Archive for the ‘practicing the presence of God’ Category

Present Perfect Chapter 4

September 5, 2017

I don’t know about you, but last week was a blur. I didn’t do as well as I would have liked at practicing the presence of God moment by moment. I’m not beating myself up because those moments are gone. The moment I am in right now is the one I’m enjoying and being reminded of the great love of God and His kindness to me! I hope you will do the same!

Chapter 4 is entitled Single-Mindedness. In it Boyd explains our predicament in a way that is very helpful. When we are born, and our brain is developing, everything we are exposed to is building our awareness of and influences our interpretation of our world. Our parents, our culture, the media, our friends, our varied experiences play a part in the programming of our brains. Boyd writes, “Unless you’ve taken intentional steps to change, the way you presently experience yourself and the world around you was mostly chosen for you, not by you.” Most likely this programming didn’t include the awareness of God and His love being present moment by moment. This brain function void of God is called the flesh mindset. It is what keeps us from enjoying the life that is truly Life that God intends for us.

The thing is, we aren’t even aware of this! Our brain runs on auto-pilot on the software which was programmed into it unbeknownst to us!  Boyd says, “To the extent that the way we experience ourselves and the world is determined by our flesh – mind-set, we live as semiconscious slaves to whomever or whatever programmed us.” Oh wow!!! Read that again. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to live that way!

Now, when we become followers of Christ we are forgiven of our sins and are given a new nature instead of our former sinful nature. We are “in principle set free to enjoy God’s abundant Life.” The thing is, we have to do something about that programmed flesh – mind-set. It just doesn’t disappear into thin air. “Our brain continues to operate with the same autopilot programs it inherited before we surrendered.” That is the challenge of the Christian life. Not living from the flesh mindset but living by the new mindset of Christ which we have access to in God’s Word and through the Spirit of Christ who now lives in us! God will never force us to think a certain way. We choose to follow Him moment by moment which is why this practice is so vital to our lives!

Boyd then talks about double-mindedness which is knowing what we should do, how we should live, but doing and living otherwise. “As we noted in chapter 2, what we consciously believe has little impact on the operation of our flesh mind . . . Once activated, our automatic programming bypasses our conscious awareness – including all the things we consciously believe. This is why acquiring information in and of itself isn’t able to bring about lasting transformation. The truest and most insightful information in the world won’t change us so long as our moment-by-moment experience of our self and interaction with the world is dictated by our programmed flesh-mind. We’ll simply become a slightly more informed slave to whomever or whatever programmed us.”

Boyd explains that this is why:                                                                                                         ~we can know we’re loved by God yet feel unloved                                                                   ~we can be forgiven of being greedy but still spend too much money on ourselves     ~people can know adultery is wrong but find themselves cheating on their spouse

Boyd doesn’t say this, but this is why I believe that Christians have the reputation of being hypocrites. We are loved and forgiven by God and we know the truth, but we are still living by the preprogrammed flesh mindset. We haven’t reprogrammed our brains and this is done moment by moment day after day for the rest of our lives.

Boyd says, “No amount of resolutions, sermons, Bible studies, self-help books, or conferences will rectify this situation if they just provide us with more information. There is only one thing to be done, as James says, and that is to submit ourselves to God – not just intellectually, theoretically, or abstractly, but truly. Which means, submitting ourselves in the now – for the only actual life we have to submit is the one we have this moment.”

The answer to double-mindedness is to become single-minded! The way we do that is to live our life “against the backdrop of God’s ever-present love, moment-by-moment . . . .”

We can do this! If you can chew gum and walk, you can do this! If you can talk on the phone while you wash dishes, you can do this! If you can listen to the news while fixing dinner, you can do this! It’s not that we stop what we’re doing, but that we’re mindful of the presence of Christ in all we do!

