September 3, 2006
You’re watching a sporting event and the announcer says, “He’s all over the field!” You’re watching some basketball game, and someone says, “She’s everywhere!”
Now, we accept that. “He’s all over the field.” We accept that form of exaggeration. What’s the announcer saying? Whether its hockey or basketball or beach volleyball, he’s saying, “He’s omnipresent; he’s everywhere.” But we know a person cannot be omnipresent. We know a person can’t be everywhere. It’s a pipe dream.
Right now, I’m here in Dallas/Ft. Worth. I’m standing here in Fellowship Church, my church home, and I’m talking to you. I’m communicating to you. I see you and you see me. But I can’t be here in Dallas/Ft. Worth and then…
[a video is played on the side screens with Ed at Fellowship Church Miami]
…in Miami, Florida, at the same time. It’s a physical impossibility. I can only be in one place at one time. I’m standing right in front of our brand new campus here in Miami, and we’re so excited to be here, because Miami is an area that needs churches. People need to know that they’re loved by God, that they’re forgiven by God, and that they can stand on the promises of God.
I’ve been in a series on the promises of God. We’ve been talking about the fact that God does love us unconditionally, that he forgives us freely and fully and finally. And today, we’re talking about the fact that God is everywhere. There’s nowhere where God is not. The presence of God. A lot of us hear about it; a lot of us now-and-then think about it. But do we practice the presence of God? Do we understand its purpose in our lives?
[Ed speaks live from stage again]
What if I told you there’s nowhere you can go that God is not. How does that make you feel? Let me come at it another way. What if surveillance cameras followed you around for a week? And what if we could show what they captured on these side screens? What if we could show before 20,000 people what you did, what you said, where you went? I’m talking about the angry outburst at the office, what you said to your kids, how you reacted about the situation with your husband, what you thought about that person who ran by you. Wouldn’t that be interesting? You’re saying, “Well, that wouldn’t be interesting, Ed. That would freak me out! Everything before everybody? I’m not sure about that! And, you mean to tell me, Ed, everything I do, say, touch, and feel is before the eyes and the ears and the mind of God?”
The Bible says in Jeremiah 23:24 (this is God speaking), “I fill heaven and I fill the earth.”
In other words, there is nowhere where God is not. God is everywhere. And theologians call this the omnipresence of God. Yet, for a lot of people in our culture today, that’s makes us very freaky and very, very uncomfortable. To sit there and think, just to ponder the fact that God is everywhere? Wow, that can mess us up! So, what’s happened is, we have a lot of people who go off in Never-Never Land.
We have this thing called pantheism that says God is in nature, that God is a part of trees and that trees are a part of God. God is a part of the sky and the sky is a part of God. And God is a part of animals and animals are a part of God. And God’s a part of me and I’m a part of God. Thus, I can’t really sin. I can’t be separate from God. So this pantheistic-type mentality is a very comfortable, comfortable existence.
It’s very, very popular these days to put God in a box. But every time we cap our Creator, as we decaffeinate the Deity, it makes us feel more comfortable because it’s a theology built on our lifestyle. It makes me comfortable, it highlights the way I do stuff, it highlights the way I speak and the way I live. So everything is cool, everything is hunky dory.
Then some people are into deism. Deism says God got the ball rolling. God is powerful and he began to spin the globe on its axis. And then, he bolted.
It’s like someone started a company, and then the company’s cruising. And then the guy or the girl leaves and the company kind of keeps going and going and going.
And that’s great, too, because we have this detached deity. God is someone who’s way out there. And, you know, that’s cool because I can do my own deal that way.
But, the Bible says that God is everywhere. There is nowhere he is not. He is all over the place. You can’t fake him out. You can’t have some secret conversation. In God’s economy, there are no closed doors. There are no closed hotel doors, car doors, or bedroom doors. Everything is out in the open with God.
Now, when I say that, a lot of people have different reactions. Now, for those who are Christians, you’re like, “Okay, I can hang with that. I can see that.” And that should create and cause us to have a deeper realm of worship in our lives.
Some here are pre-Christians. I call you pre-Christians because you’ve not stepped over the line yet. You’ve not received Jesus Christ yet. And this whole omnipresence of God thing, this presence of God thing, should spur you on to who it is you’re investigating. It should spur you on to contemplate the one you’re seeking.
I’ve been talking about the promises of God recently. I’ve talked about the fact that God is a God who says what he does and does what he says. And I’ve said the promises of God are like a stool. You’ve got the foundation and there are three legs to this stool.
