Soundtrack Part 5 - With God
In this message you will learn: How to practice life with God.
Psalms chapter 16, we'll get there in just a minute. We've been in a series called Soundtrack, and we're talking about this idea of just opening your spiritual eyes to see the presence of God in your life.
There's a quote that I showed you guys way back in week 1. It's from Elizabeth Barrett Browning. She wrote, “Earth's crammed with heaven and every common bush afire with God. But only he who sees, takes off his shoes."
This quote is kind of a nod to a story we talked about in week 1. It comes out of the Old Testament where Moses is walking along one day in the wilderness and there is a bush that's on fire, but it's not burning up. God calls to Moses out of the bush, and he says, “Hey, Moses, you're standing on holy ground. Take off your shoes.” Then God has this conversation with him. If you're not familiar with the story, you should read it sometime in Exodus.
That's what that quote is kind of talking about. It's talking about the reality that God's presence is all around us. There's lots of ways that I believe God's communicating to us, and we miss it because sometimes maybe just the busyness, or we're distracted, or we don't even know that it's there. We're not looking for it.
From week one, our goal for the whole series has been this:
How many moments in my life can I fill with the conscious awareness of God's presence?
How many moments during my day can I just be reminded of the presence of God.
This is a little different than setting a goal to read the Bible every day. That's an awesome goal, but this is a little different, because I'm not so much talking about you connecting with God in a worship service or you connecting with God in ]your ten minute quiet time in the morning.
I'm talking about how do you stay connected to him all day long, when you're in the car driving to work, and when you're in your cubicle, and when you're walking across campus to a class, when you're out on a date Friday night, when you're trying to parent your kids. How do we stay connected to God from moment to moment to moment? Because that's kind of the idea that scripture talks about.
John 15:5 was another passage we looked at the first week. This one's not in your outline, but it's where Jesus says, “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.”
This idea that Jesus is saying, "Hey, I'm going to do miraculous things through you," but your job is not to do miraculous things. Your job as a follower of Christ is just to remain in him, just abide, just be with him.
The whole concept of this series is that there is this God who, yes, he created the universe, yes, he sent his son Jesus to die on a cross for you, and he's also the same God who wants to be with you, and not just on Sundays. He wants to be with you. He wants to do life with you. It's really your choice. Are you going to do life with God or without him?
Honestly, there's a lot of different ways that we can approach God. Let me show you this graphic. This is maybe a little visual that might stick with you. You can jot it down in your notes.
You've got GOD, and there's several different ways to can approach God.
1. For some of you, maybe you approach God I call it OVER GOD
It's not with God, but it's over him. Maybe the best way to explain this is you've heard of atheism, someone who doesn't believe in God. There's also something called deism. In deism, basically this is over simplifying it, but the idea is this, that an individual believes that there's a God, that there's a creator, but they don't believe that that God wants to be personally involved.
They wouldn't believe that God actually helped inspire something that communicates to us they wouldn't believe that there's this God in heaven that sent his son Jesus to die on a cross for you. They wouldn't believe that there's a God that wants to be personally involved with you. It's life over God. ]You believe he exists, but you don't think he's personally involved with your life in any way.
2. Then there's this idea of life from God.
I don't know if this is a fair description, but I kind of think about health and wealth gospel. It's kind of this idea of your view God is like a cosmic vending machine. In that you don't want God, You want something from God. You're not interested in God in any way. You're just interested in maybe what God can give you. This is life from God.
3. Then there's life under God.
Life under God is all about legalism. It's all about the only way I could ever get God to love me, the only way I could get God to accept me is if I do everything just right. You live with kind of this unhealthy fear of God that you're never enough. He's never going to accept you. He's never going to love you.
It's under God, over God, from God.
What we're talking about in this series is none of those three approaches.
4. What we’ve been talking about in this series is life with God.
What is it like to just live life with him? Does God really want to just walk with us? I believe that he does, and I believe it's a major theme throughout all of scripture.
We looked at lots of them in the first week from Genesis to Exodus. We looked at several New Testament scriptures that talk about this idea of God saying, “I just want to walk with you. I want to do life with you.”
What I want to do today is try to talk at the most practical level what this looks like.
I want to be very honest with you, be up front with you, and tell you that this topic of living life with God, it's not a practical topic. There's not a lot of steps and one, two, threes. Because it's really hard to put this concept in a box. I'm going to do the best I can. Be patient with me as we try to unpack this and make this as practical as we can.
There's three things on your outline I want you to look at.
How to practice life with God
1. Look for God even in the small moments.
Because here's what I believe about your life. Every moment, even the small ones, are crammed with God's presence. He's there. He's working in your life. You've just got to look for it.
This is another one of my favorite authors, Fredrich Buechner. (pronounced Beekner) This is a very longish kind of quote, but I want to read it to you because I feel like he really paints this picture, and maybe you'll go look it up sometime on Google or something. This is what he says.
“The question is not whether the things that happen to you are chance things or God's things, because, of course, they are both at once."
