Appreciate His Constant Presence

Appreciate His Constant Presence

Chapter Two

Appreciate His Constant Presence
Sensing God's Presence At Unexpected Times 25 'Seeing' God In Everyday Experiences And Relationships 33
The 'Secular' And The 'Sacred' Become One! 27 Thank God For His Blankets And Coverings 34
For Him The Bell Tolls 29 The Secret Place Of The Most High 36
Jesus Visits My Kitchen 31 Discussion Questions 38

Job 37:1-24

Sensing God's Presence At Unexpected Times

Surprise! Don't you just love it when friends sneak up behind yon and shout, "Surprise!" You are always glad to see them, even though you may have been startled by the surprise. What is most wonderful is the feeling which comes from knowing they really care about you, otherwise they would not attempt to surprise you.

Although I really should not have been surprised, it was a pleasant surprise. While driving to work early one morning a bright Dash reflected into my eyes from my car's rearview mirror. Instinctively I shifted my vision toward the mirror and witnessed a most beautiful sunrise. The sun glowed with a passionate orange, sending streams of light through the snow laden tree branches. The coral colors reflected off of the magnificent clouds which surrounded the flaming sphere. And God said, "Surprise!"

Three distinct reactions occurred only seconds after seeing this beautiful sunrise. First, I chuckled. It was humorous to be surprised in such a gorgeous fashion. Second, I condemned myself for being surprised. I should have known that God is always near. There should be no surprise to turn around and see Him behind us. Third, I was moved that He cared enough to touch my spirit in such an awesome way. Within my heart I felt as if this morning's sunrise was just for me.

The remainder of the day held no particular blessings. Nothing spectacular happened after this delightful experience. It was a moment in time, an instant, if you will, where I was reminded that God was watching over me and He just wanted me to know. His watchful eye was not judging me, or causing me to feel I had better watch every move I make. He just wanted me to know that He was there and He cares. That was sufficient.

I still smile over this experience, vividly remembering the bursting orange colors in my mirror. I still have to remind myself that God is always near. He is in the sunshine that is sneaking through the window shade as I write this. He is in the air I breathe. He is in the memories I hold dear. Most of all, I still know that He cares.

Isn't it amazing how long lasting the assurance of His presence remains after a fleeting moments of divine surprise? He realizes we need to rediscover that truth now and again. Although this feeling may wear away, it is exciting to know that God is always fun of surprises!

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"Glorious Father, make me fully aware of your presence today… in the beauty of nature as well as in the lives of those I encounter. Fill me with awe and wonder at your marvelous works. In so doing, I will constantly be reminded of your love for me and give You thanks. Your name be praised! Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I am not alone, wherever I may be, the Lord is with me.

– Thomas Duckworth –

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Ephesians 4:17-32

The 'Secular' And The 'Sacred' Become One!

God is God on Sunday and all during the week. He is God in the marketplace. Be is there when "the rubber hits the road," where the real issues and concerns of living are experienced. He is involved constantly in the life of the Christian. The secular and the sacred become one. Spiritual implications are seen in everything. The question is asked, "What is God trying to teach me in this situation? What character trait, what attitude, what direction is He suggesting through this event or condition impinging upon my life?"

God can use the conditions of life to achieve His major purpose for us – to reproduce the character of Christ in our lives. But He is a gentleman; He does not force himself upon us. We can choose to cooperate with Him by allowing life events and conditions to assist us in becoming what He wants us to become. Or we can seek our will, our rights, and our interpretation of what we think life should be.

A life that speaks is best demonstrated in the family. Here, our real selves are seen for what they are. Life is lived as a joyous response to God's gift of himself, of life, and of salvation. God is called upon to help in all things. He and His purposes are seen in all things. A spiritual understanding is sought in all our experiences. We strive to cooperate with God in achieving His purposes for ourselves, the world, other family members, and His kingdom. As our family members observe this, our lives speak to their lives. The question is not "Do' we witness?" but rather "What do we witness?" We witness positively for Christ when He is seen as real, relevant, personal, and precious to us.

Frequently during seminars I ask participants to identify the best teacher they have ever known. After that, I ask them to remember what that great teacher taught them. Then, I inquire which was easier to recall- the teaching or the teacher. The ratio is about ten to one in favor of the teacher. We remember the person, personality, commitment, enthusiasm, and love for the subject matter. The life speaks plainer, louder, and clearer than the ideas, values, or concepts in the subject matter. These latter are given flesh and blood, relevance, and significance when expressed through our lives. Do you suppose that may be the reason both Jesus and Paul stressed modeling?

My Heavenly Father, though I acknowledge that I am very imperfect in my character, help me always to seek to model godly virtues in my life, so that those, both young and older, who 'imitate' me may find themselves imitating Christ! Amen."

