Tag Archives: God’s nearness

Stay Present my Friends

And now, O Lord, for what do I wait?  My hope is in you. Psalm  39:7

“What do you think?” a voice interrupts your thoughts.

Suddenly you’re brought back to the present. Your spouse, your child, your friend has been sharing something important, but you were thinking about what was next on your never ending to-do list. You have no idea what they just said.  Busted!

On another occasion you miss a magical moment on your family vacation because you’re dwelling on a regret from your past.

God has given us five sense to bring awareness of His creation around us.  These senses are available now, not yesterday, not tomorrow,  but now.

What are some of your favorites when it comes to your senses?

For me:

Sight:  Sunset or sunrise over water or mountains

Sound:  Water rushing past rocks in a mountain stream

Smell:  Tea olive, gardenias

Touch:  Sea breeze, fall wind in my face, soft sheets

Taste:  Chocolate pie, dark coffee

When we savor now, we’re enjoying  a gift from God. A lady on a plane once told me that’s why now is called the present.

There’s an old movie entitled “Our Town” which drives this point home.

One of the characters named, Emily, dies while giving birth to a child. However, she is permitted by the stage manager to revisit the past and to step back into the morning of her twentieth birthday as an observer.

From her vantage point, she has a profoundly nostalgic appreciation of the transient beauty of life’s little moments. However, she is struck by how the people, including her younger self, don’t have a clue how precious the moments of life really are. She is stunned that nobody savors and fully appreciates “now”. They all seem so disengaged. Later she would say of the living, “They don’t understand.”

“Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead,”[1] Paul

“So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”[2] Jesus

God doesn’t want us to be imprisoned by the regrets of our past nor fears of our future. He wants us to be present with Him moment by moment.

Jesus tells us in John 15 to “abide” in Him. Other meanings of this word are to “tarry” or “stay present with.” Jesus goes on to say in the same chapter that there is complete joy found in “staying present” in His love and loving others as He has loved us.

Staying present with Jesus is essential to our Spiritual lives and it leads to experiencing and savoring life’s moments. Otherwise, life quickly passes us by.

Challenge:  Take notice of what you see and hear right this moment. Do you smell anything? Perhaps you’re drinking a cup of coffee and feel a gentle breeze upon your face like I’m experiencing as I write.

What tends to call you away from being fully present? Is it a looming duty, a past regret, a worry about the future? Whatever it is robs you of fully embracing the gift of now. Give these things to God and don’t take them back.

The people in our lives are loved and cared for during life’s “nows”. In an instant our present moments become memories. When we savor our times with the people God places in our path there’s a richness which touches our hearts and slows the swirl of life.

But what’s most important is being present with God. We are indwelt by the Holy Spirit of Jesus and we are never alone. God is in us and around us. We are in Him and He is in us.

Tarry, remain, abide in Jesus. His presence is experienced now.

In your presence is fullness of joy. Psalm 16:11 b

 

[1] Philippians 3:13

[2] Matthew 6:34

Running to your Love

 The Lord your God is in your midst;  he is a warrior who can deliver.  He takes great delight in you;  he renews you by his love; he shouts for joy over you.” Zephaniah 3:17 (NET)

Can You Come Play?

During a recent trip to Walmart, I had a delightful surprise. I was in ”get-er-done” mode, wheeling my buggy toward the area I hoped I’d find camping chairs, when my Fitbit informed me I had a call. Looking down and seeing it was my daughter, I tapped my blue tooth and answered it. But it wasn’t my daughter, it was my four year old grandson. “Can you come play?” he asked.

If you’ve reached the stage in life where you’ve been blessed with grandchildren, you understand how his question made me feel. My heart absolutely over flowed with love for him.

There’s a different dimension of love I’ve experienced with our five grandkids. We don’t love them more than our children, just differently. Without the responsibility of direct parenting, I feel freer to love. In fact, in a very real sense grandkids help me experience the moments of life more fully and God’s love more deeply.

God’s Love

The next day in church, there was a phrase in one of the songs about running to God’s love. It’s a great concept, but understanding God’s continual open arms to us can be extremely hard to grasp. Speaking of Christ’s love, Paul prays we might comprehend its vastness and know this love which surpasses knowledge. With our limited minds, this picture of unending, unchangeable love can only be believed by faith, especially in light of our human failings.

