A Paradox of His Presence


By Bryan Karas, Creative Arts Pastor

In my brief time on this lovely planet, I’ve had adventures in all sorts of faith communities. Some, extremely legalistic; others, wildly charismatic.  I’ve enjoyed urban and suburban environments, traditional and evangelical, and lots of various combinations in between.

In fact, one of my favorite facets of our character at Cuyahoga Valley Church is the diversity within our staff.  Though sadly not yet racially diverse, we do come from a wide variety of backgrounds.  Even as we’re in association as a Baptist church, we’re not all coming from Baptist upbringings, educations or dogmas. I love the dialogues that result from our working together, constantly demanding grace, love, and trust from one another as we labor towards the goals to which we believe God has called us. 

When I spent time in some more contemplative movements, where long periods of time were spent meditating together in corporate prayer, I experienced the presence of God in powerful ways.  However, I often wondered if we weren’t being neglectful in mission.  All this time spent cloistered away when we could be feeding the poor; were we doing the right thing?

Conversely, in some of the larger, more active communities I’ve participated in, the fever-pace of ministry and constant call to sacrificial mission could sometimes limit, or eliminate, time resting in God’s presence. 

And sometimes, tragically, we grow weary of doing good.  We allow the work of mission to become an expression of duty.  We find ourselves loving our neighbors out of obligation.

We find ourselves trying to prove our devotion to God.  “See, Lord? Look at all the good I’m doing for You!”  Our neighbors, the poor, those we’re serving, become a tool in our religious efforts to impress God.

The direction, broken and perverse:  Me, through others, toward God.
When, really, God’s design is:  God, through me, towards others.

In Psalm 16:11 we read “…in your presence there is fullness of joy”, and in Nehemiah 8:10 we find that “…the Joy of the Lord is our strength.”

Ourselves, on our own power, through our service, seeking to demonstrate our love to God results in our exhaustion, and sometimes makes our efforts detrimental to those around us.

But, when we spend time in His presence, experience the fullness of His joy, and allow His joy to be our strength – then God empowers  us, so that through us, He might love the world.

God, let all of our efforts, all of our attempts to live missionally, and sacrificially, be birthed, inspired, guided and empowered by our having spent time at your feet.  Pour Your Spirit into us that we would operate not on our own, but exclusively moving where You lead and in Your strength.