Overwhelmed with the presence of God

It has been awhile since I have posted here.  I realize that it is a technical mistake to not continually post – especially if one wants to keep those following as a follower.  I appreciate those who have messaged me or spoke with me in some way that I needed to write.  That’s always so encouraging… thank you!

So, why have I not been writing? It began at the start of Lent.  After reading, Wonderstruck, about Margaret Feinberg‘s experience around Lent, I decided that this year I would take those days leading up to Easter to focus.  And focus is what I did! I sat down to write several times but each time I felt like my focus was being divided.

Matthew 6:33 was the basis for my focus.  I began praying around these words of Jesus, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.”  I researched the Bible and prayed with the focus of God’s Kingdom and His righteousness.  As I began praying, I realized how self-centered my prayer life had become.  My praying over the years had become about the later part of Matthew 6:33, “…and all these things will be given to you as well.”  I realized I had been seeking “things” rather than seeking God.  My relationship had become about the physical over the spiritual-love-life that God so desires to have with His people.

“If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied withgetting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. (Matthew 6:30-33, The Message).

At the beginning of Lent, there was a lot of things that came up against me and my family.  I was beginning to wonder if what I had began to do was the right thing or not.  I pressed on!  With each obstacle, I spoke to God and prayed with His Kingdom and His righteousness as my focus.  I did not ever pray about the specific issues that came up.  I trusted the words of Jesus to seek first His Kingdom.

I write in a journal most days.  That journal at times becomes a list of stuff I am wanting God to bless me with.  I begin praying about those things and neglect intimately seeking God.  Think with me for a moment about your best friend.  Do you have them in mind? OK, now imagine every time you see them instead of talking with them you ask them for something.  Not ever once inquiring about their life or thinking about their needs, etc.  All you want out of them is something they can give you.  How long do you think you are going to have that relationship if it is only based on you asking them of something?  It’s not going to be much of a relationship is it?

If all we have are lists of things we are praying about – where is the relationship with God? 

During Lent, I came to realize my past “comfort” was found in praying over my problems rather than finding real comfort from the Holy Spirit.  Because the Holy Spirit is at work around us, all of the time, God knows what we need.  We don’t have to “worry” our prayers before God over those things.  He truly desires for us to live in freedom rather than fear.  I found freedom this year in knowing God.  I am so thankful for the work of the Holy Spirit in my life.  I am thankful for this time of Lent.  I am thankful for a renewed passion for love I have for God.  I am thankful for all the Holy Spirit has done in the past couple of months.  I am amazed and so blessed.  I can honestly say with great passion and grace I have been Wonderstruck by God.

Advertisements

I will pursue You

Give my lifeToday is Ash Wednesday and marks the beginning of Lent.  It is a time that many Christians take to prepare themselves leading up to the celebration of Easter.  I have heard of those who are giving up things like chocolate, Facebook, Coke, or some other daily habit during this time.

Lent is not something my church tradition has observed.  But I have grown increasingly curious to look at it more the past couple of years.  After reading Margaret Feinberg‘s book, Wonderstruck, I have decided to take the next 40 days as a time to focus my prayer life.

Margaret writes about how she fell in love with this time of Lent.  She talks about God leading her to give up prayer… at least prayer in the form that she had grown accustomed – lengthy prayers.  God had instructed her to shorten her prayers to three words.  Imagine that!  Condensing every prayer down to three words.  I don’t know if my brain has the vocabulary or creativity to accomplish that kind of prayer.

During Lent, I’m not going to cut my prayers down to three words but I am going to cut out praying for my personal needs over the next 40 days.  Jesus says in Matthew 6:33, “Seek first God’s kingdom and what God wants. Then all your other needs will be met as well.” (New Century Version).  I’ve been noticing how much my praying is focused on me… my needs… my wants… I have made prayer about me and not about Jesus.Your presence

Jesus says if we will seek God’s kingdom first – what He wants – THEN our other needs will be met.  It seems like I have had my prayer life backward.  Praying for my needs and not necessarily seeking first God’s kingdom.  Over the next 40 days I want to grow closer to God and I want to get to know Him on a deeper level in the power of His Holy Spirit through prayer.

Oswald Chambers states,

The goal of my spiritual life is such close identification with Jesus Christ that I will always hear God and know that God always hears me (see John 11:41). If I am united with Jesus Christ, I hear God all the time through the devotion of hearing. A flower, a tree, or a servant of God may convey God’s message to me. What hinders me from hearing is my attention to other things. It is not that I don’t want to hear God, but I am not devoted in the right areas of my life. I am devoted to things and even to service and my own convictions. (My Utmost for His Highest, February 13).

