God isn’t hard to find when you know how to look for Him

When I was a kid, there was a series of coffee table type books that were all the rage, the Magic Eye books. The books were full of large nonsense images that took up entire pages. Each image just looked like one giant collage of shapes and colors with no pattern or order. On the surface, they didn’t make any sense, but if you know how to look at them, you saw something completely different.

3D images were buried in those page-sized nonsense collages of colors and shapes. It took me years to learn how to see the hidden images, but once I figured it out, it was addictive. If you’ve seen one, you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, go to the library and check a Magic Eye book out. Seriously. It’s totally worth it.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but those crazy Magic Eye books taught me a really important lesson about following Jesus.

58345D779AToday’s verses are Jeremiah 29:10-14.

This is what the Lord says: “You will be in Babylon for seventy years. But then I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised, and I will bring you home again. For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. I will be found by you,” says the Lord. “I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and will bring you home again to your own land.”

Many Christ-followers have heard the famous verse Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” They’re well known and used to comfort Christ-followers over and over again in times when we don’t understand what God is doing in our lives.

What many don’t know is the context. See, God spoke these words to His people just before He sent them into captivity, but He didn’t send them away without reminding them of His promises. God wanted to make sure they understood that even though life was hard (and it was going to get harder), He hadn’t forgotten them, and He hadn’t abandoned them. And if they were willing to look for Him, they would be able to find Him.

That’s a message our world needs right now, both Christ-followers and people who don’t believe.

There are points in my life when it felt like all I did was look for God. I read my Bible. I prayed. I talked to godly mentors. And it felt like I couldn’t find Him anywhere. At that point, I would turn to verses like these and question their validity. Because if the Bible says all I have to do to find God is to look for Him, it was a lie. Because I was looking, and I couldn’t see Him anywhere.

Ever had days like that? Where all you want is for God to just show up? You aren’t even asking for an audible voice, but you just need a sign, a hint, something to tell you that you aren’t alone. Ever considered that you might not know what you’re looking for?

We all have this image of God in our heads, and it’s shaped by different life experiences. And we all have this tendency to tell God how He needs to prove Himself to us. We do. Every does it. We ask God to show us a sign, and when He doesn’t hop to it and wave His arms around for us to see, we give up on Him.

You do realize that God doesn’t owe us anything, right? That’s a hard statement to swallow because–let’s be honest–we all think we’re something. Deep down inside, we think we’re pretty cool. And generally speaking, we’re right. But just because we’re pretty cool people doesn’t mean God is required to prove anything to us.

But He does it anyway. We just have to understand that it’s not what we’re looking for, it’s how we look for it.

Like those stupid Magic Eye puzzles, you have to look for God’s hand in a certain way. You can’t go looking for Him with a chip on your shoulder. You can’t approach Him like He owes you something. And you can’t seek Him with anything less than your whole heart. If you do, you won’t find Him.

God isn’t in the flash. I mean, He can be when He wants to be. He can be as big and flashy and ostentatious as He wants to be, but that’s not really His style. God is in the everyday. He’s in the sunrises and the sunsets that paint the sky a million shades of lavender. He’s in the taste of your morning coffee and the scent of your afternoon cup of tea. He’s in the quiet whisper of the autumn breeze through the leaves, and He’s in every connection you make with other people.

When you learn how to look for Him, you realize He’s not hard to find. He really is everywhere. So don’t convince yourself that He doesn’t care. Don’t tell yourself that He left you behind. And don’t keep asking Him for elaborate signs and wonders when you can marvel at who He is over your first cup of coffee in the morning.

Are you looking for God this morning? He’s right next to you. He’s just waiting for you to open your eyes and see who He actually is instead of who the world wants Him to be.

Prairie dog at the Sedgwick County Zoo - Haven, KS

Seeking is a process

If you look for God, you’ll find Him. Right? He’s promised that in other verses. But the Bible never wastes words. If the words aren’t necessary, they wouldn’t be in Scripture. Every single word is essential. So why does it matter that we search for the Lord with all our heart and soul?

If we can just find God by turning over a stone and exclaiming, “Look! I found God!” why is it important to search with everything we are?

Sincerity is important, yes. If you’re not sincerely seeking something, even if you find it, you won’t understand it.
Because seeking is a process.

Prairie dog at the Sedgwick County Zoo - Haven, KS

Prairie dog at the Sedgwick County Zoo – Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Deuteronomy 4:29.

But from there you will search again for the Lord your God. And if you search for him with all your heart and soul, you will find him.

People say they are seeking God, but that’s a popular thing to say. They also say they’re seeking to find themselves, they’re seeking to find God’s will and purpose, they’re seeking the truth. But everyone seems to forget the first thing that has to happen before you truly begin to seek; first, you have to lose it. Then, you have to really want it.

If you don’t really want what you’re seeking, you’ll be satisfied when you find the first answer that fits your expectations.

This verse is taken out of a passage where Moses is addressing the Israelites. This generation of people was the children of the ones who God rescued from Egypt. That original generation refused to do as God told them. He’d told them to go into the land He’d prepared for them and that He had given them victory. But the people only saw the giants in the land, guarding the way, and they refused. So God caused them to wander in the wilderness for 40 years until that generation had died. Their children would inherit the legacy intended for them.

This generation was sold out to God, but Moses warned them that if they broke the promise they were making, if they forged idols and turned away from God that they wouldn’t live in the land for very long and would be scattered to the wind. But even scattered and without a country to call home, if they turned back to God and searched for Him, He promised they could find Him. If you know your history, you’ll know that’s exactly what happened.