Boyd gives three ways to practice this. One is committing each task we do to God. It’s one of the most reliable ways to “stay awake to God’s presence and ensure our thoughts remain captive to Christ. . . . As you engage in any task, commit to doing it for God. It helps to vocalize your thoughts and intentions. As you carry out your task, you might say things like, ‘I offer this task up to you Lord’ or ‘This present moment is all that matters, and I offer it up to you.”

Another exercise is to think in terms of “We”.  I think most of us talk to ourselves in one way or another. This practice transforms that behavior. Boyd quotes Frank Laubach, “Instead of talking to yourself, form the habit of talking to Christ . . . . Make all thought a conversation with the Lord.” Even when reading a book, “keep a running conversation with Him about the pages you are reading.”

Boyd says, “No aspect of our flesh – mind-set is more deeply embedded in our consciousness than our proclivity to be self-absorbed. Our fallen ‘I’ is at the center of the universe. Cultivating the habit of thinking as a conversation with God rather than merely talking to ourselves is thus challenging to say the least. Ask God to help you think of creative reminders. For example, before reading a book you might insert little sticky notes throughout the book that say things like, ‘Remember, Jesus longs to read this book with you.’ With persistence, you’ll find that over time thinking in terms of ‘we’ rather than ‘I’ gradually becomes more natural, which indicates that your very identity is being shaped in relation to God rather than merely in relation to yourself.”

I can’t wait to try these this week!

Once again, I’ll close this post with Boyd’s prayer:

“Ever-present and ever-loving God, we confess that we have often been conformed to the pattern of this world instead of being conformed to the image of your Son. Free us to be wholly yours in this moment and in every moment.”






Present Perfect – Chasing the Sun

August 29, 2017

This is the real chapter 3. Somehow I messed that up last post. Sorry about that!

Boyd starts this chapter with the lyrics to Pink Floyd’s song, “Time”. The gist of it is the problem common to man, time flying by and what have we done when time is gone? It’s a very sobering song.

In the culture we live in, worshipping youth, and beauty, the laws of nature still have the final say, age and gravity! Boyd points out that we are in a “perpetual, relentless process of decay.” I know that sounds depressing, but it doesn’t have to be!

The world we live in is not the world for which we were created. It is not the world we are destined for either. But we live in the ‘meantime’ and how do we deal with the clash of this stay young forever culture with the feeling that we’re running out of time? Botox and exercise and diets don’t help, rather they perpetuate the problem – taking our gaze from God and focusing too much on our situation.

We live with the fear “not just that we’re going to die. The fear is that we’ll never really live.”

What this chapter is about is the truth that “freedom from fear and dread is one decision away, and it can be made in this moment. In fact it can only be made in this moment.” Freedom is in one single decision!

Boyd says it is vital to remind yourself of some truths:                                                                          ~right now is all you have, so savor this moment without thinking forward anxiously or looking back regretting (or longingly)                                                                                           ~right now you are surrounded, encased by God’s perfect, unconditional love                                  ~you cannot be more loved, more valuable, more significant than you are right now        ~it’s not because of anything you’ve done (which takes the pressure off of having to keep it up) but because of the astounding, lavish love of God.                                                    ~”this perfect love never began, never ends, is never threatened, and never wavers.”

“As you breathe your next breath, let it represent your decision to breathe in God’s loving presence and all these truths associated with it.”

Colossians 3:1-3  says, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” 

This doesn’t mean that we don’t live in the ‘real world’ (except, ironically, that this world we live in is so NOT REAL in the eternal and spiritual sense, but I digress.)  When we set our hearts (our minds, thoughts, attentions and energy) on things above, our whole perspective of the here and now changes.  Our value and meaning don’t depend on our accomplishments or appearance. “The bottom line is that we were meant to live life as a celebration of a fullness of Life we get from God rather than as a desperate attempt to get fullness of Life on our own.” It’s where our identity is, hidden with Christ in God. So we can let go of clinging to the world, or chasing the sun as Pink Floyd put it, as a source of life, because that’s just an illusion.

