6 Ways God Reveals Himself to Us

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Would you like to know where in the world God is at in your life?

Here’s a promise God makes to you, You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:13)

There are six ways God has chosen to reveal Himself to us when we seek after Him with all of our heart. Here are some ways God chooses to reveal Himself to us when we seek after Him:

1. Pivotal Circumstances

God loves to sneak up quietly from behind us in our daily lives and lovingly tap us on the shoulder whenever we’re going through a big transition.

God shows up more visibly during a big transition, like the following: 

A change of career or loss of job.
Moving to a new community, changing schools, changing churches.
When one goes from being single to being married.
When one goes from being married to being single again (widowed or divorced).
When a child is born (especially the third child, that’s what mother’s with multiple children say is the toughest transition, kid number 3).
When the kids grow up and venture into adulthood.
When retirement age comes.
When someone gets cancer.

There are a lot of transitions and if we’re seeking God with all of our heart each day, He will show up in these pivotal circumstances. 

Anything that causes us to be restless, these pivotal circumstances, these major transitions – He’s coughing and sneezing and shaking branches, and He’s whispering, Psssst!….I’m over here. I’m waiting for you to find ME in this season of change for you!

Through the big transitions in life, we need trust and know God is there waiting to reveal Himself when we look for Him. 

He also works through: 

2 Providential Relationships

It’s not just the changes in our lives where God gets our attention, He also shows up in our lives through other people.

Your relationships are not by accident. The people in your life that you trust, that you interact with, they are providential, meaning there is a reason they are in your life right now. Either you need to help them or they are going to help you. God has purposefully has put these people in your life.

Some of these people in your life, they quote Scripture, they share their spiritual experience, they pray with us, they encourage us and all of the sudden God comes into sharper focus. 

The fog lifts when we see marriage how God intended and we say, Yes, I want that. We see that person has more joy in trials than we do and we say, Yes, that’s what I want. We see that person is content, that person has purpose, that person has spiritual disciplines, that person is really changing and we say, Yes, I want that. 

God wants it for you too. That’s why there are Christians around you, to be an example in your life – a life is intended to be better than the selfish, anxious, fearful, grumpy state we make it. 

When was the last time you wrote a note of encouragement or took a Christian friend out for coffee or made dinner for your parents just to say, Thank you for being an example of Jesus in my life? 

They helped show Who God truly is to you. 

God also shows up to us through:

3. Practical Teaching

Have you had a conversation or read a book or watched a movie that really spoke to you and you think, That person has hacked into my emails and texting. That person knows what I’m thinking. That person was speaking right to me?

When I preach, I hear frequently people responding they feel like they were the only person in the room and I was speaking right to them. I had nothing to do with it. The Bible is timeless and timely. 

God’s truth from God’s Book will always practically speak to God’s people by God’s Spirit. 

God’s Spirit with God’s Word through God’s people – that combination has this amazing way to give us direction and answers, nudging us to go right or left when we feel like we’re at a crossroads – not just what to know about God but to know what to do that is acceptable in God’s eyes. Families and churches need practical teaching. The Bible feeds us and the Bible inspires us to be verbs for God during our week – to love and give and forgive and sacrifice and serve and encourage and pray – and God has a way of putting the right person in our conversations to spur us forward to apply His truth to our lives. 

4. Private Disciplines

All people in turmoil in their relationships or out of control with their addictions, every single time I ask about their spiritual disciplines, they answer, No I haven’t been doing that. I haven’t been reading the Bible daily. I haven’t been praying to God throughout my days. I haven’t been to worship every weekend. I haven’t been eating right or sleeping well or exercising or serving others.

For me, I don’t just have the daily routines of praying and reading God’s Word, or investing into my family for God, I also have weekly disciplines like tithing, giving a sacrificial amount back to God’s church, like communion, where I am grateful for the cross, where I’m forgiven after repenting of my sin.

I choose fast at various times in my year. I’ll go 40 days without caffeine to refocus on God. I’ll choose to not eat a meal on one day of the week for 3 months just to pray for those who actually are hungry in the world. 

If not done in a rushed manner, if not done in a I’ve got to check this off my list, these daily and weekly and seasonal disciplines calm me down. Discipline for God and others, it focuses me on what matters in my life and what doesn’t. 

The older I get, the more God allows me to experience, I see Him clearest through the discipline of prayer. When I’m out for a run, when I’m commuting home from work, when I pray with my wife, when we pray with our daughters or when I pray with friends, whenever I need God to come through or I just am joyfully overwhelmed by the life He has given me and I want to thank Him, that’s when I truly feel closest to Him. 