There’s the leg of knowledge. We’ve got to know the promises of God. Then there’s the leg of belief, and the leg of action. It’s one thing to know the promises of God; it’s quite another to believe them. And then, it’s great to believe them, but we’ve got to put action beneath them.
We’ve found out that God unconditionally and irrationally loves us. We’ve never locked eyes with a person who is not loved by God.
We also discovered that God is a God of forgiveness, that God has done the work for forgiveness. The deal has been accomplished. Jesus said, “It is finished,” and we have the power to tap into that forgiveness. We have the power to reconcile with one another, because Jesus first loved us. He first has forgiven us.
So we’ve got to realize who we are, whose we are, and what we have. Who are we? We’re children of God. We’re sinners saved by the grace and the mercy of God.
Whose are we? We’re adopted into the family of God. And once we’re adopted, we can’t get out.
And then we’ve got to realize what we have. We have the riches, this incredible currency of love and forgiveness available to us. So, a lot of people are walking around and they’re loaded. They’re very, very wealthy; yet, they don’t even know it because they don’t tap into the resources and the wealth that God has for us today.
And therein lies the disconnect; therein lies the problem for a lot of people, the Christians and the pre-Christians. A lot of us are clueless concerning the promises of God.
Well, today we’re talkin’ about the promise of the presence of God. God is everywhere. There is nowhere where he is not. There is no place I can go, no conversation that I can have, that God is not there or he is not privy to.
Has it ever occurred to you that nothing has occurred to God? God knows everything. God is all powerful, but also, he’s everywhere. There’s nowhere that God is not. The presence of God is a positive thing. So often people think, “If I become a Christ-follower; if I really walk in the presence of God, that’s all about just eradicating sin. It’s all about the negative. It’s all about I can’t do this or I can’t do that. And I’ve got to stay away from this or stay away from that.”
But that’s not the total package. That’s a little bit of it, but the total package is discovering the freedom. It’s discovering the joy and the blessings. It’s discovering what we can do, what’s out there for us, the potential we can reach. So, once we discover that and discover that it emerges out of the presence of God, then we can hit, I believe, on all cylinders and discover who we are, whose we are, and what we have. What do we have? The literal presence of God.
So, what does that mean in your life and mine? I want to talk about several concepts as we sort of unpack the fact that God is present everywhere.
The first thing I wanna talk about is accountability. Accountability is definitely one of the most misjudged and misunderstood words in the world today. But, the presence of God, the promise that God is present everywhere, should bring great accountability to your life and to mine.
I think about Moses. Moses grew up in Egyptian royalty. The guy was an Israeli infant rescued by Egyptian royalty. He was brought up in the best schools. He had the best clothes and the best education. A lot of people think, a lot of scholars believe, that Moses was being groomed to be the next President of Egypt. Well, one day, he walked outside his, I’m sure, palatial mansion. He looked around and he saw one of his people being taken advantage of by this Egyptian. And here’s what scripture says about Moses:
Exodus 2:12: “Glancing this way and that and seeing no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.”
Moses forgot about the presence of God. He forgot about the fact that there is nowhere we can go that God is not. God saw it, but Moses didn’t get it!
I think about Jonah. God said to Jonah, “I want you to go to Nineveh.”
Jonah said, “Forget it, God. I’m going my own way.”
And Jonah thought he could outrun God. He thought God was geographical. And Jonah jumped on a ship headed for Tarshish. Every time we run away from God, there is always a boat leading away from the will of God. It’s always there. Always! It’s incredible in your life and mine. Every time we would do the 180 degree turn away from God, there’s going to be a boat leaving and we’re going to be headed to Tarshish.
Well, you know what happened. They tossed Jonah overboard and a giant fish swallowed him. Jonah got right with God, the fish barfed him up on land, and God gave him another chance to preach to Nineveh. And the whole city was pretty much saved. Jonah, though, forgot the presence of God. Moses forgot about it. He was clueless about it and Jonah was clueless about it!
Do you remember David? David was at the peak and pinnacle of his career. He should’ve been out in the battle fighting with his guys. He was “the man.” But he walked to the edge and the ledge of his palace. He knew that this beautiful woman, Bathsheba, would be bathing on a rooftop. He saw her. He lusted after her. He called for her. He committed adultery. David, like Moses and like Jonah, forgot the presence of God. He forgot the fact that God is everywhere.
When our twins were toddlers, we used to play hide-and-go-seek a lot. And sometimes they would stand in the middle of their den and cover their eyes and say, “Daddy, find me. Daddy, find me.” Isn’t that hilarious? They thought that I couldn’t see them because they couldn’t see me.
