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God Awareness

One big factor in whether our faith is mostly about religious practices or about a daily, growing, transformational relationship with God is God-Awareness or Tuning In. God-Awareness can be developed through practices, but is rooted in a hunger and thirst for God in our lives. God Awareness: To begin to see God in everything.


morning everybody I'm Jim Stephens the pastor of Antiquities you just got to have that title you know hey I really love going to church I love church I love that church I've been a part of a I've been a part of a local church everywhere I've been for 60 plus years and and worked in church and churches in the US and quite a few other countries and I've probably attended more church services than most people alive on earth today I just do love the church but I've discovered that if I depend on on going to church to nourish my soul it's kind of like it's kind of like going out for a fine meal at a restaurant and just there's a really great meal everything you want you know baked potato with a loaded baked potato I mean it's just it's great and so you have this great restaurant meal but then you don't eat anything for the rest of the week and that is not a very practical way to nourish your body going to church is a great meal it's it's the finest that we can get but if that's all you get in the week and you don't feed your soul some other ways during the week it's not a way to nourish a healthy soul you still have to have a plan to feed yourself the other six days when I was about 16 I lived on a little farm outside Hermiston Oregon my folks had finally bought a place we had a few acres of ground and and we got a TV the TV was about the size of a washing machine and it had a screen about the size of this book and and our one it was black and white picture of course except for the the blizzard we got this picture of a blizzard on there quite often and there's only a few of you that actually remember what that's like our one channel was ke P our channel 19 from Kennewick Washington and somehow they managed to blast that signal across the Columbia River and over the hills to Hermiston work where I lived and and it took three people to actually get the TV tuned in so that you could have a picture yeah one person on the roof where the antenna is that would be me of course and yet one person standing in the doorway so so that that person could see the roof and also could see inside the house and shout instructions and that would be my mom and then my dad was in the living room fiddling the knobs on the TV and he'd say and he'd say a little more and my mom would say a little more and I'd move it a little more and then they'd say that's too much that's too much turn it back a little bit and okay just a little just a little I said then it would kind of go on like that but but eventually we would get the antenna pointed in exactly the right direction relative to that broadcast tower over in Washington and we'd have a picture and we could watch we could watch Walter Cronkite do the news and and other amazing stuff in black-and-white see the signal was there the signal was there in the air around us and if we could just get the TV antenna pointed correctly and get it tuned in properly we had access to all of that information that was surrounding us in the air until sign-off at midnight of course and and then I just was thinking I was thinking how much more information there is in the air all around us now I mean almost everybody in this room has got a phone in your pocket or in your handbag and those phones are able to tune in to a signal that's all around us all the time all different telephone companies providing different signals and and you and I have access to almost all the information in the whole world can anybody say Google and and it's there all around us but you gotta tune into it to be able to receive it it's so good to see you here today I'm so glad for those that are joining us online watching and listening it's good that we do this each week people gathered together and singing songs ingredient catching up with friends and a lot of people serving serving in children's ministries and serving in all of the the other ways that make it possible for us to have a gathering like this and and and we listen to someone when we gather like this every week we listen to someone who will who will challenge us and encourage us from God's Word we go to church to meet with God we go to church to get tuned in to become for this one hour to become aware of God in the air all around us all the time what we get tuned in sometimes we even get tuned up a little bit if if the words are just what we need to hear and and it encourages us to be aware that God is with us and available to us and around us all the time God has progressively given people ways to connect with him to tune in you think about the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden they had an after-dinner walk in the garden with God every evening you think about the stories of Noah and a and Jacob and Israel they all had they had altars where they could connect with God they they had Tabernacles they had temples all of these were places and they had practices and all of these were places and practices where they could connect with God Jesus did something entirely unheard of listen this is the scripture here Jesus said it's in John 14 I will ask the Father and He will give you another advocate who will never leave you he's the Holy Spirit who leads into all truth the world cannot receive him because it isn't looking for him listen to that i'ma say it again the world cannot receive him because it isn't looking for him and doesn't