To help us practice letting go and stop chasing the sun, Boyd gives a couple exercises to practice. One that I like a lot he has borrowed from Richard Foster in his book Celebration of Discipline. You can do this anywhere at any time.

“Foster teaches that you should begin by holding your palms downward on your lap as ‘a symbolic indication of your desire to turn over any concerns you may have over to God.’ Call to mind everything that is weighing on your heart and mind and give it to God. Let your downward facing palms represent letting cares and concerns fall from your grasp into the hands of the sovereign God of love who holds you in existence, moment-by-moment. Notice your breathing and envision every exhaled breath as a further release of weight in your life. . . .When you’ve finished this part of the prayer, Foster encourages you to turn your hands over in your lap so that your palms are facing upward ‘as a symbol of your desire to receive from the Lord.’ Remain in this posture with a receptive attitude as you wait for what the Lord would like to give you. With every breath you take in, receive the fullness of Life that comes from God. Breathe in his forgiveness, direction, peace, healing, or whatever else he has for you.”

I’ve found myself doing this several times this week when I felt overwhelmed and when my thoughts were racing. I took a moment to stop what I was doing and focus on God, reminding myself of His loving Presence and turning my palms down and breathing out then turning my palms up and breathing in thanking God for His love and peace and presence. Whether I felt anything or sensed any direction wasn’t even the point. Sometime I will I’m sure, but the point for me is that I redirect my attention to the One Who deserves it. I sense His peace. I sense His pleasure that I’m refocusing on Him and not what troubles me. As Brother Lawrence wrote: “I am in a calm so great that I fear nothing. What could I fear? I am with Him.”

Another exercise Boyd offers is using your imagination to place yourself in the middle of a vast virtual infinity. Putting yourself in context so to speak. So often we see our lives, our problems our little world as so big, but get above it and look down and gain perspective on just how small you are. Not insignificant, but small and finite in comparison to the galaxies. “The awe-inspiring vastness and smallness of created reality should be viewed as a symbolic pointer to the even more awe-inspiring magnitude and intensity of God’s love . . . . We might say that Calvary is to God’s love what the virtual infinitude of space is to God’s majesty. Though we are microscopic in size next to the vastness of the universe, the Creator loves each of us as if we were the only being he created. For a God of unlimited love, size does not matter.”

This is absolutely astounding! God, Your love is incomprehensible! Thank You for Your great love! Thank You for Your great sacrifice! I love You!!!

“Eternal, ever-present Creator, help us to see your love as the background against which we view all things. Free us to let go of the world that is fading away and to cling only to you. Keep us awake to your presence in this moment and in every moment.”



Present Perfect Chapter 3

August 22, 2017

This chapter, Finding Home, is one of my favorites. In it Boyd discusses so beautifully what we all know, but still struggle with – the things we do to try to fill that longing we have, that insatiable hunger within us for significance and worth.

Boyd unpacks some common ways humanity tries to deal with this dilemma. He discusses the false gods of materialism, control, fame, religion, tribalism, and so on.  “Whatever we try to derive our core sense of worth and meaning from is our god.”

This is powerful. Take a moment and think about what gives you meaning and worth, and don’t be over-spiritual about it. For me, I’ve struggled horribly over my life to be thin. My value came from not being overweight. Maybe some time I’ll unpack this and its horrible effect on my life for so many years, but let me tell you that practicing the presence of God and becoming aware of His incredible love for me has begun to dissolve that shackle. It’s almost completely gone! All that matters is that I’m home in Him. I’m created by Him, I’m loved by Him, I’m rescued and healed by Him. I adore Him. That’s why I want you to take the time to think this through. What are you doing to try to feel valued and important and significant? What are you doing to try to fill the void and feel like you’re really alive?

What Boyd points out is the futility of chasing after anything other than God. “…our deepest hunger is only satisfied when we’re rightly related to God. Only our Creator can give us the fullness of Life we crave. Jesus’ death on the cross is proof that we could not possibly have more worth and significance to God. Despite our sin, our Creator thinks we are worth experiencing a hellish death for. In fact, it was for the joy of spending eternity with us that Jesus endured the cross (Hebrews 12:2). In other words, Calvary reveals our unsurpassable worth and significance. At the core of our being, this is what we long for.”

