March 19, 2021

The Face of God

March 19, 2021

By Mark Graham

Lent is a time we prepare our hearts for Easter, the greatest celebration of our faith that Christ died and has risen- all for us. Lent is traditionally a time we pray, repent, and practice self-denial in order to see God’s face and feel the joy of his love and everlasting commitment to us. The hope is to remind ourselves that we place clutter between us and God and by removing some of the clutter, we can see his face clearer and “amplify” the feeling of God’s love and peace during the Easter celebration. 

This year, more than any I can remember, my excitement and need for the Easter celebration is upon me. I feel that we have been in Lent for 12 months awaiting the arrival of Christ to remind us of his presence, love, and compassion. The customary practices of Lent (fasting and giving up other luxuries in our life) seem to have been replaced with a different perspective. A reminder, that life can shift at any moment outside of our control and remove many simple joys we take for granted. Spending time with our family, visiting our friends, praying and singing with friends, loss of loved ones, changes in rules and regulations around the celebrations we cherish, et al. But I do believe the clearest and most fulfilling moments of God’s presence come when our perspective is shifted and things we thought were dependable, disappear. 

As I ask myself “When have you seen God’s face and felt His presence most?” The answer is clearly “When I needed Him the most”. When there was a raw need for His grace and presence to help me take care of the things I love most. 

The examples in my life of when God’s strength and unwavering support were most clear, were always accompanied with a change in perspective. This change in personal circumstances and perspective allowed me to receive God’s grace in the most effective and enduring way. 

A few specific examples have been my involvement in South Africa Outreach and the Middle East North Africa Initiative. On a trip to South Africa in May of 2017, I watched the joy and hope provided to a community by our church and witnessed the power of God’s love working through his disciples in Brentwood. The hollow eyes of children in the local settlements turned to hope and joy and changed the trajectory of their lives. My participation in the Middle East Initiative also shaped my perspective. I have made several trips to the middle east to visit local churches, refugee camps, and the homes of our partners who are on the front lines every day. There was a specific moment on my last trip where we sat around a table summarizing our trip, sharing stories, and testimonies of God’s work. My perspective shifted in that room. What I felt in the room was the presence of modern-day disciples. People who are willing to remove all the clutter so they can see God’s presence and be closer to the love of Jesus. The purity of their actions shines through the daily muck they live through.

Yes, I am excited for spring and Easter! We are getting closer to the celebration of God’s promise to us, that he will never leave us. I think the last 12 months have brought a change in perspective for all of us. Maybe how fragile our definition of normal can be. But we can always know and depend on God to be there with us when we need him the most. He never left, we did – and when his face and presence become most clear-in those raw moments of need-his joy, grace, strength and peace are always there for us. 

In James 1:22 it is written “Do not merely listen to the word and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in the mirror and after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.”