Jan 5 2020 How to Focus on the Things that Really Matter
5th January 2020
Lord, thank You for this morning and the opportunity to have our hearts focused on You. As we enter this year, we know we are loved and forgiven, having received grace and mercy. We kneel before You, knowing that we need You. Even as we may face trials and difficulties – we know that You will be present with us. You don’t promise that everything we want will come, but You do promise that through everything You’ll be with us. In Your name we pray.
Psalm 27:4 One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple. 5 For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon a rock.
Last week – Jeff, one of the folks who shared, talked about some things we need to be doing as we head into the New Year.
Over the next several weeks, I will be looking at a number of verses like this:
One thing, this only do I seek… - The things that matter the most
That phrase appears many times.
First of all, I urge that you pray…
Above all, keep fervent…
The things that matter in 2020!
What matters – we talked about right before Christmas – the story of the angels and shepherds – how the GLORY of the Lord appeared – God’s physical presence.
Then in John – the Word became flesh and TABERNACLED among us – and this psalmist is talking about coming to the tabernacle – the place where the glory of the Lord was. And now for us, Post-New Testament – we have the Holy Spirit living in the TEMPLES of our body.
And the Psalmist is saying we have the opportunity to experience God’s presence daily.
He wanted to go to the temple to gaze on the beauty of the Lord. That is surprising.
When I think of spending time with God, I think of having a quiet time and checking it off my list – having a list and checking things off – especially those things your wife wants you to do – is a good thing – but all the psalmist wanted was to be with God.
What you think about when you think about God is the most important thing about you – (Akron native!) A.W. Tozer –
What comes to mind when you think about God?
Some say this: I know God loves me, but does He like me? And what they mean – yes, theologically, yes, God is love, but in our experience, sometimes it just doesn’t feel like that. It is not what we see in our real experience.
For others, we see an angry, demanding God who is never quite satisfied, and that often comes from family of origin.
Others think of a guilting, shaming God, depending on your religious background.
Others think of Him as Santa or the Genie in the Bottle – and that comes from pop-culture Christianity.
But the Bible says this simple phrase – God IS love.
It is not just saying He loves – but God’s very essence, His core – the foundational part of His being – is LOVE – it is at the heart of who He is.
The Trinity – we believe, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – is an eternal love relationship at the very core of this God – these three in one – is this constant continual, eternal relationship of love.
When we think of the trinity – we think that is way out there – but I think we can understand what I just said – and God invites us into that love relationship.
We had our first granddaughter – and we love her so much – and my son and his wife invite us into that love of that little girl. God is inviting us little children in to experience His love.
Tabernacle – the place of God’s visible presence on earth.
6 Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me; at his tabernacle I will sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the LORD.7 Hear my voice when I call, LORD; be merciful to me and answer me.8 My heart says of you, "Seek his face!" Your face, LORD, I will seek.
When we talk about the thing that matters – this love relationship with God – there are a couple characteristics that matter – first – this heart that is passionately desiring the presence of God to know Him. It starts in our heart – our own soul wanting to be with God and in His presence.
Seek his face!
It requires activity and action. Ask, how do I enter into God’s presence? Even though He is there at all times, I would think that most of us are usually oblivious to His presence! Right now, here at work, God is present with me.
Psalm 63 O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly; My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, In a dry and weary land where there is no water. 2 Thus I have seen You in the sanctuary, To see Your power and Your glory. 3 Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, My lips will praise You.
(Sanctuary/tabernacle/temple – all the same)
This passionate desire is always connected with understanding our deep need. We will not have a desire to be in God’s presence until we see that we really need that.
When you are really thirsty – you need water – We need to have a thirst for God – something that only He can offer us -we will never have that thirst satisfied apart from God.
Then there is the body – our physical relationship with God – Your body is a spiritual thing and a critical part of your spiritual life. So what we need to do – looking at the psalmist and the life of Jesus – we need to take physical, spiritual practices to connect us to God.
We will look at some simple practices to do to connect with God.
3 Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, My lips will praise You.
