Thursday, January 26, 2012

Present to God's Presence

When we become present to the moment, we find ourselves becoming present to God’s presence.

So often we hope for God to “show up” in our devotional time or “be present” in our worship. Yet, the reality is that God is already present. He is available. More than that, he wants us to encounter him! God desires us to experience his presence, his protection, his power, his provision and his peace.

Like the father of the prodigal son, he is there simply waiting for us to show up. It is we who must become aware of him. We must become present to the presence of God.

I Am: God of the Now
At any time we can become present to God’s presence precisely because he is the eternal “I am.” In Exodus 3:14, the Lord reveals himself to Moses as “I am who I am.”

God lives in the Eternal Now. For him, time and eternity are one. God is being itself. He holds time in his hand: he is the past, present and future. God simply is. And he is there for us.

Distracted Existence
Most of us understand the theory of God’s omnipresence. We know the Lord is—and that he is there for us. Yet, how easy it is for us to be un-attentive to God’s presence!

The Lord welcomes us to his presence: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). We certainly fit the criteria—we are tired and weighed down! But, so often we overlook Jesus’ invitation. Not sure that his rest is really available for us today, we remain un-attentive to his offer.

Sometimes we are distracted from God’s presence by our preoccupation with things in the world. Jesus described the cares of the world as thorns that choke his word in us. Other times we become engrossed in our own thoughts—responsibilities, worries, irritations and preoccupations. Just as we can walk right past a lilac bush in bloom on a spring day, failing to notice its beauty or smell its scent because we are un-attentive, so we regularly miss the fragrance of God’s presence in our self-preoccupation.

Attending to God’s Presence
If we choose, however, we can attend to God’s presence and enter into his peace. He is nearer to us than our very breath, says Augustine of Hippo. But we must open our spiritual eyes. We must be attentive with all of our spiritual senses.

“Taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8).

We are invited to attend the Lord’s presence with our whole being. Interestingly, we are told little about “how” to do this. It is a spiritual reality—like being born again. These are difficult to describe to someone. In Scripture we are simply invited into them.

Likewise, the Lord makes constant invitations to us to experience his presence. That invitation is backed with a promise. In Jeremiah 29:13 God assures us, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

Let us do just that. Let us engage our whole heart to seek him. Let us passionately taste and see his goodness. Let us actively attend to his presence. Let us live in the presence of the eternal “I Am.”

© 2012 Glenn E. Myers

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Epiphany: God Reveals Himself in Light

“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.
See, darkness covers the earth and think darkness is over the peoples,
but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you.
Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.”
Isaiah 60:1-3

“Epiphany” means “a showing” or “a revealing.” For nearly 2000 years Christians have observed Epiphany as the celebration of God’s showing himself—revealing his salvation—to the nations. Jesus’ coming to earth is a fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy that God would reveal his glory, not only to Israel, but to all the nations. People from all the earth would stream to the brightness of his light.

In particular Epiphany is the commemoration of Jesus’ being revealed to the Magi from East. They were not part of Israel but rather were astrologers, probably from Persia. Yet, in his great love, God took initiative to show his salvation to them by revealing himself in the night sky. As they followed the star, they came to the place where Jesus was, having the honor of being some of the first to worship the Christ.

Recently I heard a sermon on Epiphany that asked two very good questions:

How Has God Revealed Himself to You this Past Year?

In what ways did the Lord reveal himself to you over the past year? Perhaps he miraculously provided for your needs. Maybe he showed you his mercy and forgiveness in a very tangible way. Perhaps he revealed his love through the helping hands of someone who reached out to you. Or, possibly he gave you a sober warning or needed direction for your life.

Take some time to look over this past year to recognize the fingerprints of God, as it were, in your life. The Lord often works in subtle ways that we do not fully recognize until we take the time to look back. You may want to briefly journal what you notice, to remind yourself of God’s love during difficult days ahead. Be sure to express thanks to the Lord for his initiative in your life.

How Can You Be Attentive to God Revealing Himself This Year?
The Lord will be revealing himself to us in big and small ways in the weeks and months ahead. He does so in many ways. He speaks to us as we meditate on Scripture. He shows his glory and power in nature. God often directs us as we listen to him in stillness.

But God reveals himself in other unexpected ways. Just as he revealed himself to the Magi through signs in the heavens—and to Moses in the burning bush—he shows himself to us when and how we least expect it. His epiphany might come via the encouragement of a friend. It could surprise us—albeit painfully—through a not-so-nice word of correction. It could be wrapped in the lyrics of a song. The Lord might display his glory in a winter sunrise.

However God chooses to reveal himself in our lives this year, how can we remain open? How can we remain attentive, so we don’t miss it? How can we stay receptive, in order not to overlook it when it comes in an unexpected way?

God’s light comes—it breaks in to our lives in many unanticipated ways! That is Epiphany! That is what we as believers celebrate at the end of the Christmas season. Let us be ready, open and attentive as we walk into all that the Lord has in store for us this New Year.

© 2012 Glenn E. Myers

Friday, January 6, 2012

Epiphany: Fully Present in the Now for the New Year

“When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’” (John 8:13)

Epiphany is about light—God shining into the world in Christ Jesus. We celebrate it immediately after Christmas, and this is very appropriate for the beginning of the New Year.

Holding on to light is so important. Although the winter nights are dark, cold and long, each day adds a minute or so of sunlight to each morning and each evening. Although the change is slow, we begin to notice in January how much more light we have. It gives us hope. As the light shines longer, the sun’s rays become ever stronger, until the snow gives way and spring finally arrives.

In our spiritual lives, progress is also generally slow. While we occasionally get a growth spurt—especially as young believers—most of the Christian life is steady faithful progress. We need to hold on to light and hope during the slow process. We need to walk in the light and see it take over our lives a few minutes more each day.

Present in the Now
Walking in the light this New Year for me entails living fully present in the now. So often I am not present in the now. Physically here, my mind is a million miles away, which keeps me from enjoying the moment and all the goodness that God has for me today.

If I am not here mentally, then where am I? Most often I am off in the future—planning projects in my mind. Sometimes I am worrying about responsibilities, events or people. To enter the here and now, I must set aside my “strategic planning” side. There is, of course, a time and place for organizing my schedule and taking care of responsibilities. But I do not want the “planning table” to be the only place I live my life.

On other occasions, instead of being in the present, I’m focused on the past. I am arguing mentally with someone who I would like to set straight. Or, I am regretting something that I did or failed to do. Most often, if I am stuck in the past, I am missing a wonderful time I had somewhere or time I spent with someone close to me.

Ironically, those wonderful times that I miss are the times when I was fully present to the moment. Being in the now is largely what made them so memorable!

Right Here, Right Now

Instead of daydreaming about the past and wishing I could be back there, why not become fully present to the here and now? This moment—this place—has all the potential to be another wonderful time.

The present is available to be lived to the fullest. It has the potential to be one of those completely alive moments when I am fully connected with the Lord, with others, with myself and with all that surrounds me. Right where I am, I can tap into that same wonderfulness by becoming fully present to the moment. I can bring my full attention, my whole consciousness, to what God has for me in the moment.

Each day this year I want to walk in the light. Rather than reminiscing about the past or planning out the future, I want to live fully in the moment. In the present moment, I can bask in God’s light for me right now!

© 2012 Glenn E. Myers