I’m sitting in the car waiting to pick the kids up from school. I’m parked on the side of the road. Street signs, concrete, fences, cars parked, cars driving past. It’s a rather unattractive urban view. Or is it? For my car is parked beside a hibiscus bush in flower. Beauty there if I choose to see it.
“The law of concentration states that whatever you dwell upon grows. The more you think about something, the more it becomes part of your reality…. Whatever you believe to be true, whatever you focus your attention and energy on becomes your reality.”
As we go about life what are we choosing to focus on? Are we focusing on God or are we letting temporal situations become our priority? Are we focusing on what other people have instead of what God is doing in our lives?
We have a choice on what to focus on. To focus on the bad report, the hard situation or to focus on what God says about us. To focus on what is missing or to celebrate what we do have.
If there’s one thing I know for sure, when we fix our eyes on Jesus, fear vanishes, hope grows, faith strengthens and love comes in.
Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed – that exhilarating finish in and with God (Hebrews 12:2 The Message)
PARADOX: – A situation or statement that seems impossible or is difficult to understand because it contains two opposite facts or characteristics
Sacrifice. Praise. Two words that seem mutually exclusive. A paradox. Two words that don’t belong together. Praise is like the woohoo of your day, an overflow of happy. It’s exuberant, joyful. It’s something that bubbles easily from a grateful heart. Sacrifice – well that is something that comes at a cost. It’s pain, grief, hurt. Surely sacrifice and praise don’t belong together? Yet we find in Hebrews just that. Praise and Sacrifice interwoven together.
“Therefore, let us offer through Jesus a continual sacrifice of praise to God, proclaiming our allegiance to His name.” (Hebrews 13:15)
The sacrifice of praise means that even during the difficult times we choose to believe in the goodness of God. It says that during the hard seasons we can still exalt His name. As we turn our despair, our pain into praise of the One who sacrificed it all for us it becomes the most beautiful sacrifice.
When we are in a place of hardship or trouble and yet are able to praise God, it is a sacrifice. It means that we are reacting in a way that brings something beautiful. This gate in the midst of our paradox is where He dwells. It that moment a gate is formed, a place of entrance where the King of Glory can invade our situation with His presence.
In Isaiah 60:18 it says, “But you shall call your walls Salvation, and your gates Praise.” In Revelation we see too mention of the gates of praise. We learn that the gates are made of a single pearl. A pearl comes from an irritant to the oyster. It is formed when an oyster gets a grain of sand trapped in the flesh inside its shell. This piece of sand irritates the oyster and it responds by coating the grain with what becomes a pearl. What was an irritant to the oyster becomes something beautiful, valuable. God’s pairing of praise with irritation is intentional. It shows us that when we respond with praise to God during our hard times something beautiful is produced.
Praise invites the Lord’s presence into our situations. It is indeed a gate, a place of entrance for the King of Glory to enter our lives. Our praise is to be continual. It means our praise is a lifestyle that exists regardless of our feelings or our circumstances or how our day is shaping out. Our praise becomes a powerful declaration of magnifying God over our lives. It is not about being thankful for all things, but in all things being able to be thankful. It means that our praise of God is not shaken by our circumstances. We move above the restraints of human explanation to a place of trust.
Sometimes in life we are left with mysteries in God. Unanswered prayer, someone not healed, things not restored. But because God is good and kind we can trust Him with that mystery and still seek His face and worship Him. As Bill Johnson wrote sometimes victory is “measured in the fact that after disappointment and loss we set our hearts to seek His face again.”
There’s something to be said on this side of eternity being able to worship God. To worship and give Him praise and honour in a fallen world when we are hurting. This is a true sacrifice of praise. For one day we will all be in eternity worshipping – pain and grief will be no more, and we will never have the opportunity to bring Him praise through our pain.
Every morning I lay out the pieces of my life on the altar and wait for your fire to fall upon my heart.” (Psalm 5:1-3)
God steps into our day amongst the ordinary, amongst the chores and the mundane. Often when we least expect it, He makes His presence manifest.
