This is a summary of a teaching I gave at a women’s conference entitled “In His Presence.” I only hope this will whet your appetite to seek Him more.
We serve an incredible God who wants to be in relationship with us. I’ve known God for many years, but the reality of His desire for an intimate relationship with me has changed my life. I was raised in a very conservative denomination, saved at the age of 12 and baptized in water shortly after. The only time I remember feeling God’s presence was when I felt convicted when an altar call was given. I wasn’t sure what God’s presence looked like or if I wanted it, but something inside of me was hungry for more. The last several years, God has been revealing Himself to me in such sweet ways. I’m learning that I am His precious daughter and that my value is not in what I do, but in who I am. I’m also trying to comprehend the idea that He wants to be with me as much and even more than I want to be with Him. This isn’t something I made up. The Word shows us that God has always desired to be with us. There are countless examples in the Bible of God pursuing His creation, but I’m going to focus on just a few.
So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Genesis 1:27
God created man and woman in his image. Then He created a beautiful garden for them to live in and enjoy. He walked in the garden with them and talked to them face to face. This was the perfection of relationship with God with no walls between them. As we all know, sin entered the world. Adam and Eve immediately reacted by trying to hide—they tried to hide their nakedness, and then they tried to hide themselves from their Creator. Our all-knowing God was well aware of their sin, yet He asked, “Where are you?” He didn’t say, “Get away from me,” or “I never want to see you again.” When you lose something valuable, you search for it. God was searching for His precious children. However, the consequences of sin—punishment, separation, and death—remained. From that moment, God put a plan in place to reconcile the sin and to restore intimate relationship with His creation.
When Moses went up on the mountain, the cloud covered it, and the glory of the LORD settled on Mount Sinai. For six days the cloud covered the mountain, and on the seventh day the LORD called to Moses from within the cloud.” Exodus 24:15-16
Hundreds of years passed. God chose to give His son Moses very detailed instructions about how to build a tabernacle, a “place of dwelling,” built to hold the presence so God could dwell with His people. It was as if God said, “I want you to know where I live so you can come and be with me.” Interestingly enough the same verbal form used for God’s walking back and forth in the garden is used to describe God’s presence in the tabernacle. God’s heart was to restore the relationship that had been lost in the garden. However, God could not dwell with sinful people, so He made a way of reconciliation—a way to restore friendship and harmony with His creation through the shed blood of an animal sacrifice. This system provided for the forgiveness of sins and restored intimate relationship with one man, the high priest, who was permitted to enter the Holy of Holies only once per year on the Day of Atonement. God was pursuing His people.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. John 3:16-17
More years passed and the Israelites made many animal sacrifices, day after day, year after year. In the fullness of time, God established a new covenant by sending Emmanuel, “God with us.” Up until this point, God’s presence was found in a building—in Moses’ tabernacle and then in Solomon’s temple—but God was not satisfied. God sent his Son, Jesus, in bodily form, to live among sinful people—not to condemn them, but to be in relationship with them. While Jesus walked this earth, He was able to meet face to face with many of His precious ones, though He was still limited to relationship with those He came in contact with. Ultimately, Jesus became the once and for all sacrifice to make permanent reconciliation for every sin we would ever commit. When Jesus was dying on the cross, He declared, “It is finished.” At that moment, the curtain that hid the holy of holies in the temple was torn in two—from top to bottom—as if God was saying, “I’ve made a way for you to be in relationship with me. All of you. Nothing can separate us.” God opened our eyes to a facet of His beauty we had not seen before.
Several weeks later, He continued His quest for relationship with His children. He sent the Holy Spirit—one who dwells inside of us. Since that moment, He had revealed Himself to us in greater ways. Our God is able to be in relationship with many people—simultaneously! Everyone everywhere has the opportunity to be in His presence--my mom in PA, my new friend Janico in Africa, and Karen my sweet sister in Christ in China. We all have the opportunity to daily live in relationship with our God, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, yet our eyes cannot yet look on all of His beauty.
The final piece is Heaven, a place our Lord has prepared for us to live with Him forever. We’ll experience and know every facet of who God is. We will be able to gaze on the fullness of His beauty. This is the culmination of the plan He put in place thousands of years ago to restore the relationship that was lost in the garden. Once again we will be able to walk with Him and talk with Him face to face!
What does it look like to experience His presence?