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AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I commit myself to embracing Christian values with my mind, to speaking gracious words with my mouth, to making selfless decisions with my will – all for the purpose of cultivating a Christlike character throughout my lifetime on earth.

– Dorsey Brause –

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Psalm 95:6

For Him The Bell Tolls

The raspberries were abundant and so ripe as they fell from the branches into my hand. On this weather record-breaking warm October day, I decided to harvest the crop of juicy, rich purple fruit which grows in my back yard. I was so absorbed in my labor that I had not noticed the son setting behind those majestic mountains of ours. It was a beautiful day and a perfect ending to that day. I have always been pleased with the raspberries, which originated from a friend's back yard many years ago. My little transplanted three foot section grew into a thirty foot length of tall branches covered with luscious fruit.

While picking nearly two quarts of berries that afternoon, my thoughts were not focused on anything particular. Immersed in my thoughts, I was not aware of the sights and sounds around me. Even though I have learned to "tune-out" unwanted city noises such as screeching cars or roaring airplanes, the sound I faintly heard in the distance brought me instantly into an attitude of reverence.

There is a neighborhood church a few blocks away from my home. Every evening at six o'clock, beautiful carrion bells chime from this church's steeple. Some nights I hear . them. Other nights I dismiss them without a thought. This night, they touched my heart. The tune which played that night was an old hymn written by Charles Wesley titled, "Love Divine, All Loves Excelling." The only lines I have memorized from that hymn are "Jesus, Thou art all compassion," and "Alpha and Omega be." For some reason, in the vast recesses of my mind, those words must have significant meaning. The tune itself was heart warming.

Singing this tune in my head while the sun continued to set caused me to ponder the effective ministry of church bells. How do people in this quiet community respond to this sound? Do they hear it or even know it is coming from a church? For most of us, it has become a familiar sound which simply feels like it belongs. Perhaps for many it is just a reminder that it is six o'clock. That could mean it's time to prepare dinner, or that "Daddy's home," or even less meaningful yet perhaps truest of all, that "The Simpson's" is airing on television. None-the-less, like clock work, day after day, seven days a week, the chimes play on.

Regardless of how others perceive the message of the bells, for this moment it meant far more than a simple reminder of the time. Although I have heard them nightly for seventeen years, I seldom gave much thought to their meaning or purpose. Tonight, however, they were a witness to my spirit. On his night I bowed my bead in awe of God's majesty. I prayed and gave thanks for His wonderful love.

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Those alluring chimes stirred my heart. While the darkness surrounded me I entered dusk with this thought: "Though the day is through and night has begun, God still reigns on His throne." All was right in the world and the bells were proclaiming it. The bells tolled for Him!

"Almighty God, You have separated the day from night yet You have never separated me from Your presence. Make me acutely aware that You are near… even now… even here. Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: God is always near.

– Thomas Duckworth –

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Proverbs 22:6; Matthew 28:20,

Revelations 3:20

Jesus Visits My Kitchen

Jesus, God's Son, came to earth to teach us about God. He walked and talked with men and women. He sat on the mountainside, or in a boat and taught the multitude. Be took his disciples apart to a quiet place to teach them deeper truths about God. Jesus was with them and they experienced his presence. How can we do that today?

Brother Lawrence is probably the best known example of a person who practiced the presence of God. As he washed the pots and pans in the kitchen, he talked with God as if he were a companion in the chore.

Today many Christians wear a little bracelet with the letters WWJD imprinted on it. Whenever they have to make a decision, they think, "What would Jesus do?" Sometimes just asking God aloud helps find the solution. Jesus said, "Lo, I am with you always…" When I am with a friend, we talk, we share intimacies, we reveal problems, feelings, disappointments and victories. Can I communicate with God in the same way? Can I practice the presence of God? I think I'll try.

Lord, just look at the mess I made while I was defrosting the refrigerator. I know I should have done it sooner but you know how I hate doing it. Oh, look, here are some fresh vegetables – well, they were fresh when I bought them last week. They look pretty sad now so I will throw them in a pot and make soup.

I remember how you promised that if we opened the door and let you in, you would have supper with us. So I really do want you to stay and have supper tonight.

Lord, I never know how many people I win have for dinner. It is so much fun when my teenagers bring their friends home. Some of them come from broken homes and really need someone to talk to.

Yet, sometimes my children rebel and run out the door. Oh, Lord, I am not a very good mother. But you promised that if we train up a child in the way he should go, when he is old, he will not depart from it.