Over the next 40 days I want my life to be marked by being devoted to the right things.  To the pursuit of walking in His presence.  How are you going to spend these days leading up to the celebration of Easter?

Why do you pray?

In the words of Oswald Chambers, “The purpose of prayer is that we get ahold of God, not of the answer.”  So, why do you pray?

Prayer is a powerful weapon and tool for those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God.  The goal of prayer is not that we get something. Or that we hear from God is some way.  The goal of prayer is that we grow closer to God and with His Son, Jesus.  That’s it.  Matthew writes in the New Testament, “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.” (New Living Translation, Matthew 6:33).

I recall working for UPS while in Seminary.  I loaded package cars for delivery in Fort Worth, TX.  Those packages would come down the belt to my slide… and they would come fast!  It would get overwhelming most mornings.  Everytime I would stop and look at how bad I was backed up that feeling would come over me like I will never get this done.  I would overcome this by looking at the package that was right at my finger tips.  One package at a time and I would get it done.  It wasn’t by reaching beyond what I could do but by taking ahold of the package right before me. 

If I can encourage you with one thing today, I would say to you, get close to the Lord.  Don’t worry about that thing that is beyond your control or grasp.  Look to God and pray in Jesus name.  Seek first His Kingdom and he will help you with the rest.  In this moment look to Him and rest assured of His love.  Pray in order to get ahold of God and not the answer.

My best for His glory

2013: Day 1.2013

New things bring about fresh excitement. A New car, a new house, a new job, a new relationship, and a New Year all bring about this fresh excitement. Today being January 1, all of us are probably going to make some sort of commitments to change. We are going to live better-healthier lives by joining the gym, start running, lose weight… the list goes on and on. Maybe for you it is not to get fit physically but rather to be fit spiritually. Both are important. Both can bring about healthier living and greater enjoyment of life.

I have my own, not so little, list of things I want to accomplish in this New Year. I’ve gone over this page -or so of notes in my journal – and the goal of everything on it is ultimately to be closer to God in some way. I want to surrender each point on my list to the will of God. I want to make this year – the year of looking up. I want this to be the year that Oswald Chambers would say, “My determined purpose is to be my utmost for His highest— my best for His glory.” This will start as I look up – from my knees – in prayer… Seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.

As you begin this New Year, and you focus on the spiritual aspect of your life, don’t forget the fact your decision to follow Jesus or not will have ramifications on those you love the most. Your decision will affect, either way, those you are around on a daily basis. It’s a choice you make. You can’t ignore the fact that if you choose not to make bold commitments for the Lord today you will be delaying or hindering the blessings that He wants to work through you for the sake of those around you – for His glory.

My choice this year is to:

  1. Look up
  2. Daily open my eyes to God’s wonder all around me
  3. Seize every opportunity to encounter God
  4. To be my utmost for His highest – my best for His glory

What do you choose for yourself as you start 2013? Is it for your glory? Or is it for His glory?

Look up and open your eyes…

I have been captivated by Margaret Feinberg’s new book Wonderstruck. Many other people have been too. It has barely been out a week and it’s already into the 2nd printing!! Before its release on Christmas day, I received an advanced copy of three chapters. The timing for me to read these chapters were definitely God ordained. And I believe God has inspired Margaret to write this book for such a time as this. I’m excited to start 2013 with Wonderstruck.

We are living in a time where the pressures of this world are very over-whelming. So many people I have talked with have lost their joy, their focus, the understanding of their purpose, and the wonder of God. I’m thankful I haven’t lost my job, my house, or anything like so many others have. I can say that other circumstances in life, both, past and present, have had me extremely over-burdened. These things have worked over-time to take the life right out of me for the past few years.

Last month, I was out for a fall run on Pine Mountain. I started out with one thing in mind… to get near to God and for things to change within my life. I am so glad I took the time to listen to God that day. I am thankful I am able to share with you some of the images from the pictures I took. God was speaking to me in ways I didn’t fully comprehend. I’m confident that God is not finished with what he began in me.

As I move into the year 2013, I have adopted one sentence from Wonderstruck that will be my life theme for the coming year.

God invites us to look up, open our eyes to the wonder all around us, and seize every opportunity to encounter him. (Margaret Feinberg, Wonderstruck, 27).

As I ran on the trail I stopped to take this photograph. Pine Mountain in the shadowsI began to run again and God whispered to me, “Stop and look up.” The sight was beautiful. What I saw were these leaves with the bright blue sky as the back drop. God had painted this beautiful canvas all around me. But it was in the invitation to look up that I really began to understand what his desire has been for me.