But you see, I’m their father. I could see them even though they couldn’t see me. And the same is true in our lives. We say, “Okay, I can hide from God. I can cover my eyes. I can have this conversation. I can go to this club. I can say this about this person. Or I can put this in my body. No one sees. I can’t see God!”
Well, your Father sees you and he sees me. We’ve got to remember the presence of God. It’s built-in accountability.
So, as I think about the presence of God, it should motivate and stimulate me to worship, because everything I do should be an act of worship. As I have said a squillion times here, we don’t come to Fellowship Church to worship. We come worshipping.
And if you’re a pre-Christian, if you’ve not stepped over the line yet, this should be like, “Oh Wow! This is awesome!” Because, just turn from your sin. God is right there with you when you sin. He’s right there with you when you use that language, when you think that thought, when you do that deed. He’s right there with you. So just turn from it and turn to him. He’s waiting to forgive you.
God is already in on it before we reveal the sin. Now just think about that for a second, download that for a second. God is already in on the deal before we go to the reveal. People think, “Well, okay, I will confess my sin before God. God, I want to admit to you what I did, what I said, where I went, what I watched.”
But God is already in on the deal before the reveal. And that should motivate us to repent, to turn from our sin. That should motivate the pre-Christians to become Christians. God knows it all—warts and all, rebellions and all! All the skeletons in your closet and mine, all the moral turnovers, all the problems—God knows it all. So just turn from it! So, accountability is a big word we should think about when we stand on the promise of the presence of God.
But, another word we should think about is vulnerability. You’ve got accountability and vulnerability.
I Corinthians 10:13 says, “God is faithful. He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But, when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”
Well, God can give you and me victory over vulnerability. All of us are vulnerable in certain areas, certain times emotionally, certain times physically, certain times even spiritually. We’re vulnerable. And scripture says not if, but when you are tempted.
And here’s the incredible promise of God. God promises us he will always provide a way out. He’s always going to give us running room. He’s always going to give us a window of opportunity to bolt before we fall into the temptation, before we choose the temptation. Once we receive Jesus Christ into our lives, when we have his love and when we’re ambushed by his forgiveness, we have the power because the Holy Spirit is living inside of our lives to do battle and to win the victory over the flesh.
In this text right here, it’s talking about sexual immorality. And my mind rushes back to another Old Testament guy named Joseph. Remember Joseph? Joseph was working at Potiphar’s house and Potiphar was off doing some business. His beautiful wife was there and she was after Joseph. She said, “Sleep with me. Have sex with me.”
Finally, Joseph turned and he ran. And what did Joseph say? “I will not sin against God.” He understood the omnipresence of God. He understood the promise of God. He understood accountability, and he understood certain times where we’re vulnerable.
I Corinthians 6:19 says, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own.”
You’re not your own. So we have this power—again, because of the promise of God and because of the presence of God—that he will give us the octane and the ability to remove ourselves, to run, to get out of the situation.
But God does not want us to be stupid. A lot of people who go by the label of Christian are just stupid. If you know you’re going to sin in New York, don’t buy a ticket to get on the plane that’ll take you to New York. As I said last time, we’ve got to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.
If you know you’re going to sin on the computer, then you better have every filter possible on the computer! Or, if you can’t do that, don’t have a computer!
If you know you’re going to sin when you channel surf, and you surf for skin, guys, take out your television!
Life is too short to mess around and to play with sin. So often, we’ve got to go Joseph and remove ourselves from it. There are going to be times when we’re vulnerable. We have to understand those times. We’ve got to have accountability. We know God is there. Also, we need accountability with others. But, when we’re practicing and living in the presence of God; when we’re standing on this promise and when we’re looking for ways to get out, God will always come through. He’s always gonna come through. It doesn’t matter what it is.
There’s something else we need to think about, too. Not only accountability and vulnerability, but stability as well. God will give us stability. When we think about his promise—the fact that God is present everywhere and that there’s nowhere he is not—God will give us great and wonderful stability.
Psalm 34:18: “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit”.
Do you ever feel crushed in spirit? Do you ever feel brokenhearted? Do you ever feel paralyzed by fear? So many people deal with fear these days—the fear of flying, the fear of dying, the fear of loneliness, the fear of kissing (that was kind of funny). I don’t know what it is, but we have all these fears going on. Well, God is going to be near to us and he will help us and encourage us and give us a foundation in the midst of our fears.
