Morning Prayer for Thursday, December 7, 2023

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Pastor Heather…

Good morning, everyone. Welcome to morning prayer.

This morning, I wanted to share something that the Lord put on my heart. I’ve been reading “The Pursuit of God,” by A.W. Tozer. And if you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it. Honestly, I think I just need to highlight the things I don’t like instead of the things I do like. Because I’m wearing out my highlighter with all the amazing nuggets that he has in here. It’s a great book.

Are you a Martha or a Mary this season?

It’s the holiday season as we all know, and we can all tend to get really busy in this season. And so even for me tomorrow night I have a staff party at my house, which means close to 40 people will be coming over to my house. So I’m running around, I’m doing all this stuff. I’m cleaning, shampooing carpets and hiding cat hair and all that kind of stuff that you do before people come over. Because you can’t let anybody see all your dirt and your secrets, right? So I’m running around doing all that and honestly, I’ve been more of a “Martha” lately than a “Mary.”

Feeling shame for the busyness…

And as I was getting up to share this morning, I always pray and prepare my heart and just, “What do you want me to share today, Lord. Where do you want to go today?” And my alarm went off. I get up early on these days and my feet hit the ground, and I just felt shame. I felt shame and condemnation just for the busyness that I’ve been in. And I know I’m probably not the only one that feels that. Just because I know with all that busyness, with all that running, with all the going and all the doing, I just haven’t been pressing into His presence like I should. Like I want to. Like I always love when I do. But who’s going to shampoo the carpets? Who’s going to pick up the Christmas cookies? Who’s going to bake the cookies? Who’s going to… all these Martha, Martha, Martha moments.

God is still here during the stress of the season…

And so I just felt that. And it was sad. I just woke up and I felt that shame and that condemnation, like, ugh. And now I’m going to go and lead prayer. Ugh. You know? And the Lord, He’s so good. He’s so loving. He’s so patient with us. And He’s just like, “But I’m still here. I’m always here.” And the thing that I love about Martha and Mary, that’s one of my favorite stories, of course. I have many. Everything is my favorite that I share, honestly. But you have Martha and Mary. You have Martha, and she’s running and she’s doing, and she’s preparing. I mean, the Messiah is coming to her house. I would be a little stressed out too, if I’m honest. I would be cleaning under the beds and hide every evidence of living in dirt. I would’ve been a Martha, if I’m honest.

I want to say I would’ve been a Mary. I want to say that I would’ve been choosing the better thing and staying at His feet. But I probably would’ve been a little stressed out, running around, getting the house ready and making sure everything was perfect and the napkins were folded just right and all that really important stuff.

Jesus had compassion on Martha, no condemnation…

But what I love is what Jesus said to Martha. He didn’t say, “Be ye cast out into utter darkness, you stupid lady.” He just says, “Oh, Martha, my dear, dear Martha…” He had compassion on her, you know? And He said, “You’re distracted.” He didn’t condemn her. He didn’t make her feel ashamed. He just said you’re distracted. “You’re distracted by many things. And Mary has chosen the better thing.” It was just a loving… there’s an opportunity for you here to take.

Anyways, I hope that encourages somebody in this holiday season of busyness and doing and running and preparing and I got to get all the gifts and who did I forget? And you’re going over your list and you’re checking it a bazillion times. Even in that busyness, there’s an opportunity and He’s always there. He’s always waiting. And shame and condemnation can be really sneaky. It can get in really quickly where all of a sudden you feel ashamed because maybe you’ve been more busy lately. You’ve been running lately. You haven’t been spending that time like you should.

Shame keeps you from the presence of God…

And the sneaky thing about shame is it keeps you from the presence of God. Because then you feel guilty and that’s what the enemy wants to do. And so just in this season of busyness, which can be busy, and the holidays hold a whole host of emotions for people. Some people love it. Some people dread it. And especially if you’re grieving or you lost a loved one. So it’s a very emotionally charged time of the year. So all that to say, there’s an opportunity in this moment. There’s an opportunity to worship, to choose the better thing to be at His feet. And if you didn’t or you’re not, there’s grace in that moment too.