Lovingkindness – mercy – grace – compassion – unconditional love
Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice. (Psalm 55:17 NIV)
The Hebrew day began in the evening – there was evening and there was morning – the first day! It says in Genesis.
I like having a time of reflection before God to look back on the day and ask myself – Where was God present with me that day? Where did I hear His voice? Where did I see His activity? It doesn’t take long. Maybe it was a time of reading the Bible or the circumstances of your life.
In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation. (Psalm 5:3 NIV)
SO we get this pattern – at nighttime – to reflect – and in the morning to set ourselves for the day ahead – anticipating how He might come and work in us. Some have quiet times – or devotional books – or daily office – how you do it is irrelevant – but what is relevant is that you prepare yourself before God.
I am going to pass something out – some practices – I have talked about these practices a lot – reminders – helpful ways of entering the presence of the Lord and experiencing Him. Do what works for you. I did some of this naturally – then I learned a practice.
First – Sacred or spiritual reading – Lectio-Divina – Latin for sacred reading – some get freaked out by that. Here is how this works – people have been doing this for 2000 years and longer – you can join in – first – get your Bible out and prepare your heart – to be still and know that He is God! That little phrase – Be still, and let God lead this time.
Then choose a short passage – 6-12 verses – and don’t go through Numbers where so and so begat so and so…
There are plenty of places to find a passage for this.
Read it through slowly – if it is a long psalm, read it another time – just a short passage where you can listen. The second time through, listen for a word or phrase that speaks into your heart – just listening to hear God speak to you through this passage.
I sometimes hand this out in small groups – read a passage and highlight a word or two as they speak.
Once you have done that – in prayer before God – meditation/Contemplation – repeat that word – asking – why did this phrase or word speak to me – what does it address in my life? What is He trying to get across? Then respond in prayer – begin a time of dialogue with God. Pour out your heart before Him. Just let it all out. Don’t think that you have to hold back! God just wants your heart in that time. He can handle it! He can handle your anger, disappointment, frustration, excitement – He can handle it all and He wants to handle it all!
Third reading – as you read through – how does it relate to me.
And then – take it with you throughout your day – and whatever it is that God said to you – how does it relate? Bring it back to each situation.
The second one – on the other side of the paper.
Don’t be scared – the concept of Ignatian Gospel Contemplation.
Saint Ignatius was giving this name…
Choose a story from the gospels – read through it slowly – listening – what is going on? Looking at details. Let’s say you are doing the prodigal son… Read it as if you are breathing first century Palestinian air! You feel it! You smell it!
Then when you read through it the second time – choose a character in the story and read it through as if you are a character in the story – say, the father. And the son comes and says – I need to get away from you! Give me my inheritance so I can get out of here! Think what the father is going through – how would he experience it?
Read it through that way.
Do that for a week, reading through the story from the point of view of a different character and allow God to speak through that.
Psalm 42:1 – the psalmist gives us a nature picture: As the deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you, O God. 2 I thirst for God, the living God. When can I go and stand before him?
There is this picture of a deer longing for water…
2020 – learn to create – one writer – April Yamasaki – Sacred Pauses – divine pauses – create a time where we stop – during our day – to be still and know that He is God. Finding time and places – Jesus said – when you pray – go in your inner closet – maybe you have an inner closet – or a car – or an office door that can be closed…
Look for 4-5 times/day to turn your attention back to God – just to focus and pay attention to Him.
2 Cor. 3: But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.
As we enter the presence of God – to behold His beauty – Paul tells us that we get transformed into that image – we become what we are beholding.
You may be able to stop smoking or drinking with a plan, but those plans alone will never allow you to become like Jesus. We only become like Jesus as we enter His presence to behold Him.
That is why – what we think about when we think about God is the most important thing about you – because it determines who we become as people. Let’s pray…
Lord, thank You – help us to be people who see You as a beautiful God. Help us to understand just how much You love us and want us to be in Your presence – that this love relationship might grow. Thank you that we have been welcomed into this relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – Amen.