Overcoming Mental Distractions When Praying

Prayer is supposed to be a user-friendly activity. When done, I should know something good has happened. However, sometimes I find it difficult to feel positive. The issue is with me—not God.

I realize I can pray anytime…anywhere…about anything; but when I really want to focus, I have discovered I need a quiet time. A time in the day when the statistical chance for an interruption is reduced. For me, the best time is in the morning before anyone in my family wakes up.

I have also learned I need a comfortable place. A place I have designated for the purpose of praying. My favorite spot is on the couch in our game room.

Last, I need a designated amount of time. There is nothing wrong with praying on the move, I do it all the time; but for me to feel spiritually healthy I need some days within each week when I have a designated time to pray. I’ve learned the optimum amount of time for me is 30-45 minutes.

Even if I get my personalized-focused-prayer-time-checklist checked, I still encounter some problems that make my prayers seem…well…like a waste of time. Here are my 3 most common obstacles:

  1. I feel panicked about my life and begin to rapidly spew thoughts, feelings, complaints, and desired outcomes to God. When this happens my words can’t keep up with my brain. It is not a loss of focus. I know exactly all the needs, troubles or challenges I need to pray about; and I want to pray about all of them at the same time. I imagine it looks like a fire hydrant that has been hit by a car. All the pressure in my life is released at once shooting 30 feet up in the air. I’m not saying God doesn’t listen or care when this happens. I’m saying it doesn’t feel like a productive time for me.
  2. I can’t focus—much less finish a thought. This is the opposite of what I described above. When this happens I pray about an issue for about 2 seconds, and then my mind jumps to some random thought that is totally unrelated. I feel like Dug, the talking dog, in the movie UP. Again, I’m not saying God gets frustrated with me when I do this. I’m saying I get frustrated with me.
  3. I don’t know what to pray. In other words, I’m at a loss for words. Maybe this is a guy thing. I find myself sitting comfortably on the couch with no interruptions and don’t have clue what to pray. I think nothing. I feel nothing. I just sit there and spiritually twittle my thumbs. I feel awkward and dense. I know God loves me just as much in that moment as in any other moment, but I feel like it is a huge waste of time.

Part of the activity of prayer is to mentally stay focused and communicate with God. I can’t make Him speak to me, but surely I can be disciplined enough to speak to Him. These obstacles mess with me and I need a plan when I run into them.

While reading the Bible, I had a thought that turned into plan of action. Here are the verses I read:

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.1

This was my thought: I will study this prayer and use it when my mind will not focus. In other words, when my mind is busy, wandering or blank; I will by default use this prayer and let it be the focus of my prayer time.

As I began to study this prayer, I learned the meaning of some key words:

“love may abound” – I need God’s love in me to grow. I need more unconditional love for others.

“knowledge” – Random love for others is not enough. I need to know how to love others the best way.

“discern” – I need to know what is best to love in others. It is not a choice between good and bad, but between good and best.

“pure” love – I need a sincere love for others with selfish motives filtered out.

“blameless” love – I need a love that will not cause others to stumble.

So…when I’ve marked off my personalized-focused-prayer-time-checklist and my mind won’t cooperate, this is an example of what I discipline myself to pray:

Lord, I need Your unconditional love to grow inside of me. Who do you want me to love on Your behalf? [He generally brings someone to mind. I focus on them and continue to pray] Lord, how can I love them the best way? Show me what to do so that they might be attracted to You. [I let God guide my thoughts and give me creative ideas or subtle nudges…I continue to pray] What do you love about them Lord? Show me how to love them so that the best You put in them is developed. [Again, I listen and let Him guide my ideas between what is good and what is best] Teach me to love this person with no selfish motives. [It is here God points out what needs to change in me.] Please don’t allow my actions to cause them to stumble. [Here I am counting on God to let my love be received in a way that accomplishes His purposes].

If you are struggling to stay focused during prayer, I encourage you to try this. It works for me.

