Presence Of God – Will you take a deep breath, hold it a second, and then slowly let it out? Please do it one more time. This is how close God is to you. You’ve heard it said he’s a breath away or a heartbeat away in the context of death and eternity, but he’s this close in life too. A continuous awareness of God can flow through our lives like breath through our lungs.
THE PRESENCE OF GOD
By Pastor Delbert Young
The Presence Of God
Magic Moment, Then What?
Scriptures: 2 Corinthians 5:8, Genesis 5:22, 24, 6:9, 48:15-16, Psalms 116:9, Revelation 3:4, Psalms 89:15, Genesis 3:8-9, Psalms 37:4, 1 John 4:16-17
Let me ask you a question. Ultimately why are we actually here? I don’t mean here at church, though it is a part of it. I mean here in life. Is it ultimately to make money, ultimately be successful, ultimately have a family, retire, etc? Nothing is wrong with any of those. What is the ultimate goal? Isn’t the ultimate intended destination for us all, at the end of life, to find ourselves in the PRESENCE OF GOD?
2 Corinthians 5:8 We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be PRESENT WITH THE LORD.
The bottom line of “Why are we here?” is to experience the presence of God. Yet, his continuous presence seems obscured, distorted, and cloudy.
We talked last time about how after a magic moment’s filling presence of God experience, we leak out. A once energized, excitingly full relationship with God can become regimented, rigid, empty, and dry. I want to talk today about some things we can do to prevent the leaking out and drying up of God’s continuous presence.
We need to realize it’s not a method we’re looking for. It’s a relationship we’re looking for. It’s not step (1), step (2), step (3), etc. As with a person, a relationship with God grows and develops. It took time for you to get to where you could honestly tell your friend your deepest fears, hidden dreams, and secret flaws much less discuss them without feeling you would be barbecued, talked about, and laughed at. Though we may confess sins to God every time we pray, there’s a difference in confessing your flaws and discussing them.
Are you familiar with the book Practice the Presence of God? It’s a devotional classic about a real monk in the 1600’s called “Brother Lawrence.” He was an ordinary guy who worked in the monastery’s kitchen. He writes,
“The time of work,” said he, “for me is not any different from the time of prayer; and in the noise and clutter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I sense God in as great a tranquility as if I were upon my knees at the altar.”
Can it really be? Can we feel God’s presence while on our jobs the same as while kneeling at an altar in a time of prayer? Can you experience God’s presence in the noise of machinery and busyness of business like you can during a Bible devotional? Isn’t that what we would all like and all enjoy? Isn’t that what a continual presence of God must be?
We complicate God into a method having to do #1, #2, #3, and on and on in regiment. We separate the time into a list of duties including God’s time. We put God in the list of “to do” duties, not in the list of relationships. Eventually, the duty list will wear you out. You will run out of time for something and take God’s time to get it done. You get behind on your regiment, and eventually stop even God’s “to do” time. I’ve watched many people have their “quiet time,” or “devotional time” only to see it eventually play out.
What we find in the scriptures is something totally different. We find people who “walked” with God.
Genesis 5:22, 24 And after he became the father of Methuselah, Enoch WALKED WITH GOD 300 years and had other sons and daughters… ENOCH WALKED WITH GOD; then he was no more, because God took him away.
Genesis 6:9 This is the account of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he WALKED WITH GOD.
Genesis 48:15-16 Then he blessed Joseph and said, “May the God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac WALKED, the God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day, the Angel who has delivered me from all harm – may he bless these boys.
Psalms 116:9 that I may WALK before the LORD in the land of the living.
Revelation 3:4 Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will WALK WITH ME, dressed in white, for they are worthy.
Walking with the Lord God is more than a “quiet TIME” or “devotional TIME.” Walking in Bible days was synonymous with doing life’s chores and pleasures. It’s a 24/7 of talking, working, laughing, crying, great joy, and great sadness. It’s learning to continually live life with God’s presence every minute of every day. David said,
Psalms 89:15 Blessed are those who have LEARNED to acclaim you, who WALK IN THE LIGHT OF YOUR PRESENCE, O LORD.
