If this video doesn’t play, click here.
One of the things that writing every day has done for me is that it has improved my relationship with Christ. In the early days of writing, I would keep a list of topics in my phone that I could write on at a moment’s notice. Some days I would get up, look at that list and draw a blank. Panic would ensue. I began losing sleep because I was always trying to think of what to write about. I shared that with William Paul Young who encouraged me to go to God every day with an empty bucket asking Him to fill it. I learned to seek God in the process, to hear His voice, to study the Bible better and to find daily bread. It became less about what I could write about and more of what God could show me. I haven’t visited that topic list since.
After Jesus fed the 5,000+, He walked on the water to the disciples. The next day, the people He fed searched for Him and found Him. He told them that they on,y sought Him out because they were searching for another miracle, but He wasn’t happy with that. They then referred to Moses who gave the people manna in the desert, and asked Jesus for another miracle. He reminded them that the manna was from God and not Moses. They then asked Him for Heavenly bread to which He replied, “I am the Bread of Life. Come every day to me and you will never be hungry. Believe in me and you will never be thirsty” (TPT John 6:35). Just like the Israelites had to get fresh manna daily, Jesus was requiring us to get a fresh word from Him daily.
I grew up living Sunday to Sunday, sermon to sermon as my spiritual bread. It was good, but I wasn’t satisfied because we aren’t meant to only eat manna once a week. Jesus bids us to come to Him daily, to sit at His feet, to be still and to listen. We need to come with an empty plate, not seeking the spectacular, but the daily bread He offers. It’s difficult at times because of schedules and distractions, but I’ve learned to approach Jesus with the attitude that I’m not going to get up from the table until He’s given me fresh bread. Some days it comes right out of the oven hot and fresh. Other days I have to wait for hours. Christianity was not meant to be lived week to week. It’s a daily walk with God that you and I must be disciplined to do. I can promise you that if you will open His Word each and every day, asking Him to give you daily bread, He will do it.
When I was younger, I would go to the library and check out “Where’s Waldo” books. It provided page after page of hard searches. I would spend lots of time scouring the pages to see if I could find him with that red and white striped beanie. There were always distractions and decoys to throw me off. When I couldn’t find him, I would start at the top left and work across to the right, looking at every face in there going from top to bottom. Sometimes it was easy to find him, and other times I really had to search. There were even times when I required the help of others to make my search successful. It taught me to seek and to search and to not give up when it didn’t happen right away.
The Bible tells us over and over to seek God’s face. Sometimes it can feel like a Where’s Waldo book. How can I seek the face of God when I can’t see Him? But there’s a promise in Jeremiah 29:13. It says, “You will seek me, and you will find me because you will seek me with all your heart” (GNT). When I can’t seem to find Him in my seeking, I wonder if I gave up too early or of I searched for Waldo longer than I searched for God. Unlike Waldo, God wants to be found. He reveals Himself to us, but we must seek Him with all of our heart. Our desire to find Him, to know Him and to hear from Him has to be stronger than our desire to do other things. God is able to be found when we’re seeking Him wholeheartedly.
Psalm 27:8 says, “Lord, when you said to me, ‘Seek my face,’ my inner being responded, ‘I’m seeking your face with all my heart.’” God is worthy of us seeking Him with our whole heart. That means we cut out distractions, open His Word, spend quiet time in His presence and ask to see Him. I’m often guilty of seeking His hand to provide for my needs rather than His face so I can see Him. There’s a lot of debate about what does it mean to “seek God’s face”. I think it means to search for His recognizable attributes. If you seek those, you will discover more of who God is. He’s not hiding from those who seek Him, but He can only be found when we’re searching and looking for Him. He’s calling each of us to seek Him. Like the author of the Psalm, we must reply, “I’m seeking you with my whole heart.” Pray today that God would open your eyes to see Him as you seek Him.
One of the things I like to collect is autographs. I don’t like to buy them unless the person has passed or doesn’t do public signings. I prefer buying a ticket, getting in line and then meeting the person I’m getting the autograph from. When Jeff Bagwell was inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame, I went to get his autograph. He was very introverted, which doesn’t work around me. I noticed he never looked up at anyone he was signing for. So when it was my turn, I put the ball on the table, got down on my knees and looked up at him from the floor. We made eye contact and he laughed. He asked what I was doing and I told him I just wanted to see him and say hello. We chatted for a few seconds and I was ushered away. I got a different experience than everyone else that day because I got in from of his face.
I believe approaching God is very similar. Many of us pray or go to church. We’re in His presence, but we don’t get in front of His face. We’re content to be in the same room, but we’re missing the personal encounter with Him. When the Bible uses the word presence referring to God, it’s talking about face time with Him. He’s omnipresent meaning He’s everywhere. You’re always in His presence, but we’re rarely in front of His face. That takes us getting on our knees, humbling ourselves, pressing in, being intentional or blocking everything else out to do. Being in His presence, seeking face time with Him, is something we should strive for each and every day. Don’t just be aware of God’s presence, be in it today and let it change you.