When I think of how I’ve disappointed God, seeds of doubt creep in. Are his arms still open? Does he still desire our embrace?

Pop’s Love

What love I experienced when my grandson called me! If I wasn’t an hour and fifteen minutes away, I’d have driven straight there. And even with the distance, surprising him crossed my mind. Being “Pop” to my grandchildren has expanded my heart to measures I didn’t expect, but my love for them is a mere shadow compared to God’s love for me.

Expanding My Concept of love

When we think of our children or grandchildren, and really ponder our love for them, we can understand a deeper dimension of God’s love. Those closest to us can cause the deepest pain, but no matter what a child or grandchild does, would I ever refuse their desire to run into my arms?

Challenge:

Close your eyes and picture God holding out his arms to you for a running embrace.  Is there a hesitation? If so, what are you afraid of? Whatever it is, it’s a lie.

 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 8:38-39 (NASB)

Prayer:

Lord, thank you for giving me a picture of your love for me, when I think of my grandchildren. Allowing me to be a grandfather helps me understand your love for me even more.

But sometimes there’s a “disconnect” in my heart. Your love is true. Like the Father in the story of the prodigal son, you have open arms for all your children. Whether we’ve been in the distant lands of false affections or striving to earn your love at home, your love never fails.

Your arms are always open and you delight in us running to you. In fact, when you see us running to you, because we are in Christ, you see your Son.

Finding the Silver Lining

(Every cloud has a silver lining – John Milton)

 Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.

(II Corinthians 1:9)

 My boss Frank called at 6:00 am. Slurring his words, he told me he couldn’t teach the computer class our client so desperately needed. He’d been out all night partying. “You’ll have to teach it,” he said.

“But I’ve never taught the class before, Frank,” I strongly protested.  Frank mumbled something and hung up.

Placing the phone down, reality swept through my still groggy mind. This was an impossible situation. I was gripped with a wave of panic. I could either crawl back in bed and quit my only source of income, or teach a three day class covering subjects I barely knew.

Though my chances of success were very slim. I had to try and teach it. My wife and four kids were depending on me.

Later, riding the elevator to the class room on the tenth floor, I prayed. “Lord, you have to do this. I’ll do what I can and open my mouth, but please teach this class through me.”

During every break, I crammed to prepare for the next segment. I kept my Bible opened to the Psalms, jotting down prayers for guidance.

Three days later the class was over. By God’s grace, no one knew it was my first time teaching  it. And amazingly, the marks were good on the evaluation sheets the 23 students had to fill out. God taught this class through me and He was the only reason it was successful.

Month’s earlier, I  prayed for God to help me trust Him more. Looking back, I think this was his answer. The only way I could learn to not rely on me, was to be placed in a situation I couldn’t handle. I learned more about trusting God in those few days than I had in years before.

Paul wrote, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”[1]

“Good” is not just smooth circumstances and good feelings. True “good,” eternal “good” is wrapped up in our nearness and dependence upon God.

Paul was in such dire circumstances in Asia that he despaired even of life.[2] But he saw the “silver lining”.[3]  He knew there was a deeper good in his very hard circumstances. “Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.”[4] The very difficult circumstances kept Paul trusting in the Lord and not in himself.

But as for me, the nearness of God is my good;[5]

A most important lesson we all need to learn is that “good” does not always mean easy. What is truly “good” is what draws us closer to God.

Blessings can come in strange packages.

Our ability to find a silver lining (a reason for hope) in each and every situation is directly proportional to our belief that being with God and depending on Him is our ultimate good.

Lord, I’m so sorry for the times I have longed only for smooth, easy circumstances. I’m learning to experience the joy of your presence in all circumstances. Please teach me to long only for you. You are my life.

 

Challenge: What hard circumstance are you facing? If you haven’t already, surrender it completely to God. Ask him to use it for your good by deepening your awareness and dependence upon Him.

[1] Romans 8:28

[2] 2 Corinthians 1:8

[3] Originally from a John Milton poem referring to light bursting through a cloud, yielding the phrase “every cloud has a silver lining”

[4] 2 Corinthians 1:9

[5] Psalms 73:28

Game Changer

But as for me, the nearness of God is my good.

