soul. I have complete recognition that God surrounds, seeing that his creations are good, and strengthens the bonds we are making with each other. This is an experience beyond compare.
John 1:3-5 (MSG)
Everything was created through Him;
nothing—not one thing!—
came into being without Him.
What came into existence was Life,
and the Life was Light to live by.
The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness;
the darkness couldn’t put it out.
Standing in this beauty, I feel pulled out of the darkness. I feel free and untouchable by life’s chaos. I know that nature brings me close to God and the Light. I have come to nature knowing I want to soak in God’s love and presence. To “recharge” so to speak. There is fault in this reality. I came to nature in search of God, as if I feel He has been gone from me. I came and breathed deep, feeling recentered. I feel this way walking into our church home as well. The reality I see is that I have strayed from God. I didn’t search Him out to “recharge” as well as I thought I had in my daily life. I didn’t stop to enjoy his creations around my home and work. His creations are there, and so is he. I just haven’t been seeking Him out with my whole heart.
Deuteronomy 4:29 (ESV)
29 But from there you will seek the Lord your God
and you will find him, if you search after him
with all your heart and with all your soul.
Jeremiah 29:13 (NRSV)
When you search for me, you will find me;
if you seek me with all your heart,
God is omnipresent, meaning He is everywhere all the time. His amazing creations are the reminders he gives us to center on Him. That means that I find God in nature, not God that finds me. I put away the distractions and commitments. I looked for God and was truly seeking Him with my whole heart. I found Him!
Enjoying my time away and digging deeper lead to a question I hope you all strive to find the answer to. How can I come close to an omnipresent God in my everyday life? God has given us free choice, and God has given us Jesus’ example to live by, so, as a sinner, how do I SEEK GOD IN THE DAILY GRIND?
Psalm 139 English Standard Version (ESV)
Search Me, O God, and Know My Heart
To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.
1 O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
3 You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
4 Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
5 You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it.
7 Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
9 If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light about me be night,”
12 even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with you.
13 For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
I awake, and I am still with you.
19 Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God!
O men of blood, depart from me!
20 They speak against you with malicious intent;
your enemies take your name in vain.
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord?
And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?
22 I hate them with complete hatred;
I count them my enemies.
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
24 And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!
To be present, we have to understand the “how” behind the action. I cannot simply wake-up and say, “Today I will be present in my bible study time and I will meet with God before and above all other distraction.” Trust me sweet women, I have tried this. Better yet, I have tried it, it hasn’t worked, yet I continue to try the same old thing. It’s there some saying about the same action produces the same results… Anyway, Dictionary.com defines “presence” as: 1. the state or fact of being present; 2. attendance or company; 3. immediate vicinity or proximity. That’s a lot for me to process, so I’m going to digest this (nurse lingo) one piece at a time.
Disclosure: These are NOT the only correct expansions on each definition. I challenge each of you to think through and pray through each of these to find what God’s wants to communicate to you about presence.
Let’s start by discussing “the state or fact of being present” as it relates to seeking God. HOW can we do this? In your mind, where can you always go to find God? For me that is nature, so I’ll continue with nature in mind. Last weekend, I knew I would find God because I intentionally and physically moved away from life’s chaos. “Oh great,” you’re thinking, “I can’t just haul off into the wilderness daily.” Or can you? I know how to find God. I shut off the distraction and seek him with my whole heart. Expanding… I make time to seek him before, after, or when life’s chaos hasn’t started, is over for the day, or is too much to handle without reaching for God. I push everything else from my mind, from my sight, from my ear shot, and SEEK him through prayer.
Matthew 6:5-13 (NIV)
5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites,
for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and
on the street corners to be seen by others.
Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.
6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the
door and pray to your Father, who is unseen.
Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret,
will reward you.
7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like
pagans, for they think they will be heard because
of their many words.
8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what
you need before you ask him.
9 “This, then, is how you should pray:
“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.
This isn’t the only way to pray, but it is a place to start when you’re new to praying. Sometimes I am silent for several minutes before I even speak a word in prayer, sometimes I never speak, and sometimes I can only repeat, “Jesus,” “Thy will be done,” “Lead me,” “Help me,” “Thank you,” “I am yours,” “Protect us,” or “Provider.” I pray for people by simply speaking or thinking their name. God knows their heart and their needs far better than I. I also pray for specifics such as healing, peace, joy, happiness, or revelations. Are you getting the picture here? There is no wrong way to pray!!! Unless we are not doing it. A relationships fizzles without communication. Communicate with God.
Second, we need to be in “attendance or company” with God. I would also say we are to be in attendance or company with fellow believers that encourage our relationship with God. Yes, this is the where I share with you the importance of finding the church home God is calling you to. Not just any church will do. It has to be the church God plants you in. In the case of the Manaugh’s, it took nearly SEVEN YEARS to join the church we can confidently say God has called us to. Guess what, we attended eight churches, some once and some for several months, before we were lead to our church home. God spent seven years growing our faith, listening to our prayers, and watching us quit in frustration before leading us to our church. One thing is certain with God, His will is done in His time. Our job is to communicate with Him and keep following His lead.
Finally, presence is being in the “immediate vicinity or proximity” of God. Well, finally an easy one. He is always right beside us and our actions, our seeking, our anger towards Him, our disbelief, or our good deeds do not ensure that. God does. Take heart my friends, no matter what you’ve done, God is with you. No matter who you’ve hurt, God is with you. No matter your sins, God is with you. You need only to seek Him.
Acts 17:24, 27 (NIV)
God did this so that they would seek Him
and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him,
though He is not far from any one of us.
Father God, thank you so much for each reader that is continually striving to seek you. I know, as a sinner, that this is not an easy task with life’s chaos. Lord, please help us to get to the state of being present with you. Allow our racing thoughts, commitments, and deadlines fall away so that we may seek you with our whole heart. Father, I pray that you lead each person the church home they are to be planted in. In the waiting, let them grow and serve where you have called them for this season. Finally God, thank you so much for never leaving us. I’m am so thankful to have you always near, no matter my actions, thoughts, or words. Lord grant those praying with me peace in know that you hold them in the palm of your hand and love them so deeply that you gave your Son for our sins. I am so grateful for your unending mercy and grace. In your name we pray. Amen.