I'm trying so hard to memorize scripture, Lord. The ones I copy and put by the sink are always memorized well because I spend so much time there. All the dirty dishes mean that we eat well and I know there are many children around the world who go to bed hungry. If I have soup left over tonight, I think I'll take it to the family down the street.

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Their children have not been very nice to our children but maybe they are hungry. I hate to throw so much food away when I clean out the refrigerator so I will give it away instead of pushing it to the back of the refrigerator.

When you visited Mary and Martha's home, Mary sat at your feet and learned. I am afraid I am more like Martha. So, Lord, I invite you into my kitchen to watch me clean up my mess and prepare dinner because I know I am having company tonight.

"Lord, thank you for being with me even when I have to defrost my refrigerator."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Jesus said, "Lo, I am with you always," so that means in my kitchen most of the time.

– Laura Drewer –

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Ezekiel 36:23-28

'Seeing' God In Everyday Experiences And Relationships

I am told and believe that there are a hundred million miracles which occur every day. Where are these miracles? They are all around us. Wherever you look, there is a miracle nearby. Wherever there is a miracle, Jesus is there too! Where did I see Jesus?

I saw him in the face of a young man who silently, 
patiently, and lovingly listened to an older gentleman 
tell his story.
I saw him in the bright eyes of a young child who whispered to his mother, "I love you."
I saw him in the ribbons of pink clouds in the beautiful morning sky.
I saw him through the words of a book which reminded me to listen for God to speak.
I saw him in darkness during the night when sleep would not come.
I saw in the frantic call of a boy calling out for his lost younger brother.
I saw him in the mirror as be reminded me that it is OK to love myself.
If I am willing, I will find him everywhere I turn. I would even see him in your eyes if I could see you right now, for you too are a miracle of God!

"You are my God and there is none like You. Everywhere I turn, I find You. Grant that I may see with the eyes of my heart and enjoy every miracle You have set before me in the name of the risen Lord. Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: God is always ready to reveal Himself when I watch with believing eyes.

– Thomas Duckworth –

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Exodus 33:32; Psalms 91:4

Thank God For His Blankets And Coverings

I love the story of the elderly Christian who loved to praise God. This was permitted in the old church building, but the members of the church Board thought it not proper in their new chapel. They were aware that the lady was poor and in need of a blanket. They decided to make this offer. They would supply her with a new blanket, providing she would not get up in the new church, and shout praises to the Lord. The dear lady kept silent for several weeks, but one Sunday morning, she could keep silent no longer. She stood up, in a church full of people, and said, "Blanket or no blanket, PRAISE THE LORD".

Think of it! "COVERED BY GOD'S HANDS"! Covered by His feathers refers to the wings of a bird, wherein lies the bird's strength. Thus, the Christian is covered by God's strength. I wish to challenge you with this thought. "It is up to us to appropriate God's strength". Jesus tells us that we have not because we ask not. Be brave! Use your privilege of asking The Heavenly Father to cover you with His strength.

I was holding a revival in a very cold climate. The first night I stayed in the pastor's home, I nearly froze as I tried to sleep. In the morning the pastor's wife asked how I had slept. I was honest and told her I was cold all night long. Sylvia said, "That's impossible". She then took me to the room and pointed to a pile of blankets neatly stacked in a corner. To add insult to injury, she called me by name, and said, "There is an electric blanket on the bed"… I can assure you, I slept warm the rest of the week.

The resources were there. I just didn't appropriate them. It's tragic, but true. Many of us children of God suffer needlessly. We do without because we do not take advantage of God's resources. After my experience of freezing all night, I can appreciate better the sacrifice the elderly lady was making when she said, "Blanket or no blanket, Praise the Lord".

He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock 
That shadows a dry thirsty land. 
He hideth my life in the depths of His love 
And covers me there with His hand, 
And covers me there with His hand.

Fanny Crosby

"Dear Heavenly Father, I pause this day to say 'Thanks'. Thanks for your hands that cover me when I need to feel your presence. Thanks, too, for Your ever present STRENGTH which Yon have promised to cover me with."

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AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Starting here and now, I am determined to appropriate from you the many blessings that you have for your children. I am determined to remind myself often, that my forgiven sins are covered by the blood of Jesus Christ!

– Lowell Weller –

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Psalm 91:1-16

The Secret Place Of The Most High

I have many childhood memories of happy times spent at my grandmother's farm. On a clear Spring day, I would often lie on my back in green grass and let my gaze drift lazily beyond the bounds of earth, penetrating blue sky and resting in an imaginary world which grown-ups referred to simply as heaven. I used to try to imagine how far I would have to go to get there and how long it would take and what transportation I would use. I squinted extra hard trying to catch a glimpse into that mysterious, far-off world. Even though my visual efforts never quite broke through, heaven seemed as real to me as the bluebonnets and buttercups I could reach out and touch.