Have you ever had that debate? Like you're struggling with this idea of, "Okay. Was that a God thing or is that just a chance thing? Was that a coincidence?" He says they could be both at once.
“There is no chance thing through which God cannot speak — even the walk from the house to the garage that you have walked 10,000 times before, even the moments when you cannot believe that there is a God who speaks at all anywhere. We cannot live our lives constantly looking back, listening back, lest we be turned to pillars of longing and regret, but to live without listening at all is to live deaf to the fullness of the music.”
Don't you love that? I love that idea.
“Sometimes we avoid listening for fear of what we may hear, sometimes for fear that we may hear nothing at all but the empty rattle of our own feet on the pavement. He says he is with us on our journeys. He says he has been with us since each of our journeys began. Listen for him.” Fredrich Beuchner (The Sacred Journey)
It’s this idea that I'm going to live listening for the soundtrack. I'm going to listen for him in my life. I'm going to look for God to move in my life, because even in these small moments he's there and he's working.
Every day is just a collection of moments. There's 1,440 minutes in every day. 1,440 opportunities for you to connect to the presence of God. The goal comes back to this idea of how many of those minutes can I live in the conscious awareness of God's presence.
Psalm 16:8, really sets this up. It says, “I have set the Lord always before me.”
I have set the Lord always before me. Now, what does that look like? Because we're not talking about sitting in my room all day long like, "Hmmm." That's not it, because we have a life. You're going places, and you're going to class, and you're going out on dates, and you're married, or you've got kids and a job. You have life. How do you set the Lord always before you? What does it look like?
The idea here is that God almost becomes this filter for which you look at all of life through, that you kind of view him as you go.
Let me tell you why you think this verse is so very important, the reason we have to get this. Because when I don't have God before me, when I'm doing life without God, what begins to happen is I start to think, "You know what? If I could just satisfy this temptation, if I could just live out this fantasy, if you could just have that thing, then I would have life."
But what I really want is never that thing. It's never that woman. It's never that man. It's never that drug. It's never that money. It's never that job. It's never that control. What I really want is life. What I really want is joy. What I really want is peace, and that's only going to come from a with God life.
That's the problem with sin. That's the problem with temptation. It'll make all these promises that, hey, if you do this, then you'll have life, but haven't we all learned? It's a lie. It does not work.
I was made by God. I was made for God, and that's where I'm going to find life. I have to find ways that I'm keeping the Lord continually before me. Because if I don't, sin and temptation starts to look really attractive.
How do we do that? Let me share with you ...
One of the things is that Jody and I leave notes that remind us of God everywhere. Bathroom mirror - first thing. Reminds me that I am in God’s grace.
What I know about me is it's real easy for me to kind of go into my day, and go into beast mode, and be like three or four hours into my day before I even think about God. I need to be reminded of his grace. You do too.
here's this temptation for all of us as Christians to think that the cross is just something you do business at when you become a Christian and then you kind of move on from that, but the reality is that the cross is the center of our faith. Grace isn't something that happens to you once. Grace is like the air that you breathe. You need this, so you've got to find ways to remind yourself of God's grace.
At my Desk - DREAM BIG
Reminds me that God’s desires for me are bigger than I can ever dream
So I don't know what this looks like for you, but what I do know is you get to make a choice and your choice is am I gonna do life with God, or I'll do life without God?
Here is an example from my life. A few months back, I'm sitting at my desk, I'm getting ready to go into an important meeting, in which I have to have a difficult conversation and I'm not looking forward to it.
I love my job but in this moment, I'm having all these doubts like maybe I'm not cut out for this leadership thing and maybe this isn't for me and I don't know if I can do this and I felt like that but I'm just sitting at my desk and I feel like God was just impressing on me, “Hey Clay, you got a choice to make, you can do these next couple of hours with me, or you could do them without me. With me or without me and if you wanna do it without me, that's fine. That's great, you can keep being focused on your self-seeking agenda and you can continue to keep thinking about how all this is going to impact you and you can continue to live in fear and worry, which is the natural by-product of doing life on your own. Or you could do the next couple of hours with me.”
And I was like, "Well, since you put it that way, I think I'll do it without you."
You see what I'm saying? With or without. Listen, as soon as I made that choice to say, “God, I wanna do these next couple of hours with you,” this huge load just felt like it came off my back. Did I still have to have a difficult conversation? Yes, absolutely but it sure was a lot different doing that with God, than doing it without God. Find ways you're gonna keep the Lord continually before you.
2. Step out in faith.
Let me show you another passage, Hebrews 11.
1 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. 2 This is what the ancients were commended for.
3 By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.
Now you skip down to verse six, this is really key.
6 And it is impossible to please God without… What's the word? “without faith.”
It's impossible to please God without faith, It's understanding that faith is not some kinda add-on to the Christian life, it's not. It is what it's about.
What happens when you step out in faith, when you lean into God in a way that you wouldn't normally, you begin to see God in ways you wouldn't normally see him, or hear him in ways you wouldn't normally be able to hear him.
