Seeking God

…David sought the face of the Lord… (2 Samuel 21:1). 

בָּקַשׁ פָּנִים יְהֹוָה

The Hebrew phrase is baqash paniym YHWH: 

  • baqash is to ask for, beg, desire “specifically in worship or prayer.” It’s a “searching as done by touching.” 
  • paniym literally means the face, but it carries the idea of being in someone’s presence.
  • YHWH (Yahweh) is Jehovah God. 

David repeatedly asked, sought, and begged through both prayer and worship that he might be in God’s presence. “Almighty God, I want to be with You. I want to know your heart intimately. I want to see Your face. I’m not seeking help from any other source, but I am resolutely seeking You alone.” 

Perhaps Jesus had this in mind when He told us, “Keep on asking, keep on seeking, keep on knocking. You will get an answer, you will find what you’re seeking, the door to God’s presence will be opened to you. Your Father—YHWH, God Almighty—longs to reveal Himself to you.” 

Q: How long did David seek the face of the Lord? 

A: Until God spoke, until God delivered, until God opened the door. 

Q: How long am I willing to keep on seeking the face of the Lord? 

A: I hope I can say until God speaks, until God delivers, until God opens the door.

‘Tis I, Be Not Afraid

Tossed with rough winds, and faint with fear, 
Above the tempest, soft and clear, 
What still small accents greet mine ear?
“‘Tis I; be not afraid.”

“‘Tis I who led thy steps aright; 
‘Tis I who gave thy blind eyes sight; 
‘Tis I, thy Lord, thy Life, thy Light. 
‘Tis I; be not afraid.

“This bitter cup fear not to drink; 
I know it well—oh! do not shrink; 
I tasted it o’er Kedron’s brink. 
‘Tis I; be not afraid. 

“Mine eyes are watching by thy bed, 
Mine arms are underneath thy head, 
My blessing is around thee shed. 
‘Tis I; be not afraid.“

When on the other side thy feet 
Shall rest ‘mid thousands welcomes sweet, 
One well known voice thy heart shall greet. 
“‘Tis I; be not afraid.”

From out the dazzling majesty 
Gently He’ll lay His hands on thee, 
Whispering: “Beloved, lov’st thou Me? 
It was not in vain I died for thee,
‘Tis I; be not afraid.” —Anonymous

Thursdays With Spurgeon—Turn The Scriptures Into Your Cries

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Turn The Scriptures Into Your Cries

     My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?’ … This cry is taken from ‘the Book.’ Does it not show our Lord’s love of the sacred Volume, that when He felt His sharpest grief, He turned to the Scripture to find a fit utterance for it? Here we have the opening sentence of the twenty-second Psalm. Oh, that we may so love the inspired Word that we may not only sing to its score but even weep to its music! … 

     When you are delirious with pain, think of your Bible. When your mind wonders, let it roam toward the mercy seat. And when your heart and your flesh fail, still live by faith and still cry, ‘My God, my God.’ … 

     Grief has small regard for the laws of the grammarian. Even the holiest, when in extreme agony, though they cannot speak otherwise than according to purity and truth, yet use a language of their own that only the ear of sympathy can fully receive.

From My God, My God Why Have You Forsaken Me?

Grief is a time to get real. As Spurgeon said, “Grief has small regard for the laws of the grammarian.” Grief is not a time to carefully choose our words. 

Get real with God in your prayer closet. Tell Him everything that frustrates you. I promise you, God is not going to fall off His throne and say, “What?! I had no idea you felt that way!” He already knows what’s in your heart, but it will do you much good to get it out. Much like someone with food poisoning needs to vomit out the poison, God will not be offended when you vomit out your “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” in His presence. 

Many scholars believe that Jesus probably sang the entirety of the 22nd Psalm from the Cross. Whether He did or not, listen to the assurances that Jesus had from just this psalm alone, even in the midst of His heart-wrenching cry—

My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? Why are You so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish? My God, I cry out by day, but You do not answer, by night, but I find no rest. Yet You are enthroned as the Holy One; You are the one Israel praises. In You our ancestors put their trust; they trusted and You delivered them. To You they cried out and were saved; in You they trusted and were not put to shame. … But You, Lord, do not be far from me. You are my strength; come quickly to help me. … I will declare Your name to my people; in the assembly I will praise You. … From You comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly; before those who fear You I will fulfill my vows. The poor will eat and be satisfied; those who seek the Lord will praise Him. (vv. 1-5, 19, 22, 25-26) 

Jesus turned to the Scriptures to find the words He cried out to His Father in His darkest moment, and He invites you to follow His example. Make the psalms your own—turn them into your own prayers. God is close to you when you cry out, “My God!” to Him.

