How to Practice God’s Presence
by Deb Weakly
“There is not in the world a kind of life more sweet and delightful, than that of a continual conversation with God; those only can comprehend it who practice and experience it.” -Brother Lawrence
1. It’s Monday and time to pray with your prayer partner! If you don’t have someone as a designated prayer partner, call a friend right now and pray with her for 10 minutes. Take turns praying for each other. Remember that you are moving heaven as you pray!
2. It’s time to meet with your beloved Jesus! Grab your Bible, a pen, a journal or sheets of paper, something hot to drink and a beautiful smelling candle. Take a deep breath. Calm your heart and mind. Focus your thoughts on Jesus and the truth that He loves you, longs for you to know He is with you and, in fact, is closer than your breath. Pray right now for God to speak to your heart through today’s Bible study about becoming more aware of His presence and increasing your faith in knowing He is with you. Be here with Jesus, right now in this moment.
3. Read Psalm 131:1-3, Jeremiah 23:24 and 1 Corinthians 3:16NASB. Write Psalm 131:2 in your journal.
Some time ago, while sitting in the choir loft of a beautiful church waiting for the conductor to start practice, I had a thousand things swirling around in my head. I was really too busy to sing and felt overwhelmed at the thought of all that’s left to do before Christmas.
It was then I felt the Lord impress upon me the thought, “Be here with me, Deb. Be here.” I realized God wanted me to be with Him in the moment and let everything else go. I simply prayed a quick prayer asking God to to show me how to become more aware of His presence and to be with Him right in that moment.
Instantly, I felt my body relax and I began to look around at the scene in the choir loft. I noticed the conductor’s wonderful sense of humor, the other choir members sweet love for Jesus, and the beauty of the music we were singing. I observed the magnificent stained glass window and said to God, “Oh, Jesus, what a beautiful window! I know when they were building this church, they prayed for wisdom, and look how You answered!! It’s gorgeous!”
Since then, I find myself pondering and praying how to be constantly aware of the presence of God. In Jeremiah 23:24, this Scripture says that God is around us at all times, and according to 1 Corinthians 3:16, the Spirit of God indwells all believer’s. So if you are a Christ-Follower He lives in you!
Why don’t we always feel God? Sometimes we feel alone, but God’s true word says otherwise and states that His Spirit lives in us. I believe the answer lies in being able to practice the presence of God. Just like everything else in life, when we practice something, we become better and better.
But how do you practice being aware of God’s presence?
- Start by spending regular time with God. The “Morning Watch” is a wonderful term used to describe the first few moments of the day spent with God. Of course, we talk to God all day, but there is definitely something special about setting aside time to pray and read your Bible. The more time you spend with Him, the better you will know scripture, and the easier it will be to hear His voice. If mornings are tough for you, pray and ask God to get you up 15 minutes earlier and help you to focus on Him right away. Trust me, He will honor this request!
- Next, ask God to help you to cultivate a mental habit of noticing His presence. Ask Him several times a day until you begin to feel His peace and start to gain the ability to notice the little things around you- the smallness of your children’s fingers, the love in your husbands eyes when he looks at you, the delicious smell of the bread baking in the oven, and the sweet sound of the worship music playing in the background. Try to be present in each moment with God and continually talk to Him about each little thing as you notice them.
- Last, the Bible says that worship and a thankful heart ushers us into God’s presence. Psalm 22:3 says, “God inhabits the praise of His people.” God loves it when we notice His blessings in our lives. A thankful heart leads us to worship which brings joy to our hearts and also an increased awareness of His love and nearness.
Remember, God is with you all the time. In happy or sad times, when you’re sick or hurt, laughing or sleeping, He is constantly with you. There is never a moment when you are without God’s presence. (Hebrews 13:5)
“Think often on God, by day, by night, in your business and even in your diversions. He is always near you and with you; leave him not alone.” Brother Lawrence
4. Questions to Ponder: Write the answers to this question in your journal.
-When have you felt God’s presence the most? It could be in church when you are singing, or rocking your baby right as they fall asleep, or during a difficult time or tragedy when you knew God was with you. If you are having trouble remembering a certain time, ask God to give you an special memory of a wonderful account of His presence, in good times and bad.