So one of the things I'm praying for this church, and I'm praying it for every one of you. What I'm praying is that you will trust God, that you will step out in faith in at least one area in life that absolutely scares you to death. That absolutely scares you to death, because I know that when you do that, you're gonna see God in a way that no sermon, no message could ever teach you.
- I’m praying that some of you take a step and start a spiritual conversation with someone.
- Step up and get involved in a ministry - like preschool or students
- Take steps to reconcile a relationship
- Increase your giving
If you want to see go do some irregular things in your life, you are going to have to step out in faith.
3. Don't mislabel your entire life as coincidence.
This concept is really hard to explain, I can't really go to a particular chapter, or a particular verse and say, "Oh this explains it." One of the closes ones for me is 1 Corinthians 2:9, it says this,
“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.”
It's this idea that no matter what you see and no matter what you hear, no matter what you think of, it's not coincidence because it's all part of a much larger plan that God's in control of.
Again, I don't know how all this works. I can't really explain this really well and I know that my explanation of this is not gonna be enough for some of you and you're not gonna be able to buy into this because it's not something that you can see, or touch, or hear, or, you know, buy. So, I know this is difficult but I just wanna say to you, "I believe this because I've seen it and I've experienced this in my life."
One of the best ways I feel like I can explain this is, I've gotten an opportunity over the last couple of years to do a lot of travel to the DR. I only speak English and so I'm at a huge disadvantage when I'm in the DR. It's a real struggle and it drives me nuts as a communicator because there's this barrier.
But one of the things I've learned is ... and this works with kids, alright? I don't think it would probably work real well with adults, but with kids this works great. I can be walking through a village and there are kids and usually they're very kinda scared and timid. Like there'll be a little kid that's kinda peering from behind a shack and they're looking at you like, "Who is this gringo?"
I've noticed, if I look at a child in the eyes and I wink at him, everything changes in that moment. Something just happens with them and they just kinda smile, it puts peace right in that moment, 'cause it's kinda like communicating, "Hey, I'm fond of you. It's all gonna be okay." Like, "I'm for you, I'm with you."
And they'll usually smile back, or they'll try to wink back or something and it just kinda creates this moment.
I listed to in interview with Squire Rushnell who about 15 years ago wrote a book called, When God Winks at You.
And in it he talked about this idea that there's a God who personally wants to communicate to you. A lot of times there's moments, there's circumstances, there's people that He sends into your life to just kinda communicate, "Hey, it's okay. Everything's gonna be alright." It was this idea that from time to time, it's kinda like God just winks at you. It's just kinda this assurance that everything is gonna be okay.
I do believe that God can work through circumstances and situations and people ... I'll give you an idea.
A few years ago (10 years ago now) I resigned a church that I had planted in Atlanta. And for months and years after that, I had this overwhelming feeling of being a failure. I just continually beat myself up from it. I was feeling like I had just wasted 10 years of my life.
The one evening, we were back in Atlanta, and we stopped by a random Starbucks. And while sitting there, a young couple came over and introduced themselves. They said they had attended that church a couple of years ago and had moved away after coming for a few months. They said that when they came, they were skeptics, but because of my teaching, they began to explore faith in Jesus and had become Christians. Now, they were married, attending regularly, serving in the kids area and leading a small group.
I can’t tell you how that made me feel. It was like God winked and said, “I knew you needed to hear that. You are not a failure in my eyes.”
Sometimes these Godly moments, they're just huge.
Now, again, I know that some of you are like, I just don't know if I buy this. That's okay. All I'm asking you is just think about this, what if God is communicating? What if he's communicating to you in some of these nonverbal kind of ways and a lot of these little things that happen in front of you they're not just coincidence. Okay? They're like these little miracles.
So, what if if it's not coincidence. What if God is speaking to you among the billions of people? Yes, he's speaking to you. And maybe it's just a little message of reassurance or to stop worrying or to keep the faith or maybe he's just saying, "Hey, everything's going to be all right."
But listen, I'm praying for you. I'm praying that each and every one of you learn to live consciously aware of God’s Soundtrack. You begin to just see how many moments of the day can I be consciously aware of the presence of God.
God, I do pray for your grace because I know that this is a difficult topic for us to really wrap our minds around, because so many of us really desire to make what you've made simple, complicated. We have this desire so often to put you in a box so we can control what we think about you or what we believe about you. This idea of a God who wants to be with us is so outside of our box. It's so outside of the norm for some of us. God, I pray that you will simplify this for us in a simple message in all of this, is that there is a God. That while he's the creator of the universe, he longs to be with us. He longs to walk with us.
God, I believe that so many of us need to slow down. We're so distracted. We're so busy. We're so attached to all these different things around us that we can’t hear the sound track that says you're present and that you're working in our life. God, I pray that we would just listen. We'd listen for your grace that abounds in so many different ways. We would listen to the fact that you are present in every moment of our life. That we would listen to the fact that, God, it is possible for us to begin to set you before us in all that we do. That we would listen at work. We would listen in our marriage. We would listen in our dating life. That we would see you, God, working in our life. That we would increasingly become consciously aware of your presence from moment to moment to moment. For it's in your holy and your precious name that we pray. Amen.