Years ago, I had a close friend of mine who was the lead point person in the Houston SWAT team. This was long before reality television, long before Real Cops and all of that stuff. He would take me riding with him and we would go to all these crazy places looking for dope dealers and murderers. I mean, this deal made “Dawg the Bounty Hunter” seem like “Romper Room.” And I’ve gone on many drug raids with my friend. I’m talking about with machine guns, the whole nine.
One time, we walked into a house, and all these drug dealers were in the house. They were all handcuffed and some of their friends were all around who were not being arrested. And I remember walking in with my friend who was like 6’3”, 220 lbs, you know. He was trained in hand-to-hand combat, weapons, whatever. And I felt totally at peace because he was right beside me. I would eyeball some of these mean guys and say, “Hey, man, you want some of me?” Of course, my friend was standing right by me. That’s why I had that confidence. I was like, “Come on, man!” Well, the reason is, I had Jim beside me.
That’s why I can face the fear. I can face the loneliness. I can face the animosity. I can face the times when I’m wondering which way to go, because I have my all-powerful, all-knowing, all-present God right beside me.
If we could see with the eyes of God, it would change everything we’re about. I remember when Elisha was sleeping. He was sleeping late one morning, and his servant got up early. I’m sure was sipping espresso and he looked out and he saw the Syrian army surrounding Elisha’s home. Well, this servant went nuts! He woke Elisha up. He was on that caffeine buzz, anyway, and Elisha said, “Hey, just relax.” We would say, “Chill.” It didn’t say chill in the Hebrew, but Elisha said, “Just relax.”
And Elisha began to pray for the servant. Here’s what Elisha prayed: God, open his eyes so he can see, so he can really, really see.
And you’re talking about spiritual LASIK! This servant began to look and he saw God’s army blockading Elisha’s place so the Syrian army couldn’t get in. And they did not get in!
So, I believe that if we could see with the eyes of God, it would be incredible. We would not believe the protection of this force-field of faith that is around us. And that should give us great stability, because God is always there. He is always watching out for us.
When I was in the 8th grade, I was a really good basketball player for the 8th grade. I pretty much never improved from the 8th grade until I played in college, but anyway. The high school coach asked me, as an 8th grader, to skip over junior high and start playing for the high school. And the high school that I played for in the 8th grade was the largest high school in South Carolina. So when I practiced with those guys, I felt a lot of tension. I was nervous and had a lot of fear. Here I was in the 8th grade playing with all these high school kids. They had these goatees and hair all over their bodies. I was afraid to even hold my hands up in the air because I didn’t have hair under my arms! These guys would joke at me, make fun of me, and I really felt a lot of tension and stress.
But I’ll never forget one day, during a tough practice in that giant gymnasium, I looked up and through one of the doors and I saw the silhouette of my father. And when I saw the silhouette of my father watching me—his son—play, wow! I had a phenomenal practice. I took risks that I would never have taken. I did things. I played aggressively. Why? Because of the presence of my father.
We do this thing called life. We should be aggressive. We should take the risks. We should go for it. Why? Because our father is right there watching you and me. He’s not detached. He’s not sequestered. He’s right here in your stuff and in my stuff, helping us to discover the best we can possibly be. That’s what it means to live in the presence of God.
A lot of you are saying, “Well, Ed, how do I live in the presence of God?”
Get involved in a Bible-teaching church. Join Fellowship Church. A lot of you people who are watching me right now and you’re just kicking tires, testing waters. You’re kind of sitting in the balcony, or kind of under the overhang on the bottom floor. I know who you are. You come in and get a good meal, then you leave. Well, don’t do that. It’s time to stand up and be counted. It’s time to join the church. It’s time to be a part because we need you. There’s nothing like the local church. So, join a great Bible-teaching church.
If you’re in South Florida, join this church, or join another church. But you know, I’m especially partial towards Fellowship Church.
Also, get involved in the church. Hang out with some other brothers and sisters who can keep you accountable, who can encourage you—people that you have affinity with.
Also, begin to serve God within the church. Get outside of yourself. Read his Word.
If you begin to do those things, I’m tellin’ you, you’ll live and walk in the presence of God and you’ll be able to see your Father in every situation watching you through that door. That’s the presence of God.
The other day I was watching TV and I saw this world-class, giant wave-surfer named Laird Hamilton work out. And most of Laird’s workout was all about stability. He had one of those stability balls. This guy jumped on the stability ball with like 20-pound dumbbells in each hand and began to do shoulder shrugs on top of the stability ball! That’s just beyond my wildest dreams. I mean, the guy is just unbelievable. He’s a phenomenal surfer and wind-surfer.
