Where can I go from Your Presence?

We live in an image management society. We want people to know us, but we also want to control what people know about us. We’re one way at work, but another way at home. We’re one way at church, but then we have our secret habits in our social lives. We a lot of times are split and torn between who we are, and how we present ourselves to others. We know what parts of our lives to share and to hide. We do this though with God too. We think He doesn’t know what we are doing in secret, but the fact is that He does. As the Psalmist David puts it “Where can I go from Your presence?” The answer? Nowhere.

In my life, I like to present myself as someone who has it together. No, I’m not perfect, but I usually don’t let people into the darkest places of my soul, other than my therapist and mentor.

I want people to view me in a certain way. So when I’m healthy, I’m around. I’m talking. I’m joyous. I’m cracking jokes.

When I’m not okay though, I just disappear. I don’t want people to see me at my worst. I’m supposed to be someone who is a leader and someone who encourages. Those times when I feel like I can’t be those things, I disappear. Because I want to have something to offer. I want to be someone that people can lean on and turn to and be encouraged by, and I know that when I’m struggling in sin or cravings that I can’t be that person.

So I disappear. I stop going to small groups. Support groups. Church. I run to the unhealthy things, even though it brings me great fear and anguish, instead of running to the light because I don’t want people to see me in my messiness.

The dis reality that I live in even extends to my relationship with God. I act like He doesn’t know. That as long as I don’t acknowledge what is going on then I can just keep doing it, even though I feel extremely guilty.

God though constantly reminds me though of this: Because you are mine, I’m not going to let you go. I’m going to blow up whatever bridges or openings you have to your cravings, and even when you head down certain roads, I’m going to make it extremely difficult for you to get to where you think you want to go. The truth of life is that I have great plans for you, even as you try to derail what I have planned with your own reckless abandon. You are mine and I got you. Stop fighting against me. 

It’s kind of frustrating, especially to my sinful flesh, that God won’t let me go. Like in those moments, when all I crave is sin and death, and God just stops me, it drives me insane. It’s also super encouraging though to my true self. To Joseph. That even when I’m at my worst, and even when I’m not at all seeking God or His truth, there is nothing that I can do to ruin His plans for my life, nor anything that I can do that will take me from His hands.

At times, I want to. I want to ruin my life and his plans because of my own short sighted-ness. Not that I really want to deliberately ruin my life, but in those moments of intense cravings, I desire the ungodly things over the Godly. The impure over the pure. I see the thing, the action, the desire as more beautiful than Jesus and who I am in Him in those moments.

Thank goodness that He doesn’t let go of me in those moments. He doesn’t let me ruin the good things in my life. I mean, yeah, there are consequences to my actions, but only what happens, is what He allows. Nothing happens outside of His presence, knowledge, or control.

David writes about this reality of God’s all knowing Presence in Psalm 139.

139 Lord, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
    you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
    and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
    behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
    and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
    it is high; I cannot attain it.

 

Where shall I go from your Spirit?
    Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
    If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
    and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me,
    and your right hand shall hold me.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
    and the light about me be night,”
12 even the darkness is not dark to you;
    the night is bright as the day,
    for darkness is as light with you.

 

13 For you formed my inward parts;
    you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.[a]
Wonderful are your works;
    my soul knows it very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
    intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
    the days that were formed for me,
    when as yet there was none of them.

So according to David, God:

  • Has searched Him and known Him
  • Knows when he sits down and when he stands up
  • Discerns his thoughts from afar
  • Searches out his path and his lying down
  • Is Acquainted with all his ways
  • Knows David’s words before he even utters them
  • Is with David, before and behind, and His hand is on Him
  • Is with David wherever He goes (Heaven, Sheol, the sky, the depths of the ocean)
  • Is with David in the darkness and in the light
  • Formed David’s inward parts
  • Knitted him together in his mother’s womb
  • Knew David’s frame as he was made in secret
  • Saw David’s unformed substance
  • Wrote every one of David’s days in his book.

This is the deepest place of knowing. Knowing so deep that it goes beyond even our understanding, and our only response should mirror David’s “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.”

David was so blown away by this reality of God’s knowing Him that He couldn’t even wrap His mind around it. It was way too much for Him to even comprehend. Instead of trying to figure it out, He just worshiped.

17 How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
18 If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
    I awake, and I am still with you.

19 Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God!
    O men of blood, depart from me!
20 They speak against you with malicious intent;
    your enemies take your name in vain.[b]
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord?
    And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?
22 I hate them with complete hatred;
    I count them my enemies.

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart!
    Try me and know my thoughts![c]
24 And see if there be any grievous way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting![d]

David acknowledges God’s greatness and otherness, and then asks him for help. Help him to deal with his enemies, and help him to know the intentions of his heart. Help him see if there is any grievous way in him, and lead him in the way everlasting.

In summation, God knows you and me, and nothing we do is hidden from Him. Whether we are in the mountaintops in life, He is there. Whether we are in the valleys, He is there. Whether in the confusion and the chaos, the ripping and the tearing, He is there. He is with us.