Where’s God?

We’ve all asked that question. Something happens that rocks our world, and we wonder where in the world God is. 

We call out to God and He seems silent. We search our hearts to see if we can discern something we’ve done wrong, and seeing nothing amiss we cry out again, “God, where are You?” 

So where is God in our heartache? In our abandonment? In our sorrows? In our distress? In death? Believe it or not, God may be closer in His silence than you’ve ever perceived before. 

Join me this Sunday as we begin a new series called Where’s God? I hope you can join me in person, but if you can’t, please join me on Facebook Live.

Poetry Saturday—Lord Of All Being

Lord of all being, throned afar,
Thy glory flames from sun and star;
Center and soul of every sphere,
Yet to each loving heart how near!

Sun of our life, Thy quickening ray,
Sheds on our path the glow of day;
Star of our hope, Thy softened light
Cheers the long watches of the night.

Our midnight is Thy smile withdrawn;
Our noontide is Thy gracious dawn;
Our rainbow arch, Thy mercy’s sign;
All, save the clouds of sin, are Thine.

Lord of all life, below, above,
Whose light is truth, whose warmth is love,
Before Thy ever blazing throne
We ask no luster of our own.

Grant us Thy truth to make us free,
And kindling hearts that burn for Thee,
Till all Thy living altars claim
One holy light, one heavenly flame. —Oliver Wendell Holmes

Justice And Love

But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9). 

There are consequences for sin (because God is Just) and there is a remedy for sin (because God is Love). 

Adam and Eve sinned. 

They lost their innocence before God, they were expelled from the Garden of Eden, they would experience pain in childbirth, they would have to scratch to provide their food, they would experience relational turmoil, and most devastatingly of all, they faced the potential of being separated from God’s presence forever. 

These are all just penalties for sin. 

But don’t miss God’s love in this too—

  • God came to them in the cool of the day, not in the instant of their sin 
  • He came walking in the Garden, not hurling lightning bolts of judgment 
  • He came with questions, not accusations 
  • He cursed the devil and the ground, but not Adam and Eve 
  • He provided for the final defeat of satan, not the final defeat of mankind 
  • He killed an animal to clothe their nakedness, not leaving them vulnerable 
  • He didn’t allow them to become immortal while still in their sin

There are painful consequences for sin—this is Justice. 

But even in justice, never lose sight of the fact that GOD IS LOVE ❤️

Run To Wait

My wife is a fan of the TV show (and movie) Downton Abbey, which means I have come to appreciate it as well. I think Mr. Carson, the head butler, gives us some great insight into a Christian’s prayer relationship with God. 

Mr. Carson has a lot to oversee with the house, the staff, and the needs of the family members and their guests. Everything needs to be tidy and ready at all times for both important guests and the Grantham family. That means Mr. Carson has to have a schedule and routine for everything. 

He doesn’t get up in the morning and sit around waiting for someone to tell him what to do—he gets up and gets to work. He’s a busy man with a lot of responsibilities. But can you imagine if Lord or Lady Grantham came to him with a request and he responded, “Not now, I’m too busy with my To Do list”? No way! He’s their servant, so he quickly responds, “Yes, my lord.” 

Christians can so busy and hurried with our own “To Do list” that we miss out on what’s really important. As Rick Warren then noted, “Hurry is the death of prayer!” 

The dictionary defines hurry as acting in haste, usually in a state of urgency, or feeling rushed. Notice the word “urgency” in the definition. Far too often we confuse urgent things and important things. It’s not that what we’re busy with are bad things, but perhaps we are busy with things that are keeping us blind to the important things. 

Long before Mr. Carson, there was another notable servant named Abraham (Genesis 18:1-8). God showed up and Abraham wanted to be in His presence. So notice that Abraham had to run to wait to God’s presence—the narrative uses words like hurried, “quick” and ran.  