I have had my eyes focused on my journey, focused on my surroundings, focused on the darkness, focused on the past and ignoring the moment. His purpose and plan for my life and for your life is far greater than anything either one of us could imagine on our own. Pine Mountain Look Up

This moment is his. His invitation is for us to look up and open our eyes to the wonder all around us. He is all around us. He is inviting us to experience him beyond what we can see. He wants us to seize this moment. He wants us to take the hill and conquer this life and allow ourselves to encounter him.

Our battles are first won or lost in the secret places of our will in God’s presence, never in full view of the world. The Spirit of God seizes me and I am compelled to get alone with God and fight the battle before Him. Until I do this, I will lose every time. The battle may take one minute or one year, but that will depend on me, not God. (Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, December 27).

As I look forward to this new year of 2013, my prayer is to get to know God in a fresh and new way… to encounter him. I pray you will also embark on this same journey to encounter him too. He is inviting all of his people to, look up, open our eyes to the wonder all around us, and seize every opportunity to encounter him.

Surrender

Waving the white flag of surrender today…

I want to give up all of my past, my hopes, my plans, my dreams, my future… everything!  I want to lay it all down and surrender. 

Before they ever landed in a prison for their faith they made a decision to surrender to Jesus Christ.  Maybe that’s one reason why they could sing praises in the midst of their situation.  They had already surrendered to Jesus long before they surrendered to those who imprisoned them.

Surrender.  “To give (oneself) up into the power of another especially as a prisoner.”  Surrender doesn’t come too easy for me.  I seem to want to continue to fight on my own terms.  I pray a pretty good game. But if my prayer life is just a game then what good is it?  At times, my prayer-life seems to be lacking surrender… total commitment.  When I pray for myself and/or for others I seem to interject my own selfish twist.

An example we have to follow is found in Matthew 26:39-42 is of Jesus praying with total surrender.

39Going a little ahead, he fell on his face, praying, “My Father, if there is any way, get me out of this. But please, not what I want. You, what do you want?”

40-41When he came back to his disciples, he found them sound asleep. He said to Peter, “Can’t you stick it out with me a single hour? Stay alert; be in prayer so you don’t wander into temptation without even knowing you’re in danger. There is a part of you that is eager, ready for anything in God. But there’s another part that’s as lazy as an old dog sleeping by the fire.”

42He then left them a second time. Again he prayed, “My Father, if there is no other way than this, drinking this cup to the dregs, I’m ready. Do it your way.” (The Message).

I typically pray, “If there is any way, get me out of this…” Then find myself asleep like the disciples.

It’s not just in prayer but throughout life we are faced with decisions and choices we must make.  Our choice: To live a life surrendered to the will of God or to live for ourselves.

 Oh, the city’s afire
A passionate flame
It knows me by name
Oh, the city’s desire
To take me for more and more
It’s in the street, getting under my feet
It’s in the air, it’s everywhere
I look for you
It’s in the things I do and say
If I wanna live I gotta
Die to myself someday (“Surrender” lyrics by U2)

Fear: Profound reverence and awe toward God

Do you ever feel afraid?  Do certain things, circumstances, or people strike fear within you?

When you find yourself fearful – do you set up your surroundings in order to protect yourself?  Fear can lead to a negative or a positive emotion.  Fear is necessary for one to display courage.  “Courage is the willingness to act in spite of your fear.” Michael Hyatt.

Fear is defined by Meriam-Webster as an, “unpleasant often strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger.”  Another definition is, “profound reverence and awe especially toward God.”  I think we all experience fear to some degree in our lives.  I know when I’m out on a long bicycle ride the last thing I want to do is to experience a dog… that fear I have of being bitten can be overwhelming.  The fear I want to focus on today is the fear of God, “profound reverence and awe especially toward God.”

I’ve realized fear can be exhibited in a couple of ways.  One is the fear that leads to becoming self-absorbed… to the point of not being able to move (bondage).  The other fear is built on what I listed above, “profound reverence and awe especially toward God.”  This fear of God leads down the path of freedom.

I want to walk the path of freedom.  To choose freedom is to choose to trust God in all things.  It is reverence and awe I have for God that enables me to be able to lay down my fears on His altar.

Psalm 128:1-2, 4 in The Message states,

All you who fear God, how blessed you are! how happily you walk on his smooth straight road!2 You worked hard and deserve all you’ve got coming. Enjoy the blessing! Revel in the goodness! 4 Stand in awe of God’s Yes. Oh, how he blesses the one who fears God!

Choose today to stand in awe of God.  Take this moment now to thank Him for His goodness.  My prayer for you today is you will be amazed by God and that you will walk in great faith in His power.