Have you ever been driving an everyday route and noticed a business for the first time. You get all excited about this new gem you’ve discovered, only to find out that it’s been there for 10 years, or something crazy like that? When I drive, I don’t see the businesses that line either side of the busy road. I notice the other people on the road with me. I’m in focus mode because I value the safety of me and my fellow passengers, usually my family. I have the steering wheel in my hands and my eyes constantly moving from windshield to mirrors, checking to make sure some idiot driving 80 mph and texting doesn’t hit me. I try not to be a distracted driver, which is difficult when I have two really cute kids in my backseat who will argue with one another and/or a hottie of a husband next to me who occasionally likes to pretend there is a break on his side of the car. All this is going on within my vicinity, so I don’t take time to notice what buildings are on route until there is no one else around me on the road or I give up control (ride in the passenger seat… my turn for the imaginary break!) The businesses are always there; I just haven’t stopped to notice or been made aware of them. Truth be told, I’m unable to be made aware of anything when I’m in survival mode, dodging drivers who are preoccupied with a tweet or their cheeseburger. I just want to make it…
It was a Sunday morning. The music, media, and pastoral teams were meeting backstage before our 9am service to pray. We would typically pray for those attending service, those serving, and other needs that came up. This one particular morning, we were challenged by our pastor to pray for heightened awareness of the presence of God. We knew God was with us because God is everywhere, but were we ready to honestly be more aware of God?
Like driving a familiar road, the idea that God is always with you can become almost autopilot. God is always with us, but to be aware that His presence is with you is another story. Okay, I know I might sound a little repetitive, but hear me out. I can get so fixated on getting to my destination, holding onto the idol of control, that I miss the awareness of the presence of God. Like that cool spot that’s been along my everyday route for 10 years, I simply pass by the familiar because I’m so preoccupied to all the other stuff around me. Is it all bad stuff? No, not necessarily, but if I miss the main point, then, what’s the point?
We tell God, “I want more of You,” but God will only give us as much of Himself as we can handle. We think about Moses and how he walked to the top of the mountain to meet with God. He didn’t go up carrying the idols of the day, but he came empty handed saying, “God, I just want to see Your glory.” God knew that Moses could not handle seeing the Lord in His whole glory, so He put Moses into the cleft of the mountain and passed showing only His back (Exodus 33: 12-23). Not only could Moses not have a direct view of God, he couldn’t even see the face of God; Moses could only see the backside of the Most Holy. Imagine what would have happened to Moses if he would have looked directly at God. Well, you don’t have to imagine. God told him. Moses would have died. Not injured. Dead. We can’t even look at the sun, even during a solar eclipse, for 30 seconds without going blind. The glory of God shone so bright that it made the face of Moses glow, let alone not burning his retinas (Exodus 34).
The reason we don’t have more of God is not because God doesn’t want to give more of Himself. The reason is that we can’t handle more of Him. It would be like looking for that local gem of a business while driving down that busy road with screaming kids in the back seat, hipsters riding their bikes in and out of traffic while teenage drivers all around you are catching up on their Instagram selfies. There are too many distractions; too many things vying for our attention. We couldn’t handle having more. We can’t handle having more of God because we come up to Him with all of our idols and distractions in our hands and say, “Look at all this cool stuff I bought, oh, and I want You, too.” But God is not of in the business of “I want God and…” He is in the business of “I have all of this, BUT God…” I have all of these problems; I have all of this baggage; I have all of these distractions, sins, and fake idols in my life, BUT GOD can redeem me from it; BUT GOD can help me to let go of all the things in my past; BUT GOD can cleanse me, so I can let go of those distractions, sins, and idols and cling onto Him. We aren’t meant to have everything “and God”; we have everything because we have God.
“But God” are some of the two most powerful words in the Bible.
“When they had carried out all that was written about Him (Jesus), they took Him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb. But God raised Him from the dead.” Acts 13:29-30
“If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened; but God has surely listened and heard my voice in prayer.” Psalms 66:18-19
“Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love for us in this ”while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:7-8
These are only three examples, but there are many more in Scripture. The book of Psalms and Paul’s letters are filled with “but God”s. It really is the theme of the Bible. We were horrible sinners, dead in our sin, but God didn’t give up on us and made a way by sending Himself to die on the cross for our sin. Pretty epic.
I want to be more aware of the presence of God, Who is always with me and around me. You know the best way to not have to deal with crazy drivers? Don’t drive. Ha. Ha. No really. When I would walk the neighborhood, I would be able to see more of what was around me. I could be more aware of the businesses and nature that I simply drove by any other day. I would explore my neighborhood in Chicago on foot rather than car because I could be more aware of the hole in the wall places (like the cleft for Moses?). In our lives, we have to slow down. Take moments to pause and be aware of the presence of God, to let go of control and sin. Because He is a good Father, the Lord won’t give us what we can’t handle. Excuses start with “but I”; redemption starts with “but God”. Put it in park, lay it all down, and allow the Lord to create a “but God” in the middle of your commute.
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