Experiencing God’s Presence

Why do you do the things that you do? Or say the things that you say? I would suggest that our words and actions come from what’s within us. What I mean is, the things that we allow into our minds and hearts will greatly influence our words and behavior. In reference to computers, someone once said, “Garbage in—garbage out.” That’s no doubt true. But the positive side is also true: Good things in—good things out.

Jesus, in his teaching on the Sermon on the Mount, said this, “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder.’ But I say to you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.” Why is that? Because murder begins in our hearts with hatred and anger toward another.

We need to be very careful what we allow into our mind and hearts each day. What books and magazines are you reading? What things are you watching on TV, or scrolling through on Facebook and Instagram? Are you constantly thinking about negative things? Are you harboring unforgiveness or bitterness and anger in your heart? Or are you focusing on what is good and positive? Are you hiding God’s Word in your heart (reading it, studying it, meditating on it)?

In Philippians 4:8-9, the apostle Paul gives us some practical teaching about what we need to be thinking about if we want to please God and experience his presence in our lives. Consider focusing your thoughts on these six things: 

“What is true.” Our tendency can be to think about the things that upset us or cause us to be anxious or fearful. But instead of focusing on past problems or future uncertainties and fear, focus on what you know to be true. God loves you. He’s in control. He will never leave you nor forsake you.

“What is noble.” Focus on things that are honorable, the good in others, things that are uplifting, positive and worthwhile. And, while you’re at it, think the best about others, not the worst.

“What is right.” Think about what is just, fair and helpful. How can you make things right with another person, or how you can be a person of integrity and help others in need.

“What is pure.” Dwell on what is good, pure and holy. Don’t fill your thoughts with what is evil, morally depraved or vile. Don’t go down those paths in your mind.

“What is lovely.” Meditate on what is characterized by love and beauty, even as you might reflect on the love and beauty of the Lord, or ponder the beauty of his creation.

“What is admirable.” Reflect on what is worthy of praise and honor. Think about what has lasting, eternal value. 

Paul finishes his teaching with two admonitions: “If anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about these things, and “Whatever you have learned, or received, or heard from me, or seen in me—put into practice.” He was telling them that it’s not enough just to know these things, you must “Do them!” That is, the things which they had learned from Paul, including what they had heard him teach and also had seen in his life, they needed to live out in their own lives every day.

I read that the Greek word for “learned” means to grow, not just in intellectual knowledge, but to learn from “habitual practice.” Make a daily habit of thinking this way, and putting into practice these things. The result will be that not only will you know the peace of God in your life, you will experience the presence of the God of peace, himself, with you!

Jim Newman is pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Exeter. He may be reached by calling 559-592-2367 or by emailing [email protected]. Prays Together is a rotating faith-based commentary and advice column among the pastors of the First Presbyterian Church of Exeter, Church of Christ of Exeter, Nazarene Church of Exeter, Church of God of Exeter, the New Life Assembly of God and Rocky Hill Community Church as well as the Lemon Cove Community Church.

This column is not a news article but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of The Sun-Gazette newspaper.

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