5. Faith-Filled Ideas:
-Write “Practice God’s Presence” on your bathroom mirror in dry-erase marker. Let this reminder spur you on to practice daily the ideas in this study. Go thru the steps outlined over and over until they are committed to memory.
-Record today’s verses on your phone’s recording device. Listen to them often to remind yourself of the truth that God is with you. Ask Him to help you to rest in His presence like the weaned child.
The Name of Jesus
by Daphne Close
“There is power in the name of Jesus to break every chain.” – from the song “Break Every Chain” by Will Regan, United Pursuit
1. Feeling fatigued? Open up your Bible and notebook. Before you sit down, do 10 jumping jacks. You’ve pumped your heart, now pump your soul!
2. Read Matthew 1:18-25. Write verse 21 in your journal. Highlight the word “save.” Make it stand out with asterisks, stars, or fireworks. It’s an important word!
The official Christmas season ended. Reflections on “The Best of 2015” began. The radio replaced around the clock Christmas music with countdowns; which song will be #1 on the chart? Christmas trees slowly grace our curbsides, holiday decorations now cost less than half of their original price. Are you going out for New Year’s Eve or staying home?
How can we keep the message of Christmas in our hearts as we prepare for the new year? Let’s go back to the beginning of the Christmas story. Today, we will reflect on Jesus’ father, Joseph.
As I read Joseph’s side of the story, I wonder what he was thinking. Although I have no idea what went through the mind and heart of Jesus’ earthly father, I can’t help but conclude that at some point, he said to himself, “This is not how I expected my life would turn out.”
Why would God turn Joseph’s life upside-down? Why was God’s plan totally unexpected?
The answer is in the name of Jesus. He saves.
I love the name of Jesus. With it comes freedom! Romans 10:13 says “Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.” His name saves us from eternal death, but it saves from more than just our initial salvation.
Many years ago, I was at a corporate worship night. It was one of those memories that I’ll never forget. Everyone was in awe of God. We weren’t only moved because the music stirred our emotions. The presence of the Lord was so strong. I remember being so full of joy, so full of passion, so full of love for the Lord, that I freely shouted at the top of my lungs, “Jesus!” Nothing more needed to be said. His name alone proclaimed the core of my worship.
There have been other times when I just didn’t know what to say. Perhaps my heart was overwhelmed with sorrow or I couldn’t put words to my emotions. The only word that could come out was “Jesus.” Just saying His name out loud brings great comfort.
Perhaps you have experienced, or heard of others Christians who have felt spiritual oppression. My friends described it as a great heaviness that weighed them down. They tried to pray, but the burden was too strong. Finally, with all they had within them, they cried out loud, “Jesus!” With this one word prayer, the burden lifted! The name of the Lord is so powerful that the enemy must leave.
From what situation, false belief, or unexpected life change do you want Jesus to save you? Let God’s angel say to you, just like he said to Joseph, “Fear not!” Remember, the very name of Jesus means ‘He saves.”
Before we move on to “Questions to Ponder” and “Faith Filled Ideas,” flash forward to Matt. 27:41-42:
In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes and elders, were mocking Him and saying, “He saved others; He cannot save Himself. He is the King of Israel; let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe in Him.”
Do you see the heartbreaking irony? They mocked Jesus, insulting His claims to save them. They rejected salvation from the very one whose name and human incarnation means “He Saves.” Don’t believe for one second that Jesus cannot save you from your burden.
3. Questions to Ponder
Do you feel lost in any way? In what area do you long to be saved? You can use the term “lost” and “saved” loosely. It could be that you feel lost in your daily to-do list, or you feel you don’t belong at church, thus feeling lost. Perhaps you want to be saved from a medical condition. Whatever the context, ask Jesus to save you.
4. Faith-Filled Idea
Spend exactly one minute praising Jesus out loud, declaring the names of Jesus. For every name, say “Jesus, You are ____.” Speak slowly and methodically, as if chewing on every word.
For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;
And the government will [a]rest on His shoulders;
And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
The 7 I Am’s in John
The Light of the World
The Bread of Life
The Resurrection and Life
The Good Shepherd
Bible Resources provides a comprehensive list: http://bibleresources.org/names-of-jesus/
After you have practiced this form of worship on your own, try this with others. If your children can read, have them join you.