Well, for him to succeed in what he does, he’s got to have stability. For us to succeed in what we do, we’ve got to have stability. We can’t get it on our own. It’s got to come from the inside out. It’s got to come from God, who gives us the ability to be grounded. How can we be grounded? We’ve got to stand on the promises of God. Because when we’re in Him, we’re in them. What is them? God loves me, God forgives me, and God is everywhere.
God never promises us that we will not suffer in this life. That’s not in the Book. You will not find that. God does not promise us safety and security, humanly speaking, in this life. It’s not going to happen. He does promise us that in heaven, but not in this life. And that’s where we’ve got to trust him and realize that God’s ways are higher than our ways.
When my kids were small, they would do some stuff that really wasn’t that smart. One time, I saw one of our twins almost stick a screwdriver into a light socket. And I said, “Stop! Don’t do that!”
It startled her and I took the screwdriver away. Well, she didn’t realize what would happen when she did that. But as she’s gotten older, I’ve been able to explain electricity to her. Lisa and I have sat her down and talked to her about that.
The same is true in your life and mine. A lot of times we walk around with screwdrivers, trying to stick them in light sockets. And God’s saying, “No! Don’t do it!” And we turn and look at God like, “What?” But if God sat down and explained to us the what’s and the why’s and the how’s, we couldn’t take it, just like Landra couldn’t take it when she was three years old.
II Corinthians 1:3-5 says, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.”
In I Corinthians 13:12 we read, “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”
God does not promise us a pain-free life. And we cannot be promised to be protected in a way that Jesus was not. In our finiteness, we think that God owes us an explanation. We say, “Why, why, why, why? Well, God owes me an explanation.”
But who are we? We’re sinners. We’re finite. God is infinite. We’re limited by time and space. God is unlimited. God does not owe us a thing. God does not owe us salvation. So who are we as the creatures to shake our puny fists in the face of our Creator? Come on, now.
Some people see God as this voyeuristic God, the Big Brother God, the IRS God. God is not that way. He’s not that way. He’s not a cosmic killjoy. God’s agenda is not to rain on your parade and my parade. His presence is given to us—yes, because of protection—but remember, it’s because of this thing called pleasure.
Our Father smiles on your life and mine when we walk in his presence and as we discover the blessings and the favor that he has for us. But it’s not going to happen for us until we admit the obvious to him, until we turn from our sin and turn to him.
And, here’s the cool thing about turning from our sin. There’s no conversation that God is not privy to in your life and mine. There’s no idea that we had that he was not in on. There’s no sin we’ve committed that he was not right there. So that should encourage us to say, “God, you know I’ve blown it; you know I’ve messed up; you know I’ve made all these moral turnovers. I need a mulligan.”
And God is right there to give us a mulligan. He’s right there to forgive us. He’s right there to choose not to remember our sins any more. He’s right there to encourage us about his presence. He’s written it down for us time and time again in his Word. He promises that as we talk to him through prayer. He communicates it to us through music, through the spoken Word, through events in our lives. God is the God who wants us to understand his presence. He wants us to know that he is there.
We have to stand on the promises of God—the fact that God loves us, that God forgives us, and God is present everywhere. There’s nowhere we can go that God is not. Nowhere. I don’t care where you travel. I don’t care what you think you’re into. God is there. So, don’t sit on the premises and just twiddle your thumbs. Stand on the promises of God. Know the fact that God is everywhere. Believe that fact and put action beneath it. And that should bring what? Accountability. It should help us in our vulnerability. And it gives us phenomenal stability.
And here’s something else about God we need to understand. God is equally present, but he’s not equally resident. God is everywhere, but he’s not in everyone. Some of us have Jesus in our lives. He is resident there. But, some of you don’t. And, what I would challenge you to do is just come clean, because God is right there with you. He’s waiting for you to say, “Jesus Christ, I’ve messed up; I’ve blown it.”
He knows you’ve blown it. He knows every conversation you’ve had. He knows every moral turnover you’ve made. So turn from that and turn to Jesus.
The presence of God should motivate us to turn to God and to follow him with everything we’re about. And you have an opportunity today to make him a resident in your life. You’re saying, “Well, Ed, how do I do that? How do I go about that?”
You turn from your sin, because God knows about it. You’re not going to surprise him. Turn from your sin and turn to Jesus. Ask him to be your resident. Open up the home of your life, the front door of your life and say, “God, take everything. Take the family room. Take the bedroom. Take the kitchen. Take everything, God.” And once we do that, we can stand on the promise—the promise of the presence of God.