These private disciplines are the personal part of your life that I can’t force you to do or determine how you should do it but our world is moving so fast and only getting faster, and I don’t want to be misinterpreted here when I say this because God is always on time

But God is found in slowness. God moves to a different beat than the world does. 

And the tension we feel each day is, will we run fast with the world toward shallowness, or will we walk slowly with our heavenly Father toward fulfillment?…….Personal disciplines slow me down. 

God reveals Himself through circumstances, relationships, teaching of His Word, through our daily and weekly disciplines – also, He reveals Himself through – 

5. Personal Ministry

God has mostly revealed Himself in visible form through Jesus taking on human form. When we see Jesus in the Gospel accounts, we see God Himself, no questions asked. When you see Jesus, you see God. 

And Jesus said interestingly that we would most see Him in the faces of the poor.

If you really want to find God, serve the poor. Clothe the poor. Hug the poor. Stoop down and live life with the poor. And not just the physically poor – but there are emotionally broken people in your life for a reason – so you can serve them. There are relationally broken people – so you can heal them. There are financially broken people as well, and give as God shows you needs and wisdom – but ultimately, there are spiritually broken people – people without Jesus, people with sin, people with baggage, people with a bad taste in their mouth toward the church, people who need to be set free that you need to keep praying for and serving. It’s your personal ministry. The broken people, the spiritually-bankrupt people, you should be serving them……and then you’ll find God…..He’s hiding behind their brokenness. 

Bono, the lead singer the band U2 was speaking to a group of politicians and he said, 

“God is in the slums, in the cardboard boxes where the poor play house. God is in the silence of a mother who has infected her child with a virus that will end both their lives. God is in the cries heard under the rubble of war. God is in the debris of wasted opportunity and lives and God is with us if we are with them.” – Bono

God is with us if we are with the broken. They’re around us. You don’t see the brokenness on your facebook page, but if you walk into a nursing home and serve the elderly, the widowed, you’ll see God.

You won’t see the brokenness by binging Netflix, but if you cook a dinner for a family going through cancer treatment or for a single mother, you’ll see God. 

You won’t see the brokenness catching up with what the celebrities are into but if you open your home to foster care, or to adoption, or to mission trips, or to soup kitchens, or simply just to have neighbors over for dinner you’ve been ignoring, or to be a Christian example to your kids’ friends, you’ll also see God.

Perhaps the most palpable way we feel God in our lives is through: 

6. Painful Seasons

Could it be that the God of the universe, Who knows everything that happens and allows everything to happen, Who loves every single person, Who hurts when we hurt, could it be that God reveals Himself the most when we seek Him during a painful season?

I’m not talking about painful moments or painful events, we’re talking about painful seasons. God is there. When pain shows up in your life, it’s not a drive-thru experience. Pain lingers. 

When the pain of divorce are still around.

When addiction to lying or pornography or alcohol keeps tripping your family up.

When the Big C is diagnosed in your life or in a loved one’s life. Cancer is such a painful and frightening season.

As depression and letdown and failures continue to steal the ounces of joy that were left in you.

In painful seasons, I have experienced that’s when God reveals Himself in HD – crystal clear. 

When my wife and I found out I was infertile after desperately wanting a child, God was there. When my father battled cancer for a year and died, God was there. In your darkest hours too – adultery, miscarriages, people hurting you, a painful childhood – God was there healing you.

In her book, Learning to Walk in the Dark, author Barbara Brown describes how she finds God while being alone in the darkness of a cabin or by walking down a dark trail in the woods, or even sitting in a dark cave. She writes, 

Sitting deep in the heart of a cave, I let this sink in: New life starts in the dark. Whether it’s a seed in the ground, a baby in the womb, or Jesus in the tomb, it all starts in the dark.” – Barbara Taylor Brown

While we instinctively run away from pain, or try to ignore or avoid pain – God runs toward it. I don’t believe God causes pain but I do believe He uses pain to get our attention. To slow us down. To get us focused on him. C.S. Lewis called pain God’s megaphone. He’s screaming at us to find Him.

When pain happens, God is coughing and sneezing and shaking branches like a madman. 

You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:13)

It’s a promise God makes to us. Go find Him. 

Thanks for reading. You are loved. 

Z

How You Can and Can’t Help Someone Who is Struggling.

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Charles Schulz’s famed character, Charlie Brown, tells his friend Linus this: 

I think there must be something wrong with me. Christmas is coming, but i’m not happy. I don’t feel the way I’m supposed to feel. – Charlie Brown

The chances are very good and providential that at some point this Christmas season, you will be around someone who is struggling. You’ll notice it because Christmas has a way of making people vulnerable. These people struggling might be immediate or extended family, friends, co-workers, classmates or neighbors. 