It’s like He’s just so loving and so tender and there’s always an opportunity. So if you miss this second, there’s another second. If you miss that second, there’s another second. And He’s always waiting for us to come into His presence. And when Adam and Eve sinned, of course, what’s the first thing they did? They hid themselves because they were ashamed. And our hearts tend to do that when we’re ashamed. We’ll hide ourselves. And then “Well, I haven’t been really good about doing my devotions or I really fell behind in my “read a Bible in a year” scriptures. Whatever it is. It’s all this doing and these checklists that we have. And so just be careful to not fall into that because the Word says He’s easy to please.

Remind yourself that God is easy to please…

Whenever I feel that condemnation of performance or doing or catching up, I remind myself He’s easy to please and always waiting for me to come into His presence. And it’s not a thing that I have to muster up or work up. I don’t have to work at it. I just have to come into His presence. It’s like resting. How hard do you have to work to take a nap? Not very hard. You just do it. You just lay down and you do it. And I feel like that’s how we have to be about coming into God’s presence. We just get into it and just rest in it. Rest in it.

here is a work to resting where we have to endeavor not to run after the thing. So if you are taking a nap, don’t answer the phone. Don’t have your phone next to you. Don’t answer text. Don’t have the TV on. So I suppose there are those things, but just guarding that time during the season and realizing how important that is to just really have that presence in our lives during this time because we are more busy than usual because there is more that is required of us during the season. Our family, who we all love, but can also be trying at times. So it’s just a lot. You’re around a lot of people and there’s a lot of things happening… you’re giving, you’re giving, you’re giving. So be careful that you’re also being filled.

So I hope that encouraged somebody. If something helps me, it usually will help hopefully somebody else too. Because I know I’m not too unique in my life experiences. We all have those moments, but when that shame came on me this morning, I was like, “No, that’s not right. I shouldn’t be feeling that.” Like I should always feel like I can come into His presence without being ashamed. So be encouraged in that today.

But I wanted to read a little bit out of “The Pursuit of God,” which still ties in with what I was just talking about, just about the presence of God. And how easy it is to be in His presence because He is everywhere. And we forget that He’s everywhere. He’s in this room right now. He’s in our hearts. He’s in our homes. He’s in our cars. He is anywhere you go. He’s in it.

The Pursuit of God” by A.W. Tozer…

And so I wanted to read chapter five, in “The Pursuit of God,” A.W. Tozer is called “The Universal Presence.” And I just loved the whole chapter. So I’m going to read it today. And then we’re just going to go into a time of just seeking His presence, just allowing His presence to come in here. I think we’ve all had a lot of things on our to-do list. So my favorite thing to do when I’m busy is just be in His presence. And there’s so many things He can do. We’re not coming with our agenda. We’re not coming with our to-do list for Him. Make sure you do this for Aunt Sally and make sure this happens, and make sure I have enough money in my checking account and make sure… and Lord, Lord, Lord… and all those things are good. But then also it’s seeking His face, not seeking His hand and the things that He can do for us.

Chapter Five: “The Universal Presence…

He starts out with a verse from Psalm 139:7. “Wither shall I go from thy spirit or wither shall I flee from thy presence? In all Christian teachings, certain basic truths are found hidden at times and rather assumed than asserted, but necessary to all truth as the primary colors are found in and necessary to the finished painting. Such a truth is the divine imminence. God dwells in His creation and is everywhere indivisibly present in all His works. This is boldly taught by prophet and apostle and is accepted by Christian theology generally. That is it appears in the books, but for some reason it has not sunk into the average Christian’s heart so as to become a part of his believing self.

Christian teachers shy away from its full implications, and if they mention it at all, mute it down till it has little meaning. What now does this divine eminence mean in direct Christian experience? It means simply that God is here; wherever we are, God is here. There is no place. There can be no place where He is not. 10 million intelligences standing at as many points in space and separated by the incomprehensible distances can each one say with equal truth, God is here? No point is nearer to God than any other point. It is exactly as near to God from any place as it is from any other place. No one in mere distance is any further from or nearer to God than any other person is.