Abraham was quick to get into God’s presence SO THAT he could linger in God’s presencehe stood near Them under a tree: that’s the posture of a servant-in-waiting. 

In the NIV translation, the text says Abraham hurried, but almost every other translation says he ran to meet Them—this is an important distinction. Hurry speaks to things that are urgent, but run speaks to things that are important. 

Stephen Covey has a great diagram that helps us identify four important quadrants in our life:

As you place items from your life on this grid, our Prayer Coach—the Holy Spirit—can help us identify the time-wasters. The key is to find time to wait in prayer. The best place to make time for Quadrant II prayer comes from Quadrant IV. As you eliminate those time-wasters, you will be able to spend health-enhancing time in prayer, worship, planning, and self-care in Quadrant II. This will also better equip you to handle the Quadrant I crises as they appear.

Ultimately, like Mr. Carson, we need to be both proactive with our schedule and responsive to the requests of our Lord. A good daily posture for all of us is “If the Lord wills” (James 4:13-17). But we have to not be so distracted with unimportant things that we can hear what God is speaking to our hearts.

Please join me next week as we continue to uncover things that could derail our regular prayer times, and then strategize a plan for dealing with them.  

Poetry Saturday—Clinging To Thee

O Holy Savior, Friend unseen,
Since on Thine arm Thou bidst me lean,
Help me throughout life’s varying scene
   By faith to cling to Thee.

Blest with this fellowship divine,
Take what Thou wilt, I’ll ne’er repine;
E’en as the branches to the vine,
   My soul would cling to Thee.

Far from her home, fatigued, oppressed,
Here she has found her place of rest;
An exile still, yet not unblessed,
   While she can cling to Thee.

Without a murmur I dismiss
My former dreams of earthly bliss;
My joy, my consolation this,
   Each hour to cling to Thee.

What though the world unfaithful prove,
And earthly friends and joys remove;
With sure and certain hope of love,
   Still would I cling to Thee.

Oft when I seem to tread alone
Some barren waste, with thorns o’ergrown,
Thy voice of love, in gentle tone,
   Whispers “Still cling to Me.” 

Though faith and hope may oft be tried,
I ask not, need not aught beside;
How safe, how calm, how satisfied,
   The soul that clings to Thee!

They fear not satan, nor the grave—
They feel Thee near and strong to save;
Nor dread to cross e’en Jordan’s wave,
   Because they cling to Thee.

Blessed is my lot, whate’er may befall;
What can disturb me, who appall,
While as my Strength, my Rock, my All,
   Savior, I cling to Thee? —Charlotte Elliott

Poetry Saturday—I Do It Unto Thee

Lord of all pots and pans and things,
since I’ve no time to be a great saint
by doing lovely things…
make me a saint by getting meals,
and washing up the plates.
Warm all the kitchen with Thy love,
and light it with Thy peace;
forgive me all my worrying,
and make my grumbling cease.
Thou Who didst love to give men food,
in room, or by the sea,
accept the service that I do,
I do it unto Thee.
Amen. —Brother Lawrence

Close To God

Imagine being close enough to hear God’s voice—Your ears will hear a word behind you, “This is the way, walk in it,” whenever you turn to the right or to the left. (Isaiah 30:21)

Here’s a great question I recently heard: “What if God doesn’t want to give us answers, because He wants to give us His presence?” 

Perhaps if God showed me my whole path, I might just take off down the path as fast as I could. Maybe I’d even say something like, “Thanks, God, I’ll take it from here!”

But God wants me close to Him. He wants me to hear His voice at every single step saying, “This is the way, walk in it.” 

The model prayer that Jesus taught us is all about that closeness and total reliance on God’s close presence: 

  • Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name [close enough to worship Him intimately],
  • Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven [close enough to know His heart].
  • Give us today our daily bread [close enough to rely on Him for all of my daily needs].
  • And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors [close enough to know His forgiving love for me and for others].
  • Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one [close enough to His strength to say “no” to temptations that would entice me off of His path].
  • For Yours is the kingdom, and the glory, and the power forever [close enough to bask perpetually in His glory and His power].

God wants us THAT close to Him—to rely on Him, to lean into Him, to be empowered by Him, to be protected in Him. 

A good question for all of us to ponder: How close to God am I?

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