2016 is fast approaching! Do you like to make New Year’s Resolutions? This year, resolve to see how Jesus will save you in one area. Remember, you cannot save yourself. Only Jesus an save. So pray, wait, listen, watch, then marvel. Pray to the Lord, asking Him to take care of this area. Wait for His timing. Listen through reading God’s Word. Watch to see how His answer is greater than your plan. Finally, marvel at how He saved you.
Did you know that Joshua is the Hebrew form of Jesus? Jesus is the Greek form. They both mean “he saves.” Do you know someone named Joshua? Tell this person, “Your name means “Jesus saves!” Maybe he doesn’t know the meaning of his name. Maybe he doesn’t yet know Jesus.
Taking Hold of God’s Blessings
by Heather Doolittle
“Let go of the old so you can completely take hold of the new.” – Joyce Meyers
1.Find a cozy place to spend time with your Lord today. Bring your Bible and your journal. Take a deep breath, calm your spirit, and notice the blessings around you. Rest in God’s peace.
2. Read Isaiah 43:16-21. Write Isaiah 43:18 in your journal.
New Years resolutions speak to our innate desire to begin anew and transform into a better version of ourselves. The idea that each year brings a fresh start and new opportunities to learn and grow is not only appealing, it is biblical. In fact, on Mount Sinai God commanded His people to spend the first ten days of each New Year focusing on how to change and grow in the months ahead. (Leviticus 23:23-28).
These ten days are called the High Holy Days, culminating with the Day of Atonement on day ten. God’s people are to observe them with earnest prayer, fasting, and introspection. By the Day of Atonement, they are to make amends (atone) for their mistakes in order to move past them. Then they can start each year with a clean slate and look forward to the blessings ahead. The High Holy Days are a beautiful celebration of God’s grace and redemption.
Your sins don’t accumulate throughout the year until the Day of Atonement arrives; God’s mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23). Hence, the Day of Atonement is for man, not for God. Even though God has readily forgiven all our sins, we don’t always forgive ourselves as easily. Do you have burdens you have carried for years? Do you have a negative self image or shame, or some unbearable sin you can’t seem to get past? What about “Mom guilt” from holding yourself to impossible standards?
God doesn’t want His children to live that way; He intends for us to live in freedom! (Galatians 5:1) God has already forgiven our sins, but we need to accept that forgiveness. Only then will we receive the blessings that come along with it. Through this extended New Years celebration, God has given us an annual opportunity to shed our past mistakes and partake in the blessings our Father has laid before us.
“Forget the former things; do not dwell in the past. See, I am doing a new thing!” (Isaiah 43:18) God made this promise when the Israelites were in the depths of despair, floundering in the dire consequences of their own sin. No one is outside of God’s mercy. He is willing to use every obstacle to guide us toward His goodness, but first we must stop dwelling in the past in order to set our sights on a brighter future.
Just imagine what a difference it would make if you were to start this tradition: each year spend ten days focusing on how God is moving in your life, just as God commanded the Israelites to do. Instead of beating yourself up over eating too many cookies or overspending this month, just let the extraneous burdens go. Instead, focus on how God is working in your life and in your heart. It is far too easy to miss what God is doing when you are focused on our own agenda. Chances are, the plans God has for you are better than anything you could come up with anyway.
3. Questions to Ponder
– What thoughts, attitudes, or burdens are drawing your heart away from Jesus?
– What have you struggled with over the last year?
– In Jeremiah 33:3 God says, “Call to me and I will answer and tell you unsearchable things you do not know.” Call to your Savior. Pray that He will show you how to let your burdens go, and trust that He will answer you. Lay your troubles at the cross, and leave them there.
4. Faith-Filled Idea
You may be able to come up with some worthy goals: organize your schedule, lose a few pounds, keep your house cleaner. These are all good plans, but are they the best God has for you? Only God knows what is in store for the year ahead, so shouldn’t you first consult Him before making your plans? Don’t miss God while pursuing your own agenda.
Over the next ten days, use your quiet moments to draw near to God. Examine your life and your thoughts. Repent and let go of ALL guilt and condemnation. Talk to your Heavenly Father about how you can live better next year. Ask how He is working in your life, and how you can work with Him.