How to Seek God’s Face

 

vineandbranches

I want to know God better.

Not know about Him. But to know what makes Him smile like I know what makes my husband smile. Or know what breaks God’s heart the way I know what breaks my friend’s heart. I want to know God in an intimate relationship, like a friend who enjoys spending time with me even if I’m doing “nothing.” When I struggled to feel God’s presence, the problem isn’t because God is elusive.

God created us because He wants a relationship with us.

He wants us to talk, hang out together, laugh, and enjoy a relationship that’s real, fulfilling, and love-driven.

The Bible is filled with passages that speak about seeking God (Deut. 4:29; 1 Kings 22:5;  2 Chron. 30:18-20; Ps. 14:2; Ps. 63:1; Ps. 78:34; Acts 17:27-28; Romans 3:10-11; Heb. 11:6). These verses and others reassure us that God is omnipresent (always near everthing and everyone). He also always stands by His children and works out circumstances for their good.

But when we neglect God, violate His Word, trust ourselves or others before Him, His face or His presence becomes obscured. Not because God moves away from us, but because our discernment becomes weak and clouded by pride, lies, false motives, and sin.

Photo Credit: Wanda Sanchez

Photo Credit: Wanda Sanchez

 

So how can I return to a place of intimacy with God? What does it mean to seek God’s face, to truly know Him?

When I first met my husband Dan, I wasn’t sure how I felt about him. He was nine years older than me, drove a yellow Gremlin (some of you don’t even know what that is), and seemed shy and uncertain. But I knew Dan was special. By our second date, he’d won my heart. The Gremlin and his shyness had become part of his charm. Twelve months later I married the most amazing, loving, faithful, loyal man I had/have ever met.

I wanted a relationship with Dan. When he wasn’t with me, I waited for his calls. When he was with me, I hung on his every word. I talked about him to family and friends. I pined (longed) for him when he wasn’t with me. My heart was set on Dan–I wanted to spend every minute with him and get to know everything about him. My whole world was about him.

Seeking God begins with falling in love. 

I accepted Jesus as God’s Son who gave His life for my sins when I was eleven years old. But I fell in love many years later when I was a mother and understood for the first time what it would mean to hand over my innocent child to evil people, knowing he would be torturned and put to death–for the vicious, evil, perverted acts THEY had committed.

God’s love and Jesus’ sacrifice overwhelmed my heart so profoundly that I have never been the same again. Profound love grew into gratitude. My job is to cultivate and grow those seeds.

I seek God by choosing a grateful heart.

I have MS. I can’t say I’m grateful for MS. I’d like to be healed, believe in God’s healing power, and have prayed to be healed. But I don’t demand to be healed. God determines my destiny.

I am grateful for many things MS has given me: a greater awareness of God’s presence, a heightened sensitivity for the suffering of others, opportunities to speak into the lives of the hurting, new friendships, new writing opportunities, just to name a few blessings.

Gratitude is a choice, not an emotion. It’s my goal to make it a lifestyle and the compelling force behind my love for others. God has blessed me with too much. Jesus gave too much for me not to be motivated by gratitude every day of my life.

I seek God by choosing my focus.

Everything around us speaks of the love, mercy, beauty, glory and power of God–the laughter of children, the brokenness of the world, the beauty of creation, the delight of the arts, the mysteries of science, the patterns of history. I can see God in the grain of the wood in the desk in front of me or smell the aroma of His beauty in the scents He created for our pleasure. Everything beautiful emanates from Him, the Source of Beauty, and speaks of His essence.

I find God in my work, whatever it may be, when I do it to His glory and as a love offering for Him and for the good of the city (community) where He has placed me.

I seek God by spending time reading His love letter to me and talking to Him.

My husband’s first letter to me is framed and hung in my office. If our house burns, this is one of the objects I will grab as I run from the house. Our words to one another are precious.

The Bible is God’s love letter to us. 

It’s God basically saying, “Look, these are the lengths I’ve gone to for you. This is alll I’ve given for you. I created a perfect world for you. You messed it up. You wrecked the world, but most of all you destroyed your opportunity to have a relationship with me. I sacrificed my one and only Son to fix the problems you created. I let you kill Him so you could live. I loved you that much.”

We can’t really know God unless we spend time reading the Bible and take time to pray. It’s that simple.

Whether I write or pull weeds or cook or grocery shop today, God is waiting to be with us, We can see Him all around us if we’re looking.we can talk to Him. He will talk back, using the Spirit of God, the people of God, the Word of God, and even His created world.

Seek God today. He promises to be found.

 

 

Encouraging Ourselves Through Truth Talk

vineandbranchesLately I’ve been focuing on the the truth that Jesus is the vine and I am a branch. This means that I’m connected directly to Him. My life flows from Him. My nourishment comes from Him. I can’t do anything that isn’t connected in some way to Him.

