COVID and Practicing the Presence of Jesus

God Running is a place for anyone who wants to draw closer to Jesus, love him more deeply, love people the way he wants us to, and follow him as closely as possible.

Last post from the book of John we looked at the first time Jesus revealed himself to his disciples after his resurrection. (See previous post COVID and Forgiveness) But someone was missing from that encounter with Jesus. Today we’ll see who that someone was, and how Jesus responded to his doubt. But first we’ll learn about something I call “next level husbanding”.

Jesus and Next Level Husbanding

In the before times–when we used to travel for fun–Kathy and I stayed in the home of some friends near Albuquerque, New Mexico for five days or so. This couple we stayed with are two of our favorite people on the planet. They’re believers who love Jesus and love people in a way that inspires us. Honestly, every time we’re with this couple I’m hoping some of who they are rubs off on me.

But not long after we arrived, we saw something in their relationship we weren’t aware of. Whenever John would engage in any house cleaning activities or yard maintenance activities, his wife Charlotte would criticize him. And she wasn’t particularly gentle about it either. She criticized openly, in front of Kathy and me, and she criticized often. This dynamic was in play only while John would work around the house. When John was engaged in any other activity or just relaxing, Charlotte was affectionate toward John, and he was affectionate toward Charlotte. They held hands. They obviously enjoyed each other.

To be clear, in our experience, Charlotte is, in every other way imaginable, a wonderful person. So I was surprised to say the least. But, even more surprising was John’s response. He never became emotional in the face of criticism. Not once. He always maintained a charitable spirit toward Charlotte. Sometimes he didn’t say anything at all but usually he responded in a gentle playful way, with a smile on his face.

I was so amazed by this experience, in a private moment, I asked John how he did it. He said his love for Charlotte compelled him to do his best to ensure she would always have a good day. And, he also said this:

“Jesus every three seconds.”

“Jesus every three seconds?” I asked. “What’s that about?”

He went on to tell me how he’s trying to practice connecting with Jesus every three seconds. He said it’s changed his life.

When I came home from my trip, I shared these observations with my Saturday morning men’s prayer group. I said to the guys, “I have witnessed ‘next level husbanding.'”

Jesus and Thomas

In today’s post we’re looking at how Thomas missed the first gathering in the locked room with the other disciples.

So Thomas missed the meeting. He wasn’t there with the twelve when Jesus came to them. So the other disciples told him all about it.

But Thomas said, “Unless I see the wounds from the nails, and feel those wounds with my own finger, and put my hand in the wound in his side, I will never believe.”

What could the disciples say to convince Thomas? He was resolute in his desire for evidence.

Eight days later, Jesus’ disciples were together inside the room again, and this time, Thomas was with them. Even though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them.

Jesus said, “Peace be with you.”

Then, before Thomas or anyone else could say a word, Jesus said to Thomas: Put your finger here, and see my wounds from the nails; and reach out your hand, and put it in the wound in my side. Don’t disbelieve, but believe.

Thomas answered, “My Lord and my God!”

John 20:24-28

Jesus and COVID

By now you can probably guess what all this has to do with COVID and practicing the presence of Jesus. Thomas didn’t think Jesus was around when he told the other disciples he wouldn’t believe unless he touched Jesus’ wounds for himself. But Jesus, it would seem, was indeed there. Because Jesus all but quotes Thomas when he says, unprompted: Put your finger here, and see my wounds from the nails; and reach out your hand, and put it in the wound in my side.

Thomas thought he was alone with the disciples when he made those statements about what it would take for him to believe, but he wasn’t. Jesus was with Thomas. And Jesus is with you and with me too. Jesus said in Matthew 28:20, “I am with you always . . .” And he said we his followers abide in him, and he in us. And Paul said: Christ lives in me. (Matthew 28:20, John 6:55-59, Galatians 2:20)

So, in light of how raw I feel during the lockdown, I have to ask myself:

“Why don’t I act like it?”

Why don’t I act like Jesus is with me all the time. I need to be more like my friend and be mindful of Jesus’ presence every three seconds. Imagine what that might do for my attitude and behavior. I might become a better man if I do that.

Jesus never leaves me nor forsakes me but it seems, in terms of awareness at least, I have left and forsaken him, to my own detriment and the detriment of those around me. (Hebrews 13:5)

One of the best people ever at living in the presence of God was Brother Lawrence. A self described large awkward man who was constantly breaking things, Brother Lawrence spoke and wrote often of the importance of moving close to God and engaging Him in the present.

In his classic book The Practice of the Presence of God Brother Lawrence says this:

“Think about God as often as you can, day and night, in everything you do. He is always with you. Just as you would be rude if you deserted a friend who was visiting you, why would you be disrespectful of God by abandoning His presence?”