The word translated acclaim is teruw`ah meaning clamor. We learn to walk with the Lord God while making the clamor of life. It’s walking in the light of your presence. We learn to walk and we learn by practice. It’s practicing the presence of God. Practicing, as in practicing to become better and practicing, as in a consistent practice of every day activities.
I was in the midst of preparing this series and this thought of the continuous presence of God was in the forefront of my thinking. I took my wife to meet our son where she would assist our daughter-in-law prepare for a grandson’s birthday party. I was driving back home and I said, “Lord, what shall we talk about while I drive back?” A smile crossed my face as I heard myself say those words knowing it made God smile too that I wanted to talk to him. I wasn’t asking him about a scripture, or how to teach a series. I wasn’t coming to him begging for mercy for some mess up, or wanting to pray about a problem or situation. I just wanted to talk about anything he wanted to talk about. And we did. We talked for over an hour non stop. We talked about everything from my family to our president.
I suppose a contemporary way of saying Psalms 89:15 would be, “Blessed are those who have learned to clamor with the Lord, who DRIVE in the light of your presence, O Lord.” Most of us drive every day, often alone. What do you think would happen if you said something like I said? “Lord, what shall we talk about while I drive to work (or home, or to get groceries, or to my next appointment, etc)?” Instead of clamoring in your mind about your spouse, children, boss, or “some” person, why not clamor to the Lord?
You could be at your workstation. All you can hear is the clamor of machinery and people loudly talking over the noise. You have a few hours before break. What if you whispered, “Lord, what shall we talk about while I work?” Then, what if you began hearing something inside to talk about?
I go fishing usually alone as you know. Once I was fishing alone, just me in my boat. I was in an area called “The Cave Hole” at Weiss Lake. There were a few other boats around and I was talking to God. I was so into the conversation I was oblivious to the fact I was actually talking out loud. One person in another boat asked me, “Who’s in the boat with you?” I laughed and said, “God.” I later heard someone who knew me tell the person, “He’s a preacher.”
I want you to do something for me. Will you take a deep breath, hold it a second, and then slowly let it out? Please do it one more time. This is how close God is to you. You’ve heard it said he’s a breath away or a heartbeat away in the context of death and eternity, but he’s this close in life too. A continuous awareness of God can flow through our lives like breath through our lungs. It’s walking with God.
We need to remember from God’s perspective, our enjoying his presence is not difficult. We are the arrogant, naked ones who snub our noses, hiding, not wanting to talk. He’s always readily available. He comes daily to talk. It was Adam and Eve who hid from him. God wanted to walk and talk. Adam and Eve wanted to hide.
Genesis 3:8-9 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?”
He’s asking you and me this same thing. You hear him. You know you do. Maybe, just maybe, “prayer” isn’t a duty. Maybe, just maybe, prayer is a “walk” (drive) with God just hanging out in the comfort of a day talking. Could prayer actually be a delight and not a duty?
Psalms 37:4 Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.
What do you desire? Could it be you are not delighting? We are busy with the business of work, busy driving, busy with life, but as we pointed out in our opening, isn’t our primary ultimate business to be busy with loving God?
1 John 4:16-17 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever LIVES IN LOVE lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment…
Love requires a continuous presence. You can’t love someone fully without their presence in your life. I love my wife, but if she refused to talk to me, hid from me, didn’t spend time with me, I don’t know if I could remain busy in our love. Experiencing the love of God requires experiencing the love of God – living in God and God living in us. It’s a 24/7 walk/drive/work/play/etc.
So, Delbert, are you saying I should have God on my mind all the time? Well, no, not exactly, but close. Perhaps only Jesus did this. When a man loves his wife, she is not far from the front of his thoughts. They drive (walk) together, eat together, live together, etc. I love my wife. Though I become busy, even consumed in what I am doing, when there is a pause, my thoughts fairly quickly go to my wife and the multitude of things we talk about and experience together. The PRESENCE OF GOD comes when we stop trying to prove ourselves to God and, whenever possible, enjoy walking, driving, working, living – loving him and enjoying his love.