I have to admit that I don’t always feel spiritually connected. I need encouragement. Aches and pains, financial challenges, relationship heartaches, and other frustrations can infect my attitude before I have a chance to figure out what day it is (sometimes that takes ALL day). One of the key aspects of practicing my “vine life” has been remaining in conversation with Jesus. To do this I literally envision Him standing beside me (because He IS with me) and telling me all the things He’s said to me in His Word that apply to my life in that moment or in my hurts and challenges.

Conversing with God is one of the best ways to encourage yourself. “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10.) This means that I sit quietly as Jesus tells me who I REALLY am. Who He REALLY is to me. What my REAL purpose is in life and on this particular day. What I am responsible for (obedience, loving God and others, trust, repentance) and what He is responsible for (loving and taking care of me).

The more we converse and stay connected to the vine, the more encouraged we become because we focus on truth and Jesus.

For more help on transforming your self talk, check out The Silent Seduction of Self Talk: Conforming Deadly Thought Patterns to the Word of God. and to hear more from me and author Wanda Sanchez on the topic of encouraging yourself, tune in to the Freedomgirls Sisterhood blogtalk podcast with host Dawn Damon Monday nights at 8:00ET.

 

Prayers While You’re Waiting

grieving

Waiting is one of the hardest things we’re called to do. And yes, I believe as Christians we’re all CALLED to wait. This is because waiting accomplishes valuable goals, if we allow it to:

1. Waiting can shift our focus from the superficial to the eternal. 

Waiting usually makes us impatient. We want to see results NOW. We usually have our hearts fixed on getting things our way. And God uses those longs pauses to remind us that we’re not running the show. That there’s a bigger purpose than what we see in the day-to-day. That our view is limited.

2. Waiting can help us see our priorities.

Tough times usually reveal our hearts. And waiting for answers during those times show us what we REALLY think is important in life. If we’re wise, we’ll use this time to study our hearts, motives, and goals. But learning more about those things is only helpful if we grow in wisdom as we do it. This means learning to think more like God and to see life from his perspective.

3. Waiting can help us draw closer.

To people and to God. It opens our eyes to things that are truly important, if we allow our hearts to be sensitive to the Spirit of God. As we learn dependency on God, we learn to love people better. Waiting isn’t a passive thing. We wait with expectation and hope that God is at work, that he is working out the details of our lives for our best interests and to his glory, and we can therefore PRAY and ACT with gratitude and faith.

PRAYERS WHILE YOU’RE WAITING

1. Pray for wisdom, and ask for wise counsel. Spend time in the Word of God, but don’t be afraid to ask godly mentors for their opinions and advice.

2. Ask God to reveal what he’s saying to you, then pray, meditate on his Word, and journal. Don’t expect to hear from God if you’re not listening to him, and the best way to listen is to spend time in Scripture.

3. Cast your fears on God. That means throw them in his direction, then turn your back and walk away. Refuse to go back and pick them up again. And if you do, throw them back to God and turn away again. And again until it becomes easier to trust him to pick up those worries for you.

4. Be grateful for where God has you today. I can do this because today has a purpose–even though the circumstances may stink. Even though it hurts. I don’t think God expects us to be grateful for pain–but I CAN be grateful because I know God takes the horror of this life and creates purpose and even beauty from it.

The God Who Leans Across the Table

textingwifeA few days ago I sat at a coffee shop people-watching. A young husband and wife, identifiable by their contemporary, matching wedding rings, came into the shop and chose a table not far from me. The woman, a petite brunette, was glued to her iPhone, texting madly, which she continued to do for the next ten minutes. Her husband sat quietly across from her and leaned forward, his head resting on one hand and his eyes never leaving her face.

For nearly twenty minutes she texted and he waited. Silently and patiently. It broke my heart.

Fast forward to last night at three AM. I was wide awake. Again.

Making plans. Creating lists. Strategizing. Formulating conversations.

(These are my “special words” for worrying and freaking out about life.)

Someone Somewhere had made a decision with the potential to knock my well-ordered world into the stratosphere. At least that’s what I was telling myself. Fear had come a-knockin’ on my door, so I had to DO something about it.

I laid awake staring into the darkness talking to myself as minutes ticked by. Hours, actually, if I’m going to be
honest–all the while my brain spinning in circles.

AND THEN A PICTURE FLASHED THROUGH MY THOUGHTS. 

I was seated at a table in a coffee shop with my cell phone, madly texting. Across the table from me, my Best Friend patiently waited for me to glance up and notice He was there. To realize that He’s always been with me. That He never leaves my side. That His eyes are glued to me day and night out of love bigger than the universe He created. And in those moments when I’m absorbed by my plans to try to control my destiny, He’s as near as a thought.

He waits, leaning in and patiently waiting for the moment I’ll look up and lay down the distractions in my heart and hands and see Him for who He truly is.