These are truths believed by every instructed Christian. It remains for us to think on them and pray over them until they begin to glow within us. In the beginning, God, not matter, for matter is not self-causing. It requires an anticident cause and God is that cause. Not law, for law is but a name for the course which all creation follows. That course had to be planned and the planner is God. Not mind, for mind is also a created thing and must have a creator back of it.

In the beginning, God… the uncaused cause with a capital C of matter, mind and law. There we must begin. Adam sinned and in his panic, frantically tried to do the impossible. He tried to hide from the presence of God. David also must have had wild thoughts of trying to escape from the presence for he wrote whither shall I go from thy spirit or whither shall I flee from thy presence? Then he proceeded through one of his most beautiful psalms to celebrate the glory of the divine eminence.

If I ascend up to heaven, thou art there. If I make my bed in hell, behold thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there shall thy hand lead me and thy right hand shall hold me. Psalm 139:8–10. And he knew that God’s being and God’s seeing are the same, that the seeing presence had been with him even before he was born, watching the mystery of unfolding life.

But will God indeed dwell on earth? Behold the heaven and the heaven of the heavens cannot contain the how much less this house which I have built. 1st Kings 8:27.

Paul assured the Athenians that God is not far from any one of us. For in Him we live and move and have our being, Acts 17:28. If God is present at every point in space, if we cannot go where He is, not cannot even conceive of a place where He is not, why then has not that presence become the one universally celebrated fact of the world? The patriarch Jacob in the waste howling wilderness, Deuteronomy 32:10, gave the answer to that question. He saw a vision of God and he cried out in wonder. Surely the Lord is in this place and I knew it not.

Genesis 28:16. Jacob had never been for one small division of a moment outside of the circle of that all-pervading presence. But he knew it not. That was his trouble and it is ours. Men do not know that God is here. What a difference it would make if we knew. The presence and the manifestation of the presence are not the same. There can be the one without the other. God is here when we are wholly unaware of it. He is manifest only when and as we are aware of His presence. On our part, there must be surrender to the Spirit of God for His work it is to show us the Father and the Son. If we cooperate with Him in loving obedience, God will manifest Himself to us and that manifestation will be the difference between a nominal Christian life and a life radiant with the light of His face. Always everywhere God is present and always He seeks to discover Himself. To each one He would reveal not only that He is, but what He is as well.

He did not have to be persuaded to discover himself to Moses. And the Lord descended in a cloud and stood with him there and proclaimed the name of the Lord. Exodus 34:5.

He not only made a verbal proclamation of his nature, but he revealed his very self to Moses so that the skin of Moses’ face shone with the supernatural light. It will be a great moment for some of us when we begin to believe that God’s promise of self-revelation is literally true, that He promised much, but promise no more than He intends to fulfill.

Our pursuit of God is successful just because He is forever seeking to manifest Himself to us. The revelation of God to any man is not God coming from a distance upon a time to pay a brief and momentous visit to the man’s soul. Thus, to think of it as this is to misunderstand it all. The approach of God to the soul or of the soul to God is not to be thought of as in spatial terms at all. There is no idea of physical distance involved in the concept. It is not a matter of miles, but experience. To speak of being near or far from God is to use language in a sense, always understood when applied to our ordinary human relationships. A man might say, “I feel that my son is coming nearer to me as he gets older.” And yet that son has lived by his Father’s side since he was born and has never been away from the home more than a day or so in his entire life. What then can the Father mean? Obviously he’s speaking of experience. He means that the boy is coming to know him more intimately and with deeper understanding, that the barriers of thought and feeling between the two are disappearing, that the father and son are becoming more closely united in mind and heart.

So when we sing, “draw me nearer, nearer, blessed Lord,” we are not thinking of the nearness of place, but the nearness of relationship. It is for increasing degrees of awareness that we pray for a more perfect consciousness of the divine presence.

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