recognize him but you know him because he lives with you now and later will be in you pastor Steve told me that that this morning I could talk about anything that's important to me and and so I started out preparing to talk to you this talk was gonna be just about how to tune into God how to become God aware but then I realized there's something that has to come before learning how to connect with God it's desire it's actually wanting to be aware of God it's actually that the desire to be tuned in the Psalms writers had a lot to say about desiring God listen to these words from David in this song as the deer longs for streams of water so I longed for you O God I thirst for you I thirst for God the Living God when can I go and stand before him hunger thirst a driving desire to be in the presence of God to be God aware the the God awareness thing it was hard for me to to think of of how to explain to you what I meant because this was going to be a talk about God awareness and then I thought about tuning in what when I was a kid humor me okay old guys talk about when I was a kid you know I can remember stuff that happened 60 some years ago and I can't remember why I walked into the room but when I was a kid God awareness was like a threat that my folks and the good people at church held over me it was like God is watching you God sees you all the time don't mess up you better be good because God is watching you and he is not amused was like a combination of of the fear of of getting caught and guilt because I knew I was already caught if God was watching everything I did you know my God awareness didn't actually improve my behavior much but it did take the fun out of things and and it didn't really make for a very fulfilling faith in God but now that I've been caught and judged and pardoned because that is the case you know God does know we are caught we have been judged when we when we don't measure up but we've also been pardoned because Jesus gave himself in our place to pay the penalty for everything we've been caught doing or not doing and we've been pardoned anyway yeah that's good that's good but now I have a whole new perspective on God awareness it's now about a desire to be connected with God just as much as I can I was reading this weekend the Gospel of John in John chapter 6 the story is that Jesus had just done a miracle and fed a lot of people with not very much resource to work with and everyone was excited and so Jesus went to another town and people were crowding around and he said interesting that he said I know why you're here you're here because you want some more of the free food and they said we want more than that and and then a person speaks up in the scripture in John chapter 6 a person speaks up on behalf of the the crowd and says what does God really want from us that phrase just stuck with me it's it's stuck with me and I can't shake it what does God really want what is it that God really wants what does he want from us and what does God want for us well he wants us to know that He loves us just as we are you see God loves us just as we are and not just as we ought to be because we'll never be just as we ought to be so God loves us just as we are God wants us to know that He loves us because God is good and not because we are good that's something God wants us to know and what does God want from us God wants us to love him God wants us to love God with all our hearts and to love others as we love ourselves God wants no wait that's pretty much it that's pretty much it God wants us to love him with all our hearts and God wants us to love other people the way we love ourselves well and then there's this God wants us to be aware of him like he is aware of us there's a there's a great verse of scripture that says that says to know as we are known God knows us he knows us intimately he knows he knows things about us that other people don't even suspect and he loves us and God wants us to know him so that will understand the something of the scope of the love he has for us God awareness tuning in we need a place and a practice for developing God awareness but but the place and practice won't do it without the desire in our hearts and you know all you got to have is the desire the want to and God will put the connection in place for you see when we tune into God when we live with an awareness of God we start to change we begin to be transformed what we know about God we mostly know because people had encounters with God through the centuries individual people and groups of people had encounters with God that changed them and they told the stories of their encounter with God and of how it impacted them and those stories got passed down from generation to generation and and hundreds of people over centuries had God encounters were they became aware of God and learned something about God and those stories got collected into a book our Bible and so most of what we know about God we know because other people had encounters with God and told the story of what they learned in that encounter of how it impacted them and how it changed them interesting thing you have available to you as as do I you have available to you more knowledge of God than Adam had then Noah had then Abraham had because you have all their stories they had their story but you have all those stories we know so much of the collected knowledge of God from other people's stories I'm not saying we need to write more Bible but we still need to personally encounter God we need to be aware of God and have experiences with God that you know when we're tuned into God's presence like when we're here today and we're singing those songs and somebody's giving us some words of encouragement like when