Here are some Bible verses on being in God’s presence.
1. Seek and deeply long for the LORD and His strength [His power, His might]; Seek and deeply long for His face and His presence continually.
Psalms 105:4 AMP
2. Because you are close to me and always available, my confidence will never be shaken, for I experience your wrap-around presence every moment.
Psalms 16:8 TPT
3. And so I walk in the presence of the Lord in the world of the living.
Psalm 116:9 GNT
4. Seek the LORD and His strength; Seek His face continually [longing to be in His presence].
1 Chronicles 16:11 AMP
5. When You said, “Seek My face [in prayer, require My presence as your greatest need],” my heart said to You, “Your face, O LORD, I will seek [on the authority of Your word].”
Psalms 27:8 AMP
I’m taking my annual sabbatical this week. I want to keep encouraging you with God’s Word while I’m away though. Here’s a devotional from one of the sites I follow B Is For Blessed.
This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart;
Ephesians 4:17-18 NKJV
The ice pictured here was photographed a few years ago in Alaska. It was so clean and clear because it lacked the impurities found elsewhere. Likewise, we need to get away to obtain that same sense of clarity in our mind and spirit. The chatter of people, things, and social media can cause us to forget our purpose and pull us away from the very things God tasks us to do.
There are several references in the Bible where Jesus left the crowds (and his disciples) to be alone and pray. In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus stepped away from those closest to him to be alone. What’s interesting is that the disciples Jesus asked to stay up with him failed him three times that night.
Those closest to us can fail to meet our expectations as well. When we face trials, we may instinctively call other people to draw them into our troubles.
Yet, what if we choose not to solicit the sympathy and opinions of others in trying times and, instead, seek the God who sees the end from the beginning? What would change if we habitually went away—accessible to God’s ministering angels— to be strengthened for the crosses we must bear?
If Jesus had to be alone to gain peace and perspective, how much more necessary is it for us to remove ourselves and eliminate the noise of doubt and fear?
It doesn’t require a grand vacation to gain the clarity we need. Sitting alone and embracing the silence a few moments a day may be all it takes to organize our priorities. Praying in a closet or the solitude of a car can produce calm over chaos.
What could be more important than the ability to hear God and visualize His plans for our lives? What opportunities can we unlock by learning to shut out the things (or people) that steal our time and energy?
I challenge you to break away and create new routines in 2020. Put yourself in positions and places where you can abide with God. Do whatever it takes to gain the peace and perspective that will give you confidence to walk the path He has for you.
We receive salvation by grace. Yet, I’ve learned that peace of mind and clarity of purpose require effort on my part. Solitude renews my mind. Silence allows me to hear God. I’ve finally learned to sit down and be still which generates a fruitfulness that running around like crazy never produced.
Seek and hear God like never before.
What you focus on will inevitably determine what you see…
My son is competitive like most kids. He wants to be first everywhere we go. The problem is that he doesn’t always know where we are going. Sometimes when he gets a few steps ahead, I turn and he keeps going straight. I’ll usually make a noise to let him notice. He then runs over and tries to stay in front. With each turn, I remind him that I’m the one who knows where we are going, and that he should follow.
There are other times when he’s just trying to keep my attention. If I’m trying to do something, he’ll get in my face. If I direct my attention elsewhere, he moves to try to stay in my face. Sometimes it makes me laugh how hard he tries to get and keep my attention. The truth is that it’s a picture of how we are to be with God. Sometimes we forget to be like children, which is what Jesus told us to be like.
I believe God is looking for us to be in His presence. He’s not wanting us to be out in front of Him trying to guess where He’s leading us, and He’s not just wanting us to be somewhere in His vicinity. He wants us to go get in His face, and to be where He is looking. Psalm 116:9 says, “I walk in the Lord’s presence as I live here on earth!” (NLT) The Psalmist understood what God desires from each of us, and that is to walk in His presence.
The word “presence” in its original meaning, is the word for face. So to walk in the Lord’s presence is to walk where He’s facing. In order to do that, we need to be constantly looking at Him to make sure we are going the same way He is. We have to spend time in prayer throughout the day constantly grabbing His face and attention. It’s what children who love their parents do. God is not annoyed by us in trying to do this. He is honored when we walk in His presence.
Throwback Thursday is a feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other writing ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.
Several years ago, my then boss was near our office when she got caught in a flash flood. There was a thunderstorm sitting over us that was dumping huge amounts of rain. I went outside into the storm to push her car into the parking lot. At some point, I lost my wedding ring in the knee high waters. I spent more than an hour on my hands and knees in the middle of the storm trying to find my ring. I must have gone back and forth a more than a dozen times before I finally found it.
When the Bible uses the word “seek”, that’s what it’s talking about. It’s a relentless pursuit of something despite the obstacles, dangers or odds. It’s a single-minded focus that is determined to find something. The Bible mentions many thing we are to seek including God’s presence. How many times do we give up in our seeking because we don’t find it right away? God wants us to pursue Him and His righteousness until we’ve found Him. Don’t give up before you find what you’re looking for.