That is such an encouraging thing to me. To know that even when I can’t or won’t let others into my mess, that God is not fooled or unaware. He knows me, fully. When I lie down, and when I stand up. When I’m healthy, and when I’m obsessed. When I’m tired, and when I’m rested. When I’m frustrated, and when I’m joyful. When I’m down, and when I’m up. When I’m hopeful and when I’m hopeless. When I’m hiding, and when I’m open. He knows it all.

I don’t know where you are at today. You may be in a valley, or on a mountain top, or sitting down in a crook in the side of the mountain. Know that God knows and is with you there. All you have to do is acknowledge Him, worship Him, and ask Him for what you need.

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Picture taken from: https://pastorfrankbailey.net/category/psalms/psalm-139/

Blessings.

Awe and Wonder

We live in a culture and world that is desensitized to majesty. True majesty. We worship things that are a lot of times not worthy of our worship. Careers. People. Sports. Money. In turn, we miss out on the reality of worshiping and adoring God. He is the one who is most majestic. If we ever hope to be the people that God wants us to be, we must return to those who awe and wonder at the glorious and infinite nature of our Creator God.

When I was saved seven years ago, I was in a really dark place, so dark that I didn’t know if I’d ever come out. I needed somebody to come get me. Someone did. Jesus. He pursued me, and rescued me from the darkness that encircled my life. In turn, I worshiped. I adored. I surrendered.

When I surrendered, it was just me and God, January 6th. Me and God on a half made bed in an empty room. I didn’t know how to tell anyone what had happened, or even if they would believe me if I did. I had been the boy who had claimed Christianity and been baptized too many times. This time was actually real though.

In the silence, in the stillness of my bed room, I would meet with God every morning. I would open His Word and be amazed by what I was reading. I had been in church most of my life, but this was the first time I was really coming face to face with the Almighty God.

He was speaking to me. Everyday. Breaking misconceptions and lies that I had had been told and believed about Him.

I had life. For the first time really ever. I mean I was physically alive and breathing, but for the longest time, I had been seeing in black and white spiritually. Now the world was in color. It was alive. There was hope and excitement and joy and I was just on this journey with God.

I remember going to church on Sundays, and every time on my way there it was like walking past my past. Seeing the darkness of my past, but then heading towards the light. I would head into church and just worship.

After being numbed to life for so long, I finally felt everything. I would be on my face in the back of the church service just weeping and thanking God for saving a wretch like me. I felt totally unworthy.

I remember going to work, and instead of going there for myself, I went there for others, and I expected God to work. I went in there expecting him to do great things, and He did.

I remember He showed up wherever I went in just crazy ways. Providing things that I didn’t have to give. Words that weren’t mine, and understandings that were far beyond my years.

I remember just wanting constantly to worship. Like wherever I was, whether it be in a car, or a conversation, I just remember wanting to worship. I would go out into nature with my camera, iPod, and sometimes Bible and just take pictures and just reflect on who God was.

I would just go catch sunrises and sunsets because these things became so real to me. They were a real depiction of the Glorious Nature of my Father God. I remember just going even earlier than the sun was up, and just sitting with God in the darkness, and just praying and listening to music.

Now I say all this, not to be arrogant or boastful, but to remember the time when I had awe and wonder in God. I struggle with that now. I struggle to be awed by God because I’m used to God. He’s no longer this new being that I’m just now getting to know.

I struggle to wonder now because I am desensitized to the glory and majesty of Christ. I’m busy now. I’m distracted now. I’ve put my confidence in other things now.

I say this all with regret because I truly miss what I had with Jesus. I have found that whatever I hope in outside of Jesus falls short. That nothing fills me with the awe and wonder that He once did.

I want to get back. Back to my first love. Back to the place where I awed and wondered in Christ. Where every day I would wake up, and it would be a new day, a new day to worship Christ, and make Him known. I want to get back to the place where I not only knew that I needed Jesus, but also wanted to be around Him, and it was a joy, and a pleasure to speak with Him, to hear from Him, to sit with Him.

I want to get back to hanging on every word of His, and obeying it immediately, and without question. I want to return to worshiping Him for He is worthy of all our worship. I want to be awed by a sunrise, and blown away by a sunset. I want to expect God to show up wherever I am once more. I want to dare to dream that what God has planned for me is far greater than what I have for myself.

This is what I desire. That God would break down the hardness and desensitization of my heart, and that once more I would see everything outside of Him as less than. That I would strive to once more be the one who communes with God, and the one who loves God wholeheartedly, not complacent, or indifferent to His callings.

I want to once have awe and wonder in the One who has given me all things in Christ. He alone is worthy of the title of Majesty.

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Picture taken from: https://marcusjborg.org/awe-and-wonder-here-and-now-issue-10-seeing-jesus-through-a-21st-century-lens/

Blessings.