Maybe you’re thinking, “If God wants to be with me so much, how is it that we keep missing each other?” In my early days of being a Christian, I had an agenda for my quiet time with God. I made a list for what to do—10 minutes for prayer, read one Old Testament chapter, one New Testament chapter, one Psalm, one Proverb. There is certainly a time for prayer and for Bible reading, but I believe that sometimes God wants to just be with us. I’m sure God liked my checklist as much as my husband would like if I had a checklist on our date: hold hands, give compliment, kiss, end of date. Intimacy is not found in a checklist. Intimacy, by definition, is marked by close acquaintance, association, or familiarity; relating to or indicative of one's deepest nature; essential; innermost; marked by informality and privacy; very personal; private. Intimacy in marriage doesn’t come on the first date and neither does intimacy with our Heavenly Father come quickly. The Lover of our soul wants an opportunity to lavish His love on us.
I’m certainly not an expert, but here are a few things that have drawn me closer to my Savior.
1. Holy Spirit
After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly. Acts 4:31
The Holy Spirit is part of the Trinity, part of God Himself. Before I was filled with the Holy Spirit, my only experience with God’s presence was being in the right place at the right time. It depended on the location or the company. After I was filled, His Spirit came to live inside of me. His Spirit gave me boldness to witness; His Spirit gave me peace; His Spirit gave me wisdom beyond my knowledge.
2. Praise and Worship
Psalm 100:4—Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise.
Praise and worship is the gateway to His presence. Most of our church services begin with a musical expression of praise and worship which is an invitation for God to come and be with us. I find that there is great peace when I play praise and worship music in our home.
3. Be Still
Ps. 46:10 Be still, and know that I am God.
I had the first two for years, but the last puzzle piece has started to fall into place in the last 18 months. I discovered that God often spoke to people in the Bible in the quiet times. I’ve never been good at being still. At 12 months I learned to run, not walk, with both hands high in the air. My parents often said that if I kept going at a million miles a minute, I would burn out before I was 20!
Ex. 33:14—My presence will go with you and I will give you rest (OR dispel your anxieties)
Throughout my years on this earth, I often recognized that my heart was not at peace or at rest, but I just thought that was life. I pushed through and often reacted badly. But now I know better. Now I know to quiet my mind, quiet my hands and focus on His goodness—another word for glory. I may feel torn in many directions, but being still helps me focus. Sometimes He asks me to set things aside and move forward. Sometimes I ask God questions like, “Why is this bothering me?”, “What do you think about me?”, “What do you want me to know?” Sometimes I write what He says to me, but sometimes I hear nothing. Even then I know my time isn’t wasted. Sometimes I feel his tender affection, like recently when my mom needed to be moved to a nursing home. Sometimes I feel nothing immediately, but I realize my heart is lighter two hours later.
For me, being still is like having a heart adjustment. Many people go to a chiropractor to have their spines aligned. In a moment’s time, the adjustment is made and everything is realigned. Unfortunately, it’s not quite like that. A heart adjustment takes some time. Being in God’s presence is a heart activity. Think of an old dried up sponge and another sponge that’s soaking in water. When the stress of life comes and twists our life, what will happen? The old sponge that is not filled with the water of His presence will shed pieces of itself. On the other hand, if we have been soaking up God’s presence when those stressful times come, we have an abundance of His presence to give. We can only give what we have inside. God wants us to be carriers of His presence and to give out of our abundance.
So why don’t we come to him?
It sounds so easy—and it’s free! I’m sure each one has reasons, but here are some reasons that have kept me from intimacy with my Father.
Sometimes we build walls that keep us from intimacy with God. Walls can be built through fear, unconfessed sin or judgments made about people or situations. When there is conflict, we respond like Adam and Eve. We try to hide and separate ourselves, but God only says, “Where are you?” and continues to pursue us.
We each have 24 hours and the choice of how we fill them. There are so many things vying for our attention—things that are important, things that are necessary, things that are valuable. Sometimes we need to be like Martha and care for our families, but we also need to be like Mary who chose what is better. (Luke 10:42)
Life can be painful, even for those who follow Christ. Maybe you have led a life honoring to God, but people around you have made different choices. Circumstances of life bring pain which can lead to disappointment, anger and bitterness. These three can harden our hearts as we try to protect ourselves from the pain of these emotions.
Ultimately it is our choice whether we position ourselves to experience His presence, whether we choose to come to Him with no agenda except to spend time with the one who loves us or whether we fill our days with the urgent. I find that I need to realign my heart every day. When I am tired, he brings me rest. When I am worried, he gives me peace. Today, take some time to be still. Put on some peaceful music and pour out your heart to Him. Listen to what He is saying to you. Be still and enjoy the presence of your Father.
Jude 24-25 Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory, blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever, AMEN.