Their struggle could be an addiction they keep succumbing to. It could be a sin they have been blind to. It could be a trial that weighs heavy on them. It could be the loss of something like a job or a marriage or a loved one. It could be loneliness. It could be they are struggling with how difficult this year has been and how little hope there is for the new year. 

But, you notice them and their struggle. And in your heart you have compassion and want to help them experience love and joy and peace. How can you help them? 

In the first century, in Jerusalem, there was a pool named Bethesda. In fact, the pool is still available to see today and has received an A+ grade for what it actually looked like 2,000 years ago. 

Anyone in the first century who was sick or lame or blind, they would lay near the porches of this pool because there was a mythical assumption that if you could just touch the water, it would heal them. 

Just like today, people in need of some kind of hope just about believe anything will help them. 

In the biblical book of John, chapter 5, there is a man who had been an invalid for 38 years. And just as you might find yourself around someone who is struggling, Jesus happens to cross paths with this crippled man. 

When Jesus saw him and knew he had been ill for a long time, he asked him, “Would you like to get well?” (John 5:6)  

That’s what Jesus asks this man? Would you like to get well?

Jesus does goes on to miraculously heal this man, because that’s what Jesus does, but I used to think this was such an unnecessary question.

Would you like to get well?

This guy has been crippled for four decades. He lays by a pool hoping one person on one day would pick him up and put him in the water because he thinks that will heal him, and no one has. He’s been ostracize from the marketplace. He’s been rejected by loved ones and strangers. If only he could be healed he could begin to build a life that gives him purpose and dignity and legacy. 

Of course he wants to get well. It feels like an unnecessary question by Jesus. 

But, let’s not forget Jesus never wasted one word He spoke. Nothing He did was unnecessary. The longer I am around broken people the more I see this is not a dumb question by Jesus. 

Wanting to get well is important. Some people don’t want to get better. 

When you have a loved one with an issue they are struggling with, you need to ask them this question, Do you want to get better? Human nature is that we will not change until the fear of the damage the issue is causing us is greater than the fear of changing our habits.

What’s also counter to human nature is humility. We have to admit we need help and we have to admit we are the ones that cannot change ourselves.

We were really crushed and overwhelmed, and feared we would never live through it. We felt we were doomed to die and saw how powerless we were to help ourselves; but that was good, for then we put everything into the hands of God, who alone could save us. (2 Corinthians 1:8-9)

There is power in powerlessness.

That’s Christmas. How dependent Jesus was on Joseph and Mary that night in Bethlehem as he was laid in an animal feeding trough? Jesus had no power to display as an infant and yet what results in Jesus conquering over death.

When you and I admit our weakness and admit we can’t do it on our own, that’s when God’s strength has the permission to flow through us. 

This Christmas and next year your loved ones might continue to be great an image-management. They appear put together and great and that nothing is wrong. But if they’re ever going to be healed, if they’re ever going to change or be free or have joy, they have to admit they can’t do it and that God can. 

They have to believe there is power in powerlessness. 

The day after Christmas a few years ago I got a call from friends who were married to each other and they needed to meet with me right away. On December 26th we met at my office.

It came out that the wife had found pictures of her husband and a female co-worker of his in a hotel room, and you can fill in the blanks. The wife found these scandalous pictures on the family iPad. And she found these pictures on Christmas Day.

With me probing a bit for further context, it also came out that the wife had cheated on her husband a couple years earlier in their marriage. 

These were church-going people. They had worshipped God their entire lives.

The reason there was pain in their marriage was because they were masters of image-management. Neither one wanted to admit they were powerless to change and that they were going to be fine. 

I didn’t berate them. That’s not what friends do, it’s not what leaders do. I told them that God’s power could change them and heal them if they were willing to let Him. I simply wanted to see if they wanted to get well. 

Then I told them there is one thing in this world greater than the power of God.

There is one thing greater than the power of God. It’s the love of God.

If they wanted their marriage to heal, if they wanted to forgive each other, if they wanted to change, God’s power could do that. But until they saw God’s love for them in their mess, whether they wanted to change or not, they wouldn’t want to change. 

It’s why Jesus asks, Do you want to get well? 

It’s the double-edged sword of free will. If we choose to seek after God He will heal us but if we choose to not seek after God, He can’t heal us. He still loves us and He still will pursue us, but for change or healing becomes a reality – surrender needs to happen. There is power in powerlessness.