In The Middle of Our End Game

We can never truly appreciate the end without the middle. The place where life just seems to stand still. Where we wonder how to move forward, but the loss, the pain, the frustrations, are still so recent and new. We sit there, head in our hands, asking why. Why did this happen to me? Why did I have to be the one who went through this? Why did I have to be the one who lost my job? My house? My loved one? We sit there, wanting to move forward, but honestly we are lost on the how to. We must appreciate this middle place though. The place where the world seems to be on hold. The place where our dreams seem to distant and unachievable. It is here in the middle place, in the place of suffering, that sometimes we must sit. For in sitting in the suffering, in enduring the pain, once we do come out of this season, break our addictions, learn to cope in healthy ways, we will truly be able to appreciate the ending to our story. The consummation of the promises that Jesus offers for us. Our End Game.

Last night me, my brother, and his friend went and saw the new Marvel’s Avengers End Game. In short, it was INCREDIBLE. One of the best movies I have ever seen.

If you aren’t familiar with the series, let me give you a little bit of a recap. In the last Marvel Avengers movie Infinity War, the Avengers had failed to stop Thanos (the villain) from wiping out half the planet with one snap of his fingers after he had collected all the infinity stones.

Endgame begins in this post apocalyptic world following this event. With half the planet now gone, things are very different. Streets are empty. People are scattered. Destruction is rampant. The world has been turned upside down.

There is a scene in the movie that really encapsulates this time of loss. Captain America and about six other people are meeting together in sort of a support group. They are going around and sharing about what it has been like since their losses. You can feel the tension. The hurt. The feeling of what are we supposed to do now. What is the point anymore? This was the collective question reverberating throughout the sparsely filled room.

I think at some point or another, we all find ourselves here. In this place of loss. Confusion. Numbness. Where we know we have to move forward but we are unable to for one reason or the other. We all cope with this place in different ways.

In the movie, we find each character dealing with their loss in one way or another. Some have moved on and almost forgotten the life that was, such as Iron Man, who has a wife and daughter now, and has moved out into the countryside. Captain America has continued to try to be strong for others but deep down, he is lost. Black Widow tries to distract herself with work, but at the end of the scene, she breaks down crying. Hawk-eye becomes an international assassin who wreaks havoc. We have Thor, who is overcome with guilt of having the powers of a god, but still being unable to save the planet from the ultimate destruction. He blames himself. So he numbs himself by drinking excessively.

I’m not gonna lie, this part of the movie was pretty slow. I kept thinking can we just get on with the good stuff? I’m tired of being here in the middle.

As the movie progresses, we see a character, Ant Man, who had been seemingly lost in the quantum realm, only to return miraculously. He offers our downtrodden heroes some hope. That this fate that they find themselves in is not the end. The team, under the guise of Iron Man, and the Hulk, construct a device that allows the team to go back in time to retrieve the infinity stones, and bring back their friends.

Along the way, their efforts are met with resistance. Resistance first from each other, then by the evil forces and time. They experience more loss. Pain. Injuries. Even up until the last scene, they are fighting Thanos with all they have, trying to pull the infinity stone ridden glove from his hand. Trying to stop him from still winning.

Finally, just when you think the Avengers have once again lost, Iron Man ends up with the infinity stones. He snaps his fingers and the enemies disappear.

As I left, I was spent, not only from sitting in the theater for over three hours, but also because that movie took me on a roller coaster ride of emotion. You got to truly experience and feel the pain of loss that the characters felt, but then the overwhelming joy when all was restored.

God began to speak to me in a really simple way as I left the theater. The thought He gave me was this: You can’t truly appreciate the end without experiencing the agony of the middle.

Even though the beginning of the movie was slow, and didn’t seem like it would end, it was setting the stage for the glorious revival of those who had been lost. Without seeing and feeling the agony of those left behind, we would not have been able to truly appreciate all that came with the return of those who had been lost.

Thus it is with our lives. The middle of our stories seem long, boring, tedious, and unnecessary. They are filled with pain. Questions. Doubts. Confusions. We don’t see where we are going in the middle of our stories. God does though. He sees our End Game. He knows that even here in this middle place, that there is a lot to learn, and to be appreciative of. It is here in the hard times that we learn who we are and whose we are.

So today, if you are in a middle place, be thankful for where you are. I know it’s tough. I’m here too. It’s good to be here though. God is growing us here in the place where our dreams seem to be on hold, and life seems to be at a standstill. He is doing a work in each and every one of us, and this work one day will be consummated through Christ.

It will be on that day, that we will see how worth it it was to experience the pain that we’ve experienced, the loss that we’ve felt, and the hardships that we’ve faced. In the middle places, we will be able to look back and see God’s guiding hand pushing us forward, cleaning us up, and making us stronger. Our End Game is coming. Take joy in the middle places. For the pain of the middle makes the joy of the end so much more glorious and sweeter.

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Picture taken from: https://variety.com/2019/film/reviews/avengers-endgame-review-marvel-cinematic-universe-1203196048/

Blessings.