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Monday, February 20, 2012

Hidden In Plain Sight

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During my sophomore year in college, Steph studied for a year in Germany.  At one point, she was back home for a couple months—and by back home, I mean with her parents near St. Louis.  We had just begun a relationship (yes, while she was in Germany…another story for another time), and I wanted to see her before she returned overseas.  The problem was…I didn’t have a car, and St. Louis was a good 3-4 hours away.  Fortunately, a good friend of mine did have a car, and Steph and I lured him into driving me down and back for a weekend.

Jim and I were on the road—specifically, on I-155.  Now…if you know your Illinois interstates, you know that I-155 runs between Peoria and Lincoln, and is—as Steph and I like to call it—forty-five minutes of nothing.  About halfway through this “nothing,” a thought occurred to me.

I asked him, “Did you fill up before we left?”

Jim’s eyes grew wide, and he looked down just as the gas light came on.  He turned to me, panic growing on his face, and yelled, “What are we going to do?”

“Stay calm!!” I screamed back in equal panic.  “My God will get us through this!!”

(*Side note: Jim was most assuredly not a Christian.)

Just then, a road sign appeared for a town aptly named Hopedale.  We took the exit, loaded up on gas, and had a funny story to tell for years.  Drive I-155 sometime…try and find any other town or exit that has a place to fill up.  Hopedale is about it.  If I had not asked about his tank at that exact moment…had the gas light not come on at that exact moment…we would have been in a lot of trouble, as neither of us had a cell phone (c’mon…it was 1999…most people still didn’t have them), it was getting dark, and it was a chilly evening.

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This sounds like a great story of a man trusting his God to come through for him in the clutch, doesn’t it?  A chance to witness to a non-Christian that if you have faith, God will bless you.

Read it again.  What did I do in our moment of crisis?  I just expected God to be there.  In fact, I flat-out said that He would do something.  What if we had already passed Hopedale?  What if we didn’t make it?  What would Jim think of my God then?  What would I think of my God?

I fell into a trap that many other Christians are guilty of: Demanding God.  We act as though God is our personal butler and will just appear at the clap of our hands.  “Give me a sign!!”  Then we sit back and wait for some booming voice or a bush to catch fire and tell us what to do.  We think: If God wants me to do ‘this’ or ‘that,’ He’ll push me in that direction.  We sit back and wait…and expect…and sometimes even demand that God make Himself present to us.  If He doesn’t, we think God has abandoned us, or He has better things to do than deal with us, or in extreme cases question our faith altogether.

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Don’t you see what we’re doing?  By behaving this way, we are demanding that God prove Himself to us.  We demand that God prove Himself to us.  Leaving alone the “demanding of God” part for now, do you realize what has happened when you start expecting God to prove Himself to you?  To show Himself to you?

You’ve lost Him.

Now the hunt begins.

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Once you’ve lost God, how do you find Him again?

It’s funny.  I have wanted to write on this subject pretty much since I started the blog.  It’s been on my heart for some time.  However, for the last three weeks, God has said, “Not yet.  I want you to write about something else right now.”  This week, I received the nod of approval, and excitement hit me.  I sat down at my computer, ready to fire away.  And I sat there.  And I sat there.  Finally, it hit me…I didn’t know where to start.

In my ever-present quest for irony, you can imagine how happy I was with the following: I didn’t know how to find the words on how to find God.

So what did I do?  Turned to Google, naturally.  Google would know what to do!!  And Google did not disappoint.  It provided me with a link to WikiHow, where in just eleven easy steps, you can find God.  Google also linked me to eHow, where it did the same in a seven-step program.

Obviously…I did not find what I was looking for.  So I turned to the most Biblical person I know: my brother, Joe.  Alas, He did not respond to my request for information.  (Do not judge…his non-answer fits perfectly with my point.)  I looked for quotes from Christian writers.  Messages from Christian speakers.  I searched high and low for information that I could share with others about how to find God.  Then it dawned on me—what was the one source I had neglected to use?

G-O-D

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Here I was, trying to write about finding God, and I didn’t even think to use to greatest source of all time:

Deuteronomy 4:29 “But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul.”
Proverbs 8:17 “I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me.”
Lamentations 3:25 “The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him
1 Chronicles 16: 10-11 “Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.  Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.”

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If I want to talk with a friend, do I sit back and wait for him to call me?  Of course not.  If I want to talk with a friend, I call him.  If I’ve lost my keys, do I sit on the couch and wait for them to magically appear?  Of course not.  If my keys are missing, I look for them.

My error with Jim on the trip to St. Louis was not trusting God—we’re supposed to do that—it was not going to Him in the first place.  I did not seek God.  I did not go to God.  I just demanded that He prove Himself to me/us.  God is not some genie in a lamp.  You cannot summon Him whenever you wish.  You must go to Him.

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While He expects us to seek Him, the awesome thing about God is that He promises that those who do seek Him will find Him.

Acts 17:27 “God did this (create) so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.”

See…God is not some call center with an automated response system and music while you’re on hold.  God is a phone call away…and He picks up on the first ring every time.

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“You find what you look for” rings true in all facets of life.  If you look for the bad in the world…if you search for the sin—you’ll find it.  You’ll find it, and it will anger you, depress you, darken your heart and cloud your soul.  If you look for the good in the world…if you search for God’s love—you’ll find it.  You’ll find it and your heart will lighten as your soul overflows with joy and peace.

Let’s choose to be glass-half-full people.  Let’s choose to see the good around us.  Let’s choose God and seek Him in our everyday lives—yes, in prayer, but also in the world He has given to us.  Look around…He’s everywhere.  That beautiful sunset?  He made that.  A baby’s laugh?  He made that.  If you seek God, you will find God.  You don’t need eleven steps or even seven, either.  You can find God in one single step:

Prayer.

Here is my challenge for all of us this week (and hopefully beyond):  Find God.  Go to Him in prayer.  Ask Him to open your eyes to His love around you.  Then, find God in at least one area of your life.  Do this every day.  Share it here or on my (or your own) Facebook page.  Share God with others.  Help people find God in you.

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One of my favorite movies is The Usual Suspects.  At the end of the movie, Kevin Spacey says, “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.  And like that…poof…he’s gone.”

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The devil likes to play games.  He’s good at them.  God doesn’t have time for games.  In this ultimate round of hide-and-seek, while Satan disappears behind every nook and cranny of our lives…God is standing right in front of you.  All you need to do is open your eyes.

Ready or not, here I come!!

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