1-Philippians 1:9-11

Partners Bring Joy

958 Word – Approx. Reading Time 3.5 Minutes

Life is not fair. It never has been. It is a challenge to stay positive when life is working against us. We can play by the rules, follow God, eat right, pray, exercise and treat others with respect; and still encounter problems that bring us to our knees. When it happens to me a voice deep within whines, “This is not fair.”

I’m learning a skill to get over the pity party I’m tempted to throw. I’m learning to lean into partnerships God has provided for these unfair events. Let me define what I mean by partnerships.

First, not all friends are partners. However, a true partner is always a friend. Second, partnerships exist for different reasons, but they don’t exist for me to dump my feelings of entitlement. And third, partners have different levels of involvement to support me through the God-given task that is rubbing me the wrong way.

A true partner shares in the risks of life. Each risk comes with a struggle and the possibility of two outcomes: failure and success. Partners stick around in the struggle and stay no matter the outcome. They do not just share the same values and believe the same doctrines. It is much deeper than that. They bleed, laugh, cry, pray and rejoice with me to overcome darkness and make the world a better place. Friends do not always do this, but partners do.

The Bible uses a word that colors in and fills up the relationship I call partner. The word is koinōnia and one translation of this word is partnership. The Apostle Paul, filled with emotion, used this word to describe his relationship with a group of people:

In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now…1

When Paul penned these words, life had not been treating him fairly (in fact, I bet there are some who would make the argument God had not treated him fairly). He was in prison, charged with acts of terrorism against the emperor of Rome. His crime was preaching, “Jesus is Lord.”

He could have written words fueled by self-pity promoting himself as a victim. He could have shared bitter words calling for justice. He could have whined about life not being fair, but he didn’t. Instead, he thought of the partners God had given him. He recalled the names and faces of those who risked following Christ with him. He remembered their shared experiences of being mistreated when they partnered with him to live for Christ.2 Detained and confined, his mind went to the partners God had placed in his life. Instead of feeling alone, mistreated and defeated, he experienced joy and prayed for them.

Almost three years ago, Cherry and I adopted two brothers. We chose them. We loved them. We brought them home. One of them has become part of the family; the other has not (at least not yet). I can’t tell you how many times my heart has cried, “This is not fair.” It’s not fair that we chose him, but he has not chosen us. It’s not fair that we love him, but he does not love us. It’s not fair that we care for him and he cares not for us. His rejection is not fair.

It’s easy to think…Poor me. Look at how I’m being mistreated…and let my victim mentality become the filter for my mood. It is just as easy to rant…“God, why are You letting this happen?” Here my inner entitlement issues reveal that I believe I should be exempt from challenges because I did a good thing. Both ways of thinking are wrong and do nothing but rob me of joy.

However, when I focus on the partners God has provided for this season of life, the individuals who are standing by me and with me, my inner victim voice and my claims to a more fair life are silenced. Another voice begins to rise. It is the voice of joy. It reminds me God has called me to do something and I am not alone. Joy brings to my mind the names and faces of those praying and helping. I am reminded that my feelings of self-pity are useless to accomplish God’s plan for my son.

Joy reminds me that God is not finished. The relationship (the one between me and my son) is not complete. God started something and He is not done. It will require many people to accomplish this God-given task, but have no doubts…He is on it. How do I know this? Look at the end of Paul’s sentence:

In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.3

When the task is completed these partners who surround me will rejoice with me and move on to other God ordained projects. The partners are proof that God is actively involved in what I am calling unfair; and that is cause for joy. I’m learning this as I walk through the complexities of adoption. Signing the papers was easy. Living out what was signed is requiring partners and God is faithfully providing.

He is doing the same for you. I’m not special. Stop listening to your victim voice. Stop feeling entitled to a better life. Look for the partners He has provided. Experience joy and enjoy a better mood.

1- Philippians 1:4-5, 2- Acts 16:11-40, 3- Philippians 1:4-6

Good Happens…Why?

944 words / Approx. Reading Time 3.5 minutes

Free food!

Those two words don’t mean much if you’re not hungry. However, if you are hungry, they are AWESOME!

Our cities and towns have homeless shelters, food banks and soup kitchens. Hundreds of 18 5 14 food bankorganizations peppered across America are dedicated to getting good food to those who are less fortunate, but in 1st Century Palestine, it was a novel idea.

