Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Need More God?

Dear Friends,

What would be the one single thing for you to have that would most improve the quality of your life? Check one:  ❑ More money? ❑ Better job? ❑ Nicer house? ❑ Healthier body? ❑ More God? While some of those may be difficult to obtain, if you picked “More God,” you can have that one right now. Guaranteed! Coming into the presence of God is to come into a place that we long for. Psalm 42:1-2 NLT But how do we do that? When our life is filled with worries, troubles and doubts – maybe even some doubts about God Himself – how do we go about living in God’s presence? 

The spiritual concept of living a life in the presence of God is rooted in the early Eastern (Orthodox) church Fathers and the monastic life where one was taught to be still and come into the presence of God. In our modern church, instead of simply being, our emphasis is on doing. We have formulas on how to pray, Bible reading plans, instructions for sustained fasting and a 12 lesson Bible study program guaranteed to show us how to follow Jesus Christ and grow our Christian faith! Nothing wrong with any of that. But what brings me into God’s presence is more often not what I “do” but what I stop doing. If I want “More God,” instead of trying harder to do more, I often find that it’s more helpful to take a break and do less. Sometimes I need to lay aside all the Christian “disciplines” and just take a vacation!

Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still, and know that I am God..” We read that and hear that as meaning: Be quiet. Be at peace. But the original Hebrew used here means to “quit struggling.” An expanded translation might sound like this: “Stop your striving and just kick back for awhile. Let go of trying to make something happen, and instead, just relax to see what I am doing here in your life. Forget the religious rules and take a break. If your spiritual wheels are spinning and you’re skidding off that pathway to righteousness, just stop and hang loose for awhile. Take a load off. Settle down. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, quit struggling. Stop your fussing. Cut it out. Be still. Know that I am God. Relax. I will restore and refresh you, says the Lord.” 

The Latin word translated as “be still” is the word “vacate” and it means the same in Latin and English. It means to vacate – to leave behind – the things we wrestle with and be free of those struggles. “Vacate” is the root word for our word vacation. When we are taking a “vacation,” we have “vacated,” or left behind any worrisome work and home obligations and refocused our thoughts on a pleasurable getaway. Paul tells us we must “work out our salvation” Philippians 2:12–13 and some of us become Christian workaholics fearful that unless we follow our own religious rules our soul will become dangerously backslidden. Yes, there is a time to read our Bible and know God through His Word but there’s a time to take a vacation with God and know Him through His presence. We need to empty out the clutter from our mind and set aside our worries and troubles. Relax before God and fully enjoy being in His presence. It’s as if God is saying: “Be still. Let’s you and Me take a vacation together.”

That’s what I need. When things get busy.. When the battle makes me weary.. When I’m discouraged.. When the scripture that tells me to “Rejoice always” 1 Thess 5:16 is lost in a sea of stress.. When my feelings got hurt, or even worse, when I just realized that I hurt someone else’s feelings.. When my day gets tough.. That’s when I need a break.

And a spiritual timeout with God doesn’t automatically mean it’s a time to become all religious and fervently pray. Prayer is appropriate for all  circumstances, but we must be careful to not just simply exchange a frantic secular activity for a frantic spiritual activity. That’s not taking a vacation. It’s just substituting a different type of work at the same obsessively dysfunctional pace. That’s when God might say to you: “Be still. Quit your struggling. Stop fretting and fussing. Let’s you and Me take a break together.” 

Sometimes we need to just be content to sit beside God and be with Him. No agenda. No non-stop prayer conversation. Just to sit-a-spell with our Father and be still. The early church and the monastics called this “contemplation.” To just be there. Centering all your attention and desire on God and letting Him be the sole concern of your mind and heart. We desire to come into God’s presence not for what He can do for us but simply for who He is. And in His presence, we find His peace. Life can get tough and if you’re like me, you may need a bunch of mini-vacations with God throughout your day. That’s when you’ll be walking alongside those deep Living Waters. You feel those stirrings of love in your heart for God. You feel His presence and His peace. He is restoring your soul. Your spirit is refreshed. You are on a vacation with God. Amen?

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