Corey was talking to us and and when Ben was talking to us it helps us focus and we become more aware of God when we're gathered and someone's helping us like that but that's once a week and but in those moments things are clearer we're more aware of what actually matters of what's really the most important thing in life and and sometimes we go away having made a decision or a choice of some adjustment that we're going to make in order to in order to align with what we know is true and right I'm not saying that the a God encounter becoming aware of God is like putting a quarter in a gumball machine and and and hoping for the great gumball to come out I'm not saying see it's not transactional it's not you pay the money and you get what comes out of the slot it's relational and it takes time and you build the relationship and and and here's the thing without tuning in to God without developing an experiential God awareness your faith can become a collection of beliefs and practices that can exist and go on and on without God being involved at all and nobody wants that and it doesn't change as much anyway when that happens tuning into God is going to require tuning out from something else disengaging to some extent from busyness learning to be comfortable with silence switching off some screens I left my phone in the car I didn't realize my hands would start shaking without my phone in my pocket you know I become so dependent on on looking at that screen on checking Facebook see if I got another like on those on my dog picture that I put my dog gets more likes on Facebook than I do to take the time to quiet yourself to to disengage a little bit listen to this verse from songs give me your Lantern and compass give me a map so I can find my way to the sacred mountain to the place of your presence God I have the desire now I need a map now I need some direction on what to do and I want to talk to you for a couple of minutes about that a place go out in the woods go out in the woods only this time not to kill something or not to catch something or not to ride something nothing wrong with that but but go out in the woods for the specific purpose of quieting yourself and and becoming aware of God's presence or or if you can't do that go to the beach only this time not to swim or fly a kite or build a fire to make s'mores or look for sound dollars go go to quiet yourself oh if you can't do that right away get a chair on a table and a footstool and a cup of coffee and a Bible and a notepad and a pen and have and have a place where you will quiet yourself and maybe read some scripture and and jot down some thoughts but you need to make a place in your life and that place involves accessibility and it involves some time and then you need some property to practice quieting yourself it can be really hard almost everything almost everything in our way of living works against our being able to sit still and be quiet how long does it take you to be very very uncomfortable when things get quiet you know so we turn on the TV for background noise over or we're listening to music or we're listening to a podcast I'm not I'm not saying you shouldn't do that stuff but I'm saying there's got to be a time and a place that you make in a practice where you don't pick up the phone you you you say something like father I want to see what you see I want to feel what you feel I want to think what you think you can read some scripture quiet yourself and then you could read some scripture you could read some scriptures about meditating on God's nature on on what God has done Psalms is a good place for that find some favorite meditation scriptures here's a list of scriptures I have I call them I have a very unique name I call it my verses for daily reading and it's on the screen there and there it is and I see I made sure that the font was too small for you to read because those are my scriptures you get your own okay no no the point is the point is for for over 30 years I've been reading in the Bible through and and in fact it was 32 years ago that I got my first verse was in a conversation with a friend we were living in Kingston Jamaica and I was having a conversation with a guy on and he said hey look at this verse and I I actually wrote it down and that was my first one and so in in more than thirty years I've got I think there's thirty verses on there so it's not like every time you open the Bible it's gonna just blast something into your brain that you'll never ever forget it's something that you develop in your life as a pattern you quiet yourself and then you begin to take God's Word in and this has become this has become life to me I've made this into prayers some of them are promises some of them are corrections that I need that I recite to myself regularly but it's not it's not like again you can do daily devotions there's a there's a website called you version you version y ou you version com they have hundreds of different devotional plans I do one called grace notes have been doing it for about 10 years now I send out a devotional every day and by email and I know that a lot of you read those just go to resource ministries org and look for grace notes and you can you can receive that Westside offers the blue series books and there's devotions on the Westside website begin to in your quietness because because we don't need to just sit and be quiet and fall asleep you quiet yourself and then you begin to take in some of the things that will increase your connection your God awareness and when you're doing it when you're starting to do this don't get discouraged don't get all guilty when you miss a day the point is not is not to feel guilty and then go back and try to catch up everything that