Israel was a subjugated people under Roman rule. Rome was the wealthiest empire of its time, but social safety nets were not a priority. It was a dog-eat-dog world where the strong not only survived but were also given permission to take advantage of the poor and step on the weak.

It is because of this reality that Jesus’ kindness was such a big deal. He was kind and powerful. He healed the sick, calmed storms, gave sight to the blind and stood up to leaders who abused their power. He was a rock star and rightly so. His kindness made him a hero to the masses and a villain to the authorities.

Jesus’ kindness toward the less fortunate, the vulnerable and the over looked is largely misunderstood. Mormons, Buddhists, Muslims and Christians all agree that Jesus was kind. We all like his acts of kindness, but few understand why he was kind. Don’t get too perplexed by this. The critics that argued with Jesus, the crowds that followed him and even the disciples who lived with him all struggled with this same issue. The day Jesus fed over 5,000 people is a case in point.

To provide a little context for this day, you need to know Jesus was trying to spend some quality time with his closest friends. He even suggested they get away to an isolated place, away from the crowds, so they could get some rest.1

The crowds were too savvy for this move. Jesus was their local hero and they were not going to allow him to just walk away. They pursued him and the disciples into a deserted place. The masses of people were so caught up in not losing sight of Jesus that they failed to notice there was no food.

The disciples were perturbed by the mob. Yet, when Jesus saw the crowd, he had compassion. Kindness welled up in his heart. He welcomed them and taught them…all day! Finally, someone noticed it was getting late. There were families with children. The crowd needed to go home.2

Jesus knew they could not make the journey without food. He asked the disciples to feed them, but they did not have the resources. The best they could come up with was some fish and bread a boy had brought with him.3

If you are familiar with this miracle, you know what happened next. Jesus took the boy’s Happy Meal, prayed over it and turned it into a feast that fed over 5,000 people. Everyone was astonished. Not only had Jesus done an amazing miracle, but he had also filled everyone’s belly…at not cost (except for the boy who lost his Happy Meal).

They loved Jesus before he did this, but now they had plans for him. Jesus’ act of kindness fueled a political hope. At first the crowd was satisfied being a part of the road crew, now they wanted to make him their king.

Jesus did manage to pull away from the crowd, but the damage had been done. They would not forget his ability to provide free food and the thought of him being their political messiah had taken root. After all, who would object to a President, Prime Minister or dictator if he could feed everyone at no cost?

The next day the crowd began to search for Jesus. When they found him, Jesus quickly exposed their spiritual ignorance. Notice his words:

“I tell you the truth, you want to be with me because I fed you, not because you understood the miraculous signs. But don’t be so concerned about perishable things like food. Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the Son of Man can give you.”4

The people had totally misunderstood the miraculous act of kindness. Jesus wasn’t being kind just for the sake of being kind. He was trying to show them he was the way to eternal life. They could not see the spiritual impact of the meal because they were overwhelmed with idea of free food for life. They wanted the comfort Jesus could provide to make life easier and were energized by the hope of being set free from Roman rule, but missed the display of power that proved Jesus could give eternal life.

The same thing happens today. We all want Jesus’ kindness to take some of the discomfort out of life, but Jesus isn’t kind so that we can be comfortable. Jesus is kind because he wants us to see his power. If we can see his power, then we can believe in him and have eternal life.

The Bible asks this question: Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?5

God’s kind interruptions are for a reason and it is far more important than personal comfort. His kindness is intended to show us the ugliness of our sins and attract us to the love of God. If we do not understand this, we become like the crowd that hunted Jesus down. They fell in love with his kindness—not him.

Someone recently asked my wife, “Why do bad things happen?” She responded, “Have you ever wondered why good things happen?”

1-Mark 6:31, 2-Mark 6:34-35, 3-Mark 6:37 & John 6:9, 4-John 6:26-27, 5-Romans 2:4

Holy Sheep!

885 Words – Approx. Reading Time 3.5 minutes

Sheep are not dumb. Forget the urban myths. They may lack swagger but they more than make up for it in social skills, emotional intelligence and loyalty.