Psalms 73:28

In 2003, Brad Pyatt was an undrafted rookie wide receiver for the Indianapolis Colts. When his career ended, he would have a total of three catches for 14 yards. However, what Pyatt did one evening that year became the turning point in what many call the greatest comeback in NFL history.

The Colts were playing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday Night Football. The Buccaneers were the previous year’s Super Bowl winners and a team touting the league’s number one defense.

With five minutes to go in the game, the Buccaneers scored, giving them an unsurmountable 35-14 lead. Tony Dungy, the Colt’s head coach, was considering pulling Peyton Manning and the rest of his starters to save them from injury. However, when Pyatt took the kick-off from two yards deep in the end zone to the Tampa Bay 12 yard line, the course of the game shifted.

With such great field position, the starters went back out and quickly scored. The Colt’s defense, now infused with courage, stiffened. The Bucs could not make a first down and were forced to punt. The Colts quickly scored again making the score 35-28 with only a couple of minutes left on the clock.

They successfully recovered an onside kick and the home crowd became deathly silent, sensing a miracle comeback. The visitors scored another touchdown with 30 seconds remaining, tying the game and sending the contest into a ‘Sudden Death’ overtime. The Colt’s completed an improbable comeback by kicking a field goal which bounced off the goal post and through, beating the Buccaneer’s 38-35.

Pyatt’s game changing kickoff return paved the way for his team to score three touchdowns in less than five minutes, reversing the outcome of the game.

That was sports. How about life? If we believe God is our good and live it out, it’s a game changer for our whole life. In fact, it changes everything.

Consider the fact that God is our Exceeding Great Reward[1] and the answer to all our hopes and dreams. What if, like Asaph in Psalm 73:28, you declared, “But as for me, the nearness of God is my good.”

There are so many lesser “goods” which compete for our attention: checking through our to-do list, accumulating possessions, fighting for smooth circumstances. What if we could honestly say that being with God was our good; and we believed it? How would this change the moments of our day?

I believe we would accomplish what needs to be done, but would enjoy the process and the people much more than the achievements. Since God is around us and in us, closer than breathe, we would be good because He is good.

Since his presence brings us fullness of joy,[2] His nearness infuses delight into every word and every deed along the way.

Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth. 

Psalms 73:25

Lord, I believe Your nearness is my good, teach me to live this out in every moment of my life.

Amen.

 

[1] Genesis 15:1 NKJV

[2] Psalm 16:11

Near to the Broken Hearted

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.  Psalm 34:18

Whether we know it or not, we all suffer from a broken heart. Knowing this is the first step towards healing. But how we choose to mend it is the key to whether we are comforted and eventually healed or whether our hearts are broken further.

We were designed for God’s nearness. Our hearts were created to be filled with His presence. We had it once, in Eden before the fall. We were fully dependent upon Him and we lived in continually enjoyment of His closeness.  But, in Adam, we wanted to be our own god. We chose to disobey, causing the tabernacle of God to be ripped out of our hearts.

We enter life thirsty and empty, searching for what we once had; God Himself.

In Luke chapter 4, starting with verse 16, we read that Jesus entered the synagogue in His hometown. He picked up the book of Isaiah and reading about Himself, He said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted.”

One of Jesus’ purposes is to heal the broken hearted, to bind up and comfort our crushed and bruised hearts; hearts longing for God; hearts broken by disappointments, betrayals and death.

Paul calls Jesus the God of all comfort, who comfort us in all of our afflictions so that we will be able to comfort others. [1]  But how does He comfort us? He comforts us by being with us. The word comfort literally means to come along side, to be near, to be with.

How does God heal our broken hearts? By being with us. Ours is to be aware of His nearness and to depend upon Him moment by moment. When this happens we receive the oil of gladness. [2] Our hearts begin to heal and we can literally be full of joy in the Lord, no matter what is whirling around us. Jesus heals our broken hearts by being the Lord of our hearts.

God Himself is our Exceeding Great Reward. His nearness is our joy, our strength, our peace, our hope, our courage, our healing.

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted

 

Lord, your nearness heals us. I open my heart fully to your presence. Teach me how to be aware of you in the moments of my life and teach me to love you with my whole heart.

[1] 2nd Corinthians 1:4

[2] Isaiah 61:3