And he said,

“The most holy and necessary practice in our spiritual life is the presence of God. That means finding constant pleasure in His divine company, speaking humbly and lovingly with Him in all seasons, at every moment, without limiting the conversation in any way. This is especially important in times of temptation, sorrow, separation from God, and even in times of unfaithfulness and sin.”

And this is especially important during a global pandemic, I might add.

I confess that lately I spend too much time believing in the God of the past, the God we read about in the Bible; and the God of the future, the God we’ll meet in heaven, but I’ve forgotten about seeking the True and Living God, the God of the present, moment by moment. And how I regret that. And how it’s affected my attitude.

Maybe you’re like me and you’re affected by the changes around you because of COVID. Maybe you’re struggling to love the people close to you the way Jesus wants you to. If that’s you, then join me in this prayer:

“Father, please help me to always be aware of the presence of Jesus. Help me to remember he is with me always. Help me to do what Brother Lawrence did and speak ‘humbly and lovingly with Him in all seasons, at every moment, without limiting the conversation in any way.’

“Father, help me to live always keeping in mind Jesus is with me always.

“In Jesus’ name

“Amen”

Notes:

Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God, Whitaker House, (New abridged edition 1982), Publication date: 1944

Image of Doubting Thomas painting by Giovanni Serodine via Wikimedia Commons – Public Domain

Newly released book by Kurt Bennett, now available on Amazon!

Love Like Jesus: How Jesus Loved People (and how you can love like Jesus)

Love Like Jesus begins with the story of how after a life of regular church attendance and Bible study, Bennett was challenged by a pastor to study Jesus. That led to an obsessive seven year deep dive. After pouring over Jesus’ every interaction with another human being, he realized he was doing a much better job of studying Jesus’ words than he was following Jesus’ words and example. The honest and fearless revelations of Bennett’s own moral failures affirm he wrote this book for himself as much as for others.

Love Like Jesus examines a variety of stories, examples, and research, including:

  • Specific examples of how Jesus communicated God’s love to others.
  • How Jesus demonstrated all five of Gary Chapman’s love languages (and how you can too).
  • The story of how Billy Graham extended Christ’s extraordinary love and grace toward a man who misrepresented Jesus to millions.
  • How to respond to critics the way Jesus did.
  • How to love unlovable people the way Jesus did.
  • How to survive a life of loving like Jesus (or how not to become a Christian doormat).
  • How Jesus didn’t love everyone the same (and why you shouldn’t either).
  • How Jesus guarded his heart by taking care of himself–he even napped–and why you should do the same.
  • How Jesus loved his betrayer Judas, even to the very end.

With genuine unfiltered honesty, Love Like Jesus, shows you how to live a life according to God’s definition of success: A life of loving God well, and loving the people around you well too.

A life of loving like Jesus.

(Kindlehardcover, and paperback now available on Amazon.)

5 Comments on “COVID and Practicing the Presence of Jesus

  1. Pingback: C solo un posto nella Bibbia in cui vediamo Dio in - http://themummichogblog.com - Italiani a Malta

  2. I got a free trial of the Headspace app through work and I’ve been using it to meditate daily. Being a Christian, I love using this app to center on Jesus instead of my breathing.

    Deep thinking about Jesus right now is so important.

    I think about how the old Testament was basically a constant cycle of success, failure and repentance. No doubt we suffer from this cycle too. However, if I can only focus on Jesus more, I feel like the bumps in the road might be less dramatic and help me bear more fruit.

    • Yes! If we think it through, from an eternal perspective, we could even look at this time as an opportunity. An opportunity to grow closer to Jesus and become more like him. These days we’re all a little bit more like cloistered monks than we used to be.

  3. I’m not sure about the every 3 seconds thing, Kurt. I can only imagine what that will be like in Heaven. Can there really be Heaven on earth?

    • No doubt you know the answer to that question Jeff! We live in a fallen world, so… But if I can stay aware of Jesus’ presence, as much as possible, I think it can be life changing. A twenty-something named Peter Kuhl left me this comment, about this blog post, on Facebook: “I LOVE this. When I used to work at chipotle I didn’t like it at first. I wasn’t doing the best I could and I wasn’t joyful. But then I was reminded that Jesus is with me in every second and that fact became real to me. I would constantly envision Jesus standing behind my left shoulder with a smile on His face (even when the rude customers would come through and even in the stressful situations). Knowing that and experiencing the Lord’s presence impacted me exponentially and from that day til the day I left chipotle I always loved my job, had a positive and Christ-like attitude, and worked as if I was working for the Lord. It changed my life and helped me to remember Jesus in an experiential way.”

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