Keith Kendrick is a professor at the University of Electronic Science and Technology in China. He studies sheep. He discovered sheep have impressive memory skills. They can recognize and remember at least 50 individual faces for more than 2 years.1

He also found out sheep are emotionally intelligent. Kendrick says,18 4 19 Holy Sheep 3 “The way a sheep’s brain is organized suggests they have an emotional response to what they see in the world.”2 In other words, sheep experience powerful emotions. They have facial expressions that match their emotions and sheep prefer to smile instead of frown. There is no doubt this furry animal experiences happiness, just watch this video of Winter the Jumping Lamb.

Sheep are also loyal. They are one of the few animals in the world that develops friendships and practices monogamy. That’s right…sheep don’t mess around on their partners. According to a 2009 study, sheep develop relationships because they feel fear, anger, despair, boredom and happiness.3 They need relationships to cope with baaahhhhd feelings, but they also share positive emotions with each other.

A sense of belonging is important to sheep. Sheep will problem solve and find their way out of a maze if they can hear their friends bleating at the exit.4 Remove their friends and the sheep becomes despondent and bored.

18 4 19 Holy Sheep 2As impressive as this information may be, sheep do have their faults. First, they are destructive. Herds of sheep can decimate a pasture.5 If left to follow their own desires, sheep will eat vegetation down to the nub, destroying plants’ ability to grow back. They do not possess foresight. They give no consideration to how their consumption of resources impacts other animals. Worms, birds, cows, horses and other parts of the eco system all suffer because of the selfishness of sheep. Without a shepherd to move them on, sheep will use up all the resources and every other animal suffers.

Another fault of sheep comes from one of their strengths. If sheep are left without a shepherd, they will follow one another. They follow each other because of their desire to belong. The problem is that sheep are directionless. They don’t know where they should go.

A sheep tragedy happened in Turkey in 2005. Turkish shepherds temporarily stopped leading their sheep. In horror they watched as hundreds of their sheep followed each other over a cliff. A Turkish newspaper reported,

“First one sheep went over…only to be followed by the whole flock. More than 400 sheep died in the 15 meter fall…the bodies cushioning the fall of the 1,100 others who followed.”6

Sheep have one last weakness. They are defenseless. Most animals have at least one of the two major defense techniques: speed to run away or strength to fight back. Sheep have neither. They are slow and do not possess an overwhelming strength to kick or bite. Again, this is another reason why sheep need a shepherd.

Why all this sheep information? In the Gospels, Jesus refers to people as being like sheep. It happened one day when Jesus was trying to get away from the masses to spend some quality time with his disciples. The crowd would have no part of it. They followed Jesus like the paparazzi into a deserted place. The disciples were miffed, but when Jesus saw the people, “he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.”7

If sheep are dumb, senseless animals then Jesus does not have a high opinion of us. Fortunately this is not the case. We might not like the comparison, but if we look at the strengths and weaknesses of sheep it easier to understand what Jesus meant.

Humans thrive off of relationships. We love to belong…to feel like we are sharing life with others who value us. We go to great lengths to laugh together and we rally around each other when tragedy strikes. We feel life. We don’t just live life.

18 4 19 Holy Sheep 5

At the same time we are directionless. We are fickle with our priorities. Just start asking people, “What is the most important thing in your life?” You will discover there are as many different answers as there are noses. Plus, the answer changes with context. Americans have consistently said economic security is the most important thing, but I’ve been in Kenyan villages where the answer is clean water.

Honestly, the question is above our pay grade because we don’t possess the foresight to know. We, like sheep, can only see what is in front of us. Our selfishness keeps us from pulling back to see the whole picture.

We are even defenseless. We have contingency plans, social safety nets, insurance policies, police departments, the 2nd Amendment and the United States Army; but these things really only provide a perception of safety. Evil always finds a way to break through our defenses.

We are the crowd that looks like sheep without a shepherd. The disciples were bothered by the neediness of the people. Jesus was filled with compassion. He saw the people…us…and said, “They need a shepherd.”