you miss you might just two or three days blow by you not even think about it and so then you think oh what's the use listen when you're doing this it's not just to check a box and say I did it God is not counting the ones you miss God's counting the ones you make because God just wants to connect with you not every walk in the desert or in the mountains is going to make a god encounter sometimes it's just a walk in the woods you know but you have to cultivate in your place and your practice the the awareness the though that tunes you in to be receptive and and you know if you've tried it and it's not working for you talk to somebody there are people who have worked through the difficult challenges of developing God awareness so talk to somebody and get a conversation going that'll help you along that path here's a scripture we read a few minutes ago as the deer longs for streams of water so I long for you O God I thirst for God the Living God when can I go and stand before him conversations are great conversations with God if you're in public having a conversation with God may I recommend that you hold your phone by your ear while you're talking okay because otherwise it looks really weird ask a lot of questions because God knows more than I do I ask God a lot of questions I don't I don't get very many answers but there are some questions that I asked often enough that that I start to get a glimmer of something in my my thinking shifts and you know what when I hear from God it's most often in my own voice it's not all that spooky Jeanne and I go out in the desert almost every morning about the east of town in the desert with our dog Jake and when we're out there with Jake Jake we walk and Jake runs he runs like a crazy dog and he runs off he's a spaniel so he's got quite a nose on him and you know he'll run off sniffing out through the junipers and the next thing we see him running back across the trail and he's just all over the place out there and occasionally Jake loses sight of us and when he loses sight of us everything changes he stops everything he's doing and he will not settle until he connects with us again and he'll he'll come running it's so funny to see him come running through the sagebrush in the Juniper to where we are and he runs up to us and he just needs a little scratch on the ears and then he's ready to go again and you know he wanders off and he loses sight but as soon as he realizes he's lost connection with us there's nothing more important to him than to get back and get connected and get going again I want to be like Jake in my relationship with God I want that relationship to be so important I want my god awareness to be so important that when I lose it because I'm too busy or because of whatever reason I've lost it that nothing is more important than reroute and renewing and refreshing that connection there are some things that some things that no one else can do for you tuning in to God and and growing that inner hunger and thirst is one of those things I can tell you some stories and and some practical steps you can take and hopefully maybe even inspire you a little bit but only you can do this listen oh god you are my god I earnestly search for you my soul thirsts for you my whole body longs for you in this parched and weary land where there is no water what what if you said what if you said Jesus would you hang out with me this week it's gonna be a busy week I got friends coming over tonight I got a big project going at work I gotta mow the lawn Tuesday evening I gotta get the oil changed on the car there's a lot of stuff going on but but we could talk in the car maybe I could get up a little earlier maybe watch a little less TV we could get to know each other better and Jesus says sure let's go you drive see if you did that by this time next week you'd know Jesus a little bit better and I hope you go take action hope that there will be something that will that will blow fresh breath on that spark inside of you that hungers for connection with God and and and that you'll take an action it's not too late it's never too late but by this time next week it'll be a week later than it is right now I wrote a prayer I want to read this to you it'll be on the screen I want you to watch as I read this and see if it's a prayer that you could actually pray listen to this Jesus I'm hungry and thirsty in my soul for the bread of life and living water I have so much but I want more you have been so good to me but I want to know you better I want to be conscious and aware of you with me all day could we hang out together this week amen now you read that if you can pray that from your heart and it's something that you would like for God to respond to I'm gonna invite you to pray this prayer aloud with me I'm gonna read through it again and I'm going to pray it again I invite you to pray this prayer aloud with me Jesus I'm hunger and thirst a in my soul for the bread of life and living water I have so much but I want more you have been so good to me but I want you'd know you better I want to be conscious and aware of you with me all day could we hang out together this week amen now there's going to be prayer teams over here to listen to you to pray with you if you have something that you'd like to have some help with the next four days there are some amazing things that are going to happen in this room so when you think about how the stage looked on Sunday when you think about that think about all those hundred 300 and some kids that are going to be learning about Jesus and connecting with him this week in prayer prayer about that and apart from that have an amazing week you're dismissed [Applause]

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