This past Tuesday at The Porch, David Marvin talked about the New Testament story of Jesus and Peter walking on water in the middle of a storm. We had our own storm in Dallas on July 7th when Micah Johnson opened fire on white policemen, killing five of them. Again, a similar tragedy occurred in Baton Rouge, LA on July 17th. Since the shootings, there have been news coverage, media stories, blog posts (read JP’s from last week here), social media opinions, and more. Many people are sad, confused, and angry, wondering what we are to do next. As Christians, we may not have answers for all of the questions being asked, but we do have the answer on how to seek the One who controls all things.
Just like Peter as he walked on the water toward Jesus, we need to keep our focus on Him. If we focus only on our circumstances, we’ll get distracted and overwhelmed, and we’ll sink. But how exactly can we encounter Jesus?
Christ-followers feel their affections stirred for Him in many different ways, but these three things, practiced faithfully, will help you encounter the Living God:
I often hear people say something like, “I want to read the Bible, but I’m not sure where to start.” Every Christian has been in this place at one point or another. Some people think they need to start with Genesis since that’s the beginning of the story, but starting with one of the four Gospel accounts – Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John – is probably a better idea. Reading a Gospel narrative will give you a clearer picture of the character of Jesus and what He did while on earth. From there, read a few of Paul’s letters like Romans, Ephesians, or Galatians. Then go back and read from the Old Testament. Reading along with a commentary resource like NET Bible or Sonic Light will help you understand what the Bible is saying.
Or, if you’re looking for a more structured reading plan, find a schedule that helps you to read through your Bible in year like this one, or sign up for Watermark’s Join the Journey daily devotional. Have a journal and pen when you read so you can jot down thoughts or questions you have. Whichever method you choose, just pick one and get reading! God’s Word is living and active and He wants you to get to know Him today.
Not too long ago a friend shared a quote that said, “Pray until you pray.” It’s simple and communicates an honest message about what prayer looks like sometimes. I can get really distracted when I first start praying. It takes a little while for my mind to calm down from all of the thoughts that bounce around in my head during the day. Even after I have quieted my mind, I can still get distracted as I’m praying… “what will I have for dinner tonight?” “I need to text her back.” “What was the deadline for that project, again?” We have to fight through all of the noise until we are abiding with the Lord.
Or maybe praying isn’t something you’re used to at all. A great place to start is to pray what’s already in the Bible: The Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6: 9-13, a prayer of confession in Psalm 51, a prayer of thanksgiving in Psalm 138. The most important thing to remember in prayer is to have an attitude of adoration, humility, and intentionality. God doesn’t grade you on how eloquent or long your prayers are. He tells us to pray without ceasing, and He wants us to share the depths of hearts with Him through our prayers.
It’s really hard to live as a Christian without community. When I joined a community group, it completely changed my walk with the Lord. For the first time I had people holding me accountable, loving me enough to tell me the truth, and reminding me of God’s promises when I struggled to remember them for myself. One of the best ways to experience God’s love is through His people, His Church.
If you’re not in community – a group of people you meet with regularly to help each other grow in your faith – a great place to start would be becoming a member of a church and joining one of their small groups. At Watermark, you can go through membership class and GroupLink and meet others who are looking to lock arms with their brothers and sisters in Christ. If you’ve been living in isolation, you could be struggling to encounter God or with submitting to His will for you – “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment” (Proverbs 18:1). Earnestly ask God how He would have you engage with community.
The Almighty God, Creator of the heavens and the universe, wants you to focus on Him even in the middle of chaos. He is the Prince of Peace, the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, and you can trust Him.
What steps can you take to encounter Jesus?