Because of his compassion, Jesus interrupted the crowd with one of the greatest acts of kindness ever recorded. We’ll look at more closely…next time.

1 – www.nature.com/articles/35102669 2 – http://www.news.bbc.co.uk “Amazing Powers of Sheep” 3 – www.ingentaconnect.com, “Animals’ Emotions: Studies in Sheep using Appraisal Theories” 4 – www.bbc.com “Sheep are not Stupid, and They are not Helpless Either” 5 – http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0163249 “Extreme Wildlife Declines and Concurrent Increase in Livestock Numbers in Kenya: What Are the Causes? 6 – http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/world/europe/4665511.stm “Turkish Sheep Die in ‘Mass Jump’ 7 – Mark 6:34

Kind Interruptions

854 Words – Approx. Reading Time 3.5 minutes

God is not ticked off. He doesn’t rant to angels because of people’s sins. He is also not scorned. He is not silently scheming to take revenge on people because they chose to love themselves more than they love Him. He is not apathetic. He still cares as much about us today as He did when He put Adam and Eve in the Garden.

Sure, we might think God feels this way about us. After all, humanity has made some awful choices that prove our selfishness has no limits. But our selfishness does not hurt him; it only hurt us. As a result, our view of Him, and how he feels about us, has been tainted. We have become suspicious of Him when in reality He should be leery of us.

In 2015 my family moved into a new neighborhood. We bought a house at the end of a cul-de-sac that butts up to a horse pen. Six beautiful rescued horses live on the other side of the white fence that borders our property.

18 4 12 Kind Interruptions 2The previous owners of these horses lost interest in them when they could no longer perform at a high level. Each horse used to be fast at the racetrack or a high stepping show animal. Their value was based on their ability to win, and when they no longer had a shot at being the best, they were neglected.

My neighbor rescued them. She cares for them and uses the magnificent creatures to teach people how to ride. They are beautiful animals and I enjoy seeing them each day as come and go from home.

My neighbor told me I could feed them treats. They like carrots and apples, but their favorite are peppermints. On several occasions I have loaded my pockets with mints, stood at the fence and called out to the horses. I want to run my hand down the side of their face, tell them how beautiful and strong they are, and give them a treat. I want them to know they are valued because they exist. But truthfully, I haven’t had much success.

I go to the fence and call out to them. I know they hear me because they look at me, but18 4 12 Kind Interruptions 1 they will not come to me. I whistle. I hold out the treat hoping it will entice them over, but they just stand there—looking at me—chewing on hay.

I don’t know why they don’t come. At first I thought it was because I didn’t know their names. So I learned their names. It made no difference. Sometimes I feel they look at me think, “How do you know my name?” But they still will not come to me.

Maybe they don’t come because they don’t know me. Maybe it’s because I remind them of someone who hurt them. Maybe it’s because they just don’t trust my intentions. Who knows? All I know is that if they would meet me at the fence, I would be kind to them. I would give them something they like.

One day, while trying to be kind to the horses, I had a thought, “I wonder if this is how God feels when He calls out to people.”

God is in the business of interrupting people. An interruption stops us in the midst of feeling, thinking, saying or doing something. It breaks our normal routine and gives us an option to do something different. As I’ve shared in previous blogs, one way God interrupts us is by hiding in the boundaries He has placed in our lives, but that is not the only way He interrupts our world. At times, He calls to us and gives us the choice to come to Him.

18 4 12 Kind Interruptions 3We can be like the horses. We hear Him calling. We see where He is, but we are not going to move. Maybe we don’t understand His interruption. Maybe we don’t trust His intentions. So, we stand there settling to eat hay when we could have something sweet. We prefer to stand-alone when we could have Someone gently touch us and speak kind words to us.

I think the reason the horses will not come to me is because they are not sure I will be kind to them. They are either afraid or don’t trust me. Maybe it’s both. Funny, but I think that is the problem we have when God calls out to us. Will He be kind to me? Can I really trust Him? 

I am a fair weather horse caller. If it’s cold outside or raining, I don’t call for the horses.  God is not like that. He lovingly and patiently interrupts us—rain or shine. Why does He do that? Because He is kind and He desires to show His kindness to us.