One day when I was ten, I ran across Psalm 91 in the Bible, and verse one described heaven in these magnificent terms: "He who dwells in the Secret Place of The Most High shall abide under the shadow of The Almighty". What a way to capture a youngster's imagination. It was definitely a secret place because in all my hours of gazing, I had never caught a single glimpse of it. And God was certainly most high – beyond the scope of airplanes and stars and my imagination. Needless to say, the definition stuck. Secret places were music to a kid's ears, and most high was power to a little person like me.

Then there was the second part about abiding under the shadow of The Almighty. Shadows were a lot of fun. They were always there. You could play games with them, but you could never outsmart them. I tried to imagine how big the shadow of The Almighty would be.

In later years, I came to know God as my refuge and fortress (vs. 2), my protector and deliverer (vs. 3). I marveled that angels watched over me (vs. 11). Sometimes I even checked the closets to see if I could catch one off guard. God's favor was present with me (vs. 9) that made me feel special.

Now I'm an adult. As my knowledge of God and the world I live in grows, sometimes my faith shrinks. On Spring days, God seems father away than the bluebonnets and buttercups. A busy schedule eliminates daydreaming and stargazing. My closets are too cluttered to hide angels. Only the memories made by a little girl on grandma's farm remind me that The Almighty is merely a shadow away and heaven is as near as a prayer. And I wonder if that thinking sound I just heard was a wind chime or an angel's wing.

"Dear God, no matter how old I get, help me always to remember that You are never far away?"

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AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: God is real. God is near. God is my friend.

– Loretta Jenkins-

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Discussion Questions

  1. Have you had an experience (or experiences) when yon especially sensed the closeness of God's presence, while you were enjoying the beauties of nature? When and where?

  2. As a believer who sincerely desires to be close to your Creator, share ways in which you have learned to "practice the presence of God" (i.e., ways in which you have learned to "sensitize" yourself to the omnipresence of God).

  3. Isn't it amazing how long lasting the assurance of God's presence remains after a fleeting moment of "divine surprise" when He revealed Himself to you in a special way? Do you honestly believe that God is always near to you, regardless of the "ups and downs" of your "Christian life"? Why or why not?

  4. Do you believe that the 'secular' and the 'sacred' places are equally "invaded" by the presence of God, that God is in the marketplace on Monday just as much as He is in the holy sanctuary on Sunday? (Note John 4:24)

  5. Tell why it is important for you (as a sincere believer) to ask yourself the following questions: "What is God trying to teach me in this situation? What character trait, what attitude, what direction is He suggesting through this event or condition impinging upon my life?"

  6. Even though God is all-powerful (sovereign), do you believe that God limits Himself in His expression of His power, for the purpose of allowing human beings to express the unique characteristic of their creation, namely, the exercise of "Free Will"? Why or why not? Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statements: "We can choose to cooperate with Him by allowing life events and conditions to assist us in becoming what He wants us to become. Or we can seek our will, our rights, and our interpretation of what we think life should be."

  7. Tell if you believe the following statement rightly describes the "essence" of all true and effective witness: "We witness positively for Christ when He is seen as real, relevant, personal, and precious to us."

  8. Do you believe that the life (and lifestyle) of a Christian "speaks" plainer, louder, and clearer, than the ideas, values, concepts, and philosophy of Christian teaching? Why or why not? Would you (as a believer) rather 'preach' a sermon, or 'be' a sermon? Which do you remember best, the character (Personality and attitudes) of your teacher, or the communication (teachings and words and lessons) of your teacher? Why?

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  9. Have you seriously considered the development of a close and personable relationship with a young believer, for the purpose of your 'mentoring' (by your example and friendship) authentic and mature "Christian living" for that young believer?

  10. In your "daily environment", are there "routine" sights and sounds which you believe God could use more effectively to remind you of God's faithfulness and love and beauty and power? How can the sensitive use of your physical properties ( sight, sound, smell, taste, feel) help you to become more aware of the unseen presence of God in your life?

  11. Do you believe (with the saint 'Brother Lawrence') that you can experience the presence of God as much in your kitchen (as you wash the dishes), as you can experience His presence at the Holy Communion (Lord's Supper)? Why or why not?

  12. Have you "trained" yourself to "see" God and to "hear" God, in the face and words and actions of your friends (and even 'strangers')?

  13. If God is "all-powerful" and is willing (and even eager) to impart His strength to His believing children (Christians), why do you think that so many Christians feel so weak, powerless, inadequate, victimized by life's happenings?

  14. As a result of reading Psalm 91, what can you conclude about the presence, protection, power, and provision of Almighty God?

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