There’s a book called, Generation Me, written by Jean Twenge. Dr. Twenge has a PhD, does a lot of research, and her book is all about the ever-increasing growing epidemic of narcissism in our culture. She writes,

Our growing tendency to put the self first leads to unparalleled freedom, but it also creates an enormous amount of pressure on us to stand alone. This is the downside of the focus on the self. When we are fiercely independent and self-sufficient, our disappointments loom large because we have nothing else to focus on.” – Dr. Jean Twenge

This is how people without Jesus think. They either focus on themselves and how great they are or they focus on their problems and how bad things are.

The answer to being humble in our success and to be transformed in our trial is to focus our life on Jesus. It’s so easy to veer our thoughts to ourselves and to our problems.

Y’all know the movies that Jim Carrey and Steve Carrell did? Bruce Almighty and Evan Almighty? – If not watched, I can think of myself as, Zach Almighty. I love talking about Zach. My theme song can be Toby Keith’s,  I wanna talk about me, I wanna talk about I, I want to talk about number one, me, my, oh-my. 

I can tend to sound like the annoying seagulls in the movie Finding Nemo: Mine. Mine. Mine Mine. 

I love the idea of Santa and how excited children get because as adults we lose some of that wonder and imagination, but, why are kids excited about Santa? 

He brings them gifts. They get presents.
Are we excited about Santa if he doesn’t brings us gifts?

This is why my family reads the entire chapter of Luke 2 on Christmas morning before anything else is done. Before stockings or presents. before coffee for mom or candy for myself, we read the Christmas account in Luke chapter 2 as a family tradition to remind our children that every day, even this Christmas Day, our focus in on Jesus. 

As a parent, if I permit my children to focus on themselves unchecked, they will, and then if/when they will fail, they will then focus on their problems. Their life will be a constant seesaw with a lot of pride,  look how great I am, and depression, look how bad I am.

For a couple years on Monday mornings I taught male inmates at the county prison. The curriculum I taught from was all about preparing the male prisoners to leave their life of bad desires and choices and pursue wise and life-giving desires and choices. 

You could tell a difference between the guys who wanted to be there, who wanted to change, and the guys who didn’t, but they had to be there because it looked good on their parole record if they attended the class.

I would start each class of about 20 prisoners reciting this equation,

Self-deception + Self-reliance = Self-Destruction

This equation runs true every single time. The common denominator is self – and I would tell the guys in prison that they have there choices.

  1. They can sit and think about how they are going to change themselves once they get out.  
  2. They can think how about how they blew it and how much of a loser they are.
  3. They can admit they were powerless and rely on God’s Spirit to bring love and power if they wanted permanent change. 

Your loved ones need to hear this. They are focused on themselves or their problems.

Christmas blows away the misperceptions of God that people have. 

He is a God who comes near to us.
He is a humble God.
He is a God who cares.
He’s not just loving – He is love.

I have seen what they do, but I will heal them anyway! I will lead them. I will comfort those who mourn, bringing words of praise to their lips. May they have abundant peace, both near and far,” says the Lord, who heals them. Isaiah 57:18-19

God knows all about what I’ve done, what I struggle with, what harsh times I’ve gone through and He still wants to heal me and lead me to the way that is free as He comforts me when I am broken. He longs to bring peace into my soul.

If I let Him. If I invite Him to do so.

If I feel guilty, He wants to forgive me.
I I feel lost, He wants to lead me.
If I am overwhelmed or anxious or stress out, He wants to comfort me.
If I can’t sleep – He wants to bring me rest and a peace that transcends rational explanation. 

If I let Him. If I invite Him to do so.

You might not need recovery from addition abuse or need AA or a 12 step program but the principle is the same if you or your loved ones want healing. They have one of three options.

  1. They can focus on themselves: I can do it! 
  2. They can focus on their problems: I can’t do it! 
  3. They can focus on Jesus. He can do it. And will. And does every day. 

We are used to making your own choices. We decide what time to wake up, what to wear, what to eat, what to do at work or at school, what to do at night, where to travel to, what hobbies interest us, what to spend money on. We rule our world. We’re so used to making choices on our own constantly. 

We’ve forgotten how to be dependent on God. As an infant is fully dependent on their mother we need to be fully dependent on God. That’s the ironic message of Jesus’ birth. As dependent and humble God became on two people He created, Joseph and Mary, we need to be that dependent on God daily.

The message of Christmas is this (and what you should tell all of your relationships): 

There is a God who has an unfailing love for you, and He wants to get really close to you. 

If they let Him. If they invite Him to do so.

Open your eyes and your ears and your heart to someone near you who is struggling. 

Thanks for reading. You are loved. 

Z