The Bible says, “Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?”1

His kindness interrupts and gives us another option. Let’s look at why God interrupts us with kindness…next time.

1- Romans 2:4

God in Strange Places

951 Words – Approx. Reading Time 4 minutes

No one likes being told they can’t do something. The 2-year-old who hears “No!” feels the same as a teenager who is given a curfew or an adult who is harnessed by a boss. We pride ourselves with the ability to do what we want and it frustrates us when we reach the end of our rope. When it happens, we have reached a boundary. A boundary is the place that marks the spot where we are forced to stop.

The Bible tells us God created boundaries for each person. He did not create them to limit us. He created them so we could find Him. He is located in the boundaries. They are one of His most effective interruptions.

18 4 4 God in Strange PlacesBoundaries are frustrating because they stop us in our tracks. They come in all shapes and sizes. Some are temporary, and unfortunately, others are permanent. There are health boundaries, financial boundaries, emotional boundaries, age boundaries, educational boundaries, career boundaries and even spiritual boundaries. We can grow and move in all of these areas, but they each have their limits.

I have a dear friend who is talented, wise and productive. She is a contributor to society. Her family, the church she attends and her co-workers all benefit from her presence. She was diagnosed with a terminal illness. Doctors say she has a year. She has bumped into a boundary.

My mom recently broke her foot. She is healthy and active. She was doing laundry. She just stepped the wrong way and pop—her foot broke. She found a boundary.

I know a man who feels stuck in his career. He has held the same title at his company for 12 years. He has done continuing education. He has received annual high performance ratings. Yet, he has been passed over 5 times for a promotion. He has run into a boundary.

I know a student athlete who desperately wants to be a starter on his team. He works out. He runs. He has skills, but there is always someone who seems to be stronger, faster and a little more skilled. He is rubbing up against a boundary.

You know you have found a boundary when what you want is just beyond your reach; and no matter what you do, you can’t change it. God uses boundaries to interrupt our lives. He is not being cruel. God did this so that you would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, because he is not far from any one of us.1

When we reach a boundary, it feels like God is nowhere near. We feel pain, sorrow, frustration, disappointment and fear. Yet, it is in the boundaries God has lovingly hidden Himself. If we look for Him we will find Him and the grace of God will become practical.

God can interrupt us before we hit a boundary (there will be more about that in some upcoming blogs), but sometimes we need to be reminded of our limits. Without boundaries, we would build our lives and leave God out.

Gary was one of four sons. His first religious memories are of his mother taking him to 18 4 5 Gary Wallace familychurch as a child. His parents argued often and his dad did not see any value in turning to God for help. To have one less thing to fight about Gary’s mom gave up attending church. Gary stopped too.

As a teen, Gary’s home life was tense. He felt disconnected from his parents and lacked moral guidance. For thrills he started stealing bikes and selling them. This activity laid the foundation for more poor decisions. He eventually started breaking into homes.

After graduating from high school, he realized he could make good money selling drugs and fencing stolen property. After some trouble with the law, he determined his life needed a new direction so he joined the National Guard and became mechanic. He says of himself at that time, “I looked good, but I was living on thin ice.”

After his time in the guard ended, he found a job at the water department with the City of Akron. In spite of a stable job, He took up his old habits selling drugs and stolen property. His life was in a downward spiral. He was at the end of his rope. It is here that God sent an interruption named Steve. Steve worked in the same department with Gary.

At the end of a workday Steve would catch Gary and walk with him to his car. He would share Scripture and talk of his relationship with Jesus. His persistence and patience was irritating. Finally, Gary told Steve, “I have no need for your Jesus.” Steve backed off, but Gary said, “I started missing those conversations.”

Two weeks later, Gary was involved in a severe car crash. When his truck finally stopped moving and the noise of wreckage went silent, he heard Someone say, “Gary, have you had enough.” It is here that Gary found God in his boundary.

He walked away from the crash, but he walked back to Steve. All he could think about were the Scriptures Steve had shared with him. He was ready to listen and learn. The next day Gary received God’s grace and became a follower of Christ.