For one woman completing her ordinary daily task of drawing water became an extraordinary encounter with the Messiah. The mundane, the routine was the environment that Jesus intentionally stepped into and a woman’s life was changed – indeed, a village was changed.
Where has God appeared to you today? Reminding you of the Living Water that He is? Of the life He brings? Perhaps the words of wisdom during that meeting? The song that comes on durnig the school run that seems to speak right to you? In your quiet moments when you become aware of His presence, of His love for you.
Lean into these times and let God’s living water refresh you, transform you.
Kotiti – To go astray, stray, deviate, go off course, digress, get sidetracked
Over summer I went on a River cruise down the Matakana River. The boat was named Kotiti after the meandering of the river outlets in the region. Rivers which had forged their own paths and weaved around the landscape to their own rhythm.
We can all have our plans, our dreams for our life. But life is not as structured or as rigid as the Panama canal is for example. The Canal is controlled. Clear entry and timings. Everything engineered to perfection to enable a fast and smooth transition from the waters of the Atlantic to the waters of the Pacific.
Life is no Panama Canal, it is really kotiti, a river that goes off course and deviates from the straight path. The challenge is, how do we adapt to these changes, to the unexpected that takes us seemingly off course? As we discovered during our river tour, the unexpected has treasures ready to be discovered. The delight of seeing the tree house secreted amongst the trees by the river’s edge, the jumping fish. The architecture of the houses nestled on the peninsular that are unseen from the road. There was much beauty to enjoy.
When my son was born with down syndrome, my life took an unexpected and unplanned turn. In my mind kotiti had occurred in my life. But what I have found is great beauty in this path. The cuddles, his capacity for love. His empathy and concern when anyone is sad. The sweetness of his smile with his beautiful almond shaped eyes and the joy that I get to experience everyday.
When you find life has taken you in an unexpected direction, look out for the treasures to be discovered. They are there.
“A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.’ (Proverbs 16:9)
The Battle of Waterloo. Belgium 1815.
The forces of the French Empire under Napoleon Bonaparte were defeated by an Anglo-Allied army under the command of the Duke of Wellington. It was the decisive battle of the Waterloo Campaign and Bonaparte’s last. The defeat at Waterloo was to put an end to Napoleon’s rule as the French emperor.
Of this battle, Wellington admitted he had “an infamous army, very weak and ill-equipped, and a very inexperienced Staff”. Napoleon had the numeric advantage in troops and in guns. Yet that day, the Duke of Wellington and his troops prevailed.
On the day of the battle, a huge thunderstorm broke over the field and drowned it out. The deluge meant that Napoleons cannons lost a lot of their potential and the mud reduced Napoleon’s army’s manoeuvrability.
The Duke of Wellington was later reported to have said “The finger of God was upon me all day – nothing else could have saved me.”
We need to find the finger of God – the presence of God in our everyday….Because He is there, we just need to be looking.
In the car, my boys and I play a game – “the yellow car”. The first person to see a yellow car and call it gets a point. It’s got to the stage that even if I’m in the car myself I’ve caught myself yelling “yellow car!” The thing is, now we’re so used to looking for yellow cars we see them everywhere!
It’s the same with seeing the presence of God in our day to days lives. When we intentionally look to find Him in our day, the more we will see Him at work. We will see Him weaving His way right through our day.
I love the Faith trigger cards by faith4families.org. Faith Talk triggers for families to use at home. At the bottom of each card is a section named “God Spotting” with questions like
- Where did you glimpse God today?
- Where were you led by God today?
- Has a friend been the presence of Christ to you this week?
Brother Lawrence wrote “The presence of God is the concentration of the soul’s attention on God, remembering that He is always present.”
In our every day God is very much present. Renee Swope wrote recently “Evidence of God’s presence surrounds me. But I have to decide if I will look for, listen to: and notice Him.”
When we look for God, we find Him.