Wow. I had to stop and reread that and let it sink in. “Calvary reveals our unsurpassable worth and significance.”

Boyd then points out the difference between our beliefs and our reality. We can think we are living for Jesus and still be bowing to false gods. How can that be? This is his response:

“I’ve observed that we in the West – especially Christians – tend to attach great importance to what we believe. We treat beliefs almost as though they have magical power, as though merely believing something makes it so. For instance, many assume that believing Jesus is Lord of their life magically makes him Lord . . . The truth is, merely believing Jesus is Lord no more makes him Lord of my life than believing Kim Jong-il is the leader of North Korea makes me his follower.”

Wow again.

Just believing something doesn’t make it so. “. . . the belief is not itself the surrender.”

“The important question, therefore, is not what you believe. The important question is what you decide to do, moment-by-moment, on the basis of what you believe.” (emphasis mine)

Are we going to continue to ignore God’s wooing and keep trying to fill our “hole-in-the-soul” pretending we’re self-sufficient? The only outcomes to doing it our way are alienation, anger, anxiety, apathy, boredom, and depression, not to mention exhaustion! Trying to live as though real life “can be found outside a relationship with God” we continue in the “grand illusion” – life lived in the flesh, not the spirit. “Living as though God was not our only true source of Life forces us to live most of our life in the past or future,” not in the present moment, and all we have is the now, remember?

Boyd asks us to investigate our own soul. To examine how much time we spend thinking past and future thoughts. Where does our mind go when we aren’t focused on a specific task?

“Only a person who is no longer driven by an insatiable hunger can consistently live in the present moment, and only a person who has learned how to find Life in the present moment is no longer driven by this insatiable hunger.”

Home is our relationship with God, and our homing device is broken.

The life we search for is a poor substitute for the real Life God has for us. To give up the pursuit of the faux life is painful, for sure.  “As scary and as difficult as dying to the false way of living may initially be, nothing could be more liberating.” That’s why Jesus said in Matthew 16:25, “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it,” and that’s why Paul said, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20.

“As we are freed from the grand illusion that we can meet our own needs, our built-in homing device begins to work correctly. We’re on our way home . . . The moment we surrender, we are home.”

“Yet, while the belief that the love of God is our home can be embraced at one moment and then forgotten about, the actual decision to release the illusion and embrace the truth cannot. As with everything else that pertains to our actual life, this act can only be done one moment at a time.”

Boyd concludes this section with these words: “The only thing that matters is that we – right now – cease our striving after false gods and become aware of God’s ever-present, perfect love.”

Boyd then gives a few exercises to help us continue in this process of practicing God’s presence. The one I’ll share with you is physical – an awareness of our body and it’s contact with our surroundings – a chair, a sofa, our bed. “Allow yourself to rest in that support and realize that every point of contact reflects the truth that you are held in existence each and every moment by the perfect love of God (Hebrews 1:3). God is personally holding you securely in the world…Throughout your day, turn your attention over and over again to these physical points of contact and transform those physical sensations into a deeper awareness of the great love of God.”

I’ll close this post with the prayer Boyd offers:

“Our ever-present Creator, you alone can satisfy the hunger in our hearts, for you made us for yourself. Help us to relinquish all idols and to find our fulfillment solely in you in this moment and in every moment.”








Present Perfect Chapter 2

August 14, 2017

Well, how did you do last week with staying awake to noticing the presence of God in your daily moments?

The Chapter I’ll review today is entitled “Mere Christianity” and begins with this encouragement and prayer:

“So begin . . .

make that resolution.

Now! . . . Be daring.

None of us have a long time to live . . .

what years we have,

let us live them with God.”

Brother Lawrence

“Our ever-present Father,

We pledged to surrender our life to you,

but we confess

that most of the moments that make up our actual life

are not surrendered to you.