18 4 5 Gary Wallace and wifeEighteen months later, Gary married, started a family and became the father of three children. Looking back on his life Gary says, “God has blessed me. My life hasn’t always been easy, but God has been faithful. I’ve learned to look for God when I hit a boundary.”

Before you try to break through your next boundary, pause and look for God. His presence and grace are close at hand.

1 – Acts 17:27

One Way to Find God

906 Words – Approx. Reading Time 4 Minutes

Hide and Seek…it is one of the oldest games in history. Historians have evidence of children playing the game in the 2nd Century, but it is believed it was played earlier. Not only is it an old game, it is also a worldwide game.1 Children in Asia, Australia and Africa play this game as well as the kids in Russia, Brazil and Ohio. Everyone understands the concept of the game. One person closes his or her eyes and counts while everyone else hides. The purpose of the game is for the person who is “it” to find those hiding. The goal of those hiding—don’t be found.

If you read the Bible it might be easy to get the idea that God is playing a cosmic Hide-and-Seek game with us. Notice the word “seek” in these verses.

  • If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will reject you forever.1
  • The Lord looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God.2
  • Evildoers do not understand what is right, but those who seek the Lord understand it fully.3
  • Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near.4

Seeking the Lord is a common theme in Scripture. “Seek the Lord” or “seek him” are mentioned 33 times. Even Jesus got in on the whole “seeking” theme when he said, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness…”.5 It would be easy to think God created us and then said, “Come find me!” Thirty-three times we are told to seek God, but it is not until the 32nd time we discover God is not playing Hide-and-Seek.

The 32nd time happens in Acts when Paul was speaking in Athens. The people there had never heard of the relational God Paul talked about. To them God was a mystery, a Being they were constantly seeking. They had fully bought into the idea that to find God one must look for him like a child looks for her friends hiding behind a tree or under the bed, but Paul informed them, and us, that God is not playing Hide-and-Seek. Notice Paul’s words:

The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.6

When a child is muffling her giggles hiding behind the curtain, she is playing the game at its best, but a hiding God seems cruel. Paul clarifies; God is not hiding so He can’t be found. He is hiding so we can find Him. The two most common ways people seek God Paul debunks.

1) People build structures for God and then go there to find Him. The Creator cannot be contained in a building, monument or sanctuary. We can’t build something to find God.

2) People make sacrifices to find God. The Creator is not disabled and in need of our services. He doesn’t need anything we have to offer. Therefore, we can’t find God by being pious, generous or volunteering.

Finally, Paul gets to the point. God created all the different ethnic groups that make up the nations. He determined when people would live, where they would live and what boundaries they would have to rub up against. All of this is still in play today.

We were created by God to live in this time and in the places we find ourselves. We too have boundaries. The key to seeking God is seeing the boundaries as God’s interruptions. They are His reminders that He is relevant and close.

18 3 26 Easter Egg HuntDo you remember Easter Egg Hunts? In my family the adults would hide colorful eggs all over the yard for the children to find. They thoughtfully and purposefully “hid” them so the kids could find them. Eggs would be hidden in easy and challenging places, but the goal was for the eggs to be found not lost forever. No one has fun when Easter Eggs can’t be found.

God, like an adult hiding and Easter Egg, has carefully hidden Himself in the boundaries of your life. Boundaries look like limitations, feel like frustrations and are untimely interruptions, but it is also where God hides Himself for you. Remember what Paul said, “He [God] marked out their [your] appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands [your life]. God did this so that they [you] would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.”

God is not hiding from you. He is hiding for you. He does not play Hide-and-Seek. 18 3 26 Easter Egg Hunt 3Instead, he has planned an elaborate Easter Egg Hunt. Whenever you bump into a boundary, you just rubbed up against God. He is hiding there for you. Seek Him there. Reach out for Him there. He is close and can be found.

Let me give you some examples…next time.

1- http://www.Britannica.com, 2 – 1 Chronicles 28:9, 3 – Psalm 14:2, 4 – Proverbs 28:5,  5 – Isaiah 55:6, 6 – Matthew 6:33, 7 – Acts 17:24-27
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