Seeking God is popular among Christians. But what does it mean to actually seek God? And what does it mean to seek with all your heart and soul? In the Amplified Version, it actually says to seek with all your heart and mind and soul and life. Think about that; that’s huge. If you’re seeking with all of those things, that means seeking is your entire life.

Have you ever looked for something like that?

Most of the time when we seek something, it’s like we’re looking for our keys. During Judgement House, I couldn’t keep track of my cup. We had those lovely Styrofoam cups that we scratched our names on, but no matter how careful I was, I kept misplacing it. And I looked for it, but in the end I just gave up and got another one. That’s how many people search for God, I think.

We seek sincerely for a day (maybe longer) and then we come up with another explanation. Or we decide that He’s not listening or that He’s not there and we accept a lie because we are too lazy to wait any longer. But here’s the thing, folks, those of us who seek God need to realize the possibility that we may not have lost Him to begin with.

Moses was warning the Israelites that if they turned away from God, if they worshiped idols and were cast out of the Promised Land, they could find God if they searched for Him. But in that situation, the Israelites would have lost Him. They had dropped Him, given up on Him, turned away from Him. So of course they would need to search for Him again if they wanted Him.

But Christians? We haven’t lost God. He’s right here. He’s been here. And if you say you’re a Christian, you haven’t lost Him at all.

Please don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying don’t look for Him. What I’m saying is that so many times Christians waste the limited time we have looking for something we’ve already found. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wasted ten minutes looking for my keys, when they’re in my coat pocket.

Yes. Search for God. But if you’re really searching, remember that you have to lose Him first. And if you haven’t lost Him, if you haven’t turned away from Him, why are you wasting time seeking? He’s standing right beside you just asking if you’ll talk to Him. So talk. And don’t put words in His mouth. Let Him speak through Scripture, through prayer, through godly council of mature believers, and don’t argue with what He tells you.

But if you have lost Him, seek. Just don’t do it like someone looking for their keys or for a stupid Styrofoam cup. Seek with your whole heart, your whole mind, your whole soul and your whole life. That is how you seek God. It’s not a half-hearted attempt at being good. It’s not you presenting options and hoping God is happy with what you’ve come up with. It’s your entire being laid out in desperate need, crying out to God for the truth. He won’t turn anyone away, even if you’ve turned away from Him.

But even if you find Him, you may not get the answers you want right away. Seeking is a process. And like any other process, it begins with the first step. But that first step is the most important.

Grainery Door

Pestering versus Persisting

I hate pestering people. Maybe that’s just me, but having to ask someone over and over and over again for the same thing upsets me. It embarasses me. Isn’t that weird? I don’t want people to call me a pest, but at the same time I need them to do their part so I can finish what I’m working on. So when God tells us to ask Him for things, I always do. But usually I only ask once.

But here is a lesson I have learned from working in the corporate world: if you don’t nag someone, they won’t do it. That’s just the way it is. If you only have to ask someone for something once before they answer, either they don’t have enough work to do or you aren’t getting your work done (I’m exaggerating, of course . . . but only a little).

You have to ask people over and over and over again for something all the time, mainly to show them how important it is. If you only ask for it once and then you don’t bring it up again and they never respond, well, it must not be very important to you. I think that’s the general consensus. And if I understand today’s verse right, God is the same way.

Grainery Door

Grainery Door - Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Matthew 7:7-8.

Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.

When we want something or when we need something, we should ask. We have to ask and ask and keep on asking. It’s not pestering. It’s persistence. There’s a difference. Persistence is continuing steadfastly, according to Dictionary.com. Pestering is bothering persistently.

Do you get the difference?

Pestering is bothering someone. It’s approaching someone with a problem that is trivial or petty over and over and over again. Even after someone has told you not to bring it up anymore, if you keep bringing it up and it becomes annoying, then it is pestering.

But persistence is working toward something that matters. It’s asking for something that matters to you. It’s continuing to request something over and over again because it will change the quality of your life or of someone else’s life. It’s not a petty, annoying request.

Okay. So how do we know the difference between a request that matters and one that doesn’t?

Here’s the easy answer: There’s no petty request with God.

God cares about every instance in our lives. Even the things that we think (and that others think) are petty are huge to Him. Why? Because they matter to us.

I have good friends who have no children, not by their own desire but just because of the way life has worked. Their dog became really important to them because they had no children, and when their dog suddenly died, they both struggled with it. A lot. And it broke my heart because they didn’t feel comfortable talking about how sad they were around other Christians because “it was only a dog.” 

No. It was a pet they loved. And maybe other Christians callously thought it was petty to love an animal so much, but that’s not  fair. We shouldn’t judge someone else’s heart, and we have no place to tell someone what they can and can’t love (we do it all the time, though).

And maybe asking for comfort in a situation like that seemed petty to other Christians, but it wasn’t petty to God. God understands our grief. He understands the pain we go through. He understands our hearts and our dreams and our wishes, and He cares. He wants to be involved in our lives. He wants to give us good gifts. He wants to do great things through us.

But if we don’t ask, He might not. Because when you ask for something–and you really really want it–your attitude toward that request changes. When you ask for something over and over, your level of desire for that outcome increases. The more you ask for it, the more you want it. The more you want it, the more you’ll be willing to invest of yourself.

So ask God for what you want. Not just once. Not just twice. Constantly. Consistently. Let Him know that what you’re asking for is something you’re determined to finish, to see through to the end. Because if you’re only going to devote half your heart to it, do you really want it as badly as you think you do?