Here are some Bible verses on seeking.
1. Therefore if you have been raised with Christ [to a new life, sharing in His resurrection from the dead], keep seeking the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.
COLOSSIANS 3:1 AMP
2. Seek the LORD and His strength; Seek His face continually [longing to be in His presence].
1 CHRONICLES 16:11 AMP
3. But first and most importantly seek (aim at, strive after) His kingdom and His righteousness [His way of doing and being right–the attitude and character of God], and all these things will be given to you also.
MATTHEW 6:33 AMP
4. This [is what] I command you: that you love and unselfishly seek the best for one another.
JOHN 15:17 AMP
5. Seek and deeply long for the LORD and His strength [His power, His might]; Seek and deeply long for His face and His presence continually.
PSALM 105:4 AMP
One of my father in law’s favorite activities is doing word search puzzles. They’re the ones where it’s a box of alphabet letters with words hidden in them. The word your looking for could be vertical, backwards, diagonal, or regular. It takes concentration, persistence, and determination at times to find these words. Sometimes, when he can’t find a word, he asks for help from someone else. An outside set of eyes often provides a fresh perspective in finding the words.
To me, finding God can be like one of those puzzles. He’s hidden in our daily lives among the things we’re used to seeing each and every day. It takes concentration, persistence, and determination to find Him in our daily lives. Often times, someone else comes along and points Him out to us while we are seeking Him. Sometimes we’re looking for Him to be hidden and He’s right there in plain sight.
One of the things we do at our nightly devotions with teams who go on a mission trip to Haiti is to ask them, “Where did you see Jesus today?” The first night is usually pretty quiet because so many of us live our lives knowing God is always with us, but we fail to look for Him. We trust He’s there, but we don’t take the time to search for Him daily and to seek Him. God’s desire is that we move past just an acknowledgment of His presence and that we would seek it daily.
Jeremiah 29:13 says, “When you come looking for me, you’ll find me. Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I’ll make sure you won’t be disappointed” (MSG). When is the last time you searched for God in your daily life? He wants us to seek His presence daily and to see a His hand at work in our lives and in the lives of others. If we’re not careful, we’ll miss it. He wants to be found by us, but are we seeking Him?
We’ve all played Hide and Go Seek when we were little. It’s a rite of passage for kids. With my son being an only child, he played it mainly with his grandmother. When He would seek her, she would make noises so he could find her. To this day, he thinks the object of the game is to be found instead of staying hidden. When he plays with other kids, he makes sure that they can find him in his hiding spot.
Sometimes it feels like we are playing Hide and Go Seek with God. The good news is that He plays it like my son. He wants to be found! It does take some effort on our part to leave where we are to go seeking after Him. His desire is to continuously pull us closer to Him and further away from where we were. It’s up to us to continually seek Him and His strength for our lives. We should live in constant pursuit of God.
In I Chronicles 16. King David had just moved the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. He gave a song to the priests to sing. My favorite line comes from verse 11. It says, “Seek the Lord and His strength; Seek His face continually [longing to be in His presence]” (AMP). You and I were created to Seek God. There is a longing in us to be in His presence, but are we making the effort to do so? Are we taking the time to seek Him daily?
In Matthew 7:7 Jesus famously told us that if we ask, it will be given to us. If we seek, we will find. If we knock, it will be opened. If we will seek Him, His strength and His face we will find Him. He’s not trying to stay hidden. He’s making noises and giving us clues as to where He is. He wants to be found, but we’ve got to get off base and go find Him. That continuous pursuit is what creates growth in us as Christians. If you never stop seeking God, you’ll never stop finding Him.
Have you ever had to find your way around in the dark? Even if you’re in a familiar place, when the electricity goes out, you still bump into things. When it’s pitch black, and you can’t see your hand in front of your face, you have to feel your way around so you don’t get hurt or break anything. I usually do the zombie walk. You know the one where your hands are out front of you. I’m hoping that I feel something familiar and can follow it to my destination. I know I’m not far away, but there are obstacles along my path.
This world is a dark place, but you and I have been called to be light like a city set on a hill that can’t be hidden. Even though this world is familiar to all of us who live on it, many are wandering around it in spiritual darkness. Some choose to stay where they are, while others are feeling their way around. It’s up to us to help them find their way to God. We are the ones who are to lead them to their destination. God is not far from any one of us.
That was Paul’s message to the Greeks. They were a people who were feeling around looking for God, but in the process created many gods. Paul saw their longing to find the one true God and spoke to them in Acts 17:27. He said, “His (God’s) purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward Him and find Him – though He is not far from any one of us” (NLT). Man has always had a need to look beyond himself to find God.
Even today, according to the Washington Post, more than 8 in 10 people worldwide worship a god. That’s because God created all of us with a desire to search beyond ourselves for significance and purpose. As Christians, we’ve got to step out of our churches, our homes and places of comfort to be the light God has called us to be so we can help people who are feeling their way around find God. He is not far from any of us. We just have to be willing to be used in helping the lost find Him.