Do you want to know something interesting? Very little of the presence of God in my life is spent discussing me. Does this sound strange? My “magic moments” are mostly about me, but not much of the “walk” in life, or drive in life, is about me any more than driving with my wife or a close friend is about me. God’s presence is about more than talking about me, or even talking about God all the time. In fact, very little is about church, the Bible, or sin. Isn’t it amazing? I talk to God, but not about your or my sins? What if I told you sometimes God and I talk about fishing? Well, God talked to Peter about fishing didn’t he? We put God in a time slot and he wants to go fishing with you. I’m learning to love God by walking and driving with God through life enjoying his love and presence speaking and moving within me.
I want to finish our time today with a wonderful experience you can enjoy in the presence of God. I mentioned earlier how I took my wife to meet our son to prepare for a birthday party for one of our grandsons. I asked the Lord, “What would you like to talk about as I drive home?” I read in a book,Enjoying the Presence of God by Jan Johnson how she prayed for “What’s in Front of You.” Initially, it didn’t mean much as I read it, but coming back that day, it truly activated in my life. I, as you know, struggle with frustration when driving. I become so very upset with people oblivious they are in the wrong lane and who don’t seem to care. With the speed limit 70 mph, they are moving about 60 in the left lane beside another car traveling about 60. You can’t pass and they seem unconscious. When the car in the right lane slows, the car you want around slows. You begin to take it personal. I usually go off at this point. I get bumper to bumper. I put on a mean look so when they see me in their review mirror, I look mad hoping to cause a reaction. Some people flash their headlights. I’ve never done this, but wanted to. This experience brings up the worst in me. I think words I won’t say. I’m certain my blood pressure goes up. It’s not good. You’ve got the picture. Well, this day, I’ve asked God what he would like to talk about while traveling north on I-75. I came up behind the person described above. This guy is oblivious to what he is doing in the left lane. Amazingly I don’t go off into my bumper to bumper habit with aggravated thoughts. I was thinking about praying for what is in front of me. I had seen the Budweiser billboards at the Budweiser plant and prayed for alcoholics and went into prayer for people struggling with addictions. I saw an “Adult truck stop” billboard. I prayed for the men it would effect. I saw a tractor-trailer truck with a logo on the side which reminded me of someone who loves their products. I prayed for him. I saw something in front of me causing me think about an elder. I ended up praying not only for him, but for every elder, their spouse, and their children. Now, in front of me was the person doing the thing having the potential of dragging up the worst in me no matter how far down I push it. What did I do? Without thinking, I began praying for the man. I prayed, “Lord, help this man. He has no idea I am behind him. He is consumed with some thought, some problem, he is facing. Please help him. Give him wisdom. Give him mercy. He could be in the middle of a divorce, or bankruptcy, or lost his job. I don’t know, but I know you know. Please bless him.” In a few seconds after I prayed, he looked into his rear view mirror, saw me, sped up, pulled over, and I went on by. I remember thinking, “Wow! This is great! So, when I’d encounter this situation, I pray for the person and they pull over. I can do this!”
Here’s my point. Ask God what he would like to talk about. Of course if something comes, talk to God. If nothing specifically comes, pray for WHAT’S IN FRONT OF YOU. It’s amazing the diversity of things you find yourself praying about. I would pray for what was in front of me then just talk to God. There’s a difference in “praying for” something and “talking to” God. Back and forth my conversation with God went. On this one trip, I went for over an hour in nonstop prayer and talking to God. It was a delight, not a duty.
Our ultimate goal in life is when we leave this body, we open our eyes in the presence of God. Are you practicing his presence? Are you learning to love God through relationship, or is God only on your “to do” list and allotted “this much” time? How different are you at your work station than when you are on your knees? What consumes your mind while driving? Are you walking/driving with God, or walking/driving with yourself, your worries, your fears, etc? The Lord God is asking, “Where are you? I want to walk and talk with you.”
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