Help us,

to remember you

and offer ourselves up to you

in this moment

and in every moment.”

Gregory Boyd

In this chapter, Boyd briefly unpacks the secular world view and its influence on our lives whether or not we are aware. He says that we live as functional atheists – we compartmentalize our lives into spiritual and secular moments. He says we isolate “the ‘spiritual’ from the rest of our experience.”

“The call to practice the presence of God is not a hyper-spiritual exercise. On the contrary, it’s the core of what it means to surrender our life to Christ.”

Those of us familiar with C.S. Lewis recognize the title of chapter 1, “Mere Christianity” as the title of a book Lewis wrote. This practicing the presence of God is so basic. It’s the core of what it means to be a Christian.

Boyd says that in Western Christianity so many have this idea that because on a certain date they surrendered to Christ and prayed a sinner’s prayer that somehow that means they have a relationship with Christ.

“I believe this is the most prevalent and tragic misunderstanding that afflicts Western Christianity. We make a vow to submit our life to Christ but then spend 99 percent of our time excluding him from our awareness. We make him Lord over our life in theory, but we do not make him Lord over most of the moments that make up our life.”

There are so many examples in the New Testament where Jesus’ disciples are reminded (and thus we are reminded) to be aware of God’s presence. Here are a few of the exhortations given and a few of the many scriptures followed by a brief commentary by Boyd:

Seek First the Kingdom of God  Matthew 6:33  “This implies remembering that God exists and that yielding to his will is our supreme objective, even as we strive for other, less important, goals.”

Live in the Spirit  Galatians 5:16-18 “…we submit to the Spirit in the present moment. . .”

Remain in Christ  John 15:4-5   “Branches don’t visit a vine once in a while on special occasions . . . [they] are permanently attached to their source of life.”

Take Every Thought Captive  2 Corinthians 10:5; Romans 12:2  “Invite him into your thought process, and turn your thoughts into a conversation with him.”

The Body of Christ  1 Corinthians 12:12-27; Romans 12:4-5; Ephesians 4:15; Colossians 1:18; 2:19  “… before we can function as the body part we are called to be, we must stay continually connected to the head, ready to respond when he tells us to do so.”

Boyd ends the chapter with several activities which we can implement to increase our awareness of God in every now moment we have.

1. Game with Minutes

Think about a time when your mind is least engaged – like when you’re mowing the lawn or jogging or doing dishes, then set your timer and see if you can remember Christ at least once a minute. Doing this changes something mundane into something sacred.

2. Waking Up to God

In your first waking moments, instead of jumping out and rushing on with your day, lay in bed awake for a few minutes. Before allowing yourself to think about the day ahead and your schedule, and so on, train yourself to think about God and his ever-present love. Boyd says, “I preview my day in my imagination and offer up everything to God. I typically follow this by praying for whatever people and needs that pop into my mind.”

3. Inviting Fellow Travelers

As in anything we commit to, (like a diet, running a 5K or marathon) having others who are like-minded increases the probability that we will succeed. Find a few friends who are interested in joining you and encourage one another as you embark on this journey of being awake to God.

4.  Strategically Placed Reminders

I already mentioned the sticky notes, but there are other means of reminding yourself to be mindful of the presence of God.  A piece of jewelry, a phone or computer alert or alarm, little notes tucked in various places. I’m sure you can come up with some others that I’d love for you to share with me!

I want to pray for you (and myself) as we face another moment to practice our awareness of our amazing God and His astounding love for us.

God, it boggles my mind that You, the Creator of the world are interested in us and love us so very much! Forgive us for giving you our lives but then living as if we haven’t. I pray that you’d awaken us from the subtle sleepiness that has settled into us. Our secular, compartmentalizing culture sings its siren song, dulling us to the reality of life in you, right now. Let your Son shine through and burn off the haze we are living in and awaken our hearts and minds to the reality of your loving presence now.